Thursday, August 27, 2020

The New Normal

 The new normal - where are we,  where are we headed - ready, set, speculate. Lets face it - almost anything we come up with is simply a swag (scientific, wild-assed guess), so here we go.

First there is the election here in the USA -  the winner will go a long way toward defining the new normal. And, just what is normal these days? We are in the throes of a pseudo-nationalistic, selfish we are the champions of the world era while our respect among the nations of the world is in a steady rate of decline. Our alliances are in jeopardy and our government is in denial about the ongoing globalization.   It is a natural byproduct of other nations growing ever stronger economically and  militarily and assuming more control over themselves. The same thing is happening here inside the USA as the controlling cabal of old, white men here in the USA realize their "automatic" authority is slipping away, contested by a younger, more diverse population nipping at those old fellas' heels. 

That evolution of power is a natural occurrence, and, how we deal with it will in large part be determined by who wins the election in November. One side is stoking fear and predicting the end of suburbia as city dwellers move into suburbia,  bringing with them gangs and illegals. The other side is touting themselves as the transition team, promising to stabilize and break the tribal grip that has ensnared the country for the last few years. The current administration promises to be the law and order crowd that will protect the suburban housewives (their words - not mine) from the expected onslaught. Which one will win out? That is up to the voters - although one side is already shouting if they lose, it is because the election is rigged and they continue to try and cast doubt over election integrity. Interestingly enough, the current administration launched an investigation into election fraud but the Trump commission did not find it to be widespread. That has not yet deterred Trump and his team from making the claim, however. The bottom line is simply that we are living the new normal right now so little will change if Trump is reelected. Trump promised to shake up the norms - in fact his chief advisor stated what they intended - "Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations, and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty. I would suggest they are deconstructing with a capital "D".

What will be the new normal because of the pandemic that has caused over 180,000 deaths here in the USA to date? I suspect initially there will be a continuation of the mask/social distancing but I suspect that will disappear over time. We tend to be a reactive population. As the current problem hits the rear view mirror, so too will the concern. Eventually there will be a vaccine, although since 50% of the population does not even take a flu vaccine, a Covid vaccine may be of limited value unless herd immunity is eventually reached.

We are entering into another era that will be marked by a focus on racism and race relations, as the job started by the baby boomer generation is hopefully completed. Institutional racism is being recognized - and addressed. Though not IMHO intentional, when old white men make rules and regulations for other white men expected to be in charge, a degree of racism is institutionalized. We are not an inherently racist country but we do have a racism issue that must be addressed.

We will continue to wrestle with gun ownership and freedom of speech so in that regard we are living the new normal daily.  Gun ownership, particularly of semi-automatic weapons - will continue to be a hot button issue. Every gun owner I know is against restrictions on the weapons they own and they are among the most conscientious folks I know. I do not care what type of fire arms they own, but I do believe there should be serious  background checks on people before they own semi automatic weapons. Gun show loopholes need to  be eliminated. As I said, we already are wrestling with those issues. 

Retail shopping appears to be on the way out as more and more people make purchases online. Spending the day at the local mall is a vanishing option. This was already happening but has been exacerbated during the pandemic. Restaurants are closing rapidly and a large percentage of the unemployed rolls are made up of restaurant employees. Those jobs may never come back so an extended recession is certainly possible. 

Movie theaters are in jeopardy and by extension so too is the movie industry. We simply cannot predict  what will happen at this time - are the blockbuster movie days behind us?  Concerts? Stage venues? State Fairs?  

One of the issues facing us, regardless who wins the election, is what will happen to the 30-35% of the population that makes up the core support for Donald Trump. If Trump wins, they will continue to be the primary target for presidential rhetoric. If Biden wins, how will they react? They imply through their rhetoric they are the true patriots, and they have the guns with a clear implication they will protect their rights and beliefs. Look at what just happened in Kenosha WI. when one of them took it upon himself to protect the law and order and killed two people. The shooter is 17. 

That's the end of my speculating about the new normal. Essentially we are living the new normal for the most part, and any further changes in the norm will depend on the outcome of the election in November. Be sure to check with my compatriots to see what they have to say -  ConradRamana,  SanjanaPadmum, & Raju

I'll see you next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Don't Worry, Be Happy

It may come as a surprise to you to learn a silly little tune Bobby McFerrin turned into a big hit has its roots in Pune, India as it was inspired by a popular quote from a man named Meher Baba, called Avatar of the Age (FYI Avatar is another name for God in human form). And Pune? Well the Sage of Pune, my friend Ramana, is a  resident of that city. Here is the Avatar himself, one looking remarkably like Frank Zappa and one in is later years looking like an Indian holy man.

I was not exposed to Don't Worry, be Happy by Bobby McFerrin. I first heard it by Bob Marley 

Have you ever listened to the song? Really listened to it? 

In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double

No doubt that is true. Worry. Stress. Some folks pay a lot of money to therapists to be taught that stress is harmful and then spend more money figuring out how to relieve that stress. The song, however,  cuts to the chase.

Don't worry, be happy.

Sage advice indeed. And much cheaper than a therapist. Simple but true. Sometimes the simplest answer is the correct answer. Think Occam's Razor. Think Meher Baba - the spiritual master with a good-sized following both in India and in the west.

Baba's followers include Pete Townshend of the Who. Townshend dedicated the Who's rock opera Tommy to Baba as well as several other songs. If you have ever heard the full version of Melanie Safka's (aka Melanie) Candles in the Rain, in the spoken intro is the line "Meher Baba lives again".

Baba said "I was Rama, I was Krishna. I was this One, I was that One, and now I am Meher Baba. In this form of flesh and blood I am the same Ancient One who alone is eternally worshiped and ignored, ever remembered and forgotten. "

Baba discouraged evangelizing, stating he needed no propaganda or publicity.  It was his follower's lives and how they lived that delivered his message of truth and love to others which he wanted spread far and wide. 

Baba described the Avatar as  gauge against which man can measure what he is and what he may become. He trues the standard of human values by interpreting them in terms of divinely human life. Interestingly enough, he stated the Avatar, in Baba's testimony, appears on Earth every 700–1400 years.  The Avatar is "brought down" into human form by the five Perfect Masters of the time to aid in the process of moving creation in its never-ending journey toward Godhood. Baba claimed that in other ages this role had been fulfilled by ZoroasterRamaKrishnaBuddhaJesus, and Muhammad.

Baba was certainly an interesting fellow with a rather simple, straightforward message. He amassed a following said to be in the millions. There are spiritual centers in several countries.

One thing I have neglected mentioning is that from July 10, 1925 until his death in 1969, Baba was silent. He communicated via unique hand gestures and an alphabet board. His silence was not undertaken as a spiritual exercise but solely in connection with his universal work.

"Man's inability to live God's words makes the Avatar's teaching a mockery. Instead of practicing the compassion he taught, man has waged wars in his name. Instead of living the humility, purity, and truth of his words, man has given way to hatred, greed, and violence. Because man has been deaf to the principles and precepts laid down by God in the past, in this present Avataric form, I observe silence.

Baba's words seem to align with these famous words -- God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I sure wish some of the western evangelicals followed his example.

That is my take on Ramana's chosen topic. I congratulate him for choosing something that is essentially a great googly (crickets version of a curve ball). If you want to read more about Baba, his books are available on Amazon. And, cut down on your stress - don't worry, be happy!

Be sure to check the blogs of my blogging compatriots to see what they have to say -   ConradRamana,  SanjanaPadmum, & Raju

See ya next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Is Covid the Only Threat to Mankind

This weeks topic - is covid the only threat to mankind -asks a simple, straightforward question.IMHO the simple, straightforward answer is not  just NO but a rousing HELL NO. In and of itself, the disease behind this pandemic, while still not thoroughly understood and still without a cure waiting in the wings, will be both better understood and there will be viable vaccines in a year or so. Those come not from folks like Penn and Teller, they come from folks like Tony Fauci, Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin and their scientist brethren.

That's the easy part, quite frankly. While covid itself is IMHO not a direct threat to mankind, our reaction to it may well be a threat to mankind. It is no surprise to me that the response to covid by the USA is one of the world's worst. We have  been shown an abject lack of leadership from our administration and so we have also showed an abject lack of leadership on the world stage. A show of humility and simply following the lead of other countries has left us in the throes of a recession that may yet develop into a full scale depression and has cost us over 160,000 lives. Too many people in this country have simply not taken the disease seriously - from our political leaders on down. What should have been a simple process to slow the spread of covid  here has been weaponized and politicized. A large percentage of the right has decided the government has simply overstepped its bounds and is now trampling on their basic human rights. As this is written, 250,000 of those folks are attending a little gathering in a place called Sturgis, South Dakota. The beer is flowing, mask wearing is not required and is in fact looked down upon by large numbers of attendees. But, the governor thinks adding 45 to the existing presidential images carved into a mountain is not such a bad idea, so how can we be surprised at the lack of respect for covid. Only time will tell if this event becomes a super-spreader event or not. Do any of you, dear readers, think the recent surge in cases and deaths has been caused by the succession of holidays we have just experienced - Memorial day, 4th of July, etc. and the opening of beaches, bars and the like?  Live now, pay later - and payback is a bitch.

According to Wikipedia, the Black Death (Plague, bubonic plague) resulted in the deaths of up to 75–200 million people in Eurasia and North Africa, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351.  The 1918 Spanish flu killed up to 50 million people around the world and has been called “the mother of all pandemics”. To  date covid deaths have just passed 725 thousand and the odds of it surpassing either of the previous pandemics appears highly unlikely, so while mankind's existence is not lurking nearby, significant across the board cultural changes just might. And those could pose a threat of sorts to mankind.

We are standing at the brink of a massive shakeup in the existing world order. The defacto leadership from the USA is waning as the USA withdraws into itself under current leadership. The indisputable fact that the world is becoming a smaller place daily and countries that were once at or  near the bottom of the food chain  are clamoring for what they feel is their rightful place at the grownup table. Where once there were two nuclear powers, now according to Wikipedia and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the worldwide total inventory of nuclear weapons as of 2019 stood at 13,865, of which 3,750 were deployed with operational forces. In early 2019, more than 90% of the world's 13,865 nuclear weapons were owned by Russia and the United States.  Nine possess actual nuclear weapons: Russia, the United States, China, India, Israel, France, North Korea, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. More than two dozen have nuclear power. Only one has used them in a war. That would be the USA - that shining light on the hill was likely nuclear powered.

How this shifting power dynamic works itself out will likely determine the future of mankind. It will be inextricably tied to how the pandemic plays out. Ultra-right leaning religious zealots seem to be inheriting higher perches in power everywhere - even here. Since many religions share a similar tale of Armageddon, there is the danger of them creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by pushing the wrong button. It seems perhaps nobody learned the lesson of our use of nuclear weapons.

That's it for this weeks topic. Be sure to check the blogs of my compatriots to see what, if anything they had to say.  ConradRamana,  SanjanaPadmum, & Raju

See ya next week, same bat time, same bat channel.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Favorite Foods and Favorite Eating Places

This week's topic has required more research than any other topic this little blogging group has undertaken - literally a lifetime. As Guy Fieri says, this is a body by research into the subject matter, so strap in and lets see where we go.

I have eaten at my share of white tablecloth, linen napkin places in my lifetime but none of them make this list as I am simply not a white linen kind of guy. First up is my favorite breakfast joint - ya gotta start the day off right, hands down, my favorite breakfast  joint is a place in Fremont, CA, The Country Way Inn. When I lived in the Bay Area I frequented the place often, and their food never disappointed. From steak and eggs to omelettes, the entire breakfast menu is a winner. So is their lunch menu and best of all the prices are reasonable. The owners are are Greek -  always a good sign.

It has been my experience that every region has a specialty hot dog or sausage joint and I have enjoyed the research into these joints immensely. The best? My favorite hot dog joint of all time is Caspers (with a K or a C - fans of the place know what that means) - served with green relish, tomatoes, onions, a slathering of mustard, a great tasting dog that snaps when bitten  and a  freshly steamed bun. Great stuff, and their Polish dog with sauerkraut on a French roll is good too. Next up are the Sabretts dogs from hot dog carts all over New York. Their onion sauce is killer and nothing says New York more than someone selling    dogs from a  cart - except maybe pretzels and they sell those too.  Kaspers  Sabretts

I've had excellent Chicago-stye dogs too - skinless Vienna style dog on a poppy seed bun with green relish, onions, pepper, and celery salt. Yum. I think I can honestly say that I never met a hot dog I didn't like (not counting chicken or turkey - ew_) 

Since it is lunch time, lets stay on sandwiches and burgers. Sandwiches have always had a special place in my heart - what kid does not love a basic bologna sandwich on white bread (preferably Wonder) with mustard and mayo? Fortunately  tastes mature. If you find yourself in New York make your way to one of the few remaining delis and enjoy a corned beef or pastrami sandwich. You cannot go wrong at a NY deli ( Katz Delicatessan to have what Sally ordered), and you can have it delivered. And, yes they are HUGE. But be sure to have some cheesecake for dessert. 

There are plenty of sandwich places and every region has a favorite. On my recent 7 month return to the Bay Area I was introduced to Mr. Pickles and their fabulous Italian combo - Italian lunch meat, pickles, and cheese on a Dutch crunch roll. Wowsa. They also have several hot sandwiches but I never got passed the Italian. Mr. Pickles Sandwich Shop

Hof Brau style sandwiches - the freshly carved off the roast, ham or turkey while you watch,and drool, Tommy's Joynt in San Francisco is the best of a dying breed. Hof Brau styled eateries are declining rapidly, so get your carved beef, buffalo or turkey sandwich while you can. They also do a mean corned beef or pastrami sandwich. Tommys Joynt

Burgers you say? My fave place is still back in Hayward, CA. Vals Burgers and their Papa burger still reign - Vals Burgers Fort Worth's Kincaids is a close second  - very close Kincaids Burgers

The best Italian food I ever tasted? Believe it or not it was n Fort Worth, TX - a place that when Tony Bennett came to town he would visit to eat real home style Italian food. We usually went there with our friends Bob and Sue and our appetizer was always a pesto pizza. Everything else we tried was fabulous.  Mancusos

You cannot be raised by a southern grandma and not love fried chicken, and I am in that group. While hers was the best, Babes in Texas is the best restaurant version. It is served family style and it feels like grandma's Sunday dinner every time you eat there. I ate at the Roanoke place and they have now expanded to several new locations as well. Babes Chicken

I won't bother listing a Chinese or Mexican place as my experience with them has shown that they all seem to be really good at one signature dish and average on everything else. My favorite seafood place recently closed and there was nothing even close to Spengers in Berkeley.

It should be apparent by now that I am a DDD kind of guy - that is Diners, Drive ins, and Dives.

If I could have one final meal at the eatery of my choice it would be one of these - both in Fort Worth. TX - The Lonesome Dove in the stockyards or Fred's Texas Cafe. The Lonesome Dove is about as fancy a place as I will visit, Fred's is a casual place

The Lonesome Dove has things like rabbit/rattlesnake sausage (quite good), wild boar ribs (excellent), Wagyu beef and my favorite - buffalo rib eyes among many more things. Plus they stock my adult beverage of choice, Glenlivet single malt. We ran up a few $300 tabs on special occasions but it is worth every dollar. Tim Love is one celebrity chef that knows his stuff.

Fred's Texas Cafe is an experience. It is the Cheers of restaurants - seems like everyone there knows your name. It is what you might expect in a college town (TCU - go Frogs). The chef and co-owner Terry Chandler is a renowned chuck wagon cook and he loves his job. You cannot go to Freds and not have a good time -  normally there is live music, but the pandemic has changed that, lots of cold beer, and a great burger menu. Fred's Texas Cafe

That's my shack take on this week's topic. Well - almost - i need some Pepto after visiting these places at the same time. And, I ill go on record and say that my current favorite cuisine is Indian but my experience is sorely limited. Here is the menu that launched this affair - Maharaja Restaurant Fort Worth.

Be sure to check my cohorts choices  ConradRamanaSanjanaPadmum, & Raju

See ya next week.