Walking with Tom: Saving Grace

There is a highway interchange that I drove multiple times a week over the course of six or so months. Each time I approached this particular interchange, my grip on the wheel would tighten. Closing in on the interchange where drivers are making last second decisions; praying to an unknown god they have chosen the appropriate lane to be in. I know the lane I need to be in; I have been in the lane I need to be in. My knee is shaking uncontrollably. In the midst of the interchange chaos ensues as some drivers continue to jockey for their lane; others are looking for the fastest way out of there; and still others are apparently lost. I feel like I am going to poop my pants. The color in my hands reveals I have a death grip on the steering wheel. Through the interchange safely. A deep breath and a sigh of relief. I feel light-headed as my grip relaxes and the shaking stops. Maybe it will be better tomorrow. It will not be better tomorrow…

Anxiety is a multiplier. Stir in even a little anxiety and something simple invariably becomes a chore. Stir in a lot of anxiety and it becomes something you want to avoid.

I’m passing sleeping cities
Fading by degrees

These are the opening lines to Tom Petty’s Saving Grace (from Highway Companion). Damn, if there ever was an opening line written specifically for me, there you have it. I do not, or more specifically, my anxiety does not, like traffic. I am the person on the road before most people consider getting out of bed. I am the road-tripper who purposefully slinks through a city at 3:00 AM, like a shadow that was never there. Those are my times; little to no traffic and music on the radio keeping me awake and alert.

This is what this song evokes. It’s a rockabilly tune that is built for driving across wide-open spaces or slipping through towns under the cover of darkness. But like any Petty song, there is more to it than that.

And it’s hard to say
Who you are these days
But you run on anyway
Don’t you, baby?
You keep running for another place
To find that saving grace

Sometimes when I hear this, I feel like Tom is calling me out. That maybe Tom has insight to my secret. Until recently, nobody outside of me and a doctor knew I suffer from anxiety. For me, in the before days and even now, each new town or each new location is a chance to start over or reinvent myself – if only for a day or a night. But in the end, it never sticks, because we are who we are.

The song, in its whole, reminds us of that. There is this sense of a weary traveler on autopilot. However, this person is also painfully aware of who or what he or she is. They know the latest facade will only last so long. But they carry on searching for something that cannot be.

Walking with Tom: Louisiana Rain

Readers of this blog and many friends know I am a big fan of Tom Petty. To me, Tom Petty was more than a musician who had success and a lot of great songs. Tom was also a song writer who went beyond the angst and superficial emotions and imagery one would find in a typical rock song. And for a person who suffers from anxiety, Tom made me feel almost normal. He never said “anxiety” is normal, but he did convey time and again that everybody has problems and challenges; that everybody has moments of darkness; and that nobody has a perfect life.

For me, Tom’s songs could be emotional, they could stoke the imagination, or they could just tell a story. And I would like to tell my story of walking with Tom for over four decades now.

I was formally introduced to Tom Petty with Damn the Torpedoes. I played that album constantly, but I remember the first time I played it, the song that really stuck to me at the time was Louisiana Rain. I recognize Refugee is a song that anyone with anxiety can relate to and it is one of the reasons I wanted the album in the first place, but the haunting imagery created by Louisiana Rain is what stuck with me after the first listen.

South Carolina put out its arms for me
Right up until everything went black somewhere on Lonely Street
And I still can’t quite remember who helped me to my feet
Thank God for a love that followed the angel’s remedy

There are many ways to dissect this particular lyric. Tom obviously had something in mind when he put pen to paper, but he also wanted people to think for themselves. It was OK if you didn’t see what he saw, as long as you saw something.

What I saw was me – a person on the brink of suicide. I didn’t understand until decades later that it was anxiety that prevented me from going through it. It was anxiety that helped me to my feet. It was anxiety that was the angel’s remedy. And it was a few close friends who stood in for a love that followed and kept me sane through that particular moment in my life.

I feel it is important to note that I have not considered suicide since then.

Louisiana rain is falling just like tears
Running down my face, washing out the years
Louisiana rain is soaking through my shoes
I may never be the same when I reach Baton Rouge

Rain (or water) is often used as a metaphor for cleansing, but I took this to be more about change than anything else. Our lives are not a script and an event or moment can change the current path, just like rain changes the topography of a mountain, a desert and even a beach.

There were many songs on Damn the Torpedoes that spoke to me on a variety of levels. I didn’t know it then, but I would be walking with Tom for decades to come. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

Nope

Photo by Bryan Padron on Unsplash

On my walk this morning I encountered a skunk, my light illuminating its upturned tail and butt hole as it waddled down the sidewalk away from my general direction. It is not uncommon to encounter wildlife in my neighborhood. There are plenty of squirrels and ducks; just like many other neighborhoods; but we also have a healthy population of racoons, armadillos, turtles and deer. Skunks are either an oddity or just keep well hidden, but regardless, I made the quick decision to alter my route and let my new-found friend be alone with its thoughts, which likely were singular in nature: spray the motherfucker!

I half laughed or maybe I just chuckled a little as I considered what a Millennial or Gen Z member might have done. I suspect a picture would likely have been necessary, because we live in an age where if there is not a picture or video then it did not happen. The question is how far would someone have gone to get that picture? For one, it was dark. Also, skunks aren’t terribly large, so one would likely have had to have gotten close enough for – I don’t know – a selfie? Oh no, do not do it. The skunk does not want to be in a selfie with you. You will pay…

Which is almost hilarious, but it is not. There appears to be a very large group of people within our society who think all animals act like they are domesticated pets. These people tend to end up getting gored by buffalo in Yellowstone. The buffalo, like the skunk, does not want to be in your Insta feed or on Tik Tok. There is a reason zoo animals are behind fences or glass. It’s not to protect them from you; it is to protect you from them.

Revel from a distance in the silent majesty of the buffalo, or look in awe at the courageous skunk as you wisely back away from its rigid tail. It will be a much better memory than anything you post to your feed.

Almost Dancing

When I work out in my garage there is always music going. And sometimes the song dictates I make some random moves between sets. Some might consider these moves to be dancing, but I know better.

Hashtag – this guy cannot dance

However, this morning, whilst working out, a song by ABC took its turn in the mix and lo and behold my random movement constituted a bona fide dance move. You will need to trust me on this, but I know this to be true and I know both my nieces (Kadi and Juliette – dancers since they were youngsters) would be proud. Although I am very confident Juliette would still shake her head at my effort.

It took nearly 60 years, but I pulled off an actual dance move. So, there’s that…

Jackie Lee was My Second Kiss

She should have been my first…

Much ado is made about a first kiss and perhaps more about your very first kiss. I suspect, that like me, there are quite a few people whose very first kiss was less than it was “supposed” to be. Of course, there are likely many interpretations of what that very first kiss is supposed to be. I gather from numerous rom-coms and teen angst movies that your first kiss is reserved for your first love, but movies do not reflect life as much as we would like them to, and my first kiss was certainly not a “movie” kiss.

My first kiss was as surprising as it was unwelcome. My well-meaning roommate and his girlfriend felt it was important for me to get out there and set me up on a date without asking me. It’s probably important to know I never dated in high school and being a person who suffers from anxiety, I appreciate any “rules” to govern certain actions with the opposite sex, at least until they add to the anxiety.

The double date, as dates go, was average. It was not good, and it was not bad. As far as I was concerned there was certainly not any connection that would preclude us going out on another date, but she was a nice enough person to hang out with.

At the end of the date, I walked the young lady to her door, because I was brought up to be a gentleman and that is what a gentleman does. I expected nothing more than a few pleasantries and hoped there would be no empty promises under a dim porch light. Standing on the wooden porch, the pleasantries were brief because without warning her face was mashed against mine and a tongue that was not mine was in my mouth. I am certain this was not a new form of dentistry.

To say I was stunned would be an understatement. I thought there are rules to govern this. I was led to believe third date = first kiss. What the hell? Perhaps I was reading from the 1840’s handbook on dating. For her, it must have been like kissing a dead fish – not because of my breath, but because I just stood there, lips open yet unmoving under a dirty yellow light that seemed to be better at attracting moths than romance. I had no clue what I was supposed to do, so I just stood there like an idiot.

Fast forward in time and I was visiting my old haunts on the opposite coast (west), and I find myself on a much different front porch with Jackie Lee. A warm glow was cast upon the porch and the surrounding area. Or maybe the glow was because of Jackie herself.

I cannot speak for Jackie. For all I know this may have been a forgettable moment in her life. I certainly had no kissing skills other than a single pair of wayward lips on mine. But for me? Well…

In this moment, on Jackie’s porch, my anxiety level is super low and a kiss in this situation feels natural and right. And it was – all the so-called rules be damned. If I was a smart person, that kiss should have been the reference against which all other kisses are judged. I would like to use words like “fireworks” and “explosions” and you probably expect such proclamations because that is how kisses are supposed to be described. But no. This was better.

Her lips are soft, her tongue is small, and my first thought is “perfection.” A slowly building wave of warmth washes over my body, caressing not just my skin, but my soul as well. The moment is as ethereal as much as it is wanted. Everything on the physical plane is disappearing because it not necessary. No light, no sound, no porch, just us. I think I forgot how to walk for a moment.

The amazing thing for me is that everything felt natural. I know I already alluded to that, but we have to check in with anxiety for a moment. Because of anxiety, I often get caught up in thinking/worrying about what I am supposed do. Even in situations like this. But this time my lips and tongue moved naturally, in concert with hers. The embrace was what it should have been for the moment; not aggressive but still wrapped in each other. My brain had checked out and let my body do what felt right. And for someone who suffers from anxiety, that is a huge win.

Tom Tom Club

Not what you think!

Stevie Nicks is an awesome artist and she is still bringing it. But…

Tom Petty has been my favorite artist since 1979 and will continue to be through my last breath. I try hard to think of a Tom Petty concert I may have missed, but to the best of my recollection, if Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came to town, I was there. I first saw them in 1980 and then so many times before I last saw them in 2017, just a few months before Tom died.

Though he has passed on, his music will stay with me now and forever. I won’t quite say that Petty is the soundtrack of my life, but I think I can safely say that a majority of songs from the soundtrack of my life feature Tom and the Heartbreakers. Maybe it was the timing or maybe it was coincidence. Damn the Torpedoes came out in 1979, my senior year in high school and when I really started getting into music. Not that I didn’t listen to or like music. I was rocking the Eagles, Elton John, Zeppelin, and Ronstandt like any good 70’s kid, but when Petty came along, that is when I really started listening and maybe, I thought, he was talking to me.

Recently, I acquired some Tom Petty artwork, so I finally have something “TP” to grace the walls of my new abode. I don’t consider this a moment, but I thought this might be a moment to share my Top Ten Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers) songs, because, well, I can (hoo boy, that is a bunch of commas in a short stack of words!).

This is the artwork in question – although it is substantially larger and it is framed. I see this every day and it reminds me that I am still…

Learning to Fly (Into the Great Wide Open) – I think this may be the Tom Petty song I most identify with. Many folks think it’s about drugs (some people think all songs are about drugs) – it is not, so let’s get that out of the way. You can take this a few different ways, however I perceive it as always trying to go forward in life, even though you may not feel prepared. As someone with anxiety, this speaks to me and is a guidepost or reminder to keep trying.

I'm learning to fly but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Refugee (Damn the Torpedoes) – This was the one that started it all. I received the album (Damn the Torpedoes) for Christmas (thank you Santa!) and when I heard this song that was that. This is an anthem that still stands on its own today and maybe more so than when it was released based on the political climate right now.

Honey, it don't make no difference to me, baby
Everybody's had to fight to be free, you see
You don't have to live like a refugee
(Don't have to live like a refugee)

Running Man’s Bible (Mojo). Mojo is a bluesy album that sounds like the band had a fun time making. This song stuck out in the first several chords and is one I go back to again and again. It is yet another great story from one of America’s greatest story tellers.

Honey here's one to glory
Here's to bad weather
And all the hard things
We've been through together

Runnin’ Down a Dream (Full Moon Fever) – Tom was always great at creating imagery, even if you saw something other than what he was thinking about. The imagery in this song is colorful and clear. You can feel the wind in your hair as Tom rolls through the verses.

It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
I had the radio on, I was drivin'
Trees went by, me and Del were singin'
Little Runaway
I was flyin'

It’s Good to Be King (Wildflowers) – This has always been my favorite song off Wildflowers, but it’s extra special since I saw the Wildflowers tour with my good bud Tater (Jana T). The lyrics touch on the benefits of rock and roll stardom, but also that it is not the only reality. The point is that the reality you see may not be the reality that is real.

It's good to be king, if just for a while
To be there in velvet, yeah, to give 'em a smile
It's good to get high and never come down
It's good to be king of your own little town

Runaway Trains (Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)) – The song has a haunting flavor to it, not to mention a hypnotic guitar riff from Mike Campbell. It is not something you hear often (if at all), but it has stuck with me throughout the years.

She says "I understand
I'm used to being alone
And holding my own hand.
I'm stronger than you know"

Saving Grace (Highway Companion) – Coincidentally, this is a great driving song. It reminds me of driving late in the night on a highway you have to yourself.

I'm passing sleeping cities
Fading by degrees
Not believing all I see to be so

You Got Lucky (Long After Dark) – I will be honest, this song hits home because I don’t feel that some people really get to know me before they move on. And this one sticks out because of some life moments when it was released.

You better watch what you say
You better watch what you do to me
Don't get carried away
Girl, if you can do better than me, go
Yeah, go, but remember

The Waiting (Hard Promises) – My anticipation for Hard Promises was off the charts. I think I bothered the staff at the local record store every day for weeks until the album finally made it out. And it did not disappoint, with The Waiting as the leadoff.

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Casa Dega (originally a B-Side – re-released on Playback and the Deluxe version of Damn the Torpedoes) – A friend told me about this song and it took me years to find it; not getting to listen to it until Playback came out in 1995. It’s a great story featuring a place that exists and it is so – well, it is so Tom.

Baby I think I'm starting to believe the things that I've heard
'Cause tonight in Casa Dega I hang on every word

Thanksgiving Rules; Christmas Drools

I said it and I stand by it. Fight me with your words if you dare.

I love Thanksgiving. If I am not spending Thanksgiving with someone, I am preparing delicious BBQ (because that is my tradition).

However, Thanksgiving continues to get short shrift and would likely pass most people by if they didn’t get the four-day weekend that comes along with the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Let’s face it, a week before the clock strikes midnight on Halloween, Christmas decorations are lining the aisles of box stores, home improvement stores and even the local grocery store. And once 12:01 AM arrives on November 1, the commercials begin.

So allow me to help you count the ways Thanksgiving gets the better of Christmas.

Songs

There are no Thanksgiving songs. OK, there probably are a few Thanksgiving songs, but you never hear them, which is why nobody knows if there really are any Thanksgiving songs or not. You might think this is a disadvantage for Thanksgiving, but slow your roll just a bit there.

Nope…

There are approximately a zillion Christmas songs and each song has 50 odd different versions by 50 different artists. You would think with all those choices, it could be a Christmas music nirvana, but you kind reader, are wrong. First, you do not get to choose and second, there are only about five good Christmas songs out there. Most Christmas music is sugary tripe that is beaten into your skull for 45 days straight because every radio station goes to an All Christmas All the Time format.

I am pretty sure the murder rate goes up during the Christmas holidays because Christmas music permeates people’s cortexes for far too long – how many times can Grandma get run over by a reindeer… ADVANTAGE Thanksgiving!

Gifts

There are no Thanksgiving gifts. That is not to say that some thankful soul will not bring a gift of appreciation (normally alcohol thank you very much) for being invited to a Thanksgiving gathering. But as a tradition, gifts are not required for Thanksgiving, even though “giving” is in the damn title.

Christmas on the other hand is gifts to excess. As much as I enjoy watching someone open a gift carefully cultivated by me, the stress of gift giving can be overwhelming. Have you ever been part of a family where there are so many Uncles and Aunts that only the kids get gifts, but all the parents secretly hate it because their kids are getting too much crap they don’t have room for? Or how about gifts from far flung relatives that have no clue Johnny likes GI Joe with the kung fu grip and Janine is a soccer nerd.

And by the way, a scented candle is not a gift, it is a cop out.

Additionally, we have entered this void that once a kid reaches double digits, all they want are gift cards to Starbucks, Panera and Jamba Juice or cash. Where is the fun in that?

All that being said, the joy of giving that one person the perfect gift and seeing their face when they open it cannot be beat. So let’s call this a DRAW.

Food

Sure, I will play along, but let’s face it, Thanksgiving is built around food. Food that you will only eat once a year and wonder, why don’t we eat this more often?

I am not much into turkey, but any holiday that gives me an excuse to use my culinary skills and then lounge around in a food coma is fine by me. And doesn’t everything taste just a little better on Thanksgiving? Is it the extra butter?

Christmas gives us ham and fruit cake? First, I have personally met only one person who likes fruit cake. I am going to make no more comments on the matter. Second, nobody wants ham sandwiches for a month. If they say they do they are lying.

Food on Thanksgiving is not just a tradition, it is a production. Food on Christmas is, “it’s Christmas, we have to do something nice…” ADVANTAGE Thanksgiving.

The Weekend

Many companies (not all) give you a four day weekend for Thanksgiving. If you take the whole week off, you get nine straight days off for the price of three days vacation. That is winning my friends.

Christmas falls all over the place and unless you take vacation, you could be back at work the day after. Who wants that? Nobody.

Additionally, the entire Thanksgiving weekend is filled with football. Pro football, college football, family football and more football. Let’s face it, Thanksgiving weekend is built around kicking back and relaxing. It’s not so cold that you can’t send the kids outside and there are ready made leftovers in the kitchen, so assuming a reclined position is a breeze.

Do you know what you are doing after Christmas, weekend or not? You are listening to kids crying over broken toys; dealing with kids fighting over not yet broken toys; or standing in a line to return the clothes that are too big/small or toys kids don’t want or need.

ADVANTAGE Thanksgiving.

Christmas Ruined Thanksgiving

Some people may remember when Black Friday was not a thing. Instead, the day after Thanksgiving was a family day to relax together, go on a hike together, or do some other chill activity together.

Black Friday changed that and it changed Thanksgiving. Now instead of a trove of people in the kitchen making food, 40 different sales flyers are spread out on the kitchen table and a gaggle of adults are planning their logistics for Black Friday like they are trying to eliminate an enemy. This is war! And it is a war that most people will always lose, coming up short as their plans are foiled by a longer than anticipated line or by people who would dare start lining up the day before.

I don’t want to stand in any lines. I don’t want to stand in a line when I can be preparing and eating delicious food. I do not want to be standing in lines when I can be commiserating with the people I love and care about. I don’t want to stand in a line to save 70% on a cheap TV the store only has five of and there are 100 people in front of me. Fuck lines, and fuck Christmas for ruining Thanksgiving. ADVANTAGE Thanksgiving.

And, advantage to all the companies who have decided to take a break from Black Friday (and Thanksgiving Day sales too) and have given that time back to their employees.

By All Means, Do a Virtual Race

Big pimpin’ Jamoosh is back again and this post is a tad less serious than the previous one…

Saturday mornings are normally my longer runs, but this morning brought something different. It was race day! Now obviously in these pandemic times, it was not a race teaming with hordes of other runners, but it was a race nonetheless. A virtual race.

Even for a virtual race there is a post race Whataburger

I have only done one other virtual race and that was many years ago when one of my far flung blogging friends created one because there were no races in his area during the winter months. It was fun and it was mainly in fun; no winners (or losers) and a good story to blog about. Ah, the good old days.

This particular virtual race is put on by the company I work for and is part of their annual Give Campaign. They partnered with Run Keeper and Race Roster to make it as official as possible. More importantly, this race is done for charity and before I toed the make believe starting line on Saturday morning, over $230,000.00 had been raised. That is straight cash, homey!

Trump will probably claim this was his idea…

It’s a beautiful race… a very, very beautiful race. I thought of it, believe me. My friends, who are really, really rich, tell me I have the best ideas. So, it will be an amazing, very amazing, beautiful race, that I thought of.

But let’s face it, Trump has never had an exercise related thought in his life. I would say the term “Trump exercises” is an oxymoron, but let’s face it, the guy is just a plain old moron.

My bad, a “fucking moron”

Speaking of morons, there are advantages and disadvantages to a virtual race. For example, there is no douche nugget seven minutes into the race shouting that you are almost there. Somebody should punch that guy in the face incessantly while saying, “I am almost done.”

If you are looking for motivation from the runners around you, sadly you are out of luck. And there is no free beer tent, which almost dis-incentivizes us less serious runners – but hey, it’s for charity. It’s for the kids (It actually is, in part, for the kids)!

But… Butter my butt and call me a biscuit, I have never had such good parking. I don’t think I could be any closer to the start/finish line. No need to search for a parking space that is potentially farther from the start line than the race is long? Sign me up.

Oh hells to the yes sir and thank you may I have another

Oh, I got to design my own course. If I only had a slip and slide… In all seriousness, I did choose a course that was not only light on cars, but would not impact my momentum because of stoplights, crosswalks and other such things you don’t have to deal with on a closed race course.

And how did this race go? I am glad you asked. First, apparently sacrificing small animals to the Weather Gods/Goddesses paid off because it was perfect 5K weather. 54 degrees with just the slightest breeze. Nice. Second, it was early enough before the bulk of other runners, walkers, cyclists and other such folks were out and about so the course was “virtually” wide open. (Did you see what I did there?)

It appears even though there were no other runners, motivation was not a problem for this guy.

Mile 1 – 8:45 / Mile 2 – 8:15 / Mile 3 – 8:06 / Overall – 25:58 / Pace – 8:22

Not bad for an older guy. I will take it. And I will take that post-race Whataburger Hatch Green Chile Bacon Burger meal as a post race treat as well.

If you can do a virtual race and support a charity, I highly encourage you make it so.

Jamoosh Gives You a Clue or Stop Posting Garbage

About

Sadly, I feel I need to write this section. Everyone these days is quick to assign a label based on a single sentence and I certainly don’t need that. Additionally, people these days seem to only deal in absolutes, “you think Black Lives Matter AND you support the police – that’s fucked up…” Also, it feels like you must be for or against and there is no room for conversation. So here is an intro to set the stage.

For the record, I lean Republican, but have never voted a straight Republican ticket. I am for limited government, although I do believe that in some areas governmental oversight, policies and laws are necessary (that said, the government does not have to be so damn bureaucratic about it). I expect to pay my fair share of taxes and I expect Congress to use that money wisely, building an infrastructure that State and Local governments can use as a foundation to successfully run and grow their states and cities by providing services all people benefit from.

I am not religious; however, I am spiritual. I do believe a variety of religious teachings are beneficial and necessary for society to function and I acknowledge that churches can provide community for a wide range of people.  

Additionally, equality is important to me. Regardless of color, creed or orientation, we can all be equal citizens contributing to our communities, cities, states and country.

I do not believe in socialism, however our current run of capitalism has left a wider gap between the haves and the have-nots and the shrinking of the middle class. As a country, we have the means to ensure people have basic entitlements – but nobody, regardless of station, should feel they are entitled to everything.

Just for kicks, let us do some hot-button topics…

I am against Trump for President, but that does not mean I am against a Republican for President. My ballot represents my values and sometimes that is a Republican and other times it may be a Democrat. I look beyond the label because some Democrats are more conservative than they are liberal, and some Republicans lean so far right as to be considered radicals.

I am not shouting “defund the police.” I do want there to be a conversation that includes representation from all communities regarding what we need our police to be. I want the men and women in blue to have the necessary training for the job we ask them to do. I do not want our police officers to be social workers, but I want them to be part of the social fabric of our communities.

I want our governments (at each level) to institute the programs and the infrastructure necessary so 911 operators do not automatically default to the police. Our police should be there to serve and protect, not to be mental health workers, dog catchers, day care providers, or social workers. Our police should not be the ones who are called upon because government has failed its people.

Well now, that is one heck of an opening. Let’s get on with it, shall we…

Here is a question: Do you panic or do you pause?

Do you blindly re-post memes and “articles” because they elicit an emotional response in you or do you take the time to validate the veracity of the source? Do you take a moment to understand what is being said? Sadly, on Facebook and on other platforms, most people seem to panic when they should pause.

Thousands of “publications” are flooding feeds with politically motivated “can you believe this” posts, which are nothing more than click-bait. These sites do not necessarily exist to promote a cause so much as they exist to make a profit. Because opinions are cheap and facts cost money, it is easier and cheaper to pump out bogus or misrepresented facts with an outrageous headline to get you to click and re-post because that improves their ad revenue.

And thanks to the proliferation of these types of sites on the internet, people (well-meaning or not) can find it hard to tell the difference between a crappy source and a reliable source.

It is Mostly Propaganda

Republicans and Democrats, right and left, liberal or conservative, there are a host web sites dedicated to promoting an agenda of some sort. There is nothing wrong with that until the truth and facts start getting twisted.

Propaganda is often a distortion of the truth with the purpose of making you angry or scared and the nature of Facebook (and the internet in general) speeds the spread. And that speed is exacerbated because people who panic significantly out-number those who pause.

Propaganda also plays heavily on your existing biases, seemingly confirming things you believe to be true or at least things you have heard.

The thing with propaganda is that it does not want you to think. It only wants you to agree. Blindly. You are expected to be so wrapped up in your patriotism or your support for the cause that you never consider looking behind the curtain.

The Mainstream Media

The Mainstream Media (MSM) is not what you think it is. It is a tag assigned to liberal leaning media outlets to make it appear the media as a whole has a liberal slant. However, consider Sinclair Broadcasting Group, an organization with strong conservative ties. Sinclair Broadcasting owns and controls more than 190 television stations across the country, making it one of the nation’s largest players in local TV and news.

Sinclair has been fined for presenting paid segments to the public as though they were news reports or programs. In fact, FCC investigators found that 64 Sinclair stations aired such paid segments as news more than 1,400 times.  Additionally, Sinclair mandates its stations’ newscasts broadcast pro-Trump commentaries.

Considering most people get their news from local stations, a company with over 190 local stations and a conservative agenda seems relatively “mainstream” to me.

My point is, liberal AND conservative politics are well represented across the so-called mainstream media.

Here Are a Couple of Clues People Can Get

If something seems fishy, Truth or Fiction and Snopes are unbiased websites that weed out conspiracy theories, urban legends, fake news and fiction that is being circulated on the internet. For example:

  • Multiple social media groups claimed that a “pro-police” march in support of law enforcement went unreported by the “mainstream media” in July 2020. In addition to misrepresenting the date of the event, the posts mislabeled a religious “Jericho March” as a “pro-police effort.”

Know the source. Media Bias Fact Check is the most comprehensive media bias resource available, letting you know how far left or right a news site, website or “publication” leans; the accuracy of their reporting; and whether or not they promote conspiracy theories. Some examples:

  • The Washington Post is “left of center” in their bias and their reporting is considered highly factual due to the use of proper sources and a reasonable fact check record.
  • Fox News is firmly “right” in their bias and their factual reporting is labeled “mixed” because they use pundits with poor records of fact-checking as resources.

Know the source part two – Many news sites are not news sites; they are opinion sites. Opinions do not make something true or false. On one end of the spectrum, opinions are the simple perceptions of an individual (vanilla ice cream is better than strawberry ice cream). At the other end of the spectrum, opinions are propaganda, meant to incite or induce an emotional response, even if there are no actual facts involved. Sadly, many opinion sites are disguised as news sites and their “stories” are as valid as something you would find in the National Enquirer.

Finally, pictures are often not what they seem. Never mind that manipulation is almost constant these days, but people use pictures that were taken months or even years ago to prove a current point.

  • Several right leaning publications/websites called Joe Biden and the Democrats hypocrites for not wearing masks at their convention in August 2020. As proof, these publications published three different images of a crowd around Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. No one in the photos — not the politicians present, nor the tightly-packed supporters — wore a mask. Of course, what was not disclosed is those pictures were taken in early March 2020 at a Joe Biden rally, prior to the public being encouraged to wear masks.  

What do you do?

I suspect (opinion by the way), most of you will continue to panic rather than to pause and that is your right. It is hard to pause. Pausing takes work; pausing takes you out of the moment and makes you think. But maybe you would like to think. If so:

Choose your news sources wisely. Facebook is not a news source by the way. Personally, my go to news sources are those that present accurate facts. Conveniently, the more right or left a source leans, the less accurate they are with the truth. My sources are centered or are slightly left or right (at least according to Media Bias Fact Check), but all have high or very high marks for factual reporting.

Do not surround yourself with only people who agree with you. This puts you in an echo chamber and you become more susceptible to bullshit and misinformation.

Ask why and look for the root cause. Some people are up in arms over protestors regardless of how peaceful or violent they are. Do you think maybe it does not matter to certain groups how people are protesting, only that they are? Do you think that what is being said in these protests scares certain people more than how it is being said?

Take a moment to pause. Even if you don’t want to take the time to validate something, you still don’t have to post it.

Why Does This Matter to Me?

There are a couple of reasons. First, I was a journalism major back in the day and I was taught you must be unbiased in your reporting and that you must double-check and verify your facts, so this current climate is distressing. Second, while I am not really a fan of Facebook (and its practices), it is a good place to maintain relationships. But whether it is friends or family, I didn’t connect with you to look at political memes, unverified and biased articles, and other crap. I want to know how you are doing because you are a relationship not a news source. I want to know the good and cool things you have going on because I cannot be there to participate. And yes, I do want to see your memes on how the Dallas Cowboys are distancing themselves from the Super Bowl!

Sources

Record fine for Sinclair

How Much Do We Need the Police

Local News is Trusted More than National News

Death Rattle of Journalism

News Type Varies by Whom is Watching

I’d Like Seconds, Please

Big Pimpin’ Jamoosh here. Today we are talking food. Good food you make at home, that is.

One of the best things my parents taught me, prior to their divorce, was how to cook. My sisters and I learned to cook at a young age, going from helping to make cookies, to tasks for Sunday brunch, to cooking an entire meal for the family.

S’mores dip for one!

Sadly, I do not think kids these days get much opportunity to learn how to cook; what with all the activities mom and dad are rushing them to and from on a daily basis, including weekends. It has become much easier to grab something to go or pop something into a microwave. By the time kids leave home the extent of their cooking skills is:

  • Read Package
  • Enter Time
  • Press Start

Or if you are especially good at math, press +30 the appropriate number of times.

Pork and chorizo tacos – yum!

On the other hand, when my sisters and I were kids, my Mom would hand us the Betty Crocker Cookbook and tell us to plan a meal. We would choose a recipe (or recipes) and the necessary ingredients would show up after the next trip to the grocery store.

The only downside to cooking was the arbitrary parental friendly rule. If mom or dad did the cooking, the kids did the dishes. If one of the kids did the cooking, the kids did the dishes. What the…

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a boon for people to re-introduce themselves to cooking at home. This is also an excellent opportunity to introduce kids to the joy of cooking. Let’s face it, they could use something that isn’t screen time.

For me, the pandemic has been an opportunity to try new things and truly relish home cooked meals. Being a consultant who traveled weekly prior to COVID-19, cooking for one was tough enough with only a night or two to eat leftovers before hitting the road again.

With travel off the docket for the time being, I can cook a variety of things on Sunday, or really, any day of the week, knowing it will not go to waste.

Stuffed chicken breast; wrapped in bacon; stuffed into a poblano – yes and please!

People have often said food brings us together and I believe that togetherness is the reason for my greatest food memories. It was the Sunday brunches we prepared together and ate together back in the day. It was the evening meal we ate together, nobody leaving the table (and dessert not being served) until everyone had eaten.

I remember dinners at my Grandparents house that would linger as conversation, across generations, was a priority. And I feel that is what I miss most. Meals have become an eat and run affair instead of an extended moment to relax with the people you care about at the end of the day.

Thai smoked ribs – oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, ohhhhhh yes.

Stepping up to the platform, I think it will be most excellent if as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to subside, we keep room in our schedules for some home based food traditions. Let’s keep some time for families to be together. Because these are the traditions that kids take with them to build their own strong families.