There is a New Superstar at Brazosport Center Stages

Brazosport Center Stages held its annual business meeting and appreciation night on August 8. Missing only the food and drink, BCS members gathered online via streaming technology. I can’t tell you how they did it. I was barely able to tune it in on my computer.

Except for the unusually boring presentation of the financial report, the meeting was excellently produced by Mr. Dennis Ulrich. (Disclosure: The person serving as treasurer at the time of the meeting occasionally writes for SOTLJ.)

The centerpiece of every appreciation night is the presentation the Superstar Award. The suspense actually centers around whether or not there will be an award since it is given from time to time to people who have made extraordinary lifetime contributions to BCS in acting, directing, theater technical areas, and governance. The minimum standards for the award are high and have eliminated some significant talent whose primary contribution has been in acting, say, or design. The award is decided by the theater board of directors and it is not unusual for several years to pass without a new Supertar.

But we have a new Superstar in 2020. It is Susan Moss who has acted (in many roles), directed, served as president of the board, and worked in a variety of tech positions to see that Brazosport Center Stages never misses curtain as advertised.

Brazosport Center Stages 2020 Superstar Susan Moss.

One of my favorite of Susan’s many performances on our stage was in the role of Violet Weston in August: Osage County in 2016.

You can see photos of Susan on stage at my Flickr site. I have selected a few an placed them in a Susan Moss Superstar album. See them here.

Day 155: The Surrounding Darkness and a Crack of Light

There was a little brightness a couple of days ago when former VP Biden announced his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris. She is an excellent choice both politically and in terms of her exceptional skills and knowledge of governing. And, maybe most importantly, she can throw a punch expertly and within the rules. This is a ticket that should win by a landslide.

However, there has been enough in the news during the time since Biden’s announcement to cast a pall over our wounded, limping democracy. The president is using his monarchical powers to strengthen his chances of re-election.

You say he has no monarchical powers?

Of course he does if the other two branches of government fail to restrain him. With a Republican majority in the Senate made up of craven, timorous incumbents like John Cornyn and Rafael (Ted) Cruz, there is no legislative check on his power. The Supreme Court of the United States, while not exactly an ally (yet), they most often vote the way he leans. In any case, the only aspect of our government that Trump has mastered is how to use the courts to delay. Think impeachment.

So King Donald is doing all he can to make the coronavirus work in his favor by handing the US Postal Service over to one of his supporters (Louis DeJoy gave over $1.2 million to the Trump campaign), by opposing additional funding for the USPS to handle an expected huge increase in mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 election (due to coronavirus), and continuing to do all he can to slow down mail service.

If he can slow it down enough, he not only makes it harder and riskier for people to vote, he also slows the delivery of many people’s prescription medications, Social Security checks, and household census forms. Benjamin Franklin, one of our sacred founders and creator of the post office had Poor Richard say in 1739, “He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.” Wise as Franklin was, I doubt he would have ever expected that one could figure out a way to choke off his postal service as one of his tools for helping assure that he had no rivals.

So, on this 155th day of my seclusion I am seeing darkness descend over my beloved America that I never expected to see. King Donald has also put together a ragtag bunch of headbangers from ICE, the Dept. of Justice (there is a misnomer), and any little corner of the government that has some group of clerks anxious to dress up and act soldierly for the Commander in Chief. He has dressed them in military gear and sent them off without IDs to clear the path for his now famous photo op holding up a Bible of unknown provenance (but probably not the Trump family Bible), to move them away from the federal building in Portland, and again to clear a path for the ICE bus to carry away two detainees in Bend, Oregon.

And at my last grocery pickup, I spotted a truck driving around their parking lot with a blue Trump flag on one side and a Texas flag on the other. Not enough room for Old Glory, I guess.

It all leads me to the conclusion that this is no time to hide. There will be signs in my yard this election season. I have a meticulous plan that I hope will offer the passers-by some day to day variety and a soft buildup to the Democratic ticket. When I fetch my morning paper, I will post a sign for the daylight hours. I will take it in at night when the Republican trolls go around doing their misdeeds. So here is my plan for the big buildup to the Biden yard sign from the first sign to appear:

Twenty Weeks in Isolation; 144 Days, or, a Gross of Days. When Will the Rats Return and Liberate Us?

Call it isolation, quarantine, or lockdown. It all feels like a leash or a probation department ankle bracelet. We do this of our own choice, not by order of Dr. Fauci, George Soros, the Chinese embassy, County Judge Lina Hidalgo (wrong county but I would do anything she asked of me), or, heaven forbid, Gov. Greg Abbott.

The latter, Gov. Abbot, was a late comer to the mask mandating business. Per his order of a month ago, you are only required to mask if there are 20+ active cases in your county. Presumably if you had twenty positives living and three hundred formerly positive, now dead, your county would be exempt.

Hermiting (gerund form of the verb, to hermit) has allowed me to dig in and enjoy my inner obsessive compulsive drive. I do not consider it a disorder if I can channel it into healthy addictions.

I have directed my OCD into treadmilling since no one can walk outdoors in Lake Jackson’s heat and humidity in July and August. We regularly experience “feels like” temperatures of 110 F. plus in the daylight hours. Even in early evening when the sun is setting, it will often feel like over 95 degrees with the humidity over 60 per cent. But the treadmill lives inside in air conditioned space under a ceiling fan. I can walk as long as my bones will bear it.

So, I have made it my goal to abandon the sedentary life by walking a minimum of 7,000 steps a day. That is a modest amount of exercise but, done regularly, it keeps me from feeling like one of those vegetables left too long in the bottom drawer of the fridge. My goal, pushed along by my OCD, now has me up to 42 consecutive days. (I have permitted myself two “recovery days” that are included in the count. So, call it 40 if you are beyond OCD, maybe anal retentive.)

The side benefit of treadmilling is that I can read on my iPad Kindle app. Walking enables deeper concentration on my reading, which is to say that I can’t fall asleep while walking. Should I fall asleep I can pick myself up and go back to walking and reading. It hasn’t happened but I know I could do it if necessary.

Using this method, I have finally finished Albert Camus’ The Plague, and Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini. My brief reviews of those two: 1.) The end of a pestilence is greeted by the return of rats to the streets and gutters, not doves bearing olive branches, and 2.) Pat Conroy delivers more locker room talk than I have heard since junior high school and Army basic training. Ugh. Almost as repulsive as the joyous return of the rats to our daily lives.

My other compulsion has been Duolingo Spanish lessons. After five years of daily exercises, I have finally decided to reward them with my $7/month so I can enjoy the site free of advertising. Their advertising is not as annoying as Pandora‘s. The woman who serves as Pandora’s shrill shill and whom they drop like a cold dagger without warning in between Brahms and Bach makes you either want to quit going to the site forever or cough up the $5/month to make her go away. I blinked and gave them my credit card. Life without her has been a joy.

Duolingo, on the other hand, is much less intrusive and annoying with their advertising. I could have tolerated it forever and gone on with free Spanish lessons. I finally gave in because of my nagging conscience.

What they do at Duolingo has made me consider nominating the organization for a Nobel Peace prize. Their lessons seem expertly organized and thought out. There are people on their staff who know languages and language pedagogy. And, even better, they know some of the tricks of game-style motivators for online learners. My OCD feeds right into their trap.

By their count I now have 1,837 consecutive days of meeting my self-defined practice and instruction goals. That is just over five years of 30 minutes or more every day. And, ever so slowly, it works. After five years I can hold brief conversations with a few of the native Spanish speakers in my world. Well, so long as they answer without asking a question. I’m not quite that fast.

So, if you must have a mental health disorder during a pandemic, I suggest the obsessive-compulsive. It beats clinical depression for many reasons, not the least is the survivability rate. So, if you have a computer and want to learn a language, there is no better time than the present. Duolingo offers ninety-five courses in thirty-eight languages with over 300 million registered users.

If you came of age in the sixties like me, you may even want to take Esperanto. It may be the language humanity’s far spread remnants can use to make peace and start the process of rebuilding the world. You could be among the first to say, Ho gojo, la ratoj revenis.” Oh joy, the rats are back.

Lockdown Days 128-131: Venturing Out – Just a Little

Those “coronavirus walks” are a thing of the past. The heat-humidity index has regularly pushed up to 106 and even higher in the afternoons. Without the neighborhood walks, there can be no more chance meetings with old friends, no more handovers of delicious tomatoes from a neighbor’s backyard garden.

Notwithstanding the heat, I cannot resist a chance to shoot a few pictures when occasions present themselves. Friday morning, I looked out the window and saw that a neighbor had one of those celebration signs in the front yard. I went out to see what the occasion was and it turned out to be for their 50th anniversary. When I heard voices outside later, I gathered up the camera with the wide angle lens and sped out to see if I could get a picture of them.

It was a low exposure risk with a high payout in terms of a chance to help them celebrate their big day. We visited (from a proper distance) and I learned that their kids had arranged for the sign – a nice alternative to the kind of super-spreader parties that usually accompany the 50th.

I had received a call a few weeks ago to see if I could take a few photos for the drive-by kickoff for the virtual Vacation Bible School compassion camp. There will be some Zoom meetings and each child received a yard sign and an activity kit for the price of a donation to the local food pantry.

We were all checked in properly with a brief personal health and exposure quiz and temperature check and then we were given matching red masks and t-shirts with the “Be Loved, Be Kind, Be You” camp motto. Each team got a bottle of hand sanitizer and all the equipment for their stations.

God knows (really) that we need to teach children about compassion and generosity while those principalities and powers (aka DJT) glorify selfishness with daily tweets that are followed by millions.

And, in case anyone wanted to make fun of a kid for signing up for compassion camp, we had this bouncer assigned to deliver a Wesleyan quadrilateral to his mid-section. He wasn’t taking any guff off anybody.

So, there you have it friends. It was my nineteenth weekend in lockdown and it was a blast. What isn’t there to love about celebrating an anniversary with a neighbor and taking pictures for a Compassion Camp for kids?

Compassion Camp has to be an improvement over the vacation Bible school I attended when I was a kid. There were so many things they tried to teach me. But there was only one truly unforgettable experience and that was the “goat milk and unleavened bread” simulation they required us to force down one time before we could enjoy punch and cookies. It was to help us understand something we read from the Old Testament. It must have had something to do with goat milk and unleavened bread.

Buttermilk and graham crackers, I now know, are nothing like goat’s milk or unleavened bread. Although the crackers are clearly unleavened, they are nothing like bread of any kind. And crumbled up in buttermilk, they seemed designed to set off an eight-year-old’s gag reflex. And we sang “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.” A man who could turn water into wine would never have done that to a child. That’s not what he meant by suffer.

There is just too much time for memories when you have been locked in for so long.

Pipophobia, the Epidemic that Seems to Affect Only Republicans

I have struggled to understand why United States senators with law degrees and postsecondary degrees from premier universities are so craven and timid when DJT threatens them with a tweet. Well, like most questions in psychology, if you fail to understand something, you can at least label it.

So I took to Google to get some help with labeling this condition. After finding the Latin word for tweet (pipo), I am prepared to announce my diagnosis: John Cornyn and Ted Cruz suffer from an extreme form of pipophobia.

I am sympathetic but unforgiving. Anyone whose integrity can be so easily intimidated by a semi-literate tyrant has no business presenting himself for public office in the United States. I have never run for office and never will. But I can tell you that I would be honored to be the subject of an insulting tweet from @realDonaldTrump.

But I guess even that is not worth getting a Twitter account for.

Classtime for White Folks

Yes, I mean white folks. That may sound a little crude or you may even think racist. But this post is addressed to everyone who racializes themselves or is racialized by others as white. If you checked the box next to the word “WHITE” on item 9 of your 2020 United States Census form, then this is a video you need to watch.

In this video, Jeffery Robinson, ACLU Deputy Director and an experienced trial attorney, speaks on the topic “The Truth About the Confederacy and the United States.” If you grew up in Texas or any other Southern state, it has been taught to you that the Civil War was not about slavery and that flying the Confederate battle flag is nothing more than a salute to our wonderful history, southern gentility, and tradition.

States’ rights, according to this version of history, was the driving force that led the South to secede and make war against the odious abolitionists of the North whose cause was to undermine the southern economy.

The video runs a little over an hour and forty minutes but it is worth your time.

Mr. Robinson has a more precise term for the grand tradition that the Confederate battle flag stands for: white supremacy.

In case you didn’t see the link above: https://youtu.be/QOPGpE-sXh0

Leave a comment and let me know what your think.