Reflections Blog

Reflections

Jonas Grushkin's Gemini

Jonas Grushkin may be one of the best jazz pianists and composers you’ve never heard of.  If so, prepare to be surprised and intrigued by his just-released album, Gemini.  Evoking dark and light, tragedy and comedy, ying and yang, and two opposites forming a whole, this album showcases technically proficient jazz combined with the raw energy and passion of blues.

The album reminded me that the piano is a percussion instrument, and Grushkin is a percussionist from his ponytail to his boot heels.  He says his earliest memory of rhythm came from his father practicing drum rolls around the house.  Lacking a drum kit, Grushkin practiced beat and syncopation on an upright piano and taught himself how to play the instrument.  He is as capable as any pianist with the soft touch, but his métier is hard-driving virtuosity, playing the keys like drums and making resounding statements that linger in the mind even as the beat and melody advance.

Tags: jazz, piano, Jonas Grushkin, blues, album, Apple Jack's
Trump's Triumph . . . for Now

To borrow from Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked:  for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Last night, in a stunning upset, Donald Trump became our new President Elect, and barring anything unforeseen, he will become our nation’s 45th President on January 20, 2017.  Like many people, Democrats and Republicans, I could not imagine a candidate so categorically and demonstrably unfit for the office actually being elected.  But more than 59 million Americans voted for him (fewer than voted for Hillary Clinton, but Trump won the Electoral College). 

The 59 million Americans who voted for Trump voted for change—and change they will get.  But as the sage cautions, “Be careful what you wish for.”

 

Tags: Trump, Republican, president, election, promises, supporters, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump
Trump in Denial

When I was in high school, I read a story about a voodoo priest who placed a death curse on a man.  The man didn’t believe in voodoo, so he wasn’t worried about it, but then he started feeling poorly.  His joints ached, he began sweating profusely, and he was running a fever.  He told a friend about the curse and asked if he should be worried.  The friend said, “Maybe you just have the flu.  If voodoo isn’t real, you’ll get better.  But if it is real, you’ll die, and what you believe won’t matter.”

This is how it is with global warming.  If it isn’t real, thousands of scientists and hundreds of world leaders are sounding the alarm for nothing, and their folly will become evident in the decades ahead.  But if global warming is real, then climate change deniers like Donald Trump, who’s announced he will pull America out of the Paris climate agreement, Steve Bannon (Trump’s shadowy rabbi), and Scott Pruitt (current Administrator of the EPA) are going to be shown for the fools they are.   The consequences of their buffoonery, however, will be felt throughout the world for decades—and maybe forever.  Trump, Bannon, and Pruitt won’t live to see the worst of the damage they’re inflicting on humanity, but our grandchildren will, as will their children and the generations that follow (if any do).

Tags: Donald Trump, president, climate, denial, Paris agreement, doomsday, global warming
Trump, the Vulgarian

By now, no one needs convincing that Donald Trump is vulgar.  The Access Hollywood videotape of him admitting that he tried to bed a married woman and bragging about being able to do virtually anything with women because he is a “star,” including grabbing women by the crotch—this evidence alone is proof that Trump has no moral center.  He is a vile, egotistical, bully and braggart who should never represent our country, can never be a role model for young people, and must never be allowed to make decisions that could affect hundreds of millions of Americans. 

He has been highly disdainful about the ten (so far) women who have come forward and accused him of sexual assault.  They are the liars, he claims.  His Access Hollywood talk was just that—talk.  He assures us.

ISIS and the Zombie Apocalypse

In the opening of George Romero’s cult classic Night of the Living Dead (1968), a young man and woman are driving through a desolate countryside to a visit a cemetery.  As Barbara and her brother Johnny are laying a cross wreath on their father’s grave, they are stalked by an old man who lurches awkwardly toward them, a twisted look on his face.  After the man attacks Barbara, Johnny tries to defend her and is killed.  Then the maniac chases Barbara to an old farm house, where she finds refuge with another man, Ben, who kills several zombies before boarding up the house and trying to save them from a growing horde of the undead that is surrounding the house and trying to break in.  Later, when a mass of zombies attack the house, Barbara is killed by her dead brother. 

Night of the Living Dead embodies one of the darkest themes in human pop culture—the living pursued by the dead, isolated and nearly defenseless against an unreasoning enemy we don’t understand whose sole aim is to kill us or devour our flesh.  Ghouls, vampires, werewolves, demons, zombies, and the gigantic nuclear creatures of the 1950’s—in our collective nightmares, they are the instruments of our destruction, monsters who attack without provocation, as powerful and soulless as they are uncompromising and devoid of humanity.  Among our fears, we fear the unfamiliar and the irrational.  We fear losing our freedom and our sense of well-being.  We fear being pursued by forces stronger than ourselves.  We fear not knowing where safety lies.  In short, we fear threats we do not understand and cannot control.

Tags: ISIS, Islamic State, vampires, zombies, monsters, Frankenstein, werewolves, mummies, nightmares
The Terrible Dilemma We Face

Okay, I was wrong about Donald Trump.  I didn’t think he’d last through the primaries.  His surprising victory in securing the Republican nomination is as shocking to me as it was to most people, including the leaders of the Republican party.  However, I stand by my prediction that Trump will fall.  Eventually.  Sooner or later.  If he loses in the general election, he’ll no doubt find people to blame (except himself).  He’s already said that the election may be rigged, which sets the stage for his explanation of that failure if it happens.  If he wins in the general election, then I think his fall will be much more spectacular and ruinous, not for Trump but for the country, because Trump hasn’t a clue how to govern the richest, most powerful nation on Earth, and he is a dangerous and erratic narcissist.

 

 
The Rise (and Fall) of Donald Trump

You can’t turn on the news these days without hearing about Donald Trump.  As I write this, one poll has him favored by 28 percent of Republican voters, far more than the gaggle of other Republican candidates.  Trump’s genius for self-promotion, coupled with his brashness and disregard for anyone else’s opinion, is creating a media firestorm and effectively blocking coverage of the other candidates.  Has anyone heard anything lately about Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, George Pataki, or . . . well, the list goes on?  If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, he will be the first candidate to win through controversy, confrontation, and sheer bluster.

Tags: Donald Trump, Republicans, President, Campaign, Politics
Ferguson and the Illusion of Progress

Like many Americans of my generation, I believe in progress.  I believe we can learn from our mistakes and do better in the future.  I believe that with each passing generation our society evolves from one state of consciousness into a more advanced state of consciousness, that social beliefs previous generations held dear, beliefs that often had disastrous consequences, are rejected as we collectively learn to be more fair, more just, and more accepting of people who are different from us.

We no longer believe that slavery is acceptable, for instance.  More than six hundred thousand Americans died to prove that point and millions more have suffered in one way or another in the years following the American Civil War as that practice, which was once considered natural, came to be seen as the abomination it was.  Now, in 2015, it would be inconceivable to reintroduce slavery—at least in America, although ISIS has reintroduced it in the Middle East and forms of involuntary servitude exist in parts of the world we would like to think are less developed than the West.

Scientists Discover Earth-like Planet

I have always been a science geek and lover of science fiction.  In my teenage years, I traveled to many faraway planets in my imagination and was convinced that we are not alone in the universe.  I’m still convinced.  The universe is too vast and Earth is not special enough for this to be the only planet where life emerged among trillions of planets in billions of galaxies.  Simple math indicates that there must be a vast number of habitable planets where life evolved and no doubt exists in forms even our most creative science fiction writers have not dreamed of.  That said, I am less excited than I might be about the recent discovery of an Earth-like planet a mere 490 light years away from us.  

Scientists Discover Earth-like Planet

I have always been a science geek and lover of science fiction.  In my teenage years, I traveled to many faraway planets in my imagination and was convinced that we are not alone in the universe.  I’m still convinced.  The universe is too vast and Earth is not special enough for this to be the only planet where life emerged among trillions of planets in billions of galaxies.  Simple math indicates that there must be a vast number of habitable planets where life evolved and no doubt exists in forms even our most creative science fiction writers have not dreamed of.  That said, I am less excited than I might be about the recent discovery of an Earth-like planet a mere 490 light years away from us.  

Road Rage and the NRA

Recently, I was driving into town and came to a red light at an intersection between the road I was on and a major highway. My side of the intersection had four clearly marked lanes—one turning right, one going straight across the highway, and two left-turn lanes (which led into town). I had pulled into the rightmost left-turn lane because after I turned onto this major two-lane highway I needed to turn right not far ahead. To my left was a white pickup, which had pulled into the leftmost left-turn lane.

When the light turned green, I started across the intersection and began turning into the right-hand lane. Midway through my turn I sensed the white pickup coming uncomfortably close to my car. I glanced at this vehicle and saw that the driver was not heading into the left-hand lane, which he was required to do, but was heading into my lane. I honked my horn to let him know I was there, but he kept turning into the right-hand lane. I honked again but he ignored me, so I was forced to drive onto the shoulder to avoid a collision. Then, as he drove off, he turned and looked at me through his rear window and gave me the finger.

Although he was clearly in the wrong (Colorado Driver Handbook, p. 18), something about our encounter enraged him. I didn’t care about his rude gesture. My only thought was, thank God he didn’t have a gun.

Lance, We Hardly Knew Ya

Lance Armstrong’s colossal house of cards recently came crashing down during two well-orchestrated interviews with Oprah Winfrey on national television.  For the media, it was a ratings extravaganza fueled by the public flogging of a once-revered sports legend.  For cycling insiders, it was the lancing of a boil that had been festering for years.  And for many Americans and others around the world it was the humiliating discovery that the hero they had worshipped and cheered through one victory after another was a fraud, a little like learning that your favorite uncle is a crook and a pedophile.

What makes Lance Armstrong’s downfall so bitter for us is that we had elevated him to such stellar heights.  He was the celebrity cancer survivor, the solemn spokesman for defeating death. A fierce competitor, driven and strong, he exemplified what you could make of yourself if you were as focused and determined and disciplined as he was.  He created Livestrong Foundation, the cancer nonprofit that raised the hopes of hundreds of thousands of cancer sufferers.  He won the Tour de France, the granddaddy of cycling’s grueling races, seven consecutive times.  He was everything we hoped we could be if only we were more like him.

Dylan Redwine Has Vanished

Dylan Redwine is a 13-year-old boy who vanished from his father’s home in Vallecito, Colorado, on November 19, the morning after he had arrived for a court-ordered holiday visit with his father. He hasn’t been seen since.

I have wanted to write about Dylan since this situation developed, but I wasn’t sure what to say. As a person naturally inclined toward problem solving, my tendency is to speculate about what happened to him and try to solve the mystery. But I am not privy to what the investigators know, so my speculations would be uninformed and potentially damaging. I can say that our community has been stunned by his disappearance, and he remains in our hearts and on our minds.

His Missing Person notice has been posted on many store windows. You can’t walk around town without seeing it. And our local newspaper, The Durango Herald, publishes periodic updates on the case. The latest has nothing new to report on Dylan’s disappearance but notes that the reward for information leading to an arrest or information about his whereabouts has grown to $20,000.

The Canals of Bangkok

Debra and I recently traveled to Thailand as a point of departure for three weeks of hiking and sightseeing in Bhutan and Nepal. Bangkok and its environs are home to 14 million people. Thailand has a population of 67 million, 20 million of whom are ethnic Chinese. The vast majority of people are Buddhist, and that is reflected in the traditional Thai manner of greeting and departing--the namaste. The tourist-facing people are invariably polite, as you would expect, but we experienced that gentleness in everyday people on the street, too.Boys swimming in the canal  Here, boys are swimmng in one of Bangkok's many canals.
 

New Book Release: Adaptive Coaching, 2nd ed.

I am pleased to announce that the Second edition of Adaptive Coaching has just been published. The first edition of the book has been a great success, thanks to the many readers who have found it to be a useful and practical guide for improving their coaching effectiveness. But a decade has passed since the first edition was published, and the world of coaching has advanced considerably during that period. Coaching has become one of the most popular means of developing people in organizations, and the number of people who call themselves coaches has multiplied exponentially. This edition of the book retains everything that made the first edition so useful and adds chapters that will help readers enhance their coaching skills even further.

The Tragedy in Aurora

Like most people, I was horrified to learn of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, on Friday, July 20, 2012. It’s become evident in the days since that the killer carefully plotted his attack, prepared for months—stockpiling weapons, ammunition, and body armor for himself—and then methodically carried out his plan with ruthlessness and brutality. He murdered twelve innocent people and wounded fifty-eight more. And he rigged his apartment with explosions and sophisticated triggering mechanisms designed to inflict harm on the police officers who would go there to investigate. In the days following this random act of violence, people have been struggling to make sense of what happened and why he did it.

Empowering a Predator

Louis Freeh’s just-released report on the Penn State sexual abuse scandal leaves little doubt that the senior leaders at Penn State, including revered football coach Joe Paterno, were culpable by enabling Jerry Sandusky to continue his abuse of boys for over a decade. Assuming that Freeh’s findings are true—and we have no reason to question his integrity, or the thoroughness of his team’s investigations, or Sandusky’s guilt—then what we have witnessed is a colossal and egregious failure of leadership.

Meeting Willie Nelson in the Desert

On one of his trips to Durango, Mick had crossed the back roads of Nevada and come into southern Utah on one of those dry summer days when the air is as hot as the pavement and the dust, fine as talcum powder, seeps into your pores. He rode into the only gas station in a place that would be a ghost town if the few people there had had the sense to leave. While he was gassing up, a pickup came to a stop on the other side of the gas pump. When the driver’s door opened, a dog jumped out and ran about a dozen steps and peed. Then the driver emerged. He wore old jeans and a pair of shit-kicker boots, a red cotton shirt, faded from too many washings, and a red bandanna wound tightly around his head. His face looked like it had been etched with a putty knife, and he had long braided gray pigtails. Damn if it wasn’t Willie Nelson. Here in this spit-in-the-road-of-a-town in southern Utah. Damn.

Scott Thompson's Abrupt Exit

CEO Scott Thompson’s recent resignation from Yahoo—after only four months on the job—is a stark reminder that leadership legitimacy can be lost in a heartbeat if the leader’s integrity is called into question. Moreover, that breach of integrity does not have to be substantial. In Thompson’s case, it was the claim, in his biography, that he had dual degrees from Stonehill College in accounting and computer science (at the time he graduated, Stonehill did not offer a computer science degree).

Thompson, who was named Yahoo’s CEO in January 2012, came to the company with solid technology credentials and a long track record as a successful executive. Before joining Yahoo, he had been the chief technology officer and then president of PayPal and, before that, the executive vice president of technology solutions for Inovant, a subsidiary of Visa. Earlier in his career, he worked for Coopers and Lybrand, where he specialized in information technology solutions for financial services clients. In each of these roles, Thompson had demonstrated not only a grasp of technology but the ability to lead people and organizations successfully. He would appear to have been an ideal executive to turn around a struggling technology giant like Yahoo.

Desperately Seeking Santorum

This year’s presidential campaign will be remembered principally for the Republican’s desperate search for ABR—anybody but Romney. As I write this in March 2012, the field appears to have narrowed to four: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul. But it’s not really four. Ron Paul’s odds of winning the nomination are about as good as Jerry Sandusky’s odds at being named the next Pope. Which leaves us with three . . . but not really. In the polls, Newt has had more ups and downs in the past year than the DOW, and his star is fading fast. Republicans everywhere except in the Deep South seem to have realized that candidate Gingrich would carry more baggage than United Airlines. This is the guy who was railing against Bill Clinton for his Monica Lewinsky indiscretions while Gingrich himself was having an illicit affair. Moral hypocrisy doesn’t get more sordid than that. Pitting him against Obama next fall would be like conceding the election before it’s held.

By Terry R. Bacon
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