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Does The World Really Need Another Blog?

Unbreaking America

     For those of us who are feeling powerless to get the Federal Government to act in our best interests (...um, that would be everyone), despite overwhelming support for things like gun control, expanded voting rights, LGBQ rights, etc., there may be an answer.

     Someone on the Authors Guild Message Board recommended this 12 minute you tube video with Jennifer Lawerence that describes how grass roots activity at the local level can lead to change at the Federal level.

     I strongly recommend you watch, and then go to the website: represent.us  to learn more about what she has to say.


     Just copy and paste this link into your web browser:


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Rats Rapidly Disembarking From Trump’s Ship of Fools

     I'm well aware that The Donald's political obituary has been written more than once, only to find that, like Carrie, his little orange hand breaks through the sod to scare the bejesus out of us over and over again.  Still, somehow, this time feels different.

     The thing that made me think this time might be for real came from a Buffalo radio shock jock by the name of Tom Bauerle.  Although not a fan, I do tune in occasionally to hear what crazy, far right conspiracy he's promoting at the moment, so I know that he's been a Trumper since day one. But this week he suddenly jumped off the Trump Train (I know, I'm mixing my transportation metaphors here), and he did it for a reason that was hard to believe.

     He claimed (With a straight face, I presume. It is radio, after all.) that he's been just fine with Trump's behavior for the past six years, but when Trump dared to insult Ron DeSantis, that was a step too far.


      Apparently, it didn't bother Bauerle that the former President has repeatedly insulted women, war heroes, the parents of a dead soldier, the Speaker of The House, the Senate Majority Leader (of his own party) and pretty much any living being who failed to kiss his ass, but this last insult, which was actually pretty creative ("Ron DeSanctimonious") was a deal breaker.

     Bauerle claimed it was this silly insult that convinced him Trump had become, and I quote, an "asshole" and a "whiny little bitch".


    One has to wonder where Bauerle's been for the past six year to suddenly realize who this man is.  Perhaps under the same rock that Trump crawled out from under before stepping on to that golden escalator and descending into his adoring (and well paid) crowd of admirers.

     Clearly, it's the disappointing midterm election results, not a single insult, that are driving rats like Bauerle to jump ship but, whatever the reason, one can only hope that the Republicans daring to write the former President's obituary are actually right this time.

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     When I was barely a teenager and had just started smoking, I'd keep a cigarette in my coat pocket.  That may not seem odd, except for one thing—it was lit.  My late parents share some blame for this strange situation, something I'll get to later.

     My initial attempt at smoking didn't go well. The other 13-year old boys I hung out with in the alleys of Columbus Ohio, were ahead of me in this, and I was anxious to become one of the guys.  Tom McQuaid, my best friend at the time, tried to teach me to inhale, but it wasn't taking.
     "Suck the smoke into your mouth, and then…kind of…um…swallow it," he'd tell me.  I would try, but all I did was choke, with eyes watering, smoke spitting out of my mouth, and spittle creeping down my chin. 
     "I'll never get this," I told him, feeling despondent.
     "Try this instead," Tom said. "Take some smoke in—not too much—and then take a deep breath. That's how you inhale."
     More choking followed, with coughing and sneezing mingled in. But then, on the third try, with less smoke, it seemed to work. I didn't gag, and a thin wisp of smoke came back up, curling out of my nose. Suddenly, there was a feeling of lightness, as if a hole had opened up inside my brain, and I became slightly dizzy. More confident now, I took another small drag, inhaled, and slowly let it out of my mouth.  The feeling of lightness grew stronger, and my head felt like it was about to float away. Then I hit the ground, hard.
     We'd been standing on the side of a hill, so when I landed, I rolled sideways, not stopping until I was in the middle of the alley. There was a pickup truck fast approaching, but I was so out of it I couldn't move. Tom and another boy grabbed me by the arms and feet, and tossed me aside as the truck passed, the driver blasting his horn and cursing us through the open window. Just then I came to, looking up at the circle of faces surrounding me.
     "That was great!" I said, smiling like the fool I certainly was.  Little did I realize that this was the beginning of a 30 year love affair with 'ol devil nicotine, and that I wouldn't break up with her until I couldn't climb a flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath.
     But oh, what a wonderful affair it was!

     Many have written extensively about the cigarette addiction, how it's harder to break even than heroin, but the main ingredient—nicotine—is an awfully good drug, as drugs go.
     Nicotine is a mild euphoric, and has been shown to enhance concentration and help stave off sleep. And the cigarette itself is a bit of a marvel, insofar as it allows you to control your dose of the drug quite easily.  All you need do is draw more or less smoke into your lungs to determine how much nicotine you consume. Unfortunately, it's not the nicotine, but the delivery system that gets you in the end. The repeated intake of hot gases, often adulterated with other chemicals to make the cigarette stay lit, is hell on the lungs. Just ask mine.
     Beyond the delightful drug that nicotine is, the act of smoking itself, and the rituals surrounding it, are a big part of the attraction.
     Opening a fresh pack (only after tapping it top down against your palm to make the tobacco compress inside the ciggies, of course), then pulling the thin strip of cellophane around the top, and tearing a small corner of foil to reveal those neat rows of round, paper banded tobacco, was like the beginning of a new journey. Now you held twenty of these beauties in your hand, each one waiting for the caress of your lips and the heat from a match to bring that affable small rush of nicotine coursing through your body.
     And the best part was that, even when I wasn't doing anything in particular, maybe just standing around staring into space, smoking a cigarette meant that I was, in fact, doing something. I was "having a smoke"—i.e., enjoying seven to eight minutes of manipulating that little paper stick and watching the smoke leave my mouth and nose, maybe even blowing a smoke ring or two.  No, I wasn't being indolent, I was doing something.

     Almost killing myself, as it turned out…

     As to why I stayed with the habit long past the point where I knew it was damaging my lungs, maybe my parents are to blame, or adults in general, or advertising, or peer pressure, or…?
     In the mid-1950s it seemed that everyone smoked, or at least every adult I knew, and most everyone you saw on TV or in the movies. The lover lighting two cigarettes and handing one to his paramour became a trope, an intimate act that spoke of their connection.
     Watching my parents and their friends taught me that adults did four basic things for fun: you smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, played cards and harmonized to the latest songs on TV's Hit Parade.

     But back to that lit cigarette in my pocket. Some of the blame (credit?) goes to my late father, and a trick he was famous for.
     On Sundays we'd climb into Dad's 54' Plymouth and drive to Buckeye Lake, a rough, public swimming "resort" a few miles south of Columbus.  It was a place where people who couldn't afford the fancier swimming clubs in the city could spend the day on its small, sand beach and picnic, swim and enjoy the sun and fresh air. That's where Dad displayed his spectacular trick for me and my two brothers.
     He'd light a cigarette (always a Pall Mall), smoke it halfway down, and walk out into the lake until the water was up to his waist.  Then he'd turned to face us, the cigarette in his mouth, take a puff or two and turn his back to us.  He'd dive in and swim underwater for twenty or thirty feet, stand up, and turn back around to face us again.
     Not only was that cigarette still in his mouth, it was still burning!
     He'd take a few more puffs to prove that somehow, impossibly, he'd just gone under the water with it in his mouth and it never went out!
     My brothers and I pleaded with Dad until finally, at the end of the summer, he agreed to show us how he'd done it.  He walked back out into the water, turned and faced us again with the cigarette in his lips.  He stuck out his tongue, used it to grip the non-lit end of the cigarette, curled his tongue, and pulled it into his mouth, keeping the lit end safely away from his cheek. He dove under, came back up, opened his mouth to show us the cigarette still stuck to the tip of his tongue, put his lips around it and puffed away, while we cheered and applauded.

     We'd never imagined that our own, very ordinary father was, in fact, a fire-eater!
     Although I lacked the nerve to duplicate his trick, a time came when, walking down the street with a lit cigarette in my hand, a variation of it came in handy.

     A fanatic about baseball, I always feared that Mr. Little, my coach, would catch me smoking. His rule was clear—you smoke, you're off the team. One day in early spring, with snow still on the ground, it happened. I'm walking down the sidewalk smoking when I see his car coming from the opposite direction. In a panic, I cupped my hand around the cigarette to keep it from burning my skin and stuck in in the pocket of my winter jacket. Coach Little saw me, slowed to a stop and rolled down his window. As we made small talk, I could feel heat from the cigarette growing.  I glanced down to see wisps of smoke rising from my pocket and realized that it wasn't only from the cigarette.  My pocket was on fire!
     "Coach," I blurted out as I started to walk away, "I gotta get home. I can hear my mom calling me."
     "I don't hear anything, Pat," he said, "But you know how bad my hearing is so, sure, so you better run along."
     As he drove away, I took my hand out of my pocket and tossed the cigarette into the snow. I pulled the lining of the pocket out and saw that it was glowing red. I grabbed a handful of snow to put out the fire and relieve the pain in my palm.
     One might imagine that this pocket-sized brush with disaster would have taught me a lesson, but teenagers are notoriously slow on the uptake. I not only continued to smoke, I also kept using that version of my Dad's trick to hide my habit from the prying eyes of adults.
     From the age of thirteen through adulthood and into early middle-age, the love affair between me and nicotine blew hot and cold (pun intended). I tried to quit more than once. As Mark Twain noted, it's easy to do (he'd done it dozens of times), but it wasn't until the age of 44 that it finally took.

     Three major events took place on August 12, 1992:
          -  Canada, Mexico and the United States finalized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
          - John Cage, composer and pioneer of the avant-garde movement in music, died of a stroke at age 79.
          -  At 11:00 AM I smoked my last cigarette.
     Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of my affair with 'ol devil nicotine. Oh, I saw big improvements in my breathing almost immediately, and soon was running three miles a few days each week, but she got me in the end.
     By my early 60s my lungs were beginning to fail from the long term effects of smoking: COPD and emphysema. By my 66th birthday it was a struggle to simply walk to the end of my driveway to pick up the morning paper. Then the miracle happened. I got a single lung transplant, and though the recovery took nearly half a year, soon I was not only walking to the end of that driveway, I was shoveling it!
   I found that, to my relief, my life, a life that once had seemed so tenuous, would now go on, and I could look forward to many more years.  I declared then and there that I would, as Shakespeare once said, "With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come."
     Oh, and of course, "All's well that ends well!"

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     There are many groups of displaced persons in the world in need of help, and I'd like to highlight two of them.
Vive Refugee Shelter
     When, more than 30 years ago, the U.S. tightened its rules on granting asylum, Buffalo began attracting refugees seeking to enter Canada, which was more welcoming to those fleeing war, crime and poverty. However, the process required that they wait in Buffalo for extended periods before being allowed to cross the border.

     As their numbers grew, Women Religious communities converted one of their convents in Lackawanna, NY into a housing facility called "Vive La Casa". It provided shelter to the refugees as they waited to be accepted into Canada. Vive La Casa eventually moved into a former school building at 50 Wyoming Avenue, in Buffalo, where it still operates today.

     In March 2015, Jericho Road Community Health Center assumed operations of Vive La Casa, and it became known simply as "Vive". It became clear that the facility on Wyoming Ave. lacked space to meet the needs of the residents—which include medical, educational, vocational, mental health and many other services—so Jericho Road began a capital campaign to complete the purchase and renovation of a larger property.

     Thus far, with the support of the Scott Bieler Foundation, the M&T Bank Charitable Foundation, the Rich Family Foundation and other major donors they have raised more than half of their $6 million dollar goal.

     Now is the time for the Buffalo community, which calls itself  the "City of Good Neighbors", to step up and contribute to the effort.  Donations of $10, $25, $50 or more can truly make a difference.

     On the right side of this page you can find links both to Jericho Road and to their Vive Capital Campaign. Click on either of these to learn more about the work they do, and how you  can contribute to their efforts.
     I've written in the past about the need to help Ukrainian citizens who have been displaced by the war.  That war is now entering a critical stage, one in which the possibility of a Ukraine victory seems to grow each day. Their success on the battlefield owes much to the leadership of Zalensky, the character of the Ukrainian people, and the contribution of arms from the U.S. and European governments.

     Still, the needs of the millions of Ukrainians who have been displaced by the war, or who chose to remain in war zones, remain critical, and it's primarily up to us—private citizens—to fund these efforts.

     When the war first broke out there was a flood of donations to help the Ukrainians charities, but now, as time has passed, many (and I'll be the first to admit it I'm one) forgot about their needs.

     On the right side of the page you'll find a link to "Charity Navigator", which provides a list of fully vetted charities who are working on this problem, all of whom would appreciate your help.
As always, thanks for reading this far.

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LIV is the name of a new golf tour created by the Saudi government, one that is attracting a few of the best known players in the world.
It's eerily ironic that the Saudis picked the name "LIV", because if you pronounce it with either the short or long "i" sound, it becomes the word, "live".
Ironic in that this new tournament is one more blatant attempt by the Saudis to "sportswash" blood from their hands, blood left there by the murder and dismemberment of an American journalist, a crime directly ordered by MBS, the Saudi Crown Prince. 
But, in fact, it's more mundane. "LIV" represents the Roman Numerals for the number "54", which is the number of holes played in the Saudi tournaments, as opposed to the 72 holes which make up every other professional golf tournament.
So, how did the LIV Tour come about?
The Saudis paid millions to Greg Norman, a former star player, to create a new tour that they hoped would soon be stocked with major stars, all part of their ongoing efforts to whitewash ("sportswash") their reputation in the international community.  The hope was that sports fans would overlook the repressive, barbaric nature of the Crown Prince's rule.


The Saudi's have spent billions on soccer, tennis and other international sporting events trying to distract us from a regime that murders its critics, imprisons homosexuals, and denies women the right to live lives outside of the government and their husband's control.
 The LIV Tour differs from other professional golf tours, and was designed to entice professionals to join it in significant ways, including:
-       Each tournament consists of 54 holes and lasts only three days, not 72 holes played over four days like other professional tournaments.
-       The winners receive $4+ million dollars, compared to the $1 – $2 million typical of PGA events.

-       The LIV field consists of only 48 players, compared to the typical PGA event, which has three times as many competitors, making the LIV tournament much easier to win.

-       Unlike other tours, the LIV event has no "cut"—i.e., after the initial rounds no low ranking players are eliminated from the tournament's final days.

-       Every player gets paid something, even the last place finisher, who "wins" $120,000.  In PGA events those who don't make the cut receive nothing, and last place finishers typically receive $10 – 20,000.

In addition to larger payouts for tournament competitors, more famous players—like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau—were paid anywhere from $50 to 200 million dollars each simply to join the  LIV tour. So, regardless of how well they play, or where they finish, they're paid even more.  
Pretty good money, eh?
Blood money, most would call it.
The LIV Tour's strategy of overpaying players is a faulty one. They assume that golf fans care more about watching events full of big name players, even though they are nothing more than exhibitions.  When some players have already banked millions just for showing up, and everyone is guaranteed to win at least $120,000, regardless of how well or poorly they play, where's the competition?  Where's the excitement in that?
Of course, money doesn't matter to Greg Norman or the Saudis who created the LIV tour. They're not in it to make a profit. And there's no way that they can, because no reputable broadcast or cable TV network would touch them with a ten foot pole, and TV money is what pays the freight in professional golf.
Nope, their only goal is to divert us from thinking about their crimes against humanity.
I can only speak for myself, but I find it much more compelling to watch a PGA or LPGA tournament in which young, unknown players are competing against the best in the game, fighting to win for the first time, knowing that a win will change his or her life or forever.  Winning that first one assures the player of eligibility for two more years on tour, and access to the highest paid and most visible events—like The Masters, the US Open, and others.
It's even exciting to watch one of your favorite players struggle on Friday to make a birdie putt that gets them over the cut line and into the last two days of the tournament.  More than once we've seen that same player shoot low scores on Saturday and Sunday and go on to win the tournament.

THAT'S competition, exciting, and something you'll never see in one of the LIV Tour's exhibitions, where there is no cut, and everyone's a winner.
Everyone but MBS, that is.
There's no amount of sportswashing that will ever redeem the reputation of that murderous thug.


As always, thanks for reading this far.

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Pro Choice AND Anti-abortion?

     Well, I thought I could ignore this issue, one so heavily laden with emotion that it makes rational discussion difficult, but Friday's decision by the Trump/McConnell-packed Supreme Court has forced my hand.
     The title of the post poses the question: is it possible to be both pro-choice and anti-abortion at the same time?
     The answer from this corner is "yes".
     I believe it's a reasonable stance—i.e., we as a people don't have an unlimited right to tell women what to do with their bodies, but as individuals we can choose not to have, or to be an active participant in an abortion.
     When I use the phrase "unlimited right", I'm positing that we the people do have some rights in the matter—specifically, to limit the right to abortion at the point the fetus is able to survive outside the womb—the so-called "viability" standard that was correctly used in the original Roe decision.
     The point of viability, in my and other's opinion, is also the point at which a fetus gains "personhood", with the resulting legal right to be protected from harm.
     Abortion opponents argue that human life begins at the point of conception—when a sperm successfully joins with an egg. The result is a zygote—a single celled organism.  While one may rightly claim that a zygote is a "form of human life", it's difficult for me to understand how a single celled organism can ever be thought of as a person.
     Webster (not that a dictionary should be the final arbiter in the matter) defines person as "- the body of a human being…also…the personality of a human being". 
     It seems to me that a single celled organism, even if appropriately categorized as a "form of human life", in no way meets this definition.  But a fetus that, after 20 – 24 weeks, has matured into a complex, bodily form that can survive outside the womb, does. That is the point at which the state acquires a reasonable right to intervene to protect the life of this "person" from harm.
     Conversely, before the point of viability, before the zygote/fetus has reached "personhood", it's clear that the only one who should have the right to decide what happens to this immature form of life is the woman within whose body it resides. It is her decision, and her decision alone.
    This past Friday four men, and a woman who belongs to a cult-like, Catholic religious community, cherry-picked a series of historical references to justify overturning what had been the law of the land for nearly 50 years—and take away the right of a woman to decide what happens inside her own body.
    And it won't stop here.
     One of these men boldly stated that this ill-formed opinion is only the beginning. He announced that, if he has his way, all the rights to privacy in our sexual lives will be the next to fall. Your right to marry someone of your choosing, married couples' right to use birth control to decide when or if to have children, and the right to have private, consensual sexual relations with anyone you choose, may soon be gone. 


     And all because of a far right Supreme Court that is woefully out of step with the majority of citizens of these United States.

   As always, thanks for reading this far. 

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I don't need to repeat the details of what's happened over the last two weeks in my hometown of Buffalo and in Texas, but a couple of simple solutions seem obvious, at least to me.
Bear with me while I preach to the choir.
The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, included an amendment to the Constitution to assure that, in the event we were attacked by a FOREIGN power, local militias (groups of citizens armed with single shot muskets) were guaranteed the right to keep their arms at the ready.
Skip ahead 235 years and we find that the Republican Supreme Court has  translated that clear language into a much broader guarantee: anyone now has the constitutional right to walk into a store and buy a high capacity, military weapon designed to do only one thing: kill people.
So, I ask you:
1)   Does the 2nd Amendment also guarantee the right to purchase a bazooka?  Of course it doesn't. That is considered a "weapon of war." Well then, what is a semi-automatic rifle with a magazine that holds 30 bullets and can be swapped out in a few seconds?


It's not needed for hunting. It's not needed for target shooting. It's for one thing, and one thing only--killing.  People (even tiny ones).


These weapons should be illegal, and for a time they were. But then Republicans regained Congress, and the ban on them was allowed to expire.

2)   In Buffalo, the only reason a brave retired Buffalo policeman who confronted the shooter failed to take him down (but did delay him, at the cost of his life, from killing more African-Americans) was the fact that the shooter wore body armor.  It's easily available on the internet. Why?

Why would any law abiding citizen need such a thing? By law it should only be available to law enforcement and the military. Isn't that obvious?


Having said all that, you and I know that these two changes will never come to pass, and why that is.


Thanks, NRA.
After the Texas massacre I wrote to the head of our local gun rights chapter, asking him about the first item above. He did not reply. I wrote again, suggesting that we get together and talk about it ("I'll buy the coffee." I said), but still no reply.
He's not just a coward.  He's a coward clinging to his gun.


Thanks for reading this far.


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Two Poets Walked Into A Bar…
There isn't a punchline to follow, but there is a story that may be worth telling.

The two poets—one very famous and one less so—got snookered in that bar (the now defunct Beef & Ale on Main St.), and stumbled back to the apartment I shared with the less famous one. They woke me up, sounding as if they were about to come to blows, arguing over a single word in a poem, one that had something to do with…well, you'll find out.
But I jumped ahead.
I was 19 and attending UB's night school when I took a class from the Lessor Poet (LP) and we connected. When a spare bedroom opened up in his apartment directly across from campus, I couldn't turn it down.  I'd left Niagara U after one wasted year there and was back living at home, so I jumped at the chance to get out on my own.


Living with the LP had its ups and downs.


On the upside, he was a warm, gentle soul and a very good poet. He encouraged my writing and we spent a lot of time together.  I learned much from him about writing, and how to drink gin straight on the rocks (not sure if that was an up or a down).


On the downside, the LP had some…um…issues, that resulted in his coming home after a night out with his face bloodied, his glasses broken and his wallet missing. Once he was deep in his cups, he had a habit of coming on to the wrong  people, who took strong exception to his advances. While he always respected my heterosexuality, and didn't cross any lines, it was painful to see someone I liked and admired continue to make the same mistake over and over again.


Still, we had some interesting times together.


Accompanying him and another UB poet to a reading the LP gave in Fredonia, everything was normal…until it wasn't. The reading went well, and it was the after party that set things in motion. We accepted a toke or two from the obligatory proffered joints, thinking nothing of it. But… whoa!  Once back in the car, driving the 60 miles up the NYS Thruway, things took a dark turn, literally.


I was in the passenger seat next to the driver, and for the life of me I don't know how he kept that car on the road. It was clear that someone at that party had  spiked our drinks or the joint with a psychedelic substance. I thought that if he was half as stoned as I was, we'd likely die, or worse, get pulled over by State Troopers, who have never been known for their support of the arts. Every curve in the road gave the impression that we were about to drive off a cliff. That short trip (no pun intended) seemed to last forever, and I didn't relax until we arrived home safely.
Now back to those Two Poets.
The more famous of the two was a man named Robert Bly.
In a career that began with his first book of poetry in 1962 and went on for the next 50 years, Bly became famous not only for his poetry and prose, but for his political stance against the Viet Nam war, and for his translations of and support for poets from other nations.

He won the 1968 National Book Award for a book of poetry, but his most popular book was a work of prose entitled Iron John: A Book About Men.  Published in 1990, it spent 62 weeks on the NY Times Best Seller List and helped popularize a movement intended to help men connect spiritually with their lost masculine identity. The movement included therapeutic workshops and wilderness retreats, often using Native American rituals such as drumming, chanting and sweat lodges (something Fox News' Tucker Carlson would endorse today).

But let's cut to the chase.
In 1968 Bly was in Buffalo for a reading and afterwards he, the LP and I headed to the Beef & Ale, where they stayed long after I'd gone home to bed. Fueled by drink, they returned to our apartment, where the LP read Bly his latest poem.


Apparently Bly, a very large man with a booming voice, had concerns about the poem, and they centered on one word that occurred multiple times. They argued back and forth over this word until Bly summarized his objection in a voice that woke me from a sound sleep.


"Goddam it, (LP)!" he shouted, "There's too much semen in this poem!  You've got to clean it up!"
And so it is that my last memory of meeting Robert Bly, who went on to become the poet laureate of his home state of Minnesota, and who died last November at the age of 94, was that thunderous voice complaining about too much sperm in his colleague's poem.  

As always, thanks for reading this far.

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Podcasts I Have Known & Loved

     In a recent post about Ukraine I included a link to Ezra Klein's interview with Fiona Hill.  It got me thinking about podcasts I listen to regularly, and I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you.


     I won't include links to them because you can use any Android or Apple smartphone or tablet to search for them by name and then listen, and if you wish, subscribe.


     I'm certain everyone knows what a podcast is, but here's a brief overview:
     Podcasts, which might be thought of simply as radio shows you can download and save on your phone or computer, have exploded since 2004 when the first known one was created. It's now estimated that there are 4.2 MILLION of them floating out there in cyberspace.


     They come in all shapes and sizes, from segments of broadcast news programs, to serialized novels and true crime stories, to podcasts that include visual material—slides and video. But I believe the most common format still involves interviews and monologues.

     Many (most?) podcasts are free to download, paid for by sponsors or by the inclusion of commercial advertisements, while some are based on a paid subscription model. There are also "hybrid" models, where the basic podcast is free with ads, but additional content and/or an ad-free version is available for a monthly fee.

     I first became aware of podcasts via Mark Maron's "WTF" (it stands for exactly what you think) in which he interviews movie stars, musicians, politicians—including President Obama—and  others. Maron's podcast gained fame, and  helped spread the word about podcasts, by his ability to get his subjects to open up about the most intimate details of their lives (the coolest President ever wasn't one of those who did). WTF is currently airing (if that's the proper term for something that doesn't actually go over the air) its 1,330th episode. I've since moved on from WTF, and have a number of other podcasts that I listen to regularly.
The Ezra Klein Show

     This is easily my favorite.
     Ezra, who focuses on politics and world events, started out as a blogger, became a frequent talking head on MSNBC, then moved to the NY Times. He writes a column for them, and has a weekly podcast as well. He is easily the best prepared interviewer in the business, and he and his staff do intensive research on the subjects and guests he has on.

     One smart cookie.
"Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me!"

     This podcast is a replay of a weekly NPR radio show that airs on Saturday mornings. The format is simple. The host, Peter Sagar, and a panel of three comedians/commentators dissect the week's news events with humor, and it is FUNNY. And I mean—laugh out  loud funny.

     The hour long show also includes a guest of some prominence who is forced to play a Q&A game called "Not My Job" where they are asked about a subject that has nothing to do with whatever it is that brought them fame.
     The show has advertisements, but my iPhone has a little > button that allows me to skip ahead in 30 second increments, so I avoid them. 
     (PS. "Wait, Wait" is often performed in front of an audience, and this week's show airs from Shea's Buffalo Theater here in town.)
To The Best of Our Knowledge

     This podcast comes from Wisconsin Public Radio, and its hosts cover a wide-ranging list of subjects using interviews with experts in the field and/or people who have experienced the events being discussed. The titles of recent episodes will give you a flavor of their range: "Plants As Persons", "Secrets of Alchemy", "Taking Pop Seriously" and "Searching For Order In The Universe."

     It's intelligent and thoughtful, and one you need to pay close attention to as you listen.
Fresh Air

     Another famous interview podcast, Fresh Air stars Terry Gross (who, coincidentally, attended the University of Buffalo). Gross's podcast pre-dates WTF, and she is admired as one of the best interviewers out there. I myself am not a huge fan—she sometimes she seems unprepared, and too often interrupts her guests—but her guest list is pretty amazing. If there's anything of interest going on in society at the moment, you can be sure that Fresh Air will bring in the right guest to talk about it.  
The Axe Files

     This interview podcast stars David Axelrod, who was Obama's chief campaign strategist and a Senior Advisor during much of their time in the White House.  As you might expect from a political consultant, Axelrod's guests come from the ranks of politicians and print and television journalists. He doesn't play political favorites. His guests come from both ends of the political spectrum.

     He has a nice way of introducing us to his guests by exploring their life story in detail before diving in to his questions. 

Sarah Silverman

     Sarah, a self-proclaimed potty-mouthed comedian and committed progressive, has a simple format to her podcast. It consists of a brief monologue on what's happening in her world—from something as mundane as a silly argument with her boyfriend to the tragic loss of a close friend—and then segues into callers' voicemails. The calls generally involve someone asking her for personal relationship advice, or questions about show business and Sarah's life as a comedian.
     While Sarah is the first to admit she isn't a trained therapist, there's always something straightforward and wise about her responses to people's problems. She appears to be thinking out loud, and isn't shy about doubting the value of her own advice even as she's giving it. Yet, by the end of her response you realize she just nailed it again.
     Two warnings: 1) she really is often X-rated; and 2) the podcast gets bogged down by commercials that can last 2+ minutes at a time. But there's always that skip-ahead button to let you avoid the worst of them. 
Hope you'll check out one of the above.  And let me know if you have other favorite podcasts you'd recommend.
And, as always, thanks for reading this far.

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Michigan Senator Fights Back Against LGBTQ Discrimination

Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow was accused of being a "groomer" of children and a pedophile by one of her female, Republican colleagues in a sleazy fundraising email. 


She refused to take it lying down.
See and hear for yourself (and notice that she looks directly to her accuser as she speaks):




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