Too Long A Sacrifice …

proclamation-irish-republic-1916One hundred years ago today one of the most ill-considered, worse-executed rebellions in history began. Dublin, Easter 1916, while over 35,000 Irishmen were dying fighting for Britain on the Western Front and Gallipoli, a group of Irishmen, some veterans of that fighting, took over the Post Office and other key buildings in Dublin, ostensibly waiting for the populace to rise up and join them.They issued a Proclamation establishing an Irish Republic.

It never happened. There were over 5,000 British troops – many of them Irish – around Dublin at the time, the rebellion lasted six days, over four hundred – mostly civilians – were killed, a swathe of downtown Dublin was blown to pieces by British artillery. The self-styled Irish Volunteers surrendered, were vilified by the people of Dublin who had had no warning of the rebellion.

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Lower Sackville Street, Dublin (1916)

That was that and it probably would have been another short circuited Irish uprising doomed to historic obscurity along with Vinegar Hill and the skirmishes of the ‘Year of the French’ except for what followed. Despite British Prime Minister Asquith’s assertion to the House of Commons that the Irish Volunteers “fought bravely and did not resort to outrage” harsh reprisals followed.

The British arrested 3,430 men and 79 women all across Ireland. One hundred and eighty-seven men and one woman were tried in secret by military tribunals and were not allowed a defense. The British government later found that the trials were illegal. That would come as little comfort to the the leaders of the rebellion, ninety were sentenced to death.

3785171459_c48090d777Sixteen were executed over the course of five days in the first week of May – despite warnings and pleas by the Irishmen in Parliament. With every execution public opinion in Ireland changed. Radically. The execution of the rebellions de facto leader, James Connolly appalled the world – severely wounded, probably with a day or two to live, he was brought to the place of execution on a stretcher and had to be tied to a chair to keep him upright enough to be shot.

World outrage was so great all the other death sentences were commuted to penal servitude. Almost two thousand Irishmen were held in prisons in Scotland and Wales for a year or more without ever being charged with a crime.

In an instant, Great Britain snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Public opinion swung, unrest grew, the British fed into it, Ireland achieved independence a half a dozen years later.

The inept, local, uncoordinated rebellion succeeded in the long run. There’s scores of lessons, from every viewpoint to be learned.

William Butler Yeats was caught as off guard by the Easter Uprising as most of his fellow countrymen. He wrote one of the great poems of the English language a few moths after the executions. It’s beautiful and ambiguous. But, he saw the future, the last line of the poem is A Terrible Beauty is Born. 

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“People Like Stories …”

15-oj-people.w529.h352It was finally said. I had been waiting and waiting and finally, eight and a half hours into The People v. OJ Simpson, someone said it. The thing I had been saying for the previous eight weeks, the – to me – one, clear, overriding, theme of the trial.

Something I had gleefully relayed to my clients, over and over again – um, this might be a good time to apologize, so, ah, sorry – was finally said aloud by Chris Darden (a great Sterling K. Brown): “People like stories. It helps them make sense of things.”

It was obvious to me from pretty early on that this trial – one I saw live, day in and day out while I was studying for the Bar exam, but didn’t see this then – was about story telling.

The prosecution had overwhelming evidence – and proceeded accordingly. The defense told stories. The prosecution talked blood trails, and gloves, and science, and more science, and matter-of-factually laid out a building block, evidentiary case. The defense presented a protagonist, several antagonists, colorful side characters, humor, pathos, theories, and fleshed it out with scenes complete with dialogue.

Marcia and Chris presented the jury with a law school casebook, a scientific journal, and a criminal procedure manual. Johnny, Barry, Bob, and the rest of the defense showed them LA Law.

It was never a contest, as Darden finally realized – at a time when the People’s best bet was a mistrial and a ‘do over.’

The storytellers won out – in the criminal trial. The civil trial, which began less than a year later, was handled by a torts attorney, a man used to telling stories. He told a better one that time around.

It really is all about the stories.

An Open Note to Benin et. al.

February 10, 2016

Dear Benin/Diplomat/Secretaries of States/United Bank of Africa Couriers/UN Ambassadors/Mrs. Michelle Obama/Various and Sundry Agents of the FBI and Interpol:

Thank you for your many, many ‘Urgent’ notices concerning the stolen/lost by courier/won lottery/long time owed by parties unclear/funds totaling $7.5/2.7/22(!)/4.3 million to me and kindly being held by the Benin Republic/The UN Lottery Division/the FBI Lost Funds Department/The State Department/DOD/ubs(sic)/United Bank of Africa/Diplomats scattered across U.S. airports.

reynolds-ogah-benin-payment-approval-mprI appreciate that you are trying so very, very hard to contact me and must apologize for my, utter, lack of response. As you have reached out to me so many times without ever hearing from me I fear I have been rude. Please, then, accept the following as my reasons for not responded to your incredibly generous offers of riche.

  • Please understand that I am somewhat skeptical of letters marked urgent addressed to “Beneficiary” or “Friend” – when addressed at all.
  • I am simultaneously charmed and put off by the fact  that the the signatory of almost all the letters has two first names, i.e., James Henry, William George, Charles Alan.
  • I am somewhat impressed, and my sense of irony really tickled, that the other letters are signed by or reference various characters over Law & Order’s long run.
  • Please forgive my doubts that an ATM card, regardless of its province, can churn out $20,000/day.
  • I must say, however, that I know that no ATM is going to cough up twenty grand a pop.
  • I also have my doubts that DHL/FedEx charge $390 to deliver a single ATM card – perhaps I misunderstand and you are sending me my own ATM machine(?)(!).
  • And I’m pretty sure that neither my local Walmart’s (MoneyGram) or Rite Aid (Western Union) has the wherewithal to hand over a few million dollars to despite my having the proper ID and codes.
  • According to my calculations, your last promise would require me to withdraw $20,000 a day, every day, for 7 1/2 years – do you have any idea of what those fees would be?

I trust that you appreciate my concerns. I am fairly sure there’s nothing you can do on your end to cure these defects in your wonderful proposals, so I would very much appreciate it if you stopped sending them. If not, could you at least drop them down to two or three a day?

It would be most appreciated.

Best,

Beneficiary.

 

Of Datsuns, Central Falls, Ziggy, and the Thin White Duke

Providence Rhode Island, late December, 1975, school’s on break but I’m stuck working  at the Marriott hotel. I’m working the ballrooms, we set up mid-afternoon, keep the bars stocked through a million Christmas parties back in the day when office Christmas parties were parties, tend some bar, bus tables, break down.

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A typical Providence winter day.

It’s s blur, we’re putting in 18 hour days, it’s somewhat offset by the fact it’s the Seventies, the drinking age is 18, the Marriott is very generous with food and left over beer.

One night we finish at 3 am and have to be back by 7:30. A co-worker, Manny, offers to let me crash at his place instead of tramping back to an empty campus.

Providence in the winter is a cold, bleak place. The wind is whipping in off Narragansett Bay, wind chill is around zip, week old dirty crusty snow is scattered around the parking lot, the only light comes from the State House a hundred feet away.

Manny’s driving a 1970 Datsun 240z. The heater’s broken, it’s been through one or three too many Rhode Island winters, salt has eaten through some flooring. The defroster datsun-240-z.jpg.800x600_q85_cropwheezes, barely keeping up with our breaths off the windshield. The drive to Manny’s apartment in Central Falls is miserable in the Germans-in-panzers-outside-Moscow-1942 way.

Manny’s apartment is over a bar because in the one square mile that comprises Central Falls everyone lives over a bar. Three am never stopped a bar in Central Falls from being open, we zip in, grab a fittingly freezing cold Narragansett draft, chug, head up.

Nice, comfortable apartment, the couch is as advertised, as it’s 1975, there’s nothing on TV at 3 am, I’m so overtired the beer’s done nothing, I don’t have a book, even at 18 I’ve been in that state enough times to know I’m not sleeping anytime soon. Not so for Manny, he heads for his bedroom and wife, tells me to help myself to his music collection, the speakers are right by the couch, it might help.

1d2379400bbdf2d7cd96e303614d581aHis stereo is one-piece-has-all, AM/FM, turntable, 8-track player. I opt for an 8-track because 8-tracks never end, they’ll play over and over again forever or until the plastic melts.

I’m exhausted, grab the tape on top of the pile pop it in – nothing ever sounded clunkier or more fragile than an 8-track tape pushed into its player. I settle into the couch, pull up a hefty blanket, the tape does the usual 8-track click, whirl, it’s-fifty-fifty-whether-it-plays-or-eats-the-tape sounds.

There’s a silent pause, a drum, more drum, then … wow. As in something fundamental in the world has just shifted, neck hairs rising, difficultly swallowing, there’s a fuck of a lot more to the universe than Providence, college, work, study, books …

… It was Five Years, the first cut of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the 1371731616_ZiggyStardust986Gb060612Spiders From Mars. I didn’t fall asleep for a few hours, heard the album through and through until I finally passed out, woke up to it around 7.

First chance I had I got up to Thayer Street and the Brown University bookstore and bought the album. And the new Young Americans. And I never stopped buying and I never stopped listening to an artist who never sat still.

Thanks to David Bowie, there’s a lot more than one damn song that can make me break down and cry.

 

 

Ten Things Donald Trump Would Say If Jesus Came Back to Run Against Him in Iowa …

… And was gaining in the polls.

  • I like people who weren’t captured and crucified by Romans.
  • ‘Blessed are the meek?’ Are you kidding me? Putin will eat him alive.
  • I’m just saying, his friends betrayed and denied him … Ya’ gotta wonder why.
  • Guy rises from the dead and doesn’t get even … What a schmuck.
  • Sure, he’s got a few billion followers, but how many on Twitter?
  • The fish and the loaf thing? Not gonna lie, pretty good trick.
  • Look, it took that Paul guy to make him big, what does that tell you?
  • By the way, little known fact, he wasn’t invited to the wedding, he  crashed it … I mean, hey, it worked out for everyone, still …
  • All I’m saying is he’s a pretty big deal with the Muslims.
  • Anyone see this guy’s birth certificate?

The Eleventh Minute of the … Have You Forgotten Yet?

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Perhaps if we take  a moment to remember that today is Veterans-Armistice-Remembrance Day; that at eleven past eleven this morning in 1918 The War to End All Wars ended; and then take another to really read Siegfried  Sassoon’s poem – written in the trenches – we would stop churning out veterans.

HAVE you forgotten yet? …
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow

Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same — and War’s a bloody game. …
Have you forgotten yet? …
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.
Do you remember the dark…

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And You May Ask Yourself …

… How did I get here?

I had a sudden realization earlier this week that sort of rocked me. Perhaps it was an epiphany. Either way, it began an hour or so after listening to Tom Brady get all gushy about his personal trainer-slash-guru, then all preachy about his health regimen and reached full-blown ‘holy shit’ proportions a few days later.
534733749CH00381_Super_BowlIt started with the news last weekend that Brady’s guy had been banned for life by the FTC for selling a supplement that cured …. everything and anything that was terminal. Indeed, he and his infomercial partners claimed that out of 200 terminal with a Pandora’s box of ailments clients, only eight died. It was that stuff you see being sold while you’re flipping through Seinfeld and Star Trek Next Generation reruns at 2:30 am. Oh, and Brady’s guy claimed to be a doctor.

Okay, fine, that’s was thirteen, fourteen years ago and I, most certainly, am the first one to say, ‘okay you fucked up, let’s move on.’ However – you just knew there was a however – he got slapped again in 2012 for pushing a drink that helped prevent concussions. Neurosafe. Powder, when mixed with presumably water and ingested regularly it was supposed to minimize the effects of a concussion.

Brady and Wes Welker endorsed it for the year or so the crap was out there image
before the FTC swooped in again and shut that down.

By the way, Wes Welker endorsing a concussion prevention powder is pretty much like using Lou Gehrig to push an ALS cure.

Brady was asked about this on WEEI sports radio Monday morning, his response was predictable, if not a little creepy. His trainer/guru/business partner/kid’s godfather is an amazing trainer, masseuse, nutritional expert, and a whole lot more.

Again, fine, every fabulously wealthy family has the right to have it’s very own Rasputin. What could possibly go wrong with that?

imageBut, Brady went on to explain how Western medicine is lacking. As he grew up one hell of a high school athlete in two sports, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that he did so without having to fight off polio, whooping cough, scarlet fever, and small pox.

I can handle that, though, it’s not like you can’t find that stuff on Facebook feeds all day everyday. Brady, though, went a step further and talked about how ‘ridiculous’ it was that athletes had Tommy John surgery and ACL replacements, strongly indicating that those injuries were the athletes fault, they weren’t prepared.

This pissed me off, but it’s not the epiphany. It pissed me off because it’s a ridiculous assumption, he’s playing (great) today because his torn ACL was replaced (via Western medicine), and I had my ACL torn 25 years ago in a combination of artificial turf, really good shoes, and getting hit exactly right by a large human that nothing could have prevented save not driving to New York that morning.

All this stuff came out Monday morning. It was re-aired several times. Some people came down on Brady, more, a lot more, rose to his defense and, because he’s won 4 Superbowl titles and is married to a supermodel, began a long litany of completely and utterly bashing Western medicine. I mean, a guy with those accomplishments must know everything, right?

Thus the epiphany began. I’ve been a Patriots fan since the early 70s. Had no choice, really, there were only a couple of games on a week, my father was a Giants fan, so …

(AP Photo/Paul R. Benoit)

(AP Photo/Paul R. Benoit)

… the Pats it was. They sucked and they were fun. They fumbled and bumbled, were run by an Irish American family that wasn’t about to remind anyone of the Kennedys – or any half-way successful family of any ilk, for that matter. They built a new stadium for about $14.95, the day it opened the toilets backed up and, well, it was ugly. They also lost 31-7.

I was there the afternoon they clinched their first AFC East Division title in 1978. We got tickets that day, the upper stands were far from filled. It was cold, had a white-out snow squall in the second half, the temperature dropped, they had to come from behind against a woeful Buffalo Bills team (is that redundant?) and we stood for most of the game – not from excitement but because the stadium had aluminum bleachers – no seats.

Their coach resigned the next day, they had co-coaches for, surprise, their only playoff game.

They alternated between loveable losers to flat-out incompetents to marginal playoff contenders. We had to cheer for individual ‘stars’ the great-and-would-have-been-greater-if-for-better-teammates Sam the Bam, the tiny Mack Herron, the too-tough-for-his-own-good Steve Grogan, the franchise’s greatest pre-Belicheck player, John Hannah. It probably says it all when your best player is an offensive guard.image

A few good things happened, somehow they got to the Super Bowl to be fodder for the Bears and … well, maybe a few others. Mostly, they provided entertainment and the occasional hope.

That’s my epiphany. Somewhere in the last 15 years I’ve gone from cheering for the loveable underdogs to cheering for a team with a fan base so spoiled by winning, so steeped in the mystique of the Patriot way, that if Tom Brady or Bill Belicheck suddenly announced that they sacrificed a virgin to insure a victory over Peyton Manning, their approval rating would be around 60% (with another 9.8% undecided while debating the definition of ‘virgin’) by their fanbase.

I’ve realized that somewhere along the line I traded in the Tony Eason deer-in-the-headlights Patriots for the 1947-1964 New York Yankees. Bloodless, unemotional, business is everything, unsentimental, unsympathetic, unapologetic winners. As Joe E. Lewis said, “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel.”

I’m suddenly, after 50 something years, on the side of the bullies and today’s NFL doesn’t have lovable losers any more. Instead, they have a ton of mindless, joyless mediocrity, and a whole lot of excuse making. “The balls were .2 psi below regulation;” “the crowd was too noisy,” “the GM texted the coach during a game,” “the lights went out,” “they broke an unwritten rule,” “they announced the change to 80,000 people but we missed it,” “they had bounties on us,” and so, so much more.

main_11The only thing that keeps me from bagging the whole thing is that, like the corporations in Rollerball (the original, please) the NFL and the other owners have had it with the Patriots for not playing the three, five years of good and rebuild, the league, schedules, and draft are built on.

Okay, so they’re a bully – a really big bully – being picked at by a bunch of bullies unused to being bullied.

I’m not sure what direction to go from here. Not sure it matters with the Cubs close to the World Series and the apocalypse that will surely immediately follow should they win.

I’ve made no decisions. But I really hope Brady plays until he’s 50, because, based on his evangelical explanation of his diet, he’s going to be really insufferable when talking about it is all he has to do all week.