Actual Rhetoric


Bams gave a speech today.

I cried.

Not because it was a bad speech. Of course it wasn’t. Nor was it a sad speech. No, no, as always, Obama’s words were eloquent and uplifting, reminding Americans of our common beliefs and desires, of our mutuality.

Hearing Obama speak, these days, is like stumbling upon a photo of a loved one who is no longer with us. The feeling of loss is almost unbearable.




On Death

Death is a tough thing to write about. Americans avoid discussing death whenever we can. Because we all want to live to be 100 years old, we take vitamins and medicines said to prolong life. We exercise and eat “right” for the same reason. We make sure our cars  are built with lots of safety features and that all of the smoke alarms are in working order.

I live in a community of older people, but I know only two or three who are willing to talk seriously about our imminent demise, beyond making a will and telling the children who gets Aunt Myra’s dishes. On the other hand, conversations about our health, good or bad, abound. (Recommendation:  never ask a person over 65 about his or her doctor). And while there may be brief mentions of the deaths of friends or family memories, the fact of one’s own death is not often a topic of discussion.

Those of us geezers who try to be honest with ourselves, though, acknowledge that death is on our doorstep. Wrestling though the reality of one’s impending death, oddly, can bring a sort of peace. And for those who are in chronic pain, death is actually welcome.

Despite the apparent taboo and the accompanying downer effect, I’m writing about death today because it seems to surround me lately. The Orange Avenger’s sabre-rattling insensitivity to death and suffering is ubiquitously reported on the news;  he appears to have no idea of the terrible damage that even a small atomic weapon can do to the inhabitants of earth. (Somebody ought to put him in a helicopter and fly him over the ruins of Chernobyl, although I don’t know if even that would make a dent in his ignorance).

The horrible event in Las Vegas last weekend forced me to think about the vicious and violent tendencies of human being. How could anyone even contemplate such an action, let alone undertake the planning and logistics required, all the while pretending to be an ordinary guy? Such behavior is depraved. But this perp is not the only person who decided to work out whatever problems plague him by killing as many people as he could. And all of them are helped enormously by the collaborative Party of Death whose members will not even talk about tougher gun legislation. Even Steve Scalise, who was shot while playing second base during baseball practice, is unwilling to drop the party line.

Earlier this week I learned that my niece, who was only 59, died of a brain tumor. Here death seems particularly unfair. Judy was a lovely person who always tried to do what was wanted of her. She was married, had two sons and a grandchild. She took loving care of her older brother, who has cerebral palsy. She was a teacher and an expert seamstress and quilter. Judy lost her parents (my much-loved sister and brother-in-law) during a short span of months in 2014. She took the loss very hard. Ironically, she may have been felled by the same malady that took her Dad, and so now her kids and grand-kids, and those of another brother, must be watchful throughout their own lives.

Death sucks.

Nebraska Women Win Big

59d05bd833b67.image“Well they graduated five talented seniors,” I was thinking last week when I tuned into the Nebraska-Penn State volleyball game. “And Penn State is ranked second while the Huskers are ranked 14th,” I said to the cat. “And they are playing the match in Rec Hall,” I added, remembering the snake pit that place used to be back in the day when it had just been abandoned by the men’s basketball team and still smelled of old tennis shoes.

So my hopes for a win were, well, modest. Then the Huskers took the floor and swept Penn State, three sets to none. Note: this had not been done to Penn State at home for fourteen years!

I opened a can of Sassy’s favorite food.

Then, last Friday night, Nebraska’s women played Minnesota, which team was ranked third in the country. I say “was,” because the Huskers also swept the mighty Gophers. In fact they made it look easy. (The fact that they were playing at home in front of 8400 fans might have helped some). “Hooray!,” I said to a sleeping Sassy.  My joy was tempered, though–I didn’t see how they could pull that off against seventh-ranked Wisconsin on Saturday night. (Who schedules these games anyhow? Three top ten teams in 8 days?  Come on!)

Wisconsin is GOOD. Last night they looked better (to me at least) than Minnesota. They have an outside hitter named Dana Rettke who is six feet eight inches tall.  In other words, she can reach over the net while standing still.


Needles to say, that’s Rettke on the left. But she is not content, as some tall players are, to rely solely on her height. No, Rettke is a fierce competitor who can place a hard shot in the back corner of the court before you can say “Please don’t do that again!”

Like the nail-biter Nebraska played against Penn State in the semi-finals last year, the Wisconsin game went to five sets. Wisconsin took the first two sets, winning the first easily and the second by a couple of points. Sassy was hiding in a closet at that point.

I’d like to know what Nebraska coach John Cook says to his teams during half-time, because the Huskers came out roaring in the third set, taking it and the fourth with steady play. And then they romped in the fifth–Wisconsin seemed to run out of steam.  Sydney Townsend, a homie from Lincoln, had been instructed to serve the ball high and short, which caused Wisconsin to send floofers back over the net that were easily fielded by Nebraska’s front line.  Game, Set, Match!

Eight days, three wins over top-ten teams.  It doesn’t get any better than that!





For those of you who are sports-impaired (here’s looking at you, Trep), the gentleman depicted in this photo is LeBron James, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers (a professional basketball team). Mr. James, in addition to being quite large, is very good at what he does. Some commentators, in fact, have hazarded that he is as good, or nearly so, as the fabled Michael Jordan.

In short, Mr. James (also known as “King” James) has some weight to throw around when he chooses to do so. And now he has done just that, taunt-tweeting the guy in the oval office and calling him a bum. The contretemps began when the Steph Curry, another popular player of basketball, refused an invitation to visit the White House even though his team won the national championship this year. The bum then dis-invited Curry, thus making sense to no one but himself:  how do you dis-invite someone who has declined to attend? (May I suggest that the bum is not a careful reader?)








Nebraska Becomes Kansas


For years in the Big 8 and then in the Big 12, Kansas’ football team could always be counted on to sit in the league cellar.

Back in the day I often wondered why the University of Kansas continued to field  football teams. After all, Kansas regularly sponsored world-class basketball teams (and they still do). So why not give up on football while resident in an otherwise powerhouse conference that in those days included Oklahoma and Nebraska and, later on, Texas.

Now I know how Kansas fans felt all those years. Nebraska’s football team was the only Big Ten team that lost yesterday (even Rutgers won!) And they lost to a second-tier school. To be honest, they sucked.

Unlike Kansas fans, Nebraskans don’t have the solace of a stellar basketball team.  Championship-level volleyball works as a substitute for this die-hard Husker fan, but I suspect that is not true for the bulk of Nebraska’s football fanatics, who for years were able to take championship-level play for granted.

If I were their coaches, I’d be packing my bags.


From Russia With Love



So the Russkies discovered that Facebook was a fine venue through which to suggest to uninformed old cranks that Hillary Clinton is a spawn of Satan.

I still have a hard time accepting that anyone could have believed that bushwa about the child-slavery ring operating out of a pizza joint in New Jersey. But people did. And sent it on to their equally vindictive pals.

And Hillary is not our President.

God Americans are gullible. I hope these dopes are happy with the catastrophe their ignorance has wrought.

The photo of Sean Connery classes up the place, don’t you think?


97e4b6d7e7245d405a3d08d13c71429eYay! Football season is here! Even though this is patsy weekend, I’m glued to the glowing box.

Like me, most Big Ten football fans are rabid about their teams, no matter how good or bad they are year in and year out. The Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry is the oldest between major teams in the history of college football;  these teams first played one another in 1890! Michigan-Ohio State is probably the best-known college football rivalry. It began in 1897 and continues to be exciting, and sometimes bitter, every year.

Perhaps because of its long history, or perhaps because of the feeling among commentators this year that The Big Ten is the best conference (which feeling makes me nervous), its teams were amply represented on teevee on this early football weekend. Wisconsin whaled on Utah State last night while Ohio State beat up on Big Ten teammate Indiana. Minnesota won on Thursday night, while Rutgers lost. No surprises anywhere there.

Early this morning I have my choice of Iowa, Penn State, or Maryland. I’m dividing my time between the Iowa and Penn State games because I was once employed on each of those campuses. Every time I see Iowa’s gold and black unis on the field I’m reminded of Bonnie, the wonderful woman who (ran) (was the secretary) of my department there. She was a rabid Hawkeye fan, as I found out on my first day there when I showed up to move in while wearing a Nebraska t-shirt. Later that year Nebraska won the national championship and my Omaha sister sent me a beautiful t-shirt commemorating the achievement. I wore it to work under a jacket and flashed the few people I knew who could take the gesture without contemplating mayhem. That included my hapless students, who were not impressed.

My friends have heard the story about my introductory interview with the dean of my college at Penn State. She confided to me that she was also from Nebraska and was still a fan (what Nebraskan isn’t?) She gave me the most useful advice I ever got from a dean: “Don’t wear your red hat on campus.” My next stop was the college bookstore, where I was confronted by a life-size cardboard cut-out of Joe Paterno and a sign featuring a Nittany Lion facing off against a Cornhusker. It read “Any time, any place.” College football fans will recognize that this was the year that Nebraska had won a consensus championship and Penn State felt it had been cheated out of the title. Of course this also antedated the scandal that later tainted the program and Paterno’s reputation.

But I ramble. In the only tough match-up today, Michigan faces Florida. That will be a hummer. And then, this evening, Nebraska takes on Arkansas State, which SHOULD be an easy win for the Huskers. Fingers crossed.

Penn State and Iowa both just scored, so I’m outa here. But not before I leave you with this beautiful photo of Iowa’s campus in the fall.