Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Warning to Trump supporters

I’ve not said this in a while, so it bears repeating and emphasizing as we sit only 42 days from the election.

If you wholeheartedly support Trump and/or what the Republican Party has become, the political items I write on this blog or share on Facebook are not intended for you.

My desire is to encourage non-voters to register, study and vote. Of course, I will tell them of reasons why they should vote for Democrats. (Eventually, I also plan to explain to them that I’m not really a Democrat and even make a pitch for why it may be important that the Grand Old Party be saved.)

If that applies to you, what should you do now?

If you’re following this blog because you’re a friend but cannot stomach hearing how vile is the current administration, then quit following me for a while. Instead, start following the site about the adventures of my wife Leah and me – Dream Chasing 101.

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RIP, dear friend

Desolation. Photo by Steve Martaindale

A special friend, one of our summer co-workers, died last weekend after contracting COVID-19.

There’s sadness. Pain. Regret.

And anger.

This did not have to happen, and we must do something about it. We are 45 days from the general election and most states are just a few weeks from being able to vote early. We must register and vote for the hundreds of thousands of people who needlessly suffer every year.

You see, my anger is not just because our right-wing politicians in Washington and many state capitals could not bring themselves to choose lives and health over the economy while failing to mount a defense against COVID-19. The long ongoing support of profit over people is really what took down my friend.

Let me explain chronologically.

He was several years older than we are and, by all measures, should have been able to retire. Leah and I, for example, can exist with our retirement checks; we rely on our summer jobs to finance travel. Our friend never was able to do that. He worked the past several summers at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. In the winters, he pulled his RV to work in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas or Death Valley in California, though he was able to work this past winter at Rushmore.

More than once, he told me he couldn’t afford to not work. I encouraged him to go to Hawaii to visit a close friend there, but he said it was out of the question.

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Nuclear Gaffigan

Sound horn. Speak up. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Oh, wow, just confirmed this morning that Jim Gaffigan, the World’s Cleanest Comedian, is actually flesh and blood and somewhat akin to us unclean people.

That is, he can honestly get angry and yell and even curse!

OK, let me backtrack a little before CNN reporter Daniel Dale fact-checks me like he did Donald Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday night, where he called out more than 20 false, exaggerated or misleading claims.

I don’t know if there really is such a title as “World’s Cleanest Comedian,” but I do know running a search for the term on Google turns up Jim Gaffigan, among others. I was watching one of his shows just a couple of weeks ago when he made some sort of indirect joke, perhaps a double entendre. He slipped into his bystander voice, saying in an aside, “I thought he was the clean comedian.” Reading it is not nearly as hilarious as hearing it.

Not only is he outrageously funny without dipping into curse words, he apparently has a policy to not dip into politics. That reputation is exactly what caused the Daily Beast to publish an article this morning, “Famously Apolitical Jim Gaffigan Finally Loses It Over Trump.”

Shortly, I was on Jim’s Twitter feed reading the entire rant. Here are some of my top picks.

This really started it off and it’s the perfect way to do so. It was actually preceded several minutes earlier by a tweet that said, simply, “RIP Truth,” with nothing but the time of day to indicate he was talking about Trump’s speech. I suspect, judging from the troll reference, that “RIP Truth” was understood by Trump supporters. I’m impressed with the way Jim opened with an apology and that he dropped in a colorful description of his trolls to signal that his “treat” might be a little different from his usual comments.

Maybe he *should* be doing political commentary during his stand up performances because the above tweet nailed it.

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68 days

Stephen Colbert reached a breaking point Wednesday night on “The Late Show.”

Check out his opening monologue above. It runs less than 16 minutes.

We are 68 days from the election, but most of us will have the chance to vote early. Go to https://www.vote411.org/, a site by the League of Women Voters, make sure you’re registered, learn when you can vote, make a plan, take a friend.

Democratically speaking

Bluish blue wave

Yes, there were multiple points I was brought to misty eyes during Monday night’s opening round of the Democratic National Convention.

Even with all the problems I see in our nation today, including that of placing our comfort over the lives of most other people around the globe, I’m still touched by things such as a choir representing all areas of the country singing The National Anthem.

More so, my heart strings are tugged by memorials to those whose lives have been lost unnecessarily.

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Here’s Kamala!

Kamala Harris - Photo provided under limited license by Biden for President

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris. Photo provided under limited license by Biden for President

It’s refreshing to hear an intelligent, caring, empathetic and hopeful speaker.

Your assignment today, 82 days away from the general election, is to listen and dream of what we can accomplish working for everyone, not just the ultra-rich.

One excerpt:

“But let’s be clear. This election isn’t just about defeating Donald Trump or Mike Pence. It’s about building this country back better, and that’s exactly what Joe and I will do. We’ll create millions of jobs and fight climate change through a clean energy revolution, bring back critical supply chains so the future is made in America, build on the Affordable Care Act so everyone has a peace of mind that comes with health insurance, and finally offer caregivers the dignity, the respect, and the pay they deserve. We’ll protect a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own body, root out systemic racism in our justice system, and pass a new voting rights act – a John Lewis Voting Rights Act – that will ensure every voice is heard and every voice is counted.”

Leadership, Lack of

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Some people need to be told how to act safely. This is in Westfield, N.Y., with a fog-bound Lake Erie in the background. Photo by Steve Martaindale

It’s 84 days until the general election, and it is crucial we’re prepared to vote wisely.

Sometimes, it’s easy to dismiss the importance of elected leaders … such as times when things are going relatively smoothly. The COVID-19 pandemic is, conversely, an example of how having capable leaders can literally make the difference between life and death, even for hundreds of thousands of people.

Am I blaming Donald Trump for the virus? No way. Am I saying his ineptitude contributed to making it incredibly worse? By all means.

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And God said…

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Let’s take this to the boss. Photo by Steve Martaindale

It’s 87 days until the general election. Go to https://www.vote411.org/, a site by the League of Women Voters, to determine if you’re properly registered to vote. If not, there are links and information to help you do so. Get registered, plan to vote, vote early, take a friend.

We’ve known for some time this is an important election, but the stakes are now even higher.

You see, God’s been dragged into it.

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Watch out!

The end of the road on Juneau

Warning, the end is near. Except, it most likely is not. Do not give in to fear. This end-of-the-road is outside Juneau, Alaska. Photo by Steve Martaindale

It is 89 days until the general election, and you must be on the lookout for politicians who are coming to take your guns!

I mean, it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

For 16 of the past 28 years, Democrats have been in the White House, eight years with Clinton and eight years with Obama. Throughout both of their administrations, as well as the year or so running up to each, we’ve been repeatedly told they were planning to take our guns.

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F___ Your Feelings

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Yes, I have feelings for other people. I also like penguins and slow walks on the beach. Photo by Steve Martaindale

 

It is 90 days until the general election.

We took a little drive in the country yesterday and wound up on a small farm-to-market road undergoing construction. While waiting for a pilot car to lead us through the one-lane passage, we found ourselves behind a car with a window decal that said, “Trump 2020 F___ Your Feelings.”

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Tick … tock

Good morning

It’s a gloomy world for Donald Trump, one where his ego is under constant attack. Photo by Steve Martaindale

 

When you heard a couple of days ago Donald Trump was threatening – pretty much promising – to ban from the United States the popular social media app TikTok, did that affect you at all?

I’ve never considered using the app, which allows you to shoot and share a 15-second video, simply because that doesn’t interest me, so I didn’t know too much about it, such as the fact it has more users than does Twitter.

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We were just…

Crowded party

Sometimes, a simple party can get out of hand. Photo by Steve Martaindale

 

This is how it works.

Someone carefully plans a little get-together, a chance to taste some semblance of “normalcy” in the middle of a weird, disheartening, nerve-wracking pandemic life.

“I’ve invited three couples over, so that’s only eight people. Everyone has been social-distancing, and each promised to check their temperature before coming over. Each couple brings their own food and drinks and even paper plates and carries their trash home. We’ll stay outside with plenty of room to spread out around the patio. Ideally, nobody will need to go to the bathroom, but I’ll have the hall bath scrubbed down and leave disinfectant and cleaning supplies in there so they can clean their way out. It’s perfect; COVID won’t have a chance to get anyone!”

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Badges?

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While you’re at it, maybe you could write a cutline for this low-water image. Photo by Steve Martaindale

It is 95 days until the general election.

Today, I’m asking you to write the meat of this post.

Do you, like me, enjoy tossing out a movie quote here and there to be applied to a real-life situation? Yeah, it’s fun.

Do you, like me, find many of your thoughts and perceptions tainted by the current administration in the White House? Such as this quote from the 1985 film, Back to the Future: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” I hear that and might think, “With the GOP refusing to tax our richest citizens, we soon won’t have any roads.”

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Planning

Cutting through

Preferably, one assumes the presidency of a country with a plan — actually, many plans — so as to not spend all of one’s time hacking out a trail to nowhere. Photo by Steve Martaindale

It is 97 days until the general election.

Let’s today look at how we can get a better idea what Joe Biden wants to achieve as president. Instead of making vague promises, his campaign has laid out a number of plans at joebiden.com/joes-vision/.

For example, he recognizes the frontline workers who have kept things going during the COVID crisis, from healthcare workers to grocery store workers. In addition to a $15 an hour minimum wage, these essential workers should receive “premium pay,” protective equipment and a safe working environment.

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How … just how?

Prairie dog

A sentry stands guard at a prairie dog town at The Ranch Store, located near the northeast entrance to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Guarding our rights as citizens is one reason we should vote in elections. Photo by Steve Martaindale

 

It is 98 days until the general election. Fourteen weeks. Just over three months.

And, the third day on my planned countdown, I’m already regretting it. Maybe. I don’t know.

Anyone who spends time in journalism, particularly writing opinion pieces, learns to not be too concerned about what others think. “Hey, that’s my opinion and you have yours.” Besides, it doesn’t normally get too personal.

Even four years ago, when I could not for the life of me understand how enough people trusted and believed in Donald Trump to nominate him as the Republican candidate … even when he managed to win the Electoral College … even then, I was able to pass it off with various excuses. Some voters wanted an outsider, a businessperson, someone to shake things up. Some simply despised Hillary Clinton. Some latched onto his message of hate directed at non-white people, a desperate attempt to hold onto dominance as long as possible.

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Lewis speech

John Lewis spoke today at his own funeral service. The above video begins at the point where his recorded speech starts.

The Voting Rights Act should be restored.

Make sure you vote this fall.

It is 99 days until the election.

Are you registered to vote?

Old Avenue of Flags

View of Mount Rushmore from the old Avenue of Flags. Photo by Steve Martaindale

We are 100 days away from the next general election.

There is much to review between now and then, but I’ll start by concentrating on what will be the prevailing topic: Are you registered to vote?

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Name that character

IMG_1553

To those who continually ask: “Yes, I am working on the next book.”

And, now, you have another chance to help with “The Reporter and the Apples.”

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Stand

Sky

As waves of white Americans drift nearer their old lives and further from the Black Lives Matter marches, some – maybe even many, hopefully most – are asking what they can do to continue supporting black lives.

Beyond that, lately, more people are talking about becoming “antiracist.” In other words, proclaiming racism as bad is fine, but what are you doing about it? I suspect there’s an uncountable number of ways we can do that, including the discomforting prospect of confronting racist or stereotypical remarks or jokes made by friends or family.

Then, just two days ago, I came across a 52-year-old story of a white man quietly standing up against racism on an international stage, standing beside blacks protesting injustice, standing in the face of the problems it would surely cause him.

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Now is the time

Into the light

The time has come. My plan was to hold off until a bit later, probably late July, but things have changed, racing rapidly and in multiple directions.

During last Sunday’s online sermon, our pastor pushed me into moving up my schedule.

“Silence is no longer an option,” he said, slowly and clearly. “Now, I have said many times, ‘Preach the Gospel always and, when necessary, use words.’ Well, now, it is necessary to use words because this nation is suffering because of a racism problem.”

I’ve said this here before, how as they integrated our school when I was in the sixth grade (1966), I felt certain my generation would be the last to experience racism. Ah, the naivety of the young … white … male.

It has not happened. Racism has not been obliterated. Some of it has changed. But it has not improved. As my pastor said half a dozen times, America has a racism problem. And it’s not limited to the major events that have recently thrust it into the limelight.

Said he: “… this nation is suffering because of a racism problem. And it’s the kind of insidious racism that has pushed people down for generations, pushing people down so hard that they are seen as ‘less than.’ They are treated as less than. People don’t have access to health care, they don’t have access to opportunity, they don’t even have access to equal pay or any kind of equal treatment. Things need to change and it needs to start now.”

I’ve been called out and I must respond. I must respond the way I know how. With the written word, expressing what is on my heart.

On July 29, 2018, I started a 100-day countdown to the midterm elections. Most days, I encouraged people to register and I implored them to turn out and vote.

The previous midterm election – 2014 – only 36.7 percent of the eligible voter population cast a ballot, the lowest percentage since 1942. Then, in 2018, after almost two years of the Trump administration, the Blue Wave brought forth a turnout of 50.0 percent. That’s still not outstanding, but it was the highest since 1912 – 102 years! (Statistics)

So, today, I guess I’m starting a 145-day countdown to the Nov. 3 general election.

You see, it’s not simply about confronting racism. It’s also about removing from elected office the people who not only ignore the problems but, in far too many cases, actually encourage them, ignore them, even instigate them.

And, in addition to our nation’s racism problem, we need to start making headway on fixing so many issues, so many and so diverse that it’s ridiculous to even try to list them here. We have 144 more days remaining.

For the first of a hundred times or more over the next 21 weeks: Register to vote. Vote early. Take a friend.

Now in print

Our new endeavor, traveling and chasing dreams, is now fully under way, in spite of quarantines. The associated book and e-books are published and we’re looking forward to hearing from others who are chasing their wishes. We’d love it if you would follow Dream Chasing 101 with us.

Dream Chasing 101

The origin of Dream Chasing 101 must be credited to the dozens, likely hundreds, of friends and strangers over the years who have bombarded us with questions and statements of disbelief that such a lifestyle was practical and achievable.

Some months ago, we decided to publish a series of booklets about pursuing one’s dreams. Since our knowledge is built around chasing our own wishes, that takes the central storyline. However, it is our hope that others who may be hesitant about pushing forward for what they want will find some inspiration, maybe even some direction, within our experiences.

Without further ado, the booklets are now available. Get the details on the booklet page here.


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Memories of OKC bombing

Dark morning

Twenty-five years ago today – at 9:02 a.m. Central time, April 19, 1995 – at least 168 people were killed, more than 680 injured, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was reduced to half a shell, and 324 other buildings were destroyed or damaged by what remains the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States.

Everyone living in the country at the time who was aware of current events will remember some aspect of what happened.

I turned Friday afternoon, via Facebook messages, to journalist friends of mine, many of them former co-workers, and asked them to share any memories, stories and feelings they’ve harbored these past 25 years. I gave them short notice and asked them to dig inside an area of themselves where some may remain reluctant to tread. Following are the first four, along with some of my thoughts, and I will add additional posts if others contribute over the next few days.

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Gettin’

Coronavirus precautions April 2020

Leah and grandson Charles practice some precautions in order to grab a little playtime.

“You know what they say,” my wife offered the other day, “either lead, follow or get out of the way.”

That put into perspective for me this uncomfortable place we’ve been in recently.

With past challenges, Leah and/or I often had a role in the response. At least, we stood ready to help somehow.

Like a hand-printed sign I saw in a New York City photo that offered shopping and errand-running assistance to elderly neighbors and those with compromised health issues.

It hit us early as this COVID-19 threat materialized: We’re the ones other people are protecting.

Leah was diagnosed several years ago with autoimmune hepatitis. Just a few decades ago, that was a death sentence, but a treatment was discovered and, as long as she’s on it, she should lead a pretty normal life. However, her system would be a soft target for this coronavirus.

At 65, I’m officially considered at a higher risk. I don’t really feel it, but I respect the warning. Regardless, if I catch it, I will simply carry it home to my wife.

So, for this crisis, we’re not leading and we’re not following.

We’re getting out of the way.

Thanks to those who are keeping essential operations going. Thanks to those who, if they are able, actually stay home and help limit the spread.

Invitation

Pelicans

Leah and I are starting something new, a Website and a series of guides geared toward helping people discover the options they have for filling out their lives.

Check out Dream Chasing 101 at this link. Follow the page and/or its social media and get in on the ground floor.

 

Lemonade

Family pic by Bjorn (2)

Accept that for a short while we are not able to have such wonderful times as pictured here. (Trust me, the curmudgeonly looking chap in the middle is faking; he had a blast.) In that case, what are the lessons we’ve gathered during our coronavirus lockdown?

When life gives you lemons … at least try to learn something from the experience, especially if said lemon shipment comes with a large side order of sitting around time. Without further ado, and with the assistance of online friends where noted, here is an early draft of “Things we’re learning from our coronavirus experiences”:

* Just how long 20 seconds can seem.

* That movie plot lines of politicians ignoring scientists and putting entire populations in jeopardy are … well … not all that far-fetched.

* How to plant a victory garden, as well as deciding if neighbors will protest against chickens in the backyard. (contributed by Ryan E)

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Now

Duffy (2)

Duffy is committed to staying at home to help save lives. He’s challenging you to join his campaign.

Are you scared yet? Angry? Motivated? Tired?

Are you convinced yet this threat deserves your attention, your cooperation, your oh-so-minor sacrifice?

Even those who only believe what they hear from Donald Trump now have something to cause them concern.

It’s simple, really. The president was first predicting COVID-19 deaths that could be counted on your fingers. Then that it would be back to business by Easter. Yesterday, however, he conceded he had been wrong, that 100,000 to 200,000 coronavirus deaths are likely. Multiple times, he mentioned that worst-case scenarios predict as many as 2 million deaths. 2,000,000 people. Dead. In the United States.

Did that get your attention? Are you ready to protect yourself and others?

Let’s do this

The fix – the only fix available to us now – is to break the chain.

The disease is easily passed from person to person. The answer is to not encounter the virus in the first place. Since you cannot tell who might be carrying it, that means you do not interact with other people, or, when it’s necessary, you do so with both parties taking precautions.

“What?” some have screamed. “You want me to stay inside for weeks? Maybe months?”

Possibly, but you can do it.

In the movie “Blast from the Past,” Brendan Fraser’s family spent more than 35 years living in an underground bunker. In “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks spent four years all alone on a deserted island. In “The Martian,” Matt Damon spent more than a year and a half alone on Mars.

And you’re fussing because you’re being asked to spend a few weeks in your home, watching TV and surfing the Internet?

Now!

How do you do this? You just do.

The same way you get up and go to work even when you really, really, really don’t want to. The same way you visit your in-laws and just keep your mouth shut. The same way you let your husband scream at a sports event on TV.

You just do it.

Why?

To increase the odds you do not get sick. Maybe die. To protect your family and neighbors.

At 65 years old, I’m considered a high-risk target, even though I’m in pretty good health. My wife appears healthier than me except she has an autoimmune disease that – though it is well controlled right now – can make her much more vulnerable. Yeah, you probably have no idea how many people close to you are more susceptible to such a disease than you thought.

So, for them if not for yourself, rein in your expectations for an exciting life just for a few weeks.

Stay at home. Maintain social distancing if you absolutely must go out. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands.

Finally, do what you can to not lose control.

Read, watch television, play on the Web. If you’re lonely, call up someone to talk with. Hit up your social media messenger or text to exchange greetings and information with someone, particularly a person who you think might be lonely.

Just do it.

If we all committed ourselves into personal lockdowns, maybe we could keep that death toll below 100,000. If we don’t, then a million-plus body count is certainly possible.

Spread the word. Challenge your friends to help keep the death toll down. Shame them, if necessary, into staying as isolated as you. Whatever it takes.

Do it.

Now.

Your mission …

Living room tent

When is the last time you built a sheet tent in the living room? Hey, this might be the perfect opportunity. What else can we do to bide time while doing our part to flatten the curve?

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to chill.”

For many of us, that is how we can best help the nation ride out the coronavirus. As an Internet statement goes: “Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to sit on your couch. You can do this.”

But that doesn’t mean it must be as boring as it sounds. Let’s think this through. How can we pass the time less painfully?

I’m often on the computer, either writing or surfing the Web. That’s a pretty normal day for me.

Leah is working on a quilting project she wants to finish while we’re in isolation.

Our RV park is in the country and we’ve been getting out for walks two or three times a day either around the park or down the county road.

Leah’s just finished streaming a bunch of episodes of the TV series, “Highlander.” Along the way, I picked up far more information about immortals than I thought possible. So, add binge-watching to the list.

We’ve both done a bit of telephoning or writing or online chatting with various friends.

We’re missing out on a cruise in order to be able to chill on our couch. To make up for it just a teeny-tiny bit, we’re planning to pick a night that we would have been at sea to dress up and have our own dance.

What else?

Help out here; we’re all in this together, even though we’re staying apart. What are you doing to make it easier to camp out on the sofa without the benefit of March Madness? Any other ideas you haven’t tried yet or are maybe hesitant to try?

Share your thoughts, while maintaining a more-than-safe distance from others, and let’s flatten this curve and regain a grasp of normalcy … however long it takes.

Finally, that opening sentence – “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to chill.” – isn’t really the option it sounds to be. It’s an order. It’s what you must be willing to do for yourself, family, friends, neighbors and even total strangers.

Chill. Am I right?

Soap and water

Moon and clouds

You’ve not heard anything about washing hands recently, have you?

It’s everywhere. News. Talk shows. Politicians. Parents. The past two Sundays, our preacher has admonished everyone to properly wash their hands.

It may seem like they’re overdoing it, but washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, as well as abstaining from touching your mouth/nose/throat area with unclean hands, can be beneficial in keeping illness at bay.

Illness, you know, like the coronavirus covid-19.

My daughter and her family are spending spring break at Walt Disney World where, as you know, large crowds tend to congregate. She reports that people have been taking it in stride, giving others a decent amount of social space and exhibiting patience. She said folks seem to be taking the hand washing and disinfecting to heart. Additionally, employees have been wiping down surfaces at a fast pace.

But, did we really need such a heavy-handed campaign just to remind us to wash our hands?

Yes, we did. This is something I’ve never written about (best I recall) in thousands of newspaper columns and Internet blog posts, but…

Too many men and boys do not wash their hands before leaving public rest rooms. Other guys reading this can confirm it.

Tell me, women, what have you observed?

More than once, half-jokingly, I’ve told Leah in a store, “See the guy in the blue shirt? Don’t shake his hand.”

And it’s not just riffraff.

Don’t ask me any questions about what I’m about to say because I won’t answer them, but there was a guy at a place I used to work who I noticed never washed his hands. This fellow was pretty important in the company, a community leader type.

And he did not wash his hands upon leaving the rest room.

So, maybe that’s what we’ll take away from this virus scare. Maybe we’ll learn to wash our hands.

Interesting times

While we’re counting down to our next cruise, world health officials are counting the reasons we should not go.

Dream Chasing 101

To sail, or not to sail. (Photo by Steve Martaindale)

“May you live in interesting times,” I’ve often heard said, is a traditional Chinese curse. The thought, whether originating in Asia or not, is that times are made more “interesting” when they are filled with strife and trouble; peaceful times are boring.

I refuse to allow discord to co-opt one of my favorite positive words – interesting – because we like to think we live interesting lives.

Currently, however …


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Remember the Erie Canal?

Iconic towpath view

An iconic view of the Erie Canal and the towpath once trodden by draft animals.

Many of you followed Leah and me for five weeks from May-June 2016 as we walked end-to-end, from Buffalo to Albany, on the Erie Canal in upstate New York.

It remains the overall neatest thing we’ve ever done.

If you did not follow along then, or if you need something to pass time on a bad weather day, I have revamped the blog into a single document, changing it to chronological order, and included a bunch of photos.

You will find it under the Expedition tab or by following this link.

Be it resolved …

Food chain

Taking care of business. (c) 2020 by Steve Martaindale

Looking forward to the new year, I hereby resolve: If we fail to remove Trump from the White House, if we do not substantially replace Republicans who have abetted or at least turned blind eyes to an attempted authoritarian overthrow of our republic, it will not be due to a lack of effort on my part.

Yes, for the first time in quite a while – indeed, I cannot remember the last time – I’m making a New Year’s resolution.

How will I fight to save our nation from the ultra-conservative onslaught?

Vote Democrat.

Promote voter registration and participation.

Be less quiet and amplify other voices.

Continue to care. About the persecution of people fleeing persecution. About violating religious freedom. About the oppression of people just because of who they love. About torturing our planet and threatening its ability to sustain life. About reserving health care for people who have money. About suppressing women. About turning a blind eye to slavery. About funneling the vast majority of finances to a disgustingly small number of people. About ignoring much of the rest of civilization because some Americans think they alone deserve all the breaks. There is so much.

Let’s make it a happy new year.

I do not hate Donald Trump

Bluish blue wave

I read and hear it quite a bit, someone espousing hatred for Donald Trump.

I cannot hate Trump, flawed as he may be, because that helps nobody. It does nothing to alleviate suffering caused by his policies, it fails to improve international relations, it does not move us any nearer healing the planet.

Hatred doesn’t even affect him, at least not in any way beneficial. Granted, video from the World Series game where he was roundly booed by the crowd appeared as though he may have been hurt, but don’t expect that to change anything. This is not a holiday movie.

(As a side note, I have no problem with booing the president. It’s the only way most of us can vocally express an opinion of a celebrity or a politician, the opposite of cheering.)

The only person affected by hate is the one harboring it. Resisters have more to accomplish after last year’s ringing endorsement of Democrats in the congressional elections. Losing mojo by concentrating on hatred hurts us and our message.

So, I’m settling in on a one-year mission to do what I can to encourage new voters to get involved in the 2020 elections, to help us all by voting out Trump and the Republican Party that has failed to protect us from an aspiring dictator.

Instead of hating, body shaming, making fun of hair or bottled tans … whatever … there are plenty of genuine nation-killing problems on which to focus.

My vote counted stickerCheck and make sure you’re registered to vote (some states have been dropping thousands off voter rolls) and study up on what’s happening.

Finally, one last-minute reminder. Some areas have elections tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 5. If that applies to you and you haven’t voted, do your homework and be there in the morning.

Robin

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the suicide death of comedian/actor Robin Williams.

As a live entertainer, Robin hardly had a peer. As an actor, he brought out the depths of an amazingly broad assortment of characters. Not all the roles he took were particularly noteworthy, but he seemed to relish the chance to do something bold, something different.

All his laughter and his apparent love for us made it difficult to understand him taking his own life, but then we heard about his growing battle with Lewy body dementia and it became understandable, sadly understandable.

Having lost a loved one to a long, drawn-out experience with Lewy body dementia, I can understand his decision, even though I could not encourage it. Could I, myself, consider it?

I honestly do not know.

I do not readily get caught up in the presence or absence of a particular performer, but Robin Williams will always strike a chord with me.

I miss him, I appreciate how he enriched our lives, I regret illness took him away so soon.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness,” he’s quoted as saying. “You mustn’t lose it.”

Thank you, Robin, for showing us the wonderful worlds of madness.

Mooning

Setting moon 7-19-19

Moon setting over the Black Hills Friday morning, July 19, 2019.

July 20, 1969 – 50 years ago today – is one of my most vivid milestone moments.

I remember some events so clearly and the dates readily spring to memory. Proposing to Leah. The birth of our daughter. Accepting Christ.

But the runaway leader for events that did not really involve me was doubtlessly July 20, 1969, watching humans place the first footprints on the moon. (I watched with my Dad at his grocery store, which I recounted here four years ago.)

It was a notable achievement, for sure, completing President John F. Kennedy’s charge less than seven years earlier, but it was important to our nation’s spirit for other reasons.

We were a country in turmoil.

Almost 17,000 American servicemen died in Vietnam in 1968, the peak, and more than 11,000 more in 1969.

Protests of the unpopular war were rampant, quite notably the Nov. 15, 1969, demonstration in Washington, D.C., that drew as many as half a million people.

The nation continued dragging its feet when it came to civil rights. The Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated the previous year. That we were divided into two not-really-equal populations was painfully obvious, even to a young white teen.

Hurricane Camille, one of the most intense tropical cyclones to hit the United States, made landfall in Mississippi on Aug. 18, devastating much of the Gulf Coast and killing 259.

On June 28, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay nightclub, providing what is considered the spark initiating the gay liberation movement in the United States.

The Charles Manson cult committed numerous murders and atrocities that captured the nation’s attention.

The day before the moon landing, a car driven by U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy crashed on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, killing Mary Jo Kopechne.

The Beatles released Abbey Road, their final studio collaboration, and gave their last concert.

Downers all.

Then, at 9:56 p.m. Central time on Sunday, July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong haltingly uttered as he stepped off the lunar module onto the moon’s surface, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The nation – indeed, the world – reveled in the accomplishment.

And now…

Turmoil and chaos embroil our country again in 2019.

We’re caught up in ongoing wars where we cannot see a point.

Our government has chosen to deny refugee rights to thousands fleeing persecution and has, in the face of withering criticism from countries around the globe, executed nationalistic plans that separate families, even children, and places them in prisons in an obvious effort to discourage others from seeking a better, safer life.

Civil rights remain an elusive goal as more and more stories surface of those in power denying rights to minorities, even to death.

Indeed, officials at the very top of government regularly incite racist behavior by appealing to the lowest, baseless fears of their constituents.

Global climate change continues to show itself in new ways, pushing weather to extremes and changing our future. To greatly exacerbate the problem, too many of our leaders choose to believe con-men rather than scientists.

Over the past 20 years, mass shootings in schools and houses of worship have become almost commonplace.

Personal wealth in our country has percolated to the top, enriching the rich while marooning low and middle classes in hopelessness.

Suicides and opioid addictions are wreaking havoc on American families.

Our LGBTQ communities, after winning rights and acceptance on many levels, are again being marginalized and punished for being different from those in power.

So …

What is our moon landing now?

Warren gets it

While waiting for tonight’s Round Two of the Democratic debates, here’s a look at a fun list developing on Twitter. A few are hash tagged, #WarrenGetsIt. (Disclosure: I have not yet picked a candidate, but Elizabeth Warren is on the short list.)

The first may have been the genesis of the tweets:

@MerrillBarr: Elizabeth Warren has never asked a bartender “what whiskeys do you have?” She’s already checked the shelf.

@PaulaInTulsaOK: Elizabeth Warren always tips at least 25% and never tries to get dinner at the lunch price.

@elizabeth_case: Elizabeth Warren never checks her phone when you’re having a heart-to-heart. It can wait.

@CCoceans311: Elizabeth Warren will let you use her charger. Her phone is at 100%.

@JoeyWesthead: Elizabeth Warren always lets you into traffic with a smile and wave! And – She never takes up 2 parking spaces or parks wonky so you have to crawl into your car/truck when leaving.

@MamalehC: Elizabeth Warren does the surveys at the bottom of the receipt because she cares about the working class!

@Mikestweeting: Elizabeth Warren ALWAYS uses her turn signal, even when it’s late and no one else is around.

@TootsieF: Elizabeth Warren does a little half jog when crossing the street so she doesn’t hold up traffic.

@amberahumphrey: When Elizabeth Warren gives you a ride home she always waits until you flash the porch light before driving off.

@AlishaGrauso: Elizabeth Warren always knows exactly what she wants when she gets to the front of the Starbucks line and never holds everyone else up.

@AuntieTeyTey: Elizabeth Warren always returns her shopping cart before getting in her car and driving away. (She wouldn’t dream of leaving a cart in a parking space.)

@drainladyspeaks: Elizabeth Warren washes her dishes right after she finishes eating, then washes your dishes that you left in there to soak.

@GeenuhFjord: When Elizabeth Warren gives a gift bag, she makes sure it’s not too event specific because she wants you to be able to re-use it.

@realTomChapmans: Elizabeth Warren always rinses out her recyclables before putting them in the bin.

@schristineyoung: Elizabeth Warren always stands to the correct side on an escalator. She understands people have things to do.

@vintagebaby1929: Elizabeth Warren never makes the joke, “so it’s free?” when things don’t properly scan at the register. She knows what’s up.

@tracyjust: Elizabeth Warren stacks all the empty plates and neatly places the silver wear on top at a restaurant.

There are many more; look them up. But, finally, just in case you’re thinking, “Hey, aren’t these a lot like …”

@DavidGillaspie: Elizabeth Warren is coaching Chuck Norris through a difficult time.

Mexican retreat

Fisherman and pelicans

As mentioned earlier, Leah and I spent the month of March in the small town of Chapala in central Mexico.

I’ve finally finished an Expedition page telling about our visit with some 20 photos. Go straight to that page by clicking this link.

Thoughts and flags

Flags at Tenana Valley State Fair in Fairbanks.Coming back from a restaurant Monday evening, a friend asked why flags were at half-staff.
“It’s because 44 people in the United States — one or two per incident — died Sunday due to gun violence.”
No, of course not. We only offer thoughts, prayers and flag lowerings when the deaths come in large batches, such as the 12 people murdered in Virginia Beach on Friday.
At sunset today, flags and most Americans will resume normal activities. And we can expect another two or three dozen shooting deaths on Wednesday.

UPDATE: As of early Friday morning, there were 40 people killed by guns in the United States on Wednesday. These numbers, by the way, come from www.gunviolencearchive.org. It is also worth noting they do not count suicides, with the exceptions of suicides related to other shootings and “suicide by cop.”

Pick a Dem, any Dem

Pelicans fighting for scraps

Pelicans fighting for scraps discarded by fisherman. Here’s hoping the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential won’t resemble this. (c) 2019 by Steve Martaindale

Let’s run through them alphabetically.

I’m not real crazy about Joe Biden becoming the next president even though his eight years in the right seat while President Barack Obama piloted the nation are important. Plus, he works well with people, Congress and other world leaders. But there are the Anita Hill testimony and other issues. Many consider his centrist leanings a positive, but I’m hoping we can build on the overwhelming progressive results of 2018 to restore and expand policies protecting people, rights and the planet. Lastly, I desire to take a break from old, white males in the White House and he’s all three. However, I will whole-heartedly support Joe Biden if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Donald Trump or Mike Pence.

Cory Booker is hard not to like. He’s incredibly well-educated and an accomplished orator, a welcomed relief from our current situation. He’s a young, black male, but his relationship with the pharmaceutical industry is worrisome what with the huge job needed to fix healthcare. However, I will whole-heartedly support Cory Booker if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Pete Buttigieg, like Booker, is a Rhodes scholar, plus he served active duty as a Navy reservist in Afghanistan. He’s young, but some think he’s too young. If elected, he’ll celebrate his 39th birthday the day before his inauguration, almost four years younger than Teddy Roosevelt. Being a gay man gives him a chance to address more directly some of our nation’s issues. Would it hurt him in the general election? Maybe, but let’s be honest, just about anyone who would vote against him solely because he’s gay is probably a hate-filled version of die-hard Republican anyway. His greatest shortcoming, in my estimation, is his limited experience. However, I will whole-heartedly support Pete Buttigieg if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Julian Castro supplements his mayoral experience with his time in Obama’s Cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. I do like his early emphasis on healthcare and immigration reform. A young Latino, he may have crested early in the public eye as he’s been out of office now for a couple of years. However, I will whole-heartedly support Julian Castro if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

John Delaney is a white male who can only be considered “young” by presidential standards, but I must respect his dedication to his campaign. As a congressman from Maryland, he announced his intentions to run for president in July 2017 and opted to not run for re-election to the House in 2018 in order to concentrate on the 2020 election. His biggest problem may be that most voters still have not heard of him. However, I will whole-heartedly support John Delaney if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Remember what I said about not wanting to elect another old, white male? Tulsi Gabbard is the first in our alphabetical list to satisfy all three, if you’re willing to grant that being born in American Samoa to a father of Samoan and European descent is non-white enough. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but she is also the first Hindu in Congress, if one really values diversity. She’s currently a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, with which she served in both Iraq and Kuwait. Her policies, though, are more problematic, particularly her early opposition to recognizing same-sex marriage, a position she has recently reversed. However, I will whole-heartedly support Tulsi Gabbard if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

Kirsten Gillibrand is an inspiring candidate, having taken a lead in the #MeToo movement and standing strong against the current administration. (See her “Brave Wins” announcement video, for example.) Now a liberal New York senator, she will have to explain conservative votes while a member of the House. However, I will whole-heartedly support Kirsten Gillibrand if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

It seems Kamala Harris has done an outstanding job laying the groundwork for a White House bid. This youngish, black woman is an amazing force when questioning people in the Senate. Smart, articulate and tough as nails, one source suggested the worst thing about her was that she’s from California, which is tough for many conservatives to swallow. I’ll refer you to my earlier comment about Pete Buttigieg. Some have said her prosecutorial record isn’t liberal enough. However, I will whole-heartedly support Kamala Harris if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

John Hickenlooper is our next old, white male candidate. He promotes himself as a moderate – excuse me, an “extreme moderate” – which seems to have been what Colorado needed. I’m not looking for another old guy to do the same old things. However, I will whole-heartedly support John Hickenlooper if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

This cannot be, in my view, a one-issue campaign, but Jay Inslee is putting his heart and soul into what many think is the nation’s, indeed the world’s, biggest issue. Yep, he’s all-in on fighting climate change. Of course, he’s also another old, white male. However, I will whole-heartedly support Jay Inslee if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Amy Klobuchar, in addition to effectively needling the current president, is a champion of healthcare reform. She’s another woman who has shone during congressional hearings. The most stinging negative has been that she drives her staff hard, sometimes to the point of it being demoralizing. However, I will whole-heartedly support Amy Klobuchar if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

Next is Wayne Messam, the first candidate I really know nothing about. He’s 44, the son of Jamaican immigrants and mayor of Miramar, Florida. He also played football for Florida State, something he may be better off not mentioning to a lot of people. However, I will whole-heartedly support Wayne Messam if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Similarly, we follow with Seth Moulton, a congressman from Massachusetts and an Iraq war veteran. He also helped lead a failed effort to deny Nancy Pelosi the House leadership, which may indicate a strong progressive streak but does put his judgment into question. However, I will whole-heartedly support Seth Moulton if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

I was heavily behind Beto O’Rourke when he ran for the Senate last year because Texas badly needs to remove the stain on our national conscience that is Ted Cruz. But believing he is ready for the Senate is not the same as believing he’s ready for the White House, though I am perfectly willing to be proven wrong. However, I will whole-heartedly support Beto O’Rourke if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Tim Ryan is another who’s never hit on my radar that much. He’s also another who has a past of not fully supporting progressive ideals. However, I will whole-heartedly support Tim Ryan if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Here’s a tough one. I supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries because I was hoping to build on the fragile foundation Barack Obama had been able to assemble. Bernie was ready to push the big-ticket items that would shape our future, such as healthcare for all and returning respectable tax rates to the ultra-wealthy and promoting education. With his loss, though, I felt from the beginning that he should stick to the Senate, actually join the Democratic Party, and mentor the amazing new faces in Congress. Need I mention that he, too, is an old, white male? However, I will whole-heartedly support Bernie Sanders if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Eric Swalwell, another young congressman, has gone about making a name for himself, especially in taking opposition to the current president, but I have a difficult time taking him too seriously yet. However, I will whole-heartedly support Eric Swalwell if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Elizabeth Warren’s progressive chops are well-established and her nevertheless-she-persisted moment was classic. While I totally empathize with her Cherokee heritage story, because it parallels my own, she should have handled it better. Also, she is an old, white female. However, I will whole-heartedly support Elizabeth Warren if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

Marianne Williamson is another old, white female, but one who brings no political experience. She seems to be focusing on the country having a moral and spiritual awakening. However, I will whole-heartedly support Marianne Williamson if she is the Democratic nominee, especially if she’s running against Trump or Pence.

Andrew Yang is another inexperienced candidate (even though I believe he’s the only one on this list who follows me on Twitter). It’s generally acknowledged his overriding mission is to introduce the idea of Universal Basic Income into the nation’s dialogue and thought processes. I’ve read a bit about UBI the last couple of years and it might make sense considering the changes technology will press upon the work force and economy unless one or more crazed world leader bombs us back to an agrarian society. But that alone does not a presidency make. However, I will whole-heartedly support Andrew Yang if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Update: Michael Bennet tossed his hat into the ring recently, bringing the count to 21. His impassioned takedown of Ted Cruz on the Senate floor early this year brought him a lot of attention, but he has a moderate background that might not fly well in this primary. However, I will whole-heartedly support Michael Bennet if he is the Democratic nominee, especially if he’s running against Trump or Pence.

Summation

Too many Democratic voters are displaying a tendency of insisting on backing only a perfect candidate. They say they will not support this or that candidate because of an earlier vote or action. Folks, such reasoning is why we are fearfully watching the current administration’s attempts to eliminate constitutional protections such as the balances of power.

Truthfully, there are candidates listed above that I think have absolutely no business being president. I trust Democrats to do a better job of filtering them out than Republicans did in 2016. But the fact is, any one of them will be an improvement over what we have now.

A final thought: I repeatedly inserted the vice president’s name in my pledge on purpose. I still fully expect things to play out to a point where Trump resigns in an effort to save himself and Pence steps in. Pence, in my estimation, is at least as evil as his boss but more dangerous because he knows better how to work the system. Also, of the Republicans who have fled because of the president, many will come back to support Pence.

It’s popularly stated, “Vote Blue, no matter who.” We must all adopt that attitude now. We need to hear out these 21 candidates, allow their messages to work into the system, maybe affecting other candidates’ positions. Those who are less electable will fall out as others strengthen. Democrats do not need to attack other Democrats; that’s a Trumpian move. Support your favorites and highlight why you do so. Let the system work.

Then …

Wholeheartedly support the Democratic nominee, even if he or she is not your favorite. Support and vote Blue, trusting time to eventually take care of your concerns. We cannot afford for you to sit this one out. We cannot afford you casting a “protest” third-party vote. And you will vote Trump or Pence only if you really want to see how this country will collapse under a dictatorial leadership.

Adios

Watering the median

It’s been quiet on this page the past month, but I want you to know there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes, things that will soon appear here.

At the risk of raising more questions than I answer (OK, that’s probably my actual intent), here are some points to be addressed and explained later.

* I secured an artist residency with a program in the small town of Chapala, located on Lake Chapala, a short distance south of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Leah and I wrap up a four-week stay when we fly home early Saturday.

* We’ve met and made friends with some marvelous artists from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain.

* We’ve walked all over the town. In fact, since the taxi dropped us off March 2 and until another takes us to the city Friday afternoon, the only vehicles we’ve been in are local buses to make two trips to the neighboring town of Ajijic to visit a farmers’ market.

* Leah has greatly enhanced her Spanish skills and I’ve probably picked up a word or two.

* Our casita sits on the third floor overlooking a crazy intersection, providing hours of watching pedestrians, vehicles and horseback riders weaving in and out.

* There have been nice visits and interactions with local residents.

* The scenery of the lake is beautiful, dominated by a large flock of American white pelicans that are wrapping up their winter and heading north for the breeding season.

* The weather – as it is year-round, the literature says – has been perfect.

* As for the art portion, I came here with one certain goal – to get to know an area foreign to me well enough to use it to create a setting in a future book. That has been accomplished. My writing on book six of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series has been at pretty much a stalemate for the past 30 months or so and I did not want to set myself up for failure by making that my goal. However, due in no small part to the encouragement of others here, I have made considerable headway on “The Reporter and the Apricot,” including figuring out that title won’t work.

That’s enough for now. Also coming will be photos. The only thing I forgot to bring with me was the cord to download my camera into my laptop. The photo above was one I took with my phone out of our casita’s kitchen window. This tanker truck came around often. The driver would cruise next to the median and the hose operator on top sprayed it with water. I’m not sure if it was more to water vegetation or to try to keep dust down during the dry season.

Lastly, if you have topics or questions you think I should address, send an email or private message or leave a comment below.

“The envelope, please…”

Bohemian Rhapsody

A memorable moment from “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Before I wade into my guesses for tonight’s Oscars, a wee bit of background. I’m in no way qualified to do this except I enjoy films and have no problem speaking my mind. I truly hope you’ll pitch in with a comment (at the end of this article) with your thoughts and predictions.

Also, I’m doing this simply for fun. I’ve always regretted watching the Oscars and having seen only one or two of the top-rated movies. This year, I’ve seen all 13 movies represented in the top six categories – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress. I’ve also seen five of the other films with nominations further down the list. (By the way, I published a column a few days ago telling why I felt like some would not win, if you want to check that out.) Let’s go.

Best Supporting Actor

And the Oscar goes to Mahershala Ali, “Green Book.”

His portrayal of Dr. Don Shirley was locked in throughout the bulk of the movie, which is one shortcoming. We didn’t get to see the character change much.

Adam Driver in “BlacKkKlansman” was truly a supporting actor in that he in no way had the lead (which one could argue Ali did) but the story could not have progressed without him. Richard E. Grant in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” turned in perhaps my favorite acting job in this category. Either one of these could easily pick up the gold statuette.

The roles of Sam Elliot in “A Star Is Born” and Sam Rockwell (last year’s winner) in “Vice” were not, in my opinion, enough to warrant a win. The 74-year-old Elliot, however, seems to have a lot of fan support and that is a real thing.

Best Supporting Actress

And the Oscar goes to Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Most of these categories are difficult this year … as we like them to be … but I actually changed my mind since I scrawled my choices down on paper a couple of days ago. “Beale Street” tells an important story, one that much of America does not see or understand, and the character of Sharon Rivers is the thread that binds it together.

Dropping from the lead on my list is Amy Adams in “Vice.” The strength of her Lynne Cheney character shaped the movie as, if we can trust the film, the real Lynne molded Dick Cheney.

Marina de Tavira in “Roma” and the two nominees from “The Favourite” – Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone – could, in true Academy Awards fashion, spring a surprise on this category, particularly since either of those movies could turn into a runaway locomotive on the stage.

Best Actor

And the Oscar goes to Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Speaking of runaway locomotives, that term could apply both to his steamroller performance and to his winning record at earlier awards presentations. I cannot comprehend the task of taking on such a bigger-than-life character as Freddie Mercury, but Malek handled it with aplomb.

Any other nominee could, however, make a case for a win.

Willem Dafoe turned in what amounted to almost a soliloquy for 111 minutes in “At Eternity’s Gate.” That is to say, he was constantly the central figure, fighting with himself and others to express the artistic vision captured within Vincent van Gogh.

Christian Bale made a miraculous physical transformation to play Dick Cheney in “Vice” and accomplished a solid performance atop the makeup.

Viggo Mortensen’s “Green Book” character, Tony Lip, is the fun role actors love to play. We got to see Tony grow a lot through the movie. And, to be clear, this is not Aragorn.

Bradley Cooper is also receiving a lot of public acclaim for Jack in “A Star Is Born,” deservedly so. His tragic tale is written on the lines of the character’s face.

Best Actress

And the Oscar goes to Glenn Close, “The Wife.”

This is the only major category that is not even close, in my mind. “The Wife” was the last of the nominees I was able to see and I went in with no strong leader, but Close’s commanding performance as Joan Castleman instantly won me over. I love it when an actor can say as much as she did without even using words.

Melissa McCarthy is probably my next pick for her role as Lee Israel in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” It’s a complicated role, tastefully accented by McCarthy’s deft humor.

Olivia Colman in “The Favourite” and Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born” certainly became their characters, both exhibiting considerable range and emotion.

Newcomer Yalitza Aparicio, playing the lead role in “Roma” in her first film, was amazing, considering that. I don’t see her grabbing an individual statuette, however, unless it’s coupled onto the aforementioned runaway train.

Best Director

The Oscar goes to Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma.”

I feel less qualified in this among all six major categories. I’m going with Cuaron partly because of all the buzz, in addition to it being a great film.

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman,” has been talked about a lot, but most of the comments have mentioned it more as a makeup award for better work he’s done in the past.

Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite,” certainly spun up a grand tale and must be considered a favorite, as well.

Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War,” being not in English and being nominated only in this category, allowed me to view it thinking about the director’s hand. Even I could see effective results that undoubtedly must be credited to him.

Last, and certainly not least, Adam McKay’s “Vice” has been in and out of my consideration for the award. The movie was an effectively woven story of multiple elements and places in time that never seemed to lose me. I think he’s a strong contender.

Best Picture

And the Oscar goes to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Graham King, producer.

Remember the runaway trains in “Roma” and “The Favourite” and the fan-favored “A Star Is Born.” All deserving winners, but “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the movie that, as I exited the theater, had placed in me a burning desire to create something, to go out and win at something, to achieve what I want.

Plus, of course, I grew into adulthood loving the music of Queen.

“Black Panther” is grand. “BlacKkKlansman” is an entertaining story. “Green Book” was fun and informative. “Vice” spun a powerful image.

But “Bohemian Rhapsody” is my top movie.

Elsewhere…

In addition to these 13 movies, I’ve seen five others that are up for one or more awards. If I counted correctly, that leaves 19 I’ve not seen among the other categories, plus the 15 short film nominations, none of which I’ve seen.

That is to say, the following quick predictions are a mixture of what I’ve seen, heard, guess and wish.

Best Original Screenplay – “The Favourite.”

Best Adapted Screenplay – “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Best Makeup & Hairstyling – “Vice.”

Best Costume Design – “Black Panther.”

Best Cinematography – “Cold War.”

Best Original Song – “A Star Is Born” for “Shallow.”

Best Original Score – “Black Panther.”

Best Documentary Feature – “RBG.”

Best Animated Feature – “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

Best Foreign-Language Film – “Roma.”

Best Sound Mixing – “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Best Sound Editing – “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Best Production Design – “The Favourite.”

Best Visual Effects – “First Man.”

Best Film Editing – “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Best Animated Short – Best Live-Action Short – Best Documentary Short – I know nothing about any of these nominees; we’ll just leave it there.

Special mention

The names from the memorial segment most likely to draw an audible response from you and the Academy members: Penny Marshall, Burt Reynolds, Neil Simon, Tab Hunter and Stan Lee.

Over / under on the number of references to there not being a host and/or to Kevin Hart: 11.5.

Over / under on minutes run overtime: 7.5.

Number of times conservative viewers will yell during acceptance speeches: 10.

Let’s get together: I will be live-tweeting whatever crosses my mind during the Oscars (8 p.m. Eastern / 5 p.m. Pacific on ABC). Join me. My handle is @smartaindale and I’ll be using the hashtag #OscarsPalooza. We might even start during the red carpet.

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