Wayback Wednesday: Airlines; Back to the Grind

I’m doing more retrospective/throwback posts here at the end of the year.  The end of the year is always a good time for reflections, but I’m also on the move in these last, dying days of 2020, so I’m trying to log posts in advance.

Indeed, today I’m hopping a flight to Mobile, Alabama, with my ultimate destination being a small town in George County, Mississippi.  My girlfriend and I are going to spend a few days with her folks before driving back to South Carolina after the New Year.

She might not appreciate this fact, but it’s reminiscent of a summer trip to New Jersey with my last girlfriend (although it went in reverse:  she and I drove up to New Jersey together, and I flew back solo).  I can never seem to date anyone whose parents live twenty minutes away—or even within easy driving distance.  New Jersey, now Mississippi—where next?  Here’s hoping I never date anyone from Alaska (although that would be cool); really, let’s hope I never have to hit the ruthless dating market again!

I don’t like flying.  I’m not scared of it, it’s just a pain—you can’t take shampoo and fingernail clippers with you because some Muslim jerks destroyed the Twin Towers.  I might be a jerk sometimes, but c’mon—do I look like someone who is going to hijack a plane with nose-hair tweezers?  Let’s apply a little discriminatory common sense here.

But here I am, yet again hopping a couple of flights to distant, sleepy locales.  With that, here is Summer 2019’s “Airlines; Back to the Grind“:

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Stop Amending the Classics, Bring Back Melody

This time of year, this blog focuses big time on Christmas carolstheir histories, the theory behind them, their compositions, etc.  One of the great joys in my life is playing and singing these carols.  They are sweet but powerful musical retellings of the Birth of Jesus.

One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that churches have taken these classics and, in an attempt to check the “contemporary Christian music” box, added unnecessary and musically-boring codas to them.  This past Sunday, my parents’ church’s praise team was leading the congregation in a stirring singing of “O Come, All Ye Faithful“—and then tacked on a needless extra chorus written in a modern style.  The additional chorus was okay, but it paled in comparison to the majesty and tunefulness of the carol it amended.  The church went from a lusty chorus of socially-distanced congregants to a few people mumbling along to the tuneless new chorus.

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Dentists

Today is the first day of my cushy Thanksgiving Break.  After a long Tuesday of teaching, playing piano, and driving, I made it to my hometown to head to the dentist.  The dentist is my cousin, so I get a marginal discount.

As a child and teenager, I had extensive dental work performed.  I had a gnarly tooth, which I dubbed “The Monster Tooth,” that grew in the wrong way.  My orthodontist spent years slowly dragging the tooth into place, only to have the enamel completely absorb the root, making the tooth nonviable.  At that point, bone from my wisdom teeth was used to create a foundation in which a metal implant—a small screw, of sorts—was installed into my mouth.  I walked around with a small metal rod in place of a tooth for some months, and then a crown was placed atop the implant.

Needless to say, I’ve become accustomed to dental work, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy going.

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Free Speech in the Private Sector

Assaults on free speech may be the most pressing issue of our time.  Anyone reading this blog has surely witnessed the deplatforming of conservative figures under nebulous “community guidelines,” as well as the personal and professional ruin that tend to follow.

Indeed, I occasionally fear that my dashed-off ramblings might, in some none-too-distant Orwellian America, be misinterpreted or misapplied as “hate speech”—all it takes is the wrong person complaining.  Of course, this blog’s obscurity is perhaps my best defense—I’m too small to matter.  That said, that fear is one reason I’m pumping up alternative income streams and attempting to boost my SubscribeStar subscriber base; the authoritarian maw of the SJWs grows ever wider.

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TBT: Tom Steyer’s Belt

Like many bloggers, I wrote a “2019’s Top Five Posts” feature to acknowledge the most-trafficked posts of the year.  One of the surprise sleeper hits was this post, “Tom Steyer’s Belt.”

I wrote this piece on September 30, 2019, largely as a cheeky throwaway.  It didn’t seem to get much traffic initially, but that’s true of many of my posts.

Then, probably in late November, but certainly by December, I noticed something:  it was getting a handful of clicks everyday.  It was just a few at first—maybe four or five, sometimes less—but then the views grew.

Now I’m getting dozens of views everyday from this post alone—usually more than fifty!  As the Democratic primaries approach and challengers drop out, Tom Steyer and his stupid belt continue to hang in there, running ads all over the place.

Perhaps not surprisingly, other people want to know the meaning behind the belt.  According to my WordPress analytics—limited as they are—a few of the clicks to my piece come from the search terms “why does Tom Steyer wear that stupid belt” and “Tom Steyer’s stupid belt.”  Less judgmental permutations also bring up my site.

The belt has, apparently, captured the nation’s imagination (and, presumably, Steyer’s waist):  it has its own Facebook page, where “The Belt” posts hilarious comments.

Well, at least some good will come from Steyer’s campaign—a good laugh at a clueless Leftie’s expense.

Here’s 2019’s “Tom Steyer’s Belt“—now the most popular post on The Portly Politico:

When I was in college, I formed this ridiculous pseudo-band with a suitemate of mine (who has, apparently, now gone down some dark roads) called Blasphemy’s Belt, which my bio on another band’s website refers to as an “electro-pop humor duo.”  I can’t remember how we came up with the name—our music wasn’t particularly or purposefully blasphemous (or good), and while we wore belts, they weren’t outrageous (just to keep our pants up)—but it was apparently catchy enough that people picked up on it.

The Belt never performed live, other than for an annoyed roommate, and a highly grating pop-up concert (at least, that’s what hipsters would call it nowadays) on our floor’s study room, but we generated enough buzz to get people to vote for us in a “Best of Columbia” survey in The Free Times.  We didn’t win anything, but it was an object lesson in how enough hype can make people believe you have substance when you really don’t.

That’s my self-indulgent way to introduce some literal navel-gazing—at Democratic hopeful and wealthy scold Tom Steyer‘s virtue-signallingsanctimonious belt.

Tom Steyer is a former hedge fund manager and current environmentalist nutcase who, along with half of the population of the United States, is running for the Democratic presidential primary in 2020.  Unlike Blasphemy’s Belt, nobody knows who he is; I don’t even think he qualified for the debates. Unfortunately, he’s trying to rectify that by running incessant ads on Hulu.

I’ve seen enough attack ads from Democrats to tune them out—they’re just a more overt form of the dishonesty progressives usually engage in—but Steyer’s ad brings bile to my throat.  It’s not because of his ludicrous claims (that President Trump is a “fraud and a failure”), idiotic as they are.

It’s because of his stupid belt.

Tom Steyer has no chance in the Democratic primary because a.) he’s unknown; b.) he’s an old white guy and c.) he’s not the old white guy who was President Obama’s VP.  As such, he no name recognition or intersectionality points.  He’s not even a pretend Indian like Elizabeth Warren.  He wears a blue button-up shirt with rolled-up sleeves and jeans in his commercials—the default uniform of politicians trying to appeal to the working man—and is utterly forgettable.

Except for that belt!

Here is the one picture I could find of it online, and it’s just a picture of someone’s television showing the ad (care of a Kenyan newspaper):

Steyer Belt.jpg

Here is an excerpt from the article (again, it’s from a Kenyan newspaper, so the written English is prone to syntactical errors):

The Presidential hopeful revealed while responding to a curious netizen who inquired the significance of the belt since he had worn it in one of his campaign videos.

Steyer noted that he bought the belt during his visit to Kenya.

“Thanks for noticing my favorite belt! I bought it on a trip to Kenya from female artisans,” he tweeted.

Additionally, he affirmed that the belt is a reminder that the world benefits when women are educated, as the belt was made by female artisans.

“I wear it as a reminder not to be so formal, and also as a symbol that the world is a better place when we educate women and girls,” he mentioned.

This kind of pandering makes my skin crawl.  Look, I have nothing against unusual belts.  But you look at a guy like Tom Steyer wearing this ridiculous belt in a campaign ad for president, and you know he’s trying to virtue-signal.  He said as much in the excerpt above—“I like the belt, but I also want to show how progressive I am by buying colorful belts from African women.”

His very sartorial choice is a political statement.  If you’re a punk rocker, yeah, you’re showing your disdain for order with your outrageous duds.  But you’re not likely to run for President of the United States (that would be too normie and conformist—being a part of the system, rather than trying to tear it all down).

Also, how much education does it take for a Kenyan woman to make a weird belt?  She probably learned how to do it from her mother, not from a progressive public school (there, she’d just learn to resent her skillfulness making belts as a form of patriarchal, white oppression—then no belts would get made at all).

Mostly, though, Steyer’s belt highlights his own clueless elitism.  Nobody cares about your belt you picked up at some street bazaar on a luxury safari in Kenya.

Clothes say a great deal about a man (or woman).  I feel better about myself when I’m dressed well (and it’s not 8000 degrees and 400% humidity outside).  I, too, have an unusual little ornament that I sometimes wear, that often draws attention—but it’s way more endearing than some empty gesture of my multicultural bona fides.

Years ago, I had a student who was obsessed with South Korean culture and music.  She especially loved a K-pop group called Exo—basically a Korean boy band.  Before a big concert, she asked if I’d wear an Exo tie if she bought me one; naturally, I said yes.

A couple of weeks later she came to be with a little felt bag.  She explained that Exo did not have ties, but they did have tie clips.  I pulled from the bag a little piece of silver-colored metal, with a button-sized picture of Korean teen heartthrobs.

I wear it frequently, as it’s functional (it holds my ties in place) and a conversation starter.  It’s always fun to tell, as I lead with, “Oh, it’s a Korean boy band” so I get weird stares, then I tell the story above, which is an endearing example of a close and respectful student-teacher relationship.

I’m not saying I’m immune from self-righteous outbursts, but I don’t politicize a sweet, unique gift from a student (it also doesn’t look like I’m wearing the clothing of another culture in order to make myself appear more diverse and progressive).  If I wore that tie clip in a political ad (a distinct possibility), no one would be able to tell that there are ten Korean boys on it (at least, I hope not!).  Tom Steyer knows people will see his colorful, clearly-exotic belt, and he’s banking on progressive voters saying, “Wow, this old white Wall Street hedge fund manager is really down with the struggle.”

Perhaps, like the great David Carradine, Steyer’s ham-fisted belt will be his undoing.  Then again, he was never really done up in the first place.

Bologna

The long national nightmare is over.  No, not the impeachment farce; it’s the end of the semester!  Grades are in the books, work is done, and teachers and students are heading out for two weeks of glorious Christmas Break.

It’s been an eventful week.  As the House was fulminating about Trump’s alleged “crimes,” I was playing a gig with our community jazz band.  I play second alto sax with the group, but I asked to sing a song on this concert.

It’s long been a dream of mine to sing with a full jazz swing band behind me, and that dream came true Wednesday evening.  I sang Andy Williams’s “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and was a nervous wreck (if you’ve seen the lyrics to that tune, you’ll understand why—what a mouthful!).  But I got through it admirably enough, even with a low-grade sinus infection.

The gig was during the dinner hour at a large church in town.  The first alto player indicated how hungry he was, and wondered if he could get a plate.  I told him (unhelpfully) that I’d eaten a bologna sandwich in my car before coming in (which sounds like a joke and/or the most mundane, pathetic detail in the world, but it was true).  All the old guys in the band—it’s a swing band, so there are a lot of them—expressed their enthusiasm for bologna sandwiches, and asked how it was prepared:  did I use mustard?  “Nope, Duke’s mayonnaise, with cheese.”  Murmurs of approval followed.

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Midweek Update

It’s crunch time here at Portly HQ.  As such, today’s post will be very brief.

I’ve been writing a lot about Christmas and music lately—’tis the season, after all.  You can catch up on yesterday’s post about “Joy to the World,” as well as Sunday’s look back at my Dokken album reviews from Christmas 2018.

One reason for the Christmas music focus is that my students have their big Christmas Concert this Friday.  It’s always a great deal of fun, and we try to go for a homemade Trans-Siberian Orchestra vibe (if only I could get the administration to spring for some laser lights and pyrotechnics).

As an independent musician and a music teacher (I also teach history), I find myself playing the role of concert impresario quite a bit.  One lesson I’ve learned is that the money people—the producers—will always have their notes and revisions, often last-minute.  Your well-oiled, tried-and-true concert formula can often get totally upended with changes.  Learning to roll with the punches is hard, but necessary.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Tedium of (Teaching) Slavery

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

A major part of American history was, of course, slavery.  As I typed that sentence, I nearly wrote “the unfortunate legacy of slavery,” though we’re still living that, just not in the way the race-baiters and social justice warriors claim.

But phrases like “the unfortunate legacy of slavery” have become incredibly cliched.  It and similar phrases (“slavery is our great national sin”) act as magic talismans, incantations that, when invoked, protect the speaker (presumably) from the ultimate curse, the label of “racist.”

Of course, slavery was wrong, and slavery is immoral.  It was our great national sin (paid for, as Lincoln pointed out in his Second Inaugural Address, with the blood “drawn by the sword” in the American Civil War).  It continues to have an “unfortunate legacy,” in that race-baiting charlatans continue to blame it for virtually every pathology in black American culture.

Dang it… I screwed up the incantation with that last bit.  I’d better kiss my job goodbye right now.

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Reacting to Hysterical Reactions: Peloton Ad

While driving home from work, I heard a little news bulletin on the radio about controversy surrounding a recent Peloton ad.  Peloton is some kind of high-end exercise bike that features videos of instructors shouting at you in that obnoxious, oddly stentorian way that hyper-motivational athletic types use when coaching quasi-sports for middle-aged women.  You know the kind of voice I mean.

Apparently, the ad is “cringeworthy” because it features a woman working out, and then thanking her husband for the gift (presumably on the Christmas following the one where she received the bike).  Also, the woman is attractive and already thin; never mind that we’re supposed to be “healthy at any size” (a concept, as my girlfriend explained to me, that does not mean we pretend 400-pound land monsters gobbling dozens of Quarter Pounders a day are “healthy,” but that a person can pursue a healthy lifestyle even if he’s morbidly obese).

The shrill feminists denouncing the ad are saying that the husband is shaming his wife into becoming even thinner—never mind that maybe she wanted an easy way to workout at home (skinny people can be unhealthy in their habits, too).  Throughout the commercial, the wife records her progress, and critics are pointing out the anxious look on her face, suggesting she’s pleading for her husband’s affection.

Give me a break.

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