We Americans












We Americans
Speak of our founding fathers,
Our proud heritage,
As if it were all etched in stone,
Authored by God,
This young country,
This work in progress,
Fresh from ignorance and sin,
Sinning still.




Biden Dorks Out



Vice President Joe Biden appears to temporarily lose his mind during President Barack Obama's "jobs" speech to Congress, September 8, 2011. Actually, he was licking his lips due to dry mouth.




Economic Lemmingism

Now that we’ve been through these last few years of economic misfortune, what have we learned?

Perhaps we’ve learned that the words “financial” and “advice” should sound a large alarm whenever anyone puts them together and pretends to predict the future.


Of course, no one can predict the future, especially not economists who mostly failed to predict the 2008 global financial collapse. Oh sure, there are always going to be a few who make accurate predictions because of either blind luck, or because they make hundreds of predictions knowing the law of averages guarantees at least a few winners.

Now that so many have lost their jobs, their homes and their futures, what is the solution to these tragedies? Why of course it is to keep interest rates so low that the credit pushers can trick recovering credit addicts into going back on the drug.

Yes, this idea of economic recovery depends on millions of us spending money we don’t have on things we can do without.

Meanwhile, those of you who believe it might be a good idea to save some of your income just in case more bad things happen; those of you who can put off remodeling your kitchens; those of you who can get by with your ten-year-old Japanese cars; those of you who might actually want to lose weight and improve your health by not consuming a week’s worth of calories in a single sitting at overpriced restaurants . . .

Yes, those of you who actually want to plan ahead for the unexpected by moderation and saving; you, O virtuous, self-disciplined and thrifty citizens, you are rewarded with near zero interest rates for your frugality.

In America, frugality is punished.

So shall we all just keep running blind toward the edge of insolvency? Pay no mind to those that fall, for the intoxication of the stampede is all.



~ by Russ Allison Loar (2019)




A Lie






I was playing with a baseball I’d found in my front yard when two older boys walked up to me.

One of them said, “That’s my baseball. I hit it over here all the way from the park.”

The park was about three miles away, but I was seven years old and I believed him. I gave him the baseball. The two boys walked away laughing.

Lying in bed that night, thinking over the events of the day, I realized those boys were laughing because they had told me a lie and I believed them. They were laughing at me.

I decided I wouldn't be so stupid next time. Despite my decision, so many years later, I’m still surprised how skillfully people can lie.








~ By Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

What Do You Really Think?



What do you really think?

No,
Not what you’ve heard,
Those predigested generalizations
Tailored to specific constituencies,
Foot soldiers amassing in the unity of certainty.

What do you think that’s genuinely yours,
Uniquely yours,
The product of your own ingredients,
Of your own mental exercise,
Unaltered by expectations of approval
Or disapproval,
Stripped of cliché,
Of second-hand observations . . .

Summon the truest voice within and tell me,
What do you really think?


~ Poem and Photo by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




Who Is To Blame?

Russ Loar Interviews Presidential Candidate Bill Clinton ~ 1-14-92

We are witnessing the dissolution of the Republican Party, which of course has roots in what has been so commonly observed: The changing demographics of the United States. The party of Lincoln has undergone substantial change during the last few decades. Its current incarnation is certainly a pale shadow of William F. Buckley’s philosophical conservatism. His war of ideas has largely descended into a war of words; a war of accusations. And just when I thought we could fall no lower, words were supplanted by insurrection.

The primitives among us have had enough talk. Now they’re ready to overthrow American democracy itself. And let us be clear, the storming of the Capitol was a product of the Republican Party—Trump’s Republican Party. Democrats may dream of big tent inclusiveness, but there can be no compromise when it comes to physical violence employed to overturn presidential election results.

If it were not for gerrymandering, socioeconomic voting restrictions, corporate lobbyists, wealthy campaign contributors and Fox News, Republicans would not have the support they now enjoy. And a man without any public service experience, of dubious morals, with a background of questionable business practices, would never have been elected president. And this twice-impeached former president, defeated in his reelection bid, would be stripped of political influence. Only ten presidential incumbents have lost reelection. Trump is the tenth.

Yet about 43% of Americans believe he should be reelected president. And among Republicans, 87% believe Trump should return to the White House, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll published in February 2021.

There is another motive force inspiring the uninformed. It is the dumbing down of discourse into millimeter-deep sound bites. And so political allegiances become less a product of thoughtful inquiry and more a matter of fad and fashion.

It cannot be overestimated how much influence Fox News has in bailing water out of the leaking boat that is the far-right Republican Party. Fox news is the highest rated cable television news channel by significant margins over its left-wing rivals: MSNBC and CNN. Wherever ignorance and fact-impaired faith persist in our culture, Fox News is there to lend support.

I am a political independent. I have been an independent all my adult years. I support good ideas from either party. That’s how I define bipartisanship—the cooperative effort to arrive at the best ideas and then implement those ideas by way of legislation. As a former political reporter, I did not want to be seen as biased toward the right or the left.

But when our country has sunk so low as to threaten a demonstrably fair presidential election that has been upheld by numerous courts, there is clearly no room in the big tent of democracy for these insurrectionists.

It goes beyond partisan politics to ask who is to blame. We must ask. And we must answer.


~ by Russ Allison Loar ~ Photo by Shauna Norfleet © All Rights Reserved




Accumulation


When I was young I had a small wooden box, a souvenir from a family trip to the giant redwoods. We drove through a hole in one of the trees and stayed overnight in a cabin infused with the wood-sap-green perfume of the forest that surrounded us.

Inside my box I kept:

1. A polished orange agate
2. A worn Canadian quarter with a moose on one side
3. A dark red matchbook from a fancy restaurant
4. A small magnifying glass in a black plastic frame
5. A brass pocket knife
6. A 4 cent stamp with Abraham Lincoln’s picture on it
7. A fingernail trimmer

I had a portable record player and a collection of 45 rpm records with pictures of the artists on the paper sleeves. Elvis! I had picture books of nursery rhymes, jungle animals, Peter Pan, automobiles, a school book with illustrations of Columbus discovering the new world, children’s poetry and comic books. I had baseball cards of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sandy Koufax! I had a set of small rocks glued onto a cardboard mounting, each underscored with their names and geographic origins.

I had a half-dozen or so stuffed animals who shared my bed.

I had drawers full of inconsequential objects such as red rubber bands from Sunday newspapers, paperclips, a bottle of dried-up glue, spare change, pens and pencils, a ruler, a small plastic stapler and scattered staples, a Scotch tape dispenser, assorted notepads, folders, three-ring binders, old birthday cards, Christmas cards sent to my family and forgotten photographs taken when we were all dressed up for some holiday.

I had plastic guns and rifles, dozens of small metal cars with real rubber tires, and a few hastily glued model airplanes.

I had a closet full of clothing picked out by my mother and drawers of underwear, socks and pajamas. I had pairs of worn tennis shoes and rarely worn dress shoes that made blisters on my heels.

I had a red and white Schwinn bicycle with large tires. I attached playing cards to the spokes to make it sound like a motorcycle. When I attached a balloon it sounded even better, but the balloon would soon pop.

I had so much more, so many possessions for such a young boy, and yet so few when compared to this adult life where the clutter of accumulation dims the childhood wonder I had when everything was new.


~ by Russ Allison Loar

© All Rights Reserved





This Idea Of Free





I am so used to this idea of free
I forget how many in this world
Are shackled by ideas,
So many in this free country,
In my hometown,
Shackle themselves with ideas,
Rules for living,
Or no ideas at all,
Just behaviors,
Self-destructive behaviors
Masquerading as freedom.

So confusing,
This idea of free.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




Those Who Would Be Dictators

 



    
In my quest to become a wise and enlightened being, I listen to the words of others. And there is no shortage of those who claim to possess the truth. There is no shortage of those who have developed methodologies, philosophies, theologies, psychologies – rules for living.

    Yet, is it not true that so many of the horrors of humankind are perpetrated by those who say they are only obeying the rules? Who made these rules and why must they be obeyed? They are made by those who would be dictators. But their rules must never be questioned, so they portray themselves as merely the humble servants of God, of Allah, of the Sacred Writings, of The Public Welfare. That is all the justification they need to lead us to righteousness, and to exterminate those who disagree.

    Even in the evolving democracies of the world, in the United States, are we not surrounded by little dictators working hard to impose their vision of the truth upon us all? Consider how many books have been published in which the chosen few hand down small tablets of truth about our lives, small tablets of truth which they have received from on high. The questions of the heart and mind have all been solved, by them.

    Isn’t American democracy rooted in the idea that each of us must be free to discover our own truths – spiritual and otherwise – about the lives we lead? Why, then, do we continue to revere and respect those who oppose free and unfettered thought?

    To do good works is praiseworthy. To be charitable to those in need is kind. To help the ignorant discover the value of ethical, moral behavior is a worthy endeavor. But to promote the belief that any one theology and its book of rules constitutes unquestionable eternal truth is to mistake the human for the divine. Even if a word, a sentence, a paragraph, an essay, a pamphlet, a book, is divinely inspired, it had to be written down by a human being. We have no books that were penned by supernatural beings and published on other planes of existence. We are the creators of these things, regardless of whatever divine or supernatural source we credit or invent.

    Yet those who would be dictators do not want to be judged on human terms, to be subject to our Earthly criticisms, and so they say their words – whatever their source – are infallible. How often is this simply a tactic to deny any challenge to their dictatorial will?

    We are taught to respect traditional beliefs, practices and institutions, yet our evolving democracy has expanded freedom by exposing the injustice of many traditional beliefs, practices and institutions.

    I believe in the evolution of the soul, an evolution that requires us to examine our beliefs, practices and institutions, and change them, improve them, and sometimes, abandon them.

    I taught my children to be suspicious of those who pretend to know the truth, as if we were all on the same journey, living the same life in the same body. I taught my children to listen to the wise counsel of parents, friends and community, then find their own way in this world. The path each of us must take in life is unique to each of us and cannot be predestined by a parent, a priest, a psychologist or a politician. We should reject those who want to control our thoughts, even those who are merely self-help guru celebrities. Given the chance, they too would be dictators.

    Listen to the words of those who open doors for you, who enlarge the possibilities of your thought, who encourage you to trust your own conscience and seek your own way through this life. There are many enlightened voices, even those who would be dictators possess wise words which they offer like cheese in a mousetrap. Never let anyone take over the job which is yours alone: the growth of your heart, your mind and your spirit. This is why you are alive, to do this work that only you can do, to grow a larger soul. 

    Please continue.






Collections


The first things I collected were stuffed animals, but only two of them slept with me at night. Of all my friends and playmates, I dearly loved the little gray cat and floppy brown and tan spotted dog who slept under the covers and kept me from feeling lonely at bedtime.

I’ve never lived anywhere very long without cats. I sleep with a little calico cat named Sally now.

I collected small metal cars and loved to drive them around cities I made from colored blocks.

I collected 45 rpm records, songs I heard on the radio. I listened to them over and over again. Each week when I went to the music store for my trumpet lesson, I bought a new “single” to add to my collection. I pretended I was a disc jockey and would announce each record I played.

One summer I won a contest on radio station KFWB by being the first caller. I talked to disc jockey Gary Owens and he sent me a Gary Owens coloring book and KFWB bumper sticker.

When I was 42 years old and working as a reporter for a daily newspaper in Newport Beach, California, I did daily newscasts for a local FM radio station. Someone once told me they heard me in a supermarket where the station was playing.

I collected coins and stamps, ordering them from catalogues and putting them into albums. I looked through everyone’s pennies, trying to find a 1909-S VDB, the rarest of Lincoln pennies. It never turned up. I learned that the reason certain coins and stamps were worth so much money was the same reason I’d never find them.

I began investing seriously in my late 40s, having more luck in recognizing an undervalued stock than knowing when to sell it. I learned that for many investments, value and worth are temporary.

As I grew up, my collections shifted from things to experiences. I collected friends, lovers and accomplishments. I collected books I’d read. I collected knowledge and learning. I collected songs and poems I wrote. I collected performances I played as a musician. I collected the talented musicians I played with. After I became a newspaper reporter, I collected my best published stories. I collected every famous and interesting person I met.

I collected family photographs, all the way back to great grandparents, arranging them in albums. I collected my family, my parents and grandparents, the years of my marriage, the companionship of my sons. I'm waiting to collect a grandchild or two.

I collect memories and as I grow old they reveal meanings to me I’d never fully understood. I collect the acts of kindness I’ve received and try to pass them on to others. I collect wisdom and continue to learn and relearn the lessons I’ve been taught from those still living and those who have passed on, their words still speaking to me.

I collect knowledge of the joy and sadness in this world, the tragedies and victories of the spirit, the damnations and the revelations. Sometimes it’s all too much and so I pack some of my collections away in boxes and label them, knowing I can always go back and unpack, knowing I’ll never look inside some of these boxes again, knowing all things change and life should move forward, mindfully forward.

My house is full of things useful and decorous, impractical and silly, remnants of a long life. I look at these things and they remind me of who I have been, who I still am. I suppose I will never completely discard my past, as long as it has something to teach me. I suppose all that I’ve collected has been an attempt to preserve happiness, wisdom and love.

Someday I will leave all these collections behind, passing these objects and their meanings on to others, but keeping the joy of having lived on this Earth in my eternal heart.





~ Text and photograph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Notable People I Have Known




Sherwood Rowland ~ Nobel Prize Winning Scientist

I first interviewed UC Irvine chemistry professor Sherwood Rowland in 1987 when I was a reporter for the Irvine World News, the first of many subsequent interviews. It was during the time of the Montreal Protocol On Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, a worldwide effort to limit and eventually ban the industry-wide production and use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). 

Rowland, with postdoctoral research assistant Mario Melina, discovered that CFCs were destroying the earth’s protective ozone layer, a conclusion that was heavily criticized during the early years of his findings.

When I first interviewed him in his campus laboratory, he told me that global warming was the most imminent threat to the planet. To my surprise, he said that in addition to the man-made chemicals that were warming the planet were gas emissions from cattle—cow belching!

He was very generous with his time during that first interview, despite the fact that I was just a small-time reporter for the local newspaper. He even showed me his ice core samples.

Rowland and Melina were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.


~ to be continued


~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photo by Rick Loomis\Los Angeles Times
© All Rights Reserved




One Cup Of Coffee















S o many of us are struggling,
Tormented by work and money,
Dysfunctional families,
Disease and decadence,
Political injustice,
Weather,
Inertia.

Yet each morning,
After only one cup of coffee,
I am glad to be alive
One more day.




~ Russ Allison Loar
~ Artwork by Christian René aka runnerfrog
© All Rights Reserved




On Moonlit Freeway













On moonlit freeway
I see the weariness in your eyes,
A few stray strands of hair
Around your face
Illuminated against the black
Inside your car.

It is late.

We who work overtime are driving home
In silent, anonymous autonomy.
Though I’ve seen you a thousand times before
In full fluorescent sun,
Numbed by office decor and decorum,
Tonight in my rearview mirror
I see the phosphorescence of your truer self,
Your innocence.

It is the innocence of the oppressed
Who, after overtime is through,
Have nothing disingenuous left.





~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




Suburban Twilight

















Suburban twilight,
Punctuated by porch lights
Welcoming weary workers home.

“Hello darling,”
She says,
“I missed you,”
Her bare shoulders
Framed by the thin straps,
Too loose,
Of her tiny, translucent dress.

This never happened to me.

A bunch of soccer ball boys,
Too young to go on a date,
Stand together in a jagged circle
On a grass-dirt field
While their parents lie to each other
About nothing in particular,
Waiting for the game to begin.

Back on the boulevard
Commuters swim upstream,
Fighting their way back
To the suburban spawning grounds
For a few hours of fun
Before it all shuts down in sleep,
And regret.





~ Poem and photograph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




The Newer Colossus



















Don’t give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
I extinguish my lamp beside the golden door.
Go away.
We’re full.



~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




Poetry Class


“Nothing beats an 18-year-old pair of hips.”

It’s from a poem. Her poem. That blond-haired girl in my college creative writing class, reading her poem out loud, a poem about her love of sex, of having sex, preferably with lean 18-year-old boys at the zenith of their sexual energies.


Within a few days of her recitation I noticed she began coming to class with the professor, a man not quite twice her age who evidently was quite willing to submit his hips to her critical assessment. 

Yes, they had definitely paired off, but unfortunately, the academic quarter came to an end before she had a chance to construct a poem about this new sexual experience.

But why should I let that fact limit my own imagination?

You Are Not My Daddy



Yes, you are not my daddy.
Yes, you are not my boyfriend.
Yes,
Yes,
Yes.

Oh my God,
Yes!

~ © Blond-haired College Girl

There’s nothing like a college education to expand one’s imagination.


© All Rights Reserved





Heh, Heh, Heh





L aura was breathing harder now, her head resting against George’s shoulder as they sat in his pickup truck at the drive-in movie. It was a long movie and she had been up since the crack of dawn. She was asleep.
"Looks like you managed to cut off our only escape route,” Princess Leia tongue-lashed the handsomely handsome Han Solo.

“Maybe you’d like it back in your cell, your highness!” Han rhetoricated mockingly.
“Aaugh!” Laura screamed, awakening to the sound of laser fire pontooning from the small metal speaker box hooked on the passenger side window.

“Laura, what’s wrong?”

“Oh George, I just had the most frightening dream of my life. I dreamed you were president and I was First Lady and a band of bearded evildoers blew up New York City!”

“Heh, heh, heh,” George spontaneously chuckled, draining his fourth Budweiser. “Heh, heh, heh. That’ll be the day.”




~ Story & photo morph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Renegade




It was not hard to be renegade in the sleepy Los Angeles suburb of West Covina during the 1960s.


Emerging from the conservative ‘50s, all you had to be was a disagreeable teenager, especially in this Anglo-Saxonite community where most of the local power brokers attended Rotary Club pancake breakfasts with an alarming regularity. Come to think of it, regularity was also a big deal during this era.

My home town was very much like the place portrayed in the movie, “American Graffiti.” It was a teenage car culture, and after I turned 16, I had a driver’s license. Not long after, I had a car. My parents were upper middle class, so I did not have to actually earn the money to buy a car. And my mother was eager to be free of having to take me places, and then, pick me up and bring me home. Her life was busy enough, what with Women's Club luncheons to plan, bridge parties, country club appearances and the ongoing burden of supervising housekeepers and gardeners — all this along with a husband who actually expected her to make dinner on a regular basis. Yes, regularity was a pretty big deal during this era.

Nowadays there are lots of restrictions on young drivers, but when I got my license, I was free, turned loose on the streets without any restrictions or guidelines. Just a few hours of driver’s ed. But I was a pretty good driver. I’d had experience, what with all those times I took my parents’ cars out on the road when they were away for a weekend trip. Yes, I remember learning how every intersection was not necessarily a four-way stop as I propelled my mother’s lumbering, razor-finned Cadillac straight toward a passing car who, much to my surprise, had no stop sign. I hit the brake pedal just in time.

Then there was that lesson about road rage, what we used to call, “mad” or “angry.” I thought driving was a competition, and that the object was to beat the other drivers. After all, I wasn’t actually going anywhere. So I jammed down the gas pedal and managed to pull the great white whale in front of this other guy in an old, compact car who had tried his best not to let me into his lane. While I was waiting behind another car at a stop sign, he got out and walked up to my car, signaled for me to roll down my window, which I did, then punched me in the face.

By the time I had my own car, a dark green 1965 Ford Mustang — the fastback model — I was seasoned. I’d make my car too fast to catch, and I certainly would never roll down my window again for anybody.

In those days it seemed like most of my friends and rivals were working on their cars, customizing old Chevys, putting in big carburetors, high performance shifters, custom exhaust systems, giant racing slicks – even whole new engines. This was long before the state-mandated smog check. Nobody checked the condition of our cars when we renewed their registrations, so all modifications went undetected. I was not one of the more talented kid mechanics around, although I could gap a spark plug. I was a musician, a guitar player, and I did not like getting my fingers stained with grease. So I took the money I saved from teaching guitar lessons and working in a local pizza parlor and went to a speed shop in a neighboring city to let the experts juice up my horsepower. The first thing they did was rip out all the smog prevention equipment.

“You don’t need all this stuff,” I remember the mechanic saying. Years later, when I tried to trade the car in on a new model, the local Ford dealer would disagree. “You’ve got no smog equipment! We’re going to have to replace it all just to put the car on the lot.”

Oops!

Except for a little cash for dating and guitar strings, I’d put all my money into my car — a nice racket for the speed shop — and after a while I began racing my car on Saturdays at the nearby Irwindale Speedway along with all the other high school amateurs. But as a renegade teenager, the real thrill was street racing. It was like being a gunslinger in the Old West, just prowling around town, looking to challenge somebody to a shootout.

Yes, I had my share of speeding tickets, but I was never caught racing. Most of us weren’t. There were not that many police officers cruising around town in those days.

There was always the occasional race during the day, when I’d just happen to pull up next to another kid in a hot car after school. Who was faster? We just had to find out! But weekend nights were the real prime racing time. It was like jousting, trying to prove our nascent manhood to our girlfriends, or to somebody else’s girlfriend.

Sometimes the races were organized.

Some guy with greasy hair had a new Camaro 280z and swore he could take me. Bets were made and the next Saturday night my friends blocked off both ends of a sleepy suburban street about a half-mile long while we lined up our cars. About twenty high school kids gathered at the finish line. Camaro boy couldn’t catch me, even though his car may have been faster. I was always incredibly quick off the starting line.

That’s what won me the race set up by the speed shop at Irwindale Raceway. There was another kid, a rich kid whose father owned a shopping center, who was already out of high school, who came to the speed shop with a Mustang pretty much like mine. The speed shop mechanics figured this guy would be good competition for me. After they’d done their best to expand his horsepower, we set a date.

The early part of the afternoons at Irwindale were spent doing practice runs, called “qualifying.” You had to turn a good enough time in your particular class to compete in the early evening, before the actual professionals did their stuff for the audience who sat in bleachers on either side of the quarter-mile track.

Rick – my well-financed opponent – and I both qualified at the top of our class and were set to compete. I had the advantage of nearly a year of experience, while this was Rick’s first time at a professional raceway. He was a little nervous, especially since we had an audience of friends, girlfriends and the speed shop mechanics. It had just turned dark as we pulled up to the starting line, facing the “Christmas Tree,” a series of lights mounted on each side of a central bracket that indicate when the cars are in the right starting position. Then, once the cars are positioned, the yellow lights count down to green. If a driver started too early, a red light would signal disqualification.

We both edged our cars into starting position, our engines almost window-shatteringly loud because we’d opened up our “headers” (high performance exhaust systems) to bypass the mufflers. From experience, I knew the slight lag time of my car – from the time I hit the gas pedal to the car’s forward surge – allowed me to start a half second before the green light flashed.

We waited, then the first yellow light flashed on, moving down toward the green light. The moment Rick’s brain told him the light was green, I’d already jumped out from the starting line. He was momentarily stunned, and even though he turned a faster time, he never caught me. It wasn’t really about how fast you went, it was about who got there first. Mind over horsepower. I made it to the finish line first, won the trophy and renewed admiration from my girlfriend.

Yes, it was a moment.

Of course now as a responsible adult I am appalled at my behavior, risking accident and injury on the streets of my sleepy suburban town. Perhaps that’s why it made so much sense for all of us to go just outside of town to the Chicken Ranch.

There was a long, straight road inside the Chicken Ranch property, made for trucks to pick up eggs and chickens, I suppose. Nobody stayed with the chickens at night, especially not on Saturday nights. This particular night had not been the first time high school hot rods had raced there, but it was my first time.

There were dozens of competitors from area high schools and junior colleges, and dozens more who just came to watch. It is a solemn testament to the short-range saturation of the teenage brain that none of us had entertained a single thought about potential consequences. Rubber burned and smoked and engines spit and roared as pair after pair of racers hurtled down the improvised racetrack. After I made my run, the growing chaos of beer-swilling youth amazingly enough triggered some fledgling sense of adult apprehension in me, and so I left. As I exited the entrance to the Chicken Ranch, I was passed by a long line of police cars.

That was the last race ever held at the Chicken Ranch. It was my senior year, and before long, I’d own a more practical car, have a more practical girlfriend, and grow a little less renegade as the wild anarchy of my teenage years passed. After all, I had to prepare for the wild anarchy of my twenties.


~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved





But Seriously Folks

 



Thank you ladies and gentle worms. Tonight, I’m going to start out with a tribute to all of you. That’s right, a musical tribute to human beings.


{Sleazy lounge singer voice}

♪ Hey there!
Yes you there!
Didja know there,
That you’ve got:
Two legs,
And you’ve got:
Two arms,
And you’ve got:
Two brains,
Inside your head, yeah! ♪


Needs a little work.

But seriously folks, I just want you to know I’m a believer in clean comedy. Yeah. Clean comedy. That’s my thing. Clean comedy.

So, these two bars of soap were walking down the street and they’re having a really heated argument. This one bar of soap is getting furious—out of control. So the other bar of soap says, “Hey! Don’t work yourself up into a lather!”

Oh yeah, it’s clean!


(Rim shot)

I was just talking backstage with legendary comedian Buzzy Vava Voom. He just flew in from a 37-year run at Joey Knuckles' Steak and Stein in Lost Wages, Nevada, and boy is his airplane tired!


(Bass drum hit)

“Buzzy,” I said, “what’s the secret of your success? How do You be funny?”

Buzzy says to me, “Kid, don’t get too personal with your humor. Nobody wants to hear about your personal problems. So if you really hate your wife, don’t do wife jokes because the audience will see that you really mean it and they won’t think you’re funny.”

So, taking Buzzy’s advice about keeping my personal life out of my humor, for those who have seen me perform before, I won’t be doing the bit about the wacky arsonist, the naked parking attendant, or the bit about falling in love with grandpa’s cow.



(Muffled laughter)

There was this guy with a big penis who walks into a bar, sits down on a barstool and orders a beer. The bartender slaps the beer down on the counter and the guy with the big penis hands him a twenty dollar bill. A couple of minutes later the bartender comes back and gives him a five dollar bill in change and says:

“We don’t get many guys in here with big penises.”

The guy with the big penis looks at the five dollar bill, looks at his beer, looks back at the five dollar bill, then looks at the bartender and says:

“How come?”


(Sustained, awkward silence)

“But seriously folks, you know, my wife is such a bitch . . .”



~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




Monster Trucks and Sausages















Someone gave me free tickets to the monster truck show at the county fair, entitling me to be among the privileged few to witness a huge, elevated truck smash into a motor home.

As I chewed on the tougher parts of my fat-laden giant sausage, I surveyed the enthusiastic monster truck audience, watched them cheer for the wheelie-popping trucks, and mused on just how fragile our participatory democracy truly is.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photograph by FlagWorld.com
~ From My Incarnation.com
© All Rights Reserved

My Afternoon With Alex





The charming and erudite host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek, is surprisingly sardonic off camera. The studio audience—about 100 split between members of the general public on the left side of the theater, friends and family of the contestants on the right—had plenty of opportunity to ask him questions during down times between segments, sampling his slightly snarky sense of humor.

I got in the first question, a technique I used as a reporter, knowing that even at a major press conference there is often a reluctance to ask the first question. So I prepared my question in advance, rehearsed it mentally and was ready to go when Trebek asked for questions from the audience.

I asked if he'd ever been a game show contestant; if he would ever be a contestant on Jeopardy! before he retires; and how did he think he'd do as a Jeopardy! contestant.

He said he'd been a contestant on a few game shows, but would not be a contestant on Jeopardy! because then someone else would have to host the show, and "he might be better than I am." How would he do as a Jeopardy! contestant? Trebek said he would probably do well against his "peers." Then, looking directly at me, he said, "I see by your white hair that you might be one of my peers. I would crush you!"

A middle-aged man in the mostly middle-aged audience asked, "How do you pronounce all those foreign words?" Trebek answered with overemphasized, drawn out speech: "W-i-t-h M-y M-o-u-t-h."

I also talked to crisp-toned announcer Johnny Gilbert, asking how many tapings per day the winners do. He said they tape five shows a day. For Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings to win seventy-four consecutive games, he had to win five games in a row, then get up the next morning and go win another five games. Whew indeed! The show tapes Tuesdays and Wednesdays, three weeks a month, nine months a year.

Gilbert introduced two of the three Clue Crew members who were at the taping—Sarah and Jimmy. When the pair stood up and waved to the audience, I saw that Jimmy was wearing a maroon hoodie with "HARVARD" emblazoned on the front in big letters. Yeah, OK. You're smart.

A Few Candid Moments

A fortyish woman asked Trebek what his favorite karaoke song was. He replied, "My favorite karaoke song?" then turned his head to the side and pretended to spit on the floor, saying: "I hate karaoke."

Another audience member asked him what he thought about rap music. As he began to criticize it, he seemed to pause and take a quick scan of the audience, then said he disliked most of it because of the bad language and negative references, adding that he thought it was a bad influence on youth. "Not all of it is bad, but most of it," he said, apparently not wishing to condemn the entire black youth culture.

Surprise! Trebek Doesn't Know Everything

When one of the contestants incorrectly answered "era" instead of "eon" in response to a science question requiring a three-letter word with two vowels, Trebek told the young man that "era" was not a scientific term. One of the fact checkers disagreed.

(Era can be generic, such as the era of horse and buggy, or scientific, such as the Paleozoic era.)

Trebek seemed to think "era" had only a generic meaning. But after the fact checker disagreed, he walked over to the front of the stage where a semicircle of fact checkers are located in a pit behind computer screens and telephones, and picked up one of their dictionaries. He seemed genuinely interested in making sure he had the correct information, although the staff photographer who took candid photos during the taping of the show moved quickly into position to take a few shots of Trebek studiously peering into the dictionary. He lingered just long enough to ensure a good publicity shot.

Trebek Is 73

When asked what books he's read, Trebek said he reads a lot of nonfiction, "political stuff," and also likes novelist "John . . ." and then couldn't think of the author's last name until an audience member called out: "Grisham." Then he mentioned finishing a book during a recent trip, but could not remember what it was. "It'll come to me," he said. It didn't.

So even the sharp-witted Trebek, adjudicator of all knowledge, cannot escape the symptoms of an aging mind. Or perhaps it was just overload, considering all the data that had passed through his brain by the last taping of the day. It was the fifth and last show during a day in which he'd already articulated 264 questions with but a very few misspeaks. Is this reassuring to those of us who worry about occasional memory loss? I don't know, but I'm gonna keep playing.



(Written March 2014)


~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




The Boundaries Of Heaven

















We draw the boundaries of heaven
Around the spaces of ourselves,
Marked off by threat
And bluster,
As if heaven were a place
Unwelcome.



~ text and photo by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




I Knew A Young Man


















I knew a young man
Who drank warm water
Right from the faucet,
From his cupped hand.

Everything he did,
An act of defiance,
An act of strength,
His way through the world.

They sent him to the war
And he didn’t last a week.





~ Poem and photograph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Life Went On




It was Sunday,
And many millions
Living in the most powerful nation on Earth
Spent most of the day
Watching the big football game on television,
Cheering,
Moaning,
Screaming at the electronic moving pictures of football players
Running back and forth and sideways,
Trying desperately,
Valiantly to get hold of the football
And take it to one end,
Or another,
Of the flat grassy space.

The next day,
Life went on,
Much as it had before.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved


The Age Of The Pure Self


 

Anarchy,
Not just for the dispossessed anymore,
It's catching on like wildfire,
A fad,
A new sport for the upper crust,
For those separated from the great mass
By privilege,
Power,
Perception.

This perception of superiority,
Now this is the motive force,
Not just for the well-to-do anymore,
No,
Even the lowest inhabitants of the social order
Feel superior these days.

Now,
In our cities and our streets,
In our homes and office buildings,
In all manner of public and private places,
Now,
No one is safe from this self-righteous anarchy.

This is war.

To each their own pure self,
The pure self that needs no law,
That bends to no man, woman or child,
That considers not its own frailties,
Sees no larger world beyond itself,
Enforces its iron rule without mercy,
No matter how trivial or mundane its kingdom may be.

Nor more humility,
No backing up,
No admission of error,
Of guilt,
Of responsibility.
All actions and motives of the pure self are beyond question.

We encounter one another
In our day-to-day lives
And exchange the menacing glance.
All is understood.
Ours is the age of the pure self.


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The Other Virus




Trump has a virus.

I do not refer to the coronavirus. This other virus is far more deadly. 

The notion that the erratic course of the Trump presidency is the result of a localized infection centered mostly in the White House, aided and abetted by compliant media outlets and servile politicians, was further dispelled by the anarchistic minions who stormed the U.S. Capitol bearing Trump flags and assorted MAGA accessories.

Talk about a pandemic!

The virus that infected and elected Trump has spread to every nook and cranny of the Republic.  It is a pandemic of willful ignorance, spread by those who believe their certainty inoculates them against rational examination.

Yet even the impermeable Trumplings of America are but a subset of a global pandemic of authoritarianism whose existence depends on the strangling of truth and the obedience of ignorance.

In how many countries has democracy been overtaken by authoritarianism? Too many. Who can stop and reverse this advance of totalitarianism? The United States of America comes to mind. Despite the best efforts of Trump, his minions and his compliant political apologists, our recent elections do indeed seem like a turning point, a turn away from the abyss of another Trump administration and a restoration of sanity.

But let us never forget the names of those who defended the evil untruths of the Trump administration that have torn our citizenry apart.

Sanity, leadership, character and conscience: These virtues are not Republican or Democrat virtues. They are human virtues that must guide the course of our nation. May we defend them against the evil, soulless intentions of those who would subvert our Democracy.

May we call out the defenders of ignorance. May we demand educated, knowledgeable leaders in all walks of life to speak out against tyrannies both small and large. And may the freedom-loving people of the world once again look to the United States of America as an example, not of chaos, but of enlightened governance.

The great work lies ahead. The great work calls us. We must answer.


    What happens in America happens to the rest of the world.
     ~ Maria Ressa, Filipino journalist, author and dissident