Oh, Bernie, what could have been

You know how you’re in the middle of a terrible nightmare, and you so desperately want to wake up? And then when you do, it’s a feeling of pure relief?

That’s basically how I felt watching the Republican National Convention last week. It made me anxious, scared and uncomfortable, and I yearned for the Democratic National Convention to bring me back to normalcy.

Basically, the RNC was a near deadly allergy attack, and the DNC is my epi-pen.

And yes,  I know the Democratic National Convention got off to a rough start, with divided delegates who still support Bernie Sanders, and who were newly infuriated by the revelation that the Democratic Committee never took his campaign seriously and actually looked to discredit him.

This bombshell, revealed in leaked emails on Wikileaks reportedly supplied by Russia, led to the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

But that recent turmoil does not undermine the fact that the Democratic party, with the help of Bernie, adopted its most progressive platform in years — if not ever.

Bernie Sanders DNC.png

And on Monday night, the DNC started with a bang. It really doesn’t get much bigger than back-to-back-to back speeches by Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie, and that’s not even counting the incredibly energetic and inspiring speech by U.S. Senator Cory Booker — a breakout appearance that is being compared to Barack Obama’s 2004 speech that launched him to the presidency. Time will tell if that holds up.

Without question, the star of the night was the First Lady, who spoke eloquently, calmly and gracefully. She never raised her voice or carried a malicious tone, but what made her speech so powerful was the way she passionately shared her story about her own growth in the White House while raising her two young daughters. In doing so, Michelle Obama showed that she is a symbol of the progress that has happened over the last eight years.

And what was most refreshing is that she did not sound like a politician. She wasn’t trying to promote herself for future political gain. She was speaking from the perspective of a wife, a mother, an African-American woman, and an American.

Lastly, it gave us more reason to realize how much we will miss this current Michelle Obama DNC.pngadministration.

But if Michelle Obama was the highlight, Bernie was certainly the main event.

Given what’s transpired in recent days, I was very eager to hear what he’d have to day. And I must admit, it was a little sad seeing him speak.

The man started a political revolution, and with that speech it sort of came to an end. He’s likely too old to run for president ever again, and in a way, this was his farewell. Cameras repeatedly caught Bernie supporters visibly crying in their seats as they listened to Bernie and thought, “What could have been.”

The Book of Bernie closed today, when Hillary Clinton became the first woman in the United States to ever be a major party nominee for president. And when Bernie’s brother, Larry Sanders, who is a delegate, announced his vote for his brother on the DNC floor, it brought Bernie to tears.

Thanks for helping us change this country, Bernie. You will never be forgotten.

I will proudly vote for Hillary in this year’s election. But that does not mean I will ever stop feeling the Bern.

What the folk? (part IV)

I have traveled across the country to attend music festivals. From Massachusetts to New York to Delaware to Tennessee to Alabama.

This weekend I will even travel internationally to Montreal for another festival.

But if I were to only attend one festival per year, my choice would be easy — the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.

This past weekend marked my fourth time heading to this most unique of festivals. And if you read my musings on previous years in 2012, 2014 and 2015, then you would understand why I love it so much.

The Newport Folk Festival provides an opportunity for people to unite and relax all in the name of quality music. And I know all festivals accomplish that. But Newport is different.

For one, it’s a different vibe. There’s no EDM, no hip-hop, no hard rock. It’s just people and their guitars, playing stripped down music the way it was meant to be. No gimmicks.

That type of environment appeals to a certain crowd. Rather than the 18- to 25 year-olds one typically sees at some festivals, Newport draws an older crowd. The fact that they also cap the crowd at 10,000 each day prevents overcrowding — one of the worst side effects of the typical festival.

But what makes Newport so endearing — and such a favorite among artists — is not only its rich history, nor its serene setting being in a state park surrounded by water, but the respect that is given by everyone involved.

No one talks during the music. No one is on their phones. They sit and listen. They hug their loved ones. They emphatically cheer when a song ends, and they don’t cat call or heckle. It’s as obedient and polite of an atmosphere one will find.

It was even more enjoyable given the times. It certainly wasn’t lost on many of the artists that we are currently living in a chaotic world. I say that because many of them brought it up themselves. Even during an age when we hear reports of mass shootings and suicide bombings, it’s extremely comforting to know that people could still gather for a weekend to lie in the grass, enjoy one another’s company and revel in the sweet sound of music.

The Newport Folk Festival is no stranger to political activism. Bob Dylan used to play there during his heyday. It’s a place of peace and love, and this weekend was no different.

 

Anyway, here are some artists I’d strongly recommend checking out:

Those were some of the many talented performers I saw.

After spending a weekend at the Newport Folk Festival, it’s hard to wonder why we all can’t just along.

Hard to wonder, indeed.

And so it begins. The great election of our time.

When this election season got into full gear late last year and in early 2016, between the debates and the primaries, I was super interested.

I watched everything with such a vested interest that I almost became too emotionally involved. But once the primaries started racking up and I saw what direction we were heading in, topped off by the constant flow of divisive rhetoric and back-and-forth name calling, I made the conscious decision to step back.

I decided to stay interested, but to try my best to view the events through the lens of an observer. I already knew how I intended to vote. So nothing between then and November was going to change that.

Instead, I realized that this is a monumental, historic time for America. And I just wanted to pay attention and soak it all in and try to understand both sides of this contentious race.

And what I have realized is that there is no better time to be student of political science in America than right now. If you are in college pursuing that subject, then holy shit, I wish I could be a fly on the wall in your lecture and discussion classes.

Because what is happening in America right now is something that will have its own chapter in history textbooks.

Trump Hillary.png

In those books, we’ll jump from the Bush administration and his ghastly mistakes invading Iraq and Afghanistan, to Obama’s tackling of economic inequality while making amends with long-estranged nations, to now, of which I presume will be given the chapter title of: “What the fuck?”

If there is one bright side, it’s that it is almost over. The Republican National Convention enters its final night on Thursday, and Donald Trump will formally accept his party’s nomination.

It closes a tumultuous week, headlined by Melania’s copycat speech, to Ted Cruz being booed off the stage, to a New Hampshire delegate and adviser for Donald Trump suggesting that Hillary Clinton should be killed by firing squad.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is expected to name her running mate on Friday, and will formally accept the Democratic Party’s nomination next week.

So let’s do this. We’ve built up this election for more than a year, and now we finally have two candidates. There was no open convention, no Bernie miracle. It’s Hillary and Trump.

The first debate will take place in a little over a month at Hofstra University, here on Long Island, less than 10 miles away from where I am writing this.

There of course have been many other things going on in this country recently — racial tension and fear of terrorism has reached a boiling point.

How Americans vote in November will truly set us on a new path. All I ask is that we all take this seriously. There’s no more hypotheticals. No more “we couldn’t possibly elect Donald Trump as president, right?”

We only get one shot at this. Please make an educated decision and think about what America you truly want to live in.

You, my friend, have the ability to alter the future. Choose wisely.

And do not fear. Whichever candidate becomes president, there will still be Pokemon.

It’s fun to mock Pokemon. But let’s not get too righteous.

Well, after more than a full day of outrageous denials from the Trump campaign regarding accusations of plagiarism in Melania Trump’s Monday night speech, we finally have an explanation.

It was a speechwriter’s fault.

Call this the shock of the century. In other news, the sky is blue, the Shawshank Redemption is a great movie, and Taylor Swift is writing a breakup ballad right now.

Apparently, Melania Trump shared excerpts from past speeches that inspired her to this expert writer over the phone, who jotted them down without realizing they were word-for-word recitations. She then incorporated them in her speech for Melania.Melania Trump2

The writer, named Meredith McIver, reportedly offered her resignation to Donald Trump, who refused to accept.

And that puts at least a temporary camp on #SpeechGate, though I doubt we have heard the last of it.

But let’s shove politics aside. Instead I’d like to talk a little about Pokemon. Again.

It’s been two weeks since the game was released, and the craze surrounding it has not subsided. And while many people have expressed at least a tepid interest in the game, it’s a small minority who are actually becoming obsessed.

I’m talking about the people who are traveling long distances, or camping out in fields, or storming Central Park at midnight just to fill out their Pokemon collection.

Pokemon Go2

And those are the people who are being judged. I’ve heard the commentary. They’re being told to get lives, to play more sports, to get girlfriends. Basically, they’re being bullied.

It’s one thing to make fun of the game and its players in a lighthearted way. But it’s another to actually be malicious. Why are people becoming so angry? These kids are having fun playing a game that is harmless.

Would you prefer they engage in drugs and alcohol instead?

Plus, it’s 2016. Kids and young adults are on their phones all of the time, anyway. At least with Pokemon Go, they have some sense of direction as to where they’re going, since the game uses GPS. It beats accidentally walking into traffic while sending incessant amounts of text messages.

I think people who are quick to judge Pokemon players are simply misdirecting their own insecurities. We only get one life to live. If people want to spend it playing Pokemon Go, then more power to them.

And one last note that shows that Pokemon participants are fine people. A children’s hospital in Australia actually had to ask people to stop dropping “lures” (items that attract Pokemon) outside the building, because the patients are too sick to go and retrieve them.

Sure, they may have been inconveniencing hospital workers and accidentally putting sick children’s health at risk, but their hearts were in the right place.

What have you done lately to try and help sick children?

Garry MarshallAlright, one last thing before I go. Film director Garry Marshall passed away on Tuesday night. He was apparently a beloved figure for his kindness and generosity, as evidenced by the outpouring of genuine emotion by Hollywood in response to his death.

I won’t deny that I have been a bit critical of Marshall’s recent work (he was responsible for bringing us Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and released this past April: Mother’s Day), but he also brought us iconic TV shows and movies like Happy Days and Pretty Women.

But don’t believe me, rather, read the heartfelt message written by Anne Hathaway on her Facebook page.

It’s quite a tribute.

Expect Melania Trump to express similar — if not identical — sentiments later tonight.

I wrote a blog about last night’s Republican Convention, but Melania Trump stole it

I really tried to watch some of the coverage of the Republican National Convention on Monday. But between Rudolph Giuliani screaming like an attack dog foaming from the mouth, African Americans handpicked like pawns to decry the Black Lives Matter Movement in front of an otherwise universal white crowd, and other speakers who essentially painted all undocumented immigrants as murderers, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

It boggles my mind that there is not just a group of people — but an entire political party — that is so out of touch with reality.

Never mind that they adopted one of the most extreme ideological platforms in a century — one that forbids abortion even in circumstances surrounding rape or women’s health; one that denies even basic civil rights to gays and transgenders; and one that rejects the need for stronger gun control.

Also never mind that the party (predictably) hires exclusively white interns.

And never mind that Donald freaking Trump is their standard bearer.

What instead caught media and mainstream attention following last night’s circus was the presumptive nominee’s wife, Melania Trump, delivering a speech that uncannily resembled one given by Michelle Obama eight years earlier.

Melania Trump

Immediately following night one of the convention, Melania Trump was being lauded as one of the high points of the evening. She spoke clearly and concisely, and even had some pundits wondering where her husband has been hiding her the past year while on the campaign trail.

And then a laid-off journalist in a coffee shop broke the story.

Comparing transcripts of Melania’s speech to Michelle Obama’s shows that parts of the speeches are nearly exactly the same. So much so that it can’t possibly be a coincidence.

Methinks that a Trump speechwriter thought no one would notice if he used a speech by the current First Lady as a basis for writing a new one. But never underestimate the keen investigative skills of journalists. Especially ones that are laid off and desperate for work.

How big of a deal is this, really? Well, for one, presidential campaigns and gubernatorial bids have been ruined by instances of plagiarism.

Additionally, we teach college students that plagiarism is pretty much the worst academic mistake you could ever make. Universities usually have a one-strike policy for such offenses.

And it also doesn’t help when an idiotic campaign spokeswoman shoves aside the clear cut evidence by saying that “Michelle Obama did not invent the English language.”

So it’s bad. Is it a scandal? Sure. But is it political suicide? No.

It will, however, make for an endless amount of jokes. Like this one, which is a transcript of Melania Trump’s next speech:

“Four score and seven years ago. I have a dream, that it is not what you can do for your country, because I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”

That was posted by a Facebook friend of mine. I unfortunately cannot take credit.

Ah, and this was after just one day of the first political convention.

The fun is only beginning.

Buckle up.

The Baton Rouge and Nice aftermath: As it gets harder to be hopeful, I challenge you to try.

I really wish we weren’t at a time where recapping weekend global events is equal to recapping chapters of the Hunger Games.

It started on Thursday in Nice, France when a man essentially used a white cargo truck as a battering ram to run over and kill more than 80 people on a crowded street during the French holiday of Bastille Day.

The twisted, unthinkable act of carnage produced many horrific images and videos, some of which I regrettably clicked on out of pure interest. I have since lost my sense of curiosity.

It really does make you wonder how somebody could even contrive such a brutal, sinister act, let alone follow through with it.

FRANCE-ATTACK-NICE

And it also can’t help make you wonder … what’s next? And where? We try to combat terrorism by proclaiming how we will not let it affect our lives. How we will not allow us to give into fear.

But people are understandably afraid. How can you tell someone to combat terrorism with joy and happiness when you’re watching footage of a truck literally trample human bodies like they’re rag dolls?

How can we have faith in humanity when, if people aren’t killing in the name of jihad, it’s because they’re acting out against a sense of racial injustice, like we saw in Baton Rouge on Sunday, when a black Iraq War veteran ambushed and killed three policemen?

One of whom, Officer Montrell Jackson, just nine days earlier wrote on Facebook: “I swear Baton Rouge officersto God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks but out of uniform I’m considered a threat… These are trying times. Please don’t let hate infect your heart.”

It’s reasons like this that make it so hard to be hopeful sometimes.

And yet, sometimes that’s the challenge in life, isn’t it? To find the light and remain positive even when it seems impossible. It’s easy to surrender to despair when things go astray, and to let fear and mayhem dictate the narrative during times of global strife.

That doesn’t take any courage.

But to still believe that good will prevail? That even during the worst of times love and hope will always outshine fear and hate? That takes courage.

When you can figure that out … you can’t possibly lose.

I mean, for Christ sake, if you can’t find optimism on your own, then perhaps consider this video from Friday night of grown men and women stampeding Central Park in search of a rare Pokemon.

Is it pathetic? Oh of course. It’s beyond shameful.

But in a strange way, it’s also extremely comforting to know that when some miscreants are trying to frighten us all into oblivion, that there are herds of people who will completely disregard these scare tactics, and instead focus every bit of their attention on something that is completely devoid of any real world significance.

All in the name of Pokemon.

How can you not love this life?

The night the ESPYS made me bawl like a baby

Wednesday night’s ESPY Awards, the predominant sports awards show in the U.S., began with a solemn message about race and unity by four of the most recognizable faces in the athletic world.

Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James each took their turn commenting on the fragile and divisive state our country finds itself in, and pleaded for harmony and togetherness.

It was a singularly unique and powerful opening to what is typically a relatively lighthearted and entertaining evening, and immediately set the tone while catching my full attention.

Normally, the ESPYS are like the Golden Globes or the Oscars. It’s a celebrity lovefest for the world’s premier athletes to socialize and interact on a platform that  is above the rest of us common folk. It’s a means to glorify those who are already glorified.

But last night it was not about that.

Craig Sager

It’s almost as if the producers of the ESPYS realized that no one really cares about arbitrary awards and decided to turn the show into an inspirational evening. And it worked.

Normally the show features a couple of human stories that tug at the heartstrings, but this year they amped it up. Big time.

There was Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, a disabled swimmer — or paraswimmer for those unfamiliar with the term — who earned the Pat Tillman Award for Service. She’s an active service member who was placed in a coma after she sustained a near deadly infection. She clung to life and was back in the pool a month later.

There was Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, a cancer survivor who returned to football following his treatment, who earned the Comeback Player of the Year Award, who delivered a very inspiring speech directed to all those who are currently battling cancer.

Then it just went to full I-can’t-even-pretend-I’m-not-crying mode.

The Arthur Ashe Courage Award was given to the late Zaevion Dobson, a 15-year-old popular student athlete and role model to his friends and brothers in Knoxville, Tennessee, who was shot to death in a random shooting late last year after he heroically jumped on top of two friends to save their life.

His mother and two brothers accepted the award, and delivered a painful, heartfelt plea toZaevion Dobson end the gun violence in America. By the end of the segment, I was a wreck. It will also anger some, given that there are so many people in the world who refuse to act to curb the prevalence of guns when stories like this so often exist.

Finally, the Jimmy V Perseverance Award was bestowed to the eccentric but very likable basketball reporter Craig Sager, who is a staple for all sports fans on the sidelines of basketball games, most noteworthy for his humorous interviews with San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

Sager only has a few months left to live. It draws similarities to last year’s recipient, Stuart Scott, who died in January. When you get the chance, watch Sager’s speech, because it will put some serious perspective into your day.

And then it ended. I won’t bother linking to any video clips or speeches of the award recipients because they’ll likely be taken down from YouTube fairly soon. So look them up yourself.

Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of all that we take for granted — our health, family and friends. And it’s also a remedy for the soul to hear such human, heart-wrenching stories.

That’s all for me. In case you’re wondering, I just heard about the devastating carnage that occurred in France as I started writing this blog … but it’s way too soon for me to react. Maybe next week. I don’t feel like discussing tragedy right now.

Have a good weekend, y’all. Be safe.