Know Your Home State

Maine’s been known as vacationland for as long as I can remember. It’s a place that visitors from other states and across the world flock to, especially in the summer. Yet, many Mainers (I include myself here) have yet to really get to know their home state.

Rather than pining for adventures beyond Maine’s borders in locales that others consider exotic, me and my better half are committed to doing a better job of exploring the back roads, peninsulas, coves and harbors of the Pine Tree State. It’s easier to do now that winter has departed and warmer days are en route.

We spent the past weekend in Ogunquit. The town’s white sand beach, with the backdrop of rugged coastal cliffs is breathtaking.

Maine's most beautiful beach.

Maine’s most beautiful beach.

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Getting Older All the Time

Certain writers have helped shape how I see the world. Some of them—James Kunstler, Barbara Ehrenreich, Neil Postman, Lewis Mumford—have allowed me to break free of many of the myths and even lies that frame the thinking of many in America. I’d add Susan Jacoby to that list.

The first time I read one of her books, it was The Age of American Unreason, a hard-hitting, nonfiction work that framed the dumbing down of America in a way that was systematic and understandable, but also well-researched, and not one that tilted at the usual suspects. As Jacoby describes it in the book, our problems are a result of “a virulent mixture of anti-rationalism and low expectations.” She was clear in the book that our state “of unreason” was also permanent, not temporary.

I apparently missed that she wrote a book about aging in America. Much like Ehrenreich (see her take down of “positive thinking”), Jacoby doesn’t pull any punches, or mince her words. Neither does she subscribe to the “happy, happy, joy, joy” school of self-help gibberish and positive affirmations as a blanket “cure all” for our national ills.

America is an aging nation. My home state, Maine, is the oldest of the 50 states. Our older population—persons who are 65 years or older—numbered nearly 40 million in 2009 (the latest year for which data is available). That’s 12.9 percent of the U.S. population, or about one in every eight Americans. By 2030, that number nearly doubles to 72.1 million, or more than twice what the number was in 2000. People who are 65+ will number one in five in 2030.

While aging gets acknowledged, it’s mainly communicated in a manner that’s false, couched in a host of magical ideas, like “60 is the new 40,” and the belief that the intersection of medicine and technology will solve all the attendant problems of people getting old in large numbers.

Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of The New Old Age is just the kind of book that everyone that believes the answer to aging is just around the corner should read—but I know they won’t. Jacoby’s book came out in 2011. I spent the past year managing a grant specific to aging in place, and Maine’s rapidly aging population. I received countless emails, had books recommended to me, and heard a great deal of poppycock, really, about the issue. Not once did I run across Jacoby’s book. I found it by “accident” at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, two weeks ago. Continue reading

Following Baseball’s Wages

Americans pay mega lip service to the notion of work being sacrosanct. The Bible, the good book of the Jeebus lovers says that “if a person won’t work, he shouldn’t eat,” (the JBE version paraphrase). But what about those working two and three minimum wage jobs and still finding it hard to buy groceries, pay rent, let alone having any money left over for a movie and a bag of popcorn? God help them if they happen to have a health crisis.

Does Christianity speak to the issue of justice and wages? If a man (or woman) is working, providing services to  others, shouldn’t they at least receive a wage they can live on, and not have to work 75-80 hours each week merely to survive?

Some of the largest and most profitable companies in the U.S.—we’re talking McDonald’s and Wal-Mart—cost taxpayers nearly $153 million a year, according to the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Information.

Wednesday was Tax Day, and a group called Fight for $15 staged their largest action to date. They chose Tax Day to highlight taxpayer largesse going to companies that can afford to pay workers fair wages, rather than pocketing profits while receiving corporate welfare.

Rallying for wage increases, Ellsworth, Maine.

Rallying for wage increased, Ellsworth, Maine.

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Speed It Up

I’m watching the replay of this afternoon’s Red Sox home opener as I prepare to post tomorrow’s (Tuesday) blog post. NESN rebroadcasts each game shown on the New England-based television home of Boston’s professional baseball franchise. They call it, Sox in 2. The beauty of these reruns is that they get condensed into a two-hour time frame. I’m watching what was originally a 3:01 affair won by the Sox, 9-4.

There was a time when pro baseball games averaged slightly over two hours per contest. Now, even a pitcher’s duel is apt to approach the three hour mark. Back in the day, no one had to tell pitchers to “speed it up,” and there was no need for the baseball equivalent of a shot clock, either. Any pitcher worth his salt knew that the defensive players behind him benefited from his working quickly. In fact, the highly successful Atlanta Braves rotation, which included Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, followed the adage of their pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, who preached a variation on the original “work fast, throw strikes, change speeds” preached by Ray Miller, when he was pitching coach for the Baltimore Orioles, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His Baltimore staffs were successful ones, and included another HOF-er, Jim Palmer, along with other successful pitchers Mike Flanagan, Dennis Martinez, and Steve Stone.

Clay Buchnolz has nice hair.

Clay Buchnolz has nice hair.

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Not Your Friends

Gallup released a poll last June indicating that 60 percent of whites and 48 percent of nonwhites expressed having confidence in the police. What explains the 12 percent gap? Maybe better, what about the 40 to 52 percent of us that have little or no faith in law enforcement?

Trust in the police has been declining even among whites.

Like almost everything else in America that touches on ethics, justice, and dare I say it—truth—has been on the downward slide. That’s just one of the characteristics of collapse.

Still, there are plenty of folks out there who view the police (like the military) as above reproach. The uniform and shield erects an impenetrable wall that makes them immune to criticism. The police, however, are far from being the bastions of goodness and morality that some like to see them as. This article demonstrates a different side of policing—and it isn’t about “protect and serve,” an outdated myth.

Not since the late 1960s and early 1970s have these kinds of questions increasingly been on the minds of Americans not cowered and co-opted by the mainstream media embracing a pacifist/reformist ideal about government and its protectors, like the police.

I used to work in an office with one of these “the police can do no wrong” type of tools. Come to think of it, she was a tool about just about everything else—business and politics, too—but when it came to the law enforcement fraternity, she’d rather rip your eyes out than tolerate anyone talking trash about the po-po. Her dad was a cop, so I guess that was part of the problem.

Does everything in America have to be about this kind of irrationality? I guess so.

The police are not your friends.

The police are not your friends.

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Another Opening Day

This will be one of what will probably be a smattering of baseball-related posts over the coming months. Since today is Opening Day in all but two of the 30 Major League Baseball cities, I thought I’d get this up today, rather than my usual Tuesday posting day.

I recognize that spring and baseball are still synonymous for many. In New England, the Red Sox just might be able to push the Patriots from the epicenter of sports fans’ attention for a few months, although in these football-saturated times, it seems that pigskin prognostication or the draft, or Darrelle Reevis leaving town (or some other NFL-related story) is forever talked about on stations like WEEI and among the sports talking heads in The Hub.

Two teams (the Cards and Cubs) actually initiated the start of the 2015 baseball season on Sunday Night Baseball for television, but for all intents and purposes, I’m calling Monday the true Opening Day for the rest of the MLB. Thus begins another, too-long, 162-game schedule that will eventually lead to the crowning of a World Series champion—that won’t be ‘til mid-October, however, when if it is played in New England, with games starting after 8:30 at night, we’ll again see players in ski masks and huddled around dugout heaters, as the games get played in sub-40 degree temperatures yet again, just like April baseball. Continue reading

Some ‘Splainin to Do

I’ve been putting up regular content here at the JBE since 2012 when I first launched this site. The primary purpose of creating this WordPress platform (my first time designing my own website, btw) was launching my personal brand. At the time, given what was happening—basically, getting down-sized—plus, I was reading Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, and others; personal branding seemed to be the proper exit ramp to free agent nation.

The most important aspect of the JBE now looks like it’s been centralizing where I blog. That’s one reason why I chose to include one as part of the website in the first place. At the time, my plan was to write about reinvention and other things central to my personal brand.

With all that’s transpired over the past three years, the blog remains the primary reason I keep the site up and running. My efforts the past year to reinvigorate my own freelance writing is the reason why I also maintain another site where I post my freelance writing clips and keep my online portfolio up-to-date—something that seems like it would be a requisite for a free agent writer these days. The personal brand thing—I’m not as bullish on that anymore. Continue reading