Unify Delaware 2021 in pictures and text

Well, the stars aligned just so as the family obligation I thought was yesterday turned out to be next Saturday and my balky knees didn’t balk so walking around wasn’t too unpleasant. So Kim and I took the 45-minute drive across slower lower to Hudson Fields over Milton way to check out the first (hopefully first annual) Unify Delaware Festival.

Veterans of this site know how this works now: the photos get their own caption and help tell the story, although I may write a little more to move the narrative along. Fair warning: it’s a long post alert because I picked out 29 pictures.

Hudson Fields is probably better known as an outdoor concert venue, but the place provided plenty of room for the UDF. Photo by Kim Corkran.
Entering the Unify Delaware Festival it didn’t look like much, but it turned out well nonetheless.
For a first-time effort, the event had an impressive and broad list of sponsors.
Given the Patriots for Delaware slogan “Freedom in Unity” it’s no surprise that was the chosen theme.

Let me talk a moment about the sponsor. I saw some scuttlebutt planted by certain political operatives on social media questioning the motives and principles of Patriots for Delaware, with the scare quotes about them being an “anti-vax” and “anti-mask” group. Does “my body, my choice” only apply in situations when government coercion isn’t present? There were a few there in masks, and that was fine because it was their choice. Let’s work from that happy medium, shall we?

I’m going to move on with the post. In any event like this where one is present, the first place I go is to the car show. They had one – but when we got there, someone else was dropping in to check things out.

After the National Anthem was sung at noon, we had a skydiver drop in. They ended up auctioning off the flags later. Photo by Kim Corkran.
Want. I bet it’s a cool way to flatten stuff (besides pavement.)

Oh, they had more than cars there. Lots of construction implements, this above being one sample. Now we’ll do the cars, beginning with the overview below and then focusing on some beauties.

There were probably 40-50 cars in the show, which was pretty good turnout to me.
Of the group, this was probably my favorite – a first-generation Chevy Monte Carlo.
There were several Camaros there, but I always thought the Pontiac Firebird was a little cooler – even with the flames.
It’s almost Halloween, so why not have a designated driver? Better than the hearse on display down the line.
If there’s a little red truck, my wife will find it. It’s the same model year I am, but in a LOT better shape. Photo by Kim Corkran.
What is this thing?

It’s a Thing.

Yeah, I know it’s a thing, but what’s the car called?

I told you, it’s a Thing!

The Laurel and Hardy-type references can go on and on with this one. Thanks, Volkswagen. Someone also had a nice Karmann Ghia there.
If that wasn’t bad enough, we had cars in character. You can’t see the Darth Vader on the hood. Pity. Photo by Kim Corkran.
This guy wasn’t part of the car show, but the window was worthy of inclusion.
You’ll have to trust me because I try to avoid photographing kids, but we had the trifecta there: planes, trains (the little tram running around), and automobiles. I think they were taking very brave people up in this plane.

Thanks for indulging me on that one. There was a lot of other stuff going on, and I have a nose for finding certain people and groups.

This group is seeking a Convention of States to address term limits, a balanced budget, and government overreach. Problem is getting 34 states in our (supposedly) federalist republic to agree that’s a bug and not a feature.
They clustered the political groups together so people could stay away. (Just kidding – sort of.)

A little scoop about the Julianne Murray tent – according to the volunteer in her tent, Murray was not present because she was fundraising upstate. Part of the reason: she will have a primary opponent (read: stalking horse.)

There were quite a few vendors there. It wasn’t an overly expensive event to set up for (having done Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival in the past, by comparison this one was really affordable) so it was a strong showing for a first-time event.
A prime example of unity: tie-dye shirts. Or maybe my wife just liked them. Photo by Kim Corkran.
Sure, these were vendors, but the flags were placed in a sweet spot for photos.
This HAD to be a big seller. Photo by Kim Corkran.
Blessing or a curse? An event that drew hundreds of people only had two food vendors. I will say the Blue Ribbon Burger that came from SmashMouth (on the right) was a smash with me! Probably in my top 20 I’ve ever had, it was that good. The taco place (Tacos Mexigo) on the left looked like it had good stuff too, but they ran out of burritos and I like them better than tacos.
The kids had their own place to play as well. Bet there were a lot of tired little ones.
As predicted, I did not participate in the loosely organized cornhole tournament.
And if I can’t accurately toss a bean bag…well, are you kidding?
The organizers had their own space with information and various other ways to attract those dollars from your wallet. My finger was not part of it.
If you liked this sign, it was yours for the low price of $10.
It was a modest silent auction, but decent for a first-time event.
Later on, there was a live auction for several larger items. This design was one of the boards they used in the cornhole tournament.

You notice the stage there? Well, I have some good news: I get two posts out of this! After a extremely way too long hiatus, the Unify Delaware Festival provided me the occasion to bring back Weekend of Local Rock next week! So look for more pictures and text, and maybe some suggestions for their prospective repeat performance next fall – right in the middle of campaign season. Should be fun like this one was.

And to all the naysayers: you really, truly missed an opportunity to unify with a bunch of good people.

The prospect of unifying

I used to do this more often, but still there’s once in awhile I’ll promote an upcoming event even if my prospects for attendance are limited.

Saturday looks like a nice day weatherwise, with a high in the upper 60s. What is most likely to keep me away is the possibility of a family obligation.

What piqued my interest in this event is the sponsor (Patriots for Delaware) and the idea that it’s billed as a family-friendly event. That’s not to say there won’t be hot and cold running politicians there – after all, $10 a person is pocket change for most of them – but it’s not the focus of the proceedings. I would be scoping out the silent auction and maybe dropping a coin or two on the 50/50 raffles while checking out the car show and the bands.

(I like to play cornhole, but my time in the cornhole tournament would be limited to the amount of time it takes for my opponent to throw a half-dozen bean bags in the hole. This is based on experience.)

Of course, this is a busy time of year for everyone as fall sports are in full swing, families begin to get ready for Halloween, and a lot of other church and school-sponsored fall festivals dot the calendar on October Saturdays. The weather is generally cool and that brings people outside, too. So their prediction of thousands may or may not be optimistic – I would consider Unify Delaware a smashing success with 5,000 people. Having worked on the Autumn Wine Festivals for several years, I know it draws about that many during a two-day run – granted, it has a higher price point but they serve alcohol, which Unify Delaware won’t do. Unify Delaware will have more space, too. So I think attendance of 5,000 is very doable, and as a fundraiser it could reach six digits.

So if the family and the old arthritic knees are willing, I may see you there Saturday. Sounds like fun for an afternoon.

Thoughts on traveling to and through the land of DeSantis

In my last post I closed by saying I was going to take it easy for a few days. Well, it was definitely a white lie I uttered there because at the time it posted I was sitting (not so comfortably) on the AutoTrain heading south toward the outskirts of Orlando. So I was taking it easy but only as far as leaving some of the driving to others. (I did most of the driving in Florida, and dealing with Disney-area traffic is FAR from easy.)

I haven’t been to Florida since 2009, as the last time I saw my parents they visited me in Salisbury for my 50th birthday celebration. Seeing that being a blogger isn’t much for making a man wealthy, it took a long time for the stars to realign and allow for a long-anticipated return…fortunately, both my mom and dad are hanging in there as they’ve both passed the 80 barrier since I last saw them. Since we also took a day to visit Kassie’s half-brother and his significant other, it made for a week-long trip that spanned the state from the little bump along the Georgia border north of Jacksonville where the half-bro lives through the town of Sanford (where the Amtrak station for the AutoTrain is) to the orange groves along U.S. 27 downstate where my folks retired to 15 or so years ago.

In most instances, it seems like life is pretty much back to the pre-pandemic normal in Florida. People are out and about dining and going through life without the face diapers, the only exception being the motel in Sanford we stayed in the night before we boarded the AutoTrain back. (Seeing Orlando-area traffic, that was the best decision I made. I would have sweated out a 3 1/2 hour drive to catch a train had I left from the parents’ place, but instead we stayed 5 minutes away and had time for a leisurely breakfast, albeit at an IHOP next door.) But this hotel had a manager who was more cautious, as evidenced by the tray of disinfectant we were asked to leave the room key cards in. (And no, I didn’t take a picture. You’ll have to trust me on this one.)

Otherwise, I’m struggling to recall if any of the wait staff in the restaurants we ate at had masks on. I could be wrong, but I don’t think they did. (Honestly, though, I think I would notice them having masks first.)

On the other hand, they go WAY overboard with this at Amtrak. Basically from the minute you set foot on their property to get on a train to the second you get in your car to leave, they want that face diaper on you. Some people can deal with that for 20 hours or more and get some sleep, but I belong in the other category where it destroys any comfort I might have. And just an observation: traveling in a trio is no fun when you’re the odd one out and sit with a stranger – a nice enough lady, but still someone I don’t know – and something of a bonus when the train is emptier and you have the pair of seats to yourself. I may have snatched 2-3 hours of sleep instead of being awake almost all night for the 16-hour trip each way.

Being that it was October, though, I think we hit a sweet spot of sorts in that there aren’t as many people at Disney and the other theme parks because school is in session, nor are there the snowbirds who come down in late October and early November. My parents share a duplex (two houses placed side-by-side with a common wall) with one such snowbird, who is expected back in a couple weeks. Thus, aside from Orlando and going through the torrential downpour I hit going into Jacksonville the first time, I enjoyed driving in Florida – nice roads, good signage and pavement markings to help me along, and real speed limits up to 70 on the interstates and 65 on the other highways. It meant the traffic flow was about 75-80 mph, which is good for getting through half a state. (Imagine U.S. 13 as a 60 or 65 mph highway and you have U.S. 27 in that part of Florida.)

One other thing I noticed (or didn’t notice) is that there weren’t “help wanted” signs everywhere. I think the people have pretty much gone back to work, although there are probably fewer places to work now since the CCP virus and our government’s overreaction caused so much turmoil in the business world.

But, except for dealing with Amtrak and somewhat higher gas prices, I really (and surprisingly) felt like it was how travel used to be in 2019. Hopefully the next time I go that way, things will be even better.

Oh, and one last thing: I think we got to see Florida Man. We were driving down I-295 in Jacksonville on the St. Johns River bridge and there he was on an untagged dirt bike, zooming down the center lane doing a wheelie, then shifting to where he was standing on it. Then he motioned us to go by him, probably so he could get a better shot on his GoPro camera he had on his helmet. Definitely Florida Man, and definitely nuts.

Picks and pans from a Shorebird fan, 2021 edition

It’s been a loooooong two years since I last wrote some of these, and to be honest I thought a lot about it would change. But the funny thing? My first pick was the then-new concourse, but I never made it out there this season. Perhaps because it’s still underutilized despite my suggestions.

It was no surprise that attendance was down this season: no benefit of a “normal” offseason, having a somewhat shorter schedule overall, and getting a lot of questions about COVID restrictions after beginning the season with limited capacity all took their toll on the gate, which tumbled to a franchise-low 110,281 for the 60-game home season. Yet even the best six-game week only brought 14,249 to the park, which was about 4,000 fewer than an average pre-COVID six-game week would draw.

But I can’t really pan the staff this season, because if ever a group deserved a mulligan it was this one. Here’s hoping that, with the pandemic beginning to recede, 2022 will become a good comparable to 2019 – albeit with four fewer openings as the low-A schedule compressed to 132 games, 66 home and away. That makes a difference of about 12,000 fans. Drawing 200,000 once again next season would be an achievement but it’s doable. Getting back to full staff will also be a big help.

Because of the lack of staff, I can’t really pan the food too much – however, if I were to make a suggestion (and integrate my other idea) it would be nice to have a select-your-own sub (as in hoagie) station out on or near the concourse. It could even be cold subs or something not requiring a great deal of cooking, but I think it would be a nice idea for variety. Also, I wouldn’t mind them bringing the supreme pizza back – not that I ever recall eating it when it was here a couple years ago. (These guys make a surprisingly good pizza, even if it is just cheese or pepperoni.)

And now that we have some assurance that the team will be here, perhaps it’s time for more of those back-of-the-house improvements. (They did update the restroom at the entrance level concourse this year, refinishing it.) But even better, I think there could be a lot more done with the lobby and entrance to the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame.

In looking at it over the years, I think the original intent of the stadium was to have most of the people enter by going up the stairs to the upper concourse where most of the concession stands are, then work their way down to what used to be the general admission bleacher seats. The lower center entrance was probably envisioned more for the box seat holders, but it’s become the predominant entrance over the years to a point where the upper entrances were barely used this year. (Maybe once or twice.) I’m not sure how to do it without looking at a plan, but it seems to me that they could make it a better experience than just walking down a nondescript hall. If you get the kid’s perspective of going up the stairs then reaching the top, smelling the smells, and then crossing the concourse to see the green grass of the field – although that view is unfortunately blocked by the elevator tower – maybe you’ll understand why this is something that interests me.

But looking forward to 2022, it will be nice to have the full amount of time to prepare promotions for next season. We did manage several fireworks shows, Scrapple Night, and a Gallos de Delmarva night at the tail end of the season, so it wasn’t a lost season by any means. Get the giveaways to be available on their appointed night and we should be all right.

Speaking of picks, instead of predicting the 25 players we were going to get (which would have been nigh-upon-impossible given this spring’s situation) I predicted how the league’s teams would finish. Here’s how that turned out:

  1. Down East Wood Ducks (Texas) (72-48, 2nd overall, lost championship series)
  2. Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore) (68-52, 4th overall based on tiebreaker*)
  3. Charleston RiverDogs (Tampa Bay) (82-38, 1st overall, won pennant)
  4. Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland) (58-62, 7th overall)
  5. Columbia Fireflies (Kansas City) (48-71, 10th overall)
  6. Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Chicago Cubs) (59-61, 6th overall)
  7. Fayetteville Woodpeckers (Houston) (55-85, 8th overall)
  8. Salem Red Sox (Boston) (71-49, 3rd overall, won our Northern Division)
  9. Carolina Mudcats (Milwaukee) (68-52, 5th overall)
  10. Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox) (40-79, 12th overall)
  11. Augusta Greenjackets (Atlanta) (54-66, 9th overall)
  12. Fredericksburg Nationals (Washington) (44-76, 11th overall)

(*) We defeated Carolina in the season series, 8-4.

Given these numbers, I would say the surprises were Salem and Carolina, which didn’t look like they would have very good teams based on their systems but turned out to be two of the teams in contention until the final days. Lynchburg and (especially) Columbia, on the other hand, seemed to be the real underperformers. Aside from those outliers, though, teams tended to finish a position or two off where they were expected to be (except Myrtle Beach, who hit their 6th place target by a game over Lynchburg.) So maybe I’ll try again for next season, with the added bonus of knowing each team’s schedule.

So there you have picks and pans. I’m going to take it easy for a few days.

Thoughts on Ben Carson

You may wonder why the name of the onetime Obama nemesis and 2016 Presidential candidate is popping up on this website after a lengthy hiatus, but wonder no more. Last Friday night I was one of hundreds of Sussex County and surrounding residents who were treated to a personal appearance from Dr. and Mrs. Carson at Crossroad Community Church – the same venue which had the discussion on CRT I covered in July.

This is a post which will be frugal in photos and bereft of quotes because I didn’t come equipped with a notebook for them. I wasn’t really expecting any breaking news from Ben aside from chatter about a new enterprise he’s beginning called the American Cornerstone Institute (ACI), an organization dedicated to four basic principles: Faith, Liberty, Community, and Life. Certainly it’s a way to keep himself relevant after finishing his stint as HUD director and candidate for president, but I get the sense that the gig for him is a little bit like President Trump is doing these days: they aren’t doing it because they have to but they’re doing it because they want to.

So about the evening – we had a little bit of everything. There was this introductory video, congregational praise singing, dancing, and worship before Dr. Carson spoke, and an appeal for helping to get state and local chapters of the American Cornerstone group off the ground. (In that respect, they’re going to tread a lot of the ground already staked out by the 9/12 Delaware Patriots and Patriots for Delaware.) Ben talked a lot about his youth and upbringing, noting he was once called the dumbest kid in the school but two years later was motivated enough to move to the top of the class. (Then again, he was in those grades right around the time I was born. I have to stop and think about how he was raised in grinding poverty in a pre-Great Society, pre-civil rights era, back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He graduated from high school in 1969, just before I began my schooling.)

One perk of attending was that each seat was equipped with Ben’s book, One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America’s Future. Obviously the cynic in all of us may see the book as a loss leader (yeah, it probably was) and the event as an effort to raise funds and awareness for his new enterprise (yeah, it certainly was as you’ll see in an upcoming photo) but to me there was a person on stage who was determined to leave this place better than how he found it, one not depending on statistics or jargon to make his point.

Out of all that he said, though, I was somewhat surprised and a little bit disappointed about how little he said about his tenure at HUD. Certainly Ben’s known for his medical expertise, but I think more discussion about the “fish out of water” experience of running a government agency would have been enlightening. Certainly I would love to know whether (and if so, how) that experience led him to form the ACI once his time was done in January – after all, Dr. Carson has reached a stage in life and accomplishment where he would have been excused if he decided to spend more time with his wife Candy and play a few more rounds on the golf course. But it appears he’s chosen not to, instead coming to Delaware to spread the word about his organization.

What I can tell you is that we had a full house, plus overflow.

It so happened we were sitting in the very corner of the room so you can see how full it was. We were probably among the last seated before they went to overflow. If you look closely at the empty VIP seats in front of us, you’ll see a copy of his book at each seat.

Besides the video I alluded to earlier, Carson made most of his remarks with a sparse backdrop.

I wasn’t really pleased with how my photos of Ben came out. I’ll check and if Kim took a better one I’ll swap it out (with credit, of course.)

Once he finished his remarks – which ran about 45 minutes – he exited stage right, directly in front of us so I could thank him for coming. Apparently he was going to meet with those in overflow before still further meetings with the VIPs. In the interim, we heard from the state coordinator of ACI, a longtime friend of Ben’s. He noted that the state group was looking for members and support, and I think they got some, judging by the bowl.

I’m not great at counting money like this, but I’m sure there was at least several hundred dollars in the bowl. I don’t think the Carsons would be hurting for gas money back home.

If people wanted something a little more tangible and to spread the word, well, they had threads too.

I never thought I looked very good in white and they didn’t have my size, anyway. Not as much in that bucket.

When he ran for President in 2016, Ben Carson was sort of middle of the pack as far as my endorsement went, with good points and bad points. Similarly, I liked a lot of what he had to say on Friday night, but I think Ben could have been a little bit more enlightening if he hadn’t focused as much on his story (as compelling as it is) and talked a little more on how his organization will differ from all of the other think tanks/PACs failed candidates usually come up with. Maybe that’s just the recovering politician in me. (There was a promising aspect that ACI just began called Little Patriots – hopefully that carries on the spirit of the Rush Revere book series authored by Rush Limbaugh, which was a conservative historical perspective tailored for a younger set.)

Perhaps we will get more of those answers in the coming days, but I’m glad slower lower Delaware got a little love from a nationally-known figure.

Postscript: It’s worth mentioning as well that there was almost no advertising for this event. I’m sure it was mentioned at the church regularly, but the way I heard about the event was via The Bridge (a local Christian radio station) and it was only mentioned a handful of times there. I guess word gets around fast, but when my wife shared this on social media a lot of the response was “I wish I had known.” They could have filled that church twice over with a bit more advertising.

My carbon offset

Once in awhile you gotta have a light-hearted stack of stuff, and this falls in the category.

The other day I got this as an e-mail from a lady (at least, that’s what I presume based on the name) named Suzy Nguyen from an NGO called 8 Billion Trees. You know I love it when people ask for my opinion!

Hi there,

Hope you’re doing well! 

I’m Suzy from 8 Billion Trees – a tree planting and wildlife conservation organization (NGO).

I’m reaching out to share my story and hope that you would help me spread the words to your audiences/readers so we can together make a change our planet desperately needs! 

We’re living in a critical time of global warming issue, and we HUMANS are the major cause who are responsible for this. We are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth’s temperature by burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests, and farming livestock. But more than that, do you know that everything you do and consume in daily life can add up to your personal Carbon & Ecological Footprint? And all that together is destroying Earth’s environment.  

As an NGO that specializes and deeply cares about climate change and influences people to be more aware of our impacts on the planet, we have created a Carbon Pollutant Calculator – a FREE tool for anyone to use. The calculator allows someone to find their personal Carbon & Ecological Footprint and have an understanding of crucial steps in lowering their carbon emissions, as well as taking responsibility for the footprints we’re all contributing to. Yes, it’s a nasty consequence of modern life. 

You can easily calculate your own Footprint here: https://8billiontrees.com/carbon-offsets-credits/carbon-ecological-footprint-calculators/  

And don’t forget to take some time to read our complete guideline to Carbon Offsets: https://8billiontrees.com/carbon-offsets-credits/ 

I’d love to hear what you think!

Yep, that was their e-mail.

I’m not so sure she will love to hear what I think, but I love to respond to people like this. First of all, I found out that I’m in the top 3 percent in the world when it comes to carbon emissions – their handy-dandy calculator estimated my annual carbon footprint to be 27.78 tons. (Damn, what a slacker I am.) Supposedly, the average for a “global citizen” is 5.29 tons, but since I do productive service work for a living promoting commerce and helping people achieve their dreams in front of an energy-hogging computer and enjoy a 21st century lifestyle with a plethora of labor-saving devices and technology, I think I’ll proudly wear that badge of gluttony.

(That’s why I kept the links in the letter – hopefully I have readers who can beat me on their calculator.)

Now don’t get me wrong: I have zero problem with them planting trees. After all, I grew up in the region of the country where, legend has it, Johnny Appleseed planted thousands of them as a traveling missionary. If 8BT wants to take money donated to them and plant trees with it, I’m good with that. (Even if they come across to some people as a scam.) But when they go on to explain carbon offsets, that’s where the issues begin.

(There’s one interesting section of this diatribe where they go through the various types of renewable energy. It’s interesting to see how little is actually produced despite all the press.)

However, the issue isn’t really with them but with how the concept of offsetting carbon is put into practice through the hand of government. (8 Billion Trees isn’t completely clean of this, though, as they do work with some state-level governments around the globe.) As government does it, the concept is used as a tool of wealth redistribution that keeps busy a cadre of pencil-pushers who could otherwise find more useful work.

And if reducing carbon was truly their goal, they would embrace nuclear energy because it doesn’t use any carbon. (Granted, there has to be some measure of redundancy when their plants close for maintenance, but if there were more nuclear plants we could easily rotate those periods into the loop.) I lived many years getting power from a nuclear plant and we were none the poorer for it.

Now I know I will get an argument from so-called experts who swear up and down that Big Oil got all sorts of subsidies over the years and the handouts and carveouts for renewables are only leveling the playing field. They also say that oil and natural gas are toxins that harm the environment if spilled, which can be true in the immediate timeframe although the earth does a decent job of healing itself over time.

But these same advocates tend to gloss over the detrimental effects of solar panels, which require tons of rare earth materials which are both toxic and hard to come by globally (unless your name is China) as well as covering acres and acres of otherwise productive land. And wind turbines? Forget that their disposal often requires burial in a landfill (taking up space needed for our everyday waste), their low-frequency noise has been linked to health issues, and they are hazardous to aviary health.

And in both cases, cloudy and calm days produce no energy whereas fossil fuels burn regardless of the weather. Their biggest issue seems to be transmission, as Texas found out. (Then again, it stopped the windmills, too.)

So I wish Suzy the best of luck planting trees. I think I have plenty enough in my yard to do the job, and (as an added bonus) some even bear fruit.

A “monoblogue music” 2021 post-pandemic update (part 2)

Best laid plans of mice and men, right? I was hoping to get to this sooner and get it off my plate, but like I said back in part 1 I had some listening to do so it took a wee bit longer than I thought.

So when I left y’all, I was just about to talk about the bands that made my top 5 in 2017, which then would begin with the “indie protest band” Revolushn. They’re still at it, pointing to the release of a new album later this year that will likely follow in the vein of a messy but enjoyable single they put out in 2020 called Electric.

Next up for 2017: I’m going to skip ahead to 2019 a bit, because Rich Lerner and the Groove was one of two bands to appear twice on my Top 5 list. They’re just days away from Groove Jam X, the annual event they put on to assist food banks around their Greensboro, North Carolina home. After having to do Groove Jam IX online thanks to the CCP virus, they were excited to return to Doodad Farm and return to an outdoor show. Pray for good weather and a bumper crop of donations to feed their local hungry families. Sure, the band does the occasional show otherwise but this seems to be their main focus now.

Unfortunately, I think Justin Allen and the Well Shots have gone on a permanent hiatus because their last social media dates to 2018. And while Free Willy is still on social media, there’s been no new music or shows to report from them as a group.

Finally for the 2017 crop, Freddie Nelson stayed busy during the COVID shutdown with several live streams and recorded a version of a Leonard Cohen song called Hallelujah. It was a jarring departure from his usual upbeat style, stripped down to his tuned-down electric guitar and vocals.

Compared to the 2017 honorees, though, the 2018 group has been busy beavers.

Let’s start with Maxwell James, who put out a very enjoyable and dramatic 4-song EP called “Wheels” back in 2019 that, according to my Spotify chart on number of plays, didn’t attract nearly as much notice as it deserved. He’s an artist that could be at home in an adult contemporary type of venue like the Freeman Stage.

Geoff Gibbons has released a few country-tinged singles since we last checked in on him, with the latest being Keep On Drivin’ from 2020. But according to Spotify, his most successful was 2019’s Lately. He’s also been busy in a duo called KaseoGems and playing in a band with one of the best names I’ve heard in awhile, New Yank Yorkies.

Peak has an upcoming album in the works called “Choppy Water” and has done a number of regional dates to support its eventual release.

While Jared Weiss hasn’t been making music in the traditional “let’s get a band together, hit the road, and make an album” sense, he’s still been busy compiling an “interpretation” of Bob Dylan that’s played in New York since 2019 and is slated for a national tour in 2022. So his solo stuff seems to be on the shelf.

Justin Shapiro moved himself from the DC area to south Florida and has kept himself occupied doing solo gigs every weekend. Nice work if you can get it. Musically, 2020 brought a full-length album called “Away In Your Dreams” that I’m certain makes up a part of his shows. If there were a 2020 top 5, it’s likely his album would have been a contender thanks to his brand of groove rock (with the occasional ballad) that reminds me of an edgier Jimmy Buffett. (Maybe that’s why south Florida works for him?)

On to my last year of 2019, which is shorter because I had two reruns of artists who had been featured before. It gets even briefer because we haven’t heard much from Future Thrills since the pandemic began, and the local music scene isn’t too conducive to more activity.

Of course, you could create your own music scene by going on tour, and that’s what Benny Bassett is doing. He was all over the western part of this country over the summer playing everything from clubs to private parties, presumably soliciting support for a new album upcoming in 2022. I guess I need to get on better guest lists to be at parties where Benny is.

Finally, Lord Sonny the Unifier released a four-song EP last fall called “All New Information.” While they claim their sound has “evolved with the times” there comes a point where it’s a little too fuzzed-out and inaccessible, a weird mix of goth rock, New Wave, and random noise. Still like the guitar parts, though. Regardless, they’re working on new projects as we speak.

That, then, is the wrapup. Thanks to Jake Eddy for giving me the kick in the butt to finally finish this, nine months overdue. Since it took so long to get this one I will likely hold off on the next one until early 2023, if I don’t forget.

Square one

As anyone over the age of 30 knows and remembers, it was twenty years ago today that not only did Sgt. Pepper teach the band to play, but a infamous band of homicidal religious fanatics flew jetliners into both towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, not achieving their goal of hitting the Capitol or White House only because of brave, quick-thinking, and doomed passengers aboard Flight 93.

Yet all that seems a history lesson lost on our policy makers who botched the final military campaign of the War on Terror undertaken by President George W. Bush and followed through – if reluctantly – by Presidents Obama and Trump. Joe Biden wanted our troops home from Afghanistan and he got them – never mind the fluctuating number of American and allied civilians remaining in-country, desperately seeking a way out.

It was intended to be perfect theatre: leaving a ostensibly free Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, with a government and army equipped and ready to stave off the Taliban menace without our assistance, sort of like the baby birds pushed out of the nest to fly free and live on their own – instead, the neighborhood predators got them.

As one who lived through 9/11, it’s somewhat ironic that the world we feared at the time has now come true by our own hand. For months we lived in mortal fear of a terrorist attack and our government took advantage of that to pass several heavy-handed restrictions, particularly on our freedom of movement and our privacy, still in place today. Indeed, we are safer from that terrorist threat, but at what cost?

Maybe this sensitivity is why I so clearly see the parallels between our reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attack and the more recent CCP virus terrorist attack. In both cases, the federal government expanded in both size and reach, with our latter-day equivalent to the PATRIOT Act perhaps being the vaccination mandates Joe Biden wants to send our way. (He will have much stiffer opposition from the states on this one than George W. Bush got for the PATRIOT Act, though.)

Yet there is one clear difference between 9/11 and the Wuhan flu, and that’s our lack of being united in the immediate aftermath. Our post-9/11 Era of Good Feelings only lasted a few weeks, but that’s one thing we remember about that time. Unfortunately, we never had that same feeling after we learned we had been exposed to the CCP virus – instead, each side has blamed the other for failures in stopping the spread and treating this deadly virus. Right now the role of Muslims post-9/11 is being played by those who have chosen not to be vaccinated for whatever reason. They have become the modern-day scapegoats.

Because there’s no particular day that can be pinned for the virus breaking loose from the Wuhan lab and eventually making its way to our shores, we won’t have the chance to pick an anniversary to commemorate. Unfortunately, it ended up that we couldn’t wipe out radical Islam in 20 years and it’s looking more and more like that chunk of time won’t be any more effective than 15 days to stop the spread.

A “monoblogue music” 2021 post-pandemic update (part 1)

Back in December 2019, as I did my final top 5 list for the long-running monoblogue feature, I promised, “if I get curious enough I may see what my twenty-odd bands featured as top 5 artists over the years are up to. But this will close out monoblogue music as a regular feature.”

Needless to say, we didn’t know at the time (the news broke just days later if I recall correctly) that China would unleash the CCP virus on the world and eventually decimate the music business, live and otherwise. So this promise was put on the shelf and, admittedly, forgotten – until I got an e-mail back in July from a young gentleman named Jake Eddy. Jake and his collaborator at the time, Steve Hussey, put out a record in 2016 called “The Miller Girl” that made its way into that year’s top 5, and artists occasionally acknowledge these reviews.

Thus, I’m on Jake’s list for media outlets and he wanted me to take a listen to his new EP, which is a compilation with several other artists (not including Hussey, who he’s perhaps parted ways with. I didn’t ask.)

Jake Eddy’s latest self-titled release.

The 7-song, 25-minute EP is full of traditional standards done in instrumental fashion – the only spoken words on the EP come at the very end, with a little post-song banter. I sort of wish they had added it to more songs because, while the playing is generally very professional, it doesn’t seem to have that feel one gets from listening to a live performance. I’m not a fan of jazz, either, and while it’s hard to explain I sort of felt like I was listening to jazz with bluegrass instruments, much like most of what passes for modern country is rock with country instruments and a twang. Depending on the competition, this may have been a fringe top 5/honorable mention performer if I was still doing full reviews. Fans of traditional music would probably embrace this better than I did.

So now we are caught up with what half of “The Miller Girl” duo is doing. In the long interregnum it’s taken me to do this post since I started it a couple months back, I decided to split things in half and see if I could move this along. Fortunately for format, Jake’s review came in 2016 so this first part will cover the artists and groups who put out albums I selected as top 5 albums from 2014 to 2016, the first three years I did reviews. Part two will cover 2017 to 2019, as more of them are active.

Back in 2014, I selected as my cream of the crop albums from five artists: Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders, Tomas Doncker, The Lost Poets, Monks of Mellonwah (my very first review), and Paul Maged.

I’ve never quite figured out Billy Roberts in more ways than one, but in this case it’s how he succeeds with little social media presence. It’s like he just puts out an album every few years and pours his heart and soul into what I suppose could be best described as alt-country. However, his last album from 2019, called “The Southern Sessions,” was remakes of his previous work so I’m wondering if the fire (or funding) is still there.

Tomas Doncker, on the other hand, is still collaborating with poet (and I always love trying to type out this name) Yusef Komunyakaa. However, his most recent solo single came out this year, called Wherever You Go, and it’s a nice slow bluesy tune worth checking out. Currently he’s over in Europe touring.

I really liked The Lost Poets, but a recent social media post has led to me to believe one of the duo has, sadly, passed away. It’s not been enough of a newsworthy item to progress beyond that post. I was definitely hoping for an Insubordia part 4, but, alas, that may never come. Their last single was River Runs Dry, which came out in 2019.

Never did figure out what happened to Monks of Mellonwah, as they disappeared from the scene. But Paul Maged has more than made up for it, wrapping up a trilogy of EPs in 2019 (that I reviewed) and putting out another angry album on Election Day of 2020 called “Culture War.” (With a song called Cult 45, you can guess who he probably voted for.) Yet since the election aftermath, Maged’s dropped off Twitter so I’m not sure what he could be angry about now.

Moving on to 2015, the Fab Five were Idiot Grins, The Liquorsmiths, Tumbler, Space Apaches, and Jas Patrick.

In 2018 (and more recently for a video), Idiot Grins put together an album called “Thoughts & Prayers.” Once I read the backstory for the video of Satan’s Jeweled Crown, the strangeness of the album make sense, as “Thoughts & Prayers” is a cover album of an old country gospel album (1959) called “Satan Is Real” by the Louvin Brothers. Without that, I was wondering if they were playing it straight or as a parody, but once I read the story I realized it was legit. Old country gospel isn’t my style, but I’m sure I know people who would enjoy the fresh remake. It’s definitely different from what I reviewed, but as I recall now there were some pretty abrupt changes in that album, too.

In the case of the Liquorsmiths, they really haven’t done new music in the last couple years but they have ventured out a little bit. During the pandemic they were doing livestream shows to keep going.

None of my other three groups from 2015 appear to be active anymore. I have no idea what happened to Tumbler after 2017, while the Space Apaches social media is now touting a group called Andrew Reed and the Liberation, which I’m assuming is one of the studio musicians who made up the group. Meanwhile, Jas Patrick has moved on from music to further his voiceover acting career.

So we move on to the 2016 honorees, which included Michael Van and the Movers, Midwest Soul Xchange, Jim Peterik, the aforementioned Hussey and Eddy, and Magic Lightnin’ Boys. I was really bummed about the demise of the latter group, which used to play a serious brand of Southern rock, but the others are still around in various forms.

Michael Van and the Movers, for example, hasn’t put together any new music recently (since 2018) but they are still playing shows around their northern California home.

A tour was the highlight of 2019 for Midwest Soul Xchange as they traveled around the (you guessed it) Midwest for several club shows. They also released a country-rock style single called Wonton Jesus late last year.

Jim Peterik hasn’t done any recent solo material, but in the months since I last did this there has been new albums from several of his groups: Ides of March, World Stage, and Pride of Lions have all put out new work since then.

And finally, while I covered Jake Eddy already, Steve Hussey got busy this year remastering some old work with a band called Luvbox and produced some new songs with his band Steve Hussey and the Last Hope. He started out promising a song a week and made it to February, which is better than most of my New Year’s resolutions.

So I’m going to try and do the second update for next weekend, but it’s been fun checking in so far. In looking at some of the newer groups already, they’ve been busy bees so the next segment may or may not be on time. I have some listening to do.

A brief rebuttal

As I alluded to in my last post, I did get a response from Jen Kuznicki in her podcast on August 23 – a podcast I didn’t have a chance to sit down and listen to until last night. (In the interim, she’s done another I haven’t listened to yet.)

Given her response, two things were clear to me: one is that I should have done Jen’s section as a separate post from the part about the Tea Party Express. I think she got bogged down in more of a comparison with the TPX than I had intended to make. My point with them is that they were soliciting money to get consultants rich instead of really helping conservative candidates, and that point remains. Somewhere in the podcast I think Jen mentioned giving money to individual candidates, and I agree with (in fact, encourage) that approach.

The second part is that I probably agree with her assessment on the Republican Party about 70 percent, except there are portions of the country where getting involved in the GOP are more difficult than others. Just as a personal example, I was elected twice as a precinct committeeman in Toledo and surrounding areas and appointed twice. In the one election I was opposed, it was one of maybe a half-dozen contested precinct races in the entire county (out of perhaps 300, since precincts in Lucas County are generally tiny, like a handful of blocks in some cases.) In the cases where I was appointed, the precinct was empty because no one sought the job. I literally lost my election in Precinct P of my ward and immediately got asked if I wanted to represent Precinct Q next door since no one ran there.

In places like that, it would be simpler for a motivated group to take over the party – get enough people elected in home precincts and have the interest to be appointed to other precincts that need people. Then they can have the muscle to get folks elected to the executive committee where the real decisions are made.

On the other hand, my experience in Maryland was that I had to run countywide in order to get a seat at the GOP table. In one respect it was good because it skipped the really low precinct level (otherwise, our county would have had about 50 different elections) but it also made each seat require much more effort in highly competitive areas. In my first election there were seven running for seven seats countywide so I won automatically, but in my last two we had thirteen vying for nine seats. In other places around Maryland, though, there may have been a half-dozen scrambling for just one spot in a particular legislative district – it all depends on how each county does things. I think that’s a factor that can’t be ignored.

There’s also something to be said for political clubs, which are a large factor in some areas and basically ignored in others. Taking over a club can get you influence if you play it right, but it can also lead to a divisive conflict that allows the opposition to get a foothold.

Jen also mentioned author Craig Shirley, who I wasn’t all that familiar with. But in doing a shovel’s worth of digging, I found out he’s now a columnist for Newsmax and recently he did a piece on Reaganism I found interesting. One good pull quote:

For my wife Zorine and I who were foot soldiers in the Reagan Revolution, it began months earlier, possibly years earlier, when in the mind of a young man or young woman, or in Reagan’s mind itself, a spark was ignited and an original thought provoked which said, “Enough is enough. This is my country, and it is being run into the ground and I am not going to take it anymore. Because our ideas are better than their ideas.”

“Reaganism and Understanding It,” Craig Shirley, Newsmax.com, August 16, 2021.

Indeed, I believe our ideas are better than their ideas, which is why I keep doing this. But the one place I may disagree with Jen somewhat is that perhaps we are limiting ourselves too much if we concentrate on taking over one political party. As we have seen over the last twenty years, the fortunes of the Republican Party have ebbed and flowed based on public mood moreso than their philosophy, which has stayed relatively constant. Perhaps a better and concurrent strategy – one which the TEA Party had mixed success with – would be to take over the local boards and commissions to establish a beachhead of good governance, then work up through the system. (It seems like this is the method being attempted by the Patriots for Delaware.) As I’ve said before, governing is the hard part – but it’s harder when the citizenry is apathetic to needed improvements.

Beggars and hangers-on with both sides

Over my last (infrequent) series of posts, I’ve taken time on a couple occasions to pick on grifters from the left so in order to be equal opportunity I decided to take on a right-leaning outfit looking to part the gullible and their money.

To set up the story, I heard from an old friend of sorts the other day. Over the years I’ve blogged quite a bit about the Tea Party Express (TPX) on my site, but that wasn’t many pixels compared to when I wrote Rise and Fall. (It’s scary to remember that just about five years have now passed since I first embarked on that project, which came out almost 2 1/2 years ago now.) As part of that book I wrote a much more comprehensive history of the TPX, covering its evolution from being the Our Country Deserves Better PAC in the 2008 election through its chance encounter with a TEA Party rally in Sacramento to being a Presidential debate co-sponsor three years later. After that peak, the TPX slowly declined as they laid off the bus tours they were most famous for after the 2014 primaries and became just another political insider organization subsisting on handouts.

So it almost hurt to read the well-worn script imploring donors to help the TPX “ensure conservatives take back the House in 2022” and promising “we ensure donations ONLY go to proven conservatives, NO RINOS.” What they’re not counting on you recalling is that some of those RINOs were surely people they backed in the first place.

Of course, they mention how “Nancy Pelosi and her lap dog Adam Schiff disgracefully assaulted President Trump,” and that the Left’s goal was not just silencing Donald Trump, but our voice as well. Yeah, yeah, I get all that.

But, you see, the blogger of 2021 is not the gung-ho TPX backer he was back in 2009-10 when he pined for the TPX to make a stop on the Delmarva. Perhaps I saw the light when onetime TPX chair Amy Kremer decided to drop it like a bad habit due to a strategy disagreement and eventually latched onto the Trump phenomenon as her grift. They definitely lost their luster with me as time went on and they moved on from what made them great.

Speaking of the TEA Party, it’s funny that this TPX appeal came a day or two before I listened to a new podcast from an old conservative blogging friend I know, Jen Kuznicki. I think she may be a little more bullish about the TEA Party than I am, but I learned that she was once again in the belly of the beast as a county GOP chair. Yet she points out the difficulty of working behind enemy lines, as it were, in a rural part of Michigan analogous to the situation we here in Delaware and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland face. (The part about having four votes for her little rural county vs. dozens for the big cities – hey, that sounds vaguely familiar! Just the numbers are a little different.)

I know Jen’s been writing for awhile, so I also know she was a participant in the TEA Party’s attempt to take over the GOP (much like I was, several states away) just as she now advocates the Trump backers to do the same. Yet there always seems to be an issue with getting “establishment” people out of the power positions, regardless of how well you try and take over the local groups. Those in control are not above spreading rumors and innuendo or inserting stalking horses into the race to maintain their hold.

So if it’s true that insanity is believing that you can do the same thing and get different results then the same is true with handing money to the Tea Party Express. It’s money that would be far more useful to the conservative cause if it were donated to a local conservative candidate or traditionalist slate running for school board. That goal amount of $50,000 donated to the TPX will, if they indeed entice the sum from the unwashed, likely fatten the coffers of chosen consultants who will work on the periphery with messaging spots against the Democrats that get tuned out by the electorate instead of going to the candidates who wear away their shoe leather and burn their gas seeking votes where they can find them.

With my sincere apologies to Jen, it’s all a movie I’ve seen before and I really want a different script this time. Maybe the initial organizers of the TEA Party were right in wanting to stay away from the two-party system – after all, once a side assumes they have a group in its pocket (such as the black vote for Democrats or the evangelical vote for Republicans) that’s when they know they only have to provide lip service to your issues. And the TEA Party got a LOT of lip service over the decade it was prominent.

So it was easy to give a hard pass to the TPX. My local patriot group isn’t begging me for money but I bet they’ll work harder for their chosen candidates.

Editor’s note 8-21-21: Jen has promised me she will address this in her next podcast, so keep your ear to the ground.

Quick fix, simmering realizations…

Every so often I get blog feedback, and generally when I mention it I like to poke fun at it. But in this case it brought back a memory that, upon reading, could really have been written in August 2021 just as easily as it was in May of 2017.

In this case, the feedback was from an outfit that must like to check my links and suggests that I prune dead links and redirect them through their site. I appreciated their advice, but instead I found an archived link for what I needed.

But it gave me the opportunity to do a throwback Thursday on Sunday the other night when I wrote this piece. At that point in life 4 1/2 years ago I was still skeptical of a Trump administration that was just starting out while I was then working a job and a half. And it was this passage that stopped me cold:

I’m no economic genius by any stretch of the imagination, but I would suspect having GDP growth exceed inflation is good, but having government spending (which is a component of GDP) increase more quickly than either is a bad sign. If you take away the government spending component the question is whether GDP growth is still ahead of inflation. Maybe it’s not.

But who profits from that? I will grant there is certain government spending that adds value: if someone in the federal DOT had the gumption to have an interstate highway built between here and I-95 by Wilmington, not only would the money create local construction jobs on Delmarva but the greater ease in access to and from points north like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia would be good for local tourism and industry by making it easier to get here and transport there.

On the other hand, simple wealth transfers from rich to poor (welfare, Medicaid) and young to old (Social Security, Medicare) don’t add much in the way of value except in the sense that their care and feeding keeps a few thousand paper-pushers employed. But they are not creating value as their wages are extracted from those dollars others earn with work that adds value like mining, manufacturing, services like architecture and construction, and so forth. (Did I mention that I’m once again a registered architect in Maryland?)

So if you know this and I know this, why is the system remaining as is? I believe more and more that there is a group of well-connected people and entities who make their fortunes by gaming the system. Instead of government being a neutral arbitrator, they seem to be putting their thumb on the scale to favor those who now participate in an ever-widening vicious cycle of dependency and rent-seeking. To me, things should be fair for everyone with equal treatment in the eyes of the law but greed and lack of respect for one’s fellow man has changed the Golden Rule to “he who has the gold, rules.”

“About my hiatus,” May 5, 2017.

And remember, I wrote this before anyone outside of a Wuhan lab had ever heard of the virus that became the CCP virus and its fourteen variants that seem to come out whenever the news is bad for the Democrats. It was a pandemic where the rich, led by Walmart and Amazon, got richer and the middle-class got pretty much wiped out by unemployment and seeing their businesses die, or both. Remind me again who determined which businesses were deemed “essential” and which were forced to close? And this doesn’t even consider stimulus packages 1-48, which have added trillions to our deficit and debt.

(Side note: I was on a roll back then with my thoughts, because the next piece just nailed health insurance. I even called Andy Harris’s margin of victory eighteen months ahead of time. I really need to write like that more often!)

So, “Ella Miller,” if you are a real person (and I’m guessing by the search engines that you are sending these out under a pseudonym), I want to thank you for bringing the dead link to my attention so I could be reminded of just how consistent I’ve been politically and how I sometimes have the spider sense working just right.