Thursday, July 27, 2017

In which Sen. Enzi tries to calm this heart patient's fears about the Senate's health care bill

I am always impressed how quickly Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi replies to my letters, postcards, e-mails and phone calls. I am just one of his many constituents. I am a registered Democrat and never voted for him. Of all the GOPers objecting to Pres. Obama's ACA, Enzi, at least, had some of his own common-sense proposals. 

But like the rest of the GOP, the Trump-era Enzi has gone off its rocker. He and his pal, Sen. Barrasso, helped craft the nastiness that is the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The goal should be to provide universal health care. Instead, it deprives millions of coverage in order to give tax breaks to the rich. 

So I complained. Enzi's response was predictable. I like to publish them online. You have to read between the lines to see what it actually says: "We destroyed the ACA and now want to replace it with something much worse. And you can't do anything about it."

So here's his response: 
Dear Mike: 
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has caused skyrocketing health care premiums, imposed mandates and taxes, and is collapsing individual insurance markets. Millions of Americans and thousands of Wyomingites have demanded we take action on these issues. One proposal in the Senate, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), would address these problems and help ensure the most vulnerable among us get health care.

There are people suffering under the current health care system created by the ACA and more will follow suit if we do nothing. The health care status quo is simply unsustainable and changes must be made. The recent vote on the motion to proceed provides us with an opportunity to improve our health care system. I will continue to work to find the best way forward while keeping in mind the health care needs of Wyomingites.

Thanks for contacting me.

Sincerely,
Michael B. Enzi
United States Senator

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

This 1960s Boy Scout wonders if Trump knows anything about the Scout Oath

Did U.S. Army General and Supreme Allied Commander of Operation Overlord (and later president) Dwight D. Eisenhower ever go ever go to a Boy Scouts of America Jamboree and invite the crowd to jeer his predecessor, Army artillery officer and WWI combat veteran (and later president, the guy who okayed the big nuke drop on Japan) Harry S. Truman?

Hard to imagine, isn't it? But Trump has submerged us so far into his own sewer that on Monday, he invited the crowd to jeer his predecessor, Barack Obama, and cheer The Donald, himself, our celeb president. Obama, by the way, was in Boy Scouting as an international Cub Scout. Trump, of course, was not. Both men have served as honorary Scout leaders, one excelled at the task and the other, our current president, brought shame upon the Scouts forever.

Ike and Harry both addressed the Scouts at jamborees. When he addressed the Scouts, Truman (according to The Washington Post),
extolled fellowship: “When you work and live together, and exchange ideas around the campfire, you get to know what the other fellow is like,” he said. 
And this:
President Dwight D. Eisenhower invoked the “bonds of common purpose and common ideals.” 
They were both officers and, presumably, gentlemen. They wouldn't stoop to criticizing fellow officers in public. In private and after a few drinks, well, that's another matter. The presidency has rules and protocol. Trump is intent on transgressing them all.

Trump has said he knows more about the military than his generals because he went to military school. That's like saying I know everything there is to know about women because I married one.

My knowledge of the military is mainly through a stint in ROTC, reading, and the stories told by veteran friends.

But I was in the Boy Scouts. I was a Cub Scout in Denver and Moses Lake, Wash. My mother was a den leader. I was a Boy Scout in four states -- Washington, Colorado, Kansas, and Florida. I attained the heady rank of Star Scout, just two ranks short of the vaunted Eagle. I then discovered girls. Merit badges didn't seem so important anymore.

The Scout Oath did. So did the law, motto, and.code.

The Scout Oath (from memory):
On my honor I will do my duty to God and to country, to keep myself physically fit, mentally awake and morally straight.
Here is the actual oath:
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
I forgot a few of the details. I did remember honor and duty, God and Country, and that all-important fourth line.

The oath was reinforced daily at home and at Catholic School. I've never forgotten those lessons.

I am an imperfect human being. But this Scout would never behave as Trump did on Monday.

Trump is a disgrace to the uniform he never wore. .

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Seventy years after his first visit, what would Sal Paradise think about Cheyenne Frontier Days?

"Hell's bells, it's Wild West Days!"

A line from Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." A character named Slim can't restrain himself when he finds he's landed in Cheyenne during Frontier Days in 1947. Kerouac dropped in on his way to Denver. Sal Paradise (Kerouac) spends some time exploring Cheyenne before he sets off to see Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) down on Larimer Street, the place where all the rootless ones hang out. In the 1950s, my parents warned us kids about all the bums on Larimer Street. It now boasts a better class of bum. Good eats and great beer. Major League Baseball only a few blocks away. Light rail at the no-longer-decrepit Union Station. In a 2015 post, I wrote a bit more about Kerouac and Frontier Days.

Cheyenne Frontier Days is celebrating its 121st year. That's a lot of years to put on an event. The year 1896 was many American wars ago, many cowboys riding broncs, many kids chowing down on carnival funnel cakes. I appreciate how much it takes to put on "The World's Largest Outdoor Rodeo" and attendant events. Volunteers make it work.

I've volunteered at the Old-Fashioned Melodrama (in its 61st year) for many years at downtown's Atlas Theatre. I've been on stage as emcee and served in many capacities at the front of the house -- bartender, house manager, concessions, etc. The Atlas is going through exterior renovations. Interior looks great. Revamped theatre, new tables and chairs, and -- finally -- AC. The new lobby bar looks great. Beyond that, there is still millions of dollars in work to be done to the building and its upper floors. Anyone involved in the non-profit arts world knows that the work is never done. The Cheyenne Little Theatre Players was founded in 1930 and now owns two theatres, which is quite a task for a community theatre organization. A small staff, a dedicated board, and dozens of volunteers keep things moving along. And welcome to CLTP's new ED,

The City of Cheyenne celebrates its 150 year in August. You can find a schedule of events at  https://www.cheyenne.org/cheyenne150/. It's a newbie when compared to some East Coast cities. But a lot can happen in a century-and-a-half. Our kids, who live elsewhere, contend that nothing happens in Cheyenne. I have a different perspective. When Chris, Kevin and I moved here in 1991, we found few things to do outside of Kevin's school and youth sports. Adults hung out at bars. Teens and young adults and Warren AFB personnel drove to Denver and Fort Collins for amusements. Cheyenne still challenges them. Colorado still beckons. Liberals in this conservative bastion seek comfort in togetherness and in activism, sometimes the same thing. Still, the Know Nothings make life a struggle for the Open-Minded. I have blogged quite a bit about Cheyenne .Its people are a treasure. The politics are a challenge. I love it. I hate it. But I have always been actively involved in the community and plan to continue.

Happy birthday, Cheyenne.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Wonder Woman" not just another fanboy film

I'm too old and jaded to be a fanboy.

Maybe that's why I dislike standard comic book hero movies. They're like fireworks displays. Lots of pop and sizzle, but what are you left with? I like movies that have substance or are just downright weird. "Logan" had substance. "Deadpool" was weird and profane. 

The new "Wonder Woman" has substance and weirdness. I really liked it.

Who would have thought that World War I could be so topical? A century after the U.S. blundered into The Great War, many of its themes have come back to haunt us. How does a country blunder into war? Can you say Vietnam and Iraq? Who uses poison gas? Can you say Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad? What country bombs civilians? Bet you can't name just one.  

Here's another question: If Wonder Woman finds and kills Ares, the ancient God of War, will war cease to exist?

You will get no spoilers from me. But "Wonder Woman" is traditional in that it places a quest as its central theme. Diana (a.k.a. Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot)), the only child on the mysterious island of the Amazons, trains to be a warrior. No surprise, then, that she gets the call to save the world. The call comes in the form of an American spy (Capt. Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine) who crashes a stolen German plane into the sea off the island. WW rescues him. Trevor has stolen the poison gas recipe book from the German mad scientist (Doctor Poison) who is managed by German General Ludendorff, one of the few historical figures portrayed in the movie. Ludendorff wants to keep Germany in the war during its waning days of November 1918, when an armistice is threatening to break out. The general commands his troops to find the spy and the stolen book. They follow the spy to the island and a battle ensues where WW discovers a hint of her superpowers.

That's a lot so far, but the action has barely begun. It's charming to think that the German mad scientist would have a poison gas recipe book. She wears a facial prosthetic due to a war wound, possibly damage from a gas attack. On the Allied side of the war, French artists made facial prosthetics for soldiers disfigured in battle. One can only assume that artists in other countries were doing the same. While the war's casualties were horrendous, modernized battlefield medicine saved many who would have died in previous wars. So we called on our artists for a solution.  

I'm not going to tell you whether WW stops Ares' mad reign with her God Killer Sword, that World War I truly was the "war to end all wars." As we all know, the world is a wicked and warlike place. Ares himself tells us that it's not his fault that humans are so warlike. He just helps them along a little and they do the rest. 

Taking a page from the book of Sisyphus, humankind replays its fate over and over again. If only we had one person to blame it all on.

Alas, war is hell, as WW sees. It also is forever. Zeus created humans and within us lies the seeds of our own destruction. If that's not a timely lesson, well, you haven't been paying attention. 

P.S.: After I wrote this, I read other reviews of the movie, including one on Roger Ebert's web site, Vulture and in conservative National Review. The best was by Mark Hughes in the May 30 Forbes. It's a blend of industry forecast -- he predicts that "a $90 million domestic opening with a 3.2x multiplier would get it to a stateside cume about $288 million" -- and insight. And he shows some real insight. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Looking for some post-ecliptic music and prose in Casper on Aug. 21?

Musician Ethan Hopkins and writer Mike Shay
I will be on stage with musician Ethan Hopkins on Eclipse Day, Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m., at Metro Coffee in Casper. This is the final outing of the summer for the "Music and Poetry" series sponsored by ARTCORE, Casper's vibrant local arts agency. The title is slightly misleading. I will be reading prose, not poetry, as I need many more words to express myself than the average (even above-average) poet. I will be reading from my novel-in-progress, "Zeppelins Over Denver," which has Wyoming characters in it but takes place in the Denver of 1919. I will share some excerpts here in the month or so leading up to the event. I also want to give you some tastes of Ethan's music. Take a look and listen of this vid clip from Ethan's web site: https://www.facebook.com/ethanhopkinsmusic/videos/1824071751243851/

Casper will be in the cone of totality for the solar eclipse. During the day, I will be somewhere in that cone of totality. But at night, I will be in the spotlight at Metro.

To get tix to the ARTCORE event, go to http://www.artcorewy.com/tickets.php. Also check out ARTCORE's upcoming season. Excellent, as always.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Skeletons rejoice at Liz Cheney's defense of Trumpcare

My skeleton crew rejoices at Rep. Cheney's defense of the Congressional Republicans bill to revoke health insurance for 22 million Americans and turn their lazy asses into corpses. My favorite line in the letter is "I appreciate your thoughts and concerns." My second-favorite is this. "No state suffered more than Wyoming under one-size-fits-all regulatory burdens imposed by the Affordable Care Act." I like this one too: "As Congress continues the process of improving our health care system..." It goes on and on. If you want a letter like this, just write Rep. Liz Cheney, at one of her many offices in WYO or call her directly at 307-722-2595. Just ask for the skeleton letter, or the form letter that covers the AHCA, a.k.a. American Harvest of Corpses Act. You'll be glad you did. 

Monday, July 03, 2017

Denver Comic Con -- an unexpected place to find some good advice on literary fiction

Chris and I accompanied our Millennial daughter Annie to Denver Comic Con on Saturday.

"Accompanied" might be a bit of a stretch, since she ditched her Boomer parents as soon as it was feasible. This wasn't too hard as she already had her entrance ID so just got into the line surging toward the Colorado Convention Center. Chris had to find a shady spot to test her blood glucose levels while I searched for the "will call" window. I was on a mission to trade in my paper tickets for entrance badges. I walked around the entire Con Center which looks a bit like a starship at rest, one with a gigantic blue bear staring inside. It could be an alien bear, an anime bear, a bear that is also a shapeshifter, a perfect disguise for an "Aliens"-style alien, or one from "The Predator" series, or those rapacious aliens in "Independence Day" or "War of the Worlds."

The heat may have been getting to me. I kept yearning to be in the AC with a cool Brewt, the official beer of Comic Con from Breckenridge Brewery. But first, I had to crack the code that would let me inside. I located various long lines, none of which were the correct ones. I finally found the "will call" line when I saw others of the dispossessed using their paper tickets as fans. The line moved fast as it was mostly in the shade of one of the DCC's giant wings. Twenty minutes later, I had our badges and eventually located Chris and we finally were admitted to the inner sanctum.

I was unofficially the oldest person in the building. Even veteran actor Kate Mulgrew, whom we heard speak in the BellCo Theatre, is younger than me by a few years, if my arithmetic is correct. Captain Janeway has transformed herself into the dastardly prison den mother in "Orange is the New Black." Her Russian accent is pretty good, which may hold her in good stead with our new Overlord, Vlad Putin. Mulgrew is the oldest of eight in an Irish-Catholic family (I am the oldest of nine). That wasn't the only thing we had in common. She said that reading is the basis for success. She is working on her second book while ensconced in her house in Galway reading through the Irish masters: Joyce, Trevor, O'Brien. This summer, she is even tackling Proust, which earns her major brownie points in the literary world.

Janeway is still the only female captain in the long-running "Star Trek" series. She hears rumors that one of the top-ranking officers in the latest series (set to debut this fall) is female. But she is not the captain. Mulgrew is a big Hillary fan which automatically makes her a big non-fan of whatever alien life form now occupies the White House. That's as close as she got to politicking which, she said, speakers were warned to steer clear of. As if....

People watching was the best use of my time. So many cosplayers from so many different books and TV shows and movies. One person was dressed as the Lego captain. He must have been hot in there. Princess Leia continues to be popular, as are various Trek characters. Annie is a big "Doctor Who" fan and there were plenty of doctors and even a few Daleks. One of my faves was a hoodie-wearing Donnie Darko and the Big Scary Rabbit that haunts his life in the movie. We ran into some theatre friends from Cheyenne all costumed up, including two female Ghostbusters.

We lunched on soggy overpriced sandwiches. We went to one of the NASA panels that addressed "The Science of Star Trek." The speakers quizzed us on the feasibility of Trek items, including communicators, transporters and artificial intelligence. Communicators were an obvious yes but a big no on the molecule-rearranging transporter ever seeing the light of day. This dooms my dream of someday avoiding the drive from Cheyenne to Denver. I would trade the possibility of misplaced molecules with driving I-25 any day.

My day ended with an authors' track panel entitled "Start Short, Get Good." The five published panelists spoke of writing short stories as a way to break into the sci-fi lit world. Catherynne M. Valente, author of "The Orphan's Tales," said this: "It's always been a hustle to get short fiction published." And this: "It's a struggle to get people to read short stories who also are not aspiring writers." As a test, she had audience members raise their hands who read short stories -- the majority of us complied. Then she asks for a show of hands of aspiring writers -- many raised hands. That got a laugh.

This continues a theme that I have heard for decades at everything from national AWP conferences to Wyoming Writers, Inc., conferences to book festivals. The question is: Are you buying and reading the work of the authors you like? That patronage is crucial to the survival of small presses and literary magazines.

Michael Poore ("Up Jumps the Devil") spoke up for the survival of these small markets. He said that he publishes some of his "character-driven stuff" in the literary markets.

"Genre fiction has lots of rules," Poore said. "In a literary story, you can get away with more. People tell me that they read my stories but don't like stories that don't end."

That sounds like a great description if literary fiction -- stories that don't end. I remember my insurance salesman uncle saying that he liked my first book of stories but was surprised that they had no end. Slice of life. Minimalism. Whatever term you use, it's shorthand for literary fiction which doesn't always coexist with genre fiction. Poore, on the other hand, seems to live in both worlds. He has published stories in some of the best litmags (Agni, Glimmer Train, Fiction) and sci-fi mags such as Asimov's. His story "The Street of the House of the Sun," was selected for The Year's Best Nonrequired Reading 2012, edited by Dave Eggers.

So, by the end of the day, I at last has found my tribe. These panelists face the same challenges I do, which warmed the cockles of my heart and made me very, very thirsty.

I went in search of Brewt.