Thursday, July 20, 2017

Today's MOZEN: Stephen's Story

Stephen Abankwa

Ghana is a country located in West Africa. There are several problems facing African countries including Ghana. These challenges include not only political issues, but also socio-economic ones, too. In recent times, the major challenge most African countries face, including Ghana, is Youth Unemployment.

In Ghana over 50% of the youth are unemployed. The situation is so dire that many of them have resorted to various means of surviving. Most of the youths who are not gainfully employed think that the surest way to solve their predicament is to leave the country in search of greener pastures to countries like Libya, Italy, America, Germany, and France among others. The situation is so bad that people are travelling through the dangerous Sahara Desert to the most common destination, Libya. More than half of the people who use the desert route do not reach their destination and usually die of thirst and hunger in the desert.
After arriving in Libya, their next destination usually is Italy. Because since these young travelers are poor and cannot afford plane tickets, they resort to using rickety boats to get across the Mediterranean Sea. Often, these travelers are killed by the harsh weather conditions or by their boat capsizing.

At the tender age of 16 years, I became an orphan when my parents were killed in an automobile accident. I have been struggling to survive and take care of my younger sister all by myself ever since. It is not an easy thing. There are no “regular” jobs here, so I do all kinds of menial labor just to earn a living. And, these do not pay well at all!

Here is an example: I got a job some time ago as a cleaner in a company. I would begin work as early as 4:30am and work until 3:30pm .At the end of the month, my employer paid me the meager amount of GH150.00 which is less than $50 in American currency! And, if you complain, they will sack you. Someone else as desperate or worse will come and work because there are no jobs or Labor Laws to speak of - Take It or Leave It is your only option.

Ever since I lost my parents, I have had to take care of myself and my younger sister, who is also in school, from the same, paltry salary. It got so difficult that I had to drop out of the University because I just could not handle work and school all by myself. I was willing to do anything legal, no matter how little it paid, just so that my sister and I could survive. It just never seemed to be enough. And, I work very hard. I even sold dog chains on the street just to be able to afford one square meal. I sometimes earn so little that I sleep on an empty stomach so that my sister will have enough to eat and there simply is not enough to go around.  Many people look down on us, but at least we have never begged in the street!
In Ghana, hard work does not pay and the rich keep getting richer while the poor never seem to escape poverty. Even in the schools, the rich are the ones who get scholarships for their children  - even if they are not performing up to standards. It made me so depressed that I felt like ending it all. However, when I looked at my sister I just could not. She is all I have and my reason for living. She is my priority and I do everything in my power to make sure that my sister is healthy and happy.
We continued to struggle until I met my Godfather, Frank LoBuono. With some financial assistance and lots of encouragement, he helped to give me a new lease on life. He has also introduced me to some others who help in the same way. They have assisted me both financially AND emotionally. Their help has enabled me to go back to school and attempt to finish my degree. I know it is the only thing that can eventually solve my problems. I applied to one of the best Universities in my country. I passed the entrance exam nd submitted all 8 papers required for the school in less than 3 months of attending classes. I was one of the few people who got admitted to the school of Information and Communication Technology. I will be beginning my second year when school reopens in September. My sister has successfully graduated from high school and she is waiting for her College entrance results. So, things are definitely looking up.
It has not been an easy life goes and the struggle continues. However, I know with my faith in God, nothing is impossible. I will always work hard to make good things happen. But, I also believe that God has been directing some important people in my life who are helping me achieve my goal to become an independent, successful man. I won’t fail.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Today's MOZEN: ASSHOLE!

F LoBuono

It's no secret: I curse unabashedly. Some prefer the word swear. Profane would also be accurate. As a kid, when I perfected those skills in the streets, we used cursing. So, that's what I'm most comfortable calling my choice of colorful words. You may use whatever term you wish.

It has become such a part of my lexicon that I don't even notice just how frequently I use impolite language. It's really become second nature.

But, there is also a message behind my madness - making a clear, concise, and, mostly effective statement in a way that will at least be noticed.

Why?

Because it gets peoples' attention.

For example, I was having a very challenging, but rewarding debate over politics (what else?) with a Facebook friend. I WILL press people on their points, but I avoid the use of pejoratives - at least for the most part. For some reason unknown to me, he took exception to a few articles that I presented to him to support my point. Suddenly, the tone changed. He aggressively began to press me on my knowledge of the articles I presented and, further, to claim that I was not on his intellectual level. He even asked what book(s) that I was currently reading! Ironically, the original debate centered around my premise that there is a growing anti-intellectualism in this County.

REALLY.

First, even if it were true (and, it sure might be!) it was completely inappropriate under those circumstances. It's an insult and, therefore, does not belong in any REAL debate, anyway. In fact, it usually ends the discussion because it implies that one person's POV is invalid. At least, it does for me - but, not without giving a parting shot. Since, he had already decided that I was beneath HIS intellectual level, there was no point in attempting to reach him there. It was a lofty place that, obviously, he preferred to occupy alone. So, I shepherded him to my level. I called him for what he was: an arrogant asshole. It sure got his attention.

And, I found it completely appropriate.

Allow me to explain.

Assholes are what they are. They serve an important function by controlling the expulsion of waste. No one "likes" to talk about it but, they are very necessary and everyone has one. However, generally, at some point, no matter how hard you try, they stink. That's why they have to be washed. But, they will always be what they are: the port for the elimination of shit - same as some people.

Of course, he responded that my response was typical of someone of my level.

Well, yeah. Just like Popeye, I yam what I yam.

If I denied that, and made myself into something that I am not, THEN I would just be another arrogant asshole. . .




Friday, July 14, 2017

Today's MOZEN: How do you say Good Riddance in Greek?

F LoBuono

CBS News reported on Tuesday (7/12) that a Harvard University committee is proposing ending all student fraternities, sororities, and other single gender clubs at the school. If approved, the ban would go into effect for incoming students beginning in 2018. Currently enrolled students would be exempt. The committee was original formed in March to address diversity concerns on campus as well as the recent spate of negative Greek life related issues such as rape and alcohol fueled deaths*.  Their conclusion is that the University would be better served without them. Williams College and Bowdoin College have already enacted a similar ban.

Although very controversially and bound to be challenged, personally, I say GOOD RIDDANCE.

When I was in college in the mid-1970's, the fraternity system was well entrenched at my school (Rutgers University). As I recollect, the most desired of them all was TEKE. The reason for this was not that they were the best connected for post-college opportunities. But, rather, because they threw the wildest, most outrageous parties. And, as far as I could tell from my perspective, outside of a place to crash when you were too drunk to get home, it offered little else.

As an athlete, there was some pressure to join a fraternity. After all, EVERYONE did. Well, I had little, if any, desire to do so.

First, I was always a proponent of the Groucho Marx philosophy about "membership": I would never want to belong to any club that would have me as a member. After all, I needed very little help or encouragement for my debauchery. I did just fine on my own. Sure, I would go to their parties and drink their free beer but I had no desire to join in a club who's collective behavior resembled that of a bunch of drunken savages. I didn't need ANYONE'S permission or help to experiment in order to gain personal experience. What I saw at most of those parties was simply misogynistic savagery. In fact, with the hindsight of maturity, I'm actually embarrassed by what I saw  - and, did nothing about. Any woman who came to one of those mixers was in serious jeopardy for her health and well-being. I found it offensive and vile. So, what would I want to belong to something so base and disgusting? Animal House may have been outrageously funny as a movie but, the reality was usually something far more sinister.

Besides my natural aversion to such disturbing behavior, I had a cultural issue with it, too. My family and I were never big joiners. My mother simply did not believe in clubs. She felt them unnecessary because my brother, sister, and I already belonged to the best one: it was called family. So, my mother wouldn't even let me join the Boy Scouts! In addition to my aversion to joining something I didn't believe in, I heard about the hazing initiation rights that one would have to endure in order to become a member. It usually involved some type of ritualized ceremony that included spanking and other personal humiliations.

Right. THAT'S going to happen. NOT!

One of the principals of my life has been to be non-violent but never allow anyone to put their hands on me. I was taught that most clearly by my father. So, why would I allow a bunch of strangers abuse me in a most embarrassing way, just so I could say that I belong to THEIR club?

Didn't happen then.

Won't happen now.

And, it ain't EVER going to happen.

I'm sure that fraternities and sororities have done their share of good over the years, both for their members and their communities. They can't be ALL bad. However, in their current form, they have become outdated. People have seen that the damage they do often overshadows any possible good. If they ever reflected the best a campus had to offer, they most certainly don't now. And, again, personally, I have never seen their point entirely. I am my own club and am happy with the number of members it has - one.



*http://www.cbsnews.com/news/harvard-committee-proposes-ban-on-fraternities-and-sororities/

Monday, July 10, 2017

Today's MOZEN: A Little Light in the Wilderness

F LoBuono

Some days, I feel like I just can't take it anymore. I want to cry. And, I'm not ashamed to admit that I often do. They are not only tears of deep sorrow but crushing frustration, too. There is just so much cruelty in the world. And, so damned much of it is of our own doing. The worst part of it is that with a little compassion, most could be easily prevented. It should be prevented. It must be prevented.

But, how?

I'm just one, insignificant being against and entire, cruel world. Even with an ego as large as mine, this seems an insurmountable task.

In today's era of instantaneous, mega-mass communication, we take in so much information incredibly rapidly. To my thinking, it is the yin-yang of the Internet Age. The good thing is that we can educate ourselves to an enormous degree. We can learn just about anything that we put our minds to. This gives us power - the power of knowledge. The bad thing is that there is no filter. And, perhaps, ultimately, there shouldn't be. But, in the meantime, as I progress as a human being trying to understand the meaning of life, I feel like I've seen enough savage cruelty to make my eyes bleed.

First, I work in the news business and have for many years. So, I have been privy to some pretty raw stuff. And, I see it day after day after day: man's inhumanity to his fellow man - and, to just about everything else around him. It is truly extraordinary. From the barbarity of beheadings to the cruelty of factory farming, our brutality seems to know no bounds. Where animals can be savage in the pursuit of survival, only the human beast seems to reap pleasure from inflicting pain.

And, it cuts me, deeply.

I pray to god for answers. Not one has answered. I implore a gentle Jesus to intervene and stop the madness. Although I take much comfort in his words, I have not found the real solution there, either. In fact, it usually causes me even greater consternation. After all, how can a god of mighty goodness, with the capability of creating AND destroying worlds, allow such evil to exist? The words are meant to empower us. But, why aren't we listening? People claiming to be Christians, as well as other deeply religious people, often seem to be the worst transgressors. Perhaps, the reason may be that evil is simply just as powerful as good. There is that damned yin-yang thing again. Those Taoists must have been on to something!

In the meantime, there's the practicality of dealing with the fact that cruelty does exist and it may be getting worse.

Of course, all of this was prompted by what I saw on Facebook today. It was filled with wonderful stories of family, friends, love, and redemption. There were funny memes and stories as well as spectacular photographs and videos. But, there were also horrible stories of murder, mayhem, rape, abuse, and cruelty that, well, made me stop and take a deep breath! I'll spare you the details except to say I had to turn away. I simple could not read one more story or view one more photo of pain, suffering, and degradation.

Then, there are the comments we make to one another. And, I'm guilty of this, too. Because we have this electronic veneer, we often feel it's OK to write hurtful, vicious things. It somehow seems easier to be cruel than it is to be kind. Everything is so immediate. We flash to anger. We strike quickly.

But, where does this leave us?

Looking away is necessary from time to time. In fact, it is essential to our mental health. But, it is just a temporary fix. We can't hide our heads in the sand forever and hope that things will just go away. You'll just suffocate. We can't smoke enough weed or drink enough booze to make us feel better about ourselves. We can pray, if that does anything for ya' But, I prefer a more active approach. Awareness is just the beginning. Without corresponding action, it reeks of impotence.

For me, the best way to find some relief is to pour some good back into this miserable world!

And, tt doesn't have to be great, big things.

The world is a HUGE place that can be overwhelming. So, make it smaller - SIMPLIFY.

The so-called little things can often be the most effective: take the time to say please and thank you, even to the grumpy gas station attendant who may not even bother to respond. Greet your co-workers with warm tidings. Call an old friend who may be lonely. Tell someone who may not expect it that you love them. Eat meat one less day/week to eliminate some animal cruelty. Park your car in another spot when someone takes your's at home - without leaving a nasty note on their windshield. And, while you're at it, give yourself a break.

The choice is ours. It always has been. In a sense, that's what so disturbing. We can choose our destiny as determined by our actions. Why someone would choose such a dark path is beyond me.

Well, I choose light and, damn it, I will do everything that I can to be one, as well - one, little god damned light in the wilderness.

Who will join me?





Sunday, July 9, 2017

When You Think About It: Sensible Gun Control

F LoBuono

The debate over gun control in our Country continues to sizzle. And, why shouldn't it? We are awash in the blood of gun violence.  From the assault on our Congressmen playing softball in a park, to a deranged doctor attacking a hospital, to the assasination of a New York police officer, the number of people killed with a gun is simply staggering: almost 32,000 Americans are killed every year by a gun (these statistics include murders, accidents, and suicides *). And, there are numerous other metrics that simply support the fact that, as a society, we worship guns and violence. NO OTHER country in the world, much less one with the advantages of the U.S., are as ravaged by the use of guns as weapons against one another as we are. As much as music and dance may be rooted in the very ethos of some cultures, the possession of a gun seems to ours: The Congressional Research Service claims that their are 300 million firearms in the U.S. 300 million. That's nearly one gun for every man, woman, and child in the Country.

Really.

So, what CAN we do?

First, it must be said that no one is taking anyones guns away. That cat got out of that bag a LONG time ago. I won't even bother to debate the relative merits of the 2nd Amendment. I concede - keep your guns.

However, what I won't give up on is the chance to pass some type of sensible gun control legislation. Because of the power of the NRA and the gun manufacturers, this is, and will continue to be, a tough fight. But, it's one that we can, and MUST win.

A recent debate that I had on Facebook concerning the subject brought out some good points. One friend, a gun enthusiast, pointed out that I called an AR-15, the gun that seems most often used in mass shootings, an assault weapon. He claimed this to be inaccurate in that the AR-15 in only semi-automatic and therefore by definition, does not qualify as an assault weapon. And, technically, he is correct. When I pressed him on the semantics, he noted that for such an important topic it is important to be accurate. To understand weapons, we must acknowledge that they are all not created equal. He went on the use the example of dogs and the breed commonly known as pit bulls. Just like guns, all dogs are not created equal. Yet, as a dog lover, I do not support a ban on ANY dogs, including pit pulls (which is true). What's the difference with guns? As the owner must be ultimately responsible for his animal, the gun owner must be responsible for his weapon.

Good points!

However, to counter his argument, I pointed out that although still just a dog, the pit bulls' capacity for destruction is considerable. When trained to destroy, they are awesome fighting machines. Therefore, they should only be owned by people who understand the risks, have the capacity to train them properly, and are responsible for keeping them under control. When this is done, they are wonderful companions. But, in the wrong hands, they can be deadly - literally.

So, it is with the AR-15. Yes, it is still just a gun, but it's capacity for destruction is also considerable. In the wrong hands it is an awesome weapon, indeed. Therefore, if they are to be allowed, they should only be owned (like pit bull owners) by those who have the knowledge to handle them and the responsibility to understand their destructive capability. This means EXTREME VETTING and PREREQUISITE TRAINING for ownership. THIS is reasonable gun control.

My friend agreed without further argument.

So, when you think about it, it shouldn't be so hard . . .

verytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/





Thursday, July 6, 2017

Today's MOSTLY TRUE SHORT STORY: A Day in the Life of a NYC Cameraman

F LoBuono
Most people would consider it a plum assignment: shooting the Annual Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks over New York City. And, it is. But, it's not an easy one.

As a photographer for CBS News, I had shot it many times in the past. However, those had always been on the west side of Manhattan and in the few years since I've worked the gig, it has been moved to the east side. What I remembered of the routine was how spectacular the fireworks were but, also, how challenging it was to capture them. The crowds are enormous, the security tight, the weather hot, the day long.

I actually drew the assignment a few days before. And, there was some confusion right from the beginning. The instructions from Macy's indicated that the press was to be marshaled on Long Island City in Queens. But, I was instructed by CBS to go to E26th St. and use my credentials to gain access to the East River. Since the NYPD strictly controls access (and, by the way, does a SPECTACULAR job), I knew that it would not be easy to go where I was not really supposed to be. However, I've worked the streets for years and felt that I could talk my in - eventually.

My schedule called for me to get in at 4pm. The plan was to assemble my gear and head out via taxi from the CBS Broadcast center at W57th St. ASAP to get to the location. I knew that even with 5 plus hours before the actual event, there were bound to be police closures and crowds beginning to assemble.

I was right.

As soon as I exited the cab at 26th St., I ran into a roadblock - literally. An NYPD patrol car had the entrance to the river blocked. I approached the patrolman manning the vehicle, flashing my press badge as I did. He was very courteous when I asked him where I might go to set up to record the fireworks. He said that he didn't know but, if I gave him a few minutes, he would try to find out. I thanked him eargerly. He made a few calls but got no answer. He asked me to wait and that he would keep trying. I had no other options and, at least, he was trying. As I waited on the sidewalk near his patrol car, a sergeant walked by. The officer approached him and started a conversation with him while pointing to me. The sergeant nodded and waved me over. He told me I could get access at 23rd St. I thanked them both and began rolling my gear (I had a cart) south.

I arrived to a mob scene at E23rd! Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were being stonewalled at a heavily guarded police barricade. Some were residents of the waterside apartment buildings. Others were ticket holders trying to get to their excursion boats for the show. All were confused and waiting. Having worked the streets so much, I knew exactly who to ask for access. Passing the patrol officers (the ones in dark blue), I went directly to one of the men in a white shirt - an officer. The first one I saw, a captain, was too busy and brushed me off. No matter. It happens. Persistence always pays off in these situations. I set my sights slightly lower and saw another white shirt with just one gold bar on his lapels - a lieutenant:

Lieutenant, I'm with CBS News. Can you please tell me where I can go to get river access? I yelled.

He responded, wait there. Give me a few minutes and I'll find out.

I followed his instructions. Much to my astonishment, after I few minutes, I heard him yell, hey, CBS, get in the line to your left. They'll pass you through.

I thanked him vigorously.

I got in the massive line and, step by step, inch by inch, I made my way to the entrance. Avoiding peoples' toes with my cart, after about another 20 minutes, I eventually made my way through security.

Little did I know my trials were just beginning.

When I finally got to the river, I found another security barricade manned by the erstwhile NYPD. I followed the same routine by asking another white shirted officer where I might go to gain access. The first one sent me over to 26th St. I rolled north. At 26th St., two white shirts approached me and asked what I was doing there. I explained - again. They told me I couldn't stay there, but they heard that there might be access at 34th St. I rolled north - again. At 34th St. I ran into the same opposition. It was beginning to prove hopeless. Finally, I asked a patrolmen if he knew if anyone from DCPI was on -site. He thought that I might find someone from that division at 35th St.

DCPI stands for the Department of Community and Public Information. The NYPD is so gigantic that they have a whole division devoted to just handling the press. As the media capital of the world, someone has to keep the horde of information seekers under control. That entity is the DCPI. And, even they wear a different type of shirt to distinquish THEM - a light blue polo with their own logo.

At 35th St. I did find a command center and someone who actually had a clue as how to deal with me. He asked me to wait while he called someone from DCPI. Eureka!!

I waited about 15 minutes when someone from DCPI (wearing a light blue polo shirt) arrived and I explained my dilemma. He was young and sympathetic. But, he was also firm in telling me that they had told all the press that access was across the river in Queens. They had made no plans for someone like me. I implored him to see my predicament and asked if there was ANYTHING he could do. At that very moment, his boss, a Lieutenant Witte, approached. I have known the lieutenant from our years together on the street. He is the man in charge of dealing with the press directly. I have always known him to be tough but fair.

Lieutenant, can you help me out, I begged?

Well, Frank, I know that it's not your fault but all of the press are supposed to be over at Long Island City. We have no room to accommodate you here, he replied.

I pressed him further - PLEASE, lieutenant, can't you spare me just a few square feet -ANYWHERE?

He finally relented and said, well, try the gas station down at 23rd St. Maybe you can squeeze in there.

I again thanked him profusely and started walking south. So, now, I had spent nearly 3 hours only to wind up back where I had started.

The location was far from perfect - I had no direct access to the river. But, there was a gap between 2 buildings on the waterside that I felt I might be able to record at least the highest bursts. It would have to do. So, I began to set up my gear. Just after I set my camera on the tripod, I was approached by one of the deckhands who were herding passengers onto the nearby excursion boats that were charging them a small fortune for a river cruise to witness the fireworks up close.

He asked, Whaz up?

I'm with CBS News and just looking for a decent spot to record the fireworks, I responded.

What's it worth to you to come and do it on my dock? he asked.

I said, I have $30 in my pocket. It's yours.

Deal, he said. Just wait for all of the passengers to board and I'll bring you in.

I waited about another half hour for the last passenger to board when the deckhand, true to his word, fetched me and brought me down to the end of his dock. The exchange of $$ was done with a quick hand shake so that no one would notice.

It was perfect! I was right in the middle of where the three barges discharging the fireworks were located. I would be right in the middle of the action. By the time I finished setting up my gear it was about 7:30 pm. So, I spent nearly 3.5 hours just to get into position. But, I had the best seat in the house. Now, all I had to do was wait another 2 hours for the whole thing to happen.

I was not alone in waiting. The owner of 3 of the excursion boats and many of the other dock workers had invited family and friends to join them for the festivities. They had food, beer, and other refreshments that they were more than willing to share. Two women visiting from Tennessee were next to me and just incredibly excited to be part of this quintessential New York experience. Two college kids, half buzzed and smoking cigars, began a conversation with the 2 ladies. Eventually, a group speaking Arabic arrived and also joined in the festivities. After an hour or so, a full blown celebration was happening on the pier.


At about 9:30 pm, the actual pyrotechnics began. And, in the grandest of New York fashion, they certainly were worth the wait. The cries of delight that rose from the dock were evidence of this. The college boys were "high-fiving" everyone and the Tennesseans hugged and cried. It became the ultimate New York experience.


After approximately 20 minutes, it was all over. I packed my gear and thanked my hosts.  I rolled my gear back through the crowds in an effort to get to the west side and find a taxi. I eventually caught one at E30th and 3rd Avenue. It then took us nearly another hour to get to the CBS Boradcast Center at W57th St.

So, it took me almost 6 hours to acquire about 20 minutes of footage. All in a days work for a New York City cameraman.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

No Title - Just Read It - Adults Only


First, let me qualify: It's 3:32 in the morning. I've had a long day, worked a long night shift, and had a few bourbons.

Now, with that said, I feel compelled to go nuclear and say what I feel needs to be said in a way that I try to avoid, but is also a big part of who I am - a neighborhood kid from Fort Lee, NJ. It's the language of the streets; a vernacular I am as comfortable with as saying good morning.

Fuck this fucking bullshit!!!

I simply can't stand the lying anymore! Every fucking word that comes from this Administration, if not an outright lie, is a distortion of the highest fucking magnitude.

And, it's mean. And, it's stupid. Just plain, fucking stupid!!!!

Tweet after ridiculous tweet barrages us with bad fucking English and even worse content: misogyny, misanthropy, homophobia, xenophobia, and a host of other fucking maladies.

And, now, the President - the President of THESE United States posts an absurd video that he thinks is funny and his supporters have the blind temerity to agree.

In fairness, I don't think he intended violence. He REALLY thought that he would make a point with his base by being funny.

Really.

Well, it wasn't

AND that's besides the point: he's the most powerful man on the planet, the representative of a culture that is (was) a beacon for freedom, and class, and compassion, and he's making videos that I would expect to see from a fucking 12-year old!!

Holy shit!!! Are you fucking kidding me???

I'd like to say forgive me. I'm sure that Stella and my Aunt Anna Maria would not approve of my language. But, if not now to issue a battle cry, stated in the most direct of terms, then fucking WHEN?

This shit must end. . .


Monday, July 3, 2017

Today's MOZEN: Un-electable.

Words and photo by F LoBuono

Believe it or not, I have actually been asked to run for public office. Yes, it's true. And, it's happened on more than one occasion. I am always pleasantly surprised and somewhat flattered when people ask me to consider a run. And, my response is always the same: a sly grin and a polite "thanks, but no thanks".

It's not that I am too selfish to offer my services (well, maybe I am, a little). I give to my community in many, other ways. It's more that I see myself as un-electable. These are the main reasons:

1. I curse so much that I believe that I could make General George S. Patton blush.

2. I have so many skeletons in my closet that I could open my own anatomy lab.

3. I like smoke and lighting - heavy metal thunder - racing with the wind. . .

And, there are MANY more.

No, my friends, I am unfit for public office - and, damned proud of it.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Today's MOZEN: CATCH-22

F LoBuono

One of the most influential books in my life has been Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Published in 1961, it is a complicated work that became one of the greatest indictments of war and the bureaucracy of how it is conducted ever written. It was eventually made into a well reviewed film in 1970.

Here's a very brief synopsis: In the early days of WWII, there was no restriction on the amount of combat missions flown by American bomber crews. In simplest terms, most flew until they were shot down and either killed or captured. Of course, morale plunged as crews did their duty under near suicidal conditions (The United States Army Air Forces, as it was known at the time, eventually instituted a 25 mission limit - a B-17 named the Memphis Belle was the first to achieve this mark). Heller himself flew 60 combat missions as a bombardier on a B-25 from Italy during the war and, miraculously, survived. Some, like the main protagonist in the novel, also a bombardier, Captain John Yossarian, thought it insane to continue to fly to certain death. So, he seeks a medical discharge for reason of insanity. In the circular reasoning that defines the ineptitude of the system, the Army, surprisingly, agrees. It IS insane to continue to do something that will certainly lead to your own death. However, there is a catch - the inevitable and irrevocable, Catch-22. Basically, it means that since he recognized the insanity of the whole thing, by definition, he couldn't be insane. Therefore, the Army would not classify him as such. Yossarian would continue to fly combat missions. And, on and on . . .

I could not help but think of Catch-22 when listening to White House spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, respond to ABC's George Stephanopoulis when he pressed her whether or not she endorsed President Trump's recent Tweet regarding the physical appearance of MSNBC host, Mika Brzezinski. She simply would not/could not answer the question directly. She kept reflecting the question back on itself. Instead of giving a direct answer, she would reply that the President has a right to attack when he is being attacked. Every time that Stephanopoulis pressed Conway to be more direct in her response by simply answering the question with a yes or no, she just brought it around again to the beginning, repeating the same statement over and over again. It was a classic case of double speak.

Can you see the Catch? Catch-22.

There is a constant deflection away from the real issues. In this case, that issue is whether it is appropriate for someone who holds the highest office in the land, the most powerful person on the planet, i.e. The President of the United States, to make comments that are misogynistic at best, and disgusting at worst.

THAT question was never directly answered by Ms. Conway OR anyone else in this Administration. There defense is: you can call it wrong but it can't be if the reasons for doing it are right. So, there is no need to change it.

Get it?

Catch-22.

And, it goes on and on and on . . .







Thursday, June 29, 2017

Today's MOZEN: MY Nyack

Words and photos by F LoBuono

My love for my adopted hometown of Nyack, NY is (or, should be) no secret to my family, friends, and readers of this blog. In fact, they often chide me for my effusive praise of it, calling me the "unofficial mayor". That's flattering, but I respect those who serve as our elected officials and have no desire to hold public office. Besides, most would agree that I'm unelectable anyway! But, the fact remains that I wouldn't be anywhere else. I could live elsewhere. I choose to live here.

So, it begs the question: why?


Well, there is the obvious physical beauty of the place. Being on the banks of the mighty Hudson River and at the base of the majestic Palisades provides us with breathtaking vistas and an abundance of wildlife to observe. And, it never ends. I have been photographing sunrises and sunsets every since I came to this area over 35 years ago. They took my breath away then and still do. Just the other day I had the great privilege to photograph the blazing dawn of the summer solstice.

As if that weren't enough, Nyack's (I use the name generically and incorporates the villages of South Nyack - where I actually live - as well as Upper Nyack and Grandview), greatest attribute may be its people. Their commitment to caring about how they live and maintaining the considerable diversity of this village continues to amaze and inspire me as much as the breathtaking sunrises.

And, it's demonstrated on nearly a daily basis.

Last night I was dining at one of our many, fine food establishments, when it struck me just why I love the place so much: it truly is the best of what America represents. Or, at least should.

Allow me to elaborate.


I was sitting at the bar, enjoying my standard cocktail, a bourbon Manhattan, expertly prepared by George, one of the best bartenders in town, and savoring some delicious Italian food. Because I was alone it allows me to take in everything that's going on around me. It was then that I noticed something that was truly extraordinary and summarizes just why this village is so special. The restaurant is owned by an Italian immigrant. I, a son of Sicilian immigrants, was eating Italian food prepared mostly by Latino immigrants. My cocktail was mixed by an Egyptian immigrant. I had a wonderful conversation with a fair, blonde women sitting next to me. To her left, a bunch of George's buddies were having a great time and carrying on their conversations in Arabic - while to the right of me a group of waiters and busboys were holding their conversations in Spanish. And, all of this was happening while the Yankees were playing the Chicago White Sox on the television.

Wow.

THIS is Nyack, THIS is America. THIS is why I am proud to live here.