The Second Half

How to Skip Your Own
Birthday Celebration

The second half of life is a third. It arrives already shattered and goes by like a spell. Compared to the eternity that teen years seem to feel, or the accelerated learning curve lived up to the 30s, the last quadrant is mute and serene, like a trip to another galaxy.
Everything reflects the light of long ago, but there’s no sound in the outer space of advanced age; even the most cheering applause is silenced. The traveler reaches the void looking back; a last minute sorting through spinning memories, before darkness falls.
All that one needs to know is learned early in life. And readily forgotten for the next few decades. So growing old is revisiting childhood, as some put it, making a bit more sense of what’s going on inside, but like then, just as clueless about everything else.
Some of us perceive ourselves as children till we catch a mirror staring back. That smooth layer has been ravaged, the mouth, twisted down in the corners, and the eye twinkle is long gone. But apart from such shocking self-checking, we’re still here.
On the edge of maturity, a certain sense of having mastered few things in life settles in, but it’s never enough. Some sense of accomplishment

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is clouded by the wrong turns and missed opportunities. All is clear now, all understood, and absolutely irrelevant.
As I approach the other margin still gasping for air, I’m still puzzled about how little I know. Was it a choice I’ve made, not to veer towards the upper echelon? Or have I fussed and fought only to come up short of whatever was that I was searching for?
The third slice of a life, staled and musty, is reserved for those who lasted and endured, not those who crafted a legend out of their days. Like a bitter brew, it soothes the gut and vanquishes the last sweet taste, left by cakes and pastries baked in youth.
Some go like shooting stars, but the majority succumbs in quiet desperation. Some go before they even come; others overstay their welcome. We live our ways unaware of our moment of departure. Here’s to when it comes, it won’t make me beg too much to stay.

Curtain Raiser

Profiteering From Misery, Colltalers

‘Breaking: Hurricane LeBron’s 200 mph winds drove the Atlantic to completely submerge long decaying Palm Beach, Fl, Mar-a-Lago Golf Club, once owed by ex-President Trump, who refused to comment. He’s serving a 5-year reduced term at N.Y. Rikers.’
‘Members of the once billionaire family, the Sacklers, start their prison sentences today, after being found guilty of profiting from the U.S.’s deadliest drug crisis: overdoses from the family-owned, Purdue Pharma-produced, OxyContin, an addictive painkiller.’
Sorry to interrupt almost a decade of fact-based discussion on this space, to sneak in a piece of karmic wishful thinking. Not that neither of the fictitious scenarios laid above could ever happen, if justice was to be served. But realistically, neither is likely to.
Those two opening graphs, though, touch some of the most crucial issues of our age, and to present them as fiction may ease the blunt of facing the nightmare they suggest: unbound government corruption, dead of democracy, and impeding global catastrophe.
The investigation into the president’s possible collusion, conspiring with a foreign power in exchange for personal business favors, has affected, when not already sentenced, virtually every one of his inner circle. Except him, who’s still unscathed and in control of the narrative, while even those not yet indicted may be destroying, or saving, self-incriminating records, as we speak, just in case.
By declaring a non-existent, probably unconstitutional, state of national emergency, Trump took another step towards full tyranny mode: ‘my wall or I’ll start a war,’ have been his terms all along. It’s up to adults left in Washington to challenge this act of power grab, hoping as well that the Supreme Court spares us from witnessing it issuing a shamefully-bias ruling on presidential powers.
Trump will have his way, though. Helped by Republicans – a small group of astonishingly rich and amoral Continue reading

Valentine Sway

Give a Chance For Romance &
Keep the Devil Out of Your Heart

Here’s a buzzkill: when a gunman murdered 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and staff, in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018, the real Valentine’s Day tradition in the U.S. was reaffirmed. For loved ones of the fallen, that was the worst day of their lives.
Yet sweethearts and would-be lovers will exchange vows, roses, and chocolate today, hoping this will be their best year. Life goes on, for sure. Even as noble feelings and massacres can’t never mix, many a lifetime of mutual infatuation stories will take root before midnight.
Blame it on Al Capone, who in all likelihood ordered the infamous massacre of seven Chicago minions, 90 years ago today. Or the 3rd-century Roman priest killed on this date. Not that such a sobering history has ever crossed any innamorato’s mind.
That’s probably for the better. Misanthropes, the unengaged, skeptics, and lonely wolves notwithstanding, we’re all in this together, so some may as well pick a mate or two, and dive right into the whirlpool of affection and impossibly achievable goals of eternal devotion and faith.
To choose such venue has an undeniable edge, a rare instance when caring beats automatic weapons. For that they’ll ride high at moments, and suffer much in the end, but there’s no business like the one of loving someone. The other will always be worthier than thou.

Learning that some 1,200 American children have been killed since the Parkland shooting, and that only a few states, including Florida, have passed somewhat restrictive gun control legislation, doesn’t seem too encouraging, after such a tragedy. But that’s only part of the story.
Since then, we’ve got to know Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Sam Zelf, Cameron Kasky, and others, survivors who became national leaders for gun laws, with the moral authority to demand change. That Congress still remains unmoved by any of that is typical but hopefully won’t last.
These kids didn’t sit still. Throughout 2018, they led several national mass rallies, calling for action from Washington, to prevent another afternoon like the one they’ve endured. (more)
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Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Leader of the Precious Few, Colltalers

‘I’ll never let you down,’ Trump told a roomful of enthusiastic believers at the National Prayer Breakfast (er, club?) last week. It was another cue for the religious right to express approval for a morally broken leader, just because he can help carry their agenda.
Neither he nor them seem interested in the explosion of opioid overdoses throughout the country; the extreme weather created by climate change; or, heaven forbid, this Black History month. They want to outlaw abortion and he, a wall and maybe another war.
In a nutshell, that may characterize the priorities of a special interest group, and a president, who, despite representing a minority of the U.S. population, are highly invested on turning this country into their own image. Needless to say, they’re both bound to fail.
Not just that almost 30% of Americans are not religiously affiliated, or call themselves atheists – known as ‘nones’ -, according to Harris, the Pew Research, and other polls, but also that not even all Republicans are 100% behind the president’s stated priorities.
The estimated 36 million to 55 million nones are already a sizable percentage of the population, compared to Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists. In other words, a powerful voting contingent that is increasingly demanding to be heard.
The trend is even more pronounced globally. In 2016, the National Geographic proclaimed, rather exaggeratedly, that nones are already the world’s biggest ‘religious’ group. A closer read Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Beware the Snake Oil Pitch, Colltalers

President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address, in 2009, was about a healthcare proposal that’d cover for at least a few years over 20 million of uninsured Americans, despite fierce opposition. It was also the first time he was called a liar in public.
Tomorrow’s SOTU, however, Trump’s second, is expected to be about at least three debunked lies: that there’s a border invasion; that immigration is our biggest problem; and a national emergency needs to be declared. No one may call him out on that though.
Whether Democrats should, is up to contention. What is not is whether Americans are given the full picture about what it really means to send even more money to turn our borders into war zones, and troops to try to top a foreign government as in Venezuela.
That at this point, in the third year of the Trump administration, we’re cherry picking which of his lies has the most impact on the future shows that these are pretty treacherous times. Whereas Obama was in fact telling the truth, and Obamacare did save lives, the current White House occupant is ready to send more Americans to die abroad, along the most valuable truths about this nation.
Ideals of solidarity among people, of self determination, and specially, the sacred concept of sovereignty, are being gutted by this president. But few see Republicans growing a spine and wrestling their party away from him. Instead, they’ll stand up and applaud.
The word ‘wall’ is also expected to be uttered a few too many times, and so is calls of innocence (the president never wastes a public forum without saying that ‘there’s no collusion’ with Russia). Plus any one out of his 2018 average of 15 daily false claims.
The 35-day, longest shutdown in U.S. history, which wound up costing $11 billion to the economy, ruined the holidays of almost a million public employees, while stiffing thousands of contractors, will also be missing from the teleprompter. Even more unlikely Continue reading

You Once Belonged

50 Years Ago Today, 
Beatles Called it Quits

It was the last time they played together but no one knew it then. Their first public performance in over three years. And yes, it’s now been half a century ago. If they used to make us feel forever young, now they date us. But so does life.
It’s likely that great part of the living today wasn’t around then yet. And countless who were, have already ended their journey. For those in between, though, what a feeling having had The Beatles around to create the soundtrack of our early dreams.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, were concluding one of the most recounted musical trajectories of all times. And way before their century was over too, they’d inscribed their names at the heart of an entire generation.
They were as important for their times as any band will ever be, possibly without peers. Art was then as vital as it ever was, but popular music had ascended to heights of relevance no other artistic manifestation could have in such a short span.
What felt like a long and defining trajectory feels now like happenstance, when musicianship and popular expression reached critical mass. And changed the times. Or so it felt. More than the memory, what remains now, and still counts, is their music.
It was great while it lasted, and you know, it felt really good indeed. Now it’s a half proud feeling of having paid attention to, and
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experienced, something we still gladly enjoy and find meaningful ways to relate to, after all those years.
The Rooftop Concert, an impromptu 42-minute session of just a few songs, became their sign-off to the role of ‘Beatles,’ to the obligation of being on top forever, and to the era. It was also their entry into what could have been, had it not happened.
In the end, it may appear that those businessmen who complained about ‘the noise,’ won over the moment. The world is as grey and cold as it was at 3 Savile Row, London, on Jan. 30, 1969. But only if you can’t listen to their music. They tell another, much better, story.

Curtain Raiser

Buried By the Mud, Colltalers

The year is still new but the news have surely changed little. 2018 is on track to be history’s fourth hottest, and the Yemen carnage, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Syria’s hell-for-all but Bashar al-Assad, are still going strong. Talk, as usual, remains cheap.
The Trump-induced government shutdown is on hold for now, though, and so is the U.K.’s mind-boggling Brexit wreck, and that’s probably good. But an environmental tragedy in Brazil, and a coup in Venezuela, will maintain world tensions steadily simmering.
As Russia and China warned the U.S. that an intervention in Venezuela won’t be tolerated, it now also feels like we’re back to Cold War geopolitical games: ‘don’t touch my back and I won’t touch yours.’ Using the same playbook, the ‘triumvirate of bigotry’ (ops), Trump, John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo, is already preparing a fresh conflict to divert focus at home and seize the narrative abroad.
No one expects a numeral change to automatically trigger a new direction to the world. Just as thoughts and prayers won’t make anyone more deserving of some ‘divine grace,’ than those who, without a thought, dive straight into the void to try saving a life.
One thing is understanding that every new day hits the ground running, though, and it’s up to us to turn it into a rewarding spin. Another is to come back from an almost drowning jump into the sea, only to be hit hard by tons of water from a massive wave.
We’re humans and need breathing breaks, or we don’t survive. It’s crucial to be aware of what’s going on around us, but let’s not lose sight of the horizon and its possibilities. Even die-hard pessimists have their moment of clarity, and confidence in the future.
It’s during these rare instants that we realize the amazing people who are now sharing the trenches with us. The U.S.’ youngest representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ebullient in her quest for a big change in American politics, is certainly among them. And so is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist, who’s become a seasoned champion for climate change awareness.
That’s the same arena where the Maldives’ former president, Mohamed Nasheed, has been battling for years. And, on the other side of the age spectrum, there’s also the brilliant linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, speaking truth to power for several decades now.
There are good news about the race to beat Trump in 2020, too: most candidates jumping in are women, empowered by a huge demographics with potential to do way more than breaking the glass ceiling. And there are many scientists, inventors, and even Continue reading