Laffing it Up

November 25, 2015 by Ernie McCray

Laff it up! - Hubba Jubba decalBy Ernie McCray

My mother used to say “Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying,” and when I think back on our days of second-class citizenship she sure wasn’t lying.

The other day Maria and I gave in to that old adage as we laughed about this and that, whiling the time away during her stay in a little two-bed hospital room at Scripps Mercy, worrying about what the doctor might say.

We started laughing ourselves silly listening to a woman’s (Maria’s roommate) emotional and animated conversation in Cantonese, with all the rhythmic inflections and rapidly changing nuances intertwined.

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Clinton and the New Democrats’ Tired Third Way

November 23, 2015 by Jim Miller

dem socialismBy Jim Miller

Recently I noted how movements like the Fight for $15 and the insurgent Bernie Sanders campaign have revealed a widespread thirst for an overtly left politics that makes the battle against the billionaire class a central rallying cry.

Indeed, Sanders has continued to force Hillary Clinton to tack to the left on multiple issues, and he has had a genuinely transformative impact on the national political discourse by unashamedly bringing democratic socialism to the stage.

This is why Harold Meyerson argues that the Sanders’s campaign represents “the largest specifically left mobilization—and by ‘specifically left’ I mean it demands major changes in the distribution of income and wealth and major reforms to U.S. capitalism—that the nation has seen in at least half a century.”

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Can Our Children Learn to Study War No More from Mice?

November 17, 2015 by Ernie McCray

Mural of two young girls writing "PLEASE NO MORE WAR" "LOVE" on a wall (Photo: txindoki/Flickr/cc)

By Ernie McCray

As we opened our hearts, this past Veteran’s Day, to our nation’s warriors with hearty “Thank you for your service” like cliches, alongside heaping praise on them for being strong heroic and brave – I kept thinking of two young men I met a little over a decade ago.

They were among the first to die in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I met them at career fairs at their schools, while I was sitting at a table letting kids know that they …

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A Renaissance Man in a Sports Hall of Fame

November 12, 2015 by Ernie McCray

FTS Dave BaldwinBy Ernie McCray

One of my most cherished honors is being among some pretty good Wildcat athletes in the “University of Arizona Sports Hall of Fame.”

I’m a member because I could snatch rebounds like a machine and get the ball in the hoop as a routine. But what does it really mean? For me, it hasn’t been something I’ve thought that much about day to day.

But a few months ago I got a little excited seeing a very familiar name on the list of super-jocks who were to join the club this year.

Dave Baldwin is the name. Pitching a baseball was his game. And I’m stoked that he and I are going to be in such a place of esteem together – because we go back before our college days, back to the Class of ’56 at Tucson High. Back to when I was stepping high, doing teenage boy things, testosteroned to the bone.

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What Do You Mean It’s Too Early for Dinner? Daylight Savings Takes Its Toll

November 4, 2015 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for What Do You Mean It’s Too Early for Dinner? Daylight Savings Takes Its Toll

By Judi Curry

Once again we set our clocks back an hour last Sunday, but my dog Shadow cannot help but wonder why, just the other day, it was okay to have dinner at 6:00pm only to find that today he cannot have dinner at the same time. He said that he is not a farmer that needs more daylight to farm his crops.

In fact, my very intelligent dog said that there are very few small farms left in the entire United States that are maintained by Mom and Pop operations that need their children to help pull in the crops.

Many people, as well as animals, intensely dislike Daylight Saving Time.

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The Day After the Day of the Dead

November 2, 2015 by Jim Miller

day of the dead robot

By Jim Miller

It’s the day after the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday which traditionally is both a time of remembrance of lost loved ones and a moment when the dead mock the pretenses of the living. Death is the leveler of rich and poor, proud and humble.

It reminds us that, in the end, all our bones are equal.

As Octavio Paz observes in “The Day of the Dead” from his classic book The Labyrinth of Solitude, “Death is a mirror which reflects the vain gesticulations of the living. The whole motley confusion of acts, omissions, regrets and hopes which is the life of each of us finds in death, not meaning or explanation, but an end.”

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The Widder Curry Bids a Fond Farewell to Director of Ft. Rosecrans Cemetery

October 26, 2015 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for The Widder Curry Bids a Fond Farewell to Director of Ft. Rosecrans Cemetery

By Judi Curry

On August 21, 2012 I wrote my first article about the deplorable conditions at Fort Rosecrans Cemetery. The trees we dying; the grass was dying; and the one place I found solace after my husband Bob’s death was no more.

On August 15, 2014, I wrote a subsequent article about the same place, still unhappy about the conditions of the cemetery. I sent a copy of that article to Doug Ledbetter, the Director of the Cemetery, and what followed was a miraculous change for the better. (Not because of my letter, but because Doug also recognized the problems and set forth to correct them.)

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Sunshine/Noir II: A Continuing Exploration of Literary San Diego and Tijuana

October 12, 2015 by Jim Miller

San Diego City Works Press Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Anthology:
“Sunshine/Noir II: Writing From San Diego and Tijuana”

Friday, October 16th at the Glashaus Mainspace
1815 Main Street in Barrio Logan
Sunshine Noir IIBy Jim Miller

This fall, San Diego City Works Press marks its 10th anniversary with the release of Sunshine/Noir II: Writing from San Diego and Tijuana, an anthology of local writing about San Diego edited by Kelly Mayhew and myself.

As we note in the introduction to the anthology:

It’s been ten years since San Diego City Works Press published its first book, Sunshine/Noir: Writing from San Diego and Tijuana and, much to our surprise in many ways, we are still here.

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Taking the Leap: Imagine a New World

September 28, 2015 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for Taking the Leap: Imagine a New World

By Jim Miller

Last week the Pope came to America and delivered his groundbreaking message about the interrelated problems of climate change and economic inequality as well as the moral imperative to act to address them.

We heard this message at the same time we learned that we have lost half the world’s marine animals since 1970 and that Exxon’s own research had confirmed the human role in climate change decades ago even as they were heavily funding efforts to block solutions.

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Answering Earth’s Call: An Interfaith Forum on Climate Justice

September 21, 2015 by Jim Miller

interfaith treeBy Jim Miller

Drawing inspiration from Pope Francis’s encyclical, the San Diego Coalition to Preserve our Common Home (SDCPCH) is holding an interfaith forum on climate justice this Thursday, September 24th at 7:00 PM at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The SDCPCH is comprised of people from many faith traditions as well as activists from local environmental, labor, and social justice organizations.

We’re presenting this forum in the face of increasing opposition to climate action on the part of those linked to fossil fuel interests. As Joe Romm recently pointed out in Climate Progress, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and his allies now “apparently believe the role of the ‘exceptional’ and ‘indispensable’ nation is to actively work to undermine the world’s best chance to save billions of people — including generations of Americans — from needless misery.” This is, Romm rightly notes, extraordinary:

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Against Work: We Need to Stop Glorifying the Wasting of Our Lives

September 14, 2015 by Jim Miller

worked to deathBy Jim Miller

Recently the New York Times did a thorough exposé of life inside Amazon’s “bruising workplace” where the managers celebrate what they call “Purposeful Darwinism.”

The focus of the piece was not on the poor folks turning around the goods in the warehouses but on the presumably more privileged white-collar workers who are encouraged to regularly challenge and report on one another when they are not busy answering texts at 3:00 AM or pushing themselves to work 80 hours a week.

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How Can We Call Our Country Great When There’s No Equality and Justice for All?

September 9, 2015 by Ernie McCray
Thumbnail image for How Can We Call Our Country Great When There’s No Equality and Justice for All?

By Ernie McCray

Donald Trump, on the stump, has been talking about making “America great again.”

And I’m thinking, again? We were great once and that greatness came to an end? When? I mean, I’ve been hearing about how great America is all my life, with no let up.

And I was a believer for a while, with all the fireworks and all. All the parades. All the “Oh say can you see” at the beginning of games and “God bless America” at the 7th inning stretch near the end.

And we love to say “That’s what makes America great” or “Only in America,” especially when some one of us: takes to a stage and makes us cry or laugh or jump up and boogie; gives forth with paintings and sculptures that are pleasing to our souls and our eyes; wins a noteworthy award like the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Happy Labor Day? The Jury is Still Out

September 7, 2015 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Toward the end of June, as many liberals were cheering the Supreme Court’s unexpectedly nonpartisan legalization of same-sex marriage and its equally surprising upholding of the Affordable Care Act, they missed the signal of some potentially very bad news to come this fall.

Indeed, while it was fun to see the Republicans being frustrated by a high court of their own making, that very same court reserved the right to bring some serious pain to progressives for the long term by agreeing to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in its next session.

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Straight Outta Compton to Right Now

August 27, 2015 by Ernie McCray


By Ernie McCray

I saw Straight Outta Compton
the other night.
It was a trip, fly, tight.
Got to it
from the git with
“You are now about to
witness the strength of
street knowledge”
coming through the theater’s
wall rattling
surround sound
with funky

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Why Teach? In Defense of the Public Good

August 24, 2015 by Jim Miller


By Jim Miller

These days it seems a new school year can’t start without being greeted by yet another pronouncement that my profession and/or higher education itself is heading for the dustbin of history.

Last year around this time, I pondered the proclaimed death of the English major and this year the front page of the most recent issue of Harper’s is bemoaning “The Neoliberal Arts: How College Sold Its Soul.”

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A Nice Little Trip Up Highway 1

August 21, 2015 by Ernie McCray
Thumbnail image for A Nice Little Trip Up Highway 1

By Ernie McCray

Maria and I just got back from San Francisco, my favorite city on the globe, and as far as road trips go, this one was as pleasant as it gets.

The weather was like a gift from Mother Nature herself, an absolute delight, so warm and embracing, featuring cool breezes in the late afternoons and at night.

The trip got underway on the 805, at Governor Drive, then came the merge with I-5, just an hour or so away from the 405, which drops down to the 101 which takes you to Highway 1 for the real fun: a drive alongside the ocean and on cliffs high above it, privy to jaw-dropping views that exhilarate your very soul, your spirituality.

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Staring Over the Brink: Obama, Brown, and High Stakes Climate Politics

August 10, 2015 by Jim Miller

on the brink 2By Jim Miller

President Obama made big news last week when he unveiled his plan to significantly reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants as part of his strategy to address the climate crisis. His speech was urgent, moving in fact, and showed that, at least rhetorically, he is committed to making this part of his legacy:

[W]e’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it. And that’s why I committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge, because I believe there is such a thing as being too late.

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Ten Moments in Places that No Longer Exist in Downtown San Diego – Summer Chronicles #7

August 3, 2015 by Jim Miller

The maps of our memories fray like fine gauze

open signBy Jim Miller

We are where we are from. Place, our place or “home,” gives us a sense of rootedness and identity, but it is also transient, always moving and changing as we ride the river of time and space.

Some places are fundamentally grounded in a central idea of what “home” is, of what defines a locality—the people in such places hold fast, perhaps futilely, to some notion of what it means to be there.

Not us though, not here in San Diego where history and tradition outside of empty tourist spectacles are cast off like a snakeskin and our sense of place is transformed by the whims of boosters and marketing schemes, sometimes erasing whole communities in the service of civic marketing.

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Thankful That I Have No Regrets Such as These

July 31, 2015 by Ernie McCray
Thumbnail image for Thankful That I Have No Regrets Such as These

by Ernie McCray

The other day I saw a graphic on facebook titled the “Top Five Regrets of the Dying” and they are:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Oh, how sad to be burdened in one’s last days with regrets such as these. My heart goes out to anyone who suffers such disappointments. I can see how one might regret that he or she didn’t travel more or go for a doctorate degree or blew some opportunity to hit it rich or the like.

But I can’t imagine living a life not true to oneself, or a life according to someone else’s desires. I mean I’ve gone after all my hopes and dreams, full-out, simply as me. Who else could I be?

I sure couldn’t have been that foot shuffling “Yassuh, Massa” character Jim Crow wanted me to be.

And it had nothing to do with “courage.” It was just me being me.

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PETA Opposes SeaWorld Orca Habitat Expansion at Coastal Commission

July 24, 2015 by Source
Thumbnail image for PETA Opposes SeaWorld Orca Habitat Expansion at Coastal Commission

by James Sullivan/ Science Recorder / July 24, 2015

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has asked that the California Coastal Commission reject SeaWorld San Diego’s efforts to expand its killer whale tanks.

The project is estimated at $100 million, to be completed in 2018, but has yet to received endorsement from the Coastal Commission.

“This item has been postponed because of all the information submitted,” said commissioner Alex Llerandi.

“The coastal staff is taking the time to ensure all potential issues and viewpoints are considered in any final recommendations.”

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Summer Chronicles 4: Mourning Time: Animals Are Passing From Our Lives

July 13, 2015 by Jim Miller

extinctionBy Jim Miller

Last summer about this time, I did a couple of pieces about the clear prospect that we are in the midst of the sixth extinction. Since then, the news has continued to get worse, with a recent study showing that the current rate of extinction is ample cause for alarm.

In “Vertebrate Biodiversity Losses Point to a Sixth Mass Extinction” published in Biodiversity and Conservation Malcolm McCallum summarizes recent findings succinctly when he writes that “the great speed with which vertebrate biodiversity is being decimated are comparable to the devastation of previous extinction events.”

More concretely, that means we have bid adieu to:

  • the Golden Toad,
  • the Baoji Dolphin,
  • the Hawaiian Crow,
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Remembering a Track Star’s Granddad

July 8, 2015 by Ernie McCray

Thomas, Carl & Me

By Ernie McCray

I’ve been thinking about an old departed friend. My best friend. Thomas Ross. Loved the dude although we were dissimilar in some ways. He was stocky and bear-like strong and prone to growl every now and then and I was sinewy and laid back, trying to live life with a grin.

Anyway, he’s been on my mind because his son, Ron, keeps me posted on his grandson, Tavian, who’s got college track coaches salivating to beat the band because the dude recently ran the 400 in forty-seven-point-six seconds (47.60).

Thomas would say to that: “The dude can step, Jack!” He would be so proud of his progeny. Especially since he’s doing his thing for Tucson High, our old high school. And, we were pretty decent jocks too. Football. Basketball. All-State and all. Living the life, strutting down the hall, wearing the big red “T.” “Badgers” to the bone!

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Summer Chronicles #3: The Wonders of the Invisible World

July 6, 2015 by Jim Miller

subatomic particle2By Jim Miller

Just when you think you can go about your daily routine unmolested, you come across an article while you are having your morning cup of coffee telling you that, “Scientists show that future events decide what happens in the past.”

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Poetry at a Budget Meeting of San Diego School Board Members

June 30, 2015 by Ernie McCray


By Ernie McCray

I had the honor of spending a day with a room full of progressive School Board Members from around San Diego County.

I wasn’t so sure, at first, as the subject was: Budgets.

Whenever I got my budget sheets at my schools, it might as well have been expressed in hieroglyphics – I just can’t relate to language like “Total Available Funds minus Total Outgo.” Gives me vertigo.

I was there, though, to kick things off. And in doing that I shared three poems and one went like this:

Our schools now,
at this stage
of a rapidly aging New Century,
are about to introduce
our kids
to the realm of Ethnic Studies.
Sure does
make sense to me

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Summer Chronicles #2: That Music You Are Hearing is the Grateful Dead

June 29, 2015 by Jim Miller

TranslucentBy Jim Miller

Gary Snyder is a courage teacher. His fine new book of poems, This Present Moment, is a meditation on wonder and impermanence. In it, for instance, we learn to value our laptops –

“Because whole worlds of writing can be boldly laid out and then highlighted/and vanish in the flash at ‘delete,’/so it teaches of impermanence and pain.”

And it’s true, the miracle of creation that comes out of “a formless face/which is our Original Face,” but as soon as the words are formed the self who made them is no longer there.

Still there is beauty, and moments of grace are there to be found and cherished in “the morning and night coming together,” the “glacier scrapes across the bedrock,” and “the deep dense woods.” You just need to follow “the shining way of the wild” and “hang in, work it out, watch for the moment.”

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Chipping Away at “The Black Problem”

June 26, 2015 by Ernie McCray

Angela Y

By Ernie McCray

The madness in Charleston, to me, is so much deja vu because blacks being shot or bombed where they worship and pray is not something that’s new here in the USA.

In no way. These atrocities started, practically, when they shoved us off the ships to pick cotton, way, way back in the day.

And where’s a good place to find a lot of us to slay? Church. Makes sense to a hateful evil-minded KKK kind of person who all of a sudden, out of his madness, just can’t stand to see a Negro alive.

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Summer Chronicles #1: The Day After Father’s Day

June 22, 2015 by Jim Miller

sad-fathers-dayBy Jim Miller

In the summer of 1967, the great Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector, began a seven year stint as a writer for Jornal de Brasil [The Brazilian News ] not as a reporter but as a writer of “chronicles,”a genre peculiar to Brazil.

As Giovanni Pontiero puts it in the preface to Selected Chrônicas, a chronicle:

“allows poets and writers to address a wider readership on a vast range of topics and themes. The general tone is one of greater freedom and intimacy than one finds in comparable articles or columns in the European or U.S. Press.”

What Lispector left us with is an eccentric collection of “aphorisms, diary entries, reminiscences, travel notes, interviews, serialized stories, essays, loosely defined as chronicles.”

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Don’t We All Have the Right to be Left Alone?

June 22, 2015 by Ernie McCray

Respect Human RightsBy Ernie McCray

Someone on Facebook posted, regarding the recent “pool party” event in McKinney, Texas: “If you don’t like the interaction you’re having with the police, just trying obeying the law.”

A comment was made saying that what happened could have been avoided if the girls had just acted responsibly and obeyed the laws.

I couldn’t help but think “There are pool party laws?” But, as to “obeying the laws,” I’m down with that. I’m just opposed to somebody, who is hired to uphold the law, slamming those who don’t obey the law to the ground or kicking them in the face or choking them or executing them in the streets.

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“The Way” Won’t Cut It

June 16, 2015 by Ernie McCray

The Old and the New WayBy Ernie McCray

I ran across a graphic on Facebook the other day that broke down “32-take-away-12=20” in two different ways: the “old fashion” way and the “new” way.

The “new” way was seen as “Satanic” and, with a click onto a website, I read that Louis C.K., one of my favorite comedians, was ticked off that his daughters had gone from loving math to crying about it.

I thought, as I looked at the math visual before me and contemplated whatever it was that was going on with an incredibly funny man’s daughters at school, that both the “old fashion” way and the “new” way got to the correct answer rather nicely.

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The Clinton Playbook: Taylorism on the Campaign Trial

June 15, 2015 by Jim Miller


By Jim Miller

One of the more interesting pieces amidst the glut of ridiculously early pre-primary news stories floating around the Internet and social media was Ruby Cramer’s largely laudatory profile of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook.

Wonder boy Mook, the story tells us, is all about “a ‘new kind of organizing’” that was “going to change politics.”

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