Rich Wilhelm

Posts Tagged ‘politics’

2018: The Year of Taking Better Notes

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2018 at 10:20 pm

Here we have two notebooks that I made from a box that contained a six-pack of Fireside Chat winter spiced ale, made by 21st Amendment Brewery. I hope to take better notes in these notebooks.

As the end of 2017 approached, I began to feel like I had not accomplished anything all year. I was feeling like I had nothing to show for the year.

This was not an accurate feeling. Throughout the year, I continued to be a husband and dad to the best of my ability on any given day. I continued to be a news editor, even traveling to New Orleans one week to do that job. I gave tours at Laurel Hill Cemetery and I made and mailed Really Cool Notebooks to every corner of this country and beyond. I have largely shown up for the various roles and responsibilities I have in my life.

But I did realize there was something that I did not do in 2017. I did not take good notes. Days and weeks passed by in which I didn’t write in a journal, didn’t post any blog entries, didn’t really check in with myself. Which is perfectly fine, except that, as someone who someone who considers himself a writer, I ought to have done more.

Also, I didn’t read much this year. I read one book — the fascinating Lincoln in the Bardo — and that’s it.

Really, though, I read quite a bit. Nearly all that reading though, was online news stories.

Therein lies the problem. In order to try to keep up with a very weird year, I gave myself over to the task of simply trying to keep up with the ongoing saga emanating from Washington, D.C. And Mar-a-Lago. And various other golf clubs.

In short, I spent an inordinate amount of time tracking the activities of our president. But I’m done with that.

Don’t get me wrong. I am going to continue to follow the current situation, and to try to continue to voice my concerns and to figure out what I can do to make a positive contribution to our country and world right now.

At the same time though, I think I need to cut down on my grim fascination with the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. And I think I need to recover whatever part of myself I feel has been lost in the shuffle of 2017.

I’m not doing this to bury my head in the sand, but to find a way to be more engaged that simply staring with bemused horror at stories of the latest inanity.

The way forward for me is, I think, to find ways to be more positively engaged in the world around me and in the world within me. And, as this is happening, to take better notes.

If I do start taking better notes — real, pen-to-paper notes, maybe even in the “Fireside Chat” beer box notebooks shown in the photo above, that is — I will hopefully occasionally organize those thoughts into entries for this blog. I make no promises, but I’ll give this a shot.

Here’s to a productive, positive 2018 for us all!


Living in America?

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2017 at 8:55 pm

I dropped by the local McDonald’s today for a quick lunch. I should avoid fast food, but McDonald’s has a new menu item that I had to try. The Mac Jr. To understand why I need to try this burger, I have to go back a few decades, to the early 1980s.

During those years, I worked at McDonald’s. When I’d go on breaks, I’d often make what I called (at least to myself) a “Li’l Mac.” Basically this was a single burger Big Mac and, at the time, I found it to be delicious. Just the perfect burger, particularly if I wasn’t working long enough hours that day to qualify for a complete Big Mac during my break time.

Incidentally, during my Li’l Mac-making years, President Ronald Reagan was talking tough about Russia. Remember when Reagan joked that he had just signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever, and that bombing would begin in five minutes? That was cute, right?

While I sampled the Mac Jr. (not bad, but it’s no Li’l Mac),  the muted overhead television was showing CNN coverage of President Trump’s freshly signed travel ban executive order. You know the one, in which people from certain Muslim-dominated countries, are not going to be admitted into the United States. Of course, excluded from the travel ban is Saudi Arabia, the country from which most of the 9/11 hijackers emerged, but also a country with which Trump has done a fair amount of business. But I’m sure there is some other, alternative reason, having nothing to do with Trump’s business interests, that led to this exclusion.

As I watched the reports of uncertainty over which huddled masses are actually allowed to be in this country right now, James Brown’s 1985 hit song, “Living in America” was playing over the sound system. A song that was a huge hit back in Reagan’s America.

This is not some alternative fact that I cooked up to insert irony into this essay. It actually happened.

James Brown did not write “Living in America,” but one of the key lyrics (written by Charles Kaufman, Charlie Midnight and Dan Hartman) notes,

“You may not be looking for the promised land/But you might find it anyway/Under those old familiar names, like…”

Brown then shouts out the names of nine major American cities. Some of which may even be “sanctuary cities” today.

It’s probably worth noting at this point that “Living in America” was featured in Rocky IV, the movie in which Russian boxer Ivan Drago kills American boxer Apollo Creed in the ring. Rocky then steps in the ring to avenge Creed’s death. Cold war metaphors abound.

Speaking of which, Trump plans on speaking with Russian leader Vladimir Putin today. I’m sure that will go well, given that both Trump and Putin are upright, decent guys.

So what’s my point? I’m not even sure that I have one yet, other than thinking that, as much as I did not love Ronald Reagan or his policies–and I will not pretend I did–I don’t think Reagan would recognize the dark, cold, and pessimistic vision of the United States that Donald Trump endorsed this week each time he signed an executive order. This is in no way “morning in America,” and in the end, these actions will not “make America great again.”

Living in America? I’m not so sure that I  am right now.




MonkDay 001

In MonkDays, Thelonious Monk on November 15, 2016 at 12:34 am

MonkDay 001, 11/14/16

I am a fan of the brilliant jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. There is something about his music that gets deep into my soul, as great music will do. Oddly though, Monk’s work burrows deep into my brain as well. It’s hard to explain, but I can practically feel the neurons firing up when I listen to Monk.

I often listen to Monk albums on Mondays, or as I like to call them, MonkDays. Again, I don’t quite understand the logic or science behind this, if there is any, but Monk’s languid ballads and twisty-turny upbeat numbers are the perfect soundtrack for me to reset my brain for the week ahead.

After all the tumult of last week–and I will not be naming names and events here–a solid blast of Thelonious seemed to be exactly what I needed to move forward. In fact, I’m thinking that a weekly Monday evening “MonkDay” blog entry might be just what I need, for at least the next four years. But again, I don’t necessarily plan to get all political here. Philosophical, yeah. Political, probably not. At least not directly.

One unusual result of the Event from Last Week, is that many people seem to be doing some soul-searching. I’m thinking my MonkDays will be a vehicle for my soul searching. You’re welcome to join me if you like.

On that note, I will close for now, but not before noting the Thelonious albums I listened to today:

Genius of Modern Music Vol 1, Blue Note, 1956

Genius of Modern Music Vol 2, Blue Note, 1956

Monk’s Dream, Columbia, 1963

And, finally, here’s “Epistrophy,” from Genius of Modern Music Vol 1:




There Is No Way in Hell I Will Ever Vote for Donald Trump

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2016 at 12:40 pm

There is no way in hell that I will ever vote for Donald Trump. For any office, anywhere, anytime. Voting for Donald Trump is a thing that I simply will not be doing in this, or any other lifetime.

If you are committed to vote for Trump, if you really believe that he will “make America great again,” well then, go for it. I am not writing this to stop you.

I am essentially writing this so it is part of my own permanent record. If people stumble onto this blog one year, 10 years, 50 years from now, I want them to see that I was not down with Trump. I want to be able to see it for myself.

[I would also like to note that if the Republicans had chosen any of the 129 other contenders to run against Hillary as their nominee, I probably wouldn’t have felt the need to write this essay. But Trump, well, he’s just special enough for me to want to go on record.]

If you look through my 2016 entries here on The Dichotomy of Dog, you’ll see that I was relatively prolific from January-June. I had committed myself to posting an entry at least once a week and I basically did that.

I kept up with the blog during that period because I was personally going through some things (both good and bad), and we were going through some things as a family (also both good and bad), and I wanted to capture my thoughts on those things, at least those thoughts that I was willing to share.

What you won’t find in any of those entries is a mention of Donald Trump specifically, or the presidential primaries in general. I wasn’t going for political pontification, but Trump and company were always in the background of my thoughts as I was working through the personal stuff.

However, I can no longer allow the blog to exist without making the aforementioned statement:

There is no way in hell I will ever vote for Donald Trump. For any office, anywhere, anytime.

The reasons why? Far too many to count. Mostly though, the man is simply unfit to hold the office and he has conducted himself in a way that has proved this, over and over again.

Now, I know: Hillary Clinton. I have mixed feelings, though if you are a Trump fan, I think it’s a safe bet to say that I like Clinton more than you do (also, it’s a safe bet that I like Yoko Ono more that you do, but that’s a separate essay). Clinton has clearly made mistakes, including some big ones. Yes, I have reservations. But Clinton has my vote. We have had flawed presidents before and we have survived. We will survive Hillary Clinton. In fact, I think we’ll be fine, but I will dial that feeling down to “will survive” for the sake of this entry.

We’d probably survive Trump as well–the U.S. is resilient like that, which is part of the greatness Trump believes is gone–but I believe we’d collectively be a nastier, more morally diminished society by the end of a Trump term.

Finally, I am not saying that Trump hasn’t tapped into a legitimate anger. He has, and that should be addressed by Clinton. This anger, or at least the part of it that isn’t based solely on racism, xenophobia and/or general looniness, should be a part of the national conversation, now and into the future. The Democrats talk about inclusion, and that inclusion should clearly include many of the economically disenfranchised people Trump is reaching. However, based on pretty much everything Donald Trump has said and done over the last year, and over the course of his lifetime, he is not the man to lead this conversation, since his only real focus is how to manipulate the fear and anger to achieve his own ultimately shallow aims.

So, once more, and this is the last time I will say it, because from now on I will simply refer anyone who wants to know my views to this essay:

There is no way in hell I will ever vote for Donald Trump. For any office, anywhere, anytime.





Laurel Hill Tales #001: William Duane

In American history, cemeteries, Laurel Hill Cemetery, politics, presidential elections, Uncategorized on March 6, 2016 at 4:33 am

Over the course of the last month, I have gotten into a comfortable habit of having my dog wake me up way too early on Sunday morning, walking her, then returning home to drink a cup of coffee and type some words into this blog. It’s now Saturday night and Jolie will still wake me up way early tomorrow morning, but I’ll be headed to Laurel Hill Cemetery to help out with a new tour guide presentation, so I will post tonight instead. As soon as I take Jolie out for her “Jolie After Dark” moment. Stay tuned.

Two minutes later…

OK. So, Jolie has had her moment, I have brewed a cupajoe, I’m listening to side three of the Thank God It’s Friday soundtrack and I’m ready to tell the story of William Duane, a permanent resident at Laurel Hill Cemetery. Tonight, I’m apparently all about cultish disco film soundtracks and rabble-rousing anti-federalist journalists. Huzzah!

As last Thursday’s G.O.P. debate aptly demonstrated, we are living through a period of serious political ugliness. No stone is being left unturned, no bit of a certain candidate’s anatomy is being left unmeasured.

In light of this electoral chaos, some concerned citizens have called for a return to decorum in national discourse. There are those who fear that the coarse behavior we’ve recently seen on the campaign trail and on debate stages is beneath us as a country and I certainly can’t say I disagree. And, of course, many people feel strongly that sex, politics and religion remain the three topics that shouldn’t be discussed around the dinner table. Or on Facebook.

However, the truth is we can’t return to something that never really existed. The political process in the United States has always been noisy and raucous.  The people, the politicians and the press have all done their part throughout this country’s history to add to the obnoxiousness.

Need an example? Let’s go way back to William Duane. Born in upstate New York in 1760, as a young man Duane journeyed to Ireland to learn how to become a printer. From there, Duane headed off to Calcutta, India and became a newspaper editor.

Duane’s stint in India ended in deportation, after the local government took issue with some of his criticism. Duane wound up in Philadelphia, editing a newspaper called the Aurora with Benjamin Franklin Bache, grandson of Philadelphia’s most famous citizen. Duane took over the Aurora following Bache’s early demise (and married Bache’s widow) and continued Bache’s legacy with a newspaper that railed against the Federalist administrations of George Washington and John Adams.

That’s right. William Duane didn’t care for the Father of Our Country or his successor and was happy to let readers of the Aurora know this at every opportunity.

The Aurora‘s tirades continued into the Adams administration, so much so that Duane was arrested twice for violating Adams’ infamous Alien and Sedition Acts.  Undeterred, Duane promptly turned his newspaper’s attention to the defeat of John Adams to his vice president, Thomas Jefferson, in the very nasty presidential election of 1800. Charges against Duane were dismissed after Jefferson took office.

And so it goes. The business of electing a president in these United States has always been at least just-slightly-crazy. And sometimes crazier, as Decision 2016 is demonstrating. And, while I have no idea what words William Duane, now resting peacefully at Laurel Hill, would have for Donald Trump, I think Duane would vote down on decorum and up for noise.

Two final notes on William Duane. First, after retiring from the Aurora in 1822, Duane traveled extensively in South America, eventually writing a book about his adventures. Finally, he had a son, William J. Duane–also buried at Laurel Hill–who had the temerity to tangle with President Andrew Jackson on banking issues. But that is a tale for another time.







Patrick F. O'Donnell

writer, editor, general wordsmith and scribe

A. Panda's Tiki Lounge

A resource for all things Polynesian and Tiki

Sons of Saxer

"For Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Championships"


Talkin' Shit, Bein Dope and Keepin it Real

talking points

Started as a political blog. Added sports. Now it's just what I feel like writing about.

Yeah, Another Blogger

An Arts-Filled, Tasty And Sometimes-Loopy Jaunt Through Life

Vintage, Retro & Cool Old Places worth visiting!

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture


A creative guy, looking for a few good records

Reading & Writing With Teacher Corey.

Philadelphia Teaching Adventures.

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

a writer with a camera, living in new orleans

Listen Up!

Listen Up! airs live on G-Town Radio ( every Wednesday from 2pm to 4pm EST

1 Picture, 217 Words

This site is the cat’s pajamas

Music for the Hard of Hearing

Trust me. It's good for you.