I’ve had a lot of fun jesting about the ebola virus mass hysteria ever since somebody came down with the frightening disease in the United States. I joked that I got ebola from pumpkin spice latte, and probably a half-dozen other suspicious parties. Until today. Suddenly the contagious disease has a local connection or two. And people are frightened.
So a healthcare worker who had contact with the ebola patient who died in Dallas visited family this week in Tallmadge, Ohio (an Akron ‘burb), including some who work at Kent State University. She was diagnosed with ebola after she returned to Dallas via a plane that flew out of Cleveland. The CDC says she had no symptoms while on that flight or while visiting in NE Ohio. BUT, given the CDC’s recent performance in dealing with the ebola scare, it has a bit of a credibility problem. Was she really asymptomatic, does ebola really only transmit via bodily fluids, is it only contagious after symptoms begin to show?
Suddenly folks in Akron and Tallmadge and Kent State and anyone at Cleveland Hopkins Airport are worried about being exposed to this super-scary virus.
OK, to sum up:
One person has died from ebola in the United States. Thousands have reportedly died in continental Africa during the recent outbreak and it is not showing signs of slowing down. The CDC says the virus is only contagious via direct exposure to bodily fluids of an infected patient and that the U.S. healthcare system is vastly better prepared to contain any outbreak than the Third World is.
BUT (You saw this coming, right?):
What if the ebola virus mutates? What if we don’t really know all there is to know about this bug? I mean, ebola is a relatively new phenomenon, unlike smallpox or chickenpox or measles or the flu or the common cold. Or even AIDS. Many of these viruses can be transmitted through the air or surface contact. And many of these can be transmitted before any symptoms begin to show.
This is direct from the CDC website:
“A person with chickenpox can spread the disease from 1 to 2 days before they get the rash until all their chickenpox blisters have formed scabs.”
So what happens if ebola mutates to the point that it is transmissible 1 to 2 days before symptoms begin to show? What if it can be transmitted via a sneeze or a doorknob?
Well, then we might have cause for mass hysteria.
Those of us around in the mid-1980s and early ’90s remember the AIDS scare. At that time getting HIV/AIDS was a guaranteed death sentence. People feared it was transmissible through mosquito bites (it’s not) or kissing or simply shaking hands (not and not). Medical research improved after a few years, drugs to combat the virus became more effective and prevention of the spread of the disease got better. But in the meantime, a lot of people died. I lost several friends.
It’s still pretty early in this saga to suggest this is the next bubonic plague or one of the flu epidemics that killed millions of people in past outbreaks.
And as many pundits have correctly pointed out, thousands of people die each year from the flu and car accidents, cancer, heart disease and so forth. Yet these deadly afflictions don’t trigger mass panic.
A year from now, this could turn out to be meh, whatever.
Oh, and I just learned I got ebola from a squirrel in my yard. Little bastard!
Today’s colors weren’t quite the grandiose colors I’d hoped for, but you could find colors in the smaller picture. Behold:
I know, October is an odd time to stage the year’s maiden voyage on the bike, but circumstances (and laziness) kept me off the trail this spring and summer. This trip revealed just how out of shape I am. No surprise here. But I survived, got some pix via the Droid mini (as usual, regret not lugging the DSLR along), and got home without having a heart attack. Took a shortcut through Silver Lake to the Bike and Hike Trail along the Mighty Cuyahoga River, took a swing through Water Works Park and huffed my way home. Here is the evidence:
It had been so long since I’d been on the ol’ two-wheeler that its tires were completely flat. Not just a little low on air. Flat. But after applying some air and lubricant, both bike and rider were able to shake off the rust. It wasn’t pretty, though. According to Google Maps, it’s roughly a 5-mile round trip. Not exactly setting the world on fire, but hey! It’s a start.
I’ve noticed some pretty spectacular photos of fall colors popping up on the Intertubes lately, so I thought I’d see what there is to see locally. Stopped at a nearby spot, the High Glens Bridge over the mighty Cuyahoga River, which usually doesn’t disappoint. Well, today was a bit different. There were some bright colors to be found, but clearly we’re a week or so away from peak falls colors here. Maybe if I stray a little further from home I’ll find some better stuff. Meanwhile, some of today’s highlights with minimal editing, mostly for exposure or color correction:
So I had the eggs and the food coloring. But the ham was not to be found in the pantry or the fridge. So we’ll make do with taters. Which, it turns out, do just fine, thankyouverymuch. With all due apologies to Dr. Seuss …
Meanwhile, an eaves-dropping (literally, it dropped from the eaves) spider spied on my culinary misadventures …
One of the more famous lines from Braveheart comes when the nefarious King Edward the Longshanks quips, “The trouble with Scotland is it’s full of Scots.”
Which could explain why after 300 years of a United Kingdom, Scotland’s voters stand on the brink of voting to leave the union. I make no claim to being an expert on what goes on in the UK, but the desire among Scots to stand on their own has waxed and waned over the centuries and in recent years reached a bit of a fever pitch. Call it the Braveheart Syndrome. Of course, the movie embellishes just a bit on what actually happened, but the events depicted in the movie are “based on a true story.”
I have a bit of Scottish lineage, although I can’t say that tomorrow’s vote is likely to have a profound effect on my life. It could change things dramatically across the pond. Check out the NYT Q&A.
That image to the left is supposedly of the McAdams clan tartan. Apparently most clans have more than one tartan, each serving various purposes. I’ve never seen an actual family heirloom, which probably no longer exists, at least not one from my ancestors. And, truthfully, I’m about as Scottish as Montgomery Scott. Beam me up!
Still, it’s interesting to wonder if I were a lad from Glasgow or Edinburgh, what would I think of all this? Would I be all puffed up with nationalist pride, or would I be more worried about being isolated from the larger UK and the potential economic perils? What if Scotland is forced to stop using the Pound as its official currency?
Going off on a side note, I still get a chuckle thinking about Mike Myers’ SNL skits set in a shop of All Things Scottish. “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!” And perhaps my favorite is when he gets irate at a tourist’s ignorance, confusing Scotland and Ireland. “There’s Ireland, there’s Scotland, there’s the bloody sea. They’re bloody different!”
“Now get out!”
So what’s my point here? Eh, maybe I don’t have one.
Didn’t feel like firing up the grill, so I took the lazy man’s way out and fired up the oven. Cruised the WebOMatic and found a pretty decent recipe … here . I stayed pretty true to the dry rub recipe, but lacking a barbecue sauce, I subbed teriyaki to throw in a little Asian flavor. Not too shabby! Not sure how well it would go over in Kansas City or anywhere in the Carolinas, but a nice wrinkle on your basic ribs with a dry rub and a few generous coatings of sauce.
That is all. Next time I’ll throw in some mac and cheese and collard greens. Or the Korean equivalent.
Had a few minutes before the company party I catered Saturday to take some pix at the Akron Zoo. Alas, I didn’t have time to see the tigers or snow leopards or other exotic wild(caged)life. Maybe I’ll get another chance.
Apparently Rockin’ on the River will not return to the Falls amphitheater next year. New mayor, new regime, new directions. Last night’s show leaves only two Rockin’ on the River events to go this year. Behold some of the sights from Friday night:
And to drag out that tired cliche, a good time was had by all.
Although I know Dave Matthews’ body of work pretty well (I have every album since “Before These Crowded Streets”), and I recognized pretty much every tune the band played, only a few stand out in my memory. Was it the contact buzz from all the Mary Jane wafting about us? Probably not, because we were upwind from the source(s).
I think it might be because of what happened outside of the Pavilion.
By the time the show had gotten into its first hour, the lines for the bathrooms had gotten ridiculously long. So what does a person blessed with the proper plumbing do? That’s right, he heads for the woods. So after wandering far enough away from the crowds to avoid any indecent exposure charge, I found a sufficiently secluded spot to take care of business. Then I heard a stirring in the thorny bushes about 30 feet away. There was still enough light to see somebody on the ground, apparently tangled in the bushes. “Can I get a little help?” a male voice said, or something to that effect. “I’ll be right over,” I said.
After apparently tumbling down the hill and rolling into the thicket, he lay there in a helpless tangle, obviously inebriated. I reached into the bushes, told him to grab my hand, and pulled him out of the bushes to his feet.
Once freed from the thicket, he scampered — well, staggered — up the hill toward freedom and the amphitheater and, who knows, maybe another beer.
We were leaving the show, having had our fill of Dave Matthews and adult beverages, walking on the road toward our parking spot when we came upon a young woman passed out in the middle of the road. People were walking around her as if she were just another groundhog roadkill. For some reason, I decided to stop and try to help her. Maybe the previous rescue op had gotten into my blood.
A couple of us helped her to her feet and led her to a nearby picnic table and tried talking to her, find out if her friends knew where she was, etc. She was pretty groggy. Wasted. FUBAR.
Well, along comes a young woman offering to help. Turns out she’s a social worker. Knew all the right questions to ask. The girl had been at the show with her boyfriend who, it turns out, had bailed on her when she got too drunk to take care of herself. What a tool. Yeah, I can understand being annoyed when your date gets falling-down drunk, etc., but to just abandon her on the road? Jeez. What a tool.
The social worker managed to find the boyfriend’s number on the girl’s cell and called him. He came back, though it appeared he did so reluctantly. What a tool.
Again, the social worker asked all the right questions and gently goaded him into taking care of his girlfriend. I just wanted to smack the guy. What a tool.
I told the social worker what an awesome thing she had done, and we all went our separate ways.
I’ve seen social workers in action before, particularly when my dad was ailing and being shuttled between hospitals and rest homes and points in between. They’re the ones who deal with the nitty-gritty details everyone else is “too busy” to deal with or who don’t know where to begin in dealing with the labyrinth known as the health-care system. They are angels.
In the meantime, if I might make a suggestion to Blossom and touring bands everywhere: Make sure somebody takes a look around the place from time to time, to make sure everyone gets out of there alive. Who knows how long that guy would have remained tangled in the brush if I hadn’t answered nature’s call?
Only a month-and-a-half behind schedule, spring done finally sprung. And only a week before Mother’s Day. So we provide photographic proof. Behold:
Sometimes a sliver of the moon is more interesting than howling at a full moon. I noticed the crescent moon last night driving home from work but the clouds covered it up before I could get a shot at it. Here it is, a day later, again peeking through a veil of light clouds.
So there you have it.
Yeah, Cat Stevens came up with “moonshadow” long before I did. So?
And now for some perspective:
When there is a sustained freeze in Cuyahoga Falls, water seeping into the stone walls of the gorge along the mighty Cuyahoga River creates these cool ice formations. And when they get thick enough, they start to take on a bluish hue. There’s a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, having to do with how sunlight refracts with the ice (water) molecules, the same principal behind why deep ocean water looks blue.
I shot this about 4 p.m. Thursday from a lookover bridge off Front Street with my little ol’ Droid Mini.
The ice was just beginning to melt yesterday, and when a chunk dropped into the river, it made a spectacular crackle that resonated throughout the gorge. A photog sharing the overlook (sporting a DSLR camera) said the sound is even more impressive along the nearby walkway that descends into the gorge. I didn’t have time to explore further then, but maybe I’ll return before it all melts away. And I’ll take my DSLR next time.
With insomnia seeming to have a tight grip on me, this seems like an opportune time to write about a recent bizarro dream because, well, it’s what I do best.
So the other night or early morning, whatever, I notice a wartlike bump on the heel of my foot. Of course I pick at it a bit and it starts to scratch off, but something keeps tugging at it. So scratching some more, I manage to pull some kind of string out, continuing to tug at it until it meets some resistance. Something bigger pops out of the bottom of my heel, and while it’s not exactly painful I think, “That’s gonna leave a mark.”
It reminded me of the time I had a bout of plantar fasciitis, and I worried about triggering another episode of that. Plantar fasciitis is a relatively minor but painful condition at the bottom of the heel where the plantar fascia ligament becomes inflamed (hence the “itis” in the condition). It hurts like heck to run, and even getting out of bed can be agonizing for the first few minutes. There, your medical term lesson for the day. You’re welcome.
Ahem. Where was I? Oh, yes.
So I keep pulling, and now I can see some odd spherical things attached to some sort of fuzzy, wiry string, like beads almost, then POP! Out comes a pepper, a jalapeno, I’m thinking. And the pepper seems to have some sort of scanner code stamped on it, as if I could check it out through the local Giant Eagle store. “Hang on a sec while I run my foot past the scanner, OK? Ninety-nine cents?? But I grew it in my foot!” “I’m sorry, sir, that’s our policy. You must foot the bill.” (Insert groan here)
So, you might be wondering, what are all these objects doing in my foot and why are they coming out now more or less intact? I’m wondering the same thing.
All you armchair psychoanalysts, what do you say?
What was all that stuff doing in my leg to begin with? How did I not notice it before? What does it represent, if anything? Some impurity that I need to get rid of? Is it a latent desire to begin a backyard garden again? I should note that one of the few things I successfully grew in the past were peppers.
Then time seemed to move forward and I couldn’t find this mystery thing I had pulled out of my foot. When I woke up, I actually checked my heel to make sure there wasn’t a gaping hole it it. Nope. All clear.
As a side note, I just noticed that I’ve tended to hop back and forth between present tense and past tense in this post, but I have decided that it’s not important in this case. So deal with it.
With apologies to The Who, the AP Stylebook preaches that the proper use is “all right,” never “alright,” but I’m not writing AP copy today.
Today I’m addressing all the hand-wringing about “kids these days” who have no social skills, who spend all their waking hours (and even sleeping hours) with their noses buried in their cellphones or tablets texting and whatnot, oblivious to the world around them. The same with video games. These kids, the pundits and worriers say, don’t know how to relate to others face-to-face. I’m here to say that ain’t necessarily so.
Clive Thompson (clive (at) clivethompson.net) recently wrote in Wired magazine that teenagers actually crave personal contact with their peers and tend to resort to social media, texting, etc., mainly when they don’t have ready access to personal contact. Basing my opinion largely on anecdotal evidence, I agree.
While it’s true you can see lots of (mostly) young people seeming to spend all their free time flipping through touch-screen images and texts, Thompson argues and I second the argument that they go there in large part because their access to in-person contact is limited and a virtual contact is better than none at all.
My son, Matt, tells me he mainly uses texting to make arrangements to meet friends in person. He’s lucky, in a way, though. He has a car (which he mostly paid for himself), which affords him a great deal of freedom not available to all teenagers. He has earned that freedom. He has a cool job (especially for teenagers) at LaserQuest, gets good grades and doesn’t get into trouble. He has several circles of friends through school, work and sport. He has an XBox 360 and a balky laptop.
My daughter, Lindsey, is a little more into the digital thing, although she also maintains healthy “real” friendships. Though more dependent on mom and dad (or friends’ moms and dads) for transportation, she seeks opportunities to hang with friends whenever possible. She wants a car of her own as soon as she’s old enough and can afford one. She has an iPad that all the students at her school use.
While Mrs. AkronDave and I do have to rein them in on occasion, for the most part they don’t overdo the digital stuff.
Thompson says fearful, overprotective “helicopter” parents are as much to blame for the digitally driven “disconnect” as the availability of digital technology. Kids’ lives have become soooo structured (soccer, piano lessons, swim team, dance, etc., etc.) that these kids feel trapped. They go to football games not so much to watch the game as to get a little free time to hang with friends without constant supervision. That much has not changed since prehistoric times when I was in high school.
Again, I think there’s a lot of truth to Thompson’s point, although as the ad industry likes to use as a disclaimer, “results may vary.” Kids sometimes overuse the texting, such as at the dinner table, particularly during holidays. In my family, Grandma banned cellphones at Thanksgiving because even the adults were spending more time looking down at their mobile devices than up at the people in the room.
The bottom line is, like everything else, use in moderation and you’ll probably be just fine.
Hold on a sec, I gotta check this msg … BRB
A group of residents of a small Texas community traveled to the state capital to protest hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” in their community that is being blamed for about 30 earthquakes since November.
This follows reports of earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio, last year that were linked to fracking wells, which led the usually business-friendly Gov. John Kasich to order the operation to shut down.
If Texas quakes are like the Ohio seismic activity, the problem could be the injection of fracking wastewater into the ground near a fault line. Geologists say the liquid can create “slippage” in faults, which triggers the quakes.
The fact that fracking has helped dramatically reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil and natural gas makes shutting down fracking operations highly unpopular in some circles. But when the earth is shaking under your feet, you gotta take it seriously.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this.
I hesitate to say anything about Martin Luther King on the national holiday made in his name because, I dunno, it seems kind of gratuitous. You know, yadda yadda great civil rights leader, blah blah, all that. How his dream is (or not) realized is the subject of much editorial content today.
So here goes anyway.
Yes, we’ve witnessed some pretty dramatic change in America, some for the better, some not so much. Racial inequality still exists, but it has been kicked somewhat toward the fringes of society. I grew up in a nearly lily-white neighborhood, went to almost entirely white schools (until I got to Ohio State).
My kids, though, have benefited from going to integrated schools in Akron. My son told me about a time he was at a McDonald’s with some buds and he was the only white kid in the room. His friends joked about “living the dream,” and in some small way they were.
A couple of years ago I was driving behind a school bus around Macedonia or Twinsburg. The bus stopped and two kids got off: one white, one black. They casually strolled toward home, just two kids who were growing up in the same neighborhood, no big deal. Which is kind of a big deal. That probably would not have happened much 30 years ago, let alone 50 years ago.
In Columbus, where I grew up, the city schools started busing to force integration 30-some years ago. At the time, nobody liked it. Busing was an imperfect solution to a big societal problem. And it accelerated white flight, which further exacerbated the whole segregation problem.
Over time, though, kids started making friends with kids who didn’t look like them. Fast-forward 30 years. Our lives are entwined in a much more diverse community, although segregation certainly still exists. But not at my kids’ schools. I didn’t really experience much diversity until I got to college and then in newsrooms, which were way ahead of the curve in terms of cultivating diversity at the workplace.
About 20 years ago, a couple of years before I worked there, the Akron Beacon Journal produced a Pulitzer Prize-winning series about race relations. They drilled deep, revealing some pretty raw emotions. It was an honest exploration that sometimes went to very uncomfortable places.
And I suppose that’s necessary before we can move on to a “post-racial” society that some (prematurely) hailed when Barack Obama was elected president. I’ve seen and heard plenty of hateful and clearly racist comments about him and Michelle Obama. Clearly, we ain’t there yet.
No, TPP doesn’t stand for Toilet Paper Power.
It’s the Trans Pacific Partnership, until recently a nearly unheard-off super-secret deal in the works between the United States and other countries situated around the Pacific Ocean.
This little-known “partnership” could have profound effects on our economy and environment if the most-worrisome aspects of it come to fruition.
Wikileaks uncorked the genie this week on some of the details this week with a leaked copy of the environment chapter, part of a reportedly 1,000-page document. Late last year the Washington Post published a primer on TPP, but it doesn’t seem to focus on what has environmentalists and unions alarmed: Namely loosening of environmental laws and consumer protection and more loss of American jobs to overseas entities.
Negotiations have largely gone on behind closed doors and Congress is expected to vote on whether to give the Obama administration “fast-track” authority to finish negotiations and send the agreement to Congress for a yea or nay vote without any chance to change or amend anything in it. Take it or leave it but you better take it, seems to be the message.
I have talked to nearly a dozen people about this, and they almost universally think this is a bad idea. So do I.
The plan is reportedly being formulated in consultation with a few hundred corporate big wigs, but small business and consumer and workers’ advocates apparently weren’t invited to the party.
If the Partnership deal is not done properly, we could see more lead-tainted toys from overseas, more imported foods contaminated with e. Coli or salmonella, more inferior products made in sweat shops that pay pitiful wages to exploited workers, maybe even have our environmental and consumer safety laws challenged by foreign entities who don’t have our best interests in mind.
I’ll have more on this in a day or so.
At long last I have upgraded to a smart phone. I feel smarter already
Yes, at long last I have succumbed to the siren call of the smart phone. I didn’t really NEED a smart phone, except that my old dumb phone had taken one too many tumbles in the parking lot. A hinge was already damaged, and the last drop severed a link to the display screen. So I was literally dialing/receiving blind. Texting was rendered useless, which is kind of a problem cuz my offspring text more than they actually call. Up to this point, I had been perfectly happy with the old beater. It was like basic transportation: It got me from Point A to Point B.
Still, it’s a significant upgrade from the old flip phone, although it also has a drawback or two.
* Better Internet access, including wi-fi, and now I can do that Facebook Thang on my phone.
* Cool ring tones, although I think I lost my Theme from Archer ring tone
* Much better photos. The old phone made fuzzy, low-rez globs. Which could be interesting in an artsy-fartsy sort of way.
* I can do selfies, which the kids say is all the rage.
* Much shorter battery life. All those apps take a toll.
* Need the owner’s manual to figure some of this stuff out. Although once you learn the basics it’s pretty intuitive. Figured out how to turn on wi-fi all by myself!
* All this Internet access can get expensive in a hurry.
This tale of plumbing woe is fraught with woulda- coulda- shouldas. Alas, it was not to be. And so I have a basement with soggy carpeting, soggy insulation and soggy not-so-drywall. This is yet another chapter in the saga of my hate-hate relationship with the plumbing in my house. Not familiar with the history? Curious? Follow the bread crumbs here.
Long story short: We had a well-publicized spell of unusually cold weather with temps dipping into the sub-zero teens and wind chills south of 30 below. I thought to leave my faucets on a slow drip overnight Monday but, oops, forgot.
Of course the pipes on my outer walls froze, meaning no water in the kitchen.
After a day of ventilating warm air behind the walls, I managed to get cold water restored to the kitchen sink, but hot water stayed stubbornly blocked.
So I was hopeful (delusional?) that the situation would resolve itself once things thawed out Wednesday.
I was wrong.
Stepped out briefly to get a newspaper (old habits die hard) and when I got back I heard an all-too-familiar sound of trickling water. Good thing I was around to shut off the water supply or the whole basement, which is finished, would have been flooded. Pool table and all. As it was, I still vacuumed up about 10 gallons of water.
Plumber is coming Friday a.m. because, although I have some plumbing capability, installing and soldering pipe is not in my toolbox (yet). Today I tore out the drywall, guesstimating the source of the leak. It took two tries, but at least I didn’t have to tear out the entire wall. My drywall installation skills are rather limited as well. Repairs? Check. Spackle? Check. Paint? Check. Install entire walls? Eh, not so much.
The culprit was a pipe joint leading to the outside spigot. It simply came loose. Looks like it wasn’t even soldered! Well, having fixed plenty of other half-assed “upgrades” from previous occupants, I’m not surprised.
Anyway, below is the photographic evidence of my latest plumbing travail.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.
This photo doesn’t do the colors justice.
I have waged war against my nemesis, the bathtub drain, aka The Beast. Not for the first time. Not likely for the last time. It is a tenacious foe, rising up like a rain-swollen creek after a storm. But I have tamed The Beast, at least for the time being.
It was not without a struggle. As always. My battles with The Beast, and all manner of plumbing, are well documented. Read more here if you care to relive my nightmares. Or here. As I mentioned, I’ve had my share of run-ins with this innocuous-looking bastard. After enduring several days of complaints about how slow the drain has gotten (again), I finally relented to the hounding of Mrs. AkronDave and the offspring. She called it my Christmas Gift to her.
Well, it’s cheaper than jewelry, as long as I do it myself. An actual plumber is another story altogether.
Funny, nobody offered to help.
After a few jabs with the rusty old snake, I broke out my secret weapon, the trusty old Sears wet/dry vacuum. It’s no thing of beauty, but it has saved my butt on numerous occasions. It’s like a Medieval knight’s battered old shield. It does the job when it’s needed.
The Beast was particularly stubborn today. At one point the drain seemed to get worse instead of better. Could my secret weapon have failed me? Would I have to take out a loan and hire a plumber? A real plumber? After wandering through the house muttering obscenities, I took a few more stabs at vacuuming out the drain, nearly overfilling the vacuum with filthy waste water. This is not a good thing (see previous posts in links).
At long last, I did slay The Beast without rupturing any drains or flooding the basement (you bet I checked!).
Merry Christmas, Honey.
You can shower without standing in 6 inches of soapy water now.
Before the 1980s, I had no idea who Nelson Mandela was. But being a child of the ’70s in America, that should come as no surprise.
Nelson Mandela had been rotting in a South African prison for two decades when The Special AKA released a peppy tune with a serious message: “Free Nelson Mandela.” I was a sophomore or so in college when the album came out, and expecting something like the band’s predecessor The Specials, I picked it up. Classic vinyl. I was a poor college student who couldn’t afford one of them newfangled CD players. That same album included “Racist Friend” and “Alcohol,” which was particularly haunting.
“Free Nelson Mandela” featured a lively horn section, the kind of stuff you’d expect from a ska band. And while the tune was upbeat, what The Special AKA had to say was politically charged.
That song made me aware of Nelson Mandela, although I had been somewhat aware of apartheid and its cruelty before. It seemed far away, just another corrupt government in Africa.
Mandela died Dec. 5, in case you’ve been hiding in a cave recently.
That song energized a movement that was driven in no small part by rock music (include ska and hip-hop in the overall pop/rock category). The anti-apartheid struggle had been going on for decades, but it didn’t get widespread attention in the West until the 1980s.
Pretty soon you heard a rising chorus of “divest from South Africa” and demands for more sanctions and boycotts against the officially racist South African regime to pressure South Africa ending apartheid, a policy reminiscent of Jim Crow in the United States.
Soweto, de Klerk, Botha, Mandela were names that became increasingly prominent in the news, especially for budding journalistas such as your humble akrondave blogger.
Then along came Sun City in 1985. Led by Steven Van Zandt of E Street Band and The Sopranos fame, an all-star group calling itself Artists United Against Apartheid took direct aim at a swanky South African resort known as Sun City, urging artists not to perform there until South Africa put and end to apartheid. The chorus said it all: “I ain’t gonna play Sun City.”
The list of artists who participated was long and diverse: Bono, Keith Richards, Miles Davis, Bonnie Raitt, Joey Ramone, Lou Reed, Run-DMC, George Clinton, Pete Townshend, Peter Wolf, and so on.
The album featured powerful tracks including the title track and Revolutionary Situation, but the one that blew me away was a last-minute addition that didn’t make the album cover or sleeve material: Silver and Gold. A sticker was slapped on the cover: “Added bonus song.” Bono, the lead singer of U2, collaborated with Keith Richards and Ron Wood (do I have to say of the Rolling Stones?), inspired after meeting several other artists who had volunteered for the project.
I wrote a review of Sun City as a tryout for my collej paper, the Lantern at Ohio State, and it won me a gig as cub music beat writer. Although the album earned praise from critics, it was only a minor commercial success. But the mark had been made on public consciousness.
In 1989, Lethal Weapon 2 featured the apartheid regime as the villain. Funniest moment: Danny Glover’s character Murtaugh at the South African embassy telling the official he wants to return to his “homeland.” The official says, “But you’re blek.” Levity aside, the movie further pushed the issue of apartheid into public awareness.
By 1991, it became clear that apartheid’s days were numbered and in 1994 Nelson Mandela, who had been jailed for 27 years and branded as a terrorist by critics, was elected president.
But rather than conduct a campaign of revenge against his former oppressors, Mandela sought reconciliation and compromise. He prevented what could have become a blood bath, which many white South Africans feared. After all, the white minority colonists had oppressed the natives for decades.
The pressure to end apartheid came from many corners, but make no doubt, pop/rock music was a major player.