2013 in review

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.

Click here to see the complete report.


Once again battling The Beast

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.

How rock ‘n’ roll helped free Nelson Mandela

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.

Sleeps with Wolves

Here’s another chapter in Weird Dreams I’ve Had.

So the other night I was fighting through a bout of insomnia when sweet slumber finally came.

Then came the dream in which I was basically nose-to-nose with a wolf. A big wolf, either black or dark gray. I think they’re all basically grouped as gray wolves.

gray wolf

from howlingforjustice.wordpress.com

Anyway, for reasons that now escape me, I thought it would be a good idea to make friends with the wolf. A wild wolf. So I reached out to pat him and he bared his teeth (I assumed it was a male, though I didn’t bother to raise its skirt to be sure). That’s pretty much all I remember of that.

I think there were at least two more dreams involving the same wolf.

The last Wolf Dream I remember was me and Wolfie inches apart again. Again I thought it was a good idea to make friends. I think I offered a morsel of food, perhaps to distract him from the notion of eating me (in fact, wolves rarely attack humans except in self-defense or perhaps extreme starvation, or so I’ve read. Grizzly bears are extremely dangerous. Mountain lions pose a threat and have been known to stalk humans. But I digress).

Instead the wolf started barking (National Wildlife Federation says wolves actually do bark as warning – I did not know that; I thought my dream was just being loopy), baring its teeth again. So at some point I became aware of another animal, possibly a bear, behind me, which led me to believe that this was the real threat. The wolf came forward, straddling over me, which seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the f@^# outta there.

So I stared crawling backward, scrambling as quickly as a could before either animal noticed I had gotten away.

I woke up at that moment, still scrambling backward in my bed. I didn’t get very far or I’d have been on the floor. Shaking off the grogginess, I thought to myself this sounds like blog material.

Dream interpreters out there: any ideas? I have a couple of possible interpretations, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.