Flowers for Jean-Dominique.

I want to write. But . . .

Suddenly, I’m transported to the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, twenty-five years in the past, and I’m standing by the grave of Jean-Dominique Bauby—paying my respects with a pot of chrysanthemums.

I open my journal and read some French words I’ve transcribed and translated into English, sourced from a book called Le Scaphandre et le Papillon. The English version is called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Derrière le rideau de toile mitée une clarté laiteuse annonce l’approche du petit matin.

Behind the linen curtain a milky clarity announces the approach of dawn.

J’ai mal aux talons, la tête comme une enclume, et une sorte de scaphandre qui m’enserre tout le corps.

My heels hurt, my head is like an anvil, and a sort of spacesuit seems to surround my whole body.

Ma chambre sort doucement de la pénombre. 

My room slowly emerges from the shadows of twilight. 

These sentences were “written” by a writer unable to use his hands to type words, communicate through gestures, or to speak words to be transcribed by another writer. The following italicized words are from the English version of the book:

No need to wonder very long where I am, or to recall that the life I once knew was snuffed out Friday, the eighth of December, last year.

Up until then, I had never even heard of the brainstem. I’ve since learned that it is an essential component of our internal computer, the inseparable link between the brain and the spinal cord. I was brutally introduced to this vital piece of anatomy when a cerebrovascular accident took my brain stem out of action.

The accident that rendered Jean-Dominique Bauby mute and immobile?

In the past, it was known as a massive stroke, and you simply died. But improved resuscitation techniques have now prolonged and refined the agony. You survive, but you survive with what is so aptly known as “locked-in syndrome.” Paralyzed from head to toe, the patient, his mind intact, is imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move.

But, how was Jean-Dominique able to communicate the words you’ve just read if he was unable to speak or move?

In my case, blinking my left eyelid is my only means of communication.

What?

Of course, the party chiefly concerned is the last to hear the good news. I myself had twenty days of deep coma and several weeks of grogginess and somnolence before I truly appreciated the extent of the damage. I did not fully awake until the end of January. When I finally surfaced I was in room 119 of the Naval Hospital at Berck-sur-Mer, on the French Channel coast–the same Room 119, infused now with the first light of day, from which I write.

Enough rambling. My main task now is to compose the first of these bedridden travel notes so that I shall be ready when my publisher’s emissary arrives to take my dictation, letter by letter.

He writes these words by dictating his memoir, one letter at a time, to his clever and efficient conversational co-conspirator, Claude Mendibil, who lists the letters in accordance with their frequency in the French language.

In my head I churn over every sentence ten times, delete a word, add an adjective, and learn my text by heart, paragraph by paragraph.

By a fortunate stroke of luck and intuition Jean-Do’s physical therapist noticed that he could blink his left eyelid—his paralyzed right eyelid had been sewed shut to prevent his eyeball from drying up—and she had devised a communication system called partner-assisted scanning, which utilized his singular muscular ability to dictate a beautiful memoir.

It is a simple enough system. You read off the alphabet (ESA version, not ABC) until, with a blink of my eye, I stop you at the letter to be noted. The maneuver is repeated for the letters that follow, so that fairly soon you have a whole word, and then fragments of more or less intelligible sentences. That, at least, is the theory. In reality, all does not go well for some visitors. Because of nervousness, impatience, or obtuseness, performances vary in the handling of the code (which is what we call this method of transcribing my thoughts). Crossword fans and Scrabble players have a head start. Girls manage better than boys. By dint of practice, some of them know the code by heart and no longer even turn to our special notebook—the one containing the order of the letters and in which all my words are set down like the Delphic oracle’s.

And what are those travel notes of which Bauby babbles about? They’re excursions of the imagination, of course—the only recourse for a traveler physically bound and rooted in place like an oak tree. His thoughts branch out, stretching beyond the boundaries of place, allowing his mind (which he likens to a diving bell) to take flight like a butterfly.

You can wander off in space and time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court. You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still-sleeping face. You can build castles in Spain, steal the Golden Fleece, discover Atlantis, realize your childhood dreams and ambitions.

Ten months and two hundred thousand blinks later, Jean-Do completes his magnificient memoir and expires from pneumonia on March 9th, 1997, two days after his book is published.

***

Returning to the present and presented with my first thought—

I want to write . . .

The “but” is a needless word that must be omitted. I write without excuses.

Farewell, Mr Loaf

Meat Loaf died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know. For some he was an acquired taste. But, there is no denying the raw power of his passion when he performed.

In the guise of Eddie—a 1950s era biker and greaser channeling Elvis and John Belushi—Mr Loaf burst out of a deep freeze, frenetically riding a motorcycle and chewing the scenery in The Rocky Horror Picture Show; an audacious cult movie from 1975 still playing in cinemas today.

He was loud and brash but he could also be surprisingly tender. And, hot patootie bless my soul, that loaf of meat could Rock n’ Roll!

And sweat. Profusely.

Known mostly for his rock ballads and duets, and for his rock masterpiece, Bat Out Of Hell, Mr Loaf’s loftiest moment arrived in 1999 with his vulnerable performance in Fight Club; which normalized man boobs, male tears, and men hugging other men. His name is Robert Paulson.

In 2020, the self-proclaimed sex god came out as a climate change denier and, worse, a critic of environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Meat Loaf turned rancid for some fans after the duo performed their disastrous rock ballad duet, You’re Brainwashed, Climate Change Isn’t Real / No, I’m Not, Yes, It Is.

But that expression of opposing worldviews shouldn’t prevent us from recognizing his humanity. We don’t all share the same palate. Now is the time to put aside the main course and focus on the mashed potatoes and other side dishes. And come together to eulogize and celebrate the positive aspects of his stage and screen personae.

Meat Loaf. At the end of the meal, all we can say is that he was a man like any other man in some ways and unlike other men in other ways.

Adieu, Monsieur Loaf.

I hope there’s a piece of you still out there. Somewhere. Back in deep freeze.

A piece that may come back again as leftovers.

May flights of bats sing thee to thy roast.

We await the second helping.

Ain’t No Time For Hate: A Shout Out To Legendary Blues Busker Eagle Park Slim

It’s been raining cats and dogs where I live in Northern California wine country and rain brings out the blues aficionado in me. It also makes me feel nostalgic for Eugene, Oregon, where I lived for a very formative decade of my life, from age twelve to twenty-two. Eugene is Bluesville in my memory, and not only because it’s where I truly and deeply fell in love with the blues but also because it’s there where I fully, deeply, and existentially, experienced the blues; and most especially when it rained.

When I turned thirteen in the summer of 1977 I started listening to Mississippi John Hurt and Lightning Hopkins on the regular. I was nearing the end of my five year obsession with The Beatles and ready for some new music. Some other favorite albums were Billy Joel’s The Stranger, which had recently been released, and a trippy, otherworldly, electronic music album called Oxygène by Jean-Michel Jarre.

That same year, John Belushi was in Eugene filming National Lampoon’s Animal House and he met and befriended a local blues artist named Curtis Salgado, who was playing a gig with his band The Nighthawks. That meeting and friendship inspired the creation of The Blues Brothers on Saturday Night Live and a couple of years later in 1980 the movie came out and the soundtrack for it became hugely popular and reintroduced the likes of James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin to the current generation of young people.

And that was the year that Eagle Park Slim came to town. His motto was “ain’t no time to hate” and his mission was “peace through music.” He’s one of my favorite blues musicians that never achieved national or international fame and I think it’s a damned shame—not only because he was someone I knew as a friendly and familiar acquaintance that passed through my own early years like a reoccurring character in a television series but because he was the cool locally famous musician that was accessible to the people in the streets.

Eagle Park Slim was thirty-eight years old when he moved from Colorado to Oregon, and he got to work immediately as a blues busker in the streets of downtown Eugene and around the University of Oregon campus. Slim was already a seasoned professional that could make himself at home playing music on the streets, coffeehouses, and public markets of any town or city with just a chair and his guitar and a kazoo. He was a cat that played the kind of music that is intimate and warm and he sang the blues in a way that makes you like him because he makes you feel good and makes you feel like you matter.

Autry McNeace was born on January 11th, 1942, in Eagle Park, Illinois. He grew up with the blues and started playing at his mother’s club, The Village Tavern, in 1954. I don’t know when he took on the name Slim to go with the name of his city of birth but he was still in Eagle Park in the 1960s, working a regular gig on Sundays at Leo’s Tavern, playing guitar with Little Walter J. & His Hard Working Phantoms.

He expanded his territory to East St. Louis and across the river in St. Louis, playing with blues pianist, Johnnie Johnson. During his lifetime, Slim would also play along with Chuck Berry, James Brown, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy Williamson, Percy Mayfield, Ike Turner, Little Walter, Joe Cocker, Keb Mo, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m sure I’ve left out many other famous and well-established artists.

In the 1970s, before he settled in Eugene, Slim moved to Colorado, and Eagle Park Slim & The Mile High Blues Band were the house band at an after hours club in Denver, with a regular gig Thursday to Saturday from 11pm to 3am.

I was fourteen or fifteen when I first met Slim and heard him play the blues and I got to know him better after I graduated from high school, when I was working at Prince Pückler’s, an ice cream parlor with one shop at 8th & Willamette downtown and another on 13th Avenue, across the street from Poppi’s Greek Taverna and Lenny’s Nosh Bar. I worked at both locations and I always treated Slim to a cup of coffee whenever he came into the one of the shops.

The free coffee for Slim continued over the years and our conversations continued when I worked at the Coffee Corner kiosk at 5th Street Public Market in the mid-eighties. My jam on the boom box in the kiosk was usually blues (I was also obsessed with Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive) and I think he appreciated my musical taste when he sat at table in front of the kiosk. I thought of that table as the musician’s table because if it wasn’t Slim sitting there it was often Steve Ibach and Teddy Boy Roix and sometimes my good friend, Joe Lewis. They were all in a local band called The Soulsations that was very popular in town.

In those days you could go out almost any night and hear the blues played live for free or so cheap that it didn’t matter. There was a Monday night Blues Jam at Old Taylor’s on campus that you could see for fifty cents. From 1982-1986, if I wasn’t at Lenny’s Nosh Bar I was out somewhere else listening to blues.

And, you know what, Eagle Park Slim was always around. Like the patron saint of Bluesville. A warm presence that made everyone around him feel happy, which is damn strange when you consider that singing the blues is often a synonym for being sad. Hearing Slim play the blues was the antidote to sadness. And I always wondered why he wasn’t famous.

I spoke over the phone recently with Slim’s long-time friend and sometime companion, Jan Brown. She tells me that she met Slim in 2002 at a bus stop and he was boldly flirtatious, singing a Lou Rawls song to her while they were waiting for the bus. She complimented him on his singing voice, unaware of his profession, and he introduced himself and gave her a flyer advertising his next gig with one of the bands he played with called The Vipers.

Eagle Park Slim and Jan Brown

She was a busy single mom and didn’t get out much to hear live music but she recognized his talent immediately. They rode the bus together and before he got off at his stop he gave her his phone number and told her to give him a call sometime. Later that day, at the adult foster home where she was working as a caregiver, she showed the flyer to a couple of women, a resident and her boss, and they both squealed with excitement. Turns out they were both Eagle Park Slim fan girls. Jan called Slim and went out to see his show and it was the beginning a beautiful friendship and partnership that lasted for twelve years, until they parted amicably in 2014.

Eagle Park Slim & The Mile High Blues Band. Denver, CO. 1975.

I also talked with Slim’s friend, Randy Layton, who released Slim’s first professionally produced album, Northwest Blues (1998) as a CD made to look like a vinyl record from the 1960s. Randy’s intention was to give Slim an album to sell when he was busking that looked good and one that Slim owned after the first pressing. The album has 22 tracks that Randy says “was pretty much a compilation of cassettes he gave out in the streets in the early days of busking.” Randy, also an accomplished writer, wrote the liner notes.

Mardi Gras Saturday at the Winter Blues Festival (2012)

A few random things about Slim:

He frequently wore a fedora, like any self-respecting blues man, and quite often a tie-dyed shirt with dress pants. Like a true Eugenean, he loved his tie-dyed shirts and he had a multitude in his closet.

He usually arrived to his evening gigs by taxi. Often a friend would drop him off at a street corner when he was busking. If he was playing at a bar and you offered to buy him a drink he might accept a snifter of brandy.

At home, he had a poster of Jimi Hendrix on his wall and another picture of Jimi in the window near the recliner where he always sat. Slim revered Hendrix.

And, in closing, Eagle Park Slim is remembered by many people as the first person they met when they came to Eugene. And most of those people will tell you how much they loved him and the impact he made on their experience in Eugene. And Slim loved them back. And he loved Eugene.

Which brings us to this song.

Happy New Year!

Good news!

yOS 2.021, the obsolete year running in the chronometer of your biological operating system, was updated to yOS 2.022 at precisely midnight on 31 December and installed at 12:01 in the morning of the first day of January, replacing the old year with a new year.

But, is it really a new year?

Users should be aware that downloading and installing yOS 2.022 may not result in a better or more efficient operating system.

In fact, it’s possible the yOS 2.022 update will be incompatible with the chronological operating systems of many people, particularly individuals that frequently tell others to live in the present moment. These people may be resistant to the new update as they are running presentism software and they function in a world wherein neither the future nor the past exist.

Likewise, persons running eternalism software, which allows them to experience time simultaneously and operate in a reality wherein all points in time are equally real, will likely have issues with the update.

These potential issues have prompted some people to suggest that, if time is a construct humans invented to prevent everything from happening all at once, the words Happy New Year should come with a trigger warning, like the words, Merry Christmas and Make America Great Again.

Those critics claim that calling out Happy New Year to someone is a vocal form of chrono-harassment and adds insult to injury to all self-proclaimed slaves of time that have been subjected to cultural conditioning to perceive time in a linear fashion.

This update is not a restart, a reset, or a reboot.

And, if users believe they can change fundamental functionality?

Previous yearly updates have proven the premise that promises can be broken. Be prepared for possible glitches, crashes, energy drains, overheating, application instability, and problems connecting.

The “new” year will not contain any anthropomorphic features, despite reports of a decrepit man passing a figurative torch to a cherubic baby.

May you experience the continuance of a year.

Uncle Ray

6 March 1984

An old grizzled drunk from a television western stumbles out of the tube and staggers smack into the middle of a milieu of vagrants one might encounter in a Bukowski novel. It’s Uncle Ray, rolling into the courtyard with a shopping cart stuffed with clothing and other items of unspeakable origin.

“Uncle Ray, is it true you’re an undercover agent with the CIA,” I say.

Ask me to guess Ray’s age and I’d say he was born sometime between the beginning of the William Taft presidency and the year they started putting toy surprises in Cracker Jack boxes. I figure he’s something north of seventy, with an extra decade or two of hard living in his back pocket.

“I’ll never tell,” Ray says, but that’s a lie. Sometimes you can’t stop Ray from telling.

Uncle Ray claims to have served in both the second world war and the Korean conflict and some say he’s a war hero. Others regard him as a sage, a holy fool, a royal pain-in-the-ass, and a mad saint. Most agree he’s a person squarely in the back row.

“If you’re looking for Hershel, he’s not here.” Ray’s face lights up when I mention the name.

Hershel is Uncle Ray’s guardian angel and Ray is drawn to him like a homing pigeon. Whenever Ray staggers into the courtyard, from sickness instead of drunkenness, Hershel is there to escort him to White Bird Clinic to get treatment. If saints exist, they are mere samaritans compared to Hershel Bloom.

“Nah, I’m not looking for Hershel,” says Ray. “Is Lenny here?”

I raise my eyebrow. Lenny hates Ray with a passion usually reserved for drunken frat boys and Ronald Reagan. Ask anyone that was around the day Lenny Nathan shook his finger with rage at Uncle Ray and yelled, “You stay away from my place or I’ll kill ya!” The old derelict is definitely not looking for Lenny.

“Not yet,” I say. “But, he’s on his way soon.” Ray grunts with satisfaction.

2.

Someone calls my name. It’s Sally, announcing my lunch from the kitchen of Lenny’s Nosh Bar.

“Gotta go, Ray,” I say.

As I get up to leave, Uncle Ray is looking forlorn and gazing mournfully across the courtyard at Poppi’s Greek Taverna. I suddenly realize exactly who he is looking for and the reason he’s in the courtyard. He’s here for his chicken and chocolate fix from Poppi, who feeds him on the regular from the back door of the restaurant. Provided he’s sober. If Ray shows up in the courtyard drunk, she gives him a cup of hot black coffee and tells him to go away and come back when he’s lucid.

Inside, I ask Sally what time Lenny is arriving.

“Anytime now,” she says. “Are you worried he might read Uncle Ray the riot act?”

“Well, yeah, but Lenny told me to stop in later today,” I say. I tell Sally I saw Lenny at the store earlier in the day as he was unloading his basket at the register and I saw the ingredients he was buying and made the logical deduction. I tell her how the conversation went down.

Me: ”Making brownies?”

Lenny: “Yeah.”

Me: “. . .”

Lenny: “Marijuana brownies.”

Me: “Yeah, I figured as much.”

“So you’re here for an off-the-menu item,” she says. I give her a big grin and nod my head. She whistles and says, “Brave man.”

“Not really,” I say. “Are they super strong?”

“Oh yes,” she says. “Lenny gave me a pot brownie the first night I worked the counter. I was on probationary status and I have never been so stoned in my life.”

“Trial by reefer,” I say. She laughs.

“The next day he called and, before he could say anything, I apologized all over myself and asked how badly I’d done. The whole shift was a blur.”

“How badly did you do?”

“I dunno,” she says. “Lenny just chuckled and said ‘yeah, that was pretty good shit’ and officially gave me the job.”

3.

I notice Uncle Ray through the window, standing a respectful distance from Lenny’s. He’s lighting a cigarette, which is gripped tightly between straw-colored fingers, and his hand is trembling.

“I think Ray is waiting for Poppi to show up and open the restaurant,” I say, as I head over to the booth next to the jukebox.

“Someone should probably tell Ray that it’s Tuesday,” Sally says.

“I’m sure he knows it’s Tuesday,” I say. “I sure do, because it’s ninety-nine cents for hot fudge sundaes all day at Puckler’s today, and it’s going to be a mob scene tonight. I’m heading over after I eat.”

“I’m not talking about your ice cream parlor orgy across the street,” she says. “Tuesday is also the only day of the week Poppi’s is closed. Ray is waiting for Godot.”

She’s right, I completely forgot about the significance of Tuesday. Beyond my own selfish connection to the day. So, I set my sandwich on the table and head for the door to break the bad news. Dan Schmid is already on the job, standing in the doorway of the restaurant. Dan is around because he works as the cleaner at Poppi’s every Tuesday, an eight-hour job that requires him to thoroughly clean everything in the place, from kitchen surfaces and appliances to all the curtains covering the windows.

“It’s Tuesday, Uncle Ray,” Dan says. “Sorry, amigo, the joint is closed today.”

Dinner plans thwarted, Ray seems ready to launch into one of his cantankerous rants against a cruel world that has conspired against him since the end of the second world war.

“There’s nobody around to cook up some chicken for you,” Dan says. “But, I can get you some hot chocolate.” Ray grunts and seems mollified. Dan goes back inside the restaurant to fetch Ray’s hot cocoa. I turn to Sally.

“How did you know,” I say.

“It’s not the first time Ray has shown up for chicken and chocolate on the wrong day,” she says.

Should Mimes Be Enlisted As Essential Workers To Build Physical Distancing Walls

Imagine, if you will, an empty town square. A solitary mime stands, within this public space of your imagination, with an expression of unbearable sadness on their face—gesturing to a single teardrop drawn upon their white-painted cheek.

Waiting for a crowd of people that exists only in memory.

As people around the world observe draconian rules of social distancing, millions of starving street artists and live performers around the world are being denied access to those people that acknowledge their performances by awarding them with the crumpled bills and dirty coins in their pockets.

Inevitably, it falls upon forward thinking humanitarians to come up with creative solutions to mitigate the loss of income from their craft. To this, we must ask the question:

Should we enlist mimes, as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, to fashion physical distancing barriers in the air to protect us from people that refuse to obey the invisible defensive perimeters around our bodies?

I submit an unequivocal yes; and these are the reasons why I think mimes can serve a useful function in the larger world outside our sheltered bubbles of social isolation:

Even though mimes are notoriously misunderstood attention seekers that actively try to draw a crowd, they are also masters of building invisible and impenetrable walls in the air that encourage distancing.

Also, mimes are low-risk as transmitters of viruses because they do not speak and, therefore, they do not emit virus-infused micro-droplets from their mouths.

Mimes are very affordable and will not burden tax paying citizens. Furthermore, they can survive on just a few coins tossed into their hats; all the food they need is created out of thin air, so they can subsist solely on coffee and applause. They also provide their own natural face masks.

These are just a handful of reasons why I think that failing to make use of this valuable resource is absolute folly.

For, as we all know—a mime is a terrible thing to waste.

“Don’t Bogart that joint, kid.”

“Don’t Bogart that joint, my friend” was a phrase I heard fairly often in the 1970s, usually spoken slowly in a fake Southern drawl, and the phrase became popular in the American counterculture after it was featured in the 1969 film, Easy Rider.

Composed by Elliot Ingber, a guitarist in Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention in the mid-sixties, and Stash Wagner of The Fraternity of Man, the band that recorded the song for the soundtrack, the title and refrain gets its name from the actor Humphrey Bogart.

🎶 Musical Interlude 🎶

Now, I dunno if Bogie actually partook in the reefer, but he had a habit, in cigarette smoking scenes in tough guy roles in his movies, of leaving a gasper dangling from his lips without taking a drag. That act of wastefully letting a cigarette smolder, without inhaling the smoke, inspired the expression among pot smoking counterculture wits.

I was eight years old the first time I heard it.

The year was 1972 and I’d recently arrived in Bandon, a small coastal town in Oregon, after traveling the backroads of America in a bread truck for a few months with my dad and his girlfriend. We landed at a hippie crash pad and stayed with people we had just met; fellow freaks with an open door policy that was still part of the hippie homesteader etiquette esthetic in rural areas of the country.

That night, in the living room, after a shared meal, our host produced a mystery joint he had received from a friend in the mail. He lit the joint and passed it around to the group and, when it came to me, nobody thought to say, “No, you can’t have a toke because you’re just a kid.” Bear in mind, this was a time of testing mainstream values and almost everything was permissible.

I took a drag and let the joint hang from my lip. That’s when the phrase was uttered and explained.

Passing the joint, I felt the room spin, and promptly passed out.

Tommy Tutone’s Belated Apology To Jenny Jenny After Doxxing Her In His 1981 Pop Single

Rocker Tommy Tutone, a 20th century singer who famously sang a pop song about a girl named Jenny Jenny that played incessantly over the airwaves in America and abroad after it was released in 1981, has finally apologized to the woman he infamously doxxed in the early eighties by revealing her phone number to the world back in the olden days before the Internet existed.

Tutone (shown above left with his psychotherapist) admitted that he “may have been a bit of a stalker back in the day” and further admits that he “probably acted inappropriately” with a girl with whom he “had a schoolboy crush on.”

After releasing the hit single inspired by a phone number scrawled on the wall of a men’s room in a cheap bar, the pop star released a video on Music Television, a fledgling new television network which had also launched the career of a new wave band called The Buggles.

“I’ve paid my debt to society,” Tutone says, speaking to me via Skype from the penitentiary where he’s been serving time since he was caught by police, crouching by the window outside of Jenny Jenny’s house and spying on her while she was entertaining another gentleman.

“I can’t wait to get out of prison and show Jenny Jenny I’m a changed man.”

Tutone is up for parole this week and he’s confident he’ll be released by Valentine’s Day of this year. Tommy told me he “planned to rush straight over to her new house with flowers and chocolate.”

I reminded him that he’d gotten rich ruining the reputation of an innocent woman by telling strangers “for a good time call 867-5309” and it wouldn’t be prudent to just show up at her front door.

“Oh, I’ve learned my lesson,” he assured me “and I know it’s maybe not cool to just drop by unannounced, but, hey man, I’ve tried and tried calling her at least a hundred times and it’s weird—I think she might have disconnected her number.”

If you liked this piece of ridiculous nonsense, please consider following 336 Journal on Facebook and the author, Richard La Rosa, on Twitter.

The Washington Post throws one of its reporters to the wolves.

Felicia Sonmez, a newspaper reporter with The Washington Post, tweets a reference to a story about Kobe Bryant that broke years ago. She does so on the day he dies in a helicopter crash with several others, including his own thirteen year old daughter. She wrote:

The backlash is swift from the public on social media, and it is overwhelmingly negative from fans of the basketball player. Verbal abuse and threats—the usual shit show of public outrage—but what follows is much worse:

“National political reporter Felicia Sonmez was placed on administrative leave while The Post reviews whether tweets about the death of Kobe Bryant violated The Post newsroom’s social media policy. The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”

~Washington Post Managing Editor, Tracy Grant.

Undermined the work of her colleagues? How so?

Somnez is referencing a real case, already written about, with a body of factual evidence and a long history of reportage. Her tweet doesn’t even qualify as a biased opinion—It’s a factual headline.

Sure, maybe it would be more appropriate if Felicia Somnez had the foresight to have shown some (shall we say) class and restraint, by waiting at least a day before tweeting that messsage, to allow Kobe Bryant’s family, friends, and fans, to express their grief at his death.

A respectful silence.

But, is it social justice that Felicia Sonmez is placed on administrative leave as punishment for her tweet? Smacks of censorship followed by exile to the shame box without pay, to me.

And I wonder…what’s next: The Gulag? The firing squad?

The court of public opinion is still having its day with Felicia Somnez. Lynch mobs have assembled, death threats delivered, and the rotten tomatoes and sharp stones of invective are being hurled at her from the mouths of self-righteous and outraged people.

As for The Washington Post…

“Democracy Dies in Darkness” is the motto scrawled under the newspaper’s title.

WaPo just switched off the lights in their own house.

~Richard La Rosa

Please Follow 336 Journal on Facebook and Richard La Rosa on Twitter.

*** *** ******

BONUS CONTENT

Aly Wane, a peace activist with Syracuse Peace Council in New York, wrote these compassionate and well-balanced words on Facebook on the subject of Kobe Bryant that I think are well-worth a read.

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