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This is what we hear in Aretha’s voice. Truth. It is a voice that contains the spiritual and the field holler, the blues moan, gospel shout, and jazz improvisation. … She excels at any form she tries, including opera.

“Aretha’s voice is America at its best.”

— Farah Jasmine Griffin on Aretha Franklin in The Nation

Still Life in Soul.

I invite you to join me in gazing on this arresting portrait of a natural woman. If the eyes are the window to the soul, you can look into those Aretha eyes and see how deep the beauty and truth of God run.

Back in the day, when even white guys like me would drive down the road singing along with Aretha’s latest hit with the radio at 120 decibels, Aretha Franklin had the whole world in her hands.

And Aretha Franklin dared to let it all go, kids.

She did so by telling Jet Magazine that she would gladly pay the bail of Angela Davis, an unapologetic communist, for God’s sake, who had been jailed on charges of purchasing firearms used in the takeover of a courtroom in Marin County, California.

Aretha explained that she would pay the bail, not because she believed in communism, but because … well, read this fine take on her life for why she would do it (and why she didn’t have to).

Thanks for the memories, Queen, and for showing us what courage and integrity are about.

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The Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League have added a $75 hamburger to their 2018 football season menu. (See here for the contents.)

The Arizona Cardinals’ Burger Challenge: a burger the size of the baby.
(2018 Scripps Media, Inc)

Now stop and consider this: this hamburger weighs roughly the size of a healthy newborn baby like baby Jesus: a whopping 7 pounds, 0 ounces!*

But that’s not all. Any one fan who can eat this $75 burger (and eat it in good health; no barfing allowed) within one hour will receive — Wow! — a free Arizona Cardinals football jersey!!!

But here’s the Dijon moutarde on the bun: the fan will also get recognized on the team’s video scoreboard in front of a stadium full of appreciative football fans!!!!

This is the kind of free-marketism and consumption for which millions of our American heroes have sacrificed all.

A grateful Christian nation salutes you, Cardinals!
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*The Cardinals ask that you please rise and stand with your Cardinals cap over your heart and say grace to Baby Jesus before pigging out. Thank you.

Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967. He was smart as a whip, an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter. He was cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically funny.”

— Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen in his tribute to his brother from another mother Walter Becker, who died last year age age 67

Hello, rockers.

I desperately need some cool Music Therapy.

You probably do, too. So I’m here to serve us both with a Happy Friday song from my era, one sure to get your Jitterbug leg shaking.

Longtimers here at The Cult of the Jitterbug know that I’m a lunatical fan of that Dynamic Duo that was the inimitable Steely Dan.

The World’s Most Dangerous Duo: Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

(AN ASIDE IS IN ORDER: As Dave Berry would say, “I am not making this up”: Years ago I was the co-founder and self-appointed chaplain of an online Fan Club called the All-Night Underground Steely Dan Fan-Land Cult Club, comprising, as I used to say, graduates of the some of the best drug and rehab clinics in the world. Many members were fragile people — several were Vietnam vets — who sent me private prayer requests and asked me all kinds of great theological questions. I think there were 11 members at its peak. For a couple of years, Steely Dan brought us together in a strange, holy community in cyberspace before the small but intense community fizzled out.)

I’m still mourning the death of Walter Becker. I can’t imagine the grief his brother by another mother, Donald Fagen, is working through, even as he and his Steely Dan Band continue to be the musical road warriors that Becker/Fagen and their select, precision musicians always were.

Steely Dan’s great body of work contains songs and lyrics that are, by turns, dangerously dark and edgy, uplifting and funny as hell; sad and sweet; nostalgic and cutting-edge.

Their music can be pessimistic, raw and cynical, or so upbeat and optimistic (and ironic and witty) as to be just finger-snapping groovy, baby.

Much of the always idiosyncratic music is subversive. They did take the name “Steely Dan,” an underground word for a dildo, from a William Burroughs novel.

    (Imagine, if you will, an episode of the Beaver:

    BEAVE: “Gee, Wally, what’s a Steely Dan?”

    EDDIE HASKELL: “It’s a Superman thing. Beat it, ya little twerp.”)

Sometimes an enigmatic Steely Dan song is all the above wrapped into one.

Donald Fagen released a lot of songs on solo albums inspired by his personal point of view, which was informed in a comfortable, middle-class, suburban upbringing.

But even Fagen solo songs with the Fagen POV were produced by Becker. He grew up in a rotten, abusive home, which gave him a hard-nosed, cynical POV.

Yet their POVs meshed as perfectly as their perfectionist musicianship. They were two intellectual renegades, both drawn to great, cutting edge art in music, literature, films and life’s theatre of the absurd.

Donald Fagen’s moody Nightfly album, “with jazz and conversation and sweet music — from the foot of Mount Belzoni.”

I love Donald Fagen’s hit from The Nightly album, “New Frontier.” It’s inspired by those growing-up years of his in the fifties and early sixties. I’m the same age as Fagen and Becker and that was my own era.

It was a time in which so many of us grew up in with our little transistor radios playing “Elvis, or somebody else’s favorite song,” with our pillows over our heads, long after the lights were turned out.

I can relate to everything referenced in Donald Fagen’s “New Frontier”:

— America’s ludicrous, irrational response to the Cold War and nuclear bombs;

— the limbo rock fad;

— the pioneering cool jazz of Dave Brubeck (Steely Dan’s idol and inspiration);

— and the yearning of a small-town or suburban middle-class white boy to take in the bright lights of the wicked city.

Maybe more than anything else, I can relate to the duo’s boyhood infatuation with a mostly forgotten Hollywood sweetheart — the Queen of the Prom who had a slightly dangerous edge — with whom all of us adolescent boys were infatuated (I guess that’s the right word): Tuesday Weld.

A smart, terrific actor beginning in childhood, she received a Golden Globe in 1960 as “Newcomer of the Year.”

OY! Even the name was perfection:

TuesdayWeld.

Tuesday Weld and David Janssen in “The Fugitive.”

Anyway, the boys of Steely Dan would never have vomited a commercial song as poppy and sentimental as “Penny Lane.”

As much as I love The Eagles and the cynical and often edgy Don Henley, Becker and Fagen would sooner have stabbed themselves in the eyes with drumsticks than put out an atrocity as awful as “There’s a New Kid in Town.”

Or worse, a song like “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” for an easy paycheck from Hollywood. (I could never change the radio dial fast enough.)

Below is the video version of “New Frontier” with the lyrics, and lots of images of Tuesday.

Don’t let em take your mind.

Read Rolling Stone’s obituary of Walter Becker here.

See the Steely Dan Websites here.

And for bonus listening … another weird, witty and wonderful Dan classic …

Get your fez on: I want to be your Holy Man.

Me & Stephanie Garcia, who struggled mightily through most of her school life but finally came through and completed her first year of high school with flying colors.


Longtime followers of my blog know that I financially support my 5-year-old Belizean daughter Paulita (Miss Belize) McKay and her siblings: Stephanie and Felix Garcia, ages 16 and 13, respectively.

Stephanie–who completed her first year of school at the Catholic St. Ignatius High School in June — finished the year with a 3.4 grade point average, a solid B!.

It was quite an accomplishment for a young lady who could barely read and write English when I started tutoring her and Felix five years ago.

Stephanie has blossomed academically and I’m hoping she will complete three more years of high school and, possibly, advance to college as well.

But the high cost of the private high schools in Belize — where 95 percent of the schools are church schools and therefore expensive — is too much for me to pay on my limited income. I support the entire family financially with needs other than schooling.

Stephanie in the mestizo dress her mom made for her during Culture Week at St. Ignatius High School. I vastly underestimated the cost of Steph’s high school education because of the many expenses required for her to participate in events like Culture Week. I do want her to be involved in all the extracurricular events she can get in, however, which could help her application to college in three years.

All this is to say that I’m asking for financial help from folks willing to donate money for the costs of Stephanie’s second year of high school, which begins soon.

This year, I’m hoping to raise $1,100 ($2,200 in BZ currency) for the entire 2017-18 academic year.

Last year, my goal was $800 — which was not nearly enough because of so many expenses I didn’t anticipate in budgeting.

Tuition for Stephanie’s second year is covered. On July 3, I paid a down payment on tuition of $150 ($300BZ). Between what I will pay of the $40 and a Belizean government grant of $300BZ that all first- and second-year students receive, Stephanie’s tuition for the 2017-18 is covered.

It’s the massive number of costs that pop up throughout the school year that are too much for me to keep Steph in school on my retirement monies.

So I’m asking once again for the many generous donors who have contributed dollars since last year to consider another donation toward the $1,100 goal.

Also, I’d ask the many new readers of the blog and new friends on social media to consider a donation.

I have learned that most donors much prefer to contribute through my PayPaul account at revpaulmckay@gmail.com.

I have set up a new fund for the second year, however, at GoFundMe, for those who prefer that system. The downside of GoFund Me is the significant dollars in fees that the fund takes off the top of every donation. PayPaul’s fee is a few pennies. (The payment processing fee is 2.9% plus $0.30 per donation.)

Whatever route you may choose, please know that I’ll keep you posted on the payments and on Stephanie’s academic progress as it did last year.

And many thanks in advance from me and Stephanie for whatever amount you give — and know that $10 is appreciated as much as $100!

Here is the like to the GoFundMe site where I give more detailed information on the breakdown of expenses I didn’t anticipate for the first year of Stephanie’s high school education. Trouble is, GoFundMe, which has a deserved reputation for being technical problems, is not allowing me to post a link here. If you want to find it, go to the link and do a search in Education for Steph’s Education Fund, 2018-19.

Stephanie finished her first year of high school with a 3.4 GPA on a 4.0 system. She had a C and a C+ in what is always her most challenging subject, English.

Nightmarish tales are beginning to emerge of parents being reunited with their kids only to have them taken away a second time; or of parents being told that they are about to be reunited with their children, only to wait hours before being returned to holding facilities without seeing their kids — and without any explanation.

— from Texas Monthly Magazine

Meanwhile, in other news being overwhelmed by 20 lies and distractions a day on one Twitter account alone, brown-skin children and their parents in the United States of America continue to be treated like Jewish children and their parents were treated in Nazi Germany in the thirties.

This is not Christian.

This is not humane.

This is not the American way.

This is not acceptable.

Thank God for ACLU lawyers, Christian activists and other unsung heroes working so hard to uncover the truth and to protect the very people that our Lord Jesus fought the greatest fight for.

That includes the supposed “enemy of the people” like the journalists at the venerable Texas Monthly and Texas Observer magazines trying to keep up with this ungodly mess.

The world won’t get no better if we just let it be.”

I still prefer listening to the original “Wake Up Everybody” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

But this cover, with all the star power in the video, makes a seriously prophetic and ever-relevant song a joy for a Happy Friday morning.

You’re welcome.

I believe this ministry is important, because everyone should be able to worship God, and everyone needs hope.

“We are also providing a safe place for an emotional release. Tears flow freely, even in the boys’ service.

“During the prayer time, there is permission to cry out to God.

— The Rev. Dr. Owen Ross on the ministry he and other church folks from the Dallas area are doing with kids in detention on the Texas border.

The United Methodist Church at its best: A team of dynamic United Methodist pastors and leaders are working with other Dallas church folk to hold worship and prayer services with hundreds of detained children in Tornillo, Tx.


Speaking of border kids down in Texas (see yesterday’s post)…

The Texas Methodist Foundation* has a terrific interview with the Rev. Dr. Owen Ross, a friend of mine from the United Methodist Church’s North Texas (Dallas Area) Annual Conference.

A Texas native and (let’s hear it, Aggies!) graduate of Texas A&M, Owen is something of a legend in North Texas for his lifelong ministry with the Spanish-speaking poor. He now holds a special church development office as a member of the Dallas Bishop’s cabinet.

So I invite you, and urge you, to read an interview the aforementioned Texas Methodist Foundation had with Owen about the weekend ministry that he and a team of church or church-related ministers are doing in Tornillo, Tx., the now famous (infamous?) tent home to children being held by the Trump Administration.

Here are a couple of excerpts, including ways for Christians to respond to the crisis:

    Interviewer: What exactly are you doing and what is involved? How are the teenagers, who participate, responding?

    Owen: Each week we go into the detention center and lead a worship service at 10 am for about 340 teenage boys. Most are unaccompanied minors, but some arrived with their families and were separated. Then we have lunch and an afternoon worship service with about 35 teenage girls. We seek to find songs they know and songs that are relevant. When they are singing a song they know, they fill the room with their voices and sing with abandon. They see God as their only hope; worship becomes very powerful when people have a deep hunger and a very present need for God to intervene on their behalf.

    When we go into communion and prayer time, most of the team goes around the room to reach teens who want personal prayer. I believe that is the most important service we are providing. The #1 prayer request – Pray for my case. The #2 prayer request – Pray for my mom or other family members. They are afraid; they are afraid of being sent back to their country of origin,after they have been on such an arduous journey. They are afraid for their family members who are left behind, and they are scared to discover what will happen if they are deported.

    Interviewer: What are the best ways for a church to respond to the current crisis at the border?

    Owen: There are four categories you can fall into if you arrive at the border as an immigrant. (1) You have a spouse, parent or immediate family member who is the US; (2) You have extended family here, like an aunt or an uncle; (3) If you are a minor, you have a family friend who has been authorized by your parent to receive you and that person has passed a background check; (4) You have no one to serve as your sponsor.

    Some of the youth at the detention center in Tornillo do not have sponsors in the US. However, Church World Service (CWS) is working right now to help find sponsors. Churches can identify as sponsors and help people get out of detention. Individuals can serve as sponsors, too. If you or your church is concerned about the crisis at the border, you can take action right now through CWS and you will be an answered prayer for someone who is stuck at the border, if you do.

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*Please go here for pictures and the entire interview, and more about the great work the Texas Methodist Foundation does.