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A global entertainment icon and beloved Mississippian explains the meaning of life.

Kermit the Frog is an entertainment icon known worldwide for his appearances on The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, as well as a number of feature films. He attributes much of his success to his thirty-five year partnership with Mississippi native and entertainment visionary, Jim Henson. Kermit has received many honors and accolades for his work, including multiple Academy Award nominations, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a commemorative stamp from the U.S. Postal Service.

Holiday Fireworks Are No Blast For Pets

Fireworks displays will illuminate the skies during Fourth of July celebrations. As we enjoy these holiday festivities, it’s important for us to remember that this can be a very traumatic time for our pets. Loud noises can frighten animals, causing them to panic and even run away from home. In fact, animal shelters across the country report an increased number of lost animal companions after fireworks displays.

“Every year, dogs and cats escape from their yards or homes in fear during the holiday festivities,” says Keri Fennell, Marin Humane Society director of shelter services. “Some pets become lost or wind up at the Humane Society.”

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday for you and your pet.

Keep your pets indoors during fireworks displays. A quiet, sheltered “den-like” retreat is best. Close windows and curtains and turn on the TV or radio to help drown out some of the noise. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so be sure to remove any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful if chewed.

Make sure your pets are wearing current identification and tags so that if they do become lost, they can be returned to you promptly.

Never take your dog to a fireworks display. It’s usually hot. There are always large crowds. And the dogs really don’t enjoy it.

Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a tether. Pets who normally wouldn’t try to leave the yard may panic and try to escape. Dogs may become entangled in their tethers or hang themselves if they try to leap over a fence. To avoid injury, keep your pets indoors.

Via Marin Humane Society

“With a lot of bands, it’s very important to have infrastructure, and to have a good manager and booking agent, and people around you who are very stable, keep you on track and not let you destroy yourself in all the chaos of touring. When you talk about some bands from that era, who were absolutely genius, maybe they were taken down by addiction, bad things on the road or tragedy, where it would have been helpful to have people keep you grounded. And we’ve been lucky that way.

“Emily (Saliers) and I have always been committed to making new music, being active, having different people tour with us and getting better at what we do. And all those add up to having a longer career, having respect for it, and knowing it could go away at any minute.”

Via San Diego Tribune

Their ongoing summer tour will keep Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls from attending the Grateful Dead’s three final farewell shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field this weekend. But the veteran vocal duo cites opening for the Dead at a 1993 University of Oregon stadium concert as a pivotal moment in their career.

“When people ask: ‘What shows do you remember the most?’ that’s always one I talk about,” said Ray, who performs here with Saliers on Sunday at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay. (Ticket information appears below.)

“It was just one of those moments where I was like: ‘I can’t believe I’m here!’ They were a great band — and Jerry (Garcia) was there! We learned so much from the whole experience and from the family-style way they run their business. Everything was very welcoming. Dinner (backstage) was this great, celebratory event and everybody was treated equally.

“When we went onstage, it was mind-blowing to see that many people — we didn’t have any idea they would pay attention to us. But the Dead’s audience is so supportive of their opening acts, because they know they’re sanctioned by the Dead. It taught us a lot about how to deal with our own opening acts, and our audiences, and make each concert a complete event. So opening for the Dead taught us a lot on every level. And, musically, we got to watch them play their whole show from the side of the stage, which was amazing.”

Via San Diego Tribune

Based on the NPR series of the same name, This I Believe features eighty Americans–from the famous to the unknown–completing the thought that the book’s title begins. Each piece compels readers to rethink not only how they have arrived at their own personal beliefs but also the extent to which they share them with others.

One of the book’s highlights is an essay by composer Leonard Bernstein, who skillfully executives his philosophy of life.

I believe in people. I feel, love, need, and respect people above all else, including the arts, natural scenery, organized piety, or nationalistic superstructures. One human figure on the slope of a mountain can make the whole mountain disappear for me. One person fighting for the truth can disqualify for me the platitudes of centuries. And one human being who meets with injustice can render invalid the entire system which has dispensed it.

I believe that man’s noblest endowment is his capacity to change. Armed with reason, he can see two sides and choose: He can be divinely wrong. I believe in man’s right to be wrong. Out of this right he has built, laboriously and lovingly, something we reverently call democracy. He has done it the hard way and continues to do it the hard way – by reason, by choosing, by error and rectification, by the difficult, slow method in which the dignity of A is acknowledged by B, without impairing the dignity of C. Man cannot have dignity without loving the dignity of his fellow.

I believe in the potential of people. I cannot rest passively with those who give up in the name of “human nature.” Human nature is only animal nature if it is obliged to remain static. Without growth, without metamorphosis, there is no godhead. If we believe that man can never achieve a society without wars, then we are condemned to wars forever. This is the easy way. But the laborious, loving way, the way of dignity and divinity, presupposes a belief in people and in their capacity to change, grow, communicate, and love.

Via This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women

From Kurt Vonnegut’s introduction to his short story anthology, Bagombo Snuff Box, here are his 8 tips on how to write a good short story.

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

I’ve noticed you interacting with kids at shows a lot, and responding to kids on Tumblr a lot. 

Meredith Graves: People for some reason are always really surprised that I’m nice. And I have to wonder, out of the bands that we play with, who are the assholes? Who would they not approach? Because those people need help. Fuck those people. Or conversely, love those people until they start behaving in acceptable ways. I wish that I could talk to every teenager who is a fan of independent music in the year 2014 and say, ‘I know you like these bands, but these people are not good role models.’ Once I know that a person in a band is a piece of shit, I can’t listen to that band anymore, and I don’t want to.

So much music has been ruined for me this year for that same reason. That’s why to me, it’s so important that we’re in this moment that there are actually a lot of feminists and punks being given bigger platforms to project from.

Meredith Graves: And I don’t even want to pretend that this is endemic to just the larger music industry. Because where I come from, in hardcore, I would venture to say the percentage of shitty dudes is exponentially higher… Every single corner of music is constantly on the verge of being ruined by men. Men will ruin music just like men are currently ruining global ecology, just like men have ruined politics, just like men have ruined everything. Men are ruining music publications, men are ruining record labels, men are ruining music videos, men are ruining flyer art. I don’t want teenagers to support shitty men.

Look at labour-capitalism in the USA. Let’s look at the division of labour. Let’s take a group of one hundred 14-year-olds. How many of those will grow into workers and how many of them will be bosses? 99 per cent of those teenagers are going to be workers, working for shitty men. I don’t want them to start giving their money or their time or their energy to men like that any earlier than they absolutely have to. I want them to have heroes who are fighters, who are survivors, who come from a diverse enough array of backgrounds, to give them a greater sense of how the systems of the world actually operate. And more importantly, how they intersect.

Via Dazed

For the past 35 years, Brian Grazer — who co-founded Imagine Entertainment with friend and director Ron Howard — has been one chasing face-to-face meetings with people he’s curious about. Grazer, whose film credits include “Apollo 13,” “Splash” and “A Beautiful Mind,” has now transformed more than 450 “curiosity conversations” with visionaries from a variety of fields into a new book, “A Curious Mind,” coming out this April from Simon & Schuster.

CNET sought out their own curiosity conversation with Grazer and asked him what he’s learned. Here are a few of the things he shared.

On the definition of curiosity: Curiosity is the process of asking questions, genuine questions, that are not leading to an ask for something in return.

On why curiosity conversations take courage: It’s about living in discomfort. It’s about living outside of your comfort zone. Any one of these people that you’re meeting is an expert in a world and with a vocabulary that’s completely different than yours — certainly Isaac Asimov is proof of that. You have to [overcome] a very steep learning curve just so you can relate to them and relate in a way that holds their interest.

[With Asimov], I could have prepared better or found a way he thought would have been beneficial to him. Because every one of these meetings, you have to bring something with you — you have to bring something to give them.

On why a failed conversation is still a worthwhile conversation: I met Edward Teller. Everything he believed in and stood for was antithetical to what I believed in and stood for. I like running into that in life. I like extreme points of view, a level of commitment — and I certainly love mastery. So when that’s all living inside some other person, I benefit from the experience and I benefit from trying to just get a glimpse into why they have such a different point of view. I find rejection or failure to be a really interesting and valuable experience.

On why technology shouldn’t replace face-to-face meetings: Technology has brought us further than man could ever imagine, and it makes all information available. But it might not do the same exact thing that one human being asking another human being might do.


President Obama delivered the following eulogy at the funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney at the College of Charleston’s campus.

OBAMA: Giving all praise and honor to God. The Bible calls us to hope, to persevere and have faith in things not seen. They were still living by faith when they died, the scripture tells us.
They did not receive the things promised. They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.
We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith, a man who believed in things not seen, a man who believed there were better days ahead off in the distance, a man of service, who persevered knowing full-well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed, to Jennifer, his beloved wife, Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters, to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.
I cannot claim to have had the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well, but I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina back when we were both a little bit younger…
… back when I didn’t have visible gray hair.
The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor, all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.
Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived, that even from a young age, folks knew he was special, anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful, a family of preachers who spread God’s words, a family of protesters who so changed to expand voting rights and desegregate the South.
Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching. He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth nor youth’s insecurities. Instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith and purity.
As a senator, he represented a sprawling swathe of low country, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America, a place still racked by poverty and inadequate schools, a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment — a place that needed somebody like Clem. His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too-often unheeded. The votes he cast were sometimes lonely.
But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the Capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There, he would fortify his faith and imagine what might be.
Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean nor small. He conducted himself quietly and kindly and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.
No wonder one of his Senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us, the best of the 46 of us.”
Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of AME Church.
As our brothers and sisters in the AME Church, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation but the life and community in which our congregation resides.”
He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words, that the sweet hour of prayer actually lasts the whole week long, that to put our faith in action is more than just individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation, that to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.
What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized, after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say somebody was a good man.
You don’t have to be of high distinction to be a good man.
Preacher by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith.
And then to lose him at 41, slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God — Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson.
Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people.
People so full of life and so full of kindness, people who ran the race, who persevered, people of great faith.
To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church.
The church is and always has been the center of African American life…
… a place to call our own in a too-often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.
Over the course of centuries, black churches served as hush harbors, where slaves could worship in safety, praise houses, where their free descendants could gather and shout “Hallelujah…”
… rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad, bunkers for the foot soldiers of the civil-rights movement.
They have been and continue to community centers, where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harms way and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter.
That’s what happens in church. That’s what the black church means — our beating heart, the place where our dignity as a people in inviolate.
There’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel, a church…
… a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founders sought to end slavery only to rise up again, a phoenix from these ashes. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherers, services happened here anyway in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.
A sacred place, this church, not just for blacks, not just for Christians but for every American who cares about the steady expansion…
… of human rights and human dignity in this country, a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.
That’s what the church meant.
We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history, but he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…
… an act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion, an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.
Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.
God has different ideas.
He didn’t know he was being used by God.
Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer would not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group, the light of love that shown as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.
The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.
The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley, how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond not merely with revulsion at his evil acts, but with (inaudible) generosity. And more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life. Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace.
This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace.
The grace of the families who lost loved ones; the grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons; the grace described in one of my favorite hymnals, the one we all know — Amazing Grace.
How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God.
As manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace — as a nation out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.
He’s given us the chance where we’ve been lost to find out best selves. We may not have earned this grace with our rancor and complacency and short-sightedness and fear of each other, but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace.
But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.
For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate Flag stirred into many of our citizens.
It’s true a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge, including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise…
… as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.
For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression…
… and racial subjugation.
We see that now.
Removing the flag from this state’s capital would not be an act of political correctness. It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.
The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.
It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history, a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.
It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races, striving to form a more perfect union.
By taking down that flag, we express adds grace God’s grace.
But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.
For too long, we’ve been blind to be way past injustices continue to shape the present.
Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty…
… or attend dilapidated schools or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.
Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.
Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal-justice system and lead us to make sure that that system’s not infected with bias.
… that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement…
… and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.
Maybe we now realize the way a racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal…
… so that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote…
… by recognizing our common humanity, by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin…
… or the station into which they were born and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American. By doing that, we express God’s grace.
For too long…
For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.
Sporadically, our eyes are open when eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day…
… the countless more whose lives are forever changed, the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happening to some other place.
The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners want to do something about this. We see that now.
And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions, ways of life that make up this beloved country, by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.
We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it.
But God gives it to us anyway.
And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.
None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says, “We have to have a conversation about race.” We talk a lot about race.
There’s no shortcut. We don’t need more talk.
None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy.
It will not. People of good will will continue to debate the merits of various policies as our democracy requires — the big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates.
Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.
Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.
To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.
Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”
What is true in the south is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too.
That — that history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.
That’s what I felt this week — an open heart. That more than any particular policy or analysis is what’s called upon right now, I think. It’s what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness beyond and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”
That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible.
If we can tap that grace, everything can change. Amazing grace, amazing grace.
Amazing grace…
… how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now, I see.
Clementa Pinckney found that grace…
… Cynthia Hurd found that grace…
… Susie Jackson found that grace…
… Ethel Lance found that grace…
… DePayne Middleton Doctor found that grace…
… Tywanza Sanders found that grace…
… Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace… … Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace…
… Myra Thompson found that grace…
… through the example of their lives. They’ve now passed it onto us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift as long as our lives endure.
May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His Grace on the United States of America.

Via Washington Post

Is it ever morally acceptable to tell a lie? Kant thought not. His example of the would-be murderer explains his reasoning.

Is sacrificing one life to save the lives of many others the best possible outcome? Narrated by Harry Shearer. Scripted by Nigel Warburton. Do you draw conclusions from how things are to think about how things should be? There might be a gap in your reasoning.

Is there an important difference between a child drowning in front of you and one dying in a far off land? The philosopher Peter Singer thinks not. He acknowledges that we have biases that lead us to favour those near us over those further away, but argues these are irrational.

Do you draw conclusions from how things are to think about how things should be? There might be a gap in your reasoning.