The American story continues: Getting ready for the Biden Inauguration

By Ande Jacobson

I watched the 17 January 2021 episode of 60 Minutes the next morning while exercising on my elliptical trainer, a fairly common Monday morning routine. Two of their stories from the previous night were on political events – preparations for Wednesday’s inauguration, and what happened on 6 January 2021. I’ve already written about the coup attempt in my essay entitled “6 January 2021: An American Story,” so that’s not my focus here. Instead, the first 60 Minutes segment, “Against All Enemies,” hit me particularly hard. Continue reading

6 January 2021: An American Story

By Ande Jacobson

On 6 January 2021, the story unfolding in real time was more confounding and disturbing than any work of fiction I have ever read, and I couldn’t look away. Sadly, it also wasn’t unexpected based on the sitting president’s behavior throughout his term of office and before that as a private citizen. This administration was the runaway train that would inevitably crash where it did on this day.

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A fitting end to 2020

By Ande Jacobson

It seems fitting that 2020 is a Leap Year. Leap Years are special and just a little bit strange. With February longer than usual, that means the year has an extra day making Leap Years 366 days long which seems a fitting end to the most frightening and bizarre year in the memory of most of those alive today. While we would like this year over sooner rather than later, we have to wait an extra day to say goodbye to 2020.

At the beginning of the year, 2020 seemed like it would just be a particularly rough election year with an extra day in February. Most of the public had no idea how different 2020 would be until after 29 February even though it turned out that the dangerous SARS-CoV-2 virus had already been spreading since late last year. Continue reading

We need a little SaxMas right now!

By Ande Jacobson

Today was the third Saturday of December in the year 2020, and to paraphrase a lyric from a show I played 14 years ago, we need a little SaxMas right now. This day should have been the 27th annual gathering of sax players of every shape and size playing saxophones of every shape and size in San Jose, California. Although SaxMas founder, Ray Bernd, held out hope for as long as he could, because of the pandemic that didn’t happen, and for the first time in 27 years the event was formally called off in late October. This special event is one that players and audience members look forward to every year because it’s festive, musical, and gleaming with all that holiday saxophone goodness. Over 200 saxophonists playing holiday music together is a sight and sound to behold, and it’s one that’s not soon forgotten. At the end of last year, I wrote a piece reliving 2019’s SJ SaxMas, and I watched the included video of that concert again this morning to put myself in the SaxMas frame of mind even though I had no place to go because of our necessary lockdown. That still wasn’t enough holiday for the day. Continue reading

How is living through the pandemic like space?

By Ande Jacobson

I have long loved the world of Star Trek and science fiction in general. I can remember imagining possibilities as a child while walking to school, wishing that it were possible to be beamed up to a starship to travel to new worlds and join with others in exploring the vastness of space. In the real world of my childhood, I got to watch, along with the rest of the world, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked and jumped on the moon for the first time. Although very different from the pictures painted by my favorite television series, it was a breathtaking adventure that sparked many dreams. I later studied space travel and learned how manned space flight changed over time beginning with the U.S. Gemini and Apollo programs through the advent of Skylab, Mir, and the International Space Station. Various probes and telescopes continue to explore beyond the earth’s boundaries to give us crucial information about what’s really out there. We still haven’t achieved the level of development depicted in the Star Trek universe, nor have we discovered the kinds of life imagined by various science fiction writers, but we have grown outward and created stories, both real and imagined, related to what’s beyond our little blue planet. Continue reading

Remember it’s ‘WE THE PEOPLE’

By Ande Jacobson

As I sit huddled at home as many of us have for almost eight months now, I see the world outside my windows, and I interact virtually with friends and family via phone, via text, and via Zoom (and boy do I look forward to those Zoom sessions). I never thought I would be living through a worldwide pandemic, and yet here we all are. In the US as I write this, we are also only a few days from the end of being able to cast our ballots in the most important election in almost a century. In response to this election, rather than sitting back and waiting, I am heavily engaged in some necessary volunteer work for the Biden campaign as I mentioned in my recent essay, Taking Action! As I read reports of daily happenings, these words are looming large:

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America

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Taking Action!

By Ande Jacobson

Stories. We all relate through stories. We use them from the time we’re small to help us learn language and other skills we need to function as members of society. We use them in our families to ensure that we don’t forget those who came before us. We use them in school as students and teachers to illustrate new concepts and explore the vast world around us. We use them at work to convey information. We use them for entertainment to draw out emotions. We use them throughout society to help understand where we are, and how we got here. We use them in politics to persuade and move people to take action. Continue reading

Trouble – when the story matters more than reality

By Ande Jacobson

In theater or in literature, an author’s vivid imagination can be a wondrous thing. A writer can spin a captivating tale limited only by the bounds of their imagination and their ability to capture their vision in words. If told well, such a story can be divorced from reality yet still provide compelling entertainment for its audience. In this context it’s not only acceptable, it’s desirable, and viewers or readers can find escape through immersion in such a story. It can be enjoyable to suspend disbelief enough to imagine what might be, and it can even inspire people to positive action to improve a situation in reality. Science fiction has long posited potential advances, both good and bad, that are sometimes achieved at a later time. The communicators used in Star Trek in the 1960s were intriguing. They allowed people to communicate over long distances from wherever they were with a tiny device seemingly by magic. Decades later, they came to life in the real world as flip phones as a phase in the evolution of mobile technology. Granted, there were significant differences in range, clarity, and required infrastructure, but the similarities were striking given various designs inspired by the fictional story. Since then, mobile technology has advanced in the form of smart phones and devices, delighting consumers and titillating the minds of creative engineers to continue to push even further. Continue reading

Eclipsing Reality

By Ande Jacobson

Years ago, although I lived and worked on the west coast, I spent a good deal of time near Washington, D.C. on some temporary work assignments. On these extended trips with my technical team, I had some time to explore the various museums and monuments on the weekends after some very long work weeks. Little did I know that one such outing would blossom into a vivid lesson on how easily people can be swayed by exaggeration or even completely false information presented as fact, eclipsing reality in dramatic fashion. Continue reading

The magic of the written word

By Ande Jacobson

Writing can be a powerful tool. Written words have the power to induce strong emotions. They give us a way to record history, events, and ideas. They can entertain and inspire. In telling a story, a writer is often trying to elicit a strong response in their readers. As a reader, it can be quite enjoyable to lose one’s self in a well-told story that runs us through a variety of emotional responses.

With the ubiquity of text messaging, the internet, email, and social media, many of us are thrust into the role of writer as well as reader on a daily basis. We share ideas and concerns as we connect with friends and foes, often making new friends along the way. We debate, we cajole, we support, and we entertain through our written exchanges. And sadly, we can sometimes push people we care about away. Continue reading