Tuesday, November 21, 2017


By any measure, 2017 has been a mind blower, an assumption destroying mass of hypocrisy, an unending reel of civilizational outtakes, patched together to resemble an actual year. I found a photograph and a Far Side cartoon the other day which did a nice job of summarizing this entire miserable failure of a year:

In the climate of 2017, the year of raging disappointment, I half expect Donald Trump to Tweet this out with a caption...What do you bet these guys are talking about what a bad guy Roy Moore is? Sad...

I read a quote the other day from some alleged pastor in Alabama, who while defending Roy Moore, made the following crucially important point, “Some of these 14 year old girls, the way they dress, could pass for 20.” This from a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, out of some dark tribal place, a representative of the church suggests that if a teenager walks out of the house in tight jeans and a low neck sweater, 32 year old judges can’t be expected to restrain themselves. New Zealand has never looked more attractive.

I remember years ago there was a very famous television evangelist named Jimmy Swaggard, most famous for being a cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis and for weeping while singing. This dude was quite the headliner. He could deliver hour long empassioned sermons decrying the decadence and sexual debauchery of America, and somehow tie it all back to when they ripped the Bible out of the schoolhouse. The man built a media empire around this theme, his face filling cable television from Maine to California for nearly a decade. Then, it all fell to pieces when he was busted with a prostitute. My Dad was furious that such a man would bring such shame to the Gospel. I remember watching a 60 Minutes piece about Swaggard with him. He turned to me and said, Sometimes, the people who yell the loudest about something do so because they’ve got something to hide.

I’ve thought of those words a lot lately...

Maybe these liberal icons who are constantly touting their feminist bonifides...are overcompensating for something.

Maybe these pastors complaining about how 14 year olds too closely resemble 20 year olds know this from personal experience.

Maybe Charlie Rose can arrange to moderate a debate between Al Franken and Roy Moore on the subject...Too Young To Grope?

Or maybe, just maybe...we all should just give up on 2017, and promise to do better next year.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lucy’s Scary Day...Part Two

Lucy: Seriously? You’re calling me weird? You’re a spaniel. You have a three inch tail which is like physically impossible to catch, yet you chase it anyway!

Facilitator: Lucy, we’ve talked about this...no body-shaming!

Howls of dog laughter...

Doberman: SILENCE!!! Lucy, continue.

Lucy: My humans are just a little bit off, that’s all. I mean, their hearts are in the right place and all, they feed me and give good scratches and everything, but I don’t know, I’m worried about them.

Facilitator: Can you be more specific? Maybe someone else in the group has had a similar experience with their humans. Let’s turn this into a growing opportunity!

Lucy: Ok, like I said earlier, I really love them. They let me climb up on the sofa with them when I’m downstairs and, they even let me sleep with them in their king sized bed every night!

...lots of enthusiastic yapping and a simultaneous shout out of KING SIZED BED!!!!!

Lucy: But, the thing is, my humans aren’t exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer...

Pug: Oh puhleeze, we all have dumb humans!

Black Lab: Spoken by a runny-nosed imbecile who doesn’t even know how to shake!

Facilitator: I must say, I’m sensing an awful lot of hostility in here today, and frankly, I’m ashamed of all of you! Now, let Lucy finish without these triggering interruptions.

Lucy: Here’s one thing...every day around 5 o’clock this scary man driving a weird car without any doors drives up like way too close to my human’s Street box. Then, he never fails to stuff things, god only knows what, into the box. Of course, I warn my humans of this clear and present danger, every single day...and then, without fail...my human pats me on the head and walks right out there into harm’s way, and without hesitation, sticks his hand right in the box and pulls out whatever the man jammed in there. It’s like he has no fear, and like he can’t even hear my warnings. Seriously, one day it’s gonna be like a bomb and it’s going to blow his hands off. When that happens, he better not come running to me.

Border Collie: Wait...Lucy, that’s a mail box... And the man in the doorless truck is the guy who delivers the mail. Chill out.

German Shepherd: Lies!! The man in the doorless truck is the avowed enemy of all dogs on earth!!

Beagle: Don’t fall for that Collie’s lies! Next he’s gonna tell us that cats are our friends!

...wails of protests...

Border Collie: Idiots....I’m surrounded by idiots.

Lucy: But, it’s not just the doorless car man. Sometimes my humans like totally forget my name. Most of the time, of course, they butcher the heck out of it...instead of Lucy, it ends up being Lucy the Goosey or some such thing. But, here’s the thing...at least once a day, one of them will look me straight in the face and ask me “Who is my good girl?? I’m like, come on people. You guys know this one!!

Affirmative groaning....

Lucy: But, the worst thing is my Dad. He has this round thing called a frisbee which he LOVES SO MUCH. Seriously guys, every time he takes me out into the yard he brings that thing with him...but then he does the oddest thing. He throws it away!! It starts flying up in the air and I’m sure it’s going to escape, so I run like the wind and catch it before it disappears forever. I mean, he’s lucky I’m kinda fast and am really good at retrieving things. Of course, instead of being grateful, as soon as I give it back to him he DOES IT AGAIN!! So, 
like eventually I just stop giving it back to him, if that’s how he’s going to be. And what does he do? He gets mad at me!! Its like he doesn’t even understand how close he is to losing his frisbee forever. 

Facilitator: I can certainly understand your frustration, Lucy. But remember the first rule of being a dog...No dog gets to pick their humans. We just have to learn to be thankful for who we end up with. I’m sure they’ll come around. You’re only what...3? 4?

Lucy: I’m 3.

Poodle: I’ve got news for you Lucy, if you haven’t whipped them into shape by now, it’s never going to happen. I knew your humans were slow the minute you walked in here. Look at you...who lets a dog wear an orange collar after Labor Day??

Pit Bull: Hey Pal...you ever get tired of putting up with them, look me up. Let’s just say...I know a guy.

A Scary Day For Lucy

This morning, Thanksgiving week gets started off right here at the Dunnevant house. In approximately 45 minutes, a crew of skilled carpenters will descend on the place to rip out the hard wood floors from our kitchen and breakfast nook. Then they will bring in a pallet load of new flooring and dump it in the breakfast nook where our kitchen table used to be. I’m not sure about this next part, but I think they will then reinstall the kitchen cabinets which they had removed over a month ago when this whole mess started. After Thanksgiving is over, they will come back and install the new flooring. At that point, everything will be placed on hold until the first of the year, since neither Pam, Lucy nor I care to spend a week in a hotel right before Christmas while our entire downstairs floors get resanded and stained. Speaking of Lucy, the Psycho-Dog....

It’s going to be interesting to see how she handles today’s proceedings. I’m sure the sounds of wood being ripped up from the downstairs will be a delight. Of course, after the crew leaves is when it will really get interesting. Then, when Lucy goes into the breakfast nook to eat her dinner she will find subfloor where her hardwood floor used to be. That means that her dinner dishes will be sitting on a scary new surface. The old surface was bad enough, what with its terrifying tendency to randomly startle the bajesus out of her while she was trying to eat.(don’t ask) Now, she will have to deal with not only this rough new sunken floor but also the horrifying pile of wood over in the corner. 

Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like if Lucy could talk. Suppose she attended an encounter group for troubled dogs once a week at the Canine Wellness Center and Spa...

Facilitator: Thank you all for coming today. As we all know, Thanksgiving is this week, and our humans have been known to lose their minds a little during the holidays. Is there anything any of you would like to share with the group? Anyone?

Silence....with occasional scratching

Facilitator: Lucy? You look particularly troubled today. Anything strange going on at your house?

Lucy: You don’t know the half of it. My humans have decided to start tearing the house down. They’ve started with the floors downstairs, but I have a feeling that eventually they will be gunning for the bedrooms upstairs too. They're just crazy enough to do it, I swear!

...the sound of sympathy whines break out around the circle...

Lucy: It all started when we got back from Maine. One minute I’m asleep on the sofa, and the next thing I know, my humans have opened the dishwasher and let water everywhere into the kitchen. The next day they went out and bought three of the most hideous machines you can imagine and put them in the kitchen for three weeks where these machines screamed out 24 hours a day. I mean, what were they thinking?? I mean, I love my humans, but sometimes they seem so confused. Then, then...they let these very loud and smelly men come into our house and steal the kitchen cabinets!! It was like one minute they were there and the next minute...GONE! The worst part is...I think my humans actually paid these smelly people to do this thing!

...barking and growling...

Facilitator: That sounds unsettling Lucy. But, remember what we have talked about...what coping mechanism have we been working on?

All dogs in unison: When all else fails, chase your tail!

Lucy: Yeah well, that’s easier said than done at my house. You try having delirious fun in a house filled with dark shapes and random scary bags everywhere.

Spaniel: Dude, you’re weird.

Friday, November 17, 2017

My Philosopher-Mother Strikes Again

For much of human history, the world’s best and brightest minds believed that a person’s fate was largely predetermined by outside forces. Men and women were essentially wandering around this life fully controlled by cosmic puppet masters, whose motives and inclinations were unknowable. But, somewhere around 500 B.C. a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus came along with a three word theory...Character is Destiny, the idea being that instead of the winds of fate or dumb, blind luck, a human being’s destiny was actually closely correlated to his or her inner character. 

My father was no Greek philosopher, in fact, I would wager that he never heard of Heraclitus. But his highly refined sense of right and wrong, good and evil, led him to conclude that what’s down in the well eventually comes up in the bucket. My mother’s formal education stopped upon her graduation from Buckingham Central High School, but that didn’t stop her from formulating her own philosophy of human behavior which was, who you are when nobody’s looking is who you really are.

My parents have been on my mind a lot lately as I’ve watched the growing list of famous and powerful men being brought low by allegations of sexual impropriety, from inappropriate flirting all the way to rape. Some of the men on the growing list should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, but others have been deeply disappointing. There will no doubt be more to come. Part of me is glad to see lecherous men get what is coming to them, another part of me senses an opportunistic feeding frenzy of accusation, women perhaps using the cover of the moment to settle old scores. But, how to tell the difference? It’s all a horrible mess that makes me glad I’m not a judge.

I’ve often wondered what my Mom and Dad would think of it all. Honestly, I’m glad they aren’t here to see it.

Yesterday, when I read the Sylvester Stallone story, another memory came back to me from my philosopher-Mother. I was in some sort of trouble back in the day. Mom suspected that I was guilty of something and was trying to persuade me to come clean and confess. I remember she looked me straight in the eye and said, Douglas, you listen to your mother...be sure your sins will find you out.

Never have those words felt more true than they feel right now.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Silver Lining at the DMV

As many of you know, I enjoyed a one hour and fifty eight minute stay at the lovely Hotel DMV yesterday afternoon with 50 plus of my fellow citizens. It was everything anyone could expect from an encounter with the bureaucratic state...maddening, and infuriating . However, all was not hopeless despair. No matter how bad things get in life, there is always a ray of sunshine somewhere in the mess if you look hard enough. At the DMV yesterday afternoon, there were actually two.

The list of things contributing to my bowel stewing frustration yesterday was long and impressive. Despite a nearly full house of customers, only 5 of the 11 customer service windows were open. The little slips of paper we all were handed upon arrival assigning us a queue number were intentionally random, a devious plot hatched by some tenured functionary to keep all of us totally in the dark as to where we stood in the order. When the creepy robot voiced woman came on the loudspeaker to announce who was now being served and at which window, it was always a number which had zero relationship to any of the other numbers recently called. What possible relationship does B-67 have to F-145? Well, about as much as C-16 has to M-297. Whenever a new number was called, half of the customers could be seen shaking their heads from side to side in resigned agitation. But then, out of nowhere something genius happened. The sound system at the DMV started playing this:

When I heard Love Me Do, I thought it was just a random Beatle song slipped in the mix of otherwise horrible elevator music. But when it was followed by From Me To You, then She Loves You, we were on to something. I am here to tell you that the entire mood of the building changed. Customers who had just minutes earlier been on the edge of a nervous breakdown, men and women who were starting to get the attention of the security cop in the corner because of their muted but profane outbursts, were suddenly now humming along to Ticket To Ride. Don’t misunderstand, none of us wanted to be there, and we were all still mightily annoyed, but now suddenly, there was a song on our lips. It was a genius crowd control move.

The second surprise came when my number was finally called. From the vantage point of where I was sitting, I could only see the faces of four of the five customer service technicians, and the view wasn’t pretty. These three women and one man looked like the most miserable people on earth, like they were the only people alive who wanted to be at the DMV less than we all did. The word hemorrhoidal agony came to mind. But when I made my way over to window 3, I was in for a pleasant surprise. My attendant greeted me with a beaming smile and a How are you? What can I help you with today?? I was taken aback and temporarily rattled by this brazen display of kindness, forgetting for a moment why I was there. I quickly recovered and began spilling out my tail of woe, trying to explain the three month ordeal I had been through to obtain a clear title of my son’s vehicle. When I was finished, this woman looked my directly in the eye and said, Mr. Dunnevant, that sounds horrible and I am so sorry for what you have been through, but we are going to get this fixed for you today, ok love?

Again, don’t misunderstand, this woman was no miracle worker. I was still in for another 45 minutes of bureaucratic bungling, but now I was in the hands of a caring, diligent, and strangely happy woman. And I am here to tell you...it made all the difference in the world. I saw first hand how even the most impossible situation can be redeemed by a kind, caring human being. Let this be a lesson to everyone of us who is trying to run a business, all of us who find ourselves in difficult, stressful situations in life, this wonderful woman at the DMV illustrated for me the eternal truth of Proverbs 15:1...A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

An Observation on the 1%

On more than one occasion recently I have run across news stories claiming that the richest 1% of people alive today control something like 50% of the world’s wealth. This story has come in several forms, sometimes expressed as the richest 20 people in the world have more wealth than the 200 million poorest people, or some such thing. I am not here to dispute the truth of these assertions. Matter of fact, I’m absolutely sure that it’s true. What I highly doubt, however, is the contention that this is something new in human history. I’m very suspicious. Unfortunately, since world wide wealth statistics are a relatively new science, getting a grasp of how much wealth there was in the world in say, the 1600’s, is a dicey proposition, that features a lot of guessing. But, here’s what my trick knee tells me...throughout all of recorded history, there have always been and there always will be a small, elite subset of human beings who rise to the top of the heap and consequently gobble up a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth. To “prove” the accuracy of my trick knee, I’ve been doing some digging. Here’s what I’ve found.

Scholars have published lists of the richest men in the history of the world based on available data and best estimates using inflation adjusted numbers. They have not included heads of state since their wealth would have been considered public. (so, Genghis Khan and Joseph Stalin didn’t make the list) No, these are the 20 wealthiest private citizens of all time. The list contains 11 Americans. Only three of the men on this list are alive today. ( Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim, and Bill Gates ) 12 of the 20 lived prior to the Industrial Revolution, 2 of them during the Middle Ages (Rufus the Red, William the Conqueror ). 

But, I decided to drill deeper on this question of wealth concentration at the top of the pyramid. The assumption is that today with the advent of powerful technologies and the dot.com explosion, that mega wealth is somehow newly unprecedented. So, I decided to look at  this a different way. How do the modern high tech billionaires compare to their old school predecessors? Ok, here’s what I found...

There is a list out there of the 20 richest Americans of all time, inflation adjusted to 2015 dollars since that was the year that the list was complied. Exactly one of them made his fortune in tech...Bill Gates, with a net worth of 86 billion, which places him at number 4. The other three living American Billionaires on this list? Warren Buffet at number 10, the dreaded Koch bothers at numbers 17 and 18.

Now, how about the top three richest Americans of all time? 

#3. Cornelius Vanderbilt. Died in 1877, after making a boat load of money in the shipping and railroad business. His fortune comes in at 185 billion dollars.

#2. Andrew Carnegie. Passed away in 1919 after amassing a fortune of a staggering 310 billion dollars in the steel business. To his great credit, he gave virtually all of it away at or near his death, endowing an endless list of public libraries, etc...

#1. John D. Rockefeller. When this dude finally kicked the bucket, it was made out of solid gold. His dominance of the oil business resulted in a fortune that makes modern day tech titans look like pikers. 340 billion dollars...that’s billion with a “B”.

In other words, the top three guys on this list, all long dead, were worth more than the next 12 guys on this list...combined.

All of us, every single one of us suffer from recency bias, that is, whatever we actually experience and know always feels like the best, worst of all time. The most dominating idea in our heads most of the time is simply the most recent idea we have been exposed to. I try to fight this instinct all the time with varying degrees of success. In the arena of income inequality, do I believe that policy makers should try to come up with initiatives that increase incomes at the lowest end of the economic ladder? Of course. Minimum wage laws have sought to effect changes in this area. Discussions of a living wage seek to address this issue as well. Death taxes and estate levies, and the progressive income tax have been enacted to chip away at the other end of the ladder with very limited success, since generally speaking, rich people got rich because they are smarter and more resourceful than policy makers. Still, I am in favor of any remedy that will actually work to narrow the income gap. But, we better disabuse ourselves of the notion that we have the power to do away with the accumulation of wealth at the very top of the pyramid by a small cadre of thieves and achievers. Until we can figure out a way to alter human nature, it’s never going to happen.

There is nothing new under the sun....

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Dream and a Story

A month ago today I started writing a story. I’m still writing it. 

When I was in Maine, on one of the first couple of nights there, I had a rather disturbing dream. It was one of those dreams where the  central action was very graphic and clear, while all of the ancillary stuff leading up to the central action was blurry. It was such a surprising dream to have at such a peaceful and happy place and time. Usually people have dreams like this one when they are dealing with some heavy burden, or under unrelenting stress. The only stress I was under in Maine was having to make the agonizing decision between bacon and eggs or blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Even though I was busy reading five novels during my three weeks in Maine, the dream was always in the back of my mind. I would sit out on the dock and think about it while fishing, thinking that it might make a decent short story. But, as soon as I began writing, the germ of the idea provided by the dream has morphed into a full blown universe of characters with a host of conflict all over the place. I have no idea how it’s going to end, how any of it will ever be resolved. That’s really half the fun of writing. 

I’m probably doing it all wrong. I’m sure that real writers have a story outline already formed before they begin writing. People who actually know what their doing in the writing world would probably laugh at my technique, which basically involves sitting down at my desk, staring off into space for fifteen minutes ruminating, then opening my Word document and typing away in short, intense bursts of clarity, then...nothing for a couple of days. Before I can resume the narrative, I have to go back and read the last five pages to recall where I was in the story. It’s all pretty random and unorganized....but amazing fun.

The weird part is that despite how fun it is, it is mentally exhausting. I can only devote an hour or so at a time to the thing before I just have to stop. It wears you out. What a wimp!

Working title...Saving Jack