Saturday, January 29, 2011

What Makes a Good Citizen?

Did I watch the State of the Union this week? No. What, you may ask, was so important that caused me to miss it? Well, for one thing, my cuticles were a mess and how many times can you simply ignore the health of your fingernails before paying the price? No...actually I was reading a biography of Patrick Henry who, as it turns out, would have been appalled at the spectacle of a President of the United States being treated like a rock star.

I must confess that I haven't watched a SOTU speech since Bill Clinton declared that the era of big government was over. Does that make me a bad citizen? On the contrary, it makes me an American. We Americans are constantly giving the finger to the "good citizenship" crowd over at PBS and C-Span by not caring enough about our democracy. You know, every four years we are treated to the hand-wringing about the 50% of us who don't even bother to vote, for crying out loud. Why, those poor souls over in Iraq stand in line for days at risk to their own safety for the chance to have their voices heard and get their fingers painted purple...they put us to shame!! No, actually they don't. The reason they stand in line for days is because their government SUCKS, their existence so hopeless that the chance to vote is like throwing a life line to a drowning man. When 50% of us don't show up at the polls I, for one, am greatly relieved and encouraged. I'm relieved that the 50% of Americans who can't name either of the senators from their own state and who think that the supreme court is the name of Diana Ross' second album are NOT dumbing down the voter pool. I'm encouraged because 50% of us don't think it matters because we're too busy living our lives in a free country.

Do I vote? Yes. Does it make a game-changing difference to me who wins? No, because I am the captain of my ship and the ocean of my life is too big to be roiled by some nerd from the Coast Guard who thinks all of my crew should be required to wear life jackets.  Yes, I vote, because maybe if enough of the right kind of men and women get elected then maybe the nerds from the Coast Guard will be easier to get along with. But thats about it. Nobody from Washington is ever laying a hand on my wheel.

The SOTU has become a celebration of politics. Its the big show, time for every Congressman and Senator to dress up and maybe get a little face time in their nice clothes looking grave and serious about the business of the Republic. It's almost like the Oscars only with no gorgeous women. Actually politics in America is alot like entertainment...Hollywood for ugly people you might say. But I don't watch the Oscar's show because it goes on forever and everyone is so shallow and self-important. I don't watch the SOTU for the same reason.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Adventures of Being a Dunnevant

I have a rather unique family. I here use that term very broadly to include my siblings and their children along with the children of THEIR children...24 of us in all. Every other year all of us take a beach vacation together. In the same house. For an entire week. Together.

Now I know, for many of you that sounds positively dreadful. The idea of going somewhere at considerable expense to spend quality time with your entire extended family sounds very much like a prison sentence NOT a vacation. But I must say that its actually a blast for us...ONCE WE GET THERE. We genuinely love each other for one thing so that helps. These beach trips have also been the source of many fond and often hilarious stories that have contributed  much to the family lore.

The troublesome part is the deciding..that long and contentious process of e-mail battles and internet- scorching back and forth that takes place as we try to find a house large enough, nice enough, with worthy enough views, affordably priced, and available during the one 7 day stretch in the entire summer on which WE are all available. Whenever you notice a slow-down in the speed and reliability of your internet service in mid-January, its not because of some server issue or band-width utilization problem at comcast or verizon. No..its because the Dunnevant family Beach "dialogue" has begun!

Of wife is the official hostess of this cyber-confab. She sets up a web-site for all of us to view the 16,000 houses we have to pick from from Virginia Beach to Pawleys Island. Then we eliminate all those without an elevator for Nanny and Papa. We then scrub all houses without a place for 24 people to sit at a single table for meals. Then we 86 all homes that cost more than $600 per person...leaving us TWO houses to pick of which always has "dreadful carpet and ridiculously hideous furniture.

Now comes the fun part...planning the Dunnevant Family yard sale. Yes, every two years we all pile all of our junk onto Ron's mothers' lawn in Mechanicsville and every two years like a plague of swarmimg locusts, red-necks, scary-looking grandparents and assorted hicks descend on the pile. When all the dust settles and the rejected junk is hauled away to good-will, we find ourselves with close to $1000 to spend on groceries at the beach.You see..when my family goes to the beach for vacation it never occurs to us that we should go OUT to eat. No, no..each sub-family gets the privilege of planning AND cooking a meal for 24 in a strange kitchen with food that we have spent 4 hours at a strange grocery store buying and hauling to the car and then hauling up the elevator (thank GOD!!) to the strange kitchen where we have somewhere placed the mayonnaise that we can't find to save our collective lives!!!! Yes this is great fun and is often the subject of many uproariously funny stories...many years after the fact.

There always comes a time during every trip where things come together. Its usually in the evening after all of the little ones have had their baths and we're all out on the deck or out on the beach watching the heat lightning race across the sky. Somebody starts singing and before long the guitars are out we find ourselves laughing and singing Mom's favorite hymns. Its a good feeling. Everyone is there. Everyone is happy and it reminds us all why we do it.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Young Frankenstein

During a break in the action of the Jets-Patriots game Sunday night I was flipping through the channels and came upon one of the funniest scenes of all times in a movie. Of course, it was a Mel Brooks picture...Young Frankenstein. Gene Wilders' character is being choked to death from the awakened monster and he is trying to get Inga and Igor to administer a sedative to the beast but since he can't speak he begins a hilarious game of charades while being manhandled. After what seems forever Igor finally guesses..."SEDAGIVE!!!" A second later Inga screams.."Oh!!!" and gives Frankenstein the shot. Once the beast finally passes out Gene Wilder,exhausted from the battle looks up at Igor and says..."...SEDAGIVE????!!"

Even though I've seen that movie a dozen times that particular scene always cracks me up. I don't really know why. Its mostly slapstick and the punch line is one word and all but for me its laugh out loud hysterical.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The strange reality of Hollywood

I was passing through the living room a bit ago and happened to see a scene from Grey's Anatomy where this gay character is describing his struggles to have a "normal" wedding since in his state gay marriage isn't recognized so his "ceremony" had to be at the county clerk's office or something. The guy was what every gay character always is...virtuous,lovable,selfless, other words...perfect. I will not address the wisdom of gay marriage here. My point is simply this...Why is it that gay characters in Hollywood are so predictably perfect? Are there no mean-spirited, spiteful, hateful, obnoxiously annoying gay people in the world? Look, I know that Hollywood has an agenda to mainstream things that offend large segments of the American public...from adultery to drug use to Christianity..I get that and frankly it doesn't bother me. Thats what Hollywood does. I don't expect them to be big fans of middle America and thats OK..I still am greatly entertained by many of their products. But enough already!!! We get it!! Homosexuals are nice people! In most ways they are just like the rest of us!! We get it!!

Except....not really like the rest of us. Because the rest of us can be terribly petty and vindictive. The rest of our number include murderous thieves and manipulative jerks, two-timing back-stabbers and treasonous liars. But apparently the gay community has managed to slay all of the personal demons that plague the rest of us if Hollywood is to be believed.

If I were gay I think it would annoy the hell out of me that my characters were always so one-dimentional. In my opinion its a form of condescension. Of course, since I dont watch alot of TV I might not be aware of the many heinous gay characters that may exist out there. Maybe. Just like I'm sure there's a sympathetic Christian character out there who loves his family, serves his community, and is universally loved by everyone at the office.   Maybe.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Its been 5 days since the horrible shootings in Arizona. I've spent the past few days wading through the fever swamps that are the forums at websites like National Review, Salon, Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal. The vitriol and invective going back and forth between the left and the right has constituted perhaps the largest pile of skull-splitting nitwittery....uh..ever.

To be clear, I am no "moderate" of those insufferable snobs who always hover in the air over and above every big political issue of the day claiming neutrality, wringing their hands and saying idiotic things like.."oh..a pox on BOTH their houses!!" No, I am a man of the right and as such have been infuriated by pundits who have come out of the wood work blaming conservative voices for the slaughter in Tucson. I will not here dignify such crackpot psycho-analysis from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Paul Krugman with a defense. However, as maddening as the left can be at times like these, I have also seen an equally maddening argument that comes from my side of the political spectrum. It is this...any liberal political idea that is advanced in this country both grand ( health care) and humble (school lunch menu overhaul) is met by many on the right as the second coming of the Soviet Union!!

If Michelle Obama wants school kids to eat more veggies its because she secretly wants to grab the power to come into our homes and arrest us if we put a twinkee in juriors' lunch-box. If Democrats in Congress want to make it more difficult for crazy people to buy guns, its because they secretly are working on their REAL plan to confiscate every gun in America so that when they declare us a Communist nation we won't be armed!

I say..argue with them on the merits of their ideas...but start with the assumption of good will. You may say.."But Doug..the liberals are always lying about OUR motives!!"  To which I would what! Its true. For years any conservative who wants lower taxes does so because he loves the rich and hates poor people. If we oppose affirmative action its clearly because we are knuckle-dragging racists. Well..its not true and not fair when they do it to us...but its just as not true and not fair when we do it to them. Are there some on the left who really WOULD like to declare us a Communist country?...maybe a few on the fringes. But there are some on the fringes on the right with some rather wacko world views as well.

There was a line in the Presidents' speech last night that brought a lump to my throat. He was talking about Christina Green, the 9 year old girl who was killed and he was listing her many accomplishments. Then he said.."I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it"  I was choked up because the President, MY President spoke the truth..beautifully and simply the truth. I didn't vote for him and would never vote for him..but I give him the benefit of the doubt because I believe that he wants the best for our country and in that moment I was proud of him. I don't want to live in a country where I'm not allowed to have a moment like that with a politician who I disagree with.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jury Duty

I got a summons for jury duty today. Although I would like to say that a thrill went up my leg at the prospect of getting a chance to do my civic duty, I must admit that the first thing I thought was..."How in God's name will I be able to sit in a jury box for eight hours ?" I mean nobody,including Chris Matthews loves his country more than I do so there will be no whining about deferments from THIS guy. I'm pumped about the chance to serve and do my bit to bring about justice and all... its just the sitting thing.

I've seen all the jury movies. They all sit there ramrod straight staring intently at the prosecutor as he makes the case that the defendant,with premeditated malice in his heart did indeed brutally slay the saintly grandmother of five while she was taking her oatmeal cookies out of the oven. Then without any discernible movement or change of expression they watch eagerly as the defence attorney calmly explains that his client couldn't possible have done the foul deed since at the time of death he was serving the homeless at the local soup kitchen with his Sunday School class of tenth grade boys. spirit is willing but my body is weak. Ever since I can remember I haven't been able to sit comfortably in one place for more than fifteen minutes or so without an overwhelming urge to stand up.It was always worst at school. My teachers ultimately made bargains with me that as long as some part of my body was attached to some part of the desk..etc..Church is always a challenge...movies require an aisle seat...long plane rides require medication

So I'm a bit worried about this jury gig although I probably shouldn't be too concerned. As soon as they find out that I own a business,have been happily married to a woman for twenty seven years,don't think that anyone should be able to vote without passing a current events quiz, love everything that Fyodor Dostoevsky ever wrote and that I do in fact teach a Sunday School class at a Baptist church...I don't stand a chance.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dear Big Ten

Dear Big Ten,
 Just a note to thank you guys for always being so dependably pathetic in bowl games against our guys. In a world where so few things can be counted on, we really appreciate you guys always being there for us.  The performance of Michigan State was particularly helpful for illustrating just how over matched you guys are this time of year...what with the 49-7 score and the 400 total yards advantage for Alabama..that was a nice touch!  Oh ..and the way Michigan got man-handled by Miss. State..what was it..55-14??..CLASSIC.

Penn State put up a little better fight but it was epic the way they totally folded in the fourth quarter.  Sure, Northwestern and Wisconsin lost too..but those games were competitive down to the wire.  Against us, we can always count on a complete ass-whipping.  So once again...THANKS for contributing to the legend that is the total dominance of Southern football.