Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Triumph of the Id

For close to fifty years now our world has been committed to the pursuit of self expression. While our parents had been taught to keep their emotions in check and a tight throttle on their tongue, my generation and generations after mine have kicked self restraint to the curb with characteristically reckless abondon. In this new world, express yourself, has been the mantra. Don't keep your emotions bottled up inside! You be you! Cry, weep and wail, gnash those teeth, and by all means...do it in public.

Nowhere is this new brand of comportment more on display than in the sporting world. When I was growing up, I used to watch guys like Walter Payton score touchdown after touchdown, then stoically flip the ball to the referee, with not even a stifled fistpump. I would watch Bob Gibson blowing hitters away in high pressure games with a facial expression which would convince the casual observer that the man was engaged in an activity no more stressful than mowing the lawn. 

All of this changed during the 1960's, (didn't everything?), when Homer Jones performed the very first touchdown celebrating spike of a football. Soon after, Billy "white shoes" Johnson performed the funky chicken after a touchdown reception, and it was off to the races. Baseball was slow to adapt to these self congratulatory demonstrations, primarily because baseball has always been slow to adapt to anything, really. But adapt they have.

If you've watched any of this year's baseball post season you have witnessed the overwhelming triumph of the Id. When a pitcher gets out of a tight jam, he practically goes berserk in an orgy of guttural screams and fist pumping. When a batter gets a hit, even an inconsequential one, he can be counted on to gesticulate wildly to his teammates in the dugout, as if he had just won the powerball lottery or split the freaking atom or something. I'm told by all of the smart people that baseball needs more, not less, of this sort of spleen venting. More drama is what people want, more pathos, less circumspection. After all, I'm advised, sports is entertainment, and what is entertainment without emotion?

I can practically feel the eye rolling going on out there among readers thirty and younger. I get it. My day is past, your day is ascendant. But, as I have watched baseball these past couple of weeks I've had a nagging feeling that the antics I'm seeing are merely a reflection of the greater society. Everything has turned into entertainment, even our politics. And what is entertainment without emotion? It's like, fifty years ago somebody made the decision that manners and decorum were somehow bourgeois. Keeping a lid on your emotions was suddenly soul crushing. Courtesy, class and sportsmanship were vestiges of a bygone era inhabited by a generation of repressed suckers.

Then we wake up one day, and Donald Trump is President.

I don't know about you, but I could do with a little self restraint in America about now, a little less drama.  A bit of class, grace and decorum would feel like  a godsend in 2017. A touch of humility in my public officials would feel like a cool breeze on a hot summer day, wouldn't it?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Missing This...



I haven't seen my kids since this picture was taken back in July. I've talked to them on the phone, texted them, shared goofy dog pictures with them, even Facetimed them...but I haven't been able to give them a hug in three months. Some might not think this is that big of a deal. I know people whose children live on the west coast or even out of the country all together. For them, three months would be nothing. But, many of my friends get to see their kids all the time because they live on the other side of town or even down the street. When they move out of state, this is how it has to be. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I suppose I'm missing them more right now because for the last four years, October was the month when I would rent a cabin down in Gatlinburg for five days. Patrick and Sarah would drive the 4 hours up from Nashville, and Kaitlin and Jon the 6 hours from Columbia. We would have a blast. The air was chilly, the views of the Smoky Mountains from the hot tub on the deck were sensational, and Pam would make all sorts of insanely delicious fall dishes that we would all make pigs of ourselves eating. One such trip served as one of our  first opportunities to observe the new girl, Sarah, up close. We put that poor thing through the ringer, even insisting that she zip-line over a 300 foot gorge for our amusement. She was game, though, and we came away impressed with her willingness to do any stupid thing we planned for her that weekend.







But this year, our Gatlinburg trip was derailed for a multitude of reasons that are too boring to chronicle. We were planning on making up for it by making a road trip visit to both Nashville and Columbia after we returned from Maine. Alas, that plan has been sacrificed on the alter of the Great Exploding Dishwasher Disaster of '17, whereby we are being held hostage by a gang of contractors who may or may not show up at our home any minute to begin hauling our furniture away, kicking us into a hotel for a week and ripping up and replacing our hard wood floors. So, no fall trip for us.

What this all means is that the next time I will get to see my kids won't be until Thanksgiving, and even that might be weird since, our luck, we'll be staying in a Holiday 
Inn somewhere when they all get here. I'm sure everything will work out fine. It's just that whenever we are separated from these guys for significant periods of time, I get a little squirrelly. Besides, I haven't seen my Grand-dog in at least six months. Oh, the humanity!!!!

I'll get over it. Thank goodness for cell phones and FaceTime, right? But, I still miss this...













Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Fought The Law...and the law won.

A day like today is better left alone, left to stew in its own juices. To speak about it, might give it even more power. Perhaps silence would be the more prudent course. Maybe, if I ignore the events of the day, they will fade into inglorious oblivion, just a droplet of water in the lost mist of time. On the other hand....I write, so there's that.

Today, I spent the majority of my time and energy doing battle with Leviathan, in this case the Tennessee Department of Revenue outpost of Leviathan, with a brief visit to the Wells Fargo division. These two institutions are both basically field offices of Leviathan, but both are fully Leviathan, root and branch. The reason for this sad 4 month project has been the quest to arrange things so that my son, who lives in Nashville, can obtain proper registration stickers for his car. Unfortunately, even though the car is his...especially since he is the one making the payments, his name appears no where on the title, since the loan is solely in his father's name. Wells Fargo, the Enron of the banking world, holds the title and will not allow me to transfer the title into my son's name while there is a lien outstanding. So far during these past 4 months, my son has received one $150 ticket for driving on expired tags. It has been my fervent hope and prayer to get this cleared up so more such tickets will not be forthcoming. Today, I had been led to believe, was going to be V-GB day( Victory over Government Bureaucracy Day). However, after nearly 4 hours of telephone conversations with three different functionaries, it became apparent to me that the day was going down in a fiery crash of recrimination and accusation. Once it was all over, I had one last job to do...inform Patrick of the results of the day. Since he has been the one ducking into parking garages at the sight of cops in downtown Nashville for the past 4 months, he is understandably vested in a positive conclusion to this bureaucratic infighting. How was I going to break it to him that we were essentially back at square one. I had promised him a phone call, but thought better of it. I decided on a carefully worded email, the first paragraph is reprinted below:

Patrick,

I'm aware that I told you that I would call you as soon as I had news about this nightmare, but I'm afraid if I do, I will forget some important detail and also, if I retell this one more time, I might lose control of myself in an undignified manner. So, I've chosen to write out this summary of today's news instead.

There is no need to regale you with the gory details of the day. Suffice it to say that when fighting city hall, the first casualty is always the sanity of the attacker. In the case of the Tennessee Department of Revenue, this loss of sanity is hastened by the thick southern drawl of the clerks in question. All of them sound like your grandmother. In your minds eye, they are wearing aprons and pulling cherry pies out of the oven while trying to explain to you why there is no way in hell they can register a car in Tennessee to someone who lives in Virginia...But, I can certainly understand why you are so frustrated, bless your heart. Even when you can get them to admit that they signed for a FedEx package which contained the transfer title in question, but somehow no one at the Tennessee Department of Revenue can find it, ...even then....they make it sound like your fault. Now, I admit that it's a shame that it got lost, but you probably should never have sent that in the first place!

So, after a 4 hour battle with the bureaucratic state bequeathed to us by FDR's New Deal and fattened considerably by every single President since, I can report that the old adage is still true...

I fought the law and...the law won.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My Entertaining Family



Pam: How come having this hole in the floor makes me not want to cook in here?

                                                                    ###
                                                                                                          
A text conversation between me and my son from yesterday:

Me: I have spoken to two people thus far this morning, one from Wells Fargo bank and one from the Tennessee Department of Revenue. Still no answer. But, someone at the Tennessee Department of Revenue is working on it and will call me back with an answer sometime today.(Editor's note: No such call back). Wells Fargo did, in fact, send the transfer title to the Tennessee Department of Revenue on the 28th of August and they have a signed receipt and a FedEx tracking number to prove it.

Patrick: OMG. Thanks for the update. All of this incompetency is making me more conservative by the hour.

                                                                ###                                            




Kaitlin: Jon made the mistake of mentioning "Lolly and Pops." Now, Jackson won't stop staring at the door.


My family provides all the entertainment I need on a daily basis.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New Things Are Hard

Everyone who knows me would probably consider me an extrovert. That's a fair assessment, I suppose, but my extroverted personality isn't absolute. I'm more like a selective extrovert, for although I am generally comfortable in large crowds of people, my comfort level has it's limits. Yesterday was a great example.

As most of you know, I have been attending a new church for the past year or so, Hope Church, just across the Gouchland County line on Patterson Avenue. After being a member of the same church for 30 years, it's difficult to start from scratch at a new place with new people. But, Pam and I have done just that. We've joined a small group and are slowly getting involved, but it's a tedious process. Every Sunday when we walk through the doors of the place we still feel like we don't know a soul. So, when I saw that the church was planning a fund raiser golf tournament to raise money for their youth ministry I thought, what better way to get to know some people? I signed up and was paired with three total strangers.

I have to confess here that I don't know that I've ever experienced such social discomfort since, maybe, junior high. As I drove into the parking lot of the golf course, an actual knot rose in my throat. It startled me. What the heck was this all about? Why was I suddenly nervous? I usually think that it's the other hundred people who should be nervous at the prospect of meeting me! But, yesterday it was me who was suddenly overcome with dread. I carried my clubs around the clubhouse and saw a sea of men. I scanned the crowd for a familiar face and came up empty. 

I finally found my cart...5B. This was not a good sign. The letter "B" meant that there was going to be two foursomes on the same tee box. In other words, I began steeling myself for a 5 hour round of golf with three guys who I didn't know. I read their names on the cart sign. Their clubs were already on the cart, but they weren't. I headed to the registration table desperately trying to recognize someone...anyone.

Wait...that guy looks familiar. He's one of the guys who does music, isn't he? Oh, and there's Pete Bowell, one of the pastors. That's a good sign. At least I know I'm at the right course. It's such an odd feeling being in such a large crowd of people, yet feeling completely isolated. Everywhere I looked there were small groups of friends yucking it up, then that group would spot another small group of friends and they both would begin yucking it up. Meanwhile, I was busy eating my boxed lunch at a table by myself...which sounds quite pathetic, but it really wasn't. It's just one of those awkward situations that we all find ourselves in every once in a while.

After woofing down my lunch, suddenly some guy walked up to me, extended a hand and said, "I know you, you're Doug Dunnevant." 

Nothing. He didn't look like a golfer...

"1976. Patrick Henry High School."

Still, nothing. The great scene from Groundhog Day flashed before my eyes...Ned Ryerson, BING.

"Robbie Robertson!!"

Yes! Sudden recognition. It was Robbie Freaking Robertson! I hadn't seen the guy since graduation. BING!!

"Robbie! Great to see you again, man! How long have you been going to Hope?"

"Naw, not me...I work here at the Club."

But at least I knew someone on the premises. Things were looking up! 

As I made my way down to the range to hit a few practice balls I spotted some dude in knickers. He had the whole Scottish highlander getup, plaid socks, beret, the whole works. I thought to myself, that guy is either a scratch golfer or completely without self consciousness. Either way, probably a fun guy. On my way back to the cart I ran across a familiar face. I recognized him and he recognized me. We stopped and stared at each other, both frantically searching our memories for a name. This guy was in my small group, for goodness sake, and I still couldn't recall his name!! How embarrassing. Finally, I think I said something lame like...small group, this week's meeting is at your house, right? Its times like this when you consider the merits of the hermit life. Maybe the monk existence has its advantages. 

Finally, we were all called to our carts by a guy with a microphone who went over the rules, then handed the mic to David Dwight, senior pastor of the church. He made a few remarks, then said a prayer. By the time I made it over to my cart, I was greeted by my cart mate for the day...knickers guy. He ended up being very nice and great fun...but sadly, not a scratch golfer.

5 hours and 35 minutes later, we finally limped off the golf course and headed to the clubhouse for dinner. That's a long time to spend on a golf course...a very long time. In fact, I'm reasonably certain it's the longest amount of time I have ever spent playing a single round of golf...certainly the longest amount of time I've spent with total strangers on a golf course. Luckily for me, they were all nice guys and we got along well. Still, by the time I made it home, I was wiped out. It turns out that playing golf poorly combined with making conversation with strangers for 6 hours is a lot like...work.

But, on the bright side, this coming Sunday I will have a greater chance of making eye contact with someone I know. There will be a flicker of recognition, then we will exchange a nod and a grin. I have determined to remember their names...Wayne, Barry, and Bill.

New things are hard. Even when you are determined and committed...new things are hard.








Monday, October 16, 2017

Third Time the Charm?

I've read twenty books so far this year, most of them novels. Some have been quite good, others mediocre, and a couple of them were fabulous. All were enjoyable. Reading fiction has always been great fun for me. Getting wrapped up inside someone else's imagination for a few days is a stimulating distraction from the relentless finality of the real world. This world, as it actually exists, requires an occasional escape, and for me a good book always does the trick.

But every single time I finish one, I close the thing and think...I could do this. I never get this same feeling about, say, the classical guitar. Whenever I listen to a recording of someone like Christopher Parkening playing something by Bach, I don't think...Maybe if I practiced a little more I could play that way. I instinctively know that all the practice in the world won't turn me into Christopher Parkening. But with writing, it's different, especially when I read something that is ordinary...Well heck, I could do better than this!
I am encouraged in my arrogance here by the fact that I have already written two novels. The first one during my 20's, written in longhand, which fills two spiral notebooks and resides in the bottom drawer of my night stand, untyped, unedited, and unread. The second one I finished last October. This one was proofread and semi-edited, then printed out in manuscript form and lives in obscurity in the middle drawer of my night stand, the piece of furniture where literary dreams go to die. 

For several weeks now, the seeds of a third effort have been swimming around in the vast empty spaces of my mind. The idea for the story came to me while I was in Maine, and why not? There's a reason why so many American novelists live there. If you can't get inspired living in a place with so many brooding landscapes and rickety barns, then you should probably hang it up. I'm thinking that if Stephen King lived in Nebraska he never could have written The Green Mile. Anyway, the idea came to me while sitting on the dock at Loon Landing, and has been gestating ever since. Last night I finally opened up a fresh Word document and started writing. If my other two attempts are instructive, it will take me around eight months or so to complete. Afterwards there will be a great feeling of accomplishment. Then the printed manuscript will take up residence in the top drawer of that night stand.

Maybe one day, long after I have gone to my eternal reward, my kids will stumble upon these efforts at the bottom of some box in the attic. They will read through them and either say, Aw, I'm so glad Dad had such a fun hobby...bless his heart. Or, perhaps they will say, Whoa, these are amazing! Maybe if we can have them published we can enjoy a spendable inheritance!! 

A posthumous Pulitzer might be nice...

Somewhere, Christopher Parkening is laughing his head off.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Progress.

For most people, history is boring. It's the domain of pointy-headed intellectuals combing over stacks of dusty books in the back corners of ancient libraries. For me it's the most instructive of all the academic disciplines. Without it we wouldn't know this:

The three leading causes of death 100 years ago in the United States were as follows:
3. Pneumonia 
2. Tuberculosis 
1. Diarrhea 

That's right, the number one cause of death in America a hundred years ago was the runs. In 1917, 59,000 souls perished because there was no Pepto-Bismol. Today, the cure cost 3 bucks. That is what is known as...progress.

A friend of mine recently posted a story online about how he was going over an old deed from a piece of property in Richmond with one of his clients, who happened to be black. In this deed from 1939 mention was made that no future sale of said property could be made to anyone who wasn't Caucasian. My friend was horrified, especially because his black client had to see such a thing. The comment section of this story immediately filled up with people talking about how horrible a thing this was and how it was prima facia evidence of rampant racism in America. This, despite the fact that today such a provision is not enforceable in the United States. Moreover, these types of provisions are no longer legally acceptable. The moral of this story should have been, aren't we glad that so many of these sorts of racial barriers, which were commonplace in America in 1939, are no longer. But instead, most saw this as a commentary on modern race relations, not a part of our past.

I believe that it is possible to hold the following two positions without contradiction: A. More work needs to be done in the arena of race relations in America because racism still exists and any remaining barriers that still hold back minorities from full participation in society need to be taken down. B. We have made enormous strides over the past 100 years with regards to race relations in America. In other words, it's possible to at once understand how far we have come while agreeing that there's more to be done. When I hear the debates today I sometimes ask myself, does anybody know what race relations were like 50 years ago? When I hear loose accusations about what a filthy, racist hell-hole America is I think, Then, why have we made so much progress since the days of the racially exclusive deeds of 1939? How could such a wretched country institute such changes?

The value of history is it allows people alive today to look back at the record of our predecessors, for good and for ill. Yes, the record shows our failures, our inconsistencies...even our shame. But it also measures our progress. It comes in fits and starts. Too fast for some, horribly slow for others. But, who among us would deny that the world we inhabit today is far superior to the one our ancestors lived in when it comes to at least two areas of life...the number one cause of death....and race relations?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Who's To Blame?

I stayed up and watched until the bitterest of endings, the filthy slider dipping under the flailing bat of Bryce Harper, putting an end to the 2017 season for the Washington Nationals. The Cubs stormed the field and for the fourth time in the past six years, the baseball team from our nation's capital failed to advance to the National League Championship Series. For the 10th straight time, a Dusty Baker managed team lost a closeout game in the postseason. This particular loss was bizarre, even by Nationals standards, and immediately pundits and fans began casting about for villains. There were many to pick from:

- Gio Gonzalez for being characteristically wild and mercurial in a clutch start which required coolness and precision...surprising absolutely no one.

- Trea Turner for taking more called strikes over the five game series than the entire Cubs roster.

-Jose Lobaton, the slowest player on the team, for allowing himself to get picked off of first base with a teammate standing on second base.

- Jayson Werth for losing a fly ball in the lights at the worse possible time.

- Matt Weiters for allowing strike three to go under his glove all the way to the backstop allowing a man to score, then compounding his error by throwing wildly to first, then following that up with catcher's interference during a bizarre span that may go down as the worst example of catcher play in the history of baseball.

- Max Scherzer for hitting a batter at the worst possible time and for having Matt Weiters for a catcher.

- Dusty Baker for...I don't know...for being Dusty Baker.

I watched these guys play all year. They were fun, talented and clutch. But, they remain most famous for losing in October. You think of the Washington Nationals and the first thing that comes to mind is opposing teams celebrating in the middle of the infleld of Nationals Park. Death, Taxes, Nationals fail to advance.

But here's the thing...it's nobody's fault. This is what drives me crazy about sports. Whenever your team loses, everyone starts the blame game, as if laying the loss at one guy's feet will absolve the failure of the entire franchise and preserve the self respect of devoted fans...My team didn't lose, it was that idiot xxxxxx. This morning's sports pages will probably coalesce around Weiters, or Scherzer. Extreme jock sniffers will blame everything on Dusty since it's never the beloved players, always the stupid manager. Wrong.

Baseball is a team sport which features a series of individual matchups.. The games are won and lost for a whole host of reasons, but seldom does it come down to one guy. Even when it does, like when a relief pitcher gets lit up and blows a save, there were a couple dozen earlier matchups, which if they had gone the other way, the closer would never have been needed in the first place. But, here's the real reason that fixing blame for a loss on one player is so dumb...sometimes a team doesn't lose so much as they...get beat. The reason the Nationals loss this series against the Cubs is because over the five games, the Cubs players won more of their individual matchups than did the Nationals. The Cubs are the defending world champs for a reason. They are a terrific ball club. How about we all just acknowledge the fact that the Cubs won, instead of harping on the fact that the Nationals lost....again? Because, that's not how human beings prefer to operate. Blame is far more satisfying than grace.



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Yes, Let's Discuss Incarceration Rates, Shall We?







What do all of these people have in common? Well, a lot actually. They are all powerful. They are all lecherous pigs. They are all insanely wealthy. All of them have been accused of rape. They are all men. 

...and not a single one of them will ever spend a single night in jail.

Last night I got involved in a social media debate about incarceration rates. Someone tried to explain the vastly different incarceration rates between African-Americans and whites as simply a result of prudent public safety advocacy on the part of wise and impartial judges. If a black teenager is caught selling drugs along with a white teenager, what is a good judge to do? The white teenager shows up in his courtroom with two loving parents, gainfully employed, along with a respectable lawyer. The black teenager's single, welfare-dependent mother shows up along with a public defender, with no father anywhere in sight. Mustn't the judge consider the defendant's support structures when determining a sentence? After all, if he returns the wayward black teen back to his public housing environment, won't he be much more likely to sin again, while the white kid, with loving parents and a nice neighborhood to support him be less likely to return to a life of crime?? Isn't this just a public safety issue? I was incredulous. He was insistent.

But, in the case of these famous serial sexual predators, we see the ultimate fulfillment of my friend's form of equal protection. If any of these gentlemen were poor, lived in the projects and couldn't afford high priced lawyers, each of them would be spending the rest of their miserable lives in the big house. But, because they have such excellent support systems to go home to, each from stable homes located in neighborhoods with finely trimmed lawns, and are represented by legal dream teams, none of them will go to jail. This is what disparate incarceration rates looks like when it grows up. It's also why we have the 14th Amendment, despite the fact that it's protections are so unevenly applied. If you have no problem with the different fates of our two teenage drug dealers, then you should be perfectly fine with the likes of Harvey Weinstein walking the streets, a free man.

Shameful.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Top 5 Things That Annoy Me...(at the moment)

Everyone has them, those irksome things that fray the nerves, stew the bowels, and sound to the heart like nails on a chalkboard. These things change with the seasons. Things that annoyed the heck out of you six months ago may be minor irritants today. Something that you haven't even given a second thought to for months could start yanking your chain tomorrow morning. Although your list might be totally different than mine, I have a blog and you don't, and at this moment, these are the things that are sticking in my craw:

1. The silly, annoying and pretentious martial language of political advertising.

- This time of year my mailbox is stuffed with mostly attack advertising from various political candidates running for statewide office. I am constantly being assured of Candidate X's fearsome willingness to fight for me. I am informed of all the many battles he or she has already waged and won on my behalf. Then I am assured that unlike Candidate Y(who was always suspiciously missing in action during the heat of the aforementioned battles) Candidate X has a clear record of answering the call. Just so I'm clear on the subject, Candidate X then commits to an unwavering commitment to sustained and relentless fighting in the future if only I will vote for him or her. Generally speaking, unless Candidate X has several Purple Hearts in his or her resume, he or she should knock off the false bravado of what a brave fighter they are. Besides, the only politician I've known in my lifetime for whom this sort of advertising would actually be true is Joe Morrissey. So annoying.

2. The type of television commercials that run during the baseball postseason.

- What makes this particularly annoying is that I realize fully that I am the target customer. It's no secret that the median age of baseball fans has been drifting higher over the past twenty years so if I am constantly being beaten over the head with Viagra adds I guess it's my fault for being in my very late 50's. But, it's not just the erectile dysfunction overkill, it's all of the other miracle cures...everything from diabetes to receding hairlines to those pesky fungus-infested toenails, men my age are clearly going to hell in a hand basket. Being constantly reminded of my mortality while watching a bunch of 25 year olds playing a game that I used to play is...annoying.

3. People who act like there is zero racism in the United States

- The most extreme example of this was the recent statement by that noted authority on race relations in America, Mike Ditka, who opined that there hadn't been any "oppression in the last 100 years." Of course, it might be that Ditka is just bad at math, since the footage of those people getting Fire-hosed and attacked by growling German shepherds in Selma back in 1963 would appear at first glance to be within that 100 year timeframe. Maybe he forgot to carry the 1. While an incredible amount of progress has been made in race relations during my lifetime, there is still work to be done, and anyone who pretends that there isn't is.....annoying.

4. People for whom every single solitary thing in the world is about race.

- Yes, there is racism in America. There is racism everywhere basically because the human heart is desperately wicked. But not every human failure can be laid at its feet. Sometimes people get fired from their jobs because they are incompetent. Sometimes you get passed over for that promotion because you're a jerk. And sometimes, there isn't a racist reason for stuff that happens. Just because you're a hammer doesn't mean that the entire world is a nail. It's....annoying.

5. Political situational ethics.

- I'm tired of playing the game called, "My sexual pig isn't as bad as your sexual pig." How about we all just stop comparing our side's creeps to your side's creeps? How about we all agree to call out repulsive and piggish behavior whenever we find it? This particular annoyance is best summed up by Jonah Goldberg who said it this way: ..."If you decry piggish behavior only when it helps your side, or if you think accusers are telling the truth only when they speak up about people you hate (or don’t need professionally), then you don’t actually care about sexual harassment." Yes. Exactly. Otherwise...it's annoying.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Manipulation For Fun and Profit

I have not been a fan of all of the kneeling going on in professional football. Do players have a right to protest? Sure they do. I just think that there's a time and place for everything, and making a spectacle of yourself during the playing of the national anthem before a sporting event is a poor choice of time and place. But, that's just my opinion. Others disagree. Fine.

But, you know what I'm really not a fan of? Being manipulated...and by any reasonable measure, that's exactly what happened yesterday in Indianapolis.

The Vice President of the United States, along with his wife, flew up to Lucas Oil Stadium to attend the game between his home town Indianapolis Colts and the San Fransico Forty-Niners. With cameras rolling, the VP stood ramrod straight with his hand over his heart as the anthem played. Down on the field, as had been the case in all of their previous games this season, twenty Forty-Niner players knelt in protest with hands over their hearts. Soon afterwards, the VP left the game in a protest of his own, quickly tweeting this:



"I left today's Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem."

As if on cue, Donald Trump tweeted:

"I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @secondlady Karen."

Mission Accomplished.

Here's how this happened:

White House Operative: Hey, have you guys seen this poll? The American people disapprove of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem 62%-38%.

White House Ass Kisser: So?

Operative: So...we need to get out in front of this, take advantage of these numbers somehow. Quick...Google which team has the most protesters.

White House Googler: That would be the Forty-Niners.

Operative: Who do they play this Sunday?

Googler: That would be the Colts, at Indianapolis.

Operative: Are you freaking kidding me??!! What a stroke of luck!

Ass Kisser: Wait, I don't get it...

Operative: The Colts are the VP's favorite team. He's from Indiana, remember?

Ass Kisser: Yeah, but I don't understand wh...

Operative: Jeeze bro...how did you ever get a job here!? We'll send the VP to the game, sit him on the front row of a prominent box, and he will stand for the anthem looking for all the world to see like Captain America. Then, when the Forty Niner players kneel, the VP will make a huge deal about walking out of the game in his own protest. Then we'll send out a Tweet about how we can't abide someone disrespecting our flag. It's a home run! We score points with the voters, and we keep stoking this fire for all it's worth. Listen dude, if you're gonna pick a political fight, always pick a fight with millionaire ballpayers who refuse to stand during the national anthem. It's a guaranteed win!!

Before any of you get your shorts in a knot, I am aware that the Trump White House isn't the first one to seek to exploit touchy societal issues for political gain. His predecessor wasn't always Mr. Peace-Maker, after all. But, Trump seems especially adept at the art of division and manipulation. Regardless of who occupies the White House, one would hope that the chief executive would be in the business of trying to bridge divisions, to quell unrest, to be an agent of reconciliation when the country is tearing itself apart. With regards to the national anthem protests Trump seems thoroughly delighted with the issue, first with his undignified and unconstitutional, Fire the sons of bitches comment and now this staged walkout. He apparently feels that he has a winning hand so he's going to play it for all it's worth. Wonderful.

So, yeah...I'm no fan of millionaire athletes kneeling during the Anthem, but what I really resent is being manipulated by politicians.



Saturday, October 7, 2017

Reason Number 16 Why I Don't Read Oprah Magazine






A friend of mine recently posted these three photographs online, hoping to begin yet another conversation about race. They come from an article in Oprah Magazine and came with the breathless tag line:

"In three devastatingly simple photos, the yawning gap of inequality between white women and women of color is brought to the forefront."

My friend opened the discussion with his own reaction to these pictures thusly:

"Why do these 3 photos make you uncomfortable? When I first saw them I was confused, startled, and upset."

A vigorous discussion followed. 

When I first saw the pictures, here's what happened. I was watching a baseball game. During a commercial break, I ran across the photographs. As is usually my habit, I looked at the pictures before I read any of my friends comments, since along with most Americans, my eyes are much more drawn to visuals. I noticed immediately two things, how brilliantly colorful they were, almost as if the color had been enhanced artificially, and the fact that all of the people in the pictures were female. Then I scrolled up to my friend's comments. Immediately I thought, Wait, what did I miss? I looked at them a second time. Still...uncomfortable? Confusing? So only then did I click on the accompanying link to Oprah Magazine. Finally, I got it. Racial roll reversal. Check!

The comment section of my friend's post began filling up with puzzled white people, like myself, who felt confused alright, but not in the way the folks at Oprah Magazine intended. When several people opined that nothing about any of the photographs made them feel in the least bit uncomfortable, a helpful suggestion was made by a commenter that we were all probably lying. Another conversation about race ending up careening into the ditch. So, what to make of all this?

After reading the Oprah piece, it's clear what the purpose of the spread was. They were trying to make white people feel uncomfortable about the fact that, as a majority race, we enjoy most of the power when it comes to retail, and more often than not, we are the ones who get served at places that do pedicures, usually by Asian women, and most of the time, if a maid gets hired, it's by a white person and that maid is either black or Hispanic. By staging pictures that reverse this dynamic, it is supposed to produce guilt and grave soul searching about our inherent privilege. Fair enough. 

However, one wonders whether the good people at Oprah Magazine have actually shopped for dolls at a toy store in the past, oh, I don't know, 20 years? The last time I was in the market for dolls was back in the early 1990's. My go-to stores were ToysRus and American Girl. The doll aisle at ToysRus was always a mile long and crammed full of every kind of doll the mind could imagine. Most of them featured white dolls, it's true. Back then, America's population was somewhere around 75% white, so it would make perfect sense that the most predominant doll race would be white. That's called knowing your customer. However, there were always plenty of dolls from a whole host of ethnicities available. I'm not sure of the percentages, but one would assume they were represented in rough proportion to the percentage found in the company's profile of a ToysRus customer. American Girl was a whole other story. Even in the 90's, that place was a globalist one world government dream, a regular United Nations of dolls! Of course, most of them were priced beyond my ability to pay, so...

Now, I'm sure that back in the 50's, one would be hard pressed to find an African-American doll at the local General Store. The fact that this is no longer true makes a point that Oprah Magazine seems unwilling to...that times have changed, largely for the better, in the area of race relations since the 50's.

Moving on to the pedicure shop photo, again...when is the last time the editorial staff at Oprah Magazine has actually been to a nail salon? Although I have no personal knowledge of this subject, my wife does, and in the 30 or so years since she has been getting her nails done, nearly 100% of the time, she is attended by an Asian woman. Why is this? Why do Asian women, particularly Vietnamese women gravitate to this particular profession? I have no idea. But, my hunch is that it has virtually nothing to do with racism. So, a photograph that features smiling Asian women being serviced by white pedicurists proves...what, exactly? Are the Asian women laughing because the white women are doing it all wrong, or what? Why is this supposed to make white people feel some sort of guilt? In this particular picture, it's the white women who are getting paid, and the Asian women who are being grossly overcharged for the guilty pleasure of a pedicure, after all!

The last photograph is even dumber. We see what looks like a young, beautiful, wealthy Hispanic women, being served tea by her uniformed white maid. The stereotype is completed by the lap dog and the omnipresent cellphone. I should point out that this particular white maid is precariously close to getting fired since her eyes are clearly fixed upon her employer instead of the cup into which she is pouring hot tea. One gets the distinct impression that the wealthy Hispanic hero in this photo would be very unforgiving if Fido gets scalded. It is clear that we are supposed to look at this and ponder the irony, or something. When I look at this, I can imagine this actual scene being reproduced in any number of insanely wealthy Hispanic homes in south Florida. Or course, an argument can and should be made that any self respecting Hispanic socialite in Miami should probably hire a fellow Hispanic to attend to her every need, since charity always begins at home.

The fact that none of these pictures had the desired impact on my consciousness is troubling. Why did I not feel the confusion and discomfort that my friend felt? Does this mean that I am insensitive, or ignorant, or both? Perhaps if I had read my friend's comments and clicked on the article first, before looking at the pictures, I would have reacted differently. Or maybe I am stuck in some sort of privilege denial mindset. 

Or, maybe the pictures were just...dumb?


Friday, October 6, 2017

OOOOoooooffffff!!!!

WARNING!!! The following blog contains disturbing images that may offend the sensibilities of many female readers, and cause actual physical pain to many male readers. Proceed with caution.


During my first week back in the salt mines, the one saving grace in an otherwise horrendous week has been the baseball playoffs. So far, four games have been played. The two wild card affairs were truly wild, and the openers of the division series last night were both great fun. Unlike another famous American sport, I have been able to watch each game without having any clue as to the politics of a single player. Our National Anthem was performed before each game without incident. It was quite refreshing. But, this blog is not about political protest. It's not even about baseball. It's about one isolated image from one of the games that I found...priceless.

It was the fourth inning of the wildcard game between the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins. On the hill for the Yanks was reliever, David Robertson, who throws a baseball 100 miles per hour with great movement. He is not only hard to hit, but hard to catch. On one particular pitch, Mr. Robertson uncorked a wicked 98 mph sinking fastball towards the plate. Yankee catcher, Gary Sanchez was about to catch it when the hitter swung wildly, desperately trying to catch up with the pitch, but only catching a tiny piece of the ball. This is the nightmare of anyone who has ever played catcher in baseball...the dreaded foul tip. Only, when the foul tip in question is slight...and comes against a 98 mph pitch, this happens:


Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you...this particular foul tip ended up in a terrible place. On national television, played live and many nauseating times on super slow motion, Gary Sanchez took a direct hit in the old family jewels. All across America, in living rooms great and small, across a broadly diverse audience of both liberals and conservatives, rednecks and metro-sexuals, gays and straights, meat eaters and vegetarians, men from every imaginable background let out a collective groan of sympathetic agony. Suddenly, even avowed Yankee-haters like me, put all of the vitriol aside for a few agonizing moments of commiseration with this suffering brother. Sanchez went down in a heap, like a sack of potatoes. Grandfathers all across the country turned to their sons and grandsons whispering, Boys, this is why you wear a cup.

Of course, the one man in America who had the best view of what happened was the guy who threw the pitch, David Robertson. His reaction, caught on camera for all the world to see was....priceless:



Exactly!!! Here's a big league pitcher, performing in a pressure packed game on national television, who suddenly isn't thinking about himself or even his team. He's only thinking about one thing, ladies and gentlemen...and it isn't his next contract!

      

To the everlasting credit of Mr. Sanchez, he remained in the game, as did Mr. Robertson, to the great relief of men all across the fruited plain. Perhaps there's a greater lesson to be learned from this unfortunate incident. Perhaps it's possible, after all, for men to put aside their considerable differences and unite around a common theme greater than ourselves. Maybe it's possible for men and women to lay down the things that divide us long enough to unite in compassionate empathy for the excruciating suffering of a fellow human being brought low by a foul tip. If we can do that, maybe we can eventually figure out how to get along outside of the ball park.



Thursday, October 5, 2017

On The Edge of Madness

Sanity, I've discovered, is a fragile thing. You might think that you're basically a stable person with no prior history of mental illness, much like the Las Vegas shooter. You might consider the fact that since there is no evidence of mental illness or instability in your family history, you're in the clear. But, I am here to testify to the fact that Mother Theresa herself could have been driven mad by the introduction of high powered fans into her Calcutta hut. While she might have been perfectly suited to the rigors and despair of living amongst the poorest of the poor, three days of listening to the constant, incessant hum of industrial turbines would have transformed her into a raving lunatic.

I'm told by the powers that be that this protocol is required by the insurance company in order to determine the extent of the damage to our kitchen floor. The very efficient Servpro technicians come by every 24 hours to measure exactly how much moisture is being extracted by the four machines that have taken up residence in the downstairs of my house. They enter the data into their hand held computers, then disappear without comment. Meanwhile, the noise continues...the deafening, grinding, whirling sound of a category 5 hurricane...continues, taking a slow, inexorable toll on our sanity.

If I were a more tech-savvy blogger, I could upload audio of these machines, to give you some clue as to what we are dealing with. But because I am not, I will have to rely on my way with words. But first, let me introduce each of them to you...


This is Judas, named for the infamous betrayer of our Lord. He is responsible for producing gale force winds along the surface of our kitchen floor 24/7, which follow the contures of the cabinets to create a whirlwind effect throughout the space. This has the effect of destroying my wife's hair every time she makes the mistake of entering the kitchen for any reason.


Ok, this girl is the star of the show. We call her Ursula, the Sucker of Death. Ursula is the loudest machine in the house. Her job is to suck any moisture that happens to be lurking under the hardwood floors through the cracks. The big black pads are filled with hundreds of sucking nodules that hold the floor in a death grip when deployed, but whenever the machine is cut off, serves as an occasion to send send you ass over tea kettles if you ever step on them without great care. So, not only is Ursula the loudest, most obnoxious machine, she is also the only one which poses a threat to your physical safety as well. A true dual threat.


Then, there's this guy, Donald...so named because like the other famous Donald, serves no discernible purpose. He just stands there, taking up a considerable amount of space, with the stated job of de-humidifier-in chief. Exactly why the entire downstairs of my house needs de-humidifying is unclear, since the offending moisture is beneath the floor of my kitchen. But, I defer to the experts in matters of de-humidification. A side effect of Donald's presence in my house has been a drying out of every orifice of the human body. Any day now, the nosebleeds will begin in earnest.

Thanks to the open floor plan of our house, there is no avenue of escape from the roar. Even when we retreat to our upstairs master bedroom, with towels stuffed around the door, we still hear it. In the shower, we still hear it. When blasting Def Leppard full blast through the Bose, we still hear it. Even when I leave the house to go to work, the residual sound still rings in my ears for half an hour.

But, very soon, I'm told...this will be over. Then we will get to enjoy the harmonious hum of floor sanding machines for a few weeks.

Why don't you guys all come over and we'll hang out?


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Things Are Looking Up!

Highlights of this day, Wednesday, the 4th day of October, 2017:

# My luck began to change this morning when, just in the nick of time, my dentist had to cancel all of the day's appointments because his wife had a horrible kidney stone thing that forced him to flee the premises to rush her to the hospital. YES!!

# I heard on the radio that today is the tenth anniversary of the opening of Big Al's, giving me an excellent excuse to watch tonight's baseball playoffs at my favorite bar.

# Our Secretary of State and fourth in line for the Presidency, Rex Tillerson, called a hasty press conference this afternoon to dispel rumors that he was about to resign because he had concluded that his boss was a moron. He assured the country that no, he had no intention of resigning...despite the fact that his boss is a moron.

# Blood Pressure clocked in at an impressive 120/80 at my doctor's appointment. My new doctor, the one I was assigned after my doctor  of over thirty years suddenly dropped dead, cheerfully informed me that despite my overall good health and fine conditioning, the primary driver of life and death is genetics, so I shouldn't get too cocky about one decent BP reading.

# The US Postal Service finally delivered our mail that we had asked them to hold while we were away for three weeks. To the surprise of absolutely no one, they only held it for roughly half the days that we were gone, delivering it on the other days. According to the advertisements I received in today's haul, one of the guys running for some office in the next election is a real scumbag, and if I know what's good for me I won't vote for him.

# After their victory in last night's wild card game, the Yankees have become the odds on favorite to win the World Series...according to every single solitary talking head at ESPN.

A Troublesome Losing Streak

Ok, it seems like since I got back from Maine, I've settled into a disturbing losing streak of sorts. Maybe it's my imagination, a kind of vacation jet-lag or something, but lots of bad things have been happening. First, the dish washer goes belly up, then all of these ponderous machines take over the kitchen, sucking up water, de-humidifying and blowing air everywhere at deafening noise levels 24/7. If the machines don't fix the bowed floors, they will have to be torn up, replaced and re-sanded...which will require great dislocation for weeks, I'm sure. As a side benefit of all of this, I have had an allergy for two days, no doubt due to all of the mold being flung throughout my home by the aforementioned machines. This particular allergy has featured a swollen and runny eye, always a delight.

Now, today I discover that my day will be consumed largely by visits to a couple of health care specialists, appointments that were set months ago. First up there's my all time favorite buzz-kill, a trip to my dentist. Dr. T (I withhold his real name as a courtesy) is a decent enough guy, well-trained and friendly, but that doesn't change the fact that he makes his living probing about people's mouths with sharp, pointy objects accompanied by the hideous, high-pitched wail of even more machines. I spend my time there holding my breath and trying to conjure up my happy place (front row seats down the third base line at a baseball game, being served kielbasa and beer by an adorable blonde wearing a Cappy's hat...if you must know!). But every time I get close to that image, this guy shows up.





My second appointment is with my general practitioner for a six month check of my blood pressure and a follow up blood test on the results of my new cholesterol medicine regimen from my stroke thing earlier this year. When I was reminded of this meeting via text my heart sank. Just about the time I had put that unfortunate incident behind me, here comes a snooping doctor to rub my face in it again. 

All is not lost, however, since last night saw the beginning of the greatest time of the year... the Major League Baseball Postseason!!!
Of course, I couldn't watch last night's opener between the Twins and the Yankees on my beautiful television downstairs because of the high winds and industrial hums coming from these guys:

I might have watched on the big screen upstairs in what used to be Patrick's bedroom, now the upstairs den, but that television doesn't work because of a faulty Verizon connection or box or some such things that for some weird reason we have failed to have fixed for like two years now. It's on the list of crap I need to get done, and last night I was kicking myself for putting it off. So, there I was, huddled in my recliner in my bedroom, door closed to the violent wind storm downstairs, following the action on my iPad's MLB app. Aaron Judge doesn't look so huge on an iPad, but I still hate the guy because he's a miserable Yankee.

But, I have no doubt that better days are ahead. My son is getting married to a beautiful girl soon, my daughter and her husband are killing it down in South Carolina, and I'm married to the most beautiful woman in Short Pump. Unlike America under Trump, I'm actually winning!!

Monday, October 2, 2017

58 Dead, 515 Wounded

I wake up this morning to the news that a new record has been set in my country for deaths in a mass shooting event. 50 killed and over 200 wounded is the new standard for American violence. A 64 year old man named Stephen Paddock opened fire from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel with an automatic weapon into a crowd of 30,000 people gathered below for a country music concert in Las Vegas. A SWAT team eventually burst into his room and killed him. His female companion, a petite Asian woman named Marilou Danley, is being questioned in police custody at this hour. At this point, no motive has been assigned and not much is known of Mr. Paddock other than the fact that he is an elderly retired white guy going through a divorce who likes to gamble.

I scrolled through the pictures and videos from the scene, courtesy of a British news service, the U.K. Daily Mail, and note that it is always the British press that gives me information like this first. It's odd but consistently true. This sort of thing used to fill me with sadness. In the past a mass shooting would enrage me. Now, I flip through the pictures and shrug. Now, I brace myself for a week of boilerplate shrieking from politicians. I wait for my Facebook wall to fill with some new solidarity icon for the victims and their families, then the inevitable memes that will follow. I will quickly get tired of the calls to Pray for the Las Vegas Victims. Why have I become so jaded? This....

-April 18, 2017 Kori Ali Muhammad shoots dead three people before being arrested by police and charged with murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
-June. 12, 2016 Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, killed 49 people and wounded 58 others in a terrorist attack/hate crime inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
-Feb. 25, 2016: Cedric Ford, 38, killed three people and wounded 14 others lawnmower factory where he worked in the central Kansas community of Hesston. The local police chief killed him during a shootout with 200 to 300 workers still in the building, authorities said.
- Feb. 20, 2016: Jason Dalton, 45, is accused of randomly shooting and killing six people and severely wounding two others during a series of attacks over several hours in the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area. Authorities say he paused between shootings to make money as an Uber driver. He faces murder and attempted murder charges.
- Dec. 2, 2015: Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, opened fire at a social services center in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding more than 20. They fled the scene but died hours later in a shootout with police.
- Oct. 1, 2015: A shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, left 10 people dead and seven wounded. Shooter Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, exchanged gunfire with police, then killed himself.
- June 17, 2015: Dylann Roof, 21, shot and killed nine African-American church members during a Bible study group inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Police contend the attack was racially motivated. Roof faces nine counts of murder in state court and dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes.
- May 23, 2014: A community college student, Elliot Rodger, 22, killed six people and wounded 13 in shooting and stabbing attacks in the area near the University of California, Santa Barbara, campus. Authorities said he apparently shot himself dead after a gun battle with deputies.
- Sept. 16, 2013: Aaron Alexis, a mentally disturbed civilian contractor, shot 12 people dead at the Washington Navy Yard before he was killed in a police shootout.
- July 26, 2013: Pedro Vargas, 42, went on a shooting rampage at his Hialeah, Florida, apartment building, gunning down six people before officers fatally shot him.
- Dec. 14, 2012: In Newtown, Connecticut, an armed 20-year-old man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 26 people, including 20 first graders and six adult school staff members. He then killed himself.
- Sept. 27, 2012: In Minnesota's deadliest workplace rampage, Andrew Engeldinger, who had just been fired, pulled a gun and fatally shot six people, including the company's founder. He also wounded two others at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis before taking his own life.
- Aug. 5, 2012: In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, 40-year-old gunman Wade Michael Page killed six worshippers at a Sikh Temple before killing himself.
- July 20, 2012: James Holmes, 27, fatally shot 12 people and injured 70 in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
- April 2, 2012: Seven people were killed and three were wounded when a 43-year-old former student opened fire at Oikos University in Oakland, California. One Goh was charged with seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, but psychiatric evaluations concluded he suffered from long-term paranoid schizophrenia and was unfit to stand trial.

This country needs more than prayer at this moment.