Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Taking a Break

This year started with such promise. During the first week of the year I wrote seven straight posts which made no mention of politics. No Trump, no Obama, no Clinton, nothing. But since then, it's been basically all-politics, all the time. I have been guilty of the very thing I complain about on social media, the unhealthy and ultimately boring obsession with politics. Doing so has brought never before seen levels of popularity for this blog. The last 30 days or so has seen it's readership quadruple. But honestly, there is something vaguely disturbing about it all. I can't really put my finger on it. Every writer in the world wants and enjoys being read, and I am no exception to that rule. But this feels different. This feels like suddenly I have become a partisan, writing about deathly serious things about which people are deeply invested heart and soul...when all I really want to do is have fun and make people laugh.

So here's the deal. I'm taking the rest of this month off, something I haven't done since I started this blog six years ago. When I return on February 1, I will attempt to go the entire month without making mention of any politician, living or dead, or any political party. It will be difficult to resist since I loathe them so and delight in humiliating them at every turn. My son doesn't believe I can do it, make it an entire month without writing about Trump, and he might be right. But I intend to make the effort. I have always maintained that there is far more to life than politics. Well, I need to write like I believe it.

Thanks for reading, and I will see you all again in February.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Death of Humor?

What a horrible weekend. While misty clouds hung low overhead, my wife came down with her second bad cold in a month. Accordingly, I hung around the house making meals for her and consequently was forced to observe the world through social media for two days, there being little else to do. I have come to the conclusion that it is no longer any fun being an American. If the first two days of the Era of Trump is any indication, I will need to make some drastic life changes to survive the next four years.

This was the weekend when postmodern critical theory, once the domain of the cloistered tenured radicals of academia came back to bite liberals in the ass. Now that Trump occupies the Oval Office, his spokesmen introduced America to the concept of alternative facts. You can have your facts, and I can have my facts, objective truth being simply a social construct since objective reality doesn't really exist. Checkmate.

Case in point. Yesterday, I saw what I thought was a perfectly hilarious picture on Twitter of a protest placard which proclaimed, "Make them pay for razors if we pay for tampons." I posted it on my Facebook wall with the pithy comment, "Seriously y'all, anyone know where I can score some of these free razors?" I thought that the joke was fairly straight forward, and would require no in depth analysis. Wrong.

I was soon introduced to the fact-checking wrath of humorless, Google-powered progressive millennials. I learned of the scourge of gender bias in the field of personal hygiene products not only here in the United States but all around the world. Apparently, in France there was a 20% luxury tax on tampons but no luxury tax whatsoever on men's razors. Thank God, it was recently repealed. Surely, this was what the protester had in mind when she/he constructed her/his sign. But wait. Isn't the background architecture suspiciously European? And what about the blue sky in the background? Surely, this sign was not from the Women's March in Washington?! Just about the time I was becoming convinced that humor was no longer available to me as a communication tool, I learned of the fascinating field of white balance. No, this is not a racial analysis of athleticism, but rather a photography technique whereby one can take a cell phone picture on a cloudy day and make the sky appear blue using a tungsten something or other. Oh, and the sign in the background is in English...or is it French? Needless to say, I was completely out of my depth and retreated under the assault. That will teach me to try to inject humor into an otherwise humorless weekend.

So, what to do? I have zero confidence that anyone in the Trump administration can be relied upon to tell me the truth about anything. Yet, the vanguard of the resistance, the unhinged, f-bomb spewing left who think the comparative price points of tampons and razors are a thing, leave me totally cold. But this is how life is going to be for the next four years. Maybe I'll call it the Revenge of the Postmodernists. 

vero, Quid est veritas?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

My Opinion on the Women's March

Yesterday, all around the world, millions of liberal women marched. I'm sure that many of you have been eagerly awaiting my take on the matter. Well, maybe not many of you, and maybe eagerly is a stretch. Be that as it may, my sainted mother, a powerful and influential woman in her own right, did not raise any fools. My opinion on a mass demonstration of liberal women in cities all over the world is this...I have no opinion. As a man, any opinion I might have is best kept to myself. This is the first and most essential rule of happy coexistence with womenkind. There are times when it is necessary to look and listen, and keep one's mouth shut.

This is one of those times.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Speech.

I walked into the house like I do most days around noon to fix my lunch. Into this empty house I spoke the words, "Alexa, play WRVA." I haven't yet gotten over the strangeness of speaking out loud to an electronic device. It makes me feel weird and a bit lazy. But nonetheless, it is what it is. Alexa obeyed and the first words I heard were Donald Trump's so help me God. WRVA was carrying the Inauguration live. As I warmed up my soup on the stove, I listened. By the time I finished my soup, it was over. 16 minutes, brevity being the soul of the halfwit.

Actually, I'll give him credit for giving a short speech, since such a thing is rare among the political class who never seem to tire of the sound of their own voices. I'll also give him credit for only referring to himself a couple of times, a clear departure from the annoying habit of his predecessor. But the substance of the speech was essentially a few undeniable truths surrounded by a dump truck full of bullshit.

 He's right when he says that Washington has enriched itself at the expense of the rest of the nation. But many of the most egregious enrichers were on the podium behind him, many of whom have their home in the Republican Party. When he talked about the wealth of the middle class being stolen from them and redistributed all around the world, he left the clear impression that world trade is a zero sum game, if other countries get rich it must mean that we are getting poorer. What he conveniently left out was any reference to the thousands of American enterprises and thus American workers who have been enriched by free trade.

Although I must confess I found it refreshing to hear an American President publicly proclaim that he will always put American interest first, his throw away line about his two simple rules...Buy American and Hire American, amount to protectionism, an economic philosophy shot through with failure, about which the historical record is crystal clear. Listen, I'm all for buying American products first IF the product in question happens to be the best. I'm all for hiring American workers IF they are the most qualified. But I'm not interested in subsidizing inferior products for the sake of saving some overpaid union hack's job.

He talked about the need to rebuild our depleted military and I thought, what the heck is he talking about? Our military is the most powerful on the face of the earth. Don't believe me? Ask any American general! Sure, they always want more weapons, more troops etc.. but where is this hollowed out military he was referring too??

For much of his speech he sounded like a big government Democrat. Our crumbling infrastructure was going to become the beneficiary of another huge tax-payer funded stimulus program, which means, a bribery and malfeasance-laden cash infusion to his favorite construction companies which will waste a couple more trillion dollars. When his predecessor proposed his stimulus package, Republicans were aghast at the price tag and warned of the effect it would have on the national debt. So far...crickets. At least Trump didn't promise shovel-ready jobs.

My takeaway is this. Trump is a Statist. Only, his variety of statism is more Nationalist and Populist, less Socialist and Collectivist. But the bottom line will be the same. Despite his rhetoric about returning power to the people, Trump will turn over to his successor, a more powerful, more indebted government than he has inherited.

He packed a whole lot of promises into his 16 minutes. The absence of flowering language didn't leave him much room to wiggle. He laid out what he intends to do in clear, plain language. So it will be easy to determine how successful he is at delivering on his promises. It will also be easy to rip him if he doesn't deliver. Good luck, America.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Word About Heros

On this Inauguration Day, a word about heros.

I read an interview that Mr. Trump gave to a London reporter in which he was asked who his heros were. His answer was a convoluted mess but essentially boiled down to..."I don't like the idea of heros and so I've never had any, maybe my Dad." My response to this was a one word Trumpian expression....sad.

How insular, small a life must he have led without heros? I've had heros at literally every stage of my life, and they have all had a hand in making my life better, richer and more hopeful. Heros are those people who we hold in high esteem, the people who we look to for inspiration. We marvel at their strengths and are encouraged to be stronger ourselves. We see them do great things, despite huge obstacles and we find the will to strive for greatness ourselves despite our obstacles.

My list of heros is long and varied. When I was young they were mostly athletes and mostly men. My first hero was John Glenn, the astronaut. Then came Mickey Mantle, then Joe Namath. Glenn ended up becoming a Democrat, and Mickey and Joe ended up being pretty horrible people, but at the time, all three served me well. I became a lifelong baseball fan because of The Mick, I still love how Namath guaranteed that win against the Colts, and John Glenn, despite his politics was still the bravest man in the world.

As I got a bit older, my heros began to change. Although I wasn't a big Hank Aaron fan as a kid, when he was chasing down Babe Ruth's home run record and I learned of the daily death threats, the thousands of hateful letters he received at the time, I turned into one. Never has an athlete under the glare of such a spotlight handled themselves with more grace and class than Henry "Hank" Aaron. Another one of my early heros was Art Buchwald, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist/humorist for the Washington Post. Although for the most part Art was a leftist through and through, he was a great writer. If you want to know who has influenced my writing style more than anyone else, you wouldn't have to look any further than Buchwald.

Then came different types of heros, men and women of history and faith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Robert E. Lee, Amelia Earhart and William F. Buckley . Then came a string of writers...Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Pat Conroy, Peggy Noonan, and Earnest Hemingway. Then there were the occasional musician, artist, actor who obtained hero status, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Hanks, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, The Beatles, ZZ Top, Chuck Berry.

None of this ever descended into hero-worship. I was and am aware of their many flaws. But having great people to look up to, admire and respect is part of the maturation process of a human being. It asks us to look outside of ourselves for inspiration. Sure, if we are lucky enough to have a strong family, we have built in heros at the ready. Every one of my brother and sisters have taken their turn as a hero to me along with both of my parents. But, to go through 70 years of life without any heros seems something close to a tragedy for me. For the first time ever, I actually felt sorry for Donald Trump, reading that interview. No heros? Man-o-man.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Is This the Golden Age of Facebook?

I feel like I am entering an entirely new world of hyper-politics, where everything, and I mean everything is about whatever is happening in Washington. Part of it is a natural byproduct of the Inauguration of a new President, especially this new President. So, I'm tempted to believe that it will soon pass. But with each passing day, that temptation gets weaker.

This morning, my Facebook wall is chocked full of politics. Sure, there is the occasional, "cut and paste this to your wall if you love your sister," sort of thing sprinkled into the mix, along with a few videos of someone mixing up the ingredients for a killer meatloaf, but mostly, its politics. Of course, when I put it that way, politics seems like a superior option! But, if I had fallen asleep for a few years and suddenly woke up this week and turned on Facebook I would be convinced of the following:

Donald Trump is about to destroy the world.

Betsy DeVos is an idiot, fool, rich, clueless elitist who wants to destroy the public school system.

Elizabeth Warren is a Goddess who is really good at destroying everyone who disagrees with her.

Al Franken, a former comedian, has suddenly been transformed into an expert on federal education policy.

Actors and directors in Hollywood are very afraid of what may become of them and us.

The guy we just elected as President has time to...tweet.

...and good lord is he thin-skinned!

The Inauguration is going to be overrun with the dispossessed, with protesters outnumbering celebrants 2:1

There will only be a relative handful of protesters but their number will be wildly exaggerated by the press.

Oh, and members of the press who are critical of Trump, (which is to say 95% of the press), are about to be rounded up and sent to internment camps.

That's the only conclusion I could reasonably come to if the world is accurately portrayed on my Facebook feed. Maybe everything I just wrote is true, all of it, true. Maybe some of it is overheated. Maybe some of it is hyperbole. But there can be no doubt that for a lot of the people who posted, it is very much their reality. I do not envy them. What a ghastly place this world must be if politics rules your world. It's a world of endless fundraising letters warning of always impending doom. It's a world  where the men and women on the other side are all blinded by dogma, full of hatred and animus, where only the enlightened men and women on your side can save the day...but not without your financial contribution of $10, $25, $50, $100, or more!

On the other hand, it's only Facebook. If I give it time, eventually politics will trickle away, one frantic, panicked post at a time, and before you know it, we will once again be contented with posting pictures of sunsets, puppies, kittens and our grandchildren. You know...the golden age of meaningless feel-good drivel!

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Pearl of Wisdom

Somehow I have gotten signed up for this daily quotations thing that gets emailed to me every morning. Some of them are from famous people, some from people I've never heard of, but all of them are short, one sentence pearls of wisdom. So, after reading at least 500 of them over the past couple of years, I've decided to fashion one of my own. As far as I know, I came up with this one myself, at least I don't recall ever reading it anywhere else. Of course, my more internet-friendly readers might be able to find someone, somewhere who said it first. If so, then I apologize for claiming sole authorship.

This one sentence pearl of wisdom has it's origin in the vitriol kicked up by the Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton tornado of 2016 and it's malignant aftermath and it is this:

"Anyone willing to lose a friend over politics has overvalued the importance of politics and undervalued the importance of friendship."

There you have it. It is my heartfelt opinion. You are free to disagree. I am free to pray for you if you do.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lucy's Latest

It's probably time for me to update you all on the State of Lucy's mental health. Our girl has been a virtual walking, barking, encyclopedia of psychosis for all of her 2 plus years on this earth. Well, now she has developed a new quirk to add to her fear of bags, the wind, falling leaves, heavy rain, thunder, pillows, ceiling fans, garbage cans, and the color black.

Lately, Lucy refuses to come downstairs without A. An invitation from one of us, or B. One of us has to go to the door that leads to the deck and jiggle the bells that hang around the doorknob. We bought this thing when we first got Lucy to teach her to jiggle it whenever she needed to go outside to pee. It worked splendidly. But now she must hear the bells ring before she is willing to come downstairs.

For the life of us we cannot come up with a plausible explanation for this new strangeness. There has been no traumatic event that either of us can recall that may have precipitated this bizarre new behavior. But, we will be sitting in the den and one of us will hear her let out a soft whine while standing at the top of the stairs. We will implore her to come down. Sometimes she will obey, but other times one of us has to get up and go jiggle the bells or she will stand there whining all day! But, ring those bells and she comes flying down the stairs and greets us as if she is the happiest dog in the world.

Just another day in the life of the most neurotic dog since Scooby-do.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Inauguration Day

It's been a crazy week for The Tempest. Monday, I wrote a post about Meryl Streep's Golden Globe acceptance speech. At the time I didn't think it was anything special, just one of my routine pithy takes on an event of the day. Four mornings later that post just passed 10,000 page views. I'm not sure I ever believed I would write anything that would be read by that many people. Pretty cool.

But, as Bill Clinton used to say whenever he was asked about Juanita Broderick, "Time to move on!"

A week from today, Donald Trump will be inaugurated. I will not be watching. It's not necessarily a diss of him, since I can hardly remember the last time I watched any President take the oath of office. It's just that I don't want to watch what he might do to the ceremony. We are not a monarchy. We don't have the kinds of pomp and circumstance, the gilded ceremonies of state that other nations do, especially Great Britain. We fancy ourselves too democratic, too egalitarian for such things. But the Inauguration is the closest we come. My memories of the event are mostly of Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, although the first one I ever watched was on a small black and white RCA Victor when LBJ took the oath. The thought of a guy like Trump standing in the exact same spot as those guys to take the oath jolts me a little. Maybe he will make some changes like. . .

1. Laying his left hand not on the Bible, but an autographed copy of The Art of the Deal.

2. Doing away with playing Hail to the Chief as his entrance music and replacing it with My Way.

3. Becoming the first President in history to wear a bright red baseball cap on the Inauguration stand.

I might set up an official betting line on how many times he uses the phrase, make America great again during his speech. I'm setting the over/under at five. Ditto with THIS, I can tell you.

I wonder if at any time during the proceedings he will reach for his smart phone and blast out one of his Tweets? Maybe something like this:

Just saw Nancy Pelosi at one of the balls. What a hag! So much plastic surgery. Sad.


Melanie is so much hotter than any of the cabinet wives. Winning....

Of course, there will be protesters. I assume that every Inauguration has had some, but normally the press refuses to cover them. Not this time. CNN will probably have Don Lemon doing live remotes from the Code Pink scrum. I'm sure there will be a gathering of pro-illegal immigration, gay rights demonstrators waving both Mexican, and Rainbow flags. Anderson Cooper will probably get that assignment.

So, no...I will not be watching. I'll read all about it the next day on The President's Twitter feed.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Let's Be Friends

I had a friend of mine tell me recently that he didn't think he could ever be friends with a leftist. When I pressed him he clarified that he meant someone from the hard left of the political divide in this country, which I took to mean someone who would vote for Bernie Sanders or someone who is an avowed Socialist. But, however you define hard left, the question remains, why exactly does someone's views on politics preclude the possibility of friendship? Is this a new thing or has it always been so in America?

First of all, I need to admit that there probably exist people with whom it would be impossible to forge a friendship. For example, I can't ever imagine being buddies with a pedophile. I don't think I'm ever going to be caught dead getting chummy with someone who tortures dogs. Rapists probably aren't getting Christmas cards from the Dunnevant's, etc. But, we're talking politics here. How can someone's political views make it impossible to be friends?

In fairness, most of my friends are generally more conservative than liberal. To a certain extent, human beings feel more comfortable with those to whom we have the most in common, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. But I have plenty of liberal friends. Heck, both of my kids are more liberal than I am, and I love both of them to the moon and back. So what's the deal with all of the hostility? Here's my theory.

My objection to the hard left is that I believe their ideas about government to be wrong on the merits. I believe that overly empowered government is dangerous to the health and wealth of mankind. That's  my view of the historical record. So, why would I want to be a friend to someone who I believe supports such an unhappy outcome? Here's why...because, I am convinced that THEY don't believe that empowered government is a bad thing! I don't assume bad motives in those with whom I disagree. I believe that most people from the left side of the divide honestly believe that their vision of government would be a great benefit to the country. They look at the arc of history differently than I do. While I believe they are mistaken about their views, I don't think they are malicious, deliberately trying to enslave the country and turn us into a gulag. We just simply look at the world's problems and have come to different conclusions about how to remedy them.

Are there exceptions to this? Certainly. I believe that the far right and the far left contain people with truly dangerous ideas and attitudes. But generally speaking, most everyone else starts off with genuinely different ideas about things. But, all of us developed those ideas from a place of good will, honestly trying to grapple with finding ways to better mankind.

Some of you will read this and think, "Poor Doug, he is sooo naive!" Maybe. But I'm thinking that if all of us would try giving each other the assumption of good will, we would all get along better. Our parties would be more fun too because it takes all kinds to make a world. And, how awesome would it be if Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama walked through my door together and I got the chance to have a beer with them both. I bet the two of them would hit it off alraight. If they could do it, why not the rest of us?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Protest is BACK!!

As most of you know, I'm not a fan of our President-Elect. I'm fully prepared to be in permanent cringe-mode these next four years every time he opens his mouth or cranks up Twitter. However, and life is always about the "howevers", his election has had one positive effect on the country, namely, the reemergence of dissent to its rightful place as the "highest form of patriotism." During Barack Obama's presidency dissent had become synonymous with racism and therefore been slung back into the dustbend of history, especially in Hollywood. Now, with Trump's ascendency, it has made an uproarious comeback. Good.

Protest has now become the obligation of all citizens. We must all be shaken from our complacency, aroused from our moral slumber to combat the dangerous man in the White House. The Reverend Al Sharpton has called for "100 days of civil disobedience." A series of protests are planned for the Innauguration. Yesterday's confirmation hearings for Sen. Jeff Sessions were interrupted several times by Code Pink folks dressed in Klan robes. Meanwhile, in Tinseltown, political acceptance speeches will be taken to new heights at the upcoming Oscars as our nation's finest actors and directors will try to outdo Ms. Streep's performance at the Golden Globes. Resistance to the Washington establishment is about to enter its golden era, and I for one couldn't be happier.

In the spirit of this new season of speaking truth to power, I have stumbled upon the ultimate protest for the artistic community in our country since they seem to be the ones most troubled by Donald Trump, and for good reason. Perhaps no one who has ever occupied the White House has been a bigger artistic Phillistine than the Trumpster. I mean, seriously, have you seen how he decorates his house?? Well, here's my idea. How about the entire artistic community in America refuse, absolutely REFUSE to accept any endowment money from Washington while Trump is President? No grants, no subsidies, nothing! This is the time for grand gestures, not small measures. To accept money from such a corrupt government headed by such a dangerous racist, homophobic, misogynistic President would be to elevate financial expedience over principle and that would be unthinkable, would it not? Now is the time to cut the chord of dependency on taxpayer handouts. For artists, I can think of nothing more powerful, nothing that would send a clearer message to Mr. Trump that he is not OUR President, and we can not be bought! 

Just an idea from a humble blogger...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Crazy Reaction to Yesterday's Blog

I'll never understand this blogging business if I live to be a hundred. Yesterday, I simply responded to something in the news that I thought was interesting for irony purposes. A Hollywood Goddess claiming victimhood status practically is begging to be written about, after all. So, I pounded out a few paragraphs, pressed publish, and went on with my day.

It was a full day, jammed with the boring but technical work of entering client data into a risk management computer software program which I am attempting to learn. Add to that several phone calls with clients, and some bill paying and there isn't much time to check back in to The Tempest. Around noon I managed to do just that and was shocked to see what had happened while I was away.

Before yesterday, the most traffic this blog has ever seen in one day that wasn't artificially aided by the sneaky French was about 400 page views. Further, the most popular single post I had ever written had roughly 950 views. Then, Meryl Streep happened. Yesterday, 2900 souls came to my blog, 2700 hundred of whom read about the peerless actress. When I woke up this morning, that number had climbed to 4600. Ok, this is about as close to going viral as this blog will ever get, and for the life of me I don't understand it. Listen, I have written way better stuff than this Streep thing and lots of it didn't even get a sniff!

I'm certainly not complaining, so thanks for sharing. As you can imagine, my Facebook page attracted a lot of comments, the majority of them respectful and courteous. But then some guy I didn't know chimes in with some gratuitous slap at African Americans complete with a couple of strange memes which I didn't fully understand but could tell they weren't very nice. A lot of back and forth ensued and finally, I did my best Big Brother imitation and wiped out the entire thread. I did so with no regret. Yeah, yeah, I know. The First Amendment. But my blog belongs to me, and I can be a real jerk at times when it comes to free expression, especially when that free expression starts getting ugly. I'm just not going to tolerate overtly racist remarks. I don't want my name associated with it. So I reserve the right to edit racists memes. Sorry. There are plenty of places you can go to post that sort of thing. Not at The Tempest.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Meryl Streep

This morning the internet is abuzz with talk of Meryl Streep and her acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association last night at the Golden Globes. It has been decades since last I endured a Hollywood awards show, So I had to find a video of it to get up to speed. I did. Wow.

Let me begin by admitting to a fondness for Streep the actor. I have seen her in many roles and she has always been excellent. I have never concerned myself with her views on politics. Why should I? She is an actor. She emotes for a living. Why would I care about who she votes for or what her views happen to be on immigration or the minimum wage? That makes about as much sense as me asking my plumber what he thinks about French poetry. But, there she was last night boldly expressing the only opinion anyone who knows what's best for them in Hollywood is allowed to have. . . Trump is a very bad man!!

Actually, there was a kernel of truth to some of her thoughts. It wasn't moonbeam crazy or particularly unhinged. But one line was truly astonishing to me:

"You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments of society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press."

Ahh yes, the horrible vilification of Hollywood actors has got to stop! When I think of the savage way we treat our thespians I can hardly sleep at night. Why, just look at the way we force them to dress up in $100,000 designer gowns and fawn their beauty in front of the nation on those red carpets this time of year. Not to mention how we throw money at them in such obscene amounts that they are practically forced to purchase multiple estates all over the world. Then we have the gall to give them bad reviews when they appear in Fast and Furious IX. We disrespect our Hollywood folks so much, we only devote 70 billion dollars a year to their care and feeding through the purchase of movie tickets. At some point these poor, disrespected people are going to say, "enough" and move to China or France or anywhere they might be able to live their lives without being the targets of such oppression. Then, what will we all do? Ms. Streep offered a glimpse into such an artless existence when she suggested that we would be left with nothing to watch but "football and mixed marshal arts...which are NOT the arts!"

I watch this sort of thing and marvel at the astonishing lack of self awareness. She insults half of the citizens of her own country, who incidentally, just changed the channel from a football game to watch her speech, and then wonders why a guy like Trump is in the White House. I suppose it makes her feel good, makes the people in that ballroom feel good to cast all of themselves in the roll of the good guys and everyone who voted for Trump as the bad guys. But, I feel pretty sure that nobody in that hall has to worry about losing their manufacturing job to cheap foreign labor. Nobody drinking Dom and eating gluten free caviar has to worry much about illegal immigration. For most Americans, illegals aren't the ones mowing our lawns or cleaning our toilets. Those guys all work for the people in the $100,000 gowns.

So, by all means Hollywood, use every chance you get over these next four years to denigrate the 60 million people who voted for Trump. Keep referring to yourselves as a vilified, put upon minority. Keep making fun of all those knuckle-dragging, football loving morons out there in fly over country. Let's see if that helps in 2020.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Snow and our Doofus Dog

The view outside the window of my library was beautiful this morning. There was four inches of snow on the ground and it was still falling gracefully and unhurried and at seven in the morning, in stone cold silence. There was no wind. Each flake made its way to the ground at its own pace, in a hypnotic rhythm. At this hour no one on my street had stirred. The kids and the dogs hadn't yet disturbed the landscape. This is the part of snow that I love, the beauty and serenity it brings to the world. Everything stops for a day or so when it snows here. We aren't like people from places like Atlanta who lose their minds in the stuff. We get enough snow every year that we more or less keep our cool. But neither are we like people from Maine or Montana for whom a six inch snowfall wouldn't change a thing. In Virginia, we are still able to marvel at the beauty for a while.

Of course, like everything else in life, there's a down side. Removing all of this snow from drive ways and decks gets harder every year. Driving around in it tomorrow after it drops down to 3 degrees tonight will be a challenge, not for my car necessarily, but from the hazard of avoiding any encounter with those first time four-wheel drive morons who are under the false impression that their rugged all-terrain vehicles render them immune to accidents. I always take way too much pleasure from the sight of some 30 year old suburbanite with his Dodge Durango, ass over tea kettles in a ditch, back wheels spinning like a whirligig! Yes, I'm aware that this isn't a very Christian attitude, but nobody's perfect!

Probably the best and worst part of snow is having a Golden Retriever. Lucy, as you know, is our skittish girl, afraid of almost everything. Everything that is, except snow. I took her for a leash-free romp this morning and she had the time of her life, running, jumping, dancing and rolling around with abandon. Thirty minutes later, she was covered head to toe with what I can only describe as snow burrs, small balls of snow that have gotten tangled up in her fur in all the wrong places. Removing them is a laborious project that is never completely successful so after she goes inside, she leaves a trail of melted snow burrs all over the house. But, it really is worth it to watch the unrestrained glee with which she attacks her time in the snow. It's as if there is nothing in the whole wide world more thrilling than running at full speed in grand circles all over the yard, her enormous tongue wagging stupidly out of the side of her grinning mouth. What a doofus. What an adorable, heart warming fuzzball of a doofus dog we have!

Now, the house smells incredible because there's been a roast in the crockpot for several hours. It's some recipe that some woman posted on Pinterest a while back and it ended up making her a millionaire, or something. It's called the Mississippi Roast, I'm told. It's what's for dinner at the Dunnevant estate tonight. I'll be watching football and eating meat.

Feeling very masculine at the moment!

Friday, January 6, 2017

An Entrepreneurial Failure

As many of you know, exactly a year ago I monetized The Tempest by allowing Google to place ads on my blog. Consequently, I was cajoled by Google Adsense to allow them to run analytics on my first year to determine "strengths and weaknesses" of the advertisement program. Result? The Tempest sucks as a money maker!

To explain just how awful it is will require a combination of literary precision and the ability to explain mathematics, so I'm sorta doomed. But nevertheless, let's plow through this, shall we? Trust me, it's hysterical.

Ok, so in 2016, The Tempest was blessed with right at 60,000 pageviews, in other words 60,000 times somebody saw one of my blog posts and thought, "Hmmm...that sounds interesting," dropped what they were doing and read the post. Cool. Exactly 180 times someone felt so moved to actually click on one of the advertisements running down the side of the post. That means that my click rate is a staggeringly abysmal 333:1. Apparently, that rate is breaking new ground for futility, so bad that even as we speak teams of cyber-analysts are combing over these numbers in amazement seaking to discover the cause of such ineptitude. I'm like two floors beneath mediocre. I've got to aspire to pathetic! To illustrate how stunningly inept the Tempest has been as a profit generator, consider this factoid. The numbers say that I have roughly 180 hardcore readers, that is, those who read practically everything that I post. If these 180 people clicked on one ad per month, my click rate would be 26:1.

There are several explanations for this. First, the ads are terribly unconvincing, unimaginative and boring. Second, my readers are so sophisticated they have evolved past crass materialism. Third, my writing is so captivating, readers simply can't divert their eyes, even for an instant, to glance at mere advertisements. I'm going with number three!

Moving on to more interesting topics. . .it appears that the enfant terrible of meteorology has won the day with his snow forecast. This morning brings predictions of 4-8 inches of the white stuff from most of the TV weather people. DT will no doubt now have a field day with his vitriol-filled I told you so rants. My favorite one from last night was his post that some meteorologist from Norfolk should "be arrested for impersonating a moron." Great stuff!

About that horrible video from Chicago showing four black teenagers abusing a disabled white guy. I didn't watch it. Neither should you. What possible reason would anyone have for watching such a thing? What purpose does it serve? Doesn't reading the story make you sad and furious enough? I get it...people can be cruel and barbaric. But, I'm done with wallowing in human depravity by giving it an audience. Enough already!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Weather Wars

The first snow of the winter is in the forecast here in beautiful downtown Short Pump. I know this because word of it has spread like wildfire on my Facebook feed. It's the lead item on the local news, and local weather badboy Dave Tolleris (DT) has started up his shtick again, calling all of the TV weather folks morons and idiots for disagreeing with him. It's all great fun and a source of fine entertainment all through the winter here. It's works like this. . .

DT alerts his faithful followers of a potential blizzard brewing up in Canada someplace. He warns that although it's early, this one might be off the charts. He warns that it's still two weeks away but not to worry, he's keeping a sharp eye out and all of the TV people aren't saying anything about it because they are either A. idiots or B. gutless weasels. A week out his warnings become even more unhinged and shrill. "We might be looking at 20 inches here people!!" By this time, poor old Andrew Freiden over at WWBT is forced to talk about what looks like a chance at 2-3 inches of snow a week or so away but adds that there are a lot of factors that might diminish the accumulation numbers so he wouldn't lose any sleep over it just yet. DT immediately goes on the attack. Freiden is a hack, even worse, an incompetent hack. Hell, he can't even get hackery right!!

Then suddenly, 48 hours out, a confluence of upper level winds, El NiƱo, solar storms, and that handiest of all excuses, global warming all mysteriously combine in ways that no one could possibly have predicted to shockingly reduce the forecasted nor'easter to anywhere from a dusting to 2-3 inches. Andrew Freiden always refuses to gloat or even make mention of his deranged freelance tormentor. Meanwhile, DT fans rush to his defense, claiming that even though he missed this one, at least he, like, works hard and stuff. It's must-see internet!! If DT didn't exist, the local weather people would have had to invent him. He makes them look so reasonable and professional by contrast.

So, the Dunnevant house is bracing for what might be. . .nothing or 5-7 inches of snow Friday night into Saturday morning. Actually I hope DT is right on this one. That will just encourage him to go nuts for the rest of the winter. I'm getting the popcorn ready!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

...Up The Country

Something weird has been going on with me lately, well, I mean, more than the usual garden variety weirdness that I deal with on a daily basis. Suddenly, it seems, I have become obsessed with the goings on of my cousins who live up the country. These are all people who were a big part of my life . . . when I was ten, but since then not so much. Like all large families, ours spread out and drifted apart so I lost touch with most of them for the longest time. But then three things happened. My parents both passed away,  I went to a family reunion, and. . . Facebook.

When you lose your parents you become more introspective, I suppose. You begin to think about your past, where you came from. Both of mine came from Buckingham County, Virginia. When I was a kid I spent lots of time there and it was a wonderful experience. In my memory, my grand parents were giants. The farm was big and green and full of animals and open spaces. It was also a little scary what with it's oddly painted rooms and dim lighting. Little things stood out. There was always Dr. Pepper in the fridge. My grandmother seemed forever in the kitchen cooking something, wearing an apron and patting me on the head.

Then there were my cousins. There seemed to be a million of them. There was Bootsie, Bubby, Peggy and Joanne, Brenda, Donna and Bertha Sue, Derrick, Michael and Caroline. My Uncle Harry had a couple of boys too but I didn't see them much so I forget their names. One of them was Kent, maybe?  It was a large and impressive brood. For a five year old boy, they were all great fun to be around.

But as life progressed I lost touch with most of them. We moved to Richmond. They stayed up the country. There were family reunions and I went to a couple of them over the years, but reunions were for people like Mom and Dad who never seemed to tire of them. I tried to avoid them most years and honestly can't tell you why, I just did.

But, this past October there was another one and this time, I went. It was amazing. I wrote about it at the time so I won't go through it all again but suffice it to say that seeing them all sparked something in me. When I got back to Richmond, I friended many of them on Facebook so now I feel more connected to their lives. Second and even third cousins now routinely pop up in my newsfeed. I look at the things they care about and the things they are involved in and I feel very proud of them. It's as if when Mom and Dad passed, something in me has longed to find a new link to them. That link is the James River State Park where my mother's homeplace used to be.

Now, Peggy, Joanne and Bubby all have kids with kids of their own. I'm getting to know them on Facebook, which is weird, but better late than never.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Let's Get Started

For the second day in a row, I have taken Lucy out for her morning constitutional in a driving rainstorm. Thus begins 2017. I can either take this as a warning of the gloom to come, or as evidence of God's continually faithful provision. Or, I can reject both of these views and adopt the fatalistic preferences of my atheist friends and simply shrug my shoulders at the rain, realizing that it signifies nothing since we are all abandoned to our own devices on this planet trying to survive this meaningless existence. Nah....I'm going with God's provision.

So, today the new year begins in earnest. The banks are open, the stock markets will be buzzing. I will begin my 35th year in the investment business. That's two years longer than I've been married, seven years longer than my youngest child has been alive. It doesn't seem possible. When I got started, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Pluto was still a planet, and my friend Al Thomason had the first mobile phone I had ever seen. It sat next to him on the front seat of his truck and was bigger than a bread box. Now, my phone slides neatly into my pants pocket, I can FaceTime my kids with it, and track the movements of all those stocks and bonds up in New York in real time. My wife has now trained our new Alexa device to pay her a compliment every morning. Progress doesn't suck.

But, despite all of the technological advancement, the rain still falls, the sun will still eventually shine, and when the grass grows, you still have to mow it. So, off to work I go. When that sun finally does come out, there will be nothing truly new under it. We may have cooler gadgets, but people are still people, full of incredible good and indescribable bad.

Let's all try to be good this year.

Monday, January 2, 2017

My To-do List

Once every seven years, Christmas and New Year's Day both fall on a Sunday. So, once every seven years, everyone's celebratory clock gets screwed with. Take today for example. Since New Year's Day  was yesterday, a Sunday, today. . .a Monday, everything is closed. Here I was all geeked to get my business year off to a rousing start and I realize that nobody's at work. The banks are closed, the mail doesn't run, the stock market is shut down, even my broker-dealer is closed. To make matters worse, it's pouring down rain and 40 degrees outside. And, to make matters even more worse, my wife just left for work. Apparently, the public schools have had quite enough of all of this time off. So, here I am alone in my house wondering what I will do with myself today. Actually, there are quite a few things competing for my attention...

1. I could take down all of the outside Christmas decorations. But, it's raining and 40 degrees. Not gonna happen.

2. I could give Lucy a bath. Chances of this happening are better than 50/50.

3. I could head over to American Family for a workout, but I would have to fight the resolution rabble, what with their brand new fluorescent spandex outfits, wristband gizmos, constantly checking their pulse rate every couple of minutes. The place will be a madhouse. No thanks.

4. I could spend a couple of hours trying to figure out why our new A.I. device, Alexa, is so much dumber than Siri. I mean seriously, this machine has to be taught everything. If you want her to do anything, or even know anything, you have to download a bunch of what they refer to as skills. Siri already came with skills! Alexa's favorite response to any question seems to be, "I don't understand the question you asked." She does play Jeopardy with you though, so that's pretty cool. Still, in a battle of wits, Siri would wipe the floor with her.

5. I could get on Facebook and troll all of my friends who are Redskins fans, but that would be a mean spirited way to start the year. The 2016 election season sort of sucked all of the mean-spiritedness out of me. I've got nothing left.

6. I could load my Amazon gift card into my iPad and start downloading some books. First on my list will be Hillbilly Elergy by JD Vance.

7. I could use this dreary day to go over to Golfsmith and get fitted for some new clubs.

8. I could see if there's a movie theatre anywhere still playing Hacksaw Ridge and go see it, since Pam would never agree to go with me.

9. I could turn my undivided attention to gutting, then rearranging our dreaded Tupperware cabinet. I bet I'm not the only who has one. You know what I'm talking about...that place where you store all of your rubber/plastic containers in the kitchen. You start out with everything neatly stacked in an organized fashion and within a week every time you open the doors to the thing stuff falls out. Pretty soon it is a crapshow of cups and lids haphazardly stacked together cattywampus style, mocking you. Of course, it never fails that the one you need is always on the top shelf at the very bottom of a tower of two quart casserole dishes and when you finally pry the thing loose, the lid is God knows where.

10. If I were a real man, I would do all of the above. I mean, I've got all day.

I'll get back with you all tonight to let you know how I did.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Paying Better Attention

Everywhere I look around me I see people positively thrilled that 2016 is now behind us. Everyone was so eager for it to be over. Whatever. I didn't think it was that bad, actually. I spent an entire month in Maine on a lake in a beautiful house. How bad could it have been? I made it through the year without any life threatening illnesses or debilitating financial loss. No dear friend or family member passed away. The Cubs finally won a World Series. Not bad as years go, I'd say.

Of course, there was an election. But, the day that an election result ruins my entire year is the day that I need to find some decent hobbies. As Shakespeare once said, "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophies." or something like that. Substitute politics for philosophies in that line and you will be introduced to a much more rich and meaningful exsistence, I think. Speaking of which, what follows are a list of objectives for the coming year. Notice that I do not use that horrible word, resolutions, it being so larded over with the baggage of failure. No, objectives sounds much more confident and possible.

1. So far, there are two vacation trips on the calendar. There's the biannual Dunnevant/Roop/Schwartz family beach trip to the Outer Banks, and a three week trip to Quantabacook Lake in Maine. To this I want to add a third trip, something unusual and adventurous. Maybe one of those adventure vacations I keep hearing about. White water rafting, or mountain climbing, or swimming with dolphins maybe. Of course, I could opt for real adventure and stay in an airbnb in south side Chicago.

2. This year will be the year that Pam and I get plugged in at Hope church. We've been attending for several months, but at some point you've got to do something besides window shop. We need to get involved, plugged in. Thus will end a thirty year run at Grove Avenue Baptist. We will part as friends, owing each other nothing.

3. This will be the year that I will go on my first ever diet. 2016 added ten pounds to the scales that I cannot seem to shed with exercise alone. I guess my metabolism has finally changed and I can no longer eat six rolls at dinner without suffering the consequences.

4. I will attempt to break a bad habit I have recently fallen into of reading nothing but news and information journals. I used to have a voracious appetite for literature, novels, history etc. but have largely given it up for functional reading, the least rewarding kind. This year will mark a return to pleasure reading. My mental and intellectual health demands it.

5. A conspiracy of events over the past three years has seen me largely give up competitive golf. Two shoulder surgeries will do that. I have missed it. Golf is more than just a five hour walk, it's a five hour walk...with friends. Maybe it's time to retire my old clubs, which are older than my children, and a constant source of embarrassment to my buddies. Maybe I'll take a lesson to help me transition back into the game. I used to carry about a 14-15 handicap. Who knows what it would be now?

6. Above all else, I intend to pay better attention in 2017. It's so easy to drift through life on it's repetitive currents, so easy to miss the beauty that exists in the details. I need to pay better attention to my friends, all the better to notice when they need help. Paying better attention to my wife and kids would allow me the benefit of being able to detect problems before they grow too large and unmanageable, but also help me to appreciate their little triumphs, their ordinary goodness that is so easy to overlook. But, paying better attention to total strangers would be nice too. Are there people headed my way who will need me in 2017, people who I will encounter serendipitously along the way, who will blow right past me if I'm not careful? Maybe it's God's plan for me to meet them and be a blessing. I would hate to foil his plans by my selfish indifference.

Ok, that's about it. Not a grand list, but utterly achievable. I better get to it!