Saturday, November 28, 2015

The List Keeps Getting Longer

I have lived long enough to see them come and go: quarterbacks. Norris Weese and Craig Penrose stand out as names from a past that might be forgotten by bandwagon types. The same might be said for Brian Griese or even Frank Tripucka. More will remember Craig Morton, since he was the field general for both the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos when he was the starter, years apart, for those two teams. In my memories, Craig isn't wearing the silver helmet with star on it. He's the old guy rolling out in one of the world's worst attempts at a bootleg. When he showed up in Denver in 1977, he was thirty-four years old. Five years later, he hung up his cleats and retired without wining the Lombardi trophy.
It was his successor, John Elway, who brought that prize back to Denver. It took him several tries, but he managed it. Twice. Along the way, he engineered a barrel full of last minute comeback wins and became part of the argument that people have about who is the best quarterback of all time.  That shadow lingered over the Mile High City for years. Plenty of other men, old and young, took their shot at being the one to make everyone forget about Elway. For ten games, some people thought that guy was Tim Tebow. It wasn't.
Then came the big deal. The real deal. Peyton Manning picked the Broncos to be the team that he would use to ride off into the sunset. It was a great story, as "The Sheriff" blazed through that first year with his new team, breaking records and Colts fans' hearts, and then Denver fans' hearts again. His second year in Denver, he took his new team to the Super Bowl. And still the record books fill up with Peyton Manning's name. He broke those records with a picture of a horse on the side of his helmet.  And all the while, the clock was ticking. The clock that said, "There aren't a lot of thirty-nine year old Super Bowl quarterbacks."
This past week, Brock Osweiler added his name to that list of names. Peyton Manning got a cast for his foot. The last person I would bet against in this world when it comes to winning a football game is Peyton Manning. He has won more games than just about any other quarterback in professional football history. He might never win another. He might be done. He might become a part of the legacy of Denver Bronco quarterbacks who have not won a Super Bowl during their time in orange and blue. And while it seems like a tragedy, it is really a triumph. When I think about my own ever-expanding list of old-guy-ailments, I imagine just how much longer it would be if I had a three hundred pound man throwing me on the ground on a regular basis. I've got fourteen years on Mister Manning, that's the same difference between the ages of Brock and Peyton. I can't imagine playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos. I'm glad that Peyton did.

Friday, November 27, 2015


Opinions: Everyone has them and they all stink, or so goes part of the old saw about opinions. Now that we find ourselves within  the calendar year of our next presidential election, the opinions will be flying around like opinions do in election years. After eight years of Obama and his administration, we will now be treated with contrasting views from both sides. Hilary and Bernie need to make themselves distinct from the policies and accomplishments of the current crew in the White House. Nobody wants to be part of the same old song and dance. That's why Democrats have chosen to align themselves with the words of George W. Bush, who reminded us that "Islam is Peace."
Of course, this leaves the Republicans' door wide open to start pushing back against all this talk of understanding and forgiveness. Forrest Trump and Doctor Ben Carson have recently taken  to the airwaves to remind us that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey were cheering after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Doctor Ben Carson has since backed off these claims, but that hasn't kept him from insisting that mosques, schools, supermarkets, car repair shops and "any place where radicalization is going on" should be monitored in light of terrorist threats. "I would say we use our intelligence and we monitor anything: our mosques, a church, a museum, a supermarket," he said, later adding that monitoring would come after multiple reports or indications of radical activity. "We live in a very different time right now."
It's a different time, alright. But it's one we've seen before. The times they are a'changin', but not necessarily in the clean, linear way we like to think that they do. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, and those who repeat it are most often politicians. Doctor Ben Carson, who used to be a brain surgeon before he became a politician, seems to be enamored of a time in our past when personal liberties lost out to concerns about national securities. Or is that national insecurities? Once upon a time, the United States government locked up a bunch of Japanese Americans because they shared ancestry with a country with whom we were at war. Decades later, our government felt bad about locking men, women and children up without any sort of due process, and paid each of the survivors twenty thousand dollars. That little proposition cost us more than one and a half billion dollars in reparations. That's not an opinion, by the way. That's a fact.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Full Of It

I am thankful that Glenn is alive. Like a portion of America, millions of us, but still a portion were caught up in the weeks-long uncertainty of the fate of a television character. Over these past few weeks, bombs have exploded and people have been shot. Elections have been held. All of this in real life. And yet somehow, I remained fixated on the outcome of a TV show. I am thankful for that.
How could this be? Shouldn't I be embarrassed by the way my attention was diverted from current events by popular culture. A basic cable television show somehow managed to become my focus for November. My son is finishing up his first quarter in college. He bought and installed his own brake rotors. It is an exciting time to be a parent, and yet I got sidetracked by TV. I'm thankful for that.
Why? Because my life is good. I can allow Glenn to become my focus for days at a time because I am not currently consumed by any other grief or anxiety. Not that I don't have them. I worry about plenty of things, but I don't let it get in the way of my weekly show. For example, I am not currently afraid of going out on the street and being chased by zombies. Nor am I waiting anxiously at home for my loved ones to return home from wherever they have been chased by zombies. My life, in actuality, is pretty solidly zombie free. I am thankful  for that.
The world may be zombie-less, but there are still plenty of reasons to be filled with terror. Chief among them would be terrorists. I am not immune from the fear of all things affecting our planet, but my neighborhood is currently as free from terrorists as it is from the walking dead. I am thankful for that. My wife and son are nearby in this zone of safety, as is my extended family in the far off land of Colorado. Also currently a zombie free zone. I am very thankful for that.
Up the road from me here in Oakland are signs that remind me that Berkeley is a Nuclear Free Zone. I am thankful for that, even if they didn't bother to put up a sign about zombies. Most of the bay area is pretty solidly against harboring terrorists and the like, so my thanks-cup  is running over. And Glenn is still  alive. For  now. I am thankful that I will get to hang around another few weeks to see if this trend continues. I will be eating turkey and pie today. Not brains. Thankful, thankful, thankful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Texas Means Friendship - Really

Ah, Texas. There is so much about you to love: your fierce independence, your colorful characters, your chainsaws. You've got barbecue to spare, and don't forget the Alamo. You're so very big and loud, it's hard to ignore you. How could we? Why would we? With two Bushes and a Johnson, you guys have pretty much ruled the White House over the past fifty years. We've all learned our lesson: Don't mess with Texas.
Unless the Texans in question turn out to be real dullards. Take for example the Texas education officials who declined the help of university academics to fact check their students' textbooks. You might remember a recent dust-up with a Houston area mother who found the discussion of African "workers" in the nineteenth century south worthy of correction. That didn't keep the school board from turning down help from outside getting things right. "I know people are concerned about pointy-headed liberals in the ivory tower making our process different or worse," said board member Thomas Ratliff, who sponsored the bill, before the vote. "But I hold our institutions of higher education in fairly high regard." That didn't keep the measure from failing in an eight to seven vote. Don't mess with Textbooks, neither.
Which brings us to another thing that really matters in the Lone Star State: guns. Part of that whole independence thing, and probably some of that barbecue thing, has to do with that right to bear arms. They like to take their guns out to their local barbecue or taco stand to show that they can. Open carry doesn't mean they can walk around swigging from their longnecks, it means they want to show off their right to bear arms in the only way they know how: by wandering about their towns with all manner of firearms strapped to themselves, illustrating just how serious they are about bearing arms. It has made a number of different fast food chains have to put in writing their policies about weapons inside their franchises. Now it seems that the civic minded denizens or Irving, Texas are doing one better by taking their gun show to their local mosque. Aside from showing off their firepower, the assembled crowd let their Muslim neighbors know they would not stand for "The Islmization of America." Organizer David Wright, who cited the Paris attacks and rumors of Syrian refugees coming to Texas as reasons for the protest, said he had brought his twelve-gauge shotgun because "We do want to show force," according to the Dallas Morning News. "It would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves," he said.
Ridiculous? Well, hey pardner, everything's bigger in Texas.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tyler Durden

I was listening to Alice Cooper's "Under My Wheels" the other day, and it got me thinking "What kind of guy is this?" At the very least, the song is alluding to a hookup somewhere just outside the bounds of monogamy. The narrator is trying to get away from his old lady to take this new paramour to "the show." Nothing truly awful there. It's the kind of thing that rock and roll, and its cousin country, has been about forever, but it's the positioning of the characters that makes it a little strange. Under my wheels? Is this suggesting that the solution to the dating dilemma proposed by Alice is that one or both of the women in his life be run over with the car that he is driving? Oh that Alice.
But those of us in the know understand that there really isn't an Alice at all. There was this guy, Vincent Furnier, who fronted one of the first shock-rock band. The name of the band was Alice Cooper. As the group gained in popularity, the focus fell, as it often does, on the lead singer. Months on the road and attempts to establish their brand with a frightened public eventually led to Vincent adopting the name of the band to avoid confusion. Or creating even more.
Vincent wasn't necessarily the kind of guy who would run down his nagging girlfriend. But Alice was. So much so that Vincent eventually disappeared, and Alice Cooper stopped being a band and became this scary persona haunting our nightmares and his own. Art and artifice became inexorably intertwined. Vincent Furnier didn't go to rehab. Alice did.
Many years later, comedian Stephen Colbert experienced a similar disjoint as the character he was portraying on his nightly report became confused with the guy doing the bit. So much so that the neo-con character got invited to speak at the annual Correspondent's Dinner during the second Bush regime. The shock and awe on the dais was palpable. Apparently, they thought they had one of their own up there, sharing the warmth. It was cold. Very cold.
Which left me thinking about myself. When I first started teaching, I thought of "Mister Caven" as a character I was playing. I wasn't the kind of guy who would take away a kid's Legos. But Mister Caven would. I couldn't imagine speaking harshly to a child. But Mister Caven does. There are plenty of things that I would never do that Mister Caven does all the time. The other day when I came home, I noticed I had Legos in my pocket. When did that happen?

Monday, November 23, 2015


Everything I know is wrong. Or at least everything that I thought I knew turns out to be held in question. Certain facts, the NFL season and its wiggly reality included, turn out to be less true than I thought they were. An example of this would be the absolute certainty I felt about Doctor Ben Carson and Donald "Forrest" Trump and their campaigns fading by the time autumn rolled around. If I were a betting man, I would have assumed that by now we would be picking at the metaphorical bones of these two GOP pretenders. How could we as a country, or at least part of a country, continue to support such a scary pair of potential leaders of the free world? How can the Carolina Panthers get through more than half a season without losing a game?
Like I said, I'm not a betting man. Which is why I would view the "fact" that there are more Mexicans leaving the United States than entering. This is not historically true, but rather a somewhat recent development. The Pew Research Center found that slightly more than one million Mexicans and their families, including American-born children, left the U.S. for Mexico from 2009 to 2014. During the same five years, eight hundred seventy thousand Mexicans came to the U.S., resulting in a net flow to Mexico of one hundred forty thousand non-citizens. This comes to us from a report by the Pew Research Center, a "non-partisan fact tank," that apparently spent some time collecting non-partisan facts about migration across our southern border. Facts that don't necessarily align with the idea of a porous sieve of a boundary between the United State and Mexico, and since 2012, rather than receiving a massive influx, our country seems to be having a bit of reflux when it comes to the old north-south thing. Three years ago, we sat about even, and it has been decreasing since then. The folks at Pew have given us plenty of reasons why all of this has come to pass, including changing job markets in both countries, but it still doesn't sound possible, does it? 
Especially when you listen to the guys driving the clown car. At this point, it seems like we need to build a wall to keep folks in rather than out. Or maybe Donald Gump has it all figured out. Changing employment patterns have opened up all kinds of opportunities for criminals and now it's just a simple matter of supply and demand. 
Or maybe he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. Either way, I don't think I want the former owner of the New Jersey Generals to run my fantasy football league. That would be wrong. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Garden Of Secrets

One of the great pop culture myths of all time has been busted. This one didn't take a build crew or Adam and Jamie. It took about three lines in a memoir to finally unveil to whom the song "You're So Vain" was ascribed. Carly Simon's tell-all "Boys In The Trees" at last blows the lid off this mystery and after forty-three years, aren't we all amazed to find out that the guy who probably thought the song was about him was (insert drum roll here) Warren Beatty.
What? That was worth waiting for since 1972? I expect that Dick Ebersol, who paid fifty thousand dollars back in 2003 for the private audience with Ms. Simon to have that big secret revealed to only him over a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches washed down with vodka on the rocks. Part of me wants to believe that Carly told Mister Ebersol something different than she just told the world. Kris Kristofferson is now just the guy who wrote "Me and Bobby McGee," a song that was based in part on a Fellini film, but that's for Kris to auction off later. Mick Jagger? He is the business manager for one of the most successful touring bands of all time, and he happened to sing back up on "You're So Vain." It's a tangled web they wove.
David Geffen and James Taylor did not, after all these years, make the cut either, but not from lack of trying. James Taylor did go one better by marrying Carly and even going so far as to buy her a mockingbird. David Geffen, while being a good little shopper himself, his vanity was never really in question. At least not from Ms. Simon.
Which brings us back to Warren. In 1972, there was probably no more likely suspect for any such romantic hookup song. I am pretty sure that Mister Beatty figures prominently in a great many of the "somebody done somebody wrong songs" from that period. It's a little known fact that Warren Beatty is one of the recurring figures in Don McClean's "American Pie." Something about McGovern and so forth. That's part of the reason it turns out to be such a disappointment: People had been guessing it was Warren Beatty for years, and now suddenly it becomes public knowledge? Surprise!
Not really. Like Charles Foster Kane's sled and Luke Skywalker's dad, this one is now consigned to the ages. "Did you know...?" Well, as a matter of fact, I did. As will the rest of Al Gore's Internet. Google, Twitter and reality TV have taken most of what was left of the mystery out of life. Sad, really, because I was kind of holding out hope that it was Jim Henson, if only to imagine Kermit the Frog taking in the total eclipse of the sun in Nova Scotia.