Monday, January 24, 2022

No More Meat Loaf

 I suppose the thing that I admire most is the fact that he stuck with that name: Meat Loaf. Brought into the world, he was Michael Lee Aday. On his way out, he was Meat Loaf, a name he was saddled with back in the mid-sixties. He stuck with that moniker for more than sixty years, and a career that spanned more than fifty years. Compare that to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or Little Johnny Cougar Mellencamp, guys who jettisoned their nicknames as their fame increased. They were not happy to be packaged as a product. But not Meat. Mister Loaf embraced it. He owned it. 

My first introduction to Meat Loaf and his music was, I confess, via the album cover for Bat Out Of Hell. That chopper roaring out of the grave into the lurid orange and red sky, with that gigantic bat standing guard over the tombstones. It was drawn by Richard Corben, whom I would later discover in my travels through Heavy Metal magazine, but it was all Meat. 

Or at least that was what I believed at the time. It took me a decade or so to catch up to the reality, thanks to a much more devoted fan than I, my roommate and partner in crime who introduced me to Jim Steinman, the composer and arranger behind all that brute force rock and roll. Jim was not happy that his name was not featured alongside his friend's. But what self-respecting record exec would pass up a chance to stick Meat Loaf on the front of any brand new record? Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf? Probably not. 

It was the same pal who introduced me to something that I had missed in my high school years: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, featuring the musical talents and the crowd response line, "Meat Loaf? Again?" That appearance in everyone's favorite midnight movie would probably be enough to cement his pop culture legacy, but Meat would not rest. Or loaf, if you prefer. His music career and a series of acting gigs in movies that the casual viewer might have missed. 

Oh, and he was in Fight Club. His name was Robert Paulson. In an ironic twist, Meat's character was a beast of a man, but the actor himself had just shed a lot of weight, and was therefore required to perform his role in a fat suit. Apologies, here for talking about Fight Club, since we all know the rules, don't we?

But I think the thing I won't ever forget about Meat Loaf was the moment, toward the end of the song Paradise By The Dashboard Light when he promises his girl that he will "love her until the end of time." A beat, then, "So now I'm prayin' for the end of time." 

Aloha, Meat Loaf. You truly stomped on the Terra. And we're looking forward to the end of time when we'll all be able to spend some more time with you. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Don't Sing Along With Mitch

 "Well the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans." Senator Mitch "Rhymes With Mitch" McConnell said this after a vote to move the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to the Senate floor failed this past week. This came from the Senate Minority Leader who is, perhaps unfairly compared to a turtle, failed to acknowledge first and foremost the irony of his position. Senate Minority Leader. The Minority, Republicans, managed to scuttle legislation from moving through Congress to become law. If only minorities had this kind of power across the United States. 

I'm not talking Republicans here. I am talking about Americans here, a point which seems to have evaded Mitch. 

I am also amazed that a person of no particular color can speak to the concerns of people of color. The man for whom this legislation was named is no longer around to debate, so the point, for Mitch, seems to be moot. Or maybe it's the statistics that trouble him. Like the ones that say that, since 2000, black eligible voters have accounted for nearly half of Georgia's electorate's growth. Voter ID laws, redistricting, access to polling place information and translated voting materials have been shown to be factors in keeping eligible voters away from the polls. 

Maybe Mitch didn't get a chance to finish his thought. Maybe what he meant to say was that African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans, "and we're going to do everything we can to stop that." It was back in 2013 when the United States Supreme Court backed its truck over the original Voter's Rights Act, but that was after we had already elected an African American president, so everything was cool. Right?

Now it is the voters who bear the responsibility of proving that they have been disenfranchised. If this sounds a little like a corpse bearing the responsibility for proving that it was murdered, then you may not be in a place to go along with Mitch. Oh, and in 2016, a federal court in North Carolina found that state's newly minted voter ID law was created to "target African Americans with almost surgical precision." Targeting with surgical precision sounds like it should be in a tag line for a Jason Bourne movie, not in laws restricting votes. Votes that, have historically leaned toward the Democrats, which makes Republicans worry. And that group is growing. Which makes Republicans terrified. 

Or at least that's what statistics show. 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Lessons Learned

 Heaven forbid anyone should feel uncomfortable. 

Especially white people.

In Florida.

Yes, once again the spotlight falls on The Dongle State as the "governor" pushes a bill through his state's legislature  that would prohibit public schools and private businesses from making white people feel “discomfort” when they teach students or train employees about discrimination in the nation’s past. "Governor Ron" said he would seek legislation that would allow parents to sue schools and employees to sue employers if they were subject to critical race theory. Good news for the frivolous lawsuit barristers out there. Not so good for those of us who prefer our reality a little more real. 

It was my fifth grade teacher who opened my eyes to the Holocaust by suggesting that I read Anne Frank's diary. That was at a point when I was fascinated by all things World War II. It turns out there was a reason the Nazis were "the bad guys." Six million of them. This was the same gentleman who introduced me to the Sandy Creek Massacre. Growing up in Colorado, we were inevitably walked past the contributions of our Native American predecessors, but it wasn't until fifth grade that the suggestion of genocide was tossed into the mix. 

Did these teachings make me feel any less of myself? Maybe. A little. But mostly it brought clarity to those moments in history when those colonial powers who came to exert their culture and race across the land through force. Broken treaties. Broken windows. Broken people. 

So when it came time to consider slavery right here in the land of the free and home of the brave, I was ready. To say that mistakes were made would be the understatement of the past two millennia. The subjugation of another human being is wrong. The fact that our nation was built on the backs of those who were taken and forced to do the work made us "the bad guys." And maybe it was easier in 1970's Boulder, Colorado to handle this kind of information. It certainly made me more aware of our family's trips through the southwest and its native reservations. It made me seek out more truth about what happened all those years ago when we systematically created a notion of racial superiority. 

This did not make me feel comfortable. It was not taught to me for that purpose. I learned about those mistakes so that I would not repeat them. Governor Ron's bill reads, in part, “An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, does not bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex. An individual should not be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.” 

Here's a little lesson for Governor Ron: If you don't feel any of those things, you're not feeling anything. It's called empathy. That's a much harder thing to teach. Please return to your fifth grade classroom to inquire about it. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Things That We Up With Put

 I have never been kicked out of a bar.

It was once suggested that I might be asked to leave a Denny's, since it's a "family restaurant" and all. A friend and I were given a similarly worded stern warning about the dialogue we were carrying on near the back of the Disneyland parking lot tram. Which would seem like a good way to lead into this next point:

I have been asked to leave a friend's house. More than once. 

This suggests that I feel most comfortable in the homes of close personal acquaintances. More comfortable than I do in a declared family restaurant or just outside the Happiest Place On Earth. Which in turn suggests that I feel like I feel most free in the company of those who know me best. 

Or perhaps it means that the way I have acted, historically, has somehow passed the "sniff test" around individuals who have felt the depths of my charms in public settings. 

So rather than do a lot of what might be a regrettable dredge of my past behavior, which I assure you was offensive but not ever to the degree that actual security had to be summoned, I will go ahead and confess to what all these shenanigans on my part has generated: an absurd amount of tolerance. 

The hallmark of this can be found in the way I tend to simply ignore loud noises coming from across the street. Day or night. This is my penance for all the times my stereo or my "inside voice" was not suitable for those within a half mile. Similarly, the outrageous behavior I have encountered in our neighborhood parties has never tipped the scales past the "Oh, that's nothing compared to what we did once" mark. 

And when it comes to drunken sloshing or borderline belligerence, I can absorb a lot of slurred attempts at humor, or sloppy confrontations aimed at the windmills of authority. I get it. I've been there. Things will look a lot different in the light of the coming day. I have made those next morning phone calls, and the level of shame that accompanies anyone with a conscience suggests that there really should be a limit to what we will all allow. 

Mine has just been calibrated a little differently. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Appearances

 That post that I wrote a few days back about how Bob Saget may not have been the iconic role model of a dad that he appeared on Full House? Well, upon reflection, none of this should be any kind of shock.

At all. 

Let's take the lovable cad Joe Garrelli on News Radio. As played by the not nearly so lovable Joe Rogan, his character is described as the "street-smart electrician and handyman." His character had a deep mistrust of consumer products, preferring instead to piece together his won contraptions, while periodically spouting bizarre conspiracy theories. So much so that the rest of the characters on the show suspected that he might be the Unabomber. 

Okay. So sometimes there is a pretty close parallel between the characters they played on TV and the actors who portrayed them. The scariest part is that Joe Rogan's wild conspiracy theory chatter is now more than three times more popular than Tucker Carlson's rants. Which pushes us through the looking glass into the realm where Stephen Colbert's eponymous show starring himself on Comedy Central was "just a character." The narcissistic right wing commentator had to be put on a shelf when the "real" Stephen Colbert got his job hosting The Late Show on CBS. Are you still with me? Then let's go just a little further down this twisted path to the case of Alex Jones, who during his divorce trial insisted that the conspiracy-mongering host of InfoWars podcast was (wait for it) "just a character." 

So, maybe Shakespeare was even more right than he could have imagined. We are all just players on this world stage, and some of us have really interesting roles to play. And maybe some of us are more method than others. Which wouldn't be a problem if we were all pretending to be nice, clever people. That would be nice. Unfortunately, we seem to have way too many folks whose "characters" are not very kind and not very bright. And they seem to be the ones we end up giving all this attention. 

And money. 

Would it be any sort of relief to discover, after all these years, that Donald Trump was really some guy named Don Gleeson, who managed to turn his night club act about a cartoonish lout of a New York slumlord into an empire? 

And what about Bill Cosby? 

Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Lost And Found

 I always used to scratch my head when I heard stories about teenagers who went out for a night of beer chugging and mailbox smashing. With their video cameras. How long before that footage shows up in a place where someone watching will decide to turn state's evidence so they don't have to pay for the damage they witnessed or replace the garden gnome that was forcibly violated? It was, and still is, a not so subtle cry for help: Please catch me and give me the attention I so richly deserve. Punish me!

Which was borne out in all it's red baseball cap glory during the insurrectionist riot of January 6, 2021. All of those tiny-brained sycophants who broke windows and beat police officers and trespassed without any real sense of where they were going or what they hoped to achieve. Sure, there were pitchforks and flagpoles and scary looking individuals racing about with zip ties, but mostly they seemed intent on trashing the place. 

And putting it all on the interwebs. For everyone to see. Including law enforcement. Judges. News agencies. How could anyone be shocked by the outrage they have received while they insisted on parading through our social media pages with a sense of befuddled entitlement? 

Then there's this: According to Maryland's Representative Jamie Raskin, many calls were received in the days after last January 6 asking about a "lost and found." It seems that a number of the tiny brains that went on that little rampage a year ago wanted help finding cell phones, purses and other personal belongings that they dropped or forgot while they were busy doing whatever it was that they were doing while attempting to halt the democratic process. These calls were turned over to the police, who were more than happy to take names, addresses and other vital information from those who may have misplaced their keys as well as their loyalties on that day. The police then agreed to help "tie up any loose ends" in regard to their time spent ransacking the Capitol. 

This really happened. This is the brain trust that continues to exist out there as the net continues to sweep up the more than seven hundred identified and charged with crimes. Once these individuals have cried themselves out in front of the judge and feel the door close behind them, finding themselves alone in their cell without hope of being rescued by the people whose brilliant idea it was to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and take a big old swing at the biggest mailbox of them all. And to think they had the good sense to provide us with clear, photographic evidence. 

Maybe they should be looking for their self respect instead of their cell phones. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Coming Soon

 My son recently made the wish that we would live in more precedented times. He is part of a generation that would happily return to the well-worn ruts of the past, with no surprises or breaking news. Somebody got into a fight at school and got suspended? Good. They didn't come back the next week and shoot the place up. 

Last week was a hot one, but that doesn't mean that an entire species was lost and a coastal region is now underwater. We could go back to having thunderstorms and even blizzards, but who really needs a bomb cyclone or an atmospheric river? Weather should go back to being something that you talk about after you've run out of everything else to talk about. 

Kind of like a "minimum wage." This suggests that somewhere there is a "minimum job." Flipping burgers is a noble enterprise and should be rewarded every bit as much as those whose job is to sit on top of all the money generated by the burgers flipped by those wearing name tags. 

History should not be up for debate. What happened is a matter of record, and though it sometimes takes a while to get comfortable with it, we shouldn't have to worry about raising a new generation that is dumber than those previous just because we were embarrassed by what we did or we didn't understand. 

Kerjillionaires should stop taking millionaires for rides in what is just barely outer space and start feeding children who are hungry. It's time to stop giving the impression that the one percent of the one percent is planning to jump off this planet just as soon as possible, leaving those of us who can't afford the price of the ticket stranded in the mess we all made. Start giving away some of those electric cars. See how that helps.

And let's make politics boring again. Personalities are for people in the entertainment field. If you're going to Congress, delete your Twitter account and start working on governing. Stop making it a freak show. 

Ultimately, I hope that my son can raise his children in a world with a twenty-four minute news cycle. "Here's your sports scores, and a reminder that we can all do a little better. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny with a chance of happiness. Good night."