Tuesday, April 30, 2013

That's Why They Call It "Show Business"

“People seem to think I have Oprah Winfrey money. I’ve done well in my career, but I am not sitting on twenty-two million dollars." These were the words Zach Braff used to defend his entree into the virtual arena known as Kickstarter. It's a place on Al Gore's Internet where, their web site assures us, "creativity comes to life." So it makes sense that Mister Braff would go there when he decided he wanted to make a sequel to his indie film, "Garden State." The budget for that little bit of romantic dramedy was two and a half million dollars. That's why Zach is trying to raise another two million on Kickstarter. He wants to make another movie without studio interference. "I’m doing this so that one negative audience comment in a test screening won’t force me to change the end of my movie,” he said.
That hasn't stopped the negative comments from pouring in, however. Plenty of people wonder why he needs to invite his fans to pay for a movie to be made just so that they can pay to see it later. Zach, who stands to make money with this new venture, is willing to invite folks into the process, going so far as to say that a lucky donor of ten thousand dollars may receive a speaking part in the finished film. Don't expect to get any points on the back end, however. You'll have to be content to feed Braff's muse. And maybe get some nice swag.  Finally, you'll be in the motion picture business!
Okay. I confess. I'm feeling a little burned by this whole deal. This could be, in part, because once upon a time before I had my own blog, I used to read Zach Braff's blog when he was an up and coming sit-com star. He seemed like he was going places. As it turns out, I was right. He had a flurry of success back then, about ten years ago, and then his charms seemed to wane. It felt a little like hubris, to me.
And that's what this feels like to me. "Hey guys, let's put on a show! You buy the costumes and sets and pay for the catering and I'll start to work my magic!" With more than three weeks left on the  plead-a-thon, Zach has raised more than enough for his project. For a sequel? I thought the whole idea behind sequels was that they were supposed to be made from the spoils of the previous film. Maybe that's no longer the model.
I know: I will start my own web site, where I will accept donations to keep sequels and remakes with bad intent from being made. I only wish I could have thought of this before they made a followup to "Donnie Darko." With your help, Dreamcrusher.com can stop the next Transformer film in its tracks. We can do this, people! But you're going to have to pay.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys

Willie Nelson used to tell a story about the time he came home from a night of carousing with his buddies and passed out on his bed. His wife at that time took this opportunity to fold over the sheet and sew Willie into a nice tight bag, then proceeded to beat the living tar out of him with a broom handle. I relate this tale because somehow, beyond odds like these, Willie Nelson has just celebrated his eightieth birthday.
He's lived the life of an outlaw, and taken on that epithet with his trademark grin. Come to think of it, he tends to take on most everything with that trademark grin. Perhaps this is because of fifty or sixty years of residual THC and what amounts to a lifetime subscription to the Cannabis of the Month Club. That might also be why Willie insists his birthday is April 29, while the state of Texas says that it is April 30. Confused, stoned, or just stubborn, it is the way you would expect a real outlaw to meet life.
And he plays music. Still. Riding around the country on his bus, he's still on the road two hundred days out of every year. Suddenly those Rolling Stones tours seem to pale a little by comparison. He's got ten years on Mick Jagger, and he's still packing them in at something less than one hundred and seventy dollars a ticket. Willie started out as a Nashville songwriter, and has evolved over the years into the elder statesman of country music. In a recent interview, he was asked what his younger self would think if he ran into his older alter ego: "He'd probably wonder what's that old man doing out there," Nelson said with a chuckle. "He's got a house. He's not homeless. Why don't he go home?"
It could be that his home is the road. Like the characters in his songs, he's living the life he knows. The life he imagined way back in the mid twentieth century. He'll be taking the night of the 29th off, but if you trust the folks down in Texas, he'll be playing on his birthday in Estero, Florida. :You can get seats for around eighty bucks. A steal of a deal for an outlaw.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


I don't think I would like to live on Planet Beck. There's always trouble brewing there of some sort of another. The schools are attempting to indoctrinate the children into some sort of socialist reformation. The debt would cause the old currency to collapse in the next few years, necessitating the formulation of a new currency to be based on land, not gold. The president wants to create his own "civilian army" that will be deployed to implement socialism or Marxism or anti-colonialism all across the country. He also claims to have evidence of a plot by a Saudi national to explode bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Hold on a second. Saudi? Boston? That's my planet! You mean I've been here all along? Suddenly I know exactly how Charlton Heston felt.
The good news, I suppose, is that Glenn doesn't have Faux News to promote his version of reality anymore. Fairly unbalanced. So far, his smoking gun is a document that he claimed is an official US “event report” showing that the Saudi in question is a bad, bad man who was on a no-fly list and already subject to visa revocation. He is on that no-fly list along with twenty-one thousand other individuals, about five hundred of which are American citizens. That leaves a lot of spots open for people from other countries. Like Saudi Arabia.
Could this bad person be responsible for any sort of terrorist act? Maybe. It could also be that he was an innocent spectator who was injured at the event, and authorities questioned him just like they questioned hundreds of other innocent spectators. Glenn's paranoid fantasy goes so far as to speculate that a Saudi national may have been an Al Qaeda control agent who recruited the Tsarnaev brothers to carry out the Boston attacks.
And if he's right, they will no doubt be responsible for bringing on the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Swords And Ploughshares

The events of the past week or so have caused me to look inward more, sticking close to my own borders. That didn't keep things from happening around the world, however. For instance, across the ocean from me, North Korea continues to exist in a technical state of war with their neighbors to the south, as well as their arch enemies here on these shores. They continue to move missiles about and make threatening sabre-rattling statements that are designed to send fear through anyone who listens. "Is there anyone in the world who doesn't worry about war?" North Korean Lieutenant Colonel Nam Dong Ho told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "We don't want a war. But if the American imperialists provoke us unjustifiably, we will answer with a nuclear war." I apologize for not paying attention.
There was another message sent last week from those above the thirty-eighth parallel: It's Spring. That means it's time to plant. All along the watchtowers of the DMZ, North Korean soldiers could be seen putting down their weapons and heading out to the fields to help with the spring planting. Knee-deep in the mud, they took a pause in their preparations for war and worked shoulder to shoulder with the farmers of that region. What can we make of this?
At first glance, we recognize that aside from its attempts to become a world power, the North Koreans are starving. If they don't grow food, they will go hungry. United Nations sanctions have all but cut off imports and exports from their country. If they want to eat, they'll have to plant. It also speaks to the sense of duty the North Korean army has to its own. At least within view of the guards posted on the other side of the border. As Colonel Nam said, "... we have made it clear: Our army is capable of striking any place on earth." Especially when that place happens to be in the range of news cameras.

Friday, April 26, 2013


I'm sure there will come a day when I look back at this and smile. This kind of tension in a household is completely acceptable, of course. It just didn't feel like it late on a Monday night when all of us, including the dog, should have been asleep. What caused all the stress? I could say that it was a semicolon, but that wouldn't be completely accurate. That is, however, where I noticed things going awry.
My son's essay was due the next morning, and he had spent the past several hours locked away in his room funneling his vision and opinions into five compact paragraphs. My wife and I took turns peeking in on him and asking after his progress. We might have been better served taking a nap during this creative flurry, but the end of the grading period loomed over all of us as a very familiar but still frightening specter. And so we waited.
Eventually, he emerged from his room and approached the printer where we waited as all those thoughts became corporeal. We could get our hands on it now, my wife and I, and so we set about doing the thing that parents have been doing since before my parents did it to my essays: We read. We responded. We critiqued. I weighed in with my concern about sentences that rambled on too long. Then I noticed the semicolons.  
“My advice to writers just starting out? Don't use semi-colons! They are transvestite hermaphrodites, representing exactly nothing. All they do is suggest you might have gone to college.” These were the words that sat in my head as I tried to dissuade my son from creating long, burdensome, complex sentences that went on and on and though they made a point eventually, many were stuck with that ambiguous punctuation that made me think only in terms of how his teacher might look on them. It made me think of the writing classes I had taken. The ones that taught me to get to the point. The teachers and professors who insisted on brevity. The ones who eschewed semicolons.
Of course, these were also the same learned souls who encouraged me to leave out exclamation points. If you point was valid and interesting enough, the reader would decide how much emphasis to give it. Then I remembered that my son was still learning. He was trying things out. He wanted to find his voice. I realized I was reading the paper of a high school sophomore. In the end, his mother helped rescue some of those semicolons, and though she backed me up on the run-on sentences, she left most of his vision intact. 
Then we went to bed. The raw nerves of the writing seminar drifted away, and I dreamed of happier times. I dreamed of arguing about algebra. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Owning A Piece Of The Rock

That's what the Prudential Company wanted us to do, once upon a time. And now I have, for the past sixteen years. It was a step in my ongoing process of growing up. Buying property, a home, seemed like a very sound piece of grown-up activity. You might think that buying a car would prepare one for such an undertaking, especially since the price we paid for our house was still well below that of many of the cars my son aspires to own one day. Speaking of that young man, my wife and I signed the papers and moved all our possessions into our house before he was even born. My son came into a world where I was the proud owner of a mortgage.
Okay, I didn't own the mortgage. I still don't. As a matter of fact, neither does the bank that first gave us the loan, way back when. I have come to understand, as grown-ups will, that these are just pieces of paper that routinely get shuffled from one financial institution to another. Not that our home loan is in any way special or unique. It was moved as a chunk of paper, actually just the binary illusion of a document, along with hundreds of other loans that together created an amount of money that could be fully registered by a financial institution of any size. At this moment, without looking at our monthly statement, I cannot tell you which of these august institutions now holds the paper on our house.
It doesn't help that so many of them have ceased to be. That was in the dark times, before the Clone Wars and before the bursting of a housing bubble that I wasn't even aware of until I was comfortably ensconced inside of it. Add to this mix the seemingly endless stream of refinancing opportunities that have been lobbed our way, some of which we took advantage of, and we no longer know or care who once took pity on us first-time buyers and offered us the chance to put down roots. Into the rock. In the meantime, I have no idea where I am sending that monthly check, but I'm hoping that someday, maybe in another sixteen years I can stop. Then it will be all mine. Or at least the paper will be.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Possible Paths

Sitting on my bookshelf is Stephen King's latest Big Book: 11-23-63. I haven't started it yet, partly because I am afraid. Not specifically because Mister King is a master of terror, but more because I enjoy his books most as anticipation. Once I'm halfway through one of his seven or eight hundred page beasts, I find myself starting to wince in fear: the fear of unmet expectations. The set-ups are always fascinating. The details are always crisp and timely. And somewhere before the hulking thing can make its way to the grand finale, it breaks down, usually from its own weight.
So periodically I make a pronouncement about how this will be the last Stephen King book, with that nasty taste of fizzled ending still in my mouth. Never again. Until I read a review that suggests that maybe this time, it will be different. That's why I put this most recent tome on my Amazon wishlist. That's why I'm preparing myself to enjoy two thirds of it. This one has to be different.
In the meantime, I have the seed of Steve's story to keep me interested: If you could travel back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, would you do it? How would you do it? I will eventually read the book and find out what Stephen King thinks, but for now, I find myself wondering what I would do with a time machine. What calamity would I try and avert if I had a portal to the past?
Going back a few months to sell the Tsarnaev brothers faulty pressure cookers seems like a pretty good choice. Or maybe I could be the one American friend for older brother Tamerlan. Perhaps there was something I could have said to Dzhokhar to make him think twice before following his big brother down the mad bomber path. Maybe there's nothing I could have done or said. Maybe I could have killed them both. I would have saved three lives by ending two. It makes such easy mathematical sense in hindsight.
Smothering Mrs. Hitler's little boy in his crib? Poisoning Stalin's borscht? Dropping something heavy on the toddler Osama bin Laden? Change history? It makes me nervous to think about how stepping on that butterfly back in the dinosaur days could make things different for all of us. Of course, I have Ray Bradbury to thank for that little nugget. His books were always compact and to the point, with endings. Or maybe it was that Star Trek episode, "City On The Edge Of Forever," where Spock and Kirk chase McCoy back in time and they figure out that they have to let Joan Collins die to preserve the future. Bummer for Kirk, who had his phaser set on "stun."
Maybe I should try and learn more from the past than to try and change it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finish Line

There will be a long discussion now about the differences between domestic and international terrorism. The Tsarnev brothers: homegrown or imported? The Russians would like to know that they are not responsible for these Chechens who came to our shores as huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. Then somewhere, along the line, all that freedom turned into discontent and then eventually murderous impulses. Should we blame violent video games and Marilyn Manson for this one?
My wife, who is somebody's mother, believes that long before Tamerlan and Dzhokhar found their way to Boston, that they had been indoctrinated into a culture of violence. For my wife, the struggle against an oppressive Russian culture that has been fought against for years was the beginning of a reality that had explosions as part of everyday life. Somehow it makes sense. It makes every bit as much sense as blaming Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2. Or rock and roll.
I don't know if it will ever make sense for me, except to become convinced that it isn't a matter of where it came from, but how to make it stop. For a long time, political statements were made via political targets. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand brought about the war to end all wars. Somewhere in the midst of the Cold War, we tried to kill Castro, but before that could happen, Lee Harvey Oswald got to JFK. Maybe he had help from the Cubans. Or the Mafia. Or Arthur Miller. Or maybe it doesn't matter, since it's all just history now. But back then there were wars and assassinations. Blowing up civilians happened as a matter of course, but these were casualties of war. Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, and Lu Lingzi didn't know there was a war going on when they took their places near the finish line. What they hadn't reckoned on was that there is, apparently, a war going on everywhere these days. In Boston. In Bosnia. In Berlin. In Bakersfield. When did it all start? I don't know. I just want to know when it's going to end.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Powerball has come to California. The folks at the legalized gambling center would like us to "Believe in something bigger." Pick a few numbers and take a chance to win a billion dollars. Or maybe a little less. I was never a fan of taking that kind of chance. Even though I am certain there are scientific ways to determine the random combinations that pop out of the machine every few days, but since my mathematical acumen topped off per-calculus, I will settle for something a little more in my wheelhouse.
Like winning tickets to a concert on the radio.
Last week, as I was rustling about in my classroom listening to the twenty-five minutes of radio that my schedule allows before school begins, I heard the siren's call: "If you know anything about Barenaked Ladies, get ready to call in." It just so happens that I know my share about the Canadian band, having latched onto them more than twenty years ago. I've seen them in concert numerous times. I've done them the considerable honor of actually buying their CDs, rather than simply downloading a song or two. I moved to the phone and readied myself.
This is a place I've been a number of times over the past few years. I have tried to win Bruce Springsteen tickets. I've tried to win Rolling Stones tickets. I've tried to win tickets to shows that I didn't really care to see, but the winning part was important to me. This is the one area left, since Trivial Pursuit has disappeared as a national pastime, where my knowledge of minutiae comes in handy. Most of the time, however, I am stopped at the moment I get a busy signal. It's all that re-dialing that pushes me further and further away from the front of the line. I know that knowing the correct answer isn't enough. It's getting the correct answer first.
This particular morning, the phone rang: "KFOG, can you hold?"
Of course I could. For a chance to be a winner? I listened as The Clash played in the background just ahead of the five second delay coming through my radio. Then I was talking to the DJ. "Hello, who is this?"
"Well Dave, are you prepared to test your knowledge about the Barenaked Ladies?"
For a moment I froze. All the facts and figures about Steve and Ed and Tyler and Jim and Kevin drifted away. I feared I would waste this moment.
I needn't have worried. It turned out the quiz was a multiple choice. I knew that the Ben and Jerry's flavor named for the band wasn't Americone Dream or Visualize Whirled Peace. It was "If I Had A Million Flavors." Just like I knew that after going to see Peter Gabriel, Steve and Ed decided to put together a band of their own. It wasn't Rush or Bob Dylan. For the win? I was asked what TV show they wrote the theme. I didn't hear the other choices. I knew, because the show plays in my house three or four times a week at the very least: The Big Bang Theory.
I had won. Not randomly. I won with superior skills and knowledge. And maybe a little luck, since it turns out that I was the second person to call in. The first guy didn't know his Barenaked trivia. Maybe he should go out and try his hand at Powerball.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


This past Wednesday, we had a day of action. The "we" in that sentence represents the teachers of the Oakland Unified School District. To be more precise, a self-selected group of those teachers who took it upon themselves to respond to this call to action. The "action" in that first sentence was standing on a number of street corners, predetermined to have heavy traffic, and holler at the passing cars. This is what educators feel will help inspire confidence in our abilities to nurture and herd the next generation to greatness. To be more precise, we want a raise.
Generally speaking, I'm not that good a union member. I tend to hang on the edge of the organized labor pool and only wade in when things get really ridiculous. Here's the ridiculous thing that got me going: This is my sixteenth year of teaching, and in all that time, I have only had one and a half contracts. This may sound like stability to some, but for me it has meant that I have been stuck in a very particular earning channel that has left me living essentially month to month even after more than a decade and a half of service. The half contract is there because a few years back the powers-that-be downtown decided to impose a contract that gave us all not a raise, but a cut in the number of adult education teachers as well as opening the door to increasing class size.
I spend enough time around fourth graders to know that doesn't sound exactly fair. That's why I took to the streets back then, and why, after three more years and seemingly endless negotiation, a one point five percent raise seems just a little, well, small. Off I trotted to my neighborhood's designated intersection, and I stood and exhorted passing drivers to honk in support of us silly green-shirted teachers. Solidarity with the workers and all that rot. Then I rode my bike home, confident that my voice was heard.
But I kept hearing the conversation I had with one of my colleagues just before I left for my moment of protest. I asked her if she would be attending the event.
She responded by letting me know that she had a prior commitment, but her exact words were: "No, I have class."
I thought about that as I rode my bike home after an hour of yelling at traffic. She decided not to go because she has class. I guess I got schooled. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Le Voyage dans la Lune

Virgin Galactic took another step toward private spaceflight this past week. Their SpaceShipTwo took a "cold flow" voyage over the Mojave Desert, running oxidizer through the rocket's propulsion system and out the back nozzle of the ship, though the vehicle's rocket engine was not turned on. This gives one more indication that the vehicle is flight-ready, and also left a pretty keen contrail across the sky. The next step is actually lighting the rocket engine. So far, tests have been run primarily to see how this space ship would perform if dropped from a very great height.
Suddenly I am reminded of the discussion of all the dimwits who, under the influence of this or that substance, climbed to the top of some very tall building and jumped off believing that they could fly. If you could fly, why not start out with something just a tad simpler, like taking off from the ground floor. This might eliminate some of the trauma of sudden deceleration.
Which brings us back to Virgin Galactic. With all the money that Richard Branson is pouring into this project, maybe he knows something that we don't. Perhaps there is some rush to purchase one of the two hundred thousand dollar tickets on that first trip out of the atmosphere. Is this really a chance to be a space tourist, or is it a cleverly concealed attempt to ferry the one percent off the planet before it becomes a burned-out cinder? Who is to say that Mister Branson, who can afford it, isn't preparing a lunar base of his own, after having used Newt Gingrich during this past year to throw up a bombastic smoke screen to make it appear as though it was some conservative nut-job's dream.
Or maybe it's just another fanciful enterprise from a man who has lived his life pursuing fanciful enterprises. At least he seems to start those trips from the ground.

Friday, April 19, 2013


I should open this piece with the clear acknowledgement that I am fishing in the deep seas of irony, and I don't expect to generate a clear point of view. By typing this rant into a computer and pressing "publish," I am tacitly encouraging the behavior about which I am about to complain. Here it goes: I miss seeing my son's eyes.
Because of the stream of information that swirls about him each and every day, he feels compelled to tap into that vortex at every free moment. This includes what I would recognize as "family time." Texts, e-mails, pictures and all manner of important messages are coming his way at a rate he has long since stopped trying to comprehend. If there is a Facebook update or a picture of a kitty that stacks up, it could lead to information overload, and then we might all be made to suffer. How, exactly, is unclear to me.
I also know that I brought my son up in a household that was full of media outlets: cable TV, DVDs, VCRs, e-mails, video games, and yes even books. Long before he ever generated his first password, my son could get lost in a book. There was a Calvin and Hobbes book on the back seat of our car, as well as the breakfast table, and another one clutched tightly in his hand. Many was the time when we would have to interrupt a reverie brought on by killer snowmen or the transmogrifier to bring our son back to the conversation about what we would all do that weekend. We gave him access. Should we be surprised when he used it?
I am aware that this makes me a crabby old man. Kids these days, typing with their thumbs, not using proper grammar and sending other people's pictures to heaven knows where. Crab, crab, crab. I know that part of this whining stems from jealousy. I know that I struggle to keep up with the messages in my inbox and have chosen to keep my friends in the real world rather than dive into the book of Face. I take pride in the notion that I can still name all my friends. So can my son, if he reads the header on his messages. Sometimes I miss my friend - my son.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Green Thoughts

This past weekend, I was pushing the lawnmower around my yard, and I was thinking about metaphors. I wanted to find some meaning in the work that I was doing. I wanted it to be deeper than the chore that I was performing. I wanted it to be bigger than the maintenance that I was doing once more in a series. I thought about the dandelions that I had dug up just prior to cutting the grass. I thought about how they were part of the lawn, but primarily because I had allowed them to be there. How were they like the children at my school? Weeds? I may have been stretching for meaning.
When I moved on to the front lawn, I left the search for the big picture behind. Instead I focused on the task at hand: making all the green stuff in the yard approximately the same height. Parallels to public education tried to sneak their way into my head, and so I turned the task into something even more deliberate: I would inscribe my younger brother's name in the grass with the aid of a gas mower.
I worked quickly, but deliberately. At each point, I considered what each letter must look like from above. I imagined the view from my front porch, with a slight elevation. I chose to do all three letters in upper case, with each one melding into the other. It made the whole enterprise go much more quickly than usual. I had a purpose and a well-defined goal. When I was finished, I called my wife to the front window where I asked if she noticed anything different in the sculpting of the lawn. I had imagined myself working with the precision and detail of the groundskeepers of major league baseball stadiums. Imagine my surprise when my wife told me that she couldn't see anything.
I tried to point it out to her. I described my method and my vision. She smiled and acknowledged that she could make out some faint pattern in the grass, but she just couldn't make out a name. Was it really that hard to see?
The next day, when my younger brother arrived to celebrate the early version of his birthday, I asked him to stand with me on the porch and look out onto the green sea in front of him. The good sport that he is did not allow for him to quickly dismiss my efforts, but I could tell that he was having the same trouble my wife had the day before. I went down to ground level and had him watch as I paced out each letter, shuffling across the tracks that I had mowed just twenty-four hours earlier.
"It's your name. See?"
"Oh yeah. Now I see," he was being polite, but I could tell that he appreciated the effort. He's an artist and he knows how it feels to put himself out there. Now he was, in name truly out there. "Wow," he enthused, "I feel like a soldier coming back from Iraq or something. I should really do something to deserve this."
That was enough for me.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wages Of Fear

The anger that comes with the fear is the hardest part for me. The explosions in Boston brought them both back in ferocious doses. It was another day at school, and while events continued to unravel in their horrible way, I felt drawn back to my Internet connection while the students in my room busied themselves with their research projects. My first thought was "there must be a mistake, these things don't happen here," but then I was reminded of a time when September 11 was just another day. I moved quickly to a sense of injustice, "who could possibly do such a thing?"
On April 19, 1995 there was no reason to believe that anyone would drive a truck full of explosives, fertilizer and motor racing fuel and park it in front of a federal building, light a fuse and run away. Timothy McVeigh fixed that. Now Homeland Security would like to restrict the availability of fertilizer. Mister McVeigh is gone, but his memory lingers on.
On April 20, 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold helped reshape our thoughts about school security. No longer do we think exclusively about the threats to our students from the outside. Now we look at the kids in our schools as suspects. As ticking time bombs, like the ones that failed to detonate in the Columbine High cafeteria that day.
And now another April day is sullied forever. Sporting events, which had already become more difficult to simply buy a ticket and walk in, will have heightened security. Suspicious packages and bags that have been left unattended now become increasingly terrifying. This is how terror works. It makes the ordinary extraordinary. It makes it terrifying.
Which brings me back to the anger. All the dead, all the injured, and still no real sense that we are winning this war on terror. Because it's a feeling, and feelings go away. The anger has subsided, but the sadness fills the void.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why Did The Turtle Cross The Road?

When I was about ten, my father told me about how he had seen Jonathan Winters do this amazing story about turtles crossing the road. To "do" a story rather than simply tell it, he became each and every one of the characters and supplied all the sound effects. What left an impression on my father were those sounds. "You could do something like that," he told me. And so for the rest of the weekend, I started working on my rendition of a Jonathan Winters bit that I had never seen. At some point, after dinner, I set to work. Many of our family's best comedy came from around that table, but that night I died. I couldn't help but feel a little set up by my father.
This was, after all, the man who I later understood could do ten minutes with noting but a stick. Long before Robin Williams brought his manic energy from Ork to Boulder, Colorado, Jonathan Winters was working to make everyone's life just a little more surreal. He showed up on Dean Martin's Roasts, and talk shows from Jack Paar to David Letterman. Everywhere he went, things tipped a little from the center. There were many personalities bouncing around inside his head, and sometimes it was hard to discern just where they stopped and the real Jonathan began. It was around the time that I was considering standup comedy as a profession, in my senior year of high school, that I learned about Mister Winter's history of mental illness. This knowledge, along with repeated viewings of "Lenny," helped derail the career path that my father had set me on some eight years earlier.
And now Jonathan is well and truly gone. Or perhaps he's just gone off on some magnificent tangent that only appears like death. Kudos to you then, Mister Winters, and aloha.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fashion Risks

The other day, I sent a fifth grade boy to the office for dropping his pants. Not all the way down, mind you, just low enough that everyone could see his red and green boxer shorts. Everyone with the emphasis on the group of fifth grade girls in front of whom he was standing. This came after our principal had already asked him politely to pull up his pants and offered him a belt to alleviate the issue. Not comfortable with the attention from his principal, this kid waited the two requisite minutes between that first reminder and the moment when he decided he needed to return to his relative state of undress in front of me. This gave him just enough time to look at me, blankly, and ask the question that burns into my soul as an elementary school teacher: "Wha'd I do?"
To his credit and for the sake of my blood pressure, this little inquiry only lasted a few seconds, and he understood that I wasn't going to let him parade his undies about in front of the girls. Or boys. Or anyone. It was the next morning that I started thinking about the hazards of fashion. Girls who have been kicked out of school for short skirts. Boys and girls whose T-shirt slogans rocked the offensive meter. And now we have the hanging jeans and boxers. You can see them in the windows at Macy's. Why wouldn't this be appropriate on the school yard?
Suddenly I was transported back to my ninth grade Algebra class. I was sitting in the second row, fresh from my shower in PE, eager for the day's lesson. That's when Ms. Stiffler looked over at me and said, "I know. Grass doesn't grow on steel." It took me a moment to realize that she was addressing me. It took another moment for me to make sense out of what she was inferring. I had made the choice on the way out of the boy's locker room to leave a couple extra buttons undone on my mid-seventies polyester shirt. I was making a mild statement about my relative cool. I was being told by my math teacher that not only was it not cool, that she felt that it was embarrassing for me to show off my baby-smooth chest underneath that polyester shirt. If I wasn't embarrassed before, I was when the whole class turned to look at me. I hastily buttoned all but the top button and went back to being a nerd.
I wondered if that kid had a moment in the office to feel any of those same feelings.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stunning News

A thirty year old man got into an altercation with a sixty-two year old man on a BART train last week. It seems that the younger man didn't want to give up one of the two seats that he was taking up for the older to have a place to sit down. This escalated to the point where the old guy was in a head lock, and BART police were called. Before they reached the next stop, however, a woman stepped in and used her stun gun on the young guy. When authorities arrived on the platform, they found a much more subdued scene. They took the young guy off in handcuffs on suspicion of battery. The stun gun wielder skittered off.
The Bay Area media has been playing this one as a feel-good, real-life hero kind of story. I confess that at first I felt a wave of appreciation for the stunner, and a sneer for the youngster who refused to give up his seat. I thought about how using a stun gun can make so many uncomfortable situations could be made more comfortable by using a stun gun. The clown that jumps into the express lane with more than twelve items? Zap. Movie theater talkers? Zap. Cell phone chatters at the deli counter? Zap.
Then I thought about yard duty. I thought about all the times I have given the lecture to two kids who got into some sort of tussle on the playground. Often times there is an age difference, but never more than thirty years. Still, I make a point of telling both individuals that it takes two to make a problem, and there are always alternatives to pushing and shoving. Usually I give the benefit of doubt to the younger kid, since they may not be as schooled in the ways of personal interactions. Fighting over a seat on a BART train? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't run into that one with first graders. If I did, I sure wouldn't end it by jolting them with "perfectly legal" eight million volts.
And let's not forget that altercations on BART trains don't always end so "happily." For the time being, I'll be standing on BART.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Long, Strange Trip

It's been twenty-one years now, so I feel a little more sure about my decision. Back in the early 1990's, however, I was none too sure. That was when I made up my mind that life in Boulder, Colorado was fine, but maybe it was time to take a cue from the Clampetts, or maybe it was the Joads. I was going to load up my belongings and head to the Promised Land: California. At this point, I can't claim that it was a pool of bubbling oil (black gold, Texas tea), that made me think this was a good idea. I can't tell you that I was headed off to look for some honest work, maybe picking peaches. No, I had a job. I had an apartment. I was making my way in the world in a very narrow path, but I was making it. I left the only home I had ever known for a girl.
It occurs to me now that there must have been plenty of people, friends and family, who probably had a pool on how many days, weeks or months I was going to last out in the Golden State. Not in a harsh way, but I had spent thirty years living in the same neighborhood. The only other time I had attempted to leave my comfort zone was when I went away to college. The first time I lasted a week. I never actually attended a class at the College of Santa Fe. The next year I was accepted and moved a subset of my belongings to Colorado Springs to attend the alliterative Colorado College. I was there for nine months, and even then I made the hundred mile trip each weekend to touch base with Boulder and do laundry. After that, I surrendered to the inexorable pull of my home town and stayed put for another eight years.
What was the over/under on my ability, as I turned thirty, to stick with this move to California? I have no idea. I applied for a job at a video store and didn't get it. I eventually found a job working in a book warehouse where I packed boxes full of paperback books for shipment to local bookstores. I missed all those things that I knew and loved about the place where I grew up, but little by little I found my way to a movie theater, a hamburger spot, and a record store. I had a girlfriend. I had an apartment. Life was beginning to settle.
Now I can look back at all the times before and I understand what was missing was me. I had never imagined that I could be in any of those places before. Suddenly I was able to make that leap and I could see myself making this new life. And now I realize that it's time to start preparing my son for that leap. Maybe not now, or the next ten years, but I want him to be ready. I want him to beat the odds, whatever they are.

Friday, April 12, 2013

:Yours, Mine And Ours

I suppose I should take heart in this sentiment: I just don't get Glenn Beck. He was in a tizzy, which is pretty much a constant state for Mister Beck, about an ad that ran on MSNBC featuring these words from anchor Melissa Harris-Perry: "We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children.  Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility.  We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children.  So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities." Don't think that this has anything to do with that "it takes a village" pablum that Hillary Clinton was spouting a few years back. Glenn believes that the socialists are coming for your children. It's only a matter of time before the jackboots kick in your door and carry them, screaming into the night, shoving them onto cattle cars for their eventual destination: re-education camps.
This re-education is happening right now, according to the Beckster, in the form of new curriculum being introduced in our public schools. Common Core, specifically, is responsible for "dumbing down America." This comes as a bit of a surprise to me, since I thought Glenn pretty much had that covered, but back to the sound and fury: "It de-emphasizes literary works like Huckleberry Finn in favor of informational texts including song lyrics and government documents. And, of course, historical documents like the Gettysburg Address are going to be taught without any kind of context."
"This is just the beginning," Glenn said, “And it has to be stopped.”
It couldn't be that this reform comes about during a Democratic administration, and the reforms visited by No Child Left Behind are perfectly acceptable since they were introduced under a different regime. It does make me wonder what sort of educational reform will be available in his utopian community, Independence, U.S.A. Maybe his own forces will come to rescue our children from the re-education camps so they can take them to his.
"Our children?" Sorry, Glenn. "Your children."

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Back in the 1980's, I watched a few episodes of the TV series that gave us the oxymoron "dramedy," Thirtysomething. It told the story of ad men, their families and friends. So thoroughly did they cover their hopes and desires that Michael, the nominal focus of the show, was married to Hope. I watched because it was the zeitgeist. It was the story of baby boomers claiming their place in the cultural firmament. It was also hard for me to watch. It wore on me, watching these pretty and exceptional people struggle over what direction their already comfortable lives might take. Which hundred thousand dollar a year job should I take? How do I win my wife's trust back after I have been out cheating on her? Where is that whining sound coming from? Oh. It was my TV.
It wasn't until I moved to California and found out that my wife was a big fan that I caught up on all the dramedy I was missing. I watched the reruns and finished off the arcs of Hope and Michael and Elliot and the rest of those thirtysomethings. I endured their suffering to better understand and relate to my wife. The same became true of the sufferings of the students of West Beverly High. I learned the dangers of using television to bond with those closest to you.
That's why, as the years have passed, we have made these important choices together. We have a nightly appointment with "The Daily Show," and until recently we were habitues of "30 Rock." And we got on the Mad Men bandwagon a little late, but early enough to remember Don Draper as a tortured soul. He's an ad man. We've met his family and friends, even though he tends to keep them all at arm's length. Now, six years down the road, I'm wondering if this isn't the darker, brooding retro version of the show I was watching back in 1987. I keep watching because I see Don as a conflicted person for whom I want to root, but he makes such awful choices. Contrast that with the show that we watched in those AMC interims, The Walking Dead. Here's a conflicted group of people, led by Rick Grimes, who are making real life and death decisions in every episode. That's what I've been missing.
I guess what I'm saying is this: I would have liked "Thirtysomething" better if Gary would have come back from the dead and tried to eat Hope.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Under The Radar

My wife calls it "our Magic Basement." At another time, I might have joked about that title made me think that we could be growing special mushrooms down there. But not now. I know exactly what she means. She's referring to the kind of magic that Mary Poppins had in her bag when she showed up at Banks' residence for an extended stay. Whatever one might need is down there in our basement. Coaxial cable? We've got it. Medium size dog kennel? Got it. High chair? We've got that too. If there's ever a need for a fleet of one eighteenth scale construction and rescue vehicles to fill out the public works department of a one eighteenth scale city, we're set.
We hang on to things. We do this because we can. Why bother throwing away a perfectly decent childhood when we've got room below our house to store a couple? Train sets and Hot Wheels and Big Wheels and enough "spare Legos" to build a whole new structure in which to house the Legos that still live upstairs beneath my son's bed. And it's not just our stuff. Every so often we'll get a call from a friend or relative that starts out, "You guys have that big basement, right?" And then we wait to find what object or monstrosity we will happily store for some indeterminate amount of time. A box or two? No problem. Luggage? We'll just stack it next to our own. Pop-up camper? It will be a squeeze, but we can make it work.
Over the years there have been some good faith efforts to clear the place out. We've had a yard sale. We've put things up on Ebay. We've carted out buckets and bushels and boxes of detritus and debris, remanding them to Goodwill and various recycling centers. Somehow these various attempts at making room never amount to much. Still, we have enough empty space down there to make us all dream and wish of ways we could use the basement as some alternative living/playing/exercising place. All that potential mixed with all those memories makes for a very mystical spot.
This contrasts mightily to our attic, which has every bit as much room, but because our access is limited to a trap door located in my son's closet, it has remained empty save for the thick blankets of insulation we installed years ago. No cartons full of letters, crates full of toys, just a bunch of cobwebs and room to grow. Which doesn't mean we don't think about life with a second story. Before we moved into our house we had the foundation upgraded and bolted to take for just such an endeavor. But what happens above our heads remains illusory, while beneath our feet are all the possibilities and playthings of a lifetime. Or three. We're not ready to be rid of it just yet.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013


Once again, I find myself without a boss. Well, to be more precise, my boss's boss is without a boss. The superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, Tony Smith, has resigned from his post effective on June thirtieth of this year. That will bring the number of superintendents under whom I have worked to four. That works out to be one every four years or so, so according to the national average, and that makes sense. I suppose.
In this case, Mister Smith is going to Chicago, where his father-in-law is in poor health. We have been assured, the cynics in the crowd, that he is not leaving for another job or greener pastures. He's leaving because of a family emergency. It couldn't be a continually shifting economic and local political landscape that never allows a solid foothold made it impossible for any of the reforms or fixes that he had in mind to catch on. It couldn't be that the Oakland Unified School District lacks that second modifier. It couldn't be that the job, as invigorating as it appears at first chews people up and spits them out. Or maybe it's just time to move on.
The decade and a half that I have spent working for the OUSD has been a challenging and humbling time. Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks, to quote the poet. I can only imagine what the view from the top must be like: looking down on all those little pieces just a little out of place, the dripping faucets, the grumbling and the frowns. Can't we all just get along?
Or maybe it's time for us to get along down the road. Whatever time Mister Smith might spend in purgatory will be lessened by his stint in Oakland. His resume now includes four years of service in California's most improved urban school district. At this moment I am reminded of all the times that I have said goodbye to colleagues with whom I have spent time in the educational trenches. I invariably tell them that I am of two minds, the professional part that wishes that they would stick around and see how things turn out, and the personal which wonders what took them so long to figure out how thankless a job they had lucked themselves into. And that's when I give them the hearty handshake and the "vaya con dios." Good luck in the Windy City, Tony.

Monday, April 08, 2013


Honestly? The first time I saw Roger Ebert was on Public Television. He was sitting "across the aisle" from another Chicago-based film critic, Gene Siskel. Together they provided a Waldorf and Statler commentary on the films of the 1980's. I watched patiently, but with a certain degree of impatience since I was also reading Pauline Kael's reviews in "The New Yorker" at that time. How did this pair of Second City-types hope to match Ms. Kael's level of insight and consideration in their three-minute flurries of opinion? To top it off, these two gentlemen distilled their views on particular films still further by giving them a "thumbs-up" or "thumbs-down."
As a student of film, specifically in college where I took actual courses with "film" in the title, I was put off by this Consumer Reports approach to film criticism. I was reading Andrew Sarris, Sergei Eisenstein,  and studied with Stan Brakhage and Bruce Kawin. What could I possibly have to gain from watching this Laurel and Hardy duo on PBS as they carried on in their, at times, regrettably personal complaints about each other and their visions of the world of film?
As it turns out, quite a lot. Simply by watching their show and playing along, agreeing and disagreeing with their brief but pointed assays on popular culture, I found myself developing my own point of view about movies and the way I saw them. More often than not, I found myself on Ebert's side of the aisle. That's why, when it was announced that he would be on our campus as part of the World Events Conference, I decided to go and see him. He gave a lecture that was a shot-by-shot dissection of "Casablanca." Far from a clinicial dissection of a work of art, it was obvious from the way Mister Ebert spoke of the film and the story of its creation, that he truly loved film. Everything from "Citizen Kane" to "Beyond The Valley of the Dolls." The latter of which was Roger Ebert's lone attempt at creating a film rather than commenting on them. Unfortunate, but true. It made his fondness for all things cinematic even more profound.
And so I started reading Roger Ebert's reviews. I found them every bit as clever and pointed as those by Ms. Kael. They also tended to skew more to my own sensibilities. That's why I felt a twinge when, fourteen years ago, Gene Siskel passed away. And that's why last week when Roger Ebert succumbed to the cancer that had ravaged his body over the past ten years, I felt a loss. So at last, the balcony is closed.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

Cell phones are forty years old. In my world, that's getting up there. This is primarily because I spend my days with people who are generally one fifth to one tenth my age. Even the majority of the staff with whom I serve are younger than the cellular telephone. It's curious to me that I don't have more of a connection with a piece of technology that has been with us for the past four decades.
We have Martin Cooper, an engineer with Motorola, to thank for this advance that is now so ubiquitous that I can't remember a time when there weren't cell phones. Chances are if it hadn't been Mister Cooper who came up with "the brick," it would have come about some other way. This need to be constantly in touch must have come from some latent seventies encounter group-based feel-good vibe that started with the idea that we might, in fact, buy the world a Coke. It was a simpler time. There were less than four billion people on the planet then.
Times change. By 2015, it is expected that there will be more than one billion smartphones in the hands of the population that has nearly doubled. Thank goodness for call-waiting and voice mail. And that goes double for caller ID. Of course these days, not many people are using their cellular telephones for making calls, not when you can send texts and Google and play Angry Birds. That miracle of the first cell phone call forty years ago now seems pretty mundane. This rather pervasive use of cell phones has altered the legal landscape as much as the social. There are those who might even suggest that we ban their use while crossing the street.
All of this communication has created an environment where we tend to connect less. My favorite example of this is the couple sitting at a restaurant across the table from one another, and while one is checking for e-mail, the other is listening for messages. All of this "smart" technology probably won't slow down anytime soon. Google Glasses will soon adorn the faces of the next generation. The generation that my son has suggested will be "able to ignore you while looking straight at you." How nice. How very, very nice.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Sure Shot

On Tuesday, the NRA released their report on how to make schools in America safer. Among their recommendations: increased funding for mental health programs on both state and local levels, an education program to help parents, students and teachers become aware of possible threats to their safety, and a call for harsher penalties for anyone caught anywhere near a school with a deadly weapon.
Ha, ha, ha. Just kidding. They want teachers to carry weapons. Guns, specifically. Realistically, I don't know what we would expect from the National Rifle Association. Of course their solution would be firearms based. If the National Pudding Consortium had been asked, their report would have suggested more yummy desserts, especially those of the custard variety for decreasing school violence. You get what you pay for, right?
In this case, the NRA paid more than a million dollars for this brain trust to come up with solutions like arming at least one individual on every school site, and installing bullet proof glass in classroom windows. As for the bulletproof glass, I would like to point out just how long it takes to get a single broken window replaced on our campus, and how much that piece of tempered glass costs to get installed: A) a long time, and B) a lot. Imagine trying to get all the windows in all our schools replaced, and just how much that solution would solve. In education, we tend to try and create a safe space for kids to learn, but we avoid the feeling of "locked down" wherever possible. The irony is that bulletproof glass would eliminate a certain element of our job: vandalism and break-ins by the neighborhood toughs who seem to have a penchant for electric pencil sharpeners and other office supplies.
And then there's the one armed adult. The NRA suggests a forty to sixty hour training program for preparing this lone gunman (or woman) for the opportunity for walking point. I know how much training and how many professional development opportunities come our way each and every week as elementary school teachers, and it makes me more than just a little nervous to think about how this program would be received by the rank and file. The reason we have student teacher programs is to give newbies a chance to experience the trials and tribulations of a regular school day before being tossed into a room of their own small people with all their attendant needs and concerns. I'm sure that we would only ask veteran teachers to pack heat, but I wonder how long it will be before teaching credential programs start to require concealed weapons practicums as part of their licensing process. I hope that it is a long time. Like forever.
In the meantime, I feel like the best solution for now is to have a big bowl of chocolate pudding. 

Friday, April 05, 2013

Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out

By chance I found myself listening to a different radio station in the morning. It was the station I listened to when I first moved to the Bay Area: KITS, Live One Oh Five to its friends. Sometimes the kids who are supposed to be standing quietly in line in my class reach over and fiddle with the knobs because somehow "keep your hands to yourself" does not include the knobs on Mister Caven's radio. It was an opportunity, anyway, and as I busied myself about the business of getting my room ready for the day, I reflected on all that has changed since I came to California twenty years ago.
Alex Bennett was the morning personality with whom I used to start my mornings. That ended in 1994, though Alex stuck around for another few years. I moved down the dial to One Oh Four Point Five, where I heard the familiar sounds of Peter Finch, the news voice of KFOG. He provided me an echo from my past. I learned to relax into world domination strategy of "World Class Rock." I stuck around even with the terrible mishandling of the retirement of Dave Morey. And somewhere in there, my son's radio found its way to Live 105. Now a fully-formed teenager, it is his go-to for punk-kid-music. He's got his favorites: songs, DJs, special features.
And it just so happened that the morning I was listening to that blast from my past, there was a new guy holding down the morning show on KITS. Not that there hasn't been a little bit of a revolving door policy over there since I parted ways with them way back when, but the "Modern Rock" station seems to have every bit as difficult a time keeping a voice behind the mike as the "World Class" folks just a notch or so down the dial.
I wondered how my son was taking the news. I wondered if he'd noticed. I wonder if Jay Leno was listening.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

An Ounce Of Prevention

That's how I spent my Spring Break. I left school a week ago last Friday and headed straight to my doctor's office. We had this mutual agreement, my doctor and I, that we would try and keep it light. It was time for my fifty-year-old check under the hood. All the pieces were still there, though some of them had experienced a little more wear and tear than others. Eyes, ears, nose and throat were all doing pretty much what you'd expect. There were some smiles of approval for the low pulse rate: running four times a week. There was some tsking for the higher than normal blood pressure: family history and a fondness for cheeseburgers.
But there was no alarm. I looked to be in pretty good shape, with some advice on diet and sodium intake as the parting shot. I was inches from a clean getaway. "Say, have you had a colonoscopy?" I sat back down.
Well, no. I have not.
"Since you're over fifty," and I let the rest of the words trail off. I knew that the discussion was going to end with me making an appointment to have my insides poked and probed, and I wasn't going to like it. "You could get a flexible sigmoidoscopy instead. They don't have to put you out or anything," and again I let the idea bounce around my head. Was I really that interested in what my innards were up to?
Sure, I said, and right there we made the appointment for April First, the last day of my Spring Vacation. It would make a terrific bookend to this office visit. Besides, nothing says "April Fools Day" like a flexible sigmoidoscopy.
My wife has asked that I spare her and everybody else the details of the procedure, so feel free to look into it yourselves if you're curious. What I did take away from the experience was a sense of well-being that came in the form of being told by a medical professional that I was in good health. I savored that feeling for moments as I was finally able to turn away from the page of all the possible outcomes that were inherent with the test I had just undergone. I was told that I had five years to relax on this particular set of laurels, and then I would be tossed back into the name-your-scopy mix. In the meantime, I think I'll be looking into what the pound of cure is. Just because I want to know.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Blinded By Science

At last, I have proof. Scientific proof. Researchers at the University of Missouri have uncovered what many of us already knew: There is such a thing as The Bro Code. These scientists from the Show-Me-State have determined that men are biologically inclined toward avoiding a close encounter with the mate of a buddy, and it works the other way around if she is not committed to a friend. What my wife has insisted for all of these years is made-up junk turns out to be science.
"Men's testosterone levels generally increase when they are interacting with a potential sexual partner or an enemy's mate," anthropologist Mark Flinn, lead author of the study, said in releasing the report. "However, our finding suggests that men's minds have evolved to foster a situation where the stable pair bonds of friends are respected."
You read that right: Men's minds have evolved. So there. This also means that all those times when I complained bitterly about this guy or that not fully comprehending or acknowledging the legitimacy of the code, I was right. Scientifically. If your buddy starts messing with the girl you're trying to hook up with, he's going against not just the Code, but Nature.
All of this chemistry makes me wonder how much of my moral sense comes to me through various and sundry hormonal secretions. Am I stopping at traffic lights because my friend's girlfriend told me to? Would it be easier to follow the Ten Commandments if Moses had led off with "Thou shalt not hit on thy neighbor's wife?"
And maybe all of these observations would be more believable if they were taken in the presence of Doctor Bud Weiser.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Suppose They Gave A War And Nobody Came

Remember the Axis of Evil? George "Dubstep" Bush used to refer to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the bad guys, complete with their own nickname. We were supposed to be afraid, right along with him, that one or all of these nasty countries were going to use their weapons of mass destruction against god-fearing souls over here in the West. The correct god, that is.
Well, as it turns out, those weapons of mass destruction never fully materialized in Iraq, though the decade we spent over there looking for them and then picking up after ourselves should have let some of the evil out of their sails. Iran keeps blowing things up and talking tough, but they haven't managed to get their full evil on the way we might have hoped. That would make it so much easier to invade them too. There's probably at least a decade's worth of quagmire to slog through there. But we live in more enlightened times, and while we seem content to send a drone or two over Tehran now and again, there just doesn't seem to be the patience over here to send in an army or two.
Which leaves us with that upstart North Korea. They seem to be spoiling for a fight, in spite of the fact that they can barely feed their own people, Kim Jong-un really seems to be committed to his sabre-rattling. Underground nuclear explosions and missile tests come right along with what Washington insiders refer to as "familiar rhetoric."
Still, who really wants to wake up some morning with the realization that that wild hair that seems to weave its way through the powers that be in Pyongyang. "From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly," read a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency. Come on, guys. Put up your dukes. It doesn't sound like anybody in North Korea is going to be happy until the shooting starts.
Where's Dennis Rodman when you need him?  Maybe he's hanging around the ranch down in Crawford.

Monday, April 01, 2013

A Day In The Life

This morning when I got out of bed and went looking for my dog, I became concerned as I remembered hearing reports of a large Angolan Witch spider that had been seen prowling my neighborhood. I was also worried that the business card I had been handed at one of the local filling stations might have been treated with burundanga, causing my normally acute senses to fail me. I might also have been distracted by the scent of egg whites that I had only recently applied to the burns I had received when I took a cell phone call from someone while pumping gas.
The call started politely enough when a young man offered to help me fix my cellular telephone service by simply pressing #90. I thought I recognized the voice, as it turned out to be my late uncle who was calling me from beyond the grave. To soothe my jangled nerves and to continue my search for my missing dog, I walked to the nearest Starbucks, where I was dismayed to see a Marine in full dress uniform turned away at the counter. Deciding to take my business elsewhere, I caught up to the young Marine. We swapped stories, and it turned out that he was looking for his dog, Reggie. He suggested that we stop and grab a bite of "chicken" at KFC, but was far too shaken by the day's events to take that kind of chance.
When I got home, I found my dog, laying on the front porch as she always does. I heaved a great sigh of relief, and went back inside to get ready to go off to work, happy that as bad as my day was, it wasn't as bad as it was for this guy.