Friday, January 31, 2014

Featured Creature

My wife's book club was discussing "Frankenstein." For those of you unfamiliar with the novel, I will give you a moment to catch up. Everyone prepared? Good. Let's begin: Mary Shelly subtitled her story of a mad genius who constructs his own man from pieces of cadaver "The Modern Prometheus." You all remember, from our reading, who Prometheus was. Not the confounding Alien prequel from Ridley Scott, but the Greek mythology dude who made a man out of clay. Does that sound familiar? There are lots of stories about men made out of clay, including Gumby. What makes this one different?
Maybe it's because I read Mary Shelly's book when I was eleven years old, after I had fallen under the spell of Boris Karloff's monster some years earlier. It was a deep read, and one that confounded me at times. Having read "The Andromeda Strain" the summer before, I was prepared for literature that was, upon further reflection, out of my depth. As it turns out, it was totally worth it. I got to see the Monster as something other than a shambling mass of scars and ill-fitting black suit. As much as I continue to revere Karloff's creation, this was a much more profound experience. Where did they get that flat head and bolts in the side of his neck stuff? Sure, he was frightening, but not nearly as well-spoken as the creature from the novel: "All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, they creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us." Perhaps a little more eloquent than "We belong dead."
It was also that summer that I stumbled on the Classics Illustrated version. It kept most of my Universal horror film vision intact, but inserted more of the globe-trotting bookworm interpretation of the creature that I had become familiar with. This was the version that I turned to in my mind when I heard of my wife's book club meeting. That's why I don't get invited to these things very often.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Catch Me If You Can

I think I get why my father got all misty as he watched the end of "Field of Dreams" with me. Sure, there was the overt connection between father and son. We certainly had baseball in common, at least from the spectator side of things. It was the way I learned about sports from my father. I watched them with him. We didn't play together that much. He was busy with work and so on. I didn't question it. When my brothers and I played softball in the meadow at our cabin, it was my mother who came down to pitch. My father was late driving up from town, and by the time we had dinner and attended to whatever wilderness survival chores we had to do, it was dark. Like Wrigley Field, there were no lights in the meadow.
I remember standing out in the street, tossing a ball back and forth with my little brother. There was a lot of "whoops, sorry" as we threw near our intended target, or dropped an easy one off the heel of our glove. The guy from across the street, who had three sons of his own, took it upon himself to come out and give my brother and I a few pointers. We listened intently and did the best we could with the coaching we got, and when somebody else's dad went back inside, we returned to our less-than-stellar technique. "Whoops, sorry."
When my son turned six, I took it upon myself to take him out in the front yard and have a game of catch with him. We were getting ready for tee-ball, and I wanted him to feel comfortable when the ball came to him. "How many more are we going to do?" He asked me. "About nine million more," I replied. And so we tested each other's limits. How long should a game of catch be?
Ten years later, I found myself in a meadow far away from the one in which I frolicked as a kid. My son had brought his favorite object to hurl: a Frisbee. We tossed the disc back and forth for half an hour. It was very reminiscent of the baseball toss I had shared with my younger brother. "Whoops, sorry." There were a few nice catches, and most of the time we came within walking distance of putting the disc near one another. But mostly we were having a catch. It felt good. Even if we still have a couple million left.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Testing The Limits

It's called the "Scholastic Aptitude Test." Prospective college students across the land are lining up, IDs and number two pencils in hand, to take this assessment in hopes of impressing someone with their score. Their scholastic aptitude score. My son sat in a room for four hours this past weekend, packed in with a great many of his contemporaries, filling in those little bubbles as a measure of all he knows.
Of course, this isn't any sort of absolute measure. It's a yardstick that has been in place since before his father sat in a similar room and filled in a similar group of bubbles. The happy news is that filling in bubbles on standardized tests is something at which my son excels. Even as his grades had drifted south of C, he has continued to surprise and defy expectations in this particular arena. Good for him. I am a tad chagrined at the notion of a test that is supposed to measure one's scholastic aptitude. Isn't that all of them? He's been taking tests of his scholastic aptitude for more than a decade now, and he continues to show up as a pretty bright kid.
And yet, he still has to prove it. Over and over again. Exam after quiz after analysis. Essay after fill in the blank after multiple choice. He's cleared those hurdles, often with plenty of room to spare. Now he's hit the big time: college board admission tests. If he scores 2400, if he gets all the questions right, will he be college material? If he already knows all that stuff, does he really need to go to college? Couldn't he just transcend all that mess and move on into a comfortable adulthood where tests become a thing of the past?
When I found out that, to become a teacher, I would have to take a pair of tests, I almost gave up right then and there. I was becoming a teacher so that I could give people tests, not to have them administered to me. This was the cosmic joke I learned: We're never done taking tests of one sort or another. What my son did this past Saturday just opened the floodgates on a whole slew of additional opportunities to pick the correct response. Good luck to him. Good luck to us all.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rated PG Part II

"Did you catch the robbers, Mister Caven?" Armando was walking out of school with his mother at the end of a very long day.
"I think we took care of it," I told him with a grin of confidence. Inside I wasn't entirely sure.
The day had begun with a letter in my box informing me that one of our second grade classrooms had been broken into, and a great many items had been taken: baby wipes, oatmeal, toys, a great big bag of candy. This doubled up on the fifth grade room upstairs that had also had things stolen from it, specifically a great assortment of rubber band bracelets that the class had been making and selling as a fundraiser. It probably should have been an easy enough leap to connect the two incidents, but we didn't right away.
Why not? Because schools are supposed to be safe places. When I went down to talk with the teacher and students of the second grade class, they all looked so terribly sad, and after a few moments of relating the discovery of the ransacking of their room, the talk quickly turned to all the different times these kids and their parents had been victims of crime. Break-ins, hold-ups, car theft, all of these were things that happened to them out in the mean streets of Oakland. It wasn't supposed to happen here inside their safe haven: school. When I left, I assured them that their principal and I would get to the bottom of this, and we would set things right. I had no idea how we would do this, but I wanted to give them something on which to pin their seven-year-old hopes.
Around lunch time, we got a break in the case: A fourth grader had been spotted with a bag full of rubber band bracelets. Upon preliminary questioning by our principal, he said that his sister had given them to him. "Where did your sister get them?" That's when the story started to twist and bend. It's also about the time I showed up and played my "good cop" card: "You're already in trouble, so you might as well tell us the whole truth. At least that way you can't get into more trouble for lying." It took a few more minutes for this seed to take root.
Eventually, he spilled the whole story. His sister and his godbrother ahd been walking home the night before, and they stopped by the school, at his sister's suggestion to see "if there were any rooms left open." They found two, and the three of them filled their backpacks with what they could carry and slipped out the side door. "Does your mother know you took all these things?"
As it turns out, the answer was yes, and when our principal walked the boys home at the end of the day, she never got to speak to the mother. Some of the items were returned, but the food and the juice boxes and one of the containers of baby wipes had already been consumed by the family. In this household with two single mothers and children ranging in age from one to fourteen, the kids had been providing for their families. In the way that made sense to them.
I heard about the home visit, and my principal and I wondered what sort of impact we might have on the situation. We had found the thieves, we had recovered some of the stolen goods, but we didn't feel heroic. When I walked out of the office and saw Armando leaving the after school program, walking out into the darkening streets of his neighborhood, I wanted to give him some good news. I think we took care of it. As much as we could.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bye Week

It's been such a long time
I think I should be goin', yeah
And time doesn't wait for me,
 it keeps on rollin' - "Long Time" by Tom Scholz
It seems like just a few weeks ago that football season started. All was fresh and new, the school year had just started. My wife, as is her custom, bid me farewell and went off to join her friends at the Gatsby Picnic. This yearly ritual clearly defines the line between those who wear the period-correct clothing of a bygone era and those who prefer their period-correct clothing to have numbers on them.
And so it went, for four and a half months. Weekends, Monday nights, and the occasional Thursday evening were consumed with the passion and fury generally reserved for more concrete pursuits. Along the way, my wife kept tabs on me, participating as a good and faithful sport, including managing her own fantasy football team, The Dancing Cavaliers, in our league. Her knowledge of the inner workings of professional football have grown over the years, but have yet to outweigh her interest in things Art Deco and art in general. She knows who Peyton Manning is, and she understands when things, as they did just three times this past season, don't go the Broncos' way. Her husband becomes gloomy and can be difficult to approach for a day or two. Scoring more points than any offense in the history of the NFL, kicking the longest field goal, and throwing the most touchdown passes ever were nice trophies to keep me involved while I waited for the inevitable: a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Last week, for the AFC Championship, my wife put on her orange socks and her Broncos' sweatshirt. She sat on the couch and watched with me. The whole game. The one that sent us to the Super Bowl. She took a very active role in the proceedings, pronouncing herself the "First Down Nazi," shouting at the TV, "No first down for you!" as Tom Brady and the Patriots made their late attempt to try and wrest the inevitable victory from the jaws of defeat. Hungry, hungry defeat. We had such a fun time that I almost felt bad about the last time I attended an Art Deco affair, and felt that I couldn't wait for it to be over.
Because it isn't over yet. We're getting together again this Sunday. There's a little matter of the Lombardi trophy to settle. And then we can go back to talking to each other about laundry and child rearing and fixing the furnace. Takin' my time, just movin' along.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rated PG

Do you know what phrase I never hear? "Justin Bieber's parents." Instead of simply hearing about how the Bieb has just been caught egging his neighbor's house, wouldn't it be refreshing to hear that someone would step in and give this young miscreant the trouble he deserves? "Justin Bieber's parents are very disappointed in him." I would guess this goes double for the most recent drunk driving arrest in Florida. According to police officers on the scene, after his arrest, Bieber cursed out the arresting officer then admitted to having beer, pot and prescription drugs in his system. Drag racing stoned is no way to go through life, son.
He's nineteen years old. His "posse" was driving SUVs behind the drag race in order to block traffic. It's good for a boy to have people around him he can trust. People who will take the fall for you when you're carrying a little extra weed into a foreign country. Guys who would lay down their lives for you, or at least carry you on a tour of the Great Wall of China. "Justin, that was very immature of you."
How and/or why could this possibly matter? This Canadian popstar manchild will eventually have little or no impact on the planet or its eventual fate. Why should I care? Because I'm a parent. Justin's mother, Patti Mallette, had this to say: "He knows what I disagree with and he knows all the things that I'm really proud of him for, too. I mean, people don't talk about all the great things he does every day." For the record, things for which she is proud of her son: meeting with Make-a-Wish kids, going to sick kids' hospitals, visiting with them and taking his time, giving back to charities. We assume the not-so-proud list includes the whole DUI thing and incidents like urinating in a janitor's mop bucket in the kitchen of a New York night club. When asked what the coolest thing about being Justin's mother is, she replied: "I think it is being able to use this platform for good. I get to write a book and tell my story and bring hope to all kinds of teenagers that really need it," said the author of Nowhere But Up. In that 2012 memoir, Mallette recalls her earliest memories, which center around an alcoholic and abusive father, who left the family when she was two years old. It also describes how fourteen years old, she began experimenting with drugs, including alcohol, marijuana and LSD. She also started shoplifting. When she vandalized school property by starting a fire in a bathroom, she was suspended from school. She was seventeen when she got pregnant with a bouncing baby Bieber. The boy took his father's name. This may be why we never hear about Justin Bieber's parents. It's kind of redundant.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Over And Under

It is one of life's eternal questions. It's not like whether or not you prefer to squeeze the toothpaste from the middle of the tube or carefully roll it up from the bottom. There is a rule for that. It is printed for all to see on the package. "For best results," it tells us, "squeeze from the bottom of the tube." It is prescriptive advice. You could choose to crush it from the middle and still get about half the expected result, but eventually you would be left with a great blob of paste at the bottom of the tube that needed coaxing back to the top. There are consequences for your actions. There is a lesson to be learned.
The same cannot be said of how you choose to put the toilet paper on the spindle. There are two options: In one vision of the world, the paper comes over the top and cascades, not unlike a two-ply waterfall, toward you. In the second, the paper is much more discretely dispensed from below, with the potential of that leading edge a mystery until it comes pouring out from below. It seems like a chance operation, depending on a number of different protocols, not the least of which is: are the lights on or off?
If you trust in Al Gore's Internet, the declination of your toilet tissue can tell us a lot about the aspects or defects in your personality, depending on which site you happen to land. "Overs" are control freaks. Or optimists. "Unders" are team-oriented players who are more carefree and relaxed. If, as I mentioned, you are subject to the whims of those who research such things. I suppose that I am somewhat bemused and happy to think that I live in a world where such things are researchable.
Even if I live in a home with a bunch of right-brained middle of the tube squeezers, I can still look forward to mixing things up a little when it comes to the way we do things. Tonight, forks on the right hand side of the plate.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Stoned And Obsolete

It's not really a question about inhaling. “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life," Barack Obama told The New Yorker. Then he added the kicker: "I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
How dangerous is that? Every day in the United States, where Barack Obama is the President, approximately thirty people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. That's more than one an hour. And here's the kicker from the Center for Disease Control web site: "Drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are often used in combination with alcohol." Inhibitions are lowered. Reaction times are slowed. Bad things happen, especially when you start adding motor vehicles and other chemicals to the mix and things can get even worse.
So, if our President is correct in his assertion that pot is no more dangerous than alcohol, that's still pretty bad, right? "It’s not something I encourage," Obama continued, "and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.” As for legalization? "When it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that? If somebody says, We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?”
That's why being a parent is so hard. I imagine being President is just a little more difficult. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

If It Takes A Lifetime

I have tried to rationalize for a number of people my fanaticism. This past week, Bruce Springsteen released a new album. Some have asked me, "what do you think?" and I have to reply with a question of my own: "Are you sure you want to hear what I think?" See, I'm already set. I'm that part of the demographic that pre-ordered the CD, but also the digital download so that I would be able to listen to it at midnight on the day that it was released. Midnight on the east coast. That means I was able to hear it before I went to bed the night before it was officially released. Two days later, when it arrived by mail, I was already familiar with all twelve tracks. I was also familiar with all the detractors who wanted to point out that a number of these tracks were already available in different forms, and a couple of them are cover versions of other songwriters' work.
So? It's Bruce. I'm pre-sold. Will I listen to it over the years with the same frequency that I have listened to "Born To Run," or "The Rising?" Time will tell. For now, it's in heavy rotation because I want to find out if it will stand the test of time. Is there a song on this record that will provide the soundtrack for my life as it pushes forward into its sixth decade? Perhaps. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, it was the end of this past week that brought the next wave of fanaticism to the fore. The Denver Broncos won the American Football Conference Championship. They defeated the New England Patriots for the opportunity to play in their franchise's seventh Super Bowl. I was there for the previous six, and I'll be glued to the broadcast come Super Sunday. Twenty years after I adopted California, I'm still immersed in the games played each Autumn on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. With two very local professional football teams, I chose to cling to my orange and blue. I was pre-sold on the Broncos as well. My son never had a chance. He was raised in a world where the Broncos actually won the Super Bowls in which they played. His first two years on earth celebrated the legend that was John Elway. He was sent to Oakland public schools with the thought in his head that all that was good and right about professional football sprang from Denver. Not Oakland. I did this to him. While he has quietly endured the football versions of "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town," he has patiently endured while the next big thing was being created: another shot at winnign it all.
Is there some magical way in which these events all coalesce into something deep and meaningful? Probably not to anyone else, but I guess that's what being a fan is all about.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Through The Haze

It occurred to me just the other day that somewhere, probably within just a few blocks of my home, people were buying and selling drugs. This is a somewhat generous notion, since I am relatively certain that that radius could be drawn to just outside my front gate. Up until somewhat recently, we had a young man who sold marijuana from the apartment just over our fence, much to his mother's consternation. When he was taken away, the neighborhood breathed a sigh of relief, because once he was gone, so was the traffic and the late night arguments and the slamming of doors and all the attendant business that comes from such a business.
It's easy for me now, with the distance of a couple of decades of sobriety to be quietly judgmental of such goings-on. The truth is, back when I drank and took drugs, I didn't buy them very often. Okay, I bought the beer, but the rest of those illicit substances floated around in a netherworld that I was generally afraid to access. Picking up a gram of this or an ounce of that was left for friends who were more connected and courageous than I. That doesn't mean that I didn't participate. I spent a number of anxious nights, having handed a wad of bills to a relative stranger with the hopes that he would return with the goods. You've heard of "honor among thieves," well this was "trust among users." For those years that I spent getting high, it did not occur to me what the ancillary fallout might be for my recreational purchases.
Now it does. I'm a homeowner. I'm a dad. I'm a grownup. That experience seems so distant to me now. What makes it even more curious to me is that if I still lived in Colorado, I could be buying pot legally, just like I used to cart home those twelve packs of Miller Lite on Friday night. Over there in the Centennial State they can't keep pot-infused candies, cookies and sodas on the shelves. It's cute. It's legal. I wonder if it's any fun anymore.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Real Thing

My son doesn't have a big record collection. He owns three albums: Arctic Monkeys, Green Day, and one by the Barenaked Ladies that his parents brought home for him after they had picked it up at a show. That's not a lot of vinyl. By the time I was his age, I already had a shelf in my room that was bowing under the strain of hundreds of LPs. That was a long time ago: a lifetime.
That was back in the days when your music came in those lovely flat packages. A vast amount of real estate was consumed by record stores. The college town in which I grew up supported dozens of them, all filled with bins of shrink-wrapped treats, awaiting a regular thumbing through by yours truly. Finding that elusive single or cut-out LP was the kind of thing of which I used to dream. Sometimes I still do. That soft thumping sound that each thin slab made as the air rushed out between the next, falling forward like dominoes. Hunting and gathering.
My son's music collection doesn't require such massive storage requirements. Sure, sometimes he'll poke through his parents' compact disc collection. The "compact" part is by comparison to all those boxes, crates and shelves that used to hold the albums they represent. Hundreds and hundreds of them, now stored in little drawers, divorced of their plastic cases in sleeves that hold them together with their liner notes and artwork. This is still a ridiculous amount of space compared to the digital requirements of the music my son collects. They all fit on a cloud. He doesn't need all that tactile reinforcement. When he wants to hear a song, he types it into the search box and presses play.
But lately that weightless, object-free feeling has been replaced with a yearning for something more tangible. My son discovered vinyl records for himself in, of all places, Urban Outfitters. This outpost of hipster clothing and lifestyle contouring had a section of a corner of one part of their trendy warehouse space devoted to six abbreviated racks of records. He was drawn to it, as his father was, flipping through the stacks, pulling out the occasional album to check out the song listing or release date. I walked around to the other side and began to do the same. It was a father-son moment that I would not have imagined that we would ever share.
He found two that he thought he might like to own. Even though he does not live in a home with a machine that can play music through friction, it was important for him to take these two souvenirs home with him. Their width and heft was satisfying to him. It was a much different experience than sitting in front of his screen and clicking on the "buy" button. He may never play these records, but owning them brings him just a little closer to his old man. I don't mind at all.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Above All, Do No Harm

"A humane, dignified execution." These were the words used by Ohio prison director Gary Mohr as he describes what he hoped his state would be giving convicted killer Dennis McGuire last Thursday. While there is no doubt that the dignity of Mister McGuire's passing surpassed that of his victim's by measurements used only in figuring distances between galaxies, the question of "cruel and unusual punishment" is one that came up. The idea that we are just putting our murderers to sleep and out of our collective misery is a troubling one, if not unfounded. Stopping someone's heart and lungs doesn't usually fall in the category of "pleasant and usual."
The pain and suffering inflicted upon pregnant newlywed, Joy Stewart back in 1989 by McGuire was a crime. The rape and fatal stabbing of another human being should not go unpunished. How do we teach "Thou shalt not kill?" It is ironic that the old method that used a different drug never caused the kind of gasping and snorting that occurred over a twenty-five minute period after McGuire was injected. The new mixture of chemicals came into use after supplies of a previously used drug dried up because the manufacturer declared it off limits for capital punishment. Intravenous doses of two drugs, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone are now being used.
Here's the thing that makes me wonder: Midazolam is used in a variety of different ways, including the emergency treatment of seizures in children. Hydromorphone is sometimes used recreationally, as many opiates are. All of those medical professionals who find themselves confronted with the Hippocratic Oath, specifically that part about "I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel," who find themselves in situations where they swab an inmate's arm to ensure that they do not receive any kind of infection, then continue to inject this lethal cocktail. Never do harm.
Unless the law decrees that they really deserve it. I guess I just don't get it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

For Future Reference

I'll bet you I know the score of this year's Super Bowl before it starts. Don't shout out the answer if you already know. That's because the season is here and the time is right to make prognostications in the street. And not just for major sporting events. It's also time to start handicapping for the big Academy Awards pool that I never manage to coerce enough people at my school site to participate in. There's also the 2016 Presidential Race to consider. So much remains unknown, and yet we feel compelled to try and justify our certainty. Some of it with wagering.
I wouldn't bet on much of what is about to happen, since very little of it involves my active participation. I would bet that I will consume chips of some sort over the next few weekends, and that I will rush about over the next few weeks to try and take in as many of the nominated films and performances that the Academy has deemed noteworthy. I would bet that many of my expectations will fall flat on their metaphorical faces as reality intrudes. I would bet that no matter how bad I want something to happen, things will have a way of turning out the way they will. That's how this future thing works.
I won't make a lot of predictions. That will only lead to heartache. I can say that over time, I am pretty satisfied with the culminating force of good over bad, happy over sad. Disappointment is a transient thing that is generally doubled by losing money. I bet on the Denver Broncos once, a long time ago, to win a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I lost five dollars. I also have to acknowledged this loss just about every single time I encounter this friend who made this bet with me eight years ago. I don't get to bring up the fact that Tim Tebow beat some of those same Steelers two years ago. We didn't bet on that. Nor do I get to point out that I average over seventy-five percent on my Oscar picks. It doesn't matter because it wasn't a bet.
I'll bet I've learned my lesson.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Brain Stew

My son has been having trouble sleeping. That doesn't seem that odd, considering the difficulty his father has on any given night lulling off to slumberland. There are a number of different factors that contribute to sleeplessness, and I believe the first and most important one is having an active brain. Having a great many voices inside your head makes it very difficult to find rest. For me, it's the demands of three hundred and sixty kids, seventeen colleagues and all the attendant confusions and questions that can cause a mind to wander. Or fret. Mostly fret. That's why I have fewer sleep hours logged than many of my contemporaries. It was only recently that I was reminded of just how many different ways one could be kept from sleep when they were sixteen.
How about that pending driving test? Parallel parking? How many ounces of alcohol will impair a driver more than forty pounds? What about report cards? Trying to measure up to anyone's expectations on a regular and recurring basis must be awfully daunting. And then there's the looming specter of dating. When shall I ask her? What should I ask her should I ask her? What if she says no? What if she says yes? What if I forget what I was going to ask her?
No wonder he's tired. I remember going to bed in those days. I remember how long it took for sleep to find me, and when it did, how troubled it could be. I could not imagine a world where there would be greater or more challenging problems than the ones in front of me at that moment. Looking back, I wonder how I managed. I would love to tell my son that things get easier and when you're a grown up, you don't have to worry so much about what other people think. You just get used to it. Or don't.
This is what I thought about as I lay awake.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Word From On High

"This is Hollywood, and if something kinda works they'll just keep doing it until everybody hates it." These were the words of the prophet, Tina Fey. She was speaking from the pulpit of the doomed, in the Beverly Hilton Hotel. To her everlasting credit, she was referencing herself and her partner in truth-telling, Amy Poehler when she made this assertion. She was also speaking to a room full of hard-drinking celebrities and the rich and powerful, as well as a golden global television audience. 
And yet, I couldn't look away. I sat there, captivated by each fumbled introduction, tediously opened envelope, and borderline incoherent list of people who needed thanks for putting on the show that got them to the stage where they were putting on a show that was awarding those who put on a show. We are in the midst of the self-congratulatory season of the Entertainment World. People's Choice, Oscars, Grammys, Emmys, Prizes for make believe. Please understand, I know how hard the folks in Hollywood, Nashville, New York and points in between work. This is why I respect them so very much. This is why I fill out those Oscar ballots ahead of time, in spite of the fact that I am not a voting member of the Academy. This is why I look at the recaps of the awards given out and scoff, as if my opinions would have spared us all the terrible injustice visited on Ben Affleck last year. This is why I sit, transfixed, as all those tuxedos and designer gowns parade down red carpets, waiting for my own personal tastes to be validated. 
And still I am drawn back to Ms. Fey's comment. Endless repetition. Marvel Studios just announced that Academy Award and Golden Globe and Emmy winning Michael Douglas has been cast as Ant Man. An award-winning actor playing a super hero. Apparently the initial casting news of Paul Rudd wasn't enough to stir the pot. Marvel likes the big names. These guys got Sharkespeare's pal  Kenneth Branagh to direct Thor. Big names, big talent, comic books. It's a formula that has been working for years now. Since Ben Affleck missed his chance at an Oscar, his consolation prize is the Batsuit. It's show business. Until we're sick of it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bottoms Up!

Did anyone you know participate in the thirteenth annual "No Pants Subway Ride?" Commuters from around the world dropped trou and got on the train. For many, it was a stirring sight, all of those boxers, briefs, panties and petticoats crowding in on the mass transit platforms across the globe. And what message did the organizers of this event hope to spread? "It is just about fun, and providing a laugh and a smile," said Charlie Todd, who created the event twelve years ago when just seven people took part.
Just for fun. A laugh and a smile? There was no larger point to be made with the three to four thousand New Yorkers who wandered around the underground half naked? Health care? Gun rights? Legalization of something or other? Just for fun. Considering the high in Manhattan last Sunday was forty-seven degrees, and considerably cooler in the tunnels, that takes some pretty dedicated pranksters. A couple of years back, there were forty-nine totally nude artists arrested on Wall Street, part of what is considered by many to be the origin of the Occupy Movement. Their purpose was clear, even if their message wasn't. They also chose August 1st as their day to shed their inhibitions. Maybe that's why the organizers of the Pants-Off were more considerate of their participants. Still, is there any surface on any public transit that you would feel comfortable putting your bare parts on?
Of course, it wasn't just us Yanks going without slacks. The Brits got into it. Our friends below the border left themselves exposed below their borders. There were even some wacky German folk who left their lederhosen behind to join in the laughs.
I applaud their efforts. There is simply far too little levity in mass transit. Might I suggest, as a follow up, Pantless Day at the DMV?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Out In The Streets

In September when lane closings near the George Washington Bridge caused huge traffic jams and now appear to have been politically orchestrated by a member of Governor Chris Christie's administration, it seems that they violated federal law. This makes me think of Steve Martin's plan for world domination, a key feature of which was "death penalty for parking violations." Scoff if you must, but keep in mind that those people who received this consequence would open up more spots for the rest of us. It's practical.
Just like it's practical for Chris Christie to try and choke off the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey from the rest of the civilized world: New York City. The George Washington Bridge is the main artery leading from the mainland to the island of Manhattan. The mayor of Fort Lee is a Democrat, Mark Sokolich. Mister Sokolich did not support Mister Christie in his campaign for re-election. It's nothing personal. It's politics. It's practical. When asked if he felt that he was being punished for his lack of support, the mayor says, "I take him at his word. There's just a lot of stuff there, though."
A lot of stuff, indeed. Christie said Thursday: "I don't know whether this was a traffic study that then morphed into a political vendetta or a political vendetta that morphed into a traffic study." Or was it just New Jersey politics in their purest form?
Is it easier to imagine that Chris Christie is a lovable, hug-able public servant who was caught unaware by the nefarious schemes of his underlings, or that he pushed the buttons and pulled the strings himself? Or perhaps it's a bigger conspiracy after all. So many people felt that it was the New Jersey governor's chumminess with Barack Obama that tipped the scales of the last presidential election. Now, with Christie poised to take the lead in the next Republican run for the White House, there's a roadblock. Literally. Maybe Chris Christie has been a Democratic sleeper cell all these years, and not the good Republican he has tried so hard to appear to be for all these years. Or perhaps this was just what goes around comes around. Would you rather have a Machiavellian governor, or one who has no idea what is going on within his own administration?
So many choices, but we've got plenty of time. We're still waiting for the traffic to thin out.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Good Guy Without A Gun

Alan was an average student, but he has become a national hero. This fourteen-year-old stopped a suicide bomber from entering his school last Monday and sacrificed his life to protect his fellow students.
"I saw Alan trying to get hold of a guy and then there was a big explosion," said Henry Ames, who is a senior teacher at the school. The target of the bomber was the morning assembly of approximately four hundred fifty students, Ames said.
Thousands of people thronged his home since the incident to praise his valor and to offer condolences to his family. "He has left his family grieving, but has prevented many others from that fate," said his teacher, a sentiment echoed by his father earlier. 
Okay. His name wasn't Alan. It was Aitzaz. And the school he saved is in Pakistan, not Pennsylvania. His teacher wasn't Henry Ames. His name is Habib Ali. 
 Does this make the story any more or less heroic? Does it make the story any less tragic? Suicide bombings of schools happen with some frequency in Pakistan. The reason given for the attacks is usually something about religious intolerance, and how girls should not be allowed in school. It's hard to imagine a world in which sending your daughter to school is a matter of life and death. That is why we have heroes like Aitzaz Hasan. And Malala Yousafzai, an outspoken advocate of educating girls when a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head and neck. Malala was fifteen when that happened. So outraged were the Pakistani people that a group of fiftyIslamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against the Taliban gunmen who tried to kill Yousafzai.We can only assume that the Pakistani branch of the NRA is calling for "good guys with plastic explosive strapped to them" to patrol the hallways of its nation's schools.
How about one courageous teenager?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Missionary Position

Kenneth Bae was born in South Korea. He immigrated at age sixteen to the United States with his parents.
When he turned forty-four, Bae moved from Lynwood, Washington to China. In 2006, he established "Nations Tour," a China-based tour company that specialized in tours of North Korea. Bae was on the first day of a five-day tour when he was arrested November 3, 2012, in Rason, an area along the northeastern coast of North Korea.
Dennis Keith Rodman was born May 13, 1961in Trenton, New Jersey. Rodman is a retired American Hall of Fame professional basketball player, who played for the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks in the National Basketball Association. He was nicknamed "The Worm" and was known for his fierce defensive and rebounding abilities. Rodman has been arrested a number of times, all in the United States.
So how did these two gentlemen cross paths? Well, if you know about Dennis Rodman's fascination with North Korea, you probably have the connection already. You may have seen or read about The Worm's comments regarding Kenneth Bae. Mister Rodman spoke off the cuff: "The one thing about politics, Kenneth Bae did one thing, if you understand -- I got it guys (ph), if you understand what Kenneth Bae did." The interviewer, Chris Cuomo did not understand. Nor does most of the rest of the world. The rest of the world believes that Mister Bae was being held  as a bargaining chip in efforts to jump-start negotiations to dismantle North Korea's nuclear program. A Christian Missionary in exchange for a shot at becoming a nuclear power. Or threat.
If it doesn't make a lot of sense to you, don't worry, since most of what comes from Pyongyang is confusing or irritating. That's probably why Dennis Rodman fits in so well there. After all those stops on his NBA career, maybe he's ready to settle down and keep his mouth shut.
Don't count on it. At least the former WWE star took the time to apologize. "I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae's family," Rodman said, adding he had had "a very stressful day" when he made the comments.
"Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It's not an excuse, it's just the truth." The dreams of basketball diplomacy die hard.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Post Season Post

Major League Baseball is currently experiencing what we like to call "the off-season." This is a time when players get traded, contracts get negotiated, and plans are made by Cubs fans across this great land of ours to gather one more time and try to imagine that there is still a chance that this could be the year. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are not currently planning trips to Cooperstown, unless it's to let the air out of the tires of those who haven't seen fit to vote either one of them into the Hall of Fame. Free agents across both leagues continue to live out of suitcases, preparing to change zip codes at a moment's notice. Young men who get paid enormous sums of money to play a game are still making bad choices with how they spend their spare time. I'm talking to you, Yasiel Puig.
This is also the time of year when something noteworthy can happen. Beloved mascot of the Cleveland Indians, Chief Wahoo, is being sent to the bench. He is still on the active roster, meaning that the Indians' home uniform will continue to feature him on caps and jersey sleeves, but fans will see less of him overall. He is being replace by a big, block letter C. For Cleveland. Not to be confused with the big, block letter C that stand for Chicago. Cubs. The Indians have removed the Chief from the road uniform in recent seasons and they've reduced his visibility at spring training in Arizona, where they are known as the Cleveland Native Americans.
That last part isn't true, but it is true that there seems to be a wave of cultural sensitivity sweeping through MLB. The Pittsburgh Pirates are "ditching" their eyepatch-wearing Jolly Roger in favor of a gold "P." Bucaneers who have felt unfairly maligned over the years, rejoice.
Now one wonders if the off-season will be a thoughtful one for everyone in professional sports. I'm talking to you, Dan Snyder.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chard For Life

A couple of years back, my family adopted a new tradition: Meatless Mondays. We didn't have to take a pledge or sign any papers. We just all agreed that for dinner at the beginning of every week, we would forgo our usual meaty treats. Instead we have lots of beans. And leafy things. And cheese. A world of difficult to handle vegetables can be managed through proper cheese distribution. Lots of cheese distribution.
My son and I are the hardcore carnivores. My wife is the one who has, at different points in her life, lived happily without meat for months at a time. She is one who relishes a nice relish. Or a salad. My son and I are the type who gnaw on carrots or crunch great hunks of iceberg lettuce with Ranch dressing to fill out that portion of the food pyramid, always keeping in mind that that the base is formed by beef, chicken, and pork. In this way, we are not picky. We will eat a wide variety of meat. Tuesday through Sunday. We are good sports on Monday.
That's why this past week was such a nasty surprise. On Monday, as we sat down for our spanikopita, there was discussion of our day, returning back to the working grind after the holidays, and planning for the upcoming week. "We could have Sloppy Joes tomorrow," suggested my wife. My son and I paused in our willful consumption of tiny spinach pies and nodded in hearty agreement. Most agreements made involving meat are hearty.
The next night, not a meatless one, my son and I were called to dinner. We were offered up our plates, toasted buns arranged for easy preparation. Then we went to the pot to spoon up our ground beef and tasty sauce. As we opened the pot, my wife's disclaimer came along with our confusion: "I put some chard into the Sloppy Joes," she confessed.
Now, I don't think I would have minded if, on Monday night we had been enjoying our vegetarian repast and my wife had said something like, "I've got some extra chard, and I was thinking about adding it to our Sloppy Joe recipe tomorrow." This kind of announcement would have been met with some groaning and a hint of derision. Eventually, we would have passed through the various stages of Sloppy Joe grief and landed on Acceptance. It wasn't the chard being inserted into our meaty treat as much as the manner in which the chard was secreted into the mix.
Did we reject the meal, my son and I? No. There was Sloppy Joe somewhere amidst the purplish green of the purloined chard. We ate our fill, and we expressed our gratitude with an evening full of sarcasm and jests about how we could now expect all our meals to be infused with chard. On the sly. In our breakfast cereal. In our egg salad. In our sauteed Swiss Chard. That would be the chard in addition to the chard already found in sauteed Swiss Chard.
Don't get me wrong. I'm happy to have someone looking after my health and well being. Heaven knows I could use as much help getting more vitamins and leafy things into me as I can get. Even more so for my son. He's a growing boy. Just don't sneak them in. Just like I want to know if the chard I am eating has been genetically modified, I want to know what's in my Sloppy Joe. It should be right there on the label.

Friday, January 10, 2014

By The Numbers

Last week were the high holy days for the football fan. There were dozens of college bowl games, followed by four NFL playoff games, all capped off by the National Championship game on Monday night. Many of these contests proved to be more than just a little exciting, with underdogs challenging established powers and point spreads that confounded the oddsmakers. It was a time to revel in the spectator-fed nature of the sport.
Right up until Florida State beat Auburn to win the Bowl Championship Series. It was the end of an era: the BCS era. In 2014, we will have a national champion decided by a playoff system. How important a development is this? So much so that our President felt the need to weigh in on the matter. "You could trim back on the regular season. I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it's the right thing to do." He's been adamant about his interest in seeing the teams settle things on the field, not in some musty old server room since before he was officially elected president. On November 4, 2008, he said, "I'm fed up with these computer rankings and this that and the other. Get eight teams -- the top eight teams right at the end. You got a playoff. Decide on a national champion."
In the end, compromises were made. It's not an eight team tournament. It will only be four. There are one hundred twenty-six teams all vying for those four spots. Consider that the NFL has twelve playoff spots for thirty-two teams. And they still can't decide on whether or not that's enough. Someone, it seems will always be left out. Maybe it would be easier if they simply went to an all-computer based system where winners could be announced in advance. I just hope they televise the algorithm.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

For Art's Sake

My younger brother is an artist. He dabbles in all manner of artistic endeavors. I was a studio art major as a freshman in college. I grew up surrounded by art and artists. Why then, would you suppose that I have such a hard time at exhibitions and museums?
Maybe I'm a snob of some sort. It is very likely that I am attention-challenged. It is also possible that I am tired of art and I am yearning for something new. It's probably more likely a bit of the first two. The third is more of a "get out of museum free" card that allows me to feel clever and superior, which really brings us right back to that whole snobbery issue. How could this be? I love my brother and the work that he creates. I am always proud and happy to be invited to his gallery openings and shows. This may be, in part, due to the cheese cubes that are offered up at such galas. It probably has even more to do with the very personal nature of the experience. I know the guy who made that. I don't have to guess at his motivations or intent. I have talked with him about them as they have burst forth from his imagination, and I have heard the challenges and struggles he has endured to bring each new piece to light.
I like the stories. That is probably why I ended up getting a creative writing degree instead of one in studio art. I like the stories of Picasso and the legends of Da Vinci. Why don't I seek out chances to take in their work, up close and personal? I love hearing the trials and tribulations of my brother's creations and I can only imagine that every artist has these kind of tales to tell, but instead I stand there in front of a painting or sculpture, wondering what the backstory is.
Perhaps I should try taking my art history book with me to the museum from now on.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Your Opinion Counts

One of the things that make going to the movies fun for me is having someone with whom I can share the experience. Over the holidays, one of my favorite moments was when my family walked out of "American Hustle." We were all laughing and enthusiastic, jabbering away with one another about what we had just seen. As we sat around the table at dinner, we continued our raves. The past year has been especially fun, since we can now bring our son along to many of the "grown-up" films that we had previously had to miss, or wait until they became available on home video. Instead, we found ourselves sitting through more crowd-demographic fare. This sometimes worked in our favor, as blockbusters tend to have something for everyone, even moms in the case of Thor. Now, however, we found ourselves discussing plot and character, not simply oo-ing and ah-ing about the computer-generated images, or Chris Hemsworth without a shirt.
This is not to say that we always agree, as a family. I was the dissenter in our group of three when it came to The Desolation of Smaug. Wife and son were bowled over by the grandeur of it all, and all that whipcrack action had them sitting up straight in their seats. I found the desolation to be more a prolongation of the inevitable. I was the one who wasn't shivering in anticipation of the next three hours of Peter Jackson's vision of Middle Earth.
Maybe that's why I insisted on taking my wife to see "Inside Llewyn Davis." I've been a fan of the Coen brothers since I saw "Blood Simple" on VHS back in the mid-eighties. My wife has shared some of this adoration, but hers is more qualified. I was reminded of this somewhere about halfway through the film, when I felt her shift in her seat much in the same manner I had flopped in mine when I had been taking in all the business of orcs, dwarves an hobbits. I was immersed in the Greenwich Village folk music scene of the early sixties and my wife was waiting for the ratings slide. The flurry of and buzz of conversation we shared coming out of "American Hustle" was nowhere to be found. I wanted to go on and on about how impressed I was with the way the Coens had captured the look and feel of that period, not that I had turned my collar up to the cold and damp back in the day. My wife listened to me, but our talk never seemed to catch fire. I wondered if I had insisted on dragging my son along if I would have been able to reach some sort of critical quorum.
Then I thought of baseball. One out of three, over a career, will get you into the Hall of Fame. I can live with that.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Old Reliable

The nice thing about running is, for me, the fact that I can lace up my shoes and head out the door: kazam, I'm running. It does mean that I see a lot of the same sights as I head out into the neighborhood. I have become familiar with most of the local businesses, at least from the street. I'm always interested to find that this merchant or that shop owner has changed their window display, or when some of them have gone out of business. They become blank spots on my path through the 'hood.
There was a whole group of offices that remained vacant for several months. I ran past without much more than a glance through the glass, revealing a cardboard box here, a broken light fixture there. There was little to distract me as I chuffed along purposefully. No distractions. Until the day I came around the corner and spied the new gold paint on the front door of the center office: "Reliable Cremations." Inside there was a desk, a large black chair behind it, and two smaller armchairs in front of it. Immediately my mind began to imagine the interactions that would take place in this room. The calm voice of wisdom coming from the big chair, the confused and grieving concerns from the ones facing the wall. It only occurred to me later how odd it would be to carry on this sort of business with one quarter of the office exposed to the world. I know the sign suggested reliability, but this was nearly Cremations Al Fresco.
There was another odd feature to this place. No matter when I chose to run past it, morning, noon or night, it was empty. I suppose it makes sense that I have never seen a living soul in Reliable Cremations, but it made me wonder when and how these transactions took place. Right up until this weekend, when the ceiling to floor blinds showed up. This came as something of a relief, since for the past few weeks there has been a white coffin parked just to the right of the desk. It made me consider, once again, the nature of this business. Was that a display model? Did they really need more than one coffin? Was that a sign of business getting better, or worse?
So much to consider as the blocks fade into miles, until I am home again, happy to be considering mortality from this side of the window.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Growing Like Some Weed

Once again, I can't help but feel a little cheated. Be honest, didn't you imagine that when marijuana was legalized, it would be California that would be leading the charge? Not that a lot of charging would get done, what with all that hanging around watching Star Trek reruns to do. Sure, I'm fine with the idea that we will be treated to at least a couple hundred thousand more jokes trading heavily on the phrase "Rocky Mountain High," but Colorado?
I suppose it makes some sense that the adopted home of Doctor Hunter S. Thompson would eventually became a haven for the drug-addled masses, but it's not Humboldt County, after all. It feels a little like when all those states hopped on the rainbow wagon for gay marriage after California had done such a nice job getting ready for it. Sixty-five percent of Californians support the legalization of recreational cannabis, and the other thirty-five percent were probably too stoned to take the survey. What's taking so long?
In 1973, when even future presidents were getting baked, Oregon blazed the trail by decriminalizing the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. You could still get fined and they really wanted you to stay away from schools when you were holding, but you weren't going to get tossed in prison for bringing a little splif . That lasted until 1997, when some real uptight guys decided to harsh on the collective party-heads of the Beaver State. Please don't try to convince me that the founders of this state weren't just a little stoned when they came up with that: Beaver State.
Down Interstate 5, where it was the Governator who knocked the penalty for possession of less than an ounce down from a misdemeanor to an infraction. That was in 2010. It seems that only now are we Californians waking up to the possibilities presented to us by our friends in the Centennial State. Or maybe it's simply that like any good stoner, we don't want to jump up and make a fuss if it's not going to be worth the effort. We'll just hang over here by the beach for a while and groove to some tunes while we wait and see if things stay cool over there across the Continental Divide. In the meantime, we're chill, right?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Out On A Limb

I was up in the tree for the expressed purpose of taking the lights, that I had so carefully placed in those branches a month ago, back down. It is the part of the dance that gives me the satisfaction of a job being complete, but also pains me a bit because I know that I won't be looking out the front window at dusk to see Holiday Magic coming alive. All that magic has been unplugged, rolled up and stuck back in the plastic tubs where it will stay for another eleven months. It is also the second time in a month that I find myself up in a tree.
Before I strung the lights, I took the time to prune away many of the extraneous branches that had popped up over the summer and were creating a challenge for my decorating process. I would like to tell you that my respect for all living things extends to the plum tree in our front yard, but that may not be completely true. Of all the trees on our property, and we have a few, it is the least photogenic. It is also the heartiest, and seems to grow with a will that embarrasses the rest of our shrubbery. That's why I have to give it props, as they say. All that gusto is, however, what makes it necessary for me to hack at it in my voluminous spare time. It continually threatens the phone and cable TV wires coming into our house from the pole outside.
That's why I did what I did. After I had taken the last strand of lights from the branches and lowered them to the ground, I found myself faced with at least a dozen suckers that were sticking straight up into the sky, threatening our communications system once again. I hesitated for a few moments, imagining that I would find myself out there again when the spring came, whittling away at the offending twigs and leaves. When I awoke from this reverie, I climbed back down, went to the garage and came back with the saw.
Don't panic. I didn't cut the whole thing down. That wouldn't have been humane, and it would have taken considerably more time and machinery than I had at my disposal. Instead, I climbed back up to my perch and found the base of the offending branch, a good foot in circumference. The reciprocating saw made short work of this chunk of wood, and soon it was a six-foot long log at on the ground. the overhead wires were safe once again, perhaps this time for good. As I sat there, in that lofty spot, I had a sudden urge to build a tree fort. It has been a while since the last time I had a place where I could sit and watch the world go by, maybe as I ate a snack or read a book. Up with the birds and the low-hanging clouds. I thought of the treehouses I have built in my life. I thought about the feelings of the trees. I appreciated the tenacity of our plum tree once again, and climbed back down to the earth where I belong. 

Saturday, January 04, 2014


It bothers me just a little that my sports heroes are now more than ten years younger than I am. For a long time, I was quite content to hitch my football wagon to a feller names John Elway. He was just a couple years older than I was, and as the golden boy of the Denver Broncos for sixteen years. John was the quarterback that had all kinds of great statistics and undeniable talent who could never quite win the big game. When he finally won a Super Bowl in 1997, I had a lump in my throat when Broncos' owner Pat Bowlen raised the Lombardi Trophy and announced, "This one's for John!" The next year came and he did it again, at age thirty-eight. He was also names Most Valuable Player. He was no fluke or one-hit wonder.
Then he retired. He went on to sell cars, own arena football teams, get divorced and marry a former Oakland Raiders cheerleader. I tried not to pay too much attention. Just like I tried not to pay attention to John's politics. There were plenty of people who supported Mitt Romney. I wouldn't have expected John Elway to be one of them. I was relieved when I could refocus my attention to the football portion of Mister Elway's life as he became executive vice president of football operations of his old team. It was easy for me to imagine him talking Peyton Manning into playing out his career at Mile High Stadium. If you're going to win a Super Bowl at thirty-eight, Denver's the place to do it.
This meant that I had to adjust my feelings toward Mister Manning, who I had always held in high regard for his abilities, but loathed for his ability to pick apart Bronco teams that didn't have a John Elway to run their offense. A pair of thirteen win seasons helped to seal the deal, and I felt comfortable assigning all my fan rays to the man they call "The Sheriff."
Now I await this next round of playoff games, with all those Super Bowl hopes attached to a new guy, one who is thirteen years my junior. I know the clock is ticking, and I try hard not to pay attention to Peyton's business dealings. I don't see red states or blue states. Just a whole lot of Orange.

Friday, January 03, 2014

We Lost Our Tails Evolving Up From Little Snails

One third of Americans reject evolution. That is to say the idea, not the process, exactly. The inquisitive folks at Pew Research Center conducted a survey to take the pulse of our nation's views on just how we all came to be. Thirty-three percent of those who were asked said, “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” I suppose the good news is that those who believe “humans and other living things have evolved over time" outnumber those folks two to one, it does give one pause. This one in particular. I live in a house with three people in it, and we all seem to be pretty comfortable with the idea that humans and other living things haven't always looked, acted and experienced life the way we do currently. That's probably because we have been to museums and read as a family. Museums and books that are no doubt full of lies and evil magic, but that means that somewhere there is a family of three where two people don't believe in evolution and one clings to his or her crazy "scientific" beliefs in the face of overwhelming odds.
I would not want to be that person. "Dad, can I go out and play?"
"Do you reject the vile and seditious beliefs?"
"No. We came from apes."
"Don't let your mother hear you say that."
"Why not?"
"Because it would break her heart."
"You mean the one that has recently been found to be genetically linked to a lizard's?"
"That's it! Go to your room!"
"And I'll make sure to close the door with my opposable thumb."
Later that night they will have a dinner of nuts and berries, gathered over the course of the day in their cave lit by what Dad likes to call God Stuff.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

How Things Slip Through

Hey guys, I just thought I should point out that there's a hole in the Internet. Actually, there are lots of them. That's why the call it a "Net." It's also the reason why nobody should be surprised when things go missing or appear out of nowhere. All those bits and bytes find it pretty easy to squeeze between the cracks and crevices left unguarded by our ever-vigilant bots and systems.
Costco isn't really trying to get in touch with me to let me know that the sixty-inch plasma TV someone ordered for me got stuck somewhere in transit. That was spam, the potted meat of communication. It's also a drag that the funny hand creme that I ordered for my niece never made it to me in time to send it to her for Christmas. In spite of a number of automated responses that told me my item had been shipped and I tracked it from upstate New York to somewhere in the Midwest, when that magical day came when I would no longer be able to receive, wrap and resend that particular item came and went, I went looking for it. The obsequious folks at wrote back to assure me that they had sent a prior e-mail letting me know that all their hand creme was sold out until January. I found this odd on two levels: I had received notification that the item had been shipped, along with a tracking number, and since I am obsessive about checking my e-mail including those items that get caught in my mostly diligent spam filter I know that I never received the out of stock notification.
Holes. If I had been interested in making sure that this transaction took place to my satisfaction, I would have found a local establishment willing to sell me this item for cash money. Then I would have driven home, wrapped it, and headed for the airport. At this point, I would have purchased a ticket to Colorado, where I would have been able to deliver this gift by hand. Instead, I chose to deal with the situation in the way I have become accustomed: remote control. I sent a message to the retailer, insisting they credit my account, to which they promptly sent back an automated reply letting me know that they had received my message. A day later I got the personalized apology that detailed the refund process and was there anything else they could help me with?
Not just now, thank you. I'm going to be busy trying to fill in some of those holes.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

With A Little Help From My Friends

In the coming year I will resolve to try a little tenderness.
In the coming year I will resolve to let it be.
In the coming year I will resolve to surrender, but not give myself away.
In the coming year I will resolve to never be your beast of burden.
In the coming year I will resolve to hear the secrets that you keep when you're talking in your sleep.
In the coming year I will resolve to never work on Maggie's farm no more.
In the coming year I will resolve to be a bustle in your hedgerow.
In the coming year I will resolve to check out any time you like, but I can never leave.
In the coming year I will resolve to become comfortably numb.
In the coming year I will resolve to imagine there's no heaven.
In the coming year I will resolve to carry on, as if nothing really matters.
In the coming year I will resolve to be a hero, just for one day.
In the coming year I will resolve to taste the bright lights but I won't get there for free.
In the coming year I will resolve to hear them knocked-out jailbirds sing.
In the coming year I will resolve to see a million faces and rock them all. 
In the coming year I will resolve to play the guitar just like ringing a bell.
In the coming year I will resolve to get my motor runnin'.
In the coming year I will resolve to ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines.
In the coming year I will resolve to rock and roll all night and party every day.