Wednesday, September 30, 2015

States Of Confusion

I was lucky. When I was a kid, and I had to draw a picture of my home state, I made a rectangle. Growing up in the center of these United States was a bit of a gift that way. Students in Wyoming may have felt the same way, but since they were growing up in Wyoming it would be difficult to make that kind of distinction. We were fortunate to have regular polygons for borders. Quadrilaterals. There are some parallelograms out there, like Kansas and South Dakota, but those guys have to contend with squiggly corners, brought on primarily by rivers and that sort of less linear boundary that make things less regular.
On the bright side, it does make doing those jigsaw puzzles much easier. Sure, you might initially confuse Idaho for Oklahoma, but once you differentiate panhandle from smokestack, you're good to go. Remembering Tennessee goes below Kentucky, and that East Virginia is just Virginia and the rest of it all goes together pretty quick. Except for that East Coast.
Go ahead, if you dare, and try to draw the contiguous states from Maine to Florida. It's a mess. That whole Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia mish-mosh. And Rhode Island? It's not even an island. Don't get me started on islands, either, since Hawaii isn't that hard to figure out, but all those little bits trailing off the back end of Alaska. Shouldn't that be extra credit? Wouldn't it be better to do everything we could to regulate our state sizes and shapes?
I understand this is coming from Mister Quadrolado, but I am also a current resident of California, the state some would like to chop into pieces to make things not must more sane geometrically, but more politically delineated. These plans aren't just a simple north/south division, but making the Golden State into six new ones: Jefferson, North California, Central California, Silicon Valley, West California, and South California. None of these are rectangles, and after "Jefferson," the creative naming drops off to just about nothing.
So maybe that should be our new focus. Instead of making rhombuses and squares or even pentagons out of what we have, let's start making everything more loopy. Go ahead and dismantle that whole neat stack of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Turn a second grader loose with a crayon and let him scribble some new borders. We've had it far too easy for far too long. And while we're at it, let that same second grader take a shot at renaming our new territories. I hope I end up living in West Brontosaurus.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Feeling A Draft

The headline asked if "Draft Kings and Fan Duel are even worth the money?" If you're not familiar with these entities, you probably don't have a television set. Or eyes. These fantasy football outlets have taken out ads on most every major TV network, cable outlet, and public access channel available. And if you don't see a lot of print ads in those magazines you're reading, grandma and grandpa, that's because we don't read newspapers and magazines anymore. We have Al Gore's Internet, and if Tipper's husband didn't have fantasy sports in mind when he came up with this series of tubes, then he really missed the proverbial boat. Just stick your credit card in that seldom-used floppy disk slot and ring up one of these web sites to see what all the fuss is about.
On second thought: don't. Instead, let's take a look at some of the math involved. Both of these firms will tell you success stories of how they will take tiny amounts of money, like two or three hundred dollars, and turn them magically into millions. If that kind of return on your money sounds too good to be true, then you're probably not familiar with Ponzi schemes, Amway, and legalized gambling.  Wasn't Ponzi Richie Cunningham's hoodlum friend? Legalized gambling? Could you build a pyramid with used Amway cartons? If you are familiar with any of this, I am guessing that you probably haven't spent dollar one on Fan Duel or Draft Kings because you understand that any business that can spend the kind of money these two shell out for their advertising. Did I say "shell game?" That's the kind of thing that gets billboards put up at each and every BART stop, and not just one or two, but in every available location. On the stairways, outside the trains, inside the trains, tattooed on the foreheads of the homeless guys sleeping on the steps. These ads insist that they have only your best interest in mind. They want to give you money. What they aren't telling you is that the only way that they can give you money is if it is someone else's money. And if they've got the kind of money to spend wallpapering public transit stops in the Bay Area, they can probably hand out a few oversized checks to a small percentage of the herds of anxious shills who line up each and every week to hand over their little checks in hopes of turning them into something bigger.
In the next few years, one of these companies will grow to take over the thirty-two billion dollars in entry fees that somebody is willing to fork over week after week. That translates into more than two and a half billion dollars in net, once the big checks and the billboards are printed. You might want to place your bets now. Sounds like a sure thing.

Monday, September 28, 2015

How To Be Popeular

What is it about the Pope? This Pope in particular? Maybe it's because he rides around in a Fiat. Or maybe it's that whole Global Warming thing. And poverty. And immigration. In a world where our pop stars are aging or pubescent, I think it's nice to have a real and true Pope Star. He's on the cover of Rolling Stone, after all. And why shouldn't he be? He's brought the Catholic Church, kicking and screaming, into the nineteenth century.
Okay. That may not be exactly fair. Pope Francis is moving and shaking things in his corner of the spiritual plane. That makes some people unhappy. Less than half of the United States Supreme Court attended Francis' address to the joint session of Congress. Maybe they didn't get the engraved message or see the white puff of smoke coming from the Capitol Dome. Three of the five who skipped the papal address are themselves Catholic. Maybe they were jealous of the robes. The other two are Jewish, so maybe it was a religious tolerance thing after all.
Or maybe it's all about these wacky ideas Pope Francis has about saving the planet so that there will be both a heaven and an earth. He wrote an encyclical about "The Care of Our Common Home." If you don't have the stomach for all that Latin and metaphor, he's talking about saving the world for future generations. And get this: He even suggested that consumers boycott certain products to send a message to big business. Don't believe me? Go ahead and read the thing. I'll wait here.
Add this to all the other ways Francis has made the Catholic Church an easier club to join and stick with as you grow older and start to realize that all those hard and fast rules might not be as fast and hard as once imagined. You could even get divorced.
All this moving and shaking must be a sign of some sort. It could be that finally electing a pope from the Southern Hemisphere loosened things up and we might be on the cusp of a miracle of some sort. When it comes time for canonization, I would like to offer up the resignation of John Boehner from the House of Representatives. Coincidence? Maybe. Or perhaps it was divine intervention. Now if we could just roll a boulder in front of that cave we call Donald Trump's mouth.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Space Station

The image was clear enough, even if it cut out from time to time. We could still hear his voice. It came to us across the miles and miles of trackless void that serves as the space between us. We chatted about things both pertinent and, at times, impertinent. This trip would be a long one and we needed to stay in touch if we were going to be the kind of support that would be most useful. Not just supplies: food, clothes, oxygen. From where he was, he looked at the same moon we did, but that seemed impossible.
Then again, the way he sat with his back against the corner of his room with his pillows propping him up just high enough for his chin to rest on his chest, we had a familiar view of our son. In his bed. Surrounded by electronics. Half-lidded eyes and slow smirk on his lips. He told us that he was tired but getting ready to do a little work before he went to sleep.
This wasn't a transmission from a voyage across the solar system. He wasn't stranded on a planet, left behind by the rest of his crew. His roommate came in and started rummaging for a cable he needed desperately for his laptop. He could just pop down to the book store and buy a new one. If it was still open.
This was our first Skype chat with our son from his dorm room. My wife and I felt instant relief seeing his face, and we took turns voicing concerns and affection. It was an act of faith for us both that we didn't overload on either side. The mother ship had been making regular connections with our voyager, but I had been out of radio contact for several cycles. I wanted to make it seem as natural as possible without seeming aloof. I wanted to appear caring without being sappy. I wanted it to seem normal.
It didn't seem normal, as much as it appeared that he was just hanging out in the back room as he had for so very many evenings in the past, this portal gave us a view into the future. Long distance. We promised to talk again, when he had time. He's a busy guy these days. Going to class. Hanging out with his friends. Living his life. On another planet.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hopelessly Lost But Making Good Time

The lousy teams are good this year.
It ain’t over till it’s over.
It’s deja vu all over again.
I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.
Why buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel.
Never answer an anonymous letter.
The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.
I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.
You can observe a lot by watching.
The future ain’t what it used to be.
If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded.
It gets late early out here.
I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house.
I don’t know (if they were male or female) fans running naked across the field). They had bags over their heads.
Take it with a grin of salt.
It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.
A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.
We made too many wrong mistakes.
If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.
Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.
I didn't really say everything I said.
You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.
Aloha, Yogi. Baseball giant and zen philosopher. You stomped on the base paths. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Walker: Wisconsin Ranger

Okay, Scott Walker. Back in the pool with you. Swim back to Wisconsin where you can continue your uber-badger ways. After polling in the single digits for several months, it was time for Governor Walker to bow to the powers larger than himself: The whims of the Republican Party. After a promising July, the union basher will head home for the chance to lead from the comfort and safety of the sidelines. "Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately," asserted the former candidate from a podium in Madison. "I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner." That would be you, your Trumpishness. 
So now we have what seems to be a trend: Taking one for the team. For those of you not familiar with this concept, it is a sports metaphor that has its origins in being hit by a pitch. If you lean into a fastball while in the batter's box, you get hit, and you get a free base. Way back in 1896, Hughie Jennings set the all time record in this statistical category. It should be noted, stretching the metaphor to the point of absurdity, that Hughie spent many years in the majors, playing on National League championship teams three years in a row, but never won a World Series. That was because there was no World Series at the time, but this might be a good time to continue down this wormhole with the additional bit of information that Hughie had to retire from organized baseball because of a nervous breakdown. All those colorful antics from the dugout, the hoots an hollers, may have been part of an undiagnosed issue that just may have been brought on from standing in front of too many fastballs. And wouldn't it be great if I could tell you that this colorful character hailed from America's Dairyland? Scott Walker is not Hughie Jennings. Sorry.
Scott Walker is also not Ben Carson. Ben is in the double digits, still yard behind the Trumpfaloon, but within striking distance of Carly Fiorina. His numbers are probably slightly lower in the Muslim community, since Mister Carson has repeated his claim that no one of that faith should ever be President of the United States. It is his conviction that Sharia law conflicts with the U.S. Constitution, and it makes for a nice bumper sticker: "sworn in on a stack of Bibles, not a Koran." Not that an actual stack of Bibles has ever been used, but it is certainly in line with the hyperbole of his Royal Trumpington. If only Scott Walker could have come up with something equally as inflammatory, then his campaign might still be alive and kicking. 
Alas, for us all, the clown car continues to lose its colorful passengers. Bye, bye, governor Walker. Write when you find work

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Getting in touch and staying in touch is supposed to be getting easier and easier. Access to a host of telecommunications technology for men, women and children across this land and in neighboring hamlets and villages stretching out around the world makes it simple to call just to say, "I love you." Which makes it ever more important that we have the best possible experience as we make these connections. Signal quality and the capacity to send pictures of ourselves enjoying said signal quality is key to this satisfaction. And would it be too much to ask that we don't have to pay an arm and a leg for that experience. Not an actual arm or a leg, though I am assured that there are certain regions in which this transaction might still take place via amputation.
My son moving away to college finally forced our family's collective hand and we surrendered to the now inevitable "Family Plan." Voice, data, texting all for the low, low price of just - well - it doesn't really matter what the price was because it was one that we were willing to pay in order to ensure contact with one another in the event of some cataclysmic event or a new cat video. Gone are the days when I could safely move through a day without having the additional distraction of what was happening to those closest to me, at least in proximity to my contact list. Sure, I could put the thing on silent or turn it off completely, but that means all the value I was hoping to gain by making this pact with my Family to remain close even through cellular transmission would be negated.
I am getting what I paid for, and isn't that really what makes this country great? I can now find my way to the store that will sell me an even better deal using the GPS function on the phone that needs to be replaced because it won't work with the plan that will keep my family together at the lowest possible price.
I bought it. And then I waited. I waited to have my old phone turned into my new phone and waited again to have the old phone carrier hem and haw as they were told the news that I was moving on to a new company that really cared about my family and our ability to stay together in the face of cataclysmic cat videos. Or at least I will be safe, eventually, in the knowledge that when the robot cat overlords descend from the heavens, I will be able to send my son a selfie with a great big cyber-kitty and the dis-integrator ray gun that will make my Family Plan null and void.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chance Of Showers

I have been to a few baby showers. OI nce upon a time, the idea would have filled me with a sense of dread and, well, cooties. Around the time my son was born, it became vogue to have dads and potential dads hang around the edge of the generally mom-centric activities. I became adept at sipping punch and lingering in the kitchen, luring other men into discussions of sports and manly things to keep the estrogen levels at acceptable levels. It's more of an endurance thing than a social one.
In my line of work, I have had my share of opportunities to practice this mild avoidance. Elementary education has provided me with a great many chances to attend baby showers. It seems like just about once a year, one of the women with whom I work has found themselves in a family way, causing the envelopes to appear in our mailboxes or e-mail invitations to be sent. It is a pretty close-knit community and when the call goes out, it would be difficult to decline. It would be difficult if not impossible if my wife was attached on the invite. She loves an occasion, just about any occasion, and baby showers are near the top of her list. Most of the people with whom I work know this, and understand that I will respond accordingly.
The thing is, just about every time one of my colleagues has left on pregnancy leave, they have not returned. It is a reality with which I am very familiar. We bring our traditional gift to the party, The Pussifier: a stuffed animal with a great many pacifiers sewn to its appendages for easy access. We participate in the ways we know how, playing the games or avoiding them. We share stories about children and childbirth with those who have seen it and those who soon will.
And sooner or later, we find ourselves avoiding the topic: When are you coming back? Six weeks is never enough. Nine weeks? A year? How long would it be before a new mother is ready to leave their baby to return to the halls full of someone else's babies? I have worked with a number of women who have found ways to bridge that gap, but of all the women who have left school to go on pregnancy leave while I have been a teacher, only one has come back to our school.
Maybe it's me. Maybe I should have spent less time in the kitchen and more time in the living room, guessing weights or lengths. Or maybe it's part of the natural scheme of things. There's still so much I don't understand.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Waiting. Watching.

Passing by the local sports field the other night, I spied a group of kids and their coaches practicing football. My immediate memories were of my own experience on the gridiron, and how I was always a better spectator than participant. The kids I was watching ranged in age from nine to thirteen, with the younger, smaller team in one corner of the field while the big guys filled up the rest. The distinction that used to be made was this: lightweights and heavyweights. I never played on the heavyweights. I was strictly a lightweight.
And not because of my stature, necessarily. I was a pretty roly-poly youth. That made me an obvious choice to be a lineman. A blocker. My friends, the fleet of foot and lean of loin, were the ball carriers. Running backs. Receivers. They got to handle the ball. I didn't. My job was to get in the way of the other team so that my buddies could run to daylight.
Then this thought came to me: What I wouldn't give to know then what I know now. I have made a study of the game of football over the last forty years. I understand now the rudimentary physics that would have made my job back then so much easier. How to push. How to pull. When to get down and roll. For that matter, I imagined a past where I could have used my awareness of techniques like the swim move to dodge around would-be blockers if I were to play defense. I might never have been the physical specimen coaches would have allowed to carry the ball, but maybe I could have been the guy tackling the ball carriers. That would have been something.
My sports awareness doesn't begin and end with football. If I had known what a guard did in basketball, I would not have been standing next to the basket, waiting for someone to come and try to make a shot. I had assumed that the name of the position defined my job. I was guarding the hoop from the other team. I had no idea that I should be taking the ball to the other end of the court and trying to score. That seemed antithetical to the program. Not to my elementary school PE teacher. Which might explain why he was screaming at my little round friend Ken and I as we stood alone at one end of the blacktop, waiting for the action to come back out way. I just figured we would be ready when it came time for us to leap into protective mode. Shooting a basket, let alone dribbling the ball. I had not as yet been introduced to the Magic of Johnson or the Round Mound of Rebound. I waited for the game to come to me. This did not make me a very effective point guard.
I wasn't a very effective athlete. I had no idea what I was really supposed to do. To my teammates, I apologize. To my coaches, I can only ask why they didn't show me more videotape. I coulda been someone. i coulda been a contender. Instead of a spectator, which is what I am.

Monday, September 21, 2015

What A Twit

It's not like I was being unfaithful or anything. It's a dalliance. A way to fill time in a way that seems fun and amusing without forming any lasting attachments. Sure, I could have stayed away and kept myself free of any repercussions generated by what some would see as my hypocrisy, but somehow being a part of something that seems so vital and young piqued my curiosity. I wanted to try it out, even if I swore that I never would. I'm an adult, after all, and I could have stayed safe where I was and never "put myself out there." I did, and I kind of liked it. And the company I work for encouraged me.
I joined Twitter. I tweeted. There. I said it and I feel better. I am choosing this place and this time to come out and cleanse myself of the awful guilt I feel to you, my readers of more than one hundred forty characters. "One hundred forty characters" is, all by itself more than one sixth the allotted number of letters for one tweet. I have so much to say on any given day, I bristled at the idea that I might have to truncate or ameliorate my train of thought in any way shape or form. What I have to say is so very important, if it takes me a few extra syllables to get to my point, then I should be allowed the space to do just that.
Interestingly, for many of my readers who may have felt that I was the soul of brevity and refinement, I found this challenge quite daunting. What do I really have to say? The little box asks me, "What's happening now?" It makes me think of Flip Wilson, and then I start to pare down the associations in hope of getting to that magic one hundred forty. I want to wax on about Reverend Leroy Brown.
Not that it matters. It's Twitter. It's disposable, and that's why I find myself periodically drawn to it. Not in the way I pound out paragraph after paragraph here in blog form. My wife told me I should post blogs in links on my Twitter feed. You didn't go to Twitter for a meal. You're there to snack. You go to Entropical Paradise for the buffet.
Or maybe there are just ten to fifteen words in this mess that really means anything. When I figure it out, I'll post it on Instagram.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


You may recall, some weeks ago on this very blog, I sang the praises of a fast food chain called Whataburger. If your memory doesn't reach back that far, or you are averse to clicking on links because they inevitably land you on a site that will cause your computer to send your entire 401K to an offshore account in the Cayman Islands, I will refresh: I was pleased and happy that the CEO of that Texas-based burger-based food emporium was sticking by its guns metaphorically by not allowing their physical counterpart to be carried in their restaurants. Preston Atkinson introduced his decision thusly:  "We have to think about how open carry impacts our 34,000+ employees and millions of customers," and he went on to explain how open carry customers were making people uncomfortable. He was taking a stand in a time and place that might have proved to be quite unpopular, given the open carry debate that seems to emanate from the Lone Star State. 
Imagine the collective surprise we had when this past week a pair of police officers were denied service at a Lewisville location of Whataburger. Officers Michael Magovern and Cameron Beckham were looking for a late night snack after working security at a construction site. The employee at the counter told them "We don't server police officers." They went to Dairy Queen instead. 

Dairy Queen has had its own brush with the open carry discussion and demonstrations, but they currently seem to consider badged law enforcement with guns in holsters in a different category. For their part, Whataburger was quick to issue a statement condemning the actions of what we can only assume from previous experience with the drive-thru at Arby's was a joke. Not a funny joke, but since humor is subjective, we can only assume that someone out there is getting a big laugh from pushing that whole "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" sign to their own extremes. It certainly seems like a bad way to spend that hard-earned Employee of the Month capital. For the time being it would be my suggestion to stay away from the Lewisville Whataburger. Something tells me they might not be getting quite as much police presence. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015


And so, a week later, I try not to go to the back of the house. If I can avoid it. It's not because I'm afraid of what I might find, but what I won't. My son isn't back there anymore. Oh sure, I could poke around in what is still nominally his room and find remnants of the life he led back there. Still some clothes in the dresser. Still some computer parts scattered about the floor. There is even an old pair of Converse high tops stuck behind the door. I told him to move them several times, but they always seemed to find their way back there, wedged just so the door would not open fully.
I am eating chocolate to compensate. It is not bringing anyone back to that room anytime soon, but it is helping fill some magnetic void that will almost certainly have a name in some self-help book or other.
My wife keeps sending me links to articles she has read about how to deal with the departure of one's progeny to the land of ivory towers. I know there isn't really any hope of making the pain go away. I have seen the look on my own mother's face, many years after the time I left for college. Every time I leave her house to go back to mine, across the Continental Divide, her heart breaks a little. I get that. I get that a whole lot better now than I did even back in July. Back in July when I was visiting with my son who had yet to go and leave my house.
Our house. The only house he's ever known.
And still I know precisely why this feeling gnaws at me: It is the precise moment in my own life that marked my greatest fear. I have been waiting for eighteen years to see if my son could do this any better than his old man. How could he not? I collapsed in a frantic heap after one night in the dorm. My younger brother, god bless him, stayed up all night with me trying to fathom what must have been going on in my head. There was no way to describe it other than the terror I felt to my very core. I have never before or since felt so completely unable to imagine anything but complete failure. I washed out. I never even unpacked the boxes. I do wonder now, decades later, what the guy who would have been my roommate told people. We had lunch together the afternoon before that awful night. He met my parents. He told me he would be bringing his stuff the following day.
I never saw him again. The next morning, I packed up my parents' station wagon with all those boxes of odds and ends and dragged them with my tortured psyche up the highway to crawl back into the hole where I stayed for a year, waiting for another chance.
My second attempt at freshman year went much better, though I didn't spend but one weekend on campus. I drove home on Friday night and drove back Sunday night. The friends I made on the north wing of Slocum Hall couldn't quite reconcile this attachment I had with my home. When I thought about how my son might fare, after many rocky nights as a kid doing sleepovers that never quite materialized, I remembered my own gravitational attraction to my home planet. I never really managed escape velocity myself.
My son knew that. Even though I took care over the past year or so to steer clear of that chapter, we all knew the story. And now I cannot describe the pride and joy I feel. But I still stay away from that end of the house. I'm so happy for my son, but I'm still missing the way things used to be. And looking forward to what comes next.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The View From Up There

The Trump has this to say about our country: "It's disgusting what's happening to our country." The country he is referencing is ours, after all, so why don't I agree with him? Maybe it's because my relatives, somewhere up the chain, were immigrants. They came to this country as huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. And breathe they did, for several generations until they started to look and sound more like Americans instead of those huddled masses with silly accents.
Appearances, it would seem, are everything. And those appearances, from high atop Trump Tower, are that the United States has become "a dumping ground for the rest of the world." His Donaldness when on to decry to an audience in Texas, "You people are suffering. I'm in New York, but they're in New York too. They're all over the place." It's getting so you can't go anywhere in these United States without bumping into someone from another country. Unless you happen to be visiting a Native American reservation.
Oh, I get it. He's not talking about those of us who did it "the right way." The legal way. The way that his ancestors did. The ones that crawled ashore millions of years ago and eventually spawned arms and legs and whatever it is on top of his head to become the Front Runnix Repbulicanus. Walking mostly upright and using an especially evolved mouth and tongue to subdue his prey. "Sometimes he puts his foot in his mouth, just like everybody," said Barbara Tomasino, a sixty-five-year-old retired elementary school librarian from Plano, Texas "If he gets elected, he might need to tone it down a little bit." 
Then again, if he gets elected, maybe he'll just wind up and spread the vitriol a little more thickly. Pretty soon, he'll just start making fun of people's looks just on general principle. Oops. Spoke too son. That's already happened. "Look at that face!" he cried as a photo of fellow Republican hopeful Carly Fiorina was shown. "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!" The laughter grows halting and faint behind him. "I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"
We are serious. Like a heart attack serious. This is what will "make America great again?" Mister Trump and I do agree on one thing: It's disgusting what's happening to our country. Specifically around the front-runner of the GOP nomination.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The State of Lone Star

Okay, at least I have an excuse: Last week was an awfully busy one. I started teaching PE and having kids coming to the computer lab, not at the same time however. Oh, and my son moved out of the house to go to college. That might explain how I callously skipped over the watershed event of Rick Perry dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Some might suggest that I have my priorities squarely fixed and that I should not feel bad about making my own job and family the focus of my life. Others might disagree. Rick Perry, for one. Sorry about that, Rick.
So 2012's also-ran has decided to take the same route again in 2016. Or 2015, since that is the year we are currently enduring. Former Texas governor Rick "Four Eyes" Perry didn't even make it to the primaries this time. Maybe wearing glasses gave him the vision to see that the path ahead was rocky and inhospitable. Or maybe he just got tired of being one of more than a dozen hopefuls in an already crowded casting call. It takes courage to be the first clown out of the car. Or maybe he just forgot where he was parked. 

Whatever the reason, we won't have Rick Perry to kick around anymore. Well, we can continue to kick him, but it won't be in order to get him to drop out of the race. That also means that Rick will probably feel free to take a couple wild swings on his way out: "The conservative movement has always been about principles, not personalities," Perry said, before making a not-too-veiled swipe at Donald Trump, the GOP's current front-runner. "Our nominee should embody those principles. He, or she, must make the case for the cause of conservatism more than the cause of their own celebrity."
Whether Governor Perry truly embodies the ideals of conservatism or no longer up to an electorate to decide. The Conservative Review gave him generally passing marks back in April, Their conclusion:  "Voters seem to see Perry the same way girls look at the 'nice guy' who's not nerdy enough to be the next Bill Gates, jock enough to be the next star quarterback, or cool enough to be the lead singer. They don't mind him being around, but whenever he tries to push for a commitment they just want to be friends." A friend with seventeen million dollars in a Super PAC. Maybe that not-so-nerdy quasi-jock will have to settle for being the guy who tells everyone that the rich guy is trouble, and maybe when he gives all that money back, he can still influence somebody. Somewhere. So long, Governor Rick. We'll see y'all down the trail.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Loves Company

I was standing on the curb, leaning on the hand truck that had only recently held most of my son's worldly possessions. As I watched the stream of loaded down SUVs creep down the street in front of me, searching for a spot to disgorge their kids' belongings, I took a moment to wipe the sweat from my brow. I recognized many of the boxes by size and shape: printer, fan, shelving unit. Necessities. Things that would fit in a dorm room. The bicycle racks behind me were filling up with Schwinns and Treks and beaters that had seen better days. Still, expectant faces rolled their bikes up in hopes of finding one more spot for their two wheels. I was catching my breath after pushing two loads of clothes and TV and computer and cables up the hill from the lower parking lot. My wife and I had given up hope of finding a spot any closer when a silver pickup swooped in and took up what would have been, on most any other day, two parking places. Ultimately, it didn't matter, since there were plenty of barges to be toted and bales to be lifted.
I was working hard to try and limit the amount of thinking I could do. When I stopped to reflect on the job I was doing, it didn't make a lot of sense to me: I was taking an active role in moving my son out of my house and down to the road to the college of his choice. I knew this day was coming, but somehow I had kept myself from fully confronting the reality of those words that I had been hearing for weeks: Empty Nest. I remembered a time, many years ago, when my then third grade son said he was interested in going to college up in Berkeley, so he could still sleep at home. That was a long time ago. At least one long, hot day of moving boxes ago. A day that had my wife and I alternating moments of sadness with moments of joy. We were proud. And excited. And afraid. We could only imagine what sort of emotions were tumbling through my son's heart and mind. Was he as excited about his future as his parents? Was he feeling any fear? If he did, he didn't show it. Maybe he was taking pity on his parents and trying to make us more comfortable with the future we were shaping for ourselves. Then my reverie was broken.
"Hey dad!" I looked up to see a gentleman I did not recognize coming toward me. He was carrying a box. Like everyone else. Then I realized that, not only was it pretty easy to assume my role in the dance performance that was taking place with my hand truck and fatigue, but because of the sweaty T-shirt I was wearing that labeled me as a proud "Cal Poly Dad." I smiled and tipped my cap to my new friend, "Hey, dad." He nodded and moved on up the stairs, helping his son or daughter prepare to make the next big step in their lives together.
It was nice to have the company.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


I spent a lot of years dragging strays home to my parents' house. I understand that the term "strays" sounds somewhat pejorative, but it is an attempt to describe the way my family would absorb kids from other families that didn't have the strong center that ours provided.  Starting in elementary school, I had a sense of which of my friends would really benefit from a dose of what was the Caven nuclear family. My mom baked cakes and cookies. My dad played ping pong with us. There was genuine interest in what went on at school. When I was asked what I had learned that day, I knew that the answer mattered. My parents gave that vibe to the kids that came home with me, and the friends that both of my brothers gave the same experience. There is a vast sea of adopted children who call my parents "Mom and Dad." In some ways, this helped solidify the feeling I had that I never really needed to leave that home. That was a place of comfort, safety and acceptance for a generation. My mother still gets the occasional phone call or Christmas card from the kids she helped when their own parents got too busy to be a part of their lives. My father's memory is one cherished by a group of adoring fans who remember the way they felt when they walked in the front door.
Rushing forward to late last week, my son was out busying himself with the farewells to his hometown haunts and friends that he would be leaving behind to go off to college. He was driving around the city with the gang of kids that had christened themselves "The Kind." The clock was ticking on the moments they would all spend together, even though a large portion of that group were headed off to school together. It was important for them to have last tag on the faces and places of their youth. Which is why I was so incredibly flattered to have them land on our front porch at nine thirty last Thursday. It was still a school night for me, a fact they respected even though they were flirting with the idea of pulling an all-nighter in order to get in all the conversations and connections they wanted to pursue before they packed up and headed out of town for their next great adventure. The Kind had stopped by my house to say goodnight to me. My son his buddies trooped into my bedroom and hung out for fifteen or twenty minutes, chatting up my wife and I as part of their farewell ritual. And before they cleared off, in front of all his friends, my son leaned down and gave me a hug as everyone behind him wished me pleasant dreams.
And then they were gone.
But they really weren't.
They will always be there.
And I couldn't be more proud.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Downstream Beer

I often pine to those who are to listen that I may have stopped drinking beer at the wrong time. A very great and true friend of mine, who spent a great portion of his life describing beer as "moose piss," has taken to savoring and pontificating on the occasional craft brew. I can remember a fifteen minute period somewhere back in the late seventies when my father threatened to make beer in our garage, but that was mostly swirling air. The commitment and patience needed for bottling your own beer was far beyond my father's resources. It was much easier to head down to Liquor Mart and pick up your favorite beer in multiples of six.
My favorite beer was not my father's favorite. It was not, as some people have imagined due to my Colorado heritage, Coors. It was Miller Lite. I came by this "taste" having started with Miller High Life. This was not because of their curious assertion that they were "the champagne of beers," but rather because I had a cousin whose last name was Miller, and he insisted to a twelve year old me that it was the best. I bought it. And for a few years, I drank it. Until they introduced Lite beer. One third the calories meant that during my binge haze I could drink three times as many without gaining any weight. Even as I was losing friends.
But that's a different story. Miller was a team. Coors was a team. Budweiser was a team. Each one of these guys had their "lite" version. That made sense. But when I came to understand that Michelob was not its own island in the stream of suds, I was confounded. Did this mean that all beer came from some great big generic tap? Were they just putting them in different bottles and labeling them "extra" this and "gold" that? Was I being marketed to?
In a word: "Youbetcha."
That's probably why I shuddered when I read that not only had Coors and Miller become one big vat of hops and yeast, but that beast has begun to devour small craft breweries. like Saint Archer. Soon, it will all be one big yellow river of - well - you know.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Formation Of Thought

This one time at band camp - stop me if you've heard this before. Actually, most of you have heard plenty of stories about my inglorious rise to fame and ridiculous fortune as a member of everyone's favorite paramilitary organization: my high school marching band. It was a dedicated group, and to hear my wife tell it, we spent many more hours practicing and perfecting our music and maneuvering than the football team. I was grateful that our band director was unfamiliar with the concept of "two-a-days"  As it was, we still stood out on that field being hollered at through a bullhorn with the ever-present potential of a clipboard being launched at one of our heads for marching out of step or missing our mark. We took it seriously.
Seriously enough that we were, in my junior year, invited to play the Star Spangled Banner before a Denver Broncos game, and then perform the halftime show. All that hard work was paying off. We had hit the big time. A few years before, when my older brother was in that same group, the band parents got together and sewed one of those ginormous American flags, the kind that fill an entire football field. This was the one we took with us when my band returned to Mile High Stadium. We had rehearsed and rehearsed for weeks in advance, getting used to the time it took to unfurl the massive stars and stripes. We all knew what our band director had taught us: "No one ever paid to hear the Star Spangled Banner. Play it and get off." Ours was a no-frills arrangement. Something that we had not foreseen in our rehearsals was that if we were standing at attention, playing our Francis Scott Key song about fire, we would only be playing to about one third of the stadium. We needed to angle our formation so that we could be heard over the thundering ovation we would no doubt receive. We didn't want a full left-face, because that would leave us playing to a distant end zone. We needed a command our drum major could give to all of us that would mean to turn slightly to the left but not all the way. I would like to suggest that it was me that said, "How about 'half-ass left'?" Our drum major approved, as did the rest of us who were on the bus together on the way down to the game. Word spread quickly, and by the time we marched out onto the field in front of more than sixty thousand orange and blue clad semi-drunken football crazed fans, everyone knew what to do.
Somewhere, I expect there is a recording of that performance, and above the din of the crowd, I want to believe that you can hear our leader shouting out the command that we had made up on the trip down the turnpike. Or not. No matter, since that particular offense is still nothing compared to whatever it was the Kansas State band was doing last weekend. And a lot less expensive.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Paul Stanley, of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame enshrined band KISS, recently referred to Dee Snider as a "wannabe." Pretty tough talk for a guy who has spent most of his professional life made up and dressed as Starchild. Okay, it was in defense of one of his bandmates, Tommy Thayer who replaced original member Ace Frehley. Mister Stanley said, “Let me put it in the simplest terms. In this case, this guy is a wannabe, has always been a wannabe and desperately wants attention and to be taken seriously and that will never happen because he’s obviously clueless that he and his whole band are a bunch of buffoons.”
I have never been to Paul Stanley's house. I'm sure that it is vast and palatial. He probably has hot and cold running cash pouring out of spigots that he isn't even aware of. There are likely acre upon acre of gaming fields used by those who stumble upon them in their haste to reach the expansive manse that is Paul Stanley's house. But I'm almost certain that it is made of glass. Wannabe buffoons? I'm not sure if Starchild has taken a good look at himself in the mirror lately. On any given evening, that is precisely what all of these gentlemen are doing to promote their art. Howling "Lick it up" wearing orthopedic platform boots as the drum riser behind you billows smoke and fire or yowling "We're not gonna take it" as flame shoots from the neck of your lead guitarist's axe is all pretty buffoonish behavior. Especially when one takes into account these gentlemen's approximate age. Dee Snider is sixty years old. Paul Stanley is sixty-three. Both of them are probably more familiar in the pages of AARP magazine than Rolling Stone these days. These are, for better or worse, the elder statesmen of Rock and Roll. They should be spending their time and energy refining their act, helping shape a new generation of bands, the ones the influenced on their way up.
Like Keith Richards. The guy who is taking wild roundhouse swings at every piece of china in the shop: Beatles, Rap, Metallica, Black Sabbath. Sergeant Pepper was "rubbish." Describing rap's appeal, Keith says, "There’s an enormous market for people who can’t tell one note from another." Just like there's an enormous market for wannabe buffoons. Go figure. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Truth About Me

Dave Caven: Core Value - Humor. This was what a colleague, with whom I have worked for several years, took away from our day of culture-building as a staff. Interesting, since I would have imagined that was as obvious as wearing a badge on my chest with that word emblazoned on it as a reminder. Which is essentially what I did.
This was an exercise in which participants were asked to take a list of one hundred values and select the twenty that you felt applied most to you and your world view. Simple enough. Then we were asked to split that in half, picking the ten that even more closely defined our character. That wasn't much of a chore either, since many of them were merely shadings of something similar: dedicated and tenacious. Could I let one go? Sure I could. Once we pared that ten down to five, things got a little more clear. Did I want to cling to tenacious or hang on to honest? I was able to make the cut, but I was left with some questions. Will these remaining adjectives adequately describe me? If I were stuck on a desert island with these words, would I live to resent and eventually discard them? If I were going to introduce myself at a cocktail party, would I be able to say, "Hello, I'm Dave and I'm efficient?"
Finally, we cut it down to three. I kept fair, primarily because my niece had once made a point of telling me that she thought that I was. I am happy to think that I show up in someone's world that way. I stuck with dedicated because it seemed to describe a person who has stuck around most of the jobs he's had until the businesses themselves have closed, or nearly. I come early. I stay late. I get the job done: dedicated. The last one was the one that I didn't think about much. It got circled early on and didn't ever really reach the brink of being crossed out. Humor. Ha ha or tee hee, I tend to look for the laugh in just about everything. Sometimes to a fault. There are those who would tell you stories about that, but if you've kept up with this blog at all, you can probably pick your favorites. That's the one that I put on  my post-it. My badge. My identifier. I am the Good Humor man. Sometimes the tasteless, rude and offensive humor man, but most often the trying to put a smile on someone's face please humor man.
Funny that my colleague hadn't noticed before. Not funny: ha ha, but funny: really?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Name Your Price

Do you know Kabam? Not Kaboom, the breakfast cereal with the clown on the box and the "vitamins" inside. Nor is it the service organization made popular on Parks and Recreation, the one that made building playgrounds tons of fun. Nope. We're talking about Kabam. Not a breakfast cereal or service organization. Not even a cartoon sound effect. Kabam is a software company. They make online games for people like you and me to while away our hours when we might or should be doing something productive. Like Candy Crush, it's a saga where you crush candy.
Now, if you told me that Candy Crush would be interested in sponsoring the field on which the California Golden Bears play football, it would seem like a necessary evil. Nope. That distinction belongs to Kabam. Up in Strawberry Canyon, the Bears now roam on Kabam Field at Memorial Stadium. We know this because it is painted on the grass between the twenty and thirty yard lines. It's advertising. It's football. It's America. What's wrong with that?
Well, it's college football, and since the stadium already had a name, Memorial Stadium, it does make you wonder what is not for sale. The stadium in Berkeley was built in the 1920's with public funds as, the name suggests, a memorial to those who died in World War I. Back when it was not one in a series. It was, back then, "The War to end all wars." That assertion turned out to be sadly unfounded. There were plenty more wars, but the Memorial stood. It was rededicated to those Californians who died in all those conflicts that came after number one.
And then, the following year, a group of very bright Cal graduates offered the school eighteen million dollars to put their software company's name in front of that memorial. They get to do that for fifteen years. In the software world, that's forever. I know. I lived past the ignominy of Invesco and then Sports Authority putting their companies' names in front of Mile High Stadium. Where the Broncos play professional football. Corporations paying top dollar to put their names and logos on things is incredibly American. The NFL recently started allowing sponsors to stick patches on players' practice uniforms during the preseason. Why should it matter that the college field up the road has a new name? There are plenty of institutions ready to line up for the kind of payday that the University of California has. Putting on a sporting event five or six times a year isn't cheap, after all. Sacrifices have to be made.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

I Can See Clearly Now

I know. If I stop talking about it, maybe it will go away. But really: Sarah Palin and Donald Trump? Shouldn't somebody be pointing out that the emperor and his lady reporter friend are not wearing any respectable clothes? Sarah found another network, "One America News Network," where she could have a job. She's a job creator, after all. The two of them got together and gushed over one another a week ago for anyone who would bother to listen. I tried. I really, really tried. I couldn't do it. Not in one straight shot. I had to keep turning back to Stephen Colbert hosting Only In Monroe. It helped me remember that there are other people and things going on in our country that don't necessarily rely on the frantic haranguing of the Donald And Sarah Show.
Of course, such an alliance was inevitable. The Maverick and the Donald. The Twin Towers of Tumult. "Let's talk about that middle class that you're really resonating with," she nudged. "That's one of the reasons why I've always loved you, you and your family, you've got that great connection," he oozed back. Wait. What connection with the middle class? Me? Am I middle class? Am I missing something? Are these kerjillionaires hooking up with the middle class in ways I don't understand? Maybe I'm one of the elite. That's probably it. That's why I don't understand how this flurry of rhetoric about how "America is getting socked in the nose for the past seven years" pertains to me. I hadn't noticed that I was getting socked in the nose.
Maybe I'm not responding to enough polls. That seems to be where Mister Trump is doing his best work. People all across America are responding to him. I am too. Just not the way I think he wants me to. Maybe I need to be "schooled" like that "radical activist" Jorge Ramos. The one that Donald sent packing from his news conference the other day. He is a reporter, an immigrant, and happily he had the good taste to ask his questions in English, American English, as Ms. Palin would prefer. But he wouldn't stop asking about the Trump solution for immigration. Bad form. And the press "generally agreed" with what he did: had the guy removed. A quick Google search of the item, "Trump removes Univision reporter" that includes words like "forcibly" and "snubbed" in reference to how Donald and his crew dealt with the matter suggests otherwise, but maybe I have been missing the point for a long time now.
There is another world. A world that is very similar to our own, but maintains its own logic and traditions. I believe that may be the world in which Sarah and Donald ultimately belong and where they will rule happily in perpetuity. Bizarro World. Middle class in Bizzaro World. It all starts to make sense to me now.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


For all the years that I have lived in this house, more than eighteen, I have gone to my right after cleaning my ears with a Q-Tip to throw it away in the trash can next to the bathroom sink. Eighteen years. To the right. Over the summer, we did a little remodeling and now the trash can is on the left. I have to think about it. To the left. When I finish flossing, same thing: to the left. I suppose I could decline to accept my new reality and simply make a pile of used Q-Tips and slobbery floss on the floor next to the sink. On the right. Change, for lack of a better word, is hard.
Which makes me wonder about how things will tumble down when my son moves out of the house to go to college. For the last dozen years or so, I have made a trip to his bedside, five days a week, to nudge him awake to be ready for school. His mother would come in a short time later, after I had gone on my way to start my own day at my school. It was a tag team affair that had the eventual effect of getting him up and on his way on a regular enough basis to get a high school diploma. That diploma, in turn, was his ticket to the college of his choice. The college of his parent's choice, as it turns out too. Not that we knew that during the protracted and agonizing selection process, but it turns out that after years of alternating dreams and ambivalence our son is moving out. And on.
We've been preparing for this even for months. Not like moving a trash can, which turned out to be a logistical inevitability. Moving a son turns out to be less than whimsical. After all those years of going back to wake that kid up, this past Saturday morning I got up and started my weekend the way I have for all those years before: watering the plants. Going past my son's room, the pile of blankets that I generally associate with the lump of sleeping boy turned out to be just a pile of blankets. The boy had awoken for the first time in years before his parents to sneak out the back door on his way to meet up some friends for cars and coffee. By the time his mother and I were aware, he was gone. Change is hard.
That empty bed, upon further reflection, was a lot harder reality to deal with than the trash can. It touched a deeper nerve, which shouldn't come as a huge surprise. I have always had a great deal of fondness for that trash can, but not quite on a par with my own flesh and blood. The good news is that I will have a chance to continue to grow my relationship with the trash can. And even though it will be over Skype and a little more distance, I will continue to strengthen my bond with my son. Change is hard, but I do enjoy a challenge.

Monday, September 07, 2015

What's Your Beef?

Some things I feared when I was working at Arby's: Getting stuck on "maintenance" for the third week in a row. "Maintenance" was a catch-all job that required the employee involved to scrub down the entire back room, a kitchen/walk-in freezer/office combo, and washing all the dishes from the day's beef preparations as well as being on call at a moment's notice to show up at the front counter with a smile on to help any sort of customer rush that might occur. Another thing that we all learned to have great and abiding respect for was the razor sharp circular blade of the meat slicer. It could slice a sponge in two with just a whisper of pressure. My wedding ring covers the scar I carry from the one moment I forgot to respect the blade. The last thing that I truly feared while working at Arby's were the words "tour bus." On semi-frequent occasions, a great diesel-powered machine would roll into our parking lot and disgorge its contents of teen choir members or junior soccer players. Dozens of them. All at once. Into our lobby that had just been cleaned and suddenly that slow time after the lunch rush that was going to be used to catch up on all the prep work and maybe even get an early start on maintenance was gone. We took two to three customers at a time and got them served in two to three minutes, as our roast beef Jedi training had taught us. Until it was over. And then we went scurrying about, trying to catch up to the point where we were when there was no tour bus in our parking lot.
The list I just gave you did not include "having a police officer come into the restaurant." If anything, that would have been a relief. As a matter of fact, having an older brother in law enforcement allowed me to serve my share of officers, on duty an off. If you work fast food long enough, you welcome the periodic appearance of someone with a badge, since it tends to limit the possibility that your store will be robbed during that transaction. There was a story about a manager from the Arby's on the other end of town, run by the same owners, who was working late one night when her crew was held up. Jo Ellen, a legend already in the company because of her dedication to all things roast beef, came out of the back room to witness the beginning of the crime and, legend has it, she talked the guy out of robbing the store and since he had obviously fallen on hard times, maybe he wouldn't mind taking an application with him as he left. Jo Ellen didn't need a cop. Her husband worked in a dynamite factory. She had no fear. The rest of us, however, were happy to have the company in blue.
Which makes me wonder why the drive-thru crew down in Florida would take the chance of offending anyone who might come to their aid. The comment made about "not serving police officers" was "just a joke," according to the beefy powers that be down in Pembroke Pines. The furor set off by such a prank caused the national office to issue the following apology: "We take this isolated matter very seriously as we respect and support police officers in our local communities. As soon as the issue was brought to our attention, our CEO spoke with the Police Chief who expressed his gratitude for our quick action and indicated the case is closed. We will be following up with our team members to be sure that our policy of inclusion is understood and adhered to. Further, we will be following through with disciplinary action up to and including termination of the employees involved, as appropriate." And this reminds me of yet another piece of my Arby's lore. We used to number our punchlines so that we wouldn't get into trouble for saying anything off-color in front of our ravenous public. Instead of saying "that's what she said," we would just sing out, "three." We didn't have a number for "we don't serve police officers." Maybe because it wasn't funny. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Letting The Air Out

Justice grinds slow for some. It took three years to find James Holmes guilty of the murders he committed in that movie theater in Aurora. For many, the six months it took to determine if deflated balls were the reason Tom Brady should be kept out of professional football was six months too long. There are a few who believe that life in prison for Holmes was a rush to judgement. There are probably just as many or more who believe that Tom's deflated balls should have kept him off the field for at least four games instead of the zero which he was eventually sentenced. Let the punishment fit the crime. Letting air out of footballs is a crime punishable by an extraordinary amount of media attention followed by a collective sigh as the show that is the National Football League is reassured that it must go on.
Which is kind of the way it turns out that a plea of "no contest" will be held against someone if they beat their four year old son until they are bloody. Adrian Peterson missed an entire season of playing football, along with the four thousand dollar fine and eighty hours of community service. That was a year ago. Now Adrian is back and, if you can believe the pre-season hype, he's better than ever. This was, by the way, an unpaid leave of absence from his job as a professional football player. Even though he only got to play in one game in the 2014 season, fans voted him one of the hundred best players last year. I guess character isn't the thing that attracts a lot of attention for some.
Third degree aggravated assault on your fiancee will potentially get you five years in jail and a fine of fifteen thousand dollars. If you happen to be Ray Rice, you won't do any jail time, and after a seemingly protracted debate that took place in the court of public opinion and TMZ, Mister Rice was awarded three million dollars and change in a settlement with his former employer: The NFL. What will Ray be doing this year? If you read the sports pages, he's just the guy to fill in when your star running back goes down with an injury. Or if he beats on their child or fiancee. Or if he deflates balls. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so it follows that ridiculous times call for ridiculous measures. Justice is blind, but who knew she had such a short memory?

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Heaven And Hell

The nature of our reality sometimes rests on a very thin edge. Sometimes we think that we are making choices that will change the course of our lives and those around us. Sometimes we feel like those choices will make a difference to the course of human history. It's the personal version of the Butterfly Effect. In this model, the decisions we all make are the flapping of the butterfly's wings and the rest of the planet is the hurricane fast approaching. Can one person's flapping really change the course of that cataclysmic storm bearing down upon us?
Or, if you were to take a more spiritual view of things, would you believe that by denying gay couples wedding licenses in your official capacity as a county clerk, could you stem the tide of this nutty old world on its course to fiery Armageddon? That is what Kim Davis believes. She invoked "God's Authority" when she defied numerous court orders when she turned yet another gay couple down when they came to the offices in Rowan County to prepare for their nuptials. Kentucky? That sort of makes sense, but now it's a law upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States and all.  Her attorney, Mat Staver who is founder of the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel and is representing Ms. Davis in her bid to refuse marriage licenses said, "She has found herself in a situation she never envisioned." Never? Well, maybe not back before she was born again, and all that authority that she was suddenly granted because she and God have this understanding now seems pretty clear. For her, "It is a heaven or hell decision." For whom, exactly, is not completely clear, but it could be interpreted that by denying gay couples the opportunity to wed, she is keeping us all safe from damnation. Or is it just her?
Just down the road a piece in Tennessee, a seventy-six year old man killed his wife in a disagreement over church tithe money. Norman McKinney shot and killed his wife because he was certain that she had hidden the money he had planned to give to his church. Apparently he had not read the whole set of Ten Commandments, or maybe he just skipped one since he felt he was operating with "God's Authority." According to authorities, there was no hidden wad of cash. Just a whole lot of confusion and bad feelings. 
Keep flapping, little butterfly. 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Date And Time

Somebody get me a calendar! This is 2015, right? We are living in the twenty-first century and we have devices in our pockets that allow us to connect with others across the globe at a moment's notice, providing they have paid their bill. We fly from one continent to the next with contempt for the fact that we can't use those cellular devices while we do so. 2015, and we have a twenty-four hour view of the world that keeps us up on all the world's events, including who got bumped from Iron Chef. We drive around in hybrid cars, smug in the way we are saving the planet, and then cheer when gas prices fall below three dollars a gallon so we can drive more. We have the technology to create longer-lasting batteries that could power any number of life-saving devices and we insist that they put them in those cellular devices that we can't use on the giant sky bird in which we fly to other continents using fuel that we should have given up decades ago.
Right here on this blog, I complain bitterly when Americans shoot one another. Sometimes by the dozen. I try and understand what sort of madness would possibly feed the beast that makes such horrible things happen. When innocent victims are killed for standing near someone when they go off and create another tragedy for the United States. And wonder why the media won't let it go when I can't shake it myself.
This past weekend, Boko Haram gunmen on horseback galloped into three villages in northeast Nigeria. Sixty-eight people were killed in Borno state Friday night and another eleven were shot in two other villages on Saturday and Sunday. Not by the dozen here in Nigeria. By the score. Nearly four score, if you need an easy American conversion. Boko Haram, if you are unfamiliar, is an Islamist extremist group operating in Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and their home base of Nigeria. Maybe they're not getting the press that some of those other flashy Islamist extremist groups, but they're out there, wreaking havoc like you might expect an Islamist extremist group to do. On horseback. In 2015. Welcome to the future. Where everything is the same. Only worse.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Don't Fall Asleep!

If he wasn't in the horror film business, it would have been a shame, but that's what Wes Craven chose to do. He did it like a champ right up until this past weekend when he passed away. Brain cancer got him, which begins to make me wonder about the nature of horror and horror movies. What is more horrifying: A horribly scarred ex-janitor with knives for fingers or having your own cells turning into vicious killers attacking you from the inside.
Inside your brain.
Kind of like the dreams that attacked the teenagers in Wes Craven's Nightmare On Elm Street series. More than thirty years ago, he decided to unleash Freddy Krueger on our collective unconscious. For three decades, moviegoers like myself knew that they were safe as long as they didn't fall asleep. Sure, it became a little more difficult over the years to devise new and different ways to chop teenagers up in to tiny bits, but that didn't slow him down. For that matter, each time Freddy was put through the mill or turned into dust, he popped back up again. Because of the gross. Not just the ticket sales, but because of the gross.
Wes started out in 1972 with a cult classic Last House On The Left. This is where he began working his not-so-subtle vision on the world. Along with Tobe Hooper a couple years later, Wes was pioneering a genre that would eventually become "the slasher film." Eventually, Mister Craven became so immersed and familiar with this brand of gore that he turned the camera back on itself and produced the Scream series. Once you knew and understood the rules, it was possible for teenagers to grow up and star in yet another series of films created by this master of splatter.
I always admired his work, at least for the first couple movies in a row, but then the formula would grow tired. To me. Wes didn't care. He knew there was always another kid waiting to see his first scary movie, and that was the ticket he wanted to sell.
I'll miss Wes Craven this Halloween, not just for the movies that he made, but for the number of Freddy Kruegers and Ghostface masks that haunt our playground year after year. Timeless. Aloha, Wes Craven, you really stomped on the Terra(fy).

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Permit Required

We were out to dinner, my family and I, and the conversation turned to college. This makes a lot of sense, since I know a kid who is about to head off to college. That would be my son. At some point, if we are together for more than twenty minutes, the talk will turn to tuition, or study time or parking permits. We have a couple weeks left to get every piece of advice and a bucket full of helpful hints out of our heads and into his. The clock is ticking. We can all feel it.
Still, when the smoke cleared and there was a pause in the action, we didn't stray too far from the topic at hand. For the first time that I can remember, my son asked his parents, "What did you major in?" This is coming from a kid who is about to unpack his bags in a school where he will be majoring in theater arts, essentially keeping his parents' liberal arts dream alive. My wife went into some great detail describing her own created major: Myth and the Western Mind. Her senior project was a comic book. Her journey through academia was as winding and circuitous as many I have encountered, including my own. When my son turned and asked me, "What did you major in, dad? Creative writing, right?"
He was right. Though the path to that eventual Bachelor's degree was not as direct as those two words would suggest: "Creative Writing." For the record, I didn't make that one up. It was the way out of school when I had spent nearly six years there. If I didn't graduate then, I might be there still. As a freshman, I enrolled at Colorado College as a studio art major. My faculty adviser was my Basic Studio professor. I took that class, and a whole bunch of Art History because somewhere in my mind I had a vision of going to work for Disney Studios.
That never happened. Before I finished off my freshman year, I had given up that particular dream and was leaning toward literature as a new focus. I moved on up the road to the University of Colorado, where things came in semesters instead of blocks, and I became one of thousands of undergraduates searching for direction. After a few years and a bunch of film classes, lit courses and creative writing workshops, I made m way to an academic adviser's office. He looked over my credits and told me that if I had an interest in graduating, I should stop taking film classes and lit courses and creative writing workshops. I needed a music theory class and some science to round out the scattered mess I had created. Then I could graduate with an English degree, with an emphasis on creative writing.
But first, I had to take a short detour by jumping out of a swing, postponing my summer school while I recovered from knee surgery and eventually crutched my way into the Fall semester where I took those two classes, passed them, and in December 1986 I commenced out of there with a diploma. You are currently reading the most apparent product of my degree. Writing. Creatively.
What awaits my son as he plunges into the waves of higher education? Time will tell. Hopefully, as the guy who is paying for the parking permit, it won't be too much time.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Misspent Youth

I truly felt for my son. He was sitting on the back deck at our house with his friends, the ones with whom he will be very soon making the leap to the hyperspace that is college. They had spent an afternoon hanging around in the living room, dusting off Nintendo classics like Smash Bros. and Wii Sports. When I showed up, after a hard day of elementary school kid wrangling, it was refreshing to see a knot of teenagers hanging out together in a spirited but low-key fashion. I took a turn myself on Guitar Hero, reliving my own glory days on medium. Part of me wanted to play on, and hang with the kids in the living room, but I knew that my wife had just finished making dinner for everyone and I didn't want to be the one who kept us all from eating. I got a plate and headed to the deck, where there was no TV and it was ten degrees cooler than the video game hot zone.
Eventually, my son and his pals finished off their virtual manipulations of reality and got their own chicken, pasta and broccoli. They made their way outside to join my wife and I in a very pleasant and familiar way. It felt good to be sharing a meal with this group of kids we had seen grow up and graduate together, on the verge of the next great adventure.
At some point during the meal, conversation drifted from Wii to current events. Suddenly I was in the midst of a full blown, emerging adult discussion of the upcoming and ongoing presidential race. Somewhere in the flurry of opinions espoused by these incipient voters, one voice began to ring out against the generally left leaning views of the rest of the group. One of my son's friends, whether through commitment to the ideas or simply playing devil's advocate, was taking a modified libertarian stance. With courage and conviction, since his girlfriend was sitting squarely on the opposite side of the ideological fence, he worked himself and the rest of the group into a mildly tumultuous frenzy.
That is when my son's wheels fell off. It was reminiscent of many years gone by, at birthday parties where his fabulous plans for gatherings of his friends turned into the chaos that childhood allows. He could feel his job as cruise director slipping away. "Can't we all just go back inside and play Mario Kart?" Try as he might, there was no way for him to break through the rhetoric being tossed about our back yard that evening. He was stuck with these opinionated, newly-minted adults. Play time would have to wait until gun control and the Republican nomination strategy could be ironed out. My son finally retreated by himself to the living room where he took solace in the brightly colored images of his youth. Eventually, his proto-libertarian friend came and joined him, while the other two ideologues remained outside to hammer out the direction of their generation's plans for world reclamation.
I look forward to hearing stories about my son's first late-night bull session where he and his suite mates hammer out their feelings bout global warming and dorm food, but I hope there's a place he can go: a retreat. Something with lights and sound that reminds him of days gone by.