Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hello, Walls

"I didn't see you standing there." That's what Willie Nelson had to say on the subject. Metaphorically speaking, his walls were the ones that kept him company in the absence of the love that left him. They remind him of what used to be, even though things are not the way they used to be. Roger Waters and his band wrote a double album about walls. Four sides about alienation and loss and more alienation. "All in all, they were all just bricks in the wall." 
Isaac Newton's recording contract never came through, but he was a pretty clever guy. He said, "We build too many walls and not enough bridges." Eugene O'Neill, who might have been a lyricist for Pink Floyd if he hadn't been so busy scribbling those plays of his, said "Life is for each man a solitary cell whose walls are mirrors." Fairport Convention recorded a song with words written three hundred years earlier by a guy named Richard Lovelace: "Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage."
These artsy snowflakes have been ruminating about walls for a long time. A great Republican out of the past insisted that a mean old Russian tear down his wall. It had a good beat, and it was easy to dance to, and it was a hit way back when. Now, some thirty years later, walls are back. In a big way. After months of prattling on some nonsense about building a wall on our nations' southern border, the Presumptive President of the United States is now moving ahead with his plan. The plan that so many of us believed to be just so much wind in sails. 
This is no metaphor. This is the history we are currently making. Anger and  fear and alienation is building a wall. The one hundred twenty dollars a year American taxpayers are being asked to pay for this construction project comes as a bit of a shock, seeing as how all the previous bluster had somebody else paying for it. We were going to get that great big wall just for asking Mexico real nice. Apparently, we didn't ask nicely enough. Now we have to pay for our own fear, pain and alienation. 
In the meantime, a voice from the past cries out. The mayor of Berlin, a city with its own wall-related issues, insists, “We Berliners know best how much suffering was caused by the division of an entire continent with barbed wire and concrete.” He's not talking donuts, either. He knows. For nearly thirty years, Berlin was a symbol of what was wrong with communism. David Bowie knew it.
I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)
And the shame, was on the other side
Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes, just for one day

Don't  be a snowflake. Be a hero.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Currently Up In The Air

I flew on an airplane a couple weeks ago. It was exciting from the standpoint that a good portion of my travel takes place on a pedal-driven one-seat conveyance that moves me from a spot I call home to a spot I call work a couple miles away and back again. It is not much of a commute, and if you add the miles that I run for exercise weekly in there, I find myself bustling about Oakland each week to the tune of under fifty miles, with the occasional trip in our family car to his or that local destination to bring the grand total to somewhere just over fifty miles. I don't get around that much. That's why it's such a big deal when I do find myself at an airport for the expressed purpose of expanding my horizons beyond the city limits.
Upon clearing the scrutiny of the Transportation Security Administration, I made my way directly to the closest newsstand where I purchased the most important piece of baggage I would carry with me: The latest issue of Rolling Stone. I was alone, and so I made chit-chat with the guy behind the register.
"It's gotten smaller," I said.
A look up from cash register guy.
"The magazine," I gestured to the periodical I was paying for.
"Yeah," he replied.
"I remember when it was newsprint," I recalled wistfully.
"I can remember when it wasn't six ninety-nine an issue," cash register guy offered me my change.
"I guess I could always get a subscription, but that would make these trips tot he airport less of a treat," I suggested.
"Yeah," cash register guy returned, "You need a receipt?"
"No, thanks." I was a travalin' man. I couldn't be weighed down with that kind of debris. I wandered off into the terminal in search of my travelling companion: my younger brother. I recounted my less-than fully amusing interaction to him, remembering that the reason I had started making a habit of buying a Rolling Stone at airports was when I started flying to places alone and after I had read Anne Tyler's Accidental Tourist. The magazine was my chosen buffer against the outside world. I could stare at it for hours while sitting next to a complete stranger without fear of becoming chummy or involved in any coincidence that I might share with my seatmates other than the direction we were facing: straight ahead.
Imagine my surprise when I boarded the plane and realized that the folks at Virgin America had made it even easier for me to ignore the person next to me by putting a video screen directly in my line of sight. I could be distracted by a world of barely entertaining satellite TV or pricey feature films that I had either seen or had no interest in seeing. To my surprise, it was my younger brother, the Luddite of the family, who produced his iPad and began to share with me his video animations and manipulated photos throughout the duration of our flight. We talked and talked and looked and watched and ignored the glaring screen on the back of the seat to stare at the one he had brought with him. When our plane touched down, I had read only the first six pages of my Rolling Stone. Time, it would seem, flies.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Off To A Rough Start

Psst. 2017? Can I see you over here for a second?
I know we've just met and all, but I knew your predecessor, and we didn't always get along. 2016 was a voracious beast that took more than it gave, and you'll forgive me if I'm stepping on any toes here but I'm really glad to have last year in my rearview mirror if you get my meaning. I confess that I do tend to live in the past a little bit and when you get some time I hope you have a chance to sit down and catch up on my blog. Lots of great memories. But look at me, telling a year "if you have the time." I know how you tend to fly by, but while I've got you here for a second I just want to say this:
Mary Tyler Moore: Why?
I am still trying to get past the sorrow I have been feeling at the loss of Carrie Fisher and her mom. Talk about a one-two punch. I thought backing Prince up on David Bowie was a pretty nasty trick, but relieving us of Princess Leia and Tammy in just a couple of days was really uncool. Now you show up, with your inauguration and alternative facts and a Doomsday Clock that needs to be re-calibrated to seconds instead of minutes and you take her.
Why Mary?
I know that even the brightest lights fade, and we all have to go sometime, but why Mary and why now? She could turn the world on with a smile. She could take a nothing day and suddenly make seem worthwhile. And you took her away from us. Now.
Well, the joke's on you because my first reaction was to tear up and get all sad, and then I found myself laughing uncontrollably. Because that, I believe, is what Mary would have wanted. I sat right down and watched the funeral of Chuckles The Clown. I laughed until I cried again, and it felt good. This is a light that won't go out.
That's when I had this vision: Mary Tyler Moore standing in a street in Anywhere, America. She spins around and tosses a hat in the air. A knit pink hat.
Aloha, Mary. You stomped on the Terra, and brought us all a smile. 2017? We've had this little talk now. Watch your step.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Goo Goo Ga Joob

Down the rabbit hole. That's where we are currently. You remember the rabbit hole, don't you? I recently referenced The Bizarro World, but this is probably much deeper. This is not the comic book world. This is the deranged universe of Twit In Chief. This guy has nothing on the Queen of Hearts. If it has been some time since you last read Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland, I'll give you a few moments to catch up on your assigned reading.
All done? Good. If you're lucky enough, as I was, to take a semester to study the works of Charles Dodgson then you are probably familiar with all the ways that this story is not necessarily penned for little children. Pick any chapter or verse from the book and spend a few minutes on Al Gore's Internet searching for all the ways that the meanings of the story is twisted around a political narrative that is none too flattering. Why not start with an easy one: The Caucus Race. Feel free to draw your own comparisons, or just let the silliness wash over you as we have for the past one hundred fifty years.
Do so at your own peril.
We are currently living in a world of "alternative facts." If your mind is not drawn to another novel by an English author, please take another moment to check out George Orwell's 1984. That one isn't as amusing, at least from the outset, as Alice's Adventures, but the nervous laughter you hear is coming from the folks who may at one time snickered at the idea of Donald Trump being president. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said this: "The press was trying to make it seem like we were ignoring the facts when the facts are that sometimes ... you look at a situation ... in the same way you can look at a weather report. One weather report comes out and says it's going to be cloudy and the next one says there's going to be light rain. No one lied to you." And yet if I am caught in that light rain without an umbrella, I will stop listening to the station that gave that first report.
And so here's the deal: The size of the crowd at Twit's inauguration is not significant in itself. Political types have been using numbers to confound and confuse since before Alice chased that rabbit down a hole. I expect President Twit has been lying about the size of his, uh, hands for decades, for example. And yet those tiny hands are still capable of holding a pen and signing executive orders that undermine a woman's right to choose and promote the cockamamie wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Not quite as amusing anymore. Unless the completed wall includes Humpty Dumpty. You remember him. The egg who said, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” 
I am the Walrus. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Help

I am a fan of artificial intelligence. For Christmas my family received the Amazon Echo Dot. This little hockey puck of a device has changed the way that we do business in our home. Sure, we can raise and lower the thermostat just by hollering across the room, and that's nice. When we want a weather forecast and it's still too dark to see outside, we just ask. If there is a particular tune we would like to hear, as long as that song is in our voluminous music library, we can request it. We even hooked the Dot up to our stereo so that we can hear any and all of these responses in glorious surround sound. You really haven't lived until you've heard a machine thank you for adding something to your shopping list in 5.1 Dolby.
Yes, all of these things are very nice to have, but I am glad to have a new partner. A new comedy partner. One of the first things I asked Echo was "What's a henway?" to which she responded "About three or four pounds." Suddenly I was nine years old again. All of these old bits were suddenly new again. I didn't mind being the straight man, since it is inherently funnier to have a machine delivering the punch line. This might seem a bit of a departure for me, since I have often prattled on about man's struggle to remain human with the terrifying influx of technology that would have us all doing less and less for ourselves, including making jokes. To be clear, at the moment that I find myself on the receiving end of Echo's straight lines, I will rush to the wall to unplug this vile interloper. For now, it's a toy. A toy that knows the correct response to the question "what's for lunch?"
"Depends on who's cooking," replies Echo.
I know intuitively that I am amused by the effort that a bunch of programmers went to in order to achieve this level of moderate intimacy. These are folks who spent some time watching Monty Python, since Echo will respond to a question about the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow with another question, "African or European?" It's been a month, and we are still exploring the comic potential of our clever little hockey puck. "Open the pod bay doors, Echo." And so on. The artificial fun never stops.
But it will, just as soon as I ask Echo to increase the living room heat by eight degrees and I hear, "Why don't you walk across the room and turn it up yourself?" And that will be funny too. For about twenty-six seconds.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Current Occupant

On the radio Monday morning there was discussion of the weekend's events. Marches described with words like "amazing," "spectacular" and "unprecedented." It was the last one that caught me. It was the adjective that I had a certain Cable News Network had used to describe the 2016 election. In a book. The subtitle: The Election That Changed Everything. Down is up. Two plus two is five. Global warming is a Chinese Conspiracy. Black and white are still what they used to be but they are most definitely not the same. We now live in a world of alternative facts. 
We now live in Bizarro World. For those of you who have missed reading your DC comics, this is an alternative reality where inhabitants live by the code,  "Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!" As a result, very little is perfect, and it is only via happy accident that things work out for the best. Their cube-shaped planet was made that way by Superman himself, who offered to turn their globe into a box in return for commuting his sentence for doing something perfect in the eyes of Bizarro justice. 
Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian and Superman aficionado, devoted an entire episode of his television show to explaining Bizarro to us all. One of the most telling examples for our purposes is Feldman, the Bizarro Kramer, who knocks on his Bizarro friend Kevin's door and waits patiently to be let in. Elaine is the link between these two realities, and when she makes the choice to stay with Kevin and Feldman and their polite, courteous friend Gene, she is cast out because she obviously doesn't belong. 
Belonging is going to be difficult in Bizarro World. The only saving grace for this situation is the words I heard the folks on the radio say after "unprecedented." They reminded us all that we, the people are the boss. The President is the temp. That is why so many now refer to him as "The Current President." Robert Frost once told us that "nothing golden stays." Nothing Bizarro stays, either. Sleep tight, America. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hidden Figures

This past Saturday, I attended a screening of the film Hidden Figures at my favorite local theater. It was a matinee, and the place was packed. This makes sense if only because of the inspirational story of three African American women who did the math to help NASA get our astronauts into outer space while opening doors for women and minorities in a time when segregation was the law of the land. This was back when "computers" were people with pencils and slide rules working on problems that would eventually be fed into room-sized machines that could count higher, faster, and longer than a room full of mathematicians of any color or gender. That was before computers could fit on our laps, or in our hands. The crowd laughed, cheered, and applauded each barrier broken. It was a feel-good movie, especially for the group we were with that afternoon.
A great many of them were wearing pink knit hats. Some of them were still had the signs they carried at the march they had attended earlier in the day. A large portion of the audience was made up of members of the Women's March held in Oakland. This was the right crowd for this movie. Not all of the estimated sixty thousand individuals who made it to the march found their way to the theater. They wouldn't  have fit inside. They would have needed to head down the road to the Oakland Coliseum to handle that mass of humanity. An impressive number, but nothing compared to the group who showed up in Washington D.C. Experts suggested that the crowd there was three times the size of the one that watched the swearing in of our forty-fifth president. The forty-fifth president's handlers were quick to point out how "alternative facts" may have caused some confusion as to exactly how many women, men, and children actually attended any or all of these events held not just here in the United States, but  across the globe. Millions went out into their Saturday afternoons to make their voices heard. How did president forty-five respond?
"Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn't these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly." Well, at least he wasn't  generating alternative facts about the number of protesters. As for his question about voting, I did not interview all the participants of Oakland's march, but the dozen that I knew personally did vote, and the reason they showed up at the gathering was to be with like-minded individuals who felt like their voting was not represented by the results of the election. Two point nine million more Americans voted for Twit's opponent. This is a fact that leaves little alternative for those who feel that to be heard, they must take  to the streets. Lots of them. Millions of them. Or, alternatively, just a few thousand. It's going to be a long four years. Or ten. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ignore Amus

Unloading the car, making sure there was enough foul weather gear and that the great big speaker was secured to the stroller, my mother-in-law's friend asked this question: "I wonder if he'll see any of this." The "this" to which she was referencing was the thousands of marchers assembling in downtown Oakland to march. The "he" was the Twit in Chief. In his Inaugural address, he told a waiting nation that on January 20, "we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People." A generous and lovely sentiment, but not one that was seemingly shared by the crowd that was gathering in the streets a day later. There were helicopters in the air, and satellite trucks on the streets, all filled with cameras trained on the bubble of "the people" who desperately wanted their country back. 
"January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now," announced Mister Twit using more characters in that phrase that Twitter would allow. And on January 21, there was still that question that hung in the air like so many news choppers, "Will he see any of this?" If it were part of a daily security briefing, he wouldn't because he has already asserted that he is far too intelligent to need such regular updates. How then, would he witness such an event as the Million Woman March? We know that he watches Saturday Night Live, even though he hates it. He has an eye out on the ratings for his old show with a new host, and he doesn't have anything nice to say about that. 
Come to think of it, he doesn't have much nice to say about anybody, anytime. Unless it were those words he used to close out his Inaugural Tweet: "You will never be ignored again." This was his promise, from the steps of the Capitol. Those were the words that might have been so much more meaningful coming from another mouth. It seemed as though there were a vast throng of people who poured out into the streets the very next day to test that promise. America is a rough town. Folks don't always work and play together in supportive ways. There is that underlying promise of E Pluribus Unum in these United States. Out of all these disparate elements come the one great nation. That beacon of hope. That city on the hill. We won't be ignored. Just try it. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Real Wrath Of God Stuff

In the early morning hours of January 20, 2017, a thunderstorm swept through the Bay Area, dumping inches of rain in just a few minutes. The rain rain rain came down down down indeed, with apologies to Pooh and Piglet. I pulled the covers a little closer to my chin and thought how happy I was to have a roof over my head. A roof that had recently received an upgrade and with the repairs came solar panels. So clever. So comfortable. So full of hope for the future.
But it was inauguration day, and the skies were as dark as they had been for several days. Clouds persisted with only moments of sunshine peeking through to give the faintest ray of hope. Then something came into my head that wasn't Pooh and is wasn't Piglet and it wasn't Disney. It was Travis Bickle. Taxi Driver. I thought about the way Travis feels about the rain: "Someday a real rain is gonna come and wash the scum from the streets."
This was not a safe or comfortable feeling at all. This was not hope for the future. This was the interior monologue of a man who felt he was pushed to the edge. As the rain continued outside, I thought about ways to push these ideas from my own head. "The sun'll come out tomorrow," I thought. "Bet your bottom dollar." Of course, this is the same little voice that insisted that it's a hard knock life. Outside the rain persisted. Lightning crashed. The gods were angry. The Flying Spaghetti Monster was not his usual benign presence. My instinct was to pull the covers over my head and wait it out.
Good job, instincts, since eventually the downpour backed off to a sprinkle. The gutters ran full and sure enough, the trash moved down the street. Which seemed like a good thing until it became clear that all that garbage was headed for the storm drains. And out to the bay and into the ocean. There was no more filth on our streets. Now it was finding its way into our streams and aqueducts and seas. The conservation of garbage. It was just being rearranged.
And I thought about what was going on back on the right hand side of the country. The sun had already come up in Washington D.C. It was a new day. Someday a rain will come there too. Where will the trash go?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Cloudy With No Chance Of Meatballs

There was a time, way back when, Main Street in Louisville was a Mecca for pastaphiles. There was Colacci's. There was Luigi's. There was the Blue Parrot. On any given evening, if one was full and the wait for a table was in the ridiculous to extreme category, you could keep walking down the avenue until you found a booth for you and your party. It was understood by the regulars to these establishments that the food and the service was all pretty much aligned to a standard set by the Colacci family back in 1955, when their eponymous establishment started serving spaghetti and meat sauce to the hungry masses. Depending on where you parked and the foot traffic, you would be happy if you ended up getting your anticipatory bread and water within thirty to forty minutes. Then it would be necessary to eat your weight in noodles, sauce and your choice of meat. There were sausage patties and link. There were those who chose gnocchi. There was ravioli and lasagna, and if this was all too much to consider, there were combination plates. Why choose when you can have it all?
Well, now you can't really have any of it, because after years of all kinds of other change, the last stop on the list, The Blue Parrot is closing its doors. This was the one of the three that opened first, nearly a hundred years ago, and sent the Colacci brothers on their way down the street to open their version. When Colacci's was sold and became the Empire Lounge, the fare turned decidedly hipster, followed somewhat abruptly by the change from Luigi's to Zucca Italian Ristorante. "Ristorante" is a pretty good indicator that you will find something artisan or hip on the menu, since it's a foreign word. "Italian Restaurant" would be sufficient for most of us looking for mounds of spaghetti with meatballs. My family spent plenty of Friday nights making the trek east to Pastaville. When I have made my trips back home, I have made it a point to get my fill, and drag my son along to taste the heaven.
Because that's what these places offered. Until they stopped. It seems quite likely that another eatery will open on the site of the old Blue Parrot. It worked for Colacci's and Luigi's. What isn't as likely is that those eateries will be around in ninety years. Ninety days? Probably, but they don't build them like they used to. Not that we wouldn't mind, but getting a large order of spaghetti with meatball just got a little harder in Louisville, Colorado.
Aloha Blue Parrot.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Don't Know Much About History

In a week that celebrated the eighty-eighth birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the inauguration of our forty-fifth "president," it might be time to get a little historical perspective. Who better to turn to than Governor of Maine, Paul LePage"You know, I will just say this: John Lewis ought to look at history," LePage, who is white, said in an interview on WVOM-FM. "It was Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves. It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant that fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple thank you would suffice." Just a tiny bit of clarification here: Jim Crow laws didn't exist during the Grant administration and an electoral deal that put Hayes in office led to the end of Reconstruction and the removal of federal troops, setting the stage for the creation of Jim Crow laws that followed. 
Oh, and John Lewis? He, according to Wikipedia, "is an American politician and civil rights leader. He is the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district, serving since 1987, and is the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. His district includes three-quarters of Atlanta." If you read a little further down the page, details about Congressman Lewis' certifications become a little more clear: "John Lewis was the youngest of the Big Six civil rights leaders as chairman of SNCC from 1963 to 1966, some of the most tumultuous years of the Civil Rights Movement. During his tenure, SNCC opened Freedom Schools, launched the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and organized some of the voter registration efforts during the 1965 Selma voting rights campaign. As the chairman of SNCC, Lewis had written a speech in reaction to the Civil Rights Bill of 1963. He denounced the bill because it didn't protect African Americans against police brutality or provide African Americans with the right to vote." He is also the man the forty-fifth "president" tweeted as being "all talk and no action." Hard to argue with the kind of action we have seen from the Krispy Kreme doughnut selling worthless degrees and steaks. All of this confusion about what happened when could be linked to John Lewis' refusal to attend this year's inauguration. The Twit in Chief went on to tweet, "John Lewis said about my inauguration, 'It will be the first one that I've missed.' WRONG (or lie)! He boycotted Bush 43 also because he..."thought it would be hypocritical to attend Bush's swearing-in....he doesn't believe Bush is the true elected president." Sound familiar! WP." The WP refers to "Washington Post," This would be the organization that routinely uses a fact checker on the Twit's tweets. To lift the veil just a little further on the "Bush 43" inauguration, it should be noted that at the time of that party, there was still a good deal of doubt about the outcome of the presidential election of 2000. Some thought that contest was not completely legitimate. 
So, it's like history, I guess. Opinions vary, and it written by the victors. And on Twitter. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

You Can Go Home Again

Last week, my wife and I took turns visiting Boulder. We were going to meet up with our respective parents. We were paying our respect to our parents. We had to fly back to Colorado to do that. Which was okay, since it afforded us the opportunity to commune with the commune that is/was our hometown. In the past, we have split up to make the job easier. Sometimes she has gone on ahead while I have stayed home until my work schedule allows me to get away, but we have always ended up together. That means that we spend a couple nights apart, which usually means I putter around our house until it's time for me to fly, eating TV dinners and trying to keep the rugs clean. Once we have been reunited in Boulder, we make the trip back to Oakland together.
This has a tendency to expand the meaning of home. If you subscribe to that notion that home is where the heart is, then things start to get a little confusing. We do a pretty good job sharing our hearts with those close to us, and now that our son is off on his own adventures for a good part of every year we have to be more expansive than we may have been once upon a time. My mother lives in Boulder. Her father lives in Boulder. This stretches our heartstrings in ways that we did not anticipate all those years ago when we located our base of operations a thousand miles away.
That being said, I don't know if it is possible to describe the power and love that I felt while standing in the presence of my mother and my two brothers. This is where I came from, and when I looked out the window to see freshly fallen snow cradled on the tree branches outside, it did not feel foreign. Not in the least. At the same time, there was a voice in my head calling me back over the hills and valleys to the city by the bay where my wife was waiting, having finished her check-in the day that I arrived. We had, by some odd chance of flights and coincidence, managed to miss each other coming and going. Now I was meeting with my tribe just as she had met with hers.
While we missed each other in ways both old and new, we were glad to give each other the chance to tag off on the Rocky Mountains and the people with whom we grew up. Outside, things in my hometown had rearranged themselves in little ways that made me remember how they used to be, but inside it was quietly amazing to me just how much the same they were. It felt like home. Because it was. And so was the living room on the left edge of the continent where my wife busied herself, waiting for my return. It was a profound feeling of belonging that came to me as I made my way to the airport to fly back west. My membership in Boulder had been renewed, and I was heading back to my newly expanded sense of home. It felt a little like growing up.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Istanbul Is Now Constantinople

Sure I complain about this stuff because, as I was reminded by a very good friend, we are getting old and crabby. Things aren't the way they used to be. This didn't use to be a strip mall. That's where you used to buy the best donuts in the world. Nowhere is this syndrome more apparent for me than in the context of professional sports. Never mind the fact that when pitchers and catchers report to spring training they will be doing so in a universe that accepts the Chicago Cubs as defending World Series Champions. I just barely became accustomed to the idea of football being played on Sundays in the City of Angels. Now there will be two of these. San Diego will no longer be a destination for visiting NFL franchises. Unless they want to take a day trip to Legoland, of course.
The Los Angeles Rams used to be the St. Louis Rams. Before that they were the Los Angeles Rams. I might try to explain this to my wife, for example, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. She gets the story about Peyton Manning being cast aside by the Indianapolis Colts in favor of a younger quarterback. That's how he came to be the second Denver Broncos quarterback to win a Super Bowl. I don't bother to try and describe how those Indianapolis Colts used to be from Baltimore and how they slipped out of town under cover of night amid all manner of hue and cry from the fan base there. The folks in Baltimore needn't have worried, since they were gifted with a bunch of Ravens for their trouble. This pained the football fanatics in Cleveland because the Ravens used to be Browns and they took all that history and fled to the barely sunnier climes of the East Coast. After a few minutes of gut-wrenching indecision, Clevelanders were given a brand new team that they chose to christen in the least imaginative way possible: The Browns.
But it doesn't stop there. After having held on to its Oilers for decades, Houston was relieved of their team that turned into the Tennessee Titans, missing the obvious opportunity to become the Tennessee Tuxedos, but this is another matter for later discussion. Houston was patient for their requisite seven minutes before they had the Texans bestowed upon them in order that the great state of Texas would not fall behind Ohio in terms of the number of professional football teams calling the Lone Star State home. Sometimes football franchises just spring out of the ether, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Seattle Seahawks. This is called expansion. The rest of this is just rambling around the country with great big trucks looking for a community where a group of hard-working young men can set up camp and find their way in this nutty, ever-changing world.
And I want it to stop.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Shared Vectors

There I was, sitting on a BART train, riding toward part of my eventual destination: The San Francisco Airport. I looked at the people around me, all traveling in the same direction: roughly south. By the time the doors opened up and we spilled out onto the platform outside the parking garage, the group that had started the journey with me across the bay had dwindled to a few compared to the packed car that made its way under the bay. Now as I made my way out into the cool night air, I watched as these now familiar faces that had made it to this final stop began to drift away. Some of them trudged along beside me. Some of them walked in silence. Others kept their idle chat going in excited bursts. We were travelling. There was adventure ahead.
This is when it started to occur to me that I really had no actual bond to these folks beyond a shared vector. I suspected that most of them would be meandering off in the direction of their chosen airline and terminal, while I continued my dogged pursuit of the next phase of my itinerary. I would go to Terminal 2. I would check in at the security checkpoint. I would slide my carry-on bag through the X-ray machine and wait my turn to walk through the metal detector. Once inside, I would call my younger brother and see if he had made his necessary connections to meet me at our gate. Then we would fly halfway across the country to return to our hometown. Together.
It had been a long time since the two of us had been in Colorado together. We had been taking turns visiting our mother and our older brother, tag-teaming on the effort to stay connected to the family we had left behind some twenty-five years ago. Now we were sharing this trip. I had someone to talk to, much to the annoyance of the poor woman who sat on the aisle as our plane took off. We have fifty-plus years of amusing anecdotes and a shared sense of humor that made us great company for the relatively short time in the air. That woman who sat next to us was a stranger, and will always be that, since we made no real effort to connect with her. We were too consumed with the brotherly connection we enjoyed.
The same could be said for the hundreds of other passengers who sat in front and behind us. Some of them may have been on that BART train earlier in the day, but they faded into the faceless crowd of not-my-family once we were off again to baggage claim. There we met up with my older brother and his daughter, and all that shared experience bubbled over once again as we carried out luggage out into the Mile High darkness and the car that would take us home. Once again in the bosom of my family, safe from the distractions of all those strangers with shared vectors.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Don't Think Of A Purple Gorilla

See? It's just about impossible not to. It is the part about the marketing plan for the new film called Bye Bye Man that bugs me so very much. The legend, generated by the studio, is that if you say the title character's name or even think it, it's too late for you. Creepy, shadowy Bye Bye Man will slink out of the shadows and end you or those you love because that's what creepy shadowy types like him do in creepy shadowy movies like the one in which they find themselves. Many years ago, it was called Candyman. Now it's time to put some new tires on this tired vehicle and take it for a spin around the neighborhood.
Who cares? Who doesn't like a good scare now and then? I like my horror movies as much as the next guy, unless that guy happens to be Forrest J. Ackerman, in which case there is such a thing as humility. So I defer to his obsession but maintain that his was the one on which I modeled my own.
I digress.
Scary movies are a good thing. They can be very cathartic. They provide an escape that other films can't. They remind us of what it means to be alone in the dark. So why would I want to raise a fuss about this now? Payton Leutner. She's the twelve year old girl who was stabbed nineteen times by two classmates who were trying to appease the scary apparition known as "Slenderman." You may be familiar with this character if you have spent any time poking around the creepy, shadowy portions of Al Gore's Internet. If you ask most anyone over the age of, let's say twelve, you are likely to get a scoffing laugh and the assurance that "Oh that's not a real thing." Payton's classmates weren't completely clear on that point.
Just like Pokemon cards seem to linger on long past their half-life, horrible notions like scary clowns and tall faceless men wearing black suits seem to hang around elementary school bathrooms, waiting for the young and gullible to snap up yet another victim. Not that the experience of the Leutner girl is one that gets repeated with any frequency, but its mere existence gives fuel to the fire that burns in those little sugar-fed imaginations. For a few weeks every year since I became a teacher, I have to shoo girls out of the restroom for the expressed purpose of breaking up their seances with Bloody Mary. I have no idea how this little piece of urban folklore stays alive, but I suspect it is the precise reason for movies and memes that play on the same fear: Calling up evil from the mirror or the drain or the closet door. Why couldn't it be something pleasant? "IwannaberichIwannaberichIwannaberich" and before you know it, you are showered with fistfuls of cash. Nope. It doesn't play. It's always more interesting to have it be buckets of blood.
Now try not to think about that as you go to sleep tonight.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Press To Play

To call it going down a rabbit hole would be a salacious attack on bunnies everywhere. Our newly "elected" president had his first news conference, and it made news. Just not the kind we are used to reading about when it comes to presidential press conferences. Where was the discussion of the economy? Discussion of world events and development of nuclear weapons by our enemies? The way we get stuff done with a political transition? What kind of dog will the new First Family have in the White House? Sure, there was some talk about intelligence, but mostly it was lacking. Intelligence. President Elect Barack Obama's first press conference some eight years ago, included all those elements, including intelligence. Of course, it was broadcast on C-SPAN, and so it may not have received the kind of attention that President Elect Twit garnered when he stood up for his first meeting with the press in one hundred sixty-seven days. 
This is the ironic part: By maintaining this fractious relationship with the fourth estate, Mister Twit guarantees himself more attention because everyone from C-SPAN to TMZ wants to show up and see what gets mentioned. Instead of the convivial welcome that might have occurred in an alternative time stream, Twit vehemently denied unverified opposition research reports that he has been compromised by the Russian government and scolded media organizations that published the information. "It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen," he said. "I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people."
If you are currently confused because you thought that hacking was no longer an issue and Russia was our friend and colleague in the effort to rebuild the world's nuclear stockpile, then hang on because it is not the strangest thing that was said in the course of this briefing. The idea that a foreign country, even our partner in nuclear escalation, has evidence of personal and financial activities by the man who would be our president hovered over the gathering like the smell of fresh meat in a lion cage.
What did we learn? The media is to blame. President Elect Twit is a germaphobe. "We had a great News Conference at Trump Tower today. A couple of FAKE NEWS organizations were there but the people truly get what's going on." Thanks to Twitter, we know the truth.
I didn't cry when Barack Obama gave his farewell address. I waited until after that first press conference. Yeesh. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

It's Been Such A Long Time

It was a badge of honor, those T-shirts. Juniors in high school wore them proudly. Some of us did. I missed out on the first time Boston played in our area. They were a sensation, again to a certain number of us. We memorized the licks, note for note, because it would be easier to air guitar them that way. When we sang along, we did so at the peril of making falsetto fools of ourselves. Trying to hit those high notes along with Brad Delp was done at your own peril. Most of us were in the throes of some pretty hefty puberty blues at that point, so getting there wasn't the problem. Staying there was.
Boston's first album came to me, as so many rock classics did, by way of my older brother. I heard that thunder the first time in his college pad and it seemed like a revelation. It was. It was not Bachman Turner Overdrive. It was not Blue Oyster Cult or Black Sabbath. It was a highly produced and highly technical monster rock record. Coming out two years before the first Van Halen record, it was hard to imagine anything that crisp and clean and still so loud. It dared you to turn it up past eleven. It wasn't too clever. It wasn't prog rock. You didn't have to think too much about it because it rocked so very hard.
And so did we. We were band geeks, and fiercely proud of it. When we heard tickets were going on sale for the Don't Look Back Tour, we were ready. We weren't anyone's little brothers. We were rock and roll fans and we could drive ourselves to the show, thank you very much. Except I didn't go. Somehow, when it came time for seats to be purchased, no one thought to ask me. This was before I became the duly deputized ticket boss of all those in my purvey. This is why I became the duly deputized ticket boss of all those in my purvey. My buddies went to the show without me. When I met up with them the next Monday at school, they were wearing those shirts and wailing away at instruments that really weren't there. Only in their minds. And in their hearts. They had ascended. They had seen Boston. Live. And they were living to tell the tale.
I waited four long months until Boston came back to Colorado. This time it was part of a daylong rock show that featured Bob Welch, Poco, and The Doobie Brothers before the main event. I stood there in the crowd, eagerly anticipating the appearance of Tom Scholz and the rest of the guys, wondering how much longer I could listen to my good friends rave on about how awesome the show they saw was. I made sure I had a seat for this one, but I didn't need it. I was on my feet from the first squeal to the last thunderous crash of drums. Along with fifty thousand other Boston fans, we rocked until the sun set behind the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
I had seen Boston.
And I bought myself a shirt.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Your Show Of Shows

I can remember rushing about, eight years ago, making sure that all those old cathode ray tube machines we had rolling around atop carts could receive the signal transmitted to them. Every teacher in our school was anxious to share the history with their students: America was about to swear in its first African American President. In September, 2001, we had a different experience. Our staff was anxiously trying to keep an eye on the events taking place in New York City and Washington D.C., but we tried to keep the full force of the images coming from the east coast. 
Currently, our staff is leaning in the direction of strict avoidance when it comes to the inauguration gala still being planned at this moment for Donald Twit. This bunch of bleeding heart snowflakes and their young charges have no interest in celebrating the peaceful exchange of power. This is the demographic, dark blue Californians, who shiver in the anticipation of the event. The list of those with no interest in the show include performers such as Elton John, Justin Timberlake, and Celine Dion. It is worth noting that only one of those stars is an American, but they turned down the invitation just the same. In years past, at least one Washington D.C. area high school marching band has marched in the inauguration parade. This year, there have been no applicants. While there are plenty of performers turning down the chance to appear, the Trumpsters have fired longtime Inauguration Announcer Charles Brotman. After sixty years on the job and hosting every president since Dwight Eisenhower, Brotman was unceremoniously let go late last week. The email he received was full of compliments, but the bottom line was still the same: "You're Fired." 
It could be that at eighty-nine years of age, Mister Brotman just doesn't fit in with the event organizers are promising with have a "soft sensuality." Considering the sensual history of President Twit, one might wonder just exactly what they will be seeing on a brisk January morning on the steps of the capitol. Tom Barrack, the chairman of the inauguration committee, told reporters to expect something “beautiful.” He went on: “It’s a much more poetic cadence than having a circus-like celebration that’s a coronation.” Barrack also said that he had “the worst job in America.” Sounds like  show I don't want to miss. Are you listening, Marie Osmond

Friday, January 13, 2017

Waiting In The Line Of Fire

When the words "shooting rampage" become commonplace in our collective lexicon, something has gone horribly wrong. I confess that it occurred to me to be outraged and disconsolate after the shooting rampage last weekend in Fort Lauderdale's airport. Estaban Santiago took a gun he had legally checked in his baggage to a bathroom, loaded it, then walked out and proceeded to kill five people and wound six others. I leave it to you to try and come up with a motive. The murder of strangers has become such a piece of our national fabric that we don't question it anymore. Terrorism is a convenient blanket to toss over the mess. Mental health is a great excuse, but it doesn't explain the path. How did we get here?
Innocent bystanders used to be those caught in a crossfire. These were victims who died as an afterthought. There was someone targeted in those days, and an errant shot that missed an intended target brought sadness and quick retribution. These have become more the rule than the exception. Firing indiscriminately is the method to this madness and while many connections can be made to shooters such as Mister Santiago and their military training, it doesn't take a marksman to mow down a half dozen unsuspecting travelers in a crowded airport. Another in a series of tragedies that seem to have a numbing effect on everyone associated with them. 
What's the answer? Increased security. At New York City airports, Port Authority Police deployed officers with heavy tactical weapons, positioned armored vehicles outside terminals, stepped up K-9 patrols and increased random bag checks. In Los Angeles, police went into "high visibility mode" with officers patrolling terminals with long guns. Boston Logan maintained a rigorous security plan, including tactical units, commercial vehicle inspections and roadway blockades. All of which would do wonders if there had been a commercial vehicle involved or a clever K-9 would have sniffed out the legally checked gun in Estaban Santiago's luggage or those armored vehicles had been parked proactively in front of the innocents who were killed by the legally bought, carried and loaded gun that someone decided to make a shooting gallery out of baggage claim. 
What do we have left to our disposal? Ask people not to carry guns on airplanes. Or box cutters. Or shoes. And while we're at it, maybe we should just steer clear of airports all together. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

No People Like Show People

I was one of those bleeding-heart snowflakes who was captivated by Meryl Streep's speech at the Golden Globes last Sunday. She was there to accept a lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and she started by talking about the work done by her fellow actors over the past year. "But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It, it sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. It was -- there was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It -- it kind of broke my heart when I saw it. And I still can't get it out of my head because it wasn't in a movie. It was real life."
Ms. Streep was referring to a rally in November 2015, when our Twit In Chief launched into an impression of Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter who suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital joint condition, after Kovaleski pushed back against Trump’s use of a 2001 article he wrote as proof of the candidate’s false assertion that “thousands and thousands of people” in Muslim neighborhoods in New Jersey were cheering in the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. And what do you suppose the soon-to-be most powerful man in the Free World did? 
You bet he did. He tweeted: "Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never "mocked" a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him……."groveling" when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!"
Dishonest media? Does that include social media like Twitter? Let's take the assertion that Ms. Streep is one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood. That measure seems somewhat subjective, but it's kind of hard to argue with nineteen Academy Award nominations and three wins, Thirty Golden Globe nominations and eight wins with a the aforementioned Lifetime Achievement Award topping that list off, not to mention a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a great many other honors including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. An honor she shares with The Head Twit
The rest of Ms. Streep's speech concluded with a call for empathy. Something we may have to stockpile over the next four years.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Step Away From The Keyboard

There is such a torrent of words and ideas spewing forth from our presumptive president's Twitter feed that it becomes difficult to keep track of just how confounding things are becoming. Our Twit in Chief made this series of tweets last week: "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only 'stupid' people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We.....have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and....both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!" The emphases and quotation marks are all his, and while it seems to run contrary to the assertion that he was making a couple of weeks ago about re-starting the nuclear arms race, the only thing he wants us to fear is him. Please feel free at this point to try and unravel that whole "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" corkscrew. Vladimir Putin seems to be happy with whatever direction this new administration takes. Why is that just a little bit unsettling?
And why is it that, after all the hue and cry about a rigged election by the Twit leading up to November 8, when an intelligence report pointed to Russian hacking of that election. This being an election that was won, electorally, by Donald Trump seems to suggest that there is no further need to investigate this election. As for the briefings that the once and future head Twit might or might not feel necessary, "The 'Intelligence' briefing on so-called 'Russian hacking' was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!" So-called because "Julian Assange said 'a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta' - why was DNC so careless?" And the hits just keep on coming. Meanwhile, senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said evidence was conclusive that Putin sought to influence the election.
The barrage of angry and confrontational words coming from Mister Twit set the stage for a very unusual relationship with the NSA, FBI, CIA and other elements of the intelligence alphabet. As  his Twitness' handlres began to acknowledge the reality of the Russian influence, the tweets about  his old employers, NBC, continued his trend: "Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got 'swamped' (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT. So much for....being a movie star-and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary." 
Who cares? Hopefully anyone within the sound and the fury of your viscous twittering. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Ah, parenthood. At each little rite of passage, you get this twinge about how things will never be the same as they were again. And you're right, because there is a constant state of change that exists between us and them, and we can't stop time, nor would we really want to. Except for those photos that show up every so often that remind us of a time when he was portable and had a smile that would light up a room. Okay, I can still pick him up if I have to, and his grin is the one I work for when I am trying to amuse.
It's different, but it's the same. Over the past few weeks, we have reckoned one more time with the number of extended visits we have together. "When did you stop going home for Christmas," asked my son. I told him I made it a practice until shortly after I moved to California. Going to college in my hometown meant that I could drop in at my parents' house for all manner of occasions, including "I'm Out Of Groceries What's In Your Refrigerator Day." Especially "I'm Out Of Groceries What's In Your Refrigerator Day." Then came the day when I no longer relied on the supply line from Mom and Dad. I could find my way to the grocery store all by myself, and I could buy the stuff I wanted. That I could afford. I got this vibe from my son when he started talking about the snack drawer he maintains in his apartment. Snickers, Skittles. A bottle of beer.
And that's the moment when I wish that there was a place we could send our kids from age seventeen to twenty-one to a place where everything is inflatable. No sharp edges. Where a kid can learn how to avoid bouncing off life's hard realities in all manner of things. Relationships and physics and choices from which they can bounce back and leave no lasting scars. Nerf cars that would never leave dents or scratches and airbags that would deploy instantly before any harm could be done to any of the nascent adults. The illusion of invulnerability for those of us who are in their late teens and early twenties can be viewed easily on YouTube. I carry scars today that dispute that notion, but I would love to believe that my son will somehow avoid the stumbles, falls and crashes associated with learning the full extent of the law of gravity. And relationships. And choices.
My son is off again, living his life and filling his own snack drawer. My wife and I tried to fill him with the wisdom it would take to make his road free of bumps and scrapes, but there's really no way to avoid them. I just hope he savors each one. The way his dad did.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Future Is Now

In an attempt to maintain our Good Parents badge, my wife and I sat our son down over Christmas break and showed him Blade Runner. We showed him the Dirctor's Cut, if you keep track of such things. We do. One of the things we also took notice of was the setting of the film: Los Angeles, 2019. This set off a wave of conjecture based on just how much things would have to change in order to meet the conditions shown in the film. The crowded streets and polyethnic speech and pervasive advertising seemed to already have found its way to the streets of the City of Angels. The off-world colonization was still a bit of a stretch, as was the constant rain. Drought seems much more likely for the future of southern California, but we have to allow for a little bit of creative license. Like the existence of androids: Replicants.
The bottom line, for Harrison Ford's character is this, "Replicants are like any other machine. They're either a benefit or a hazard. If they're a benefit, it's not my problem." Who makes this determination? We can assume it's the government, since Ford's character Deckard works for the police. His job is to "retire" machines that have become hazardous. Did I really just try and give a two-sentence plot summary for Blade Runner? My apologies, because where I am headed is this: We aren't as far away from 2019 and what the movie suggests as we might like to admit. Not in the "Skynet has become self aware" way or "the Cubs win the World Series in Back to the Future" way, but in a creepier, more uncertain way. The dystopian future way.
It occurred to me that a great deal of science fiction is written from the standpoint of where we all fit in together. Fear of being different shows up in an awful lot of dystopian futures. Fear of outsiders is just as prevalent. Welcome to the future. Deckard's job is not just getting rid of machines that become hazardous, but he also needs to find a way to discern those who are Replicants and those who are not. He uses the standard Voight-Kampff assessment, designed to elicit responses that will alter voice, respiration, and skin temperature changes. It measures empathy. The deal here is that Replicants may look like us, and for the most part act like us, but they don't feel like we do. 
I believe a prototype for this machine already exists. It is called Al Gore's Internet. Read your news feed on any given morning, and see what your reaction is. If you're not affected by the events that are going on around you, it could be that you are "more human than human." Like the pod people of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or the domestic goddesses in Stepford Wives, it's sometimes easier just to accept the creepy homogeneous Replicants than to embrace the messy and sometimes smelly diversity of our workaday world. When President Trump holds his first news conference, I hope someone will have the presence of mind to ask him the following question: "You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t, not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that?"
Trump, Tyrell. Republican, Replicant. It's not really that big a stretch, is it?

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Days Go By

Excuse me for a moment while I go all meta on you here. A lot of what gets written in this space has already happened. It is the nature of things. It feels a little current, since I happen to refer to events of the world and I reflect on them as they happen, but of course if I hadn't already witnessed them, I probably couldn't assay them as accurately. That is why one of the earliest collections of these scribblings was titled "Nostalgia Machine." That's what we all do. Unless you happen to be The Amazing Kreskin ("The" to his friends). The Amazing Kreskin's blog should be full of things anticipatory. What do we have to which we can look forward? What should we prepare to dread? Instead of looking back on lives that have just ended, we could build tributes to those who are still around to recognize how beloved, or in some cases, reviled they are.
My perceptions remain primarily sensory, and so I continue to plod away in this corner of Al Gore's Internet, looking back over my shoulder at what has already gone by. This means I will constantly be in a state of reportage. Which may be why, when asked by my wife to come up with a few New Year's Resolutions or something that I am eagerly anticipating in 2017, I faltered. What lies in front of me is such a mystery. I can be counted on to be quite smug when I make any kind of prediction that comes true. Most of these prognostications are made primarily on events and occurrences that have gone down before. Repeatedly. I don't really need to predict anything that happens with any kind of frequency. Those are trends: events that repeat. Inevitability.
A week ago, this page had a countdown clock on it that was keeping track of the time left before the 2016 Presidential Election. Both of those, the clock and the election, are part of history now. For a month after the results had been broadcast, discussed, and painfully accepted, that clock sat there at the bottom of the page reading all zeroes. Time was, for the purposes of this blog, standing still. Last week I found myself staring at that clock, wondering what I should do with it. So with the words of Firesign Theatre in my head, I chose to go forward into the past.
This year, 2017, will see the seventy-fifth anniversary of the release of Casablanca, one of the greatest films of all time. The election is behind us, and I don't have the powers of Criswell to see how quickly the new regime will come tumbling down. So I'll have to look forward to the things that I know already. Here's looking at you, kid.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Start The Day With A Healthy Breakfast

There is no more important meal than breakfast. It's your get up and go type of thing. If you don't have your breakfast, you might not have the energy to make it to lunch. Maybe that's why so many restaurants, especially those found on or near America's highways and byways advertise "Breakfast Anytime." It's reassuring. It's comforting to know that there are food service professionals looking out for us day and night. McDonald's recently showed maximum corporate flexibility by extending their definition of this ideal by adding a few more McItems to their McMenu. Sure, they'll probably make some money off the deal, but isn't it nice to know that they want to improve on their worldwide appeal by putting out that McSafety Net for all of us who happen to start out days at different times? It makes you feel all warm inside, doesn't it?
Then there's the Waffle House. For the moment, I will bypass my personal disappointment that each of their restaurants are not constructed entirely of waffles, or even given the appearance of being constructed entirely of waffles. I will let that slide. There is this little matter of Heather "Shorty" Burkinshaw-Stanley. Ironic nickname for a woman whose real name takes up a full line. It seems that Shorty takes her job as a breakfast food provider very seriously. Last week, when she was handed a note by three customers that threatened they would shoot up the place if she didn't hand over all the cash in her drawer, she decided to take matters into her own hands. In the form of her own weapon. Ms. Burkinshaw-Stanley fired a shot in the air as the thieves retreated to the parking lot, scaring them off, according to the lady with the gun. The guys with no obvious weapons fled with two hundred dollars of waffle money. Shorty saved the day, right?
Except she got fired. In the Donald Trump "you're fired" sense, not the shots were fired in the air kind. Corporate spokesperson for Waffle House, Pat Warner, says, "we want people to feel safe on both sides of the counter." The obvious question to ask Mr. Warner would be, "How do you explain your chili-covered hash browns, then?" Gastronomic kidding aside, here we have that "good guy/gal with a gun scenario" played out in real life and no one was killed or injured. Having the presence of mind to shoot at the clouds may have played in Shorty's favor. 
Though I do wonder if there wasn't somebody sitting down to their Cream O' Wheat that morning when suddenly, thunk, a bullet came crashing down from the heavens and landed right in their bowl. That might make a less than nutritious start. 

Friday, January 06, 2017

Some Adult Content

Alternating malt liquor with wine coolers: something I swear I would never do again. Once you've experienced certain thrills or seen some sights, you ought to have the sense to avoid re-experiencing or re-seeing them. Be careful, those plates are very hot. Sure, we want to reach out and see if that paint really is wet like the sign says, Somebody's bag will inevitably plop down on some unsuspecting traveler's head even though they have been admonished that contents may shift during flight. It doesn't rain in California, it pours. Man it pours.
And so on.
Like those Stephen King novels I continue to buy. And read. And end up feeling vaguely unsatisfied because the premise is always tantalizing and the characterizations are often brutally real but the ending never really seems to come. "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." Well, stop doing that.
All of this to say that I was lead down one more primrose path over the holidays. This time it was my son, with whom I have shared many glorious moments watching films of all stripes. We don't always agree, but I like to think that there are plenty of things I can learn from him just like he can see things for the first time with my help. Now tread lightly with me back to the year of our lord 2005, when I was still taking my son and his friends to movies because they needed a ride to and from. He was eight, like most of his friends, all of whom were intensely interested in seeing Madagascar, Dreamworks' latest entry into the feature animated film race. To make a short story even shorter, I fell asleep as Ben Stiller and Chris Rock voiced their animal avatars across the big screen. I had been tantalized by the notion of Sacha Baron Cohen, who would soon be unveiled to the rest of the world as Borat, but was already a cult figure in my world for his run as Kazakhstan's most clueless envoy and Ali G who never  met a celebrity he couldn't confound. Even his inspired antics as a lemur weren't enough to keep me awake. I learned to drop kids off at the movies when it was "family fare."
Now, a dozen years later, I let myself be talked into going to see Sing. It told the story of cute cartoon animals having a singing contest. Synergy. America's barnyard's Got Talent, featuring the voices of Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon. And the reason my son wanted to go: Seth McFarlane. The oh-so-naughty genius behind Family Guy and American Dad, was going to be the voice of a singing rat. Oh boy! The comic possibilities abound!
I fell asleep. There were no tawdry bits. It was a pretty straight down the middle feel good holiday piece of fluff that gave me a chance to catch a few winks before we went out to dinner. Over that meal, my son confessed to me that he had thought he was expecting something a little rougher than the shiny happy film we sat through. Which made us both take notice that the trailer we saw for the third installment of the Despicable Me series features the voice talents of South Park creator Trey Parker.  I suspect we will both be missing that one on the couch. Snoring.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

How Is This Still A Thing?

What do we know? Really. The sun comes up. The sun goes down. You should always come to a complete and full stop at a red light. Death and taxes are inevitable Global warming is real.
Whoops. It would seem that there are some things that we still need to negotiate. Maybe there are some things in which we need to simply believe. It's about faith. In what then, exactly?
The Bible? Science? The earth under our collective feet? Sure. Let's start there. How could we not agree on Terra Firma? What's that? Latin? That's like ancient stuff. Five hundred years ago, when the Romans made up the word. They used to do that. The Romans used to be in charge of a lot of things. Things like language and aqueducts and the like. I believe in Romans. Their friends. Their countrymen.
I would imagine Ken Ham believes in Romans. They play a big part in the world as he sees it. There's a whole book in the Bible about them.  Like a lot of times when people are in charge of a lot of things, the Romans turned out to be bad guys who eventually became good guys. They got to be in charge of the Bible. Eventually. It took time. Hundreds of years. Maybe even thousands. Well, not too many thousands because the earth, for some of us, is only six thousand years old. People like Ken Ham. Ken is a creationist and founder of the "highly acclaimed" Creation Museum and Ark Experience. Ken believes the earth is six thousand years old. This is a little hard to reconcile with the four and a half billion years that some other people insist the earth has been circling around the sun. It's not a matter that can be easily negotiated. Thousands to billions? That's a lot of zeroes. So what if we squeeze things down to the essentials: Dinosaurs and the Garden of Eden. Dinosaurs of Eden. How fortunate for us all that Mister Ham wrote a book clarifying all that math. The dinosaurs, like all other creatures, were created on the sixth day. It took six days to create the heavens and the earth and all the creatures on it, and then there was that day off. In the intervening six thousand nine hundred ninety-nine years and fifty-one weeks, things have been pretty busy, what with all that erosion and other wear and tear on the planet. Some folks would like us to believe that the last ice age occurred seven thousand years ago. Last ice age? That would suggest that there was something going on before Eden and dinosaurs and this may be where the friction comes in. It could be all that friction that's causing the planet to warm up. If we're not careful, we could end up like the dinosaurs. Weeks from now.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Pot Complications

There are a lot of reasons for people to refer to the state in which I live as "The People's Republic of California." This sobriquet along with the assertion that the Golden State is a lot like a bowl of granola, as what you're next to is probably a fruit or a nut, if not some sort of flake. You can pretty much go ahead and put that blue in on those electoral maps in permanent ink. Independent and fiercely proud of it, Californians let their freak flag wave as a matter of course.
Let's take, for example, the New Year's Eve assault on the Hollywood sign. A prankster climbed up on the hills' landmark and did a quick and careful rearrangement of the letters to read "Hollyweed." Get it? It's a reference to the newly permitted use of recreational marijuana here on the Left Coast. While the rest of the country was having their arms twisted into electing a seventy year old Twitterer, California voters were continuing their streak of pushing a liberal agenda unique to the lower forty-eight.
Okay. Maybe not exactly unique. Colorado made a similar change three years ago. If you're twenty-one, it's legal to possess on ounce of pot. If you're a tourist, you can pick some up while passing through the Centennial State. It's nice to share. Now, California wants to catch up. The west coast, besides being blue, is pretty solidly green. This is a pretty substantial accomplishment, considering the general effort exuded by recreational cannabis users. You may have missed the campaign that utilized the backs of snack food wrappers, encouraging consumers of Pringles and Ho-Hos to get out the stoner vote.
Ha ha. Just a little pot humor there. That didn't really happen. It was a pretty slippery slope after medical marijuana had already been approved a few years back. Plenty of Californians developed all manner of nagging chronic conditions at that point. Once again, I kid, in a wacky weed sort of way. Chronic. Get it?
Well, now we can all get it, if we want it. Now comes the ironic part: Back when pot was illegal in all fifty states, I never bought any. Not that I didn't consume a bit here and there, but I generally relied on the kindness of others when it came to my inhalation. Now that I can do as I please when it comes to pot purchase, I don't expect that I will change my ways. I guess it's just nice to know in a world that seems to be shrinking in terms of its personal liberties, I've got this going for me. Which is nice.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

“Your clothes, give them to me, now!

“If you are corrupt, I will fetch you using a helicopter...and I will throw you out. I have done this before, why would I not do it again?”

"...what is best in life?" “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

"I TOLD YOU SO! Only I can fix"

“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself.”

"Nobody would fight harder for free speech than me"

“See you at the party Richter!”

“I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, The mayor should have been first.”

"You hit like a vegetarian!"

“These sons of whores are destroying our children. I warn you, don’t go into that, even if you’re a policeman, because I will really kill you.”

"If the morons who killed all of those people at Charlie Hebdo would have just waited, the magazine would have folded - no money, no success!"

"Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!"

Hello, frequent readers. You may remember this exercise, but I have made it just a little more complicated. Some of these are quotes from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Some of them are lines  from Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Some of them are tweets from our own President-Elect. If you take more than a few seconds trying to discern which is which,  don't worry. It's all starting to sound the same.