Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fake People

"Never underestimate the people." That's what the head Cheeto says. He said it in front of a room full of people at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. The "President" was there to speak to a herd of like-minded people who laughed and cheered and applauded, especially when he jabbed at his favorite windmill, "The Media."
You remember "The Media." They're the ones who report on those speeches. They record the words and take the pictures of the "President" as he goes about his day, doing the things he does, saying the things he says. It is their job. Some people might suggest that the world would be better off without the media doing that job. Then again, if "The Media" wasn't there to keep track of what the "President" was doing and saying, it would be a tree falling in a forest with nobody there to hear it. Except the people.
But wait. Last time I checked, "The Media" was made up of people too. Wolf Blitzer and Megyn Kelly and Matt Lauer and Jake Tapper and Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow are not synthetic beings, engineered specifically to impede progress through obfuscation. As far as I know. Full disclosure here: There is no way for me to confirm or deny that all the members of "The Media" are not replicants or pod generated plant folks who are bent on the destruction of our carbon-based life here on Planet Earth. I do know that a good friend of mine grew up playing catch with one of our local news anchors. This could all be part of some well-orchestrated conspiracy, designed to lull some of us or me specifically into some false sense of security.
Fake security. 
That's what fake news will do for you. “And I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake! Phony! Fake!” Trump said. “A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people and they are. They are the enemy of the people because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.” My source for that quote was the "President" himself. I read it on Al Gore's Internet from Yahoo News. Thank heavens that it wasn't the New York Times or CNN. They are the fakiest of fakers, after all. And compounding the confoundedness is the frustration the "President" is having with these jokers leaking confidential information from the FBI and members of his own administration. And who would trust them? 
The people. And our robot overlords. 

Monday, February 27, 2017


The special counsel to the "President" of the United States said, “I look at myself as a product of my choices, not as a victim of my circumstances, and that’s what conservative feminism is all about.” Before we go galloping toward that big bin of "alternative facts," maybe we should take a moment to reflect on this idea. Ms. Conway touched on Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, conceding that the former secretary of state “should be applauded for her willingness to serve” but said her loss ultimately demonstrated that “many women looked past the commonality of gender.” Some numbers may back that notion up, considering more than fifty percent of white women voted for Donald Trump. She continued, “I would tell my three daughters, or your daughters,” she said, gesturing toward the audience, “that the job for first female president of the United States remains open, so go for it!” Sounds a lot like feminism, doesn't it?
As she will, Ms. Conaway went on: “I was raised to be a very strong and independent woman without anyone ever saying the word ‘feminist’ or having a political conversation.” She also said she shunned the label of feminist in the “classic sense,” because of the political ramifications, calling it “very anti-male and certainly is very pro-abortion.” Kellyanne concluded her remarks with an anecdote from early in her career, when she and a male Democratic pollster were scheduled to appear at a speaking engagement. When the speakers’ bureau asked her what her fee was, Conway said, she “totally froze. I took a line out of ‘When Harry Met Sally.’ I said, ‘I’ll have what he’s having.’ So when in doubt, just say, ‘I’ll have what he’s having,’” Conway concluded. “And indeed you’ll get it.”
Oh, you might get it, but this is where the numbers come back into play. Numbers range from seventy-eight to ninety-eight percent comparing the average woman's salary to the average man's. Even the best estimates say that women are not having what men are having. This includes having children. Men are not. Then there is that telltale phrase "anti-male and pro-abortion." I understand that I don't have access to a study of all people who identify as feminists, but I can close with an anecdote about my own upbringing. I was raised by a very strong woman who was very pro-male, as my two brothers would attest. She would not consider herself "pro-abortion," since the question of women's health an their reproductive rights are all about choices. She has lived a life very happy with her choices, even thought she is aware of the limitations that continue to exist around them. It doesn't have a lot to do with liberal or conservative, after all. It has to do with what is right. 
Now feel free to make all the alternative fact jokes you'd like. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017


The first thing that struck me was the headline: "James O’Keefe Threatens To Release ‘Hundreds Of Hours’ Of Leaked Newsroom Footage Soon." The next thing I noticed was the category under which Yahoo News chose to report it: "Entertainment." The same source that I might click on to find out more on the Sinead O'Connor/Arsenio Hall feud or the mission Pink is on to lose that baby weight is the same bin in which I find a story about conservative provocateur James O'Keefe's plan to threaten/embarrass CNN. 
You might remember Mister O'Keefe from his questionably acquired video hijinks that lead to the de-funding of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and its eventual filing for bankruptcy. That organization has since reformed in three states, but it limps along with the stigma of having been "exposed" by O'Keefe and his minions
Now, armed with an alliance with the Trump Foundation, James is after a bigger fish: The Cable News Network. He has suggested that he has "hundreds of hours" of footage that was all legally obtained and would release that footage “WikiLeaks-style.” If that description is meant to inspire confidence in the material, then the jury is still out. That jury being comprised of a group of Americans called "the audience." An audience ranked as the second largest for cable news networks. And now we come to the real nitty gritty: Remember how that headline appeared in the Entertainment section? Well, it turns out that network news is a business, something those of us who are old enough to remember watching William Hurt and Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks do their jobs while falling in love can relate to. Combine this with the French Succès de scandale and we come up with the affirmation that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Who wouldn't want to tune in and see what's going on behind the scenes, or in front of them? Fake news or real, it's all infotainment and we spend an increasing amount of time wondering about what and whom to believe while we continue to watch. 
To find out what happens next. 
So, I imagine the folks at CNN may be the next ones to contribute to James O'Keefe's guerrilla video assemblage. Oscar Wilde would be proud.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Keys To The Kingdom

Wednesday morning my phone alerted me to Captain Kidd's breakfast buffet, including a number of four and five star reviews. This came as a happy reminder of where my family and friends had been just days earlier. Hopping out of bed and rushing up the stairs next door to shovel in a bowl of raisin bran and a piece of fruit before racing back down the stairs and across the street to the parking lot of the Happiest Place On Earth had been our experience over the Presidents' Day weekend. We were there to experience a joy-filled stimulus-packed couple of days in the Magic Kingdom. Those days started with Captain Kidd's.
There was a bit of a hangover as well. Dropping myself back into the working week after that blur of activity was a bit of a challenge. Our son, who revels in Disney because it is the wellspring of his pop culture, felt similarly the day he woke up and there were no Froot Loops in a paper bowl before embarking on a search of the shortest lines and multiple trips on the Jungle Cruise. For those of us who woke up on Tuesday with no days left on our park hopper passes, it was back to work. Sure, we had memories. We had photos. We had the souvenir maps that we could count off the attractions and rides that we experienced in those two magical days.
Did I mention magic?
If I didn't, I should. For my family and me there is a place where our cares and woes drift away. It is a place where we can find something to divert our attentions from the cares and woes that weigh us down on any given day. While we are there, we don't concern ourselves with the cost of everything and the overarching corporation that binds this universe together. If anything, we surrender to the Disneyness of it all and let ourselves be swept away in the animatronic pseudo-reality of it all. I know that I have consciously made this a place where I park my cynicism and curmudgeonly world view. I am not looking for the edge of the backdrop or the strings holding the puppets from the ceiling. I know they are there. I want an oasis, and this is mine.
When the alarm went off and I found myself meandering blearily into my own kitchen for a bowl of granola on the way to face another day in the work week, I sighed. And I remembered those breakfasts at Captain Kidd's. I know there is a place for me and those I hold close to get away. Does it have to be Disneyland?
No. But it sure is a magical place.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Say What You Will

“Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody thirteen years old who is sexually mature.  Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty.” And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we begin to see the sun setting on the glorious and periodically fabulous career of Milo Yiannopoulos. You may remember Milo from some of his other greatest hits: “Given America’s obesity epidemic, the truth is that hot people are an endangered species. We are a marginalized group constantly punished by society’s unrealistically ugly beauty standards.” Or “America has a Muslim problem… The terror attack on Saturday is an expression of mainstream Muslim values," after the attack on an Orlando nightclub last June. How about “Women have huge competitive advantage when they go into tech because there aren’t many other women. They get coverage when they don’t deserve it, when they enter a room, people pay attention to them. Privately successful women will tell you this." And of course “If a white person gave Dr. King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech and said his line ‘I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,’ they’d face charges of hate speech from liberals too ignorant of history to even know it’s Dr. King’s line.” Yup. This guy's a winner from way back. And now he is a former senior editor for Breitbart News
Milo resigned on Tuesday after some people, a whole lot of people, got angry about his definition of pedophilia. These remarks were made over a year ago, and after apologizing and resigning, he went on to complain, “But let’s be clear what is happening here,” Yiannopoulos said. “This is a cynical media witch hunt from people who don’t care about children. They care about destroying me and my career, and by extension my allies. They know that although I made some outrageous statements, I’ve never actually done anything wrong. These videos have been out there for more than a year. The media held this story back because they don’t care about victims, they only care about bringing me down. They will fail.” Feel free at this point to try and reconcile his rant about "Dr. King's words" and his own. If you're feeling like it doesn't exactly add up, you are not alone. That would be why the Breitbart folks didn't bother trying to save poor Milo. They cut him loose. Maybe because he had finally gone too far, or maybe because he was openly gay and it was only a matter of time before someone would have to explain that steaming pile of hypocrisy, but whatever the case Milo has moved on to the next great thing that any homosexual alt right journalist would. Oops. His book deal with Simon and Schuster was cancelled. Was it because he was too conservative? Was it because he was too gay? Was it because he was too much for conservative Republicans to deal with? Consider that the tapes of that interview were released by right wingers calling themselves The Reagan Battalion. Tune in tomorrow as the Republicans continue to feed one another to the lions. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It Burns

Staring into the sun is a bad idea. It can really hurt your eyes. Staring into the abyss can be just as painful. This is why I avoided watching "President" Trump's press conference last week. I was afraid of the damage that might have occurred in my cerebral cortex. Instead, I chose to take a page from the book on watching a solar eclipse: use a filter. For me, I find that what works best is time. If I watch his Creamsicleness live, I tend to tense up and start to whimper. So many emotions are competing, but sadness seems to win out. Finding some middle ground between rage and hysterical laughter, I am left with the sobs of a country who want a do-over in the most profound way. When Fox News starts defending CNN, end times are near. 
"Nuclear holocaust would be no like no other. They're a very powerful nuclear country and so are we," he burbled about relations with Russia.
As for the BBC, he rolled his eyes, "There's another beauty." The power of the fourth estate. 
"The leaks are real ... the news is fake."
"Russia is fake news." His eyes continued their clockwise rotation.
"I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two: Racism. The least racist person." Spittle flies.
How did you win the 2016 election, daddy? "That's how I won, I won with news conference and probably speeches. I certainly didn't win by people, [pointing at reporters] listening to you people, that's for sure. But I'm having a good time. Tomorrow they will say, 'Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.' I'm not ranting and raving, I'm just telling you, you know, you're dishonest people. But, but, I'm not ranting and raving. I love this, I'm having a good time doing it. But tomorrow the headlines are going to be, 'Donald Trump rants and raves.' I'm not ranting and raving."
Bnow back to a certain Cable News Network: "I watch CNN. It's so much anger and hatred. And just the hatred. I don't watch it anymore."
"We're becoming a drug-infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars. We're not going to let it happen any longer." Did he just take a bite out of a Snickers bar?
About Michael Flynn? "When I looked at the information I said I don't think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right."
And pumping up his second nominee for Secretary of Labor, he gurgled, "I just wanted to begin by mentioning that the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Labor will be Mr. Alex Acosta. He has a degree from Harvard Law School, a great student. Former clerk for Justice Samuel Alito and he has had a tremendous career."
Again, these were not all of his words. These were the ones that were attempts at making sense of the light at the end of the tunnel. Not daylight, but an oncoming train. If you need me, I'll be under my desk whimpering. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

You Wanna Go Where Everyone Knows Your Name

I remember San Clemente. I remember the Ranch. I remember Kennebunkport. I have heard stories about Warm Springs. These were all places that previous presidents retreated to when they needed a break from the action. Whether it was walking along the beach or clearing brush, these places were sanctuaries for the leader of the free world. A place to unwind, to get away from it all. The Western White House. The Southern White House. The Pretty Close Still To Washington D.C. White House. Call them what they were: Vacation homes. 
A lot of people, of a certain income, own vacation homes. And some people own other people's vacation homes. I'm not talking about timeshares here. I'm talking about owning a resort. Like the Crown Jewel of Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago. This exclusive golf club is one of his Royal Hightweet's resorts, featuring ocean views and beautifully landscaped grounds. "Since purchasing this landmark in 1985," the website tells us, "the Trump family has spent many weekends and holidays at their home away from home." And now, it would seem, they have found their White House away from White House. 
All of that would be fine if this were some opulent, T-shaped estate of some opulence, with the inclusion of round-the-clock secret service protection. Mar-a-Lago has all that plus. Plus paying guests. Other members of the club who are there paying dues to be able to hobnob with the hoi polloi. It's a golf club, after all, and if you want to shoot eighteen holes in the afternoon and go back to your room to change for dinner at eight, who knows who you might run into. 
Maybe even "Rick The Man." You probably won't get close enough to "The President" to snap a photo, but the guy who carries the briefcase containing the launch codes for all our nuclear missiles is, apparently, available. Club member Rick DeAgazio was able to get such a picture, with  arms around one another and big smiles, and then he posted it on his Facebook page. So much for that notion that aide-de-camps for the President of the United States have to be all stand-offish and uptight. Why worry about National Security? Why let a little thing like protocol stand in the way of a perfectly nice evening? An evening which saw our "President" discussing strategy with the Prime Minister of Japan just after North Korea test fired a ballistic missile of their own. In front of Rick and a great many other members of the club and their guests. Did they all have their top-secret clearances? Well, they had certainly paid their dues and probably a hefty campaign contribution to the club's owner in addition. Isn't that enough? 
I'm all for giving the country back to the people, but I'm not exactly sure this is what I meant. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Low Continuous Buzzing Sound

The future has arrived, and it is being delivered by a drone. Amazon is getting ready to drop packages in your front yard via parachute from hovering machines guided by satellite. Hooray. At last I can get my forty-one ounce bags of Skittles brought directly to me without all that fuss of a human being lumbering up my front steps and placing the box on the porch. Instead, the same technology that allows pimply-faced video game aficionados to launch missiles into bad guys' apartments from half way around the world while they sit placidly in their La-Z-Boy recliners in air conditioned trailers. Ah, progress!
And to think at one time I could have altered this flow of time. Twenty-some years ago, I was working as a warehouse manager for an employee-owned book wholesaler. We bought books from publishers and then turned around and sold them at a tiny profit to small local bookstores. At this point, I don't know how much farther I need to digress: Should I explain wholesaler? Warehouse? Books? In order to make any money at all, we needed to move our packages in and out of our warehouse as seamlessly as possible, and for a long time we relied on humans carefully stacking and stuffing books in boxes then surrounding them with crumpled bits of paper before we sealed them up and sent them off to their destinations. At one point during my tour of duty as warehouse co-manager, it was decided that we were going to invest in some machinery to refine that labor intensive process and switch to a machine that would shrink-wrap stacks of books to a cardboard flat, then a box would be formed around that flat, labeled and shipped. It was so very late twentieth century.
One day, a call came in from a group of folks from Seattle who were starting their own warehouse business. They were going to sell books over this newfangled invention of Al Gore's. We snickered at the idea, but happily offered to have them come and take a look at our operation. The job of showing these wacky kids around our warehouse fell to me. It was a slow day, so I had plenty of time to wander around showing these folks just how things worked.
Years later, when I was unwrapping a book or CD purchased from Amazon.com, I noted how well they had been paying attention, and I was pretty sure they were using the same brand of shrinkwrapper that we had used back in my warehouse days. Back when there were still neighborhood bookstores. Back when drones weren't delivering pizza and lighting up halftime shows at the Super Bowl.
It's only a matter of time before they figure out how to deliver math tests via drone. Goodbye, Mister Chips.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Words Their Way

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count,” the quote read. “It’s the life in your years.” It was attributed to Abraham Lincoln, by members of his own party. Inspirational? Sure. Lincoln? Not so much. Al Gore's Internet and the folks at Google would have you believe that this is the case, but a little further investigation makes things a little murkier. This aphorism was probably first written for a book on aging written in 1947 by Doctor Edward J. Stieglitz. It was not immediately clear what Doctor Stieglitz's party affiliation was, but since he was born some thirty years after Abraham Lincoln died, it is not likely that he passed this wisdom to him personally. 
So what? 
Well, let's start by looking back just a few months instead of a few years, to the Republican National Convention. The "President's" wife gave a speech at that time that lifted large pieces of Michelle Obama's speech for her husband in 2008. There was a lot of fuss made at the time, but after much denial, there may have been a little crilbbing and a definite lack of footnotes. No one was fired for this little bit of plagiarism. This should have been our first solid hint about alternative facts. 
In Bizarro World, if you need words, you simply borrow them. Don't worry about from whence they came. Let the chips fall where they may. Buffalo or otherwise. 
This might also be why the Department of Education, in their first public display since bringing new head Betty Devos was to misspell the name of civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP William E.B. Du Bois incorrectly. Again, not exactly a shock, and even though it appeared in a Tweet it still managed to continue a trend of shooting first and going to spellcheck later. 
This trend seems to value words more than ideas. The sound more than the quality of that sound. By keeping a constant barrage of words churning out there, perhaps they hope that they might eventually land on a good idea to match up with all that verbiage. 
Suddenly I am imagining a room full of chimpanzees banging away at their IBM Selectrics in hopes of generating the works Shakespeare. Or one orangutan with a smart phone. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Assembly Required

I can remember so many Christmas eves, back when I had a son who required things like Hot Wheels garages and Rescue Heroes Command Centers, I stayed up late into the night making all those little pieces fit together, peeling and sticking all those decals, and doing the work of a hundred elves without the figgy pudding breaks. I worked until my eyes crossed and my fingers were worked past their useful function. It was all for the glee that would come bubbling up into the face of that little boy and the sight of his brand new toy.
Then there was the time my friend and I spent an afternoon on the front lawn constructing the bright yellow riding front loader that same boy pedaled up and down the driveway and out onto the sidewalk in front of our house in what seemed to be endless loops. All of those toys were loved to the point of extinction. Pieces of them still float around our basement, too dear to be part of a landfill but not important enough to be moved into any permanent rotation or display in the real world. This dismays my wife, who has wondered aloud on many occasions just how much plastic we carted into this house and how much of it still has useful purpose. None of it is disposable. But short of having a garage sale, which seems somehow unthinkable for a family that periodically prides itself on stuff, there is little to be done about the wretched refuse that used to fill toy boxes way back when.
And we've got one of those still, too. Toy box, that is.
Then there's the new bike. Way back a year and a half ago, when I was relieved of my commuter bike by evil twits who would steal a bicycle from the front hallway of a school, my wife did me the considerable favor of rushing out and buying me a new machine. This was hardly a replacement, but it was a place holder. It came to me all in one piece, but it never quite felt right. It could not live up to the glory that was the Raleigh C-40. It was serviceable. And boy did I service that thing. I spent a lot of time changing inner tubes, as this thing seemed to have a slow leak somewhere and I was always on the verge of pushing that lumpy nearly bike home on the rims.
Then, years after the first Valentine's Bike, came the replacement. This was a much fancier deal than the bargain bike. It had "components" and was made with "quality" in mind. It also required a good deal of assembly. Thankfully, years of bike riding and ownership put me in good stead when it came time to take it out of the box and piece it together. Handlebars, seat, brakes, wheels, all pushed into place and tightened with Allen and other wrenches. I felt oddly at home, building this vehicle and eagerly anticipating my first ride. It was Christmas Eve all over again.
I just wish there were more decals to stick on.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

In Public

I am used to hearing how awful our public schools are. Often this line of rhetoric comes from the very people in charge of our public schools. It is more than a little discouraging to have the ones steering the ship telling us that we are hopelessly lost. But, in the wisdom of Yogi Berra, we're making good time. I get up each morning and head to work with the knowledge that I am working for a team that ranks fourteenth out of fifty, with nothing that says we will be competing for the top spot anytime soon.
Part of the challenge here is that, as educators, it is nearly impossible to step in the same river twice. We inherit children who may have had intense and fulfilling experiences in the previous grade - or not. In public education, we play the hand we are dealt. The kids who walk through our door on day one are the ones we are charged with molding into future biochemists and restaurant managers and mayors. When we are lucky we get lots of help from the parents of these short people, and that support generally translates into success for those involved. It is an awesome and powerful thing, this home-school collaboration thing. Then there are those who cannot, for one reason or another, make that kind of commitment. We still teach those kids too. In most cases, these are the students who will need the most time and attention. In many cases, these are the families who will complain bitterly about the way their children are being educated and insist they are just a phone call away from moving their child to another school where they will most certainly get the teacher or facilities or lunch they deserve. In most cases, the phone call doesn't get made, and that kid keeps coming to a school where he or she is at odds with the collision of their two worlds: home and school.
How can this work? When we are lucky, there is a magic moment when that student takes it upon themselves to shift their focus to becoming an active participant in the process, and suddenly the resistance to learning becomes a clear pathway to that goal: making it to the next grade.
And then we start all over again in a new room with a new teacher.
Or maybe that family has to move, and the search for a school where the magic of education can once again be found.
I'm not announcing that I have discovered a solution to the crisis that is American Public Education. Instead, I am saying that I understand that there is a problem. There are all kinds of possible ways to attack the issue: no homework, more homework, shorter school days, longer school days, charters, vouchers, technology, testing, no testing, and the ever-popular learn by doing. Sadly, while we try and figure this out, the stream keeps flowing. Children keep moving past us on our assembly line missing important pieces of their intellectual development that we have sacrificed in order to make sure that those basic building blocks are inserted: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. These have been referred to as "The Three R's," which given proper English spelling, may explain how we got off track in the first place.
Meanwhile, be patient, youth of America. We are bound to get this right. There are a lot of us out here working hard to make that happen. We are the ones in classrooms before the bell rings in the morning, and after it has stopped in the afternoon. We want it to work. We are teachers.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Just Like Old Times

About a year ago, Playboy magazine declared that nudity was passe. At the time, the magazine had stopped being profitable and was being used primarily as a promotional tool for all the other Playboy endeavors experienced across the globe. This rationalization of sorts was made after the publishers determined that free and unfettered access to pictures of naked women, thanks to Al Gore's Internet, was diminishing their brand.
Or something like that. 
The powers that be suggested that the sexual revolution that it pioneered so many years ago had been fought and won. The idea, as suggested by executives of the corporation was that since, “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free," what was the point of dirty magazines? A fair argument, but not one you might expect to hear from Hugh Hefner. 
Of course, the gentlemen who always insisted that they read the magazine for the articles must have been heartened by this news. In 1975, subscriptions were in the millions. By 2015, they numbered just eight hundred thousand. Less than a million subscribers. Have all these gentlemen given up print media for their lascivious needs? Their pornography?
Especially when the pornography they were buying turned out not to be smut but a bunch of testosterone laden wit and wisdom and advice about how to buy a humidor. So, in order to preserve the brand, the powers that be in the bunny hutch decided to bring back nude models, as well as past favorites Playboy Party Jokes and Playboy Philosophy. The only way to the future seems to be through the past. 
Which is a fine business model, especially these days. Keeping track of Playmates turn-ons and turn-offs will once again be a hobby for those in need of that sort of hobby. Once again, young men can look forward to the day that they don't have to sneak peeks at Miss November on their visit to the barbershop. All that talk of "tasteful" and "arty" can begin anew as young women start taking off their clothes for a chance at being the next centerfold. 
If you feel your standards are being lowered once again without your say, that probably makes sense. I look forward to the Braille edition. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Destination Unknown

Lady cab driver, can you take me for a ride?
Don't know where I'm goin' 'cause I don't know where I've been
So just put your foot on the gas, let's drive
Lady, don't ask questions
Promise I'll tell you no lies
Trouble winds are blowin', I'm growin' cold
Get me outta here, I feel I'm gonna die - Prince "Lady Cab Driver"

The passenger in Prince's song is the one who seems not to know where they are headed, but when the situation is reversed, things can get a little out of hand. When I consider all the times that I have put my life in the hands of drivers of all stripe and skill level, it makes me happy to think about how things have worked out. Sure, there have been a few near misses, but to be totally candid, I have had plenty of my own challenges getting myself from place to place. In my youth I merged my own vehicle with other inanimate objects and a few other vehicles. It would be fair to say that my parents were not able to take full advantage of their middle son's safe driver discount.
Which is why I am glad I was never a pilot. Too much pressure on that whole takeoff and landing thing. I understand that there are also other objects in the air at the same time that could cause some difficulty on trips from point A to point B. I don't expect that I could handle all that pressure. Sure, the power involved in piloting a big old jet airliner would be satisfying, but what about those days when you just weren't feeling it? I confess that there have been a few days when, as a teacher, I have phoned it in. Sick, tired, or depressed, I have handed out worksheets or let the kids roam where they might on Al Gore's Internet. I don't think that would be the case with flying.
That's why a United pilot was asked to stay on the ground when she showed up last week for a flight from Austin to San Francisco out of uniform and that was only the beginning. She went on a rant about Clinton and Trump and let everyone on board know that she was going through a divorce. Upon noticing an interracial couple in first class, she announced, "Yay, unity!" Perhaps this was some veiled reference to her employer, United Airlines. Or maybe it was a sign that she wasn't ready to jump one hundred fifty thousand pounds of metal and meat into the air, being responsible for all that metal and meat. Getting all that metal and meat from point A to point B can be just a little more difficult if your mind isn't squarely on your job. 
Hopefully, she took a cab home from the airport after she turned over the cockpit to someone else. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Some people might say that the Trump administration has become a gift to comedy. Saturday Night Live is experiencing their best ratings in six years. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has spawned any number of comedy news shows from the "best news team ever." Twitter is ablaze with the kindling falling out of the mouths and generated by the tiny brains who work for the Oompa Loompa King. Even Bruce Springsteen wanted to get into the act. Okay, The Boss didn't really write that letter, in which he took wide swings at liberal types who seem to enjoy the sounds of  their own voices so very much including Golden Globes guest speaker, Meryl Streep. But it was enough imagine that being witty must might be the thing that could save us all.
Laughter may be the best medicine, and the fact that no less an authority than former Saturday Night Live writer and performer Al Franken has a ringside seat to the debacle as the junior senator from Michigan watches the "real political drama" take place. Yes my friends, Washington D.C. is a yuks factory. Or is that yuck factory?
Get it? Yuk, as in yuk-yuk and yuck as in icky. This stuff writes itself.
And while we're all twisted into paroxysms of laughter, the ones who aren't twisting into paroxysms of laughter continue to churn out one questionable decision after another. The ones who aren't giggling are the ones "in charge." That's what makes the comedy flow. Poking fun at authority is such a natural fit when it comes to ridiculing those emperors who wander around naked. The arrogance with which these presumptive humans have taken to kicking and slashing at the world we all share makes it all the more satisfying when we can take them down a notch.
I'm sure you've all noticed how the past week of comedy has undone the unfortunate and creepy policies tossed out by the powers that be. No? You mean the circuit judges who knocked down the Muslim travel ban? Have you read the decision? It is comedy gold. Did you see how Al Franken single-handedly blocked the nomination of Betty Devos as Secretary of Education with that killer set that turned giggles into votes against the woman who wanted to know where the pencils were? Wait. That was her comment on the first day of her new job as Secretary of Defense. There was no stopping that train from going through. Republicans have the majority. Democrats, while traditionally much more amusing, are in the minority. While this makes the humor so much easier to mine, the battle is going to be very much uphill. So, while we're waiting for the mid-term elections and/or the impeachment proceedings, we can continue to find the funny where we can. And keeping in mind what we have to do while we're wiping the tears from our eyes. Better that they were tears sprung from laughter, not sadness. Or pain.
Get it?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Paper Hearts

I used to think 
about camping out
under the mailbox
like good ol' Charlie Brown
waiting for a Valentine
waiting for love
to come and find me
As it turns out
it took more than 
just hanging around
I had to go looking
I had to get out
I had to find love
So I went searching
and it turned out 
that I didn't need 
to look that hard
There was love
waiting for me
not in the mailbox
Love was waiting
out on the coast
Patient love
Kind love
All I had to do
was get off the ground
dust myself off
and open my eyes
There she was
My love
I gave her my heart
and it wasn't paper
It was worth the wait

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Key To My Success

It's a pretty substantial hunk of metal, at least when you consider that it spends most of the day wedged into my left front pocket. These are my school keys, and Monday through Friday they are the constant reminder of where I am. After twenty years at the same site, I am one of the lucky few allowed entry to so many doors, gates and cabinets. I am still not in a league with our custodians, principal or admin assistants, but I feel like the fistful of keys I cart around each day is commensurate with my status in and out of the building.
So imagine what would happen if I had somehow misplaced those keys.
That's what I did. I stood at the front door of the school, anxiously searching through my pockets and pawing the contents of my backpack to see where I must have misplaced them. Even as I banged on the door to get our custodian to let me in, I began to make a list in my head of all the other doors I would be asked to open before the end of the day. The laptop carts would have to sit in storage and the playground balls and soccer goals would stay hidden in their closets. Anyone coming to me, as they so often do, to ask me to unlock this or that would receive the embarrassed shrug of someone who had lost his keys.
It was somewhat maddening for me, since I tend to occupy that line of defense against locked doors. "Mister Caven, could you please open my classroom? I locked myself out." Or, "Can you let me into the book room? I need some manipulatives for math." And then there's just the garden variety of comings and goings that take place every single day by yours truly. No keys would be a sorry state of affairs indeed.
So I went right in and did what any red-blooded American male would do: I called my wife. She dutifully went down to the basement and looked around where I had changed into my rain pants before boarding my bike for the ride to work. No dice. Or keys. She then proceeded to drive through those dark city streets that I had just covered on two wheels, staring at the pavement for any sign of the tools of my trade. She called me from outside the school and I hopped in the passenger seat with the hopes that making one more sweep would bring us more luck. No luck. No keys.
When she dropped me off again in front of the school, I had now made the trip twice on four wheels and once on two. Where could I have dropped them? At the risk of turning this into any sort of M. Knight Shamalamadingdong scenario, when I returned to my classroom where the door had been propped open by our custodian, I pushed myself to take one last look in the pocket of my jacket, but I never put my keys in my jacket pocket, and there they were.
And another day began. I will be buying my wife a nice dinner.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Not Quite The Same As The Old Boss

Eight years ago, I wrote about getting a new boss. Not a new principal. That has happened quite a few times while I have been here. Not a new superintendent. That has happened with just about the same frequency. Happily they don't tend to coincide directly. Too much change can be a bad thing. Like when the country gets a new Secretary of Education. When Barack Obama was elected, he nominated Arne Duncan, former superintendent of Chicago's public schools. Back then, I listed the problems that Horace Mann, the founder of U.S. public education and the man for whom my school is named, felt that education faced. In 1837: (1) the public should no longer remain ignorant and free, (2) that such education should be paid for, controlled, and sustained by an interested public, (3) that this education will be best provided in schools that embrace children of all diversities, (4) that this education must be free of religious influence, (5) that this education must be taught by the spirit, methods, and discipline of a free society, and (6) that education should be provided by well-trained, professional teachers. Eight years ago, I wondered if the problems of one hundred eighty years ago persisted today. 
From where I'm sitting? Yes. What steps have been made over the past eight years to correct them? I find myself among a group of dedicated and well-trained professionals who take their mission seriously. I know that there are those who might and probably will argue this point. The weak links in our chain tend to dominate all discussion of that chain. It is the bane of those in public service. It is the challenge to which we all, or almost all, feel the need to rise. The same can be said for that "spirit, method, and discipline of a free society" too. It's not the paycheck. There aren't a lot of millionaires working in public education. 
Until now. 
Betty Devos is the daughter of the founder of Amway. I will leave aside all talk of multi-level marketing schemes for now, and focus on the billions of dollars who until recently headed up American Federation For Children, an organization that promotes "school choice." You can also read that as "school vouchers." If you are unfamiliar with this concept, here is a snippet from the National Conference of State Legislatures: "School vouchers are one of three approaches to private school choice. Traditional vouchers are state-funded scholarships that pay for students to attend private school rather than public school. Private schools must meet minimum standards established by legislatures in order to accept voucher recipients." If you don't like your neighborhood school, you can trade up, and the state will pay for it. It sounds like a delicious idea, but there are some kinks in that hose. Time Magazine (you remember magazines, don't you?) reported on the five biggest myths about school vouchers six years ago. Way back then, the fifth one was that "Private, parochial, or even public charter schools are better than regular public schools." I have said, on a number of occasions, if there was an obvious reason or advantage to vouchers, I would be a big fan. I feel the same way about charter schools. If someone can show me how replacing The Affordable Care Act with something better will make my life easier, I would support that. 
In the meantime, I have a hard time imagining how things in my world will get better when the new head of the Department of Education cannot speak knowingly about the debate between proficiency and growth. If you don't have an opinion, say that. Just as you might if your opinion is that teachers should be armed to protect them and their students from grizzly bears.
My opinion is more of a question: What or whom will protect us from Betty Devos? 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

One Hundred Days

Edward and I are breakfast buddies. Edward is one of our youngest Transitional Kindergarten students. He has an older brother, and that's how he gets to school, but once he lands on the playground his brother is off doing second grade things with his second grade buddies. That means Edward needs somebody to help him get to breakfast.
I can usually count on him to show up just as the breakfast bell rings at seven fifty-five. At this time, the majority of the kids who have descended on the playground go scurrying off to line up for whatever the school district has to offer for their morning meal. Edward takes a straight path to me at this point and looks up expectantly. Most mornings we don't have to say a word. I hold out a finger and we walk, hand in finger, to the cafeteria.
Once inside, we make our way to the open door on the right, where we pick up a tray and the fruit of the day. I know if there are oranges, I will be sticking around just a little longer to help get the peeling started. Then it's on to the main event: cereal or something warm. For the first month, I was pretty sure that all Edward would eat was cereal, since that's what he pointed at and that's what he wanted me to put in his tray. One morning I decided to cross him up by putting a bagel in front of him. When we walked over to the table, I smeared some cream cheese on it. "It's like a breakfast sandwich," I told him. After the first bite, he was sold. I have gotten him to try a few other things, but never anything with scrambled eggs. Waffles are a favorite, as is the sausage biscuit. Just don't stick any of that suspect yellow junk in there to mess up his palate. All of these is washed down nicely by a carton of milk sucked furiously through a straw.
This was our pattern, until the middle of last week. On the third rainy day in a row, Edward came up to me in the hallway when the bell rang, and then moved straight on past to line up with the other kids. Monday was our hundredth day in school, and suddenly he had decided to do things for himself. I sat on the edge of pride and sadness, as all grownups do once the little ones in their lives start caring for themselves. I won't miss the orange peeling, or the angry fuss over not getting a second breakfast, but I will miss the walk to the cafeteria.
Maybe we can still take that trip occasionally, just for old time's sake. I'm not getting any younger. And neither is Edward.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Looking Back

History gives us a war hero, wheeled out to the fifty yard line for the pre-game coin toss. History gives us a goodhearted painter of puppies.  The man who tore down the Berlin Wall loved jelly beans. Tricky Dick opened China and was a bowler. History gives us hindsight, which is powerful. Still, I don't know if there are corrective lenses strong enough to make what is currently happening in the Oval Office appear as anything but insane.
The alternative facts administration took their show on the road this week. Orange Julius spoke to a group of military commanders at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, where he promised to support their efforts in spite of the coverage by a "very, very dishonest  press." Any problems or confusion with his gerrymandering of policy and procedure is purely the fault of the media and not his late-night Jolt Cola induced executive order binges. This would explain how terrorist attacks have gone unreported. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that,” he said.
The "you" to whom he was referring were the military folks in his audience. They know how events like the Bowling Green Massacre can slip through that slippery filter of a twenty-four hour news cycle. Will there really be a time when we look back at the first Trump administration and think, "Boy, I only wish we would have listened to him sooner?" All those bad dudes pouring over our borders and into our nightmares will run into the only man clever enough to build a tall enough wall and cut off enough diplomatic relationships that even James Monroe would blush. Nah. It seems much more likely that once the scorched earth has been re-inhabited by humanoid creatures who stumble on this burned out cinder in search for a likely source of carbon, remnants of our culture will be found by alien archaeologists who will point to this point in our history as a turning point. "Why did they elect such an obvious sociopath?" A dozen years from now may be too late for that kind of historical perspective from anyone currently living on this planet. This great boon to comedians and satirists is ultimately more dangerous than we can imagine because no one is taking him at his word. As he steamrolls along, declaring this and thundering about that, we tend to forget that this is the leader of the free world speaking. Not a cartoon character. Not a reality TV host. This is the President of these United States throwing around his brand of "truth" while the rest of us continue to flinch. Or fall back asleep. 
Please don't let that happen. Stay awake. Midterm elections are coming. Let's be ready with another flurry of even more effective "voter fraud" in 2018. In the meantime, you can play the fun game of guessing how long it will be until he does something truly impeachable. It's just a matter of time. The time we have left. 

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Just A Game

What a difference a year makes. I sat in my living room and watched the Super Bowl. The important feature of that last sentence is the verb. Not "watched" but "sat." The year before, I paced wildly about the kitchen and living room, with side trips to each bedroom and still managed to see most every play. I was on my feet for all of SB L. When SB LI rolled around, I was relaxed and confident in the pot of chili we had simmering on the stove. I knew where the chips were, and I had baked cookies with M&Ms in them. A year ago, I remember eating, but mostly as a function of moving about the house. Chewing was punctuation.
The fiftieth Super Bowl was emphatic. Fifty-one was resigned.
Months ago, when it became apparent that there would be no title defense from the Denver Broncos, I looked around the league for a bandwagon upon which I could hop. Maybe it was the overall lack of enthusiasm America had for the National Football League this year. Perhaps our minds were consumed with other things. Maybe after fifty-one years some of the mystery is gone.
Or it could be the mood levelers. The fact that I have been medicated throughout this football season may have something to do with my less than ecstatic reaction to the events that have unfolded over this football season. The peaks and valleys in the Autumn of 2016 have not been as extreme. There has been plenty of joy, and a little despair, but overall professional sports have not held the same kind of vicarious allure they once did. And growing older couldn't hurt. The annual cycle from training camp to Super Bowl repeats itself with such fluidity that I have to review my Roman numerals to keep it all straight.
This does not keep me from being a fan. It keeps me from being a fanatic. This does not keep me from cheering for this team or that, but knowing that my interests are essentially arbitrary in the big picture, I will try and keep my eyes on the prize. Not the Lombardi Trophy, but the continued ability to enjoy life to its fullest regardless of the outcome of some over-hyped sports spectacle. Those are the winners: the ones who are enjoying their lives no matter what the point spread is. Your limbic system still needs a workout, so pick a team and start rooting. But remember: It's only a game. A great big, expensive, lavishly produced game with millions of dollars riding on it.
No worries.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

What Do We Know?

Where were you during the Great Bowling Green Massacre? It was some time ago, back in 2011. Kellyanne Conway remembers: “I bet it’s brand-new information to people, that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.” 
How can this be? The American Media is crazy nuts for murderous rampages, and the American Public tends to eat it up with a spoon, since they want to get every bloody drop. Mark Wahlberg will most likely be starring in the film version, right? 
Except it never happened. The "massacre" was not exactly a "massacre." It was an arrest. Two Iraqi refugees who were arrested in 2011 in Bowling Green, Kentucky for plotting to send weapons and money back to Iraq. The two men admitted to attacking U.S. troops in Iraq but had not executed or plotted any attacks in the United States. The discovery of the two men led to a six-month pause in processing refugee applications, a new background check system for visa applications and a slowing of Special Immigrant Visas, but there was never a total ban on Iraqi travelers or refugees. No massacre. No six month ban on refugees. 
This was the way the Twit administration has chosen to rationalize their "territorial ban" on a group of Muslim nations. The current and ongoing number of deaths attributed from radicalized terrorists from those seven nations here in the United States is zero. 
Which reminds me of a joke: Kellyanne Conway is standing out on the South Lawn of the White House, waving her arms and making gurgling noises. A concerned Anderson Cooper approaches her carefully and asks, "Ms. Conway? Are you alright?"
At first there is no response, since Anderson Cooper comes from CNN. The gurgling continues.
"Ms. Conway, are you okay."
Still flapping her arms, Kellyanne hisses, "Of course I'm okay."
"So what exactly are you doing."
Between gurgles, "I'm keeping the alligators away."
"Surely you know that there are no alligators in Washington D.C.," asserts the indefatigable Anderson Cooper. 
Still flapping, the special counsel to the President of the United States replies, "See how well it's working?"
And so it goes. Alternatively speaking. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Hammer

There were eight of them. I spied them from across the playground. Eight fourth grade boys who were making the most of their moment on the playstructure, cavorting about and slamming into one another as only fourth grade boys can do. They were doing that thing that fourth grade boys do. I was doing that thing that elementary school yard duty teachers do. I was walking across the yard to tell them to knock it off.
Why? It could be that I am simply an old curmudgeon who stopped having fun forty years or so ago and can't abide by the notion of anyone else having anything that resembles that fun now. That didn't seem completely accurate, but as I strode across the asphalt on the way to my young charges, I considered that possibility. Most of the time I am a bit of a pushover when it comes to consequences during recess. If I can get a full stop and a semblance of what following the rules is supposed to look like, I will turn them back to their own devices, with the admonition that being safe is the primary requisite for the play on my playground. And I am consistent. The rules are the rules, and the one that was set out some years ago after we had two broken bones in a six week period involving upper grade kids and our climbing apparatus said, "Only Kindergarten through Second Grade allowed on the playstructure." It took some getting used to, but over time it became a rite of passage: Once you were a big kid, you moved on from the playstructure to other pursuits. Like four square, or soccer or standing around in clusters of boys talking about Pokemon or girls talking about boys talking about Pokemon. You can always tell when we get a new kid in the upper grades from another school because they will the the one hanging all by him or herself on the monkey bars. It is the law of the jungle gym. These four young men were not in that category, and so I was trying to figure out my play as I made my way purposefully toward them.
These were the boys who often played some variation of super hero all star wrestling in various corners of the playground and I have to make at least one cautionary pass by to remind them that hitting and kicking even "just playing" tends to lead to real punching and eventual crying. It's a pretty well worn path. Now they had moved their escapades to the forbidden zone. "Hey," I barked as I grew nearer and called each one by name. Seven of them stopped in their tracks, figuring correctly that I had them dead to rights. The eighth skittered off, much to the dismay of his pals. I was just warming up my patented lecture on being safe, responsible and respectful over the lamentations of the boys who wanted to know why their buddy didn't have to get in trouble. That's when one of our volunteers came up to let me know that this same crew had already been asked to stop playing there, and yet here they were.
This skipped them up a category. I told them that ignoring and disrespecting another adult would not be acceptable, which is when number eight decided to return, full of excuses for his actions. I interrupted with their sentence: "Five minutes on the bench. If you hurry up and get set down I can start your time so you can still have some recess left." Off they scampered, grumbling but compliant. I used the next few moments to check out the rest of the yard. The standard activities and knots of boys and girls. Check. Boys sitting on benches. Check. And that's when the gift appeared.
The mother of boy number eight came out of the building just in time to catch her son sitting with his conspirators, looking as guilty as could be. When I walked up, she had already begun her own version of the lecture in ways that teachers never quite touch. The smirks that had been on the boys' faces were gone. Especially number eight. I stood and waited for mom to finish, which was a good seven minutes, but none of the offenders flinched in the direction of leaving the area. It was a moment when I was happy to have my authority usurped. There were no tears, but number eight came close. "You've got a couple minutes left to go to the bathroom and get some water," I intoned as mom stared them down. They got up slowly and found their way to the water fountain without a peep or a look back over their shoulder. They didn't want to catch mom glaring back.
I thanked mom for taking one for me, and I realized just how heady a cocktail motherly disappointment can be. If only we could bottle it and have it at our disposal for every recess. Of course, we wouldn't want to use it up, would we?

Monday, February 06, 2017


Suddenly I found myself thinking of Geraldo Rivera. Not the graying, mildly conflicted Fox News talking head, but the syndicated talk show host from 1988 who once invited a panel of skinheads onto his program alongside a group of Jewish and African-American activists. Who would have guessed that such a mix would bring about a brawl that lived for many years as a prime example of what was wrong with television. Not that it kept any of us from watching, of course. When you put a porcupine in charge of a balloon factory, you can't help but slow down and watch as things start to happen.
This is the only reason that I could possibly imagine for the invitation from the University of California at Berkeley to be extended to conservative commentator and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos to give a speech at their student union. The fact that a great portion of that student union is made of glass will be an architectural detail that figures in this story greatly in just a minute. 
Sorry for the suspense there, but who would have imagined that, just two hours before Mister Yiannopoulos was supposed to issue forth with his own peppy version of the world and its realities, a riot would ensue? Sure, I can get the high-minded ideal of having the voice of the alt-right who has recently created a scholarship for white men only should be allowed to speak just yards away from the Free Speech Monument in Sproul Plaza. What better showcase of higher learning and the First Amendment? What happens when you throw a gallon of gasoline at an open flame? Inquiring minds want to know. 
The news story would have been: "Alt Right Celebrity Milo Yiannopoulos Speaks At Berkeley And Thoughtful Exchange Occurs." Instead, the bread landed jelly side down, as it always does, and one hundred thousand dollars of damage was inflicted on and around that great big glass building. A riot? In Berkeley? Like the fog rolling in across the bay, it's a natural phenomenon. Just as we who live in this area have become accustomed to accepting things like the ground shifting beneath us, we are not yet able to forecast every act of civil disobedience, but we know that we live in an area that is prone to such experience. The Big One is always waiting to happen, but you can bet if you dug down deep enough and started poking at the Hayward Fault, you could probably bring it on. 
Like inviting Milo to Berkeley. Now King Twit believes that the University should be defunded. So much for the thoughtful exchange. 
It's like 1988 all over again. Because that was so fun. 

Sunday, February 05, 2017

The Sound Of The Fury

It is probably the lame-stream media that is to blame, but I am growing tired of reading headlines that read things like "Trump Blasts," "Trump Threatens," "Trump Squelches" and so on. It would be so very nice to have a day of news that didn't include some sort of rant, tweet or bellow that issued forth from the White House. 
However, I don't expect that time to be coming in the next four years or so. As mellifluous as I might have found the speaking style of Barack Obama, I feel just the opposite about the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Those oft-parodied pauses in Obama's speech were, I believe placed there for thought. Not just on the his part, but on the listener's as well. What we hear now comes in one hundred forty character bursts that seem to land on our ears with the understanding that it up to us to figure out what he meant.
"Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!"
 "Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!"
"If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?"
Sometimes it's difficult to put a voice to the words we read on social media. Not in this case. The cadence and delivery is easily translatable to those of King Tweet. Sitting around a table on the First of February, opening Black History Month, all those random disassociated ideas came pouring out. “You all read about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office, and it turned out that it was fake news,” Tweet said at the top of the meeting, which was attended by roughly twenty civil rights and religious leaders and black members of the Tweet administration. “Fake news. The statue is cherished. It’s one of the favorite things in the — and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln. And we have Jefferson. And we have Dr. Martin Luther King. … But they said the statue, the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched.” He did go on: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today,” the "President" continued. “Big impact.”
I don't know if I can get used to this. I am pretty sure I don't want to.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

This Space For Rent

There aren't ads on this page. Not yet, anyway. Over the past few months, I have struggled with the idea of how to provide more traffic to my little corner of Al Gore's Internet. Not because I am tremendously interested in selling you all aluminum siding or its environmentally conscious counterpart, solar panels. Instead, I am consumed with the notion that if I were to find a way to coerce people to click on my link, then I wouldn't have that feeling that I am living in an echo chamber.
You remember back in November, where all of us self-absorbed snowflakes looked out our windows and stopped seeing that reflection of ourselves but instead began to see the sea of red baseball caps with "Make America Great Again" stitched into them? Since then, I haven't stopped rambling on here about how things would be so much better if only everyone would see things my way. Even if that way happens to be a little convoluted and hard to track at times. Mostly, it rings pretty true to your standard bleeding-heart-liberal song and dance that I have spouted since I was in sixth grade, trying to figure out how we could impeach Nixon. I wrote poems and drew cartoons. A few of them were published in my Columbine Elementary's collection of student art and writing. I received a lot of praise and attaboys at the time. It was great for my pre-pubescent self-esteem. I figured my life would therefore be a series of such accolades as a response to my ever-expanding literary prowess.
That's not exactly what happened. I am truly gratified that I frequently enter into conversation with family and friends who tell me that they loved that blog I wrote about this or that. Gratifying, and since I don't need the same kind of reassurance I did when I was twelve, I get by. And yet, I still yearn for those moments when a comment appears in my email from a total stranger who had heard that this was the place to find truth. Or something like it.
Or maybe I could be introduced to someone and over the course of the moments we shared, I offer up my blogging as one of my character attributes, to which that person might respond, "Oh, you're the guy who writes that? Thank you for keeping it real."
Or something less affected than that. Do I think that putting ads on this page would make it more likely for that kind of interaction to take place? Not really. It's in my imagination, the place where all those ideas that you read when you stop by come from. Putting a commercial to the left of my words would probably put some of my potential audience off, and even worse it could distract them for their main purpose: soaking up all the wit and wisdom for which you stopped by here in the first place.
So I'll have to find another way to bring in the converts.
Please stand by.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Terminal Case

There was that Steven Spielberg movie where that cute Tom Hanks adopted a funny accent and got himself stuck in an airport because he can't get into the United States, and he can't go back to his country because of a military coup. I know. It sounds crazy, doesn't it? A passport that doesn't work anymore? How could that be? Well, that movie was based on the eighteen year odyssey of Mehran Karimi Nasseri who lived in the departure lounge of Terminal One in France's Charles de Gaulle Airport from 1988 to 2006. He was bounced back to Paris after he attempted to fly to London where he claimed to have family. The British wouldn't take him, and after he was arrested upon his return to France, the French police had to let him go because his entry into their country was legal, but he still didn't have a place to go since he had been expelled from Iran.
Wackiness ensued for Monsieur Nasseri. But that was Europe. That kind of junk doesn't happen here, unless it's from the mind of the guy who brought us E.T. and Close Encounters. And that Forrest Gump fellow. He's so funny and patriotic. This could never happen in real life. In America?
Oops. Sorry. I forgot to mention that in this particular scenario the most recent election turned out in such a way as to facilitate such chicanery. What if you woke up one morning and somebody had changed the rules about who could come into our country and when? With one stroke of his specially formed for tiny hands pen, "President" Trump stranded hundreds of travelers in airports across our country. Suddenly it was illegal for anyone from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen to try and test that whole huddled mass thing you've probably heard about. News Flash: The Statue of Liberty has become more like the Statue of Irony.
And if you take into account that that particular lady was a gift from France, it becomes just a little more annoying. Half a million people who are legally entitled to come back to their homes in the United States were barred from doing just that by an executive order scribbled on by a scary man who used to be on TV.
And now he's brought his peculiar version of reality to have his way with ours. Tom Hanks will not be appearing in this version. Just a whole bunch of very unhappy folks who believed that myth of America. Make it stop. Now.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Second String

Gary Kubiak resigned from his head coaching position with the Denver Broncos. This came in the wake of a nine win, seven loss season which came in the wake of a Super Bowl winning season the year before. The Denver Broncos will not be defending their championship this Sunday. Instead, like so many of the rest of us, Gary will be sitting back and watching from the comfort of his couch. Or maybe a luxury box somewhere in Houston. Gary used to be the head coach for the Texans, whose stadium will be the site of Super Bowl Fifty-One.
Gary did not coach the Texans in a Super Bowl. He won his share of games there, but never "the big one." He did coach in more than the Super Bowl he won as the Broncos' head coach. He was an assistant coach with that same team for ten years, including the two that included the franchise's first two Super Bowl wins. He was also an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers when they won a Super Bowl back in 1994. And before that, he was the backup quarterback for the face of the Denver Broncos, John Elway, starting in 1983.
That was a long time ago. It took Gary Kubiak thirty-some years to rise to the pinnacle of his profession, after spending a career watching from the sidelines. Such is the nature of second string. If you ascribe to that notion that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then you can imagine that spending that much time around Super Bowl caliber players and coaches must have forged quite a sturdy bit of character for Mister Kubiak. I want to believe this because I spent a good chunk of my athletic career on the second string.
I was a wrestler on the B Mat. This meant that I wrestled the second best wrestler that the opposition had in my weight class. This was because I had the relative good fortune of being on a team that generated three different state champions. Eventually. We were in junior high at the time, but these were guys whose families lived and breathed the sport. I went out for wrestling because it wasn't basketball, and my older brother had some success in that endeavor. Lots of sweating, lots of nose bleeds and still more sweating, and every Wednesday night we would have wrestle-offs to see who would be on A Mat for that week's match. I made several valiant attempts, but never made the grade. Most often, I felt secure enough in my B-ness to let it ride. The world needs more B Mat guys. That's what I told myself, anyway.
And now, the ultimate B Mat guy, Gary Kubiak is riding off into the sunset. Congratulations to him for managing all those egos without ever losing track of his own. And winning that trophy for himself. Thanks for showing us how important that second string is.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Time for a quick physics review: For every action (fill in the blank), _________________. I'll give you a moment to check Wikipedia. I you already knew that the answer was "there is an equal and opposite reaction," then you get your gold star for the day. If you answered "an executive order," then you can still have a gold star, but it comes from the sarcastic bin. And while we're talking about bins, let's just hop up the vowel list and discuss bans. The ban on immigration  is "working out nicely" according to the Tangerine Tweet in Charge. Citizens from Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Somalia. are barred from entering the United States for ninety days. This includes people with current visas who may have temporarily departed, some of whom were detained or turned around after attempting to return to the U.S. Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. Or a paycheck or your ailing relative who may live outside the borders of United States. 
The intent is, of course, to keep the bad guys out. It also means that the bad guys who are already hard at work in those banned countries will have easier access to those they wish to torture, detain and kill who might have fled to sanctuaries like the United States. Just not the United States anymore because we are no longer in the sanctuary business. Just the opposite. We are now turning folks away and treating everyone as a perceived threat. Makes sense, since so many of the recent terrorist attacks on United States soil have been at the hands of Iranians, Sudanese, Syrian and - oh - you get the idea. Or do we? When it comes to terrorist attacks, we seem to have left Saudi Arabia off the list. That is the country that sent the majority of hijackers on September 11, 2001. Or New York, which is where Timothy McVeigh grew up. Okay, so maybe we need to expand the ban to include blue states as well as those countries teeming with Muslims and other troublemakers. Like Newtown, Connecticut. And while we're at it, maybe we should be detaining more of our own service men and women, since they seems to have an awful big hand in the planning and execution of terrorist activities on our shores. And while we're at it, why don't we go ahead and brace for the new wave of anger and righteousness we have just gifted fanatics across the globe who may have had an ax to grind with the U.S. in the first place. No more apologies needed here. We're just straight up disrespecting you and your religion to your face. 
When will the reaction come? Well that's the magic of this whole terrorism thing: We don't know. But now that we've made our move, you can be pretty sure that it's out there, somewhere. 
Sleep tight, America.