Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Big Savings

 For a while there, I was able to resent Black Friday because it was the day that deprived us of having our son at home for Thanksgiving. He worked retail in that big blue box full of electronics store. Never mind all the other reasons, the glorification of greed, the exultation of excess. Some believe that merchants liked the name because it meant that would no longer be "in the red" after the receipts had been counted up for this celebration of commercialism. This perception is infinitely preferable to the notion that there is doom and gloom attached to all that capitalism. So a few folks get trampled trying to make their way to the pallet of Playstation 5 consoles at the back of the store. It's all in the service of the almighty dollar. What could be more quintessentially American? 

Sadly, even though Thanksgiving as celebrated by Americans has not been adopted as freely as the day after by our friends across the globe. Folks in other countries can skip the turkey and stuffing and gear up more readily for the onslaught the day after at their local retailers. Perhaps not the export for which we should be most proud. 

Nonetheless, crowds of shoppers with visions of sugarplums and savings dancing in their heads hit the malls hard last Friday, in search of deals. Which they found. They also encountered gunfire. In Durham, North Carolina three people were shot as the spending melee continued until authorities closed the party down. Among the wounded was a ten year old child. The stampede in this case wasn't so much for merchandise as it was for self-preservation. Only one person got shot up in Tacoma, but the flood of humanity was similar. 

Meanwhile the new trend of "flash mob robberies" continues to spread as large groups of smash and grab thieves target mostly high-end retailers. Initially a California phenomenon, this crime frenzy managed to land in far away frigid Minneapolis on Friday. 

At a Best Buy. 

Am I happy to honor my son's wishes that we go nowhere near the mall on the day after Thanksgiving? Turns out it doesn't just save me a few bucks. It might be saving my life. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

The Practice

 I am grateful that I took all those piano lessons. I admit that I may not have always shown it. It felt, at the time, like a chore that I was saddled with and not the kind of chore could be completed and then move on. It was a commitment to time I pretended not to have. Practicing felt like homework, and why would I volunteer for any more of that? 

In my head, even now, I imagine myself sitting down at the keyboard, cracking my knuckles and proceeding to play all today's biggest hits. I was never going to be a guitar player, though the idea that I might stayed in my wish box for years after that possibility closed. I could have stuck with the piano. I lived with one for eighteen years. I learned to read music and understand how it worked. But never enough to master it. 

Those piano lessons stuck with me. All these years later, when I listen to a song, I can see the notes flying at me. I appreciate the math. The composition. There was just enough music theory in my lessons to build an understanding of sharps, flats, major and minor. Somewhere in there, I even had a little vocal training wedged in there. I can look back now and say that all this knowledge was important to creating the person I became. 

But I wanted out. I could not see myself doing the things that it would take to make me anything but a pretty good piano player. Instead, my focus switched to playing tuba. I had the lungs for it, and all that prior music knowledge helped me move right along. When I finished junior high, I finished piano lessons. Somewhere in my head, I had equated piano lessons with something that little kids did. At fifteen, I was all grown up and ready to take the world by storm. Me and my tuba. 

My father used to grumble about my choice of instruments. Why couldn't I play piccolo or something that would fit in my pocket or backpack? Whenever it was time to haul the school's sousaphone from school to home or vice versa, it was a project that required all the space we had in the back of the station wagon. I was part of a band, after all, and rehearsing is something that bands do. I was down with that, because it was mostly a social thing. Even though I was in a band with other kids in band, it was still social. It was something I wasn't getting with piano. 

When I played in the high school stage band, I watched the keyboard player. He was pretty good. So good, in fact, that he ended up playing with Gloria Estefan after he graduated. I didn't get the sense that he practiced. Ever. He just sat down and music poured out of him. That was the talent thing. Somewhere along the line, I figured that was what was missing from my musical experience. 

And now, the piano that I grew up with sits behind me, having made the trip across the country after being lovingly sent to me by my mother to look after. When I turn around, my mind fills with long ago afternoons of scales and arpeggios, metronomes and fingering charts. 

It's never too late. 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Human Offsets

 My wife introduced me a long time ago to the idea of trip linking. If we happen to be going out to Target to pick up some of life's necessities that can be found there, she would suggest that we also take that opportunity to drop off some dry cleaning. And maybe pick up something for dinner. And why not stop off and see if grandma needs help getting her wi-fi hooked up. Because this is more efficient and we feel better about all that gas we would be using if we made separate trips for all these errands. And since we're driving our hybrid car, we can feel all the more smug about the way we are saving our precious natural resources and avoiding putting fewer parts per million of carbon into our atmosphere. 

So we can get a deal on Tombstone frozen pizza. 

This is similar to the rationalization I make just about once a week as I ride my bike to work each day and enjoy our Meatless Monday dinner so that I can feel good about the cheeseburger I am going to enjoy on Friday night. I am pleased and happy to be relieved of any guilt for my carnivorous habits. 

I'm a good person, and I do all these amazing things to save the planet. Like put solar panels on our roof. And stay put instead of flying to points east or north or south. Or the way we recycle. We are monsters when it comes to keeping things out of the landfill. We sort varieties of plastic and if there is a way to re-purpose anything that might be labeled by someone less, we'll do it. So we can spend those other waking moments planning our trips to Disneyland. 

It's a lot of give and take, but we all know what the bottom line is: We are not fooling anyone. We are consumers and we consume like so many others. And the tomatoes we grew in the planter box out front, though delicious and bountiful, did not keep us from going to the grocery store up the street to buy more produce. Organic, of course. And we can walk there. So we don't feel so bad about those plastic bags when we forget the reusable ones we always bring along. Except when we forget them. 

The earth will forgive us, won't it? 

Saturday, November 27, 2021


 It's Infrastructure Week!

Or at least it was. Or will be soon. Or something like that. It is very difficult for me to tell. I have read the news about the trillion dollars that will soon be finding its way to the crumbling bridges and wobbly electrical grid. I am excited to think that things in my corner of these United States might get a taste of some of that money. 

Because my bicycle commute every day is horrible. The street on which I live is okay. A year ago the neighbor across the street bought himself some hot patch asphalt at Home Depot and proceeded to go up and down the block patching holes. If I was just going down the street, I would be fine, but that block drops me off in the middle of a hellscape that no man, beast or SUV can survive. And yet, every morning I go out and defy the odds by dodging and weaving my way up the hill and over to the next block. And the next. Each one has layers of absently placed pavement, intended at some point to fix the prior fix that had been laid down prior. This gives the whole avenue the look of a side of a volcano after hundreds of years of eruptions and lava pouring down and cooling. Add to this barely passable trek a series of sewer projects that somehow managed to find the path that I had chosen as the shortest distance between myself and my school. These have been progressing at a snail's pace over the past year, which makes me believe that there must have been some infrastructure cash laying around before this big windfall, since they have been going along, day after day, week after week, digging up chunks of street and leaving great metal plates to cover them overnight and into the early morning. When I am riding to work. 

Sections of this project have been completed, and one glorious hundred yard stretch is smooth and flat and painted and is a pleasure to pedal across. Until I reach the next phase that seems to be stuck on not quite done. Meanwhile, the holes that have had their metal plates removed receive the most casual covering with lumps that make it preferable to dodge than to simply roll across. I await the day when Infrastructure Week comes to a close and Straight Shot To Work Day begins. 

I know. Many of you would suggest taking alternate routes in the case of such tomfoolery. But I am a creature of habit, and frankly frightened by what evil fate might await me if I switched to one block over. I might never be seen again. Besides, I am getting older and I need to keep my senses sharp. 

Friday, November 26, 2021


 I was reading an article the other day opining about the state of the movie industry, specifically in the case of going to the well too often. They cited upcoming projects such as the origin story of Buzz Lightyear, as well as additional burdens to the already strained saga known as Star Wars. Where are all the new ideas? What is this fascination with exposition? 

There were TV shows crafted from the ugly beginnings of Bates Motel and Nurse Ratched. Because there was some comfort to be found in uncovering how those particular twigs became bent. It comes from the oft-occurring question, "Didja ever wonder how they got that way?"

And here's what I will say: Not really.

To be transparent here, I will confess an abiding and painstaking adoration for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That studio's willingness to pull on seemingly minor threads and come up with box office hits would be, for most people, a clinic on marketing the likes of which we have not seen before on this planet. Back stories are the stuff of comic book mythos, and I am happy to line up and stare into the dark at whatever story those folks decide to extrude. I await with great eagerness yet another reiteration of the Spider Man legend, this one is even being promoted as a rehash of prior versions. Which I am told is the selling point. At the same time, I can say that I am thoroughly bored with the scene where Bruce Wayne's parents get shot, pearls bouncing into the gutter while the orphaned billionaire begins his voyage to caped crusaderhood. I know that one. 

Just like the idea of turning The Hobbit into three movies was an exercise in overkill made possible by the success of the already great but cumbersome trilogy. And I paid to watch them all. Just like long ago and far away I lined up to see each new chapter of the Planet of the Apes pentalogy, only to surrender my allowance for the Tim Burton reboot and the most recent CGI enhanced entries into the "how did this all happen" sweepstakes. 

Did I mention that Harrison Ford is going to pull that leather jacket and fedora on one more time? Does the world need more Indiana Jones? I won't lie. I will keep an eye out for the next installment, and make my choice just prior to heading down to the theater. Because as much as I moan and whine about wanting something new, I will sit still for one more ride on that tired merry-go-round just in case there's something I missed on all those previous trips to the well. 

And came up empty. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

It's Dark Outside

 Let's cut to the chase: I am thankful to be alive. Thankful not to be part of the more than five million souls who have passed on because of the pandemic that has shaped and reshaped our lives for the past two Thanksgivings. 

I am thankful that my friends and family have made this same journey essentially unscathed. I am glad that the suffering most of us have experienced has been one of inconvenience and anxiety. Not respirators and hospital rooms.

I am thankful that science has mapped a path out of this mess. I am relieved to live in a time and a place where we live not with miracles but solutions to problems that give us hope and a chance to see another Thanksgiving. 

I am thankful for the people who have devoted their lives to controlling and healing all the ways that this disease has pushed us all to the brink. These are the heroes and the saviors, the ones who worked to exhaustion for days at a time and then got up and did it again.

I am thankful for the windows opened onto the world, allowing me the chance to stay in touch with all of those who have waited patiently for this storm to pass. In their homes. I am happy to have had the chance to watch and listen while they connect with me in ways that they can. 

I am thankful for this additional chance. A chance to keep breathing. A chance to keep moving about carefully without stirring up the clouds of pestilence that lurk about everywhere. I am grateful that I have evolved to a point where wearing a strip of cloth across my face is ticket to my freedom and not a limit to it. 

I am thankful for another day. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Ah, Youth!

 My wife wondered aloud if maybe "being a kid and playing all day" might be preferable to "being a grownup with a job." Sometimes the musings that fall from my wife's mouth are not fully formed, and become a cause for humor at her expense. She is the one who gave us the pithy observation that you should never make and assumption because that just makes an ass out of "you and umption." Which may be the reason that I was so quick to ridicule her question comparing carefree youth and the burden of adulthood. 

Seeing as how I am still thinking about that quaint little juxtaposition days later, it may have been a tad hasty to snicker. Certainly on the face of it the preference seems pretty obvious: work versus play. Oh for those carefree days of youth when climbing trees was recreational, and not a means to yard maintenance. Riding my bike was something I would do for hours with no particular destination. Now it's my conveyance to my job. And when I fell asleep at night, I would dream about the fun that I had or the fantasies of adventures yet to come. Now I dream of logistics and imagine ways to rearrange the furniture in my living room. 

When I was a kid, I thought for a moment that I knew love. I thought I knew pain. I suffered through both as if I were the first person to ever experience such things. I could not imagine that anyone had ever had the feelings that I was having. Well, as it turns out, there are a whole lot of people who have had similar emotions, many of whom were able to express them in ways that made it easier to bear. Most of these were adults, since they were the ones with the wherewithal to do that sort of thing. It wasn't until I became an adult that I realized that there was magic in the mundane. All the effort I had expended when I was young trying to be unique wasted in the face of the realization that having company for this ride. 

In childhood, everything is fresh and new, including the fears. I was paralyzed by the thought of being away from my family, away from home. If I had never grown up, I might still be clinging to the life that felt safe. Because ignorance is bliss. Once you start to stack up some years, knowledge begins to accrue and hopefully right behind that comes wisdom. And now that I am older, I am happy to have that. Or at least what passes for wisdom these days. I am wise enough to know that I really wouldn't want to be a kid again. I am happy to know that all that angst is behind me.

Except for the furniture moving. I still have to figure that out.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Everlasting Gobstopper

 I watched a video taken by one of my colleagues. It featured the burgeoning gymnastics talent of her eldest daughter. It ended abruptly as one of the younger sisters moved forward into the range of the outstretched leg of her older sister as it swung around the bar. It stopped just short of the kind of "funny moment" that might have won them one hundred thousand dollars when submitted for the approval of ABC's TV executives. Which would probably just about cover the expense of the therapy needed for that child or those children to overcome the moment when mommy probably should have put down the phone. 

No worries here. The collision was averted, and then made even better by a second video which featured the younger sister hanging on the bar in a similar fashion, with many of the same exclamations of pride from behind the camera. It was all fresh and new. Which filled me with a sense of relief for being the parent of an only child. All of my enthusiasm for my son's efforts have been genuine and unrehearsed. 

For the most part. There have certainly been instances when he has gone to the well one too many times for the reaction to his latest Lego creation or ability to leap from the bed to the floor. Ta dah! Still, his actions and accomplishments have filled photo albums and memory cards and our hippocampi because of their specialness. 

And what I keep coming back to is the commitment to keeping things vital for all the kids. All three of my colleague's daughters get their moment in the sun. They are young enough when what this means is that each one will mirror the other, most often with the oldest leading the charge. But that doesn't mean that the twins don't feel the sunshine of mom and dad's love at the same level. This is what we call "a parenting challenge."

There are those who go so far as to be obvious about who their favorite is. These are the families that could really use that America's Funniest Home Video prize money to pay for all the bruised egos and shattered expectations. They won't be the ones taking that second, third, or subsequent bits of siblings making their contributions to the family legacy. 

Which brings me back to the swarming appreciation I have for my sainted mother, who kept her interest for her three boys' endeavors as fresh as the morning dew. Hanging from the swingset, scene by scene recitations of the latest Planet of the Apes movie we all saw, science fair projects, birthday cakes, and any possible need for focused adult attention. She had it. In seemingly neverending streams, she had it. And no, I don't want to know if she was ever faking. I know that parents would never do that. 


Monday, November 22, 2021

Every Day

 I will admit that when COVID-19 first reared its ugly head in its most terrible fashion, I held in a fascination: How bad will this get? I recall telling kids in those February days before we were all sent home that masks weren't really necessary. But I wondered when we would all be asked to shelter in place. As healthy as my respect is for nature, severe weather earthquakes disease drought and so on, I wondered about catastrophe coming to my world. Would there be hazmat suits and bottled oxygen. Would there be food riots? Would there be bodies in the street? Would I die? What about my family?

As we round the bend of our second full year of pandemic, that dark fascination has been replaced by extreme boredom and the complacency of surrender. How much of my life is ruled by the Way Things Are. Lining up to get whatever injection I need. Putting on a mask to answer the door. Being fully aware of the space between me and other human beings. At all times. Seeing the world around me as potential danger spots, and learning more than I ever wanted to about infectious disease. Because this is where I live now: in the heart of the humdrum worldwide pandemic. 

Will I even know what to do when we are released for this phase of reality. How will it feel for the lower half of my face to feel the breeze and see the light of day? What will replace all those reminders of germs looking for hosts that I pass along to the children at my school? How much time will we all save when we don't have to stop at the hand sanitizing station every time we go to lunch or recess or down the hall for a time out? 

I feel a bit ashamed for the thrill I had buried underneath that initial terror. How could I have known that this would become everyday life? How could I have imagined a world that could lose millions of souls to a deadly virus and still complain about the price of gasoline? 

Maybe I should have expected it. 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Too Close

 Have you ever been censured? Have you ever tried?

Forgive, but the strains of that old Olivia Newton John song just came tumbling out as I sat down to write this. I apologize for its lack of connection to what follows, but it was on my mind, so I figured I should share it.

Back to censure. It is the formal, public condemnation of an individual by a group. The group involved here and the public condemnation is dropping on Arizona Representative Paul "Monkey D" Gosar. In case you missed it, because you aren't on Twitter or aren't a fan of anime or would prefer to believe that public displays of stupidity do not emanate from the halls of Congress, Representative Gosar (rhymes with "gross are") posted a doctored up clip from Attack on Titan that depicted a character with the congressperson's face pasted on it killing another character with Alexandra Ocasio Cortez's face pasted on it. With swords. Then turning to yet another character with President Joe Biden's face cut and pasted on it with those same weapons. The tweet was introduced, "Any anime fans out there?"

Let's start with the low hanging fruit. If you believe that this dentist from Flagstaff spends any of the time he has left over after opposing gun control, immigration, and the Affordable Care Act while supporting groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and the amorphous blob known as "Trump" watching anime, then maybe you don't fully reckon on the posse of wingnuts he employs on his social media team. Imagining Gosar laboring over the thirty-six seconds of video to get it "just right" is exponentially more amusing than the content of the clip. 

For his "efforts," Mister Gosar was stripped of his committee positions in the House and became the first member of the House to be censured since 2010, and a member of a group that numbers over history at twenty-four. He is also proud to be one of the five dentists currently serving in the House of Representatives. He is also standing firm on the assertion that he did nothing wrong.

Which is pretty awful, when you consider what would happen if someone who worked at Target did a similar thing to a co-worker and his boss. Or maybe a dental hygienist in the employ of a Flagstaff dentist. Hypothetically. Two hundred twenty-three members of Congress felt this was worth noting. For another two hundred three those images of death and dismemberment were "just kidding around."

Who'da thought it would be that close.

Sleep tight, America. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Killer Resume

 Go ahead. Start the clock. It's only a matter of time before Kyle Rittenhouse finds himself on the wrong back end of trouble again. The jury acquitted the eighteen year old killer last Friday and if I was a betting man I would wager a large sum that this is not the last time this young man finds himself in front of a judge. 


He got away with murder. He shot and killed two people, wounding another. He managed to get away with that before he was twenty. What frontiers are ahead of him one can only imagine. I use as my frame of reference another acquitted murderer, George Zimmerman. After being found innocent of killing seventeen year old Trayvon Martin, Mister Zimmerman claimed he acted in self defense, in addition to citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground Law" as his justification. That was in July of 2013. A few months later, in November of that same year, George was arrested on a complaint made by his girlfriend who claimed that he had pointed a shotgun at her. That charge was dropped. Fast forward to January 2015, when it wasn't a shotgun but a bottle thrown at his girlfriend Those charges were dropped. George Zimmerman was twenty-eight years old when he took Trayvon Martin's life. 

Kyle Rittenhouse has ten more years to play with. 

And here is what I can say: I was not there on that night. I was not an eyewitness to the events that ended up taking the lives of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber. But there was never any real argument about whether or not Kyle Rittenhouse killed these men. A weapons charge regarding semi-automatic rifle that says that someone under eighteen is legally prohibited from carrying in Wisconsin was tossed out by the judge. Along with any semblance of restorative justice. 

There are some things about which we can be certain: This was not a trial about killing innocents. It was yet another attempt to prop up the status quo. The fact that white lives were lost at a Black Lives Matter protest is no comfort for anyone outside of the terrified white folks who believe that their way of life is under siege. By contrast, those whose lives are truly under siege every day continue to be brushed aside and treated as expendable. If I were a betting man, I would double down on that same court finding a black defendant guilty on all counts. 

And we will be seeing Kyle Rittenhouse in a courtroom again. 

Congress's recently censured idiot Paul Gosar tweeted that he would "arm wrestle @mattgaetz to get dibs for Kyle as an intern."


Friday, November 19, 2021

Crime Scene Investigation

 Last week, a mother and her eleven year old daughter were shot through the window of their Oakland home. In what has to be the goriest possible version of the Pollyana game, both are expected to survive their injuries. Which leaves them with a few options: move away from the place they have called home, living with the memories of walking past that window every day. Or they could move. This rings the bell in my head that sounds like "the terrorists win." I suspect there is a Lifetime Network movie already sketched out in which this brave pair not only remain in their house, but rally the neighborhood around them and force the miscreants from their block, their city, and their lives forever. 

But that's not how it works in real life. So far this year in Oakland, only thirty-one percent of the homicides in Oakland have resulted in arrests. One third, even as the murder rate continues to rise. We here in the East Bay are not alone in this as the United States continues to suffer through the additional pandemic of people killing one another. 

Unlike their TV counterparts, the victims of these crimes have their files moved to the unsolved cabinet while bodies continue to fall in the streets. And homes. And parking lots. And convenience stores. Statistics are kept in terms of "cleared" cases: those which the perpetrator has been arrested or merely identified. Prosecution is not part of that equation.

So where is the justice? Where is the peace? Where is the solace, the closure? 

Not on the streets of Oakland. The streets of Chicago. The streets of Albuquerque, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Memphis, Milwaukee and Syracuse. This sort of festival of death doesn't leave much room for escape. The virus of anger and fear continues to rage on even as we continue to practice our safety measures for COVID-19.

Sadly, there is currently no vaccine for idjits with guns. That window will be replaced. The wounds will begin to heal, and we will brace for what happens next, because this isn't a carefully orchestrated plan executed by master criminals. CSI will not be coming forward with their genius link between all these murders anytime soon, unless it's to say that they have uncovered a link between stupid people and guns. So there's your solace, I guess. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021


 I looked it up: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. If this is the case, I have been guilty of contempt on several occasions. I spent twelve of the past twenty years in a nearly constant state of contempt. It just so happens that my feelings are not at odds with the will and direction of our elected officials. Not in the way that someone like Steve Bannon's are.

That's a different kind of contempt. I looked that up, too. That one would be: the offense of being disobedient to or disrespectful of a court of law and its officers. In Mister Bannon's case, I believe the term "thumbing his nose" would be appropriate. That one is defined thus:- to show very clearly that one does not like or care about something. This comes from: To place a thumb upon the tip of the nose, typically with the fingers spread and while simultaneously wiggling one's fingers, in a gesture of disrespect.

Again, as gestures go, I have confess to using many of them to illustrate my disrespect for so very much of what has taken place in and around the White House over the past two decades. My thumb may or may not have been the digit I used in these consciously orchestrated fits of derision. 

And once again I feel compelled to state that at no time was I summoned to appear before any body or magistrate to discuss these gestures of my willingness to divulge the reasons behind my disregard. What you are reading now is pretty much a continuing list of those disappointments and grievances. If someone from the United States Congress called me up, or delivered one of those subpoena things to my door, I suppose it might give me pause. But I would probably go ahead and hand over whatever it is that I have got to explain my position. 

Because it's the government calling, after all. I don't believe that I am above the government, in spite of all that kvetching and whining that I have done. They wouldn't have to come to my door with guns and tasers and handcuffs. Mister Bannon is not an elected official. He is the host of a podcast. He has insisted over and over that his old boss, the host of a game show, maintains executive privilege. I looked that one up too: to withhold information in the public interest. It has been used by our nation's chief executive since George Washington

Only here's the deal: Neither the game show host nor the podcast host is currently our nation's chief executive. 

I looked that up, too. And it fills me with contempt. For Steve Bannon and the game show host for whom he once worked. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Not Dead Yet

 There is a scene in the classic film This Is Spinal Tap in which the befuddled rockers try to understand why being labeled "sexist" is a bad thing upon their release of their album Smell The Glove. "Well, so what? What's wrong with being sexy?" wonders guitar virtuoso Nigel Tufnel. Their manager opines to the record exec, "It's 1982!" 

For historical perspective, it wasn't until 1985 that People Magazine began publishing their annual Sexiest Man Alive issue. That one featured a twenty-nine year old Mel Gibson on the cover. The first thing I would like to point out is that the balloting excludes, by definition, dead guys. Dead guys are not traditionally thought of as being particularly sexy, but they are notably sexist as a group. That's where a lot of your sexist thought originated: Dead guys. Misogyny is an ancient Greek word, after all. 

So you can see how tangled this web gets: sexy and sexist seem to come as a package. Now it's 2021, and People Magazine has selected Paul Rudd as this year's Sexiest Man Alive. Fifty-two year old Paul Rudd. We love Paul Rudd, but is he really the Sexiest Man Alive? Certainly age has very little to do with it, since Sean Connery was seven years older than Mister Rudd back in 1989 when he won the title. Sexy is as sexy does, it would seem. The same could be said of sexism, I expect. 

Selecting Paul Rudd is a pretty safe move by the crew at People Magazine. not the open-shirt-smoldering-gaze crew that we might have expected. Does that mean they are not being sexist? Or are they simply making a good faith gesture in a male-dominated planet that does not have to wait a year to laud women for their sexiness. This People Magazine thing is just an annual distraction from the flood of sexist depictions of women regardless of their age and station. 

And just in case you were wondering, I already told People Magazine to take my name out of the running, so you can't get me for conflict of interest. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Eco Echo

 In my childhood, I wandered the woods near our mountain cabin, earnestly embodying the words I ascribe to comic's naturalist, Mark Trail: Leave only footprints. Take only memories. As I walked through the aspen groves and the stands of majestic pines, I was on the lookout for the scourge of litter. This was the late sixties, after all, and the combined forces of Iron Eyes Cody and Woodsy the Owl had been imprinted on my soul. I would not let someone else's candy wrapper spoil my pristine wilderness experience. Many was the day that I would pick up other's trash as I made my way to whatever location I might have chosen for a hike. Returning home, I would empty my own refuse in the proper receptacles along with that of those who were apparently born without sense or conscience.  

This training lingers in my habits today. Walking across the schoolyard there are not many trips that don't find me picking up the stray wrapper, water bottle or empty Cheetos bag. I stay in shape by bending down to tie children's shoelaces and applying the occasional Band-Aid to a skinned knee. As long as I'm so close to the ground, I might as well pick up that discarded piece of paper. But it's a Sisyphean task. Litter rains down on that playground, in spite of my efforts, exhortations and encouragement. A neighbor drops by our school on a regular basis to lead kids on garbage detail, aided by a picker they can use to tweeze smaller bits into a five gallon bucket they carry with them. There is a lot of job security in this effort, since trash seems to spawn in their brief absence. There is always more litter to be picked up. 

Which brings me to my Saturday morning run. Quite often I pause in my stride long enough to scoop up some plastic bag or scrap of someone else's takeout packaging. I definitely do not stop for every bit of rubbish. I would not make it very far down the streets of Oakland if I did that. I would be worn out before I made it just a few blocks. But on this particular day, I was out enjoying the morning sun when I came up behind a large woman savoring the last of her Budweiser tallboy. Though it was just before ten o'clock, I chose to allow her this morning libation. As I came closer, I watched as she dumped the last few ounces into the gutter. No doubt this was the dregs of what had been a satisfying breakfast brew. Then, as part of that same motion, she lobbed the can into the street. Now just a couple steps behind her, I scooped up her empty and as I moved past her on the right, I pitched it into the recycling bin that stood in a row with the others in front of the apartment complex. I gave her a wink and a tip of my sweaty ball cap as we made the briefest of eye contact. 

"You're welcome," I smiled. Then I was on my way once again, ready to annoy and/or enhance my neighborhood whenever and however possible. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

Enough Already

 Because of course he did.

The former game show host and twice-impeached "president" defended his supporters who called for the hanging of his vice president, Mike Pence. “Well, the people were very angry.” 

After he assumed that his second in command "was well-protected, and I had heard that he was in good shape,” the lord of obsolescence asserted, “It’s common sense that you’re supposed to protect. How can you ... if you know a vote is fraudulent, right? How can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress? How can you do that?”

Was this statement made in some dark corner of the White House, recorded surreptitiously and held under wraps because of some warped version of executive privilege? Well, no. It was part of an interview his royal Narcissist gave to author Jonathan Karl back in March. Four months after the election that he lost and two months after insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on his behalf. At his urging.  

In that odd but somehow familiar ramble from His Royal Foolishness, he used the phrase " common sense that you're supposed to protect." Protect what? The Constitution? Your running mate and personal attack dog from the previous four years? Democracy? 

No. It was the continued cry of the Boo Hoo Bird and his followers. "Fraudulent!" Without any basis, evidence, and after numerous recounts of those same tired ballots who would be much more comfortable resting in a recycling mill on their way to becoming placemats for McDonalds. If this is the stuff we can find in interviews given freely to a journalist from ABC News, one can only imagine what might be found among the litter of papers that he and his tiny hands are trying to keep the world from seeing. 

Maps of the Capitol, marked up with Shaprie, pointing the way to Nancy Pelosi's office, with scribbles n the margins like "wreck stuff" and "fight for your dear leader!" 

It's been more than a year since the election that brought all this ugliness to a head. Now it's time, at the risk of rhyming, to put this thing to bed. Even Facebook had it together enough to ban this twit from its pages, why not just ban him from running for elected office and call it a day? 

I, for one, have seen and heard enough. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Artificial Sweetening

 At our weekly family meeting, during the Big Question section, my son asked, "Is it time to be worried about computers in everything?" It would have probably been a little bit of a letdown for him to hear his parents' reply, but he wasn't in attendance that evening. He had used our computer-assisted agenda system to insert his question into the discussion. Later, upon his return home, I told him that his mother and father only took a few moments to decide that we were not freaked out by the advances in artificial intelligence and machines thinking for us. I was proud that his response was appropriately geeky.

"Aren't you worried about Google becoming self-aware? Which one of these 'assistants' will go rogue, like Skynet?" His Terminator reference was well-placed, and certainly the worry that a nuclear war would be brought about by an overzealous app is pretty creepy science fiction, but it didn't sway me.

I have grown far to used to shouting into the dark for Google to turn on the lights for me. Or having the capacity to discern an earworm that got stuck in my head purely by accident. "What was that song?" It has also rid me of the anxiety I find in stopping to ask for directions. Google will get me there. Even if everyone in the car wants to argue with the route, somehow we manage to find our collective way. Me and my robotic overlords.

Did I say "overlords?" I meant protectors.

My wife does have limits to her surrender. She insists on keeping the light switch in our bedroom as the one manual flip required at the end of the day. I was more than comfortable with the chance to call out for assistance from the warmth and safety of my bed for the darkness to come. Just as I have handed the responsibility of waking me for work each day to that electric puck, now available in decorator colors. I confess that it will be a sad day when I report to school an hour late "because of Google," but I don't expect I will be alone in that moment of crisis.

What I tried to explain to my son was that I am at an age when I am more than happy to hand over the day to day trivialities of my life to machines. Pressing a power button on an appliance seems like an absurd amount of work, and this holiday season I look forward to another year of having our outdoor twinklefest begin and end with the sound of my voice each night.

I don't expect that Google or Siri or Alexa will try anything as grandiose as nuclear war to bring us to our knees. They'll do it by systematically lowering our ability to think and do for ourselves. Soon, we'll be following their directions to the nearest mill for processing. Soylent Green for everyone!

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Long Ago And Far Away

 I first became aware of this story when I read a tweet about it: "This confirms that the NRA may not be filled with the most likeable people."

The story was about how, in the wake of the massacre at Columbine High School back in 1999, senior leaders of the National Rifle Association were discussing the optics of their pending convention in Denver just days and a few miles away from the site of all that gun violence. Jim Baker, chief lobbyist for the guns and ammo club, was recorded saying, "At that same period where they're going to be burying these children, we're going to be having media. Trying to run through the exhibit hall, looking at kids fondling firearms, which is going to be a horrible, horrible, horrible juxtaposition."

Which, in its own creepy way sounds vaguely sympathetic. The same could be said of the idea of a victims' fund. Kanye Robinson, who would soon become the president of the NRA suggested giving "the victims a million dollars or something like that," would "look bad," to which PR consultant Tony Makris responded that providing money could symbolize that the organization felt "responsible." Which is a little more on brand for these guys. 

The powers that were back in 1999 went on to refer to some of their more activist members as "hillbillies" and "fruitcakes" who might embarrass their organization in the wake of what was at the time the worst school shooting in U.S. history. And even though the festival of death they had planned was scaled back from what had originally been planned, Chuck Heston was out front, delivering the party line: "Why us? Because their story needs a villain. They want us to play the heavy in their drama of packaged grief, to provide riveting programming to run between commercials for cars and cat food." 

So they were stuck between a rock and a memorial service. They didn't want to cancel their convention, because that would be "surrender." At the same moment, they showed a twinge of remorse for the victims who were killed just before their big party. 

What to do, what to do? 

Ultimately, they went ahead and held their convention, and eventually hardened their stand to those who were killed in school shootings. After Sandy Hook, the NRA party line was, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." In the wake of the murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, they tossed off this bon mot: "Many in legacy media love mass shootings." Suggesting that the NRA has moved on from their initial stage of grief, fret, and onto full scale denial. 

What have we learned here? The NRA may not be filled with the most likeable people. 

Friday, November 12, 2021


 A fifth grade boy sat in the principal's office, going over his story. Yes he had, in fact, tossed White Out on the walls of a portable classroom. Twenty feet or so of new white adornment. When confronted with the next obvious question, "why?" the answer was quick.

"I did it on accident." 

The reason for his appearance in the principal's office was primarily to give him a second chance to reconfigure his story after telling me about his "accident" with correcting fluid. It was his opinion that he didn't need any further reckoning since he hadn't meant to splatter the walls of his school. "Accidents," Elvis Costello reminds us, "will happen." 

But the disbelief that I had when I first heard the explanation was echoed by our principal. She went a little deeper: "You mean to tell me that the cap to the bottle came off accidentally. And when you went tossing your arm around with an open bottle of White Out, you didn't notice the mess you were making? Across the entire front of the building?"

He maintained his position. Accident. 

Jasper Wu was a month shy of his second birthday when a bullet killed him while strapped in a car seat in his mother's car driving down Interstate 880 in Oakland. It would be the height of ridiculousness to suggest that young Jasper was the target. But it would be just as ridiculous to suggest that his death was an accident. Somebody bought the gun. And the ammunition. Someone loaded the weapon. Someone fired the gun. At Jasper? Certainly not. Accident? 

Well, the way bullets fly around in America, it would not be a surprise to hear the defense of Japser's killer stating that the nearly two-year old died "accidentally." Guns fired from moving vehicles are not freakish incidents without explanation. They are the sad reminder of the words, "stray bullet." This does not imply innocence. It confirms poor aim and horribly bad judgement. 

Our fifth grader got to spend his recess with our custodian, cleaning up the mess he made. On purpose. The flawed human being who pulled the trigger on young Jasper is still on the loose. Hopefully is "accident" is burning a hole in his soul. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021


 It was something I was looking forward to: The matchup between the up and coming superstar and the wily veteran. With all of my misplaced feelings of interest and allegiance, I was still full of anticipation for the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers. Patrick Mahomes going mano a mano with Aaron Rogers. Two Super Bowl MVPs, both of them bringing along supporting casts who would make the contest a treat to behold for football fans like myself. 

Then last week happened. Monday arrived with a positive test for Mister Rogers. Green Bay's quarterback would be sidelined with COVID-19. Then it got worse. Apparently Aaron Rogers had been telling his coaches and teammates that he had been vaccinated. He had not received one. Two. Or three. He had been playing alongside a team who had been subject to rigorous protocols put in place to keep these highly trained athletes healthy. And on the field. How had this breach occurred? 

Well, let's take a trip in the not-so-way-back-machine to August 26 of this year when Mister Rogers was asked directly if he had been vaccinated in a news conference. To this simple question, he gave a simple answer: "Yeah, I'm immunized."

Which turns out to be a lie. Which means he has been putting all his teammates, trainers, coaches and all those he came into contact with in danger of contracting the disease. In all those days between, the assumption was logically made based on this lie that he could move safely within a group of people who were in a similar boat. Had he asserted himself as an anti-vaxxer at that time or rolled out all the objections and reasons he had to the vaccination process, it is almost certain that accommodations would be made. Aaron Rogers is a star. He auditioned to be the host of Jeopardy. He makes all those amusing commercials for State Farm. 

He didn't do that. He lied. And then when he got sick, he didn't come clean and ask for understanding. Instead he lashed out at those who might criticize him for his choice. "I believe strongly in bodily autonomy and ability to make choices for your body: Not have to acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something. Health is not a one-size-fits-all for everybody." 

Health is not a one-size-fits-all, but truth is. 

The Kansas City Chiefs won the game. The Green Bay Packers lost. As an Aaron Rogers fan, I lost too. Just another lesson on the road to wellville. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

I Herd That

 My wife has only recently forgiven Billie Joe Armstrong for exhorting her to get her (massive expletive) hands up in the air. For a while, I tried to soothe her by reminding her that those ruffled feathers came about as a result of purchasing a ticket to see Green Day in concert, and part of that experience is being badgered into what is essentially minimal audience participation. "Couldn't he ask nicely?" was her response. 

At our most recent trip to the rock an roll arena, Mister Armstrong toned his act down just enough to be encouraging without offending. At least that's how my wife felt when the show was over. 

This recollection comes on the heels of reports from a concert in Houston over the weekend where eight people were killed and dozens more injured. It started as a rap show and ended as a stampede. The victims were crushed by a surging crowd of more than fifty thousand. As a clock ticked down to the appearance of the headliner, Travis Scott, concertgoers swarmed to the front, compressing all that humanity into an ever-shrinking space. Those who died were all quite young, between fourteen and twenty-seven years old. Authorities on the scene said that the initial cause of death for many was cardiac arrest, and bystanders described the chaos of bodies being pulled from the throng and CPR being performed in attempts to revive them. 

Which brings me briefly back to the crowds that used to faint in the presence of idols like Elvis and The Beatles, Nobody ever died trying to get a glimpse of the Fab Four. It wasn't until 1979 that eleven people were trampled at a Cincinnati concert by The Who. At the time, this tragedy was used to eliminate the practice of "festival seating" which rewarded those who ran the fastest and pushed the hardest with front row seats. 

Seats. Right. What seats? No one is going to be sitting, not if it means a chance to get one step closer to the object of that night's obsession. At the Astroworld Event in Houston this weekend, voices could be heard calling out to stop the show, even as the show went on. Honestly, I have had my fill of being pressed up against the stage, and wondering if I would be able to find my way back to my friends if I decided I needed to go to the bathroom. Or breathe. Which is why I am quietly thankful for the hike in ticket prices that tends to keep me somewhere up in the nosebleed section. 

And far away from the crushed to death section. 

Tuesday, November 09, 2021


 To say that I was outraged might be underselling it a bit. It's difficult to tell, since I have spent such a great deal of my adult life sitting on the edge of outrage that the toes I dabble in that pool may have become numb from the experience. 

However, I might have expected that my reaction to Insurrectionist Jenna Ryan being sentenced to sixty days in jail for her part in the riots of January 6. Especially coming on the heels of her tweeted assertion that nothing of the sort would happen to her: "Definitely not going to jail. Sorry I have blonde hair white skin a great job a great future and I'm not going to jail. Sorry to rain on your hater parade. I did nothing wrong." The Texas realtor who flew on a charter jet to participate in the gathering of like-minded insurrectionists plead guilty to a single federal misdemeanor charge of parading in the Capitol. Instead of the twelve counts for which she was originally charged. 

Do you feel my outrage being tweaked? 

I do.  

Then there's the four page "apology" Ms. Ryan wrote to the court. Which, like most of the regrets expressed by the lemmings who stormed the Capitol way back when, they start out contrite and turn abruptly to whinging about their unfair treatment. It begins "Please accept my sincere apologies for my actions on January 6th, 2021. I take full responsibility for parading and picketing in a restricted building. I understand the weight of my actions and deeply regret entering the Capitol that day." By the second paragraph, the contrition turns, citing the fact that she had showed up a little late: "I knew it was wrong to go into the building, but I entered anyway because so many people were already in there and there were no barricades blocking my entry." By the beginning of page two, she writes about her return home to Texas, "I was experiencing cognitive dissonance. What I saw on the news was contrary to the relative peaceful protest that I had experienced on the 6th."

Feel free to read more about Ms. Ryan's exploits and her cognitive dissonance at your leisure. I am done with her. My feet are numb with outrage after making it through her four page excuse for being a nitwit. 

Monday, November 08, 2021

How We Do

 This past week I had a group of fourth and fifth grade students ask me, with straight faces, why teachers didn't "just let kids fight." Since this came from a leadership group that I host weekly after school, and we had been discussing bullying, I had to take a pause.

The party line is to step in when there is a physical altercation. That's the way we keep kids from getting hurt. In worst case scenarios, the pushing, shoving and flying fists end up connecting with innocent bystanders. Now it was being suggested to me by a group of kids whom I am sworn to protect that I just let the conflict rage on. Until it burns itself out. "When you break it up, they just go after each other the next recess. Or the next day." 

A fair accounting of many of the feuds that have taken place on our playground over the years. One that had not consumed me as much in the past couple years when that playground sat empty while we focused our attention online. But now we're all back in person and the good feelings of being reunited with our peers has dissipated to the point of being all too familiar. Not the crisis level to which they had once grown, but a very sharp rise from the zero incidents of physical fighting we enjoyed on Zoom. 

I should note here that this group of kids was not the first suggestion I have heard of letting children pummel one another until they were done, then sorting it out. Over the years I have had numerous parents and caregivers weigh in with this opinion. And I am always shocked. Which seems a little disingenuous since I have entertained a thought similar to this on those dark days when stepping between two ten year olds only serves to make them fume at one another all the more. And take it out on one another when they get their very next chance. 

So there's that. But it doesn't keep me from throwing myself between the bulls in our particular china shop. And for the most part, this intervention is enough to calm the storm. There is precious little that can be done to still the muddy waters of children who crowd around to watch the spectacle. The not-so-innocent bystanders. The ones that are there to see blood. It makes me wonder: If they get to see the carnage, will they be finished? Or will they just start egging on the next in line?

Maybe this is all part the challenge getting of getting better. Coming out of the darkness and into the light. Part of the great re-socialization of an elementary school. You have to walk before you can run. And you have to run before you can run away. 

Sunday, November 07, 2021

What Am I Missing?

I sat for a very long time in a one bedroom apartment, waiting for a call. Or a knock on the door. Or someone to stop me on the street. None of these contacts occurred. 

Jerry Seinfeld has suggested that there should be a Creative Potential Commission. They would scour the planet for those individuals who had shown the spark of originality and passion, but who were waiting for their big chance. To do whatever it was that they figured they would do. When they landed in one of those one bedroom apartments with a Creative Writing Degree. Or a Poetic License. Or a whim to be a standup comedian. 

Mister Seinfeld, as it turns out, is a professional comedian. He has been for quite some time. He started performing at open mics while he was still attending college. No one from the Creative Potential Commission ever contacted him. That entity was a bit of snarky whimsy from the mind of a professional comedian who put himself out there in his late teens and early twenties when he would not take "no" for an answer. He only heard "not right now." He just kept doing what he was doing until folks broke down and gave him a chance. He was the one knocking on doors and making cold calls. 

I was not. I was sitting in that one bedroom apartment, filling spiral notebooks with funny bits and dark poems that did not rhyme. I wrote short stories that required intimate knowledge of what was going on in my life to understand. I did not feel the need to do anything that could be construed as "commercial."

I felt that this strategy would eventually be rewarded by worldwide acceptance and appreciation. If they only knew how I had slaved and suffered for my art. That's where I expected the Creative Potential Commission would step in. Not that I had those words to describe it back then. I did figure that all that college tuition that my parents had paid would surely help fund such a service. I wasn't living in a dorm, or eating their awful food service. The least the university could do was to steer folks to my steady stream of mostly confidential output. 

Well, as it turns out, all those years of waiting turned out to be for naught. Even though I was able to put together eloquent sentences like the one you just finished reading, I was never contacted by the company that wanted me to come and write for them professionally. All the jobs I have had were a direct result of me going out and interviewing for them. I needed to put myself in a position to attract attention, and I received it. The somewhat numbing realization that I have gotten every job for which I have interviewed now makes me wonder if there wasn't some higher calling that I may have missed. 

Or my own personal sitcom. 

Saturday, November 06, 2021


 Way back when I was a student in elementary school, I was considered quite precocious when it came to my skills at the chess board. 

 Way back when I was a student in elementary school, I was considered quite precocious when it came to my political awareness. 

I suspect that the two are connected in some way, if only that I didn't have all these adult concerns crowding my brainpan, leaving less and less room for knight to rook seven and the corruption seen and felt at every level of our government. Back in the day, I could beat everyone in my class and a number of the grownups who sat down across from me with the notion that they might challenge me. I was reading Time Magazine as much as I was reading Mad Magazine back in those days, and current events were part of my minimum daily requirements. I had opinions on the Middle East and I knew not only was Nixon guilty but why. 

So let's skip ahead a decade or so. I never entered a chess tournament. I never ran for office. I was content to watch from the sidelines while the nation slid left and right and tried to find a way to avert what would eventually become the debacle of giant orange proportions. I made a practice of playing about a game of chess a year, on the Santa-themed set my father made us with my wife. Her older brother is a ranked player and has won many titles, so I figure I'm getting a pretty fair match. I also took some time to give my son the basics of the game, with his uncle brought in to give him that extra push. 

And I still rail on about politics at most every level, as you may have noticed if you have read more than three of these posts. Sadly, I have grown far too accustomed to pointing out the holes and faults with the powers that be and less inclined to suggesting solutions. This would be part of my downward spiral into cranky old man. The chess player in me looks at the past few elections and wonders how we could have expected anything other than a stalemate. Each swing to the left is followed swiftly by another to the right. True progress for red or blue is as likely as a draw in a match between evenly matched black and white. When you lose your queen, the game isn't over. There are still plenty of ways to win, but those who are playing the game of politics don't tend to be very daring. Meanwhile, those of us kibitzing on the side wince and whine with every false move. It is so much easier to pretend that we don't all have a stake in the game. 

Because we do. I'm old enough to understand that now. 

Friday, November 05, 2021

Critical Sports Theory

 Human beings as commodities; discuss. 

Okay, I an see you're a little put off by the subject matter. The notion of owning another person seems antithetical to all we hold dear, or all the we have said that we hold dear since the Civil War here in these United States. We'll just skip on past that whole institutionalized slavery thing and the Great Compromise of 1787 in which it was determined for representation in congress and taxation that those humans being kept as property would be assigned a value of three fifths of those that owned them. 

That was hundreds of years ago. The good guys won the Civil War and we don't have to worry about that scourge anymore. 

Except professional sports. 

This past week, Denver Broncos sent star linebacker and Super Bowl Fifty MVP Von Miller to Los Angeles. To play football for the Rams. For their trouble, the Denver Broncos will be compensated with a second and a third round draft pick. Never mind that this is "good business" for all concerned. Von Miller will still get paid, and those draft picks will hopefully be part of what we have been assured will be a start of rebuilding the franchise. 

A sports franchise worth nearly four billion dollars. The nine million dollars the Denver Broncos will be paying on what is left of the contract they hold with Von Miller seems like a lot, but then again, no. It is a sliver of a pie that ends up going to the folks in this equation we call "owners."

I saw you flinch. Or maybe that was just leftover flinch from me. I have made a practice in my life of being a fan of professional sports. The idea of connecting yourself to the exploits to a group of individuals playing a game in a town nearby the place you grew up is arcane at best. Once you start to examine the business end of spectator sports, you start to wonder exactly how this All American pastime could be any more All American. Did I mention that there is not a single African-American owner of a National Football League franchise? 

Like I said, as American as apple pie. Wouldn't it be interesting if the workers were able to control the means of production - of touchdowns. 

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Trying To Keep You Alive

 I got another shot this past weekend. 

It made me sore and tired for a day and change. 

It did not give me coronavirus. 

It did not make me magnetic. 

It did not make me a better American.

It made me a little less susceptible to the disease that has killed more than five million people in less than two years. The muscle aches and the over-inflated feeling seem like a pretty good bargain, all things considered. Last week, my wife attended the memorial service for the matriarch of the family that lived across the street from us for all those years. 

She died from COVID-19. She was not vaccinated. Her family will spend the rest of their lives knowing this. She was fifty-five. Her grown children and her grandchildren and all those who knew her know this. 

I know this. I was already planning on getting a booster vaccine, but this news hastened that response. I set aside a day, Sunday, for feeling like I had extra air in my head and veins. Nothing that kept me from going about my business. Just a little bit slower and a little bit more careful. 

Because that's what we are doing now: being careful. Or at least that is what we should be doing. There are still those who insist on clinging to their conspiracy of fear and ignorance. I suppose I can understand the fear part, since five million dead is a pretty horrifying reality. The ignorance is easily cured, if one was predisposed to the acquisition of knowledge. For those who live inside the bubble where new learning is kept out by defenses instilled by another age, please believe this: There are still millions more doing everything they can to keep you alive in spite of your unwillingness to play along on this mitigation effort. 

It took me a couple hours from the time I scheduled to the moment the needle went into my arm to get my part done. It was free. It only took a little of my time. Then it made me slow down for a day, which was fine considering the pace of modern-day life. And when I got to school the very next day, I put my mask on in spite of my extra dose of life-saving vaccine. 

Because that's what we are doing now: trying to keep people alive. 

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Musk Rat

 I confess: I am a sucker for statements like this one: "A teacher shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than a profitable company. It’s time we reward work in this country—not just wealth." That's a tweet from the forty-sixth President of the United States. It is especially nice to hear after the week I had in which I did a little bit of everything at my school site. Including the teaching part. Moved furniture. Set up for picture day. Brought extra costumes for Spirit Week. Delivered breakfast to hungry kids in classrooms. Taught third grade for a morning before launching into an afternoon of PE. Set up a canopy for handing out the Harvest of the Month, and then distributing stickers to all those brave grade-schoolers who were willing to taste-drive a tomato.

The idea that billionaires pay less in taxes than I do each year pains me in the way that only fourth grade boys can be pained when they smell something that isn't fair. Which is actually kind of interesting, since obviously I didn't choose my tax bracket. My tax bracket chose me. And when the question comes up about do I want to pay more so that kids can have things like universal pre-kindergarten, I don't flinch. Yes, I will pay more in taxes to support that safety net that is sometimes the difference between seeing families return to my school. Or not.

My heart won't stop bleeding. I was made this way. Much, I suppose, in the same way Elon Musk was hatched spouting things like, "Eventually, they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you." Not sure exactly if he was angling for sympathy or if he was merely huffing about the annoyance of being asked to pay his fair share of the burden placed on the rest of us. You know, the common folk. The ones who didn't name their children after a bar code. Don't they understand that Mister Musk has a space race to deal with? You want him to spend any portion of the money that could possibly go into rockets to the moon or Mars or to launch the next interstellar chain of coffee houses, you had better ask nicely. 

Because Elon, which I believe is Finnish for "idjit," does not feel any of that pull to help pay for the roads or the schools or the airspace that he will most certainly soon be leaving. The notion of taxing the rich is nothing new, but each passing year brings more of a disparity between the haves and the have not so muchs. Making the jump to warp wealth is a trick of physics or finance or both that most of us will never achieve. But Idjit Musk would like us to believe that when the government is done making his life more difficult, they will come looking for us. Can't we just leave him and his odd little family alone? He's trying to make a life for himself here on our planet until the call comes from his home world and he sheds the human suit he's been wearing all these years and leaps onto the next departing vacuum tube. Taking his big bag of money with him. 

That'll teach us. 

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

In My Head

 Recently, I wrote about the relative permissiveness of my parents when it came to the entertainments I enjoyed during my formative years. That seminal experience of huddling at the foot of my parents' bed watching King Kong for the very first time is one that shaped, or perhaps bent, me for a lifetime. Coupled with a subscription to Famous Monsters of Filmland, my youth was solidly forged in the movies of the thirties and forties. The ones about vampires, mummies, werewolves and anything with Boris Karloff in it. To say that my life was forever changed by all those images of horror would not be an overstatement. 

But those images would have to compete with the ones I conjured up in my own head on all those summer nights when I stayed up late in our mountain cabin, reading the works of Edgar Allen Poe. The faint jingling of the bells on the jester's costume of the fool who would be walled up in the cellar in The Cask of Amontillado. The dead eye of the old man who would be murdered, dismembered and stuffed beneath the floorboards in The Tell Tale Heart. The rapping, tapping at my chamber door of The Raven. At an age when so many of my peers were filling their heads with Little League and swim team, I was holed up in the loft of that cabin, imagining myself having to make the choice between The Pit and the Pendulum. All of these stories and poems filled my head on top of the foundation laid by the novels Frankenstein and Dracula. And HG Wells' War of the Worlds

I was reading classic literature. I was filing my brain with murder and mayhem via the works of some of the most revered writers of all time. What parent wouldn't want their child to be steeped in the classics? Is it any wonder that by the time I was a teenager that I was already steeped in those things that would forever warp my sensibilities? 

No one ever asked. It was part of me. A great dark shadow inside me that was further enhanced by nightly visits to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, hosted by the late great E.G. Marshall. It was Mister Marshall that gave me the gift of the word "macabre," for which I am eternally grateful. In the early seventies, there was no "goth" lifestyle to adopt. I was just another kid wandering around in my T-shirts and jeans, with a head full of horror. 

And I liked it. 

Monday, November 01, 2021

Face Time

 Not being on Facebook has been a challenge for many relationships I try to maintain. The fact that this blog has its own page on the social media blunt instrument is not lost on me. Nor is the fact that I am, through my job, entrusted with the responsibility of keeping our school's Facebook page "current." Such is the confused life of the "tech guy." 

Just over my shoulder, most days, my wife is chuckling or clucking about something she has seen on her window on Zuckerworld. This causes me to ask what she found so amusing or outrageous. And there is always an element of "you had to be there," since my mode of discourse is generally this profoundly one-way conduit and the hack and slash world through the lens of Twitter. Having a conversation, as I have heard folks do on The Facebook, evades me. I am almost exclusively a transmitter here. Very rarely do I receive. Which I am sure points to some large character defect on my part, but not one to which I am unfamiliar. 

But when I heard that Facebook was becoming Meta, it gave me pause. After what seemed like minutes of speculation across Al Gore's Internet, Marky "Mark" Zuckerberg announced that his company will stop being named for the application that has nearly three billion users. Instead, they will become something more, and something less. I looked it up. Meta means "(of a creative work) referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential." And isn't that precisely what Facebook has been doing for its existence? Nobody does self-referential better than the web-based system for rating college girls than The Facebook. And now it will be shepherded into its next incarnation by this new name. 

Could it be that after seventeen years, and in particular the past four, Facebook is looking to distance itself from whatever surly images people have generated about it and the folks who rule over it? As if the damage done by the 2010 film Social Network was not significant enough, the billionaires who attempt to connect us with one another have done little but create an echo chamber for a generation. It put quotation marks around words like "friend" and "like." Sounds pretty meta to me. 

And now, after helping fan the flames of really ignorant dissent last January, before and after the insurrection, Facebook is no longer the new or cool kid on the block. Seventeen years ago, you were pretty with it to be on the Facebook. Now, your mom is on Facebook, and she wants to know why you won't accept her friend request. 

That's so meta. 

Or is it just a continued assault on the senses? Or a continued assault on common sense? Or just a few more minutes until it's MySpace