Monday, December 11, 2023

Mush King

 Not merely content with running his own businesses into the ground, Elongated Mush is currently insisting that Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, be fired. 

The "inventor" of the Cybertuck has decreed that Mister Iger should be dismissed. “He should be fired immediately,” Mush, who often uses his influential perch to bully critics and others, wrote about Iger on the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Walt Disney is turning in his grave over what Bob has done to his company.”

I don't doubt that Mister Mush is in regular communication with spirits from another world, but in this case, I believe he may have overstretched his own capacity. Elong is upset because of Disney's decision to pull advertising from what continues to be referred to as Twitter, in spite of his dorky insistence that it be referred to by one of the least loved letters in the English alphabet. My doubts are centered on Mister Mush's characterization of Walt Disney rolling over in his grave when all of us know that Walt's severed head is all that remains of Mickey's creator, and therefore the image presented by Elong must be false. When you add to this the regular and continued interference that he must experience with transmissions from his home planet, the otherworldly messages he claims to receive can only come from extraterrestrial sources. Not from deep beneath the Earth's surface. 

What is not in dispute is the deeply embedded hate for everything that does not go Elongated Mush's way. When things fail, it is not his fault. It has to be someone else's. Employees who aren't working hard enough. Executives form other companies who do not embrace his loopy notions. True free speech advocates who wonder why Mister Mush has turned Twitter (yes I said Twitter) into a playground for hate and fear. Bob Iger's decision to pull advertising came as a result of not just some of the ugliness that was allowed to be spewed from the amplified voices of anti-Semitism and conspiracy nuts of all stripes. There was also the matter of Mush's own barely veiled screeds of his own

But in Elongated Mush's mind, it's Bob Iger that needs to be shown the door. Once again, in a world of corporate greed and corruption, somehow Mush has found a way to make the rabid mice at Disney appear to be the good guys. Kudos to you, Mister Mush. 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Scraps

 “The surgeries done on minors involve cutting off body parts at a time when these kids cannot even legally smoke a cigarette. Kids who go from puberty blockers to cross-sex hormones are at a much greater likelihood of winding up sterile. How is it that you think a parent should be able to OK these surgeries, never mind the sterilization of a child?”

This is the way Megyn Kelly, who left Fox News because apparently wasn't far enough to the right for her, chose to open her questioning of Chris Christie at the fourth and final Republican Presidential Debate. Hard to believe.

Hard to believe that there was a fourth debate among those fighting for the scraps left from the man who suggests he is running for dictator

But more difficult to comprehend why these right-leaners are falling over themselves trying to build a terror campaign against trans youth. 

The American Medical Association affirms everyone's right to pursue gender-affirming care, citing "dramatically reduced rates of suicide attempts, decreased rates of depression and anxiety, decreased substance use, improved HIV medication adherence and reduced rates of harmful self-prescribed hormone use." 

Of course, the folks on the stage were primarily those who insisted that taking horse de-wormer and licking doorknobs was the way to deal with the plague of COVID-19. What do those clowns at the AMA know? 

But with all this talk about mutilation of kids, there was no discussion of the most recent mass shootings in this great land of ours. Last Tuesday, a US Army vet in Texas killed his parents, then drove to Austin where he proceeded to murder four more innocents before fleeing police, leaving another three wounded. On Wednesday, a man who was turned down for a teaching job at the University of Nevada Las Vegas killed three people on the campus and wounded another before police arrived and shot the gunman. 

So, you want to talk about mutilation? This isn't hypothetical or imagined. It happened. And Megyn Kelly wants to know how we can let trans kids seek therapy that will save their lives. 

That's not what Republicans are talking about. They're too busy fighting over the scraps.  

Saturday, December 09, 2023

Those Were The Days

 It occurred to me that perhaps Norman Lear outlived his own influence. When he left this planet, he had survived one hundred one trips around the sun, and countless confrontations with network censors. Even now, I can see some of you scratching your collective head asking, "Norman Lear who?"

Norman Lear gave the traditional American sitcom a needed shot in the arm back in the 1970s. You may remember a little show called, "All In The Family." Back in 1971, Norman Lear, television writer-director-producer borrowed a situation from across the pond and turned it into one of the defining mileposts of American television. Here was a patriarch who was not just bumbling, but capable of being completely reprehensible. Here was a daughter who not only stood up to her father, but brought her left-wing hippie husband to live upstairs in the Bunker house. In the bunker. Funny. And the mother, wringing her hands endlessly and capable of bringing goofy sense to the most out of control situations. 

"All In The Family" ran for eight seasons, through Vietnam and Watergate. Past the Bicentennial and the oil crisis and Jimmy Carter. It was during those years that Mister Lear all but invented the machine we know as the spin-off. At one point, his company had seven hit shows on, filling one's broadcast TV schedule for the week. There was Maude, who subsequently begat Good Times. Archie's neighbor made it big in the dry cleaning business and moved on up in the Jeffersons. From there it was only a short hop to Checking In. The Bunker house changed its focus to Archie Bunker's Place, while Gloria set out on her own. And somewhere out there was the remnant known as 704 Hauser, picking up the story at Archie's old address. 

Not all of these shows were hits, and by the beginning of the 1980s, the histrionics jammed into each Lear half-hour gave way to simpler, jigglier comedy. As a nation, we seemed to need a rest. But it was during the late seventies and early eighties that Norman Lear brought me the show that will live forever in my heart: One Day At A Time. I could say that I was tuning in to follow the struggles of newly divorced single mom Ann Romano, but that would not be the case. This was, in my view, Valerie Bertinelli's show, and this was appointment television for me. Sure, there were a lot of current events mixed up in this soufflé, but it was worth wading through to spend a half hour with Valerie. 

And for this, but not only this, I salute Norman Lear and all his groundbreaking strides as a television pioneer and thinker. He stomped on the Terra, and brought me the crush that kept me glued to the tube. He stomped on the Terra and he will be missed. Tuesday nights at nine. 

Friday, December 08, 2023

Point Of View

Here in Oakland, the war continues. 

Not the one going on outside, with the shooting and killing, but the one in which we pick a side in the Israel-Hamas War. While a ceasefire was granted in the hopes of getting humanitarian aid inside Gaza, as well as facilitate hostage transfers, the Oakland City Council held a wide-ranging discussion about a resolution that nominally supported and encouraged the ceasefire. 

But first there was public comment. Like all open forums in this city by the Bay, there was a variety of opinions. A number of video clips circulated on social media showed individual members of the public repeating conspiracy theories disputing that the October 7 attacks were carried out by Hamas. “The notion that this was a massacre of Jews is fabricated narrative,” one public attendee said of the attacks inside Israel. Other public speakers offered unconditional backing to Hamas. “I support the right of the Palestinian people to resist occupation, including through Hamas, the armed wing of the unified Palestinian resistance,” insisted another. 

Please understand that my own position continues to be that both groups should be sent to the principal's office and receive a call home, and probably miss recess for the rest of the week. But that's my view from out on the playground where violence is a non-starter by anyone and there is always a diplomatic solution. 

That being said, we turn our gaze to the Oakland Unified School District, which has a number of teachers prepared to stage a "teach-in" during which a teacher says educators can "apply their labor power to show solidarity with the Palestinian people" by encouraging students to think critically, by introducing them to new ideas and by having positive conversations about what's happening. This, of course, draws a metaphorical line in the sand for the Administration, who included in their response to the action, "We have remained unwavering in our stance against anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli, Islamophobic, or anti-Palestinian prejudice or discrimination within our District." 

So maybe the Superintendent needs some time to sit on the bench and think about her comments along with her teachers. 

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Staff Inflection

 There was a time when all of our teachers here at my school were of a certain age. At that time, I was still considered something of "an elder," since I came to work here after a spate of jobs that turned out not to be a career. At first, I was definitely a rookie, not just in age but in my capacities. As I was to become familiar, many schools in urban areas experience more than their share of turnover. Burnout is a factor that all of us face at some point. 

But way back when, in what I will refer to as "The Silver Age" of my time at Horace Mann, when that first wave of new hires with whom I came in became the veterans. And a new crew came in and took the place of the frazzled group that left with the back of their heads still smoking. This was the fresh-faced roster that was eager to face the challenges of inner-city education with dedication and enthusiasm. 

Which they did.

And they brought with them a bushel of youthful invigoration that made me feel like the old man. These folks worked hard. And, not by coincidence, they played hard. When Friday came, and the windows were closed and the doors were locked, it was quite often time to go out and celebrate another week's victories and wallow in the defeats. I recognized the "it's five o'clock somewhere" mentality from a previous incarnation of my own some years past. The most impressive thing was how Mondays would come and the rigors of recreation would be shaken off and they would return to the modern professional model to which we had all become accustomed. Bloodshot eyes notwithstanding. 

Like all waves of fresh faces, they began to drift away, replaced by a new lineup, still dedicated but now more inclined to leave the party earlier, leaving more time for recuperation. These were the folks who came to the job with other schools in their past, other principals, other colleagues. Now they are of a certain age that falls more in a line with my own experience. I have watched fellow teachers take off for paternity leave. Some come back. Some don't. There are also those whose bodies are wearing out and the strain of being on point for an elementary classroom is taking its toll. Where the old crew used to bounce back with their headaches and hangovers, this is the group that requires more bed rest and extended medical attention. That strong line has breaks in it. 

So we fill in and make do. But there are times when I miss that group of hard-drinking party animals who used to show up every day, with a pocketful of Advil and a determination to make it through another day. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Humbug

 Ya know, when you go way out an a limb to make a point about just how severe your collective points of view are it's probably just a matter of time before the veil is lifted. And when that veil is lifted, what appears is the biggest mess of hypocrisy that one could possibly imagine.

To wit: Christian Ziegler, the Florida Chairman of The Republican Party, has been accused of rape by a woman who says she was assaulted while awaiting a three-way sexual encounter inside the woman's home. The other participant who was late to the party? Christian's wife Bridget, the co-founder of Moms For Liberty

So let's take just a moment or two to unravel this. Christian is the head of the Republican Party in Florida, where Republicans make every effort to show up just to the right of the Taliban when it comes to social issues. Family values are what they're selling in the Sunshine State, and business is good. Whether it's banning books or quoting Hitler, Moms For Liberty are looking to free parents from the tyranny imposed on them by public education and all other manner of naughtiness. Keeping Florida and the rest of the United States free from such bad behavior is the job of such stalwarts as Christian and Bridget. 

But when nobody's looking, it just might be more fun to be bad. While Bridget insists that she has been a leading anti-trans activist and “critical race theory” opponent who has said her aim is to bring “religious values” into public schools that she claims are “indoctrination centers for the radical left,” it could be that all that looking into the lasciviousness of the other side may have blinded her from her true mission? And to be fair, the bedroom antics of consenting adults aren't really the kind of thing that I care much about, until they start tipping the sanctimonious scales. And running afoul of the law. 

Then again, the Grand Old Party has recently been fond of supporting candidates who tout one set of values for their followers while following their very own special code of ethics. The current GOP front runner has been married three times and has committed adultery in each of them. He has been found guilty of sexual abuse, and fined millions of dollars for the defamation of his victim. Following this playbook, it's only a matter of time before Christian Ziegler starts spouting off about how awful and horrible the trois member of his menage is. 

Because it's Florida. Because it's 2023. Because it's Republicans. 

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Would You Believe It?

 There was once a boy who very much wanted to be a member of Congress. The United States Congress. It's not an easy thing to do. It costs a lot of money to run for Congress. So the boy begged, borrowed, and yes even stole in order to make his dreams come true. 

He ended up serving three hundred and thirty-one days of what we can only assume was the happiest time of his life. Except for maybe those days he spent playing for the Baruch College volleyball team, especially when they "slayed" both Harvard and Yale. Much happier than the time he spent as a producer of the notorious Broadway flop, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark

But nothing could compare to him losing his beloved grandmother. First to the Holocaust in Germany, and later to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. 

Yet, somehow, none of these setbacks could hold our boy back. In 2020, he didn't quite make the cut, but by insisting that the election results were skewed in such a way that he must certainly have won like his political role model. So after two years of grinding that particular axe, our boy hopped back into the race and this time the widespread voter fraud that kept him out of office didn't keep him from becoming a member of Congress, truly and for real. 

But all of those question marks that swirled around the boy just would not go away, and even though he worked as hard as any pathological liar could, the cheaters and naysayers caught up to him and made it all but impossible to enjoy the ride. They accused him of cheating. And lying. To which he replied that he was going to tattle on all the other members of Congress because all of them lied, cheated, and stole their way to their positions of power. 

Which may or may not be true, but the boy forgot one important detail. All of those other liars, cheaters and thieves didn't get caught. The boy did, and he became just the sixth person ever to be expelled from the United States House of Representatives. 

Which is something he won't have to lie about.

And the name of that boy whose dreams are now tattered and torn? 

Cary Grant. 

Monday, December 04, 2023

Diagnosis

 A student brought me a Chromebook while I was standing in the cafeteria supervising lunch. It came with a note, and the student's reiteration of the information scrawled by a substitute, stating that another student had "dropped" the device on the floor and the screen had cracked, rendering it useless. It was not the first time I was handed a machine in the cafeteria or the playground or a hallway or just about anywhere I can be found on the campus outside of the Computer Lab. I am, after all, The Computer Teacher and I should be available at all points throughout the day to receive broken or defective computers. 

This was, however, the tenth Chromebook to come from this one fifth grade classroom over the past week. To her credit, the substitute in the class was doing what I had asked her which was to make an accounting of the broken and damaged student devices so that I could try and fix or replace them as necessary. 

I did not expect to have ten brought to me over the course of a week.

I was able to resuscitate a few of them, correcting a setting, plugging them in to fully charge, or fiddling with them just long enough to get them back in service. Only to be replaced by another fifth grader standing with yet another Chromebook, note attached. 

I have lived through this scenario a few times over the course of my tenure as Site Technologist, but this last one struck a nerve. It came with a student's name connected to it. Jesse had been struggling while his teacher had been out since before Thanksgiving. Jesse had been struggling before that, all the way back to Kindergarten, and was a kid our staff sighed when we heard his name connected to a disruption or behavior unbecoming of a Horace Mann Jaguar. 

Which is why when I saw that it was Jesse that had "dropped" his Chromebook, smashing the screen, I felt the need to follow up. There is no quick fix for a cracked LCD display. 

I waited for Jesse to finish his lunch, and asked him to come and talk with me, away from his peers. I asked him how the Chromebook came to fall on the floor. What he described was an accident. A moment of carelessness that might have happened to any student in any classroom. It just so happened that this was Jesse, and it was the tenth computer to come out of his classroom over the course of a rather tumultuous week. 

And this is where I stopped myself. I wondered if I was disappointed to find out this was "just an accident." Kids and computers are a pretty dicey proposition on any given day, but if it had been any other student other than Jesse, would I have been more inclined to accept that the screen was broken out of carelessness, or would I have been moved to investigate further. 

Was I looking for some way to make Jesse culpable for this one particular device or maybe even the dozen or so machines that had found their way to my capable hands over the course of the week? 

I realized that I needed to push justice to the background, and work on getting replacements for the class that had hit a "rough patch." It happens. It's not the fault of one kid, or one behavior. We can all learn to be more careful with our technology. 

I carried the corpse back to my room and added it to the stack. We would figure out how to replace it. And instill a little more care in all fifth graders handling Chromebooks. 

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Final Days

 When I was a young man, I watched Dan Aykroyd caper about in a very lengthy skit about the final days of the Richard Nixon presidency. At one point Dan, as Nixon, grabs his Secretary of State by the shoulder and pressures him into kneeling in prayer. I was already familiar with this episode from my devotion to the reporting of the Washington Post. But to see it played out here, just a few years after the fact on Saturday Night Live, was somehow vindicating. The man playing the Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was none other than John Belushi. The other half of the Blues Brothers. 

John Belushi died in 1982. Forty-one years ago. It was a national tragedy. For someone so young to be taken so soon. Of course, there was the matter of all the bad decisions that he made leading up to his death by overdose, but he was only thirty-three years old. 

On the topic of bad decisions, we could add the willingness to kneel with the nutjob in the White House back in 1974. Or rather than taking Woodward and Berstein's collective word for it, let's look at the historical record. No report of Henry Kissinger's accomplishments would be complete without an account of the four year bombing campaign he orchestrated against Cambodia. Also on his resume is his directed illegal arms sales to Pakistan as it carried out a brutal crackdown on its Bengali population in 1971. He supported the 1973 military coup that overthrew a democratically elected socialist government in Chile, gave the go-ahead to Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor, and backed Argentina’s repressive military dictatorship as it launched its “dirty war” against dissenters and leftists in 1976. His policies during the Ford administration also fueled civil wars in Africa, most notably in Angola.

One might imagine the ghost of John Belushi, this time dressed up as former Vice President Dick "Dick" Cheney, pointing a finger in the direction of Henry Kissinger's open grave, shaking his head. Except "Dick" is still alive. But Henry Kissinger is dead. 

He lived to be one hundred years old. Never arrested. Never indicted. Never forced to answer for his crimes. Henry Kissinger never stomped on the Terra. He stomped on humanity. He will not be missed. Not by me, anyway. 

Maybe he lived so long because of that moment of prayer. Aloha, Henry. Good riddance. 

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Make Believe

 The flags in Lidsville are hanging at half-mast. Half of the creative genius that brought young Mark to a land ruled by sentient headwear, Marty Krofft, has passed. 

If you grew up in the sixties and seventies, you were legally required to spend a certain amount of time each week in front of a television set playing some if not all of the programming brought to the cathode ray tube by Marty and his brother Sid. The first trip down the Nuevo-psychedelic tunnel the brothers Krofft offered up was H.R. Pufnstuf, the tale of a young man who wakes up in a land controlled by a lizard mayor, and he's the good guy. 

After that, the die was cast. Young people were being forced into existence with oversized puppets of floppy foam on a seemingly endless basis. The Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, The Lost Saucer and Far Out Space Nuts continued the trend. It was Marty Krofft who summoned the former A-list talent like Jim Nabors, Bob Denver, and Jody Whitaker to the family studios to perform for an audience of children who had never experienced Gomer Pyle, Gilligan's Island, and A Family Affair. 

And then there was The Banana Splits. The Splits' theme song may be one of the most fiendishly devised earworms of all time. The rest of the show didn't matter. These anthropomorphic animals in their baggy costumes were our ersatz Beatles. Each week Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky provided us with a new song and comedy skits that provided a wraparound for additional Krofft Kontent that was sandwiched within. No child alive at this time missed an episode, but oddly enough, no one can recall what any one of them was about. They can sing the theme song, however. Endlessly. 

Then there was the matter of the Bradys. After a very successful run on their half-hour sit com, it was someone's ingenious notion to take the disparate talents of the Brady Family, who were not actually related, and spit them back out in a variety show format, surrounded by the World of Sid and Marty Krofft. This combination of influences should be an historical marker in time, warning all those who view it about the evils of cocaine. 

But now, Marty Krofft has passed. His contributions to pop culture are forever locked away in the hearts and minds of all of us who grew up, mesmerized by the magic he and his brother brought to our Saturday mornings. While it might be unfair to say that Marty stomped on the Terra, it would be correct to say that he truly wreaked havoc with all our sensibilities while he wandered the lands in the brothers' imagination. He will be missed. And eventually forgiven. 

Friday, December 01, 2023

Building The Perfect Beast

 My wife woke up the other morning wanting to share with me an episode of a TV show she had watched with her brother. It was an episode of Netflix's scary series Black Mirror titled "Metalhead." It concerns the plight of Bella, Anthony, and Clarke as they flee robot dogs whose job to protect society has gone a little overboard. These three humans are considered threats and must be eliminated by the cyber-canines. 

A frightening enough premise, given our traditional "man's best friend" ethos. The watch dogs will protect us. Which got me to thinking about the new robot deadbolt I put on our front door. And all the robotic elements of our current web of technology. The web that controls our light, our heat and our security. And our television.

But I have worried plenty in this space about a future where robot overlords consume and destroy us all. I have been worried about Artificial Intelligence taking over where our our own imaginations fail. I have winked at Skynet becoming self-aware.

And now what I am going to say is, "Maybe all that isn't such a bad deal."

I have taken a look around at our current human-sponsored and maintained civilization and I wonder why we think that robots could do any worse. 

Instead of arguing about the existence of the threat of global warming, machines would shut down the parts of the system that are making poison. Instead of sending troops into danger, let the drones do it. Civilian casualties would be impossible if machines continue to work under the framework of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. I understand that getting into the weeds of such rules make for good fiction, but wouldn't it be interesting to apply those same laws to the human beings in charge. 

Ultimately, we are victims of our own construct. Whether it is the machines we build to serve us or the systems we create to keep us all safe, pretty soon those dogs are going to look at us like we were the problem. 

The scary part is that it's inevitable. 

Thursday, November 30, 2023

It's Rocket Science

 The University of California played against the University of California at Los Angeles last Saturday. The Golden Bears beat the Bruins in the Rose Bowl. The final score was thirty-three to seven in what was considered by many to be an upset. The victory also allowed Cal Berkeley to become eligible for a bowl game with its sixth win. 

All of this is anecdotal to the news that this was the last regular season football game played in what has been known as the Pac 12 Conference. We can start retrofitting any or all of this information for trivia questions moving forward. 

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a group of twelve collegiate football teams is suddenly left without a conference in which to gather and create schedules and sell swag with their logos, do they continue to play?

Well, if you're a sports fan of any stripe, you know that there are already college football teams without conference affiliation. The most notable of these is Notre Dame, who is able to fill its schedule with all manner of opponents anxious to take a shot at a school that gave us Touchdown Jesus and Rudy. UMass and UConn are the other two, but it's likely that they will eventually follow Army's lead and find a conference that will give them revenue sharing and a bigger slice of the pie that affiliation allows. 

Which is why those twelve teams that used to hang together as the Pacific Twelve went scurrying to find homes in conferences that would share money and chances to get into bowl games and the like. Cal Berkeley and their arch nemesis Stanford will be playing next year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. With all the Nobel Prizes in Cal's history, there is no one who can explain this geography to me. 

Because it doesn't make sense. Like when the University of Colorado went shopping for a new conference back in 2011. They landed themselves what they thought was a sweetheart of a deal in the newly enlarged Pac-12, former the Pac-10. Which makes some sense, until you try to reckon on the Big Ten Conference with its eighteen teams in its newly minted configuration. Geography means nothing. Numbers mean nothing. 

Happily, we all have a few months to try and straighten this out. I promise to care more when competition extends beyond teams formed on this planet. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Killer Idea

 Tis the season, the season of givng. and if you've got an extra twenty or thirty bucks looking for a home, I have some suggestions.

You could give to the Red Cross. Your donation will help those who really need it. Disasters happen all the time, and it's best to be ready. 

Maybe you're a civic-minded person who would like to give directly to your local homeless shelter.

You could go down to your favorite toy store and pick up a new toy to give to your local Toys For Tots chapter. 

How about buying a bunch of lottery tickets and hand them out to strangers? Put a smile on someone's face and maybe a jackpot to go along with it.

What I am suggesting to you is that there are so many different ways that you can spent twenty-some dollars that can make a difference this holiday season. Just promise me that you won't spend that money on Kyle Rittenhouse. You might remember Kyle from his murderous night in Kenosha, Wisconson three years ago. Kyle was a teenager when he got it into his head to drive across state lines to administer his own brand of justice during a protest after an unarmed black man was killed by police. Kyle shot and killed two of the protesters and wounded another. He was later acquitted of two counts of homocide and another of attempted homocide. Kyle became the darling of the guns and ammo crowd, appearing at Republican galas and events at Mar A Lago.

That was three years ago. Now Kyle is twenty years old and he's out of money. So he wrote a book. It's called "Acquitted." He's worried that the pending civil lawsuits against him by the familes of the men he killed might spoil his plan for world domination. 

So instead of buying that book, you and a friend could take that money and do some real damage to the dollar menu at Taco Bell. Or maybe you could buy a grande Pumpkin Spice Mocha Latte to share. 

But before you throw thirty dollars out in the street, you could just Venmo me and I'll make sure that Kyle gets it. 

You can count on me. 


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Steps

 This year, my son made Thanksgiving dinner. Not that there wasn't a bit of a tug-of-war about who would be doing the main dish. I have spent the better part of a quarter century becoming proficient at wrestling a mostly flightless fowl into the oven and getting it ready to serve to guests before it becomes a hypoglycemic incident. 

But not this year. My son called and said that he wanted to treat us all to his smoked tri-tip. Both my wife and son worried that this might be a difficult discussion for us all. For a few minutes, all those turkeys that I had slavishly basted and peeked at over the years obscured my vision of what could be: Free access to more football. Suddenly, the couch opened up for me. Sure son, you go ahead and get up at six in the morning to smoke the meat you've been marinating since the day before. We'll just wait here. 

And it started to catch up to me that this is how things work. Sure, I made some delicious potato salad and a grasshopper pie, but the actual marathon event that is making the main course of a holiday meal just slipped a generation. It's not like the kid's cooking prowess is in question. We have been witness to many of his creations, and he has even passed along a few recipes to his parents. 

But this was the big time. Thanksgiving dinner. How would he fare? 

I needn't have worried. The meat was tasty, and he even did us the offhand favor of saying that he had an extra slab of meat he left for his roommates that was even better. 

Even better? I'm not sure he fully comprehends the magnitude of this moment. Like the time he offered to take care of the hotel on our most recent family visit to Disneyland. "I've got this, Dad," are some pretty magical words. At once I am as proud as one might expect, and the next moment I am looking over my shoulder for the men in white coats, coming to lead me away. 

I still make a pretty good potato salad. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

Borderline Ridiculous

 Ah yes. Problems at the border. Not the one between the United States and Mexico. This was more of a Great White North problem. 

On the night before Thanksgiving, a car packed with explosives attempted to crash through the barriers that separate our sovereign land and Canada. Obviously a terrorist attack. Didn't we all just know that leaving Joe Biden in charge of things would lead to something awful like this? Please feel free at this moment to wring your hands and furrow your brow. 

Except don't.

Because it wasn't a terrorist attack at all. It was a man and his wife, driving at excessive speeds in a very expensive but very much not loaded with explosives car that jumped a guardrail and was airborne briefly. When it landed it blew up. It was the always alert and not always clear on the details folks at Faux News that declared the terrorist attack. While other more responsible news organizations waited to hear from authorities on the scene, the Faux Folks repeated what "high level police sources" had told them about how this was obviously a nefarious act by our enemies. 

As it turns out, Kurt Villani and his wife Monica were supposed to attend a concert by the rock group Kiss. Lead singer for the band Paul Stanley was taken ill, and so the show was cancelled. Kurt and his wife were left with an evening without plans. So they decided to head north to Canada to gamble at a casino. They didn't make it. To be clear, these were American citizens out on a date night. 

Meanwhile, back at Faux News headquarters, the powers that be stuck with their version of the story until just about everyone else had decided to go with "freak accident." Even as their on-air talking heads began walking back their terrorist story, the social media trail that they had blazed remained intact for anyone not clever enough to double check their sources. 

Paul Stanley could not be reached for comment. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Unconstituional

 Most of your everyday laws can be decided by a court. Or Judge Judy. But when things get really hypothetical, you want an experienced panel of jurists to listen to the case. 

Like this past week when a Colorado District Court ruled that the former game show host, the one with ninety-one charges currently pending against him, could not be taken off the ballot in this coming year's presidential election. The plaintiffs in the case were suggesting that the bloated orange sack of protoplasm had violated the 14th Amendment.  The 14th Amendment prohibits someone from holding “any office … under the United States” if they engaged in insurrection after taking an oath as “an officer of the United States” to “support” the Constitution. The judge ruled last Friday that Trump had engaged in insurrection by inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, but the judge tossed the lawsuit by finding the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to the presidency.

Kind of your basic "good news - bad news" situation. Both sides have decided to appeal. Because there are still higher courts. Why not shoot for the top?

Speaking of courts and shooting, a Federal Appeals Court in Maryland struck down that state's licensing requirements for handgun owners. The law that was in place stated that an applicant for a handgun license must meet four requirements: They must be at least twenty-one years old, a resident of the state, complete a gun safety course and undergo a background check to ensure they are not barred under federal or state law from owning a firearm. Then they must fill out an application, pay a processing fee, and wait up to thirty days for a state official to issue a license. All of this seemed to be unconstitutional to the Appeals Court judge. Especially that whole waiting period. The decision read, in part, “the law’s waiting period could well be the critical time in which the applicant expects to face danger.”

It should be noted that this law was put into effect shortly after the massacre of school children in Sandy Hook. None of the victims were available for comment. Which doesn't sound unconstitutional. It just sounds tragic to me. But keep track of that ticket, because the appeals will keep coming. 

And coming.

And coming. 

Because that's constitutional. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Jukebox Heroes

 I grew up in the seventies. I listened to a lot of music. Some of it was very good. Some of it was not. 

Today I read an article about Daryl Hall filing a restraining order against John Oates. If neither of these two names rings a bell for you, that's okay. There was a lot of music made by these two gentlemen back in "my day," and if you were not subjected to it, it's possible that you dodged a cultural bullet. Or you're missing out. 

If you are familiar with songs like Maneater and Kiss Is On My List, you're probably aware that Daryl Hall is the tall blond guy and John Oates is the one with the mustache. You may also have had the sneaking suspicion over the years that the bulk of the talent was in the tall blond half. Now, after fifty years since forming their partnership, Mister Hall is letting the world know how he feels about things. “You think John Oates is my partner? … He’s my business partner. He’s not my creative partner.”

That's something to which the rest of the planet was already pretty much convinced prior to this announcement, but there it is: A dirty little secret we already knew. Or at least those of us who were paying attention at the time. But it was a lot like watching Simon put up with Garfunkel for all those years. There was all that room on the marqee, after all. 

Of course, maybe you're one of those John Oates apologists, who will point to the eight solo albums he has recorded since 1999, and how he even has his own page on the Hall and Oates website. This is just a misunderstanding and it will all be straightened out in time. 

Or maybe that restraining order will just make things more interesting, like putting Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth back together on stage for a Van Halen Tribute tour. 

I am so very old...

Friday, November 24, 2023

Commercy

 When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

This came to me the weekend before Thanksgiving as I strolled through Best Buy with my son. My son who lived through his share of Black Fridays. Not as a customer, mind you. He was that young man in the blue shirt attempting to hold back the throngs of rabid consumer zombies with his grit, determination and the promise of a catered dinner when it was all over. 

Those days are now in his memory book, as exemplified by his quiet assertion to me that a certain forty-eight inch 4K TV looked "like a really good deal." This coming from a young man who used to break out in a cold sweat at the mere mention of the day after Thanksgiving. 

I had my own brush with the surreal event known as Black Friday. This was back when there were a certain number of stores that even bothered to open their doors while there was all that football left to watch and leftovers to consume. In the video rental business, this was a day when wild-eyed parents showed up demanding "something for the whole family" when the only thing left on the shelves was three of the eight episodes of Berlin Alexanderplatz. Explaining to these holiday victims that some of our customers had reserved their copies of Overboard and Top Gun ahead of time only increased their fury. I was the last thread of connection to sanity. And I didn't have "anything by Disney that we haven't seen twenty times already."

And now, my son who lived through an even more intense version of this barely human behavior, was ready to plunk down his own hard-earned money on a screaming hot deal in the very store that gave him all those PTSD dreams. It should be pointed out that this was also world that has adopted the term "Black Friday" like "Sale-A-Thon" and "Christmas In July" as if they made some sort of logistical sense. It was almost a week before the actual day of "door-busters," but the frenzy had already begun. Without actually having to bust any doors. 

A kinder, gentler Black Friday. 

So where's the fun in that? 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Cold Turkey

 I am starting to wonder about the conventional wisdom of Thanksgiving. I mean, I get the whole idea about being grateful. That seems like something we might want to make a part of every day, but the idea of a feast. Well, let's just say that I wonder how that has aged over the years. 

Back in 1621 when fifty-some settlers from another land sat down to dine with ninety-somWampanoag to mark a successful harvest, I don't think they had Turducken on the menu. They probably had some sense of what they were doing, putting together a way to show gratitude to those who had made survival possible. And probably to commemorate the large number of their party that didn't make it through the previous winter. The half that were left of the original group that came across on the Mayflower probably felt pretty justified in the three day gorge-fest they organized more than four hundred years ago. 

These days, the survival rate of transatlantic crossings has risen sharply. The survival rate for the Wampanoag not so much. Thanks again for that nudge with our little startup, but we can pretty much take it from here. And thanks again to all those other tribes who gave us all the room to spread out. While we effectively extinguished an entire race of people, we still gather together to ask the lord's blessing and to eat until our guts strain and we make room for that one last piece of pie. 

One in six American children face hunger every day. Four hundred years later. This is why we get those letters in the mail asking us to think of them while we stuff our faces. A big show is made of those Thanksgiving dinners put on by various charities, with all the trimmings. Next Thursday, we hope there are leftovers. 

Yes, I understand I am throwing a big bucket of cold gravy on what should be a festive time. I admit that I am not currently willing to simply forgo the annual tradition of conspicuous consumption, much in the same way that I have yet to find the off button for Christmas. These impulses are buried deep in the wiring, and simply pulling the plug seems like a moderately impossible task. 

Instead, I propose we go into this day with our eyes and hearts open. Appreciation for those things we have, those around us, another trip around the sun. And certainly, our remarkable ability to digest. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Yuck

 Politics, it has been said, makes strange bedfellows. 

Which is pretty yucky when you think about it.

At all. 

It's supposed to bring to mind visions of bipartisan agreements and the like. It really shouldn't give us time to consider anything that could be considered any sort of physical canoodling. But then again, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy have historically had something to say about that. You may remember that before we ever had Stormy Daniels to worry about, there was a matter of a videotape that may or may not have existed showing a certain former game show host who was caught watching a pair of Russian prostitutes defile a bed in which the Obamas formerly slept in Moscow's Ritz-Carlton hotel. 

I know, I know. I didn't want to bring it up, but it was that former game show host who brought it up yet again at a campaign stop in Iowa. Just in case any of us had just started to forget about the escapades of this bloated sack of oragne protoplasm, here it is again. For your consideration. And disgust.

Which is probably why we can only shrug our collective shoulders as we learn that compulsive liar and New York Representative George Santos has, among so very many other ridiculous and illegal things, used his campaign funds to pay for subscriptions to OnlyFans, a porn site. Yes, he also used supporters' money for Botox and designer shoes, but gosh aren't we happy to know just a little more about what may or may not be George Santos' personal pecadilloes. 

That is a rhetorical question. 

Yuck. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Bottom Of The Ninth

 My son grew up in Oakland. The baseball he knows is from Oakland. He was carried into the upper deck of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in a baby bucket when he was an infant. 

He never experienced a World Series, but he had the joy and excitement of numerous playoff runs. His parents indulged him in souvenir T-shirts and made a point of trying to attend bobblehead days. 

My son had a number of favortie players. Eric Chavez, third baseman for the Oakland Athletics for thirteen years, was affectionately known around our house as Señor Backpack because of his appearance on the Back To School book bag we brought home with us after a game.  Josh Reddick had a number of outstanding seasons in Oakland, and he became a favorite for his connection to Spider Man with is superhuman grabs in the outfield. And there was Coco Crisp, who became a household fixture, immortalized in dessert form with my wife's "walkoff pie."

Somewhere in there, we stopped taking our son to games. He started taking me. For Father's Day. We had a streak going where the A's were unbeatable when my son and I were in the stands. Speaking of streaks, he was only five years old when his team posted twenty wins in a row, an American League record. Nine years later he was able to savor it all over again when Brad Pitt brought it all back on the big screen in Moneyball. And just a few years after that, the guy who played Scott Hatteberg became Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. 

What kid wouldn't love that? 

And through all those years, my son endured all the discussions of his team leaving. For the first time in what seems like forever, we didn't go to a game this year. I don't think the ownership missed us. But now that Major League Baseball has approved the move of the Oakland Athletics to the desert of Las Vegas, we'll miss them. 

We will miss our baseball here in Oakland. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

Time To Go

 There were a lot of weddings way back when.

Then there were a flurry of baby showers.

Now there are far too many funerals.

I understand that this is entirely a byproduct of my travels through what Prince once referred to as "this thing called life." The scenery has not changed as much as what I notice. 

A trusted friend and dedicated follower of this corner of Al Gore's Internet experienced the loss of a parent this past week. Her mother died, leaving her an orphan after her father passed more than twenty years earlier. The fact that her own son was home for a visit when the news came was some solace to be sure, but becoming a member of the parentless demographic never goes down easily. 

Her mother lingered, and tested the bounds of hospice, sticking around longer than most anyone had predicted. Which gave the family a chance to circle the wagons, preparing for the worst. A number of times. This exercise was trying for obvious reasons, but also became an odd sense of comfort. Mom outlived Tom Petty. She outlasted David Bowie. And George Michael. 

It was that last one that got us laughing when we shared a call after mom had passed. It was the inventory call that accompanies the end of a life. Perhaps it is a dubious activity to measure one's life by the number of celebrities that went to their final reward ahead of those we love. It's part of the bargaining and accounting of the event. The consolation of a life well lived is one thing, but sticking around planet Earth longer than half the Beatles shouldn't be discounted.

And the river of memories that come flooding back. I was reminded of sliding down the stairs at my friend's house when we were high school, and the molds we made of our faces in plates of chocolate mousse. Or the way we may have damaged her mom's microwave by loading it with marshmallows. 

And then there was the way I could reach back a year to the death of my own mother, and the odd connection that I felt with the newest orphan. And the new topics of discussions available to us, like estate planning and drafting our own wills. In hopes of greasing the track to the next world for when that time comes.  

Sunday, November 19, 2023

A Little Real

 I used to get more bent out of shape when I heard someone declare that I wasn't "a real teacher." Never mind that I put in every bit as much time supervising, herding and entertaining children as my colleagues. Never mind that I earned a teaching credential and have maintained one from the State of California for lo these many years. Never mind that on any given day, if there were multiple absences and no substitutes available, I would step in and take on a class for a day or two. And let's not forget about the five years I taught my own fourth grade class. Just like a "real teacher."

Keeping in mind that stint in fourth grade game me some appreciation for how this squishy distinction could be made. "Mister Caven's Class" is currently more a room than a group of children. When I introduce myself as a teacher, the inevitable return is "Oh? Which grade?"

To which I reply, "All of them."

Which means to some degree I play the role of divorced dad. I show up a couple times a week, take the kids out for some exercise or an hour in the computer lab, and then I bring them back to their "real teacher." The prevalent feeling among many of my colleagues over the years is that I then disappear for another week or handful of days, only to return at the appointed hour to scoop up their little darlings so they can crawl under their desks and breathe deep into a paper bag until I bring them back again. 

We call this "prep time."

Over the past decade, I have relaxed more into the role I truly play: utility infielder. "Mister Caven, can you take a look at the copy machine when you get a minute?" 

"Mister Caven, can you take Andy for a few minutes? Just until he cools down and writes a letter of apology."

"Mister Caven, can you look after my kids while I go to the bathroom/move my car out of the no parking zone/have a good cry?"

And if it sounds like I am complaining, I apologize. I have lucked into a very important position at my school. And though I may not appear real to everyone, the services I provide are. And somewhere in the course of a day, I try to teach. A little.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Not On My Playground

 If you're worried about how the rest of the guys are going to look at you if you back down from a fight, you've got bigger problems than the fight. 

On Tuesday morning, Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin said he was nobly representing his state's values by challenging Teamster boss Sean O'Brien to a fight. Not an online chatterfest or war of soundbites, but an actual physical altercation. In the chambers of the United States Senate. It began, as these things often do, when Sentator Mullin read a Tweet from O'Brien Mullin felt disparaged him: “Quit the tough guy act in these Senate hearings. You know where to find me. Any place, Anytime cowboy.” Mullin followed it up by saying, “This is a time, this is a place. We can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.” “OK that’s fine, perfect,” O’Brien replied. “You wanna do it now?” Mullin said. “Would love to do it right now,” O’Brien replied. “Well stand your butt up then.” 

At this point, Mullin began to remove his wedding ring and rose to his feet. He needed to be restrained and then admonished by the committee's chair, Senator Bernie Sanders. “You know you’re a United States senator, act like it.” This show was enough to get Mister Mullin a guest shot on Sean Hannity's show, where the host praised Mullin’s actions, saying any other response would have been “gutless.” Which must have played well among Hannity's viewers, a man who described his hypothetical response to a mass shooting by touting his training in mixed martial arts. Senator Mullin is not just a United States senator, but a former and apparently not quite retired Mixed Martial Arts fighter. “What did people want me to do? If I didn’t do that, people in Oklahoma would be pretty upset at me.” He added: “I’m supposed to represent Oklahoma values.”

During a Veterans Day speech last Saturday, the former game show host and current Republican frontrunner for "president" called his political opponents and critics “vermin” and accused them of being a bigger threat to the U.S. than countries such as Russia, China, and North Korea. Historians and researchers were quick to warn that his language was reminiscent of authoritarian leaders including Hitler and Mussolini. The game show host's team's response to their candidate's oration? “Those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their entire existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House." 

Meanwhile, the man who once described what is best in life thus: "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women," was last seen on a Monday Night Football broadcast, cooing and feeding his pet donkey Lulu. 

Things are not getting any less strange out there. Be safe. 

Friday, November 17, 2023

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Goofy

 What guy wouldn't want his fiancée to talk him up to anyone who would listen? Especially if those who are listening are reporters from Vogue magazine. She says he is “goofy”, “extremely funny” and “the life of the party."

Which is pretty easy to say, especially to a group of reporters from Vogue magazine. And your fiancé happened to be the world's third wealthiest human. And that fiancé had presented you with a thirty karat pink diamond engagement ring, along with a team of Oompa Loompas to help lift your arm as that little bauble dangles from your left hand. 

Does it come as any kind of revelation to anyone that Jeff Bezos is "the life of the party" when he can buy and sell the party hundreds of times over until he is surrounded by enough sycophants who will laugh at any and all "goofy" things he might say in an "extremely funny" way? "I mean, you’ve heard him laugh, right?” asks Lauren Sanchez, the fiancée in question. 

Yes, Lauren. We can all hear him. Laughing all the way to the bank. 

Which reminds me of an old Bobcat Goldthwait bit in which he described his feelings about the later years of Elvis Presley. "He was on so many drugs, he pretty much laughed everywhere he went."

I am not suggesting that Jeff Bezos is under the influence of anything but cash, but that seems to be enough. 

I am suggesting that Ms. Sanchez, who insists that she will take Mister Bezos' name when they are married, will happily share any and all enthusiasm for her betrothed until such moment as he wants to trade up for a newer, flashier model.

Like he did with his first wife of twenty-five years. Who was awarded with one of the largest divorce settlement in history: Thirty-eight billion dollars. 

Keep laughing, Lauren. Money can't buy you love, but it might help improve your sense of humor. 

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Race To The Bottom

 Republican Senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott, has dropped out of the contest to determine who will win the consolation prize. The crowded field that once held as many as twenty potential candidates has been whittled down to a number that will allow half a dozen or so that will climb on stage and attempt to appear presidential while never coming right out and saying that what they really want is to be second banana to a former game show host currently facing ninety-one charges under four separate indictments. 

But let's get back to Senator Tim. He suspended his campaign for second place over the past weekend. He has quite a lot of financial backing, but there must have been something that kept him from connecting to Republican voters. 

Some have speculated that his bachelor status was holding him back. At fifty-eight years old, why is this guy still unmarried? The insinuations being made by some was that Mister Scott was gay. Because we all understand that this would be a terrible thing for any candidate to profess, but it plays a whole lot easier in red states than saying that he is black. 

Because Senator Tim Scott is that: Black. 

With little or nothing to do about his ethnicity, Senator Tim trotted out his girlfriend at the end of last week's third Republican Presidential debate. There were those in the media who gleefully pounced on the appearance, wondering why there had been no previous evidence of this "very nice Christian girl" who Axios has revealed goes by the name of Mindy Noce. The pair have reportedly been dating "about a year." 

This was Tim Scott's last best chance to be considered relevant in the primary races coming up. By dragging this poor woman on stage with him for a photo op, political strategists hoped that this might make the anti-bachelor prejudice disappear. 

Or whatever reason Republicans needed not to vote for the guy who happens to be a black bachelor. 

I suppose the upside here is that Mike Pence, who is most defiantly married and ridiculously white dropped out before Tim Scott. What happens to the "winner" of all this chicanery? Like most game show contestants, they can hope for some lovely parting gifts and a home version of the game. 

Good luck to those left standing. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Time Off For Odd Behavior

 Jacob Chansley has filed paperwork to run for Congress. He would like to represent Arizona's eighth district. Mister Chansley registered as a Libertarian. 

I can see you wondering what all the fuss is about. 

Unless you recognize the secret identity of the "QAnon Shaman." Jacob has been out of the limelight for the past couple years. Because he has been in prison. Locked up for his role in the melee that occurred on January 6, 2021. He was the guy with the blue and red face paint wearing the buffalo headress. Originally sentenced to three years for his part in the riot, but received time off for good behavior. At the time of his sentencing, he told the court, "I am not a violent man or a white supremacist. I am truly repentant." Additionally, his lawyers wanted everyone to know that their client is on the autism spectrum and suffers from a personality disorder, which defense lawyer Albert Watkins said contributed to a diminished decision-making ability.

That Jacob Chansley. 

Truly repentant? You might want to check out Jacob's "Forbidden Truth Academy," a website that promotes Jacob's online courses in metaphysics and his podcast. And of course, there's swag. Only a matter of time before "Shaman for Congress" bumper stickers are available. 

And what about his chances? Well, his lord and savior the former game show host and insurrectionist-in-chief may be on his way to jail when the 2024 election occurs. 

We live in strange times. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Making It Work

 Some folks will tell you that Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man. Most of these folks work for the advertising agency that creates the feel-good commercials for customers to watch. If you're sitting on the couch on a hypothetical Saturday afternoon and that dripping faucet in the back bathroom has you thinking, "Well how hard could it be?" Especially if you have that guy at Ace to steer you in the right direction. Of course, this being the twenty-third year of a new millennium, they aren't just helpful hardware men as much as a group of helpful hardware folks. Which should make you feel even better about being supported in your do-it-yourself tasks. 

Because calling a plumber just isn't the thing that we are all encouraged to do these days. Or, in my case, a locksmith. My wife has been interested for some time in getting a keyless deadbolt for our front door. Part of this comes from an interest in being on the cutting edge of technology and home security. Another part of this idea stemmed from a predilection for not always being able to produce a front door key when the moment comes to open said front door. 

Did we go to Ace Hardware to make our purchase?

No. We did not. 

We went to Home Depot. We waited for an epoch or two for someone with an orange apron to come and unlock the cage where the device we needed was kept. Then we wandered up to the cash register, where the person in the orange apron carried the deadbolt and deposited on a table for us "to pick up when we were ready." We were ready, so seconds after he had oh-so-carefully placed our pending purchase on that tiny table up front, we picked it up, paid for it, and rushed home. Too tired from all that commerce, I decided to put off the installation until the next morning.

The next morning turned into the next afternoon. I opened up the box. I took all the parts out. I read the directions carefully. I took out the old lock and painstakingly put the new one in its place. Everything worked until that moment when the code was supposed to make the bolt slide back and forth. It did that once, then made a clicking sound and refused to do my bidding. I took it apart. I put it back together again. I did this three separate times. Same result. I took it back apart, put the pieces in the box from whence it came, and hustled it back to the customer service desk at Home Depot. Only after a wait for someone to process the return. 

Then I hiked to the back of the store, to where the locks were kept, ironically enough, under lock and key. After several near-misses, I interrupted an orange apron's phone call just long enough to make sure he knew that I could use some assistance. When at last it was my turn for thirty seconds of his attention, I asked him why he figured the lock I had purchased just the day before was not cooperating. "Did you put fresh batteries in it?" He wondered. When I answered "brand new," he shrugged his shoulders and suggested I spend sixty dollars more to get "a really good one." 

Not helpful. 

On the way home, with the replacement in the passenger seat, I thought about McGuckin's Hardware. The hardware store I grew up with. The folks there wore green vests. They all knew their stuff, and if they didn't, they would find someone who did. They got my dad through his share of tough spots as a homeowner, and my older brother has helped keep them in business over the years by asking for advice along with his washers and wire snips. 

I was eventually able to make the door lock work. My wife was pleased. I was relieved. And I couldn't get that stupid jingle out of my head. 

Monday, November 13, 2023

Fear And Loathing

 I have what I believe is a ludicrous fear: When I walk over a sidewalk grating, I worry about suddenly becoming very thin and slipping through the gaps and disappearing forever. 

Happily, I live in a city where this isn't a regular occurrence, but it sits there in the back of my mind, waiting to twist my Amygdala in knots, making rational thought all but impossible. However, there are plenty more where that one came from, so I do my very best when I trip over one of these irrational concerns. 

Now I'm reading more about Joseph Emerson, the Alaska Airlines pilot who decided to try and crash the plane he was riding home on  in October. Captain Emerson wasn't doing the actual flying at the time. He was just riding up front in the cockpit in the jump seat, hitching back to San Francisco. After the plane reached cruising altitude, he began to appear agitated. He tossed off his headset and announced, "I'm not okay." That was when he reached up and yanked the plane’s two fire-suppression handles, the ones designed to cut the fuel supply and shut down both engines. The other pilots were able to subdue Captain Joe and keep him from causing the plane to plummet to earth. They diverted the flight to a not-so-abrupt landing in Portland, Oregon. 

Just a slight inconvenience. 

For his part, former Captain Emerson says he was desperate to awaken from a hallucinogenic state that had consumed him since taking psychedelic mushrooms two days earlier, during a weekend getaway with friends to commemorate the death of his best friend. “I thought it would stop both engines, the plane would start to head towards a crash, and I would wake up.” 

The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded pilots dealing with depression or other mental diagnoses, with policies so strict that the decision to seek psychiatric help or a prescription for standard antidepressant medication is enough to trigger a suspension of their flight eligibility. This means that pilots who are feeling more than just a little blue need to keep their mouths shut to avoid being unemployed. It would seem former Captain Emerson chose to self-medicate. 

Which raises the question: Who's flying the plane you're on this holiday weekend? And stay away from those grates. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Phase

 I had a troubled set of teenage years. When it came time to confront life after high school, I lost touch with many of the things that made me strong. For some reason, I felt the need, compulsion, to argue with my parents. The minimal barriers they put on my freedom were things I felt I needed to press up against. 

By the time I turned twenty, I had started to come back to something that resembled calm and normal. When I look back at those years and the storm that passed through, as a parent myself, I wonder why I was making such a scene. 

Here's the quote: "What are you rebelling against?" Marlon Brando's character is asked in The Wild One. He responds with another question. "What have you got?" 

I was not mistreated in any way. My parents were supportive and caring. They were interested in what I was doing and did everything they could to make my path easier. Even when that path had them going to therapy with me every few weeks while I went every Tuesday to straighten out whatever kink had shown up in my line. I'm sure there was some hand wringing on their part when I bailed on my first attempt at college without ever attending a class. One night in a dorm and I had enough. That straight path to adulthood took a sudden and jarring turn. 

Such a bright boy. Such a good boy. What could we have done differently?

Looking back, I will say with calm certainty that I do not believe there was anything else they could have done. My brothers kept me in their sights and never let go. They appreciated this phase I was going through. Did I come by it righteously? Probably not, but mental health is a tricky thing. Making sense out of not making sense is something people spend their entire careers trying to unravel. 

The good news is that I came out on the other side, eventually. I was stronger. I was smarter. And by the time I got to be old enough to supervise a bunch of kids who struggle with their own vagaries, I was ready to give them the same understanding that I learned from my family when I was lost in the woods. 

For those of you who remember those days, so very long ago, my apologies and appreciation for your patience while I figured things out. 

With your help.  

Saturday, November 11, 2023

The New Math

 Last year, the Pew Research Center reported this: "Currently, 61% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% say it should be illegal in all or most cases."

I am not a statistician, but my elementary teacher's understanding of decimals, percentages and fractions tells me that stacks up to just about two thirds of the country supporting a woman's right to choose. Given that this information was available to the public over the past year, it does make one wonder why states would be trotting out legislation banning abortion in all or most cases. So far, thirteen states have bans on a woman's reproductive rights. These were enacted as "Trigger Laws" after Roe v. Wade was overturned, meaning that legislatures in Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming had laws in the can, waiting for the moment when the Supreme Court decision was struck down to enact their bans. It may not surprise you all to hear that, for example, North Carolina's pending prohibition on abortion was created in 1973 shortly after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. Contrast that with the folks in Illinois who had their own Trigger Law in place, but they repealed it in 2017. 

Since June of 2022, there have been a number of states that figured they could just go ahead and push anti-abortion laws through their legislatures after the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. So far, none of these have passed, with voters in Kansas just a couple months later lining up in a reflection of the Pew report, with sixty percent turning back a ballot measure to restrict a woman's right to choose. Forty percent supported it. The plan to "let states decide" seems to be working, but perhaps not in the way that conservative types had hoped. 

This past Tuesday, voters in Ohio went to the polls to decide on an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee the right to have an abortion. The preliminary results were fifty-six percent "yes" and forty-four percent "no." Other states followed this trend by confirming Democratic control of state houses and governorships, reaffirming what we already knew: most Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

As it turns out, it's not really hard math at all. An elementary school teacher can do it. 

Friday, November 10, 2023

Priorities

 If the government were to shut down, hypothetically, when would it start?

November 18. 

In the days leading up to this potential disaster, what was the House of Representatives busy doing? Well, a number of them were meeting in a special committee. Probably to discuss the potential fiscal impact that such a shut down would cause. Or maybe they were trying to iron out our nation's aid packages to Israel and Ukraine. Or possibly they were gathering to argue about gas stoves and ceiling fans. 

I'm here to tell you that it was that last one. House Republicans are incensed by the new proposed rule by the Biden administration regarding ceiling fans. The GOP already has their collective knickers in a twist about energy efficiency standards, highlighted by the suggestion that gas stoves should be phased out. The new rule seeks to make ceiling fans more efficient, therefore saving consumers money over time. Representatives with an R in front of their names argue that this would cost homeowners and businesses millions of dollars to convert their old clunky fans. 

So they set themselves a date to complain about it. 

Mind you, this is not a hearing about climate change, but rather an opportunity to play to the common man and woman who are threatened with change. The change of their household appliances. The household appliances that many Americans who have jobs with the Federal Government that might not be able to afford the gas or electricity to run them if the government shuts down. 

Priorities. 

It's November 10. 

Tick.

Tick. 

Tick.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Commitments

 "Because it's a school night."

That was the excuse I had been making for all the months leading up to the night. I couldn't possibly go to San Francisco after dark on a Sunday.

Not even if it meant going to see the Fiftieth Anniversary DEVO show.

Until a friend and constant reader of this blog emailed without provocation to inquire if I was going to be in attendance. 

Two days before the show. 

When I read the email, I felt that nudge I needed to get me off the fence and into the online box office. My wife and I bought tickets, and on that Sunday Night, we drove into the big city and went to a concert. 

It was a celebration of the decades I have spent lugging around an energy dome and my yellow radiation suit. Waiting for one more chance to have the word passed along to me one more time. The word: Devolution. As I have each previous time I have been in attendance, bassist Jerry Casale asked the assembled Devotees, "How many of you think devolution is real?" I roared along with the crowd in assent. "You don't have to look far for examples," Jerry continued. 

We knew what he was talking about. 

Since 1980, when I bought my first DEVO album and hopped aboard the Spudboy Express and didn't look back. These gentlemen from Akron, Ohio have informed my world view and kept me dancing since way back when my high school sweetheart fretted that I would "get into punk rock." The good news was that I did. A world of crashing sounds and dangerous ideas. And somewhere along the line, my wife and I chose "Freedom of Choice" as one of our wedding songs. When the question came up, "When is a good time for our young son to see his first DEVO show?" the answer was obvious: As soon as possible. 

My wife and I were a little chagrined when we realized it would just be the two of us attending the show in San Francisco. We needn't have worried. We were surrounded by Beautiful Mutants. After being bombarded by hits and misses with a massive video screen as their backdrop, Boojie Boy appeared to remind us all "It's A Beautiful World." And he asked us all to promise to return to that very theater in fifty more years for the one hundredth anniversary of Devolution. 

I promised. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

The Last Line

 My older brother sent me a gift in the mail. It was Jimmy Buffett's last album, "Equal Strain On All Parts." It was not a huge surprise, since he emailed me the day the release was announced. He didn't want me to rush out and buy one for myself. He was going to take care of this one. 

Much in the same way he has taken care of so many of these transactions before. It was my older brother who first introduced me to Jimmy Buffett way back in 1979, when he slid a few of Key West's favorite crooner onto a mix tape for me and my friends. Summertime for me in the 1980's were not complete without a trip to Red Rocks with my brother and all our Parrothead friends to sing along with all those songs we knew by heart. 

When I opened up that CD, the last Jimmy Buffett album, all the memories I had of warm summer evenings in various stages of inebriation. I thought about the gusto with which we would harmonize. I looked forward to each opportunity I had to bring a new Parrothead into the fold. When I moved out to California, I continued to spread the word. "You've never been to a Buffett show?" I could fix that. 

Years passed. Complications and obligations mounted. Eventually the obsession dulled, as being a grown up became more consuming. But in the background, I could always hear Margaritaville calling. When Jimmy Buffett passed away two months ago, this last record was already completed. There would be no tour for this one. But the songs were there to remind me why he was such a presence in my life. My brother's life. 

And on one track, "My Gummie Just Kicked In," Paul McCartney played bass. Which was significant since it was my older brother who also introduced me to Paul's old band, The Beatles. As synchronous events would have it, the day that Jimmy's album showed up in my mailbox, The Beatles released their last single: "Now And Then." Everything old was new again. 

For a moment or two. And I remembered all that music and all the words and sounds that my older brother brought to me. "Wrinkles will only go where the smiles have been," he wrote once upon a time. 

What a good line. 

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

I Remember

 Does fifteen years feel like a long time?

It's more than a lifetime for the kids I teach. It's about half the time I have lived on the Left Coast. As a matter of fact, it was here in California where I cast my ballot for one Barack Hussein Obama for president. 

Fifteen years ago. And he won. For a short while, things felt like there were going to be fine. We had turned back John McCain and his "rogue" running mate Sarah Palin. The Bush administration suddenly felt like they were ancient history. The election of 2008 was going to change things. We were hopeful again. No more war. No more racism. No more division. We elected the guy who told us just a few years before that there were no red states, and there were no blue states, only the United States. 

We elected that guy. He was President of the United States. 

And he was black.

How could we ever look back? 

Well, fifteen years later, looking back is what I am doing. Wondering how we found ourselves in the position we currently find ourselves. The divisions that we had hoped to put to rest when Barack Obama took the stage in Chicago's Grant Park have grown deeper and more bizarre. 

Hope has been replaced by desperation. All the possibilities we envisioned on that chilly night in November 2008 have been cashed in on business as usual. 

But it helps to remember that once there was a spot for happily ever aftering. Even if it was only a moment in time fifteen years ago. 

It could happen again. 

Monday, November 06, 2023

The Beat

 It is not a new notion that politicians are crooks and liars. 

This idea has been around as long as our great republic. 

Longer.

Which may have everything to do with the current political climate. The easiest place to start is the four indictments and ninety-one felony counts facing the presumptive Republican nominee for "president." In all his egomaniacal bluster, he insists that these court appearances are keeping him from standing in front of his indoctrinated followers babbling about whatever passes between his remaining synapses. This, he insists is "election interference!"

Oh dear. Heaven forbid that he should want to clear his good name. 

If he had one. 

Then there's the case, or shall I say cases, of George Santos. Mister Santos is a demonstrable liar and currently under his own thick blanket of accusations. These include  Conspiracy, Wire Fraud, False Statements, Falsification of Records, Aggravated Identity Theft, and Credit Card Fraud. The House of Representatives held a vote to expel him from the halls of Congress, but that effort failed when thirty-one Democrats voted to save the Republican from New York's Third District. Which is pretty interesting since the initial move to give him the boot came from his fellow New York Republicans who are very interested in distancing themselves from the mountain of crime this political newbie has generated. 

Which is also why the Republicans continue to try to make the Hunter Biden laptop trick work. Four years of tireless effort on their part along with their media arm, Faux News, has failed to create any impeachable offenses for Hunter's father, but it has provided some rather colorful exhibits provided by everyone's favorite astronomer, Marjorie Taylor "Three Names" Greene. And while we're on the subject of Ms. Three Names, she doesn't spare her GOP Housemates. She referred to her former pal Lauren "Hot Shot" Boebert as “vaping groping Lauren” and Texas representative Chip "Ahoy" Roy as "Colonel Sanders." Not that there's anything necessarily illegal about resembling a fried chicken magnate, but the jury continues to ponder this and other questions as the beat goes on.

And on.

And on.