Sunday, April 30, 2023

Cold Comfort

 The race to the top of the ignorant slide is difficult not to watch as conservative Republicans slip and slide and climb over one another to try and get to the pinnacle. It is hard not to root for a proven idiot like Marjorie Taylor Greene. Last week one of her entries into the competition included this sour raspberry: "How much taxes and how much money did the people back in the ice age spend to warm up the earth?... maybe perhaps we live on a ball that rotates around the sun, that flies through the universe, and maybe our climate just changes." The current description of what just poured out of the slit beneath her nose is "word salad." Any attempt to try and pluck meaning from what she was babbling will only result in a stress-induced headache. That's why the crowd that nods in approval to her assault on common sense must be sedated in some way prior to sitting down to listen.

But I would like to enter a new horse into this contest: Wisconsin's Senator Ron Johnson. Last week during a Senate Budget hearing, he decided to go toe to toe with Doctor Michael Greenstone, an economics professor at the University of Chicago. Doctor Greenstone was there to discuss the economic impacts of climate change causing a projected eighty-five excess global deaths per one hundred thousand people every year by 2100. Senator Ron said he did not "put any stock in" the projections of Greenstone's study before arguing that it had shown climate change was "pretty good" for the U.S. and an overall positive since it would lead to warming in cold areas like Wisconsin.

"In terms of excess deaths, a warming globe's actually beneficial," Johnson said. "In my own state, your study shows that we would have a reduction in mortality of somewhere between fifty-four and fifty-six people per, I guess, it's one hundred thousand. Why wouldn't we take comfort in that?"

Never mind that Doctor Greenstone's study, based on the current global population of approximately 8 billion, would translate to nearly seven million more annual deaths. Why wouldn't we take comfort in that? Keeping in mind that Senator Ron was one of those who liked to compare deaths from COVID-19 favorably to those deaths that were flu-related.  

Senator Ron is not a scientist. Or an economist. From the biography on his own website: "Ron graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in business and accounting after skipping his senior year of high school so he could work full time." Good for him, getting out there and making something of himself. A United States Senator with little or no understanding of science or economics. Scrambling to the top of that slippery slope. 

Saturday, April 29, 2023


 All the little cracks can be seen at this time of the year. Nowhere is this more evident than during standardized testing when half the school spends each morning in front of a Chromebook, quietly clicking and scrolling. 

"Mister Caven, my computer doesn't work."

The good news is that most of these machine failures have pretty common solution: Turn them off. Wait. Turn them back on again. I launch into these events with a sigh and a resignation engendered by decades of managing technology for this little slice of heaven I all school. 

There are moments when the quick fix that I do out of reflex is insufficient to the challenge. In these cases, I tend to repeat the process: Turn it off. Wait. Turn it back on again. A vast majority of the time, this second trip down reset lane is rewarded with a return to service. Just as showing students and teachers both where to find the volume control before tossing a pair of headphones because they "did not work." 

This experience extends to copy machines. And coffee makers. I make very few copies. I never drink coffee. This does not relieve my responsibility to these apparatus. They have electricity in them and are therefore under my purvey as "tech." Electric pencil sharpeners are another matter. They don't tend to need a system reset as much as extrication: removal of any and all foreign bodies other than the tips of pencils that were meant for sharpening. Erasers do not require sharpening, contrary to the belief and understanding of your average second grader. 

And why are all these little bits making themselves more prominent in our collective eyes and therefore landing on my desk on this page of the calendar? Because most if not all of the hardware that is being thrust in front of me will not be replaced next year. We don't lave a line item in our school's budget for miscellaneous scratches, dents and jammed copy machines. We do, however, have someone on staff who stretches his job description to include all god's devices, great and small. 

That would be me. And once I get the soccer balls off the roof and the breakfast distributed, I will be mashing on that power button and imploring the spirits to help me heal the tired, poor, and wretched refuse yearning to breathe free. Or just turn back on again. 

Friday, April 28, 2023

Get The Tuck Out

 I am a little concerned about the estimated four million viewers of Young Tuck (Er) Carlson. I am worried that they are left in the wilderness of mindless conspiracy without a guide. I suppose I would feel more upset if they hadn't wandered after him like lemmings wearing red baseball caps, but still I can't help wondering who will lead them to the New Promised Land? 

Tucker Carlson, full name Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson, was let go by Faux News this past Monday making him one of the very few people to have the distinction of being fired by CNN, MSNBC and Faux News. If he were a baseball player, we would call this "hitting for the cycle," but since he's a TV personality we'll just call it a relief. Maybe not for those eight million slavishly devoted empty vessels waiting for a drop of Young Tuck's wisdom, but for the rest of us who maintain a modicum of free will and common sense. 

Let's take a moment to examine the bar at Faux News. Not the lounge where Jeanine Pirro loads up before her night's broadcast, but rather the levels that Young Master Carlson bounced off of without getting fired. Like the time he insisted that immigrants coming to the United States of making the country “poorer, and dirtier, and more divided." Or when he referred to Iraqis as “semiliterate primitive monkeys." As an apologist for most every incident of racism, he continued to refer to white supremacy as "some kind of hoax." Along similar lines he likened vaccine mandates to Jim Crow laws and operated as a prime source of misinformation during the onset of COVID-19.  He said the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 “were orderly and meek. These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers.”

And it goes on and on, but the one that may have tripped him up was when he turned his laser antipathy at the cash cow of his network. Shortly after the 2020 election, he texted, “He’s a demonic force, a destroyer. But he’s not going to destroy us. I’ve been thinking about this every day for four years.” And that's the hate that Faux News just can't afford to keep around.

So, bye-bye for now Young Tuck. He's a resilient enough talking head. He'll find a new place to shout at people. Maybe on a street corner selling My Pillow. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Lie Barry

 Libraries are closing. Not content to simply remove "banned" books from the shelves, Missouri lawmakers have decided to defund public libraries in an effort to get words out of the hands of its citizens. Ideas like the ones found in The Hate You Give and Handmaid's Tale would no longer be available for public consumption, free to be checked out and discussed among the public. Which pretty much flies in the face of the "public" library model. For many of the rural residents, public libraries are their only point of Internet access. As with most other states, public libraries function as city centers, a place to meet and connect for free concerts, celebrations, and by the way: books. 

There is good news: clear-thinking Republicans in the Missouri Senate are likely to restore the library funding once the budget lands in front of them. But we are already digging a hole out if which it may be difficult to climb. Controlling the thoughts and words that find their way into the public's head isn't something that our First Amendment should allow. There are those who would suggest that if consenting adults have a yen to dip their toes in the dystopian Republic of Gilead, they need only to Google it. Except for that lack of Internet connection. For extreme right wing conservatives, that sort of thing is best left to the individual. The individual writing the extreme legislation that keeps Missourians in the dark. 

And what about the would-be readers in Idaho? And it wouldn't be Texas if they weren't hopping on that ultra-MAGAt bandwagon, just in case drag queens showed up at their libraries. And I'm pretty sure that books in any form have been outlawed in Florida. 

And if you thought that heading off to California would allow you any relative freedom in terms of what you or your children might read, try not to land in San Ramon. At a recent school board meeting, a parent insisted, "It's a matter of indoctrination. They're going after kids' hearts minds and souls with stuff that neither the parents want, nor is it appropriate for those kids." It is at these meetings that the frightened mobs begin with the "most offensive" books they can find, like the autobiographical graphic novel by Maia Kobabe, Gender Queer. It's a pretty sure bet that most, if not all, of the outrage was confined to those who heard the title and decided that if there was anything in it that touched on pronouns it should be banned, burned, and the publisher should torn down and the earth where it stood salted, never to be looked upon by another god-fearing soul. 

Or maybe we should let libraries be repositories for human thought, right left and middle. It's a grocery store for ideas. Just because they sell kale doesn't mean you have to load up your cart with the stuff, nor do you have to buy a case of Twinkies. Maybe you can try them out, and if you don't like them separately, maybe you're not mixing them right. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Teenaged Hindsight

 "Reggie, did you see the Andrews sent us another card."

"Yeah. I saw it."

"Isn't it nice that after all these years they still stay in touch."

"Yeah. Nice."

"Oh, come on Reggie. You can't still be bitter..."

"Oh, can't I, Betty? Can't I? My 'best friend' in high school ends up stealing my girl and marrying into all that dough, traveling around the world on Mister Lodge's dime..." 

"But if they hadn't gotten together, you and I might never have found each other."

"Right. And I never would have lucked into this catering business that's about to go bankrupt."

"Don't be that way. You know that things don't always work out like on TV. Or comic books."

When I read Archie comics, I wasn't old enough to consider just how hormonal the whole enterprise was. Archie was fortunate to have the attention of Betty, but aspired to date Veronica. Reggie, who was part of the Malt Shoppe gang was also enamored of Veronica, leaving Betty to stand idly by while the boys made fools of themselves in hopes of landing the elusive Ms. Lodge and all that rich girl maintenance. As comic book characters, there was nothing markedly different between the two girls save their hair color and their social status. In the band, Betty played the tambourine, "Ronnie" played the organ (perhaps because her father could buy her one). Way back when, I figured it was an easy enough mystery to solve: pick the girl who puts up with you. 

By the time I was actually in high school, navigating my own relationships, many of the nuances presented by Archie and the gang began to be obscured by my own bad choices. Trying to make sense out of all that emotional, psychological and libidinal input makes "clear thinking" a thing of the past. It's not until you get into your sixties and look back at the way things were and how they are now that it all comes into sharp focus: None of us had a clue what we were doing in high school. Betty could have been so much more assertive. Reggie's Machiavellian attempts at disrupting others' chances for happiness could only turn out bad. Veronica and Reggie were more suited for one another, but that is the precise reason they couldn't end up together. And Archie? He deserved every bad thing that ever happened to him, even if that turned out to be having the life sucked out of him by his evil despot of an eventual father in law. Who among us is truly happy? 


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

What's It Worth To Me?

 I will be honest with you: If Blogger, or its cybermom Google ever gets it into their collective heads to charge me for this platform, you might not see me much longer. My daily musings, that is. There is something profoundly ratifying about having a little corner of Al Gore's Internet where I can pontificate and expound on this and that. Recollect, reconnect, respond and relate. It's all free.

With the possible exception of the time it takes me to sit in front of the keyboard and bang one of these bad boys out each day. And you, dear reader, your time is worth something to me as well. That's why I try to make each heapin' helpin' of my online hospitality a thrill ride you won't forget until you read something else. 

I am still quietly impressed by the fact that this little slice of heaven does not require you to read pop up ads or wade through a myriad of hoops and background checks just to find out what Dave has on his mind. I should point out that there is the tiniest bit of intent in that. When I signed up for the dubious honor of having a blog here, I was asked if I wanted to "monetize" my page. I said thank you, no. 

And that was it. Going on eighteen years, I have had my way with this space without paying a nickel for the privilege. I'm sure that there is some algorithm somewhere that suggests how the clicks that got you all here helps drive traffic to other more lucrative corners of the web. There's got to be a catch, right?

Which is why I continue to watch anxiously as Elon "Gate" Musk continues to mine ways to make his forty-four billion dollar investment in Twitter pay off. For just eight dollars a month, the man with the exploding cars and space rocket wants to sell you a blue check mark that will live next to your name to show that you are both "verified" and "gullible." I suppose he has to find a way to keep making new cars and rockets to blow up. 

Don't get me wrong, if any of you out there reading this would like to throw eight bucks a month at me for the unique opportunity I am offering here at Entropical Paradise, I would not turn it down. But I have way too much integrity to keep it. I would reroute it to a local animal shelter or the World Food Program. It's no blue check mark, but I promise to keep fighting the good, free fight until the bill comes due. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Penny Lane

So, there was that little matter of Faux News having to pay most of a billion dollars to settle a defamation suit against them. Maybe we should have pointed out the most annoying part of that equation:

They can afford it. 

Elon Musk launched a rocket into what was nearly space and it blew up four minutes into what would have been its historic first mission. The entire program that would eventually put a private company, SpaceX, in charge of pushing human beings into orbit around other celestial bodies is estimated to be around five billion dollars. That big bang you heard when their rocket failed to launch? 

They can afford it. 

It brings me back to a bit that comedian Dana Carvey used to do about Paul McCartney looking for his wallet. "Hey Linda love? Didja see me wallet? It musta got stuck in the couch or somethin'. I had three quarters of a million dollars in it." It's funnier if you add the Liverpudlian accent.

The joke remains. It's funny because Sir Paul might not miss three quarters of a million dollars if he happened to misplace it for a while. Out here in the cheap seats, we're still picking up the occasional penny and putting it aside in hopes that we'll scrape together fifty of them eventually to make a roll. When was the last time you suppose Rupert Murdoch or Elon Musk bent at the waist to pick up anything, much less a penny? When was the last time you suppose Rupert Murdoch or Elon Musk bent at the waist?

For me it's a matter of corporations being people. Roll up enough of those pennies and suddenly you don't need to acknowledge their existence. The pennies involved in the day to day business of running Faux News. Rupert Murdoch would like you to pay approximately eight thousand dollars to air a thirty second ad on his "news network." Elon Musk would like you to pay eight dollars to put a little blue check mark next to your made up name on Twitter. That eight dollars is supposed to "verify" you. 

Last time I checked, there are still a whole bunch of people anxious to pay for either of those opportunities. If you don't advertise, you don't make money. If you're not verified, how would anyone know that you were real?

I'd love to talk about this more, but I've got to get back to looking for pennies on the sidewalk. 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Heart: Broken

 Michael and I spent ten weeks together, working on Tuesday afternoons to create a community service project along with ten of his other fourth and fifth grade volunteers. We settled on bullying as the problem we wanted to solve, and then we all collaborated on a skit that we could present to the school to share our solutions. 

We had an assembly where our brave little group of players stood up on the stage and played out a scenario in which a student was bullied, then bystanders came along and joined in. That's when the upstanders appeared and suggested the apology and forgiveness tool from our Social Emotional Toolbox. A teacher helped the students work through the process, and in the end, the bully and the victim decided to be friends. Happily ever after. 

I wonder if any of you are already anticipating the next chapter of this story. 

When the skit was over, each student introduced themselves and gave a piece of advice about how to stop bullying. When it was Michael's turn came, he said, "Don't bully or you won't be slay." Over the previous ten weeks, I had learned that "slay" was a good thing. It was impressive. It was cool, to borrow a phrase from a previous generation. 

If you had already imagined a scenario in which Michael would end up being a bully, then I suggest you look into getting your multiple subject teaching credential and come join us on the front lines. If you are shocked and dismayed to hear this, you can still join us since this was my reaction as well. 

Just days after the premiere of our little play, Michael and a friend decided that they were going to defend the honor of his little sister by beating up another kid they felt had disrespected her. The other kid was in no way a match for these two bullies who also took advantage of the herd mentality of fifth graders, bringing along half a dozen bystanders. The good news is that a couple of those fifth graders did remember the lessons they had been taught on that Friday afternoon. They became upstanders, and came to tell me about what was about to happen. 

Were you expecting a moment of enlightenment on Michael's part? Sorry to let you down on that one. But not nearly as sorry as I was. The beating was over before it could fully begin, but the damage had been done. Anger and fear had been passed down a chain that continues to be very difficult to break. In the principal's office, Michael was essentially unrepentant, shrugging his shoulders and ignoring any whiff of sad irony in his situation. He's going to miss some of the last recesses he will be allotted here at Horace Mann.

And maybe, when he reflects on this moment in time, he will realize that it wasn't slay. Not in the least. 

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Paid Off

 It was worth more than three quarters of a billion dollars for Faux News to settle with Dominion Voting Systems. 

It was worth more than three quarters of a billion dollars for Faux News to not have to go through a trial by jury with Dominion Voting Systems. 

It was worth more than three quarters of a billion dollars for Faux News to avoid having to have weeks of their dirty laundry from the past three years being aired.

The constant and essentially consistent stream of lies about the 2020 presidential election will never have their day in court because in an eleventh hour move, Faux News decided to settle the defamation lawsuit brought against them by Dominion Voting Systems. There will be no parade of Faux News talking heads taking the stand to answer, under oath, questions about the thick line of deceit spread by the celebrities who get paid to repeat a party line for their party. Young Tuck(er) Carlson will not have to discuss his January 4, 2021 text: “We are very very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights, I truly can’t wait,” Or the top of that pile of duplicity when he texted his feelings about old 45:  “I hate him passionately.”

It is difficult for me to acknowledge this, but it may be the only words from Young Tuck(er) to which I can relate. 

But rather than put all of that and more out there,  like the group text Trump's chief sycophant Sean (rhymes with "yawn") Hannity sent after January 6, 2021: “Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can’t mention the election again. Ever,” Hannity wrote. “I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like not knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?” 

No one replied to that text. And no one will ever need to be reminded of its existence, since Faux News settled their defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for more than three quarters of a billion dollars. Dominion got paid. Faux News had to issue this statement:  “We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.” 

"Certain claims?" How about ever syllable uttered? "Highest journalistic standards?" have you watched any of your programming? 

I want to be paid for having to sit through this charade. More than three quarters of a billion dollars. 

Friday, April 21, 2023

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

 A woman was shot and killed in upstate New York last Saturday night when the car she was riding in pulled into the wrong driveway. The homeowner came out onto the front porch and fired twice. Whether the homeowner's marksmanship was very good or terribly bad, he managed to kill one of the four occupants of the vehicle, twenty year old Kaylin Gillis. 

A sixteen year old in Missouri, Ralph Yari,  was shot and critically wounded when he knocked on the wrong door looking for his siblings. The homeowner in this case opened fire through a glass door "fearing for his life." He picked up the gun before answering the door. 

You know, like we all do.

The way we tend to pull pistols when we get cut off in traffic, like William Hale did when he fired into the car in which after the driver he was arguing with at high speed shot at his vehicle, wounding his daughter. Did Mister Hale stop immediately and try to get his daughter to a hospital? Nope. He sped up, and fired several shots of his own at the offending vehicle, one of which went through the back of the car, striking the other driver's fourteen year old daughter in the back, collapsing her lung. This highway escapade took place in and around Jacksonville, Florida. 

In doing the research for this blog, I was hampered briefly by the sheer number of road rage and "mistaken identity" shootings that I needed to cull through to find the specific events about which I am writing. These were some of the most recent "accidental" shootings that have taken place with innocent victims under the age of twenty-one. Somewhere in the heads of all these gun-toting individuals' heads must have been the thought, "I'm going to be a hero. I'm a problem solver." 

That thought was stuck underneath a heap of fear and anger, and all the thoughts and prayers for the victims will not get the guns out of the hands of these ninnies who believe they're living in Dodge City. Stand your ground, by golly and expect that a jury of your ninny peers will absolve you from blame when the case comes to trial. Driving erratically can be just as deadly as using a semi-automatic pistol in traffic. We should all just assume that there is a "Trespassers Will Be Shot On Sight" sign on every doorstep in these terribly dangerous United States. 

And if we raised the age of gun ownership to twenty-one, none of these victims could have shot back. 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Featured Attraction

 Took the family out to the rock show last Friday night. I could say that it felt like a long time since we were all together, sitting and standing alternately in seats that we tried not to think about the price or relative comfort. We enjoyed ourselves: mom, dad, and son. And a friend of our son's who came along for the experience.

In between the opening act and the featured attraction, we caught up a little. We did a little reminiscing, reviewing the concerts we had attended as a family over the years. As we were regaling one another with memories of this Springsteen show and that DEVO concert, we tried to loop in our son's friend. "This is only my third concert."

Full stop. 

This guy was twenty-six years old. He spoke briefly about the Olive Tree show he had been to recently. Then he related his experience of attending a Kelly Clarkson show when he was fifteen with his sister and his parents. The MUSE show we were anxiously awaiting was the third one. It had been less than two years between rock shows for our little family. And that seemed like a long time. 

Taking our son along with us to see and hear our favorite artists is a family value for us every bit as much as Disneyland and Meatless Mondays. My wife remembered the time she went with me and our high school crew to see Cheap Trick back in 1981. 

And all the shows and venues in between.

When our little boy turned eight, we took him out to the local theater to see my New Wave heroes, DEVO. We fitted him with extra ear protection, and bought him an energy dome as a souvenir. The die was cast. 

We shared the apocryphal tale about the Bruce Springsteen concert we all attended on a school night when he was in middle school. The night before state standardized testing began for our boy. I figured someone would probably show up and take my teaching credential, but he did just fine on the assessment, thank you very much. 

As I was beginning to wax rhapsodic about all the day long festivals I had attended myself as a kid, and seeing John Belushi perform with the Blues Brothers band, the lights began to dim. It was time to add another to a very long list. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023


 Recently it occurred to me, not for the first time, that it is a ridiculous shame that I cannot afford an electric car. My commute is almost exclusively done on a bicycle, so it's not like I am shirking my responsibility completely here, and the car we do own is a hybrid. But occasionally my wife and I are taking a drive in our fossil-fuel assisted automobile to the local burger joint to further the mess that was created long before I got here. And I am not doing everything I can do to clean it up. 

We have solar panels on our roof, but we have a gas stove. To combat this oversight, we use our electric toaster oven for as many meals as we can. But our gas furnace is what we rely on to heat the house in which we live, so quite often we can be found huddled together on the couch, wearing sweatshirts trying to hold out until we can see our breath in the living room before we turn up the thermostat. 

Okay. That last one might be a bit of an exaggeration, but here I am, sitting at my keyboard with my hoodie on. Because it's April. And it's California. If the past few months have taught me anything, it's that climate change is real and if only the generations before me had considered the outcome of such pipe dreams as "two cars in every garage," maybe things would have been different if they had been electric cars. 

One of the first cars designed by Porsche was an electric car. Just a little factoid that floats around the metaverse of what might have been. It was unleashed on the public back in 1898. This was some fifty years after the Industrial Revolution, the tail end of the Victorian era, It would still be another ten years before Henry Ford's Model T became the mass-produced norm for personal transit. It should be noted again here that Mister Ford worked for Edison Illuminating Company before setting out on his own after the turn of the century. At that time, the chief concerns with electric cars were much the same as they are today: battery life and range. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, internal combustion engines were being refined and tested, burning a refined petroleum product that came to be known as "gasoline." In 1903, Thomas Edison wrote, Electricity is the thing. There are no whirring and grinding gears with their numerous levers to confuse. There is not that almost terrifying uncertain throb and whirr of the powerful combustion engine. There is no water circulating system to get out of order—no dangerous and evil-smelling gasoline and no noise."

So, what happened to Tom's vision? In a word: Texas. Why bother working to refine battery power when the Lone Star State was sitting on enough crude oil to keep everyone's tank full for years to come. By 1935, electric cars were all but extinct. Until the son of a South African real estate developer started throwing money at a car manufacturer named for a rival to Thomas Edison, Tesla. And the polar ice caps melted. And species went extinct. And sea levels began to rise. 

And the climate began to change. 

I wish I would have bought an electric car instead of a Vega back in 1979. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023


 I am really not sure why I keep watching. I can only liken it to the response many of us have after blowing our nose. That urge to take a peek inside the Kleenex to see if anything mysterious may have been extruded. In the best possible case in this scenario you are looking at a blob of snot. All other instances would be call for alarm. 

What I am suggesting here is that sometimes it's best to just blow your nose and move on. No peeking. 

This is the tack I am trying to generate when it comes to things like the National Rifle Association. I know that this organization exists, much in the way that I know snot exists. I don't need to be a pulmonologist to know that I would rather not have mucus in anything but the tiniest amounts. I have this same feeling about the National Rifle Association. 

And yet, somehow I feel drawn to their gatherings. What sort of twisted and vile reasoning are the most prominent Second Amendment Worshipers clinging to this year? Members of the Grand Old Party, heretofore known as "The Right" showed up in force to promote the case that one of them should be running the country so that all this nonsense about "gun control" could be set aside so that we could get back to the business of saving fetuses so that they could grow up to be innocent third graders killed in an underfunded classroom somewhere. 

Whoops. See what I did there? I started messing with the boogers. I could have just let it stand that there was a convention in Houston and a bunch of guys with red ties showed up. That sort of thing happens all the time. Why should I care? I don't get my tissue in a twist just because the Texas Association of Magicians is gathering there in September. Why should it matter if a bunch of pistol-packing nutjobs are all hanging around together in a conference center deep in the heart of Texas? 

Sorry. "Nutjobs" was perhaps a little overstated, but for those wishing to pander to the heavily armed fringe of America that believes that if God didn't want us to have guns he wouldn't have given us trigger fingers, the National Rifle Association Convention would be where you would want to land. If it was in your campaign's best interest to tell these folks that America didn't have a gun problem, it has a “left-wing crusade to weaponize government against law-abiding citizens.” And if one of those red tie guys just happened to have recently been arrested for lying and cheating, would you still have to pay attention to everything he said? 

Sadly, in my case, that turns out to be true. I kept looking in just to see how awful it could be. Hundreds of dues-paying cult members, waiting to be told that all those dead men, women and children were just part of some evil conspiracy to take away their guns. Another red tie who used to work with that other guy exhorted the crowd: “Stop endangering our lives with gun bans, and stop trampling on the God-given rights of the American people every time tragedy happens.”

So much snot. So little Kleenex. 

Monday, April 17, 2023


 It has been half a year since my mom died. 

In many ways, it doesn't seem quite real. It is as if I expect I will just go ahead and pick up the phone and she'll be there, wondering why I haven't called for so long. 

But I know why I haven't called. The number that I memorized as a child is no longer working. Those same seven digits, the ones that earned me a little blue telephone key ring has passed into antiquity. The supreme irony of this is probably best exemplified by the fact that mom still occupies the first spot on our speed dial. Who could replace her?

As much as the reality of all of this loss continues to creep into my life in odd bits and pieces, I feel the void each time something mildly monumental occurs and I don't have anyone to call to say, "Did you see..." Of course, it's not like it takes yet another school shooting or Republicans doing something evil. Those are essentially mundane events in our current course of any given week. Back in the day, my mom was good for historical perspective. Her refrain was familiar to many of you who have spent any quality time with her or have read accounts here in this blog: "It's probably going to get worse before it gets better."

Not that she was a pessimist. My mother held out hope for all things and believed that the next best thing was just around the corner. Which is why I continue to anticipate turning around a corner. It's the waiting for the corners to show up that gets really tedious. And frustrating. 

It's been six months since my mom turned her last big corner. While I can say that it wasn't a relief for me, I know it was for her. She had been suffering in lots of different ways, and once she didn't have her own home in which she could take comfort, she was ready to move somewhere that gave her what she was missing. It would be completely unreasonable for me to wish my mother could be hear to listen to my thoughts about drag shows and pitch clocks in Major League Baseball. Which doesn't mean that I am fine with losing my conversation partner. A number of people have suggested that I should take solace in the notion that I can now "call mom" whenever I want to. I appreciate the sentiment, really I do, but as much as I could always anticipate my mother's thoughtful responses, there were surprises.

Surprises around every corner. 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

How's It Going?

 There's this Internet game that shows up most often as a meme: How It Started, followed by How It's Going. 

In the past few weeks, a lot of images have come to mind as I consider how to share my thoughts about the very twisted path on which we seem to find ourselves currently. This space is in a near constant state of flux between outrage and appreciation. The easiest example to use would be that of the two expelled Tennessee Representatives. The Justins. When a Republican supermajority sent them packing for carrying a protest against gun violence into the chambers in Nashville. This kind of behavior was not to be tolerated. It took just a few days of collected outrage to get Representatives Jones and Pearson back on the floor, doing the job for which they were elected. One observer commented, "They blew up Krypton, and they didn't expect to make Superman?" However briefly the powers that be felt they would be taking their power away, the Justins will now be super. Without the capes. 

Another way to look at it would be through the Star Wars lens. That tense scene in the hangar of the Death Star where Obi Won Kenobi and Darth Vader are dueling, Obi Won insists,  “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Then he raises his light saber and Vader takes a big swing, resulting in the disappearance of the old Master's corporeal form, leaving just an empty robe and the hilt of his saber. Now old Ben Kenobi is a Force Ghost and can get around the galaxy without the aid of the Millennium Falcon. He can show up in force-friendly situations whenever he is needed. Like when he tells Luke to run instead of standing around in that hangar waiting for the Stormtroopers' aim to finally correct itself enough to do him in as well. 

The Republicans may have thought that their big swing of expulsion would result in the simple disappearance of the voices of dissent. They made Force Ghosts who will be able to whisper in the ears of the multitude, specifically those students they spoke with before they got kicked out in the first place. Many of whom will be first-time voters in the 2024 election. 

Oops. I wonder if they wish they had just gone ahead and let that protest go without shining a big bright light on it. Now we all know way too much about Tennessee state politics and their gun laws. How's it going, Tennessee Republicans? 

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Are You Tired Of Reading About This 2

 A few sharp-eyed social commentators have taken notice of the description of the murderer in the Kentucky bank massacre. Accounts from various media outlets: "Mr. Sturgeon was a University of Alabama graduate who listed his profession as a 'syndications associate and portfolio banker' at Old National Bank on his LinkedIn page. " Or "Sturgeon grew up in southern Indiana, just north of Louisville, according to his mother's Facebook page. The elder of two boys, he attended Floyd Central High School in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, where he ran track and played basketball for the team his father, Todd, coached. He enrolled at the University of Alabama in 2016 as a business student."

Most of these accounts go on to describe how Mister Sturgeon took an AR-15 through the offices of the bank from which he was about to be fired and killed five people, wounded nine. I don't expect this will be reflected on his LinkedIn page, nor will his mother probably post the livestream of his rampage on her Facebook page. 

And of course, friends and neighbors were shocked to discover that their friend/neighbor had committed this atrocity. An associate of the killer, referred to by responsible media as "the suspect," said that Sturgeon had recently mentioned feeling suicidal. Which apparently he was, since he went ahead and saved a bullet for himself.

From a gun that, sing along with me now, "was purchased legally."

Why shouldn't a former track and basketball star, employed at a bank, a portfolio banker and syndication associate be allowed to celebrate his right as an American to own a machine for shredding human beings? The mayor of Louisville, where the bank shooting occurred, found terrible irony in the fact that current state law allows the rifle used to be held for a period, then sold at auction. The one mediating factor would be the removal of the firing pin. It won't be melted down or turned into a garden tool. It will be for sale again. 

Because we do not want anything to stand between us and guns. On the unlikely chance that having a gun in our hand will deflect the bullets coming at us from someone else's gun. If there is any good news it is based in the reactions to the most recent massacres in Kentucky and Tennessee from the governors of those states. Kentucky's Andy Beshear lost a close friend and mentor while Tennessee's Bill Lee was supposed to have dinner the night of the shooting in Nashville with one of the victims. Both seem to have been touched in some way that might strengthen background checks and red flag laws. 

At this point, anything that isn't actively removing voices for common sense gun control from legislative chambers sounds like hope. If that will be our shining light, let it be.  

Friday, April 14, 2023


 Al Jaffee gives snappy answers to the stupid question: Is Al Jaffee dead?

No, he's just really, really tired.

No, but he's taking this coffin for a test ride.

No, he's just taking his retirement to a whole new level.

No, he's just waiting for the next season of MadTV to start.

No, he's just getting a start on that hole to China.

No, but he's hoping to spend the rest of his life as "extra crispy."

No, he has a bunch of pet worms that he's hoping to spend more time with.

No, somebody sutured his eyes closed.

No, "organ failure" just means he can't play Red River Valley at the talent show.

No, after he reached one hundred years old, he decided to turn around and go backward.

No, he just wanted to take a dirt nap. 

No, he wants to see what the Today show will do for him if he reaches two hundred. 

No, but he might be bored to death by all these questions.

Yes. Al Jaffee, who had only recently retired from his career as cartoonist and yukmaster extraordinaire made his final fold-in at the ripe old age of one hundred and two years old. He leaves behind a volume of work that will often be referred to (see this blog) but never duplicated. Some might say he outlived his most recognized home of Mad Magazine, since Al was there for decades through countless staff rearrangements and shufflings. Al Jaffee was always there. 

And now he's not. He stomped on the back pages of Mad Magazine as well as the Terra. He will be missed.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Risky Business

 At Risk. These are the words we use to describe a large number of the kids who go to the school where I teach. At risk of being hungry. At risk of being homeless. At risk of being below grade level in reading. At risk of being below grade level in math. At risk of having to repeat a grade. At risk of being left behind. 

At Risk. 

Swallowed up by a city and a state and a country and a world because for whatever reason they have been bumped out of line or pushed aside in favor for those kids who have two parents. A home where warm meals are available morning, noon and night. A safe place to leave their backpacks and a grownup who will check to see if there is homework or a note from the teacher inside. A neighborhood without sporadic gunfire. With apologies to Charles Elliot Cheese, a place where a kid can be a kid.  

It should come as no surprise when kids scream at us. It is the favored tenor of conversation in many homes of the students I teach. Sometimes the parents drop by the school to scream at us. Because they are at risk too. It is quite often the case that they grew up in a household not unlike the one they described above, with the added complications of the stress compounded by generational risk. They are at risk of losing their homes. Their jobs. Their kids. Their minds. 

Into this trauma influenced reality we are going to try and inject a little reading. Some writing. And some basic arithmetic. And we are going to try to get those standards met while pouring in a heaping helping of social emotional learning. If we can get all of our kids to a place where they can learn by giving them the skills they need to be able to shut out some of the noise, we will have succeeded. The primary focus of this task is introducing them to empathy. "I care for others. I care for myself." Giving them all a chance to breathe and look around in a place where the threats have been removed, so that they can do the things they came to do at school. 

And meanwhile, those of us who are running this enterprise need to keep those words in mind as well. Why can't Johnny read? He's hungry. He's tired. He's homeless. He's trying to figure out how to keep himself going in a world that just might not care enough about him. Those of us show up to the school with a good night's sleep and a home to which we can return run the risk of taking that for granted. 

It's not easy. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Once Again

 Back in the salt mines we call primary education, we have just moved into the countdown phase of the school year. I did not take my cue from the multitude of children around me. This came as part of our principal's weekly newsletter. We began the week just thirty-four days left. That means that we will be gathered together for less than five weeks with two major sign posts on the horizon: State testing and fifth grade promotion. Both of these rites stand as reminders of how nominally fortunate we are to have lived past the big swinging ax of school closure. The goodbyes that we had anticipated a year ago are now reserved for the departing and incipient middle schoolers. And the staff members who will be looking for new paths and challenges outside our little slice of heaven. 

It's been a tough year. The first half was all about legitimizing our continued existence, and the second found us scrambling to catch up with all those schools who had been quietly preparing for 2023-24 while we were just hanging on. Oh, and there was that part where we were teaching a school full of kids whose awareness of where they are on the one hundred eighty instructional day calendar is vague at best. 

Sometimes I shame myself a little for the way I keep track of the time passing. The day of the week. The time of day. Working for Friday afternoon when I know exactly what the turnaround to Monday morning is. When I look back at twenty-six years of waiting for the weekend, I wonder how sincere my commitment to my students can be. I'll be there early. I'll stay late. I'll take work home with me. I'll go to meetings. I'll do all that with that clock ticking in my head. 

It's the same clock I hear when I'm on Spring Break, or over your standard weekend. It's just a little more pleasant sound when I'm not working. The hope is that I will take my relaxation as seriously as I take my work. One serves the other. I suspect that as the years have passed, I am at once more comfortable with the rhythms of a school year and also more anxious for the bell to ring. 

Not for the first time. And happily, not for the last time. There's always next year. Once again. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Caller Unavailable

 There was this tense exchange between my wife and I a few mornings back. It centered around the pervasive use of cell phones. I admit to being a bit defensive, since I feel as though I make an effort to put my phone away for chunks of time during the day. My phone is not welcome in my bedroom. This was my conscious choice some years back. I have a long and storied history with sleep challenges and I continue to feel that inviting a device with games and Internet connection into that hallowed space would be a mistake of unspeakable proportions. 

For me. 

That said, I cannot qualify myself as some sort of Luddite who eschews the use of cell phones except for emergency calls. I once stood on the ramparts of the no cell phones on campus battle and watched as we were overrun. Over the past few years, I have become part of a text thread within the walls of my elementary school that acts as both a means of dispatching help to classrooms that need it and a series of snarky comments that we would never say out loud in front of children. I am also available for the occasional call or text from home, when my wife needs to check in with me about some home emergency or other. My phone is set to vibrate, so I can peek at the relevance of whatever notification has been allowed to break my cone of silence. I try not to respond unless something is on fire. 

This puts me directly at odds with the prohibition we have put in place for kids at our school who will insist that their parents told them directly that they needed to carry their personal connection machine in their pocket at all times. Mister Caven does. 


It's different when you're nine. The distractions with which I struggle as an adult are not likely to be ignored by someone who is still figuring out how to time their restroom breaks. Which is where most of the cell phone action takes place at our school these days. I'm tempted to sign up for TikTok first to see how many videos get posted using the Horace Mann bathrooms for a backdrop, and second to tell kids that I'm on TikTok. That should kill off any interest quicker than any kind of administrative mandate. 

And while I'm riding the hypocrisy roller coaster, I can still recall fondly when I was unavailable. I remember what being away was like: Three months every summer for the bulk of my youth, no phone, no electricity, no running water. Just the sky above and the earth below. My mother used to say that if we tried to do that with kids today, they'd call Child Protective Services. 

Things have changed a lot since then. 

For me. 

Monday, April 10, 2023

Kangaroo Court

 Apparently, Tennessee was tired of losing their share of the bad choices spotlight to Florida. I am currently of the belief that if Ron DeSantis wants to keep his state in the front of the fear and hate pack, he's going to have to really dig in and make some really ugly stuff happen. Strike that. Uglier stuff. 

Last week, the supermajority of Republicans in the Tennessee state legislature voted to expel two of its members. There were three members on the docket, but they didn't expel the white woman. They voted out the two young black men. And what brought on this extreme reaction? The three had been accused by Republicans of “knowingly and intentionally” bringing “disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives” after they led a gun control protest on the House floor last month without being recognized. This is a pretty high bar, considering the work this body has churned out over the past few months. Most notably perhaps is the anti-drag bill that was signed into law just a month ago. Back in 2021, they passed a bill that allows all its state citizens to carry a handgun without a permit. That should give you a sense of where their collective head is, and maybe why they didn't take kindly to a few members of that body supporting and encouraging the protest that was brought to the state capital in the wake of the mass murder just a couple weeks ago. 

Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were given the boot because they believed, like the crowd that assembled outside the chamber, that it was past time for lawmakers to do something about the death of their constituents. Justin Jones was elected to serve the residents of District 52 by winning all votes cast there. All of them. Justin Pearson won his race with ninety-eight percent of the vote in District 86. To look at these districts and not see a racial component to all this "disorder and dishonor" would be ridiculous in the extreme. The expulsion of two of Tennessee's black lawmakers further limits the tiny percentage of seats held by anyone who wasn't white. 

It also further limits the number of lawmakers willing to fight against the status quo of Republicans boosted by the National Rifle Association. Rather than fine or censure these young men, the powers that be in Nashville chose to do something they had only done twice before in one hundred fifty-seven years. in 1980, a representative was found guilty of accepting a bribe while in office, and the most recent before the Justins came in 2016 when another member was expelled over allegations of sexual harassment. Mister Jones and Mister Pearson didn't take a bribe, nor were they accused of sexual harassment. They were guilty of speaking up for a marginalized group while being part of a marginalized group. 

We have not heard the last of these two young men. They will keep fighting. We all will. 

Sunday, April 09, 2023

Bud Wiser

 Robert Klein used to do a bit about Budweiser's ad campaign: "This Bud's for anyone who's got a job or goes to school or has a neck." Back in the day, this was an illustration of just how pervasive that particular brand of beer was. As I grew into manhood, I came to understand that this was workingman's beer. One of the dads down the street kept cases stacked in his garage like some people keep firewood. I should pause here to point out that this particular workingman worked for IBM. But, a job's a job and a beer's a beer. 

I can also make mention of the fact that while I used to swill cheap beer (Miller Lite) as a general avocation over a period of years, I did not sully my palate with any of that horrid Budweiser. Growing up in Colorado, I also avoided Coors, in part because of the fascist stigma it held and also because even drunks like me needed to have standards. 

All of this is exposition to the new beer wars. Not the one fought in the eighties about the best tasting lite beer. Not the one being waged between IPAs and pale ales and the rest of the mysteries I missed out on by retiring from the beer game before the turn of the century. I am talking here about what Kid Rock did with a machine gun and four cases of Bud Light. In response to Anheuser Bush to choosing a trans spokesperson, Dylan Mulvaney, he seems to be calling for a boycott of not just the blue cans of Bud Light but all their products. Travis Tritt, the somewhat noted country star, chose to hop on the bigot bandwagon and declared that "I will be deleting all Anheuser-Busch products from my tour hospitality rider. I know many other artists who are doing the same."

That shudder you probably could not detect was the one that wasn't running through the hallways of the Anheuser Busch breweries. It's almost as if they had made a conscious choice to expand their demographic outside of those who listen to Kid Rock and Travis Tritt and decided there was a world outside the knuckle-dragging everyman. Or the myth associated with the knuckle-dragging everyman. They sell Becks and Stella Artois to a planet of thirsty humans. I'm sure losing the Tritt-Rock sliver of their market will impact them, but the rest of the beer-drinking planet will be okay without their anger and fear.

For the record, Miller Brewing did not go under when I stopped swilling their brew, and I don't imagine that this transphobic tantrum will amount to anything but a surge in business for Anheuser Busch. See, they're a big corporation and endeavors like hooking up with the LGBTQ+ community wasn't done on a whim. Bud Light has been associated with the queer beer drinker since 1977 when Coors decided they were going to require all its employees to declare their sexuality via a polygraph test. A burgeoning gay pride movement took them at their word and supported the boycott and adopted Bud as their cheap beer alternative.

So, Kid Rock wants to buy a few cases and show off his mediocre marksmanship? Good for him. Thanks for supporting the cause, Mister Rock.

Saturday, April 08, 2023

Right To Life

 Okay. The Tennessee legislature is keeping themselves very busy protecting children safe from drag shows. This is going on in spite of the fact that drag shows have not killed a single child in Tennessee. Not one. Ever. Guns, on the other hand, have just recently killed three nine year olds inside their private Christian School. That school had "a few staff members" carrying weapons. Nobody shot back until the police showed up and shot the murderer of those three children and three adult staff members. As yet, there has been no mention as to whether any of those staff members were the ones packing heat. 

Of course, it only took a few moments for the pointy heads on the right to latch on to the news that the shooter was trans, having recently adopted he/him pronouns. Abruptly, it was apparent for these pinheads that trans people were sick and murderous. Never mind the overwhelming majority of cis white males doing the killing in virtually every other school shooting, at last there was a thread that could be traced back to something that was not guns as the source of the problem. 

See, men dressed as women reading to kids is just a hop skip and a jump away from a person with a truckload of mental issues including gender dysphoria shooting up a school. And there 's probably no reason to bring up the fact that Governor Bill Lee just banned gender affirming care in his state for anyone under eighteen. And you don't have to have any kind of permit to carry a handgun in Tennessee. Authorities report that all the weapons used by the shooter at Covenant School were purchased legally. 

But the problem isn't the guns or the rules surrounding them. It's men dressing as women. The problem isn't the AR-15. It's men dressing as women. Rather than respond with any sort of legislation that might make such a horrible tragedy less likely to occur, the Tennessee legislature is looking to expel three of its members for taking the side of hundreds of protestors who came to the capitol in Nashville to demand a change. You may have already surmised that the three lawmakers are members of the Democratic Party. The resolution reads that these three “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.”

By contrast, State Representative William Lamberth chose to engage with the protestors by asking them rhetorically, “If there is a firearm out there that you’re comfortable being shot with, please show me which one it is.” He went on to say, “So you’re not going to like my answer, and, look, I’m going to say that straight up. It’s not about this one gun.”

Well, of course not. It's about men dressed as women. 

Disorder and dishonor, indeed. 

Friday, April 07, 2023


 Every day is history. Those of us who survived the pandemic and the terrifying abuses of power by the "president" who came before Joe Biden will be reckoning with this for the rest of our lives. Those of us who may have thrown our votes away in 2016 because they felt that Hillary Clinton was just another in a series of bad choices will have to watch as our country digs itself out of the blizzard of scandal that swirled around a certain former game show host and slumlord who seemed to so many like "a change of pace."

No other president has been impeached twice. No other president has been indicted for felonies. This includes bad men like Richard Nixon and Warren G Harding and Andrew Johnson. These former presidents slunk out of office and lived in ignominy while history judged their misdeeds. But not in a court of law. Never in a court of law. 

Until now. The MAGAt in chief, who continues to play his greatest hits about winning the 2020 election and how he was never guilty of anything ever and how sending him money is the best way to show that you care about the poor little rich boy. This cad who has a lengthy history of misogynistic behavior who insists that he never had an affair with a porn star no matter how precisely on brand it turns out to be and if he did she was a "horseface" and was doing it all for the publicity. Meanwhile, his supporters vacillate between defending him as completely innocent and insisting that hush money and non-disclosure agreements are used all the time so it's really Stormy Daniels on whom we should be focusing our attention. 

Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky was a messy one, but by ramping up the stakes to a porn star and paying her one hundred thirty thousand dollars to keep her mouth shut gives the "advantage" to the most corrupt Cheeto ever to hold public office. 

Meanwhile, the media continues to document his every move because we don't want to miss a second. Richard Nixon had the good sense to crawl back to San Clemente and wait a few years to creep back into the light, begging for understanding. The placeholder between Obama and Biden hasn't shut up for a minute since he lost the popular vote for the second time and was sent to the disgraced former presidents box. But he wouldn't stay there. He used the press and social media to continue to stir a pot of self-promotion and lies that brought about the insurrection of January 6, 2021. There has been not a single quiet moment of reflection, just endless misinformation and self-pity pouring out of the gilded golf club in Florida. 

For the first time in our history, people are asking the question, "Can a convicted felon be elected President of the United States?" I'll save you the trouble of looking it up: Yes, he or she can. And that's not the kind of history I am interested in living through. 

Thursday, April 06, 2023

A Space Odyssey

 I went to see 2001: A Space Odyssey when it first came out. It was an event. My family piled into the station wagon and drove down to Denver to see it on the biggest screen in our region: The Cooper. Watching a movie in Cinerama was a big enough deal for my five year old brain to comprehend, but the story of man's evolution through time and space was a visual treat that transformed my mind. 

I was five at the time. 

As I suggested, the trip to Denver was an event in and of itself, but the movie that was unleashed on all of us was a trip none of us had fully anticipated. Hearing all that Strauss pumped through the newly developed transistorized sound system was awesome without anything to look at, and the low rumble of Also Sprach Zarathustra was a revelation that would eventually attach itself to Elvis PresleyPeter Sellers, and The Simpsons. But nothing before or since rocked me back in my seat like Stanley Kubrick's bombastic vision all those years ago. 

I was five at the time. 

America was still on its way to the moon. Mister Kubrick got me there first. Not content to stay in the neighborhood, he pushed on to the moons of Jupiter. And beyond. I stared in wide wonder as the story of man's voyage through the solar system unfolded before me an my family. When the intermission came, we were just a little too stunned to jump up and take advantage of the concession stand. There was so much to try and piece together, and where was this voyage taking us? 

I was five at the time. 

Settled back in our seats, my parents had purchased my older brother and I souvenir space capsules full of watery orange drink, but my eyes never left the screen. HAL, that paranoid android, proved to be as cold and calculating as any movie villain I had ever seen. 

I was five at the time.

When the psychedelic slit screen sequence erupted in front of my eyes, I figured this must be what going to heaven must be like. 

I was five at the time. 

On the way home, my older brother and my parents tried to make sense out of what happened in the end. I was focused on my now emptied space capsule. I dreamed of making my own trip to to the stars. I dreamed of making my own movie someday. 

I was five at the time.

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Rules, Rules, Rules

 Rule 2.00 defines the Infield Fly as, “a fair fly ball (not including a line drive or a bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second, and third bases are occupied before two are out."

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, theright of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Here we have two cornerstones of the American Way of Life. Up top, in case you're unfamiliar, is the Infield Fly Rule. Below is the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. The Infield Fly Rule is more than one hundred years old. The Second Amendment is older by about a century. And yet, these two bits of American ephemera continue to puzzle those who encounter them after all this time. 

Go ahead and ask someone attending a Major League Baseball game to explain Rule 2.00. There will be those exceptions who can quote it in its entirety, but most will tell you that it has to do with flies on the infield. Just because they can't explain it doesn't mean they don't know and love the game any more or less. 

You'll get a similar response outside an NRA rally. There are those who can recite the Second Amendment as if it were a tattooed on their chest, which in some case it is. If you ask them what it means, they will most likely tell you that it means that we can all own guns. As many as we want. And the government cannot take them away because nobody infringes on their guns. 

So the good news about the Infield Fly Rule is that, as far as my research can make out, no one has ever died because of its improper application. It is up to the Umpire's discretion as to whether or not "ordinary effort" was used by the infielder. 

The Second Amendment? Well there have been a lot of folks buying guns "legally" and later using them to kill others "illegally." And while those buying these boatloads of guns insist that it is their Right, there hasn't bee much discussion of how the "well regulated Militia" fits into all this. Does it mean that when you buy your nine millimeter or your AR-15 that you are joining up to an ad hoc army of citizens ready to defend us all from invading enemies? It seems like most of those tattooed individuals begging us to pry their weapons from their cold dead hands are not interested in foreign invaders as much as they are in those who would keep them from having those killing machines in the first place. The parents of dead school children. The families of church goers who were mowed down by the Right not to just Bear Arms but to use them to break the First Commandment. Thou shalt not kill. 

My most morbid take here would involve a mass shooting at a baseball game. Of course, Major League Baseball has a rule that prohibits weapons from being carried into their stadiums, so if you brought a gun to kill the umpire, you'd be breaking the rules. 

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

In The Lab

 I'm not sure why I didn't see it coming from a little further away. My wife was admiring a sentence from a recent blog of mine, and I took some prideful satisfaction in the knowledge that these were mere words that I selected out of many and purposefully strung them together. And they made sense, after a fashion. That is my aim, after all, on most days: To make sense. 

It was only a little more than a week ago that I was confronted with the wonders of ChatGPT. If you are unfamiliar, I can describe it pretty simply: It does what I do most days but it's a computer. A program. An app. An artificial intelligence that strings words and ideas and images together that in many ways simulate what writers and artists do. On demand. 

For free. 

That's because it's still in research mode, and a friend of mine asked this machine to make a story about Donald Trump eating so much that he exploded. The results were quite amusing and, because I sometimes write stories about Donald Trump, I figure I'm a pretty decent judge. 

Then a week passed, and it was in those idle moments when I start conjuring up what I might like to write about for this day's entry that it occurred to me that I could just as easily ask ChatGPT to belch out something clever while I finish that especially tricky level of Candy Crush. And no one would have to be the wiser. I just come up with a phrase or premise and push the On button. There's your three paragraphs comparing the Second Amendment to the Infield Fly Rule. I could even argue that the output was my creation because I went to all the trouble of coming up with the grist for the cyber-mill. And I had the presence of mind to push the Enter key. 

But that's not why I am here. I am here to cobble together those pithy bits of wisdom and fanciful bits of prose that hopefully fill that three minutes in your day when you're looking for what goes on in my head. Not what gets skimmed off the top of the murky pond we call Al Gore's Internet. It's not the real thing. It's CheatGPT. 

At least that's my take for now. I used to insist that I would only attend movies if they had a web site. Now I feel compelled to support those that don't have any web presence at all. I used to write everything on big yellow pads with a series of black Bic Stick pens. I used to look things up in the dictionary, or thesaurus. Now I use the tools at my disposal, just a click away. How many hops, skips and jumps am I away from churning these things out via Artificial Intelligence? 

Time will tell, but for now I have set myself a task that I must eventually rise to: Comparing and contrasting the Second Amendment and the Infield Fly Rule. 

Stay tuned. 

Monday, April 03, 2023

Witch Hunt

 Do you remember the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when they are trying to determine whether the woman the angry mob has brought before Sir Bedevere is a witch or not? After some strenuous logical gymnastics, it is determined that since wood floats in water and a duck floats in water if she weighs the same as a duck...She's a witch. 

Once the pylons beneath the scales are removed and the duck and the woman balance, it is determined by the witch's own admission that the mob was correct. "It's a fair cop," she sighs, resigned to her fate of being burned at the stake. 

I bring this little whiff of comic nostalgia your way because I can't help but reflect on all this talk about Witch Hunts. Once upon a time, people (mostly women) were put to death when they were found to be acting outside of some prescribed mode. That "normal" was what a male hierarchy put in place to keep things (women) from getting out of hand. It would be cool if there was some ongoing record of the varied and few instances in which there was a real witch. Which would make all this fuss seem worthwhile. As it did for Monty Python back in the day. 

Donald Trump and his minions like to place themselves in the victicm's role when they holler about how they are being oppressed by The Deep State Woke Radical Liberal Antifa Mob. He might also want to insinuate himself with the place of those who were blacklisted in the late forties and fifties. Unjustly accused! Weaponized  Prosecution Persecution! Two-tiered justice system! The most innocent man in history!

Except he's a witch. 

He turned me into a newt.

I got better. 

But he is a witch.

Burn him. 

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Imminent Part 2

 Apologies to those who figured they would tune into this space around this time for accounts of the Trump Indictment, perp walk and all the attendant drama that would unfold as the MAGAt in chief is finally dragged before a court. 

But fear not, true believers, I have scoured the news for a replacement legal drama: The Trial of The Mistress of Goop. If you have not been keeping track of all the drama taking place in Park City, Utah I figure I owe you all this reportage to take your mind off the fact that the twice-impeached former game show host is still at large. 

In 2016, it is alleged that Gwyneth Paltrow, semi-retired actress and face of Goop crashed into another skier on the slopes knocking him out, breaking four of his ribs, and causing a traumatic brain injury. The alleged victim is suing her Goopness for three hundred thousand dollars. Ms. Paltrow is countersuing for one dollar and the connected legal fees generated from this vicissitude. The courtroom intrigue has been nothing if not salacious. As part of his complaint against Paltrow, the victim's lawyer explained that his client, Terry Sanderson, was no longer to enjoy the activities that he had before the collision. This included wine tasting. 


He went on: “Before this crash, Terry was a charming, outgoing, gregarious person. After the crash, he’s no longer charming.”

Double ouch. 

For her part, Ms. Paltrow described her torment “Well, I lost half a day of skiing.” No word as to how her wine tasting was affected. She was also asked about the time she was on Jimmy Kimmel's show and mentioned that she was "accident prone." She was also asked about her relationship with Taylor Swift. Under oath, Gwyneth Paltrow allowed that the two were "friendly, but not close friends." 

Talk about your fireworks!

When the smoke finally cleared, Paltrow was awarded her one dollar, and sweet vindication. So, I guess what I'm suggesting here is that if you don't think waiting around for an arrest of the former "president" is painful enough, I could continue to dish on the litigation going on in Park City. 

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Fool's Paradise

 In the midst of all this insanity and darkness, let me be the quiet voice of reason: The only thing that really matters is having a full tube of toothpaste.

I know, it's April Fool's Day and you might be looking for something a little lighter to even up your day. Confronting a planet that is slowly burning itself to a cinder, and the ones who can't contain their political disagreements to talk shows are taking up arms and killing one another. It's not pretty or safe out there. Which is why you should stay home and revel in the comforts available to most every American.

I spent a couple weeks pinching, squeezing and begging that last bit of Crest out of the tube, but when I finally allowed myself to look under the sink, I found a brand new tube of toothpaste waiting for me. Opening the cap and giving the tiniest nudge filled my brush with dentifrice and my heart with joy. The next couple of minutes brought me a peace I hadn't felt for a long time. It was serene. 

I feel much the same way when I notice that the toilet paper has recently been changed. No fretting about the number of squares used. No inward conservation measures. Just knowing that comfort awaits just an arm's length away is tranquility and calm in a rough sea. If you happen to be my wife, this moment of peace can be interrupted by the way the roll hangs on the spindle. She is an "over" girl, and she won't settle for anything less. Toilet paper that rolls out from beneath is not soothing. It is an affront and must be dealt with summarily. 

Outside the bathroom, there are still some moments of quietude. A full cookie jar. A clean rug. Folded laundry safe in its respective drawers. Watered plants. Outside the wars can rage on, but if the vacuuming is done there is peace in the valley. The valley of our little oasis. 

Sooner or later, of course, I will be coaxed out of my cave for want of a nail or a deli sandwich. And the disappointments that lay out there in wait never sleep. They're going to try their best to get at me when I look at the television or Al Gore's Internet, but as long as I stick with Turner Classic Movies, I'll probably be okay.

For a while. 

Until I run out of toothpaste.