Thursday, August 31, 2023

Breaking The Waves

 My older brother is just a little older today. Try as I might, he continues to elude me, age-wise.

And wise-wise, for that matter. It makes some sad sense that this is the guy so many have turned to when it was time to pass to the other side. He has shepherded more than his share of folks through that last little bit of life and managed them with care and dignity. It is, dare I say, a super power we might not have reckoned on when we were growing up. 

Or maybe we should have. He was the point person when my parents were out for the evening. Like the one time our parents decided to ring in the new year at our cabin in the mountains. They were heading up the road a piece to have some adult beverages and company, leaving three boys in a log cabin with no electricity or running water with the admonition that we keep the fireplace and the stove stoked with wood as it was going to get cold outside. Mountain cabin in winter cold. My older brother took these words to heart, and when my parents were out the door, he set about creating a system by which we could make sure that neither of those fires went out. My younger brother and I were assigned the task of keeping the wood boxes full, while the eldest of us keep feeding the flames. 

My father used to tell the story about opening the door when he came down to check on us. "Like a blast furnace," he would say. His three sons were bustling about, pajama shirts off, sweating to keep the home fires burning. No one was going to freeze on this night. 

My older brother was the guy who drove me places. There were adventures in his truck that included drive-in movies and amusement parks. It was he who first suggested the phrase "let's go chug some nachos." I paid close attention to his rites of passage, knowing that his was the path that I would follow. This didn't always mean that we saw eye to eye on everything. There was some sibling rivalry on my part. Anytime I could find my way into a spot that was better, faster, bigger than my big brother, I took some quiet pride. He was mostly patient with my need to assert myself, but at the end of the day, we both knew who the big brother was. 

And so it goes. Another trip around the son puts our age difference back to the four years we know nine months out of every year. I'm so very glad to have him out there in front of me, breaking the waves.  

Wednesday, August 30, 2023


 One of the "bright spots" of the flurry of indictments for our former game show host/twice impeached felon of an ex-president is the way that we haven't had to pay as much attention to the carnage taking place on our streets. But, just in case you were thinking there was some sort of moratorium on mass shootings while we try to find a cell big enough for Little Donnie and his ego, you should know that the pace of Americans killing one another with guns hasn't slowed appreciably over the past few months. 

Gun violence in America is a lot like the weather. We have weather most every day, but it takes some sort of hurricane or hail the size of canned hams to get us to notice while our democracy continues to teeter on the cliffs of insanity. Like when a white supremacist takes his hate for black folks off the Internet and out onto the streets of Jacksonville, Florida. 

On Saturday, twenty-one year old Ryan Christopher Palmeter fired eleven rounds at one woman sitting in her car in Jacksonville, before entering a shop and murdering another two people. All three of his victims were African-American. Then, as is the habit with murderers of this stripe, he turned his gun on himself. Mister Palmeter left behind a series of hate-filled manifestos, as is the habit of murderers of this stripe. Sheriff TK Waters told the media, "He knew what he was doing. He was one hundred percent lucid. He knew what he was doing and again, it's disappointing that anyone would go to these lengths to hurt someone else." As is the habit of murderers of this stripe, he bought his weapons legally, and then picked his targets with no particular agenda beyond the color of his victim's skin. He had the time to decorate the stock of his AR-15 rifle with swastikas. 

Again, a bright spot: He was turned away from the campus of the historically black Edward Waters University, when a security guard asked him for identification. He left in his car and headed back downtown where he killed  Angela Michelle Carr; Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr., and Jerrald Gallion. Because they were black. 

These killings took place on the sixtieth anniversary of the March On Washington

In 2017, Palmeter was held under Florida's Baker Act, which allows a person to be involuntarily detained and subject to an examination for up to seventy-two hours during a mental health crisis. "Normally" a person held under the Baker Act is restricted from purchasing firearms. 

I guess this wasn't normal. 

Or was it?

See you at the next indictment/hurricane/mass shooting. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Price We Pay

 Some people will want to talk about Bob Barker's turn in Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore. It's a funny bit. It takes the familiar game show host and turns him into a tough guy. For laughs. Infinitely more amusing than the former game show host who decided to act like a tough guy by running for president. 

Robert William Barker went to that big showcase in the sky over the weekend, and multiple generations mourned his passing. He was the host of Truth or Consequences from 1956 to 1975, a nineteen year long gig. He followed that up by hosting The Price Is Right from 1972 to 2007. If you're tracking that right, he had a three year overlap where he was the presenter of not one but two of the cornerstones of American Game Show history. 

He was also one eighth Sioux, growing up on the Rosebud Reservation in Mission, South Dakota. He attended Drury College in Missouri on a basketball scholarship. When he returned home from a stint with the United States Navy Reserve, he married his high school sweetheart and moved to Florida to build on his broadcasting career. In 1950, the couple moved to California where things really took off. Ralph Edwards picked Bob to replace Jack Bailey as the daytime host of Truth or Consequences. In 1972, The Price is Right came calling and he never looked back. 

In 1982, he began closing each episode by saying,  "This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population — have your pets spayed or neutered." His love of animals was backed up by action, not the least of which was his purchase of a ship that would interdict whaling in Japan. He was in Washington DC to testify before Congress regarding proposed legislation that would ban captive elephants from traveling shows, such as circuses when his health began to fail. A  carotid endarterectomy sidelined him for less than a month. A stroke slowed him down for a bit three years later, and as the new century rolled on, age caught up to him. 

But it wasn't until 2023 that the reaper finally came closest to the actual retail price of Robert William Barker. The Happy Gilmore bit was nice, as I mentioned, but what I will remember most about Bob Barker is the soda crackers and ginger ale. When I was home from school, that was what my mother served me while I was propped up in my parents' bed, watching daytime television. Daytime television that featured one solid hour of games and prizes geared toward the terrifically mundane price of a can of peas to that of an Audi R8 Spyder. Bob was my host for stomach flu and the Showcase Showdown. It might not have been the chicken soup that made me better. I think it was probably Bob Barker stomping on the Terra around Television City in Hollywood. 

He will be missed. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Trouble With Numbers

 Sometimes, in the teaching profession, initial frustrations with a student can give way to understanding after all factors are taken into account. Learning for some is more difficult than for others. Little Donnie Trump may not have excelled in mathematics when he was young, and after being passed along grade by grade, teacher after teacher, that deficit became a fixed part of his world view. 

First grade may have been when the math train hopped off the track for Little Donnie. That is when the concept of "less than" and "more than" becomes vital. Even before you begin to add and subtract, it is important to have number sense. Six is bigger than three. Two is smaller than four. And so on. The symbols for less than and more than help some students comprehend this concept, but can confuse others. The wide end of the arrow faces the bigger number. The arrow points to the smaller number. For the younger set we often tell them that the "alligator" always eats the bigger number. 

Thus, if one were comparing electoral votes for example, 306>232. Additionally, 74,223,369<81,282,916.

Little Donnie may have assumed that every time you got fewer popular votes in an election, as he did in 2016, because we know that 65,844,954 >62,979,879 that he would go ahead an automatically get more electoral votes. He did that way back then: 304>227. This might also require some basic understandings of the United States Constitution, but Little Donnie's skill set does not seem to be up to the task of comprehending such a complex document. 

Which leaves us with the number thing. Add object permanence to that equation and you end up with quite a mess. Like that whole business with crowd size that continues to plague him. Size has seemingly always been a problem for Little Donnie. Like when he showed up for his arraignment in Georgia, he claimed to be six foot three inches, two hundred fifteen pounds. Which is thirty pounds less than his last White House physical reported. And let's just say that Little Donnie hasn't been skipping dessert since he left 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It could be that his tiny hands give him problems with perspective, but it could be that numbers just don't get along in his head. 

Please forgive me for taking so long to get to the punchline, but it has been a very long seven years. Or was it ten? Don't ask Little Donnie. He's not good with numbers. 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

What If They Gave A Debate And Nobody Came?

 I have just received word of a gathering of presidential hopefuls. Apparently this event was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and hosted by a "Faux News" organization, the Young America's Foundation and something called Rumble. My Qanon friends might recognize that last name as a streaming outlet known for its right of most everything content. Essentially Rumble is a place for folks who feel that Faux News just isn't crazy enough for them. 

Eight candidates, ranging in experience from zero to "president of my college fraternity," gathered on a stage to spout their support of one another and their vision for the future of the country. 

Just kidding. They spent two hours fighting for the scraps that were left when the big orange had a prior engagement. Taking a peek at the former game show host's calendar, it appears that he was scheduled to be arraigned in a Fulton County courtroom, finger printed and have his picture taken. For posterity. And also because that's what we do with criminals. 

Interestingly enough, the twice-impeached one managed to be the big orange elephant in the room that spent half of the debate ignoring his indicted presence. Instead, Faux moderator Martha MacCallum led off the evening by asking about the very pressing matter of the viral right wing anthem, “Rich Men North of Richmond." Martha got right into it: “Governor [Ron] DeSantis, why is this song striking such a nerve in this country right now? What do you think it means?” 

Nobody asked me, but I think it means that Faux News is afraid of stirring up these spineless sycophants. I think the fact that the current prohibitive favorite in the Republican Party's search for a candidate for President of the United States was not willing to show up and face the music, as a Rich Man South of Richmond, shows the continued break with reality that all these folks seem to share. 

On a related note, North Carolina governor Doug Burgum ruptured his Achilles tendon on Tuesday, but was able to attend Wednesday night's show because he "wouldn't miss it for the world." Which is kind of funny, since it seems that most of the world didn't feel that way. But, good for Governor Doug. 

Good for Rumble and the Young America's Foundation. If I hear about any more shows like this, I'll make sure to ignore it too. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023


On Wednesday, India became the fourth nation to land on the moon. This comes with some qualifiers, of course. India's landing was the fourth country to make a soft landing on the lunar surface. Four decades after Russia became the first country to hit the moon in 1959. It took another seven years for them to touch down lightly, allowing the Luna 9 to do something just a few months ahead of the Americans, whose Surveyor settled down lightly in June of 1966. China came in third, decades later in 2013, when they put a rover up there. It should be acknowledged that India managed their probe, Chandryaan-3, onto the south pole of the moon. Lunar landings have been primarily restricted to the equator until now. 

So there's some history there. Like the story of the first humans to land on the moon back in July of 1969. That was the United States. We got so good at it that we did it six more times. It would have been seven, but Ron Howard needed to make a movie about something, so we let Tom Hanks drive. And that almost ended in disaster. And even with that setback, the United States kept putting men on the moon until 1972.

Why did we stop going? Why didn't any other country send humans up there afterward? It could be that after Americans had driven all over the place with their dune buggies and even stopped to play a little golf there wasn't much mystery left. It might also have something to do with the way things were here on Earth at the time, and if you can imagine it, the public was getting bored with these astronomically priced missions (if you'll pardon the pun). 

As it turns out, the moon is a pretty desolate place. Plenty of rocks and dust, but not much in the way of atmosphere or ambience. It does have something going for it that a lot of other galactic destinations do not: distance. Current propulsion technology allows us to make the trip in about three days. Compare that to Mars, at about seven months, and you'll understand why human beings continue to reach out for a slice of that apocryphal green cheese. The Indian lander hopes to search the southern pole of our rocky satellite for traces of water, ice to be precise. Water molecules can be split into hydrogen and oxygen, thereby increasing the possibility of using lunar resources to breathe and create more fuel which happily can be created by recombining hydrogen and oxygen. Science!

Which drops me off here: Science is good. Science is important. We have cellular telephones because once upon a time we went to the moon. We can still figure out more things like how to get a social media app that truly supports free speech and how to get ketchup back in the bottle. But first we need to respect the science that we already have. We need to recognize when, after all those years of thinking that we lived on a dinner plate, suddenly we're a tennis ball. And what we do to our world matters so that we don't have to rely on other worlds to save us. These revelations are additions to our knowledge, not topics for debate. Chandryaan-3 did not land on a hunch. That was real. 

I saw it on Al Gore's Internet. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Pile On

 The name of this blog is "Entropical Paradise." As I have mentioned previously, I had no idea that I was the only clever person to jam these two notions together: the random disorder in a system and a sun-drenched beach. Electronic music has their version, composed by Douglas Leedy. There is "a place for writers" on Substack. The Cleveland Institute of Art had a video installation exhibit a few years back. And though it may have become a part of Al Gore's Internet past, there was even a conservative-minded blog that used to compete with me for hits back in the day. 

All that being said, I find myself compelled to comment on the random disorder in this system once again from my soapbox way out here in the recesses of the aforementioned invention of former vice president Al Gore. On my way to work a few mornings back, I rode past a table that had been sitting on the street for a few weeks. Over the course of the time since I have returned to school, a twisted window screen was added to the pile. Then a couple of ratty old dining room chairs. The latest addition to the pile was a chunk of torn cardboard upon which was scrawled this message: "Stop leaving stuff here!"

I let that sink in all the way down the hill and wondered, as you dear reader must be doing right now, why someone would add to the pile by asking that people not add to the pile. 

Welcome to the random disorder in the system. Picking up after yourself has become difficult, if not impossible, for many. The result is the periodic monument of scrap left on curbs and corners across this great land of ours. To the great credit of the folks who frequent the neighborhood just outside our school, the heaps tend to be clustered around the garbage can provided by the city. The twin-sized mattress and the broken forty-two inch television do not, however, fit inside and have become an ersatz fort which no doubt houses a great many of our local rodents. 

But that mild effort has been made to collect refuse in a locale designated for refuse. The challenge being that our refuse production has far outstripped our capacity for dealing with it. Instead, there are those who feel that this is an invitation to contribute to the pile, making it more obvious until the point where it can be seen from outer space. Once NASA has notified local authorities, these pillars of waste will be moved. Or consolidated. Or more likely some kind soul will stop by with a Sharpie-scribbled sign that says, "FREE." 

Free to pile on. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Different Drum

 You and I travel to the beat of a different drum

Oh, can't you tell by the way I run

Every time you say that the most recent catastrophic weather event was caused by space lasers? This past July was the warmest month ever recorded.

Which is a pause just long enough for you to insist that the climate is always changing. It has for billions of years. The climate, you insist, is not the same as it was when dinosaurs roamed the earth. 

A valid point. To which I can only reply that since those dinosaurs went extinct and turned into fossils which in turn became fuel and we started burning them, the earth has gotten hotter.

Hotter? you wonder aloud. Are you going to tell those poor people up in Buffalo who had to dig out of feet of snow and who battled blizzards all winter long that their world is warming?

I will try to slow this down enough for you to comprehend: Seasons are different from climate. It has been eighty-four years since there has been a hurricane on the west coast of the United States.

So, you're saying it happened before. What's the big deal? 

The big deal is the frequency of these weather anomalies. Hurricanes are getting more severe as well as more frequent.

Which is great for the plywood industry. 

Entire species are going extinct.

Boo hoo. You're the one who told me about the dinosaurs. Things go extinct every day. 

Goodbye, I'll be leavin'I see no sense in this cryin' and grievin'We'll both live a lot longer if you live without me - with apologies to Mike Nesmith

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Strangers In The Night

 If you are of a mind to do so, please say a little prayer for London and Anna. I am worried about them, or at least for them. 

I understand they're not exactly Romeo and Juliet. Or even Harry and Meghan for that matter. And yet, somehow, these two star-crossed lovers live on in my heart even though I fear that some tragedy may have befallen them. 

Full disclosure: I have no real idea who London or Anna are. They are names that came to me on a fence. Specifically, they were spray painted in black across the fence behind a gas station that I run past frequently. I first became aware of their undying commitment about three years ago when I first noticed the foot-high letters that spelled out "London + Anna Forever." Once or twice a week, I run past this message of devotion, and each time I wonder how that particular relationship is going. 

I have done my share of scribbling and scrawling my dreams of a happy ending on notebooks, trees and a great many other inanimate objects. Time has had its way with most all of them. Mostly I look back on those messages with fondness and only a twinge of sadness. There was a time when I meant every single one of those messages to the universe. I don't regret a single one. They expressed my feelings in a moment. 

But what about years? I assume it was London who made his bold statement late one night, after the gas station was closed. I don't imagine that Anna was nearby, but the next day when she took a stroll up the street to the laundromat or the donut shop, she saw it. Was she entranced? Was she put off? Did she race to London's house, knock on the door and fall into his arms? What did Anna's parents make of all this? 

Difficult to say, since I don't know any of these people personally. Only by reputation. I want to believe that it was the borderline delinquent act of confidence that the two of them needed to make that last word work: Forever. 

On Sunday when I ran past, maintenance workers had finished painting over the entire fence. No doubt the gas station's ownership had decided to spruce the place up. Nothing like a fresh coat of industrial brown to say "this is a place of business, not a singles column in the local newspaper." 

Or maybe it was London, in a fit of grief and community spirit who decided to cover up that testament to his girl. The one that got away. Or maybe London and Anna have moved away. Together. Forever. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Thank You, Ms. Stuart

 When I was in the fourth grade, I wrote a story called Arthur The Fish. It told the story of a lonely misfit, a pink fish with purple spots who went out into the great big ocean to find a friend. So taken with this tale of existential blues, my teacher asked if I would be willing to turn it into a book, complete with illustrations by yours truly. Two years earlier I had some success with one of my first efforts, The Drunken Snake, which I followed up with the tale of Snoopy becoming the quarterback of the Denver Broncos. Both of these stories were essentially excuses to draw the pictures of what was going on in my mind. In this way, a thousand words was worth a picture. 

Arthur was different. I was going to need a dozen or more illustrations, one for each page and another for the cover. The chore of drawing the same fish twelve was a daunting one for nine year old me. Then there was the matter of figuring out exactly where the page breaks should come. This turned out to be a pretty simple exercise, giving each sentence its own page. Not exactly the editorial challenge of a lifetime, unless you happened to be a fourth grader who was being published for the first time. I handed my marked-up copy to my teacher who lovingly reproduced my prose in large type, with a few extra copies in case I made mistakes. 

I set to work at my desk with my pencil and a half dozen colored markers. Coming up with the cartoon fish was easy enough. The inking and coloring were the most painstaking part of the job. When I was finished, I resubmitted my literary effort to my biggest fan and harshest critic, Ms. Stuart. After a quick once over, we agreed that we would go ahead with the next step: binding. 

My father worked in the printing business, and I had some passing experience with binding books. I had seen the machinery involved. These were not employed in the binding of Arthur The Fish. Ms. Stuart took Arthur into the teacher's lounge, and when she came back I was handed a comb-bound edition of my first book that included a clear plastic cover to protect it from the elements and the wear and tear of the tour I was about to undergo. 

Ms. Stuart arranged for me to go to several classrooms to share my book with other students at my school. Flattered, but also fully aware that this would mark me forever as a teacher's pet, I went bravely from room to room sharing Arthur's adventures in undersea ennui. Which went well until I showed up in the fifth grade class, where the kids were a year older than me, and the curiosity of a child author was wasted on them. I returned to my homeroom with my pride battered but not broken. 

More than fifty years later, I continue to bash away at this writing gig, trying to capture that feeling one more time. 

Monday, August 21, 2023

What I Came Here For

Editor's Note: Sometimes I write things about my job to help me remember why I took the job I have. 

Being a teacher in an urban school means you don't always get to do the thing you signed up to do: Teach. Instead, you find a whole basket full of other things to divert yourself from your primary mission: Teach.

There are so many needs for so many kids that are only filled here at school. Learning to read is way up there, but having a safe place to be for most of the day and getting two meals out of three is a big part of survival for many of the students I encounter five days a week. 

This is not to say that every one of these kids lacks a caring support system, parents and caregivers who are there to bring them home and keep them ready to return the next day, but this is a tough place to do that. I have often described here in this space the candle and bottle memorials to fallen heroes I see along my route to and from school. These are the ones who didn't make it out. These are the victims of the place where they live.

Do they have to get shot to be removed from the game? No. Some of them slip quietly through the cracks of the systems that are supposed to be there to catch them. We don't miss them because they are part of a continuing story of poverty, discrimination and a startling lack of opportunities. 

All of that being said, I would like to relate to you one of the stories that make it so incredibly worth the struggle. This past week, our noon supervisor was not able to look after our young charges during lunch for three because she was busy. She was away taking her son to college. Morehouse College to be precise. This is a kid who I taught a lifetime ago, but who persevered, along with his mother and grandmother and overcame the odds that were stacked against him. Now he has a chance to do something no one in his family has done before him: Graduate from college. Morehouse College. 

This is not the first time I have heard one of these success stories. But it does come as a bright spot in a week full of gray skies. That's a metaphor there. The summer sun has actually been beating down on us quite effectively since the beginning of the school year, but it might be that this is a symbol of the hope that exists out there for all of us. That I can continue to do all those things that I do, and the thing that I came here to do: Teach. 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Cars, Used

 The first car I owned, or to be more precise took ownership of, was the red Toyota pickup my older brother bequeathed me on the advent of his moving on to a more mature vehicle suited for the things that a college man would be travelling to. I drove that truck with love and care for about two weeks before I ran it off the road and into a tree. Totaled it. Trade in value: Zero. 

Then I worked for a summer mowing lawns and other odd jobs until I was able to raise the eight hundred eighty dollars I needed to by a copper colored Chevy Vega. This was the car of my high school years, filled with all the stereo and oogah horns my attention could lavish upon it. There was little I could do to slow the eventual warping of the aluminum engine block except turn up the stereo and keep pouring oil into it. Eventually, when it could hardly make it down the block, I drove it to another lot and traded it in. 

The Chevy Vega turned into a metallic blue Volkswagen Super Beetle. Much of the stereo equipment was lovingly transferred to this beast, as well as the oogah horn. I drove this bad boy into college and made a voyage to Muskogee, Oklahoma where I learned the hard news about forgetting to add oil to an air-cooled engine. Somewhere outside Tulsa, it threw a rod. The Blue Shark, as I named it under the influence of Hunter S Thompson, had to be towed back to Colorado where attempts to revive it were never able fully restore it to glory. I drove what was left of it down to the lot and traded the smoking hulk in for a green Honda Accord hatchback.

This was the car that I drove out of college and into my semi-adult life. I drove it to my job at the video store. I drove it to my job installing office furniture. I drove it out of my misspent youth and into sobriety. Eventually, this was the car that drove me to California where I took up residence with the woman who would become my wife. 

For a short period, we managed a two-car household. When it became apparent that we would be parents, we traded the Honda in on a white Mercury Tracer. The Tracer was a grownup enough car that we didn't raise eyebrows when we showed up for playdates. My wife's beloved Toyota art car was handed down to my younger brother, who brought it more paint and love until it quietly expired. The Tracer was traded in on the next step up to a family car: The gold Saturn Wagon. 

Now we were rolling in family style. Mom and dad and two of our son's friend could be carted to this or that attraction, and it was the means by which we traveled the western United States. The Saturn lasted long enough that we could threaten our son with bequeathing it to him when he turned sixteen. 

Sadly, there would be no bequeathing. Or trade in. This time the transaction was grand theft auto, or at least pretty good theft auto. The limited insurance settlement didn't allow us much in terms of an upgrade, but with the support of friends and a happy coincidence or two, we were able to purchase a white Toyota Prius. The Carship Enterprius has been the wheels under our travels up and down the west coast, and has even survived a radical catalytic converter-ectomy. Our son has grown and left our nest, starting his own colony of motor vehicles. His approach to buying and selling rarely relies on the trade in, allowing him to own and drive multiple cars at any one time. The web of his car ownership is not the single thread of his father.

I'm not judging here. I'm just old and confused. I figured you had to wear a car out before getting a new one. 

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Based On

 Turning our attention ever so briefly from the ugliness in the world of American politics, I would like to direct you to the ugliness in the world of American entertainment. Not specifically the ongoing writers' and actors' strikes that have doomed us all to watching reruns of Suits, but the difference between reality and fantasy. 

I understand that this puts us directly back in the path of the ugliness of American politics, but I assure you I only have the ugliness of American entertainment in mind here. Specifically, I would like to focus on these words: "Based On A True Story." My jumping off point will be the brilliant film by Joel and Ethan Coen, Fargo. Their little slice of Minnesotan kidnapping gone wrong begins with those words, and for many years fans and critics sniffed around the edges, wondering just how much of the torrid tale of the frozen north was true. On the occasion of the film's twentieth anniversary, Ethan Coen offered up this explanation, “We wanted to make a movie just in the genre of a true story movie." The story of Marge Gunderson tracking down all those bumbling ne'er do wells was not true, but in the genre of truth. 

The 2009 story of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle was adapted for the screen in the feel-good film The Blind Side. The story of the film: Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All-American football player and first-round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family. At least that is what IMDB would have us believe. Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her portrayal of matriarch Leigh Anne Tuohy, who rescued young Michael from the mean streets of Memphis, Tennessee. Again, the tagline insists "based on the extraordinary true story."

Maybe the story wasn't quite extraordinary enough, since Michael Oher, a real person and veteran of eight seasons in the National Football League, would like to amend some of that truth. Specifically, the part about how he was adopted by the Tuohy family. Except he wasn't adopted. Michael Oher entered into a conservatorship, which doesn't have the same kind of warmth generated by straight up adoption. Now that sweet legacy is being called into question. Leigh Anne is now referring to Michael as "Mister Oher" - through her attorney. Parties on both sides claim that the millions of dollars generated from the sale and promotion of this conservatorship may or may not have been distributed equitably. 

So the true story turns out to be a little less extraordinary because in the end it seems that it all came down to money. Which might make a great movie. 

Friday, August 18, 2023


 As the tanks continue to converge on the bunker in south Florida, or as the hole in the ship of fools continues to sink, the band continues to play. 

A fresh set of indictments has landed squarely on top of the former game show host and his posse, while he continues to plot his next opportunity to seize the throne. The throne that only exists because he spoke it into existence. The crowds continue to cheer. The contributions continue to flow. This is business as usual in the bunker.

Except that Eva Braun is conspicuously absent. The former First Lady will not appear at the photo ops and the state fairs. Melania has chosen to fade somewhat discretely into the background. By contrast, Ron "The Ronster" DeSantis drags his wife most everywhere he roams, trying in vain to catch any sort of breeze that might be left over in the Titanic's wake. Just this past weekend, The Ronster decided that he wanted to put his feud with Disney behind him, since it has yet to bring him any sort of poll boost, with the reminder, “Look, my wife and I, we got married at Walt Disney World."

Melania married the twice impeached bloating sack of protoplasm in a ceremony that took place in Florida as well. Her first wedding. His third. By contrast, The Ronster and his wife Casey have remained devoted to one another and the fight against "woke," while the sack of protoplasm has had many dalliances outside the confines of his wedding vows. Why would we expect his attitudes toward marriage to be any different than those he has shown toward his oath of office? 

Not surprisingly, it was one of these dalliances that got the ball rolling in this indictment lollapalooza. Porn star Stormy Daniels, or if you prefer "adult entertainer," was paid to keep her trysts with the ex-president a secret. It just so happens that hush money eventually has to be accounted for and if tax laws were ignored on the way to keeping the adult entertainer quiet, it turns out that is illegal. 

So let's just drive on past that financial conundrum. What about the woman who had just given birth to the game show host's son while daddy was off at a golf tournament getting in some extra practice on his short game? All those images of Melania swatting those little orange hands away, those looks of disdain. And a conviction of sexual abuse and defamation of E Jean Carroll. 

And this clown wants to drag her out on another campaign trail? Thank you, no. Just a suggestion: She might want to consider the divorce proceedings before he ends up in jail. You'll want to get some of that Stormy Daniels/E Jean Carroll money for yourself. 

Thursday, August 17, 2023


 Novelist Stephen King recently posted this: "I bought my Tesla Model S in 2013. Doesn't have the same range as the newest ones, but it's never given me a speck of trouble. Still goes fast." Not a screaming endorsement, but in contrast to what Mister King has had to share about how Elongated Mush, the titular head of both Tesla and "Twitter," it serves as high praise. He has made no secret of his disdain for Mush's business practices, including his arbitrary eight dollar asking price for recognition on the site. 

Which brings me to the lingering question that I have generally confronted via art and artists: Can one separate the two? If Hitler turned out to be a pretty good portrait painter, would we hang them in a museum? Much in the same way that we now refer to George W. Bush as "the one who paints" instead of "the war criminal." There are vast regions of my brain that have been devoted to memorized recordings of Bill Cosby. And the films of Woody Allen. And the comedy of Louis CK. 

And so on. 

Now, just because someone is a reprehensible human being in many facets of their character, does that mean that they should be ignored for the way that they make cars? By purchasing an electric vehicle from the company that Elon Musk owns, does this mean that I am at the same moment supporting his evil twin, Elongated Mush, that supports a myriad of questionable social and political beliefs? Supporting a man who claims to be exploring space and limiting greenhouse gasses emitted by carbon burning dinosaurs in a metaphorical redundancy of which I just now became aware? 

Way back when, a lot of people bought cars from a gentleman named (checks notes) Henry Ford. A cursory examination of Mister Ford's politics suggest that he was more MAGAt than woke for his day. His anti-Semitism was profound, leading him eventually to go into business with (checks notes again) that portrait painter mentioned earlier. Would I buy a Ford today? Hard to say, but I am certainly willing to sit through a great many advertisements for their trucks while I await the next installment of sportsball on my Japanese manufactured television. 

Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are destined to buy a car from it. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

White Bread And Circuses

 There is a scene in Stand By Me where Teddy and Vern are briefly embroiled in a discussion about a fight between Mighty Mouse and Superman. This is the kind of hypothetical that drives so much of pre-adolescent curiosity. I am the proud owner of a somewhat worse for wear copy of an oversized comic from 1976 that featured the battle between the aforementioned Supes and young upstart Spider Man. Even at the tender age of fourteen, I was able to parse out just how futile this match, billed as The Battle of the Century, would wind up. The combined writing and editorial staffs of DC and Marvel comics dressed up the situation with some pseudo-science that explained the quantum leap that Spidey's strength would have to undergo in order to make the hyped conflict between these costumed crusaders. But really, who were they kidding?  It turned out to be a big misunderstanding that eventually got these two flagship heroes working together to take down their respective nemeses, Doctor Octopus and Lex Luthor.

Forty years later, the folks at DC/Warner Brothers/Discovery/Taco Bell decided they could try this same kind of shenanigan in house by pitting Superman against a heavily armored, Kryptonite-enhanced Batman. And wouldn't you know it? Lex Luthor had a hand in that one too. My son, who was a fan of those preposterous giant transforming robot movies found this one hard to swallow. Eventually the secret identities of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent chose to combine forces because that's how these things work. This is how the entertainment world provides spectacle to the masses of preadolescent minds. 

The same kind of preadolescent minds behind the "cage match" that is rumored to be taking place between Elongated Mush and Mark "Life Zucks" Zuckerberg. Their superpowers are a point of speculation to be sure, but appearing translucent and buying other people's technology would be my suggestions for these two. Interchangeably. The casual geek watcher might suggest that the smart money would be on Zuck, since he seems to be raring to go, while Mush complains of the need for an MRI and possible surgery to alleviate the pressure that his mouth is putting on his ego. 

But who actually cares? Who actually wins in a contest between imaginary heroes? Once the contest takes place, all speculation is removed and immediately thereafter the rationalizations can commence. Whether this Celebrity Deathmatch occurs in Zuck's back yard or the Coliseum in Rome, this kind of clash of titans exists most effectively in the mind of ten to twelve year olds. Once it spills out into the real world, all speculation is gone. Wouldn't it be cool if peanut butter and jelly came in the same jar? Well, as it turns out, not really. Some things are better left to the imagination. 

And some things should be purged from the imagination to make room for more giant robots. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Always On

 Sound asleep.

Made it through the first week of school without any major damage or trauma, and I was looking forward to a bit of rest and relaxation. 

So why am I sitting here at my keyboard at three thirty in the A of M Saturday, bashing away instead of being pleasantly and gloriously asleep?


They are haunting me. It all started with our refrigerator, having decided that after twenty-six years of living with the same old bargain basement machine, we would go ahead and stop waiting for it to fail on its own. We at  put the old girl out of her misery. And ours, listening to the hourly thud of the compressor starting and stopping on ancient springs. 

Then the dishwasher gave up the ghost, so we went out and got a sweet deal at the Austrailian cousin of our new fridge. After several weeks of fits, starts and questionable installation, we were able to negotiate clean dishes without flooding the kitchen. Somewhere in there, our microwave gave up the ghost and we were able to replace that with a cuter, "vintage" version. We counted this as a win. 

Then, the labor saving device that was our robot vacuum decided rather than cleaning our floors it would eat itself. It left a trail of its own innards behind as it limped to its final resting place. We dragged what was left of that machine back to the place from whence it came and tried to get them to make things alright. "I'm sorry," we were told, "you'll have to deal with the company that made it."

Tired and disappointed, we dragged the reboxed entrails of the Roomba back to our basement, where I put a load of laundry into the dryer. The week was not going to be over until I wrested victory from the jaws of customer service the following morning. A few hours later, I awoke with a start, certain that my recent experience with our dryer, the ever-dependable gas machine that had been fluffing our clothes for decades had not been performing adequately. I was sure that I had been smelling gas each time I had gone downstairs to retrieve a load of laundry and that would explain the lack of thorough drying that we had been experiencing. "Nothing we can do about it right now," mumbled my tired but supportive mate. She turned on a podcast and drifted back to sleep. 

Not me. I was going to grab this supposedly labor saving bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground, or at least save us from blowing up the house. 

In the basement, I found a nicely dry load, including towels, waiting for me. There was no lingering smell of death or decay. Just darkness all around and the promise of a new day. I put the clothes in our basket and trudged back upstairs to try and calm down. 

By writing down all my fears and woes about appliances. Now it's time to relax. Or try to. 

Monday, August 14, 2023


 I can remember going to the Special Edition version of American Graffiti. It came out five years after its original theatrical release, and it included an additional two minutes of footage left out of the 1973 release. I was there too, just eleven years old, soaking up all that early sixties nostalgia. The poster asked, "Where were you in '62?" My answer was that I spent most of that year in vitro. I cannot claim that I was ever a big fan of THX-1138, but George Lucas' memories of growing up in the valley of Northern California were the ones I lined up for more than once. That additional one hundred twenty seconds was a precedent that Mister Lucas would follow, along with his blockbuster buddy Steven Spielberg, for decades to come. 
"Special Extended Edition" was the only one you wanted to see, otherwise you weren't seeing the whole picture.

I saw the whole picture. It was, along with Young Frankenstein, one of the first movies that I internalized. I was aided in both cases by owning the soundtrack album to both of those films. Fronkensteen was a notch easier because it included dialogue from the film, but the wall-to-wall music in Graffiti and the interstitial bits with Wolfman Jack provided ample clues and cues. I was aided in this endeavor by having an older brother who was every bit as enamored of George Lucas' time machine as I was. Again, this was in a time when home video was not an option. I paid to see American Graffiti more than half a dozen times. I would like to believe that it was my contribution to the film's bottom line that pushed it high enough over the bar to get Mister Lucas his next job. That science fiction picture that so many people seem to like. 

This summer, American Graffiti turned fifty years old. I have memories of that long ago August, when I was making repeat trips to my local theater to watch all those soon-to-be stars cruise and fuss and cruise some more. Ron Howard has a couple of Oscars now. Richard Dreyfuss has won one for himself, and Harrison Ford was nominated but never won. Then again, Candy Clark was nominated for her role in Graffiti, but never made it back to that big show. And Suzanne Somers and Cindy Williams found their careers on the American Broadcasting Company soon after. 

But mostly, I think I will always remember the movie that was playing, this time on my mom's basement VCR, the night before I left Colorado to move to California. I spent the evening walking in and out of the room, quoting bits and pieces as I prepared myself for the big trip to adulthood. Just like Curt Henderson the night before he flew off to college, leaving his hometown behind. For a career as a writer, if we are to believe the end titles. It was a magical night. Fifty years later. 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Beautiful Mind

 The mail I got last Wednesday was not the cheery kind. Instead I received a copy of my mother's death certificate. Just a form with some of the blanks filled out. My mother's life was reduced to just a few pointed comments, dates and times. When she was born. Where she lived. Marital status? Divorced. But I confess, the reason for me to continue down the page was to find the box marked "Cause of Death." 

According to this documentation, my mother died of "senile degeneration of the brain." 

And this terrified me. One of the most alert, metacognitive minds in all my experience "degenerated?" Not the mind that read all those books, played all that music, taught me all those things. I believe my mother's brain was tired from all that use. It needed some rest. 

The brain that ran her own accounting business, and kept track of our family's birthdays. The brain that read the New Yorker from front to back once a week, and kept her subscription to Time Magazine long after newsstands ceased to be. 

This was the mind that brought me literature and music. This was the mind that held the rules to more card games than I ever managed to learn myself. This was the mind that, until oh-so-very-recently beat me regularly at Gin Rummy. 

She was the family historian. She kept track of all the begats and could explain cousins and their relative distance from one another. Degeneration? She was the one who kept track of all the generations. When I was trying to describe our family tree, I relied on her Cliffs Notes to keep me on track. 

The day that mail came, I was sitting on the couch with my wife watching Turner Classic movies, as we will. Sun Valley Serenade was on, and I was relatively pleased to be able to identify Sonja Henie, Glenn Miller and Milton Berle. My wife wanted to guess that the second female lead was Claudette Colbert, but couldn't commit. This was when a quick phone call to my mother would come in handy. She could tell us about the career of Lynn Bari, who was not in the Rolodex my wife and I keep on stars of the thirties and forties. 

Instead, we relied on Wikipedia, a poor excuse for a replacement for my mother's beautiful mind. And Wikipedia never let me win at Gin Rummy. 

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Round On The Ends, Hi In The Middle

 It's a well-worn path, but I'll just go ahead and say that I personally would not describe myself as "pro-abortion." It's one of those terrible semantic corners into which no one should be forced. Am I "pro-women's rights," including that of making decisions regarding their health? Yes I am. I am perfectly at home with the idea that it is nobody else's decision but the woman when it comes time to decide if they should go through a potentially life-altering and possibly life-threatening nine month ordeal. 

Nonetheless, I am pleased to report the news that "pro-abortion" voters have rejected Ohio's Issue 1. Issue 1 was put forth by Republicans in the Buckeye State to raise the threshold of support required for future state constitutional amendments to sixty percent. Currently, only a majority is needed. The measure also proposed toughening rules for groups trying to place future measures on the ballot by requiring them to obtain signatures from voters in all of Ohio’s eighty-eight counties, instead of the forty-four now required. Additionally, the measure would have eliminated a ten day “curing” period during which groups are allowed to gather additional signatures to replace any previous signatures that officials deem invalid.

So, if you're looking at that last paragraph trying to find the references to abortion or choices or reproductive health, you can stop. Issue 1 was a minorly Machiavellian move on the Ohio GOP's part to make it harder for their state to create a state constitution amendment to enshrine reproductive rights for women. 

Ever since the "Supreme" Court struck down Roe v Wade last summer, conservative groups have been working to keep states from being able to make a woman's choice just that: a woman's choice. Ohio is the seventh state to push back on this Republican led powerplay, Michigan, Vermont and California have already passed measures to protect "abortion rights," while Kentucky, Montana, Kansas and now Ohio have laid ground for similar legislation. Across the country, voters continue to support a woman's right to choose by nearly two to one. That creaking sound you hear is the strain of those Republicans trying to hold that standard high. 

It's not working. Anyone who has seen the Barbie movie could have told you that. 

Friday, August 11, 2023

Throwing Copper

 Heading up to the top of the hill on my first morning back to school, I stopped my bike to pick up a penny. Then another. And in my head, I thought, "Well, it's got to be a good day because I've found two pennies." Which caused me to consider all the time I have spend picking spare change up from the street or sidewalks on my way to or from here and there. 

It will not fund my retirement, but there is a considerable chunk of change sitting in a jar on my wife's desk, and even more rolls of coins that have been processed and are awaiting some future crisis when we "don't have any money." 

Yes we do. It's just rolled up in neat paper packages, stacked in groups of fifty, primarily. Except for those darn nickels. So thick and so smooth, alas you can only get forty of those bad boys into a roll. 

But where does all these bits and pieces of semiprecious metal come from? I used to believe that I was encountering the sprinkled contents of someone's pockets, absently dropped there while taking keys out to unlock the car door. No time to stoop down and pick up those stray pennies. I've got places to go.

Which is fine with me. I will happily scoop them up and add them to my bank back home. But maybe there is some more sinister work afoot? What if those were the bits of change that were in someone's wallet or purse, discarded not only for their relative uselessness, but also evidence of such a theft. "Exactly how much money did they take? Forty-seven dollars and twenty-nine cents? This guy has twenty-nine cents in his pocket. I think we've got our suspect."

Then there's the part where I imagine how they must be connected to sideshow activity. I often find pennies and dimes that have been run over multiple times, and I believe that there must be some cool thing about squealing tires over coins that adds some level of danger to what is already a ridiculous affair. Peeling out and spraying a few cents worth into the onlooking crowd seems like a pretty petty display considering the amount of money they're spending on the tires they will have to replace after all is said and done. 

Or maybe it doesn't matter in the least. This is the money I get for taking a few extra seconds for leaning down and picking them up. Two cents richer? How lucky can one guy be? 

Thursday, August 10, 2023


 I have mentioned here before that I would like to buy the world a Coke.

But not for her. She doesn't like Coke so much.. She prefers an herbal tea and the occasional lemonade. Instead I am trying to figure out how to get ten thousand trees planted in Oakland. For her. 

That's her birthday wish. 

That and getting the Russians out of Ukraine. 

I'm pretty sure I have a coupon for that. I might even be able to swing a two for one deal where I can get all those trees and the Russians for the low low price of, well, let's just say I'm working on it. 

Meanwhile, I'll try and get her a few more minutes of sleep. Maybe a ray of sunlight in which she and the cat can cuddle before the busy-ness of the day begins. Perhaps a waltz around the living room when she least expects it. Or a strawberry from my pocket after I've been carrying it around for a day or two.

These are the kinds of gifts that you can't really ask for. They just happen. After chunks of five decades, knowing her means that I need to keep it fresh. Flowers? Candy? They will get the response they have always received. Just like the baubles or bling that I have placed in front of her. Always appreciated. 

But the goal here isn't just to get a thank you. That's why I have to swing for the fences. I want her to feel the specialness. I want to to be happy, really happy, for those few moments before the next day comes. Tomorrow will be too late. 

Today is her birthday and I want her to know that I have been listening. And plotting behind the scenes, sending my envoys to Moscow, and moving all those growing things into their holes across the city. 

And parting the drapes just a little, so that the sun can shine down on her and her feline friend. 

Maybe a cup of tea? 

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

No Noose Is Good Noose

 “Basically, Trump’s popular because he actually cares. He cares about the whole country, not just the professional class that used to run it, or run it into the ground. This is why Trump’s such a threat. He threatens not just their power. He threatens to invalidate their status and exalted role in America. Now, sometimes this clash of classes is ugly. We get it. But it’s necessary for the United States to move forward together in the twenty-first century. So when Trump’s attacked, the country is attacked.” 

This was the profoundly awkward rationalization Jesse "Hold Yer" Watters made last week in response to yet another indictment of his favorite orange blob of protoplasm. In the mad scramble to legitimize the crimes of the forty-fifth "president" of these United States, his sycophants (Latin for "psycho fans") are doing backflips to try and make sense of the twisted wreckage in which they find themselves. Lobbing a phrase like "to his credit" into this danger zone seems ill-advised, but there is some mild magic being performed as the tension mounts and the metaphorical noose begins to tighten. Those who drank the Kool-Aid back in 2015 seem completely willing to get in line for yet another rally, yet another rambling monologue about stolen elections and plumbing

But cracks have begone to show: Former Attorney General William "The Bear" Barr has said that he would testify against his former boss in a trial over federal charges related to alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. His property manager is on the hook for helping him hide classified documents in the ballrooms and bathrooms at Mar A Lago. Walt Nauta, with the unsavory job title of "body man" for the former game show host, is also being charged with helping hustle secret files into those same bathrooms. How long before the tension finally breaks one of these known associates?

This past week, Forty-five's vice president started sounding less and less like a lap dog for the twice impeached disgrace and more like an embarrassed former employee of My Pillow. Mike "The Bike" Pence told Face The Nation on Sunday, "President Trump was wrong. He was wrong then. He's wrong now. I had no right to overturn the election." It should be noted here that Big Mike would also like you to vote for him to be the forty-seventh president in 2024. He's got just a few months to get a fresh coat of paint on the campaign bus, covering up all references to the past. Except maybe the actual noose that the psycho-fants brought to the Capitol back on January 6, 2021. 

The alleged criminal who is also vying for your vote in 2024. The day after appearing in federal court, he told an audience in Alabama, "We need one more indictment to close out this election. One more indictment, and this election is closed out.” 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump actually cares. About himself. Always. Time to close him out. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Flash Of Pink

 I've seen Barbie

I've seen Oppenheimer

They were both good movies. But only one of them got a lot of media attention. You may not have been paying attention, what with the waning days of summer competing for your last bits of sunshine focus, but there are a whole lot of people up in arms about the movie based on Mattel's sixty-four year old doll. Ginger Luckey Gaetz, wife of Representative Matt Gaetz, complained because it “neglects to address any notion of faith or family.” I remember Malibu Barbie, Day To Night Barbie, and Totally Hair Barbie, but I have no recollection whatsoever of Faith and Family Barbie. In keeping with the idiotic trend of conservatives not fully understanding the true nature of a boycott, Ben Shapiro bought a wide selection of Barbies to set them on fire as his way of showing his distaste for "one of the worst films I have ever seen, on every possible level it is a horrific movie." Transparency insists that I include the disclaimer here that young Ben is a failed screenwriter himself. 

The problem here is pretty obvious: those who prefer that things stayed the way they were back in 1959 and never allowed Barbie to bend her knees or get a job are the ones who are terrified of a "woke" Barbie. The word "patriarchy" got a workout on Faux News the week the movie premiered, because it was used as a punchline in the movie. Some of the pointier heads over there made a count, and they insist that the word "patriarchy" is used more than ten times. That is, I'm sorry to tell them, how comedy works. Lacking any discernable sense of humor would eliminate Fauxians from perceiving this, but this is the same group that got their red baseball caps all singed when Bud Light sent a can of beer to a trans lady. It's what we get upset about now. 

Nobody seemed to notice that just across the hall in the multiplex there was a message movie being played out that politely suggested that maybe making an atom bomb and then using it not once but twice on humans to "end war" was a bad choice. It also made little or no bones about the way the American government manufactured boogie men and women from those with above average IQs who spent their time reading and doing math.  The idea that the Father of the Atomic Bomb was a morally conflicted womanizer who dabbled in communism had a crisis of faith even as he became death, destroyer of worlds is a pretty tricky one. Perhaps far too nuanced for our friends at Faux to wrap their pointy heads around. It also clocks in at right about three hours, which far exceeds the attention span of your average Faux viewer. 

So in the eyes of the mouth breathers who fear all things "woke," the world ends not in the detonation of atomic weapons, but a flash of pink. 

Monday, August 07, 2023


 First day jitters?

I'm pretty much past that. This past week I sat in a room with my colleagues as we prepared to go out and be teachers for another school year. 

Because that's their job. The same job some of us have been doing since before the turn of the century. And yet, somehow, when the days tick down to just a few before we open for the business of shaping young minds, there is a tendency among many of us teacher types to panic. 

What if the kids don't listen? What about that new math curriculum? Will this group of parents read the notes I send home? In case any of these are concerns that you might be having and it's the night before your first day of school and you happen to be a teacher, let me see if I can help you out. Kids will listen to you if you're interesting. That's the way TV works. They listen to TV. When it stops being interesting, they change the channel. Don't be boring. About that math curriculum: Two plus two continues to be four, and half of the kids you tell this to will want to argue about it. Let them. It makes them better mathematicians. As for the books and the little teddy bear manipulatives you hand out on the first day because they're new, well, they'll be old soon and the mysteries that await them in the land of fractions, decimals and imaginary numbers are all on you. Not the new curriculum. The school district will buy new math books in a few years and they will come with tiny alligator manipulatives because they tested better in urban markets. Oh yes, and those notes you send home with your students? Remember how many of those you personally delivered to your parents when you were a student. How many of them lined the bottom of your backpack for weeks at a time, soaking up whatever moisture found its way inside that dark and scary place until, ta dah, I just remembered mom my teacher says you're supposed to come to a meeting this Tuesday at four. 

It's Wednesday. 

Better late than never. Another year of all that and more awaits just over the horizon and no matter how much sleep you get or you lose, it will be there waiting with all its triumph and tragedy. Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and before you know it you're halfway through the year. 

It won't be boring. 

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Sounds Like

 Whoever first suggested that a dog says "woof" should be given some sort of major award. It is not the only sound our canine friends make, but it does cover a wide range of breeds and sizes of these domesticated quadrupeds. Also, the term "barking" is completely adequate to the task of describing a wide array of doggie dialects. "Arf" will also do in a pinch. 

Turning our attention now to the feline species, we can probably agree that most cats "meow." For many years I was content to let this stand as a place holder for most, if not all, kitty communication. That was until I became the conservator of a cat. The initial wave of sounds can be quickly mimicked with your standard meow, but upon further exposure, I have found that cats are capable of much deeper and expressive vocalizations. "Meow" is selling this cat way short.

Admittedly, there are a great many sounds that start with an "M" but become winding and twisting and include many different vowels and plenty of "Rrrr." The arias he sings in the mornings after he has been fed his breakfast go on for several minutes. They could be songs of contentment, but more likely they are odes of triumph at having once again being able to get the bipeds out of their cozy bed to suit his need for food. Often he won't even eat what we have put out in front of him, but he serenades us nonetheless. 

I am suggesting that a simple "meow" does not come close to illustrating the emotions present in his kitty croons. 

Which brings me to the final question I have about onomatopoeias. Who was at the desk when the request for the sound roosters make? "Cock A Doodle Doo" is not what is going on out in the barnyard come sunrise. I am familiar with the sound myself since there are a number of back yards on my bike commute to school that harbor chickens, and the occasional rooster. That first sound they make does not begin with a "C." Instead, it is my conviction that the best description of their utterances is that of a car trying to start. At peak volume. And the suggestion that they have five syllable capacity is completely ridiculous. Roosters have a three note pattern that seems to be based solely on the letter "R" sound. 

Now it is possible that if I spent the kind of quality time with a rooster that I have recently started doing with our cat, I might be persuaded otherwise, but for the time being, I would like to know who is in charge of animal sounds, and if there are any openings. 

I must might be interested. 

Saturday, August 05, 2023

The Tolling Bell

 I looked it up: indictment - a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime.

Such accusations rise above the hearsay that pollutes so much of our "news" cycle. This is where judges from a court have ruled, after viewing evidence, have decided to proceed with a trial based on those charges. The "news" cycle then proceeds to spin them in whatever way that they can in order to promote the hoped for outcome of the trial or trials. Mysterious leaks from this organization or that do not tend to result in indictments. Those are the ones that turn into op-ed pieces, or three minute rants from talking heads that are intended to make us all feel as if we really should be indicting people.

Bad people. Criminals. Ne'er do wells that deserve to be put away and kept away. In prison.

Instead, we find this line blurred. The people that need to be put in prison, according to actual indictments, are free to roam about the country promoting their oh-I-don't-know presidential campaign. Rather than shrinking into the shadows, the former game show host who was also impeached twice and found guilty of sexual abuse and defamation. Did that slow the mean old Grinch? 

No. He seems bound and determined to keep running. Not just away from the mounting piles of evidence, but away from the conventional wisdom that suggests that we as a nation would never vote for a convicted felon for Commander in Chief. However, as witnessed by recent events and by the lack of specific evidence to the contrary, you can run the country from a jail cell. Even now, preparations are being made for trials that will run concurrently with the 2024 campaign for president. After each of the several state, federal and local indictments have dropped for the past several months, not only has the most indicted man in American politics continuing to hold rallies where he diminishes and complains that he never did anything wrong, but his followers don't raise a single question but continue to contribute to the election/defense fun of their favorite candidate. 

The most recent indictment charges dropped on the former game show host are regarding the radical plan that he and his assembled gang of idiots came up with to disrupt the lawful and constitutionally assured transfer of power. The plan that culminated in the attempt to physically interrupt this process by breaking into our nation's capitol, threatening government officials, police, and wreaking havoc in our halls of power. Insurrection. 

Insurrection - a violent uprising against an authority or government.

I looked it up.

He should be locked up. 

Friday, August 04, 2023


 Have I mentioned that I don't like change?

If I haven't brought this up before, or maybe you're reading this for the very first time, I apologize for making a fuss about what is inevitable. The very title of this blog is a testament to the disorder in a system. Attempts to bring order to chaos only exacerbates the problem. Trying to teach pigs to fly is a waste of your time and will only end up with pigs joining the pilots' union and we don't want that do we? 

I will not be pontificating on the possibilities of porcine aviation here. Instead I will be discussing something else that used to fly: a bird. A blue bird, to be precise. I came to Twitter later than many, but once I landed there, I found a playground for the type of pithy quips for which I have become so fond of generating in places like this. Sometimes the words I have don't fill a page. They are just random bits of pith, that would need hours more thought than I have to give to them and never see the light of day provided by this blog. 

Those are the ones that end up on Twitter. That funny blue bird where I found a community of individuals every bit as committed as I was to the written word, even if those words were measured out by the eyedropper. Which was a discipline that I found refreshing. 

Then, somebody came and bought my favorite word snack restaurant. A man-child but not in the Pee Wee Herman mold, God rest his soul. This guy came in with billions of dollars and a yearning to remake the site in his own morbidly twisted image. Four billion dollars, and then he let us all know that there was a cost for "free speech." If you wanted to be noticed on his newly acquired sandbox, you would have to pay eight dollars a month for a little blue check mark after their name. 

And in the spirit of all this eight dollar free speech, he started letting folks who had already distinguished themselves as being unable to follow community agreements made under the old administration back onto the platform. Angry people. Misguided people. People who felt they had more of a right than others to their opinion and felt the need to shout down others who don't agree with them. Stupid people. 

Sorry, that last one was an opinion, and I apologize to anyone who isn't really stupid whom I may have offended by suggesting that they are. With a note or two: Climate change is real. The election of 2020 was not stolen. Black lives matter. 

And Elon Mush has not invented anything. He continues to buy things and run them into the ground until they explode or become useless. The most recent outburst from Mister Mush is the "rebranding" of his four billion dollar albatross. Taking a company that was internationally recognized by its logo, a little blue bird, and turned it into a black box with an X. If you bought Coca Cola, would you put it in a black can with an X on it? And let Nazis help out with the secret formula?

On August 1st, I took a day off of Twitter. I have friends and family who have been asking  me why I don't just bail and go somewhere else. There are lots of places that will allow one to spout pith on Al Gore's Internet. 

But I was there before Elongated Mush, and I don't want to leave. I want him to leave, and take his big black X and his pointy-headed minions with him to some other corner of Al Gore's Internet. 


Thursday, August 03, 2023

We've All Got Big Buts

 Yes, sometimes I bring you folks 'round here to talk about someone who died. We kick around their career and their bio a bit, and then we bid them farewell. 

Paul Reubens died this week. He was seventy years young. I say this in particular because Mister Reubens is the comic genius who gave us Pee Wee Herman. He will continue to be a treasure in the hearts of my wife and I, as well as millions of other dedicated fans. So, let's get this out of the way right at the top: Paul Reubens was arrested in 1991 for indecent exposure. In Florida. At the time, it signaled an end to the megawatt superstar surge that he had been enjoying since 1981, when The Pee Wee Herman Show appeared on HBO. 

It was a kid's show for grownups. It was a treat for anyone's inner child. Which is why that arrest ten years later was so troubling. How could this icon of youth be mixed up with something so naughty? 

That would be the grownup part. Pee Herman, as much as he seemed to be a fully realized human at times, he was a character. A bit of imagination. What if you got to act like you were eight years old when you were thirty? What would your house look like? What would you spend your money on? 

And if you're tempted at this moment to answer, "Going to a porn theater in Florida," then maybe you understand the trouble with Pee Wee. He was a man-child, with a mild emphasis on the man part. What made him so endlessly amusing to me and that room full of people over there who never grew tired of his antics was just that: Pee Wee was constantly on the edge of getting into trouble. Most of the time, whatever authority might have existed was ignored of confounded by his presence. 

Pee Wee's Playhouse was a place where adults acted like children who were acting like grownups. Captain Carl. Miss Yvonne. Cowboy Curtis. Pee Wee Herman. It was a special time and it provided my wife and I a brief respite each Saturday morning back in the days before we were grownups ourselves. We ate Pop Tarts and watched the show, making sure to remember the secret word so that the rest of the day anytime we heard it we would scream really loud. 

Okay. I know that it doesn't sound like magic if you weren't there. But I was. I was in the third row when he brought his touring show to the University of Colorado. I narrowly missed out on being named Tootsie Roll monitor for the whole crowd. That was the night that Paul Reubens, in the role that became his lifetime, gave me my secret club name: Dave-O. It's on my Pee Wee Herman Fan Club card. 

When Pee Wee made his big screen debut, I was invited to a preview screening. I went with my older brother and when it was over, we walked out of the theater with a new appreciation for all things Pee Wee. His daughter grew up with the manic sounds of his breakfast machine in her daily soundtrack. On the day Paul Reubens died, she sent a clip from the movie to me and my brothers. 

We will miss Pee Wee, and we forgive Paul Reubens for not being the character he created. He stomped on the Terra in big shoes. He will be missed. 

A lot. 

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

What Price Joy?

 I am certain that at this point I do not comprehend the American Dream. 

I used to believe that it involved being free to follow the path that you wanted to, and that path would eventually lead to comfort and success in that chosen field. Preparing yourself and your loved ones for a life that offered all the opportunities you were afforded and creating more for those less fortunate. 

I look around these days and I don't understand what amounts to "success." My son spent several minutes in line at Disneyland researching the salaries of the costumed characters that appear at regular intervals at the self-proclaimed "happiest place on earth." It was his observation that the only way that these folks could survive in the economic climate of Southern California would be to have multiple roommates and live somewhat close to that allegorical bone. Learning that these performers were protected by a union suggested some relief from the looming presence of poverty. Still, as we climbed into our Matterhorn Bobsled, we wondered if we had what it takes to stand outside with Pluto helmet, as my son referred to it, over our heads in temperatures exceeding ninety degrees. 

My son graduated with a degree in theater arts, but has always been drawn to the backstage elements. Lights, cameras, that's where the action was for him. Which hasn't kept him from harboring a dream that has him piloting a boat down the artificially murky waters of the Jungle Cruise, spouting tired puns and worse jokes with the occasional fresh bit. 

Which makes me want to reconsider the need for a six figure salary. Bringing a smile to the face of a tired family from Oakland after sinking a chunk of money into a Disneyland vacation? I'd like to make some room in the American Dream for some of that kind of action.