Sunday, December 15, 2013

When did the sentiments of terrorists go "mainstream"?

The other day I posted an article on Facebook from entitled "Our sick gun fetish is destroying us: Tea Party fantasies kill kids".  The article talks of the price of gun violence and the Tea Party's love of guns, namely the idea that all you need is to pack some heat and you've instantly got your own personal balance of power.

To this, a person who I went to high school with wrote back a response that indicated that they didn't know what fantasy the writer was speaking of.    "The right to bear arms is about protecting our country from a government out of control," this person maintained, going further to say that we may some day have to take up arms against a tyrannical government.

Compare this and other Tea Party statements and sentiment to this statement:   
The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.
This statement is from Timothy McVeigh, the crazed militia loving bomber of the Oklahoma City Federal Building who killed 168 people.     Back then McVeigh and his sentiments were rightfully viewed as completely nuts, the rantings of disenfranchised lunatics with a warped sense of history and indignation.

So how is it that almost 20 years ago the idea of armed insurrection is now mainstream?   Why is it that the sentiments that led to taking so many lives are now considered a mainstream view?   Why do so many people who outwardly seem rational inwardly seem to think we're only a day away from some sort of freak Red Dawn scenario where they're going to be foot soldiers to "take back 'Murica!"


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I'm sick. I blame Obamacare.

I am feeling like a truck hit me with congestion, cough, ringworm, psoriasis,  tetter and ED (that stands for existential depression, correct?).   I needed a few OTC remedies.  Since there is an impending winter storm that will paralyze the Louisville area for days, I decided to go to a local big box retailer so I could save a few pennies and test how high my blood pressure could go.

I needed Sudafed.   Since anyone who isn't Walter White only uses Sudafed to make meth, I had to go to the pharmacy counter to get permission to buy it.  No sweat.  I rounded the corner and..... six deep in the pharmacy line.

I stood patiently, fuming at both the retailer and my own choice to come there, feeling my already numb brain going into shut down mode.    The guy behind me walked up and said "Jesus, ain't anybody workin' here?"    I said, "It's (insert big box retailer here)."   He shook his head.    Then the elderly guy in front of me turned to me and said "This ain't nothin'.  Imagine what a mess it's gonna be when Obamacare kicks in."

"I know," said the elderly woman in front of him, "he's gonna screw this all up."

Normally I'd bite my tongue, smile, and drop some nasty grams in my head (or on Twitter).  But since I felt like my eyes were being stabbed from behind with a Ginsu and my nasal cavity felt like there was a four man bobsled competition inside of it, my thought hit my mouth.

"Why is the Affordable Care Act going to change the fact that (insert big box retailer) is understaffed today or any day?    Seems as though increased demand would make (insert big box retailer) want to actually meet it.    I imagine some of the people in here today might finally be happy to have affordable insurance."

The old man muttered something about Medicare and turned from me as if I had stripped to my underwear and started singing old communist work songs.

But here's the thing old man, if you want to blame someone for the fact that it took us 15 minutes to get through the line, or for Obamacare, blame yourself.  Blame me.  Blame everyone you know who shops here and pretty much anywhere these days.    You and I complain about these things as though some evil force messed up the economy.  (Big box retailer) doesn't care.   At some point in their existence they prided themselves on buying USA made products and saving jobs.   But that all changed when they realized people weren't really paying too close attention to where things were made, and it was simply easier and cheaper to do business in countries where environmental and labor standards are more lax than the US.     We paid no attention when the companies that manufactured their products in the US quietly shifted production to other countries when retailers demanded they shave a few cents off the product.    We watched as people demonized labor and pension plans as killing industry but then complained when our stock based retirement plans crashed because a highly unregulated financial industry cheated, lied, and stole to enrich their pockets.   We turned our heads as benefits and hours were stripped from hard working Americans.   And we bitch about the people behind the counter right now, who probably are making less than their counterparts would have made 20 or 30 years prior to do the same job.

So when you go home tonight dude, how about you turn off Fox News for a second and reflect on your own life and how things are different now than they were 30 years ago.   I hope you'll find that it's not always everyone else to blame.  Now excuse me while I go take my generic allergy medication from India.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Trouble With "Girls" - Starring Goldie Blox

Toymaker Goldie Blox has created a viral video sensation with their new internet commercial, in which three little girls use toys marketed at them to build a complex Rube Goldberg machine, while singing a song mocking these toys and demanding better to the tune of the Beastie Boys decidedly chauvanistic "Girls".  
The lyrics are as follows (transcript courtesy of Skepchick)
Girls. You think you know what we want, girls
Pink and pretty it’s girls.
Just like the 50’s it’s girls.
You like to buy us pink toys
And everything else is for boys
And you can always get us dolls
And we’ll grow up like them… false.
It’s time to change.
We deserve to see a range.
‘Cause all our toys look just the same
And we would like to use our brains.
We are all more than princess maids.
Girls to build the spaceship,
Girls to code the new app,
Girls to grow up knowing
That they can engineer that.
Girls. That’s all we really need is Girls.
To bring us up to speed it’s
Our opportunity is
Girls.Don’t underestimate
As the father of an incredibly charming, funny, talented, and above all smart, girl, I wanted to love it.   And yet, I don't.  Why?  

It's an ad.  When I first heard about the commercial, I assumed it was a public service announcement, or perhaps an ad for an educational non-profit aimed at young women.   But it's an ad, using positioning to market a product in a crowded field.  The magic of any message of empowerment loses its edge for me when it's simply made to sell a product, no matter what the product's intentions.  

It's the creation of men.  From the contraption flowing through the advertisement to the production team behind it to the song that drives it, the commercial is primarily the production of men, according to Adweek.   Certainly the ad has gathered a lot of attention, but the message could have been driven home a lot more authentically if they'd have relied on the ingenuity of actual women and girls in the creation of the commercial.      
Is the problem pink toys, or parental choices for kids?  My daughter LOVED Disney Princesses, Dora, Barbies, dress-up, and other toys marketed to girls.   She also loved Legos, computers, sketchbooks, iPads, riding her bike, playing sports, science toys, and more.    While there are many toys marketed directly to girls in feminine colors, there also are a ton of toys that are gender neutral, including the ones mentioned above.    My daughter enjoying Ariel didn't keep me from encouraging her interest in science and math.  I want her to find her own path, confident and comfortable in her love of vocation and self, be it wearing pink or plaid, teaching school or building a building.    
Using "Girls" Without Permission  While I admit that taking an outrageously sexist song by the Beastie Boys and turning it on its head was brilliant, not seeking permission to use the song in an advertisement is outright stupid.   My daughter is a budding artist and writer.   The last message I want to send to her is that it is appropriate to take a copyrighted work as your own without proper attribution or reimbursement.    
Certainly we need to empower our daughters to do and be anything they want to be, without any limits put on them because of their gender. I applaud Goldie Blox for starting the discussion.   Here's hoping their message is even stronger and more consistent for the next commercial 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Open Letter to Miley Cyrus About the VMAs

Dear Miley Cyrus,

I watched your performance on last night's VMAs.   I'm sure by now you're over the moon with the words being uttered.  


My thoughts?  Let me put them into song for you.  

(To the tune of Party in the USA)  

I might throw up, where's my gong.  
Can you seek attention any other way?  
Miley's boring on the VMA  
Calculated and boring on the VMA.  

Last night's performance was a parody of all the worst things ever on MTV executed with the panache and style of colorblind rodeo clown with tremors.  And like most "outrageous and controversial" VMA moments, it felt scripted within an inch of its life.    There was nothing sexy about watching you stick out your tongue like a human emoji emoticon while grabbing your crotch with a giant foam finger like a drunken Steelers Fan. Your latex costume didn't make you look like a bondage queen, but rather a girl dealing with bladder issues. And the choreography and stuffed animal motif looked like something Lady Gaga once farted out after a night of White Castles and Pabst Blue Ribbon.   It was a mess, but not even in the enjoyable way an Ed Wood film or Black Eyed Peas song might be.    Instead, it looked just like what it was, a calculated attempt to shock and offend, which seldom does either, except to those who are always shocked and offended.

I realize that you've grown up in the spotlight, and you feel the need to be relevant.   Being a child star can suck.     My advice is simple.  Take a few years off.  Take some of that money and look for other things that catch your interest.    Come back in a project that doesn't distinguish itself from Disney Channel fare by the number of times you grab your crotch, but by the fact that it's grown up and appeals favorably to an adult audience.  

Now I'm off to bed and praying I don't dream of 7 foot teddy bears.   



Monday, August 19, 2013

Hopes For My Daughter As She Enters Middle School

A blink of the eye and suddenly tomorrow my baby starts middle school.  Mommy and Daddy are thrilled for her and scared to death.    With only hours to go before she starts her day, here are my wishes for my little Snoozlebug.

  • I hope you make many new friends while growing closer to your old ones.   
  • I hope your classes always be challenging in a way that stimulates your brain and not your patience. 
  • I hope your life is free of bullies and that you're never swayed to be mean to someone else
  • I hope you embrace the greater responsibilities you face and learn and grow from them.  
  • I hope your teachers treat you with love and respect and that you return the favor.  
  • I hope that if you should have a boyfriend that you remember you're 11, not 30, and know that if he touches anything but your hand backpack, hurts you in any way or breaks your heart, I'll destroy him. 
  • I hope that you never lose your love of learning, reading, art, or any of the things that have filled your heart with joy.  
  • I hope you are never afraid to try new things, embrace new ideas, get your hands or your mind a bit messy, and you always trust that you'll see your way through.
  • I hope that these years help guide you toward the things you really love, and that you embrace the idea that just because you're smart enough to do anything, you should turn your attention to the things that engage your heart and mind.   
  • I hope you have an experience in Middle School far better than anything you could have imagined
  • I hope that you mature without losing the little girl within.   And if you could hold my hand occasionally when nobody's looking, that'd be great too.  
And most importantly:
  • I hope you realize your Mommy and I love you with all of our hearts, will be here for you no matter what, and that you will never feel afraid to share your triumphs, fears, doubts, sorrows, and anything that is on your mind.    
May you and all of the people starting school tomorrow have an incredible first day and an incredible year.   



Sunday, August 4, 2013

An Open Letter From Jesus

Hey followers. Been a long time. Just wanted to talk to you because of a few things I've been seeing going on out there I want to address

First, some formalities. Listen Grammy winners, football players, and basketball players. Love your shoutouts, but I had nothing to do with your success. The idea that someone praying harder makes me favor you with a statue or trophy is not cool. Oh, and please stop shooting each other and beating up your girlfriends.

Okay, now on to the real meat of the discussion.

The Bible. Yeah, it's a good book, but Me Flipping Me, it's not the only one. Many of you read it as though it's the traffic code and you're a cop who has to meet his quota of writing tickets. Stop. Consider Dad and I the cop, judge, and jury. We're fair, impartial, and we hate citizens arrests, if you catch my meaning. But since you're all so literal, maybe you don't. You guys have translated and parsed the Bible so much that you've drained much of the magic and love out of it. My advice here is to try to be more like the Beatles and less like Beatlemania.

Now on to other matters. Religion and politics. You live in a great country that allows you to worship as you please, free from each other's individual dogmas, quirks, and failings. You want a true faith? Find it in your heart, share it, but don't assume your neighbor needs the same path. As to hating on Islam, Jews, Atheists, and whomever, remember Dad and I are God, not jilted lovers. If you are working your own path for good in this world, don't assume we'll hate you because you had a prayer rug instead of a cross, or a Spaghetti Monster on your trunk instead of a fish. We'll make the decisions on when the day comes, and they have less to do with slavish adherence to Chapter 4, Verse 6, Jackson 5 than you believe.

Evolution. This one seems to scare a great many of you, who scramble to find any Bible verse, ignorant half truth, or false science to scare people out of actually believing that there may be some things not 100% accurate in the Bible. Just because people are seeking to learn more about the world doesn't mean there are no reasons for me in their life or lives become empty of meaning. Think of science as a great gift and adventure Dad left you all so that you could find even more beauty and love in this world and learn how to make it a better place. They are seeking a more complete version of the truth, and Dad bless them for it. Don't think I've noticed you have no problem with HDTVs, cancer drugs, and iPhones, and they're not in the bible either.

Women. Horrible aren't they? All full of that nurturing and caring instinct. Couldn't possibly want people like that holding a place if stature in my Church could we? Hogwash. Take a look around you. Look in the Bible. Some of my strongest servents were women. The idea that they cannot lead a church and teach my word, or do stand in service of another is ridiculous. My friends in Rome need to spend less time trying to cover up the pain they've caused and more time doing work like the nuns in the US do in my name. And let them dress how they want to dress. My work is hard. At least be comfortable doing it.

Gay marriage. Being gay is not a lifestyle choice. Being a jerk is. I came down to this earth to teach you about love and respect for one another, not to find ways to make my loving children feel worthless because they love someone of the same gender. And just in case you think this is directed at Westboro Baptist, think again. That clown car of hatred does far less damage than the well respected megachurch pastor who actively seeks to make gay men and women the "other" to rally against. Here's a clue. If you want to call being gay a sin, remember you're not the one to decide it is a sin, nor where it lands on my priority list. I will tell you that your continual use of falsehoods to attack any of the peoples on this earth is high on my list. Maybe you should spend less time looking for places to post the Commandments and more time reading and following them.

Above all, know that being a follower of me involves more than reading a textbook and pretending you know all life has to offer. I was not sent here simply to have you ignore this world in search of life in the next, but to make this place a happier, healthier, and more caring place than before I came. To boil it all down, live the best life you can in service, friendship, and love for one another. If you can do that, I'd be much happier.





Saturday, July 27, 2013

Music Formats (AKA: Why I miss CDs and 8-Tracks)

I was born in the 70s, so I have seen almost every recognizable format for music in my time.
There were 8-Tracks, which were justifiable loathed by anyone who loved music, for their lousy sound and the need to rearrange albums (or simply to edit them) just so you could get a song to fit on one of the four bands. Nothing like hearing a 22 minute Allman Brothers track where you hear, "Ain't but one way out (KERCHUNK!!!!), Lord I just can't go out the door." They should have tied the person with this bright idea to the whipping post. Still, my dad loved them because you could put them in and let them go. And I have an affection for two Christmas tapes my dad got in one of those Columbia House "25 albums for a penny" that he made me swear I would never join.

There were albums. These, of course had been around forever, and it was the first format I actually spent my own money on, buying Queen's The Game at K-Mart for around $7 in the early 80s. Albums were big, beautiful, substantial purchases that were meant to be shelved and displayed, and apparently to roll joints on. And there was nothing like throwing them on and hearing your favorite album.

Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust. 

Yes, that was the joy of realizing the album you bought had a skip in it because you accidentally scraped it against the spindle while you were trying to put it on. And let's not forget the joy of paying $8 for a warped album that had been pressed with materials so thin that it looked like a wrinkled shirt when you pulled it out of the sleeve. Still, there was the fun of slowing down the record (if you had an old stereo with 16 speed), or speeding it up to 78 and listening to the idea that inspired the Chipmunks entire musical career.

Let's not forget cassettes. This was the essential 80's format to fit in your "boom box" or "ghetto blaster". For you youngsters, a boom box was a portable stereo with a handle on it that you could use to enjoy music in large groups of people who WEREN'T networked in through a computer, and were simply doing stupid things like hanging around in a room together. They took 48 D batteries that died halfway through your Thriller cassette. I had LOTS of cassettes. And because I was obsessed with music, I began to compare how each of the record companies packaged their music (BMG went the cheap route with crappy inserts and no liner notes. Warner usually went all out), the sound from each company (the HX Pro from Warner Brothers kicked ass), and even the smells (for some reason, some companies had really intoxicating perfumey smelling inserts and cases.) Of course, none of this hid the fact that cassettes were second to 8 tracks in their awfulness. There was nothing like hearing your favorite album wrap itself around the guts of your player, or worse yet, realizing you left the cassette in your hot car and the entire tape was now a lump of Jello in the shape of a cassette. Still, it didn't stop me from buying a buttload of the things.

Then, the gold (silver?) standard.    CDs.  I got my first CD player in 1988 and still have it. It was a Pioneer six disc changer that kickstarted me into music fanaticism. I remember seeing my first CD player years earlier in JCPenney's and reading about the incredible sound they produced.  I wanted one.   $1000 dollars for a single player seemed insane then, and impossible now, but by 1988 they'd dropped enough that I finally had one. CDs were great because now record companies had a format they could legitimately overcharge for, since CDs inititially had to be produced in a wasteful process involving a clean room (not your sister's bedroom, but an actual environment with no contaminants) and there were very few plants making them. And they could make you rebuy your entire music collection because the CD sound was marketed as being the best around. Who wanted a skippy and crackly album when you could hear the music as it was recorded.

Of course, that didn't stop the record companies from saying, "oops, our bad, this really isn't the best that Three Dog Night has sounded. You need to by our new 16 bit.... make that 20 bit mastering process that was reengineered using the original source masters with supervision by the band and a team of audiophile historians."

And then they thought of "Deluxe Editions", in which your favorite album had bonus tracks, demos, and maybe even fragments of cocaine they found in the studio from the time it was recorded.

I lapped that crap up. There are some artists, (I'm looking at you, The Who) who I have bought four different copies of their album because some new mastering or lost demos made it a must have. Today I have thousands of the damned things, which are worth nothing because of......

Digital downloads. The scourge of the record industry. A single file that contains an entire song. I remember my first digital download, and my first illegal copy ever. It was a Metallica's One, downloaded in about 18 hours over AOL dial up from Napster. A week later I was banned from Napster, my criminal days over before they began because of a bunch the humorless masters of speed metal.

People like to say that digital theft killed music, but I like to think it was something else. For those of us who grew up as music lovers and liked the physical presence of discs and tapes, as well as liner notes and pictures, digital music seemed like a cheat. When I purchased a digital download, it felt the same as making a cassette copy of an album. Yeah, I had the music, but I didn't have the experience. I had a replica of the experience.  

As digital albums and songs slowly creeped onto my iPod (full of my CDs, so I'm not cheating on them), I realized something even more important about why digital audio files have helped destroy music.    They sound like shit.   I'm not talking about the typical audiophile gripes about the bitrate of digital files, I'm talking about the loudness with which digital files (and now, sadly, CDs) are now mastered.  

Ever been to a movie where the dialog is whispered so low you can barely hear it, and then followed by an explosion that rattles the ceiling tiles in the theater?   That's what digital sound is supposed to do.  It's supposed to give you a full range of audio.    Previous formats were limited in how much range they could provide, so they were mastered with a more limited range of soft and loud.    Somewhere in the past five or ten years, the people that master music decided that you should enjoy both the whisper and the explosion and explosion volumes.     The idea is that you won't miss any bit of music through your crappy earbuds if you accidentally run in front of a semi at a crosswalk and the driver honks his horn at you.   Unfortunately, this mastering pushes every instrument and vocal to eleven and creates (at least in this listener) an audio fatigue in which your ears get tired because all of the sounds that reach your ear are strained to the breaking point.  (For more information, see this excellent wikipedia article.)

Which brings me back to what brought me to write this in the first place, the resurgence of vinyl. People my age and people who never saw a physical album in the store when they were growing up are buying vinyl again. They are learning to appreciate the idea of a physical purchase of music, and they're saying 'it just sounds better."    I'd love for them to start exploring the different formats and realizing that the record companies have denied them the actual sound they should be hearing, as demonstrated in any number of 1980s and 1990s CDs.   Any used record store should give them a treasure trove of great sounding discs for cheap.    

Posted with BlogsyPosted with Blogsy

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Trolley Problem, or Would You Throw the Fat Guy Off the Bridge?: A Philosophical Conundrum -- A Review

The Trolley Problem, or Would You Throw the Fat Guy Off the Bridge?: A Philosophical Conundrum
by Thomas Cathcart

(This review is based on a review copy received from the publisher.)
The Trolley Problem poses an interesting philosophical dilemma. If faced with having to choose between leaving a runaway trolley car on course to kill five people, or taking an action that will divert the trolley and only kill one, what would you do and why? Would your actions make you a good person or a bad person. 

Cathcart presents the problem as a trial in the court of public opinion with a woman on trial for homicide for diverting the trolley. Is she guilty of manslaughter, or simply making the best choice she had in an impossible circumstance. Various philosophical points of view are presented by the fictional people arguing and discussing the case in the book. Sidebars with the biographies and the philosophies of the philosophers being presented accompany each discussion.

I was amazed at how well the book presented numerous points of view in looking at the moral and ethical issues that guide our decision. It was especially interesting to read in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial as you puzzle over the decisions and statements made by the jury. Where would they stand on this issue. 

If nothing else, the Trolley Problem, Or Would You Throw The Fat Guy Off The Bridge, is a great introduction to philosophy for those, like me, with little direct experience with it. It's a quick and entertaining read that enlightens. Recommended.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dream Journal

Self help books and writing guides often tell you that you should keep a dream journal by your bed to log what goes on in your subconscious mind when you're sleeping. Supposedly, Keith Richards literally dreamed up Satisfaction and had the presence of mind to wake up and record a snippet before falling asleep.


It sounds like a great idea, but I have to imagine my dream journal would look like this.


1/17/13 - Woke up with bad gas. Was dreaming. Not sure about what. Tough to write this in the dark. What was the dream? Hmmmmmm. Can't sleep.
2/12/13 - Had dream. Opened up iPhone to record dream and saw a really funny tweet. Read 50 others, including a political post that made me mad. Forgot dream. Can't sleep.
3/7/13 - Woke up with nightmare. Tried to grab phone to record dream and accidentally knocked over lamp. Woke up wife. Forgot nightmare. Can't sleep because couch is too short.

Or perhaps it would simply be a series of two word posts with the beginning of a third word that drifts off into a straight line, followed by the sound of a journal loudly falling to the ground.

Whatever the end result, perhaps it's better I don't keep a record of my dreams. I'd hate to have dreams of a guy with a burned face, a glove full of razors and a striped sweater. I'd probably interpret it as an admonition to wear sunscreen, stop biting my nails, and to be more appreciative of Christmas gifts I don't care for.


Why Buying New Glasses Is A Pain in The....

I've needed glasses for most of my life, but only worn them religiously since 1995, when the stress of a new job and the visual requirements for it caused my eyes to go completely haywire.

Part of the joy of bad eyes is getting new glasses.   I realize some people love new fashion and enjoy getting glasses.   I am not one of them.   Here are some reasons why I hate the eye exam and the glasses buying experience.

Refraction retraction

"One or two?"

"Two or three?" 

It's 2013.  By now I was hoping that a laser scan of my eye would find me the perfect fitting glasses without me having to spend 20 minutes looking at two different versions of an eye chart and trying to decide which of the two looks better.   I just know that the optometrist is judging me as I make her flip back and fourth five times because one variation of E M O P R looks bold and stately and the other looks dignified and sharp and I can't decide which one is supposed to be the better one.   No matter what, I'm always convinced that I made the wrong choice on my last selection and I'm going to be walking around not being able to read that Arby's sign from 700 yards away.   I also think my eye doctor is saying, "what an indecisive jackass.  I can't believe he ever found a wife."  

How do you pick out something you can't see?

If, like me, you can't wear contacts, the glasses buying experience is like this: 

"Ooooh!  Those look good on the wall.  Let me try those on." 

(Pause to put them on and look in the mini mirror that is the size of an index card.) 

"I look like an inkblot of Mr. Potato Head.   Can someone tell me how these look?"

I realize that many of us make questionable fashion choices even with 20/20 vision, but the idea that you pick out the one item that corrects your vision without ever really seeing what it looks like is just crazy to me. 

Too much selection with too much "manfusion" 

It used to be that eyeglasses were sold with clear distinctions between male and female frames.   The men's frames had the big rugged manly look, and the women's had the sweetly curved feminine look.   Now, there is simply too much "manfusion" as the manly man that I am (stop laughing, dear) tries to pick out frames suited for me.  

Now, who knows what the hell is going on.   I'll pick out a perfectly great pair of frames that would intimidate John Wayne with their manliness only to have my daughter point out the pink flowers on the sides.     I'm not saying there isn't and shouldn't be some overlap in styles, but my genuine fear is that I'll be the guy that everyone in the office knows as "Girl Glasses Guy." 

And while we're at it, how many different variations of the same frame can you have?   Does the world really need 700 takes on "hipster oval"?   I did so much whipping off of frames that I felt like I was auditioning to replace David Caruso on CSI: Miami. 

Would You Like Heated Lenses?

Once you pick your frames, you want to go home and crawl into bed.  But no, there is the selection of lenses.  Would you like glass, regular plastic, polycarbonate, or perhaps lenses made of Swarovski crystal?  Okay, now that you've picked those out, would you like the kind that get darker when sunlight hits them, or turn florescent under a blacklight?  How about coatings?  Would you like them scratch resistant, UV coated, or perhaps dipped in a sugar glaze?    Would you like accidental breakage coverage?    How about a Bluetooth receiver built right into the earpiece?  Oh!  That doesn't work with the iPhone 4. 

When picking out lenses, what you realize is that whatever choice is affordable is the choice that "nobody gets".   If you want glasses that aren't going to weigh so much they carve two divots out of your nose or scratch when you walk under a ceiling fan, you're going to have to pay for it.  

Picking up your glasses

It's always great to pick up your glasses for the first time.  You typically have to wait.  Then you see a guy who takes your brand new glasses and dips them in different machines that appear to turn your frames into taffy for him to mold to your face.  He stares into your eyes as he does this, apparently implanting some secrets that only opticians hold, and then asks you "how do those feel?"   This is a trick, because your eyes are too busy freaking out for your nose and ears to communicate that the frames are cutting off  your circulation.   I can only assume that the optician does this because he wants you to come back so that he can implant more secrets in your head, or perhaps so he can laugh once again at your girl frames.  

Caring for your glasses

No matter what method of care you use for your glasses, from Windexing the crap out of them to using a cloth made of the finest soft cloth spun by angels and then spraying them with a solution designed by the company who made your lenses, your optician will tell you that you're doing it wrong.   The reality is that once glasses are made, they're meant never to be cleaned again.  But you'll do it, and you'll get some sort of scratch that those $300 lenses were meant to resist, and your optician will tell you that it's because you must have used water that wasn't formed in a lab by nuclear scientists.  He'll then appear to do everything you've been told not to do to clean your glasses, shake his head, and hand them back to you.    This cycle will repeat for 2 years until you do it all over again.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Four Reasons to Cut Miss Utah Some Slack

As a citizen of the internet, I am naturally superior to everyone else.    I'll make fun of you on my Twitter account, my Facebook account,  and my MySpace account (where I'll mock you for your MySpace account.)    It's the internet.   It's what we do here.

So when I saw my inferior Facebook friends post the link to video of Miss Utah embarrassing herself with the latest beauty pageant flub, I clicked with my guns blazin'.    After all, who doesn't like to laugh when someone fails massively in that tribute to all that is important and special in women, a beauty pageant.    So I watched the video. 

What's the first thing I notice?  It looks like Giuliana Rancic is taking fashion tips from Bjork.  I mean seriously, did she go to Bridesmaids R Us to pick out that hideous thing she's wearing?    Was Miss Utah worried about having her eyes pecked out?

Second is the music.  It's like the producers went to the guy who wrote the music for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and asked him who it was that delivered carryout during the recording session. Then they had THAT guy write the music.   The poor girl may have gotten a migraine just waiting for the question.

Third is Nene Leakes.   How intimidating is it to be asked a question by someone who has been authenticated as a REAL Housewife of Atlanta, and not that bogus crap you'd find on other beauty pageants.     Judging by her hair and eyelashes, Ms. Leaks is a person who likes to keep it real and sees through all of this fake beauty crap.   And Nene Leakes (no relation to Wiki Leakes) is intimidating as a professional communicator.  Witness the way she tears into the question and makes it her own, making up her own pronunciations for words like "with" and "society."

Fourth is the question.    "A recent report shows that in 40 percent of the households with children, women are the primary earners.    Yet they continue to earn less than men.   What does this say about society?"  

I'm not saying Miss Utah realized it, but the only correct answer to the question is to ask for clarification.    Is Nene saying that women earn less than men in the 40 percent of households where women are the primary earners?  If so, wouldn't that make them the secondary earners in at least some of those households?   Can we really talk about the disparity in these households if we don't know what types of jobs these women might be doing versus the households where men are the primary earners?     Is the income problem because of the jobs these women take or have available to them versus the ones men take?   Is it a systemic problem related to single parent homes?  Or is the question meant to highlight a disparity in pay for equivalent jobs?

Since there is so much unknown here, I probably would have stared at Nene and fumbled my way through as well.   Actually, I'd have probably said, "It shows that society is full of people who have trouble writing a question with clarity and enough information so that it can actually be answered in the time you've given me."

The reality is that Miss Utah looks like me in the average job interview.   In my mind I crushed the question.   In reality, I looked like I have a brain the size of a walnut.    I knew what I meant to say, and that's almost as good as actually saying it.

So let's cut Miss Utah some slack and move on to real issues.   Like what's up with Giuliana's dress?  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Time Marches Around Us

The past month has been one of tremendous change for those around me.    My parents finally sold the house they'd lived in since I was 13, a place where happiness and heartbreak intermingled for much of 30 years.  Then my daughter finished six years of elementary school and said goodbye to the place where she first started to gain her independence and education.  

I think that we all ignore the passage of time when it comes to those we're closest to.   Our parents remain the same people who made the world better when we fell off our bike or had our heartbroken, and who drastically overreacted the first and tenth time we accidentally farted at the dinner table.     Our children remain our babies who we're sworn to protect from the dangers of electrical sockets and evil boys and girls who wish to break their hearts.   And many of us remain those same confused adult/children of high school, excited to be adults, but still wishing for the relative safety of childhood, and wondering how we could possibly have full time jobs, be making mortgage payments, and have friends with kids in college.  

We know that time marches on, but we like to deny that it happens to us.     We can study the faces of those we haven't seen in awhile on Facebook and say, "man, they got old" while comfortably denying the wrinkles and thinning hair on our own heads.  

It is only when we reach these milestones in our lives that we truly start to see the signs of time marching on.   We see the parents slower in their step, a little more confused in their behavior, and grayer around the temple.   We look at the pictures of our children and wonder how they went from being the chubby cheeked little ones with baby teeth to the kids that are starting to dwarf us and are wearing braces and clothing that makes them look 30.   We pause.  We take a breath.   And hopefully we try a little harder to savor the moments we have a little more, realizing that time truly does fly.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Define Complacency, Senator McConnell

Today Mitch McConnell gave a speech in the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

On 9/11 we forever disabused of the notion that attacks, like the one that rocked Boston yesterday ,only happen on the field of battle or in distant countries. With the passage of time, however, and the vigilant efforts of our military, intelligence and law enforcement professionals, I think it’s safe to say that for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has actually returned. And so we are newly reminded that serious threats to our way of life remain. And today again we recommit ourselves to the fight against terrorism at home and abroad.

So let's imagine something different yesterday.   Instead of using two bombs, a person or persons walks into the crowd and starts spraying bullets from a gun.     Essentially, the scene of Virginia Tech or Newtown is recreated on a busy street in the middle of a fun day in Boston. 

Mitch McConnell has shown in his reaction to Newtown that his concern would not be to deal with the "serious threats to our way of life" carried out by crazy people with guns.   Would his reaction to an event like this be the same complacency he's demonstrated in his entire five terms of congress toward the issue of gun violence?  

Why does he decry the attacks of yesterday, and turn a blind eye to action that might prevent the daily acts of terror perpetrated by gun violence?    I have to imagine it's because the bomb and terrorist lobby simply doesn't contribute enough money to Mitch.   

All I know is that it's a shame that our Republican Senators will wring their hands and vow to fight terrorism when it's done by a bomb, airplane, or other device.   But when terror is inflicted by a gun, they look the other way and vow to fight doing a damned thing about it.

That, Senator McConnell, is complacency.   Bought and paid for by the gun lobby.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston -- More Than a Feeling

Boston and part of BU as viewed from my Freshman Dorm, Warren Towers.
In the fall of 1989, my mom and dad had their own Subaru moment when they pulled away from their suddenly petrified son at 700 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.   I remember tearing up, having stepped into the big city from my old Kentucky home, knowing only two people total at the school, and thinking, "what the hell have I done?"

Four years later, the only answer was, "a hell of a lot."  

Boston was the place where I learned I could live on my own, do my own laundry, shop for and cook my own food, study without mom and dad gently pressuring me, and survive in a big world without family ties nearby.

Boston's the place where I heard accents and languages of every kinds, from Chinese, to Russian, to Indian, to Long Island.   It took me two months before I could understand anyone.

Boston's where I met my first openly gay people.   And befriended them.  And realized it wasn't weird, and wasn't going to "rub off" or be held against me.  

Boston was the place where I bought tickets for my first concert, Paul McCartney at the Worcester Centrum, standing out in the cold for three hours outside of Tower Records.    It was on February 9th, the anniversary of the Beatles' first appearance on Ed Sullivan.  That date would later hold another special place in my heart as the birthday of my beautiful wife. 

Boston's the place where I heard the bands I read about in Rolling Stone in high school.   It's where my hardcore indie/alternative loving roommate introduced me to the The Velvet Underground (and I tortured him with my classic rock.)   

Boston's the place where I saw my first joint, a huge number rolled by the guy I went to see McCartney with.  (Don't worry mom, I never touched the stuff.    Don't laugh, people, I'm serious.   I had a scholarship I didn't want to lose.   And I heard it is a gateway drug to listening to really bad jam bands.)

Boston's the place I first got drunk.  It's the place where I first got kicked out of a bar, and the place where I learned true friends will put your butt in a cab to get you home safely.    It's also where I threw up in a laundry bag and learned to swear off drinking. (Just kidding mom, I never touched the..... oh never mind.) 

Boston's where I saw my first (and last) line of cocaine, at a party that I left almost as soon as I entered.

Boston's where I met two students from Columbia who owned a hot rod sports car, refurnished their campus apartment with leather and glass furniture, had pilot's licenses and a dad in "agriculture." 

Boston's where I learned that you don't use the sink in an all night iHOP, since that sink's most likely been a urinal at some point.   

Boston's the place where I became a Fenway fan, even if I loved my Orioles.  It's where I saw Cal Ripken Jr. hit a homer, got caught in a peanut crossfire between Yankees and Red Sox fans, and saw an obscene inflatable doll turned into a beach ball.    It's also where I saw a guy pull a Peter Griffin, running from police so fast that he went face first into the concrete.  He jumped up, raised his hands in a "V", and smiled a face full of bloody teeth. 

Boston's the place where I built up my music collection with hundreds of CDs at Newbury Comics, Tower Records,  and Strawberries.    And I saw The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dinosaur Jr. at in store visits.  

Boston's the place where Penn Jillette called me a dick and Teller told me it was a pleasure to meet me. 

Boston's the place where Bruce Campbell stood and talked to us budding filmmakers for close to two hours at the same forum where Bobcat Goldthwait said, in response to his first question about independent films, said, "I'm looking around and I have no idea why the hell I'm here."  

Boston's the place where Lou Reed scribbled a couple of bird shapes instead of a signature in my book and didn't respond to me when I thanked him for his work, and Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) was incredibly kind.

Boston's the place where I saw the movie Woodstock and met the one man I know for sure was there, Michael Wadleigh.  I also got a brief glimpse of writer Julius Epstein, who penned Casablanca.

Boston's where I spent countless hours making 16 mm movies of my own that sucked.   It's where I discovered in an editing room that over two hours of footage was not shot with a 24 FPS camera, requiring us to spend hours splicing sound to match the footage.    It's also where I had my one and only line on film, as a phone sex operator, pulling a Meg Ryan.  

Boston's where we locked ourselves in an apartment filming, and then had Boston's finest come calling when we set off the fire alarm with our fog machine.

Boston's where I saw the Names Project Quilt, where those who died of AIDS were memorialized.   

Boston's where I was a DJ for four years, at WTBU, the first home of Howard Stern.  You'll note that I'm not hosting a reality TV show and do not have a trillion dollar contract with Sirius Radio. 

Boston's where I got to see Christopher Reeve receive an award from Jack Lemmon, and serve food to David E. Kelley.

Boston's where I got physically fit with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was an extra in a really bad movie with Kevin Pollak and a little known actress named Courtney Cox (who was absolutely gorgeous).    

Boston's where I saw the premiere episode of The Simpsons and Boston's where I wrote my first script, an episode of The Simpsons, in a class where another student, Andrew Kreisberg, was writing a Mad About You script.   He later went on to be a story editor on the Simpsons, among other successes.   I later went on to write a blog.   Which you're reading.   Sucker. 

Boston's where I saw my favorite movie, Goodfellas.  It's where I saw a preview screening of The Bodyguard that had an entire reel misloaded, which somehow made that awful movie better.   And it's where I saw the very first screening of opening day of a movie called Reservoir Dogs, from a guy named Quentin Tarantino at the same theater where I had my freshman year COM class.   It was called the Nickelodeon, and it had friendly mice that scurried along the floors during those classes.    They ushered at night.   

Boston's where I sent my first e-mail across a network, to a person I knew from high school in Louisville.   I was blown away at how I could communicate across some strange unknown network over hundreds of miles.   FOR FREE!

All of these things come to mind as I watch the horror unfold today in Boston.    A few of those memories surround happier times in Copley Place and the Boston Public Library (which is the site of the finish line). 

Boston's where I spent many hours at the Boston Public Library only feet from the location of one of today's explosions., where I met Spenser writer, Robert B. Parker, perhaps the city's biggest fan.   

Boston's where I once sprinted a mile and a half to try and get close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon to take a single snapshot of the winner with my piece of crap Yashica MG-1.  I still have the slide somewhere, a wonderfully blurred shot of the winner, that simply adds to his speed.  

Boston's where I spent every Patriot's Day cheering on people from all over and watching their determined and weary faces light up when I would call out the places and names on their outfits.     A simple shout of a name and a personalized cheer would often perk them up for that endless last mile. 

Boston's where I met a fellow student from Kentucky with whom I had my first serious date, a movie caught at the world's most awful theater in Copley Place.  I spent the entire movie trying to touch my date's hand without seeming too obvious.    It's where I had my first serious kiss, my first serious romance, and thought I'd met the person I'd spent the rest of my life with.   It's where I said goodbye to her that summer before forever was to start.   And it's where I returned the next fall with a broken heart.  And it's where I began to learn that all hurts do indeed pass with time.     

Boston's where I met Bryan, Jen, Jess, Cord, Rolly, Kevin, Bill, Tara, Amy, Dr. Root, Leila, Ben, Holly, Jamal, John, and a ton more that are escaping my brain right now.    Many are friendships I continue to this day.  These were part of my family away from home.  
Boston's where I grew up a little, acted like a kid a lot, and even though it only took up 1/10th of my life, created more than a lifetime of memories.

And Boston's the place where thousands of kids like me get left by worried parents to live their lives, make memories, get an education, and enjoy days like today, never thinking anything like today will happen.    

I love you Boston.    And I hope today doesn't spoil the memories that you make for the people who make you their home for their college lives.     All the best.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Quiet Please -- Thoughts on being an Introvert

Several months ago I read a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, and thought, "hey, that's me!"

As someone who spent a good chunk of my life wondering what the hell was wrong with me, here was validation that much of what made me feel different was indeed a part of a distinct personality type.    Here was an explanation why I spent so much time by myself and was okay with that.  Here was an explanation why group projects wore me out so quickly.    Here was an explanation why I often felt like I wanted to run away when I spent too much time in the company of others, especially those I shared nothing in common with.  

While reading more about it, I found these rules for caring for an Introvert.   My thoughts on each below.

1)  Respect their need for privacy.   My parents would always ask me about my day, my classes, or if there were girls I liked, or any number of things.   I couldn't explain to you why I didn't want to tell them.  There were no shocking secrets.   I just wanted these things for me.   I shared when I felt I needed to.    I now understand how tough that is on parents.      I also think that part of this is because an introvert is tougher to read.  There are lots of thoughts going on in our head of minimal importance, but we tend to register distress when this happens.   This causes people to pry for something deeper when we're still simply processing.

2)  Never embarrass them in public.   I can tell you tons of embarrassing things I've done to myself in public.  I may have been the only one who realized or cared.   But I remember.   Honestly, I don't think many people like to be embarrassed in public.  For me, I tend to internalize my embarrassments and over exaggerate their importance in my mind.  

3) Let them observe first in new situations.   I recently had to present something and then discuss at a standing meeting where I was unfamiliar with the dynamic.   I wanted to crawl out of my skin by the end of the meeting because I was trying to both absorb what was going on, understand the group dynamics, figure out an approach to what was being discuss, understand what was being discussed, and participate without being given much time to think on what I had to say.   It wiped out my energy.

4) Give them time to think.  Don't demand instant answers.     AND

5) Don't interrupt them.  

These two are separate, but often go together.   You can let me pause and think, or you can let me talk it out.    If I'm talking it out and I pause, don't feel the need to fill that pause instantly.   My mind is often at a point further down the road while my mouth is catching up.    I have something to say, and both YOU and I are better served by listening to everything I have to say before you interrupt.  

I'm not sure if I'm alone in this, but I often am unable to insert myself into a conversation.  Something hard wired in me makes it nearly impossible to get my voice inside of the brief gaps or pauses of extroverts in a discussion.   This leads to me shutting down or feeling like an a--hole for simply talking over you in a verbal game of chicken, hoping you'll stop before I do.

Recognize that you may instantly know what you want to say.   But also realize that my mind is hearing what you say, what others say, and what I'm thinking and trying to mash those all into a response that has some meaning.   In circumstances where I'm not fully engaged, I get no pleasure from simply running my mouth, or from you running your mouth.   Let's talk about the business at hand and think it through.   And if you want me to be a part, your polite silence and attentive ear is essential.     If you listen, you might find what I have to say is what it would take you and your extrovert friends 45 minutes to figure out on your own.  

And don't interrupt me.  You have no idea how that makes me feel.

6)  Give them advanced notice of expected changes in their lives.

I'll be the first to say this one is probably silly.  Life throws a lot of crap at you, and you have to deal with it.    But I am constantly processing everything, and my initial thought on changes is "OH SH*T!  The sky is falling!"

I can't speak for all introverts, but I know that when I hear of a change, especially one that someone else thinks is important, I look for the impacts of that change, and I start with the negatives.   Having to deal with that without having time to process it and, if necessary, talk myself off a ledge, is very tough.    See number four.

7) Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they're doing.

I never thought on this one, but it's true.   And it seems to be true with my daughter (who seems to need at least an hour).    Think of our brains as deep sea divers.   If we're working on something intently and we're not aware of the need to come back up by a certain point, we get the mental bends if we're asked to resurface too quickly.   We need time to wind down, put our mental bookmarks in place, and wrap things up.   Fifteen minutes may be far too short, but it's at least a courtesy.

8) Reprimand them privately.

Meh.  I have been through some real ridiculousness.  I'm over it.  Just make sure you're right, or I'll kick your ass verbally.

9) Teach them new skills privately.

This one doesn't apply to me much.  

10) Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities.

True.   I can count the truly dear friends I've had on one hand.  I have always felt a bit lost in the friends department, and my closest friends have been ones that share my interests and talents.    Part of my sadness at work these days is that I have nobody who really shows my same interests.

11)   Don't push them to make lots of friends.  

I don't think anyone's ever pushed me to have lots of friends, although I've often felt like I SHOULD have lots of friends if I want to be normal.    Does Facebook count?

12)  Respect their introversion.  Do not try to remake them into extroverts.  

This is the one that I have the biggest problem with now.  Because I'm usually buried within myself, there is a feeling that something must be wrong.   Truly, I'm kicking things around in my head, debating how to handle them, and what I might say.  Always.   Always.   If you want to know how I'm feeling, respect what I tell you.     If I don't go with you to lunch, don't think I'm rude or dislike you.    If I pull away from the pack at a party and sit with one or two people, don't think it's because I'm not having a good time.   Honestly, prior toward this bit of self discovery, I was the one who most pushed me to thinking I should be an introvert.   Glad that I didn't continue with that.    

So are you an introvert?  Which ones hit home with you?  

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Balcony Is Closed -- Roger Ebert 1942 - 2013

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
I grew up obsessed with entertainment trivia.    I loved reading about movies and music.   I bought books, magazines, and read our local paper religiously, perusing the capsules and in depth reviews of movies there, even reading the newspaper ads for movies (remember those?).

I have no direct memory of my first encounter with Roger Ebert, but I have to imagine it was something like this.....

I'm bored and sitting in my room.   It is a Saturday afternoon and since I grew up in a day when you were lucky to have cable on one TV, I have exactly six channels to choose from.   ABC, NBC, CBS, one independent, and two PBS stations (a local version and a statewide version).

My guess is that the days before infomercials the programming was a mixture of public interest (BORING), old B movies already in progress, and sports.   Finding nothing to watch, I ventured to PBS to see if perhaps an old episode of Sesame Street or Electric Company was on, and not the vast wasteland of programming that seemed to exist only to sell mugs and totebags to old people. 

And so I clicked over.  And found not Big Bird or Easy Reader, but two average looking men on a low budget set bickering about movies.

And instantly I was hooked.  

For years (in the days before DVR), I would follow these two men wherever there show might take them, listening to their insightful commentary and contrasting their opinions with others I was reading in magazines and newspapers.   Even if I'd never see the movie, I felt richer in my  knowledge of them simply for watching. 

Eventually, as their show got pushed to odd times on the weekend or late at night, I stopped watching.    I went to film school myself and realized instantly how hard it was to make ANYTHING, much less a watchable movie.    And then I got married and had a child and we saw fewer and fewer movies and my obsession waned even further. 

Then two things conspired to bring Roger Ebert back into the lives of so many of us.   Roger's cancer, and the rise of social media. 

In 2006, Roger Ebert lost his ability to speak to cancer, and his life and body would be altered drastically by the attempts to improve his life following the cancer.   His face was visibly altered, that familiar voice gone, and nobody could have blamed him if he simply retired.

But Roger didn't.   He put his voice back where it all began, in criticism and journalism.   On Twitter and Facebook, Roger not only gave us his reviews, but also his heart and his mind in great opinion pieces about the events of the day.    He also courageously took to TV to show us his new face and his computerized voice, and making it quite clear that cancer wasn't going to claim his mind, even if it took the other things that were important for his former career. 

What struck me most about Roger Ebert in those years is how beautiful, insightful and funny his writing was, both on movies, and on subjects far more serious.  His TV show reduced Roger and Gene to a few words about each movie, some creative bickering, and a hand gesture.    Now Roger could open up to us in as many or as few words as he desired.   And he held us captive.   Perhaps it helped that his political views were in line with mine, but the passion and intelligence in his words was simply something to behold. 

From Roger's less frequent posts the past few months on social media, it was quite clear that he was having health issues.   When he posted this week that he was taking "a leave of presence" it seemed to confirm what was already readily apparent.   Rereading it again, I have to wonder if both his wife Chaz and Roger sensed that the battle might be near the end, and an open ended goodbye might be better than a final one.  

Yesterday I heard of Roger's death in a way that I think Roger would have appreciated.  The initial notice was via a breaking news text message, and the subsequent details filled in via links in Twitter and Facebook.   One of those links is from Roger himself.   In a piece called "I do not fear death." he provides a message about why he does not fear death.   Roger provides a more fitting closure for his life than any of us could hope to provide.  

Godspeed Roger, and thumbs up for your love of movies and of life.    One day maybe we'll all see you....

At the movies.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Love is the Only Equation That Matters Here

Today someone I know posted something mocking everyone who posted a pink equal sign to show solidarity for marriage equality.   The person suggested that it was less than genuine, simply a way of showing your cool.   

Here's the thing, dude.   It wasn't.  

I grew up in a time when queer, fag, gay, and homo were playground insults.   The only gay people you knew of were the flamboyant people on TV like Paul Lynde and Liberace, who were more comedic characters than "real" people.     Indeed, for many of us, homosexuality was something that made you laugh or made you uncomfortable.    For awhile, AIDS made it worse, as it helped further ostracize gay men.      Jokes were made about the victims of the disease and the disease itself.   Eddie Murphy built a whole routine around it that seemed really hysterical back in the mid 80's and simply horrific now.   

But luckily, times change, and so have most of us, including me.

For me, that time was college.   I cannot tell you the "a-ha" moment.   I came to Boston University from a small town in Kentucky where a large chunk of the people are very religious in the most devout fundamentalist ways.     I'd started to become a bit more liberal in my thinking in high school, but Boston opened up my eyes to a whole new set of cultures from around the US and around the globe.    There was an active gay presence on campus, and I started to meet a few of those people, who were nothing like the stereotypes I pictured.    But that didn't fundamentally change me.  

I still remember the stacks of free newspapers in the student union and picking up one of the free newspapers to read the articles.  It was only when I got to the inside when a friend said "like that paper" and laughed that I realized it was a periodical aimed at the gay community.    I literally dropped it and ran away.    Did anyone else see me?  The horror!      

Eventually I started working at a restaurant.   At the restaurant there were several gay students working.   They were out and proud, and funny as hell.    And they were human.  They had relationships, talked about music, and life, and politics, and what was going on around campus, and were a blast to talk to.   

But mentally, the tipping point had to be seeing the Names Project, the AIDS quilt that was touring different parts of the country.   I went for the unveiling and watched as the panels were revealed inside the auditorium. 

If you'd been there, you'd have heard a place as silent as a church, filled with the spirits of dozens of victims of the disease and the love of the people they left behind.    The quilts were full of pictures, mementos, and beautiful words for these people.   The faces in the pictures and the words of the people on these panels were not the faces and sentiments of people who were deviant, wrong, or evil.   They were of people who loved just like all of us want to and were hurting just like all of us would be.   If God wasn't in that room, then he wasn't anywhere.

Some twenty years later, I've had my eyes opened so much more.    I've watched one of my own relatives struggle with her own sexuality in the confines of a religion that seemed intent on telling her that homosexuality was a mortal sin and fear of what might happen if she came out.    My wife and I have developed several lasting friendships with men and women I work with, many of whom had their own struggles coming out, and most of whom are in devoted long term relationships with a partner.    We've also witnessed a friend's passing and the sorrow of the partner he left behind and were left wondering how awful it must be that you're not granted the same rights as a grieving heterosexual husband or wife would be in the same circumstances. 

None of these people leads a "deviant" lifestyle.  All of them are the type of people who would give you the shirt off your back.   They are decent, moral, loving, kind, caring, and they desire to be happy with the person they've chosen to spend the rest of their life with. 

So honestly, the idea that two adults who love each other cannot marry each other is simply ridiculous to me.    The Jesus I grew up hearing about taught us to love one another, be kind, and to look after the people who need our love the most.    

So if you don't like my equal sign, too bad.    If you don't want to marry a person of the same sex, don't do it.   But don't deny someone else their happiness with the person they love because your version of your faith finds their relationship wrong.   This country was founded on the ability to practice your faith as you see fit, not to force it on others.   The times are changing my friend, and if you oppose gay marriage, you're going to be on the wrong side of history.

So for Celia, Taylor, Paul, Bill, Jake, Greg, Steve, Kelly, Charlotte, David, our dearly departed friend Andrew, and anyone else I've left out, I posted my equal sign, and will stand behind my friends as they seek their right to enjoy the legal bond to the people they love.    It's the least I can do as a friend.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dummies for Dummies

After long ignoring the admonition from Mark Twain to "never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience", I decided to step back for awhile simply study the behavior of the dummies among us.   Here are some things I noticed. 

  1. Dummies believe everything they read that supports their worldview.   
  2. Dummies have zero desire to poke holes in their own beliefs or the articles, blog posts, Bazooka Joe wrappers that support their beliefs.    
  3. Dummies don't actually read anything beyond the title and first few sentences of any article that either you or they post online.     In fact, they may not even read that.   
  4. Dummies believe that everything on the internet must be true, except the extensively documented and sourced article you posted to contradict what they said.  That article is simply "what the media wants you to believe." 
  5. In the dummy's world, The Onion is CNN.   
  6. In Dummytown, a dummy's own personal "common sense" trumps expert opinion backed by enough scientific data and evidence to choke a planet full of sunburned dinosaurs.   
  7. Dummies believe that skepticism on its own is a virtue.  As long as you question something, it doesn't matter what the answers are.   
  8. Dummies never lose arguments or concede defeat.    They simply change the subject.   
  9. Dummies always win because....... HITLER!
  10. Dummies are like zombies.   They outnumber us and they eat our brains if we don't avoid them.    

Thursday, February 14, 2013

2,000 Twitter Followers Can't Be Wrong

I reached 2,000 twitter followers on the day of the State of the Union address, which I think qualifies me for sainthood, or at least a discount at Chuck E. Cheese.     It was a goal. I made it happen.   I'm now thinking about writing a self-help book.   Thinking about it.   Actually writing it would be another goal, and let's not get too hasty with that nonsense.

2,000 followers.  That's more than Jesus had initially, but less than the Beatles.    I say that not because I'm better than either, or want to stir up controversy, but because I noticed that Paul McCartney tended to wear his facial and head hair differently and clothes differently than the other Beatles, which is sort of a visual Yoko Ono to the rest of his mates if you think about it.     

Okay, none of that last sentence made sense, but then, neither does 2,000 people caring about me making fart jokes.    Of course, I suspect that 1678 of those followers accidentally hit the follow button rather than the block button, and were simply too embarrassed to ask their six year old for help with their smartphones.

But I did some data crunching and found out that I'm the 10th most followed person in Louisville, which is like being the 4,589th most famous graduate of Harvard. (Harvard Air Conditioner Repair School, not the place in Cambridge.)

Still, it's amazing to me that 2,000 people have followed me, and many more have retweeted me, found something I said amusing, or feel the need to enjoy my ranting.

This would be the point where I tell you that people like Steve Martin have tweeted their appreciation of a joke to me.  But I wouldn't do that.   He just had his first baby, and he really doesn't need the attention right now.   No, HE didn't have the baby, his wife did. Could you imagine Steve Martin having a baby?  That would be weird, what with the arrow through the head and all.     Did I mention he's 67?    And she's 41?   Which makes her my age.   I wonder why Steve Martin never asked me to have his baby.   Yeah, I'm a guy, but the man TWEETED to me, for God's sake.    I just looked up a picture of his wife.   She looks like Tina Fey and Kristin Davis had a love child.   Which would be impossible.    But that child would probably have more than 2,000 followers.

Which is to say that 2,000 followers, like this post, is meaningless.   It's not like I can tell any of them to do anything.   I doubt I could get five of them to agree on a place for lunch.  (Subway, guys.  It's $5 footlong month.)   And none of them are sending any money, for sure.   (Okay, @CNNLADavid would, but he went to a college that didn't teach decent critical thinking skills.)

But what I'm really trying to say is HAPPY VALENTINES DAY.    I'm hoping my 2,001th follower will be my wife, who I love dearly!  Seriously, she puts up with my goofy stupidness and my extreme flatulence.   Which must be because of love, or the fact that I've changed the locks and she can't get out of the house.    Love you, my Sweetiepoop!!!!!!!  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why can't we talk about gun violence?

A few years ago I lost my uncle to cancer.    My wife and I lost a friend to the disease not long after that.   My father in law had it, as did my aunt but thankfully, both were successfully treated.  

While we can grasp these fatal diseases and the pain they cause those they strike and their families in the abstract, the idea that something really must be done about it doesn't really strike your mind until it becomes personal to you, and touches your heart and mind.  Cancer's a real thing in my life now, and something I'd love to see defeated in my lifetime.   Kind of like gun violence.  

On January 8th, 2011, I was driving to a Sprint Store to deal with a problem my wife was having with her cell phone.     I was stopped at a traffic light when I saw the reports over twitter that a US representative had been shot, and perhaps killed.  

While everyone that was killed or injured that day was special and had their own story, I kept thinking of a little girl who was killed.   Christina Taylor Green was born on 9/11/01, the day of another horrific tragedy that was burned into all of our minds.  She was there to participate in the democratic process of simply meeting and talking to an elected official.     She was there with a neighbor, not her family.    And I imagined the horrible scars everyone would bear in that fateful decision to take her there that day.     She could have been my little girl or the friend of my own.   She was only separated in age by weeks from my own daughter. It was impossible to grasp how someone that young could be snuffed out so easily.  

And then there was Gabby Giffords, a well liked congresswoman who was severely wounded in the attack.   As recent coverage has made clear, the brain damage she suffered was devastating, injuring both her motor control, and her speech.   While she has made a miraculous recovery, it's clear she still has a long way to go before she approaches the life she once had.    Her family is lucky to still have her, but clearly bears the emotional scars of all that she has been through.

I think of a day after reading a local news channel's Facebook post regarding Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly's ad running in the Louisville area.    Here are some of the comments:

 "Another commercial to change the channel on."
"Wish that guy would have just finished the job."
"It's sad what happened to her at the hands of an unstable person but it is just as sad to see her pimped out for a cause. I wonder if she speaks in the commercial and if so can she be understood?"
 "Hey Gabby! Go back to Veggies and do us all a favor and STFU!"
"What a bunch of idiots. I don't care what happened to her, the heffa is alive. Stop giving your sob stories and crawl in a cave. and anyway, the government shot her... not some innocent kid." 

In other words, Gabby Giffords, as both a gun owner and a victim of gun violence, has no business telling anyone what to do until she can prove to us she's not a brain damaged idiot who is simply a pawn at the hands of her husband.    Or, as one person stated it, I wish she was dead.

REALLY?   Who better to speak to both the issue of guns and gun violence than a friggin' victim?   And what better voice to do so than an elected official who was almost killed WHILE SERVING HER CONSTITUENTS?????  Would you mock her if she had been felled by a stroke and was doing an ad about doing more to prevent them?  

Gabby Giffords was meeting with the people who she serves, and was shot along with a little girl who wanted to be a part of that process.   She was serving the Constitution.  The whole document, and not just some vaguely worded and constantly reinterpreted part of it.   Don't we owe it to these people exercising their first amendment rights to at least listen?  What the hell are all of these people so angry and afraid of?  Do they shy away from talking about dealing with cancer anytime someone who is a victim of it speaks about it?   How about heart disease?    Why is it so tough to see that the issue is bigger than some redneck wanting his right to blast the crap out of some Mellow Yellow cans with his AR-15?     What the hell are all of you who are armed to the teeth so afraid of that you can't even have a rational discussion?   

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Baby I'm A Starbucks

Image, courtesy of Flickr and Sam Hozwit
A couple of weeks ago, while killing two hours waiting for my daughter to finish her art lesson, I decided to go to a coffee shop and wipe a cliche off my bucket list, by finally writing in a coffee shop.

And that first week was glorious. I ordered a "coffee, something smooth, don't care what".  Then I sat in my little corner and jotted my thoughts down, making up backstories for all of the people around me. There was the cute young couple talking about her job search. (Was he a mentor, or did he want something more?) There were the women without makeup who were catching up on gossip. There was the city council person (really) who was talking about real estate with two close friends, who said "hi" to me and made me think "he knows me" and then I realized politicians know everyone.

I read a fascinating article about high school and adulthood and dreamed of my own name in the pages of one of these magazines.   

It was quiet, and cool, and I felt like I was really advancing my writing career just by being there. "Why isn't there one of these in OUR neighborhood?" I asked my wife, who reminded me that she'd said the same thing about five hundred times before. Considering that Starbucks will open a Starbucks in the restroom of a Starbucks, it did seem surprising.

Fast forward to yesterday. I'm psyched about a second trip, which will make me become a veteran writer. I strut up to the coffee shop. I open the door with swagger and...... WTF!!!!!?!?!?!?!  The place is a zoo. There are three people ahead of me in line and they're all ordering drinks that require ingredients to be shipped in from Lithuania. All I want is tea and I'm given a menu that would a Cheesecake Factory waiter would call excessive. I wait 15 minutes for my drink, then find the only open table.  Of course, it is one that is right next to the bathroom and is also the only free lane for people to walk with their hot drinks.   I get to see everyone that passes as they glance at the book I'm trying to read (Let's Pretend This Never Happened) and secretly judging me because of it.   Or maybe they're looking at me and realizing I'm a writer wannabe, who thinks a real writer would be caught dead using a bluetooth keyboard and iPad mini.  

Then the table next to me frees up, and two guys sit down and decide to carry on a conversation as though they were both on cellphones. When I finally glanced over, I noticed one guy was about 60, but had the face of the mutant offspring of Bruce Jenner and Joan Rivers, post facelift. Odd, because the guy next to him looks and talks like he just walked off the set of Deliverance.

I turn away, hoping Bruce Rivers hasn't seen me, which is impossible, since I don't think he is able to blink. The entire place around me has turned into a McDonalds after a busload of fifth graders and eldery casino goers were dumped off, with loud conversations, random singing, odd smells, and Silly Bandz. (Those are still popular, right? Now it's One Direction? See, I'm a terrible writer.)

Of course, every 20 seconds someone walks to the bathroom, and my mind finds itself timing how long they're in there, and just knowing the pleasant scent of my tea is going to be overcome by someone's White Castles and PBR from the night before. 

And speaking of my tea, it tastes like crap. For the cost of a box of tea bags, I got a brew that tasted like a lemon rind found in Lipton's parking lot. It certainly wasn't good enough to warrant the evil looks I got when I added four packets of Splenda to it. Is that bad coffee shop etiquette? Was I supposed to only use the "local" honey, presumably made by bees wearing berets who smoked long cigarettes and scoffed at the pedestrian tastes of drone bees?   And what's up with them putting the "dirty" spoon container so close to the "clean" spoon one and making them identical? That's just asking for trouble.  Given all of the admonitions to be friendly to the environment, shouldn't I simply be instructed to stir my coffee with my own finger?

To be fair, this trip wasn't a total loss.  I got exactly five pages of my book read, and I played three games of Words With Friends, which is totally untrue, because I don't really care for some of the people I play with.   But yesterday has me considering where my writerly exploits might take me next time.   I see Lowe's has wifi.