Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Resolutions Are No Solution..."

Never been a big fan of New Year's resolutions.

Seems to me that, if you take away the horns, buzzers and big ball dropping from the Times Square tower factor out of the equation, New Year's resolutions are just one more to-do list.

And I don't need any more to-do lists, thanks.

I've got a year round, if not life long, supply.

At the more philosophical level, I respect that a lot of people see the beginning of a new calendar year as a clean slate, a fresh chance at a fresh start and there's certainly nothing wrong with mapping out a plan of what to put on those, as yet, un-smudged pages in the book of life.

Setting goals is a wonderful thing.

I've been meaning to try that myself one of these days.

But as regards New Year's resolutions, I learned pretty early on that all I was doing there was putting additional pressure on myself to not only straighten up and fly right, which was going to be a challenge anyway, but to have to do it on some kind of deadline.

My timeline usually ends up looking something like this...

Jan 1- Devise new exercise/proper eating program
Jan 2- Institute new exercise/proper eating program
Jan 3- Plug in treadmill/read directions/eat only three of the twelve donuts
Jan 4- Turn on treadmill/realize it makes the plasma TV go all snowy/turn off treadmill/eat the other nine donuts and start planning my goals for 2011

Knowing that admitting you have a problem is the first step toward dealing with the problem, I readily admit that I have a problem keeping resolutions.

First step. Check.

And I won't need a second step.

Because the first step includes resolving to no longer make resolutions.

Check. And mate.

I am, of course, as charmed by the idea of holiday tradition as the next guy or gal, though, so I've made it a tradition to never think, write and act on any thought that comes in the form of a sentence that begins with "I resolve to...."

Instead, I have morphed the dual traditions of a Christmas wish list and a New Year's resolution list and devised what seems to work just fine for me.

The New Year's Wish List.

It's optimistic, practical, low impact and low pressure and it allows me to avoid the inevitable manic-depressive scenario that inevitably results from mapping out high hopes on January One only to hit the ground in flames on January Five.

Give or take.

And, at the same time, it does provide some room for sneaking in a goal or two.

To wit...

In 2010, I wish....

...that someone, anyone will win some award, any award in country music that will not require the engraver to put the name Taylor Swift on it...

...that Oprah will reconsider her decision to bail on her show, if only because every hole that appears in the TV schedule is inevitably filled by another "reality" show featuring people whose main goal in life seems to be screwing over other people for cash and prizes...

...that researchers will discover that Birthday Cake flavor ice cream has the same fat burning properties as two hours of Pilates...

...that Jethro Gibbs will say more...and Nancy Grace will shut the hell up...

...that Congress passes legislation mandating that country music singers who make millions of dollars with songs about small town, down home, Mama's fried chicken, on the porch Sunday after church songs may only live in down home, Mama's fried chicken on the porch Sunday after church small towns...

...that if Kanye West insists on interrupting people, he be given a regular gig on Nancy Grace's show...

...that Lady Gaga goes bye bye...

...that upon Tiger Woods return to golf, immediate Emmy Awards be automatically given to any sportscaster who can use the words "hole", "strokes", "balls" or "shaft" without giggling...

...that the next time there's "breaking news" about an airline incident, it be that the flight departed and arrived on time, was under, not over, booked and that all luggage arrived undamaged and at the right airport...

...that the next time there's "breaking news", it actually be "breaking news"...

...that USA Network gets a grip and realizes that when you run "back to back to back" episodes of NCIS, you have to remember that the show has running plot threads and showing them out of order is like taking a cool book and reading page six, then page forty one, then page two, then...

...that Sarah Palin run for national office, so I can honestly decide whether to lock phasers on "respect" or "ridicule" once and for all...

...that God will impart to CHRISTians who insist on wielding their CHRISTianity like a hammer, especially at CHRISTmas time when they belittle and judge others with the "CHRIST is the reason for the season" mantra, that looking down on others who have questions or doubts is not what CHRISTianity is all about and not what CHRIST would do....

...that for the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon, the "tributes" will focus on his once in a lifetime read on "Twist and Shout" and take a pass on "Imagine"...

...that Paul McCartney won't even think about dating anybody named Heather...

...that during the coming off year elections, the term "flip flop" will be strictly applied to a planned reversal of paying movie stars and athletes millions and teachers, police, firefighters, etc, five figures...

...that "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" gets replaced by reruns of "Match Game '75"...they're both funny, but "Match..." is a whole lot more intelligent...

...that politicians who use tax dollars for any thing other than their intended purpose be given a coupon good for a free shave at Sweeney Todd's...

...that James Cameron be hired to create an avatar of Larry King and let the poor guy move to Boca Del Vista, for God's sake...

...that the term "registered sex offender" become obsolete as any one who harms a child is given the last rites of the church and summarily executed. Period...


...that the Weather Channel make all things right in my world again by going back to twenty four seven weather and putting the kibosh on back to back showings of "The Perfect Storm"....

With each new year, a clean slate.

Fresh start.

Fresh chance.

Do I think any of my wishes will come true?

Not for a tick of the Times Square clock.

But, I resolve to keep hoping.

Friday, December 25, 2009

"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas....And We Ain't Kiddin', Man...."

Christmas is for kids.

We've all heard it. Some of us have said it.

All of us can, to a point, agree with it.

That's not, though, the same thing as acting like children.

I've been watching with, alternately, amusement and aggravation for the past few weeks as folks on Facebook have been batting the badminton birdie of Xmas back and forth.

For the most part, I've stayed out of it.

Mostly because, I'm one of those people who just naturally piss other people off with my opinions.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But somewhere around the age of eighteen months, right after I learned to pee in the pot and not in my pants, I learned that politics and religion are, at the very least, the two conversational topics that would never result in a finding of common ground.

And I'm not known for spending a lot of time puttering around the common ground part of the playpen anyway.

Meanwhile, there ain't another time of year when the tender tootsies of religion get tickled and/or pricked more than November 30 through December 26th.

So, I just MYOB'd and focused my holiday energies on more complex and intricate questions related to the season.

Like "...why would anyone want four calling birds, let alone seven swans a swimming..?"

As usual, though, it was only a matter of time before my "faux" self imposed exile was ended and the temptation to jump into the fray was too strong to resist.

This year's clarion call came in capital letters.

A chat thread on FB amongst FB friends blew on the little flame that never dies at this time of the year and it flared up into a fair to middlin sized firestorm.

"Merry CHRISTmas..." it said, amongst other things it said.

The other things are really academic because even the heathen among us can guess what the gist of the jingle was.

Three things in this life that must occur, in no particular order, for the season celebrating the birth of Jesus to officially begin:

Halloween has to have, give or take three days either way, just happened.

Major department stores have to take down the swimwear displays and put up the holiday displays.

And somebody needs to pull the "Keep CHRIST in your Christmas" trigger.

Check. Check.

And bang.

A few days back, I wrote a piece on the "Jesus is the reason..." thing, so I'm not gonna wander down that path of ramble here.

I'll just share two things.

The first is a quick synopsis of the remarkable Christmas of 1914. The Christmas that saw troops literally at war with each other stop and celebrate the season together.

The first truce began on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land" where small gifts, were exchanged, such as whisky, jam, cigarettes, and chocolate. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects.

In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but in some areas, it continued until New Year's Day.

The second of the two gifts I bring (pa rum pa pum pum) is the two cents I threw into the FB chat thread after watching some folks bitchslapping each other around as regards proudly professing one's belief in Jesus, keeping Jesus the focus at this time of year, etc.

And, by the way, I was really committed to continue the MYOB approach until I saw the word I personally find totally inappropriate to use at a time of peace and love and good will.


A wise man once said that we all, in our own ways, agree in our hearts about where it is we all want to go in the next life...and we've been hating and killing each other for generations arguing over the best way to get there....I read part of Marianne's point to be that there is an excruciatingly fine line between sharing one's personal beliefs with others, in a spirit of joy, with the hope of showing others how that spirit of joy feels... and expressing those beliefs in a judgemental way, as in, I believe in Jesus Christ and you better get your head on right, too, fool....the Jesus that I envision is one who beckons...not one who hustles or coerces or kidnaps....and "disciples" who hold the "yet to see the light" in contempt are not only missing the point, but they're through the looking glass...being a self serving Christian is not the same thing as serving a man how to fish...don't stone him or her because he or she isn't yet convinced that fishing is the best option.......

I'm a grown man with grown children who have children.

I don't live in denial or harbor any illusions.

I don't believe in Santa Claus. That stopped at about age 10.

I've never stopped believing in the spirit of what Santa Claus represents.

I've made no secret about the fact that my relationship with Jesus is a work in progress.

But I've never denied, nor rejected, the spirit of what Jesus Christ represents.

What I don't know could fill libraries.

What I do know is that in 1914, people who were literally killing one another put down their guns and shared common ground.

It's Christmas morning, 2009 as I write this, so I've missed the cutoff for this year's list...

But if I can make a wish for next Christmas, it will be this.

That, if at no other time during the year, we can all put down our guns and share the common ground.

Christmas is, after all, only one day. Twenty four hours. Not a long time to ask that we all rise above our shortcomings and, more importantly, forgive those who trespass around us.

We can all go back to acting like children first thing Dec 26th.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"When Television Was Black and White...But Mostly White..."

Racism is an ugly, profane quality in any human being.

It's ugliness is obvious to anyone with a brain that functions as the warranty guarantees.

The profanity comes in knowing that racism is not genetic, a physical pre-disposition, nor is it the tragic result of some malfunction of our physicality, a disease or virus.

In other words, it can't be "inherited".

But it can most surely be passed down.

Find a copy of the song "Carefully Taught" from "South Pacific" and give it a listen.

Back story bordering on editorializing aside, here's what I'm thinking today.

I am not a racist.

I grew up in a home that did not perpetuate the stereotypes or prejuidices that provide a fully functional petrie dish of hatred/stupidity that almost inevitably spawns a contempt for one race, creed, color or another.

I do not consider myself superior in any way to anyone.

And I think, as I have thought all of my life, that Amos and Andy is some funny shit.

Check out Wilkipedia for the full history, but, in a nutshell...

The program was created by two white guys and was a big hit in the pre-TV heyday of radio.

In the early 50's, with the arrival of television, the show, like many other popular radio shows, made the transition from little box to big box, where it became even more popular than it had been to date.

Sometime during the early to mid 60's when the civil rights movement was burning white hot (pun noted and conceded), the decision was made, in one of those offices where those kinds of decisions are made, that the program was offensive, perpetuated racial stereotypes and needed to be banned from the airwaves.

It was.

Banned, that is.

There is a particularly well done doc on the subject "Amos and Andy-Anatomy of A Controversy". You can find it on You Tube. Check it out.

Since that day in the 60's, despite the evolution of television into a medium with thousands of channels and, literally, twenty four hours of programming per day, the program remains available only online and/or for sale in various incarnations at places like Amazon or Ebay.

I think the time has come to let Amos, Andy, Kingfish, Sapphire, Mama, et al out of the box and, well, back on the box.

Naysayers will center the saying of their nays by offering that the show was/is lightweight, slapstick, even juvenile in its humor and/or presentation.

Damn right.

But no more so than at least half the movies Will Ferrell has done.

And as far as that insidious "RS" factor is concerned?

Racial stereotype?


Do some/most of the black people in this series (all black, by the way, which if you stretch the point makes it a landmark historical event given the times in which it appeared) act like idiots and/or clowns?

Uh, yeah.

Pop in your copy of Eddie Murphy's "The Nutty Professor" and enjoy, once again, the five minutes of farting at dinner that makes us all laugh without fail.

Or just about everything and anything that Tyler Perry produces.

Juvenile? Idiotic? Buffoonish?

Ya, you betcha.

The common thread in all of this is that Eddie and Tyler, et al, live and work and create their characters, stories, etc in a time in our history when most of us see the humor in the juvenile, idiotic, buffoonish behavior.

But we don't see the color.

They're not black idiots.

They're just idiots.

Amos and Andy was banned in a time when blacks were trying to get a large chunk of white America to wake the fuck up and realize that we are all, underneath it all, created equal.

And they didn't need the additional burden of easing the concerns of whites who feared that letting blacks sit next to them at the lunch counters would result in having to put up with that buffoon who was "part of da bruthahood of da Mystic Knights of da Sea..."

But that was a long time ago.

And a world that isn't offended by farting Klumps or jive talkin Medeas isn't likely to take to the streets in protest of the buffoonish behavior of Andrew H. Brown.

If they do, so be it.

That doesn't make them white idiots.

It just makes them idiots.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"...Forget The Chase...Let's Cut To The Bone..."

Got a small bone to pick today.

Apologies for the pun I saw coming but couldn't avoid.

(Entertainment Weekly) -- A dead 14-year-old girl named Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), murdered on her way home from school in 1973, tells her story from heaven in "The Lovely Bones."

In doing so, Susie follows the narrative path set for her in the striking 2002 novel by Alice Sebold on which this much-awaited adaptation by Peter Jackson is based. But as directed by the lord of "The Lord of the Rings" from a screenplay by Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens, his bleached "Bones" bears little resemblance to the book in either tone or complexity.

Readers will be frustrated; newcomers to the story may wonder why what is now essentially a serial-killer thriller includes so many scenes of a heaven that looks like a gumdrop-colored hobbit shire, a magical place of fanciful special effects.

In Jackson's simplified, sweetened, and CGI-besotted telling, "The Lovely Bones" is a sad-but-hopeful, dramatic-but-gentle fairy tale intentionally made less upsetting for teens. (There's no indication that Susie gets raped, as she does in the novel, and her murder occurs off screen.) "Atonement's" terrific Ronan, with her astonishing glacier-blue eyes, watches from a scenic afterlife as her father (Mark Wahlberg), mother (Rachel Weisz), younger siblings, and selected friends simultaneously heal from their loss and search for her killer.

For comic relief, the family's boozy granny (Susan Sarandon) arrives, swathed in mink. Apparently participating in a burlesque movie, Sarandon camps it up, demonstrating terrible housekeeping skills and wreaking grande-dame havoc.

As for the killer, he's in plain sight from the beginning a creepy neighbor (Stanley Tucci) with the hopeless comb-over and furtive mustache of an easy-to-spot perv. Tucci is jolting in the role, honestly unsettling as he maintains an exterior of mildness that masks a grotesque interior.

Electrifying danger accompanies his every scene. But this in itself becomes a problem, as that same energy leaves the screen when he does. Jackson reduces his "Lovely Bones", in the end, to the dramatic contrast between the menace of a hateful killer (will he be caught?) and the grief of a loving father (can he avenge his daughter's death?).

Sebold's "Lovely Bones", on the other hand, is fleshed out with the perilous, irresistible power of sex the author acknowledges a real world of extramarital sex and sex between young lovers in addition to the heinous rape from which moviegoers are shielded.

The filmmaker handled the sexual power of girls beautifully in 1994's "Heavenly Creatures". But here he shies from the challenge, shortchanging a story that isn't only about the lightness of souls in heaven but also about the urges of bodies on earth. Jackson forfeits depth for safe, surface loveliness.

EW Grade: C+

One need not, I think, be a Rhodes scholar to read between the lines and zero in on what happened here.

Which is sort of my point.

The "conflict" between the "artistic" and the "commercial" is not a new kid on the block.

I'm willing to bet that Michaelangelo was pressured to include what passed for corporate logos in those days to his work on the Sistine ceiling.

Cheeseburgers. Chariot repair.

Potato patahto.

And I'm also willing to bet that any "serious" writer (and I put the word serious in quotes only to label said writers as those who write without considering the potential adaptability of their work for screen, big or small) would tell you that the turning of their work into a motion picture is, at best, a slippery slope and, at worst, the literary equivalent of standing by while their baby is murdered before their eyes.

I learned to read very early in life and have loved doing so since the beginning.

I also began watching movies very early in life and have loved doing so since the beginning.

While I am a fan of each, though, I am not a fan of both.

And would be perfectly happy if the "serious" works were never made into movies.

For, at least, two reasons.

First, I like painting my own images when I read fiction.

Images, as in imaginiation.

There is something uniquely magical about our individual ability to read a passage and conjure up our own vision of what the scene might look like or how the protagonist might appear.

And, even with the best of intentions, the transferrance of those passages to film inevitably prevents us from being able to do so, regardless of the quality of the original novel.

I really didn't get all that buzzed when I read The DaVinci Code, for example, but at least I had fun imagining the faces and places and comings and goings.

Now all I visualize when I hear the title is Tom Hanks with a really bad haircut.

The fair point question, at this point, is "well, what are they supposed to make movies of, Mr. Artsy Fartsy?".

Easy peezee.

It's called "original screenplay".

It even has its own Oscar category.

Yeah, right, you say. You want more substance out of your movie going experience than "Dude, Where's My Car?".

Me, too.

Here's a few original screenplays that have made it to the screen.

Citizen Kane. On The Waterfront. Sunset Boulevard. The Sting. Chinatown. Annie Hall. Moonstruck. Ghost. The Usual Suspects. American Beauty. Fargo.

And more recently...




A lot of very cool movies.

And one very cool added benefit.

The Juno and Bleeker that charmed us don't conflict a bit with the Juno and Bleeker we conjured up in our imaginations while we were reading the novel.

Because there wasn't one.

Am I serious about all of this?


Do I think there's an ice cube's chance it'll happen?

Hell, no.

But, in a perfect world, it would eliminate the too often result of turning novels into movies.

The "adaptation", even dumbing down, that alters the impact in the cause of widening the demographic and selling more tickets.

In other words...

"The Lovely Bones" , a heart wrenching novel about a little girl's violent rape and murder and the resulting emotional consequences shows up on the screen as CGI soaked episode of "Law and Order-Special Victims Unit."

At the very least, Susie Salmon deserves much better.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"...It Came Upon a Midnight Clear Grasp of The Obvious..."

Fair warning.

I'm about to flip the switch on the machine marked "Shit Stir".

I believe in God.

I'm a work in progress, Jesus wise.

I think the whole "you can't say Christmas, you have to say holiday" crap is just that.


The little neck hairs still stand when I hear the right voice at the right moment sing the amazing crescendo of the musical version of The Lord's Prayer.

And I still hold back tears when Sam Wainwright's telegram arrives and George Bailey and the Bailey Boys get bailed out on Christmas Eve.

That's right.


Not Holiday Eve.

That said...

I don't appreciate being told that "Jesus is the reason for the season."

And not because I'm trying to proselytize in favor of any other viewpoint or belief.

The expression does not offend me spiritually, morally or theologically.


Simply put, it insults my intelligence.

I've given it some thought, as you might, at this point have gathered, and I can't come up with a single phrase that more perfectly represents another tried and true expression.

Holier than thou.

My predisposition for inherant sardonicism notwithstanding, I passionately respect everyone's right to believe what they believe and their right to express that belief in a considerate fashion.

The key word in that sentence is "considerate".

For example...someone walks up to me and says...

"Merry Christmas...may God bless you and each of your loved ones in this season of celebrating the birth of His son, Jesus Christ."

What this tells me about them...

They agree with the whole "say Merry Christmas" thing.

They believe in God.

They are caring and loving people who wish good things for me and my family and friends.

They believe both in Jesus Christ and that He is the son of God.

And they do all of that without mussing a single hair on the head of my personal beliefs, whatever they may be.

Now...someone walks up to me and says...

"...remember....Jesus is the reason for the season..!"

What this tells me about them...

They couldn't care less what I think or believe and feel the need to talk to me as if I'm a five year old in need of being reminded to brush my teeth before I go to bed.

Not to mention they are fair weather friends.

Where the hell are they the rest of the year?

..on Valentine's Day...."it's cause of Cupid, stupid..."

..on President's Day..."get down with Abe, babe..." Easter..."it ain't about the bunny, honey..."

..on July 4..."we ditched the Brits, twit.." Thanksgiving..."the bird, bird, bird, the bird's the word..."

I'm a pretty smart little camper and I learned a long time ago that religion and politics were the two things in life that seem to have been designed to seperate rather than bring us together.

And by this point, you're likely either entertained, amused...

Or offended.


I would never presume to tell you how you should feel about what I believe.

Nor would I presume to tell you what you should believe.

Nor would I risk offending you at a joyous and loving time of year by giving you the impression that I think you're stupid or, God forbid, need me to preach at you that.. should do unto others as you would have others do unto you... shouldn't take the name of the Lord thy God in vain....

oh...and that...

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas...

...for Christ's sake...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"The ORIGINAL Dynamic Duo..."

On Thanksgiving Day, you'd think the big story would be turkey.

Turns out to be moose.

And squirrel.

(CNN) -- Fifty years ago, Jay Ward's animated moose and squirrel duo, "Rocky & Bullwinkle," debuted on ABC, forever changing the way the world looked at animated television.

His daughter, Tiffany Ward, continues her father's legacy as executive producer of the feature films "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, "Dudley Do-Right" and "George of the Jungle," and Cartoon Network's (sister channel to CNN) new "George of the Jungle" animated TV series.

"My dad was a true eccentric," Ward said. "His studio was a wonderland for me. It had a soda fountain, ice cream sundaes, a snow cone machine, a popcorn maker and candy bars everywhere."

Tiffany Ward grew up in Berkeley, California, and didn't move to Hollywood until 1959 at age 13 when her dad set up his television studio.

"Dad was always doing fun things," Ward said, recalling a 1961 Sunset Boulevard block party her father hosted to promote "The Bullwinkle Show." The show was originally named "Rocky and his Friends," but was renamed "The Bullwinkle Show" when the program went from ABC to NBC.

Ward was a one-man public relations machine, churning out first-rate promos in the days before PR companies were entrenched in the system.

In another promotional stunt, Jay Ward tried to buy an island between Minnesota and Canada that he named Moosylvania (he leased it instead). In efforts to have Moosylvania made into the 51st state, Ward traveled cross-country by bus, collecting signatures along the way.

When Ward reached the White House gates, he asked to speak to President John F. Kennedy about statehood for Moosylvania, but guards brusquely turned him away. As it turned out, Kennedy was dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis on that exact day.

Jay Ward did not have a favorite character, his daughter said, because to him it would have been like selecting a favorite child (Incidentally, Ward had three kids). Of all the characters he created, Ward didn't have a favorite per se, but Tiffany Ward does recall his partiality to Dudley Do-Right, the slow but well-meaning Canadian Mountie.

When asked about "Rocky & Bullwinkle's" everlasting appeal, Ward said she thinks it struck such a chord and remains popular today because her father never wrote for children, he wrote for adults. Jay Ward wanted kids to enjoy the pictures while grown-ups laughed at the quick wit and inside jokes.

In one episode, Rocky and Bullwinkle are propelled to the moon when their oven explodes while the pair are following Bullwinkle's grandmother's recipe for mooseberry fudge cake. Fun for kids for obvious reasons, but adults certainly got a chuckle when the moose griped about still having to make payments on the oven.

Bullwinkle also mentions having graduated from MIT -- the Moose Institute of Toe-Dancing, that is. Furthermore, Mr. Peabody the dog, a Harvard graduate, lives in a Manhattan penthouse, practices yoga and has an adopted son, because as he puts it: "Every dog should have a boy." Peabody chooses an orphan because he "always roots for the underboy." It's these little jokes that set the show apart from typical children's programming of its time.

Today those jokes may not have us rolling on the floor laughing (or ROTFL, as the kids say), but they were the 1960s equivalent of Stewie's reaction to being rejected by "American Idol" on "Family Guy."

The 50th anniversary of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" also means that spy duo Boris & Natasha, Mr. Peabody & Sherman and the Fractured Fairytales are celebrating birthdays as well.

Fractured Fairytales offered a skewed take on traditional children's stories. The moral was the same, but modern, funny dialogue was tossed in with slapstick humor. Rapunzel, for example, visits a barber shop and laments about having "no future."

"Incredible writing is the reason the show resonates to this day," Ward said.

Today, cartoons are more popular than ever. There are cable networks devoted to animation, and it is commonplace for cartoons to be written specifically for adults. Fox's Sunday night animation domination block featuring "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" comes to mind. "Rocky & Bullwinkle" was among the first animated series to hit prime time television.

Matt Groening even paid special homage to Jay Ward when he created "The Simpsons" by giving Bart, Homer and Grandpa Simpson the middle initial "J," as in Rocky's full name: Rocket J. Squirrel.

Tiffany Ward said she is thrilled there's such a wide array of animation available to viewers today, especially since in her father's era it was difficult to even get airtime for the genre. New projects are always coming the duo's way, and an animated Dreamworks feature film is in development.

By the time my kids came along, R&B were already "old" stuff, part of their mom and dad's generation, like Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, even the Flintstones and the Jetsons.

They were more enamored of Marshall, Will and Holly ("...on a routine expedition....") and I'm talking about the unintentionally cheesy original series produced by the Kroft gang and not the intentionally cheesy and unintentinonally bad Will Ferrell movie version.

Today, my kids have kids who get a kick out of Land of the Lost the same way their mom and dad enjoyed moose and squirrel.

Not hip or necessarily cool, but pretty funny.

And as each new generation comes along, R&B will slip farther down the scale of historical animated figures as new "heroes" come along to catch their eye and win their allegiance and consume their allowances with DVD's, action figures and bedsheets.

Farther down, maybe, but never completely out of fashion.

For three reasons.

First, thanks to the vision of Jay Ward, the "timelessness" of the adult humor/childish cartoon recipe he concoted will appeal to every new group that experiences it.

Second, thanks to folks like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Jon and Kate, The Octo Mom, et al, ad nauseum, not to mention politicians one and all, squirrels are now, and ever shall be, a popular part of our culture.

And third...

If the conservative base in America has its way, we will all, for many years to come, hear some form of the word moose every single day of our lives.

Happy birthday, Rocket J. Squirrel, Bullwinkle J. Moose....may I introduce Sarah J. Palin.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"And Now, Sunday With Stephen Stills..."

Don't know the appropriate Scripture to offer up here.

The gospel according to Buffalo Springfield comes pretty close, though.

More on that..and the weekend weather...coming up...

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin has banned Rep. Patrick Kennedy from receiving Communion, the central sacrament of the church, in Rhode Island because of the congressman's support for abortion rights, Kennedy said in a newspaper interview published Sunday.

The decision by the outspoken prelate, reported on The Providence Journal's Web site, significantly escalates a bitter dispute between Tobin, an ultra orthodox bishop, and Kennedy, a son of the nation's most famous Roman Catholic family.

"The bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion," Kennedy told the paper in an interview conducted Friday.

Kennedy said the bishop had explained the penalty by telling him "that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I've taken as a public official," particularly on abortion.

He declined to say when or how Tobin told him not to take the sacrament. And he declined to say whether he has obeyed the bishop's injunction.

Church law permits Tobin to ban Kennedy from receiving Communion within the Diocese of Providence, which covers Rhode Island, but he cannot stop Kennedy from receiving Communion elsewhere. It was unclear whether bishops overseeing Washington and Massachusetts, where Kennedy's family has a seaside compound, would issue similar bans.

Kennedy could appeal the decision to officials in the Vatican, but the hierarchy of the Catholic church is unlikely to overturn a bishop, said Michael Sean Winters, a church observer and author of "Left At the Altar: How Democrats Lost The Catholics And How Catholics Can Save The Democrats."

"It's really bad theology," said Winters, who opposes abortion. "You're turning the altar rail into a battle field, a political battlefield no less, and it does a disservice to the Eucharist."

The dispute between the two men began in October when Kennedy in an interview on criticized the nation's Catholic bishops for threatening to oppose a massive expansion of the nation's health care system unless it included tighter restrictions on federally funded abortion.

Kennedy voted against an amendment to a Democratic health care plan sought by the bishops. But he voted in favor of a health care plan that included the amendment he opposed.

Tobin, the spiritual leader of the nation's most heavily Roman Catholic state, demanded an apology from Kennedy after learning of his remarks and requested a meeting.

"While I greatly respect the Catholic Church and its leaders, like many Rhode Islanders, the fact that I disagree with the hierarchy of the church on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic," Kennedy wrote in a letter to Tobin, agreeing to a sitdown. "I embrace my faith which acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity."

Their meeting fell apart. While Tobin called it a mutual decision, Kennedy accused Tobin of failing to abide by an agreement to stop discussing the congressman's faith publicly.

Tobin followed up with a biting public letter published in a diocesan newspaper.

"Sorry, you can't chalk it up to an 'imperfect humanity.' Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your Communion with the Church," Tobin wrote.

In subsequent interviews, Tobin said Kennedy should not receive Communion like other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. Still, the bishop stopped short of ordering Kennedy not to receive the sacrament.

Discussing, debating and/or arguing religion or politics is, obviously, an exercise in futility.

What we do believe, we tend to believe passionately and passionate beliefs tend to hang on to our consciousness like grim death.

Simply put, I'm not going to change your mind and you're not going to change mine.

So, all I can do is offer my opinion.

I think Patrick Kennedy wants to have it both ways.

If Roman Catholic doctrine dictates that abortion is a sin, then you can't support abortion and be a "good" Catholic.

You're either a practicing Catholic or you're not.

You can't be a "little bit" pregnant.

Admittedly not the best metaphor to offer at the moment.

But if Kennedy openly supports abortion rights, then trying to profess his devotion to Catholicism is wrong.

That said, it's not unfair to ask if the bishop makes it a practice to deny Communion to every one in his flock who expresses support for abortion rights or, for that matter, exhibits any behavior that could be honestly intrepreted as "un-Catholic".

Or is he only shining a harsh light on a Kennedy to politicize the issue and make the pulpit a bully pulpit?

If he's doing that, then what he's doing is wrong.

But, two wrongs, you know...

Or, as Buffalo Springfield put it...

"Nobody's right / when everybody's wrong..."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"...Kind of Gives 'Where Will The Viewing Be?' A Whole New Meaning, Don't You Think..?"

Two kinds of people in the world.

Back with more in a moment.

(CNN) -- There will be no more car giveaways, no more tearful interviews and Tom Cruise will have to find someone else's couch to jump on.

Friends and fans alike are mourning the impending loss of Oprah Winfrey's syndicated talk show in 2011, sharing the sentiment that it will be very difficult to fill the Queen of Media's high heels.

Fellow talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who appeared on the cover of O, The Oprah Magazine's December issue with Winfrey, broke the news to her in-studio audience at the taping of Thursday's show that she had received a personal phone call from Winfrey about the announcement.

"I don't think I could be here without her. I think she has blazed a trail. ... She is an amazing woman. She will always be the queen of daytime television," DeGeneres said. "

Actress Elizabeth Reaser concurred at the New York premiere of "New Moon," saying, "no one could fill her shoes."

Celebrity cook and talk show host Rachael Ray has promised to "enjoy every episode between now and 2011."

"Oprah opened the door for me to move into daytime television and I can't thank her enough," Ray said. "I look forward to seeing what she does next. There will only ever be one Oprah!"

Winfrey's friend Gayle King, who is also the editor-at-large for Winfrey's magazine, devoted her entire Sirius satellite radio show on Friday to fielding phone calls from devastated Winfrey fans.

"I am wearing black today -- I am going to have a brief period of bereavement because I still can't even believe the news myself. And I've known that this was coming, but even after you hear it it's still hard to believe," King said.

A caller named Pat told King, "I am in mourning. ... She meant so much to me, so much to us here in ... Chicago ... and it's just going to be so different without her. ..." A caller named Missy said she also wore black in mourning on Friday.

King comforted the callers by assuring them that Winfrey was "so at peace with her decision."
As segments of Winfrey's teary personal announcement were broadcast Friday morning, sad fans began flooding Twitter to lament the hole that will be opening in daytime television.

"Soooo sad, eternal depression begins now and will worsen on Sept 9, 2011," mrspalomino posted to Twitter.

"I really don't know what I'm going to do at 4 o'clock everyday now," jackiehanna24 posted.

The millions of mourners worldwide will just have to remember that the "Oprah" legacy will live on in a different format. Winfrey will premiere OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, a partnership with Discovery Communications, in January 2011.

No reasonable person can deny, denigrate or minimize what Oprah Winfrey has accomplished.

And I stand in the group congratulating those accomplishments.

For that matter, I can even throw in a little personal feeling of look back to go with it. The first time I ever saw her was during my Nashville days when she was living there and doing the weekend news on the local CBS affilliate, WTVF.

That was a good ten years before she made Chicago her kind of town (Chicago is...her kind of...) and began laying the foundation of what would become Harpo Productions and the empire that is now symbolized by a single letter.


I've been in, and around, the business of show and media in general way past long enough to totally get that people get attached to other people and/or the things that people represent to them.

One word, Benjamin.


And without them a whole lot of people who spend their working hours each day trying to motivate other people to spend hard earned dough on the fruits of the aforementioned whole lot of people's labors would be releasing CD's that nobody listened to, making movies nobody watched and writing books, or even blogs, that no one was interested in reading.

Or doing television shows to an empty bunch of seats in a studio.

Oprah Winfrey's television show has, without question, been a force doing good in the world for what will end up being two and a half decades.

And even I'm not so cynical that I can't see and freely admit to seeing the service that she has done millions of people along the way.

But I dont think it unfair to offer up that Oprah would be the first to step up and agree that her primary accomplishement has been to create a television persona who has, in an engaging and entertaining way, informed, enlightened...and put a lot of things into perspective for people.

You go, girl.

Mind if I give that perspective thing a shot?

Oprah Winfrey... a successful television personality...

...has, through the years, been an invaluable source of information, entertainment and, yes, even inspiration to millions of people throughout the world...

...rightfully deserves to be recognized as a pioneer in broadcasting, blazing a trail for both women and blacks and making it possible for them to succeed on their merits in a society still too easily prone to showing the hand to either group... a compassionate, caring and conscientious contributor to society, while at the same time, being...

... a sharp, shrewd and savvy businesswoman...and...

...has probably made more money than General Motors will ever make again...

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Now that her show's end game has been announced, I'm pretty sure I won't get the call to come and chat with her about all of this, so let me take the liberty of putting a few words in her mouth.

Chances are that Oprah would be the first to say that what she announced this week was the end of a chapter in a very interesting, as yet unfinished, book.

And as she is still young and healthy, I'm a thinkin' there are a whole lot of chapters yet to come.

Celebrating and toasting the end of said chapter is a party we can all enjoy.

"Mourning" the end of a television show is just creepy.

And more than just a little sad.

You wear black when someone you love and respect dies.

Not when somebody stops taping a talk show.

In that case, you just find another talk show.

Like the one I'm hearing will be supposedly be showing up sometime in 2011 on a new cable network.


The Oprah Winfrey Network.

Oprah deserves all the props she's getting from all the peeps.

Not only for what she has done, but for what she obviously knows.

Two kinds of people in the world.

Leaders and followers.

Leaders find an effective way to motivate people to listen to what they have to say.

Followers wait to hear what other people have to say.

And, apparently, wear black when TV hosts move on to the next chapter.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How Much Is A Bird Worth?...Can't Put My Finger On it..."

Kids, the lesson here is do as we say, not as we do.

That said, this one cracks me up.

Bud Adams, the owner of the Titans was fined $250,000 today by the NFL for flipping off the Bills fans after Tennessee bitchslapped Buffalo around for four quarters on Sunday.






Come on, you know it's a little funny.

But a quarter of a million dollar fine?


This is the same NFL that let Michael Vick start playing again after cooling his heels for a year or two for killing dogs.

And what was the fine for THAT?


Should Adams have been reprimanded for the good of setting an example.

You betcha, Sarah would say.

But, I reiteriate, a quarter of a million bucks fine?

The NFL needs to lighten the f**k up.

And Adams needs to rename that digit Goldfinger.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"You Got To Watch Out for Grabbing A Snake To Kill A Stick..."

People who know me think I really like Obama and really disliked Dubya.

People who really know me know better.

By the way, before we really get cookin' here, I refer to the man as Dubya only to differentiate him from his father because it's easier to use the nickname than to keep typing George W. Bush. It is not meant to denigrate or unduly ridicule the man.

That said, I freely admit that I completely disliked Dubya, almost from the moment he appeared on the national political scene with a tractor trailer full of money and/or backing from his daddy's rich oil friends and that really annoying Beavis and Butthead "heh-heh" way of presenting himself.

And while the pro-Bush (and I'm sorry, but I can never see that phrase and not think of someone who is in favor of legalizing porn) folks in defense of their guy would point, if to nothing else, to Dubya's manning up on 9/11, standing in the rubble at Ground Zero and swearing to search to the ends of the earth, yada, yada, I can only offer that in that moment, with that horrific assault on our humanity, just about anybody standing in the rubble and swearing to search to the ends of the earth would have been lauded, applauded and accoladed.

"Hello, my name is Ingo took down the Twin Towers....prepare to die...."

Hell, I even got a little choked up watching him stand there and promise to open that can of whup ass.

Of course, a few years later, Michael Moore showed us all the video of W. sitting in that Florida classroom for what seemed like an eternity, with a look on his face that, perception being reality, honestly looked like "what the eff do I do now?" and, just like with those generic brand pork and beans, there turned out to be a lot more air in that can of whup ass than there was whup ass.

Don't you just hate when that happens?

But, as is my wont, I digress.

I disliked Dubya and I think, contrary to what the loyalists believe, that history will judge his time in the White House to be essentially a failure of planning and execution on just about every front.

That's not to say, though, that Barack Obama is going to end up faring any better.

At this writing, he has been in office just shy of ten months and the only substantive thing he seems to have accomplished on his own is proving that America has grown up suffciently to elect a black man President of the United States.

And it may well turn out that the right man at the right time from the historical perspective wasn't, in the end, the right man for the job itself.

Time and exit polls in 2012 will tell.

While we wait, here's a thing.

If there is no other measure of the unhappiness that the country, by and large, felt at the job that George W. Bush did as President of the United States, there is only to look at the end result.

The Democrats successfully tarred John McCain with the Dubya brush.

And America was so determined to get any whiff of Bush (sorry, saw it comin', couldn't get out of the way in time) out of 1600 Pennsylvania that it swallowed its own prejudices long enough to elect the first black man in the history of the country.

It was inevitable that the racial ceiling would someday be broken through.

Barack Obama was the man that fate and fortune chose to be that ceiling breaker.

Do I respect and admire that accomplishment?


Do I like this guy?

Not yet.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Heartbeats...Drumbeats...Past and Future..."

Stephen Hawking has nothing on George Carlin.

Carlin once summed up the whole space/time continuum thing in a short burst of brilliance.

"There is", he said, "no such thing as the present...there is only future and's the future, it's the future, here it comes, it's the future's the past.."

Tick tock far exceeding the speed of light.

That concept made perfect sense the first time I heard it, so it was no wonder that I've always turned my head a little Forrest Gumpishly to the left whenever I hear people talk about "living in the now."

Yes, I know it's a philosophical perspective and not meant to be a literal life directive.

But, at it's intellectual core, if you buy what Carlin sells, then there is no now.

Only future and past.

But here's a plot twist.

The future often brings us face to face with the past.

This whole ice cream headache inducing train of thought came chugging down the tracks of my synapses today when the word November on my calendar conjured up some memories of the past.

Houston, Texas. A sixth grade classroom at Albert Sidney Johnston Junior High School. Twelve forty five PM, Central Standard Time. November 22.


And for what was the once and only time it ever happened to me in my educational history, the PA speaker above the blackboard at the front of the room was broadcasting not the usual fare of applicable school business announcements, calls for teachers and/or students to "report to" the principal's office or the daily group vocalization of the Pledge Of Allegiance..but, instead, the radio news that was usually only heard, in my 1963 world, from the dashboard of the family Ford wagon.

The newsman was using words like "gunfire","motorcade","head wound", "Dallas", "Parkland"....
...and "assassination".

The story ended, of course, with the end of the Kennedy presidency.

And I can't add a single revelation to an event that took place forty six years ago.

For my children, even for their children, the killing is a few paragraphs in a history textbook, a dry, emotionless documention of dates, places, facts, figures.

It is, to them, what the Lincoln assassination was to me when I was young.

The past. Nothing more.

And even though the youngers they can, with the technologies of You Tube, et al, experience the event visually, they cannot, given time and distance experience it viscerally.

Only those who lived it can feel it.

Or be moved, if only just for a fleeting moment, by the sound of the drums.

A sound from the past.

As we live out our futures.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Q&A.....Without the A..."

A riddle.

What’s the one question that always generates an infinite number of responses but never really gets answered?

Answer, to the riddle, coming up.

Fort Hood, Texas (CNN) -- Thirteen people died after a shooting spree Thursday at Fort Hood, a sprawling Army post in Texas.

Here's a look at the victims whose names have been released:

Michael Grant Cahill, Spokane, Washington
Michael Cahill, 62, liked his job as a physician's assistant at Fort Hood so much that he only took one week of recovery time after undergoing heart surgery, his sister told CNN affiliate KREM.
Cahill, who served in the Army Reserve, previously worked as a registered nurse, Marilyn Attebery told KREM. He later returned to school to pursue a career as a physician's assistant, she said. Cahill was assisting with physicals for soldiers preparing for deployment at the time of the shooting, his sister said.
"I'm just upset for all the families and for what went on here. They're talking about wars and show wars and it's right there in Fort Hood and it's just devastating to everybody and all the families," Attebery told KREM.
Cahill is survived by his wife, Joleen, three children and a grandson, Attebery said.

Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, Tipton, Oklahoma
Hunt, 22, wanted to be part of something greater than himself, his sister Leila Willingham told CNN. He enlisted in the Army in 2006 and spent his 21st birthday in Iraq, she said. He chose to re-enlist, dedicating the next six years to the military.
"I think that says a lot for that kind of man who makes that kind of choice for his country," Willingham said.
Willingham sobbed as she talked about the love she had for a brother she was "super proud" of.
Hunt was recently married and set for his second deployment to Iraq, his sister told CNN's "Larry King Live."
Hunt graduated high school in 2005 and tested his hand at a career in information technology, Willingham said. But he had a different calling.
"I really feel like when he enlisted in the Army he fulfilled that part of himself that wanted to serve other people and live for something greater than himself," she said.
Willingham said she doesn't know the details of her brother's death, but wants to believe he died trying to save others. "It's something he'd do," she said.

Sgt. Amy Krueger, Kiel, Wisconsin
Amy Krueger, 29, was a high school athlete who joined the military after the September 11, 2001, attacks, Kiel High School Principal Dario Talerico told the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
"I know she was proud to serve and proud to share her experience," Talerico told the newspaper. "She took pride that she was able to serve her country."
Krueger played for the high school basketball and softball teams and graduated in 1998, Talerico said.
A high school friend who later shared an apartment with Krueger had fond memories of the sergeant.
"She was one of the best people you could have ever met," Carrie Marie Senkbeil told the newspaper.

Pfc. Aaron Thomas Nemelka, West Jordan, Utah
Aaron Nemelka, 19, graduated from high school and enlisted in the military in the same year -- 2008. He was set to deploy to Afghanistan in January, his family told CNN affiliate KUTV.
Nemelka, the youngest of four children, was happy to offer his service, the family said in a letter read aloud by Lt. Col. Lisa Olsen of the National Guard to KUTV.
"Aaron was very happy as a combat engineer. He was anxious to be deployed to Afghanistan in January."
Family members said they were devastated by their loss.
"Aaron was the most kind and loving son, brother, nephew, cousin and favorite uncle."
Nemelka had a girlfriend and he may have had plans to marry her, KUTV reported.

Pfc. Michael Pearson, Bolingbrook, Illinois
Michael Pearson, 21, enlisted in the Army more than a year ago to realize his musical dream. He hoped the military would be his path to college, where he could study musical theory, his brother Kristopher Craig told CNN affiliate WGN-TV in Chicago, Illinois.
"He was a genius as far as we were concerned," Craig told WGN-TV, reeling from the news that his 21-year-old "little kid brother" was dead.
"He was really living his life playing guitar," Craig said. "When he picked up a guitar, we all understood that he was expressing himself."
Pearson was scheduled to deploy either to Iraq or Afghanistan in January, his brother said. He was learning to deactivate bombs and training in the Mojave Desert, said his mother, Sheryll Pearson. She was looking forward to seeing her son at Christmas.
He was shot three times in the spine and chest and died on the operating table, she said, according to TV affiliates in Chicago.
"His father is still in shock and very angry," Sheryll Pearson said. "We're all very angry."
Craig, who also had been stationed at Fort Hood and now serves in the Illinois National Guard, said he cannot accept a fellow soldier gunned down his brother.
"It's unfathomable," he said. "I couldn't imagine something like that -- attacking another soldier. It's just ridiculous. I don't understand it."

Francheska Velez, Chicago, Illinois
Francheska Velez, 21, lived the dream her father never realized.
Velez enlisted three years ago, an act her father Juan Guillermo Velez always wanted to accomplish, he told CNN affiliate WGBO. He encouraged his three-months pregnant daughter to stick with the military after she gave birth.
"My advice to her was to continue with her career in the military after she had her child," he told WGBO. "Then she would tell me, 'Daddy,' always with a smile on her face, which I will never forget, 'I will continue with my military career.' That was a dream that she made happen for me."
Francheska Velez had recently returned from Iraq and was transferred to Fort Hood last week because she was pregnant, her father said.
In the wake of his loss, Juan Velez struggled to comprehend why.
"It's a very difficult slap because you understand if it was terrorists or if it happened over there during the war. What hurts the most is that one of her own killed her and in her own house, the base where there should have been security."

Pfc. Kham Xiong, St. Paul, Minnesota
Kham Xiong, 23, was preparing for his first deployment since joining the Army, his sister told CNN affiliate KARE.
Xiong enlisted last year and was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in January, Mee Xiong said.
She thinks her brother was at the site of the shooting because he was getting a medical checkup and vaccinations, she said.
With another brother serving in Afghanistan, the news of Kham Xiong's death is "hard on the family," his sister said.
"He is a loving person, everyone loves him and adores him," Mee Xiong told KARE.
Her brother was a father of three, KARE reported

Officials also are releasing the names of the 38 people wounded.

Among them are Justin Johnson of Punta Gorda, Florida; George Stratton II of Post Falls, Idaho; Kimberly Munley, the Fort Hood police officer who returned fire and halted the suspect; Nathan Hewitt of Lafayette, Indiana; Keara Bono of Independence, Missouri; Ray Saucedo, hometown unspecified; Spc. Grant Moxon of Lodi, Wisconsin; Amber Bahr of Random Lake, Wisconsin; Matthew Cooke, hometown unspecified; Staff Sgt. Joy Clark of Des Moines, Iowa; and Pfc. Joey Foster of Ogden, Utah.

From here on out, loudly for awhile and then, as the dust of chaos settles and what passes for sanity in this life resumes, more softly and less often, experts and laymen alike will speculate, theorize, hyperbolize, articulate, ponder, contemplate and, more often than not, simply guess as what it is that lives among us, breathing our air, walking our streets, living in close proximity to our families and friends that can, in an insane nano-second, inflict such damage on us.

And the question that never fully gets answered will be asked over…and over…and over…

The responses will be plentiful…enough to fill a library.

Stress. Chemical imbalance. Unhappy childhood. Bad marriage. Drugs. Alcohol. Genetic defect. Abusive parent. Abusive parents. Too much TV. Bad flossing habits.

Mysterious ways.

Or just plain fucking insanity.

Each of those is a response to the question. A way for us to, hopefully, put some kind of label on it, to come to terms with it, as if by matching the correct response to the question, we could solve the puzzle, find a cure and sleep a little better at night knowing that the key to it would not only answer the question, but enable us to lock out the evil the next time it comes knocking.

But a response is not necessarily an answer.

And in our hearts, we all know that one question for which there is no answer.

The tragedy of something like this is the shattering loss that loved ones must endure and the pain that we all, as fellow travelers, suffer when the madness comes knocking.

The heartbreak of it, though, is in knowing, no matter what we think, hope, wish, demand, pray for and/or choose to believe, that in the end there is no answer to the question.


Monday, November 2, 2009

"Honor Thy Father...Thou Shalt Not Kill....Pick A Card, Any Card..."

Ironically, one of the most poignant and perceptive things I've ever heard said about religion in the world was said by a controversial comic.

I was reminded of that tonight as I saw this story.

(CNN) -- A 20-year-old woman from Iraq has died in an Arizona hospital, nearly two weeks after her father, police say, ran her over with a car because she had become "too Westernized."

Noor Faleh Almaleki died Monday of injuries suffered when she was run over October 20 in a parking lot in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria, Arizona, police there said. Authorities said they expect to change the aggravated assault charge against her father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 48, to more severe counts after meetings with prosecutors, Peoria police announced.

Peoria police said Faleh Hassan Almaleki believed his daughter had become "too Westernized" and had abandoned "traditional" Iraqi values. Peoria police spokesman Mike Tellef told CNN the family moved to the Phoenix area in the mid-1990s, and Almaleki was unhappy with his daughter's style of dress and her resistance to his rules.

After the incident, Almaleki's father drove to Mexico, abandoning his vehicle in Nogales, Peoria police said. He then made his way to Mexico City and boarded a plane to Britain, where authorities denied him entry into the country and put him on a plane back to the United States, police said.

A friend of the daughter, Amal Edan Khalaf, 43, also suffered serious injuries in the attack, police said. Almaleki faces a separate aggravated assault charge in connection with her injuries.

He is currently held in Phoenix, with bail has been set at $5 million, Tellef said.

Some years ago, the members of the seminal comedy troupe, Monty Python, were gathered together for a reunion, held in Aspen at their yearly comedy festival. As memory serves, it was a 20th or 25th anniversary thing, so it would have been in the late eighties or early nineties.

In the course of doing Q&A banter with the live studio audience and while discussing their film, "Life Of Brian", Terry Jones, in answer to some banal question about religion and man's perceptions of God, et al, shook his head softly and with some controlled, but clearly audible, disdain in his voice said...

"We all, every one of us, want to get to the same place. We've just been killing each other for thousands of years arguing over the best way to get there."

I admit to having little patience for most organized religion, if only because it has been my personal experience in life that strict adherance to the letter of any law without some kind of acknowledgement of the spirit of that same law is a sure path to some kind of failure, moral, spiritual, et al.

And zealots, no matter how disguised in everyday clothing they might be, are, by their nature incapable of anything but following the letter.

This man is obviously a zealot.

And he obviously disagreed with this young woman's interpretation of cultural and/or spiritual laws.

Naturally, that the disagreement ended in one killing another is tragic.

That a father could kill his own daughter transcends tragedy.

A lot of people will read this heartbreaking story and offer a flood of prayers.

Here's mine.

God, if this your idea of how to sell me on the idea of blind obedience to the law...

You're a pretty lousy salesman.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"They Need A BIG Star!...What Are Ya? Blind?..."

Today, friends, let us take a moment as we lie in a stupor brought on by a megawatt combination of time change and Reese's Cups overdose and reflect on that long lost quality of our daily lives...

Common sense.

On Wednesday, the producers of the Broadway revival of the play "The Miracle Worker," about the early life of blind and deaf hero Helen Keller, announced that they'd chosen the young actress who will play her on stage this winter: 13-year-old Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin. The decision has unleashed immediate complaints from groups representing blind and deaf actors who feel that an actress from their community should have been considered for the role.

Sharon Jensen, executive director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, told the New York Times "We do not think it's OK for reputable producers to cast this lead role without seriously considering an actress from our community." Jensen recognizes the difficulty Broadway plays are having attracting audiences right now, but says "I understand how difficult it is to capitalize a new production on Broadway, but that to me is not the issue. There are other, larger human and artistic issues at stake here."

For his part, the show's producer, David Richenthal, claims that the production was unable to find a blind or deaf child actor with the star power to bring in enough of an audience to justify the show's large budget, saying "It's simply naïve to think that in this day and age, you'll be able to sell tickets to a play revival solely on the potential of the production to be a great show or on the potential for an unknown actress to give a breakthrough performance," he said. "I would consider it financially irresponsible to approach a major revival without making a serious effort to get a star." The show will, however, be making an effort to find a blind or deaf actress to play Breslin's understudy -- but they won't make any promises.

The original Broadway production of "The Miracle Worker," which focuses on Helen Keller's relationship with Anne Sullivan, the teacher who taught her to communicate, debuted in 1959 with the actress Patty Duke as its star. Later, movie and TV versions of the play starred actresses Duke, Melissa Gilbert, and Mare Winningham in the role of Keller, none of whom were blind or deaf.

Ordinarily, I'd be among the first to go all Norma Rae on the perpetrators of an unacceptable slight to those who face life bravely with additional burdens you and I can only begin to comprehend.

The deaf. The blind. Amputees. Paraplegics. Quadraplegics.


But, this time out, I didn't need to read much past the end of the first paragraph before I composed, in both mind and heart, the phrase that pays.

Oh, puh-leeze.

We all have football games to enjoy (well, everyone except my friends in Tennessee), another World Series game to enjoy (well, everyone except my friends who think the Phillies have an ice cube's chance) and a whole lot of candy wrappers to Hefty bag up today, so I'm not going to belabor what I think to be the obvious point here.

Except to offer this quick grasp of the aformentioned:

Nobody griped when they didn't use real wizards to make "Harry Potter"...
Nobody griped when they didn't use real Vulcans to make "Star Trek"...

Nobody griped when they didn't use Ray Charles instead of Jamie Foxx to make "Ray"...
Nobody griped when they didn't use real Von Trapp family members in "The Sound Of Music"...

And nobody griped when they didn't use Natalie Wood's real singing voice when she was in "West Side Story"...

A musical, for God's sake.

Benefit of the doubt requires me to assume that this "Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts" is an organization that has its heart in the right place and its intentions strictly labeled as good.

But hollering into the old public megaphone about the injustice of not using a blind and deaf actress to play a blind and deaf actress shows, at the very least, an ignorance about the realities of show business.

And actually appears less an exercise in advocacy than it does an exercise in justification for their own existence.

I'm confident that the producers of the show considered every single one of the "name value" actresses who would fit the bill, in terms of both talent and life challenge.

Obviously, Marlee Matlin was unavailable.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Saying Something Sucks Is Not Necessarily A Bad Thing..."

This just in...

And...just in...time for Halloween.

Dracula is no longer just a creature of the night.

He's a bovine of the barnyard, too.

More on that shortly.

(CNN) -- Move over, Edward Cullen.

Tell those bayou bloodsuckers from "True Blood" to step aside, too.

More than 112 years after he first climbed out of the coffin, the world's most famous vampire is back -- and he's bloodier than ever.

"Dracula the Un-Dead," released this month in the United States, is a sequel to Bram Stoker's 1897 classic written by Dacre Stoker, the original author's great-grandnephew.

The book, co-written by Dracula historian Ian Holt, picks up 25 years after the Victorian-era monster is supposedly killed in the original and is based in part on 125 pages of handwritten notes that Bram Stoker left behind.

But while many of the original characters are here -- troubled couple Jonathan and Mina Harker and vampire hunter Van Helsing among them -- the horror has gotten a 21st-century update. The sex and violence that Stoker deftly alluded to in the original are, at times, front and center in his descendant's sequel.

"You've got to keep in mind the perspective," said Dacre Stoker, a native of Montreal, Quebec, now living in Aiken, South Carolina. "The degree of sex and violence he had, in this very stuffy and conservative Victorian society, was cutting edge at the time. Even the exposure of a woman's flesh, the piercing of the flesh, was a metaphor for the sex act."

And with authors from Anne Rice and Charlaine Harris to Stephen King and Poppy Z. Brite having crafted their own, sometimes lurid, reworkings of the vampire legend, Stoker said he knew that the new book couldn't just be a straight continuation of the first.

"We've got to keep up with what other people are doing," he said. "Otherwise, our story would be toast."

Of all the books, movies and other tales to use Dracula's name throughout the decades, the novel is the first since the 1931 Bela Lugosi movie to have the Stoker family's endorsement and input.

Response to and reviews of the book have been largely positive.

"This daring sequel captures the essence and gothic glory of the original," USA Today's Carroll Memmott wrote.

I'm not the type who sticks his neck out, so to speak, by huffingly and puffingly asserting that sequels, such as they are, are always inferior and a form of literary sacrilege.

Most of my philosophy on the issue comes out of the "lighten the f**k up" folder.

Personally, I'm more a fan of the "spin" style of furthering a character's adventures, that being defined more of a "what if" as opposed to a "what's next" narrative...for example, rather than "Dracula-Picking It Up Where We Left Off", how about"what if" the Drac Attack survived until modern times and cleverly altered his physical appearance to sufficently fool the American public into thinking that he was an articulate young black man who then got himself elected the first African-American Pres....well, you get the idea....

The MSNBC critics would shred it.

The Fox News Channel critics would nominate if for Pulitzer.

Now, while this project bears, at least, the mild aroma of legitimacy because it's written by a relative, it still has the eyebrow that always arches at questionable intent arching.

I mean, come on, would new written adventures of James Bond necesarily be as wry, satirical and entertaining just because they were written by third cousin Floyd Fleming?

Or would it bomb, James Bomb?

All of that said, I appreciate that great grand Dacre makes it bloody plain that any whining from purists is a cross he doesn't plan on bearing.

Dacre, who is touring the United States in support of the release, said he was prepared for the inevitable backlash from pure-blood purists who don't think the original should be sullied with a follow-up.

"I have heard just a bit of it," he said. "People say it's better to leave some of these mysteries alone; let's not solve them all. Believe me, when you read our story, you'll know we don't solve them all."

And he has some other advice for those diehards: Lighten up.

"This is entertainment. Go with it," he said. "If you don't want to read it, you don't have to."

Good for you, young Stoker.

And I think you deserve props for being up front by, if in an admittedly veiled way, fessing up what this whole thing is about.

Evolving the iconic Dracula from a creature of the night...

...into a bovine of the barnyard.

Cash cow, baby.

And, hey nephew, if people don't dig what you've unburied...

Tell em' they can bite you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"If I Could Put Time In A Bottle, I'd Probably Spill Half Of It..."

Stop me if you've heard this one...

"Gee, I wonder what we did to waste time before..

My Space...



and, of course, Facebook..."

Personally, I'm chockablock full of rationalizations as I account for the minutes I spend or have spent in those pursuits.

Goes a little like this...

My Space? Did it for a bit when it was "the" thing to do. Havent been there in months. No. Really. No, it's NOT like "I've been sober for months". I really havent been there. Geez

Twitter. Signed up. Logged on. Got three hundred and sixteen posts from Paula Abdul in a ninety minute period. Oh, and one from a friend of mine who gave the thing a try, too. Quickly started wondering why people who use this thing aren't referred to as "Twits." Logged off. Havent been back since. Still get the emails letting me know that the porn stars are following me, though. Uh, I'll pass, thanks.

LinkedIn. Signed up when somebody "invited" me. Turns out we both made the same mistake...the thing isn't a trivia tribute site to the 16th President of the United States. Haven't been back since. Besides, I understand it's a professional business networking thing. Come on, I work in radio, for heaven's sake.

Facebook. Signed up. Go there a couple of times a day, but (and here's where the rationalization thing kicks into overdrive)I now count, among my "FB Friends" such droppable names as Michael Nesmith (The Monkees), Don Grady, Stanley and Barry Livingston (My Three Sons), Paul Petersen (The Donna Reed Show), Andrew Gold ("Thank You For Being A Friend", B.J. Thomas ("Raindrops Keep Fallin on My Head"), Mark Lindsay (Paul Revere and The Raiders)and an assorted group of Nashville music industry movers, shakers who may or may not, at some point in the future, real or imagined, might be just the person I need to further my career goals and aspriations via their well connected assistance.

Oh, and/or real life friends and acquaintances who I have enjoyed reconnecting with and/or reading their daily movements, real and/or imagined.

Oh, and the "older" girl I made out with in the 11th grade.

Forty years ago.

It occurs to me that the answer to that question I offered up at the front of this piece is a very simple one.

What did we do to waste time before My Space, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook?

Apparently, nothing.

That's why we invented My Space, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Pie In The Face Trumps Knee In The Groin..."

Hearing about famous people dying is automatically cause and effect.

The obvious effect being an awareness that the top half of my own particular hourglass has less sand in it today than it did yesterday.

Michael Jackson. Farah Fawcett. Patrick Swayze.

Tick tock.

Well, whatever sound sand makes that's equivalent to tick tock.

We all hear it, we all feel it, we all have an hourglass on the shelf there with our name on it.

But when the famous name belongs to someone more of my parent's generation than my own, there is a kind of "buy one, get one free" thing that comes with the news.

The aforementioned awareness of said sand sound.

And a specific awareness that I have gotten older.

Admittedly, there's a thin defining line between the two.

The hourglass thing is entirely about the simple passage of time, something we all experience, no matter the chronilogical state of our lives. From the first slap to the last breath, the sand goes south.

Getting older, on the other hand, is defined as coming upon specific points of reference along the way.

It most often presents in the form of verbal expressions like "when I was younger...", "I can remember when..." and, of course, the most insidious of all...

"In my day..."

And that one, kids, is the one that usually two by fours us right across the psyche and brings us face to face with the damnable truth of it all.

We have, at some unknown moment, stopped being the visionary, engergized, inspired and motivated "younger generation" that knew better than, and was determined to correct the mistakes of "our elders."....

...and become the elders.

The passing of Michael and Farrah and Patrick gave me moments of poignant pause and brought up the volume of that swishing sand just a scoche.

The passing of Soupy Sales, on the other hand, began the bonus round.

Because as I spent a few fun minutes checking out some old You Tubes of Soupy's shows, I found myself thinking what lots of folks who remember are thinking at the moment...

Here was a guy who had a massive following of young people for a lot of years who was, times and culture taken into account, a pretty funny fellow and who didnt seem to need to utilize orifices, toilet humor, four letter words, yada yada in order in invoke laughter from his audience.

Was the stuff juvenile, even a little "oh, come on..."?


But that little five year old kid that resides inside all of us can't honestly deny the urge to, at least, chuckle somewhere along the way as the silly Soupy stuff plays out.

And put up against the scatological slant that so much of today's humor club seems to require to succeed, the slapstick Soupy shtick is, if absolutely nothing else, a testament to paradox and irony.

Ancient history that seems almost like fresh air.

I realized, though, as I watched a couple of minutes of it, that enjoyment of this material comes with a price.

If I admit it's funny, then I have to admit that I'm getting older.

Because a lot of contemporary comedy is bordered, top and bottom, by boobs and crotch.

And in my day...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"...The Old South is the New South is the Old South..."

Forrest Gump was wrong.

And, if the court please, I offer the following in evidence to substantiate that assertion.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- A justice of the peace in Louisiana who has drawn widespread criticism for refusing to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple says he has no regrets about his decision.

"It's kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven't done wrong," Keith Bardwell told CNN affiliate WAFB on Saturday.

Bardwell, a justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish's 8th Ward, refused to issue a marriage license to Beth Humphrey, 30, and her boyfriend, Terence McKay, 32, both of Hammond.

Bardwell's actions have elicited reactions from some top officials, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who called for Bardwell's dismissal.

"This is a clear violation of constitutional rights and federal and state law. ... disciplinary action should be taken immediately -- including the revoking of his license," the Republican governor said Friday.

Bardwell has not returned repeated calls from CNN this week. But he told Hammond's Daily Star in a story Thursday that he did not marry the couple because he was concerned for the children who might be born of the relationship and that, in his experience, most interracial marriages don't last.

"I'm not a racist," Bardwell told the newspaper. "I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children." Bardwell, stressing that he couldn't personally endorse the marriage, said his wife referred the couple to another justice of the peace. Humphrey and McKay received their marriage license October 9 from another justice of the peace in the same parish. They have reached out to an attorney to determine their next step, Humphrey said.

"We would like him to resign," Beth McKay said. "He doesn't believe he's being racist, but it is racist."

The National Urban League called for an investigation into the incident by the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, saying in a statement that Bardwell's actions were "a huge step backward in social justice."

According to the Census Bureau, Tangipahoa Parish is about 70 percent white and 30 percent black.

The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out any racially-based limitations on marriage in the landmark 1967 Loving v. Virginia case. In the unanimous decision, the court said that "Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."

I spent my junior high through college years living in Louisiana and moved back to the Deep South a couple of years ago to follow the broadcasting career path.

And while the rest of the country may have moved on into the 21st century, trust me when I tell you that around this here neck of the woods, deer stands are still a popular gift item, Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights are reserved for praising a Jesus who apparently still doesn’t get bent out of shape that his teachings are only followed on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and where life would be idyllic if it could just be put back the way it was before those “Negras” who knew their place were given the impression that they were anywhere near as valued a life form as the aforementioned Bible quotin’, deer stand occupants.

But I digress.

As I said, Forrest Gump was wrong.

Because, your honor, he testified, in error, that he was “not a smart man” when recent activities in Tangipahoa Parish seem to disprove his contention.

You see, he also said this.

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

Sounds like a smart man to me.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Peace Out...Dawg..."

The mystified/confused/perplexed/annoyed/outraged citizens (translation: Republicans) who are in full knee jerk and/or old-fashioned apoplexy mode about Obama being given the Nobel Peace Prize are missing something.

The point.

And before those of you who are predisposed begin the eye rolling, cluck cluck cluck of “yeah, yeah, here comes another other full throated defense of Barack The Boy Wonder”, let me save you the wear and tear on your eye roll apparatus and clucker.

My personal O is that he isn’t entitled to the prize.

In the spirit of full disclosure, though, I should share that, in my world, there is a difference between being entitled to something and deserving something.

But that’s a semantic distinction best addressed at another time in another blog.

Or maybe I’ll add it to a revised edition of my book “Three Hats”, a terrific holiday gift idea for any one and everyone in your family and/or life, available in hardback and paperback online at

And now, back to the show…

The point that my aforementioned affronted citizen/friends are missing is that the correct doorstep on which to deliver the big ass bag of “WTF?” isn’t the one at 1600 Pennsylvania.

It’s the one over there at Nobels-R-Us.

Because even those folks who are still walking around with a beatific smile, their pupils dilated from the inauguration ceremony, lo that ten months ago, are very likely, in the night when Mr. Sandman throws a few rational thoughts in their eyes along with the sleepy dust, thinking to themselves, “wtf?”

Even if it’s only the lower, rather than upper, case “wtf?”

Because no one, friend, foe, supporter, non-supporter, ally or enemy, can totally get past the feeling that there’s something rotten in Denmark.

Or Norway, as the case may be.

Actually, I think “rotten” is unnecessarily hyperbolic.

What’s happened here isn’t so much simply incredible as it is sadly inevitable.

So far (and when I say so far, I mean so far, the jury is still out), I like the guy, so I’m inclined to cut him more slack than, say, any one who smiles, nods and drawls “hell, yes!” when asked if they’ll plant a Palin 2012 yard sign next to the cinder blocked El Camino in their front yard.

Or who lives in Mississippi or Alabama.

Potato. Potahto.

But, slack or no, I think, despite the Nobel homies best efforts to dress up the package in the rationalizing ribbons and bows of “strengthening international diplomacy” and “fostering a spirit of hope”, what they’ve really done here is succumb to a virus spreading through the world at a pace giving H1N1 a first class run for the money.


An inflammation of the sensory system resulting in starry eyes, vapid facial expressions, intense feelings of admiration, adulation, sometimes bordering on worship of everyday men and women who, through some professional, vocational and/or occupational effort (or just plain dumb damn luck) have come to the attention of the general public with their singing, dancing, acting, rapping, movie starring, TV appearing, talk show bantering, cheating, philandering, lying ways.

In other words, a whole big damn chunk of the people in show biz.

And just about anybody in politics.

Love him or hate him, Kanye West is a star.

Love her or hate her, Paris Hilton is a star.

Love her or hate her, Sarah Palin is a star.

Love him or hate him…

Barack Obama is the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient.

There are those already whining that this award is diminished by giving it to someone in anticipation of what they show the potential to someday do in the cause of world peace, as opposed, of course, to having actually accomplished something in the cause of world peace.

What do you say we try to put our bickering aside and really join hands and find some common ground?

Let’s not say that the Nobel Peace Prize has been diminished.

Let’s just say that it’s been put into a new 21st Century perspective.

And has, in fact, been elevated to a place equal to those awards of achievement that our society and culture have, by their actions and attentions in recent years, shown to be the most precious and prestigious.

America’s Got Talent.

Dancing with the Stars.

The Biggest Loser.

The Apprentice.

Ad nauseum.

And, in that spirit, I say, yea thee, Barack Obama for adding that natty Nobel to your trophy case.

Who knows?

With that kind of momentum, you may, someday, even find yourself at the very pinnacle of world recognition.

Personally, I think you can do it.

Randy, Kara and Ellen will be with you from the get go.

But winning over Simon…

Now, THAT will prove you deserve to be a player on the world stage.

Break a leg, Mr. Prez…