Saturday, April 18, 2009

"The SECOND Thing I Noticed About Susan Boyle..."

Susan Boyle.

If you haven’t heard the name, welcome home.

How was your visit to Mars?

Feel free to pause here and Google her, if necessary, so you can catch up with the story.

Or just take a look at the video and you’ll get caught up in a flash.

First things first.

This isn’t going to be another of “those clear grasp of the obvious” pieces about “judging a book by its cover.”

My grandkids could watch the video and connect the dots to that lesson.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “here’s all I have to say about that…”

I got teary and felt the hair stand up the very first time I saw the video.

The effect hasn’t diminished much with each subsequent viewing.

What I didn’t realize I realized, at first, was the sense of irony about it all.

And, Lord knows, I do loves me some irony in the morning.

So here’s the thing.

This very unassuming woman, armed only with a God given talent and the courage of her convictions and surely aware that she would, at best, be doubted and, at worst, be mocked and ridiculed, walked out onto a bare stage in front of millions of people and, in less than four minutes, laid waste to the decades old perception that those whose ambition is to “entertain” us, but lack the conventional “look” need not apply.

And the wave of “oh my God!” that swept over the judges and audience in that auditorium during those four minutes not only instantly washed away the doubts and ridicule, but, just as the tide that rises all boats, brought out in every single man, woman and child witnessing the event that remarkable part of our natures that has us cheering through our tears at that spirit that has succeeded at making us ashamed of ourselves.

It doesn’t get any cooler than that.

And the irony?

Were it not for the technological advances of television, cable, satellite and, of course, the Internet that allowed millions of us to experience this, only one very lucky audience and their immediate circle of friends and family would have ever heard the name Susan Boyle, let alone been washed in the flood.

There was a time when talent was as much about ability as it was about appearance.

In less than four minutes, Susan Boyle sang us back to that time.

And she couldn’t have done that without those technological advances.

I bet you loves you some irony, too.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Don't Sweater The Small Stuff..."

Not to worry about North Korea launching missiles.

We’ve got a serious crisis on our hands.
As Yoda might say, “read, you this”

CNN) – Michelle Obama's fashion choices at the G20 summit have drawn widespread praise, but at least one famous designer thinks the fist lady made a major faux pas in her wardrobe choice for a private audience with Queen Elizabeth II.

"You don't…go to Buckingham Palace in a sweater," Oscar de la Renta told Woman's Wear Daily regarding Mrs. Obama's decision to wear a cardigan over an Isabel Toledo-designed dress for the private meeting.

De la Renta also said the first lady — who often sports relatively affordable American brands — should broaden her wardrobe and seize an opportunity to spur the flailing fashion industry.
“American fashion right now is struggling,” he said. “I think I understand what [Obama and her advisers] are doing, but I don’t think that is the right message at this particular point."

"I don’t object to the fact that Mrs. Obama is wearing J. Crew to whatever because the diversity of America is what makes this country great. But there are a lot of great designers out there. I think it’s wrong to go in one direction only," he added.

Being the kind of guy who likes to know what he’s shooting his mouth off about before he shoots his mouth off about it, I did a little Internet checking…

1. The prevailing style or custom, as in dress or behavior: out of fashion.
2. Something, such as a garment, that is in the current mode: a swimsuit that is the latest fashion.
3. The style characteristic of the social elite: a man of fashion.

I think the key phrase there might be number 3, with a particular emphasis on the term “social elite”.

But back to that in a second.

As a heterosexual man, I am inclined to care less than not caring at all about what is, or is not, in “fashion” when it comes to fashions at any given time.

I think running shoes, blue jeans and tropical shirts should be considered suitable for all occasions.

And I don’t begrudge Monsieur de la Renta his opinion, especially since his chosen profession requires skills I could never hope to possess.

I have never figured out how they can see clearly to sketch and sew and hem while simultaneously looking down their noses at anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their concept of what should be sketched, sewn and hemmed.

Meanwhile, back to the “social elite”

My universal translator did a quick read on that one.

Upper class.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone who isn’t a platinum card-carrying member of that particular stratum gives a shit one way or the other that Michelle wore J Crew to meet the Queen.

At the same time, I can understand why Mr. de la Renta and his homies (yes, I said homIES..get your mind out of the gutter) would get their designer label knickers in a twist over Michelle not wearing the latest foo foo shee shee creations.

After all, those items of apparel are the de la Renta posse’s bread and butter.

Or Waverly and Brie, as the case may be.

But here’s a thought.

Every thing I’m reading and hearing is telling me that Barack and Michelle are hitting home runs on this trip and are finding instant rapport with just about every leader of every nation they are stopping in to say hey.

So, with all due respect to the notion that being out of fashion is a faux pas, I would simply offer, on behalf of all the rest of us less than upper class types, that if the Obamas can undo the damage done by the past eight years of elitist isolationism inflicted by those whose fashions were the very latest from the most foo foo of the shee shees, than I would be happy to give Michelle thumbs up if she showed up at Buckingham Palace in a Spice Girls T Shirt.

Because, with apologies for the crassness expressed, it’s just like Grandpa used to say.
“You can fart into silk….

….it’s still a fart….”

Of Marge...and Manson.."

Marge Simpson has, from time to time, offered an exquisitely distilled solution to the dilemma we sometimes face in this life when it comes to having to judge our fellows.

“Kill em’ all…and let God sort it out.”

I never really stopped to consider the idea that Marge was a fundamentalist Republican, but, come to think of it…

The concept of one human being deciding how to punish another human being for the myriad of transgressions all human beings are inclined or, at least, tempted to commit is, when you get right down to it, a poser.

And whatever else it may, or may not be, it is surely imperfect.

An imperfect system designed to allow imperfect beings to pass judgment and inflict punishment on other imperfect beings who live out their imperfect lives in an imperfect world.

As Keanu Reeves might put it…”whoa…”

This little stream of consciousness started flowing past the windmills of my mind this morning as I sat and read a story about the members of Charlie Manson’s group who, forty years after their admittedly heinous transgressions, are in various states of wanting, wishing for and/or asking for parole.

I’ll spare you the long text of the story here and simply offer up this link to it so, if you’re not up to speed with the adventures of The Manson Family, you can read about it. (And you certainly don’t have to click over there and check it out, but, spoiler alert, the rest of what I have to say will make more sense if you do…)

Here are a couple of random thoughts on the story and the whole matter in general…
First, the relatives of those who were so savagely killed would obviously be opposed to any sort of leniency for those who did the savage killing.

I’m not exactly sure what specific legal term would apply there.

My guess would be…”duhh”.

Second, we certainly have no way of knowing how Governor Ah-Nuld feels about the whole thing personally, but any sitting governor who let even a whiff of sympathy for a group of murdering wack jobs (even if they were only murdering wack jobs at the time) leak out of his or her respective mansion might as well rent the U-Haul and buy lots of extra newspapers to wrap the dishes.

I find it not just a little interesting that Vincent Bugliosi supports letting Susan Atkins out.

He is, after all, the former D.A. who prosecuted Atkins like Ahab went after the whale and didn’t give an inch until she was convicted and sent to the slammer for the rest of her (at the time) murdering wack job life.

I doubt he’s gotten soft in his old age.

My guess is that he is taking into consideration that the woman has terminal brain cancer and is, at this writing, about one minor stumble step from being either a total vegetable or dead.

I graduated from high school the year that Manson and his minions went on their rampage. So, I still have a pretty healthy memory of the horror we all felt when we heard about the crimes.
And I watched, through those years immediately following, as Bugliosi went after them and, one by one, got them all put where anyone in their right mind at the time would agree they belonged.
Well, actually, almost everybody at the time believed they belonged in the morgue but there was that whole death penalty debate, etc monkey wrenching up the works.

There is, of course, a group that offers the “time heals all wounds” school of compassion in support of paroling any or all of them.

Actually, my experience in life has been that time heals nothing. It simply affords us the opportunity to learn to live with the wounds.

And when it comes to the “model prisoner” thing, I don’t think there one among us who cant feel a little tug of the compassion string, given that while hopefully none of us have ever committed murder on a scale so foul, we all have at least one, if not several, skeletons in our own closet for which we would be most appreciative for any slack cut in consideration of our remorse and redemption since.

There, but for the grace…and all that.

I’ve thought this over carefully.

And spent some time with it.

Not a lot of time, truth be told, I mean, after all, I’ve got errands to run and temptations to avoid today.

But here’s what my instincts tell me.

The crimes were unspeakable.

Those who committed those crimes had their rights to live a free life revoked in a manner our civilization has done its best to exercise in a fair and “just” fashion.

With the exception of Charlie, they have all been living lives that appear to show remorse and contrition, one even finding Jesus and becoming an ordained minister.
And apparently not that “finding Jesus” thing that comes off looking suspiciously like “I’m not sorry I did it, but I’m sorry I got caught finding Jesus” thing.


The lives they ended on this earth can never be restarted.

And they ended those lives in a manner that was, by their own admission, without any thought or sense of mercy.

Perception being reality, letting any of them out of prison would appear to show mercy, at best, inappropriate, at worst, the equivalent of violently opening up the wounds that the families have had only forty years to learn to live with.

Judgment is mine, saith the Lord.

All well and good, but we here on the mortal coil have to actually deal with these and all the other murdering wack jobs in our every day lives while the heavenly jury takes up to God knows how long (literally…) to pass sentence.

So, here’s my suggestion as regards giving the Manson family back their freedoms.

Offer compassion, as your own heart and values dictate, for their attempts to atone.

Share with your children the lessons found in this tale to be learned about sin and redemption.
Give credit, where, again, your own heart and values lead you, for any or all sincere efforts made on their part to embrace the teachings of Jesus.

And have faith.

Faith that the jurors who sent them to prison acted with reason and not malice.

Faith that our society was not so much passing judgment as much as protecting that society from any possible further harm while waiting for the creator’s verdict to come in (think of it as heaven’s holding cell)

Faith that, on balance, the reasonable and right thing to do…

…is let them die in prison…

…and let God sort it out.