Saturday, March 19, 2011

"...If Pressed, Chances Are She'll Present The Twinkie Defense..."

Here's a thought.

When asked to offer examples of dichotomy, I'm fairly confident that the following isn't the first that jumps to mind.


But, thanks to one of my favorite objects of ridicule, I have pretty much moved the tasty treat to the top of that list.

Give a look/listen to this and then I'll clarify my confectionery conclusion.

Life, exhibiting its seemingly limitless sense of humor, is full of examples of things that are both pleasing to the eye and at the same time, by any reasonable definition, toxic.

One can esthetically appreciate the beauty of the cobra while having no doubts about the dangers it represents in its full hooded moments.

There is, arguably, no flower more lovely than the lily of the valley and, yet, its berries are, almost matter of factly, known to be poisonous.

And, then, there's the cupcake.

A visual delight, a creation that tantalizes any given combination of our senses yet, almost cruelly, distracts us from the unavoidable truth that, inevitably, over a period of time, its primary ingredients can fatten us, clog us and, very possibly, kill us.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not inclined to start petitioning to eradicate cobras, weed out the lilies or put Hostess out of business.

It just occurs to me that Mother Nature does love her some dichotomy.

And, thanks to the latest sounds coming from Ann Coulter's pie hole, something else has occurred to me.

I totally understand why attractive women are sometimes called cupcakes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"...The Invisible Line Between Enemy...and Neighbor..."

Old joke.

The definition of mixed feelings.

Watching your mother-in-law drive off a cliff.

In your new Lexus.

It's crossed my mind in the last few days that, in addition to all the more overt and obvious emotions and feelings being laid bare by the devastation in Japan, there, likely, lurks a sense of the aforementioned mixed feelings amongst, at least, a small segment of the global population.

Say, people born between 1920 and 1940.

What must it be like, I've pondered, to be seeing and hearing all the sights and sounds of the terrible damage and loss that the Japanese people have suffered, not to mention the ongoing danger of a potentially horrific nuclear event and have been alive and aware during a time in our history when the mere word "Japanese" was enough to invoke in us absolutely guilt free desires to destroy that land and those people for whom we now feel such empathy and sorrow?

The dust that blankets the pages of history texts creates an illusory atmosphere, putting a buffer, so to speak, between the dry, printed facts of past events and the raw human emotions that those events evoked.

Put simply, it's one thing to read today about, for example, Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

It's another to try and grasp the concept that on that day, in that place, the emotions and feelings that resulted from the dropping of bombs on our ships and sailors by pilots of the Empire of Japan were no less passionate and anguished than those resulting from the destruction of the twin towers and the assault on the Pentagon, some sixty years later, on September 11, 2001.

Anyone alive today who was born after 1950 likely still harbors an understandable resentment, even hatred, toward those responsible for flying those airliners into our sense of well being.

At the same time, those very same people are likely wringing both hands and heartstrings and digging deep to donate time, materials and/or money to, in some way, contribute to the recovery of that nation in the Pacific so violently stricken.

Never making the connection, let alone wrestling, however discreetly, with the irony.

That had the earthquake that occurred last week on that Asian island occurred, instead, in 1942, the cries of joy and celebration would have reverberated from the Golden Gate to the Brooklyn Bridge, a clapping of hands and pounding of feet and cheering of voice so profound that it might even have put our own continent at risk for a tremor on a par with last week's seismic shift.

Sadness? Compassion? Humanitarian outreach?

It would have been good riddance to bad rubbish.

The simplistic punchline to all of this philosophical babble is, of course, time marches on.

Time heals all wounds.

Today's enemies can often become tomorrow's friends.

A more subtle moral to the story has flickered in my mind's eye once or twice this past week.

Perhaps it's that if there is any spiritual conclusion to be drawn from such a cataclysmic episode, it is, simply, that there is a message to be found amongst the rubble.

That hatred of any kind, regardless of it's origin, be it racial prejudice, political affiliation, religious difference, sexual preference or any of the other dozens of rationalized justifications we mortal fools create is, first and most obviously, the most profound of human failings and that which we should do our superhuman best to eradicate, by any means necessary, if at all possible, at all times.

But, even more essentially, because it is an unconscionable waste of the time we are given in this life.

If, for no other reason, because of what history has taught, and continues to teach, us.

That those we hate today can so often become our friends tomorrow.

Just ask anyone born between 1920 and 1940.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"...Yet Another Reason We All Love 'It's A Wonderful Life'..."

Angel first class Clarence Goodbody speaks poignant truth disguised as clever movie dialogue.

“Strange isn’t it?...Each man’s life touches so many other lives..."

In the mid 80's, the West Virginia Dept of Tourism went looking for a song they could turn into a jingle while it remained a song, along the lines of what Sunkist soda did years ago when they used "Good Vibrations" to sell orange soda.

I had the opportunity to submit a piece that, as fate would have it, was, in fact, chosen.

The song was recorded by Kathy Mattea who was, at the time, enjoying a career peak in country pop music and was, because of that fame and her West Virginia native status, the "spokesperson" for tourism in the area.

Kathy got a nice career bump and a new Chevrolet SUV every year from a WV dealership.

I got two hundred bucks as a subcontracted writer.

Material acquisition aside, I enjoyed the privilege of knowing that something I wrote one afternoon would always be floating around out there in the pop culture.

As Miley would say..."purty cool..."

Fast forward twenty years.

Said song still apparently resonates with West evidenced by this video I surfed upon showing the attendees at the 2009 4H Older Members Conference raising their voices in song as tribute, honoring both their state...and a California born, Louisiana/Tennessee hometown boy who lucked into having an opportunity to write a song that could be turned into a jingle while it remained a song.

Future Googlers won't find me listed as the composer of any of pop music's seminal works.

And I'll never even be a household name in West Virginia.

But at least one person in this life will know how I feel.

Clarence Goodbody.

"...And Now, It's Time To Play..."

..and welcome to......

..for the grand prize and all the marbles...

 Three of the following appear, on the surface, to be really important and matter to millions of people.

Only one really matters.

Set the clock for five seconds and.............

  • The 2011 NFL season might not be played because talks are stalled between players and owners over how to fairly share millions and millions of dollars...
  • Charlie Sheen is suing Warner Brothers for millions of dollars because they've fired him from his two million dollar a week sitcom gig...
  • Thousands of people are dead or missing, millions of dollars of damage has been done and a potential nuclear event poses a threat to, possibly millions of people...
Oh...I'm sorry...time is up...

Thanks for being with us....and join us again next we play...

"...The Case For Keeping Hands Off The Hands Of Time..."

Two annual rituals are upon us again.

Moving the clocks forward one hour to implement the beginning of Daylight Saving Time.

My whining about moving the clocks forward one hour to implement the beginning of Daylight Saving Time.

First, though, in the spirit of glass half full, here are some fun facts for you to know and tell.

When is it?We spring ahead the second Sunday in March. This year the time change starts on Sunday, March 13 and ends Sunday, November 6. Not all states observe the time difference: Hawaii, most of Arizona, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands opt out.
Why do we have daylight saving time?The hope is that we save energy -- since there's less of a need to switch on the lights if natural light will do. Studies have shown the electricity conserved on the new schedule is actually pretty nominal. But look on the bright side. Those longer light-filled days are sure nice. Searches on the time switch have increased 797% in the last week. The sunlight-deprived would like to know "what is daylight saving time," "daylight saving time dates," and "origins of daylight saving time."
What is the history of daylight saving time?Fun fact: The idea was first floated back in 1784 by one Benjamin Franklin. While minister of France he wrote the essay "An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light." The idea failed to see the light of day until practically 100 years later, when the U.S. railroads instituted a standardized time for their train schedules. That time change was imposed nationally during the first World War to conserve energy, but was repealed after the war ended. It became the national time again during World War II.
After that, it was a free-for-all of states deciding if they wanted it, and when it would start and end. Congress finally enacted the Uniform Time Act in 1966, which decreed that if a state chose to opt in to daylight saving, it had to be at the same time as everyone else.
Why does it start at 2 a.m.?The website LiveScience explains that's it's pretty much the least disruptive time of day to make a switch. After all, most of us are asleep. Those who work on Sunday usually start later than 2 a.m.
Don't lose sleep over itWhile the shift is only one hour, according to Health Day, sleep disorder specialists say you should prepare yourself: You actually can lose sleep over the time change. Experts suggest being well rested before the time change by getting up and going to bed an hour earlier. Our unscientific suggestion: On Sunday, sleep in.

There you go, Frances, I hope this adds to your enjoyment of the holidays.


I'm on record as not being a big fan of the whole DST deal. And since my circumstances won't allow for a move to Hawaii, most of Arizona, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, my best case would be for them to simply do away with it all together.

Here's my list of time change turnoffs, some sensible, some selfish.

  • It confuses people. While the act of moving clock hands (or digits) forward one hour seems simple enough, the resulting confusion for many is anything but. And, next to "do you think these jeans make my butt look fat?" and "do you mind if I smoke?, there may be no more annoying question in our day to day than the oft heard, "okay, but what time is it really?"
  • As related above, the original purpose of the thing was to save something. It doesn't really save anything...and it's confusing (see above).
  • "Night people" are screwed out of nighttime because while the eco-geeks cheerfully refer to it as Daylight Saving Time, the fact is that the thing is more correctly called "Daylight Extending Time" and, if you live on the East coast, you have to live with sunshine and clear light of day right up to, and sometimes well past, the opening theme music for Letterman.
  • The "act" is discriminatory and prejudicial. Those wack jobs who dig a twenty hour daylight day are half past heaven for nine months out of the year. Those of us who actually like dusk and sunset and starry, starry nights not only have to put up with more sunshine in our diets, we aren't even offered the courtesy of a "backatcha" event that would give us, say, a couple of months where it gets, and stays, dark pretty much most of the time. Admittedly, every four years we go through Presidential election campaigns, but I'm talking about literal, and not metaphorical, darkness here. 
  • Unlike Martin Luther King Day, Administrative Professionals Day, Presidents Day and assorted other Federal Government inflicted "day" days, there is no option to choose, or decline, to acknowledge and/or participate. You can invoke your right to go on about your workday business on MLK Day, for example, but there's not a lot you can do about having trouble seeing the late night local news because of the sunshine glare on your flat screen.
  • As with "could/couldn't care less",  "regardless/irregardless" and other misspeaks in our language, we have to put up with the know it alls constantly correcting those of us who call it "Daylight SAVINGS Time" when, as they so stick up the buttingly remind us, it is in fact, actually Daylight SAVING Time."
  • And, by the way, did I mention, SAVING, SCHMAVING, it doesn't save us anything?
  • Finally, the thing that ultimately ticks me off about it (or perhaps tocks me off)...all of that yada yada about how 2AM Sunday is the least disruptive time to implement the change is all well and good but not enough to distract me from the fact that we're essentially losing an hour of our weekends. I have long proposed that the "spring forward" take place at, say, 5PM on Fridays so we would all feel the love of what amounts to a bonus "head start" to the weekend...while the "fall back" could then happen at the traditional 2AM Sunday affording us yet another bonus in the form of an "extra" weekend hour. 
I harbor no illusions that this timepeace tweaking will ever cease. I also concede that my attitude about it is probably, at least in part, a matter of DNA.

My father used to express his disdain for a couple of "adjustments" to our daily way.

"Encore presentations" which, as we all know but only whisper amongst ourselves, is just a five dollar term for "re-runs"

And..."wind chill/heat index" as in "well, it's ________ outside right now, but it actually FEELS like _______"

That one used to chafe him considerably, inevitably prompting some verbal variation on "just give me the damn temperature..."

Like father, like son, I imagine as I carry on the proud family tradition by adding one to the list of unnerving, but sadly unavoidable, meaning of life type questions.

"...uh, okay, but what time is it really?"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"..This Just In...A Long Thought Lost Alternate Version of Peter, Paul and Mary's Classic 'That's What You Get For F----n' Me..."

Music, by its nature, is timeless.

So, too, is the generational lament about music's adverse impact on those traveling through their respective formative years.

For my generation, elder concern was most likely most famously demonstrated when Ed Sullivan demanded that The Rolling Stones, for their live appearance on his iconic Sunday night TV show, change the lyrics of their then hit, "Let's Spend The Night Together" to "Let's Spend Some Time Together."

Which, despite any particular satanic majesty's request, they did.

Mr. Sullivan died in 1974.

Probably just as well as, were he alive today, he would have dropped dead from the shock of just how far the envelope has been pushed since that 60's night he took a stand in what now seems a puritanical battle between night and time.

I was one of those formative years kids in those days.

Today, I am the grandfather of kids coming up fast on those particular years.

In fact, factoring in the rate at which the aforementioned envelope shoving tends to increase with each passing generation, these youngsters are pretty much already ear deep in the hoopla.

And while I have spent my entire professional life in the arts and likely have a much higher tolerance for boundary crossing than the average pop pop, I have to admit that more than just the occasional tsk tsk has the distinct sound of my voice these days.

This past week brought two new examples and four new tsks.

First, I came across this story about Lil Wayne and some young folks who take exception to his standard presentation.

Then, along came Enrique Iglesias.

Not a singer particularly known for ignoring the speed limit, in part, I would imagine, because he is the offspring of the Hispanic Johnny Mathis, Julio Iglesias, Enrique's latest hit is a predictable, but catchy, little dance number titled "Tonight, I'm Lovin' You".

Okay. No harm, no foul.

However, there are, as any hip young music follower duhhhs, two versions of the song.

The second is a little less subtle expressing the singer's lyrical intentions.

"Tonight, I'm F----n' You"...

And there's no beep, block or bashfulness when the infamous eff occurs.

At this point, the easy, and predictable, lament to be made is something along the lines of the standard old fart fogey doctrine that chastises the language primarily for chastising sake.

That's not my personal issue with it.

Here's the lyric.

Read through and substitute, in your mind's ear, where applicable.

I know you want me
I made it obvious that I want you too
So put it on me
Let's remove the space between me and you
Now rock your body
Damn I like the way that you move
So give it to me
Cause I already know what you wanna do

Here's the situation
Been to every nation
Nobody’s ever made me feel the way that you do
You know my motivation
Give in my reputation
Please excuse I don't mean to be rude

But tonight I'm loving you
Oh you know
That tonight I'm loving you
Oh you know
That tonight I'm loving you

You’re so damn pretty
If I had a type than baby it’d be you
I know your ready
If I never lied, than baby you’d be the truth

Here’s the situation
Been to every nation
Nobody’s ever made me feel the way that you do
You know my motivation
Given my reputation
Please excuse I don’t mean to be rude

Debate about the morality, or lack, of aside, the damage being done here isn't the deflowering of virgin ears.

Deflowering is a misdemeanor compared to the felony of degrading.

Romance? Can't be bothered.

Seduction? Not worth the time.

Appreciation and respect? Puleeze.

Let's have a dance and cut to the chase.

Tonight, I'm f---- you.

And were this just some cheesy offering from a Tourette's inclined loser, it could be written off as such.

Here's the thing, though.

A lot of young women in the clubs are dancing and singing along as if the sentiment expressed was on a par with ,say, we will, we will rock you.

Or f--- you, as the case may be.

A lot of young women whose internal radar is telling them that they need to endorse this presentation in order to be accepted by peers and potential partners.

And who, in time, will likely find themselves in dysfunctional relationships with guys who abuse them in one way or another.

Because the line between musical and literal abuse is, sadly, almost always invisible to the naked eye.

To the young ladies who will have to play catch up with their self respect in order to learn a hard lesson, I can only offer regret that there's no way to prove it to you on the front end.

And to the "artists" and writers and producers who profit from the syncopated slapping around and have a knack for invoking the "lighten up,it's only words, old man" defense, I can only offer this...

It's not about the language. It's about the lack.

If you don't get that...

Forget you.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

""Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures...And Apparently Cause Stupidity, Too..."

Mike Huckabee, as does Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, et al, obviously wants to be president in the worst way.

So far, mission accomplished.

"...Spare The Bird, Cook The Goose..."

August 29th will be the sixtieth anniversary of the birth of Ed and Barbara Phelps' first child.

Here's the complete list of the things I've learned, in six decades, to be absolute fact.

  •  Men will never understand women.
  • Women will never understand men.
  • Men will always assume that kissing leads to sex.
  • Women will always buy new shoes regardless of need.
  • Any solution to a problem offered by politicians will compound the problem.

As Bubba Blue would say..."uh..that's about it..."

As regards that last kernel of knowledge, however, here's today's compounder...

Admittedly, it's easy to armchair quarterback these things. Easier, even, when the play calling doesn't put the QB at risk of being voted out of their gig next time around.

That said, I don't think you need to be a Rhodes scholar in political science to realize that killing off Big Bird isn't going to solve the problem of debt.

It's only going to make little kids cry and piss off those Birkenstock wearing, Starbucks sipping parents who count on Sesame Street to entertain the kids while they listen to "All Things Considered" on NPR.

I suppose you have to admire DeMint's pluck for putting a sacred icon in his gunsights.

Or surveyor's crosshairs, as the case may be.

Then again, pluck might not be the best way to describe it.

That said, here's an addendum to my list...

Just as trying to trim the cost of firefighting by stopping funding for those big red trucks is, at best, impractical, so, too, is trying to bring down the deficit by killing the big and beloved bird.

If you want to do some serious number crunching, then go after the poultry whose demise will reap the greatest reward.

The goose that lays the golden eggs.

Or as we non-ornithological types refer to it...

Special interest groups.

Bet the farm (or aviary, if you prefer), that just ain't gonna fly.

That much I assure you I have learned in , lo, these sixty.

"...Ebert to Sheen Three.."

In the "match" between insipidness and inspiration in our culture, it often seems that the playing pieces of the former far out number the playing pieces of the latter.

For every Gabrielle Giffords there seems to be a cluster clique of Charlies and Lindsays.

Interesting thing about the eternal battle, though.

In the end, it always seems that those who nourish our souls prevail over those whose antics are, at the center, nothing more than psychojunkfood.

And, human compassion for their demonic struggles aside, Charlie and Lindsay and Kardashians of all races, creeds, colors and blood alcohol levels are only pawns on the board, necessary, I think, the give the game balance and perspective.

Roger Ebert and his wife, among many others, are the real kings and queens of this game.

"...Sticks and Stones..."

Ann Coulter must have a savvy soul in her entourage.

I mention it because as I was reading of her latest venom spew, I was reminded of an
age old question.

What's in a name?

Shakespeare, most famously, posed the ponderance a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

His point, though, was a tad askew from mine.

He was offering that you call the flower something different and the scent of same remains the same.

Personally, I've always been tempted to whip out the old hair splitter on that one, given what I've learned about the powerful images words can conjure up.

A rose by any other name?

Let's call it a baby barf sweat sock and see if you're still delighted to get/send a dozen from/to your sweetie on the applicable occasions.

Esthetics notwithstanding, naming things often requires not only some forethought but, occasionally, some afterthought, as well.

For example...

Long ago, in a past life adventure living in the real world, I worked for the company that was, and still is, synonymous with ink and ball points and flicking.

Fun fact to know and tell: The company was actually founded in France by the family Bich (pronounced, I can only assume, with a Parisian coated "beesh"). When the product found its way to America, some one wise beyond their thesaurus realized, up front, that the smart move was to drop the 'h" and market the product by the name we have all come to know through the years, the flawless reasoning being that some yutz was bound to mispronounce the name, either because of a lack of edumacation or sense of humor suspended somewhere between fourth and fifth grade.

Thanks to that foresight, we flick our Bics.

We don't write with a "Bitch" pen.

Likewise, some thirty plus years ago, a Japanese video game, featuring little creature chasing and eating other little creatures, originally named after the Japanese term for munching ("puck") was diverted, pre-American release by another savvy soul who realized chances were good that same group of arrested developments would very quickly put the finishing touches on the evolution of "Munch Man" "Puck Man" to....

Thanks to THAT foresight, we grew up playing "Pac Man"

Not "F--- Man"

What's in a name?

The same power you find in the words that make up that name.

Power that can be diverted, if necessary.

As Bic and Pac Man proved that one B or P word is as good as, or better than, another.

And as, apparently, did someone in Ann Coulter's brain trust prove about C words.