Sunday, November 20, 2011

"...Ob-La Di, Ob-La-Da......With Frame..."

Old saying.

One picture is worth a thousand words.

New saying.

Six pictures tells one complete story.

Simplicity can be stunning.

Wouldn't you say?

"...The Southfork School of Sympathy...."

Carla is a very witty chick.

And my referring to my friend of twenty five years in that fashion is neither patronizing nor denigrating, regardless of any feminist jerking of knees that might result.

The story of why I call her Chickee and she, me, "Scoot" is a fun story all its own.

One of these days.

Meanwhile, the wit I attribute to Carla comes in many forms, but I was reminded, lately, of one "cism" in particular.

Asked for an opinion on any given cultural junk food/news item, Carla offers up what I consider a classic, and classy, response.

"In the first place," she opines, "...who cares?"

"...and in the second place.....who cares?"

Bada bing.

Carla's comedic comment popped up in my medulla this morning as I read the latest installment of the Adventures of Demi and Ashton", still, to paraphrase Paul Simon, newsworthy after what seems like all these years.

Here's a chunk of one tome', for backdrop purposes only.

"...Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are a couple no more, two months after Ashton's sixth-anniversary gift to Demi of a scandal around his alleged infidelity with a San Diego party receptionist while she was off working in New York City. Her belated gift to him was, of course, her decision Thursday to get a divorce.

After his-and-hers statements Thursday, speculation -- some of it humorous -- has filled the information vacuum. Prepare yourself for some gossipy gossip, which we hope you'll keep in the proper perspective.

Who gets Bruce Willis? What will @mrskutcher's new Twitter handle be? Will this drama, like the life of Charlie Sheen, be incorporated into Ashton's "Two and a Half Men" character's story line? (Whoops, too late on that last one, as Kutcher's Walden Schmidt has already been suffering the pain of a divorce from a wife who told him he was emotionally immature.)

Then there's the open-marriage buzz. "Everyone in Hollywood knows about their arrangement," an unnamed "insider" told the Star tabloid, "but they've managed to keep it a secret from the general public."

Chelsea Handler, who said she doesn't know them "personally very well," opined to a shocked, simply shocked Piers Morgan on his CNN show that "I think they probably had a lot of good times with some other women... Clearly they had a lot of threesomes, that led to twosomes without Demi and that leads to a divorce." After watching tape of the couple on a previous "Piers Morgan Tonight," she added, "I absolutely feel for her."

One such twosome was allegedly with Sara Leal, who went public with her claim that they'd had unprotected sex twice, that Ashton was not "weird or perverted," and that they'd talked about astrological signs and politics afterward..."

Truth be told, I've pretty much been in the Carla camp since the moment this "breaking news" broke.

Because, in the great scheme of things, after all, seriously.....take it, Chickee...

"...who cares....and in the second place....?"

Well, it turns out, in the interest of fair and balanced reporting (something Fox News Channel uses as a shroud slogan, but, hahahaha...)I think it right and proper to admit there really is a who to be offered up as the answer to that question.

Who cares?

Obviously, we do.

Or we wouldn't keep reading about it, thinking about it, talking about it and/or wanting to do some or all of those.

I think the more interesting question, the one that doesn't really get asked, let alone answered satisfactorily, is this one.


Ooh. I know. Call on me. I know.

And I even have a snappy slogan for it, too.

Dallas Syndrome.

Not as in the ultra-right wing capital of the Southwest, home to oil barons, cattle kings and Governors who get to run for president because their rich friends pay for it, but, rather, the infamous drama series/soap opera of the 1980's.

Jock and Miss Ellie, Sue Ellen, J.R./ On Pamela, Bobby, all our favorite stars.

And the reason that we find ourselves drawn back, time and again, to the foibles and follies of Kutcher and company is the very same reason that "Dallas" held our attention for years in prime time.

A very simple, basic, primal quality we all share, if not admit.

Misery loves company.

Most especially when the company is stinky rich and privileged.

Something in our human natures, the inverse, perhaps, of the quality that has us pull for the underdog, compels us to take some kind of satisfaction in witnessing the unhappiness of those who seem to have so much but, alas, have just as many upheavals, heartaches and heartbreaks as we mere mortals.

And it's not necessarily a perverse or petty attitude, at all.

Neither a "na-na-na-NA-na" or a "neener-neener".

Actually, an authentic "awwwwww".

Turns out that really rich people put their pants on one leg at a time just like us.

And they get kicked out of their marriages for fooling around just like us, too.

All the money in the world, or at least north central Texas, doesn't insure happiness.

Those of us who don't really have any money (and that, of course, is most of us) are comforted by the fact that it wouldn't matter anyway.

So, in an odd sort of psychological way, we find ourselves drawn closer to these star crossed celebs because their human follies mirror our own...and the falling of their stars metaphorically, and literally, brings them down to earth...

...ergo, closer to us.

At which point, it's then that we return to our own struggles and, at some point in the evolution of the breaking news, realize that we have to deal with our upheavals, heartaches and heartbreaks without benefit of day spas, day care or dollars upon dollars upon dollars of swanky therapists.

And as we hear just one too many reports on how the suffering celebs are coping, we find ourselves quoting my irrepressibly witty friend, Chickie.

" the first place...."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"...And, Yes, I Get Plenty Of Fiber, Thank You Very Much..."

Been a year now.

And I haven't broken anything yet.

It was this time last year that my father passed away, making me, by age and place in line, the oldest living male member of my family.

The patriarch.

Although those who know me, very likely and not un-deservedly, think that a title like that is more honorary than honorable.

Because, hey, let's not kid ourselves, I'm not exactly "head of the family" material.

At least not in the conventional, traditional sense of the term.

And, just so we're clear, I'm offering that self deprecation in a spirit of truth in advertising without any intention of irreverence.

Because, the whole truth and nothing but be told, there are times when I wish I could be a better role model for future family key holders.

I do, though, take some measure of pride in two core personal qualities.

I do love, respect and admire my family.

And I recognize that I'll never be the kind of "father figure" that is instantly recognizable as such.

Come to think of it, just like the guy whose place I took at the head of the line.

Subtle shades of Linda Ronstadt and/or Warren Zevon fading out on the chorus of "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" aside, I realize that I have, in the process of becoming the old guy (old, of course, being a relative term, as I consider myself still vibrant, virile and voracious, admittedly post George Clooney but decidedly pre Regis Philbin)that I have, simply by evolution, taken on some old guy traits.

Not counting the ones I've had since I was, say, fifteen or so.

Trust me when I tell you that curmudgeons, like Lady Gaga, are born this way.

And one of those old guy traits is a growing number of moments when one of these two phrases seem to come out of still vibrant, virile and voracious lips ...

"what the hell...?"

"tsk, tsk, tsk...".

Moments like this morning when I came across the story of the seven year old daughter of the Texas A&M basketball coach who sits in the stands at games and, as the opposing players come to the free throw line, lets loose with a piercing shriek, designed, obviously, to rattle the cage of the opponent about to take a shot.

It looks, and sounds, like this.

If you check this video out on Yahoo (where I found it) or You Tube, do a scroll down and look at some of what the peanut gallery has to offer in the way of comment.

I didn't do an empirical data compilation, but I'm guessing, from quick view, that the votes fall somewhere in the fifty fifty range, half thinking this little stunt is funny/cool/hip/clever/good strategy, yada, yada and half thinking that it is, at best, inappropriate and, at worst, raging, screaming (literally) poor sportsmanship.

Which will bring us back to do-re-mi...and the aforementioned old guy trait.

Just as I heard the piercing shriek of the little gym minx, I heard the simultaneous voices of generations of past patriarchs in my ear, the voices of past generations who had subscribed to, and preached, the basic values of good manners and common courtesy and, wait for it, good sportsmanship and, though hard to discern one from the other, I got a pretty good sense that those voices were a heady concoction of these two primal sounds...

"what the hell...?"

"tsk, tsk, tsk...".

At that moment, I realized that I truly had joined the patriarchal pantheon.

Because, much to my own surprise, my own voice was mouthing pretty much those same sounds at the same time.

And if leaving behind the childhood of lack of consideration for others, selfishness in pursuit of satisfaction, good sportsmanship in pursuit of gratification and an attitude of "lighten up, dude, it's only a game" marks me as a top of the line AARP material, then bring on the Depends and the Dentu-Creme, kids.

Because this head of the family thinks anybody who thinks that behavior is funny, let alone acceptable, should be ashamed of themselves.

And to those whippersnappers and/or whiners who would roll their eyes and offer up, "what's the effin' big deal, old man?", I can only, respectfully respond thus...

"what the hell...?"

"tsk, tsk, tsk...".

How'm I doin', Dad?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"...The Naked Truth About Penn State..."

Another Saturday arrives.

The faithful gather to fervently support their team and their school.

And the faithful who will gather today at Beaver Stadium have their work cut out for them.

Here's a thing about the thing, though.

Rallying and rah-rahing might hit the bulls-eye of standing up and being counted.

But it will miss the point, entirely.

The issue at the heart of darkness here isn't school spirit.

It's truth to power.

Back in a minute.

University Park, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Legendary coach Joe Paterno was hoping that Saturday's game could be a final victory lap, but he won't be on the sidelines for Penn State's last home football game of the season after being fired amid a shocking child sex abuse scandal.

Beyond his absence, some wonder whether the scandal will affect the game in other ways. Will there be a return to the riots that rocked the college campus the night Paterno was fired?

"I hope and believe we will see the best of our students tomorrow," acting President Rodney Erickson said Friday. "They understand Penn State is really in the spotlight. We should convey the best of Penn State values because much of the world is looking at us tomorrow."

Another person who will not be on sidelines for the noon start of the game against Nebraska is Mike McQueary, the assistant coach who has drawn consternation for his role in the scandal.

McQueary alerted Paterno in 2002 that he'd seen a former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, sexually assault a boy.

On Friday, McQueary became the latest casualty in the scandal that began with last week's arrest of Sandusky.

The arrest set off a chain of events, including the ouster of the university's president and of longtime coach Paterno, a move that sparked on-campus riots after it was announced Wednesday.

In recent months, McQueary told a grand jury that when he was a graduate assistant, he saw Sandusky, now 67, sexually assault a young boy at the campus' football complex. He said he reported the incident to Paterno, who alerted Athletic Director Timothy Curley, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said earlier this week.

Neither Paterno, 84, nor McQueary is criminally charged.

Kelly has said that the alleged failure of Curley and Gary Schultz, the university's senior vice president for finance and business, to tell authorities about the abuse claim "likely allowed a child predator to continue to victimize children for many, many years."

The scandal has stirred an uproar and a flurry of action over how Penn State athletic and administrative officials handled the matter.

Erickson said Friday that he'll appoint an ethics officer to report directly to him. He added that he wants to encourage openness and dialogue among the school's 96,000 students so that they do not hesitate to report such allegations.

"Never again should anyone at Penn State -- regardless of their position -- feel scared to do the right thing," he said.

With a record of 8-1, Penn State is ranked atop the Big Ten and is ranked No. 12 in the country, potentially in position to play in a premier Bowl Championship Series contest. The team faces the 19th-ranked Cornhuskers at Beaver Stadium.

There are three key phrases in that news summary.

First, the tragically obvious mishandling of the reporting of the brutalization.

In recent months, McQueary told a grand jury that when he was a graduate assistant, he saw Sandusky, now 67, sexually assault a young boy at the campus' football complex. He said he reported the incident to Paterno, who alerted Athletic Director Timothy Curley, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said earlier this week.

Huddle up, guys.

McQueary to Paterno to Curley.

Ready, break.

And there, apparently for the most callous of causes, the play stopped.

The most callous of causes, in this case, being defined as not wanting to rock the boat, pee in the Cheerios, pick your metaphor and, as a result, damage the huge money making machine that is Big Ten college football.

Which single link in that chain is to blame for not making sure that Sandusky was busted on the spot?

All of them.

But that's where truth to power thickens our plot.

The ability to speak honestly, bluntly and passionately to those who are above us in rank, authority, status, et al, regardless of consequences.

Which brings us to the second of the three key phrases in that summary.

"Never again should anyone at Penn State -- regardless of their position -- feel scared to do the right thing," he said.

In the classic children's story, "The Emperor's New Clothes", all the citizens of the village were afraid to tell their "master" that the luxurious wardrobe that had been fashioned for him by the clever, scamming tailor was, in fact and literally, nothing.

Afraid because telling powerful people what powerful people don't want to hear is historically not a fast track to future success.

Or staying alive.

The moron patrol that took to the streets to protest the firing of Joe Paterno is, like any moron patrol worth its salt, blissfully blind to the fact that Paterno's failure was turning his own blind eye to an egregious circumstance and "passing the buck" in a superficial and token gesture of responsibility.

And anyone, and everyone, else in the chain of command was/is guilty of abdicating their own responsibility to tell truth to power.

The power, in this case, being that aforementioned huge money making machine that is Big Ten college football.

Decent, reasonable people would be appalled and offended if they were asked to put a dollar value on the emotional well being of a child.

But there's no getting around the fact that the athletic and administrative departments of Penn State did, in fact, put just such a dollar value on that well being.

The exact dollar figures can be obtained by looking at their Big Ten profit statements dating back to the day that Jerry Sandusky was first reported for raping a child.

In the spirit of total fairness, Penn State, as an institution is no more responsible for this heinous act than, say, the United States Marine Corps is responsible for the killing of John F. Kennedy simply because the Corps is where Lee Harvey Oswald learned to fire his rifle.

But if Oswald had been shooting at paper targets of JFK in target practice and the Corps looked the other way, they would damn sure have had, at least, some culpability.

Telling truth to power is tough.

And make no mistake, Big Ten football programs are power.

As evidenced by the third key phrase in the news summary.

After paragraph upon paragraph relating the horrific details of the offense and the people involved and/or responsible for it, the story couldn't help itself when it came to wrapping it all up...

With a record of 8-1, Penn State is ranked atop the Big Ten and is ranked No. 12 in the country, potentially in position to play in a premier Bowl Championship Series contest. The team faces the 19th-ranked Cornhuskers at Beaver Stadium.

In the light of what happened to God knows how many little boys, no one should care at all about that information.

But a lot of people do.

Here's a little truth to power.

Shame on you, if, today, you do care.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"...Kneeling...Huddling Up....Six of One...."

When it comes to plot devices, I've never been much for pathos.

Bathos, not so much either.

Irony, though?

Now we're talkin'.

Maybe it's that irony, at its heart, is really a delightful mixture of poignancy and sarcasm.

Two qualities whose combination have always been as tasty to me as peanut butter and chocolate.

My awareness, and appreciation, of the ironic has been at Defcon 4 the last couple of days as I ponder the Penn State scandal.

Probably because it is, for me, only the irony of it that sets the event apart from your garden variety societal aberration.

Let's face it, were it not for the celebrity value of Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions, this admittedly heinous episode would be just another admittedly heinous episode relegated to a few column inches beneath, or perhaps above, the fold depending, of course, on the size of the community where the admittedly heinous episode occurred.

That celebrity value, though, lifts this particular aberrant activity up and out of the white noise of the commonplace.

And, at the same time, kicks it to a near record level of my favorite quality concoction.

The ironic.

No person in their right mind, mental or moral, can, for a single second, not be appalled and/or outraged at the sexual abuse of children.

Under any circumstance.

But the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of seemingly normal people (the key phrase there being "seemingly normal")feel compelled to take to the streets to protest the action taken against "their" football team indicates that, somewhere along the way, core values have not only gotten skewered, they've gone right dead center through the looking glass.

And therein, I'd offer you, is where the irony comes washing over the seawall.

For how many of those fervent fans who are angry at the firing of a football coach who, at the very least, was the officer on deck while sexual atrocities were being inflicted on children, would consider, and call, themselves good, God fearing, church going upright citizens.

About a standing room only stadiums worth, bet the farm.

And as those same fans substitute cries of despair at the damage done to those children with cries of despair at the toppling of their hometown hero, it is easy to believe, sadly, that their feelings about that hometown hero transcends hero worship, turning out to be, in fact, the worshiping of an idol.

Good church going folks.

Who read their Bibles.

Passages like "thou shalt not kill".

"Thou shalt not steal"

And the one that has my irony alarm working overtime.

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

The sexual assault of children is, by any possible measure, a sickness of tragic proportion.

Cries of anger at the firing of a football coach who was, at best, negligent in his guardianship of a basic moral standard is, by any possible measure, a sickness, as well.

A sickness, one might argue, of Biblical proportions.

How's that for ironic?

Monday, November 7, 2011

"...Idol Worship and Justice....Oil and Water..."

Random thought.

Conrad Murray guilty.

Casey Anthony not guilty.

Hard to not jump to the conclusion that the life of a celebrity has more value than the life of a child.

Michael Jackson died and heaven knows someone must be held accountable.

Caylee Anthony died and heaven forbid someone be unjustly convicted.

I imagine it must be terribly difficult making a living as a science teacher these days.

How, exactly, do you explain to students that the world actually is upside down?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"...There Is Nothing Like A......."

Tough week for lovers of the written word.

Totally cool week for lovers of the written word who have already shuffled off the mortal coil.

First, Andy Rooney.

Now, Patsi Bale Cox.

National news being what it is, you have no doubt come across Andy's name and the news of his passing at least a couple of times in the past day or so.

News of Patsi's passing, not so much.

And it's no dig intended at Mr. Rooney and his remarkable life to say that, if there were any justice, Patsi's name would be popping up on CNN in equal measure just about now.

Because, like Rooney but with a style all her own, Patsi Bale Cox was a class act.

In a culture, and world, that can use all the class acts it can find.

This particular class act, though, was more a regional and local hero, as opposed to a national one.

So, lengthy obits, like lengthy bios, will be in short supply in Patsi's case.

Here's, at least, a link to her profile on Blogger to give you just a look at the tip of the iceberg that was this feisty fraulein.

Ironically, though I lived and worked in Nashville for twenty plus years, I didn't "meet" Patsi until we connected as Facebook friends a year or two ago. And while it would be stretching the term to call us pen pals, we did, on more than one occasion, trade winks and uh-huhs.

And, having gotten to know her and more of her work, it was always a source of pride when I posted this yada or that yada on the FB page and, at some point shortly thereafter, returned to find a "Patsi Bale Cox likes this".

Because when it comes to having someone assess your own work, it's one thing to be appreciated by people in general, another thing to be appreciated by people you know and like...

...and an entirely different thing to be appreciated by people whose own work you admire, respect and, yes, every now and then, even envy.

I feel pretty sure that a mainstream media that thinks anything named Kardashian still qualifies as "breaking news" isn't going to do much in the way of uploading news of Patsi Bale Cox's remarkable life.

So, as mentioned earlier, obits will be short supply.

And while it would be, admittedly, presumptuous to attempt to fill that gap, I feel like Patsi might appreciate it if she knew that, upon hearing of her passing today, I suddenly thought of Delores Landingham.

The fictional executive secretary of the fictional President Jed Bartlet in the long running "The West Wing".

At the end of season two, Mrs. Landingham, as she was always both affectionately and respectfully addressed died suddenly.

And at the end of a moving service in a beautiful cathedral filled with friends, family and admirers, Leo McGarry, White House chief of staff, walked quietly to the front of the church, where Bartlet stood, alone in his thoughts of a caring, compassionate, crusty soul who had been a behind the scenes essential part of so many lives for such a long time.

Gently, but assuredly, with a smile only the knowing possess, McGarry looked at his own life long friend and said it all.

"...she was a real dame, old friend...a real broad..."

Presumptuous or not, I hope "Patsi Bale Cox likes this"....

"...Ooooh Baby, You KNOWWWW What I Like...."

Pop quiz.

Name a four letter word, ending in K, that is a fundamental, primary and primal need between two people in a successful and fulfilling relationship.

The answer can be found following this list of "expert" tips on what men should, or should not, say on a first date...and why...or why not.

Five things she’d love to hear:

1. “You look amazing.”
Acknowledge (and appreciate) that she went all-out for you. Trust us, even if this is a simple latte liaison, a degree of decision-making went into that jeans-tee-ponytail combo she’s got going on. No need to be too specific with your compliment; just let her know you’ve noticed that she looks good.

2. “How was your day?”
This may seem like innocuous chit-chat, but it shows you care and are interested in her life. Make sure to really listen to the response rather than glaze over when she itemizes details of a petty spat with a coworker. Bonus: It’ll give you something to follow up on in a later conversation (e.g., “Did you patch things up with that woman in finance yet?”)

3. “I’m really having a great time with you.”
This is probably the best thing you can say mid-date! It takes the edge off and lets her know she can relax. You’ll also get feedback on how she’s feeling, too. Hopefully, she’ll beam back and say, “Me too!” as opposed to a sniffle followed by her muttering, “How nice.”

4. “What do you think about such-and-such topic?”
Guys, you’re great at telling us what you think, but you can be a bit stingy about seeking out our opinions. Ask your date for her viewooint and she’ll be flattered — and stimulating discourse is bound to ensue. Naturally, steer clear of obscure subjects she may not be up on or comfortable discussing, and only bring up hot-button issues like politics if you’re prepared for a potentially serious debate to follow shortly thereafter.

5. “I’d love to see you again.”
This is a great way to end a date, because it assures your date that you like her (and it may also prevent that awful waiting-by-the-phone thing women tend to do). Trust us, she’ll appreciate it.

Five things she’d hate to hear...

1. “You’ve really got a great body. Do you work out or something?”
Do not say anything like this, please! It is way too objectifying and will make her uncomfortable. Avoid making mention of any particular body part or anything that might make you seem shallow.

2. “Oh, I know all about that!”
If you’re commiserating, fine — but if you’re about to start pontificating, resist! Women like intelligent, informed, worldly men, but we also appreciate humility. When you put on your “superior face,” you’re so not sexy to us anymore. If she wanted a know-it-all, she’d spend her evening with Wikipedia.

3. “I’ve been shopping for a new luxury SUV…”
Such a transparent attempt to impress her will have the reverse effect — unless you hear “cha-chiiing” and dollar signs appear in her eyes. So bag those “I’m a big man” comments about your stuff, your status and your salary.

4. “Wanna come back to my place for a bit after dinner?”
Asking a woman to drop by your place off the cuff, huh? What’s next — showing her your etchings? We women hear this and automatically think you’re just trying to get us in a compromising position, even if you really do have a good reason for inviting us in. It would be way better to say something like, “I’d invite you to my place, but it’s a wreck” and wait for her to insist that she doesn’t mind first. Oh, and never ask to “come in for a minute to use the bathroom” when dropping her off at her door, either.

5. “I’ll call you.”
OK, this actually is what she wants to hear, but so many men say it and don’t follow through that I need to caution you about doing that first. So if you have any doubt in your mind whatsoever about calling her, do not utter those three little words! Instead, wish her luck on the big presentation she mentioned, thank her for sharing her time with you and say goodnight.

Personal experience tells me that while there's nothing epiphanous here, both the do's and the do not's are likely to be helpful in navigating the sometimes tricky waters in the sea of love.

Although, said personal experience also motivates me to provide a couple of "value added" items to the list.

One each.

DO say..."Actually, I love to shop for shoes."

Do NOT say..."Dancing With The Stars....isn't that the new show with Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul?"

Love, like the tide, ebbs and flows.

Seasons change and seasons go.

But a successful, long term relationship requires communication like a fat guy needs Krispy Kremes.

I have never been in, nor heard of, a relationship that died as a result of over-communication.

They die every day from lack of it, though.

Which brings us back to the pop quiz.

The four letter word, ending in K, that is a fundamental, primary and primal need between two people in a successful and fulfilling relationship?


Because, sometimes, even guys just want to get some sleep.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"...And That's All He Has To Say About That..."

Andy Rooney died today.

And there will be, I'm guessing, little more than a day or so, max, of garden variety obits wandering over, around and through online, print and broadcast media.

In one sense, that's as it should be.

Rooney was not a world leader.

He didn't win a Nobel Prize.

He didn't find a cure for cancer.

He didn't invent the Internet.

He was a reporter turned commentator who, for forty plus years or so, offered up wry observations on life in five minute doses, mostly seen/heard by viewers of "60 Minutes."

And he died not untimely and not saving kids from a burning building or in an air show plane crash or under the rubble of a stage crashing down at a state fair.

But he was a pretty remarkable guy.

Because for eight decades, he never lost his way with words.

And if you think that's no small feat, try to imagine...

Seventy five years of wit and wisdom coming from...

Jon Stewart.

Joy Behar.

Chris Matthews.

Will Ferrell.

Charlie Sheen.

Bill O'Reilly.

Rachel Maddow.

Ann Coulter.


Or this writer.

Nice work, Andy. Godspeed.


"...The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth, Give Or Take, So Help Me God..."

First, a thoughtful treatise on a timely topic.

(Editor's note: Barbara Risman is professor and head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families. She is the author of "Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition" (Yale, 1998) and editor of "Families as They Really Are" (Norton, 2010).

(CNN) -- In my mind -- and in the law -- there are two kinds of sexual harassment. The first kind is quid pro quo and easy to spot. A really detestable (usually) man gives his (usually) female subordinate employee or student an ultimatum: Put out or lose some opportunity, be it a grade, a job or a promotion.

During the "Mad Men" era, bosses got away with such, and women thought it the price of a life outside the kitchen. No more. Women no longer think this is OK. Professors even lose tenure over this clearly sexist and illegal behavior these days. We've come a long way on the road to equality on this front. Lawyers don't settle such claims for a few months' salary and a promise of silence.

No one knows right now if this is the kind of sexual harassment that Herman Cain is accused of, but I doubt it. For one thing, several others have claimed they witnessed the harassment of the women in question, and such bold threats aren't often made over the dinner table in a restaurant with observers.

But then there is the other kind of sexual harassment, the behavior that makes the workplace uncomfortable, that creates an environment that is hostile to women in general, or just to one person because of her (or his) sex, gender, race or ethnicity. Everyone agrees that workplaces ought not to differentiate between actors simply because of their sex, gender, race or ethnicity.

But beyond that, when sex and gender are involved, we often get into a "he said/she said" dialogue. For example, he believed the jokes were simply funny and created a more friendly setting; she believed they were offensive and created an us (the boys) versus them (her or her and other women) organizational climate where she was always going to be outside the loop, outside informal conversations and social networks that mattered.

Another example might be when a powerful man is attracted to one of his co-workers and simply wants to start some sort of sexual friendship, an offer he perhaps had made many times before and occasionally was accepted. But this time, the woman finds a sexual overture from a married boss intimidating and off-putting. She believes it changes forever the climate of the workplace. Even if he never threatened her status after the "invitation," she didn't believe the professional relationship would ever be the same after what she perceived to be sexual harassment.

If we look at sexual harassment in these terms, as he said/she said, we will never find a solution -- ethical, legal or moral to the problem. At this point, we have yet to create any consensus around the appropriate way to deal with sexual attraction and sexual desire in the workplace. No one can deny that workplaces are often where adults meet their life partners. In a 24/7 work environment, where else do you have to meet a spouse? And indeed, in a world where people often think of themselves as defined by "what they do," it makes sense that those who also do it are the people we have enough in common with to fall for, whether it's to fall in love, or even just in lust.

And yet, we are still in a world where the most powerful class of actors happens to be older men. We do not live in some post-feminist world, where power is yet equally shared. No one wants to anger or displease one's boss, even a little. Nor do we live in a world where the workplaces have become truly integrated by sex. In fact, the most recent research suggests that in the last decade, we've stalled at integration by sex. While women are getting more and more of the degrees, they remain in traditionally female-dominated fields, and are not moving forward in male-dominated ones.

My hypothesis for why is that heavily male-dominated occupations, including politics, are so heavily masculine in their cultures, full of sexual innuendo and -- perhaps -- the kind of sexual harassment of which Cain is accused.

I don't have an easy answer, but I do know we'll never solve the problem by trying to figure out what he said or she said. Instead, we have to decide what, as a society, we want to be acceptable or not in our workplaces and schools and then enforce the norms with legal penalties. Here's a first volley: It should be illegal for men (or women) to make sexual overtures to their subordinates.

End of story.

Power always gets in the way of easily saying no. But more than that, if we want workplaces that do not privilege the men who have previously dominated the social space, we need to change the culture in which sexual banter objectifies women and turns them into the "other," and take seriously the claims by women that men harass them.

The more subtle kind of sexual harassment has consequences not only for the individual woman who finally complains, but for all of us, by sustaining a culture where the powerful positions in many occupations, including politics, remain dominated by men.

Should accepting boorish sexual banter and unwanted sexual approaches be the price of admission to male-dominated occupations? It's up to us as a society to set the standards. Here is a moment in time to take stock: Let's hear what the women who were silenced by being paid off have to say about the private behavior of a very public man who is running for president.

Now, with apologies to Professor Risman for the admitted ease with which one can call plays from the armchair, here's the thing about the thing.

"...Here's a first volley: It should be illegal for men (or women) to make sexual overtures to their subordinates.

End of story...."

Laudable and best intentioned.

But hardly practical.

Because accusation, and/or prosecution, of the overture requires a specific definition of the term "overture".

Which will bring us back to do-re-mi.

Or he said/she said, as the case may be.

Then throw personal tastes, moralities, senses of humor and, even, "common" sense on the canvas and the picture of harassment we are trying to paint looks less Norman Rockwell and more Jackson Pollack.

Even agreeing on a difference between "blatant" and "subtle" is a challenge.

Especially at that line that exists right on the edge precisely between the two.

Insidiously, and certainly frustratingly, it inevitably circles back to our old nemesis, "consensual".

"Oh, heck, she knows I respect her...and that I was just flirting."

"Oh, heck, I know he respects me...and that he was just flirting."

In forty five years of professional life, to this moment, I have never been accused, to my knowledge, of any kind of sexual harassment.

But I can easily recall comments I made over those forty five years that could be interpreted that way.

And that's the problem in trying to solve the problem.

While any reasonable person, male or female, would agree that "boorish" behavior is, at best, undesirable and, at worst, unacceptable, it is, again, that pesky need to define the term that stands in the way.

And, in the midst of an issue that defies clarity, here's a clear fact.

Men and women can be equally guilty of exploiting that pesky need to define.

Men, when their testosterone short circuits whatever better angel wiring they might possess.

Women, when there is some advantage to be gained by damaging the man's position and/or credibility.

Did Herman Cain sexually harass any, or all, of the women who have, at this point supposedly, accused him?

Three people know.

Cain. The woman. God.

And because this entire issue continues to reside on the slippery slope of definition, you can, arguably, disqualify two of those three.

Professor Risman is clearly an articulate advocate for solving the puzzle.

Problem is, it's not so much a puzzle as it is a Rubik's Cube.

And, of all her observations, I think this one resonates most clearly.

"...I don't have an easy answer, but I do know we'll never solve the problem by trying to figure out what he said or she said...."

While we can all agree it's maddening, the fact remains...

Each and every day, well meaning groups of twelve people sit in courtrooms all over the world trying to determine what he said or she said.

And trying, to the best of their abilities, to decide what is true and what is not.

Truth, regrettably, often lurks somewhere in subtlety of shadow.

And, just as regrettably, that's the only thing that is blatantly obvious.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"...Fashion Faux Pas Are Felonies...Mismatches Only A Misdemeanor..."

Forget about Kim Kar-cashing-in and Kris Humphries.

The still reigning champion of the on again, off again is Lindsay Lohan.

Sentenced today to 30 days in jail for violating her probation.

Who will most likely be out of jail in less time than it takes her to drive from the luxury condo to the lockup.

But that's not the real cheek chapper here,

Check out this excerpt from an online "news story" about the sentencing.

Lohan, who wore a blue polka-dot dress and her hair in a loose bun, may not serve the entire 30-day sentence due to overcrowding and credits for good behavior. But the judge forbid her from serving time under house arrest as she has in the past.

Bad enough that "justice" has evolved into "joke" in the majority of celebrity criminal cases, but now, it seems that no good "reporter" worth their salt can file a story about court proceedings without failing to provide the key facts regarding the defendant's fashion statement.

"...Lohan, who wore a blue polka-dot dress and her hair in a loose bun..."

Let's put aside the blatant, in our face sexism demonstrated by the women being the only gender getting the runway treatment on the way to legal treatment.

There's a more basic offense being committed here.

The violation of the basic tenets of good reporting.

Who, what, when, where and why.

Nothing in that list indicating an obligation to assure the reader that the perp was properly coutured.

Imagine if it had, in fact, been an original duty of the reporter.

"Adolf Eichmann, barbaric Nazi war criminal and right hand man of despicable despot, Adolf Hitler, was sentenced to hang today for crimes against humanity. The 56 year old Eichmann, appearing in court in a snappy royal blue double breasted blazer by Armani, his obviously thinning hair cleverly coiffed, was found guilty of the extermination of millions of Jews."

Don't know about you but, at this moment, two sounds are rolling around my medulla.

Ridiculing laughter.

And the low grade whirring of my high school journalism teacher spinning in her grave.

Nattily attired, I imagine, in a traditional white frock, with lace bodice, a single rose and family rosary in her hands.