Sunday, December 30, 2012

"...And To Avoid Alarming Anyone, You're No Longer Allowed To Say "Wow, That Was Swell" In The Lunchroom, Either..."

Old saying.


As you get older, you begin to forget things.

As a new year arrives and my sixty second birthday starts to appear in sight down the road a few months and miles, my memory, thank the Lord and pass the ammunition, seems to be just fine.

Near as I can remember.

On the other hand, I find that, more and more often, I'm missing things.

It's happening right now, as a matter of fact.

Tell you what shortly.

(Yahoo News/Shine)  It's hard to believe something as small as a peanut could cause so much controversy. But put it in a lunch bag and it can divide a school.

In Viola, Arkansas, a debate is heating up, after a student had his peanut butter and jelly sandwich confiscated at lunchtime. The school has a no-peanut-products policy due to a few students with allergies, so the teacher helped the little boy get a new lunch and sent home a note explaining the situation to his mom.

That note didn't go over well, apparently. Soon after the incident, a 'School Nut Ban Discussion' group was launched on Facebook by parents conflicted over the policy.

Some parents believe allergy-free students shouldn't have to cater to a few kids' health sensitivities, particularly if it means cutting out healthy or low-cost snacks packed in their own child's lunchbox.

The mom who packed the confiscated PB&J sandwich thinks kids with allergies should learn "how to manage the problem" rather than live inside a "bubble," according to a local news report.

Other parents of special needs kids feel like they're playing second fiddle to those with allergies.

"There are some autistic children that will only eat a PB&J sandwich or nothing at all," one parent opposing the ban argued on Facebook.

According to the Viola District Superintendent John May, this is the first push-back on a policy in place in his school for some time.
"The policy is in place to protect those with a severe, life threatening problem," May told Area Wide News, a Missouri-based news site. "Until we figure out something else, it would be foolish to drop the policy."

Over the span of a decade, reports of kids with peanut allergies have spiked by 18 percent, according to the CDC. Today, about 1 in 25 children suffer from the condition, and about 18 percent of them have had attacks in school. As a result, school-wide peanut bans have doubled in the past two years. But they haven't come without a fight.

One Connecticut mother of an allergic child was shocked by the hostility she was met with when proposing a peanut ban at her own kid's school. "People were extremely rude," she told the Associated Press. "They just thought it was a ridiculous request."
A child's well-being may have triggered the debate, but at the core of the conflict is a turf war. Is one parent's concerns about their own child interfering with the way other kids are raised? Some parents of allergic kids know being unpopular comes with the territory.

"Nobody wants to be a Peanut Allergy Mom," writes Mommyish blogger Gloria Fallon, whose son has severe life-threatening peanut allergies. "My main concern is my son's health, but I also don't want everyone to hate us. I actually am sorry for all the inconvenience having a PA kid creates. I know if my son didn't have food allergies, I'd probably think the kid who did was a pain in the a--. So I try to understand that for the most part, no one gets what we're going through."

Back in Viola, parents are looking for a compromise within the elementary school--hoping for a middle-ground approach some other institutions have taken. As opposed to banning nuts, some schools require all their teachers to be trained in using EpiPens, a life-saving device used in severe allergic attacks. Separating nut-eaters from non-nut-eaters in the lunchroom is another way to protect kids and raise awareness among students.

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, a nut allergy advocacy group, believes compromise is better for kids with allergies than an outright ban. "What we want is everyone always thinking there could be a possibility (of an allergic reaction) and be on guard for it," the group's founder, Anne Munoz-Furlong, told the Associated Press.

But with compromise comes with new problems. Isolating a child at a separate table because of his or her allergies can create social ostracism and lead to bullying. (The American Pediatrics Association even cautions parents and teachers about the risk of harassment kids with peanut allergies face.)

Sitting at a special nut-free table or being the subject of a health lesson in class may save a kid's life but it won't win him any popularity contests. Fallon says that every time she drops her allergic son Nick off at a party, she has to run through worst case scenarios and procedures with the person in charge. "This usually results in the person looking frightened and probably wishing they didn't invite Nick," she says. "Nobody likes the finale, me especially."

Okay, first, a couple of disclaimers.

I was a child in the 1950's and early 1960's when the primary threats to kids were golden oldies like getting hit by a car if we didn't look both ways, getting tetanus from the rusty nail we inadvertantly stepped on while playing until dark in an area we referred to then as "outside" and other minor, but inevitable, risks to life common in those days like polio, influenza and/or global thermonuclear war.

Of course, as for that last thing, our teachers lovingly and professionally prepared us for any possible pesky mushroom cloud by conscientiously drilling us in the life saving technique of ducking quickly under our high quality burnished plywood school desks.

And, admittedly, none of that training or drilling gave us any chance of survival should we be faced with what has, apparently, taken the place of the atomic blast in our worst fears and nightmares...

...the dreaded and much feared peanut.

On the other hand, I do recall that some of my peers, through the elementary years, were afflicted by one condition or special need or allergy or another, sometimes necessitating them using, for example, an inhaler.

Or maybe having to take one kind of pill or another at certain times of the day.

Or even, every now and then, providing them with official exemption from the required donning of traditional garb of school colored shorts and tee and lopingly run laps around the inside of the gym for forty five minutes every day between third and fifth period.

We referred to those classmates as "those lucky ducks".

Come to think of it, though, there were, very likely, some fellow academicians who probably brought special brown bags to the lunch table, filled with whatever their particular immune systems would allow them to ingest, compensating for their inability to partake of the undoubtedly nutritious, if gastronomically blase'. fare of shepherd's pie and/or that green Jello square that few actually ate, but many enjoyed watching wiggle.

And although not as great in number as they apparently are today, I imagine there might even have been a student or two lurking in our midst who were unable to partake of the peanut.

I don't, though, have any memory whatsoever, of any of those children finding themselves segregated from the general chow down population.

In my day, groups at cafeteria tables weren't determined by something as trivial as nutritional and/or medical need, they were established by a tried, true traditional value.

Rank, baby.

Cool kids here, jocks there and geeks and/or future software CEO's discreetly gathered in a cluster offering both intellectual sympatico and theoretical group support in the event of an assault by cool kids and/or jocks.

And in the course of twelve years of primary education, I never once witnessed the forcing of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on any one.

Which brings us to the very last days of the year 2012.

And this clearly dramatic concern that seems to have permeated the daily school routine.

The possibility that someone might tragically be harmed by the ingestion of a peanut.

Simply because there are peanuts within reach.

And the resulting need to brand, as contraband, peanuts along with weapons, porn and body parts found lying in that big field out behind the school.

Although, come on, we all know that bloody finger in the cotton lined box is just yours, painted with a little food coloring and stuck through that hole in the bottom of the box.

We're kids, for God's sake, we're not stupid.

Kidding aside, while the safety and welfare of our children is, has always been and should always be, of paramount importance, I'm having a little trouble connecting the dots here.

Let me run this past you and see if I've got it.

Because there are some kids in the school who are allergic to peanuts and who could be hurt or fatally harmed if they ingested peanuts, the school feels it necessary to prohibit non allergic kids from bringing a peanut butter sandwich to the school.

If I'm reading that correctly, then, the assumption is that if there is a peanut butter sandwich on the premesis, there is a statistical, and unacceptable, probability, that the allergy afflicted student will, upon sight of said peanut butter sandwich, throw themselves upon said sandwich, devouring same before any cooler heads can intervene, thereby resulting in the aforementioned hurt and or fatal harm to the allergy afflicted.

So, naturally, in order to prevent any possiblity of said allergy afflicted student initiating the aforementioned throwing of self on said sandwich, PB&J must join the list of items listed as not A-OK on campus.

I admit to being, despite my best efforts to stay hip and groovy, what AARP, and most casual observers, would classify as a senior citizen.

So there is the remote possibility that I am seeing all of this through un-hip, un-enlightened eyes.

But, and please be aware that I'm just throwing this out on the porch to see if the kitty will lick it up, here's a thought.

How about the allergic afflicted mom just tells the allergic afflicted kid not to eat peanuts.

Or peanut butter.

Or, what the hell, let's go all in, anything whose description includes, or even hints at, the word peanut.

Because, and again, please forgive if I'm old and, therefore, out of step, if we apply the peanut prohibition logic unilaterally, will we not find it necessary to prohibit pencils to prevent harm to those with lead allergies?

Or blackboard erasers to prevent harm to those with felt allergies?

And let's don't even get started on the fatal fungi living and growing in the aforementioned school colored shorts and tees that have been crammed up, all sweaty and unlaundered for weeks, in locker after locker after locker.

By the way, not for nothin', but I would be remiss if I didn't point out the delicious irony of a story as absurd as this one offering up mention of a "nut free table".

Clearly, when it comes to sitting down and creating rational, thoughtful school safety policies, there is no such thing.

At the outset, I shared that it is expected that, as one ages, they are more likely to forget things.

And that, at least, in my own case, it wasn't so much forgetting things as it was missing things.

For example...

An entire generation of school children are to be prohibited from eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunch time because there's a kid in the school who is allergic to peanuts.

Gotta tell you...

That's a solution I'm not likely to forget.

But, I'm definitely missing something.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"...Oh, Hold On, I'm Only Passionate About Defending My Rights...Yours? Well, Run Em By Me And I'll Think About It..."

Pregnant women, if no one else, will understand, if not appreciate, this.

A newspaper in New York has received a wave of criticism from its readers after publishing the names and addresses of all of the individuals with handgun or pistol permits in its coverage area.

Hundreds of residents in New York's Westchester and Rockland counties were surprised to find their names and addresses listed on a map posted by The Journal News on Sunday. Users can click any dot on the map to see which of their neighbors has a permit for a gun.

The map sparked more than 500 comments from readers within a day of its appearance on the website, many of them voicing outrage at the paper's decision to make the information public.

"This is CRAZY!! why in the world would you post every licensed gun owner information?? What do you hope to accomplish by doing this. This is the type of thing you do for sex offenders not law abiding gun owners. What next? should i hang a flag outside my house that says I own a gun? I am canceling my subscription with your paper today!!!" said commenter Curtis Maenza.

"How about a map of the editorial staff and publishers of Gannett and Journal News with names and addresses of their families…," wrote commenter George Thompson.

All of the names and addresses were compiled through public records. The paper also requested the information from Putnam County, which is still compiling the records for publication, according to The Journal News' website.

In a statement to ABC News, The Journal News said its readers "are understandably interested to know about guns in their neighborhoods," because of the conversation about gun control on its website after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., last week.

"We obtained the names and addresses of Westchester and Rockland residents who are licensed to own handguns through routine Freedom of Information law requests. We also requested information on the number and types of guns owned by permit holders, but officials in the county clerks offices in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties maintained that those specifics were not public record," the statement read.

"New York's top public-records expert, Robert Freeman, disagrees," it added.

The paper declined to answer further questions about the map.

Doesn't take a Mensa member to realize that there could very easily be a whole lot more going on here than just a newspaper offering a list because "readers are understandably interested to know about guns in their neighborhood".

Personally, I suspect that the editorial staff at The Journal News is trying to make a point.

Right to free speech.

Right to free expression.

Right to bear arms.

Freedoms, among others, guaranteed by the Constitution.

And there's no such thing as a little bit free.

Or a little bit pregnant.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"..And A Child Shall Lead Them..Or Children As The Case May Be...."

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

Traditionally, and theoretically, a time of joy and celebration, a time of peace and love, a time of differences set aside, sharing, giving, caring, worship.

And family gatherings.

The last of twenty family gatherings was held yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut.

Not the kind any of them could have even, in their wildest dreams, have ever expected.

Not the kind any of them will ever forget.

And, obviously, their Christmas is going to be a million miles from merry.

Earlier this week, I came upon this video, an excerpt from a syndicated radio show hosted by a pair known as Rick and Bubba.

And while they didn't promote the program as a Christmas edition, I couldn't help but think, while listening to this, that there was a Christmas message to be heard.

Scripture, legend or myth, depending on your particular belief system, tells us that Jesus Christ was born to Mary and Joseph in the little town of Bethlehem.

And that birth put into motion the means by which those who accept Christ as Lord and Saviour will find eternal life.

And all through the season, we hear and/or sing loving tributes, celebrations and/or acknowledgements of that little child.

Gotta admit, it's been a little tough to sing along this year while dealing with thoughts of twenty other little children whose families were burying them.

And, also, gotta admit that, in my own wildest dreams, it never occurred to me that I would ever find  a profound Christmas message delivered by a couple of ordinarily yuk yuk yee haw radio guys.

But I did.

And while it's maddeningly obvious that the thinking part of me will never begin to get a handle on the great scheme of things that God obviously has in mind, I realize that the spiritual part of me absolutely gets it.

Our humanness makes it excruciating to try and accept that, as Rick articulates here, God allowed Satan to inflict the carnage in Newtown by way of shaking us out of our stupor and turning us back in the right direction.

But just a little bit of thought on the matter would remind us that, again as Rick Burgess points out, this ain't God's first rodeo when it comes to getting the flock's attention by allowing pain, fear, suffering and mortal death.

Matter of fact, it happened two thousand or so years ago.

On a cross.

To a little child born to Mary and Joseph in the little town of Bethlehem,

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"...And Just Wait Until You See What Comes With The Happy Meal...."

An idea doesn't have to be good to be embraced.

It only has to be properly sold.

Some stunningly serious selling occurred this week.

(BBC News) The US has observed a moment of silence for the 26 victims of the Connecticut school shooting, as a gun lobby group called for armed security at schools.

Bells in Newtown tolled 26 times, one week after 20 children and six adults died at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In Washington, the National Rifle Association called for "good guys" to be armed for "absolute protection".

Adam Lanza, 20, carried out the attack at 09:30 EST (14:30 GMT) after killing his mother. He later shot himself dead.

Funerals for those killed have taken place throughout the week, and continue in Newtown on Friday.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has asked people throughout the state to join the moment of silence, and churches in many other states also rang their bells 26 times.

The governor, with his deputies, marked the moment on the steps of Edmond Town Hall in Newtown.

In Washington on Friday, influential National Rifle Association (NRA) broke a week-long silence with a robust defence of its pro-gun position.

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA, criticised politicians who had "exploited" the tragedy in Newtown for "political gain" and took aim at laws designating schools as gun-free zones.

"They tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk," he said.

Mr LaPierre called for a national database of the mentally ill and blamed violent video games and films for portraying murder as a "way of life".

He spoke out against the media for demonising lawful gun owners, and for suggesting a ban on certain types of weapon would be effective.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," Mr LaPierre told reporters.

Congress should authorise funding for armed security in every school in the country, he said, adding that an "extraordinary corps" of trained professionals could be drawn from active and retired police officers, security professionals and firefighters around the country.

Across the street the Episcopal church rang its bell 26 times. Further down main street, the employees of the local bank stood on the porch in silence. People stood stock still in the street and got drenched. The silence lasted for 10 minutes, which is how long it took Adam Lanza to kill 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook elementary school just one week ago.

Mr LaPierre was interrupted twice by anti-gun protesters carrying banners and declaring that the NRA had "blood on its hands".

Afterwards, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is an advocate for tighter gun control laws, said the NRA's response was "a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe".

The guns used in the shooting had been legally bought by the gunman's mother, Nancy Lanza.

The shooting has seen some pro-gun congressmen say the mass shooting has prompted them to change their views on whether guns should be regulated more strictly in the US.

Meanwhile California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has been an advocate for tighter gun laws, said she would introduce new legislation when Congress meets for the first time in the new year.

But there is no bipartisan consensus on the issue, with others backing the NRA line that teachers in schools should be armed in order to better defend students if a shooting occurs.

The complexities of this issue number more than the tiles on a gun case sized mosaic.

From individual freedom to Constitutional guarantees, from finding common ground for discussion to putting even a dent in the mindset of a culture having already raised generations who consider violence a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment, there are no easy solutions.

There are, at the same time, easy answers.

Provided, of course, that the appropriate questions are asked in the first place.

That, for the foreseeable, is not going to happen.

And that's because the NRA is very, very good at what they are in business to do.

Promote the sale of weapons.

Anyone naively expecting the NRA to end their week long "silence" on the Newtown shootings with a mea culpa tinted call for common sense, reasonable restriction and/or thoughtful discussion on how to find a common ground that would make our lives safer was tilting at a pretty big, and obvious, windmill.

Or shooting at it, as the case may be.

For the NRA to suggest anything that didn't might ultimately slow, as opposed to ramp up, the purchase of guns in the country would be tantamount to McDonald's issuing a statement that they were ready to sit down with Congress to help determine how best to halt the reckless flow of ground beef into the national bloodstream.

Fat chance.


From the standpoint that marketing and product promotion are their primary function, the statement provided by Wayne LaPierre may , rightly, end up being the most exquistely brilliant piece of salesmanship offered up since Professor Harold Hill razzled and dazzled his way into unloading seventy six wind instruments.

In fact, it may end up leapfrogging the number one all time amazing pitch and sell ever experienced by mankind.

Little sale involving a naive couple of customers.

A snake of a salesman.

And an apple.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"...Full Hearts Deserve Better Than Empty Hands..."

There are few things harder for thoughtful people to deal with than a lack of easy answers.

Let alone a lack of any real answer at all.

And while, in the aftermath of Newtown, the search for an answer is instinctive, even primal, the bubble that keeps floating back to the center of the metaphorical carpenter's level is equal parts inevitable and unacceptable.

There is no easy answer.

Gun control naturally comes out of the box first and loudest any time something like this happens.

Next, mental illness and the need to deal with it more effectively.

From that point on, solutions, suggestions, ideas and/or demands of all shapes, colors and sizes fly like proverbial shit in the direction of the proverbial wall in the passionate hope that something, anything, will stick.

And we won't have to ever again wake up to breaking news that breaks our hearts.

One solution/suggestion/idea/demand that's making some noise right now is allowing teachers to be armed.

Actress/writer Marsha Warfield posted her response to that suggestion on her Facebook page today.

"...We would really rather arm teachers than restrict gun ownership? And, we call ourselves civilized?..."

First, I realize she's asking rhetorically, but, frankly, Marsha, at this point, of all the things I'm inclined to "call us" these days, civilized isn't the first word that pops.

Truth be told, that one is in danger of dropping out of the top ten.

My digression notwithstanding, though, I've been thinking about the whole notion of arming teachers, a thinking about that would have been unthinkable to me just what seems like a precious few years ago, and in coming to the conclusion I'm coming to, I've managed to pull off something I thought long ago impossible to do anymore.

Surprise myself.

Allow me to allow you to peek inside the process.

Picture this.

Dawn Hochsprung, principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School is in a meeting with the school psychologist and a parent when they all hear noises in the hallway, noises that instinct, if nothing else, immediately indentifies as gunfire.

Without a moment's hestiation, Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist, head out the door and into the hallway to confront what they, again most likely instinctively, knew was a gunman.

Reports tell us that both Hochsprung and Sherlach were shot to death as they gave ther last, best all to trying to stop the gunman.

Empty handed, with nothing but adrenalin, compassion and a courage most of us can't even imagine, they ran right at the evil in front of them.

And they were left dead or dying on the floor as evil fired his weapons, stepped over them and continued on through rooms and hallways killing every living soul in his twisted sight.

Until evil heard the sound of police sirens and, as evil is wont to do, gutlessly killed itself.

Now picture this.

Dawn Hochsprung, principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School is in a meeting with the school psychologist and a parent when they all hear noises in the hallway, noises that instinct, if nothing else, immediately indentifies as gunfire.

Without a moment's hestiation, Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist, head out the door and into the hallway to confront what they, again most likely instinctively, know is a gunman.

Either Hochsprung or Sherlach, or possibly even both, having been properly trained, certified and liscensed, enter that hallway, having unholstered the Glocks they keep discreetly out of sight but always ready should the worst ever happen.

Seeing that the worst is, in fact, happening, one, or both, of these brave souls assume a trained stance and fire their weapons repeatedly, perhaps being wounded, perhaps even fatally, but, within a reasonable possiblity, not before killing evil in that hallway.

And, with their actions, giving the community of Newtown the Christmas gift of a school full of precious children and teachers walking out the door, scared, shaken and traumatized.

But alive.

Critics of the idea will offer that my scenario is, at best, wishful thinking.

Or an unrealistic fairy tale.

Or, even perhaps worse, an admittance that we are regressing as a culture and society and the need to return to the untamed West days of lock and load, strap em' on and shoot em' up is a tragedy.

There was a time in my own life when I would have agreed with that point of view.

That time has passed.

All that is necessary, it is written, for evil to flouish is for good men to do nothing.

Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, and in their own ways, Vicki Soto and Rachel D'Avino, most assuredly did not do nothing.

But is leveling the playing field in the game against evil more of a tragedy than the idea of six and seven year old bodies lying on the floor filled with bullet holes?

We all once lived in a world where school hallways were safe.

We don't live in that world anymore.

And if I don't have the power to turn back the hands of time, then, with an admittedly heavy heart, I hear my head very clearly telling me that I need to face facts and live in the world as it is.

And while I will continue to hope, suggest, support, and pray for the answer, I'm not naive enough to ignore the liklihood that its only a matter of time before evil appears in another hallway, a school, a day care center, a maternity ward.

And that brave people will head out the door and into the hallway to confront what they, again most likely instinctively, know is a gunman.

We shouldn't send them out that door empty handed, with nothing but adrenalin, compassion and a courage most of us can't even imagine.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"...One Torch I'm Grateful to Pass..."

Counting blessings today.

Be right back with those.

The gunman used his weapon to force his way into the building, the state's governor told CNN Sunday.

"He penetrated the building by literally shooting an entrance into the building. That's what an assault weapon can do for you," Gov. Dan Malloy told CNN's Candy Crowley.

Blessed today to have five grandchildren between the ages of one and fourteen who will wake up tomorrow morning and go about the business of growing up and living their lives.

Blessed today to have to not be the member of the family who might be asked to explain to any or all of those grandchildren if and, predictably, when one of them wants to know why a twenty year old kid killed twenty six and seven year old kids.

And blessed today to not have to explain to any or all of those grandchildren what, exactly, an assault weapon is and why a twenty year old kid had one.

In time, they will learn why.

It's called the Second Amendment.

"...Free To Hang Our Heads and Weep, Too..."

At a time when our thoughts are, for the most devastating of reasons, focused on little kids and school and classrooms, it seems somehow natural to think of lessons learned.

There is one lesson, in particular, that comes to mind.

More on that in a moment.

Actor Morgan Freeman was asked by an interviewer for his thoughts regarding the killings in Newtown.

"You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here's why.

It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed
people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN's article says that if the body count "holds up", this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don't sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news."

There is a lesson that comes to mind here.


In an article published online today, entitled, well meaning if wishfully, "10 Ways to Put The Brakes On Mass School Shootings", the following was one of the ten.

5. Cut down on violence in the media
Some readers were concerned that fictional violence might be having real-world effects.
"If they want to ban guns, why not ban them in movies, television, and video games?" asked reader Bill Smells. "Why do we allow the media and entertainment industries to glorify weapons and killings? If we're going to start regulating and banning weapons, why not start by aggressively banning and preventing the abuse of weapons in media."
"Why do we allow our children and young adults to buy video games that put them in the position of being rewarded for shooting and killing other players? I think it's time Hollywood enact their own self-imposed ban on using weapons in any films or television productions. This would definitely reduce all kinds of violence. So why haven't they taken this bold and progressive step yet?"

There is a lesson that comes to mind here.


Criminal Minds is a very successful, dramatic television series centered around a group of FBI agents who specialize in solving cases specifically involving serial killers.

The program is, by any reasonable measure, startingly graphic in its depiction of the assorted depravity exhibited by these fictional predators, depravity in the form of physical, emotional and sexual torture, a "fictional" depravity so startingly demonstrated that one noted actor, Mandy Patinkin, found that after a couple of seasons of co-starring in the show, could no longer carry the burden of the assault on his own psyche, leaving the show to move back to show business activities more, for lack of a better word, human. A program that, to these traditionally liberal eyes, not only walks the line between hard drama and soft core porn, but pretty much leaves bloody bootprints in plain sight on the latter site of that line.

The weekly show is broadcast on network television, as opposed to cable where young, impressionable eyes might be less likely to find it.

And after having been on a number of years, it still ranks very high in the ratings.

Given the climate of the current culture, that comes, surely, as no surprise to anyone.

My roster of Facebook friends includes the parent of a generational peer of mine which puts the age of the parent as late seventies to early eighties. This senior citizen friend is a loving, caring, vibrant spouse, parent and grandparent and calling the friend conservative is an immediate and outrageous understatement, as they are outspokenly conservative in religious values, political values, moral values.

Pick a value, any value.

Recently, this respectable, and respected, senior posted the following on Facebook.

"Criminal Minds is one sick show....but I love it."

There is a lesson that comes to mind here.

The freedom of expression, along with the myriad of freedoms that we enjoy as citizens of America, pretty much invalidates any criticism that might seem warranted here.

Because, in America, we are free to report news stories as sensationally as we like, free to watch those sensational broadcasts over and over...and over.

Free to play video games that rely on violence, mayhem and/or carnage to provide the thrill of victory.

Free to watch movies that objectify women, depict violent behavior and, if the creators so deem, rely on violence, mayhem and/or carnage to provide the entertainment.

Free to produce and broadcast television shows on free network channels, regardless of any prurience that might be implied or obvious.

And free to own as many damn guns of as many makes and models as we see necessary.

Or, simply, desired.

At the same time, any reasonable human being possessed of anything resembling a brain and/or heart recoils in horror at the killings in Connecticut and, if only alone in the quiet of night, thinks, wonders, even prays for the wisdom to determine how we might stop this from ever happening again.

When we were school children, just about the age of the twenty young school children who were shot to death in the sanctuary of their classroom this week, we were just at the beginning of the process of being taught the lessons of life.

And, today, thinking about both twenty dead six or seven year old bodies lying on a school room floor and about the aforementioned freedoms that we would, likely, protect at the peril of our own lives, it's hard not to be reminded of the lessons of life.

And one very specific lesson that most of us are taught very, very early on.

Sometimes, even from the age of, say, six or seven.

We can't have it both ways.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"The Flag Is Something To Stand Behind...Not Hide Behind..."

Earlier this week, almost presciently, a respected collegue of mine offered up why the case that gun advocates make to validate their rights is built on a slippery slope.

In fact, he went so far as to refer to it as "here's what's wrong with the whole Second Amendment thing...".

He then offered up the conditions necessitating the three primary needs, in that period of our history, that made insuring one's right to bear arms seem both practical and sensical.

There was, then, no United States Army, National Guard, et al. and the need for militia, in the form of armed citizenry was, reasonably, a practical necessity.

There were no Safeways or Krogers, Giant Foods or Super Wal Marts. Feeding one's family very often included shooting something to put in the kettle and/or pot. And, not for nothin', but it might be fairly added here that, at the time, certain sources of those family dinners, or their immediate fellow inhabitants of the plains and/or forest,  were inclined, every now and then, to attempt to return the favor and eat the family if given the opportunity.

There were, just outside the city limits and/or just across the nearest border, any number of hostile tribes of Native Americans who were, at the time, more than just a little pissed at the way they were being shoved out of their own neighborhoods. Protecting one's family from those tribes was as much a part of the daily routine then as dealing with inept customer service reps is today.

Three very good reasons to be not only allowed, but expected, to own a weapon without fear of reprisal from any local, state or federal government.

Three conditions which, in the year 2012 (nudging 2013 ever so holiday-ishly at the moment), simply don't exist any longer.

Passionate, inflexible (read: NRA card carrying) gun owners would likely find a little something to brandish their Glocks at in that third condition, arguing that while there are no longer hostile tribes of Native Americans lurking over the border or through the woods, there are, even in the year 2012 plenty of hostiles to deal with on the streets, plenty of danger lurking around the next corner or getting ready to pry open our upstairs windows, to rape and/or pillage and/or kill us. Plenty of reason to have a weapon to protect us from that evil.

Fair point.

When my first wife was a young girl living with her sister and their widowed mother, she was instructed that, should it ever be necessary, she was to go to the widowed mother's bedroom, lock the door, take the loaded shotgun from the wall rack, sit on the bed, aim the gun at the door and shoot first, ask questions later.

No reasonable person could find any fault in that logic.

No reasonable person, meanwhile, could argue that those vulnerable ladies would have been better served had they had a house full of semi automatic and/or automatic weapons.

There's that pesky word "reasonable", though.

That word that keeps getting lost in the discussions and debates and arguments and knock down, kick ass, pry this gun from my cold dead fingers ranting that goes on day after week after month after year.

While mall shoppers and theatre patrons and principals and school psychologists and students keep on getting shot to death.

And, this time, twenty children.


The frustration that any reasonable person feels, frustration that naturally comes to life as a reaction to the grief triggered by an unspeakable, horrific act, is that once the bodies are buried and the weeping ends and the blood dries, we will still be confronted with evil and even those who are convinced in their heads that the way to do away with evil is to do away with guns know,  in their hearts, that the elimination of one simply will not, cannot, insure the elimination of the other.

So, by engaging in the same, endless loop debate about gun control, we are wasting time, precious time given that the clock has already begun running again for the next mall shopper, theatre patron, principal, school psychologist and student who will die next.

And the children.

And no matter what simple solution our grief and horror convince us is available, the fact is that simple solution is an illusion.

I'm a pretty smart guy. And I honestly don't know what the answer is.

What I do know is that my collegue was spot on with his facts.

There was no Army and now there is.

There were no Safeways and now there are.

There were lots of hostile tribes and now there aren't.

Reason seems to offer that we should all agree that, at the very, very least, we need to all, all of us,, work to find a way to make the acquisition of weapons more difficult, difficult enough that, at the very, very least, the system would have more than one or two or ten opportunities to be redflagged that the potential gun owner isn't concerned about bringing down an army or bringing home the bacon or circling the wagons but, rather, ready to end their own pathetic, painful lives while feeling some satanic need to inflict, on their way out, that pain on mall shoppers and theatre patrons and principals and school psychologists and students....

...and children.

Laying one's arsenal of Glocks and Sigs and AK-47's on a flag to pridefully demonstrate to fellow gun enthusiasts how the Second Amendment provides the freedom to have easy access to that arsenal misses the point.

That same flag is often used to drape the coffins of those whose lives have been ended by those weapons.

And, as oft repeated, the problem with freedom have to give it to everybody.

Including those who are ready to end their own pathetic, painful lives while feeling some satanic need to inflict, on their way out, that pain on mall shoppers and theatre patrons and principals and school psychologists and students....

...and children.

The need to stop cloaking guns in the American flag has never been more obvious.


In fact, I'd offer that the need is so clear that even a very young child could see the logic.

I can think of twenty very young children who would see it that way right now.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"...Suddenly I Realized That It Wasn't 'Scaring The Bejesus', It Was 'Scaring The Bee Geesus'..."

A random holiday thought.

Aaron Sorkin, in the one and only Christmas episode of his really well done, but totally unappreciated, only one season series "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip", had D.L. Hughley's character, Simon Styles, speak a clever, funny and, for my drachmas, spot on line of diety dialogue.

"Jesus was born in North Africa. How come in paintings he always looks like one of the Bee Gees?"

Whether you're a mother or whether you're a brother, that's a holiday ha ha.

It popped into my head when I spied this little mcnugget amongst the other mcnuggets in an online fluff piece entitled "17 Facts About McDonald's You Might Not Know."

11. McDonald's' iconic golden arches are recognized by more people than the cross
A survey by Sponsorship Research International found that 88 percent could identify the arches and only 54 percent could name the Christian cross, according to Fast Food Nation.

The obvious cause and effect in my particular parietal lobe goes a little something like this.

As Christianity continues to valiently endeavor to bring once, and future, sheep into the fold, it might benefit from a little image retooling to assist in reaching a wider audience.

Or congregation, as the case may be.

Because if only half the flock recognizes the cross, but eight in ten acknowledge the arches, one need not be a marketing school major to see the opportunity here.

Golden opportunity, so to speak.

Obviously, some adjustments will be required in our way of life.

Getting used to singing "The Old Rugged Arches" will take some getting used to.

And "Hamburgler loves me / this I know" might grate on the ear or two of a purist or two.

But, as many hard working men and women of God might offer, whatever it takes to get posteriors in pews, amen?


And from the chalice half full folder, how about the fresh, exciting holiday production Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice could crank out with a new, fully adored revival...

"Mayor McCheese, Superstar".

And just so we're clear..(in this season, actually, midnight clear)...

This whole idea being run up the flag pole, or church steeple, as the case may be, is respectfully intended as a suggestion that might actually bring people to the son of God.

Ergo, to God.

And, as the Paul who wrote Silly Love Songs, as opposed to the Paul who wrote letters to the Corinthians, would add.

"What's wrong with that / I'd like to know?"

If you find yourself offended at this point (and, just sayin', but if you were going to be offended at all here, what took you so long?), I can only offer you this.

No one with any sense of reverence would ever seriously suggest that we denigrate the symbolism of the cross by paying equal tribute to the arches.

But if your righteousness doesn't become indignant at the idea of sending out cards each December with a picture of Barry Gibb on the cover, why get all holier than thou about the idea of adding one more name to the list of iconic holiday heroes.

Jesus Christ.

Santa Claus.

Ronald McDonald.

In that order.



"...In Lieu of Flowers, The Family Has Asked That Donations Be Made To Purina, Makers Of Tidy Cat and Other Fine Products For Your Family Pet..."

Far be it for me to second guess revered historical figures.

That said, Abraham Lincoln was absolutely dead ass wrong.

The how I know follows momentarily.

It's a sad day for Kim Kardashian.

Sources confirm to E! News that her beloved cat, Mercy, died due to a cancer-like virus often associated with breeding.

Kim K's teacup Persian kitten was a gift from boyfriend Kanye West -- but after discovering she was allergic, Kim gave Mercy to sister Khloe's assistant, Sydney Hitchcock. Hitchcock recently lost her cat of 12 years.

"It is with deep sadness that I have to tell you all that my kitten, Mercy, has passed away," Kim wrote on her blog Dec. 7. "My heart is completely broken."

Although Mercy showed no signs of illness, E! News learned that on Nov. 26 Hitchcock's boyfriend called to tell her Mercy was limp and not moving. They rushed her to an animal hospital where veterinarians made the terrible diagnosis -- a fatal virus, which acts like a cancer, had attacked Mercy's stomach.

Since even aggressive treatment wouldn't help the kitten, Hitchcock decided to have her euthanized.

"It broke not only my heart that little Mercy died at only four months old, but Sydney's too," Kim wrote. "Mercy was a gentle and loving kitten and we are all going to miss her so much. Thanks to Sydney for making Mercy's short life one filled with love."

Had this little non news nugget of news shown up on some web fan page dedicated and/or devoted to all krap Kardashian, then one could, reasonably, write it off to being a non news nugget from some web fan page dedicated and/or devoted to all krap Kardashian.

But, alas, poor Yoricks, that ain't the dealio.

The admittedly sad passing of a family pet, the kind of passing, by the way and not for nothin',  experienced by, probably, tens of thousands of families every day, not only merited article status in at least two dozen assorted online publications of assorted quality, it, in fact, rated headline status on at least a half dozen of those and is, at this writing, one of the ten "breaking news" items listed on one major internet news provider.

To quote the noted social observer, Clark W. Griswold...

"Holy shit...where's the Tylenol?"

And just so there's no grounds for the oft expressed grounds for accusing this writer of hypocritically spending inordinate amounts of time obsessively weeding through kilo after kilo of all krap Kardashian, be informed that my "research" on this whole late breaking from the litter box report did not come from my search for late breaking from the litter box information but, in fact, resulted from the massive meow headline catching my eye while I was looking on said major internet news provider for information about one of the genuine, socially impacting news stories of the moment.

Does, or does not, Spock die in the new Star Trek movie?

Which, I'll have you know, did NOT rate inclusion in the same ten breaking news items list where da demise of da kitty kat was detailed.


Meanwhile, while I wait semi-patiently for what I imagine will be exclusively obtained video of the last, tragic moments of the Kardashian pussy (and I'm talking about the cat as we all know that as long as there are rap stars walking the earth, there will always be a Kardashian pussy in the news), I can't help but ponder, for only a non obsessive moment or two, that given the depth, breadth and drama of the reporting of the passing of the Persian  known as Mercy (and, boy, don't you know that some tabloids are just broken hearted that the cat didn't meet its end at someone's hands so that they could bold face type, big letter font scream out "Kardashian Mercy killing!!"), that the continued, and apparent growing, attention, not to mention copious amounts of cash, paid to all krap Kardashian proves beyond a Warren Commission discrepancy of a doubt that Abraham Lincoln was, in sad and irrefutable fact, dead ass wrong.

"...You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time....", the Great Emancipator reportedly once opined.

Sorry, Abe.

Not even close.

Ain't that the cat's meow?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"...Coming Up Next Hour...Our Mothers Will Still Be Weeping At How Low We're Willing To Go..."

Radio personalities often do stupid things.

And there is something very wrong here.

But what's wrong might come as a surprise to you.

London (CNN) -- As radio pranks go, it was irreverent on-air fare: Two DJs, impersonating Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, trick a nurse to get details about the hospitalization of Prince William's pregnant wife.

A nurse who was a victim of the stunt, Jacintha Saldanha, apparently committed suicide Friday, King Edward VII Hospital said in a statement
The fallout from Saldanha's death has stretched around the globe, from Britain to Australia -- with questions being raised about how far is too far in the effort to find out details about the Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy.
"Pranksters Face World Fury," screams the front-page headline of the UK's Daily Mirror, while Daily Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon said it was "not so funny to hear two grown adults call up a hospital ward full of sick people to try to scam information about one of them."
The two Australian DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, behind the practical joke are under fire, with some using the phrase "blood on your hands" to condemn their actions on the Sydney-based radio station 2DayFM.

The DJs have since apologized, and "mutually decided" to go off the air for an undetermined period, Rhys Holleran, CEO of the Southern Cross Austereo media group, said Saturday during a news conference.
Holleran said he was "very confident that we haven't done anything illegal."
"This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we are deeply saddened by it," he said.
A spokesman for David Cameron said the prime minister "thinks this is a very sad case and his thoughts are with her family and colleagues."
News of Saldanha's death broke Friday, with the hospital saying she "was recently the victim of a hoax call."
London's Metropolitan Police said they were notified Friday morning that a woman was found unconscious. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police are treating the death as "unexplained," they said.
Audio of the call posted online suggests a woman spoke briefly to the DJs before she put the call through early Tuesday morning to the ward where Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, was being treated for acute morning sickness.
Throughout the controversy surrounding the hoax, authorities did not identify the nurse. Her identity was released after her death.
"They were the world's worst accents ever. We were sure 100 people at least before us would've tried the same thing. ... We were expecting to be hung up on -- we didn't even know what to say when we got through," Greig told listeners Thursday.
Off the air, Greig and Christian tweeted about the practical joke on Thursday and earlier Friday, promising "more on the #royalprank." The pair's Twitter accounts were taken down late Friday.
Some listeners applauded the prank, like one who identified himself as Guido on the station's Facebook page and wrote, "It is only a joke people! it was great i love it!!!"
Others were outraged, with such negative comments outnumbering positive ones on 2DayFM's Facebook page before the nurse's death.
"Your stunt was done at a time in this country where there is paranoia about the intrusion of the media into people's lives," Gary Slenders wrote. "I know you will say it is harmless fun, the management of 2DayFM will say that it won't happen again, but this exactly where the phone hacking scandal started."
The outcry grew exponentially after the hospital confirmed Saldanha's death, leading the Coles supermarket chain to remove all its advertising from 2DayFM.
"This death is on your conscience," reads one Facebook post. Several accused the two of having "blood on your hands."
Saldanha's family released a statement asking for privacy and directing questions to police. She is survived by her husband and two children.
"We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha," said the statement, released by police.
Saldanha, 46, worked at the King Edward VII Hospital for more than four years, and she was described as an "excellent nurse," well-respected by co-workers, the hospital statement said.
The hospital "had been supporting her throughout this difficult time," it said.
A St. James's Palace spokesman said: "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened to learn of the death.
"Their Royal Highnesses were looked after so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha's family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time."
Separately, a palace spokesman told CNN: "At no point did the palace complain to the hospital about the incident. On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times."
The Royal College of Nursing, which represents nurses nationally, also expressed sorrow over Saldanha's death.
"It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession," said Dr Peter Carter, its chief executive.
The hospital said Wednesday that it deeply regretted the call had been put through.
The private hospital is known for treating royals. In June, Prince Philip, 91, was admitted to the same hospital with a bladder infection, forcing him to miss part of the queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration.
For those who don't know, I include on my resume', among the other assorted nefarious occupations with which I've amused and/or supported myself in my checkered past and/or present, the listing "radio personality."
Sparing you the lengthy "hooray for me" schpiel, let me just offer, for the sake of my point here, that since the late 1990's, in every radio market that I have worked, my show has been the number one rated program in its timeslot, be that mornings, middays or afternoons.
I point that out only to underscore my next assertion.
When it comes to entertaining radio, I apparently know what I'm doing.
That said, I don't do prank calls.
Partly because I'm a snob.
In my life, that kind of juvenile behavior went out of style when...well, when I aged past the point of offiically being categorized as a juvenile.
Let's say, roughly, when I went from twelve to thirteen.
Don't get me wrong. In my childhood days, pre-radio career, I managed to pull off a few pretty cool practical joke type phone calls.
How about calling the Houston Astrodome during a game, feigning a mature voice, and having the stadium announcer kick open the microphone and let fifty plus thousand people know that there was an emergency phone call waiting for a Doctor Nass, a lady physician whose first name, I had smoothly informed the announcer, was Ima.
"Attention, please, Ima Nass, Doctor Ima Nass, you have a phone c......."
The rest of the announcement was drowned out by the laughter and cheers of fifty plus thousand people.
I got yer phone pranks.
Meanwhile, back to grown up time.
I don't do phone pranks on the air.
Partly because I think that, along with tit, ass and bodily function jokes, the whole phone prank thing is a sad sign of a very lazy mind.
If you can't be funny, then be dirty. Or stupid.
I realize, though, that I am, and have always been, in the minority when it comes to that kind of thing.
And "radio personalites" who offer up that kind of armpit fart humor are, at the core of it, doing nothing more, or less, than pandering to a large group of listeners who think that kind of thing is funny.
It's the old chicken or the egg concept that reminds us that were there not a big ol lot of doofuses willing to tune in and yuk yuk yuk along with the goofball gags, there would be no market for, and therefore no need for, the goofball gags in the first place.
My personal stick in the butt appearing as a stick in the mud perspective notwithstanding, my first reaction to what happened to this lady as a result of these two armpit fartster's goofball gag came to me in the form of one word.
The two goofsters managed to get someone to put their call through to another someone who told them a few, at worst, embarrasing things on air.
And because of that, that first someone killed herself?
Did what she do result in the inadvertant passing of information that put hundreds of lives in danger or actually cause serious harm to someone?
Obviously not.
What it did at worst, if you read the comments coming from the "offended parties", they being, of course "their Highnesses", was cause them to let it roll off their royal backs as just one more stupid thing on the long list of stupid things they confront as they go about their very public lives in a culture that thrives on bombarding them with stupidity.
What seems terribly wrong to me is that this apparently very loving, gifted and giving woman felt such a crush of humiliation at being the "victim" of little more than a stupid, childish, goofball gag that she felt the only honorable thing to do was end her own life.
Hari-kiri to restore honor?
Don't get me wrong.
I still think those two jocks are a couple of no talent hacks who couldn't keep any audience whose members included anyone with an IQ above, say, fifty.
And their whole yuk, yuk, yuk way of "entertaining" in a culture already far too overflowing with the river of shit that passes for entertainment these days is nothing more, or less, than more shit thrown in that river.
But a reason to commit suicide?
Oh, and not for nothing, but let's not overlook what the "suit" who runs the radio operation knee jerkingly offered up in his comments about the whole shitty incident.
Rhys Holleran, CEO of the Southern Cross Austereo media group, said Saturday during a news conference he was "very confident that we haven't done anything illegal.".
Sounds about right.
And there's something very wrong here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"...OMG...Now Fluffy Has Gone After Mom's Eggo..LOL..."

Let's get one thing straight at the outset.

I am not technophobic.

Despite my arrival into the age bracket that tradtionally shuns, disparages and/or naysays contemporary living, often lapsing into one version, or another, of what basically boils down to the iconic "back in my day", I have always been fairly comfortable with whatever advances technology makes at any given time.

To wit, when they first came along, my VCR did not blink 12:00. I made effortless, even enthusiastic transitions from eight tracks to cassettes to CD's to Mp3.

Likewise from Beta to VHS to Laser Disc to DVD.

I've resisted BluRay thus far, but not as a generational protest, more an expression of consumer opinion that for whatever minute difference there might be from one set of pixels to another set of pixels with these average viewer's eyes, there's not much sense in spending a lot of money to, essentially, buy new copies of the movies I already own.

I did that when I moved from Beta to VHS to Laser Disc to DVD.

I love "Wrath of Khan" as much as the next guy, but there comes a time you have to draw a line.

So, I'm not going to gladly suffer any fools who want to label me as being out of step with the times.

I think today's happenings are totally groovy.

That said, it occurs that not everything that glitters, or downloads, is genuine fourteen karat.

Or fourteen gigs as the case may be.

I caught an article on line that caused me to access that part of my RAM where I store my suspicions.

Here's a link. Take a look and then we'll chat.

For those of you born after 1995, that means we'll reboot the conversation.

While this article isn't particulary unique, it does underscore a perspective I have long possessed but only occasionally voiced, both out of respect for contemporary points of view and in order to insure my continued membership in the "he's getting older but at least he knows the difference between megabyte and megatron" club.

Here's the thing about the thing, though.

If you go back and look again, you'll see that the lion's share of the new apps being hyped here are really nothing more, or less, than variations on the basic social networking paradigm, in the versions illustrated here, pretty much short shot comment sites. And no matter what you call it, it all pretty much posts the same.

A tweet by any other name, as it were.

Okay. Here's the down low on my problem with the glut of upload.

Seriously, kids, how many different methods of communication do we require in order to, essentially, do little more than share with others what we are doing at any given moment of the day?

And, more to the point, besides your wife, husband, kids, BFF and/or mistress (in case you're a general or director of any large Federal agency), who cares that you are now at "Ernie's Beach Towel Town" or about to watch "Real Housewives of Suburban Waukeegan" or can't stop laughing because your cat missed the litter box and hilariously shit in your Cheerios?

One sure risk in dissing the download crowd is being labeled as a mega-malcontent and having to live with the whispers, snickers and assorted OMG's, IKR's and WTF's that inevitably start flying around behind your back the moment you post your position.

And, depending on your age, of course, you can pretty much bet that any pilloring of participation in the exchange of mindless minutae will result in your being ostracized by those whose day simply doesn't seem worth living unless they can post their beach towel and/or real housewife and/or cat shit status.

But, at the risk of having my bleak picture tagged while bracing for the flood of unfriending sure to follow, I can't help but wonder...

Where are we going to find the space to fill and, as a result, live our lives to the fullest when our lives are so full of other people's lives?

Where's the app for that?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"...We Could Do With A Little More Larry...and Lot Less Real..."

There's reality.

And there's reality.

The distinction between the twain that shall never meet in a moment.

(CNN) -- Actor Larry Hagman, who created one of television's iconic villains with the treacherous J.R. Ewing of "Dallas," died Friday, according to a family statement. He was 81.

Hagman died at a Dallas hospital of complications from cancer, said the statement posted on Hagman's official web site early Saturday.
"Larry was back in his beloved Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved most," it said.
"Larry's family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday. When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for. The family requests privacy at this time."
Hagman shot to television superstardom in 1978 with the role of J.R. Ewing, the scheming Texas oil tycoon, in the prime-time soap opera "Dallas." He was the villain viewers loved to hate.
In 1980, the show became a mega-hit with the "Who Shot J.R.?" plot line that left Americans guessing who pulled the trigger.
The answer came on November 21, 1980, in an episode dubbed "Who Done It?." More than 350 million viewers tuned in around the world to find out Kristen Shepherd, the sister of J.R.'s wife, shot him. It remains one of the most watched television episodes in history.
Ewing survived that shooting, and Hagman and the rest of the cast thrived for 14 seasons total before bowing out in 1991.
He reprised the role for TNT's reboot of the series "Dallas" in June 2012. Hagman filmed appearances for the show's second season, which is set to air in January. (Like CNN, TNT is a division of Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting.)
It was a role he clearly reveled, even developing a trademark laugh for the character. At one point, Hagman made up fake $100 bills emblazoned with his face and the words "In Hagman We Trust" to hand out to fans.
In one of his final interviews on CNN, Hagman appeared alongside original "Dallas" cast members Linda Gray (Sue Ellen) and Patrick Duffy (Bobby) on "Piers Morgan Tonight."
During the interview, Morgan described the character of J.R. Ewing as "the dark dealer of evil scheming."
"Moi?" Hagman said, breaking into a wide smile.
In a statement released Friday by Gray's publicist to KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, the actress described Hagman as "my best friend for more than 35 years."
"He was the pied piper of life and brought joy to everyone he knew. He was creative, generous, funny, loving and talented and I will miss him enormously. He was an original and lived life to the full and the world was a brighter place because of him," the statement said.
Hagman told Morgan when he was first approached about doing the "Dallas" remake, the first question he asked: "Are my friends going to be on the show?"
"I wouldn't be doing it without them," he said.
Word of Hagman's passing spread quickly late Friday and early Saturday, with everybody from celebrities to fans mourning his death.
"He was a wonderful human being and an extremely gifted actor. We will be forever thankful that a whole new generation of people got to know and appreciate Larry through his performance as J.R. Ewing," TNT said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."
Hagman was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on the cusp of the Great Depression to actress Mary Martin and Ben Hagman, a lawyer.
He spent a year at Bard College in New York and then embarked on a life in theater in Dallas and New York, according to his official website.
He appeared onstage with his mother in "South Pacific" in England and even produced and directed several shows while in the U.S. Air Force. After getting married and leaving the service, Hagman returned to the United States and starred in a number of Broadway plays.
His family then headed to Hollywood, where Hagman earned roles in such television shows as "The Edge of Night" and "The Defenders."
Hagman's breakthrough role came in 1965, when he played astronaut Maj. Tony Nelson, or "Master," as he was known to the scantily clad, 2,000-year-old genie played by Barbara Eden in the hit comedy, "I Dream of Jeannie."
"I can still remember, that first day on Zuma Beach with him, in the frigid cold. From that day for five more years, Larry was the center of so many fun, wild, shocking and, in retrospect, memorable moments that will remain in my heart forever," Eden said in a Facebook post on Friday, shortly after hearing of Hagman's death.
"...I, like many others, believed he had beat cancer and yet we are reminded that life is never guaranteed."
Eden signed off, simply: "Goodbye Larry. There was no one like you before and there will never be anyone like you again."
Hagman kept busy after the show went off the air in 1970, appearing in guest roles in "The Streets of San Francisco," "The Rockford Files" and "Barnaby Jones." In the 1990s, he starred in the television show "Orleans."
Off screen, his drinking earned him unwanted attention from the tabloids, which chronicled his battle with alcoholism.
In recent years, he went public with his wife's battle with Alzheimer's.
He also suffered several health scares, including a bout with cirrhosis and a 16-hour liver transplant in 1995 that helped save his life.
Last year, he revealed that he had been diagnosed with cancer, but at the time, Hagman called it "a very common and treatable form."
He is survived by his wife, a son, a daughter and five grandchildren.
While obviously poignant for those of us who were aware of Larry Hagman since back in the days his career first got started, his passing represents, of course, yet another mile marker on our own roads to the end of the line.
To younger folks, of course, the passing of an eighty year old actor whose main claim to fame came along long before they did will register little more than a blip on their radar.
Or touch screen smart phone, as it were.
There is, though, something about this passing I think both connects the generations.
And draws a very clear, equally poignant, even ironic distinction between them.
The aforementioned twain that shall never meet.
And, given that this passing comes from the world of celebrity, it's perhaps even more ironic that the distinction comes from the world of reality.
There can't help but be something to be said for a celebrity whose primary fame resulted from his being known, world wide, for the better part of forty years, as a selfish, shallow, self absorbed, self centered, manipulating opportunist who never missed an opportunity to take what he wanted, when he wanted, regardless of cost to fellow man or even humanity in general.
And yet, upon his passing, is being sincerely remembered as a good and decent man, loving and caring, genuinely concerned about people and their welfare, a class act combination of first class husband, father and friend.
That he was totally believable as  J.R. Ewing, the aforementioned selfish, shallow, self absorbed, et al opportunist is a testament to the skills of Larry Hagman the actor.
That he is being celebrated today as a good and decent man, loving and caring father, husband and friend, et al, is a testament to the character of Larry Hagman the man.
In a culture that has seen "reality television", if not legally, then most assuredly morally, usurp quality drama, comedy and variety shows, the irony becomes even more obvious.
In the day, when we turned off the tube and went about our lives, we knew, without having to even consider it, that J.R. Ewing's selfish, shallow, self absorbed, self centered, manipulating opportunism was nothing more than an incomparable job of pretending by a good and decent man, loving and caring, genuinely concerned about people and their welfare, a class act combination of first class husband, father and friend.
Today, when we turn off the flatscreen and go about our lives, we know, without having to even consider it, that the selfish, shallow, self absorbed, self centered, manipulating opportunism we are witnessing is the real deal.
And that's really sad.
There's reality.
And there's reality.
One is clearly harsh.
The other is being celebrated today by friends and family of a class act combination of first class husband, father and friend.