Posts tagged ‘headlines’

A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Next Four Years

21 January, 2017 | | 3 Comments

Don’t Panic.

While I am certain that I do not speak for all Americans, which is these days mainly a question of decibels and volume, I feel comfortable speaking for some reasonable percentage of us when I describe how many of us feel this morning.

If you haven’t read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you should.  There is a scene very early where Earthman Arthur Dent has just regained consciousness on a Vogon spaceship, where his friend has rescued him from what is now the smoking remains of what had been our planet.

“…There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parents and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket two days before and felt a sudden stab: the supermarket was gone, everyone in it was gone! Nelson’s Column had gone! And there would be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry! From now on Nelson’s Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind. A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him.
He tried again: America, he thought, has gone. He couldn’t grasp it. He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, has sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every “Bogart” movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonald’s, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald’s hamburger.
He passed out.”

That’s how many of us feel right now.  The enormity of the situation, the magnitude of the mistake – there is no way for our imaginations to feel the impact of climate change denials and LGBT rights reversals and ACA repeals all at once.  It’s too big.   America has gone.  We can’t grasp it.  Many of us never seriously believed it existed anyway.

Don’t panic.  Yes, the Vogons control both houses of Congress, and we’ve elected The Donald to the White House, Zaphod Beeblebrox with one head and small hands.

I have learned a lot from having kids.  One of the most interesting things we noticed is that all of them – the Human Tape Recorder, Number One Son, and the Reigning Queen of Pink – all went through some of the same mechanisms of growth and development; parenting books and the internet tell us that most children do this as well.  When the kids were little, we’d watch them becoming older, more mature, and marvel at their independence – and then suddenly they’d be clingy and fearful.  It seemed they had regressed two years overnight.  Then, a few weeks or a month later, they bounced out and moved on, standing taller than ever, butterflies with new wings.  They had just needed that reassurance, that sense of touching home base, of being sure that there was a safe place behind them before they moved on to the next part of their broader world view.

That’s how I see America right now.

EIGHT WHOLE YEARS with a black president?  All that LGBT legislation protecting the dignity of all people?  The hard-line conservative core reacted like 6-yr-olds.  There was just too much change, too fast.  With this election, conservative America had a chance to regress for a while, to touch home base, and that’s the way the country voted.

Just like my kids at that age, though, we’ve *seen* the broader world.  The genie is out of that bottle.  We know it will be waiting for us; we know we’re going to go back to it.  America would just like a few more years under a fuzzy blanket, please.   Give us 8, 10, 15 years and we’ll be back where we were and then some; we will remember this episode as an embarrassing and brief blip in our history.

That’s my hope, anyway.  Don’t think it’s inevitable – it’s not.   Don’t think it won’t take a lot of effort – it will.  We need to do our best, as the parents of this still-young country, to keep prodding it to be better, to keep calling our elected officials, to keep yelling when yelling will help. to keep whispering when whispering works, to keep loving the country and the idea of the country.

It seems very dire right now, and many of my friends worry that the current spectacle is reminiscent of the Nazis.  They’re not wrong, and there is evil afoot in the world – it looks like intolerance, it looks like intransigence, it looks like the willful suspension of belief in facts, and we must speak against it when we see it.   Fascism is a scary specter, but don’t think it’s inevitable – it’s not.

America may not have been ready for the social progress that it made, but it will be.  This is a road we’re paving slowly, and the pendulum will swing back toward education, toward tolerance, toward dignity and a more worldly world view.

That’s my hope, anyway.

In the mean time…

Don’t Panic.


Of Meteors and Voting

12 August, 2016 | | 3 Comments

Last night was one of the great days of summer, with the chance to lie on the grass and watch stars shooting overhead, as the Perseids come streaking through our atmosphere, heating up and burning themselves out in a flaming blaze of glory as they crash.  The Human Tape Recorder and the Reigning Queen of Pink stayed up all night last night, on beach towels in the backyard, to watch one of natures great fireworks displays.  Around 1230, they woke me to join them.

I’ve always loved meteor showers, so I did as I was told, brought a blanket outside for a while, and stared up at the stars.  Within about 5 minutes, the score was Team Perseids 4, Team West Nile 3, and Team Zika was up to 7 with a hat trick.  Mosquitoes love me.  The girls were sad to see me go back inside, although that may just have been because I had been drawing fire from the flying vampiric plankton that flies around my back yard.  I itched my way back to my own bed and wished them well, but that’s not what I came to tell you about.

I came to talk about the draft election.

Are you on the fence about voting this November?  Let’s say you vote for Trump, and then let’s fast forward a few years into his administration with the current GOP platform.  (Go ahead, read it.  I’ll wait.)  Now, ask yourself these questions:

If your daughter wants an abortion, or worse, needs an abortion, and she can’t, legally, have one, how will you feel about having voted for a misogynist-in-chief? How will you look your daughter in the eye and tell her that you voted for this man knowing that he doesn’t believe she has the right to make decisions about her own body?

If your teen-aged child, maturing in this political environment, is conflicted about their sexuality and wonders about their possible attraction to their own gender, how will they ask you about it? Knowing that you voted for a party that holds hate in high regard, a party that has pledged to repeal laws allowing adults who love one another to marry, how will you look your child in the eye and tell them that you’re looking forward to their straight sibling’s wedding, but that you voted against their right to have one?  If your gay child should leave the nest to live with their same-sex soulmate, will you remind them that you’ve voted against their right to legally adopt your grandchildren?

When your Muslim friends ask about celebrating Eid in their public school and are laughed at, or worse, while walking past the Ten Commandments or the Christmas tree in the school office, how will you look them in the eye and tell them that you voted for a government that values “America’s Judeo-Christian heritage” more highly than America’s heritage of freedom? Will you remind your Hindu friends that you voted for a party that believes a good understanding of the Bible to be indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry?  Just the Bible, not the Koran, not the Talmud, not the Upanishads, or the Tao Te Ching.

When your neighbor asks you to attend their young son’s funeral, how will you look them in the eye and tell them that you voted for increased magazine capacities in automatic rifles?  That you voted for the right of anybody who hears the voice of god whispering in their ear to carry that gun anywhere they go, Linus with a 5.56-mm security blanket and a hundred rounds in the clip, a good guy with a gun until he saw that kid in the hoodie with his phone, wrong place, wrong time, his mom didn’t know he’d stopped taking his meds two weeks ago, our thoughts and prayers are with you?

When your neighbor asks you to attend a loved one’s funeral after they succumb to an anaphylactic allergic reaction because they ate something that wasn’t accurately labeled, how will you look them in the eye and explain that you voted for a party that has pledged to repeal federal mandates for food labeling?

When you look in the mirror in the morning, will you be able to look yourself in the eye knowing that you voted for a party that holds monochromatic monotheism in higher regard than modern medicine, a party that puts faith before fact, a party that will sideline science, social justice, and STEM schools because stem cell research might offend their narrow notion of God?

You don’t have to vote for Hillary Clinton.  I understand.  She’s a career politician, and she’s made the Faustian bargains that career politicians make.  She’s competent, she’s qualified, and she’s not cuddly and likable.  You don’t have to vote FOR anything.

Against, now – that’s another story.   When you go to the polls November 8th, don’t vote FOR anything.  Press the button that says Hillary Clinton.  You’re not really voting for her.  You’re casting your vote against.

Vote against misogyny.

Vote against racism.

The Trump campaign may flame out like a Perseid meteor long before November, a spectacular magnesium flare streaking across our political sky as millions stay up late to watch.  But it might not.

And if it doesn’t, and if in November you find yourself faced with the dilemma of decision, I urge you to cast your ballot for sanity and competence.   If it really bothers you, remind yourself that you’re not voting for Hillary Clinton.

You’re voting against hate.






Bathroom Break!

Dear Friend, Fond Relation, and Gentle Reader:  Welcome back!  I’ve been away a while. I’ve missed a few marks and notes; I missed commenting on my birthday.  Yes, I missed commenting on your birthday, also – sorry about that!

But I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the state of America’s underpants. We seem to have them twisted, bunched up, slightly damp, and certainly uncomfortable. We can’t stop talking about what’s in who’s pants and what we need to do about it – particularly in the bathroom.

So, in my capacity as the final arbiter of sanity, good taste, decency, and gender equality in this country, and speaking as a Real Man, I figured it was my civic duty to take a break from this semi-retirement and assist the country as it grapples with the deep, penetrating question of who should use which bathroom.  What could go wrong?

Without further ado, and in the interest of the complete objectivity for which I am known, I give you the answer to the Great American Bathroom Debate:

The men’s room is for Real Men.

It’s that simple. If you’re a Real Man, use the men’s room.  Now, I know that not everyone knows at a glance if someone is or isn’t a Real Man.  (Someone else, that is.  If you’re not a Real Man, you probably know that.  If you’re wondering whether or not you’re a Real Man, you’re not.  If you are a Real Man, the question just doesn’t occur to you.)

Just as a handy checklist, here are a few things that differentiate a Real Man:

  • A Real Man will ask what you need, not what he can do for you. There’s a difference.
  • A Real Man does not use the words “I promise” lightly.
  • A Real Man cries watching True Grit, but not at the part you’d expect.
  • A Real Man will have a 20-second imaginary conversation with his broker when a 3-yr-old child hands him a plastic phone and says, “It’s for you.” Even if he doesn’t have a broker.
    • This is a particularly American phenomenon:
    • An Real Italian Man will have an imaginary conversation with his mother.
    • A Real British Man will talk to an imaginary member of the aristocracy.
      • If he *is* a member of the aristocracy, he’ll talk to someone above him in station – a Baron will have received an imaginary call from an Earl, the Earl a call from a Duke, the Duke a call from the Queen.
        • It is unknown if the Queen has ever been handed a plastic phone by a 3-yr old, but I think it’s safe to assume she would answer it.  The Queen may or may not be a Real Man, but the Queen is a badass.  A very, very polite badass.
    • A Real Frenchman will have received an imaginary call from his cheese monger.
    • A Real Russian Man will pretend to listen to the phone in stony silence for 20 seconds, say “Nyet!” and hang up.
  • If he walks in and says, “I gotta take a piss,” he’s a Real Man.
  • If he walks in and says, “I gotta take a wicked piss,” he’s a Real Man from Boston.
  • If he walks in and says, “I gotta take a fuckin’ wicked piss,” he’s a Real Man from South Boston.
  • If he walks in and says, “I gotta take a fuckin’ wicked fuckin’ piss, get outta the way,” he’s a Southie and he’s drunk. You really don’t want to ask him about what’s in his pants, because he’s gonna fuckin’ show ya, ya chucklehead.
  • A Real Man is known for complete objectivity.
  • A Real Man walks in like he owns the place, regardless of where he is.
  • A Real Man is only interested in what’s in your pants if he’s hoping to get into them.

You can always tell a Real Man – he’s using the men’s room.  After all, it’s a guy thing.

You might notice that none of these things are affected by physiology, size or shape of genitalia, or sexual orientation. Those things don’t matter, any more than color or religious beliefs matter – not in the bathroom, and especially not to a Real Man.

So, if you’re in the men’s bathroom and you’re wondering if the person next to you is a Real Man, you’re the one in the wrong bathroom. Real Men don’t care.



Fly, Be Free!

12 August, 2014 | | No Comment

Robin Williams has said “Fuck it” for the last time. 

I was all of 9 years old when Mork and Mindy hit the television.  Along with much of the rest of America, I practiced sitting on my head, drinking through my thumb, and answering questions with a cheery “Nanoo Nanoo!”  He was the funniest person I’d ever seen, and I wanted to be like him.

By the time I got to college, I’d been introduced to George Carlin, Billy Crystal, and a dozen more – and Robin Williams was still the funniest person I’d ever seen.  His stand up routines and shows were so far out there, and yet still so close to the heart.  He made us laugh until we cried, and then made us laugh until we thought. 

Last night, we watched Good Morning Vietnam, as a memorial.  The kids lacked the context of the Vietnam War era, but it otherwise stood up well.  (“Da-Nang me, Da-Nang me, why don’t you get a rope and hang me?”) 

There are so many:  The Fisher King.  Patch Adams.  Good Will Hunting – which we would have watched, but no one was streaming it and I don’t – yet – have a copy.  Aladdin – and it became real for the Reigning Queen of Pink when I explained that Adrian Cronauer was also the Genie from Aladdin, and he was dead. 

One of my many, many favorite scenes was actually from Mork and Mindy.  He’s just made Mindy a sandwich, trying to cheer her up and make her feel better, and he turns to offer her the plate.  “Sandwich?” he asks.  She shakes her head, not feeling up to it, and he holds it out again, saying, “It’s very clean – untouched by human hands?”  That bit, it turns out, wasn’t in the script, and Pam Dawber visibly lost it, trying desperately to stay with the role while she cracked up laughing.  Between that and the whole bit with throwing the eggs into the air (“Fly! Be free!”) – only to watch in horrified confusion as they crashed back to the ground and shattered – he didn’t have to say anything.  The look on his face captured his inhuman confusion so well that we all laughed. 

Fly, Robin.  Be free.  Nanoo Nanoo.

Goodbye 2013

31 December, 2013 | | No Comment

So here we are, at the end of 2013. Back in January, I declared 2013 an unruly teenager, and decided to review and assign each month a grade. As I recall, January got a C. Needless to say, my resolve to grade each month lasted about as long as teenaged boy’s resolve to remain master of his domain, to wit, less than 3 hours. But in the spirit, I think it’s only fair that I review and grade the year as a whole. Since I’d dropped it for so long, I’m going to cut the year a break and let it go Pass/Fail. Let’s see how 2013 did, shall we?

We started well, with a Starbucks opening in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It took a long time, but we’ve won, and Jane Fonda owes us all Venti Caramel HoChiFrappaMihnos. Shortly after that, the Almighty tried to pick up a spare when the most powerful meteor to strike Earth’s atmosphere in over a century exploded over Russia, injuring 1,491 people. International reaction was swift, calling for studies regarding the vulnerability of all humanity (with the obvious exception of Keith Richards) to meteor strikes. The Russian reaction boiled down to, “Was that a nuke? Eh, it must be Friday.”

In science news, 3D printers came into their own when scientists were able to print a human ear, and some yahoo shared his plans for to print a handgun. The idea is that someone could someday have an organ printed to order, and then get shot for having funny-looking ears. Also in February, Benedict XVI resigned, and about damn time, and King Richard III was exhumed in Leicester. On feeling the first sunlight on his old bones since his internment in 1485, he was heard to mutter something about the winter of his discontent being made glorious summer by this sun of York; the University of Leicester chaps buried him right back up again.

March came in like a lamb with the first Jesuit pope, and it’s a good thing the weather was nice that day because March also saw Canada become the first country to withdraw from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Because, you know, Canada’s really just inches away from being the next freaking Kalahari. Whatever. March went out like a lamb, too, with the death of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, and not a moment too soon.

On tax day, two loons bombed the Boston Marathon. I have to wonder, who thinks it’s a good idea to piss off Bostonians? These two failed their history exams, is my guess. April sucked, really – we saw the demise of Roger Ebert, Margaret Thatcher, Jonathan Winters, Richie Havens, George Jones, and Deanna Durbin. On the plus side, in May, researchers from Oregon Health & Science University created human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Can you imagine a clone made from Margaret Thatcher and Jonathan Winters? My head hurts just thinking about it.

In June, Edward Snowden decided that he was smarter than the NSA, and promptly moved to Russia. (The Russian reaction was, “Are you crazy? Eh, it must be Friday.”) Later in June, flash floods in India kill more than 5,700 people. For further proof that nature is better at killing people that people are, Richard Ramirez, who killed around 2 dozen people, died in prison before California could get around to killing him. Just pull the trigger already, you know?

In July, Croatia joined the European Union, which made Greece jealous, and Prince George of Cambridge, future King of England, graced the world with his royal presence, which made Prince Harry jealous. On the downside, Helen Thomas is now attending press conferences in the hereafter. Also in the hereafter are Elmore Leonard, Seamus Heaney, and Frederik Pohl, three great writers who now have being dead in common.

In another example of science advancing the sum total of human knowledge, September saw the publication of a world-rocking study showing that guys with smaller nuts are better dads. The Internet couldn’t leave those headlines alone for a week. October, of course, treated us to a government shutdown, with Republicans blaming Democrats, Democrats blaming Republicans, and everyone blaming the media. They only go through all this because they know we’re watching. If they thought no one was looking, they’d work together and just get things done. Mind you, they’d screw us all, but they’d get things done. October also saw the signing of a UN treaty to protect human health and the environment from emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. The 140+ signatories of the treaty were promptly sued when Mercury Records stock nosedived the next day.

October was a busy month: Saudi Arabia became the nation to reject a seat on the United Nations Security Council. (The Russian reaction was, “Are you crazy? Eh, it must be Friday.”) Plus, October 22nd was the 16,000th day of Unix time. No one will ever know if Tom Clancy knew that, except for him and the CIA spooks who killed him for his latest plotlines. (You can imagine the Russian reaction.)

In November, Typhoon Haiyan “Yolanda”, proved once again that nature an kill more people faster than we can, with a death toll higher than 6,100. On the plus side, Iran agreed to limit the number of nukes it will try to build if only we start letting them buy food and cigarettes again.

As we round out the year in December, we have to note three deaths: Nelson Mandela, whose name became synonymous with peaceful resistance; Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, whose name became synonymous with armed resistance; and Peter O’Toole, whose name was double-phallic. Finally in December, we saw the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 3, carrying its Yutu rover, become the first spacecraft to soft-land on the Moon since 1976. There were questions about why China wanted to land a rover on the moon; the Yutu is widely seen as “Me Too.”

And so, despite disasters both natural and otherwise, despite twerking and Justin Bieber, despite deaths both small and large, I think I have to give 2013 a Passing grade – but only just barely. 2014 starts on academic probation, and if it starts skipping classes, I’m going to know about it. I’m happy to see 2013 in my rear-view mirror.

In the meantime, I wish you, Gentle Reader, a fantastic New Year.