Monday, May 7, 2018

The Paragon Of Animals?

"What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals!
" - Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2

Hamlet uttered these words with contempt in his voice, meaning the opposite of what he was saying.  Yet, for most of my life I've embraced these words at face value, believing humanity is a fundamentally noble lot.  Such a viewpoint is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain these days.

Video captured by Canita Adams shows the Saraland Police Department officers arresting Chikesia Clemons at a Waffle House at 2 am on Sunday, April 22, 2018. During the arrest, Ms. Clemons top slides down exposing her breasts.
Chikesia Clemons was tackled by police at a Waffle House at 2:00 AM late last month. What was her crime? She was arrested for asking for a fork for her waffles. No kidding, that's what set events into motion.

When she asked for a fork for her waffles, she was told it would cost a $0.50 utensil fee. She asked for an address to write a letter to complain about the charge, at which point the manager called the police. The police found it necessary to wrestle Chikesia to the ground, exposing her breasts in the process. All because she wanted a fork for her waffles.

In a similar vein, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson are the two African-American men who were recently arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks for just being there. They were sitting quietly waiting for their friend to come before they ordered. The manager of the Starbucks thought they were there too long and called the police, who arrested the two men for loitering.

Hell I've done that. I spent the better part of the 1990's hanging out in coffee shops. If that's a crime I should have a record a mile long. The difference is I am white.

We watch movies such as "In the Heat of the Night," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and "Selma" and we pat ourselves on our collective backs for having come such a long way. We tell ourselves we no longer lynch African Americans, we no longer use "the N word, " and African Americans are allowed drink from the same water fountain as the rest of us.

How far have we actually come though? Just last year the Supreme Court undid key components of the Voting Rights Act of 1966, making it harder for African Americans to vote. We have the two cases I talked about above. Can we all agree that these people were not arrested because they wanted utensils or they wanted to hang out at Starbucks?  Can we admit these people were arrested for being African-American?

We are still a nation of racists. We might not all be goose-stepping, swastika wearing, cross burning fanatics demanding that  African Americans obey us white folks, but a lot of us look away when it happens. We tell ourselves we've evolved beyond racism, then we turn our backs and eat our waffles.

Ignoring racism is as bad as actively committing racist acts. If we really want to feel good about ourselves we need to make it known that such acts are 100% unacceptable. I still believe most people are basically good but the good people among us need to take an active role in shaping the laws and attitudes of our society.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -Edmund Burke

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Shifting Gears

This blog will be a bit different than most of my blogs, namely because this whole blog will be different from now on.

Me at a Pink Martinis concert
10 years ago, I began this blog as a writing and literature blog.  I had just written a novel and I wanted to build an online following, to make myself more attractive to publishers.  It didn't work.

Publishers didn't want to look at my book until I had an agent, agents didn't want to represent me until I had been published.  Talk about a catch-22.  The reality is I am not going to get published.

Back in the day,  I used to do the occasional political/current events Op-Ed in between my writings about books and the writing business.  Gradually, the opinion pieces began to outweigh the literary posts.  Truth be told, it's become harder and harder to care about the newest American novel when we live in a country run by a buffoon.

No kidding, when our president is constantly under under investigation and we're poised on the brink of war, I can't get worked up about the next Victorian thriller to hit shelves; I don't care what kind of sexual metaphors are in the book.

Therefore, I have redesigned the look of this blog to reflect what I actually write about.  Keep in mind, THIS IS NOT a news blog!  I can no more break a hot story than I can run a marathon.  If you knew me, you would know how impossible running a marathon would be.  All I can do is give my perspective on the news that's already out there.

I'm under no illusion that my opinion will actually change the world.  The most I can hope for is that I can change the way a few people think.  If I can do that, then maybe I can influence one election to some degree.  We'll see.

Monday, April 9, 2018

I Don't Care!

In a world where the EPA is being gutted like a trout, innocent Syrian; men, women, and CHILDREN; are being gassed, our kids are being gunned down in their schools, and 13 million children in the United States live in "food insecure" homes, there are many truly legitimate things to care about. Yet, we find ourselves being constantly inundated with trivia trying to pass itself off as important news.

Subject: Stormy Daniels | Date: 01/12/2009 | Photographer: Gary | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

First of all, I don't care, even a little bit, who our president has sex with. Boil it down, and we have a story about a rich man having sex with a pornstar. Ooo, that's never happened before.  It's just not news.

OK, the guy in me is a bit envious.  Who would want to take a turn with a pornstar?  It's a fantastic story to tell friends over a beer, that's as far as my interest goes.

I didn't care when Bill Clinton did "it" when he was IN office. I certainly don't care what Trump did a few years BEFORE he even RAN for office.  It has nothing to do with the job of running, or not running, the country.

I also don't care that Facebook gives our data to advertisers. To listen to the news, one would think everybody's bank information has been hacked. That's not what's happening.

Facebook records what we post and sells that data to advertisers. As a result, we see ads for products we're interested in. So, I see ads for detective novels and comic book t-shirts, and somebody else sees ads for aerobic videos and Jane Fonda movies.

This is not a new concept. Every time the cashier scans grocery card, the grocery store records everything you buy and uses that information to do advertising in your geographic area.  It's the way advertising works in the 21st century.  Facebook didn't invent the concept, they just found a way to make billions of dollars doing what other companies already do.

 It's not an evil plot. Yet the news keeps harping on it as if they have uncovered a vast criminal conspiracy.

OK, pro-Trump Russians used the data to target users with deceptive pro-Trump ads.  Yet, I find it hard to blame Facebook for not censoring content, while arguing to protect net neutrality so my online experience won't be censored.

The news, when reported well, can educate a population into an informed electorate. Yet, they spend a bizarre amount of time reporting trivia. Stories about pornstars boinking are sexy. Stories about our data being hacked sound critical. Yet, when you peel away the glitz it's clear neither story is worthy of being on the news. Can we please save the news for stories that actually matter, and put the sexy sensational tripe in the Enquirer and the Globe.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Treating Our Children Like Shit

We're demeaning our kids.  Don't believe me?  Well, let me clue you in.  The newest toy fad is based on scat play.  No,  I'm not referring to the "bee bop boop" croonings of Mel Tormé.  I mean we're structuring play around simulated shit.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.
Perhaps the most disgusting embodiment of this sickening trend is the toy line Poopeez.  To quote Poopeez's own Facebook page, "Welcome to the world of Kerplopolis, where it is cool to be number two! Let’s get the potty started with TP, Pooji, Dumpling the Ninja Turd, Skidmark, Lil’ Squirt and the Toot Fairy as they drop-in and take adventures across Kerplopolis! Anything can happen as our heroes go about their potty business with their fellow poopizens. Its all POO-TASTIC fun with the Poopeez coming soon to a store near you!"

This toy line not only has its own website and a Facebook page, but they also have a YouTube channel, where people can watch cartoons based on these characters.

While Poopeez is the most over the top example of this trend, they're not alone. You can also buy your kids a game where they hold their face over a toilet bowel and spin a toilet paper shaped spinner  to tell them how many times they have to flush. If one of the flushes makes the toilet bowel squirt the water into their face, they lose the game. In a similar game, one must spin to see how many times they have to pull the monkey's finger. If a pull makes the monkey fart, they lose.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a "live and let live kind of guy." If you believe in a different God than I do, or no God at all,  no problem. If you have to be tied down and spanked to get your juices flowing,  I'm cool with that too. It takes all kinds. But can we all agree that we should teach our children not to play with fecal matter? Can we all agree on that? That should be parenting 101 along with "Don't stick your tongue in a light socket."

These games teach kids to wallow in shit. Once you teach them that, it's hard to teach them self respect. If they don't respect themselves, how can you teach them to respect those around them? Without respect for others, is there any wonder that some of them find its easy to shoot up schools and malls? What do they care? They have no respect for life.

I'm not saying that these toys are the one and only cause of what's been going on. However, they do add to the problem. It's true back in the day we had Betsy Wetsy, which was a baby doll that wet her diaper.  Said doll was designed to teach little girls a life skill so they could be good moms. Holding your face over a toilet bowl waiting to be doused with toilet water doesn't teach kids anything but that they deserve to be doused with toilet water. The game is demeaning not constructive.

I'm not trying to be a poop, but let's keep this shit away from our children.