Monday, April 28, 2014

GOWGs Step In It

Some time ago I tried to add "GOWG" as a new term, like "Millenials". It never caught on, but the GOWGs themselves (Grouchy Old White Guys) are still with us, and still saying some amazing things. Last week was a big one for them as a group.

First, there's Cliven Bundy, who had already attained infamy by recruiting an army of red-neck gun- toters to keep the BLA from confiscating his cattle as partial settlement for a million dollars he owes in unpaid range grazing fees in Nevada.
But then, just as Mr. B. seemed to be generating a little sympathy from strictly neutral sources like Fox News, he started talking about race. At this point it's good to remind ourselves that at this point in our history race hate hasn't disappeared, but its public declaration by guys over eighty years old is doomed to be rejected, sincerely or not, by just about everyone. I, for one, can hardly think of someone with less interface with other races than Mr. Bundy, with the possible exception of contact with Latino cowboys.
As I was opining, Bundy somehow got to talking about race and soon managed to tie himself so firmly in knots that he didn't require any pointed questions to show everyone the opinions we had as a nation about fifty years ago, and that we have moved away from, thank heaven. By the time Bundy's rants were recorded, the order had gone from Sean Hannity's office at Fox to never (!) again take any calls from the old coot. So - anyone got a million they can spare the old guy? He'd be willing to do a press conference on your front lawn - if you like. Maybe his next moneymaking effort will be as a cowboy hat model.

Then there's Donald Sterling, who got a mention here a few weeks ago as owner of the long horrible but now pretty good L.A. Clippers of the NBA. Like Bundy, Sterling is also the other side of eighty years old, with opinions to match. What's odd is that the NBA is the last place you'd expect to find race bigotry given the makeup of players, coaches, refs, etc.
Sterling has much more practice with the press than Bundy, but it was a conversation with his girlfriend that got recorded which has landed him in hot water. The girlfriend, who's luminously attractive, is multiracial and maybe a third Sterling's age, holds up her end of the debate pretty well while the geezer keeps contradicting himself as a way to justify his standards for her behavior. The Clippers players themselves are stuck in the middle, but reversed their warmups last night as a form of silent protest prior to losing their playoff game. They deserve better, and offers to buy the team are starting to surface.
Evidently there is something about getting old that makes you think your opinions are infallible. I suppose that goes for me, too. Just keep in mind that when you start to hear somebody talk in terms of "them" and "they" followed by examples of bad behavior almost always indicting a group the speaker has no firsthand knowledge with, you too could be talking to a full-blown, bigoted GOWG.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Some people think I'm crazy for still watching TV commercials. For reasons too boring to go into, I disagree. I think they can accidentally reveal plenty about how we see things and ourselves.
 I like, for instance, the BMW commercial featuring one little add-on feature which allows people to send a message from their computer to the auto. A little girl and a dog share the back seat of the car. The girl asks her mom the meaning of the message showing on the car's PC "Mommy, what is 'nu-ter-ing'?" This takes the mom by surprise, and in the brief moment she takes to compose an answer in her head, the dog somehow figures it out that this is not good news for him. He quickly jumps out of the car window and takes off at full speed. Well, you can't blame the car's system. It did what it was supposed to, right? It's funny.

On the other side of the scale, there's the now tiresome series of ads for the Mexican beer Dos Equis featuring the "World's Most Interesting Man". There he is, seated at a restaurant between two lovely women whose combined ages are about half of his. He makes a little crack about Sinco de Mayo that includes the term "dos", which the two women find amusing, then he delivers his sage stock advice, "Stay thirsty, my friends."
This guy needs to go somewhere to shave, then grow up and give us something that's really interesting instead of something that sounds like it came from a college kid. Who can say when he was the "most interesting"? All we can say for sure is that it isn't now. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Freedom" In Action

Just using the word starts the juices flowing - "freedom". It's something WE have and OTHERS wish for. But does my freedom ever get in your way? You be the judge.

You may recall the huge explosion in West, TX a year ago at a fertilizer plant. The plant existed within a quarter mile of an elementary school, which was fortunately empty, but was completely destroyed. A dozen or so people died in the blast.
Texas has close to fifty chemical plants located within a mile of schools. The state's fire marshal has been in contact with these capitalist princes advising them on ways to avoid similar disasters. But, the thing is, the operators of the plants are not required to do anything the state guys say because their role carries no power of enforcement. Nor has the state legislature stirred itself to serve anyone other than their friends paying the campaign bills, the corporate bigshots. "Nothing to see here, folks. Come on, keep moving. Your freedom to be safe? Hey, nothing's totally safe. Just leave it to us. We'll let you know if there's anything to worry about. Just be glad we're keeping those gummint guys from taking your freedom. Nowhutahmean?"

Nevada has a rancher who has used federal grazing land for decades, but has declined to pay the fees, which now top a million dollars. Rather than try to scrape up the cash, he called on all the gun-toting "freedom" guys he could, who showed up to force the government guys who had showed up to confiscate the cattle, to back off. Luckily, no shots were fired. A big victory for freedom, including the guy's right to not be called a moocher or scofflaw. You're also free to see FOX try to hype the whole thing into another excuse to vote straight GOP, if not actually join up with the Neo-rebs.     

Monday, April 07, 2014

...Plus Eight

Last week was quite different from most around here. The weather was fine, and the papers came and the TV worked, but it was a BIG week for guests. Allison came from their home in WA with all three sons, the newest of whom was born just this last December. And Ember came from Orinda, in the Bay area, with all three little ones, the oldest of whom (Jonah) is just turning ten, but is already five feet tall thanks to the genes of his tall maternal grandfather.
We have three bedrooms here, so it's fine for a guest or two, but hosting eight required some adjustments. People got new bunk mates and even spots on the floor with blankets and air mattresses. Mona and I were downstairs, so we no doubt missed plenty of nocturnal hub bub.
It's fun seeing all the kids becoming something different. Baby Freddie appeared to grow overnight, and showed us his good nature with lots of baby smiles and sounds. He seemed pretty easy to please. Ireland, the only girl child of the six, has become a kind of nonstop talker and has all kinds of things to talk about. Tobin, who resembles a kind of child wrestler, always has a tune going in his head, and feels free to pound on the piano. Henry surprised me by spending lots of time with Ireland, while his older brother Abe has learned quite a bit about playing tennis. Jonah is so different that we can't visualize him as anything other than a tall ten year-old. He will no doubt surprise us all some day.
I didn't go on every trip, but they included the zoo, the beach and the mall, where they have one of those bounce-till-you drop places. Lucky for everyone, our street is a dead end and has almost no traffic - just right. The grownups talked until pretty late each night, mostly about people I don't know but at least now know about.
Perhaps due to selective observation, I didn't see anyone pitch a fit or lock themselves screaming in a closet. The two moms (and the two dads, who didn't make the trip) are pretty capable people, and it shows in the kids. The whole thing wasn't life-changing by any stretch, but calling it a five day exercise in "enrichment"seems right.    

Friday, April 04, 2014

Lawyers Needed!

Here's today's thesis for those who are hyper-busy and can only skim the contents: Hiring an attorney means he works for YOU, and will therefore be willing to say things that might sound silly coming from someone else. Following are three recent examples out of the news:

A county clerk in the Southwest somewhere refused to grant a marriage license to two women, who then brought suit against her. I don't know who paid for him, but a lawyer was soon brought in to defend the clerk, also a woman, against the suit.
The next thing you know, the lawyer was attempting to set the whole world straight on who does (and, more importantly) who doesn't get a marriage license. Ignoring marriages with fertility problems and those with brides and grooms too old to conceive, the brave barrister proceeded  to inform the court that marriages are primarily for reproductive purposes, which excludes one-gender unions. Gee, that was simple.

A player in the NFL was arrested for attacking his wife while they were in the elevator of a large hotel. Security tapes showed the woman in a state near unconsciousness. An attorney brought in to defend the guy assured everyone that the couple is "happy, and are in counseling". Does that phrase seem odd to anyone else?

Finally, New Jersey governor Chris Christie brought in a lawyer to help get him out of the little jam he's in due to the closing of several George Washington Bridge traffic lanes last fall, which turned the city of Fort Lee into a virtual parking lot.
At this level, the work of the mouthpiece gets pretty pricey. Legal fees soon topped $1 million, covered by the taxpayers of New Jersey, who hadn't, I guess, realized that they were on the governor's side.
At any rate, the attorney and a few lackeys produced a report of several hundred pages. all aimed at proving that the guv did no wrong, and didn't know anyone who had, at least until it was already done. The news media do not see this document as completely truthful, as they note that many principals in the whole business were not even consulted in the report.
Outside of gaining justice for his client, the attorney has just one concern - making sure the state's check for his services is good.