Check Your App At The Door

Alec Baldwin has a radio interview show/podcast (the line is blurry) called Here’s The Thing that I’ve been listening to for the past year or so.  He’s an annoying interviewer, constantly interrupting and inserting his own experiences into the narrative, and it’s surprisingly entertaining and informative, go figure.  The guests have no rhyme or reason for being interviewed, as far as I can see, other than apparently they know Mr. Baldwin and he knows them.  I’ve learned some interesting things, though, and it’s become a favorite.

Alec Baldwin is a favorite, too, although that’s mostly because he was born the same year I was; we tend to stick together.  I’ve become sort of interested, though, in his weird, hair-trigger life along with his sharp acting and comic timing.  It amuses me to watch him get into hot water and then shrug, apologize, and move on.  A good anger management workshop might be useful, but it’s fun to watch someone who, after all these years, should know better and still can’t shut up.

His most recent outburst came on Twitter, where he blasted a reporter who apparently made a comment about Baldwin’s wife.  I’m assuming the reporter is a gay man, although I know nothing else about the story and see no reason to find out.

“George Stark, you lying little bitch. I am gonna f%#@ you up … I want all of my followers and beyond to straighten out this fucking little bitch, George Stark. @MailOnline … My wife and I attend a funeral to pay our respects to an old friend, and some toxic Brit writes this fucking trash … If put my foot up your fucking ass, George Stark, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much … I’m gonna find you, George Stark, you toxic little queen, and I’m gonna fuck…you…up.”

Well.  Get it off your chest.

Andrew Sullivan did his own version of overreacting, claiming that Baldwin had made a “…specific call for other people to physically attack a gay man. It’s a call to violence against a specific person, which, last time I checked, was a crime.”

I understand Sullivan’s larger points, which are (a) gay bashing is a real thing and not to be taken lightly, and (b) Baldwin is considered a pro-gay rights liberal, so maybe he thinks he can get away with homophobic comments with a pass, and maybe he shouldn’t.

But it’d be nice if we all had an app, or at least a refrigerator magnet, that urged us to consider  the following before passing judgment: Do you really think so?

Actually, Baldwin seems to be calling for his followers to email this Stark person, not beat him up, which is different, but he obviously seems to be tweaking him for being gay, which I guess is worth noting and maybe apologizing for.  I have no idea what we really going on in the Baldwin Brain; it just seems like he got real mad.

Not that I care that much.  As I said, I just find it fun to watch Baldwin blow up from time to time.  He doesn’t need my support or sympathy, and I don’t have the energy to get worked up about some dumb thing an actor said.

Or a cooking show host, for that matter.  I think the Paula Deen thing has blown up, too, but even implied racism is toxic (a favorite Baldwin word, apparently) to business and that’s not hard to understand.  But if the Deen empire implodes and her income is drastically cut from 14 million per year to, say, 6 million, I imagine she’ll not be homeless in the near future.

These are cultural dust bunnies, the residue of incredible speed and hype in a world that moves way too fast.  Even professional diplomats screw up, and Deen and Baldwin are anything but professional diplomats.  They’re celebrities, and human ones, and as much as it’s tempting I can’t look at these two and see a dark underbelly of intolerance and hatred.  Mostly I see dumb and rash, interpreted through instant communication and the constant rush to judgment.

We have these thoughts, you know.  They surprise us, sometimes, but I doubt they prove anything except that we’re all flawed and have little pockets of prejudice and generalizations.  Paula Deen is almost certainly not a racist in the way I define that term, and Alec Baldwin is not a secret homophobe, both of which I’m comfortable assuming because I’m detached and sort of indifferent, and because I checked  Do you really think so? first.  Really, there needs to be an app for that.

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Lord Of The Fans

I have to say that there’s something soothing about the calendar aligning with the weather like this, summer deciding to be summer.  One of the novel things about Washington, assuming I’m actually remembering correctly, is that seasons seem to have their own timetable.  There were plenty of Juneuaries in the past, at least I think, when dark clouds were the norm and it never got warmer than 53 degrees.  We had to wait, sometimes, for August.  And sometimes not even then (hello, 2011).

But everybody seems to be warm on this side of the country right now, with Phoenix nearing 120 degrees to keep the rest of us grateful for small favors.  Yesterday, with a predicted high in the upper 70s, it topped out at in my neighborhood at 85, about as warm as we like it.  Even then our fans are spinning and we’ve become a clothing-optional man cave for the time being.

John has it the worst, since he prefers it to be a comfortable 45 degrees at all times.  He doesn’t function well at higher temperatures, like computers, and there was a fair amount of whining and listlessness yesterday.  I had my sympathy but there’s nothing I can do, and personally I’m just fine.  The ceiling fan is on medium and I slept on top of the covers most of the night, but that’s my only nod to the warmth.  It’s a comfortable temperature, a little toasty in the late afternoon inside the house but nice outside.

I spent a fair amount of time outside yesterday, in fact, enough to be a little sore on my upper back where the sun did its business.  Not a burn, just a pinking, enough to give me a head’s up about considering sunscreen the next time I mow.

But I mowed, and I walked a bit, and weeded, and soaked up the sun and warmth while my son moaned.  It’s been a long time since I lived in Phoenix, long enough that I can’t really remember what it was like, but I recall enough to know that things could be worse.  I’m stocked up on vitamin D, my hair gets lighter and lighter, and this rosy glow against a white polo shirt?  It seriously makes my eyes pop.  All good.

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Men At Work

People I know who write for a living, even if it’s such a part-time living that the money is irrelevant, never talk about writing without an object.  That is, they might mention that a deadline is coming, or a project is floundering, or an idea isn’t materializing as they hoped.  But the actual act?  It would be as if they said, “I plan on spending the weekend breathing.”  There might be a mission, but the means is just that, a way to get there.  The thing that they do.  The thing with words.

This is semantics, but telling.  My family understands what I’m doing and when, but none of it is writing.  I either have to finish something or start something or do something over, but usually they’re unaware unless I’m running up against a clock, in which case my face gets twitchy and I start talking fast.

Everything else is work.  Work is what I do to pay the bills, and it’s involved all sorts of things over the years, some of which involve writing, most of which involve words, and a lot of which has been dull if not soul-sucking but it has to be done.  “I’m working,” I say, which is important because sometimes you can’t tell.  Sometimes even clients can’t tell.

I’ve worked a lot lately, every day since my wife left home 12 days ago, and it shall continue for a while.  This is pretty much a good thing, particularly in the summer when teaching salaries dry up, but the days tend to rush by and schedules are tight.  A tremendous amount of weeding has not, in fact, lessened just because I haven’t done it, imagine that.  There are two bathrooms in this house, convenient for two guys, but neither has been cleaned in a while.  Did I mention we were guys?

There are other things.  I have no idea how to do them, either, since I was counting on some days free from work and that’s not gonna happen anytime soon.  So it’s always a choice, and playing priorities is not my strong suit.  There’s a methodical way to a lot of what I do, but give me a long list of things to do, in no particular order – or an order that I’m supposed to establish – and I get shaky.  Given a choice, I’d much rather have a long, dull chore to do that will take days.  Lists are nice, but inspire the part of me that imagines I can find an efficient way to do four things at once, and that never ends well.

Speaking of endings.

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And In This Petty Pace

We are in day-something of our something-day excuse for being boys here (I seem to have lost math skills, surprisingly), surviving just fine.  Or at least fine enough to joke about it, which was all I was doing this week.  Seriously.

——-

I found myself overwhelmed with breaking news in the past couple of days, as would anyone whose routine consists of checking in with the world several times an hour, at least when I’m inside.

And inside has been a preference lately, with the tail end of weather still dropping spontaneous rain at inopportune moments, not to mention the occasional thunder and lightning strikes around the area (not my area).  Heat and sun are on the way, but in the meantime I tend toward favoring the roof over my head.

I have nothing much to say about all this news, either, so it’s good I don’t write op-eds anymore, or try to.  Plenty of good and thoughtful stuff out there without me.  I was gladdened and saddened and shocked at different times (and pretty amazed at the whole storm-the-Capitol thing going on in Austin), but my opinions feel secure and there’s nothing new there that would enlighten anyone.

I will say this: I’ve known many people over the years who were wholeheartedly in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples, but just couldn’t get past the semantics of two husbands or two wives; in other words, they couldn’t grasp marriage as an appropriate word, but they were onboard with the institution in all but name.

But obviously there’s a difference, and DOMA pointed that out.  Social Security benefits and taxation are pretty big side effects of marriage or lack of it.  So it’s possible some minds were changed, although they seem to be heading that way in any case.

Will Saletan of Slate, in his essay entitled “Anti-Gay Is Yesterday,” pretty much summed up my thinking (not always the case with him):

Cheer up, conservatives. The court, at long last, has done what the people want. Unelected judges are no longer the nosy outsiders defying the country’s values. You are.

—–

Nelson Mandela lives.

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Wednesday Archives

Wednesday has been Column Day for 12 years, and over 12 years some stuff will happen. My rule of thumb is that one should not re-read oneself unless one is willing to pay the emotional price, which usually involves groaning, but at least it’s some sort of record of what I was thinking, or not thinking. Some of these are collected in my books, but I’ve decided to ignore that for the time being and just find one from the past, every Wednesday, and post. If not for your edification, then mine. Groans are acceptable.

From June 20, 2007

——

In the 18 years I’ve lived in my house, my only experience with crime has been the time someone stole a weed whacker out of my garage.  A weed whacker that didn’t work, by the way; I laughed all the way to the hardware store.

But eternal vigilance is the price we pay for not only freedom but possibly our laptop computers, so when I heard voices at 3 a.m. I responded accordingly, which in my case was to roll over and go back to sleep.  My wife investigated, which was the better option anyway; you interrupt her sleep, you don’t want to be messing with her.

She found my son at the dining room table, perched in front of his iMac and talking to himself, which of course is a parent’s worst nightmare this side of drugs and hair gel.  As it turned out, though, he’d just learned how to activate the voice recognition system and was playing chess by telling the computer where to move.  His mother, after suggesting that he move his rook, told him to go to bed, and so summer has started.

Forget the solstice; it’s summer when we go on Teenage Standard Time, when the milk disappears from the refrigerator overnight and I can wake up from a bad dream to the smell of microwave popcorn.

This is the way we gauge our seasons, I think, by our internal calendars clicking over at recognizable signs.  Autumn starts when school does, winter begins when the tree goes up, and it’s spring the first time you sneeze.

This is the summer of my life, I’ve decided, after the fall from pride, the winter of discontent, and the spring in my step that I somehow misplaced.  Hey, it’s just a dumb metaphor.

It’s finally occurred to me, at this late stage, that sweating the small stuff just produces sweat and the occasional ulcer.  It’s time to sit back and relax, take stock and drink lots of lemonade.  And not the lemonade made with real lemons, either, but the stuff that comes in a package and contains honest-to-God artificial sweetener.  Sure, you hear things about how aspartame causes short-term memory loss, but somehow that keeps slipping my mind.

Sid Caesar was once asked what his philosophy of life was, and he answered, “Just pay the two bucks.”  This strikes me as remarkable wisdom, the sort of thing to remember when sitting in traffic or listening to talk radio.  Change what you can, accept what you can’t, and just pay the two bucks and move on.  Life is too short to spend it counting change.

I’ve also decided that searching for joy is not all it’s cracked up to be; it reeks of disappointment and unmet expectations, like spying one last present under the Christmas tree only to find out it’s a gift for the dog.  Give me a little simple happiness every once in a while and I’ll be content, a good movie or a slice of chocolate cake with ice-cold milk, and maybe a pennant race every decade or so.

“People are generally about as happy,” Abraham Lincoln said, “as they make up their minds to be.”  And while Honest Abe certainly doesn’t strike us as having been a particularly happy man, he did have a war and all to deal with.  Me, I just have a lawn that insists on growing when I don’t feel like mowing it, and sometimes I just don’t.  I tell people it’s a wildlife refuge and let it go.  It’ll be there tomorrow.

Then there’s cooking.  There was a time when I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, marinating pork loin roasts with sesame seed oil and honey, steaming vegetables and poaching pears, baking bread and making ice cream with the best ingredients, and you know what?  The other night I was hungry, browned some ground beef in a skillet, dumped in a can of cheap generic chili with beans, fried up some tortillas in politically incorrect cooking oil and had tacos, and they tasted just fine.  It took me 15 minutes to make and five to eat, leaving me plenty of time for more important things, like music and poetry or, in this case, a nap.

I’m not naive enough to believe I’ve eliminated stress.  And maybe it’s just this warm weather we’ve had lately, which can inspire laziness, but it seems to me that life is full of things I can’t do anything about, no matter how much I want to, so I’m just going to pay the two bucks, make up my mind to be as happy as I feel like, get around to the lawn when I have a chance, and concentrate on the important things.  Although I can’t quite remember what they are at the moment.  Which I figure is just the aspartame, but that lemonade tastes pretty good, all the same.

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Skipping Effingham

The summer solstice arrived in 2009 on the third Sunday of June, which was also Father’s Day.  It felt appropriate, considering I spent that day flying east to Boston, preparing to help my daughter drive cross-country to spend the summer, and get married, in Santa Fe, NM.

My wife left home this Father’s Day, also flying toward my daughter, although this time to San Antonio.  But it’s no surprise that these things mingle a little and stay on my mind.  I’m prone to lean that way in any case, to try to make sense out of the calendar.

A little calculation, then, helped me note that it was June 24 when we left a rainy Boston and headed west (and south).  And June 24 was also yesterday, and as I thought about that I checked in on Andrew Sullivan’s site, The Daily Dish, where among 50-odd other posts he always has a View From Your Window picture, a Dish staple.  And yesterday’s view was of Effingham, Illinois.

I know of this place, I thought, and I did, and do.  Effingham is a tiny town, only notable for being a crossroads of sorts, but when I was playing with mapping alternatives for our road trip four years ago, I calculated a route that took us a bit north and then due west, and at the exact halfway point was Effingham.

A coincidence, then, one of those mysteries that we imagine can be solved when it can’t.  There’s nothing there in a reality-based world, but that’s never stopped me from writing about it before.

That road trip felt important, portentous, significant.  It was serious parent-adult child time, stuck in a Volkswagen together for days, seeing new sights and having new conversations, but it wasn’t quite like that.  It was tense and filled with stress, much of it anyway.

The first day we at least nipped at 8 different states, something a West Coaster can marvel at.  Here, when we travel to another state an ice chest (at least) is in order.  We’re more spread out, more rooted in our own area with a broad band of culture and geography that changes but takes some driving.  Four years ago, we left Boston at approximately 9am and had lunch in New Jersey, our fourth state of the day.

It was a blur, then, with lots of pressure and awkward conversation, ending with driving through sparsely populated West Virginia as we headed for a small town where a bed waited for us, dodging deer at twilight and not knowing absolutely where we were.

The last day, on the other hand, involved mostly familiar territory, north and then west Texas and New Mexico, the true Southwest, recognizable and almost home in a way.  We were mostly relieved, and quiet.

And you don’t want to know about the third day.  Always going to be the longest day, we added some hours with a flat tire in Alabama and I don’t want to talk about it.

It was the second day, exactly a year ago, that I choose to remember.  I’d exercised my only prerogative for the trip, a little detour to Atlanta to see a couple of old friends, a high school friend and a college roommate and his wife, and we woke up in the boonies of West Virginia preparing to see the South.

I’ve been there before, but only briefly, and there’s nothing like driving.  The beauty of WV was still there in the daylight, and we quickly were in Virginia, imagining blue and gray soldiers coming over rolling hills (they really were rolling) in the Shenandoah Valley.  We hit the Carolinas in stride, and our jaws dropped occasionally as we watched the road.

I’m not embarrassed to be a Pacific Northwest chauvinist; I arrived here 30 years ago and should have dropped to my knees immediately, a pilgrim arriving in God’s country.  I had other stuff on my mind at the time, but I quickly understood that I was home, somehow.

So I’ll scoot my state across the table to match yours, anytime.  I’m all in when it comes to understanding how fortunate I am to live in the middle of beauty, to celebrate the lushness and fecundity of this place in a corner of my country – water and mountains, serious mountains, all of it slapped with green and moist.  Love love.

But the South was different, and I think because it felt older.  There was a stately aura, almost regal, an established beauty that seemed solid and permanent, and it was just a lovely drive in the afternoon, finally reaching Atlanta around 5pm.  We met my high school friend for a quick hello at Starbuck’s, then headed over to my college buddy’s house, where they put us up and fed us ice cream, and gave my daughter enough hard lemonade to alleviate her stress for an evening.

I would take that trip again in a second, although under different circumstances (I would insist).  It would serve as one bookend to an eventful summer, the other one being the wedding in August, and while the relief was real at the end of all that, glad to have done it and to be done, nostalgia is a powerful force.  It muffles unpleasant details and misremembers others.  Hey, it was just a flat tire.

Mostly I’m just grateful I got the chance, and if I’m a tiny bit sorry I missed Effingham, I can’t imagine it would have been as nice as what we got to see.  It’s a place, maybe, that is better glimpsed through a view from somebody else’s window.  I had my own, I saw what I saw, and I still see it, sometimes.

Portrait of the author as a 50-year-old, in Roanoke, VA.
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…If You Got ‘Em

A very incomplete but compact description of addiction goes like this: Short-term pleasure with long-term pain.  It’s a fair description, in fact, of smoking.

Smoking tends to stand alone, though, at least in the realm of chemical dependency (as opposed to other compulsive and debilitating behaviors, such as overeating).  The mood-altering effects of nicotine are essentially undetectable by anyone else; it’s a very mild stimulant, but you’d never notice.  An over-caffeinated person can be spotted in the wild, if you know what to look for, but the signs of nicotine use depend on the delivery system.

In most cases, that delivery system leaves plenty of signposts: Stains, smells, coughing, a tendency to stand in alleys in the rain.  But not always.  The President is said to be a habitual nicotine gum chewer.  Marc Maron, host of the great WTF podcast, sucks on nicotine lozenges all day long, apparently, even though it’s been over a decade since he smoked.

Nicotine, in fact, is not really the issue, which is why doctors and hospitals routinely prescribe it as replacement therapy for smokers.  The effects of nicotine withdrawal (which occurs relatively immediately, with a short half-life, as opposed to many other psychoactive chemicals) are annoying and not particularly fun, and in some cases I guess the replacement therapy can help, but the statistics aren’t encouraging.  There’s more going on than just chemistry.

Which is why electronic cigarettes are exploding (figuratively; I’ve heard of no actual explosions, and I pay attention) globally as a smoking-cessation option.  If you’ve never smoked – even if you’ve developed a finely-honed sense of outrage and disgust at even an image of smoking – with a little coaching I’m sure you can at least imagine that to some people, smoking is a pleasure.  It’s fun.

E-cigarettes, then, maintain the pleasure and lose the pain.  From my experience, as someone who smoked for many years off and on, rarely more than a few on any given day after the first few years, and with lots of nonsmoking time in between, it was a smooth transition away from the tar and combustion: I tried one and never went back.  I still puff away, inhaling flavored steam from time to time, enjoying the familiar routine.  It would have been nice had I never been in a situation where I felt compelled to smoke a cigarette for the first time, just to accurately play a character on stage, but all sorts of things would have been nice.  I appreciate the pleasure of a routine, and it bothers no one.

That last part was a joke.  E-cigarettes obviously bother lots of people with too much time on their hands, as this piece from The Economist tries to explain.  There are some murmurs here and there about potential nicotine overdoses and (always a favorite) e-cigs being a gateway to the hard stuff, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see that to some people, the very act of inhaling something for pleasure is offensive.

It’s fascinating to me, this little game of inspiratory hysteria.  The e-cigarette makers try to stay completely out of the fray, marketing their product as anything but a smoking cessation tool, trying to avoid being deemed a pharmaceutical and the huge hassle that comes with that, when of course that’s entirely what it is.  An alternative.  As far as we know, a safe alternative.  It’s vapor, with some flavoring and (if desired) a dash of nicotine to keep the tight jaw and bad moods away.  It’s zero-calorie Pepsi.

I just watch, then.  And as always I’m reminded that of all the ways we find pleasure in this life, including the dangerous as well as the benign, there’s probably always going to be someone, somewhere, who wants us to stop.

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The Week That Was

I’ve transitioned into night owlism, a smooth change that mostly has come from factors that have to do with making an income, timing and so on.  I’m sure there’s something about my wife being gone that affects all this, but at any rate it hasn’t been a hardship.

I’ve always been flexible this way, actually.  I have no trouble believing that many if not most people at least prefer a particular schedule, early mornings or late, but I’ve been all over the place and never felt particularly disoriented.  A few years ago I was up all night on the weekends, an easy gig in which I got paid to wait around for questions, proofread a little, research a little, and often just watch movies and the clock.  I didn’t mind, although I’m sure I slept less than I should.

And then there was the medically intense, crazy exercise summer of 2011, when I routinely got up at 4am.  All in all, I’ve leaned toward early rising as better, but there are downsides to having a quiet house and time on my hands, one of which is just letting the hours go by as I drank coffee and wandered around the web.

At any rate, I get my sleep these days, just on a slightly different schedule, so when I heard movement toward the end of my night I opened one eye to catch my son walking into my work room next to the bedroom.  “John? What are you doing?”

“Weighing,” he said, and there you go.  It was around 7:50am, he just got up, and he was going to step on the scale.  My parenting job is done here.

It’s not, of course, but it’s also a unique experience, I think, being the father to a young man who evolves on a different scale than most.  He still genuinely trusts me and seeks my company, wants to share his thoughts and find out mine.  I’m his constant, and consistent, companion on this journey at this point, and I have influence.

What I do with that depends on me, and as it turns out I’m on a different human plan.  After 23 years, my default state is to back off and let him go, but of course that’s not happening, for good reason.  So I dip in and out of his life, trying to figure out how I can do the most good, and this week just happened to be in my wheelhouse.

Getting frustrated with his gut, he was perfectly happy to turn the project supervision over to me, and I was perfectly happy to supervise.  I’m not a great example, since I’ve spent the past six months thinking about getting really slim for my movie-making adventures and just never got around to it.  I’ve increased my exercise by a couple of notches and feel remarkably fit and energetic, but I’ve also spent the winter and spring indulging in whatever for whatever reasons, and my weight has stayed exactly the same.  Not bad, not slim.  Instead of the 165 pounds I was dreaming about, I’ll be fortunate to start filming at 185.  Which, again, is not bad at all.  I just got lazy.

John has other things going on, including an insular life in which there are only a few diversions to an otherwise routine existence, and some of those are food.  And of course there are obsessive and compulsive components, so we changed things only slightly, almost under the radar, with my obsession being numbers and the more information, the better.  Cut back on some of those soda calories, try to add some minor exercise, check the scale every day and write it down, etc.  Out of the past six days, two of them look like “diet” days and four appear normal if not a bit over what one might imagine a sedentary person would need to consume, and I’m perfectly content with the progress.  It’s a difficult thing, changing these patterns, and more difficult for him, and yet here we are: He’s lost four pounds by the scale.

Four pounds isn’t that hard when you weigh 266; just minor changes are probably enough to account for a fluid shift of that amount.  On the other hand, I know that just paying attention to what he eats and drinks has resulted in major changes, even if they look minor.  We’ve probably lopped 500 calories per day with just limiting the soda, dropping his Dr. Pepper ration from four cans per day to three and switching to Crystal Light lemonade instead of orange soda the rest of the time.

It hasn’t been easy.  But even though we’re different creatures, I know.  I’ve done it.  Making changes, even positive ones, can be an emotional ride, and there are times when we grieve for what we miss.  We inflate the importance of that Fanta or that pizza or those former days when we could ignore the consequences and soothe our souls with calories, and he’s had his depressed and moody moments.

Here we are, though.  I’ve stumbled through fatherhood, some serious stumbling, particularly with him, but he remains willing to listen and try what I suggest, and as I tried to blink away sleep this morning and watched him head for the scale, I realized that this just might work.

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Deen Days

It was sort of interesting to watch the reactions across the ‘nets yesterday regarding Paula Deen and her situation, which took up a remarkable amount of breaking news bandwidth considering that it’s, y’know, Paula Deen.

And they were pretty much the same, these reactions: Why should I care and here’s what I think.  Everybody has an opinion, even when they don’t.

My opinion is that depositions are hard and should be avoided if at all possible.  I could get easily embarrassed at things I’ve said and done in the past, and I generally spill my guts in the newspaper every week.  But there’s no perjury penalty staring at me, and I can avoid all sorts of things.

I watched a couple of episodes of Deen’s cooking show back when I had cable, and I’ve seen her a few other times here and there, but otherwise there’s not a connection.  She seemed nice, with that Southern hospitality thing going on that feels like it should be a false stereotype and somehow isn’t.

I certainly have sympathy for her, having legally enforced honesty smeared all over the media.  And of course I don’t know whether this former employee has an actual grievance or is blowing a perceived injustice into a shitstorm.

On the other hand, if Paula Deen has a somewhat backward attitude toward 21st-century American race relations, or casually uses offensive language around friends and family, and blows off Today show appearances, I can see how The Food Network would want no part of that.  Business, business.

Otherwise, the only interesting aspect of all this excitement is the strange age-related calendar blindness going on, and which seems to always go on.

Paula Deen is a baby boomer, born in 1947, 16 years old at the time of “I have a dream,” 21 when Dr. King was assassinated, etc.  Surely her attitudes were formed mostly by family with a strong dose of regional culture, but she’s not an elderly lady who once lived in a different time.  We’ve all lived in different times, but if Ms. Deen has an antebellum dream it’s just that.  I understand that the South is different, but I’m not buying this Gone With The Wind rationale.

Otherwise, I suspect this is unfair to her, although that’s life in the fast lane.  Corporations are many things, but they get nervous when one of their public faces gets flushed.  And nobody is comfortable around people who sling the n-word around.  At least nobody I want to hang with.

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Hanging On (To It. Please.)

The Apple I (1976)

It started off with showing John this picture of the first Apple computer.  When we think of Jobs and Wozniak building the future in a garage, this is what we think of, or should.  And then shake our heads and try to remember the way it was.

This was the conversation we had, then.  John imagining himself as very old, talking about playing, say, “World of Warcraft” to mildly curious young people in 2070, that sort of thing.  Leading me to think once again at how our little snow globe of reality got turned upside down and shook real good.

It was not that long ago.  Really, it wasn’t.  Watch a TV show from a decade ago and listen to how they talk about “the Internet.”  It’s two words, always.  Bob pulled it off the Internet.  It was a separate entity, an appliance, a process, something you did deliberately and probably at home or at work.  Not sitting in the parking lot or standing in line somewhere, bored.  It all changed so fast, and changed us.  It sometimes feels like there are no more questions, just answers waiting to be accessed, usually with something in our pockets.

And what’s next?  The most wistful I get about mortality is imagining what I won’t get to see, for well or ill.

All of this preface to maybe justify the stress and vague panic I had yesterday for about 90 minutes when my wife informed me, via her iPad, that she’d lost her phone.

It’s not really been a phone for her this week, as Mo Ranch, where she’s attending her conference, is a beautiful spot in Texas hill country, not spoiled, apparently, by cell towers.  It wasn’t an issue; they had WiFi, and there were other things to do anyway.

But phones are many things, and in many ways one of those things is a wallet.  And while no one could grab my wife’s phone and access our bank account, there are plenty of simple social engineering tricks one could do with the information they could access with it, mostly email and all that contains.  Nobody wants to type in a long complicated email password (let’s assume everyone has a long and complicated one) every time they check mail on their phone, so that’s wide open.  As is Facebook and some other sites, giving a marginally clever thief a boost in some creative identity theft, if that’s the plan.  Or, just wipe the phone and start over with a $300 or so piece of hardware.

On the other hand, this was Mo Ranch, occupied by Presbyterians who are probably on their best behavior, assuming that God is watching.  We had some hope.  And of course somebody found it and she got it back, no harm done, but it was stressful for a while there, trying to imagine bad scenarios and, actually, not having to try too hard.

So part of the future I hope I live to see is some sort of universal biometrics, retinal scan or thumb print or something, so this doesn’t happen, this text message from 1700 miles away that stops my evening and speeds up my heart.  Life is too short to worry about lost phones and ethically challenged Presbyterian musicians.

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