Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

29 December 2012

Our Litigious Culture

Whenever anything happens in America, you can be sure that lawsuits will be filed but quick. And so it is in the case of the recent school shooting in Connecticut. According to a story by the news organization Reuters published on Friday, December 28th, only two weeks after the event it was announced that the parents of one of the students who survived the shooting have filed a lawsuit against the State of Connecticut.

The lawsuit claims that the unnamed child suffered, “…emotional and psychological trauma and injury, the nature and extent of which are yet to be determined.”

Soooo…they’re not really sure that their child actually suffered any permanent damage…but she must have! And in any case, they’re suing!

Well, sure, why not file a lawsuit claiming your child has suffered damaged that are not yet apparent? Makes perfect sense. And how much are these parents seeking from the state in damages? Ohhhhhh, only $100 million. Seems like a reasonable amount to me for possible, as yet to be determined damages caused by a horrific event. Perfectly reasonable!

According to the Reuters story Irv Pinsky, the lawyer for the little girl contends that, “…the state Board of Education, Department of Education and Education Commissioner had failed to take appropriate steps to protect children from ‘foreseeable harm.’”

Oh, I see! Every principal of every school should already be anticipating that a lunatic gunman would waltz in and start shooting up the place. Happens all the time! The fact that the (deceased) principal of the Newtown school didn’t is negligent! Negligent to the tune of $100 MILLION smackers.

Here in the good, ol’ U.S. of A., whenever anything bad happens, by God SOMEBODY is gonna pay! And thank the Lord we have attorneys like Irv Pinsky to be there to guide the parents of that little girl with the as-yet-to-be-determined damages.

Read the story HERE

18 December 2012

On Guns and Shooting

I own a gun: A .40 caliber Glock model 22. It holds 15 rounds in the magazine and I can have an extra one in the chamber if I choose, for a total availability of 16 bullets. Over the years I have put a lot of bullets through this gun at the range. I am not afraid of it; I don’t see it as a horrible device for human destruction. I am comfortable and proficient with it. I pray to God that I'll never have to use it in anger. But if I do, it will do what I ask of it.

I have carried it – both on my person at times but mainly in my car. I have taken it camping and hiking. I have a shoulder holster for it, but honestly the Glock is so bulky that it’s hardly concealable. I could wear it in an ankle holster…if bellbottom pants ever come back into style, and dear Lord we hope they don’t. Otherwise, the only other option is a small-of-the-back holster, but even then you have to wear a jacket or an untucked puffy pirate shirt. And let's hope those never come back in style either. If I am ever carrying it when we are together you will probably never know for I will not tell you.

The Glock does not give me a sense of invulnerability or power, and it doesn’t turn me into Dirty Harry, but it does give me a tool to use if something really, really bad happens. Something to level the playing field, if you will.

Do I seriously expect that something really, really bad will happen? I’m not sure. I wonder if those people in that mall in Oregon recently ever thought about it. And I wonder if those people who had merely shown up at a movie theatre in Colorado to see the latest Batman movie ever thought about it. Lastly I wonder if the teachers at the school in Newtown, Connecticut ever thought about it. Bad stuff happens. I’d rather be prepared than not, thank you.

With all that’s been said and written about the tragedy in that school in Connecticut, I can’t help thinking that if *I* had been in the building that day with my gun, I would have at least had a chance to do something before that Lanza kid could kill 27 students and teachers. In other words, I would not have had to be a victim – at least not initially. And I think the odds would have been pretty good. He, with his larger and bulky semi-automatic rifle; me with my lighter and more maneuverable semi-automatic pistol. Unless Lanza was really proficient in the use of that Bushmaster rifle and the two pistols he carried, he might have been an easy take-down. But yeah, I know, that’s pure speculation, isn’t it?

I’m not being overly macho or pompous here. I have a gun and I know how to use it, simple as that. Could I have shot Adam Lanza with it? Yes, without hesitation, yes. In the head. Does that make me a horrible person…because deep in my heart I know that I could take the life of another human if it came down to that? Does that make me as bad as him? I don’t think so. I had to wrestle with that issue when I bought the gun. I had to ask myself: Could I really kill someone with it? I think we have a fair duty to protect the lives of others, to not merely lie there and be a victim, to do what’s necessary to eliminate the threat, even if it means taking the life of someone else to do it. You may think it makes me a bad person, but I can live with that, no pun intended.

What happened in Connecticut on Friday, December 14, 2012 was a terrible, unspeakably horrible tragedy. I wish it had never happened. I wish that Lanza kid’s mother had the common sense God gave a flea and would not have had guns in the house with that emotionally disturbed child of hers. Sometimes I wish that guns had never been invented at all. But they were, and they’re not going away anytime soon. And as long as there are crazy bastards like Adam Lanza out there, random shootings will happen again. I go to the movies…I go to the mall. So…how would you want to prepare for such an event?

14 December 2012

I Hate

I often hear people say that they “hate” this or that. Sometimes they say it quite convincingly, or at least convincingly enough that I believe them. Me, I don’t like to hate anything. Hating takes too much energy, and I’d rather not waste my meager remaining resources of it. Still…to my dismay I find that there are things in life that I do actually hate. For instance!

“Someone” changed out all of the wall switches in this house to a low-profile rocker type. (And no, that someone was not me.) Unlike the normal, tried-and-true toggle light switch which you probably have in your house which has been in service since the days of Tommy Edison and little Georgie Westinghouse, these newfangled rocker switches are unobtrusive in appearance and quiet in operation. But their “action” is not definite; there is no solid detent between the two positions. It’s very easy to flip the switch to “on” and immediately inadvertently swipe it back to “off” as your hand falls away. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve done it. I hate these switches. Yes, hate.

Then there’s my shower curtain. Oh. My. God. No matter what I do, it billows inward, narrowing the available space in the tub to about a foot or so. Those little magnets that are supposed to secure it to the tub? Totally ineffectual. I’ve tried everything: Using curtains of heavier gauge plastic; leaving the bathroom door opened…or closed; leaving the exhaust fan off…you name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve even tried leaving one end of the curtain open a little to let some equalizing air in – no difference. I took a shower in my guest bathroom (which has a different curtain setup) and the problem exists there too. I suppose the only solution is to switch to sliding glass doors. I really hate my shower curtain. Yes, hate.

I also hate Guy Fieri. In case you’ve never heard of him, Fieri (nee Guy Ferry before he changed it to make his name more exotic and foreign and hard to pronounce) is one of these “celebrity chefs” which are all the rage these days. In this case, Fieri is more “celebrity” than “chef.” He’s a tremendously annoying little shit with spiky, peroxide-blond hair (and strangely, a grey beard!) who wears his sunglasses on the back of his head for some strange reason that only God knows. And he’s got a shrill, raspy voice that to me is like chalk on a blackboard. Fieri owns a couple of restaurants out west, and is expanding his “brand” across the country.

On cable television, The Food Network - which is about the only thing I watch on TV - has fallen in love with Guy Fieri. No matter what hour of the day or night I tune in, I’m guaranteed to find Guy Fieri on the screen with his spiky hair and backwards sunglasses, yelling at me on his show, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." Guaranteed. Every mother-loving time. I don’t know why, but I really can’t stand the guy. Ever take an instant, irrational dislike to someone? Yeah, like that. Just rubs me the wrong way, I guess. But would I go so far as to say I “hate” Guy Fieri? Oh, yes, hate. When I turn the TV on to The Food Network and see Fieri’s ugly mug, I don’t just turn the channel, I curse like a drunken sailor who just hit his thumb with a hammer, and then snap the damn TV off in disgust. (I probably should see a therapist about this.)

Recently, Mr. Fieri opened up one of his “signature” restaurants in Times Square in New York City – an enormous three-story, 500 seat food-factory called “Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar.” Pete Wells, the food critic of the esteemed New York Times paid it a visit…four visits, actually (to be fair). His review was…shall we say “less than kind.” But it is hilarious!

Fieri naturally took offense, and went on NBC's "Today Show" to plead his case...that being the NYT reviewer was just trying to make a name for himself. Huh? Attention, Guy: If you get to the lofty position of restaurant reviewer at the New York Times, you've ALREADY "made a name" for yourself. But if you attach your name to a high-profile restaurant in New York City, you better be prepared to be held to an equally high standard.

In an article on Poynter.org website, Wells explained his position and why he wrote the review as he did. And the review is the literal definition of “snarky.” You should definitely read it. (All links are below)

It’s all very amusing in and of itself, but something caught my eye in the comments section to Wells’ original review. The level of…shall we say “dislike” for Guy Fieri is amazing. People really can’t stand this guy. I guess I’m not the only one then! In a perverse way it makes me feel a little better about myself.

By the way, the comments section has some stuff that's as funny or funnier than Wells' original piece. People were calling for a Food Network mashup, sending real chefs like Gordon ("Kitchen Nightmares") Ramsay or Robert ("Restaurant: Impossible") Irvine to go straighten Fieri's place out. One erstwhile "civilian" reviewer dryly noted, "It's not a diner, and it's not a drive-in, but Fieri's restaurant most definitely is a dive." I'm telling you, snarky stuff!

I really don’t like hating. As I said, it’s a waste of energy. And aside from the three things I listed, I really don’t “hate” anything or anyone.

I can change out the light switches in the house. And I can install sliding doors in my shower. But I just hope that Guy Fieri and I never cross paths.

Pete Wells' initial NYT Review

Guy Fieri's Appearance on NBC "Today Show"

Wells' Explanation on Poynter.org

05 December 2012


Poverty and homelessness is a big problem in this country, no doubt. But we’re becoming callous toward the poor. We know that there are plenty of social services and programs for those in need. In most cities, no matter how poor you are you don’t have to live on the streets – not anymore. There’s welfare and food stamps. There are shelters and food kitchens. We’ve come a long way since the days of The Great Depression. And we’ve gotten to a point where some people scoff at those…the “takers” of society who’d rather shirk their responsibilities and live off the generosity of others.

And so our growing skepticism and cynicism causes us believe it when we hear apocryphal stories of beggars at street intersections who at the end of the day drive off in a Cadillac. We get to thinking that if not all, then most homeless people we see are homeless by choice and probably a lot better off than they’re letting on. They’re poor because they want to be!

Recently, a picture made the rounds on the internet. It was shot by a tourist in New York City. This tourist happened to witness an event where a police officer in Manhattan gave a barefoot homeless man a pair of boots. The cop bought the $75 boots out of is own pocket. The photograph “went viral” as it is called and the story made the national news. The officer was justifiably lauded for his generosity and we all felt the warm glow of one human being kind to another. A true holiday “feel good” story.

Well, you know the expression, no good deed goes unpunished.

The headline: Homeless man spotted shoeless again! What the deuce? His explanation was that he could be killed for such expensive shoes and so he “hid” them in a safe place. Hey, in New York City that actually makes sense. If you’re sleeping on the streets and you have on a nice pair of shoes, they very well might be stolen from you before you wake up…*IF* you wake up at all. When I saw the original picture I said, “Nice try, officer, but those shiny new Redwing boots aren’t going to last more than a couple of days before somebody steals them.”

It gets worse. The local media found out who the “Homeless Guy” is and did a more in-depth investigation on him than a certain Barack Obama was subjected by Republicans to when he announced he was going to run for president. And it turns out, according to the New York Daily News that, “Homeless Guy,” aka Jeffry Hillman is not so homeless after all. Turns out, he’s got an apartment in another part of the city and receives money from the federal government for housing, Social Security disability and veteran’s benefits. Hillman was in the U.S. Army. Does he have to live barefoot on the streets, panhandling for money? Nope.

You think there’s a lot of homeless in your town? New York City has a whole Department of Homeless Services. And they know Jeffrey Hillman. A spokesperson for the NYCDHS says that Hillman has repeatedly turned down their services and offers of help. Hillman’s family was contacted; his brother said that Jeffrey had not been in touch with them lately and that he “preferred this way of life.”

And so we are left feeling empty…feeling cheated by a phony homeless person…again! For some, it will reinforce the impression that the majority of "homeless panhandlers" are nothing more than scam-artists. Because every time something like happens it makes us just a little bit more cynical and indifferent to the plight of the truly poor and needy. And that's sad.

At the end of the day, no matter how anyone else acts, WE still have to act in a Christian way. And despite hearing disheartening stories like this latest, we must not let that stop us from performing acts of charity for those less fortunate than us. As my blogger friend Debby points out, we ARE our brother’s keeper. For some of us, that will never change, even with all the scam artists in the world. But they don't make it easy.

For the Daily News story on Hillman click HERE

03 December 2012

Meet The Beatles

It is impossible for those who were not around at the time – the young ones – to understand the impact that The Beatles had on the world…not just music. And they weren’t just four musicians who got together and made some records. Oh, no. The Beatles were a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Would they have been The Beatles without Ringo? Certainly not. It can be said that the coming together of the four of them (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard "Ringo" Starkey) was of cosmic significance and origin. Nobody on the planet could have engineered such a thing. Combine them with a genius record producer named George Martin and, well, the rest is history.

John, Paul and George began playing together as teenagers as early as 1958. Ringo wouldn’t join them for four years. But as George Harrison once noted, Ringo was always a Beatle; he just didn’t join the play until the second act. Or something like that.

In the beginning, The Beatles were basically a “cover-band,” doing other people’s songs, often adapting them to the rock ‘n roll format (e.g. “Ain’t She Sweet”). They went through a couple of name-changes, finally settling on “The Beatles” in 1960. Gradually they began writing their own songs. John and Paul found that as a team they had a particular gift, which they exploited. But George was no slouch either.

Though their popularity had been steadily increasing in the U.K., they did not become an “overnight sensation” in the U.S. until 1964. Rock ‘n roll had been around for a long time, but The Beatles’ music was different than anything else on the radio. But remember, by 1964 the three of them had been playing together, writing songs and honing their act for nearly six years.

It was crazy. There had never been anything like “Beatlemania” before. And it was a worldwide mania. Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley both had been the object of young girl adulation, but not nearly on the scale that The Beatles generated. We dressed like them; wore our hair like them; hung on their every utterance; memorized their songs…all of their songs. It’s fair, and it’s no exaggeration to say that The Beatles changed the world.

When we look back, people often argue over the relative talents of the individual Beatles. But it’s silly. It’s like saying that a Ferrari is a “better” sports car than a Lamborghini. Well…yeah, maybe, but a Lambo is still eons better than just about anything else on the road. All four Beatles were extremely talented. And anyway, it’s not about that. It was the synergy that resulted when the four of them got together. Other groups tried, and some came close, but none really could replicate the magic that was The Beatles.

By 1969 it was all over. They split up and went their separate ways. It is not surprising; a lot of "stuff" happens to people between their teenage years and their late 20's. All four had gotten married...you know, grew up. The fact that they stuck it out for ten years is amazing in itself. We are thankful for that. And we are also thankful that each of them continued making music - music that sometimes sounded an awful lot like "Beatle" music! So it's not like they went away completely.

The Beatles provided the soundtrack of our lives. We got to know the songs intimately, and they took on profound significance. We knew all the words; we could even sing the harmony and backup vocal parts. And we still remember all those details even after all these years. Put a Beatles song on…any song at all…and I can sing it unerringly. I can sing Paul’s part; I can sing John’s part. It’s hard to explain to my young friends. I mean, it’s just…it’s just…music, right? Wrong. It was more than that. Much more. If you weren’t there, you can’t really appreciate The Beatles. If you were there, and I was lucky enough to be, then you got to experience a musical and cultural phenomenon that hasn’t been repeated since, and isn’t likely to be repeated in the future.