Monday, September 19, 2016

Odd Bits - The Sweatshop Edition

If you’ve been around here long, you know I have a thing for game jerseys.  I religiously track my jersey-wearing as it relates to my team’s won/lost record as I try to determine the best mojo.  Because it wouldn’t be much of a challenge if I only had one or two jerseys to choose from, I tend to have a steady influx of new jerseys to try out.

And because I am not filthy rich, I can’t afford to spend $300 a pop on sports jerseys, so I usually go through one of those “cheap jersey” websites, featuring unlicensed wares from the finest sweatshops of the Far East.

As I’ve documented before, it’s hit and miss as far as the quality goes.  But you have to know that going in.  That’s why they’re not $300.

So periodically, when I’m down at the sports bar, a friend or acquaintance will ask me where I get my jerseys, and when I tell them, they ask if I can get one for them.  I’m usually happy to help, as long as I know how to find them when the bill is due.  But I’m happy to front the money via credit card, and reap the points.

At the end of the last football season, I had a couple people ask me to get them a jersey.  I said I’d probably do my next order in the fall, right before the new football and hockey seasons start.  One guy wanted a Washington Capitals hockey jersey and another guy wanted a Ravens jersey.

Now, normally I’d want nothing to do with outfitting more purple maniacs, but they’ve made me feel at home at this particular bar and I felt it best to be helpful and appreciative, so I agreed.  I placed the order a couple weeks ago and included a couple of things for myself.

The jerseys came in this week and the first one I saw was a problem.  I’d ordered a white #48 Bud Dupree jersey for myself and while the “48” part was fine, it was another detail that was amiss.

The guy’s name is Dupree, not White.

Well, there’s nothing I can do with this jersey, short of taking it to a sports apparel place and having a new name or number put on it, which would cost more than the jersey did in the first place.  But I certainly can’t wear it like that.  Who knows what kind of mojo disturbance such a thing could cause?

I kept going through the jerseys… the two hockey jerseys were OK, then I got to the Ravens jersey.  Name and number were fine, but they sent me a Youth Large instead of a Men’s Large.
(Flacco pic)

Very few “Youths” hang out with me at the sports bar.

So now I had to start emailing with the sweatshop people, which is aggravating.  You know how American retailers almost always correct their own mistakes?  Not so much with these guys.  Their solution was for me to send them another $10 and keep the Youth jersey, and they’d send me replacements.

I lobbied for them to send me a pre-paid return sticker but that didn’t go over too well.  Ultimately, I really didn’t have much choice.  I was already into them for about $160 and only got half the jerseys I needed. They just better make sure they send the right ones this time.  I can live with shoddy stitching or an off-center patch, but the name and size have to be right.


Back in the 90s, while spending a long weekend in New York City, I went to the Warner Brothers store, where I picked up a Bugs Bunny drink stirrer.  The stirrer was glass, with a gold Bugs head on top.  I loved that thing and used it all the time.

Shortly after moving to Baltimore, it broke.  Bugs’ head came off.  I blame gang violence.  Rabbit lives matter.

Flash forward about 15 years and I find myself making more drinks that I need to stir, and wishing I still had my Bugs stirrer.  Lately, I’ve taken to putting a couple of maraschino cherries in my whiskey on the rocks, with a splash of the juice.  My Grandpa D used to give us kids maraschinos in our “drinks,” and I kind of missed them.  So now I add the cherries to honor my Grandpa (and because they’re yummy.)  There were two “C’s” in his family name, so I add two cherries.

A nice stirrer would come in handy because I was getting tired of using my finger.  I mean what if I had guests over for drinks?  I only have so many fingers.
You can see how my V&T needs a good stirring, to diffuse the cherry juice at the bottom.  My finger is just not long enough.

In a long overdue moment of clarity, I decided to find another Bug Bunny stirrer online. I checked Amazon, E-Bay, whatever, but I couldn’t find one.  I found a few pictures where I thought I had a match, but they were for items that had already been sold.

Anyway, I figured if I couldn’t find Bugs, I’d see what else there was.  I couldn’t find anything else quite as kitschy, but I did find a nice set with red glass shapes on top.  I have a lot of red in my kitchen so I think they’ll be nice.

Because I’ll want them nearby when I’m at my drink-making station, I thought I’d put them in a small decorative vase.  Only problem was that they went almost all the way into the vase and didn’t look very decorative at all.

I solved that problem by ordering a package of glossy red rocks to put in the bottom of the vase.  (I actually wanted glass pebbles or marbles, but couldn’t find a package of less than a pound, and I only needed so many.)

It’s weird… I don’t know if these are the actions of a grownup or a bored housewife (or househusband).  Next thing you know, I’ll be trolling through Etsy, looking for matching stemware.

LATE UPDATE: Here's the finished product:
Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart.


I’ve been going to an awful lot of Orioles games this summer, I just haven’t been writing about them here.  Been to 23 so far, which is a new personal record.  But last Friday I saw the best game of the year and I have to tell you about it.

I had seats in the 3rd row, just past 1st base, which was a good spot from which to take pictures, so I brought the good camera. (Instead of just using the phone.)

Right off the bat, the Orioles gave up two 2-run homers in the first two innings, go fall behind 4-0.  Solo homers by Pedro Alvarez and Chris Davis made it 4-2 midway through the game.

Crush Davis crosses the plate after bombing one.

Seventh inning, O’s load the bases and first-year Korean player Hyun Soo Kim crushes one over the centerfield wall.  Unfortunately, the center fielder leaped up two feet over the top of the wall to knock it back into play.  Instead of a grand slam, only one run scored.  But still, the place was rockin’.

The comeback continued into the 8th inning when the O’s scratched out two more runs to take the lead.  Top of the 9th, they sent in the closer, Zach Britton, who has not blown a save all year.  He got an out and then gave up a fly ball to deep right.  It was caught on the warning track, but not before giving a heart attack to the hometown crowd.

With two outs, the next batter hit a grounder up the middle, but before the second baseman could make a play on it, the ball ricocheted off the base, putting the tying run on first.  Next batter laces a shot into the left field corner.

The outfielder hit the cutoff man with the throw, who then spun and threw the runner out at the plate.  Game over.

It was one hell of a ride and a great ending.  Plus, I got these socks.

My only problem is I can’t decide whether I should wear these with my charcoal suit or the gray one.  You can wear argyle with pinstripes, right?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Who Knew I'd Rue a Lack of Hot Air?

The end of summer has been a bit of a slog.  Things just seem unsettled with me.  Granted, a lot of it is work stuff, but I know that will work itself out eventually.  But the home stuff has been dragging out too.

Yes, I know, I live alone and have a simple life with just me, myself, and I.  But shit happens.

Like, a couple of weeks ago, my dryer died.  (The laundry dryer, not a hair dryer.  Like I would use a hair dryer where a soft cloth would do.)

You may remember, I had to replace my washer about a year and a half ago and argue with Best Buy about buying their required but not really required hoses.  Well, the dryer lasted only this much longer before it stopped heating up.  The drum would spin, but there was no heat, so the clothes never got dry.  I had to hang stuff up all over the house, so it looked like I lived on a sock farm. 

I can’t complain, though.  I got almost 19 years out of that dryer so I got my money’s worth.  So back to Best Buy I went.

I got a cheapish dryer; I only wanted something simple.  I mean damn; some of the control panels on the upscale dryers looked like the dashboard of a 747.  I just needed a cycle dial and on/off button.  Also got free delivery, and 12 months same-as-cash.  I did have to buy a new vent hose and connector, and get this: an electrical cord for the dryer.

When the saleslady told me that, I was like, “I have to buy the cord to plug it in, separately?  WTF?”  She explained that there are different kinds of electrical systems in different areas and the manufacturer (Whirlpool) wanted maximum flexibility.

OK, fine.  Whatever it takes, you know?  So we got the deal done on a Saturday and I asked them to deliver it the following Friday when I’d be working from home.

Cut to Friday, they show up right on time, swap out the dryers and all was well and good... until I went to do a load of laundry the next day.  The dryer didn’t heat up.  I tried all the different cycles and settings, and let the damned thing run for an hour and a half, but no go.  Back to the sock farm I went.

I called Best Buy the next day and spent 23 goddamned minutes on hold before I could explain my situation to someone, who then transferred me to another department where I went straight to voicemail.  I left a message, but no one ever called back. 


I was about to go down there right then, but I remembered that on Monday (Labor Day), I’d be in the neighborhood anyway when I made my annual trip to the State Fair.

Now, I’m notorious for going off and forgetting to bring things I need.  I combat that by laying everything out in my staging area, where I gather my shit before leaving the house.  That Monday, I had to be sure to bring my receipt and paperwork from the dryer, and a functioning pen to use at the track (at the Fair). Bastards charge you 50 cents for a stubby pencil at the gate.

So I got my dryer documents and pen laid out with my wallet and the hat I wanted to wear for the day, so I was all set.  Then after getting showered and dressed, I came out of the bedroom, made sure I scooped up all my shit and went out the door.  About a millisecond after the door latched, I realized I forgot my keys.  I was locked out of my apartment on a weekend.  On Labor Day.


I was so concerned with not forgetting the other shit, I forgot to go to Part Two of my staging area, the Key Rack.  It was just like back in 2014 when I did the same thing.  Only this time, I had my cell with me, so I wouldn’t have to bother my neighbor, Daryl (Licht).

Last time, after I got Daryl to call for help, I found that the back bedroom window had been left unlocked, allowing me to slither in.  This time, I figured I’d check things out before I alerted anybody and almost immediately I remembered something else I’d forgotten.

It had been a really nice morning, so I had my kitchen window and back patio sliding door open for some cross breeze.  I closed the slider before I left but forgot all about the kitchen window.  So there was my “in.”

I raised the screen, raised the window higher, and ninjaed my way in.  The bottom of the window is at ground level, but is 3-feet off the ground on the inside, so I probably shouldn’t have gone in feet first, facing up.  Next time, I’m going to have to remember to go in feet first and facing down.  It’s much easier to bend that way.  At my age, I’m lucky I didn’t end up in traction.

So, I had a nice day at the races… bet nine races and lost about $25.  Hit two exactas and a daily double, but none of them paid much; I think eight bucks was the biggest one.  But it was fun.  I also took this picture:

Caption: I was curious what the effect would be if I went down to the rail and take an iPhone Panorama shot while the horses were running by.  This is it… Kind of trippy.

After the races, I headed over to Best Buy to talk about defective dryers.  At least they were nice about it.  I figured they’d want to send someone to look at it, or question me on what I had done.  But they just said they’d replace it right off.  We scheduled it for the next Friday when I’d be working from home again.

Friday came, they swapped dryers (again) and the dryer did not heat up (AGAIN).

I’m like, “What in the holy fuck is going on with these stupid dryers?

Because we had tested it before the delivery guy left, I was at least able to discuss the situation with someone this time.  The guy said that while it was possible that there was a bad batch of dryer elements floating around, it was more likely that there was something wrong with the electrical outlet or the fuse box.

I thought that was weird, and said, “If the outlet was bad, how come the barrel turns at all?

He said he’d seen it before where a breaker had flipped and cut the usual amount of juice needed to run a dryer.  I’d never heard of such a thing, but hell, I’m no electrician.  And because I’m an apartment dweller, I can call the landlord’s office and have them send someone out to have a look.

I also told the driver about my experience on hold the previous week and expressed my reluctance to get on that train again.  He then gave me an “inside number” that would fast-track my call the next time.  (No, I’m not telling.)

By this time, it was late afternoon on a Friday and even though I called the landlord as soon as the delivery guy left, there wasn’t enough time in the day to get someone out before the maintenance staff went home for the weekend.  I knew I’d be off on Tuesday (following a Steelers Monday night game) so I asked for them so send someone out then.

At least I’m on a 2-week laundry cycle, so it wasn’t like I was running out of undies.  I had time to play with before things would get serious.  But still, I’m uncomfortable when things are left up in the air.  I still didn’t know why my kitchen was becoming the Bermuda Triangle of Dryers.

So this afternoon, some maintenance guys came out, I explained the problem, and they checked the breaker box.

One-half of the dryer double-breaker was tripped.  They reset it and the dryer began producing heat.   

I had them show me which one it was and what to look for in case anything like this ever happens again.

I’m glad my household is settled again, but of course, I still have one regret…

I probably never really had to buy a new dryer in the first place.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Tale of Two Stories

Two stories surfaced in the last week or so; one that everyone is talking about and probably shouldn’t, and one that no one is talking about, but probably should.


Even people who don’t follow football know who this guy is now, and probably have an opinion about him.  Colin Kaepernick is the player for the San Francisco 49ers who decided he will no longer stand during the National Anthem any longer, to protest the treatment of minorities in this country.  And people have lost their minds over it.

The usual battery of old white people and life-long military apologists and police fetishists have gone ape-shit over this display of disrespect to the nation.  (Translation: to the nation’s white overlords.)

I’m pretty sure if any of the people loudly taking offense were ever treated the way minorities get treated in this country, the place would be in flames by now.  It’s funny how so many people have opinions about how much crap other people should take, and how they should be allowed to react to it.

Remember the riots?  Yeah, everyone was like, “That’s no way to register complaints and induce change.  You have to do it peacefully.”

Now you have a guy basically just sitting down or taking a knee, and they don’t like that either.

There have been several main avenues of hostility.  One is that he’s not really black, he’s biracial.  (Biracial just means a person has to take shit from two races.)  Another is that he’s been privileged; raised by white adoptive parents, sent to good schools, and now makes big bucks playing football.  So where does he get off complaining?

I’ll tell you why… empathy.  And that’s why there’s a disconnect.  Conservatives don’t really empathize with anyone.  They don’t understand the selfless protest.  The only other persons’ shoes they can see themselves walking in are those experiencing “reverse discrimination.”

It’s always “Lower MY taxes.  Worship MY God, in the manner with which I am comfortable.  Have that baby because of MY beliefs.  Not in MY backyard.  And no one ever gets to receive a benefit that I don’t get too.”  The concept of “common good,” is just another name for Communism.

Now, what do I think about this story?  Like all rational people, I support the right that every citizen has to protest, regardless of their socio-economic status.  My only observation is that maybe he could have found a more efficient outlet, because by picking this particular mountain to die on, the means overshadows the substance.  No one is talking about why; they’re too busy complaining about how.  That’s not effective communication.

I also think he should have defined his terms better.  I mean, what are the criteria for ending the protest?  Solving poverty and race relations nationwide?  That’s kind of a tall order.  He’ll be protesting for the rest of his days.

So I basically give him credit for taking a stand, at great personal expense, regarding an issue larger than his own self-interest.  But I think he might have been more effective via another route. 

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the country, the Supreme Court upheld a lower Federal Court ruling maintaining that the new voting law in North Carolina was unconstitutional and ordered it scrapped.  It was a 4-4 tie which by default, upheld the lower court ruling.

The issue here was that the Federal Court found that the legislators purposefully created the law to reduce minority voter turnout, noting that it was done with “surgical precision.”

That’s no joke.  They had emails in evidence, showing lawmakers requesting data on minority voting patterns and what IDs they most often used, and then used that data to create a law to have the greatest impact on that target.  They disallowed certain IDs, closed particular voting areas, reduced early voting and eliminated on-site registration and cross-precinct voting.

There is no plausible way that any of this was done to prevent voter fraud.  The only fraud was this “monster law,” requested, designed and implemented to keep prospective Democrats from voting.

And STILL, the lawmakers involved swear that it’s all about preventing voter impersonation.  They said they requested the racial data so they could better protect minority voters.  Seriously.  That’s like the fox saying he’s saving the chickens from the farmer, by eating them himself.

North Carolina is exactly why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was necessary.  And it’s no accident that as soon as the South came off “probation,” where the Feds no longer had to clear any changes to voting laws, this monstrosity was unleashed.  In fact, they had it ready to move through the legislature, but held it back until the Supreme Court decision was announced, that gutted the Civil Rights Act.  They knew it wouldn’t pass that kind of muster, but then they overshot and made the racism so blatant, it couldn’t be overlooked.

Well, it WAS overlooked by the four Republican-appointed justices.  That’s another crying shame.  How is it possible that four of our highest judicial officials thought it was perfectly fine to research and develop ways to keep minorities from voting?  The evidence, smoking guns and all, were right there in the case files.

That right there is why the Democrats need to win the White House in 2016.  As I said in July, Hillary’s emails don’t matter. Trump University doesn’t matter.  Her health allegations don’t matter.  His insults don’t matter.

The Supreme Court matters.  It’s the last line of defense against the dark arts of systematic, legislated discrimination.  If Trump wins, we can look forward to another decade of the Supreme Court allowing the rich to step all over the rest of us.

And THAT is why guys like Colin Kaepernick should be protesting.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Apparently Double Standards are the Only Standards They Have

This week’s political controversy is practically laughable.

You mean people pay politicians in order to have access to them?  Holy fuck, when did this start? 

I’d say right around the time the first presidential campaign fund was announced.

I can’t believe this Clinton Foundation “scandal” is a real thing.  I’ll be the first to admit that it looks pretty shady, but that’s just because it’s pulling the veil off of the entire facade.  Money has always equated with access in politics and thanks to the Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices and the Citizens United decision, the amount of money is limitless.

The Koch brothers own the US Senate lock, stock, and barrel, and Senate Majority Leader McConnell will do whatever they want him to do… like deny a hearing to a Supreme Court nominee, indefinitely.  And now they want to complain about the Clinton Foundation?  An actual, certifiable charity, whose business deeds and dealings are a matter of public record?

What, exactly, has Donald Trump ever done for anyone who doesn’t have the last name of “Trump?”  Nada, that’s what.  For all the charity he touts, there is precious little evidence to back it up.  In fact, even in his most public charitable forum, The Celebrity Apprentice, whenever he told a contestant  that he's giving “X” thousand bucks out of his own pocket to their charity, it was NBC’s production company that actually sent the check.

When he put on that big charity show to benefit US veterans, he never provided a single dime until he was hounded into doing so by the press, after they started asking questions about where the money went.  (You know, because that’s what journalists do.)

Unfortunately for reasonable people, Fox “News” viewers lap this Clinton stuff up without even a second thought.  Or a second’s thought.  But that’s what they’re used to getting from Fox… one big, hairy, double standard after another.  No wonder they don’t notice; it’s the go-to ploy.  The GOP accuses Democrats of doing everything that they, themselves do, without as much as a whiff of embarrassment.

Like presidential vacation time.  Have you heard it again this week?  They bring it up every time President Obama goes on vacation, despite the (verifiable) fact that he’s taken far less vacation time than his Republican predecessors.

This is from December 2014.  I apologize for not finding a more recent graphic.

As this article describes, there always seems to be something that comes up when Obama is on vacation, for which they accuse him of shirking his responsibilities.  But the thing is, it’s a complicated world.  There is ALWAYS a crisis happening somewhere.  If any president waited for a time when there’s nothing going on, he’d have to work four (or eight) years straight.

Same with speaking fees.  Every successful politician cleans up after serving, via speaking fees to friendly organizations.  I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it is what it is.  But they make a big deal out of Hillary’s speaking fees because… well, because they can and no one notices that she’s the only one being held to that standard.

Republicans love to talk about big-money Democratic donor George Soros, oblivious to the fact that the GOP has dozens, if not hundreds of Soroses.  The reason I’m not nervous about Soros is even though he’s donating to a group that will probably raise his taxes and cost him money, he does so anyway to benefit the greater good of the country.

The rest of these rich ratfucks are simply trying to protect their nut, and to hell with anyone else.

How about gerrymandering?  Here in Maryland, the local Republicans have filed suit to have the extremely Democrat-favorable congressional boundaries redrawn, because gerrymandering is… bad?  I guess?  When it’s done by Democrats, anyway.

Maryland is one of the few badly gerrymandered states that benefit Democrats.  There are hundreds of contorted Republican districts across the country, but you won’t hear the GOP complain about those.  Only the Democratic ones, because it’s only a travesty when a Democrat does it.

If you ask me, they can completely redraw the Maryland districts into nice even little squares… JUST AS SOON as they do it everywhere else.  But Republicans hate it when they get beat at their own game.

Remember how long Trump clung to all that Birther bullshit?  He charged and accused and intimated, and even when faced with irrefutable evidence, far more than any other candidate has ever been asked to provide, he still refused to admit he was wrong.  And forget about having the decency to apologize.

Now he’s demanding all records from the Clinton Foundation be turned over while refusing to provide his tax records.  (And lying about why he won’t.)  He’s demanding Hillary open up her medical records, while he provides nothing but a sham doctor’s note that’s already been discredited.  She’s already provided the standard level of a presidential candidate’s medical disclosure, which he has not come close to meeting.  But she’s the one hiding something, right?

The big talking point now is about how Hillary is dishonest and untrustworthy.  Seriously.

Their candidate was racking up between 75-95% “lie” determinations on Politifact, compared to what, 25% for Clinton?  Over and over again, research is showing that Donald Trump wouldn’t know the truth if he built a shitty casino on top of it.  And they’re crying “Liar.”

See, they’re not trying to be decent human beings, they’re trying to win elections.  And their research shows that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes indistinguishable from the truth to those that want to believe it.  That’s the reason Trump repeats “Crooked Hillary” every single time he refers to her.  To him, it’s just branding.  He knows most people are swayed by emotion and not facts.

The temptation would be to lie right back about him.  Of course, that’s unnecessary.  All the Dems have to do is tell the truth. 

When the subject is Donald Trump, the truth is indeed stranger than fiction and far more disturbing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The One Where I Call Out the Liberals

If you’ve spent more than 15 seconds on this site, you know where I fall along the political spectrum.  I’m pretty hard-left.  But that doesn’t mean I support everything labeled as a “liberal” idea.

For example, I keep seeing all these shots at Donald Trump’s comments about his daughter, which include insinuations that there’s something creepy going on.

Now far be it for me to be seen defending the likes of Trump, but in this case, I think it’s a case of liberals looking for anything they can use to throw mud at an opponent.  Granted, this is what Republicans have been doing for years, with Obama and both Clintons, but that doesn’t make it right.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with a dad being proud of his gorgeous daughter and saying so.  He might not articulate that pride in the clearest sense, but then this is a guy who’s using a 4th-grade vocabulary to campaign in the first place.  So it stands to reason there was room for innuendo in his comments.  But that doesn’t make it pervy and it diminishes our side to dwell on it.  There are so many more relevant things over which to criticize him.

He should just turn it around on people and say, “I condemn you for Dad Shaming.”  That’s another big thing now with the Left… you can’t suggest, even in the mildest terms, that something might not be up to snuff with someone or it’s “shaming.”

You know, sometimes people might be better off learning they’re not wrapped within the aura of fabulousness they imagine for themselves, and it serves them, and those around them to mention it.

I say you condemn the big stuff as shaming, like calling someone out on the air for daring to purchase birth control, or publishing names of those who have sought abortions, or publicly ridiculing someone using food stamps.  That’s shaming. 

The rest of this stuff?  That’s just life.  You have to learn to deal.

Used to be that you went to college to drink beer, meet other young people, and occasionally learn things.  If you’re lucky, you learn some mental life skills.  But now it seems to be all about “safe spaces.”

On the surface, that’s fine.  It would be grand if college students felt safe from assault, attack, and ridicule while on campus.  But "safe from attack" has morphed into "safe from being challenged," which should be the very goal of a college education.

There’s no need for spaces safe from feeling uncomfortable, especially if one’s discomfort stems from having their beliefs and attitudes challenged by things like “science,” “evidence,” and “logic.”

If one’s only goal is to be told that everything they already “know” is actually true, one has no business on a college campus, other than to deliver pizza.  Parents who want their kids to come back from college with the same mindset they had when they went in, should save their dough and just keep the kids living their old bedrooms.  Maybe let them out for church.

Colleges aren’t there to hand out participation medals to every little snowflake like it was just another soccer league.  And that’s another travesty: the participation medal.  I hate that “no winners or losers” philosophy, because the second the kids move past childhood, there absolutely are winners and losers, and those expecting to be handed a trophy just for showing up on time will be in the latter group.

Heaven forbid you refer to them losers, though, or you’ll be guilty of loser shaming.

I am so tired of the verbal gymnastics you have to go through, just to refer to someone in particular.  Everyone has a special multi-syllabic preferred descriptor now.  We’re a society that is completely carved up and dealt with by applied labels and demographics, but we aren’t allowed to refer to them in plain language.

The Onion made fun of it, back in the early 2000s:

Courtesy of my The Onion Day by Day Calendar.  (#3 still makes me LOL.)

When did we get so hung up on superficialities that we ignore intent?  For I just don’t see a problem with saying “That black guy,” or “That white guy…”  To me, they’re just descriptors, without value judgment.

I’m old enough to have seen Blazing Saddles in the theater (as a junior high student, with my whole family, including my younger brother and sister.)  This morning I just read an interview with Mel Brooks, who is celebrating the 42nd anniversary of his western spoof, and he was lamenting how it could never be made in the current environment.

By today’s standards, someone would be there with a clicker, counting ever time the N-word was used, and that alone would  kybosh the film.  Thankfully, back in 1973, someone was paying attention to the context, in which the idiot townspeople were the ones using the N-word and the black sheriff was the smartest guy in town, defeated the bad guys and won over the townspeople. 

That’s how you defeat racism; not by becoming the word police.

Obviously, I’m not coming out in favor of using pejorative terms for people.  I think we should be polite, respectful, but direct.  In other words, try not to be a dick.

And I suppose I should apologize to all the dicks out there now, who I have just dick shamed.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Black, White and Blue: A Police State

I know it was mentioned on national news last week but it’s still reverberating here in Maryland; big time.  I’m talking about the Justice Department’s exhaustively documented investigation of the Baltimore City police department, which for more than a year, cataloged mountains of instances of blatantly unconstitutional behavior and institutionalized racism, from the top of the force to the bottom.

As bad as people on the street thought it was, the reality was actually worse.

It was thoroughly predictable how fast the apologists came out.  Among other complaints, I saw one letter to the editor which claimed the findings couldn’t be taken seriously because the DOJ neglected to charge Hillary Clinton.

Aside from the apples to oranges ridiculousness, it’s a complete misapplication of reason.  The report provided details upon details of instances personally witnessed by the investigators, of illegal behavior on the part of the police.

In one of the more egregious episodes, a sergeant sent a patrol officer to stop a group of young African-American men, question them and order them to disperse.  When the office said he had no valid reason to do so, Sarge told him “Then make something up.” 

All this happened with the DOJ agent right in the car with them.

I made this point in the past, as it applied to the shootings of unarmed black men, but it applies here too.  It seems that this kind of behavior is so ingrained in the organization, even while under the microscope, they still do it.  It’s just the way things are done.

Among the other findings:
  • Blacks are nearly three times more likely than whites to be stopped by police in Baltimore (and that’s after accounting for the higher black percentage of the population).  More than 400 people were stopped more than 10 times from 2010 to 2015 and 95% of them were black.  One middle-aged African-American man was stopped 30 times in four years, without a single citation or arrest being filed.

  • Arrests for minor transgressions like loitering, disorderly conduct or failure to obey a police officer, were recorded against African-Americans far more than is reflected by their percentage of the local population.

  • Blacks are 37% more likely than others to be searched in pedestrian stops and 27% more likely to be searched in vehicle stops.

In reality, the real story is even worse, because of gaping deficiencies in police record keeping.  The DOJ’s numbers only reflect the things that got officially reported.

Ever since Ferguson, police apologists have gone out of their way to blame everyone but the police.  “If they’d just do what the police tell them, they wouldn’t have a problem, would they?

It’s so easy to sit back, wrapped in the aura of white privilege, and pass judgment on how other people should behave; other people whose everyday challenges would turn the critics even whiter.

I know people who have said these very things, but I guaran-damn-tee you that if they were ever stopped by the cops day after day after day, for doing nothing but driving legally, or standing and talking with friends, they’d be singing a completely different tune.  They’d be more than ready to rumble.

So when they smugly go all, “All lives matter,” they don’t understand the bigger picture, that of course all lives matter, but all lives aren’t the ones being systematically persecuted; the black ones are.
Inevitably someone brings up the recent targeted cop killings, inferring that it is the police who are under siege and it can’t be helped if they feel they have to defend themselves.

Of course, the facts say differently:
It just seems like all these things are exploding now because unlike in previous eras, now we hear about every incident.  Thirty years ago, if a cop gets killed in some backwood jerkwater town, only those in proximity to said jerkwater town heard about it.  There was no internet with which to get people fired up all over the country.

There really is no siege, just a few dangerous characters, probably not very bright, definitely suicidal, who are bent on taking out some cops.

So we’re back to the over-arching problem of institutionalized discrimination in big city police departments.  (If you think this is just a Baltimore problem, you’re kidding yourself.)

Now, what do we do about it?  That’s the question, isn’t it?

I wrote my thoughts on how to address this mess, back in December.  Band-Aids won’t work; it’s going to take a major philosophy change.  It won’t be quick and it won’t be cheap.  But it has to be done.

My opinion is that having a police force of one ethnicity with complete authority over a population of a different ethnicity is a recipe for suspicion, mistrust and not so spontaneous combustion.  But it will take a great deal of time to change any of that, if it’s even possible. 

If the schools are jungles and the students are poor and hungry, we’ll never find enough qualified people to join the police force.  So all we have to do is solve poverty and education and we’ll be home free!


In the meantime, recent events have shown that increased outside scrutiny does nothing to curb abuses of power.  Nothing will any different until there are agents of change on the inside.  Until police supervisors cease to tolerate these abuses, and good cops stop covering for bad ones, this predicament will never change.

The events in the DOJ report happened right here in this city.  And no amount of feel-good videos of cops playing games or dancing with kids will change the fact that police supervisors are specifically ordering their subordinates to do things that violate the Constitution, not to mention the standards of civilized society.

This has to be addressed in a meaningful way or else it’s going to stay blazing hot out there on the streets for a very long time.

Monday, August 8, 2016

What I Did on My Summer Vacation - Part 3

I gave you the first two days last week; now on to the rest of the adventure.

I probably should have mentioned this in the last post, to remain true to my chronologically ordered intentions, but on the way down from the airport, my buddy the VP called up his 87-year old dad and told him we’d be there to pick him up to go to the tavern in about 15 minutes.

His dad answered, in his distinctive Kentucky accent, “Why that’d be fine as frog hair.”

I love those old country sayings, especially the ones I’ve never heard before.

I probably spent half the week working on the leftover pulled pork and corn on the cob from Sunday’s feast.  Luckily I still had enough room for grilled brats.  (I’m sorry I don’t have any pics… but if you’ve seen one sausage, you’ve seen ’em all.) 

Afterwards, we went to the tavern and met up with my fearless friend, Sherry, she of the 52 at 52 Series.  

Important note: Sherry’s book, based on her experience of stepping out of her comfort zone once a week throughout her 52nd year, will be published in 2017.  I can’t wait to read it!

The big event of the day was going to see the World Famous Toledo Mudhens.
They play in a beautiful downtown ballpark and I never miss a chance to go.  Of course, the Hens probably aren’t too crazy that because they’ve gone 1-9 during all the games I’ve attended, including the 3-0 loss Tuesday night.  Sorry guys.

Barbecued chicken was the order of the day.  The VP did up three chickens, from the rubdown…

…through crispy completion.
After eating, we hit the tavern again, and when they threw us out of there, (due to an 11:00 closing, not because of our behavior), we headed on over to the smaller bar down the street.  The CFO’s daughter was working late and wanted to meet us there afterwards.  She needed some help from the “Council of Elders,” so we made this one a late night.  I hadn’t been out ‘til 2:00 AM in ages.  No skin off my ass, though… I could sleep in.

This was the day we decided to go fishing on the Maumee River.  The VP found a little fishing dock and we cast our lines around 9:00 AM.

Morning on the Maumee River

We probably should have come later because we didn’t catch anything for the first three hours but sunburn.  Eventually, the sun moved so we caught a bit of shade for the rest of the day, as long as we stayed about 5 feet back from the railing.

Later on, we started seeing some action.  The VP pulled in a sheephead, and then I caught a couple, as well.
I had an even smaller one earlier.

Highlight of the day was pulling in this channel catfish.
Next thing you know, I was catching my own bait.
I don’t even know how I caught this thing… must have just swam into the hook.

I tried reusing it as bait, but that was it for the day’s biting.

It wasn’t like we were trying to keep any to eat; we had plenty to fill our bellies that evening when we went to my old college haunt, Myles Pizza, for the biggest pie you’ll ever lay eyes on.

God, I love this pizza!

We had a big group, with me, the VP, the CFO, his 3 kids, and his oldest daughter’s 3 kids plus fiancĂ©.  And we still had leftovers! 

The CFO’s youngest daughter and beneficiary of the wisdom passed down by the Council of Elders.

The CFO’s son and I square off for our annual “Who’s Tallest Now?” contest. 

As you can see, I have him by about a frog hair.  Of course, there are ¾ inch cushions in my sneakers, plus a Dr. Scholl’s gel insert, while the boy was wearing what looked like dock shoes, so I was totally cheating.  Age and treachery, baby!  He’s just going into his junior year of high school this fall so I expect he’ll have passed me by my next visit, whether I’m gellin’ or not.

When we got home, there was no room for beer, but we’d planned ahead.  We had some incredible Woodford Reserve whiskey instead of beer and killed the night watching a Naked Gun marathon.  Life is good.

The CFO and I went out to watch the new Jason Bourne movie that afternoon.  If you like the other Bourne movies, you’ll like this one.  It’s good stuff.

For a culinary finale, the VP barbecued up some awesome pork ribs and baked potatoes, which we attacked with our customary enthusiasm.

I’m pretty sure I should stick to salads this week, after last week’s Meat-O-Rama.

After the rib feast, we went back to the tavern once more, but this time entailed a reunion.  That morning I’d heard from my old buddy Bruce, whose co-worker we convinced that we were brothers, just so I could get a discount at the toy store where they worked, and then kept up the ruse for more than a year.  He and his sister were in town from the west coast and it was my last night in town, so we had no choice but to meet up.

I hadn’t seen Bruce or his sister (another Sherry) since the early 80s so it was great to catch up.  You can tell a friendship is real when no matter how long the layoff, whenever you get back together, it’s as if you were just hanging out the previous week.

It was a nice way to end the week.  Old friends are the best.

L-R: The VP, The CFO, and me.

Thanks for putting up with me again this year, guys.  And I can’t believe we made it through a presidential election year without talking about politics!

Monday, August 1, 2016

What I did on My Summer Vacation - Part 2

Greetings from rustic Whitehouse Ohio!  I'm out on my annual pilgrimage to the land of my youth, the farmlands outside Toledo, to visit my best buddies, the Chairman of Fuck Off (The CFO) and the Vice President of Hell No (The VP).

I've only been here since Saturday so I don't have a lot of adventures to report just yet, but there's enough for a short post.

After the VP picked me up in Detroit, we thought we'd never get out of Michigan.  All the interstates seemed to be under construction, with the corresponding traffic jams, so we had to procure some alternate routing to get back to friendly territory.

After we met up with the CFO at the local tavern, we stopped at the grocery store for a supply of beer for the week. (OK, next couple days, probably.)
I just wonder what came with the full-service restroom...

When we got back to the garage, I noticed the VP's charcoal supply.
If that garage catches fire, they'll never be able to put it out, they'll just have to have a community barbecue.

On Sunday, the VP did up some pork butt, for pulled pork.
Fully spiced and ready to smoke.

Then when it was done...
it was a sight to behold.  And a smell to besmell too.

We also did some cooler corn, with the watchful oversight of the CFO's dog and grandson.

Later on, the boy demonstrated his magnetic personality.

Tonight, we're looking at grilled brats, (that's as in the sausage, not rotten kids) and a night back at the tavern.  Later this week, we have a Toledo Mudhens game, some river fishing, and a trip to my favorite pizza place in Bowling Green.  Stay tuned for what's sure to be a fascinating story... 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Living in Concert - Part 5

Because I want to write about something other than politics today,

and there’s not really anything else going on, I figured I’d do up another installment of my old concert life, last addressed in February of 2015.  Back when I was in the record retail business, I used to see a lot of concerts… mostly for free, as a perk of the job.  It was one of the few things that kept me going.

At this point in the narrative, I was working in my company’s home office in Albany NY.

2/16/93 – Bon Jovi/Jeff Healey Band, Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, Crossroads tour. ($22.50 comped)  I’d seen Bon Jovi open for the Scorpions in Toledo back in the 80s, and seen Jeff Healey headline Peabody’s in Cleveland, so their roles were reversed on this night.  Seemed wrong seeing Jeff Healey on a big arena stage.  I felt he belongs in a small grungy club like the Double Deuce.  They could have at least put up some chicken wire in front of the stage.

March 1993 – Queen Ida (headlining Mardi Gras Night), Proctor’s Theater, Schenectady NY.  Went with the wife.  She loved Cajun music.  They made this ornate theater look like the French Quarter of old New Orleans.  They even had people up on the balconies in the atrium throwing down beads.  (And you didn’t have to show off any body parts to get them!)

3/18/93 – Howie Mandel, Proctor’s Theater. ($25.50)  Before he was a talent show judge, Howie was a great standup comedian, with boundless energy and a slew of voices.  My favorite bits were when he’d go into the audience and just riff off of people.

6/1/93 – Norman Nardini, The Metro, Saratoga Springs NY, Breakdown in Paradise tour. (comped)  I wrote extensively about seeing and hanging out with Norm in my “Brushes” series.  Norman Nardini was a guitarist out of Pittsburgh who I first saw playing at our company’s annual convention, and just rocking the place. 

Norm in Greenwich Village, about to rock this guy’s face off.

Went with the wife and two of her friends, my boss, and my other boss.  In between sets, Norm would come and hang out at our table.  This was the first time I saw him work a room full of people who didn’t know who the hell he was, and have them eating out of his hand by the end of the night.

July 1993, Buckwheat Zydeco/Beausoliel, headlining the annual Cajun Festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).  Took the family and wife’s friend’s family.  Picnic out on the grass, with lots of games, beer, and dancing to Cajun music.

7/31/93 – Tina Turner/Chris Isaac, Simply the Best tour, SPAC. ($25.50)  The fourth time seeing Tina Turner, who really hadn’t even aged since I first saw her in 1985.  Third time seeing her at an outdoor pavilion.

8/29/93 – Charlie Daniels Band, Starlite Theater, Albany NY. (22.50)  Third time seeing the CDB, but the first time in 11 years.  You always know what you’re going to get, though.  I don’t listen to much country music, but when I do, I like it shit-kicking, the way these guys play it.

10/31/93 – Joe Satriani at the Hard Rock CafĂ©, NYC, and Norman Nardini at Kenny’s Castaways, Greenwich Village, NY. (Comped)  Came into “The City” with some execs from work, along with the wife and her girlfriend, to see two shows in one night.  The Satriani gig was “invite only,” then we cabbed it across town to the Village to see Norm again.  Details are in the post I linked in the previous Norman listing.  Great night.

November 1993 – Dan Baird/The Poorboys, Folk Songs for the Hearing Impaired tour, Saratoga Winners. (Comped)  Dan Baird was the lead singer of the Georgia Satellites, and on a solo album tour in '93.  Wrote about this one, here, because this was the show where the wife finally became unafraid of the rock stars.  We met Dan Baird and the two of them just started talking like old friends.  (Even though she probably hadn’t heard of him before that night.  Actually, that probably helped.)

11/23/93 – Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell 2 tour, Orpheum Theater, Boston. ($28.50 comped)  This was a wedding present from the guys at the office; tickets to a “warm-up” gig in Boston before Meat embarked on his massive multi-year tour supporting his new comeback album.  (I wrote about this show as well, in the post linked directly above.)  The only opening act was a string quartet, playing Meat Loaf songs, up until the show started and they were literally chased off the stage by the guitarist, unleashing power chords in their faces.

January 1994 – Janet Jackson/Tony Toni Tone, “Janet Jackson” tour, Knickerbocker Arena, Albany. ($40.00)  Until 2008, this was the most I’ve ever paid for a concert ticket and this one hurt because there were four of us going. (Took the wife, her son, and niece.)  Great show, though.  Janet obviously learned how to put on a spectacle from her brother.

One part rang false, when she pulled some slob out of the crowd, sat on his lap and sang to him.  Dude was whimpering like a schoolboy.  I was wondering how they knew he wouldn’t try to do something, like unsnap a piece of clothing…  When I got back to work, I asked my mentor, Vinnie, about that bit.  I said, “Was that guy for real, or was he a plant?

Vinnie said, “Total plant.  She pulled the same guy when I saw the tour in Boston.”

Just goes to show; you can’t trust showbiz.

1/18/94 – Billy Joel, River of Dreams tour, Knickerbocker Arena. ($28.50)  The great thing about a Billy Joel show is that you’ll know every song and they’ll all be hits.

3/7/94 – Melissa Etheridge/Matthew Sweet, Yes I Am tour, Palace Theater. ($35.00)  Took the wife backstage to meet Melissa (second time for me), but unfortunately, we never got individual pictures.  Someone took a group shot, and I did have a copy but lost custody of it in the divorce.  Details on meeting Ms. Etheridge and my getting all clammed up can be found here.

To be continued, the next time I’m out of ideas.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Planks for the Memories

The Republican national convention and dumpster fire starts tonight.  I heard Donald Trump hand-selected Scott Baio to speak one night this week, because, you know… star power.

I don’t know if I’m surprised or not at what’s gone into this year’s Republican national platform.  It’s the most backward, regressive, trying-to-put-the-toothpaste-back-in-the-tube platform they’ve ever constructed.  All I can say is that they must feel really secure in their voter suppression strategies because it appears they’ve learned absolutely nothing from the last two elections.

Remember how they were going to try to be more inclusive?  Right, that’s out the window.  This platform doubles down on well to do angry white straight men and the women who dutifully walk two steps behind them. 

They also reject climate change science and have gone so far as to recommend the burning of “clean coal,” which couldn’t possibly be more oxymoronic.  Just calling the dirtiest fuel source we have “clean” doesn’t make it so.  (If it was, I would have used that logic on my mom when she wanted me to clean my room.)

They attack pornography as a public health “crisis,” as opposed to the tens of thousands of gun-related deaths every year.  And speaking of health crises, (although unrelated to the GOP platform), the Republicans in congress refuse to pass a bill allocating funds to combat the spread of the Zika virus, that does not carry a prohibition of funds for contraception, which just so happens to be the best way to combat the spread of the Zika virus.  Maybe they want to do like they try to do with gays and pray the Zika away.

That’s another thing in the platform: recommending conversion therapy for gays, a process that’s been 100% discredited by all reputable psychologists.  This should be the GOP motto: “It’s not just environmental science we’re ignoring now.”

Obviously ending Obamacare is one of their priorities, because we can’t have all these people with insurance, because… well, sorry, I’m at a loss for the downside.

Trump sure picked the right guy for the VP spot. 

Indiana governor Mike Pence is a True Believer, which is just the thing needed to bolster Trump's recently discovered religious beliefs.  Pence was willing to break his state’s economy over a bill that gave businesses the right to discriminate against gays.  Anyone can talk a good game of repression, Pence has walked the walk.  I bet he uses one of these:

The metaphor I used earlier it true; they’re trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, trying to un-ring the bell, closing the door after the horse is out of the barn.

Have you ever tried to take rights away from the people who have them?  They think gay people are just going to go, “Well, OK, we tried doing the married thing, but we’d really feel more comfortable if we could go back to being second class citizens.”  Do they think poor people are going to go, “You know, I’d feel much better if I could just use the ER as my GP and skip out on the bills.”

People are not going to give up their hard-earned rights without a fight.  But the GOP doesn’t care about that, not when they’ve locked up the voting process.  It’s no accident that wherever they’re demanding government IDs in order to vote, they’re ALSO closing and limiting hours of DMV locations that service the poorest neighborhoods.  You know, because of “voter fraud.”

We’re going to hear a lot of crap about both candidates in the next few months and all of it will be irrelevant.  The emails don’t matter.  The wall doesn’t matter.  Speaking fees and designer suits don’t matter.  Trump University doesn’t matter.  Crooked Hillary,  Racist Donald, none of it matters.

The only things that matter are what each party plans to do in Washington.

The Republicans want to:

…roll back civil rights on LGBT folks and stuff them back into the closet where they will be neither seen nor heard. 

…pretend environmental science is a hoax because it costs them money to change business practices.  (Ask Florida’s governor about what happens to tourist trade when your environmental policies lead directly to beaches filled with green crud.)

…end the right to an abortion in combination with eliminating the most effective means to prevent unwanted pregnancies. 

…ensure that nothing prevents the rich from buying politicians and elections.

…continue finding places to send our troops and places to bomb, to keep the flow of tax dollars to the defense industry.

…kick millions of people off of their insurance plans, in place of some kind of voucher system they haven’t yet been able to explain.

…privatize social security, leaving our retirement in the hands of the same people who collapsed our economy in 2008.

…eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose only mission is to keep banks from screwing its customers.

…initiate some kind of religious litmus test to apply to those who are legally immigrating, all the while trying to force their own religion into government policy.

…continue to prevent any progress on gun legislation of any kind, regardless of the toll in human lives.

The Democrats want to…

…it doesn’t even matter, because they oppose all the preceding points.

There’s only one thing that we can do to ensure we don’t move our country back into the Dark Ages, and that’s to make every effort to get people registered to vote, NOW, well ahead of time.  Time nullifies GOP voter suppression tactics and we have that at the moment.

If you have elderly parents or college student children, make sure they have the documents necessary to vote.  Some states require original or authorized copies of birth certificates, which can take time to obtain. 

If they’ve registered before, you’d best find out if they’re still registered.  Many red states are aggressively purging voter rolls, with little double-checking and even less oversight.

Start the process now.  By the time October and November roll around, it will be too late.

Moving the country forward is the only way to go.  Once you start taking people’s rights away, (even if they’re not “your people”), it’s an awfully short step away from fascism.