Monday, December 27, 2021

Year-End Debunkery

Let’s clean out the old pipeline so we can start the year with fresh idiocy to debunk! These will be quick takes because there’s a pot of chili on the stove and I’m feeling every bit of it.

You wouldn’t risk “Facebook Jail” if you weren’t posting verifiable bullshit. Post things that are true and not harmful and destructive and you’ll be unfettered by Facebook’s shackles. Do better.

This looks like a Christmas wish list from the Koch Brothers. Wipes out most of the areas for taxations on businesses, while leaving taxes as is for the rest of the country. How very Scroogean.

Just remember no taxes means no roads, schools, libraries, fire departments, police departments, national defense, immigration agencies, food inspectors, occupational safety enforcement or a wealth of other community essentials. Your guns won’t get you any of these things.

While this looks to most like a benign kind of “don’t worry be happy” message, I see it as similar to the previous meme in that it is a total benefit to the 1%. “Little Things” for the Little People. It’s an attempt by the rich to keep you happy with your meager possessions and surroundings and get you to stop jockeying for a livable wage or affordable insurance. Don’t buy into it.

This is a headline clip from my Yahoo home page and it’s the best news I’ve heard this month! Now we can easily identify the idiots who won’t get vaxxed. We can see them coming and then stay out of their orbit. Get this information to a MAGA rally ASAP! The red hats can come off but the blue will remain. Plus, we can aggravate them further by saying, “and I thought I was a dyed-blue Democrat…”

Meme Dump

Here are some of the memes I’ve meant to run but either never had the opportunity or forgot about when the subject came up. 

I think this last one is one of the more powerful editorial cartoons from this year.

I hope you’ve had a joyous holiday season and look forward to a better 2022. I, for one, will be thrilled to put 2021 in my rearview mirror. Thank you for stopping by this year and thank you to those who have posted links to this site. Your time and attention are greatly appreciated, as well as indispensable.

See you in 2022.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Electric Car Hysteria

 I can see from the topic’s recurrence in Facebook memes that the conservative Powers That Be don’t want their minions getting cozy with the idea of electric cars anytime soon. You can also tell by the weakness of the arguments that they’re counting on them taking things at face value and not digging too deeply into the subject. This one is typical:

You’d think that the right-wing bearers of toxic masculinity would love to have the heaviest battery around. If the fossil fuel industry wasn’t trying so hard to kill them, the car companies would be touting them right now.

Don’t mess around with those pencil-neck batteries! Get’cher 2022 Ford F-350 with the heaviest battery on the planet! You’ll never get stuck in mud or snow again! [Spoken quickly in disclaimer-speak] “EPA rating 2.5 miles/gallon. Mileage may vary.”

The thing is, since I harvested that meme, battery sizes have already come down considerably (IF they were ever truly 1000 lbs) and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to downsize. That’s how tech works… over time everything eventually becomes smaller, lighter, and cheaper.

And do you want to talk about displacing raw materials? How much earth do you think has been moved in search of coal and oil? Please. If they were worried about natural resources they would have demanded limitations on drilling and fracking years ago. They use this argument because they know that liberals care about natural resources and they recognize a good scare tactic when they see one.

But this is another method of the right: the “All or Nothing” ploy. If driving an electric car won’t fix everything, then forget it and do nothing. Notice how there is never an alternative plan to fight climate change, just an endless list of things they claim won’t work, (electric cars, wind farms, solar energy) which just so happens to be things they don’t want to do. The only plan is to remain status quo, which coincidentally, is exactly what the coal and oil companies want to do.

And then there’s just the plain old deception and misinformation.

The grand assumption is that the battery will drain away and leave you stranded and freezing. However it is a false assumption, and one the authors know their intended audience will grasp onto nonetheless. Here’s the valid information:

Not only will the battery not die out on you, (assuming you didn’t get into the jam with the battery on “E”), it will likely last longer than a gas-powered car. You can get stranded with your gas tank on E as well as your electric car battery.

When I first saw this meme, someone chimed in with a comment about someone charging their car with a gas-powered generator. (Har har, stoopid libs...)

This is a call back to another meme that purported to show someone doing just that. Of course, they never mention that the picture isn’t even from the US, it’s from somewhere in eastern Europe or something, probably from one of those places where you see the pictures of people precariously stacking one ladder on top of another, or riding around on a bicycle with a sheep on the handlebars. Suffice to say, it has nothing to do with the contemporary argument for which it’s being used. Yet there it is.

Deep down, the fossil fuel industries know that a day of reckoning will come when their products will no longer be acceptable. What they’re doing now is trying to make That Day as far down the road as they can push it, so as to continue to reap the waterfall of profits they currently enjoy. So they put out misinformation like this to sway the minds of those who cling to rose-colored memories of how life used to be.

Now, all that said, I have issues with electric car-hood myself. In my job, I manage a fleet of cars for our company. I’m keenly aware of the pros and cons of going electric. In order for a company like mine to adopt such technology, there’s some more work to be done in the field.

There are two things that the e-car industry will have to tackle before they see wider corporate adoption.

1)      There must be far more charging stations available. I see a smattering around town now, including in one of my office building’s parking garages. But they’re set up in the swank part of town. (As if any part of Baltimore can really be considered “swank.”) When people are on a multi-day business trip to visit various company locations, they won’t be able to use their home station. These people are going to have to count on being able to get a charge when they need one.

I can see our people whose turf is contained within a metro area being able to go electric. But for our other folks out in places like Montana and the Great Plains, whose locations can be hundreds of miles away from each other, finding a charge may be a prohibitive issue. At least for now.

2)      Charging time will need to come way down. People who work on the road cannot wait around for an hour or more to charge up their cars. They need to get it close to the time it takes to fill up a car with gas, or at least in the same ballpark.

I should also mention that the purchase price needs to come down too. Maybe individuals can make their money back in gasoline savings, but that takes time. Companies like mine usually replace their leased cars every 3 years or so, which limits the time available to lower the lifecycle costs. We’ll have to run the numbers when the time comes.

Until these changes take place, I don’t see wide-scale adoption on the corporate level. Although the use of hybrids may be an effective bridge. When I see the cost of hybrids come down, then it may be time for me to broach the subject with management.

More “Dad” Stories

Back in 2013, I wrote a post about getting splinters and shots, the banes of kid existence. Here’s a bit from it that featured “Doctor Dad”:

I quickly learned to rue the moment I got a splinter because I knew my Dad would have to take it out.  And he didn't consider it “extrication” as much as “exploratory surgery,” with nothing but a straight pin.

First, he had to run the end of the pin through the flame from a match, to “disinfect” it.  I think it was really to make sure I was properly terrified.  Then he’d use it to start digging around in my finger until he couldn't hold my hand down securely, from all my wiggling and howling.  After much crying and moaning and swearing and straining, he’d come up with the splinter on the end of the pin.  (Although a few times, I think he just pushed it down far enough so I couldn't see it anymore.)  Afterward, he’d apply some alcohol… not to me, to himself, in the form of Jack Daniels.

I remember one evening, when I was 5 or 6, I got a splinter from playing around near this rough railroad tie-looking plank that bordered our garden.  I came in and we did the whole Splinter Removal Dance, which took about 20 minutes.  (Not including the Jack.)  I went back outside to continue what I was doing and immediately got another splinter.

That one didn't go over very well.  I think there was considerably less delicacy used in the second extraction than there was with the first.  He might have even used an old corkscrew, I’m not sure.  I can’t say I blame him, but on the bright side, it was an early lesson wherein the little Bluzdude learned about the insanity of repeating the same action and expecting a different result.

Eventually, we managed to procure a pair of tweezers, so Dad could retire the straight-pin.  I’m not sure that was better, though, because often the splinter still had to be dug out, and the dullish edges of the tweezers were ineffective unless the nub was exposed.

Before long, I stopped telling anyone I had a splinter, and just went for the tweezers myself.  At least I could regulate how hard to push, and therefore the pain.  It’s hard to properly judge a kid’s actual pain when they scream before you even stick it in.

Of course, Dad had to get the last word in, in Comments:



Monday, December 13, 2021

Toxic Shock

The notion of toxic masculinity has been resurfacing in the news of late. Last week it was the ammosexual family of Rep Thomas Massie, posing for a traditional Christmas card picture in front of the tree, along with enough military hardware to annex Ukraine.

“Everyone say, Compensating!

This is one family where I bet no one ever wanted to bring home a bad report card* or spill their muscle milk. “Jeff, you didn’t finish your meat. Go out there and give me 20 headshots from 250 yards.”

*Bad report card meaning a grade the parents can’t argue or bully into a passing mark.

Back in October, before Rep. Madison Cawthorne was calling women “earthen vessels” meant for child delivery, he gave a speech where he called for women to “raise their boys as monsters,” while decrying the loss of masculinity. This coming from a guy in a wheelchair, it seems like an especially blatant attempt to compensate for his own limitations.

They are trying to de-masculate the young men in our country because they don’t want people who are going to stand up,” says the man who is permanently seated.

It’s no wonder this guy seems to be in a race with Louis Gohmert for “Dumbest Man in Congress.”

Whether it’s political or social, I see toxic masculinity as the source of a plethora of problems that plague our society. Its footprints are everywhere there’s evil and it all has to do with the male ego, with the notion that a man is entitled to anything he wants and if denied, is within his rights to take it by force. Hence the familiar examples:

·        Men who beat or kill women who try to leave them. Or stalk them, threaten them, interfere in their work or career, post revenge porn, and generally make their life miserable. It’s a shot to the ego, so man must make her pay.

·        Woman won’t date/sleep with him, she gets the same treatment as one who tries to leave. Must be a lesbian.

·        Same with road rage, feeling the need to make someone pay for the effrontery of trying to merge in front of him. “No one gets in front of me, they must be taught a lesson.” Even when so "wronged" in traffic, is it so hard just to vent it and forget it, and just go on with your life?

·        Men who are answerable to no one because they know everything. “If I don’t already know it, it’s not worth knowing.” This comes along with the dismissal of any experts of their field. We’ve just had a president with this trait. It would be unmanly and therefore forbidden, to acknowledge that someone else knows more than him about anything.

·        That includes the aversion to doctors and medicine in general because it would be a threat to their masculinity to be sick or ailing in any way. “I have no need for doctors because I’m too strong and fit to be sick. Nothing is wrong with me, ever.” The last president thought this as well.

No one can tell me what to do. No doctors, no lawyers, no wimmen, that’s for damned sure.”

·        Hence the Vax aversions, which by accepting a shot would mean that their own immune system is in some way inadequate or flawed. Or they have to appear to obey some pencil-neck in authority. Neither perception can be allowed to happen.  That’s all this “Liberty” crap is about… It’s a 5-year old yelling at his mother, “You can’t tell me what to do.”

·        Excessive love of high-powered weaponry, as demonstrated in the pic above. It’s not a matter of having a gun or two around the house for protection, it’s having to strap on an AR-15 just to go down to Costco. “Gotta let people know I can’t be trifled* with!” These guys have to have the biggest guns and the biggest trucks, just to make up for the rampant dick fear. If they can even see it anymore over their bellies.

*I apologize, none of these guys would ever use a word like “trifled,” unless it meant shooting someone with three rifles.

·        Obsession with the military and especially law enforcement. They love to laud the police department. You’d think that would be taboo, to recognize outside authority, but this is different because the police are loaded with the same kind of guys and they recognize their own. Rednecks with guns are basically immune to the police unless they go and do something in public that can’t be covered up. (And even then, it’s iffy.)

·        They never back down, never apologize or admit it when wrong. These things go hand in hand. “I’m never wrong, so what’s there to apologize for?” Along with that is the absolute refusal to compromise. “It’s my way or the highway.” Then when nothing gets done, it’s the other party’s fault. “Why should I give ground when I’m right?

*    Gangland mentality is rife with the same issues. There's no dis too small to avoid payback because ego won't allow it. You can't be seen as a pussy so signs of disrespect are avenged by killing the other guy, along with his family, or burning down their house.

·        Persecution of gays in any way possible. They hate gay men for being “sissies” and gay women for turning their backs on men. The whole idea makes them crazy so they’ll back anything from beating the crap out of them, to denying them basic human rights, to not serving them in establishments, to being unable to enjoy a simple TV show, if “one of those people” is on it.

·        A complete lack of empathy toward anyone else. “You got problems? Tough shit. Man up and shut up.”

While this kind of behavior is not limited to one political party, it still reads like the official Republican Platform. Or at least their operations handbook. It’s the kind of behavior that’s appealing to people with limited intelligence and reasoning skills, because it’s completely without nuance, along with being highly satisfying. I mean, who doesn’t want to be right all the time, or be the toughest, manliest, proudest mug on the block? Maybe it’s just “fake it till you make it” gone horribly awry.

Maybe someone can describe for me how any of these symptoms make the world a better place? Granted, that’s a moot question because these people aren’t interested in a better world for anyone else, just themselves and their destructive clones.

Is it really too much to be kind or considerate? Can we never put ourselves in someone else's shoes and consider what it's like to be them? Is empathy really such a sign of weakness? Is a reasoned response so painful that it paves the way to thinking with one's nutsack and just blowing up anyone or anything that dares cross you? There are far too many men for whom it is, an alarming number of which have gone into politics.

In Other News…

I have another “Dad Story” in mind but it’s too long to go with this post. Instead, let me tell you about something else.

I got my COVID booster shot last Friday. There were no side effects to report except a sore arm, much like the last two times. In fact, I also took this opportunity to get a Shingles shot as well. (The first of two.) But it was funny because the shot administrator tried to talk me out of getting both shots at once.

I said, “But it’s right there on your website, asking if we want any other shots while we’re here!”

He went on with a long explanation about types of shots and consequences, loaded with medical jargon and disclaimers. I figured, I hadn’t had any ill effects from shots so far, why worry now? So I had him do them both anyway.

I don’t think that was toxic masculinity, was it? I think it was more like stubbornness and reluctance to change plans.

I was hoping to get both shots in one arm, so I could still sleep comfortably on the other, but no, I had to get one in each. But the arm with the shingles shot was much less sore than the other, so I still got my beauty sleep. And like I said, no side effects at all.

And Lastly…

I see pictures like this on Facebook, usually with the caption that it looks like Jesus. On our dog, I think it looks more like Kenny from South Park.


Monday, December 6, 2021

We’ve Come a Long Way Baby, and Then Went Back

 I was appalled last week when listening to the Supreme Court arguments on the Mississippi abortion law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. Expert court watchers (like the ones that inhabit my blogroll) believe that based on the justice’s questioning, the court is planning on upending or neutering Roe Vs Wade.

I am in disbelief that we find ourselves, as a country, litigating what should be a basic human right: the autonomy over one’s body. Conservatives are perfectly content with turning sentient humans into nothing more than incubators for the state, at the behest of religious zealots who can’t abide by other people’s decisions or beliefs with which they disagree.

It appeared that several justices were looking for an angle, any angle, to use to clear the way for abortion bans. Kavanaugh thinks it should go back to the states, which I’m sure he’d decide the opposite way if the issue was establishing gun laws. Republicans only want laws going back to Republican states. After this decision, guns will have more rights than women.

Amy Barrett Coney seems to be supporting the point that babies being more easily given up for adoption eliminates the need for abortion at all. She pointed out how many towns have hospitals or firehouses where you can anonymously drop off your unwanted baby and it will be cared for.

It seems we’ve come to the point where a joke from Young Frankenstein is about to become the lynchpin of a court case that dehumanizes half the humans in this country.

This whole theory just breezes by the fact that women in more than half the country will be required by law to gestate a baby that will push their body every which way, cause sickness and discomfort, tear apart their lady parts, cost a fortune, and require time away from work. I don’t see anyone looking to provide free prenatal care to unwilling mothers, or any kind of paid stay-at-home-and-grow-a-child benefits. Seriously, adoption really isn’t that simple, until the very end. It’s like reading only the last chapter and going, “War and Peace really wasn’t that long; I knocked it out in an hour.”

Last Friday, Rep. Madison Cawthorne (R-NC17) referred to women as “earthen vessels,” while likening unborn babies to Polaroid pictures. 

The dude ought to leave the metaphors alone before someone puts an earthen vessel upside his head. Here’s more of his pious bullshit:

You have a Polaroid camera and you snap a beautiful picture, and a great photo prints out the front. You hold it and shake it, waiting for the picture to appear, but suddenly someone walks by and snatches your photo, ripping it to shreds. You’re stunned. You cry, ‘Why did you destroy my picture?’ The person replies, ‘Oh, it wasn’t a picture. It wasn’t fully developed yet.’ All of us in this room realize how asinine that reasoning is.”

The gap in logic is breathtaking. The problem with this analogy is that he has it turned inside out. What this law is proposing goes like this: “I just took a Polaroid picture and while it’s developing, I decide I don’t really want it after all (for any number of personal reasons) and before I can tear it up, some panel of strangers decides I have to keep the picture because they want me to have it for… (garbled, incoherent religious reasons). And I have to pass this picture out of a bodily orifice that isn’t well designed for such a journey. They don’t want the picture. They won’t pay for the film or framing. They don’t care if I give it away, but they will force me to keep it until it tears my body apart.”

There’s your analogy, Madison. Talk about asinine.

I know court arguments are very formal, even ritualized. It’s all case law, precedent, and legal eagle mumbo jumbo in Latin. But with this case, I don’t understand how Sotomayor and Kagan can refrain from making it personal. If I were either of those two, I’d question the counsel from Mississippi in such a personal and direct manner, that he’d want to run back to Biloxi and forget all about his quest to force his religious dogma on the unwilling rest of the country.

If it were me (as a female justice), I’d be like, “So explain to me why, if I were 30 years younger and pregnant, your government would seek to preempt my own judgment regarding my child-bearing decisions? On what grounds do you strip away my own will to decide how to use my body? Why is your religious perspective more important than mine, when it comes to what I do? Are you saying the entire country has to adhere to one specific religion, that being yours? And yes, it’s a completely religious argument. The moment a human “life” begins is subject to great moral and philosophical debate. Are you saying that a thimble full of merging cells has more rights than a sentient, thinking, breathing human being? By whose authority? God’s? Whose God?

“The Constitution may not refer to abortion but it very prominently says, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ In fact, one of my favorite blogs says that right at the top. If you take religion out of the picture, where do you get the authority to force me to deliver a baby? Believe me, when you can shoot a grapefruit out of your willy, then come see me about making women give birth against their will.”

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that the only way for the right to choose (and vote, and love) as you please is to retake state and local governments. If the new conservative Court is going to apply the will of the few to the fate of the many, we have to change laws from the ground up. State legislatures put these onerous laws in place, they can also encode protections. Those may be subject to SCOTUS rejections, but they can still repeal the original restrictions. No court can find that they must enact a law. As citizens, we need to demand that our state legislatures reflect our will and our numbers.

Republicans know this too, or they wouldn’t be working so feverishly to gerrymander and erect barriers to voting freely.

I hope this issue lights the fire under those who have taken Roe Vs Wade for granted and moves them to look hard at their state representation. We have to ensure that government reflects the will of the people, not the will of a small subset of religious zealots.

No Dad Story Today

Usually, this is where I’d tell another story about my father but it’s not really the right time. Last week, our family suffered another tragedy with the loss of my sister’s husband, Scotty, after a year-long battle with leukemia.

Scott was one of my brother’s best friends back in high school and then dated our younger sister for a year or two. As it goes with most high school romances they broke up and went their separate ways, eventually marrying other people. But 20 years later, they both found themselves divorced and missing each other, and thus began the 2nd half of their romance. They married in the early 2000s and have been inseparable ever since.

And I only mention this because of the subject of the rest of this post, but one year for Halloween one carried an oar, the other wore hip waders, and they went out as Roe Vs Wade.

Scotty and Bluz Sister fought this thing hard but ultimately, the cancer won. It is truly a bitch.

I thought last year was bad but this year has reallllllly sucked. 2022 has GOT to be better, right? Right?

Monday, November 29, 2021

Pay No Attention to the White Men with Blood on Their Hands

I was relieved to find that there was some sense left in the world, somewhere, with last week’s conviction of those three clowns in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. For that verdict to have gone any other way would be to legally sanction anyone (meaning any White person) to chase down people, chosen with specious reasoning, shoot them, and then avoid charges by claiming self-defense. This is how the Trayvon Martin verdict should have gone in a case that was practically the same, save for the semi-automatic rifle and video.

Speaking of the video, I can’t believe there WAS a video (taken by the killers) that didn’t get deleted that night. Man, he should have deep-sixed that whole phone and deleted his cellular account. Anything to keep it from being seen by anybody, ever. (Granted, I’m sure there’s a way to recover the video from the ISP provider, but only if someone knows it exists in the first place.)

It’s these guys’ confidence in feeling they were in the right that strikes me as so wrong. And I’m sure a lot of that came from the cops on the scene letting them go home that night, with instructions on how to remove the “evidence” (blood, gunpowder residue) from their hands. And then there was the call to the shooter’s father’s old boss, the DA, who downplayed the incident and assured the cops (by proxy) that it was a clean shooting in self-defense.

Thank goodness there were some consequences on that end too. The ex-DA turned herself in to the cops over the weekend and was charged with a felony count of violating her oath of office and a misdemeanor count of obstructing police.

So, in a nutshell, the police and the DA conspire with three White men to cover up the unprovoked killing of a Black man. And people wonder why there are BLM protests? This case is the exclamation point on why Black people feel the need to march in the streets and demand their right to exist without being hunted like game. That’s basically what happened there and the nuts and bolts of the legal system itself, i.e. The Good Ole Boy Network, were instrumental in making it so.

If it wasn’t for the intense pressure of the public, and most of all, the video, this would have been one more murder swept under the rug by the American system of “justice.” This is one we know about. One wonders how many more there have been.

Standing Accused of Shopping

Knee-jerk police apologists (AKA Republicans) found their cultural diversion from the Arbery case: Vice President Kamala Harris bought a piece of cookware.

Yep, that’s the big issue and winner of this year’s Tan Suit Award for the year’s most superfluous scandal. The Veep went into a store and blatantly, with complete disregard to the American public, bought a piece of merchandise with her own money. (This is a pot, mind you, not a yacht.)

It’s shit like this that shows how hollow the Republican party and media have become. This is a nothing burger wrapped in an invisible bun, sprinkled with bitterness, and covered in petty sauce.

The idea behind it is that they think it was too expensive for someone who touts income disparity as a problem, to buy for herself. It’s kind of like a billionaire calling himself a champion of the people, from his gilded high-rise office building, far removed from the people he “champions.”

This is a common conservative tactic, meant to safeguard the status quo. If anyone wants to do something about climate change, they get flack for driving a car. If they want to make the rich pay their fair share of taxes, they get raked for having a nice house themselves. If someone wants to feed the poor, they better not get caught in a nice restaurant. Or any restaurant, because they need to be eating gruel. In Republican rhetoric, if you’re not the living, selfless, embodiment of the principle you espouse, your point can be disregarded. All the better to keep the upward flow of dollars moving.

And how do the Republicans hold up under that kind of scrutiny?

It doesn’t matter because it only applies to Democrats.

More Dad Stories

Director’s DVD Commentary: If you’re new to why I keep running these stories about my Dad, it’s because he passed away suddenly in September and this is my way of keeping his spirit alive a little longer. Besides, he was a real pisser.

We put up our Christmas tree this weekend, which reminded me of another story.

My folks had several large plants that lined their Florida driveway. There were a couple sago palms, a couple of random bushes, and one large, sturdy plant of unknown origin.

Dad thought this last shrub-like plant had good structure, so during the holidays, he used to decorate it with lights, like a Christmas tree.

Later on, while shooting the breeze in the driveway with a neighbor, Dad asked him if he knew what kind of plant it was.

The neighbor said, “I don’t know the exact name, but we just call it a weed.”

Thus began the Legend of Dad's Christmas Weed.

But it was a short-lived legend, as he and the neighbor spent two hours pulling it out that spring.

Director’s DVD Commentary: Yes, I’m basically an atheist and yes, I still put up a Christmas tree. I do this because I’ve always enjoyed the Christmas traditions, even if I don’t buy into any of the “Christmas Story” nonsense. To me, it’s a fun time to celebrate with friends and family and reminisce about Christmases past. My parents always got each of their kids an ornament each year, starting when we were kids. I still have every one of them and enjoy sharing the memories with my wife and anyone else who sees the tree.

That’s the good thing about being a heathen. We get to make our own rules. And I like to have a Christmas tree up during the holidays.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Days of Road Trips Past

I got to do something last weekend I haven’t done in ages… go on a football road trip. My brother and I traveled to Columbus OH to see the Buckeyes play the Michigan State Spartans. Our family has been taking football road trips since I was a kid; it’s just something we do. The ‘Rona has put the kibosh on that recently so it was nice to get out again.

Flying is still a pain but masks abounded, both in airports, planes and at our destination. In Columbus, if not all of Ohio, mask rules are strict, so we were masked up in any public areas unless we were outside.

It was a great trip and I was glad to spend some quality time with my brother. Given our proximity, living about 15 minutes from each other, we don’t hang out as much as we could. Now that we’re both active in caring for our mom, we’re getting together more often.

I’m not going to get into a bunch of football details, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least post the biggest highlight from our game experience, for which we had a stellar vantage point.

The grandeur of the Ohio State Marching Band’s “Script Ohio.” The dotting of the “I” comes at 2:50.

In pre-COVID days, our family would take a road trip to see Pittsburgh Steelers away games every year or two, depending on where they played. When your family is scattered across several states, it’s a good way to get together for a fun weekend. On this trip, it reminded me of when we started all this, back in the late 70s. We lived in Northwest Ohio and would travel to Cleveland to see the Steelers play the Browns. I posted about it a long time ago and thought it might be fun to revisit.

(Again, this is about the experience, not actual football. Fandom not required.)

The first year we went, 1979, it was a small affair. My dad took me and my brother and sister. We drove out, went to the game, then drove home. This is still the most memorable of the games we attended because the Steelers won that one 51-35. The game featured 2 long runs, one by Franco Harris and one by Rocky Blier, right into our end zone.

We had such a good time, we decided to make it an annual event, and hey, why not take some friends?

We started by bringing a couple of the neighbor girls to the game in 1980. By 1985, Dad was ordering 30 tickets from the Browns ticket office. He’d phone in his order on the day they went on sale and with a seating capacity of over 77,000 people in that butthole of a stadium, he never had a problem getting however many he wanted. It also helped that back then, they were only about $20 a pop. Granted, the seats were usually lousy… low in the end zone… but hey, we were in the house.

Now, going to the game was fun, but the Saturday before became what the weekend was all about.

Black and Gold Star Hotel

The second year we went out, Dad decided we should go on Saturday and stay at the Marriott on I-71. Nice rooms, nice pool and whirlpool, and convenient freeway access. What we didn’t know until we got there was that the Steelers themselves stayed there too. Consequently, the place was jammed packed with Steelers fans. And remember who was playing for the Steelers back then… All the legends were there… Lynn Swann, Stallworth, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Rocky Blier, Jack Lambert … You couldn’t turn around without running into a Hall of Famer.

Around Pittsburgh, this might not be a big deal.  But this was 1980 and we lived in northwest Ohio.  We never got to see these guys at places like store openings or around town.  It was a luxury if we could see them on TV.  Seeing these guys up close was a very big deal to us.

Through the years, we got our act down to a science. Our convoy would roll in Saturday afternoon and we’d check-in, requesting adjoining rooms where possible. Once in the rooms, the first order of business would be to ice down the 8-10 cases of beer we’d bring.

We found that the bathtub was best for this. Here’s a tip if you ever find yourself in such a situation: First, forget about using the tiny little ice bucket. Grab trash cans. Then raid the ice machines one floor above and one floor down. That way, you still have ice for screwdrivers at the tailgate on Sunday morning. You then lay down one layer of beer bottles, then a layer of ice, another layer of bottles, and so forth until you have this:

Once the beer was iced, we’d get into our swimsuits and go take over the pool area. The Marriott had a great pool, with big glass windows dividing it from an entrance hallway. It was so cool, during those December games, to be in there swimming and looking at the snow blowing outside.

Eventually, the Steelers bus would appear and we could see them getting their room keys from the pool area. One year, they had the table set up right in front of the pool window. Each player had a little card on the table with his room number. Which we could see. Man, we got a lot of autographs THAT year… And Marriott never set up like that again.

One year, we actually had rooms on the same floors that the Steelers did. They were restricting access to the players’ floors by then, but they had to let us in, obviously. I remember my sister took a used fork from Lynn Swann’s room service tray after he set it outside. She kept it in a baggie for years after, I think.

So after the Steelers bus arrived, we would all set out to look for players to get pictures and autographs. I didn’t really autograph hunt that much… I figured I was too grown for that, but I did take pictures where I could. Now my brother was the Autograph Master. He’d have a big stack of Sports Illustrateds and Steelers Digests under his arm and upon spotting a player, could always pull something out with their picture on the cover.

The elevators were a great place to player-watch. Plus, if you jumped in the elevator right before the doors closed like my brother did when a player got on, you’d have a slam dunk autograph opportunity.

Art Rooney Sr. was still around back then and was always willing to sign for the kids, even to the point of aggravating his son Dan. One time he was signing for a little group of kids, with Dan Rooney, his wife, Coach Chuck Noll and his wife waiting for him so they could go have dinner. Dan called to him to get a move-on, but The Chief wouldn’t budge until he’d signed for everyone.

No one hurries The Chief.

A Quick Detour

In September of 1981, my Dad took my brother and me out of school for a couple days to go with him down to Miami. He was there on business, but there just "happened to be" a Steelers that Thursday night game against the Dolphins. Again, we stayed in the same hotel as the Steelers. (Amazingly, back then you could just call the Steelers office and someone would tell you where they were staying. Try that nowadays…)

For this hotel trip, all the Steelers were there, but practically no other Steelers fans. We basically had the whole team to ourselves. The Steelers were just lying around the pool outside, hanging out.

My brother approached one klatch of players, Bennie Cunningham, John Stallworth, Donnie Shell, and Mel Blount. He asked, “Could I please take your picture?”

Bennie said, “Knock yourself out, baby.”   This is what he got:

L-R Cunningham, Hall of Famers Stallworth, Shell, and Blount.

Sometime that afternoon, we struck up a conversation with punter Craig Colquitt and rookie kicker Dave Trout. We told them about how much different the scene in Cleveland was and said we’d see them there.

Back to Cleveland

So that November, there we were in the Cleveland Marriott, and there was Colquitt and Trout again. My dad finagled an invitation to come up to their room to hang out, so up we went, about a dozen of us crammed into the players’ room.

Colquitt standing to the left, Trout in the gold sweatshirt, with our crew. Love the old Instamatic C110 camera!


Once it got to be evening, we'd all head to the hotel’s bar. They always had either a DJ and dance floor or a band playing. Dad was very proficient at getting lots of underage kids into the place too. “This is my daughter too,” he’d say as he breezed another one through the doors. The youngsters weren’t drinking in there anyway, (there was more than enough beer in the room), but we and the other Steelers fans that had taken over the place laughed and chanted and danced the night away.

Dad, cutting up the floor with the kids.

We’d usually have at it until the wee hours and just before we wore ourselves out, we’d walk next door to the Denny’s beside the hotel. God, that was just perfect! Nothing like that late-night Grand Slam breakfast before bed. Then we’d retire to our rooms and collapse in beds, on floors, couches, pretty much any horizontal surface.

The next morning, always too early, we’d muster to watch the Steelers get on the bus. It was the last chance to wish our heroes well. People would line the hallway leading to the side door where the busses were, pressing forward as the players walked by. Except for Lambert. When Jack Lambert went by with his game face on, everyone just stayed back and went, “Have a nice game, Mr. Lambert.” Jack was always pumped up for the Browns game because he was from the area and they didn't draft him.

He was also a stickler for manners. Heaven help the kid that said to him, “Gimme your autograph,” or “Hey, sign this.”

Jack would bark, “I will NOT. Until you ask me politely.”

The kid would stammer, “Could I have your autograph, please?”

Jack would say, “Yes you may,” and then sign for him.

That’s my brother getting Jack’s autograph when we were in Miami, after asking politely.

In the early years, we’d tailgate down at the Stadium parking lot. And it was always miserable out on Steelers/Browns day. Rain, sleet, snow, freezing rain… if it wasn’t ugly, it wasn’t Cleveland.

Posing in front of Cleveland Municipal Butthole Stadium

In later years, (early 90’s) we started tailgating in the Marriott parking lot. Was much easier that way, and we’d have that ice handy for our screwdrivers. Geez, Dad used to make them in these 32 oz. paper cups. That woke your ass up in a hurry. We’d grill and drink and throw the ball around, then take the subway down to the stadium.

We usually sat low in the closed end zone. Sometimes we’d be far enough back to be under the overhang, but other times not. The problem with sitting so low is that you have no perspective on the action. A play could gain 2 yards or 15, and you just couldn’t tell until they posted the yard line on the scoreboard. And remember, this was before the giant replay scoreboards. All you had to watch was the actual game.

Lambert brings his defense onto the field.

We had seats in the open end zone once, back before it became the Dawg Pound. It was still pretty rough though, even then. You also had to be careful not to go into the restrooms alone, wearing Steelers gear. People got jumped in there or on the concourses all the time.

Even during day games, it was always dark in Cleveland. 

Sneaking liquor into the game was always a fun pastime. For the late-year games, we always brought brandy in little plastic hip flasks. They searched you coming in, but if you put the flask down the front of your pants, they never checked there. Dad had the greatest trick of all… his Bar-Noculars. In other words, it was a 2-sided flask that looked like a pair of regular binoculars. Each eyepiece screwed off and the booze was inside the core. He’d walk right up to the security people to be frisked, with the Bar-Noculars around his neck, put his arms out, and just smile.

One particularly raw day, I killed one of the flasks of brandy by myself. I tried to share around, but no one else wanted any. I nursed it all game and never felt the slightest bit drunk. I never had to pee, so I never moved the whole game. So when it was over and I got up to leave… whoa Nelly…

Once my blood started moving all that alcohol around, I was in serious trouble. I barely made it out to the car. I sat there in the passenger seat, just kind of head bobbing. It was like the world kept flipping up and up and up. Dad asked me if I was OK. I said I thought my vertical hold was busted. (Those of you that remember the old TVs will get that reference.) That was a rough ride home but at least I made it without hurling. But the lesson was learned no hoggin’ the flask!

I look back on those times now and am just amazed. I mean, can you imagine something like these trips going on in 2021? Not even including the contagion issue. Dad was often the only adult on the trip. He would pay for the tickets and hotel rooms and there would be anywhere from 6 to 30 people, mostly under 18. Could you imagine being 16 or 17 today, and asking your parents: “Hey, I want to go with my friends, boys and girls, to a hotel 2 hours away for the weekend to go to a football game. We’re going to have a bathtub full of beer and tailgate with vodka screwdrivers in the morning. My friend’s dad will be the only chaperone. Can I go?

I think that would be a hard sell. But I can say that no one ever got hurt or in any kind of trouble, and we all had a blast. 

Director's DVD Commentary: Just in case you're wondering how a Steelers fan is also an Ohio State Buckeyes fan: Our family is originally from Pittsburgh, but we moved away when I was six, to various other cities across the Midwest, including four years in Columbus. That was during my formative years when I was in 6th through 9th grades. Our mom got her Master's degree there so my brother and I saw our first college games at "The Shoe," and have been Buckeyes ever since. But we also inherited our dad's enthusiasm for Pittsburgh sports, so we have always been Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates fans, wherever we lived.

Monday, November 15, 2021

"Kyle, I Will Kick You in the Nuuuttts!"

There’s already been a ton of ink (virtual and otherwise) used on the Kyle Rittenhouse case, which now seems to be barreling toward the finish line of acquittal. The Judge isn’t even pretending to appear impartial.

For all the talk about all the angles of the case, I just can’t get past this one single principle: You shouldn’t be able to go out aggressively looking for a fight and then claim self-defense. If someone is worried about suffering bodily harm, their first obligation is not to show up and fan the flames in places where bodily harm may become imminent.

The kid had no legitimate reason to be there; no connection to the area and no dog in the fight other than the general worship of law enforcement. He traveled there specifically for a chance to use a gun on someone. There’s no other storyline that passes the smell test.

I see it a lot like the Trayvon Martin case. One should not be able to chase someone down on the street, start a confrontation, and then use lethal force and claim self-defense. That’s really an execution.

And Florida made it a state-sanctioned execution. I fear that two more are going to be sanctioned in Wisconsin this week.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Like I said, it’s already been pretty well chewed over. That’s my two cents and I’m out.

More Dad Stories

I was talking with friends a while back and the subject of the “best beer we ever had” came up.

I didn’t even have to think twice about mine.  And the funny thing is; I don’t even know what kind of beer it was.  That wasn’t as important as the circumstances.

This was back when we were living in the farmland outside Toledo, Ohio.  We didn’t have a huge parcel of land… it was an acre and a third… but it would have been an awful lot to mow by hand, so we had a lawn tractor.

Coming from the suburbs, I thought that was the coolest thing ever, especially because as the oldest son, I was about to inherit primary ownership of the family grass-cutting chores.  I still had to use a regular lawnmower to “trim,” because the tractor couldn’t really get into all the nooks and crannies around our several out-buildings (a garage, two sheds, and our Barn).  But it was far better than doing the whole thing by hand.

Me, earning my keep, the first summer we lived in NW Ohio.  I was about 14, wearing a shirt from my old junior high in Columbus.  (As well as hideous red pants, but that’s another story.)

It was fun at first, but the novelty quickly wore off, especially during the dog days of summer.  Cutting the grass was a long, dusty, sweaty, allergy-provoking endeavor that was most definitely not fun.  But it was my job, so I did what I had to do.

One day, when I was around 16, I was just finishing up cutting the backyard, on a hot, muggy, dusty summer afternoon.  After I finished up one last strip over by The Barn, I came cutting back across the yard to head over to do the other side of the garage, when I saw him.

It was my dad, standing out in the yard along my intended path, with his arm outstretched.  As I drew closer, I could see he had a beer in his hand, holding it out the way the people hold out cups of water to people running a long-distance race.

Now, I’d grown up on sips of everything, from beer to whiskey, to gin and tonics, to martinis, or a small glass of wine with dinner on holidays and birthdays.  But I’d never been given a beer of my own.  Until now.

I pulled up beside Dad, accepted the beer, and took a long pull on it.  It was absolutely perfect, and exactly what I needed right then.  I think I asked to confirm that I could have the whole thing.

Like I said, I don’t know what kind it was; probably something standard… a Bud or a Miller Lite.  Maybe it was a Hamms, which Dad used to bring back from his business trips to Chicago.  But it didn’t matter because it was cold, it was beer, and my dad gave it to me.  It was one of those father-son moments you don’t forget.

I continued on to finish up the side-yard, beer in hand, feeling much more mature than my 16 years.  In fact, I felt like a million bucks.  Not only did Dad trust me with a loud, powerful spinning-bladed death machine, he trusted me to drink a beer and not do anything stupid.  I know it sounds risky in retrospect, but even then, I never copped a buzz from a single beer.

But it set the stage for future such moments.  No, they weren’t always hand-delivered out in the yard, but I knew that when I came in from a long day’s lawn mowing, there would be a cold beer in store for me, and before long, maybe a gin and tonic instead.

You know, this would have made a really good beer commercial.  Too bad about that pesky “drinking age” thing.  The kids of today are missing out…

Monday, November 8, 2021

Make Them Wear Their Votes

The passage of the Biden Infrastructure bill got me thinking a couple of things.

First of all, Whoo Hoo! And it’s about damned time they passed a bill that helps people (who aren’t already filthy rich).

It also made me think about the campaigns for the 2022 elections. It’s been widely predicted that the Democrats will get their asses handed to them in the midterms. But it shouldn’t have to be that way if they campaign correctly. I think they need to hang all those Republican “No” votes around their necks like anchors.

The Democrats who supported this bill (and maybe other bills too, if someone can kidnap Manchin and Sinema for a few weeks), should be out there highlighting what it’s going to do for the voting public and making their opponents explain why they voted “no” or supported the “no” votes.

They need to make their opponents explain how passing the Trump Tax Cut bill without a thought to the deficit or the economy was proper yet supporting this bill was not. And if they try to talk about how it was supposed to stimulate the economy, explain that the “trickle-down” programs have never worked as advertised. They didn’t work when Reagan did it, didn’t work under W Bush, and they most certainly didn’t work with the former guy.

And also make them explain why, if they really were concerned about the middle class, why the middle-class tax cuts were sunsetted after seven-year, but the tax breaks for the 1% were permanent?

If I were a candidate, I’d hammer this stuff every single day. It doesn’t even matter who the particular opponent is; just talk about what the Republicans have done in the last 40 years and hang it around their necks. If that’s their team, they have to bear the consequences.

Take every extreme Republican policy, no matter where, and explain that this is what their team wants.

Their team wants:

·        Roe vs Wade reversed or made irrelevant.

·        To allow the spread of disease by downplaying or eliminating common-sense steps to fight it, the same kinds of steps this country took to eliminate polio, smallpox, and the other formerly widespread infectious diseases.

·        To suppress voting until the only non-suppressed voting groups are their own. They want to take away YOUR vote!

·        The donor class to pay nothing in taxes and have no limitations on what they can do to make more money, usually at YOUR expense.

·        To ignore the obvious, right-there-in-your-face effects of climate change, so the afore-mentioned 1% can continue with their current profit margin. (Up until their facilities are underwater, I suppose.)

·        To allow our roads and bridges to crumble under our feet and tires. All those “no” votes on Infrastructure were because Republican donors did not want to pay for any of it and that’s how they instructed the congresspeople they paid for to vote. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t get any say over how tax dollars are used because they contribute so little to the fund in the first place.

·        To keep all wages, not just minimum wage, suppressed. Payroll costs money. Until they can automate their entire production process, they want to pay as little in salary as they possibly can. Whether their employees can make a decent living does not factor into the equation.

Republicans consistently vote against every one of these items when they’ve been proposed, or more often, prevented from even coming up for a vote. Mitch McConnell has killed more popular bills in committee than most Congressmen have ever proposed.

I’m becoming alarmed that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are going to become “Democratic Mitches.” McConnell is incapable of being publically shamed because he has none. He has no reason to care about his image or national popularity and he just got re-elected in a runaway. He only has his donors to please like those of Manchin and Sinema, who don’t care about anything more than not paying for social or environmental programs. Hence the constant focus on how much the bill costs rather than what it can do.

We need to get to a place where those two votes aren’t the lynchpin of popular, widely beneficial bills. Granted, the odds are that the 1% may buy themselves some new senators, but we’ll have to blow up that bridge when we come to it.

More Dad Stories

Shortly after the Big Tennis Game, (I mentioned in last week’s post, wherein my little 5’9” Dad and a neighbor lady kicked the crap out of their big, blond, athletic neighbors in a tennis match,) relations between the houses started to deteriorate.

First off, my golden retriever came up missing. After a thorough search, we called the pound and yup, there she was.  We then learned that our neighbors, the Blonds, called in a complaint on her, because they said she knocked down one of their kids.

Now, anyone that knows golden retrievers knows that they’re harmless and are rarely aggressive.  Obviously, my dog was much bigger than the little kid so I can see how she got knocked down.  And if it did happen, I’m sure it was only to lick the crud off her face. But wouldn’t a phone call to us be a better choice than having the freakin’ dog catcher come pick her up?  They knew whose dog it was.  Still, we didn’t say anything right then.

Later that week, Dad was out in the backyard and heard the Blond kids calling the dog over into their yard.  That’s when Dad went ballistic.  They’re calling the pound when their fucking kids are calling the dog over???  He called up Mr. Blond and reamed him a new one, right through his designer tracksuit. I sat there and listened to the whole thing and man, it was brutal. 

We didn’t have much to do with them after that.  From then on, Dad took every opportunity to screw with his head.

Most of the opportunities came because of the way our properties were laid out.  Like I said, our barn ran lengthwise between our houses.  And we had about 3 or 4 feet of property on the other side of the barn.  Basically, it was turf that we never really saw but was right there for them to see every day.

First, there were the lawn cutting wars.  As you might imagine, the Blonds were pretty fussy about their lawn.  So Dad would time it so that he cut his grass 2 or 3 days after the Blonds did so that ours would look more manicured.  Invariably, Mr. Blond would come out afterward and re-cut the parts that bordered ours, so as not to look bad in comparison.

Then Dad stopped cutting the strip on the other side of the barn entirely.  Eventually Mr. Blond ended up cutting it too.  It was probably a better deal for him anyway because, unlike my dad, HE wouldn’t blow the grass clippings into his garden.

Psychological warfare is fun!

My favorite story is this, and I really have no idea what even started it.

Dad took a tape measure out to the other side of the barn one day, (again, out of sight from our house but right beside their house) and started making some measurements.  Almost immediately, Mr. Blond approached to ask what he was doing.

Dad said, “Well, I’ve been thinking about raising some pigs and I thought this would be the best place for the pen.”

Dad said Mr. Blond turned an even whiter shade of white and just said, Pigs?

Dad went on about how they would keep us stocked with meat and bacon and that Mr. Blond should try to make sure the kids didn’t bother his pigs.  He made some marks and put a few stakes in the ground, then went back in the house, leaving the big guy to stew about this new development.

Of course, there were no pigs.  Dad was completely screwing with him.  But the thing is, he totally would have if he could have gotten either of his sons to buy in on the plan.  He traveled too much to care for the pigs himself so my brother and I would have had to do most of it.  This was one of the few times my brother and I were on the same page.  We told him there was no way we were taking care of any pigs.

Dad was mildly disappointed.  It would have been his crowning glory… investing in raising thousands of pounds of pig, for no other reason but to annoy the neighbors.