Monthly Archives: April 2015

My chest bursts with pride like that guy on Alien

When my kids were kids, it seemed as if life was a never-ending series of children’s activities, all of which required us to drive them there. Scouts, synchro, baseball, and all the other stuff. A typical week consisted of work plus activities at least Monday through Thursday. Then the weekends involved baseball or synchro meets or both. It was exhausting and I showed a lot less patience for it than I should have.

This week, my daughter posted a link to her thesis presentation. It starts at about 9:15 in the video posted below.

You can’t watch this video and not be impressed. The blonde woman making the presentation studied for hours, basing part of her presentation on time she spent studying in South Africa–a different continent in a different hemisphere. By her age, I’d been to Montreal and Florida.

But the preparation for that video really started back in sixth grade. She’d do homework most nights until up long past our bedtime, requiring me (of course) to go out of  my way (har-RUMPH!) and drive her to school so she could get that extra hour of sleep in the morning. (Both of my children chose schools halfway to Miami from middle school on.)

I don’t see the woman doing that presentation as the little girl I once tickled and played ‘Got your nose’ with. She’s an accomplished young woman with any future she wants. I view her as at least an equal in terms of poise and intelligence. And as someone whose commitment to hard work is amazing.

It’s quite a thing when you’re inspired by your own children.

If I could go back to counsel my younger self, I’d tell him to relax. It’s a hell of a lot of work and I get how tired he is. And he gets to be tired, and cranky, and sometimes resentful. But he also doesn’t know what I know, which is how it turns out.

“Trust me,” I’d tell him. “Your work might feel thankless and unappreciated, but it’ll pay off in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.”

I try to use words as tools, but there almost aren’t words to describe the richness of watching a fellow adult, someone you deeply respect, accomplishing what Jennifer Hamilton did in preparing for that presentation for the last eleven years.

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The true story behind Bud Light’s “Remove ‘no’ from your vocabulary” slogan

I can picture it now. A cabal of the rich and powerful gathering after hours at the Bud Light world headquarters for a product strategy meeting that never officially happened.

The leader, a bespectacled man with a permafrown and a suit that costs more than your house, leaned forward to stifle the nervous pre-meeting chatter.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen! Given that we’re old wrinkled lemonpusses that no woman would ever think twice about, we must resolve not to leave this meeting tonight without developing at least one plan that would advance rape culture in America.”

“What about the rest of the world?” a younger man said. He resembles Christian Bale in American Psycho, cool and aloof, something deadly in his eyes if you catch them just right.

“Don’t be ridiculous, only Americans drink the crap beer we put out.”

“What if we slip roofies into the beer?” The man leans back and smiles at his idea. Given that he looks like a slightly heavier, considerably older version of Jonah Hill, he’s given this a lot of thought.

The leader frowns, which is a significant accomplishment for him. “We’ll get sued. We need something more subtle.”

And that’s the true story of how Bud Light added the slogan “The perfect beer for removing ‘No’ from your vocabulary for the night.” It really has nothing to do with their “Up for anything,” campaign, in which they try to market Bud Light as the beer that propels you to do things you never thought you’d get the guts to do. Corporate big wigs, all crusty, disgusting men, purposely created a campaign that would embolden rape, and thus enhance…I don’t know, product sales?

Or perhaps the marketing company Anheuser-Busch InBev hired just didn’t see the connection there.

You aren’t wrong if you see the connection, but the chances of A-B trying to further rape culture by what they print on the side of their beer cans is slim to none.

Maybe it’s because I’m a dopey guy, but if it weren’t pointed out to me, I wouldn’t have seen it, either.


Trigger warning: This is annoying

So let’s say you’re a feminist. Let’s say you believe that the patriarchy is doing a number on women everywhere and that women are typically victims of male aggression. Let’s say you’ve been passed over for a promotion that was given to a less-qualified man. Let’s even say that you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted.

Christina Hoff Sommers, the face of daaaaaangerThen let’s say that Christina Hoff Sommers, the author of books like Who Stole Feminism? and The War Against Boys comes to speak at your college campus.

To quote from Dennis Hopper in Speed, “What do you do?”

At Georgetown University, the students demanded trigger warnings for her talk and established safe zones where students would be, uhh, safe from hate speech that denied their experience as survivors.

I wrote on the Florida Writers Association blog that I didn’t have a problem with authors or publishers putting trigger warnings on their work. First of all, it’s their work so they can do what they want. Second, if I knew someone who had been raped, and a movie I was going to see contained an intense rape scene, I would tell them so they could make an informed decision. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But demanding trigger warnings or placing it on someone else’s work is different. To use a technical term, it’s bad.

I’ve read some of Christina Hoff Sommers’ work. In what I’ve read, no where does she say rape is okay. No where does she say a woman is at fault if she’s raped. She does say that the educational establishment ignores or drugs boys who are uppity in elementary school–when that’s what boys that age often are. She does say that feminism has lost its roots and that some feminists are anti-male–some of them espousing violence and misandry. She does say that when you break the statistics down, the wage gap is a myth.

You may or may not agree with those ideas, but they are ideas that deserve to be considered and refuted with facts, not dismissed as hate speech requiring safe zones, lest hearing them causes victims to be revictimized.

When expression has to be safe for everyone to hear, it becomes worthless. When anyone can demand trigger warnings on anything, everything becomes suspect. When young people create safe zones to combat ideas they find uncomfortable, they don’t grow. They stagnate. Put another way, there’s no way Blazing Saddles could be made today, and it wasn’t racist. It made fun of racists.

Back when I went to college–you know, before electricity, indoor plumbing, and internet watches–my professors cringed when I told them I was attending college so I could get a better job. I was supposed to be there to learn critical thinking, to challenge my ideas and to at least consider ideas I might dismiss as foreign.

If my beliefs are true, they should withstand and be strengthened by withstanding the challenge. If not, I’m forced to change them to reflect what I’ve learned. My life is richer because of that dynamic.

Many of the people who demand trigger warnings and safe zones probably ridicule people who get all their news from Fox News. It’s just an echo chamber that amplifies their ideas and doesn’t allow for those ideas to be wrong. You’re one-dimensional and, to some degree, stupid, if you go down that road.

To quote the great William Shatner from Airplane II: The Sequel

 


Britt McHenry’s tirade was a lot more than fat-shaming

When you look at a publicity picture of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, you could be forgiven for thinking she’s as sweet as an Osmond family reunion. The wide smile seemed to extend to her eyes and seems warm and inviting. Looking at her, you almost can’t imagine her being a condescending shrew.

Then you look at the video of McHenry’s rant directed at the employee of a tow truck company that towed her car. Warning: This video contains words Eddie Murphy used to use a lot.

During the video, which is heavily edited and lasts about a minute, McHenry calmly focuses on the employee’s stupid job, her presumed lack of dental hygiene, her perceived lack of education, and her supposedly troll-like looks. As a parting shot, McHenry says, “Lose some weight, baby girl.”

Much of the coverage of the rant, including this story from local NBC affiliate WFLA, calls it fat-shaming.

Really? People watches this whole disaster and that’s what they took away? That McHenry insulted the woman’s weight?

McHenry’s rant is clearly wrong on every conceivable level. It shows contempt, condescension, and a general cluelessness that comes with never having had to work an unpleasant job to pay the bills.

It’s also inaccurate to ignore the rest of the rant, to concentrate on the one comment at the end.

Supposed fat-ass Pink

No reasonable person should support trying to calculate a person’s self-worth solely on the basis of weight. Earlier this week, a minor social media firestorm–we’ll call it a fire flurry–erupted after a few keyboard warriors called the singer Pink a fat ass. For the record, Pink could probably kick your ass, regardless of who you are. She’s a multi-time P90X graduate and regularly performs difficult acrobatics while performing her songs. That’s performing her songs, not lip-synching.

For the record, as a heterosexual man with working eyeballs, I think Pink is buff and hot and talented and a number of other things, but fat’s not one of them. I suspect the people criticizing her weight can’t do this.

I’m thinking a lot of that might be, you know, muscle.

On the other hand, former American Idol sweetheart Kelly Clarkson’s added a few pounds since risking the wrath of Simon Cowell. So what? She’s a singer. It’s not her job to make you want to go to bed with her.

Yes, our culture is weight-obsessed, particularly when it comes to women. (Men, too, get their share of criticism when it comes to weight–ask Michael Moore and Chris Christie.) But it doesn’t help anyone to reach this far to categorize an ugly rant as being primarily about body weight. There’s enough of that going on without pretending McHenry’s rant is part of it.


Jealousy

Author’s Note: I have to give props where they are due. Today’s post was inspired by a post written by a writer friend, Diane Carlisle on her blog. Thanks for the starting point, Diane!

So I can’t run or work out right now. The way things seem to be shaping up, that could be a long-term thing. Normally, that would be tough for me. So much of my identity is wrapped up in being active and working out and seeking challenges–even if they cost $100 and involve live electrical wires.

My fitness friends, on the other hand, are going on with their fit lives, trying new workout programs, getting more fit, participating in events and doing all the cool stuff.

Yesterday, on a drive, I figured out approximately where Tough Mudder’s going to be this fall. It’s in November, a long time away. But unless something changes, I won’t be participating this year. Tough Mudder’s been a highlight of every year for me from the time I ran my first one in 2011. This year will be my fifth, if I can participate. After that, I was thinking of any number of new activities from a marathon to an iron man to something called Ragnar.

All things are possible, but unless something changes, those things are unlikely.

The me from five years ago would have been jealous of my fitness friends going out and doing things I can’t currently do. I’d have sat and looked at the happy excited pictures on Facebook and been both happy for them and angry at them, with a little more anger than happiness. I’d have been Orion-slave-girl green with envy, except for the girl part. The slave part would have resonated loud and clear.

But the facts are these:

  • I can’t do that stuff right now.
  • As a result of not being able to do that stuff, I found out that I have acid reflux and I’ve had it long enough that the inside of my esophagus has changed, a pre-cancerous state called Barrett’s Esophagus. I didn’t even know I had acid reflux. Finding out is a good thing, because I don’t think I want to experience cancer for my summer vacation any time soon.
  • Life has challenges and one true measure of a person is how they rise to those challenges.
  • I’m not doing badly.

Jealousy is a natural response sometimes, and your emotions are what they are. But you aren’t a slave, Orion or otherwise, to them. Shaping your reaction is hard work. It means you have to come to grips sometimes with realities that aren’t pleasant. But life is hard–it’s in the job description sometimes.

Jealousy just makes it harder.


My worthless baseball picks

It is opening day, the day when everyone up north huddles inside and waits for the weather to catch up to the sports calendar. The day baseball becomes available pretty much every day from now until Halloween. And the day I embarrass myself with baseball picks pretty much guaranteed not to be right.

National League East
1. Washington Nationals
2. Miami Marlins
3. Atlanta Braves
4. NY Mets
5. Philadelphia Phillies

National League Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Cincinnati Reds

National League West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Francisco Giants
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies

American League East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Baltimore Orioles
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. NY Yankees

American League Central
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Minnesota Twins

American League West
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Houston Astros
4. Oakland Athletics
5. Texas Rangers

Wildcards
NL: Marlins, Pirates
AL: Orioles, Mariners

League Champions
Dodgers over Nationals
Red Sox over Indians

World Series
Dodgers 4, Red Sox 3

MVP
NL: Giancarlo Stanton
AL: Mike Trout

Cy Young
NL: Stephen Strasburg
AL: David Price

Surprise stories
1. Mets break poorly from the gate, Terry Collins is not fired. The Mets hold a fire sale in July, but the Wilpons still don’t sell.

2. The Astros will hang around .500 much of the year.

3. The Padres won’t mesh well and will be worse than people think.

4. Pete Rose will be re-instated just before the All-Star game.

5. The Phillies will get less than they want for Cole Hamels.

6. The Cubs stadium problems will affect the team’s play.

7. Major League Baseball will sweeten the deal and convince St. Petersburg to allow the Rays to look for a home in Hillsborough County.

8. Rumors will start that the Athletics or Rays may relocate to Montreal.

9. The National League will adopt the designated hitter starting in 2017 as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

10. After the Dodgers win the World Series, Vin Scully announces his retirement.


The magic of opening day and Easter

When you live up north. there’s a certain magic attached to opening day of baseball season. Many years, there’s still snow on the ground and it’s still cold and nasty out. The two years we lived in Chicago, the Cubs dressed in winter clothes and fought snow.

But opening day was magic, not because of what happened that day.

Opening day is magic because it’s a fresh start right at the right time. Winter stopped being fun a long time ago. The snow is all nasty. And watching a game played on a broad expanse of green grass is a little slice of magic hinting at the long, awesome summer ahead.

And then, there’s the promise of the standings. Everyone is in first place. And even if your team was horrible, there was always the possibility that if everything went just right, you could have a summer of excitement, even if you’ve had years of defeat.

In a sense, that’s what Easter is about. It’s about a new start. It’s about looking forward to a better time when your struggles are gone, or at least put in perspective. It’s about a life in which your mistakes aren’t your defining feature.

It’s really sad when Christians lead with grand statements of condemnation. God is angry at this or considers this an abomination.

 

My Gawd is an angry Gawd looking to smite you if you don’t follow all the rules the way He and I think you should. Want to come to church with me?

Uhhh, no. Not if you gave out million-dollar bills.

It’s entirely possible that Satan, if he exists, doesn’t wear red jammies and carry a pitchfork. It’s entirely possible he wears an angry face and carries a Bible.

My favorite hockey player

The magic of Easter is that guys like that don’t get to define you. You aren’t sin. You’re a precious child of an all-loving God.

To me, at least, realizing that is a fresher start than even opening day.