Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Absolutely Random Pet Peeves

Things bother all of us, but some more than others and some more than they should. I've probably mentioned this and if you know me, have ever been away with me, or possibly just me being a jerk in your own house, you know my dish fetish. OK, maybe it's not a fetish, but dirty dishes left in the sink is enough to make me commit murder. Here are some new ones I've just realized.

People who cross out the days that have passed on their personal calendars - You're not in prison. Let that shit go. Also, you're most likely not so important that you've accomplished so much, you can cross it off your to do or bucket list as if you've just discovered gravity.

Couples who don't eat dinner at the dining room table....ever! - Why do you waste the room inside your home, if you're not going to use it? I get the kitchen table is fine, but sometimes people do this and don't have kitchen tables. As if sitting in the living room or the bedroom is normal. I've lived alone for a long time and still try to sit at a table to eat. Nowadays, I'm in such an odd situation, I almost feel as if sitting at the dining room table is a sin.

Phones outside - I get it, you like to stay connected, but you were just on your phone inside. You walked out, I assume, because the weather is nice, the sun is shining and you wanted to experience it. I guess I was wrong. This leads me to my next pet peeve.

People with phones who can't react quickly - You know the ones. They are texting or watching a video of a cat chasing a dog and you see something wonderful and yell "Look at that," and they, as if physically unable to lift their heads, slowly start to move, eyes firmly affixed on their phones, but painfully being summoned to look away and when they finally look, the moment is gone. They then complain about missing something someone was saying, as if the words aren't still written right in front of them.

Finally, Tailgating - No, not the party. The driving maneuver which not only makes no sense, because it's dangerous, but serves absolutely no purpose. None whatsoever.

Friday, May 26, 2017

R.I.P. Shane

I hesitate in writing this. Even more so, in posting this. Shane would be annoyed. Secretly, he may appreciate it, but publicly, he'd have quite a bit of criticism. Therefor, I will try to keep canned praise and cliche accolades to a minimum and tell you a little bit about the man.

I got a call one late afternoon, inviting me to a new Broadway show. His job's connection, called him with two last minute tickets to one of the hottest new shows in town. I was on the train in seconds. The show was magnificent and we hopped aboard the train home, cold beers in brown bags, with seconds ready and waiting. We chatted briefly about the show and then sat back to take it in. The train wobbled back and forth and I felt a relaxation and euphoria, from experiencing true art. "There this lion fucking an antelope," says Shane. Without warning, Shane tells me the funniest joke I'd ever heard. One, to this day, I can't repeat with even half the impact as his impromptu telling. I mean, I laughed so hard on that train, people got up and left the car.

That was Shane.

Shane's gift for storytelling, came completely from his devouring of books, both classics and pure rubbish. He would often give a synopsis of a book, so incredibly brief, but informative, that reading it almost seemed superfluous. His ability to consume and process information was incredible, but he was almost shy about showing this prowess. He'd wait til a crowd dwindled, always worried he'd bore someone, but knowing I'd take part, sometimes actively, often just intently listening. His ability to make me sit and listen, being happy with being nothing more than a spectator for his analysis is a feat in itself. Shane was one of the few people I would find myself mesmerized listening to . I'll miss that

A book, a beer, a fishing rod and a warm Summer's day.  If he could have had those four things, every day, of every month, of every year, he'd have been content. To be completely honest, he'd be ecstatic. Shane loved solitude, but loved to share that space too. I remember once, long before my vegan ways, he talked about catching dinner. I sat and listened as he described the sun dancing on the lake's ripples, the feint sounds of those on the beach and his love of that moment of tranquility. The story would end with butter and herbs, spooned gently over the fresh fish. My mouth watering, Shane taking almost as much joy with his gastronomic torture as in his memories. He'd segue quickly to another topic, almost as if lifting the unfinished plate of food from my desperate hands. He knew all along what he was doing and took great pleasure in keeping that meal from me.

Last summer, I sat outside on a porch and received a call from Shane. I didn't know it then, but that would be the last time we spoke. It had been well over two years, since I'd seen him, he in Florida, me in New York and it didn't matter. It's cliche to say that some of us can pick up where we left off, but that would be an understatement. He asked about few and cared even less by my answers. He opened up about things he'd often kept to himself and I obliged with some things of my own. For well over two hours, two people who loathe speaking on the phone, spoke about everything. Unlike the golden rule, Shane and I loved speaking about religion and politics, but much more so the philosophy behind the odd belief system ingrained in so many of us. We spoke about our mutual love of movies and he twice stopped my to get a scrap of paper to write down names and I did the same. We hung up, with plans to do it again soon and promised to write more, which we did for a time.

Shane understood my failures in life, as I his, but what I always found interesting about him was, despite our knowing each other for 30 years, we rarely spent time reminiscing. Almost the entirety of our final conversation was about the future, both immediate and long term. He spoke of his family and his desire to connect more, both physically and emotionally, while I spoke of my life growing in the opposite direction. We warned of the perils of each, then lost interest in that topic. We decided to end there, joking that our election results may dictate whether we ever saw each other again and hung up. Texts later that day, almost simultaneously thanking one another for the chat.

My friend is gone and decades too soon, but it's much more than memories that will stay with me. The next time I read philosophy, watch an Eisenstein or Tarkovsky film, maybe even witness a young boy fishing, I'll think of Shane. I'll think of him when I have my next beer, my next dart throw or catch a Yankees game. When kids are climbing a tree or mowing their mother's front yard, I'll think of Shane. Come to think of it, despite all our gaps, all of our differences, there's not too much in my life, I do, that he didn't have some impact. I just hope he knew, because I loved him like a brother and will miss him as such.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Notre Dame Commencement Walkout

I posted to social media about the courage it took for these young men and women to give up, not only for themselves, but for their families, the single greatest moment of achievement in their young lives.

My conservative friends did not agree.

I then looked at who commented on this event, especially the younger ones and realized most, if not all, had never struggled. Sure, they've known those who are sick, injured or poor, maybe even they have experienced those, but almost across the board, they haven't ever had to experience a struggle by choice. They are still naive enough to believe that hard work and behaving "properly," will entitle them to a good life and I feel great sorrow for them. They do not get how life works. They do not realize, they've been sold a bill of goods proven false, time and time again. Why? The simply don't understand the historical economics of this country.

What does this have to do with the commencement? It has everything to do with it. A group, a large group of students, who most of this country, without knowing anything about, would say are entitled, spoiled, or even unappreciative, worked for four years to achieve a goal. They did the exact same thing these people believe is the key to success, yet they chose a moral stance, not because of an election, but because of a difference in principles, of a speaker. Anyone who believes this was about an election outcome, is far more than naive, they are ignorant. This was about a group of kids, mostly Roman Catholic, who knew that their faith, their hard work and their value system, was being threatened by the likes of Mike Pence, and they are right. Mike Pence is no more a true Christian than a drug dealer. He's no more a hard worker, than the man who inherited his father's company. He is no more a symbol of hard work and perseverance, than anyone who has won a lottery. Mike Pence is a hypocrite and the youth of today, call them Millennial if you wish, saw through it and literally took a stand.

Hard work rarely equals success, because the mere thought of monetary gain being one's definition of success, is wherein lies the problem. The most wealthy people in this country, got so, by inheritance. Inheritance of businesses and estates, built on the backs of slaves. The slaves, some indenture servants, did the work, the hard work, that these people speak of, with nothing to show for it, when glancing down their family's lineage. Morals, character and empathy are signs of success. A good life lived, whether it be working manual labor, in an office or even collecting welfare, is more a sign of success, than any amount hidden away in some vault. How one changes the lives of those around them is the true picture of success and my conservative friends are blind to this. Whether it's politics, religious values or an upbringing completely based on a myth, they sincerely believe hard work brings money and money is success.

Those young adults, got up and turned their backs on the false narrative, that being a success is about power and control, under the guise of hard work and patience. They took a moment of personal achievement, satisfaction and praise and turned it into a moment where they no longer represented themselves, but they represented, their families, their institution, their communities and their country, in saying "look at us," not look at me. Twenty years from now the thousands who sat in cap and gowns, will talk about those students who got up, not the other way around. Whether it will be with praise or scorn, is yet to be seen, but the ones who sat won't be the ones remembered, because they followed the status quo. Anyone who knows anything about history, knows that rarely equals success, of any kind.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Interesting Thing About My Trump Supporter Friends

Before the election, I could expect some sort of verbal attack almost every day. I was reminded that Hillary Clinton was a liar, a con artist, in a loveless marriage, secretly dealing with foreign powers and surrounded by some of the most corrupt people in Washington, D.C. Then he won.

I could just leave that above paragraph and pretty much make my point.

Once he claimed victory, their anger, hatred and distrust of our first viable female candidate didn't matter. The country would play out the next ten weeks under Obama and then the Trump administration would take over and the country, the world, and his supporters would move on. That didn't happen.

I don't know if it was guilt, shame or some other negative emotion, but when the reality that everything they had despised Hillary for, was present in their choice a strange thing happened. They went on the offense. Now, I don't know if this was simply due to the fact that they never thought he'd win and possibly guilt or shame kicked in, but it got weird. People who had puffed out their chest before the win, seemed deflated afterward. People who had claimed they'd handle losing with class, as long as "we" handled winning with it, suddenly couldn't muster such etiquette. They became people I never thought I'd see. People turned on, not only those who didn't believe what they did politically, but who didn't believe in what they did regardless of the topic. Not liking a sports team, a movie or a restaurant turned you into a "snowflake." Yet, the most ironic part was viewing their posts on Facebook. People who would get so frustrated by someone not saying thank you, or talking too loudly on their phone, were criticizing others for not being happy with the fact they might lose their health insurance. What's even better, when they found out they would pay more under their savior's plan, they turned it into a racial issue. When they found out they may not be able to get a mortgage, it became a religious issue. When they found out their taxes would go up, it became a sexual orientation issue. Their arguments, much like that of our current leader, never actually corresponded with what they were so angry about.

Despite asking over seventy people, only one, yes one person, publicly explained why they were so angry and why Trump's winning brought them joy. While the answer wasn't in any way a reflection of happiness, it was at least a coherent thought. I did appreciate that. Now, here's the strangest part. Of the over 70 people I called out publicly before the election to explain their admiration for Trump, almost all of them have stopped talking to me. I've heard some second hand stories that they hate me, lost respect for me, even a few want to fight me, but this is what it makes it all so very odd.

They won.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Attention Deficit News Cycle

Forget newspapers
Forget cable news
Forget bias slanted websites

Twitter is where it is at

I have become a news junkie and the odd thing about it is, I can't name more than ten journalists off the top of my head. I can however tell you who is in the know and who wants you to think you're in the know on Twitter.

Deciphering "news" is becoming a bit of an art form and it's extremely important to understand that when you're getting your news from Twitter, reading comprehension is of utmost importance. The difference between the words is and may, is the difference between innocence and guilt. It's become a tricky landscape, but for those of us with adult attention deficit disorder, brought on by this current news cycle, it's the key to understanding what is actually happening and what is being fed to our less inclined to investigate society.

Don't get me wrong, most of us who are immersed in this life of 24 hours news are missing out on things like friends, sunsets and cute cat videos, although those all act as buffers at times. The real question I ask myself is why? Why do some of us want to be so informed on a topic that frustrates us? For me, it's simple. I like the puzzle.

For every Louise Mensch, there's a Seth Abramson. For every Claude Taylor, there's a Jud Legum.. For every Scott Dworkin, there's.....well there's anyone who isn't doing this to make a buck. Retweets and likes are for FB and while RT do get a message out, it's easy to get sucked into the mindset that the tweets with the most activity are based in truth. Keywords are essential to sifting through the rubble, in this glut of information and mostly misinformation.

There's another way to find out which news is real and which is fake. Actual comments in context. If a weatherman said "It's rained for 20 days, but it's not raining now, but we can expect 20 more," and the news headlines quotes him as "It's not raining now," Hell, Noah wouldn't have built that ark.  What I'm saying is, if you hear something that fits your narrative, make sure you know the surrounding context. This ain't Bible school where you get to cherry pick the words in the sentence to condemn homosexuality, but still get your tattoos and eat shellfish. This is real life.

Much like ADD, I've gone off the rails, but maybe it's because I'm worried the eight to ten minutes I've taken to type this have made me miss @realdonaldtrump's latest tweet storm or a mega thread from Abramson or Mensch's latest demand for a Pulitzer. It's a wild time and the news is there for all of us. Just bring your sieve or strainers, because it's become like a job to actually know things in today's world.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My Cat Killed A Mouse On My Vegan Anniversary

I was celebrating my vegan anniversary with some broccoli, when all of the sudden my cat, I call him Swag, started jumping about with his toy mouse. He seemed overly excited to be playing with his toy, that he rarely pays attention to. I watched for a minute and then he sat, just lightly batting it. Then it hit me. This was a squeaky toy that failed to squeak. It was also much darker and thinner than his usual toy. It was then I realized he was displaying this for me to see.

About six weeks ago, my landlord's hedgehog gave birth. I'd read stories about the mommy hedgehogs eating their young and when I heard an odd sound, I ran to the living room. I realized Swag had something in his mouth and I immediately feared the worst. I grabbed him and he let go and off scampered, what I initially thought was a baby hedgehog. It quickly dawned on me that the creature had a very long tail and was a mouse. He ran under a table and I assumed he was dead or dying. Hours later he scampered out, ran into another room and I assume, off to safety.

The whole mouse situation yesterday threw me, because it was a mouse, that made me decide, once and for all, that I would stop eating meat. I had saved a field mouse inside my home and the next day, another human bragged and boasted of killing one. I assume the same mouse. The killing of another animal was not the turning point, but the glee. The absolutely giddiness of a 180 pound man bragging to anyone who would listen, about his defeat of a mouse, who wouldn't have weight more than a few ounces. It was then that I realized, it wasn't so much that I felt some weird mouse empathy, but that I simply didn't want to be like this person, in any way, shape or form. I decided to go vegetarian and soon after, vegan.

So the dead mouse lay near my faithful cat and while it upset me, I do realize that it is within his genetic disposition to be a hunter. I've watch as he stalks bugs, shadows and even my toes, so there was some pride in knowing he'd finally caught something other than inanimate objects, but there was a sincere sadness for the needless loss of life. I scooped up the mouse and Swag sat, confused by the confiscating of his prize, but quite possibly proud I'd accepted his gift. Who really knows what goes on in the feline mind. I carried it out to the backyard, over near the flag pole. I dug up some dirt, laid him to rest and gently covered him with the soil. I place a small rock above the soil and plucked a flower from nearby, draping it over the stone. I realize some may think this silly, because in the wild, he would have been left for some scavengers. Some may even think my actions were overly human and not humane. Upsetting the balance of nature. I don't know, but for whatever reason, this mouse was symbolic for me. A year of coveting all that nature has to offer, with a much better perspective. I just felt I needed to honor that and all it represented. I'd like to think the cat understood, because unlike most days, he didn't leave my side for the remainder of the day.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Real Problem With America Is that Sally Yates Isn't John Yates!

Over my lifetime, I've realized that misogyny is the single worst act of oppression in the world. We here in the United States of America like to pretend we're above such prejudice, but we're the worst. We're the worst, because our country is young and if one is to read our Constitution, our laws and simply look at our history, women have had a voice for a very short time and their voice is often drowned out by the voices of men. Insecure, old, white men.

Yesterday, as I watched Sally Yates get interrupted, while James Clapper was given the respect of a peer, it really hit me what the problem was regarding Sally Yates' past warning. She was a woman, giving information that would take down a man. A military man. In 2017, that still isn't acceptable to the Old Boy's Club of American politics, but it speaks to a bigger problem.

Even in our liberal discussions, we say "what about women and children," as if they're equally as feeble and inept in their abilities to care for themselves. The same people that preach equality compare women to children more often than comparing women to men. When we believe we've granted equality, we scrutinize their abilities, their strength and worry about when they will take off or ask for leave, to have a child. Shouldn't we then question men on when they'll be "reckless" enough to try to conceive? We view men's ability to have sex, simply have sex, as more of a medical concern than that of a woman to carry a child for nine-months.

I had not realized until recently, that I've always been surrounded by misogyny, Raised by a misogynist, who was raised by two misogynists. Yes, even my grandmother fell into the roll of believing she was the weaker gender and passed it on to her children, her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Much like racism, misogyny is an ignorance passed down by generations after generation.

In many ways, I'm not better than anyone else. I view myself as a protector. Feel shame when I'm not the provider. Viewed control as my right, even when I told myself that giving it up was my choice. I'm trying to learn from my mistakes and I respect women more today than I did yesterday. Sally Yates earned my respect yesterday, not because she's a woman, but because she proved to be human. In an unequal setting, she too down two men, simply by being smarter than them. She also did it with the utmost respect for herself, her job and most importantly (in this case), her country. If Sally Yates was John Yates, nobody would have dared treat her as they did and she'd never had to have proven her worth. As a matter of fact, if she'd been John Yates, Michael Flynn would have been fired immediately and she'd still have her position. I'm sure of this.

American Hero lacks a gender. Maybe one day, American will.