Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to Survive Your Teen (and Maybe Your Tween, Too).

I've been a parent now for, let's see, almost seventeen years.

If the title of "Dad" were a tenured position, I'd probably have attained  full professor status by now; if it were a seventeen-year-old Glenlivet single malt Scotch, you'd have to cough up sixteen bucks for the privilege of throwing me down.

Had my experience in the fatherhood realm reflected equal progress within the Church of Scientology, at this point I'd be an Operating Thetan able to process whole track implant materials dealing with dichotomies and binary thinking.

Cruise can do that, you know.

But alas, my storm-weathered status has hardly resulted in many moments of fatherly enlightenment, even after over a decade-and-a-half stuck in the trenches without the benefit of an awesome World-War-I-era flame thrower.

More often than not, I still feel like a rookie.

These daughters of mine—these rosy cheeked cherubs for whom I would chew up my arm and feed it to them should they ever be starving and for some reason without teeth, are at the tops of their games.

As we slowly mature and morph into our adult selves, a porous filter gradually develops upon the territories of our brains which convert thoughts and emotions into spontaneous verbalizations.

For instance, yesterday after I arrived home, I pulled out some athletic shoes I'd just purchased. They're adidas "Stan Smiths," a style I've owned sporadically since junior high.

Upon viewing them, my eleven-year-old, whose filter is still on back order, stated, "Wow, Dad, those look like old man shoes. Where's your metal detector?"

My sixteen-year-old, whose wafer-thin sieve lies wrinkled and askew, yet is able to intercept the large, Tourette-sized chunks, remarked, "Umm, whoa. Those are so white. Those are white white. Those are really white. Do you like these jeans I'm wearing?"

On second thought, I'm not sure her brain actually contains a filter, either. It's more of a narcissistic "me magnet," which routes all external information though a self-glorification call center somewhere in the heartland of her hypothalamus.

My paternal challenge, as it's always been, is to not engage them, to not accept the gauntlets which they've laid before me. I can handle the new shoe comments and other insults, like "Dad, when you smile, so does your forehead," or "Hey, Dad, maybe you should have your testosterone checked."

I can shrug those snarkisms off with a snort or eye roll. What I struggle with is the insubordination, the dogged relentlessness my daughters employ to get their way.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I attended a lecture given by author and child psychologist Tony Wolf. Dr. Wolf specializes in teenage behavior and has written, among many others, books entitled, "Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?" and "I'll Be Home Before Midnight and I Won't Get Pregnant."

Dr. Wolf's advice to parents of teens and tweens is simple: Establish your position with your child and get the hell out of Dodge. Kids will badger you and hound you and try their damnedest to wear you down.

For example, your daughter asks to go to Wendy's house, and you say, "No. It's eleven o'clock, it's a school night and anyway, Wendy's still in rehab."


"Why what?"

"Why can't I go?"

"I just told you."

"I know, but why?"

And that's when you leave the room, because the child will stay on that gerbil wheel until she's hoarse and it's time to leave for school the next morning.

You see, your youngin' doesn't really care why. She wants to harass you to your breaking point, make you cave and emerge victorious. Reason and logic are not arrows in your quiver, so don't reach for them.

My bride has mastered the art of stating her position and coolly disengaging. I have not. While she is Mount Rushmore, I am yet an ice sculpture...

...which was actually a pretty sweet liger before it melted.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Howard Schultz Orders a Steaming Double Shot of Hypocrisy.

I had a little time to kill Sunday.

My tween daughter's recent windfall of black market cupcake cash had been burning a hole in her bedazzled billfold, so we cruised down to the consumer crap cluster, a.k.a. Southcenter Mall, and parted ways to allow her and her BFF to enjoy some unencumbered shopping bliss.

I waved goodbye clutching a paperback novel and my writer's journal, and searched for a place to plant my backside for a couple of hours while nursing a cup of joe.

Naturally, the familiar "green-mermaid-posing-spread-eagle-like-larry-flint-was-doing-the-photo-shoot" brand popped into my brain as the go-to coffee option.

Then I reconsidered.

It seems that Starbucks and its charismatic coffee czar, Howard Schultz, can't manage to duck the spotlight for long, ever.

Schultz's relationship with Seattle, Starbucks' birthplace and also mine, is similar to that of an uncle who shows up every Thanksgiving, hands each kid a twenty and then gets drunk and makes creepy, inappropriate comments to your fifteen-year-old sister.

The guy concocted the formula for the perfect snake oil—a legal, overpriced drug which goes down like a smooth warm milkshake and peps you up like a ten-dollar bill found in an old windbreaker.

Methodically convincing us that we crave these creamy cups of yes, he eventually persuaded us that the best part of waking up wasn't Folger's, but a venti drip Pike Place in our cup. With room.

And as the company wrestled greater market share from the likes of Maxwell House and Hills Brothers, so too did Mr. Schultz hurl his cult of personality into the public forum. Last November, he called upon businesses to boycott political donations until there was genuine, bipartisan cooperation in Washington.

Yeah, that'll happen right around the time the varicose veins on my left calf turn into deliciously ropy Red Vines.

He even briefly flirted with the idea of running for president last November. Wow. Obviously his compensation package entitles him to complimentary shots of delusional swagger.

But Howard Schultz's most recent, and possibly most impactful, public stance, has been his support for a gay marriage bill passed by the Washington state Legislature this year. Starbucks management, in a letter to employees, wrote, "This important legislation upholds our belief in the equal treatment of partners. It is core to who we are and what we value as a company."

Well isn't that just sweeter than a peppermint chip latte?

Oh, and make no mistake, there has been backlash. The National Organization for Marriage has launched a website entitled, where people can sign a petition against the company, and as of last Friday, six thousand open minded folks had pledged their support.

I'd probably be far more inclined to believe that Schultz's motives are noble had it not been for an event which transpired during the summer of 2006. After having purchased the Seattle Supersonics of the National Basketball Association for two hundred million dollars in 2001, he held onto the franchise for five years before selling Moistlandia's oldest major league sports franchise to an investment group from Oklahoma City.

For three-hundred-fifty million dollars. Not bad for five years' work.

And beginning in the fall of 2008, the former NBA champion Seattle Supersonics trotted onto their new home court, two thousand miles away, as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Okay, so you're not a sports fan. You couldn't care less about transactions consummated between billionaires over an enterprise whose product is pampered, overpaid giants. Point taken.

But it's not about basketball; it's about the man, Aubrey McClendon, to whom Schultz sold the Sonics and realized a profit of one-hundred-fifty million bucks.

Aubrey Kerr McClendon is chief executive officer and co-founder of Chesapeake Energy Corporation in Oklahoma City. Chesapeake is one of America's premier propagators of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a method of injecting highly pressurized fluid into solid rock to extract natural gas through newly created channels.

Fracking is a highly controversial practice and is actually banned in many countries after having been proven to contaminate water tables and air quality. Stories have emerged of residential tap water actually bursting into flames.

If polluters had a hall of fame in Pittsburgh or Tacoma, Aubrey "Motherfracker" McClendon's bust would adorn the lobby next to the entrance to the BP Oil Spill Café and Gift Shop. And Howard Schultz, part of the new class of self-proclaimed environmental stewards, profited handsomely from that man's misdeeds.

But there's something else about Mr. McClendon, something which paints Schultz a brighter shade of hypocrite than anything Home Depot has to offer: During 2004, McClendon, together with co-owner Tom Ward, donated over one million dollars to Americans United to Preserve Marriage, a conservative Christian group which opposes same-sex marriage.

Did I mention that Schultz made a one-hundred-fifty million dollar profit when he sold the team to that homophobic polluter? Oh, that's right, I did. Sorry.

I wonder how Howard Schultz would respond. Six thousand signatures on a website is nothing when compared to the overwhelming positive publicity involved in supporting same-sex marriage. Could be nothing more than an Econ 101 cost-benefit analysis.

Is the Java Jehovah's heart in the right place? Is his company assuming a courageous stance in the face of intolerance?

Or is Starbucks' platform on human rights just another highly calculated business maneuver, manufactured by the preeminent consumer huckster of our time to sell more high-octane caffeine to the masses?

That's the problem—I don't know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When your child is busted for dealing.

Remember middle school?

Remember how that adolescent crock pot, whose initial ingredients are anxiety, fear and insecurity, is switched on to the "low" setting during September, then slowly percolates for one-hundred-eighty days?

The eleven-, twelve-, and thirteen-year-olds who occupy this bubbling cauldron are forced to mingle, simultaneously detesting each other and magnetically clinging together through unbridled animal magnetism.

Welcome or not, the tweener faces a roster of new found companions, from the peer-inspired introductions of eye makeup and deodorant to the cold morning reckoning of a fresh pimple below the left nostril.

Pressures abound. The adolescent dress code prescribes apparel which is flashy enough to not stand out.

Late for class? You run, you're done.

Want to save face? Better join Facebook.

What do you need? I know someone who can get it for you.

Okay, here's my point: my sixth-grade daughter has succumbed to the temptations of tweendom...and she's been caught.

I know, she's only eleven, and I never expected for this to happen, especially at such a young age, but what parent does?

All the signs were there—she started hanging with a new kid, even on weekends, and she'd spoken the names of boys and girls whom I'd never heard mentioned previously.

So, yeah, color me ignorant.

Then her English teacher called, day before yesterday. My wife answered.

"Hi, Terri, this is Kathy James."

"Hi, Kathy, how are you?"

"Oh, I'm okay. I just thought I should fill you in about something that Brittany (not her actual name) has been involved with at school."

"Oh, what is it? Has she been disrespectful?"

"No, she's a very nice girl, but she's been violating school rules and it needs to stop...

"She needs to stop selling cupcakes at school. They look beautiful, but we're not supposed to let the kids eat sugary snacks."

The jig was up.

For the past couple of months, my daughter's been running a black market cupcake operation within the hallowed halls of academia. Apparently, district policy dictates that only healthy snacks can be sold on school grounds; the vending machines provide baked chips, dehydrated fruit and juice as alternates to the fatty food stuffs and sugary soda of the past.

Throughout each school week, she and her friend have taken orders for weekend baking and Monday delivery. Quantity discounts don't exist; in fact, the opposite applies. Six cupcakes cost eight dollars, but twelve will set the sugar junkie back twenty.

Her teacher had thought she'd made it clear that the dealing was to stop, but evidently another teacher informed her that "the girl's still selling."

My wife and I, while proud of our daughter's entrepreneurial spirit, have told our little Mrs. Fields that she can still peddle her wares but must deliver them to the homes of her customers, and that we'll need to pinch a portion of her proceeds for gas money.

She wasn't too receptive to that idea. Since we've been springing for ingredients and delivery supplies, she and her friend have enjoyed a one hundred percent markup. Pure profit.

And because she's stopped soliciting orders, a few addicts have come out of the woodwork, some actually begging her to sneak a few baked goods into school.

Those customers had historically eaten their entire supply immediately upon receipt, and hey, I understand, because nothing matches the hell of cold turkey cupcake withdrawal. Nonetheless, her fledgling business has been ground up in the cogs of institutional control, and that in itself is a good lesson.

Now she's contemplating selling jewelry.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Should Palin Debate Obama? You Betcha.


We've all experienced it. During our time on this big blue marble, we've suffered the blows of being rebuffed and rebuked, rejected and repelled.

We've been told to sod off, to take a long walk off a short pier, to shut up, pipe down and go away.

And it sucks. It sucks to be dismissed and devalued, because it doesn't take long before we begin believing those who marginalize us. Yeah, maybe my true station in life is perched right on the knobby area of society's cold shoulder; perhaps it's time to stop running this fool's errand of contrived self esteem.

Okay, maybe I'm a little sensie-poo regarding this topic, because, as I've mentioned at least eighty times, I was a fat kid.

Young boys, when playing young boy games, tend to place a premium on athletic ability and a discount on wit and intellect. The slow, small and corpulent are the chaff of the playground; they're the club who familiarly stand elbow to elbow along a chalky line of shame after all the others have been drafted ahead of them for the recess soccer game.

"Go ahead. You can have the rest of them," one captain would often announce to his counterpart as we remainders silently lamented our status. I vividly recall feeling like one of the sinners in the "Left Behind" series, only the reason I stayed on Earth was God's inability to heft a body mass index of thirty-five or above into his infinite bosom.

Rejection assumes a confusing tint when we're not sure why we've been snubbed. During college, I wondered why girls sometimes didn't want to dance with me. Come on, all I was requesting was a three minute conference between her, Spandau Ballet and me.

"Oh, sorry, I need to find my friend," was the most common smackdown, but occasionally I'd get, "Oh my God. Dinner's almost over back at the sorority and I've got bathroom duty this week and I've got to get back in time to hold hair. Sorry!"

And now it's time for my carefully-orchestrated, totally lame segue, combining clueless sorority behavior with bald-faced rejection.

I couldn't help but feel for our old friend, Sarah Palin, this past week, when, in a nearly six-hundred-word diatribe posted to her Facebook page, Palin challenged President Obama to a debate "anywhere, anytime"  to discuss "the issues Americans are actually concerned about," including "an anti-drilling agenda that rejects good paying energy sector jobs and makes us more dependent on dangerous foreign regimes."

Shouldn't this woman, who came within a mere three-and-a-quarter-million votes and a frozen Hades of the vice presidency, be allowed one little debate with our commander-in-chief just to settle the score?

After all, Mrs. Palin humbly requested an opportunity to address the nation on election night, only to be rebuffed in favor of a concession speech delivered by the man whom she carried for all those months, John McCain.

Gracefully bowing out of the political arena to crop dust the field of punditry with her blistering world view, she selflessly extended her reach to a knowledge-thirsty demographic—the reality television audience.

Despite Palin's heroic efforts to team with reality royalty Kate Gosselin, her show was canceled after just one riveting season.

America just wasn't ready.

Now, after all she's been through—the impossible-to-pronounce teleprompter words, the School House Rock Constitutional Crash Course, the endless green room waits while hounded endlessly by Todd and Twig or Twine or whatever that kid's name is—doesn't Sarah Palin deserve an opportunity to spar with the very man she chose not to defeat this November?


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The War on Women: Believe It.

War—it springs eternal.

As constant as a heartbeat, as enduring as the tides.

But riddle me this: which war has raged without end for the duration of human existence thus far?

The war on drugs? Nope. The war on terror? Sorry.

It's the war on women.

Although stoked by the rantings of a drug-doped dirigible, the embers smoldered centuries before Mr. Limbaugh first woke up spooning with that rattling vial of magic opiates.

And that's a mistress he'll never disparage.

No, throughout time, this assault has been waged in the home and the workplace, the clinic and the bedroom, the courtrooms and the halls of Congress.

Thursday's New York Times unveiled the most recent salvo on women's rights, the fight to renew the federal Violence Against Women Act. On the books since 1994, the law surfaces for renewal every six years, and aims at sustaining funding for free legal assistance to domestic violence victims, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking and provide training for civil and criminal court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence.

Oh, yes, it also proposes broadening the protection to same-sex couples, which is why the vote has been split right down party lines.

What the hell is going on here?

First, conservatives and Catholic bishops rally against the President's contraception mandate despite the glaring fact that ninety-eight percent of Catholic women have used contraception.

Leave it to the power of celibacy to gauge the pulse of the American woman.

Then, in a move right out of the Salem Witch Trial Owner's Manual, the Virginia House of Delegates passes a law requiring women seeking to exercise their right to choose, to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound probe prior to doing so, and then be forced to wait ten days.

This procedure has no medical value whatsoever; its only purpose is to shame and embarrass its recipient. In effect, she must submit herself to a punitive, state-sanctioned rape.

I'm certainly not so naïve to be surprised by these developments. Institutional control of our female population is a concept that's been around since Eve fouled the nest of humanity through her gullible acceptance of the apple from that Muppet in the tree.

It was all her fault. Eve was the original female Gilligan. If it weren't for her fool heartedness, we'd all be cavorting naked in the sun, riding lions and rhinos bareback and eating as many Oreos as we want.

But no. Eve screwed up, hence women must rightly pay the price for eternity.

I'd like to think that even if I weren't father to two daughters, I'd still be appalled by these developments.

But since I am, this battle has become personal.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The weight of the wait.

"The waiting is the hardest part."
-Tom Petty

How do you feel about the term, "You've got no choice?"

Is it accurate? You've always got a choice, right?

Except when you've got no choice.

Sunday night, my brood and I gathered around the cretin cube to watch the latest installment in ESPN's superb 30 for 30 series, entitled, "The Announcement."

The show chronicled the story behind Earvin "Magic" Johnson's 1991 revelation that he had been infected with the HIV virus. Through personal accounts both past and current, Johnson's tale of humiliation, ostrecization and ultimately courage, painted an image of a flawed man whose behavior led to his condition, yet who chose to regain his footing and represent the human face of HIV.

During commercials, I tried to explain to my kids what a huge event this was, how HIV/AIDS had predominately been considered a "gay" problem prior to Johnson and how many didn't understand how the disease is transmitted.

More personally, we discussed consequences.

Before the press conference and the lights and cameras and public displays of support, before the public fallout and ignorance of his fellow players, Magic Johnson had to do something else:

He had to tell his wife...who had just learned she was pregnant with their first child.

Johnson described the drive home after his doctor had informed him of the diagnosis. Time stood still as he traversed the streets of Los Angeles; disbelief, shock, overwhelming guilt.

How could he tell her? He sat in the driveway for seconds, for minutes, for hours. He really wasn't sure how long.

Most of us haven't born the responsibility of inflicting that magnitude of pain on a spouse or partner, yet we've all had moments where we've wallowed in the quicksand while waiting to break some news which we knew would rock someone's world.

Agony, unbridled agony.

Again, I don't wish to compare any obstacle I've ever faced with informing my wife that I'd been unfaithful, had contracted the virus which causes AIDS, and oh yeah, there's a chance that she and our percolating child may also be carrying it.

Nope, not even close.

Yet everyone can recall a few occasions where, after churning sleeplessly, they compelled themselves to initiate a conversation which would undoubtedly result in emotional trauma to the recipient.

I vividly recollect breaking up with my college girlfriend. It was one of those relationships which lasted about twice as long as it really should have, and finally I awoke one morning hell-bent on doing the deed.

Feeling buoyant and confident with my new found resolve, I bounded out of my apartment that morning. Yet, after playing out the scenario endlessly while riding the bus to her neighborhood, each step closer to her sorority eroded my spirits and compounded the dread. By the time I had stepped up to the oaken door of the female-filled mansion, my legs shook beneath me.

To exacerbate my anxiety, I was told that she was still in class and to "go ahead and have a seat in the living room. She'll be her in about twenty minutes."

By the time she walked through that front door, I was a quivering jar of testosterone preserves, so I just blurted it out in the foyer: "I want to break up."

Then it got ugly. She clung to me, weeping and sobbing and causing a huge scene in this very public area. She screamed, she pleaded.

Her sorority sisters looked on, their eyes burning homicidal blow darts into my forehead.

I pried her fingers off my neck and triceps and backed out the door. She stood there, wailing. I turned, walked, jogged and sprinted away.

Not a good scene. Usually, the anticipation of such a situation proves to be worse than the actual event...but not in this case.

Things did eventually work out. She tracked me down the following Monday outside one of my classes and we talked about it in an empty classroom before parting ways with considerably less fanfare.  I think she's married now, with a couple of kids and living in Texas or something.

As for Earvin Johnson, he's an HIV survivor and an ambassador who has continued to promote awareness and education about a disease which affects so many. The real hero, however, is his wife Cookie, who stood by him in the face of so much humiliation, judgment and uncertainty.

And her unborn child? His name is Earvin Johnson III, he's nineteen years old and both he and his mother tested negative for the HIV virus.

All of us, at some point in our existence, must step onto that emotional on-deck circle where we take a few practice swings before stepping up to the plate.

My advice is to swing at the first pitch.

Friday, March 9, 2012

If patience is a virtue...whatever.

This morning, as with most Friday mornings, my wife offered to drive our eleven-year-old daughter to school.

"Mom, can we please leave now?"

"You're going to have to either stop following me around or wait in the car. I'm almost ready and you're just slowing me down."

Our cherub heaved her hundred and sixty pound backpack onto her shoulders and scooped up her viola.

"Fine. I'll just hang out in the car and listen to the radio. But please hurry, Mom." She hastily clunked out the door and into the frigid morning comfort of our Hyundai Elantra.

Before my wife concluded burdening herself with her own impressive load of baggage, her cell phone rang. She gazed over at me as inhaled my Rice Krispies. "I can't believe she's already calling me. She's been out there for thirty seconds. I'll see you later."

Then the land line rang as the front door shut behind her.

This kid, who has so very many admirable traits, possesses the patience of an old man's bladder. How can she be so impatient? I thought. Who could possibly be modeling this behavior, this ridiculous inflexibility and lack of self control?

Umm, that would be me.

As a younger man, I always believed that as I aged, I'd become more patient, more calm. After all, experience breeds understanding, which in turn begets wisdom and tolerance, yes?

Not really. In fact, it appears that my patience is eroding in perfect synchronization with my testosterone-starved pectorals.

And while I'm sure some of my fellow middle-agers are in fact mellowing like the overnight contents of an unflushed commode, I'd bet that most of us are slowing emigrating toward the Mecca of impatient behavior:


Although I'm not quite to the gates of that well-fertilized holy place, I have indeed noted a few areas of daily life where my patience has worn like the frayed skin attaching a doomed baby tooth:

The workplace—I must tread carefully here, since continued tolerance equals continued employment, but if I have to hear another highish-level individual inquire about "bandwidth" or "how much is on my plate," I'm going to be the first human to detach his own earlobe using only molars.

Also, I'm not sure when the term "ask" became a noun, as in, "Okay, you guys, I know this is a huge ask, but we really need everyone to buckle down for the next couple of weeks."

I'm not big on locker room speeches, let alone new corporatisms, so why can't they just say something like...nothing?

The egregious workplace overuse of the word "thanks" is also a thumb tack in my balloon. It needn't be endlessly substituted for words like, "Okay, see ya," or "You mother&*(%er. You just gave me a project that's got a more ridiculous deadline than the one JFK gave NASA."

Grammatical impatience is my other weakness. Call me a word snob, but I get really chapped when someone begins an opinion with, "Well, for me..."

Who else would it be for?

In addition, I have a difficult time suffering correspondence and orations which contain typos and grammatical errors. While most consider the grammar of a Facebook post or the pronunciation of a word an afterthought, I cannot vote for anyone, regardless of political affiliation, who says "nucular."

Oh, yes, I'm impatient about so many other things as well—people on the bus who file their nails or talk on the phone about how much they love fish, folks who don't thank you for holding the door and those who use the term "retarded."

And hey, since my blog's subhead states "the curmudgeonly ramblings of a forty-somethinger," I guess I've finally provided some truth in advertising.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Porn actors ordered to use condoms: Damn..I mean...It's about time!

Okay, so I suppose this is a good thing...once a few details are ironed out.

In January, the Los Angeles City Council, in an effort to curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases within the adult film industry, passed a law requiring the use of condoms.

LA's fertile porn soil contributes to an estimated ninety percent of all adult movies made, yet city officials have yet to determine how to enforce the new rule. They've got six months to figure it out.

I completely understand the health concerns involved with unprotected sex in this mileu, especially since we're talking about "highly experienced" professionals, here. 

But this new law is certain to tarnish a movie's luster for the average consumer dude who enjoys watching unbridled lust in eleven-minute increments.

How do I know this? Research.

It's like eating jambalaya while suffering from a really bad cold—you taste the spices but are denied the entire bouquet of flavors.

It's akin to watching mud wrestling in windbreakers, like toiling over a tetrazzini with nothing but leftover tofurkey. I think you get the picture.

And secondly, who will apprehend the violators? Who will deliver these perpetrators to justice for breaking a tenet of which they've shown such naked contempt?

The Los Angeles Police Department, following decades of Rodney- and O.J.-inspired blunders, can assuredly right its vessel through a proper grasping and handling of this sensitive conundrum. And here's how:

After a thoughtful and thorough framework is drawn up by its top brass, the LAPD will unveil its innovative instrument of stealth in combating coital corruption—

The Prophylactic Enforcement Recognizance Vice Squad, or "PERVS."

And although I certainly won't be allowed to occupy a seat at the inaugural roll call of this elite unit, I can imagine the dialogue.

Sergeant: Okay, fellas, listen up! Welcome to the PERVS unit. You should feel proud to have been hand picked for this assignment, but understand this will not be a walk in the park. You're going to encounter a lot of mailmen, pizza delivery guys, copy machine repairmen...sometimes even a yard and food waste recycling technician...

But don't be fooled. These people are frauds and they're going to eventually show you far more than you bargained for, which usually happens around the time their faces look like Lee Harvey Oswald getting shot in the stomach.

So, after I read your assignments, I'll take any questions. 

Let's see, LaRue, you're going to the set of "Saturday Night Favor."

Jameson, I've got you checking out "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou Sister?"

Um, Harris, you'll be monitoring "Perry Hotter and the Prisoner of Ass Cabin," and Garcia, I was going to assign you to "Close Encounters With a Third Hind," but I'm actually going to put you on "Gigantic."

Your job is to make sure Leonardo is wearing his Di-"Cap"-rio, if you know what I mean.

Okay, then, any questions?

Jameson: Sarge, what do we do if someone know...driving without a seat belt?

Sergeant: Excellent question, Jameson. Don't do anything. Call me immediately and I'll drop everything and rush to the scene of the infraction. Once I've determined, upon close examination, that Batman isn't wearing his utility belt, I'll order the parties to freeze and lie face down on the floor.

Actually, I don't want to be hit with a brutality suit, so we'll have the male actor lie on his side for the time being. Any other questions?

Okay, good luck men. And take lots of photographs. We'll need evidence.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Is it more important to be kind or to be right?

What's more important, in your opinion, when you're given the choice:

To be kind or to be right?

For example, when your friend exclaims to you, "Wow, I sure loved that movie...expecially the part where the two dolphins played lawn darts," how do you respond?

Do you reply, "'Expecially' isn't a word, you simpleton, it's pronounced 'especially.' Now please rephrase your sentence using grammar appropriate to your third-grade-level command of the King's English."

Or do you say, "Yeah, those dolphins were so talented. I also loved it when they killed all those clowns."

Let's hope you choose the latter method, since, while you may assert your correctness in the pronunciation of a word, you'll also prevail as an elitist ass hat whose brilliance renders his friend's self esteem a bloody pulp.

This morning, I finished a book entitled "Wonder," by R.J. Palacio. It's the tale of August, a boy born with profound facial birth defects and his introduction to mainstream education at age ten.

Recommended by my sister who's read every book written since the age of papyrus, this novel is aimed at middle grade readers, yet it gobsmacked this so-called adult like a punch in the trachea.

It's not only the story of a young man faced with massive physical and social obstacles, it also addresses the challenges to those around him who must choose between kindness and the all-too-familiar fear of middle school ostracization.

In other words, there are consequences to befriending a "freak," that kindness is not cool for school.

It was a timely lesson in light of a few comments made yesterday by Rush Limbaugh. He opined on the testimony of third-year Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, who stated during an unofficial congressional hearing that her private Jesuit university's health plan does not provide free contraception, but should since public institutions already do.

Conservative commentator Limbaugh, addressing her assertions that fellow students pay as much as a thousand dollars a year for birth control, stated, "She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute."

Whether or not you agree with the politics of this issue... he called her a slut.

I've often heard this guy referred to as an entertainer, that this shock is his shtick.

That he invites this controversy because it gets us talking and attracts listeners to his radio show and readers to his books.

That he's not really like this personally.

Well, here's the thing: I don't care if he secretly donates millions of dollars a year to Planned Parenthood; his vitriol and misogyny cause real damage. He incites hatred, blame and division in an era when sensationalism, bullying, name calling, ratings and dollars trump reason.

When they smother kindness.

Rush Limbaugh should be the last guy to hurl such insults when he's toting more baggage than a Real Housewife on a weekend trip to Sedona.

So, so many epithets could boomerang right back in his face, like that he's a gooey, racist, thrice-divorced hillbilly heroin addict who can only get it up with the help of a pharmaceutical Genie Lift after he pries it, panting heavily, from its inverted position in the sweaty subterranean regions of his overlapping ab flaps.

But I won't say that. I'm too kind.