Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PONDERING MY SIXTIETH LAP AROUND THE SUN (and fighting a serious case of denial about it all...)

            I don't know how this can possibly be happening.  People who turn sixty are old farts, ready for the rocking chair, swilling Ensure and paying attention to Fred Thompson's sorry spiel in those reverse mortgage commercials.  I can't be sixty years-old!  Shit, I don't even know what I want to be when I grow up!

            There's been some sort of mistake.  It was only a couple of years ago I was a "young man with potential."  Sixty isn't "young".  Sixty's like a twelve year-old dog... you don't keep tossing that tennis ball into the lake if your dog is twelve or thirteen years-old, unless you're trying to get rid of an animal that's taking too many trips to the vet.  And lately I feel like I'm diving in after that tennis ball every time I turn around...

             For the past few months I've been doing chauffeur duty for my lovely (young and dangerous) wife's mom, because the nature of her serious medical condition precludes Miss Daisy from doing her own driving.  When you sit in an infusion room for hours every week, you get to know the usual suspects who often show up for their treatments at the same times.  A lot of those people are my age.  Many of them are much younger.  I know that should make me feel grateful for my health, but it doesn't always work that way.  Often I feel like I've just been lucky to get this far along in life without going through anything like the ordeals those good people are facing.  Another thing about spending so much time in that hospital is the sense of embarrassment I get when I look around and see hundreds and hundreds of people fighting for their lives, when my biggest complaint is having to deal with another birthday.  Some of those folks would give anything for another birthday... and here I sit bitching about mine.

             I have no idea why this one seems more daunting than the others.  I know, it's just a number.  You're only as old as you smell, right?  But something's different about "Happy Sixtieth!", and everyone knows it.  Sixty is that demarcation line in the chronological chain of events... the one right before you start getting Social Security checks in the mail, along with those AARP promotions.  Sixty is the birthday with the black balloons.  Sixty candles on a cake melts the icing and sets off fire detectors.  Sixty is way too old to be considered "funny", but not old enough to be deserving of "Wow!  You're 90?  You don't look a day over 60!"

             I don't want to look a day over 60.  And tomorrow when it's official, I'm going to do my best to shrug it off as if I don't really mind officially being eight years away from the age of my own father at his death.  

             Picasso once said, "One starts to get young at the age of sixty, and then it's too late."

              I'm in denial about this one.  Stop the world, I want to get off.  Someone slow this orb down, because the years are going by like slats on a picket fence.  I can remember when it took FOREVER to get from Christmas to my birthday.  Everything's at hyperdrive, going by in a blur, and no one else seems to notice how fast it's happening.

              There's that bucket list of things I wanted to do, places I wanted to visit... and when I bring it up, others tell me "you still have time to do all of those things!"  But they don't believe that shit any more than I do.  I don't think the Great American Novel is in the cards, any more than that trip to Barbados or Tahiti.  I'm reaching that point in life where I'm happy if I can remember where I've left my damn glasses and car keys.

              So do me a favor.  Don't bring this birth anniversary up, if you can help it.  Follow my lead and pretend it's not happening.

               I can't possibly be sixty years-old.  I had plans.


Sunday, July 20, 2014


          This is a photo being pushed around on social media, a song being sung to the conservative choir, many of whom are genuinely ashamed of the behavior of like-minded bigots on our southern border.  Mobs of angry people have been blocking the paths of buses carrying frightened children, banging on the sides of the buses and shouting for those refugees to "go home!"  And the negative backlash film footage of those "protests" has evoked is now making some conservatives leery of allowing the truth to be told.  Many conservatives have been shocked by news reports of teabaggers scaring unaccompanied children, and a lot of charitable folks are beginning to find fault with their allegiances to such hateful behavior.

           And the right simply can't allow that to happen.

           So they're pushing this photo, purportedly showing the "children" everyone is so concerned about.  In truth, the photo shows images of the thugs those kids are trying to evade by coming to America.

           Most of us can recognize and call "bullshit" at a glance.  But never underestimate the ignorance and gullibility of people inclined to believe whatever their crazy rightwing uncle sends them in an email.  You'll always be disappointed if you do.  People believe this sort of thing, and unless it's challenged it soon becomes their truth.

           Don't ignore blatant attempts to twist facts.  Speak up.  Challenge obvious lies whenever they're passed along as facts, or they become realities for those who don't know better.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

WHEN TRAGEDIES BECOME "DISTRACTIONS" (how dare disasters interrupt good talking points!)

A big ol' distraction in the Ukraine                      

           It doesn't take long for incredibly tragic news to be labeled a distraction these days.  Almost as soon as the first reports of the downing of the Malaysian airliner hit the airwaves, certain pundits were suggesting the possibility that it was an event designed to "distract" from the refugee crisis on our southern border.  Others were predictably quick to blame the incident on President Obama's weak foreign policy.  Still others warned that unless we fixed our borders, or put a halt to gay marriage, or repealed Obamacare (insert the meme du jour here) we'd suffer hurricanes, tornadoes, plagues of locusts, or a deluge of frogs raining from the sky.  

            Sean Hannity, ever the bastion of restraint, asked on-air if Obama would command all golf course flags to be lowered to half-mast.  Isn't that clever?  

             There's a phrase conspiracy theorists (we used to them as cranks and crackpots, but now they have a much nicer label, one that almost suggests the possibility of lucidity) like to use these days, whenever one of these horrible "distractions" occurs, and that phrase is "false flag".  They point to verifiable crimes such as the Sandy Hook massacre or the Aurora theater shooting and deny they ever happened, calling them inventions of a liberal media doing the President's bidding in order to distract from his various scandals.  It used to be the IRS "scandal".  Then it was the Benghazi "scandal".  Now it's the flood of undocumented minors crossing our southern border seeking asylum.  

             For the most part, we listen to these asshats with bemused scorn.  They're almost too funny to be taken seriously.  But a disturbing trend has begun to develop.  It's not worrisome that Faux Noise Channel sock puppets like Hannity or O'Reilly spout their usual bullshit, because we've long ago concluded that those who are swayed by their rhetoric can't be reached by pesky ol' facts.  No, the troubling thing is that certain (again, very predictable) prominent politicians are now taking up these insane claims.  

             Senator John McCain, the guy who tried to put Blunder Woman one heartbeat away from the presidency, calls the Obama administration "cowardly" for not providing arms to the Ukrainians.  He said the same thing about the administration's failure to arm rebels in Syria.  And Iran.  And anywhere else that might need the help of our military arms manufacturers.  McCain is the Archie Bunker of the American right.  Archie wanted to solve the problem of airliner hijackings by passing out handguns to all of the passengers on the planes.  McCain thinks more "good guys with guns" would stop all of the bad things from happening around the globe, disregarding the fact that groups such as ISIS in Iraq are basically armed with confiscated American weaponry... in the same way that the Taliban in Afghanistan was able to match Soviet military might with American surface to air missiles.  He's a firm believer in the 2nd Amendment right of everyone to purchase and bear American arms.

             So the downing of a Malaysian airliner is a distraction from the border.  Or a distraction from Benghazi.  Or a distraction from the mythical IRS scandal.  


               Send in the clowns.  Oh wait... they're already here. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

WHO DECIDES WHAT STORIES QUALIFY AS "FRONT PAGE NEWS"? (is the editor on vacation this month?)

            This will be quick, because I realize I already spend too much blobber space bitching about Nashville's daily newspaper The Tennessean (motto: "Celebrity photos now on page two!").

            Yesterday's breaking world news was so overwhelming that NBC news expanded their regular thirty minute broadcast into an hour of solid news, most of it devoted to the Israeli ground incursion into Gaza and the missile attack on a civilian Malaysian airliner over Ukraine.  Newspapers all over America (and indeed, the free world) are splitting their front page coverage between those two huge stories.

            But not The Tennessean.  Nope.  Folks in Nashville can't be bothered with all of that bad news on the front step, why, they couldn't take one more step.  Nashville's daily has a huge front page, above the fold story about the surge in popularity of charismatic Catholicism in middle Tennessee... whatever the fuck THAT is.  The other big front page story is a sweet little puff piece about Nashville's very own Democratic U.S. Representative Jim Cooper and his bid to stay in office, despite the partisanship of the blood-red Tennessee electorate.  The Israeli invasion of Gaza? The Russian separatists' downing of a commercial airliner?  Those stories are relegated to the McPaper (USA Today) section of this morning's edition.

            It's as if the editors at The Tennessean have shrugged their shoulders and given up.  Why put hard news on the front page, when it's just going to be ignored by folks buying newspapers?  If you don't give them a local story to get excited about, they'll just skip the morning paper altogether.  I'm surprised they didn't put a photo of Peyton Manning or Taylor Swift above the front page fold, just to grab some coins at the Seven-Eleven checkout counters.


Thursday, July 17, 2014


Bluebird (with Happy Meal) taken yesterday afternoon                       

             The male tabby cat that fished bluebirds out of our bird box two summers ago has returned, and this morning he was perched on the fence above a different bluebird box, just chillin'. The sound of the living room window coming down was his cue to hit the road, because he's learned that the pellet rifle hides behind that particular pane of glass.  

             I don't want to kill a house cat.  In fact, I really don't want to kill anything, if I can help it.  But watching and photographing the birds in our backyard is one of my favorite things to do, and I'm especially fond of the bluebirds we've got nesting out back.  We spend a lot of time watching them feeding their young, and a month ago I was treated to the sight of four little fledglings taking their first flights out of the nest.  

              But this cat... this mother fucking cat... is trying to make me the scourge of the neighborhood.  I'm about to go on someone's permanent shit-list, and I'm not even sure which neighbor his going to hate my guts when it happens.

               I'm thinking about putting out my catch-and-release trap, perhaps baited with tuna, just beneath the bluebird box.  And if I catch that bastard, I'm going to give him an extended waterboarding session with the garden hose nozzle set on "jet propulsion."  Maybe a five gallon enema would get his attention, and I wouldn't have to actually put a pellet into his ass.

               Trying to be a nice guy about this, but damn!