Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Move Over, Andy Rooney...

Yes, I Am a Curmudgeon…

Other people’s kids, I swear… OK, is it a sign that I’m getting old that I find some of the habits of this current 20-Something generation incredibly annoying? And do they have a moniker yet? By my reckoning, they’d be either generation Z, or maybe A, depending…

I know a lot of folks make this determination by critiquing the styles and habits of their own children, but I’m at a loss in that regard – My youngest’,(The only one left at home), haircut doesn’t bother me, he’s polite, smart, and funny, gets good grades, and listens to great music.

It’s the one’s I work with that irk me, habit-wise… Here are a few of my peeves:

When did it become OK to be habitually late to work? These guys show up anywhere from a couple of minutes to a half hour late, almost every day, and they get annoyed when somebody jumps them about it – When did it become de rigueur to write your own schedule? I know it pisses off my 20-Something Boss, be he doesn’t do anything to them in response – he yells about it from time to time, and tells them it really bothers him, and they just keep doing it – Is it some kind of game I don’t get? As a Manager, I would kick serious ass for habitually tardy workers, and even fired some for just that alone – If you can’t be depended on to be on time, then you can’t be depended on for more complex things, OK?

Texting –What the hell is with this texting thing? I was having a dramatic relationship story told to me recently, and the young lady kept saying, “So, he texts me that blablabla, so I text back and…” I stopped her and asked some clarifying questions – “OK, this is your boyfriend, right?” “Yes” “And you were both in the same bar, right?” “Yes” “How far apart?” “A couple of tables…” E’scuse me? Are we that dysfunctional that we cannot look eye to eye and speak with human voices? These kids I work with spend all day texting back and forth on cell phones or little texting do dads – My company thinks they’ve nipped wasted production in the bud by limiting internet access – Wrong!!

Piercing is out of hand – Every day, in my professional workplace, I am treated to pierced eyebrows, noses, tongues, lips…. This looks professional? I am told we allow this in the workplace because it is a recognized form of free expression. E’scuse me? Free expression? If I am a client whom you are trying to convince that you are the professional choice I should make, and you are sporting multiple piercings, you loose – End of story.

Energy drinks – The legal crack of the Zed generation – Not only are these people glued to cans of this stuff all day, the local Zip Trip has it on tap, so they get the 44 oz. buckets of the stuff on ice – It’s like being around a bunch of speed freaks all day – No wonder they go to the bar every night - They need to get liquored up just to come down from the all day, every day energy drink buzz.

Dressing like Schleps: I like casual as much as the next guy, and I appreciate that I don’t have to wear a monkey suit every day. But – I wear nice shirts and pants, clean and pressed, and I take some time to coordinate the whole wardrobe. And in walk these… People with mangled, wrinkly shirts, baggy, shapeless pants, ratty, dog-eared shoes, t shirts and sneakers on casual Friday….

Which leads me to – backward ball caps – I used to have a phrase for this when I was the Bus Depot Cop – “Son, there’s only two groups of people who wear their caps backwards, that’s welders and catchers, and you don’t look like either of those to me...” Do these kids not realize that once everybody is doing or wearing it, it’s not cool, hip, happenin’, fashionable, or cutting edge any more? You just look like the other schlubs doing the same thing and hoping to be different… You wanna be different? Wear the f’ing cap the right way; now that’d be unusual!

Much of the rest of the behavior I see is just what people this age do and have done for ages, so there’s really nothing else to rant about – But don’t get me started, OK?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rant & Roll

This rant started internally when my wife, my best friend, my partner, casually tossed out over the Sunday paper, “I think you should rethink voting for Kinky…” RETHINK it, she says! Man, oh man… She wants me to vote for Chris Whatshisnutz, the Democratic shill lookin’ to boost Rick Perry… If all you need for politics is money, good looks, and a willingness to lie, cheat, and steal, Perry is going to, in the immortal words of Moe Howard, “Moidah the bums.” I mean Chris is only sporting one of those three vital qualities, ya know? (By the way, he ain’t good looking and his wallet ain’t fat, if you catch my drift, and I think you do...)

I am afraid that the love of my life is bowing to the pressure of actually wanting to WIN. I believe she’s under the delusion that a Good Candidate running a Fair Campaign can WIN… Well, I’m here to tell y’all that it ain’t happenin’: Babe, I love ya more than anything or anyone, always have and always will, will be with ya for as long as you’ll have me, BUT - You're WRONG, honey, dead wrong...

Why? Because winning in politics doesn’t have anything to do with right and wrong, justice, The American Way, or the ideals and fervent wishes of Our Forefathers. And Chris Bell is no better than Perry frankly – A rose by any other name is still a rose, or in this case, a stinkbug politician. Winning in politics takes money, connections, a general suspension of morals and ethics, and the unabashed ability to prostitute yourself to not one, but many factions with whom you share little to naught. Rick Perry and Carol Keaton “Granma Shotgun” Strayhorn are perfect examples of the genre. The only reason that I would vote for anyone other than Kinky is if it were necessary to keep Strayhorn out of office. Perry is annoying, but he's also stupid and relatively harmless - Strayhorn is malignant - I have witnessed more sincerity from a squirrel than I have from these present and former politicians, and certainly more brains.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, in any way, shape, or form; that said, consider this: I believe that the last two presidential elections were rigged. I believe that the owners of the two companies that make most voting machines, who are hardcore right-wing Republican Power Brokers, are in the pocket of the RNC, or vice versa. I believe the Democrats won Florida and Ohio. I think that it can be said with little or no reservation that, among currently serving politicians in this country, a majority are little better than criminals, and are running this country as a criminal enterprise solely to the benefit of themselves and their companies, holdings, interests, pals and cohorts.

I will vote for Kinky because he is not a politician, and because he accurately reflects to me the outrage and frustration intelligent citizens feel toward American politics in this day and age. I would vote for him for that reason if no other. I don’t care how much he knows personally, although it is my impression that he is a good deal smarter than any of the other candidates: I trust that he will hire good people who know how to do what they’re called to do. I don’t care if he smokes cigars, farts, sweats, or occasionally fires off amazing malaprops – So do I, so does everyone I know. It’s called being human!

Only politicians are so obsessed with ludicrous attempts to appear pristine and fault free. Only politicians spend so much time and energy wiping the reality from their worlds in order to maintain their illusions. I am sick and tired of smoke and mirrors, bullshit apathy, false concern, imitation commiseration, faux sincerity, and ignorance wrapped in power. These assholes covered up a fucking pedophile in their midst, about who’s actions they were fully aware! They did it to cover their own asses, and to avoid tarnishing their half-assed fa├žade of legitimacy! They speak of the invasionn of Iraq as if it was someone else’s fault! They completely screw the lower and middle classes as a matter of routine, and ask us to thank them when they’re done bending us over! The Chief Architect of the current political model has said, straight out, that his intention is to break the government, to bring it to it’s knees unable to rise again, so that it can be replaced with his preferred model, (And if you don’t know who that is or what it means, then I’m sorry, but you really need to wake the fuck up!) They screw the old, the young, women, any and all non-whites, and anybody else they feel like in the name of lining their pockets, and those of the corporations and companies they claim to be regulating. They crawl from corporate officer to politician, lobbyist to consultant, in a never ending incestuous train wreck. They are ugly, obscene, embarrassing, stupid, boorish, ignorant, oblivious, and absolutely beyond the pale.

I can’t think of anything more to say about politicians just now…

I am tired of being embarrassed by my government. They are akin to the stock market in 1929 - Prone to collapse because they no longer represent the things they were meant to represent - They reflect only themselves, and that is a particularly empty and soulless view. I am tired of tolerating rampant stupidity and dangerous arrogance. I don’t care what stripe in comes in, I’m not playing any more.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I Love Texas...

I really do, and here’s why – In fact, dang, I don’t know that I’ve ever written about this before!

The first time the weather cools after a Texas summer, it’s as if spring has just come to the desert. All the plants that were barely holding their own breath a collective sigh of relief and start growing like crazy. The view of rolling hills, mesquites, and oaks shrouded in low fog, and the sun rising across that long, deep view is magical. When its 65 during the day and 45 at night, its paradise. Truth be told, summers suck in Texas, but there’s 9 great months in between ‘em, ya know…

Monica and I came from Washington State, and I came from Massachusetts before that. Now, people in New England are not what you would generally refer to as warm and fuzzy; taciturn and aloof might be more appropriate… People from Washington used to be quite friendly, but as the state has grown and changed, they’ve become significantly less so. Washingtonians like to present themselves as friendly and laid back, when in fact they’re really wound quite tightly. If you smile and say hello to somebody in Seattle, they move farther away on the sidewalk and assume you're panhandling, nuts, or a criminal.

And then we moved to Texas… Now, down here, people say “How are you doin’” all the time – All kinds of people – Strangers, even. They do it in stores, and on the street, and when you’re doing business with them – And they expect you to answer, because they genuinely mean it when they say it. I learned, over time, that even with the grocery checker, you have to stop what you’re doing, look them in the eyes, and say “Good thanks, and you?” because it’s the polite thing to do.

People hold doors open for other people in Texas. When somebody in a store realizes they’re in your way, they say “Oh, excuse me,” and they mean it – I had to learn to stop doing the Washington You Oblivious Idiot look to such folks, because here, they notice, and they genuinely weren’t trying to be in the way, and they genuinely mean they’re sorry. If you do the pissy thing in Texas, they will stop and get stern, and ask “Is there a problem?” Because we don’t pretend that there’s not down here…

If a routine business transaction takes longer than it should, the clerk, teller, cashier, etc, notices your discomfort, looks you in the eyes and says, “I’m sorry this took so long,” and you’re expected to say “That’s OK,” because it is, and it’s the polite thing to do.

And then there are the people themselves – here’s a helpful travel tip: Never, ever make assumptions about a Texan based on their appearance or accent. Here’s a case in point. I sold a gun recently, an AR-15 assault rifle, in fact. The buyer sounded on the phone like a tried and true Texan, (Trahd ‘n truw), and new his guns quite well. The initial phone conversation segued from the gun to the fact that George worked at Otis Elevator, and was worried not only because he was on disability with a pending hip replacement, but because his benefits were lookin’ kinda messed up too – That’s the way conversations go down here, ‘cause this is a couple of people talking, and who you are and what’s going on counts – that’s life, and we’re all in together, so be prepared to discuss it.

I met George the next evening. He was short, sporting a big ol’ paunch, bad teeth, balding, and an accent like Boomhauer on King of the Hill. He walked into my guitar shop, which is where I’d decided to do the transaction, and immediately asked if I made guitars. When I admitted that I did, he asked if I’d ever had the privilege to see Andres Segovia play live, and allowed that he had, twice, and that is was a remarkable experience. George is not a clueless southern hick elevator repair man, folks. George ran Tai Kwan Do studios with a fairly legendary Korean master here in Texas for many years. He was the road manager for Rocky Hill, the brother of ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill and the leader of the infamous Rocky Hill Band. He was a long-time friend of Townes Van Zandt and spoke with great affection for his friend. He heard my kid’s music playing and instantly recognized Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4, and very early Youngbloods. He likes jazz and classical, and thinks The Shrub is a moron. He was articulate, curious, friendly, and genuinely interesting. Before he left, he allowed that he’d “Like this relationship we started to continue, if you’re of a mind – I have a feeling you’ll want to shoot this gun again, and I’d be happy to load for ya just to see you do it.” I will and we will, trust me.

George is a pretty typical Texan, and that’s why I love it down here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

U2Charist

We’re one, but we’re not the same,
We’ve got to carry each other, carry each other,
One…


What’s that, lines from one of our contemporary Christian songs? Well, yes, and no – The lyrics above come from the band U2: If you’re not aware of U2, don’t worry, you’ll soon have an opportunity to get acquainted. U2 started back some 26 years ago, in Northern Ireland and quickly rose to rock prominence. They are now, and have been for some time, a band with a huge worldwide following. Why is that? Well, they are very talented musicians, indeed, but more to the point, their music is not throw-away pop. It is music laced with messages, and more often that not, messages with deep Christian roots. Lead singer Bono says that if he wasn’t wearing leather, he’d be wearing cloth, and his lyrics bear this out: There is a sense of power, passion, and serious purpose in much of U2’s music.
As fame and fortune found the band, Bono has used his to further the issues that are most important to him: He began The One Campaign, a non-profit entity that accepts only membership, not money. One is based on the supposition that if the developed world turned one percent of its gross national product toward the world’s greatest ills, poverty, hunger, and disease, we could eradicate them in our lifetime. This is a goal mirrored by the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals – Basically, an intention by the nations of the world to do just that. In our church, that effort is spearheaded by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, a charitable arm geared toward funding the agencies that work toward these goals in some of the hardest hit places on earth – Africa, South America, and the Balkans, to name a few.
In searching for a way to illuminate these needs and efforts, The Reverend Paige Blaire came up with the U2Charist, a Rite II worship service powered by the music of U2 designed to awaken us to these great needs and to the role God calls us to in service of them. The U2Charist is a phenomenon that has grown and spread with great energy and passion – You only need witness the response the service raised at this year’s Annual Convention to sense it.That phenomenon has now come to Trinity. Through the efforts of a wonderful team of people, we will host an U2Charist here, on Saturday, November 4th, at 7 p.m. This event is co-sponsored by the Campus Chaplaincy at T.C.U. The service will benefit Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, and all funds collected at the service will go to that agency. It will most certainly be an amazing and powerful experience, one not to be missed.

Find out if one is happening near you, and be sure to catch it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World...

Monica and I watched the Texas Gubernatorial debate on the TV last Friday. If you’ve followed my blog, you know we are fans of catty TV, so this was a special night – We even had pizza delivered. Again, if you read this blog, you might wonder if my opinion of the candidates changed as a result this event.

The short answer is, ‘No’.

Why not, you ask? Well... Rick Perry is a Ken Doll; he looked more like a news anchor than the news anchors who were asking him questions. Carol Keaton ‘Granma’ ‘Queen Bee’ ‘Snake Eyes’ ‘Cannonball’ ‘Not In My Backyard’ Strayhorn has the fakest smile I have seen in some time; she is about as sincere as a used car salesman with an overdue boat payment. Chris… Chris… The Democrat guy – I saw him – Chris… Dang it... Hang on, I gotta call Monica – Hey, babe, how’s it goin’? What are ya wearin’? Kill your boss yet? What was the name of that Democratic fella runnin’ for governor? No, not Kinky – The Democrat… Chris Bell That’s it! Love you, bye. Chris Bell is that exciting – Actually, much less so – The previous conversation between my wife and I, transcribed verbatim in real time, was much more exciting than Chris…. Bell. Kinky waved a cigar, wore his Johnnie Cash suit, and was refreshingly honest.

Lowlights from the Event: Rick Perry referring to various other movers and shakers as “My Good Friend So-And-So.” Chris Bell talking with absolutely zero inflection or emotion. ‘Granma’ Strayhorn saying, “In a Strayhorn administration" at all, let alone a bunch of times. Kinky waving his cigar around while admitting, “Yeah, I’ll probably still smoke cigars if elected.”

Highlights from the Event: Chris Bell trying to smile – This guy is not fun at a party, guaranteed – And he was a Congressman? In Texas? Rick Perry working his Concerned, Serious Governor Face – Kinda looked as if he was sportin' a wicked hemorrhoid and desperately needed to score some Preparation H: Bonus Perry Moment – Rick saying, with a straight face, that his roots “Are solidly on the farm”. Carol Keaton Strayhorn not having a clue as to the name of the new President of Mexico, but unraveling some totally unrelated line of bullshit about what would happen in a Strayhorn administration anyway: Bonus Strayhorn moment - 'Granma' insisting repeatedly she is, "With the people"... Kinky’s response to the question, “How much money has the lottery given to public education?” – “Well, they say $8 Billion, but I don’t believe ‘em, do you?”

General observations from the Event: I thought it was very refreshing to ask the candidates questions about real life stuff – Governor Perry didn’t have idea one about how much a gallon of gas costs currently, and as noted, Strayhorn doesn’t know her neighbors. The Phantom Democrat and Kinky scored points though. It was patently a waste to allow the candidates to ask a question of each other and get a rebuttal after the response – This is, unequivocally, putting lipstick on pigs. The MC was from Houston, and I assume was a TV news person: From his general demeanor, he’s likely a sports or weather guy, and comes from the Wink Martindale School of Hosting; he often seemed to confuse the debate for an episode of Family Feud…

Special Awards from the Event. To Kinky Freidman, The Balls The Size of Pickle Jars Award; for showing up a political mosh pit like that and doing very well indeed. To Chris Bell, The Sansabelt, Dad-n-Lad, White Bread Translucent Candidate Award; he could be sitting in the cubicle next to me and I still wouldn’t notice him. To Rick Perry, The Helmet Hair Empty Suit Award - With all due respect, he sticks to what he’s good at; Show up, look good, and not much else. And last but not least, to ‘Granma’ Strayhorn, The I’ve Never Ever Seen A Scarier Candidate Award, and that includes Grover Cleveland - Citizens of Texas, be forewarned - If you elect this woman, I will hunt you all down like the dogs that you are and put you out of my misery.

Mark my words…

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

School Reads

You know what the title alludes to: Those books that you only read because some High School teacher or English Lit Prof made you.

This came to mind because my youngest is reading To Kill a Mockingbird in class, and that is a classic example of the genre. For Casey, this follows other recent reads of the same ilk: Red Badge of Courage, Of Mice and Men, and Death of a Salesman. Whew!

And why are some writers so prominently represented in School Reads, Hemingway and Steinbeck chief among them? Is it because they wrote classic examples of the writer’s art, or because they were often so tedious and esoteric that nobody would read them otherwise? I’m not castigating, I truly wonder… Look, art critics like art that nobody else does, and it’s the same with music and cinema. Do English wonks like stuff because it’s obtuse and requires specific intellect and insight to appreciate, or because they really think this is the best material available to teach the arts of readin’ and writin’?

I was lucky, in that I went to a private High School in the ‘70’s. My first English teacher there gave us absolutely classic fare; stuff like The Scarlet Letter, Trinity, and A Christmas Carol. The next guy was avant garde and gave us Ragtime, The Mosquito Coast, and Coming into the Country. Senior year was a hippie wanna-be, so we had Gary Snyder and The Lord of the Rings.

And then there’s politics… How many of these are chosen because they’re safe? The likely answer is, probably too many in this day and age. I don’t think a lot of the stuff I read would be allowed in public schools nowadays… It’s especially disheartening when a good classic is tossed because of the New Morality; its real Fahrenheit 451 stuff, I’m afraid. Why is it that decent literature gets axed for supposed impropriety? What are these parents and school boards afraid of? I don’t remember the last time I heard a book getting tossed that deserved to be, but I recall a bunch that I know were ludicrous decisions at best. The Scarlet Letter was a recent victim – The Scarlet letter?! Because it “Was about adultery and was, therefore, espousing values we don’t find material to the teaching of our children…”

Lord, give me strength… These are the same folks who never talk about sex with their kids, who wouldn’t know if their dear little ones are doing dope or not, and who in all likelihood never read Hawthorne in the first place. Furthermore, I’d bet they’re watching porn in the bedroom while wearing rubber horsy masks, but out in public, they’re Pillars of the Community.

So how this kinda crap gets me goin’? And I’m not even liquored up! Prayer in school, no child left behind, core values, educational excellence… I have had it up to here with this new morality and false goodness – I can’t think of a time when we’re constantly wading through hip deep shit like this, can you? It reminds me of the ‘50’s, with the appearance of being cleaner, (But it ain’t). As my wife would say, “It’s just icky,” and indeed it is. My kid’s school is pretty good, and yet there are books and subjects and major teaching aids that have been outlawed there as well, and at the same time, they have practice lock-down drills in preparation for on campus gang fights...

Am I missing something here?