Archive for the 'Random Shots' Category


Flicking the Vick

I congratulate NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend disgraced Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick indefinitely without pay, while at the same time opening the door for the Falcons to get back some of the bonus money they have squandered on this thug.

Until today, the message seemed to be if you were rich enough, arrogant enough, and you had game, then you were immune to the consequences of your actions. Roger Goodell has changed that with one resounding stroke of his commissioner’s pen.

And yes, it has occurred to me that there is a certain perversity to all this. Latrell Sprewell assaulted his coach, Ray Lewis was involved in a murder, and Kobe Bryant was accused of raping a woman (his explanation: “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did”  Yeah, right.) All three basically got off scot-free. But harm a pooch, and a pissed off PETA leads the charge and the whole world comes crashing down around you.

This is not to make light of what Vick and his cohorts did.  Dogfighting is a barbaric and reprehensible activity, and in any event, it also happens to be illegal.  Perhaps Vick felt that because of who he is, he was safe from the law.  He’s about to find out he isn’t.

By now, everyone knows the details of this rather sordid case, so I won’t rehash them here. The point I want to make is that one of life’s constants is the way people, especially young people, idolize sports heroes. In past years it was Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. When I was growing up we had Carl Yastrzemski, Willy Mays, and Henry Aaron, to name just a few. In later years, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Joe Montana were role models. Yes, I know Michael Jordan had some private issues, but at least in public he always behaved like a gentleman.

But today, the likes of Latrell Sprewell, Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis, and now, Michael Vick offer a dubious example for others to follow. And because teenagers of ALL colors and socioeconomic backgrounds look up to them, their questionable values have permeated seemingly every layer of our culture. Rap music, with it’s message of violence, drug use, and mysogeny, is the music of choice among teens everywhere, regardless of their background. I know this may sound racist, but I am simply pointing out the obvious. Clearly there are many black athletes (Warrick Dunn, Deuce McAllister and Marshall Faulk all spring to mind here) who grew up in even tougher neighborhoods than Vick yet by all accounts are fine human beings.

Vick got what was coming to him. And while it does nothing to right the other above mentioned wrongs, at least it sends a message that, in fact, we still live in a society that values morals and decency, and expects its sports heroes to set an example.



I’m sorry, I’ve been bad

I wanted to thank everyone for the warm welcome I have received upon my return to the blogosphere. Unfortunately, I have not always responded with the same courtesy that has been shown to me. No, I haven’t sworn at anyone, but I have been a bit, well, pokey about responding to comments. I had almost forgotten how enjoyable blogging is, but also how much work has to go into it.  Without meaning to, I feel that I have been discourteous.
So tonight I stayed up til the wee hours of the morning getting caught up on my comments. If you have been kind enough to leave a comment in the last month or so, I have finally gotten around to responding. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment, and please accept my apologies for being so slow to respond. I will try to do better.



Cigar, anyone?

These were rather loosely inspired by Michael’s “Demotivators” post. Just little vignettes you may encounter in your friendly neighborhood cigar store.




The Ring Thing

By now nothing that goes on in public schools should surprise me. We live in a through-the-looking-glass world where students are suspended for smoking cigarettes, but can get free condoms from the school nurse, where prayer is not allowed but t-shirts glorifying rap music and its odious messages are commonly worn, and where students graduate knowing how to TM while barely being able to read and speak articulately.

So why should it surprise me that an English school has forbidden a fifteen year old Christian girl from wearing a small silver ring that symbolizes her commitment to chastity until marriage? If you want the details, see this article here, although a Google search of Lydia Playfoot turns up quite a bit of material. Suffice to say, she has been told by the school to remove the ring or face expulsion.

I have two BIG problems with this.

First, this same school allows Muslim girls to wear their head scarves, and Sikh girls to wear the silver bracelets of their faiths. This I have no problem with. Freedom to express one’s religion is a basic human right. But don’t Christian girls have the same rights as Muslims and Sikhs?

And perhaps more importantly, does anyone really think it’s such a hot idea to punish a teenager when she’s actually trying to do the right thing? Anyone who has ever been the parent of a teenager knows what a demoralizing experience this can be. There are just so many ways teens can screw up their lives: drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, gangs. No matter how hard you try to steer them away from these, many just blithely embrace some or all of these self destructive behaviors while regarding their parents as hopelessly out of touch simpletons. Any parent who can shepherd their teen to adulthood while keeping them in one piece has done something to be proud of.

This process is made harder than ever because there are just so many other influences on teens that parents must now compete with. Peer pressure used to mean the kids at school. Now, thanks to the Internet, it means kids all over the world. Kids are being urged by way too many people to make really, really bad decisions.

So in a world where teenagers kill just because they want to “see what it feels like”, it is refreshing to hear about a girl like Lydia Playfoot, who is actually doing the right thing and encouraging others to do the same. But instead of getting the praise she deserves, all she’s getting is a whole lot of undeserved aggravation. It is a sad indictment of our culture when a teenage girl is turned into a pariah for NOT having sex. The scarlet letter A used to stand for “adulteress”. I guess now it stands for “abstinence”.

In our increasingly secular world, there are many who find her extroverted brand of Christian faith cloying, but that is more of a reflection of our society than it is on her. I find it rather ironic that while the western world is predominantly Christian, Christianity itself is becoming ever more marginalized. Devout Christians are often looked down upon by the intelligentsia as rubes and simpletons. And yet in Muslim, Jewish, and other cultures, religious faith is still viewed as a virtue.

But one does not need to embrace devout Christianity to recognize the value of her message, or to be disturbed by the school administration’s attempts to squash that message, which should be regarded as a breath of fresh air. What parent in the world wouldn’t sell their soul just to hear their teen say, “Mom, Dad, I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided not to have sex until I’m married. Is that OK?” In a world where so many influences are telling her to do otherwise, Lydia Playfoot is doing the right thing. Ring or no ring.



The Clowns are gonna getcha!!

In just the past week, no less than two of my friends, both normal, well adjusted men, have told me that they suffered from a phobia that I’ve never encountered in real life, the fear of clowns. It turns out it even has a name: coulrophobia.

So I did a little research, and what I found was fascinating. While it’s quite common for children to be afraid of clowns, I discovered that some experts believe that as many as one in seven adults never outgrow this fear. Like most phobias, symptoms can include shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea and overall feelings of dread.

Like most phobias, it is difficult to explain where this comes from. The most common cause is usually a bad childhood experience involving a clown. But there is another interesting theory about how this phobia develops. Because a clown’s smile is painted on, you can’t tell what the clown is really thinking. Is he going to give you a flower or go for your throat? That perpetual smile does something in the mind of the coulrophobe, who finds this inability to “read” the clown, along with the clown’s historic propensity for acting outside social norms (and getting away with it) so unsettling that it creates an unreasonable panic.

Google “fear of clowns” and a whole plethora of websites come up devoted to explaining and helping people overcome the phobia. Clearly, coulrophobia is no laughing matter.

Many famous fictional characters suffer from coulrophobia, encompassing such wide ranging types from Cosmo Kramer to obsessive compulsive detective Adrian Monk. Pasquale, the perpetual child in the comic strip “Rose is Rose” is terrified of clowns, as is Bart Simpson.

Alan Shore, the wily lawyer from the TV series “Boston Legal”, is so afraid of clowns that the normally glib attorney actually froze in a courtroom when the plaintiff, a clown, unexpectedly showed up for the trial in full clown regalia. Later in the episode, Shore claimed there was nothing unreasonable about his fear, describing clowns as “evil” and taking issue with parents who encourage their children to “simply trust them”. He eventually overcame his fear–with the help of colleague and former Marine Brad Chase–to the point where he is able to approach the clown, who allows Alan to squeeze his nose. (There’s a reason this is one of my favorite TV shows. I’m a big fan of the surreal.)

For a comprehensive list, (and boy, is it a long one!) click here.

And I always thought the lions were scary. By the way, if you suffer from coulrophobia, do not, under any circumstances, look at the picture below.

But if you LIKE scary clowns, check out this link.

Hey, I warned you!



I told you these things were evil…

I hate the iPod. I hate how it epitomizes an entire generation’s obsession with being entertained on demand. I hate the relentless marketing that tries to make me feel like a lower form of life for not owning one. I hate how our society is inexorably lapsing into an electronically induced isolationism. Remember when you actually used to talk to the person sitting next to you on the train, or standing next to you in line at the bank? Those days seem to be going the way of the pocket watch and the leather backed book.

Whenever I see some teen or twenty-something wandering around in an iPod induced haze I am overcome by this urge to surreptitiously push the volume button as high as it will go and liquefy their brain, no real loss since they rarely use it anyway. Of course, this assumes that I could actually find the volume button, which I probably couldn’t since I have sworn never to own one of these odious little devices.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, it now appears that an iPod can put you in the hospital. Yesterday a teenager was struck by lightning as he was wearing his iPod during a lightning storm. Thankfully he survived, but I’ll bet he’s not exactly rushing out to get a new one, unless the lighting has totally pureed his brains. Maybe that leather backed book is looking a little more attractive to him right now. You can read the story here.

One always likes to have one’s opinions validated, especially by the Supreme Being. God agrees with me. God hates iPods too.



I shall return

I am, as they say in the North country, gobsmacked.

Really, I never expected this. But now I feel obliged to thank everyone who has supported me through this difficult time in my life. Since my last post, I have received several emails from people who do not know me except through this medium, and yet still cared enough to send kind messages of encouragement. Several also have left caring and concerned comments on that last post. And while I only know them through this medium, I consider them friends.

And the really strange, unexpected thing? People still come and visit this blog! I am genuinely amazed at that. Pleased, to be sure, but still amazed. There have been over 1,700 hits since my last post. Not a lot, to be sure, but enough to let me know people are still curious and perhaps even finding something worthwhile here. Someone once chastised me for my blogslackery with the words, “Two weeks away from a blog and people forget who the hell you are..”

Excellent advice, mind you, but evidently some still remember.

OK, allow me to take all the mystery out of this (no, I am NOT dying, who the hell started THAT one?)

The reason for my little hiatus is that I am going through a divorce. And in case you’re wondering, yes, it is from the woman I wrote about on Valentine’s Day. I can honestly say that when I wrote that post I never saw this coming. Perhaps I chose not to see. I suppose it could be considered significant, portentious even, that she never bothered to read that post, nor hardly anything on this blog, for that matter.

So quite frankly I just totally felt like shit for a while and just didn’t feel like writing a damn thing. I’m over that now, but the other problem is that she got custody of the computer, so I have been rather disconnected lately (employers tend to get their noses out of joint when you blog on their time. I am in fact, still at work as I write this, but off the clock, so everyone’s conscience can rest easy).

However, the computer issue will be resolved in a few weeks, and I am itching to get back in the saddle here at WordPress. I never realized how much this had become a part of me until it was taken away.

So thanks to all for the kind words of support. As a great man once said, “I shall return!”


taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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