Archive for the 'The 21st Century' Category

21
Oct
08

always free cheddar in a mousetrap….

Just a little something I found amusing……..

I’d sell your heart to the junkman baby
For a buck, for a buck
If you’re looking for someone
To pull you out of that ditch
You’re out of luck, you’re out of luck

The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
There’s leak, there’s leak,
In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers

God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business. Business.
God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business. Business.

Digging up the dead with
A shovel and a pick
It’s a job, it’s a job
Bloody moon rising with
A plague and a flood
Join the mob, join the mob
It’s all over, it’s all over, it’s all over
There’s a leak, there’s a leak,
In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers
God’s away, God’s away, God’s away
On Business. Business.
God’s away, God’s away,
On Business. Business.

[Instrumental Break]

Goddamn there’s always such
A big temptation
To be good, To be good
There’s always free cheddar in
A mousetrap, baby
It’s a deal, it’s a deal
God’s away, God’s away, God’s away
On Business. Business.
God’s away, God’s away, God’s away
On Business. Business.
I narrow my eyes like a coin slot baby,
Let her ring, let her ring
God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business.
Business…

–Tom Waits
from the album “Blood Money” (2002)

26
Aug
07

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.

-Smith

31
Jul
07

“I am Iraqi”

Last Sunday, the Iraqi national soccer team defeated–astounded is more like it–Saudi Arabia by a score of 1-0, giving the people of this war torn country something it doesn’t get very often: something to smile about.

But this is more than just a victory in a sporting event. It’s a victory for all those, especially the people who have to live there, who decry the sectarianism which is rending this country apart. Midfielder Nashaat Akram said “This is a gift to the united Iraqi people, to the different spectrums of the Iraqi people.” Laborer Muhammed Hussein said, “They (the players) showed us what the real Iraq is and how we can work hard to be something. These players are what the Iraqis are”.

It is reported that t-shirts encouraging an end to sectarianism with the slogan “I am Iraqi” have sold out everywhere.

Of course, this is still Iraq, so it comes as no surprise that the day was also somewhat marred by sporadic bloodshed. Police shot some asshole attempting to drive a car bomb into a crowd in the south Baghdad neighborhood of Sadiya. Luckily the car exploded and no one but the suicide bomber was killed, which I guess made it a good day for everyone, including the suicide bomber.

Earlier in the day police stopped two Saudi Arabian nationals attempting to detonate cars packed with explosives in the eastern neighborhood of Zayuna. And I thought Yankees fans were sore losers.

But let’s focus on the good stuff for a minute:

In the northern Kurdish city of Irbil soccer fans waved the Iraqi flag, while dancing the debka, a traditional Kurdish dance, arm in arm in the middle of the street or atop moving cars, while In Kirkuk, a northern oil city known for its melange of ethnicities, Sirwan Rasheed, 55, a Kurd, said he erected flags in the team’s honor with friends of various sects and ethnicities — Sunnis and Shiites , Turkmen and Christians. Sounds kind of like Boston in October of 2004.

What’s important here is the example being set by this soccer team. The team’s leaders include both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, who work well together and talk publicly about overcoming sectarianism. People, especially young people, look up to sports heros, and the Iraqis are no exception. At a time when sectarian tensions between Shiites and Sunnis have worsened in the Iraqi government and on the streets, the soccer team, known as the Lions of the Two Rivers, may have some part in helping Iraqis understand the benefits of putting aside sectarian hatred and working together to make their country a decent place to live. Sports heroes are role models, and Iraq certainly needs a few of those.

The strife in Iraq, and the rest of the world, for that matter, will never end until the people living there decide for themselves to choose peace over war, to choose understanding over hatred, to choose life over death. Can a handful of athletes, who seemingly have already made those decisions, be a catalyst to peace?

I believe they can. After all, I’m a Red Sox fan. I’ve already seen one miracle.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I borrowed liberally from this article for this post.)

–Smith

18
Jul
07

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.

–Smith

15
Mar
07

My son is coming home.

I was awakened Monday morning by the phone.  I recognized my son’s voice on the other end. He has been serving in Iraq for the past year, and a phone call at an ungodly hour was nothing very unusual. But even in my groggy state, I sensed something different. There was no static on the line, and none of that annoying 3 second lag that usually marked our conversations. Before I had a chance to ponder this further, he set me straight: “Pops! (yes, that’s really what he calls me) I’m in Atlanta! I’m home!”

Well, this woke me up in a hurry. After over a year of worrying about him every waking minute, I can now sleep a little easier.  And while I realize that my suffering is nothing compared to what he’s gone through, I must say that a year of non-stop worrying has taken its toll. My hair, already prematurely gray, is quite a few shades whiter than it was a year ago. I have gained at least 30 pounds because I have the unhealthy habit of dealing with depression by eating.  Frito’s Corn Chips have been my friend.  If you own stock in the Frito-Lay company, I have been your friend.   

Sleep has not come easy the past year.  Some nights I would become obsessed with the idea that I would get a phone call in the middle of the night from someone in the Army who was not my son.  Thankfully, that call never came.  But I have developed a dependency on sleeping pills that I wonder if I will ever overcome.  

The irony of it all is that he left home for Iraq last March 20th, my birthday, and it looks as though he will return home on my birthday.

But now he is back stateside, and I wonder what he will be like. I know he has seen things that I have only seen in movies. I know he will be different. The little boy I played Nintendo with is gone forever. 

I spoke with him by phone for about an hour last night.  I was struck by the difference in his voice. The reckless teenager I used to quarrel with is also gone forever.  I know he has now become a man in every sense of the word.  There was a confidence and even a calmness in his voice that I had never heard before, strange perhaps in someone who had just spent a year in a war zone.  He told me to pick out a new pipe for my birthday.  “Make it a good one”, he said, “It’s also your Father’s Day present.”

Many people have asked me why I didn’t write more about this during his time in Iraq.  The truth is I often started to write something, only to have the thoughts go dead inside me.  For some reason I simply could not confront this issue head on, let alone write something worthwhile.  The idea that he might come home in a flag draped casket would overwhelm me, and the another potential post went into the recycle bin.

But now he is coming home.    When I see him I will tell him how proud of him I am.  I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer have that constant knot in my stomach. 

Maybe it’s because I’m eating less Fritos.

–Smith

28
Feb
07

What I hate about the 21st century

The 21st century is now in its seventh year, and frankly, I don’t see a lot to like. Granted, I’m an avowed antiquarian, who smokes a pipe, uses a pocket watch, and prefers a fountain pen, but nonetheless I knew we were off to a bad start just by the number of morons who thought that the new millennium started in the year 2000. It’s always a bad sign when a significant portion of the population of an industrialized nation can’t even do simple math.

In no particular order here’s a list of things that are pissing me off about the new century.

Suicide bombers: Wait just a minute here, God told you to do what? Sorry pal, that wasn’t God, it was the voices in your head. About the only good thing I can say about these guys is that they can only ply their vile trade once. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of deluded souls out there who really think that God will be pleased with them for killing a bunch of innocent people.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Basically a shill for the Muslim theocracy that really runs Iran. The man says the Holocaust never happened, and then wonders why he has no credibility with the international community. And now he wants nuclear weapons. Anyone with half a brain in their head should find this absolutely chilling. Say what you want about the Cold War, in retrospect both the Americans and the Russians were the epitomes of diplomatic restraint. For all their rhetoric and saber-rattling, both sides in truth realized that blowing up the planet was a bad idea. Not so with Ahmadinejad. I really believe he would start a nuclear holocaust in the name of Allah. One way or another, he has to go. With any luck, the Israelis will do our dirty work for us like they have so many times before.

Kim Jong-il:  Essentially the same rant here as for Ahmadinejad. Except I don’t think he’s ever denied the holocaust. But he is building up his military while his people are starving to death. Another one who has to go.

Barry Bonds: Even before the steroids scandal, he was widely known as the Biggest Asshole in Baseball. Now he will probably break the home run record set by Hank Aaron, an honorable man and gifted athlete who endured painful racial slurs throughout his career but played the game the right way. The day he breaks the record, every fan in the park should stand up and turn their back. They won’t, though.

The New York Yankees: I’m a Red Sox fan. I had to get that one in here.

Britney Spears: C’mon, you KNEW I’d get to her sooner or later. It’s not that I hate her, as such. In fact, I kinda feel a little sorry for the little tart. But I hate what she represents: a whole generation of narcissistic teens and twenty somethings who seem to think that they’re entitled to get what they want, when they want it, and preferably not have to pay for it. If they don’t, the result is a temper tantrum. Naturally, teen girls idolize her, apparently without realizing that, unlike Britney, they don’t have the means of getting themselves out of the trouble that emulating her behavior will land them in. Detox costs money, girls. So do babies. So does a divorce. Furthermore, Britney, Paris, and company have turned the women’s movement completely on its ear. They now are easily the equals of men when it comes to boorish behavior. Was that the idea?

George W. Bush: Hey, I voted for the guy. Twice. And I still admire his backbone in the face of adversity. But the fact is that through his mismanagement of both the budget and the Iraq war, coupled with an arrogant refusal to listen to the advice of others, he has single handedly delivered the Congress to the Democrats. The Presidency will probably be next. And before any of you “My-President-Right-Or-Wrong” types go reaching for the hand grenades, I would offer you this little factoid to consider: the country is now being run by Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman, and Ted Kennedy. Happy about that? Thanks a lot, George. This, of course, brings me to my next point.

Nancy Pelosi: Just making sure I piss off everyone here. Nancy Pelosi makes Hillary Clinton look like Margaret Thatcher. A liberal in the worst sense of the word, she is the face of Nanny Government. In the world of Nancy Pelosi, I’m not allowed to smoke a cigar on the beach, but I CAN go to the nearest methadone clinic and get a free fix and syringe. In her world, my kid is not allowed to say a prayer in school, but he CAN get a free condom from the school nurse. And by the way, if I want to send that kid to college, I have to pay for it out of my pocket, while my tax dollars go to giving an illegal immigrant a scholarship. Thanks, Nancy. And thanks again, George.

Outsourcing: Tried calling customer service for Dell or Symantec lately? You get to talk to a pleasant chap with an almost undecipherable Indian accent who calls himself “Harry”. Now, believe me, I have nothing against “Harry”. Like me, he’s just a working stiff who’s trying to feed his family. I’ll bet he thinks outsourcing is a pretty nifty idea. But it seems to me that American companies that market the majority of their products to Americans, and make the majority of their money off Americans, should be employing Americans. Is this really such a radical concept?

iPods: This one will probably piss off more people than the one about George Bush, but I don’t care. To me, it’s a generational thing. Kids today seem to think they have a God Given right to be entertained 24/7, and the iPod epitomizes this in my mind. That, along with the relentless marketing which implies that you are a lower form of life if you don’t own one, makes the iPod one of the most odious inventions ever. That, and the fact that I still can’t figure out how to work mine.

Cell phones: I hate these even more iPods. If the iPod symbolizes our culture’s need for non-stop entertainment, than the cell phone symbolizes our culture’s utter abandonment of common courtesy. God forbid someone should actually put the goddamned thing down for two seconds and have a real face to face conversation with someone. The Blackberry belongs in the same rubbish bin. Which brings me to my next point:

Text messaging: I’ve actually had teens tell me that they would rather TM someone than have a real conversation, because of all those, like, awkward pauses. We are raising a generation of kids that are technologically savvy but have no real communication skills. Johnny can’t read, he can barely talk, but he sure can TM.

Nanotechnology: A nano is one millionth of a millimeter. Poison gas made with nanothechnology makes conventional gas masks useless. I don’t know very much about nanotechnology, but it scares the hell out of me. Somewhere out there someone is figuring out how to use this to create a more efficient way of killing lots of people at once. This seems like a rather high price to pay for sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white film.

Political Correctness: This is what the Nancy Pelosis of the world use to stifle free speech. Last time I checked, the First Amendment applies to everyone, not just those who are saying what you want to hear. Calling someone the “N” word is reprehensible, but pointing out the reason there are not more blacks in baseball is because most athletically gifted black youths gravitate to either football or basketball is not. People should learn the difference.

Rap “Music”: I think I hate this more than anything. Rap “music” has probably done more to contribute to the coarsening of American society than any single cultural influence. I know some will condemn me as a racist for saying this, but I do not think it is racist to deplore an “art form” that glorifies violence, misogyny, and irresponsible procreation. Rappers refer to women as “bitches” and “’ho’s”, and not only get away with it, but become stars. Yes, I know the First Amendment protects your right to rap. But it also protects my right to deplore it.

Global Warming: The thing I hate most about this issue is how it’s become completely politicized. The Liberal/Democrat types breathlessly gush about the need to save the planet. Until, of course, someone comes up with idea of planting a wind farm in their backyard. And, naturally, the Conservative/Republican types poo-poo the whole idea because they’ll be damned if they’re going to agree with anything the Liberal/Democrats say. Personally, I think there could be something to the idea, but now that it’s become a political issue, the truth will be the first casualty. In the meantime, the liberals will glom onto this one because it gives them another convenient excuse to expand the Nanny government. I have little faith that the government will be honest and forthcoming with this issue, irrespective of who’s in power. Which brings me to my final point:

The anti-smoking movement: If ever there was something that has brought the notion of Big Brother/Nanny government to full horrendous flower, it is this. Tobacco is a legal product that is enjoyed by millions, but by perpetuating the myth that even transient exposure to second hand smoke is dangerous, the anti-smoking crowd have created an environment in which I have seen my rights eroded, and seen myself degraded to basically one notch above a child molester simply because I enjoy tobacco. Yes, you heard me correctly: I enjoy smoking, as do millions of other people. I know there are risks, but that’s my problem, and my decision. You don’t want to smell the smoke emanating from my pipe? No problem. The fact is that both smokers and non-smokers could easily be accommodated. There is room in any town for smoking and smoke free establishments. But no, we can’t have that. Big Brother doesn’t like tobacco, therefore nobody can like tobacco. And now even employers are getting into the act. The Scots company recently fired an employee because he was a smoker. NOT for smoking on the job, mind you. He was fired for engaging in a legal activity on HIS OWN TIME. Just remember this: if Big Brother can take away my pipe, he can take away your little vice, too.

So there it is: my take on the 21st century. Now, without further ado, I’m going to turn off the computer, light my pipe, wind my pocket watch, and spend the next hour reading something by Arthur Conan Doyle.

–Smith

 




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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