Friday, January 26, 2018

Damn. Seriously. We can do this shit...

In our overly mediated world, a moment of profound reason using an old style form of communication that has been minimized in favor of--well, all the crap in our cell phones that steal our attention away from the world.
This happened. It can happen again. 
Small town Kentucky cop overseeing drug interdiction—I had to look that word up, it means interception—in a conversation with the New York liberal about gun regulations (that would be me). He didn’t want the regulations. I suggested some laws restricting certain guns would be good. A respectful exchange of ideas.
He made many good points about gun ownership being an important right to protect.
He said Democrats and liberals are out to take people’s guns away. I explained that in my time in Iowa working with various party platform committees not one person ever even hinted at the idea of taking people’s guns. Regulation of future gun sales. Yes. Taking a single gun away. Never. He accepted my word on that. He said he thought he could trust me. 
He said that laws limiting certain types of guns would not change anything today or tomorrow. I said he was absolutely right. But ten, twenty, fifty years from now, those laws might stop someone from getting access to a gun. Might stop a shooting at a high school. He said he never thought of it that way. He accepted my point. We agreed. 
Conversation. Not an exchange of memes, not an exchange of insults. 
It is meaningful that one week later a shooting at a high school in Kentucky has left two young people dead and many injured.
Conversation. Finding the middle ground where truth usually resides.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

reflections and deflections and occasional imperfections in and on Thailand

Things I will miss about Thailand.  (In blogs you are supposed to link to things.  So I linked to things that may or may not be useful)

And yes, of course I am happy to return to my family and friends and colleagues.  I am treasuring the moment I return to work and attend the Dean-a-thon where I learn, through a 42 page powerpoint presentation and after three years of sabbatical, that the Dean of Agriculture has found a new way to double cumquat production in Bali.
We also learn that ‘cumquat’ is a funny word either referring to a fruit or an exercise proposed by Masters & Johnson.

Now getting to things I will miss.. I just had my last free breakfast that costs four dollars a day.  I pay for the free breakfasts when I check out of the hotel, so every day they’re free.  True Fact:  if you don’t pay for something the moment you get something, it’s free.  Every bank heist you commit is a total success until you get caught.  
 will miss laying by the pool every morning.  Is laying in the sun each day good for you?  No.  But my friends, family and colleagues require empirical proof as I return some January day, that I was in Thailand.  And that means a tan to show off.  As well as several irregularly shaped areas on my skin, three of which look like (from left to right) Australia, Africa and Idaho. 

I will miss Thai food.  I will miss pointing to pictures on menus since after 6 years of visiting Thailand I still can’t speak the language except for theThai words for “hello”, “thank you” and “Yes, I love happy endings—you saw the Wizard of Oz, too?”

But back to the food.  Be careful of the little red peppers.  Small but pack a powerful punch.  Kind of like Madeline Albright.  Coconut milk is added to so many dishes.  And for no extra money since the food is donated by the makers of Simvistatin.  Fun fact:  did you know the cholesterol reducing drug’s name “Simvistatin” comes from the Thai word “making you not die now.”? That is the truth as far as I know given the lack of research.  

The people are warm and wonderful.  And I remember well being told that everybody in Bangkok speaks English.  It is true that every Thai I met knew the word “English” as in “I speak a little English” meaning they knew how to say “I speak a little English.” But I almost always received a smile.  True story that’s true:  I went to the mall in Thailand to buy a fan.  I asked the salesperson in perfect English for a “fan.”  She laughed and walked away.  Then I found a group of salespeople and asked in a louder voice and more slowly, for a “fan.”  A larger group of young women walked away.  What I learned later is that “fan” is the Thai word for “girlfriend.”  So I was asking a bunch of Thai women to be my girlfriend.  And they all laughed and walked away.  I took note that representatives of all women in the continent of Asia laughed at me thinking I was asking for a girlfriend. So, not all Thai people are warm and wonderful.  Some are mocking.  

Night life of Thailand.  I am 58.  There are many TV stations offered at the hotel.  Some in English.  There are many soaps on Thai TV.  In every Thai soap opera, the mother says wise things to their children who sit patiently and listen to their mother.  The kids nod and then go on to playing head games with people of other genders—just like American children.  On Thai soaps, whenever the mother talks, they play flute music.  I don’t understand Thai, but I know that it’s the mother talking because she sounds wise and they are playing flute music.  I have bought a file of flute music that is now on my I-phone.  I will now play the flute music whenever I talk so people will think I am wise.  Try it.  It works.  If you play flute music while reading this, all my words take on added wisdom.  

I am about to embark on my 24+ hour plane trip home.  So I hope you enjoy these last sane words.  Sure United is about to engage me in a day’s worth of cramped seats, bad food in cramped trays, cramped terminals and probing airport security hands.  My life will be a solid day of disrespect, disregard and other words beginning with “dis-“.  But I get a lot of frequent flyer miles.  See you all soon.

Rick, December 29,2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Of Newsrooms and Icons

Even though the Olympics are done, there is still TV worth watching...

Aaron Sorkin's HBO program Newsroom is doing what Sorkin's West Wing did:  create a thoroughly fictitious world where standards and ethics still matter.  While he's at it, he paints complex, fascinating characters whose emotional needs are always secondary to their needs to serve the public interest.  Whether the latter point is a virtue can be debated since most all the characters from both West Wing and Newsroom are single or divorced. 

Another point that can be debated is whether creating such an ideal world gives us something to strive for or something to bemoan as unattainable. 

I also appreciate that although Newsroom take all of its story lines from the headlines, its promos never mention "ripped from the headlines."

The show had its season finale already.  That is an annoying aspect of HBO series.  Very few episodes until they take their siesta.  Wait for it to come back.  (well, you have no choice but to wait…)  (it is worth wait)

And if you absolutely, have to read…

Two from Tom Shales.

Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live.  Sure, it's ten years old already. SNL is like the economy--people are constantly predicting its demise and then it resurrects again for no apparent reason and despite 
the advice of experts.  Tom Shales (and James Andrew Miller) tell the story by letting all those that lived it tell the story.  Through unedited interviews with basically everybody (except Eddie Murphy), all those moments that you remember or heard about are explained and demythified.  The stories of John Belushi's excesses, Chevy Chase's excesses, producer Lorne Michael's excessive ego and all the others that made up the show are told--by the people that lived them.  With no foreshadowing and minimal opionating from the authors.  It is an amazing look into broadcast history from those that made broadcast history.

Also, ESPN  Those Guys Have All the Fun  Inside the World of ESPN.   Shales and Miller explain the early days of ESPN when it was a goof with little hope of becoming, well,  ESPN.  The people that created and nurtured the network from a theory to a legend tell their own story.  The authors offer minimal editorializing and do not foreshadow.  Full disclosure: I went to college with Linda Cohn, legendary ESPN SportsCenter anchor.  I don't include this disclosure for journalistic reasons. I am bragging that I did the news on our campus radio station with Linda.  One of the nicest people I knew. 

ESPN and SNL supplied iconic programming that has collectively given us so many moments that are part of our media history.   How they started, how they both almost failed and who made them what they are today--amazing stories told first hand by those that lived them.  

And finally:

ABC New's Nightline beats Leno and Letterman in its time slot after local news.  So, this January, ABC is going to take away its time slot and move it behind Jimmy Fallon.  Because two variety shows after local news is clearly not enough.  I believe if ABC supervised Jamaican sports, it would have Usain Bolt competing in equestrian events.

Monday, January 25, 2016

it is what it is while you only live once

We have all made bad decisions.  Recently I chose to watch some of   30 minutes of my life are now gone forever.  Another day I watched “Big Brother.”  Same outcome though at least I got a good nap out of it.
Real Housewives of Someplace (I believe they are all interchangeable).
We all make bad decisions.  But there is a new phenomenon.  A public declaration that our bad ideas are actually good ones.  We are not making ‘bad’ decisions.  Our bad decisions are merely striving for life.  Or so we claim.
The new terms of rationalization:  YOLO and “It is what it is.”  Now, the former seems to have passed its peak.  But, for quite some time,  I would always hear that phrase accompanied by a bad decision.  “Yeah, I poured lighter fluid on my thumb and put it near the barbeque grill…YOLO!” or…”Yeah, I had a dozen shots and went for a drive…YOLO.”  Just deal with it…you intercoursed up—you made a bad decision.  While YOLO is true, so is YODO=You only die once.
Now, my other peeve is “It is what it is.”  This is what I hear when defecation has occurred in one’s life.  “My (boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, significant other, pet lemur) left me…Oh well, it it what it is.”  Or… “Yeah, I shaved for the eighth day in a row with an old razor and my face now resembles a topographical map of the Moon…It is what it is…” 
“It is what it is”—a phrase we use to publicly admit we will not give anything critical thought, we will not take responsibility for our actions, we will not accept fault for consequences to ourselves and others.  We don’t have to. Because it is what it is. 
I can’t argue the point.  Something certainly is what it is.  Zero will indeed equal zero.  Now God supposedly said something similar:  “I am that I am.”  (at least that’s what director Cecil B De Mille said in the Ten Commandments.)  It sounds cooler to say it if you’re God, or Cecil B.  De Mille.  Well, you are what you are and it is what it is.  And with this knowledge, we can….?

So, in conclusion,  what important lessons do we learn from YOLO and “It is what it is..”?  That occasionally all of us need something to say when we actually have nothing to say.  And we don’t want to think about it. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

                  "Kill the Brain and You Kill the Ghoul”—this is either the worst motto for any teacher to live by or the key to killing zombies according to Night of theLiving Dead, the movie that led us to the Walking Dead.
                  So, this post could be about George Romero setting the arbitrary rules that zombies, when re-animated, must eat people.  In a zombie-reality, zombies may not crave human flesh but merely crave rutabagas.  Our world would not be lessened if our rutabaga supply was depleted by the Meandering Dead.   
                  But that is not the topic of this post.
                  Watching TV it does seem that the idea “Kill the Brain and..Kill the Ghoul” is the choice of a new generation.  Our attention span is getting shorter and TV is helping this.  Binge watching 30-Rock is so easy because each episode is only 21:30 long.  If you watch the show in syndication, almost 30 percent of the time is spent in commercials.  If you enjoy TheWalking Dead, as all humans should do, be prepared to spend about 33% of each hour watching commercials.  Why does this matter? Well, everything around is conspiring to make our attention span shorter.
                  God forbid we get emotionally engaged in any TV show.  A commercial break of four minutes will often take our attention away.  God forbid we relax and allow ourselves to be lost in mediated literature.  A commercial break will sweep us to a reality in which we learn that apparently every drug that saves our lives can kill us in twelve other ways.  Or that without hair, we can not find love. 
                  A very smart student recently pointed out to me that our shorter attention span affects us in other ways.  We don’t read the whole article anymore.  We read some of an article, get the gist and use that gist as a basis for our facts.  If we read the whole article, we would get all the details and all the context.   We don’t have time to read the whole article.  Not when we are receiving a Facebook message informing us of that a friend has found an actual use for rutabagas. 
                  According to the first 30 seconds of a news story I saw on Fox News and the first four paragraphs of an article I read in some online newspaper, ISIS is trying to destroy us. (I may have read it somewhere else, like a blog, a facebook post or random ramble or something on my computer)   
                  Seems like ISIS does not need to go to this effort.  We are destroying ourselves just fine.  Uncritical acceptance of all media content as being accurate, equating bloggers with actual journalists, the diminishing population of actual journalists combined with our ever-shorter attention span is destroying our minds, our brains.  And when we destroy our brains, we destroy the ISIS version of ghouls--us.

What I See When I See “Saw”

So, this holiday season in my annual attempt to avoid the movies of the holiday season I sat with my daughter to watch “Saw”, followed by “Saw2.”  Consistent with federal law regarding horror films, no such film offers closure—just a means of setting up infinite sequels. 
                  “Saw” is different than the standard horror offerings.  The killer in “Saw” is not just a teen who was not invited to a dance ten years ago--who has grown into an adult that needs to kill all who attend the federally mandated reunion of all those that did attend the dance. 
                   Jigsaw has a motive.  He only kills those not living lives of perceived value.  Jigsaw passes judgment on the quality of the life that was lived, without understanding the back story of the person and without fact checking—just assuming the assortment of offered facts are accurate.  So, in other words, Jigsaw does the same thing that Facebook users do. 
                  Saw is a perfect film for our social media driven society—without understanding the context of the life we are judging, we get to post things without critical thought,  without consideration of the effects or whether our basis for judgments are justified.  Just like Jigsaw.
                  A generic Facebook post is a meme and a quote as the author of the meme hopes—and often has his/her hopes rewarded—that someone will look at a quote and a meme and assume whatever is there must be valid.  Because if there is a picture AND a quote—well, that level of sincerity and credibility can not be doubted, according to sarcastic bloggers.  
                  Jigsaw is self assured that his assumptions and interpretations are accurate or at least hopes they are to help him justify his barbarism.  Are meme artists similarly self assured or do they know they are dealing in defecation? 
                  It is easy for many to applaud Jigsaw for his righteousness against a selected set of characters that have lived perceived lives of limited value.  Perhaps Jigsaw is also popular because he represents both the meme artists and those that repost the works of meme artists.  No critical thought is needed to produce such memes or to believe such memes.  Quite often, taking literally 15 seconds can show us whether a Facebook post is valid or not.  Does Jigsaw take that much time to reflect on the lives he tortures?  Do we take that much time to assure that we are not sending bovine defecation to our Facebook friends?  Or are some social media authors rightfully depending on the fact that no one will challenge a meme? 

                  Now I do grant you that sending and accepting a meme based on no fact at all is a lesser offense than grinding someone’s nose under a semi’s wheels.  But is either a good idea? 

Friday, March 28, 2014

No links in this blog.  Just some thoughts.

Reflecting on a moment can ruin the moment.  Not always.  But it might.  I learned that today.

I just got back from walking in the snow, the quiet broken only by my shoes scaring away snow from my path, a gentle breeze that should be cold but feels good on a January-like day. Surrounded by the woods and the hills of Tennessee that we graciously call mountains, while the real mountains reside in other parts of the state, I realized what a lovely moment it was.  How peaceful.  How right.

When I got back to my apartment, I saw three young people sledding down the new three inch offering of snow.  Two were sledding. One was taping on a cell phone.  Two were enjoying the moment.  One was taping the moment.  All three were apparently in fear that the moment was so transient that if it was not saved on video, it never happened.

It made me realize something about the phrase “in the moment.”  There are two versions of this.  One version of “in the moment” is actually three moments.  The current moment is surrounded by the moments of the past.  Some may experience these as moments of lacking.  Perhaps they remember lacking what are thought to have been essential elements needed for contentment.  Those missing elements of  past moments may cause a  focus on any present current needs—elements of life still perceived to be missing,  along with the realization of the moment’s transient nature. 

Directly in front of our current moment is the future, which becomes our hopes and fears of the benefits and consequences of the moment.    Those that surround themselves with the past and the future as they live each moment are missing so much.  So many moments are just perfect without having to overlay the context of a realized past and an uncertain future. 

There are those that are probably in the moment in its truest sense.  Each moment is individual.  There is certainly time for reflection upon the meaning of the past and the benefits and consequences perhaps derived from the moment.  But the moment is singular.  It is now.  It is unencumbered by context. Truly living “in the moment.”

Unfortunately, I fall in to the 3-moment category of experiencing life.  I know I am missing something.  I know I am not alone.  I am joined by all those that fear they have to have video of the moment.  To prove it existed.