Friday, April 29, 2011

Captain Grammar's Folly

Bradbury: Forever one of my heroes.
Fortunately, it is not possible to reach through the computer and slap people. I'd be in trouble if this were an option. See, this blog/comment stuff can be really cool. Or not.

Don't misunderstand me. People should be allowed to be as stupid as they want. And smart people sometimes say stupid things. Conversely, stupid people can wind up going all Forrest Gump and shining a light into the dark places for those of us who doubted them. So everyone should be allowed to speak.

But there is nothing worse than people of average intelligence with a little education who are convinced that they are insightful and that being insightful means exposing the stupidity of everyone but them. They wind up writing things that are equivalent to someone saying, to a batter who has just struck out:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Days of Wine and Toothpaste

Oh,things were hot, back then. John had a hot car with a bass speaker that throbbed like the very heart of lust. Mary thought he had sexy hair. She wore shirts that made people blush or stare, depending on their up-bringing. When they walked into a club together, everyone else could only imagine what it must be like to be "that couple."

They were playmates, John and Mary. They talked on the phone and saw each other a few times a week for vertigo-inspiring trysts. They drove home thinking: Wow. When each was alone at home, they thought about marriage. This was the one.

On the weekends, they went to dinner. She'd raise an eyebrow, he'd raise an eyebrow. They'd sip red wine. She'd take a saucy bite from her fork and then lick the tip of her finger, dangerously. He'd give her a "naughty girl" look and shake his head, feigning that the boyish embarrassment that made her think he looked so insufferably cute -- so deeply desirable. She'd move her foot under the table, drop off a strappy shoe and run a toe up his jeans leg. He'd cough and blot at his mouth with a napkin. "Check!" he'd say out loud to a waiter who wasn't there and they would laugh at his cleverness.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Still, We Write

Lee J. Cobb, the first Willy Loman
The other night, I caught the last hour of a movie masterpiece on TV: Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men. It is an inspiring film to watch, in and of itself, full of that 1950's mixture of sinewy intellect and bongo-driven, twelve-tonal avante-gardeness. It is a film that simultaneously, as much of the art of that period did, praises and condemns the register of human action and tendency.

But the old stream-of-consciousness kicked in when I again saw Lee J. Cobb, the disgruntled father who wants a young man to hang as a result of his own feelings against his own rebellious son. Seeing Cobb made me think of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, in which he played the first Willy Loman.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Cleansing (A Mystery Parable)

For years, the factory workers complained about many things: their pay; the working conditions; the hours. Their complaints were just. The owners were beasts. The workers were treated brutally. The situation was bad. Something needed to be done.

Finally, a reporter came, disguised in the overalls of one of the many workers, to expose the story. One of the workers, who was without fear, showed the reporter around the factory.

"And look!" said the fearless worker at the end of the tour. "Look at the bathrooms! I cannot stand it any more, I tell you."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do You Like Liking Like?

Finally, there's a way for me to validate my love for my wife; to immortalize it for the ages. Finally, loving commitment is legitimized in a world that encourages promiscuity and immoral canoodling. I saw it today while I was on Facebook: Click "Like" if you love your wife.

Thank you Facebook -- NAY! Thank you Powers of the Universe! How, in the name of all that is holy, was I ever to have shared my love with the world before this?

One can "like" lots of things, you know. God, for instance. (And, Lo! Jehovah smiled upon Ted for clicking "like" and He gathered Ted unto his side.) Or music. (An exclusive group.) Or baseball. One can "like" loving one's children, too. What kind of a bastard would you be if you didn't "like" that?

"This is what I like and I want the electronic world to know it," we can now scream from the top of Mount Digitalis!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jerusalem Cruisers: Delivering Jesus

Three ominous men stepped out of a black car -- suit-clad; dead-serious -- and onto our neighborhood street at eleven a.m.on Sunday. One of them -- the mastermind, no doubt -- had donned a charcoal cheese-cutter cap to ward off the soft sunlight. (Evil, I thought. Only evil people wear that sort of a cap on this kind of a soft day.) They carried books under their arms. But the red, ribbon bookmarks belied their content: Lo! Bibles. Could they still be evil?

My wife and I, sitting by the window and having our morning coffee/tea, let out a mutual groan. These people. Not evil -- just pushy.

The conversation diced itself from a joyous repartee into stilted monosyllables as we continued to glance outside in order to ascertain how close they were coming to our door. There we were: two fat chickens awaiting the farmer's ax. Only this farmer wielded a Bible as the ax and he intended to send a metallic chill through our cozy Sunday morning with one fell swing.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Zero Tolerance

The Red-faced Man speaks:

We need to start early. We need to tell our kids, from the beginning, that the real word is just waiting to swallow them whole. They need to understand that it all comes down to numbers and that no one cares about them.

You do something wrong, you do something wrong -- that's it. Nothing else matters. Everyone knows the real world is zero tolerance (which is why our schools should be). The judicial system does not care about the degree of a crime. A crime is a crime. No one cares why you did it or what the circumstances were or whether you were acting in self-defense. If, for instance, a woman is being raped and she reaches for a knife to defend herself and kills the rapist, the court sees that as no different than some street-person killing a nun and stealing her money. They always get the same punishment. Murder by accident is punished the same as premeditated murder. Right? So why should we teach our kids that there are grey areas?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Noble Cliché

There's nothing cool in this groove.
There's nothing new to what I'm sayin'.
But sometimes, the truth is what it is.

~ Jon McLaughlin: "Until You Got Love"

The other day, a woman behind the counter at a convenience store asked me, "How are you today?"

"Good -- how are you?" I replied, somewhat unconvincingy, I'm sure. I may have even sounded a little rude.

If I had answered honestly, I would have said, "Well, I feel a little like I might have a heart attack. I nearly burst into tears three times in the car just now and I'm a grown man. In fact, this is one of the worst days of my life. I've been suffering for half a week with a kind of ache I've never known."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pass the Brain, Please

The other day, I was watching a pre-prom presentation for high school kids. I have seen a billion of these over the years. Mostly, they resort to showing pictures of mangled cars and decapitated prom queens in order to scare the wits out of the kids -- frighten them into laying off of the sauce before the big night. But this one was different.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dynamics in Art and in Life

Hi, all. It has been one heck of a week, so, for the first time, I am posting an article I wrote for the online journal When Falls the Coliseum. It is "thicker" than my usual posts on here, but the spirit is the same, with an idea I come back to a lot: art as teacher for life. Hope you like it!

I had been looking forward to seeing David Russell in concert for a long time. In my opinion, he is the finest living classical guitarist. He was to perform at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. It's a pretty big room. It seats about five-hundred and there were people standing in the back, too. People suck up sound, you know. I leaned over to a fellow guitarist and said, "Do you see any microphones?" He furrowed his brow and shook his head. We were worried. We were halfway back in the crowd. This was terrible. Then, David Russell trotted out pleasantly to lively applause and took his seat. He checked his tuning, but the turning of the buttons had the secondary effect of serving as a volume dial for his audience: the crowd slowly went as silent as a snowy pine-forest.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rise of the Googlenater

The other day, I heard the strangest thing on a radio report. Google had chosen Kansas City, Kansas, for a new fiber-optic thingamajigger set-up that is going to give the city Internet connections that go something like one-hundred times faster than broadband. It got me thinking back to the old days . . . [wobbly memory segue waves on the screen . . .]

Remember (last Friday) when broadband used to be considered fast? Remember how you would have to wait, like, six seconds for a website to appear on your screen? How the heck did we put up with it? So much wasted time. Man, oh, man [falls into a wistful stare].

Monday, April 4, 2011

Honoring Japan

All around the world, we have seen images of Japan's recent disasters. Yet, at the same time, I have heard nothing but reports which confirm the honor and dignity of the Japanese people, despite their unimaginably difficult  circumstances.

One American reporter mentioned that, in all her years of reporting from the sites of disasters, she had never seen a situation in which (despite the desperate need for food and clean water) the vending machines and stores remained un-violated. Another mentioned the stoic courage of the Japanese -- their unfaltering dignity, even as they stood among the ruins of their homes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Simple Truth

Harry is a man with a round, shiny face.

He sits across from a co-worker, having morning coffee. He wears a blue tie and a white shirt. "Jim," he says, smoothing his blue tie, his words heavy with meaning and trailing down in chromatic condescension, "Life is simple. Simple. Things are black and white, and everyone complicates everything . . ."

Meanwhile, Harry's wife walks the kids to school. Again, she sees that dad with the two little girls; the handsome father with the dark hair. She sees him every day. Every day, he talks to her and looks her in the eye and they walk back out to the street together, the sound of the children fading away behind them. Every day, they stand on the corner for a half hour, talking. Talking. Every day she wonders what is would be like to have a husband who looks her in the eye. Who talks to her. All day, cleaning or working in the kitchen, she thinks of this man until the slamming of her husband's car door makes her heart sink.