Friday, March 27, 2015

Why J.K. Rowling's Response to the Dumbledore Tweet Was Far from "Perfect"

J.K. Rowling has been "trending" for her "perfect" response to a reader who Tweeted:

"I wonder why you said that Dumbledore is a gay because I can't see him in that way."

Rowling responded:

"Maybe because gay people look like....people?"

Perfect? I say it is highly flawed, both logically and in terms or plain-old courtesy. 

I'd like to illustrate my frustration by saying "I don't even know where to start," but I happen to know exactly where to start: the intentional fallacy.

J.K. Rowling "announced," in 2007, that the head wizard, Dumbledore, in the Harry Potter books, is gay. The intentional fallacy, which is widely-accepted by modern literary scholars, and that I came to whole-heartedly accept during graduate school study of literature, would say that knowing what the author had in mind while writing is not the path to "correct" interpretation. In fact, anyone worth his or her salt in the literary world knows that the idea of "correct" interpretation is foolish; worse, it is directly counter to the inherent richness of literary study.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Little Buddy Rich: A King Richard Band Adventure

We all know, thanks to Robert Plant and company, that communication can break horribly down. But is it possible that a man, in his sixties, could have really believed, on St. Patrick's Day, that I had invited his two-year-old grandson to sit in with the band?

I was setting my drums up for the evening, and up he came with the boy -- the boy who was clutching a pair of 5A, nylon-tipped sticks in his cute little mitts. I smiled at the two of them.

"He wanted to see the drums," the man said to me. "His grandpop is a drummer. This kid loves drums. He sleeps with these sticks in his hands."

I waved and said hello to the little fellow, feeling the usual awkwardness of situations in which little kids think I am some kind of rock star because I am in a club band. (I've even signed a few cocktail napkins, feeling like total ass -- but, how do you say no to a little kid?)

Anyway, I waved at the little fellow and said, "You want to come up and try the drums out?"

The grandfather smiled and nodded at the kid and the kid smiled and I got up to let him come back and sit...and they walked away from me...

Okay, I figured -- the kid got cold feet and they want back to their dinner. No biggie. 

We played through the first set and, for the first time in my playing career, our most energetic audience was an entire extended family, from two to sixty-something, jamming out, right in front of the stage, including Little Buddy Rich and his granddad.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Finally! Ready-Made Posts for Social Media Users!

The way I see it, there are lots of wasted words out here in Internet Land, especially on Facebook and on Twitter. We must fix this. We haven't time to cobble together so many posts -- to say so many similar things in so many different ways. To this end, I have created this handy-dandy list of copy and paste-able posts. Instead of posting what you were thinking of posting, ask yourself: "Am I really just saying one of these things?" If so, simply copy and past from the list below! It will save you time; it will save me time and it will allow you to get quickly back to the truly important pursuits in your life.

I present to you THE GREAT, BIG LIST OF EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA POST EVER MADE. (Please feel free to suggest new ones if I have missed any. Together, we can end unnecessary word-waste!)


1. I look good, here.

2. I have a sandwich and you don’t.

3. I'm watching the game alone. 

4. Look how exciting my life is. (It's always like this, in case you wondered. Every minute.)

5. Aren’t I sweet?

6. Reposting this meme will actually, literally cure disease/save your soul/make you not an ass/prove you are a good friend.

7. If you don’t share this, you are a horrible person.

8. If you don't share this, God will hate you. 

9. I am a great parent, as you can see from this picture/anecdote.

10a. Thanks, Obama.

10b. Thanks, Obama!

11. I am racist and don’t realize it.

12. I am racist and I don’t care.

13. See how socially tolerant I am? You may begin praising me, below. 

14. Please, please, please ask me what’s wrong.

15. Ready, set...ARGUE!

16. I have no respect for my own children/husband/wife/mother/father.

17. Here's something about me no one in their right mind would want to know and that they wouldn't ever have known if someone hadn't invented social media and, consequently, the concept of privacy hadn't reached a state of complete collapse. 

18. Somehow, I have equated patriotism with never questioning anything “American,” even though countless people suffered and died for the right to do so. So, shut up or get out. 

19. My thoughts on this subject are (Fox News).

20. My thoughts on this subject are (The Daily Show).

21. So, what do you love about me? 

22. I have nothing to say, yet I must speak...because...Facebook. 

23. I must horribly argue about complex issues...because...Twitter.

24. Here is a meme that exhibits how misunderstood/quirky/unique/sassy I am.

25. I can't sleep and I want you to know because artsy people and geniuses have insomnia and that's me. 

I mean, if you have something original to say, go ahead and say it, but, really...why bother?

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Mirror (A Parable)

He simply walked past the parked car. His elbow brushed the side mirror...

He really didn't even notice. Somewhere in the back of his mind, it registered, but, he was wrapped up in the tangled twine of daily thoughts. It never occurred to him to go back and readjust the thing.

He'd knocked the mirror forward, two inches.

Later, during the morning rush, she didn't see the car coming up on her right, because her mirror was not set properly. In a held breath or two, her car was pushed off of the road and up a grass bank.

She spent her night in the ER, being tested and checked and frowned at with concern by strangers in scrubs. She'd be out of work for a week.

He spent his night watching basketball on TV and eating take-out wings.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Point of View vs. Video Views

Is the world more insane than it ever has been or is the vomit-like dissemination of images, text and information just showing the insanity in more clarity than ever? (Makes me think of Spenser's dragon vomiting paper and books for some reason.)

The chicken-or-egg factor is that it may well be that the world was always insane and that the vomit-like dissemination is showing it more vividly but that this dissemination is simply encouraging more insanity. 

Police, for example. Do I always like them? No -- but do I always like any group in any profession? No. The sad fact is, though, that, when a waiter is unlikable it ruins your meal. When a police officer is unlikable, it could -- conceivably -- ruin your life. Being a police officer is being in a position in which one could easily choose to abuse his power. No doubt. Sadly, it is also a profession in which not using one's power at the right time an lead to injury or death for the officer. Every decision balances on the proverbial blade.

Again, it could lead to an abuse of power. Sure, there a few evil eggs in the law-enforcement fridge, but the majority of people, while certainly not perfect, are not evil. This carries over to the majority of cops. They are, after all, humans. 

Let's face fact: we need law-enforcement. Most of us have, at some point, been glad of the police, too. 

That said, I am a firm believer in the importance of questioning authority. It is essential in a free society. Somehow, though, "questioning authority" has turned into "baiting authority" in the modern do-it-yourself media age. 

One can find copious videos of amateur lawyers acting like three-year-olds during routine traffic stops, just to anger the cops into making them famous. You can watch this one, if you want, but if you don't want to, let me summarize: the "straw man, " clickbait title is "Cops arrest for asking for a pen to sign a ticket." This young man gets pulled over for a missing front license plate. A citation is in the works, but he baits the officer with the obviousness of an attention-seeking grade-schooler: why are you talking to me in that tone of voice; I can read the citation sideways if I want; I told you my licence plate fell off; "I'm pretty sure you guys are supposed to give a warning for something like that;" "You're still holding my citation, so I can't stop talking..."  (!!??) It goes on. And on. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Beautiful Violence?

Pacifism always looked cool to me when I was younger, for two reasons. First, it seemed lofty; Christ-like; it reeked of philosophical commitment. Second -- if we're being honest -- it is a very convenient excuse for not having to be "manly," at least it the realm of physical confrontation: "I'm not a wimp -- I'm a pacifist." I know now (as I knew then, of course) that being a man isn't all about bar brawls -- but, when the time comes for, say, self-defense, declaring one's self a pacifist can be a convenient back door.

The exceptional lead cast of Foyle's war. 
I remember watching M.A.S.H, the situation comedy set in the Korean War (maybe the biggest screw-up of a war in world history) and I used to admire the rebellious nature of the Army surgeons, "Hawkeye" and "B.J." -- their distaste for war; their commitment to their Hippocratic oaths. I still do. They found themselves locked into a war they didn't start or condone; they literally waded in blood trying to save the lives of the young victims of that war and they did everything they could to show the tides of politics and violence that they could be forced to be there, but not to conform to everything.

The message is different, though, elsewhere. Recently, I have been watching the delightful Foyle's War -- a wonderful BBC mystery series centered around Detective Chief Inspector Foyle (Michael Kitchen). The show is set in Hastings during WWII. Foyle, a WWI vet, is, as NPR TV critic David Bianculli put it, "so square you could play checkers on him" -- which Bianculli goes on to explain is meant as a compliment. And you see what he means as you watch Foyle operate with unwavering ethical standards and a with complete commitment to being the quintessential gentleman. But Foyle is clear on one thing in particular: commitment to the war effort. Very different than Hawkeye Pierce; but, of course, his circumstances were very different as well.

Friday, March 13, 2015

An American Flag in a Canadian Gunfight

Yesterday, I went from a state of "hey-that's-pretty-coolness" into a state of complete bewilderment in about a minute and a half.

I commented on something on Twitter -- something that related to Wednesday's post, in terms of the idea of "bullying" and none other than Margaret Atwood was in the conversation. It started very civilly and I was giggling like a doofus to have been actually interacting with one of my favorite novelists. I even had a chance to tell her how much I am enjoying The Blind Assassin, at the moment. I thanked her for having written it and she thanked me for liking it...

...then, the fecal matter hit the rotational cooling device.

So, there I was having a perfectly good conversation with my close friend Maggie Atwood and, within fifteen minutes, we had been pushed completely aside and people were attacking her for complaining about the Canadian government "whose taxes go to her grants..."

It was insane. All she had done was question the Prime Minister's desire to ban Muslim head-coverings during citizenship ceremonies and, all of a sudden, the torrent of a raging conservative river was let loose. She bowed out and so did I, feeling like, as I even "tweeted," I had brought an American flag to a Canadian gunfight.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"From now on, sin no more."

The story goes that Jesus was hanging out in the temple courts and the scribes and the Pharisses brought him an adulteress. They told Jesus that this woman ought to, according to the old laws of Moses, be stoned to death and they wanted to know what he thought about it. (Look out, Jesus! It's a trap!) Jesus told them that they were welcome to do it, so long as they had no sins of their own. This let the air out of their judgemental balloons, and the crowd dispersed, leaving Jesus and the adulteress alone. Then, Jesus said this -- the part I think people forget:

Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on, sin no more.”

I reference this not because I think all of my readers are either religious or even Christian, but because I think the message here (I am Catholic, in the interest of full disclosure) is the right one. And, like it or not, Jesus is the model for most Western ethical thought. Religious or not, we have ingrained in our Western culture many of His teachings. So, I think the Biblical reference here is valid...

...but I think this message has been misrepresented and that this misrepresentation has created a generation (or at least a general philosophy) that thinks having -- or, even worse, speaking -- an opinion of the actions of others is being "judgmental."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Which Country Should You Really Live In? Take the Quiz!

Sure, you live where you live. But where does your soul really belong? Take the quiz below to find out!

1. What is your favorite meal?
a. bangers and mash
b. pasta
c. hot dogs
d. egg foo young
2. What's your favorite way to spend an afternoon?
a. watching football at Old Trafford stadium
b. watching football at Stadio Olimpico
c. watching soccer
d. watching Kung Fu
3.  When you are upset, which are you most likely to say?
a. "Oh, bloody hell!"
b. "Mamma mia!"
c. "Gal dern it."
d. Something Chinese
4. What's your favorite color?
a. fog grey
b. green, white or red
c. brownish red, like Philly cobblestones
d. I'd better say red
5. If your friends could give you a nickname, what would it be?
a. Big Ben
b. Gladiator Dave
c. Tex
d. Sifu

Click this button to reveal the answer. (Not really.):

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Call Me Selfish

It's already all on the table how I feel about group dynamics. I believe people are at their best in small groups and when they sit in the silence of their own thoughts. I believe we have begun to confuse mere groups with "community."

I used to sit idly by when people referred to their "work family." I might have used the expression myself to refer to groups to which I belonged and to whose members I felt close. But -- what a horrible metaphor. No mere organizational group can ever approach the family level. To imply that is the steal the profundity from what family really is. (Not that many truly understand that anymore.)

The more family declines, the more people seem to be reaching for pale imitations of what family used to be (and of what, if I am being fair, a precious few still are). No matter what happens, teams will never be families; work shift members and colleagues will never be family. Not even close.

The little girl in the middle gets it. 
Perhaps there are circumstances in which people can develop connections that are equally profound (warriors who stand side-by-side in battle, for instance) but it simply is not the same thing as family. A bond brought about by trauma and death and sacrifice might be deep, but it is, in fact, different.

(This all reminds me very much of my problem with using the word "art" as a compliment. Great pitching, for example, simply is not "an art." It's equally as cool as a great painting, maybe, but it just is not the same thing.)

The worst thing about this equating of the group with family is that, in work, for instance, the group takes on an artificial sense of importance in the minds of its members. As a result, the members often develope the audacity to question the individuals' choices when it comes to their own real families.

My wife just shared an article written by a former editor (a woman) who regrets having questioned the commitment of mothers who worked under her. In one example, she says:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Straynger in a Straynge Layund

People misunderstand me. I'm misunderstood. Poor me. I'm really such a nice fellow. It's just that I react...energetically to stuff.

Music, for instance. If I hate a piece of music, I hate it with a regurgitative kind of hate. I, for instance, loathe The Doors. I don't think they are bad musicians or that Morrison was a bad lyricist or singer or that their music was low-quality... I just hate their music. No real reason and no real evaluation of merit or the lack thereof lies under any of it. When a Doors song comes on the radio, I actually curl my upper lip, for some reason, and fumble to change the station as if swatting at some horrible insect. There is no good reason for this; it is as if, as stated above, I ate a food that disagreed with me.

The best pictures of the band are ones
in which my face is obscured by a beer bottle.
But I don't believe there is a such thing as an intrinsically bad genre of music. For every -- literally every -- genre of music I have heard, there has been at least one song that I have really liked. (Yes, rap included.)

I don't, for instance, generally like "country music." It has, however ( the growth of a tumor) become a part of my life because I am in a band that plays and has always played what is popular. We were a classic rock band and then alternative came along and then grunge and we shifted with the times. We never fit into the Spinal Tap cliche -- we have never dressed the part of any  particular music movement and we have never become rock stars in our own minds.