Monday, December 31, 2012

The Fiscal, well, you know

It's true, I can't handle the truth; apparently I haven't handled it for years. If an annual income of $400,000 qualifies one as a member of the middle class, then what am I?

Hold your horses, that's what is known as a rhetorical question.

But accepting this new parameter of the middle class actually explains a great many things -- for example, why friends give me canned goods for Christmas. And socks, Crisco, motor oil. String. It explains why everyone else I know gets scarves and caviar and I get flashlight batteries and bottled water.

And as a result of the national debate, well, I'm suddenly questioning many things I've taken for granted. What if the average height in America is 6'2" and I'm (gulp) short? On the upside, maybe the average weight is 200 pounds. Yay! I'm skinny; you practically can't see me when I stand sideways.

Anyway, I've decided not to hang out with my middle-class pals tonight. If things go in their favor, I'll miss a great party. But if things go in the other direction, they might want to borrow my duct tape, and that was a present from a dear friend of mine.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

May your year be filled with wonder and curiosity.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

If it's nearly the end of the world as we know it

then what about my Groupons? According to the fine print, they're good until February. Seems we should have received some sort of alert; I would have cashed in my Midas tire rotation last week at the latest. Now for sure there's a line around the block.

I'm not one for corporate conspiracy theories, but something's rotten in the state of Denmark.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas music

When my neighbor's plastic wise guys hit the dirt, I know we're in for a bumpy ride. From past experience, each fallen chap equals 20 miles per hour in wind velocity; you do the math. The mighty wind's a blowin tonight, and we'll be lights-out in an hour or so, I reckon.

Come morning, the Jesus, Joseph, and Mary heads will be knocking on my front door. Fortunately, they're ever so polite, eat very little, and wait patiently until I return them to their proper torsos later the next day.

I like my neighbor, by the way. He's a smart, sweet guy; a teacher. The plastic Bethlehem is his only eccentricity, if eccentricity it is. It's for his kids. The front yard nativity scene is their tradition.

When I was a wee bit of a thing, my dad would sing this. And I don't mean sing like a glorious tenor; he sang in a broken baritone and couldn't carry a tune with a forklift. My father could speak five languages, but music wasn't one of them.

Still, I loved the sounds, I love them to this day -- the consonants that never meet and mate in English -- schl, skt; the long s, the long t, and vowels almost as strong as consonants -- the uuuu's, for example.

Up until the time I was six years old or so, I understood the language, I knew the words to this song. Today I'd need a translation, which I'm sure is readily available online. But then I'd lose everything worth saving. Oddly, for this memory to last, I can no longer know what it means.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The news monster

When I worked in the communications department at The Times in the 1990's, the paper printed a story about a man accused of molesting children. The story identified the man, complete with photo. We had the right name, right town, but two men with same name lived within a couple of miles of each other. And we had the wrong man.

Ours was the PR department, accustomed to explaining editorial content to a sometimes outraged group of subscribers. But no one -- not the publisher or editor -- expected us to explain, much less disguise or diminish something inexcusably, flat-out wrong. And so, we fell on the sword, painfully and loudly, publishing prominent retractions in our paper and others. The department head, Laura, made the broadcast media rounds. (She was the bravest woman I've ever known. You have no idea how scornful and gleeful competing media could be when The Times made a mistake of any magnitude, big or small, and this was big).

The story had violated the reputation of an innocent man and violated the public trust. It was a crime against journalism.

Today when all the online news sources dog piled on the tragedy in Connecticut, snarling and fighting over the freshest piece of the slaughter, many identified the wrong man as the mass murderer. Not only did some name the brother of the killer as the killer, some even published the photo of a man with the same name as the brother but unrelated to the killer in any way whatsoever.

Then, and keep in mind some of these are considered "reputable" news outlets, when facts came to light, all they did was update the tail end of their story, blaming their unnamed sources for misinformation. In some cases, the unnamed sources turned out to be Facebook. Or just each other. "We regret the error," they said.

And thank you for holding, your call is very important to us.

Once upon a time, if journalists went so far as to identify a mass murderer based on an unnamed source, and I can't think that would ever have been the case, but for the sake of argument let's play along, they would have been able to swear on their mother's life as to the veracity of this unnamed source. Then and only then would the possibility of printing the story make its way up the chain of command.

I don't know what kind of danger these men, misidentified by so many screaming headlines and photos, now face. I don't know what kind of danger we face now that speculation disguised as information travels around the globe within a matter of seconds. I don't know what kind of danger we face now that journalism is dead.

Monday, December 10, 2012

As the Brochure Says...

Bring your tool kit and your dreams.

You might also want to bring some antibiotics and a tetanus shot.

Open floor plan.

Electricity, almost.

Location, folks. It's going for $250 K. Bring your biggest tool kit and don't skimp on the dreams.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dog Training

Teachable Moment, Definition: An unplanned opportunity that arises where a teacher has an ideal chance to offer insight to the student.

As some of you may know, I’m in the market for a second dog, a boxer dog, and no fewer than three friends have contacted me about the same dog -- a deaf, one-year old white boxer advertised on Freecycle.

I’m perfectly fine with the color and the age of the girl. I’m certainly down with the price. But the deaf part might prove a stumbling block. You see, while there are advocates of one training method or another – the clicker, rewards, the Koehler method, dominance, impression, and so forth – my school is strictly verbal.

As to how that works, we start with the basics, usually behavior-specific corrections: "Will you shut the fuck up," for openers; followed by "Will you fucking heel," and "Get the fuck down."

Once grasped, we can then move on to a more conceptual level of communication, such as, “Why did you fucking eat that,” graduating to, "What the fuck did you think you were doing."

As with us all, it may take years before the dog reaches some sense of probity, then and only then can we elevate the conversation to philosophical arguments, spur discussions regarding Cartesian dualism for example, with, "Do you ever fucking think," and, "Are you fucking out of your mind."

After we’ve truly bonded, reached that mystical state of mutual understanding, we can look in each other’s eyes and know what the other is thinking. "Oh fuck, you didn't," hangs in the air. But no words are needed. We just know it’s there.

Back to the deaf white boxer. I did look up sign language. Likely we’d get about as far as the index finger and thumb forming a C for both of us to lose the immediacy of the teachable moment. And at that point, likely I’d just say “Screw it, when you finish eating my underwear we'll play some ball and call it a day."