Friday, March 27, 2009

A View of the Ten - D'oh! Stories

It's amazing how many ways people find to be unspeakably stupid or completely insufferable. I came across these ten examples - posted in no particular order - as I surfed the web this week and thought I'd share them. Here's hoping they either make you smarter, make you laugh, or make you forget that I'm blowing off a blog entry with ten random posts. If I'm lucky, they'll do all of the above.

1) The NCAA is looking out for those of us who are flat broke but still want a good entertainment bargain. For the first time in the history of the men's tournament, they've authorized the sale of individual suite seats for the Final Four. One ticket, including snacks, is $1,495. Where's my checkbook?

2) As long as I'm shopping, I should prepare for the day I walk down that aisle for the third time. Once I meet Mr. Third Time's the Charm, I'm going to leave this story on his pillowcase about a $2,600 proposal cake. It's covered in 24k gold leaves and 15 African diamonds. As one of the commenters to this post said, buy me Duncan Hines and give me the $2,600 cash.

3) You'd have to be high to blow that kind of dough on some dough, so I should look into dating Method Man. Then again, he was so high he forgot to pay his income taxes. And his Lincoln Navigator was repossessed. The idea of him telling me, "Baby I'm smokin' your engagement ring," lets me know I'm much better off single.

4) At least Method Man has a fondness for illegal substances to blame for his behavior. Kanye West, excuse me, I mean Martin Louis the King is just a blithering idiot on general principle. But he's a blithering idiot willing to share his idiocy with us to take our minds off the fact that he could pop for that $1,500 Final Four suite ticket. He'd need to buy two - one for him and one for his out of control ego.

5) Remember when Kanye, Martin, whatever the hell was on "American Idol" a while back? His performance was described as being quite underwhelming - kind of fitting for an underwhelming show. The ratings are beginning to slip, so the show's producers are getting desperate. They've decided to add a "judges save" to the elimination show. This means that once the person who's been eilminated is announced, they are ordered by the judges to sing again and they'll decide whether or not to keep that person. This means a performer faces two rejections in less than five minutes. How come cruelty is considered entertainment in this culture?

6) Speaking of cruel, I can't think of anything more cruel than being unnecessarily denied the chance to say goodbye to someone you love. This happened in Plano, Texas to Ryan Moats on Thursday. He was racing to his mother-in-law's bedside as she lay dying at Baylor Regional Medical Center when he had the misfortune of rolling through a red light in front of Officer Robert Powell. After a twenty minute traffic stop in the hospital parking lot - a stop that included a drawn gun, and comments like "I can screw you over," he let Moats go. It was too late - he got to her bedside mintues after she died. The Dallas Police has issued an apology to Moats and his family and are "investigating" the matter, but nothing can be done to make up for that sort of loss.

7) Officer Powell's actions seemed to indicate that he gets off on the power to control others. To paraphrase a quote from one of my favorite movies, he got all officious and that's the curse of a government job. Trying to control others because of an internal God complex is not cool. Imposing one's beliefs on others is another example of that, as you'll see in this story about people up in arms because opening day for the Detroit Tigers falls on Good Friday. If your religious beliefs trump your desire to see a baseball game, then go to church - and don't judge others who feel otherwise. Getting all officious can also be the curse of religious self righteousness.

8) Speaking of religious self righteousness, folks at Notre Dame are getting their Fighting Irish up over an invitation extended to President Obama to speak at this year's graduation - keeping with the tradition of inviting new presidents to commencement ceremonies. The problem? Alumni are offended because of Obama's recent action to change stem cell research rules, support of international family planning, and his pro-choice beliefs. The majority of the students, even those who don't agree with his stance on these issues, are supportive of the invite and look forward to hearing him. Others are calling the invite " a public act of disobedience." Really? This made me think of a line from one of my favorite rap songs. Notre Dame alumni, you believe God is the one true judge. Chill, listen to him speak, and let your father do his job. I'm sure there's no sin in words of expression and encouragement from the POTUS.

9) Another line in the song I referenced above says you only live once and you're never coming back. Unless you're a cat - they get nine lives, you know. I'm not sure about dogs, but some say that dogs are heavenly because dog spelled backwards is god. Those fuzzy little companions may be like little angels to you, but a recent study points out that they also possess a bit of the devil in them too. Did you know that pets are responsible for 86,000 falls a year? "There are many benefits to pet ownership. But they can also be a hazard," said one of the authors of a study by the CDC. About 3 in every 10,000 pet owners suffer fall related injuries caused by Fido or Mr. Mittens. This can be especially hazardous to elderly women - the injury rate was higher for senior citizens, and women were twice as likely to be hurt as men. Great. Not only am I the Crazy Cat Lady, but now I have to worry about them going all Talky Tina on me if I skimp on the Friskies.

10) That gets me back to dating again. It would be nice to have someone special in my life, so I guess that means I'm going to have to get in the game. Still, the idea of dating drains me. The small talk, the getting to know you phase, the awkward chemistry - it can take a toll. If you've read my blog, you know I've had some bad dating and relationship experiences. None of them, however, have been as bad as this story I read a couple of days ago. It's enough to make me want to embrace my Crazy Cat Ladyness and stay inside. Even if it means being taken out by the Fuzzy Bunch.

More later, once I think of something else to write. If you have some dating tips for me, let me know.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A View of the Ten - Desert Island Songs

I resisted the obvious pick. Click on the picture to see what it is.

If you were stranded on an island and could only have ten songs to listen to for the rest of your days (or until you were rescued), what would they be? It's tougher than you think to pick only ten songs. I got this from Facebook and thought it was fun, so I'm posting it here.

Choose wisely. Here's my list in no particular order. I've included video links to all of my picks if you want to hear the songs in their entirety.

1. Nessun Dorma, Luciano Pavarotti - the first time I heard him sing this, it brought me to tears

2. They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.), Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - because the imagery would help me keep memories of my family close by

3. For All We Know, Billie Holiday (from "Lady In Satin") - the perfect farewell song, beautifully sung

4. Watermelon Man, Herbie Hancock (1973 "Headhunters" version) - I'd need one dance song

5. As, Stevie Wonder - every time I hear that song, I feel uplifted

6. Round Midnight, any version by Thelonious Monk - a masterpiece of piano playing and composition

7. Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue - Duke Ellington & Paul Gonsalves (the 1956 Newport recording) - to keep my spirits and energy up

8. Fine & Mellow, Billie Holiday (from "The Sound of Jazz") - because her work with Lester Young on this track is the definition of true love

9. Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin - I've always had a soft spot in my heart for that song

10. I'm Every Woman, Chaka Khan - they can't all be rocket science picks, and because I'd need an anthem if I'm stranded on an island by myself

More later, and be glad I didn't put this song on the list.


Monday, March 23, 2009

A View of Diversity

There is one show on TV that has been diverse and inclusive for the entire duration of its run. A show that's truly color blind and open to any person no matter the physical, mental, or emotional challenge he or she may face.

That show is Sesame Street.

The people and Muppets there are welcoming to all, no matter what race, creed, color, fur, fuzz, or feather. Everyone's welcome and everyone's accepted.

Still, there are secrets about the Muppets that had to be told. How come Count von Count no longer has the power to hypnotize and stun people? Was Elmo really just a layabout until the early '80s? What is the Swedish Chef's real name? Which Muppet can not only beatbox, but does a really good Little Richard impression? You can find out these stories and more in this article.

You can also find out the truth about Grover's shocking cosmetic surgery, but if you want to know why Grover is bitter, you have to go here.

More later, after I get through reading about the original Street Gang.

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A View of an Unfortunate Situation

I don't watch a lot of TV.

Let me clarify. If I'm at home, the TV's on. I use my remote so much, I'm surprised it hasn't fused to my hand. But there are only a couple of shows I watch on regular basis. Right now, I'm hopelessly addicted to "Man vs. Food" and I have to confess I have a little crush on Adam Richman. I try not to miss an episode of "CBS Sunday Morning." I feel a bit smarter and sophisticated when I watch it. When my local PBS station decides to air it (damn they do a lot of pledge drives), I love "Antiques Roadshow." The stories and history behind the pieces fascinate me more than the worth of the items. Anything else on TV, I can take or leave. I flip back and forth from this show to that, never lingering for long on anything in particular. My defaults are Turner Classic Movies and Ovation, with a dash of TLC (love me some "What Not to Wear") and the Biography Channel - when they bother to show an interesting bio.

It's a pretty eclectic mix of shows. It's also a mix of shows with little diversity, and I find that fact frustrating. I'd love to add shows from BET to this mix, but BET lost it's relevance for me when they stopped showing classic black films and unceremoniously dumped Tavis Smiley, Ed Gordon and its nightly news years ago. My satellite TV service doesn't carry TVOne, but the few times I've caught shows on that channel it just seemed like a BET rehash. The website doesn't help to dispel that feeling. I was hoping to add David Alan Grier's "Chocolate News" or "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News" to my list of favorite shows, but they've been dropped by Comedy Central and CNN respectively. Before he died, I loved Bernie Mac's show - when I could find it. I have no idea if "Everybody Hates Chris" is still on the air.

If I want to support black TV on a regular basis, it seems my only option is Tyler Perry.
Oh, my.

Here's my problem with that. While I'm happy that Mr. Perry is a successful African American entertainment figure, I cringe every time his Madea character comes on the screen. (I'm so over the black man as Jemima 2.0, but looking at the success of Madea's movies it appears I'm in the - ahem - minority. Even Mr. Perry is reluctant to let her go because of her success.) While I'm happy he's been able to put African American actors and people of color from all aspects of the entertainment industry to work, I'm disappointed that this work comes in such broad, borderline offensive material. While I'm happy he's showing Hollywood that there is an African American audience desperate for entertainment that speaks to them, I'm frustrated that he seems to be the only voice Hollywood is willing to hear. Others feel the same way, according to recent articles in Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times about Mr. Perry's work and the lack of diversity on the air.

"People feel the images (in Tyler Perry's movies) are very stereotypical, and black people are frustrated because they feel we should be more evolved," Viola Davis, an Oscar nominated actress who recently worked with Mr. Perry said in the Entertainment Weekly article. "But there are very few black images in Hollywood, so black people are going to his movies. That's the dichotomy. Tyler Perry is making money." Larry Wilmore, a contributor to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and an executive producer for "The Bernie Mac Show" talked about his frustration with network TV, but said he didn't feel as though there was an orchestrated effort to keep people of color off the air.

"I don't think there is anything sinister going on. It's just an unfortunate situation," he said.

In the New York Times report, they noted Fox was "considering" a sitcom featuring Daryl "Chill" Mitchell and Michael Strahan. ABC is considering a pilot with Cedric the Entertainer. CBS is casting LL Cool J in a spinoff of "NCIS." That's three potential shows on three networks. Three. Gee, could they spare the room? It's an unfortunate situation.
The only greenlighted show it noted featuring people of color is on Fox: "The Cleveland Show," an animated spinoff of "Family Guy." It gets better. The character of Cleveland has been, and will continue to be, voiced by Mike Henry, who is white. The show will have a white, redneck neighbor voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, who is African American. The only greenlighted new show is an animated Amos & Andy rehash. It's just an unfortunate situation.

More later, after I try to figure out why "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" isn't considered a setback and "Amos & Andy" is.

In the meantime, check out "Dhani Tackles the Globe" on the Travel Channel. Write to Comedy Central and CNN to ask them why they cancelled "Chocolate News" and "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News." Watch Tavis Smiley's show on PBS. Please watch "The #1 Ladies Detective Agency" when it premieres on HBO on March 29th. Go out and buy movies by Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, Oscar Micheaux - any positive African American writer, director, producer, or filmmaker you can find. Go see "Medicine for Melancholy" when it comes to your town - or better yet, buy it when it comes out on DVD or to your cable station's Pay Per View channels. Write NPR and ask them why they cancelled "News and Notes" - one of the only African American based shows of color on public radio - and then ask what will be the replacement. Let's try to make an unfortunate situation fortunate.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

A View of Something Shocking

I don't know about you, but I've been shocked, shocked by some things I've seen in the paper, on the news and posted on the Web lately.

For example, I'm shocked, shocked that the feds still haven't brought charges against any of our crooked local officials. Isn't the federal govenment usually more efficient and organized in their crime fighting efforts than they have been in these cases? Here's something that's shocking: Cops in a Texas-Louisiana border are robbing African-Americans blind simply because they can. A suit has been filed in U.S. District Court. Let's hope the courts do the right thing and not drag their feet the way fed investigators have with our local investigations.

I'm shocked, shocked that teens are being treated as dangerous criminals for "sexting." I'm also shocked that it only seems to be girls who are sending the naughty messages. Boys don't get dirty with a cell phone? Really? Making a teenager a sex offender for talking dirty or sending a picture of themselves to another teenager seems to me to be a complete misuse of sex offender registries and our criminal system's resources. You know what's shocking? That LGBT teenagers are still being forced to deny who they are simply because close-minded adults can't handle the fact that there are LGBT teenagers. Or that some girls simply may not want to wear a dress to the prom, no matter what their sexuality may be.

I'm shocked, shocked that Bristol Palin, the poster child for why abstinence only sex ed for teens is not the answer, and her boyfriend Levi Johnston broke up after a fight. Teenage pregnancy is hard enough without adding a shotgun wedding to the mix. Still, hope springs eternal and maybe those crazy kids will make it work one of these days. I'll tell you what's shocking: Hair extensions for babies. Because, you know, no fashionable baby will be caught dead in heels nowadays. What the hell....

I'm shocked, shocked that Republicans - so outraged by the earmarks in the recently passed spending bill - are getting 40% of them for their states. What's shocking is that I had to find this story on the CBC News website. How about some outrage about Republicans riding the earmark gravy train instead of falling back on the tired "flip-flop" argument, Fox News?

I'm shocked, shocked by the news that AIG got the financial hook-up - again. The company's actions were a major contributor to the current financial crisis, and their punishment is more money. See kids, sometimes crime does pay. I find it very shocking that workers who gave their lives and careers to a company like Delphi and were promised retiree benefits got screwed over. Again. The ones who need the bailout are getting buried by corporate greed and mismanagement.

I'm shocked, shocked that Detroit city leaders are still determined to be as divisive as ever when it comes to developing a regional plan for attracting business. I'm also shocked, shocked that they're using religion and race as their hold cards in the fight to keep Detroit as underdeveloped and irrelevant on a national scale as ever. What's shocking is that Detroit doesn't seem to have a lock on jaw-droppingly dumb political leaders as this story about work on a bestiality ban in Florida will show. The quotes from Larcenia Bullard will shock you, almost as much as the fact that 16 states still permit bestiality. What the hell....

More later, but right now I'm too shocked to continue.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

A View of L-I-V-E

"A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They're just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L! Give me an I! Give me a V! Give me an E! L-I-V-E! LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room."

It was a circle of life sort of day for me today. One of my co-workers brought her brand new twins to work for everyone to see, and they were amazingly beautiful. A chubby cheeked boy and a rosy cheeked girl, two months old. Mom was glowing - she said she gained 40 pounds during her pregnancy and lost 45. It was a beautiful scene - people standing in our foyer admiring new life, Mom beaming proudly over her bundles of joy and talking about how her husband's fallen madly in love with his babies, everyone smiling and talking in joyous but hushed tones so as not to wake the children.

Their appearance helped cut the some of the sadness that had been lingering in the office the past few days. One of our fellow staff members who'd been battling an aggressive terminal illness died over the weekend. His memorial service was today. Just steps away from the staff members cooing over new life were other staff members preparing to pay their respects for a life tragically lost. As some smiled at a sleeping baby, others wiped away tears for a friend now in eternal rest. I went in the afternoon with a couple of friends. On the way there and back, we talked about loss, the young children our colleague left behind, and the shock of losing someone who had seemed so healthy just a few months ago.

Earlier in the morning, before the babies and well before the funeral home visit, another friend at work told me her family dog - old and sick for a long time - will have to be euthanzied tomorrow. She said she's not sad about what will happen because the dog is suffering and it's time for her hurting to end. "It'll hit me when I go to pet a shadow - when I expect her to be by my side and she's not," she said. It made me think of the cats I've loved and are no longer with me. It's amazing how much love one can have for a pet, but at the same time it's amazing how much love a pet can have for us.

Love. Life. Loss. It is the eternal story. We're here a brief time, then we're gone. It's what we do in between the start and the finish that's important. I thought about that as I watched those babies and saw that proud mom's smile. I thought about that when my friend talked about preparing to help her four legged friend, even though it means saying goodbye for good. I thought about that as I walked into the chapel this afternoon and saw loving photo montages that chronicled the life of my colleague - his family, his wife - so happy he's no longer suffering but so heartbroken that he's gone - his children, his friends. All of it spoke volumes - life is about what you do and how you do it, not what you have and how much of it.

It's also about how you prepare to go, too. My co-worker's wife is a nurse and she talked about how he fought his illness so bravely and so hard. He never gave up hope. Still, she confessed she'd been afraid of the possibility of having to see him carried away in a body bag, or the indignities that come with a final push to save a person who is in the final throes of death. "I see that so much in my line of work," she said. "I didn't want to see him have to go through that. Not after fighting so hard."

And living so fully. The chapel was full of people who loved him, just like that foyer was full of people who loved those babies and the joy they brung. Just like my friend preparing to say goodbye to her beloved dog - a lifelong companion. It's all about life, folks. Life, love and loss. Go out and live. Love everyone who comes your way. Don't be afraid of loss. As a matter of fact prepare for it - it's a true act of kindness for those you love and for those who need love. And always, always sing out and be free.

More later, after I take a breath of fire.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A View of Heartthrobs and Heartbreakers

I'm aware of three famous men who made my mom squeal.

The first was Prince.

She was cuckoo for that little man. When I see Prince, I think of pancakes and late nights with camels. Not Mom. She just swooned. To this day, my sister and I joke about how, back in the late 80's, she spent the night in a line for tickets (something she'd never done before) outside the Fisher Building - sending for us in the middle of the night because of rumors of ticket purchase limits. "Go get the girls," she ordered my stepdad, "NOW." He got us alright. Out we went to wait in line sporting pajamas, fuzzy house shoes and rollers in our hair - joining him in worn out sweats and sleep in his eye. At the concert, she stood up on her seat, dancing and swaying and damn near fainting when he took off his suit jacket. "OH MY LORD, HE'S TAKING HIS CLOTHES OFF!!!!" she screamed, giggling like a schoolgirl swooning over her first crush. She now says the thrill is gone, but I bet if he were to launch into a quick split and gyration in front of her, she'd swoon again.

The second was Chuck Jackson.

Click on the picture to see a clip of him performing.

He's a wonderful R&B singer from the '60s who didn't get as much noteriety as his talent deserved. He's best known for his cover of the Bachrach & Hilliard classic, "Any Day Now." She told me once about how my grandfather introduced her to him at the old 20 Grand Theatre. She was so excited to meet him, she fell off her barstool (without the benefit of liquid courage because she was underage) when he extended his hand to shake hers. She still blushes and smiles when you say his name or play one of his songs. Looking at his picture and hearing his voice, I can't help but blush myself.

The third was Dave Bing.

I don't remember if it was the young Dave or the older Dave who made her heart skip a beat, but skip it did. I'm thinking it was the older Dave because she talked about how distinguished he looked. Distinguished was a good word. He had a sterling reputation, both on the basketball court in college with Syracuse and as a Hall of Fame stand out with the Detroit Pistons, and in the local business community as founder and head of The Bing Group.

As a matter of fact, his reputation was so outstanding that many felt he would be the perfect choice to clean up the mess that is Detroit city government. Well spoken, charming, successful businessman (how many politicians can truly say they created jobs after all), smart, above the buffoonish nonsense that defines the actions of so many of the area's leaders - he seemed to have it all. After a long deliberation, he decided to run for mayor and Detroit swooned.

Then came the morning after. Reports about safety violations at his plants and fines of up to $200 grand surfaced. Then Bing, who'd been critical of the divisive atmosphere that permeates Detroit politics, began a negative campaign against current mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr., escalating the attack when the deal to regionalize Cobo Hall fell through. Then criticism about his residency came to the forefront. Mr. Bing maintains a residence in a gated community in Franklin, a Detroit suburb. His wife still lives there - some whisper that she refuses to move to Detroit. He bought a condo in downtown Detroit shortly before filing campaign papers and announcing his run for office. Prior to that purchase, he hadn't lived in Detroit for over 30 years, prompting critics to call him a "carpetbagger" who "doesn't love the city."

His behavior and the reports disappointed my mom. She expected him to not fall into negative campaigning and remain above reproach as he ran for mayor, but wasn't surprised because campaigning is never pretty. Still, she held out hope that the Dave Bing she admired would come to the surface.

Well, this morning reports surfaced that not only did Mr. Bing lie about when he earned his bachelor's degree - which in and of itself would've been disappointing but not too surprising - he lied about earning a master's degree. "I felt I had an MBA for the work I had done in the industry I was in," Bing is quoted as saying.

Fair enough. He's worked hard and long in the automotive supply business for years. That sort of hands on experience is the equivalent of any college study. But for a man campaigning on a pledge to bring integrity back to Detroit's city government, lying about any portion of his background is not the way to establish a base of trust and honesty with the voting public. The news broke my mom's heart. Broke mine too, along with a lot of his supporters.

He was a heartthrob, and now he's breaking hearts. This morning's news was pretty depressing, and that's a heartbreaker too. Literally. A recent report in USA Today discussed a study by Washington University and the VA Medical Center in St. Louis. Researchers followed 1,200 middle aged men to see whether or not there was a genetic link between depression and heart disease. They found that depression almost doubles the risk of heart disease. More follow up study is needed, especially to see if the link is the same in women.

Until that follow up study is done, I'm keeping my mom away from any news about Dave Bing. I'll fill that time with a steady dose of "Purple Rain" and Chuck Jackson records.

More later. In the meantime, maybe I should see a wizard or something. Then again, they aren't all they're cracked up to be either.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A View of a Jaw Breaker

A round of applause for Jay Leno please.

I'm not a big fan of his, but I've gained some respect for him after he announced he's coming to Detroit to give a free concert for unemployed auto workers here on April 7th.

He's no stranger to the area. He's an avid car collector. He filmed a movie here way back in the day (it wasn't the best movie, but he did it before filming in Detroit was cool - and profitable for film companies). He recently performed at Caesar's Windsor. He's doing the area a solid with a goodwill gesture to help take everyone's minds off the mounting job losses and seemingly inevitable collapse of the American auto industry as we know it. Whether or not you're a fan of his, you have to appreciate his kindness and thoughtfulness right?

Not if you're a Detroit city council member. Rather than thank Mr. Leno for trying to cheer up the area's citizens (and their constituents), Martha Reeves and Monica Conyers decided it's best to bitch and moan about him performing at the Palace of Auburn Hills - located about 30 miles north of downtown Detroit. Logistically, it makes sense. It's the largest venue in the area with easy access to freeways and parking. The Detroit Pistons are donating the use of the venue and parking will be free. And there's a small group of people who are going to be wrapping up usage of all the other Detroit facilities that week. You'd think those Final Four folks could skedaddle out of town sooner, but maybe they want to stick around for the three ring circus that is Detroit city government.

The lack of gratitude and the complete ineptitude displayed Detroit's City Council members like Ms. Conyers and Ms. Reeves is jaw dropping.

I think I know the reason he won't come into the city limits for the concert - Branford doesn't know how to play "Singin' In the Rain."

More later, but let me endorse a candidate for the council. I think he'll fit right in.

UPDATE: L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive, is a Republican. Someone needs to point out to him that his party's mascot is the elephant, not the jackass he's determined to be. It's bad enough that Detroit's city officials are an embarrassment. Must he be a slack jawed yokel too? (When you click on the link, be sure to watch the video. It's funnier than anything Leno's team could've scripted.)

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A View of Old Folks, Monkeys, and Fools

Monkeys as Judges of Art - Gabriel Cornelius von Max (Oil on canvas, 1889)
Click on the painting for a comparative analysis of the piece.

One of my grandmother's favorite sayings was, "God looks out for old folks, monkeys, and fools." Any time someone did something incredibly stupid or some tragic story about the elderly was reported, you were bound to hear this from her. It came to mind as I read and heard the stories that make up this post.

Let's start with the old folks, shall we? One of my favorite memories of my grandmother was how she'd watch my cousins, sister, and I dance. She'd join in, often dancing better than all of us, smiling and telling us how are dances weren't new. "Hell, we did that when I was a kid. That ain't nothin' but the mess around. Let me show you how to really do that!" Then off she'd go, grinning and bouncing to the music, hands on her hips, head thrown back, dancing with unadulterated joy. She danced until she was physically unable to dance any more, but that didn't stop her from tapping her feet in her wheelchair, or singing songs when the mood struck.

I thought about that and teared up remembering how much fun we had watching her show us how to really do that dance when I watched this clip of The Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church's anniversary celebration that landed in my e-mail a couple of weeks ago. The dancing starts in about 2:50 into the clip, but you might want to watch this from the beginning for the full effect. If you want to see ageless joy, then pay attention to the ladies in the aisles swaying to Sam Cooke or the deacon putting it down to "My Girl."

Some of the comments on that clip's website talked about how dancing in church is a sin. Come on. There's no sin in moving your body, no matter how old you are. What is a sin is the way we assume that people are too old to dance or be physical. Old folks are just that - folks. They are folks with moods, needs, desires, and drives. If Grandma and Grandpa still feel like slow dancing and getting frisky, then put on the slow jams and light some candles for them. They are living life to the fullest. Not everyone feels this way, and it's led to the elderly sometimes feeling uncomfortable discussing their sexuality. That's leading to the real sin - a growing risk of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV in people over 50 according to a recently published World Health Organization study. This age group is more likely to engage in unprotected sex - there's no fear of pregnancy, so there's no urgency for birth control - and drugs like Viagra are extending sex lives. Screening for STDs is less common for older people because doctors assume that Grandma and Grandpa no longer get busy. Here's the truly sad part - the life expectancy of a person over age 65 with HIV is only four years.

Did you know that HIV has its origins in a strain of a Simian Immunodeficiency Virus? Some folks cling to the foolish belief that man contracted the disease after intimate contact with a monkey. That's not true. There are several theories about how SIV mutated into HIV, from possible contamination of the polio vaccine during testing in the Belgian Congo, to the hunt and consumption of primate meat, to the usual crackpot conspiracy theories. Whatever the case, the disease has its roots in primates.

Have you noticed how many stories there are about monkeys and other primates in the news lately? Primates are pissed off, y'all. Everyone knows the story about the chimp in Connecticut who mauled a woman in a sudden, vicious attack. The woman lived - barely. She lost both her hands, her nose, lips, and eyelids, lost the bone structure to her face, and may possibly be blind and suffering brain damaged. All this from a chimp who was thought to be domesticated and had been featured in TV commercials. The 200-pound chimp had to be killed and the chimp's owner may face criminal charges.

Two Monkeys Stealing Fruit From a Basket - Frans Snyders (Oil on canvas, 17th century)
Click on the painting to learn more about the work.

Many reports and the chimp's owner believed the attack was spontaneous and random. Maybe. Then again, if you believe recent news reports the attack may have been premeditated. Santino, a 30 year old chimp in Switzerland, decided to defend his territory from visitors he felt were encroaching. On a daily basis, he collects an arsenal of rocks and bits of concrete to fling at the tresspassers. He throws the weapons underhanded in rapid succession, sometimes hitting targets as far as 30 feet away. He's been doing this since he was about 16 years old.

He may not be the only one. A report in Newsweek points out evidence of capuchin monkeys sorting through rocks to find the best ones for use as tools. The report even includes a link to video of the monkeys at work. I don't have any video of Santino at work, but that may be due to the fact that while he has a good plan, he doesn't have much follow through. Santino's aim isn't so hot - for now anyway.

Ineffective follow through brings me to the fools, and if you live in Detroit, there's nothing more foolish than our city's government. Between our disgraced ex-mayor playing textual healing with at least five women (none of whom were his wife), his top staff behaving like petulant children on city owned two way pagers, a city council battling to keep control of a decaying convention center the city cannot afford to maintain - much less repair, the council president swearing recent leaks that damaged some hot rods on display at the center over the weekend is a "conspiracy," and another council member breaking into a chorus of "Onward Christian Soldiers" during a council meeting, our city's leaders are as ineffective as Santino's aim, and as embarrassing as walking in on Grandma and Grandpa doing something freaky.

On the bright side, watching a council meeting is, as my grandmother would say, more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

More later, after I rock with Dr. Zaius.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

A View of Love is a Battlefield

I wonder if the justices on the California Supreme Court, who are hearing arguments regarding an appeal of Proposition 8 which banned gay marriage, are fans of "The Bachelor."

If they are, then they have to be aware of the raging controversy about Jason Mesnick's decision to dump one love match for another. On national TV. Maybe it was about love, maybe it was about ratings, maybe the two concepts were (ahem) married - albeit unhappily - in his mind and he was just confused. ABC, the network that airs the show, also feel a bit used and rejected because they swear they weren't in on or influenced his decision.

Whatever the case, he's now made his choice and is now free to live happily ever after with his new love. (For the record, happily ever after for the average "Bachelor" is less than a year.)

Love is a battlefield. If the justices on the California Supreme Court didn't know that before, then should know it now if they watched "The Bachelor" at all this week. I'm betting the roughly 1,000 people who protested in front of the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza, some who showed up as early as 5:00 a.m. , know this. I'm betting the dozens who lined up outside of the California Supreme Court building this morning to get a seat in chambers to hear the court challenge to Proposition 8 know this. I'm sure La Kia Hammond, and her former partner, who had to fight for the right to divorce all the way to New Jersey's Superior Court, and the other woman Ms. Hammond now wants to marry knows this.

If we can tolerate and accept a show that turns the concept of love and marriage into a game show; if we can view a man - with a child in tow (interesting how nobody's talking about the impact of all this on his son) - can use network television to humiliate one woman in the name of love for another; if we can encourage the humiliated woman to turn around and go on another TV show and repeat the process; and if we can accept the concept of a show with a disastrous record of matchmaking as the current standard of love, marriage, and happily ever after; then why can't we accept the fact that couples who are willing to fight as hard and as long as they can for love deserve the right to marry? What those couples do in their bedrooms is a moot point. Whether or not those relationships last is a moot point - especially in the light of the tempest in a teapot that is "The Bachelor."

Love is a battlefield. To deny a chance at a legally sanctioned happily ever after to a group of people because we don't like what they do is the equivalent of a fixed fight - and that's unfair. I hope the justices on California's Supreme Court watched the people fighting for their civil rights and do the right thing, rather than watch a fixed fight on a reality TV show.

More later, and let's keep fighting the good fight.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A View of No Brains On Drugs

One more rocket scientist story for you.

I've told you all about my adventures with crazy ass seven month old kitten since he turned on the cute and got me to adopt him. Just last night he almost wrecked my bedroom (again) when he got hung up in the handle of a shopping bag and got stuck under my bed trying to get free. When I got him out, the first thing he did was try to dive back in the bag. He's hyper as hell. In one post, I even joked about getting him a catnip bong.

Well, a genius in Nebraska, fed up with the antics of his kitten fired up a homemade bong. With the cat in it. To "calm it down." Says he's done it several times because she was "high strung."

Acea Schomaker has been charged with drug possession and could be charged with animal cruelty. Shadow the kitten is in the custody of the local animal control office and is doing fine.

More later, and just say no folks. Cats too.


A View of All Head and No Brain

We've got some rocket scientists among us.

Like the Detroit firefighter who learned the hard way that leaving a towel over a lamp and incense lit unsupervised while out on a call was not smart. He and his unit came back from putting out a fire to find their station on fire. They would've put out the fire themselves, but they did not have an engine - it had been decommissioned due to budget cuts. The station - including our rocket scientist's bible, incense, and lamp - was a total loss.

Or the bus driver in D.C. who thought it would be "funny" to beat up McGruff the Crime Dog. D.C. Police officer Tyrone Hardy (who undoubtedly drew the short straw during morning report) was in the McGruff costume passing out fliers to children on a northwest Washington street corner last Saturday afternoon when bus driver Shawn Brim, 38, rolled up on the scene. He stepped out of his bus, adjusted his sideview mirrors, then punched McGruff in the face. Officer Hardy never saw the punch coming because the costume's head blocked a clear view. As Officer Hardy reeled from the sucker punch, and the children on the scene and the passengers on his bus screamed and yelled at him (oh yeah, forgot to mention he was on the city clock - just like Officer Hardy), he hopped back into the driver's seat and drove off. Officer Hardy was fine, only suffering a swollen right cheek. Brim, who's been arrested in the past for PCP possession, prostitution, and gun possession was later arrested and charged with simple assault.

What about Jeff Eldridge of West Virginia's Lincoln County? He's decided that his state should celebrate Barbie's 50th anniversary on March 9th by kicking her out of town. Mr. Eldridge's bass ackwardness has a basis in logic. He feels toys like Barbie dolls influence girls to place too much of an emphasis on physical beauty at the expense of their intellectual and emotional development. "I knew a lot of people were going to joke about it and poke fun at me," he said. None of his fellow delegates would sign on the bill with him, but he pledged to go forward with the bill. Good luck with that. I'm sure the citizens of West Virginia are grateful he's concentrating on a parent's right to buy a toy and not frivolous nonsense like crime, economy, or court reform in the state. I'm just sayin'....

More later, but not before I leave the last word to someone who can sum up my thoughts on all of this a lot better than I ever could.

UPDATE: Barbie's going to rock a tramp stamp this spring, y'all. Now I understand why they don't want her in West Virginia. Nobody gets inked up there because it cuts in on precious tanning booth time.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Detroit City Council is working overtime to show the world that they are without a doubt the dumbest, most embarassing governing body in the world with their antics at their meeting this evening. The previous title holder has some work to do to catch up.


Monday, March 02, 2009

A View of the Devil

Mornings are evil. They start too early and always right at the moment where sleep is getting really good.

I try and delay the start of my mornings by playing the snooze alarm game, but it's a futile effort. Plus my kitten Muffin is determined to wake me up at the crack of dawn. Once I'm up mind you, he wants nothing to do with me. The fun for him is trying to wake me up.

Muffin and the alarm clock are the tools of the Devil.

So I'm up this morning earlier than I want to be, getting dressed and watching my furry little spawn of Satan play with a pop bottle top when I hear the weekly exercise segment wrap up on the morning news show I watch as I get ready for work. A much too perky reporter whose name reminds me of hair spray spent about three minutes flinging around some sort of torture device called a kettlebell, gleeful about how it stretched her obliques. The segment is followed by a commercial for Dunkin Donuts.

Who else but Satan would follow up an exercise segment with an appeal for you to consume sugary fried dough?

I kept getting dressed, still cranky about it being morning, still cranky about my crazy early riser cat, and now cranky because I didn't have donut. Then the next story confirmed my suspicions - the Devil is taking over. As a matter of fact, the eyes of Devil are watching over Detroit's freeways.

If you click on the eyes, you can see footage of the Devil!

Behold the eyes of EVIL. They are creeping out the Motor City's drivers. A local minister is threatening to start a petition drive to get MGM to take down the billboards. One of our City Council members, Alberta Tinsley-Talabi, is also ready to take on this crusade to save Detroit from this EVIL, declaring them "sinister."

I wonder if these "sinister" billboards with the demon eyes are what made Ms. Tinsley-Talabi flip her vote on a deal to transfer Cobo Hall to a regional authority. This deal would have taken a long standing financial liability off Detroit's books, led to a much needed renovation of the downtown Detroit convention center, generated much needed revenue for the region, helped ensure that the annual North American International Auto Show would remain in Detroit, and helped foster much needed goodwill and cooperation between Detroit and the rest of southeastern Michigan. Instead of backing the deal as she originally did, Ms. Tinsley-Talabi fell in with fellow City Council hell raisers Barbara-Rose Collins, Martha Reeves, JoAnn Watson and the Motor City's own personal Devil, Monica Conyers in killing the deal. The reason? They wanted to protect Cobo from the "white devils" who want to take over Detroit.

Throwing away three years of hard work trying to develop the region in the stroke of a pen? If that's not pure hell, then I don't know what is. Making the city look like a national joke? Again? Over a yellow eyed billboard? That's so insane it's demonic.

Here's hoping our current mayor will veto the council's actions, sending their backwards thinking back to the hell to which it belongs. Some folks fear the Devil. Here in Detroit, we have at least five devils to fear. That's pure evil.

More later, after I say to hell with the kettlebell and get me a cruller from Dunkin' Donuts. Outside of Detroit of course, because while America runs on Dunkin', Detroiter have to run across Eight Mile - there are no Dunkin' Donuts stores in the city. What kind of hell is that?