Saturday, January 3, 2009

Male, Middle Class and White...

Death To All Juice? Are you kidding? Where will it end! I can't even fathom hating juice to the degree of calling for it's total demise. Prune perhaps - but never "All Juice" - c'mon! 

So since this sign appeared at a NYC anti-Israel rally last week there's been all kinds of speculation as to whether or not the misspell was intentional to avoid arrest for breaking NY's hate crime laws. Intentional or not - the fact that anyone is holding a sign calling for death to all of any people with no real outcry is pretty amazing. I can't help believe that if you replace the bearded guy with a white, confederate flag wearing, redneck - and the word Juice with something referring to blacks or hispanics - then probably a different outcome. Perhaps also a different outcome if it's a black guy referencing whites or hispanics. It just seems odd. The line between racism and tolerance isn't only thin - I think it's imaginary. 

I hate racism talk - and I especially hate hypocracy in racism talk. The word that baffles me most is "reverse racism". Isn't that an oxy-moron? I know it's used to describe a minorities prejudice against a majority - but isn't that just racism too? Webster defines racism as a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities; that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular racial group, and is also the prejudice based on such a belief. If that's true - then shouldn't reverse racism simply be the absence of such belief? If so - then reverse racism would be a good thing and something to aspire to. But that's not the way it is. 

I'm probably a little heightened to it all from my recent trip back home. It's hard to spend a week in small town Texas without feeling its effects. A neighboring town to my parents is known for once having a sign that boasted "The blackest land (referring to the dark soil) and the whitest people." Dad and I drove to several local cemeteries one day looking at old family grave sites. Each cemetery had a smaller, less kept section - usually divided by a road, creek or ditch - that's the section where black people are buried. Most of these things are remnants of segregation - but it's amazing how embedded in the culture it still is. Actually, only a year ago signs that read "No more blacks" stood in front yards in our former Dallas suburb neighborhood. They were referring to a few black families that had moved in over the past couple of years - one being our next door neighbors and Colin's best friend. Oddly enough - the neighborhood was heavily Asian populated as well - but that was alright I suppose - just no blacks. 

But it's everywhere to some degree I suppose. Just a couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine was speculating on some day moving away from SoCal. He grew up here and is feeling more and more a minority these days. He isn't racist - hates no one - but just trying to figure it all out. He had considered Brentwood, TN. a few years ago - an upscale suburb of Nashville. I lived there for 14 years  and later sent him this picture... 

It's a beautiful statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest that greets you as you drive into Brentwood each day. Forrest was a Confederate Lieutenant from the Civil War as well as the founder of the KKK. I assured him that the inherent undercurrent of racial divide there wasn't gonna sit well with him or his family either.

Anyway - I don't have any answers - and really didn't set out to write about racism. I'm really not even that hung up on it - but do find it exhausting. And to think that it's as easy as "let's just love everyone" is stupid. It's as old as mankind and is instinctively natural to some degree - though that doesn't excuse it. I just thought the Juice sign was both funny and sad. However - all of this reminds me of a couple of my favorite things. The movie Crash is without question one of my all time favorites. It's brilliantly written and happens to subtly take a look at current day racism. I'm reminded that I'm due to watch it again. If you haven't seen it - do. But without the kids. Also one of my favorite music videos - it's from Ben Folds and is a few years old. It's just funny - a great spoof of white suburban angst. You Tube won't allow embedding it - so you'll have to click the link. There's a few bleep outs - but you'll get it. Enjoy....

Saturday, November 29, 2008

War's Over...

So yesterday I'm flying home to CA. after a week of Thanksgiving in Farmington, NM. It was a great time with Celeste's family and way too much food was consumed. We had cool temps with some rain and it was nice to feel a little bit of winter - though also nice to get back to California weather and scenery. I've never flown out of Farmington before - it's a small municipal airport serving commuter flights with puddle jumpers - a twin prop big enough to get you to Denver, Phoenix or Albuquerque without too much risk. But this time I had to fly back early to get home for church so off to Farmington I go. The beauty of a small town airport is the ability to give good service and not get caught up in all the procedures and distractions that come with the bigger ones. So I get up at 5am to get dressed and get to the airport for my 7:30 flight. As I walk in I notice there's only one little x-ray machine and it's locked up behind a glass door so I sense that something's awry already. I find someone at the ticket desk who proceeds to tell me the flight has been moved to 9:03 - seems the crew didn't get in until late the night before and are required to get their rest. That's fine - I get it - but there's only me and 5 other people on the flight. Thinking it's not too hard to get word out to those of us up and moving by 5am to go ahead and grab a cup of coffee and bagel on the way in (since there's none such at the airport - or in flight) - or maybe even a little more sleep - cause we're gonna be little late. Even the big guys communicate when there's a delay - there's only 6 people and you've known since last night. It's OK - I'm just not a morning person so am a little perturbed to begin with. The bigger deal is that I will miss my flight in Phoenix which is on Southwest. Well of course - Great Lakes Air (the puddle jumper) can't get into Southwest's system to accommodate a reschedule - so it's back to Celeste's family's house I go. I get online - make the arrangements - send an email to my ride in CA. - and back to Farmington Municipal.

This time I walk in and see that the machine is up and running - my 5 co-passengers are moving through the line - and the plane is sitting outside with the gas truck pulled up next to it. Things should be quick and easy now. But no - this is actually the part that threw me the most. I get the whole x-ray thing. It's our bureaucratic idea of how to fight terrorism. Whatever. It's a bit inconvenient but just play along - it makes us all feel better. So my shampoos, after shaves, lotions, etc. are all in their clear 3oz. bottles secured within a see through plastic bag. This all proves that I'm no terrorist. But there are still a few things in my bag that I'm concerned may cause alarm - because they could indeed inflict serious damage should I be so inclined. Well - sure enough - there was an item in question that got me pulled aside and properly dealt with. I'll give you a quick quiz and see if you can identify the illegal item in question.

1) A pair of scissors?

No - seems scissors are fine. We have no problem with you carrying on scissors.

2) How about Tweezers?

Nope - can't imagine any harm in tweezers on board.

3) Ahh - a Gillete Fusion 5 blade razor with extra blades - right?

Bring it on - no problem there.

4) OK - Cologne? Could be used as mace I suppose...

uh - uh... it's fine.

5) Toothbrush? Maybe if jabbed in an eye or an ear?

Nope - all good.

6) OK - laptop power chord - it could strangle...

Cables are OK.

But Wait! There is one item in here that's of great concern. That you would even consider boarding a plane with such an unquestionably dangerous item in tow certainly calls your very  patriotism into account. Just what do you think you're trying to pull off with this young man?!

That's right. I'm guilty as charged for trying to smuggle on a tube of Colgate Total toothpaste. I should've known that scissors, razors, tweezers, etc. were enough and should have never attempted to slide by with the likes of toothpaste. What was I thinking? Fortunately I wasn't arrested - but simply watched as the agent tossed my tube of toothpaste in the trash can and then boarded the plane with my much less dangerous items.

Which brings me to the title of this post. I'm not sure that the war on terror is actually over - but I am afraid that we've already lost!

(I lovingly dedicate this post to my good friend Bob Tone who served and fought hard for much better than this!)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Guitar Hero...

So this week I go to lunch with a guy who just moved to LA and has since found our church. He's a musician, as is his wife, so we meet for lunch and get to know each other a bit. He's just out of college from the midwest and has moved here to take his first "real" job. And this is what has me most intrigued - as he's told me he moved here to work for Guitar Hero. At the time I'm not even sure what it entails but am pretty certain it's the coolest job ever. Turns out it is. His gig is to show up every day to his desk/studio/ workstation - pick up his guitar - hit play on the playlist - and begin figuring out guitar parts to every song imaginable. Then he determines what would make this guitar part an "easy", "medium", "hard", or "expert" part to play - reduces it down to the five keys available on the game's guitar - and plays it into the computer to write the program for the game. Oh yeah - he also gets to program the lighting moves and pyro explosions for his songs. I don't know what his second "real" job will be - but after this one it's gonna suck!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rock-N-Roll Fantasy...

Everybody has one. It's what Karaoke and American Idol are made of - not to mention Guitar Hero. So I'm in Ventura at an elder's retreat - already sounds great doesn't it? We've spent the last two days in deep discussions about visions and values and strategies and bylaws blah blah blah..... Great stuff really lest I sound unenthused. But regardless - at some point enough is enough and it's time to let your hair down so to speak. At dinner last night Dave and I realize that several elders have never seen or heard of Guitar Hero - scarey I know. So we determine that tonight following our long day of church stewarding - and a great dinner - that needs to change. This isn't a group that tends to play too hard. It's typically business when we're at these things. And we're talking several lawyers, financial advisors, engineers, etc.... and mostly 50 plus - though that's not as old as it used to be. So Dave makes a run home to grab his x-box and one ups Guitar Hero with Rock Band instead. We have a projector and a large screen in the conference room - we're just missing audio. So I run to Target to buy the biggest jam box Sony makes - with full intention of exercising their return policy tomorrow - and we get it all set up. A group of very reluctant elders entered the conference room after dinner to a rock and roll stage and dimmed lights. After several minutes of uninterested comments and threats of early bedtime - little by little one would dare to take a guitar in their hand and try a few notes. Before long there was a willing bass player and slowly Dave and I would surrender our instruments to their curiosity. The first half hour or so went without vocals until finally someone stepped up to the mic to give Eye Of The Tiger a shot. By now more guys were beginning to want in and you could see the sparks of boyhood dreams ignite. For a solid two hours we had standing room only, wait your turn, School Of Rock, let me try drums, guitar, vocals, 50 plus chairman and elder board members rocking Nirvana, Talking Heads, Billy Idol, Bon Jovi, Journey, Metallica and more. It was awesome to watch the dream come alive. To hear these guys screaming monotone lyrics two octaves too low and playing what seemed more whack-a-mole than drums - but living the dream nonetheless- if only for a moment in a hotel conference room in Ventura. Finally the gig was over and we packed our gear just like any lounge band - only I'll return the PA to Target - then off to the rooms for a good night's sleep. There will be many great rock and roll dreams tonight - but none greater than the one Dave and I lived as we watched it all unfold. I think we've reached a whole new level - next time there will be video.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Poop's Just Funny....

Me - on my arse watching the Dodgers playoff game on TV. 
Colin - on his in the bathtub. 
Live action ballgame sound fills the house along with ambient water splashing and the faint sounds of a child playing in the tub. All of a sudden a yell from down the hall....

Colin: DAD!!!!
Me: (hit pause) Yeah Buddy?!
Colin: Remember the other day when we went to the pumpkin patch?!!
Me: Yeah, I remember!
Colin: Remember when I was riding on that horse and he was real?!!
Me: Yeah, I remember!
Colin: Remember when he stopped - and then that other horse peed and pooped?!!
Me: Yep - I remember!
Colin: That was SOOOO funny!!! (hysterical laughter...)
Dad: Yes it certainly was! (join in laughter...)

Colin resumes bathtub activity. I hit Play. 
Once again the sounds of baseball and bath fill the house...

I love my home!


For those counting down the days till the 60th Anniversary 25 cent burger extravaganza.... Read and weep. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are.....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sidehugs and Handshakes....

I'm a hugger - always have been. I appreciate a good hug and am always happy to give one. I grew up in a huggy house - a very long line of huggers. My dad's perhaps the biggest hugger of all. Twas always common for me to greet my friends - both male and female - with a hug. Nothing awkward, nothing sensual, just a good solid "you're my friend and I'm happy to see you..." hug. But I fear the hug's losing credence these days. Not certain if it's just not politically correct, perhaps a bit gay if the same sex, maybe sexual harassment if the opposite... not sure. But I like the hug. There are still a few people in my circle that I can count on for a good hug and I always look forward to seeing them coming my way. My wife of course is one. My son - depends. He's mostly a high five guy. Nothing wrong with the high five - but it's no hug. I think he'll come around. Curtis and Kristi... huggers. Brenda.... a great hug. Wes.... definitely a hug - and usually accompanied with the line from Tommy Boy... "brothers don't shake hands.... brothers gotta hug!" Mostly it's important to know who is and who isn't. There's not much more awkward than going in for the hug with a non-hugger. You can try to roll out for the side hug - but it's typically even more awkward by that point. And I kinda don't get the side hug - except where height or size issues prevail. But overall just seems a little impersonal and somewhat demeaning to me. It kinda says "yeah - I acknowledge your acquaintance and should probably show some form of recognition as to your presence - but I'd rather not." I almost feel that the high five beats the side hug - it's at least got enthusiasm and good contact. However - being in ministry and all - I practice the side hug often. But I like that the old folks go right in for the full frontal. They're not the least bit concerned with any new fangled political correctness - they're getting the real deal and leaving a trail of cheap perfume behind. I like that!

Then the handshake... who knows anymore. As a rule of thumb I like the traditional hand in hand handshake. It should be firm as to imply sincerity, but not so hard as to appear inconsiderate. And by all means it should require full engagement. Neither party should stop short of the skin between the thumb and index finger coming in full contact. One party squeezing the others fingers doesn't constitute a handshake. That piece of skin is there primarily for the purpose of shaking hands and should be fully utilized. The best method for insuring this is to move your hand toward the other party at a slow to medium speed - then accelerate to a fast speed as you slip your hand all the way into the clasp of theirs. Especially if you know the other party has a tendency to grab the fingers. (I learned this at church as a youth. Ray Walters, God bless him, was a finger shaker.) Just 3 or 4 moderate shakes is good. Not too vigorous. The second hand is not needed to sandwich the original two - one is sufficient. Then release in an appropriate time frame.

But anymore it's so hard to know what to anticipate. Just the old fashioned handshake now has to be followed by a series of ad ons that are just too hard to keep up with. I remember in Jr. High it was the traditional shake, followed by the thumb wrap, followed by the finger clasp. Now I'm not so sure where we're headed once we begin a shake but I'm pretty certain it'll end with a fist bump. All the in between stuff will usually just kinda die out in a sea of uncertainty - then end with the bump. Honestly, I think I prefer the side hug. Imagine if we actually greeted each other with a "holy kiss"... how politically incorrect is that?