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Archive for the ‘It Bugs Me’ Category

My Dog In The Fight…

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., no excuses, Think About It on June 22, 2015 at 7:59 pm

Ever since the tragic, criminal shooting of nine people at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, I have been holding my tongue.

When the shooter was arrested in North Carolina, I kept silent.

When it was said that he’d stated he wanted to fire the first shots in a race war, I kept silent.

When he was shown in photographs waving a Confederate “Battle Flag”, posing at Confederate history sites, burning and stepping on an American flag, and wearing a jacket with flags of pre-apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, I kept silent.

When a racist and hate-filled “manifesto” was published on the Internet, I kept silent.

Even when a board member of the National Rifle Association blamed the pastor of the church, who had served as a State Senator, for this horror by voting against a measure that would have allowed firearms in churches, day care centers, and other public places in South Carolina, I kept silent.

It wasn’t easy, but I kept silent.

But when the discussion turned to the matter of a Confederate flag flying over a war memorial in the state capitol, and how it was not being lowered to half staff, while the U.S. and State flags were, and how people were defending the “Southern Cross” flag (for so the actual name of that battle flag is, not “stars and bars”) as a symbol of Southern heritage and the valor of Confederate troops during the Civil War, that did it. I had to speak up, and put my two drachmas in.

I have spent some time researching the history and symbology of the flag in question, and the mindset of the people who venerate it as the symbol of the “Lost Cause”.

I will be answering some of the “talking points” they brought up as thoroughly as I can.

And, just in case someone questions my credentials to do so, we have recently found through a combination of DNA and genealogical research that my biological father, whom I never met (since he left before I was born), was a collateral descendant of Robert Edward Lee of Virginia, who commanded the Army of Northern Virginia for the Confederate States of America. While on my mother’s side, I am related to several known Canadian and American patriots, some of whom fought in the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, a/k/a “The Rough Riders”, in the Spanish-American War, and who volunteered in the First and Second World Wars. In fact, I lost an uncle in the Korean Conflict, about two weeks before the Treaty of Panmunjom.

So you can’t say I don’t have “a dog in this fight”; I have one on both sides.

First of all, it was NOT “The War of Northern Aggression”; the states that seceded from the Union were refusing to abide by the Constitution of the United States, and were trying to selectively “nullify” (their words) actions of the Congress as a whole that they disagreed with. Prominent among these laws were tariffs which these states saw as a threat to their ability to profit from their system of slave labor.

Here is an interesting side note to the whole business… If Eli Whitney, a Northerner, had not invented the cotton gin, the economics of cotton growing would not have been sustainable, and neither would the slave economy.

The accusations are that the Civil War was not about slavery, but the economy of the South. It was about the economics of maintaining the system of slavery that maintained the aristocracy of plantation owners.

The Confederate battle flag is being held up as a symbol of the Southern Heritage, and the valor of the fighting men who championed the cause of “state’s rights” and “state sovereignity”, and as a symbol of the gentlemanly virtues of the antebellum South.

This flag was and is a symbol, without a doubt… a symbol of slavery, of treason, and of hatred. It was a “quaint” reminder of the losing side before the 1940’s, but also used as an intimidating force to those who tried to exercise the rights they had gained from the War and the Constitutional amendments immediately following. In 1948, the “Dixiecrat” party of disaffected Southern Democrats tried to splinter the Democratic Party in a Presidential election year, unless the nominee, Harry Truman, capitulated to their pro-segregationalist ideas. The Confederate flag, as we know it (the “Battle Flag”) was one of their symbols.

The upsurge of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940’s also saw the use of the Battle Flag, the burning cross, and the lynching tree as their symbols of maintaining the “power” of white men in the South. Noted Southern politicians such as George C. Wallace of Alabama and J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (the “Dixiecrat” candidate in 1948) used the flag for their own purposes, being virulently anti-Federal interventionists, pro-segregationists, and supporters of the doctrines of “nullification”, “secession”, and even out-and-out disobedience to the laws of the land, as written by the Congress and interpreted by the Supreme Court.

And there are still those who reject the realities of the Twenty-First Century, and wish for the comfortable lies of the Nineteenth… those who believe the “Yankees” are out to “get them”, those who believe that the War never ended, and who still want to fight to establish their Utopia.

It’s unfortunate that no amount of reason will make these people see the truth. Their heads are stuck so far up their denial that even calling them Cleopatra is an understatement.


The Sincerest Form?

In activity, digital video, fault, film, It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Roughly About Films, Think About It on February 4, 2015 at 9:12 pm

Sometimes I wonder…

Television executives, whoever and whatever they are, keep throwing new series at us.  Something worked once, so they change it slightly, and put it up again.  Cop shows are popular?  See ten or twenty copies come up.  Doctor shows?  All TV is falling sick with exotic diseases.  Private eyes?  You’d think half the population had a license.

And the sad thing?  This is not new.  Sketch comedy shows were big from the late 40’s through the 70’s, with Your Show of Shows, Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle, The Jack Benny Program, carrying over from radio, Burns and Allen, Garry Moore, Red Skelton, and Carol Burnett… Westerns, once a staple of Saturday matinees in movie theaters, dominated early TV, with shows like Gunsmoke, Have Gun, Will Travel, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Wagon Train, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Rebel, Branded, Rawhide, Bonanza, High Chapparal, The Big Valley, and so many more.  Dragnet, another transplant from radio, led the police parade starting in the 1950’s, along with other shows like The Naked City, M Squad, Burke’s Law, and their private eye kin like Hawaiian Eye, Surfside Six, 77 Sunset Strip, and Checkmate,ringing the changes.

For every show I’ve mentioned above, I’m sure there are probably six or seven I’ve missed.

As I said earlier, imitation is a way of life in television… network executives want it “the same, but different“.  Series are sold, premiered, and, if they don’t get traction with an audience immediately, cancelled.  A series getting picked up for a full season’s worth of shows these days is news because of the infrequency of its occurrence.  The trade papers are full of stories of a series getting “the ax” after three episodes aired… and one was even cancelled before its first episode premiered.

Market research, focus groups, “target demographics”, the “Q” rating (a measurement of a performer’s “likeability”), and other quantifications are attempting to objectify the highly subjective field of audience taste.  These methods have been moderately successful, at best, mostly in providing the broadcast and cable networks with a means to set their advertising rates.  The highly coveted “18 to 49 male” demographic, supposedly the group that spends the most money, is the group at which most of the programming is aimed.  (No surprise.)  So, there are action-filled shows, adventure, sports, scantily clad women, and things on the order of “X-Games”, “Wipe-Out”, and “American Ninja Warrior”.

Since research is now showing that females are becoming more of a desirable audience, based on “purchasing power”, we have shows like “The Real Housewives of Wherever”, “The Bachelor/Bachelorette”, and nighttime soap operas which show both men and women in various stages of undress.  This, too, is not new; witness the 70’s and 80’s phenomena of Dallas, Dynasty, and Falcon Crest.  Today it’s Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Revenge, or True Blood.

This fractionating of the audience because of the proliferation of “new media” has also been going on since the beginning of our perceptions of media… The “legitimate theatre” begat vaudeville, which spun off burlesque… Movies arrived, silent at first, then gaining a voice and raiding theater, vaudeville, and burlesque for talent, as did its main competition, radio.  When television came into view in the 1940’s, the movies, reacting to losing some of their audience, came out with big gimmicks like stereophonic sound, Cinerama, CinemaScope, VistaVision, Techniscope, Technirama, Todd-AO, and other forms of wide-screen panorama projection… Sensurround, Dolby Stereo, THX from Lucasfilm, 5.1 and 7.1 stereo systems, and so much more became the buzzwords buzzing in our heads.

And all of this in the service of putting YOUR entertainment dollars into THEIR pockets.

And what are the net results of all this maneuvering, jockeying for position, and technical innovation?

I think one song sums it up… “500 Channels and Nothing’s On”.  In my opinion, there is precious little worth anyone’s time out there… and even with the growing trend of “rolling your own” with the now-ubiquitous portable video recording and editing equipment, which also started back at the beginning of movies with home cameras and projectors, is not a guarantee of anything worth watching.  (Think about it… the most popular things to see on the Internet are cat videos and pornography.)  The taste of audiences is a fickle thing; rapidly shifting, difficult to pin down.

It always was.

So, I still wonder…

Je me souviens…

In blogging, It Bugs Me, Just Because... on December 19, 2014 at 9:26 pm

It means, in case you’re interested, “I remember”…

The 13th of December was the 51st anniversary of the death of my grandmere.  She passed in her sleep, and I was the one who found her.  It was three days before my seventh birthday.

The 9th of December was my late mother-in-law’s 92nd birthday.  Since my wife and I married, just over 31 years ago, her mother had designated me her “bonus boy” – the child who was hers, but she didn’t give birth to.

Can’t argue with that.

The 19th of December was my wife’s baby brother’s birthday.  He would have been 54.  (He was killed before he was 17 in a particularly senseless auto accident.)

It’s been 40 years this year since I graduated high school in Baltimore.  This year, the fiftieth graduating class made it through.  An achievement to remember…

Memories, bitter, sweet, and bittersweet, all mixed together…

Something.  I don’t really have the words for it… yet.

An Oasis of Sanity (?)

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Think About It on May 13, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Is the world going crazy, or am I?

Some fundamentalist Muslim dingbat kidnaps over three hundred schoolgirls and threatens to sell them into marriages, because his interpretation of the Qu’Ran holds that women should never be allowed education…

A racist nutjob who doesn’t recognize the existence, let alone the sovereignity, of the United States tries to start a war with the Bureau of Land Management because he hasn’t been paying grazing fees for feeding his herd on Federal land for something like twenty years, and more gun-happy “right wing” nutjobs join in…

More political asshats, flying under the banner of the Republican Party, are making more and more outrageously racist, classist, sexist, and elitist remarks that get reported, and they make the “excesses” of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette seem tame…

I don’t think these people see the cognitive disconnect between what they say they believe and what they say for public consumption.

Were it not for the fact that those alleged humans are trying to dismantle the foundations of representative government here in the U.S., I’d feel more comfortable ignoring them completely.

Unfortunately for me, there is no way I can, in good conscience, ignore them and stay true to what I believe in as an American.

I do not believe that either side of the gridlock that exists has all the answers. (Truth to tell, I am becoming more convinced by the day that no one has any answers. To anything.)

Still, we continue to do the best we can with the information we have at the time. When we learn better, we can do better.

The question is, do we? In our current system, it’s “money talks, suckers walk”“Murphy’s Golden Rule: Those who have the gold make the rules”“We have the best government money can buy”

These attitudes, cynical as they may be, make it hard for me to stay a loyal, patriotic American. But I doubt I’d find it better anywhere else.

And that’s a shame.

Now would be the time for me to propose sweeping changes to our system to bring things under control… Only thing is, I got nothing.

Maybe some other clever person can come up with something… I’m dry.

And that’s a shame, too.

Topics, Topics, Who Wants The Topics?

In activity, It Bugs Me, Think About It, writing on March 19, 2014 at 9:11 pm

There have been any number of topics that have come up over the past several months. And, as a result, most so-called “opinion shapers” I’ve been coming across have been teeing them up and swinging away like they were inside a golf worm with unlimited buckets of balls.
The will to resist putting my own two farthings worth in has never been very strong… many of the other things I’ve written over the years can attest to that. It’s just that the motivation, the drive to write down my opinion just hasn’t been there for most of these topics. There hasn’t been that need that gets down in the pit of your stomach, and lays there, and burns.
Many of the above-referenced topics, which I haven’t specified, are issues I care about, and have fairly strong opinions about, but I just don’t feel the need to get up on my soapbox and orate, when others are doing it more eloquently than I feel I could.
As an example, how many times can someone call out the imbecility of the extreme right-wing conservatives and their shocking illogic without sounding like a zealot themselves? How many ignorant, education-resistant, fundamental religious bigots – and make no mistake, they are bigots – can you try to refute before you become as strident as they have been?
Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, said the following: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” In other words, we must guard against becoming the enemy we perceive.
If we, as functioning members of our society, wish to truly be honorable persons, instead of merely being perceived as such, we need to have our principles. We need to live according to these principles. We must NOT be enslaved by them… We live, we learn, we grow; so also must our principles. Living a fifty-year-old life according to the principles of a twenty-year-old isn’t necessarily going to work.
As we age, we gain a certain amount of perspective… at least, if we’re paying attention, we do. We are able to look back and see what worked in our lives, and what didn’t, and how we can learn from that. You find what works now.
And that, my dear friends, is the philosophy course for the day… Aloha. (A very handy word, by the way.)

What Is The Meaning Of Christmas? (Or Is There One?)

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Think About It on December 23, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Christmas time is almost here. (Imagine my exuberance.)
The original, religiously-based meaning of the day (the birth of the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, who would bring all mankind to salvation) has been watered down so much by our secular society that it’s almost gone. Mostly, in today’s world, it’s the culmination of a three-to-four-week feeding frenzy of consumer insanity, greed, violence, inhumane behavior to animals as well as to fellow humans, apathy, grinding poverty, depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, anger, and other “negative” aspects.
All told, this has never been my favorite time of year, for reasons I’ve expressed elsewhere and elsewhen. Celebration has never been my strong suit.
Can someone tell me what about the end of the year – call it solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever else – is good? Because, maybe because of my own lack of vision, I just don’t see it.
What would happen if there were none of the holidays at the end of the calendar year? Or, for that matter, what would happen if there were no holidays at all? No Independence Day… no Easter… no New Year’s Day… no Labor Day… no Memorial Day… no Halloween. How would stores survive? How would we keep commerce going when every day is like every other day?
Stores would have no emotional “hooks” to try and get you in and spend your money. What would happen then?
Would the feeding frenzy fade… or would it escalate to a constant, high level?
It may be an interesting experiment… but, personally, I’d rather just keep it on the Einsteinean “thought experiment” level. Things have changed enough in the last fifty years without this sort of tinkering.
Besides… could you trust the government, or the heads of major corporations, to implement this sort of policy in a manner that would be fair, equitable, and beneficial?
I didn’t think so.
So ponder… but don’t act unless you’re as sure as you can be that it’s an action that will promote the general welfare, and not just line somebody’s pocket even more.
To misquote Dickens, “God help us… every one!”

Should We Give Thanks… And For What?

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., no excuses on November 28, 2013 at 4:15 pm

  Today, as well as being the last Thursday in the month of November, the beginning of Hanukkah, and the first day this year with snow that stayed on the ground (in the Detroit area), is Thanksgiving.
  In case you weren’t aware, the initial motivation for this day of “celebration” was to share the blessings the local Native Americans gave to the Pilgrims, like a way to provide enough food to survive the winters in Massachusetts Bay Colony that upcoming winter of 1621. The Pilgrims, in turn, gave many things to the indigenous people… an object lesson in the European concept of “property ownership”, a demonstration of what even primitive matchlock muskets could do to the human body, and diseases against which the tribes had less than no natural immunity.
  Being part Odawa, as well as part French Canadian by descent, I don’t have the greatest love and respect for those original colonists. (My wife, on the other hand, is descended from two members of the original company who came on the Mayflower. That’s how it works out, sometimes.) At this remove, there is precious little I can do about the situation, except deplore that it happened, and keep reminding people of the lengths we, as humans, can go to achieve whatever ends we desire, be they for weal or woe.
  Is there a statute of limitations on saying, “I told you so”? Is reminding others of unpleasant truths a duty one must accept, or a choice one can make to carry out or not?
  The older I get, the less certain I am of anything… and the certainties of my younger days are disappearing at a frightening rate. As I learn more and more, I know less and less.
  Given my outlook on things, and the fact that I don’t much care for football (American style), it should not be much of a surprise that we don’t celebrate the holidays much, if at all.
  I haven’t done so for quite a few yearsn. My Uncle George, who was instrumental in the task of raising me and instilling a respect for working people, was the product of a generation that survuved the Great Depression, the Second World War, Korea, and the postwar world that allotted us, the Baby Boomers, the greatest lot of unearned privilege that any generation I can think of ever had. He worked for the Post Office, back when it was still a part of the Department of the Interior, for thirty years, after coming back from the war. Thanksgiving Day was, and still is, the beginning of a period in the Postal Service that bans annual leave time and authorizes forced overtime until after Christmas Day. Basically, from the end of November until the end of December, I only saw him when he came home, ate something, and went to sleep. As soon as he woke up, he would get ready for work, and be gone again, repeating this for the better part of a month. Sundays he would sleep. Our Thanksgiving dinner had to be ready by noon, since he would be going in on the midnight tour the following day.
  This never did give me a celebratory feeling at this time of year… I still don’t have much of one. The other reasons outlined above I learned later; it was this that formed my primary impressions of these end-of-year festivities.
  And don’t get me started on New Year’s Eve, or, as I call it, Amateur Night

The Seventh Month…

In blogging, It Bugs Me, Just Because... on July 25, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Many people have a “least favorite month”. I can’t say I do, but the month of July is not my most favorite one.

July starts out with promise… the 4th of July is a glorious celebration of the birthday of our country – which we would much more happily celebrate if the temperature and heat index would be out of the triple digits.

The 14th of July, in addition to being Bastille Day, is the anniversary of the death of my namesake uncle in the Korean War. (This year marked the 60th anniversary of his death.) And Kim Jong Un, the “supreme leader” of North Korea, has allowed a few Western journalists in to witness North Korea’s celebration of what they call “Victory Day”, the 27th of July. (This also is the 60th anniversary of that day, the enactment of the Treaty of Panmunjom.)
My mother-in-law, who was more of a mother to me than my own mother, died in July three years ago. My Uncle George, who raised me, died in July back in 2001. (At least he didn’t live to see the World Trade Center towers fall, the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and the assaults on our civil liberties and civil rights by the government.)
And, to top it off, the 28th of July this year is the 25th anniversary of the injury that changed my life, and, by extension, the lives of everyone I love, when I was working for the Post Awful.
I have lived with pain every day since then, from the nerve damage in my knee, from my back, from my neck, and from the other injuries I’ve sustained because my knee wouldn’t hold up the way I needed it to.
And yet, despite it all, I continue to continue… as was said in The Outlaw Josey Wales, I “endeavored to persevere”.
Such are the ways of things.

“Entertainment” Media…

In activity, It Bugs Me, Just Because..., no excuses on June 6, 2013 at 9:03 pm

From that particular wrinkle in the space-time continuum I like to call home, it’s another blog…
The latest thing on the “entertainment news” shows is following show business pregnancies. Seriously, folks… How many times can I look at Kim Kartrashian’s spawning without becoming physically ill?
{Just so you know: All photos in this entry were obtained through Google searches. I don’t own them, nor do I claim any copyright in them. I only intend their use for illustrative purposes under the “Fair Use” section of the copyright laws.}


Michael Douglas (and his publicists) are backpedaling furiously about his recent interview with the uk’s guardian about his throat cancer, and the alleged fact (I, at least, have no proof) that his cancer’s cause was human papilloma virus, or HPV. True enough was the statement that HPV-caused oral cancers are likely a result of oral sex. Whether or not that means that Michael had oral sex, and, if so, with whom, remains shrouded in mystery.


Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, has been splashed all over the media world for allegedly swallowing pills and cutting her wrist. The speculation is running rampant about how she is bullied at school, which already has a reputation for that sort of thing anyway, and how this is a “cry for help”…
Be honest, now, have you ever met a sixteen year old girl who hasn’t thought about killing herself, even if she didn’t have the want-to to try it? Let’s wake up and smell the reality, people… Money doesn’t make your life – or you – perfect. You just have to deal with it as it comes.
Paris Jackson
Look, she lost her father at the age of eleven. That’s a bad age for any girl. Now she’s in court, testifying in a family lawsuit about fixing blame – and allocating money – for that death, which is still being splashed all over the mediaverse. If her name were Paris Bouchard, and her father was nobody famous (like me), this deal wouldn’t be all over every channel, web site, or blog (like mine).
Leave the girl alone. Let her get help. Shut the up!
Meanwhile, the remaining Jackson siblings, Tito, Marlon, Larry, and Curly, recently began a tour in Morocco… where, apparently, people still are willing to pay good money to see an act whose main attraction has been dead for some time.
I was trying to come up with a joke for this, but the event is enough of a joke in itself that I couldn’t top it.
Just goes to show ya…
About the only good thing about not having cable TV is missing all these so-called “reality shows”; after all, who cares which beefcake vacuum-brain this new “bachelorette” picks? Does anyone really care about the “Real Housewives of Pacoima”? Does it matter who survives “Survivor”? And have “American I’m Dull” and “The Voiceless” finally worn out their welcome?
Yes, I’ll even go off on my favorite show, “Dancing With The Stars”… the past couple of seasons, it’s been more like “Dancing With The Supporting Players”. Len Goodman, the chief judge, must be getting plenty as a newlywed, because he’s in a much better mood; Bruno Tonioli is less comprehensible than ever when he gets excited, which is quite often, and Carrie Ann Inaba needs to get a new boyfriend, I think. Tom Bergeron keeps hosting almost everything on television, splitting it with Neil Patrick Harris, and Brooke Burke Charvet still looks damn good, despite thyroid cancer.
Did I mention how I miss Maks?
Maksim Chmerkovskiy-SGG-070350
And, while I’m at it, let me just say a few words (as few as possible, actually) about Donald Trump and “The Apprentice”.
Move away from the camera, Mr. Trump. Keep your hairpiece where we can see it. You have the right to remain silent… and we dearly wish you would.
By the way… I’m just curious. What exactly is a “Disney Star”? As in, “Disney star Zendaya”, or “Disney Star Raven”… Is there a difference of some sort from being a “Disney star” and being a regular “star”?
That’s about all I have to rant about now, I guess. I’m reasonably sure something else will be using a belt sander on my hemorrhoids soon, so stay close!

Getting Gas Gives Me Gas…

In blogging, fault, It Bugs Me, Just Because... on June 6, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Driving home from a shopping trip earlier today, it made me wonder what the gods (and the oil companies) have against Detroit. Just since the beginning of May, gas prices have gone up nearly fifty cents, and we’re well above what they tell us the "national average" is.

These are a sampling of prices taken in a seven-mile stretch of Dequindre Road, from 16 Mile Road to 9 Mile Road. Stand agog, as we did…


Thirteen Mile and Dequindre.


Nine Mile and Dequindre.


Twelve Mile and Dequindre.


Eleven Mile and Dequindre.


South of Eleven Mile on Dequindre.

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