Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Matters That Hardly Matter

Do you hear that? It is the sound of indifference. The trouble with indifference is it can blossom into aggressive apathy, a state of affairs in which one cares so little that the point about not caring gets belabored in an almost bellicose manner. So be forewarned. If the phrase "nobody cares" appears below, assume that "nobody" refers to the author.

Nobody cares what sports your kids play, except those who ask a question similar to this one: do your kids play any sports? This applies across the board to things like your child's scholastic achievements and his or her hobbies. Your children also operate on an Inverse Attractiveness Scale (IAS), meaning the more you rave about how cute they are, the less cute the rest of us perceive them to be. No guarantees here, but you might try the following tactic.

Parent: This is a picture of my daughter. Isn't she ugly?

Disinterested Co-Worker: Certainly not, she's a gorgeous child.

Nobody cares where you're having a house built, or if you're having a house built, or if you have an in ground pool, or if you just got a new car.

Nobody cares if you're no-nonsense or old school. Maybe we prefer lots of nonsense and new schools (see Rhymes, Busta). We might care (a little) how hard you had it growing up, but there's a definite law of diminishing returns. The more you yammer, the less we're moved.

Don't brag about having been to prison. Don't brag about going to a better school than someone else. If you are a fan of a particular high school or university sports team, that's fine, but don't bore us with old stories or try to make rival schools look bad; you only make yourself look more ridiculous.

Not everyone who claims to be tougher than everybody else is tougher than everybody else, based on simple mathematics. Tough, by the way, is not necessarily synonymous with mean.

Tattoos are not a particularly compelling way to express individuality. Asking someone to permanently draw an image you like on your body is an acceptable pastime, one that harms nobody except possibly--though rarely--the recipient of the artwork, but it is no more or less noble or daring than collecting stamps or crocheting. A true individual doesn't have to explain--either verbally or visually--why he or she is unique because fascinating traits will undoubtedly manifest themselves over time. It is utterly wrong to stigmatize the inked as degenerate just as it is fatuous to laud them for body art alone.

The election is over. For the most part, the people who prevailed in the last election took a pounding this time around. That means there's fluidity in the system, not an altogether bad trait even if your preferred side doesn't win all the time. Are things perfect? No, and they never will be. Politics is worthy of our interest but hardly our tears.

And that's today's truth. But, of course, nobody cares.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Have a Dog Kicking Halloween

Screamin' Jay Hawkins (born Jalacy Hawkins, Cleveland, Ohio, 1929) may have become something of a musical footnote but he's a colorful one. Best known for his rabid love ballad "I Put A Spell On You", Hawkins recorded other memorable numbers such as "Alligator Wine", "There's Something Wrong With You", "Little Demon", and "Yellow Coat", and choreographed a stage show during which he, among other things, emerged from a coffin and carried around a skull he dubbed Henry.

It is around this time of year that one generally hears Hawkins' music and perhaps learns in passing of the vast number of children he allegedly fathered, maybe fifty, maybe more. This might not seem like the eulogy Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who died in 2000, would have desired but bizarre lives lived lead to strange post-mortems.

The constant use of high-profile recording artists to perform mini-songs to promote sporting events is a bit difficult to understand. Most recently, Kid Rock can be glimpsed during the Major League Baseball Playoffs broadcast belting out a single line repeatedly when the station goes to commercial break. How does this help the ratings? Or, for that matter, hurt them? Do baseball enthusiasts who despise Kid Rock give up the sport altogether? Do Kid Rock fans who hitherto loathed baseball now embrace the game? So maybe it gets the artist some free publicity, but otherwise, who benefits? Is it worth Kid Rock's asking price?

Now that the Election is almost over, it will be a while before we get to hear candidates say things like, "While my opponent was punching 90 year old ladies in the face and stealing ice cream from little kids, I was brokering a peace deal between rival street gangs and composing a symphony."

Here's a charge worth leveling at one's opponent: dog-kicking. It could be done overtly or subtly; examples of each can be seen below.

In 2004, Mike Lobotomy deliberately and maliciously kicked a dog. This is the dog, Buster. (photograph of dog looking very sympathetic appears onscreen) Buster died the following year. Did the kicking incident traumatize Buster and send him to an early grave? This veterinarian says yes. (Source and date of quote by veterinarian appears onscreen, although actual quote is not visible)

Vote for Lefty Knucklehead and say no to dog-kicking!

Veterinarian's actual quote in response to question on whether kicking incident contributed to Buster's premature death: "Hard to say, really."

I'm Joe Vintinwhenmen and I approve this message. My dog-kicking opponent, Dame Janet Floop, voted to murder all people between the ages of 52 and 57 and a half in their beds. I did NOT support this measure (candidate was not in office at the time). I'll bring integrity and dog kindness back to whatever office it is I'm running for. Thank you.

Paid for by AADK (Americans Against Dog Kicking)

Actually, the subtle example isn't all that subtle, it's just less blatant than the first one.

Get out and vote. Or don't. But remember, if you don't vote you'll be shot. That'll teach them!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Kill It, Kid

Nobody knows why crime rates spike or recede. Law enforcement and politicians love to take credit when crime decreases and display equal passion for dodging blame when it rises. Contributory factors to crime do not necessarily cause crime, which is why trying to determine the root of criminal behavior remains a thorny and convoluted proposition.

Poverty is considered one of the leading factors associated with crime and it's certainly true that poor people are statistically more likely to resort to criminal behavior than their rich counterparts. But to cite poverty as a direct causal link to crime is, at best, dubious. Approaching matters from a more philosophical angle, it seems most likely that a person of average moral standing--neither exceptionally ethical nor utterly amoral--possesses a certain number of options he or she is willing to pursue before turning to crime. The better off financially a person is, the more options said person exhausts before crime enters the picture. But not everyone exhibits average morality, which explains why some poverty-stricken individuals never engage in illicit activity while some wealthy folks embrace larceny and violence with zeal.

The 2009 homicide total for selected cities can be seen below. As is so often the case with crime, one can detect patterns but there are no sure things. Approximate city populations--which, it should be noted, are always changing--are listed parenthetically followed by the source of the statistics. As remarkable as New York City's about face in murder over the past two decades has been, San Jose's stunningly low figure of 27 homicides in a city of over one million might be even more astounding, though it is worth noting that San Jose is more or less an affluent bedroom community in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region where other cities do indeed have high crime. Tulsa and Kansas City's relatively high numbers may also be somewhat of a surprise, while Atlanta's figures, though hardly a patch on the similar-sized Denver, represent an improvement compared to recent years and are far better than the unfortunate Baltimore.

Gary, Indiana's violent crime woes are well-known to most Midwesterners, and probably to many in general, but even that rusty enclave has witnessed a recent decline in murder. Gary's diminishing population might be seen as a contributing factor to reduced mayhem; however, it is often shrinking cities that suffer the most, as those who remain typically have with the fewest resources.

Race is another definite factor when it comes to violent crime. African-Americans kill African-Americans. A lot. Members of all races are quite capable of killing within or outside their ethnicity--Latinos kill Caucasians, Caucasians kill African-Americans, African-Americans kill Asians, and so on--but the most statistically persuasive murder trend is the oft-lamented but difficult-to-resolve black on black.

What's the problem? Fatherlessness enters the discussion a great deal, but again this is more of a contributory than causal factor. And it prompts two points that those who appear desperate to marry off African-American women come hell or high water seem eager to overlook. First, how do we know that the main problem with fatherlessness isn't simply the exacerbation of poverty? In other words, sure a good father could provide guidance and discipline, set a positive example, and serve as a strong male role model. But millions of children lacking this presence fail to turn into miscreants. Secondly, how bad is too bad? Is it better to have a lousy father or no father at all? If the father in question is violent, a career criminal, a drug user, is it preferable that he be absent? What about indifferent fathers? Cold, distant fathers? Drunk fathers? There is probably a threshold, an invisible line indicating that, generally speaking, a passive-aggressive father is superior to no father but an abusive father is worse. But since not all children react the same way to things like abuse or passive-aggressiveness, it's impossible to make a definite determination.

So what's the answer? Anyone who claims to have a single, indisputable one should probably be viewed warily.

Atlanta--80 (540,000)

Baltimore--238 (640,000)

Columbus--83 (755,000)

Denver--38 (600,000)

Fresno--42 (500,000)

Gary, IN--49 (100,000)

Houston--281 (2.2 million)

Indianapolis--101 (800,000)

Kansas City--110 (480,000)

Los Angeles--302 (3.8 million)

Milwaukee--72 (605,000)

New York City--461 (8.3 million)

Philadelphia--302 (1.5 million)

San Jose--27 (1 million)

Tulsa--70 (390,000)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Direction

There's no turning back. Individuals now use ambiguous, abstract nouns as nicknames. Sure, they called Hakeem Olajuwon "the Dream", but that rhymed and, in context, "the Dream" sounded like something undeniably upbeat, the good kind of dream.

But "the Situation"? That's what the guy wants to be called? Does he spend time with his friends "the Scenario" and "the Boondoggle"? I am not convinced this represents a winning development in the evolution of nicknames. In fact, I'm leaning the other direction. I might start asking people to call me "the Direction", which makes little sense and could be interpreted as positive or negative. I'd fit right in.

Still no response to the incantatory-like lyrics from the middle of "Der Kommissar", but then nobody reads this blog. And here's my whiny complaint: it's not that much worse than a lot of other nonsensical blogs. Do I need to promote it more gooderly? Do I need to write about different topics? And do I care whether or not it's a great blog? Sometimes I do, other times I'm indifferent. Being known as a "great blogger" is roughly tantamount to being a "great fantasy football owner". In other words, it's nothing to be ashamed of, but if you go around bragging about it, you're setting yourself up for ridicule.

On the flip side of things, you have to start somewhere. PerezHilton has achieved high levels of notoriety for his work. Is that what I aspire to? Nah, I don't really consider it my place to out closet homosexuals, although I have it on good authority that PerezHilton himself is gay.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether I want to do this as a spare-time hobby or as a means to get my writing recognized, and I have always straddled that commitment, never quite embracing either option.

Botswana President Ian Khama, heretofore a supporter of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe, now regards sanctions as a hindrance to progress. Such measures represent a blind corner, a hidden thorn bush, a hole that may contain a snake, or any other metaphor one cares to use. Usually, sanctions are issued for the right reasons but the results are rarely an unambiguous success or failure. President Khama claims progress in Zimbabwe is being made under the country's new unity government, in which ancient and entrenched President Robert Mugabe shares power with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Although I don't question the possibility that conditions in Zimbabwe are improving, I believe a great and rapid leap forward will not be witnessed until Mugabe resigns or dies.

Does that count as real news? I needed a break from talking about my writing career, or lack thereof. Time to go in a new direction.


Thursday, September 30, 2010


Is it possible people make writing errors so that certain things will stick in our minds? Today I read that a certain species of carp "can weigh up to ten pounds and is three feet long." You see the problem there. The fish's weight is variable but, if one interprets the passage precisely, the length is not, so this carp is three feet long whether it weighs one or ten pounds. That's hardly likely, so it must be a careless phrasing oversight on the part of the author. Or is it? Guess which factoid I remembered? It wasn't about the rock bass or the blue gill. I doubt this error was deliberate, but the fact remains that clumsy writing sometimes leaves a deeper impression than smooth, effortless prose.

What on Earth are they saying during the interlude of "Der Kommissar"? I refer to the version by After the Fire, not Falco's original rendition, which, sadly, is not as good as ATF's cover. Could it be "chuck"? "Chop"? Some German word? Listen to it some time. Right after the second chorus, the vocalist hisses insinuatingly, "Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?" (German for "all clear, Mr. Kommissar", but it is not, repeat not, all clear) and then an acoustic guitar kicks in and the band shouts something on every drumbeat. It sounds like a word starting with "ch", but who can tell?

Perhaps it is unfair to generalize the situation quite so starkly, but it almost appears that many Democrats are saying "no tax breaks for anybody unless the wealthy get their tax rates restored to earlier levels" and that a number of Republicans are saying "no tax breaks for anybody unless the wealthy keep theirs." Does that sound like sensible governance? For my money--and only a little of it is my money--the argument for retaining tax cuts for earners of more than $250,000 is more or less the same for letting them expire: in terms of revenue generation/deficit reduction, it isn't really all that much money.

So why does the battle seem so fierce? You know how it goes once the lines get drawn. Although some economists present the reasonable point that nobody's taxes should increase during difficult times, the exceptionally wealthy and their allies seem to have personalized the issue, claiming that, in fact, they aren't really so rich after all. That's news to the rest of us. It doesn't behoove the rich much to become whiners but it doesn't benefit the rest of us much to relentlessly castigate the rich. But which begets which? (Accidental, though not good, poetry)

For a long time, I didn't really know what the Tea Party wanted or stood for. To an even greater degree than most political groups, they seemed to offer a mish-mash of varying interests and objectives without many central ideas to unify and clarify their intentions. So you know what I figured? Maybe, I thought, they should produce a document or paper or manifesto in order to present their beliefs more clearly. Then I read the Pledge to America.

Now I think, never mind, Tea Party. Just forget it. I realize that, to some degree, Tea Party ideology, whatever that amounts to, has been integrated into the Pledge. The GOP needs at least some people from the GTP (Granulated Tea Party) to make itself viable. But basically, the Pledge was developed by Republicans intended to appeal, at least in part, to the GTP, not a GTP credo per se. Take a tip from that tripe, GTP, and forget it! You, too, Democrats. Do NOT give us anymore platitudes and grandiose statements! By the way, I could have made the "G" stand for a lot of things, but settled on "granulated". I have no good reason, just like the way it sounds.

I'm probably not the first nor will I be the last to foresee this, but it has to be written:

"Vote Rahm Emanual for Chicago Mayor"
RE: I'm Rahm Emanual and I approve this f#$%ing message.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Adult Education

Attention grown-ups (if you exist):

If it's not too much to ask, could you spell simple words correctly? U R driving me nutz with dis! It's not cute. It's not funny. And it's not that much of a timesaver.

Would you please watch sports--especially football--and have fun, but take winning or losing like an adult? I stopped caring what teams other people rooted for in high school. Your team won. Great, good for you. Your team lost. That's too bad, but the sun will still rise tomorrow morning. Don't care how drunk you got; don't care if you cried; don't care if fans of the other team upset you. Watch the game and go to bed. Idiot.

How about you stop dressing like you're cycling across a continent when you're just on your way to Walgreen's? Lose the tight black shorts and the shirt with all the stupid numbers. You don't even need the helmet that protects your head about as well as a marshmallow stuck in your hair.

May I suggest you stop pretending that certain horrible things that happen today didn't happen when you were a kid? They did happen. You name it, it happened. Child molestation, terrorism, rape, and murder are not new phenomena. It wasn't better in the old days. Trade AIDS for polio, trade identity theft for segregation, trade unemployment for... well, unemployment. You like the old days better now because you remember being young and unaware of a lot of things you are aware of these days. You can't even give people what they want without them carping.

New Parent: I just hope my kids don't have to work as hard as I did.

Seasoned Parent: Kids today don't have a good work ethic.

Isn't it time to retire the word "new" in the following context? Forty is the new thirty. Pink is the new black. The next person who uses this lingo in my presence is going to get socked right in the face, whereupon I will say, "Violence is the new peace."

Why are people pretending that "sexting" is any worse than playing doctor? You show me yours and I'll show you mine. Over the phone! So it's safer. Granted, there's also the risk of permanence since there might be photographic evidence. All the same, how can it be child pornography if it's the children who are distributing it? It's only child pornography when it's viewed by adults, who are such a rare breed that maybe the entire concept of child pornography needs to be rethought. Maybe all pornography is child pornography. You think teenagers didn't play sex games before there were cell phones? There's that denial again. If your teenager is "sexting" and you don't like it, take the brat's phone away! Will that solve the problem? Well, I don't know, it's your kid!

Is it possible to fling all of the following words or phrases onto the verbal scrapheap? "Moving on", "Closure", "Bromance", "Rocket Science", "At the end of the day", "Just Saying", "Going Forward" and all Snoop Dog vocabulary modifications that end in "izzle".

If you take care of all these things by the end of the year, I promise the economy will turn around!

Monday, September 06, 2010


Dear Mr. West,

Listen, KDub. Do you mind if I call you KDub? How about KWest? Never mind. The point is, I forgive you. There was never really much to forgive. All you did was behave foolishly in public, though not for the first time.

But it's over. You did indeed act like a "32 year old child", to quote your very own Tweet, and like a "jackass", to quote President Obama. But so what? In the general scheme of things, it hardly matters.

You still seem to be a bit of a martyr. Your apology to Taylor Swift came across as very sincere and genuine, but it was surrounded by a swamp of self-pity. For your own sake, I recommend you get yourself out of that quagmire.

But through all of it, you have a point. The reaction to celebrity misbehavior and/or controversy is almost always disproportionate. On one hand, members of the public declare "who cares what celebrities think?" and on the other they ask their co-workers "did you hear what the Dixie Chicks said about President Bush?" So what if the Dixie Chicks criticized ex-Prez GDub (not to be confused with you, KDub); those who disagree with what they say can refuse to attend their concerts or purchase their products. But the seething rage, the death threats, the umbrage? What's the point?

So Kanye West rushed the stage at an awards show and criticized a decision. Not the smartest thing to do, but life goes on. You also have a point about the "angry black man". This is one stereotype that just needs to plummet down a well and die. It's not that there aren't some people who qualify as "angry black men" or, should I say, disproportionately angry black men, but "angry black man" is too often used to dismiss anyone who says things people don't want to hear. Instead of examining what a person says and determining if his claims are valid, the knee-jerk reaction is to call someone "angry" or "bitter" or "militant" and that's the end of the discussion.

It is too bad that your rather minor errors have produced very vicious reactions by some people. However, one thing you have to bear in mind is that some of your worst moments have occurred in front of television cameras. You are a public figure. It isn't fair, I know, but I'm afraid all of us must confront inequities at one time or another, some more than others.

I think you are a sincere and earnest person. I think you are well-intentioned but often self-serving. I think you feel sorry for yourself a little too much. I think your ego ranges from inflated to flat and you find it difficult to keep balanced. On this last point, join the club because I'm right there with you. A lot of us are. Basically, you're just about like the rest of us except you're rich and famous and we're not. All I can suggest is, carry the burden of fame and fortune as best you can and make the most of the benefits.

Oh, and stop buying so much stupid nonsense, like fur pillows that are apparently hard to sleep on ( This isn't because such purchases make you a bad person. It's just that if you want to be perceived as a genuinely kindhearted man of depth and complexity, and if you want sympathy and understanding from the general public, hollow and overpriced toys are not the way to go.

You've got talent. You've got brains. The road to Hell could be paved with your good intentions--and it almost has been--so take your own advice and grow up. It probably won't be easy. There will be fits and starts, same as with the rest of us. But you can do it because you want to do it.

By the way, you almost made me care about Twitter. Almost.