Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My new (superficial) fascination: preppy clothes

I'm what I would consider a sloppy prep or a half-assed prep. I love tartans, sweaters, oxfords, ties, sport coats and khakis. I don't dress up (suits) much except occasionally where work requires. But I like wearing pseudo-preppy clothes around the house or in town. I generally dress the look down with jeans. Up top, I look preppy. On the bottom, I'm pretty laid back.

In my search for great plaid coats and such, I've stumbled across some interesting websites. This one, Wasp 101, is another blogger site. It's got some cool stuff on it. Check it out for yourself.

Look, fashion isn't important. I don't pretend that how I look matters in the grand scheme of things. I try not to take too much pride in shallow things like looks or appearance. But I like to show myself in a way that matches how I view the world. I'm a traditionalist, and I think the way I dress reflects a modern traditionalism. Again, it doesn't matter. I have nothing to prove to the world, but it feels good to when the outside expresses what's inside, if that makes any sense.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You can always let 'em keep it

I often wonder why people that are strongly in favor of governmental programs and increasing taxes take tax deductions themselves, especially wealthy Hollywood-type liberals. If you want well-funded government programs, why shelter so much money? In fact, why take deductions at all? You could just let the federal government keep your money.

This is less true for middle or working class folks. They can least afford to pay taxes. But they'll never have the power to make the rich pay their share.

Well-behaved women

Women who have "Well-behaved women seldom make history" bumper stickers, seldom make history.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thank you

Thank you for being a father when, although I believed I was long past needing one, I needed one as much as ever!
Thanks for sharing your heart with me. Sometimes even the student wants to know that the mentor is human.
Thanks for genuinely caring. You could have just pretended you do. Actually, you would have been wiser to do everything by the book; safer for all concerned. You never let "the rules" get in the way of real love and concern.
Thank you for allowing me to share some of your burdens. Lord knows that you shared plenty of mine.
Thank you for helping me to see myself more clearly, more positively.
Thanks showing me what I have to offer others but encouraging me not to give up on myself.
Thank you for reminding me what the true meaning is of Godly redemption. It's not striving for perfection. It's the struggle and it's not given up or shying away from it.
Thanks for reminding me that it's going to OK to grieve and to miss you.
You're leaving at a time when I feel like I can least afford that. But is there ever a good time to say goodbye, to grow up or at least grow outwardly, and move on? No, endings almost always feel wrong.
I don't hold it against you, but I'm going to miss the hell out of you.
The future's so cloudly, but thanks for reminding me that when the clouds clear, it's bright on the other side.
I wish you the best. I wish you all the success and happiness you deserve. Thank you for everything. With much love, more than you can imagine, I say Godspeed as you move along the new path He has set before you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Politicians = Weiners...err...wieners

I do my damndest to avoid Hollywood and Washington sex scandals. One, we're all flawed and I feel a tad hypocritical delving into flaws of others, regardless of whether their sins differ from mine. Two, and maybe more importantly, I feel almost sick at how giddy people get over the prurient details of sex scandals like Clinton-Lewinsky, Tiger Woods - every woman on the planet, Schwarzenegger-the maid and now Weiner's wiener. I am convinced that we love to see people, especially men, mess up so we can wave our collective finger at them in judgment.

The irony of it all is that we are schizophrenic when it comes to sex. We say that anything between consenting adults is OK, but an actor picking up a prostitute or a politician sending picks of his bulging underpants are not fit to act, lead, what have you. I also notice that very little of the extreme judgmentalism we see comes from the so-called "Religious Right" or "religious fanatics." People of faith seem no more willing to attack our failed, flawed Hollywood or Washington idols than the amoral, porn-loving Average Joe or the hardcore feminist.

I've written this before in the context of Tiger Woods' troubles, but I feel I need to vent some more on the topic. We, society, make these man what they are! We put sex in their face 24-7-52. We say that sex outside of marriage is cool. We "celebrate" homosexual or other non-traditional expressions of sexuality. We buy pornography in various forms by the tens of billions of dollars a year. We sell beer by showing pretty girls in nice bathing suits. We even put women having orgasms in shampoo commercials. We dangle the fruit in front of men -- and trust me, we guys need no assistance thinking about sex -- but then all but destroy the man who eats it.

This society gets off on others' misery. Conservatives, liberals, supposed moderates, even the apolitical. We love to see a former hero brought to his knees, especially if it's over sex. We love to make the wife or girlfriend of the dumb bastard the victim. I wonder why we don't see the so-called "pervert" as the victim of our own sex-obsessed culture. I wish I knew why we like seeing these deviants writhe in pain, have to make public apologies, give up their careers and parade their supporting families out in front of cameras.

Perhaps just as bad as society's treatment of our fallen gods is the way in which politicians capitalize on these stories. Democrats and Republicans beating up on each other over the moral failings of members of their respective parties is such a turn off for me that it is one (of many) reasons I don't think I'll vote in the next election. I hate the idea that the parties feel like they can't win the debate on substantive issues, but need to gain ground by exploiting the miseries of failed men and, worst of all, their wives and kids. Thus, the title of this blog. Politicians that make these scandals the issue instead of real issues are the true wieners in my view.

American society is trash. I wish we could take it out and put on the curb.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

When cars were still fun

The last few days have been lovely outside, at least for late winter in Michigan. The sudden surge of spring is probably what caused me to dig out some Beach Boys discs to spin while out on the road.

Anyone familiar with the Beach Boys knows that they really built their careers singer about cars, beaches and girls. In the early to mid 60's, they weren't the only ones to crank out mega-hits about automobiles. Groups like Jan and Dean and Ronnie and the Daytonas capitalized on the Beach Boys' success, making hits of their own like "Little Old Lady from Pasadena" and "Little GTO." Even the Beatles got in on the game with "Drive My Car." Of course, in the 50's, rock pioneers like Chuck Berry had already turned writing songs about cars and driving into something of an art with tunes like "No Particular Place To Go."

There's a tendency to blow off songs about cars as pure fluff. What meaning could we possibly assign to a song about drag racing or cruising around in a convertible? Perhaps more than you might think.

I used to believe that pop songs from the 50's and 60's like "Little Deuce Coupe" and "409" were nothing more than money grabs. When Lennon and McCartney wanted some cash, one of them would say to the other, "Okay, let's write us a swimming pool," and they'd go write their next mega-hit. Other artists of the day weren't much different and it's easy to imagine that they wrote songs about cars for one reason alone: money. People loved those songs and bought them by the millions.

The question that raises is why did people love those songs? Was it just that those songs were catchy? Not likely. It seems to me that those songs connected to people on a genuine emotional level.

40-50 years ago, cars still captured peoples' imaginations. Those were the day of $0.25 a gallon gas, Sunday drives, cruising, drive-in movies and diners and street racing. That was the era of the hot rod. The social life of a young person (fortunate enough to own or have access to one) revolved around his car, unlike kids today whose lives revolve around their cell phones and computers. Thus, to sing about cars and driving was to sing about life.

There are no songs about cars these days, at least not in the pop world. Sure, cars get mentioned in some pop and hip-hop songs, but the car and the driving are not the focus of the song. My theory is that because cars are no longer fun.

With gas at nearly $4.00 a gallon and growing movement to "go green," people see cars as either transportation from point A to B, some sort of necessary evil or status symbols. The affluent want to be seen in their opulent automobiles. White educated middle class folks seem to go for practical, meaning safe, fuel efficient, reliable...but not fun.

There seems to be guilt associated with vehicle ownership for Gen X'ers on down. If you drive too much, you're either destroying the planet or you're spending on gas and maintenance money with which you can't afford to part.

If there's any pleasure in driving, it comes from being in a nice looking ride. To some, cars are just huge gas-powered pieces of bling. Think of the favorite luxury item you own. You might love it. You might love displaying. You might beam with pride when you wear it. I'd put money on you not describing it as "fun." If anything, you might be uptight about it. "What if it gets stolen or broken? What would I do?" you probably think to yourself everytime you pull it out.

There's no going back at this point. Resources are only getting tighter. Gas will only get more expensive. Alternative fuel vehicles will never be the center of your social life. They'll never be fun, largely because no one wants them to be fun.

Here's to a by-gone era.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Parallel Lives": Racism behind the NFHA Diversification push

This is downright offensive, and I'm not one that gets my underwear in a bunch very easily over racial stuff. OK, maybe I am sensitive to racial issues. Usually, though, I don't feel this level of offense. This time, though, it's different.
The new National Fair Housing Alliance radio ads pushing neighborhood diversity essentially say that all white people look, act and think a like and you can learn nothing from living with a bunch of other white folks. That much is stated explicitly in the ads. Also explicit is the notion that living next to people of different backgrounds will make the lives of you and your children "richer." Of course, that assumes that such people actually have something of interest to offer. They must have some sense of culture to share. If' they're a bunch of Jerry Springer watching mouth breathers, I wouldn't expect to learn much from them.
What's similarly implied is that white people have little or nothing to offer our society. Communities can only experience true growth and vitality by getting a little piece of this and a little bit of that from various folks in the melting pot. The evidence for this is never stated. Granted, we're talking radio ads, not scholarly treatises. But I suspect there's no real data that proves "people of color" to be any better contributors to their communities than plain boring-ass old whities.

You can hear the ad I heard this morning at this link

I've seen this stuff from many angles, despite the fact that I'm just a generic white guy. I grew up in an all white neighborhood, but I was raised by a Puerto Rican father with dark skin. Some -- very little -- Spanish was spoken in the house, we observed a few customs on occasion and ate our fair share of Puerto Rican dishes. I had to deal with racial comments directed at home because of his accent or the color of his skin. Blacks, Arabs, Hispanics or other so-called "people of color" would not have been welcome, at least not by some.

I also spent a considerable amount of time in my grandmother's neighborhood in Detroit. By the late 70's, a neighborhood that had been all white in the 1960's, was almost entirely black. The 3 remaining white families on the block clearly were not welcome to stay, at least not by some of the neighbors. There are very ugly, frightening incidences directed toward us about which I'd rather not speak at the moment. I can say, though, that while many blacks made it known they wanted Grandma out, others came to my rescue when I'd get picked on by neighborhood bullies.

That is to say nothing of my experiences living in a college community or in the two places I've lived as an adult. Every where I've lived has had a different feel to it. No two places have been alike.

Alot of that is somewhat beside the point. Ultimately, trying to get to why I'm bothered by this radio ad and the National Fair Housing Alliance. Besides the radio ad's blatant anti-white racism, I'm teed off by the lie that people that "look alike," meaning have the same skin color, must be alike. In the all white neighborhood in which I grew up, no two families were a like in anything other than skin color. Some went to church. Many did not. Many rooted for the Detroit Lions. Some rooted for other teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers. Some were alcoholics. Some were teetotalers. Some were educated (meaning they had college degrees) but most others were lucky to have graduated from high school. Many could fix cars. Some wouldn't even bother trying. Some ate traditional dishes past down to them by their parents or grandparents. Others lived on McDonalds and Little Caesar's pizza. We didn't even speak a like. Because more than a few families were descendants of transplants from the south, some kids even in my generation talked a little like "hillbillies." Some even said, quite amusingly, "I'm part hillbilly" when sharing their ethnic background. You get the idea.

The same was true for my grandmother's mostly black neighborhood in Detroit. We didn't know the neighbors as well, personally, but we saw how they related to us. Some were quiet and kept to themselves. Some were "decent church-going folk." Others were troublemakers and bullies. Some came to my defense, protected me. Others bullied and intimidated me. The neighborhood was a bad place to be, but that wasn't because everyone was the same. They just weren't.

In that case, contrary to what the National Fair Housing Alliance would tell you, diversity was actually a divisive thing. There were three white families, one Mexican family and a Chinese-owned business on the corner of the block. When people didn't get along, that was usually triggered by someone in the neighborhood wanting to rid the area of the remaining white families. There was resentment expressed toward the chinese business owners. Not surprisingly, that business left the city maybe 30 years ago.

I had rich experiences growing up, but not because I was exposed to all the cutesy little things some would have you believe comes with diversification. I saw the ugly, hateful side of it. You know what I learned? Some people make lousy neighbors, others make good ones. Color doesn't seem to be a factor. I also learned that people kind of prefer to live with their own kind, so to speak. That's not because every single one of them is a clone of the other, but because commonality creates a comfort zone. I know that's changing, and that's probably a good thing. But it shouldn't change based on a lie. It shouldn't change by telling people, "Hey, you should live with people of color because white folks are all the same and you can't have a 'rich life' living with them."

If you want to live in a mixed neighborhood, do it! There are positives. If you don't want to for whatever reason, don't do it. You'll learn plenty from whomever it is that you live around and deal with on a daily basis, regardless of skin color.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Karma's a Bitch

Tim Keller's book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism addresses the overlapping issues of God as a judge vs a God of love and how a "loving God" could send people to Hell. He essentially says that the notion of a wrathful, judging God who could condemn people to an eternity in Hell is a huge barrier to belief in Christianity or even in the Christian God.

I do see and hear this a lot but it has never been a hang up for me. Sure, I've wondered how God could send "nice people" to Hell, people that act kinder, gentler, more lovingly than some Christians. That's always sat a little funny with me. But I also see that most people aren't as "good" as they think they are and many are downright evil. I recognize in myself enough bad that would otherwise deserve some punishment in the absence of sort of grace or mercy. I also recognize that while I might be think myself to be more "good" thand "bad," there's no handy-dandy cosmic scale I can look at to measure how much 10 lies, 4 thefts, 13 acts of lust, etc weigh against 7 holding doors open for people, saying please and thank you anytime I'm in public, telling my wife and daughter "I love you," or doing a great job at work. What's the point system on which I can rely to measure my "good" vs my "bad"?

That brings me to the next point that is stuck in my craw. People apparently are hung up that God could judge and punish people, but they have no hangups, whatsoever, about human being extracting some amount of revenge against wrongdoers. Many might no longer believe the death penalty is a just punishment, regardless of the crime or wrong. But they would see mental and emotional, perhaps even physical, torment as fair game.

More subtley yet more pervasively, westerners these days love themselves some "karma." Of course, they don't have the first clue on what Buddhists or Hindus have to say about karma, at least not with any specificity. It's a complex and varied spiritual concept and definitions vary between eastern religions. Americans like to say, "Well, it means 'what comes around goes around.'" Not exactly. Hinduistic karma's closer to the Biblical concept of sowing and reaping. However, it has to do more broadly with cosmic cause and effect:

Karma is not punishment or retribution but simply an extended expression or consequence of natural acts. Karma means "deed" or "act" and more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, that governs all life. The effects experienced are also able to be mitigated by actions and are not necessarily fated. That is to say, a particular action now is not binding to some particular, pre-determined future experience or reaction; it is not a simple, one-to-one correspondence of reward or punishment.

Karma is not fate, for humans act with free will creating their own destiny. According to the Vedas, if one sows goodness, one will reap goodness; if one sows evil, one will reap evil. Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determines our future. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate response.

If we say that post-modern Americans have gotten it partially right and that what comes around goes around -- which is a cousin belief to Christian sowing and reaping -- we must also say that they accept the idea of cosmic judgment and retribution. People in our society really love this idea. Do a google search of "karma is a bitch" (apologize if the word offends anyone) and you'll see that people revel in the idea that someone that does something bad has something coming to him/her in return, often worse than the original offense. You can get "Karma is a Bitch" bumperstickers. I have friends on Facebook that put "karma" out there whenever a villain gets what's coming to him.

Modern, supposedly rational folks have no qualms with cosmic retribution (not tied to any physical or scientifically observable force in the universe mind you, and not even clearly attributable to a someone or something who could guide it.) Yet, they can't accept the idea that God could be the agent of retribution (or reward.) Why must God only reward people (for their sins and shortcomings) but we mere mortals get to sit back and enjoy "karma" crushing our enemies' souls, destroying their lives or just plain gettin' 'em back for their bad behavior?

The truth, I believe, is that people love vengeance. They just don't want to face the fact that God could be the agent of that vengeance and such vengeance could be directed at them. Karma's for "the other guy," the one that does really bad things.