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March 6, 2017

Et tu, Seuss???

For some background, see this piece on the racist cartoons of a young Dr Seuss.

Seuss Race

This is where redemptive stories get tricky. I watched The Shack last night, which has as a major story line, forgiveness (in this case without any real redemption).

Some of Seuss’s later children’s books have fantastic messages running completely counter to what was clearly his head-space early in his career (there is an argument for an amount redemption here – I’m not taking a side on it, just acknowledging it is there).

In The Shack, we are supposed to forgive a child murderer and move on; however, I’m not sure how to do that here. Do you condemn the entirety of the man for his early actions? Do you separate the man from his – decidedly disparate – message(s)? The adult from youth? The cultural context of an era from a moral and ethical true north that is itself a social construct?

I’ve spent hours spinning the tales of The Lorax and Horton to my children as examples of “who to be”… now I’m faced with the creator of those upstanding examples being (at times) reprehensible.

I’m seldom at a loss for a solid decisive path on issues, but have to admit, I am a bit torn on this one. Which, I think, is ultimately a good thing. “Good” and “evil” are certainly subjective concepts, relative to the lens of the person perceiving the action. This will lead to more (probably really good, because they are older now and have so much to add themselves) conversations with my kids. We’ll talk about “early-Seuss”, and how he effects the messages and lessons from “later-Seuss,” why this matters and how to apply it to our lives.

I’m sad to see a childhood icon fall, to whatever degree, from grace; however, I’m excited about the potential growth that fall might bring.

Maybe I’ll even have something more concrete to write about after that’s all said and done………………

February 25, 2017

To Be An American Citizen…

(reposted from facebook, the text below this box is exactly the same as the text within it)

I imagine there is a certain, simple, satisfaction in not actually having an argument or an awareness of facts; but rather simply blurting out the first thing that comes to your mind, or the most recent thing you’ve heard.

I cannot fathom putting partisan orthodoxy or talking points above intellect, logic or reason. However, I watch people (intelligent people) from both (all) sides of the political spectrum do it every single day.

It seems “having an answer” (or, in most cases, simply a retort) is all that matters. Validating that it’s a reasonable response often isn’t part of the equation.

As listeners, more and more, we passively ignore (therefore tacitly accepting) this behavior; failing to engage in conflict with conjecture, thereby further weakening the resolve of reality.

what is an american

A government “of the people, by the people, for the people” requires an educated and engaged populous. Democracy does not (cannot) support a race to ignorance. Thomas Jefferson, when addressing the need for a literate electorate, said that – given the choice between a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government – “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

If you favor our form of government, our freedoms, our open marketplaces then the time is now to fortify the failing foundations of that framework. Put away your partisan talking points, your canned retorts, and your simplistic meme’s, and actively engage others who don’t do the same.

Living as an American in the United States was, by design, intended to be advanced citizenry; not for the lazy or feint of heart.

No matter how comforting or safe it may feel, you simply cannot be ambivalent and a patriotic citizen of this country at the same time. They are mutually exclusive conditions. The question is, which one are you going to be?

May 21, 2015

With all Due Respect to Maya Angelou (and Mark Twain)

I love Maya Angelou, I don’t know if I’ve ever had an office that didn’t contain at least one book or collection of hers… this one is on my office bookshelf right now:

However, multiple times a week (sometimes a day, depending on how much free time I am wasting) I’ll see the following on Facebook or Pinterest or somewhere else:

Now, I get where she (and he, before her) is/was going with this. And, on an individual basis – complete with a healthy dose of proper context – I guess I wouldn’t even put up much of a fight about it. However, taken against a more general canvas I think I struggle with the potential message.

Here’s the thing, my entire bio on Twitter (and other places as well) consists of this “what you think of me is none of my business.” Now while that may seem a bit egotistical or something, I assure that is not where it is coming from. The point, simply is that my character, my self-confidence, and (most importantly for this discussion) my actions are not guided by someone else and their opinions… especially of me.

If I’m going to give (whether it is money, time, advice or something else) to someone in need what I’m not going to to is pre-screen that gift against what that person thinks of me… that is completely irrelevant to their need, which is what I’m (at least theoretically) addressing by my actions.

This thought process goes beyond giving. In my everyday life I don’t make decisions about what I think about people based on my perceived notion of how they view me. For starters, how fleeting would my opinions of people be in that instance; reevaluating them each time they had an emotional reaction to something I did?

There are people in my life that I view as priorities who I know for a fact do not view me as such. Some view me as options… some probably view me far worse than that. I don’t care, it has nothing to do with my feelings, respect, or prioritization of them. And frankly, if it did – and I was honest with myself – I’m pretty sure I’d find that petty and small of me. I’m pretty sure most parents have experienced the priority/option paradox with their children, and I doubt any of them are willing to throw out the (mostly grown) baby with the metaphorical bathwater.

So, as much as I revere and respect Maya (and perhaps even Mark.. although I certainly don’t have as “close” a relationship with him as I do her), I have to part ways on this notion. I get the “don’t be trampled upon” idea, but when taken generally I think the bad outweighs the good on this one. You can avoid being trampled on because of a slogan, or you can avoid it because of an inner strength and confidence garnered by setting your own compass, cutting your own jib, and being true to yourself and your feelings. If I were in the business of giving advice, I’d point people toward the latter option…

April 30, 2015

The continuing downward spiral of our standards for greatness…

I’m still (quite) bothered by the moniker of “mother of the year” attributed to the woman who used violence to express her disapproval of her son participating in a violent protest. Not necessarily bothered by her, mind you… that’s her family and her business, I’ve not walked a foot in her shoes, let alone a mile. My issue is with the media and their inability to see the problem with sending that message.

There are so many points of failure there. What would the conversation be if it had been his father rather than his mother beating him up over his protesting actions? Play that one out in your mind. I suspect that at best it would be ignored, alternately it might appear as one of many clips of “black on black violence” running rampant on the streets, further evidence of what is wrong with “them.” Two parents, same action, yet completely different responses… why? Are we celebrating her inability to be violently effective?

What of the mothers who children stayed home and read, or did homework, or went down the next day and cleaned up after the looters and vandals. If this woman was mother of the year… what are they? How about the mothers of the peaceful protesters that never turned to looting or violence, but exercised their right (some would say responsibility) as citizens to assemble. What did the parents of these men – who stood with the police, against the violence and criminal activities going on around them – do wrong to be considered also-rans for the coveted media “mother of the year” award?

I’ve wanted to physically interact with my children before… never done it, but I’ve “wanted to.” I’ve been frustrated by my interactions with them or my inability to make them understand something to the point that I felt the urge to “knock some sense into them.” So I get where Ms Graham was coming from, she did what many parents would want to do in that situation. I just think that sometimes there is a difference between doing what you want to do vs. what you should do, and far too often we seem to validate and even elevate folks for doing the former as opposed to the latter… probably because we can relate to their state of mind while they are doing it.

Maybe part of the problem we are having is that people doing the right thing, regularly and consistently, just isn’t newsworthy to us. Maybe we just aren’t inspired by lives well lived. Absent drama, those lives don’t feed into our more base desires or satisfy our need for some sort of action. When I’m angry or upset about looting, it’s easy for me to get motivated by a woman taking her rioting son out behind the metaphorical woodshed… it’s exactly what I want to do to her son (and all the other son’s of all the other mothers out there hurting people and damaging property).

But… that doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t make it constructive, and I don’t think it makes you mother of the year.

April 27, 2015

Floyd Mayweather is my “Existential Crisis” (TM)

It’s not easy (metaphorically or literally) to stick a knife in your own back… but that’s kind of what I’m doing here. At least I’m doing it with eyes wide open I guess. Because, try as I might, I can’t root for Manny Pacquiao in the upcoming “fight of the century” (all 15 years of it).

Let me clarify, every time I sit down and think it through, intellectually, I’m all in for Manny. it’s an easy decision that I am unwavering on. However, and by contrast, every time I get into an emotional discussion or get hit with my “first gut instinct” for some ridiculous reason, I find myself compelled to root for Mayweather.

It. Is. Infuriating!!!

In case you are not up on boxing and it’s “celebrities,” I’ll let you know why this conundrum exists (for me). Floyd Mayweather is a dick (and I say that with full knowledge that if we ever met in a dark alley… I’m the one not coming out in one piece) who has been convicted of violent crimes (including domestic violence charges multiple times) five times. Manny Pacquiao… well… one time he got his assets frozen for tax evasion… for like a day… until he proved he paid them and all was returned to normal. Other than that, by all reports he’s a stand-up guy as far as I know (including serving as a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippines.

Why?????????

It goes against everything I believe in, everything I preach, everything I believe I am. I’ve ranted about Brock Lesnar and his idiotic “go home and lay on my wife” blurt-o-neanderthal; Ray Rice and the cold awful reality of a man who can stand over his fiancee like that after knocking her out… and so on and so forth. But I just can’t get my inner compass moving away from Mayweather… and I don’t know why.

Except, maybe I do. Maybe it’s because, somewhere inside me I’m a little more “human” than I’d like to believe. Floyd “Money” Mayweather, should he win this fight (not so much should he lose), will go down as one of the all-time greatest boxers in history. His style is a manifestation of everything I try to coach (and emulate) in my sporting life (specifically the importance of mechanics, discipline, defense over offense, technique, etc. etc. etc. … in short fundamentals). And I think in some subconscious way, I want to be a(n ancillary, to be sure) part of that history.

It’s kind of embarrassing if it’s true because it’s something I try to steel myself against. Worse though, it’s scary. If I can’t control my emotions on an issue this obviously in my wheelhouse, what else am I reacting to (without the benefit of intellectual review) and acting upon. I like to think of myself as measured, and (at the risk of sounding braggartly) “good.” By that I mean I try to do the right thing when presented with “good” and “bad” options. But, in this case (at least out of the gate), I’m clearly not… and that vexes me.

I suppose I should be a little pleased that a window for potential personal growth has opened up, and perhaps over time I will be. But for now I’m busy being terrified at the monster that appears to dwell within me. It’s not a full-fledged “chill-while-the-elevator-descends-with-my-knocked-out-girl-friend-lying-at-my-feet” dark overlord of a monster… but it’s not a cute little minion either.

minion

I think most people have existential crisis’s (crisisi??) because they don’t feel like they belong to anything… for most of my life (when) I’ve had them (it’s been) because I felt like I did, and it wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of. Floyd “Money” Mayweather (completely absent of intent, of course) seems to be keeping that streak in tact for me. I react, therefore I am… but I also think and, as such, might not be. or something like that.

I’m certainly not going to watch the fight (and put money into the pocket of a serial domestic violence offender), but I suspect I’ll check out the results (maybe even follow the progress of the fight online) just to figure out who wins the battle-for-Soren’s-soul, and whether, ultimately, I “am,” or “am not” …

April 1, 2015

This is how you do it…

On June 17th, the Oakland A’s are having a “pride night” promotion in conjunction with their baseball game. Honestly, other than perhaps paying tribute and tossing a little respect on the LGBT community, I’m not sure what the evening will consist of, and frankly I don’t care. What I care about is that they are doing it (and that they have a “scout day” and a “superhero fireworks” day and a “Korean Heritage” day and a “faith and family” day and a “Jewish heritage” day… and, and, and, and. and…). But even all of that caring was not enough to get me to write about it (cause, let’s be honest, sports team do this kind of thing all the time… it’s good for business, it’s good for the community… it’s just kind of good).

What brings us to this little ditty, friends, is the pushback against “pride night” from the less than illustrious corners of the internet, and one woman’s ridiculously perfect response to it. Enter Eireann Dolan, who’s other claim to fame you’ll have to look up yourself if you are curious… as far as I’m concerned she is admirable for who she is and what she does. Instead of ranting against the beliefs/morals/ethics/whatever of those protesting “pride night” (despite having two moms who she calls – and I’m quoting her here – “super gay”) she instead showed empathy toward the position of those protesters and offered to purchase their season tickets for that game in order to donate them to folks who will truly appreciate the event but might otherwise be unable to attend.

Again, to be clear, what really resonates here is the high ground on which Miss Dolan has chosen to set up shop. No judgement, no vitriol, no negativity at all… just acceptance and cooperation. In an era where we use the word hero a lot, often without much of a vetting process for whom we bestow the designation, I’d like to take a moment today and ponder the “noble qualities” component of the definition of the word:

I think we overgeneralize the term hero these days, confining its usage to those demonstrating courage (i.e. servicemen and women) or superior abilities in a particular venue (i.e. professional athletes). While I’m not here to question those designations, I would like to perhaps engender a little more interest in the nobility piece. It is particularly easy these days to enter into (most often disrespectful) conflict with someone you disagree with. I actually found myself inclined to engage in a flame war on Miss Dolan’s blog with a comment I felt was not only inappropriate, but (IMHO) wrong. However, fortunately for everyone involved, I had her example to follow and I took a different tack.

The idea of honorable – and by extension, exemplary – behavior as being heroic seems to have been depreciated over the years; but the example I want to (and in fact did) follow today, the example I would want my children to learn from and follow did not come from someone in uniform. It came from a caring, compassionate, and creative person who took the time to find a solution rather than pick a fight.

To me that makes Miss Dolan a hero (and by that, I do not mean a submarine sandwich).

June 4, 2013

There she is… She’s Miss how-you-have-to-look-to-be-acceptable…

Filed under: Conversations,Observations,Values — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 11:45 pm

This post might seem a touch self-contradictory at best and outright hypocritical at worst… it’s probably a bit of both in reality. Yesterday I saluted a friend for an outstanding blog post on the ills (well, one specific ill, to be fair) of beauty pageants. Today I was called on the carpet by an old friend for doing so. Now, in front of you… I’m going to investigate that. I’m not sure where this is going to end up, because I haven’t really thought much about it… I just opened the “new post” dialog box and started typing…

Let me start by saying I still completely agree with Jeanne’s stance and actions and my subsequent words about them yesterday.

bsuits

The background:

The link (to her piece): http://idahobusinessreview.com/2013/06/03/a-judgment-call/

My comment on her Facebook page:

My Comment on my share of her piece on my Facebook wall:

Needless to say I was supportive… and again, I remain so…

But then I got an email from an old college friend… an excerpt:

Have you really changed this much, or are you pandering? To be blunt, we spent hours talking about physical attraction in school and one of your main tenants was always that beauty should be equal in stature to other qualities you might evaluate about another person – SO LONG AS – it was given equal weight with all of the other qualities of the woman. This seems to be the model in these pageants, so what gives? What has changed? Why are “intelligence,” “sense of humor,” or “compassion” (etc.) valid qualities yet “how well someone takes care of themselves” is not?

I’ll start by pointing out what is missing from her email… context. Our discussions centered on dating. Specifically, selecting a single person out of the myriad of potential companions in whom one would invest their relationship equity (AKA time). Within that context, I probably hold the same beliefs that I held back then (again, I haven’t given it much thought… I just read her words and started typing). I have long held that 1. it is wrong to judge someone solely based on their looks, body, or other physical attributes and b. that is is also wrong to ignore physical attraction when selecting a potential mate or life partner. I do believe that violating either of these (lets call them) “principles” almost completely precludes success in long-term relationships.

I’m going to assume everyone understands why physical attraction is important to the coupling process, and move on to the meat of the subject (if you are unclear, or think others might be… there is a comments area below… ask and you shall receive).

While physical attributes in a one to one relationship go beyond “fair” and move more toward “critical” in making one’s choices, that does not mean that they should be a key component in a societal view of a particular gender (or any other group of people). What it does (among other things, some of which I intend to talk about some I do not) is detract from peoples ability to find the best match for them. When we, as a society, define the perfect waist, chest, arm, or thigh size; we deprecate the ability of individuals to make decisions on what they personally find attractive. It creates an artificially high weight on the attractiveness factor based on the knowledge of what public opinion is.

In other words, if you know 90% of people like cool-aide and you are selecting a drink, there is a decent chance you will select cool-aide even if you prefer water simply to avoid dealing with comments regarding your choice. If you don’t believe me… order a water the next time you and the guys (I assume it is the same for girls… but I can’t say for sure) go out for a drink and see what happens. There will be comments… I assure you. For many, this is enough pressure to lead them to have a beer or a glass of wine they don’t really want resulting in an evening that isn’t as rewarding as it could have been.

This pressure is over a drink… now imagine how much greater is to for selecting your life partner. Someone you will introduce to your parents, your friends, your co-workers etc. If you KNOW someone you might otherwise like does not measure up to the image society has given you for a successful “hunt” how is that going to effect your actions?

Ignored (but not forgotten) so far in my ramblings is the effect on the folks on the other side of the equation… the ones trying to fit into that norm so that they will be considered attractive. I’ll let a few numbers talk to this point:

  • Of female students surveyed on a typical college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys nationwide use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives
  • The mortality rate associated with Anorexia Nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain or expand on those numbers and what they mean to both individuals and society on the whole. When society establishes a norm and exerts pressure on people to comply with that norm, the health of that society (and the individuals within it) suffers… the end.

Which brings me back to Jeanne’s piece. Pageants are not deciding, in a one-to-one-life-partner way, what is attractive for an individual. Rather, they are setting a standard for an entire society; and it is in this that they are wrong. One of the comments on her article reads:

Another read:

As I read these I couldn’t help but think about a radio interview I had recently heard about a woman who spent time in jail (for civil disobedience in protest of something… can’t remember what right now). The shows host asked her why she didn’t just pay the fine and avoid jail time and she responded that’s what the big corporations that she was protesting did. They built the fines for their unethical actions into their business model and treated them as just another cost of doing business; “right and wrong” were replaced by “profit and loss” as their guiding principle or moral compass. In her view, if it was wrong for them, it was wrong for her as well and so she didn’t just write a check to excuse her behavior, she paid the full price of incarceration.

But enough about other people, what about me.

Have I changed my views? Am I pandering? … No, I don’t think so.

I still believe that when an individual is finding their life partner all things should be considered (including attractiveness). I have a proclivity toward brunettes (sorry blondes… it’s nothing personal)… for whatever reason they simply trip a trigger in me that blondes don’t. As such I tended to gravitate that way when I was dating. Since I (typically, this piece being a bit of an exception) do not advocate or even share that preference, I do not feel badly about it effecting my personal choices.

Pageants do something different, however. They pit one (toned, fit and usually slight) body against another, in a contest to see who’s body is the best. It’s this public judging of one against the other than helps to establish, enhance, and uphold a cultural “norm” that our society – as a whole – embraces… with some pretty awful results.

I think, as Jeanne points out in her piece, it is wonderful what the Miss X pageants do in the way of community service efforts. For me though, it’s just not enough to offset the damage that being a standard bearer for what is and is not “attractive” in society causes. As Jeanne adroitly points out, with a few tweaks, this could probably work for everyone. However, if I am to blunt – as my friend was with me – as long as there are women parading around in bikini’s and high heals in front of other people judging them on how they look… all of that charitable giving just smacks of “blood money” and the ends simply don’t justify the means…

August 1, 2012

Judges got talent…

Filed under: Music,Observations,Values — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 11:51 pm

I will apologize in advance – you are going to have to leave this site and go to Youtube to see this video because they have disabled embedding in all of the (quality) versions I could find. But, make sure you go… now… its worth it.

Rolling in the Deep – Marnia Dalmas

Actually wait…

Before you go, pay close attention to the following points in the video 0:35 (same thing at 0:37 and 0:41) and then at 0:44. In particular… watch what the judge is doing at these points. This is, in my opinion, fantastic.

Okay… now go :)

Rolling in the Deep – Marnia Dalmas

Marnia

Now, as my regular readers (I say that like I still write regularly :( ) know, I don’t really watch tv. Moreover, I NEVER watch reality tv including “X’s got talent” etc. so all of my knowledge about these shows comes from stories my kids have told me and clips I have watched on YouTube. However, what I know is that I have never seen a US (or British) judge go to that much effort to help an artist during a performance.

This is, in my opinion, exactly how these shows should go. I have no need or desire for Simon and his sophomoric derision (if I wanted to see children behaving badly, I’d watch Tosh.0); however if this is what I got on a regular basis, I just might start watching.

Enjoy Marina Dalmas… she certainly has talent (especially while belting out the chorus). But while you are doing it… relish Gilbert Rozon… in this day and age class is often considerably harder to find than raw talent.

February 27, 2012

Time well spent?

I often think that dedicating ones time to eradicating propaganda might be a more productive undertaking than the fight against hunger, homelessness, or the pursuit of world peace. In fact, the former might just be the most effective method for hastening the realization of the latter causes.

propaganda

If we could get beyond who’s fault the situation is, and focus – instead – on the situation in need of repair; it seems to me that we would become infinitely more capable of fixing what ails us.

So here’s a thought… spend a week (longer if you wind up enjoying it… or finding it productive… or both) finding no fault in others. Feel free to recognize situations that need remedy, and certainly feel empowered to work toward resolving them. However, do not seek the cause (other than to assist with the solution, of course), do not seek to blame, do not seek accountability. Don’t even seek a learning/teaching opportunity (other than the example you set by working to rectify the situation). After all, if a situation is bad enough enough to solicit blame, there is probably something more important to do anyway (i.e. fixing it).

August 17, 2011

Think. Then speak.

Filed under: Observations,Values — Tags: , , — sbj @ 5:34 pm

remove all doubt

Last night, while browsing my facebook feed before bed I saw the following post from a friend that cracked me up:

Arugula is the Muhammad Ali of lettuce.

Everything was good until I saw the following response:

does that mean it wont fight for its country but it will for money?

To which I quickly retorted:

Interesting interpretnation of “its country” I don’t recall Muhammad Ali’s country being attacked…guess I better bone up on my history…

I’m not going to address the response to that for several reasons, the most significant of which is this: his reply would not have existed had I followed one of the foundational tenets of the value system I have tried to instill in my children since they were born, in three words: “Think. Then speak.”

Had I taken responsibility for my actions before running my mouth (fingers?), I would not have elicited a response laden with personal attacks and non-veiled (but somewhat amusing) threats. The fact of the matter is, I would not have elicited a response at all.

Now, before I go to far down this road, and as an aside, I stand by the intent of my comment. I do not believe it is okay to run someone down behind their back (especially years after the fact, with a false accusation on the side). Further, if you are willing to make fun of someone behind their back, you really shouldn’t be all bent if someone makes fun of you to your face. What that commentor posted, was, in my opinion, wrong on numerous fronts and standing by idly letting it go is tantamount to endorsing it, in my opinion, and not something that would be easy for me to do under any circumstances.

However, my sarcasm wasn’t necessary, and picking a fight on a friends wall is certainly inappropriate under any circumstances. I know these things, but, in failing to think before I spoke; the filter, intrinsic within that knowledge, never had a chance to vet my words. As a result… in short… I was an ass.

It’s such a simple rule, really, “Think. Then speak.” But sometimes, being human, it is hard to do.

I have apologized to my friend (publicly on his wall), and extend the same apology here in case he is reading. The remaining task is to decide if there is a family values learning experience here for the boys or if this story of a parental slip-up is best left untold…

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