Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Senior Economics

I just finished reading an article in the January/February ATLANTIC ("Choke-Proof Food" - Rene Chun) Which talks about the problems an aging population is posing for Japan.  A fourth of the country is now over 65.  By 2060 that percentage is projected to rise to 40.

This, according to Chun, does not bode well for Japan's economy.  Elderly drivers are causing more accidents.  Old folks are falling off too-fast escalators.  Chun doesn't mention it, but I can imagine what the lines in grocery stores are like with shaky codgers digging through fanny packs for valuable coupons.  And what about the rash of coughing fits at huge all-you-can-eat buffets?  It gives one pause.

But the Japanese, ever resourceful, are figuring out a way for this onslaught of seniors to turn into a cash bonanza.  Escalator companies are enjoying the rising (so to speak) need for slow speed escalators.  Self driving buses for seniors are going into mass production.  Shopping carts are being equipped with magnifying glasses.  Video arcades are installing benches and games designed to ward off dementia.  Arcade Staffers are getting certified as "service attendants."  But the biggest economic coup has to be Softia G, a nutritional therapy product from Nutri Co.  Sofia G provides the means to turn "hard" foods into pureed blobs.  With Softia G a senior can, for example, take a salmon steak, puree it in a special blender, then reshape it into a salmon steak complete with grill marks, and then wolf it down without needing someone to stand by who is expert in the Heimlich Maneuver.  This is an idea whose time has come.  Just think how much quieter it will be at The Golden Corral.

There are other products whose time has come.  I'm thinking of starting a new business (the new tax overhaul will certainly facilitate this) to fill this senior niche.  Kathie saw a special report on some Sunday morning show that highlighted a large blue plastic boot-like contraption that would enable seniors with stiff backs to put on their socks without having to bend.  Let the market do its thing and boost these blue sock thingees into an investor's dream come true.

Two way earbuds would be a godsend for a lot of the seniors I hang out with.  Set them on receive and they act as hearing aids.  Reverse them to block out unwanted noise at hipster restaurants.

Coupon organizers would be nice.  It would speed up lines at the grocery store and prevent millennials from being apoplectic as they wait in line behind some old codger.

A Geezer Alert app would be welcome.  Seniors, the ones who still remember how to work a smart phone, could simply point the camera at themselves and take a picture.  The app would supply immediate advice about that day's outfit.  Do things match?  Do you really want to wear those calf high white socks with your wingtips and shorts?  Are you making an embarrassing attempt to look younger than you are?  Such an app would go a long way toward smoothing over embarrassing social interactions.

I'm saving my best idea till last.  How about walkers that can instantly convert to shopping carts with the push of a button?  A wobbly old person might be using his walker to cruise the mall.  If he sees someone walking toward him looking sympathetically toward his sad device, he can simply press the button and Voila, he's pushing a shopping cart. "Hey, I'm not old," the old guy might say. "I'm homeless."  Think of all the humiliation that will save.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Waiting By The Stage Door

I have a recurring dream where I am in the basement holding Willa tightly while waves of radiation from an inevitable nuclear cataclysm slowly eat away at us.  In another fun dream, I am with all four of my grandgirls in the wilderness that used to be the C-470 corridor.  I am helping them, Cormac McCarthy style, find food and drink while fending off attacks of marauders transformed by nuclear devastation.  Those are my dreams lately.  I don't dream about stupid tax bills, or presidential faux pas, or frustrating Bronco games, or even about verbal fights with all the black Republicans at the Y.  I dream about protecting my grandchildren.

I don't worry about my health as much as I used to.  My children and their spouses are pretty much who they are and I couldn't be happier with them.  No bad dreams there.  And as much as I still worry about Kathie's health, I don't dream about dread cancer scenarios any more.  My grandchildren have become my primary focus, number one on my agenda.

Before Boss Tweet's election, I mentioned to a conservative friend at the Y that the environment was my main issue.  I didn't want my grandchildren growing up in a world where they would have to tread water.  Bob, my friend, said he didn't want his grandchildren growing up in a country that had an unsustainable debt.  That's why he was going to vote for Trump.  I wonder what his rationale is to the $1.5 trillion Trump and his minions are going to add to that deficit and eventually to the national debt?

Oh well, if my dream scenario comes true we won't have to worry about debts or treading water or anything anymore.  I take a perverse comfort in that.

In the meantime, I will bask in the glow emanating from my grandkids.

We saw Chris' production of "Home for the Holidays" at Lone Tree yesterday afternoon.  My twenty-three year old grandson Sage was up on stage singing bluesy versions of Christmas carols and engaging the audience with his huge voice and even huger smile.  Sammi, who had recently tripped on the stairs at her home and could barely walk, was there in the kids chorus being a trooper just like she always is.  And there was Brooklyn, who is always the only person on stage I can look at, moving and singing like only she can.  I cried through the entire production because it was so damn good.

A lot of my life has been spent waiting outside stage doors to congratulate my kids after great shows.  When they were in high school, I never missed a performance and even made it to the majority of their rehearsals.  I was so proud of them, but mostly I loved living vicariously through their achievements.  The same thing with the grand kids.  Sammi came out first and was assaulted by hugs all around.  Sage came out a few moments later and I hugged him and assured him that he was the best one in his row.

Brooklyn always seems to be the last one out of the dressing room and yesterday was no exception.  The thing is that every emotion she is feeling is immediately written on her face.  God, how I love that face.  I remember after a show at PACE a few years ago, Brooklyn just stood right outside the stage door waiting to be loved.  I'll never forget the little smile and the anticipation written all over her.

Yesterday was a little different.  In the second act, she missed her entrance and had to stay off stage for the "Twelve Days of Christmas" number.  It was her one solo in the show and she blew it.  One of the other kids saved the day by singing Brooklyn's lines.  Brooklyn was devastated and her barely dry tears were clear for all of us to see.  I think she might have been a little afraid to face her father.  I don't blame her.  Future super stars aren't supposed to miss entrances.

On the other hand, what's one missed cue when there was that glorious, tear stained face to contend with?  I'll bet she has recovered nicely.  All I know is that I can't wait for her next performance.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The end of White Male Privilege: What has the world come to?

There is an episode during the first year of "The Andy Griffith Show" where Ellie, Fred the druggist's niece, is new in town, just come back from pharmacy school in Mount Pilot I suppose.  Andy ends up asking her to the town picnic and dance that weekend and she agrees.  Of course, Andy, more Barney-like in the early seasons, somehow tells himself that he was tricked into asking her out as part of Ellie's devious scheme to get a husband.  He is convinced when Opie comes home with a free ice cream cone given to him by the desperate female.

He tries to throw her off the track by getting eligible bachelors around town to go into the drugstore and flirt with the new female druggist, but Ellie gets wind of Andy's behavior when Opie--it is always Opie--enters and repeats some of Andy's lunatic ravings.  Ellie quickly informs Andy that she wouldn't go to the picnic and dance with him if he were the last person on earth and to prove it she throws herself at the next person to walk through the door--wouldn't you know it--Barney.

It all ends happily.  Ellie and Opie, with Andy acting as chaperone, go to the picnic.  The episode ends there.  One can only wonder what happens after the dance.

I think it was my son Nate who once commented--if it wasn't him, it should have been--that the answers to all the questions in life can be found in "The Andy Griffith Show."  I just saw the above episode for the umpteenth time this morning on Sundance and it has crystallized my thinking on sexual politics.

Andy's attitude, while exaggerated, is kind of a cultural norm.  Men are full of themselves.  They can be shy and bumbling, the little dears, but eventually they'll act like assholes.  Women, at least the ones we are bombarded with on situation comedies, usually end up in control of the relationship and make their male halves look like bumbling morons.  But the thing is that this woman-in-control thing is always portrayed ironically.  As if to say, we all know that it is the man who is in charge, but wouldn't it be funny if it were the other way around?  Some joke.

Look at the difference in how we talk about acting out sexually.  Before the recent storm of sexual allegations--every "famous" man in America must be looking over his shoulder--male sexual predators were called leches, ladies' men, wolves, cocksmen, sugar daddies, babe magnets, studs, etc. Besides the term rapist, I can't think of a single term for a male sexual athlete that has a negative connotation  What do we call women who act out sexually, either for real or in our male imagination?  Slut.  Whore.  Hot for It.  Gagging for It.  Hot to trot.  Ho.  Easy.  Nympho.  I cannot think of a single word to describe this behavior with a positive connotation.

Definitions belong to the conquerers and it is pretty obvious who is doing the defining in this situation.

But it looks like things are changing.  "Me too" is starting to do a little defining of its own and that has only added to the rash of bad years old white males, the ones in my demographic, are having.  It appears at first glance that white males have regained their precious supremacy, at least for a little while.  But that doesn't change the fact that for a long time now, white males have been noticing the steady erosion of their power.  Long time neighborhoods have been changing their complexion.  It won't be long before whites are in the minority.  They already are in some areas.  (You can tell which because those are the areas that have been the most heavily gerrymandered.)  There are gay people on television!  There are lesbians getting married!  A black family occupied The White House!  A woman had the temerity to run for president!  Worse than that, women have the vote!  And as a final insult, it looks like women want to be equal sexually as well.  It is one more entitlement being stripped away from white male privilege and it is scaring the shit out of them.

Those poor white guys, embodied by our President, are discovering (well some are) that they can't talk the same way they used to.  They can't act the same way.  And if they want to get along, they can't even think the same way.  Trump's crotch grabbing braggadocio secured him a lot of votes.  Old white guys who tend to vote for all things Trump think that's the way you're supposed to talk.  To see a beautiful woman in front of you on the golf course and to comment that there is nothing better than great pussy is what a man's man is supposed to do.  I'll bet John Wayne said stuff like that all the time.  And if Rock Hudson hadn't been gay he would have probably said the same thing.  But now, if you are a member of the fake news media, you get fired for saying, thinking, or doing such things.  Of course, if you are a Republican running for office, you get elected.

What has the world come to?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I'm Falling And I'm Not Sure I Can Get Up

I didn't think it was possible, but I am more depressed today than I was last year when Trump managed to beat Clinton in the national election.

Back then I was depressed not so much because a serial liar and conman like Trump won The White House, but because so many of my fellow citizens chose pure selfishness over the welfare of the country as a whole and voted for the guy.  I figured my depression would eventually go away when he and his minions got voted out of office during the mid-terms and the next general election.  In the meantime, I figured, it would be almost entertaining to see this buffoon stumble through his first term.

And it has been entertaining to catalogue  his growing list of lies, to listen to his sycophantic supporters (Read:  Hannity) invent ways to excuse his inexcusable behavior, to notice that none of his pandering promises were coming to fruition, to notice not a single legislative achievement.  The government was at a standstill, but courageous individuals and courageous states and businesses helped pick up the slack and kept this country of ours holding the course against all of Trump's ham handed and vindictive attempts to undermine Obama's legacy.

All that has changed.  The world is in a mess.  Trump's agenda, to use a favorite Trumpean term, is a disaster.  Our position on the world stage has been weakened.  We have ceded control of the Pacific Rim to China.  We have ceded the lead in alternative energy, once again, to China.  We have earned the enmity and scorn of any nation with a diverse population.  We have goaded North Korea into even more brazen attempts to terrorize the world with a nuclear threat.  And through all of this, Trump and his ass kissers actually believe that all we have to do is get tough and the rest of the world will acquiesce.  What bullshit!

Look at today's (11/26/17) headlines:
"Discord in D.C.  Shutdown showdown may loom"
"Korean Missile Test - D.C. may be in reach"
"Activist group chimes in on Colo.  gay-wedding cake case"
"Air Force Academy - Scandal-filled sexual assault office 'derelict'"
"Bank drive big gains to record highs"
"More than 70% in U.S. shopped over weekend"
"Big contracts, no storm tarps for Puerto Rico"
"National Monuments - Trump announcement Monday in Utah"

There is a lot to worry about in those headlines.  But the headline that will actually shape our reaction to the current situation is the bank gains and the Black Friday shopping spree.  Voters can shout for equal rights and opportunities, can shout out their sympathy for the underprivileged, but they will quickly forsake those principles if it means padding their bank accounts.  It drives me crazy.

On top of all this, I am, as an article in last week's (11/20/17) New Yorker tells me, "Getting On."  I am one year away from 70 and that means that, like all OLD people, I am getting marginalized.  In other words, it really doesn't matter what I think about the appalling state of the world because just like me, my opinions are dinosaurs.  We are irrelevant.  We are overwhelmed by the speed and complete fucking mystery of technology.  Not only that, but the elderly are like "locusts who swarm the earth consuming all our resources."  We, people over 65, are "part of the dependent rather than the productive population;  [we] are the burden the young must carry."

This attitude is made even worse by the fact that households led by old people are fifty times as wealthy as households led by the young.  Lots of room for resentment there.  I guess I'm supposed to keep looking behind me at my children waiting patiently for me to take up residence in  their basement apartments where I will be safe and out of the way.  I'm supposed to feel like King Lear looking on his children like ravening wolves.

Did you know that the Marind Anim of New Guinea bury senescent elders alive.  The Chukchee of Siberia are more efficient.  They stab their senile elders through the heart.  That way they don't have to bury them alive.  In areas of Polynesia old people are looked on as the "nearly dead."

My mother at age 70 told me that she still felt like she did when she was sixteen.  She had the same fears, the same joys, the same dreams.  It was just harder for her to get up off the floor after playing with her grandchildren.  I feel just like that.  I'm 69.  I wish I was thinner, but I'm not obese.  I still work out.  Still hike.  I am still (ahem) wittier and quicker than any of my kids.  But I can see the end looming ahead whenever I walk into a restaurant and notice that I'm the oldest person there and feel that the place is too noisy.  I can see the end looming ahead whenever I have to ask one of my kids or grandkids to repeat what they say because I have tinnitus.  I can see the end looming ahead whenever I get paranoid and suspect that when my kids get together they shake their collective heads and comment on how much older I look, or act.

It is all quite sad making.  I am furious at the state of the world right now because I want my grandchildren to have long and full lives just like I have had.  But I'm also furious because now that I should be hanging out and basking in contentment, I have to be a first hand witness to the maddening unraveling of the world I used to love.

P.S.  Kathie and I stopped at Freaky's the other day to get some rolling papers (how young is that?) when I noticed that Masterpiece Cakes was right there in that same strip mall.  I had an urge to walk into the place and order a cake for an NRA party I was throwing and ask if they would please decorate it with a pair of crossed AK-47s just to see if, since I wasn't LGBT, they would fulfill the order, to see if the crossed guns might violate their religion.  But I went home without causing a scene, knowing it was something for a young person to do.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Applauding Buffoonery

I know we're all supposed to be outraged at the Russians for planting hundreds of posts/ads on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media forums in order to influence the elections.  Actually, the posts were equal opportunity propaganda targeting all sides of the political spectrum.  They were designed to create chaos in our country and they were highly successful.

But Russia isn't the culprit here.  The American people are.  Russian computer whizzes counted on the collective ignorance of the American body politic and the partisan willingness to believe anything that seems to validate strongly held beliefs.  And we Americans did not disappoint.

I saw some of the ads yesterday after Facebook released them.  One memorable one had an earnest young man dressed in battle gear squaring off against Hillary Clinton who was wearing a red cape, carrying a pitchfork, and sporting horns.  Vote Against Satan, the ad said.  Others were equally ridiculous.  Evidently, people bought the propaganda.  Evidently, voters were convinced by that ad and others that Clinton was the devil, that she purposely had people killed in Benghazi, that she had Vince Foster murdered, that she colluded with Russia to give them uranium in order to bolster their nuclear program, that she was somehow responsible for everything wrong in America.

And there were other ads, just as obscenely deceitful, directed against Trump.  And there were obviously lots of us who believed those.  The result:  Our political divide got even more divisive.  We trusted one another even less than we used to.

I don't know if any of those spots came across my Facebook feed, but I can guarantee you that there were plenty of delusional posts proclaiming all sorts of nefarious things that compelled me and I presume every other individual with a brain wave to roll our eyes, shake our heads, and move on to something sane.

That's my take away from all this Russia shit and it is worth saying again.  Russia, like any good and amoral marketer, took advantage of the gullibility of the American people.  It is the American people who are at fault here.

It is possible to get at the truth.  There are ways to find out if the site spewing the propaganda is legitimate or not.  It is possible to cross reference things to determine if something is true or just another piece of bullshit.  If you are not on Politifact or some other fact checking site as often as you are on The Drudge Report, The Daily Beast, or (shudder) Breitbart, you are not getting your information responsibly.

I admit that if I saw a post suggesting that Donald Trump liked to kill babies during his free hours away from his Twitter feed, I would tend to believe it.  But then I would check the site, wait to see if the same news item appeared on a legitimate news site, read some pundit's explanation, read some opposing pundit's explanation, and finally form my own position on the issue.  I would not immediately rush off to the Y to breathlessly explain about Trump's penchant for killing infants.  I would not share the offending item on my Facebook wall.  In other words, I would act like an adult.

I hope I'm wrong, but I think I am an exception.  I just think we would all be better off if we would come to grips with the idea that our certainties might be wrong, might need some opposing input.  If I just buzz through social media looking for those screeds that reinforce what I already believe, I am being lazy and irresponsible and, dare I say it, not acting like a citizen is supposed to act.

Like most of my friends, I have been devastated about the state of my country since last November, but the devastation isn't because I think Trump is an incompetent, mean-spirited buffoon (although I certainly do believe that), but because fully one-third of the people in this country are willing to believe and applaud his buffoonery.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Edifice Complex, Green Mountain Style

Kathie and I are being inducted into the Green Mountain High School Hall of Fame next month.  The principal sent an email informing us.  When I first learned of this, I was momentarily taken aback. I immediately figured the nominating committee had to be composed of lots of our former students and probably not that many former administrators or colleagues.  I could understand former ad types and colleagues nominating Kathie, but those last years at good old GMHS I had a rocky relationship with the powers that be.  And I have to say that walking out of that building twelve years ago was an even more wonderful feeling than walking into it 35 years earlier.  In fact, I promised myself that I would never set foot in that building again and so far I've kept that promise.

The thing that is interesting me is my reaction to this honor.  I had heard a few years ago that Green Mountain was considering a hall of fame and they were asking for suggestions for inductees.  It never occurred to me they would be nominating teachers, so I thought it was a nifty idea and I started thinking of kids' names.  I came up with a ton of them.  But if I had thought teachers would be nominated, I would have rolled my eyes at the whole idea.  If I had thought Kathie and I would be among the inductees (Dale Moore, Dennis Shepherd, and Bruce Rolfing are the other honorees), I still would have rolled my eyes, but only for a second or two.  Then I would have happily acquiesced.

In my humble opinion, it is silly to choose individuals to be honored in something as artificial as a hall of fame.  It is kind of like being a restaurant reviewer writing an article ranking the best hamburgers in town.  The critic might choose the smash burger at Elways.  Of course, other critics would just as confidently choose the one at Park Burger.  They would both be correct.

The same thing with all this hall of fame business.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I think Kathie and I deserve this honor.  I would like to think that most of our students and colleagues would agree.  But there are so many others that similarly deserve to be the first inductees.

Dawn Troup would be the first name out of my mouth.  Next to Kathie, Dawn taught me more about teaching than anyone.

Ken Weaver is another.  He and I spent years together acting as union reps.  We played tennis in the summer.  We drank together every Friday afternoon.  He was the guy at faculty picnic everyone gathered around.

Cindy Fite.  How could there be a hall of fame that doesn't include her.  She had her finger in every aspect of Green Mountain and her students loved and respected her.

Gerry Oehm should be there right next to Denny and lets not forget Orval Seaman.  These guys made the math department in their image.

Bud Simmons ran the best theater program in the county.  I can't imagine anyone living through Bud's drama mill without looking back on every moment with fondness and laughter.

Don't worry.  I won't bother you with a list of worthy students.  If I did that I would be writing the rest of the day.

I will say again that I have my doubts about this hall of fame business.  Is there going to be a plaque somewhere affixed to a wall at school?  Will it be in a special case?  Will people walk by it in reverence?  Will former students, parents, and colleagues make pilgrimages to school to see the plaque in the flesh?

In the best of all possible worlds, there would be nothing approaching that.  I think our country has always suffered from an edifice complex.  We build monuments to things that end up being more important than the things themselves.  I can say that I love good old GMHS and also say that I never want to set foot inside the building again and it won't be a contradiction.  Let's face it.  The building sucks.  The first incarnation had a woefully inadequate HVAC system which was exacerbated by a paucity of windows.  The second incarnation--the remodel--was built on the airport terminal model with departments and kids spread out all over the place.  Science in concourse C.  Language Arts, concourse A, etc.

Green Mountain will always be about people.  It was the Williams family.  The Andersons.  The Monsons.  It was all those teachers I "nominated" above.  It was a steady stream of baby teachers who  wanted nothing more than to help kids.  It was Ted Fulte and Steve Meininger in the music department getting things out of those kids that outstripped all expectations.

So I am going to go to this thing.  I will not roll my eyes.  I will accept the honor in the name of all those kids and families and teachers that I have loved over the years.  It will be a good night.

I only have two things on my mind.  First, I hope the food at the banquet is not too terrible.  Second, I'm wondering when they are going to ask me to come in to get measured for my bust.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Observing Cretins

I think, at age 69, I am beginning to show signs of growing up.

Case in point.  I changed where I dress at the Y each morning.  I used to be back in the southeast corner with all the alpha males and FoxNews Republicans.  After the day I told the loudest of that crew to "just shut the fuck up," I moved to the opposite (northwest) corner because I couldn't stay where I was, listen to that garbage, and still be a civil person.  Kathie and I have also been coming later after all the alpha males pack up and go out looking for Muslims to terrorize.  Yesterday, however, that same loud guy wandered over to my part of the locker room and started a conservative rant.  "North Korea is good; America is bad.  That's what the Left thinks," he proclaimed.  I kept my mouth shut, pretended to be engrossed in packing up my bag, and ran through all the obvious comments I could summon to lay waste this moron, but I didn't say anything.  I zipped up my backpack and got the hell out of there before I started using language not appropriate for the Young Men's Christian Association.

Another case in point.  Earlier that same day I was in the weight room when a FoxNews Republican (It's hard to spot them at the Y just by looking.  They don't wear ill-fitting baseball caps there.), the same guy who turns pale every time he sees me because he thinks I'm a drag queen (He overheard me one day telling a friend that if I ever decided to go in drag, I had a nickname--Hyacinth), walked up to the old guy whose wardrobe alternates between his Knights of Columbus shirt and his tee from the NRA proclaiming "The Second Amendment.  America's First Homeland Security," and started freaking out about lazy welfare recipients.  "I worked hard to support my wife and children, by God.  Why should my tax dollars have to support people who are too lazy to work," or words to that effect. Again, I didn't say anything.  Don't worry, I had a wealth of good arguments guaranteed to lay waste this cretin's argument, but what would be the point?

But I've heard this argument from plenty of people who I number among my friends.  All those people, even the cretin, well, maybe the cretin, would be glad to offer help to someone who is "deserving,"  someone who is destitute through no fault of their own, but they get furious at the idea of helping someone who is "undeserving."

My response to that is always, "What difference does it make?"  Look at two individuals in need of help.  One of them is a mother who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion.  Her husband, let's say, was killed while defending his country in one of those far off places where we think we need defending.  She has a little girl in need of day care.  Her illness makes full time work nearly impossible.  Breaks your heart, doesn't it?  Now look at another case.  A single mother with four children, all of whom have different fathers.  The mother has no clue who fathered who.  The mother is a crack addict.  Worse yet, she is black.  What money she makes comes from her part time job as a prostitute.  If she voted, if she even knew how to vote, she would undoubtedly vote Democratic.

Why would that YMCA cretin and some of my well-intentioned friends gladly offer tax dollar help to the first lady and get furious at offering help to the second?  It is the same tax burden, right?  The cretin will feel the same effect, or lack thereof, no matter who gets the money.  The cretin, by the way, is a big time church goer.  I wonder what Jesus would feel about those two miserable ladies?

The only reason I can put my finger on that explains the different reactions to those two welfare scenarios, is that the cretin wants to punish the prostitute for being lazy and immoral, the cretin wants to act as some kind of judge who rewards the good and punishes the wicked.  I suppose seeing the prostitute and her children dead outside of the homeless shelter at Lawrence and Park Avenue would be some sort of evidence that goodness has triumphed, that America was becoming great again.

If Jesus saw that he wouldn't be able to stop puking.  But I'm not gonna tell the cretin that.