Category Archives: Pop Culture

When decades fall like glaciers

An Alaskan glacier
Alaskan glacier

I felt optimistic when I turned 40. My partner and I drove down to New Orleans and spent a glorious few days enjoying that party of a city, which may have contributed to my optimism. Fifty seemed a decade away, and at 40, decades are still slowly crawling downhill. At 45, I started to think about what 48 would look like, gazing down the cannon barrel at 50, and I’ll admit, it sent shivers down my spine.

Continue reading When decades fall like glaciers

We didn’t weed out racism when we should have

Behold the blackberry root

The racism I grew up with was subtle. Not so subtle I didn’t recognize it, but subtle enough that it could live there in the background without offending too many people.

Without offending me enough to do something about it.

And I’m convinced that is why it’s still around in 2018 and factoring into a national election.

Racism is like Himalayan blackberry bushes. A thorny species in the rose family, these plants were brought in for fruit production in the 1800s, but they quickly spread out of control and changed the landscape by out-competing native plants. Each spring they pop up through the bark dust like other weeds, but you can’t just pull them out. They’re stubborn, and they have thorns. So you weed everything else and swear you’re going to come back for it. But you don’t, and they grow bigger. Continue reading We didn’t weed out racism when we should have

Raging for Twenty Six Years

I remember the first time I heard Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut album.

I was a junior at a country high school. My brother and my best friend were deeply into punk rock, and I wanted to date this hottie college girl named Cheryl Carpenter.

I was all over the place, at times trying to fit in with the rednecks and the true-blue farm kids, and at other times trying to be what I saw my favorite others around me being.

I hadn’t really found a place for myself yet. Continue reading Raging for Twenty Six Years

Thoughts from a snowflake

I stopped by an old friend’s apartment to commiserate tonight and to wait out the hellish Portland traffic.

We drank a couple of Sticky Hands IPAs, and I relived some Facebook conversations for him, since he quit it a few weeks ago.

I’m a little envious of this and tell him so.

But he’s not unaware of what’s going on. He knows about the latest antics of our orange wannabe dictator. He’s aware that the Senate silenced  a female member while allowing her male colleagues to read the same words she attempted to.

Continue reading Thoughts from a snowflake

Fidel

I looked up into the thick Havana air at the brightly-lit poster on the wall of an old, stone government building.

Viva Fidel 80

The old revolutionary was somewhere in this town in a compound contemplating his retirement announcement, which would happen just a few days later on my last day in Cuba.

The old man didn’t really even make it out for his 80th birthday celebration, and his thin and frail image on television barely registered in a country where his black-bearded and green fatigues image is as ubiquitous as the Cuban flag.  Continue reading Fidel

The False Narrative: Good Guys and Bad Guys

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07:  Yulia Efimova of Russia celebrates winning the first Semifinal of the Women's 100m Breaststroke on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 07: Yulia Efimova of Russia celebrates winning the first Semifinal of the Women’s 100m Breaststroke on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

I watched a press conference this morning in which “journalists” interviewed Yulia Efimova and Lilly King about their now high-profile Olympic spat.

Except it’s not a spat.

It’s just storytelling, good, old-fashioned storytelling.

But it’s a false narrative, something the Russians excelled at when maniacal tyrents wanted to keep the populace fearfully paralyzed or reactionary enough to turn against their own.

And something that demagogues still use to manipulate our deepest fears and our irrational desires.

Yulia Efimova is not a bad guy.  Continue reading The False Narrative: Good Guys and Bad Guys

How the Olympics became so small

Olympic Rings by ZEVS
Olympic Rings by ZEVS

For the record, I did not plan to have surgery wherein the two-week, doctor-recommended recovery period would perfectly coincide with the Olympics.

I actually find watching the American Olympic coverage to be rather cloying, like beer that’s too sweet or warm sushi.

Much has changed since the last time I had the time to sit down and watch the Olympics in their entirety.

Continue reading How the Olympics became so small

What my daughter sees in fairy tales

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 1.58.02 PMMy wife and I watched Maleficent last night, and I found myself overly annoyed at the lack of redeemable male characters. Not heroes, mind you, but just decent human beings in the form of men.

And that got me thinking about what my daughter will see when I watch it with the kids tonight for Saturday Dinner and a Movie.

I’ve been reading princes stories to my daughter for the last year or so. We started with George MacDonald’s princess stories, The Light Princess, The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and Curdie and we went through all the traditional princess from the Brothers Grimm to Disney.

It’s partly because she’s eight, and she loves princess stories. It’s partly because I want to understand the message these stories are portraying so I can help her process them in our current age. I did not grow up hearing princess stories, so it’s a discovery process for both of us.

And it’s partly because the world is obsessed with fairy tales right now. Or perhaps it always has been.

Continue reading What my daughter sees in fairy tales

This Disconnected Reality: Putin, Oscar and the Last Great Race on Earth

blog

I’ve had three things on my mind today, and each deserves a separate post.

The more I think about them, the more I realize they’re quite interconnected, at least in my own mind. See if you see what I’m seeing.

Return of the Cold War: Russia invades Ukraine

Putin is a bully, and the world needs to stop allowing him to prance around bare-chested with a fishing pole in his hands while millions of Slavic people suffer the whims of the ultra rich, those corrupt and bankrupt souls of the post Communist era. Ukraine is more important than most people think. Obama is showing off just how weak our foreign policy is these days, and as someone so eloquently wrote today, Putin is playing chess, while Obama is playing checkers. America cannot possibly intervene, at least militarily, in all of the world’s conflicts, but it can stay consistent in its messaging and follow-through on its threats. For those of you who say let Putin have Crimea, you might as well just toss in the rest of Ukraine too. It’s a toe-hold on one of the world’s most important regions. For those of you who ask why we should care, I say it’s much harder to catch a strongman who is killing people slowly through neglect or starvation when he already owns everything in sight. It’s much easier to stop a strongman when he is aggressively peeing on the fences around his own home than when he’s killed the neighbors and claimed their lands for himself.

Continue reading This Disconnected Reality: Putin, Oscar and the Last Great Race on Earth

No More Happy Holidays

Happy holidays, man.

I hear it a lot. It’s awkward, indirect and frankly cold and inhospitable.

They look at you and try to guess at your religious orientation, as if gaydar had some denominational equivalent.

Hmmm, is he Catholic, Jewish, Methodist or agnostic?

And then it comes, halfheartedly, because it doesn’t really mean anything more than enjoy your vacation – happy holidays, man.

As the son-of-a-preacher, missionary kid, I take a beating every time I hear the term. A beating of conscience. 

There’s a quest, so to speak, to put right the wrongs or perceived wrongs of what I would consider the overzealous religious types. Those who do not recognize anything beyond their own beliefs. Those who forget that our country was founded on religious freedom, not the mores of a single religious group.

I’m guilty of issuing a lot of happy holidays myself, albeit in a spirit of reconciliation. I’ve overcompensated for the religious right while hoping for something a little more centrist.

But this year it struck me that I’ve wished a number of friends happy Hanukkah, ‘Eid Sa’īd or a warmest Diwali.

And for the first time in a long, long time, I heard that rarest of seasonal greetings – Merry Christmas!

It struck me like an awkward chord, something I hadn’t heard in a long time. It wasn’t wrong, it just didn’t sound right. Not in the belly of the big city, the liberal bastion of a blue state.

Happy holidays is technically correct when three of the biggest holidays fall within a month of each other.

But we all know that we cram them all together to avoid offending those who don’t believe in Santa Claus.

Like bland food, let’s do away with it once and for all.

No more happy holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, my friends.