Gangs Of New York

I have read a few articles this summer concerning the attempt by some lawmakers in New York state to pass the Child Victims Act. The bill would give victims of abuse up to the age of 28 to file a criminal complaint, 50 for a civil suit, and create a one year window for past victims to initiate lawsuits. Under current laws the statute of limitations is the age of 23. Anyone who reads or watches the news would know that many victims of childhood sexual abuse do not come forward until well into adulthood, for various reasons, be it the stigma, repressed memories or even efforts by the offenders to obscure and obfuscate the facts.

It would seem to make sense that the statutes be revised to allow a little more time and really – really – why should there be any limitation? Why give sexual predators a window that closes, thereby allowing them to breathe a sigh of relief and not have to worry about the weight of the law coming down upon them? I mean, if the guy in the blue jumpsuit down the street had fucked me in the ass when I was seven I would like to think that I could exact legal justice at any time. Provided I had the proof and could persuade a jury, of course. Otherwise, I would probably just kill the motherfucker myself and call it even. Of course we all know that many victims are never whole no matter what and a large number of them end up psychologically damaged beyond repair, drug addicts/alcoholics or even abusers themselves.

The New York bill was first introduced over a decade ago and has never even made it to the floor for a vote in the state senate. Why? Because there are some organizations that oppose it vehemently. Who, you might ask, would oppose a bill making it easier for victims of childhood abuse to receive justice?

Republicans!

Well, indirectly. The Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church are the institutions that object to the law. Both have lobbied hard against the bill and the New York Catholic Conference has spent over $2 million since 2007 to make sure the bill dos not become law. So why do these two groups in particular oppose the bill? Some say they are afraid such a bill would bankrupt them. A spokesman for the Catholic League put his foot in his mouth when he claimed that it’s a vindictive bill pushed by activists and lawyers to rape the Catholic Church. Ouch!

So, who in the government would want to block such legislation? That’s where the Republicans come in. Although they won’t spell out exactly why they oppose it, it doesn’t take much of a stretch to intuit that 1) they are conservative brethren and 2) that the money paid to kill the bill did not go in to fliers and buttons.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the party that whines, cries and wrings their hands over abortion and the sanctity of life does nothing to protect the rights of people abused as children? Of course I would not be the first to point out that once a child leaves the womb they pretty much don’t give a rat’s ass about them. It’s not that they don’t like children, necessarily, it’s just that they don’t like women. (Or minorities. Or anyone who is not a white wealthy man. But that’s a story for another day.)

I was a Boy Scout and a Catholic. I seceded from both organizations at my first opportunity. The Boy Scouts because I had nothing in common with the other boys in my neighborhood that enjoyed collecting merit badges and going to jamborees. The Catholic Church because I don’t believe in God and Heaven, the biggest fraud perpetrated on mankind. I never experienced anything bad, other than being surrounded by nerds, on the one hand, or blind faith in a myth on the other. (Not to mention confirmation anxiety!)  Thank………….goodness, I guess, that I lived in a relatively idyllic neighborhood free of any sexually dysfunctional perverts. That I know of. There was that Mormon lady a few houses down who was spied in a no-tell motel, but that was purely adult on adult heterosexual lust. Her husband was a bit of a square peg and she was certainly hot.

I have to say, said it before, that I don’t understand why the Catholics haven’t stormed the gates of the Church like the mob going after Frankenstein’s monster. The fact that priests have abused for decades and the Church has been complicit in covering it up is appalling and I have no respect for those who would turn a blind eye, tithing and praying for their own salvation while ignoring the horrific crimes visited upon so many innocent children. Recent developments in the Vatican prove that even at the highest levels the Church is unwilling or unable to address the issue. Lurid, drug fueled sexual trysts by clergymen in Rome and an Australian Cardinal’s sexual assault charges only help to exacerbate and highlight the dysfunction rampant in the church.

Equally ironic is the vile spewed at the Islamic religion by some members of the Catholic Church – many Christians actually – while ignoring their own religion’s transgressions. If these are supposed to be the people who adhere to the teachings of a Christian God that supposedly taught love, compassion, morality, ethics, and respect for others, then Heaven help them all.

Believe what you will, but I’m telling you that it’s a good thing there is no Hell. It would be awfully crowded.

Style, Meet Substance

In the past couple of weeks I had the chance to view two highly anticipated and critically acclaimed movies, Baby Driver and The Big Sick. Both films were entertaining in their own distinctive way, but they highlighted what I, and many critics I think, see as the main problem with Hollywood today. Let’s dig in.

Baby Driver is a movie that sneaked up on me, in that I had never heard of it until it was practically in theaters. It was directed by Edgar Wright, known for films such as Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. I personally did not care for the first two and the latter I found mildly entertaining, if only for the performances of Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the overall oddity of the story. Baby Driver concerns a young man who is financially indebted to a career criminal and forced to drive the getaway car during bank robberies perpetrated by said criminal’s henchmen in order to satisfy this debt. It is loud, obnoxious, colorful, violent, and basically an extended music video of car chases and shootouts choreographed to a rather entertaining soundtrack. Essentially a rock and roll music video with little time to dwell on character development, it’s like much of today’s music – mindless entertainment put together in a sterile lab specifically to kick the endorphin machine in to high gear.

 

The Big Sick is a movie that I had been anticipating for some time. Written by Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon it’s the true story of how they met and fell in love. Nanjiani, a struggling standup comic in Chicago, met Gordon when she heckled him at one of his performances. An unlikely romance – a Pakistani Muslim man and a American Christian woman – ensued, with cultural issues putting pressure on the relationship. Specifically, Nanjiani’s parents were set on finding him a nice Pakistani girl to marry – an arranged marriage – and he was dead set against it but could not bear to tell his folks. That pressure ultimately led to him breaking off the relationship – no spoiler here, as the facts have been used in the marketing. Soon after, Emily came down with a life threatening illness which forced her doctors to place her in a medically induced coma for ten days or so. During that period Kumail meets, and bonds, with Emily’s parents and ultimately confronts his parent’s cultural standards, at odds with his own.

I enjoyed both movies, in different ways of course.

Baby Driver was a raucous explosion of sight and sound, barely stopping to take a breath between set pieces. The cast was great and included Ansel Elgort (various young adult movies) as the titular character along with Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Lily James and Eiza González. The guys were essentially cartoon characters and the gals were the typical hot stereotypes Hollywood can’t seem to get away from, easy on the eyes of course, but with nothing really to do but look fabulous. The movie was an example of style being put front and center – hey look at this, ain’t it cool? – at the expense of a relatable story and characters. The theater I saw it in had the sound up so loud – proud of their new state of the art system, I guess – that I was tempted to ask management to turn it down. I left the theater feeling the same way I would after eating an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbin’s. I enjoyed it but I would not be dwelling on it at length. There is always another ice cream or other treat to enjoy down the road.

The Big Sick was a poignant, emotional story about two people finding love, despite not really intending to, and overcoming illness and cultural barriers to make it work. Nanjiani was cast as himself obviously, with Zoe Kazan playing Emily. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, as Emily’s distressed parents, have never been better. Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff as Kumail’s parents and Adeel Akhtar as his brother were perfect and the culture clash was realistically portrayed. Directed by Michael Showalter, the dialogue was snappy and funny and the emotions were front and center. The film has a lot of heart and I had a lump in my throat through most of the last act. In fact, when the film ended I had to linger in the theater a bit as I had been weeping rather profusely.

Overall, the two films represented the best and the worst of Hollywood. On the one hand, a well written and acted story with emotional depth, and on the other a slick movie put together for the wow factor with little regard for anything other than the entertainment value. And the potential profits, of course. I heartily recommend both films, but if you are forced to make a choice on Saturday night go for some emotional depth. You can always have your ice cream down the road.

 

 

The Tears Of A Clown

They say you get what you give. Donald Trump gave an interview to the New York Times yesterday and made it clear that he does not abide by that mantra. In fact, though he demands unwavering loyalty from employees, minions, whatever, he really doesn’t give a shit about anybody but himself. During the interview – an astounding display of selfish, self-centered, narcissistic, whining – he pretty much threw the entire Justice Department under the bus. Especially appalling was his calling out of Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself – justifiably – from the investigation in to possible Russian collusion by Trump’s campaign.

Donald Trump is a fool, an idiot, a fucking imbecile and a disgrace to our country.

First, Trump seems to think that everyone in the government, especially the Justice Department, works for him – not the people – and owes him their unwavering loyalty. That was a pretty obvious when he all but demanded that former FBI Director James Comey swear an oath of fealty. That Comey didn’t is the one bright moment in this whole fiasco. It cost him his job of course, but shouldn’t honesty, integrity and high ethical standards have priority over job security and bending the knee for a man as spectacularly unethical, immoral and downright shitty as Donald Trump?

Secondly, Jeff Sessions has been Trump’s staunchest supporter from day one, a loyal ally willing to, possibly,  commit perjury to shield his boss from the glare of the Russian investigation. Trump told the New York Times that he was not happy with Session’s decision to recuse himself from all matters Russian, seeming to conclude that Sessions recused himself from his job as Attorney General completely. That is not the case, obviously, and it just goes to show that Trump is clueless about how government and the law work.

Thirdly, Trump also took the opportunity to smear Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – who he appointed – for his role in selecting Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to look in to the Russian matter. He then promptly went off on Robert Mueller. Both men are well respected in Washington, but they made the fatal mistake of being “very unfair to the president”. Guess what Mr. President? They do not pledge an oath to be fair to the president. They pledge an oath to do what is best for the country, specifically to honor the United States Constitution.

So, fuck you Mr. President!

While I am on the subject, is there nobody in the GOP that has a spine? If a Democrat had done anything approaching the bullshit antics of this president we would be knee deep in impeachment hearings. Oh, there is a peep here and there, but for the most part the party has turned a blind eye to this pig of a man as he runs amok, trashing the office and the institution of the presidency.

Donald Trump is a serial liar, a self dealing megalomaniac and an embarrassment to the country that so many of us love. Other world leaders see that and we are no doubt a laughing stock on the world stage. It’s hard to believe this man could run a billion dollar business yet alone tie his fucking shoes.

I am embarrassed to be an American. Hopefully that feeling will not last for long.

Resist!

Hair, The Musical

I switched barber shops recently. I had been going to a little place on “historic” Tennyson Street, a trendy little area a few miles from my place that is rapidly being redeveloped in to something that will one day no longer be historic, just a bunch of expensive little boxes full of people who have no clue about the history of the area. At least they have a Natural Grocers, although I’m sure many locals miss the bowling alley that was razed to make room for all those vitamins and healthy food choices.

Chuck’s Barber Shop has been a fixture on Tennyson Street since some time in the 50’s, if I recall correctly. (Not that I was there back then, just that I read about it somewhere.?) Chuck still worked there when I first came to town. He was an old amiable guy, very slight with a hunched over posture that made me wonder how he was still cutting hair after all these years. He was nice, a very non-judgemental gentleman – given the era he came from – and considering all of the man buns, piercings and tattoos prevalent in the area today. He lorded over his three chair shop in a grandfatherly fashion,  supported by an ever revolving cast of tonsorial artists. I can actually say that I looked forward to my visits every month or so, reminding me somewhat of my childhood, complete with the handheld massagers I wrongly assumed had gone by the wayside.

Chuck retired a while back and leased the shop to one of his employees, Dan. Dan promptly put a nail shop in the back, run by his wife, and the whole operation went downhill. The last several times I went in Dan was cutting hair by himself, frantically trying to keep up with all of the customers. He even enlisting his wife to run interference, at one point she was doing the neck massages on customers prior to them even getting their hair cut. This was basically a tactic to stall while Dan finished up with his current customer. The drop off in service was annoying to the extent that I decided to take my business elsewhere.

Bert’s Edgewater Barber Shop is only a few blocks from my house. I had driven by it on numerous occasions, even before I discovered Chuck’s, and for some reason I was intimidated to stop in. I decided to give it a try and stopped by one afternoon. There was one barber on duty, the co-owner – Dan by coincidence – and one customer in the chair. I immediately struck up a conversation with both – something that did not ordinarily happen at Chuck’s – and enjoyed a rather pleasant experience. Dan was quite conversational and I was happy to see that his prices were about 20% lower than what I had been paying. I left quite pleased and promising to return.

I was getting a bit shaggy and stopped by Bert’s again this week. Bert has retired by the way, selling the business to Dan and his brother. I noticed several cars in front of the business when I pulled up and hoped that the wait was not too long. I pushed the door open and upon entering I saw Dan – working solo again – with a customer in the chair and one waiting. Dan looked up and recognized me, calling out a greeting. I responded in kind and the waiting customer, who appeared to have been dozing, jumped in his seat. I apologized for startling him, everyone laughed, and I took a seat. Dan quickly finished with his customer and motioned for the next one.

The man I had startled got up and made his way to the chair. He looked as if he might be a painter, sleeveless white shirt and white pants with the look of a work outfit. He was slim, longish hair with a bald spot and a longish untrimmed beard. Once he sat in the chair the conversation with Dan turned to the recent hail storm – one of the worst in many years in this area – and the progress he was making in getting his roof repaired. He then mentioned that he was looking forward to the Winter Park Jazz Festival this weekend.

My ears perked up. I asked him who was playing and he went on at length about the various musicians. I admitted that I was not a big jazz fan although I was familiar with the pedigrees of several of the musicians, people they had played with previously. We began talking about bands we liked and various concerts we had seen recently. He mentioned that he had gone to the King Crimson show two weeks ago, a show that I very nearly went to myself. He told me that it was fantastic, which only made me want to kick myself for not going. We talked excitedly as we shared mutual interests, going on about King Crimson, Wishbone Ash, The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule and others. We ended up talking about Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stephens and his affiliation with two other well regarded musicians, drummer Terry Bozzio and bassist Tony Levin. I admitted that though I had heard of that collaboration I was not familiar with their music. He assured me it was good stuff.

Dan finished up and as the man rose to go we both shook hands and commented on how much we enjoyed the conversation. I introduced myself and he did the same, telling me his name was Art. He then walked out and I jumped in the chair and Dan said something to the effect of “Wow, you guys sure know a lot about music. I don’t know 90% of the bands you were talking about.” I told him that music was my passion and that I had seen quite a few shows in my day. A new customer entered and the conversation turned back to the hail storm, then legal weed, naming rights for Sports Authority Field now that Sports Authority is no longer in business, and how the sports team owners are ripping off the cities, tax payers and consumers with their big stadium deals. Typical barber shop stuff, except for the weed, I guess.

Just as Dan was about to finish up the door opened and Art walked in. He had a CD in his hand and as he approached me he held it out and said “Bozzio, Levin, Stephens. This is really good!” I replied “Is this for me?” He nodded yes and handed it too me. I thanked him and he was on his way. Dan and I were both a bit surprised. Art had been gone long enough that he had obviously gone home to get the CD, a homemade burn that was dated 2009. I paid Dan and left, thinking to myself that the whole experience had made my day. Two men who did not know each other bonding in the moment over the love of common musical interests. Two men who had probably passed each other at the grocery store – Edgewater is a small neighborhood – on numerous occasions.

I popped it in the CD  player as soon as I got in the car and, sure enough, it is some good stuff. I hope Art enjoys the Winter Park Jazz Festival and if I happen to see him at King Soopers or some other local place I will definitely say hello and let him know how much I like the music. Simple pleasures truly are the best.

America, Oh America

On the eve of our national holiday celebrating America’s independence and everything that is good about our country it might be wise to take a few moments and think about how we got from here…………

 

To here…………….

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Más Tequila

 

I recently read an article regarding the sale of Casamigos Tequila – owned by celebrities George Clooney and Randy Gerber – to Diageo for close to $1 billion. I didn’t know that Clooney owned a tequila company, but it isn’t that surprising given that many celebrities involve themselves in these types of projects. According to the story, Clooney and Gerber were “forced” in to starting the company after a their small batch orders at a Mexican distillery ballooned to over 1,000 bottles a year.  I took that story with a grain of salt as I believe many of the anecdotes thrown around by marketing firms are complete bullshit. It makes for a good provenance yarn to be sure; sounds better than the typical origin story.

I looked in to the brand and discovered it to be rather pricey, a given – I guess – when a celebrity is involved. Why that would be I do not know. They certainly didn’t make it and you won’t be their friend if you buy it. The story is that Clooney and Gerber were not happy with the local tequilas in Cabo so they contracted with a local distiller to make something more palatable to them and their friends. They should make a movie. Clooney could play, um, Clooney I guess. Mark Wahlberg could play Gerber. I’m sure he would like to distance himself from Transformers 5. Maybe not.

I was curious as to the quality of the tequila so I looked for some online reviews. They were generally positive with a few bitches about being overpriced. As I was reading through the review sites I began to get curious as to the ratings of other tequilas, specifically Jose Cuervo Gold, the brand I usually buy. I was surprised to find that it did not rate well at all among aficionados. In fact, it was generally scoffed at.

Hmm….

Ever since I did my first shot of tequila as a naive teenager Cuervo Gold has been the standard bearer. I don’t even think twice when purchasing the beverage, just grab a bottle of the Gold and know that people will appreciate it. I don’t drink a lot of tequila, but I like a few shots now and then or a margarita. I was dismayed to find that it was held in such low regard. I wondered why.

It turns out that Jose Cuervo Gold is not actually tequila. It is considered a mixtos. A mixtos uses no less than 51% agave, with other sugars making up the remainder. The formula was originated when the Mexican government relaxed tequila standards due to a shortage of blue agave during a particular brutal  harvest period. Cuervo is at least 51% agave, but certainly not 100%, with caramel coloring added to the finished product to give it the gold color. It’s also obviously cheaper to produce since it can be blended with other ingredients that are less expensive than distilled agave.

I was disappointed, needless to say. And thirsty for some tequila as well. I made a list of three “real” 100% agave tequilas and headed to the liquor store. Applejack is a huge, well stocked liquor store in my area that has an unbelievable number of people on the floor stocking and assisting customers. I was perusing the tequila aisle when an employee asked if I needed assistance. I said no thanks, then abruptly called him back and explained my newly found tequila knowledge. He agreed that Cuervo was not a good choice; in his words it is mostly vodka. He then went on to school me on the different types of tequilas and their properties. He also gave me his opinion on the three brands I had made note of. He was as enlightening as a wine sommelier in a fancy restaurant and we spoke at length. I did not know that tequila was that complex.

I left the store with a nice bottle of Olmeca Altos Reposado, a 100% blue agave tequila that was, surprisingly, in the same price range as the pretender Cuervo. When I had a taste later that evening I certainly could tell the difference. It’s the same old story really, marketing trumps quality and a lesser quality brand is able to command a top shelf price and customer base. Much like the horse piss that is Corona beer, a brew that is not very highly regarded in Mexico but is a top import in the U.S.

In fact, Cuervo is the top selling tequila in the world and Corona is the top selling imported beer in America. There’s no accounting for taste I guess. Or the gullibility of the masses, myself included. Madison Ave can make anything palatable, even coveted.

I see a shot of Olmeca Altos Reposado in my near future.

 

 

Save Our Society

I have been off the grid for awhile, possibly hoping that somehow things would change. But they haven’t. One can hope but, as I have said about prayer, it’s pretty much an exercise in futility. “Que sera, sera” as the song goes, whatever will be, will be.

So it is inevitable that an orange idiot continues to be our president. A man who shows us all on a daily basis that he is a petty, self obsessed pussy, taking credit for things he had no hand in and deflecting blame for anything that doesn’t sit well and might require a modicum of responsibility and ownership.

It’s hard to understand how a 71 year old man – ostensibly very good at business and life – can be such a clueless, vacuous placeholder for a human being. That he can be so totally ignorant and command the “respect” of anyone is beyond me. Of course, the GOP just wants to use him to sign their bills and select conservative Supreme Court Justices. To them he is nothing more than a rubber stamp.

I don’t have anything to add to that. I just needed to reassert my belief that Donald Trump is a second rate human being. I need to quit watching and reading the news – the REAL NEWS – because they are calling it like it is and people still don’t get it. I get it. I got it long ago when the man was still a civilian. Yet there are still millions of Americans who who are joyfully oblivious to the fact that Trump and the GOP don’t give a damn about them. They will find out sooner or later and then it will be interesting to see how they react. The only question is will it be “Hit me baby one more time.”, or WTF? In either case the damage will have already been done.

 

SIGH…………….

Nobody But Me

Lying here beside myself with joy
I am too much for my mirror…
…I fell in love as a boy
Opened my eyes and saw my shadow…

                         -Mason/Broughton

I saw this article today, entitled How Does A Narcissist Think? and it got me to thinking. How does a narcissist think and do I know any? Let’s see, how exactly would one go about identifying a narcissist? Well, here are a few traits typically found in the personality disorder that is narcissism:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance, e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Shows arrogance, haughty behaviors, or attitudes.

Hmm. Does that sound like anyone you know? These traits certainly remind me of someone. I don’t know him but I hear he has a mean handshake.