Really mad March Madness

March 14, 2011

For sports wackos like me, and especially for sports wackos in and from Syracuse, where we have little else to get excited about, it’s the most wonderful time of the year (sing with Andy Williams voice if necessary). Now that both the men’s and women’s brackets have been filled out, I excitedly went to MSN.com first to print out my brackets. My custom for the men’s tournament is this: I print out the bracket, use a highlighter to mark SU’s path to the championship, fill in the winners each night, and when SU loses, crumple up the sheet into a ball and chuck it into the trash. :) Of course, there was one year where nothing got crumpled. I have that one framed.

Ever since the Maryland women won a national title, turning Duke into itty-bitty overtime blue meatballs, I’ve been printing and filling out both charts. I could not find a printable women’s bracket on FOX Sports, which I consider an oversight. It’s gotta be in there somewhere. However, there is an article with one lonely little comment, as of now anyway, posted by one bennymfan: http://msn.foxsports.com/wcbk/story/NCAA-announces-field-for-2011-womens-basketball-tournament-031411

Now, I’m sure bennymfan has major game to bring. His play in the paint is probably on such an awesome level he didn’t even bring it to the light, lest he make pikers like MJ cower in shame. His rainbowlike three-point shot  is a thing of beauty, making grown men like Gerry McNamara cry silky orange tears. And he certainly must have the uncanny ability to penetrate both man and zone defenses like the proverbial knife through butter. Why, otherwise, would he post something so rude on a public message board about some very tough athletes?

Oh, yeah. Because he’s a knuckle-dragging lunkhead.

FOX Sports seems to attract more of the grunting Neanderthal woman-hating type of male sports fan. I doubt that it has anything to do with it being FOX. Sports isn’t the same as news. But I’ve seen some very nasty comments posted there over the years about women’s basketball; the perceived sexual orientation of the players and coaches, as if that mattered; and of women’s sports in general. I wish I could provide a link, for example, to the comment board accompanying the FOX Sports obituary—an obituary, for cripes’ sake!—of Kay Yow two years ago. Turns out FOX Sports archives its articles diligently. All that’s left is a Lexis-Nexis reference: http://msn.foxsports.com/collegebasketball/story/Kay-Yow-delivers-message-to-mourners. But trust me, the commenters as a group seemed more preoccupied with Yow’s sexual orientation than her death, breast cancer, her grieving family and friends, or the void she left at NC State with her passing.

A quick check of other articles relating to the women’s tourney, first of all, was a pain in the tuchas to find, as the articles were buried several links down; and second, have no comments yet, which I would expect if they’re buried where no one can find them. By contrast, right now http://espn.go.com has players from the women’s #1 seeds on the home page. I printed my bracket from there. No relegating women’s sports to oh-yeah-by-the-way status there.

I don’t care to engage bennymfan in a pissing contest, tempting though it is. It does no good. Like the old adage says, never wrestle with a pig (it just gets you dirty and annoys the pig). I just rest easy knowing, even though I’ve never met the guy, that Brittney Griner could kick bennymfan’s ass any day of the week.

I did not know that there were any black characters on Captain Kangaroo until I read the death notice on Wikipedia of Jimmy Wall, who apparently introduced the character of Mr. Baxter in 1968. By then, being a wise and worldly ten years old, I had licked my 10,000-a-day ping-pong ball habit and was on to more weighty matters, such as the dangers of George Wallace running for president and whether the Tigers could hit Bob Gibson.

Anyway, Wall’s death got me to thinking about the show, and Bob Keeshan himself, and one thing I remember reading in his obituary was that he never used the word kids when speaking of his target audience. “They’re not kids, they’re children,” he told an interviewer. From his New York Times obituary: “… he never patronized them and always assumed they were bright and would appreciate him and what he was doing. And so they listened when he talked ….’We have respect for our audience,’ he told Steven V. Roberts in The New York Times in 1965. ‘We operate on the conviction that it is composed of young children of potentially good taste, and that this taste should be developed.’ “

After reading that, I’ve striven to avoid using the word kids when speaking of young people. Kids are baby goats.

Children are also individuals. It’s tempting to lump them all in together as simply members of a group, as it is with black people, Latinos, LGBT’s, etc., but the fact is each child is a separate person with a unique personality. I think that’s what I bristle most at when people ask me why I never had children. “What’s the matter; don’t you like kids?” is a common question.

Besides being offended at the question itself (it really is none of their business), I’m offended at their use of the word kids, as well as their insistence on lumping all children into a group. It really is like saying, “Don’t you like blacks?” or “Don’t you like Hispanics?” And when you get down to it, liking children is not really an issue, since being a child is a temporary condition anyway. If you genuinely don’t like baby humans, have some patience. They’ll grow out of it.

In a recent press release, http://www.lp.org/news/press-releases/libertarian-chair-time-to-re-legalize-immigration, Wes Benedict demolishes many myths about immigration. He also points out some unintended consequences of making it more difficult for people to come to this country legally. One point caught my eye, partly because I’m jealous I didn’t think of it, but mostly because, well, I didn’t think of it. And, I bet, neither has anyone else: Pushing immigration underground makes it easier for terrorists to enter this country.

Bet you haven’t considered that, tea partiers.

Cool to be dumb

October 25, 2010

I had an odd little flashback today. As a guest in a training class where the icebreaker was to share a fun fact about yourself, I mentioned that I had been in the National Spelling Bee in
197[CENSORED] and got to meet the First Lady at the time. About a year ago,  I shared that same fact as a comment on John McIntyre’s delicious blog, You Don’t Say (http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/, and if you don’t peek in on that blog regularly, you should), and was obliquely ridiculed by another commenter, who seemed to feel that memorizing arbitrary lists of useless words was a waste of time for a preadolescent.

One thing that the National Spelling Bee does today which it did not in my day is televise nationally, usually on ESPN. Anyone with basic cable, therefore, can witness the contestants querying the judges about word origins, parts of speech, and usage. If you’ve ever watched this event, on TV or in person, you know that the children, ferociously competitive without exception, do this extensively. I can affirm from experience that many years from now, these techniques help not only communication skills but analytical skills in general, specifically left-brain skills. Moreover, I can also affirm from experience that the words themselves are far from useless. Words such as stochastic, risible, supercilious and internecine occur and have recently occurred in my work life and Internet reading. Heck, even Frank Costanza referred to Elaine once as supercilious. (http://www.seinology.com/scripts/script-90.shtml) So why does the commenter on McIntyre’s blog think this is a waste of time?

Assuming that commenter is American, he is a symptom of a peculiar and, I hope, momentary trend in American societal development. Some time in the recent past, perhaps in the past sixteen years, Americans seem to have lost respect for being smart. Put another way, it’s really obvious we’re more dumbed down than ever.

This Sunday’s Washington Post carried an article and, in the print edition, a catchy pop quiz entitled, “The tea party warns of a New Elite. They’re right.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/22/AR2010102202873.html) The New Elite is deliberately anti-intellectual. They’ve lost curiosity toward many subjects. They ridicule true intellectuals as if “elite” were something to be avoided. An Ivy League degree is something to be scorned; Christine O’Donnell is proud of not having gone to Yale, and her supporters are proud of her for not having gone to Yale. (My guess is, so is Yale.)  Newt Gingrich used the term “elite” a lot in 1994 to deride those opposite him on the political spectrum. (He, having a Ph.D in history himself, is a clearcut case of the pot calling the kettle rusted. But I digress.) This is well-documented: http://thinkprogress.org/2007/04/22/gingrich-liberalism-vatech/; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/shared/minitext/int_newtgingrich.html, especially risible because of his use of the oxymoron “elite mainstream;” see also http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1994-11-12/news/1994316001_1_newt-gingrich-washington-elite-programs We can hardly swing an Internet cat without hitting some frothy-mouthed anonymous bloviator grousing that the President or some other commentator is an elite. He’s too intellectual. They want a President who’s ‘a regular guy! Someone they can have a beer with! Here’s a terrific example of just that from a comment today, reproduced verbatim, to an opinion column written by Yale grad Anne Applebaum:

We have had it with all of you ignorant elites, get out of our way already! All we have to do is cut and past from Wikipedia and we can all see what the delusional fantasists from Yale still are on the WaPo’s payroll to brainwash into us their sense of inbred superiority based on hedonistic, secular, and Satanic wicked and sinful blindness:
Her parents are Harvey M. Applebaum, a Covington and Burling partner, and Elizabeth Applebaum of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She graduated from the Sidwell Friends School (1982). She earned a B.A. (summa cum laude) at Yale University (1986), where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. As a Marshall Scholar at the London School of Economics she earned a master’s degree in international relations (1987).[4] She studied at St Antony’s College, Oxford before moving to Warsaw, Poland in 1988 as a correspondent for The Economist

My word. I had no idea being smart and well-educated was a detriment.

Look, I don’t want someone in the White House who’s a regular guy, or gal. I want and need someone who’s way smarter than I am. Someone who’s dumber than I can get us all killed. (I’m looking right atcha, Dubya.)

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Shut Your Everloving Piehole rant without a jab at the radical right. Their collective lack of intellectual curiosity is summed up in that bumper sticker you’ve no doubt seen on the road: “God Said It/I Believe It/That Ends It.” OK, I get it: Some people believe the Old Testament + New Testament = the complete, inerrant word of the Almighty, and no other faith’s holy books need apply. Go ahead and believe that G-d created the heavens and earth. …Don’t you want to know how? Don’t you even care? (I’m still looking at you, George.)

Now, I know that bumper sticker’s been around a long time. And there will always be a few folks who sincerely believe it. But it’s dangerous to put such people in charge of determining our children’s science curricula (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/31/national/31religion.html and many others) and textbook content (http://tfninsider.org/2008/10/15/creationists-launch-first-strike-against-evolution-in-texas-science-standards/) at a time when those children will grow up to compete with kids in other countries who received a much more solid science and math education. We need teachers and parents who cherish and honor intellectual curiosity, more than ever. We need people who are not willing to be intellectually lazy. We need elites.

Elite. Teach your children it’s not a dirty word.

Last chance

October 21, 2010

…before the US turns into Denmark or Sweden.  Last chance to tell Nancy Pelosi to go eat a hodgy. A news post from one of the directors of NCPA:

Dear Policy Patriots -

Election Day is Just Two Weeks Away! If ObamaCare is not repealed, you will face lower quality, higher cost health insurance. Your access to care will suffer. The time to act is NOW!

Top 4 Reasons to Repeal ObamaCare. There are dozens of good reasons to repeal ObamaCare but here are the top four:

  • Americans Don’t Want It. People will be required to buy a product whose price will be rising at twice the rate of growth of their incomes and they will be barred from doing many of the things needed to control these costs.
  • Businesses Can’t Afford It. ObamaCare imposes a bizarre system of subsidies which will disrupt the entire labor market – causing massive layoffs and, ultimately, a complete restructuring of industrial organization.
  • Patients Don’t Need It. The health insurance exchange will give health plans perverse incentives to attract the healthy and avoid the sick; and after enrollment, to overprovide to the healthy and underprovide to the sick.
  • The Health Care System Can’t Support It. As is the case in Massachusetts, people will have perverse incentives to game the system – remaining uninsured while healthy and obtaining insurance only after they get sick; choosing limited-benefit plans while healthy and scaling up to richer plans after they get sick.

Change You Can Believe In! The American people deserve better than ObamaCare. You should expect more. Health reform should include higher quality, lower cost and strong protections for the care of senior citizens. Repealing ObamaCare is step one in achieving these important, attainable outcomes.

Walk Your Block This Week! Policy Patriots just like you have distributed more than 350,000 copies of the NCPA’s What Does Health Reform Mean for You? This week, many have committed to walking their neighborhoods, distributing this important educational guide. Do your part today by order 100 pamphlets from http://www.policypatriots.org and committing to walk your block this week.

———–

Okay, it’s a little hysterical-sounding, but he’s on the right track. I’ve been harping on that fourth point for many moons now. The health care system won’t be able to stand the strain. http://wp.me/pzqik-2R, http://shutyoureverlovingpiehole.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/stop-single-payer-health-care-now/

I’m happy that my representative, Frank Kratovil, voted against the thing, mainly on point #2; and dismayed that one of my senators, Ben Cardin, has stated in his publicity literature that he sincerely believes that health care is a right. He’s wrong, of course. If you have to pay for it, it’s a commodity, not a right.

…but at the same time, I would be unwise to put on my car, lest it be vandalized by rightwingnuts.

They say that having the blues takes years off your life. If that’s so, Robert Schimmel, who died yesterday at age 60 (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/arts/television/05schimmel.html?_r=1 and many other references), has insured I’ll live to be 100.

Despite painstaking attention to the “Recent Deaths” page on Wikipedia, this one escaped my attention until Steve and Sonny Fox broke the news  on XM 150 (Raw Dog Radio) this morning. I was in shock. I just sat there in the car with the ignition off, not believing my ears. It’s probably a good thing that the car wasn’t moving at the time. What a raw way for someone who beat cancer and survived a heart attack and hepatitis to go. I’m sure he wouldn’t say he got a raw deal, living only sixty years as he did, but there was, I’m sure, so much humor left in him. Besides being a front-row persona in my list of hot guys over 50, the oldest on the list in fact (http://shutyoureverlovingpiehole.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/in-praise-of-middle-aged-men/), I’m not ashamed to admit that lately I’ve had a major crush on this guy. Probably that’s emblematic of my inability to form real relationships, but I’ve been susceptible to celebrity crushes my whole life. And it may sound mean to say, but ever since he lost his hair to the chemo, he was sooo gorgeous. My eyes were glued to the TV screen every time I played his DVD or viewed one of his YouTube videos. How can one little (5’6″) sixty-year-old guy be so hot?

Everything he said resonated with me. He was like a BFF—a really, really hot middle-aged BFF—who said out loud everything those of us with X-rated senses of humor are thinking. Nothing shocked him, nothing seemed to bother him, at least not on stage. I love that he hosted the AVN Awards three times (http://avnawards.avn.com/). He was perfect for that event. Sometimes when I was a bit depressed I’d listen to one of the albums I have or his web site and just let his velvety smooth baritone soothe me, if soothing includes such observations as “It’s wrong to fuck your pets. …’Gee, thanks for that tip, Bob.’ ” Other times, I’d be in the car and have to pull over to the side of the road, I was laughing so hard from a bit they’d play on XM150, usually the one about premature ejaculation. It didn’t matter if I’d heard it twelve times before, which most likely I had. He still brought tears to my eyes.

He was at the DC Improv in November, and I blew it off—the District is 150 miles away now, after all. Of course, I’m kicking myself now. Sure, I wanted to meet him, but I wanted him to meet me, too.

So Bob, if you’re watching, and in a Jewish afterlife kind of way I know you are, I just want to say G-d bless you, I love you, and thank you for making me laugh my ass off. See you soon in olam ha’ba.

The Washington Post ran this article a couple of weeks ago:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/13/AR2010041302365.html

(If the above link doesn’t work, try this one:

http://cbs3.com/topstories/Mike.Huckabee.gays.2.1630642.html)

Now, I’m sure Mike Huckabee believes everything he said. And he certainly has the right to say what’s on his mind. But in this event, he manages to piss off a variety of groups whose vote he could certainly use. He must not really want to be President. Or, at least he hasn’t yet learned that you can attract a whole lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Many people have deconstructed what he had to say. But I can’t resist throwing in my opinion.

  • “Marriage has historically never meant anything other than a man and a woman. It has never meant two men,…” Gee, for an ordained minister, Huckabee sure doesn’t know his Bible very well. “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’ Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.  As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1Kings 11:2-4, all quotes NIV) I am not even gonna get into the Mormons here. Nor current-day Arab royalty. There are plenty of counterexamples to Huckabee’s claim, and he no doubt knows it.
  • “I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle….” And yet, there it is in, yup, you guessed it, the Good Book itself: “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. (1Sam 18:1)…I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. (2Sam 1:26)”
  • “That would be like saying, well there’s there are a lot of people who like to use drugs so let’s go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs.  There are people who believe in polygamy, should we accommodate them?” he said, according to a transcript of the interview.” On the first point, the official LP view point is basically, yes, let’s. Using drugs (presumably illegal drugs, not the okay ones like tobacco and alcohol) should be an individual choice, as long as no one else is harmed in the process. On the third point, there are people who do “believe in” polygamy, all over this world. See the first paragraph.
  • “There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them….[Marriage has never meant] a man and his pet, or a man and a whole herd of pets.”These arguments are such huge red herrings, you could cater a whole bar mitzvah with them. The reason you can’t marry your dog, or your preteen daughter or whatever, is that there is a lack of consent involved. Two people—any two people—who consent to the sacraments of marriage should be able to do so. (This, by the way, is also why NAMBLA doesn’t get a pass—boys by definition in our society cannot give consent. Even my gay male friends think NAMBLA is creepy.)
  • He also advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, saying it was necessary to confine “carriers of this plague.” Apparently Huckabee hasn’t kept up with the news. It is true that throughout the lifespan of the epidemic, the plurality of those infected with HIV have been men who contracted the virus through sex with another man. However, if Maryland is any representative, the largest group now is intravenous drug users:
    (http://dhmh.state.md.us/AIDS/Data&Statistics/NewMDQtrEpi.pdf ) and has been for some time now. When I worked at HERO, eleven years ago, about 80% of its clients had gotten the virus from shooting up. Sadly, one big reason gay men aren’t the largest group of carriers any more is that most of them died before effective treatments were developed.

    As you’ll note from the graph in the PDF document referenced above, drug shooters and good old heteros now far surpass gay men as “carriers of this plague.” If we were to actually do what Huckabee suggests and quarantine carriers of HIV, look whom we’d be quarantining (from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/basic.htm#hivest, about the only time you’ll catch me quoting the government on something):

Transmission Category Estimated # of AIDS Cases, Through 2007*
Adult
and Adolescent Male
Adult
and Adolescent Female
Total
Male-to-male
sexual contact
487,695 - 487,695
Injection drug use 175,704 80,155 255,859
Male-to-male
sexual contact and injection drug use
71,242 - 71,242
High-risk heterosexual contact** 63,927 112,230 176,157
Other*** 12,108 6,158 18,266

That’s over a million people, folks. Where, exactly, does he propose quarantining them to?

So in just a few well-placed sound bites, Huckabee manages to piss off a lot of gays, many of whom are Republican; nearly a million HIV-positive voters; as well as a lot of us gay-friendly types who just want to see our friends/parents/siblings/children/coworkers treated fairly. Oh, well—guess he’s not interested in our votes. And without the votes of open-minded, fair, tolerant adults, he’s got no chance to be President.

It’s already blazing hot here at the beach, which is one of the reasons I moved here. (And, parenthetically, why I don’t move to New Hampshire: I just can’t take winters that cold and snowy any more.) I bought a cute swimsuit last week, a two-piece tankini in tropical bright blues and greens, and I can’t wait to wear it.

At my age, my biggest fear is not how I’ll look in a swimsuit. Frankly, I’m not out there as eye candy for anyone else, and I don’t really give a shit if you think I’m not tan enough, too fat, or too hairy to be on the beach. My biggest fear is that total strangers, eager to share their disagreement with the above, will approach a random stranger (moi) to let me know exactly how I look, as if I didn’t know:

“You really need to shave down there.”

“You shouldn’t be wearing a two-piecer; you don’t have the figure.”

“You really need to visit the tanning booth.”

“You really need to lose some weight.” My personal favorite: like fat people don’t know they’re fat.

The current political climate of “if the government’s involved, that makes it my business because I pay taxes” is more of a symptom than a cause of a bizarre shift in personal behavior in this country I can only describe as the abandonment of privacy. The glut of gossip magazines discussing celebrities’ and wannabes’ every private move; the glut of trashy television programs discussing the same topics; the vast amount of information available on the public Internet, including the terminal narcissism known as Facebook and Twitter—all exposing every second of people’s lives to worldwide scrutiny. Some people think this is a good thing. It is certainly legal, but that doesn’t make it good, proper, or right. I’m still scratching my head over how this happened.

Specifically, if you, a total stranger, tell me any of the above, certainly that is your right. However, it’s none of your business. To paraphrase Thoreau, just because you have a right to say something does not mean that saying it is right. Here’s a tip: Saying nothing—shutting your everloving piehole—is always an option.

So if you’re on the East Coast beaches this summer and you see a middle-aged lady in a blue and green Gottex two-piece tankini, reading The New Yorker, smile, wave hello…and move on.

One of the great things about our rights is that, coming from G-d as they do, they’re free. Life? Liberty? Pursuit of happiness? All free. The stuff in the Bill of Rights? Free. You don’t have to pay for the right to free speech. (Please don’t confuse this with the need to pay for devices, such as a printing press or a personal computer, that facilitate your rights. That’s not a need. You can go down to the corner, stand there and yell, “The President is a fink!” without any purchased tools. That’s not only free, but very satisfying.)

The flip side of all this is that if you do have to pay for something, it’s not a right, it’s a good, a commodity. Which is why I’m disappointed, but not one bit surprised, that one of my senators, Ben Cardin, declares access to affordable health care to be a right: http://cardin.senate.gov/news/enews/nov23.cfm

As I’ve said in a prior post, I think Ben Cardin is a pretty smart guy. I know he had a class in Constitutional law as part of his J.D. degree and he knows quite well that health care is not a right, at least not in our Constitution. It’s too bad that he makes it sound like it is. It’s not. Health care is a commodity. In this country, one must pay for it.

It seems that too many people, politicians and others, on the pro-government health care side of the debate are getting two rights confused: the “right” to affordable health care, which is not a right, with the right to not be denied access to a commodity because of intangibles such as the color of your skin, your sex, your native language, or even to which deity you pray. As human beings, we are all equal in human dignity and those G-d-given rights enumerated in the Constitution. That doesn’t mean we are all equally entitled to equal access to the same commodities. If that were the case, I have just as much right to drive a Bentley as Kobe Bryant or Paris Hilton does, and therefore I demand that a Bentley be delivered to my house, tout suite. Can I get it in burgundy?

In my opinion, the best commentators on the monstrosity knows as health-care reform are those elected representatives who also happen to be health care providers. You guessed it, no one “gets” the issue better than Ron Paul:

http://www.house.gov/htbin/blog_inc?BLOG,tx14_paul,blog,999,All,Item not found,ID=100322_3678,TEMPLATE=postingdetail.shtml

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