Category Archives: Current Events

#Calexit Diary, 2016 – 2020

canstockphoto22366211I used to occasionally get paid for thinking about the future, and this whole #Calexit thing has tickled my fancy. So I decided to dust off those arcane skills and have a go at the old crystal ball. Here’s what I’m thinking.

NOVEMBER 2016 – Dissatisfied with the results of the election, many Californians begin a movement to break off from the United States.

MARCH 2017 – The initiative to secede appears on the primary ballot and passes. Succession is to take place within the year.

JUNE 2017 – The northern part of the former California decides that they have never been properly represented by the urban south, and vote to break off and go back to the United States.

AUGUST 2017 – In their first election, the new nation tries to decide their name, whether or not to have an army, what the flag and national anthem should be, and if Aaron Sorkin should write their new constitution. There are so many initiatives on the new ballot that voting takes two hours per person.

SEPTEMBER 2017 – Election finishes and results that come in at the month’s end are inconclusive. Everyone wants to do their own thing, man. The new nation immediately splits into 37 sub-nations, known collectively as, um, The Collective.

OCTOBER 2017 – Hillary Clinton invited to be the first Presydent of The Collective.

DECEMBER 2017 – The Winter Solstice is chosen as the first day of the Presydential Term and the beginning of the new nation. The party begins!

FEBRUARY 2018 – The party finally winds down.

MARCH 2018 – The last of the hangovers finally clear, in time for the first anniversary of the birth of The Collective. The party begins again.

APRIL 2018 – Fryncysco declares itself the world’s first micro-aggression free zone.

JULY 2018 – President Trump cancels the wall between the former California and Mexico and extends it between Arizona and The Collective and Upper California and The Collective.

AUGUST 2018 – In their second election, The Collective legalizes objectophilia. Toastersexuals from around the world rejoice and flock to The Collective.

DECEMBER 2018 – The first anniversary of The Collective. Party!

MARCH 2019 – As hangovers clear, the next election declares December a holiday month and January a work-option month for recovery.

MAY 2019 – Presydent Clinton’s progressive Parkinson’s disease makes it difficult for her to rule. Her brain is transplanted into a new body grown from fetal stem cells. The new Presydent immediately receives more than 6,000 marriage proposals, even some from toastersexuals.

JULY 2019 – The last taxable business in The Collective goes under. In an emergency election that lasts through August, The Collective votes to become The Commune. It’s a groovy thing.

SEPTEMBER 2019 – Incessant partying has driven the price of legal weed up to $120 a joint. Protesters take to the streets. Presydent Clinton assures them that everything will be cool, and they all go home.

NOVEMBER 2019 – A Chinese submarine lands a small scouting party of troops on a beach near Los Angylys. After 48 hours of reconnaissance they return to the sub and nothing further is heard from China.

JANUARY 2020 – Democrats in the U.S. invite Michelle Obama to come back from The Commune and run for President. She considers it.

FEBRUARY 2020 – Texas considers succession if Michelle Obama becomes President. They look at how The Commune turned out and change their minds.

MARCH 2020 – Michelle Obama turns the Democrats down. Her new body is still in the growth chamber.

APRIL 2020 – U.S. Border Patrol guards along The Commune wall report it’s been awfully quiet in there.

MAY 5, 2020 – Mexico annexes The Commune.

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Handwriting is on the Wall

I have just heard the news that cursive writing will no longer be taught in Ohio schools, making it the third state to abandon the skill (behind Indiana and Hawaii). The keyboard is king now, the thinking goes, making unnecessary a discipline that teaches manual dexterity at the fine motor level. In these modern times we live in, cursive is slowly being traded as a youth-learned skill in favor of manipulation of a joystick.

That’s pretty sad. We’re slowly losing something useful, something that was a rite of passage in our schooling, and something that serves as a unique identifier and perhaps even a mirror of our personality.

I say this in spite of my never having really gotten the hang of cursive. My penmanship was wobbly and inconsistent, and I always had to labor at it. Printing worked better for me, probably since I did an unusual amount of writing as a kid before the cursive lessons started. I was actually faster at printing, and over the years, my printing evolved into it’s own kind of cursive, though it doesn’t look anything like when I try to write in cursive. It’s neither writing nor printing, but it is distinctive.

Quality cursive is a subjective thing anyway. Two of my oldest friends vary widely in the quality of their penmanship. One has a tight, elegant, kind of writing that resembles a city skyline. It’s amazing looking and could be a font. The other writes in broad, palsied, wavy lines that look like Charles Schulz’s lettering in the last few years of his life. Even his printing is sad looking. But both are enormously successful in their respective fields.

What always amazed me was how cursive seemed to cookie cutter the handwriting of girls. Our cursive system turned out millions of girls who wrote with broad, loopy writing, the kind that seemed to encourage the dotting of “i’s” with tiny hearts or flowers. Being a callow youth, I immediately judged girls on this kind of penmanship, and I never dated anyone whose writing looked like that.

In fact, my wife has the most amazing handwriting I’ve ever seen. It took me a couple of years to be able to read it on the first pass. Her letters are long and thin and slant off to the right like a field of wheat bending in a breeze. The loops she pens are gracefully thin and tight, with just enough space inside to distinguish one letter from another. It’s graceful and compact and is as unique as she is.

My children, on the other hand, were educated during the ascendancy of the keyboard, and interestingly enough, they both lean more toward printing than any brand of cursive. Further, what training they did get in cursive managed to generify their penmanship, and their styles of printwriting are remarkably similar. Both have a practiced signature, but it consists mostly of straight lines occasionally interrupted by a loop. But as their father, I can tell them apart.

Perhaps it’s time for cursive to go, given how keyboards now dominate our lives. But that’s not a good thing. It was a good discipline to learn. It gave you a unique marker beyond the fingerprint. From personal experience, I can say that writing by hand gives you a more intimate connection with the words in your head. For most of the novels I’m working on or have planned, I already have opening scenes written by hand (including the soon-to-be-released The Mushroom Shift, which was the first time I wrote a first chapter by hand).

Time and progress leave things behind, and for better or worse cursive is looking more and more like a dinosaur. However, being modern has its price. I can’t imagine Sullivan Ballou’s letter or the train station scene in Casablanca being improved by a laser printed missive in perfect 12-point Times New Roman.

Harry Potter to Enter 21st Century?

I don’t know how long she’s been saying “No”, but J.K. Rowling has gotten a reputation for being something of a luddite when it comes to her novels about a certain boy with a scar on his forehead. Words like “never” were batted about when it came to asking when her Harry Potter series would be released in an eBook format. I’m not sure of her reasoning, unless it was that “the book as a tactile experience you can’t get on an eReader” thing.

Well, that was her decision.

But now, according to this article on thebookseller.com, all of that may be changing.

I’m not sure of the reason for this. The cynic in me tends to think that perhaps the publishers pointed out how much money Ms. Rowling was missing out on (read: how much money they were missing out on – since Rowling is poised to or has already become the first billionaire author, I’m sure money has lost some of its lure).

But another part of me thinks that she looked at the fact that, in light of the Harry Potter theme park to be opening in Florida next month, holding out on eBooks suddenly looked rather silly.

Anyway, if this is true, congrats to J.K. on her change of heart.

Tiger Woods and the Hugh Grant Maneuver

Here’s a little something I wrote for the blog where I work. I was so pleased with the result that I decided to share it with all of you lucky folks, too. H/T to Dan Sonnier for most of the jokes and the link to the CG.

Just in time for Christmas, America is enjoying a steaming bowl of Schadenfreude — and the unfortunate person getting stuck with the bill is Tiger Woods. I’m going to assume you haven’t been living in a cave or been in a coma and will spare you the details. But you know things are getting bad when the jokes start. And start they have:

  • What’s the difference between a car and a golf ball? Tiger can drive a ball 400 yards.
  • Tiger Woods wasn’t seriously injured in the crash, but he’s still below par.
  • Tiger crashed into a fire hydrant and a tree. He couldn’t decide between a wood and an iron.
  • I don’t know how Elin putts, but it’s clear she can’t seem to hit the driver.
  • Actually, her short game is bad – she can only hit woods.
  • And don’t miss this little bit of Internet spoofery on the subject.

The whole situation has even brought this interesting use for CG graphics to light.

So while Tiger talks of transgressions and generally tries to avoid the subject, you know that someone in the Woods camp, be it a handler or manager, has uttered the three words nobody wants to hear: Public Relations Nightmare.

How does one handle such a situation? Commentator and columnist Larry Kudlow, who has seen his share of bad times, gives the best suggestion I’ve seen, but to me it’s merely a good start. It doesn’t go far enough to staunch the flow of tabloid headlines and begin to rebuild the good will that has fled the Tiger Woods brand.

What would I do if Tiger (or, let’s face it, his proxy) were sitting on the other side of my desk asking for my advice?

I would say, “Tiger needs to perform the Hugh Grant maneuver.”

The what?

It works like this. In 1995, the career of actor Hugh Grant was in full swing and he was dating one of the world’s most desirable women (Elizabeth Hurley) when the LAPD literally caught him with his pants down in the company of a common street prostitute. On the eve of the release of his latest film, his wholesome image was instantly tarnished.

What did Grant do? As part of the promotional tour for the film, he had scheduled an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He kept the appointment and made his appearance before a doubtlessly skeptical audience that wasn’t sure what to expect.

Leno’s first question? “What the hell were you thinking?”

Then Grant, in a clearly embarrassed and contrite manner, dismissed advice he had been given to spin what happened, took his lumps from Leno, and said, “I did a bad thing.”

Just like that he was forgiven because, hey, we’ve all been there in one way or another. While the film Grant was promoting didn’t do well (it may have had something to do with the fact that it was a clunker from the start), his career survived, with performances that often draw comparisons to Cary Grant. And his relationship with Hurley? It lasted another five years before they parted.

So Mr. Publicist? Tell Tiger to stop hiding behind smoke and mirror statements on his web site and behind polysyllabic words like “transgressions.” Call a sin a sin. Book him on Jay Leno and let Jay ask him The Question. And tell him to answer with candor and honesty.

Hugh Grant was just a British actor. Tiger Woods is an American legend. As we showed with Grant, we’re willing to forgive a lot. That goes double for our heroes. But first he needs to come clean.

More on The Hugh Grant Maneuver:

Watch Jay Leno grill Hugh Grant

Read about Grant’s arrest and image rehabilitation

Was That The Way He Was?

The Drudge Report is now linking to a news story about a former employee of post-retirement Walter Cronkite who is currently shopping around a posthumous “nasty tell-all book” about America’s most beloved newsman. Supposedly, the tome paints a picture of a Cronkite much different than the one we had come see as “the most trusted person in America.”

But is the book accurate? Or is it a rough fabrication? Through my professional contacts, I have come up with a copy of the first draft, and even though it could get me in trouble, I am releasing it here, now, so you can judge for yourself. Is this just an attempt at character assassination by a disgruntled former employee? Or was Walter Cronkite really not the person we thought he was?

Election night 1968 hit Cronkite hard. Eleven months before, at the end of the Tet Offensive, he had taken it upon himself to declare that the war in VietNam was now “unwinnable” following this “disaster for the United States.” But the declaration had not ended the war as he had hoped. Worse, his preferred Presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy, was now in his grave, Lyndon Johnson had declined to run for a second term of office, and the Democratic party had fielded Vice President Hubert Humphrey against Republican Richard Nixon, with disastrous effect. Nixon was elected in an electoral landslide by a public weary of the war that Cronkite had helped to demonize.

Facing at least four years of Republican rule, Cronkite immediately took to the bottle. “As soon as the election was called,” said Dan Rather, “he reached for the bottom drawer of his desk. We all knew what was coming after that.”

Rather says that he helped his mentor finish off the bottle of “newsman’s courage” (really Wild Turkey) but it wasn’t enough. Cronkite borrowed the keys to his assistant’s souped up Ford Mustang, and they went tearing down the streets of New York City, looking for open bars.

The first place they hit was trying to close for the night, but Cronkite had entrenched himself on a stool next to a trio of Pan Am flight attendants. He wouldn’t move until he was served, and the bartender greased the wheels of his departure by offering him a couple of unopened bottles of vodka.

Cronkite and Rather left the bar, each with a bottle in one hand and a stewardess in the other. “Walt kept trying to get his to chug from the bottle,” Rather said. “He kept telling her he wanted show her ‘how that’s the way it is.'”

The third stewardess drove while Cronkite killed the rest of his bottle in the back seat with his evening’s companion. Rather’s stewardess produced a series of Thai sticks, and the quintet was soon passing those around, too. They hit a couple of after-hours clubs on their rounds, adding a large bottle of Jack Daniels to their cache, using it to wash down the Benzedrine supplied by Cronkite’s escort.

The real trouble didn’t start until one stewardess started having trouble keeping down the meal of eggs and corned beef hash she had eaten when they stopped at an all-night greasy spoon. She leaned out the window of the Mustang and sprayed the Manhattan streets with undigested food while Cronkite, now at the wheel, hit speeds of up to 90 miles an hour.

Looking for something to wipe off her mouth, the stew opened the glove compartment to find the Smith and Wesson .38 Police Special that Cronkite’s assistant, a former NYC cop, kept there. Cronkite immediately had an idea, and sometime around 4:30 a.m., slammed the Ford to a stop near the low-rent end of the theater district and led the others into an alleyway, where he kicked over garbage cans looking for “rats and other Republicans.”

The third stewardess tried to talk Cronkite out of this, but he insisted he was a crack shot with a handgun, claiming that he had learned to shoot from Edward R. Murrow himself. When a suitable target could not be found, he talked his stewardess friend into standing up against a brick wall with the mostly-empty whiskey bottle on her head. A few bleary attempts to aim later, he finally heeded the cries of the third stewardess. “You’re right,” he slurred. “that Jack in there is making the bottle wiggle.” He then gulped the last of the Jack Daniels down before placing the bottle on the head of his volunteer.

From this point on, details of the story get fuzzy. Police reports indicate that three rounds were fired from the revolver. One shot is known to have grazed the length of Cronkite’s outer right leg, and fragments from the bullet’s ricochet on the concrete embedded themselves in the newscaster’s right foot, giving him the limp he would work to conceal for the rest of his life. Another of the shots is alleged to have been fired when Cronkite spotted a “Nixon’s The One!” sign on a passing bus.

The third shot, of course, was the infamous one, wherein Cronkite took boozy aim, squinted hard as the transparent bottle blended in with the brick wall, pulled back the hammer, and gave a sloppy jerk to the trigger.

Fact or fabrication? The decision is yours!

Obamapoly

Barack Obama is promising to bring change if elected. Now you can experience Obama’s brand of change first-hand, before you vote, to see if you like his policies. All you need is a Monopoly game. It might not be easy or fun – but it will give you a real taste of things to come!

THE BANK

There is no banker in Obamapoly. Instead, the player who distributes the money to players is called The Government. The player who is the government does not play like the other players, but is still able to accumulate property and conduct business, as specified below.

THE RULES

Play proceeds mostly as normal, with the following exceptions.

1) Players should keep their money in three piles. The Old Money, which is what they have accumulated on previous turns; New Money, which are funds taken in since last passing Go; and Tax Money, which is 10% of the value of the player’s property, houses and hotels.

2) When players reach Go again, they may not pass it. Instead, they must stop on it and wait for other players to catch up.

THE GO PHASE (APRIL 15th)

Once all players are stopped on Go, the following things happen.

1) Players give their Tax Money to The Government. If they do not have tax money set aside, the government may collect 20% of any monies on hand or seize property to cover the debt.

2) Players must also give The Government 10% of their Old Money.

3) The Government then looks at the New Money collected by all the players. The player with the most New Money becomes “The Top 5%.”

Let’s say on April 15th, the situation looks like this:

Player 1: $150
Player 2: $200
Player 3: $70
Player 4: $50

Player 2 then becomes “The Top 5%.”

The Government then collects half of the New Money from all players. The amount due in our example would look like this:

Player 1: $75
Player 2: $100
Player 3: $35
Player 4: $25

Thus, the players are left with these amounts and The Government collects $235. The Government now “spreads the wealth around” and gives the remaining 95% of Americans a “Tax Cut.” The amount given to each player should leave them with the same amount of New Money that “The Top 5%” has left. Looking at our example:

Player 1: $75 + $25 = $100
Player 2: $100 + $0 = $100
Player 3: $35 + $65 = $100
Player 4: $25 + $75 = $100

The “Top 5%” of course, receives nothing.

If not all of the monies are redistributed, The Government keeps what is left over. In our example, having redistributed $165 of the $235 collected, The Government may now pocket the remaining $70.

Having completed the Go Phase, players may now collect $200 and continue play until reaching Go again. Begin with the player who was the poorest before April 15th.

MORE RULES

3) If a player does not have enough money to pay another player Rent, he or she may petition The Government to intervene. The Government may do this by a), dictating a fair price for rent that the player can afford, or b) subsidizing the player’s rent by paying it out of Government funds (formerly “The Bank”).

4) A player never leaves the game because of Bankruptcy. A player who has lost everything may petition The Government for a Bailout, after which The Government pays their rent for the remainder of the game.

ENDING THE GAME

Obamapoly ends when:

1) The Government runs out of money, or,

2) The Government owns all of the property on the board, or,

3) All Non-Government players quit in disgust.

DETERMINING THE WINNER

Everyone wins. It is more fair that way.

HOUSE RULES

Do not use any house rules when playing Obamapoly. They are not fair.

Long Time Comin’

After a long, illustrious career that included successfully dodging charges of cable TV theft, road rage, and hacking his ex-wife and a visitor to death with a piece of cutlery, O.J. Simpson no doubt had grown to believe that he was above the law. No doubt that’s why he thought he could get away with forming an impromptu vigilante, um, posse to mete out a little western justice on the dirtbag who wronged him.

Unfortunately for the ex-running back, this was a bridge too far, the straw that broke the camel’s back, one toke over the line… pick your metaphor. Over the weekend, Las Vegas jury threw the book, their chairs, the judge’s gavel, and whatever else was in reach at Simpson.

Now there are whispers that, in spite of extraordinary efforts to insure a fair trial for The Juice (500 potential jurors were screened prior to the trial), that there was perhaps a little payback involved in this trial. Maybe so. But if true I can’t really feel bad about it in light of O.J.’s virtual (not to mention crass, tasteless and utterly cruel) “confession.”

At least in Nevada they were able to find 12 smarter people than there were in Brentwood, California – the ones who turned their back on forensic and scientific evidence to base their verdict on an advertising slogan.

In any event, it gives me great pleasure to present you with this: The October 2008 model of the O.J. Simpson mugshot.

This time it’s for real.

Postscript (10/7/08): If any of you folks out there have business with Mr. Simpson in the future, don’t forget your tape recorder.