A Pace That Lets You Think

Maybe you’ve seen David Cronenberg’s film Scanners, you know, with the exploding heads? Well, I thought my head would explode as I was trying to juggle four instant messenger conversations at the office on Friday. When did work get so insane?

Naturally, when I spotted this item in the Vermont Country Store catalog, I was nostalgic for simpler times.


“A pace that lets you think.” Hmmm, I really need that — no, maybe we all need that. I don’t know about your job, but my days lately are fractured by so many meetings that there’s precious little time to sit at my desk and get work done. Doing things at a pace that lets you think would be luxurious.

I’m sure that many of you remember typing your work and then distributing it to people on paper; for you youngsters, it was once commonplace. It might be fun to buy a typewriter and send some work around that way. We could all benefit from a pace that lets you think.

Special Comment

This election season would not be complete without the voice of Keith Olbermann.

Thanks to GQ magazine, we’ve been able to hear Olbermann’s views on Donald Trump — exclusively Donald Trump — in a series of web videos called The Closer with Keith Olbermann. This one below is not his most devastating takedown of Trump, but as a dog lover, it is my favorite:

I miss having Olbermann on TV. It may be that the settlement of his lawsuit with Current TV means he doesn’t need to work the sort of jobs he did before, and if so, bully for him. To say Olbermann’s relationship with management has never been great may be the understatement of the decade.

Either way, Olbermann’s unshackled commentaries on Trump are one of the good things to come out of this dismal election.

UPDATE: Another Trump reference surfaced this week in a NY Times story. He referred to Arsenio Hall as follows:

“Dead as a doornail,” was his assessment of Mr. Hall in a previously unreleased interview from two years ago. “Dead as dog meat.”

Some Mother’s Son

Facebook: it’s America’s favorite place for heaping ridicule on people — especially those accused of crimes. But when you combine that with the irresistible urge to make fun of someone different? Well, that’s when you truly get online magic.

All the local news outlets posted this story about Carlos Rodriguez, a Florida man arrested for attempted murder. This is not something that would normally get national exposure, if not for this: Mr. Rodriguez’s lost part of his skull in an automobile accident, leaving him with a profound deformity.

So what do we have here? News outlets posting a story with no local significance, just for the shock value of the mug shot. Then their audience has the opportunity to make cruel remarks about the man’s appearance.

That’s a sick and sad state of affairs.

Maybe before people write stupid shit about Carlos Rodriguez on Facebook they should consider that he is someone’s son or brother. He’s clearly a guy that’s had some trouble, things that most of us can’t even imagine. Empathy, anyone?

I’ve discussed here before how TV stations and newspapers don’t bother trying to moderate comments on their Facebook pages. And why should they? All those little clicks add up.

Foto Friday

Ogunquit, ME

Cat 2.0

miaTwo of our three cats died over the summer, one giving way to old age and the other to a terminal illness. But as we mourned their loss, one member of the household seemed to celebrate: Mia, the remaining cat.

Mia is a whole new cat since the others are gone. She suddenly has the place to herself, and free of the stress of sharing our home with other felines, she’s become increasingly bold.

The upside is she’s much more sociable — but some of her behavior pushes the limits. For example, she’s taken to a shine to the kitchen counter, where we’ve found her licking our food, and in one case stealing bag of bread and running off with it.

She pays no mind to the dogs, in fact she joins them in watching us eat, hoping for a handout or dropped bit of food from the table.

None of the cats ever got along, so for Mia, this is the best thing to ever happen. Me? I miss the other two, but I have to admit, life is simpler with fewer pets. Even if it means walking in the kitchen and finding someone eating the humus I left out.

This Election is Rigged

Yes, it’s true, this election is rigged. Someone schemed to make a lunatic the Republican nominee.

The Republicans deprived us of a legitimate choice. Instead of putting forth a candidate who is competent and level-headed, someone we can trust to make solid decisions about the future of our country, their nominee is the most unqualified and unstable man to ever run for the office.

And talk about a squandered opportunity. Any one of the major Republican candidates (including John Kasich, who I voted for in the primary) might have beaten Hillary Clinton — except for the one who was chosen. Oh, yes, Trump had his chance, but he’s too stupid and volatile to conduct an effective campaign. Stupid and volatile is not a winning combination.

When my kids were small, I’d take them with me on election day to see how voting is done. I wish they were still little, because I’d be able to show them how to cast a vote for a write-in candidate. I recommend you consider Evan McMullin, who is a hundred times more qualified than Trump to be our president.

“Rob,” you say, “There’s no way Evan McMullin can win.” That’s right, he probably can’t win. This year there are no winners.

Fifteen Years

My son was home recently from sunny Twentynine Palms, where he’s stationed in the Marines. When home, he marveled at how green everything was, even in the midst of our dry, dry summer.

At dinner one night he ordered a beer, and as usual he was proofed — except this time, having finally reached 21, he was legal. My son looks young for his age, but he’s old enough to be a machine gunner in the Marines, old enough to go to Iraq, old enough (to his mother’s displeasure) to get tattoos and now, at long last, old enough to be served a drink.

On the morning of 9/11 he was six-years-old. My older boy , now a sergeant in the New York National Guard, was 13. Like his younger brother, he also serves in the infantry.

They were just kids 15 years ago and today they’re men. I remember in the days after the attacks that I’d sit up at night waiting for the other shoe to drop. A decade and a half later both my children have fought this war, and the shoe is still dropping.

Bronx 1934

I binged four seasons of Boardwalk Empire recently. It has all the usual gangster stuff I enjoy, but there’s also a profound sadness to the show. Tragedy lurks around every corner, and as you get involved with the characters, you feel their pain.

I liked it a lot, but as the body count mounted from season to season, a nagging thought began to gnaw at me: these crime dramas  rarely show the devastating effect that death can have on a family, sometimes lasting for generations.

I know this because murder touched my own family many years ago.

I never met my grandfather, because in 1934 he was shot in a Bronx pool hall. The two men accused in his murder, described by the NY Times as a “minor politician” and a “former pugilist” were acquitted at trial.

In the movies, that would be the end of the end of the story, but in real life, he left behind my grandmother and six children. My father was seven-years-old.

Those were tough years and losing the head of the household couldn’t have helped. It changed the trajectory of the family in ways we’ll never know.

The next time you watch a scene of carnage in some gangster shoot-em-up think how each minor figure is connected to so many other lives. It moves the plot in one direction, but shifts the world in another.

Click This

Baby Eaten by Snake!
Police Shoot Man in Dunkin Donuts!
Adorable Kitten Watches Olympics!

You’ve seen the sensational headlines your local TV station or newspaper post on social media. Local news has learned that Facebook and Twitter are a great way to drive traffic to their websites — and they do so in a way that’s quietly sneaky and subversive.

How’s that? They conveniently forget to tell you where things happened in the social media posts. You see, by omitting the dateline, a reader might think the eaten babies, donut eaters and kittens are right here in the Capital Region. And you click.

Then you’re somewhat disappointed to learn that the snake ate a baby in Florida. Yes, of course — that’s Florida for you.

I consider myself a savvy news consumer and they trick me with these posts all the time. Shame on me, but who can resist those headlines? I’m only human, so crazy stories, picture galleries, inane polls — sometimes I can’t help myself but to click.

Finally, some homework. You must watch  John Oliver’s commentary on the state of journalism — and pay particular attention to the Spotlight parody.