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.

Gliding

I’ve been on a few hikes lately exploring the trails in the north section of Thacher Park. Over the weekend we took the dogs and set off for the much discussed scenic overlook of Hang Glider Cliff.

And scenic it is.

The girls take in the view.

From the edge you see Altamont and the fairgrounds, apple orchards, dozens of water towers and the distant Green Mountains and Adirondacks. The absence of any railings make it more interesting, as well.

As we were heading away, several vehicles came down the narrow path. Yes, the hang gliders were arriving at Hang Glider Cliff.

The long list of chores at home would have to wait.

Hang gliders are a friendly bunch who love to chat about their flying. As they set up their gear, they explained the ins and outs of the sport. Nobody goes off the edge on a whim. Among the group were two men taking their first flights from a cliff, only after many hours of training to prepare them for the real thing.

Waiting for the wind to pick up.

One guy asked, “So, when are you going to start your lessons?” I looked back to where my wife sat with the dogs. “I’m probably not getting approval on that one.”

After some waiting for the wind to pick up, it was time to fly.

Pretty cool — not just for the spectacle of seeing these guys fly from the cliff, but also because of the great spirit and enthusiasm the flyers have for gliding.

Take a walk up the trail and maybe you’ll get to see them soaring. Like a lot of things, it depends on which way the wind is blowing.

The Irish Goodbye: Summer Edition

I once offered some tips to help you pull off an Irish goodbye, the art of slipping away unnoticed from a social gathering. Well, summer’s here and it’s time for a few seasonal variations on the disappearing act that saves you from tedious protracted farewells.

  • Bringing beer? Leave the cooler at home. There should be a way to keep it cool at the party — and by the way, if you need a cooler, maybe you’re not drinking fast enough.
  • Bringing a dish like Beans, Beans, Beans? Put it in an aluminum, tray, tray, tray. Yeah, leave the CorningWare at home and put your food in a container you don’t care about. Always try to avoid that awkward ‘I’m taking my dirty dish and heading home now’ moment.
  • Cell phones are a curse, but they’re also a blessing. People think you’re being polite when you step away from the crowd to take a call. Just step away from the backyard with your phone to your ear — and keep stepping away until you get to your car.

One note: these strategies work best for events with moderate to large groups. I can’t help you escape from dinner with your family.