Thursday, December 20, 2018

Holiday Spectacular 2018


It’s the 13th  (pretty sure) Holiday Spectacular!!!! As usual, I am just going to start winging it and see what comes out.

Let start with POLITICS!!  NO. No politics. Too poisonous this year. I just can’t. Instead . . .

Tee shirts?
If I had an ounce of entrepreneurial ability I would market uninspirational tee shirts this year. You heard me. U N I N S P I R A T I O N A L.  And I’m calling them - Uninspirational Tee Shirts. Get it? Here is my first batch. Picture these on a tee shirt. 

[Front] F’ inspiration. . . 

[Back] I’m tired.

[Front] I DO ONE THING AT A TIME . . .
[Back] I DO IT WRONG, AND THEN I MOVE ONTO THE NEXT

[Front] THERE’S NO “I” IN TEAM. . .
[Back] BUT THERE ARE TWO IN “I QUIT.” 

[Front] I CAME, I SAW. . .
[Back] GOOD ENOUGH.

[Front] NEVER PUT OFF FOR TOMORROW . . .
[Back] WHAT YOU CAN PUT OFF INDEFINITELY  

[Front] WHOEVER SAID I’M NOT GETTING OLDER, I’M GETTING BETTER . . .
[Back] WAS PROBABLY 22.

[Front] I’M NOT LAZY. . .
[Back] I GENUINELY DON’T WANT TO DO ANYTHING

Sports:

You know what would be a good tourist attraction? A “Mt. Rushmore” for athletes. What four athletes would belong on the American Sports “Mt. Rushmore”? I think they should have to be dead to qualify and obviously be iconic in some way, not just great.  Here’s who I come up with – 

  Muhammad Ali
  Jim Thorpe
  Babe Ruth
  Jesse Owens.

A lot of guys and gals are deserving - Chamberlain, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, Knute Rockne, Jackie Robinson, Johnny Unitas, Vince Lombardi, Leo Durocher, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, to name just a few.  I’ve said my choices. Thorpe and Ruth are probably easiest. Thorpe was possibly the greatest all-around athlete in our history and Ruth, still a home run champ. at least emotionally speaking, regardless of what the record book says and perhaps the most iconic athlete of all. Owens, if nothing else, for the ’36 Olympics. Ali may not have been the greatest boxer of all time compared to other boxers in other great eras – it’s debatable, obviously. But arguably, he was still “the greatest,” for numerous reasons, including entertainment value and worldwide appeal. At one point he may have been the most recognizable person on earth.

Try commenting and giving your opinion (though, of course, I’m right). Maybe it will work. If not, so what else is new.

Politics

Okay, maybe just a little politics. Sccccrrrrreeeeeeeeeeech. No politics. But, a little political history to celebrate our crazy year will be okay.

I did read this in a history book and it reminded me so much of present times I copied it down (really dictated it on my phone at a library and then emailed it to my laptop; it is the 21st century) from the The Rise of Andrew Jackson: Myth, Manipulation, and the Making of Modern Politics by David and Jeanne Heidler P. 240. fn. 9.
“Adams supporters could have wish it had been so easy to wrangle 13 states, each with unique electoral and demographic complexities, into a winning coalition. Jackson simply saw the complexities as corruption and believed an administration founded on it would continue its double-dealing unless checked by the forces of virtue. Indeed, opposing such a creation had to proceed from higher motives than disappointment and resentment. Defaming the perpetrators of such fraud was a righteous application, not a scurrilous enterprise. Andrew Jackson, as he himself saw it, had a duty to vilify the Adams presidency out of principle, regardless of its policies, and with complete disregard for its principal figure’s reputation for spotless rectitude. Jackson's mission justified the actions of it is supporters. Kentucky Senator Richard M. Johnson swore that Old Hickory's men would oppose Adams and Clay even ‘if they act as pure as the angels that stand at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Even Thomas Hart Benton, who never believed the corrupt bargain accusation, endorsed obstructionism as justifiable to secure Jackson's victory in 1828.”
Sound familiar? It almost sounds like . . . nope, not going there. Back to Xmas.
Ah, Christmas music:

For a few years, at least, I have been reworking my list of favorite Xmas songs. Every year it is much the same, but a little different.

1. Baby, it's cold outside. Last year this classic by Frank Loesser of Guys and Dolls fame was no. 4, but I’m making it No. 1 just because the idiot patrol that is slowly taking over the country has deemed it a date rape song. For the nth time – he wrote the song for his wife. HIS WIFE, YOU MORONS! They used to sing it at their annual Xmas party. She was furious when he sold it to the movies. “What’s in this drink?” doesn’t mean he drugged her drink, you idiots! Apparently, numerous radio station at where numerous idiots (or, to be fair, moral cowards) work, have stopped playing it. Fight back a little, will you? Take a look at this. It’s from the movie Loesser finally sold his love song to – Neptune’s Daughter.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRGZULIkfwE.
Esther Williams tries to avoid Ricardo Montalban, and sure, Ricardo is a little bit wolfish, but she hardly looks coerced, and one withering look from her gets his hand off her arm (which of them was scared?), and in the counter-couple Red Skelton and Betty Garrett (who, btw, later played Edna on Laverne and Shirley), she’s the wolf and he’s the mouse. Date rape, my ass. Try not to ruin everything. 
Though, for once, it looks like the good guys are winning. I just read that the Dean Martin version (I love Dean, but the Mercer and Whiting version is best, followed by Leon Redbone and Zoey Deschanel (yes, the zany actress) just made the top 10 digital sales chart for the first time. Please be true. Go normal people!
2. Game of Bells. This probably should be the real number one. I love the harmony of this French trio, L.E.J.  It's based on the theme from Game of Thrones (of which I’ve never seen a single second, but I checked the theme), and should be a classic. I’m not hearing it out there though, but once. Magnifique.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtk3kyHlmfo.
3. 
Cool Yule. This was number 6 last year, but it has grown on me. Actually written by the actor, Tonight Show host, song writer, comedian, Steve Allen.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxTSxQcCWLI. The Louis Armstrong hit is still the only one I listen to.
4. Hallelujah. The Leonard Cohen hit that I only heard for the first time recently. He died soon after I discovered it although I'm almost positive there is no direct causation between the two events. I can’t find anything else he did that I like. Who cares? I like this. Is it really a Xmas song? But it is played at Xmas so maybe it is. An acappella group, Pentatonix, also does a good version.   
5. 
All I want for Xmas is youThe Vince Vaughn and the Vandals one hit wonder. Formerly, my number one, and I still love it. No, it’s not the Maria Carey song and it was first.
6. 
Let it SnowI love Dean Martin. Who doesn’t? It bothers me that other artists have made covers of it. Some songs permit no covers. Quoting myself from last year – “The lyrics were written by the immortal Sammy Cahn, who was nominated for 32 major awards (I counted myself - mostly Oscars, and he won a bunch), while he and one of his writing partners, Jule Styne, were in the desert.” 
7. 
Joy to the World. Whitney Houston. A friend who sometimes reads this blog called me the other day just to say he was listening to her on the radio and no one compared to her. I agreed. Not even Mariah can compare.
8.  
Snoopy and the Red Baron byThe Royal Guardsman. Still no. 8. I can’t help feeling good when I hear this song.
9.  As with last year, I call a tie for three Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs -  Christmas Eve, Siberian Sleigh Ride and Carol of the Bells.
10.   Linus and Lucy (from a Charlie Brown Christmas – I think of it as a Christmas song)
11.   Frosty the Snow Man (Jimmy Durante ONLY)
12.   Home for the Holidays (Perry Como, although there are other good versions)
13.   Christmas (Maria Carey). Yep, at this point I like this better than that other song. You know which one.
14.   Put one foot in front of the other (Fred Astaire), from the iconic animated movie.
15.   Ave Maria (Andrea Bocelli). I don't care what other opera singers think. Most people like him better. We hate opera, like him.
16.   It’s the most wonderful time of the year (Andy Williams)
17.   Winter Wonderland (Eurythmics)
18. Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I love the Bruce Springsteen version. 
19. Frosty – Only sung by the immortal Jimmy Durante. All other versions are just a stupid song about a dancing snowball.
20. Christmas time is here – Daniela Andrade. Daniela is hypnotic. A narcotic. I love to take naps to her voice. A sweetheart (although, she could be a psycho and just playing a sweetheart to the camera). Amazing. And I have to admit, that little dog really is frigging cute, just like she says.     
Honorable mentions: I’m a little sick of Mariah’s All I want for Christmas is you. But, it has to at leasst rate an honorable mention. John Lennon’s So this is Christmas is growing on me again. It may be on the list next year. There are, of course, many others. Suggest them in the comments that Google won't let you make.

Politics :  No, no politics. I can’t. I just can’t.
But, we can talk about Russia, just not about . . .  you know.   When I think about Russia, I think about snow (and, of course, onion domes, but ignore that for now), and if I think about snow, I think about Xmas, so we can go there for the Holiday Spectacular.

A true story of Russian Collusion on The Night Before Christmas (Shhhhh!! Don't tell Mueller)
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a Russian (or Ukrainian, depending on which you prefer) writer by the name of Nikolai Gogol, a disciple of the great Pushkin, and one of their most influential writers, wrote a short story called The Night before Christmas, usually translated in English as Christmas Eve. Though Gogol was famous as a realist, this was a fantasy, involving a very pathetic Satan, a witch, the witch's son, who was the heroic blacksmith Vakula (variously spelled), Vakula's beloved, being the comically spoiled and bitchy beauty, Oksana, Potemkin and Catherine the Great, not mention her shoes. I’ve decided against retelling it, because – well, okay, real fast then: The devil and the witch (Vakula’s mom) are up to mischief, stealing the moon and some stars, and the devil, coming on to the witch-mom back at her house, has to quickly hide in one of Vakula’s coal sacks when her many suitors start showing up at her home. Then, Vakula, stung from being rejected by Oksana (whose father is also hiding in one of the sack), picks up the sacks and goes out with them on his back, carrying all the suitors, including the devil, the mayor, the sexton and Oksana's father among them. Well, since he has vowed to Oksana get her the Czarina’s shoes (for she taunted him that is the only way she would marry him), he needs the devil’s help, and he learns from an old Cossack that the devil is on his back. The devil thinks he has things in hand, but Vakula easily overpowers him (some devil) and forces him to help and off they fly. He collects the shoes, comes back and finds he already has won Oksana's heart with his dedication to her and blah, blah, blah.

That all might not seem so special to you, raised on the much greater A Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas (almost certainly written, not by Clement Moore, but by Major Henry Livingston, no matter what almost everyone, including the all-knowing internet says – see one of my very first and favorite posts – “Read this on the Night Before Christmas” – 9/26/06) and, of course, the best movie ever made, the 1947 (and only the 1947) Miracle on 34th Street. But, in 19th century Russia, Gogol was almost as big a deal as Google is here and now (there’s some typical Russian exaggeration in there – but he was a big deal).

What has this to do with collusion, you ask? Nothing. Patience.
The short story had a powerful effect on other artists. In the 1870s, there was a libretto written by one Polonsky based upon the short story floating around unused, as the composer it was prepared for and his patroness, who paid for it, had both untimely croaked. The Russian Musical Society offered a prize for the best opera written based upon the libretto, to be anonymously entered in a contest to be judged by a committee of respected musical jurymen. Among the jury was the composer, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. He writes in his autobiography, A Musical Life: “The submitted operas were distributed to us for examination at our leisure. Two of them proved to show merit. But when the committee met at the Grand Duke’s place, it was openly said that one of the operas was Tchaikovsky’s. How this became known before the seals of the envelopes had been broken I don’t remember; but the prize was awarded to him unanimously. True, his opera undoubtedly was the best submitted, so that no harm came from the improper management of the competition, but still it was not in lawful order. . . . ”
I found this quite amusing, because when I read what he wrote, having the advantage on R-K of having read Tchaikovsky’s little brother’s biography of his famous sibling, I knew how they knew it was Tchaikovsky's. It was more than just "not in lawful order." Tchaikovsky not only made it obvious, but lest their be any doubt about it, he also told the judges. Tchaikovsky, you see, one of my (perhaps most everyone’s?) favorite composers, was a bit of a nutcase if there ever was one. At first, he didn’t even want to participate for fear of losing. He made sure that anyone he feared had a shot at beating him – Anton Rubinstein, Balakirev or Rimsky-Korsakov (the only one of the three who really would also stand the test of time) wasn’t competing.  Once he knew they would not be, he worked like a demon for three months, a more concentrated effort than ever before, to make certain he had Vakula the Smith completed by the deadline of August 1, 1874. The trouble was, he had the deadline wrong. It wasn’t due until August 1, 1875 – he was a year early. So, he had to sit on his hands for a year, something, with his nerves, he wasn’t very good at. On top of this, despite his growing success, he was feeling a bit of a failure at this particular time due to the lack of success of another opera. This Vakula was his baby. He loved it. I don’t know why – I’ve listened to it and bleh. So, either because he wanted to tip the scales, or, because he was an idiot, he wrote to the directors of the opera house to see if they would put on the opera in advance of the decision, despite it being a secret entry in the contest, and despite the fact that he no right to use the libretto outside of the contest. I’ll let him tell it himself from a letter to one of the opera house directors, naturally, in translation, in which his insecure, self-centered, hurt-puppy little soul leaks out:
“I have learnt to-day that you and the Grand Duke are much displeased at my efforts to get my opera performed independently of the decision of the jury. I very much regret that my strictly private communication to you and Kondratiev should have been brought before the notice of the Grand Duke, who may now think I am unwilling to submit to the terms of the competition. The matter can be very simply explained. I had erroneously supposed that August 1st (13th), 1874, was the last day upon which the compositions could be sent in to the jury, and I hurried over the completion of my work. Only on my return to Moscow did I discover my mistake, and that I must wait more than a year for the decision of the judges. In my impatience to have my work performed (which is far more to me than any money) I inquired, in reply to a letter of Kondratiev’s—whether it might not be possible to get my work brought out independently of the prize competition. I asked him to talk it over with you and give me a reply. Now I see that I have made a stupid mistake, because I have no rights over the libretto of the opera. You need only have told Kondratiev to write and say I was a fool, instead of imputing to me some ulterior motive which I have never had. I beg you to put aside all such suspicions, and to reassure the Grand Duke, who is very much annoyed, so Rubinstein tells me.”
All a mistake, huh? No ulterior motives, huh? Don’t buy it. For one thing, “so Rubinstein tells me?” Rubinstein would either be Anton or Nicholas, who were brothers, leading musicians both very important to Tchaikovsky career. Most likely it was Nicholas, Tchaikovsky's mentor, who was on the jury! So, I guess he would know. And Eduard Napravnik, to whom the above letter was written, was also on the jury. So, mystery solved. But, it gets worse. Tchaikovsky was either an idiot, or unscrupulous. As related by one of the jury, Laroche, though Tchaikovsky's "anonymous" score was copied out in a handwriting unknown to the jury “the motto, which was identical with the writing in the parcel, was in Tchaikovsky’s own hand. “Ars longa vita brevis’ ran the motto, and the characteristic features of the writing were well known to us all, so that from the beginning there was not the least room for doubt that Tchaikovsky was the composer of the score. But even if he had not had the naïveté to write this inscription with his own hand, the style of the work would have proclaimed his authorship. As the Grand Duke remarked laughingly, during the sitting of the jury; ‘Secret de la comédie.’”
So, maybe Rimsky-Korsakov forgot all of the above when he says he doesn’t remember how it was all known. It doesn’t sound likely. Maybe he was just protecting someone he had come to like after a rocky start. R-K’s was a “member” of the “Mighty Handful” aka “The Five” aka “The Invincibles,” a loosely connected group of musicians following Mily Balakirev dedicated to a purely Russian  music (that is, mostly free of French and German influence) and who eschewed formal training, a group with whom Tchaikovsky had a love/hate relationship.* But, in time he came to have a good relationship with some of them and no doubt R-K came closest to Tchaikovsky in technical ability and probably benefitted most from the relationship.
*Fully aware that of the few people who will actually read this, fewer still will give  a goddam, but Russian music in the 19th century is musically and historically intriguing to me, and I plan to write here someday at least a little more about this dynamic group and Tchaikovsky. So, hold on to your babushkas, baby. The Mighty Five are coming and they aren't Marvel Super Heroes.
But, there’s worse. What I love most about his statement in R-K’s biography is that it smacks of an innocence that really wasn’t there. It’s possible that he couldn’t remember how they came to know Tchaikovsky was competing originally, but eventually, it was beyond an open secret. R-K was talking with Tchaikovsky himself about it. Tchaikovsky had written him in September, 1875 a letter which was not a little obsequious – “How small, poor self-satisfied and naïve I feel in comparison with you! I am a mere artisan in composition, but you will be an artist, in the fullest sense of the word. I hope you will not take these remarks as flattery. I am really convinced that with your immense gifts—and the ideal conscientiousness with which you approach your work—you will produce music that must far surpass all which so far has been composed in Russia.” Of course, it was the most cloying bologna. That last bit was pretty much how Tchaikovsky felt about himself on his good days. Yes, he felt that R-K had talent, but also that he had wasted most of his career with the amateurs of the Mighty Handful and had only recently learned the importance of musical technique. To be fair, that was also largely R-K’s assessment too, and though the Five produced some brilliant work, particularly Mussorgsky, Borodin and R-K, there’s some truth to it. Writing about 2 ½ years later to a confidant, Tchaikovsky was more honest – “At present he [R-K] appears to be passing through a crisis, and it is hard to predict how it will end. Either he will turn out a great master, or be lost in contrapuntal intricacies.” But, to return to Tchaikovsky’s letter in 1875 to R-K, he finally came to the point, after his excessive flattery:
“I should very much like to know how the decision upon the merits of the (opera) scores will go. I hope you may be a member of the committee. The fear of being rejected—that is to say, not only losing the prize, but with it all possibility of seeing my Vakoula performed—worries me very much.”
I hope you may be a member? Please. He is flat out asking what’s it going to be? When R-K replied the next month, he wasn’t as duplicitous – “I do not doubt for a moment that your opera will carry off the prize. To my mind, the operas sent in bear witness to a very poor state of things as regards music here. . . . Except your work, I do not consider there is one fit to receive the prize, or to be performed in public.”
No, it wasn’t quite fixed and it Tchaikovsky’s work may have been the only one worth a ruble, but we will never know. There is a reason we contest entries or tests are judged anonymously. The jury may have been dazzled by knowing who he was, and what he was capable of, rather than by the work itself. In my opinion, it’s not so good. And history has passed the same verdict. In fact, as you will see, R-K really didn’t think so either.  
Of course, R-K did turn out a master. Music is subjective. Maybe some prefer him to Tchaikovsky, though I doubt he quite is as popular today as Pyotr Ilyich. But, his Scheherazade and Flight of the Bumblebee are quite often played today and there are many other wonderful (and also ordinary) pieces by him. Unfortunately for 19th century Russian composers, we just don’t like their opera much in modern America – but we love many of their other works. But, for one thing he wanted to write, he had to wait for his friend Tchaikovsky to die. Fortunately for R-K, the great man died prematurely of Cholera. And that led to . . .                                                                                
“The desire seized me to write an opera. With the death of Tchaikovsky, the subject of Christmas Eve, so attractive also to me, had been released, as it were. Despite many of its musical pages, I had always considered Tchaikovsky’s opera weak, and Polonsky’s libretto good for nothing. During Tchaikovsky’s lifetime I should have been unable to take this subject without causing the man himself a heartache. Now I was free in that respect, too, in addition to having always been entitled to it morally.”
So, he did, and added all kinds of mythological elements to the story he thought should go in which, in retrospect, he realized just confused the audience. But, though nothing he wrote for me compares to Tchaikovsky’s best, other than the bumblebee thingee (and let's face it - though considered difficult to play, the long version is less than four minutes long), I do prefer the music in his Christmas Eve to anything in Tchaikovsky’s Vakula. Actually, I really like it. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0vFOax7ZeU).
A much more modern and personal Christmas Tale.
I don't care where it began, Xmas was captured by the North. I can’t imagine living in the South and celebrating it in Florida or sunny California in 70 degree heat. I like it when it snows at Xmas time even if it makes most people I know not so happy.
Anyway, another long time ago during the holiday season, my evalovin’ gf and I took a trip further north, into evergreen, white-capped Vermont. It was long enough ago that there wasn’t (Thank God) gps on her phone for her to torment me with. Like most trips of a few hundred, or even a few thousand miles, it is really just a few roads, and you can figure it out, as we have many times (although, if I so much have to think or stop for even three seconds, or god-forbid make one wrong turn after 100 right ones, she tells everyone I was lost – you have no idea my travails).
We passed through Massachusetts on our way and I decided to stop for coffee. When we are leaving she sweetly asked, “Can I drive?” A voice told me, It’s a trap. She is trying to trick you. Of course she was. You see, she is a very angry driver. The kind who curses (not just me while I’m driving, but...) every other person on the road with a ferocity usually reserved for times of war or when your computer freezes just before you save an hour’s worth of work.
“You can drive,” I say, “if you promise!!! (I emphasized this word, as if it was going to make a difference) not to fight with any drivers. “Okay,” she says just as sweetly, “I promise.” Thirty seconds later I am yelling at her – “Jeeesus Christ, you didn’t even make it out of the parking lot!!!” She can’t help it. She hates other drivers with the white-hot heat of the molten goop at the core of the sun.
We arrived at our inn, a bnb, in a sleepy Vermont town, which I tried to explain to my goddess, had no nightlife. You are here to relax, walk around, go visit local towns during the days, browse in stores, have dinner, sit by the fire at the inn and go to bed. Get up for breakfast . . . .
And we did. It was really nice. The inn was quite old. It was situated next to a cemetery, which might creep some people out.  But I found it beautiful and fun to walk through in the snow. One afternoon we took a long walk through it and continued down the road. A big black furry dog approached us – a lab. He was very friendly and wanted to walk with us. Later our hostess explained to us his story. He belonged to a neighbor, but had free rein to come and go as he pleased, and was pretty much the mayor of the neighborhood. He just liked to walk with people, occasionally fetch a stick or be petted. He also liked to roll in the abundant snow, which was quite entertaining and picturesque. I don't think I've seen other dogs do that. We were sorry to see him go when we approached the house, but I guess he had other things to do.
As we approached the Inn, we noticed a sign at the edge of the parking lot. It said “Circa 1800.” My beloved, who I sometimes refer to in these hallowed pages as the New Ms. Malaprop asked innocently, “So, I guess the Circa family used to own this?” “Yes,” I answered, “and there were exactly 1800 of them.” This is probably why we work. I often need her help to use a computer and on most domestic issues, and she's not real big on history or the English language.
Our hostess was one of a pair of twins, the other who also lived in the area. This was the old family home and she was slowly renovating it. She was also slowly inventorying the library, which I found fascinating and would have volunteered to help with. Actually, I think I may have. I think I also had the feeling that I could have done it in a long weekend, but she seemed to feel it was a year long job. 

We went out to dinner on Saturday night. A little pub. It was there that the Christmas miracle happened, there that she passed off to me the little homily that changed my life - 

                              "Jesus was born. He lived and he died. And when he was re-erected, he said that he  
                              would protect us – in times of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.”

And the veil fell from my eyes and I could see the light. Clint Eastwood was Jesus and he had a gun. That's the kind of stuff even Gogol couldn't make up.

Happy Holidays.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Brady or Rodgers (or Brees or Manning)

A friend of mine wrote me in September – “In your humble opinion, who is an overall better QB – Brady or Rodgers? And why?” Her husband had said Rodgers was and she wanted to know what I thought. I gave her a complex answer. Sometime later, the ineffable Bear (I actually forget what that word means without looking it up – it just sounds good with “Bear”) said that not to vex me for being a Brady lover, but he thought Rodgers was the better of the two right now. I think I replied that I had actually said similar things in the past myself. 

Then we had the big build up a few weeks ago when the two played – just ridiculous to assume that a single game could decide such a question when we all know the teams play, not the QBs. Brady’s team almost always beats everyone, and his record against the other great QBs, Manning, Brees, Rodgers, etc., is awesome too. I forget the numbers, but he almost always wins. But, he’d be the first to say, he’s not playing the other QB - the teams are playing.  He’s now 1-1 with Rodgers. The two players were great, complimenting one another – Brady saying how Rodgers inspired him to play better (probably true) and Rodgers saying that Brady had five rings, so discussion over (probably also true). 

After the game, which the Patriots easily won in the second half, I actually heard a commentator suggest that the argument was over, that obviously it meant Brady was the GOAT. It is even more ridiculous that in just two years everyone has forgotten about Peyton Manning and leaves him out of the conversation!! Not to mention Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Drew Brees and every other QB who quite a few might think has a shot at that title.

Not for nothing, but if you look at this year alone, Drew Brees, among the old guard, looks like the last man standing, breaking all kinds of records. His pass completion average alone, even given the new rules protecting QBs, is unheard of – 76 or so %. And yes, the game has changed and many people’s percentage is up. But, no one else’s is like his. And, right now, Roethlisberger and Rivers are playing better than most of the old timers too.  

But, I’m not looking at this year, when the new rules have really changed things, and when not only Brady, now 41, might have finally hit a wall, as Peyton Manning did a few years back, and also possibly Rodgers, who has recently said football mortality comes to all of them.  However, his ability to not turn over the ball is unequaled, even by Brady and only by Brees this year. But he hasn’t really performed well this year, and you can’t blame it all on his team.

You can argue Johnny Unitas is the real GOAT, or Joe Montana, etc. all you want. Times change, particularly for QBs, because the game has changed so much. Mahomes and Goff are just not going to get hit the way Manning, Rodgers, Brady and Brees did and it will make a big difference in their performance. Honestly, I think that’s a good thing and it will make the game more fun, though some people my age. There’s no reason the QBs career has to be in danger all the time. The records will all be broken and Drew Brees and probably Rodgers may shatter all the records before Mahomes (I guess we will see) and who knows who else shatters them again.

I’m just looking at the last ten years and just at Brady, Rodgers, Brees and Manning. First, let’s accept that:

-I’m not including Roethlisberger or Rivers. They are great QBs. But, no, not quite in the same league.

-Injuries are just too bad on the injured. It’s football, not chess. Bo Jackson could have turned out to be an all-time great running back, but he got hurt early in his career. I think Gayle Sayers would have been the all-time greatest running back, but he got hurt. I think J.J. Watt would still be considered the no. 1 defensive player, ranked already with LT (despite what Belichick said), but he got hurt, severely, twice. Too bad on him. Rodgers has gotten hurt in the last few years – but we can’t say, would he have played better or worse. Though an injury may be a fluke and/or unavoidable, keeping as safe as possible without giving up to quick, knowing when to take the sack, to stop extending the play, and when to do it, is a talent too. 

-it’s a team game. It’s a team game. It’s a team game. I’ve said many times that if Brees or Manning or Rodgers had been in Brady’s place on the Patriots, maybe the world would look the same, but just with a different QB. But, again, it is what it is. I do think it makes a difference when you analyze players who they are playing for, but you can only take it so far. Did I write this isn’t chess?

-Manning retired a few years ago and so it is not a perfect contest. What is?

If I just said that I thought Brady was the best over the last ten years or so, you would just think I’m biased. Well, okay, I am biased. But, I’ve never let my bias affect me in saying the things I wrote in the first paragraph and I will lay out an argument you can agree or disagree with.  Here it is:

First, he’s the GOAT, because as Rodgers said, he has the five rings. It’s not as if he was just along for the ride. You can argue that Peyton Manning was not the reason the Broncos won the SB in 2015 and I agree. You can argue that Eli Manning wasn’t the main reason the Giants beat the Pats twice and I agree, although I thought he played really well, one year great. But, Brady was at least one of two major reasons the Pats are  what they are, including five time SB winners and eight-time competitors - Belichick being the other main reason.* Brady’s a three time SB MVP. Winning isn’t everything when it comes to greatness. Many athletes belong in the hall of fame, and arguably, you can be the GOAT, even if you are never on a team good enough to win the big one. It’s rare that the GOAT doesn’t find his way there. Whether Jabbar, Chamberlain, Russell or Shak is the greatest center ever – they all won championships. In what team sport is there a GOAT, who was not a champion? 

* "Since Brady became their starting quarterback in 2001, the Patriots have never had a losing season and have won 15 division titles. The Patriots played in twelve AFC Championship Games from 2001 to 2017—including seven in a row from 2011 to 2017—and won eight of them." - Wikipedia
Winning isn’t everything and if the Giants win the next three SBs (after this year) with Eli at the helm, I doubt it will be b/c of him or that he would be called the GOAT by anyone. But, in all sports, it is still the gold standard. We can love and respect Ernie Banks, Karl Malone, Randy Moss, Tony Gwynn, etc.  

Second, I reviewed the last ten years top 100 players in the NFL. The reason I did is because the list is voted on by the NFL players. And, maybe that is not the end all (I definitely think it is not), but you would certainly seem to think that one’s peers might have some say. First, let’s look at the last three years. Granted, Rodgers has been hurt a few times, but again, we are ranking what is, not what could be.

2018  1. Brady  8. Brees  10. Rodgers
2017  1. Brady  6. Rodgers 16. Brees
2016   1. Newton 2. Brady 6. Rodgers  30. Brees

So, for the last two years, the NFL peers have decided Tom Brady is the best player in the league. If you go back another year, first twice and second once. I’ll leave aside from now that it was idiocy to rank Newton ahead of Brady, but, in that same three years – Rodgers was rated sixth twice and tenth. Brees eighth, sixteenth and thirtieth. I know, Brees is no. 1 or 2 this year, but we are talking about since Rodgers became the starter for Green Bay up to this year.  You might ask, why are we even having this conversation? Let’s go all the way back to 2011 when they started this peer voting. Give 100 points to no. 1, 1 point to no. 100, etc. Here’s how they would rank:

Brady: 790/800
Rodgers: 756/800
Brees: 696/800

To show you the difference between Brady and Rodgers, in eight years, Brady was first 3 times, second 2 times, third 1 time, fourth 2 times. In other words, his peers thought, for almost half those years, the first or second best player, and for eight years, never less than the fourth best player in the league. Compare his nearest competition, Rodgers. In those same 8 years, his peers thought he was the best player in the league 2 times, sixth best 3 times, tenth best 1 time, eleventh best 2 times. Still don’t get the huge difference between the best and second best player the last eight years (no one else is close) according to NFL players? Try this.

               Brady                  Rodgers
1st           3 times                2 times
2nd          2 times
3rd          1 time
4th          2 times
5th
6th                                        3times
7th         
8th
9th
10th                                      1 time
11th                                      2 times

Even if you say that, well, Rodgers was hurt the last couple of seasons, Brady has never been voted worse than fourth best and Rodgers is likely next best, but not even close.  Leave aside the five rings which Rodgers says shuts down the conversation. Doesn’t this shut it down too? I know people have this thing about Rodgers (not least, because he’s fantastic).  I do think many people want the rugged looking, cool speaking, occasionally edgy Rodgers, who won the SB once and who doesn’t speak with his family, to be better than the howdy-doodyish, family loving, platitude-speaking, perfect looking guy married to the most successful model in history, Brady, with his fist full of rings. If you have watched the WWE in the past 10-15 years, think John Cena. As nice a guy and great a wrestler as the character he plays is, many fans just hate him. I won’t get into the whole “cheater” thing, which is equivalent to one child saying another has cooties, and it is likely their own team has a much worse "cheating" record, if they actually looked - and leave aside that Brady was never even accused of cheating by the NFL (he was accused of some quasi-knowledge of vague wrongdoing). Sports fandom is like politics - few care about the facts.

Third, let’s look at the Associated Press MVP voting since Rodgers was a starter. The votes are made by professional writers who concentrate on pro football. During that period of time, Manning was voted MVP by the writers 5 times. You have a better argument that Manning is the GOAT than Rodgers.  Brady has three and Rodgers only 2 MVPs. In the past three years, Brady was MVP once, but second the other two times.** As to who has been the best the last three years even, isn’t the conversation over? And this is true despite the fact that Rodgers is much younger and should be playing better.

** My own opinion is that Brady probably did not deserve the MVP last year, though he was close. However, he deserved it for 2015, when he played the entire season with a brand new O-line and most of his receivers hurt all season, and in 2016 when he missed the first four games. Why did Newton, then Ryan win instead? I have no way to know or prove it, but I think there was just Brady fatigue at the time - let's give it to another QB. Why the change back in 2017? Because he just keeps outperforming everyone as he ages, including the miraculous 2016 SB, and like with Brees this year, it was hard not to love it.

You could go the statistical route. But, it would be too hard. Both Brady and Rodgers have a lot of records. Brady has more career records, although I presume Brees will surpass him in most that he hasn't already, but, Rodgers has the highest QB rating, which some say means little (I don’t) and the best TD/interception ratio, which I think very important, maybe the most important figure. But, Brady is next on the list and over a longer span of time. You can pick your statistics. Records are usually broken by younger players as the game changes and I presume they all will be.

Looking at the rings, looking at the votes of their peers and looking at the MVP voting, I have to conclude that not only is Brady the best since he came into the league, consistently year after year, but, he’s been the best recently, at least up to the end of last year. None of this is anti-Rodgers, Brees or Manning, all of who are fantastic, the elite of the last 20 years, with Rodgers just being the youngest and most athletic - maybe the one with the most potential. That's a much tougher question. And, we know it must bother Drew Brees that up until this year, few were putting him in the conversation. 

This year will bring what it will, but up until now, at least, I think the strongest arguments are that Brady has been the best of them. If you disagree, let's hear the actual arguments. I wish you could comment anonymously, but we know Google makes that difficult now for some reason I don't understand (maybe something I did or didn't do that I should have - I don't know).  But, if you want, email me and I will post it myself anonymously for you or however you like. That rarely happens, but I offer it.

Next month, the 13th Holiday Spectacular.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Methoughts on Metoo!

The new guy was 44. He had needed a job badly, his assets being down to near zero. Finally, an old acquaintance in a corporate office recognized his name on a resume and told a co-worker to give him an interview in a branch several states away. He got the job and was really happy when he showed up for work.

They showed him around so he could meet everyone. It was a typical New York corporate office. Very diverse. Men and women, all adult ages, various ethnicities, including in management. Got an office and a computer, found the coffee room, got a pass to the office, learned three computer passcodes, one for his computer, one for the database, one for expenses.

They told him he could break in during the first two weeks, but he memorized everything he needed to in an hour and he felt he could start right away and figure out anything he had too as he worked. Maura, the office manager came into his office with a small stack of pamphlets in her hands. Big smile. Giggled a lot.

“Bet you are going to love these.”

“What are they?”

“Office policies. Discrimination, other fun stuff.” She giggled again. He had a feeling she giggled after everything she said. “You’re in luck, actually,” she said. “There’s sexual harassment training at 1 pm in the basement auditorium.” Then she giggled yet again.

He thought about making the obvious joke about knowing how to sexually harass someone, but thought better of it. Not on his first day. He didn't know her well enough. When she left, he started reading. It had been a while since he worked in an office. About 15 years. He remembered a race awareness meeting that hadn’t gone so well. He had wondered then why they had wanted to poke the bear and make everyone uncomfortable. He started getting a bad feeling as he read. Uh oh.

After lunch, everyone in the office gathered around a big table and some stood encircling them against the wall in the conference room. The leader of the meeting, Francine Bangela, was a consultant on sexual discrimination, appeared to be in her 30s and was dressed very conservatively. She did not giggle but smiled a lot no matter what she was saying. It made the new guy uncomfortable and he didn't think he was alone in that. She gave a 20 minute talk and slide show on what sexual harassment meant, and how it wasn’t just touching someone inappropriately or threatening them. It included a whole variety of things that seemed to cause a lot of people around the table to drop their eyes, if not their heads, although others nodded vigorously, and the manager, Mr. Peeble, who didn't seem like he smiled or giggled a lot, mumbled “right, right.”

After she was done, she went  around the table and asked people to talk about times that they felt discriminated against or harassed or where they thought they might have inadvertently harassed or discriminated against someone else. One woman related a story of being assaulted at a job ten years earlier. She was obviously still affected by it. Another woman seemed very comfortable sharing having been stalked by a co-worker and stopping it by complaining about it to management. Others were very uncomfortable speaking and had much more difficulty relating anything. No one admitted to harassing anyone, although two men tried, one almost laughing as he did. It was a failed attempt at humor and almost everyone put their head down. Ms. Bangela continued to smile but said nothing in response, not even the customary, “thanks for sharing.” Finally, after 15 others, it came to the new guy.

“Oooooh, it’s my first day. I’d rather just listen.”

“Oh, no,” said the manager, Mr. Peeble, the serious nervous looking man who had hired him. “It’s the best way to jump into our value system. Go ahead.”

The words "value system," made the new guy cringe. “I’d better not,” he said mildly.

“No, I think you’d better.” said Peeble, fixing him with a self-important stare, meaning, it's not an option.

He groaned a little. “Okay.” He stood up, which seem to lift everyone’s heads a little. What was he doing, some eyes seemed to say?

“Well, though I’d rather not speak, I do give these things a lot of thought. Like everyone, I mean, who is not against people touching someone who doesn’t want to be touched, or trying to force someone to date them for advancement. You have to take a hint and not just at work.”

There were some nods and people seemed relieved that his standing up didn’t mean he was going to say something crazy. Peebles seemed pleased and nodded too.

Then the other shoe dropped.

“But as for the other stuff you said, no, I won’t. I can't. I’m sorry, but I didn’t sign on for that.”

Heads now snapped up and Peeble, looking at Francine Bangela, squinted and bit his down on his lower lip.

“I don’t understand for a second why I can’t say, ‘You look nice today,’ to anyone. Just how can that be offensive? If you should be able to say anything in this world to someone without offending them, shouldn’t that be it? In my experience, when someone compliments someone else, the person getting the compliment is pleased, or most people are anyway. They don’t immediately think, what do you mean - wasn’t I looking good yesterday? And the person in the next office who overhears it isn’t thinking What about me? I’m devastated. And if somehow we've now made people uncomfortable hearing it, then I'm against this - whatever it is.

Can’t we just be co-workers and differ a little or make some mistakes without paying with our jobs. I’m not a young man looking to date anyone. If some young guy likes some young woman and she either likes him back or doesn’t, so what? How is it any different here than at a supermarket so long as they do their job? No, they shouldn’t be dating in the office, but if they meet here – where else are you going to really get to know someone? Does it have to be at a bar or online where everyone knows it is phony? And if God forbid two people like each other and steal a kiss once in a blue moon or hold hands when no in is looking, or if it makes things exciting because people talk about it, and it makes memories sweeter when everyone is older, or they end up a couple, is that really so terrible? I know some people now think so, but it’s normal in the real world, absolutely normal and I still think most people think so. Because, no offense, all this new stuff, all this draconic, you’re fired, you must this, you can’t that stuff, is the opposite of normal. That’s why we have to learn it in these meetings and in pamphlets. Because it’s not normal. It doesn’t make sense. Honestly, it’s a little crazy. And when I was a little younger, yeah, that's how it was.

I know you just went over some stuff that was taboo, but nothing is going to happen exactly like your examples. No one is really going to know how to apply these vague rules except by taking them to some extreme max. If they made sense to anyone, we wouldn’t need these meetings. We’d have learned it in kindergarten. We’d just get another email every year that said, hey, please remember your manners. 

I'd ask you to raise your hand if this applies to you but I know you are afraid to get fired. I don't blame you for that. So don't raise your hand if your afraid to get a text because someone at work might see it and claim it's offensive. See, everyone. Don't raise your hand if you look around to see whose is standing there before you make a wisecrack? Really, why can’t we make a joke and have it fall flat or be unfunny or not funny to everyone? Is it really so terrible? Because, if nothing else, if you can’t handle a joke that's not meant to personally insult you, it’s your fault and not anyone else’s. Yet people are getting fired over jokes. People are getting fired over one stupid remark because someone else didn't like it. What happened to “please don’t say that again?”

And, I’m not trying to be funny, but, I do not understand about not using “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen” when addressing people because we might be wrong about how someone sees themselves sexually. Some people think there are other possibilities than man and woman or they are a man who thinks he is a woman or vice versa and it's really confusing to the rest of us, even for people who are sympathetic to them. I know, I’m not qualified to talk about chromosomes and I don't have answers and I personally don't really care what bathroom they use. But, if we can’t tell the difference between boy and girls, at least most of the time, so that we can't even use an expression we've used all of our lives, I mean, how are we supposed to tell the difference between harder things like right and wrong and what’s good for the company and what’s not? Can’t we even make the most simple decisions and use the most rudimentary phrases without fear that maybe one out of a thousand times someone will disagree?”

He took a pause and looked down at Ms. Bangela, who had a stiffer smile now. He wondered if when he finished, she would just pretend he hadn’t said anything or if she would suggest to Peebles that he was a mistake and had to go. That would be a shame, because he really needed the money. His first paycheck was going to pay next month’s rent with not a day to spare.

“But, we were talking about sexual discrimination and harassment and I guess I got a little off topic. I guess what I’m saying is I came here to work, and that’s what I want to do. I didn’t come here to meet women or have a relationship or bother anyone or anything else like that. But, people talk at work, and some people do have relationships of all types from lunch buddies to marriage. I don’t know how you do your job or have a life without talking to each other. I can see just walking around my first day people do talk here, do have fun and it’s not 100% work. You can’t do that and not have the possibility of offending someone, and not have the possibility that someone might get mad at someone else or take advantage of someone else, just like anywhere else. And it shouldn't be so scary. 

Well, I’m sure I upset some people today and they wish I’d have just shut up and made some inconsequential remark. And others will wish they said what I just did or maybe they'll tell me thanks for saying it, but you shouldn't have. I’d have been fine not speaking. But, since I had to, I guess I thought hanging on to just a little bit of freedom was more important than paying my rent next month.

I’ll just finish up by saying, and I mean no offense by this - Ms. Bangela, you look nice today. Mr. Peeble, you look nice today. Boys and girls, you all look nice today. That’s all I have to say."

--

The next month, not surprisingly, he couldn’t pay his rent. Sometimes he felt good about it and even free, and sometimes he just looked online for a job.

*

I hope you all realize that was fictional.  There’s a smattering of semi-auto-biographical underlay in there, but not the burn-all-bridges speech, which is purely fictional and wish-fulfillment. But, I bet people would be cheering in the movies if some character said some of that. It's too long for a movie. And somehow I doubt in real life that they’d actually let anyone finish making the speech at a mixed corporate meeting. Either someone would shout him down, or grab the mike, or maybe someone would start shrieking that they didn’t feel safe.  I’m 99% sure I’ll never have another job, but I’d love to have one if I could just make that speech and get fired for it. To get back to the movie version for a second, I think women in the audience would be cheering too, because, at least many women my age, – and certainly not all, keep telling me they think what is going on is nuts -- too far.

I did leave my last job writing, not about this kind of stuff, but a fairly polite, yet bridge burning severance letter to the company detailing how hard they made it for myself and my co-workers to do our job and how much like a Dilbert comic strip it had become. Not too long afterwards I learned that the letter, directed to HR, very quickly sped not just around the company, but the industry. Some people from other insurance companies and law firms suddenly knew who I was (“Oh, so you’re the guy who wrote the letter”). At least four employees of my company quit after reading my letter, one guy well over a year later. I’d like to think there were others, but, obviously, I don't know. It was my fifteen minutes of mini-fame. Sometime later I ran into the manager who was responsible for hiring me (the one who saw my name on a resume and got me my interview). Maybe she took some heat for it. She was furious I wrote it. At first. Then she got over it after she asked why I didn't raise these things while I still worked there and I told her I wrote pretty much the same letter every year when they asked for input and it was always ignored. 

But, back to the whole metoo movement. We have had a short period of male domination in our species, if we are counting only homo sapiens, roughly 315,000 years, give or take the last year or so (that’s a joke folks. Savor it, because, even funny jokes on many topics could be soon be deemed illegal hate speech). 

Until shortly before my lifetime, the workplace, except for times of war or some few fields where women were the mainstay, men were ubiquitous or at least the bosses. During WWII, and increasingly in my lifetime, women worked more and more. My mother went back to work when I was a boy, went from a secretary to a full-time college instructor (not quite a full professor, she died before she could get a doctorate) and by the time I was in law school, half my class was female. Men still dominate many fields, but women are increasingly managers, bosses, owners, entrepreneurs in almost every field that isn't very labor intensive. Even there they've broken in. Even in fields where male physiology makes it exclusive to them (say NFL football), women usually have their own professional league, though without the financial reward. 

Sexual harassment, not to mention assault, at the workplace has always been a problem, as it has been probably everywhere. There was a time, a couple of lifetimes ago, when women barely had legal rights, when men could legally rape (we would now call it rape) their wives and amazingly, there was not much punishment even for their murder. Men are bigger and stronger than women for the most part and that’s usually the way the cookie crumbled. Even in our country and in other western countries some heinous laws took a long time to fall and lasted well into my lifetime. I believe Texas was the last state where a man could legally not rape his wife.

That was then. It’s a lot different now (although, I’m sure there are some who would contest it – it’s ridiculous to do so). Arguably, women, like most minorities in America, have more rights than men. You can argue that men do not need laws protecting them, nevertheless, the laws setting aside a certain amount of jobs, or protecting women from violence, or from discrimination, either do not exist for the benefit of men, even if written neutrally, or are often applied by courts or businesses so as to exclude men. For some, laws written to benefit women (or other minorities or formerly oppressed groups) are not enough. 

My rule of “up from oppression” states: When any long oppressed group ceases to be oppressed, reformers are usually not satisfied with equality but wants revenge or to be on top. 

Colloquy: In order to achieve supremacy, the formerly oppressed group will never admit equality, but will carry on as if it is just as oppressed as it ever was until supremacy is achieved.

Of course, you note I said reformers. Most people just want to go to work and go home at the end of the day.

Obviously, sexual harassment and assault still exists and not just in the workplace. But, I feel sure the statistic that 1 out of 5 women will be raped in their life that we so often hear quoted (Nat. Sex. Viol. Res. Ctr.) is grossly exaggerated. However, when I was young, I was surprised by how many of my female friends confided to me that they were sexually assaulted to some degree, some of it pretty severely (I'm not going to say, but you would happily kill the male if you caught them in the act), although none – none – said they were technically raped.  It is very fair to say to me, of course, what makes you think you are being fully reported to by them. That’s true, though they seemed to me to be pretty open about other things that were close enough to rape, I find it hard to believe they would not have told me. So, today I called two women I’m close with who I know have many friends. One was relatively older, one relatively younger – I asked both how many of their friends have confided to them that they were raped. Both thought about it and said “none.” I’m not saying rape doesn't exist or never happened to anyone I know who hasn't said so. I'm just saying I think the reported rate is grossly exaggerated for political purposes. I'll leave aside the ridiculous view pushed by some that women never lie about rape. I doubt many do, but to suggest any group doesn't lie about anything is pretty silly. We know it happens.

The metoo movement started, like many movements, for a good cause, or a great one, in this case, specific outrage bubbling over of a seemingly sex-crazed, perhaps rapacious movie producer, well known in his industry for taking advantage of actresses – Harvey Weinstein. I know, I’m pre-judging the case, and I always say don’t do that, but, when so many women come out, like with Cosby, it’s pretty hard not to believe its likely true.

The opposite works for Kavanaugh – so many women speak of him as behaving like a gentleman and defender of women throughout his life that Ford’s story from 35 years ago, presuming it is true, is at best a teenage anomaly. The second story, by the (anonymous) mother of (anonymous) someone else who supposedly saw him an (unknown) someone else up against a wall – I mean, come on (his gf at the time, said it definitely didn’t happen to her - he was always a gentleman), and the third story of the witness to the alleged multiple drug induced gang rapes has I think has been shown to be completely bogus. Yet a fourth story of rape in a car by BK and judge has come out by an older woman who now admits she just made it up for political purposes and it has been referred for criminal charges. Even Ford’s story ended up so full of holes – not that any Senator really challenged it – that there is at least some reason to believe it might have been political or just the wrong guy. I don’t know though. My guess, and it is just a guess, hasn’t changed that she genuinely believed it was Kavanaugh. I wrote about the matter recently, so I'll leave it there. 

Women speaking out about sexual assault or harassment is still a good cause, one I’ve encouraged with female friends, not to mention my daughter, ever since I’ve been young. Even decades ago the courts intervened to protect women who were being abused, and, sometimes the police did too (sadly, sometimes not when a police officer was the abuser). I couldn’t be more overjoyed of the changes in the sports world, especially gymnastics. That protection may (I hope) finally be afforded young athletes is long overdue. There probably can’t be enough lawsuits. To think of what has gone in the gymnastics world for so long is disturbing beyond words. You’d like to think that parents of athletes in sports other than gymnastics were intelligent enough to be on guard in their childrens’ sports too, but, sadly, I don’t have faith in parents as a group. Not after all we’ve seen.

One question I have asked in commenting online that I do not see many others asking - I think it has been drummed out of people's heads - is where are the parents. All these stories of young athletes and actresses/actors getting abused and I want to know - where were their parents and friends. Apparently, many were saying, shut up or you won't get paid. I know what I taught my daughter. You are always respectful to your bosses and helpful to your co-workers but you do not have to take any abuse, not even verbal. She actually took it much further than I did when I was a kid and it was almost comical the rules she put in place with her bosses (all male) to assure their future good behavior. One temperamental stable owner was not allowed to speak with her, but had to address her through his wife or another employee. The only time there was a threatening component to it, a crazed co-worker on email, she addressed management and he was gone instantly. It wasn't that she was a bear. Every boss I ever met fell over themselves to rave about her to me because of her attributed, but she wasn't going to be abused because her parent taught her she didn't have to be. I know that it doesn't mean she might not be abused anyway, but at least she understood she didn't have to be.

Some of these stories out of Hollywood irritated me and a lot of other people. There was a big difference between a secretary in an office who needed her job being groped and an actress trading sex for a role. Some of them were. Certainly, not all and I'm not suggesting they should have to. If you read the stories closely you ask yourselves, what exactly happened? I read Salma Hayek's story several times and I still don't know what her complaint is except that Weinstein wanted to have sex with her and she said no. He insisted she write a lesbian scene in a movie she was doing about a lesbian artist and he was right - it was, in my opinion, the only reason at least many people wanted to see it. Her looks and the lesbian angle. It is still not a crime for a rich man to want to have sex with a beautiful woman. It may be obnoxious, even hateful. And I fully embrace her telling him to go f' himself. Which it seems she did, though I'm not sure in those words.

All that said, it was very easy to predict the movement would spiral out of control quickly, and it did. And it is a problem, not a sideshow. We went from toppling celebrity and powerful sexual predators, always a good thing, but very limited, to the spread of a puritanical and completely hypocritical lifestyle in workplaces throughout the country and parts of Europe that I suspect cuts down on very little actual harassment and abuse – because people who do things like that usually don’t care about rules – and makes life joyless and a little crazy for others. It is not just that it has a negative impact, it tends to drown out the important aspects of it. Not a few women have said to me that they have no patience for metoo, within months of it starting.

But it has also added to the trend to crushing things that are pretty important, like free speech and other plain normal behavior. I see it just in the behavior of friends who tell me they are scared at work.  I don’t think most people find it an exaggeration. What you have is a few hundred big name celebrities or corporate bigwigs losing their jobs, many of whom might deserve it, but some of whom probably do not. Many people have written complaining, not about corporations paying attention to sexual harassment, but doing so without thought, without what is sometimes referred to as “due process” (which really doesn’t apply to companies) but really means “fair play” or at least some kind of reasonable investigation or chance to explain oneself. A good example of this is Matt Lauer. Now, I have no real information about him. Maybe he is not a good guy (honestly, until a few years ago, I didn’t know who he was – I don’t watch network news). But, when the story broke about him, he was gone almost instantly and what disturbed people, was that the only story that did come out, was of his consensual relationship with a younger co-worker who, apparently, out of guilt (she was married), maybe because of other problems she had – or maybe because she felt she couldn’t say no (more on that later), passed out. But, what I commented on in the article on Lauer, and I was relieved to see many others did as well, was – wait a minute – is this it? Consensual sex? Is this why they fired him? They hinted there were other things. Maybe there were and they were worse. But, maybe not. I don't trust the press any more than law enforcement. Well, forgive me for being cynical. Maybe it is him who doesn’t want them out there. I have no way to know. But, how could they have investigated all of this and made a decision so quickly? It smacked of politics, and that is never a good thing. We’ve seen that repeated over and over. Probably, much of the time it’s deserved. It’s still a bad idea. Then, when you get to the comedian, Aziz Ansari, who was crucified by the movement for literally having consensual sex with a woman who came home with him and treating her very decently when she said she changed her mind - you want to scream. 

Definitely not every day, but certainly every week I hear a couple of stories of some sex-discrimination over-kill. Yes, of course, anecdotes, but, just as before we verified that there was one extra-solar planet out there, we knew there must billions or more, and are now just starting to find them, we can know the same about these acts of over-kill. If I hear of a few, there are oh so many happening, even if millions are just people not doing things they'd ordinarily do. In the last week alone (the week I wrote this – about a week ago), I heard the following. You don’t have to believe me, of course, but all of these are true stories – at least, there is no embellishment from me (I can’t speak for those who told me, though I doubt it, or the news stories):

A friend, a middle age female supervisor in a large company, asked me my opinion on something that happened on work. She told me that a group of women in her section wanted a male co-worker fired. In her view, he is an excellent worker, very intelligent young man who shows up and never gets in trouble but also seemed a little bit “odd,” as if perhaps he might be on the very bottom of the “spectrum,” or maybe just very awkward. Their complaint - one of them suspected he may have looked at her legs because she thought may have been a little too exposed. She didn’t see him do it, but she thought he may have. He said nothing and did nothing wrong that she could see. In fact, she herself verified later that he had to have been paying attention to what was on the computer screen as he remembered it later. The second complainant had no accusation but thought he was creepy. The third one also had nothing specific. That was the complaint. As the supervisor, she didn’t think they had any complaint at all, but they wanted to make one. She sent them to the office attorneys. The attorneys sent them to HR. I don’t know why. Did they even have a clue as to the law? HR, thank God, kicked it back, and said, if you want to get rid of him, you need to find something wrong with his work, as he didn’t do anything wrong. Now, why would they say that? Yes, he did nothing wrong, but why bring up his work? It’s not supposed to be a “now try this” situation.  In my view, the women sexually harassed this guy.

A few days later, I was told by public employee that they were told the new policies included that you were not allowed to tell someone that they “looked nice today” because that implies that they didn’t look good other days and it might hurt their feelings. That found its way into my story. Also, adults were advised not to refer to the children as “boys and girls” because you might offend the one student in the school who had a gender (I don’t know the right word) disorder, dysphoria? And how do we know who is a boy or a girl? Good f’g grief. Of course, we know. At least 99.999% of the time. Right now, amazingly, there is a fight over it, and there is or will be lawsuits, about whether a boy or girl means what it has meant since the words exist. And it is not the same thing as what does “marriage” means. Because marriage was a legal term, a conceptual term, and you can change the law. And while you change a word about a noun, like a horse, you can’t change the thing itself, biologically, not without evolutionary change on a massive scale that will likely take millions of years. So, if the country decides, henceforth boys will be called girls and girls boys, and we actually all do that – then that’s what they will be, but they will still be this thing and that thing, and it is not really going to happen, anyway.  

Obviously, being disturbed at the fear in the workplace of not being able to say “you look nice today,” is not unique to me. It’s not that I have this driving need to say those particular words to anyone. I work in a room by myself for the most part. But, it’s the principle that we are no longer free in many senses and getting less free. There is a movement over so-called “hate speech” that is getting stronger all the time among young people. Do not think if the far left becomes stronger politically that it will not try to enforce a speech code as it has tried on college campuses for years – we already have the blueprint for it. Go to thefire.org and see what they fight against. Safe zones and speech codes all directed at speech that the left, not the right, doesn’t like. It is very one-sided. Ironically, free speech used to be the reverse, something the left sought to protect and the right sought to restrict. What happened? We already have these things in Canada and Europe. It is not consistent with our first amendment rights. It is a little worrisome for a reason. For the last 100 plus years, the left has eventually won most of the culture wars, and, I agreed on a lot, probably most of it. But, I can't say that is so anymore. I think it reached a plateau where my above rule of "up from oppression" has come into play. The problem is with the right, is that if left to themselves, we'd still be in the dark ages and they've only progressed to where they are by being dragged along by the left. Just as one example. Most conservatives I know are actually fairly open-minded about things like sex and women working. But, that's after decades starting with the '60s of the sexual revolution. Back in the '50s, many people didn't think women should wear short pants, let alone work. But, more on that another week.

Here’s another story. Last week, I read an article that a PBS writer was fired – fired! because he looked at a picture of Meghan Markle and said “Not bad.” Can it be in America that to make a remark that implies a member of the British Royal Family is good looking is so frowned upon that you will lose your livelihood? He didn’t get a reprimand – “We frown on commenting among others in the workplace that might imply royalty might be good looking.” Leave aside how absurd the whole idea of royalty in the modern world is to begin with.  He just didn’t get a dirty look. He lost his job. His job! Because he thought someone who made her living on her looks and in reality became royalty largely because of her looks - was good looking, and said it out loud. What was he allowed to say? "God save the Queen!" "My, how regal?" In fact, it's possible, even though her race is the subject of news story, he'd have been fired for just mentioning her race.

It's a picture. When we see a picture, we say things like, that's pretty, or nice or wow, she's cute. Save me from ever having a job again. By the way, he has bitterly complained that nothing happened to the women at the station who referred to the princess as “hot.” Of course, it didn’t. Because none of this has anything to do with really protecting women. It has to do with power politics and who is on top now. I mean, shouldn’t the whole metoo movement at the very least bar celebrities, including royalty, from dating or marrying super-models or good looking women, at risk of losing their phony-bologna careers?

Obviously, this isn't just me raging against the changing of the world as I age. Many have rejected the excesses of the movement. The very sexy (although I guess also very old) French actress, Catherine Deneuve, and many other actresses signed a letter, now known as the Deneuve letter, which said, basically, stop! Here are a few great quotes:
 “A woman can, in the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a ‘slut’, nor a cheap accomplice of the patriarchy.” 
Imagine that: they are actually saying a woman can enjoy being the sexual object of a man and still be a professional! Why not? There’s nothing wrong with it. We would not exist if that stopped. Of course, these were women saying it. There is no reason a man should not be able to say it if we are truly equal. 
“Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression.”
“This expedited justice already has its victims, men prevented from practicing their profession as punishment, forced to resign, etc., while the only thing they did wrong was touching a knee, trying to steal a kiss, or speaking about ‘intimate’ things at a work dinner, or sending messages with sexual connotations to a woman whose feelings were not mutual.” 
Long before, but again accelerated by, metoo arose the crazy idea that relationships between a boss and a subordinate is inherently wrong, because a fraction of them are abusive. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I do know of one relationship between a married boss and a subordinate which ended badly for her, but I can't say at all it was because of any kind of abuse. If anything, she was probably abusive to others in her office who hated her because of her position.  Every other boss-subordinate relationship one I’ve known, was either permanent, or they ended up as friends or with the worker leaving like any other employee who moved on. It doesn't mean it doesn't happen. It means I do not think it is so common or the results so devastating that it should be banned for all. It is not kids smoking cigarettes or lead paint in walls. I know in all the offices I worked on of very few women who complained of being harassed by the boss, who wasn't firmly put in his place and who obeyed. In one case I remember a women who cried to me that her boss danced to close with her at a party, but admitted she had flirted with him to get what she wanted at work and felt she asked for it. I saw. I didn't blame him and he didn't put his hands on her. For many people, torpedoing all the good relationships to protect a handful of abusive ones is fine. Not with me. My own 28 year old relationship was very traditional – I was her boss, she was my secretary. It took exactly one look for something to click with us. It was at least lust at first sight and the relationship wasn’t long behind. Though I’ve been punished for it in other ways for 28 years (of course, this will be the first post she’ll read in ten years – you know that) I’d love to stand up at a meeting and say, which one of you is going home with me tonight to tell her we have to split up because it was wrong from the start? Of course, like many men my age (many of my friends and I have discussed it), we can think of many consensual flirtations or relationships from decades ago that we have no doubt we'd be accused now of having done something wrong, both at work and in dating. All of us say, thank God we were young then. Most of the women I've talked to about it feel that way too. I can think of one exception but not because anyone ever touched her or tried to bully her into a relationship. It was more of a glass ceiling thing.
Anyway, I got off track as usual. Here’s one from September I enjoyed, I believe out of Britain (could be Australia):   “Mr Sofocleous, 24, from Cyprus, faced disciplinary action last month after he re-tweeted an article by The Spectator on his Twitter titled 'Is it a crime to say women don't have penises?', with the comment: 'RT if women don't have penises'.  

The postgraduate philosophy and psychology student was dismissed from his position at the university after the tweet sparked outrage.
He was also fired from his position as editor of Durham University's online magazine The Bubble, and forced to resign as president of free speech society Humanist Students.”
BTW, as far as I know, "RT" just means retweet. Either he was making a joke or just saying people should retweet the article. Either way, when people are fired from jobs because of a sentence that someone else doesn’t like it’s a problem, unless it is really something incredibly heinous, maybe advocating genocide? We are capable of both having women able to speak out about getting groped and not crushing free speech at the same time.
This one is more familiar, but I really looked into it for the first time. Is there anyone even in the heart of New Guinea who doesn’t know Google, the for-profit company that gets more and more political all the time, and which fired an engineer, James Damore, who wrote a memo – something employees were invited to do – gently (and I mean gently) criticizing Google’s diversity policies, after accusing him of perpetrating gender stereotypes. Was it really out of line he asked that men and women be treated the same?
His post is often called “anti-diversity.” But, if you actually read it, of course, you see he plainly states that he is pro-diversity.  But, he backed up what he offered with citations, write or wrong, and those who criticized him just said it was “hostile,” without even saying what was wrong about it. That’s a problem. Wired Magazine published an article on his “Pernicious” Science. You can read that article, but I don’t think you will find anything actually pernicious. If you are honest as Damore, you will admit your own bias, one way or the other. But, for all the bias in the Wired article, they don’t really show you anything “wrong” about his research. They actually confirm a lot of it, and show how some of his argument can be disputed. Okay, that sounds like most science and most arguments. He was not writing a scientific paper. He was supporting his argument with some science and invited others to disagree. And, again, because he’s honest and asking for an honest discussion, Damore says, of course, he is biased too. I love it when people say that, because so few people do. So much more honest than Google or Wired. And, they fired him for it. 
Damore asks Google to consider its political programming and unconscious biases, not to discriminate against men or any group and to consider whether biological differences between men and women might contribute to there being fewer women engineers. He wants people to be treated as individuals, not members of a group, like male or female. That is, do not mentor women, and not men, because you think there are fewer women engineers as a result of dastardly male behavior. He is a political conservative, a rarity at Google and believes it is why he was fired. I doubt his lawsuit will go anywhere. Interesting, the NLRB administrator who recommended dismissing his administrative complaint (and he did drop it), said his statements about women created a hostile environment despite being “cloaked” in science – which kind of makes them sound as if they were based in – science? “Cloaked,” of course, is a loaded word. Kind of like “ilk.” People use to show a relationship in a negative context.
Whether you think some of his points are wrong or not concerning the biology of men and women and they may be (I really don’t know – its psychology – can anyone know for sure?), his overall point is hardly outrageous. A claim by a woman at Google that she didn’t feel “safe,” was far more outrageous in my view, certainly a lie, and much more in keeping with gender stereotypes. His being fired was definitely outrageous. It was an opinion. An invited one. It’s not like he was saying blacks or Jews should be exterminated or women should stay at home either. He said men and women are different – something that female psychologists who practiced human sexuality behavior write about all the time. Why is this different?
It doesn’t matter if I give you one or a hundred anecdotes or a thousand anecdotes. It is just like an analogy. It can never be close enough if someone doesn't want to believe it. Yet, people are terrified, literally terrified that someone might see a joke on their texts or email, and they will be fired. Many are terrified of giving an opinion. They are right, they will be fired in many jobs. For a joke. Or for an opinion. Because, as I said to my favorite liberal on more than one occasion – Congratulations, you guys killed America’s sense of humor. It's as if conservatives and liberals have changed places in a number of ways over the course of the last few decades. The conservatives were the stodgy puritans who didn't laugh a lot. They'd be the ones dressing up in masks, trying to stop someone else from speaking. The worm turns, as they say.
I’m never going to work for a company again. I’d probably be fired the first day. The last time I had a job I refused to go to the meeting on race (racial something – Relations? Diversity? Maybe if I went, I’d know). Good thing. There was a huge dust-up, a black woman appropriately used the dreaded N-word and a white woman appropriately used it and, uh oh, well, the black women, or at least some of them, did not like that. I heard about it before I got back and then I just didn’t come back at all. It caused racial discord in an otherwise diverse and racially harmonious office for about a week. I had it happen in a class I taught once too. But, whether it be racial workshops or sex harassment training, if I went, they'd probably fire me and if I didn't go, they'd probably fire me, if not for being insubordinate, probably for insurance reasons. Something annoying.
Speaking of sexual harassment training, it is now mandatory in New York. We are trying to figure this out, but it seems like it is mandatory for everyone. It is not clear to me if it includes people who work for themselves, which, of course, makes no sense whatsoever. Pisses me off. No, I do not believe that anyone is going to learn anything from it and it would offend me to be told I need to be trained how to behave with people, even if the way I would behave might offend someone here or there. Too bad. People offend me all the time. I get over it. They should too.
I doubt they will ever be found so, but I do believe that state or federal government telling our employers to train us in how we speak to others violates the first amendment so as how not to offend them, even if I agree with them, violates the first amendment. I’m not going all lawyer on you, but I might develop this someday. Like my fellow sufferer formerly employed by Google, I’m all for diversity too, but I don’t like, for example, that the New York State Bar now makes lawyers include diversity training (even though I will likely never hire another lawyer) in hiring practices. It offends me that they think I need to be taught that it’s okay to hire a minority and it would really offend me if they try to teach me that I should hire someone of this ethnicity rather than that ethnicity (I actually didn’t have to take such a class this year by virtue of my birthday being one day before the effective date). A constitutional challenge? I’m thinking about it? If I can only get someone to pay for it. I know the ACLU won’t, as they seem to out of the civil rights business and only in the “social justice” business.

Really, I'm worried about us. We've gone from a country that decided that free speech means that we have to hear offensive words to a country that suspends kids for dressing up as scary people on Halloween (like, recently, the Columbine killers) or fires a tv host because she asks why its racist for a white child to be Diana Ross for Halloween - and then she apologizes for it before they fire her anyway. What is wrong with it? It's racist to suggest a white kid cannot be Diana Ross? It smacks of apartheid to say a white child cannot pretend to be a black singer or a black child could not pretend to be a white one. Why in the world can we elect a black president and yet we are paralyzed by the thought that white children should pretend they are black. What's not offensive anymore? 
Okay, I'm done. There's so much more that could be covered, but, at some point you just have to stop and say, next time. The last few days my thoughts started to turn to the all-important topic of – Brady or Rodgers (or Brees or Manning)? Which I think comes next.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .