Monday, March 08, 2010

Kvetching Sunday

Stranded in NY for work purposes, I am far from my beloved library from which I fact check, get my quotes or just get inspired for whatever post I'm writing. Left only to my own mind and the puny resources of the internet and its few billion pages, I decided (I have decided . . .? I am deciding . . .? my decision is. . .?) to just kvetch for a bit, because, one, I want to and it's my %$@#* blog and two, it is Sunday, and that is the best day of all to kvetch. Whether I've written about these things before, they are the ones that bug me these days.

Child raising

Got to say something about child raising because sometimes it is all I can do not to explode. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe it's okay to let your child sleep in bed with you no matter how old they are. Maybe it's okay to have them always miserable because you always give them a choice in what they do; maybe we should teach them that if they can't curse, then we can't either; maybe we should always let them win; maybe we should keep them in a crib until they are four; maybe we should let them know that we have no lives except to please them; maybe we should teach them that it's okay to pout and sulk and we will then give way; maybe their ability to cry should outweigh our patience to listen to it and we should give way about that; maybe if they ask enough times we should buy them whatever they want; maybe we should never let them know about our failures in life so they think if they fail - it's all over; maybe we should let them play video games 6 hours a day even when they are together; maybe we should let them dominate everything when we have guests over; maybe we should let them be physical with us but we can never hit them back; maybe 15 minutes of punishment is too much for them; maybe they should get to disobey us with impunity; maybe no other adult should ever be allowed to discipline them; maybe club leaders and teachers shouldn't be allowed to be alone with them; maybe we should never let them play outside of our sight; maybe we should teach them that the world is a terrifying place and everyone wants to hurt, rob or molest them; maybe we should teach them that screaming discrimination or abuse is the best way to get what you want.

Maybe I'm wrong even though everything I've experienced in my life tells me all these things will produce weak, lazy, frightened and unhappy children. Then again, my parents were not exactly child-raising geniuses- perhaps idiots - and I felt I did okay. I look at my daughter's friends, many who were raised with some of the above and they all seem to be out there working hard, educating themselves, being anything but lazy.

We know, of course, that every generation that comes along fears for the ones coming behind it. Maybe we should. But, maybe technology cures all the problems this style of child raising causes. Maybe it really is 80 or 90 percent genetic and we are who we have to be.

That would be great for me actually. The reason I can't control my weight, work on one thing without getting up every few minutes, can't get motivated about earning money, am terribly awkward on social occasions, feel weird about belonging to groups, can't sit quietly while people proffer urban legends ("Actually," he said in a bored distracted way as if correcting an idiot who couldn't possibly know better, "that's not true . . ."), can't tolerate wasteful meetings (I swear if I hear "best practices" one more time I'm buying a gun) is because I'm genetically programmed that way.

Good. No need to work on myself.

Maybe all these are true things. But, I don't think so.


I just don't get it. Why do I care what my virtual "friends" "friends" are doing. I'm pretty sure I don't. I love my daughter, but I don't care whether her profile says she's in a relationship or it's complicated or single (by the way, my "girlfriend's" profile says she is single). I don't care what she (back to the daughter) has to post. If she wants to tell me something she'll tell me. If I want to know, I'll ask.

Recently, someone I know - a terrific guy who I'm very fond of - can't even think of a character flaw in him - wrote me to say it's hard to keep up with everyone and he knows it's strange, but here's his facebook page. I wrote back that it was great to hear from him and I look forward to talking to him but I just don't do the facebook thing. The truth was, I realized, that despite that it was a nice thing for him to do, I felt a little insulted. I'm so unimportant that I can only contact you through a public medium.

The truth is - I do have a facebook account. I had to go through the pain of telling real friends and family who wanted to be my "friend" (because they are normal people and that's what you do) that I don't have any "friends". I don't have my own kid as a "friend". Worse, she actually "friended" me on my own computer and I had to de-friend her. I have an account for two reasons. One, it is a phenomenal people search tool that has already borne fruit for me. Two, sometimes businesses and people only communicate through facebook (that hasn't happened to me yet - well, sort of once - but I hear from other people it has happened to them).

More than anything, I don't want to have to turn anyone down who doesn't know me and I can't explain to them why I don't want to be "friends" (my real friends know I'm strange and understand). Maybe even worse, I don't want to have to play digital games with people when I don't really want to (I do know some people who feel trapped in games with others).

Of course, as I've said here many times, there is no avoiding technology. In a few years, tv's and computers and radios will be one, and networks like facebook will be so institutionalized we have no choice but to play along. I know that because I HATE texting too, yet I believe I have received or sent out between ten and twenty texts this year.

The media

I am staying at my friend's house in New York. He reads Newsday, a paper I haven't really enjoyed in many years. At this point, it's just ridiculous. For example, they had an article about Jim Bunning, the Kentucky Senator who refused to go along with unanimous consent on a bill that spent money just a few weeks after it passed into law a bill which requires them to pay with spending cuts elsewhere for whatever they spend in that bill.

I don't care what you think of his actions, but Newsday gave a completely Foxnews/MSNBC type treatment of it - one sided. They left out the fact that he was actually in favor of the expenditure, that he was only protesting the violation of a law that was just passed and that he said he would vote for it when they paid for it. And, they also forgot to mention that he won - they finally paid for it.

There really is almost no place to go for news anymore. C-Span is impartial, but they really don't do the news per se. Jim Lehrer has his public tv show, but, I'm going to be honest - they manage to make it deadly dull. The NY Times is fairly criticized for being biased - has admitted it in fact, but various sections of the paper are still unparalleled in my opinion - science, books, Travel, foreign affairs in particular. I've rarely ever read an editorial in any paper that I recall so I can't speak much to that. But, my thought has always been - if you don't know who is writing an opinion piece and their perspective - what good is it? The Wall Street Journal has some credibility but, they don't really cover things that interest me all that much.

So, I pretty much ignore the news. When something is real enough and important enough, it will come to light eventually. But, for now, not many places to look for a fair report.

But, there is a flip side - there are so many different sources that if you work hard and are cynical about where you get information from, you can sometimes piece it together yourself.


Thank God for blue jeans or I'd never have been in fashion my whole life. Not entirely true, now that I think about it. There were a couple of years in the 80s where the dorky clothes my mother still bought me were in fashion. But, mostly blue jeans.

Asked what bothered her about me the most, the woman I refer to as my "insignificant other" (we are now battling over who created the phrase- I've got to learn to memorialize and copywrite every damn thing I say) will tell you that I dress poorly.

Guilty. If I live to be 100 (very unlikely unless they put me in a coma when I'm 66) I will never understand why people care how they dress. I would be perfectly happy if the president of the United States wore shorts and sneakers to work. The idea that someone will be more professional if they are in a suit and tie is just so much hooey.

I realized a long time ago that my "heroes (and they are fairly conventional) were often men who didn't dress very well. Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, John Marshall . . . no reason to go into the list. I have no idea if that figured into my liking them and doubt I even knew it when I first became enchanted with them. But, it's there.

If I never have to wear a suit again it will be too soon, although, probably before the year is out I will have to don the monkey suits a few times again.

It's funny how it works, but just as many are impressed by the suit and tie I admit I have an immediate bias against it. Show me a podium with 5 people dressed to the nines (I've read articles on the etymology of that phrase - and whatever you've heard, no one knows where it came from) and one guy in jeans and a sweater and my bias will be for that guy to be more sincere and genuine. But, I'm probably in the minority. Thought about it some more - definately in the minority.

Often I find fashion just means ugly but popular. Probably the clothing item to suffer the most from fashion is the lady's shoe. While the truly graceful and attractive models seem to survive all fashion and continue unabated, every little while we have to survive a run on big clunky ugly shoes that only a mother gorilla could love. Men, of course, don't have the courage to tell women when they look terrible, and really, women dress for each other's approval, so there is nothing lowly men can do about it.

We just wait and one day, they look at those shoes and go - ugh, and put on the pumps.

I have a letter from a little girl from . . .

No, not my usual rant about extreme partisanship.

I was watching the tea party convention a few weeks ago while I was trying to fall asleep. Glenn Beck was talking. Sometimes he is just plain ridiculous (we are no longer a capitalist country - Obama hates all white people, etc.) but I liked his talk because he mostly addressed some things we agree on.

I don't have the exact quote, but, at one thing he said I just sat up in bed and said, "Yes!!!". He started talking about a generic politician who is making a speech and starts saying something like, "I met a man in Laredo, Texas, who came up to me and said, Senator . . . Oh, Shut up."

Yes, shut up. Of course, the difference between Glenn Beck and I is I don't want to hear either side do it. The meeting between libs and cons with President Obama two weeks ago was replete with these whiny messages which somehow all seem the same.

The first person I ever remember hearing anyone use this was President Reagan, who was speaking for the first time after getting shot. He read a letter (I think it was a letter) from a little boy who said to him . . . and all I could think was, Oh, shut up! Who cares?

I'm sure there are a lot of horrid stories out there (the worst at the presidential health care meeting was the story about the women who was using her sisters dentures - oh, shut up) and it's not that I don't feel sympathy, but, the argument really goes something like this -

You and I disagree about some policy.
We each want people to sympathize with our own position.
Everyone knows the policy arguments and no one really cares.
So, if I can tug a heart string about some person which would seem in the abstract to support my side, well, I win, don't I?

No, because you have a nation full of people out there who are listening and saying - oh, shut up - if we don't actually hit the mute button the second you say - "I met an old woman from . . . "

But, in case anyone is feeling that way about me right now, I'm just going to shut up.


  1. Amen Halleluia!!
    Dead on on all counts.

    Any politician who starts showing signs of "anecdoteitis" should have his microphone immediately cut and subjected to tar and feathering.

  2. Good God, I didn't think it was possible but you may have wrote a blog that Don and I agree with from top to bottom. Will miracles never cease?

  3. Uh oh. Either judgment day is coming or I'm doing something wrong.

  4. Don't worry- I'm sure you'll screw it up soon.

  5. Anonymous2:11 PM

    David....WOW I actually read your entire blog!! Hell has really frozen over....well not completly. A few paragraphs I had to skim as you went into politics and then I found myself in my "happy place" in my head - yeah you know what I'm talking about lol!!


  6. I'm going to put those words on my tombstone - "WOW I actually read your entire blog!! Hell has really frozen over."


    But, thanks for commenting.

  7. Never did this before Dave. Still have not texed. Did I spell that right? Kids are kids and that is why parents must be parents. Being a kid like them will only hurt in the long run. Glad you made it home safe. Thanks for all your help. Sure am glad you're a kid.


  8. I got my first text message this year when a colleague sent me a phone number. I didn't know how to get it and he had to tell me on the phone (it was, of course, staggering easily). My first outgoing text was, I believe, to my daughter who texted me from the same building I was in. I asked her never to do it again. However, according to my phone, I have sent and received roughly 15 text messages this year. Of course, most kids can do that in a couple of minutes, but I'm old, slow and my fingers are too big for the keyboard.

    Thanks for visiting me on my site, Gary. It is, in fact, good to be back in the Old Dominion.


Your comments are welcome.

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 . . . .