Indiana, Arkansas, Wal-Mart and more…

The last week has seen a huge battle erupt between religion and sexuality and the freedoms thereof. There’s lots of good and bad to be said for both sides. In the battle for marriage equality, the LGBT community has won a huge victory in an astonishingly short time. In 2004, states were passing “Defense of Marriage” laws across the country. Those ballot measures brought out a big vote that helped elect Bush the Younger to a second term. Now, a few short years later, marriage equality laws are sweeping the land, and barring something really weird, the Supreme Court will likely make it the law of the land. This is a huge victory. I just wish the winners were more magnanimous.

They’ve managed to demonize anyone who disagrees with them as bigots and fools. This is wrong. There are lots of good people with sincerely held beliefs who feel at least somewhat squeamish about embracing this New World Order. My dear departed mother could be described as a born-again Christian who loved everyone and rarely had anything bad to say about anyone. Even though her faith was sorely tested over the years, she managed to accept the divorces of two of her children, the remarriage of one, and the out-of-wedlock birth of her only great-grandchild. Her faith did evolve over the years, and I’m sure she would have loved any of her children had any of them been gay, but I doubt that she would have blessed a gay marriage. That would have been a bridge too far for her, but that does not make her evil and worthy of scorn.

My mother had a lovely voice and often was asked to sing at weddings and other special occasions. She wasn’t in the wedding singer business, but she loved doing it. But in spite of her loving and accepting nature, I don’t think she would have accepted an invitation to sing at a gay wedding. She didn’t do it for the money or to make a living, so I doubt she would have gotten into any legal trouble for her hypothetical actions. But people who go into for-profit business serving the public should have to provide their service or merchandise to all comers. In an egalitarian society, businesses shouldn’t be able to render moral judgement on the people they do business with. There are all sorts of things that we do in a civil society that are against our own beliefs, religious or otherwise. I hate the fact that almost 20% of my tax dollars go to fund the military-industrial establishment, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. So even though I don’t understand why a gay couple would even want a wedding cake or flowers or food from someone who hated them, they should have the right to get those products that are available to everyone else. So to you squeamish business owners out there, grit your teeth, force a smile, provide the service and take the money. Or find another line of business where you’re not in a position to judge your customers.

As for you cultural crusaders out there – What makes sex, especially the sex lives of others so special? In the pantheon of sins in the Bible, homosexuality is pretty low on the list. Fornication and adultery are big no-nos, as are murder and envy and having other gods before you. Gluttony and sloth up there too. At least they made it to the list of Seven Deadlies. I don’t see any evangelical florists refusing to do business with fat, poorly dressed fornicators on their second or third marriages.

As for you principled conservatives out there – We know where your principles really lie when you fold like a cheap tent as soon as Wal-Mart complains.

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The Golden Age of Television

I watch too much TV. I admit it. But the networks and their advertisers won’t get much joy from that admission. There isn’t a single network show I watch on a regular basis, and any commercial TV that I do watch is DVR’d so that I can fast forward through the commercials. I watch Rachel Maddow regularly because she’s smart and funny. Once in a while I watch whoever is on Fox News, just to keep up to date with whatever the whacko-birds are crowing about. I do record the Sunday morning talk shows, but over the years, I’ve gotten really tired of the same old crap that passes for politics today and tend to fast-forward through them now.

The main time-suckers for me are the excellent series produced by the cable networks, HBO, Amazon and Netflix. For me this all started back in 2006 when I broke my ankle skiing. With a cast and crutches and living in the Fremont Alps, I was stuck in front of the TV, bored spitless. The Sopranos had been around for a while, but I’d never watched it. Comcast was just starting to get a decent on-demand library going, and I happened across the series. I binge-watched the first season in two days, by which time the second season was available. Another two or three days shot. Then I went to the video store (remember them?) and rented the third season. By then I’d had enough, and embarked on my Broken Ankle Tour to New Orleans. (But that’s another story.) I got back and watched all the available episodes, and ended up watching the final season live.

For a few years, I wondered how HBO could ever hope to duplicate the success of the Sopranos. I need not have worried. Rome, Game of Thrones, Deadwood, True Detective, Boardwalk Empire and the Leftovers all caught my attention. I even stuck with Big Love and True Blood for a while. HBO is the single biggest reason I’ve put up with the evil Comcast all these years.

I never thought that HBO would get much competition in the TV drama department, but I was wrong. A couple of years ago, I started watching The Tudors on Netflix. I even sucked wife-Megan, who doesn’t normally watch much TV, into watching it. Not long after, I was at the cabin alone looking for something to watch, and came across The Walking Dead. Then came Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black. And now Better Call Saul.

Which brings me to the most recent one I (and Megan too) binge-watched. Transparent, produced for Amazon. It’s about a 67 year-old father who decides he’s really a woman. I have to admit that I really have a hard time wrapping my head around this issue. I can’t understand how only the latest in hormonal therapies and surgical intervention can bring out the true inner being of a person. But all that aside, this show is fabulous! It has a cast of familiar faces, even if you can’t quite name the actors. Here is the family:

Transparent-TV-show

-Jeffrey Tambor plays Maura Pfefferman, the patriarch (matriarch??) of the family. After years of secretly cross-dressing, he comes out as a woman.

-Judith Light plays Shelley, Maura’s ex-wife, and typical Jewish mother.

-Jay Duplass plays Josh, a successful record producer who beds any woman who comes his way.

-Amy Landecker is Sarah, a suburban housewife who leaves her husband and two kids for a lesbian girlfriend from her college days.

-Gaby Hoffman plays Alexandra, the youngest daughter who hasn’t quite figured out her own sexuality, but is willing to try anything in her quest.

So here you have an extremely dysfunctional family, with all the sibling rivalries and parent/child relationships, and yet they’re very much a family. It’s actually heartwarming at times.

I can’t say I have a better understanding or empathy for someone in Maura’s position after watching the first season, but it is a great family story that will grab you and make you laugh out loud at times. So forget about any qualms you have about the subject matter (they’ll still be there after the show), get out the popcorn, and enjoy!

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To blog or not to blog

I’ve been blogging on and off (mostly on) since March of 2007.  At that time, I had been doing a fair bit of traveling and wanted to keep friends and family updated. My niece Sarah was living in Zambia at the time and I was following her blog with interest. I reasoned that if she could do it, I could do it, so I started to write on Blogspot and sent an email with the link to folks who might be interested. Truth be told, I was too lazy to write update emails to everyone. You can check out the old stuff here. There’s cool stuff there like Hal’s and My Excellent Motorcycle Adventure to the New Orleans Jazz Fest and the Baja Ha Ha sailing trip from San Diego to Cabo with Bob and Phyllis. There are the usual political rants, book reviews, and dog pictures. Even some stuff about old girlfriends and friend-Megan before we got serious.

Looking back, I think I blogged for the same reason that people keep diaries. It was more for me than for my readers. Most of the time I’d get 10-20 views a day. My biggest day ever was 180! So this is not something I used to hone my writing skills with the view to become a paid pundit. YOU TOO CAN MAKE TENS OF DOLLARS WRITING ON THE INTERNET!!! It was something I did to reflect on what I’d done or to expand on random thoughts I’d had. It was a way to document and refine arguments I’d made with facts and figures rather than off-the-top-of-my-head facts and gut-feels.

So after writing only a couple or three posts in as many months, I think I’m ready to get back in the saddle. It will be more of the same. Personal thoughts, grandbaby pictures, dog pictures, political arguments, book and movie reviews, beer and food and more.

2015 is shaping up to be a good year, so I will try to be a bit more disciplined about posting, aiming for two to three posts per week. We’ll see how it goes.

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Poor Little Nikki

P1050745Nikki’s under the covers there somewhere, being comforted by Nurse/Mom-Megan. She had a hard day today with major abdominal surgery to remove these stones from her bladder:

P1050748At first we thought it was just a UTI, but medication didn’t help. No wonder – it wasn’t a routine infection at all. These things are enormous! No wonder she was having bladder issues! We only got a few of them from the vet. The rest went off to some lab for analysis.

P1050747So she’ll be wearing the cone and will be taking some serious meds for a few days.

We’re hoping for a quick and full recovery.

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An American Sniper

I’ve been really lax about blogging lately – mainly because I didn’t find anything interesting enough to make me want to share my thoughts. Maybe it’s just the mid-winter blahs. To blog or not to blog may be the theme of a future post.

In any case, last night daughter-Megan and I saw American Sniper, and my inner blogger felt compelled to write something about the movie. Given all the hype about the movie – the biggest January box office ever, and the all the pro-war and anti-war commentary it generated – I thought I would be in for a treat. (Regardless of my generally pacifist sentiments, I’ve always enjoyed a good war movie. FuryHurt Locker and Inglorious Basterds are good examples of recent war movies that I found compelling and/or entertaining.) And even if the movie wasn’t all that great, it could feed my compulsion to argue its pro- or anti-war sentiments.

For me, the movie failed on all counts. First of all, it wasn’t a very good movie. I found nothing new in its treatment of a soldier who does his duty well and has difficulty returning to civilian life. Technically, it was good in re-creating Iraqi battles, but the scenes themselves didn’t get my blood pumping. In fact, I almost fell asleep during the last battle scene. The scenes from his home leaves are well done, but again there was nothing new that moved me.

As for the political stance of the movie, I didn’t see any. Other than the scenes where Kyle is watching the Nairobi Embassy bombing and later watching the Twin Towers fall on TV, there was no background of his motivation to join the Armed Forces other than being a failed rodeo cowboy. There is certainly no discussion of whether or not the Americans should have been in Iraq in the first place. And even though there is no depth to the Iraqi characters, they are not totally dehumanized either. It’s just a guy doing an ugly job exceptionally well without a whole lot of thought or introspection.

So in my five-star scale, this movie rates no better than two. In other words, wait till it comes out on Netflix, and don’t waste your money at the theater.

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White Trash Princess

Isn’t she precious?

nikki11

Well yes and no. She is a lover and a cuddler, and she’s very smart. You could call her a princess! But she’s also devious. She does things she knows she’s not supposed to do, but she does them anyway. So we put up various barriers to help her modify her bad behavior. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We watch her body language carefully and I built her a dog run, so she no longer pees on the floor. (At least she hasn’t had an “accident” for almost a week now.) She’s getting used to lots of walks, and hasn’t pooped on the floor for several weeks.

But one habit we haven’t been able to help her with is her love of garbage. She discovered she could open the under-sink cabinet door, knock over the garbage can, and PARTY!! So I put child-proof catches on the cabinet, but she figured out a way around that. There was enough room between the latched door and the cabinet for her to get her paw through, snag the edge of the garbage bag, and pull it out in shreds on to the floor. OK, we’ll drag a chair over to block the cabinet door. No problem, she thinks, and moves the chair and gets in the other side of the cabinet, knocks over the dishwasher detergent bottle, and drags out the garbage.

This is the result –

garbage0

So now I installed a couple of cabinet knobs and have rubber-banded the doors together. Let’s see how she gets around this one.

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Boxgiving Day Dinner

For our second annual Boxgiving Day celebration, we continued the theme of anything-but-turkey cuisine from around the world. Last year was Mexican. This year, in honour of the months spent in India in 2012, we chose Indian food (gastrointestinal distress not included).

I hadn’t delved into cooking Indian food in the years since we returned to the USA – maybe the memories were still too fresh. But now, almost three years later, I was brave enough to risk a PTSD episode. Somewhat surprisingly, it all turned out quite well, and I got to use a bunch of the weird spices that had been lurking in the back of the spice cupboard for who knows how long.

Chicken curry –

curry

Saag paneer –

saag

 

Naan

naanRice and dhal –dhalIt was all quite a lot of work, but well worth it. For me the strange part was having to follow the recipes closely. My style of cooking usually entails a little of this and a little of that, but since making this food is way out of my comfort zone, I figured I’d better pay attention.

Thanks to Paige, Trevor, Hunter, the two Megans, and Hal for letting me experiment with their taste buds.

 

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