Shutdown Rant

For 35 days you held us hostage and jacked my check twice,
you motherfucker.
And, for what? You caved and didn’t even get a
single strand of fence to keep out those
imaginary Mongolians that came to you in a
fever dream.

Meanwhile, my Shylocks want their
pound of flesh
and my cupboard looks like Mother Hubbard’s because
the Shitty Kitty won’t let me buy groceries with my good looks.
Meanwhile, your pet turtle is working overtime to line his pockets
with yet another tax break instead of making sure guy’s
like me get even a little backpay. How the hell am I
going to get out of this hole you threw me in?

You claimed you were the supreme negotiator.
That no one made deals like you do.
But, you got owned by a septuagenarian
grandmother from Pacific Heights.
Some fucking deal maker you are, you

50 Rules for Being a Good Man

My father, who taught me much of what I know about being a good man.

The internet is filled with rules that men should follow. Unfortunately, many of them are loaded with frivolous and/or misogynistic bullshit. And, generally, these lists seem to focus on being a “real” man, rather than a good one. So, I decided to make up my own. Will following this list will make a good man? Probably not, but it might allow you to fake it until you make it. And, that’s not a bad place to start.

  1. Treat everyone with respect. Everyone.
  2. Remember that there are times to work hard and times to work smart. Know which is which.
  3. Do the right thing. Not for a reward, but because it’s the right thing to do.
  4. Be yourself and never let anyone shame you for it.
  5. As Mick and Keith said, “You can’t always get what you want. But, if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”
  6. Never let becoming rich and famous be your end goal. 
  7. Follow your bliss. But, understand that your bliss doesn’t have to be what you do for a living. So find value in your work, whatever it is.
  8. Never be afraid to cry. Feeling your feelings isn’t weak, it’s healthy. 
  9. No man is an island. You need a community to get through this life.
  10. Don’t talk about things of which you’re ignorant.
  11. Don’t live in the past. Embrace it, honor it, learn from it. But, don’t live in it.
  12. Read. A lot. Good stuff, not trash. More than half should be fiction.
  13. Never be afraid to make a mistake.
  14. Never be afraid to apologize for a mistake.
  15. Learn the art of forgiveness. Holding a grudge is a waste of energy.
  16. Don’t avoid conflict. But, don’t seek it out, either. When it happens, stand up and deal with it.
  17. A gift for a significant other doesn’t have to be expensive. There is truth in the saying, “It’s the thought that counts.”
  18. If a gift for a significant other does have to be expensive, find a different significant other.
  19. Learn from your reverses.
  20. Always be honest. But, understand that some truths are best kept to yourself.
  21. Stand up for the vulnerable.
  22. Never, ever punch down
  23. Look for the beauty in the world.
  24. Be a man of your word. If you say you’ll do something, do it. Even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to.
  25. Always break up with a significant other in person. Anything else is cowardly.
  26. A real man lets a woman walk wherever she damn well pleases. If it happens to be on the side nearest the street, he’s okay with that.
  27. Be prepared for a bluff to be called.
  28. The Golden Rule is a pretty good one to live by.
  29. If you’re not sure your shirt is clean, it’s dirty. Change it.
  30. Remember that appearance is not an alternative for substance.
  31. When making a decision, choose a course of action and commit to it. No one likes a ditherer.
  32. Most people won’t find your hobbies anywhere near as interesting as you do, so don’t bore them. Instead, find that person who loves 19th century romantic poetry as much as you do and geek out to your heart’s content.
  33. Take care of yourself. And, by “take care of yourself”, I mean, learn to cook, clean, and do your own laundry.
  34. Be kind for no reason.
  35. Live the life you want to live, not the one your parents/grandparents/friends want for you.
  36. Never tip less than 20%, no matter how bad the service may be.
  37. Having one very close friend is infinitely better than having a hundred acquaintances.
  38. Whenever possible, opt for quality over price.
  39. Always be faithful to a significant other. Even if you think they’re not being faithful to you.
  40. Know how to change a tire. AAA isn’t always available.
  41. There are plenty of stupid questions. But, the most stupid is the one you don’t ask.
  42. You get a limited amount of time on this earth. Use it to your best advantage.
  43. When possible, do the unpleasant things when you think of them. If you put them off, they won’t get done.
  44. Be grateful.
  45. If you didn’t do the work, don’t take the credit.
  46. Do the work.
  47. Spend time with old people and kids. You can learn a lot from both.
  48. It’s never too late to change.
  49. A good plan executed now is always better than a perfect plan executed later. (paraphrased of George S. Patton)
  50. Know the person you want to be remembered as and work to be that person every day.

Advent is Upon Us

Lifted from Homebrewed Christianity

Oh, dear god, the season I  dread most has
arrived in full force and I’m not sure I’ll make it
till the Eve, or even the eve of the Eve, 
without punching someone in the throat.

Why? Because it’s Advent, that time of
already and not yet, and the theology nerds
won’t shut up, prattling on like nattering nabobs
of negativism, sublimely unaware that people
don’t like it when you shit on their fun.

What, pray tell, is the draw of this liturgical season? 
I’m told it’s a time of expectant waiting. 
Waiting for what? Short days and shitty weather? 
I think I’ll pass. Even Lent, the
bummer before summer,
holds the promise of a bit of warmth after it passes.

Also, I keep hearing that Advent is a time
of deep reflection. Seriously? If I reflect
deeply (or even shallowly) I might have to
look a feeling in the face. And, who
the fuck wants to do that?

You people don’t seem to understand that 
I don’t want to wait, or think, or do anything
with a lick of substance. What I
want is to eat and drink too much, sing
dreadful ditties like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
or “Santa Buddy”, and spend money I 
don’t have to distract myself from
the massive hole in my soul. 

Stop trying to make me think or have
encounters that hold any depth whatsoever.
I’m begging you, please, allow me to sail thru life
have to dig deeper than the thin crust
of abject materialism and selfishness
that is the American Way.

An American Sonnet of My Own

I haven’t watched a single basketball
game since you left me on that Tuesday too many
years ago because that was where we would
connect when the chasm between us yawned wider than
the Grand Canyon and neither of us was
willing to reach out to the other one and one
bad call would bridge the gap and the bad blood
would wash away like pollen in a thunderstorm
and everything would be good between us again
and I wouldn’t feel like I’d let you down
again like I had all those other times before
when you looked at me like you were ashamed
for anyone to know we were from same blood
that I sprang from your loins just to irk you.

F*ck That Noise


 Well, beloved, conservatives showed us just what they think of women this past Saturday. Despite what should have a damning list of accusations of sexual misconduct, up to and including sexual assault, the Senate voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court anyway. I don’t know about you, but right now, I can’t get Padme Amidala’s comment from “The Phantom Menace” out my head. You know, when Palpatine declares himself emperor and she says, “So this is how liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause.” It fits, doesn’t it? Well, except for the thunderous applause bit because the Senate’s action was met with howls of outrage from decent human beings that rivaled the applause from Lord Dampnut’s vile supporters.

   To say this is a disheartening time is an understatement akin to calling World War I “a slight  kerfuffle”. Isn’t enough that our president is a semi-sentient sweet potato with a hair piece who regularly embarrasses us on the national stage? I guess not, since this repulsive asswipe, along with his reptilian henchmen Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, are doing their level best to destroy our republic. God damn it.

     By now, you’ve probably seen some memes and posts telling you not to get mad, not to yell at the people responsible for Saturday’s debacle, but to get out and vote. Fuck that noise. I mean, yes, get out and vote. But, don’t stop there. Get mad. Get loud. Get crude. Let those despicable motherfuckers know exactly what you think of them. And, not just the ones in the Senate who voted to put that loathsome frat-boy son-of-a-bitch on the Supreme Court, but every hateful twat who backed them and are now crowing with delight at his appointment.

Or, to quote the ever-eloquent Henry Rollins:

“This is not a time to be dismayed, this is punk rock time. This is what Joe Strummer trained you for.”

So, marinate in your fury. Let it soak into your bones and become a part of your very being. Because we’re in a fight for the soul of our nation and it’s not going to be easy or short. It will be a long, hard slog and we’ll need to pull energy and inspiration from places that might make us uncomfortable. But, the alternative is to let that tangerine nutsack and his pals eviscerate democracy and inflict damage that will decades to repair. And, that’s if it can be fixed at all.

     Now, some people will say this is bad advice, that it’s divisive or harmful to your soul/mental health. Bullshit. What we’re feeling is righteous anger and using it to bring desperately needed change is no different than Jesus kicking over tables and using a whip on the money changers in the Temple. Understand that the people who tell you this shit are the ideological descendants of the white moderates who vexed Martin Luther King so much in his fight for civil rights and they are more harmful than the avowed racists and misogynists cheering so loudly right now. So, like I said earlier, Fuck. That. Noise.

Time to Man Up, Fellows

It’s not a fun time to be a man right now, what with all the terrible behavior being revealed by #MeToo. It’s even worse if you understand that we deserve all those bad feelings and more. So. Much. More. We deserve it because we’ve behaved horribly, whether we’ve perpetrated the awfulness ourselves or told victims we don’t care about what’s happened to them.
Last week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford went before the Senate Judicial committee to testify about her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when she was 15 and he was 17. The whole thing was an avalanche of awfulness that included from a fairly detailed recounting of a sexual assault, a bunch of old men cowardly hiding behind the skirts of a woman brought in to do their dirty work and, finally, the realization that the Republican members of the Judicial committee and a not-insignificant portion of Americans don’t really care that a man who may well have committed a sexual assault could be elevated to the highest court in the land.
Right about now, you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with me? I don’t know anyone who’s been sexually assaulted/harassed.” I hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong. You do, they’re just not willing to tell you about it. And, I’m not talking about acquaintances, either. I mean, spouses, children, other family members, close friends, etc.  Think about that for a minute. People who are as close to you as it is possible to be are dealing with awful, demeaning, traumatic experiences and they’ve never mentioned it to you. Why do you think that might be?
Maybe, just maybe, it’s because you’ve given them a good reason not to. Now, you’re probably thinking, “What!? How did I do that?” You did it when asked what a rape victim was wearing/how much she had to drink beforehand/what she was doing in that part of town in the first place. You did it when you said someone who reported that they’d been assaulted was a liar because they waited (sometimes months, sometimes years) before coming forward. You did it when you said that someone telling the story of how they’d been assaulted had an agenda, that they were out to smear a good man’s name. You did it when you asked tried to dismiss victims by intimating that false accusations of sexual assault were a bigger problem than assault itself. Basically, you did by being a douche bag. Instead of wondering why they don’t trust you, you should be wondering why they continue to allow you into their life at all.
Like I said in the opening sentence, it’s not a fun time to be a man right now. But, know this: the way you’re feeling right now is nothing compared to the way people who have been victimized sexually feel.  It is, at most, a tiny clouded window into what those folks live with every day. And, as a man, you should be looking for ways to lessen that awfulness for them, not doubling down on it so your side “wins”. To put it bluntly, man up and stop being a douche bag.

Any Port in a Storm

You may or may not know that, after an extensive break (about 35 years), I have returned to school for an English degree. This semester, I’m taking a class in writing poetry. The following prose poem is one of my efforts for that class.

Barney Stinson, the living embodiment of Bro Culture.

I could see her lips move, but the words were buried under the avalanche of sound that poured from the speakers like snow down a mountainside. Normally, “Nasty” set my teeth on edge, but in this moment, I loved Ms Jackson because she was drowning out the insipid, inane babblings of the blitzed bottle-blond I was presently trying to talk out of her panties. A stiff dick may not have a conscience, but it can have taste and if I had to listen to this chick for more than a minute, I’d go limp as a dishrag. But, it had been almost a week since I’d had some action, so any port in a storm as the Navy boys over Gulfport like to say.

Off the dance floor and over at the bar, I lost Janet’s assistance and I had to hear her. So, I focused on her impressive rack and kept my eyes on the prize. “What’s your name?” she asked. “Where are you from?” I was ready for this, my lies laid out ahead of time. I told her my name was Charles Chandler, but everyone calls me Chad. That wasn’t a full-dress falsehood; I’d been Chad for as long as I could remember, but I’m an actual Chad, not Charles, and Chandler isn’t even close to my factual last name. I told her I was a lieutenant in the Air Force, stationed at Barksdale/Bossier City but stuck in New Orleans because of maintenance issues. “You’re a pilot?” she asked as her face lit up like Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday night. I just smiled and ordered us a couple of cocktails. That’s the trick to an effective lie, you know: Never say it yourself, just drop a few hints and let the dunts connect the dots themselves. I’m telling you, it never, ever fails.

5 hours later, I was crawling out of cab in front of the Motel 6 in Metarie where me and 3 buds from my admin clerk class at the base back in Biloxi had rented a room for the holiday weekend. The sun was coming up and I was going down after a long, hard night. And, not long and hard in the good way, either. The bitch kept wanting to talk, acted like this was something besides a somewhat sleazy one-night stand. Yeah, I said sleazy. It’s not lost on me that I’m a degenerate, depraved douche bag. And, if I’m being honest, most morning afters I feel like I need a shower, even though there’s not enough water in the world to ever really feel clean again. But, the only other option is to get real, connect, feel something. And, I’m way too broken on the inside for anything other than slumming. Any port in a storm as the Navy boys over in Gulfport like to say.

Go Home GQ, You’re Drunk


Screw GQ. Read ’em all

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a literature major and if I’ve learned anything in my study of belles-letters, it’s that fiction hasn’t fared very well in this postmodern world. I don’t mean quality-wise; there’s plenty of fiction out there that holds its own with Hemingway, Hurston, or Fitzgerald. For example, Margaret Atwood tackles Christian theonomy in “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses gave us an unflinching look at Islam. Not to be outdone, Neil Gaiman showed us what we really worship in his novel, American Gods. No, beloved, when it comes to fiction, the quality is as good as it ever was. It’s fiction’s reputation that’s taken a hit.

It seems to me that most people view nonfiction as “serious” reading, while fiction is strictly for fun. I have more than one friend who share the nonfiction works they’re reading as deep and important, while fiction is reserved for “beach reads”. I’ve long thought this was a discomfiting trend and GQ magazine recently provided more evidence of that when they published an article titled “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read”.

Now, if you’re thinking that GQ isn’t exactly a bastion of literary criticism, you’re right. It’s basically the male version of Cosmopolitan and deals mostly with fashion, style, and culture for men. As a rule, I pay more attention to Oprah’s Book Club than I do GQ when it comes to literature. But, this article caught my attention because, well, it’s a list of books that we’re told don’t have to read and anytime I see someone discouraging reading in any form, I get a little miffed.

Lately, I’ve been trying to avoid things that get my blood pressure up, like political discussions, internet arguments, and, well, stupid lists about not reading certain books. But, against my better judgement, I looked it up. It was worse than I thought. Not only did these yahoos include the Bible (it is the most influential book in history. That’s true whether you like it or not), they also included books like, Catcher in the RyeAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Lord of the Rings. Really? In a world where crap like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray exists, why would you steer people away from good writing?

I noticed two things while perusing this list: First, it was very heavy on old, white guys. As in, the books deemed unworthy of reading were written by white men. And, when I “heavy”, I mean “every book”. And, lest you think I’m one of those “Don’t-like-minority” types, I firmly believe we don’t hear from those minority voices nearly as much as we should. But, reading those authors shouldn’t mean tossing out the classics.

Second, one of the chief complaints about the works on the “Don’t bother” list was that they weren’t entertaining enough. I get that being entertaining is important because people tend not to read books that aren’t entertaining. I mean, when’s the last time you anything by Henry James? But, being entertaining isn’t the only thing. Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is very entertaining, but it doesn’t break new ground, transform literature or do any of the other things the books on this list have done.

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about the list is that it was compiled by authors. And, all too often, those authors didn’t seem to grasp the finer points of these works. This is evidence of another disturbing trend I’ve noticed: most Americans read fiction the way an evangelical fundamentalist reads the Bible: literally and without searching for any deeper meaning. That is not a good thing.

Why is that a bad thing, you ask? Well, my friends, we live in a world that is chock full of things that are extremely hard to talk about. That is partly because, as much as we claim to prize plain-spokenness, differing ideas uttered in a plain-spoken way tends to make us angry. Especially when it’s applied to something we’re sensitive about. And, that’s where fiction comes in. Because fiction is an excellent way to talk about the things that we can’t tackle head on. Really, fiction is the new mythology, allowing us to explore and express who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. If we avail ourselves of this amazing device, we might even get there without destroying ourselves in the process. I’m not holding my breath, though.

The Tone Police

The Tone Police in action

I think it’s safe to say that, right now, public discourse isn’t at it’s loftiest point in our history. Up until last week, I told myself that things could certainly be worse, saying “Hey, no one’s taken a stick to a colleague on the Senate floor while a compatriot pulled a pistol to keep everyone else at bay. That’s something, right?” But, I’m not sure I can hold onto that slim strand of hope much longer.

Last Thursday, a man with a long-standing grudge against Annapolis, Maryland’s Capital Gazette newspaper walked into their office and opened fire on the staff, killing five and wounding two. You might be wondering why I would bring up mass murder in a discussion about public discourse. I get that, killing a whole slew of people in one go is pretty much the opposite of talking. In another world, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to bring up mass murder in a discussion about the community’s rhetoric. But, we don’t live in another world, we live in the “Trump-side Down“: A world where a thrice-divorced reality show huckster who said he’s never felt the need to ask God’s forgiveness and has paid hush money to an adult film actress over an affair enjoys massive support from evangelical Christians that they elect to the highest office in the land. Meanwhile, a devoted husband and father who has repeatedly demonstrated his faith through his actions is reviled by these same people as a “secret Muslim” who is mounting an assault on Christianity. Y’all know these folks make Jesus cry, right?

If the way Obama was treated while 45 is embraced isn’t enough proof that we live in a parallel universe  where everything is twisted and warped, check this out. Thursday evening, on AC360, Anderson Cooper replayed a previously taped interview with some of the survivors of the shooting. In it, reporter Selene San Felice said, “But I’m gonna need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers because it’s — our whole lives have been shattered. And so thanks for your prayers, but I couldn’t give a fuck about them if there’s nothing else.” Whether by mistake or by design, they didn’t bother to censor San Felice and the expletive came thru loud and clear. In the normal world, the only way to respond to that is the way Cooper did: with sympathy and grace. However, in the “Trump-side Down”, it seems that tone-policing is an appropriate response.

I say that because, Friday morning, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl) tweeted:

“Sign of our times… the F word is now routinely used in news stories, tweets, etc. It’s not even F*** anymore. Who made that decision?

Wow. Let me see if I understand what’s being said here: In the aftermath of a mass shooting that left five people dead and 2 wounded, Senator Waterboy is upset by the “F word”? I don’t know about you guys, but I can think of a lot of words that are worse than “fuck”, like murder, racism, famine and a whole bunch more. But, I suppose it is nice to know where Marco’s priorities lie.

Now, the cynic in me thinks that this really about all Rubio can say,  what with bought and paid for by the NRA. But, my idealistic side says that, rather than just making snarky comments, I should try and look at things from Marco’s point of view. I don’t know, maybe “F***” is worse than I think. So, let’s do a little research, shall we?

As a word, “fuck” has been around for a long time. The first attested usage dates to 1475 in a poem by some English friars (it does appear earlier in a couple of names). It is probably a cognate of some German words that have a sexual connotation. Or, it may derive from an Old French word that means “to fuck”. Originally, it referred only to having sex and it’s hard to tell when it lost that happy association and picked up some of the more unpleasant and offensive meanings it has today. But, even with all those negative associations, when stacked up against violent death, bigotry, and hunger, “fuck” just doesn’t seem that bad to me.

Of course, Rubio isn’t the only person to use this approach. All of our social media feeds are full of “Trumpies” calling for civility now that everyone else has had enough of their crap and started giving it back. Sorry snowflakes, that genie is out of the bottle and it ain’t going back in. Deal with it.


Family Matters

It’s been a while since I posted anything here, mostly because I’ve been busy with school. Also, I’ve been writing for a friend’s site (The Betafiles. You should check it out.) But, I’ve come to realize I shouldn’t neglect my own little corner of the web, so I’m going to begin sharing the things I write for the The Betafiles here. Starting with this piece.

As you may have noticed over the last few days, it’s been rather difficult to turn on a news program without hearing about the White House’s latest policy debacle, the separation of families attempting to cross our southern border. This was a fairly big story before, but it really came to dominate the headlines last Thursday when Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the Bible to justify the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, setting off a crapstorm of negative press coverage.

Things haven’t gone well for Sessions in the wake of that comment, as people across the country have called him out about it. Even his own United Methodist Church (Sessions is a member) has condemned both the policy and the AG’s statement, saying “To argue that these policies are consistent with Christian teaching is unsound, a flawed interpretation, and a shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel.” So, the UMC, a group that has been locked in a fractious debate over the status of people who are LGBTQ+ for years, thought one of their own member’s policy/statement was so bad it was worth putting all that aside and coming together to denounce it? Oh, I’ll bet that stings.

It’s not just Sessions who’s feeling the heat, though; the entire Trump administration is catching it. Of course, that’s due in part to their total ineptitude when it comes to governing. And, never has their incompetence been clearer than in the responses from various administration officials. Over the weekend, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Yet, back in May, chief of staff John Kelly said that tearing kids away from their parents would be a “tough deterrent” and wouldn’t call it cruel. And, the president himself has gone on record multiple times about the policy, usually to blame Democrats for this heinous practice. Of course, I’ve already told you about Sessions’ views on the subject. And, in line with her boss and the AG, Mouth of Sauron White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “It’s the law, and that’s what the law states.” Compared to these people, the Keystone Kops are the picture of competence.

On-air personalities at Fox News (aka Department of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda) have been working hard to counter all the bad press and “inform” us about the “reality” of the situation. Tucker Carlson claims that public outrage over the policy has been ginned up by “the ruling elite” to accelerate “the collapse of the American family”. Co-host of Fox and Friends and ventriloquist-dummy-come-to-life Steve Doocy said that we’re not seeing concentration camps with cages for children, but “great, big warehouse facility where they built walls out of chain link fences.” And, last but certainly not least, Laura Ingraham told us that these detention centers “are essentially summer camps”. While the comments from Doocy and Ingraham are mind-numbingly stupid, they were a welcome change from Carlson’s dog-whistle-racism-conspiracy-theory-bs. Something we hear all too often from the fine folks at Fox.

I will end this: One of the goals of this zero-tolerance policy (the brainchild of human-rat hybrid Stephen Miller) is reducing the number of people seeking asylum. And, it’s working. I heard a news report this morning about an interview with a Honduran woman at the border who was reconsidering her decision to attempt a crossing and request asylum. Think about that for a moment: our government has created an environment that is less attractive than the horrific violence occurring in her homeland. So, have we made America great again? Because I don’t think I can’t take much more of this “winning”.

***Update: Since I wrote this article, Lord Dampnut has signed an executive order (after swearing the issue couldn’t be dealt with in that manner multiple times) that will end family separation of people caught improperly crossing the border. Of course, it doesn’t reverse the idiotic zero-tolerance policy that caused the mess; that will remain in force. No, this order means that all adults crossing illegally will still be prosecuted, but they’re children won’t ripped away from them. So, instead of infants and toddlers held sans parents in “tender age detention centers”, we’ll have whole families in jail together. The sad thing is, this is an improvement.