A Couple of Quick Thoughts

I happened upon a meeting that was discussing LGBT issues in the workplace. As a guest speaker, a transgender person was answering some of the questions offered by those in attendance. Truth be told, I really wasn’t paying that much attention. Not that I’m apathetic, I just find it hard to identify with such a person. I’ve always been a solid believer in having a frame of reference to understand a person. Regardless, something she said was that if she could change anything, it was the flippancy that the younger generation nowadays uses the term “gay”. My daughter professes herself bi-sexual, and I’ve heard and read that word being used by her peers, some of them her friends. She’s told me that the word being used like get bothers her, but she’s never really spoken up to her friends even though they know she’s bi-sexual.

It got me to thinking; we have a number of words within out culture that are no-nos. Hell, I grew up listening to Eddie Murphy using the term faggot and getting laughter from his audiences about it. Now the only jokes told here with that word are used in the context of that word is used to describe cigarettes in the UK, and how funny is it that we can get away with saying it so long as that’s what you’re talking about. But the biggest taboo is the dreaded “N-word”. Gallons of ink has been spilled to explain how African Americans have stolen that word from white people so as to somehow disempower it. African Americans use the word freely in speech and music. But to hold it specifically to my generation, the word itself has no real meaning — at least not in so much as it’s original connotation. Personally speaking, I don’t see why it’s used any longer, regardless of context. It’s a word that was originally meant to assign a person to a sub-human status, and for those people to use it in describing one another, many decades after it was anything socially acceptable, to me only throws salt on their own wounds. And really, what’s the point of that?

But after hearing what this transgender person said, I had to stop and wonder if “gay” really has the negative connotations to my children’s generation that they had in mine. Unlike the “N-word”, gay has several meanings. My children live in a fairly open-minded generation where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Harvey Milk would’ve been proud to live. It’s because of their efforts and sacrifices that we do. And it’s only going to get better. I don’t think these words should be taboo, nor should they be edited from anyone’s speech. After all, it’s not the words that give them power, it’s who’s saying them and the message they’re trying to send.

* * *

I watched one of my favorite movies with my son tonight — Sneakers. If you’ve never watched it before, I’d recommend it because it’s a sort of light-hearted spy movie. But it does deal with some serious questions. And it wasn’t until this viewing that I realized just how much the world has changed since 9/11.

Not to spoil it for you, but the movie has to do with the development of a “black box” which is a brute-force encryption algorithm that can be used on any information database. In the movie, this device was created at the behest of the National Security Association. The implications were, as outlined at the end of the movie, that the US Government would have no other use for such a device than to spy on its own citizens. How horrifying, right?

Well, now it’s law. The NSA can spy on you whenever it wants and there’s nothing you can say or do about it. All they need to do is say you’re a threat.

Now it would be too easy for me to say “It’s Bush’s Fault”. All of these laws were signed by Dubya. But since Obama took office, he hasn’t exactly stormed the NSA Bastille demanding privacy for US citizens. In point of fact, all we’ve gotten is a wink from the government saying they’ll only use that power when it’s necessary and to protect the interests of national security. Meanwhile the most paranoid people in the world, second only to the lunatics you find in homeless shelters with tinfoil hats, have the means to listen in to anyone’s personal life they choose with almost no justification.

Since 9/11, the attitude of Americans has changed significantly. They can justify this lunacy so that they can sleep better at night without having to worry that some foreign zealots can’t fly airplanes into our buildings. Never mind that the lessons of 9/11 was not that we didn’t have intelligence, but that our agencies didn’t share it with one another very well. (And there’s the bit about how the White House wouldn’t listen to them at all, but that’s beside the point.) What ended up happening was that truly scared Americans gave away their rights to privacy in return for promises of safety.

I really have to wonder if Sneakers could be remade into anything relevant to today’s world. The odd thing is that I feel no safer now than I did then.

Netflixing

As I’ve grown older and gotten involved in a myriad of activities, I’ve found that I no longer have the time or inclination to watch a lot of television. At least that’s what I tell myself. The truth is that I don’t watch TV like I did ten years ago. I suppose becoming attached to programs only to have them cancelled  when I’ve becoming thoroughly hooked has led to a certain sense of distancing in an activity that would otherwise envelop my life quite easily. It certainly did when I was a kid and I maintain that most of my useless knowledge comes from years of pandering from the idiot box. For example, I know that Iran was once called Persia thanks to Scooby Doo. Take that, public schools.

But over the years I’ve found myself fairly blessed without having to cordon off pieces of my schedule so that I can tune in to the latest episode of the seemingly never-ending slurry of reality shows. But it wasn’t until The Ex moved out that I found myself almost totally detached from the television. This suited my kids, and more importantly their PS3 addictions, just fine. And I was quite proud of the fact that I didn’t adhere to some sadistic schedule where I’d have to carve out an hour of my Thursday evening. In the spirit of full disclosure, I was almost arrogant about it.

The truth was that I had discovered something that started as a small subscription to see movies and turned into my daily ritual — Netflix. What started as an effort to see how many movies I could watch for $15 a month eventually turned into their $8 streaming service that pipes right in to the PS3, and more importantly my PC. Because what started off as a fledgling way to watch movies without having to wait has become such a phenomena in my house that the word Netflix is actually become a verb in my house.

“I’m gonna Netflix up a movie.”

“Sorry, but I’m Netflixing tonight.”

“Yeah, I Netflixed that series last month!”

While I’m sure that someone else has come up with that, I claim full creative rights to the term. I say this because I said it before hearing anyone else say it, and thereby any claims to the contrary are fallacious and/or some form of cow excrement. I don’t expect any financial compensation for it, but take full credit. Egos need love, too.

Netflixing isn’t without its downside, I’ve however noticed. Because I never went out of my way to get involved in what became incredibly popular shows, which everyone seems to have references they use, I’m very much behind in the pop culture race. Nothing pointed this out to me more clearly than when I became aware that I had never really watched much of The Office. (Not the original UK version, brits — the US version.) So, because I didn’t wish to be left behind on the plethora of “That’s What She Said” humor any longer, I Netflixed the series up. And over the course of the past few weeks I’ve learned an important lesson:

Never watch only one show for extended periods of time. The phrase “all things in moderation” does include your pop culture intake.

I became a laboratory example of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me in visual media exposure. While I did enjoy the hijinks of Steve, Jim, Pam and Dwight, I had never before been so acutely aware of how many people in the world looked like Steve, Jim, Pam and Dwight. Not to mention catching myself looking off in the direction of invisible cameras to catch my expression.

But the worst part of all of this was when I finished season 7, the last available season on Netflix streaming, I found that I had nothing to watch. There was a giant hole in my life now. What was my nightly ritual was gone. And after two or three days of withdrawal, it’s only then that you come to recognize that you were hideously addicted to fictional characters. Now while that doesn’t sound all that bad, let me put it another way…

Think for a moment about the legions of fans who tune in to the final episodes of shows like Seinfeld or Cheers. They’ve watched and loved a show for 30 minutes a week over the course of years. Tears of loss are shed and they run entertainment columns for weeks after the final episode was aired. Now condense all those shows into dozens of marathons over the course a few weeks. You are suffering the emotional equivalent of drinking 6-packs concentrated Monster Energy drinks while eating handfuls of chocolate-covered espresso beans. The emotional caffeine crash is not pretty.

To top all of it off, now that I’ve finally gotten over my addiction to The Office, here I am like some tormented heroin addict scanning the available TV series on Netflix looking for my next fix. God grant me the serenity…

So Let’s Just Get This Out Of The Way

The past two years have been pretty life-altering. After 15 years of marriage, the wife and I decided to end it. I won’t go into the grisly details, but if 18 months of divorce proceedings is any indication, it wasn’t exactly fun times in happy land. Thought it says on the final paperwork that we have joint custody of our kids, they’re with me most of the time, which is what they wanted.

Hmm…it occurs to me that I should have a name for the ex. Nothing cute readily springs to mind, at least nothing that would be very kind, but I’ll let you know when something comes up. For now, “The Ex” should pretty much sum it up.

The Ex moved an hour away about a year ago. She wanted to live near her parents. To say it’s put a strain on the whole joint custody thing is a bit of a understatement. But as the months go by things get easier as routine so delicately sets in. And if you’re keeping up on the timeline, that means that we were together under the same roof for over a year after we decided to split. Yeah. Good times had by all.

Now while it would be far too easy to have this as the dumping ground for all my post-marital angst, I’m going to do my best not to do so. For one thing, no one wants to read that shit. Well, I’m sure there are some, but they need a hobby. Secondly, I have a written journal for that shit. Venting is all well and good, but some things do not need to see the internet. At least that’s my opinion. Countless others obviously disagree by posting absolutely godawful videos, images and words that would make Satan toss his cookies. Thirdly, there’s a good chance my now-teenage children would read it. And they really don’t need to see it. Besides, if I put that much effort into biting my tongue when they’re within earshot, why would I possibly subject them to a format that can be re-read ad nauseum.

For the time being, I’m devoting my energies into learning how to be single again. Married life, which as part of the divorce statistics I can really claim no expertise, translates to compromise. And when you’ve been married for a decade and a half and suddenly find yourself single, it means having the freedom to no longer compromise. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful. But it can also be downright terrifying. I’m guessing the feeling is very similar to how inmates feel after being released. But at least they have a parole officer who can guide them in the right direction.

Good lord — how long did it take for me to equate marriage to imprisonment? Like, two minutes?

Oh, and before I forget: If you should ever find yourself looking down the barrel of divorce, do yourself a huge favor and thoroughly check out the background of any potential attorneys you want to hire. I thought I’d covered my bases pretty well. Unfortunately, my choice ended up getting disbarred for embezzling money from his clients. Had I looked a bit closer, I may have chosen a different lawyer. Live and learn.

Bringing It Back

Yeah, I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. Truth be told, there’s been a lot of changes over the past couple of years and I’ve been extremely busy with them. But I miss writing. Good fucking GOD do I miss writing.

So expect a bit more from me. There’s a lot to tell you about. What will make it interesting is trying not to post in a manner which would cause me any undue stress because my personal life was something resembling the North Atlantic in the Winter. So I’ll do my best to be respectful to those who frankly don’t deserve it, but forgive the occasional slip-up if it happens.

Okay, I’ve got a lot to do to get this site back to the way I want it. I’ll keep you posted.