Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Let's "Get To Know" each other again

WARNING: No jokes ahead. Does that make this a 'serious' post? Not necessarily. Enlightening? Thought-provoking? Inspiring? I don't know. Probably not, but that's not up to me to decide. Read it and get from it what you will, if anything. Thanks.

A little over four years ago on this blog, I ran some interviews with people who identified with certain political ideologies. I don't know what purpose it served, but the intent was to demonstrate that there's a human element that bonds people on a deeper level than angry rhetoric.
Things seem to be nastier now than they were then. That's the perception anyway. So I thought it might be interesting to check in with the people we talked to then and see how they're doing now.
Here's how I led that off then:
"I don't know about you, but I've become pretty disillusioned with the political process, due in large part to what I perceive as a near-complete lack of civility and tolerance for opposing viewpoints and the people behind them...
With that in mind, I went on Twitter and asked for people who describe themselves as "staunch" liberals and conservatives to submit to a short list of questions for interviews that will be published this week. I wanted one of each and I simply selected the first of each to reply... There's absolutely no science involved, with no consideration paid to demographics or anything like that. It's completely arbitrary, like stopping the very first person you come across on the street and asking them what is on their mind. What's the point? I don't know that there is one. I certainly don't expect to change anyone's minds or philosophical ideals. I wouldn't even want to do that. If I were to dream really big, I would hope that a couple of people would read these and go forward thinking of those with differing opinions as human beings with their own valid reasons for believing the way they do."
You can check out the original interviews here, here and here.
Here's our panel...
Nancy P, who identified as Liberal in 2012
Chris C, who identified as Conservative in 2012
Sean H, who identified as A Self-Described Conservative At Odds With The So-Called Tea Party in 2012

Now, you're probably going to identify with one of these people more than the others and that's fine. Doing so is liable to put you at odds with the others, and that's also fine. But these are their personal opinions and they're entitled to them. You don't have to like what those opinions represent, but they're not wrong for having them. More importantly, please try to remember that these are human beings. You're going to be behind them in the check-out line at the grocery store, you're going to be sharing the road with them when you drive, one of them might help you find your lost dog. Keep all of that in mind. Thanks.

Before we get to the update, Sean is unable to participate this time around so his wife Tracey is tackling these on his behalf. Also, Nancy replied first, Chris replied second and Tracey replied third, in case you're wondering why they're in the order that they are.

Here we go...

Do you still consider yourself whatever you were (conservative, liberal, etc) four years ago?

NANCY: Yes, even more so.

CHRIS: My conservatism has not changed.  On the other hand my identification as a “Republican” has changed; I no longer am a Republican loyalist.

TRACEY: Yes, I solidly still identify with liberal causes.

If not, why not?
CHRIS: The GOP has lost its way somewhat, and seems to no longer be interested in fiscal responsibility or other traditionally conservative platform issues I believe are important.  As I read on the internet recently, “I’m for low taxes, strong defense and limited government.  Why doesn’t the Republican party want me?”

What's something that's happened since the last election that makes you happy?

NANCY:  2 things - 1. I'm very glad that all of my friends and family have the legal protection (and responsibility) of marriage, regardless of whom they love.  2. As a 60-year old cancer survivor whose employer does not offer benefits, I'm very happy that I can obtain health insurance.  Yes, it's expensive, but without ACA, I would be unable to buy insurance at any price.

CHRIS: a.   According to CATO, most states have balanced their short-term budgets.
b.   Fracking and domestic petroleum drilling has significantly dropped the price of petroleum.
c.   Electric car technology is getting better every day.
d.   General population gaining recognition of typographical and grammatical errors in everyday life.

TRACEY: The financial recovery of the country and the historic approval rating of President Obama.

What's something that's happened since the last election that makes you unhappy?

NANCY: The continued decline of civility between those with different opinions. I have to include myself in this, sometimes I've been very unhappy with how I've responded to people who think differently than I do.

CHRIS: a.   $15 minimum wage movement.
b.   Supposed prioritization of one race’s lives over all others.
c.   Notoriety given to protesting the National Anthem.
d.   Rise in the number of people that believe adding an apostrophe and an S to a word makes a plural.

TRACEY: The tragedy at Sandy Hook is something I think about daily, and has affected me in ways I couldn't have predicted.

A common sentiment is that this is the "worst election ever" in terms of the candidates. Agree or disagree, and why?

NANCY: It's a difficult choice.  Much more so than 4 years ago. Sure there are things about Clinton I don't like, no candidate is perfect.  But the alternative scares the bejesus out of me, even more than it did last election.  I was totally a Bernie supporter, but I know from the beginning that the only choice for me is the Democratic nominee.

CHRIS: I agree.  In this election, there are several third-party candidates (most of whom none of us recognize) and the two major party candidates are either the lying narcissist with ties to Russia, or the lying narcissist with ties to Russia.

TRACEY: In many ways, yes, because more so than any election in my memory, the focus is almost exclusively on personality, scandal, and very little, if any, policy opinions or issues have been debated or seriously discussed.

Without referring to your candidate's opponent for the sake of comparison, do you feel good and confident about your candidate as far as being qualified to do the job of president? Expound if you wish.

NANCY:  I do.  I feel she has the experience of a politician to be able to work with other parties, sides, opponents, etc to be able to get the job done in the best interest of the American people.  Being a career politician is not necessarily a bad thing.  That's how one prepares for the job of leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

CHRIS: As of the answering of this question, for the first time in my voting life I have yet to make up my mind for whom I will cast my ballot on November 8th.  Regardless of who receives my vote, I do have confidence on the candidate’s qualifications.  I believe this mainly because in today’s government process, the President-elect will have to surround him/herself with qualified advisors.  It is because of the reality of relying on those advisors I believe the President-elect will be qualified.

TRACEY: I do feel she is the most qualified and experienced for the office of the presidency, and am particularly confident in her foreign policy experience.

Again, without referring to your candidate's opponent for comparison, do you have any concerns about your candidate's shortcomings, if any?

NANCY: Of course, again, no candidate is perfect.  For some reason, people that dislike her or disagree with her really hate her.  I'm afraid that members of the other parties will be unlikely to work with her to reach compromises either to make a point or for fear of alienating their own constituencies. (did that stay within the rules?  I didn't mention the other candidate because he will not be part of the process going forward)

CHRIS: Similar to my previous answer, it will mainly boil down to the advisors the President-elect selects.

TRACEY: I am concerned with her ability to unify the country after the election.

Another common sentiment is that "we're more divided as a nation than we've ever been". Agree or disagree, and why?

NANCY:  Yes, it seems that there's no room for compromise on either side.  Every candidate is so afraid of losing a vote, they take the hard line dictated by the most extreme factions of their constituencies.  This is not just at the national level, I'm seeing it all the way down to county offices as well.

CHRIS: I don’t necessarily disagree, but I believe it has more to do with our collective inability to compromise.  Whether it’s because of social media or our shortening attention spans, I believe as a society we have lost the ability to see any benefit in the arguments on the other side of the political spectrum.  Whether it be the #BLM or #FreeMilo movement, hyperbole and demonization is the name of the game—because we seem to buy in to the argument of “I have to be right (correct) which means you have to be wrong.”

TRACEY: It certainly seems that way, but if current polling numbers hold true, then many places that lean solid red or solid blue turn more "purple", that might just be a catalyst for a more centrist era or at least more calls for crossing the aisle.

Are any of your relationships with friends and/or family members suffering due to disagreements over this election?

NANCY: I've said many times that I must have been adopted, my politics are so different from almost all of my family's.  And living where we do, it's only natural that many if not most of my friends are much more conservative than I am.  I try really hard to stay away from political discussions with people I care about, I learned that lesson in the last election.  What this means is that I often have to remove myself from situations with family and friends because I am not interested in arguing.  So yes, It has changed by relationships, in that I don't always feel I can discuss issues that are important to me without starting an argument or causing hard feelings.  And I'm resentful that I have to make this choice.

CHRIS: From my perspective they are not.  I have become more cognizant of my social media use, however—and have basically stopped posting any political information at all.

TRACEY: I have blocked or muted many on social media and or avoided any mention of the election with others. At this point, I don't think many are interested in discussion and nothing is going to change their minds. I find many of the "sources" quoted are either wrong, biased, or completely unfounded.

Are you at all dissatisfied with any specific aspects of the electoral process itself?

NANCY: I would definitely like to see Citizen's United overturned.  It's disgusting to me that a small group of very rich individuals can in effect buy an election because they have billions to throw away on it.  I also would like to see a shorter active campaign cycle.  Much shorter.  Like 3 months from declaration, then primaries, a convention and election day.

CHRIS: My dissatisfaction boils down to two aspects:
1.  I believe the election process involves too much technology.  It doesn’t take an extensive search of the internet to find stories about electronic voting machines being vulnerable to hacking or calculating votes incorrectly.

2.  I also believe there is no such thing as non-partisan news.  News outlets are in the business of selling news, and they’ll pander to the audience they feel will buy their news.  Therefore, the media plays too great a role in the election process.

TRACEY: I continue to be concerned and frustrated with congressional gerrymandering and voter ID laws.

This question is purposefully vague, but do you feel we as a nation, meaning specifically a collective of the people who live here, are heading in the right direction (feel free to define "the right direction" any way you want)?

NANCY: I'm very concerned about the intrusion of religion into every aspect of life.  The separation of church and state is becoming almost non-existent.  I don't want anyone judged on their faith or lack thereof.

CHRIS: No, I don’t.  There are several different reasons why, but I think most of the reason is we are no longer willing to work for success.  Society wants success handed to it:  all the benefits of success without the labor involved to get those benefits.

TRACEY: Yes. While change is slow, progress is being made on a number of social issues that I think are important, and I think dialogue has been opened on many others.

What's one thing that you're afraid will happen if your candidate doesn't win the election? 

NANCY: The erosion of relations with foreign countries, both allies and those who are not.  That is a recipe for disaster, in my opinion.

CHRIS: Loss of personal liberties such as (but not limited to) 2nd Amendment Rights, free speech, freedom to educate my kids as I see best, and economic doom.

TRACEY: While there have certainly been presidential elections that I didn't like the outcome, if my candidate lost I wasn't fearful for our nation. In this election, I truly worry economic, foreign relations, and constitutional crises of epic proportions. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Comedians hindering comedians

I've written about my pal Cam Bertrand before. Cam is now officially an award winning comedian. I'm very happy for him and very proud of him.

In the tightly-knit comedy family, we try to help each other out whenever we can, if it isn't too much problem and/or we feel like it. That may or may not come at a price sometimes. So when Cam mentioned to me that he had never attended a professional hockey game before and that he would like to do so, I was thrilled to respond that I was in a position to help make that happen. All he had to do was one little tiny thing when he picked up the tickets...

Look how genuinely painful that was for him to say that!
Great job by Missy Davis, Megan Gardner and Nicole Nastwold in helping torture him and capture it all on video.
I love it! And I'll pay for it at some point, but that's okay. Totally worth it.

Yes, they were good seats. There was also a VIP laminate from a recent Kanye West concert in there, because Cam loves Kanye and I'm actually not a total dick.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

(One of) My problem(s)

This happened:
I was buying some fruit at the grocery store, a little tub of melon and strawberries because sometimes, yes it's true, I eat that kind of thing for dinner. I put it on the conveyor belt at the register, turned around to look at something and it fell off. I still don't know how that happened but the tub hit the floor, opened, and the pieces of fruit you see here fell out.
I felt terrible. Not like, "Oh darn it" terrible. Like TERRIBLE terrible.
Terrible for wasting the fruit. Terrible for not being able to eat that fruit. Terrible for making a mess. Terrible that a store employee had to come and clean it up. Terrible for being such a klutz. Terrible for wasting the efforts of the farmers who grew and picked that fruit. Terrible! For hours. Seriously, this ruined my night.

I know how stupid that sounds.
I know that because it is stupid. I know it is. Accidents happen, and piddly little ones like this happen often. Everyday to almost everybody, all the time. It's no big deal and life moves right along. Very few people get upset about it and virtually no one stays upset about it. Not me, when it comes to me though. When it comes to me, I hate myself for stuff like this. Hate! In fact, if somebody else did it, I wouldn't even take note of it. Not if I do it though. No, if I do it I have to go home and brood about it for hours, to the extent that I have trouble falling asleep.
No, I'm not kidding.
And yes, again, I know it's stupid.
I'm positive that this kind of thinking has held me back from achieving more in life. And I know how stupid that is too. Guess what? I feel terrible about that too!

I've always been kind of clumsy, or at least not very graceful. Dad, when he wasn't annoyed by my klutziness, seemed to find great humor in it. He'd gleefully point out how disproportionately big my feet were or how I swam like I was in a fight with the water. Loudly, in front of whomever happened to be around at the time. That made me self-conscious then and maybe it stuck with me, but I don't know. I have zero qualms about hopping up on a stage a couple times a week and telling total strangers stories about myself where I come off far worse than somebody who spills fruit at a grocery store.

I don't know what any of this "means" in terms of defining person, who they are, what they do in the big picture of life itself. I just know it's one thing that annoys me about myself and I wish I could stop wasting time and energy on it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Fixing Luke Cage

Netflix recently released the show "Luke Cage", chronicling the adventures of the legendary Marvel super hero of the same name (aka "Power Man"). It's a good show (I'm two episodes in to the initial 13 of this first season) but apparently some people have a problem with it. A very specific group of people and one very specific problem with it, that is...
Yes, once again the cry of "NOT ENOUGH WHITE PEOPLE" has been sounded.
Per ushe.

Now, I've been reading comic books since the '70s when Luke Cage looked like this...
If you're going to wear yellow boots, you'd better be a bad ass.
...and the basic reason he exists is because he's black. More than any super power he possesses and his interactions with other characters in the Marvel Universe (he's worked with the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and the Defenders as well as frequent team-ups with his pal Iron Fist and being married to Jessica Jones), his being a black man is really his raison d'ĂȘtre. That's not something for which Marvel apologizes, nor should they. It's perfectly fine for there to be a black super hero. Of course it is. Black people read comics and there's no good reason whatsoever that there shouldn't be heroes that look like them. None.

But hold on a minute. Maybe (white) people complaining have a valid point. This isn't a comic book, this is a television show. And nobody (white people) should ever be subjected to having to watch television that doesn't represent them or their interests. How is someone (a white person) supposed to identify with characters (black people) and situations (black people doing stuff) with which they aren't immediately familiar and comfortable?
Nobody has ever had to deal with circumstances like that!
Let's all settle down, before this becomes a whole "thing", okay? I think we can resolve this by just making a couple of minor tweak-olas. You know, so everyone can sit down together and enjoy the program like the crazy, colorful, wonderful, melting-pot patchwork quilt with no more racism that we like to think we are sometimes.

  • A central plot point of the series involves a corrupt politician raising funds to open a community center named after Crispus Attucks. Let's change that to a community center named after Jack Nicklaus. Attucks was killed during the Boston Massacre and is widely considered the first casualty of the American Revolutionary War. Nicklaus has won 18 major golf championships. That's pretty much a wash.
  • In the show, Luke Cage operates out of a barber shop in Harlem, where he works doing various janitorial tasks. An easy fix is to move his base to a cute "indy" coffee shop in Brooklyn. Is anyone going to try to make the argument that Power Man would enjoy sweeping floors and doing laundry more than sipping a nice pumpkin spice latte? I think not.
  • Casting. Okay, there are lots and lots of black actors playing lots and lots of black characters. How about if we lighten (HA HA!) that up just a wee little bit?

Those aren't bullet holes; it came that way from Old Navy.

  • Not ALL of the characters have to be white. It's a super hero show so there are lots and lots of bad guys. Those could all be played by black actors and I don't think (white) people would even notice. 
  • Okay, maybe not all the bad guys. There should probably be some diversity (white people) when it comes to the high-profile villains who have lots of screen time and memorable, meaningful dialogue.

Oh, that's much better. I think (white) people will sleep much easier once these simple changes are implemented.