Seriously! Have you no decency, sir? Couldn’t you at least show some tiny bit of consideration for fellow travelers with full bladders?
Oh, the humanity!
Seriously! Have you no decency, sir? Couldn’t you at least show some tiny bit of consideration for fellow travelers with full bladders?
Oh, the humanity!
The Schiller Park rec center parking lot used to have a wide open, fan-shaped entrance. It had a welcoming, graceful feel to it, well befitting the rambling, shady feel of the old park itself and the elegant brick houses that surround it.
But a few weeks ago a work crew showed up and ripped it out. In its place they poured this concrete monstrosity, which blocks the entrance and sticks out like a sore thumb. They put up a traffic sign and painted direction arrows, too, just in case drivers might not get the idea from the lanes created by the concrete blockade.
Why was this done? I’m guessing there was an accident or two at the entrance, as a car swung too wide in entering or exiting, and somebody decided that “public safety” required that this ugly, stark roadblock was therefore necessary to protect our hapless populace from the acts of a few inept motorists. Who knows how much it cost in dollars — but the aesthetic cost is tremendous
I can’t help but think it’s a bit of a metaphor for America writ large these days, with some faceless government functionary deciding that everyday people need to be sternly directed into precise channels of behavior. The result is predictably hideous.
Walking home tonight, I passed the Ohio Statehouse . . . and this sweet ride. Two Ohio Highway Patrol officers were checking it out, so I asked if it was a new prototype. No, they said — it’s the spoils of taking down a drug dealer. He was driving this souped-up Camaro and carrying drugs when he was stopped and arrested and the car was seized as part of the process. The OHP decided to turn it into a patrol car and use it for marketing purposes, and tonight it is going to be the subject of a photo shoot.
In Ohio, at least, patrol cars have gotten progressively cooler over the years and have come a long way from the boxy Sheriff Buford T. Passer rigs with the red light on top. This beauty takes OHP coolness to new heights.
In our sports-obsessed culture, when a professional athlete declines to stand for the National Anthem and says it is because he is protesting race relations and police brutality, it’s news. In this instance, Colin Kaepernick’s actions have provoked some fans to burn his San Francisco 49ers jersey and generated reactions from all points on the political spectrum.
I don’t get the jersey-burning. Of course, under the First Amendment, Kaepernick has a right to protest and advocate for his position on important issues of the day, period. We all do. Although some people increasingly seem hell-bent on punishing and eventually criminalizing free speech, through speech codes and “safe zones” and other contrivances designed to protect our delicate sensibilities from unpopular views — and, of course, quash the expression of those views in the first place — every American still has a right to peacefully express their views on topics like racism. Kaepernick’s actions aren’t unAmerican; they’re quintessentially American.
And anybody who thinks sports figures should just take their big salaries and keep their mouths shut is kidding himself, too. Sports have been politicized for as long as I can remember, since at least the 1968 Olympics when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists and bowed their heads during the playing of the National Anthem. And the NFL itself has become increasingly involved in public issues, with events like breast cancer awareness weeks where the players wear garish pink towels and socks. Breast cancer is a pretty safe public issue, but it’s a public issue nevertheless. To the extent there ever was a line between sports and the real world, that line has long since been erased and crossed.
Kaepernick’s gesture shows the power of free speech — which is why the founding fathers were so interested in protecting it. One player sits during the National Anthem, and it provokes a firestorm. Kaepernick obviously picked the National Anthem because he knows that every sports event starts with its playing and that it is a source of pride to Americans. Showing disrespect for the Anthem is an effective way of drawing attention to your cause, just like burning a flag was during the campus protests in the 1960s.
Of course, we can wonder whether Kaepernick will just sit during the Anthem, or will go beyond exercising his free speech rights to actually do something to promote better race relations or address police actions. The San Francisco police have invited him to come to the police academy to open lines of communication and learn about the challenges facing the thin blue line. I hope he accepts that invitation, and uses the interest his one-man protest has generated to increase understanding and help improve things. Sitting is one thing, taking meaningful action is quite another.
Summer is the season for thunderstorms in the Midwest. Last night a strong series of cells moved through central Ohio, and the high winds did some damage. In our neighborhood and in Schiller Park some large limbs were knocked down — including the branches that fell against the house pictured above — and I suspect that lightning struck the steeple of St. Mary Catholic Church, because the clock was stopped when I went for my walk this morning.
When the severe weather moves through, you grit your teeth, cross your fingers, and hold your quivering dog who is scared to death of thunder, hoping that no serious damage comes your way. Last night, we were lucky.
The other day Kish and I watched Dirty Harry, the 1971 thriller starring Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan, the .44 magnum-toting cop who eschews political correctness, believes in using maximum force in bringing down criminals, and doesn’t care a bit about breaking the rules to do so.
The movie still holds up well, 45 years later. In many ways, it’s superior to the current Hollywood product, because it doesn’t rely solely on car crashes and shoot-outs to sustain the plot and pace. There’s a suspense element to it, from the initial scene where the Scorpio killer uses a long-range rifle to shoot and kill a woman on a rooftop swimming pool, to the later scenes where Scorpio tries to carry out his threats to kill others in order to be paid a ransom, to Harry’s long jog around San Francisco to reach different phone booths so he can deliver a ransom before a young girl hostage is killed. And while Harry obviously is the best cop around, the rest of the police force and the mayor aren’t ridiculous caricatures or light comedic foils — which is standard fare in later cop movies — but competent people who obviously are trying to do their best to deal with a crazed killer.
The writing is good, too. We all know the famous scene where Harry has a shoot-out with bank robbers while eating a hot dog that ends with him asking a wounded robber who is considering going for his gun “well, punk, do you feel lucky?” But there are other pieces of crackling dialogue, too, such as the scene where Harry rescues a potential suicide standing on a window ledge by making him so mad that he physically attacks Harry, or the interaction between Scorpio and the guy he pays to beat him up and make his claim of police brutality by Callahan more plausible.
One of the more interesting elements of the film, considered against the ensuing 45 years of action movies that followed it, is that it doesn’t try to answer all of the viewer’s questions. Sure, he’s probably called Dirty Harry because he does all of the dirty work in the department, but it just might be because he’s got a bit of peeping Tom in him, too. There are no flashback scenes to show us exactly how Harry got the way he is, and no effort to give Scorpio a back story or explain why he has decided to kill random strangers. He’s just a disturbed lunatic, presented matter-of-factly as an unfortunate reality of modern life.
The fact that some key points are left for the viewer to wonder about is refreshing. You can imagine people leaving a theater after watching Dirty Harry and actually talking about some of these issues, and others. How many modern action films that you’ve seen in the past few years could you say that about?
This sticker I saw on the back of an SUV in the parking lot at Lowe’s today cracked me up. Not sure whether this one was developed after the Cavs won the NBA championship a few months ago, but it does show a certain Cleveland pride that was somewhat lacking during the dark days.
Or does it? The fact that the stick is orange and brown indicates that it is referring to the beleaguered Cleveland Browns. Given how crappy the Browns have been for years, and are likely to be again this year, is this guy saying that the United States as a whole is down at the Cleveland Browns’ level of suckiness?
We live in a digital age, where streaming video rules the day — but old-fashioned still photography nevertheless has its place. The picture of poor Omran Daqneesh proves it.
Omran is the five-year-old Syrian boy who was buried in rubble when an airstrike by Russians or the Assad government (no one is quite sure which) caused his house to collapse. After the being pulled from the wreckage, Omran was taken to an ambulance, where he sat quietly, waiting to be treated, when the now-famous photograph was taken. His older brother, also pulled from the ruins, later died of his injuries. Omran survived.
It’s a powerful photograph, indeed. A five-year-old boy sits, dazed and lost, in an orange chair. He is a small boy, and his feet barely extend out past the seat, much less reach the floor. His arms and legs are covered in dust, and his face in particular is caked with dark soot. One side of his head is covered in blood and the eye on that side is swollen partially shut. His eyes are open, but he appears to be staring into nothingness. His blackened face and vacant eyes paint a brutal picture of silent desolation. It’s one of the most compelling pictures of the impact of war on children that’s been taken in years.
Photographs can change the storyline and turn public opinion. The famous photograph of a young Vietnamese girl, naked, screaming, and running from a napalm attack, helped to turn American public opinion decisively against the Vietnam War. Perhaps the picture of Omran Daqneesh, which has garnered worldwide attention on social media, will help to focus the world’s attention on the unfolding tragedy in Syria, where for years civilians have been desperately trapped in a civil war that has produced death and destruction and seems no closer to ending now than when it began.
During Omran’s five years of life, he has known nothing but war. Now his house is destroyed, his brother is dead, and his family has been torn apart by a conflict he can’t begin to understand. It’s not what childhood should be.
I’m sorry to report that our dog Kasey seems to be slowing down. That’s OK — it’s what happens to old dogs, and to old people, too. But it also makes us sad.
We first noticed it because Kasey is now having trouble jumping onto couches and chairs. In the old days, she could spring onto just about anything from a standing position. Then, it took a running start, but she made it. Now, she just puts her front paws on the seat and looks around beseechingly for a friendly face who might give her a lift up to one of her accustomed spots.
There are other signs as well. She limps from time to time, and she doesn’t seem to like long walks quite as much, and she doesn’t strain at the leash like she used to. Her head is turning white. Her eating habits have become more erratic. She’s more content to sit in the backyard in a cool, quiet spot. And she’s had a few of those unfortunate “accidents” around the house.
When you notice these kinds of things, the antenna go up and you begin looking for more indications of health problems. So far, though, we haven’t had to deal with any of those — aside from Kasey’s awful teeth, which seem to be more a product of bad care when she was little than advancing age.
We don’t know how old Kasey is, because she was a fully grown rescue dog when we first met her at the Erie County Humane Society. We guess that she’s 14 or so, but she’s a smaller dog, and they are supposed to live longer. We’re hoping that’s true.
In the meantime, Kish is watching Kasey like a hawk, keeping an eye out for gimpiness or apparent bowel problems, so we can get ol’ Kase to the vet at the first sign of trouble. Kish’s careful observation of Kasey for signs of aging is a bit unnerving, though. Now that I’ve passed 59, I’m squarely in the zone of scrutiny, too.
That’s a bit deceiving, because America’s first national park, Yellowstone, was actually created by a statute signed by President Ulysses S. Grant 144 years ago. Initially, Yellowstone, and then other parks that were created, were under the control of the Secretary of the Interior. The NPS was created in 1916 to provide for unified management.
Now, there are more than 400 national parks, and the NPS employs more than 20,000 people — but an additional 220,000 people volunteer in national parks. That’s impressive, but not particularly surprising, because national parks are beautiful places. And that employment number doesn’t count people who are employed by private companies that offer rafting trips, red bus tours, and other services related in some way to a national park. In 2015, more than 307 million people visited one of our national parks.
America has has some good ideas in its history, but the concept of national parks — striking and special areas that are to be preserved and maintained for the American people — is one of the best of those ideas. Anyone who visits a national park can’t help but feel a certain pride in our country, which not only has such beautiful areas but also has carefully cared for them. And with people hiking, biking, rafting, camping, and otherwise enjoying the magnificent scenery and clean air, national parks tend to be enclaves of enthusiastic, active folks who care about their country and its environment.
I’ve had the good fortune to go to many national parks — including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, the Grand Canyon, and this year, Glacier National Park — but I’ve not visited Yosemite and many others . . . yet. Hitting many more of our national parks is a bucket list item for me. And whenever I got to a national park, I’m grateful for the NPS people who keep them patrolled and well maintained, because those parks are a true national treasure.
Happy birthday, National Park Service!
Tonight the Browns play an exhibition game. I think it was Pete Rozelle who decided that they should be called “preseason” games, because “exhibition” sounds like the games are meaningless. I say Pete Rozelle can stick it. The games are meaningless.
So tonight I’ll watch the Browns play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and I’ll record my thoughts from time to time. Why not? I’ve just had a fine meal with my lovely wife — now I’ll go to the opposite end of the spectrum and watch two crappy NFL teams. Why not?
ETA: Did Phil Sims just say Justin Gilbert was “good”? What the hell? Just because he broke up a pass while running behind the receiver? NFL commentators have gone far downhill in the credibility department since the days of Al DeRogatis.
Update 2: Browns gave up a field goal and got a field goal. That’s not good. If the Browns hope to do anything this year — and “hope” is precisely the right word –they desperately need to score TDs. A field goal is not a good sign.
Update 3: I expect the Browns D to suck this year. There’s nothing about this game that causes me to change my view.
On the other hand, the brown jersey/white pants combo looks good. I’ve always like the Browns unis.
Unfortunately, the guys who are wearing them don’t stack up.
Update 4: The current Bud Light commercials are OK, but I miss Spuds McKenzie.
On the other hand, the commercials are better than the Draft Kings spots.
Update 5: The Browns punt coverage there looked like a junior high team. Yeah, that’s about right.
Update 6: I expected the Browns to suck, and they have met my expectations. The O line is suspect, and the D is porous. Every Bucs receiver is wide open. It’s not a recipe for success.
Update 7: Based on tonight’s performance, I expect RG III to last maybe 3 games, tops.
Update 8: When it comes to the Browns, no expectations can ever be too low. They’re getting drubbed by a marginal team in the exhibition game that is supposed to give you a good idea of what the season will be like. If that is true, the season will be like dental surgery without novocaine.
Update 9: Omigod! The Buccaneers punted! What the hell!
Update 10: The nice thing about cable TV is that you can always find something entertaining to watch. Tonight, it’s the Tribe.
Update 12: I’m glad the coaches lifted RG III. Why have him get hurt? Officially, it’s scrub time.
Update 13: Well, the Tribe is looking good so far, at least.
Update 14: That does it; I’m done. No hope for the Browns this season.
It’s been obscenely hot in Columbus recently. We’ve had the appalling combination of stifling temperatures, high humidity, and sunshine that make you feel both broiled and wilted at the same time. Under such conditions, any rational person lingers inside, where they can enjoy the blessings of air conditioning.
Yesterday some friends and I went to a fundraiser at a local business that doesn’t have air conditioning. (Who knew that such places still exist?) They did, however, have a big industrial-sized fan that was running at peak speed. Fans really aren’t an adequate substitute for air conditioning. In reality, they mostly blow the hot air around. But any breeze is preferable to sweltering in the hot, dead air, and when there’s no alternative a gigantic fan that’s blasting out air currents at close to hurricane speeds will have to do the trick.
I grew up in a house that didn’t have air conditioning, and the room UJ and I shared always had a window fan during the summer months. It was loud as hell and didn’t really make the room that much cooler, but it was fun to talk through the spinning blades and hear your voice emerge, chopped up and garbled, from the other end.
Yesterday I resisted the temptation to talk through the fan again, but after standing for a bit to the side of the room, and feeling like we were going to melt into the floor like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, we shamelessly moved directly in front of the fan. We tried to avoid completely blocking the air currents, in deference to the other people in the room, but the interests of self-preservation in the face of the blazing heat kicked in and overwhelmed our sense of social decorum. We weren’t the only ones who were repositioning ourselves in relation to the fan, either. As the gathering went on, people were drawn to the fan’s wind tunnel effect like moths to a flame.
There’s one good thing so far about the upcoming NFL season — we’re not being constantly bombarded by those annoying commercials for DraftKings and FanDuel, those fantasy sports sites that presented themselves as the roads to big money.
Last year, you just couldn’t avoid those stupid commercials, where scruffy looking guys got big checks and talked about how they got huge paydays after investing only a few bucks. For a time, the two principal fantasy sports sites spent more on advertising during sporting events than the beer companies — which is the highest possible standard you can reach when you are talking about advertising designed to reach the American male. We saw those DraftKings and FanDuel commercials in our nightmares.
Now, though, you don’t see or hear much about FanDuel and DraftKings. ESPN’s Outside the Lines has a good article about why that is so. It’s long, but it tells an fascinating story about how the sites came to be, their rapid rise to prominence and their aggressive marketing, their competition with each other, their legal troubles — and mostly how they came to be a way for professional players to sweep up the investments of small-time recreational players you were lured by the “get-rich-quick” commercials. The casual players who thought they knew baseball or the NFL from their everyday status as fans would get creamed by the sophisticated players who had spreadsheets and algorithms and spent all day working the sites.
Ultimately, those annoying, ever-present ads attracted the attention of people like New York’s Attorney General, who started to look into DraftKings and FanDuel and consider whether they violated New York’s laws against gambling. Ultimately, the NY AG sent letters to the sites telling them to stop accepting bets from New Yorkers. Other state AGs began investigating, too, and people filed civil lawsuits. DraftKings and FanDuel worked to get states like New York to regulate the industry and permit it to function, so they could start accepting money from New Yorkers again. Now the two companies are talking merger and trying to figure out ways to make the games safer for casual players and avoid predatory play by the pros.
It will be interesting to see whether FanDuel and DraftKings make it. Me, I’m just glad that I’m not seeing the commercials any more.
Recently the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System — let’s call them the Fed — decided it would be a good idea to have a Facebook page. You know . . . Facebook, that aging social media site where people post selfies and pictures of babies and weddings and political memes that don’t change anyone’s mind. Yes, that Facebook.
So why did the Fed decide it needed a Facebook page? It’s not entirely clear. After all, the Fed has functioned for decades without having much of a public face. It’s the grey, boring group behind currency and interest rate decisions, all of which are made by unelected people who are completely unknown to 99.99% of us. So why Facebook? Who knows? Maybe the Fed, like other aging Facebookers, just wanted to get a little attention.
You can see the Fed’s Facebook page here. It’s a pretty hilarious page, actually, because the Fed decided to allow people to comment, and every post by the Fed features venomous comments from people who think the Fed has ruined American money, manipulated our currency, and should be audited to determine its fundamental solvency. The Fed isn’t responding to the comments, so a bland post about one of the Fed’s “key functions” provokes an avalanche of over-the-top haymakers from the Fed haters. It’s probably the most tonally disproportionate Facebook page in history, and even the American Banker, which is normally pretty sympathetic to the Fed, has declared the Fed’s Facebook page a full-fledged disaster.
It’s hard to imagine that a federal entity would think it’s wise to have a Facebook page, and it make you wonder how much it costs the Fed (that is, we taxpayers) to pay the schlub who writes the puff pieces that then get ripped to shreds by internet trolls who are happy to have a new target for their venom. I can’t believe anybody at the Fed, or any other federal agency, honestly believes that people are going to learn about the agency and what they do by going to Facebook, as opposed to the agency’s own website or, God forbid, an actual book. How many people go to Facebook expecting to get the unvarnished truth? Does anyone?
Maybe there’s a positive in this catastrophic combination of faceless but powerful government entity and social media: maybe the Fed will decide not to proceed with its impending dips into Tumblr, Ello, Hyper, Shots, and Bebo.