Sitting Here

It has been a very long time since I have had the chance to sit quietly, away from home and think about my writing — just me, my laptop and a blank screen. But that is exactly the situation I currently find myself in.

I’m sitting in the Cafe at the UPenn Bookstore, breathing in the smell of fresh ground coffee. I just had a blueberry scone… I had forgotten how much I love scones.

 

GishWhes!

GishWhes! GishWhes! No, I didn’t sneeze, no Gezhunteit needed! I said GishWhes, it’s an acronym for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. From August 1st to 8th, teams from around the globe will compete for glory, bragging rights, and a grand prize trip to Costa Rica with actor Misha Collins.

This year I have the good fortune to be a member of Team Bees With Knees. Remember that name, you’ll be seeing it a lot in the coming weeks next to words like “brilliant,” “masterful execution” and “grand prize winner.”

Of course, this isn’t just any plain old scavenger hunt. We won’t be looking for a rusty door, a trio of mossy stones or a cloud that looks like a bird. No Billie goats, Japanese goldfish or Forgotten Men here. Then again, maybe we will. Previous entries have included photos of: a woman in a dress made of bacon, a Volkswagon covered in whipped cream with a giant cherry on top, a sculpture made of sanitary napkins and  a superhero grocery shopping.

The whole thing is Collins’ way of embracing the weird and unusual.

“On the surface it’s the world’s largest scavenger hunt. Just below the surface, GISHWHES is about creating art, pushing boundaries, perpetrating acts of kindness and, ultimately, redefining our perception of ‘the possible.’ Participants have collectively broken 5 Guinness world records, committed over 93,000 random acts of kindness and fed thousands of the homeless.”

Keep watching for more information about GishWhes as game time approaches. And, of course, wish me (and my team) luck!

 

The Rainbow Connection

It’s official! On Friday, June 26th the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), was un-Constitutional; that same-sex marriage is a Constitutionally protected right and, therefore, legal in all 50 states. I must admit that I’m disappointed in the 5 to 4 vote, but a win is a win.

“No longer may this liberty be denied. No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. . .”

— Justice Anthony M. Kennedy

I’m curious to see how all the “haters” are going to react over the next few weeks. I saw one Evangelical type tell his television flock that that he would set himself on fire if gay marriage was upheld. Pfttt…. S’mores anyone?

——————

UPDATE: Surprise, surprise. . .the “Evangelical type” who said he would set himself on fire has amended his original statement claiming that he was only being metaphorical. Rick Scarborough, religious fundamentalist, and former Southern Baptist pastor made a public announcement (in reference to accepting same-sex marriage): “We are not going to bow. We are not going to bend, and if necessary we will burn.”

Of course, now that the decision has been made, Scarborough is singing a different tune:

“I made that comment to paraphrase a spiritual song, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,’ in which the three were given a choice — to bow to the image of Nebucahdnezzar or burn in a furnace,” the Huffington Post reports Scarborough saying in a statement. “‘We will burn’ means that we will accept any sanction from the government for resisting today’s Supreme Court decision. We do not support any violence or physical harm.”

Sorry, no s’mores this time.

Photo Credit

Dusting Myself Off…

I was always taught that when you fall down, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. Well, here I am doing just that. After almost a year of inactivity, I am re-committing myself to the blogging life. I love to write and I hate that I let this opportunity to share my thoughts slip away from me.

At least once a week I will crack open the world inside my head and share some of the ooey-gooey goodness swirling around inside. My goal is to inspire debate — real conversations about real issues that affect the way we live our lives.

 

 

Photo Credit

Calling All MoBros!

Greetings my MoBros and MoSistas! Movember is upon us once again! For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about, Movember (formally known as November) is the month long celebration of men’s health education and awareness. Breast cancer has a pink ribbon, AIDS awareness has a red ribbon, Autism awareness has a puzzle piece. But Movember is about men. We don’t need no stinkin’ ribbons! We have hair! Yes, that’s right hair, more specifically, facial hair. Participants — known as MoBros — give up shaving for 30 days, saying goodbye to naked chins, and hello to moustaches, goatees and Van Dykes. Let the facial hair flow!

Of course it’s an equal opportunity event so woman can take part as well. Those that choose to grow beards and mustaches are welcome to do so, but most take the easy road and choose instead to spread the Movember message of health awareness while encouraging and supporting the men in their lives through 30 days of itching and scratching. These brave woman are known as MoSistas.

Moustache 1

Movember started as a small gathering in Australia and has grown into an international event. You can support MoBros by donating money, tracking their progress with pictures and videos, or just giving them a pat on the back for their commitment to improving awareness of men’s health issues.

I will be taking part this year as a I do every year since learning about Movember. Last year I started with a clean face — I looked like a chubby 10 year old and got carded everywhere I went. So, this year I’m starting with about a week’s worth of growth. A small cheat, I know, but it is what it is.

For more information visit the website. Register, or not. Donate, or not. For the right Mo, there are parties to attend and prizes to be won! So, arise my MoBros (and MoSistas)! Movember calls! Will you answer?

 

Photo Credit

For the Love of God, Please Get Out and Vote!

Please! If you value your lives, get out and vote! Everywhere you look there are stories about the weird, wild and ridiculous escapades of people in public office. This country is in crisis and the only way to start fixing what’s wrong is for us to get off our collective asses, head down to the local polling place and vote out the crazies and hypocrites that have made their way into office.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that politicians are people too and that they are just as likely to find themselves in the same wacky situations that can befall any “regular” person. However, there needs to be a line. If a man or woman is going to pursue a life of public service, they need to be more careful than the average citizen about the decisions they make and the lives they lead. Like it or not, public office has put them in the public eye (that’s where the word “public” kicks in) — in a role of leadership and responsibility. They need to be able to inspire some level of confidence. If they can’t do that, they should resign or be voted out. That’s not too much to ask is it? Sometimes I feel like I’m one of the few people who can see the epidemic of idiocy that has enveloped this country — me, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and a scattering of clear-eyed citizens.

This isn’t just a crazy political rant on my part. I have evidence to back my claims. Let’s take a look at people America has chosen to place in positions of power and influence (full disclosure, some of this information comes from Real Time with Bill Maher):

New York: Incumbent Congressman Michael Grimm (R), publicly threatened to throw a reporter over a balcony and has been indicted on 20 counts of tax fraud, but as of mid-September he was leading in the polls and on track to be re-elected. His trial has been scheduled for late November.

Tennessee: Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R) is a self-declared Pro-Life candidate, even though he made his (now ex) wife have two abortions and his mistress to have one. DesJarlais is a medical doctor who was reprimanded for sleeping with at least two of his patients.

** Just so there’s no suspicion of bias, I tried to find a Democrat with a wacky story but could not. If you know of one please feel free to tell me in a comment.

 

The Re-Edumacation Of America

What are we teaching (or trying to teach) our kids? Schools are supposed to be havens for learning — for opening minds, sharing ideas, creating a brighter future. But, politics and religion and just plain idiocy are slowly but surely doing away with any of that.

Today I read about Pam Manzanec of the Colorado State Board of Education. She has a problem with the high school history course curriculum — more specifically the Advanced Placement U.S. History test — because it doesn’t teach that the U.S. voluntarily ended slavery. Take a minute and let it sink in. A woman who can influence educational standards said, in a public meeting, that the U.S. voluntarily ended slavery:

“Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn’t our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional. Does our APUSH (AP U.S. History) framework support or denigrate that position?”

When she says “at great sacrifice,” does she mean that pesky Civil War thing? Or is she referring to something important? Well, no matter. Go, America! We’re exceptional!

How do people like this get into places where their idiocy can have a real effect on important issues? (I call this the Bachmann Effect) I had to know more, so I kept digging. Where it led should have surprised me but really didn’t. The Republican Party, Fox News and Fox News contributor Ben Carson. The Republican National Committee is sponsoring a resolution opposing the country’s AP History Curriculum and Carson (who by the way is toying with the idea of running for president in 2016) went on record and on camera to complain about the AP History curriculum saying that it is too anti-American and will make children want to become terrorists. Yes, terrorists — I’m not making this stuff up!

“There’s only two paragraphs in there about George Washington … little or nothing about Martin Luther King, a whole section on slavery and how evil we are, a whole section on Japanese internment camps and how we slaughtered millions of Japanese with our bombs … I think most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS … We have got to stop this silliness crucifying ourselves.”

See? I told you I wasn’t making it up! Our history is full of tragic events, which should be taught, discussed and analyzed so that we learn what we can from them and hopefully not repeat them in the future. Greatness — for America and for people in general — isn’t about the wrongs we have done — it’s about how we accept those wrongs, learn from them and try our best not to repeat them.

Carson needs to understand that life is about balance. There is so much more to America than the evils we have done. Our history has a lot of great things as well. We’re not just George Washington and Martin Luther King. We’re also Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Frederick Douglas and Rosa Parks. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison. The Wright Brothers and Neil Armstrong. Harry Houdini and Penn and Teller. Marion Anderson and Aretha Franklin.

Of course we are also William Stoughton and Joe McCarthy. John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. Belle Gunness and Genene Jones. Al Capone and Charles Manson. Balance.

We’re supposed to be educating our children, arming them with a knowledge of history — the plain truth about the country they live in and the place it holds in the world around them. If the children are our future, then unless something changes our future is in real jeopardy.

How The Mighty Have Fallen

I was going through the news today, getting more and more disgusted with what makes headlines these days. This isn’t a new clip* — I’m sure many of you have seen it before — but it’s important and it’s awesome. Why? Because it makes you think. It makes you stop and say, “Hmm, yeah.” Yes, it is from a television show but that doesn’t make it any less real or true.

Maybe if more people paid attention to things that really matter and understood our place in the world, we might be able to make some real changes and get back to the days when we could say “We’re number 1!” and not be so far off the mark.

* This is an excerpt from HBO’s The Newsroom.

Happy Birthday To Me! Here We Go Again.

Birthday-Cake-With-Candles-4Last week I celebrated my 44th birthday. I had a great time. We went to dinner, shared some laughs and got a cat. Yes, a cat. Birthdays always make me think about my life — the choices I’ve made, the people I’ve met, etc., etc., etc. Birthdays also make me think about life in general. Where is the world going? What’s it going to be like in 50 years? 100? 200? Will I be able to use technology to survive that long? I totally can see myself as a brain in a robot body. . .But I digress.

I look out at the world and I am afraid. I’m afraid for my family. I’m afraid for my fellow human beings. Every day it seems like technology is advancing us towards some (hopefully) utopian future. I am all about high tech gizmos like brain/computer interfaces, smart watches, smart clothes and smart houses. Unfortunately, in so many ways, we also seem to be moving backwards as people, as a society. Don’t believe me? Just look at the evening news. Our government is a joke. Fake scandals, lies and political posturing have become the norm. Republicans are chomping at the bit to undo the little bit of good Obama has managed to accomplish. Our economy is on the brink of something — I’m not even sure what anymore. We’ve committed ourselves to yet another war across the sea and it will be interesting to see if this time we actually give a shit about the welfare of our troops after they come home — those that do get to come home. Cops are running wild, gunning down citizens (sometimes innocent, almost always unarmed) and most of the time getting nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Public beheadings. Kidnapped child brides. Hate crimes. The world has become a scary (scarier) place.

But here’s the thing. I don’t like living in fear. I’ve spent too many years doing it. In the immortal words of Popeye the Sailor, “I’ve had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!” I refuse to keep doing it. I’m not living, I’m existing. So here is where I will wage my battle with all of the things that go bump in the night, clunk in the day, and squish in the twilight. I’m talking about the crappy news, the scary policemen, the weird tales and the wild storms. I will face them head on with my observations and my words, topped off with (hopefully) a funny quip or two, a bit of imagination, poetry, music, books and all sorts of things that help cast light into the dark places.

This time I’m really going to try to keep my personal wackiness from getting in my way. I’ve started this blog many different times and always end up letting it fade away. I don’t want to do that anymore.

So, here’s to new beginnings. . .

 

Photo Credit

Mr. Rogers: Destroyer of Children?!

Rogers1

Earlier this year Fox News aired a report that declared Fred Rogers, the beloved host of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, an enemy of children. The report claimed that he ruined a generation of children because he told them that they were special but didn’t tell them that they had to work to be special. Now, those kids have grown to believe that everything is owed to them without any work or effort on their part. This is how they explain the rampant “something for nothing” attitude plaguing the American people, an attitude that leads to welfare abuse and a desire for government handouts of all kinds.

After careful analysis I have come to the conclusion that this report is total bullshit! First I don’t believe that the American people have a sense of entitlement. As with any society there will be those that abuse the social systems, but the whole concept of the “American Dream” is the belief that anyone can work hard, save their pennies and earn their house, two car garage and 2.5 kids.

Second, in my opinion, Fred Rogers was a giant in the field of children’s education and development. His simple style kept children entertained and educated without overwhelming them. He wrote most of the songs performed on his show and more than 36 books to help kids with issues that mattered to them like going to the doctor, making friends and dealing with a new baby in the house, And, his testimony in front of the U.S. Senate in 1969 left them so impressed that they more than doubled government funding for public education television (1971 PBS budget raised from $9 to 22 million).

I grew up watching Mr. Rogers. He taught me what it meant to be part of a neighborhood. He taught me that it was OK to play make-believe and that it was OK to dream of faraway places and cool adventures with interesting characters. He taught me about sharing and about being nice to people. He taught me that it was OK to be me, no matter what “me” was. I don’t remember being taught that I didn’t have to work for the things I want in life. I certainly don’t remember being taught the world owed me things.

I would suggest that the problem isn’t with Mr. Rogers. As great as he was, at the end of the day he was still just the host of a kids’ tv show. I would suggest the blame for this “the world owes me” attitude should be placed squarely in the lap of the parents and other adults who for one reason or another did not supplement Mr. Rogers’ teachings with lessons of their own. it was (and is) up to parents and elders to educate children about life.

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968 – 2001. Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer in September 2003 at age 74. RIP Mr. Rogers.

Photo Credit