Monthly Archives: December 2016

And the Feet Shall Lead Him

The Curmudgeon is now more than 40 years past his formal training in religion and is pretty adept at avoiding synagogues, but a few years back he found himself in one, pretty much against his will but in one of those social situations where you just can’t say no. He can still read Hebrew, which he views as little more than a party trick (as Rex Harrison sang in My Fair Lady, “Arabians learn Arabian with the speed of summer lightning, the Hebrews learn it backwards which is absolutely frightening”), and most of the blessings and songs were familiar to him: he knew the words and either could follow along by reading or, in even more cases, the words had been indelibly etched on his brain when he was young, impressionable, and had a far more supple mind.

At one point another familiar blessing began, and suddenly, out of nowhere, The Curmudgeon’s feet began to move. In this blessing, which he knew pretty much by heart, there comes a point where you are supposed to take three very small steps backwards, bow to the left, bow to the right, and then take three small steps forward. (Why? He has no idea, but he knows the steps nonetheless.) So here The Curmudgeon was, decades from last having heard this blessing, when his feet and then his torso acted independently of his body and put themselves in motion without any direction from his conscious brain.

It was a Jewish miracle!

That event, when nature and instinct completely took over, came to mind when he visited the ballpark last summer to take in a Phillies game with one of the only half-dozen or so people on Earth with whom he’d want to do such a thing. There we sat, half-watching and mostly chatting, when suddenly The Curmudgeon, without thinking, found himself rising to his feet: it was the home half of the seventh inning and, with no premeditation, he stood for the seventh inning stretch and to join, not exactly quietly, in the traditional chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Pure instinct, in both situations.

Not So Cute Anymore

So former Brady Bunch star Susan Olsen, now 55 years old – and if that doesn’t make you feel old, The Curmudgeon doesn’t know what will – now earns her living on a radio talk show.

Okay, make that “Used to earn her living on a radio talk show.”

It seems the former Cindy Brady took to Facebook in a dispute with a gay actor. That actor, lacking as much discretion as Olsen lacked judgment in not understanding that anything she wrote privately would surely become public, shared Olsen’s post with the world.

Can you believe she called the guy a puthy?

Can you believe she called the guy a puthy?

According to that post – those of you of a gentler sensibility may wish to skip this – Olsen wrote to the actor that

Hey there little p–sy, let me get my big boy pants on and Reallly take you on!!! What a snake in the grass you are you lying piece of s–t too cowardly to confront me in real life so you do it on Facebook. You are the biggest f—-t ass in the world the biggest p–sy! My D–k is bigger than yours Which ain’t sayin much! What a true piece of s–t you are! Lying f—-t! I hope you meet your karma SLOWLY AND PAINFULLY.”

Well, the adorable pig-tails are long gone and so, too, evidently, are those winning, adorable ways.

Saving Face

It happened again last Friday: former New York City mayor and current dementia-announcement-in-waiting Rudy Giuliani announced that he was withdrawing his name from consideration for any cabinet positions in the Trump administration.

The day before that, Lou Barletta, the xenophobe who represents all or parts of nine Pennsylvania counties in Congress, announced that he was withdrawing his name from consideration for the job of Secretary of Labor.

No one wants this guy around every day.

No one wants this guy around every day.

A few weeks before that it was Newt Gingrich declaring that he no longer was interested in serving in a cabinet position and would prefer to remain just an occasional but valued (in a non-staff, don’t-show-him-where-the-copy-paper-is kind of way) advisor.

And of course we remember Chris Christie slinking back to that now-unblocked bridge entrance ramp in New Jersey, his destination all along, he now insists, after Donnie Junior and Ivanka and Rasputin – sorry, make that future first son in-law Jared Kushner – took all the transition work Christie did and flushed it, along with Christie’s entire transition staff, down one of Trump Tower’s gold-leafed toilets.

There are no doubt others The Curmudgeon has forgotten, or was never even aware of: people who believe they helped Donald Trump get elected to the presidency and that their reward would be a cabinet position. Giuliani, Gingrich, and Christie were earlier adopters, and Barletta even earlier, one of the first members of Congress to endorse the Orange One, because birds of a lunatic feather really do flock together.

But there’s a difference between having something to offer on the campaign trail and having something to offer to help govern a country and Giuliani, Barletta, and Gingrich clearly have nothing to offer in the latter, and while Christie probably does, his reputation is in the toilet – geez, that’s two toilet references in the same post, a new high (low?) for The Curmudgeon – and besides, Trump is known not to like his people chubby.

So these folks, well-used but finally getting the message that their services are no longer desired, must find a way to save face publicly by attempting to “withdraw” from consideration for positions for which they were never, ever seriously considered. They were played, used – not, by the way, a criticism of Trump at all, because they all do this – and then discarded when their usefulness came to an end.

But oh, those sad “I withdraw my name from consideration for…” speeches really are sad and maybe even a little pathetic, when people of ambition who had the audacity to parade that ambition so publicly and so nakedly decide that they must just as publicly insist that their unchanged professional status is of their own choosing when everyone – everyone – knows it most certainly is not.

 

 

R.I.P.

pengPeng Chang-kuei, 1918-2016

You know it. You love it. It’s General Tso’s chicken, one of your Chinese food favorites.

You may be surprised to know that General Tso’s chicken is not some ancient Chinese recipe. Actually, it was concocted only about 40 years ago by Peng Chang-kuei, who brought the dish with him to the U.S. Here, it became popular when Richard Nixon opened relations with China and it was reportedly a favorite of Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.

Mr. Peng passed away last week in his native Taiwan at the age of 98. As recently as a few months ago he was still cooking in his family’s restaurant.

The Curmudgeon suspects he joins many others in thanking Mr. Peng for his delicious creation of what has become, if he dares say so, an all-American favorite.

And Sometimes They Jump Too Far Ahead of the Social Media Curve

With good reason, nearly everyone seems to be jumping full steam into social media these days: we use Facebook, we tweet (well, The Curmudgeon doesn’t tweet), we put ourselves on LinkedIn (The Curmudgeon’s there but hasn’t looked at it in ages), and much more. People are afraid to be left behind, and The Curmudgeon has more or less told himself it’s okay to be left behind at least a little. He has no idea, for example, what Snapchat is.

Nor, to be honest, does he care.

Figuring out how to use social media is especially a challenge for businesses. Should they have big web sites? Small ones? Any at all? Should they encourage, or even require, their employees to use LinkedIn? Should they tweet – and if so, under what circumstances?

For professional reasons, it’s useful for The Curmudgeon to receive daily headlines from a number of publications every day. Some are professional publications but some are just newspapers in cities or regions where his employer has clients. One of those regions is southern California, so for a number of years The Curmudgeon received daily headlines from the Los Angeles Times.

la-timesAnd then, about three years ago he realized that he had stopped receiving those headlines. He receives so many headlines every day that it took a while for him to notice, but when he did he went to the paper’s site, looked to confirm that he was still on the mailing list, and found a notice explaining that the Times had changed its policy and was now sending daily headlines only through Facebook.

And that’s where The Curmudgeon drew a line. He is not a fan of Facebook and seldom uses it and had absolutely no intention of having a business send messages to his personal Facebook page. He didn’t think that was unreasonable: after all, a friend had once told him “Facebook for your personal life, LinkedIn for professional, and there’s no need to have your co-workers as your Facebook friends or your friends on your LinkedIn page.”

So life went on without daily headlines from the Los Angeles Times. One day not too long ago, though, a story from that paper crossed his path through another source, and while checking out that story he decided to look into subscribing again to daily headlines.

And lo and behold, the Times was once again sharing its daily headlines via plain, old-fashioned email.

Apparently the paper had jumped too far ahead of its readers, somehow figured out the mistake it had made, and took a step back from its overly aggressive adoption – or, as The Curmudgeon prefers to think of it, overuse – of social media. So now The Curmudgeon happily receives his Los Angeles Times headlines daily, although he suspects that at some point in the not-too-distant future the Times will once again choose to follow the path it wants to follow, as opposed to the path its readers want to take, and again try to deliver its daily messages in a way its leaders feel is more contemporary.

Newspapers are fighting a losing battle to retain their readers and are clearly torn between hanging onto their existing hard copy readers and trying to recruit new ones. The Curmudgeon believes they need to do both, but to do that, they’re going to need to respect the preferences of both groups and perhaps – as this apparently unsuccessful detour into Facebook headlines suggests – tailor their efforts to the individual groups instead of trying to force them both into a one-size-fits-all solution.

Because as the Times apparently learned, that was no solution at all.

Hitched!

bride and groom toppers wedding cake toppers sugar models by Arte da Ka, BrThe Curmudgeon, two weeks ago.

For the first time.

At the age of 59.

He is one happy and lucky (but still curmudgeonly) boy.

Is the Earth still spinning on its axis?

The Left Understands Political Demagoguery, Too

Yes, those of us still crying in our cups over the election of one of the biggest demagogues in American political history have good reason to cry, and it’s only getting worse, but the left can be just as obnoxious as the right when it comes to political grand-standing.

Consider Rachel Maddow.

Last week Maddow held up on her show a copy of next year’s congressional calendar, which showed large swaths of weeks in which Congress would not be in session.

And she suggested that Congress would not be working those weeks.

Which is utterly ridiculous.

maddowCongress doesn’t do all of its work when it’s in session. Members of Congress hold hearings, tend to constituent business, visit their districts, study issues and legislation, and more when they’re not formally in session.

You know that.

The Curmudgeon knows that.

And Rachel Maddow, a Rhodes Scholar who is smarter than all of us and not at all shy about reminding us of that, knows it too.

But that didn’t stop her from going on the air and suggesting to her more than one million viewers that Congress wrote its own schedule that gave its members about 200 vacation days in 2017.

It turns out that political demagoguery knows no party limits.

In Case You Missed It…

The state of Utah has declared pornography a public health crisis.

As reported by National Public Radio, the non-binding resolution passed by the legislature and signed by the governor attribute to pornography

  • pronographyLow self-esteem and body image in adolescents, who, according to the resolution, are exposed to porn at an average age of 11-12
  • The hypersexualization of teens “and even prepubescent children”
  • The normalization of violence, abuse and rape
  • An increase in the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution and child pornography
  • The objectification of women, which “teaches girls they are to be used and teaches boys to be users”
  • Impacts on brain development and functioning, including “deviant sexual arousal” and difficulty forming relationships

The resolution also states that pornography may be “biologically addictive,” although The Curmudgeon assumes the folks who wrote it were referring to the practice of viewing pornography and not to pornography itself.

So now you know, because if the Utah state legislature decides that pornography is a public health hazard – and remember, this is a state where the predominant religion does not disapprove of a man having more than one wife – then it has to be true, right?

Chris Matthews

matthewsHow does this guy still have a job on television?