Sunday, June 16, 2019

Father's Day, 2019


If you were looking for Musical Sunday, don’t despair – because today is Father's Day and I have my traditional (and slightly updated) tribute to fathers today, you'll still get your poetry fix this week, just a day late.

Today is Fathers’ Day, the day we honor the man who contributed half of our chromosomes and many of the life lessons that shaped us into who we are.

Fathers don’t get the same degree of respect that mothers do. They work in design, rather than production, after all, and don’t earn the credit that mothers do for going through nine months of pregnancy followed by months of sleepless nights and years of worry. And truth be told, many fathers don’t earn that respect. For all too many men, fatherhood is an unfortunate side effect of good sex, and a child is an impediment to the enjoyment of life. For many men, fathering a lot of children by a lot of women is the imagined sign of a manly stud ... not of lives betrayed by a thoughtless ass who thinks with his man parts* instead of his brain and heart.

Luckily, though, there are many good men out there trying their best to be good fathers. It’s not an easy job, and not everyone is good at it** ... but fortunately, enough do.

I have often reflected back on the course of my life, and I've come to the conclusion I’ve been a better grandfather than I was a father. This is probably normal. You’ve seen more of life, and had more experiences – good and bad – to share. If you’re the grandfather, you get to be the gentle, wise, let-‘em-do-what-they-want fellow the children love to see, rather than the grouchy, tired father who has to put bread on the table, crack the whip, and enforce the discipline. You get all the joy of holding and loving the children with none of the negatives ... when the baby needs changing, for instance, there's none of that messy fuss - you just give her back to her mother. What's not to like?

I think that, from the father's perspective, we have our children too early in life. We're still learning how to be adults, and all of a sudden we're fathers, responsible for teaching our children all the lessons of life that we haven't even learned yet. Our children grow up as much in spite of our mistakes as because of our excellence in parenting.

When you get to be a father, you look at your own father differently. It was Mark Twain who supposedly once said, "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

It's true.

A good father, as I came in time to understand, is a gift beyond all price. The gold standard for fatherhood is, of course, my own father. He fought the Nazis*** in the skies over World War II Europe, ran his own business, raised four children and buried one, and cared for mom through the long years of misery as Alzheimer's gradually destroyed the mind of the dynamic and witty woman he loved. Dad left us three years ago, and I no longer get to hear his jokes and stories and learn the lessons he still had to teach, yet he remains the man to whom I owe whatever shreds of honor, decency, and ... well ... manhood that I can claim.

This was the man who took the war to the Nazis in 1944 ...


After the war, he turned successful businessman, running his own photographic studio and drawing the attention of the ladies ...


At the Mount Vernon Wine Festival in 2002, he was surrounded by admiring ladies (from left to right: our friends Susan and Nadja, his granddaughter Yasmin, and Agnes) ...


With my brother Mark and I, on the occasion of Mark's retirement from the Navy (our brother Paul served in the Army, but wasn't able to be there) ...


And here he is in December of 2013 at his 90th birthday party in Pittsburgh, surrounded by the friends, fishing partners, and family members who came out to honor him in spite of some really ghastly winter weather ...


I'd like to think I made him satisfied, if not proud.

If you’d like to know more about the life of this wonderful man, you can read my remembrance here.

It's politically correct (bordering on mandatory) nowadays to say that a child can grow up just fine in a household with same-sex parents, but you'll never be able to convince me that it's the same as being raised by a father and a mother who love each other, treat each other with dignity and respect, set a good example, teach their gender-specific life lessons, and subordinate their own dreams and desires to the momentous task of raising a brand new human being.

Have a good day. Honor your father. And if you're a father, be a good one ... preferably a better one than I was. Your children ... and indeed, the future ... are depending on you.

More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

*  As the late Missandei would have said. If you're into "Game of Thrones," you'll get it.

** As I have had the sad occasion to learn.

*** The real ones, the ones that murdered millions of innocent people and destroyed most of Europe, not the imaginary ones to which ignorant people in this country compare their political opponents.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Cartoon Saturday


Boy, what a week it's been ...

Donald Trump told an interviewer that he saw no problem with accepting information about his political opponents from a foreign government and not informing the FBI ... but then quickly reversed himself after the predictable yet useless firestorm of outrage developed; the Office of the Special Counsel has recommended White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired for violations of the Hatch Act ... the White House, predictably, has refused; several oil tankers have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman, with blame falling - not surprisingly - on Iran; actor Cuba Gooding, Jr, has been accused of "forcible touching" of a woman at a Manhattan bar; and the wife of California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to conspiring with her husband to convert campaign funds for personal use, and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The news has been so odd lately that I thought we might need some stronger-than-usual cartoons to distract us from the ugly reality of life. So, here's a collection of cartoons about sex, because why not? ...

Lights, camera, no action! ...


Sometimes it's tough to give up the electronics for very long ...


I saw this same cartoon situation many years ago, but the caption was, "Are you sure she's got a friend?" ...


Well, she did give fair warning ...


We linguists can be very particular ...


It helps you to perform the act with ... relish ...


Some men really can read a woman's mood ...


Oops ...


Carefully. Very carefully ...


So, what was your first hint? ...


Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when I reprise my annual Father's Day post. See you then.

Bilbo

Friday, June 14, 2019

Great Moments in Editing and Signage


It's that time again ...

Such a deal! ...


The last one was the worst ...


Um, no thanks ...


From the summertime Department of Well, Duh ...


What an outrageous, arbitrary, and unconstitutional infringement on the poor soul's right to bear arms ...


I checked ... it's not in my garage ...


No penguins? I'm taking my business somewhere else! ...


It's a paper-saving move ...


Sentimental value ...


Hmmm ...


And so it goes. Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.

Bilbo

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Musical Sunday


Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of the famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, designer of such iconic buildings as Fallingwater and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Not too many architects have been celebrated in song, but Simon and Garfunkel so honored Frank Lloyd Wright in this song from 1970 ...



Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Cartoon Saturday


As if you thought June might be an improvement over May ...

A former nurse has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of murdering 85 patients at two hospitals in northern Germany; a woman in Florida was arrested Tuesday after she allegedly walked into an “ax-throwing" bar scraping two machetes together and telling patrons she had killed over 100 people with them; the bishop of a poor diocese in West Virginia is accused of spending more than $350,000 on gifts to church officials and supporting a grandiose lifestyle; one West Point cadet was killed and another 22 were injured on Thursday when a vehicle loaded with cadets on summer training overturned on a dirt road; and in South Texas, a vehicle packed with more than a dozen undocumented migrants crashed after it was chased by police, killing six people.

This week, no theme ... just a potpourri of good cartoons I've found recently. Enjoy!

Clarity of expression is important in speaking and writing ...


Restaurant substitution rules can be depressingly arbitrary ...


Perhaps not so literally ...


Apps ... they're not just for people any more ...


Ursine social faux pas ...


Clever! ...


Well, a political debate can be a form of bull-fighting ...


It's as stupid an argument as the anti-vaccine one ...


Steven Wright once had a joke about going to a general store and not being allowed to buy anything specific ...


Oh, the horror!! ...


And there you have it - your weekly batch of cartoons to help you cope with the anguish of living in the Age of Trump. I hope it helps.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Musical Sunday returns with Simon and Garfunkel. See you then.

Bilbo

Friday, June 07, 2019

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for June, 2019


The year is nearly half gone, and it's time to announce our Ass Clown awardees for the new month of June. This time we turn away from the rich fishing grounds of politics and government to a new field of potential nominees as we announce

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for June, 2019


today, we turn to the field of religion as we turn the spotlight on

Michael J. Bransfield,
Former Bishop of
Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia


Bishop Bransfield, the former leader of the Catholic Church in West Virginia, is charged with giving cash gifts totaling $350,000 to fellow clergymen, including young priests he is accused of mistreating and more than a dozen cardinals in the United States and at the Vatican. According to church records, Bransfield wrote checks from his personal account to cover the gifts for more than a decade, and the West Virginia diocese reimbursed him by increasing his pay to cover the expenses.

According to an investigation conducted last year, over a period of 13 years as bishop in West Virginia, Bransfield spent $2.4 million in church money on travel, much of it personal, which included flying in chartered jets and staying in luxury hotels. Bransfield and several subordinates spent an average of nearly $1,000 a month on alcohol, and had fresh flowers delivered daily to Bransfield's office when  he was there at a cost of about $100 a day. After a fire damaged a bathroom in Bransfield's residence, the diocese renovated the entire structure at a cost of $4.6 million. All of this took place in West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the country.

You can read the whole sordid story here, including Bransfield's denial of the allegations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, at a time when the Catholic Church is reeling from allegations of clergy sexual abuse and other misdeeds, and big-name evangelists become millionaires by fleecing their believers, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield's shameless looting of his poor diocese makes him a prime candidate for designation as the Right-Cheek Ass Clown for June, 2019.

Thoughts and prayers won't work for him, either.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... more thoughts then.

Bilbo

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

The Debate We'll Never Have


I wrote about the language of murder in this space a few days ago. Since the mass murder that took place in Virginia Beach last week, we have deployed the usual thoughts and prayers, built the usual makeshift memorials, and wrung our collective hands in anguish. And, of course, done nothing that will substantively address the problem of mass murder by firearms in this country.

I exchanged comments on the Facebook page of Senator Mark Warner with people who deployed the usual arguments that arise after each mass murder. Here is a distillation of my comments, for what they're worth* ...

We will never cure the plague of mass murder by firearms in this county. "The right to keep and bear arms" was written into the Constitution and baked into the national DNA to address the original need of a small, largely rural nation with many enemies and a suspicion of strong central government to maintain a "well-regulated militia" for both external defense and for protection of the citizens against a future government** that might choose to deny the rights for which the Revolution was fought. Over the years, the courts have morphed the interpretation of this right from a right to keep guns for membership in a formal militia or as a safeguard against government tyranny*** to the unquestioned right to maintain what are essentially weapons of war for defense of house and home. In the overheated arguments on this topic, the right to unlimited ownership of deadly weapons (as guaranteed by the Constitution and interpreted by the courts) is equated to the right to worship (or not), speak freely, allow scrutiny of the government by a free press, and vote for our own representatives.


Those who strongly support the Second Amendment often accuse their opponents of being people who "don't believe in rights, liberties, or decentralized power" - a contention that is, in my opinion, foolish. All Americans believe (loudly and strongly) in their rights; the problem is that one of those rights poses an actual, immediate physical danger, but we have never found the wisdom to figure out how to balance my neighbor's right to own a personal arsenal with my right to be able to go to work, shop, enter a club, go to church, or send my children to school without worrying about the danger posed by that arsenal in the hands of someone incapable of handling it. The bottom line is that we as a people have a strong sense of rights divorced from a sense of responsibility for the exercise thereof.

Let us be honest with each other. People have been killing each other since Cain slew Abel, but Cain didn't have the ability to kill Abel and dozens of other people around him in a matter of seconds. Murder will always be with us ... but is it wrong to try to limit the ability of murderers to slay large numbers of people in short periods of time?

Apparently so.

Another argument made after each mass murder is that nothing could have prevented it. This is, again in my opinion, utterly ridiculous. It implies that mass murder is an act of God that is beyond anyone's ability to prevent ... like a tornado, hurricane, or tsunami. The implication is, nothing could have prevented this, therefore there is nothing we can or should do. Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but we recognize needs for limits on its exercise - the classic example being that it's illegal to yell "fire!" in a crowded theater or incite a crowd to riot. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but many people believe their freedom of religion is abridged when they have to acknowledge the rights of people who observe religions other than their own. Freedom of assembly is also guaranteed by the First Amendment, but it's already limited in the original text ... because the guaranteed right is to assemble peaceably ... not to create howling mobs bent on destruction.

My point is that we shouldn't consider any right to be absolute. While we cherish individual liberty, we must recognize that we are individuals who are part of a larger community with diverse interests and worries. We can, if we are willing to do so in good faith, find compromises that will save lives.

Unfortunately, good faith and common sense have long since departed our national discourse.

Have a good day. Keep your head down.

More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

* Not much.

** Here's how one ardent Second Amendment supporter interpreted the right to bear arms in his response to my comment on Senator Warner's page: "... it’s not the guns that we love it’s what the guns prevent which is what we love, our guns prevent our government from becoming Venezuela, North Korea, Germany prior to WW2, former Soviet Russia, every single Muslim country. We love our guns because our guns ensure our government won’t cross a certain line against its people. That is the only reason our founding fathers created the second amendment. Without guns there is nothing to stop our government from becoming a communist, tyrannical, oppressor if it’s [sic] people." Note: the example of "Germany prior to WW2" is often cited by gun rights advocates, but the truth is - as you might suspect - a bit more nuanced. A good summary of the development of gun control laws in Germany, with extensive footnotes, can be found in this article in the Library of Congress Law Library. You can find copies of many of the original German laws online ... if you read German and can deal with the old Fraktur lettering style, they're very informative.

*** And who defines what constitutes "tyranny?" There are a lot of people out there wearing camouflage and running in the woods who think "tyranny" means having to pay grazing fees for the use of federal land, or paying taxes, or having to show any sort of ID, or ... the list is endless.

Monday, June 03, 2019

The Language of Death


Those of you to whom I am connected on Facebook have already seen this rant, so feel free to surf to some other location if you like.

As a linguist and a lover of language, I am profoundly pissed off by the abject failure of our media reporters to use the correct words.

Last week, the Washington Post and other news outlets both in print and online reported that 12 people were killed in the latest mass shooting in America ... this one in Virginia Beach, about two hours from where I live.

This is false.

People are killed in auto crashes, falls, and swimming accidents. They are murdered in mass murders. It's time our media stopped calling a spade a pointy shovel and reported these horrors for what they are - cold-blooded murder. The use of any other word diminishes the waste of these lives.

And while we're at it, don't call the person who commits such a crime a shooter. This individual is a murderer and a coward. Those who refer to mass shootings are also guilty of failing to use the proper term - mass murder. When we soften the language, we dishonor the memory of those whose lives were brutally taken by a murderer and give a pass to those who honor and respect deadly weapons more than human life.

If you have occasion to write or speak about the next mass murder - and make no mistake, it's coming - use the right words. Don't weasel around. Call the act murder and the person who commits it a murderer. Tell your favorite reporters and commentators to use the right words, too.

Meaningless thoughts and prayers are cheap. Sadly, so is the language we use to mourn the dead.

More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Poetry Sunday


This past Friday we celebrated the birthday of the great American poet Walt Whitman. Today, Poetry Sunday offers a sample of his marvelous work in this

Out of the rolling ocean the crowd
by Walt Whitman

Out of the rolling ocean the crowd came a drop gently
to me,
Whispering, I love you, before long I die,
I have travell'd a long way merely to look on you to
touch you,
For I could not die till I once look'd on you,
For I fear'd I might afterward lose you.

Now we have met, we have look'd, we are safe,
Return in peace to the ocean my love,
I too am part of that ocean, my love, we are not so
much separated,
Behold the great rondure, the cohesion of all, how
perfect!
But as for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separate
us,
As for an hour carrying us diverse, yet cannot carry us
diverse forever;
Be not impatient — a little space — know you I salute
the air, the ocean and the land,
Every day at sundown for your dear sake, my love.


Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. Find that one drop in the ocean.

More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Cartoon Saturday


And May goes out with a roar ... of terrible weather and gunfire ...

In order to avoid offending Donald Trump, White House staffers directed the Navy to move a ship named for three generations of Naval heroes in John McCain's family so that Trump would not have to see it during his visit to Japan; Special Counsel Robert Mueller gave a nine-minute press briefing in which he stressed the actual - as opposed to the Trump-spun - content of his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and attempts to obstruct the investigation thereof; eleven people were murdered and another four seriously wounded in the nation's latest mass shooting, this one in Virginia Beach; Donald Trump threatened to slap escalating tariffs on all Mexican products unless that country's government stops the flow of illegal migrants into the United States; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a new standard for blatant hypocrisy when he said - with a chuckle - that the Republican-led Senate would fill any Supreme Court vacancy that came in 2020.

This week, in honor of the behavior and aspirations of some unnamed senior leaders, I thought a collection of cartoons about barbarians and tyrants would be appropriate ...

She forgot, "appoint as many judges as possible" ...


They must have forgotten to pack Epi-Pens ... or else they couldn't afford the new price of them ...


Say, what? ...


This one speaks to a lot of us more senior citizens ...


Keeping in shape during the pillaging off-season ...


The GOP prepares for the latest invasion ...


No comment needed ...


Doing plunder right ...


I think he booked with the wrong cruise line ...


I think I recognize this guy ... no, wait ... I don't ...


And there you are - the first batch of cartoons for the new month, hot out of the oven.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Poetry Sunday returns.

Bilbo