Monday, October 25, 2010

Waving the Magic Juan

How sad. 

How sad that Juan Williams got the whack from NPR for expressing his feelings.   If you follow the news you have had a few days to digest the story.  Here's what Williams said on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor:

"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country," Williams said. "But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

He went on to say that not everyone in a religious group, Christian or Muslim, should be lumped in with extremists.

Juan Williams has been around a while.  He worked at The Washington Post for over 20 years before joining NPR and contributes regularly to publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. 

I found this commentary from the Journal particularly interesting:

He also appears on Fox News, and as Hamlet said, "Aye, there's the rub." 

It's those pesky Fox News appearances that have him in hot water, much more than his comments about Muslims. 

He shows up on The O'Reilly Factor, a show I catch from time to time.  I'm a political junkie, so I catch them all.

Bill O'Reilly is a classic bully, his counterparts on MSNBC classic nerds, and all would probably wear my labels with honor. 

O'Reilly brings people on his show who disagree with him.  Credit him for that.  But most get pummeled worse than a Cub Scout at a Hell's Angels rally.  O'Reilly is like the kid on the playground who snags a cupcake from your lunchbox, knocks out your front teeth and then thanks you for joining him.

So Juan Williams is a regular on Fox News.  And somehow, in NPR CEO Vivian Shiller's alternate universe, his time on NPR was as an "analyst," therefore he was not allowed to express his opinions elsewhere.  If he were a "commentator" he could say what he wants. 


Juan Williams has been giving (dare I say commentating) what most would call moderate opinions for years.

But the Juan Williams affair is just noise.  The real story is that as a society we continue to focus on "gotcha" moments that squelch necessary dialogue about prejudice and fear. 

Kind of like when I hear, "I'm not racist, but" or "I'm not sexist but," roughly translated as "I'm about to say something racist or sexist."

In 1993 Jesse Jackson famously said:

"I hate to admit it, but I have reached a stage in my life that if I am walking down a dark street late at night and I see that the person behind me is white, I subconsciously feel relieved."

We all have prejudices.  We all have fears.  If we can't talk about it respectfully, how do we move forward? 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tackles, Twits and Tweens

Tossing the ball around

Patrick Mannelly.  If you are a Bears fan you are probably familiar with him.  If not, you're not. 

Patrick Mannelly set a record last month by playing in his 193rd game as a Chicago Bear. 

193 games.  More than Payton, Dent, George, Grange or any other Bear.  Ever.

Patrick Mannelly is a long snapper.  He comes in on punts and extra points, maybe 10 plays a game.  In 13 seasons he has probably made about $9 million bucks. 


Nobody noticed him until last August when he got hurt in training camp and missed a game.  They stuck Desmond Clark, a tight end, in his spot and it was brutal. 

I am planning to play catch with my son through his legs.  Got to keep the options open. 

Reminds me of the saying about left handed pitchers - there's always a roster spot if their arm hasn't fallen off. 

Put a Fork in it...Please

Speaking of the Bears, there has been lots of commentary about their wobbly 4-1 start.  Most of it spot on.  But a couple of reporters accused media and fans of "drinking the Bears Kool Aid."

There it is again.  "Kool Aid" references are everywhere, aren't they?  We all march up and mindlessly "drink" whatever message is being delivered. 

Just like The People's Temple.  Just like Jonestown. 

We have managed to ditch a lot of cultural references through the years, but somehow "drinking the Kool Aid" won't go away. 

My wife was in a play called "The People's Temple" a couple of years ago, a performance which coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre. 

It was an intense, moving piece.  Over 900 people were murdered in Jonestown, nearly of them 300 children.  It wasn't suicide.  It was mass murder.   

Yet somehow we continue to find humor in the notion of "drinking the Kool Aid." 

Can't we come up with a better metaphor? 

Tweet Tweet

I have two twelve year olds.  Tween twins.  They just got cell phones, so somehow their lives are complete. 

I was talking with my daughter the other day between texts and the subject of pay phones came up. 

"Do you know what a pay phone is," I asked.  She flashed a brief, blank look, then said she did.

As with all things tween, I have a healthy skepticism. 

I doubt she's ever seen a pay phone.  I struggle to remember the last time I saw one.  Cells, pads, pods and berries are ubiquitous.

I read recently that college kids don't email, they text.  Some experts predict email will be obsolete in a few years.  Too slow. 

A few years ago we stopped at an ice cream parlor and my kids were mesmerized by the jukebox.  They had never seen vinyl.

I remember standing in the hallway of my dorm waiting for the pay phone. 

I also remember 8 tracks and typewriters.  Barely.

What else will "disappear" in our lifetime, and when?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lunkers and Lawyers

A few years ago there was an ad campaign called "Take Me Fishing."  You can check out the ad here:

I tear up every time I see it. 

Fishing is one of my great loves.  Always has been, though I have really grown to appreciate it as a father of four. 

My Dad took me regularly.  We even did a couple of trips to Canada.  In Canada the routine is eat, fish, eat, fish, eat, play cards, sleep, repeat.  Kids in Canada keep crank bait in their lunch box.  Like the two sports in Texas (football and spring football), Canada has fishing and ice fishing.

Years ago I began to introduce fishing to my kids.  We started with the local park fishing program, then "graduated" to a couple of nearby lakes and lagoons. During weekend getaways I loaded gear in the car, hoping to find a quiet fishing hole.

Fishing with young kids is an adventure.  Most time is spent untangling lines and baiting hooks.  It amazed me how quickly I would look up from the tackle box to find lines wrapped around each other, or around a kid.  Success defined as being an o-fer on emergency room trips.

One time I had to release a small mouth that was in bad shape with the hook in pretty deep.  We continued fishing when a gull swooped down next to the boat and grabbed our forgotten catch.  The look on the kid's faces was priceless. 

My daughter was in the habit of naming the worms as she fished.  Somehow seeing me yank and hook Lizzie McGuire never upset her.

My son was all business, and shrewd at that, asking me to cast the line and hook the fish before he reeled it in. 

One morning back home we were walking along when my son looked over a bridge and asked, "Are there bass in there?"

With age and experience came my son's growing excitement at being able to use "lawyers" instead of worms.  He meant lures, but who am I to correct him? 

Why fish?

I love hot coffee and the stillness of nature's morning.  I love listening to the loons and geese.  I love gettin' back on the water for 20 or 30 minutes at the end of the day.  It's not about the fish.

I enjoy the serenity that comes from time alone.  No phone, blackberry, T.V. or IPod.  Our time, with nothing to do but fish.  And talk.  Take me fishing...anytime.

How do you bond with your kids?