Nobody Is On The Fence

Watching the chattering heads last night providing their “in depth analysis” of the RNC convention prompted a few thoughts. First, I’d like to gouge my eyeballs out with a spoon. Second, this notion that people are “on the fence” about a candidate is idiotic drivel and any pundit who says it should be banished to covering local school board meetings. Let me be clear – PEOPLE DON’T SWITCH PARTIES from election to election. Period. Full stop. End of discussion. People vote party line. Always have, always will. Sorry, but nobody is watching a speech and thinking “boy, my family has voted for the same party for four generations… but wow this guy from the other party is moving me to tears with his speech and he wears a really nice tie I think I’ll vote for him.” If such a shallow person actually exists they’re out playing Pokémon Go and won’t bother voting anyway.

There is only one valid discussion in a political campaign… voter turnout. All the verbal diarrhea spouted by both parties is not there to “welcome others into oublenderr tent” or to “broaden the base”. It’s to whip your followers into a frenzy so they’ll postpone stopping at the Fancy Freeze on the way home and vote instead. A politician has to convince his/her party that the other candidate grinds up small puppies and endangered koala bears in a blender and drinks them for morning smoothies and if you don’t vote, they’re coming for your little fluffy next.

The best gage of the probable outcome of this election isn’t polls or TV pundit lectures. It’s the MPM® factor. What is MPM? It’s the number of memes per minute created on social mememedia. Each speech, every rally, the daily news cycle spin, seems to produce a varying number of frantic meme and Facebook posting all showing some variation of the other candidate as a lying, evil, Chihuahua-smoothie drinking, troll. The ebb and flow of this is probably the most accurate measure of how motivated each parties faithful are. If the rabid followers of your particular meat puppet aren’t frantically creating clever posts showing that the other meat puppet did indeed fail to yield at a crosswalk in June of 1983, then they’re probably not going to turn out on election day.

I should write that app. Create and post the real-time meme posting trends. I could become the next Nate Silver. I could monetize it and make millions. But that would take motivation. And I’m a busy guy with actual real world adult stuff to do. I’ve got Pokémon to catch.




The Monkey’s Paw

“Be careful of what you wish for, you might just get it” — W.W. Jacobs & Snoop Dog

The Monkey’s Paw was probably the first “horror” story I ever read. I still remember pawwaking up from a nightmare thinking I heard knocking at the door. I think about this fable when I watch what’s happening with media and the public’s changing relationship with the police. Our world is changing. We’re under a 24×7 media and information barrage – all competing for ratings so they can scoop up the coin. Every single citizen has a camera with them at all times, each eager to capture something dramatic so they can live stream it to Facebook and get their 60 second interview with one of the evening TV chattering heads.

I’m a pragmatic guy. I don’t proclaim this to be good or bad. It just is what it is. It’s the current evolution of our society. What I am sure of is that the vast majority of folks haven’t grasped what the long term impact to policing in this country will be. Policing is, at it’s very nature, an unpleasant task. It means profiling people and behaviors (GASP… did he say profiling?!?!) to try and prevent folks who aren’t rule followers from continuing to break the rules. And, human nature being what it is, folks who break the rules have a tendency to not go willingly when informed their next destination isn’t a luxurious spa.

Let me ask you an honest question. Could you subdue someone of equal size and weight who fought you with everything they had? Could you do it without hurting them or yourself? I know I couldn’t. Now, how about if they were bigger than you, or high on something, or mentally unstable, or had a hidden gun or knife? This is what we pay our police to do every day. The difference today is, with the advent of cameras everywhere, we get to see how it happens. And it’s not pretty. It never has been.

We live in a TV and movie fantasy world where the good guy never gets hurt and disables the bad guy with a secret Mr. Spock hold or fancy kung-fu moves. Even better they shoot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand or simply wounds them in the leg. Or, they manage to talk them out of their evil plans and convince them to go back to school and become a community organizer. Yes, people really do think this is how the world works and they’re shocked when confronted with reality. The media capitalizes on this shock and pre-judges events in an effort to create the ratings feeding frenzy.

And the sad reality is that police will stop doing what they do. If you had cameras on you from the second you stepped out of your car, how careful would you be? If you knew that every movement, every word you said, the very inflection of your voice was going to be analyzed by the media, by lawyers, and by the public, would that make you pause before doing anything? If you knew that your own command staff, media, and elected officials would throw you under the bus at the first hint of political unpopularity, would you take a chance at getting involved in something?

The answer, for those of you wrapped in your safe middle class neighborhoods, is that policing as we know it has already stopped. If you live in the inner city or more impoverished areas of this country, it’s about to get worse. Do you really think the police are going to be proactive about crime? Do you honestly think an officer is going to get out of their car unless they absolutely have to? There is zero incentive and massive personal risk with every citizen encounter. Folks are marching for “change”. I suspect they may not like the trickle down consequences of that change. The Ferguson effect is very real.

Who knows, maybe it will eventually be for the better? Maybe “pretty please” and “sir, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble would you kindly turn yourself in when you have a moment” will be a more effective approach. Perhaps peace, love, granola, and a Coke ® while teaching the world to sing will be ticket that enables us to all just get along. The pessimistic side of me says that we’re not as evolved as a species as we’d like to think. Yes we have opposable thumbs and whatnot, but I don’t think the societal fabric has to tear that far before we revert back to wanting to feel safe and protected. You know, that whole sheep, wolf, and sheepdog thing.

At the end of the day what’s important is that it all makes for fantastic TV. It’s riveting to watch the talking heads lecture us and moderate panels of folks shouting at each other. stunI’m inspired when I go to bed at night that I’ll wake up and be a better person. And hopefully the politicians will get their act together and fund a massive moon-launch effort to invent the Star Trek stun beam. Until then, I’m going to go find a gang-banger and give him a hug. Who knows, that might just be the spark that enables him to reflect on the path his life has taken and to change for the better.

“1 – 2 – Freddy’s coming for you, 3 – 4 – Better lock your door, 5 – 6 – Grab your crucifix, 7 – 8 – Better stay up late, 9 – 10 – Never sleep again…”
Tommy Doyle: [screaming hysterically] It’s the boogeyman! The boogeyman’s outside!Laurie: Oh Tommy, stop it! You’re scaring Lindsey. There’s nobody out there, now if you don’t stop this I’m going to have to turn the TV off and send you to bed.
Tommy Doyle: Nobody believes me!
Laurie: Tommy unlock the door! Come here, now you listen to me. I want you to go down the stairs, and out the front door. I want you to go down the street to the Mackenzie’s house. I want you to tell them to call the police and tell them to send them over here. Now do you understand me? Go do as I say!
Jack Torrance: Heeere’s Johnny!


On Pooping. And Snakes.

The following information may be considered… oversharing. Should I ever run for political office, I’m sure this will be used as part of a vicious smear campaign. That being said, I find it interesting that something we’ve managed to do for thousands of years has become so complicated. That something is pooping. Specifically, pooping in the woods. The modern outhouse and toilet paper (or “bathroom tissue” as it’s known so as not to offend anyone) is a relatively modern invention. In a short span of time, modern society has become horrified at the idea of dropping trou in the outdoors and letting ‘er rip. I know people that when confronted this situation will become instant poop camels and hold it in for the better part of a week to avoid exposing one’s buttocks to the breeze.

This is not me. My intestines run like the German train system. Orderly, on-time, and on a precise schedule. It’s all good unless that schedule is interrupted. If the trains get backed up, anarchy and chaos soon follow. The unhappy commuters rapidly begin to send more and more urgent messages that the trains need to get back on schedule ASAP. Trust me, we like to keep the trains running on time.

Which brings me to the woods. I’m not one of those folks opposed to pooping in the kiltwoods. It can be downright peaceful at times. There are of course the positional challenges. Leaning against a tree, lean back holding on to a tree, sitting over a log, or the traditional squat and hope your aim avoids the trousers bunched up around the ankles. There are times the Scottish kilt in the backcountry has its advantages. As fascinating as all this may be, it is not my point. My point is snakes.

If you know me, you’d know that I have an unnatural fear and adversarial relationship with snakes. This wouldn’t be a problem if I was a librarian, but unfortunately I like the outdoors. Snakes have a tendency to live in the outdoors. This is an issue. Which brings me to my latest encounter. I recently got back from a long river trip to a remote area that, coincidently, is infested with rattlesnakes. Even though snake fears kept me from getting out of the boat unless absolutely necessary, I was having a great time until midway through the trip. After unloading all the gear and getting camp ready, I sat down in my chair to enjoy an adult beverage when I heard something in the grass. A large snake slithered by, not six inches from my foot. My river mates commented that I have an impressive vertical leap for someone my age. A little girl scream may or may not have been uttered, but that detail will stay on the river.

Which brings me back to my original point. As I sat in my tent that night, refusing to come out for dinner, it dawned on me that if I wanted to keep the trains on schedule I was going to have to wander through the snake infested grass and rocks first thing in the morning. absFaced with two undesirable choices, keeping the trains on schedule or being chased by snakes, there was little sleep that night. I made the only choice a rational person would make – I went into camel mode. No coffee, no breakfast, little water. Thank god I’ve been diligent with the ab machine. The cramping became bearable after a while. Major fist-bump to the ladies if this is what the monthly visitor is like.

The fatal mistake came on the second evening of operation anhalten der Deutsche Bahn. Succumbing to hunger pangs, I ate one of those freeze-dried backpacker meals. While they may be tasty going down, they impart a certain… urgency to the train schedule. Early that next morning, with a pounding heart and clenched cheeks, I made my way into the woods to perform a ritual our ancestors have done for thousands of years. Who knew my heart rate could sustain 200 bpm for so long? Fortunately for me this story has a happy ending. Like a Christmas morning miracle there were no snakes and the trains were back on schedule. It’s rumored I may have had a skip to my step when exiting the woods.

My point? As usual, I’ve forgotten. Maybe it’s that snake chaps are a real thing. And that I own a pair. Now to figure out how to wear them with the outdoor kilt. Under or over?

[Upon opening the Well of the Souls and peering down]
Sallah: Indy, why does the floor move?
Indiana: Give me your torch.
[Indy takes the torch and drops it in]
Indiana: Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?
Sallah: Asps… very dangerous. You go first.

Neville Flynn: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
[the terrified passengers on the plane turn to Neville]