Lasso Out as Richmond FC Coach

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Richmond Upon Thames, UK (May 15, 2022) — Ted Lasso, the affable, folksy, often controversial American manager of the Richmond FC Greyhounds, abruptly announced his resignation Saturday in a rambling, sometimes tearful monologue before members of the sporting press.

The surprise announcement came during halftime of the Greyhounds’ 4-0 route at the hands of Arsenal. Assistant coach and former Richmond midfielder Roy Kent stepped in as manager for the second half, and is expected to continue in that role on an interim basis. Lasso did not return to the pitch with his team after halftime and reportedly left Nelson Road before the game’s conclusion.

“F**k if I know what happened,” Kent said after the game. “All I know is that maybe we can get back to running some f**king drills in practice rather than this Dr. Phil rubbish we were always doing. I don’t know what he was trying to accomplish half the time, but it was not f**king football.”

In a prepared statement, Richmond owner Rebecca Welton said that “the life lessons Coach Lasso taught all of us will be sorely missed. He was much more than just a manager – he was a mentor, a dear friend and an exemplary baker of British breakfast treats.”

It was a predictably unpredictable conclusion to Lasso’s two-year stint, during which time he defied many Premier League conventions while leading the Greyhounds back from relegation, as well as to a league-record eight consecutive ties.

“I’m just gonna be real honest with y’all for a second here,” Lasso said after beckoning reporters inside his small office adjoining the Richmond locker room. “You know I’ve always been straight with you. Well, except for that one time when I said I walked out of a game because of food poisoning when I was actually experiencing a complete mental and emotional collapse.

“But this here’s the truth that I’m sharing with you now. And the truth is, I just can’t go on as the Greyhounds manager. Not for one second longer. To do that would be just as dishonest and deceitful as Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga denying the white-hot physical chemistry they so obviously shared while singing “Shallow” at the 2019 Oscars.

“And that would be plain wrong.”

Lasso, who has a career record of 36-30-25 as head man of Richmond FC, paused to take a prolonged swig from his bottle of Dasani water, then continued.

“Look, I’ve had a great time here at Richmond. Y’all have taught me things I never would have learned anywhere else – like how ‘WC’ is short for ‘water closet,’ which is just another term for what we call ‘bathroom’ back in the states.

“But I woke up this morning and I thought to myself, ‘What in the Sam-heck am I doing over here in England when I’ve got a young boy thousands of miles away in Kansas who I only talk to once a week on FaceTime?’

“I mean, I talk all the time to our players about becoming better men, becoming better human beings, not only in what y’all call ‘football,’ but in this amazing game we call life. But, how can I preach about being your very best when I’m not even around to raise my 12-year-old son?”

Lasso turned toward his office window, where nine or 10 Richmond players pressed their faces against the glass, possibly wondering what their coach could be talking about. It was 2-nil, Arsenal, and nearly time for the second half.

A tear rolled down Lasso’s cheek as the native Kansan continued to speak in that strange but familiar accent that seemed more rooted in the American South than the Midwest.

“So, I’m out. I’m done. I know a lot of people say they want to ‘spend time with their family’ when they quit something, but this time it’s real. I just can’t be the man I’m supposed to be when there are people I love and care about on the other side of the pond.”

He turned to leave, then wheeled back toward the reporters. Those who have covered the tumultuous reign of Ted Lasso knew from experience that the American coach could rarely stop himself when he had something more to say.

“One other thing – I still don’t understand this game. I still don’t get the offsides rules. And why can’t you score a goal from a throw-in? Why can’t you just throw the ball into the dang goal? That would be cool, wouldn’t it? Makes no logical sense to me why you can’t do that.

“Come to think of it, I was really a crappy hire and it’s amazing we even won a game, especially with all the stuff going on in everyone’s personal lives. This would make a great TV show, I guess, but let’s face it – y’all deserve a real soccer coach.”

Immediate Opening: Public Relations Strategist

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Full-time | mid-senior level

Actively recruiting

The Russian Federation is adding to its PR team! As the world’s largest country by land mass, with aggressive plans for future expansion, our demands for effective, timely communications have never been greater, and we need more public relations talent.

In short, we demand a PR strategist who can hit the ground running. Someone who is a smart, motivated, ambitious professional who loves turning even the most grievous news into an opportunity to win hearts and minds for the Motherland. A natural storyteller who can spin compelling narratives that, while not always fact-based, can inspire, motivate and even comfort the Russian people. A wordsmith and innovator who, when necessary, can find a convenient scapegoat on whom to blame all of the nation’s economic and social problems.

The Public Relations Strategist must be a tireless cheerleader for the Russian Federation brand, while also driving strategy to deliver positive results across a wide range of traditional and social media. This job requires raw determination and an iron will. The Strategist must be able to get his or her hands dirty on various campaigns, must work after-hours and on weekends, and must expect to be challenged by superiors who will sometimes kick and scream or make threats to the PR Strategist’s family when things are not going well for Russia.

Your qualifications must include:

  • Between five and 10 years of experience in communications and public relations for a mid-sized to large country – preferably a totalitarian regime.
  • Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications, psychological warfare, social engineering or a related field.
  • The ability to set and exceed KPIs and metrics, and then have those KPIs and metrics ripped apart and flung in your face because a rival country tweeted a video of a rocket hitting an apartment building.
  • A keen understanding of all forms of social media, particularly TikTok.
  • A deep-seated anger and distrust toward the West.
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills, and a not-so-strong moral compass.
  • The ability to use a bolt-action rifle, endure harsh winters, and subsist on delicious Russian cabbage soup for months at a time.
  • An openness to close interaction with supervisors and to having one’s ideas challenged, questioned, ignored, crushed or shat upon.
  • A sense of fun and a love of collaboration with one’s comrades.

What we can offer:

  • A chance to tour and experience the world — or at least Belarus and North Korea.
  • Spacious Kremlin office with bird’s eye view of Red Square that was once occupied by Vyacheslav Molotov.
  • An almost certain guarantee to not be targeted in the next Purge.
  • Monday morning judo competitions, bare-chested bear wrestling and other extreme feats of daring, administered by the President himself.
  • Casual Fridays and ping-pong tournaments.
  • An opportunity to take part in the Russian Federation’s Special Military Operation to free the Ukrainian people from Nazification, no matter how much they resist.
  • Admission-free visits to Lenin’s Tomb.
  • Unlimited PTO.

Not interested in this position? Appalled by the idea of working under Vladimir Putin? Click here to make a real difference in helping victims of the war on Ukraine.

10 Star Wars Spin-Offs That Didn’t Make the Cut

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Don’t sleep on these titles, though. They might someday appear in your Disney+ queue, because everyone in the Star Wars universe, no matter how obscure, has a story to tell.

Farmer’s Life: The Ballad of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru

The Jar-Jar Chronicles, Part I

The Curious Case of Grand Moff Tarkin

Book of Endor: An Ewok Adventure

The Protocol Droid Family’s Holiday Special

Mos Eisley Diary: Wild Nights and Crazy Days with the Cantina Band

Smartest Guys in the Room: How The Jedi High Council Failed the Republic

The Emperor’s New Cloak: A Star Wars Musical

Wookies Gone Wild – Spring Break Edition

Darth Sidious: A New Beginning

Ask the Byrdes!

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In this weekly feature, husband-and-wife entrepreneurs and full-time parents Marty and Wendy Byrde share advice on raising kids, achieving work-life balance and taking time to enjoy what’s most important: family. Note: the opinions expressed are those of Marty and Wendy Byrde, and do not reflect the views of this blog.

Dear Marty and Wendy Byrde,

My husband and I are the proud parents of a four-week-old son! While we’re excited to have a healthy, happy baby, we’re also pretty exhausted. How long can we expect the nonstop routine of feeding, playing with and putting our baby to sleep to continue? No one told us it would be this hard!

— Sleepless in Sarasota

Wendy: First of all, congratulations on your new arrival! That is so exciting! Nothing can top the fulfillment of bringing a little bundle of joy into this world, but I agree that it can be very taxing. What I will tell you is that it does get easier. In a few weeks, your baby boy will be more settled into your routine. He’ll be less fussy, will sleep longer and, eventually, you, your baby and your husband will make it through the night without a diaper change! In the meantime, be kind to one another and make sure you and Hubby are giving each other breaks when you need them.

Marty: I’m just going to echo Wendy’s response and agree that it gets easier – eventually. Full disclosure: the early weeks of baby-rearing were not my favorite. I was recently reminded of this when we cared for a friend’s newborn, Zeke, for a few weeks. I guess the key is knowing that this phase doesn’t last forever, and to try to enjoy it while it lasts. Congrats to you both.


Dear Byrdes,

My sister and I are estranged. We’ve been best friends for as long as I can remember, but her dependency on alcohol and prescription drugs has made her erratic and unpredictable. I’m just not comfortable having her around my two children until she addresses her addictions. My mother says I’m being dramatic. Am I? How do I repair my fractured relationship with my sister while also protecting my family?

Tammy in Toledo

Wendy: Oh, Tammy! Your letter touched my heart as I also have a sibling with substance abuse problems. My brother, Ben, has battled addiction to everything from heroin to opioids most of his adult life. He’s been in and out of treatment centers and, when he’s sober, he is one of the most loving, caring people you could ever meet. Sadly, Ben is currently in a downward spiral and we haven’t spoken to him in months. I’ve tried to reach out, but I have no idea where he is.

Marty: Excuse me, Honey, but what the fuck are you doing?

Wendy: I’m talking about Ben and his struggle with addiction.

Marty: Okay, well, first of all, that’s a lie. Ben doesn’t have a drug problem, he has bipolar disorder. So let’s get that straight. Also, when you say, “I have no idea where he is,” that implies that he is somewhere. And people are going to start asking questions about where Ben really is, and I don’t think you’re going to want to answer those questions.

Wendy: All I’m doing is expressing empathy because I, too, know the heartbreak of a fractured sibling relationship. I know it’s hard for you to understand what it’s like to care about another human being, and the sadness of not knowing when you might hear from that person again.

Marty: I just think that maybe we should focus on Tammy’s problem, okay? Maybe not make it about what happened with you and Ben?

Wendy: My God, you’re such an asshole.

Marty: Okay, maybe we should move on to the next letter.


Wendy and Marty–

Do you have some advice on how to deal with an overly demanding, toxic, chauvinistic boss? My supervisor calls me on the phone day and night, demanding that I drop everything to meet his demands. He has no respect for boundaries or for my home life. Sometimes, he’ll just start barking at me on the phone without even saying hello! What do you do when you have a jerk for a boss?

Frustrated in Fresno

Wendy: I think many of us know what it’s like to work for a difficult, demanding boss. Even though Marty and I own several successful businesses, we understand the pain of those late-night or weekend calls on the cell phone, whether it’s during dinner or at one of the kids’ soccer games. You don’t dare let it go to voicemail either, because that will only make things worse. And there’s no compassion on the other end of the line. No concern for what you’re going through. Just a huffy demand for an immediate answer and instant gratification. Not even a friendly goodbye!

Unfortunately, the only thing you can do in this situation is to do exactly as your boss commands. Do not deviate from what he wants and only very carefully suggest something that may be a better solution. Bottom line: he’s your boss. He calls the shots. You work for him. And if you fail to give him exactly what he wants, when he wants it, your life and the lives of those you hold dear may be in very grave danger. Just put on your brightest smile, do your damndest to make your boss happy and maybe, someday, he’ll have mercy on your soul and the phone calls will end. And then, finally, you will know what it is like to be free.

Marty: Yeah. What she said.


Dear Marty & Wendy,

Our 16-year-old son lies about everything. He lies about who his friends are, where he’s going to be on Saturday nights, and when we can expect him home. We recently caught him lying about his grades. In fact, he forged an entire report card and then tried to get us to sign it! What should we do? Do we have a budding sociopath on our hands?

— Troubled in Tennessee

Marty: First of all, “Sociopath” is such a strong word, and a little overused these days. Teenagers lie about a lot of different things. That’s not unusual. The question I would ask you is, how good is your son at lying? How often do you catch him in his lies? The fact that he went to the trouble of forging a report card intrigues me. That takes a certain amount of skill and initiative. Maybe, instead of looking at the downside, you should consider that your son might have a rare talent for deception, for which there are many career opportunities. I’m not saying you should encourage the lying, I’m just suggesting it might not be an entirely bad thing.

Wendy: What Marty isn’t telling you is that he has a 14-year-old son who recently devised a very complex scheme of diverting money across a web of different shell companies. And Marty is actually proud that our sweet Jonah is committing about a dozen different felonies. So, consider the source when Marty tells you about the pros and cons of lying.

Marty: Again, Honey, this isn’t about us. This is about helping people with their problems.

Wendy: Oh, so you weren’t a little excited that Jonah invented software allowing him to launder millions of dollars in offshore accounts?

Marty: Well, I was surprised.

Wendy: Don’t give me that “I was surprised” bullshit. There was a goddamn gleam in your eye as you watched him transfer funds on his iMac Pro.

Marty: As I was explaining to the people in Tennessee, sometimes these predicaments our children get themselves into can create some interesting opportunities. It’s not all bad if you look at them as teaching moments, and a chance to do better the next time.

Wendy: In other words, get better at lying.

Marty: No one’s better at lying than you, Honey.

Wendy: Aww, that’s kind of true, isn’t it?

Marty: Next letter.


Dear Byrdes,

How do you balance demanding careers and parenting, while still finding time to spend with each other?

Curious in Columbus

Marty: Well, you have to work at it! I think we do a good job of mixing it up and keeping things interesting. Even after all these years of marriage, Wendy often will say or do something that just completely floors me. “What in the hell is that woman thinking?” I’ll ask myself. “This time, she’s going to get us all murdered for sure,” is another thought that enters my mind.

Wendy: Life’s an adventure. If you don’t take chances, you’ll never get what you really want.

Marty: Ultimately, I choose to back her in whatever crazy thing she decides to do next. That’s what marriage is all about. We’re in this together.

Wendy: True. He’s my partner in crime.

Got a question for the Byrdes? Drop them a line at MartyandWendy@LicketySplitz.com. Also, enter a contest to win $50 in gambling chips at http://www.TheMissouriBelle.com.

What Your Favorite Movies Would Be Like if They Took Place Today

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Smokey and The Bandit

Old Premise: Two wealthy businessmen approach truck-driving legend The Bandit with an enticing challenge — haul a truckload of Coors beer from Texarkana to Atlanta within 24 hours.

New Premise: Two wealthy businessmen approach truck-driving legend The Bandit with an enticing challenge — haul a truckload of personal protective equipment from Texarkana to Atlanta within 24 hours. The Bandit and Snowman arrive in Texas to learn that there is no PPE left to haul, so they hole up in a Texarkana motel room and go on a week-long bender drinking Coors beer. Then, they take on new challenge — haul a group of refugee children to their extended families in California within 24 hours while eluding a comically obsessed ICE agent and his dimwitted son. Bandit becomes a national hero in the process, but is soon shamed on social media for having an outdated Georgia state flag on the front plate of his 1977 Trans Am.

The Breakfast Club

Old Premise: Five teenagers from different high school cliques spend a Saturday in detention with their authoritarian vice principal, Mr. Vernon.

New Premise: Due to the pandemic, all in-person learning is suspended for Chicago area school districts. Mr. Vernon checks in occasionally with the five students via Zoom, and gently encourages them to write 100-word essays about themselves, “when you feel emotionally empowered to do so.” School outcast John begins an online relationship with the prom queen Claire, only to learn that she doesn’t exist and he’s been the target of a catfishing scam.

All the President’s Men

Old Premise: Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein work tirelessly together to unravel the tangled web of the Watergate burglary cover-up, which could reach to the highest levels of the Nixon Administration.

New Premise: The President tells Bob Woodward in a series of recorded, on-the-record interviews that he intentionally misled the American public about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic. Woodward publishes a book about these interviews, and the president’s deception is a big news story for about a week. Carl Bernstein occasionally tweets about how the president is a bad man.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Old Premise: High school galavant Ferris Bueller plays hooky from school, taking his friends on an entertaining romp through Chicago on a beautiful spring day.

New Premise: Due to the pandemic, all in-person learning is suspending for Chicago area school districts. Instead of signing into his school-issued iPad to review his lesson plan, Ferris Bueller stays in bed and catches up on the last season of Ozark.

When Harry Met Sally…

Old Premise: Ten years after they first meet, Harry and Sally form an inseparable bond that challenges the concept that men and women cannot truly remain friends in New York’s hectic singles scene.

New Premise: Harry and Sally decide to take their relationship to the next level when the shutdown begins, Harry gets COVID, and they each quarantine themselves in their surprisingly spacious Manhattan apartments. For the next year, Harry and Sally periodically text each other messages like “U doing ok?” and “Doesn’t this suck?!” during their 12-hour, work-from-home days.

Hoosiers

Old Premise: Journeyman coach Norman Dale takes over the basketball team at tiny Hickory High School, and leads it on an improbable run to the Indiana state championship game.

New Premise: When Indiana cancels the rest of its high school basketball season due to the pandemic, Coach Norman Dale embarks on a downward spiral of self-pity and depression. Eager to earn some much-needed cash, Dale and assistant coach Shooter begin transporting cocaine along Midwestern routes for a powerful Mexican drug cartel. When basketball season starts back up in the fall, Dale has a tough decision to make: return to coaching, remain a mule for the cartel, or possibly do both?

Things We Posted About on Social Media at Other Grim Points in History

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As we count down the days to a hopeful 2021, it’s tempting to go on Facebook and label 2020 as the Worst. Year. Ever.

But anyone who suffered through the Bubonic Plague of 698, the Battle of the Somme in 1916, or any of the other countless human calamities throughout history might argue otherwise.

As a way of putting 2020 into perspective, here’s a sampling of what people were posting about on social media during other low points in our history:

“To all surviving passengers of the Hindenburg — we sincerely apologize for last night’s incident. Because customer satisfaction is important to us, please allow us to make things right by offering a voucher on a future flight, at the date of your choice to any destination that our airships currently serve!”

–Capt. Max Pruss, May 7, 1937

 “Having a day…”

–U.S. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, Battle of Fredericksburg Dec. 13, 1862

“Hey Facebook peeps! Does removal of ICBMs from Turkey in exchange for removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba sound like a fair trade? Asking for a friend.”

–President John F. Kennedy, Oct. 27, 1962

“My friends think I’m so chill and calm when shit goes down, but some days I could just EXPLODE!”

–Mahatma Gandhi, April 6, 1919

“Fellow Judeans! If you’ve got a son age 2 or younger and you live in the Greater Bethlehem area, we would really love to hear from you! Just click on the link below to complete our two-minute survey. Thx!” 

–King Herod, July 23, 2 AD

“Ever have one of those mornings when you want to crawl back under the covers of your cot and just go back to sleep?”

–Napoleon Bonaparte, Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815

“Jeez! Trying to hold a decent cabinet meeting, but this little redhead brat keeps interrupting and singing about ‘tomorrow.’”

–President Franklin Roosevelt, Feb. 20, 1933

“I know I offered ‘blood, sweat, toil and tears’ in yesterday’s speech, but what I could go for right now is a nice, soothing glass of Johnnie Walker.”

–Winston Churchill, May 11, 1940

“Winter in Eastern Pennsylvania can kiss my big, white ass.”

–Gen. George Washington, Jan. 15, 1778

“SO over 1864. Here’s hoping for better things next year.”

–President Abraham Lincoln

My 10-Year-Old’s Work-From-Home Summer Schedule

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Sometime between 7 and 8 a.m. – Wake-up time. Roll out of bed and instantly turn on iPad.

8 a.m. – Breakfast: choice of Strawberry Pop-Tart, re-heated chocolate chip pancake, or Dad’s Grape-Nuts cereal.

8:10-9 a.m. – Back to iPad. Check in with friend on Facebook Messenger about cool new iPad game in which you create your own iPad games.

9-9:40 a.m. – 40 minutes of reading time.

9:20 a.m. – Negotiate with parent to do 20 minutes of reading time now, then 20 minutes after dinner, knowing that parent will be too distracted by Entertainment Tonight after dinner to enforce the agreement.

9:30 a.m. – Log on to school iPad to touch base with teacher and begin the day’s agenda of summer school assignments.

10 a.m. – Summer school assignments are completed. Run upstairs to complain about how there’s nothing to do and summer is boring.

10:15 a.m. – Draw a picture of a Fennec fox or a mythical creature.

10:20 a.m. – Stare emptily at half-finished Lego set that hasn’t been touched since 2014.

10:25 a.m. – Briefly contemplate changing out of pajamas.

10:30-11:45 a.m. – iPad games on Messenger with friends.

11:45 a.m. – Lunchtime, consisting of either PB&J sandwich or microwavable mini-pizzas, accompanied by chocolate milk, off-brand chips and applesauce left over from school lunch pickups.

12 noon – Outdoor time! Wander the neighborhood sidewalks with Dad. Climb a tree. Put on roller blades and skate around for about two minutes.

12:30 p.m. – Change out of pajamas into shorts, camouflage Crocs and a “Weekend Warrior” T-shirt.

12:45 p.m. – Pester parents about going outside to play with friends.

12:50 p..m. – Parents insist that friends are still busy with school work and it’s too early to bother them.

12:51 p.m. – Doorbell rings. Friend wants to play. Tear out of the front yard with friend like a pair of escaped inmates from a Victorian-era lunatic asylum.

12:51 – 2:50 p.m. – Splash around in friend’s inflatable pool from Menards. Cross the street and splash around in another friend’s inflatable pool from Menards.

2:50 p.m. – Come home to badger parents about turning on sprinkler system to run through, “Because it’s summer, Mom.”

2:55-3:30 p.m. – Run through sprinklers with friends. Lay on Minion towels stretched over the hot driveway. Talk ruefully about those lost days when kids had to leave their homes to sit at a desk inside a concrete building for eight flipping hours.

3:30 p.m. – Parent emerges to announce that online tutoring lesson is in 30 minutes and that, no, he hasn’t forgotten about the 20 minutes of reading after dinner.

3:30-4 p.m. – Complain about the unfairness of tutoring during these precious, fleeting summer days.

4-5 p.m. – Slap on a happy face and plow through another soulless tutoring session.

5-6 p.m. – A brief window of freedom, dragging friends up and down the sidewalk in Dad’s collapse-able red wagon with the fancy cup holders.

6 pm. – Tonight’s dinner: pork chops, mac & cheese, and sweet potato fries made in Mom’s new air fryer oven.

6:30 p.m. – Parents consumed by talk about Trump, coronavirus, then Entertainment Tonight.

6:30-8:30 p.m. – iPad games with friends, then curl up next to Mom to watch a silly network program about mini-golf.

8:30-9:30 p.m. – Bedtime-ish.

 

 

 

 

7 Conversation-Starters During COVID-19

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In a recent phone call with an old friend, I complained, in my First World way, about how conversations and social interactions had suffered during the coronavirus pandemic because the only thing there was to talk about was the coronavirus pandemic.

“Oh, there are more things to talk about,” my friend replied. “People just don’t want to talk about them.”

After some reflection, I realized my friend was right, as he usually is. There are at least a few topics to discuss besides COVID-19, some of them not so pleasant.

If you and your friends have grown weary of dissecting the latest COVID-19 Task Force briefing or mulling over whether you should wear a mask while gardening, here are seven icebreakers to add a little variety to your phone, text or socially-distanced driveway conversations during this strange and awkward time.

Korean baseball

As you probably already know, the NC Dinos are off to a 10-1 start atop the league standings for the Korean Baseball Organization, although the third-place LG Twins reeled off six straight wins before last Sunday’s loss to Kiwoom.

The KBO, which opened its season in early May before crowds of mostly stuffed animals (along with vivacious baseball cheerleaders), is one of the few live sporting events to watch on ESPN.

It’ll have to do until Major League Baseball starts its season, perhaps as soon as early July — or as late as April 2021.

White people doing horrible things

The appalling death of George Floyd under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee was just one instance of African American men being victimized by white folks in the past week. There was also the case of Amy Cooper, who called the police on a bird watcher in Central Park because he asked her to leash her dog. A few days earlier, a Florida woman accused two black men of abducting her autistic son before surveillance cameras revealed she drowned the nine-year-old by pushing him into a canal. Finally, a Georgia youth pastor claimed he was kidnapped by two black men before admitting he was at a hotel to meet a male prostitute.

All of this just in the past week.

As my former Hallmark Cards colleague Tara Jaye Frank eloquently writes in this blog piece, it’s not enough for white people to feel sadness about these events. Clearly, more must be done. Perhaps it can start with a conversation on why these racist attacks keep happening on a drumbeat basis in the world’s largest and most powerful liberal democracy.

The Presidential Election

The last time I checked, the U.S. presidential election was still happening on the first Tuesday in November. Donald Trump has not yet demanded it be canceled due to social distancing concerns (although don’t be surprised if he does). Until then, there is much to discuss. Who will Joe Biden select as his running mate? Can a sitting president survive more than 100,000 deaths, a collapsed economy and a 15% unemployment rate? What are the Russians going to do about this, and why can’t anyone under the age of 70 win their party’s nomination for the general election?

So many unanswered questions about what could be The Most Important Election of Our Lives (or at least the most important once since 2016).

Cornhole championships

Most live sporting events have ceased, but there’s always the American Cornhole League, televised regularly by ESPN, in which masked people take turns trying to toss beanbags into a box with a little hole. Not exactly must-see-TV, but still more exciting than NASCAR for people who absolutely must consume televised sporting events during these times.

That new Jeffrey Epstein documentary

Want to be totally creeped out? Watch the first two minutes of this new Netflix series, which starts with criminal deposition footage of Epstein in 2012. Not sure I need to watch four hours of Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, but the story of a serial rapist/child molester and his powerful friends is sure to be talked about in the coming weeks.

Those simple, carefree days when we almost had a war with Iran

Hard to remember now, but the big story in January wasn’t coronavirus (although it maybe should have been) but the near certainty that we were going to war with Iran.
Fortunately, Trump’s targeted killing of Iranian military chief Qasem Soleimani and Iran’s missile strike rebuttal did not lead to a larger conflict. But these two rivals could be at it again soon enough. Or maybe it will the U.S. vs North Korea next time? Or China?

The disappointment of “Onward.”

There are precious few certainties in this life: death, taxes, people behaving stupidly and, finally, Pixar putting out a polished, smart movie about the human condition that adults and children alike can enjoy.

That last certainty was shattered with the March release of Onward, a sentimental road-trip movie about two brothers on a quest to bring their late father back to life for just one day. Also, the brothers are mythical creatures, and their father’s spirit is reduced to a pair of slacks for almost the entire movie. Also, one of the brothers is an adult Dungeons & Dragons fanboy voiced by Chris Pratt.

You get the idea. A pretty mediocre effort from the Disney-owned studio that gave us Toy Story, Up, Wall-E and many other classics. In fact, I just had to double-check IMDB to be certain Onward wasn’t a DreamWorks production. That’s the kind of bland, formulaic storytelling I’m talking about here.

Disagree with me? Fine. Let’s have a conversation about that.

Five Classic Comedy Movie Reviews for These Delicate, Sensitive Times

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Animal House (1978)

Unrelenting hedonism and misogyny are the electives of choice for members of a 1960s college fraternity. School administrators try heroically to discipline the Delta Tau Chi house, but to no avail. A juvenile prank leads to the untimely death of a horse, several women are tricked into disrobing, and a pledge commits adultery with the college president’s spouse. “Animal House” is an apt title for a movie in which there is no empathy or respect for rules, rights, and human dignity.

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Two developmentally disabled men take a cross-country road trip. One of them has an unhealthy crush on a mysterious woman who has left a suitcase at the airport. Trigger Warnings: subject matter includes frozen mucus, bowel control issues, bad haircuts, a lethal amount of chili peppers, and a fatal attack on a rare owl species.

There’s Something About Mary (1998)

There’s something chilling about an unstable man who exposes himself to his prom date’s parents, becomes obsessed with the young woman, then appears near her Florida home several years later. Ben Stiller stars as a man who spins a web of lies to get closer to the unwitting object of his desire. A cautionary tale about those who fall through cracks of our flawed mental health system. Trigger Warning: viewers who care about hygiene may be troubled by the “hair gel” scene.

Talladega Nights (2006)

Rural stereotypes abound in this crass tale of stock car driver Ricky Bobby’s fall from grace. A European rival, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, tries to teach Ricky Bobby a lesson about tolerance and sportsmanship, but is instead ridiculed for leading an alternative lifestyle and for being French. An explicit scene in which a dinner prayer is parodied for cheap laughs may be offensive to some viewers.

The Hangover (2009)

Four white males exercise their privilege by booking a lavish bachelor party weekend in Las Vegas. Not satisfied to simply reflect on life and enjoy each other’s company, the friends quickly become inebriated and encounter a range of dubious adventures that include animal cruelty, Asian stereotypes, excessive use of a Taser, and an agitated and possibly violent Mike Tyson. Finally, the Vegas getaway is scheduled one day before the groom’s wedding, a plot device that perfectly captures male indifference to relationships and long-term commitments.

So Much More Than a Pet

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The cartoon above by Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis ran in newspapers a few months ago, and instantly struck a chord with many folks who have loved and lost an animal who was more a member of the family than just a pet.

I’m sharing the cartoon today because my family recently said goodbye to Keiko, our English Shepherd mix who provided us with so much joy, affection and wet-nosed kisses over 14 years. Keiko was a constant in our lives through job changes, a move across town, heart-breaks and triumphs, and more than a dozen brutally hot Midwestern summers. During her lifetime, Keiko endured two pet cats, her humans’ hectic work schedules, and various yapping little dogs in the neighboring yards. Meanwhile, we tolerated bare patches in the backyard, the constant shedding of dog hair around the house, and the occasional “gift” in the corner of the basement when Keiko couldn’t quite make it outside in time.

Like Edee in Pearls Before Swine, Keiko was a gentle, nurturing dog that neighborhood kids often approached for a quick scratch behind the ears. In more than nine years, she never once growled or snapped at our son, despite the tugging, pulling, and errant karate kicks little boys sometimes inflict on pets. In fact, Keiko was very protective of our child. From the time we brought a three-day old infant home from the hospital, Keiko would bark and growl at any stranger who approached our doorstep, perhaps knowing how much this little baby meant to us. In a way, he was her baby, too.

For me, Keiko was an enthusiastic walking companion, even on days when the thermostat dipped into the teens or soared above 90. For my wife, Keiko was a tricolored shadow, following her from room to room, especially the warm bathroom on cold winter mornings, or the kitchen, where there was usually a pretzel cracker to enjoy.

Like the beloved pooch memorialized in Stephan’s cartoon, Keiko had cancer, and we had to put her to sleep. The staff at the veterinarian’s office were almost as heartbroken as we were. A few days later, they sent us a sympathy card with an image of a dog bounding across the Rainbow Bridge. Fourteen-year-old dogs affect a lot of human lives.

Does a Rainbow Bridge exist? I’d like to think it does. It would be nice seeing Keiko again. The house seems emptier now. Walking the neighborhood sidewalks without holding her lease feels strange. Even our son, who complained of having to let Keiko out several times a day to go pee in her later years, claims that he misses her. I even miss–at least a little bit–vacuuming the downstairs and pulling up gobs of black and white Keiko-hair from the medium-pile carpet.

Our hearts are a little broken right now, and it could be a while before we welcome a new animal into our family. There’ll be no replacing our soft, sweet companion of more than 14 years.

Rest in peace, Keiko.

Keiko, in her younger years.

Cooling off with a friend.