Monthly Archives: April 2013
With all the attention being paid to our gay brothers and sisters—as well as the loosening of social conventions around this stigmatized population—it was only a matter of time before someone in the sports industry “came out.”
And that time, ladies and gentlemen, was Monday.
In a historic and incredibly brave move, 12-year veteran NBA basketball player Jason Collins has just announced that he is homosexual. Doing so makes him the first active professional athlete—within the “Big Four” American sports of football, basketball, baseball and hockey—to openly profess his homosexuality while still playing in the league.
Granted, Collins is a free agent who has played with six different teams during his professional career—the Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies—and his numbers haven’t been stellar—he averaged just 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in his more than 700 career games—but this is a trailblazing move, and one that has drawn all kinds of support from people both within the sports industry and without.
“Jason Collins has forever changed the face of sports,” the civil rights group Human Rights Campaign proclaimed.
“We are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Some even anticipate the potential backlash Collins may receive from his future teammates—depending on where he ends up next season—and offer even more words of support and encouragement.
“Collins is a pro’s pro,” Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said of his former player’s announcement. “[And] if you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance.”
I certainly hope Rivers is right, even though the differences between Robinson and Collins are rather profound. Yes, Robinson had to deal with racism at a time when baseball was dominated by white players. And I’m sure his teammates didn’t appreciate having a black man in the locker room, at least not at first. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy transition.
With regard to Collins, though, the picture changes a little. Being black isn’t an issue any longer—at least not as much of an issue—but men expect to share a locker room with other men. That’s just the way it works. But what happens when one of their teammates isn’t just a man, but a gay man? Suddenly, guys start wondering if he’s checking them out in the shower or plotting to somehow steal their heterosexuality from them—as if gays cast some kind of magic spell that suddenly transforms straight guys into queens, for lack of a better word.
I’m also surprised by how many straight men seem to think every gay man in the world will somehow be interested in them romantically, or even sexually. Is it possible they simply aren’t as appealing as they think they are?
The answer is obviously yes.
Whatever comes of this situation, the important thing is that Jason Collins took an important first step today and started the conversation. As a nation—and as we strive to protect the civil rights of every U.S. citizen (including gays, of course)—we need to examine how every marginalized group can be reintegrated into our society in fair and meaningful ways. Yes, gays are getting most of the attention right now, but only because of the way they have been treated—or should I say mistreated—in the past. The same magnifying glass will be applied to other groups in the future, I’m sure, but this is the kind of thing that will help “pave the way” for later discussions.
I commend Jason Collins on being willing to move forward and to put himself out there as he did. It takes balls and, by all accounts, his are pretty damn big.
I just hope his game doesn’t suffer under all that extra weight!
The dream has been with me from an early age, as I’m sure it has for many of you. Sure, the features have changed with time—the inevitable consequence of an ever-changing life—but the fantasy remains. And if circumstances ever permit it, I will not hesitate to make this dream a reality.
I am referring, of course, to the house of my dreams.
As a boy—and one hell of a comic book freak—my dream home mirrored the secret, subterranean headquarters of my favorite hero, the Batman himself. There was the requisite mansion sitting atop it, with endless bedrooms and limitless excess, but the real fantasy lay beneath. Caves filled with the latest computer technology would connect me to the world outside; equipment manufactured in secret would leave no paper trail to be discovered later; and like my hero, I would be a force to be reckoned with in the world of crime fighting and vigilante justice.
Fortunately, I grew out of this and realized that (a) there can be only one Batman and (b) it takes a lot of cash to sustain such a lifestyle. And let’s face it: I am no Bruce Wayne.
Future incarnations of my dream home—the evolving blueprints of which existed only in my mind—changed in architecture, style, size, dimension and nearly every other measurable category. However, other features remained consistent through the years: secret passages, a hidden underground lair—complete with an escape tunnel—ergonomic design, self-sustaining life support systems, greenhouses and extensive gardens… you know, the basics.
The sad thing about all this is that no matter how badly I want it—how desperately I want my dream home to become a reality—the fact is that it probably won’t happen. Pulling something like this off takes funding… significant funding. And I’m not talking about the kind you get from a bank or rich investor—someone with a legitimate claim to the property who could cause problems later. I need the kind of cash that only I control, like lottery winnings or a Publisher’s Clearing House jackpot.
Not bloody likely, I know, but a boy can dream.
It is in this spirit that I now share some ideas about my Dream House, the home that exists in my mind at this particular moment in time. It differs from those that came before it and will undoubtedly change in the future, but for now this represents the house I wish for in my dreams and waking life. The details are a little fuzzy and for now only certain features have taken form. That will change if the dream ever becomes a reality, though, so I pray I live to see it.
For now, however, a slide show will have to do.
The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was first established in 1920 to ensure better communication between the president and the press. Initially—and given the patriarchal nature of American society “back then”—only men were invited to attend.
Thank goodness President John F. Kennedy refused to attend in 1962 unless women were invited. Otherwise, this would have been nothing more than another Washington sausage fest… in a city still full of them, no less.
These days, the “Beltway gala” (or “nerd prom”) is used to raise money for journalism scholarships. The press and the Prez are always in attendance, but today’s event includes celebrities from Hollywood, sports, music, current events… you name it.
And it is always very entertaining. Take the event this past Saturday, which was no different and showed just how humorous our sitting president can be.
Being President of the United States is hard enough, but doing so without a sense of humor is even harder—just ask Gerald Ford, even though he only endured it (and us him) for a limited time. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for President Barack Obama, whose own brand of humor resembles mine in that it tosses the appropriate zingers but focuses primarily on self-targeted joking and self-inflicted wounding.
Check out some of the things he had to say.
ON HIS APPEARANCE: “These days I look in the mirror and I gotta admit: I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be.”
ON THE SEQUESTER: “Republicans fell in love with this thing. And now they can’t stop talking about how much they hate it—it’s like we’re trapped in a Taylor Swift album.”
ON THE HISTORY CHANNEL BEING ABSENT FROM THE DINNER AFTER THE DEPICTION OF SATAN IN “THE BIBLE” WAS SAID TO RESEMBLE THE PRESIDENT: “That never kept Fox News from showing up—they actually thought the comparison was not fair to Satan.”
ON CNN: Obama said that he admired their “commitment to cover all sides of the story, just in case one of them happens to be accurate.”
ON HIS REMARK THAT KAMALA HARRIS WAS THE COUNTRY’S “BEST-LOOKING ATTORNEY GENERAL”: “As you might imagine, I got in trouble when I got back home. Who knew (Attorney General) Eric Holder was so sensitive?”
Of course, the President wasn’t the only person who got in on the act. Comedian Conan O’Brien reprised his 1995 role as host and promised guests “two minutes of jokes, then 40 minutes on public employee pension reform.” And actor Kevin Spacey delighted the crowd with a spoof clip of his show House of Cards, only this was called House of Nerds.
The clip claims to be “secret footage” of how the Correspondents’ Dinner is planned and includes Spacey as his Majority Whip character from the show, Frank Underwood. It is hilarious and I strongly urge you to view it HERE.
All in all, Saturday was a good night in Washington because people lightened up, forgot about their political agendas and power trips, and spent some time laughing at each other. Famous people abounded, including John Legend, Sofia Vergara, Psy (even though I hate that song and dance… you know the one), Katy Perry, Matthew Perry (no relation) and Claire Danes, who stars in one of President Obama’s favorite shows, Homeland. And during a difficult time in our nation’s history—one that includes terrorism, natural disasters and other tragedies—this event reminded us all of one very important thing:
Sometimes you just have to stop and laugh. And sometimes, that’s all you can do.
Mere days after writing about the release of Paul Kevin Curtis—the man originally thought to be responsible for the Ricin-filled letters sent to President Obama, Senator Wicker and Sadie Holland—and apologizing to him for thinking him guilty (“Sorry, Paulie!“), it now appears that the real poison pen pal has been caught.
Actually, Curtis deserves a lot of the credit since the person he identified to police as being capable of framing him turned out to be “the guy”: James Everett Dutschke of Tupelo, Mississippi.
The 41-year-old was arrested by federal authorities at his home on Saturday morning and gave up without a fight. Dutschke has been charged with possession and use of a biological agent as a weapon and is scheduled to appear before a judge on Monday.
And I’m no expert, but I suspect an assassination attempt against the President will more-or-less guarantee his conviction and subsequent long-as-Hell prison sentence. If he isn’t executed, I mean.
How Dutschke came to possess Ricin remains to be seen. And his motive is also unclear since his prior exposure to Curtis was so limited—Dutschke once worked for Curtis’ brother, but that was back in 2010.
Details about this bizarre case will undoubtedly continue to emerge—hopefully soon as I find this story quite interesting—but the important thing is that no one was hurt and Curtis was exonerated.
Sure, he believes the US government is involved in a conspiracy to trade human body parts on the black market, but when did that become a crime?
Why should the bombing at the Boston Marathon be any different?
Within a week of the terrible attack that killed three people and injured more than 280 others, Lolokaust.com released the game Boston Marathon 2013: Terror in the Streets. It features runners who have to dodge pressure cooker bombs and even shows two guys walking by with backpacks slung over their shoulders—an obvious reference to the Tsarnaev brothers.
And when one of the bombs goes off too close to a runner, blood and body parts go flying. Hell, even some of the spectators are missing limbs.
Here’s a little quote from the expletive-filled trailer for this ridiculous game: “Hey [bad word], tired of watching the Boston Marathon disaster on TV? Well, now you can live it. It’s a video game.”
Normally, something like this wouldn’t bother me because I rarely get shocked or offended by anything—at least not very often. And as much as I hate to say it, there is something to be said for dark humor.
However, people lost loved ones in this deadly attack while hundreds of others were injured. And more than a dozen had limbs amputated and now face long and difficult recoveries.
Is poking fun at these people through some insensitive—and visually shitty—video game really a good idea? I don’t think so.
And if the people responsible for this game had lost their own limbs in the bombing or worse, someone they love, I’m sure that they wouldn’t think so, either.
Early Wednesday morning, 21-year-old Jonathon Bennett—a Geographic Information Science and Technology major at ECU since 2010—was drinking with some friends and hanging out in the woods behind University Manor Apartments.
They had stumbled across a huge, uprooted tree and spent some time “chilling out” on it until finally deciding to head home. Jonathon found a sturdy branch to walk on and grabbed the branch above him just to be safe.
Sadly, that safety ended when the branch above him snapped.
Jonathon fell over the side of the giant tree, dropped roughly seven feet down and landed on his back. Unfortunately, an old debris fence had been crushed by the tree and Jonathon landed on a metal post.
It impaled him from his lower back up through his upper chest, killing him instantly.
His friends sent for help, performed CPR and screamed so emergency personnel could find them, but there was nothing they could do. Jonathon was already gone.
It’s hard to imagine how Jonathon’s parents must feel right now. They send their son to college, share in his successes, watch him grow and develop, take pride in the young man they raised and suddenly, it’s all gone.
And all because of some freak accident.
Looking back, I did some things in college that seemed harmless at the time—similar to walking along an overturned tree, which I likely did as well at one time or another—but now seem much more dangerous.
Chalk it up to the invincibility of youth, I guess. Only when people become old farts like me do they realize just how vulnerable they may have been “back in the day.”
The way I figure, I probably put myself into four or five serious situations in my time. None of them were out-of-the-ordinary, though. I never slept in an alleyway, robbed a hooker or went bungee jumping, for goodness sake. But I did once jump off a railroad trestle into the river below—without first checking the depth or possible debris.
I took my buddy’s word for it when he assured me it was safe, but that only gave me a 50-50 chance that he wasn’t completely full of shit. I was also much taller than all my friends—as well as heavier—so I always went deeper. If anyone was going to break his neck or cripple himself in this crazy stunt, it would be me.
But I did it anyway. And it was fun.
If I were to attempt the same stunt today, I can guarantee with absolute certainty that I would perish. No ifs, ands or buts about it. And that’s the thing: I could have died the first time. It just didn’t occur to me while I was “in the moment.”
I’m sure you all know what I mean.
What sucks most about Jonathon’s death—aside from it coming far too soon and in such a gruesome, shocking way—is that he wasn’t even taking a risk, at least not in his mind. Granted, I didn’t know him and shouldn’t assume to know what he was thinking. I just know what I would be thinking.
Walking along a tree is much different from choosing to leap off a perfectly good bridge into a muddy, possibly shallow, creek. And Jonathon took at least one precaution when he grabbed the branch above him. It was dark. He probably couldn’t see how high up he was, much less that there were metal posts sticking out of the ground below.
Then snap… the branch breaks and his young life ends in the blink of an eye. And there’s the rub: you just never know when your number will come up and should therefore approach each day as if it were your last.
I won’t preach carpe diem since this isn’t Dead Poets Society, but I will quote one of the cheesiest 80s bands of all time—REO Speedwagon—and advise you all to “live every moment.” And when death does come knocking, I hope none of us go in the way poor Jonathon did.
But the odds are against us.
“Well, I don’t eat rice, and I don’t have any rice in the house.”
This was the response given by Paul Kevin Curtis when cops burst into his Corinth, Mississippi home on April 17th and asked him about Ricin, the poison derived from castor beans that was discovered in letters sent to President Obama, Senator Wicker of Mississippi and Sadie Holland, a Lee County judge in the same state.
In fact, Curtis didn’t even learn what Ricin was until Tuesday, when the charges against him were dropped, he was released from jail and returned home to research the toxin online.
New evidence came to light recently and whatever it was supported Curtis’ claim of innocence. Law enforcement officials suspect he was framed for the crime and are now investigating “persons of interest.”
The first is James Everett Dutschke, a Tupelo man Curtis identified as a possible culprit who once worked for his brother. The men have not interacted for several years, though, so I’m not sure why Curtis dropped his name so quickly.
I’m sure he has his reasons.
At the moment, Dutschke has not been identified as a suspect. And he did allow the FBI to search his former martial arts studio, so he seems to be complying with authorities. This is likely standard procedure—and others will undoubtedly be investigated soon—but stay tuned to your favorite news source. It’s only a matter of time before this case gets blown wide open. I can feel it.
I also feel something else, and that is sorry for jumping to the same conclusions as many Americans. Paul Kevin Curtis is innocent and not at all the monster the media—and even I—made him out to be. Damn media manipulation.
My bad, Paulie. Won’t happen again.
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to write about this earlier, but still felt very impelled to do so.
On Sunday, the music world lost one of its greatest and most prolific folk singers, Richie Havens. He died of a heart attack at his New Jersey home at age 72.
Despite influencing scores of singers and songwriters for years to come, Havens was best known for opening the infamous Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 with a song he basically improvised: “Freedom.”
Check out his memorable performance here.
Of course, any young people in the crowd likely recognize this song because Quentin Tarantino included it in the soundtrack for his 2012 film Django Unchained.
Havens was born Richard Pierce Havens in Brooklyn, New York in 1941—oddly enough only a year before my father, but that’s neither here nor there.
In his 72 years, Havens performed in doo wop groups on street corners, ran with a street gang, dropped out of high school, read poetry at Beatnik clubs, drew portraits for customers, learned to play the guitar—and developed his own method of tuning it so he could play the chords with his unusually large hands—signed a record contract, cut a number of tracks on the Verve Forecast label and ended up as the opening act at a certain three-day festival of music and love.
You know the one I mean.
The funny thing is that everything I just mentioned covers only the first half of Havens’ life, more or less. By the time it was all said and done, though, he had released 25 albums—the last one being 2008’s Nobody Left to Crown—appeared in several movies, collaborated with other artists (like Groove Armada on the song “Hands of Time”), toured endlessly and even performed for presidents, as he did for Bill Clinton at his 1993 inauguration.
In other words, he filled 72 years with as many memorable experiences and performances as possible. And what a life it was.
For me, the introduction to Richie Havens’ music and message—“Peace and love, baby”—came in high school. I was a blossoming neo-hippie exploring his roots in the “Summer of Love,” convinced I had been born too late and determined to keep the Peace Train rolling. I obviously missed Woodstock—my own birth coming a number of years later—and thankfully missed all the fun at the Altamont Music Festival for the same reason. So the first time I saw Havens perform was on a grainy old VHS video tape, the original film Woodstock. And yes, it was the song “Freedom” that first caught my attention.
If you missed the link to this performance before, take a look-see. The link is near the top of this post.
No matter how you slice it, Richie Havens was a talented musician, a skilled songwriter and one hell of a performer. And on a special day in 1969—one in which he was asked to open a packed music festival and to kill three hours while other performers struggled to make it to the site—Richie Havens made music history.
Peace and love, Richie. I hope your next journey is as exciting as the last!
It had to happen eventually.
After blogging daily for more than eight months, I finally hit a day when publishing a post seemed unlikely.
Granted, by virtue of writing this post, I will still publish something. It’s just not what I expected and, as you can see, it isn’t very long, either.
I realize that size supposedly doesn’t matter—whether I choose to believe it or not—but length does. At least that’s what I’ve always been told.
Also, this blogging every day thing is hardly easy, as I’m sure any bloggers in the crowd already know. Life always gets in the way, so sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
Take today, for instance.
I was hoping to post something last night—which is my usual routine—but a combination of allergy problems and lack of sleep sealed that deal. I passed out on the sofa and missed that opportunity.
My work schedule had some gaps in it and I was hoping to blog earlier today, but once again I managed to fill them all with other tasks and unexpected meetings. So once again, blogging fell by the wayside.
Fortunately, my iPhone is awesome and despite being at my son’s tee ball practice, I was able to churn this out. All the bells and whistles may be missing—namely pictures (which you now see since I had a chance to update this post, thank goodness)—but those can always be added later. I don’t know anyone who visits blogs just for pictures anyway, at least not many of them.
So even though this post is kind of a let-down, for me as well, it definitely served its purpose. And since a new WordPress day begins in just under two hours—most likely to accommodate our international friends—a new and hopefully more interesting post will be heading your way soon.
Unless, of course, life gets in the way again. And we all know that’s apt to happen at any time.
Today is a testament to that.
Okay. Perhaps it was naive for me to think the news from Boston would slow down once one suspect in last week’s bombing of the Boston Marathon was killed and the other was apprehended, but apparently I was wrong.
Here are the latest developments in what will likely be a very long and drawn-out investigation and trial. And while all of this information is current now, odds are there will be even more developments by the time this post is published.
I guess I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I come to it, huh?
At the moment, suspect number two—19-year-old Dzhokar Tsarnaev—is still hospitalized and apparently has wounds to both his neck and lower body. He is still in serious condition, but is stable and has even answered some questions despite being unable to speak—a ventilator and breathing tube prevent speech, but he has nodded his head and at one point even wrote some things down for authorities. If nothing else, at least he seems to be complying.
Everything he says could be complete horse shit, of course, but at least it’s a start.
There is also a chance that Dzhokar experienced some hearing loss after flash-bang grenades were used to flush him out of his hiding place last Friday. And given that he lost so much blood, his recovery may be a little slower than most Americans would like.
We will get answers from him, though. It’s only a matter of time.
Today also saw the federal government file formal charges against the young terrorist, who will be treated as a criminal in civilian court rather than an enemy combatant as part of a military commission. Remember that the latter classification means Dzhokar could be questioned without having his lawyer present. This way he gets a fair shake and, since he is a U.S. citizen, this is likely the best way to go.
“We have a long history of successfully prosecuting terrorists and bringing them to justice,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said recently. “The President fully believes that that process will work in this case.”
Carney went on to remind us all that “since 9/11 we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists.” While this doesn’t make me feel much better—Who knew there were hundreds of terrorists even living among us?—it does uphold the “innocent until proven guilty” principle upon which our entire criminal justice system was built. This also removes all (or at least most) of the potential complaints about Dzhokar’s civil rights being violated.
People will still complain, mind you, but at least this allows us to “cover our bases” a little better.
Once he recovers and is fit to stand trial, Dzhokar faces one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death, as well as one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. And if you ask me, that might be the only way of ensuring that justice is served after this terrible act.
His brother Tamerlan certainly got what was coming to him. And he did so without the American public having to fork over one more dime to try, convict and potentially house him during years and years of appeals.
Speaking of Tamerlan, I heard something about him earlier that I also find rather disturbing, only far less so than the heinous crime he just committed. Apparently, he was married to Katherine Russell and even had a young daughter. While Katy worked long hours as a home health care professional, Tamerlan would stay home and care for their child.
Doesn’t sound like your typical terrorist, does it? And since Katy had no knowledge of what her husband was planning—and no clear warning signs that he may be coming unhinged—she was very upset to see him on the news and to learn about what he had been accused of doing.
“They’re very distraught,” Katy’s attorney Amato DeLuca told reporters. “Their lives have been unalterably changed. They’re upset because of what happened, the people that were injured, that were killed. And of course Katy, it’s even worse because what she lost—her husband and the father of her daughter.”
Chalk up yet another tragedy resulting from this senseless act of terrorism. Is there no end to the destruction these brothers caused?
The investigation into the backgrounds and possible motives for the Tsarnaev brothers’ actions continue, with authorities working hard to track the weapons and bomb components used, to dig through each suspect’s past history and to determine if others may have been involved in this vicious attack.
Most still contend that these guys acted alone, but you just never know.
Here’s another little tidbit about Tamerlan that now seems more foreboding. Last January, he apparently attended a service at the Islamic Society of Boston‘s mosque in Cambridge and “went off” on a speaker who compared the Prophet Mohammed to Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Several members of the congregation were able to calm him down—and he appeared regularly at services after the incident—but it now seems like radicalism rearing its ugly head.
If only someone had noticed and taken steps to truly help Tamerlan back then, it’s possible the bombing in Boston could have been prevented entirely. Of course, we all know that “hindsight is 20/20,” so would we have picked up on something like this and taken action? I have my doubts.
Regardless of the facts that come to light later today, tomorrow or even weeks from now, the important thing to remember is this: the recovery from what happened a week ago in Boston will go on indefinitely.
There are people who have to learn to live without limbs, families that lost loved ones (including children who lost parents, like Tamerlan’s daughter) and thousands of others who will be affected for years to come. Eventually, our great nation will heal, though.
It always does.