Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

By the time you read this I will have attended my 40th high school reunion.  I have avoided most class reunions at the various institutes of learning I have graced after the 20th.  This is because they tend to be rather dreary affairs at their best.  That and I am pretty much in contact with those classmates who I am close to on a weekly, if not daily, basis. If I am not in contact with somebody (and vice-versa) there is probably a reason for that.  And attending a reunion is not likely to change that.  

Truth of the matter is that I really don't have much interest in attending tonight's gala. (You may safely deduce that I am writing this on the Saturday before) Off the top of my head, I have remained in contact with maybe 6 people with whom I attended high school.  The Reunion Committee (God love them) thought I might help them find people that were eluding contact.  I don't know why they thought that.  I didn't remember 2/3 of the people on the list.  And I mistakenly identified one as dead.  Which they unfortunately ran with much to his considerable surprise which he quickly communicated from here on this Vale of Tears where he is still in residence.

Sure it will be a nice event.  The women on the Committee have worked really hard.  It will be good to see folks I haven't seen in eons.  It will be a beautiful Autumn night at a great venue.

But just for a little bit I would fake a car wreck or something to avoid this.  So why am I doing this?  After all, as someone pointed out the other day, I am not the sort of man that does things I don't want to do even though I concede that I'm not exactly charging a machine gun nest here. 

Here's why.  When Mother died I was set upon by a bunch of women from my high school class.  Some came from far away to be at the visitation.  Some I had not seen in years.  But it was like somebody sounded a fire alarm somewhere.  And these women came out of the blue because they loved me.  

I didn't even know.  

Fast forward 4 years to last Wednesday.  

It might alarm you to know that I am a mentor at the law school.  The Dean in charge of the program gave my name to a young first year student who foolishly thought I would be good for her primarily on the basis of stuff I had written that she found floating around the Internet when she googled me.  

She can't help it that she is not yet quite capable of discernment.  

I met her for lunch last Wednesday.  Nice kid.  Really smart. So purposeful and earnest.  She rattled off questions she had for me from the bullet list installed in her head. Boom, boom, boom.  It was kinda funny.  Part of my grilling came from her desire to find out why my career path went the way it did which was fine.  Besides the public record is the public record.  And part of it was because she is a woman.  It has been my experience that many women have a genuine interest in learning about a new friend's life and family on the front end whereas most guys would prefer to learn such details by what passes for osmosis. I suspect that so it is with my new protege.  

"How old are you anyway?" I asked.

"Guess my age," she replied.

"I'm not very good at this sort of thing in general," I said. "And I'm never around young women any more, unless they are like, 15 or something."

"Oh c'mon," she said.  "Throw out a number."

How old was I when I entered law school?  I couldn't remember.  Honestly.

"22?"

She points her thumb to the ceiling and jacks it up.  Higher.

"23?"

"24," she said." I had to do an internship after college to get my RDN. So I'm a year behind." 

Good God.  A time table.  She's way more focused than I was.  But then again, New Orleans will impart focus issues to a young man. Point for me.

"I guess I was 24 once," I said.  

The fact that I am going to a high school reunion is proof that I was 17 once en route to being where I am now where ever this is.  And now I've got a young law student in my charge. It all pretty surreal.  

She and I will be just fine.  She thinks I'm funny.  Really smart women tend to appreciate funny.  Hopefully this can overcome my lack of technical expertise in the law.  

Speaking of women, I am going to go do this thing tonight mostly because those women that showed up out of the blue a few years ago want me there. And to acknowledge a kindness that is beyond my capacity to ever fully repay.

The fact that Grand Funk Railroad will be playing in the background is grossly unfair.  But I will get through it.












Sunday, September 07, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

I made a cameo appearance at church last Friday night.  One can deduce that one's attendance is irregular when the pastor greets you with "What are you doing here?"

I am going to assume that he was referring to my showing up on Friday rather than the occasional Sunday.  

I don't know.  I was interested in the sermon topic.  And the finals of the US Open will be on Sunday.  So there I was.  For whatever reason.

Anyway, Rev. Skarda's sermon series for the next fortnight or so will be on "When Christians Get It Wrong." Or what I would just refer to as Bad Theology. Unfortunately Bad Theology, being easy to grasp and conveniently malleable to fit most prejudices pervades American junk culture.  

Rev. Skarda led off Friday night on one of my personal favorites " Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner." I have written about this before.  It is right up there with other such foolishness as "God Never Puts More On You Than You can Stand (nobody ever says withstand) and other similar gems.  I haven't looked ahead to see what all is going to be discussed.  But I bet that God smiting you with a tornado really being within your tolerance level as He, in His infinite mercy, would never lay on you more than you can stand, or withstand if you prefer, will be on the list. 

My main personal problem with hating sin but loving the sinner, at least up until last Friday night, is that this notion is never applied to any sins other than those of the sexual variety, for those who are predisposed to traffic in condemnation of such matters. More specifically it usually confined to gay folks.  

Having said that I do indeed believe that people involved in prison ministries "love the sinner."  They would have to.  So I give them a pass from this libel as they are getting their hands dirty doing the work of the Lord with people you and I would rather not deal with. 

But you never hear "I hate the armed robbery but I love the perpetrator." Why not? Sin is sin, right?  As for me, I could give two hoots in hell about what consenting adults do behind the privacy of a closed door.  And I can damn sure come closer to loving that particular "sinner" than the asshole that sticks a gun in my face.

Weak vessel for God that I am, I cannot imagine that I could bring myself to love anybody that assaults me.  And guess what? I bet that most of the smug adherents to HSLS wouldn't either.  That's where the hypocrisy comes in.  All of us are sexual beings, but not all of us are likely to be victims of violent crime, to use my most grotesque example.  Insert your own if you like.  Let me know how you really feel about embezzlers.  It is safe to believe in this notion because it is an abstraction for the most part.

Except that it's not.  Sermons can be like baseball.  And I'm not referring to the fact that both can be long and drawn out.  No.  Just when you think you've seen, or heard it all, something new pops up.  Here's where Rev. Skarda comes in. He led off with the fact that nowhere in the Bible is this notion mentioned. OK. That much I knew.

He then pointed out something out that I had never considered.  When you say that you "hate the sin but love the sinner" you are setting yourself apart.  You are making yourself superior. This is the sin of pride which even pedantic gasbag C.S. Lewis held was the worst of all sins.  Because narcissism is in the same Area Code.  And narcissism is both lethal and abundant in society.  By way of example, as I used to say, not all narcissists are batterers.  But all batterers are narcissists.  I give you the recent news out of the NFL if you need a recent example of the breadth of the issue.

Also, as Rev. Skarda pointed out, Jesus ate with the the tax collectors and the prostitutes, much to the horror of the scribes and pharisees.  And probably to the horror of some of the tax collectors and working girls come to think of it.  (I added that last part.) He didn't announce he was going to do it.  He just humbled Himself to do it.  And I like to think that He would break bread today with the sinners that are the objects of such prideful "love." 

So what's wrong with "hating the sin and loving the sinner?" 

It's narcissistic. It's typically selectively (in my experience) invoked in service of prejudice.  And it's impractical.  Apart from all that it is right up there with the Doctrine of the Trinity as far as soundness goes.  

Sermons are like baseball.  Every now and again something pops up that you've never seen or heard before. That happened Friday night.







Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Labor Day Weekend Feeling

Taking the day off.  From what?  I can hear it now.

Off to put the seersucker suit and the white bucks in the closet until next Spring.

Have fun on your own!  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Sunday Feeling



I don't know what happened between that kid and the cop in Ferguson, Missouri a couple of weeks ago.  Neither do you.  

And I am as pro-law enforcement as they come.  I like visiting with cops whenever I get the chance.  I had dinner with a prosecutor buddy last week. I have referred any number of bad actors to investigators over my 28 years with Uncle.  

So don't get me wrong.  

But here are things I don't understand.  

I don't understand how an unarmed teenager catches numerous slugs from somebody trained in the use of weapons and supposedly operating under rules of engagement for both aggressive confrontation with a citizen and the use of deadly force.  

Look at the picture above.  

I get riot gear.  I don't get camo.  This is Missouri.  This is the United States of America. This is not Beirut.  

I get cops protecting themselves.  I don't get pointing automatic weapons at a person whose hands are in the air.  The optics are terrible.

Speaking of optics, if you are scared of black folks, you might find my trainer Dennis to be a pretty scary dude by the first glance.  He's built like the former DI defensive back and boxer that he was.  He wears his hair in dreadlocks.  

He's also former Navy Special Forces and a former Memphis cop.  Indeed, he recently interacted with law enforcement when he got pulled over by LRPD for some traffic thing.  I asked him how it went.

" I told him that I was a former cop in Memphis, that I have a concealed carry permit and a Glock in the door.  And I told him that I wanted to get home that night just as bad as he did."

And that pretty much diffused any potential tension.  The officer checked out his paperwork and sent Dennis on his merry way with the admonition to lighten up on the gas pedal.

I asked Dennis what he thought about the police response to the discord in Ferguson.  

"You never point a weapon at somebody unless you are 100% ready to kill that person," he said.  "You don't point a weapon at somebody who is complying.  You never point a weapon at somebody who is just running his mouth.  Mouth never killed anybody.  In fact, the dude that is running his mouth ain't likely to do anything but that.  It's the ones that don't talk that you have to watch. But you don't produce your weapon unless you have reason to and are prepared to put that individual away."

It also makes for bad optics.

Here's another thing I don't get.  Ferguson, Missouri has about 20,000 folks there on a good Saturday night.  

What possible need do the cops there-or any similar sized police agency- have for military grade equipment?  I get the fact that since 9-11 police forces throughout the US have legit concerns about terrorism.  However, I sincerely doubt that Shining Path has a sleeper cell in Bryant, Arkansas.  I say take the toys away from Barney Fife and give it back to the Feds.

I also don't get elected officials calling for removal of the prosecutor there and convicting the police officer involved in the media.  Cool heads need to prevail.  

I don't know what happened between that kid and the cop 2 weeks ago. Neither do you.

State and Federal authorities are all over this terrible situation.  All we can do is await the answer.  

And hope that Mayor Stodola and our new Chief of Police are reviewing the policies and rules of engagement in order to prevent such a tragedy from happening here in Little Rock.  




Sunday, August 17, 2014

AWOL

Too much stuff going on this weekend to fool with blogging.  Will be back soon.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Sunday Feeling


One thing that is true both of baseball and the performing arts is that just when you think you have seen it all something else comes along to fool you. Early last week I was introduced on Facebook to Puddles the Clown and his website PuddlesPityParty.com. In reality Puddles is a 6'8" singer and performance artist out of Atlanta named Mike Geier who performs as "Big Mike Geier."

The video embedded here is of him doing a cover version of Lorde's "Royals" both of which I had been unaware of until I became aware of Puddles as well.  As my young friend Lucas Murray would say "it's a well constructed song." And Geier sings the living Hell out of it.  

The imagery is striking.  Here's a big man in white face portraying a melancholy clown singing a song written by a woman.  He silently comes on stage carrying a suitcase and a lantern giving off a vibe of homelessness and searching.  As I've gotten interested in this act, I've noticed that Geier typically starts a performance by staring at the audience with no expression on his face at all a la Andy Kaufman.  If Andy Kaufman were built like a lineman and dressed as a Pierrot.  At about 3 minutes (I've timed him) you start to hear nervous laughter from the audience.  

And then he just starts singing.  The video here has him silent for about 30 seconds before he gets going.

One of the most striking things about Geier is that he reminds me of Philip Seymour Hoffman in that both are big men and yet so graceful.  As you watch the video take notice of the gestures and the changes of expression.  I watched it 5 times in a row the other day and caught something different every time.  

And the expressions.  Is Puddles angry? Euphoric? Psychotic? Depressed? Hubris infected?  Overly in touch with his fem side?  Gay? Straight? Dunno. Maybe yes to all.  The expressions change with every measure.  Which leads me to the next point.

Geier isn't just screwing around (I resisted the word "clowning") up there. This character is the product of a lot of thought rehearsal and discipline.  And Geier isn't stupid.  This video has gotten over 8,000,000 views.  Geier's got as nice a baritone voice as I've heard lately.  But Bryn Terful he is not.  And Mike Geier doing grrl music isn't going to get 8,000,000 hits.  

A Bunyanesque man in whiteface with a nice voice and a crown just might.  

Is Puddles a gimmick?  Of course it is.  But unlike Kiss, Gwar, Insane Clown Posse, and even Parliament, this is a benign gimmick in service of the music. And Geier, in creating this semi-menacing character, has achieved what every performer wants. After all, you can't not watch as that beautiful voice comes out of that, that thing.  My friend S was over the other night.  Clowns scare her and she couldn't take her eyes off him.

This is pretty crazy.  But it's inspired crazy.  

And if the brain trust behind the Batman movies is reading this I've got another candidate to play the Joker.

Oh, and check out the video on You Tube where they cover Lorde's "Team." Watch for the saxophone player.

Like I said, this is pretty crazy.  But it's inspired crazy.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

My Sunday Feeling


Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice did a very bad thing last February in a New Jersey casino. He cold cocked his then fiance.  Shortly thereafter he got caught on camera dragging the obviously unconscious Janay Palmer out of an elevator.  Take a look for yourself.  The imagery couldn't be more stark.

It shows the powerfully built Rice dragging an inert and utterly defenseless Parker.  Not only is this video damning in its depiction of the obvious differences in power between the two figures, it also amply demonstrates how not to transport someone who has sustained a concussion.  A fair fight this was not.  

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rightly considered this incident to be a violation of the league's much ballyhooed "personal conduct policy" for which Rice caught a 2 game suspension and a fine of $529,411.24 (3 game checks).  And all Hell immediately broke loose among women's rights groups and advocates for victims of domestic violence claiming that the punishment was too lenient.  After all, other players have received stiffer penalties for smoking dope and doing performance enhancing drugs(PEDs).  

Goodell defended the punishment imposed upon Rice, saying that the other disciplinary actions were consistent with penalties negotiated with the NFL Players Union, so Rice's case fell under the evidently much more amorphous personal conduct policy which is the direct province of the Commissioner.

I am a lawyer.  I get this.  There was no policy in the collective bargaining agreement with the player's union that covered this incident. Rice was a first offender who Goodell said "has taken responsibility for this." And Rice, who was charged with assault by the authorities, has agreed to enter into counseling in a pre-trial diversion program for domestic violence.  

But still, Terelle Pryor caught a 5 game suspension in 2011 for selling Ohio State memorabilia BACK WHEN HE WAS IN COLLEGE. Granted, he also got Ohio State put on probation but the question remains why Goodell imposed 5 games on Pryor and only 2 on Rice.

Janay Palmer married her batterer.  (Which I don't get but which is a another topic entirely.) She also asked the league to be lenient with Rice.  Maybe that impacted Goodell's decision as well.  

Or maybe he doesn't get it.  After all, he wouldn't be the first.  Granted, I didn't much get it until I represented battered spouses in divorce cases.  And I later went on the serve on the Board of the local women's shelter.  I've seen women with broken jaws.  I've seen them with shiners.  Hell, I've seen a 4 year old with a shiner.  One of my best friends had the daylights beaten out of her when she was married to her first husband. It changes the way that you look at these issues.

It doesn't make me man of the year.  But it does mean that if I were Roger Goodell Ray Rice would have been suspended for a big chunk of this season. If only to make an example of him.  

Here's my proposed rule: You hit a woman you don't play football for a very long time.  Seems simple to me and entirely consistent with the hyper-macho culture of the NFL.  After all, I was taught that only "sissies" hit girls.  But that was only because "narcissist" is too big a word to explain to a 7 year old.  

As for Rice, he is saying all the right things.  

"[O]ne thing going forward that I can control is being a better father, a better husband, being a better role model going forward, being a better person going forward." 

And "I let my wife down, I let my daughter down, I let my wife's parents down, I let the whole Baltimore community down...because of 30 seconds of my life that I know I can't take back."

Ray Rice has a reputation for being a good guy.  I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.  And I hope he learns his lesson.

But he is a big powerful man in a league full of them.  It is not inconceivable that he could have killed Janay that night.  Or that she could have been hurt worse than she apparently was.

The League and the Union need to adopt penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence.  I like my proposal.  You hit a woman and you don't play football for a very long time.  Open the can.  Get out the lawyers.  Negotiate this.  Bring in some experts.  Go visit a shelter.  Get this done.

After all, hasn't the NFL supposedly gotten serious about concussions?