Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A must-read comment from another post.

Please go to this post and read today's comment from Anonymous (currently the final comment). It expresses what I've been trying to do hereand my exasperation with what so many of the SHAMmers are doingbetter and more poignantly than anything I've written in the decade of this blog's existence. 

Thank you, Anon.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Donald Trump: explained. (Hint: He's Tony Robbins.)

To echo what I just tweeted (I say such things lest people think I'm unaware of recycling my words), I am extremely pleased/proud that my fine editor at the New York Daily News, Josh Greenman, saw fit to publish my piece on Donald Trump on the eve of the New York primaries. 

A dog story.

Somebody told me a story today and it's one of those stories I'm sure I'll remember to the day I die. We tend to say such things too often and too unthinkingly. Not so here.

There's this buddy of mine*, a guy I never got to know all that well. (I'm not sure anyone knows him all that well.) Yet I know him well enough to like him and admire him as a person and a man. And as you read this, keep in mind that my buddy is a serious, no-bullshit kind of guy, a mountain of a man who was once tasked with doing shadowy things for our government that he still can't admit to on the record a quarter-century later. That's not some bar line in his case, it's the god's truth. I checked him out. We'll leave it at that. Larger point being, my buddy is not easily given to sentimentality. 

 My buddy had rescued a gigantic hybrid wolf-dog that people initially warned him not to bring into his life. Unpredictable temperament. Why take that chance? 

Wolf-dog turned out to be a wonderful addition to the family, striking the perfect balance between pet and protector. He loved his adoptive family from the first, and like most watchdogs, he had that sixth sense that enabled him to know beforehand when trouble was afoot. All visitors who were expected were welcomed graciously onto the premises during daylight hours, but you did not go near the property at night when all were asleep inside, especially if my buddy was away on business or whatever. The one exception to the latter caveat was kids; wolf-dog just loved children. My buddy would joke that some 9-year-old burglar probably could've crept into the house at midnight, made off with all the jewelry and electronics, and 120-pound wolf-dog would've cheerfully accompanied the kid on his mission into and out of the house, "smiling" and nuzzling the intruder's legs the whole time. 

The dog also loved to play tennis. He would fetch the balls my buddy hit to his side of the net, race back to center-court and somehow spit/toss the balls a dozen yards over the net in the general direction of my buddy's waiting racquet, poised for another volley.

For more than a dozen years my buddy and wolf-dog dog criss-crossed the country together. As my buddy's life grew more prosperous, wolf-dog went from watching over the picket fence of a modest tract home to patrolling the grounds of an authentic horse farm; he performed his chores with obvious pride and purpose. Each morning wolf-dog would amble out to the stable and say hello to his equine pals, then survey the property and eventually return. The dog never complained, was content to take on whatever role my buddy assigned to him, even if it meant sitting in the front seat of a moving van with basically nothing to do but watch the landscape gradually transform as my buddy took his family from west coast to east coast, then back again, then back east again. 

Shortly after arriving in Pennsylvania this last time, my buddy began to notice the changes. They sneaked up on him, as changes in a family pet almost always will. My buddy would notice them mostly when he returned from being out of town for a week or so. Nothing you could pinpoint at firstand still wolf-dog never complainedbut just a subtle difference in gait and demeanor. And now there were times when wolf-dog would come back to his favored resting spot, a cushion on the ground near the barbecue pit, before finishing a full survey of the property. One day my buddy was watching from the deck as wolf-dog started back to his resting spot before even saying good morning to the horses.

They went to the vet the next day. Bone cancer. Advanced. 

"Do you know what we're we talking about in terms of time?" my buddy asked.

The vet told him, "The dog will let you know." Despite the circumstances, my buddy allowed himself a small chuckle, thinking, You don't understand this animal, doc. Wolf-dog had been stoic from day one, never showing fear, never showing pain, not even for a moment; not even after getting hit by a car, once, back in those early California days. He just went about his wolf-doggy business with stoicism and purpose. 

One morning a few weeks later wolf-dog struggled getting to his feet from his backyard cushion. He shot my buddy a faltering glance and emitted a short whimper. My buddy had never heard that sound emanate from his pet before, not in 13 years. The dog then bowed his head slightly, as if embarrassed at his momentary lapse, or so it seemed to my buddy. But then the huge animal lifted his head, fixed my buddy with an unblinking stare and whimpered a second time. Stoic again now, still proud. Holding eye contact. Just sharing the necessary information.

It was time. 

My buddy said good-bye to his beloved wolf-dog the next morning. 

* whom I choose not to identify for reasons having nothing to do with any of this. Improbable legal mess in which we're both entangled.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

"Mr. McDavis...rebuild this wall!"

Interesting tension developing on college campuses between "safe spaces"/"trigger warnings" and the Trump candidacy, as the GOP primary season races toward the checkered flag. In yesterday's news, the president of Ohio University, Roderick J. McDavis, apologized to the school's Hispanic students for the inscription "BUILD THE WALL," which some Trump supporters had painted on a wall designated as a "free speech area." Apparently Pres. McDavis doesn't see the irony of (at least implicitly) chastising students for using the area as it was intended. In point of fact, he took great pains to parse his explanation of why this particular manifestation of free speech wasn't really free speech after all. But in the end, and inevitably, his words reduced to the assertion that free speech isn't free speech if people's feelings are hurt. Glad you cleared that up, sir. 

Hispanic students, by the way, were allowed to paint over the statement. All of which means that Ohio University took an active hand in censoring one of the key platform planks of a candidate who has already amassed millions of votes and is the current front-runner for one of the only two parties that viably compete for the Oval Office.

Curious to see how this plays out big-picture, especially if Trump does indeed become the GOP candidate. How far will academia go in policing the activities of his supporters? They'll almost certainly be a minority, of course, but a vocal one, and they are sure to hold rallies and engage in other public displays of support featuring ideas and slogans that are considered anathemaif not formally verbotenin today's academia, with its obsessive concern for the feelings of its precious little snowflakes. 

Makes you wonder, what the hell would a guy like McDavis do if, say, a David Duke were mounting a presidential campaign? Would students be explicitly banned from actively supporting Duke at all? 

Lest I be misquoted (and become even more of a pariah at Lehigh and elsewhere), I'm not saying a David Duke candidacy would be a good thing, but I go back to what I most assuredly have been saying about Trump and his impolitic politics all along: A person is allowed to run for office and espouse any platform s/he cares to, even if that platform is considered immoral/illegal by all current standards. Laws changeeven the Constitution was intended to be malleable and/or open to different interpretations as required by emerging circumstances. In any case I don't see how we can finesse our way around the bedrock idea that the American people are allowed to vote for whomever they please

Where do I draw the line? Nowhere. If a candidate wants to reinstitute slavery or deny women the right to vote, let him run on that platform and we'll see what happens. If enough Americans want to support his ideas and even, later, perform the necessary amendment to the Constitution, so be it. That is the way our democracy was designed to function. You cannot stifle political initiatives on an a priori basis (though the mainstream media surely try). 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Your hero 'writes' again.

It's been one of those months that reminds me somewhat of the good old days, when I was a full-fledged member (in excellent standing) of the magazine writers' fraternity. I've got a nice little essay in the May issue of Family Circle, on the stands now. The section, titled Road Trip, is an anthology of reflections on the role of cars in our lives; it begins on page 137. Darcy Jacobs (a writer's editor if ever there was one), was nice enough to let me be one of two men to make the cut. Avid SHAMbloggers will recall that Darcy and FamCirc also published my memoir on the special times I enjoyed with my grandson, Jordan, when he lived all too briefly in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, my (uncredited) interview with men's-rights attorney Joe Cordell is a sidebar to a major piece on divorce in the April issue of Men's Health, which lingers on the stands. No doubt you've heard some of Cordell's in-your-face radio spots. Those of you who think that the world has turned completely around such that men now enjoy equal standing with women in the eyes of Family really need to read this interview.

Don't get me wrong. The PR writing that lately gets most of the play on my LinkedIn page and professional site is, for the most part, an honest living. I've done award-winning annual reports for NYSE-listed companies, and I'm enormously proud of those. I got my clients' respective messages across with flair, via many nice touches that are atypical in that type of writing; I like to think the awards we won recognized me for it. (I say "we" because the client wins the awards; my corporate work is anonymous.) I've taken on public-relations projects that were every bit as complex and challenging as any investigative piece I ever did for magazines including Harper's, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, American Legion, Worth and others. I've done superior work in branding or re-branding. PR can also be a spectacular living, certainly on a pro-rata basis. There've been periods in my life (2000-2010 in particular) when 2- or 3-week PR projects paid all the bills for six months or more. There was one ongoing damage-control scenario some years back that paid as muchby itselfas I'd earned the previous year. This was a headline news story—you'd remember itbut as is invariably the case in such work, I am not at liberty to divulge the client or the precise nature of my activities. I can tell you that I made a difference in the way the rest of the media handled, and especially reflected on, the story. 

Alas, that kind of work hasn't come along much in recent times, and regardless of my success at it, it never quite felt like...real writing...anyway. The writers in the audience know of what I speak. Real writing is reflective, original (each time), and writer-generated. It may be written with an audience in mindotherwise why write?but the presentation and point of view are uniquely the author's.

Ah well, I drone on. 
I grow old, I grow old...