17 June 2016

I want to look at a clock ...

I want to look at a clock, one with hands— on the wall or on a bookshelf — to tell the time.  I don’t want to look at a phone, unless it’s ringing.

I want to fish into my pocket to find a quarter and slot it into a candy machine, where I have to hand crank it to get some M&Ms or a gumball to tumble out.

I want to drive on a gravelly road, on whitewalls on an old truck with a real carburetor, with a rusty hinge creaking open, with me and the wife and kids going to get a Coke.

I’d like to write a letter to the Editor of the Times and have it published and then receive thoughtful comments back from identified readers with an opposite opinion, instead of today’s trolls.

I’d like to go to a physical bookstore, smell the stacks, buy a book, read it and put it on my bookshelf. I’d like to think that there’s a world where that is still possible.

I’d like to know all in my neighborhood and their kids and barking dogs, even their family history. I’d like that rather than having no clue who my neighbors are two doors down.

Would that we could avoid the tyranny of the urgent, pulling us unproductively.

Would that we could avoid the trappings of “success,” tempting us to riches or fame.

Would that you and I could embrace the here and now, not yesterday’s failures or tomorrow's ersatz victories, framing for us a present life worthy of living.

16 May 2016

1st Amendment ... Our Freedoms (of Religion and Speech) are quietly being snuffed out across the Western World

In marketing we talk about "second screen" quite a bit, where viewers of today's new golden age of television shows will have their iPad or phablet also on, flipping to related websites or running Bing searches for additional insight (I'm off Google for the time being ... for the time Bing?!).  I am in fact sitting here right now with three screens opened on my bed: Apple's iPad which is still on from last night's Netflix 30Rock escorting yours truly off to the land of nod; Microsoft Surface that I'm typing on for this article, er, blog entry; and my LG Vista which I'm texting on trying to close some lead-gen business with a law firm in Florida, and my computer way over yonder on my stand-up desk (he really is a stand-up sort of fellow and workhorse, my stand-up desk -- yes, my desk is male, until the Bruce Jenner in him comes to light, at which time we'll part ways with polite hugs and pat-pat back rubs for Caitlyn and Jg.  As an fyi, I see Caitlyn almost each week here at our local coffee joint where ole Jenner rolls up in the Porsche GT3).  So, that's a total of 4 screens going now, which is especially egregious when one considers we're in California where power, she ain't cheap.

Playing on my Spotify is Bill Evans "But Beautiful," and I'm just letting it repeat itself, burrowing its melodic self into my medula oblongata ... or maybe that's the hippocampus?  Anyway, I've been sitting on a piece (this one you're currently suffering through) since April of 2015.  Recent events, especially President (BHO No. 44) Obama's transgen fiat bathroom demands to all the states and also last year's SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage, have put a shiv in my back to finally hit "publish" on this languishing piece. So, here goes.

Many of you good folks may know, especially you, Dear Reader, of my bouts of prolixity and wont of sesquipedalianism.  This piece will prove and offer scant difference.

If one goes back a mere decade or two, it was (almost) inconceivable that our coeval Freedoms of Speech and Religion, subsumed under the 1st Amendment, would have been characterized as teetering on the precipice of a sacrificial slide onto the alter of political correctness.  That phrase "PC" seems quaint, now, as it fails to capture the mean-spiritedness and small-mindedness of the phrase that now occupies (an appropriate phrase, "occupies") the zeitgeist of our age, especially those on the Left. They perseverate on some small battle that maybe impacts .03% of the US population, e.g., bathrooms for all "genders," until the issue is ground-down and they finally chew the cud on the issue, grinding every last ounce, drop and meaning from its corpus-once-bolus. Then these no-job-having-know-it-all's, aka organizers, will then flashmob over to the next Alinsky battle, e.g., some name of a sports team (meh), or an historical flag flown in a southern clime (well worth the discussion), or hairstyle worn by a person of non-color who's accused of appropriating a put-upon culture of color for their own enjoyment, which is a micro-aggression of the first-order. (If you haven't seen this as an issue, click the link.)

Without the Freedom of Speech there is no plenary power -- gleaned in this once robust right -- enabling the complete ability to practice one's religion faithfully.  Without the Freedom of Speech how can believers, the faithful, distinguish their view of truth from those held by others in our hyper-pluralistic civil society?  To have the ability to uniquely perambulate philosophically on their journey of discovery, to cogitate and to masticate on and digest all things presented to them, to each of us, things of import, different flavors of religion, thought, cultures (pop and otherwise), textures and stratum of worldviews.    Our still-though-less-great nation affords so many of my GenX gene pool an opportunity to the hyper PC things around.  When I was in high school, I visited a friend's church and found, after a three month investigatory journey, that I quite liked this particular brand of faith.  This has been a 30-year journey that seems each year to be more and more under the gun of anti-theist rhetoric (thanks Dawkins / Hitchens antipathy, and a mainstream media ersatz laicite) and a condescending culture coastal elite comfortably mocking Judeo-Christian traditionalists.

Because our world here in the US is indeed hyper-pluralistic and hyper-sensitive -- for some the very definition of political correctness -- the exception is swallowing the rule. Because the Left places the rights of the minority in a place of primacy over American dominant culture points of view for the simple and paternalistic reason is that they (the liberal Left) are afraid to allow the minority positions to have their positions, faiths, opinions or lifestyles challenged by what is now or has been historically traditional culture in the United States or the West in general or even in State cultures at a more granular level.

This column is not about me and my faith and any proselytization or pronouncement against another's faith or lifestyle or culture or sexual identity.  It's about Free Speech for all of us. I'm merely pointing out recent policy exemplars on the Left of me in terms of contradistinction.  Your freedom and my freedom to speak our minds, fully and as emotionally and reverently and jealously as we should for things of import.  But, it's also about common sense and reasonableness and about adults calling out the childish, churlish and destructive behaviors of those amongst who don't want reasonable debate, discussion and comity and urbane discourse.

As James Madison wrote in his "Memorial and Remonstrance" published in 1784, 5 years after the Constitution codified:
The religion then, of every man, must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.
James Madison, as a quick reminder, was the primary drafter of our US Constitution, and was the primary drafter of the 1st Amendment in our Bill of Rights as well.  He knew a thing or two about good citizenry, and religious freedom, and the spheres of jurisdiction that protect religious practitioners from zealous overreach both by the government, as well as those citizens (viz., anti-theists) offended by the mere existence of religion and religious life in the Colonies, and these United States some 225 years later.  The artist Basquiat was also familiar with citizenship freedoms that allow for expression of oneself by simply moving-on, and "put it all in one bag" and not engage. Every man, as Madison wrote, has the right exercise religion as they see fit.

Basquiat Notebook 1980-81 (Citizen in Parking Lot)

It's not just religion, it's freedom to say whatever the hell you want, in whatever fashion you want, to whomever you want (or to no one in particular)! All caps alert: BUT, it does not mean you and I have the right to be heard. You and I DO NOT have the right to barge into a Bernie Sanders meeting and start chanting "Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry! She's the one for 2016!" while ole silver haired Bernard is waxing eloquent about taking 90% of Susan Sarandon's income to give to the $15/hr minimum wage Burger King workers. In the law, we look at "time, place and manner of restriction."  They do not cover private events, on private property, where the government has no duty to allow you the Hillary voter to take over a Bernie supporter event.

Also enshrined in this Amendment of ours is the right to peaceably assemble. In other words, to gather together with others who think as we do, whether religiously or politically or "lifestylie"; or in sports or art or volunteerism.  But, if you disagree with me and any of my alleged cohorts, you have the right NOT to assemble with us.  Just as we have the right to assemble without those who disagree with us, whether that be at your private club or my church or your non-profit that believes animals have the same rights as people or me and my group that likes to BBQ those animals on Saturday after church, Shul, or the bridge club bacchanalia. This is our collective GREAT right to gather and to discuss.

As an example of such gathering, I put this little test to you, Dear Reader, that juxtaposes two disparate groups and their worldview and the practical consequences of such beliefs.  1. is the TEA Party (taxed enough already) and 2. Black Lives Matter.

The first group is a group of mostly middle-and-soon-to-be-aged Boomer/GenX types who became disgusted with the profound waste the federal government exhibits as it spends its way toward oblivion on things which are never going to be realized in any form of value for our country.  But it's really about the legacy of debt and wasteful spending that these TEA Party types are concerned about all of our children who will inherit -- regardless of their race, gender, politics and college education. They, our grand babies, are going to carry the poor decisions of those in government for the next century.

(Note, for the record, and btdubs, I am not a TEA party person; never have been and will probably not be in the future. It's what Groucho Marx said: I wouldn't want to join any group or club that would have me as a member!)

After each and every TEA party type gathering that I am aware of, America the country is praised, flags are waived, flown, worn, and revered.  Trash is picked-up, and the meetings while sometimes loud and boisterous, and filled with shouts and chants and bellyaching, are ended and completed with individuals making sure the place where these gatherings occurred were better than when they got there. Run a Bing.com search on this point if you don't believe, you incredulous beautiful bastard, you!

Now ... compare these TEA party rallies and protests with those of the second group mentioned above, i.e., BLM or Occupy (wherever) type protests.  These are riots.  People are injured. American flags are burned.  Buildings are burned, from Baltimore to Ferguson. No one pulls permits. The places, parks and particular cities are literally trashed.  It's not a matter of discourse, debate and discussion. It's chaos. It's disruption. It's about revenge. Cops are targeted and shot at. So are firefighters. I should clarify and acknowledge the some permits are pulled, but most are not. Our high schools and colleges are the brainwashing breeding grounds where our sons, daughters and their student friends to become the next disaffected, race-baiting, hair-triggered radical organizers of tomorrow.

As one who's lived in Inglewood and SoCentral, Los Angeles for 10 years, I know a thing or two about economically strained neighborhoods, and the racial make-up of many different groups therein, and the types of businesses and entrepreneurs that thrive in these communities south of the 10 Fwy. And I've seen the wonderful impact churches and schools and the Boy Scouts and universities and other mediating institutions that help to transition, mentor and model what successful behaviors young citizens will need to become the types of adults who can help turn around our country.  We do not need negative modeling by those throwing Molotov cocktails, but we need the men and women of color, who stand on the front and are the thin blue lines facing BLM and Occupy mobs weekly. We do not need thug life, that latches on to slights, past systemic wrongs and current tough circumstances the kind of folk like Booker T Washington described as acting like "crabs in a bucket" not wishing any to succeed, but rather we need more exemplars of forgiveness, more moments of grace given, and extra helpings of hopefulness that looks for the best regardless and sees adversity as the wet stone to sharpen a burgeoning life of excellence and accomplishment, sated with future successes soon to be realized.

So, do yourself a favor, even if you despise my worldview, have a listen to Mark Steyn above, and see if what he's saying isn't in fact so. That we're losing our freedoms slowly but surely across the West. Believe, me, he's well worth the time to listen in for a bit.

01 January 2016

FatScribe Top20 Films 2015

There are only so many times you can let your blog go to pot. I mean, really go to fallow ground, spoiled earth and soil, type of going to pot. I'm glad I have somewhat thrown an occasional seed to the ground over here, with some accompanying manure in the form of my wordsmithing (if I can call it that), my dark brooding moodiness for the much-needed SoCal rain, and my nonetheless sunshiny personality to bring down those good vibey solar smiley rays.

Re: above. Love film. Love to write about film and to critique it. And, to write my own films (about five (5) to-date). Good gawd, I would l-o-v-e to see some poor schlep (schlub/shlub?) actually have to write about one of my films ... now that'd be cool to be sure.

Anyway, Happy New Years for 2016, Dear Reader.  You've been a welcome guest around these here parts. Let's make it a good, nay, a great year over the next 365 days. Do your best and I'll do mine as well. Be nicer to the mailman, and I'll be nicer to my humorless octogenarian charge, even when he least deserves it. If you promise to floss, I'll raise you with getting up an hour earlier to get my quiet time in to help set my tone for the day.

Oh, one final thing: if you will promise to be gracious to your spouse, even when it seems a herculean task, wrapped in a Sisyphean effort, inside a crawling-across-glass chore,  I can commit to working on my taxes and facing a few well chosen personal "Giants" with aplomb in 2016.  It's good to be accountability buddies with ya.  See ya 'round the next post on the ole porkster.  Now, go crush 2016 like it's a poor defenseless gazelle to your goal-accomplishing python.

11 December 2015

Middle Income v. Middle Class

So, I've been thinking about this contradistinction quite a bit as of late, that is to say, what is middle class in America? Indeed, are we "middle class" if we're not uber wealthy?  When I started LuxeMont (justluxe.com) just out of law school ten years back or so, it was about an aspirational/lifestyle "eyeballs" play where we'd drive millions of readers each month to our various web properties with the hope of engaging demographics along the likes/lines of those whose incomes were well within the "very wealthy" and "wealthy" and the "wannabe wealthy" silos. And, of course, we'd load up 3 ads per page and publish a boatload of pages filled with loverly, luxe and lasting content.

Original landing page JustLuxe.com
Middle-income for a family of 3 in the U.S. (according to Pew/Bloomberg) is $53k approximately. As an entrepreneur post grad school I've emptied my pockets three times to start businesses, and have known a few lean years at this level; and as an exec consultant in the legal space (when I needed a day job to pay the bills), I've known much better years ... and not once have I ever felt that I wasn't "middle class." Okay, maybe upper-middle class during those good years? But still, in the big city, with loads of expenses, lower six-figures ain't goin' far. (see additional belly aching below.)

But, income is soooo overrated. It's not the end-all, be-all, say in Kansas City or Lynchburg or Waco or Detroit.  In these cities, the middle-income level will buy a quaint home quite nicely with the right debt ratios and reserves and stable job and decent income.  You're golden as they say, and quality of life seems to be infinitely better.  Perhaps that's for another discussion another day.

In Los Angeles or New York or San Francisco, a triple-salary of $150k will most likely not be adequate to the task of buying you a nice home, most likely in the $1M to $2M range (without an extraordinarily large down to adjust for the borrower's ratios).  Which, btdubs Dear Reader, in some trendy neighborhoods in these major DMAs, a million-dollar home will only get you a smallish apartment or constrictive townhouse.

No, we are definitely in some sort of real estate bubble, IMHO. And, there will be downstream corrections in various regions of this great country of ours. Here in L.A., we just got our first $500Million home listing (or soonish). Check out this Bloomberg report.

But, if this marks uber-wealth, does middle-income necessarily mean "middle class"? If one buys into the notion of eating out several times a week at trendy restaurants, traveling several times a year, and driving two leased German cars, then one could be living an upper-income lifestyle, but with a poorhouse destination.  It's more than income, it's a mindset, n'est pas?  The above Pew/Bloomberg report and survey was quite interesting and highly dispositive regarding our discussion.  I'd take a nice, safe, quaint mid-city (say 250,000 residents or less) way of life in a southern clime any day over an expensive, sketchy, big-city (over a few million population) stressed out life where both parents have to work and life is all hustle and bustle and kids have to be in private school, and there's no end in sight ... whew! Sorry, got carried away there for a second.  I may have to check in with Dave Ramsey.

What do you think?  As always, would love to hear your thoughts.