Sunday, October 26, 2008

An ode to October

Dear reader, autumn—October in particular—encompasses a lot of feelings for me, all of them good. I love the smell, the look and the sound of leaves that litter the sidewalks and lawns. I love the crisp smell of the autumn air, the sort of smell you only get in late fall. As a kid, I loved the ability to dress in costume and collect candy. Even having a cold at that time of year could be a bit fun, because you had a great excuse to stay curled up in bed longer on chilly October mornings! 
Fall does herald the coming of the winter solstice. I am not fond of winter, especially winter in England when all it does is gust and rain. 
But if I approach autumn as its own unique, charming season, then I am very fond of it. 
And as for Hallowe'en? I love the whole spooky kitsch, the black cats and jack o'lanterns and such. I used to go to Salem, Massachusetts every October years ago when I lived in Boston, and I could walk every square foot of that city, shuffling through leaves while observing the "Witch City" really come into its own.
It's nice to explore old cathedral towns here in England during the autumn, and to sit in a pub by a crackling fire with a glass of autumn ale. Hallowe'en was never a big thing over on these shores, but the celebration of the harvest is a quintessentially British thing. And Hallowe'en gets more popular here with every passing year.
If I had my way, I'd make October last at least six weeks as opposed to the standard four. But at least it's got 31 days.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Comeback kings provide yet more magic

There they go again.
Down 3 games to 1 in the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox pulled a rabbit out of their hat to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, 8-7. Boston was down 7-0 as late as the sixth inning. By winning Game 5 is such awesome fashion, the BoSox wrapped up the biggest postseason comeback since 1929.
What can you say about this Red Sox team? Words fail me. They are the team that just won't die. Just call them what they are: the Comeback Kings.
But I still get pessimistic. I remember hanging my head after Game 4 against Cleveland last year, thinking it was all over for us. And last night, going into the 7th inning, I had prematurely started rooting for the Phillies to win the World Series. No way am I rooting for a division rival, no matter how good for major league baseball it may be—especially not some pissant little team whose entire existence dates back only to 1998. Let Tampa suffer some more, I say! I admit, I have no love for the Rays; I loathe them as much as I do the Yankees. In fact, now that the Yankees are pretty much irrelevant, I loathe Tampa more. Eight years ago, Tampa Bay screwed with us, the pathetic upstart twerps, and have tried to screw with us ever since—and I will never forgive them for it.
They could call themselves the Tampa Bay We All Love Dragons And Think They're Wonderful Squad and I'd still loathe the bejeezus out of them.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that Tampa Bay could easily have dethroned us last night. Instead, they let this one slip through their fingers. Now they will pay for it. If 2004 and 2007, and even 1986 (when the Sox rebounded from a 3-1 deficit against the Angels), are any indication, they are in trouble. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester will be unhittable and we will see some real power from Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew and "Big Papi" Ortiz.
The Red Sox surprised us all again. Just magical.
If they can take care of business in Tampa for just two more games, I may not have to resort to rooting for Philly after all.

Friday, October 10, 2008

High School (Gay) Musical

Are my wife and myself the only people on the earth who are completely underwhelmed by High School Musical 3—or any of the High School Musical productions?
I recognize the fact that these films, and the resultant books, albums and stage shows, are good, clean fun for the 8-14 age group. Disney did a good job with all of these works, and they deserve to be commended for putting out a wholesome product for today's youth given the troubled moral times they're living in. Combined with Hannah Montana, the High School Musical productions could serve as a balance between the gangsta rap and Grand Theft Auto influences that they're all exposed to.
However, the point I'm getting at here is this: Are there any adults who are excited by HSM3? Do you regularly sing or hum any of the songs from any of the soundtracks? Does it make you nostalgic for high school all over again?
If so, why?
Frankly, I wouldn't see any of these films or stage shows, or even listen to the music, unless I got paid no less than £500 to do so. (OK, £250 to listen to the soundtracks, but only once!)
I mean, it's not as if I can't relate to stuff meant for younger generations. After all, this writer owns four Pocket Dragon Adventures DVDs. So, I'm not necessarily turning my head up at kiddie stuff.
Nevertheless—and I'm being brutally honest here—the first word that enters my head whenever I hear or read the words High School Musical is "gay." Fodder for 14-year-old girls (or 14-year-old twinks) who drool at the sight of Zach Efron, and nothing more.
Or is there some actual substance to this High School Musical phenomenon that I may be missing? As I've said, I acknowlege the wholesomeness of it. But I am still quite comfortable with the fact that I could go the rest of my life without hearing so much as one recorded note of any of the soundtracks or watching one split second of the movies unless given a powerfully compelling reason to do so.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Why does society accept segregationists?

I do my best to live by the rules that Martin Luther King dreamed of—of a color-blind society and judging people on merit only. I think that's a proper way to live one's life, no matter what race or ethnicity you are. I've always thought that if a black person is more qualified than a white person to have a job, then the black person should be the one who's hired and to hell with the "old boys" network. People misunderstand conservatives: it's merit that matters to us, not race. True racists are too dumb to really understand politics, so they judge people by the only system of classification they understand and allow no room for exceptions. To me, that is stupidity supreme.
So, isn't it odd how after decades of fighting for the social equality that they were due, blacks have become the new racists, the ones who now stupidly live their lives based on a person's skin color? One would think that the great majority of black people would have risen above that because they know, from long experience, how asinine and unjust that is. But, sadly, it seems black people who are willing to live by MLK's maxim are the exception and not the rule.
Even during the 1970s, which wasn't long after race riots plagued the country, you had a feeling of coming together. The emphasis was still on blacks making their mark in society and achieving the things that their ancestors had been denied. James Evans, the fictional father of Good Times, worked hard because he would never stoop to accepting hand-outs, and he seemed to exemplify the average black person of thirty years ago: one who has not forgotten the past but is willing to look toward the future while improving his present. Even the music seemed to flow together. Earth, Wind & Fire commanded the adoration of white audiences as well as black, and Al Green loved to occasionally perform with the all-white Chicago. What have you got these days? Gangsta rap vs. emo vs. metal (with bland corporate pop filling in all the blank spaces). A perfect musical example for a society that doesn't quite know where it stands.
I'm not suggesting that the '70s where all sweetness and light in terms of race relations. They were not. But there was a feeling of success and accomplishment and, above all, integration among blacks. Something good was starting to form.
So how and why did it turn so sour?
By 1995, we saw just how polarized blacks had become. It didn't matter to them whether or not O.J. Simpson was guilty of double murder. All that mattered was that Simpson was black and his victims were white. That was payback for things that white people had done 200 years previously, and that was all that mattered. Whites, meanwhile, secretly prayed for a not-guilty verdict too, just so massive race riots wouldn't ensue.
There is a concrete, and personal, reason for me to write about this, dear reader, in case you were wondering. My sister recently dated a black guy from her work named Kevin. I'd met him during the summer and I thought he was pretty cool: laid-back and friendly. So I had no problem with it. The dude seemed like a hard worker and, of course, that's all that mattered to me. When I first met Kevin, I didn't see "black guy"; I saw "American."
That's also how I thought he saw himself. I just may have been very wrong though.
At one point, my sister asked him, "Would you please accompany me to the Bon Jovi concert?" Kevin laughed and said, "Nope. No Bon Jovi for me. I'd have to hand in my brother card if I went to his concert."
OK, just a joke, right? But Kevin knew how much my sis adores Bon Jovi and he knew that she really wanted someone to go to the concert with her. So, joke that may have been, but the fact that he didn't go displayed a certain lack of commitment.
So it wasn't entirely a surprise when I recently learned that Kevin had just been using her. When I said that, if he wants to date white girls, then he's got to accept the fact that they just may like rock'n'roll, my sister replied:
"Well, I knew he wasn't entirely comfortable with that. He told me that he forbade his 22-year-old daughter [from a previous failed relationship] from ever going out with a white man."
So, this man who I accepted on the spot, whose color I didn't see, and who was dating my sister—who, like me, has English and Irish blood—turns out to be a segregationist. Believe me, if there's any way that you can get me to see color over fellow countryman, Kevin has found it.
And there you have it. Blacks are allowed to see color and act upon it, but God forbid a white person act likewise. In fact, according to our politically correct Lords Temporal, if you are white and you do not feel guilty about it and do not kiss every square inch of ground that a black person has just walked across, then you are scum. If you encounter a black person and do not immediately exclaim, "Hello there, fellow human being! What can I do you for? Is there anything you need? C'mon and give me a hug," then you might as well join the KKK or your local Neo-Nazi group.
Just take the 1995 movie "Nick of Time," for instance. Isn't it wonderful how Charles S. Dutton's character could so freely use phrases like "white ass" and "honky," and absolutely no-one raised a stink over it? Welcome to today, where white people can be insulted and racially abused and no-one thinks it's wrong or despicable behavior. A year or two ago, on the bus into work, a black guy called me a "cheap paddy." I told him to stick it up his ass because I really didn't care what he thought. But if I had called him a ditsoon in response? I'd have spent the night in a police cell and brought up on charges, I guarantee you.
The biggest worry is this: If black people have become so racist and segregationist, and if they keep having kids—which, let's face it, they do by the truckloads—then how is this problem ever going to disappear? Generation after generation of black youth are growing up being told to hate and distrust whitey, and never knowing the can-do spirit of their predecessors from just thirty to forty years ago. Is it solely a black problem, or is it a by-product of the entitlement culture? If we dismantle the latter, will this poor attitude among blacks dissipate?
I don't know. I just find it immensely sad that after decades of fighting segregation, blacks have decisively decided on segregation. And that apparently no-one, apart from the too-silent majority, thinks it is wrong.
Our "tolerant" society apparently tolerates segregation. How ironic!