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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Was firing Wendy Bell too PC? When canning an anchor over racial writings isn't black and white


Given the hysterical reaction to the firing of a popular Pittsburgh news personality, I’m sensing I can further my career by writing a blog focused solely on the comings and goings of the shiny breed.

Farewell, Eight Days To Amish . . .

Hello, “Anchors Away!”

I’m sure my readership would surge if I devoted weeks to the now infamous saga of Wendy Bell, a WTAE-TV anchor/anthropologist for the past 18 years.

To be more precise, she was an anchor for the duration, an anthropologist for just one day.

That day cost her dearly.

She unwittingly parodied herself on her Facebook page last week when she dove into always turbulent racial waters following the appalling massacre of five adults and an unborn child. You can read her full text here

I advise you to try and read it so that instead of it being composed by a perky woman known for saying things like, “Now, let’s go to Ashley for the forecast …” it is read by God voiced by Morgan Freeman.

And to further extend the innate surreality, try and imagine Freeman as a Caucasian female.

Her heart is broken. She is bereft. She is feeling like Bob Dylan felt when he wrote, “The confusion I’m feelin’ ain’t no tongue can tell!”

Yet, she finds hope!

She sees a small black child wiping tables at a Pittsburgh restaurant. He’s cheerfully doing his duties “with rhythm and a step that gushed positivity.”

All this could have been avoided if she’d have just written that Sammy Davis Jr. is alive and well and washing dishes at the Cheesecake Factory.

But the damage was done.

Sensitive critics pounced, said it was white privilege at its worst.

One observer, Damon Young, went further. He declared her post was so over-the-top it was a veritable “white privilege turducken.”

Because the climate has me fearful of racial insensitivity accusations, I will not assume Young is black. I’ll just report he posts at www.verysmartbrothas.com, has written for Ebony and has a profile picture that makes him appear black, but the picture could have been filtered.

Either way, Bell was canned and our community is in turmoil. 

Her supporters are very upset. They say she was just telling the truth. They say her First Amendment rights have been violated.

The confusion I’m feelin’ ain’t no tongue can tell.

Understand, she’s free to say whatever she wants. But there are consequences to whatever she wants to say.

Even otherwise simple-minded married men understand this. It’s why they thoughtfully pause when their wives ask if the pants make her butt look big.

Many people who rail against tyrannical political correctness are basically asking for a pass to be outright rude.

They fail to realize honesty without tact is like brain surgery without anesthesia. 

The operation could succeed, but the complications could kill.

Bell isn’t being fired for honest insights about race.

She’s being fired for playing God.

And that’s even more unfair because that’s exactly what some WTAE executive years ago advised her to do with her FaceBook account.

They told her to emote. To share. To engage. To bare her ever-lovin’ soul.

What self-respecting TV exec would want a news reader when he or she could have a cult leader?

People in positions of prominence are idiots if they think they can glibly bridge centuries-old racial divides with hallelujah Facebook homilies.

Lesson?

Do not sweepingly judge a people of color until you’ve walked a mile in their $149 Michael Jordan Horizon shoes or whatever footwear all you black people are today liking.

Really, today in America it’s all pretty black and white.

‘cept when it isn’t.

And that’s when things can get pretty ugly.



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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

All dogs go to heaven? Even Snickers?


Regular readers know it is my custom to save all my sneezes up for Sunday worship where I believe the Almighty is more likely to act whenever he hears someone say, “God bless you!”

So I was surprised when I awoke in the middle of the night to hear my wife say, “God bless you!”

It didn’t feel like I’d sneezed.

Then I heard what sounded like a single kernel of corn faintly exploding into the foil of the Jiffy Pop.

Again, “God bless you!”

The stupid dog was sneezing. It was 4 a.m.

“All Dogs Go To Heaven” is the name of a still-popular 1989 animated movie.

I find the title premise too broad.

Truly, one of my ideas of heaven is being in the house when Snickers, our little yip dog, is not there.

It’s quiet. My heart bpm is normal. I have no fear Snickers will unsuspectingly pounce upon my lap, pirouette until all 12.6 pounds of him are squarely on my testicles and then spring off at the sound of a single leaf hitting the ground outside.

When he’s not there, I don’t have to worry about taking him out in a driving rain and watching as he stops to “mark his territory” on a half-dozen trees with a thimble-sized splash of urine so other creatures know he’s the neighborhood hombre.

I know many people who love dogs more than they love people.

People like Adolph Hitler. His love for dogs was legendary.

His love for people, not so much.

He really loved, Blondi, a robust German Shepherd. What? You thought he had a French poodle?

Historians note everyone loved Blondi; everyone but Hitler mistress Eva Braun, who was said to kick the dog when it was under the dinner table.

You have to wonder what Braun saw in Hitler, and what Hitler would have done had Blondi been able to through canine pantomime convey to him Braun’s under-the-table treacheries.

There’s no book about the worst dogs in history, but you have to believe throughout history there had to be some true hell hounds.

Russian satirist Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) authored a famous book called, “The Master & Margarita,” which if I know anything about Russian satirists — I do not — has nothing to do with tequila. But he speculates that Pontious Pilate had a dog named Banga.

It is said the dog loved Pilare, despite him having orchestrated the death of the Messiah. To the dog, Pilate is greater than Jesus.

The anecdote helps explain the Aldous Huxley quote, “To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence, the constant popularity of dogs.”

The most evil dogs ever depicted on film were the Rottweilers in “The Omen,” still one of the most terrifying movies ever made. In fact, during filming the dogs viciously mauled their trainers without provocation.

Maybe the dogs were method actors.

I don’t think Snickers is evil or that he ought to be banished to the Lake of Fire.

What’s surprising to me is how much better we’re getting along, especially when we’re alone.

He’s becoming my little buddy, albeit my annoying little buddy.

But when we’re alone and he jumps up on my lap he’ll actually settle in for a good long cuddle, long enough I forget all about the wisdom of wearing a NuttyBuddy protective cup when I’m sitting in the living room watching TV.

It may not seem like much, but it’s nothing to sneeze at.


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I hate my dog (from ’10)






Monday, March 28, 2016

The vanity of telling time


The jeweler squinted through his eye piece magnifying glass and made an off-hand pronouncement.

“This,” he said, “is a very expensive watch.”

Or is it?

Two weeks earlier, this same jeweler had appraised my wife’s companion watch and declared hers junk.

I wish she’d never asked.

Because I enjoyed the watch more when I was certain it was expensive. Believing I was wearing an expensive watch always made me feel like a real big shot. 

We’d been given for free the watches aboard a cruise on Lake Henderson near Las Vegas. It was 2005 and I was there on some story about high rollers.

Everything was top shelf. 

I never dreamed our presence would be deemed so illustrious we’d warrant free watches. 

Those of you familiar with dainty journalism ethics will recognize here a breach in mine. But I stopped caring about journalism ethics way back when I realized journalism — at least at my level — didn’t care about providing a decent salary so we took the watches without a second thought.

And Vegas certainly didn’t seem troubled by any ethical considerations so we were all cool.

I do love the watch, even though I only wear it when I want to impress someone with my appearance, which used to happen about once every two years, but now happens once a month.

I’d even pondered not getting it repaired. Really, it looks as impressive if it’s working or not and no one ever asks any more if anyone knows what time it is.

A nice watch represents two of mankind’s most pretentious conceits: vanity and time.

Vanity because we should care more about how we act than how we look; time because a watch lets us pretend we can somehow control it.

It’s why I was inspired to compose the for-me profound line about the subject:

“Foolish mortal! You think you can tell time. Time tells you!”

I contend we’d all be better off if we got rid of all our time pieces and just showed up whenever the hell we felt like it — just be sure to bring a book with you. 

Has this happened to you?

You’re supposed to pick up a teenage child at a designated time, say, 4:15 p.m..

You’re within view of the destination — you can actually see the kid — and you get an impatient text: “Where R U?”

And you look at the car dashboard and see it’s 4:16.

Too many time pieces and instant communications have warped for the worse our idea of being late.

It wasn’t that long ago when if you said you’d meet someone, you’d ballpark it within an hour or so.

Now we synchronize our time like secret agents out to overthrow some Third World dictator.

And we’re surrounded by time. It’s on our phones. It’s on our walls. It’s in our cars, on our stereos and up in the corner of nearly every screen to which we’re practically umbilically attached.

The funny thing about that watch of mine? 

I wasn’t there to get it appraised at all. The battery had died. The jeweler was just making conversation when he vaguely noted its worth.

Honest, I sat there in the parking lot wondering if it was even worth getting repaired.

It to me is an ornament. It serves the same purpose if it’s functioning or not. 

Rare are the times when I glance at my wrist watch to learn the time.

Time is truly everywhere.

We all know the time. We just have no idea where the hell it goes.

It’s a baffling contradiction.

We have no time.

We have all the time in the world.



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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Have you noticed our flags are having erections?


A friend of mine asked if I’d noticed how often our flags have been flying at half staff.

Yes, of course, I have. All I do is notice. While you’re out there earning a living (and goofing off reading this) I’m out in the world noticing everything.

I notice birds, motorists, cloud formations, obscure news stories, parenting techniques, commercial pitches, cooking trends, hockey standings, womens' swimwear fashions and how people are perceiving the fact that I’m considering never getting another haircut.

In fact, the only thing I haven’t noticed is if there’s a way to convert all this noticing into actual income.

So, yes, I noticed all the flags at half staff.

It was done in just the past two weeks in honor of Nancy Reagan and to show solidarity with the victims of Islamic terror in Belgium.

It’s happening frequently enough I decided to check out the helpful website of the National Flag Foundation, headquartered right here in Pittsburgh, by the way. It acknowledges the well-intentioned confusion over the decision to fly this powerful symbol at half staff.

It’s a presidential discretion, which puts the idea of President Trump in a whole new light.

For instance, I could see him pointedly ignoring acknowledging the death of President Carter, but nationally honoring the passing of professional wrestling impresario Vince McMahon.

But it’s intended to honor the passing of prominent statesmen and women.

So, according to the flag foundation, it was a breech of flag etiquette when former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy ordered the flags flown at half staff when the Steelers lost Super Bowl XXX to the Dallas Cowboys.

I made that up.

In fact, the breach of flag etiquette example the foundation cites was when Mayor Murphy ordered the flags flown at half staff for victims of a plane crash.

As it’s a national flag, I don’t believe it should ever be flown at half staff for any local loss, although an exception could be made if local rocker Donnie Iris ever passes. 

I do think it’s out of hand. It should not have been done for neither Mrs. Reagan nor the war crime in Brussels.

It’s just too gray an area.

Like what if only nine Belgians had been killed? Would that still rate?

And again with the endlessly fascinating Trump scenario, would all three of his wives merit the honor? Would we one day have to explain to our children that the flags are at half staff because Marla Maples, star of the 1986 action flick “Maximum Overdrive,” had died?

Of course, as I don’t want to stand in the way of layering even more meaningless symbolism for the partisan news channels to bicker over, I have a solution.

Do away with the current custom and turn the flag pole into something akin to a national thermometer; move the flag up or down based on our collective national mood.

This means instead of just two flag positions, there’d be 10.

Another gulf oil spill and the chief executive could order flags flown at position 3.

News that Mike Myers had signed on to make “Shrek V” and the flags could zoom up to 9.

Any Olympic gold medal would warrant a full 10.

And while we’re on the flag — and that’s a real no-no according to the flag foundation — I’ve noticed something else.

Our political flags are having unseemly erections.

It’s true. They’re pup-tenting.

Have you noticed? At every political event — it’s a bi-partisan phenomenon — the on-stage flags are being folded in a way apparently intended to maximize their visibility.

They’re either making flags stiff enough to fold like pizza box cardboard or else there’s some prop hidden beneath the material like hoop skirts belles wear in Civil War-era flicks.

It’s very unnatural looking. I don’t like it.

I guess in this campaign involving so much talk of candidate genitalia political stage managers declared the flag should never appear limp.

So now nearly every staged flag is folded so it appears like beneath it the supporting pole is sporting wood.

I guess the next step is to have huge fans blowing from so they flutter like they’re leading a stirring cavalry charge up San Juan Hill, which could add a potential menace to the coifs of every candidate hairstyle but one.

My flag suffers no such erectile dysfunction. I have it suspended by two nails to display its full glory right here in my office. I can’t help but see it whenever I look up from my laptop.

I one day intend to selfie with it as a backdrop in the hopes I’ll appear like George C. Scott in the opening of “Patton.”

There’s a good story behind its purchase.

I called a local flag store on a busy day to ask if they were open.

“No!” I was told. “Haven’t you seen the news?”

I had. It was why I wanted to buy a flag.

She must have thought I wanted to buy a cutesy garden flag with butterflies or something.

She was mistaken.

It was September 11, 2001, and I wanted to buy an American flag. I found one at a local hardware store. I cherish it and all it represents.

See, I’m one of those Americans whose patriotism in good times and bad will never flag.

In case you haven’t noticed.


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