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The Official Blog of The Reluctant Blogger

Welcome to the official website of both author Ryan Rapier, and his debut novel, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, a story about family, faith, relationships…and other things that can lead to therapy.

Author Carol Lynn Pearson calls THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, “A delightful gift from a skilled writer and insightful observer of life in Mormondom. THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER invites us to the high and holy calling of laughing at ourselves and loving ourselves pretty much at the same time. Highly Recommended!

Eric Samuelsen, playwrite and former president of the Association of Mormon Letters, exclaims, “Man, I liked this book. [It’s] Warm and human and real. I read it in one afternoon. I just couldn’t put it down.”

Get a copy today wherever LDS books are available or by clicking on the links to internet retailers located on the right hand side of this blog.

WARNING: While this blog is the official blog of author, Ryan Rapier, the postings located below do not necessarily focus entirely on his book nor on writing in general. Topics below can range from politics to sports to family life minutiae to…whatever random subject might be on the author’s mind. If you are looking for helpful hints on writing, reviews of other author’s works or anything else in between, there is a large potential for disappointment.

Sherlock, VidAngel And The Personal Expression Of Art

Ever since my wife and I discovered the hodgepodge of weird genius eye-candy and unapologetic high-minded, rapid-fire dialogue that is the television show (or what we would probably have called the Television Movie Event of the Week back in the ’80s) Sherlock four years ago, we’ve been hooked. From the first episode it was impossible to look away from the brilliance on display. The writing, the cinematography, the acting…basically everything was, to our point of view, brilliant. Yeah, the Chinese acrobat episode in season 1 wasn’t as strongly written as the other two (each season only has three 90 minute episodes), and yes, the Irene Adler episode in season 2 wandered into the tawdry for nothing more than shock value, but still. I would argue that there has been virtually nothing else like it on television, at least that we were willing to watch.

So, on January 1st, it was with baited breath that Shannon and I AND my teenage daughter Abby (who had joined our Sherlock obsessed family fan club a couple of years ago) sat down with baited breath to watch the premiere of Sherlock, Season 4. A full two years had passed since we’d been dropped off the edge of a cliff and left hanging with only two words uttered by Sherlock’s psycho nemesis, Moriarty, left to keep us company. “MISS ME?” It had been a long hard 731 days, but the time had finally come.

And then the first episode began and…it was good. It was really good. Not great, but really good. It didn’t do much at all for our “WHAT THE #*@& JUST HAPPENED!” concerns that we’d been harboring for so long, but it did tell a pretty darn good story. Until the end, which just flat out sucked. Great story telling, but still. The following week, episode two arrived and it was…well, just plain creepy. Not the best episode in my opinion by a pretty wide margin. However, it did set up a possible humdinger of a finale, especially since it also had failed to address the cliff-hanger from the previous season. Then, this past Sunday night, after we’d put our youngest three to bed, we settled in to watch what turned out to be not only the final episode of the season, but quite possibly the final episode of the series, ever. And? Well…not my favorite.

The concept wasn’t bad I suppose and it did answer all of the outstanding questions, but…eh. First of all, it decided to dabble on the edges of horror, a genre of which neither my wife nor I are fans. Secondly, it wrapped up in such a way that I felt very unsatisfied with the resolution. (I apologize for not going into detail, but as is probably obvious, I’m trying to avoid spoilers.) I understand why the creators of the series did what they did and what they were getting at, but I personally felt that this fourth, and possibly final season was missing many of the key elements I had actually found so captivating about the show in the first place.

And so it goes. Another television show that I loved had ended and I was left to decide whether or not I was satisfied with the overall product, including the ending. And that decision will be mine and mine alone. I’ve done this before. And the one thing that I have to be careful of is letting the common consensus affect my overall enjoyment or lack thereof. I have to remember that it doesn’t matter what EVERYONE else thinks, it only matters to me what I think. Cases in point:

Seinfeld – The immediate reaction to the Seinfeld finale was overwhelmingly negative. People didn’t like that it was a clip show. People didn’t like that the four of them ended up in jail. People didn’t like that Jerry and Elaine didn’t end up together. The list goes on and on. But I remember watching it the night it originally aired and loving it. I thought it was the perfect ending to have four people who had never progressed as human beings end up getting a dose of justice and still not having that change who they are fundamentally. I was stunned that people wanted the ending of Seinfeld to be some kind of life-changing event. It was a sit-com. A sit-com that had established who these characters were and suddenly fans wanted them to be someone else? Why? Anyway, I still hear people complaining about the finale of Seinfeld and I think, “Whatever.” I thought it was perfect.

Lost – The reaction to the finale of Seinfeld was more widespread because of how many people watched the show. But the reaction to the finale of Lost was more emphatic and anger-filled because the watchers of Lost were avid fans who had been with the show for six years. They wanted answers and felt like the finale didn’t provide near enough of them. People disagreed violently about what the finale even was trying to say. But overall, the general consensus was that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and failed miserably to provide an adequate ending for the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815. I, on the other hand, thought it was brilliant. I thought it was very moving and felt the symbolism of not just the finale, but the finale combined with the entire show made up the best series of television I had ever seen. Today, I still believe it ranks in the top five despite the continuing jokes from the majority of fans about how bad the series went off the rails in its final season and especially in the finale.

The Sopranos – This one I can’t speak to specifically because I have never actually seen an episode. But as a follower of pop culture, it was pretty hard to avoid all the discussions that went on about show creator, David Chase’s decision to cut to black without revealing what actually happened to his show’s protagonists. It sounds like it was ambiguity at its finest. Inception level frustration only worse because instead of investing two hours, fans had invested multiple years in this show only to be left hanging. I personally don’t have a problem with ambiguity. I liked the ending of Inception because I get to decide whether the top falls or not. But I am apparently in the minority. And it seemed that Sopranos fans were not amused.

However, when it’s all said and done, it doesn’t matter what fans think of the three examples mentioned above, or any other examples from the world of film. Because art is always subjective, and like it or not, television and movies are an art form. Yet somehow, in our self-serving day of 2016, we the fans feel like we should be included in the decision making process on how best to present these particular forms of art. And when our personal feelings are not taken into account, we can get highly incensed as if a great wrong has been done to us. But frankly, that’s just not true. Television shows and movies are simply art being displayed for our enjoyment and we can either like it or not…and that’s it.

Which brings me to my final point.

The movie filtering company, VidAngel, has lost its legal battle to keep providing filtered movies on every front and is now, for all intents and purposes, out of business. They are still pursuing all avenues available to them, but it would seem pretty clear that they will lose.

In once sense, this makes me a little sad. It would be nice to see certain entertainment offerings without content that I find objectionable. But on the other hand, I totally understand and respect this outcome.

I mean, really, would I ever expect to be able to take a trip to Italy and demand that I be allowed to see all of the classic paintings and sculptures that beautiful country has to offer boob free? Of course not. If I want to go see art in Italy, I had better be ready to get an eye full of mammary glands as well as a fair amount of male genitalia. I know that going in. So if I don’t want to see those things, I better not go to Italy.

And in that vein, I have to believe at a basic level that the same should be true for the art of film. Artists in the form of writers, directors and actors (to name a few) created these works of art. I may not like the art, but it is art. I don’t understand paint splotches on a canvas, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a painting. Likewise, I don’t see any redeeming quality in a film about a doll that comes to life and kills people, but the artists did. And if I don’t like it, I don’t have to watch it.

So to say to those artists, “I think some of your creation has merit, but I’m going to pick and choose which parts those are,” can come across as a little insulting. What they created was their vision, and they created it for consumption as a whole.

Which is why I grudgingly have to agree with the VidAngel rulings. I know it isn’t fair to families looking for clean content that Hollywood seems to be working against them. I know it isn’t fair that companies whose sole purpose is to create “clean” movies also happen to make movies that are, for the most part, unwatchable. But who said life was going to be fair? I saw on-line the other day a comment by someone who was justifying VidAngel’s existence. They stated that they should be able to watch their movies without any content they find objectionable. The only problem with that statement is, it isn’t THEIR movie. It belongs to a studio. If you want to buy a copy of it and then skip through parts, that’s your prerogative. But to try and work the system so that you “buy” the movie when you really don’t…not the same.

Again, if the courts had found otherwise and ruled in favor of VidAngel, I would be the first to applaud. But I knew they wouldn’t. Because once all the arguments are made, it only makes sense that they don’t. And maybe that’s ultimately for our good.

You see, another argument I have heard multiple times in defense of VidAngel is the metaphor of eating a sandwich with a tiny bit of dog poop in it. No one would knowingly do that. So, the argument goes, we as the consumer should be able to remove the dog poop from our sandwiches. But honestly, does anyone really want to eat a sandwich that had dog poop in it to begin with, regardless of how much effort was made to take it out? I didn’t think so. Maybe the same should be said for our art. If we don’t want it as is, then we probably shouldn’t want it at all.

If Nero Had Only Had A Twitter Account

These are important days in our country.

Tensions are on the edge within the hallways of government as the balance of power begins to shift at the highest levels of the world’s greatest nation. There is much to be done. Laws to be written or rewritten, heads of agencies to be replaced, economic decisions that will affect every woman and child throughout the world to be made. One can only imagine how any man or woman faced with such responsibility could cope in the face of such pressure.

But thankfully, in today’s world we have a revolutionary advancement that gives us unique insight into the man who will lead our nation and represent us throughout the world. We can know exactly what overwhelming issues are weighing heavy upon his mind. Is it the future of Obamacare? Is it an economy that is growing but at such a stagnant rate that it is crushing the dreams and aspirations of thousands of Americans each day who can’t find a job that will pay their bills? Before 2016, one could only guess. But today, we are blessed with Twitter, a wonderful invention that allows us to know exactly which issues of the day our beloved Commander-In-Chief is focusing his priorities on. And the answer?


President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Twitter feed from January 6, 2017, 6:04 p.m.

Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got “swamped” (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine DJT.  So much for…

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Twitter feed from January 6, 2017, 6:12 p.m.

being a movie star-and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich and Hillary


Okayyyyy. Not exactly what I expected from the soon-to-be most powerful man in the world in the days leading up to his cabinet picks going before congress, but maybe it’s a one-off. Surely he has other things to worry about, right?


President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Twitter feed from January 9, 2017, 4:27 a.m.

Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Twitter feed from January 9, 2017, 4:36 a.m.

Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him…….

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Twitter feed from January 9, 2017, 4:43 a.m.

“groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!

———————————–

What? Let me speak to you directly Mr. Trump. I have no desire to get into the argument about whether or not Meryl Streep is overrated (she’s not, but her political rants do tend to get a bit loose with the facts, see: Walt Disney comments) but rather, do you realize she’s an actress? An ACTRESS! Hopefully I’m not the first to remind you of this, but hey, THE VOTES ARE IN! You won, dude! She can’t DO anything to you. So if she criticizes you on an awards show that is watched by less than 7% of the American public…here’s a thought…LET IT GO!

And Arnold? The man was brought in to fill a role on a “reality” show. That’s it! A show you are still listed as being an executive producer on, by the way. Which means that, in a roundabout way, YOU hired him! Okay, so he didn’t support you during the election, but does that really mean you have to take time away from preparing to run the free world in order to take a cheap shot? What in the name of Beelzebub’s french poodle is the matter with you? Four out of my five children have better sense than you are exhibiting, and the only one not included on that list is three years old.

But, wait. I should step back. Maybe these two examples are being cherry-picked. I’m sure since he won the election Mr. Trump has been under a lot of stress. Surely, as his many supporters have suggested over and over again he will, he is becoming more presidential and rational in his use of social media as the mantle of the office draws nearer.


President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Twitter feed from January 5, 2017, 6:25 a.m.

The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange – wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the people….

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Twitter feed from January 9, 2017, 6:45 a.m.

to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against “Intelligence” when in fact I am a big fan!


Wait a minute. Again to Mr. Trump directly. As president-elect, why on earth would you be quoting Julian Assange at all? The man is currently living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in order to avoid being extradited to 1) Sweden, on charges of sexual assault and rape*, or 2) the United States, on possible charges of espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, theft or conversion of property belonging to the United States government, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and general conspiracy. And frankly, up until he decided to help you in your campaign efforts by releasing the hacked e-mails of your opponent, it was pretty much the consensus of the majority of American people who actually knew who he was, that Mr. Assange was an untrustworthy, vile reptile of a human being.

But secondly, I want to make sure I understand your logic. You use Mr. Assange’s words and state the same conclusions that he does, but you don’t agree with him? Or is there some nuance that you are trying to convey that just doesn’t come across well in 140 characters?

Nevertheless, this “lying media” or “dishonest media” line is one you like to use a lot. Take for instance this tweet.


President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Twitter feed from January 6, 2017, 4:19 a.m.

The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!


Oh my Gosh!!! The “dishonest” media is not reporting that Mexico will pay back money spent on your precious wall because you have not provided one speck evidence that Mexico actually will be paying back any money spent on your precious wall. That’s called journalism. You report facts. You don’t report “Believe Me! They are going to pay it back because I’m awesome and I say they will,” as credible evidence. In fact, it would be dishonest of them to report that Mexico will pay back those funds because Mexico has stated unequivocally that they will, in fact, not pay back those funds or pay for the wall in any way. So, it would seem that by not reporting that any money spent on “the Great Wall” will be paid back by Mexico, the media is actually being honest in their reporting with the facts they have available to them.

In fact, you seem to question the honesty of any media person if their honesty happens to involve you. Take Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold. He bothered to look into whether or not you actually spent the money your foundation raised at an event supporting veterans on actual veterans. What he found was not very flattering to you. So what did you do? You called him “a nasty guy” and then went about covering your butt. Once you had done that to a level you felt comfortable with, you then blasted him and the rest of the media you continue to call dishonest for not being nicer to you. This “nasty guy” then went on to uncover the fact that your foundation spent money on…wait for it…pictures of you, that you then used to decorate the clubhouses at your own golf resorts. That’s priceless…aaaand also illegal. And to top it off, you totally validated this “nasty guy” who belongs to the “dishonest media” by admitting in your 2015 tax return that you had in fact done what he reported you had done.  When it comes to your use of the the word, “dishonest”, I believe quoting Inigo Montoya might be in order. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Bottom line, Mr. President-elect, I will end this post with some advice. 1) Toughen Up. You ran for the highest office in the land. People are going to take shots at you. Get over it. 2) Twitter is not your friend. In fact, at the rate you’re going, it could undo your presidency. You are putting far too many things “on the record” with your 140-character verbal diarrhea sessions that seem to occur at hours in which you really should consider sleeping. 3) Grow up! PLEASE!!! You represent all of us now. And frankly, you’re embarrassing.

If you can accomplish those three things…well, you’d still probably be an egomaniacal jerk. But at least you wouldn’t be proving it over and over again via an outlet that you can never take back and has no filter. On the other hand, if you’re not going to stop (which I fully expect you won’t), at least you will be the most entertaining president we have ever had. Which will be of great comfort to us all, I’m sure, when the whole nation’s economy implodes due to your YUUUGE border taxes and your best friends, the Russians, march in to pick up the pieces.


*The statute of limitations has run out and Julian Assange cannot be prosecuted on some of the charges he was facing in Sweden due to the actions of the Swedish prosecutor.

The Burden of Being “America’s Choir”

I feel for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir today. I really do!

I mean I feel for their members, I feel for the organists and conductors and I feel for the leaders of my church who have to make tough decisions. Because the decision each of those individuals had to make in these last couple of weeks have been rough. And regardless of what they chose, it was always a no-win situation.

Now before anyone gets upset thinking this is going to be an anti-Trump post, hear me out. I’m not so much speaking about Donald Trump specifically as I am the situation the choir finds itself in.

I’m quite certain that when The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (we’re just going to refer to them as MoTab from here on out for clarity’s sake) accepted the invitation to sing at Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration in 1964, it was done so with much joy and appreciation. It undoubtedly represented an opportunity for the LDS church to be recognized and accepted, by the President of the United States at least, as mainstream. It was recognition that had been long, long overdue and I can only imagine the pride those choir members must have felt, as well as church members worldwide, as they sang in Washington D.C. those many years ago.

Unfortunately, they had no idea of the precedent they were setting that would come back to bite them so 50 years later.

You see, since that inauguration, MoTab has sung at four additional inaugurations. When they are called, they answer. It’s a very “Mormon” thing to do. It’s the same attribute I believe Mitt Romney was exhibiting, despite his obvious misgivings about our current president-elect, when he accepted the invitation to Trump Tower (and a high profile dinner in front of the cameras so that Mr. Trump could parade his defeated foe on display) to discuss the job of Secretary of State. If you call a Mormon to serve, more often than not, they are going to show up. It just is.

The problem now is that since LBJ, only Republicans have called. Richard Nixon called, Ronald Reagan called, George H.W. Bush called and his son George W. Bush called. Who didn’t call? Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Does anyone else see a problematic trend developing?

The LDS church has long maintained a stance of political neutrality. Yes, church leaders have weighed in from time to time on specific issues they believe directly relate to Church standards or teachings, but overall, they do not support a party, a candidate or an ideology. But when one adds this string of Republican inauguration appearances to the overwhelming support Republicans enjoy on a national level among latter-day saints, especially in the state of Utah, outsiders might be prone to take away the wrong message. Or even insiders for that matter who might be Democrats…I suppose.

Which brings me back to my feelings of sympathy for choir members and church leaders who had to make the decision on whether or not to sing at the inauguration of Donald Trump. For them, not good options existed. Had they refused, word would have gotten out and I am quite certain backlash from inside the church would have been fierce and ugly. But accepting has been anything but a cakewalk either.

Throughout the final days of the campaign, social media battles were erupting all over the LDS landscape regarding Mr. Trump. Members were arguiung right and left amongst themselves on whether it was right or wrong to vote for someone who personally had exhibited such great disdain for many things LDS members hold dear. It was not an easy decision and although it would appear the majority of LDS Republicans opted to vote for Mr. Trump in the end, for many, it was not an easy decision.

So now we are coming up to the inauguration. Should the choir travel to D.C. and sing? I personally think they should not. I believe that as the church becomes more diverse and more of a world-wide institution, taking part in any activity that might be construed as supporting one candidate or party over another should probably be avoided. And that view has little to do with whether or not the candidate might be considered moral or not.

It’s about trying to be non-partisan or non-political in 2016’s hyper-political environment. I mean, c’mon, let’s be very real with ourselves for just a moment. Do we honestly believe that social media wouldn’t have exploded with negative backlash within LDS circles if Hillary Clinton had won and the choir had been invited and accepted said invitation to sing at her inauguration? Maybe the majority of members wouldn’t have taken to Facebook or Twitter to express their outrage, but a very vocal group would have undoubtedly been infuriated that the church would send its most visible ambassadors to support “that criminal.”

Unfortunately, the opportunity to make the right decision regarding a performance at Mr. Trump’s inauguration was taken away from today’s choir 50 years ago. Despite all the positive press received by the choir (and by extension the church) due to their presence at inaugurations over the years, MoTab probably should have politely declined LBJ’s offer in the name of their political neutrality. It might have led to some negative backlash at the time, but I guarantee that having the opportunity to politely decline today would have been totally worth it.

Having said that, I hope they do well. I hope they sound as good as they do every Sunday morning during The Spoken Word.

But I do have to add, there was some great humor to be found in the situation as evidenced by the hashtag that trended on Twitter following the choir’s announcement. And if you can’t laugh at some of the offerings found under #motabsetlist, then you simply need to get a sense of humor. Some of the best examples were as follows:

  • I Tweet Thee Every Hour
  • Oh Say What Is Truth (No title alteration needed)
  • Let Us Not Speak Kind Words
  • I Thank Thee Oh God For A Profit
  • Or the Primary song, “I Have Two Little Hands”

But my personal favorite was definitely:

  • Because I Have Been Given Much, I Need A Massive Tax Cut

C’mon, go ahead and laugh. You know it’s funny. And in the meantime, I believe I speak for church members everywhere when I say, Good Luck Choir! We love you and feel blessed that you represent us so wonderfully regardless of where you perform.

Incoherent Strings Of Thought

For the last couple of weeks there have been multiple things I have wanted to write about. But for whatever reason I’ve resisted. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say. Heaven knows I could come up with 2,000 words on how much I despise the taste of regular NyQuil, but think that Cherry NyQuil should be made into its own soft drink flavor. It’s just…I don’t know.

Nevertheless, I’ve learned that after a while, I’d better put something down or my head will start to explode. I’m a little like Elaine in the Seinfeld episode where she gets stupider by the minute because she can’t declutter her brain. Admittedly, our avenues of dealing with this problem are very different (I need to write them out, she…does other things) but the end result is the same. After a blog post, I seem to be able to think more clearly.

With that in mind, I will now share multiple random thoughts that have very little in common other than they have been rattling around in my brain as of late. So, read on if you feel like it, agree with what you agree with, disagree with what you disagree with, or if you think this is the most asinine thing you’ve come across in some time, please resume your regularly scheduled activity and try to forget this post ever happened.

  • On-line shopping for Christmas is the best. It’s like everyday is Christmas morning for the whole month. Each time a package comes in the mail you get to open it and check it out for the first time and then you get to watch the person you are giving it to open it on Christmas day. Every gift is like a double gift for you and the receiver. AWESOME!
  • There are definitely some developments that I see as positive, but truth be told, Donald Trump as president still scares the living…whatever out of me. Are we absolutely certain we didn’t just sell our souls to the actual devil just so we could avoid one of his lesser minions?
  • Designated Survivor has captured our family’s attention and is one of our favorite new shows. But I hate to admit that this promising concept is starting to feel like it is taking the lazy approach to story telling. We’re getting more and more major characters making completely irrational decisions that no one in their right mind would ever make and the shocking twists are starting to feel a bit like my drive home. Very predictable and I can see every turn coming from a mile away. Here’s hoping the writers step up their game when the show returns in March.
  • Fantasy Football has succeeded in turning the NFL into the ultimate virtual reality game. Since Peyton Manning retired last season, I haven’t really decided who my new team to root for is going to be. Therefore, my only interest in the NFL has been the players on my FF team and the players I’m playing against week to week. What this has led to is a situation where I don’t know which teams are likely to make the playoffs. Truth be told, I don’t even know which teams win or lose week to week. The crazy thing is, I don’t even care. All I care about are individual player stats. That seems messed up.
  • Fox News has officially jumped the shark and shed any pretense of trying to be a non-biased provider of news. One of the headlines, THAT’S HEADLINE WITH A CAPITAL “H”, on their website this week was about the failure of the movie Miss Sloane. Movies fail all the time, but this was a major headline for Fox because the movie revolved around a pro gun control premise. Therefore, it would seem that if a movie advocating a political opinion opposite of what is considered conservative fails, that is now major news for Fox. To the folks at Fox News, please stop. You’re embarrassing yourself. When a movie costs $14 million to make and fails, that’s not news. Disney’s The Lone Ranger? Now that kind of failure is news. And devastatingly harmful to my Disney shares. Sorry, I digress.
  • My brother who is unabashedly liberal posted on Facebook that he has cancelled his subscription to the New York Times because it is conducting business in such a way that Mr. Trump’s claims of bias are getting harder and harder to deny. I don’t personally read the New York Times on a regular basis, but based on this development within my own family, it would seem Fox is not the only one struggling with how to be a legitimate news source in the post-Trump election world.
  • I’ve only seen three episodes, but so far I would have to say that This Is Us is one of the best written television shows to come along in a while. A tearjerker of a show that works hard to earn every single one of the Kleenexes it destroys each week.
  • I love and support police men and women. These brave individuals put their lives on the line every day as part of their job and they deserve our respect. Having said that, how on earth can we expect to make any headway in our country’s current issues with regard to race when a jury (made up of eleven white people and one black) can’t manage to convict former officer Michael Slager of the murder of Walter Scott. He is on video shooting the man eight times as Mr. Scott attempts to flee in the opposite direction. He was killed by a bullet that entered through his back. I believe we are putting the 99.9% of good cops in further harm’s way by refusing to acknowledge the .1% that we can see with our own eyes. As evidence, I submit the increasing number of fallen officers over the last month. We have a broken system that is leading to an unacceptable number of people being killed on both sides of the equation. The time to listen to everyone involved is now. Black Lives Matter and No More Dead Cops. There, we’ve gotten the slogans out of the way. Can we please sit down now and figure out a solution?
  • A pretty cool side effect of finding it impossible to support either of the presidential candidates in the last election is: Now almost every political joke is funny.
  • Notice I said “almost”. Kanye West getting a sit down with the president-elect during the very busy transition period is not funny.
  • Letting yourself get roped into a riddle challenge on Facebook where if you get said riddle wrong you have to replace your photo with a llama is not intelligent. Thus we can surmise that I am not intelligent.
  • Russian leader Vladamir Putin is a bad guy. Russia is assisting Syria in wide-spread massacre. Time and again, Mitt Romney has been proven right that Russia is our biggest geo-political foe. Having a Secretary of State that is “a friend of Russia” is a bad idea. I hope those GOP senators who are having heart burn about Mr. Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State have enough of a spine to reject him if his ties to Russia prove to be too strong. We need to learn from our own history of the 1930’s. Trying to play nice with people like Mr. Putin only leads to very bad outcomes.
  • How are we not doing more to help the millions of refugees pouring out of Syria? If we’re scared of them because they are Muslim, shame on us. I don’t think God is going to give us a pass on this just because we were concerned one terrorist might accidentally get into our country.
  • I hate that writing a second book is a trillion times harder than writing the first one.
  • I love Christmas. Even though it is absolutely ridiculous how busy we have made ourselves this time of year, it is still the best. The music, the kindness, the anticipation, the focus on others before ourselves, the focus on The Savior. Here’s hoping everyone out there has a very Merry Christmas and an enjoyable holiday season filled with family, friends and the stuff great memories are made of.

I Think I’m Having A Red Stroke

Today might be described as a bloglet post.

I don’t intend for it to be very long, but my gripe will require a little more space than a typical Facebook post would allow for. With that said, here we go:

Is there a bigger ego out there than Garth Brooks? I realize the irony of this question in light of the recent Presidential election. But seriously, if you boil it down, I think ego-wise Mr. Trump and Mr. Brooks are fairly competitive. The major difference would be…at least Donald Trump acknowledges his ego. Mr. Brooks would rather try to hide his in this treacly sweet faux-humility that makes me want to vomit.

So where is this coming from you might ask? Well, it’s Christmas time again AND it has been a few years so it must be time for another box set of Garth Brooks music. You know the ones I’m talking about. The collections that contain multiple disks, can only be purchased at one store, contain hits from days gone by as well as other music he’s already released before, sprinkled with the occasional new song you can’t get anywhere else, and all slickly packaged with Mr. Brooks on the front in some newly designed pose that always manages to require him to not smile and look like he’s constipated.

Don’t get me wrong. Back in the day I was a huge Garth Brooks fan. To this day I can still rattle off a number of songs that I truly enjoy: Wolves, In Lonesome Dove, What She’s Doing Now, The River, American Honky Tonk Bar Association, etc., etc., etc. The dude can sing. I am not debating that in the least.

But seriously, is there an artist alive and still producing music today who has bilked, swindled and taken advantage of their fan base more than Garth Brooks?

He won’t release his music on iTunes because he claims he feels so strongly about the importance of the album experience versus individual songs taken out of context. Hmmm…well that’s handy. I mean, heaven forbid you allow people to purchase just the two songs that will be available only on Target’s Ultimate Collection this year because they won’t be able to enjoy them in the context of their album. Except…THERE IS NO ALBUM THEY BELONG ON!!! They are two songs thrown into this collection just so Target can force you to purchase it from them, right now, if you want to have them. So, if you do the math, instead of allowing his fans to download those two songs for $1.29 each, he is going to force everyone to pay $15 each so that they can own these two priceless tunes…along with 77 other songs they don’t necessarily want, or that they already own. Now there’s a guy who loves his fan base, let me tell you.

And furthermore, if “the album experience” is so sacrosanct, how come Mr. Brooks released a different boxed set (he has released five, along with four compilation albums since the mid ’90s) called The Limited Series back in 1998 which basically was just a box set of each of his previously released albums with a single new song wedged onto to each disc for a total of six new songs not available for purchase any other way?

I personally bought my last Garth Brooks album back in college. It was called In Pieces. I still think it’s his strongest stand alone album bar none. Unfortunately, I lost it many years ago, long before I owned an iPod. Every once in a while, I’ll hear one of his tunes on the radio and think, “Man, I would love to download some of those old Garth Brooks songs.” Except, I can’t. And I absolutely refuse to pay upwards of fifty bucks just so I can get five or six songs that I’ll probably remember with fondness for about two weeks and then delete them from my iPod because I’m on to something new.

So here’s to you, Mr. Garth Brooks. While others are actively claiming that they hope the other ego maniac fails, I’m gonna forego that and instead make my declaration that I hope you fail. I hope your new album fails and I hope your new boxed set fails. You have more money than God (To be clear, I personally don’t believe God has a need for money so this statement is obviously for shock value and sarcastic imagery only) so it’s not like you’ll be hurting. And the sooner you go away, the sooner I don’t have to see fifteen hundred Facebook posts of you crying about your Mom on Good Morning America. That raw emotion shtick of yours stopped working for me decades ago.

Instead, if I want a good stroll down memory lane with a classic country tune, I’ll go with The Man. Because every single one of George Strait’s classic hits is available on iTunes…and there’s not a big ol’ box with his gastrically backed-up mug on it anywhere in sight.

Disclaimer: To those who might be offended by my aggressive language, I apologize for the ferocity of this post. But to be honest, my animosity towards Mr. Brooks on this subject has been building for decades. Nevertheless, if I have truly caused offense with my tone, I apologize.

Thank God I’m A Country Boy

On election night earlier this month, a lot of people were shocked and stunned at the outcome playing out before their eyes. And as a very outspoken critic of Mr. Trump, no one could have been more surprised than I. However, I was deeply saddened to see the way certain individual’s frustrations began to manifest themselves. For instance, I was most disappointed to read about a tweet from former Saturday Night Live cast member, Taran Killam, which read:

“Rural = So Stupid”

Of course, as is the way of our world today, (unless of course you actually ARE Mr. Trump) Mr. Killam recognized that some damage control was in order and tried to non-apologize his way out of the mess he’d created. That didn’t work either and the next morning he offered an actual apology that allowed the vast majority of Americans who had never heard of Mr. Killam before to quickly forget him and move on.

But his statement is one that has been echoed repeatedly in the days since. Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t stated with quite so heavy a hand, but it’s there. It’s there in every argument against the electoral college. It’s there in every reference to the uneducated whites who voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump. In the minds of many who live in our largest cities, the rural white American voter is stupid and therefore untrustworthy of having the vote.

Well, as a white American who lives in rural Arizona, I take exception to this way of thinking. Because first, as has been pointed out many times, we live in a representative republic, not a democracy, and therefore the electoral college makes perfect sense. And second, there is much about who I am that I owe to being raised in rural America. Things I like. Things I hold dear. And so, in honor of Thanksgiving this week, I am going to share a list of things I am thankful for that I owe to my rural upbringing and my current rural existence.

I am thankful I know how to work – My grandfather was a rancher and my father was a copper miner and a mechanic before his retirement. By the time I was 12 years old, my summer vacations consisted of getting up early and working eight hours a day on the four acres my father owned, at the rental properties my parents purchased for the express purpose of having something for their sons to work on, or on the farm surrounding our property that was owned for a short time by my mother’s father. When I turned 16, I went to work for a local farmer chopping the weeds out of his cotton fields from 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. everyday, only to come home and then get to work on the chores my father had for me. At 14, my brother started running his own Sno-Cone business on the small main street of the town where we lived. That may not sound too bad except that he was required to get himself to and from work on his bike, sometimes carrying jugs of flavored syrup on the handlebars. By the way, we lived seven miles from town. I don’t share this to impress anyone, because the truth is, most kids who grew up where I did in the 1980s had similar experiences. It was called life. But oh, how thankful I am for those experiences. Today, I know the value of work. I know how to accomplish things. And I owe that to my parents and the opportunities afforded me by living in a rural area.

I am thankful for the power of community – While attending Arizona State University and for several years after, my wife and I lived in the east valley of the Phoenix Metropolitan area. I enjoyed my time there. I enjoyed the varied entertainment, culinary and cultural opportunities available to us. I enjoyed some very close relationships with good neighbors. But at the end of the day, I never experienced anything living in the city like I did this past Labor Day. On that magical Monday morning, over 50 individuals gathered to help an older couple in need of a new roof. No one was paid, no reward was offered and no press coverage was provided. I recognize what happened was partly due to the religious culture of which I’m a part, but during my time in the city, I never saw anything like this. It felt like a barn raising from days gone by. And I felt privileged to have been a part of it and more importantly, to have my son be a part of it. I know this is a generalized statement that could easily be argued, but I believe people care about their neighbors more in rural communities. Not just the neighbors next door, but ALL of their neighbors in town. Yes, that sometimes means that people are way too involved in each other’s business and yes, reputations are hard to change when everyone remembers what you were like as a teenager. But the support and love that manifests itself on a regular basis in the small town where I live is something you can’t understand until you’ve been a part of it.

I am thankful for religion – According to Gallup, rural America is simply more religious than urban America. By a significant amount. Reasons for this definitely include the lack of other cultural focal points for communities to rally around, thus making “the church” more influential. But whatever the reasons, I don’t care. I am aware of the failings of organized Christianity in America today. I know that religious dogma changes more slowly and allows for ideas that have lost their validity to hold on longer than they should. But here is what I also know. The positives religion provides to children, specifically my children, is immeasurable. I attended a meeting several weeks ago with my wife and my daughter that was specifically for girls aged 12-18 and their parents. The messages weren’t focused on women being subservient to men, or that girls should forego their dreams in order to take their rightful place in the home. Maybe those ideas are still being preached somewhere, but they weren’t being preached there. Instead, we were taught the importance of doing Simple Acts Of Kindness everyday. Now think about that for a minute. What if every teenager in America was having that kind of idea reinforced constantly, not just by their parents, but by a variety of adults who serve as role models. Wouldn’t our country be a better place? I suppose some might argue that such a notion is debatable. I, however, humbly but fervently disagree.

I am thankful for country – Regardless of how bad I might feel my life is at any given moment, I must recognize one thing; I am an American in 2016. The reality of that statement means that I am truly one of the 1%. If you take every human being that has lived since the dawn of time, I have it better than >99% of them ever had it or currently have it. I know that might not necessarily be true for every person living in America today, but it is for a vast majority. Unfortunately, in our zeal as a nation to address the inadequacies of our communities and culture, we sometimes forget how good America truly is. Patriotism on college campuses is often ridiculed. City celebrations, other than firework displays that are beautiful but don’t mention anything of our nation’s heritage, are almost forgotten…except in rural America. Here, we gather to remember just how blessed we are to live under a document like the constitution. Yes, some might take that constitution talk to extremes, but because of the constitution, they have the right. Now don’t get me wrong. I know full well that our nation’s history is pockmarked with a glaring number of slights, grievances and downright atrocities towards minorities and women. But so is every institution, culture, religion and society. That doesn’t mean we have to overlook all of the good. And in rural America, we are much less inclined to do so.

I am grateful for manners – This is something that probably doesn’t have so much to do with today’s rural America as it does with my own personal upbringing, but it happened in rural Arizona, so I’m gonna include it. My parents taught me to be politically active. They taught me to get involved and be a problem solver, not a complainer. They also taught me to respect everyone regardless of our differences and that there is a time and a place for disagreement and a time and a place to let disagreements lay dormant. This past weekend, our new vice-president attended a production of the new critically acclaimed Broadway musical, Hamilton. Following the performance, cast member Brandon Victor Dixon took it upon himself to address the vice-president directly and state that he, and many on the stage with him, were part of the community who now feared that the new administration would not protect and uphold their inalienable rights. Mr. Dixon’s statement on its own was not inflammatory. It was a reasoned statement. However, it was horribly mistimed and incredibly ill-mannered. Mr. Dixon’s statement would have been perfectly appropriate if tweeted, Facebooked, recorded as a public service announcement and played on national television or radio. It even would have been appropriate had Mr. Dixon made this statement from the stage at any other performance other than the one in which Mr. Pence attended. I mean, imagine if Mr. Obama had attended a performance at the Grand Ol’ Opry and been subjected to a statement from an artist stating that he or she was part of the community that lives in fear of losing their guns or religious freedoms. There would have been supreme outrage from all across the left leaning spectrum of political thought. Including, in part, from the very people who felt it appropriate to boo Mr. Pence this past weekend.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that Mr. Trump has brought much of this on himself and his administration. During the campaign, he was the epitome of bad manners. But another thing I learned at an early age that I am grateful for is that two wrongs don’t make a right. Now is the time when we need to start listening to each other instead of further degrading the rules of acceptable dialogue. Many on the left want to dismiss rural white America as being racist, misogynist, stupid…the list goes on and on. But they’re missing something. They are missing what rural white America was trying to say.

Now to be fair, not every liberal is missing it. Jon Stewart articulated it very well when he addressed hypocrisy on the left in a recent interview. Paraphrasing, he said that a majority of rural white Americans don’t fear Mexicans or Muslims. What they fear is the insane increases to their health insurance premiums, especially under Obamacare. And that’s true. But it is only one truth. The real issue here is that a lot of people voted for Donald Trump. And the reasons for doing so are as plentiful as the number of individuals who cast their ballot for him.

So, yeah, if you want to get right down to it, white rural Americans had a message for Washington. For each individual person, it wasn’t necessarily the same exact message as the person standing next to them, but at the end of the day, they could all be boiled down to a similar theme.

Don’t forget me. I matter.

It’s the same message every person tried to send on election day. So my suggestion would be; let’s not dismiss and ridicule those who voted differently than we did. Let’s stop calling names and degrading our opponents. And that goes for the winning side as well as the losing side. We should be better than that. Let’s start listening to each other. If enough Americans voted for Trump to elect him president, there must be a reason, and it likely isn’t because they are stupid. If that were the case then you would have to argue that many of those individuals were just as stupid when they voted for Mr. Obama four and eight years ago.

And that last bit of opinion on my part comes from one last thing I am thankful for when it comes to my upbringing in a rural town in Southern Arizona. Good ol’ fashioned logical thinking, otherwise known as common sense. May we take this Thanksgiving weekend and apply some in our own lives and then allow it to permeate our relationships with everyone else we come in contact with. And as a final prayer: please, God, let it happen especially on Facebook.

The Legend of Stars Hollow

Well, if you got the reference in the title then you are probably well aware of what today is. If you didn’t get the reference, then one; you are not a true Gilmore Girls fan, and two; you probably didn’t know nor possibly care that the long awaited reunion…season?…mini-series?…whatever, of Gilmore Girls is now available on Netflix today. It’s a big deal. And if you don’t understand why, then you should make yourself sit down, get a big ol’ bowl of popcorn and start watching this show from episode one, season one, so that you can get to know the fabulous folks from Stars Hollow.

Now I know what you’re thinking. This writer’s a guy, right? Yes, I’m a guy. And probably like most other guys who have watched this show, I was drug into the experience somewhat grudgingly. But boy, was I surprised how much I enjoyed it and how much of a fan I would become. So thanks, Amy Rapier. I only hope you enjoyed keeping up your end of our bargain by watching Lost as much as I enjoyed keeping up mine.

Anyway, in honor of the four new episodes now available for streaming (which I have not yet seen) I wanted to provide my Top 5 List of Best Things About Gilmore Girls and my Top 5 List of Worst Things About Gilmore Girls. And since it is amazing how much the two lists intersect, I will present them simultaneously starting with number 5 from each list and proceeding upwards in the same manner. So, without further ado…

Best Thing About Gilmore Girls #5: The Eccentric Secondary Characters

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Whether it was the insanely devout Korean Christian, Mrs. Kim, who ran an antique store and was mother to Rory’s best friend, Lane; or the control freak Mayor, Taylor Doose, Stars Hollow had simply the best rogue’s gallery of kooky, off-the-wall townspeople that made this show special. And while I loved Sally Struthers channeling her former television mother, Edith Bunker, and I adored the nymphomaniac dance instructor, Miss Patty, I have to admit that my favorite side story involved the town troubadour who felt threatened when a second troubadour showed up and tried to claim his territory. The fact that this issue had to be resolved at a town meeting is quintessential Stars Hollow and a big reason why I loved this show. In fact, I can only think of one misfire during the show’s entire run and it was…

Worst Thing About Gilmore Girls #5: Kirk

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Maybe I’m alone on this, but I DESPISE Kirk. And the longer the show went and the more they tried to create storylines for him, the more I hated him. I never found him funny in the way I did Taylor, or Michelle, or…anyone else on the show. He was basically Mater in Cars 2. Way too much and excessively unfunny.

Best Thing About Gilmore Girls #4: Luke and Lorelai

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The WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY device has been used in hundreds of shows to a varying degree of success. But when a show gets it right, they can drag it out for several seasons without having the audience either lose interest altogether or show up on the studio lot with pitchforks and torches. Gilmore Girls got it right…for the most part. Let’s just say they got the Luke and Lorelai part right, but in the process they did get one thing incredibly wrong…

Worst Thing About Gilmore Girls #4: The Emasculation of Max Medina

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If you are going to have a show centered on the WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY device, you can’t have one of the foils be as likable, if not more likable, than the dude he’s supposed to be foiling. Max Medina was absolutely one of the best guys. And in a lot of ways probably would have been better for Lorelai than Luke. I watched this show for the first time like three years ago and I’m STILL mad about what they did to Max. The show’s creators figured it out after Max when it came to any other romantic interest for Lorelai, but still…what you did to Max was NOT COOL!!!

Best Thing About Gilmore Girls #3: The Villain

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Seriously, how many villains have there been over the history of television who have been as effective as Paris Geller at making you utterly hate them while also eliciting true pity? Liza Weil played her perfectly, but the character was written about as well as any villain I can remember save…ben-linus

Worst Thing About Gilmore Girls #3: The Fate of Lane Kim

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Lane deserved Dave! And no one deserves Zack! Saying anything further on this matter will only serve to infuriate me to the point of madness.

Best Thing About Gilmore Girls #2: Friday Night Dinners

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The great thing about Gilmore Girls was that it was not just a show about one central theme. You had the Luke and Lorelai thing, you had the fish out of water thing with Rory at her new school, but the best was the often hilarious/often heartbreaking dramedy of an estranged family coming back together after years of separation. And the show’s construct of having a majority of that relationship rebuilding play out during a required weekly dinner was brilliant. And without fail, the best lines of the show always came over appetizers as mother, daughter and granddaughter put on an amazingly truthful display of what is meant by the generational divide. In truth, if I had any issue with this family it would be…

Worst Thing About Gilmore Girls #2: Christopher

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Okay, I’m not a great judge of looks when it comes to men, but I guess I can see the physical allure of Christopher…I guess. But seriously. This guy is such a weenie. How on earth are we supposed to believe that this is the guy Lorelai seriously has trouble moving past. There is almost nothing redeeming about him. And if there is, it is totally wiped out due to the role he played in the whole ending the engagement to Max fiasco. Boo, Christopher!!! You don’t deserve Stars Hollow and frankly, even your motorcycle is wimpy. Please don’t darken our door again.

Best Thing About Gilmore Girls #1: The Writing

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I can think of only one other show that had dialogue as effective as Gilmore Girls, and Frasier won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series five times. The genius way in which the Palladinos (the wife and husband duo who created and oversaw the show for six seasons) intermixed pop-culture references, coffee addiction diatribes, sheer goofiness and soul-melting emotion into each rapid-fire interaction between characters was incredible. I didn’t always enjoy the twists and turns the show took, but I always enjoyed the poetic journey along the way. That is up until…

Worst Thing About Gilmore Girls #1: Season 7

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Due to a bizarre contract dispute between the network and show creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, something or other Palladino, the Palladinos were unceremoniously removed from their own show for the last season.

And BOY was it noticeable!

The new writers tried to recreate the rapid-fire dialogue and quirkiness that defined the show, but they failed miserably. It was so bad, that I will admit I never finished watching the last season. Nor do I care to. I read on-line how it ends, and that’s good enough for me. Watching the episodes of season 7 that I did was akin to watching a beloved pet be euthanized right before my eyes…or watching Indiana Jones 4. Basically to me, one and the same!

Which brings me to my final thoughts on this blessed day. The new four episode…whatever, that became available on Netflix today is once again in the hands of Amy Sherman-Palladino. Which is great, because she had always stated that she knew exactly how her show was supposed to end. Unfortunately, for many years it appeared we the audience would never get to see that ending. Now, based on some interviews I’ve read, those fears can be laid to rest. The show will end the way it should have and we can all pretend that season 7 was a bad dream. Now if we could just do the same with Kirk.

Anyway, fans of Gilmore Girls rejoice. Your prodigal show has come home. Very few fan bases get this opportunity, so get your blankets, get your odd mixture of Chinese food and bizarre pizza and settle in this weekend for what promises to be one of the best binge watching sessions of your adult life.

If you aren’t a fan? Well, all I can say is suck it up and watch the show from the beginning. It’s worth it. I mean, if nothing else, you’ll be lucky enough to have one of television’s best theme songs ever stuck in your head for weeks. And for that you can thank me later.

I Prefer My Crow Sauteed

As a teenager growing up in Duncan, Arizona, I hated the Thatcher Eagles. I hated the town they came from, I hated the school they went to, and I hated the condescending way they would roll into our house, beat the living crap out of us at almost every sport and then walk out with an attitude akin to legionnaires of the Roman empire who had just pillaged and burned a peasant village. It was tough to take.

Then, when I moved on to college, I discovered that those people from Thatcher weren’t so bad. But still, that simmering resentment lingered. It lingered so much that when the Duncan/Thatcher football game came around, I let myself get deluded into thinking Duncan had a chance to win. I took it even further and made a bet with one of my new Thatcher friends that whichever of our teams lost, the supporter of that team would have to get up in front of the entire Eastern Arizona College choir and sing the opposing school’s fight song as a solo.

Well…Duncan lost 42-0 and the game was called about three minutes into the third quarter.

I can still remember vividly that feeling of standing up in front of about 120 people and singing that song as about 25 Thatcher alumni stood and clapped along. IT SUCKED! Yes, I deserved what I got and yes, it was all done in fun, but it still sucked. Admitting you’re wrong sucks.

Nevertheless, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong and if you want to be a person of character, you have to sometimes take your medicine. So…

I was wrong.

In fact, I wasn’t just wrong, I was really, really, really wrong. And you know what? Saying that is not cathartic. Nope, it stings just as much if not more than having to endure that song some 25 years ago.

Now for those who are expecting me to launch into a diatribe trying to justify my views and about how this is the worst thing ever…it ain’t gonna happen. Dude won! No way around it. Dude won and both parties had better figure out a way to listen to that segment of society who is feeling left behind who elected him. Both parties also better figure out that the era of putting up the tried and true names is over, at least for the time being. No more Bushes, no more Clintons.

And with regard to Mr. Trump, I’m willing to give him a chance. When he spoke last night, I will admit that his speech was what I had been waiting to hear from a candidate for over a year. ANY candidate! Infrastructure? I’ll take it. I don’t know why we had to wait until election night to mention it. But I’ll take it.

However, I would hope that those who are celebrating a win today will think back to how they felt four years ago. There are people seriously hurting this morning. There are people seriously afraid. And anyone who has the nerve to say things like, “Well screw them, they should just leave if they don’t like it.” should be ashamed of themselves. Spiking the football in the face of those who disagree with you should be beneath us. Again, I have to give it up to Mr. Trump for not doing that. He had every right to hold up the copy of the New Yorker magazine labeling him a Loser on the cover and have his Harry Truman moment. He could have declared war on Hillary Clinton, but didn’t. He could have declared war on Paul Ryan and every other Republican that opposed him, but didn’t. His speech was classy. No qualifiers, it was just classy. I hope his presidency mirrors that speech.

Speaking of Mrs. Clinton, can we please just let her go. Demanding investigations and jail time and all that other stuff will just waste time and tax payer money. I mean, c’mon, is there really a worse punishment you could inflict on the woman than the defeat she suffered at the hands of Mr. Trump last night? She’s suddenly and completely irrelevant. Let’s leave her that way and not make her a martyr.

Next, can we take at least one moment to mourn what we lost to make Mr. Trump’s victory possible? The GOP no longer has the moral high ground from which to run. Maybe they never did, but now we can’t even pretend anymore. We basically told all of our kids that the anti-bullying messages we’ve been preaching to them are bogus. Whether we like it or not, we’ve sent very mixed messages at best to our wives, sisters and daughters. We have some very serious outreach to our Muslim brothers and sisters to do. And in my opinion, worst of all, we have to come to grips with the fact that one party was willing to overlook the direct and illegal interfering of an outside nation into our political process. Russia hacked one campaign’s private e-mails and then crucified a candidate with them. And the other side wallowed in it while blatantly ignoring the illegality and horrific precedent it set. I believe it was Juan Williams on Fox News last night that asked a really good question. What if it is the Chinese doing it to a Republican in four years? We’ve basically just said it’s okay. We’re all good with that. If that doesn’t frighten everyone, or at least cause them a moment of sober reflection, then maybe I’ve misunderstood what this country was supposed to be about all along.

To my Democrat friends, I would ask that you give Mr. Trump a chance on those things that might actually help fix the country. You have no reason to. Republicans didn’t do it for your guy. But at some point, one group has to be the bigger man, so to speak. Obamacare premiums are going to triple at the beginning of the year. Infrastructure is a MAJOR problem in this country that is only getting worse by the minute. We have multiple problems that need immediate attention and mafia-style turf wars will solve none of them. I know it isn’t fair to ask, but let’s see what we can get done, can we? Fight what you can’t accept, but come to the table on those areas where you can.

And finally to wrap up, let me reiterate. I have spent an entire year proving I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. I was wrong. I am leaving up each and every post I’ve ever written about Donald Trump as a testament to my ineptitude and naivety. I want to feel elated today. I don’t. But then I knew going into last night that I wouldn’t regardless of the outcome. I feel like religious ideals and common decency have been told they have no place in politics and so I feel like an outcast. I don’t feel like I’m represented. I’ve never felt this way before and so I don’t know how to wrap my head around that.

So I’ll leave it at this. Congratulations to those who are celebrating today. My condolences to those who are not. For the first time ever last night, I got down on my knees and prayed for President Trump. Not America, President Trump. I thought I could see on his face last night that the reality of the moment was hitting him and he was truly feeling the burden. I hope he is up to the task of accomplishing exactly what he said in his speech last night. And I hope he forgets completely about most of what he’d been saying before that.

Some Equal Credit Where Credit Is Due

(Disclaimer: The following post contains trace elements of sarcasm. For those who are concerned about my level of seriousness, this entire article was written with a smile on my face.)

Oh My Lanta!!!

We’re six days from Election Day and Nate Silver is now saying that Trump has a pathway to victory. It’s not an easy path and it is still in the unlikely zone, but it’s a path where one didn’t appear to exist before.

And so now we have to prepare for at least the possibility of a Trump presidency.

So, let’s take a moment and think that through. Over the last few months many on the left have stood by and watched the ugly back and forth on the right about moral conscience vs. the cost of losing. Accusations have been hurled back and forth about who would “own” a Hillary Clinton Presidency if Republicans refused to back Trump on moral grounds. Those discussions have happened here on this blog. And all the while, all over the media, Democrats have sat back and smiled at the inevitability of their candidate getting into office; while occasionally chiming in self-righteously about the moral pitfalls of voting Trump while never once acknowledging any of their own candidate’s character issues. In fact, they could often be found defending their candidate as a fine upstanding woman who has been maliciously maligned and castigated over the years by a…for lack of a better encompassing term, Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

Then a few weeks ago from stage right entered Julian Assange and his treasure trove of hacked and stolen e-mails. (Leaked words that were never meant for a wide audience, like comments about the 47% let’s say, aren’t so palatable now, are they?)

Now, before we go any further, let me acknowledge yet another disgusting turn in this campaign. The fact that the right is celebrating and dancing in the streets because a foreign entity hacked into an American citizen’s e-mail account and then broadcast those personal e-mails to the world is just another example of how far we have depart from any standards of civility and decency this election cycle. Marco Rubio is right in calling this out because today it’s a Democrat. Tomorrow it could easily be a Republican. And either way, it IS illegal. Just as illegal as anything Mrs. Clinton might have done with her private e-mail server.

Having said that, anyone on the left who is still reading this might want to stop because that is the last defense of anything leftward leaning you’re going to get. You see, for months I have been castigating an electorate on the right that I believe wasted the perfect opportunity. Hillary Clinton is the most beatable Democratic candidate we’ve ever seen and yet I believed, and publicly stated many times, that the only person who could lose to her was Donald Trump. It is still likely that he will. But regardless, she is doing or has done everything in her power to make a liar out of me and others who have claimed that Donald Trump is unelectable.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to aim a little of my moral high ground finger pointing at Democrats.

If Donald Trump gets elected, it is totally on you.

Yeah, Republicans may have nominated him, but you’ve proven in the past that regardless of who Republicans nominate you can beat them with a smooth talking candidate, a willing media (thanks for all your help in the second debate of 2012, Candy Crowley), and a get out the vote machine that is truly impressive. Many on my side of the aisle have suggested it might be TOO impressive, but I won’t go there. With a half-decent candidate, you enter a presidential election with a sizable advantage. In fact, I will point out again that Republicans have only won the popular vote for president ONCE since 1992.

If that weren’t enough, you have a sitting president with approval ratings that are as high as Ronald Reagan’s were when he left office. Those who think he’s the devil probably won’t understand how that’s possible, but it’s true. He’s sitting on 54% or higher. Mr. Obama has turned his legacy around, and in doing so, provided a sweet setup for whomever would be following him on the Democratic ticket.

And what did you do with all political capital? You nominated Selina Meyer.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I understand there were many of you, like those of us on the right, who didn’t want to give your nomination to such a lousy candidate. Heck, you tried eight years ago to let the Democratic machine know that Hillary was not someone you were comfortable with. But alas, this time around, your party machinery guaranteed there would be no charismatic savior named Obama to save you. Instead your only option was a caricature of the Walter Matthau character in Grumpy Old Men. And even he got further than should have been humanly possibly. Especially when you consider that the Hillary campaign was cheating the whole time. I mean, if we’ve been able to discover through a few e-mails that Donna Brazile was feeding the Hillary Campaign debate questions in advance, imagine what we don’t know. Sounds like Republicans shouldn’t be the only ones screaming for their establishment to be blown up.

Nevertheless, over and over again I have heard those who defend Hillary Clinton describe her as a strong, confident woman. That may be. But you have lots of those in Democratic party. I detest her politics, but Elizabeth Warren is the first one who comes to mind. And to my knowledge, not one of those other women are nearly as cavalier as Mrs. Clinton when it comes to disregarding the law.

Seriously, c’mon. If you plan on running for president, you have to be either be supremely stupid or hold the rest of the American population in such disdain to believe that using your own personal e-mail server for e-mails that contained classified information isn’t a bad idea. It’s not rocket science OR brain surgery. And when it was just Republicans making a big deal about those e-mails, yeah, it might have been easy to sluff off. Oh, but then the Wikileaks e-mails came out showing that her own staff was horrified at what she was doing. Acknowledging, as I believe they did, that “HC” has issues with that kind of stuff. What kind of stuff? DOING WHAT THE LAW REQUIRES HER TO DO!!!

And so what does all this boil down to? Simply this; you knew who she was from her time as First Lady. There is no mystery nor has there ever been when it comes to the Clintons. And yet you nominated her anyway. Now, because she is exactly what we all knew her to be, she is opening the door for the most detestable major party presidential candidate in our history to win.

May God Help Us All!

So next week if the final verdict rendered is that The Donald gets to take up residence in the White House, I’m gonna blame you Democrats. I mean, yes, I’ll silently rejoice for the Supreme Court implications, but on the flip side I’ll be sorrowing greatly on just about every other policy he’s advocated. You know to which policies I’m referring…the ones that will ruin us for decades.

And it will all be your fault.

Well, not just yours. It’ll be yours and the batcrap crazy 35% of the Republican party who think Mexicans are the new Jews and that comments on your genitalia are perfectly acceptable on a national debate stage who started this mess. Which is actually kind of funny if you think about it. You’ll be grouped with the very people you detest more than any other on earth. Ironic, isn’t it? Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to the bathroom because just thinking about all of this has made me nauseous.

Gettysburg

I am a liar. There’s no getting around it, I am a bald-faced liar. And this post is going to prove I’m a liar. Having said that, even though I’m going to go through with this post, I do want to apologize. I don’t particularly want to be a liar and so I ask for forgiveness for my lying. Now, based on recent national events, I believe a majority of people who read this will forgive me. Because really, don’t we all have skeletons in our closet? Aren’t we all guilty of imperfections? And hey, I did say I was sorry, so…that should cover me, right?

You see, in my last post, I promised that I was done commenting on this election. At the time, I meant it. Nevertheless, sometimes things happen that can change a person’s intentions. In this case, I was tagged in a Facebook post and asked my opinions on Mr. Trump’s recent Contract with the American Voter (which can be read here for those who are unaware of what I’m speaking about) that he unveiled in Gettysburg, PA. When I was tagged in that post, I must admit that I was completely unaware of the contract as I have been doing my best to stay away from election coverage. Anyway, I read it and realized that my thoughts could not be succinctly placed into a couple of sentences and that maybe a Facebook post might not be the best forum to share those thoughts. So, I thought to myself, “Hey, you’ve got a blog. Might as well use it, right?” And so I shall. Therefore this post comes with a warning. Election commentary ahead. If you wish to avoid it, stop now. I completely understand. This post is mainly for one individual anyway. On the other hand, if you are one who can’t look away from bad car wrecks and also can’t stop following this election despite your best efforts, Read On!

First and foremost, from a strictly strategic point of view, I think this contract is an incredibly good idea. I would even venture to say that this is the type of thing many Republicans have been waiting for from their candidate for months. In my opinion, the only criticism I have of the tactic is that it is being released woefully late. Nevertheless, it does give us an opportunity to discuss the policies at play with Mr. Trump as opposed to the man. And for me, that is a welcome discussion. So, if I may, I will begin at the beginning and hit each point, addressing them strictly from a view of how I feel about the policy, not the man behind the policy. And then I will sum up my thoughts on both at the end. With that said, Let’s Begin:

Part 1. Clean Up Corruption and Special Interest

  1. Constitutional Amendment to Impose Term Limits – I know going back to 1994 and the original Contract With America, that this is a favorite issue of conservatives. In 1994 I agreed with it. However, I have come to believe that term limits have an inherent flaw. They limit the freedom of the people. If the majority of the people believe their representative is doing a good job, they shouldn’t be forced to get rid of that representative. It is a limit to the people’s freedom of speech. Now I know the argument; an incumbent has built in advantages that are hard to overcome. True! So what? If you want another person’s job, wait until they retire or prove you’d be better at it than they are. Don’t force America to throw out good representation with the bad. Because if you think a corrupt political machine is dependent solely on long time incumbents, you are sadly mistaken.
  2. Hiring Freeze On All Federal Employees to Lessen Federal Work Force by Attrition – Admittedly, I’m pretty ambivalent on this one. I understand the concept and I am for shrinking the size of government. However, in my own experience of putting this action into practice, it rarely works the way it is supposed to. The people you would like to see go don’t go and the people who actually get stuff done end up overloaded and burnt out.
  3. No new Federal Regulation Without Two Regulations Being Removed – Again, in theory this sounds good and I am for the lessening of federal regulation, especially when it comes to job growth at a small business level. However, once again I have to point to the law of unintended consequences when laws are passed that are this broad and non-specific. Not every regulation is bad and there are plenty of people who would be happy to take advantage of situations where good regulation is removed without much scrutiny as part of a package deal.
  4. 5. 6. Lobbying – I am not crazy about the five year ban on lobbying for any White House or Congressional Official becoming a lobbyist. For example, if someone is truly passionate about stopping abortion in America and then either gets defeated or chooses to leave public office but then wants to work as a lobbyist for the Pro-Life movement, I think that is perfectly reasonable. However, with regard to the lifetime bans on lobbying for foreign interests and foreign interests raising money for American elections, I am on board with that. But if we do this, we need to be ready to stop meddling in other countries even if we see a national interest. Fair is fair.

Part 2. Protect American Workers

  1. 2. Renegotiate or Withdraw From NAFTA and Withdraw From Trans-Pacific Partnership – Here is where we finally reach the point where the man and the ideology are shown to be two distinct things. Free trade is a conservative bedrock. Not only that, these alliances are crucial to our way of life. Should Trump follow through on these promises, our everyday trips to Walmart would become excruciatingly painful on our pocketbooks. Mr. Trump would likely preside over inflation similar to that of Jimmy Carter and would likely suffer the same fate. It is astounding to me that anyone who understands basic economics would get behind Mr. Trump on these trade issues. I won’t go into this any further, but for anyone wanting a more in-depth explanation on the problems with renegotiating NAFTA, please look here.

3. Label China a Currency Manipulator – China IS a currency manipulator. However, for one country to label a major trading partner as such, said country better walk into that gunfight with a sizable advantage or else have Denzel Washington and six of his friends handy. It would be a correct call, but at the same time it is another cavalier approach to the economy that could seriously hurt the day to day life of average Americans. Proceed with Caution.

4. Identify All Foreign Trading Abuses That Unfairly Impact The American Worker and Use Every Tool To End Those Abuses Immediately – Great rhetoric! However, completely unrealistic. Unless Americans are ready to give up minimum wages, employer provided health care insurance, 40 hour work weeks, Social Security, Medicare, and every other benefit afforded the American worker, they probably shouldn’t venture down this road. Unless our work force is willing to live like third world workers, this is a no win battle for us.

5. 6. 7. Lift Restrictions On America’s Energy Reserves, Allow Vital Energy Infrastructure Projects and Use Climate Change Money Sent To The UN For US Water and Environmental Infrastructure Improvements – Sign Me Up!

Part 3. Restore Security and Constitutional Rule of Law

  1. Cancel All of President Obama’s Unconstitutional Executive Orders – Rhetoric!!! Donald Trump is not the Supreme Court and therefore not qualified to determine what is or what is not constitutional.
  2. Replace Justice Scalia With a Conservative Justice – Sounds Good!
  3. Cancel All Funding To Sanctuary Cities – Uhhh…could be some constitutional issues here.
  4. Remove Two Million Criminal Illegal Immigrants and Cancel All Visas To Countries Who Won’t Take Them Back – Blanket cancelling of visas is a sticky venture, but nonetheless, I think the basic idea here isn’t bad. If an immigrant here illegally commits a violent crime, they should be removed. Period. However, in this contract he uses a number that is very flawed and therefore creates a mirage that depicts a problem which is much smaller than he describes it. Just use real numbers and ditch the fear quotient and I can get behind this.
  5. Suspend Immigration From Terror Prone Regions That Can’t Adequately Vet And All Vetting Will Be Considered Extreme Vetting – A blanket proposal like this, especially in the face of all the images of refugees fleeing for their lives, is wrong. I can’t support it from a religious point of view and I especially can’t support this from a human point of view. This is atrocious and again plays to the fear rather than the goodness of the American people. It also creates an environment that is more conducive to radicalization of refugees against the US.

Part 4. First Hundred Days

  1. Tax Cuts – As with any proposition to majorly restructure the tax code, there are pros and there are cons. I do think lower corporate tax rates would spur economic growth. I like a proposal I heard from someone who suggested the lower corporate tax rates but with the caveat that corporations be required to provide health benefits to all employees. Possibly a great idea. Although it does sound a little Obamacare-esque.
  2. End The Offshoring Act – You start talking tariffs of any kind and you start talking higher prices for American consumers. Full stop!
  3. American Energy and Infrastructure Act – Absolutely love this idea! I wish he had made this the bedrock of his campaign instead of The Wall.
  4. School Choice and Education Opportunity – Again, love this idea and wish he had made his campaign more about this than The Wall.
  5. Repeal and Replace Obamacare – I love Health Savings Accounts! However, for low income folks, they are not a good solution as they are currently structured. You would likely need Obamacare like assistance for the poor. I like the idea of increasing competition in the health insurance arena, but I get leery of shortening any safety testing when it comes to drugs. Too many side-effects. Finally, I am disappointed that tort-reform is not part of his approach to healthcare. Without tort reform, I don’t believe we will ever see insurance costs come down.
  6. Child-care and Elderly-care – I actually really like this idea. Really Really like this idea!
  7. End Illegal Immigration Act (The Wall) – I actually really hate this idea. Really Really hate this idea! Anyone who believes we should get serious about addressing deficit spending should also hate this idea. And saying that Mexico will eventually pay for it without any evidence to support that idea is…Yeah
  8. Restoring Community Safety Act – This sounds too much like creating a police state. The problem with police states is that they are fine as long as you are not on the wrong side of them. Militarizing our police and giving even more latitude to federal law enforcement just makes me a little queasy.
  9. Restoring National Security Act – Love the VA stuff! Long overdue. Again, we either want deficit spending reduction or we want massive military spending increases. Can’t have both. I also am very leery of the idea that we only let certain people immigrate in. It might sound innocent, but that language has the potential to quickly turn ugly.
  10. Clean Up The Corruption In Washington Act – This is great stump speech material without having any substance.

So there you have it. Again, I think this is a very good move strategically. Except that it raises the one question I have had about this campaign from the very beginning.

Why Now?!?

Why are we only seeing this with two weeks left in the election? Why would a candidate who is so concerned about the media being unfair to everything he says wait until after the debates (his only real opportunities to make these arguments directly to the American people at large) to issue this contract? Why, when the strategy of getting something like this out early and then staying relentlessly on point has been so clearly demonstrated in 1994 and 2000, would you not release this sooner? It’s mystifying.

Unless, as I have long feared, this campaign was never about the voter’s definition of winning to begin with.

Just prior to the third debate, reporters asked Mr. Trump’s campaign chief, Stephen Bannon, about the possibility of Trump starting his own news network should he not win the election. Mr. Bannon’s response? “Mr. Trump is an entrepreneur.” When pressed further, he responded again, “Mr. Trump is an entrepreneur.” He quickly clarified that they still believed they could win, but his initial response was telling.

And it makes me go back and evaluate Mr. Trump’s campaign from a new point of view. All along it has done a very good job of playing to the 30-40% of the Republican party that has made up Mr. Trump’s base all the while consistently making moves that alienate everyone beyond that base. It has basically thumbed its nose at Republicans who are queasy with his approach, in essence saying, “Screw you, get on board or get run down.” And outreach to moderate, or minority voters? None.

Furthermore, each time he has done something that resonates with voters beyond his base, he has quickly followed it up with a 3 a.m. tweet or something else that just as quickly alienates. No better example can be found than in the third debate when he performed admirably and then at the threshold, makes the statement that he won’t commit to upholding the election results. Now I know all the arguments in his defense. But this was not an off the cuff decision. His running mate had been asked about it the day before and stated without hesitation that the campaign would accept the results. His daughter had been asked about it earlier that day with the same answer. He knew the question was coming and he knew what the media would do if he failed to provide the stock answer. He did it anyway.

And the result?

His base is more behind him than ever and he continues to slide in the polls.

Donald Trump prides himself on being a winner. He also has a well documented past of doing what is best for Donald Trump regardless of the effects on business partners, his customers or the public at large. He is not a stupid man. He has had to know all along that his antics are not those of a candidate that will ultimately win an election. Which makes me ask: In this situation, how does Donald Trump define winning? I believe there is a strong possibility that winning to him was positioning himself for his own conservative television news network all along. A place where you have no responsibility and can be as big of a personality as you want. I further believe you can look across the conservative media landscape and pick out those who were probably hand-picked to join him. Sean Hannity, Eric Bolling, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter. They have been all Trump all the time from day one.

So while I applaud this Gettysburg move by the Trump campaign, to me it looks like another calculated effort to show his base how serious he is, but timing it in such a way that it will have minimal impact on the rest the electorate at large.

And the worst part if I’m right? Winning in this case for Donald Trump will guarantee a continued string of losses for Republican presidential candidates for years to come. Which means the Republican party will get out of Trump just as much as those signed up for a degree from Trump University.