Friday, October 6, 2017

John Wayne, Women's Tennis and Radicalization

Although today it seems rather odd given that I consider myself a Progressive, as a youth one of my heroes was John Wayne.  Everyone knows his politics leaned to the right.  However, looking at some of his movies from a political aspect, he starred in numerous ones that espoused Liberal issues.
For example, one of my favorites is “The Sons of Katie Elder.”  Oh sure, on the surface it may seem to be the story of wayward boys returning home to pay respects to their departed mother, but if you look a little deeper, you'll find progressive themes.  Basically, these rough boys stand up against an unjust system and fight a ruthless corporation who is backed by local law enforcement. In other words, the little guy against a plutocracy.

I know, you missed that too.  I didn't really grasp this message until I aged a bit (hey, don’t say grew old). As a kid, I just saw it as standing up to injustice no matter the odds.

So the seeds of my radicalization (the view of my conservative friends on anyone who doesn't hold their views) had begun.  Yes, standing up for the little guy against injustice, instead of just concerning yourself with what benefits you, is radical here in the U.S. You are a bleeding heart Liberal.

Well, those seeds that had been planted began to blossom while in college.  Nope, not over the Vietnam War.  It began with tennis.  Women's tennis.  Yes, true to The Thurber Brigade theme, it turns out women made me that raging, radical Liberal.

In my sophomore year at Texas Tech (eventually got my degree from the University of Texas; another story), my friends and I went out to play tennis at the spanking new student tennis courts.  However, they had been taken over by the women’s tennis team for some match against another school.  I should point out that at this time the men’s team had some really nice courts they used exclusively, while the women’s courts were, well, they were crappier than something you’d find in a public park. 

For some reason, the men’s team was unwilling to share their nice courts. The women’s team, not wishing to irritate them or the athletic department (controlled by men), decided to instead make a move on the common students—who probably had even less power or voice with those in charge.  Historical note: Title IX had only recently kicked in (1972) and women’s sports across the US were very slowly getting their due.  Very, very slowly.

Outraged at this, I did the only thing voiceless and powerless people have done for years: I wrote a letter to the editor of the school newspaper.  Although I’m sure it was an explosive and moving letter, the only part I remember is that I used the phrase “the students get screwed again.”  Probably the only reason I remember that phrase is because I heard some “suits” repeat it as they walked out of the rowdy hearing that resulted from said letter.

That’s right, my first attempt at social justice somehow touched a nerve across campus.  Soon other angry letters flooded the paper, and with some threatening to organize a protest rally the administration decided the way to calm things would be to have an open discussion between students, the women’s team and the administration.

My friends and I joined the packed house and even got to sit at the front table opposite the suits.  Because the student courts were paid for by a special fee assigned to us, we believed we had the upper-hand and we attempted to stress that although we supported the women’s team and thought they were treated unfairly, it wasn’t right to be equally unfair to us.  We also, numerous times, asked why the men and women teams couldn’t share the men’s team courts.

To this day I proudly declare to everyone that we had an impact.  The women’s team only played on the student courts one more time after that, supposedly because they didn’t have enough time to reschedule.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the administration had begun to feel pressure because of Title IX and relented to have the men and women’s teams share until something new could be built for the women.
So my radicalization had begun.  I would fight for justice and the little guy thereafter.  As mentioned in a previous blog, I worked for enlisted people’s rights while in the Army, I took part in several civil rights demonstrations and well, let’s just say I fought for issues in which John Wayne would not show up for the rallies.  You know, radical Liberal ideas like clean air and water, fair pay, feed the poor, etc.

Now before you say it also began my opposition to women, let me point out that half of the crowd supporting my friends and I were women. Plus, I have—and always will—support women’s rights, from equal pay to their right to choose what happens to their bodies.  However, I’m also willing to make fun of them and say sarcastic things about their habits.  Yes, the Brigade marches on. 

The Thurber Brigade does not believe that having Progressive ideals makes a person radical.  However, thanks to Fox News relentless war on Liberals many people now believe that standing for clean air and water, equal rights, fair pay, well, anything not approved by the Neocon pundits is just short of being card-carrying Communists.  However, if standing up for the welfare of others throws us into that crowd, then we're proud to be radical.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Our Defenses are Offensive: A Brigade Sidestep

In ancient times (the 80s), I used to always wear some button on my shirt.  This was partially to prove to the world how cool I was, but also often to make a statement of some kind.  My favorite button, which I wore most often, was a small version of the #6 button worn by Patrick McGoohan in "The Prisoner." That could, and might be, a blog all in itself.

Other buttons were one that said "question reality" one was the symbol yin and yang, and one said "our defenses are offensive" and had a picture of a

missile on it. This latter one implied that not only was it offensive that we had enough nukes to blow the world up dozens of times, but also that we used supposedly defensive weapons offensively. 

I bring this up in a sidestep because Trump has succumbed to the military's wishes and agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan.  I'll get to that war shortly, but I think it's important to bring up some topics about our military.

For example, we spend more on our military then the next 12 high spenders combined.  This in itself is outrageous, but that Trump, for some reason, believes we need to spend even more is goofy.  I have some doubts he really believes the US needs to spend more, he sees his statements as just sound bites to appease the masses.  This unending pushing of money onto the military is undoubtedly attributed to the "military-industrial" complex Ike warned us about (but which congress/presidents love).

The "industrial" part of this evil alliance is easy to understand.  They want to make boatloads of money.  The military is a little more complicated.  Part of it is money because we see a ton of generals who retire and begin to lobby for
weapons manufacturers.  As a former enlisted person (note that none of us are ever recruited by weapons companies) it always chafed me that the military/generals loved spending big bucks on fancy and expensive weapon systems, but always bought the cheapest equipment for us grunts in the trenches.  Guess the companies can't make money off of things like boots, backpacks, tents, etc.  So they'll spend billions on a new jet, and about 69 cents for a rain poncho.

The military has an added incentive though for large spending excesses: they have a military mindset that big militaries win wars.  Oh sure, sending a military after another big military might be good when it's against a country.  It doesn't work for smaller insurrections and guerilla wars.  The military brass doesn't accept this.  A military solution doesn't work against a belief/ideology.  Ask the French about Algeria; the British about Ireland; the Soviet Union about Afghanistan and us about Vietnam (and now Afghanistan).
I’d add Iraq into the latter, but that might really set folks off.  Too many believe we won the war in Iraq.  Sure, we ousted Saddam Hussein, but even when we left there were still countless attacks going on including bombings by insurgents.  They had subsided a little, but it wasn’t due to “The Surge” as the military will tell you.  If you look at the record, you’ll see that after the surge we had higher casualties and more attacks against our forces.  It was only after the “Sunni Awakening” that things calmed down.  In other words, the people who lived there finally did something.
That’s related to Afghanistan too.  For some reason, many Americans think we drove out the Taliban.  However, when the Taliban were driven from the country, we had at best 1,000 troops there.  No, the Afghans drove out the Taliban.  The Northern Alliance and other warlords did it, admittedly with our logistical support as well as air and artillery firepower. 

It was only after the Taliban had been cleared out of the country that we began to infuse massive numbers of ground troops.  The military kept insisting we needed more and more troops, and different presidents listened.  However, what the military didn’t stress when asking for more troops was the actual number of enemy troops. 
I’ve heard non-military affiliated analysts claim that there may only be a total of 15-20,000 Taliban fighters.  So we increased our troops up to 100,000 at one time (2010) to face down a mere handful of fighters.  Our troops have some impressive weapons, body armor, night-vision goggles, etc., while the Taliban dress in robes and fight with 60s-era AK47s.  Our troops get to a battle in million dollar helicopters, they get to the battle by riding in 10-year old Nissan pickups. 

We finally wised up a little and have begun to let the Afghans do the fighting, with our troop level now at 8,000 (although recent reports state the military lied and we really have 11,000), but now the military says they want more.  So this never-ending war will continue.  I should point out that Iraq War featured a similar overwhelming level of troops versus the enemy.  Some estimated the insurgents in Iraq only numbered about 30,000 while we had at one time over 150,000.  But that’s a whole different can of worms.  The main point I’m getting at is when you listen to the military, they’ll always say they want more.  More troops, more equipment, more money.
We need to get away from this unbridled spending on the military and nation-building adventurism.  We have military personnel in 148 different countries.  We have actually bases in 38 of those nations.  How about spending equal to only the next top five other countries and investing that savings in things like universal healthcare and infrastructure improvements?  Let’s bring our troops home from half of those countries (if not more) and let those countries spend their own money on defense instead of using our resources.

People often say their son or daughter is fighting for our freedom by serving in the military.  No they aren’t.  They’re serving our country, but our freedom is not threatened by most of the countries where we have our troops stationed (or do you believe the Taliban is going to load troops onto ships and send them over here?).  So bring the troops home so they really are defending our shores and not someone else’s.  Let’s try to make our defenses defensive, not offensive.
"Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness."

The Thurber Brigade once again apologizes for this sidestep away from the usual "War Between Men and Women" (relationships), but as usual the author got annoyed and so, ta da, sidestep.  Annoyed that some military experts say we must send even more troops into another endless war.  Well, what makes an expert?  The author served in the military as a grunt, has researched the military for articles and books, has read over 100 books on the military and various wars.  Because he was a lowly enlisted person and not some high ranking general itching to send more troops into harm's way, he is not consulted about these things.  So at least he is able to get this off his chest.  The Thurber Brigade will get back to the straight and narrow next time. Maybe. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Thurber Brigade Clip Show

Often when TV shows have run out of new ideas, or need a break from weekly filming or some other reason to not have an original episode, they’ll run what is called a “Clip Show.”  It’s a show that has some weak storyline but weaves in clips of past episodes.  In other words, the writers took a break and so the producers just ran a bunch of their favorite scenes from the past.

Lately I’ve been engrossed in a couple of other writing escapades and so have neglected The Thurber Brigade.  Usually I try to get at least one blog in each month, but because of this activity, have nothing to show for August.  So it seems like this might be a good time to throw in The Thurber Brigade Clip Show.
For some reason, women seem to believe that men can read their minds and will just magically know when they are interested in a guy.  Sadly, men do NOT have ESP.

Partly because of this odd belief, or more likely, because they’re afraid to face the same possibility of rejection that men must face, women never make First Contact.

Women seem to have a strange form of vision in which when they see a guy wearing a Speedo they go “Ewwwwww”—unless that man is Justin Timberlake.
Angry feminists have attacked this blog multiple times, but they seem to have really been enraged when I discussed women’s driving habits.

Speaking of driving, it drives women crazy to see men go nuts over an attractive female.  However, they can be just as superficial as men, but seem to focus more on the male’s earning potential and status rather than looks.
I wanted to drive to a Pat Benatar concert one time, because, let’s face it, she’s hot, but I couldn’t go because I was coaching at a soccer game.  However, one of my players skipped the game to take his girlfriend to the concert.  It didn’t end well.

Too often women think men are childish when it’s really just our competitive spirit that drives us to certain antics.
Men and women have different views on fashion, plus, women don’t dress to attract men, they dress to impress other women.

In the early days of the blog, I had one about throwing pick-up lines to females, but nowadays, I don’t do that as much as I used to.
Over the years my blood might begin to boil over certain issues and so I’d feel compelled to take a sidestep from “The War Between Men and Women” and blog about the current issue.  One of the best included handy tips for tourists on how to deal with our law enforcement officers.  This one came about because of yet another case of a cop killing an unarmed civilian.
Of course, I’d often hide my sidesteps by using a title and beginning to introduce some hot button issue meant to inflame angry feminists, and then jumping into something else.  Such as raving about the greatness of the USA women’s soccer team.

I am a writer so I also had to take a sidestep now and then to promote my writing.  Such as the time I talked all about SEX.

My personal favorite blogs though, concern matters of my own heart.  In other words, stories about that special female in my life who got away.  I always call these close encounters, partly because I love sci fi and so like alluding to that movie.
So from nearly five years worth of blogs which was the best?  Well, of course, it’s whichever is the most recent one.
 Ahhh, James Thurber

The Thurber Brigade apologizes for stooping to a "clip show."  They're not that great on TV, but we hope you've enjoyed this slight review of past whimsical blogs about men, women, dating, well, any and everything.  We promise to get back into the swing of things next time.  Maybe.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Are You Somebody?

Around 10-15 years ago I sat at the bar of a nightclub during SxSW listening to a band and drinking a beer. Normally during the festival, like most people, I try to get close to the band on the dance floor in front of the stage.  I had forgotten my earplugs though and so thought sitting farther away (bar was at front of building, stage at back) might save my hearing. A young woman approached me and then took the bar stool next to me.
"Are you somebody?" She asked.

I smiled, frantically trying to think about a good pick up line (yes, she was quite attractive), but nothing clever came to mind.  "Well, my mother thinks so."
She smiled back, and we exchanged a few more pleasantries, but she slowly eased away. Obviously, I was not somebody enough.  At SxSW it is very common to run into actors, singers, directors, etc., and she really had hoped I might fit into one of those categories. A struggling writer, fully employed, self-sufficient and cute (hey, I had hair back then and a number of females thought me handsome) academic advisor is not "somebody."
I've blogged beforehand about how women are just as superficial as men, but instead of looks, they lean toward money and prestige.  However, her affliction, well, okay, her desire, had more to do with acquiring fame and stardom.  A driving force for both genders.  I like to claim that this appears in generations after us Boomers.  After all, we were the generation that celebrated the anti-heroes, fought against the establishment and the status quo.  I have a feeling though that there might be a number of us who succumb to this desire too. Maybe.
I wrote a short story about this a number of years ago and actually convinced someone to publish it.  Titled "Thank You" it focused on a man who watched a little too much "TMZ" and "Dish Nation" and "E! News" and saw all these glamorous stars and people living the high life.  He soon became despondent because he was just a little old high school counselor.  He decided the only way out was, well, to end it all.  Okay, it may have been more black humor than just my usual ribald satire. Anyway, the moral was that everyone's life is important in its own way and we shouldn't judge ours by movie stars, singers, et al.
Unfortunately, we see this attitude all the time.  The attitude that being a star is everything, while being a good person, whether construction worker, teacher, cop or some other useful occupation (come on, do you really believe actors, etc. really contribute to advancing society? Pleeaasseee.) is to not have succeeded in life.

For example, a number of years ago I remember a news story where a Kardashian and Posse were walking through an airport and a reporter asked her if she wanted to meet some big name politician also going through.  I think it was Joe Biden.  She had no idea who he was, nor wanted to meet him.  If she didn't recognize his name, he must not have been important enough (similar to some college students who recognize the Kardashians, but not Ronald Reagan).
You really see this when watching those reality TV shows and they start with the tryouts.  There will be thousands of people skipping work, doctor's appointments or something in order to stand in line for four or more hours in order to spend one minute on a stage to try to impress someone that they should be a star.

My satirical book "Sex and the American Male" which mainly took aim at America's mass consumerism addiction, also touched on this.  The main character, Zach—due to microbes in his brain that want him to go crazy—always wants to impress his love by either having a great car or by having enough money and prestige to buy her "STUFF."  He has to be a big deal.

To a lesser degree I think you can find this in other countries, but they are mimicking us.  The US sets the trend.  As I mention in SEX, "we are the Borg." American culture and society is overwhelming. We will assimilate you. Resistance is futile.

As a child of the Sixties I put up resistance to this compulsion as best I can, but I have to admit, I'd sure like to get more people to read my books and this blog.

Oh, no, I'm infected.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Less Than Conventional

There's nothing more amusing than walking down The Drag here in Austin, Texas to see what the University kids believe to be the next cool "thing." 
When I first got to town I remember two-foot high spiked hair, which morphed into skinhead mosh-pitters, which in turn became flannel-shirted, stocking-hat grungers, who became nose-studded, inked hipsters who became, well, I haven't figured out what look today's men get to be.

For the cool, it's important to be different and some would say unconventional.  However, I take exception to the latter because I strive to be unconventional and I'm nothing like those cool folks.

I never got a tattoo. I never did anything to my hair in order to be different (although if you've seen my picture, you know I'd be willing to do that just to have hair). I didn't wear jeans with a hole in the knee to be cool—I wore jeans with a hole in the knee because I would do work that wore out the knees in my jeans.

I guess it’s because I believe being unconventional has more to do with behavior rather than appearance.  I attempt not to act the way society may expect me to act.  You know, things like get out of school and buy a nice car, invest in a house, get married and have 2.5 kids.  Instead I kept driving my beat up old car, I didn’t want to be known as a landowner, so lived in apartments until I finally felt backed into a corner and bought a house (it’s a looonnng story) and my relationships…Well, you’ve seen this blog and know that I’ve been less than conventional in relationships and so remain single.

It all began decades ago while a teenager.  I had a good friend named Phil Johnson who developed cancer after my family had moved away.  We kept in close contact via mail (it was long before anything like the internet. No, not the Stone Age. Jeez) so I knew of his struggles, including the loss of one of his legs.  So my family traveled from El Paso back to Topeka to go to his brother’s wedding.

When we got to the church, our first time to see each other, he was at the top of the stairs with his family, I was down at the door with mine.  He was so excited to see me that he yelled my name.  I looked up at the smiling face of my young friend and fought the urge to run up the steps to greet him.  Instead, I did as I was programmed and stayed at the bottom of the stairs in the receiving line with my family.  Heaven forbid I do something out of the norm that the conventional folks of Kansas (and my family) would think was out of line.

Oh, we had a nice reunion when my family finally made it to the top.  He was still happy to see me, but that image of his smiling face looking down at me while I stayed motionless haunted me.  Especially when he died from that cancer a few short years later.

That conventionality, that formality, burned into my thoughts.  I vowed to never let formality or being conventional interfere with the important moments in life.

I remember at my high school graduation a cousin shouted out as I walked across the stage “he’s got tennis shoes on!” I think I was the only one who didn’t wear formal shoes and attire.  I didn’t mind the public abuse.  I felt comfortable.

(Jay working graduation. Nope, wouldn't wear a suit)
My parents always insisted that my brother and I wear a suit and tie to Sunday church services yet all during high school I somehow managed to get away with just a sweater and open neck. One time I needed to borrow a black suit jacket from someone so I could go to a funeral of a relative.  For about 20 years the only time I would wear a tie was when I had to work the graduation ceremony as part of my advising duties.  So in that 20 years I only wore a tie twice a year (spring and fall graduation).

Yes, it's Jay's VW & Datsun, circa 80s
When everyone else would buy a new car every other year because they wanted to stay in style, I would hold on to my old car or truck for ten years no matter its’ looks.  If I did buy a different car/truck, it would be used, usually with dents and ugly paint job, and the main feature had to be good MPG’s—which is a popular trend today, but I’ll keep that habit no matter.

This latter habit didn’t help relationships with females.  As noted in previous blogs, while men may be superficial in how a woman looks, women want a man who has a fancy car (in other words, money).

My desire to avoid formality and the conventional affected relationships in other ways.  For example, I actually wanted women to make choices, not to let me make all the decisions. Oh, sure, as you may have noted in my routine blog I can get set in my ways, but I like trying different things, I'm almost always looking for different experiences.
So often I'd call a girlfriend up and ask her what she wanted to do and she'd get flustered and insist I decide. It could be that it was early in the relationship and she hadn't committed yet (yeah, I blogged about that too) and so didn't want to make a mistake. But surely with all the females around wanting equal rights you'd think I'd find a few willing to express themselves on a social level.  Most guys, the macho types anyway, probably insist or want to be the decider.  I wanted to hear something from her.

So no, you may never see me inked or with purple hair.  I may not wear a tie or fancy clothes to your formal event.  You will definitely never see me with a ring in my nose.  However, there's a good chance that I will not act the way you expect. I may even do something just to get a reaction from you.  Forgive me, it's just me doing my best not to be conventional.