Friday, December 11, 2015

First Contact

…There is no starship mission more dangerous than that of First Contact. We never know what we will face when we open the door on a new world, how we will be greeted, what exactly the dangers will be.  Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 4, episode 15, “First Contact.”)
Some angry feminists have the idea that every time a man approaches a woman he doesn't know and speaks to her, it's sexual harassment. She doesn't want to be bothered they say, or else state she has not done anything to warrant the intrusion. If the continuation of the species were left to women such as this, we'd be extinct in no time. Because it is up to man to make First Contact since females are too afraid to make any attempt.
Well, unless the guy is a rock star, pro athlete or movie star. Going up to a complete stranger is impossible for women. Too scary.

I should point out that I wouldn't be here if my father hadn't made First Contact with the beautiful young woman behind the counter of a small drug store. He had just rolled into a small Kansas town on a surveying project and was entranced. This is not a unique story, of course. A large portion of the US populace are happy couples because some guy walked up to a complete stranger and asked her out on a date.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, some men are subtle and clever, some are Neanderthals and resort to catcalls.  Also in the same vein, The Brigade discussed how men are required to throw out lines to meet women. Women will critique these lines, but would never attempt the endeavor themselves. It's too frightening for them; too much of a risk of getting rejected. 
So it's up to the male of the species to take the risk. To make First Contact. Oddly, women will often tell guys to "buck up" and take it (risk) like a man—even though they wouldn't dream of doing it themselves.

Interestingly, some women will make an attempt to meet a man they might know from work or some party where they might have had a brief chat (i.e. not a stranger), but never via a verbal message. Instead they attempt some elaborate scheme.

For example, I vaguely remember a woman writing about her scheme, either in a blog or newspaper personal essay, about trying to meet this handsome guy who had said "hi" to her in a park while jogging (wow, almost a stranger, except she had run past him many times before). Of course, in the story she never made mention of just going up to the guy and introducing herself.
The great plan failed, as might be expected, when instead of attracting her target some other "older" guy approached her instead. No it wasn't me, although I did take offense that she brought up his age and made it sound hideous. Come on, I'm not that old. Maybe. Anyway, she wasn't interested in this old guy and the end result is that she is not enjoying dating bliss with the handsome guy either.

In a lot of these schemes women dream up they usually believe they can offer signs to the man (yeah, I've blogged about these signs too) or else believe that men have ESP.

We don't.

 For example, one time while in a drug store a cute female seemed to follow me around. Even looking at athlete's foot spray when I stopped there. Not having ESP I wasn't sure if she was interested or was coincidentally looking for the same products that I was and her huge, mean boyfriend was waiting patiently for her around the next aisle (yeah, experienced that one). Needless to say, we never spoke.

A long time ago I remember a Cathy comic strip  in which Cathy and her friends were sitting around a table in a cafĂ©. She brought up how it was the male who had to make First Contact, take all the risks, and that women would only come on board when they were absolutely sure they were safe. The other women just shrugged, said there was no reason to change now and nonchalantly went on to order their food.
In other words, even though women demand equality in everything, they don't mean it applies to social situations.  AND they admit/support the concept.

So perhaps by the time we achieve intergalactic space travel and trek to distant galaxies, women will have become equal to men—even in social settings. Until that faaarrrr off time, men will have to continue to wear the redshirts on those perilous away missions and initiate First Contact with the Femaliens they encounter.

(What? You were expecting another Thurber Sidestep? Sorry, but The Brigade believed it was time to quit getting angry at all the crap going on out there, from bad cops to loud-mouth, idiotic politicians, and get back to The War Between Men and Women. You're welcome.)
Ahhh, Thurber

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tips For Tourists: Another Thurber Brigade Sidestep

In these troubled times, The Thurber Brigade wishes to do its part to help people and to foster amity with those who travel to our shores. So we offer these Tips For Tourists. In this particular case we want to give our European friends who have crossed the ocean a guide to better understand what to expect if they encounter the police here in the United States.

First off, keep in mind that our police are nothing like what you experience in your home country. While it may take two to three years of training to become a "cop" back home, here in the US it can take as little as 15 weeks to earn the gun and badge (even hairdressers require more training).

Also, although your police may use Sherlock Holmes as a role model for reasoned policing, here in The States they prefer the "Dirty Harry" style of enforcing the law.

In that vein, while your lawmen prefer to de-escalate a tense situation, ours prefer to shoot first and sort it out, well, they typically don't need to sort anything out because they can do no wrong in the American Justice system's eyes. In other words, if they do something violent to you there is a 90% chance that nothing will happen to them save a few days of paid vacation.
With all of the above in mind, here are a few tips to avoid being shot/killed/or beat up by American law officers:

Do not run from the police. It doesn't matter that you may have not done anything and fear for your life (because they are shouting at you and have their hands on their guns), stand perfectly still. Keep in mind, that even subservience doesn't guarantee that you will not be shot or beaten. But if someone is filming the exchange, there is at least a 10% chance the officer will get a verbal reprimand.

Do not ask them for assistance. They may take it as a sign that you are about to attack them and will “Pre-retaliate” to stop you. 
  If you are driving, do not flash your headlights at them even if they are running theirs on highbeam. They might see you as a possible terrorist and think you are signaling a fellow traveler and so will again Pre-retaliate before you have a chance to do anything. 

If you do as they ask, the police may shoot you.  Again, it boils down to them believing you are about to do them harm, and so want to take action before you do.

They may also shoot you if you don't do what they ask. For example, if they ask you for something you don’t have in your possession and so don’t give it to them (even though you don’t have it), then they might fear you are about to do something violent to them and so will attack you before you get a chance. 
  If they come to your hotel room/home and want to search it, if you refuse they may shoot you. It doesn’t matter if you ask them for a warrant. If you refuse they’ll assume you are an international terrorist and will fear you are about to do them harm and so will again, Pre-retaliate.
   Do not take pictures while you are here on vacation or you might become horribly maimed by police. 

In case you got your dog through quarantine keep in mind that our police fear dogs with a passion and may shoot your pet if he:
  Runs away

As you can see from these tips, the police here in the US are nothing like your police who typically respond with patience and calm. Our police are a fearful lot who fear so much for their lives, we're often surprised they even step outside their station. 
You may have also noticed that they really like to use their guns too. This is because in their training (remember, usually only about 15 weeks) they are taught how to use their weapon, but not about how to avoid having to use it like police are taught in Europe. So their first impulse for anything that doesn't go their way is to shoot. Yes, you might have just been stopped for something that just warrants a ticket, but hey, they have this gun they might as well use it, right?
We at the Thurber Brigade hope these tips will help you to enjoy your time here as well as maybe return you to your country safely and with little physical and psychological damage from our "peace officers." Enjoy your trip and for god's sake if you see a policeman coming for you keep your head down!

The Thurber Brigade apologizes for taking a sidestep yet again. We know it seems to be a habit, but we thought that since the number of deaths at the hands of police has now gone over 1,000 for this year (meanwhile, in 24 years police in Wales and England only killed 55 civilians), well, it might be good to give people new to the US a little warning. The Brigade plans to get back to the business of The War Between Men and Women real soon. Really.
James Thurber supports sidesteps. Trust me.

(Some Images courtesy

Friday, November 6, 2015

She's Got Leg(ging)s, She Knows How to Use Them

Some women and numerous fashionistas seem to have declared war on leggings worn as pants.

Fashion icon Tim Gunn absolutely hates leggings and yoga pants.

There’s a YouTube video that has gone viral of Jamie Higdon Randolph (over) stressing that leggings are not pants and should not be worn as such.

The funniest anti-leggings screed though is the Australian group “Skit Box”  song about “Active Wear” which is basically a sporty-style of leggings.

On the other hand, we single males love leggings (I mention single because married men aren’t allowed to like them without the wife’s permission). They are skin-tight, make us imagine the woman as naked although clearly clothed, and even though leggings help hide some sins, for the most part they allow us guys to see what the legs are shaped like.  As a “leg man” I think they’re hot.

Unfortunately, as discussed previously, women don't dress for men. They dress for other women. So although there might be a tendency for some women to say that they are doing it to get a man’s attention, that's not the reality.
So why do women risk the social media condemnations and askance stares of other women to wear leggings?  Apparently, they have multiple reasons:

Many will say they wear them for comfort.

Some declare they do it because the leggings give them a feeling of empowerment and physicality because they are so often used for exercise and hearty activities.

They don’t want to mess up their “good” clothes when doing chores or errands.

A few really brave souls will admit they are doing it because they are too lazy to try to pick out something else (the male equivalent to wearing sweat pants).

As stated earlier, we single guys love leggings. So as far as this yearly battle (it surfaces every time fall rolls around) on whether women should wear leggings as pants, let me just conclude by saying “Please, keep it up.”

(Some angry feminists who heard that I was going to blog about leggings said I was only doing it so I could post more pictures of women in tight clothing and not to make social commentary. Um, maybe.)

Whew, aren't you glad this wasn't another one of those ornery side-steps? Back in the groove. (James Thurber would have liked leggings too).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Oregon Mass Shooting: Another Thurber Brigade Sidestep

Did you know that the NRA was founded by a handful of Northern Civil War veterans who wanted to make sure their fellow Yankees could shoot as well as their Southern counterparts?

Believe it.  In fact, their stated purpose was “Firearms Safety Education, Marksmanship Training, Shooting for Recreation.” 

I bring this up because every time a madman kills a large number of people in the United States, the gun nuts—excuse me—enthusiasts, rush to the airwaves to stress how it’s every citizen’s 2nd Amendment right to carry a gun. 

But it’s not.

The 2nd Amendment got added to our Bill of Rights because many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves and they feared that the Federal Government would disarm the state militias.  Those state militias were an important tool used by slavers to quell slave rebellions and hunt down runaway slaves. If you took away the guns of the militia, well, as Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained  asks, "Why don't the slaves just rise up and kill the whites?"

Yeah, the slavers feared that.

Individual gun ownership was not really a concern of the founders. I think this is largely because they believed the country was a wild frontier and so it went without saying that people would own guns. Of course, in colonial days running around with guns (open carry) was frowned upon by just about everyone unless absolutely necessary, but that’s a different story.

The NRA changed its tune in the 1970s and grasped the 2nd Amendment as its own useful tool for controlling populations.  Populations of people who wanted to have more strict control on guns. 

It hasn’t really worked.  When I say that, I mean it hasn’t changed peoples’ minds. Most people still want more regulations of firearms. Things like background checks, etc.

The NRA has been very good at impressing congress though. Although the regular populaton supports more gun regulations and there is always a large public outcry after the latest mass killing event, congress refuses to do anything.

To further pound home the reason why congress SHOULD do something, let’s compare the number of deaths caused by firearms versus congress’ big PR fear target—terrorism:
So just in case congress and the president decide to really do something about gun violence, here’s my 2¢ or actually, two ideas that would help.

• Universal background checks.  Admittedly, this is a small step and would only reduce gun deaths a bit, but we have to start someplace. It would need to be a bit more thorough then the current method, and get all the states to buy in by reporting all information that would be useful. Information such as time spent in a mental institution. Right now, that is barely reported and seldom reported if it was voluntary.

• Require liability insurance for all guns. That’s right, just like those other killer machines, cars, we need to require gun owners to be willing to pay to protect us from wrongful use of their weapon. 

This would be a big boon for the insurance companies of course, but the reason this would work is because sooner or later those same companies would have to start paying out massive amounts of money for violent acts. And they’d hate that.

So once insurance companies begin to get really angry about having to pay out all that money, it means they’d also begin to put the hammer down on congress and get them to do even more gun control regulation. Once insurance companies begin lobbying as extensively for gun control as the NRA currently does to stop it, well, I think we might get something done.
So there are solutions out there for America’s penchant to have a mass shooting just about every two weeks. We just need to get Big Money behind the initiatives to actually have those solutions happen.
This picture has nothing to do with the issue of this blog. It's just that I've been to Oregon quite a few times and believe it's a beautiful state.  So although there is no way to forget that horrible incident in Roseburg, OR, I thought I'd leave you a more picturesque image of the state (that's Mt. Hood).

**The Thurber Brigade apologizes for yet again veering off the road of the War Between Men and Women and assures everyone that it will return to the straight and narrow soon. Maybe. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Phoned Out

In ancient times, maybe, oh, 20 years ago, I remember an ad by some company selling this newfangled contraption called a cell phone. A rather large phone receiver device you could carry with you (believe it or not, the first one was developed in 1973).  

In the ad, a woman carrying groceries goes nuts when she hears the phone ring in her house a short distance away. Of course she drops her groceries as she attempts, unsuccessfully, to vault the bushes by her front porch. Her neighbor has a cell phone and easily answers her call while carrying her grocery bags.

In the almost ancient times, oh, 10 years ago, the stereotype of a cell phone user was a teenage girl who basically had the phone to her ear 24/7. Oblivious to all around her she would wander down the street talking to her bff, who also had her phone surgically attached to her ear, about what Jill wore to school that day, what Tony said to Eve before math class, or some other vitally important topic.

Nowadays the stereotype of the cell phone user is just about everyone. Same scenario of course. They are oblivious to their surroundings, have the phone to ear constantly, talking/texting about the daily drivel.  

Well, when I say everyone, I am excluding us old guys.
We old farts hear the cell phone ring and let it go to voicemail. We might return the call after the football game is over. There is a good chance that if a friend calls from down the block we'll just walk down and see him rather than call.

If we wonder if the local store has that new screwdriver we want we'll most likely go there and look around rather than call and ask. We laugh when the phone addicts say they need to have the phone with them 24/7 in case they get an emergency call from their ailing Mother. We know that 99.99% of the calls are about what cheese to buy for a sandwich or whether we like the black or red evening dress the wife wants to buy.
I admit I broke down and bought a smart phone a half year ago (it was a cheap $70 one). Previously I just had an "ancient" flip phone that I used occasionally. I got rid of my landline a long time ago, but still would leave the phone in the other room and eventually answer any voicemail. The smart phone hasn't changed me either. I still don't know how to use most of the apps (and don't use them).

However, I am addicted to my computer and iPad. In fact, I wrote most of this blog on my iPad at Einstein Bros. Bagels and the Blackstar Coop (my favorite brewpub). If I need to find where some store is located I will most likely look on my computer at Google Maps. If I wonder what a word means I am more likely to flip open my iPad rather than go get the dictionary.
Weird right? After all, many smart phones are pretty much mini computers.

I bring up my feelings about phones because I keep running into people who feel the same way—but about eBooks.
Just the other day I noticed a friend who had posted a comment on Facebook (I was using my computer, not phone) stating she absolutely hated eBooks with a passion.  Swore she would only read paper versions. She, of course, is one of those who uses her cell phone for everything from calendar notices to, well, Facebook comments.

I love eBooks.  I have about 50 books on my iPad. You would need a suitcase to carry around that many paper versions. If I'm alone at a dark bar, I might whip out an eBook to while away the time as I sip my favorite IPA. Can't do that with a paperback unless you also use your cell phone as a light. If the font is too small I can enlarge it at will. With a paper version you'd have to get your magnifying glass out. If I don't recognize a word, I just highlight it and get the built-in dictionary to look it up for me. With paper you have to set the book down and go to the other room for your paper dictionary.

Oddly, I got into eBooks because of a TV show about paper.

For the longest time I only read paper books. Then one night I watched an episode of “The Office.”  Mike was droning on about how great paper was, when he mentioned how you could read an eBook on a small device. Darryl (Craig Robinson) overheard him and the next scene we discover he’s hiding in a storage room and is reading a book on an e-reader. I was intrigued.
So I got a free e-reader for my computer and downloaded a free copy of “The Deerslayer.” I think I had read the CliffsNotes version during junior high, and have always felt an obligation to eventually read the whole thing. So I tried the eBook. I was hooked.

Admittedly, there are a lot of eBooks that are just as expensive as paper ones, but for the most part, you can find a book cheaper if it’s electronic. I’m sure students all over the globe wish that all of their text books were eBooks. Paper ones often cost close to $100 (typically those evil chemistry ones), so an eBook would likely be a little less. Plus, they’d love to be able to whip it out on their cell phones and read today’s chapter while riding the bus to class rather than fumbling with that gigantic paper version.

Plus, could you imagine someone reading a paper textbook while in line for those Miley Cyrus tix? No, if not texting their friends they’d be reading an eBook I'm sure.
Okay, I admit I’m a little biased because I have three eBooks I’ve written that are for sale. You can see them listed on the side of this blog. Hey, they’re very inexpensive and a great read, so give one a try.  Oh, and by the way, I published them AFTER I began reading eBooks. I didn't become a fan of eBooks because of them. Did I mention that they are all great? Sorry.
So when those phone-addicted friends of mine chide me and roll their eyes when I tell them about my aversion to phones, I just ask them if they read eBooks. If not, I just roll my eyes and ask if they still use a rotary phone.

If they do read eBooks though, well, I usually just say I’ll get better with phones after I read the eBook version of the phone manual.

(James Thurber would have loved that his writing could be made into a modern reading version:

(some images courtesy of