Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Story Sidestep

A bright star shone above the Earth and three wise men followed it to their destination.  They came a long way because of the knowledge they had of the events.   

They came to meet the Pope, probably around 400 C.E. 
“The pagans are enjoying Saturnalia way too much” the wise men told the Pope.  “They’re dancing, singing, giving gifts to friends, burning trees.  It’s woefully unbecoming a modern society and a threat to entice our followers to imbibe in the joyful celebration.”

“You are right,” the Pope agreed.  “We must do something to ensure that we can maintain our control.”

Pope vs. Pagan Headgear 
Therefore, the Pope and his followers came up with a plan.

They began to promote a celebration of Christ (Christ-Mass) during the same time as Saturnalia.  When asked why have a celebration, they explained that it was to celebrate Christ’s birth.
The pagans were skeptical at first.  “Didn’t you say Christ was born in the spring?  Around March?”  one asked.  “I heard the Pope say he was born in August,” another chimed in helpfully.

The Pope said he had made a mistake, due to the change in the calendar system to the more modern Julian one.  Christ was indeed born in December, the Pope assured everyone.

The pagans still didn’t like it.
“Saturnalia is fun.  We get gifts, we have this cool tree, there’s dancing and singing,” they said.

“You can still do that,” the Pope professed.  “It’s a birthday party after all, isn’t it?”

So the pagans began to celebrate both holidays, but as more and more were convinced to switch over to Christianity, Saturnalia fell out of favor.  However, those pagans who still celebrated their cherished Saturnalia swore they’d take it back.

It took longer than they expected, but slowly and surely, the pagans have regained control of their celebration.  
The pagans made their biggest push in the 1950s and 60s by adding massive parades and celebrations to the winter festival.  They also brought in more symbols from other pagans beliefs, such as a rotund, bearded man giving gifts, and instead of burning logs as in the days of yore, they added colorful lights to the trees they dance around.
Through the 70s and 80s they advocated for more consumerism via bigger and better gifts.  Spellbinding advertisements for big, shiny cars and glittery jewels predominate the airwaves.  “Buy more! It will prove your love,” they proclaim.

So today the pagans have taken back the holiday—but have cleverly decided to keep it under the title “Christmas.” 

The celebration keeps getting expanded too, now beginning on the Friday after Thanksgiving (Pagan Black Friday) and continuing through New Year's.  There are competitions to have the biggest tree and brightest light displays.  Children are taught that the best gifts are the most expensive and the ones hardest to acquire.  In addition, of course, there are large gatherings to sing and perform in celebration of the holiday. 
It has been a subtle takeover by the pagans, but they have finally reclaimed what was theirs.  So far, the Pope has not responded.

The Thurber Brigade wishes everyone a Happy Holiday—no matter which one you celebrate!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Facebook Rule of two (2)

A Thurber Brigade Social Media Sidestep

Years ago I sat at a table with some friends in a shopping mall. We asked shoppers to sign a petition (the details don't matter to this point). A man came up and began arguing vehemently with us against our cause. I say us, but in reality, only I engaged with the man. My friends just sat quietly.  After the man left I asked why they didn't join me, after all they had recruited me for this endeavor so it really was their cause.

"There are certain people who will never change their minds, no matter the facts or figures," one answered. "There is no reason to argue with them and better in the long run to just leave them to their beliefs. You'll appear more tolerant and they will just seem bitter to observers."

So when I get in arguments, I attempt to adhere to this concept. I'll argue to a point, but then just try to change the conversation. After a few points it will become obvious that it may not be worth going further.

So I recommend that in Facebook arguments—not personal comments or lists—that there be The Facebook Rule of Two (FB2):

• You may only reply twice to a topic.
• You may only have two paragraphs per reply.
• A paragraph may only be two sentences. (Watch those run-on sentences)

For example, let's say that someone posts a meme that states American mass-produced beer (i.e. Bud) is the best.  You reply that it sucks because they skimp on ingredients. The other guy points out how cool the bottles are for the brand. So you only have one more chance to tell the guy with no taste buds that Brewers should spend more money on ingredients rather than advertising. No matter if he keeps posting some comment on how the girls in the ads are hot or some other drivel, that's it.
It might also be good to have some way to respond to the guy with no taste that you have seen his comment(s), but it can't be a word/sentence reply. Maybe someone will come up with an emoji for the situation or maybe you could just type the number 2 (or FB2), indicating you are a Rule of Two adherent.

Think of the Facebook Rule of Two to be a way to make Facebook more civil and help us all to become more tolerant of others. No matter the beer they drink.
The Thurber Brigade almost decided this shouldn't be a sidestep because social media has such a strong influence on relationships these days. However, since we haven't dipped into the social media realm before we thought, "oh, well." 

(Okay, okay, the cause I was working for that I mentioned above was that enlisted people in the military needed a union. Hey, Rule of Two buddy!)

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Long Term Relationship

Back when Sixth Street in Austin, Texas wasn’t the hip, over-crowded amusement scene of today, I remember going to my favorite bar at the time, Maggie Mae’s.  Only 15 feet wide (I still think it was just an alley someone put a roof over) this British-style pub had great beers and the typical Austin laid-back attitude.  It also had two guitarists who played there regularly and who were as great at telling a tale as singing a verse.
One night I went in and only one of the guys sat playing at the usual spot at the back.  When he took a break, I asked him what happened to his friend.

“Dude got pissed at me, packed up his stuff and headed to LA.”

I think at that moment I fell in love and began my long-term relationship with Austin music.  A simple tale of two musicians having a falling out, one staying to continue to strum his tunes, one seeking brighter horizons.  In other words, great environment, tasty beer, a compelling story, an ever-changing scene and enjoyable music.
Austin calls itself “The Live Music Capital of the World.”  We Austinites will defend that reputation by pointing out that on any given night you can find hundreds of bands playing at just as many bars, night clubs, grocery stores, record shops, street corners, well, anyplace where there’s a chance someone will listen.  
The Austin music scene isn’t the main reason I have stayed here so long (some friends still say it was soccer), but it’s one of many reasons I’ve remained in this vibrant, creative and easy-going city.  It’s a relationship that has far outlasted any other relationship I’ve had here (the longest with a female: six months).

Many of my short-term relationships with women have begun by hitting some nightclub to listen to music (and maybe meet someone).  The two of us cruising for tunes at the various venues often extended those relationships.
Like the two musicians at Maggie Mae’s, the hundreds, maybe thousands, of venues in Austin come and go, change into something else or expand to unbelievable proportions.  For example, Maggie Mae’s still has that 15-foot wide bar, but it also now has a large, adjoining room as well as an additional space upstairs.
One of the first places I went to for my music addiction was The Split Rail.  A dive that drew large crowds, loud musicians, and great times. Sadly, there’s a Wendy’s on the site now.  A fond memory I like to tell folks is that one time while driving to my apartment in the Riverside area, I passed Mother Earth, another dark dive that people flocked to every night.  On the marquee was the word “Police.”  I thought, “Hmm, I wonder if they are a bunch of APD guys who do gigs in their off hours.”  You probably guessed that it was actually Sting and Co. in their early days of playing small venues to make ends meet.
The names of some of the other hundreds of venues include The Armadillo, Steamboat, The Back Room, Soap Creek Saloon, Antone’s, Club Foot, The Continental Club, Austin Opera House, Hole in the Wall, Liberty Lunch, Raul’s, Black Cat, Cactus Cafe, Zonkers, La Zona Rosa, Emo’s, Flamingo Cantina,
                    (U2 at Club Foot circa 1981; photo Ace Muroga-a former college roommate!)
Electric Lounge, Elephant Room, Saxon Pub, The Ritz Theater, Austin Music Hall, Broken Spoke…Well, the list goes on and on and on.  Many have disappeared and are just pleasant memories, others have survived (it’s a tough, competitive place here in Austin) and/or moved.
You can’t mention Austin music and not talk about the fests and outdoor concerts.  The first one I discovered came early in my life here in Austin.  It was called the Austin Aqua Fest.  It happened in the best location, down on Auditorium Shores on Town Lake (now called Lady Bird Lake).  It lasted a number of days and each night was labeled with a special theme, such as Czech Night.  They had all sorts of booths with food, crafts and knickknacks for sale, but also featured music.  Often it related to the night.  For example on German Night there might be a few oompah and polka bands, but also local groups had a chance to feature their songs. 

Auditorium Shores used to be my favorite place to go for music.  You could spend all day outdoors listening to loud rock music while staring at the serene Colorado River (yeah when it rolled through town we called it Town Lake) and the Austin skyline, including the capitol building.  I say used to because although the river/lake and shoreline is still there, the Austin skyline is now littered with gigantic skyscrapers.  Oh, it's still fun to go there, but not quite the same as when the city was not such a megopolis.

One of the best music fests I went to down there was the T-Bird Riverfest.  At one point (in the rain), Stevie Ray Vaughn wrapped his arms around his brother Jimmie and played a fantastic song on a double guitar.  I should point out there now is a statue of Stevie Ray down on the shores.  If you come to Austin and don't visit him, you have missed the soul of our city.

A few of the other fests that have enhanced my long term relationship include SxSW (I might have to do a single blog on it); Fun, Fun, Fun; Austin Summer Fest; Austin Celtic Festival, Rites of Spring; Reggae Fest; Festival De La Luna; well, there’s been a lot.
Of course, I have to mention the thousands of bands I’ve seen at these fests and clubs.  Some of the locals I’ve been infatuated with include WC Clark, Skank, The Skunks, Standing Waves, Zeitgeist (later The Reivers), Lou Ann Barton, Joe Ely, Glass Eye, Junior Brown, Will Sexton, Bad Livers, True Believers, the Vaughn Brothers (Stevie & Jimmie), Kim Wilson, Tish Hinojosa, Omar & The Howlers, Dangerous Toys, The Ken, Doctor’s Mob, The Explosives, Eric Johnson, Poi Dog Pondering, Alvin Crow, Soul Hat, Storyville, The Coffee Sergeants, Uranium Savages, Little Sister, T-Birds, Van Wilks, Austin Lounge Lizards, Black Pearl, well, you know the list goes on forever and the party never ends. Ahem.

Of course there were the national touring groups too that kept me madly in love with the Austin scene.  Some you heard of such as U2, Foreigner, The Rolling Stones, The Boss (you know who), The Chieftains, The Alarm, Alice Cooper, Frank Zappa, Squeeze, Willie, Waylon and the Boys (sometimes considered Austinites), Peter Gabriel, AC/DC, Midnight Oil, Crowded House, etc.  Some you may not have such as Dash Rip Rock, Tragically Hip, Hoo Doo Gurus, Freedy Johnson, Robert Earl Keen, Killdaires, Little Steven, Icehouse, L7, Guy Clark, Great Big Sea, Jayhawks, Altan, Cowboy Mouth, and on and on.  Yes, if they wander the US and play music, they probably stop in at Austin.

As you can probably guess, this has been the most expensive relationship.  Typically, in the old days anyway, when I went to a club/bar I'd try to talk the person at the door into letting me in for free.  With lines like "it's the last band, I've missed most of the show" and a few more clever ones, I often succeeded. However, the majority of the time I paid the cover. To this day I still believe if I hadn't been in the relationship and just saved the money I'd be pretty rich.  I think a great experience is more important than money, so I don't really have any regrets about this relationship at all.
Of course, with any relationship it waxes and wanes.  I’m still madly in love but have to admit, the fire is gone these days.  It’s me, not you, um, I mean, the Austin Music Scene.  As an older guy it sometimes seems strange to hit a nightclub and see all these young kids wandering around me (and I swear they're always moving—and I don't mean dancing).  This also bothers me because I don’t think those “kids” show the proper respect to Austin music as they seem to be constantly talking during the music—or nowadays, looking at their cell phones.  So I’m still in love, I just don’t get up to get down as much as I used to in the old days. 

Don’t’ fret about this relationship though.  Even if I were to move, or find a long-term female relationship, or lose my hearing, or pass on, I will always be faithful.
James Thurber would have loved Austin
The Thurber Brigade apologizes for the length of this blog, but when you talk about long term relationships you don't minimize your expression of that love.

Friday, November 4, 2016


Years ago, back when I still did this sort of thing, I went on a blind date arranged by a well-meaning friend.  The friend seemed to think we had a lot in common, although now, thinking back on this, I have some doubts he knew me that well.  Anyway, at a restaurant the conversation went like this:

Me: So, you work at the hospital.  That must be interesting."
Her:  Yes.
Me: Um, I bet there are a lot of exciting situations that happen every day.
Her: Yeah, quite often.
Me: well, uh, you probably meet a wide variety of people.
Her: (nodding head, first real sign of life) Yep.
You get the idea.  Although she eventually did have one or two sentences longer then two words, there weren't many.  She'd talk to me, but it was like I was grilling a reluctant suspect in a murder case.  She obviously was interested in going out on this date, but would not dare take the step of trying to engage in meaningful conversation.
Admittedly, this is an extreme case, but for the most part it seems that women have certain rules about how much they are willing to talk at a given time. Women may be stereotyped as the talkative one of the sexes, but it is definitely situational.  The woman you know from the office as the chatterer extreme, may be tight-lipped if you go out on a social outing. 

Again, I think this hearkens back to my "First Contact" theory.  They won't make first contact and won't make much conversation until they feel completely safe in the relationship.  So on a first date when you ask the female something about her past she'll probably just give you a quick synopsis when in fact she's dying to give you the "War and Peace" version.  As the woman begins to feel more comfortable in your presence, she'll move from a tweet answer to a short story to eventually the major novel response.
To men, this can be disconcerting.  At the beginning of the relationship they may believe she is attractive due to those short, descriptive responses, but later in the game might be a little put off when they learn every minute detail about a short trip to the store.  In fact, they may have bragged about their new girlfriend to their buddies.  They boasted that their new squeeze didn't ask one single question during the movie they went to last week.  However, when they double date later at some exciting hockey game, she asks a question about every little detail of the sport.

This eventually causes the friend to miss the game-winning goal when she wondered why the guy with the pillows on his legs, standing in front of the little cage, had such a fat bat.
Men are completely different.  Many of us, at least those past 30, have probably been influenced by the likes of the Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) from those famous spaghetti westerns who spoke in short, but precise sentences. Normally we don’t want to say too much, but early in the relationship dance must expound relentlessly to not only try to attract the female, but also keep the conversation going.  If we didn’t do this, not only would the female try to sneak out at some juncture, but also the other people in the restaurant might suspect the quiet couple as possible terrorists.  Or at least would tsk-tsk (publicly shame) the ultra-silent pair. 

Later in the relationship, the man can comfortably slip back into the short response mode because the female will feel safer and will now be talking at length about the proper way to eat broccoli.  Of course, she will invariably report to her girlfriends how this typical male is uncommunicative and never willing to discuss his emotions.
In other words, it’s a no-win situation for the male.  Talk too little at the beginning and the female will not be interested and will seek out male companionship elsewhere.  Talk too little later in the relationship and the male is an uncaring, unemotional Neanderthal.  It’s also not safe for the male to talk too much later because then he will be characterized as a gutless wimp because, you probably guessed this, he talks too much about his emotions.  The women want a strong man who knows what he wants and doesn’t have to explain himself. 
Therefore, the best strategy for males is to go ahead and throw those lines early on and try to engage the female in mindless banter to attract her.  Then when everything is going rosy, resort to the expression used by all males for generations:

“Yes dear, whatever you say.”
Ahhhh, Thurber!

We at The Thurber Brigade know you are wondering why there isn't a sidestep this time.  We had seriously thought about doing one about the election, but since we had done one previously about the love affair between the MSM and Trump, we decided we needed something of levity. Besides, we at The Brigade believe that anyone who would think of voting for Trump has the brain capacity of a snail and therefore isn't reading humorous blogs, especially ones about relationships between men and women and so they wouldn't be of a mind to change theirs anyway. Of course, if the worst happens, expect us to revert back to our sidestep ways just so we can make snide remarks about people who voted for Trump and with the election of His Sleaziness any chance of the US joining the rest of the western world in moving forward as a civilization.  So we'll see.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Throw Me A Line

In the distant past, well, really only about four years, I wrote a blog about how men "throw lines" to begin the process of interacting with females. It gave some sage advice, ahem, and also mentioned how women don't throw lines (just like they don't make first contact. It's related).  Anyway, I suddenly realized very recently that I no longer throw lines.
Well, normally. If my testosterone levels go off the scale, say in the case of a supermodel-esque female's presence, I might. For the most part though, I instead just try to engage the female in conversation. It could be something like, "did you see the news report about the water in Barton Springs?" (A big issue here in Austin), or "I always drink a cup of water when I have a beer. It's part of my "save Jay's liver campaign.""

Oh, sure, you could say that is still throwing a line, but it's nowhere in the realm of "what's a super model doing here at the local bar?" Or "you must be a thief because you've stolen my heart" (Heard those, didn't use them).  No, it's just me trying to get someone to talk to me. No different really than if a guy sat next to me at the bar and I wanted to do more than just drink my beer or work on a blog. i.e. Talk.

It could be age. Maybe I'm so old (hey, no snide thoughts there buster) that I no longer believe I have the silver tongue of my youth or that I no longer possess the youthful imperative that young males have to hook up. However, I think it's that I have just become more accepting of the situation. In other words, I have the thought that if the target wants to engage good, if not, no big deal.
In the old days, I'm positive I was the master of throwing lines. For example, I remember telling a women drinking wine at a brewpub: "You know it's against the law to drink wine at a beer brewing establishment?  So I'm going to have to ask you for some ID." Or one I'm still not proud of, but it seemed to work: I made a bet with my buddy this morning that I would meet the most beautiful woman in the world and it looks like he owes me ten bucks."
Now, before you judge me too harshly, remember this was the 70s-80s and Austin.  Women were much different in attitude back then and if not more accepting of goofy lines, more understanding of how difficult it is for guys making contact. Even today I trust women understand the challenges of a guy making contact when he's alone and there are two females or when two guys are winging it and encounter a single (nervous) woman.

I also feel obligated to mention that the venues of those years were completely different then today. In Austin we had fantastic and cool places to hang such as The Split Rail, The Back Room, Steamboat and everyone's favorite The Armadillo.  Ahhhh. Throwing lines at those places was so common and expected and, well fun, that everyone just went with it.

Oops, I digress.  Be careful when an Austinite begins a sentence with "in the old days in Austin...".

Anyway, I don't do that anymore. Yes I'm older and admittedly I'm not as successful as in my youth, but part of the problem is that many older women still think they are teenagers. One of my rules is that if a female I'm interested in is past the age of 35 she may no longer play games.
Oh, you know what I'm talking about. Things like acting coy/aloof when in fact she is interested; not willing to say more than yes and no to the guy's questions when she really wants to tell him her life history; unwilling to call him after they exchange numbers even though she's already put him on speed dial. You get it.

Too many older women gripe about us dudes going out with younger females (the reason behind my hunting tips blog) but still want to act like the situation has not changed. Well, it has.  If we have to risk the perils and depression of rejection, why not take a chance on a younger model?  If we must always take the chance that we will become the butt of numerous females complaints about men being animals for our brash desire to be with a female, why not go for someone not jaded by years of relationships they disliked but were unwilling to take a bold step and try to start a new one on their own?
I'm sure there are other older guys out there who still feel the imperative that tells them they must go home with a female. However, I have encountered quite a few like me who accept that if we succeed it's great, yet don't despair if we go home alone. After all, although it's sure nice to wake up with a warm body beside you, it's also nice to be able to watch football all day without someone reminding us to mow the lawn, or to be able to drink beer late into the night and watch "Die Hard" or other action movies instead of having wine and cheese parties.
(oh, you knew I was going to drop a Bruce Willis picture in here somewhere, right?)
So females need to drop the games and do their part to reach out to someone or quit complaining when they see us old geezers with a younger, partying-crazy version of themselves.
 Ahhh, James Thurber!

Whew, aren't you glad this wasn't another sidestep about police brutality or some other topical issue? Although there are plenty of lousy things going on right now, we at The Thurber Brigade believed we needed to get back on track. However, with the weirdness that is the Donald Trump candidacy and the ever present police anger management-less force on the streets, there's no guarantee that a sidestep won't reappear.