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.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Vive la Difference

The Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin has had some really interesting movies promotions.  They had a "Jaws" film screening in which the patrons are on floats in a pool; they had the "all you can eat spaghetti" night while you watch "spaghetti" westerns; and recently, they had a women only night to watch "Wonder Woman."

Interestingly, this latter one has created a firestorm of protest from men who state it violates their rights.  Although it might be a little hypocritical, it is stretching it to say the screening violates anybody's rights—especially mens.  Face it, men are the most spoiled, pampered and entitled of the sexes. Well, white men.  People of color, no matter the gender, have not had it easy.

With all of the above in mind The Thurber Brigade wishes to stress that we are not a "men's rights" group/advocate.  If anything, we stick out our tongues at those guys because, well, we think it's so goofy.
The Thurber Brigade is here to point out the differences between the sexes—and hopefully do it in a funny, tongue-in-cheek manner.  
For example, when men's rights groups say men are treated unfairly at bars or banks, we at TTB are more likely to say isn't it funny how women can shop for men's underwear with impunity, while men roaming the women's undies section are likely to be arrested.
When men's rightists swear the men are treated unfairly by the courts in divorce lawsuits, we at The Thurber Brigade are likely to make fun of women who scream for equal rights, but wouldn't dream of asking that cute guy at the bar out on a date (First Contact).

We at The Thurber Brigade know for sure that men have all the advantages in life compared to women, but also know there are some major differences in the way the sexes act/behave.
For example, women are lost at 4-way stops and are likely to let every single driver go first no matter if they got there first.  Women will complain about how men are sooo superficial and that they stereotype women by the size of their breasts, yet women are just as superficial and stereotype men about the size of their wallets (or style of car among other things).  Women seem to think that men have ESP and can magically tell when they are interested in them. While men will go up to women they don't know, women will instead try to use signs/mannerisms to get a man interested. Women seem to have different vision than men, in that they'll go "ewww" when they see a man in a Speedo—unless that guy is Justin Timberlake.
So sure, there is plenty of hypocrisy on both sides of the gender wall, but it has more to do with social issues, like men's and women's fashion, rather than economic or legal rights.  The Thurber Brigade will continue to stay away from mundane, silly ideas like "Men's rights," but will continue to make fun of the weirdness of both genders as they interact with each other. 

 Once again, angry feminists somehow acquired an early copy of this blog and have complained that The Thurber Brigade was more interested in presenting pictures of a scantily clad female superhero rather than make a definitive statement.  The Brigade states clearly that we really wanted to make a statement that we do not advocate for men's rights—AND wanted to show more pictures of Gal Godot as Wonder Woman.  Sorry.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Incident

A Thurber Brigade Trump Sidestep

In a shocking news release today, the White House admitted that the recent New York Times article that declared President Trump killed Mike Pence is correct.  

The article, published last week, stated that in a fit of rage Trump had shot Pence after the VP laughed when Trump declared he had the most successful presidency in US history. The news release did not clarify why the White House waited until after the news had broken or the other succeeding events that had proven the incident occurred.

Immediately after the NYT article had been released, Trump denied that the incident happened, and Sean Spicer declared in a press conference that Trump had been bowling at the time the alleged murder took place.
The next day, during a TV interview, Kellyanne Conway stated that Trump had actually been in a high level cabinet meeting that took place in a bowling alley.
Both of these accounts were proven wrong when the next day Trump posted a tweet alluding he may have killed Pence, but it had been an accident:
After that Tweet Spicer avoided questions from the press by wearing a long-haired, blond wig, red dress and heels and discreetly rushed past the reporters waiting to hear his next press conference. Conway meanwhile stated that Trump did not mean that he shot Pence, but that Pence had violently grabbed the pistol out of Trump's hand and then shot himself.
Mrs. Pence, when asked about her husband, said that she never noticed him missing until he missed a dinner engagement at a local restaurant yesterday. She stated that even then wondered to herself if he might have been there but may have just not spoken to her as was his usual behavior.
After the most recent White House news release, Jeff Sessions reiterated his belief that if the president does it, it is not illegal.
Meanwhile, both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell said they did not want to jump to conclusions until they had formed a committee to investigate.  When asked about the admission of the White House, the presence of the dead body found in the Oval Office and the gun with only Trump's fingerprints the Republican lawmakers stressed that there wasn't clear proof yet and they would check back after further committee meetings.

The Democratic Party couldn't provide a spokesman, but did release a letter stating that Trump must be impeached and then tried for murder. An hour later they sent out another letter to news organizations stating that they were not sure if that was the proper action and would wait until they could find a spokesman with a backbone before making further comments.

Shortly after the recent news release from the White House Trump posted a new tweet:

His follow-up tweet: 

The Thurber Brigade does not apologize for yet another side-step.  If the prez can "allegedly" collude with our foreign rivals, "allegedly" obstruct justice, "allegedly" profit from his dealings while in office, then both parties, his supporters, and those unwilling to take a stand deserve at least a satirical lambasting if not outright contempt for their lack of morality, fortitude, and patriotism.
Why, yes, I bowl

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Timely Blog

Art plays an important part in human civilization by expressing our humanness in a different form.  Of course, as a writer, I consider myself an artist of words, but paintings, photography, etc. are a different subset.  

I bring this up because one of the ways I always inspire and motivate my writing is to visit museums to observe and absorb the art.  Oh, I'm not one of those dreamy types who fawn over the work or the artists (you won't find me at an art auction or swooning over some visiting painter), but I do love to stroll by and sometimes pause in front of paintings that move me.
One of the first things I do as I observe the work is look at the accompanying description and note the date of the piece as well as the dates of the artist.  For example, one of my favorite works is in the Blanton Museum here in Austin and done by Donald Roller Wilson.  "Mrs. Jenkins' Late Night Dinner in Her Room, Alone (While, Out in the Hall Leading to Her Room, Her Small Friends were Sleeping)" was completed in 1984 when Wilson was 46.  His dates are 1938—present.  
So he did this in the 1980s, my favorite decade.  Many of my books are set during that time, I finished college then, there were some exciting bands coming into their own (Stevie Ray Vaughn, U2, The Police, Midnight Oil, etc.) Reagan was destroying the middle class at the time (sorry, my political side had to chime in), disco was dying out (thank god).  All and all, an interesting decade.

I then think about what I was up to when I was the same age as the painter. For example at 46: I was still recovering from getting run over on my bike by a car; I had established myself as a great academic adviser at UT (hey, I get to pat myself on the back); I had a number of my short stories published by then and so like a crazed gambler still worked feverishly at becoming a famous writer (still working on that); well, you get the idea.  I try to establish the connection to time with the author, the age/year and myself.

In other words, I'm thinking a lot about time.
Tom Hussey's thoughts on time passing
As I get older, this seems to be a bigger thought.  Oh, it could be that subconsciously I'm thinking about my mortality, but I like to believe it's just that time and age fascinate me.
I do something similar with movies and TV shows.  I always check to see when they aired and figure out what I was up to at that time.  For example, I love the TV show "Lost."  I'm still shocked when I watch my DVDs of the show that it ended seven years ago.  Surely it was only a couple of years.
I have a feeling this means I have a hard time comprehending time.  When things are happening now, time seems to be just crawling along.  Yet, when I think about things that happened in my past—what?  Star Trek: TNG ended almost a quarter century ago!—I'm always shocked how fast time moved.
All of this seems a little odd to me because for the most part age doesn’t bother me that much.  I don’t mind that I’m older, recognize that I may no longer be able to keep up on a soccer field with 18-year-olds, and even realize that the slight injury I get from some activity might take longer to heal.
That being said, I do not necessarily reveal my age to women when they ask (if they don’t ask, I don’t bring up age at all).  Instead, I’ll say something like “I’m the same age as Jerry Seinfeld and John Travolta or some other celebrity that’s my age. 

The reason I do this is because women do care about age.  If I were to tell a younger woman my age, she may just reject me outright for that reason.  If I force her to think about a star who is at the same age, well, I have a better chance of getting beyond the initial conversation.  I’ve alluded to this before in a blog about superficiality.  Although men may judge a woman by her looks, a woman will judge a man by his station in life/wealth.  So, if I take age out of the equation, I may get further.
Women also show more concern about their age because of their belief in what age may entail.  It brings about changes in hair, adds wrinkles, etc.  This bothers them so much a gigantic industry flourishes to feed this fear.  Besides lipstick, eyeliner and perfume, cosmetic companies make millions on anti-aging elixirs and creams.  While you might find one or two of these targeting men, you’ll find thousands for women. 

I admit we guys like to chase after younger females. It makes us feel younger when they seem interested.   This doesn’t mean we don’t like women who have aged.  I have a feeling that women's disdain for the signs of aging is similar to women and their relationship with fashion.  As noted before, women dress for other women, not for men.  Most likely, it's the same mindset for women about aging.  They want to impress other women about how young they look even though they are at such-and-such age. 
So time may pass.  Time may ebb and flow.  Time may even be relative. However, one thing I’m sure about is that time will keep us thinking about our place in time.