Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Thurber Brigade Rerun: The Story of Christmas

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!

The Thurber Brigade apologizes for using this rerun.  Admit it though, you are already watching a ton of reruns, from "Miracle on 34th Street" to "It's a Wonderful Life" so why not one more?  Besides, The Brigade is busy buying presents and celebrating all the holidays that enjoy drinking and so hasn't had time to come up with some snarky blog about relationships.  We promise that after the New Year (and after all the football games) we'll get back on track.  Until then, enjoy the holidays and your friends.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Tightrope

To start a conversation with a woman, men must walk a precarious tightrope these days. As we walk along that thin thread we dare not look down. Breathing wrong might cause a dangerous movement. Lose focus and you lose balance.

Fall and you end up as a social media pariah, an outcast, or worst case, plunge into a lawsuit.  Navigate that rope and you might end up with a relationship.  Might.

As mentioned before, men must make First Contact.  Well, that is unless the man is rich or a rock star (or both). To make First Contact men face rejection, putdowns, derision and more.  However, to maintain the species we must forge forward.  Okay, that's overly dramatic, but to get anywhere, men must risk it.
In a previous blog, I also talked about men making catcalls.  The gist of that insightful essay (really, you should read it), was that it stems from our primal need to mate and that through the eons, the methods to begin the process have changed.  Some men are idiots, some suave (and everything between).  Taking the first step, making First Contact, is the same.

The #MeToo phenomena has made the walk on the tightrope even more perilous.

Oh, I strongly support women coming out and reporting about sexual assaults.  Women need to keep doing this as well as not letting someone get away with the action when it occurs. 
WARNING: Blogger about to rant in an unpleasant and less than friendly manner.

Men who greet women at the door naked, expose themselves, send dick pix, and other disgusting modes of abuse are slimy lowlife, scumbags who should be strung up by their junk…
Oops, sorry got carried away.  Anyway, there is no place for sexual assault in our society.  However, the pendulum shouldn’t swing too far the other way either.

For example, I’ve already heard several news stories about waitresses, service industry women and others stating they were sexually harassed.  Yet, when they give more details it sounds like flirting.  This harkens back to a number of years ago when extreme feminists declared that anytime a man made a pass at a woman it was an unwarranted sexual assault. 

There has to be a balance.  Women need to understand the difficulty of the process.
My father met my mother eons ago at a lunch counter in a drug store.  He flirted with her and eventually got the courage up to ask her out.  This was—and is—a common occurrence. 
Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger across a crowded room.  Then fly to her arms and make her your own—stop you sexual predator!  For you youngsters, those lines are from “South Pacific” and demonstrate why we need to have a balance.  If just meeting and talking to a stranger is harassment, then do we return to the old days of arranged marriages?

Centuries from now, as we’re exploring the stars and distant galaxies, maybe women will make First Contact.  Overcome their fears and reach out to that alien who caught their eye.  Ask him out to a space bar for a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (cheap “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” plug).

Until then, women need to understand the difficulties of First Contact.  They need to realize that we guys will likely continue to make that First Contact everywhere we go (we’re always on the prowl).  From the gym and grocery stores to the bars and nightclubs, we men will seek out women.  Women shouldn’t allow perversion or assault, but they need to recognize our attempts—no matter how feeble or crazy or goofy—to get to know them. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Harvey Weinstein Blog

Many years ago in Springfield, a couple of enterprising young men decided to open a bank.  They were very creative and wanted a bank that everyone would want to visit.  Yes, they followed the banking laws, but cut corners.  They did this to provide services customers would shout about (and tell others).  For example, they offered loans that had a much lower interest rate than other banks.  In addition, they offered them to about everyone who applied. 
One of the corners they cut included not installing a bank vault.  They kept all the money stacked up on a table.  Oh, it was well behind the teller’s counter, but also in clear site of everyone who came into the bank.

“This way people will know their money is here,” one of the men explained.  “Not stashed away in some other business or unscrupulous enterprise.”

Their employees were very reliable and never took any of the money.  They also never talked to others about how the money sat on the table day and night.

The bank flourished.  One day a competing banker came in to investigate why this one had taken so much of his own business.  He almost immediately noticed the large pile of money on the table behind the tellers.  A little bell went off in his head.  He wandered back and forth in the lobby inspecting the bank.  He waved at the two men who started this thriving business then hurried out.  He laughed, whistled a tune and skipped a few times as he walked back to his own bank. 
Now although this banker did not look like a nice person, he wasn’t a thief either.  Oh, he had dirty stock deals and lousy loans like most of the other bankers, but he never robbed a bank.  This would be too easy though.  He could get away with this and no one would suspect him because, well, he was a banker.
Later that night he broke into the competing bank and took all the money off the table.  He giddily ran home, threw it on his bed, and rolled around in all the loot.  He really loved money.

The next day the police came and investigated, but could not figure out who stole the money.  They chastised the two bankers for not having a vault and walked out.  The police did promise to keep working on the case, but not much got accomplished.
The townspeople all expressed sorrow for the two men who got robbed, but also said the men should have invested in a vault or done something more positive to prevent the theft. 
Eventually the police found out that another banker stole the money.  After all, he was quite often seen with lots of money hanging out of his pockets and spending a great deal on chocolate and beer.  Other bankers swore they’d never do anything like steal or buy too much chocolate.  They all insisted they were good people.  The thief escaped to Tahiti.  No one believed he’d ever face justice, but they hoped he'd pay the price for this crime. 

The two young bankers commiserated with other bankers robbed of money.  These others never bothered to tell anyone or call the police until after this incident.  After all, they were bankers and wanted to stay in business. 
The outcry became louder and louder.  Soon all the bankers agreed they should never steal money.  After a year, the two young entrepreneurs wrote a book about the affair and made more money.  They opened a credit union.  To the relief of everyone, they also bought a bank vault.

What do you mean you think The Thurber Brigade should have called this another sidestep?  It’s about relationships between men and women.  Don’t expect us to explain to you this allegory about the Harvey Weinstein controversy.  Sheesh, next you’ll want us to explain what the end of the TV show “Lost” meant, or to tell you how Koala bears somehow made it to Noah’s ark.  Like all GREAT literature, this is just another one you’ll have to think about on your own—although we’d really appreciate comments (no cursing please).

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.