Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Pleasant Grove Polygamist and Other Matters

one mental image of Daniel Kretchmer
another rendition of how the Pleasant Grove Polygamist might look
probably my creepiest mental image of the guy -- the stuff of nightmares


I'm now in The State of the Deseret.  It's reassuring in some ways to know that my insomnia is consistent, and rears its ugly head without regard to location, time zone, or anything else.

Most of the others in my party will be skiing or snowboarding tomorrow. i'm not joining in on the festivities because I cannot risk injuring arms or fingers in nay way that coud impact my senior violin recital. Even injuring a leg or ankle could be a bad thing in terms of the recital. I obviously don't play the violin with my legs or feet, but it's better to be able to stand when playing than to be relegated to a chair for an entire violin recital, and, furthermore,  a walking cast or brace would interfere with the overall look of formal attire.For that matter, I don't have official clearance after my head injury to do anything so hazardous. I didn't evenmention it on my last appointment because I knew I would forego snowboarding on this trip, anyway. No one else has told me that snowboarding cannot be done with a recital looming in the near future, but I'm just mature enough to realize it for myself.

My friend Alyssa has been officially forbidden to ski, snowboard, or snowmobile. she had a collision in a soccer class at her university, and ended up with a hairline pelvic fracure. Ouch. She really want to be over it as soon as possible, so no one is having to threaten her to keep her off the slopes.

Tomorrow Alyssa and I will have an easy day while others ski and snowboard. We offered to babysit, but her grandmother already has that covered. On Wednesday the family is getting together, and I'm expected to be there even though I'm not technically related to anyone there. I'm performing my entire violin recital lineup for the relatives who will be there. My accompanist -- pseudouncle -- is in Utah as well, and he says it will be a good early dress rehearsal.

On Saturday I need to have lunch with my grandmother.  Alyssa doesn't know it, but she's coming along with me for the lunch appointment. It will impress my grandmother that I have at least one friend who is a nice LDS girl.  It's not a terrible deal for Alyssa, because my grandmother always picks really nice restaurants for our lunch dates.

I have lots of other relatives in Utah, but none of them especially desire to see me, and the feeling is essentially mutual. I will have dinner, along with pseudoaunt and I don't know who else,  on Saturday evening with a girl who was briefly married to my cousin. It was a crazy event -- my cousin sneaked the girl out of her home on the morning of her eighteenth birthday under the guise of taking her to breakfast, but instead spirited her away to a temple (she had a recommend, but the wedding wasn't supposed to have happened  for several months) for a wedding without anyone in her family being present.

The girl's  parents had been trying to talk her out of marrying my cousin, and he was afraid they would eventually get through to her. Then, not long after the wedding, my cousin threw a hissy fi t (over whether or not to get cable tV, which the girl insisted they could not afford) that crossed the line into bona fide domestic violence.  My dad knew the girl's father well (he knew the groom's parents well also, as the grrom was his sister's son, but sometimes right and wrong trumps familial ties), and he arranged to have pseudoaunt come to Utah and straighten things out for the girl (and for the groom as well; it would not have done him any favors to allow him to remain in a situation that was, in all likelihood,  going to  wind up with him eventually being prosecuted). I served as  a paralegal.  Pseudaunt did a really good job and found some technicality as a means of having the marriage annulled, which supposedly doesn't often happen in Utah County when temple sealings are involved.  Anyway,  pseudoaunt and I are having dinner with my cousin's former bride and will find out how she is doing.

I need to try to get some sleep. I have my choice of a really comfy twin bed downstairs in pseudouncle's office, or a makeshift bed on a loveseat in the upstairs loft, which is much closer to where everyone else is. I don't actually believe any of the stories about Daniel Kretchmer, the supposed one-time polygamist of Pleasant Grove, but at night when I hear funny sounds outside, it's fairly easy to forget that I don't believe any of those stories.


Monday, December 30, 2013

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/28/debby-boone_n_4493689.html

Debby Boone, one-hit wonder extraordinaire


Huffington Post is reporting that Debbie Boone has confessed to being a one-hit wonder. ??????????????? Confessed????????????

Isn't being a one-hit wonder or, for that matter, a two-hit wonder, a sixteen-hit wonder, or a wonder with any other denomination of hits attached to it, an objective measure?  Why would being such require a confession? It's not even as though it's akin to something that's widely accepted as true, such as  OJ's culpability in the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, but for which he has never admitted guilt. Were OJ to admit to the double murder, that would be newsworthy.

If Tom Cruise were to acknowledge having bisexual tendencies, that would be newsworthy. On the other hand, if Tom Cruise were to acknowledge  having appeared in the movie Top Gun, it seems unlikely that the presses would be halted mid-edition for the purpose of including such information, which is self-evident.

An artist's status as a one-hit wonder is likewise self-evident and as such  requires no acknowledgement or declaration  on the part of the artist. Depending upon the definition ascribed to the designation, a person either is or isn't a one-hit wonder. Debbie Boone is. Were Ms. Boone to outrightly admit to being either a dingbat or a lunatic, which she may or may not be, that would possibly be newsworthy. Were she to check in to the Betty Ford Clinic, that too,  would be newsworthy.  Her one-hit wonder status or any personal admission of such, however, is hardly worthy of a bullet on the screen of even such a lowly outlet as Huffington Post.

P.S. I'm en route to Utah now. A jury was empaneled just before 10:00 a.m.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Starland Vocal Band: Afternoon Delight



My mom was not even eleven years old when Starland Vocal band released its signature song. It instantly became her favorite song. Its lyrics were questionable for a not-yet-eleven-year-old to sing, but my mother was never one to let arguably sexual lyrics get in the way of her enjoyment of a song.

My brother and I grew up hearing the LP  on which the song was recorded playinh on vinyl. I think it was the first song we could actually sing in 4-part harmony. Matthew couldn't sing a harmony part until he was something like fourteen years old. He always had to sing the melody, and couldn't even sing that independently against harmony parts or a non-melody accompaniment until he was maybe thirteen-and-a-half. He'd heard this song  many, many times. When the ability to hold a part finally came to him, we must have been traveling in the car. We would have been singing along with a home-burned CD. My mom realized Matthew wasn't singing the melody and he was actually on key. When we got home, my dad got out his guitar, and we sang the song with just our voices and guitar accompaniment. It was the first and last time my family ever sang that song. If you listen to the lyrics, it's quite a sick song to be singing with your immediate family. In retrospect, I'm a little surprised that CPS only showed up on our doorstep the one time.

My mother is a difficult person to buy gifts for, as she has most stuff that she needs, but I came accross a CD version of "Starland Vocal Band" by Starland Vocal Band. my mother loved it.  It's as if she discovered it all over again. It's been playing continuously in our house. My door has been closed. I can only take so much.

My mom supposedly had a major thing going for the young guy in the group. I'm glad her taste in men changed;  I otherwise might have been even homelier than I am.




Duck Dynasty and Free Enterprise

the men of the Duck Dynasty empire


Watching the Duck Dynasty controvery unfold has been enlightening. I had no problem with A & E suspending Phil Robertson from the program, and I likewise have no issue with their reversal of their decision  to suspend his participation in the program. The fact thatt I don't actually watch the program may have something to do with my laissez faire outlook.

My assumption is that it was always to A & E an issue of economics rather than a personal issue. It went down exactly as it should have. The remainder of the Robertson family let it be known that they were unwilling to continue filming the reality show if Phil were excluded. Those who either supported Phil Robertson personally or supported his right to express his personal opinion regarding the gay lifestyle made it known to A & E that allowing the suspension of Robertson to stand would result in a greater loss to the network than allowing him to return to the show would have.

My personal take is that I found Robertson's comments somewhat offensive. The typical conservative Christian views concerning homosexuality are to me somewhat off-putting.  The Bible condemns homosexuality, but it does so midst numerous other conditions and behaviors (mildew, divorce and remarriage, to name just two) that don't seem to merit nearly as much press time from the religious right as does homosexuality. (I'm condemning neither those who live in homes with mildew issues nor those who have remarried after divorce; rather, I'm merely pointing out that the religious right often focuses upon the abomination of of same-sex attraction while turning a blind eye to other equally Biblically-condemned practices.) Jesus himself, to the best of my knowledge, was curiously and conspicuously silent on the issue of homosexuality. I don't claim to have any personal insight as to the rightness or wrongness of being gay, though I have seen just enough to have formed a belief that in most cases sexual preference is not a choice.  My stance is more along the lines of being thankful that it's not a personal issue for me -- not in the sense of the infamous Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like the tax collector or other sinners as detailed in the eighteenth chapter of Luke, but more along the lines of a personal acknowledgement  that the gay lifestyle is not easy and can be very lonely, and I'm just as happy that many of the difficulties encountered on a daily basis by the average gay person are not something with which I must deal.  What I personally think about Duck Dynasty, homosexuality, or anything else  related to this situation should not matter to the braintrust at A & E, as I'm not part of this controversy; I didn't watch Duck Dynasty before the controversy, and that's not likely to change.

We all vote all the time with our expenditures, whether or not we are aware of it. If we do not like the actions of a network, we have the right to withhold our support from the network's sponsor. Doing so is far superior to whining about either the liberal media or the oppressive right wing block of the U.S. Even better, though, would be a bit more tolerance on all sides.

Friday, December 27, 2013

hoping for a speedy remainder of voir dire

Utah snow, I can hardly wait to see you.
 

The remainder of the day in court today went about as it was expected to go. The defense has exhausted its peremptory challenges.  The state still has sixteen remaining.  I'm hoping we can seat a jury in half a day on Monday.

Pseudouncle's cousin was in the courtroom today. He sat with Pdseudoaunt's brother. The two of them whispered funny things all day long. I enjoyed it immensely, and it made the day seem to pass quickly. Pseudoaunt told them to knock it off because she was worried that they were distracting me from doing my job, but she underestimates my aility to multi-task. I can devote just a bit of attention to something funny being said behind me while doing my job perfectly well.

Neither of them initiated any conversations with jurors, though they answered specific questions of anyone who asked them, except that they didn't divulge any affiliation with either side.  Their location directly behind the prosecution's table may have been a bit of an indicator of their association.

Pseudouncle's cousin is heading to Utah on Sunday. I'm not supposed to use his name, but he's known in the genre of LDS cinematography even though he's no longer LDS. He wants to talk to me about some of my experiences with the Church and wants to read my blogs related to my association with all things LDS. I need to look up links for him.

I'm packing everything except medical supplies for pseudoaunt. It's a very easy job, because she already has clothing at her condo in Utah, her ski gear is ther already, and her husband is packing up her medications and medical supplies. She's leaving a list of everything she wants packed. If we seat the jury by early afternoon on Monday, we're leaving as soon as we can get away. She would be stressed about forgetting something if she had to pack, so I'm doing it for her. I'm already packed. I don't need snowboarding gear, but I'll use Jared's little sister's old snowsuit if I want to be in the snow.

I'm counting on God and the forces of the universe to combine in such a way that it allows a jury to be empaneled quickly on Monday.

Court Recess

Court is in recess.


We're having our midday break here. The chances of the jury being empaneled today are somewhere between zero and negative 12.  Pseudoaunt and her co-prosecutor have used only two peremptory challenges. The dense attorney has disimissed ten today for a total of eighteen, including the two remaining highest on pseudoaunt's priority list for peremptory challenge. The state has used only two peremptory challenges.

Pseudoaunt's brother and and her husband's cousin are in court today. Pseudaunt's husband's cousin is an actor and screenwriter, and he's using the experience to asquire background information to be used at a laser date, or so he says. I think that's just how he's justifying deducting the cost of his flight here, if you ask me, which no one did. Pseudoaunt's borther is mainly here because she was sick a few days ago and he's a fourth-year medical student. He's also the engineer who wrote the computer program I'm using. He's looking at it in use to see if there's anything he can do to improve it.

I'm going to propose that I will come to pseudoaunt's house and pack for her this weekend if doing such would allow us to  then leave as soon as the jury is empaneled and court has recessed, assuming this all happens on Monday. Pseudaunt hates packing, so it sould be a good deal for her. pseudouncle doesn't want her to worry about getting ready for the trip until she's finished in court, as he doesn't want her to be unduly stressed as we're leaving. If I do everything for her, though . . .

Packing has become much easy for pseudoaunt, as her mom bought extra clothing for all four seasons - Utah actually HAS four seasons  -- to be left at her condo in Utah so that traveling there and back would be easier. Pseudoaunt even pays for someone to come in and do her laundry including  towels and bedding after she returns to California. The main issue for packing for Pseudoaunt is getting all of her medication and equipment together and ensuring that nothing critical is left. Pseudouncle should be able to take care of that, or at least double check after I've packed it to ensure that everything is there. He won't forget anything.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dismissal for Cause 101: a law school course pseudoaunt should teach

She looks really nice here, but she's a pit bull in the courtroom.


I was overly optimistic about how quickly voir dire and jury selection would proceed. Just before noon we had a qualified jury, and then peremptory challenges began. Voila! Once more we'd have an unqualified juror. it happened six times in a row, for that matter. Pseudoaunt was the cause in every case. The lead prosecutor was willing to settle for peremptory challenge bounces on the last two of the jurors, but pseudoaunt pushed for dismissal for cause on the basis of a single answer one woman gave that indicated a possible bias against law enforcement in one instance, and a single answer to a question provided by a woman indicating a possible bias against the testimony of an expert witness in another case, and the judge went for both of them.

The defense used up eight peremptory challenges to the prosecution's zero.  We potentially have thirty-two additional peremptory challenges, and that's not taking into consideration that pseudoaunt can probably get another dozen or so jurors dismissed for cause. The chances of us leaving for Utah on Monday are somewhere between slim and none at all.

At one point I must've made a face when a juror was tossed for cause. Pseudoaunt hissed at me to knock it off. The lead attorney didn't think I had done anything wrong. Pseudoaunt told him she had practically raised me and that she knows as well as anyone what my faces mean, and she said she was not letting a biased juror on the panel just because I wanted to leave for Utah on Monday morning. The lead attorney laughed. Potential jurors heard the exchange and were laughing at us. We're a really professional team; that much is certain..

I'm spending the night at the pseudorelatives' house tonight. We went over jury pool information for tomorrow so we would both be ready. Now r're stretched out on a sofa and recliner in the living room with warm quilts because their house is drafty, and we're listening to pseudouncle play the piano.

Tomorrow will probably be more of the same but possibly even worse. please pray for me.




court tomorrow, Phenergan with Codeine, and other matters related and unrelated

nasty stuff, but it does knock me out


I've been fighting croup. In court on Monday, we were assigned to a dirty and dusty conference room that probably had been neither cleaned nor used in ages. pseudoaunt had major respiratory arrest during the following night, probably caused at least in part by spending time in the dusty room. My croup was probably caused in part by the dust as well. In addition to regular dust, there was a chalkboard (I didn't know chalkboards still existed) with a lot of chalk dust. Chalk dust irritates my respiratory tract.

My barking seal impersonation appears to be slowing, so I will probably be allowed in court tomorrow. If I start coughing a lot, I'll leave. I probably am not carrying anything contagious, and I've been on antibiotics for over 48 hours just in case, because I'll be spending time with pseudoaunt, and she has cystic fibrosis. We all take pains not to expose her to anything communicable.

I have two more days of work, assuming I'm well enough to work. If a jury has not yet been seated, we will not leave on Monday as had been previously planned. In the extremely unlikely event that a jury has not been picked by the end of  Tuesday (New Year's Eve), we'll leave anyway. I think we'll probably have the jury picked by Friday, although I'm not exactly the voice of experience on such matters.

I should be sleeping, but I've done a lot of sleeping since Monday evening and could probably manage without sleeping at all. I hear my mom stirring in the room next door, however. She will appear in a few minutes bearing purple codeine cough syrup. I won't be awake for long.

Sayonara.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Voir Dire, Conspicuous Observation, and Me

not the computer program I was using


Court was a bit interesting today. Nothing that happened on the official record was all that out of the ordinary. We were just in  voir dire [the questioning of hurors in the jury selection process], though it is a somewhat higher-stakes trial than the others in which I've aided, so it's taking a bit longer. Moreover,  there are more peremptory challenges on each side (20), though we haven't yet reached peremptory challenges yet.

What was interesting today was that the actual district attorney, as in the lead prosecutor in the county -- the person who was voted in during a 2010 county-wide election -- came into the courtroom and was actively observing me. As it turned out, it was not actually I in whom or in which she was interested, but, rather, in the computer program I used to track jurors in the voir dire process. She sat in the row directly behind me and observed everything I did on the computer.

During lunch break,  the district attorney met with my pseudoaunt and wanted to know what program I was using. The program in use is one designed by pseudoaunt's brother. He was a computer engineering major in his undergraduate studies. He's now in his fourth and final year of medical school, but before that, he was, and continues to be, a computer whiz. He and my pseudouncle, relying on psuedoaunt's third-year law school knowledge of the voir dire process (fortunately she's a quick study and had a far greater than average mastery of the subject matter than did the typical third-year law student at the time) came up with the algorithms to develop what is apparently a notably sophisticated program to track jurors and cross-code them based on responses given in various points of the voir dire process. In the  case of this particular trial, much of the information came from questionnaires the jurors completed prior to  being called to the jury box, with additional information added as jurors' numbers were called and they took their seats. Jurors are flagged by their responses, which indicate to the assistant district attorneys as to what areas in which follow up questions need to be asked. The program flags with about 95 per cent accuracy the jurors whom the ADAs should request dismissal for cause. It errs on the side of over-identification, although one cannot safely assume it will catch every potential case of dismissal for cause. The program does, furthermore, flag those potentially unqualified jurors whose biases would sway them in favor of the prosecution; ADAs aren't ordinarily going to be the ones to call those to the attention to a judge unless not doing so (if the defense attorneys fail to do so) would cause them to appear unscrupulous before judge by failure to do so. (An ADA might also want to point out egregious cases of bias that a defense attorney fails to call to the attention of the judge because allowing the juror to remain might potentially give a defendant cause for successful appeal on the grounds of incompetent defense. No one really wants to go to all the trouble required to win a case only to have it overturned on a technicality.)

The DA met with my pseudoaunt to ask about the computer program. The DA wants the program to be available to all attorneys in the DA's office. Pseudoaunt said that she owns only a license to use the program and cannot share it. She literally cannot share it, as it will not download onto other computers from her computer, and she doesn't hold a downloadable a copy of it. It  can be hazardous to the performance of a computer to attempt to unlawfully download it from one computer to another. For that matter, a district attorney should not be a party to an unauthorized attempt to download any copyrighted software. The software is copyrighted but the patent is still pending. The program will not be sold in any form until the patent has been granted. A patent offers greater protection for computer software or hardware than does a copyright.

Pseudoaunt's younger brother says that he cannot market the program until next  summer at the very earliest, assuming the patent is granted by then, by which time he can assemble a staff [possibly a staff of one] to help customers troubleshoot installation and operation issues. (If it were a more concrete product for which he sought a patent, the pending status of the patent might be sufficient to protect his rights of ownership, but with computer software, a pending patent probably isn't sufficient protection even with the prior copyright.) He'll begin his medical residency in July of 2014, and can't exactly pause in the middle of grand rounds to take questions from ADAs anywhere in the nation who might be experiencing technical difficulties. He [pseudouncle's brother] is working quickly to have a system in place as soon as is feasible after the patent is granted, as it would be sad to be scooped by another developer of a similar program, but he says he would rather be scooped than sell a product without offering the necessary supports.

In any event, it was disconcerting to me to be singled out for scrutiny to the degree that I was today by the district attorney. I initially didn't know what was the reason for her attention, but the lead attorney on the case notice my discomfort and quickly clued me in. It still made me nervous, but I at least knew that I was not suspected of wrongdoing or incompetence.

The more complicated and involved voir dire situation in which I'm participating is giving me considerable insight into the jury selection process. I feel much more qualified to get out of being selected for a jury if that is my goal when I am eventually called to report for jury duty. For that matter, it also gives me greater know-how as to how to frame my [truthful] answers to questions in order to appear favorable to either side in jury selections, if being selected for a jury panel is my aim. I'm approximately as civic-minded as is the next person,  but my desire to serve has its limits. It would be moderately interesting to be on most juries, but there are types of trials for which I'd just as soon not serve on a jury. Because I was the victim of a sexual assault, I can quite legitimately  avoid ever serving on a jury for any case related to sexual assault.  A long and drawn-out civil suit has the potential of being mind-numbingly agonizing. I think I have a decent handle as to how to make myself unappealing to either side or both sides in such a case.

I'll most likely be back here  before Jesus' offical b'day, but in the event that I'm not, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever greeting most suits you.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Batson Challenges and Kardashians

random courtroom scene from Google Images


It's three a.m., and I need to be at the courthouse in five hours. I'm wide awake. I would like to write something profound, or at least non-idiotic, but if I started it, I'd feel obligated to finish even if I miraculously became sleepy. Instead, I'll spew forth my usual complete idiocy because it will not bother me to stop it mid-sentence, or even mid-word, if the slightest inclination for sleep possesses me.

I'm helping two attorneys with jury selection in a fairly serious trial. That's as much information as I can give out at this point. After the trial, I'm free to share what I want within reason. So far it's been quite interesting.

My job is to manage juror information so that what the attorneys need is readily accessible to them. Everything is coded  in terms of which answers given on written questionnaries merit follow-up questions if the  prospective juror inquestion actually makes it into one of the jurors' chairs. Then once the jurors make it to the hot seats and face the questions, additional color-coding happens based on their answers. My employers will attempt to have some prospective jurors dismissed for cause.  If there's not much of a chance of outright dismissal, they'll play it close to the vest in hopes that the defense attorney might unwittingly dismiss the same juror they'd like to remove. If any answers have been provided that have given my employers reason to believe the defense attorney might possibly toss a juror that my employers also would like to see ousted, the person is flagged and will be given a lower number in the peremptory challenge ranking in order to give opposing counsel plenty of time to bounce the presumably less favorable juror with one of her own peremptory challenges.

It's all very much like a giant chess game, and most intriguing. Even if I don't go to sleep tonight, I will have no trouble remaining awake and alert in court tomorrow.

I doubt we'll reach the peremptory challenge point tomorrow. An entire twelve-person jury plus four alternates, none of whom were dismissed for cause, must be seated before the peremptory challenge phase even begins. Then both sides will have twenty peremptory challenges, which  are essentially free bounces with no questions asked unless an attorney appears to be making peremptory challenges for the purpose of excluding a particular group from the jury, at which point the opposing counsel may make what is called a "Batson Challenge."

In a Batson Challenge,  the judge, after hearing arguments form both sides, determines whether prospective jurors have been systematically eliminated for no reason other than belonging to a particular group. The term comes from a case in Kentucky in which James Kirkland  Batson, a black defendant, was tried for burglary. Some blacks were removed from his jury for cause. The prosecuting attorney removed then remaining four blacks on the jury via peremptory challenge, resulting in an exclusively white jury. In appeals, it was concluded that the peremptory challenge privilege was abused and that jurors cannot be excluded solely on the basis of race. This ruling was later extended to include other potential groupings beyond race, including those of a religious nature.   A pattern of discriminatory exclusion must be present before a judge will hear a Batson Challenge. The first time an attorney uses a peremptory challenge to dismiss a juror, the peremptory challenge will be upheld. Only after opposing counsel can offer evidence of a pattern of exclusion of a group will a Batson Challenge be considered.

In a trial in which I helped pseudoaunt last winter, a very ignorant assistant district attorney issued a Batson challenge after pseudoaunt's very first peremptory challenge. The judge almost had a coronary over it, yelling at the guy and telling him that he [the judge] refused to conduct a review of Law 101 for the ADA. Pseudoaunt didn't know where in hell he was coming from. The ADA was far from a rookie.

I have non-reality tV playing in the background as I type. It's actually on the Kardashians. It's the episode in which the females tried to exclude Bruce Jenner from the family Christmas card. The whole thing is probably scripted, but if it really happened that way, I'd have to side with bruce jenner on this one, although lately he's been almost as big an idiot as the rest of them are.

I'm not genuinely sleepy yet, but I am going to turn everything off and give sleep one last try before i shower and get dressed in my court attire.

Bon soiree.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Phil Robertson, A & E, The First Amendment, and Liberal Bias of the Media



I'm a bit puzzled as to the uproar as well as the confusion on both sides of the issue concerning Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson. Mr. Robertson gave  inflammatory comments about his perceptions concerning homosexuality in an interview with someone from Vanity Fair. His comments wre publicized. His employing network,  A & E,  chose  at least temporarily to suspend his employment. Supporters of gay rights are hailing the network's decision, while conservative voices are decrying the network's actions as a violation of Robertson's first amendment rights.

Perhaps the logic in my understanding of the issue is faulty or oversimplified, but I don't see the issue as being in any way related to the first amendment, and the issue doesn't appear to benearly so complicated or convoluted as some appear to be trying to make it seem.  Phil Robertson is free to express his opinion on any subject he wishes. He is employed by a non-govenment entity -- A & E network.   The people at A & E have every right to terminate Robertson's employment if  they feel that his words or actions reflect poorly on  A & E or in any way negatively impact its bottom line.

While I cannot know this for certain, I doubt that this issue is personal to whomever made the decision to suspend Phil Robertson's association with the network. My assumption is that the leadership at  A & E believes that their financial stability has best been preserved by at least temporarily discontinuing the employment of  Robertson.  For those who disagree with  the actions of  A & E,  either because they like Phil Robertson in spite of his somewhat inflammatory words or because they happen to share his ideology, it would be wisest for them to let their feelings be known to  A & E and to indicate that the network and its sponsors will feel a negative impact for any action taken against Robertson.

If such happens, it will then be up to the people  at  A & E to decide whether this is an issue of  right or wrong or an issue of economic impact.  If the issue is one of right and wrong to A & E, it seems the thinking has already been done and the decision has been made. If it is determined to be an economic issue, however, management will determine which side has greater power to negatively impact A & E, and will act accordingly.

It is silly for conservatives to use this incident as just one more illustration of  the liberal bias of  the media. Robertson may say what he chooses to say. A & E may employ whom they choose to employ. Those who support Robertson and oppose the actions of A & E should vote with their dollars in the form of avoiding A & E and its sponsors.  To invoke the first amendment in relation to this issue is to advertise one's ignorance as to our nation's constitution and its amendments..
.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Dregs of Humanity

the only sane mall strategy


I went to a place today that I usually try very hard to avoid.  I broke down and visited my local mall.  I like people, but on my own terms. I don't want my personal spaceto be invaded by anyone I don't invite to invade said space. I don't want to share air with the people who foul it with their germ-infested droplets. More than anything. however, I do not wish to be either embarrassed or  guilted into purchasing overpriced  products.


At my local mall, people representing a bizarre brand of skin care products operate from kiosks in the center of the walkways linking major department stores. If the parasitic would-be salespeople would remain in their kiosks and would wait for prospective customers to show interest before descending upon them, I might possibly venture into a mall again in the next six months. Instead, the sales representatives approach potential customers with the all the zeal and don't-take-no-for-an-answer bluster of LDS missionaries on crack just for the purpose of  blackmailing me into purchasing their particular form of Santeria, otherwise known as acne medication.

The zit police patrol the mall in search of the most vulnerable among us -- the adolescents.. They snap pictures of unsuspecting shoppers, then blow the victims  up to roughly 4.5 times life-size on their kiosk screens, thus magnifying every pore and every pimple for all mall-shoppers to view. Then the goons speak into amplified systems, calling out passers-by, asking them if they're satisfied with the current state of their respective complexions. Some naive adolescents and their parents are humiliated into purchasing the products, which probably contain nothing with any discernible acne-fighting properties.

I suspect the goons of age-profiling before actually looking at anyone's complexion. They beamed me onto their screen. I paused to engage them momentarily. I marched right up to the screen displaying the magnified facial portrait of me. I challenged the consultant charged with haranguing me to find a zit on my face.  (I'm far from a flawless beauty, but I do have, through sheer luck,  a clear complexion.) The consultant faltered, but then told me it was only a matter of time. I would have walked away except that a girl from my anthropology class last spring had been ensnared by another consultant. I didn't want  her to be ripped off. I approached her and told her that her skin looked just fine as is, but if she genuinely wanted to throw her money away on an acne-fighting product, any university health center doctor would prescribe a topical medication much better than whatever voodoo potion these losers were hawking, and it would only cost her five dollars at the student pharmacy.

If a person really wants to thrown down a decent chuck of money in the war against acne, at least throw it away on Proactiv. It's moderately expensive stuff, but it does work. My brother has struggled with mild acne since the puberty fairy first paid him a visit several years ago. He started using Proactiv just under two years ago and has been essentially zit-free since shortly after starting the products.

I know that the zit police have bills to pay just as the rest of us do, but a person sells at least a little part of his or her soul whenever he or she goes to work for a corporation that demeans vulnerable people as its modus operandi.

I hate malls. I finished my shopping on Amazon.com.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Brain Is Normal Again

This is, incidentally, someone else's brain.


I'm starting to feel almost alive again,  and my doctors are beginning to relax a bit. I had an MRI today. The inside of my head supposedly looks pretty much the way it should look. I initially had a slight bleed, which is why I've done almost nothing for the past twelve days, but it appears that my head has mended. I'm not supposed to engage in contact sports, bunjee jumping, or anything else similarly jarring or hazardous, but normal day-to-day activities are acceptable. The deep tissue bruise around my thigh is more of a concern to my doctor now than is my head. Deep though the bruise may be, it's still just a bruise,  and it will go away. I wouldn't be allowed to snowboard or ski, but since I can't anyway because I don't want to mess with my ability to play the violin for my senior violin recital in February, it's not that big of a deal.

I'm flying to northern Idaho with my family in six days. I'll return the day after Christmas. On December 30 I'm traveling by car to Utah with my pseudorelatives and my friend Alyssa. Alyssa sustained a moderately severe injury in a soccer class at her college, and she can't ski or snowboard, either, so the two of us can commiserate together. We'll return home on December 5.

Tomorrow night i will take my violin to Pseudouncle scott's house and run through my recital music with him. One pice is a solo piece, and another is violin and guitar, but all other pieces involved piano accompaniment.

I'm allowed to drive again beginning tomorrow. I'm not sure where I'll drive, but since I have a brand new car that I have not yet driven, I will take a trip somewhere.

I may earn a bit of money as a paralegal for partof a homicide trial. My psuedoaunt is second-chairing it, but she's been singing my praises to her boss, who's the lead attorney on the case, and he said the office will spring for my pay for a few days of work during jury selections.  The jury pool is large, and they could probably use an extra pair of hands to keep track of all the papers they havbe to handle in seating a jury for a case of such magnitude.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Alexis as a Milkmaid and Related Matters: a repost

I saw a lot of this sort of thing in my childhood.


For two years of my life, I lived in the San Joaquin Valley. The first of those two years occurred when I was in kindergarten. Then we moved to a suburb north of the San Francisco Bay Area for a year. For various logistical purposes, we returned to the San Joaquin Valley the year I was in second grade. For both of my San Joaquin Valley years, we lived in a house on a dairy that was owned by my aunt and uncle. We attended Catholic School for the convenience of my aunt . My mom is a proponent of public schooling, especially since she earned the bulk of her income through the public school system, and felt that it would have been and was hypocritical for her to have taken money from the public sector while paying to send her children to a private school, parochial or otherwise, yet she wished not to make life more difficult for my aunt, who was doing her a great favor  by providing our before- and after-school babysitting. My cousins attended the local Catholic School, which made delivering us  and picking us up logistically much less complicated for my aunt were we to attend the same school as her two children.

The aunt who babysat us, my Aunt Victoria, was also my Godmother.  She was and continues to be extremely kind and generous to my brother and to me. Her husband and my Godfather, my Uncle Ralph, was sort of a crusty first-generation-born-in-the-U.S.  Azores Portuguese dairyman who, along with his brothers, owned multiple dairies.  He had two sons and no daughters, though he had numerous nieces. For some reason he took to me more so than to his other nieces,  whether biological or by marriage. He found my outspokenness and opinionatedness "cute," rather than obnoxious as most adults found it.  For that reason, he tolerated me, and I spent  much of the time we lived near his dairy amidst his cows.  My Uncle Ralph defended me against my many detractors. When his older brother James complained that I needed to spend less time at the dairies because the sound of my voice was upsetting the cows and interfering with milk production, my Uncle Ralph politely told his brother to go to Hell. (That particular brother is no longer in business with my Uncle Ralph,though we still run into him at extended family functions. He still finds my voice annoying.)

The aunt who babysat us, my Aunt Victoria, was also my Godmother.  She was and continues to be extremely kind and generous to my brother and to me. Her husband and my Godfather, my Uncle Ralph, was sort of a crusty first-generation-born-in-the-U.S.  Azores Portuguese dairyman who, along with his brothers, owned multiple dairies.  He had two sons and no daughters, though he had numerous nieces. For some reason he took to me more so than to his other nieces,  whether biological or by marriage. He found my outspokenness and opinionatedness "cute," rather than obnoxious as most adults found it.  For that reason, he tolerated me, and I spent  much of the time we lived near his dairy amidst his cows.  My Uncle Ralph defended me against my many detractors. When his older brother James complained that I needed to spend less time at the dairies because the sound of my voice was upsetting the cows and interfering with milk production, my Uncle Ralph politely told his brother to go to Hell. (That particular brother is no longer in business with my Uncle Ralph,though we still run into him at extended family functions. He still finds my voice annoying.)

As a young child, on occasion I was  present when decisions were made as to whether or not particular bulls should be castrated or allowed to mature and to be allowed  to gain the ability to reproduce.  Some dairymen castrate bulls at two to four days of age. Others wait until closer to seven months. Still other bulls will not be castrated at all, although the vast majority will undergo the procedure  because the number of viable sperm producers needed is far less than the number of calf-bearing and milk-producing cows. (It's a metaphor to life on a polygamous compound. A limited number of fertile males are nedded; it's the females who are key to continued breeding.)

One afternoon, I remember standing around a pen while my uncle and a few of his brothers discussed the relative merits of a particular bull who may have been about four months old.  There was no consensus as to how to manage this bull's reproductive status.  Tony said to castrate. Ralph, Frank,  Joe, and Fred were undecided. James wanted to let the bull develop his cojones and allow him to  significantly help to entertain the dairy's female population. Though my opinion wasn't asked, I characteristically gave it. "Castrate him," I piped in, "or beef him."

The men all looked at me quizzically. Not only was I suggesting to take away this bull's reproductive ability, but was offering as an alternate suggestion that he be turned into ribeye steaks.

"His eyes look too crazy," I explained.  I don't know if I was in a position to be able to tell at hat age, or even now, but it is supposedly common knowledge, or at least folk knowledge  among dairymen, that a wild-eyed bull may be more temperamental or dangerous than will be the average bull.

"She don't know what the hell she's talking about, " James argued. "She's five years old  [I was actually only  four at the time], she's a girl,  and she ain't even  Portuguese. We're fools if we make a decision based on what she tells us.  I know you think she's funny, Ralph, but that don't mean she needs to dictate our dairy policy."

They dispersed, and the bull was left in its enclosure. About two weeks later,  someone left one of the latches on the particular bull's enclosure not properly secured. Manuel, Ralph's brother James' son, about nine years old at the time, walked past the enclosure.  Dairy bulls, for a variety of reasons, are the most dangerous of bovine bulls. It supposedly pertains to how they were raised, which typically  would have been individually in pens, and bucket fed by humans rather than nursed for longer by their mothers, giving them less identity to their true bull nature and causing them to think they are humans**, therefore making them more likely to view  humans as competitors and more likely to attack them.  Anyway, the bull noticed Manuel walking past and rammed himself at the first latch, which must have been in a weakened state. The second latch, so placed just as added security, was not even fastened. The bull went directly for  Manuel, who by this time had his back to the bull and had no clue the bull was even headed in his direction.

As the bull gored Manuel in his midsection, a dairy employee, Antonio,  and Manuel's Uncle Fred both noticed the situation. Manuel's Uncle Fred came running from one direction with a two-by-four, with which he immediately began pounding the bull, while the dairy employee came from the other direction with a gun, rifle, or whatever it was. I'm extremely ignorant regarding firearms. I know it wasn't a handgun, but I don't know it it was a rifle or a shotgun.  Uncle Fred fought the bull off and got it away from Manuel, who was then pulled to safety by an older cousin.  The employee with the gun then had a safe angle for a shot at the bull, which he took and made. In short, the bull was "beefed."

As for Manuel, he lost a kidney and spleen but you would never know from looking at him today as long as  he has his shirt on and his scars are not exposed.  He should be cautious because he lacks the spare kidney which most of us have,  but his life is a normal agricultural life. He went to Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo and partied just as hard as did the next aggie there, and there are many hard-partying aggies there. Because his father is no longer in business with my Uncle Ralph, I don't see him so often, nor do I see his father James so often. James presumably still finds my voice very grating, but since the assets were split, since he's no longer in business with my Uncle Ralph, and since it's no longer his cows whose milk production with which I am interfering, he probably doesn't care all that much about my voice.  I suspect he wishes he'd taken me a little more seriously, though, the day I stated my opinion that the young bull's eyes looked crazy.

Not only did I learn of castration and insemination. I learned the requisite swear words in Spanish,  Portuguese, and English, and I learned when not to say them if I knew what was good for me.  I also picked up a few bovine- and sometimes human-related veterinary and medical terms.  One day in kindergarten one of my classmates' mothers had planned to bring her newborn baby to school to show to the children, which was probably a foolish thing for her to have  done under the best of circumstances with all the germs we carried. She was unable to come, however, due to a malady related to breast-feeding.

"My mother can't come to school today,"  the kid announced. "She has mastitis."  The mother probably would have preferred that her son  keep the specifics of her malady, but kindergartners aren't known to respect  privacy -- their mothers' or anyone else's.

"No way! " I answered. "Your mom can't have mastitis."

"She does so!" he countered.

"My uncle's cows get mastitis," I informed the boy. "Is your mom a cow?  If she reallyhas mastitis, it has to mean she's a cow," I told him with the authority of a four-year-old who felt that she knew just about everything there was to know on the planet and beyond.

Catholic schools in rural areas are essentially tiny, isolated communities.  Everyone shops at the same places, worships at the same church, sends their children to the same school or schools, and sees the same few doctors.  If a feud over anything ensues, there's little to do by way of getting around it. Soon it was known by all students in the K-8 school old enough to understand the significance [and their parents] just what was said regaring Alexis Rousseau  calling  David Goularte's  mother a cow. Even my aunt and uncle knew, though they initially didn't enlighten my parents because they saw no point in my being beaten when I hadn't done anything intentionally wrong.

The first sign of trouble came when, at mass the following Sunday, my family took seats next to to my Aunt Victoria and Uncle Ralph,  who happened to be in a  pew directly in front of the Goularte family.  Almost immediately, all seven Goulartes, including the new baby, picked up their rosaries, purses, diaper bags, and all the rest of their paraphernalia, and moved to a spot in the church that was as far away from us as they could possibly relocate while still remaining inside the building. In retrospect, I'm surprised they didn't traipse up to the choir loft, except that lugging those massive mastitis-infected boobs up the stairs might have been a bit painful for Mrs. Goulart. Most women would have stayed home from mass if suffering from something as uncomfortable as mastitis, but the Goulartes were devout Catholics with a reputation for attending church when suffering from bouts of diarrhea, chicken pox that had not entirely crusted over, and early stages of labor. Baby Goulart number six was very nearly born in the church.

My parents looked at each other in a puzzled manner, then apparently gave the matter little more thought. My Aunt Victoria and Uncle Ralph, however, knew the back story. They spent the rest of the mass trying to contain their laughter. When my Uncle Ralph went forward to received the host, Mr. Goularte was receiving the host at the station directly adjacent to where my Uncle Ralph was doing the same.  Apparently even being related to me by marriage made my Uncle Ralph a Capulet to Mr. Goularte's Montague status, or a Hatfield to a McCoy if one would prefer. Mr. Goularte gave my uncle a look that typically would have been reserved for such action as my uncle himself having referred to Mrs. Goularte as a cow, and not merely his kindergarten niece having done so.  My Uncle Ralph caught the sneer aimed in his direction. He tried not to laugh while the host was being delivered to him, which caused him to choke. He sputtered his way back to his pew, with my Aunt Victoria firmly hitting his back, wondering if she should attempt a Heimlich maneuver. (It wouldn't have been easy, as Uncle Ralph neither then was  nor is now is a small man.)  My uncle eventually successfully swallowed and quit coughing.

At the conclusion of the mass, my aunt and uncle decided they should let my parents in on the "secret" as to  why the Goulartes  hated us, since everyone else in the church seemed to know. My mother wanted to punish me, but my dad said they needed instead to explain to me that some illnesses can be contracted by both cows and humans, and that, regardless, it will never be taken as a compliment for a person to refer to another person's mother as a cow.

My Aunt Victoria told me just last week that Mr. Goularte started to bid on a heifer at an auction, but immediately ceased with his bidding when he learned it was my cousin Philip's heifer for which he was competing. It seems the feud lives on. I suppose the only thing that would make it worse would be if David Goularte and I were to fall in love.  Such is not all that likely to happen, though, as David Goularte only dates bimbo sorority girls with IQs significantly lower than his, and, while I do not know his precise intelligence quotient, I do know that  it took him three tries to pass the high school exit exam.


** Obviously, even animal psychologists can only make wild guesses as to the reasoning behind bulls' actions. Who can know what, if anything, is really going through a bull's mind as he attacks anything or anyone?

The Star of the Christmas Pageant

Nuns are sometimes hysterical in more than one sense of the word.


I attended Catholic School for two years. That was long enough; probably too long, in fact.

I'm technically both a Catholic and a Latter-Day Saint, as I was blessed in a Mormon church without my parents' knowledge. (I've blogged about it somewhere in the March or April 2010 section if you're ever interested in the gory details.) My immediate family is Catholic. My dad was born Catholic. He's French-Canadian, and I think they're mostly a Catholic ethnicity. He had a ten-year stint at Mormonism when his family converted, but that, too, has been covered in an earlier blog. My mom is Irish Catholic. She was an Air Force brat and attended public or Catholic schools depending upon where her family lived and what was in close proximity. 

Most of my mom's employment has been with public schools, so my brother and I attend public schools for the most part because my mom thinks it's hypocritical for her to accept money to work in a system that is not good enough to educate her own children. For a little over two years, though, we lived in the San Joaquin Valley because my dad was alternating between so many different sites that it was the most centrally located area, and my Godparents (who are also an aunt and uncle, but not any of the evil ones) lived there. My Godmother babysat us after school, so we attended the same Catholic school my cousins attended just for the sake of convenience. 

My moment of glory as a Catholic School student occurred when I was almost expelled as a second-grader who was barely seven. The story has no particular relevance to anything that I've written in my blog recently or, for that matter, to anything that's happening in the world today, but I am going to share the experience because just thinking of it makes me laugh.

 Catholic schools are known for operating on shoestring budgets and usually do a fairly remarkable job on the limited funds they have. My Catholic elementary school didn't have a teacher who could play the piano. The school could have reduced the tuition for some kid by having his or her parent accompany the school choirs or play for school masses, but this would have resulted in a loss of much-needed revenue. So the principal did the next best thing, which was to use the most accomplished pianist in the student body as the official school pianist. Unfortunately for them, it happened to be a second-grader, me, who was only six until December of that year.

I missed the last ninety minutes of class twice a week to play for the junior and senior choirs. I didn't struggle academically, so my parents never complained. Come to think of it, I'm not sure they ever knew it was happening. Everything was usually fine, because everything I needed to play was pretty much spelled out. Then came the Christmas Program, which happened about two weeks after I turned seven.

This when my mom was recovering from leukemia, and she and my dad were in Los Angeles for some sort of follow-up appointment.. My aunt took me and the other kids in the family to the program. My uncle didn't come with us because he's a Portuguese dairyman whose parents came from the Azores. Except for my brother and me, nearly every kid in that school was the child of Azores-descended parents (even my cousins Michael and Philip were novelties at the school because they were half-breeds, with the other half being Irish), and nearly all were dairymen or farmers. Azores-descended dairymen and farmers, in general, were and still are not overly fond of sitting through children's  Christmas programs somewhere between ninety minutes and two hours in length, yet most of their wives insisted that they attend. 

The Portuguese dairymen and farmers did attend, but first they met for an hour or two at a tavern less than a mile down the road from the school in order to anaesthetize themselves sufficiently to make the Christmas program experience almost bearable. (One year a whole pack of them were charged with DUI, so after that, wives took turns transporting them by van to the tavern, and then on to the school. They farmers and dairymen talked about renting limousines, but the wives thought it was a ridiculous waste of money.)

Anyway, the church school Nativity-style Christmas program, typical in most aspects except for the inebriated farmers and dairymen and the barely seven-year-old piano accompanist, started off without incident. Shepherds, sheep, and angels all more or less wandered onto the stage at the right time. Then came the Holy Family right on schedule. Things progressed normally enough until one of the Wise Men, who probably shouldn't have been forced to perform that night, hurled the entire contents of his gastric system all over the stage. The principal, a nun, who was directing the program, rushed up to me and hissed, "Play something!"

"What?" I asked her. 

"Anything spiritual and Christmas-y," she said. "Just not one of the songs that has already been sung or one that is going to be sung." She hurried onto the stage to grab a mop and join the crew that was already attempting damage control. It was so vile that I could smell it from the piano off-stage. I don't know how they avoided having a chain reaction from all the kids actually on the stage who were in close view and smelling range.

Sister Bernadette had told me to play anything except the any of the songs included in the program, but exactly what did that mean? Practically every Christmas song known to man except "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" was included in the program, and even I at the age of seven knew better than to play that one. I thought for a moment, then broke into a song my father had taught me to play. it wasn't Christmas-y, but  I thought it was religious because it mentioned church bells,  the Bible, the mortal soul, and the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I don't know if you're familiar with the song, because it's really old, but it's called "American Pie," it's by Don McLean, and I now know it is NOT a religious song. 

At first it sounded reverent enough, but not for long. By now, I probably have the skill to play through the entire song note-for-note in a sufficiently Muzak style that few people would recognize it. As a seven-year-old, I lacked that skill. The most devout people were usually seated near the front, while the drunken dairymen and farmers hovered near the exit doors. The pious people in the front gasped as I played. The drunken Azores Portuguese men sang along. One of them, who is supposedly something like the leading sweet potato farmer in the world, had a little higher blood-alcohol content than most, and he knew all the words to the song and had a pretty good voice, so he walked up to the front and grabbed the microphone. He basically led the crowd, except for the pious people, in a rousing rendition of the long version of "American Pie," which is something like six minutes in length, giving Sister Bernadette and her crew just enough time to mop the barf off the stage and scrape it off the costumes of those who were unfortunately near enough to be hit by the fallout. 

The program ended soon enough, as the Wise Men don't come in until near the end, and it was a Wise Man who had wreaked the havoc by upchucking all over every surface within a fifteen-foot radius. I played "Silent Night" as the entire audience and cast sang along, as had been planned.

Afterward, my Aunt Victoria attempted to leave hastily, but my Uncle Ralph wanted to pose by the piano with me while all his drunken Azores farmer and dairymen friends took pictures. As brief as it was, it was sort of my moment of glory. I don't think anyone had ever before been nor has ever since been so proud of anything I had done in my entire life as my Uncle Ralph was that night. He reminded everyone within earshot that I was his Godchild and claimed to have taught me most of what I knew. The only song he knows how to play on the piano to this day is "Chopsticks," and he doesn't even play it all that well.

On the way home, my Aunt Victoria acted mildly ticked at my Uncle Ralph for having behaved like a drunken fool (I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of the sweet potato king's Mercedes), but she didn't seem upset with me. She probably had the common sense to know that if you tell a seven-year-old to play "anything," you're going to get whatever you get, and you should not pitch a hissy fit over it.

When school started the next morning, I was soon summoned to Sister Bernadette's office. She had me writing numerous Acts of Contrition, Mea Culpas, and other prayers of repentance. I spent the entire day in her office. Someone eventually brought my sack lunch to me and allowed me to eat it, but then it was back to copying prayers pleading for mercy for my much-in-jeopardy soul.

At 3:10, my Aunt Victoria showed up to pick up her children as well as my brother and me. All the other kids knew was that I had been in the office all day.

My aunt went into the office. Sister Bernadette met her at the counter and informed her that I still had two hours of detention to serve, at which point a loud discussion ensued. It ended with my aunt walking into Sister Bernadette's inner office and taking me by the arm, pulling me out of the office. Sister Bernadette said, "If you take her now, she's out of this school for good!"

"We'll see about that!" my aunt huffed as she dragged me out by one arm.

I don't really know how it was resolved, except that I do know money talks where Catholic schools are concerned, and that a phone tree soon had many wealthy Azores-descended families (probably not the pious ones) up in arms over the issue. There were only two more days of school before Christmas vacation, so my aunt "homeschooled" all of us. Holy Mother of Lady Gaga, I would have rather been back in Sister Bernadette's office copying Acts of Contrition than doing all the work my aunt made us do.

All I ever really knew was that when school resumed after Christmas vacation, my cousins, brother, and I were all back in school and Sister Bernadette had been reassigned to somewhere in Arizona. My Uncle Ralph drinks to excess on occasion, and when I'm around during his drunken stupor times, he loves to tell the story of how I saved the Christmas Program.






Sunday, December 15, 2013

Learning the Hard Way: The Fisher Price Popper (a partial repost)

the old-style Fisher-Price Popper


I wrote about this before, but I'm redundant even on a good day, so what the hell? I'll share it again.  When I was around two-and-one-half, I became convinced that the colored balls inside our Fisher Price popper, which was community property owned jointly by my brother and me, were actually gum balls. I asked my mother to let me break it open. She told me that my brother still played with it, so she would not allow me to destroy it, but she didn't think I could break it anyway because Fisher Price toys are very sturdily constructed, and besides, the colored balls were most certainly not gum balls. I pleaded with her for months, which turned into years. Dumb old Matthew was four years old and was still pushing the stupid popper around, pretending that he was vacuuming or mowing the lawn. I can remember asking my mother if she wasn't beginning to grow just a bit concerned that Matthew was so easily amused by a baby toy. Her answer was something to the effect of,  "Matthew's not the one of you who concerns me."  Even when I was a toddler, my mother used sarcasm as a major weapon in her arsenal. If anyone wonders where I got it from, look no further.

I continued to nag my mother, but one day midway between our fourth and fifth birthdays, Matthew decided  to move onto bigger and better toys, and that he no longer needed to use the Fisher Price popper. It was one of the happier days of my life that I recall. My mother adapted a pair of my dad's safety goggles so that they would at least remain on my head, not that they actually fit me. Every day after breakfast in the summer and after kindergarten once school began, I went out into the garage, put on my safety goggles that made me look like some sort of space alien (my uncle has a picture of me wearing the things, and they legitimately made me look either like I was from another planet or like I was incredibly special) and went to work on breaking into the Fisher Price popper with my dad's hammer. It kept me out of my mother's hair for so much  time that she surely must have wished she'd either taken the popper away from my brother years earlier or had gone out and bought another one for me to destroy.

After months of hammering,  I seemed to be making no progress at all until one morning shortly after Christmas (I remember that it was after Christmas because my uncle commented that most normal children would be playing with their new Christmas presents and not spending every waking moment attempting to destroy old ones), I noticed the faintest crack in the clear plexiglass cover. From that moment on, nothing would deter me from my mission. Every spare moment of the remainder of Christmas vacation was spent pounding on the popper with my dad's hammer. It nearly killed me to go back to school without having actually broken into the thing, but the very next weekend, I finally broke through it enough that I was able to use the claw end of the hammer to pry the popper open,  I took the eight multi-colored balls out and held them carefully, looking at the colors and wondering which flavor of gum would be most appealing. I finally decided upon red. I put it in my mouth and chewed, curious as to whether it would be strawberry, cherry, or cinnamon flavored. Much to my dismay, it was none of those flavors, nor any other flavor unless one would describe plastic as a flavor.

Matthew apparently noticed that I had broken through the plexiglass, because my mother knew about it. I certainly would not have volunteered the information to her. My mom asked what the colored balls tasted like. I was tempted as strongly as I've ever been tempted to do anything to lie to her and describe all the delicious flavors of the gum balls, but I knew she'd be able to tell that I was lying, so I was forced to admit that she had been correct all along.

I had devoted  hundreds of hours trying to get to the gumballs inside the Fisher Price popper that were not actually gumballs at all, and my mother had told me so all along.  I've done many things in my life that have given me a reputation for being stubborn, but the Fisher Price popper incident easily tops the list.