Guys is Dum

I blame it on Homer Simpson. He was the "iconic" (God, I hate that word) archetype of the turn of the 21st century, and Homer never had a comfortable relationship with his brain.

But he was the tip of the iceberg of ads featuring dumb guys. The classic was of course the idiot trying to make guacamole by throwing a whole avocado into a blender and watching vacant eyed as the thing bounced about.

Since guys run the show I figured this "guys is dum" thing marked some sort of ideological shift or new tactic in the ongoing war between the sexes, as in don’t blame me for being cruel, insensitive, or simply brutal because I am too DUM to know better.

But now it appears the ad guys have bought their own line.

Coors is touting as a major breakthrough in beer drinking science a can that tells the booze hound when his beer is sufficiently cold. Talk about DUM. Whatever happened–I don’t know–to grabbing the beer in your hand to see if it was cold enough. I have got to believe experienced beer drinkers have no trouble doing that and if they are really experience they really don’t care if it’s cold enough. I mean are guys going to sit around peering into the frig waiting for the beer to tell them it is cold enough.

And just as idiotic, or even more so, is a razor that has some sort of strip on it that tells the guy using the razor when he needs to replace it with a new razor. Whatever happened–I don’t know–to applying the razor to your face and if it feels as if you are shaving your face with sandpaper, well, maybe you ought to get a new one. That’s how I have always decided that I needed another razor and I have had no problems doing it.

Guys are now so DUM that they can’t even trust their own senses.

One guy writing on the consumer society argued that it (and its diverse forms of advertising) tends to make people dependent and doubtful about their own intuition. This new beer can and this new razor would appear instances of that claim.

And there’s something going on here too about the nature of the decision making process–probably too complicated to go into here. But signs on cans and razors that tell you when the can is cold enough or the razor is worn out save a person the trouble, I guess it is, of deciding on the basis of experience and the sense of touch whether the beer is cold enough or the razor is worn out. It’s better, I guess, and less painful just to have your razor tell you it is worn out rather than make that painful decision all on one’s own.

Bad News Bad News

I have got to stop reading the paper. I can’t seem to do so, though. Maybe I will just have to cancel the damn thing.

I sit with my first coffee and read a huge headline to the effect: Massive Budget Cuts Proposed.

The people of the state just the other day voted down every damn one of the initiatives on a special ballot designed to produce more revenue or to redirect some revenue already on hand towards rescuing the state from its financial morass. A projected debt of about 22 billion, which might mean, if money is not found, that the state will stop paying its bills this July.

The people did pass one punitive and purely retributional measure saying that those in government cannot give themselves a raise during a time of budget crisis.

Fine. The legislators deserved it. But rage and retribution are no substitute for reason.

Also on the front page, an opinion piece making three recommendations for recovery and I agree with each one.

A) Get rid of the law that requires a two-thirds majority to pass laws having to do with taxation. This law has produced a bottled neck, allowing a minority of rabid, reactionary right-wingers to block any sensible taxes or even tax reform. These lunatics have apparently taken a blood oath to never again raise any tax, no matter what.

B) Get rid of term limits. I remember when this utterly stupid idea swept the nation back, I don’t know when, thinking: Term limits? What do we need those for. We already have "term limits;" those are called elections and that is when you vote out people you don’t want and in the people you do want. So, now because of those term limits, the legislators are constantly churned. They can’t build up the knowledge necessary to really work the machine or to build up those alliances that might actually move it in another direction. Additionally, because they are always new, they seem more prone to giving into special interests. Term limits has built idiocy and a lack of commitment to any long term vision right into the system.

C) Over turn and get rid of all remnants of Proposition 13. Hard to remember that one–Prop 13, clear back in the late 70’s; but that was the grand daddy of them all, the tax payer revolution, with California once again out in the forefront and leading the rest of the nation straight to perdition. Prop. 13 was the beginning of the wave that crested when Ronald Regan (another California idiot) came to office and claimed that believing in government and what it could do was unpatriotic.

Will any of these recommendations come into being. Not likely.

Jeez, reading those recommendations was like a trip down bad memory lane.

Those Lakers Again!

My meandering disquisition (previous entry) on the practice of missing was part of my attempt as I was taking my afternoon walk to puzzle through the question: What is Wrong With the LA Lakers? I probably should have been thinking about: What is Wrong with the Economy. But that’s just too depressing and frankly I am clueless. So thinking about the Lakers is a less depressing option, if one must think about something, though in its own way depressing.

I have been watching that damn team for almost 30 years. That means I have made an emotional investment, and I have wished lately that I had not done so. Much like the stock market, the Lakers lately have seem to full of inexplicable ups and downs.

My aggravation coalesced when listening to the TNT basketball show with Ernie Johnson, Kenny "The Jet," and Charles "Chuck" Barkley. They were discussing, in light of the Laker’s recent performance, whether the Lakers had what it took to win the championship. They were far from sure about that, and then Barkley, rather out of nowhere, said, in effect that even if they did win the whole thing, they didn’t deserve to win.

The whole conversation for a basketball show then got weirdly serious. What the hell did Barkley mean? Surely, if you win the championship you deserve it. But no, Barkley said, the Lakers, he said, did not deserve it if they did win because they "did not respect the league." Now, what the hell did that mean?

Then Barkley got a bit more personal–some sort of psychological issue was involved for him. He never was on a team that won the championship, and he said he had never had the opportunity to play with players as good as Pau Gasol, or Andrew Bynum, or even Lamar Odem (all on the current Laker team), and it just pissed him off to see them playing so half-assed. He pounded the desk, as I recollect, and seemed almost to be growling. The others–EJ, "The Jet", and C. Webb (Chris Webber)–didn’t seem to get it either, or at least not enough to say whether they agreed or disagreed, although they did allow that something seemed amiss with a team that felt it could turn it on or off at will.

Here I was, at that time, feeling all messed up about my identification with the Lakers, and there was Chuck too involved in some sort of complex psychological relation to a team that awakened in him a sense of loss at never even had the opportunity to play as the Lakers might play were they ever actually to apply themselves.

In any case, that’s the Lakers for you.

Or, more precisely, that’s Kobe because he is the heart of the matter, and right behind him at the heart, is that strange fellow, Phil Jackson, sitting there in his elevated chair (that he needs for his back problem) looking like a wan and decaying Buddha

The Practice of Missing

For some reason, my high school teachers and my coach wouldn’t praise me. They wouldn’t criticize me either. But they felt it was OK to tease me. Well, it was. Teasing for me was water off the duck’s back. In any case, I would rather be teased than not mentioned at all. I remember one season, they had the award ceremonies to give out the letters for that year and they were given out by the Vice-Principal who lived just a little up the hill from us. And rather than praise me for my feats he teased me, saying, that I made a pretty good rooster, since I would wake up the whole neighborhood at six AM shooting baskets, and if there was such a thing as a rooster in reverse, I would make a good one of those too, since people knew when they could no longer hear me shooting that the sun had gone down.

I don’t think any of that was true. I would continue to shoot well after the sun had gone down. You didn’t need to be able to see the basket to shoot the ball; you just had to know where you were on the court. I stopped shooting mostly because when it got really dark I was deprived of the pleasure of seeing it go through the hoop. And I don’t think I ever got up at 6 AM to shoot baskets, though some days on the weekends I would start pretty early. And maybe they could hear me a little bit since I had a backboard made out of plywood and it would produce a thunking noise, sort of like a bass drum. But I can’t believe I woke up the whole neighborhood, though, I guess he must have heard something so as to make up this rooster bit.

But the point here isn’t that I got a letter or was teased while getting it, but that the Vice Principal knew I practiced day and night. And I did from eight 8th through 12th grade. I practiced whenever I got the chance out back on my dirt court off my plywood backboard. I didn’t have great ability. I didn’t grow as tall as I had hoped I would; I was skinny lacking strength and not that good a jumper. I never dunked the ball. Not because I couldn’t get that high but because I couldn’t palm it. My hand wasn’t big enough. I would get it up there and drop it or bang it off the side of the rim and put myself at risk in doing so. But I figured if I practiced enough I could make the team. And I did and I lettered two years.

Practicing is its own art form; and as such, I became a pretty sophisticated practicer. People who are sophisticated practicers know there comes a point when the person devoted to practicing practices missing. This might seem odd. Surely, the point of practicing basketball is to practice making the basket. Why, yes, of course, but the long distance practicer will tell you that sometimes one misses in an interesting way, and one decides to see if one can miss again in that particular way. The very, very sophisticated practicer may do this at any time; in my less sophisticated and less athletic way, I practiced missing mostly when I was tiring. OK, so I was too tired to make it, but in the meantime I could practice missing. Sure the point is to make it go in, but barring that–at least momentarily–one could keep at it and set as one’s goal–making it go exactly where one wanted it to go.

Practicing, from the perspective of this particular philosophy of practice, insures that one never actually misses. And that–that–is what keeps you going after the sun goes down.


The workings of my memory grow increasingly odd. The Jesusita Fire more or less officially ended a little more than a week ago. It doesn’t seem that long though. This last week feels like a blur. I don’t remember much about it. I think I was recovering from the anxieties and fatigue that the fire produced. So while we were out of the fire, I wasn’t out of the woods so to speak emotion-wise.

The fire was pretty damn transfixing, and why not? From Tuesday to Saturday, when the mandatory evacuation orders were mostly lifted from downtown, the thing burned, in the words of the officials, out of control and completely un-contained. It moved at the whim of the winds and the local officials appear to have had no control over those whatsoever.

I felt pretty confident, I guess–considering the fire was out of control and moving at the whim of winds over which the officials no control–that Carol and I would come out of it unburned. After all, the hills nearest us had been pretty much burnt out in the Gap Fire. But that–considering the fire was out of control and moving at the whim of winds over which the officials no control–didn’t seem to guarantee immunity. And we did know people–such as Brother Dan and family–in much more immediate danger than ourselves.

I felt pretty drained from just watching and hanging on.

Carol bumped into a medical doctor she and I know at the place where she gets her hair done. He gets his hair done there too; he’s a doctor so I guess he has the money to go to a fancy place. And, why not–he has a lot more hair than I do.

Anyway, he endured a harrowing experience. He decided, after telling his wife that he would be right along, to stay behind to protect his home, a well constructed adobe and he had done all the fire abatement stuff as well. Turns out: not a good idea. He got caught in the Thursday night fire storm, whipped up by those winds. He was trapped, as were a number of fire fighters. They all holed up in his house. He believes were it not for his doubled paned windows that they would have all died. They did not burst; consequently fire didn’t get in the house. But they got very, very hot and could hear the oxygen containers on the trucks blowing up. Fortunately, he, as a doctor person, had oxygen in his house, and were it not for that he thought also, they would have died.

He told Carol he wished he had not stayed. He wouldn’t do it again. I think it was one of those experiences–of the kind that happens to people in the movies–that can wake a person up years later in a cold sweat.

His wife said, if he ever pulled anything like that again–you guessed it!-she would have to resurrect and then kill him.

Possibly Agitated

Well, only a couple of hours after Brother Dan left yesterday to walk into his house the mandatory evacuation order was lifted.

They report today that the fire is 55% contained. Because the marine layer has moved in, the weather continues to favor the firefighters.

Tomorrow, however, the temperatures will climb again, and another sundowner is possible. Still currently the fire is far from homes.

The fire started this last Tuesday at about 1:30 PM and expectant anxiety prevailed until the weather changed and mandatory evacuation was lifted for most all of the population.

At one point, apparently, fearing for its life, a black bear bounded out of the burning brush in the direction of populated areas. An official warning was issued: Beware of Black Bear, Possibly Agitated.

That gave me a laugh.

How can you tell if a black bear is agitated?

Poke it with a stick.

Day 4 of Fire

Let’s see.

I think it’s Saturday. We woke to gray skies. The marine layer has moved in and that’s good for fire fighting.

Yesterday was also better with much lower temperatures and higher humidity. The temperature only got to the lower 70s here, while the day before the airport registered 101 degrees, the highest on record for that date.

Still, the officials are not allowing people back into areas evacuated. So Brother Dan and Nephew Dylan spent the night with us.

It’s almost 10 pm here and Nephew Dylan is still asleep on the floor downstairs.

Brother Dan, however, took off for home. He had breakfast at a place not far from his home, and the last time I spoke with him, he was going to walk the three blocks or so into his house.

Some sources believe people will be allowed to "repopulate" the evacuated areas some time today.

This has been a very trying week so far.

A headline in the LA Times read something like: "No One In Santa Barbara Unaffected by Fires." That’s probably not true, but 30,000 people were evacuated and another 20,000 spent the last few days waiting to evacuate.

One of the recreational buildings at the university was turned into an evacuation center; the other, run by public health, was turned into a center for people with physical problems.


An email from a friend suggested most all of the students have cleared out of the area. Most of them of course do not live in SB so they headed out to more pleasant circumstances and cleaner air. 

Damn Fire!

Well, Brother Dan and Nephew Dylan spent the night camped out on our floor. Sister-in-law Kim and Niece Savannah checked into a motel up in Santa Inez. Dan stayed in SB in case he had to go to work and Dylan in case he had to go to school.

They had to evacuate around 9:30.

We have passed a disturbed and disturbing night.

The fire evacuation area has spread to with a mile or two of us, but across the freeway from us. The freeway is now the primary fire break.

Another anxiety producing day appears in the works since once again this evening very high winds are predicted and temperatures in the 90’s.

As far as we are able to determine, Dan’s house is still standing.


Fire! Update

As I sit in my office to see if any students come by, the temperature is 87 degrees at just about 1 PM. That is unseasonably high for us, and yesterday the temperatures did not peak out till around 4 pm when those "sun downers" hit.

Those remain the primary concern at this moment re: the Jesusitas Fire. It carried away numerous homes last night. And may do so again should those winds kick up. More people and planes are out working the fire today trying to blunt the effects of another "sun-downer."

Almost all the students in my class at 10 heroically showed; this was certainly a day that might have not showed and I would have understood. They are all first year students and living in dorms with no air conditioning. They looked very wiped out.

Dan, Kim and family are still OK. There home is located right under the sign that says 192.

 The local TV station is doing a good job updating.


Well, I spoke way too soon.

About three Pacific Time, I began to feel a little ill. For some reason, I checked the weather. It was 97 degrees. The winds were also high.

I decided to check the news.

The Jesusita fire is raging now out of control as of 5 PM Pacific time.

I believe Brother Dan’s home is located in a mandantory evacuation area. I called him and he was on his way home. He didn’t know the situation yet.

He said he would call when he knew something.

The winds are gusting to 60 miles an hour.

The TV images are terrifying and you can hear the terror in the voices of the announcers, some of whom have homes in the affected area.