Friday, December 27, 2013

Holidays and other sorts of weird stuff

It’s that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Some people are working regular hours while others are off until the 2nd. Still others, like me, are working some days and not working others – a mishmash of working and not working.

For this blog, I’m getting over a case of writer’s block; I just couldn’t come up with anything to write about for the past couple of months. When combined with a very busy time at the office, it equates to no blog posts.  Sorry to both my faithful readers!
I think I’ve got enough little things to write about and make a decent post, or at least something that will pass as one. Let’s get started.

Phil Robertson
So what if I think they're sinners?
We all are, according to the Bible!


My first thought when I started to hear about his was, “Has America become that shallow, that this is a news story?” Even as the words were streaming across the screen in my brain, I was nodding to myself. I don’t know what else I would expect. With 24 hour entertainment stations, poorly disguised as news stations, anything that jumps out of the ordinary is going to be a big story. (Victoria’s Secret model fart caught on interview – film at 11!)
I just pooted.

For those of you who haven’t followed the story, this man is the patriarch of a family that makes duck calls used by hunters to attract the birds for hunting. The family has become the starring cast of a reality show called Duck Dynasty. The show, which airs on A&E, covers everything they do in their everyday life, including the partaking of a number of family meals together. These scenes often include the blessing of the meal in prayer led by Phil and he has stated a number of times, over the five years the show has been on, how important his faith is to him.

We were rich Christians before the show!
In an interview with GQ magazine, Phil was quoted making some offensive comments about gay men, intimating that homosexuality is in the same vein as bestiality. These suggestions were based on his study of the Bible.

The best selling book, ever.
He also explained that he had hung around with black people all his life, having come from a white trash background, and that he never saw them unhappy because their faith kept them from getting the blues and, besides, he also didn’t see any kind of racism being practiced on them.
  In Louisiana! Huh!

What was most surprising to me was the vehemence with which his fan base reacted when A&E announced that he was suspended from the show for opinions and comments that might be construed as offensive.

The first salvo seemed to be around the notion that A&E was wrong for taking the man off for his religious beliefs. I thought this showed how little people comprehend what they’re reading or hearing. He’s allowed to think and believe whatever he wants, it was what he said that was the problem. I mean, if he was a Muslim and stated that non-believers in the faith of Islam were scum of the earth and should be killed, would that be okay? Since it was based on his religion, and all that?  I’m guessing probably not.

The next attack was based on Phil’s right to Freedom of Speech. Folks were quoting the US Constitution as being the basis for allowing him to remain on the air.
It is okay to yell "Theater"
in a crowded fire house.
What was interesting in this case was, pointing out that this right has to do with what folks can say about their government didn’t seem to make any dent in the voice of public opinion. You really can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater because someone may be hurt by the rush of people leaving. And yet, this huge group of folks apparently thinks that it is okay and their right to do so is protected by the Constitution. 

This second group was also pointing out, on various social media sites, they were going to show A&E who is boss by boycotting all their programming. Finally, it seemed that some were beginning to understand the situation. Phil was dropped as a consequence of what he said, you can drop A&E as a consequence of his being dropped. Welcome to democracy and capitalism in action!

But then, they realized they’d also have to give up History, Disney Channel, and ABC since they’re all under one umbrella.  That one seems to have died down, oddly enough. (Seriously, who wants to miss American Pickers and re-runs of The Bible? Oh irony, thou sting is rich!)

Are you helping or hurting
the average?

My take? I think about the average person I know, in terms of intelligence. I then realize that half the population is not as smart as that person. And I’m no longer confused by all the uproar.

It’s tough breaking in a new boss

Last month, I got a new boss.

We both interviewed for the job and he got it, and got me in the deal, too. It’s awkward since neither of us chose the other. I described it to MB as tenuous; neither of us can really trust the other, just yet.

There comes a time in your career where, unless you’re the CEO, your boss is always going to be younger than you. I hit that line about six or seven years ago, so I’m really okay with this. It’s just that he’s young enough to be my son. It’s awkward for both of us, really. I can’t imagine managing my father, either.

On the plus side, he’s a very intentional person and is working very hard to make this as easy on me as possible. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m a protected class (over 50, white male) or he respects my skills/experience. Either way, the effort is appreciated and is making it easier for me to trust him. Being intentional doesn’t come naturally to me and I have to work hard at it. (Remember, I’m the flailing Buddhist.) I’m focusing on giving him my best efforts in every encounter, deferring to him for decisions, and offering insights into the organization when possible.

There are a number things that he does that I’m never going to understand or enjoy.  Just too many years between us, I suppose.  All the same, I think we’re going to be not just okay but good for each other.

I must be evolving.

The Holidays

When I was a kid, it seemed like it took forever for Christmas to finally arrive. Finally, the last day of school would come and we’d have a couple of days before Christmas morning.

Nowadays, especially this year, Christmas comes storming in like a runaway freight train and I manage to get all my gifts purchased and wrapped with 24 hours to spare.

This year was different because of a late Thanksgiving and a mid-week Christmas day. The retailers have been sweating bullets, too, because of that. The traffic at most malls is over 10% down from last year and all the stores are discounting like crazy in an attempt to get products out the door. (I tend to watch retail trends because I was in that business for over thirty years.)
How malls used to look before the Internet.

Online sales, meanwhile, have been brisk with huge increases over the prior year so that there winds up being a slight overall sales increase for the holiday season. That indicates a healing, although not quite healthy, economy to me which is good news.

The bad news is that retail, as we know it, is slowly dying. I think it’s very close to the tipping point for retailers on whether or not to have retail stores versus online stores. 

A prime location for a store is expensive and with the pricing pressure from online “stores” it’s become increasingly difficult to run a traditional store profitably. Think about that the next time you go look at something in a store and then run home to buy it from someone else online.


I have several friends who struggle what to say to me around this time of year. Since I don’t go to a Christian church, they’re always surprised when I say, “Merry Christmas!

“Wait! You celebrate Christmas?” is something I’ve heard more than once.

“Not in the same way that you do, probably, but yes.”

“What do you mean?” they’ll sometimes ask.

“It’s the birthday of a great man but I don’t believe he’s the son of God. I do believe he was all about love, however, and that’s something I can definitely get behind. So, for me, Christmas is all about love for each other and for the world. I think that’s worth celebrating. Don’t you?”

That usually gets agreement and they wish me Merry Christmas, too.  But I just know they’re shaking their invisible heads as they walk away.
Happy, happy, happy

If I didn’t see you beforehand, Merry Christmas! I also hope that the coming year is just amazing and that everything you do, turns out just the way you want it.  If it doesn’t, I hope it turns out good enough!

One Last Thing

MB and I both have elderly parents. Recently, one of them was treated by a physician who prescribed medications that reacted with each other in such a way as to make the parent nearly catatonic, losing balance, and appearing completely out of it. We actually made the diagnosis ourselves, thanks to Google. The good news is that the parent came back, just fine.

I’m telling this story because I wonder how often this goes on around the country. Doctors, bound by their Hippocratic Oath, aren’t supposed to do this and the pharmacies are supposed to act as a stop gap to ensure it doesn’t happen. And yet it does, I would guess most often in the elderly.

As healthcare consumers, we have the right to ask if there are reasons not to prescribe and take any medication. Folks that grew up in an earlier time, may not know enough to say anything.  Help them out, please!

You may save a life or, at least, extend one.