Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Sudden Death



I found out today that my wife's dentist "passed away" recently. That's how his receptionist phrased it in a manner that sounded distressed. I was very surprised by this. And saddened. He appeared to be no older than his late 30's or early 40's, and I got the impression that his death came about not by traumatic accident or protracted terminal illness but with unforeseen suddenness from "natural" causes.

Dr. Cheng seemed to be an excellent and dedicated dentist. He and his wife owned the practice and practiced together. They have or, rather, she has two kids. My heart goes out to her. She will now be my wife's dentist.

And I am left solemnly reflecting on the fact that if a guy that young can die out of the blue, a much older guy like me can too and that I need to get my act together while I still have the chance.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Did Jared Fogle Get What He Deserves?



Jared Fogle became the face of Subway after he reputedly lost an ungodly amount of weight on a Subway sandwich diet, and he was, for a time, arguably one of America's most beloved pitchmen. But now he's become America's boogeyman in the wake of a 15 years and 8 months prison sentence resulting from a plea deal for soliciting and paying to have sex with minors and for possessing and trading in child pornography.

As one might expect, people are alternately vilifying him and celebrating his judicial fate. But I take no more pleasure in Fogle's predicament than I do from contemplating the harm he's caused his family and the children he allegedly abused. For I believe that Fogle's actions were the result of a sickness he couldn't resist and that this makes him as much a victim of that sickness as are any of the children he may have molested.

Thus, I have grave misgivings about his harsh sentence if it was imposed for retributively punitive reasons, because it seems to me unfair and unjust to inflict retributive punishment on someone for doing something he couldn't help but do.

I also doubt that such a lengthy sentence is a significantly larger deterrent than a much lesser sentence would be. I wonder if any research has been done in the area of the comparative deterrent effect of various prison sentences for these kinds of crimes.

One thing that such a long sentence WILL accomplish is prevent Mr. Fogle from abusing any more children for the duration of his incarceration. But if it were possible to know with certainty that he wouldn't abuse more children after he got out, I'd support letting him out far sooner.

It's my understanding that federal sentences like this tend to be carried out to the full or nearly so, and, indeed, I've read that Fogle will have to serve a minimum of 13 years no matter how well he behaves himself behind bars. And then he may face an even sterner test upon release as he confronts extreme social ostracisim and feelings of profound shame as well as the severe residential restrictions, occupational limitations, and other monumental hardships that attend having to register as a sex offender for the rest of one's life.

So, I'm thinking that he has a tremendously difficult road ahead of him as a result of his sickness, and, again, I feel sorry for him as well as for the children he abused.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why Don't More Christians Act Christian?



I have long maintained that the reason why so many champions of Christian teachings don't act nicely is that these teachings ring and very possibly are false and that there is probably no Holy Spirit to inspire the supposedly sanctified to exemplify the more salutary tenets of their faith.

That is, we're all only human, with very human urges to act badly at times, and there may well be no God within or without to help us override our human foibles.

Therefore, we might be well-advised to find the resources within ourselves and each other to override these foibles, and belief in highly dubious gods and religious worldviews might often be more of a hindrance than a help in this effort.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Ronda Rousey Is Human, and So Am I



Ronda Rousey finally lost. I didn't want her to. I'd hopped on her bandwagon a long time ago, and I wanted to hang on tight as I rode it all the way to her retirement from MMA as the undefeated champion she repeatedly boasted she would be.

Yet, poor Ronda not only lost, she was dominated, even more than I secretly feared she might be, in every way from the opening bell. Holly Holm made this heretofore MMA goddess and self-proclaimed and media-touted "greatest fighter in the world" look like a hapless novice. And just as Ronda took some concussive blows in the Octagon last Saturday night, so did my faith in idols.

I've had an almost lifelong tendency to single out certain athletes, musicians, intellectuals, and so forth and regard and revere them as idols who not only can do no wrong but are superhuman in their transcendent talents and skills.

I don't know why I've done this. Maybe I've just wanted the human equivalent of that "shining city on the hill" to serve as my glittering inspiration to aim higher, or to at least let me vicariously experience the glorious success and greatness I could never hope to achieve for myself but that the little boy inside me continued to crave.

But I may have difficulty doing this after what happened in Australia and what has happened on other fronts, and maybe it's for the best that I stop placing people on towering pedestals and start respecting myself as much as I do anybody and everybody else. Maybe when I stop worshiping other people as gods, I'll also stop feeling so feeble and inferior by comparison that I lack any motivation to cultivate my own talents, hone my own skills, and fulfill my own dreams.

I still like and respect Ronda Rousey, and I hope that she gets a rematch with Holly Holm and maybe even wins it. But I doubt that I'll ever see her or anyone else again the way I've seen her and other previous and recent idols of mine, and I think that's probably a good thing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yogi Berra and Me



I've been posting alleged quotes or "Yogi-isms" from Yogi Berra to Facebook every Thursday for months. But now I may stop, at least for awhile. Now that he's gone, my heart just isn't in it. I feel sad that he's gone, even though he played mostly before my time, I was never a Yankees fan, and I haven't cared much for baseball since I stopped being a kid.

It's just that there was something so endearing about the guy, even if a lot of what it was may have been modified, misattributed, or even fabricated. Beyond that, with each famous figure who dies old or young, I can't help but think more vividly than usual that my time, my mom's time, my wife's time, the times of all those who ever mattered or will matter to me will come.

Yet, a friend emailed me today about Yogi's passing, and I replied to his subject line "Bad News" that perhaps Mr. Berra was so old, frail, and sick that dying was the best thing that could happen to him. I read that his wife died fairly recently and that he'd been in an assisted living facility for several years. Was there anything left for him to live for?

I don't want to go on living when my quality of life is so irrevocably compromised that not only can I not enjoy it any longer but I require other people to attend to pretty much my every need. Unfortunately, for longer than I care to admit, I've done very little to compress my morbidity through the recommended means of good diet, exercise, sleep, socializing, spiritualizing, etc.

But I think this is about to change or is already changing as I write this. I'm watching a Great Course's series of lectures on "How to Stay Fit as You Age," and I'm really digging it. What's more, I'm really digging the way I feel when and after I take my walks and do my exercises that I've neglected for far too long.

If I follow the pretty professor's advice, I may just be able to significantly compress my own morbidity even at this relatively late date, and even if I'm very unlikely to live as long as Yogi, maybe I can live pretty well until whenever I draw my last breath.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

I Don't Need No Stinkin' Cable!

When I canceled cable TV over two years ago, I was afraid I'd miss out on a lot. But it turns out that, with the help of my Roku boxes, I've watched more great TV series on streaming demand via Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu than I ever did or would have on cable, and I'm paying much, MUCH less for the privilege.

Here are some of the good to superlative series I've watched on my TVs in their entirety since cutting the cable: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, BATTLESTAR GALACTACA (remake), CAPRICA, THE BOOTH AT THE END, SIX FEET UNDER, DEXTER, DEADWOOD, BREAKING BAD, THE SOPRANOS, THE WIRE, MAD MEN, THE BRIDGE, and SONS OF ANARCHY. And I've watched five seasons of THE GOOD WIFE and JUSTIFIED this way, along with four seasons of HELL ON WHEELS, three seasons of LONGMIRE, two seasons of FALLING SKIES and RECTIFY, and a season of MANHATTAN, BOSCH, and MOZART IN THE JUNGLE. And I just began watching FARGO, look forward to watching, among other series, THE AMERICANS, HOUSE OF CARDS, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, TRANSPARENT, THE WALKING DEAD, SENSE8, EXTANT, HANNIBAL, SEINFELD (never watched it on regular TV), and NARCOS, as well as to finishing the series I've already mentioned that haven't wrapped yet.

Who says you have to pay for expensive cable or satellite services or engage in illegal and cumbersome downloading to watch great television at relatively minimal expense and fuss?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Fifteen Seconds of "Fame"

I don't know why it's taken me so long to post this. After all, it's not every day that I get interviewed by a television news station. In fact, I've never been interviewed before. But it happened last Tuesday afternoon.

I had posted comments on two local news stations' Facebook pages that morning about my close encounter with a wrong-way driver bound for tragedy the previous night. And just a couple of hours later, I received a voicemail from a female reporter at one of the stations asking if she could interview me about my experience. However, she seemed to believe that I had actually witnessed the fatal crash that occurred right after my near miss, so I thought I didn't have anything worthwhile to say to her and didn't call her back as she requested.

But that afternoon, a male reporter called from the same station, and this time I picked up the phone and talked to him. He too wanted to interview me. I told him I didn't see the accident, but he still wanted to interview me to "get the perspective" of someone who closely encountered the errant driver just moments before he died in a fiery crash that also killed two other people. So, I agreed to let him come to my house for an interview.

He and his cameraman arrived about fifteen minutes later, and I stepped out on the front porch for the interview. I felt nervous, but not as nervous as I was afraid I might be except for the fact that I was still nervous enough that my right leg involuntarily and disconcertingly jerked forward from below the knee numerous times as I stood there answering the reporter's routine questions about what I saw and felt the previous night and what I thought about it all in retrospect. The interview concluded very quickly and the reporter and cameraman thanked me for consenting to it.

That night, my wife and I tuned in to that station's ten o'clock newscast right after the penultimate telecast of the penultimate season of American Idol, and a short way into it they aired a story on the crash, and a snippet from my interview appeared. Since I no longer subscribe to cable, I didn't have a DVR to record it with, but my wife recorded it off the TV with her cellphone video camera. I haven't checked out the result. I wasn't sufficiently enamored with what I saw on TV to want to see it again.

Still, I'm glad I did the interview. It was an experience, short-lived as it was, that I'll be unlikely to forget, although more likely than the other guy they interviewed who saw the accident, tried in vain to help CHP officers pull the wrong-way driver from his pickup before it caught fire, and then stood by helplessly as the driver burned to death in front of him. That poor interviewee and the other witnesses to this tragedy will probably have nightmares for a long time about what they saw and heard that awful night.

I have only relief that I wasn't driving in the fast lane when I encountered the pickup; sadness for the people killed, for their families and friends, and for those who saw the victims die; and an iota of shallow gratification that I got to do something I've never done before and enjoy my fleeting moment of quasi-fame.