Mike Kueber's Blog

November 20, 2014

How you present yourself

Filed under: Culture,Facebook,Parenting — Mike Kueber @ 1:46 am
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Anyone who spends any time on Facebook will often encounter a poster lamenting that (a) most people don’t read the poster’s posters and (b) you can prove that you actually do read the poster’s posters by responding. Pretty lame, huh?

Well, I admit to often skipping over posts that aren’t accompanied by photos or graphics or links, and I did so this morning until it occurred to me in a delayed reaction that one my friends had used the word “pissed” in her lead sentence. So I backed up and read the following:

  • “It shocks me and pisses me off too, that teachers can talk to their students. And tell them, she can guess what their house looks like just by the way kids dress. So my kids prefer going to school in sweatpants and a t-shirt. My guess is her theory is false and she should watch how she talks to her class. But I guess it’s ok for some to judge……”

Not surprisingly, the post was followed by numerous sympathetic comments, to which my friend responded:

  • “Thanks everyone! I’m just sadden by the way people look down on others and judge them by their name or how they dress. We are all human and deserve to be treated equal.”

Even more outraged comments elicited the following admission:

  • “This teacher’s comment wasn’t addressed directly at my kids. It was directed at all students all the way down the kindergarten class. My point is my kids go to school clean and comfy. They are not dressed in all name brand clothes. But does that say our house looks dirty and messy. Just because that’s what she sees when she looks at kids who are not dressed to the hilt.”

Because the comments were exclusively from women (Venus), I decided to throw caution to the wind and provide the perspective of this man (Mars):

  • “Although we may not agree with it, authority figures judge people based on how they dress. They consider extremely casual dress (sweats and t-shirts, even pj and slippers) to be disrespectful. As Steven A. Smith says, It is all about how you present yourself to authority figures. Many people have suggested that Trayvon Martin and the kid from Ferguson, MO would not have been shot if they hadn’t been dressed like they were (e.g., the famous hoodie). But connecting a kid’s clothing with the parent’s house is clearly misguided. Kids typically dress themselves; parents keep the house clean and tidy. I have, however, teased co-workers that I can imagine what their house looks like after riding in their car or seeing their cluttered desk.”

Shortly after filing my perspective, I thought about providing a real-life example of the importance of how you present yourself:

  • A couple of years ago, my ex-girlfriend was complaining that she couldn’t find another good man. Then, one morning I offered to give her a ride to the airport, and she met me in sweatpants for comfort. I strongly suggested that she change into something more attractive, and she did. A couple of hours later, she called me to advise that some guy approached her while waiting in line at the airport and after a nice conversation she gave him her number. A few months ago, she took the guy’s last name.

Moral of the story – kids might dress like slobs when they are in college, but parents who let their kids dress like slobs at school before then are not doing them any favor.

November 18, 2014

Is it bad manners to brag about your kids?

Filed under: Facebook,Philosophy,Relationships — Mike Kueber @ 1:04 am
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This morning I woke up in a bad mood after suffering two losses in Fantasy Football yesterday, and my mood quickly worsened when I read a Facebook friend’s lengthy braggadocio about his college daughter. This friend, who is a well-known conservative politician, was “proud” that his daughter had competed successfully in a Moot Court competition. I will spare you the details, which were spread over three paragraphs.  This guy has a habit of this type of behavior, and I recalled him once saying, “I don’t like to brag, but Miss Perfect was recently named to the Dean’s List.”

I decided to post on the subject, not only because I was in a bad mood, but also because my memory was still fresh from reading yesterday about the George H.W. Bush family style of parenting, where their kids were taught that they were neither special nor entitled. (The Mitt Romney family seems cut from the same cloth.)

A little internet research revealed that my feelings were simpatico with many Americans. As one website noted:

  • At one time, boasting was considered poor form, an exercise in vanity and bad manners and to heap garlands of praise on a child, especially for their looks, was thought to be detrimental to the development of their good character.”

Another opined:

  • I also think in a round about way, it’s a means of bragging about yourself, without actually bragging about yourself.  Narcissistic? Absolutely.”

A NY Times blog assured me that I am not alone:

  • But a rare consensus has emerged on at least one topic. What subject could possibly be so clear-cut it has elicited once-in-a-generation unanimity? That parents should stop bragging about their children.”

The Times blog went on two suggest four guidelines for “acceptable chest-thumping”:

  1. Brag about how good a child you have, not how good a parent you are.
  2. Brag about effort, not accomplishment.
  3. Brag in context. People generally don’t mind if parents brag, as long as they don’t pretend they’re Stepford parents and their children are little angels. “I want to hear the bragging in the context of real, gritty, poopy life,” he said. “If you’re trying to sell me your perfect life, the hate machine starts humming again.”
  4. Follow “the bragging formula.” Another common piece of advice — each time you criticize someone, you should give multiple compliments — applies equally well in reverse. Each boast about a child should come surrounded by three negatives. My son is on the honor roll (but still wets his bed).

As I was doing my internet research, however, I gradually got a feeling of déjà vu, like I’ve examined this issue before. So I searched my blog for “parenting” posts, and sure enough I found a similar post from earlier this year titled “Bragging on your kids.”

The sources may have changed, but the conclusion is the same – an out-of-control ego is not a pretty thing.

November 16, 2014

Bush-43 on Bush-41

Filed under: Biography,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:04 pm
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George W. Bush has been making the rounds in the media this week to promote his new book, 41: A Portrait of My Father. “41” of course is a reference to his father, George H.W. Bush, being the 41st president of the United States. W. is known as Bush-43.

As part of the media promotion, Parade magazine this week published an excerpt from the first chapter of the book, dealing with Bush-41 parachuting on his 90th birthday.

But in addition to the excerpt, Parade published a brief interview of Bush-43 that, although directed at Bush-41, says a lot about Bush-43.

Two of the Q&As were as follows:

  • Your book proves that your father is different from the stiff, blue-blooded image that many have of him.
    • He is a blue blood in the sense that he was raised up in the East. But what people don’t realize is that his parents were from the Midwest, so there was inculcated in him some midwestern values. This is a man who worked incredibly hard in anything he did. In this case, he was selling oilfield supplies. As I put in the book, there were no trust funds; there were no guarantees. [I love how Bush-43 accepts the premise that Northeastern bluebloods are a unique breed, but then ameliorates that trait in his father due to some Midwestern roots.]
  • Your father has been a tremendous risk taker. Where do you think that came from?
    • I think it came from the early experiences. This is a man who at age 17 decides to join the navy and not go to college, against the advice of his father and [Secretary of War] Henry Stimson, for example. He wanted to serve. Then he gets shot down—and by the way, flying off of carriers was very risky—and survives. To me, the rest of the risks that he took in his life were minor compared to that. [I love how Bush-43 placed in proper context the difference between business and political risks as compared to life-or-death risks.]

November 15, 2014

Servants, etc.

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 9:25 pm
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I recently blogged about American exceptionalism and noted that egalitarianism is one of its key components. Egalitarianism, according to Wikipedia, is a doctrine “that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status.”

Because of my recent bingeing on Jane Austen and the landed gentry in early 18th-century England, I have been exposed to dramatic examples on non-egalitarian life. By contrast, I was born & bred on a farm in North Dakota, a state that is probably more egalitarian than most.

That statement about North Dakota obviously depends on your definition of “equal fundamental worth or social status.” As a practical example of egalitarianism in North Dakota, I had to move to Texas to learn the honorifics “sir” and “Mr.,” and this informality made it difficult for me to deal with judges who insisted on being called “Your Honor.” Or when I was in Army ROTC, saluting to upper classmen.  Who do they think they are, better than me?

I suggest that an egalitarian people don’t have other people as servants; they don’t pay other people to pamper them; they don’t continually crave VIP status/recognition; they don’t enjoy unctuous waiters who fawn over them.

Of course, not everyone chooses to be egalitarian. But that would be un-American.

Saturday Night at the Movies #132 – Sense & Sensibilities

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 1:19 pm
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Following up on my fascination with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, I watched another movie adaptation, Sense & Sensibilities (1995), which is based on her 1811 “novel of manners” – i.e., according to Wikipedia, a literary genre that deals with aspects of behavior, language, customs and values characteristic of a particular class of people in a specific historical context.

This romantic drama is blessed with a strong cast, including Emma Thompson (Howards End), Kate Winslet (Titanic), Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber in Die Hard), and Hugh Grant (Notting Hill). As with the Bennet ladies in Pride & Prejudice, the protagonist females in Sense & Sensibilities – Elinor and Marianne Dashwood – are part of the landed gentry (i.e., people able to live off the rental income of their real estate), but due to male primogeniture their all-female brood is in danger of losing its lofty status.

Although many men (and women) of Austen’s time (as well as our current time) place heavy emphasis on social and financial standing in selecting their life partner, the Dashwood sisters are lucky to find two gentleman who place more stock on making a selection based on romantic love.

The movie scored an amazing 98% with the Rotten Tomato critics and almost as well with the audience – 90%. Plus, there were Oscar nominations for the movie and Thompson’s acting and her script.  (Thompson claims the movie dialogue didn’t track the book as faithfully as adaptations of later Austin books because the dialogue in this book, her first, was more “arcane.”)  I didn’t like it as well as Pride & Prejudice because the characters are not as engaging – Thompson is too dispassionate (sense), Winslet is too passionate (sensibility), Grant is effeminate, and Rickman lacks charisma. But I still like it enough to give it three and a half stars out of four.

November 14, 2014

Sunday Book Review #150 – Pride & Prejudice

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 2:52 pm
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A couple of months ago I watched a 2005 film production of Jane Austen’s classic, Pride & Prejudice, and then blogged about it very favorably.  After reading my post, a friend/law-school classmate in Austin told me that he had liked the movie so much that he watched an earlier BBC-miniseries production of the book and then actually read the book, both of which he highly recommended to me.

Well, I was certainly willing to watch the BBC production, which brought fame to Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, but I doubted that I had the willpower to read a 1813 book described by Wikipedia as a “novel of manners.” Then last week, my reading queue got low, and I decided to give the book a chance.

My Austin friend, who called the book quite romantic, was absolutely correct. And although I thought the 2005 movie focused on four distinct romances, the book is more centered on the Cinderella story of one person – Elizabeth Bennet. Her story, which occurs more than 100 years after the original Cinderella, is exceedingly well conceived and well executed through a wonderful blend between the narrator and lengthy dialogue.

The intimidation factor in reading an 1813 “novel of manners” was greatly ameliorated by procuring a heavily annotated edition of the book from the SA library. The annotations not only provided definitions of unfamiliar words, but also provided context for unfamiliar situations. And best of all, it provided some critical analysis of the book. Although I often blog about books and movies, I have no background or study in how to critically analyze them, and that is something that I need to remedy in the future.

November 11, 2014

Veterans’ Day

Filed under: Business,Facebook,Military — Mike Kueber @ 8:53 pm
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A few days ago there was a poster on a friend’s Facebook wall suggesting that a veteran should never be homeless, hungry, unemployed, in need of medical care, etc. My initial reaction was that America wouldn’t be doing our veterans any favor by treating them like it treats American Indians – i.e., as helpless dependents who must be taken care of – but I wasn’t in the mood for arguing or defending that position, so I let it pass.

Today, on Veteran’s Day, Facebook as well as various other media outlets are filled with similar sentiments. In a USA Today article, the CEO of Starbucks suggests that America should honor vets by giving them jobs, his company will give vets 10,000 jobs in the next five years.   But CEO Howard Schultz provides additional insights into why this hiring priority is appropriate:

  • “Schultz… says service in Iraq and Afghanistan has becomeahurdlerather than an asset for many veterans seeking civilian employment. It’s one reason the unemployment rate for vets is higher than that among those who haven’t served in the armed forces.
    • ‘The irony there is that there is a stigma attached to many of them about either PTS (post-traumatic stress) or brain trauma or things of that nature when in fact I can personally demonstrate through the hiring of people at Starbucks who have been veterans that they have done extraordinary things.’
  • “Employers are sometimes skeptical, and veterans often have little experience with such basic job-seeking skills as writing a résumé and going on an interview.”

A few months ago, the San Antonio City Council revised its non-discrimination ordinance to protect not only the GLTB community, but also the military veterans. At the time, I thought the proponents of the ordinance were unnecessarily including veterans in the ordinance only because of crass political motives. Really, who would discriminate against veterans?  But based on this argument put forward by CEO Shultz, perhaps there is merit to creating legal protection for vets. And there is also reason for companies to go out of their way to give vets an opportunity. Eventually, however, vets need to be responsible for themselves. Service should not create a comprehensive set of lifetime entitlements.  (Incidentally, the staggering percentage of vets who file for disability based on PTS and brain trauma might be connected to this lifetime-entitlement mentality.)

One final note on thanking vets for their service. My oldest son is a captain in the Army and has served in Iraq. He tells me about being often embarrassed by all the people who treat his service like he is Mother Teresa. Yes, he is patriotic, but he also considers military service to be a challenging, enjoyable, and rewarding career. And he believes that most soldiers are in the service for the same reason.

The military may be a calling, like doctors, lawyers, teachers, and preachers, and most of those people are doing well while doing good.

Editing the Wikipedia entry for Californication (TV series)

Filed under: Entertainment,Media — Mike Kueber @ 6:54 pm
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The Wikipedia entry for Californication includes a summary for each season, but for some reason my favorite season, the penultimate Season 6, contains an exceptionally brief, superficial summary:

  • Season 6 started on January 13, 2013, and features a storyline revolving around Hank penning a musical with a “coked-up rock star” Atticus Fetch, portrayed by Tim Minchin. Maggie Grace portrays Faith, a groupie and a muse to the stars. The season also features Marilyn Manson appearing as himself, a friend of the rockstar Atticus Fetch.

To make matters worse, the entry also shortchanges my favorite girlfriend Faith in its description of the recurring characters:

  • Faith (Maggie Grace) is a groupie and a recovering addict. She meets Hank in rehab and later they start a short relationship. (Season 6)

Because Wikipedia depends on users to improve its product, I decided to improve the Californication entry by editing the Season 6 summary and the Faith description. After re-viewing the 12-episode season, I came up with the following edits:

  • Season 6 started on January 13, 2013. Its storyline revolves around Hank’s relationship with Faith (played by Maggie Grace), whom he meets in a rehab facility. Hank reluctantly agrees to go to rehab, not because of a drug dependency, but rather because of depression over his role in ex-girlfriend Carrie’s suicide at the end of Season 5. Faith is a famous rock-star groupie/muse who is in rehab because of the recent death of her rock star, and ultimately she becomes Hank’s muse. Faith and Hank seem to be made for each other, but in the end Hank is too weak to move on from Karen even though it appears that that relationship has run its course.
  • Faith (Maggie Grace) is a famous rock-star groupie/muse who makes a serious emotional connection with Hank and seems to be the only woman in Hank’s life with the potential to replace Karen in his heart.

For now, the edits have been published by Wikipedia, and I wonder if the previous writers are going to take umbrage at my take on Season 6 and try to switch it back.

I was so taken with Faith (played by Maggie Grace) that I was certain that she would return on the series-ending Season Seven and win Hank back. But she didn’t. And that is why my blog posting on the series ended with:

  • “After the series concluded, Duchovny was asked how Hank Moody evolved over the seven seasons, and he said Hank had remained essentially the same. What an admission! Although I agree with that admission, it is what ultimately disappointed me about the ending. Instead of continuing his struggle with Karen, Hank should have taken up with the younger version of Karen who he hooked up with in Season Six – Faith, played by Maggie Grace. Even Karen admitted to being jealous of Faith because she saw in Faith’s face the same look of love that had been in Karen’s face many years earlier. It’s too bad that Hank was too weak to move on from a relationship that had run its course. But that’s the problem with romantics – they live in the past instead of the present.”

Incidentally, the following is my full-length summary of Season 6:

  • Season Six begins with Hank waking up in the hospital two days after surviving Carrie’s murder-suicide attempt, but Carrie was not so lucky. When Hank visits Carrie on life-support, her friend rips him a new one – “I just wish you had let her down a little easier, a little sooner.” Hank is devastated by the accurate accusation and goes on a binge that results in an intervention. When Hank tells Karen that he feels so guilty about breaking Carrie’s heart that he might never be able to get back to feeling good about life with Karen, Karen tells him that he will get it back if he tries – “In the meantime, I’ll just dream for the both of us, I guess.” Because of Karen’s encouragement, Hank voluntarily commits himself to a rehab facility. Rehab proves to be a total waste for Hank, but he meets a rock-star groupie/muse Faith and quickly makes a Karen-like connection with her. Hank and Faith take a hiatus from the rehab facility to attend her rock star’s funeral, and then relapse together at a post-funeral party. Hank and Faith leave the rehab facility and go their separate ways, but soon thereafter reconnect when Hank and Charlie get her to help Charlie find some drugs and a special guitar for his client rock-star Atticus Fetch. Hank and Faith have a heart-to-heart conversation, and she tells him that he has a special gift as a self-described under-achiever and that she is willing to become his muse – i.e., a woman who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist. Hank takes a job to help Atticus write a rock opera based on Hank’s book. Atticus asks Faith to be his muse, but she declines because she doesn’t feel a connection to him and his work. Atticus gets pissed at Faith, and Hank defends her. A grateful Faith thanks Hank by agreeing to be his muse. Hank easily finishes his part of the rock opera, but Atticus rejects it as too dark. Faith reads the opera draft and tells Hank that the problem isn’t that the opera is dark, it is that it is cynical and has no heart; at its core, it needs to be boy-meets-girl. Newly-inspired, Hank hammers out a wonderful revised draft for the opera. Atticus throws a party to celebrate the revised draft, and Karen sees Faith for the first time. Hank tells Karen that Faith is “a friend; a lovely young woman who has helped guide me creatively.” Faith and Karen have a heart-to-heart, and Karen warns her that, despite Hank’s potential, “it’s hard to have a long-term relationship with potential.” Karen sees Hank kissing Faith, so she hooks up with movie star, Eddie Nero. Hank punches Nero in the nose. Hank has a heart-to-heart with Karen. He asks her why she came to the party. She tells him, “You know why? Because there’s always this voice in the back of my head that says maybe this time it will be different. Maybe the stars will align and there will be this magic moment between us where everything will be OK again. But there’s always something or someone in the way…. It’s just when I see someone look at you like I used to look at you, I fucking hate that. It makes me sick to my stomach. And the worst part is that I turned into you tonight, and I don’t want to be that person.” Hank and Faith visit her parents, who are stunningly dysfunctional, emotionally-unavailable people. Atticus goes off the tour and checks into rehab, so Charlie asks Hank and Faith to get him back on drugs and on the tour. Atticus asks Hank and Faith to join him on the tour so they can finish writing the opera. As Becca goes east to college, Karen wonders to Hank whether Becca was the only thing that had kept them together so long. Hank asks Karen whether he should go on the tour, and she tells him to do what he wants because she had nothing to offer him now. Faith and Hank leave on a tour bus, and while they are napping, Hank cries out Karen’s name. Faith tells him, “You have to go, don’t you?” “Yeah, I do. I’m sorry, I do.” “I could love you. I’m not saying that I do; I’m saying I could…. You understand me better than any guy I’ve ever met. And you get me. And that has been the nicest feeling…. The great thing about never really being together? You never have to break up.” Hanks gets off the bus and catches a ride back to LA. Hank knocks on Karen’s door and the screen goes black.

 

November 9, 2014

Cool

Filed under: Facebook,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 3:44 pm
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A few months ago, I blogged about a person who posted on Facebook about having her most fun ever – attending a George Strait concert.  Really?  Really!

Although I was initially offended by the lofty status granted by my friend to a mere concert (I usually hate concerts), my blog went on to explain how I was incorrectly conflating fun with happiness:

  • Happiness – lasting and justified satisfaction with life as a whole, which typically comes from family, work, community, or religion.
  • Fun – the enjoyment of pleasure, particularly in leisure activities; an experience – short-term, often unexpected, informal, not cerebral and generally purposeless.

Yesterday, a friend blogged about her recent trip to LA for some work with HBO Sports on a show featuring her and two other sports housewives:

  • Words cannot describe the last 36 hours, but I will try. I’ve been thinking really hard, and aside from giving birth to my babies and marrying Scott, let me start by saying that this entire HBO experience (see previous posts 1 & 2) has literally been the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of in my life.”

I thought, “Really?  Really!”  But then, deja vu, I remembered my fun/happiness posting and wondered if we have the same issue here.

Well, for starters, “cool” is even more amorphous and subjective than fun.  According to Wikipedia:

  • Coolness is an admired aesthetic of attitude, behavior, comportment, appearance and style, influenced by and a product of the Zeitgeist.  Because of the varied and changing connotations of cool, as well its subjective nature, the word has no single meaning.

What throws me is that my friend mentioned the HBO show in the same breath as getting married and having babies.  In law school, I was taught ejusdem generis, which means that a broadly-defined term can be narrowed by the other terms that it is listed with.  Getting married and having babies are life-changing, mind-blowing events, and I’m sure my friend (a really good person) didn’t mean to suggest that the HBO show had a similar effect.  Furthermore, being on an HBO show would be undeniably cool for almost anyone.

I need to quit thinking like a lawyer.

 

 

 

 

Saturday Night at the Movies #131 – Californication

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 2:38 pm
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Californication was a half-hour show on Showtime for seven years – 2007-2014. According to Netflix, it is about “Best-selling novelist Hank Moody battles writer’s block and a weakness for drugs, booze and one-night stands while he struggles to make things work with his on-and-off girlfriend and their teenage daughter.”

A yoga friend recommended the show to me, but warned that it was borderline pornography. Not one to be scared off by well-done pornography, I started watching it on Netflix a couple of weeks ago, and found it mildly enjoyable. But with each of the 84 episodes (12 per season), I became more fascinated by Hank Moody (David Duchovny), and before long I was in full binge mode, eventually watching the final two seasons in two days.

Moody is fascinating, not only because he is an irresistible lady’s man, but also because he is supremely witty and irreverent. And despite his womanizing, his character is basically honorable and honest.

His on-and-off girlfriend Karen, played by Natascha McElhone, is beautiful, smart, and warm, while his daughter Becca, played by Madeleine Martin, is precocious and plain. Handsome Hank and beautiful Karen would never produce a child as plain as Becca.

After the series concluded, Duchovny was asked how Hank Moody evolved over the seven seasons, and he said Hank had remained essentially the same. What an admission! Although I agree with that admission, it is what ultimately disappointed me about the ending. Instead of continuing his struggle with Karen, Hank should have taken up with the younger version of Karen who he hooked up with in Season Six – Faith, played by Maggie Grace. Even Karen admitted to being jealous of Faith because she saw in Faith’s face the same look of love that had been in Karen’s face many years earlier.

It’s too bad that Hank was too weak to move on from a relationship that had run its course. But that’s the problem with romantics – they live in the past instead of the present.

 

 

 

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