Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Key Club Epiphany

“Life is unfair” –President Jimmy Carter and Your Mom

One of the more interesting books in The Bible is the Book of Job.

The Book of Job is about a devout man named Job who suddenly loses everything he has (wealth and family) in what has to be described as a really bad day. Then he gets these awful boils that he has to scrape with broken pottery. As a Sebaceous Cyst survivor, I can’t imagine how bad that must have been. (By the way, here is how you treat a Sebaceous Cyst. You go to the doctor. The doctor pokes it with a needle and then mashes all of the Sebaceous out.)

The Book of Job explores some of the most profound questions humans ask about their lives such as why I wasn’t selected to be in “The Key Club” in high school. Okay, maybe it doesn’t deal directly with that question.

Back in the 70’s, the big club at Wheeler High School was “The Key Club”. "The Key Club" is sponsored by The Kiwanis and according to their website “is an international student-led organization which provides its members with opportunities to provide service, build character and develop leadership.”

It was a huge deal to be in “The Key Club”. The guys in the club wore a Yellow Jersey with the word “Key” on the front (in Old English script) and the name of the kid on the back. It is no exaggeration to say all of the cool guys at school were in “The Key Club”. Even the lamest, nerdiest boy in “The Key Club” was twice as cool as me.

One of my teachers, the aforementioned Willie Wetmumpka  (Humor Me: Bogus Bells June 8, 2011) suggested or nominated little ole me to be in “The Key Club”.  I was happy that somebody finally saw my obvious greatness even though Willie always confused me with both of my two brothers. Maybe he thought he was nominating one of them because I wasn’t very service orientated, I had no character, and I had the leadership skills of a cocker spaniel.

I wasn’t quite sure what “The Key Club” actually did that provided service, built character and developed leadership. I heard something about setting up chairs. I wasn’t sure how setting up chairs would develop my leadership or character, but I was willing to do it just to get the cool shirt.

The problem was that this was still the 70’s and you still had to earn your way. None of this open admissions and everybody is special and everyone gets a free unicorn. Nope, you still had to earn your way in. That meant an interview by all of the cool guys in my high school.

I remember my interview. I walked into the room and there were all of “The Key Club” guys. Some I have known literally forever. I don’t think the interview went too well. I remember a question about setting up chairs. (“If you had a girl friend [yeah, right] and y’all were going to go out but we needed some chairs set up, what would you do?”)

There were 19 boys that tried out for “The Key Club”. 16 made it and were wearing the jerseys in our junior year. I was one of the three that didn’t make it.  It was odd, but I wasn’t that upset. I thought it was the necessary confirmation that I wasn’t that cool. Plus, I really wasn’t looking forward to setting up chairs.

Then the other day, I had one of my typical epiphanies. The problem with my epiphanies is that they come way too late for me to do any good. I had awful grades back then and that was probably the reason for my black balling. Yeah, that’s it! Anyway, that’s what I tell myself and it helps me to sleep at night.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Perfectly Clear

A couple of weeks ago, I watched the Robert Redford narrated documentary All The President’s Men Revisited.  It was a victory lap about the 1976 movie, All The President’s Men, in which two reporters that looked like Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman took down the evil Nixon administration.

All The President’s Men was an unusual 70’s movie because it was not about sharks, demon possession, UFOs, The 50’s, or disco.  It didn’t have a good soundtrack either, which was very important for movies in the 70’s-just ask The Bee Gees.  The movie was about The Watergate Break-In, which was the mother of all scandals but did not have any nudity like some later scandals involving Bill Clinton.

Allow me to take off my Junior Humorist cap and put on my Amateur Historian hat. Watergate basically confirmed two things. For Democrats, it confirmed what they always thought about Richard Nixon (an amoral snake).  For Republicans, it confirmed what they always feared about Richard Nixon (an amoral snake).

If you think Republicans hate Obama, you need to go back in time and see how Democrats responded to Richard Nixon. They really, really hated Richard Nixon. Which is kind of odd, because Nixon was the basic Pragmatic Republican and wasn’t one of these radical conservative Republicans you hear about now.

There was an impressionist back then named David Frye that could do a spot on Nixon imitation. In one routine, he presented the typical Nixon news conference with the typical Nixon answer. Reporter: “What is the administration’s plan on integration?  Nixon: “I’m glad you asked me that question. There are those that want instant integration, while others want segregation forever. I believe we need a middle course: Instant Forever."

People have forgotten what a great story Nixon could have been. In 1943, he was sitting on an island in the South Pacific playing cards. In 1953, he was the Vice President of The United States, serving under who was arguably one of the most popular men of his era, Dwight Eisenhower.  For the six President elections from 1952 to 1972, Nixon was on the ticket for five of those elections and won four of those elections. Three of those wins were by landslides.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Nixon and comparing him to President Obama.  Superficially, there’s not a lot in common. Nixon was an awkward communicator on television, while Obama communicates well. Nixon came from a dirt poor background and though Obama’s family was dysfunctional, they could afford to send him to private schools and  Ivy League institutions.

However, they do have one thing in common: the belief that people are stupid and will believe anything you say.

Benghazi has always illustrated this for me because it is very dumb. The idea that a movie, which nobody saw, could enrage Muslims (who granted are easily enraged) on a date that just happened to be the 11th anniversary of 9/11 is as dumb as how Rosemary Woods accidentally erased the smoking gun tape.  When it became apparent even to the mainstream press that a movie had nothing to do with it, Future President Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked, “What difference does it make?”

Throw in the other two problems (The Department of Justice looking at Associated Press’ phone records for no real reason and The IRS targeting conservative groups for “special attention”) and Obama is starting to look very Nixonian. 

Just listen to some the answers Obama gives—it is the same lawyerly parsing that Nixon gave. Just watch his lieutenants on TV. There is a new talking point everyday that makes yesterday’s talking point inoperative. The reasons for the problems are self inflected: a combination of self-pity and paranoia that anybody that lived through the Nixon Administration would recognize.

I seriously doubt anything close to what happen to Nixon is going to happen to Obama. For one thing, like a good agent, the dense Joe Biden is there as impeachment insurance.  However, these three scandals will leave a mark on the legacy of Barack Obama and that is perfectly clear.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Who Is Going To Fill His Shoes?

We had some time to kill before the season premiere of Mad Men (the story of a 1960's ad executive desire to bed down every woman in the state of New York), so the wife and I took in the The Academy of  Country Music Awards. The next time this happens, just remind me to stick needles in my eyes.

The show started with a galaxy of country music stars singing a song about chewing tobacco. This included Sheryl Crow who I didn’t know was a country music star. The last time I heard anything about her, she was complaining about George W. Bush and teaching us about toilet paper.

The show's “hosts” then appeared. The hosts were Blake Shelton, who is married to Miranda Lambert who is worried about Sheryl Crow. (FYI, Sheryl Crow has had "relationships" with a billion famous men including Eric Clapton) Shelton is also on the American Idol brain suck rip-off show called The Voice. The other host was Luke Bryan, an alumnus of Georgia Southern University. Hail Southern. He sings a song with the stirring lyric, “If you ain’t a ten, you’re a nine-point-nine”. Of course, it sounds like, “If ewe ainna tan,yer a nan-pert-nan”.

Shelton and Bryan proceed to tell a couple of jokes that would have been rejected in the Hee-Haw writers room.  They also told jokes regarding the size of their Porter Waggoners. I asked my wife if she could imagine Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash making crotch jokes.

That’s the way Country Music is today. Somewhere along the line it became more about the product and less about the song. Who do you blame? Several people come to mind.

One person to blame is Bob Dylan. Back in the 60’s when all of the hip people  thought country music was just something the boys of the Ku Klux Klan dance to, Dylan came to Nashville and recorded the classic Blonde on Blonde. He used Nashville session men like Charlie McCoy (the band director of Hee-Haw) and Harold "Pig" Robbins.  Soon the rock and rollers were treating the country people with some dignity and the country people were loosening up and growing their hair out. By the end of the 70's, the most popular country music act was Willie Nelson, a man with pig tails. By the mid 80's country music became bad rock music.

Another person to blame is Shania Twain. She was huge in the 90’s due to such songs as “Man, I Feel Like a Woman”. Every time I saw the video for this song, I was reminded of the old Charlie Rich song that said “She makes me glad that I’m a man”. However, Twain was about as country as a Macy’s department store.

The person I really hold accountable is Garth Brooks. I tend to hold Garth Brooks accountable for everything. There is just something about Garth Brooks and his big old Garth Brooks head that was on all of his albums that get me. Brooks seemed so manufacture. It was like there was a focus group and they decided that this is how all country singers must look like and they have to wear a cowboy hat.

That’s the problem with country music. The audience is no longer the guy that works the grave yard shift or the waitress at The Waffle House. The audience is now sorority sisters at the Universities who all have been told all their lives that they are a “Nine-point-Nine” when really they are a "Six" when they have their make up on.

That's what made the death of George Jones so depressing. He wasn't classy. He never wore a cowboy hat. He wasn't what would come out of a focus group. "Here's a song from a man that plans on being married a hundred times and may not show up at his concerts. Oh yeah, he wants to ride his lawn mower to buy his booze." He wouldn't have lasted a minute in front of Simon Cowell. "Now tell me, 'Possum', how do you think you can win a musical competition with a song about White Lightning?"

But he was a guy that knew the meaning of the songs he sung. "Just because I saw her and fell all to pieces, she thinks I still care" is a lyric borne of genius and pain. Can anyone say that about any country song now?