Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Might of Arthur Ashe

Fresh from the US Open Women’s final yesterday, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled, “The Power of Serena Williams”. The author of the article was half-right, which I suppose is better than totally wrong. Here’s what the author gets right:

Serena Williams is indeed a powerful player, both physically and mentally.

She has been a powerful influence in the sport, for younger girls, African American or otherwise, as well as tennis fans.

She has had to endure more obstacles as a woman and an African American, powerfully ploughing thru.

That’s where it stops. Some may ask, what the hell more is needed to be in awe of her power?

Normally not a lot, but the half of the story that’s missing is too large of an elephant in the room. Turn a blind eye to it or not, no one really cares. Williams will be fine, no martyr to see here folks.

During her peak, Williams was often consumed by a fragile ego, a tortured one many point out. The kind that “bad boys” like John McEnroe had. It wasn’t endearing to many back then either, I don’t care how many fans or victories MacEnroe had. The assumption that everyone agreed with McEnroe’s antics is plain and simple BS. The argument of depression, to the tune of millions of dollars in reward, is a convoluted defense that will never pass the test of time. As for the argument of discrimination, hold that thought for a minute.

The fact that McEnroe got away with it more, with less obstacles, does not mean he was liked, loved, or respected by everyone. Just like history can be harsh over what guys like Reagan or Biden said or did in the 60s or 70s, the bar stays the same here. Johnny Mac does not get a free pass.

But more important: overcoming obstacles IS the stuff that has made people great thru the ages. Serena fed on them, and it served her well. Very well. 

There were two huge ironies that took place yesterday at Arthur Ashe stadium, and those two elephants will not go quietly into the night here...

One: The stadium roared pro-Serena to the tune of deafening decibels.  Andreescu at one point had to cover her ears from the roar, it was a borderline frenzy. Not Serena’s fault, but the irony lies in how much Andreescu fed on being the underdog. It wasn’t Serena “Goliath” alone that “David” Andreescu was battling: it was Goliath and 20,000+ screaming fans. Blood-thirsty, like Roman Colosseum spectators who couldn’t wait for the favored gladiator to run a spear thru the heart of the lesser-known gladiator. That almost happened, by the way, as Goliath got her second wind. But David prevailed this time, with a great story to tell.

And two, the more subtle irony but running way deeper: this David and Goliath story took place at Arthur Ashe stadium. Ashe was a true American hero, a real target of racism amidst the American apartheid of the 1960s. The kind that would have destroyed the fragile ego of Serena Williams. A mere year ago, the spirit of Arthur Ashe looked down at Williams’ bratty meltdown, probably in a head-shaking, facepalm reaction. Because these words would never come from Serena Williams:

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.

-Arthur Ashe

Give me the awe-inspiring power of an Arthur Ashe any day, over the diluted, crowd-frenzy kind from Serena Williams. The Coco Gauff’s of the future don’t need the Serena Williams kind of power: they should be told about the might of Arthur Ashe.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

A New Hope For Capitalism: Unemploying Employment

"Now the onus is on employers to keep their best employees happy."

-Mark Cuban 

A good start Mr. Cuban. But why stop there? You left something crucial out: the mindset-terminology of “employer” and “employee” must die before we can move on to greater things. (Also “onus” sounds too much like “anus”, but I digress).

Politicians - the whores of status quo masters - play with “unemployment figures” like cats play with a mortally wounded mouse. And yet, there is a way to end their reign of their fear-based leadership: unemploy employment itself.

Bad enough that true unemployment lies somewhere north of 20%. Instead, “new claims” are used in an extrapolated method, dropping the expired claims as if they have all up and found a job. Just as it’s easy to find the “new claims” number, it would be easy to follow the expired social security number through the months, or years, until a company claims that SS number once again in its payroll. The obvious logical observation is that there is an incremental amount of claim expirations every month that are not going back into the employment pool. Rather, they are going off-radar. They are  entering the underworld of support by family, friends, gross underemployment, or worse: crime. But god forbid we count them as unemployed. The angry mob might turn on the status quo.

Employment must die. Not work itself, of course. Especially not the enlightened side of work. No, the dark side of work. The one we’ve been calling “employment” since slavery was no longer an option.

Mr. and Ms. “Employer”, you don’t have to be co-conspirators with political whores. If you think your business model depends on that status quo, then you’ve lost sight of your true business vision and mission. So in that case, yes: for a worthless moment in  time you will become a political whore yourself.

But to the majority of capitalist enterprises, be the entrepreneur you are and always have been. You’ve always had your eye on the customer, with laser focus. You’ve always preached the gospel of customer service. So why are you sending hapless “employees” to serve your customers??

Mr. and Ms. Employer, that’s not who you are and you know it: you were once a badass Innovator and Disruptor. Get back to what you do. Here’s the mother of all disruptions for you:

Don’t employ, be a collaborator.

Don’t wage, share results.

Don’t train, teach.

As for the other half of the equation - ”Employees”. You, and especially you, need to seriously reconsider your gaslighted mindset.

Stop calling yourself an “employee”.

Don’t work for time, work for results.

Expect more from yourself before you demand from your collaborators, colleagues, and customers.

If you find yourself being more negative and cynical of and at your work, figure it out. Or do something else. Your negativity is a cancer.

There are two types of workers: those who work for results and those who work for wages & benefits. 

The former are always going to be generally happier. 

The latter are a product of a cannibalistic contract. One mutually set for failure by the employer-employee Stockholm Syndrome.

By the way, Mr. Employer: if you get a hard-on from the words “you’re fired!” please consider getting neutered. Your cancer must die with you.

Honestly, I can’t blame those who retire from being an employee. I would retire too from that hell. But when you figure out how to stop being an employee you might just make retiring obsolete. You might just find yourself. There’s nothing more rewarding in life than results. Yes, that includes the results from being a good friend, parent, partner, mentor, volunteer, worker. Manager, director, chief, entrepreneur, shareholder. Or just a good fucking human being. 

My father taught me that money is a byproduct from all those things. He also taught me that retiring is for old sports jerseys and horses. With all due respect to my retired friends, I believe he was right. It is never about a retirement strategy: it’s about an exit one.

Happy Labor Day.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Long Goodbyes

I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello...
When it comes to life’s beginnings and ends, our levels of existential bewilderment are at their highest. From abortion showdowns to death-with-dignity debates, one group stands vulnerably silent in the sidelines like the proverbial elephant in the room: the voiceless ones. 

Let’s be clear about one thing: the arrogant posturing of those who will never fully understand the burden of a raped woman is criminal in itself. These are the same individuals who will spend their entire lifetime ignoring the cries of abused and neglected children while calling themselves “pro-life”. They are the same individuals who will cast pseudo-judgment upon our dementia-stricken elders; our sunset elders, who at one time may have voiced a preference for an end to their life with dignity. The definition of pro-life is not selective. It does not stutter. You cannot care for the life of the unborn without equal concern for the life of the woman carrying the unborn; without outrage on behalf of millions of newborn babies thrust upon neglect and abuse; and without a real respect for the end-of-journey ones. Without a respect for elders who experience incremental suffering exacerbated by the misguided leadership of twisted egos. A Via Crucis imposed by mainstream false-moralizers, denying a hard-earned dignity to the only ones entitled to choose when it’s time to rest in peace.

One of the best things I ever did before my parents slowly slipped away into the darkness of dementia is to increase my number of visits to them. During those rocking chair chats there were a lot of  warm moments, reminiscing and video recording their recollections of their journey, of their parents and grandparents. I also consciously chose that one series of visits to gradually say our mutual goodbyes. To say “I love you”, a rare demonstration within my family, and a “see you later” should we all be so lucky. 

My farewell visit’s departure, arbitrarily chosen by me, was a long flight back I will always remember. It was a sad one for me, a tear or two leaking as I stared out the window into the vastness of space. At best it was a bittersweet moment, a few smiles poked from my face as I scanned for memories. Recollections that managed to cast silver linings on the clouds below. Oh I flew back to see them several more times, at least two or three times a year over a five-year period. Including those last two trips to lovingly lay their former bodies down into eternal transformation. But my mourning did not start with their physical death: it ended with it. They both left quietly overnight, almost a year apart from each other. Upon each call from my brother to inform me of their passing, it was not sadness I felt. My first reaction was a smile. I felt relief for them. I smiled knowing they were finally released from the grip of a twisted nature. A force whose purpose in torturing neglected newborns and memory-deprived road warriors will always be a mystery to me. 

After the brief calls from my brother to inform me of each passing, I had to step outside. I wanted to look up at the sky, at the stars, because I knew that’s where I would find them from now on.


Peachy & Juan: Freebirds


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Fringeocracy: The End Of Democracy



It was good while it lasted. It may have even advanced the cause of life on earth, though jury is still out on that one. Sure enough, monarchy and absolute imperialism had worn out their welcome - had they ever been welcomed. So when democracy’s power-sharing became a thing, the world rejoiced. There were head-severing parties everywhere, with the shrilling sound of falling guillotines heard around the world. It was one small step for founding fathers, one giant leap for political parties. Or in the case of the ones that merely put lipstick on a pig, political PARTY (singular). Unfortunately for the dolled-up pig, natural selection is not on its side. If they haven’t figured it out by now, there’s no future in evolution for China’s and Russia’s leadership charade. But I will give Snowball Jinping and Napoleon Putin this much: they have altogether bypassed fringeocracy, the terminal cancer of democracy.

Maybe China and Russia always knew something we didn’t. It’s as if they sensed our world was nowhere near ready for a government by the people. I mean, is that a joke? Have we ever stopped to take a good look at “the people”? Sure, there’s a functional middle class in there, somewhere. But that’s not your critical mass. Count your dysfunctional middle class, the bulk of your blue collar, and your borderline poor, never mind your completely disenfranchised, and you’re just now beginning to comprehend  the magnitude of the fringes. Without judging, we’re talking about millions with asphyxiating cash flow, debt-preyed finances, roller-coaster depression, touch-and-go mental illness, troll-infested information sources, rage-distorted critical thinking, dysfunctional addictions, and high levels of gullibility. But, go on, tell us how the people can tell a leader from a grifter?

Democracy as it was intended has been taken hostage by the right and left fringes for too many generations. The mighty checks and balances have been brought to their knees. Entitlement consumes both fringes in an almost perfect symmetry.

To the left fringe, things should be “free”, a God-given right. They use the word without any shame in what they are saying.

To the right fringe, predatory practices are a simple matter of natural selection, a God-given endowment. They have no conscience over their actions.

To the left fringe, empathy is devoid of accountability. As such it is a token empathy, ultimately useless. It becomes an enabler and perpetuator of suffering.

To the right fringe, “freedom” is devoid of accountability. It is code for doing whatever the hell one wants to do, including not paying taxes, hiding behind bankruptcy, idolizing mass-assault weapons without any ownership of consequences.

Life on earth cannot, will not be taken hostage by these fringes. If democracy cannot control its fringes, it is useless to evolution. Like monarchies and imperialism before it, it’s time to retire it. What comes next is not “a return” to anything. It is not free anything. It is not oligarchic power sharing. It is the consolidation of power. It is the end of rich entitlement, of poor entitlement, and the dawn of accountable empathy.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Making Football Great Again


If memory serves me right, most Americans used the term “AMERICAN Football” more regularly decades ago. It seems like the “American” part of the name was gradually dropped over a generation or two, especially as the word soccer was adopted for that "other" football game. In spite of the increased Major League Soccer (MLS) popularity in the US these days, it’s not going to be easy for soccer to regain its real name in the US anytime soon (especially if it continues to be called Major League SOCCER). But I guess it’s one battle at a time on the road to greatness.

For all the technology applied in sports today, logic can play a sketchy part here in the US. There is hardly any “foot” in American football, but sure. Let’s call it football. And then there’s the “WorldSeries... don’t get me started  on that one. Anyway, I love the fact that fútbol / fußball is evolving into the American mainstream... slowly but surely.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of goofiness in “soccer”. The theatrics really need to stop, I say drag their asses off the field by their nuts when it’s an obvious fake (please watch Ozzy Man Reviews on soccer “dives”, truly priceless). And yes, a scoreless match should not be rewarded with a “draw”. Off to the penalties shootout for the lot of you. But don’t forget: last Super Bowl’s final score was the equivalent of a 1-0 soccer score: there was only one touchdown in the entire game. So a touchdown is six points plus a practically guaranteed extra point, for a total of seven? Adorable, but why not thirty four plus a practically guaranteed twelve for the PAT?

By the way, for those of you that live in a mutually exclusive world, it is possible to appreciate both sports. I’m a football (soccer) AND American football fan myself. Even if I’ve been condemned to deal with the ownership of the Cincinnati Bengals. Yes, I happen to be a Bengals fan, though I refuse to give any money to the current passionless franchise owner.

Speaking of money, what cracks me up is the TV broadcasts of soccer in the US. I don’t know how Americans, especially the broadcasters, are going to deal with the soccer culture of not showing commercials for 45+ minutes... Good lord, it’s like you’re asking them to hold their breath for 45 minutes.

Here’s the thing about sports and commercials. Besides American football I happen to be a basketball fan as well. But have you ever tried watching the last five minutes of the game on TV? For the love of Tostitos, I don’t know how many commercials I can stomach before I’ve forgotten what I was watching. Thank heavens for the Pepto-Bismol commercial or I would forget how to handle the previous barrage of junk food they sent my way.

Between basketball and American Football you have to think: these are supposed to be 48 to 60 minutes games, respectively. OK, add fifteen minutes of half times, but still: the average Sunday football game is a 3+ hours broadcast, for eleven minutes of action time (calculated by the Wall Street Journal a few years ago). ELEVEN MINUTES. For the love of life, I know people that have sex longer than that (or so they tell me).

Here’s a head-scratching excerpt from that WSJ article: “The average NFL broadcast spends more time on replays (17 minutes) than live play. The plurality of time (75 minutes) is spent watching players, coaches, and referees essentially loiter on the field. An average play in the NFL lasts just four seconds. Of course, watching football on TV is hardly just about the game; there are plenty of advertisements to show people, too. The average NFL game includes 20 commercial breaks containing more than 100 ads.

Which of course, brings us to the mother of all commercials... you guessed it, the Super Bowl. Ask any red-blooded American and they’ll even admit it: “I don’t care about either team but I love watching the commercials!” Wow, now that’s an impressive accomplishment by our marketing boys & girls. Maybe we should just have six straight hours of commercials every Sunday, interrupted occasionally with score updates from real sport games.

But enough sarcasm, let me wrap up this sporting commentary on a positive note. When it comes to sports, what you grew up with as a kid and shared with your dad, mom, siblings, and friends... is priceless. I don’t care if it’s baseball, football, American football, basketball, hockey, tennis, rugby, or cricket... what unites all sporting games is passion. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. That’s what has always made sports great.


Take me out to the ball game
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks
I don't care if I never get back
Let me root, root, root
For the home team
If they don't win it's a shame
Aahh.
For it's one, two,
Three strikes you're out
At the old... ball... game!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

There Goes The Neighborhood



Dear future generations: I’m not sure how you’re going to deal with this, but this is not the way it was supposed to work out. No, “we” didn’t start this fire. Some of us are still fighting for a better way, but this... nope. Not going to work out.
“Roscosmos”, “NASA”, “ESA”, “ISS”, those were small steps for humanity in the right direction. But this shitshow? Ouch. I don’t know who hurt the folks who voted these three-ring circus grifters into leadership, but the damage inflicted just keeps getting more surreal.
We were supposed to have figured this out by now. Obviously not... “Ownership”. “Exploitation”. Hey, here’s an awesome disruption for you: the sun! Our star, fuck yeah. Build a wall of spaceships around it, claim ownership and rights, exploit the hell out of that ball of gas. Build pipelines, tap the shit out of it. The moon? The moon is for losers. He who mines the sun will own the entire solar system.
So this is how natural selection in the universe works. Huh. From our lack of contact it’s getting to be painfully clear that those who figure life out are well served by steering the hell clear from us. Two types of life in the universe: those who figure it out, and three-ring circus grifters.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Immigrants


"Brothers can you spare some room?"
There are two kinds of immigrants: point-to-point and Gypsy. The P2P immigrant - you know the one, my grandfather came to New York from Sicily, or my lawn guy came from Mexico City to Houston - is the more historically understood. It is also equally romanticized and vilified. Dig deep enough and everyone finds a P2P immigrant in their ancestry. At an almost perfectly Iinear correlation, the farther back people dig the more romantic it gets. Your immigrant ancestors were good, hardworking people. Factory workers by day, wholesome family patriarchs and matriarchs by night. To the faithful we are all children of the biblically larger-than-life Adam & Eve (peculiarly white in most visual interpretations, but I digress). To the empirical we are all children of stardust.

The Gypsy is mostly vilified. Human tolerance for the un-rooted is limited. Mistrust sets in, and it is almost impossible to eradicate. Ironic, since the gypsy does not stick around long enough to entertain the fears of the rooted ones. 

There is a third kind of immigrant, deserving of mention and respect, the Forced Immigrant. But for the purpose of this conversation let’s focus on immigrants who technically had a choice, regardless of consequences. In theory, we can consider the Forced Immigrant a branch of the P2P. Migrant workers or corporate globetrotters can be a subset of the Gypsy, but if they keep going back to their point of origin, or end up there, they are technically not immigrants. A peculiar hybrid are Gypsies that eventually pick a place and plant roots there for the rest of their lives. Gypsy-to-P2P crossovers, if you will.

Nation of Immigrants” is simplistic political pandering. We are a migrating planet, never mind nations. We are on a rock that is hurling through universal space at a resulting speed of approximately one million miles per hour. Let me unpack it this way: at that speed the entire human race is gypsying through the equivalent of seventeen countries per minute. Hyper-movement is not an option, it is the de facto autopilot of life.

The absurdity of immigration perceptions can be illustrated by simple examples. A man living in Toronto, Canada who drives an hour and a half to Buffalo, New York is a Canadian immigrant. But wait, it gets better: a woman who moves five blocks, from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso is a Mexican immigrant. Meanwhile a family can move 5,823 miles from Kure Atoll, Hawaii, to Riviera Beach, Florida and not be an immigrant. To be clear: that distance is roughly a quarter of the earth’s circumference. Way farther than any Italian immigrant to New York travelled.

This level of absurdity was not lost on Europeans. Against much greater odds than the average heartland American can comprehend, Europe opened its borders within a lifetime to twenty-eight nations, with almost as many cultures and languages. “For Czech, press 24...  But it’s not just about arbitrary borders and physical proximities, is it. It’s also about those elusive jobs, beliefs, customs, rituals, habits, languages, looks and smells.

Pragmatic realism sets in. The EU and the US have been experiencing sympathetic pains since the traumatic events that took place between 1993 and 2001. The earlier event (1993) was the year the European Single Market was born. It rose from the ashes of two World Wars and one Cold War, in the name of “four freedoms”: movement of goods, services, money, and people. As it turned out, the union had to settle for three out of four freedoms. That free movement of people thing has not worked out so well, creating a seismic social shift to the far right all across Europe. As for the latter event (2001), it was one infamous September morn in America that almost broke the needle for Americans, slamming it to the far right. 

Enter Sandman. We talk a big game about “the almighty buck” in America, but we should really consider quitting the charade. The prime directive of our lives is, and always has been, the almighty fear. Fear rules the world, not money. Money is just what most people believe will make the fear go away. In the words of the fearsome Skar,  follow me, and you’ll never go hungry again! Money buys you a personality, so that you’ll never be lonely again. Money, regardless of how it’s obtained, will buy the adulation of millions for someone who will make you great again. 

In every family’s lineage there was once an immigrant who was feared. Who was persecuted. Who was hated. Not recognizing this basic scar of life constitutes a fear, hatred, and persecution of your own kind. 

In the meantime, should you choose to refute that premise, let’s join hands and recite the Purebred’s Creed - shall we?

Immigrants steal jobs.
Immigrants rape.
Immigrants sell drugs.
Immigrants murder.
Immigrants will hurt your children.
Immigrants create “no-go zones”.
Immigrants are dirty.
Immigrants will take Christmas away.
Vote for me, Sandman. 
I alone can make the immigrants go away.

...

“Hush little baby don't say a word
And never mind that noise you heard
It's just the beasts under your bed
In your closet in your head
Exit light
Enter night
Grain of sand”

-Metallica, “Enter Sandman”

The Might of Arthur Ashe

Fresh from the US Open Women’s final yesterday, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled, “The Power of Serena Williams”. T...