Duck Schmuck

I almost made it through 2013 without a making a political comment on Facebook.  I generally don’t like to engage in these conversations.  They don’t change anyone’s mind.  They just make the poster feel good for a minute or two.

This Duck Dynasty thing has me riled up though, not because I give a rat’s arse about that show or what any of those hillbillies or their fans think, but because the social argument taking place right now over this topic completely misses the point.

The old man deserved to get fired.  Alec Baldwin deserved to get fired.  So did Don Imus, Michael Richards, and every other idiot that could not exercise a modicum of self-control, given their position of privilege and relative power due to the bully pulpit the media provides for them.

This is not about free speech.  The First Amendment protects individuals from persecution by the government for things that they say.  This means as a society we accept all speech without fear of reprisal from a government that might not agree with our view and want to silence us.  It is one of the last true things that makes the USA great.  We can say what we want to say, and we won’t go to jail.  That’s it.

So because of this, the Left gets to says what it wants to say.  The Right gets to say what it wants to say.  So do the weirdoes, kooks, and nutjobs.  The skinheads, anarchists, tree-huggers, fascists, and socialists all get their say, plus a lot of other groups we might find personally disgusting.  We accept the fact that this is a function of our free society, that people are going to say things with which we disagree, that we are going to hate it, and that it will sometimes repulse us.  We ourselves might say things that repulse other people.  We will, however, not go to jail for saying them.  That is Free Speech.

What happened here is not about free speech.  The guy, Phil, said something really stupid — or maybe it was really great — it depends on your view.  He has a right to say what he wants, to express his personal, closely-held values and beliefs.  Many people agree with him.  Many people do not.  However, it is important to note that the government did not arrest him for saying such things.  That is Free Speech.  The system is still working. We should all be very pleased.

What did happen is that a private employer decided that it did not want Phil to represent their company and their brand any more.  Just like Paula Deen, the aforementioned Alec Baldwin, Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann, and countless other media yahoos whose personally-held beliefs got them fired.  What is the common denominator?  That they are media personalities?  Poor judgment?  Poor impulse control? Bad handlers? Raging narcissism?  It does not matter.  Their employer, not the government, took action.  Phil is not going to jail.  Free enterprise made the call.  Capitalism did what it does.  So the system, such as it is, is still working.

We 99% will probably never have a job where comments we make can influence a company’s stock price.  Phil had one of those jobs.  If I had one and said something like Phil, I would fully expect to be fired too.  I know that.  Phil, Paula, Alec, and Don should sure-as-hell have known that too.

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People That Need To Go, v1: Alec Baldwin

Alec, I’ve loved you on every one of your 15 appearances as host of Saturday Night Live. Pete Schweddy and his fabulous balls. The annoying French teacher. Tony Bennett. It was all good, and I would probably watch every bit of it all over. I loved you in The Hunt For Red October, and Glengarry Glen Ross. You are a supremely gifted man.

But somewhere along the way, it got weird. We heard the way you screamed at your daughter, recorded for all of us to hear. We saw the way you treat your ex-wife. We’ve seen you punch photographers, and get kicked off of flights for being obnoxious. We’ve seen you be a primadonna pain-in-the-ass over and over and over again. Who knew that with his jackass Jack Donaghy character on 30 Rock, he was just playing himself, with a laugh track?

And then recently, once again, you exposed your core self in yet another deeply disturbing, unpleasant, hateful rant, calling a paparazzi a “cocksucking fag”, followed by a complete denial of the events even though it had been fully caught on tape. I understand that paparazzi are pains-in-the-backside, that they are intrusive, and they can make the life of a public person complete hell. But this does not excuse your appalling behavior.

I’m equally appalled by the lack of outrage from the Hollywood community, within which Mr. Baldwin enjoys Tier 1 advantages and benefits. How does this go unaddressed? If it were Sean Hannity, there would be protests in the street going on even today. Yes, you are indeed a protected son.

So my message is: I could use a break from you, Alec. Go way for a while. Get some therapy and learn how to be a better person. You have a new baby and a newish wife. Don’t screw up your new family like you did the old one. Redemption is attainable, but you need to want to do it.

I’ll miss you when you are away. Please come back soon.

Keep It Simple

I like to cook.  My wife likes to bake.  She and I have often discussed, that if we were ever to run away and start over somewhere, we would open a diner.  Jen would make breads, pies, cookies, and cakes – and she would also run the front of the house (sorry dear – you are much nicer than me).  I would be in the kitchen.  We would focus on well-executed comfort foods.  Everything would be made from scratch.   We would be a destination diner.  That Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives guy would come to see us with his film crew.  I am certain of this.

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Angel From Burbank

I’ve mentioned more than once that I have ambiguous feelings about such prolific songwriters as Bob Dylan, John Prine, and Leonard Cohen.  All of them have written such memorable songs, songs that are woven into fabric of American pop and political culture.  As much as I admire their abilities, I can’t stand hearing any of them sing.  They hurt my ears.  They make me want to change the station to something else.  Unless, of course, someone else is rending their work.

Bonnie Raitt is at the opposite end of this same spectrum.  She has written a fair amount of her own music, but I beleive her true gift is as an interpreter of other songwriters.  She has this ability to take a song, where I might otherwise change the station, and turn it into a warm, lovely, aching, sometimes heartbreaking thing.  He voice is knowing, weathered and weary, and always right on.  She never wastes a note.  She never does more than the song requires.  She always delivers exactly what is needed.

As renowned as she is, I think she is somehow underrated, as least as a singer.  People think of her slide guitar what they think of Bonnie.  I think of her warm alto, and the way she can use it to move me.

I have lots of Bonnie to share, but we’ll start here.  Bonnie Raitt, singing John Prine.  Awesome.

Audio only

[audio http://sampsons.org/files/BonnieRaittAngel.mp3]

And a grainy video too 🙂