Chanticleer Calls #10

Chanticleer
I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. 

Henry David Thoreau

January 21, 2000


BUSH LEAGUE WORDS

Some of this was printed as a Letter to the Editor in the January 20, 2000, Dallas Morning News. The edited/deleted comments are in red.
[2019 update: unfortunately the red color annotations have been digitally lost. Follows is what I wrote, not what was printed.]

Title: Bush league

When asked during the South Carolina primary about that state’s Confederate flag issue, Mr. George W. Bush revealed much in his reply: “The people of South Carolina can figure out what to do with this flag issue. As an American citizen, I trust the people of South Carolina to make the decision for South Carolina.”

One wonders if, had he been a candidate earlier in history, Mr. Bush would’ve responded similarly on other touchy issues:

“I trust the good people of Salem to make their own decisions on this witch issue.” (1629)

“I trust the good jurors of Tennessee to decide the proper fate of Mr. Scopes.” (1925)

“The people of Montgomery can figure out what to do with their public transportation policies.” (1955)

“As an American citizen, I trust the Ohio National Guard to make decisions for Kent State University.” (1970)

Sometimes national leaders must “march to the beat of different drummers” in the individualistic, non-conforming sense Thoreau intended. Sometimes they should be expected to pound out a cadence that the concerned, compassionate and conscientious citizenry can follow.

Mr. Bush missed a prime (time) opportunity to provide such leadership. Instead of hoisting his own baton and leading the march, he chose to shuffle along the GOPolitically-correct, play-not-to-lose path paved by the purveyors of public pabulum – the polls.

Two days after the debate, “several thousand” people gathered on the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse to advocate flying the Confederate flag. South Carolina state senator Arthur Ravenel was quoted as orating to the cheering crowd: “Can you believe that there are those who think that the General Assembly of South Carolina is going to … knuckle under, roll over and do the bidding of ‘that organization known as the National Association for Retarded People?‘”

Presumably, he was referring to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

One wonders if the crowd, and the rhetoric, would’ve been the same if the leading presidential contender had spoken out with the conviction of a conscience, instead of a politically-expedient whimper.

In baseball, the term “bush league” refers derisively both to minor league teams stocked predominantly with mediocre wannabes, and to the efforts of a big league player that don’t measure up to big league standards.

Perhaps the future political lexicon will list a definition for “Bush league”: “refers to a political candidate of average, common or mediocre leadership means, whose candidacy remains viable due to family fortune, legacy and means-unlimited political speculators (or MUPS).”


FORBIDDEN WORDS 2000

In case you missed it, Matt Groenig, creator of The Simpsons, did a great cartoon titled “Forbidden Words 2000” which appeared in the Dallas Observer, December 23-29. I arranged the words into four general categories. Be on the lookout for these FORBIDDEN WORDS:

Pop Culture Words

… bigtime!
… not!
24-7
and I’m all like
as if!
awesome!
deal with it!
get over it!
get with the program
go ballistic
go postal
hello?!
I hear that!
in your face!
puh-leeze!
sucks
take it to the next
level
to die for
way cool
whatever!
yessss!
you go, girl!

Management Words

actualize
award-winning
buzzword
cutting edge
done deal
end result
facilitate
imagineering
kudos
matrix
movers and shakers
multi-tasking
paradigm
parameters
per se
please hold: your call
is very important to us
proactive
subtext
synergize
to partner
utilize

___-anything-___ Words

anything for dummies
anything is hell
cyber-anything
euro-anything
new anything
power anything
techno-anything
the ultimate anything
ultra-anything
virtual anything

Words in General

‘semi-colon closed parenthesis’
buttocks
celeb chichi
classy
conventional wisdom
croissandwich
dysfunctional
eatery
eclectic
edgy
f-word
got milk?
hissy fit
hooked on phonics
in denial
newbie
partial-birth abortion
retarded
sassy
tacky
veggies

May I add one of my own?

Especially in an election year, politicians, pundits and the public at large should receive maximum penalty points whenever they begin a comment with “The fact of the matter is …

As sure as the sun sets in Senegal, what’s going to follow will fertilize more than it will enlighten.


SHRUBBERY WORDS

If you aren’t famililar with the Las Colinas area, at a major intersection there’s a large clock built into an embankment, landscaped with surrounding shrubbery. The shrubbery has been pruned to spell out:

L a s C o l i n a s

I walked by the other day and wondered what the shrubbery would spell if left to its natural growth …


QUOTE ON WORDS

I say what I say. I do not say what I do not say. – Alfred Korzybski


ROCKER WORDS, ‘RACIST’ WORDS?

The house is still rockin’ over the rollicking reactions to Atlanta Braves’ pitcher John Rocker’s recent ‘racist’ comments in Sports Illustrated. In case you missed it, here are some of the more repeated quotes straight from my copy of the magazine:

So many dumb asses don’t know how to drive in this town [Atlanta]. They turn from the wrong lane. They go 20 miles per hour. It makes me want — Look! Look at this idiot! I guarantee you she’s a Japanese woman. How bad are Asian women at driving?”

(The woman driving was white.)

When asked about the possibility of playing for a New York team:

Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re in Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.

The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. I’m not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get into this country?

Asked about another sports ‘bad boy’, Latrell Sprewell – the notorious basketball player who choked his coach last year:

That guy should’ve been arrested, and instead he’s playing basketball. Why do you think that is? Do you think if Keith Van Horn – if he was white – they’d let him back? No way.

During the interview, “in passing, he calls an overweight teammate ‘a fat monkey’.”

On New York Mets fans, with whom he has a running verbal, visual, and sometimes battery-throwing, beer-sloshing, battle:

Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw batteries at you and say, ‘Hey, I did your mother last night – she’s a whore.’ I talked about what degenerates they were, and they proved me right. Just by saying something, I could make them mad enough to go home and slap their moms.
I’m not a racist or prejudiced person. But certain people bother me.

For these and other comments, Rocker commanded attention approaching the absurd, including an audience with home run king and Braves’ front office executive Hank Aaron, former Secretary to the UN Andrew Young, and the head of Atlanta’s NAACP. Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, has ordered Rocker to undergo psychiatric examination before determining his universally-expected punishment.

Now, I certainly don’t want to be perceived as an apologist for Rocker, either for his words or his actions. However, I believe it’s appropriate for discriminating individuals to spend some time considering not what Rocker said, but how have people reacted to what he said?

Some reactions I’ve considered: Compare the publicity generated by public persona Rocker’s comments, vs. those expressed by South Carolina state senator Arthur Ravenel in the Confederate flag article mentioned above:

Can you believe that there are those who think that the General Assembly of South Carolina is going to … knuckle under, roll over and do the bidding of that organization known as the National Association for Retarded People?’

Are the public reactions proportional to the two quoted comments?

Is someone who verbalizes his/her thoughts and opinions more worthy of condemnation than someone who holds similar sentiments but remains silent?

What does it mean to “be a racist”? Is it a function of what is said? Of what is felt, or thought, or believed?

Or is it based on actions?

What defines the boundaries for this label? What differences does it make if Rocker, or anyone else, declares himself to be, or not to be, a ‘racist’? What would you expect in either case?

Some people have felt that it’s a virtue to be a ‘stand-up guy’, to state what’s on your mind, to “tell it like it is.”

Remember how former Green Bay Packer defensive lineman-turned-preacher, Reggie White, righteously lambasted gays last year? Both Rocker and White expressed some comments which, accepted at face value, reflected strongly-felt emotions. Did anybody publicly suggest Reggie White should receive psychiatric examination? As with so many of these instances of ‘media mayhem,’ what I find worthy of dissecting and differentiating are the reactions of people to the news not the news itself.

I find some sobering truth in Rocker’s observation that “Just by saying something, I could make them mad enough to go home and slap their moms.”

Perhaps some attention, and spotlight, needs to shine on those people who can be so easily manipulated by someone’s mere words.

I also find it worthwhile to ponder a statement made by computer-industry observer, journalist and PBS commentator Bob Cringely. In his January 13th column, Cringely relates how he was contacted by a producer from ABC’s “Nightline” to provide his reaction to the AOL/Time Warner deal:

Whenever such a call comes in from “Nightline” or CNN or any of the other news shows where I appear from time to time, there is a kind of audition that takes place on the telephone. They want to know in advance what I will say on the air. Part of this audition is the producer (producers in this case) needing some quick education about what is going on, and part is their wanting to make sure that I am going to not only be interesting, but that I will say what they want to hear.

Something to remember in your skeptical assessment of what you see, hear and read from the media sources you use to establish your own opinions.


SHIP WORDS

Sign observed by yours truly at The Shipyard brew pub in the Orlando International Airport:

Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder
And I bought my daughter the t-shirt: Ship Happens


AND FINALLY – CIDER HOUSE WORDS

I saw the latest movie based on a John Irving novel, The Cider House Rules. I never finished the book, but I’m a big fan of Irving’s previous novels such as The World According to Garp and Hotel New Hampshire. The movie received some favorable pre-release publicity, and since Irving himself wrote the screenplay, I decided to see it.

I heartily recommend it, if your heart and brain are up to the challenge. I found some of it gut-wrenching, some of it tear-jerking, a lot of it thought-provoking, and all of it well worth the time and cost of a ticket.

I won’t go into the unusual story or how the title fits, but I do hope that the term cider house rules will grow into the daily lexicon of usage such as Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 did. Here’s my impression of a definition for cider house rules:

Rules written by someone to whom the rules do not apply; rules written without consideration for those to whom the rules do apply; rules ignored by all; and yet, rules which remain ‘rules’.

Metaphorically, of course, these types of ‘rules’ are not limited to cider houses….