Archive for October, 2009

clearing out stuff

The other day I parked my car in the garage and as I was getting out I paused for a moment to look around. There is a small shelving unit that holds a variety of this and that, including a hummingbird feeder in storage for the winter. For some reason, that hummingbird feeder suddenly reminded me of going through all my father’s “stuff” when he died, and I was struck by the realization that someday, perhaps sooner than later, someone will have to do the same with all my “stuff.”

We spend our lives accumulating things. Some of those things are necessities for daily life, other things are useful if not necessary, and still other things will have no meaning or purpose to anyone but ourselves. As adults with grown children, when we went through my father’s stuff there was little that any of us actually needed. In the end, the things we saved were more for the memories than for need.

At one point late in her life, my mother started clearing some of her stuff out of the house. I’m not sure if it was related to the time that her mother died, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. Just thinking about others needing to go through all my stuff when I die, I started thinking that I should do some clean-up before they have to. After all, they won’t know if something was useful or special to me or if I just hadn’t gotten around to throwing it away. I could save someone a lot of trouble.

As we get older and start to “down-size,” we start to realize how much stuff we don’t really need. Some of it is no longer practical. Who needs a snow blower after we have moved to Florida? Other stuff is just clutter and can relatively easily be pared down to what really has meaning to us. Some of it is pack rat stuff that should have been thrown out long ago.

Moving to a new house is a great liberator when it comes to “stuff.” Who wants to move that old ride-on lawn mower that we thought we would fix one day? How are we going to fit all the stuff from a four-bedroom house into our new one-bedroom condo? Come on, kids – come over and take what you want, because we are getting rid of the rest!

Maybe I should start clearing things out this weekend. Then again, I have other things I want to do. Maybe I’ll just leave all that work for someone else. After all, it’s not like they will be able to complain to me about it.

stifling the gov

So, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is going to appear on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” and the feds are upset about it. Prosecutors involved in his political corruption trial coming up early next year are concerned about contamination of the potential jury pool by his performance on the reality television show, which would air a couple of months before the trial begins. Really?

What about the weekly radio show that Rod has on Sundays on WLS-AM in Chicago: a radio show that specifically targets the area from which the jury is most likely to be formed? That’s not a problem? Or how about his skipping all over the country to appear on nationwide news and talk shows? That’s not a problem, either? Do they really think that there is a larger audience for “The Celebrity Apprentice” than for all of that?

So, now that we have the silliness of targeting one television show for special concern out of the way, let’s address the real issue. Have these prosecutors ever heard of our guaranteed freedom of speech or of “innocent until proven guilty?” What possible right do they think they have to limit Blago’s appearance on any television or radio show? Granted, television shows taking place outside of the country where there might be a flight risk could be a concern, but that is not the case in this instance. If the former governor thinks it prudent to plead his case to the general public before the trial, that is his prerogative.

I’m wondering if prosecutors have been a bit too sloppy in their prosecution of Blagojevich. They claimed that they had to arrest him before they really wanted to due to the fact that he was about to appoint Obama’s Senate replacement and they didn’t want to allow him to appoint someone who had paid for the position. (In hindsight, that didn’t work out too well, but that’s beside the point). The prosecutor’s prematurity means that they were not ready to proceed quickly with a trial, so a great part of the problem of Blago being able to mouth off so much is due to the length of time between arrest and trial.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that Blagojevich is a slimeball and deserves to be slapped around for his performance as governor. I also lost a lot of respect for WLS-AM when they gave him his own radio talk show and I make it a point to never listen to him rant about politicians doing the same things he did when he was in office (okay, yeah, I listened a little bit once to see what he was about – it made me want to puke). But no matter how reprehensible the man may be, he still is an American citizen whose right to free speech and presumption of innocence should not be denied.

a nobel prize for breathing

So the alarm goes off this morning and I smack the button. A couple of seconds to wake up and then I stumble into the bathroom for my morning ritual. I turn on the radio and sit down where you usually sit in the bathroom. The news comes on. Blah, blah, blah, story, story, story, and then . . . “The Nobel Peace Prize was announced today, and the winner is . . . (news guy inserts appropriate pause here, wherein I try to imagine what buffoon they have chosen this time) . . . Barack Obama.”

Huh? Huh!? HUH!?!? What the hell? Am I not awake yet? Did I really hear him say that? Was that a joke? WTF? No, that can’t be right. No one in their right mind would award a Nobel Peace Prize to someone who has absolutely no accomplishments, no track record, no anything except a fantastic public relations team. Minutes later I learn that it is, indeed, true.

I totally – and I mean completely, 100% – lost all respect for the Nobel Peace Prize when they awarded it to Al Gore and his works of fiction, but I didn’t think they could do any worse. Somehow they have managed. This award is totally beyond my comprehension. Just as with the vast majority of Americans in the last presidential election, I think that the Nobel committee’s vote for Barack Obama was more a vote against George Bush than a vote for Obama. I mean, come on, what the hell could they even have to go on at this point in his presidency?

There is a substantial amount of prize money that goes along with the medal. If Obama has half the commitment to the principles that he espouses, he will contribute all of that money to something like the relief funds for the victims of all the latest earthquakes and tsunamis. It will be interesting to hear what he actually does with the money, but I doubt that we will ever know the truth about that.

As for me, as absolutely remote as the possibility could be, I can think of no greater personal insult than being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. I would, in not very polite terms, tell them where they could stick it, prize money and all. No, on second thought, I would take their money and create a trust fund to provide scholarships for students who are interested in studying the basis of real peace – individual freedom and Capitalism. As for the medal, I have a table with one short leg that needs something under it.

There is a show on HGTV that I really enjoy watching. I guess I’m a little late in getting on board with it. It’s called Holmes on Homes. If I were a young man again I would do everything I could to be working with Mr. Holmes.

Of course, I’m judging the host, Mike Holmes, from the television show, which isn’t always the most intelligent thing to do, but if even one-half of his integrity, knowledge and attitude translate through to real life, then he is rare among men, and a man worth emulating. It is refreshing to see someone who cares about doing a job right.

My father was a man who also believed in doing a job right. Unfortunately, he did not have the teaching skills or patience to deal with a kid who couldn’t do things exactly right the first time. So, from my father I learned both the right way to do things and that I wasn’t very good at doing things the right way.

Regretfully, I also learned his attitude and though I recognized it and fought it, I know that it occasionally revealed itself in the way I related to my wife and my son, as well as the rest of the world. I think that I have this attitude more under control now than I have ever had before in my life. Part of the reason for this is that I only have to look at my screwed up life to see that I have been, and am, far from perfect. On the other hand, seeing how I have screwed up my own life, I can more clearly see how others are making the same mistakes and it really is hard not to say something. In the end, though, I have learned that telling someone how to do something, or what to do, never works and that experience is the best, and often the only, teacher.

no olympics for chicago

Old news by now, but Chicago did not get the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. The winner was Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There are plenty of people willing to take the time to pick apart the reasons why Chicago didn’t get the games, and how the loss will affect Mayor Daley and President Obama. Me? All I care about is that we didn’t the games, and I thank whatever gods that be that it is so.

As a resident in the Chicago area, I am absolutely relieved that I will not have to listen to seven years of reports on Chicago’s Olympic efforts. No news stories about graft, corruption and political influence peddling (well, no more than usual, at least). No stories about the neighborhood disruption that would occur. No stories about all the traffic headaches, both leading up to and during the games. No stories about the mayor thinking he is even hotter shit than usual for personally bringing the Olympic Games to Chicago.

Not only am I relieved not to have to listen to all that, I am relieved that I will not have to live through it. If the Olympics had come to Chicago, business in the city would pretty much have shut down while the games were going on. Traffic would have been a nightmare. Even in the construction phases there would have been such massive disruption of things like public transportation that it would have greatly inconvenienced most of the people living in the areas involved.

As a taxpayer in this state, I am relieved that there is now no chance that I will have to pay for the cost overruns. Nor will I have to listen to reports for the next twenty years wherein every politician blames the 2016 Olympic Games in Chicago for every fault and failure of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. We won’t be dealing with case after case and investigation after investigation of graft and corruption that occurred during the construction of the venues, nor with accusations of same about the actual running of the games. We won’t have to deal with the influx of people looking for work related to the games, nor with the massive unemployment that would follow the end of the games. And finally, we won’t have to deal with the tremendous amount of hassle that would be a result of the necessary increase in security.

Okay, call me a glass half empty kind of guy. I am. And you might as well know that I am not a sports fanatic either. What I am is a person who thinks that all the time, effort and money that was going to be spent on some stupid games would be much better spent on solving some real problems in the City of Chicago. Yeah, like that is going to happen.