Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I love women...

Bethany, 1986
Pencil drawing by Charlton
  I love women. I suppose I'm not unlike most other heterosexual men in this world - or at least in the civilized world - but I tend to believe I take my love of women a step further. It's not just that I love women but rather that I adore them. Always have. I put women on a metaphoric pedestal and in a sense, worship them.
  I freely admit that I'm a chauvinist. Now there are different meanings to the word chauvinism, including the one we all are most familiar with: smug irrational belief in the superiority of one's own sex.* It is, however, another definition of the word that I associate myself with: biased devotion to any group, attitude, or cause.* To me that means I believe in opening doors for women, not letting them carry heavy loads or do manual labor that requires brawn. It also means that I treat them with the same respect I would afford to any man who is worthy of my respect. In my mind it is a mortal sin to raise a hand against a woman, even pretending, to strike her. I tend to be a gentle man but if there were one thing that could drive me to kill another man it would be seeing him strike a woman. There never has been and never will be an instance that could justify a male hitting a woman. Period. If a man finds himself in a position where he is being threatened with violence from a female, well, God gave him two legs to use and run as fast as he can from her. Some might think a man running from a woman is an act of cowardice or humiliating but the truth is to do so would show strength.
  I also believe it is important to teach our children these same principles. When I was married and raising my two boys I made sure they learned and understood the value of never hitting a woman.
  Women are equal to men in many ways and more often than not I believe them to be far superior to men. It has been my observation that generally most women tend to be smarter than men, they are more focused, logical and more patient than men. 
  Obviously I love women for their sexual nature too, but it goes far beyond sex. The Johnny Depp film Don Juan deMarco is a glorious little movie that presents the title characters view of women in a way that could be my own. One line though sums it up nice and succinctly:
By seeing beyond what is visible to the eye. Now there are those, of course, who do not share my perceptions, it's true. When I say that all my women are dazzling beauties, they object. The nose of this one is too large; the hips of another, they are too wide; perhaps the breasts of a third, they are too small. But I see these women for how they truly are... glorious, radiant, spectacular, and perfect, because, I am not limited by my eyesight.
-Don Juan deMarco as portrayed by Johnny Depp
   Though I certainly don't profess to share in Don Juan's success at sexual conquest, I do share in his proclivity to appreciate the fairer sex. It is the way a woman's blouse drapes around her breasts, or the way her evening gown accentuates her hips or her necklace lays against her neck, these are the visions that make manifest a woman's beauty. While a naked woman has her allure, I am inclined to become more sexually attracted to a woman who knows how to wear clothes that accentuate her shape and form. As an example take actress Kate Hudson in two different films. In Fool's Gold there is a beach scene where she is in a bikini which she wears well and looks great in and obviously showing lots of skin. Next consider her appearance in How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days when she appears at her apartment door in a yellow backless dress. The dress accentuates her shape and makes her far more alluring and sexual than the bikini in Fool's Gold. I suppose this concept is why I've always admired the women's fashions of the 40's & 50's.
  Watching women is probably my favorite past-time, so ladies if you see me out and about and I seem to be staring at you, please forgive me - I'm just admiring God's most glorious creation.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Signs for stupid people

  On my way home today I passed a new sign which stated "See the Light, Move to the Right" with a graphic of a head-on view of a fire truck with lights blinking. When I read it, the words just seemed to hit me the wrong way. I'm tired of everything being dumbed down so the stupid people can understand it too. Same goes for the "Click it or Ticket" slogan. I'm tired of it. I mean if people are really so dumb that they can't remember to pull over when they see emergency vehicle lights or if they are so stupid they don't understand that riding without a seat-belt warrants a ticket if you're pulled over, well if people are just that stupid then I don't want them on the same roads with me and they need to have their license taken away! Seriously! If someone is so stupid they have to have signs like that to remind them of the rules of the road then they shouldn't be driving. Then again I suppose I can be thankful I don't live somewhere that the people feel the need to have a sign that tells me not to cross when the cars are still moving. Really? No! You're kidding! I thought the idea was to try and cross the street while the cars are zipping by and try not to get hit in the process.
If you get hit, you lose! I think we should have signs put up that say "Cross Only When Traffic Is Moving" - maybe then we'd get rid of some of the stupid people that are throwing the curve way off and making it necessary to have stupid signs!
  I really think if the government is going to waste our money by putting up stupid signs I'd rather they spent it on magnetic signs people have to put on their car when they do something stupid. Cops and judges could sentence people to drive around with a big magnetic sign on the car door that says "I got this sign because I was STUPID and was texting while driving." Or how about a sign that says "I didn't "Click it" and all I got was this STUPID sign!"
  I guess if we have to have stupid signs though they should also be funny and give us something to laugh about. Like the sign in Europe at a train or subway stop that says "Keep back from the platform edge - or you may get sucked off." Seems to me that one would have everyone lining the edge of the platform!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stereotyping is not a bad thing

  We've all done it. We've all looked at someone else and formed an opinion about them based solely on what we see. Blacks, whites, Jews, old, young, rich, poor, Mexican, Arabic, Muslim, Christian and the list could go on. Stereotyping people is nothing new and chances are pretty damn good you've practiced it several times already today in some shape, form or fashion. Stereotyping is a natural part of our makeup. We take information, be it aural, visual, olfactorily, or tactile or even information from some previous encounter that has embedded itself in our brain, whatever the source - we make decisions based on that information. Stereotyping is not necessarily a bad thing. Using an oft cited example to illustrate, suppose you are walking down a street and a group of leather-clad, rough looking men are hanging out and talking around their motorcycles on one side of the street, but the other side of the street is populated by women pushing babies in strollers, men are dressed in suits and a couple of priests are talking. You have to go down the street on one side or the other. Chances are pretty good you're going to choose the side of the street with the babies, businessmen and priests.The reason you choose that side is stereotyping. It doesn't matter to you that the bikers on the other side of the street are actually gathering at the start of a benefit ride to raise money for a child they don't know who is dying of cancer. You made your decision based on a stereotype.
  Stereotyping is a method of making a judgement based on current knowledge and/or previous experience. That knowledge may be in error OR it could be based on fact. Either way it is playing the percentages. Insurance companies do it every day. You may be the most economical driver in the world and always careful to go the speed limit but the second you shell out the money for that hot new Dodge Challenger or Charger your insurance is going to go through the roof. Why? Because insurance actuaries have stereotyped you as a speed demon eager to do the quarter mile against every car next to you at a stoplight - simply because you are driving a muscle car. It may not be fair but the insurance company is playing the percentages.
  Author Ninos Malek has an excellent article on his blog that illustrates this even better. You can read it here.
  In recent years another form of stereotyping has often made headlines: Racial Profiling. Whenever racial profiling is mentioned it is unfairly heralded as a negative. Truth is though, racial profiling is stereotyping. It shouldn't be seen as racist but as a logical tool in authorities arsenal to prevent crime and terrorism or to catch criminals and terrorists. Sure it can be maddening, even insulting if you're on the receiving end of profiling but in the interest of bringing a criminal to justice or preventing a terrorist act it is more than justifiable. A low-rider Malibu filled with a bunch of tattooed, hairnet wearing Hispanic men cruising slowly through any neighborhood at three o'clock in the morning is a prime target for the police to pull over and question. Why? Because, if the cops were doing their job they would be stereotyping the car full of Hispanics in the interest of public safety. Do those men have the right to be cruising around at 3:00 am? Sure, and after a cursory stop by the police they should be free to continue cruising. Any police officer or other figure in a like position who does not profile - they are not doing their job. When you think about it though, isn't that what the police do every time they parade a line-up in front of a one-way mirror? Yes it is and it should not be vilified.
  At the start of this blog entry I said "Stereotyping is not necessarily a bad thing" and I stand by that statement. What is a bad thing though are people who choose to rely solely on their stereotypical view of something and not be open to additional information which might change their view. These are the bigots of the world - people who are so close-minded about someone or something that they refuse to consider alternative or additional information that might possibly change their perspective or their stereotypical views. Stereotyping is a tool we use to build an opinion. You wouldn't build a house with just a hammer and you shouldn't build an opinion with only one tool.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Bucket List

  We all have one but it took the 2007 Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman film The Bucket List to give an identifying moniker to the list of things we dream of doing before we die or "kick the bucket." The film also did one other thing that I feel is important - it depicted the characters actually writing down their lists not just saying what is on their list. Everyone should have a Bucket List and have it written down and placed somewhere that it is easy to access from time to time. One thing I've learned about a Bucket List over the years is that quite often some things on it will change or seem more or less important. Sometimes things will drop off your list and sometimes you'll add to it. The point of a Bucket List isn't so much to do things as it is to dream about doing them. Don't get me wrong, I think it is important to actually DO the things on your Bucket List but I think it is also very important to keep yourself mentally young by always dreaming about doing the things on the list.
Ice Diving in Antarctica
  So, that being said, here are the dreams that make up my Bucket List.
  1. SCUBA dive the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize.
  2. Travel to Antarctica and do an ice dive.
  3. Travel to Europe and visit The Volkswagen plant and museum in Germany, the Louvre in Paris and kiss a beautiful woman at the top of the Eiffel Tower, take a canal ride Venice and tour Rome, visit the Normandy coast where the allies came ashore on D-Day, tour Athens, Greece.
  4. Sail around the world.
  5. Fly in an open cockpit vintage bi-plane and actually take the controls for a bit myself.
  6. Drive a Model T Ford.
  7. Get cast as an extra in a Hollywood blockbuster.
  8. Ride a motorcycle the entire length of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.
  9. Fly an ultralight aircraft.
  10. Talk about diving, the oceans, and shipwrecks over cigars and tequila with my favorite living author Clive Cussler.
  Obviously some of my dreams are attainable and some I'll have to really work at. Mine aren't in any particular order and I've left a few off that are too personal to share in this forum but I'd be willing to bet you have some interesting ones on your list as well so take a moment and share them with me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

NO excuses! - YOU'RE responsible!

  Aren't you just a little bit tired of people too scared to take responsibility for what they say or do? I know I am. I'm tired of reading in the news about people  who don't take responsibility for the words that come out of their mouth or the actions they get caught in or doing. It seems the more people get caught or called on something the less merit the words of their apologies have. I don't for a second believe most people are truly sorry for what they said or did that caused them to feel they had to apologize. Sure they're sorry they got caught or they're sorry they lose their job or social standing because of what they said or did but I don't believe they are truly sorry for the actual words that came out of their mouth or the actual actions they did.
  Take a look in the news just about any day and you'll find someone apologizing because they were on the hot seat. Look at that congressman Weiner (is it pronounced "weener" like a hot dog or "winer" like a cry-baby? guess either way would be appropriate). The guy was evidently sending "messages and photos of explicit nature with about six women in the last three years"according to CNN.com. That in and of itself isn't so surprising in this day and age but the fact that he is married (to a pretty and exotic looking lady in my opinion) and a member of congress puts him in the frying pan. If those text or emails and pics or whatever it was had not been leaked do you honestly think he'd be apologizing? Now he wants to pull a "Tiger Woods" and seek help. Really? Dude, just own up to being a horn dog and keep on sending the "explicit" pictures and texts cause you know you're only sorry you got caught.
  The fake apologies are running amuk! I don't believe for one second actor Tracy Morgan is sorry for his recent anti-gay remarks, nor do I think Don Imus is sorry for calling the 2007 UCON women's basketball team "nappy-headed ho's." Okay maybe they are sorry they said it but I think they do believe what they said.
  NASCAR is bulging with curt words, sharp tounges and even flying fists and I get sick everytime I hear them apologize for their words or actions. Come on guys! Own what you say! Team owner Richard Childress kinda got it right after going after creep-o Kyle Busch recently. He stopped short of apologizing for going after Busch, instead owning up to his actions saying "I take all the responsibility for my actions last week. I am very passionate about this sport. I am passionate about my race teams, our fans and I let my emotions ... come in front of my passion. But that is behind us." Basically that means he said "hey I did it - now let's move on." We need more men like Childress.
  Now while I've had enough of Charlie Sheen in the news this year I must say that I admire him for not apologizing for leading the life he obviously enjoys. He does the coke, he does several porn stars at the same time - and he enjoys it! So kudo's to Charlie Sheen for NOT apologizing. Are you listening Tiger? Jesse James? Gov. Spitzer? Representative Weener? Come on dudes, grow a pair and man up!
  My whole point behind this litany is that each and every one of us is responsible for the things we do and the things we say. Sure you should apologize if you say or do something wrong but that is only the first step - you also have to follow through and make sure your actions and words are never repeated. Make your apology actually mean something. When you apologize you are responsible for those words of sorrow crossing your lips just as much as you are responsible for the words that made the apology necessary. This much I can tell you... if I say it I mean it and if what I say turns out to be something I regret then you can know my apology is real because I'm responsible for what I say.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Blondes vs Brunettes

Betty and Veronica
A classic example of blonde versus brunette
  I used to have a co-worker who had an affinity for brunette's (though his wife was blonde) and he was fond of saying "there's no net like a brunette." I have likewise held the same general pre-disposition for brunettes during my life. I've only dated a couple of blondes over the years and even though a couple is not really enough to formulate an opinion I must say that they did indeed tend to be more fun. I have long held a theory about blondes and brunettes but mind you this theory in no way seeks to make a statement that one is better than the other, it's just a theory that speaks to the way we are pre-disposed to stereotype blondes and brunettes.
  To understand this theory you have to appreciate the different qualities of dark and light, black and white, night and day. You see, symbolically black represents darkness and in darkness not everything can be known because the darkness hides some things. On the other hand white represents light and with light everything is revealed. So, subconsciously a brunette is seen as mysterious because subconsciously the darkness of her hair represents that which is not know.
  A brunette is often full of surprises since you can't know everything about her. She is often more serious and studious than her light haired counterpart, seeming to weigh and consider all information before making a decision and in turn she is taken more seriously by others. To illustrate this I did a Google image search for "mysterious woman" and of the first 20 images of women all but three were brunette.
  Meanwhile the blonde is seen as an 'open book' because her hair represents that which is revealed because of the light. The blonde has no secrets, she has a light and airy persona, meaning a personality that is more bubbly and vivacious. She is more likely to make snap decisions and deal with the results or consequences later.
  I truly believe the subliminal perception we have of brunettes and blondes is the basis for the stereotypes we have today of these women, especially blondes. I'm sure you're thinking "what about blondes who are naturally brunettes." Well I feel my theory still holds up because a brunette who goes blonde tends to take on more of the persona and traits I've attributed to that hair color. The same goes for blondes who turn brunette.
  I've often said "brunette's are the ones you take home to meet your parents, the ones you build a life with, blondes are the ones you have fun with, the ones you enjoy life with." Neither one is better or worse than the other, they both have their merits, their value, their desirability.
  And then there's the redheads... :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The art of the album

I often lament over the demise of album art when vinyl LP's became, for the most part, a part of history. Sure there is artwork for CD album covers and sometimes those covers even rise to a higher level of design and art. There was always that little something extra though, that magical aura about a well designed vinyl album cover when you saw it in the racks that just screamed at you to be noticed. When you bought a vinyl album you always felt like you got a little more for your hard-earned money because the cover art was so cool you could frame it.
Molly Hatchet's self-titled first album
As a teenager I always loved to drive by Peaches Records & Tapes, a chain of music stores that opened in the mid 70's, but went belly-up in 1985 supposedly because the company didn't believe the future of music was in compact discs. Plastered around the facade of most Peaches stores would be a dozen or so enlarged (four or five foot square) versions of some of the days hottest selling albums - usually rock albums but also pop and country too. These album billboards only served to feed my craving to go into the store, browse and buy the albums. I still get a thrill thinking about seeing Molly Hatchet's first album cover featuring the artwork of Frank Frazetta hanging outside the store bigger than life.
The Car's - Candy-O
With the advent of CD technology the vinyl album industry all but disappeared and the wonderfully designed cover art genre with it. But it isn't forgotten. I've taken to rummaging thrift stores, yard sales, used record stores and even friends "boxed up and forgotten" album collections in pursuit of albums which represent either music I grew up with or the masterful artwork of the covers I so love. Art supply stores such as Michael's sell vinyl album display frames that allow me to put the entire album cover in it and hang on my walls as decor. They even sell a smaller display specifically designed for compact disc covers which I use to display the CD albums of some of my music friends. I suppose one of my all-time favorite album covers I own would have to be the Cars 1979 classic Candy-O which features a painting by famed pin-up artist Vargas of a woman (the real models name was actually Candy) stretched back on the hood of a Ferrari. Other favorites I have include Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, Heart's Little Queen, the Beatles Introducing the Beatles and left coast rockers the Blaster's self-titled album.
I'm also on the hunt for a few albums as well. Two of Humble Pie's albums - As Safe As Yesterday Is and On To Victory, the iconic Eagles album Hotel California, Frank Zappa's Weasels Ripped My Face, three Rolling Stones albums - Beggar's Banquet, Some Girls and Sticky Fingers, Roxy Music's Country Life, Supertramp's Breakfast in America, Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell, the previously mentioned Molly Hatchet album and two additional Beatles albums - both are my Holy Grail's of sorts - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the butcher cover version of Yesterday and Today. There are others, of course, on my wish list which will likely never be fulfilled but then the search is part of the fun.

The Beatles
Yesterday and Today
(The butcher cover)
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts
Club Band
Frank Zappa
Weasels Ripped My Flesh
Bat Out Of Hell
Humble Pie
On to Victory
Humble Pie
As Safe As Yesterday Is
The Rolling Stones
Beggars Banquet
The Rolling Stones
Some Girls

Roxy Music
Country Life

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Things my father taught me

Chief Oliver Wendell Wiggins
It was tax day in 1991 - April 15th, which also happened to be my parent's 30th anniversary, but in that particular year it was also a very sad day, the day my father passed away. It's hard to believe that I have had nineteen Father's Days since then without a father to say happy Father's Day to. But as the 20th Father's Day without him is upon me I thought I might honor him in a special way - with this blog entry to examine some of what he taught me.
  1. Never cry over a lost ball game. I was only about 10 when I learned this lesson. I was playing little league football and my team lost an important game. I remember walking to the car with my parents after the game and I was crying about our loss. My father stopped me and told me that it was just a game and every game has a winner and a loser and no one wins every single time. I suppose that didn't help me any and still sobbing he added "If you can't lose with grace then you can't play at all." I don't know how long it took for that lesson to actually sink in and become a part of me but it did. I'm still an avid sports fan but to this day I've never shed a tear over a lost ball game (though I have shed many at the triumph of others in games such as the 1980 Olympic hockey team win over the Soviet Union, or Cal Ripkin's triumph the night he broke Lou Gehrig's longevity record).
  2. You'll get out of it what you put into it. My dad was a career Navy man during a time (the 70's) when it seemed low morale was rampant in the military and especially in the Navy. Dad enjoyed the Navy life. He had completed most of his sea duty by the time we were stationed in Guantanamo Bay when I was eight years old. It always seemed that the other Navy personnel we came in contact with were continually moaning and groaning about their enlistment or the job they had to do. My dad on the other hand chose to focus on the positive - he had a steady job, his work let him travel the world (during his sea duty days), he had free medical and dental care for him and his family, low cost groceries, gas and merchandise (when we bought them on base), and many more perks. But I'll always remember one day as an arrogant bratty kid how I told him I thought the Navy was a terrible job (it had to be with so many others claiming how bad it was), he simply replied "You get out of it what you put into it." Over time that lesson stuck with me. If I do something half-assed, then I can only expect a sub-par result.
  3. Always respect your elders. This is a lesson that seems lost on today's world. People older than you, no matter if it's a year or 90 years - deserve your respect simply for the fact that they have the advantage of experience over you. That doesn't mean everyone who is older is always right, but it does mean that when they are wrong you don't belittle them for their error. I came from the end of a generation which believed children should NEVER talk back to an adult. This lack of respect for others is one of the most demoralizing aspects of the world we live in today, a world where older means weaker and the arrogance of the younger towards the older is applauded. To this day I say "yes sir, no sir" and "yes mam, no mam" to anyone older than me and I'll even say it to those younger if they show they deserve the respect.
  4. If you catch it, you clean it. I love to fish, but I don't particularly enjoy scaling, gutting and cleaning the fish I catch. I also don't want to clean yours. Growing up in Cuba and along the east coast we enjoyed going fishing quite a bit and whatever we caught we cleaned and took home and ate. What didn't get eaten immediately was put in the freezer to eat later. I remember learning from my father how to clean a fish, quite a simple process actually, but after he taught me how he expected my brother and me clean our own as well as any my mother caught (I guess he figured girls shouldn't clean fish). I suppose he regretted teaching me this lesson later when I was a teenager and he came home one morning after being out on the Chesapeake Bay all night fishing with a friend and unloaded almost a hundred fish and promptly woke my brother and me up and told us to clean them (the reason why he couldn't do it eludes me now). I don't recall what my reaction was to having to clean "his" fish but I do recall giving him grief about it every time we had fish for a long time, making sure he knew just who cleaned all them damn fish!
  5. God, Family and Country - in that order! This is one lesson my father taught me more by example than words. He was a family man who went to work for his country every day and every Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday night made sure we were at church. We didn't eat without a prayer being said first. He never raised his hand at my mother and any serious arguments with her would be behind closed doors out of our earshot (unless we pressed our ears to the door). He made sure we were never lacking in food, clothes, transportation, education, medical care, having a roof over our head or having time to recreate. When the national anthem was played he stood at attention with his hand over his heart or if he was in his Navy uniform he would salute the flag until the anthem finished. He had pride in his God, his family and his country.
These are just a few of the lessons my father taught me. He was a stern, sometimes rigid man. If he had an earthly idol it would have been Star Trek's Spock because everything Spock did was logical and done after careful contemplation of all the available facts and information. That was my dad. When he died we hadn't spoken for at least a year, I suppose he could never bring himself to understand my nature of living by emotion rather than logic and I found it easier to just keep a distance. That distance became insurmountable when he passed away and not a day goes by that I don't regret it and miss him very much. In my memories I can still smell his aftershave as I hugged him the day he left me at college. My dad was a man among men. I may not follow his example and the lessons he taught me to the letter but they have helped to shape who I am. I love you dad and wish you were still with us.