Thursday, April 30, 2009

Senior discount

A few years ago I was in a store and when I made my purchase the young woman behind the cash register asked me, "Are you 55 or over, because we have a senior discount." At the time I wasn't 55 but my beard, which went white early on, has made me look mature. In other words, my mind is immature, my face isn't.

"Sure, I'm over 55." I got 10% off my purchase.

I was asking for my senior discount at that store for a couple of years, even after I was officially "55 or over." My wife, Sally, wouldn't ask because she was embarrassed. When it comes to saving 10% I have no pride. There came a day when I said, "I'd like my senior discount, please," and the clerk answered, "We discontinued that practice."

"Say what?"

"Yes, there are just too many people over 55."

Aha! Ageism. Geezer discrimination. Unfair! I'll sue!

Well, no I won't, but I'll go somewhere else to get that discount.

There are an awful lot of us Baby Boomers who are hitting an age, aren't there? We made for a bulge in the population since the late 1940s that is still being dealt with. I read a letter in my local newspaper the other day where a young woman was complaining that "the older people" are going to suck the Social Security system dry, leaving her nothing.

So we "older people," who are here because our dads fought World War II and came home horny, conspired with our moms to make millions of babies, who worked 40-45 years of our lives supporting our grandparents' and parents' generations with Social Security are now a bunch of leeches on the system. Gee, young woman, I'm sorry if I'm getting what I earned over four decades of labor, but I can just about guarantee that unless our economy goes into total collapse, and at that stage there won't be any Social Security for us Baby Boomers either, your generation will get theirs.

Social Security may undergo some changes, some drastic, but it will be there in one form or another. It is a program where workers work all their lives thinking there will be something for them when they're eligible and when someone talks about changes the workers get testy and start making really loud noises in Washington. It doesn't hurt that AARP, which is an organization for older folks like the NRA is for gun owners, is a powerful and vocal lobby.

I liked the ad that was in my mailbox today. "Don't forget my SENIOR DISCOUNT!" I worked hard; I deserve it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oboy! Something new to worry about!

This past week a couple of stories have surfaced that have captured public attention. The latest is the swine flu story. The old fears of a flu pandemic, like the one in 1918 that killed millions, have popped up, prompting a lot of anxiety. Right now the deadliest cases seem to be in Mexico. As I write this the Center for Disease Control says 40 people in the U.S. have swine flu.

Forty people out of 300+ million people, and panic is already setting in. It reminds me of the SARS scare in 2003 or the first swine flu scare in 1976. Every day in our country heart disease, strokes and cancer take thousands of lives. You can leave your driveway and get killed in your car. We have a lot of things to worry about but we have chosen to let the flu story take over our minds. We do this to ourselves all the time. It's like the real killers in our society have gotten boring to us so we have to come up with new things to scare ourselves.

The other story is the so-called Craigslist killer story. My wife asked, and rightly so, why this is big news when people are getting murdered every day.

For some reason this story with a tall pre-med student killing a photogenic prostitute has gotten big play everywhere. Why? Once again, have routine murders, rapes, robberies gotten so boring we have to spend the national attention on this story?

A few years ago there were stories about sharks attacking swimmers and they got a lot of play on television news. For me, who doesn't swim in the ocean, there was a threat level of zero that I'd get attacked by a shark. It's the same with most of the people in this country. A psychiatrist got on National Public Radio to talk about why we take these stories and run with them: It's because they're sexy. It's much more fun to worry about a shark attack than getting cancer or having a heart attack. It's more scary to think that we can catch the flu from just going out in public and having someone cough on us than to it is to think of what our fat intake is doing to our arteries.

There is one good thing about these stories. We are no longer looking at last month's obsession, the Octomom. That's worth a few scares from network news right there.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In Treatment

Every Sunday and Monday Sally and I watch HBO's In Treatment, which presents 25-minute episodes of therapy sessions with a cast of patients. It takes place mostly in the office of Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne), as he works to help people. The problem is that Dr. Weston has as many problems as his patients.

We think the acting is uniformly excellent. We also know a little bit about therapy, since we've both been through it. I don't think it hurts to talk to a professional, especially when a person has issues he can't talk about with family members or friends. Or frankly, when we're too close to the problem and need a fresh perspective.

In 1995 my boss drove me to the tipping point. I finally went into therapy with Brenda, who I visited for five years, working through a number of issues. Sally visited Brenda, also, and was helped. So when Sally and I watch In Therapy, we're familiar with some of things we're hearing. The shows are dramatic, not reality TV, so there are arcs to the stories there wouldn't be in real life. Some of what I'm familiar with is how resistant some people are to hearing the truth. They go into therapy wanting to be validated in what they are doing. When the therapist suggests something else they first reject it as if they are being attacked. If they're smart they'll listen and think about it, and many times discover the professional is correct.

My first sessions with Brenda were tense. I didn't know what to expect and she was trying to draw out of me what she needed to know. A year or more later when I had shown substantial progress she told me the first couple of times she talked to me, "You scared me. You were so paranoid* and scary I didn't think I could continue with you." That shocked me down to my shoelaces. Say what...? Me scary? She thought I was on the edge. Edge of what? Going postal? Nope, that's not me, and she found that out. We developed a rapport. We both worked hard and we had results.

So both Sally and I know enough about the subject to be dangerous. We now recognize people with disorders we're familiar with from therapy. I couldn't sit someone in a chair and tell them how to fix their problems, but I can recognize their problems and give my diagnosis, "Man, you're all screwed up. See a shrink."

Anyway, In Treatment is excellent drama with great acting.

*Hence the name of this blog.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My guilty pleasure

I have watched the first two episodes of the CBS Thursday night slasher-TV drama, Harper's Island. If you aren't familiar with it, Harper's Island is a mystery series that will end after 13 episodes.

There have been two episodes of Harper's Island and so far five people have been killed. The way people die in this show is why I think of it as slasher-TV. They all die in gruesome and horrible ways, just like in an R-rated slasher movie. With the popularity of the CSI franchises and all of the creative ways people die on those shows, not to mention the stomach churning scenes of corpses and autopsies, we've become more desensitized to violent death on TV. The movies have been doing it for 40 years, and now TV has caught up to the perversity of it all.

The basic premise of Harper's Island is that a whole wedding party descends on the island "37 miles off the coast of Seattle, Washington." Henry Dunn is marrying rich girl, Trish Wellington, and they invite all their friends, who so far number a couple of dozen as far as I can tell. Trish's dad is there as is her univited ex-boyfriend, Hunter.

Henry Dunn is played by Christopher Gorham, a young actor who had a big role in Ugly Betty as Betty's boyfriend, also named Henry, Henry Grubstick. (Maybe Henry changed his hairstyle, took off his glasses and changed his last name, then met Trish.) For some reason Gorham just doesn't look like a guy who would attract a rich girl, but then I don't know what those guys look like. They don't look like me, either.

The star of the series is Elaine Cassidy, a really fine young actress. She's yet another in a long, long string of people with accents who play Americans, and talk better American than us Americans. Is this a fad of some sort? To hire Australians or Brits, or in Ms. Cassidy's case, Irish, and train them how to speak American English?

Cassidy plays Abby, a girl who grew up on Harper's Island, who knew Henry when he was a working stiff (oops, maybe 'stiff' is the wrong word) on the island during summers. Her estranged dad is the police chief (or the whole police department, since so far he's the only cop we've seen). Several years before when Abby was a child her mom was killed in grisly fashion by serial killer John Wakefield and in turn Abby's dad killed him. But now that the wedding party is on the island the killings have started again.

The fishmarket isn't the only place on Harper's Island where I pick up a piscatorial odor. There are enough red herrings being dragged all over the place to fill San Francisco Bay.

Anyway, even with the gory murders I have a terrible guilty pleasure, enjoying this show as entertainment. According to an article about the series, it's a mix of Scream and the novel by Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None. The killer in And Then There Were None was extremely clever in his engineering of the murders, and when I read it as a junior high student I enjoyed the hell out of the book. But that was before I fully understood how we as a species regard death as something we want to see. At least in fantasy form, that is. When it happens to real people it's a tragedy, when it happens on a TV show or a movie it didn't really happen, so we can excuse it. It's sick, but it's the way we are and have been forever. I'm sure when our stone age ancestors were sitting around a fire at night the storyteller of the group was regaling them with tales of death, how Og, Son of Fire got bashed in the head and had his brains eaten, and everyone around the campfire know, like prehistoric horror movies.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Take a chill pill, Dr. Phil!

Dr. Phil was going on yesterday on his TV show with some parents about their children and the "sexting" phenom. That's the one where kids take pictures with their camera phones of themselves nude, or of their genitals and then send them on. The problem is that the person for whom it is intended may send it on, causing a ripple effect. One young girl who had done this was interviewed and told by Dr. Phil she had done a "dumb thing" but it did not make her a "bad person."

Wow, Dr. Phil, do you live in a bubble? These sorts of self-pics are all over the Internet and I strongly suspect, based on what I found just this morning on a site devoted to exhibitionists, that these girls don't have any problems at all showing themselves, and would like the rest of us to see, also! Of course they're not bad people, they're good people! It's just that I may have a slightly different idea of "good."

I'm all for people being over 18 in order to post these things online, and the site I accessed claims that everyone in these pics is over 18, so I'm not sending out anything illegal. With a couple of exceptions I stayed away from total nudity or pictures of girls "pleasuring themselves" (a term I heard on Oprah a couple of days ago). But I think you get a strong message from what these girls are showing us: they like their bodies, they are happy with themselves, and by golly, they'd like us to know it! Who am I to pretend I know best for these fine young women? I would like to publicly thank them--and the makers of digital cameras and for the Internet and entrepreneurs who know for everyone who likes to show off their body, there are 10 people who like to look at it--for making these pictures of themselves available.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Our two grandgeniuses

Sally and I love being grandparents. My son, David, is a good dad, he's in a good marriage and has a couple of great kids, both girls. Bella was 4 in December, and Gabby will be 3 at the end of June. Bella is very smart, and by having her precedent to guide her, Gabby is ahead of the curve for her age.

One of the things about grandkids is you get to hear funny stories and I love to share. Recently David sent me a note saying that he got out his digital camera only to discover that Bella had taken some pictures. That wouldn't be a big deal, but he had shown her once how the timer worked, so she set up the camera on the coffee table, set the timer, and took pictures of herself and her sister. David also tells these stories about the pair:

The girls didn't want anything to do with the Easter bunny when they saw him at the mall. When I told them that the Easter bunny was coming to bring them stuff (to make them act good), they kept asking me if the Easter bunny would stay outside and not come in our house. I had to assure them that the Easter bunny would knock on the door while they were sleeping and give Mommy and Daddy the treats, but NOT come in the house!

They're both starting to develop their own personalities. Gabby is going to be the class clown, and is more extroverted. Bella is like me, and introverted, but thinks about things logically. I don't know if I told you, but we bought them a little table and chair set. It had to be put together. When I put the chairs together, I let Bella help me screw in the screws. Now, one of her favorite things to do is get the screwdriver and take apart the little chair and put it back together. It's only four screws, but just like the camera, you can show her once, and she remembers. Maybe she'll be an Engineer, whereas Gabby could be a lawyer-type.

Gabby won't take no for an answer, and she figures out ways to barter for what she wants. Sometimes she gets what she wants, because she makes a good case. One example, on Easter, we gave them chocolate. We let them only have a certain amount. Gabby found an extra piece of chocolate, and we told her that she had to wait until tomorrow because it was too late. Bella would have said okay and gave us the chocolate back. Gabby, on the other hand, tried to make a deal with us and said, "It's OK, just let me hold it. I'll keep it safe, and I won't let anyone eat it!". We ultimately got it back, because her attention span is still shorter than ours.

See what I mean?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What the hell are you thinking, people?

I had one of those nude-in-public dreams last night. In the first part of the dream my brother Rob and I are trying to pitch a script idea to a producer. I'm nude, but no one seems to notice. In the second part of the dream, still nude, I'm heading to the cash register at a restaurant. My wife says, "Do you have the check?" I say, "Look at me. Do I look like I'm keeping the check somewhere?" When we leave the restaurant I remember feeling sorry for the other patrons who had to look at me.

Some people make these nude dreams come true! The Internet is a place where, with a bit of looking, you can find amateur sites where exhibitionists can send in pictures of themselves, in lingerie, nude, having sexual intercourse, performing oral sex, bondage, you name it!

The sky is the limit when it comes to debauchery and compromising one's self.

Despite that, the site I am referencing has rules: No pictures of menstrual pads or blood, no stool, and no kids under 18. Well, at least they have some rules, because they don't have any rules against people making fools of themselves.

Here are some pictures I've culled off that site. It'll be nameless. I don't want to get sued by them. The people in these pictures can't sue me for public defamation because they've already defamed themselves.

Many of the folks blur their faces, crop off their heads (in the photos, not literally), wear masks or otherwise disguise themselves.

Some should disguise themselves.

Other people seem proud to be showing their goods to the world.

Did I mention the guys who like to dress up?

Some day I might see you on this site, but you'll never see me. God bless the Internet and its endless entertainment.

Monday, April 06, 2009

I did a double take when I saw this Macy's ad last week in my local newspaper. Welcome back 1960s!

That dress looks a lot like dresses my wife wore in 1969, the year we got married. Forty years later time has reversed itself and we are revisiting the '60s.

I think the skirt could be a little bit shorter. I remember them as shorter, or maybe it's just my feverish imagination. Life published some mini-skirt pictures in the '60s, not all of which are represented on their photo website. But this is one I remember from the time.

Yesterday Sally and I watched CBS Sunday Morning with a segment on the musical Hair, which is making another run at Broadway. The creators of Hair aren't the hippies they were 40 years ago, but the play looks like it's going to be a hit all over again. This time it will not only be playing for people my age, but their kids and grandkids. The kids can turn to their parents and say, "And you criticized me for being a punk?" The grandkids can say, "Jeez, and you think I'm weird!"

There's a movie coming up on the Chicago 7. If you don't remember Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, John Froines, Rennie Davis and Tom Weiner, (and Bobby Seale, who made them originally the Chicago 8) then you'll get a chance to see what we saw on the news every night as we followed their trial.

A few years ago I started noticing the boys in high school sprouting hair; they went through a short hair period, then the unruly hair started popping up on more and more young guys. It looked like the same moptop hairdos we tried to grow in the early '60s when the Beatles took us by storm in America, and that our parents and school administrators fought so hard. This time the boys grew their hair out the universal reaction was so what? Nowadays everywhere you go you see people with long hair. It doesn't look as radical now because we've had almost 50 years to get used to it.

In the 1960s rebellion was mixed with fashion. Long hair made a statement. Now it's just fashion. Now that I look like a square old man looking bemusedly upon young men with mushroom hairstyles and girls with skirt hems up to their bums, that the tables have turned. I am now what the older generation was at that time looking at us.