Bellbottom Blog

Scratching A Writing Itch From Time To Time

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

RNC Recap

The balloons have dropped and Clint Eastwood has been led away to a quiet room.

Let’s recap the convention.


It rained so they cancelled DAY ONE.

You might say to yourself, “Isn’t the event held inside?”

Yes, it is!

“Then why cancel?”

I think they realized there wasn’t enough material for a four day extravaganza, so they used the excuse of a hurricane coming within a couple of hundred miles to cancel the first day. Jam everything into three days.  or as some might call it, stuff 4 pounds of crap in a three pound sack.


Now we get to the good stuff.  There will be speeches and music.

About that music.  The band is being led by G.E. Smith a former SNL band member.  This must be part of the job creation effort that the Romney-Ryan ticket is crowing about. Only 11,999,999 to go before they reach their goal of  12 million.

It’s a great gig for G.E. Smith though.  Republicans are notoriously unable to keep time to music so he fits like a glove.

There were 51 different speakers on DAY TWO.  51. Now we here at the Bellbottom Blog, as you well know, do a minimum of research for these type of posts, so there is no way we listened to all 51 speeches.

We guess that most of them had some small difference of opinion with how the current president does his job.

Later that night, Ann Romney came out to give a speech.

She was supposed to humanize her husband, whatever that means.

Her story of their life together was mildly interesting.  Left out of the narrative was all of the different times family money helped them out during their younger days as a married couple. Lots of money.  Not a twenty here or there. LOTS OF MONEY

I am glad they had it.  I wish they would stop saying they understand the struggles of average families. Most average families don’t have a jar full of rainy-day stocks to sell when things get tight.

Then, Chris Christie took the stage.  The Governor of New Jersey.

His speech was so rousing, MTV cancelled the Jersey Shore program the next day. (true fact) (not saying one had to do with the other, but?)

He was giving the keynote speech.  His job was to talk about Mitt Romney.  Seventeen minutes into it, he did mention the nominee. Eventually, either he ran out of speech or just got hungry.  That ended DAY TWO.


Seventeen speakers were on tap for this day.

I believe the roll call of states also went on.

Tim Pawlenty turned his spot into a Night at the Improv moment proving once again that Republicans have no discernible sense of humor.

For example,” The President has created a lot of jobs……for golf caddies.”

See, the Timster is saying that the President plays a lot of golf. Instead of working. See?

Sen. John McCain bitched in his charming way about everything that has gone on since he got trounced by 8.5 million votes four years ago.

He wants to start wars every damn place.  And now!  Cranky and bitter.

Mike Huckabee landed a prime time spot.  He doesn’t care for the President either it seems.  I think that is an underlying theme here.

I thought Condi Rice, the former Bush Secretary of State, was going to get the prize for speech of the night.  She left out a couple of things. 9/11 happened on her watch.  Iraq didn’t have WMD’s like she promised. But it was a busy eight years, who can remember every little thing.

No, the speech of the night was from Paul Ryan.

Paul is a special kind of politician.  Even though he knows that any story he tells will be fact checked, that doesn’t matter to him.  He tells it anyway and if you don’t like it, too bad.

The Janesville, Wi. G.M. plant story is one that I am familiar with.

Because, in the mid-eighties, my hometown of Fort Wayne was reeling from losing an International Harvester plant.  General Electric was shipping jobs to Mexico. The area needed a big employer to come in and right the ship.

Along comes General Motors.

They needed a new truck plant.

So a spot is found for them outside of the city.  A new and improved interstate highway interchange is built for them.  Utilities are extended to the land where the plant will go.  Tax deferments are granted to make the move more palatable.

Did I mention this was done with Government money?  Yep, taxpayers money was used for every inch of this transaction.

Who lost when this happened?  Janesville. They started losing business in 1986 until G.M. closed up operations in Dec. 2008 when except for a skeleton crew the last 1200 workers were laid off.

Even someone writing for Fox News called Mr. Ryan a liar.

But that wasn’t the best part.  This is when he moved into another dimension as a phony.  He started talking about his mom. At just the right moment during an applause line, he wiped a pretend tear from each eye and then proceeded without a crack in his voice.  Everybody knows when you do the fake tear thing, a slight break  in your voice sells it.  Watch old Bill Clinton tapes, Paul.

Let’s just move on from this unpleasantness and proceed to …….


Twelve speakers on tap for this big finish.

You will notice, despite all the chatter to the contrary, Donald Trump doesn’t make an appearance at the convention.

Fortunately for the Twitterverse, Clint Eastwood showed up with an empty chair.  He started talking to the chair and Twitter went BATSHIT CRAZY!  What is he doing?  Who let him up there?  It was one of the funniest stretches of time I have experienced on Twitter since I started on it.

Parody accounts sprang up immediately.

This was supposed to be the big lead- in for Mitt Romney.  It looked like the old reporter sketch Bill Hader does on SNL.

When Mitt came out, he looked to me like he had been crying.  I have seen that look on the faces of disappointed  kids.  When the big day doesn’t go as you planned.  But Mitt plowed through his speech.

It was a recap of almost everyone else’s speeches.  Sprinkled with just enough lies to keep the base happy.

Well, the show ended with a lot of people on the stage.  G.E. Smith playing Living In America, the old James Brown song.

If there was dancing, the networks were kind enough to spare us the sight.

The polls will tell us if the convention moved the needle.

Next week, the Democrats have their turn.

Then we are just a few debates and a couple of months away from Election Day.

Make sure if you are going to vote that you have registered.  If you have moved you have got to update your information.  If you are reading this from overseas…..thanks for reading this far.






Shots Fired

The other day, in New York City, police responded to those words in front of the Empire State Building.

A disgruntled former employee shot to death his former co-worker on the sidewalk in broad daylight.

Police came running and in a confrontation that lasted mere seconds killed the gunman and wounded nine passersby.

I am not going to criticize the police in this matter.  They did what they are trained to do.  The bad guy was killed before he could harm anyone else.

My observation leads me in a slightly different direction.

Gun advocates, after any shooting, always say,”If someone had a gun, the shooter would have been stopped.”

Well, look at what happened with well trained police officers.  They weren’t able to limit their spray of bullets to just one person.  Adrenaline is a tricky thing.  We have seen too many movies where the bullets land in exactly the right spots.  Those officers went from a normal patrol to the deadliest situation they would ever face.  Most police officers go their entire careers without pulling their weapon during their shift.

More civilians with guns is not the answer to shootings like this one or the movie theater one, or the temple one, or ….on and on.


A Story (Not A Funny One)

With all the debate going on about Congressman Akin’s unbelievably stupid comments, I find it depressing to see that after an initial bi-partisan agreement that he should go away, people are defending him.

Even tonight on Letterman, Dave said something along the lines of this:  Should we run off anyone who says something dumb?

I think:  Yes.  Hell yes.  People in political office should be held to a certain standard or face the consequences.  And this wasn’t not knowing how a grocery store scanner works or not being able to spell potato. He was talking about, to use his words, “legitimate rape”.

First of all, there is no such thing.  As the president said, and as any thinking human knows, “rape is rape”.

So, here is a story that I had not thought of in years.  If you are looking for something funny, today is not the day here.

When I was a young bachelor, I was sharing a town house with another bachelor in the mistaken notion that we could live cheaper that way.  It was an experiment that didn’t last long.

Anyway, one of our neighbors across the parking lot was a family of three my roommate knew.  They were young.  I think they had only been married for a couple of years and they had a one year old son.

They were great with us. Always asking how we were doing.  Inviting us over when they had a party.  Wonderful folks.

Then this happened:

It was a warm night.

The wife was resting on the couch in their living room with her son on her chest.

Her husband was upstairs sleeping.

She had left the patio door open to let the night breeze come through the screen.

Suddenly, a man with a knife came through the patio door.

He told her of his intentions as she clutched the baby tight.

Somehow, her husband woke up, sensing something was wrong, and then hearing a strange voice downstairs.

He jumped out of bed and ran down to see a living nightmare.  His wife and baby threatened by an intruder.

Everyone in the house was screaming as the two men fought in the room.

Across the parking lot, I heard the commotion and ran to the door to see where it was coming from.

By this time, the fight had spilled out into the lot.  I could see two shadowy figures running across the parking area. The second one yelled to me that this man had attacked his wife.

So, I took off running after the two of them.  As I got to the end of the building, the husband was coming back holding his arm.  He had been cut in the struggle.  He went back to the house and I proceeded to look a little more for the man but he had disappeared back into the night.

The guy was never found.  The family moved out that night.  He said she just couldn’t go back.

Around a year or so later, I ran into them.

He was his usual joking self.  But she was quite different.

She looked dazed, reticent, shattered.

The assault had taken something away from her.  We all live with a  hope that we will be safe in our lives, especially in our own homes.  To lose that feeling was devastating for her.

As I said, this is a story that I hadn’t thought about in years.  But when I hear the almost casual use of the word rape and watch as one guy after another tries to bail out the Congressman, it just makes me sick.

Thanks to the husband’s intervention, the incident was an assault not a rape.  And I am sure a right winger would be quick to point that out to me.

I just think the ease in which some public figures gloss over things like rape, assault, womens’  rights, needs to be addressed from time to time.

And men need to call out their own.

So I wrote this.



Friday Potpourri Vol. 16

I am starting this a half an hour before Friday officially starts.

I have managed to get into a couple of Twitter arguments this week about the Olympics.  You know I try to avoid that sort of thing on Twitter.  140 characters isn’t usually enough to make a point without just going to some sort of snarky slapdown.

The problem started with a runner named Lolo.  She was predicted to win gold in her event.  Magazine covers and the usual fawning bio by NBC were done to a fare-thee-well.  Problem is she came in fourth.  Fourth is not something to be ashamed of, but you don’t get a medal for it either.

The hype machine is then faced with a dilemma.  Drop her, which is an admission that they backed the wrong person, or, keep promoting her and hope that no one notices the difference after a while.

I couldn’t resist sticking my nose into a thread that was arguing just these points.

My thought was,”I didn’t get a medal either.  Will I get a limo to the Today show or a Wheaties box first?”

I was told that I had no idea how hard she had worked.  And aspersions were cast about my own physical fitness. Ouch.

My point was and still is, if you want to keep supporting her, fine, just don’t forget about the three medalists that came in before her.

Actually I have a bigger problem with the whole thing.

We tell kids to work hard and maybe they can be in the Olympics or professional athletes.  Bela Karolyi was screaming at the screen, telling little girls to “Run to the gym.  Be like this kiddo.” after the Gabby Douglas gold medal performance.

I have coached young kids and watched them slowly come to the realization that the dream they have isn’t going to work out.  It can be heartbreaking to see.

But let’s say you have beaten the odds.  You have just won a Olympic medal in an event you have worked very hard for.  Certainly you expect the cameras and adulation to follow. You look around and everyone is with the fourth place finisher.  You wake up the next day and the fourth place girl is on the Today show whining about how unfair her life is.  You look at the medal that you slept with, such was your excitement.  But things feel strange.  That feeling is what happens when you get in the way of the hype machine.  It will run you over to continue on its way.

In music news, Ken (@lahikmajoe) is trying to turn Hank Williams songs into polka numbers.  I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry was the song in question. I haven’t been able to get the potential sound of that out of my head, so I decided to pass it along here.  You are welcome.

In the weather news, we finally got some rain last weekend.  Unfortunately we got a lot of wind with it.  Did you know that two months of no rain can turn the inside of a tree into toothpicks?  When the big wind comes, the trees snap.  We lost the middle section of the tree in our front yard.  It took two trips to the dump to get rid of all the debris.  Some neighbors thought the garbage men would this stuff up.  But whoever worked out the contract for garbage pickup did a wonderful job of easing the burden for the guys.  Two cans per household and that is it.  No extra. Not a bag and certainly no tree debris.

Thing is, I like going to the dump.  When we were in Fort Wayne, I had occasion to go quite a bit, mostly landscaping.  Sometimes just clearing the garage of crap we no longer needed.  My son and I liked the challenge of filling the back of the pickup so that nothing would fall out.  Some people would just strap the load down.  Not us.  That was the easy way.  We approached it like a reverse form of Jenga.

Well, let’s leave it here for now.

Be good.



School Days

We have just entered August and school is starting up all over the country.

I was talking with @francoisome, who has a blog called Muse-ings (it is on the Blogroll to the right), about school starting so early.

She is a teacher and we started talking about how school used to be.  It would start after Labor Day and end by Memorial Day.  Three glorious months for kids to play, explore, maybe even read.  Vacation with the family. Time to be a kid.

I really think that time is important for children, but I am not in charge.  So school starts earlier and runs later.  Scores don’t show any noticeable improvement. And let’s be clear, teachers these days are increasingly stuck with teaching to the test in some parts of the country.

Let’s go back a few years.  Okay almost 50 years.

I went to Catholic grade school.  Sacred Heart, to be exact. Mostly nuns for teachers.  Just a few lay teachers.

Remember what the first day of school was like.

You were loaded down with new school supplies.  Wearing your best school clothes. The girls had uniforms. White shirts and plaid skirts.  Nervous and anxious at the same time.

What was the teacher going to be like?  Who am I sitting in front of ? The room seems so big.  I miss home.

We were usually put in alphabetical order.  Which meant you could stare at the back of the same head for eight years.

Everything had that first day of school smell to it.

It would take a few days to settle into a routine.

After we got to the room and attendance was taken, we lined up at the door and walked to church.  Prayer and education go hand in hand.  There are no atheists in foxholes or at test time. The mass in the first few years was still done in Latin.

Remember learning how to print and then write?  Going from those big red pencils to real No. 2 pencils.

Learning addition and subtraction. Flash cards.

Nuns were , let’s say, focused when it came to teaching.  There wasn’t a lot of extra time for goofing around.  And punishment was swift and sure.

If you were called on, you had to stand. If you didn’t know the answer, you could be standing for a while just to let it sink in that attention must be paid.  It was an effective method.

Not to say that we didn’t learn other things too.  Every swear word I know today was taught by my classmates.  How to take the ink liner out of a Bic pen and turn it into a spitball weapon.

Sacred Heart used to have a carnival once a year during school.  Half the school would spend the morning out with the rides, games and they eben brought ponies for us to ride.  The other half would gather in the school basement and watch a movie.  The only one I remember was Knute Rockne: All-American.  The nuns cried and cried during the “Win one for the Gipper” speech.

Late in my fifth grade year, we moved to a new house in a different parish.  We finished the school year out at Sacred Heart. Said goodbye to friends.  Very sad times.

St. Henry’s was the next stop.  It was within walking distance.  About a quarter of a mile.  Unless my kids read this some day, then it was 5 miles uphill both ways as Bill Cosby says.

It was pretty much the same at the new school.  Except that we were moving into the late ’60’s.

A guitar was used at mass.

One of the music teachers,Sister Bonaventure  allowed us to listen to Simon and Garfunkel. Sounds of Silence.  Trust me, that was a VERY big deal back then.

I was never an altar boy, but in eight grade I was a crossing guard.   We wore bright orange belts with a strap  that went over one shoulder. Oh, the power.  It was the first time that I realized how much I enjoyed being in charge, now that I think of it.

For our eight grade graduation, they had a breakfast for us after we got our diplomas.

I am not one for going back necessarily. I would, however, make an exception here.

If someone could wave a magic wand and put all of us back in that room for one last reunion, I would be in.  The friends I made in grade school were special to me.  Maybe it was the Catholic training we all survived.  Foxhole buddies.

Sacred Heart and St. Henry are closed these days.  Parochial school education costs too much for the neighborhoods those schools were in. The buildings are still there.  And bouncing around those walls are the faint echoes  of children saying the Pledge , getting their 1st period books out and starting another day.

Thanks @francoisome for giving me the inspiration for this post and thanks for being a teacher.



Olympics and a Book Review

Really I could write anything now, the title is enough to get people here.

On the 18th I wrote about the Olympics and as things have turned out, everything I said came true.

Except for the vitriol that has been aimed at NBC for their boneheaded decision to not play the event in real time.  They have saved all the best of the day and made nightly specials.  The problem is everyone knows the results.  It is everywhere.  Even NBC’s own Nightly News has, under the guise of journalism, given spoilers about events that are going to be shown in primetime.  In one particularly egregious moment, they ran a commercial congratulating an Olympian for their Gold just BEFORE they showed the segment in which she won the medal.

NBC has responded by telling people they (NBC) knows what is best and people should just shut up.  They even got one Twitter account temporarily suspended.

This from a company who is going to lose a large amount of money.  They already admitted this months ago.  The losses are going to be in the millions.

Let me say this:  If they showed the games on the main channel in real time, EVERY coffee shop, bar, restaurant, waiting room, and office would be  tuned to the Games.  They would be the talk of the day and the package that NBC would show in primetime would be enhanced by families getting together to watch what they had seen earlier in the day.

As the late great John Belushi would say on SNL, “But nooooooooooooooo” they won’t do it.

Well, the hell with it.  We have bigger fish to fry here on the Bellbottom Blog.

Amy’s book is out.  OUT OF TRUE is available on Amazon and Goodreads just to name a couple of places.

I bought it for Kindle and I have to tell you it is an amazing piece of work.

I don’t read much poetry, but I can spot great writing when I see it.  I haven’t read all of this book yet.  The reason is her work is so complex and wonderful it would be like eating a five pound box of the finest chocolate all at once.

My favorite poem so far is One Honest Man.

Her work in this book should be savored.  I wish I could write well enough to tell you how special this book is.  You are going to have to trust me on this.  Buy a copy.  You won’t be sorry.

I mentioned that I have it for Kindle but I am going to buy the actual book so I can place it on the bookcase along side my other favorite books.

Her blog is LucysFootball.  A link is in the blogroll.

You can read her book while you are avoiding Olympic spoilers!

Everybody wins!

And isn’t that what the Olympics are all about.




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