Why I want to be like Theda Bara, plus my brush with the most dangerous pop-up on the internet, among the items rattling around in my dormant mind these days…
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I sure hope nobody finds out that the password for this blog is "PaSsWoRd!" Otherwise, they might sign on as me and post something that you find offensive, demeaning, or borderline mansplaining. So, if you see anything here that gives offense, I was hacked.
The same thing applies to written documents. Back in third grade, Eddie Greenboogers learned how to copy my handwriting and continually wrote all kinds of terrible notes that seemed to have my signature, and he has continued doing that until, um, well, he’s still doing it today. So if you see any paper copies of any documents that suggest I wrote something bad, it was absolutely Eddie Greenboogers, not I.
Am I safe now? Probably not. In fact, nobody is safe today, because we live in a gotcha world, where a video of your least articulate moment will be shared by all your “friends” and your kindergarten coloring book will become Exhibit A in your public shaming. Or your murder trial, if you end up raising tigers for a living.
Life was so simple when our teachers threatened to make a note of our misdeeds in the “permanent record” that would follow us throughout our lives. As with (spoiler alert) Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and those X-ray glasses they advertised in the back of comic books, our “permanent record” turned out to be more legend than reality, and we all breathed easier as a result.
Of course, that was pre-internet and before the time that anyone, anywhere, could dredge up a bloody scent for the posterazzi. Clearly, it’s all gotten out of hand and we need some new rules to make sense of it all.
First, we need a statute of limitations for all the perpetrators of racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-American, anti-religious, nasty, vicious, foul, revolting, offensive, nauseating, sickening vile, ghastly, repugnant, inexcusable statements, posts, pictures, texts, e-mails and emojis.
I’d give anyone a pass for anything they said before the age of 16. Even if it’s really, really awful, I will accept that the offender is still developing mentally, is overwhelmed by hormones and peer pressure, and has time to grow out of their wretchedness.
After 16 though, your driver’s license comes with the burden of accountability. If you’re old enough to take responsibility for a car, you’re old enough to take responsibility for your actions. Yeah, you’re still a kid, partly, but you’ve been online since you were two and you’ve probably been part of the mob more than a few times, so suck it up and be ready to take the heat.
Along the same line of reasoning, it’s time we rejected all claims of “youthful indiscretions,” which is the favored excuse for people in powerful positions who do terrible things or make terrible statements that, without a doubt, they knew were terrible at the time. And, if they didn’t know, they were pretty damned stupid and they really don’t belong in positions of power in the first place.
At the same time, we need some form of parole for people who see the light and change their ways. Maybe we can agree to ignore statements or (most) infractions at least 10 years in the past, if the person has not made similar statements or committed similar infractions since then. With elected officials, C-Suite executives, educators and clergy, I might lengthen that to 15 or 20 years. But if a person goes a decade or more without repeating the sin, it’s likely they don’t represent a current threat.
I’m okay if we never forgive someone for murder, rape or child molesting, though. Some things are just too venal for forgiveness on this Earth. Everything else is on the table, though, because we want people to have an incentive to do better and be better.
We talk a lot about healing our wounds in this society. Maybe we can start the process by committing less bloodletting.
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Dining out is pretty close to normal again, which is a continuing source of joy for a guy who’s energized by a noisy joint and really tired of doing his own dishes. Part Two of our celebration…
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Now that almost all the restrictions have been lifted and outdoor dining is available pretty much everywhere in the country, I’m rediscovering the joys of never, ever, ever cooking my own food. I’m also rediscovering some of the fascinating questions that come with restaurant visits, including…
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On behalf of the university, its staff, and all the alumni of our fine institution, I bid a warm welcome to the graduating class of 2021.
What an exciting year to be completing your studies at our university. Yes, I realize that you didn’t exactly complete your studies “at” our university, but we did include the school colors in all our Zoom backgrounds and we did insist that you rent space in our dorms even when you couldn’t be here, so it’s really the same thing.
At first, I was a bit nervous about speaking to such a large group, even on Zoom, but I remembered that incredibly sensible advice that I should imagine all of you are just sitting there in your underwear. And that’s easy to do, since I can see so many of you actually are sitting there in your underwear. Also, it turns out that Spiderman underpants come in adult sizes.
Of course, you didn’t travel all the way from your kitchen to your dining room table to listen to a long presentation about the glories of our university or the traditions we uphold. You want to hear about how special you are and how bright your future is, and you especially want to hear that you’ll be able to pay back your student loans before you die.
I am delighted to tell you that I can answer all your questions in the affirmative. Yes, you are a truly special class, a group of immensely gifted students who mastered the art of packing, again and again, while we announced and retracted our campus opening plans 42 times over the past 15 months. You completed more than 35,000 hours of distanced chemistry lab with only 17 homes burned down in the process. You made your school spirit known when you hacked into the scoreboard at the stadium to Rickroll the football team. And you certainly made your mark when you voted to replace our school mascot with a CBD gummy bear.
We know this past year has included a number of disappointments for you as we canceled many on-campus experiences. Many of you were upset you were unable to make out with your bae in the library and you couldn’t play Frisbee on the quad. You’ve told us you feel cheated because you didn’t spend enough time in our hallowed halls, partying with your friends in the dorm, and sharing meals in the cafeteria. (Well, actually nobody said they missed the cafeteria, but the staff there is very sensitive, so we are including them here.)
We feel your pain, but our attorneys want you to see this in the most positive of lights. When you return for your class reunions, it will be as if you are here for the first time. You’ll be energized and inspired as you experience the university in 3-D. And, of course, you’ll be surprised as you sample the unique offerings in our cafeteria. (Not pleasantly surprised, we know, but at least you’ll be grateful that you didn’t spend all four years dining on this stuff.)
Most important, our distanced journey over the past year has prepared you better than any other graduating class for the world you enter as adults. Working in isolation is now the number one job skill that almost every employer seeks. Whether you’ll be picking produce in the grocery store for Instacart or lubricating the self-driving cars for Uber or dropping Amazon boxes in somebody’s yard, your ability to thrive without human contact will make you even more valuable to the handful of companies that will still be hiring humans in the coming years.
For those of you who will be entering the white collar professions, your year of remote learning has prepared you for a lifetime career of working from home, sitting at the same dining room table where you have been based since early in 2020. While earlier graduating classes developed such obsolete skills as personal contact and team building, your graduating class is uniquely equipped for the brave new world of isolation, two-dimensional colleagues and, of course, working from home while wearing Spiderman underpants.
Yes, honored graduates, you are the most special, most prepared, most likely to succeed class in history. While many of the adjustments we made to your education over the past year were forced on us by the pandemic, we now recognize that they are the model we should follow from this day forward. Clearly, the incredible value of your remote education justifies the 27% tuition increase we implemented last September, and we look forward to increasing our distanced learning, and tuition, for many years to come.
And, no, we don’t give refunds.
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