Friday, November 21, 2014

Not just outraged about Bill Cosby -- I'm also so very sad

I liked Bill Cosby. A lot of folks did -- he was No. 1 for how many years on NBC? Even though I never met the man, I grieved when his only son was murdered -- even wealth and fame are no absolute defense against street crime.

It is impolitic to admit these feelings on the Internet at the moment, even in the past tense, because the only acceptable emotion now vis a vis the one-time Jello pitchman is supposed to be outrage. Bill Cosby must be a far-more gifted actor than the critics who panned Leonard Part 6 and Ghost Dad ever dreamed: While he was persuading Middle America that he was an inspirational family man, he was secretly soliciting, drugging, and then raping young women.


Couldn't he have obtained women just by flashing his winning smile and fat bankroll?

Some of the outrage is actually kind of amusing -- one Tweeter purported to "dismiss" the allegations against Cosby as "just another case of he said / she said she said she said she said she said...."

Every PI attorney has heard of the phenomenon of "jump-in claimants" -- how 100 people claim to be injured in a bus accident... when the bus couldn't hold more than 50 -- so it's possible that one or more of Cosby's many accusers is turning something consensual into something else. But jump-in claimants don't exist without a real accident.

Mr. Cosby's defenders, if there are any left, face an insurmountable problem: When six former altar servers independently accuse Fr. Smiley of groping under their cassocks in the Sacristy, Fr. Smiley's denials fall flat and his most ardent supporters look foolish. So it is with Mr. Cosby. There are just too many women coming forward. There are too many allegations. Even if some are false, it only means that some aren't.

There's no sugar-coating here.

But, still, I'm not just outraged. I'm really, really saddened, too.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The sad, desperate world of Clash of Clans

I'd seen the ads in the subway for some time prior to the baseball playoffs this fall.

The gentleman at the left was featured prominently in most of them: Gaze into my mustache and despair! read the caption on the poster.

Seriously? I admit I had to look it up in order to get the words right, but I at least remembered that this slogan was meant to evoke a famous poem. It's Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, in case you're at all curious: "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; / Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Then came the MLB playoffs and the commercials -- hundreds of them, thousands of them -- for this stupid game. I watched and I wondered: Who would be goofy enough to waste their time on nonsense like this?

At a family gathering I found out: My sons had all downloaded the game and were happily destroying each other's villages.

"Can't you peacefully coexist with your neighbors?" I asked. "Can't you grow and prosper by trade or diplomacy instead of warfare? Must everything end in violence?"

My kids regarded me with that pitying look reserved for hopeless cases. They hated the way I'd played the one computer game of theirs that I had attempted (a few different incarnations, over the years, of Sid Meier's Civilization) -- "your turns take 45 minutes," they'd complain, as I built railroads and cleared forests and negotiated trade routes. "No, Dad," they told me, "this is just kill or be killed."

It sounded awful... but the kids were clearly enjoying themselves. And I have this iPad at home and you can only play so much Sudoku or Solitaire and, well, one thing led to another. I downloaded Clash of Clans.

I liked building up my village. I liked clearing the obstacles and setting up my gold mines and building defensive walls. It's hard to build up quickly, because you have to carefully husband your resources. (Either that or spend real money to buy "gems" that can be used to spur production. Well, that wasn't going to happen in my case.)

Still, I started to feel a certain affinity for my villagers, all of whom, apparently, resemble the nice young lady at right who calls me "Chief."

At first, she offered helpful hints about what to build first and where to build.

But all too soon, her messages became darker: "While you were gone, our village was destroyed by MetalMan" -- and, sure enough, I could watch a "replay," starting with my villagers fleeing in terror to the village hall for protection while my cannons and archer towers spat death at my attackers, only to be overwhelmed by force and numbers. Then my mines were destroyed and the builder's huts and resource storage units and, finally, my poor village hall and all the poor creatures huddled within whom I had failed by not upgrading my walls from wood to stone.

But, somehow, all my villagers survived. "We must build up our defenses!" my villager told me, but with no seeming bitterness. If I were them, I'd get me a new Chief pronto, one who could keep the invaders at bay.

But my villagers are stuck with me.

And now I perceive the true horror of their plight. I upgraded the walls, I improved the cannons, I strengthened the archer towers, and still the invaders come as soon as I move onto something else (you know, like work?), and each invasion is more terrible than the last, the attackers always just a bit stronger than anything I'd prepared to repel them, overwhelming my defenses and destroying the town hall where the villagers tremble in fear.

And it never stops.

As soon as I come back, they are made whole again, ready to keep building as I direct even though they should be moving out in droves.

After the village is destroyed, there is a breathing space -- a shield is set up (no thanks to me) -- that keeps the villagers safe for 12 hours or even 16 depending on the extent of the carnage. My villagers are behind such a shield now. But I don't have enough gold to upgrade to level 4 walls -- and if and when I do, stronger armies will come to knock those walls down, too....

Am I taking this a little too seriously?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chicago's new Archbishop says he wants to listen -- Curmudgeon would like to talk

Incoming Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich (Reuters photo).

Archbishop Cupich, welcome to Chicago. May your time here be a blessing for the Church as a whole, and for the Archdiocese and yourself both in particular.

You have stated several times now that you intend to start your term as Chicago's ninth Archbishop by listening, which is nice.

But to whom will you listen?

There are millions of people in Cook and Lake Counties, many of whom are (or were) professed Catholics. You can't hear from us all or you'll never do anything except go cold stone deaf. If you don't starve first.

Some of the folks who will surround you in these early days will be toadies and sycophants. I envy you the sport you may have in exposing them, watching their heads nod enthusiastically up and down as you say increasingly outrageous things, then watching them wheel and pivot like a flock of starlings when you pull back. ("On second thought," you'll say, withdrawing some silly suggestion, and enjoy the fun as the bobbleheads slam on the brakes in their haste to retreat with you....)

Some of the folks you'll hear from in your early days will have nothing good to say about your predecessor, Cardinal George. I suppose that approach curries favor in some circles; I've seen evidence that it sometimes works, even among churchmen. Anyway, these naysayers will counsel you to undo anything they think that Cardinal George did, to pull the plug on that, to ban this, to revoke faculties to this group or that one. Perhaps some of these nattering nabobs of negativism (Wikipedia credits William Safire with that one, but you probably remember it, as I do, being uttered by Spiro Agnew) will be balanced, somewhat, in your inner circle, by those encouraging you to blaze your own trail (clever pun, no?) but trying to steer you away from changing anything they may consider as a favorite project or cause of Cardinal George.

I respect Cardinal George's intellect, though I've not always agreed with him.

He spoke once at a Chicago Bar Association luncheon that I attended. This was several years ago. His subject was getting public funds for private schools -- but his manner was so professorial and his talk so well organized that I lapsed into a critical listening gear that I have been able to find only occasionally since college. I disagreed with almost everything he had to say -- I am a great supporter of Catholic schools, but to remain Catholic, I believe our schools must remain free of the corrosive influence of public funding -- but the Cardinal made a reasoned, reasonable case. If this is how he speaks at luncheons, I can only imagine the force of his intellect when he really buckles down. (The second speaker that day was also impressed. And he'd been paying attention, too: This speaker came up to the podium and said how pleased he was not to be the most controversial speaker on the program. I'm sure you'll meet this individual soon as well, particularly when the TV cameras are on. The second speaker that day was the Rev. Jesse Jackson.)

I also respect Cardinal George for the graceful way he has carried the cross of his own ill-health. Like another of your predecessors, Cardinal Bernardin, Cardinal George has given us a healthy model of how to cope with life-threatening illness.

Of course, I'm still mad at Cardinal George for saddling us with a bad pastor this past year.

You don't have to agree or disagree with me, Archbishop, about whether my new pastor (of whom I've written here, here, and here) is good or bad. I hope, however, that you will come around to my point of view as soon as possible -- but, in the meantime, I think you can agree that the local parish priests are the most important clerics in the lives of most Catholics. The world is in love with Pope Francis because he is perceived as a good pastor, and being interested in being a good pastor. Your appointment is seen as proof that Pope Francis is trying to make his bishops and cardinals pastors first; you enjoy a reputation of being a good pastor. You now will have the responsibility -- the heavy burden -- of appointing men as pastors from a pool that is... limited. But good pastors will spur a rise in vocations over time. Keep in mind, Archbishop, that the Church grows by example, not by dogma or discipline or even good preaching.

God bless you, Archbishop Cupich -- and God bless all of us who today become your flock. If you'd like to talk some more, there's an email link in the Sidebar... and even if you don't, I may try and offer some additional suggestions at a later date....

Monday, November 10, 2014

Granddaughter #1 has moved out. We're coping as well as can be expected.

Which is to say, not well at all.

Younger Daughter and her husband Olaf and their daughter, my Granddaughter #1 (an occasional contributor here at Second Effort), moved out this weekend.

They bought a house in a nearby suburb. Their chosen real estate attorney managed not to screw up the transaction -- at least not so far as we've heard.

Tonight, then, Long Suffering Spouse and I go home to an Empty Nest.

If anybody had told me, two and a half years ago, that I would have had Younger Daughter and her husband underfoot for that length of time, I am reasonably confident that my head would have exploded. During this time I have (more or less smugly) recounted instances where Long Suffering Spouse became aggravated with Olaf for one reason or another -- failing to pick up after himself, for example, or eating as many meals as a Hobbit, or not getting out of the house soon enough in the mornings (Long Suffering Spouse and I had to wait for him to vacate the only upstairs bathroom before we could begin our morning ablutions).

I, on the other hand, was remarkably tolerant and understanding. At least, you can't prove otherwise, having only the self-serving testimony I've provided on this anonymous blog.

But, if there were occasional annoyances caused from living cheek by jowl, there was also Granddaughter #1. Both Long Suffering Spouse and I rather enjoy being grandparents. Even with the baby under our roof -- teething -- crying in the night -- we didn't have to get up. That was a job for Mommy or Daddy. I probably didn't change diapers more than a handful of times (I told Younger Daughter that I had done my quota with her and her siblings and I stuck to it, except in cases of dire necessity). In short, I was there for comfort and amusement purposes only. What a great gig!

When that child is happy, she makes a high-pitched shriek that is loud enough to set off nearby car alarms. More than once, I was sure my ear would start bleeding when she screamed like that. And yet, Granddaughter #1's shrieks are like Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky to my wife and me.

And now we won't hear them everyday.

Last night Younger Daughter and her mother were texting. This was the gist: Granddaughter #1 had swiped her mother's cellphone and called up a picture of me and her together. She started crying. Of course, many people have been sad when confronted with proof of their association with me. Some things are best forgotten. So that might have been all that was happening there. But Younger Daughter calmed the girl down only to have the child call up a photo of herself with Long Suffering Spouse. She started crying again. Younger Daughter said she was crying too.

"Me too," texted Long Suffering Spouse -- and I can vouch for the truth of her statement.

I interjected a text of my own in this sequence: "Me too," I wrote. But, then, I'm getting weepier as I grow older. If I live to see my biblical three-score-and-ten, I'll probably cry every time the Sun comes out from behind a cloud. Or goes behind. I'll presumably suffer from dehydration.

They had to move out. I know that. They have to have their own home. It's for the best.

But, today, it's also a little tough.