Band Parents – Disappear

I looked in horror at some pictures from the latest USC home game. As an alumnus of TGMBITHOTU (aka the USC Trojan Marching Band) we’ve long cried about some of  our greatest traditions that have been fouled over the years by the march of political correctness. The “Old Band” as it is often called was never politically correct and made a point not to be so. Think of it as a precursor to Reddit or Something Awful.

This photo was the last straw; the one that’s made me stop cursing under my breath in silence. It was the appearance of Band Parent t-shirts.

A little over 24 years ago I stepped off a shuttle from LAX with all the earthly possessions I could carry at the doorsteps to the USC campus on Figueroa. I had never been there before.

Despite hating standardized tests I did alright and got the customary shower of college pamphlets. When I was young I had designs on the Air Force Academy but that changed to the University of Illinois before too long. That was before I got an amazing brochure from USC. The Trojan Marching Band made a marked appearance and I spent hours with that brochure looking at this fascinating place in Los Angeles, a place I had never been. “Trojans” I said to myself, “that sounds really cool.”

At a godforsaken hell hole of a boarding school in Ojai, California, I earned my right to be a part of the Trojan Marching Band at Band Camp 1990. A lot of freshman washed out, some on the first day.

The weather was blistering, the practice sessions were intense but none of that matched the intensity from the veteran band members. At our first section rehearsal, when we were divvying up parts, I made a reference about “nobody wants to play that high shit” and I was instantly lauded by the 3rd Trombones and scorned by the 1st Trombones at the same time (2nd Bones don’t really care about anything). I became a 3rd Bone on the spot.

While the pressure was intense it only made me want it more. It made me want to perform better. It made me not want to disappoint my squad leader who was also our section leader. I worked hard memorizing music for the first time in my life and I went to EVERYTHING. Volleyball, basketball, baseball, men’s, women’s, campus gigs and 10 pieces it didn’t matter; I made the time and I was there. When a bunch of cowering freshmen filled Bovard Auditorium for freshman orientation I was there, but I was on the stage playing for them. My constant attendance at events earned me a spot on the 1991 NCAA Basketball Tournament Band (and there was plenty of complaining about a freshman going).

Fine, Flounder, you did all this in the TMB, what does that have to do with band parents? I’ll tell you – it has EVERYTHING to do with it.

Being a Trojan is about doing it on your own, when it counts and when it matters. Being a member of the TMB? THAT is a Trojan on steroids, it’s pure, unadulterated Trojan zealotry and a zealotry that is legendary and has earned the band quite a reputation. We love it. We love when people hate us. When they hate us we only love it more because it shows we’re doing our job supporting the team. I remember an embattled Larry Smith huddling up the TMB during a terrible 1991 season, “You guys are the only ones who support us,” he said. “We need you.”

The lessons I learned as a member of the TMB are countless and I won’t recount them here. We did a lot of crazy stuff, some stuff I’m not sure the statute of limitations has expired on yet. But we did it TOGETHER, we did it for each other and there sure as hell wasn’t a parent around to hover over us or protect anyone. This is where I learned what being a Trojan was and they’re memories I carry in my heart to this day. It makes me a determined, persistent pain in the butt to a lot of people, I got a heavy dose of that in the TMB.

So, to the parents of current members of the TMB I can only ask you one thing – disappear! Let your child have the same experience that I had and learn on his/her own what being a Trojan and a member of the TMB is all about.

Band parent chotchkies are nothing new – IN HIGH SCHOOL. They don’t belong at a university and definitely not at the University of Southern California. I understand and respect your desire to support your child but please, LET THEM GO. I was lucky, my separation from my parents was forced by 2,000 miles.

Show up on Parents Weekend and catch a rehearsal or two, take them out for lunch or dinner (they’re definitely hungry), otherwise, leave them alone! Stop ruining it for them!

He/she will be fine (we take care of each other) and you will get a far finer son or daughter out of the process than you had going in, full of the memories of a lifetime – memories they can’t relish if they aren’t their own and earned on their own.

Hands Off Our Holiday – Sincerely, Dads

I haven’t always been Father’s Day’s biggest fan. My grandmother suffered a massive fatal heart attack on her way to see us on Father’s Day 1983 and the holiday was tainted for the next 14 years. My son was born on Father’s Day 1997 and that greatly improved the holiday. I was lucky enough to celebrate it with my Dad whom I lost two years later.

There seems to be a kind of movement going on regarding single moms and Father’s Day. Hallmark has even put out Happy Father’s Day cards for them. Of course, they were politically correct and did Mother’s Day for single dads but I doubt you heard of them. I can testify my Facebook wall wasn’t covered with images commemorating the unsung single dads. That hasn’t been the case on Father’s Day.

I’m very sensitive to the plight of single moms, I married one after all. There are a variety of reasons why parents end up raising a child alone and the reason why that happened really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is the trend diminishing the role of fathers and male role models in general.

Instead of sensitive and caring commercials about devoted fathers we’re subjected to the never ending torrent of father’s as the screw up. We can’t watch the kids without the house getting trashed, we’d rather go fishing than change a diaper and we do little more than barbecue. Everywhere you turn there’s an ad with the bumbling clueless father, something that would be unheard of on Mother’s Day.

So, as a father I’m not here to diminish the role of single moms, I’m just asking you to leave our holiday alone. You have Mother’s Day, it’s a multi-billion dollar business. If you are raising your child on your own I encourage you to find a male role model for your daughter or son. There are a multitude of studies and statistics that show kids that come from fatherless homes are living in an endangered environment. Do something about it and find a special Father’s Day for that man who surely deserves it.

This father is not perfect, but he’s not a bumbling idiot. For most of my son’s life we did the “hand off” with Aidan. I worked days and his mom worked nights. For the first six years of his life I sang him to sleep nearly every night as it was the only way he could get to sleep. I’ve been actively involved in his education always pushing for him to be in the right program for his disability. I’ve done my best to be a great father to my son; I’m not looking for a card, I’m not looking for a gift, I’m not looking for a medal – just leave our holiday alone.

GOP Needs To Open The Tent

Add another state to the list open to Gay Marriage as a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s ban today. When the outcome is what really matters I shouldn’t care how, but I do.

I generally like Scott Walker’s policies but I am not happy many in the Republican mainstream are too scared to open the big tent to the LGBT community. I recognize a lot of his political strength comes from some socially conservative areas but I don’t care, you have to lead.

Right now a battle is waging in the Texas GOP after they denied a booth at their convention to the Log Cabin Republicans. Some friends within the Republican Liberty Caucus are fighting that battle with them. It’s a battle for the “hearts and minds” of the GOP.

To me it’s wholly and completely inconsistent for the party that wants government out of your life, out of your home and out of your business to want it in your bedroom. It’s even worse how groups like the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud get treated when they try to make inroads. GOProud imploded under the weight of trying to find an identity and funding. Even in a group trying to aggressively fight the battle to open up the GOP it couldn’t help fighting with itself resulting in the departure of the late Andrew Breitbart from its board.

As a libertarian Republican I know all about the fighting. When I was in the Libertarian Party I was fond of saying “no major party need be concerned to fight with us – we effectively fight and destroy ourselves all on our own”. So, perhaps, these run of court rulings will have a chilling effect on the fight because the battle appears to be over.

I’ve been a long time supporter for getting the government out of the marriage business. The government’s sole role should be in administering civil unions for everyone, gay and straight alike. It’s got no business dictating what constitutes a marriage. That is a clearly Republican position, so when are my fellow Republicans going to get it?

Mental illness – let’s just ignore it and blame something easy.

As a society, we’ve come to just plain ignore mental illness. For many years it’s been the stigma of mental illness that has caused it to be ignored and not talked about. However, even in earlier times with the stigma there were some measures in place to deal with the mentally ill. Now, in an instant gratification society facing myriads of financial problems it’s no surprise mental illness has been driven further underground.

Only a few days ago there were sporadic news reports of a mentally ill man locked in his cell at Rikers Island, New York City’s jail, for a week sexually mutilated himself and died covered in his own feces. This is one of our forms of dealing with mental illness now – lock them up and ignore them. Certainly it’s not anything new the Romans did it but here in 2014 one of our main solutions is to just ignore them until they kill themselves. Unfortunately, they frequently kill others.

It’s no surprise when the first calls after another multiple homicide gun related incident are to blame the gun. It’s easy to do. I won’t blame a clearly grieved father for doing so but he did have the right word when he chose “insanity”. The truth is it’s easier to let ourselves off the hook and point to the inanimate object and blame it for the woes of our society. It’s far more difficult to decide what to do about insanity.

I’ve been reading Dave Cullen’s outstanding book Columbine and it’s shocking really the string of recent shootings that are so eerily similar to each other and similar to the Columbine Massacre. In each of them you have children of affluent parents with identified mental disorders, several of whom were even under treatment, that were able to fool everyone and resort to the atrocities they committed.

Eric Harris was found to be a “full blown psychopath”. His father had a notebook recording his incidents, he was in therapy and he was taking medication.

James Eagan Holmes was a graduate student pursuing a PhD and several clearly intelligent and well educated people and professionals noted  his troubling behavior, he even named a condition for someone and told them to avoid him.

Adam Lanza had been in treatment and medicated for years with an array of different psychiatric disorders. His very affluent parents divorced where his mother was left to care for him alone. His father still wishes to avoid the entanglement to this day preferring “he had never been born”.

Now comes Elliot Rodger, another child of privilege, also in treatment, also with engaged parents who tried to help their son. Weeks before his mother had called the police looking for them to intervene given his behavior. The police found him to be no risk and left. Psychopaths tend to be good at that, it’s one of their most treasured traits – the ability to lie and lie very well. I don’t fault a police officer for not seeing it.

While it is true there are guns linking all of these people it’s also true they are the faces of mental illness. In fact, none of these cases really had any hidden mental illness – it was known and it was identified but it wasn’t caught as psychopathy. Why? Because identifying psychopaths is hard, they make it hard.

At this point a normal blog post would go on about “awareness” but people are pelted daily with how they are to be aware of different illnesses. It’s strange in all this call for awareness the one we never hear is about being aware of one’s self and one’s family.

What answers do I have? I don’t have any, the answers aren’t easy. I could make it easy and point at the gun. I could called it “entitled white male syndrome” that seems to be popular with some. Maybe we have a different way we approach the poor who are mentally ill? Is it far easier to lock up and put away one of them than it is a privileged white person? That would be about  the only place the argument would hold any water with me. Of course that would be condoning just locking up people and putting them away.

None of these answers is easy in a free society and I can tell you the answer isn’t to start taking away freedoms in one form or another.  I’m afraid the only answer is a difficult one and that is to let go our stigma and reluctance to talk about and find solutions for mental illness. When we have that conversation we also need to understand, we will never catch them all.

Farewell Monty – our final journey.

I hate cats.

I don’t like cats – I never really have. At least that’s what I tell everyone anyway. This position is born from long-suffered allergies that made life near them impossible. When I got forced into a living situation with a pair of them ten years ago that changed. Sure one night I coughed so hard I passed out and face-planted the floor –  I got over it.

I don’t know, maybe I was just being prepared for my wife-to-be and her cat – Monty Python Hausman aka Monty Cat. When I met him he was fat and lazy and never came out of my now step-daughter’s room. That would be because of the Sadie Dog but this blog isn’t about her.

"Fat" Monty enjoying our new home in Elkhorn.
“Fat” Monty enjoying our new home in Elkhorn.

At the risk of over-sharing I’m going to tell you about him. I don’t really care though, this isn’t for you really – it’s for me.

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ZAGGkeys Folio – Air Apparent

My iPad 3 and Zagg Folio have been keeping my business life sorted the past couple of years but it was time for a change after I cracked my screen that happened because of the old Folio’s design. My new combo bests the old one is every conceivable way.

First, the annoyances of the old Zagg Folio are gone – impossible to open clasp, kludgy stand design, bulk, weight and near impossible iPad removal are all gone. Zagg clearly surveyed their users on what was wrong with the old design.

The friction hinge design is a huge improvement. No longer will your iPad flop around while you try to get it in the groove and it won’t flip over backwards when it slips out (cause of my prior crack). This also solves the clasp problem, simple thumb notch to help you open is all you need.

The new design is also incredibly thin and light, I hated adding the bulk to my iPad 3 but I really needed the keyboard and was afraid of weighing down my new iPad Air. Your Air simply snaps into the thin back where it has some thin leather padded protection. Taking it back out is a breeze just pressing out on the corners.

Finally the keyboard has a fantastic feel and is incredibly thin as well. Not only that but you have backlit keys as well (simple controlled with its own key on the keyboard). They also added a battery indicator button so when you need to charge is no longer the mystery it once was.

Zagg has done a fantastic job with this product, it’s a huge upgrade that matches the upgrade of my iPad Air itself. Can’t recommend it enough for turning your iPad into a full on laptop replacement.

User Cleanup

My blog has been besieged by spammers for weeks. You haven’t seen this since they haven’t been able to get past registration. Still, getting tons of registrations every day has been annoying to me.

So, I’ve converted the comments system to Disqus which is pretty ubiquitous now. People can also use Facebook as well.

If you had a registered account that you used to comment (couldn’t find any out of the tons of users) your comment has been exported to Disqus and should show up again shortly.

Thanks!

Rear Fog Lights

“What?” you may say. “There’s no such thing as rear fog lamps!!”

Oh, my noble reader, they do exist. Those of us who have owned a European car, and cared to read the owner’s manual (rather elite company) know of this feature called the rear fog lamp. These are one or two red lights on the rear of the car that meet or exceed the brightness of brake lights. Their purpose? To let you see a car ahead of you in the fog.

The Pet Peeve

People who turn them on all the time. I can somewhat stomach people who always have their fogs on, it’s dumb but it doesn’t hurt me. But these lights are very bright and if you are behind a car with them on, and I bet you have been at some point, you either think they are resting their foot on the brake or have a brake light out. The truth is, they have their dang rear fog lights on for no good reason! Example!!

Someone needs to read the owner's manual.
Someone needs to read the owner’s manual.

Note this is not only the daytime but it is very sunny out. In this case the Mercedes was turning and it’s more difficult to see but if you look to the right of the left turn signal you will see a very bright red light, it’s brighter than the brake lights. This is the rear fog light, there’s only one, and it had been on for miles.

When is the proper time to use them? Funny you should ask, but rear fog lights should be used, you guessed it, in heavy fog and not just a little fog, visibility shortening fog.

An Audi in very foggy conditions properly using rear fog lights (on either side of the license plate).
An Audi in very foggy conditions properly using rear fog lights (on either side of the license plate).

In this case I was in an elevated area where the fog was light but you can see it was very foggy out. This is a proper time to use rear fog lights which are usually on the same switch as front fog lights. You can see they help distinguish this car and because it’s dark and foggy the brightness is helpful and not hurtful.

So, friends don’t let friends drive European cars with rear fogs on okay? If you know someone please, the time is now, do an intervention!

Kim Kearby Visitation

Kim Kearby’s family will be holding a visitation followed by remarks on Friday, September 27th at Justens Funeral Home in Round Lake. Further information can be found on Justen’s website.

The Daily Herald was kind enough to publish a piece on Kim today as well, you can view that on their website. The Herald told me Jeanne had passed my blog posting on to them, I’m glad the family received it and glad so many of you have shared it with others. When the ones we loved have left it’s passing the memories around that keeps them with us.
Thanks everyone.

Remembering Kim Kearby

This morning I learned of the untimely passing of Kim Kearby last evening. As of this writing I’m not aware of the circumstances, my prayers go out to Jeanne and the Kirby Family for the loss of a truly special man.

Kim first and foremost loved the kids of Round Lake and wanted what was best for them. His actions continually reflected this and I will defend that to anyone who dares to say otherwise. Second, he was a proud leader of the teachers and staff of Round Lake. There’s a reason the Education Association of Round Lake grew to include virtually all staff members  – you couldn’t do any better than Kim Kearby.

There was no reason for Kim and I to get along – he was an old hippie who had never given it up and I am a libertarian. Sure, we had some common ground on a lot of social issues but we had just as many massive differences. When I attended his retirement party I had to endure Union songs, that’s how much I liked him. Kim Kearby was a giant in a small man’s shoes who has left an unfathomable void.

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