Friday, August 30, 2013

The Same Colour

Steamroller Blues - James Taylor (live)

On Syria

AP Photo/Hussein Malla

Although “What’s the Diehl?” is officially on hiatus, I‘m making an exception to write about something that’s bothering me:

I’m angry as I write this.

I was driving home from Anita’s office this morning when I heard an awful report on the radio about a bomb that was dropped on a school playground in northern Syria. According to the BBC, the attack incinerated more than 10 pupils and left many more severely injured. Scores of badly-burned kids and teenagers were overwhelming a local hospital; the radio report included jarring audio of people screaming, crying and begging for help amidst chaos.

The report identified the al-Assad regime as the perpetrator of this truly horrific attack.

I’ve written about al-Assad before. (See “Hello, My Name is Hamza al-Khateeb,” March 4, 2013, and “Israel Helps Syrian Rebels; We Do Nothing,” May 6, 2013.) My May 6 post – which included disturbing photos of dead kids, victims of al-Assad’s government forces – was erroneously interpreted by Facebook commenters as being pro-war even though I ended it with this paragraph:

The United Nations estimates that nearly 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since violence broke out two years ago. Maybe military intervention isn’t the answer. But we ought to do something besides imposing sanctions that hurt civilians more than politicians. While Israel is choosing the rebels over al-Assad, Americans are choosing Nicki Minaj over Mariah Carey on American Idol.

I still don’t know what we should do. Opposition to the U.S. doing anything seems to be growing as I write this which I don’t understand at all. United Nations inspectors are in Syria investigating last week’s chemical weapons attack near Damascus which killed hundreds of civilians; U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the attacks a “moral obscenity." Some see the current saber-rattling as similar to that which culminated in the ill-advised, irresponsible 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The differences are huge, in my inexpert opinion. First of all, there were no weapons of mass destruction found or used in Iraq, right-wingers’ erroneous claims notwithstanding. Secondly, Barack Obama, for all his infuriating failings, is no Dubya; he’s not compelled to launch an unjustified military offensive on a sovereign country because its leader threatened his daddy. And lastly, the suffering of innocent human beings has gone on for years. Syrians have been crying out for help, for world intervention, as their children have been slaughtered and no one’s lifted a finger. (Israel, long a foe of Syria, did act a few months ago to support the rebels who are fighting al-Assad’s brutal regime.) Cue crickets.

I agree that the U.S. is not the world’s police, we have plenty of issues (fiscal and otherwise) to address here at home and it would be nice if another country took the lead once in a while. I also know that it’s disgustingly difficult for some to give a rodent’s derriere about anyone who speaks Arabic and worships Allah. But this isn’t about politics or religion to me, or skin color or our domestic agenda or the military-industrial complex. This is about children’s lives. It’s about what I heard on the radio this morning, the moaning and blood-curdling screaming and true despair of people who should matter to the rest of us.

A British medic at the hospital in Aleppo was quoted by the BBC as saying, "We feel like some sort of, not even a second class citizen, like we just don't matter. Like all of these children, and all of these people who are being killed and massacred, we don't matter. The whole world has failed our nation and it is innocent civilians who are paying the price."

The school’s headmaster said in the same report, "There were dead people, people burning and people running away, but where to? Where would they go? It is not safe anywhere. That is the fate of the Syrian people."

So I’m angry that people are justifying inaction and complacency by comparing this to an entirely different situation and playing the parochial card and acting as if this issue just arose last week. I’m angry that grieving mothers and fathers and siblings and aunts and uncles in a Western Asian country are losing loved ones to their own evil government and the rest of the human family would prefer to look the other way. I’m angry that people accuse me of ceding to emotion and beating a war drum if I advocate for intervention. (Laugh if you will but I think of myself as anti-war.) I’m just trying to make people look beyond their own fences and imagine what it would be like to feel unsafe no matter where you go or to learn that a fighter jet from your own country’s military purposely dropped a napalm bomb on your kid’s playground and no one cared.

I know that bombs don’t lead to peace any more than intercourse leads to virginity or watching Fox News leads to an informed viewership. I also know that burying our heads in the sand won’t lead to an end to the genocide.

Sources: BBC,

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Here's the Diehl

I knew going in that one doesn’t get rich from blogging unless one’s first name is Arianna and last name is Huffington, but I kept thinking the time I spent on “What’s the Diehl?” might help me land something, that my reward might at some point extend beyond reaching people with my thoughts and opinions. But it never really took off. The donations never really came (I can count on one hand how many I’ve received in the two-and-a-half years that I’ve been blogging), none of my posts went viral, there was no influx of fans or followers, and no one’s contacted me with offers or opportunities. And climbing Klout scores and compelling blog posts don’t pay any bills.

“What’s the Diehl?” is now comprised of almost 1,500 posts (including music videos and images) and has attracted just under 100,000 page views since its inception in March of 2011. So there’s that. But it’s way past time for me to focus less on things that make me see red and more on things that earn more green. My babies really do need new shoes.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Stand Tall - Burton Cummings

Cute Chris Kutcher Rules!

I can’t say I’m an Ashton Kutcher fan. I don’t dislike the guy and I thought he was pretty funny as Michael Kelso in “That 70s Show” but he wasn’t really in the front of my consciousness until I ran across a video clip of his acceptance speech at last night’s 2013 Teen Choice Awards.

Kutcher accepted an Old Guy Award – which is funny because I was a junior in high school when he was born – and gave a surprisingly compelling acceptance speech over the annoying and unjustified screams of the rabid tweens in the audience. In it, he reveals an earth-shattering secret (his real first name is Chris), extols the virtues of hard work, defines “sexy” and encourages his young fans to build the kind of world in which they want to live rather than just inhabiting one created by others. Although I’m certainly no expert on celebrity acceptance speeches, I’m going to go ahead and say this one was perfect for the audience and perfectly delivered:

I sure hope at least a few of those sitting in the Gibson Ampitheater in Los Angeles and watching at home actually paid attention to his speech. As the parent of four young kids who think Kutcher’s cute, funny and cool, in that order, I know how some messengers and messages are immensely more effective than others and how challenging it can be to reach youngsters with substantive messages when our culture encourages them to eschew substance and embrace superficiality.

I’m not sure why some folks are ridiculing the guy. (I was looking for a transcript of his speech online and the search results included, “Ashton’s Speech: Wacky and Weird,” “Chris Kutcher Gives Sermon at Teen Choice Awards,” “Kutcher Delivers Oddly Motivating Speech at Teen Awards” and “Kutcher Accepts Award, Channels Jobs and Plugs New Movie.”) Just because he’s a world-famous multi-millionaire who got where he is today on good luck and pretty boy looks rather than intellect doesn’t mean he can’t impart a little wisdom whenever he finds himself onstage in front of a shrieking throng of wound-up worshippers. He’s earned a spot on my “People I Dig” list.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lazy Days of Summer

Photo by Tom Watkins

Last Night - The Mar-keys

Sunday poetry

Spelling Father

last night
I had the most interesting dream.
in it
I was six years old
in a national spelling bee.
complex words...

up until the final round
one word between me and victory
the spell master clears his throat

young man your word is father
the crowd began to chatter amongst themselves
seemingly displeased
at the simplicity of this final word
I searched for those eyes
those eyes that say

"every things going to be ok. just do it"
I dazed off
young man!
your word is father
I stood up straight, licked my lips and began
father, m-o-t-h-e-r, father…
the spell master looks at me,
down at his flash card,
back up at me

"sorry but you are incorrect"
I don't understand
my fathers sitting right in the audience

"excuse me?'
"I am sorry son but you are incorrect"
well then
you can save your sorry apologies
because you must mean "in-correct"
as in within the parameters of being right.
let me explain something to you
cuz obviously you aint grow up
where poppas are rolling stones
down the hills of women's backsides
and when he's gone
all he's left us
was alone
where minstrel men stroll around on bikes
while fathers balanced their menstrual,
2 jobs,
2 kids
and a life
on a unicycle
and it looks something like this:
breastfeeding on one arm
phone on the shoulder
cooking with the other arm
cleaning with one leg
tying sneakers with their teeth
young fathers
who make mistakes
because we are not all perfect
but the one mistake they never make
is abandoning their seeds
you see fathers
are master gardeners
they tend to every leaf
removing the weeds
placing us in the windows of opportunity
so that we can lean towards the sun
and never forget that the sky is the limit
planting kisses on our cheeks
hugs on our backs
growing their love on us
the best way they know how
like my father
my father, sacrificed owning nothing,
that I may have everything
my father, walked a daily nightmare
so that I may live out my dreams
my father watered me
with blood sweat and tears
so that I may be ripe
for the harvest
and I hope that one day
I can grow up to be as great a father
as she was for me
you did not ask me spell deadbeat sir...
but if you want dead beat here it is:
f-a-t-h-e-r, d-a-d, d-a-d-d-y, p-o-p
p-o-p-s, if you want the slang
you asked me to spell father
and father is,
always has been
and always will be spelled
so get your encyclopedias,
show me your flash cards
open your dictionary
cuz what webster says
means nothing around here
around here,
my father is sitting right there...
and I love her.

~ Marshall Davis Jones

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lickity Split

Photo by Dianne Russell

My Favorite Things - Julie Andrews

Favorite Status Updates Part 5

Time for more Facebook status updates, in random order:

  • Patrick Diehl has learned that when Anita enters the room muttering about "frikkin' hormones," it's best for me to leave.
  • I guess Zimmerman was wrong. Those assholes don't always get away.
  • Patrick Diehl noticed the new body wash that Anita purchased for me and left in the shower contains "A SPECIAL BLEND OF INGREDIENTS GUARANTEED TO TONE AND TIGHTEN!" I think she's trying to tell me something.
  • Patrick Diehl just told my 10-year-old to go upstairs if she was falling asleep on the couch and she replied, "Maybe I just take long blinks."
  • "A man arrested for shooting at the White House says he was upset over U.S. marijuana laws. Man, if only there was some way to mellow that guy out." ~ Stephen Colbert
  • Patrick Diehl was watching the French Open with Anita and the kids. When told Roger Federer is Swiss, eight-year-old Maya said, “He sweats? Well, you would too if you played tennis.”
  • Patrick Diehl was amused today when my 11-year-old son changed his 13-year-old sister's iPhone language to Russian without her knowledge. Sibling pranks have changed a bit since I was a kid.
  • Patrick Diehl wants to assure my Facebook pals that I will never, ever stoop to posting a status update about something as overhyped and inconsequential as the addition of a baby to the royal family on the other side of the pond. Well, except for this one.
  • Patrick Diehl thinks the best way to honor our soldiers is to end war.
  • So Republicans think 15 is too young for contraception but you can have a gun at age 5. It's like a Saturday Night Live skit - surreal, unfunny and absurd.
  • Is it just me or do Ken Burns, Dave Barry and Stephen King look like brothers?
  • Matt Lauer's a shallow, irritating, puffed-up, voyeuristic, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou jerk. That is all.
  • Michele Bachmann's retiring?! I haven't been this pleased since Anita made meatloaf, lasagna and beef stroganoff in the same week.
  • Patrick Diehl keeps receiving e-mail messages from an "Adriana" suggesting that we "hook up online" and that I "check out her private pics." Adriana is nothing if not persistent.
  • Patrick Diehl hopes that when Joe Biden met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican today, he didn’t mention what a big f*cking deal it was.
  • I spent the last two days dealing with Comcast. The experience was so difficult that I was expecting Allen Funt or Ashton Kutcher to pop out at some point and tell me I've been pranked. Since corporations are now people, I'm gonna kick Comcast's ass if I see it on the street.
  • Patrick Diehl couldn't care less what Ted "Washed-up Former Rock Star Who Tries to Prove His Masculinity By Shooting Animals and Saying Obnoxious, Offensive Sh*t" Nugent says or thinks about anything. I'm embarrassed that he's from Michigan.
  • Even if there are trace amounts of marijuana in my system, it doesn't mean you get to stalk, scare, confront and murder me in cold blood.
  • Patrick Diehl just realized I've reached the age where no one asks me to help them move anymore. I have mixed feelings about this.
  • "The working poor haven't abdicated responsibility for their lives. They're drowning in it." ~ Ezra Klein, Washington Post
  • Why is the whole country abuzz about the revelation that a celebrity chef from Savannah, Georgia is racist? Is this really that newsworthy or is this another orchestrated distraction?
  • Patrick Diehl would rather watch reruns of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" or sing "Amazing Grace" on stage at the Hollywood Bowl while naked than hear or read about one more person justifying "Stand Your Ground" laws by saying, "I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by six."
  • Patrick Diehl was just listening to some classical music when my 8-year-old came in, said it was nice and asked if it was Beethoven. I didn't know so I googled the song name and found that my kid is scary and I'm in way over my head.
  • Patrick Diehl thinks John Stossel is an irksome fool.
  • Patrick Diehl was just informed by my eight-year-old that the neighbor’s dog is a mix of Yorkie and “shit stew.”
  • Windows update shutdowns piss me off.
  • "Republicans have gone from Abraham Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt to Mitt Romney. No wonder they don't believe in evolution." ~ Andy Borowitz
  • Patrick Diehl hopes Elisabeth Hasselbeck has as much luck finding a new job as she did convincing America that she wasn't a shrill, vapid neo-conservative who regurgitated GOP talking points the way my dogs regurgitate blades of grass.
  • Happy 73rd birthday to Kay Diehl - my first love, best friend, most patient teacher, most forgiving ally and most neglected but appreciated mother on the Eastern seaboard.
  • Rest in peace, Denis Farina, Helen Thomas, James Galdolfini, Karen Black, George Duke, Esther Williams and Jean Stapleton.
  • Patrick Diehl just added Russell Brand to my "People I Dig" list.
  • Patrick Diehl thinks maybe my nine-year-old is taking Mario Brothers on the Nintendo DS a little too seriously since after losing a life he muttered, “I really, really hate you people.”
  • Patrick Diehl swears that if I ever meet Chef Boyardee in real life, he’s gonna pay for what his canned ravioli did to me last night.
  • “We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.” ~ Japanese proverb

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I Love Pies

Sunshine on My Shoulders - John Denver

Faith in Humanity Restored

Regular “What’s the Diehl?” readers know that I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff.

Today I’m talking about a high school basketball game that took place back in February in El Paso, Texas. A young man named Mitchell Marcus, a senior at Coronado High who had been team manager for the Coronado Thunderbirds for the past three years and has a developmental disability, was allowed to suit up for the last game of the season. Even better, Coach Peter Morales put him in the game with 90 seconds left. His teammates gave him a few chances to score – the crowd chanting, “Mitchell! Mitchell!” – but he wasn’t able to make the shot.

And then it gets good.

A kid named Jonathon Montanez, a senior at Franklin High School and a member of the opposing team who had possession, called Marcus’ name and tossed him the ball. Mitchell turned around, made his basket and the crowd went wild.

I don’t know why Jonathon did this. Even though nothing was on the line – the Thunderbirds were up by 10 points – you don’t aid the enemy. That’s being a traitor, right?

No, it’s not right. Regardless of the color of our jerseys or the name of our school, what side of town we come from, whether we’re home or away, we’re all people. Brothers and sisters. Jonathon did it, apparently, just because he’s a kind, sensitive, good human being.

I like being reminded that people are like this.

The video clip of this happy moment went viral (see below); the boys were subsequently treated to an NBA game as guests of Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul and appeared on Ellen DeGeneres' national talk show – during which Mitchell became emotional and Jonathan comforted him by patting his back – the following month. They were also honored by the Texas State Senate.

This may be cheesy and sentimental but that’s okay. I like cheesy and I’m not afraid to admit it. I don’t ever want to become so cynical that this kind of sportsmanship, this sweet gesture doesn’t bring a tear to my eye and a smile to my face.

"I was so happy then," Mitchell told local reporters about his shot. "It made my night."

Thank you, Jonathon and Mitchell, for making mine.

Sources: Huffington Post, the, CBS News.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Those Eyes

 Photo by António Fernandes

I Love You Mary Jane - Cypress Hill

Why You Should Love Mary Jane and Be Outraged About Alexandria

I probably shouldn’t share this again at “What’s the Diehl?” – prospective clients and employers might stumble upon this blog – but I can’t help it. I support the legalization of marijuana and think you should too.

Why am I disclosing this again now? (I’ve written about the ganja before; see “Just Say No to Listening to the People,” October 12, 2011; “Let’s Par-tay!,” January 9, 2012; or “What I’ve Learned in 50 Years,” March 15, 2012.) It seems like dope is in the news a lot lately.

First, a group known as the Coalition for a Safer Lansing just submitted more than 6,400 signatures in support of a proposal to legalize the possession, sale and use of up to an ounce of marijuana. If 4,200 of these are certified by the city clerk, it’ll appear on the ballot this November. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, about whom I’ve never been crazy but with whom I agree on this issue, has already announced his support of the initiative.

I lived in Lansing from 1983 until 2009, when I officially gave up my downtown apartment and moved in with Anita and the kids in a southern suburb. You couldn’t have collected your signatures a little sooner, Coalition for a Safer Lansing?

Alexandria Hill
Second, two-year-old Alexandria Hill was removed from her home in Round Rock, Texas, 15 miles north of Austin, last November because her parents had a habit of smoking dope after putting her to bed. She was placed in not one but two abusive foster homes by a private agency contracted by Children’s Protective Services – her dad, Joshua, would notice bruises on her during visitation – and was rushed to a hospital last week with severe head injuries. After 48 hours in a coma, she was taken off of life support and died. (Her foster mother was arrested and charged with murder.)

Let that sink in for a second. Alexandria was stolen from her parents because they would fire up a joint after she was asleep – not because they abused, neglected or molested her or she was sickly or malnourished but because they smoked grass after she was tucked safely in her crib. And now this beautiful child is a statistic, a manila file, a memory, a photo in a frame on her grieving parents’ mantel.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta

If this doesn’t disturb you, you’re an idiot.

Third, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the eminent neurosurgeon and Emmy award-winning chief medical correspondent for CNN, is hosting “Weed,” a one-hour documentary that premieres this Sunday, August 11, at 8:00 p.m. ET. According to, Dr. Gupta spent nearly a year traveling around the world to shed light on the marijuana debate. Should be interesting.

All this news about reefer spurred me to pull together some interesting facts that support legalization:

  • Pot has been used by nearly 100 million Americans. According to government surveys, some 25 million of us have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, young people don't smoke any more pot in states where medical marijuana is legal than in ones where it's not. Legalization advocates argue that the best way to reduce pot use by minors is to legalize and regulate it.
  • About 750,000 people are arrested every year for marijuana offenses in the U.S.
  • Although pot smoke, like tobacco smoke, contains carcinogens, a 2006 UCLA study concluded that even heavy marijuana use does not lead to lung cancer.
  • Pot, unlike alcohol, doesn't generally unleash aggression, so it's much harder to link it to violent crime.
  • According to National Institutes of Health research, just nine percent of marijuana users became clinically dependent at some point.
  • An Institute of Medicine report found "no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs."
  • Study after study has found that pot is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco.
  • Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers an estimated $10 billion annually and results in the arrest of more than 750,000 individuals per year – far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
  • Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief, nausea, spasticity, glaucoma and movement disorders. Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant and emerging research suggests that its medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors.
The myth that marijuana users are slacker couch potatoes who’ll never amount to anything is just that: a myth. There’s of course no guarantee that you too will become one of the richest men in the world like Sir Richard Branson or Ted Turner, win Olympic gold medals like Michael Phelps, sell millions of books like Stephen King or become a leading politician like Mike Bloomberg or Barack Obama...but anything’s possible, dude.

If weed’s not your thing, that’s cool. I know not everyone’s comfortable altering their state in order to escape, relax or cure what ails ‘em. And pot can be abused just like any drug if one isn’t careful and responsible. The purpose of this post is just to provide readers with food for thought on an unnecessarily contentious issue. To me, it’s a no-brainer: legalize, regulate, tax and raise much-needed revenue while saving the trainloads of money we currently waste on prosecution and punishment.

Let’s do it in memory of Alexandria.

Click here to read, Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Sources:,,,, Rolling Stone, NORML.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What Are They Thinking About?

Overcome - Ed Kowalczyk featuring Sinéad O'Connor

Guest Post by Vincent Butler: I Disagree, Mr. President

"Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically such that even though some continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate.”

~ Bayard Rustin

I've stated before that I don't always agree with President Obama. Here's an area of possible disagreement. In his speech a little over a week ago he said that he's seen people cross the street, clutch their purses tighter, and/or lock their car doors when they saw him if they shouldn't do that.

My opinion is a little different. I'm a pretty good-sized guy (6'5"; around 240 lbs). If you see me coming down the street, especially if you're alone and at night, go ahead and clutch your purse tighter or cross the street or lock your car doors! That doesn't bother me at all. That IS your right. It's much better for you to be cautious, in my opinion.

Here's what bothers me. It bothers me when you stop exercising "your" rights and start infringing on "mine." When my voting rights are infringed upon, when my right to earn a living is infringed upon, when I can't attend the better schools, when I can't go into the restaurants and eat, when I can't get that job that I'm very qualified for (because of my skin color), when I can't get equal pay, when I can't exercise my right to choose (because it's been taken away), when I pay taxes at 35% and I see the RICH paying little or no taxes (while constantly complaining about the deficit)...those, among other things, show me that you don't consider me to be an equal who's also entitled to seek the American Dream.

The thing that some people don't understand is that this is Poor/Middle Class vs. the RICH; it's not all about Black vs. White vs. Other races. Minorities and the Poor/Middle Class SHOULD be United.

Do these themes in the above picture look familiar? We WILL NOT be going BACK(wards).

Vincent Butler, the author of this post, is an entrepreneur and business owner who lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with his wife, Phyllis Banks Butler. They have three children – Carla, Bryson and Eric – and a Malti-Tzu pup named Zoe'. Mr. Butler, who excelled at athletics, attended North Carolina A & T State University on a full basketball scholarship and earned an MBA from Ashland University in Ohio. His Facebook posts are always thoughtful and interesting.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Child Meets Stingray

Snoop Dogg - Gin and Juice

Sunday poetry


I want to tell you a story. There is a dog and sunlight in it. My sister is driving the car. My tall taciturn kid brother is sitting next to me. Our grand-aunt just called, sobbing. Her huge ancient dog has collapsed. We are driving along the beach road toward her house. You wouldn't
believe the light this morning. Our grand-aunt is a bigot. It is tense whenever she comes to family dinners, because she will say things like The Yankees went to hell when they hired niggers to play the outfield. There are men on the jetties fishing for striped bass. Our grand-aunt is blind. Her dog shepherds her expertly from couch to kitchen and back, her hand on his shoulder. Our grand-aunt keened at the wedding when her brother, our grandfather, married our grandmother. Keening is wailing for the dead in the ancient Irish tradition. Our grandmother never spoke to our grand-aunt for the rest of her life. How stupid Irish is that, as our dad likes to say. The dog's name is Sandy. He is a great dog. We think he does the laundry. Our sister drives slowly and cranes her neck to see the street signs. My kid brother isn't saying much. The men on the jetties are also hoping for bluefish. Our grand-aunt always says she can tell if people on the radio are Negroes or not. She says there are more Negroes on the radio at night. When we get to the house, we can hear her weeping inside. The front door is locked, so we go around back and let ourselves in and ask for her in the dark. There are piles of newspapers like you wouldn't believe. Why exactly a blind woman would continue to get the paper is a mystery to me, our dad likes to say. When our grand-aunt comes to family dinners, she sits at one end of the table, and our dad sits at the other and grinds his teeth. You can hear him do it if you sit close enough. The dog is sprawled on our grand-aunt's kitchen floor. There are dirty dishes piled so high in the sink that if you sneezed there would be a calamity. Our sister knows animals the best, and she kneels down and asks Sandy how he's doing, and he pants and stares at us in a friendly fashion. He has the thickest whitest eyebrows you have ever seen. Our grand-aunt is sobbing on the couch. She tries to explain, but she is not using any words that we know. Sandy is such a huge dog that he takes up most of the kitchen floor. One time at dinner our grand-aunt said that the Negroes were taking over the government, and I bet people in Peru heard our dad grinding his teeth. Our sister stands up and says Sandy is dying and we have to get him to the vet. Our grand-aunt cries even harder. The dog stares at us.
I remember there was a long pause while Sandy panted and our grand-aunt cried and we tried to calculate how we were going to get this dog out of the house and into the car. And then my tall kid brother bent down and picked Sandy up as if the dog weighed no more than an ounce, and he straightened up, with his arms full of dying dog, and there was this look on his face that I just cannot find the words for. That's the story I want to tell you. There was love and pain and fury on his face, but then the words run out of gas, and all I can say is: See his face all twisted and shining in the shadowy kitchen? See? This is the biggest, heaviest oldest dog you can imagine, and it would have been a miracle if all three of us had managed to hoist him up and haul him into the car, but somehow my kid brother has lifted him like a feather, and now the tears are sliding silver down his face, like water over a rock, and I open the door, and the light comes pouring in all wild and careless and impatient.

~ Brian Doyle

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Back to Black - Amy Winehouse

Help Me Change the Literary World

I’m not in need of a kidney transplant or a new van with which to transport food to elderly shut-ins. I’m looking for people interested in supporting the creation and production of a 300-page book on a topic that’s been largely overlooked by the writing community.  I’ve been a professional writer for decades but as the job market has become more challenging for people like me, I’ve turned my focus toward publishing a book that makes it onto the New York Times bestseller list, becomes a national phenomenon, and erases the negative balance in my checking account.  I intend to use humor and my unique perspective as a middle-aged, slightly-overweight white guy who feels like a young, trim white guy to amuse my readers and give them something to think about.

My partner, four innocent young children and drooling creditors thank you in advance for helping to put a smile on their faces and food on their table...well, except for the drooling creditors. I’m not feeding them anything.

In the event that you’re the type of donor who requires biographical information on the writers and artists you support, here’s a little something:

Patrick Diehl, 51, has written, edited and proofread professionally for three decades.  When he’s not writing or lamenting the direction in which the planet’s heading, he enjoys riding his lawn tractor at breakneck speeds, hiding photos of owls in library books and designing wedding invitations for people he doesn’t know.  He lives in a suburb of Lansing, Michigan, with his loving partner, their four beautiful but hungry young children and two small, relatively hypoallergenic dogs who bark incessantly at everyone including their own humans.

Reward Levels
  • $20:  Receive a personal e-mail message thanking you for enhancing my quality of life
  • $50:  Receive a personal e-mail message thanking you for enhancing my quality of life, a copy of the book you helped fund, and a personal and brief telephone call from me (provided you provide your phone number).
  • $100:  Receive a personal e-mail message thanking you for enhancing my quality of life, a brief but personal telephone call from me, a copy of the book you helped fund and the inclusion of your name in the book’s Acknowledgements section. (If your name is Mickey Mouse, Howard Stern or Lois Lane, you must supply a copy of a birth certificate verifying same.)
  • $500:  Receive a personal e-mail message thanking you for enhancing my quality of life, a brief but personal telephone call from me, a copy of the book you helped fund, the inclusion of your real name in the book’s Acknowledgements section, and an inscribed photo of me marching up and down a busy street and holding a sign that says, “[Your name here] is one of the best people ever.”

Here's the link:

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Hillside in Tibet

Beautiful Tango - Hindi Zahra

Guest Post by Nathan Triplett: Ostomy Is Not a Tragedy

Nathan Triplett, 28, is an attorney, elected official, community activist and one of the most prolific posters on my Facebook news feed, although I have no idea how he finds the time. He gave me permission to repost the following enlightening message that he shared in Facebook yesterday:

As most of you know, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease as a teenager. Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. I was in constant pain and I was scared to death. Scared not just of the disease, but of the possibility that I would require surgery and end up with an ostomy. I didn’t know anyone with Crohn’s or with an ostomy to turn to for straight talk about what lay ahead. For 10 years, I did anything and everything that I could to avoid surgery. Eventually, my condition deteriorated to the point where surgery was my only viable treatment option. In June 2009, I underwent a total proctocolectomy with ileostomy to remove the entirety of my colon and rectum and to create a permanent ostomy. Four years later, I can tell you that surgery changed my life. It has allowed me to live essentially pain free for the first time in as long as I can remember. My ostomy hasn’t stopped me from living life to its fullest. In fact, it’s helped me do just that.

Unfortunately, there’s still a great deal of stigma associated with this surgical procedure. Stigma that results in the perpetuation of myths and misinformation and leads to exactly the kind of fear that I felt when I was younger. Recently, the Cincinnati Police Department began running a campaign aimed at reducing gun violence that features images of people with ostomies. The gist of the campaign is to say to young people: "You don’t want to get shot, because you might end up with an ostomy." They are portraying ostomies as something terrible, something to fear. One officer is quoted saying: "You're not killed, but you're walking around with a colostomy bag and that's just not the way to get a girl's attention, by limping down Warsaw Avenue with a colostomy bag."

There’s no doubt that reducing gun violence is a priority of the highest order, but stigmatizing people with ostomies, and adding to the fear and misunderstanding that often surrounds conditions like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, is the absolute wrong strategy. The author of this Huffington Post piece gets it right: ostomy is not a tragedy. Far from it. My ostomy changed my life for the better, just as it has for countless others. I don’t want any young person today to feel the fear that I needlessly felt about my Crohn’s and my ostomy. Tonight I’ll be writing a letter to Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, encouraging him to rethink his strategy, and calling on the Cincinnati Police Department to end its stigmatizing campaign.

The Honorable Mark Mallory
Mayor of Cincinnati
City Hall
801 Plum Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

Four million Americans live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and an estimated three-quarters of a million Americans live with an ostomy. Click here to read “Cincinnati Police Department: An Ostomy Is Not a Tragedy.” And click here for information provided by the United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.

Nathan earned not one but two bachelor’s degrees from Michigan State University’s James Madison College, a master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and a law degree from MSU’s College of Law. He’s an associate at Clark Hill PLC, a prominent law firm with offices in several states. Nathan has served on the East Lansing City Council for years – he’s currently the city’s Mayor Pro Tem – and is affiliated with the local Democratic Party, Rotary Club, the American Civil Liberties Union and Boy Scouts of America, among other groups. He’s been honored by the Michigan Municipal League, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Lansing United Nations Association and others for his efforts to enhance the quality of life in his community. He makes Facebook better too.

Sources: Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society, United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Zimmerman Jury

Fly Over States - Jason Aldean

If You Think Robin Thicke Is a Despicable Misogynist, Sign Here

I ran across a post in Facebook yesterday relating to singer Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” song and video. People are objecting to what they see as misogynistic art being nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards – Best Collaboration, Best Male Video and Video of the Year – and have launched a petition urging MTV executives to withdraw the song immediately and stop “rewarding rape culture.”

First of all, I didn’t know MTV was even involved with music anymore – I thought the network that brings us Jersey Shore, Teen Mom 2, Teen Wolf, Girl Code and the salacious Spring Break and Real World phenomena left genuine music (and good taste) behind decades ago. I also had no idea that anyone over 23 gave a rodent’s derriere about MTV awards (except for pandering music celebrities itching to sell records or jumpstart/revive their careers). I know I don’t.

Incidentally, when I told my 12-year-old that MTV used to be about music, he replied, “It did? What happened?” Good question, Bryant.

Secondly, I’ve never been a fan of censorship, regardless of what’s being censored. Of course I oppose rape and I’m not crazy about the objectification of women – I personally know more than a few of ‘em myself and am even related to some. I also oppose slaughtering dolphins, hunting elephants, evicting the homeless from downtown bus stations, tearing down historical buildings and paving paradise to put up parking lots. But it just doesn’t feel right to try to shut down objectionable Facebook groups and tell private entities what they can and can’t say and sell. At the risk of sounding like a GOP politician, I say we let the market decide. If people want to buy, watch or express something, who am I to tell them they can’t? (Obviously this excludes semiautomatic firearms, kiddy porn, methamphetamines, Ted Nugent CDs and shouting “Fire!” in crowded movie theaters.)

And anyway, if we’re going to try to clean up television, Honey Boo Boo and her unsettling family deserve to be yanked off the air long before awards shows in my view.

Third, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t think online petitions are all that effective. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort or conviction to type 35 keystrokes and click “enter” – and what’s to stop someone from signing several times using aliases and secondary or fictional e-mail addresses? There may be statistics out there to support going this route but I haven’t seen any. I’m clinging to the belief that a personal letter is more persuasive than being number #47, #6,719 or #920,123 on a roster of electronic slacktivists.

I remember joining millions of others who took to the streets in cities around the world back in February of 2003 to persuade Dubya and his ilk not to invade Iraq. (Some experts estimate that 36 million people took part in almost 3,000 protests all over the world in the first quarter of 2003.) We started bombing Baghdad a few weeks later anyway (and ended up spending over $800 billion on that war alone). If 36 million people physically blocking traffic around the globe don't have an impact on the shot-callers, do you really think an online list of signers from the Flyover States does?

I concede that I’m a middle-aged white guy who has no idea how it feels to be female, black, disabled, hunted, poor, captured or at risk of anything besides heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and morbid obesity if I’m not careful. I just think there’s a slew of better reasons to be ‘outraged,’ as one disgruntled petition signer described herself. Maybe I’m insensitive but I just don’t think MTV is part of a nefarious plot to make “rape culture” more acceptable.

When I showed my daughters the tamer version of the video, my 13-year-old said it was stupid and explicit and she didn’t like it, my 10-year-old found it “inappropriate” and “not that good” and my eight-year-old said she wished “there weren’t any girls in it.” Rather than taking part in a censorship campaign, I just need to trust my kids’ discerning taste.

And people need to learn how to pick their battles and turn off their televisions.

If you insist on seeing for yourself what the hubbub’s all about, here’s the milder version of the video (click here for the explicit version):

UPDATE: I just ran across this funny parody video: