Sunday, November 17, 2019


There were a couple interesting events in the world of sports this week, NFL football to be specific, that caught my attention and led to extensive Twitter commentary by myself and others. The first was a brawl that took place towards the end of an otherwise boring game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. Due in large part to the out of control behavior of one participant in particular, it may go down as the most memorable sports brawl since the legendary Malice in the Palace. I don't know if an equally catchy nickname has been decided on for this latest athletic brouhaha.

The second occurrence was a surprising and oddly rushed decision by the NFL to give Colin Kaepernick a tryout before all 32 NFL teams, after having snubbed him for the better part of the past three years, to possibly make a return to the league. I'm sure you know all about how and why he ended up out of the league to begin with.

Below you'll find a recap of both sporty happenings and various contrary reactions from those in my Twitter feed.

I'm curious to see where this Kaepernick situation goes. After today are his odds of being signed by a #NFL team higher, lower or unchanged. Will teams retain their opinion that his potential to cause them headaches is greater than his potential to be a franchise QB?

Oh, there was one other bit of sports news this week.

Also...OUCH and good night.

That's all I got for you sports fans. As for the avid book readers among you, here's one of my videos at Roy's Book Reviews.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Information Overload

It occurred to me in conversation with my wife this morning that certain incidents seem to happen much more frequently in 2019 than when we were kids. We were talking about a child in his early teens who committed suicide. We don't know the grieving family but are acquainted with at least one family who does. So there's sort of a connection there. But that isn't how we found out about the tragedy. My wife learned of this child's death the new fashioned way, through social media, specifically facebook. Every couple months give or take it seems we learn about a young person taking their own life, though usually not anyone we're personally connected with. When we were kids we don't recall ever hearing about, much less knowing a single kid who killed himself or herself. Is society unraveling at such a rapid clip that the odds of making it through your teen years without deciding enough is enough are significantly lower than twenty, thirty, forty years ago? Is the fact that bullies in 2019 can use a number of apps and social media sites on the internet to conduct their nasty business, rather than only being able to harass face to face back in the day, the reason why a greater number of children in present times decide they can't take it anymore?

Maybe. But then I realized that if my wife didn't happen to be a regular facebook user, there is a fair chance that she never would have found out about this poor child. Even though his family lives rather close to our home and we're connected by a single degree of separation, there's no guarantee that the suicide would have come to our attention if it wasn't for facebook. This caused me to ponder how many other things appear to happen much more
frequently now than used to be the case...and to wonder whether those things really are happening more frequently, or are we just more likely to hear about it these days. 

I rarely sit down to watch a local nightly news program and I don't subscribe to a single newspaper. Yet I feel far more informed about important and trivial matters going on in the world than I did prior to Al Gore's internet. I spend time daily staring at my Twitter stream, take a peek at the day's trending topics, and in so doing I receive my news fix on a regular basis. Whatever I miss on Twitter I learn about on facebook. And every so often a breaking story comes to my attention via Instagram. All bases are covered, information overload accomplished with minimal effort on my part. At a glance I gain superficial knowledge of incidents taking place throughout the world near and far. If a particular story is of personal interest, it's easy enough to delve deeper by clicking on a hyperlink. If the subject matter doesn't grab me then I'm content with just the headline.

In addition to information flowing more rapidly and further reaching in our current era, we are also able to record whatever occurs more easily. Most everyone has a cell phone on them that functions as a still and video camera along with allowing us to place and receive phone calls. If something noteworthy takes place in your vicinity, it's no hassle to record it. And then to post the video online. Depending on how interesting the content is, it may go viral. If so, inevitably a hashtag will be created for it. Now it's a trending topic which makes it breaking news whether the media gets involved or not. News organizations won't ignore for long if enough people are talking about it. They will promptly report on what they see has grabbed our collective attention.

Incidents of a certain nature seeming to happen much more frequently than in years past can have significant consequences. We react to events that are rare differently than to those that are an epidemic. Are white people constantly reporting black people who are doing nothing but minding their own business with melanin to the police? That seems to be the case because stories about a white person feeling threatened by the proximity of a black person doing nothing at all threatening make it to my twitter stream at least once per month. But chances are that these absurd situations don't actually occur more regularly than a decade or two ago but simply come to my attention more frequently now. Long before Becky made an emergency call on her cell phone, Becky back in the day was hustling to make the call in a phone booth. But nobody recorded her. If a level headed police officer shows up, it's not that big of a deal, just another example of bigots being idiots. If a trigger happy cop shows up, the result can be tragedy. Too many tragedies can spark a movement such as Black Lives Matter. That movement along with resulting backlash can make it into our political discourse and help determine who we elect president. But are white cops killing more unarmed black people today than in the 1970's, 1980's, 1990's and so on? Or are we just more likely in 2019 to find out about a greater amount of excessive policing and higher number of unjustified killings due to the sped up nature of communication?

Somebody has probably crunched the numbers and can provide answers to these questions. Do more people under the age of 18 commit suicide now than in the past? Do more male and female teachers have sexual relationships with students than used to happen before? Have incidents of racial bias from the ridiculous to the deadly significantly increased? Or do we merely hear about these things more so consider them to be bigger problems than before? Was our pre-internet ignorance bliss? Or does increased knowledge empower us to greater recognize the ills of society and try to do something about them? Even if all we end up doing is complaining more frequently. The squeaky wheel does eventually get some oil though. #MeToo is one such example.

I have questions. And without researching further I'm left to guess at the answers and leave you to do the same. One thing I know hasn't changed is that there has always been a degree of corruption in politics and political behavior ripe for mocking. But no previous president has ever given us quite as much material to work with as Trump. For bad and for worse, he's something new to reckon with. Hopefully we'll do more than hashtag and complain about it.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Words written by and spoken about me

On a whim I googled my name and found a treasure trove of quotes from my books MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE, PATCHES OF GREY and FEEDING THE SQUIRRELS. You just never know what google is going to unearth. I've assembled them together for this post along with the first video review for a book of mine. It was doubly interesting for me to watch the video both as the author of the book being discussed (MoC) and someone who has recently joined the booktuber ranks and is still getting the hang of recording myself discussing books I've read. I have a long way to go as a book reviewer/booktuber and as a writer and as a husband/father/human. As they say, it's the journey not the destination that matters. Based on the passages below I'll humbly proclaim that every so often I've managed to string a group of words together in a manner that ain't half bad. Without further ado I present...

Friday, October 4, 2019

Reactions to THE HUG

There are hugs and then there are HUGS. Most everyone in my social media range of view has a strong opinion one way or another about the embrace depicted above. In case you've been living under a rock lately (a choice it may seem wise to make in these troubled days) a man named Botham Jean was shot to death in his home by a woman named Amber Guyger. The killer was a police officer, but she was not on duty, not responding to report of a crime. Instead, she claims that she mistakenly got off on the wrong floor of the apartment building they both lived in. Then she mistakenly entered Botham Jean's apartment (the door wasn't locked shut) which was directly above her apartment one floor below. Supposedly thinking that she had walked into her own home and found it occupied by an intruder, she pulled her gun and killed Botham Jean. There is more I can say about the ensuing criminal case, but I'll let you google the details if you wish to know more. I'll simply provide the result which was a conviction for murder and sentence of 10 years in prison (presumably she'll be able to get out sooner if good behavior allows) for Amber Guyger.

Prior to announcement of verdict, people wondered if there would even be a conviction. If so, would it be for murder or perhaps for a reduced charge of manslaughter. When the jury asked to consider a Stand Your Ground type rule, not for Botham Jean who was in his own home but for Amber Guyger who had entered someone else's apartment uninvited and proceeded to kill him, folks steeled themselves for the worst. Would YET ANOTHER white cop go unpunished for killing an unarmed, unsuspecting black person in cold blood?

The jury did its job (correctly in my opinion) by finding Amber Guyger guilty of murder. I don't care that she is absent minded, perhaps distracted by naughty texts from her lover. I don't care about her distasteful, racially insensitive social media posts. Maybe she was a white supremacist. Maybe she was a Second Amendment nut. Maybe she was a saint with horrible luck. I don't care. All that matters to me is that regardless of whose apartment Amber thought she was entering, once she crossed the threshold and saw Botham Jean she could have reacted in any number of ways that would not have resulted in his death. As a police officer she was supposedly trained in how to handle potentially dangerous situations. For some reason the only resolution that occurred to her was to take aim and fire at someone who was not threatening in any way to do her harm. I find this an act that warrants prison time no matter what the circumstances around it happen to be. Amber Guyger did the crime, she should do the time.

But this piece is not meant to be about THAT crime. Instead it's about the alleged "crime" committed by Botham Jean's brother Brandt after the sentencing. Brandt publicly forgave Amber Guyger for killing Botham. Speaking for no one but himself, not even on behalf of the Jean family, he said that he bore her no ill will. "I don't even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that's exactly what Botham would want." A video of the powerful moment can be found below.

The image above and video below sparked strong reactions. Some felt that Brandt's actions were wonderfully Christian, an example of the ideal way for one human being to treat another under extremely trying circumstances. Many others had a range of reaction from agitation to fury. THE HUG was seen as yet another example of a black person meekly turning the other cheek. Never mind that the meek are supposed to inherit the earth and that to err is human, forgiveness is divine. Rather than living per directive of the good book that those who took the stand throughout the trial had sworn by to speak the truth and nothing but the truth so help them God, some would have preferred that Brandt grabbed a Bible and smacked Amber across the face with it. Forgiveness denied. Be off to prison on the road inevitably leading to Hell!

I do not think I would be as forgiving of somebody who took the life of one of my family members. I'm simply not that big of a person. Not as pure of heart as Brandt seems to be. I'm less forgiving of Amber Guyger than Brandt is and I have no relationship whatsoever with Botham Jean. The first I ever heard of him was the news that he had been killed. If Amber was acquitted of all charges, I would be pretty pissed off about it. Had that happened, I would have interpreted it as a blatant case of White privilege and Blue privilege. Another white cop gets away with killing an unarmed black person. Another case of Justice not being color blind.

But that is not what happened. Therefore I am unconcerned about Amber Guyer being forgiven and hugged by Botham Jean, just as I was unmoved by her tears on the stand. Maybe she didn't mean to kill, but kill is what she did. Her tears were unable to bring Botham back to life and so too was Brandt's hug. I have no disdain to express. Brandt and other members of the Jean family can and will grieve and accept the loss of Botham as they see fit. It isn't any of my business just because it happens to be something I witnessed on my computer screen. I'm not entitled to an opinion on how Brandth Jean should express his pain at the loss of a sibling simply because it's the social media story du jour. I'll stay in my own lane and be grateful I'm not in the same position as him.

As for an African American bailiff stroking Amber's hair, or the hug that was given to Amber by the judge after her fate was sealed, those actions struck me as somewhat unprofessional. As I stated on Twitter...

But in addition to their job titles they happen to be human beings, and if showing compassion to a woman who claimed to have made a fatal mistake and deeply regretted this is what they were moved to do - then that's what they were moved to do. Being kind when having every right to be indifferent or even cruel is neither sin nor crime. If you think it makes them weak or consider such acts of tenderness in light of the situation to be acts of Uncle Tommery, I hold nothing against you either. There is no right or wrong here. There is only the type of person each one of us is, and the choices to act how each of us sees fit.

If you don't have it in you to hug someone you hate for what they did, hopefully you're fortunate enough to be able to hug the ones you love for who they are.

And now for a video from my booktube channel Roy's Book Reviews...

Intriguing new development...

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Meet Audrey from MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE - an excerpt

Audrey headed down West Broadway towards her favorite shoe store.  Words of praise showered upon her at that afternoon’s meeting were echoing in her head.  The last author she had signed, a self-help guru who provided spiritual enlightenment to the masses in a non-intimidating page count, marketed in-house as philosophy for dummies, was the current darling of non-fiction Best Seller lists.  Audrey was the golden child of the moment at her publishing house.
Wonderful as the meeting had gone, afterwards went even better.  That’s when she was all but assured that upon the pending retirement of Brandon Murray, who had hired her and served admirably as mentor, the open position of publisher and vice president would go to her.  She had two main competitors.  The first was Sinclair Hopkins, a windbag who dyed his hair a ridiculous tar black shade and was one of the last remaining practitioners in their industry of the three martini lunch.  The second was Patricia McIntrye, Pat to those who knew her reasonably well.  Like Sinclair she was white, but that was the first and last of their similarities.  He was short, stout, often under the influence, and known to make inappropriate comments to and about female coworkers when alcohol rather than discretion got the best of his tongue.  Pat was tall and lean, a teetotaler with a penchant for signing authors with a feminist bent.  She had recently become pregnant, taking everybody at work by surprise because she was a lesbian who had surpassed her fortieth birthday by four years.  Her thirty year old lover Adrian was unable to carry a pregnancy to term, so Pat was artificially inseminated to bring about the family they desired. 
In selecting a successor to Brandon Murray, math declared that Audrey should be the winner.  The money her authors earned surpassed Pat’s and Sinclair’s by a healthy margin.  However the world was not propelled by mathematics or fairness.  She did not want to believe that race would work to her disadvantage but acknowledged the likelihood that it would play a hindering role.  Sinclair had the most seniority and was a white heterosexual male in a power structure that could still be described as an old boy’s network.  Even though his drinking and sexism had become offensive in an increasingly politically correct climate, plus the fact that he was on an extended losing streak at discovering successful authors, Audrey still figured the contest was his to lose.  So she was surprised and delighted to learn that he along with Pat was choking on her dust.
The purchase of a new pair of boots would elevate her spirits even higher.  She was meeting with friends later that night at the opening a posh new restaurant, providing an excellent venue to show off her latest pair of designer footwear.  This was working out to be a great day.
She strode through the doorway of Otto Tootsi Plohound and took a moment to scan the various sizes, shapes, materials, and colors posed prettily about.  Midway through the process she spied a familiar face.
“Audrey. My God, it’s been ages.”
“Yes it has.  How are things with you?”
“Absolutely wonderful.”  Before Nadia reached the seventh syllable of her reply she had pulled out a series of photographs from her purse.  They featured her pride and joy.
“He’s adorable,” Audrey stated automatically before even taking a good look at the top picture.  “He’s gotten so big since I saw him last,” she said as she flipped through the stack, aware that her comments were a carbon copy of every conversation she’d ever had with the mother of a toddler.
“Thanks.  Clay somehow manages to grow more precious every day.  I hear things are really looking up for you at Piermont.”
Audrey was not surprised to learn that Nadia continued to monitor events at work more than a year after her departure.  She had been a workaholic up until her final day, resulting in her being one of the most respected executives in the company.  What continued to astound Audrey was the fact that Nadia left to begin with.  She had brought about much positive change during her career while managing to avoid bruising too many egos.  It had seemed there was no limit to her prospects.
Yet she walked away from it.  Nadia abandoned the income, the respect, the power and influence she wielded.  She left all of these things behind her for the trials, tribulations and triumphs of motherhood.  The paychecks could be forfeited thanks to substantial income earned by her husband Carlos.  As for other benefits, apparently they did not matter much when compared to the look of unconditional love found in her son’s eyes.  Nadia insisted that her first and probably only child not be raised by nannies.  She chose to follow the same “if you want it done right, do it yourself” philosophy in her personal life that had been advantageous to her career.
“Keep your fingers crossed for me,” Audrey said.
“You know I will.  There is no one more deserving of that position than you.”  She was looking in the purse being rummaged through rather than at Audrey as she spoke.  After pulling out a compact, lipstick, crumbled tissues and a tampon, she found the cell phone she was looking for.  “Oh, look at the time.  I always lose track of it in here.  I have to run.  Let’s do a better job of keeping in touch.”
“Yes, definitely.”
A kiss on the cheek later, Nadia was off and running.  Audrey took a moment to compare the version that she recalled from their time working together to the current somewhat harried, but still flawlessly put together incarnation.  Was Nadia happier now?  Probably.  Hopefully.  Done reflecting on the state of affairs of Nadia Schwartz-Fernandez, she turned her attention back to the array of podiatric accoutrements.  She knew that deciding on a purchase for tonight would be a torturous ordeal, and she was looking forward to every second of it.
“A lovely day for shoe shopping, is it not?”
Audrey turned towards the man who approached her.  He was expensively dressed in a sharp as a blade Armani suit, clearly not an employee of the store, but someone who intended to spend plenty of money in it.
“Every day is a lovely one for shoe shopping.”
The man smiled, bringing about deeply etched dimples.  He was handsome in a maintained sort of way.  He had a Bill Dee Williams circa “Lady Sings the Blues” vibe going for him, complete with requisite well-groomed mustache.  She got the feeling that nobody was more aware of his good looks than him, and also suspected that his confidence would be matched by persistence. 
“I’m Mitchell.”
“I’m sure you are.”
“I was standing over there and couldn’t help noticing you.  I said to myself ‘Mitchell, you absolutely must go over and introduce yourself to that splendid looking creature’.  I guess you could say I was helplessly drawn to your radiance.  I’m sure this sort of thing happens to you all the time but I’m pretty new at being in the presence of a goddess, so you’ll have to forgive me for being a bit tongue tied.”
“To the contrary.  You’re quite the smooth talker.”  Audrey wished she could grab a shovel to dig herself out from the mound of drivel Mitchell had dumped on her.  She had heard plenty of scripted dialogue before from guys who lacked spur of the moment eloquence, but nothing quite as self-indulgent as his little seduction speech.
“Only when properly inspired.  Now are you going to be kind enough to grace me with your name?  Or better yet, with that plus your company.  There’s a quaint little café around the corner from here.  Perhaps you’d care to join me for cappuccino and biscotti so we can get to know one another better.”
She took hold of his manicured hands, bringing about another of his dimpled smiles, this one even more lascivious than its predecessor. 
“I think I already know you well enough.  But I’ll make you a deal.  I’ll tell you my name if you tell me the name of your wife.”  She pointed out the ring finger tan line he sported, wedding band no doubt stuffed into his pocket a minute earlier.
“Okay,” he said.  “I’m not perfect.  But I have been told that I’m pretty damn close.  And I’d be happy to keep a woman as fine as yourself stocked in as many pairs of these shoes as your heart desires.  I’d love to tend to every single one of your desires, if you know what I mean.”
Audrey let go of his hands as if realizing he was contaminated by something deadly contagious.  “I can buy my own shoes, thank you.  And if I wanted to run around with another woman’s husband, I’d pick any woman other than your wife.”
“Suit yourself,” he said, licking his lips to unintentionally provide another turn-off.  “You don’t know what you’re missing out on.  I think we’d be incredible together.” 
When her icy glare did not melt by so much as one cube he got the hint, straightened his Nicole Miller tie for effect, and exited the store with his shopping bag.  It likely contained either a purchase for his unfortunate wife, for some woman on the side who had fallen for his sorry rap, or perhaps one for each of them.
     He was gone from her mind before he even reached the door.  Wall to wall shoes made forgetting about fools and their lame come-ons pretty easy to do.