Tipping Over Rocks

As I watch middle age wind its way inevitably towards life’s downward slope, I ponder which part of my soul to put into words.  While we inevitably have some mid-life or existential crisis – though not nearly as grand as Don Draper’s – I never seem to find the words to process those events appropriately.  Instead, I find myself coming back to the common themes of food and literature.  But not today.

As the parking wars of Oakland ended with my career taking a twist, today I’ll travel the musical path and in doing so, perhaps raise a smile, give you a tune and reveal a bit too much.  Let’s find out.  I’ll take “Tipping Over Rocks” for $2000 Alex.

Nearly everyone my age loves Led Zeppelin. What’s not to love?  Bonham’s barely contained rage on drums, Jones’ arrangements and base, Page’s searing, inventive and hypnotic guitar and Plant’s vocals driving home the point.  And that well-worn spot on his jeans.  Yes, I know that you know he dresses left.  I fought embracing Zeppelin them in high school because everyone else did, but it all finally made sense to me around 1979.  I haven’t let go.

If you ask for a list of people’s favorite Led Zeppelin songs, you will inevitably get “Stairway to Heaven”, “Kashmir” or perhaps “Ramble on”.  While I do love “The Immigrant Song”, my favorite track is a little ditty on side 3 of Physical Graffiti, “The Wanton Song”.  Who doesn’t love a song about the rush and immediate need of sex?  I do.  But the song is about the hook.  This is my favorite hook in the music universe, with all apologies to Mike Campbell.  It rocks.  It rages.  And yet it radiates a progression and melody that echoes all the false promises of pop music.  It is meaty and it delivers.  It takes my seed from my shaking frame, and the wheel rolls on.

 

In the early 70’s no band was more theatrical than Genesis.  My love of the Peter Gabriel era Genesis records is well documented.  I’ve dragged Lambchop to more Musical Box schlong fests than she cares to recall.  And while such staples as “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”, “The Musical Box” and “Supper’s Ready” are true favorites, I have a deep, carefully curated, soft spot for “Harold the Barrel”.

Harold is a man depressed, contemplating suicide, being encouraged by reporters and the crowd.  The song offsets the grim situation with a power pop melody and vocals reminiscent of happy children.  It’s a tough song to interpret as it is presented like an opera, but in Peter Gabriel’s singularly spectacular voice.  But without the liner notes showing the various parts, it can be tough to truly grasp the theatrics.  In the midst of such a crisis, Harold’s mother tries to talk him off the window ledge by telling him, “”Your shirt’s all dirty, there’s a man here from the B.B.C.”.  Some things are universal.

 

 

And then there is REM.  I first discovered REM with Life’s Rich Pageant.  That’s me, late to the game. But I went back and found the rest.  From 1986 – 1994 REM put out the soundtrack to my ascent into adulthood.  It might have been easy to point to “Texarkana”, “Can’t Get There From Here” or “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville.” Instead I’ll point you to “A Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)”.

There is a manic, frantic quality to the song.  At once I want to dance and cry.  The beat grabs me by the collar and forces my attention.  Yet under the reaping wheel, a sadness and strange environment dominates the world around me and despair rises.    Don’t miss the train of woe; Boxcars are pulling a carnival of sorts, Out of town, out of town.

 

In early 1980, my friend Matt brought over a copy of London Calling.  The Clash was new to my consciousness and while the title track and “Train in Vain” were cool, it really wasn’t till I started college later in the year did I grasp the meaning and might of this band.  Let’s skip the obvious and jump to the meat.  As I’ve aged, when I listen to Strummer and Jones I always yearn for “Stay Free”.

Clearly, the tale of a friend who wound up in prison and then got out bears no relationship to my life.  But time passes and life’s choices often create distance between friends.  Relationships erode and yet, deep down, bonds never really break. I wonder what might have been, filling in an alternate history for my life.   I always tear when Mick sings “But go easy, step lightly, stay free”, my code for what never was, but could have been.

I’m sure your first exposure to the Pretenders was “Brass in Pocket”.  Perhaps you always loved “Back on the Chain Gang.”  I know Lambchop loves “Night In My Veins” and that special something dark and dirty about Chrissie’s nights.  I tend to prefer the darkness in “Up the Neck” and the raw, bleeding emotion of “The Wait.”    One brings the darkness of love gone violently wrong to the sweet melody of a strolling love song, while the other rages with pain dished out and taken.  When I heard the entire debut from the Pretenders, and my view women in rock had changed forever.

Bondage to lust, abuse of facility
Blackmailed emotions confuse the demon and devotee

Oh gonna hurt some, child, child, child, child, child
Gonna hurt some whoa my baby

Music changes us, rewriting our DNA in a way that we can’t comprehend until it’s finished.  The old cliché is that music, generally what we heard in high school  is the soundtrack to our lives.  Instead I find it to be the fabric on which we write our story, the texture to our soul.  And if you listen closely, you’ll hear echoes of my past, here under the rocks.

Myriad Randomness: No Trump Edition

Is there anything more annoying than traffic?  As always, I drive for over an hour each morning and nearly 2 hours on my way home.  Today, several thoughts hit me.

  • This is California.  65 is a suggestion for the fast lane on uncrowded freeways.  You should consider visiting the slow lane if you believe 64 is a death sentence.
  • Is there anything worse than the indignant look of the driver doing 64 in the fast lane when you pass him (or her) on the right?  The shame they showered on me was, well, nonexistent.
  • Why no Ma’am, you your pristine white Kia Soul cannot simply bump that stalled truck out of the way.  I believe the word you are looking for is totaled.
  • I hate 880.  I will work hard to avoid it.  Sadly, on days like today when there are accidents up and down that stretch, everyone moves to my alternate routes.  Thank you for the extra 20 minutes of crawling.  My life is now approaching completion.

Eggplant, the poor misunderstood eggplant.  I think it is time we allow the purple globe to leave the island of misunderstood vegetables and live a happier, more fulfilling life.  I’ve been making versions of ratatouille and roasted vegetable, with the humble aubergine front and center.  Seriously delicious good eats those are.  Fuck.  When did I decide to eat healthier?  It must be time to put more pork on the smoker.  Don’t get your hopes up, I’m still not going anywhere near albacore — in or out of a can.

Normally we get nostalgic as we realize how far technology has brought us.  A TV antenna on a roter to watch slightly less blurry shows.  The rotary phone and the callus it created. The phone book.  A time before salmon roe foam.  I was listening to “The Bad Touch” by The Bloodhound Gang.   For those of you unfamiliar with the hook:

You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals
So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel

 How long has it been since there were shows about animal procreation on the discovery channel?  Now you get “Fat and Furious”, “Moonshiners” and “Pacific Warriors”.    I think the world was a kinder, gentler place when cable TV focused on Walrus sex, not deadly situations and careers.  And then I missed the X-Files.

If you aren’t watching “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” you are missing some fantastic comedic commentary on our world.  She and John Oliver are filling the void the left by Jon Stewart by expanding on the niche and adding to our conversations with thought provoking shows.  It is not too late to start catching up.

And please, enjoy your Passover.  Many Matzo sacrificed their balls for your soup.  If this multi-generational mutilation must continue, at least enjoy your soup. And thank your mother.

ennui

I drive to work; the train is no longer an option. Later, I drive home.  The round trip is at least 3 hours, often closer to 4.  It gives me time to listen to sports talk and generally the presidential debates. Satellite radio is a wondrous thing.  But my mood has shifted.  I am reverting back to listening to music.  My mind collapses around the sadness that is the 49ers.  The Warriors are a bright spot and the Giants exude yearly hope.

But then there is the election, still 8 months out.  Am I the only one that see’s Trump inciting violence?  I was appalled when he suggested that if he didn’t get the nomination with plurality votes, which he will surely have, the people might riot.  Might?  Isn’t he telling them to?  I took it as a signal.  A blatant call to arms.  And we wonder why he is compared to Fascists.  There are no good choices.  My politics lean liberal and as bad as Trump would be – and he would be—Cruz is worse.  The manipulation of the media for air time, the cultish feel of some candidates.  Wondering if Cruz would really like to start the end of days as his father suggests.  And then I’m reminded the next SCOTUS depends on how the NRA feels.  It all makes me weary.

And Brussels, following Paris.  Some days it is indeed too much.

So I move to music.  And the lift I’m looking for is nowhere to be found.  Sad songs.  Reminders that Bowie and Kantner passed on.  That Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin died too young.  That Duane Allman cut a swath through the south but left it searing and incomplete.  John had me imagining, but even that leads down dark hallways in this year’s context.

Today, there is no joy in Mudville.   I’m sorry I’ve neglected you, my 3 or 4 dedicated readers, but most things haven’t gotten past my filters.

Here’s a little spot of joy. Maybe it will help, at least for a moment.  Who doesn’t like power pop about teachers spiking the punch of wee ones?

 

and my heroes continue to fall

.. i hope you do see another planet.  Good bye Paul Kantner.  thank you

We Can Be Together

                Jefferson Airplane
We can be together
Ah you and me
We should be together
We are all outlaws in the eyes of america
In order to survive we steal cheat lie forge fred hide and deal
We are obscene lawless hideous dangerous dirty violent and young
But we should be together
Come on all you people standing around
Our life’s too fine to let it die and
We can be together
All your private property is
Target for your enemy
And your enemy is
We
We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very
Proud of ourselves
Up against the wall
Up against the wall  (motherfucker)
Tear down the walls
Tear down the walls
Come on now together
Get it on together
Everybody together
We should be together
We should be together my friends
We can be together
We will be
We must…

Your Guns, Our National Shame

Last week, a radicalized Muslim couple slaughtered 14 people and seriously injured many more in San Bernardino Ca.  Rather than start addressing what problems this tragic event spotlights, Radical Islamic Terrorists and easy access to Guns, the right did two very critical things.  They made sure that they galvanized their base so that NO ONE, including OBAMA, takes away their guns and they moved to defund Planned Parenthood. Again.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way.

Yes, Planned Parenthood has a major role in abortions in the USA. More importantly, they are the single largest source of affordable women’s healthcare in the USA.  And the funding they receive from the US Government DOES NOT in any way, shape, or form get used for abortions.  So, this is a smokescreen at best and at worst a horrible swipe at women’s healthcare.  And remember, the video Carly Fiorina constantly talks about was no filmed at Planned Parenthood.  It is propaganda and patently inflammatory and false.  I am I the only one that finds this behavior shameful?

Second, has anyone ever really said “let’s take all guns away!”?  Nope.  Generally it’s a call to reform our existing laws.  Yes I know it the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to bear arms.  Is it unilateral?  All types of guns?  All types of weapons?  Does the NRA really believe that the San Bernardino shooters should have been able to stock pile over 1000 rounds of ammunition?  Who needs that?

Why is it that whenever the topic comes to gun control, it immediately becomes the hysteria that “you can’t take all my guns!”?  Keep a pistol or two.  Keep your hunting rifle.  Ban semi-automatic weapons.  Ban having large magazines for ammo.  Put a cap on the number of rounds a person may buy or have.  We are talking about the means to kill people.  Why do we believe that enabling people to do it better and faster is a good thing?  What happened to our national critical thinking skills?  Stop the partisan politics and take steps to make it harder to gain access to weapons of mass death. That’s what these are.

Yes, the bad guys will still get guns.  But look at last week.  No one thought they were “bad” till they started shooting.  Doesn’t that lead you to believe that there are others like them and that getting guns is too easy?  Take it a step a further.  Even if we had identified these people as potentially dangerous, even put them on the terror list, they can still buy guns.  If you are on the national “no fly” list, you cannot be prevented from legally buying a gun.  In what world does that make sense?

But back to the 2nd Amendment.  In the vernacular of the time, it allowed you to have muskets.  The masses lived in a 2 room house without electricity.  You were worried about a how a monarchy across the ocean might attack us.  There was no mass, efficient, global communications.  But yet we still need rationalize YOUR (not mine) need to have an arsenal of weapons in your home.  If you want to move to a hut in Africa (or another third world country) and worry about the local government, fine have your guns.  There, not here.  This is not our reality.  No matter what Texans think about the national government invading Texas.  That one always cracks me up.

You’ve seen the articles and memes; they incense you.  How dare we take your guns away.  Feel free, shoot your gun at the front page of the New York Times.  That’s and adult response.  For some reason every gun nut decides that we can only throw the baby out with the bath water.  A friend said to me, “I have a gun. I have never had an incident.”  GREAT.  You have one gun and you’d like me to equate that with people that have 20.  Nope.  Keep your gun.  Build limits.  Build regulation.  Be a responsible adult.  We don’t let our children gorge on ice cream till they die.  Why must we treat guns differently?

Last night a friend posted the wonderful “cut and paste” meme that swimming pools, bathtubs and cars (and several other silly things that can lead to death in an accident) are more dangerous than guns.  Lunacy.  Yes there are probably more deaths via auto accidents than guns.  There are more drivers than gun owners (I’m estimating).  But car related deaths are accidents.  Gun deaths are generally not.  And no, I don’t consider the kid crippled as an unintended victim of a drive by shooting an accident.  The gun was fired.  We have more regulations and requirements for driving and car ownership than we do for guns.  Does that make sense?  Couldn’t there be an equivalent licensing and training for gun ownership?  Why do we automatically rule it out?

And before I forget, I really scared that I might bring my swimming pool to a theater and hurt you?  Seriously can we just call that meme top 10 in terms of ridiculousness?

Oh that’s right it doesn’t prevent the bad guys from getting access.  Ok, but it might make it harder.  Why can we not make progress on the issue?  Should we stop treating cancer because we haven’t solved it 100%?  Of course not, that would be stupid and callous.  So is the NRA and their allies stopping any potential improvement in our national problem and shame.

Yes, shame.  We have had more mass shootings to date in 2015 than there have been days thus far.  Is that ok?  Let’s put it in perspective.  Every time there is a mass shooting, it is on you- you are ok with it.  How is it after Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charlotte, San Bernardino and so many more we cavalierly endeavor to stop all efforts designed make a change for the better?  If you don’t support change in the guns laws these deaths and the next ones are on you. You don’t want a change, so there for YOU are endorsing this behavior.

And to be clear, in my opinion:

Every mass killing (more than 3) is an act of terrorism.  Period.  Not every terrorist is radical Islamic Fundamentalist .  If you block realistic change you are supporting Terrorism.  Its been more than 20 years since the killing in101 California in San Francisco and the Assault Weapons killing In Stockton.  We have made no progress.  NONE!

I’m not saying I have the answer.  I don’t.  But we know that inaction is allowing this to continue and I say ENOUGH!  Let’s do something.  Be heard.  Make some changes.  Stop the grid lock and let’s make progress.  I’m not saying we are throwing out the baby with the bathwater, the NRA is.  Let’s make some progress.

Of course tomorrow or the next day there will be another shooting.  We will all be sad about the tragedy and the gun lobby will prevent any movement.  Own that.  Stand up and declare “I am ok with those people being killed as long as I have my gun rights.”  Stop pretending your actions and thoughts mean anything else.  They don’t and don’t delude yourself that it means differently.  We see you.

SHAME ON YOU.

The Ballad of Young Lord York

Watching the 49ers again this weekend, my anger towards one Jed York flared.  Let’s be honest, I watched 3 straight 3 and out drives and bailed on the game for the Red Zone.  What a horrible team.  Under talented (Exhibit A right Tackle), under-performing (Exhibit B – the defensive line giving up 200 yards to an undrafted Rookie) and under coached (Exhibits C & D – let’s punt, that must be the winning strategy! Let’s take the field goal that will cut the deficit from 16 to 13 with 5 minutes left!).

In all honesty, I’m sure even Tomsula knows he’s over his head.  Do you believe his parents, high school acquaintances, and Facebook stalkers don’t tell him daily?  Every radio host does.  Local AND national sports announcers.  And, when the only way to win is to score touchdowns and take chances, he punts, conceding the game.  It doesn’t matter what he says, even he knows he was waving a white flag.  I imagine his inner monologue goes something like this:

Down by 16 we need 2 touchdowns and 2 2-point conversions.

I know those are long odds and its 4th and goal from the 3.  We can’t run for shit and receivers aren’t helping things.

If we try and fail, people will call for our heads

We can’t make it.

If we kick a field goal our point total will improve.  It is better than the 17-3 beating we took from Green Bay

I’m sure I’m being judged on improvement. Cutting the deficit is improvement.

Field GOAL!

I’m sure the logic behind punting was just as ludicrous.  He’s coaching to not lose worse, not to win.  Hell, I could coach to be 3-13 with the talent on the team.  And I wouldn’t have had ALL those “defections,” I mean “retirements.”  I might have kept Willis.  Or Borland. Instead we have Italian family dinners.  I think at this point his family is embarrassed for him.

But enough shitting on Tomsula, let’s call it correctly.  Everything that happens on the field is on Jed.  He wanted Harbaugh gone and made that happen.  Now he has created a culture of ineptitude the likes we may never see again.  Geep Chryst is the second coming of Jimmy Raye.  No one else wanted to work for him.  (Exhibit E – Adam Gase).  Who will want to work here in the future?  Oh yeah, they are already planning on hiring Hugh Jackson or some other in demand coach.  But we know they will turn Jed down.

Tomsula’s coaching is straight from the Jed playbook.  Jed cut Jim Harbaugh and saved $1.5 million.  Since Tomsula is the lowest paid coach in football, I’m assuming he couldn’t pay him less or else he would have. At least Tomsula can afford to buy his folks a nice house if he wants.  Jed’s about saving money.  Picking up 3 points for a field goal is like taking free money.  Don’t pass up the freebies, even if it leads to losing.  That’s Jed, let’s build the bank account and not worry how the fans feel.

And Jed screwed over Kap.  How?  Colin took a bit less so that other players could be signed or brought in.  The 49ers are $13.2 million UNDER the salary cap.  Not even close.  Even I’m not naïve enough to believe they couldn’t have found a significant upgrade for Erik Pears for $5-6 million.  Of course if no one wants to play here, that might explain why NOTHING HAPPENED.  What happened is the long term planning of how to cut Colin and be rid of the last piece of the Harbaugh legacy.

Let’s pretend this is an episode of Law and Order.  I’ll be Briscoe.  “Hey!  We’re out of leads.  Let’s follow the money!”  What a great idea.  Do you realize the 49ers are worth $2.7 Billion.  With a B.  That is a 69% increase from last year.  That’s $1.6 Billion increase in round numbers.  That’s long term income.  Over $1 Billion in added value.  Wow.

But the 49ers also a debt ratio of about 21%, one of the highest in the league so, they have about $570 million of outstanding debt.  So really, net equity on the team is $2.1 Billion or so.  Of course that’s only if they sell.  They could plead poverty.  Nope.

The 49ers made $124 million last year in operating income based on $427 million in revenue.  That’s retaining 29% in profits.   Clearly there are other costs, but they are very, very profitable.  The New York Giants make less and retain less.  Washington is similar with far less debt.  But then no one would say the owner in the capital is one to emulate.  Well, maybe his mother.

Anyway, the 49ers, once a proud, classy organization, make a lot of money.  And they should, as they charge an arm and a leg for anything at their soulless stadium.  The problem is, they want us to believe they are giving us a Nordstrom experience.  They are not. Their product is more accurately compared to the red tag remainders at Walmart.  Or, being generous, a nice Goodwill outlet.  So yet again, we are sold an inferior team.  A magic elixir that is really sugar water.  I recall two words, “championships” and “accountability.”  I don’t see either.  Do you?

So, what can we as fans do?  Clearly, Jed doesn’t care what we think.  Parag has spreadsheets that help him identify how to make more money.  Trent can’t find a free agent worth a darn. (No, Sean Droughn doesn’t count.) Jed sold his licenses, which fans are clamoring to return.  What can we do?

We follow the money.

How much do you think Jed and the league make from sponsorships and advertising deals?  It doesn’t matter because it is HUGE.  Jed is effectively a snake oil salesman that can’t be trusted.  Or he’s incompetent, but I believe his arrogance leads to making continual bad decisions, including surrounding himself with Yes Men.  Snake oil salesman.  Misrepresentation.  Cavalier disregard for his customers.  He holds himself higher than his customers with false promises and backstabbing campaigns.  What does he think he is, a feudal Nobleman a la Henry VIII?  Perhaps we should call him Young Lord York.  And in the Democracy that is the USA, we don’t need royalty.

Young Lord York needs to be seen as the business liability he is.

Hey Pepsi! Do you want to be aligned with Jed?  You are and we think less of you.

SAP, you want us to trust you with our company’s information?  But you are aligned with Young Lord York and we don’t trust him.

Yahoo? Wait, you have your own problems.  Do you really need more?

Intel, you want to be in my PC.  Stick with Jed and I’ll go to Apple.  Boot Jed.  How would Steve Jobs like his legacy of product loyalty and reverence for the customer feel about alignment with such a charlatan?

Toyota, I’m buying Nissan or Honda till you remove your sponsorship.  And yes, I’ve ruled out Lexus.

Brocade, I think I’ll buy Cisco for my company, thank you very much.  You can be reconsidered when you move on.

Levi’s I love your product, but you need to put some pressure on Young Lord York if you want my money or your name on my ass.

Hey Roger Goodell!  We will remind you often that Young Lord York and his feudal crushing of the public’s trust is ruining your brand.  I’m sure Kraft and Jones don’t mind.  But you saw what happened to Donald Sterling.  Abusing the public trust will ultimately make Jed pay a similar price.  It is that history thing, repeating itself. You have an anti-trust exemption.  What’s that worth to you?

So my fellow serfs gather your pitchforks, your torches, your shovels.  Let’s stop tending to Young Lord York’s fields.  He doesn’t care if we tend them or not. Let’s not storm his castle.  Follow the money and make sure his SPONSORS know how we feel.  Perhaps they don’t want to be associated with his “disreputable” practices.  Let’s let them know they are stained and shameful as well.

 

Extreme Sadness + Outrage Leads to Hate, But Must It?

Every time I turned on the TV or radio last week and heard about the horrific attacks in Paris, I became emotional and teared up.  Each and every time.  Other than the 0.0003% of the world that thinks these actions are justified and needed, I believe the rest of us are saddened and shocked.  And while its clear we decry terrorist actions, so many people choose to take up the cause of hate.  Justified hate in their minds.

Social media has been slammed with reminders that Muslims hate non-Muslims.  Hate mongers see this as their call to action, to remind us that their brand of purification, eliminating the Muslim threat is justified.  Clearly if you see the video “Moderate Muslims Don’t Want You to See!” you will see the foundations of violence.  Allah’s word makes stoning adulterers and gays the right choice, the perfect law.  And outrage and calls to arms resonate and grow in their might.  And I’m saddened.

Yes, I freely acknowledge that the Koran preaches the killing of Jews and other non-Muslims.  Belief in Allah and his words are the only way according to that book.  No, I have no desire to read it.  No I haven’t read the new testament either.  Even if I have the details wrong, I have gist of it.  But 1500 years later do we really believe that all 15 Billion Muslims believe this?  I find that hard to  believe, having known and worked with several.

It is easy to see why the hate mongers feel this way.  But if we as a society ascribe to this, then what fate do we really have other than the mutually assured destruction the Reganites ascribed to?  Is that the world we want?  Clearly some people want that.  I don’t.

The world changes doesn’t it?  I sit here rationally and think to myself, what made sense in a feudal society a millennia ago doesn’t make sense now.  Why can’t we, as a global society, agree to make the world a better peaceful place?  Do we really need stonings, cruelty and racial hate?  Well, actually we do.  Rupert Murdoch and Fox News base their preaching and opinions on hate and violence.  There are no decorations on a coffee cup and the WAR ON CHRISTMAS grows.  Blacks protest the killing of unarmed people who may or may not be guilty of anything more than being black and it’s a sign of the WAR ON POLICE.  In my opinion, they are the gasoline for the fires of hate in the world.

But then I see that video.  I see a few hundred “assimilated” Muslims agreeing that Allah’s word is perfect.  This is regard to stoning gays and adulterers.  Is this true? Is this the majority?  Hassidic Jews keep their men and women separated similarly.  The Torah has passages requiring animal sacrifices.  This practice stopped nearly two thousand years ago.  Perhaps it’s time for mainstream Muslims to officially denounce such punishments and practices.  This is not the feudal Middle East of a 1000 years ago.

Of course this won’t happen.  The US has interests in places like Saudi Arabia where beheadings happen regularly and women and second class citizens.  Is that a Muslim issue or Saudi issue?  Africans often mutilate their women, but we decry that as a Muslim issue.  Is it?  Republicans and Democrats will work to prioritize and protect our oil and monetary interests over human rights.

I see the hate all around me.  I see the seeds of religious righteousness on both sides.  The Muslims with their holy words and the Christians letting me know I’ll go to hell because I am an unbeliever and sinner.  Of course I sin (their word, not mine).  It is more fun.  I’m also a good  person and I choose to believe that world is filled with good people.  People who want to do the right thing, and no that doesn’t extend to knocking on my door to tell me my beliefs are wrong.  You can keep your Watch Tower, tithes and personal messiahs.  I’m good thank you.  You can have your religion, but I’d rather stand for helping he oppressed, helping those whose lives required leaving their homelands.  Yes, those refugees.

So rather than preaching hate, rather than expounding why we need a wall, rather than standing on soapboxes on why we need to eliminate countries and populations, why its important to keep the hidden terrorsits within the refugee community from our shores,  why can’t we take the first step and seek to find how to solve the problems.  Seek to understand before being understood.  Maybe do some long range thinking.  Even if you could eliminate every Muslim – that is what you are thinking, right?—what does that do for OUR world.?  It is not just yours.  It is your kids.  It is your neighbors.  It is mine and my friends’ too.  Do you really want a world full of righteous murderers? Holy Repressors? Morally enabled thought police?  Actually I think you do, but I don’t want that.

Yes, I know it is a very complex world with very complex problems.  I have totally reduced the issues down to manageable, digestible bite sized pieces.  This is my blog, my thoughts, not graduate thesis on world peace.  But enough with the hate. Enough with the xenophobia. Don’t you think it is a counterproductive to your golden rule? I do.

Colin’s Benched, but Really It’s Jed and Trent that Stink.

By now I’m sure you are familiar with my subtle disappointment with 49ers ownership, one Jed York in particular.  I wasn’t the first to notice the clown car that tries to pass for management at the Santa Clara 49ers.  I’m not even the most vocal.

For the last few days, I’ve heard Adam Schein, one of my favorite voices on talk radio call the 49ers “a dumpster fire.”  Today I heard Alex McLorg of BayAreaSportsGuy.com refer to team as a puppet monarchy in a radio interview.   I’m not sure those are compliments.  Sports Illustrated named them the 2nd most dysfunctional team in league, WAAAAY ahead of the (rebuilding since 1957) Detroit Lions.    It all seems fairly accurate.  No one is hiding their disdain, disappointment and nausea over management’s role in trashing a once proud franchise.

Kate Scott on KNBR quipped that she was rethinking being a fan of the team.  Only Jed York and Trent Baalke can be surprised how far the team has fallen and the amount of anger the fans have for them.  I personally feel dirty about being a fan of a company that is so poorly run and so seriously disingenuous.

Last year was a whisper campaign about how bad Jim Harbaugh was.  He got results, but once the owner and GM began undermining him and it is very clear they did, what reason did the team have to perform?  If the owner wasn’t going to support the head coach, why should the team.  Dysfunction resonates and results fall into the chamber pot.

But, then the team had given our QB Colin a new team friendly contract and allegedly agreed to use some of the discount to sign new players and keep old ones from leaving via free agency.  Reggie Bush. Don’t make me laugh.  Another non-truth to hide what was really going on.

From where I sit, I see there were two major agenda items carved in stone last year in Santa Clara.

  • Distance the 49ers from Harbaugh
  • Make money

They are making money.  With a line as bad as SF’s does it surprise you that they are near the top of the league in terms of being under the salary cap?  Me neither. It was clear they didn’t spend it on the line.

And the first item has had serious repercussions.  Yes, Jim’s gone.  But do you think the smear campaign went unnoticed?  It didn’t.  When you look at ALL the departures via retirement and free agency, you must conclude that some of those men chose to leave rather than work for Baalke and York.  All of them? Probably not.  But people are not sheep, they are not stupid.  They see disloyalty and they have the choice to do other things.  For the record, I will not be surprised when Willis, Borland, or Anthony Davis unretire in a year or two so they can play for an organization and owner with integrity.

Which brings us to today.  Colin Kaepernick was benched for Blaine Gabbert.  Not only is Gabbert not a starting QB, he might be THE WORST BACKUP in the NFL.  That’s inspiring.  It is clear that Colin is the last major reminder of Jim Harbaugh.  His revolving annual contract foreshadowed what’s about to happen.  I’m not going to say Kaepernick has played well he hasn’t.  But I’m assigning the blame 60/40 on management.  No line.  No Plan other than ruination.  The QB coach hosted a radio show last year.
The offensive coordinator has dumbed down the offense so much that it sapped the drive from the team and eliminated the chance for offensive success.  That safety last week?  Inspired play calling.  3 straight telegraphed runs, each netting -1 yard.  I saw it coming on first down.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they told Colin “DO NOT THROW UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE.”   I think that may be part of the reason he missed an uncovered WR.  If he can’t throw, he’s disheartened, he makes a mistake.  Bad Coaching.  Do you think defenses are playing the 49ers harder because they have less to defend?  That it is easier to see what is coming?  I do. The coaching stinks worse than my compost bin.

The organization worked hard to make sure that Colin failed this year.  Mission accomplished.  Personally, I hope he moves on, gets the solid coaching and support he needs  to fulfill his potential.  I am disappointed at all that has gone in the name of eradicating all parts of the Harbaugh legacy from the 49ers.  For the record, since the Yorks took the team over, the only highlights, however brief, came from Jim Harbaugh’s direction.  Exactly.

So Jed and Trent, two things.  Trade Colin someplace he can succeed.  That will save you some money.  You’ll need it.  You may have sold lots of corporate licenses, but the real fans give their tickets away.  In a few years, the stadium will be lucky to be half full. Me? I’m going to make sure that I don’t buy anything that has a chance of putting money in your pocket. No games. No jerseys. No gifts for my boys.  Bluntly, I think you are the football equivalent of the mean girls from High School.  Mommy’s money and your golden dome diploma won’t change who you are.  It is not pretty.

The 49ers were the joy of the Bay Area for decades. Your uncle helped them become great, the envy of the NFL, with one of the best fan bases.  You pissed on that history and created a festering mess that will stink for decades.  That’s your legacy.  Or will you pin this all on Baalke next year?

An open Letter to Jed York, President/Owner of the SF 49ers

October 22, 2015

Dear Jed York –

I wanted to touch base with you.  I don’t think you responded to the two or three tweets I sent you recently and that’s ok.  I really didn’t expect to hear from you.  For context, let me introduce myself.  I’m a recent bandwagon jumper to the 49ers Faithful, having pledged my allegiance in 1980- a mere 35 years ago.  I’m a bay area native, working professional and Cal graduate.  I know that pales next to your Finance and History degree from Notre Dame, but it is who I am.  But then I might have a MBA in Finance, so perhaps we can communicate productively. In no way am I pretending to be a football expert, just an impassioned fan with good general football and business knowledge.  I know I don’t know everything.  But I also know I know much more than nothing.

I was touched last year by a few of your comments to the media.  One was about “winning with class” and the other was about “holding you accountable” for winning championships.  Those are great thoughts and I wished every owner of beloved sports teams held themselves to such high standards.

As a professional manager for nearly 30 years, I especially like your directive for the team to win with class.  I took that to mean the entire organization should really step up their game.  I have always held fast to the management principle when my team succeeds, the success is the teams and when we fail, it is my role to be blamed and accept the burden associated with it.

Since the team has performed poorly this year, it strikes me as odd that you have be absent in the media.  Perhaps I’m not reading the right papers or watching the right networks.  Locally and nationally, you are a ghost.  Perhaps in the Trinity of you, Baalke and Tomsula you are playing the Holy Ghost.  Interesting, but highly ineffective and not at all classy.  But then, that’s just my opinion.

It is a stark contrast to last year when you basically blamed Jim Harbaugh in the media for pretty much everything.  I think only his Khakis were spared.  You let everyone in the world know he was gone and made sure it was unambiguous, without ever saying it.  You didn’t take the blame, you even tried to pass off his leaving as “a mutual decision”.  For the record as a manger I was appalled.  As a fan I was dismayed. But I knew it was comedy gold.  Honestly, you were writing the script for Donald Trump and Ben Carson.  Jed York, Trendsetter.  Consider putting it on your business card.

So, classy is really misnomer, a gentle misdirection for the masses.  I get it, you studied history and, like PT Barnum, know there is a sucker born every minute.  So let’s discuss your love of history.  I don’t know much about the History program at the Golden Dome, but I am pretty sure you are familiar with the quote:

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
George Santayana

As I recall, there was a football team with great success.  They had won super bowls with 2 different coaches. When the second coach retired, they brought in a young brash college coach who was having some success.  He even went to the playoffs and won some games.  But the new owner, a man from outside football, didn’t like the coach in the spotlight – or so it was said.  Perhaps he didn’t get along with the coach.  It didn’t matter, the owner fired the coach.

One of the things I know about sports is that when you actively fire a coach or manager, your goal is to bring in someone better.  This owner didn’t.  He didn’t even pretend to.  He brought in someone he liked and whose name hae some cache in the collge game. The beloved football team circled the drain for 10 years.  It got so bad that even coaches and coordinators turned down employment with the team, forcing the team to hire whoever might take the job.

Surely you realize I’m talking about the 49ers and your beloved father. We all love our fathers, but most of us try not to repeat their mistakes.  In fact I go out of my way to point out my mistakes to my children so they don’t make the ones I’ve already learned from.

So, taking the axiom that one coach is removed for a better one (or one that achieves betters results), I have to ask, WHY THE FUCK DID YOU FIRE HARBAUGH TO HIRE TOMSULA?  Let’s be honest, Tomsula is a great line coach, I sense he is a great man with some leadership qualities.  He’s also over his head as the head coach, unless he’s just pretending to be out of his depth in press conferences.  I can only assume you decided that this coach would be more fun over coffee and drinks.  Perhaps he was be so happy to have the promotion that he wouldn’t make you justify odd decisions.  Good leaders want people who challenge them, people who achieve.  Dictators and fools want yes men.

Perhaps you and Jim Harbaugh didn’t get along.  I hear he is tough to work with.  Now I know you have limited experience outside of the family business so as a manager in public companies, let me share something I have learned over the years – some very high performers are tough to get along with.  Sure, as a manager you can fire people, often for made up reasons.  But even if they are assholes, morale takes a hit when you get rid of your best performer because you don’t like him or he has a difficult personality.  People can see it; it isn’t something you need a silver spoon to notice.

Of course Harbaugh may not be high performance employee in your book.  There may be issues we, as the public don’t see.  But aside from theft (which would be on you anyway for allowing it to happen) or sexual harassment (which we can’t know about), it is pretty hard to envision a scenario where you don’t qualify Jim and his staff as high performers.  They took Singletary’s god awful team and took them within 2 fumbles of the Super Bowl. Then to the Super Bowl one miscue from winning (the timeout, nto the pass).  And then to the brink again.  That was his first three years.  I believe that is the definition of high performance for a head coach.  Then you undermined him for a year and it fell apart.  No, we the public didn’t miss that.

I’m not a fan of your dad.  He ruined the team in my mind and I’m not alone.  I gave you credit when you hired Harbaugh.  I was dismayed at how you handled last year when decided you needed more fun at work, not the stress that a high strung, over achieving, results driven star coach.  You are the owner, and that is your call.  Are your coffee breaks better? Do you sleep well at night? I hope so.

That’s all the past and now, here we are.  I understand you lost Vic Fangio because you told him he had to report to Tomsula, his previous charge.  I don’t think that’s working out too well.  I watched your team take a lead over the hapless New York Giants and basically hand the game back to them with their porous defense.  I was actually at the game last week and watched the beleaguered Ravens hand the game to the 49ers and then watched as the Ravens drove the field TWICE(!) easier than it is for me to drive through a McDonald’s.  There were dropped passes or else the team would be 1-5.  Not that 2-4 is much to talk about.

But let’s talk about the defense.  Have you noticed the 49ers are last in passing defense and next to last in total defense?  Yep.  The 49ers are 31st in total defense.  And that Fangio fellow you encouraged to leave is coaching the Bears.  His Chicago Bears team is 6th.  Smart move in not retaining him either.  What about Harbaugh.  Looks like he’s turning the Michigan program around.  I know it is not Notre Dame, but what is?  Nope, he wasn’t a fluke with Stanford or your team.

I guess we should talk about accountability.  Please don’t mention players retiring.  I believe you should have planned for it.

Anthony Davis’ performance had been slipping since his concussion.  Did you really expect him to perform as he had years ago?

Willis, much beloved, has been hurt and while you hope he got healthy and played as he had in the past, were you so naive to just go on hope?

We all saw Cowboy (Justin Smith) was probably going to retire, so that wasn’t unexpected.  Clearly, Chris

Borland caught you by surprise.  As a casual observer, do you think your mismanagement of the team helped him decide that his health was a higher priority to him than it was to you?  It’s the sort of pattern as a manager I am trained to see.  What inside linebacker did we draft this year?

And then there is our boy Aldon Smith.  Clearly, you knew there was a chance he’d do something silly and you would have to cut your loss.  Sadly, it doesn’t look like you planned for that eventuality.  Here’s a thing to consider – bad apples with lots of illegal guns, don’t generally become boy scouts overnight.  Don’t believe me, consider Greg Hardy.  There’s a guy who is contrite and showing the world how he can change.  Yes, that was sarcasm.

Now that I have addressed some of what you haven’t done, let’s look at what you have.  The team gets kudos for Torey Smith and Jarryd Hayne, even if it is only for marketing down under.  I’m pretty sure that’s it for the positives.  There might be some negatives.

I understand that Baalke is the GM, but let’s be honest you asked me to hold you accountable. I bet you signed off on at least a few of these.

The right side of the line.  I’m not sure they’d fare well in the SEC.  You can’t be proud.

Reggie “made of glass” Bush.  The Lions didn’t want him.  Why did we?  Because he was cheap?  You still overpaid.  Honestly, between keeping Aldon Smith and signing Bush, you should have kept Smith.  Signing Bush made you look silly and cheap.  By the way, who is our back up now that Hyde is hurt?  Oh, that’s right History and Finance, not Strategic Planning.  My mistake.

Jerome Simpson?  Well there is stellar citizen if there ever was one.  You cut McDonald (rightfully so), Smith, but not Brooks or Miller.  I’m guessing Simpson is gone next year too.

Remember when Singletary motivated Vernon Davis and he grew up and peformed?  What happened?  Has Tomsula had the opposite effect?  And Vance McDonald looks like a bust.  Yes he caught a nice pass last week.  He drops 3-5 of those for each he catches.

When was the last time we developed a Wide Receiver?  Yes, you are right, that was Terrell Owens in 96.  20 years is a long time.  Patton and Ellington look good on paper, just not in the game  White? Doesn’t seem to play.  Do you want to throw Robert Johnson or AJ Jenkins into the discussion?  I didn’t think so.

You promoted Geep Chryst from QB Coach to Offensive Coordinator.  Did you not see Kaepernick regress last year?  We did.  What would his personal coach do better with the offense when he wasn’t much help to his QB?  I guess I just don’t get fuzzy logic.  Maybe several other coaches turned you down. Rumor has it that Adam Gase did.  If so, he was smart.  Let’s not play the loyalty card.  Laughing at that would hurt.

I think the team’s best off season move was Shareece Wright.  He had a large hand in the win last week.  If only because you threw away a million dollars to learn his glaring weaknesses.

Darnell Dockett?  Nope.  Let’s call it welfare for an over the hill player.

And then I remember your degree in Finance.  What is that 3 million dollars given away?  Well, at $50 per parking spot, you make that up in a few games.  And while I agree that you have every right to make money and that probably more people than I realize get a piece of the take, don’t you think $50 to park is a bit excessive?  You can park in the financial district of SF for less.  You are accountable for this too, right?  $30 might be high but fair, but $50 feels like financial rape.  I guess you think it doesn’t matter to the sheep that comes to feed your coffers.

To recap my thoughts today –

  1. You undermined your coach last year, contributing to a subpar record then said the organization needed to be classy.  I believe this is called irony
  2. You fired a good, but annoying coach, to replace him with an inferior leader because you like him.  When he goes in a few years, do you really think you’ll be able to attract top talent?
  3. You took the same actions as your father, which had the team circling the drain for 10 years
  4. You were ill prepared for injuries and turnover of players
  5. You may have actually contributed to the retirement of players how might not trust you (No sir, it is not a stretch)
  6. You hired inferior supporting coaches, with records of mediocrity and failure.  You won’t blame Baalke or Tomsula for this will you?
  7. You made no significant off season player signings, bringing in 3 players of note – two are gone and one isn’t playing because you ignored his history and threw away millions, but still charge $50 to park at the game.
  8. You have put an inferior product on the field; capable of winning when the opposition decides to give the game way, but not otherwise to this point.
  9. You have provided no real help to your franchise quarterback.  And yes we all see that the team friendly contract he signed will allow you to cut him at your pleasure.  And when he gets a real coach and supporting cast he’ll be a solid NFL QB.
  10. You want to be held accountable.  Done.  What are you going to do?

You know what the worst thing is?  I haven’t even watched the Seahawk game tonight.  I’m still a fan of the team, as Seinfeld pointed out we are now fans of laundry.  But I think I’ll watch Cal play UCLA tonight instead.

Make me a fan. Do something.  Fix things.  Be leader.  Consider stopping to be a ghost.  Or worse a spoiled kid playing with the toy mommy gave you. If not, in less than 5 years you’ll compare unfavorably to the image of Al Davis after Gruden.  Ponder that for a bit.

BART Changes its Schedule. But, Is it Ethical? Why does it seem Nefarious?

I awoke one morning and trudged to the train.  I had gone early a few days that week for some meetings at the crack of dawn, then had a work at home day.  Thursday September 17, 2015 was the first time I went to work at my normal time.  I plan my commute to catch a train that turns around at the Concord station so I can get a seat.  Standing for 50 minutes in an overcrowded train is not my idea of fun, and half the time no amount of cologne can mask the damage done.

I arrived 5 minutes before my train and see the train signs omits the arrival of that train.  That’s odd. Well there are often problems.  The train was full so I waited for the next one, 15 minutes later and yes, trains that leave Pittsburg after 8am generally have a few seats, but I was annoyed.  I waited close to 30 minutes longer than I should have.

Guess what?  The same thing happened the next day.  Being confused, I posted about this on Facebook and a friend mentioned that BART had really screwed up the schedule.  By now you know I’m a shy wall flower, so I found BART’s twitter address and said “hey what’s up?”  Maybe not in those exact words, but I was polite.  I was a satisfied BART rider after all.

BART, in their infinite wisdom let me know what they had done even though I might have to wait 5 more minutes (just 5 more minutes! No inconvenience there!).  And they were adding cars to the trains I was waiting for.  Well paint my lips red and call me Jezebel!  Here’s what wonderful present BART gave to the riders of at the Concord Station.

  1. Eliminate (at least) 3, 10 car trains (the ones I take) that start in Concord, empty.
  2. Make all the remaining trains 10 car trains.
  3. Make sure that the time between trains in Concord between 7am and 8am is always 15 minutes instead of 8.

In case you missed it let me do the math for you:

  1. Bart eliminates at least 30 empty cars, to add 3 – 6 non-empty cars. That’s -80% at best.  Each car has just under 100 seats, so we see 2700 seats being eliminated in Concord and replaced with roughly 250 seats (larger trains add seats, but also add riders).  Tough to be exact since BART changed the schedule and I don’t have an old record.  But this is close.
  2. Bart increases the time between trains to add waits and overcrowds platforms and trains. People wait for the next train and the platform becomes more and more crowded.

And they were surprised I wasn’t thrilled.  In fact I was pissed.  But here’s why I am very pissed.  VERY, VERY as a matter of fact.  Here’s why:

All the trains eliminated from the Concord Station now turn around in Pleasant Hill.  And Pleasant Hill is a misnomer.  The station is Pleasant Hill adjacent, but it really is located in Walnut Creek.  A few things to consider.  Concord is the largest city in Contra Costa County with a population of over 120k.  Walnut Creek has half as many residents at 60k.  Walnut Creek is one of the more affluent cities with per capita income over almost 50k, while Concord lags at just over 30k.  Do we see some social-economic pandering going on?  It is tough to miss if you open your eyes.

Now I’m not saying BART didn’t have an overcrowding problem in Walnut Creek, they do.  But to solve it by just moving the problem to Concord, is both short sighted and irresponsible.  Could they not have found a better way than reducing the open seats in Concord by more than 2500?  I have to estimate as the schedules have changed and I didn’t take a measurement to what was about to happen in advance.

The worst part is that they KNEW they were dumping the problem on Concord.  Tough words?  Really?  Let me give you another pertinent fact.

When BART shut down lengths of track for a period of time they start announcing it MONTHS in advance.  When they shut down exits at busy stations, they station people there telling people in advance.  When they change fares or charge for parking they have a blitz at the station with people and collaterals.

What did they do at Concord?  Absolutely nothing.  No announcements.  No signage.  No people answering questions.  They hid their disrespect from the patrons.  If we didn’t notice the change in the arriving trains we might not have ever noticed.  Yes, there is a small blurb on their webpage.  It wasn’t on the news.  It wasn’t on flyers. It wasn’t in the major news organizations.  They may have just as well wrote on the inside of the stall at the Concord KFC.  It was not communicated.

So, children here is your lesson in socio-economic bullshit.  Make the wealthier people happy and shit on the lower socio economic classes. I’m guessing that the BART Directors didn’t think we’d notice.  Or they believed we wouldn’t do anything.

In the past I looked at taking BART as a perk of a job.  It was a solid, relatively easy way to commute.  Now?  It really isn’t much better than sitting in the backlog of the bay bridge.  Way to piss off our customers BART.  I am steamed.  I know most of the other people I now stand on a crowded platform with are not happy.

I tweet the BART account most days (@SFBART) to let them see, feel and ultimately ignore my dissatisfaction.    I have also, as you see, posted this for perpetuity on my blog.  This is my public record of displeasure. I may not have my numbers exact, but I am very sure my commute is longer, less comfortable and unhappy.  That much is crystal clear fact.

In closing, let me congratulate you BART.  You have taken a loyal, satisfied 30 year customer and shown such disrespect, you may never get a kind word from me again.  And I hadn’t even started complaining about the mess you’ve made in the Embarcadero station.  Closing exits and not fixing the escalators quickly enough has made it a safety concern.  Are you waiting for a death to really do anything effective?  Why yes, I will be critical from here on out.

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