I’ve talked with many young people lately. They’re mostly guys in their early 20s. They’re young enough to be my children.
Just about all of them are pursuing “careers” which seem impractical and even a bit far-fetched. I recall one guy who wants to be a music producer. Another is determined to make films. Still, another hopes to race motorcycles for a living. A few aspire to be professional poker players.
Pursuing one’s dreams is certainly a positive thing. Each of us should aspire to jump higher, to move forward, and achieve the goals we set for ourselves. But those goals must also be realistic.
The last few generations, I fear, we’ve lost all sense of reality. We’ve made “working for a living” a stigma rather than a source of pride. Labor has become a dirty word.
Discussions with these young men revealed something else that’s troubling. This trend isn’t gender-specific. They alleged that girls were far more attracted to guys who wanted to be music producers, filmmakers, motorcycle racers, and poker players. Presumably, that made them more interesting. The girls didn’t want to go out with guys who wanted to be plumbers, electricians, machinists, and auto mechanics. They certainly didn’t want to date cooks, construction workers, and bus drivers.
So, it appears career choice isn’t just shaped by individual ambition. A pervasive collective bias against the working class has mushroomed out of control. This shift illustrates an alarming disconnect in American culture from reality that is both dangerous and in the end, self-defeating.
Let’s face it. We need more bricklayers than basketball players. We need far more dental technicians than disc jockeys. What we need is — a lot more common sense.
During the first half of the 20th Century, working-class occupations weren’t merely the manifestation of self-identity, but also a tremendous source of personal pride. Highly-skilled, mostly unionized workers manufactured cars, constructed bridges, paved highways, and essentially built the America we live in today. When I was 21, I remember working one blazing hot summer as a unionized sheet metal worker in Dallas when all the high-rise buildings were springing up all over the city, and the workers pointing at and bragging about the skyscrapers they had “built.” Call it what it was — working-class pride.
Of course, lots of highly-skilled jobs have disappeared since then, the casualties of both automation and global corporatism. Union-busting has devasted the middle class. Stock shareholders and bonus-chasing CEOs demand that every last farthing of profit be squeezed out of each division, project, and worker. Wall Street has totally undermined the economic foundations of the once-great heartland and torpedoed what used to be called “The American Dream.” Shortsighted short-term gains have metastasized into a long-term nightmare for the working class, which has seen wages stagnant since the horrors of “Reaganomics.” No one wants to work at a low-paying dead-end job, with no benefits, nor economic security. Thanks a lot, Laffer.
But working-class stigmatization goes much deeper than that. It’s not just an economic and cultural trend, but now a social reality brought on by the way we interact and communicate, and ultimately how we judge one another.
America has become one giant reality television show with 320 million cast members all vying for the starring role in the “hey, look at me!” category. Every single thought, experience, meal, party, toothache, and personal encounter now gets tagged and then blasted worldwide across social media. Our identities have become almost entirely digitized. Posting selfies at the nightclub have become the credit line of cultural value, a sort of twisted Kardashian cryptocurrency No one posts selfies of themselves replacing the hot water heater.
Democratic Socialists want to make college tuition-free. I agree with this ambitious vision, at least in principle. More than any other metric, education is the ticket to upward mobility. Not enough poor people have either the means to rise out of systematic poverty. So, we must collectively do what we can to promote greater opportunity for everyone.
But let’s ease into the “free tuition” idea one step at a time. First, let’s make vocational and trade schools, rather than universities, free to those who want to pursue their education and training. I think lots of people, of both sides of the political spectrum, would get behind that idea. Let’s also target poor areas and populations which desperately need more workers to build and renovate their communities.
Fact is, we don’t need more MBAs and so-called marketing gurus. We don’t need more realtors. We don’t need fast-talking con-men in rented hotel ballrooms “teaching” seminars to gullible suckers on how to be successful. We have more than enough “experts” on how to make money, already. Instead, we need pipefitters and concrete masons actually working in depressed areas, making money with the sweat of their brow and then spending their paychecks locally. That’s how an equitable society is built.
Restoring pride in working-class values demands that we first admit there is a serious class division within America that is widening. It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse. It’s not a class division just of income, but of a mangled distortion of misplaced priorities and the way workers and occupations are perceived.
We need to work towards a far more egalitarian society where a bunch of young guys can hang out together and talk about pursuing their dreams — which are entirely achievable, productive, prideful and won’t leave them with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt to parasitic banks and loan companies.
What we desperately need are more working-class heroes along with a heavy dose of realism.
Some time ago, I ran into one of the smartest and most successful sports handicappers in Las Vegas at a party. His moniker is, to no surprise, “Las Vegas Cris.”
Let’s call him “LVC” for short.
I discovered that LVC loves movies. He goes to see at least a couple of films each and every week. LVC purchased one of those monthly passes where you can practically see as many films as you like for roughly the price of what two tickets would regularly cost (around $24). So, he goes to the movies and ends up seeing lots of very good films, and also comes across some real clunkers.
LVC and I share a lifelong love of movies. We thought it would be a fun project to film a video and discussion of our picks for the best and worst in movies over the past year, along with our Oscar picks. We planned on shooting a one-hour pilot, but got wound up and went kinda’ long. Let’s call this the lengthier “Director’s Cut.”
If you want to skip the fluff and go straight to the Oscar picks, fast forward to the 26-minute mark. Also, the last 20 minutes or so is pretty good where we hand out our worst movie awards.
Special thanks to Andrew Geber for the production and Jack Gramley for supplying some of the technical equipment.
Note that I’ll probably shift to a podcast format shortly and invite several guests on to discuss a variety of topics.
It pains me to write this article and say this: I wish Bernie Sanders would not run for president in 2020.
As a fellow democratic socialist, I admire Sanders and agree with what he stands for. He champions virtually everything I believe in. But he’s also the wrong messenger at the worst possible time. Sanders is making a mistake by joining a crowded Democratic field and running for president.
To his credit, Sanders and his 2016 campaign altered the course of contemporary American politics. Should anyone doubt his impact, just look at what’s happened since the defeat. It’s virtually unheard of for the losing nominee to shift the direction of a major party, reboot its national priorities, and continue wielding influence upon a significant percentage of devoted followers who liked what Sanders had to say and looked up at a then-74-year-old career political activist somehow as a fresh face on the national stage. Even nemesis Donald Trump, in a bold rebuke during last month’s State of the Union address, felt the need to blast the growing tide of socialism in America. That’s largely Bernie’s doing. Socialism simple isn’t a bad word anymore to most Americans. Such a thing would have been unthinkable ten years ago.
For the first time in a half century, certainly not since the ill-fated presidential campaign of the late Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, Sen. Sanders made unapologetic in-your-face liberalism cool again. After decades of running away from the Leftist moniker, and in the process abandoning the working class while losing its collective soul, Sanders didn’t shy away from our core conviction that big government can (and must) be a force for good in society. While mainstream Democrats scurried from one fundraiser to the next trying to out-elbow Republicans for corporate affections, Sanders the maverick candidate with nothing to lose openly spoke his mind and preached peaceful revolution. All we were saying, was give Bernie a chance. He embraced all the seemingly forgotten tenets of social and political idealism.
A new term within the political lexicon, “Berniecrats,” now refers to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, along with Left-leaning Independents. Sanders’ grandfatherly delivery and astute frankness attracted millions of supporters, including a disproportionate number of young people who become politically active for the first time. These are Bernie’s disciples, and will ultimately become his most deeply lasting legacy. He alone ignited the seeds of a much broader movement that’s likely bear fruit when the next’s generation’s time comes to make the laws. Sanders was, and very much remains, a viable political force to be reckoned with.
So, given Sanders’ impressive track record in exceeding everyone’s expectations and even changing the political game, why am I so convinced he’s making the wrong decision to run again in 2020? Why have I come to bury Sanders rather than praise him?
Well first, there are lingering questions about Sanders’ party allegiance. After all, he isn’t a Democrat and therefore shouldn’t be running under the party’s official party banner. Most Democratic voters pretty much ignored this minor issue the last time around, since it was believed the “crazy socialist” posed no serious threat to the continuation of the Clinton dynasty. He won’t be cut as much slack this time, since the Vermont senator remains a self-described Independent — with a Capital “I” next to his name.
Sanders’ wide periphery of political influence in other states makes him essential to Democrats, and they know it. The party should be made aware they’ll need what remains of Berniecrats to show up at the polls and vote, come 2020, because so many didn’t in the last election and that’s one reason we ended up with the chaos of Trump. Indeed, let’s remember that more Americans call themselves Independents now — than either Democrats or Republicans. Yet, an astounding political reality still remains: Winning elections in America requires candidates to align themselves with one of the two major parties. Democrats can’t afford to lose independents. If they do, that spells a possible Trump 2o2o victory (assuming the criminal isn’t removed from office first). So, dealing with Sanders and his base is very tricky for the party that can’t afford any mistakes.
Sanders would be age 79 if he somehow wins the 2020 nomination. Yes, ageism is terribly unfair, but it remains a significant political factor. Ask around. Some people insist they won’t vote for a candidate who would be the oldest man ever elected to the presidency. And while former Vice President Joe Biden also carries much the same burden (he’s the same age), and President Trump in his 70s clearly demonstrates alarming cognitive decline, Sanders enters the presidential race with serious baggage as to whether someone in his 80’s would be fully capable of the day-to-day pressures of the job.
Moreover, there’s no compelling reason for Sanders to join the 2020 race, other than for personal vanity. In 2016, Sanders was a compelling force and an attractive alternative to Hillary Clinton, the embodiment of the old Democrat establishment. Progressives desperately needed a horse in the race, and the long shot damn near won the whole derby. Yet, this isn’t the case four years later. The landscape and the field have changed completely. Out of the dozen or so major candidates on the Democratic side, perhaps a third of the current potential nominees can rightfully be tagged a liberals in the Sanders mold. All the known candidates have embraced some of his views. It seems redundant to add yet another candidate to the stage and keep slicing the progressive pie into smaller pieces.
Then, there’s political practicality. The 2020 race will require a completely different approach, both in tact and substance, than we’re used to seeing. Democrats need to pull out the switchblades and quit treating this like a chess game. 2020 will be a knife fight in a dark alley at 3 in the morning. When one side plays dirty, it’s suicidal to play nice. So, this time, let’s play to win. Sanders, while passionate as an advocate and fiery as a speaker, remains profoundly intellectual in his disposition. Accordingly, I’m not convinced he’s the best counter-puncher to an unhinged bully. When Trump throws right hooks, we’re going to require a left uppercut with the weight of a sledgehammer, and a knockout. Sanders simply isn’t the right street fighter for what will be necessary.
Finally, there are growing concerns, even among some supporters, that Sanders and his repetitive messaging has become stale. He’s “so 2016.” Sanders was correct to make income inequality and class division the cornerstone of his previous campaign. To a large extent, he’s already won the ideological war for the heart and soul of the party since virtually all Democrats now favor raising the minimum wage, adopting some form of universal health care, and making the tax system more fair for the working class. But Sanders’ ceaseless attacks on billionaires, while certainly warranted, won’t be greeted with nearly as much enthusiasm when its clear the real boogeyman to America isn’t named Warren Buffet or Elon Musk, but Donald J. Trump.
Petty party suspicions will hurt Sanders. Ageism will hurt Sanders. Tougher competition will hurt Sanders. Legitimate questions about whether he’s the ideal candidate to face Trump will hurt Sanders. An outdated message will hurt Sanders.
Instead of running again, which is likely to be an wasteful exercise in futility, a regurgitation of familiar themes we saw in 2016, and ultimately another defeat, Sen. Sanders should take a well-deserved bow for being electric shock therapy to a dysfunctional and thoroughly corrupt political and economic system. He can still be a game changer, perhaps the Left’s elder-statesman. Bernie: The New Lion of the Senate — ala Ted Kennedy. As the largest newspaper in his home state pined only a few weeks ago, he was elected to do a job for the citizens of Vermont. His interests, Vermont’s interests, and the interests of the American progressive movement would best be served by passing the torch to a new generation of visionaries.
Thank you, Bernie Sanders for all you have done and for what you will continue to do as a legislator. You have changed the political landscape for the better. Now please, step aside, and let your followers take the lead from here.
The television star’s incendiary allegations that he’d been the victim of an ugly racial attack imploded yesterday. His story fell apart. It was apparently, all an act.
Smollett had claimed he was assaulted on a downtown Chicago street by pro-Trump racists wearing red MAGA hats while walking late at night. His allegations sounded implausible from the start. That’s the reason so many of us sympathetic to the victims of hate crimes took a “wait and see” approach to the alleged incident. Not that racially-motivated and homophobic attacks like the one described by the TV actor don’t happen in America. Yes, they do. It’s just that so many pieces of Smollett’s case didn’t seem to add up.
Admittedly, I’d never heard of Jussie Smollett until this controversy. He’s the co-star of a popular hit television show, Empire. Based on a persistent and often feisty social media presence, Smollett, who is a gay Black man, has been described as an outspoken activist.
Investigators now believe the attack on Smollett was a fabrication. It was staged. If this proves to be true, he’s about to become the new Tawana Brawley. Recall, she’s the despicable young girl who accused multiple police officers of a brutal gang rape thirty years ago, sparking national outrage. Eventually, a thorough investigation found that she made the whole thing up.
Although there are clear parallels in the two cases, there are also significant differences. Brawley was a poor Black girl with little education. Not that she deserved any slack but let’s also remember: Brawley was a minor, just 15 when she claimed she’d been raped by four men. At least there were grounds for understanding what happened in the Brawley case. The girl lived in an abusive household, feared severe punishment for staying out late one night, and made up her story as an excuse.
Smollett has no excuses for fabricating his criminal conspiracy. He’s a relatively affluent, seemingly intelligent man, with a highly-successful career and — until this moment — a very bright future. Inventing such a far-fetched story makes absolutely no sense, nor has any justification whatsoever.
Accordingly, Jussie Smollett should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
The Chicago Police Department spent a countless number of hours on this case which began three weeks ago. Law enforcement dedicated considerable manpower to their investigation. Dozens of people were interviewed. Businesses with surveillance cameras were summoned to provide any evidence of a crime. Hence, police wasted considerable time and effort chasing an invisible rabbit down a hole. These pointless efforts reduced the precious resources available that might otherwise have been allocated elsewhere in Chicago, which does have a serious crime problem. If dozens of police officers were out rabbit hunting Smollett’s false claims, that’s less law enforcement on the streets, and by consequence, more incidents of unsolved crime. Smollett has done a terrible thing, and now he should pay for it.
But the real victims of Smollett’s deception (if eventually proven), are all those people from lesser backgrounds with little money, fame, or power who must live in constant fear and have to endure pervasive racism and homophobia in their daily lives. They don’t have Smollett’s easy access to media nor talent for playing the convincing role of a crime victim, so they won’t get on TV to tell their stories. The casualties of this contrived canard are future victims of hate crimes. Now, because of doubts and discord and the lingering impossible-to-ignore memories we all have, they’ll face even more doubts. They must meet higher, perhaps impossible thresholds, to prove when racially-motivated crimes actually do happen. The movement Smollett purportedly wants to help shall ultimately pay the highest cost for his blatant deception.
That’s the real crime.
If evidence is found to implicate Jussie Smollett in a conspiracy, then he must be prosecuted. Then, if he’s found guilty — lock him away. For a long time.
We must make an example in this case and send a clear message: There’s more than enough racism and homophobia in America already, without having to make things up.
Note to My Readers: I rarely post content from other writers, since that’s their content and what’s promulgated here at my site is always my own. However, I was so impressed with this short missive by a British writer named Nate White, that I had to share it. I hope you will agree, it’s a marvelous retort as to why so many British citizens and people from other countries are appalled by what’s happening in America.
Question: Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?
A few things spring to mind.
Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.
For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.
So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever.
I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.
But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.
And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.
There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.
Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.
Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.
And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.
Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.
He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.
He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.
And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.
That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.
There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.
So the fact that a significant minority — perhaps a third — of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that: * Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are. * You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.
This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.
After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.
God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.
He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart.
In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.
And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:
‘My God… what… have… I… created?
If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.
Special thanks to Tom Robinson for bringing this to my attention.
Let’s do something different. Today, we’re going to have a little fun. We’ve earned it, right? On this special occasion, we’re going to try and recall the absolute worst dates of our lives.
I considered asking my faithful readers to post stories about their best dates. It is Valentines Day, after all. Thing is, the very best dates either lead to weddings, or if they’re truly amazing — maybe really wild and happened at the end of the night which might best remain unspoken.
So instead, let’s find some common ground and focus on the worst dates we’ve ever had. Everyone’s been on a bad date, so we should all be able to play along.
I got married at age 29. That means I spent about ten years playing the dating game. Like most everyone, I went out on some good dates and some bad dates. Most of them, I don’t remember much.
But I sure remember a Saturday night that happened sometime in 1987.
My worst date happened when I was around 25. I met a girl somewhere, I forgot where exactly. Attracted to the girl, I gave her my phone number and asked to call if she wanted to go out sometime. To my surprise, she called just a few days later. We talked for a few minutes and agreed that I’d pick her up Saturday night and take her out to dinner. We may even have discussed going to a movie, as well. I think Platoon had just been released.
Saturday comes around and I’m supposed to pick her up promptly at 6. I get into my car and the piece of shit won’t start. The bastard battery was dead. Frantic, I tried getting a jump start but didn’t have any jumper cables. Utterly desperate for transport and the clock ticking fast to 6, I called up my friend, Iranian Mike, a gambling buddy of mine who lived about a mile away. I begged him to borrow his car for the night. He said okay. Iranian Mike even agreed to drive his car over and let me have it so I wouldn’t be late for my date. Man, what a pal. I think he might have owed me some money, so this made us even.
When Iranian Mike pulled into my apartment complex, I couldn’t believe my eyes. He drove a dark blue Oldsmobile. A Cutlass. It was filthy. There was dog hair all over the seats. He had a small Shitzhu and the dog rode in the car all the time. It was summer in Texas, so the dog shedded like crazy. Worse, Iranian Mike’s car had a flat tire a few days earlier and was riding on one of those small donut-shaped emergency tires that was only intended as a temporary replacement to make it to a service station. Iranian Mike tossed me the keys and told me to bring it back in one piece.
I can’t even fathom what must have gone through the girl’s head when I pulled in to pick her up, driving that dark blue Oldsmobile Cutlass of a shitbox with dog hair all over the seats and a tiny tire that made the car pull off to one side.
Hey, the night was still young. Then, things went downhill from there.
I feel bad not remembering the girl’s name, right now. So, I have to call her “the girl.” If you’re reading — sorry girl. She listened to my sob story about the car not starting and having to borrow a friend’s car at the last second. I think she kinda’ appreciated the effort. She even believed me for a second.
We pulled into one of the best Italian restaurants in North Dallas, Lombardi’s on Lower Greenville. This was my go-to place. Great food. Live jazz on weekends. I’d even made a dinner reservation in advance. What a gentleman. A player.
The next 90 minutes were excruciating. Ever been in a confined space, trapped in a sit-down situation, and within 5 minutes you know it’s already a disaster? How about this: Ever been crucified? That was this date.
We had absolutely nothing in common. I mean, nothing. Everything she liked and enjoyed, I detested. Every topic I brought up, she took no interest in. But, she had a great ass. Man, I couldn’t get the check fast enough.
We both went through the motions. We gave it the old college try. I remember as we were looking across at each other one of those cozy two-top tables meant for couples truly in love, recalling that many odd relationships start off sailing on rough seas before calmer waters. Indeed, many love affairs do begin when the two people can’t stand each other. But this wasn’t that. She didn’t dislike me. And I didn’t dislike her. The date pretty much just ended up like walking up to a stranger on a bus and saying, “hey, let’s hang out together for a couple of hours.” What would one expect? Rolling the dice like that, what are the odds it’s going to work out and you’re going to keep hitting your point? Dating is/was just a numbers game. Keep tossing and eventually, you hit the 7. But along the way, there’s a few boxcars and snake-eyes. This date wasn’t like crapping out. It was like misfiring with two dice bounding off the table. A miscue. A bad roll.
The waiter brought over the check and by this time there was no chance in hell we were going to that movie. Even if I really wanted to see Platoon. All I wanted to do was pack her into the passenger seat with all the grey dog hair and wheel her back to her street, prop open the side door, and slow down enough to let her get a running start when the stilettos hit the asphalt.
But first I had to pay the bill.
Dallas — we have a problem. When I reached for the check that’s when I suddenly realized this night was about to become so far beyond a humiliation that I think I just lost it right then and there and began to burst out laughing.
A few hours earlier while trying to find a jump start for the car, I’d switched jackets. That meant I’d left my billfold in the other coat pocket. The billfold had all my money and credit cards. So, I was sitting at a dinner table on a Saturday night penniless. Flat fucking broke.
I think I was laughing by this time. Crying, maybe. I don’t remember. The girl must have thought I was insane. If there was a bridge nearby, I probably would have jumped off it.
“Umm, you’re not going to believe this, but umm…..”
Whatever syllables followed next from my trembling salty lips aren’t important, nor are they remembered exactly word for word, some three decades later. However, I do remember this. My date actually gasped for air. Then, she just stared. Sort of like a death stare. Then, she calmly reached into her purse, tossed some money on the tabletop, and confessed she needed to go to the ladies room immediately. Yeah, I totally got that. I could surely understand. I’m stoked with empathy. The girl needed to catch her breath. Take a little break. I’m sure our date had been quite overwhelming.
Well, I sat there by myself with my hands over my face in silence for the next ten minutes. The agony seemed a lot longer than that. It sure seemed like a long time for her to be using the restroom. So, I left her money on the table and approached to the hostess stand. I was still clueless.
“Hey, did you see a brunette lady in a polka-dot dress up here? She’s my date. I can’t find her.”
“Yeah, she jumped in a taxi and left five minutes ago.”
Can you believe that? I didn’t even get a kiss.
Well, at least I got a free dinner out of the worst date of my life.
Note: ‘Tis the season of love. Now it’s your turn. Please join our fun at Facebook where readers can post their WORST DATE EVER stories in the “comments” section. My last poll question got about 230 replies. This one should be a blast. CLICK THE LINK BELOW:
How to Lose Freinds, Piss-Off Family Members, and Maintain Your Sanity: A Las Vegas Crumudgeons’s Dark Confessional on Dealing with Visitors
Las Vegas is a terrific place to go on vacation. Las Vegas is an even better place to live.
Not only is there lots of stuff to do 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week — but someone we know always seems to be in town. If not, then they’ll visit eventually. It’s like living inside Grand Central Station, only with about a million video poker machines.
If you live in Las Vegas, people from all those boring places are bound to come and pay you a visit at some point in their lives. In fact, there’s a 100 percent chance you’ll eventually hear from every old high-school chum, ex-whatever, former co-worker, ballbusting boss, frat brother, step-uncle, old college roommate, softball teammate, and long-lost distant relative, including those whose names you can’t remember and/or have been desperately trying to forget.
One surprise about living here is that locals don’t tend to hang out together much. Perhaps we’re just too exhausted entertaining all the out-of-towners to have much time left for friends and neighbors. Visitors expect us to be at their beck and call….acting as their booking agent, tour guide, chauffeur, casino host, maid, cook, banker, and sometimes even the co-signer for bail.
Yes, I did that once.
Don’t misunderstand me. I do like some of my friends and even enjoy the company of a couple of my relatives. But I also receive 3 to 4 messages per week on average, saying something to the effect — “Hey Nolan, let’s get together!” Imagine how high this number might be if I weren’t such an asshat someone with impeccable taste and high standards. Sure, these social invitations are well-intentioned. I’d like to accept most of them — especially when they’re buying. Unfortunately, tough choices have to be made to preserve one’s sanity.
I’ve begun to decline the majority of invitations that I receive. It’s nothing personal. I’m just tired of hanging out in casinos for hours at a time, without any sense of purpose. Most nights, I’d much rather spend my free time at home — getting into political fights with complete strangers on Facebook — rather than sitting in a sportsbook, which all seems so pointless, especially when the shitty team you bet on like the Los Angeles Lakers can’t even cover the pointspread even though they’re playing against the worst team in the NBA that just lost and is in the second game of a back-to-back situation and you found a -9 when every other sportbook in town had it at -10. And, don’t even get me started on the prospect of grazing up and down The Strip like I’m stuck in the middle of a cattle drive or wading through mall crowds to go see a $140 show.
Screw that, man!
Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas. Sorry, but I’ve got a headache. Have fun. You’re on your own.
Here are ten unspoken secrets that most Las Vegas residents want to say to our dear friends and relatives who come here to visit:
 Give us plenty of notice when you’re coming. Chances are, you planned your Las Vegas vacation several weeks ago, or even months in advance. Well, we have lives, too. If you really want to get together, give us as much notice as possible that you’re coming. I can’t count all the occasions I got text message asking me if I want to get together that same night, and look down and see the message was sent at 3:30 pm. We can’t drop everything on two hours notice. It doesn’t work that way. Warn us please, so we can try and be out of town ourselves.
 Unless it’s an emergency, we won’t go to The Strip! I realize the main reason 40 million people come to Las Vegas annually is to hang out at fancy casinos and blow tons of money for free drinks. Flying here and then not going to The Strip would be like taking a trip to Egypt and then skipping the Pyramids. But hey, you can even see a pyramid here — it’s called Luxor. Thing is, most locals over the age of 30 don’t go to The Strip — ever. Crowds, high costs, paid parking, terrible odds on machines, we don’t want to go there.
 Most of us can’t afford $200 dinners every night. We know you saw a celeb chef on TV want to try out their new place. Reality is, that’s just a branding exercise. A facade. Famous people get paid lots of money to stamp their names on the sign in front, because, for some inexplicable reason, lots of gullible people want to eat in a place with a famous person’s name on the sign. Again, have fun! We’ll stick to our favorite locals’ spot, park for free, get better service, and save about 40 percent on the bill. Oh, and tap, not sparkling.
 We don’t have connections to grease you with free show tickets. Sorry, but we can’t pick up the phone, call Alfonse at the Copa Room, and have two front row tickets waiting for you and a special guest at Will Call. That archaic system ended about the time the Rat Pack died. But, here’s what we can do: Direct you to a great website where you can book your own show tickets! Oh, joy! One notable exception is something really cool called Half Price Show Tickets, which is a kiosk storefront on The Strip. Same day, last-minute show tickets are deeply discounted. Go there, so long as you don’t mind seeing a D-grade show like a juggler or “comedian” at 2 in the afternoon with a two-drink minimum. If you want tickets to any of the big headliners, it’s best to reserve well in advance.
 Friday and Saturday night are to be avoided at all costs. Whatever we said earlier about visiting the mega-casinos — double it twice and turn it sideways when it comes to heading to The Strip on a weekend. Recently, I made the monumental mistake of meeting someone at Bally’s on a Friday evening at 8 pm and then waited 45 minutes idling in my car to get out of the parking lot. I hated my ex-friend, after that. Forget about being anywhere around City Center during a Las Vegas Golden Knights (NHL) home game. When it comes to holidays, forget-about-it. I don’t know you. I don’t want to know you.
 Don’t even think about asking me to do something on an NFL Sunday or a Monday night during football season. Unless you hit the lottery and need somebody to do some serious partying with, I’m busy.
 Don’t expect me to drop whatever I’m doing to entertain you. What do I look like, Britney Freaking Spears? What talents I possess won’t interest you. Accordingly, your time is best utilized compensating a true professional. I can’t just drop whatever I’m doing and become your personal servant. Besides, the poker game I’m likely sitting in on a typical Wednesday night is probably great and I need to play a just few more hours to try and get out of the hole.
 We aren’t forking over our casino comps for you to splurge. The $62.17 I managed to rake into my account at Stations Casino cost me $2,700 in video poker losses over four months. I worked damn hard for those comps. So, don’t expect me to blow them on you. Yeah, I love you, Mom. But use your own comp points.
 If we’re picking you up somewhere, be there, on time. Picking up a friend in front of a 5,500-room hotel isn’t like going through the drive-thru at Wendy’s. Chances are, we’ve got one shot at seeing you standing outside on the sidewalk. If you’re late or aren’t there, that means we have to go circle around ten minutes again through the taxi line. Be where you say you’ll be. On time. If there’s any doubt about making the connection, always leave 15 minutes early. That seems to make just about everyone right on time.
 Buy your own dope. Las Vegas has gotten to be a tourist destination for dope smokers. I don’t know shit about that stuff, except that lots of people appear to be happy and having lots of fun. I have nothing against marijuana or cannabis or whatever it’s called. Stay high, my friends. But I’m not becoming your personal pusher. I’ve got another reputation issues already without being labeled El Broko El Chapo.
So, what’s all this mean? Based on each of my demands, that pretty much leaves just one spot open for visitors who want to get together and hang out with me: 1:30 pm on non-holiday Tuesday afternoons at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Downtown Summerlin, but only if you’re buying (alcohol must be included).
Sound good? Then, give me a ring! I can’t wait to see you!
Random thoughts that came to me while eating sour lemonade and drinking a ham sandwich…..
 If asked to describe my social media account in just five words or less, I’ll go with this: OLD MAN YELLS AT CLOUD.
 Actor “Rob Lowe” was trending last week.
My first thought was: Did he die? My second thought was: Sexual harassment? My third thought was: Another old blackface photo?
This is the world we now live in.
 I don’t want to sound sacrilegious, but The Bible is boring. It’s a terrible book. Hint: If they want more readers, hire Stephen King to do a massive re-write. If there’s a movie, toss in a few car chases.
 I’m waiting for Five-Thirty-Eight to do a detailed study on the inverse relationship between aging and the number of current hit songs someone can name.
 Someone posted an early draft of the Green New Deal, which contains some crazy-sounding stuff. Okay, whatever. Let me remind everyone that Sir Paul McCartney’s first draft of a weird song that started out as “Scrambled Eggs” eventually became a rock masterpiece titled, “Yesterday.”
 Has anyone checked to see if Matthew McConaughey actually drives a Lincoln Navigator? I really want to know.
 Too bad Rep. John Dingell died last week at the ripe young age of 92. He was almost old enough to run for president.
 I’m done playing in poker tournaments because I’m fed up with all the table changes. I always get moved off my starting table straight into the parking lot.
 Has anyone ever approached the seating host at a restaurant and said, “I’m starving — oh, and I’m here with the Donner Party?”
 If children got screwed by clowns as often as they get doodled by priests and preachers it would be against the law to take your kids to the circus.
 Not sure who I’d rather see doing hard time busting rocks in a prison yard — Donald Trump or Sheldon Adelson. Here’s an idea: Handcuff the two shitbags together. That would make one helluva’ reality television show, wouldn’t it? Gives The Defiant Ones a whole new meaning.
 I’m curious about something. In 1969, we landed a rocket on the moon using computers the size of a gymnasium. Now, fifty years later, how come I can’t get a fucking internet connection in Downtown Summerlin?
 Why are so many old extremist Right-wing White men scared of a relatively powerless 29-year-old freshman socialist congresswoman of color?
 When you wash your car at one of those do-it-yourself places, isn’t handling the scrubber kinda’ like using someone else’s toothbrush?
 The timeline of every rock band:
Drugs and alcohol
 I’m genuinely curious. How can people with no original thoughts and utterly nothing interesting to say somehow get 450,o00 twitter followers?
 Am I the only person alive still using Windows 98? Shouldn’t I get a lifetime achievement award or something?
 Though it does take creativity, I figured out how to live totally rent-free. My new home address is an IKEA store.
 The word “FUCK” is the most creative word in the English language. Think of how many derivatives there are and different ways it can be used. Even the way “FUCK” is said aloud can mean completely different things. “FUCK!” said one way can mean, “this is terrible!” yet can also mean “this is wonderful!” based solely upon the inflection of one’s voice. Whoever invented the word is a fucking genius.
 You haven’t really stood up for much in life unless you have at least a few haters. It’s good to have haters. Hate from those who are ignorant is a currency as valuable as gold.
Frantic to deflect our attention away from the malady of Trump and his voluminous crimes, the far-Right has resorted to flinging a ceaseless bombardment of demonstrable falsehoods, hoping they’ll stick. With Hillary Clinton fading into the past, they desperately need a new bogey-woman — and now appear to have found her.
Here’s to exposing their lies with facts and telling the truth….
Why do they lie so much?
That’s the big question I’ve been asking myself since the unexpected and unprecedented rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old newly-elected congresswoman from New York who’s made quite the political splash in Washington.
Ocasio-Cortez’s has become so well-known, so fast, she’s now known by a simple three-letter moniker, “AOC.” Her appeal among progressives is well-justified. She’s young. She’s energetic. She’s genuine. She’s fearless.
AOC’s meteoric rise onto the national stage has also made her into an inviting political target. She’s become the victim of outright fabrication. Already, there’s a vast disinformation campaign underway which intends to discredit her. The far-Right’s assembly line of lies has been cranked into action. The hate machine is going full blast. Like a doomsday machine that can’t be shut off once it’s been programmed, this is only the beginning. The deceptive anti-AOC narrative has been artfully crafted. Eventually, it becomes impossible to alter first impressions and change stubborn simple minds. Political disinformation campaigns work.
Take a look at all the activity related to AOC spewed across social media platforms this past week. She’s become the poster girl for extremist Right-wing backlash. Frantic to deflect our attention away from the malady of Donald Trump and his voluminous crimes, the conservative movement has resorted to flinging a ceaseless bombardment of demonstrable falsehoods, desperately hoping they’ll stick. With Hillary Clinton fading into the past, they desperately need a new bogey-woman — and now appear to have found her.
For example, here’s just one of many social media outlets blasting AOC with completely made-up accusations. Some troll calling itself “The Patriot Conservative” somehow has several thousand followers. The Facebook page is percolating with attacks on AOC. Let’s be quite clear — political criticism is certainly fair game. However, complete disregard of the facts and outright fabrication is not.
Check out this deceptive post at “The Patriot Conservative.” It mocks AOC (and several other Democratic congresswomen) for allegedly not standing up during Trump’s State of the Union Address at the instant a 10-year-old girl was introduced to the crowd and lauded for overcoming brain cancer. Here’s a snapshot of the false post:
Falsehoods from the far-Right aren’t the exception. They are now the rule. Their toxicity has gone viral, infecting an army of faithful foot-soldiers. Impressionable followers, numbering in the thousands, are willing to gobble up any lie. Too lazy to fact-check anything, they share this garbage and litter the social media landscape with lies.
Again, here’s clear evidence. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of memes exploded all over Twitter and Facebook in recent days, hammering AOC for “not standing.” Here’s just one of the countless examples of fakery:
The meme looks really bad, doesn’t it? Allegedly, AOC didn’t even stand up nor applaud when the young cancer survivor was recognized by Trump during his speech. The photograph even shows AOC scowling. [Oh, and by the way, the memes can’t even get the girl’s age correct. She’s not 8. She’s 10.]
There’s only one problem.
The meme, the photo, the entire incident — all are demonstrably false. It’s completely made up. It’s garbage.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s proof.
I went back and carefully watched Trump’s introduction of the young cancer survivor. It took one click on YouTube and about 3o seconds to realize what was being reported was a total lie.
Here’s the screenshot I took of AOC and other Democratic congresswomen (mostly dressed in white, which makes them easy to identify). This image shows AOC at the very instant the young girl is introduced to the crowd:
Note who standing up at the second Trump makes his introduction. In case it’s not clear, that’s AOC in the row behind the table. That’s her — STANDING UP. That’s her — APPLAUDING.
Should you suspect I doctored this photo, or believe it’s from a different part of the State of the Union speech, watch for yourself in real time. Click the short clip below. You can fast-forward to the 2:20 mark, which is when Trump makes his introduction and AOC and the others stand and applaud:
Seriously, do these people have no shame?
What to make of the social media sewer that manufactures this fakery and the willful idiots who spread their lies?
Unfortunately, it’s too late now. Many more people will click and share the false AOC meme than will ever read this column. No one bothers to verify its accuracy. Moreover, this is just one of the countless other examples of grotesque disinformation floating around the internet intended to malign AOC.
This does raise a more poignant question. If AOC’s ideas about economic inequality, universal health care, and global warming are so wrong, why then do they ridicule her appearance, question her patriotism, deride her background from modest economic means, and fabricate bullshit? Why don’t they just stick to the issues?
Is this yet another despicable example of misogyny? Is it racism? Perhaps, somewhat. But I think it’s much deeper than that. The far-Right knows they can’t win on the issues. Their only hope is to demonize the most convenient messenger-target and if necessary, make stuff up. The mudslinging is working. Apparently, about 40 percent of the country swims away with the juicy bait — hook, line, and sinker. They’ve become the pupfishes of political deceit.
Next time you see another anti-AOC meme, ask yourself one simple question — why are they attacking a 29-year-old female congresswoman with relatively little voting power compared to the vast arsenal of political and economic heavyweights who have sewn so much discord? Why do they feel so threatened by this young lady?
If you’re a regular reader and not yet up to speed on Matt Lessinger and his expertise on awards shows and analysis, then I’m not sure what else to say.
He’s been introduced here before. Get with the program.
Let’s skip the usual preamble and get straight to Matt’s thoughts on tonight’s Grammy Awards. For the record, I know nothing about this year’s music or ceremony, which will air tonight. The Grammy Awards typically warbles between mesmerizingly great and train wreck awful. I expect more of the same, tonight.
For those who appreciate the science of handicapping and value great analysis, I urge you to read his thoughts here, which should be valued as a terrific handicapping outlier. You need not be knowledgable of the music nor interested in the Grammy’s to value the high level of this work — which is why I’m eager to share Matt’s contribution here at my site.
Matt’s e-mail to me reads as follows:
Sadly, I’ve looked at the Grammy odds on three different sites, and the best odds were on Bovada each time. You know the offshore sites are getting worse when Bovada has the best lines! That’s unfortunate because they are only allowing a max bet of $125. on each category, and I have no idea how they came up with that number, but they are standing firm on that max. I don’t have the time or the resources to scour for a site with potentially better odds and/or maximums, but if anyone can find one and they are willing to share that information, it would be most appreciated. In the meantime, the odds listed here can all be found on Bovada at the time of this writeup.
The most obvious difference from years past is that there are now eight nominees in each category instead of five. That makes our job a little harder, but there’s still value to be found and money to be made. The other difference is that the nominees lean way more in the direction of hip hop than in years past. If I had been forced to bet on who this year’s nominees would be, admittedly I would have gotten slaughtered. For example, if you look at the category for Best Pop Vocal Album, which has six nominees (Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Shawn Mendes), I would have said that each of those albums could easily have landed in the Album of the Year category. Instead, NONE of them were nominated! For Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande to not have been nominated in an eight-horse field for Album of the Year is downright shocking. It may signal that the Grammys are going in a new direction. However, until they prove that they are willing to change the way they hand out the actual winners trophies, we have to assume for betting purposes that they are still the same old Grammys.
I’m going to list the categories in order of confidence, going from least to most.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper is the -300 favorite and will almost certainly win. There are going to be two themes that repeat themselves throughout the categories. The first is that there are no standout nominees in any category. In my humble opinion, “Shallow” is not even a particularly good song, but it may be the best one in this weak field. The second recurring theme is that we will summarily dismiss any hip-hop nominees, even though there are more than usual this year, until it is shown that they can win the open categories on a more regular basis. With regard to this category, that eliminates half the field. Out of the ones that are left, Lady Gaga is the only one with a winning Grammy track record, having won six of them in the past. “Shallow” is the logical choice, but at -300 it is unplayable. I’m going to take a complete flyer for a token wager on the longest shot in the field, “The Middle” by Zedd and Maren Morris. Bombs away! My simple logic is that it is the only other song in the field that would be considered pop. On the one hand, the fact that none of the Best Pop Albums were nominated for Album of the Year signals a move away from pop music. On the other hand, Grammys have always rewarded pop musicians in the open categories, most notably Taylor Swift and Adele in recent years. “The Middle” might be the only upbeat song in the entire field, and it wouldn’t shock me if some voters gravitate to it just because it sounds uplifting in a sea of comparatively depressing music.
My play: “The Middle” by Zedd and Maren Morris at 33-1, for a very small wager. But if you’re willing to lay the heavy wood, you’ll probably win with “Shallow” at -300.
BEST NEW ARTIST
When the nominees were announced, my initial reaction was that Dua Lipa would be the odds-on favorite. Instead, H.E.R. is the -110 favorite and Dua Lipa is +180, and it’s far back to the rest of the field. Anecdotally speaking, H.E.R. is from Vallejo, CA which is a half hour away from me, and I listen to R&B music, and I had never heard any of her songs before. Once I listened to her, I had to admit I liked her music quite a bit, and she has a recognizable talent such that she could certainly win. But her resume doesn’t match up to Dua Lipa, who has already had a #1 song (New Rules) and international radio airplay. At the given prices, Dua Lipa is definitely the better value play. It’s hard to summarily dismiss the longshots – someone like Luke Combs or Margo Price could certainly be bombs away at 22-1 – but the problem in this category is that it’s hard to predict which longshot the voters would gravitate towards, so it’s easier to just stick with the proven commodity.
My play: Dua Lipa at +180
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Disclaimer: As much as I try to keep my personal musical opinions out of this process and stick to cold, hard analysis, sometimes that’s just not possible. This is one of those times.
Kacey Musgraves is the +120 favorite. I am quite sure a country artist has never been favored in this category for as long as I’ve been following Grammy betting. To me that signals the weakness with the other nominees more than it signals the strength of her album. She could certainly win, but there’s no value there. The 2nd and 3rd choices are the Black Panther album, which is essentially Kendrick Lamar, and then Drake. Both are hip-hop artists, and so I’ll say the same thing I’ve said every year for the past 15 years: the hip-hop artists who have previously won Album of the Year are Outkast and Lauryn Hill. That’s it, that’s the list. If one of them becomes the third member of that list, more power to them, but at +250 and +350 they’re unplayable. Cardi B and Post Malone are two more hip-hop artists that can even more easily be dismissed. Brandi Carlile and H.E.R. are the two longest shots on the board, and justifiably so. Out of the last four nominees I listed, Carlile is the only one who should have any shot at winning due to her career longevity, which is often rewarded in the AOTY category, but sometimes just being nominated is the reward, which is what this feels like.
That leaves Janelle Monae, who is listed at 6-1 on Bovada, but I’ve seen her as low as 3-1 elsewhere. Being completely honest, this is more of a hunch play than anything else. It simply feels like it should be her time. She is an R&B artist, which has historically been more successful in the open categories than either hip-hop or country. She has had a musical career spanning almost 15 years, which is more than most of this field can claim. Prince was an uncredited collaborator on the album, and assuming the voters are aware of that, his recent passing will certainly carry some weight. It was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. And finally, inserting my own two cents, this album deserves to win. At 6-1 the value is there.
My play: Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae at 6-1.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
Despite the constant insistence that Song of the Year and Record of the Year are two distinct categories, the same song wins in both categories way too often to be a coincidence. “Shallow” is the -300 favorite for SOTY and will probably win. So why is it the +160 second choice in this category, and “This is America” by Childish Gambino is the -150 favorite? I tried to find a logical reason and couldn’t come up with one. This is the best bet on the board. I’ll include another token wager on “The Middle” in case it sweeps both categories, but it’s far more likely that Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper will get the scoop.