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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wishing You a Merry Christmas - Like It Or Not

It’s only been a couple weeks since Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter helped orchestrate putting the word “Christmas” back on the sign for the, uh, Christmas Village on a plaza next to City Hall, but I’m pretty sure the world has continued to rotate. In fact, I’d bet anything that it will keep spinning long enough for next year’s debate over whether or not a free country should allow its vast majority of people to openly celebrate one of their most important holidays of the year.

The annual complaints about the mere mention of Christmas in public has become almost as much a part of the holiday as putting a green wreath on the front door. While I’m glad to see that the majority is finally pushing back on this issue, the mere fact that it comes up every year is symbolic of a bigger problem with this country.

Last time I checked, Hanukkah came and went without a hitch. I feel extremely confident that Kwanzaa will do the same. I’m also absolutely sure there will not be an outcry to have absolutely no mention of Kwanzaa in public because recognition of the holiday would be such a devastating affront to those who don’t celebrate it. Odds are much better that some people will complain that the holiday established in 1966 isn’t getting enough attention. This is a holiday created to, according to Wikipedia quoting the creator of the holiday, Maulana Karenga, “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”

Yet, the holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ more than 2,000 years ago should be ignored.

The logic from those complaining about public displays celebrating Christmas . . . see, here’s the problem.

Those complaining never quite spit out the actual basis of their whining. They offer up the notion that all holidays should be celebrated equally in such a diverse country or other non-specific, intangible nonsense. What they never explain is why the public recognition of the holiday celebrated by the vast majority has to be equivalent to the holidays celebrated by the minority. They also never quite get around to explaining the implication that their celebration is diminished by the abundance of Christmas displays.

In a country that debates whether or not there should be a mosque near “ground zero,” site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, many actually believe that wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” is politically incorrect. Apparently, we will go out of our way to defend religious freedoms of a minority even when they chose to show absolutely no sensitivity to the feelings of millions who suffered at the hands of extremists from their religion. Yet the majority must cower in the corner when they celebrate a religious holiday so as not to offend any individual who might not share in their religion.

The individuals complaining about the word “Christmas” being on a sign aren’t worried about equal rights. They haven’t been told not to celebrate their holiday, nor forced to celebrate one they choose not to. They’re not worried about getting equal time off from work for their holidays. I’ll support anybody who argues that people who want to work through Christmas to take whatever time off they would have had during Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Problem solved?

Didn’t think so.

The basis of the complaints seem to be about jealously. Daniel Rubin wrote a great piece in the Inquirer about the uproar over changing the Christmas Village sign. A few lines have stuck with me:

I stood in a media scrum Tuesday - news of the name change had made the Drudge Report - as city Managing Director Richard Negrin explained how he'd received complaints from city workers and residents about the market, how unwelcoming it was to those who don't do Christmas.

He told of how a little girl and her father had been walking by the market the other day, and the girl, who was Jewish, had asked, "Don't we get a village?"

That is the type of logic driving this ridiculous debate every year, and I realize I am butchering the term “logic.” The word “jealously” is clearly much more appropriate.

Unwelcoming? No, it’s part of the culture those who don’t celebrate Christmas choose to live in. If they feel unwelcomed because that culture doesn’t bend to their individual likes and dislikes, they need to go back to high school and learn how cultures are supposed to work.

And, what is so terrible about telling your little girl that more people celebrate Christmas, so it tends to get more attention? Is the child going to wilt right there on the sidewalk? If so, maybe parenting skills should be more of a concern than being offended by the existence of a holiday you don’t celebrate. If the adult doesn’t treat it as some big disaster, neither will the kid.

Of course, that’s not the real problem. Most people who actually discuss this subject outside of the media talk about being inundated by the media with Christmas related material. They complain about the endless Christmas music on the radio, TV specials, and commercials offering one sale after the other.

I don’t totally disagree with the thinking. Many of us Christmas Celebrationists – sense the sarcasm – basically agree with it. I happen to like the music and the specials, and think there’s worse things in the world than a season that looks to inspire peace on Earth, goodwill towards men (and women), and general merriment. That said, jamming it all into a month is a bit overwhelming, if not a sad statement on society.

But the complaint is essentially about the commercialism around December 25th, and has very little to do with the Christmas holiday.

Trust me, if more people celebrated Hanukkah with an emphasis on gift giving, prime time television would be flooded with images of menorahs and specials with titles like A Very Feldman Hanukkah.

To me, the biggest holiday casualty of the media frenzy over Christmas is Thanksgiving, which I happen to miss. Not the actual day last month, but in general. I’m just barely old enough to remember when it was more than “the start of the shopping season.” I turned on the parade Thanksgiving morning for a minute, and began wondering if it was always one big commercial. This may be a little hypocritical coming from a guy who had an affiliate website for 5+ years, but somehow I don’t think my attempt to get a business going destroyed any holiday traditions.

If you want to complain that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer aired on CBS, The Grinch That Stole Christmas aired on ABC, and Christmas from Rockafeller Center was on NBC, all at the same time before December 1, fine.

You can even gripe about how early radio stations start playing Christmas music all day, every day.

But the people who complain about seeing the word “Christmas” near City Hall are kind of like the people who love to talk about how the birth of Christ was actually in March. They’re not doing it because they care, oh, so much about historical accuracy. (Do you ever hear about these same people celebrating Christmas in March? I don’t. Yet, somehow they make themselves heard in December.) They’re doing it to be different, to be the contrarian.

People whining year after year about public Christmas displays are trying to play the role of the proverbial “little guy” getting stomped on by the herd of the majority. Sadly, the media annually hands a megaphone to this very un-silent, very un-persecuted minority never understanding that nothing is being stomped on. No injustice has occurred.

Allowing the minority to stifle the majority has become the bastardization of this country’s love of the underdog. Somehow allowing everyone to celebrate has become an obligation to make sure that the majority doesn’t celebrate too loudly because it might offend someone.

Hopefully, Nutter’s effort to put Christmas back into the holidays is just a start to reversing the trend of the majority bowing to the minority for nothing more than some twisted version of equality.

Nutter put it pretty well in a recent tweet, “From the City Hall Christmas Tree to the Rittenhouse Square Menorah. What a great city.”

Rubin put it even better in his article, “Yes, it's the Christmas season. Get over it. I have.”

Or don’t get over it. Celebrate your own holiday or don’t celebrate any holiday. That’s your right in a free country.

Just don’t try to deny me the right to celebrate my holiday. And to wish everybody a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Page 2

It’s been so long since I wrote a non-sports blog post, I have completely lost my rhythm for doing so. Of course, that statement assumes that I actually had some rhythm for it at one point.

A couple of years ago I combined my Philly Sports Review and Casual Critic blog into Rob Q. Ink in an effort to have a blog that was updated two or three times a week. Part of what I liked about the idea was being a writer with a disability offering commentary on various issues – including disability issues – all in the same spot.

As recently as a few weeks ago I wrote out a list of topics for articles that I wanted to write. The list started with the above topic:

• Why I write about multiple topics on the same blog
• Speech disabilities and disability hierarchy
• Scottie Pippen in the Hall of Fame (note)
• Pending lockouts, NFL & NBA
• “Mainstreaming” has benefits
• Widener class (my discussion with a group of prospective special ed teachers)

With only a few edits for the sake of clarity, that was the list. Topic number one may have tripped me up, as the more I thought about it the more I wondered if it really was a good idea.

In fact, I ultimately decided it was not a good idea to have a blog on multiple topics, at least not one that included sports. My blog posts on Philadelphia sports were dominating all of the other topics. It’s just easier for me to write about sports as I’m naturally following it every day. I can just sit at the keyboard and let my passion flow, and if I really get into a specific issue that requires some research, I have enough desire and knowledge to do it easily.

That’s not to suggest that I don’t have passion for other topics. I can certainly get revved up about disability issues, politics, and more. They’re just not things I have enough desire to write about two or three times a week.

My sports posts were dominating in other ways as well – they get the most hits and I have actually obtained a few advertisements within posts. I finally realized that it might be a good idea to try to maximize that modicum of “success.” The thought also occurred to me that people reading my sports posts – as well as other potential advertisers – were probably turned off by the occasional book review, political rant, or whatever.

Not wanting to go back to having a third blog – I also produce an informational blog for the disability community* – I tried to figure out how to display individual topics on their own pages. My hope was to take advantage of Blogger’s relatively new feature allowing stand alone pages. For instance, Rob Q. Ink would have had a “Sports” page with its own sidebar links, advertisements, etc. I did enough research to know that it was probably possible, but beyond my programming capabilities.

So, I comprised, and Rob Q. Ink – Page 2 was born. Of course I realize I’m back to a third blog, but hopefully the continuity in the name will pay off. Who knows? I’m already thinking that I should have just gone back to using Philly Sports Review for my sports blogging, but there were too many logistical, pain-in-the-butt things to do to transition back. I especially didn’t want to have to try to re-obtain a link on’s sports blog roll.

I still believe in the concept that people with disabilities who find a voice in the general community need to maintain some focus specifically on disability issues. The combination is key. I think it would help move the conversation on disability, and eventually those with disabilities, into the public conscious more.

For instance, if my pipe dream of establishing myself as a major Philadelphia sports blogger came to fruition, I think it would be incumbent on me to use that notoriety to speak to a larger audience on topics that are relevant to the disability community. The voices that are being heard from the disability community tend to speak only to disability issues, and therefore only that part of the population.

Mark E. Smith and, to a larger degree, Josh Blue are the two strongest voices that I know of in the disability community. Blue seems to have moved a little bit into areas outside of disability with his comedy from what I catch on YouTube now and then, and Smith touches on other topics in his essays but the focus is always on disability. Steven Hawking is probably the one guy that is still in the public eye occasionally with a disability known for his work totally unrelated to disability, though I’ve never heard anything about him drawing attention to disability issues. (That’s not to say he hasn’t done so.)

Even as an unknown blogger, I’ve learned that there is no doubt about the danger of spreading yourself too thin. My focus on sports blogging has only increased since I made the original Rob Q. Ink exclusively about sports. Hopefully, the increased effort will pay off.

Whether it does or not, Page 2 will be where I pontificate, babble, or just plain bitch and moan about the world outside of sports. Posts may run once a week, once a month, or on a completely random schedule. Disability subjects will be part of what I write about, but only a part. Politics, entertainment, news of the day, and whatever else moves me to write, will make up the rest of the posts.

Hopefully, the effort will move others to give Page 2 a read now and then.

*I no longer produce the disability blog as of the end of 2011.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A True Story: My Gym Encounter the Day after the Election

The day after the election I was finishing up my hour on the exercise bike, pleased I had gotten through level 8 on “random hill” for the first time even though my miles were a bit down at 16.7. That’s not an exact number, as I was quite distracted for the last several minutes of my workout by the man who had sat on the bike to my left.

The mere presence of President Obama on the television screen above us prompted this 50-something white man to seek out what he thought was an agreeable face. The wheelchair in front of my bike apparently meant I didn’t fit the bill, which I was perfectly fine with. My speech disability makes impromptu conversations with strangers extremely difficult, and sucking wind doesn’t make it any easier.

“He’s an idiot, huh?” he said, apparently finding what he was looking for in the 40-something white man two bikes to his left.

Not wanting to play along, the second guy just sort of shrugged and said something like, “I think he’s doing ok.” Certainly I didn’t take notes, but I began writing this post, especially the dialogue as best I could remember, shortly after returning home.

Unsatisfied, Mr. 50-something pressed on. Eventually he said, “Then there’s all the unemployment benefits he’s extended.”

As my blood began to boil, I shared a look with the second guy. He again tried to avoid the conversation. As a woman walked by he even attempted to toss out a classic male-bonding comment. “I try not to get into it. I’d rather just talk to a pretty girl.”

Finally, Mr. 50-something pushed too far. “Eh, he totally ruined the economy. All that money to the banks.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I finally chimed in, rather loudly. “He had to do something.”

Ignoring me, the older man kept talking until finally the second guy had enough.

“The economy tanked because they were letting people buy homes they couldn’t afford. Instead of saying, ‘You can’t afford this,’ they wrote loan after loan. Who was president then?”

“Bush,” I said, louder.

“Exactly.” I wasn’t being ignored any more.

“You can’t blame Bush. That’s the banks.”

“And my son’s been out of work for 6 months,” Mr. 40-something said. “There is no work because everybody’s afraid to move forward in this economy.”

Done my workout, I got in my wheelchair. I honestly planned to just leave, but the true nugget for me of the mindset of those reveling in yesterday awaited me.

“And how about this guy. What’s he supposed to do? Do you work? Or, I guess, you can’t?” asked the younger guy.

“I can work, I just can’t find another job.”

“What’s he supposed to do?” asked the younger guy.

“That’s different. That’s disability. I have no problem with that.”

“No, it’s not different,” I said. I gave the younger guy a half handshake, half high-five, and thanked him as I left.

Ask Rand Paul, who won in Kentucky, if it’s different after he spoke out against the Americans with Disabilities Act in May. reported:

Paul has suggested the law goes too far, incorrectly describing what it requires for many businesses.

This is what Paul said in a May interview on National Public Radio: "I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator."

However, elevators "are not required in facilities that are less than three stories or have fewer than 3,000 square feet per story, unless the building is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider; a public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal," according to the Web site of the U.S. Justice Department, which enforces the law.

The law requires only that public facilities — such as stores, banks, hotels and restaurants — "remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is 'readily achievable,' i.e., it can be done 'without much difficulty or expense,'" according to the Justice Department.

Yahoo! News reported soon after Paul's May statement that the Justice Department and legal experts could not cite any instance of a private employer being successfully sued to install an elevator.
In other words, the man didn’t even know the law or its consequences. He merely knew that it is perceived as bad for business so, as a Republican, he was looking to roll it back.

And the Republicans and those like Mr. 50-something have chosen not to know that the economy tanked long before Barack Obama was sworn in as president. He’s not what they wanted in the White House, and they simply want to roll back whatever he’s done.

They don’t have the problem of paying the bills or not having health care, so they don’t feel a need to deal with it. They prefer to live in the dream world where giving rich business owners tax cuts cures all because the wealth will “trickle down” to the rest of society. And since they don’t really want people with disabilities in their businesses, they have no problem giving us benefits to live on (not that it’s possible to truly live on Social Security) as long as we’re happy staying out of the way.

These are the types of people that just won a so-called victory yesterday.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Voting Against Arrogance

I was thinking of not voting this year, until I saw a message on Facebook. A “friend” managed to take a video I posted on PhillyACCESS, an informational website for people with disabilities, and turn it into a message against the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The video was of an extreme sports athlete doing a long jump off of a ski jump type of ramp in a wheelchair. It’s an amazing video.

It also doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the ADA.

Yet, somehow he posted the words, “Must be a guy in charge of his own destiny ... probably doesn't spend much time worrying about the ADA.” I only know what the hell that means because I know how he thinks.

On the surface, it’s completely incoherent. Actually, even when it’s examined a little deeper, it’s completed incoherent. But, like I said, I know how he thinks.

The guy thinks the rest of the world should just pull themselves up by the bootstraps he never needed to pull on.

If you haven’t guessed, he’s a Republican.

He’s the guy who thinks “programs are out there to help those people,” and everyone should just fend for themselves. He thinks he can get away with saying these things because, after all, he knows someone with a disability. It’s sort of like the guy who tells racist jokes, but thinks it’s ok because his best friend is black.

I’m tempted to explain just how little he knows about my experience, but his ignorance is only the impetus for this post.

His ignorance is that of the elite and the wannabee elite. As a casual observer of politics, it seems perfectly clear that one of the main political breakdowns in this country follows the fault lines of the wealthy and those clutching at their skirts to become truly wealthy versus everyone else. The other falls along the lines of racial tolerance and racism, inclusion for all and ignorance.

I was actually a registered Republican during the last election. I had registered when I was old enough, and followed in my parents’ footsteps without much concern for which party I was registered with. I had this crazy notion that I would actually try to learn about the candidates running for election.

Yet, after the last election, I was simply too embarrassed to be registered as a Republican. Their not-so-veiled racist attitudes disgusted me. Sarah Palin’s presence on the presidential ticket was simply insulting to anyone with a brain, as was her suggestion that giving birth to a child with a disability made her an advocate. It most assuredly did not, and the attitude she and John McCain demonstrated toward the then infant son of Palin only proved it.

I figured Palin would fade back to oblivion where she belongs after the election, and things would settle down. Instead, Republicans have merely dug in their heels and two years later still call the airhead from Alaska their voice of the future.

There’s a future I want no part of.

The venom that continues to spew from enraged Republicans, angered by the fact that a black man is in the White House, is what has me going to the polls. It’s not really covered by the media, but we all know President Obama’s race is the cause of the vitriol.

Ignorant people want to hide behind catch phrases like Obamacare, big government, bailouts, and socialism. Of course, most of them obviously don’t understand what socialism is, don’t seem to comprehend that the bailouts of the banks have their origins in the Bush administration, and are somehow offended by the notion of attempting to give everyone health care.

They merely “want to take the country back,” which doesn’t mean anything. The country wasn’t taken over by an enemy. It’s merely code for “we want a white guy back in the White House.” Just ask Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who recently said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

That’s funny. I thought it was about governing the country better, in their opinion, than President Obama.

For two years, I’ve been told by obnoxious Republicans that I regret my vote in the last election. I most assuredly do not.

According to all reports, my vote won’t matter much tomorrow. But voting against the arrogance of Republicans is never wrong.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My New Fall Favorites

People used to make comments like, “I’ve entered the ‘90s,” when they started using some new technology that seemingly everyone else had been using for years. Since we’ve never seemed to name the first or second decade of the 2000s – are we just waiting for the teens or the hopefully roaring ‘20s to kick-in? – I’m not sure what to say about finally using On Demand. Besides, technology changes so fast, referring to last week instead of last decade seems to make more sense. I guess that’s why we came up with “that’s so yesterday,” but I just refuse to use that one.

I should probably point out that I’m not even 40 yet after the opening paragraph, which makes me sound like I still play music on a record player. In fact, I only vaguely remember doing that as a young kid. I got the iPod rocking about a year ago, along with the big screen HD TV. That may be why I’ve latched onto more TV shows this fall than I have in years – 46-inches of HD is just awesome.

Sports dominates my TV viewing so much this time of year that I have become a regular On Demand user for The Event, Detroit 1-8-7, No Ordinary Family, and until I learned it was getting axed Outlaw. I’d like to add The Whole Truth to that list, but it’s only on

Let’s start there. I also upgraded my computer last year with one that included a pretty damn good monitor, but I have a 46-inch screen that I can watch on my couch instead of a desk chair. Why? I repeat, why are some shows not On Demand? Networks care that much about driving traffic to their .coms?

I know, I know . . . buy a DVR. Maybe if ad revenues pick up on my blogs.

Ok, back to the point of this post, or I should say, to the point of this post. Here are my quick looks at the best new shows (in my opinion) this fall:

The Event: This show has a horrible time slot for me until Monday Night Football is over, but I love this show. It’s got a story line viewers can sink their teeth into, it moves but still has some real substance, and it’s possible to care about the characters. I’m always intrigued by the “aliens living among us” idea – see my affinity for the hangin’-by-a-thread V – and I’m hoping this one gets time.

Detroit 1-8-7: This series is proof that there actually can be truth in advertising. The network says people missing NYPD Blue will love this, and I agree. Producers just have to be careful not to make Michael Imperioli’s character, Detective Louis Fitch, too much like the complicated Andy Sipowicz. Seeing Blue alum James McDaniel on the show is interesting.

No Ordinary Family: This is the shocker of the bunch for me. I really like this show. A family of super heroes on ABC seemed destined to be a soft, kind of hokey series, but this show has an edge to it. The crime fighter angle of the character of Michael Chiklis – who was terrific in The Shield – works well, giving the show a serious side without losing the family element.

The Whole Truth: I’ve missed a couple of episodes after learning that the show was likely to get the ax. It’s a little weird “reviewing” this show after I learned that Tom Donaghy – the brother of my former fantasy football partner – created the show. I tuned in a few times because I liked the idea that we were going to know what really happened in the crime that drives each episode of the legal drama, and Maura Tierney wasn’t bad to look at. She’s still not, and the back-and-forth between her and Rob Morrow is cute, but the same two lawyers going at it each week is odd. I wish they would put it On Demand.

Unfortunately, I’m usually the kiss of death when it comes to shows I like surviving out of the gate. While I actually agree that Outlaw wasn’t up to snuff, I do not get networks pumping shows all summer just to cancel them after a few weeks. Why invest all that time advertising and money in a star like Jimmy Smits, only to bag it in within the first few weeks? It makes me think I should stick to cable series – at least they don’t cancel shows mid-season – or start renting old seasons of long running series that I never watched before.

Are they On Demand? Just kiddin’.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

M.S. Ride 2010 with Team PCAS

This essay has been deleted from the blog and will be available in my upcoming book.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Casual Critic — Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano's The Great Philadelphia Fan Book

The Great Philadelphia Fan Book proposes to be a defense of the often-berated Philly sports fan. While filled with interesting tidbits and historical background to some of the city's most infamous events, the book is hurt by at least one author's poor writing, up-yours attitude, and a whoa-is-me tone.

Co-written by Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano, two sports talkshow host on Philadelphia's 610 WIP, the book offers a history of Philly sports and our fandom from 1960 to its publication in 2003. It includes insights into the Philly sports fan, including our love-hate relationship with Mike Schmidt and Randall Cunningham, our lustful hate of the Dallas Cowboys, our former sports-fanatic mayor now governor, Ed Rendell, the worship of Bobby Clarke (the player) and disgust with Bob Clarke (the general manager), and even why we boo. In fact almost every chapter offers insights to events or personalities that strike a chord with the current Philly fan: Buddy Ryan, the Broadstreet Bullies, the 1980 Phillies, and '83 Sixers, just to name a few. The book even explains every national sportswriter's favorite shot to take at Philadelphia because they have nothing better to say — the fact that we booed St. Nick.

I can safely say I hate the Dallas Cowboys and bleed Eagles' green as much as anybody. I grew up during Dallas' dominance over the Birds in most of the '80s with my dad and two of three brothers being Cowboys fans, the third brother somehow latching on to the Rams, and mom not really caring. Eagles-Cowboys Sundays were huge in our house, and I heard more than anyone should ever have to about the stinkin' Cowboys. But, even I found The Great Philadelphia Fan Book a bit over-the-top and whiny at times.

Having listened to Gargano and Macnow for years on WIP, I felt I could easily discern who wrote what. Macnow must have winced painfully to see his work alongside that of Gargano. The South-Philly accent might work on radio, but yo, you gotta do better in a book, youknowwatimtalkinabout? I had fun with the Philly-slant of the book, but it just went too far. Besides Gargano's writing, a major flaw of the book was it's inability to see beyond the Philadelphia skyline.

The booing of Donovan McNabb at the NFL Draft was the primary example. After gushing over the Wing Bowl, an annual WIP promotion created by the morning show headlined by Angelo Cataldi that was literally turning away people from a packed Wachovia Center this year, they barely mention Cataldi in the booing of McNabb. I've enjoyed Cataldi for years, and attempted to get a link exchange going between his site and mine. But devoting just a line or two to the fact that Cataldi — the brainchild of this idiotic train wreck that many saw coming for weeks, and obviously would be mentioned every time McNabb had any success — was "involved" at the end of the chapter was weak. The fact that it was about wanting Rickey Williams with the pick (even before the two careers began to play out), doesn't make it any less stupid.

The other complaint I had with The Great Philadelphia Fan Book was its desire to support Philly's fatalistic attitude. A book needs to stay above the idiots — like the nitwits who watched the Super Bowl and were screaming "McNabb sucks!" right before he took the Birds on a TD-drive to bring his team within three points in the fourth quarter — and the guys who want to rehash every big loss after every new loss. It's old and tiresome from fans, and worse in a book.

Despite its flaws, this is a fun, easy-to-read book, which will help Philadelphia fans relive glories of the past and understand some moments we'd rather forget. This is one for the true fan.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unimpressed by Outlaw Premier

I was really looking forward to the premier of Jimmy Smits’ new show on NBC last night, Outlaw. He was terrific in NYPD Blue and West Wing, which I thought could have continued with him as president, and I may have been the only fan of the short-lived CBS show, Cane. I only saw a little bit of Dexter, so I don’t have much of an opinion on that show.

Unfortunately, I’m guessing Outlaw is going to meet the same fate as many of the shows I make a point to watch lately and get axed pretty quickly. At least this time I can say I’m not necessarily a fan yet. I was hoping for better than what I saw in the premier, which re-airs Friday at 10 PM EST in what I believe is meant to be the show’s usual timeslot.

The premise of the series just seems a little awkward, as did the pilot episode. Smits plays Supreme Court Justice Cyrus Garza, who resigns from the bench to defend, shall we say, those who need it the most. Last night it was an accused cop killer who had been spared execution and awarded a new case – with Garza tipping the decision in the defendant’s favor before he resigned.

I have to think there would have been a little more protest than his buddy asking him if he was crazy before he could have taken the case. I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, the words “conflict of interest” might have come up once or twice.

More troubling is the idea that Garza and his team are going to “parachute in” to take cases he deems important enough throughout the country each week. It just seems like each episode has the potential to be somewhat formulaic and almost idealistic. Everything happened so fast in the first episode, and more importantly had the feel of happening too fast, there was a hollowness to it. I get that Law & Order and every other court room drama wraps things up in an hour, but there’s at least a sense (or in L&O constant reminders) that time has passed.

There was also nothing special from Smits. Garza has some vices that are probably supposed to offset the idealism, and he’s dealing with his father’s disapproval of his stances as a judge. Garza survived the recent accident that killed his father, which ensures that the internal conflict will be an ongoing theme. But it was just sort of “there.” One moment for Smits was decent when Garza had to deal with a member of his staff announcing that she was in love with him. They’ll need more of that to salvage the show.

As a fan of Smits, I’m hoping the pilot episode tried to cram too much into the first hour and that the show can recover. But my guess is that a lack of real grit dooms Outlaw to a midseason cancellation.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Jerry Lewis-ethon Needs to Go

I just happened to catch the beginning and the end of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon hosted by Jerry Lewis over the weekend, along with a few moments of it during the day on Monday. Listening to Lewis reminded me of watching All in the Family reruns with the incessantly inappropriate Archie Bunker. The only difference was that excusing Lewis as a relic of his time is more difficult when he continues to open his mouth in our time.

I admit to being biased against Lewis ever since hearing his comments in a 2001 interview in which he said, “You don’t want to be pitied because you’re a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house.” I’ve already had my rant about how disgraceful it is that he continues in his role with MDA after these asinine remarks.

Yet, watching Lewis over the weekend was downright embarrassing for reasons that go beyond his ignorance, which is still on display. The former star of the ‘50s made it pretty clear with his opening monologue that the telethon is all about Lewis. He babbled on about how his Hollywood friends are there for him every year, the year-round effort that the telethon is for him and his staff, and so on. Even when he got around to the idea of the money being raised helping people with muscular dystrophy, Lewis referred to the recipients of this assistance in his classically patronizing “my kids.”

Lewis actually referred to the fact that the MDA Telethon has outlived all of the others as if it was an achievement. I guess it’s possible that the elderly Lewis honestly doesn’t understand that the other organizations have given up their telethons in deference to the notion that they are degrading to the people they are supposed to be serving.

I’m not even convinced that telethons needed to become extinct if they had been done in the right way. The need to raise funds is just a reality for non-profit organizations.

In fact, the few moments that I saw between the opening monologue and the close of the show suggested that everyone around Lewis “gets it.” I saw a country singer with MD perform, another guy with MD was apparently a part-time host, and I saw local hosts talking in respectful, mature terms about the good that the funds being raised could do. The telethon showed that it might just be possible to hold one of these events without degrading the people it’s meant to help, though I’m not convinced that the underlying concept of a telethon doesn’t make this impossible. That’s another debate for another day.

For whatever reason, Lewis no doubt continues to draw people to the telethon and helps raise millions of dollars, which is no doubt why MDA continues to tolerate him. It explains why they overlook his crude jokes about people in the south, his ridiculous comments about smacking Lindsey Lohan, and his ancient, high-pitched voice he uses when he attempts self-deprecating humor.

But when the man closes the show by spending several minutes talking down to a small girl (who I assume had MD), continues to encourage the public to pity people with disabilities – flying in the face of the goals of the vast majority of disabled people seeking equality in society – and is protested against year after year by people with MD, the cost of those millions raised must be questioned.

As Lewis balled his way through a farewell tune that he apparently sings every year, I couldn’t helped but wonder if he was really weeping over the end of his annual day of relevance. The self-praising act, with tears clearly flowing over how overwhelmed he was by his own annual effort, was truly train-wreck television.

I’ve heard that the MDA does many great things, and I have no reason to question those assertions. It’s time for them to do one more great thing for people with muscular dystrophy and other disabilities by making his tear-soaked finale a weepy goodbye forever by ending their relationship with Lewis.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review of The American

Memo to the movie industry: Filming a big star in a European setting still requires some semblance of a story before it can be called a movie.

At least I think that used to be the case. Now that The American was the top box office “hit” on Labor Day weekend, I’m not so sure of the above statement. Although, considering that I was counted among those box office receipts, the fact that the movie was “number one” really only proves that we thought it had the best commercials among movies we hadn’t seen yet.

It’s entirely possible that the rest of the people who helped make this movie tops at the box office also left the theater wanting to warn our fellow saps waiting in line to see this bore-fest to save their money.

There’s simply no discernible plot for the first 40 to 60 minutes of The American. I will admit that the movie actually did a good impression of a gripping movie in the first 10 minutes, but those few moments quickly evaporated into George Clooney being the brooding hit man.

Eventually it becomes clear that Clooney, whose character name I just don’t care enough about to look up, plays an assassin who is having a mid-life crisis. He’s apparently realized that killing people for a living might not have been the best choice and has made it difficult to connect with people. I say “apparently” because the audience is pretty much left to guess what the character is thinking.

We see a lot of Clooney working out and putting together high-precision guns. The first was no doubt for his female fans, and I’m guessing the guys were supposed to be enamored by the know-how with guns. Instead, it was just dull.

The character is never developed enough. For instance, he kills his lover in the beginning to cover his tracks after she sees too much about who he is. But there’s never anything to go with it. There’s just a quick comment to his boss that he killed her. It fits the cold killer persona, but if the audience is going to buy into his transformation we needed more from him – specifically on this incident. There was nothing.

Why is the life he chose suddenly bothering him? It wasn’t enough to just put his life as an assassin in front of the audience and assume we’d figure it out. Of course the average audience will get why someone might be bothered by killing for a living. But we didn’t choose that life – he did. And he’s clearly done it for quite some time. Even if the guy was turning 50 and was evaluating his life, it would have been something. It would have been weak, but it would have been better than what we got.

Even if all of the pieces are willing picked up by the audience member, and the seven minutes of action in the movie was enough to keep a conscious state going, there’s no reward. The ending is a bit cliché, and, once again, there is no real explanation for it. The audience can infer why Clooney’s character became the target, but even the possible answer left me unsatisfied.

For fans who like looking at George Clooney semi-naked, which is his basic dress code during plenty of this movie whether he’s working out or visiting his favorite prostitute, The American works. The rest of us should skip it – or at least we should have.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hierarchy of Disability Weakens the Community

This essay has been deleted from the blog and will be available in my upcoming book.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Shifting Gears

After more than five-and-a-half years of trying to build a website into a business, I have decided to shut down the day after Christmas. It’s a landmark no one except me will notice. Based on the site’s level of success, no one except me should notice.

For quite a while I’ve been trying to simply keep the site going in the hopes of connecting with someone or some organization that could add the business acumen to the project that I just don’t possess. I was spending 20 hours or more every week on the actual content of the website, updating weekly offers from the various affiliates, coming up with “hot products” to feature, and making sure there weren’t too many dead links from sales that came without expiration dates. That doesn’t include the time I was spending networking to try to make business connections and promoting the website on a budget that insisted the site pay for itself. I just didn’t have the knowhow to advertise online, and feared creating a funnel of money going out the door on a project that brought in less than $1,000 of profits in its life.

Of course I knew all along that the money involved was inconsequential. Yet, society’s attitude toward hiring people with disabilities made looking for a job even less fruitful, and in some ways the website at least allowed me to feel like I was being productive. Or, perhaps more accurately, it allowed me to feel that I was working toward something that might one day be a productive venture.

Hindsight is often 20/20, and looking back there were certainly signs from the beginning that pursuing the affiliate website business model wasn’t the best idea. Initially, my brother and a friend of his with programming skills were supposed to be partners in the venture. When that fell apart, I probably never should have continued on my own. Subsequent attempts to connect with others on the project only brought wasted energy and money.

I guess most people console themselves at this point with “lessons learned,” and I believe I have learned a few. In an effort to attach the website to a good cause, offering customers more incentive to use it, I eventually connected with an assistive technology foundation. The arrangement, complete with a contract, was that I would donate a portion of profits from (then known as The Stores @ Royal Steele) to the foundation in exchange for their assistance in advertising the site within their normal marketing efforts.

Accepting a job offer from the foundation just months into our deal was a terrible mistake, even though the two years of part-time pay became the only real financial asset that came (indirectly) from the project. It made enforcing the original contract impossible and, thus, the concept of connecting the site to the foundation worthless. Sadly, the bigger lesson was that even in the advocacy world disabled people still have to fight both for respect and the end of the poster child mentality employed by groups that supposedly serve us. Any illusions that the foundation wanted to hire someone with a disability for the right reasons, long since evaporated for me, disappeared when they clearly weren’t even considering keeping my position after the grant from the Heinz Endowments that paid my salary ended.

Despite the failed arrangement, the website trudged along well enough for me to at least get out of the red on the project without factoring in the part-time job. Back-to-back years of about $400 in profits, though still nothing more than pocket change in the real world, seemed like a good reason to try to take the site to the “next level.” I decided it was time to get serious and use the small cushion of profit to upgrade the website.

So, this year I gave myself an ultimatum: I was going to find a way to put a customized search on the website or end it. I thought connecting with a guy that I knew as a kid, especially one who claims to build “liquid nitrogen overclocking supercomputers,” was a stroke of luck. Instead, it became a lesson in dealing with a scam artist. I don’t know what “liquid nitrogen overclocking” even means, but it certainly sounded like the guy would have no problem building a site search. After paying up front based on his claims that he needed to pay for a few programming scripts, I never saw any indication that he even attempted to build the search. After 4 ½ months of ridiculous excuses from him for not delivering what he said would take two days to do, I googled the guy.

Lesson learned: google everybody, at least those you plan to do business with. Before I finished typing the guy’s name, Google suggested his name followed by the word “scam.” Not exactly what I wanted to see. The list of links varied from the world of chess to literature. I still have a hard time believing that I grew up around a guy now known as a scam artist. Paying up front was stupid on my part, but I thought having known the guy when we were both kids brought some assurances. I’m pretty sure it used to.

A comment from Scammer Boy eventually reached me through his equally ignorant father, stating that he was surprised that I was able to ask some intelligent questions. Clearly, he assumed my physical disabilities came with intellectual ones, and he thought he’d found an easy mark for his latest scam. Only a mother’s guilt brought 1/3 of my profits back in the form of a refund. Still, more than half the year had been wasted dealing with the scumbag, and having a search engine in place by the fourth quarter just wasn’t going to happen. It was the very heavy straw that broke the camel’s back.

The experience reminded me of another arrangement I entered into while I worked on the website, though involving far less money. At one point I tried to add creating simple websites to my “business.” I agreed to do a team website for a local Catholic high school basketball coach. I said I would do it “at cost” since he was my first customer. And that’s exactly how I did it – at my cost. The guy stiffed me despite repeated requests for payment. Fair or not, the two experiences lead me to believe that having a disability means needing to be extra vigilant about trusting people.

I believe the deal to build a website “at cost” also drives home a lesson I learned when I used to offer to volunteer for potential employers to show them that my disability was nothing to fear. It’s tough to put the lesson into one sentence, but it seems that there’s a fine line between being willing to prove myself and insisting on being treated as a professional. Too many people just assume people with disabilities want a job to fill their day and stay busy. They retreat the minute even a minor financial commitment comes up. I now feel that insisting on being treated as a professional is the only choice. Once the idea of being a volunteer has been broached – regardless of which side brought it up or just assumed it – transitioning to a paid position or contract job is extremely unlikely.

The biggest lesson, though, from may be that I need to focus on projects geared toward my strengths. I think the fatal flaw was getting involved with a project that ultimately required the skills of others to be successful. I knew all along that a customized search would be critical to the site. I’m not suggesting that the concept was any sort of revelation on my part; it’s more like stating the obvious. My point is that knowing this fact, along with the knowledge that while I have some programming skills producing a search was out of my league, I should have moved on.

Other lessons learned from the website experience include the fact that a good name is everything (even if Amazon doesn’t necessarily mean anything obvious, your website’s name should), thinking your contacts will be a good base to get things rolling is a bad idea, and trying to make a shopping website work without a serious advertising budget doesn’t make any sense despite what the big dot-coms and geniuses on message boards profess.

While the website was never exactly a money maker, part of why I continued with it as long as I did was a belief that disabled people have to become more of a financial presence in this world if we are ever to become a true community respected as equals by the rest of the world. My website certainly wasn’t going to be the catalyst for that movement, but it was “something.” It was my effort to keep working toward that goal.

But as the affiliate business model continued to show its frailties and my lack of programming skills got in the way, it became clear that I needed to move on. Hits and sales plummeted this year after two of the best years in commissions, and something told me that the bad economy had little to do with it. A new name and a lot more effort somehow led to less. I never believed the affiliates who claimed to be making hundreds of thousands of dollars – such claims, if true, would be disincentives for the big dot-coms of the world to even have affiliate programs – but it became clear that the affiliate model didn’t work for me even with more realistic goals.

Throughout the time was my primary focus, I continued to pursue writing. It’s the one thing I am confident I do very well, and I have always needed to do it more.

In some ways, I won’t be totally abandoning the affiliate model. The website is paid for and mostly set-up to have active links through Christmas day. I may even consider keeping as a redirect to Rob Q. Ink. Readers of my blog will still find links to some of the big dot-coms in the sidebars and the occasional posts. I may even take advantage of Blogger’s relatively new feature allowing users to add some stand alone pages to add more links, and I’ll likely continue to offer sales links on Facebook and Twitter. But the weekly updates and continuous effort of trying to make real money through affiliate sales are over, as well as having to incur costs for a website.

I will also be continuing my efforts with PhillyACCESS. The informational resource for people with disabilities has garnered some interest and a decent number of hits. More importantly, I think I may be doing something worthwhile for the disability community. Commissions from affiliate links on both blogs will be earmarked for expanding readership of PhillyACCESS and hopefully turning it into a true advocacy force.

Mostly, I hope, I’ll be writing more. Whether that translates into a blog post per day, a couple posts a week, the Great American Novel, or some combination of those choices, I don’t know. I imagine that at the very least my rants about the Phillies, Eagles, and even the Sixers (if they ever become relevant), will become a bit more frequent. Forgive me in advance!

In some ways, I feel relieved. In others, I am very disappointed to be giving up on But I felt the same way when I was laid off from my job with a children’s publisher in early 2004. Working full-time “just like everybody else” had always been “the goal” in my life, and I didn’t know I could be happy without being productive working toward having a career. I eventually accepted that building a traditional career wasn’t very likely for me in a society where abilities are still ignored because of disability.

New goals came along soon enough, as did new definitions of being productive. And so they will again.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Review of It’s Not What Happens to You, It’s What You Do About It

If you think the title is pretentious, just wait until you read the book. W. Mitchell’s It’s Not What Happens to You, It’s What You Do About It became so obnoxious at one point that I put it down for months just 20 or so pages from the end because I simply couldn’t stomach any more. Only my annoying characteristic of feeling compelled to finish a book that I start, especially one so short, caused me to pick it up again.

Mitchell clearly wrote the book to support his career as a motivational speaker and, quite possibly, to feed his own ego. The guy survived two accidents, one that severely burned his body and another caused him to need to use a wheelchair. No doubt, I’m sure, each was very difficult to deal with and move forward from. However, the author seems to play into society’s sympathetic attitude toward people with disabilities, suggesting that his choice to continue his life after his accidents – which most wouldn’t consider a choice, instead seeing it as an obvious next step – qualifies him as a source of inspiration that all should line up to soak in.

There’s just one overriding problem with the few nuggets of decent advice that can actually be found in his book. The man is enormously wealthy, and had acquired his fortune long before his first accident. In fact, reading between the lines it’s at least possible to pick up on the idea that Mitchell’s indulgent lifestyle led to both accidents. Of course, the man has every right to be indulgent and I don’t mean to suggest that he “deserved what he got,” but it does color the book in a less than likeable way.

Mitchell writes about taking control of the medical decisions in his care. That’s wonderful. It’s also tremendously easier when you’re filthy rich with plenty of resources. Yes, the idea is a good one and worth attempting to incorporate into your life. But when the execution of the idea is detailed as having everything to do with money though written as though it has something to do with intestinal fortitude, it comes off as nothing more than an ego trip for the author.

The story that really stood out for me was the description of Mitchell in a rehab. He determined that the people residing there needed a night out. Ya think? Of course, the wonderful Mitchell took everyone out for a happy hour. I believe he even did it regularly.

It’s simply as obnoxious as it gets. The man acts like he came along and saved all of the poor, suffering dullards with his wisdom from the able-bodied world. It was almost laughable! He didn’t identify some problem that everyone else was missing. He states the obvious, and used his financial resources to solve the problem – a problem which he happened to be temporarily stuck in.

Granted, he could have solved the problem for himself and ignored everyone else. But putting these types of tales in a self-help type of book just doesn’t work. It was akin to his stories about saving a town that he had fallen in love with and his Congressional campaign. They’re written with a feel of “you really can fight City Hall” from a guy who seems to have more money than every city in the state.

The book just doesn’t work.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Thoughts on the ADA at 20

Anniversaries are often a time to evaluate. While I am certainly no disability scholar, I have been following the flow of information – or lack thereof – about today’s 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with great interest. Admittedly, information is available if you’re looking for it. The anniversary has also certainly enhanced my efforts to find a post per day with PhillyACCESS, a blog I started in November geared toward the disability community.

Yet, I wonder how many people in the general public have any idea that the anniversary is upon us. In fact, I wonder if the percentage of people who are aware of the anniversary increases all that much within the disability community among non-advocates or non-activists. My guess is that the percentage is very low within the first group, and increases only minimally in the second. I confess that I may or may not have heard about it over the course of the last week if I wasn’t working on PhillyACCESS, and even that is an optimistic view.

More importantly, I wonder how much impact the legislation has on the daily lives of people with disabilities today.

The ADA is heralded as the civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. Sad as it is that we needed to have our rights specifically spelled out in a law – and no question, we did – having that behind us in our attempts to gain equality is invaluable. But it is only a starting point.

I was entering my senior year of high school 20 years ago. I had been mainstreamed only since the 8th grade after having proved I was capable of attending regular classes to Special Education teachers. I had already been told by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation that I was not college material and couldn’t drive, based on testing which neither I nor my parents had asked for. I had never even heard of OVR. My classmates and I were simply told we had to go for OVR testing by our resource room teacher. In fact, I wasn’t even given the driving portion of the testing that day. The evaluator simply looked at me and told me to rest while my classmate took the initial driving test. Two other classmates took the same test another day.

I eventually graduated with honors from college (my parents paid my tuition as they did for my brothers), and have been driving for 18 years (and OVR has paid for each of the vans I’ve owned to be modified). To my knowledge, only one of my classmates ever got his driver’s license. None attended a university.

Today, “mainstreaming” is unheard of as children far more impaired than I are educated by their home district in the regular classrooms at all costs. Attending college appears to be a foregone conclusion. And, I’m guessing OVR isn’t telling anyone they can’t drive without a hell of a lot more than an eyeball test.

Unquestionably, I can see the progress even in my own experience. Access, both physical and otherwise, is much improved. But can the same be said about the image of people with disabilities? What about our place in the business world? Is it truly improved?

It’s too easy to dismiss the second issue as a product of the current disastrous economy. When I graduated college, one of my brothers made the comment that the ADA is for people who already have jobs, and nothing I’ve ever experienced has contradicted that statement.

The ADA hasn’t stopped employers who “love my resume” from hanging up the phone with some bogus excuse once my speech disability becomes clear. It hasn’t stopped so-called advocacy agencies intended to help the quality of life of people with disabilities from ignoring the disability community in their own hiring practices. Twenty years of the ADA hasn’t given much of a megaphone to the voices of former “Jerry’s Kids” in their protesting of Jerry Lewis’ patronizing ways or any other protests from the community. It certainly hasn’t stopped paternalistic attitudes throughout the disability-related industry.

The list, of course, goes on and on.

My hope is that the next 20 years will see a community of physically disabled individuals with normal levels of intelligence yet facing significant physical and attitudinal barriers to becoming not only self-sufficient but successful members of society form a true community.

Instead of focusing on superficial issues like which label we’re ok with – “disabled” or “people with disabilities” – we need to start taking control of our own community interests. Advocacy groups geared toward our community need to be run and staffed by people with disabilities. We must find ways to pressure the media to offer our issues real and consistent coverage, and cease covering us as nothing more than human interest stories.

As a person with cerebral palsy, I can absolutely attest to the fact that the focus on people who have spinal cord injuries from our community “re-entering society” needs to begin trickling down to the rest of the community still seeking the first opportunity to enter society.

We have to be more careful about allowing medical issues and institutional issues – getting benefits and other necessities – to dominate our own conversations. Waiting for the miracle cure, too, must stop.

The internet must continue to be optimized. I believe, as I’m sure most do, that the World Wide Web is our best hope to create a level playing field in the business world. That’s not to play into the “you have a disability, study computers” anthem I heard in school. It’s about utilizing a tool that can open opportunities in all areas.

Economic success is the only way members of the disability community will attain equality. The issue doesn’t even seem to have been raised in the community on a serious level yet when it should be the primary issue without a close second.

The process has started, but we must work to ensure that the first 20 years of the ADA was merely the infancy of people with disabilities becoming full-fledged members of society.

Today, it’s a time to salute those who brought the Americans with Disabilities Act into being. When we’re done, we better get a lot more serious about the business of making it the landmark day it’s supposed to be.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Training for the M.S. Ride Bringing More than Expected

This essay has been deleted from the blog and will be available in my upcoming book.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Avatar is Overrated

After seeing Avatar in the theater, I couldn’t help but think of the importance of hype in the success or failure of a movie. As it comes out on Blu-ray and DVD this week, the same forces are at work.

Before the viewing public ever saw the film, the powers that be had already determined that it was the best movie ever. Commercial after commercial made sure everyone knew that “fact,” and we all pretty much did what we were told and went to see it in record-breaking numbers. The film was marketed to children, which was completely off base as I remember the film, but the strategy worked in jacking up ticket sales. Laughably, Avatar was nominated for “Best Picture” at the Oscars.

As the owner of, I hope people buy and download this movie as the must-have we’re all being told it is. Just don’t blame me when you realize the movie is nowhere near great, toys with being just plain bad, and is way too long.

My interest in going to the see movie was predicated on the fact that it featured a character with a disability, especially one who was given the opportunity to experience being able-bodied after having incurred injuries paralyzing him from the waist down. Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) is a marine who has become a paraplegic while serving his country, and is recruited to replace his brother in the Avatar program because his DNA matches that of his brother, a scientist who had been killed. Part of the program is to transform people into Na’vi, inhabitants of Pandora. In a bit of a twisted story line in this sci-fi flick, Sully is promised that he will receive the operation he needs to have his spine repaired for his role in the program.

Apparently, if such an operation ever becomes reality, we wouldn’t want to simply give it to military personnel injured in the line of duty – or anyone else for that matter.

Besides a brief instant when Jake is first transformed into his Na’vi body and is a bit reckless in his jubilation over being able to run again, the emotion that would no doubt come with such a situation is ignored. This is especially appalling as the Jake actually goes back and forth between having and not having a disability as if it was nothing. Producer James Cameron should have been embarrassed, not lauded, by such shoddy storytelling.

The problems for the movie certainly didn’t stop there. First of all, whenever Sully needs to return to his normal existence, he simply goes to sleep in the world of Pandora. It was absurd. And of course it’s never a problem until the most critical point in the story. Plus, Sully was supposed to be infiltrating the civilization, yet Sigourney Weaver’s character – Dr. Grace Augustine, another fake Na’vi – was already embedded in their world.

Hello? The whole basis of the story is undercut, but the film is heralded as one of the best ever?

The worst part of the movie, besides the fact that it’s at least an hour longer than it needs to be, is that the premise for infiltrating the civilization on another planet is to take the natural resources from the ground they live on. Obviously, it was reminiscent of the American history of over running Indian tribes as colonists settled in what became North America. But the problem is that there’s no realization on the part of the Americans that they’re doing something horrific. Even the “heroes” who eventually help the Na’vi fight back do so for personal reasons as opposed to any sense that the plan they initially bought into was morally deplorable.

Be fascinated by the high-tech graphics if you must, but don’t believe the hype that says Avatar is a great movie.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review of The Blind Side


That’s about all I can say about The Blind Side. It was a cute movie.

Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a large black teenager from a poor background with essentially no family support, is adopted by a rich, white family. The domineering mother figure, Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock), cuts through all of the usual bureaucracy and gets him an education that allows him to go to college on a football scholarship.

If it wasn’t a true story, it probably would never have been made into a movie.

The film had a very Disney-esk feel to it, touching on but never really going too far into the pitfalls such a situation might encounter. But it didn’t try to be overly dramatic to its credit. It wasn’t hard to guess that the relationship would be seriously questioned at some point, and the NCAA provided the perfect villain.

No doubt, literary license was taken in the making of the film. The role of Michael’s adopted little brother in the recruiting process was good for some laughs, but a bit intrusive if it was depicted accurately. The final “show down” scene with the friends he grew up with has a moment where Michael avoids being shot in the head by almost blindly (no pun intended) knocking the gun away. Something about it came off almost as an ill-advised moment of slapstick, which certainly wasn’t the intent.

I certainly don’t understand what the so-called Oscar buzz was all about, for the film or Bullock. Then again, the film was ions better than Avatar, and I haven’t seen the other nominees or the winner in The Hurt Locker.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Health Care Bringing Out the Worst in Americans

Saying something original about the new Health Care Reform legislation may already be impossible for the so-called experts, and it certainly isn’t going to happen here. The closest I could come would be to acknowledge that I know very little about the new law, which I suspect is true of 99% of the population currently losing its collective mind.

Two years ago I would have shrugged my shoulders if I was asked if I really cared about my party affiliation. Quite frankly, I did not. But the insane response that has been generated by the Republicans to the new health care legislation, and quite frankly since the election of our first black president, has me relieved to have changed to Democrat shortly after the last election. Listening to some of the equally absurd reactions to health care of people from my new party, however, keeps me from celebrating.

People continue to hear sound bites, accept them as gospel truths, and are literally ready to commit felonies by threatening government representatives. This is political debate? This is how we react to democracy when we don’t get our way?

Racism is no doubt the underlying factor in this “debate” on both sides of the issue. People who rather clearly have never even voted before Barack Obama ran for president are suddenly marching in rallies to support him or to tell the world how he’s following in the footsteps of Adolf Hitler.

One individual said to me via Facebook, “I'll bet you that the gov't will eventually require abortions for babies with disabilities to avoid the costs.” I only wish this was an extreme example of the stupidity being spouted by critics of health care reform, but it’s pretty much par for the course. The same genius thinks global warming is a myth.

I saw another comment from a woman utterly convinced that she’ll no longer be able to take her son to the doctor of her choice, echoing the thoughts of many. Yet, if this commonly held belief had a shred of validity, the clause spelling out how the government was going to dictate which doctors people could see would be all over every Republican’s website. There’s simply been no basis for these types of assertions unless we’re to believe these people who took an interest in politics yesterday are suddenly Washington insiders. In fact, the majority of criticism of the new law seems to be based on the logic of what is “going to” happen as opposed to what actually became law.

Everybody with a keyboard is suddenly a constitutional scholar, or historian, or has the ability to see the future. The day after the bill was passed Facebook was filled with supposedly famous quotes. My favorite read, “Man is not free unless government is limited,” attributed to Ronald Reagan.

Great sound bite, no doubt. And if we’d all like to agree that the law of Darwin now rules the land, we can go with it. Just give me some time to gas up the tank.

Otherwise, what happens when Man is free to discriminate against others? I have been turned down for health care even though I’ve never had significant health issues because I have cerebral palsy. Is that ok? How about when employers use health care premiums as one more excuse not to hire people with disabilities?

The list, of course, goes on and on. To many, the answers to these questions actually seem to be “yes.” They’re generally the same people suddenly prattling on about the value of less government, which suits elitists who were lucky enough to be born white, able-bodied males.

Another popular “Obama is evil” argument is the outrage that the law eventually requires people to buy health insurance. Gasp! He’s taking our freedom, that socialist. Of course, none of these people think it’s taking away rights to require auto insurance. Why is that? Because it’s a ludicrous argument.

Obviously, I support the goal of the law and the idea that something needed to be done to begin cleaning up what we call a health care system in this country. That said, I don’t know if this was the absolute right way to accomplish the goal of making sure everyone has health insurance. I also feel confident that no one else knows at the moment either, certainly not the typical citizen. I would also point out that even supporters of the new legislation have said that it’s a first step to fixing a broken system.

However, I do know that this country needs to learn to discuss issues without the political spin, and damn soon. After the bill was passed, prominent conservative David Frum said, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we're discovering we work for Fox. And this balance here has been completely reversed. The thing that sustains a strong Fox network is the thing that undermines a strong Republican party.” Yet, this condemnation of the fraudulent news outlet seems to have gone by with little more than a mention from legitimate news sources and doesn’t seem to have impacted Fox devotees at all. In fact, Frum didn’t even seem to be condemning the notion that Republicans thought they ran a news organization that purports to be independent.

My understanding is that Frum’s own party turned against him for arguing with the idea of attempting to defeat President Obama’s health care reform instead of negotiating with Democrats to change the bill more to their liking. They wanted it to be his “waterloo.”

Maybe if providing health care as a right instead of a privilege had been their priority, we’d all be even better off. And maybe people like this could get a clue:

(Note: the above video has been marked private, and therefore unwatchable, at least once already. In case it “disappears” again, it depicts protesters against the bill mocking a man said to have Parkinson's. His support of health care is equated to a handout.)

The morons threatening Republican leaders are no better. I posted the below to quote the “genius” you can hear 40 seconds into the video:

And I think we can all agree these idiots are especially scary:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Royal Steele Donates 10% of '09 Profits

With the final commissions from 2009 sales coming in Wednesday, I sent a donation to the Philadelphia Power Play from's profits yesterday afternoon. In fact, since the site picked up a couple of advertisers last year, cost was covered entirely by advertising revenue in the calculation of the donation. In other words, 10% of every single commission that I was paid from a sale in '09 went towards Power Play, a wheelchair hockey club.

In the last three years, I have donated 13.2% of the all-time profits from the website to organizations intended to enhance the lives of people with disabilities. While the total amount, just more than $99, certainly isn't an impressive sum, I was proud to make the donation each year.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

new year. new name. new venture.

The new year has brought a new name and new venture to Royal Steele.

new name: Online since December of 2004, the online shopping website was christened with a new name after five years. As 2010 began, was born. The site is still intended as a shoppers' tool to make shopping online even faster and easier, while helping consumers save money. The concept is simple enough, summed up in the new banners — compare. click. save. The site still links consumers to sales from the .coms that they know and trust, including Amazon, Babies R Us,, Dick's Sporting Goods, Modell's Sporting Goods, Overstock, the NBA Store, Radio Shack, Staples, Sports Authority, The Baby Outlet, Toys R Us, Walmart, and more.

new venture: While building a great tool for consumers remains the top priority, I have always wanted Royal Steele Ventures to be about more than a shopping website. When the website was launched, part of the "About Us" was the "ultimate goal" of helping to build a rec center geared toward people with disabilities. This was removed when the site was connected to a charity. After dealing with non-profits both as an employee and in relation to the website, I have decided to look for better ways to positively impact people with disabilities. The original goal has now been "reinstated." While funding a rec center is a long-term goal, I will be looking for concrete things to do to support the disability community. In November of 2009, I launched PhillyACCESS, a user-driven source of information and opinions from the disability community of Philadelphia and surrounding areas. If you are involved in the "disability community" in any way, I hope you'll check out PhillyACCESS. I hope it will be a place for the people truly affected by disabilities to share information, thoughts, etc., so please jump in if you're inclined to do so!

Please note: The 2009 donation will still go directly to PowerPlay, and I am happy to be continuing a positive relationship with PowerPlay through PhillyACCESS.

Thank you, and don't forget compare. click. save.