Dewey Albert Greene

Albert Portrait

This is my uncle Albert.  He was born in 1925 and died today, at the age of 88.  He is the reason that I read and that I have an urge to learn how things work.  I was fortunate enough to spend all of my formative years with him on the farm, as he had retired from the National Weather Service and was around a lot.

I hope that I never forget the lessons that he taught me or how to be as resilient as he was.  I know that I’ll never forget the day he came to the back door after cutting off part of one of his fingers while trying to start the hay baler.  Cool as a cucumber, he told me to go get my mother.  Then, he took the time to answer some childish questions, made some small talk, and finally reminded me to go get my mother; albeit in a sterner tone.

He was awesome.  I’ll miss him forever.

Learning To Make Peace With Your Favorite Television Show

It happened again, last night.  Jessica and I sat in our living room with bewildered looks upon our faces, as we watched the series finale of one of our favorite shows.  We had just witnessed the emotional ending that left us sad, dismayed, and somewhat angry.  We had been following How I Met Your Mother since we got married, six years ago, and because of that long-term commitment, we had a reaction that was the strongest since we were forced to witness this:

dexterThat’s right, we were left to process feelings on the level of those left by the Dexter finale.

Fortunately, I wasn’t left with the same feelings, as when Dexter ended in a way that left me questioning the basic competence of its writers and yelling at the television about the complete disaster of an ending with which we were left.  I mean, does it really make sense to justify the complete devastation of the lives of the central characters, all while leaving no resolution to the major themes and questions from throughout series, by stating that there had to be some sort of negative consequence for Dexter’s actions?  Isn’t it a little late to take the “moral high ground” in your finale when your show is about a serial killer?  Alas…I digress…and we need to return to last night.

There we were, trying to make some sense of an ending that seemed too tragic for a television show of that nature.  We were restless and uncomfortable and angry and dissatisfied, but then I slept on it and I realized that maybe that was not only an okay place to be, but also a very beneficial place to end up.  After all, it turns out that the creators of the show actually wrote and shot some of the ending nine years ago, just after they shot the pilot episode.  This, I think, is perhaps an excellent example of Stephen Covey’s principle of “beginning with the end in mind.”

It must have been some sort of modern feat for those creators to sell the idea of a serialized sitcom/drama to a network and finish their pitch by stating that they already had the ending written.  Think about it.  Most television shows are designed and promoted to continue for as long as possible because a long-running show with a loyal audience is akin to the goose that laid the golden egg.  No one wants to kill that goose while it is producing.  It was after realizing this that I found my avenue to make peace with all of my television shows.  I am simply going to have to view them as a came to view comics.

You see, comic books contain characters that I love…and yet I have learned not to get too attached because DC and Marvel own the rights to their characters, not the men who created them.  In fact, the stories of my favorite characters have been handled by many authors and artists through the years.  Occasionally, one gets lucky and his or her favorite characters fall under the care of an amazing writer like Frank Miller and you get absolute gold. (For you non-comic folks, anything that you’ve seen on the screen with Batman since Batman Begins has Miller’s fingerprints all over it.)  Other times…well us comic geeks don’t like to talk about those other times.

Those other times are driven by an axiom which was clearly explained to me by D.W. Howard during my formative teenage years.  “Comics are sold to make money.”  While that may have been hard to hear, it is absolutely the truth.  Comic book characters are serialized characters that make money through the regular release of episodic content.  Simply put, there are going to be several Spider-Man and Batman comics produced every month whether there is enough creative story to support them or not.  In fact, if not enough books are selling, then they will pull some publicity stunt like a cross-over with another character or killing the main character altogether.  (Both Captain America and Superman have died since I left high school and both of them seem to be doing fine to me.)  The bottom line is that comic characters are used to produce profit, regardless of how it may affect their overall story.

This brings us full-circle to television shows.  These shows are being produced to make money for the networks, and a network can tout how funny or dramatic or artistic its shows are, but at the end of the day, there is someone at that same network who is checking a balance sheet.  That guy is ultimately who determines the direction and viability of a show.  Actually, there seems to be a guy like that everywhere, from television to movie studios, pulling the strings.

There are, however, instances where the direction of serialized characters isn’t determined by maintaining the long-term profitability of a property.  In those instances, characters are respected and artistic integrity is maintained, but even then there are times when fans aren’t totally on-board with the story or the outcomes.  This happened in comics with a guy named Dave Sim, who wrote a six thousand page work in serialization called Cerebus. 

Cerebus is about an aardvark named Cerebus and moves from a Conan-styled parody into a work examining politics, religion, feminism, and metaphysics.  The story ran for three hundred issues and ends with the death of the title character.  As you may imagine with that description, fans had a hard time getting a grasp on the entirety of that work.

I know that many of you are asking yourself why I would reference such an obscure work by an author who is virtually unknown outside of comics to make my point.  Why?  Because Dave Sim and Cerebus are the polar opposite end of the spectrum from mainstream, publisher-owned material…and yet they sometimes have the exact same result.

Whether I like it or not, I don’t own Batman or Superman or Captain America or Cerebus or the characters in Dexter or How I Met Your Mother or Lost.  There is always going to be someone else who controls the destiny of these characters and I am just along for the ride…no matter how much time I have invested in their stories.

In the end, it is kind of like the famous professional wrestler Ric Flair has repeatedly stated: “Whether you like it or whether you don’t like it, you had better learn to love it!”  As corny as that sounds, therein lies the secret to making peace with the sometimes unfavorable ends of our favorite fictional characters.  We don’t control their outcomes, but at least we get to journey with them for a while.

A Full Day

Today started by getting peed on by this guy:


and continued in the usual sort of the way…that is until I completed this project:


This is a 2003 model IBM Thinkpad that was running Windows XP (although it wouldn’t boot up) and had a broken wireless system.  It was virtually worthless until I loaded a copy of Xubuntu 12 and turned it into a reliable Unix-based machine and slapped an old Netgear wireless card into it.  Now, it not only runs, but this previously worthless laptop will now do just about everything that a brand new Chromebook will do, plus it works just fine without internet connectivity.

Complete redemption from being peed on in the morning.

Actions have consequences…well, at least this time.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well that I’m not a huge fan of organized sports.  There are two main reasons for this lack of fandom on my part.  The first reason is that I’m uncoordinated and I suck at almost every sport.  The second and most important reason is that I believe that our culture’s obsession with sports has created a group of people who are not often held to account for their actions, no matter how heinous, because they are athletes.

Before you start composing your email about how I’m an un-American wuss, please allow me to vividly illustrate my point.  I have two separate incidents that should easily accomplish that task.

When I was in college, I was a Resident Assistant, which meant that I was in charge of a floor of my residence hall.  During my fourth year in this position, I got to be a first-hand witness to one of the most deplorable events of my lifetime.  Our school had two basketball players who had been suspended from school for their involvement in a gang-rape incident.  Apparently, their skill at putting the round ball through the orange hoop was such that our basketball coach requested their re-admittance.  Unfortunately for the basketball program, however, our Dean of Admissions for our private Baptist university was a man of character and told both the players, the basketball coach, and the University President where they could put their applications for re-admittance.

That sounds like a win for character, right?  Well, it would if that was the end of the story.  The Dean of Admissions went on vacation the next week and while he was gone, the University President had one of the Vice Presidents re-admit the basketball players.  The end result of these maneuverings were that the Dean of Admissions quit and left to be president of another college and that I got to have these two losers on my hall for the rest of the year, while they proceeded violate every rule we had in the student handbook.  Every attempt that I made to hold these guys accountable hit a glass ceiling, so I quit trying.

On a side note, the University President went on to be forced to leave the university after NCAA sanctions for changing player’s grades.  Finally, a win for character, right?  Wrong.  He got his golden parachute severance package and went on to be the president for another school.  His replacement?  The same Vice President who signed the re-admission papers for those athletes.  Awesome.

Our next story will be brief, as it takes quite an emotional toll on me to tell it.  A student from my high school (who had gone to school with my younger sister) ended up at my small, private university.  His history was that of repeated drug and behavior offenses, with his parents and coaches bailing him out because he played football.  One of his last offenses before leaving town involved wrecking the car his parent’s had bought him.  They promptly replaced the wrecked car with a new Mustang, before sending him off to my school.

I remember it was a nice, new Mustang because it is the car that he was recklessly driving when he killed one of my friends after a party.  I’ll always remember the details about that jerk and his car because I had to testify at his manslaughter trial at the behest of the victim’s family.  All I heard at that trial was how he was a good boy with bad luck, who was full of remorse and had drastically changed his life because of the wreck.

That’s funny.  I distinctly remember that “good and remorseful boy” offering me drugs in local music venue and watching him carry a beer keg around at a local street festival the summer after the wreck (while he was underage).  That’s odd.  That doesn’t seem like remorse following a wreck that took the life of one of your acquaintances.

I think that I’ve firmly established my point that concerns for athletic ability often override appropriate consequences for lapses in judgement, deficiencies in character, and criminal offenses.  Now, I would like to applaud a local high school for actually getting it right with their football program.  As much as it pains me to compliment a rival high school, Erwin High School did the right thing and boy, did it cost them.

Erwin was on its way to a perfect football season, with several players being scouted for reputable college teams.  The school was going to set a record for Western North Carolina and one young man was about to obliterate several high school records for passing yards.  Coach Mike Sexton had brought new life and success to a program that had not had very much of either in the past twenty years.  The team was simply unstoppable…until a few weeks ago.

Apparently, three of Erwin’s football players (I won’t call the team members, because clearly they don’t understand the concept) were caught possessing marijuana at a traffic stop.  What are the consequences for such an activity, you might ask?  Being suspended from all athletic activities.

So, how much difference did it make to have three players suspended from the Erwin squad?  It cost them the Mountain Area Conference Championship and it put them out of the state playoffs in the first round, because two of those players were the team’s best receivers.  The suspension also ended the other young man’s attempt at setting the passing record.  The simple fact is that these three young students made choices that affected not only themselves, but their friends, their school, and their entire community.

These three young men have demonstrated exceedingly poor judgement and a serious lack of moral character.  An entire community paid the price for their actions, but I have to say that the real winners in all of this are the Erwin Athletic Department and Buncombe County Schools.  The arresting officer, an Erwin supporter, chose not to look the other way.  The folks at Erwin chose to follow the rules set forth by the Buncombe County School system and not look for some sort of work-around.  Following the offense, Erwin made some hard choices with integrity.

In the end, three athletes broke the law and threw their team, their school, and their community under the bus.  In response to a bad situation, Erwin’s administration and athletic department did the right thing and they should get a trophy for that…and they should make those three boys pay for it and present it to the school in front of a home crowd at their football stadium.

Ernest Greene

Scan-111006-0024Not many people know this, but my dad has no middle name.

No middle name…no middle initial…nothing.

Just Ernest Greene.

It has never caused any inconvenience because, in Asheville, lots and lots of people know my dad.

He was nice enough to give me his name.  He and Mom just stuck “Stuart” on the front of his name and I suddenly had the customary three names that most of us have.  That single act has gotten me out of more jams and opened more doors than I can count.

“Ernest is your dad?”

That was the golden question that I knew was instantly about to make the remainder of whatever conversation that I was having much, much easier.  In fact, the only job interview that I’ve had since leaving the ministry and switching careers started with that question, lasted exactly forty-five seconds, and ended with me being welcomed into my new position.  Seriously.

People love my dad.  He was a great businessman and always did his dead-level best to treat everyone the way he wanted to be treated.  We would be eating dinner at a restaurant and he would see someone he knew and ask the waitress for their check.  He never stuck around to let them know he paid; we just got up and left.  He would go out late at night and on weekends to open up his store to get auto parts for service stations that had patrons who were stranded on the road.  He even paid several of his employees full salaries while they were out with injuries or sickness…sometimes for months on end.  He’s always been a devout Christian but I never once saw him make it an issue with anyone.  He just loves people the way he would like to be loved in the name of Christ and practices charity without publicizing it.  A lot of people could learn something from that.

There’s no “but” to the story of my dad, either.  He never beat me or even whipped me when I didn’t have it coming.  He wasn’t some closet drunk or anything like that.  We always had food on the table and good clothes and nice things.  He bought me my first vehicle and I can honestly say that most, if not all, of the good things that I have in this life are largely due to him.

Ernest Greene may not have been the most successful or most profitable businessman ever, but he has left a huge number of people in his wake that love and respect him for the way that he treated them.  I can only hope to be half the man that he’s been and I respect my dad so much that I did the same favor for my son that he did for me…I just slapped the name “Bruce” on the front of his name.  I thought it fitting.

Now, the doctor has given my dad somewhere in the three to twelve month range to live.  His kidneys are failing and dialysis won’t really prolong his life because of some heart issues, so he’s chosen to live what life he has left and spend it with his family.

I really don’t blame Dad for his choice.  Most of his old friends have been dead for years, the business is gone, and he can’t hear or see well enough to communicate like he used to.  Dad is eighty-one years old and this world bears scant resemblance to the world in which he spent most of his life.  He believes in a hard days work, keeping his word, and telling it like it is.  I imagine that Dad would be mortified and angry if he could still communicate well enough to understand everything that is going on in our country.

I love my dad and I’m going to miss him.  I’m forty-two years old.  I’m big enough and prepared enough that I’m not scared of much, but I know this: I’m going to feel a little less safe and a lot more alone in this world when that man is gone.

A funny thing happened on the way to my last post…

So I sit down at the computer to do some writing for a blog post at about 10:30pm on May 22nd.  After about 20 minutes, the door to the back porch blows open and slams into the wall.  The sound of rushing wind continues for about 10 seconds and subsides about the time that I get the door closed.  Jessica, who had been asleep on the couch with Bruce, is startled and immediately gets up to help be check on what had just happened.

We check on Naomi and she is sound asleep in her bed.  Then, we check the back porch and everything has been blown around.  There is so much rain and so many leaves sticking to the screen that I have to open the door to see what is going on in the yard.  I am surprised to find several trees down and not be able to see to the parking lot.  Next, I check the office and I find that all of the keys for the properties that I manage have flown off the wall and that the light fixture in the ceiling has fallen.  At that point, I open the outside door on the office and I find that I am looking at the awning, which is now flat against the side of the house.  Finally, I go out the front door and I still can’t see the parking lot because trees are in the way.  At that point, I call my boss and the madness begins.

Just so you know, this is what things looked like the next morning:DSC00129 DSC00135 DSC00121We had apparently experienced a micro-burst tornado.

Fast forward to July and the madness has finally subsided and things are mostly back to normal.  Although both cars still ran and drove, they were totaled because the tree hit them both in the A-pillar which is integral to the unibody of both vehicles.  So I got to say goodbye to my Jetta, which had been an amazing car for the last 8 years and 200,000 miles and to my Jeep Cherokee, which was just awesome.  We’ve made a lot of progress on the vehicle front and they just finished all the repairs to our house, so it looks like things are returning to normal.

I just thought that I would take this opportunity to let everyone know where I’ve been and why I haven’t had time to write.  Honestly, you should expect several posts in the coming weeks, because a lot has been going on and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to put some thoughts out there.