Tuesday, April 28, 2015

We're Sick!

Dear shipmates, we regret to announce that the Captain has made the diagnosis and confirmed it.

The American public is sick.

The people of the United States are afflicted with a chronic case of celebrity obsession.

You can find the evidence in the headlines:

“RIP Tinkerbell, Parish Hilton’s Pooch and Purse Dweller”
(This was a national news report about the death of Paris Hilton’s 14-year-old Chihuahua.)

“Kim Kardashian Can’t Fix Armenia’s Bleak Future”
(Kardashian traveled to Armenia to try to make that nation feel better after more than 100 years of genocide.)

“Bruce Jenner Comes Out As Transgender”
(This report recapped the Diane Sawyer interview with Jenner that ABC aired on Friday night.)

Who are these people and why should we care?

Let’s begin at the top.

Paris Hilton is the great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton Hotels. While Conrad worked hard for his money, Paris' “celebrity” status is based solely on her relation to him and the money he left her. As a young socialite, Paris made a splash in the New York City nightlife scene, and as a result she and BFF Nichole Ritchie starred for five years in the FOX reality series “The Simple Life”. Eventually the pair had a spat and the show was cancelled.

The term “famous for being famous” was coined specifically for Paris & Nichole.

And who is Nichole Ritchie? She is the adopted daughter of singer Lionel Ritchie, and the goddaughter of pop sensation Michael Jackson – two talented men who actually worked for a living.

Then there’s Kim Kardashian. Kim, you may have heard, recently “broke the internet”.

Kim first became famous for being a friend of Paris Hilton. Eventually she and her family were offered a reality TV series on E! called “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” – that’s the title as well as the plot line – which is now in its 10th season. Kim is currently married to singer Kanye West – a media whore if there ever was one – and to date she has done very little with her life other than to be famous.

So why anyone thinks Kim Kardashian could do anything to help Armenia is beyond me.

CAPTAIN’S NOTE: Kim’s birth father was a 3rd generation Armenian-American… just so you’ll see the connection there – thin though it may be.

Which brings us to Bruce Jenner

The Captain would first like to apologize for this. Since last week, Jenner’s face and name have been plastered all over the media, to the point that the entire Crew of Banana Winds has grown ill. I didn’t want to perpetuate this blight, but it fits into today’s blog.

The funniest comment I heard this weekend related to Jenner’s “coming out” announcement was, “Who is Bruce Jenner?” And I personally believe this may contribute to the coming out story.

Go back in time with me if you will, dear children, to 1976. Bruce Jenner won the decathlon in the Summer Olympics that year and was declared “World’s Greatest Athlete”. 

Unfortunately, being the World’s Greatest Athlete doesn’t put food on the table or pay the bills. So Jenner tried his hand at acting – how hard could that be, right? – landing a starring role in the 1980 Village People flop, “Can’t Stop the Music”, and various other unremarkable titles.

And nobody suspected...?

Then in 1991 he married Kris Kardashian – another non-event. They had two beautiful daughters, and Bruce was swept back into the limelight when the Kardashians were awarded a reality TV show in 2007.

Yes, it is significant to note that the show was not called “Keeping Up with the Jenners”.

Bruce & Kris split up in 2013, after which rumors of Jenner’s gender dysphoria began circulating.

So on Friday, missing the lights and cameras of reality TV, Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer for a lengthy televised interview, and we’ve heard virtually nothing but “Bruce Jenner” from the media ever since! Everyone who ever knew Jenner are sharing their opinions, as well as others who never knew him - like the Captain.

And sadly, Jenner has now been offered his own reality TV show.


Now here’s what bothers the Captain about all of this.

First, people have suffered from gender dysphoria for hundreds of years. Bruce Jenner is not the first man to ever decide he wanted to become a woman. In fact, the first sex-change operation was for George Jorgensen Jr. back in 1951; he died as Christine Jorgensen in 1989. 

Cross-dressers and transsexuals have been a part of the Captain’s life since as far back as he can remember, and a part of history for as long as humans have existed.

Second, with only a brief success at the 1976 Olympics, Bruce Jenner has not excelled at anything else. His only recent claim to anything near “fame” is that he co-starred on a reality TV show which was really about the women of the family, not him.

Third, reality TV is not reality. None of these people are “stars” and they should not be granted celebrity status. They have produced nothing of value, and they have done nothing to better the human condition.

Let me tell you who we should be “obsessed” with.

-On Saturday, a half-dozen members of my church prepared a wonderful meal, took it to the local food kitchen, and fed 137 hungry people.

That same day, another group from the church prepared and served a grief dinner for a family and friends who lost a beloved family member too soon.

And on Sunday, 40 church members and others from the community came to my church and donated blood to the American Red Cross.

And yet, you won’t see their faces in “People Magazine”. They won’t be highlighted on “Entertainment Tonight”. There are no reality TV show offers for them.

But it doesn’t get any more real than this.

These are the people who matter. These are the people who are doing something special to make the world a better place. These are the people we should be celebrating.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Politics! Aarrrggghh!

Yes, it is Political Season already. The race for the White House has begun.

So far, we have Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio on the Republican side, and only Hillary Clinton on the Democrat side.

But it is still early. There’s still time for a viable candidate to step up.


The Captain doesn’t like politics. It’s a license to lie. As the video above so accurately depicts, candidates will say and do whatever it takes to garner your vote.

According to President Abraham Lincoln, America’s government is supposed to be “of the people, for the people, by the people”.

And yes, he really did say that.

But now, despite the efforts of the Tea Party to throw out “career politicians” – wow, did that ever bite us in the ass! – it seems that career politicians are once again dancing in the streets of Washington D.C., bank-rolled by and beholden to the folks who paid for their multi-million dollar campaigns.

Did you know that in the 2012 election, the two major candidates and their respective parties spent more than $2.6 billion trying to win the Oval Office? All told, the cost of elections in 2012 topped $6 billion.

This from a nation that – we are constantly reminded – is trillions of dollars in debt to foreign interests, where working a minimum-wage job still leaves a citizen living below the poverty level, and where large corporations are still trying to squeeze more tax breaks out of Congress.

So where does all that campaign money come from?

Not from the Captain, that’s for sure.

In fact, the laws concerning campaign donations clearly state that individuals can only donate $2,700 to candidates during the primaries and another $2,700 during the general election.

But thanks in large part to a Supreme Court ruling in 2010, unlimited donations can be made to Super-PACs [*political action committees], funds which can then be used by said Super-PACs to influence voters.

So, for example, in 2012 casino owner Sheldon Adelson gave $15 million to prop up Newt Gingrich’s failed campaign. Republican political operative Karl Rove’s Super-Pac spent more than $300 million in support of various Republican candidates that year – most of which were, surprisingly, also not elected.

But in the years since, the Super-PAC concept has been refined, the Koch brothers have committed even more money toward their goal of global domination (reportedly committing $889 million toward 2016 elections), and the voices of the average American citizen is being muted.

After all, who is the politician going to listen to – the constituency that elected him, or the big-dollar donors who bought the election?

Here’s the thing about Super-PACs though. While they can spend like a drunken sailor (no offense, mates!), they are not supposed to be in communication with the candidate or his operatives. Thus, although the National Beer Wholesalers Association (yes, it’s a real super-PAC) can say, “We don’t like candidate X”, it can’t coordinate its message with candidate Y.

So here’s where it gets fun… or scary.

Jeb Bush has yet to throw his hat into the ring, but he is already amassing tens of millions of dollars in his Super-PAC for his eventual campaign, largely through his father’s and brother’s political connections.

Looks like the cast from “Dynasty”, doesn’t it?

Jeb was also governor of Florida, so he knows how to find political contributions.

Word has leaked out from his “non-campaign” that he plans to turn over the bulk of his campaign activities to his Super-PAC, Right to Rise, a non-profit organization created “to support candidates who share our optimistic, conservative, positive vision for helping every American get ahead.”

They left out, “We love puppies and kittens too!”

No, wait. There it is in the second paragraph. My bad.

The Super-Pac’s responsibilities would include paying for television commercials and direct mail campaigns. With a potentially unlimited amount of dollars to spend, Bush hopes to dominate the primary season and coast into the White House without having to do all the messy fundraising that his opponents will inevitably have to do to beat him.

Of course, every other candidate will also be using Super-PACs to aid their campaigns, but the Bush campaign will be the first to turn the bulk of the heavy-lifting over to the Super-PAC.

The Captain would remind you that Super-PACs are not allowed to communicate or coordinate with the candidate or his campaign operatives, which could lead to some dissonance in the campaign's message. But the Bush team has that figured out as well. They are legally allowed to coordinate all they want up until the candidate makes his announcement to run.

And you can bet they will!

Once Bush announces his intention to run, it is rumored that three of his closest staff members will leave to take over the operations of the Super-PAC. They will be well-versed in the Bush campaign goals and the two entities are expected to operate side-by-side, seamlessly.

But without direct communication or coordination.

Is this legal? It sure is.

The comforting news is that despite the billions of dollars spent on the 2012 elections, most pundits have agreed that the additional cash did not unduly influence the elections. Yes, most of the candidates supported by Rove and the Koch brothers lost.

Perhaps the American electorate is not as clueless as so many say we are.

Billions of dollars will be spent to buy the 2016 elections. Significantly more than ever before.

On more optimistic days, the Captain sees all of this as simply a redistribution of wealth.

But until the candidates can figure out how to put some of that cash directly into the Captain’s hands, all the TV commercials in the world will not win my vote.

Because I control the remote.

Let the campaign season begin!


Friday, April 17, 2015

Whose Business Is It?

Meet Pippa.

She's 31 years old, 5'9" tall, brown hair, brown eyes. And single.

Okay, you probably already know Pippa, the gorgeous younger sister of Duchess Kate of Cambridge.

She is quite the looker. But as far as the Captain knows, Pippa Middleton has accomplished nothing remarkable of her own. Like so many other celebrities that Americans idolize, Pippa became a world phenom simply for holding the train of her sister's wedding dress four years ago.

“And the crowds went wild!”

So, earlier this week Pippa went snow-skiing in Norway. Struggling to become a famous writer, she wrote a travel piece for the “Telegraph”.

“We dined on smoked whale carpaccio (which tastes similar to smoked salmon but looks more like venison carpaccio), followed by a signature rustic Norwegian dish of salted cod in tomato, with hunks of fresh homemade bread to mop up the sauce.”

Riveting prose.

And once again the crowds went wild!

But this time it was in angry protest against dear Pippa. 

She ate a whale!

Well, not the whole whale.

In fact, it was very little whale. Carpaccio is very thin slices of meat, usually served as an appetizer.

But the animal-rights groups went wild!

Now, keep in mind that while whale meat is banned in the U.K. – and in America – it is not illegal in Norway.

Nonetheless, because Pippa is so “high profile”, “a public figure”, “a well-known celebrity”, she should have known better, they argued.

...and because she is the sister-in-law of Prince William, who has become a “champion” of wildlife preservation.

Now gentle readers, let me ask you: How many of you dictate the every action of your in-laws? How many of you have an in-law who disagrees with your politics? How many of you have an in-law who sometimes embarrasses you? 

The Captain doesn’t.

Because I am the embarrassing in-law!

Friends, this is the 21st century. A modern-day Prince cannot control every action of his sister-in-law. Perhaps they think William should lock up Pippa in the Tower of London?

So the Captain would like to make three important points here:

1)    Pippa is only a celebrity because her sister married a prince.

2)    She broke no laws in Norway.



One protester, taking this nonsense to the usual extreme, exclaimed, “What next, a panda steak or an elephant canapĂ©?”

Mmmmmmm. Panda steak…

Alright. Calm down. It's just a joke! I could just as easily have posted this:

This whole episode got the Captain to thinking though. What all have I eaten that might create a backlash from the animal-rights groups?

Yes, I too have eaten whale.

It was legal at the time.

And delicious!

So I sat down and made a list of all the creatures I have eaten:
 Cow – Pig – Chicken – Turkey – Buffalo – Bison – Wild Boar – Ostrich – Deer – Elk – Quail – Snail – Kangaroo – Llama – Duck – Lamb – Sheep intestine – Alligator – Whale – Trout – Brook Trout – Catfish – Shark – Swordfish – Tuna – Red Snapper – Salmon – Halibut – Mussels – Clams – Octopus – Crab – Lobster – Shrimp – Crawfish – Scallops – Squid – Mackerel – Oysters – “White Fish”

And I am always looking for a new epicurean experience!

So load the canon and prepare for the protests to begin!

Oh, wait. That’s right. The Captain isn’t “high profile”, “a public figure”, “a well-known celebrity”.

My brothers didn’t marry princesses and my sister didn’t marry a prince.

So nobody cares what I eat?

As it should be.

CAPTAIN'S NOTE: I am very much aware that some whales (and other animals) are endangered due to indiscriminate hunting. Conservation is important, as is responsible consumption.