Tuesday, December 30, 2008

J. Robert Operaheimer

I saw the oddest thing on PBS the other night. No, not John Tesh. Yanni, neither. Nothing THAT odd. It was an opera about the Manhattan Project. You know, the code name for the atomic bomb. It actually wasn't that bad, but it ran kind of long. About three quarters of a way through, I was ready to change the channel, but then I thought:

It ain't over 'til the fat lady's singed!

Quips and Quotations (Special Nostalgia Edition)

Greed, for want of a better word, is good.

--from the movie Wall Street (1987)

You and I are both such similar creatures, Vivian. We both screw people for money.

--from the movie Pretty Woman (1990)

Money, it's a hit
Don't give me that do goody good bullshit

--Pink Floyd (1973)

Friday, December 26, 2008

In Memoriam: Eartha Kitt 1927-2008

Entertainer

"Pur-r-r-r-r-r-R-R-R-R-R-R"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Christmas is wonderful for those of us out of touch musically. Go to the mall and what do you hear? Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, etc. Artists before my time, actually. Artist before just about everybody's time, actually. But at least I recognise them. So here's what's playing at your local shopping center:

The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole

This is the one about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It was written and first recorded by Mel Torme, but Cole's lacquered version in the one everybody knows. Whenever I hear it in the mall I stop in my tracks, close my eyes and listen. At least until folks dressed like Eskimos start colliding into me (you got to move fast in these malls, or you'll hold up traffic.)

White Christmas by Bing Crosby

Man, Bing must have downed a whole quart of syrup ipecac in preparation for this number. The Ken Darby Singers offer an ethereal counterpoint to Crosby's golden groan.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland

While Judy Garland wasn't bad looking, I've never found her particularly sexy. UNTIL I heard her here. This song makes me want to show up at her house one night with some champagne on ice and see just what those fates will allow.

(Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed when I finally saw Meet Me in St. Louis, the movie from which this song originates, only to find Judy, in Victorian dress, singing it to her bratty little sister.)

Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt never disappoints. This woman was sexy from conception. If I was Santa, all the good little boys and girls would just have to rough it, 'cause Eartha's chimney would be the first and only one I'd jump into. Even if she had a fire going (how could she NOT have a fire going?)


Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives

Ives, incredibly, started out as a folk singer riding the rails, a la Woody Guthrie. I could see where this song might get him banned permanently from coffee shops, but that's all right, he still has the mall.

The Little Drummer Boy by Johnny Mathis

I can't find this character anywhere in the Four Gospels, so I guess it's heresy. But lets not burn Mathis at the stake. I like this song too much.

Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams

Most people blame Elvis and the Beatles for the end of the reign of crooners like Cole and Crosby. Personally, I blame Williams' "Moon River". But he's partially redeemed by this song, which serves as good filler between Cole and Crosby.

Speaking of Elvis and the Beatles, let's move into the rock era...

Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley

This song makes me want to drown my sorrows in egg nog.

Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms

Bobby Who? He was actually a modestly successful country singer who decided to give this new music a try. Turned out to be the bright time, and the right time, to rock the night away.

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee

Here something I bet you didn't know. This song was written by Johnny Marks. Never heard of him? Neither did I, until I did some googling, I mean, research. He also wrote "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" and all the songs for the subsequent TV special (including "Holly Jolly Christmas"). Rock and Roll wasn't his main thing, so I suspect he wrote this for a fast buck. Lucky for us that Brenda Lee knew how to sex up that fast buck.

Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon

I just love this one. Unlike so may other rock stars who do Christmas songs, Lennon doesn't treat it as a lark. It's reverent, but with a hippie aesthetic.

Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney

This falls into the lark category. But I like it. At least in the mall.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bruce Springsteen

I love the way this one ends. You hear Santa going "Ho, ho, ho" as the Boss breaks down laughing. Or maybe he was crying. Or both.

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by a lot of different, and nondescript, artists over the years.

You won't hear this one in the mall. Unless your mall has a biker bar with a jukebox.

Over the years, just about anyone who's ever signed a record contract has put out a Christmas song. But these seem to be the ones that have stood the test of time. Sort of like the holiday itself.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Quips and Quotations

I like long walks, especially when they're taken by people who annoy me.

--Fred Allen

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Left Behind

Rick Warren? He's going to read the benediction (a highfalutin prayer, as I understand it) at Obama's inauguration?

First he kept on Robert Gates, and now this. I know he wants to "reach out" to the opposition, but sooner or later his arm's going to come right out his socket.

Or maybe not. As some pundit on TV said, Obama never promised to govern from the Left, or enact a liberal/progressive agenda . It's just that when he ran against McCain--a conservative--he promised "change". And earlier, when he ran against the Clintons--both centrists--he promised "change". By process of elimination, I would just assume...

He's getting praised for this, of course, and that's my real beef. He's showing his "maturity" by governing, or preparing to govern, from the center-right. Never mind what the center-right has done to this country lately. It was the center-rightists who approved both the war in Iraq and the deregulation of just about everything. Doesn't matter. Liberals are still expected to sit at the children's table, while the adults have an orgy in the rec room.

There are those who opine (Chris Matthews, in particular. I know he can be a pain at times, but watch his show. He's been on the top of his game lately) that it's all a ruse, that Obama's going to govern from the Left, and this is just cover. Well, if that's what happens, I'll eat my words. NO, I WON'T! I'm taking him at face value. Isn't that what all politicians want?

Meanwhile, if Obama really wants political reconciliation, if he really wants to bring us together as a nation, he'll reach out to the one person so many Democrats loathe and fear. More than Rick Warren. More than Robert Gates. Hell, even more than Dick Cheney.

He'll reach out to Ralph Nader.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Recommended Reading

While I don't particularly like taking advantage of somebody dying, W. Mark Felt's untimely passing does afford me the opportunity to plug a book that came out a couple of years ago, The Secret Man by Bob Woodward.

Particularly interesting, even compelling, are chapers 12 and 13, detailing Woodward's 2000 trip to see Felt one last time. Woodward finds that Felt doesn't even remember being Deep Throat. Is it Alzheimers, or an old G-man's final ruse?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Quips and Quotations

Certainly none of the advances made in civilization has been due to counterrevolutionaries or defenders of the status quo.

--Bill Mauldin

Monday, December 15, 2008

Finite Feagler

Yes, yes, I know. Dick Feagler also drives me crazy with his constant blather about the "good old days". As if the era he coincidentally grew up in was Western Civilization's absolute pinnacle, with the inevitable decline beginning, I guess, when he graduated from college somewhere around 1960, thus leaving him untouched, and thus unsoiled, by the Beatles, shag carpeting, lava lamps, and campus demonstrations. Of course, at that point he and his peers should have, and would have, and did have, a hand in running that inevitable decline. If they didn't, then they're the most passive generation in history, stuck in-between those that fought and won World War II, and those that tuned in, turned on, and dropped out, unable to squeeze even a lousy Tom Brokaw book out from their descent into post-Saturday Evening Post hell. I actually don't have much of a problem with the belief that yesterday was better than today and probably tomorrow, I just want it based on something a little more objective than the fact you have a lot less tomorrows today than you had yesterday. I can just imagine Feagler looking at his aged, crumbling self in the mirror, and then stomping off to the Heinans in Bay Village, shouting to anyone unlucky enough, or worse, young enough, to cross his path, "HOW DARE YOU BE BORN AFTER 1946!"

Having said all that, Dick Feagler was, and is, one of the best writers in Cleveland, and absolutely the best on the Plain Dealer. Connie Schultz? The Pulitzer Prize winner can't hold an empty tip jar to Dick Feagler. And I AGREE with her more than I do with Feagler! Plus, I voted for her husband! No, I suspect the reason Feagler pisses us all off so much is that, unlike others we may disagree with, we just can't dismiss him after that first paragraph with a "Same old, same old, let's see what Regina Britt has to say." Instead, we find ourselves, willingly, yet unwillingly, shoving his words down our own throats until that last pointed sentence protrudes out from the back of our necks. That's the power of the man's writing. Like the late, great, Mike Royko, Feagler is to sarcasm what Sinatra is to phrasing, Astaire is to dancing, Mayor Frank Jackson is to reticence. He does it with impeccable timing, even as he sometimes seems behind the times.

Odd thing is, Feagler, when he wasn't waging generational warfare, could play the radical every now and then. A while back, he wrote a column criticizing both the Medical Mart and the Euclid Corridor. That might not seem all that controversial, but when you consider his newspaper's editorial board seems to have Sam Miller as it's muse, it's downright revolutionary!

Then there's his constant complaints about The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even though he personally doesn't like the music, he nevertheless thinks the annual induction ceremony should be held right here in Cleveland. As someone who does like Rock, I have to say, he's right! It should be held here! And while we're on the subject, what was all that bullshit with Jann Wenner and his wistful regrets about the Rock Hall not being built in New York?! Let's face it, folks, they didn't build it here because this is where Alan Freed coined the term. They built it here because We, the Taxpayer agreed to foot the bill! If they're now having--well, I can't say buyer's remorse, can I? OK, how about this?--seller's remorse, then give us our money back, annex whatever you want back to Manhattan, and we'll use the empty building as a convention center, or a juvenile justice center, or a Superman museum, or something!

Feagler's most radical act may be his support for Gay Marriage. True, his newspaper also supports it, but Feagler didn't bother with the whole dubious it-will-help-bring-outside-business-to-Ohio argument. He's for it because he thinks it's the right thing to do, a stance that got him a gig one year as Grand Marshall in a Pride Parade. Can't imagine THAT happening in the "good old days"!

So, farewll Feagler, may your puss, and whatever writing you've got left, remain forever sour! So long Aunt Ida, maybe all those relatives will invite you over to their houses for a change. So long, guys at the coffee shop, there's a Starbucks opening up down the street. Maybe you should give it a try.

And finally, to Mrs Figment, who lives in that old neighborhood where the fallout from the steel mill turns the laundry on the clothesline orange, I have just one question.

Why don't you just go to the laundromat?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Recommended Reading

According to Michael Moore, the Republicans are willing to bail out the auto industry, but with a string attached--the string tied around Labor's throat.

Friday, December 12, 2008

In Memoriam: Bettie Page 1923-2008

'50s under-the-counter pin-up queen, and latter-day cult icon

"I was never the girl next door."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Old Standard

The one disease where you don't look forward to the cure.

--From the movie Citizen Kane

I dread getting old.

Not that it's imminent, but I do have a birthday coming up, so it'll be just a little bit closer this year than it was this same time last year. Which was just a little bit closer that year than that same time the year before.

Nice, leisurely pace, huh? Then how come it feels more like justalittlebitcloserthisyearthanitwasthissametimelastyear whichwasjustalittlebitcloserthatyearthanthatsametimetheyearbefore?

And that's just during the waking hours.

Why should I look forward to the aging process? Liver spots change your complexion. There's wet spaghetti where your neck used to be. Your fingers and toes petrify. Your flesh turns to corduroy. A speed bump sprouts from your back. And, if your male, your pelvis apparently disappears so that you have to pull your waist band all the way up to your nipples.

When you're old your voice hushes up. Maybe that's where the phrase "dirty old man" comes from. If you're going to talk like an obscene phone caller anyway...

You walk, talk, think, eat, breathe, and do absolutely nothing, at a much slower pace. You become more susceptible to gravitational force. Why else do so many elderly people walk with their heads bent over like they're at Catholic Mass?

When you're old your eyesight deteriorates so that your squint is just one more line on your face. Your hearing deteriorates so that you tip sideways, like a buoy, trying to understand what people are saying. And, finally, your mind deteriorates so that you no longer have to squint or tip your head sideways, as you can now see and hear people who aren't even there!

Getting old is a bummer. Huh? What's that? Nobody says "bummer" anymore? That's another problem with the aging process--your vocabulary deteriorates.

Thinking about all this the other day left me in a very bad way. So I did what I often do when consumed with despair. I reached for the remote and started channel surfing.

I came upon Entertainment Tonight. This show has been on the air for a very long time now. In fact, I think the year it premiered, the term "bummer" was at the height of it's popularity. Anyway, watching ET I flashed back to a segment that aired, oh, God, some twenty-five years before.

Estelle Winwood was an acclaimed British stage actress who, in her later years, played character roles in Hollywood movies. In 1983, she turned 100. About this same time, comedian George Burns, then 87, came out with a book titled How to Live to be 100 or More. Some publicist got the clever idea that Miss Winwood should appear at a book signing with Burns.

She agreed to do it, but she may not have been vetted properly. As they both sat there before the assembled media (including Entertainment Tonight), a reporter held the book, which was about the positive aspects of aging, up to Miss Winwood. She took one look at the title and said, "Oh, dear, don't remind me!"

A moment later, she turned to George Burns, whom she had apparently never met before, and asked, "Are you some sort of doctor?"

Never one to take offense easily, Burns answered, "No, I'm an entertainer. I sing a little, dance a little, tell a few jokes."

"Oh!" exclaimed Estelle Winwood. "How marvelous!"

If I could just hang around with the likes of those two, I think I'd look forward to aging.

Checkered Speech

The day before his arrest, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was asked if his office was under investigation. He said he didn't know, but if there were people following him around with hidden tape recorders, then "that's what Nixon and Watergate was all about."

Governor, let me make this perfectly clear:

Nixon's crime wasn't that he was secretly recording people, it's that he himself was caught on tape breaking the law.

Sort of like you were.

Well, I shouldn't say that. You'll get your day in court.

Or on David Frost.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quips and Quotations

If the United States wasn't the United States, it would be a banana republic in need of UN intervention.

I don't think Sarah Palin will get the nomination in 2012, but if she does it will only confirm my belief that the Republican Party should be euthanized, and probably will be.

The Clinton Wall Streeters contributed to the current economic mess.

Too big to fail? Then don't let it get that big in the first place!

My next book is on the Revolutionary War. Let some Democrat criticize Obama.

--longtime Republican, and frequent Bush critic, Kevin Phillips, on C-span, 12/07/08

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Recommended Reading

The first four days of last week's Doonesbury. It's a funny take on downsizing until Day 5, when that guy from Brzkistan shows up, and the strip suddenly goes off in a different direction.

Trudeau downsized his satire!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Slapdashboard

As the US auto industry teeters of the edge of oblivion, there's been no little debate over the mechanical quality of the American car, or lack thereof. I'm not sure of that quality myself. I've only driven used cars, usually junkers. Or are all used cars junkers? Are all junkers used? If there are junkers that are new, no wonder the industry's teetering.

One area of possible improvement, aside from the mechanical condition of the vehicle itself, are those devices meant to inform, and then warn, us of that aforementioned mechanical condition. I'm speaking of all those little lights on the dashboard that come on when you start the car, and that are only supposed to come on again if there's an emergency. Unless they're broke, in which case THAT'S the emergency.

First up is the OIL light. Back when I first owned a car, and was relatively inexperienced about their strange ways, I assumed the OIL light came on when the car was about to run out of...oil. And so, I'd put in more oil. The red light would go off for a little bit, then go right back on. So I'd put in even more oil. The light was off for another little bit, than on again, and yet again I'd put in more oil...This went on until my car emitted so much black smoke it looked like a crematorium on wheels. I finally took it to the mechanic, and was told the OIL light doesn't come on when the car's actually running out of oil, but when there was something wrong with the engine (like it having too much oil. God knows what the original problem was.)

Now, I had an acquaintance who was similarly ignorant. In her case, the OIL light didn't go on, and she assumed the car didn't need oil. She kept on assuming her car didn't need oil, even after she heard a slight rattle. Maybe the doors weren't shut tight enough. Eventually, the rattle turned into a RATTLE. In fact, the car rattled even when it would no longer move. Then the SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE ENGINE light came on. The car was towed to the shop. The mechanic explained the problem. The car had run out of oil. But why, she asked, hadn't the oil light come on? Well, he explained, that's the whole purpose of the SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE ENGINE light.

If any members of Congess are reading this, next time those auto executives are seated before you, how about getting them to produce a car where the OIL light comes on when it's actually low on oil, and the SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE ENGINE light comes on when there's actually something wrong with the engine?!

Another problem with these lights are their timing. For instance, the BRAKE FAILING light usually comes on about 3.7 seconds before you're about to hit the back of an eighteen-wheeler. The NEEDS WATER light comes on about 8.4 seconds before you're about to pass out from smoke inhalation. And, of course, the BATTERY light comes on when the car's having trouble starting. Unless the car doesn't start at all. Because the battery's dead. So nothing works. Including the light that tells you the battery's dead.

One thing you don't have warning lights for, at least not in any of the junkers I've ever driven, are, well, lights. The ones outside the car, I mean. You don't really need to be warned about headlights. You can SEE they're not on. But what about the lights in back? There's no warning whatsoever.

Unless it's the light on top of the police car in the rear view mirror.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dick Flick

I haven't seen it yet, but there's a new movie out about Richard M. Nixon. He's played by Frank Langella.

Langella once played Dracula.

Typecasting.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What's the Appoint?

I know it's been a foregone conclusion for about two weeks now that Hillary Clinton would be our next Secretary of State, but I wanted to be absolutely, positively, empirically, unquestionably, and pretty gosh darn sure before I posted this...Let me check again just to be sure. Be right back.

Yep, she's got the gig. All the talking heads think it's a great choice. She's smart. She's respected. She's experienced.

So why ain't she president?

I mean, wasn't that her main argument during the primary race, that she was more experienced than her main opponent, a one Barack Obama. But Obama, if you'll recall, had one great comeback. HILLARY HAD VOTED FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ! How could you possibly trust her judgement?

Apparently Obama can. Oh, well. What was that Jesus said again? Oh, yeah. Love your enemy. Especially after you've kicked his or her ass.

Maybe he'll appoint Bush to something next.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Recommended Reading

Check out William Greider's blog on the Nation web site.

According to Greider, if the fox is not exactly guarding the hen house, then it's the little boy who's adopted that strange looking stray dog that's been hanging around lately.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recommended Reading

Check out Matt Taibbi's latest in Rolling Stone.

According to Taibbi, Republican is the new liberal.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whatever Happened to Tang?

I just read in the paper that the space shuttle Endeavour is bringing to the International Space Station a new marvel of science: a machine that recycles urine into drinkable water.

I wonder if the astronauts will form a line to use such a machine?

BUCK: Um...After you, Flash.

FLASH: Oh, no, Buck, I insist you go first.

Eventually, someone will go first, and that person will make history.

One small sip for man, one giant GULP for mankind!

Quips and Quotations

Fight for what you believe in. Just make damn sure what you believe in works!

--Les Paul

Recommended Reading

Check out Dick Feagler's latest column.

According to Feagler, urban renewal is starting to get old.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Direction Correction

(This first appeared somewhere else, but I spelled a word wrong. It's reprinted, or "re-posted" here. Hopefully, this time I'll get it right.)

Landslide notwithstanding, some conservatives still contend this is a center-right country. Their argument goes something like this:

The American people were mad at the Right because, when the Right was in power, it moved to the left (e.g., expanding the size of government, increasing the deficit.) So, they've decided to punish the Right by voting for the Left. Now that the Left is in power, the American people fully expect it to move to the right.

It's positively dyslexic!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Go to the Head of the Second Class

Even though I voted for him, and in spite of all the pollsters predictions, I was still almost surprised when Wolf Blitzer said "CNN now projects the next President is Barack Obama." Even then I wasn't sure. In this age of holograms, you can't believe everything you see on TV.

Three years ago if you told me that the next president would be black, I would've said you were nuts, and I'd be wrong. Now, if you told me that we'd have one by 2041--33 years from now--, I would've said, "Oh, of course, we'll have one by then!" Along with flying cars.

OK, here's the ironic part. If you told me in 1975, when I was in the seventh grade, the next president would be black, I would've said you were nuts, and I'd be right. However, if you told me that we'd have one 33 years in the future (do the math), I would've said, "Oh, of course, we'll have one by then!" Along with flying cars (and I'd be half right.)


So what to make of all that? Predictions are relative, for one thing. The other is that, sociologically speaking, attitudes weren't that different three years ago then they were in the mid-seventies. I guess that's why those old Norman Lear shows on Nick at Night and TV Land still seem relevant. Or at least they seemed relevant in 2005.

A prediction currently in vogue is that the election of Barack Obama heralds the End of Racism. Even some right-wingers are saying this. In fact, to them it's the sorry mandate's one bright spot. No need for affirmative action. No need for Black History Month. No need for a Civil Rights Commission. Who the hell needs all that stuff now that we've agreed to judge people by the content of their character? Well...maybe the Left can strike a deal with the Right. We'll drop all those 1960s hippie-dippie kumbaya racial consciousness-raising stuff, and, in return, they drop all the Silent Majority Willie Horton palling-around-with-terrorists race-baiting. Well, how about it? They're not answering. I guess they're too busy making reservations on Alaska Airlines.

Right-wingers aside, is it the End of Racism? Perhaps. But it's not necessarily the End of whatever it is that makes people want to be racist, or bigoted, in the first place. That may always be with us.

It's commonplace to describe bigots as "ignorant." That one guy at the end of the bar grumbling that Obama's election means we're now living in the United States of Africa? He won't be winning a MacArthur Prize anytime soon. But prejudice is a pyramid scheme. At the bottom you've got your Klansmen. Not the Grand Wizard, or Grand Dragon, or Grand Wizard Dragon, or whatever their leaders are called. Just the rank-and-file Klansmen. The ones whom whenever the Grand Whatever gives the order to burn a cross, they answer, "Sho thing!" Just above them is the Archie Bunker-types. They don't burn crosses, they just have wet dreams about doing so. Then you get your Grand Whatevers. At the very top of the pyramid you get those folks who don't necessarily harbor hate in their hearts, but rather greed, avarice, lust, etc. They're not stupid. They've just figured out how to manipulate those who are.

Those southern plantations owners from before the Civil War. Did they ignorantly force the "darkies" to pick cotton for them? Or did they reason (the thing that separates man from beast) that this was the best way, the most astute way, to keep labor costs down? Switching to another form of discrimination, was it out of sheer stupidity that the European settlers, and their forbears, force this continent's original inhabitants ever westward until they ended up in the desert wastelands now called reservations? "Duhhhhhh, I guess we'll keep all the good land for ourselves." Finally, there's the Nazis, who came damn close to eliminating one of the world's major religions. You can't say they didn't lack organizational skills.

No, history's oppressors are smart enough. They're just not particularly nice.

Anyway, now that racism, sexism, anti-semitism, and imperialism seem headed for history's ash heap, who will the smart but not particularly nice people go after next? People with glasses? Tomorrow I'm getting contacts. People who wear ill-fitting clothes? I'm going to see about getting a tailor. People whose last name end in a vowel? Look, my great-grandfather's last name was Juskowikz. They made him shorten it at Ellis Island.

Hmm. I think I know now who they'll go after.

The paranoid.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Eating Jim Crow.

I have to say I was moved by President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech last night. I hate having to say that because I don't particularly like being "moved." I prefer cold irony. It's much less draining. Actually, I wasn't moved so much by what Obama was saying as I was by the reactions of the crowd in that Chicago park. I was moved because they were clearly moved. Jesse Jackson was crying! And I don't think he or anyone else there was particularly moved by what Obama was saying. For all they (or I) cared, he could have stood there and recited "Casey at the Bat." He had made it! That's what was so moving. Especially for the African-Americans in the crowd. After nearly 500 years of various forms of oppression, from slavery to segregation to voter suppression, one of the opressees had risen above all the oppressors. Of course, there were white people in that crowd, too, some of whom were also moved to tears. After eight years of George W. Bush, perhaps they felt a little oppressed themselves.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Blog Verite: Spoil Sport

A couple of years back I was at a luncheon that included a man of the cloth. The priest had a healthy sense of humor, and shared an amusing anecdote with us.

"This past summer we had our annual church picnic, and one of our parishioners was assigned sandwich duty. Well, he got up early that day, made the sandwiches, and then put them in the trunk of his car. Well, it ended up in the high 80s that day. When he opened that trunk up around noon, oooh boy, was there one bad smell!"

We all had a nice little chuckle over that. Except for this one older woman, who had something she wanted to contribute to the conversation.

"Oh, Father?"

"Yes, Rita?"

"I have my own bad food story."

"Do you now?"

"Yes. Can I tell it?"

"Why, you go right ahead."

"This woman who lived on my street about 40 years ago went to the store to buy some food. She was hoping to be back before her ten-year old boy got home from school. Well, at the store she saw an old friend who had moved out of town and was now back. They started talking and she lost track of the time. Her boy came home from school, and he was hungry. He looked in the refrigerator and there was just an old rutabega. He ate it, and do you know what happened, Father?"

"I can't imagine."

"The boy died! He died from eating the rutabega! Isn't that terrible?!"

His amusing anecdote having just been topped, the priest quickly changed the subject.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

In Memoriam: Studs Terkal 1912--2008

Jouralist, Radio Personality, oral historian, and unrepentant liberal.

"Perhaps it is this specter that most haunts working men and women: the planned obsolescence of people that is of a piece with the planned obsolescence of the things they make. Or sell."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quips and Quotations

Our country, right or wrong. When right to be kept right, when wrong to be put right.

--former Union Army Major Carl Schurz, in a speech to Congress in 1872.

Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it's something you do. You participate. If you stop doing that, democracy crumbles.

--Abbie Hoffman

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quips and Quotations

Fred: (eyeing swanky apartments) Some barracks you got here. Hey, what are you, a retired bootlegger?
Al: Nothing as dignified as that. I'm a banker.

--from the movie The Best Years of Our Lives

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Debate Check

During last's night debate John "Maverick" McCain was a veritable Roget's Thesaurus of Republican cliches and buzzwords. Here's just a few:

Obama wants to raise your taxes: Obama actually wants to raise taxes on people who make a lot of money. How much money? Oh, lets say the salaries (and golden parachutes) of the people who run, or used to run, AIG, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, etc.

Obama wants to "spread the wealth." : Well, by voting for the bailout package, Obama's certainly spreading the taxpayers wealth, i.e. whatever's left of the payroll tax after Social Security and Medicare gets their share. But then so did McCain.

Obama wants to "throw money" at education: Sort of the same way money's now thrown at Wall Street?

Obama wants to make government bigger: McCain wants that same government to buy up mortgages.

McCain wants an across-the-board cut in spending: See above. The man's positively bulimic.

Obama's for "class warfare": class warfare often results in socialism. But then so does voting for buyout packages.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The real winner of last night's debate seems to be Joe the Plumber (I wonder if he's related to the late Jane Withers, of Comet Cleanser fame?) John McCain mentioned his name a total 22 times (Obama mentioned it four times, but those were rebuttals.) McCain probably thought this would appeal to the blue collar crowd. Blue collar plumbers, sure. As for the rest of the proletariat, well, McCain better hope they weren't all screwed over getting their leaky faucets fixed.

Imagine a Republican exploiting plumbers for political gain. Didn't Nixon already try that?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Got You, Abe

This coming February 12 is the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. As absurd as it may sound, that actually makes me feel kind of old. When I was a kid, the Civil War was just about 100 years in the past. Now, to find out that war's central figure is having a Bicentennial! And where exactly does that leave George Washington? All the way back to where the Pilgrims used to be?!

Wondering if I could connect at all with this almost prehistoric figure, I decided to take a look at something Lincoln wrote: The Gettysburg Address. I did this with some trepidation. I was afraid it might read like The Canterbury Tales, or something by Shakespeare: in English, yet you still need a translator. Turns out I didn't. The speech's first, and most famous, sentence is a bit daunting (I wasn't sure what he meant by "score". Was there a game going on? Or had a band played?), but after that it's smooth sailing. It could have been written yesterday (Thank God the Civil War wasn't yesterday. Our military's stretched thin enough as it is.)

So here it is, along with a few of my comments (which Honest Abe may or may not agree with.)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation...

Less than a hundred years separate George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I'm not sure if that should make me feel old or not.

...conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

White men, anyway. Lincoln fails to mention his own Emancipation Proclamation, which was significantly more dedicated to that proposition. Of course, as long as the war raged, the emancipation existed only on paper, so maybe that accounts for his modesty.

Now, we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

The Confederate flag was a campaign issue as recently as 2000.

We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field...

According to some historians, the organizers of this event weren't even going to invite Lincoln. But then they thought, well, he IS President.

...as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

3,155 Federal soldiers were killed in action, with 5,365 missing. 2,136 of the 14,529 wounded died. All together, a mortality rate of nearly 15%. As far as the Confederacy goes, estimates range from 2,934 to 5,750 killed or missing.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Sounds here like ol' Abe is just giving lip service.

But, in a larger sense...

Oh, wait. He's got something up his sleeve.

...we can not dedicate--we can not consecrate--we can not hallow--this ground.

According to a recent news story, some developer wants to build a casino near the battlefield.

The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated, far above our poor power to add or detract.

Edward Everett spoke first. His speech contained 13,607 words, and lasted two hours. Lincoln's speech contained 186 words, and lasted a measly two minutes.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here...

Edward who?

...but it can never forget what they did here.

Not to take anything away from what they did there, but one reason Gettysburg is more well known than, say, Antietam (where there was an even greater loss of life) is because of what one tall, lanky guy with a beard and stove top hat said there.

It is for us the living, rather...

I knew there was a catch.

...to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom...

Did those who died at Gettysburg, or on Omaha Beach, or on Iwo Jima, really die for freedom or democracy, or did they actually die for a country that at the time just happened to be free and democratic? After all, people who've lived in dictatorships, or slave-based societies, have fought just as hard, and have died in as many numbers as we Americans. Freedom and democracy should be more than mere synonyms for sovereignty and the homeland. Those high ideals can also be fought and lived for. How exactly do we do that? What are our weapons? Let's see, there's the ballot box, the soap box, the picket sign, the petition, and the letter to the editor. Maybe even blogs.

...and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Despite the best efforts of the all too many fools and scoundrels since Lincoln, it somehow hasn't perished yet.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Quips and Quotations

I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can't be any worse.

--Mark Twain

Saturday, September 13, 2008

For Vice Sakes!

The Vice-Presidency is not worth a bucket of warm piss.

--John Nance Garner, Vice-President 1933-41

Were it only true, Mr Garner. These days, the vice-presidency is potentially worth the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota. It's also worth 20 million or so disaffected Hillary Clinton voters, and working-class and rural folks who fear an African American might be too "elitist".

I know it seems like a long time ago, but I want to go back to the week leading up to the Democratic convention. If you'll remember, Barack Obama, with the help of the news media, was keeping us all guessing as to who is vice-presidential pick would be. Hillary Clinton? Jim Webb? Bill Richardson? Oprah Winfrey? We were all kept in suspense, on the edge of our seats, on tenterhooks, and hanging from a cliff. We bit our nails, and wiped the sweat off our brows. We waited, paced the floor, banged our heads against the walls, and crossed our fingers. And, as the clock slowly, and agonizingly, ticked, we stared at our cell phones, not wanting to miss even one second of that much longed after, much hoped for, much yearned over, and much anticipated magic text message!

Why, exactly?

If I want to be kept in suspense, I'll go out and rent an Alfred Hitchcock movie! As far as the vice-president goes, I want to know when Barack Obama knows! As soon as it pops into his head. Sooner, if possible! This is something that's going to have some affect over all our lives! I don't particularly want to be surprised. I want to know exactly what I'm getting. If a president made farting noises during a State of the Union address, that would be quite a surprise, but I doubt if it would instill us all with confidence.

In the end, the surprise wasn't much of a surprise. Joe Biden. Just who everybody expected. Why Joe Biden? Experience, I guess. In light of recent developments, you may have forgotten that John McCain had been making a federal case (well, he IS in the Senate) over Obama's relative lack of experience. But experience in government is different from that in, say, auto repair. Two experienced mechanics will probably come to the same conclusion that your car won't shift in reverse because you put motor oil where the transmission fluid should go. Government is different. There are experienced people who are for the war in Iraq, and equally experienced people against. There are experienced people who believe in some sort of national health care, and those who don't. Until the recent collapse of some of our largest financial institutions, experienced people even disagreed whether such institutions should be regulated. They still disagree as to whether they should be regulated before a collapse, or after (i.e., federal bailouts).

I voted for Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton in the Ohio Primary because I wanted someone who was against the Iraq war AT the time of the Iraq war. Would I have preferred an experienced anti-war candidate? Sure. But the Democratic establishment (i.e., the Clinton machine) couldn't bring themselves to provide one. So I took a chance on Obama. And what does he do? He picks as VP not only someone who voted for the war, but as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, strong armed other Democrats to vote for it. I know, I know. Obama was being "realistic", in the political sense. Well, so was Clinton, Dodd, etc.

On to McCain...

John McCain's VP pick was a surprise. Boy, was it a surprise, the equivalent of making hi-fi stereophonic fart noises during a State of the Union address. McCain apparently met Sarah Palin only once before choosing her. That must have been some meeting. Political expediency at first sight! Sarah Palin is governor of a state-Alaska--with less people than Cuyahoga County, where I'm writing from. In fact, the county could lose the entire population of Cleveland, and it'd STILL have more people!

So, why'd McCain pick her? Well, Obama had been making a federal case (he's in the Senate, too) about the need for change.

The need for change.

The crucial word in the above sentence is not so much "change" as "need". I don't think the people want change because they're, say, bored with Washington. Even if they were, they could always just switch from CNN to Tia Tequila (I've been tempted to do that). If it's change for the sake of change people want, the next president could just paint the White House purple with yellow polka dots (though that might clash with all those cherry blossoms). No. People don't want change because they're bored. They want change because things SUCK. At any rate, given McCain's voting record, the White House might just get painted a whiter shade of pale (apologies to Procol Harum), the only change being a switch from Glidden to Sherwin Williams.

Of course, if the unthinkable happens, and McCain dies in office (I'm being polite. It's not really all that unthinkable. The issue's been raised over and over again the last couple of weeks), Sarah would take over. Would that be change we can count on? If by count you mean body count. In a recent interview, she said it might be necessary to go to war with Russia. She must figure all those nukes collapsed along with communism.

So, where does all that leave us? With an inexperienced presidential candidate and experienced vice-presidential candidate who are both against the war in Iraq (Joe's come around) and believe the government should have some say in the economy, vs an experienced presidential candidate and inexperienced vice-presidential candidate who both support the war in Iraq and believe in laissez-faire.

In other words, Democrat vs Republican. Liberal vs conservative. Left vs Right.

Surprise!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

In Memoriam: Bill Melendez 1916-2008

Peanuts animator and voice of Snoopy

"The characters look so simple because they are so simple. The thickness of the line can make a difference."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sellevision: Safety, Sveltness, and Syncophancy.

Today, I turn my attention to television. Not just any television. Or rather, not just anything on television. Not sitcoms, nor crime dramas, nor soaps, nor talk shows, nor reality shows. I want to go deeper than that. I want to examine the essence of television, it's very soul.

You guessed it, folks. I'm talking about the commercials.

The first commercial I'd like to examine is the most poignant. It's for Liberty Mutual Insurance. It begins with three young boys sitting on bleachers. As they're wearing soccer uniforms, we can assume practice just ended, and they're waiting for their parents. Sure enough, a woman drives up and yells out,

"C'mon! We have to meet your father at the airport!"

Two of the boys, brothers, jump down, and run to the car. To the remaining child, the woman asks,

"Dillion! You need a ride?"

"That's all right," Dillion answers. "My father should be here!"

The woman seems less than satisfied by his reply. Nevertheless, she begins to drive away. As she looks back at Dillion in the mirror, she appears increasingly worried.

Dillion sits alone in the bleachers. It's starting to get dark. Suddenly, a beam of light hits his face. Is it his father? Or some pedophile trolling the soccer fields for little boys? Neither. The woman has returned. The ad ends with her and her two sons sitting in the bleachers, keeping Dillion company. Whew! According to the narrator, "All over the world, people are doing the right thing." Especially when they're scared silly some sicko out there might do a very wrong thing.

I'm not sure what any of this has to do with insurance. Maybe at a premium of, say, $350 every couple of months, they'll make sure a soccer mom keeps your child from ending up in a missing person's report. And do they have a similar policy for Little League baseball and Pee-wee football?

Another question hangs agonizingly over this ad. Where is Dillion's father? Did he get into an accident? Or did he run off with the cashier at the local Hooters? Either event could have tragic implications for such a young boy.

And what about the OTHER father? You know, the one waiting at the airport. I can just imagine him waiting on the curb outside the terminal, looking at his watch and thinking, "WHERE THE HELL IS SHE?"


Two of the leading vixens of the 1970's, Valerie Bertinelli and Marie Osmond, have been doing weight-loss ads for NutriSystem and Jenny Craig, respectively. Or is that Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, respectively? Whatever, they both lost weight. Career wise, they were both so far off the celebrity radar screen for awhile there, I doubt if most people even knew they'd gain weight in the first place. Heck, I doubt if even the National Enquirer knew. But they're back in the spotlight now. Valerie's on the best sellers' list, and Marie's hit the dance floor. Literally.

Both these ads have "before" pictures. In Valerie's, it's kind of hard to tell just how much weight she'd gained. She's wearing something formless and baggy, a la Rhoda Morgenstern during the first couple of years of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Like that earlier Valerie, you're not sure whether she should lose the pounds, or just the polyester.

Marie "I'm losing it!" Osmond is another matter. This woman has spent her career looking for ways to be sexy without violating any Mormon tenets. Back in the '70s she accomplished this by eschewing cleavage, and instead wearing costumes just tight enough to make you think, "Ah, yes, she has reached puberty!" A couple of decades later, when this "before" picture was shot, this had become a bit trickier. Here, she's seems to be wearing a black slip-like dress, slinky without the actual slink. She's wearing a see-through blouse, brightly decorated to keep you from actually seeing through. It's all offset by a wild mane of black hair, as if she'd blow dried it in a wind tunnel. Is she a little bit country, or a little bit '80s metal?

Both ladies are now as thin as they were in the '70s. They also look as YOUNG as they looked in the '70s. Are Botox commercials next?


Now, on to an oldie but goodie. The Xerox Color Copier commercial. It first ran about two years ago, and I caught it again just the other night. Some one's buying those copiers. This funny ad begins with an office drone, who looks a little like Paul Simon, sitting next to a copy machine, looking a bit distressed.

"She's going to kill me!" Paul says to a co-worker.

As the copy is in color, he's afraid it cost too much.

"Don't worry," replies the co-worker (whose name we later learn is Dave). "With the Xerox Color Copier, we save pennies on the dollar!"

Act II takes place in a conference room. Somebody on the phone--a client, maybe--sounds elated.

"Great color! I'm shocked!"

A woman wearing glasses--the boss--replies, "Glad you liked it, sir!"

Paul Simon smiles. She's not going to kill him, after all.

The boss then presses a mute button, and gleefully yells into the phone: "You're shocked?! We're shocked you even get it, pal!" She's suddenly distracted. "Dave! What are you doing here?"

Poking his head in the door, Dave (apparently not important enough to be in this meeting) replies, "I came to fix the mute button."

The boss looks down at the phone. There's a clicking sound.

Some guy nearby who looks like he's straight out of the Far Side comic strip says, "Bye, bye, bonus."

HAHAHAHA! Pretty funny stuff! So funny I feel like going out and buying a, um, what's this commercial selling again? Let me think. The punch line involved a mute button. Oh, yeah. I remember. So funny it makes me want to go out and buy a Xerox Mute Button.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Crude and Unusual Punishment

If you're too young to remember the Energy Crises of the 1970s, or are old enough but have blocked that traumatic event from your mind, here's a brief recap. OPEC, long lines at the pump, thermostats turned down, sweaters over sweaters, diesel cars, siphoned gas, siphoned gas poisoning, moral equivalent of war. Things were bad. Then things got worse, and worse, and WORSE , and WORSE , until...it was the 1980s, and the Energy Crises had gone the way of pet rocks and Leo Sayer.

The new fad was the oil glut. People now drove more, mowed more, flew more, snowmobiled more, motor boated more, and even accidentally spilled more at the pump. It was cheap; why be careful? Cars beget minivans, minivans beget SUVs, SUVs beget Hummers. Things got better, and better, and BETTER, and BETTER, until...well, until now.

As soon as he took office, President George W. Bush appointed an energy task force, with Dick Cheney in charge. This energy task force's task was to force energy to be more, um, plentiful? Cheap? Energizing? Among the groups this task force met with was, well, we don't know. Dick Cheney won't tell us. He's claiming Executive Privilege. Isn't having your own chauffeur, and your own bodyguards, and your very own hiding place in case of another terrorist attack privilege enough? No, he also wants the privilege of dancing up and down Pennsylvania Avenue singing, "I know a secret and you don't. Ha, ha, ha," Word did get out that the task force included several Enron executives. It was later revealed that Enron was doing all it could to make energy less plentiful. At least in California. Off the record, but on a recording (like Nixon, they taped themselves), Enron executives joked about engineering blackouts that left little old ladies in the dark. A year later, when their company collapsed, they themselves were left in the dark. A dark jail cell.

I bring this up because there's been speculation that speculators are behind the spectacular rise in gas prices. This didn't make sense to me at first. Why speculate about oil? What do you think that black, gooey substance is, syrup of ipecac? Then I did a little research. See, there's something called a "futures market" What kind of futures are they marketing? Star Trek? The Jetsons? Nope. Those were fiction. This is real. A future is what a commodity, such as oil, will cost in the future, assuming you buy it in the, uh, present. Mathematically, this is expressed as F={S-PV (Div) (1+r)(T-t) (let's see THAT on the Jetsons!) Apparently, what you do--"you" being either a humongous financial institution that buys and sells a commodity, such as oil, or a humongous financial institution that buys and sells pieces of paper that represents a commodity, such as oil--is agree to buy the future sometimes in the future, and hope that the future in the future is more expensive than the future was in the past, and then resell that future in the present, which was the future in the past, and that's how you make your profit (come to think of it, maybe this is like an episode of Star Trek. Remember the one with Joan Collins?) Now, all this buying and selling the future use to be regulated. You could buy only so much of the future. You only could buy the future with the money you had in the present. You couldn't pretend you had less future than you did. These regulations were repealed because--well, I've searched the Internet for some other explanation than "political favor", but to no avail. Enron first took advantage of this new freedom. Boldly going where no humongous financial institution had gone before, they bought a lot of the future (electricity) with money they didn't have in the present, and then pretended they had less of the future, now the present, than they did. In short, they shut down a few power plants, causing the aforementioned blackouts. Are oil speculators the new Enrons, leaving old ladies, if not in the dark, than in the red? (No, it's not like Star Trek, after all. Captain Kirk let Joan Collins get hit by a truck so as to keep Hitler from winning World War Two, and he didn't even make any money off it!)

That's just one theory on the current spike in gas prices. There are others. Ones that don't involve the future. Such as, oil executives, in the present, are screwing us over, in the present, in order to make a big pile of money, in the present.

You may get the impression from reading all of the above that I don't believe there's an actual shortage of oil. You'd be wrong. I genuinely believe that overpopulation, combined with mass consumerism, combined with globalization, combined with our corporate masters' need for this quarter's profit to be bigger than last quarter's profit which were bigger than the quarter before, will eventually cause us to run out of everything from oil to food to water to the very ground beneath us, and we'll all have to walk, hungry and thirsty, on the Earth's molten core.

But what I just don't get is this twenty year lull between energy crises. It's like some one's on their death bed, surrounded by his loved ones, with a priest delivering the Last Rites. The guy doesn't die, however. The very next day, he plays a couple rounds of golf, takes in a game of tennis, goes jogging, shoots a couple of hoops, does some laps around the pool, plays horseshoes, and, at night, goes bowling. The day after that he's back on his death bed, his loved ones are all looking at their watches, and the priest is reminding everyone he gets paid by the hour.

Then there's that other problem--global warming. It made all the headlines last year, but lately it's been pushed toward the back somewhere between Goren Bridge and the crossword puzzle. It'll come back. In fact, during that twenty year lull (and this is why I think the shortage can't be entirely fake), we had the two hottest decades in history. Until this decade, that is. We shouldn't be surprised that energy shortages and environmental destruction should coincide with each other. They're both caused by the same thing: using too much fuel. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, the two problems go together like a horse and carriage (which may soon be our principle means of transportation.)

While we're pointing fingers at oil speculators and oil executives, how about We, The People? Are we to blame? Well, Pogo's dictum still holds: "We have met the enemy and he is us!" First, though, we have to be introduced.

You may have heard it said that Americans are addicted to oil. Well, let's compare it to other addictions. Most addicts don't start out as addicts. You don't smoke, then you have that first cigarette. You don't drink, then you have that first beer. You don't do drugs, than you have that first toke, snort, or fix. Where petroleum's concerned you have to go back almost 100 years, to the horse-and-buggy era. At first, that was all people knew. It was all they ever knew. Then came the automobile. At first, it was intimidating. As intimidating as the personal computer was to a later generation (at least this particular blogger.) Then they got behind the wheel. Goodbye, horse. Goodbye, carriage. It was their first smoke, first drink, first toke, first snort, first fix.

Those people are most likely all gone by now, but they left behind their addiction, the car culture we all grew up on. We, The People are not just addicts, we're crack babies.

Actually, I may be jumping ahead a bit. If you watch old movies from the '30s and '40s, yes, there are cars, but they also take trains and buses. And they walk. Even in the big city. Especially in the big city. At all hours of the night, in the poorest neighborhoods, without the slightest fear of getting mugged (even in the gangster films it's safe, as long as you stay the hell away from Edgar G. Robinson.) Then came the suburbs, and that's where we get to the crux of the problem.

No trains came to the suburbs. Busses came maybe twice a day, not twice a minute like in the big city. You could walk in the suburbs, but where. One development led to another, identical development. You'd find yourself walking in circles, or in cul-de-sacs. You needed a car. It's a lot easier driving in circles than walking.

I grew up in the suburbs, but my parents didn't. They grew up in the big city. So did the parents of the kids next door. And the kids across the street. And all the kids on the block. And all the kids at school. I never met a single kid whose parents grew up in the suburbs. How could they? There was no suburbs for them to grow up in. We kids were first generation suburbanites.

Lo, these many years later, it's quite different. Not only have the average suburban kid's parents also grown up in the suburbs, but in some cases, so have their grandparents . Not always the same suburbs, of course. First, there was just suburbs, which we now call inner ring suburbs. Followed, naturally, by outer ring suburbs. Now, there's exurbs. What's next? Inner and outer ring exurbs, I suppose. After that, who knows? Extraexurbs? Meanwhile, the abandoned big city is turning into Greenfield Village, but without the tour guides.

Suburbs, superhighways, shopping centers, and parking lots. It's all we know. It's all we've ever known. Not only are We, The People crack babies, but crack babies abandoned on the doorstep of the Columbia drug cartel. And just who abandoned us? Just our politicians, business leaders, advertisers, developers, editorial writers, even our educators, when they all sold us on the Good Life. Of course, we bought it. What do you want, a Bad Death?

Please don't think from reading all this that I'm anti-car or anti-driving. Nope. I absolutely, positively love to drive. Or I did until I got into one wreck too many. Still, it beats walking 20 miles to work in the morning. And it's a way of getting out of the house on a Saturday night. What I absolutely, positively don't like, however, is being sold a bill of goods.

But that's all in the past. We've got the future (but not the kind you buy and sell) to think about. We need to free ourselves from foreign oil. Maybe oil, period. We need green technologies (see Kermit? That color's in now.) We need to develop alternative (punk? grunge? new wave?) sources of fuel. We need renewables, such as wind or solar (I hope the sun's renewable. I'd hate to see two moons in a permanently dark sky.) We need an Apollo-like program for energy independence ("One small spin around the block for man, one giant cross-country trip to the Grand Canyon for mankind!")

Do all that, or even begin to do all that, and we'll see which drops faster: the price of gas, or an oil executive's shit.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Drawn and Cartered

Temporary lay offs--Good Times
Easy credit rip offs--Good Times
Scratchin' and surviving--Good Times
Hangin' in a chow line--Good Times
Aint we lucky we got 'em--Good Times
--theme song from the '70s sitcom

John McCain, who some time ago, maybe back when he was a "maverick" (is he also a Rockford File?), admitted that he knew nothing about economics, has apparently been brushing up on the subject. He's brushed up by backing up--all the way to the Carter administration, evoking memories, and comparisons, that he hopes causes voters to give Barack Obama the brush off. Running against Jimmy Carter has been the Republican strategy for a quarter of a century, plus two. Ronald Reagan got the ball rolling by running against Carter in 1980. I mean, really running against Carter, not the Liberal Democrat Incarnate of popular myth, but the actual, physical, living, breathing human being. Reagan won, partly due to the situation in Iran (I wonder what ever happened to that country), and partly due to the dismal state of the economy. And what a dismal state it was, what with double digit inflation and unemployment running about 7.5%. Under those circumstances, God would have lost to Reagan. During Reagan's presidency, unemployment increased to a whopping 10%, but was down to 7.1% by 1984. If I'm doing my math right, that's, um , a .4% difference (I hate decimals. Whoever invented them should be decimated ) between Carter and Reagan. I'm not sure how many actual, physical, living, breathing human beings this .4% represented, but there was apparently enough of them for Reagan to trounce Walter Mondale in the general election. Of course, it didn't help that Mondale had been vice-president under Jimmy Carter, the Liberal Democrat Incarnate of popular myth, or maybe just short memory. It also didn't help that upon receiving his party's nomination, Mondale triumphantly announced plans to raise taxes. That's always a vote getter. Four years later, Reagan's vice-president, the first George Bush, ran against Michael Dukakis AND Jimmy Carter. I still have a vivid memory of the commercial the Bush campaign put out that year. There was a picture of Willie Horton--hold on; wrong commercial, wrong vivid memory. OK, the other commercial showed a bunch of down-and-out people during the Depression of the 1930s. Actually, it was the Recession of the 1970s, but it was in black-and-white, so it was LIKE the Depression of the 1930s. Who wants to go back to the 1970s?, the narrator ominously, or maybe just drolly, asked. Not us, the voters replied, for now Jimmy Carter was not just Liberal Democrat Incarnate, but 1970s Recession Incarnate as well. Dukakis, who would have preferred to have been identified with John F. Kennedy, was trounced. Bush couldn't rely on the same tactic four years later, for by then the economy, stupid, had become Carter Lite, and thus he served a single term, to make the comparison complete. Since then Carter's name's been occasionally bandied about, but the Republicans have moved on to the War on Terrorism, or thought they had until war was declared on America's pocketbook.

And so McCain has revived the Grand Old Parting Shot. He sounds just like Reagan in 1980, and 1984, and the first Bush in 1988, warning about a return to the "failed policies of the past." The past is certainly returning in other ways. High prices at the pump, high unemployment, and soon, they're predicting, high inflation. This is more than Carter Lite. It's Carter Heavy! It's wholly appropriate McCain would evoke his name, except for one little thing. CARTER ISN'T PRESIDENT. He hasn't been president for a very long time. Britney Spears wasn't even an embryo when Carter last sat in the Oval Office. The man who has presided over Carter Heavy is the son of the man who presided over Carter Lite, President George Walker Bush.

Of course, John McCain isn't President Bush. He's a "maverick". But while criticizing the failed liberal policies of an increasingly distant past (even Ashton Kutcher has left the '70s behind) wouldn't it be nice to occasionally criticize the failed conservative policies of the here and now. Do that, and I might not feel the need to put quotation marks around "maverick". Some true conservatives (they call themselves that to distinguish themselves from the other kind, whatever the other kind is) don't consider George Bush a true conservative (so that must be the other kind!) what with the deficit and all that, so John McCain could always try that tack, except he's not trying that tack. Not that the true conservatives want him to. They don't like John McCain. No one in the Republican Party seems to like him very much. So why is he the presumptive nominee? Either they've already written 2008 off and are throwing McCain under his his very own Straight Talk Express bus, or they think he'll get those swing voters thrilled at the prospect of a "maverick" boldly taking on a president who's been out of office for 27 years. Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.

So expect, my friends, to hear more about how Barack Obama is just like Jimmy Carter, Failed Liberal Policies of the 1970s Incarnate. Just keep two things in mind. First, a decade is ten years. Carter took office in 1977. As far as the seventies go, he had a measly three years. A lousy measly three years, but what came before was hardly a rose garden. For the first part of the decade, not only wasn't Carter president, most people outside of Georgia didn't even know he existed. Yet we still had inflation, high unemployment, long lines at the pump. You see those lyrics that I started this spiel off with? Written during a Republican administration.

The second thing. When he ran for re-election in 1980, Carter was challenged within his own party by Ted Kennedy, who was backed by a lot of unhappy liberals. Why were they so unhappy? They didn't like the way Carter kept deregulating things. They thought him too conservative.

In Memoriam: George Carlin 1937-2008

Commedian and Author

"That's all your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff!"

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blog Verite: Rock, Paper, Caesar,

The following conversation took place a couple of years ago at work:

"What's this paper doing on the floor? Now it's covered with footprints!"

"That's because everybody's been stepping on it."

"Well, I can see everybody's been stepping on it. Why is everybody stepping on it?"

"To get to the tape machine."

"Why don't they just move the paper?"

"Where? You see how crowded it is."

"You can move it, uh, hmmm...I have to use the tape machine, so I'll just step on the paper myself. When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

"Why don't you piss against a rock?"

"What?"

"Why don't you piss against a rock?"

"Why should I piss against a rock?"

"You just said, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do'. Well, in Ancient Rome, didn't they piss against rocks?"

"What makes you think they pissed against rocks?"

"'Cause they didn't have toilets."

"Why wouldn't they have toilets? They had aqueducts."

"What's an aqueduct?"

"An aqueduct is--well, it's kind of like a pipe. A big, long, pipe that can bring water over long distances. For instance, I think it's an aqueduct that brings water from Lake Erie all the way to Akron."

"Really? That's pretty impressive."

"It is."

"Just think, piss from Ancient Rome is going all the way from Lake Erie to Akron."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fist Fuss

It's been almost two weeks since Barack and Michelle Obama's famed "fist bump", and people are still talking about it, which, of course, means I can still talk about it, and talk about it I shall! So, what the hell did it mean? There seems to be two schools of thought, so let's get educated!

(As I'm sitting here typing this in the library, someone just shouted, "Tim Russert died!". One possible consequence is that people may actually stop talking about the fist bump. I'm still going to write about it. Tim Russert would have wanted it that way.)

The first school of thought is that the fist bump is descended from the Black Power salute, made famous during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. American Tommie Smith had just won the 200 metre race, and John Carlos, also representing Uncle Sam, came in third. Both men were black. Upon receiving their medals, they bowed their heads and raised their fists skyward, scaring the hell out of millions of white Americans watching at home. I don't know why they were so scared. Look where their fists were pointed. What were they going to do, punch out the birds? At any rate, Obama and Michelle are supposedly carrying on the struggle. From Mexico City to the White House. I'm not sure what that portends for the immigration issue.

The second school of thought is that this is some sort of secret Al-Qaeda handshake. A secret handshake in front of fifty-million people? If I were Osama bin Laden, I'd revoke their membership. Let Hezbollah have 'em! Of course, they could be signaling all the sleeper cells, instructing them to create havoc during the upcoming presidential election. Don't worry. The terrorists are no match for Republican poll watchers.

So, which is it, Black Nationalism or Islamofascism? I'd like to suggest a third possibility.

Let's watch that fist bump again. Barack and Michelle. Such a young attractive couple. Barack looks like he should be on the cover of GQ. Heck, for all I know, he has been on the cover of GQ (someone Google and find out). Michelle is dressed to the T's. Slit revealing a bit of leg above the knee. Sleeveless. She's got a Jackie Kennedy-type of hair style. Or maybe Laura Petrie (I wonder if she wears Capri pants around the house). Barack and Michelle, waving victoriously to the cheering crowd. They turn and face each other. Barack moves in for a kiss, but not on the lips. Looks like just a peck on the cheek. Wait. Higher than that....He's aiming for her ear!...Let me rewind and watch that again...Did he blow in it, or did he nibble on the lobe?...It's inconclusive...Whatever he did, he's done. Now, on to the main event, the fist bump. Michelle goes first. She raises her hand, and clenches her fist. A nice , tight clench. Look at her expression. She kind of lowers her eyes, and...let me get a closer look...I know I'm at risk of getting eyeball cancer staring this close to the screen, but I just have to know...She's biting her lip! I swear to God Almighty, she's biting her lip!...Let me watch that again...and again...and again...whew!...and again...It's inconclusive...OK, she's got her fist up, now Barack raises his hand, clenches his fist, tightly, and with a forward thrust, makes contact. It only lasts a second, but what a second! OK, they pull away from each other, Michelle gives the thumb's up--heh, heh--and, wait--IS SHE BITING HER LIP AGAIN?!I'm going in for a closer look--BUMP--I just hit my head on the screen. Let's just say it's inconclusive. Now, Michelle turns to leave, and as she walks away, Barack PATS HER ON THE TUSH!!!!

In conclusion, the fist bump was merely an act of, ahem, affection. A perhaps more spontaneous, and even more natural, act of affection than, say, the famous Al and Tipper Gore mouth lock at the 2000 Democratic convention. I shouldn't be so hard on the Nobel Laureate and his wife. They were a step up (right direction, at least) from the usual presidential and presidential-wannabe couples. Usually the spouse--no matter how attractive--looks like she's (so far it's a she. Sorry, Bill) been pulled down from the attic, dusted off, and strategically placed next to their supposed soulmate. No matter how often you see them together, they look like they've just been introduced fifteen minutes earlier.

If Barack and Michelle Obama make it to the White House, they will be the first presidential couple in my lifetime I can actually imagine doing it.

(On second thought, maybe Tim Russert wouldn't have wanted it that way.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Deer Tick...Tick...Tick...

Home, home on the range,

Where the deer --BANG!

A ban against shooting deer in North Royalton--a suburb of Cleveland--has just been repealed. Though this city hasn't been a "range" for quite some time, the deer roam anyway, and thus often are heard the discouraging words of local home owners, who apparently can't stand the territorial competition. By banning the ban, they hope the deer go the way of, well, the antelope, not seen in Northeast Ohio for years (there's no ban against shooting antelope. Coincidence?). This may be a wise move. These creatures pose a significant threat to public safety. For instance, you could hit one while driving and talking on your cell phone!

So you'll get no objection from me. All I ask is that the next time we build another big box store, another strip mall, another subdivision, another office park, another McDonalds (over 50 billion franchises serving you); the next time we pour cement, concrete, asphalt, gravel, etc; the next time we uproot, cut down, mow down whatever passes for wilderness these days, we remember that the deer were here first. They may very well have squatting rights.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Delegate Matters: Reflections on the 2008 Primary Season

Hillary finally conceded. Who'da thunk?

David Gergan, the inside political hack-turned outside political pundit-turned inside political hack again-turned outside political pundit again (I actually respect his views, I just felt a disclaimer was necessary), said on TV that when Hillary first announced her candidacy, he thought she would win. I didn't think she would win. Why? Simple. She's a woman. STOP THROWING THINGS. We've never had a woman president. I assumed sexism might be the reason.I didn't, and am still not convinced, Barack Obama could become president either. Why? Simple. He's black. PUT THAT DOWN! POLICE!! We've never had a black president either. I assumed racism might be the reason.

So what's this all mean? We've conquered racism but not sexism? Well, some of Clinton's supporters, most notoriously Geraldine Ferrara, would say that. This unconquered sexism incidentally doesn't seem to extend to blue-collar white males with no college education in industrial states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. They're cool. And they're not racists, either. They're elitistists. Or, if saying that out loud gives you a lisp, anti-snobbites --people who look down their noses on people who look down their noses. If they were to bring All in the Family back, I could see it now:

EDITH: Oh, Archie, I invited the Jeffersons over for dinner!
ARCHIE: Edith, you dingbat! I don't want those elitists in this house!

So, then, who are these sexists? According to Hillerites, they're in large enough numbers to keep her from getting the nomination, but apparently not in large enough numbers to keep her from winning a general election. The sexists, I suppose, are those in the media, and those who vote in caucuses. As for the racists, according to some Obama surrogates (and men of the cloth), they're Bill and Hillary themselves for suggesting a black can't be elected president. You're racist for suggesting that all the racists won't elect a black president! And you're a chauvinist pig for suggesting that chauvinist pigs won't elect a woman president!

I'd prefer to think that maybe the racists and sexists canceled each other out, and this was a fair fight after all. Of course, in the general election, there will be no canceling out, and the racists and sexists (if Hillary's also on the ticket) could join forces. One consoling thought: some of the most racist and sexist people I've known in my life don't even bother to vote (I'm a blue-collar white male with no college education myself, and back in the olden days I use to run into racists and sexists every now and then).

Of course, you can have a dirty fight without resorting to racism and sexism. Both sides screamed bloody anti-democracy. The voters of Michigan and Florida were disenfrancised, as Hillary argued to that undemocratic body known as super delegates. Obama wanted those same super delegates to honor majority rule. As long as those majorities weren't in Michigan and Florida.

Speaking of democracy, just how democratic is this dictatorship on the left and the right that we call the two-party system? The primary season, I suspect, was designed to hide this ideological censorship. Third parties may never have made it to the Oval Office, but they often did make their point, and were a lot more common, back in the days when conventions chose the candidates. Don't mistake this as a pitch for Ralph Nader. That would be throwing away a vote. It would be illogical. It would be irrational. But let me ask you, suppose someone pulled a gun on you and said "Your money or your life?" What would be your most logical response? What would be your most rational response? You'd hand over your money? Now you know how I feel about the two-party system.

At any rate, how did Obama beat the awesome Clinton machine? Well, there's your answer right there. If you want a machine for president, vote for R2D2, with C3PO as his running mate. On the cable news blab shows, the Clinton surrogates all gave the same assembly line talking points, while the Obama crowd's spin was much more customized (this occasionally backfired, as when some poor sap of a surrogate in Texas couldn't tell Chris Matthews what exactly Obama had achieved in the Senate).

The Clintonites best talking point was, "What part of peace and prosperity didn't you like?", a reference to the nineties. Well, Hillary herself must not have liked the peace part, as she voted for war. The prosperity part is a little harder to dismiss. Although a sophisticated argument may be made that the Clintons are at least partially responsible for the current economic catastrophe, most people judge a president by what happens on his or/and her watch. Curiously, Hillary never emphasised economics until Obama won ninety-thousand or so primaries and caucuses in a row. Contributing to the delay, I suspect, was that when her husband was president, the economic differences between Democrats and Republicans were downplayed, and the social differences played up. So much so, that this became the accepted way to tell the two sides apart. God and Guns vs A Woman's Right to Choose. But Hillary soon found her voice--or Dennis Kucinich's. She attacked NAFTA, which her husband had wholeheartedly signed into law. Hillary claimed she had been against it all along, as George Stephanopolis's book confirms (she thought it might distract from her health plan). For his part, Obama struck out (and failed to throw a strike) with blue-collar workers. He belittled the little guy's fondness for guns and God (on the latter: I've seen quite a few blue-collar guys with satanic imagery tattooed on their arms. Are they Libertarians?)

Too little, too late. Hillary went down anyway, amid cries of media bias. And the media was biased. Not against women, or for blacks, but for the underdog. Even when he was ahead, Obama seemed like the underdog. Hillary had that effect on him. If he should put her on the ticket, it'll be four, perhaps eight, years as the underdog. Longer than Wally Cox.

Now, let's review the Republican primaries. Uh, did they have primaries? Yes, yes, now I remember. There was a lot of fuss about Mitt Romney, and Rudy Guliani, and the guy from Law and Order, but when the dust settled, there was John McCain standing and singing, "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran!" Of course, before we do that, there's the little matter of Iraq. McCain was pounced on for saying we'd be there for a hundred years. People assumed a century of roadside bombs and suicide attacks. This was a misrepresentation. He was talking about a Korea-type occupation. However, this was a misrepresentation of a misrepresentation. After all, the violent part of our stay in Korea lasted only three years. We've had five violent years in Iraq. If there's still violence this time next year, it'll be twice as long as Korea. If there's violence past that, it could last longer than MASH, except that John McCain is no Alan Alda (though the Bush administration has had no shortage of Frank Burns).

I recently interviewed Republican strategist James Backus Snopes about the problems facing his party in the fall.

KJ: What do you think your chances are in the fall?
JBS: I'd say they're pretty good. Great, in fact.
KJ: Really? You guys have controlled two, sometimes all three, branches of government for the last eight years. As a result, we have a war with no end in sight, a busted housing market, high unemployment, skyrocketing prices at the pump, and an entire planet that hates our guts. Yet you think you're going to win?
JBS: As we Republicans like to say, it'll be a cakewalk.
KJ: You're not worried?
JBS: Nope
KJ: Not even a little?
JBS: Nada.
KJ: Why?
JBS:(smiling) Because Barack Obama has the MOST LIBERAL VOTING RECORD OF ANYBODY IN THE ENTIRE U.S. SENATE!

So what if there's war and recession? At least we've been saved from folk music.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Isle Chatter

By now, the season finale of Lost has been analyzed, psychoanalized, scutinized, theorized, philosophised, and pretty much blogged to death, but I haven't had MY say, so pay attention...It was pretty good!

It starts out with last season's finale flashforward that we initially thought was a flashback. I was hoping this year they might have a flashback that we all mistake for a flashforward, but the show's producers chose not to. Who am I to criticize? They're in Hollywood, and I'm plopped in front of a library computer half a continent or so away. Anyway, we find that the guy in the coffin and in the obituary is Jeremy Bentham. Now, your faithful blogger has only a high school education, and I honestly didn't know Jeremy Bentham was some famous 19th century philosopher. I assumed he was some character on the show. I just couldn't remember which one. The guy with the time-travel experiments? The guy flying the helicopter? Hurly's shrink? If they're going to reference a philosopher, why not Plato? I've heard of him (he had his own republic, right?).

An exciting moment was when Jack and Sawyer rush to save Hurly from mortal danger. They instead find him pissing against a tree. He could very well still be in danger. There may be poison ivy about, and, as Hurly's fly is down, he could catch it in the very last place you want to catch poison ivy. I know, I know. Poison ivy's not native to the tropics. Well, neither are polar bears.

What would a season finale be without Locke and Jack sometimes failing to see eye to eye? Faith vs Science. Or Mulder vs Scully, without the underlying sexual tension. You do get overlying great dialogue. Jack harranges Locke for blowing up the sub, knifing a would-be rescuer, etc, but Locke has one of the show's all-time great comebacks: "You fired what you thought was a loaded gun right into my face, so let's call it even."

Properly chastened, Jack, along with Hurly and Sawyer, head back to the chopper while Locke and Ben prepare to move the island (I'm skipping over how Ben escaped his captors. Suffice to say, another unholy alliance between the losties, this time Kate and Sayid, and the once fearsome, now increasingly mundane Others). Locke and Ben are interrupted by the arrival of, uh, what was his name again? Jeremy Benthem? Hold on while I check a Lost web sight with characters names on it......Keamer. His name was Keamer. How could I forget a name like that? Anyway, Keamer the mercanary shows up all wired up with some radio-controlled explosive (I wonder if he got that at Radio Shack?). He threatens to blow up the boat if Ben doesn't give himself up. As other bloggers have pointed out, this makes no sense. First off, Keamer's already seen Ben let his own daughter get killed. Even if he hadn't, he must know by know that Ben regards the people on the boat as his enemies. This is a little like Adolf Hitler warning Neville Chamberlain that if he doesn't give up Czechoslovakia, he'll blow up Germany. No other series could survive such holes in the plot. But Lost is all about holes in the plot. It's why we all fell in love with it in the first place.

An emotional Ben (as he later describes himself) kills Keamer anyway, blowing the boat, along with Jin and Michael, to Kingdom Come. He then moves the island in the most low-tech way possible ("possible" being a relative word on this show), by turning a wheel. No carbon footprint here!

The island disappears as the helicopter with Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sun, Hurly, Desmond, Aaron, and "Kenny Rogers" attempts to land (I skipped over why it's those eight in the chopper, but, hey, I never said this was a summary). Actually, two islands disappear. Or do they? With all the overflights various characters take this season, how come noone mentions two islands? Jack tells "Kenny" (I refuse to look up his name) there's another island nearby, but as the pilot, shouldn't he know? Apparently you can only see the second island by standing on one particular spot on the first island. And vica-versa. I have a theory. THEY'RE BOTH THE SAME ISLAND! THEY EXIST SIDE BY SIDE IN TWO DIFFERENT TIMES AND TWO DIFFERENT SPACES!! WHEN THE CHARACTERS LEAVE ONE FOR THE OTHER THEY'RE ACTUALLY TRAVELING THROUGH TIME!!! THE FOURTH DIMENSION IS WHERE...Huh? Oh. Uh, sorry, ma'm. Won't happen again...The librarian says if I don't calm down I'll be ejected.

At any rate, those eight characters (ten if you count Ben and Walt) are off the island. So, how's this going to work next season? Locke, Sawyer, and others left behind in the present (actually, 2005), and Jack, Kate and co., in the future (our present?). And this is without all the time travel!

Past, present, or future, if there's one character I want in the thick of things, it's Hurley. He's the true Everyman of this series. A somewhat discomfitting thought given that he's been in and out of mental institutions, but it's true. Locke and Jack are idealized Everymen, two Walter Mittys whose dreams of purpose have been realized. Hurley's not sure of his purpose. Winning the lottery? Saving the day? Losing weight? He reacts to each plot twist as if he were watching it all on TV, just like us ("So, Bernard is white. Bet you didn't see that one coming!"). Unlike us, of course, he gets to occasionally participate ("Attention, Others! Come in, Others! We have your people!"). Speaking of Hurley, remember that flashback in season 2 which has Libby in the same mental ward as him? That needs explaining. Was she his stalker? Hurley could have used that kind of story line!

In conclusion, I'd like to talk about Jeremy Bentham. SPOILER ALERT! Aw, who the hell am I kidding? By the time this is posted, everyone will know anyway. It's the future late John Locke. Why he, or the show's writers chose that name, I'm not sure (after four seasons I finally figured out that maybe Sawyer was named after the Mark Twain character because they're both con men--Tom conned his friends into whitewashing the fence, remember?--and they both like to read). I did some research, and found out that Bentham was a proponent of utilitarianism, the belief in the most good for the most people. Sounds interesting, but I really don't think that's the reason. Almost a century and a half after he died, Bentham's preserved body, fully clothed, sits in the University of London. Now recall that at the end of this season's finale, Ben tells Jack that they all have to go back to the island, including the late John Locke...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No Beer, Please. Just a Shot.

Today I want to discuss the latest controversy in the 2008 Democratic Primary race. Well, maybe twenty or thirty years ago it would have been the latest controversy, but in today's 24-second internet news cycle, it's probably been completely forgotten by now. However, thanks to the holiday, I haven't had access to the library computer until today, so it's still the latest controversy to ME.

I turned on a cable news channel Friday only to have my senses immediately assaulted by this: "BLADDERBREAKING NEWS! HILLARY CLINTON CITES RFK ASSASSINATION AS REASON FOR STAYING IN RACE!! WATCH AND HEAR THE TAPE AND BE SHOCKED FOR YOURSELF!!!" Well, whenever I prepare myself to be shocked by something a public figure says, it usually turns out that he or she were talking at the top of their heads, groping for words, and merely stuck their feet in their mouths (see Joe Biden on Cleanliness). The subsequent tape of Hillary's remarks seemed to bear this out:

"There's been a lot of, you know, calls for me to drop out. I, um, don't know why I should. My, uh, husband didn't, uh, sew up the nomination until, uh, June, right? Yeah, right. Then, um, uh, er, in June of, you know, uh, '69, uh, Bobby, uh, Kennedy was, er, assassinated, so why should I, you know, drop out, uh, now?"

Harmless. She needed two examples of primaries decided late, and those two just popped in her head. There are other examples, such as the 1984 duel between Walter Mondale and Gary Hart, but compared to an assassination and her husband's upward mobility, that one was BORING. The pundits seem to agree. That she might have anything else in mind was too distubing to contemplate. Better it be a simple Freudian slip. That way she's merely morbid.

She had slipped earlier, way back in March in Time magazine, but since then she's mentioned the two contests a half dozen times and not once did she use the word "assassination". A disciplined candidate, she.

Oddly enough, in some other interview she referenced the JFK assassination. There she was merely pointing out that Lyndon Johnson had signed Kennedy's proposals into law. Hillary seems almost infatuated with LBJ. First she suggested that without the Great Man and his mighty pen, Martin Luther King wouldn't have a minute named after him, much less a day, and now this. To think she started out as a Goldwater Girl!

So this too shall blow over. Rumor has it Hillary is persuing a vice-presidential slot, just as Johnson did in 1960. A practical candidate, she.

I do know one thing. If Barack Obama suddenly (and literally) drops out of the race, Hillary wins the conspiracy theorists vote.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Once and Future Past

Welcome to my second blog. Or maybe my third. Me and the computer are a bit at odds about that. Then again, I'm a Luddite, so me and the computer are a bit at odds about EVERYTHING! In my previous blog, before I was so rudely interrupted by the library mandated time limit, I was going to pontificate about Gunsmoke. Actually about one particular episode I saw on TV Land not too long ago. Here's what happened. A group, or in Old West parlance, a gang of desperados came upon a solitary farmhouse. First they robbed the farmer and his wife, and then shot and left them for dead! As they were leaving the crime scene, they happened upon Marshall Matt Dillion (no relation to the Brat Packer) and his deputy Festus. Matt and Festus gave chase, but as the farm couple were bleeding to death, first things first, and the bad guys got away. Later that night, that very night, and I should mention that this episode BEGINS that very night, the outlaws were spending the night in some old abandoned cabin. "Why are we spending the night in this old abandoned cabin," cried one "We have to high-tail it out of this state!" "We can't, you fool!" yelled the leader "Matt Dillion saw us. By now they'll have every road in the state blocked off!" Now here's what concerns me. This is the Old West, 18whatever. How in tarnation (Old Westspeak) could they have all the roads blocked off in a single night! It's not like he had a two-way radio strapped to his horse! Speaking of horses it takes a little time to get back to Dodge City. And remember they had two people bleeding to death. In a squad car it would've been quicker, sure. But, horses? Eventually, Matt and Festus would've found a telegraph office, but that still should have given the bad guys a good head start. So, how to explain all this? Simple. Whoever wrote that episode grew up in the 20th century. He was used to instant communication, or what passed for it in the 1960s. He couldn't imagine any other way of thinking. This is what science and technology does (even to writers of TV fiction). A way of life people take for granted seems, at best, quaint to the people who come after. At worst, that way of life seems TOTALLY NUTS. Great Grandad didn't have electricity? No lights, no motor cars, not a single luxery? Like Robinson Crusoe, as primitive as can be? Eventually, people come after the people who came after, and the tables are turned. No, junior, we didn't have Blackberrys when I was young. NO, I WASN'T DEPRIVED! I didn't even know what I was missing!... In conclusion, I suppose the people that come after us, or the people who come after the people who come after us, or the people who come after the people who come after the people who came after...well, you get the general idea...those people might some day produce a Gunsmoke-like show that takes place in, say, 2008, and some future desperado will say, "Matt Dillion's been online by now. He'll have every road in the galaxy blocked off!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beware of Luddite

Please bear with me. I'm new to blogging. In fact, I'm new to the web/internet/cyberspace/information highway/21st century. And on top of all that, I'm a little rusty on the typewriter. I do this under duress. The era I grew up in -the 1970's -seemed pretty advanced to me. Now it's the Old West, and I feel like Festus from Gunsmoke learning how to drive a car for the first time. I was going to start a new paragraph at this very sentence, but, as the title of this blog will attest I'm a Luddite. Not that it matters as the library computer I'm using just informed me that I only have a measly five minutes left. So until next time--oh, shit, what the hell did I do--oh, well, never mind--the computer just gave me a ten minute reprieve. Frankly, I'm surprised this machine hasn't had a nervous breakdown with me using it. Speaking of Gunsmoke--well, Gunsmoke is going to have to wait, as the computer just told me to get the hell off.