Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wholly Holy Week News

Abundance, as God defines it, is available in each individual life. That's a good thought for Holy Week. Guess a small part of my pursuing abundance would be ramping up the blog output a bit this week. Not like I lack for material after all. For those who dine on the absurd... well, the table groans beneath the weight of the feast.

News accidentally reaches me that Sandra Bullock's husband has announced he's seeking mental help over some (apparently) well publicized personal indiscretion. Well I think psychiatry is often elevated beyond its proper place in our culture, becoming at times a quasi-religion excuse generator. But in this here case, the guy's got a point. If you've been running around on Sandra Bullock yeah, you probably should get your brain looked at real quick. If there were such a thing as a psychiatric ER, they'd be calling Code Blue on you! Hey, now there's a thought? They have defribulators for when hearts stop, so how about a brain defribulator? Just stick those paddles to the ears, yell "CLEAR!" and jump start that brain! I could invent that!

Group therapy sessions aren't going to go well for Sandra Bullock's husband though. I mean, you're sitting around with others and you're all 'sharing' and I foresee problems...

"Yeah, you don't know the pressure, having a wife so talented, rich and beautiful."
"Excuse me, but could you fast forward to the part that makes me feel sympathetic?"

Not gonna be good for group morale either. I envision people out in the exercise yard--- er, I mean 'contemplation garden' and they're smoking cigarettes right down to the filters, and the conversation will be...

"Hey, you guys know me! Strippers, gambling, I used to be the craziest guy in here, then along comes Mr. 'I cheated on Sandra Bullock' and it ain't fair!"

Also this week, lots of personal drama went on all over this country, far from the interest of celebrity crazed media. Letters from elite Universities started hitting mailboxes. Yeah, some major happy dances in some envelopes, but the acceptance rate for those schools is single digit. Ninety percent of the applying HS Seniors got rejection letters. Half of them got multiple 'No thanks' letters, and now they'll have to ratchet down their dreams to State University.

I know I know, you want me to fast forward to where you're supposed to feel sympathetic... for most if not all the rejecteds, that letter's the first time the adult world has slapped them down. They've worked so hard, for what to them is all their lives, to be strait A students, valedictorian, all the AP classes, to be special. Now there it is in their cookie hooks, Vanderbilt etc. letterhead in very polite language saying essentially, "Naw, you ain't that special."

Got to be a crushing moment. My advice to those kids would be save those rejection letters. Be mindful that abundance, as God defines it, is available in each individual life. Go on about your business, and the day will come those rejection letters will make you smile.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Listen up Steve

Full disclosure, I think "Social Studies" has a vaguely Orwellian whang to it, like "Homeland Security." If it's History & Geography, just call it that, OK?

Texas has ordered content revision prior to its next purchase of Social Studies textbooks. More Alamo, less global warming, something like that I'd suspect. Reason that's a national story is because volume of Texas purchases means it's cheaper for other states to adopt nearly same book. Much as I admire Texas' proud heritage, they really shouldn't be writing other people's schoolbooks.

But less philosophically, am I the ONLY person who sees that big mountain of money shimmering in the distance? Must be upward of a Billion easy; we just gonna keep driving around it on our way to the brain dead status quo?

Steve Jobs is about to start selling the I-pad; quite a fancy little gadget. No doubt it could only be more fragile if it was made from dragonfly wings, and it's already been leaked that battery replacement will be $100. It'll sell fine Steveo, but here's you a side project.

Start by determining target price. Then challenge your development group. You want version of the I-pad stripped to specific essentials, you want it chimp-proof robust, you want it feasibly repairable, and at the target price.

Congrats Steve; you just invented the I-book. In this context, I is for Infinite. Now choose a small upper-middle class school district in a good media exposure area and give I-books free to every 9th grader. Oh, be sure to throw in a VERY well padded carrying case. So gone are the several books kids lug around. Each text is pre-loaded on the I-book as screen icons. Turn in the I-book at the end of school year, and at end of summer all the sophomore texts are loaded and welcome back kids.
Sit back and be patient, won't take long. It'll catch like prairie fire in coastal affluent school districts and quickly move inland.

This accomplishes several things Steveo. Off the top of my bald head...
a. School districts will love it. At maybe $250 per I-book and a reasonable one-time blanket cost for each digitized textbook, they'll save tons of dough.
b. You're getting school districts to pay for the privilege of getting future customers comfy with your tech.
c. Leverage the newly won reputation for Apple as builder of the most robust and affordably repairable tech available.
d. You'll sell a lot of I-books Steve. Volume will afford manufacturing efficiencies and provide cost reduction on shared component purchases.
e. School districts in Seattle want textbooks, not texasbooks. I-book will easily accomodate textbook specialization very affordably.
f. Which brings me to the last point (ADD now kicking in) you just birthed Apple Publishing Steveo. Your source code is proprietary, right? Nobody can digitize any
I-book without your permission, right? I can easily foresse a future state outcome where people go to Barnes & Noble, pay $12 to have the latest Dan Brown book loaded on their zip drive.

Glad we could have this little talk Mr. Jobs. I'll send you an invoice.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Three perspectives

Some people speak of logic like it's the same thing as math; as long as everybody's using it, same answer is reached. I don't think it's like that at all. There's this Harvard ethics professor, and his lectures are much enjoyed by students. That because he's a brain picker; casts out hypothetical situations and teaches ethics by engaging students on the available choices.

So I was listening to one of his lectures on NPR the other day. He said to students, "You're the driver of a trolley and its brakes are gone. You know if you keep going straight, at bottom of hill five men are working on the track and it's likely they'll be killed. You're approaching an adjacent track and you can turn onto it. You know at the end of that track one man is working and he'll be killed. Raise your hand if you would turn."

This is when it got really interesting for me. He said, "OK you can put your hands down. Those of you who wouldn't turn, raise your hands. Very well, you may put your hands down. Now let me add some more information to the scenario..."

Right about there is when I'd have got kicked out of the class, because I'd have been saying, "Whoa whoa whoa? We don't need any more information until I ask a few questions of the 'go for five' club here, OK Professor?"

And it's just amazing. He asked for a show of hands on the straight ahead option because he teaches the course every year; he KNOWS some students wouldn't turn!

I found the entire thing quite perplexing and stopped listening to the lecture at that point. These Harvard kids are smart boys & girls after all; I've got to presume the 'go for five' club had some kind of logic supporting their choice. It just settled on my brain and wouldn't leave... what good reason might a Trolley driver have for not turning?

To find the reasons, I had to adopt a totally different logic than my own, but it's a logic all the same. Then I realized these different logics are informed by unique perspectives. Those perspectives probably provide a good insight on future career tracks. So here's the 'go for five' answers I came up with, and my guidance counsellor predictions...

"I would keep going straight because that turn isn't on my assigned route and I don't want to get in trouble for violating company policy." Future federal government employee there; State Department most likely, but would fit in anywhere.

"Well, highly improbable that five workers would all be looking in the same direction as I approach, right? Chances are good one of them will see me, alert the others, and nobody dies. Possible lose big, but possible win big." Embryonic investment banker fer shure. Bound to amass a fortune and/or go to prison, but it'll all be done on other people's money.

"I'd go straight because, see? Hitting five people will probably slow the Trolley enough so I can safely jump off, but I just don't think hitting one person would do it." That's your future personal injury attorney perspective there.

But each answer is perfectly logical, given the perspective it springs from.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Still Alive update

Not since I helpfully (I thought anyway) typed that were I starving in India, believe I'd eat me a sacred cow, have I received so many passionate feedbacks!

In no way did I intend to single out certain living TV icons for purposes of ignoring the tremendous contributions of other washed-up has beens... I mean revered cultural treasures! Nor did I mean to portray any former Lunch box adorners as less than fascinating, fully realized individuals with a vibrant off camera lives. OK, for you readers in your 20's there was once a time when mothers made lunch for their kids, and these alleged lunches were transported from home to school in things called 'lunch boxes' which bore images of popular cartoon or TV characters. Yep, I know it sounds bizarre, but it happened exactly like that, no kidding.

Uhmmm, where was I? Oh yeah! My mentioning only certain TV/film performances that had a formative effect on me was in no way intended to be discriminatory towards other equally talented performers. Nor would I ever dare to suggest that a lady who wore a (very attractive) form fitting Reynold's wrap jumpsuit and couldn't get her space ship driving husband to stop and ask for directions had very little life outside that venue. WHEW! There! That should satisfy the folks at Liebowitz, Liebowitz, Liebowitz and O'Reilly. Now to business then...

June Lockhart was not JUST all that on TV, with the deathtrap farm or the lost spaceship with the "Don't ask don't tell" Dr. Smith. June also was best pals and weekly poker player with Rod Serling, right up to his death.

Barbara Billingsley of "Leave it to Beaver" is still with us. I'm not going to point out that most housewives don't vacuum wearing pearls and a cocktail dress. I'm not going to throw in the factoid that the Cleaver home was also home to that police guy in "Rockford Files" (guess the Cleavers sold it after the divorce) and I'm not even going to observe that Wally, who was supposed to be some big deal jock, looks like about 5'6" to me. I will say though? Second season of that show starts with the family backing the land yacht out on some excursion. There's no glass in that back window Wally & the Beaver are eagerly looking out of.

Lunchbox characters from the "Dark Shadows" show are still with us... well the main ones. Jonathan Frid (Barnabas) is still kicking around. Angelique (Lara Parker) is alive, and probably still has amazing eyes. David Selby (Quentin) with sideburns even the 70's Elvis would find embarrassing, he's still alive too.

A good half of the original Star Trek cast haven't gone to see Jesus yet. Shatner's got the higher profile of course. Sulu has the same sex marriage ink. Chekov got unwanted ink lately in losing a disturbed son. Leonard Nimoy is still around too though. I think Leonard is one of the funniest people on Earth, and that brings up some more Lunch box adorners?

See, Leonard was a Sergeant in the early 1950's. I find that rather surreal. "Your explanation for not having shiny shoes is highly illogical maggot. Drop and give me twenty!" One of his charges was a guy named Ken Berry, and Nimoy encouraged him to pursue an acting career. That's probably one of the worst things Leonard ever said. Berry went on to act in many series; none of them worth watching, nope, not so much.

One Ken Berry show was called "F-Troop" and I recall it mostly because it had a theme song with words. It was a parody on military service in the old West, sort of like "McHale's Navy" in a way. Ernest Borgnine is still alive, better get THAT one in! "F-Troop" had its moments; really it was kind of daring at times. Berry had nothing to do with the best jokes. Ken Berry is still alive. So is Larry Storch who played Corporal Agarn, was very funny, and my opinion carried more than a third of the show.

All right, ADD kicking in now. Lots of people from my kidhood lunchboxes are still around.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stayin' Alive... Stayin' Alive

I seldom type anything serious (and this won't be one of those times) but I note with sincere sadness the passing of two kidhood TV icons.

Peter Graves, "Mission Impossible" guy. Every show started with him showing for the scoop on the next caper in some public place, where I sure wouldn't hide Top Secret info. Really visionary show, quite ahead of its time. In the 1960's the tape self-destructed. In 2010 it's the appliances that do it. RIP Mr. Graves.

And Davy Crockett/Daniel Boone/Fess Parker passed away this week. Symbolic and demonstrative of good ol' fashioned American values all the way around. At a time when America most needed its bold pioneer faces, Parker portrayed them. And after acting he became a very successful real estate developer. Godspeed Mr. Parker.

Seems like I'm 53 and the recognizable faces from my childhood are dropping like flies, at an increasingly alarming rate... but it's not like that at all. Lots of folk are still around; you'd be surprised really.

Don Rickles and Jonathan Winters are both still alive, and I remember them from way back. Both innately funny, hard working comedians.

June Lockhart is still around, and I can't say enough good about that lady. First she was the mom in "Lassie." So every week it was 'Arf' and "What's that Lassie? Timmy's trapped in the abandoned mine?" then 'Arf Grr' followed by "Oh, the abandoned mine field? Why didn't you say that in the first place?" Sounds like a really dangerous farm to me AND a really dumb kid; a smart dog comes in handy. Then she was the mom on "Lost in Space" and that was even tougher. Your husband will NEVER just stop and ask for directions, but now he's driving a space ship! Well, that's just great!

Olivia de Havilland, last surviving adult lead from "Gone With the Wind" is living in Paris. That's a really amazing thing there. Placing in context, the uproar about that film was Rhett Butler saying "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." Readers of this blog who are in their 20's might find this confusing, I know... "So, he was like naked and decapitating a zombie with a chainsaw when he said it?" Nope, he was fully clothed, no zombies. It's simple use of the word 'damn' that got people upset. That's how much times have changed, and a lady from that movie is still around.

Alan Young of "Mr. Ed" fame is still with us. He's 94 now I think, which is like 685 in horse years probably. I never thought that show was funny really. You've got a talking horse there man! Utilize the resource, think outside the box? Think Ed the interpreter. Take him to the racetrack, let him discuss with other equines who feels like running today.

Hmmm, who else identifiable is still around? Well how about Meinhardt Raabe? Yeah, he's still with us. OK, that name might not ring a bell, but bear with me here. "GWTW" is a masterful work of film making, and wraps neatly all the myths white Southerners would like to believe about a horrible, bloody era, but that's the extent of its influence on me. There was another movie came out in 1939 though that has worked itself into my DNA. I actually remember cutting short a fishing trip in the 1970's to get home because "Wizard of Oz" was coming on that evening. No, I'm not gay! For you readers in your 20's there was a time when one couldn't purchase a personal copy of a movie for viewing at their leisure. No, I'm not kidding! It was really like that once.

Meinhardt Raabe played a crucial role in "Wizard of Oz" as the munchkin coroner. Was he pronounced wicked witch of the East 'sincerely dead.' He's somewhere back East now (ironically enough) with loving caregivers and lots of fan mail.

So while some have gone on to the next step in the journey, others are still with us. And even those that have passed, we still bear the memories like a torch. Was the ancient Greeks who believed none are ever really dead, long as somebody remembers them. Get right down to it, life is a force, a force. And none can resist a life force of course. That is unless the force of course is whatever keeps you from stopping at that planet over there and asking for directions.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Facebooking up to it

Now y'see? There are very few ethnic groups that have their own film/TV musical signature. Relatively few, get right down to it. Got the Italians, got the Asians, and of course we have the American Indians. Dunh dunh dunh dun tuh dunh! This was so people eating their TV dinners in the 1960's watching "Wagon Train" could be alerted yep, the Salisbury Steak is delicious, and that pea/carrot mix is yummy, but the Injuns is coming! I'm undecided whether the French have a musical signature. There is that whole slow accordidan thing. I'm absolutely sure though, one can see the Eiffel Tower from every hotel room in Paris. How do I know that? TV told me so, and the TV never lies!

Rheingold Beer had an interesting marketing concept though. Being NY based, they sought to market the beverage (let's not call it cheap swill; it's more best value for one's inebriation dollar) with a series of ethnic based commercials. Went well until the jealousy monster was awakened. Yeah, one TV ad featured happy Germans in traditional clothing, yukking it up with Rheingold. But then the next ad? Polish folks doing the same. And it was all "What are those Pollocks doing drinking OUR beer?" so you can imagine the whole thing didn't go as expected. Now, an uncredited cultural "blessing" from Rheingold Beer? They did annual beauty contest, thus launching the career of Jinx Falkenburg who went on to found with her husband Tex (total piece of work that guy) the morning TV show format we're all familiar with now.

But on St. Patrick's Day, I must observe? The Irish have a film/TV musical signature, AND they have a breakfast cereal! That's fairly impressive there. Like when was last time you bought a box of 'Geronimo's Cheerios' after all? Nope never! But if you want to send your kids off to school with a belly full of industrial dyes and high fructose corn syrup, perhaps Lucky Charms is your best bet. That leprechaun is pretty stingy though, isn't he? I bet he's a Republican, just saying.

Uhmmm, what was I gonna type about? Oh yeah! Me now on Facebook! This is not going to work out well. I've lived many lives (some there was little honor in) and I will live many more, but some of this stuff meshes less well than a Rheingold beer ad campaign. In 2010 I'm a Christian, dedicated husband, serious engineer, friend to all and judge of nobody. I don't want to hear from a bunch of people who knew me 30 years ago!!! Well, those types are mostly probably either dead or in jail, right?

See? There's a silver lining to every dark cloud!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wacky science news roundup

Hmmm. Tom Hanks said something stupid about WW2, and then a bunch of people wrote about what he said, and now people are writing about what the people wrote about what Tom Hanks said. Just a lot of good clean fun, a big blind media snake swallowing its own tail... but 'taint journalism.

Well, I can get back to that, but first some real news.

A company's begun test marketing of the Glo-cap. It uses microchip tech to remind folk when to take their pills. Appointed times the cap lights up and goes 'beep.' If ignored, it gets louder. Ignored long enough and it can place robotic phone call or send e-mail to assigned designees. Yep, that's right; a pill bottle that can send
e-mail. That's visionary tech there. We'll see how it goes, I wish the Glo-cap folks the very best. Only downside I see is, sounds like the thing will require programming. Perhaps some of the intended customer base aren't good with technology. I foresee lots of pill bottles blinking '12:00' all over the place.

NASA has discovered shrimp and jellyfish in a seemingly enclosed environment under a portion of Antarctic ice sheet. That's interesting on many levels. Science has never yet found an ecosystem consisting entirely of predators (except Wall Street) so NASA is at a loss about what sustains the bottom of an icebound food chain. Potentially throwing all the Science books out of University windows, yeah that's big. But my favorite part of the story is the gushing, astonished delight at NASA. They're so giddy they can't even sense the irony in exclaiming they'd not actually expected to find anything much at all under the ice. Hmmmm, let me see if I got this right kids? You drilled a hole through 600 feet of ice and dropped a camera down there NOT expecting to find anything? You got many other projects like that going on?

Oh yeah, Tom Hanks! There's something newsworthy there too; not that you'd notice from reading the back & forth. Tom said US fought WW2 in the Pacific from an ethos of destroying a differently colored, differently worshipping people... and then he threw in a comparison to some current US military operations. Well, I don't think it's news that actors aren't historians. But it's interesting to note how riled up folks get when cultural foundations get disrespected, even by a person whose inaccurate historical opinions are irrelevant. This nation is rather young. Still remains the only nation founded on ideals. Context like that, you don't mess with WW2period. Whatever ridiculous sentiments you may harbor about the fourth and most recent time this young country faced a palpable threat to its existence, don't be spouting them on open mic night at MSNBC! Save it for the Hollywood cocktail parties and people who are just as historically ignorant as you are. And by the way, that "Forrest Gump" great performance there, among many others!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Walgreens miracle

I was just there to get a perscription filled for a relative, and boy is that Walgreens an amazing place! Their entire business model is counter-intuitive, yet undeniably successful. While Wal-Mart has reduced operational overhead and tightened the supply chain by consolidating to super-duper-cavernous-consumer torturamas, there's a Walgreens on every corner in the US it looks like.

Bodie, California is a ghost town in the absolute middle of nowhere, population zero. I bet they got a Walgreens.

All that overhead. Every 6000 sq. ft. store has to have a manager and a pharmacist and a utility bill. One would assume it'd be more profitable to follow the Wal-Mart model and run towards 24,000 sq. ft. stores... yet you can't argue with data. Walgreens has opted for easy access, quick in & out no hassle consumer experience, and it seems to be paying off.

Guess I'm an example of why. I wouldn't get caught dead in a Wal-Mart... well that's not entirely accurate. I once was caught being dead in a Wal-Mart. Oh heck, what am I thinking! That's not what I was caught doing in Wal-Mart! Dang ol' security cameras. But about Walgreens, I don't mind going there at all.

It's not just that though. Anything you want to test yourself for, they have a home test kit for sale at Walgreens. Yep, I'm not kidding.

Now, I'm not going to be judgemental here. After all, I'm a serious journalist. (Remove glasses, look concerned) but some of these test kits are to lend science to things rather dqricky. Oh excuse me! (Put glasses back on) 'dicey' is what I meant. Again, not being judgemental, but some of these test kits sold at Walgreens would only appeal to those with lifestyles generally under the "alternative" section in personal ads, that's all I'm saying.

Starts with blood pressure and blood sugar testing kits, moves rapidly forward from there. Pregnancy tests? Oh pish, many to choose from! They have digital ones now, for those who get confused trying to decipher color change. I suspect they may have talking ones even, that say in a mechanical vaguely feminine voice, "Your womb is ajar... your womb is ajar."

They have a home test kit for HIV on sale. And they have a test kit for drug use, which I find rather confusing. If you don't know whether you're on drugs or not, perhaps you should change dealers. Too much distrust in this country; not to editorialize or anything.

But I was there to pick up a bottle of drugs. The counter girl said, "Since this is narcotics, I need to see your driver's license" and I find that a higher level of customer service; seldom seen nowadays. Give somebody a bunch of codeine pills, make sure they have a car, in case they might want to go on a little Magical Mystery Tour once the meds kick in good.

If I hadn't a driver's license to show, I'm not sure what would've happened. She might've tried to sell me a Walgreens driver's license home test kit, cause I bet they sell those too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ABBA dabba doo

Well maybe I read it wrong, let me check? Nope, that's right they're putting ABBA in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. Well no, that's not right, but they're doing it anyway. Still no KISS? These cards are marked. I actually find KISS and ABBA equally annoying musically, but one has a much more legit claim to Rock 'n Roll than the other.

This whole Hall of Fame schtick anyway is fairly strange though. There's an HOF for darn near everything. Over in north Alabama there's a coon dog Hall of Fame, and out back a sort of Arlington cemetery for honored champions. So it's not the sort of thing I can easily get my brain around, this Hall of Fame stuff.

Hey! Maybe I have it all wrong after all! Perhaps in Cleveland there's a section for the enemies of Rock 'n Roll; yeah that makes sense. Scooch ABBA right in there, between Colonel Tom Parker and the guy who wrote that "Pina Colada" song. ABBA is going into the Hall of Shame section.

Shame's a funny thing too. We humans often lack it when it's needed, and have it when it's unwarranted. You take Tricia for example.

I was sitting there minding my own biz doing what I do best; gobbling up data to be spit out when required later. Parts of the human heart. Atriums, ventricles, vena cava, tricuspid atrioventricular valve, semilunar valve, bicuspid atrioventricular valve, blah blah blah.

"What are you studying? I'm in second semester of A&P (anatomy and physiology) and I'm only a sophmore in High School. Yeah, it's tough. Since I've been taking college classes it's the first time in my life I ever made an F, but regular school is tough too. The other kids pick on me and always have, because I'm smart. That's really tough; people don't understand."

I observed to Tricia that I do understand, since I was considered a gifted child. Explained to her it's nothing personal. Children socialize in selection towards conformity, that's just nature. Part of growing up is about accepting that one's differences can often be an advantage, while accepting there is an inevitable societal cost involved at times.

There was an awkward silence while Tricia looked at me, probably trying in vain to link the word "smart" with the person she saw sitting there trying to mind his own business. Didn't hold her up for long though...

"I'm not fat. Mom took me to the Doctor and he said I'm not fat; it's all muscle. I'm just a very strong person, that's all. It's my body type, nothing to be ashamed of in the least. I'm here because I'm studying to be a Nurse. You know why? Well I'll tell you. I don't mind telling anybody; I'm not ashamed about it. God came to me in a dream and told me to be a Nurse. He said I'm going to save lives, and I'll help lead them back to Christ. So that's what I'm going to do; what God told me. I'm not ashamed of it, not one bit."

I noted privately this was the third time the muscular teenager had used the word "shame" or a variant. I scratched my beard, closed my book, and told her thanks for telling me that, and there's no shame in being as God made us, with whatever advantages and challenges that presents us. The only rightful shame is not walking humbly before the Creator, and treating others thoughtlessly without remorse.

I told Tricia I'll be praying for her, but cautioned her every journey is hard and the map isn't what we expected when we started out. And then I excused myself to attend class. We left it at that, but I suspect we'll meet again.

Now ABBA, they've certainly earned a special spot in Rock 'n Roll Hall of Shame. Tricia though, doesn't belong in any Hall of Shame I know of. Get right down to it, she's way too young to have produced a body of work worthy of consideration.

Monday, March 8, 2010

These Holes we dig

Yep, a woman dug her way out of a European prison with a spoon. Dug something like a 70 ft tunnel. And by the time she escaped, only had 22 months left to serve. Hey, get off her back! Takes a long time to dig a tunnel with a spoon! Besides, you have to understand the lady. It's not just that she was bored; it's the way she thinks. Some folk have a perspective where lots of energy aimed at accomplishing something stupid makes a heck of a lot of sense to them.

No matter the circumstance, they'll stay true to their perspective. Changing pencils won't change your handwriting, y'know?

Sure she should've waited for an earthquake to knock down the prison. After all, we've an earthquake once a week now somewhere in the world. She should've been patient and waited her turn.

And why are we having all these earthquakes? Because we need to repent. Technology to the rescue!!! But it's not without controversy of course...

So far the Jews seem to be handling it best, but that's just due to the tenets of the faith really. On prayers being placed in cracks between Wailing Wall stones, there's nothing rigid about one having to be there physically, nor writing the prayer by hand. Therefore everybody's fine with faxed or e-mailed prayers. And for a nominal fee (a mere pittance really) that prayer will be placed at the Wailing Wall. And now they've linked up with Twitter! So if your prayer is 140 characters or less... but Hey! Please don't start your Twitter prayers with 'OMG' cause that's just tacky.

Coptic Christians in Egypt, not doing so well. Pope Shenuda III has put his foot down. No more cell phoning the priests with your confessions! For one thing he says, the Egyptian secret police could well be listening in. More than that, it degrades the solemnity of a sacrament and yanks the Priest from necessary otherworldly detachment. I sure do get that one. I mean you're trying to light candles, burn incense, stuff like that and it's all "hang on, I have to get this one." It must be very distracting. I've full faith in Pope Shendua's ability to nip this in the bud. Embattled faith minorities like the Coptics, there's always a tight chain of command.

On the other hand, France and the confession hotline, whole different ball of wax. Hmmm, wonder where that phrase comes from? Well candle makers would've been important people in medieval times so I guess... OK David, back on topic! Oh yeah! French Bishop disapproval isn't going to stop the confession hotline. Being a french Bishop means hearing "yeah, right, whatever" quite often.

So some innovative Catholics have started a confession hotline. Press one for advice on confession, press two to confess, press three to listen to some confessions. And it only costs fifty cents a minute, except in Euro money.

In fairness to the clever entrepreneurs I should point out: They say it's all about raising awareness among France's notoriously lapsed Catholics about need to go to confession. And also there's a disclaimer along lines of "if you're calling about a mortal sin you are strongly encouraged to contact your local spiritual care provider" everyone has to listen to (at fifty cents a minute) so it's not like they're being flippant on this thing, right?

But one needn't be a Catholic, nor even a Christian to foresee this is going to be a financial success but a spiritual failure. You're going to get a bunch of liars calling in there and it's going to sound like the letters section in Penthouse magazine. A whole lot of "Bless me Father for I have sinned. I never thought in my whole life anything like this would happen to me..." and that's lying and lying is sin.

Then there's going to be people calling up listening to the liars for a cheap thrill (fifty cents a minute) and they'll be envying sinful acts that never took place anyway and that's some kind of compound sin. Then there'll be lonely french guys clogging up the phone lines calling to ask for contact info on that girl "who giggled a lot and likes to dress up like an Angel" and that's sin. And of course the Egyptian secret police will be listening in, and they're Muslim so it's a false witness to those outside the faith and that's a really bad sin.

The whole confession hotline, while it'll likely be a commercial success for a while, just gets a lot more sin. And you know what more sin gets you? More earthquakes, that's what.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

All right then Mike

If that's what your real name is...

First, given the possibilities of random keyword searches, I'm not surprised you happened on my blog.
Second, I read your e-mail carefully. I think your heart is in the right place.
Third, I think your head is in the right place too... if you wish to do your own prostate exams.

I was merely predicting that the movie "Blind Side" will win an Oscar. It's a film; has nothing to do with sightless people, not in the least. Got nothing against blind people. I'll never refer to them as "visually impaired" because it sounds sissy, and rather demeaning to the affected adults.

I know way more about blind people than you do anyway.

Back in the 1940's a legally blind distant cousin of mine did time in the Oklahoma Sate prison for his involvement in a bank robbery. He was the getaway driver, no kidding. I'll never know for sure how a gang of criminal masterminds like that got caught, but privately I think the seeing eye dog ratted them out.

And in post Civil War times, US mint issued a 5 cent coin, about the same size as the 5 dollar coin. They got the five on there all right, but missed the whole dollar/cent distinction. What happened for a while was a lively trade in duping merchants and bartenders. When the gang was caught, the legman avoided time by being blind. His successful defense was, "How did I know I was cheating people?" Some scholars who study phrase origins think this is where "robbed 'em blind" got started as American jargon.

Was a time in this country when the most widely recognized face was that of a blind girl, Laura Bridgman. She was the forerunner of Helen Keller by about three generations. Cute little deaf/blind girl, grew up to be a woman, novelty wore off. Sad story really; people used her and let her down.

Reason one used to see Braille in the oddest places, like ATM's for example, but not so much anymore? Was once a law maintaining that silliness, since lapsed. That because there are more Americans who can speak fluent Apache than can read Braille. Tech has lept far ahead of Braille, which was once cutting edge tech, but now is an anachronism.

Leading cause of blindness in 2010? Running with scissors. Naw, just joshing about that! Lack of about $2 worth of eyedrops really. Combination of vitamin deficiency and endemic conjunctivitis strains in the affected areas. For that, some six million humans are blind. Like Oklahoma bank robber getaway driver blind, for life.

So I know a little bit about blindness. Enough not to wallow in some kind of namby pamby nonsense about PC nomenclature. I still say that Sandra Bullock movie, "The Blind Side" will win at least one Oscar. I know politics. Excuuuusssse ME! Should've called it "The Visually Impaired Side."

And the Oscars

People ask me about American cinema all the time. Usually these folks are pushing shopping carts filled with naked decapitated dolls, hub caps and stray shoes picked from roadsides, and oh yeah, lots of aluminum cans. But they ask me about movies, so that makes me an expert!

I've never watched more than two minutes of an awards show or beauty contest in my adult life. Don't accept the legitimacy of either really, but that's just me. Still, I know some stuff on the Oscars.

First Oscar winning film was "Wings" which featured first ever movie male to male kiss. Naw it wasn't homosexual; the cat was dying. It's a very moving scene. All about WWI fighter pilots and a love triangle. Clara Bow was the hypoteneuse in that triangle. Guess I've never decided which female film star had saddest life. But among those who had really sad lives, Clara Bow was hands down the prettiest.

I'm not sure really when the Oscars started favoring stupid, unpopular movies. GWTW took home LOTS of little statues. "Ben Hur" won 11 Academy awards. But somewhere along the line they started giving little statues to horrible films. Why didn't "Jaws" win an Oscar? That movie is amazing.

So now we get to what is the absolutely worst thing you can do if you want an Oscar... behave like you want an Oscar. Yep, incongruous as it may seem. This "Hurt Locker" flick is latest example of cardinal sin.

In 1960 Chill Wills was up for a best supporting actor statue. He went after it like a wanton, narcissistic whore, which of course most Hollywood types are, but they don't like it when you drop the mask. Now Chill Wills was the voice of Francis the talking mule in a series of films, but that's not what the nomination was for. Also, Clint Eastwood's first screen role was in "Francis joins the Navy" but that's not what I'm talking about.

So this "Hurt Locker" producer sent out hundreds of e-mails trying to call in past favors for votes. In response, he's been barred from attending the awards ceremony. Dang! I thought they'd let cannibals attend! That's how bad this guy is seen by his tribe.

Actually, I'm certain "Blind Side" wins one Oscar, and I suspect two. "Hurt Locker" well? It portrays US soldiers as walking time bombs, so it'll win something, right? Nobody but movie critics and UCLA film students have seen it probably, but it's disrespective of soldiers just trying to get home alive, so it'll win something.

But will be done in a way that shames the wanton narcissistic whorish "Hurt Locker" producer, you can count on that. And there is a fork in the road. Clara never got the respect she deserved as an actress. She was considered trash by the Hollywood crowd. Yep, guess by most standards she was. I'd walk on Catherine Zeta Jones and Demi Moore to hug Clara Bow. The things she went through as a child. And this "Hurt Locker" thing, so stupid. Out there, one has to behave like they don't want what they want.

Oscars were once given to people who made rousing, successful films, by people who loved film. Now, there's not many in Hollywood who love film. Mostly, they love being people who make films. It's a crucial distinction.

I love Clara Bow. I love Clara Bow. I love Clara Bow. Not because she was gloriously beautiful (which she was) but for her burdens, and the desire to find acceptance, feel safe somewhere.

Fun 101 and control

Body surfing (on purpose) down a flight of stairs, probably not the best idea I've had lately. I vastly under-estimated the coefficient of friction on carpeted stairways for one thing.

When and if I try that again (likely more when than if actually) perhaps I could put down plastic sheeting, strip down to my underwear and cover myself with canola oil.

Yep, that would handle the friction coefficient problem. Stopping? Naw, trust me? When body surfing down a flight of stairs you can stop on a dime. You just don't get to control where the "dime" is, that's all.

I'm evolving to a grudging co-existence with my inability to control some things, but it's always at best going to be a kind of Cuban Missle crisis standoff type relationship. My lack of posterior padding for example. So far, that's the worst thing I've identified about stairway body surfing. For the next week or so, I'll be sitting down really really slowly. Strangers think I've really bad hemorrhoids probably.

This is the first thing everybody needs to know about Fun 101. Worrying a lot about what strangers will think can be a serious detriment to having fun. Oddly, for some reason that's never been a problem for me. What I think about is control.

That's why I'll never be a great musician. Oh yeah, once I had above average technique. But technique is great in surgery or engineering; art, not so good. The greatest artists bond with their medium in some mystical way and let it take them somewhere. I could never do that! I don't want to be taken anywhere unless I know exactly where we're going and when will I be back, cause "Dr. G. Medical Examiner" comes on tonight, and I dig that show!

When I take a guitar in my hands, I've a sound outcome in mind and I wish to control the instrument. I have a sense that Franz Liszt or Stevie Ray Vaughn weren't like that. They were able to have reveries with their art.

Best I can hope for is to successfully wrestle with my instrument. The great ones dance with their instruments. I should sit down and think about that, sometime very soon. I will sit down really, really slowly.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lay Down Sally

It is actually a neglected masterwork of pop songs. Not the best tune on 'Slowhand' but that LP is really a towering Everest. The very worst thing on 'Slowhand' is better than most everything else on the airwaves back then. Worst tune is of course "Cocaine" and my generation is rightly called to account for the 70's but take the nuance?

Was a crazy time and personal excess was the cool beans. Even "Cocaine" has its merits. It's a clunky simple riff; a stadium anthem. And it sure was a crowd pleaser in the era.

The height of Clapton's personal creativity was 'Slowhand' and '461 Ocean Blvd' before it. Good stuff there. Though I was bit of a snob in my wayward youth, I've long been a supporter of straight out pop songs. They're really hard to write. Frampton's one bit in the spotlight, amazing work. Mikey Jackson's 'Thriller' too, just beautiful in its seeming simplicity, hiding a staggering complexity.

And that of course brings me logically to the topic of fish rains in Australia. Yep, it's been raining fish in Australia lately. Perch to be exact. Delicious, but lots of bones.

Very strange things have been falling from the sky throughout recorded human history. In the 19th century, a block of ice fell from a clear blue sky in Alabama. Had a turtle inside. The ice hunk melted, turtle woke up and crawled away.

Journalism was rife with incorrect reporting and sensationalism back then (not like now in these enlightened times) so I'll just strike off frozen turtles.

Was a big deal back in early 1800's where some locals insisted they'd seen fish fall from the sky. Scientists of the time dismissed the claims. "Fishmongers headed home from market day dumped unsold wares. Some rustics came along and jumped to conclusions." Yeah, they said that, in print. That's a kind of quicksand always lurking for indocrinated intellectuals. If honest people with their own eyes saw something that doesn't fit your assumptions... well it didn't happen.

Mind you, at this same time Science didn't believe in meteorites. I've read their arguments, quite persuasive myopic drivel. "Look up in the sky. Do you see rocks up there?" Yeah, well now we know better, and I own a few meteorites.

And now it's undeniable (has been by real scientists for decades) sometimes fish fall from the sky. Oh, also chestnuts, shrimp, frogs, tree leaves, at times from a clear sky. Also red rain.

There's an engineering saying. Theory follows observation. Once fish rains were dismissed as the ravings of ignorant rustics. Now we have video and it can't be denied any longer.

Science explanations are interesting. A freak tornadic wind scoops up fish from a pond, takes them maybe 50,000 feet in the air and then rains them down, where they hit the ground still alive. Nope, I don't see any rocks up in the sky either.

Myself, I'd more respect a "We got NO freaking clue here!" than witch doctor mumblings. It happens. Sometimes it rains curious objects and organisms. This world is like a really catchy pop song.

At times, it's enough just to listen and smile.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dead peoples' things

Now that is an interesting headline! "County Board plans sewer hike." Heck, anybody can walk in the woods; there's something distinctive about a sewer hike.

Walking among Ms. Carini's things felt distinctive too. Player piano in the downstairs hall, with all the rolls in a big box. One can assume there'd been times when music and laughter filled the big house.

And it is a big house. Three stories, at least 4500 sq. feet of floor space. Lots of cracked plaster up there in the 20 foot ceilings. Look closer, some serious water damage. Where additions join the original structure, that's always the trouble spots in these old homes. House was built before electrification and indoor plumbing; I kept trying to get a sense of the original floor plan, but it's tough.

I usually do pretty good with that sort of thing, but I was distracted. I was distracted 'cause I was in Ms. Carini's house. Yeah, know what the funniest thing is? Walk up to an airport restroom stall, jiggle the handle and you almost always get "Somebody's in here." Oh sure, statistically possible to run up on a randy Senator and get a "Hellloooo Sailor!" but mostly it's "Somebody's in here."

I like that. Something poetic about declarative statements on one's personhood most likely coming when their pants are at ankle position. Well walking among Ms. Carini's things I kept feeling, "Somebody was in here" and it interfered with my legendary cold analytical skills.

Just recent as Christmas an old lady lived here with decades and decades of memories. Upstairs there's a wardrobe with motheaten WW2 uniforms. I imagine many letters were exchanged in those days, many prayers offered. I went through her book collection. Historical romance tripe; I think she stopped reading in the late 1950's.

Trying to get a sense of Ms. Carini was very tough. People came by to check on her, she probably watched TV. Her last years were likely confined to a few downstairs rooms. There were no family photos for sale so I presume there's extended family out there.

Lady who sold me the table (never take your wife to an estate sale) is almost as enigmatic as Ms. Carini. I don't know if she's a trust fund baby or what, but she had an obvious poise about her. At some point she contacted Ms. Carini somehow, and bought house and contents, years in advance of the old girl's passing. Very interesting. Perhaps the money came in handy.

But Ms. Carini, living in that big house where the player piano music still echoed, and brother was overseas fighting the Japs and visitors after Daddy passed was all clear as daylight for her, all at the same time.

I wonder what that was like, being the last living repository of so many memories. I wonder what she liked for breakfast, what she watched on TV, what she enjoyed talking about. Never will know, and I just despise the thought there's stuff I can't ever know.

Walking in her house is the closest I can ever get though. The things, I just don't get a sense that she had much devotion to them really. They were kept as fetishes of the life moments associated with them.

I came home with her bed table (never take your wife to an estate sale, I can't stress that too much) and it's a gaudy, pretty little six-sided thing sat upstairs next to where she slept before the stairs got dangerous and exhausting. Hauling it outside, well that's very likely first time that table's left that room since FDR was in the White House.

That table probably heard her prayers for brother overseas, and a lamp sat on it illuminating her reading of historical romance tripe novels. That table heard her weep when her brother was senselessly murdered in 1985.

So now the table's going to live with me, and the cast of colorful characters God in His/Its wisdom (sense of humor) has ordained I be the somewhat sane center of.

Eh, we'll give the table a good home. It really is an interesting little thing to look at. If my theory that inanimate objects can soak up emotional energy is correct, there's player piano music and the sound of laughter stuck in that old table.

So, what else do I have? Oh yeah! NEVER NEVER take your wife to an estate sale!