Miscellaneous Musings & Opinions - 2015
More recent 'Musings' postings can be found here.
Goodbye, James Bond: Jack Baruth has said it better than I ever could. He just watched 'Spectre' and called it a "dismal, dour, and preternaturally self-absorbed film."
Daniel Craig has publicly stated that he would rather "slash his wrists" than play James Bond again, which means that Spectre is likely his final film as 007. That's fine with Jack and me, too.
Jack B. observed that "this long, boring movie isn't a James Bond film. 'Dr. No' was a James Bond film. 'Moonraker' was a James Bond film. Even the absolutely terrible 'The World Is Not Enough' was a James Bond film. But 'Spectre' is not. Instead, like its predecessors 'Quantum of Solace' and 'Skyfall', it's a film about James Bond. The distinction is important, both for the future of the 007 franchise and for our understanding of why action movies have fundamentally and perhaps irreversibly changed for the worse in the past decade."
Bond movies used to be fun. The cars, the clothes, the girls were all interesting and exotic in an aspirational British way. There were references to obscure games of chance, wines, cocktails, tailoring - all very sophisticated. Looking them up later was a form of education for many Bond fans who learned what Chemin-de-fer actually was and how it was played. One could experiment to find out if you could really taste the difference between shaken and stirred. The films were a both an entertaining spy story and travelogue, featuring many picturesque clips of exotic lands. (It was a bad sign when Daniel Craig's Bond ended up touring a very non-picturesque Haiti in 'Quantum of Solace'.)
|A brown and white 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible was briefly driven by James Bond (Pierce Brosnan - I considered him one of the better Bonds) during his 2002 visit to Cuba in 'Die Another Day'. The figure in this 1:43 scale model car is a very generic version of Mr. Brosnan.
I think of James Bond as polished and sophisticated - Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore and Sean Connery come to mind. Bond was always dressed as if he had a personal valet - a midget in a suitcase, perhaps. No more. Daniel Craig dresses like a thug. He seems to comb his hair with a fork. Or a pair of small rocks. Craig's Bond is intense and rough-hewn with a beater face and ice-blue eyes. I always assumed that MI-6 taught proper attire and grooming at Secret Agent School, not afterwards like some kind of post-grad correspondence course.
Mr. Baruth continued, "What makes this a despicable film rather than a merely poor one, however, is the fealty it swears to two particularly loathsome modern ideas. The first one: The only source of evil in the world is old white men in the established power structure. To be fair, it's a rare Bond movie that has a nonwhite villain; the last one to have an arch-enemy who managed to remain ethnic the whole way through was 1989's License To Kill. But this creeping notion that the only true bad guys in this world are created by Western democracies is infantile and ridiculous. It's a story that is hugely comforting for progressive extremists and the people who swallow the progressive media: all the evil in the world is right here and we can fix it! But it's not worthy of consideration by functioning adults.
The fact of the matter is that Western democracy is the shining light by which everything we value exists, from women's rights to modern medicine to freedom of assembly. Every time we encourage young people to watch movies that deliberately undermine that truth, we are assisting in the destruction of our society and a return to the Dark Ages."
Incidentally, critic Rex Reed didn't like 'Spectre' either, calling it tedious. "With none of Sean Connery's humorous dialogue or Roger Moore's self-amused winks at the camera, (Daniel Craig) remains poker faced from start to finish, his beefcake days emerging from the surf in an X-rated black Speedo gone with the rest of the fun. Gone, too, is his bad-boy image, leaving Daniel Craig looking as bored in the digital age as all of the other technology nerds you see everywhere these days, stupidly thumbing their devices in the direction of oblivion."
Reed wrote, "Judi Dench's M is dead, robbing the series of badly-needed emotional brio and Ralph Fiennes is a poor replacement. Ben Whishaw is wasted as the computer-savvy Q. Miss Moneypenny is now a pretty office worker (Naomie Harris) who resists the 007 charm without leaving her desk. The frisky Bond ladies no longer disrobe, leaving luscious Monica Bellucci and brainy Lea Seydoux reduced to the status of walk-ons."
The Bond franchise has had a good run of 50-plus years. And, as a long-time fan, I've enjoyed it, anxiously awaiting the release of each new film. Until now. Maybe it's time for it to end. (posted 11/16/15, permalink)
It's Not A Good Time To Be a Jew: Curt Schilling - former American Major League Baseball pitcher, who helped lead the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series in 1993 and who is a current ESPN baseball color analyst - recently tweeted, "It's said that only 510% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. How’d that go?"
David Cole wrote, "Professor Peter Merkl's landmark study 'Political Violence Under the Swastika: 581 Early Nazis' used contemporaneous biographical studies and personal documents to profile five hundred and eighty-one early, founding members of the Nazi Party (the hardcore Nazis who shaped the party and brought it to power). Merkl provided statistical analysis of the founding Nazis’ political, societal, and religious views: 33.3% of these Nazi Party members showed no interest in anti-Semitism. 14.3% expressed "mild verbal clichés" regarding Jews. 19.1% displayed "moderate" disdain for Jewish cultural influence in Germany. But only 12.9% advocated “violent countermeasures” against Jews.
If you take Merki's findings and measure them against the Pew survey results, you're left with a truly startling conclusion: There are more Muslims in today's world who support violence in the name of defending Islam than there were founding members of the Nazi Party who supported violence against Jews.
The average Rahman-in-the-street is more likely, today, to think you should die for being an infidel than the average veteran Nazi Party member, back in the '30s, was likely to think a Jew should die for being a Jew. That's stunning, and very, very ominous."
A scary thought: Remember, when the Islamists are done with the Jews - especially those nuke-equipped, hate-filled Iranians that live practically next-door to Israel - all of us other Satans are next in line.
The Jews are our canaries in the coal mine. Long may they sing and live. (posted 9/15/15, permalink)
Don't Forget That Mt. Rockmore Still Belongs To The Flintstones: The GMC Denali SUV is a metaphor for everything that's gone wrong with America today, wrote Jack Baruth - brilliantly, I think.
"The Denali, therefore, was acceptable, even desirable, "one-downmanship" from the S-Class or Siebener in your neighbors' garages. It was "professional grade," and it could easily be used for an expedition that your ninety-hour work-week at Goldman Sachs or Intel would never permit. Once the truly wealthy bought in to the Denali ideal, the upper middle class dutifully lined up behind them. What it means when suburban attorneys shoulder a $1,700-per-month car payment they can ill afford, all in the service of pretending to be Boston Brahmin in their slummin' truck, is an exercise I leave up to the reader."
Did the Professional Grade make all the Chevy trucks made off the same platform some kind of Amateur Grade? Or Sucker's Grade?
"That's what Denali is: the territory ahead that we will never reach. Instead, we'll stay at the office for another evening of forcible civilization and Starbucks. It's all the better for being essentially useless and inhospitable, because that helps it remain just an idea and not a place you'd use your NetJets share to visit on a long weekend.
And that's what America has become in 2015. You live in offices and put the names of things you'll never understand on the side of trucks you don't need, can't afford, and can't even change the oil on yourself. Our president is so helpless in the face of the economy and the multinationals and the media that he resorts to apologizing to people he's never harmed in hopes that someone will grant him absolution for crimes he didn't commit."
Every time I see Obama on one of his Grand Excursions, the song 'Let's Hear It For The Rainbow Tour' from 'Evita' runs through my head. This time, he decided to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali. Because ... I dunno .. Eskimos or something. He also looked at a receding glacier and shook his head. Global warming. Hey, it's summer - glaciers recede in summer, dummy.
Jack lamented that the "daughters of your friends drive Jeeps to party schools and the daughters of the people who grow your food drive MRAPs over landmines. There are no jobs left and the ones that are available are all at Amazon, and that's a hellhole. Every day you're beaten over the head about your responsibility for the inevitable climate change but when you fly anywhere it's in the middle seat of a Southwest 737, not the teak-appointed cabin of a G-Five. You don't believe you can change anything and if you thought you could you'd be afraid to try."
And what do Eskimos have to be so pissed off about anyway? We named a pie after them, for Pete's sake.
They get Native People government handouts. And a share of Alaska's oil drilling money. And their 'traditions' include clubbing baby seals and killing whales - acts which cause lefties to jump around in anger in their Birkenstocks. Not that you can jump very well in Birkenstocks. That's why the NBA doesn't endorse them. And you can bet that some liberal group is ready to blame the Inuits for killing off unicorns, too. Wooly unicorns, probably.
And then there's the cute little Inuit on the Clicquot Club sparkling soda water bottle. When I was growing up, it was the closest thing to bottled water at our house. It was not for casual thirst-quenching; the exotic clear liquid was employed strictly as a mixer for alcoholic beverages whenever we had 'company'. Eskimos were exotic and special to us in those days of living in a row home in Northeast Philadelphia.
Jack concluded, "No wonder, then, that the mountain is being renamed. We don't deserve a Mount McKinley. McKinley was a winner. He protected American jobs and saved the economy and won a war and picked up Hawaii while he was at it. And when he died, the man he agreed to take as vice-president did a pretty decent job, too. We couldn't use a guy like that nowadays; wouldn't know what to do with him. So its perfectly reasonable to change Mount McKinley back to Mount Denali."
And let The Flintstones keep Mt. Rockmore. Including Dino. (posted 9/3/15, permalink)
Make Some Popcorn and Watch 'Network': It's the best way to put some context into the political season.
Chris Christie was on Fox News Sunday yesterday. I enjoyed his interview and believe he's the Real Deal. But his star was ascendant in the 2012 elections and, like Rick Perry's, is now old, tarnished and has fallen to low single digits in the polls. His time in the limelight seems to be over. Too bad, Christie comes across as logical, assertive and properly pugnacious. And he says that Hillary should be indicted - right now.
Nobody seems to like Hillary and, one of the reasons is her attitude, which seems to vacillate between "It's my turn, dammit" and "You owe me." This kind of attitude never works in politics. Bob Dole showed some of that attitude - and lost. Ditto John McCain. Ditto Al Gore. And looks like 'ol Jeb Bush is getting his "It's my turn, dammit" comeuppance as well.
Hillary's tanking in the polls big time and no one seems to be enjoying it more than columnist Howie Carr. He wrote, "Hillary Clinton has become Richard Nixon. Consider the top three words voters used to describe her in a new poll this week: "Liar … dishonest … untrustworthy." Also in the top 12: "crook … untruthful … criminal … deceitful." Crook - as in "I am not a crook," a quintessential Nixon quote." Even the most-hardened liberals are giving up on that lying old bag and are so despondent that they're hanging themselves in the nearest gender-neutral bathroom.
Then there's the so-called Republicans: In 2010 elections, they begged for control of the House. "We'll make things better." We elected the Republicans; voted them in with a clear majority of 245 Representatives. Lead by John (aka: The Orange Perry Como) Boehner, nothing got done. And, in retrospect, anyone who would believe Boehner's shallow promises is tethered to reality by a badly-frayed strand of dental floss.
In 2014, the Republicans asked us to give them control of the Senate. "That's what we need to fix everything - give us the Whole Megillah," they asked. And we the voters dutifully did so; Republicans got a clear majority 54 to 44. What's Mitch McConnell - the man who talks like he's got marbles in his mouth - done since then? Nada. Or, at best, put a pinkie Band-Aid on a massive sucking chest wound. Americans now feel pissed and betrayed. And rightly so.
Along comes Donald Trump in all his brashness - a man with enough fuck-you money that he doesn't have to be nice to lobbyists - a big selling point with unhappy voters, who feel that their representatives are being co-opted by influence peddling. The Donald is a politician not for sale, a phenomenon seen less often than a Higgs boson particle.
I enjoy watching the various Beltway television pundits go into various states of apoplexy, when the subject of Trump is brought up - although George Will has that Wasp nonchalant snark down so well that it would be impossible to tell if his brain is hemorrhaging beneath his unperturbed, world-weary face. He hasn't smiled since Keebler quit making Opera Cremes - his favorite white cookie. These Washington Insiders do not understand the Trump phenomenon.
The Donald even gives kiddie rides on his Trump-branded helicopter, while - across the field - frightening Men-in-Black keep children away from the Hillary Bus, which has the joyless air of a prison transporter about it. How appropriate.
Auto writer and sometime scribe of other interesting things, Jack Baruth has added his two cents: "President Trump. Doesn't seem so ridiculous now, does it? Well, that's what happens when you have a one-party system masquerading as a two-party system … and someone decides to crash the party.
I am personally enjoying the almighty hell out of every moment in the Trump campaign, primarily because The Donald is doing such a brilliant job of exposing our country's political process for the extremely macabre joke it is. We haven't had any genuine difference of political opinion among America's leadership since George H.W. Bush was elected. And there's no meaningful difference between Democrat and Republican agendas in the twenty-first century.
Wait? You disagree? You think that anything substantive separates the jackass and the elephant? You're wrong."
"The other guy is Trump. And since the Republicans are massively disorganized compared to the Democrats, there's no effective machine to shut him down. They tried to knock him down during the debate, without success. Now he's speaking directly to the American public, and the results are spectacular. The best part about the Trump phenomenon is his immunity to media crucifixion.
Trump says that Obama is a massive coward who has sabotaged America's image in the world and the public-policy analyst for the Washington Post is WOW JUST WOW but the three-tour veteran of Afghanistan, sitting in his trailer and counting out his medication before he leaves for his shift at Wal-Mart, knows in his bones that Trump is correct.
The press says that Trump is RACIST! Yet Trump is catching Hillary among non-white voters. Turns out that not all black and Hispanic people want to be told about racism by white talking heads on TV. Amazing!
The final anti-Trump defense the media has, their Death Star, is to portray him as a buffoon, an idiot, a dilettante, a hobbyist. But Americans have watched Trump on TV more than they've watched any Clinton ever born. They know him. They like him. And he's saying things that nobody else will say about jobs and trade and fairness."
Indeed. Thank you, Jack. And now, let's close with Howard Beale, explaining his announced on-air suicide: "I just ran out of bullshit. Am I still on the air? I really don't know any other way to say it other than I just ran out of bullshit. Bullshit is all the reasons we give for living. ... I don't have anything going for me. I haven't got any kids. And I was married for thirty-three years of shrill, shrieking fraud. So I don't have any bullshit left. I just ran out of it, you see."
Maybe Donald Trump can stop the overwhelming political bullshit which pervades this country and give Howard Beale a reason to live. (posted 9/1/15, permalink)
Band Of Brothers ... and Sisters: Jimmy Carter has cancer. Last week, Carter had surgery at Emory University Hospital to remove a small mass in his liver. It was found that cancer has spread from his liver. "Recent liver surgery revealed that I have cancer that now is in other parts of my body," the 90-year-old former president said. The statement indicates that the 39th president's cancer is widespread but not where it originated, or even whether that is known at this point. The liver is often a place where cancer spreads and less commonly is the primary source of it.
I disagreed with almost every Jimmy Carter policy during his presidency. As an ex-president, he has been a foreign policy meddler who sticks his nose where it doesn't belong, sometimes to the detriment of the United States.
None of that matters now. Jimmy is in a fight for his life. Cancer is insidious, sneaky, voracious in appetite and deadly. Too many good people have died from it ... my mom, my godparents - Aunt Ceil and Uncle Tom - and other relatives. And friends.
The first time I ever carried a casket was when my friend and classmate, Bill Snyder, died at age 9 after a brutal encounter with brain cancer.
I still remember loading his small white coffin into a white 1950 Henney Packard hearse on a cold winter day some 63 years ago.
I too have cancer. I'm fighting. Every day ... (more >>>)
Planet Musings: In 2006, I felt bad for Pluto when know-it-all scientists kicked it off the 'official' list of planets. Since Pluto's planetary demise, I've heard a lot of rumors. People said that, when you come right down to it, Pluto was nothing but a dirtball. (Sort of an orbiting Paris Hilton, but without the neon 'Open' sign worn below the navel.) And Pluto wouldn't stay in orbit, staggering around the solar system like a drunken Kennedy.
Now, these brainy scientists are eating their words. Pluto has become a big deal now because of all those images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. It's getting more ink than the Kardashians. And it didn't need a sex tape or sex change to get there. Just being reclassified as a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of bodies beyond Neptune was good enough.
Recent images of Pluto reveal unexplained layers of haze that are several times higher than scientists had predicted. Another close-up image shows a sheet of ice, similar to huge glaciers on Earth, that may still be moving. And Pluto has peculiar icy plains that are around 100 million years old. And moons. Every planet worth its salt has one or more. Pluto has five.
So, who will astronomers pick on now? Planet-wise, Neptune's a candidate but always seems to have had a better publicist. Nevertheless, Neptune, you'd better shape up. You may be the next target of fickle astronomers.
Uranus, an unfortunately-named planet, will probably stay, too. I mean, if we demote that one, over 800 sophomoric jokes will be lost. Humor will disappear almost entirely from the astronomy section of middle school science classes, leaving students with only 'asteroid' to snicker at.
I still chuckle when I recall Dan Rather pronouncing its name as Urine-us. Dan, you lunatic wacko - what were you thinking? That it was some kind of piss planet? I've noticed that since Dan's left the network, the CBS eye seems to water less. And has lost most of that blinky tic thing.
My favorite planet is still Jupiter. I can identify with it. Jupiter also has that red spot that won't go away and occasionally has a flare up. Personally, I've found Cortisone-10 cream to be helpful. I use it only because they won't sell me Cortisone-15. You know they have it. They keep it locked up in a subterranean vault, right next to the 100,000 mile tires. And the real Fish carburetor. (posted 8/14/15, permalink)
Separated At Birth? Are Beetle Bailey's Private Zero and Hägar the Horrible's Lucky Eddie the same person? Or just kindred spirits?
Private Zero is the buck-toothed, naïve farm boy who takes commands literally, and misunderstands practically everything.
Lucky Eddie is Hägar's naïve first mate, sometime best friend and lieutenant in Viking raids. (posted 8/12/15, permalink)
Happy Birthday ... to me. I turned 72 years of age today (August 5, 2015).
Unfortunately, one of my birthday presents will be a dose of chemo and radiation. After six months of chemotherapy last year, my cancer has returned. I am now undergoing a six-week, daily regimen of chemotherapy and radiation in an attempt to ... (more >>>)
What Do Auschwitz, Negro Lynchings and Planned Parenthood Have In Common? Committing murder in the name of an abhorrent and evil ideology.
Fox News Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume "laid bare the essentially brutal nature of abortion." His commanding denouncement of the industry followed the recent release of "stomach-turning" Planned Parenthood videos, which showed officials coolly discussing the traffic of fetal body parts while eating lunch.
"Those revelations … have parted the veil of antiseptic tidiness behind which the abortion industry has for so long operated," Hume declared. "Let's be blunt," he continued. "Abortion involves the extraction and killing of a human life, which within a couple of weeks of pregnancy has a beating heart. Five weeks in, its hands and legs begin to grow ... It is these tiny creatures and too often ones that are far more developed that are pulled from a mother's womb and crushed with forceps, oh, but oh so carefully, lest body parts which could later be sold are preserved."
"This gruesome procedure shows the extent to which we, as a people, have been anesthetized by the estimated 55 million - 55 million! - abortions performed since the Supreme Court discovered a constitutional right to that procedure 42 years ago."
Hume concluded: "Will we as a nation not someday come to look upon that decision and what it has done to us, not to mention the 55 million, with horror and regret? One can only hope we will."
When Roe-v-Wade became law, abortion was promoted as an answer to unfortunate and tragic circumstances (rape, mother's life jeopardized, pregnant, severely-retarded women and the like). And, the aborted tissue was presented as nothing more than a group of cells - almost like one's appendix. But legalized abortion quickly became a form of birth control for the lazy and the careless. Later, "partial birth abortions" took the spotlight. This barbarous practice appalled many moderates who were formerly pro-abortion.
Meanwhile, scientific advances have made many early-term fetuses viable. Medical technology has vastly improved since 1973 and fetuses can now survive as early as 20 weeks - less than five months into the pregnancy.
The use of ultrasound has shown the public that very young and tiny fetuses look like babies, not blobs of protoplasm. The new queasiness over abortion is not simply due to increased efforts by the pro-life movement. Rather, it is because ordinary people now realize that abortion has run amok and the "tissue samples" being destroyed are, in actuality, children. Or near-children. (posted 7/27/15, permalink)
Where Did The Money Go? When a devastating earthquake leveled Haiti in 2010, millions of people donated to the American Red Cross. The charity raised almost half a billion dollars. It was one of its most successful fundraising efforts ever.
"The American Red Cross vowed to help Haitians rebuild, but after five years the Red Cross' legacy in Haiti is not new roads, or schools, or hundreds of new homes. It's difficult to know where all the money went."
National Public Radio and ProPublica went in search of the nearly $500 million and found a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success, according to a review of hundreds of pages of the charity's internal documents and e-mails, as well as interviews with a dozen current and former officials. "The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people, but the number of permanent homes the charity has built is six."
Here's a partial explanation: "First the Red Cross took a customary administrative cut, then the charities that received the money took their own fees. And then, according to the Red Cross' records, the charity took out an additional amount to pay for what it calls the "program costs incurred in managing" these third-party projects."
The Red Cross has probably mismanaged more money than any major charity in America. Growing up, it was always a thrill around the Sherlock household when the Red Cross came to the door begging for money. My dad used to lie in wait for them so he could give them a very large piece of his mind. He had numerous bad experiences with the Red Cross as a sailor in World War II. One of the smaller issues was that they used to charge servicemen ten cents for a donut - that's about three bucks apiece in today's money. And then tell the people at home that everything was free for servicemen (and servicewomen). Three bucks for a donut?! They're even worse than Starbucks.
As for Haiti, I fear that it is a lost cause. Haiti is probably the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has a GDP per capita of less than $800. Most Haitians live on less than $2 per day. It has almost no infrastructure. Most improvements to the island were made by the U.S. when it occupied the country from 1915-34.
The neighboring Dominican Republic - sharing the same island as Haiti - will never win an award for How to Run a Country but its per capita GDP is about 12 times as great as Haiti. It has functioning cities and a working infrastructure. It exports agricultural goods, is well-known for its cigars and has a healthy banking system.
The Dominican Republic has become one of the Caribbean's largest tourist destinations; the country's year-round golf courses are among the top attractions. But tour ships never dock next door in Port-au-Prince.
Haiti has lost its infrastructure, its wealth, its agriculture and its best people. No one knows how to 'fix' this dysfunctional country and now its chronic illnesses are exacerbated by this latest injury. If Haiti were a person, it would be lying in a hospice awaiting its last breath. Sad. (posted 6/23/15, permalink)
The Meaning Of Fatherhood: Father's Day was inaugurated in the United States in the early 20th Century to complement Mother's Day. It is now celebrated throughout most of the world.
On a personal level, it begins when your child-to-be is still a lightly-formed, growing piece of protoplasm. It's a feeling of anxiousness, protectiveness and fondness, which quickly grows into love. Until they become parents, your children - regardless of their age - cannot understand the phrase "I loved you before you were born."
But it is as true as it is mysterious ... (more >>>)
Anniversary: My wife and I have now been married for 49 years.
That's a very long time for her to put up with my antics and foibles and I thank her profusely for her patience and love. Especially since she spent most of 2014 and part of 2015 being my nurse and caregiver. (posted 6/19/15, permalink)
Remember When: James Lileks reminisced about The Good Old Days. Before Modern Times - i.e. Now - when people take photos and videos of everything, all the time, using their cell phones.
"How it was better when you had 24 pictures of your entire childhood, except for the slides which no one looked at because no one wanted to get out the damned projector and set up the damned screen with its curious fabric, the skin of a glittery albino reptile. You probably didn't have movies, but if you did they were probably ignored for the same reason as the slides. History was in short supply, period, husbanded at the library in books and cards, handed out for a limited time. (Unless you had an encyclopedia.)"
Let's see: There are some 8 mm films which were taken by my parents and my aunt, using a shared movie camera. I shot some film on my brother's Super 8 camera, until I got a duty-free one of my own during a 1971 trip to St. Thomas. I used to have a dual (8mm/Super 8) projector but it is now broken. I have transferred most of the film to VHS tape which is now obsolete.
Additionally, I have boxes and boxes of VHS tapes of 'home movies' shot with our two VHS cameras. Then there's a library of hi8 tapes from 1991 to 1998. Most of the hi8 footage was transferred to 3/4 inch tape, edited, and converted into annual Christmas newsletters which we produced from 1988 through 1997.
Additionally, I have thousands of 35mm slides and a working slide projector. There are also our many photo albums. They begin with a falling-apart album of my childhood photos from a newborn through high school. My wife has a collection of photos from her side of the family. Then there's our own photo collection, from 1964 to 2006 or so. From that point, we have accumulated a large collection of digital photo files.
We have enough material to allow Ken Burns to make his most boring multi-part PBS special ever. And that's no small feat. (posted 6/17/15, permalink)
High School Wasn't All Fun And Games: I think all of us tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses and remember the good times.
Last week, while reminiscing with my high school classmates by e-mail, one of the missives mentioned Mr. Paszek, our math teacher and a Jesuit seminarian. His teaching was incomprehensible, he had a sour disposition (he only smiled when handing out pop quizzes) and almost everyone was flunking his tests.
The name reminded me that Mr. Paszek offered a telephone help line for his students. It was more like a suicide (encouragement) hot line. I called once and Paszek told me that, with my lack of intelligence, I could expect a lifelong career as a ditch digger. "I hope you have a strong back," he quipped just before he hung up.
It was a very discouraging thing to say to an impressionable 16 year-old. But I got beyond it and, with help from friends (and everyone being graded on a curve to to the overall low marks), I got a passing grade in Paszek's course. And, the following year, was accepted into the Engineering program at two Universities. And graduated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree.
This guy was not good teacher material and, at our school, stood out like a turnip in a basket of red apples. He apparently left the seminary or priesthood at some point and died in 2002 at age 71. (posted 5/14/15, permalink)
Poster Girl: My wife posed for my son's Angry Mom poster for Linn-Benton College this week:
There's a certain irony to the poster since she was rarely an angry mom. She raised our children in a gentle and loving way, without hitting or much yelling. Yelling was my job. (posted 5/4/15, permalink)
Another Overused, Overapplied Word: Recently, I was reading a travel magazine, which described a particular dining establishment with this opening statement, "An ambitious young chef serves exotic meats, smoked fish and artisanal cocktails in a building that was once a private home."
Artisanal cocktails?! Aren't all cocktails by definition artisanal? Unless you're mass-producing a bar full of sidecars for a meeting of 90 year-old Shriners.
Artisan used to be a noun, meaning a skilled craftsperson. Then it became an adjective, referring to something produced by a skilled craftsperson in very small batches.
7-11 offers sandwiches "made with Artisan Bread." I immediately pictured a sallow, bearded man in a stark SoHo loft, sculpting a loaf of Wonder Bread into the shape of the Guggenheim Bilbao.
Artisan and artisanal have become a words I despise because they have been hijacked by the advertising industry. These days, it describes any product which looks like it might have been made in small batches. The 'looks-like' is accomplished by using homespun graphics on the label or by making the product deliberately uneven - muffins or breads baked in lumpy-looking tins which produce an artificial 'each-one-is-different' effect - even though they're banged out at the rate of 1,100 per hour on a large commercial bakery assembly-line.
Artisan is also used by inept craftspeople to explain away the flaws in their creations. Or to get a higher price. Or both.
Soooo ... we are now offered Artisan Beer, Artisan Chocolate, Artisan Bread, Artisan Wood, Artisan Coffee, Artisan Pizza and Artisan Cookies.
What's next? An Artisan Proctologist? (posted 5/12/15, permalink)
Baltimore Used To Be A Nice Place: I'm still puzzled about how a "rough ride" in a police van can almost sever a man's spine. Obviously, there's a lot more investigation needed. Although it has been reported that the man in question did have "a pre-existing spinal and neck injury (from a car accident) and had severe damage and scar tissue from an accident that Allstate insurance was paying via a large structured settlement. Freddie had several unsuccessful spinal fusion surgeries, and his most recent spinal/cervical operation was a week and a half before he was arrested."
Whatever the cause of Freddie Gray's death, there is no excuse for the rioting, looting and burning by thugs disguised as 'protesters'.
Jim Geraghty wrote that all the nonsense about rioting being "an expression of anger from oppressed communities, a cry for justice from those who feel every other avenue of regress has been unfairly blocked" is hogwash.
"It's all nonsense. The last "riot" that achieved anything useful was the Boston Tea Party. If everyone in the United States swore a pledge declaring, "I will never riot," there would be less injustice in this world, not more."
Baltimore's idiot mayor gave people "permission to destroy." And they did, burning down row homes, a CVS Pharmacy (five CVS stores sustained damage and were closed) and a senior citizens center under construction; fifteen buildings were burned. They threw cinderblocks at fire trucks and bricks at police, injuring 20. Since you can get killed by a brick and the police were less than 30 feet away, I wonder why they didn't shoot the rock throwers. That would have made the rioters think twice. Instead, the city council president apologized to the rioters.
Stores were looted; shopkeepers fled in terror as looters rampaged in as they were still inside - and stole everything. A family of four had to flee their apartment above the liquor store they owned when it was set ablaze underneath them. And a gas station owner said that he had lost $50,000 after his ATM was looted and his store ransacked. One store owner was furious that he had called the police 50 times but nobody came to help him. Maryland Governor Hogan said that the riots destroyed 200 businesses, most of which were minority-owned.
Windows were smashed and cars were stolen and burned - over 140 car fires. When the riots are over and the infrastructure has been destroyed, does anyone expect the quality of life in these neighborhoods to improve?
Paul Mirengoff wrote, "The Baltimore rioting has given the lie to Eric Holder's left-wing Ferguson narrative. Rioting isn't an understandable reaction to a "toxic" environment created by the police. It's an opportunistic response by those of a criminal disposition to events that would not, and do not, cause decent people to engage in violence.
The Baltimore rioting also undermines Mayor Rawlings-Blake's left-wing policing prescription. Violent "protesters" should never be given space to destroy. Instead, a mobilized police force should make it clear at the first hint of trouble that no destruction will be tolerated." I agree.
It should be noted that Baltimore is not America's problem. We do not need "national soul-searching" as Barack Obama has suggested. This failed city is solely and completely a Democrat problem. Just as in Detroit, Newark, Camden and Philadelphia, Democrats and their union pals have had carte blanche to inflict their ideas and policies on Baltimore. The last time the city had a Republican mayor was 1967. In 2012, after four years of his own failed policies, President Obama won a whopping 87.4% of the Baltimore City vote. I'm not surprised.
It must be noted that these urban problems are not caused by racism. This is about a bankrupt, thug culture of uncaring, absent fathers, welfare-based poverty, poor education (only 16% of Baltimore's 8th graders are proficient in reading, despite expenditures of over $17K per student) and self-defeating behavior - all aided and abetted by disingenuous "leaders" - self-serving liberals who populate Democratic party and the black race-baiters who cry 'racist' every time things don't go their way (or when their 'business' is slow). (posted 4/30/15, permalink)
Musical Cloning: Over at Sippican Cottage, Gregory Sullivan mused about cover bands. "The Strangers were a pop/rock cover band in Melbourne, Australia in the 60s and 70s." Since they included Beetle songs in their repertoire, Gregory refers to the Australian group as The Upside-Down Beetles.
"They were the house band for a sorta Australian version of Hullabaloo/American Bandstand/Don Kirshner's Rock Concert-kinda thing called The Go!! Show, which shows the early predilection for exclamation mark abuse in the teen set, which would metastasize into full-blown emoticon leprosy when the Intertunnel finally showed up."
He also pointed out that, back in the day, "cover bands had to deliver the payload precisely. 'Just like the record' was the Grail. You were stand-ins for the bands.
Nowadays, no one wants to call themselves cover bands, though. They're tribute bands, and they play just like the record, forevermore. The actual bands that played the songs in the first place get old and become cover bands of themselves, playing at state fairs and whatnot, trying to sound like themselves even thought four out of five original members have died by choking on vomit by the time they play at the Waterfront Concert for Balding Hair Metal Bands."
Then there were those doo-wop groups that changed members so often, it's hard to tell who/what was the real group. The Platters have had more members than the Congressional Black Caucus. Ditto The Dominoes. I recall that there were several groups of The Coasters touring simultaneously during the heydays of the traveling Oldies Shows of the late 1980s.
You could see The Coasters in Seattle at the same time one of your old high school friends was watching them perform in Baltimore. And The Platters ... they had more franchisees than Popeyes Chicken, which makes their hit, 'Only You', kinda ironic. (posted 1/9/15, permalink)
Gettin' Outta Joisy: The lure of lower taxes, a cheaper cost of living, more access to critical transportation networks, key manufacturing plants and about $50 million in incentives has caused German automaker Mercedes-Benz to prepare for takeoff from Montvale, NJ for Atlanta, GA. And along with it, potentially close to 1,000 jobs. M-B CEO Stephen Cannon said Atlanta won out because of the high quality of life, proximity to universities like the Georgia Institute of Technology and the business climate.
Mercedes will be realizing a massive savings by moving. Boyd estimated that the company will cut operations cost north of 20% with the move. The savings come largely in the form of lower costs in labor, property taxes, energy and construction.
Nearly two of every three families making an interstate move involving New Jersey last year were leaving the Garden State, the highest rate in the country. New Jersey had the greatest percentage of outbound moves of any state nationally last year with almost 65% departing, according to United Van Lines, the largest transporter of household goods in the country. The Garden State has led the nation in outward migration for the fourth time in five years. In all, United said it tracked 4,003 moves out of New Jersey in 2014 compared to 2,169 inbound.
Geezers comprised 41% of those moving and attributed their move to retirement. More than half (56%) of people leaving New Jersey were over the age of 55, with 22% older than 65. These people are seeking warmer, safer and lower-tax locations.
Among the other states where more people moved out than in, New York's rate was second at 64% with Illinois third (63%). Two other northeast states also ranked in the top 10 - Pennsylvania was ninth and Connecticut 10th. All are high-tax states.
While residents are fleeing New Jersey in far greater numbers than people are arriving, that's not the case in many states. In Oregon, nearly two-thirds of the moves are inbound; in South Carolina and North Carolina, about 61% of the moves were inbound.
Gee, I hate to bring this up but - once again - the Sherlocks did it first. We bailed on New Jersey and its high taxes (property, sales and income) as well as its crime and drug problems in 1978. We moved to a small town in Oregon in order to provide our kids a better/safer environment and better control our own destiny. (posted 1/9/15, permalink)
More 'Musings' can be found here.
Other Pages Of Interest
copyright 2015 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved
The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.
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If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.
If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.
Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.