Friday, November 26, 2010

12 Days of Christmas?

Yet another Holiday season is upon us. No matter what we do, it seems that we are constantly bombarded with images, traditions, and songs from a distant time. I suppose this is the "Ghost of Christmas Past" that Scrooge was so afraid of. Of all the songs we are forced to hear, there is one even more annoying than the rest; "The 12 Days of Christmas". This insipid ditty drones on seemingly forever repeating lines over and over again. Any thinking person would question receiving all these "drummers drumming, pipers piping", and all those damn birds. Why by the end of the song I am envisioning a noisy zoo of a household, covered in three inches of bird shit. The song makes "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall", seem scholarly by comparison!

Sadly, Christmas goes year round now! It starts in late June with the "Christmas in July sales". Apparently it's never too early to start going into debt. Within 48 hours of Halloween, the trees start going up in the stores. Lights, ornaments, and Christmas cards now occupy the spaces where Halloween candy once lurked. The hype has begun!

By mid-November, "Black Friday" previews begin appearing in your E-Mail inbox, in print ads, and radio and TV advertising You can't escape the beast that is Christmas! The Thanksgiving day paper is chock full of ads from merchants vying for your money. Some stores have resorted to opening on Thanksgiving day itself in order to get hold of your cash before anyone else! The crowds appear camped out in front of stores by noon, waiting for the early deals. The "Black Friday" rush is on!

(A brief note here; doesn't it seem that something called Black anything, would be reserved for African-Americans? You know, like "Black Power" or something? Merchants would offer gift ideas for minorities, such as "The Pimps and Ho's Playset", or "Driveby Dion" or something. For adults, "Gangsta" clothing, music, and weapons.)

But enough of that, for "The Big Day" looms ever closer! Shoppers exhaust themselves buying even more for friends and family, to make up for all the big ticket items they bought for themselves on Black Friday.

Before you know it, it's Christmas Eve, and shoppers are back out looking for last minute bargains. Then the big day dawns, presents are opened and millions of little faces convey the disappointment that they didn't get the expensive toys they had wished for (While dad gloats over getting his 60" big screen TV, laptop, and Blue-Ray player on Black Friday).

Boxing Day is next, when people return the gifts they got hoping to get enough cash to pay for the things they bought for others. January rolls around soon after, and the credit card bills begin arriving. Meanwhile, merchants are inventorying left over merchandise, and planning for they new year's "Christmas in July" sales.

Whatever happened to family and friends just getting together to be close during the holidays? No extravagance, no hype, just warm feelings? It's sad to see so many people driven so far in debt by the "Christmas Monster", but I guess that's what folks call progress. As for me, I'm not so sure.

Bah, Humbug!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Forward, Into the Past!

Imagine, if you will, going back into the past, to your high school speech class, and giving a speech on life as we know it today. I've had this dream (or nightmare) a number of times now, and I can't imagine how our classmates would have reacted to life in the 21st century.

For starters, some of my classmates in 1964 didn't live to see their 21st birthday. The Vietnam "War" was raging, and at least a few of my fellow classmates succumbed to injuries received there. Many a good, decent person was caught up in this police action (or war, if you will) and paid the ultimate price.

But enough of these depressing thoughts, what would the class of 1966 think after hearing about the future?

So much has changed in the world since then, and describing these changes would leave our former selves in a tizzy!

From the breakup of the Beatles, and the deaths of John and George, the world of music has changed fast.
First Disco reared it's ugly head, and then music died as we know it thanks to the ghetto rap music. The towns we knew turned into war zones, with people moving away in fear. Our culture and values were under assault since our graduation. We were among the minority now, fleeing the crime usually associated with "those areas". We were ground zero in the changing landscape!

Imagine telling classmates that there were no more Plymouths, Pontiacs, Studebakers, or Oldsmobiles in the new car showrooms. Or telling our peers that there would be mandates as to what had to be included in a new car. From 5mph bumpers, to the ignition switch being moved from the dashboard to the steering column, to the plethora of airbags we have to deal with today. Think about trying to convince our friends that someday, cars won't have carburetors, hardtops won't exist, and that the average new car will cost double the price of a brand new home!
Fun will be frowned upon, and we will all drive bland but efficient cars, that in no way make us cool.

Imagine trying to explain air travel in the 21st century! The scans, searches, and pat-downs make it look like we're living in a police state!

But yet, there was an upside to the future....the computer! As circuits and components got smaller and smaller, computer aided devices multiplied. Imagine the looks on those 1964 faces when we whipped out a cell phone to show them that it not only made telephone calls, but took photos and movies as well! What must the young people of 1964 think upon seeing this marvel, and upon hearing that cars, homes, and even toasters now contain computers? It still boggles my mind even to this day!

Yes, we live in some amazing times, where marvels that were unimaginable 40 years ago, are commonplace now. We live longer, better (supposedly) and more productive lives thanks to modern science. To someone from 1964, this must look like Utopia!

On the other hand, in 1964, Sarah Palin hadn't been born yet................

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My hat's in the Ring....Again!

I've just learned that the Postmaster General of the United States, John Potter is retiring. Since 1967, I have offered my services as a replacement PMG, and have never been chosen. Perhaps now is the time! The Postal Service (formerly the United States Post Office Department) has been adrift for some time now in a sea of debt, slowing revenue, and poor planning.

I would offer a number of changes if given the chance, and if I couldn't save the USPS, I would at least let it die in a dignified manner.

First off, the "Quasi-governmental" period must end. Quasi anything is just plain stupid, unless you are a bell ringing hunchback. The Post Office was brought to life over 200 years ago as a department of the United States Government, and it should be returned to that status. What used to be a proud job, garnering envy from friends and neighbors, has turned into a joke. The mailman (or woman) appeared every day like clockwork, bringing not only the day's mail, but neighborhood news and gossip as well. They knew every member of the family since they stayed on the same route for years. They were dependable as well as honest and were the true ambassadors of the U S Government.

Carriers now are forced to rush through the overburdened routes, no longer allowed to walk on sidewalks, instead, forced to wear a path on your lawn. Due to the constant cutbacks of employees, they are forced to take parts of other routes when there is a sick call or vacation. No one knows anymore when the mail will arrive, nor who will bring it, or worse yet whose mail you will receive!

When I'm PMG, I will ensure that we are fully embraced (and funded) by the federal government and that we are equals with all other branches. No more quasi anything for us! I would remove the many layers of managers, micro-managers, and other unnecessary positions that don't have a hand in moving the mail. The people eliminated would be excessed to offices needing substitute carriers, or clerks. Their pay would be the same as their fellow workers, and they would be held to the same standards.

I would insist all carriers use the sidewalk and respect the property of their patrons. I would order that they be given enough time to not only complete the route, but to polish the reputation that we lost years ago. It's time we regained the trust the public used to have in us!

Distribution Clerks would revert to being clerk-carriers once again. There isn't enough work for an 8 hour day, so they could fill in as substitutes as well.

Supervisors, especially delivery supervisors would be freed from the continuous data entry into DOIS. DSIS, and all the other time wasting programs they do now. They will instead walk the floor and observe how both crafts are completing their assignments, offering encouragement, and help if necessary. Threats, scoldings, and humiliation would be prohibited, and lead to suspension.

The Window supervisor would ensure there was always enough staff on hand to provide service in a timely manner. There should never be only one clerk at the window at any given time, nor should any of the window personnel take a break while customers are still in the building. New products must be developed to generate revenue, and no limit should be put on earnings.

So there you have it, my manifesto for fixing the current mess.
I'm available to start right away, and my first change would be to move Headquarters to here in Mountain Home Arkansas. We will hold meetings on a rented houseboat whenever possible, and business attire would be prohibited!
Please, bring your own fishing poles and beer!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Who's your deity, part two

When I first came up with the idea of a challenge to see who was the best deity, Santa Claus won hands down. However, since the "Big Guy" has a posse to follow him around, I thought I'd do a piece on one of it's members. The obvious choice since Halloween is nearly at hand would have been the Holy Ghost, but I instead chose 'ol JC himself. The fact that he's always alleged to be "coming back soon" just seems to good to pass up.

However, suppose he's already been here, experienced the changes in the world over the past 2000 years, got disgusted and left? I can see it all now..............

(Cue the Wayback Machine, and set it for 1977!)

We see a lone, scruffy bearded man dressed in a toga and sandals wandering the Sunset Strip in LA. He looks bewildered at the way things have changed. In fact his just standing there has drawn the attention of a talent coordinator for a current television show. The talent scout walks up and introduces himself. "Got any talent, or anything else you'd like to share with the entire nation?" he asks. "Why yes, I do" admits JC. "You'd be perfect for a show in production right now" says the scout "want to be on it?" In a few moments, he's given an adress and a time to appear at the show's production facility.

As he enters the building, he can hear a band playing, and a rather loud, boisterous audience. He gravitates towards the sound, when he's accosted by the show's producer. "Thank God you're here, we needed a last minute act" said the producer. "Dad set this up?" thought JC. The producer had him stand just offstage and wait for his cue.

He was astounded by what he saw. He could see the man called "Chucky Baby" by everyone, as well as a huge golden colored gong. In front of the gong there was a woman sitting between two men. Reading the placards in front of them, he discovered the little man on the left was Artie Johnson, the woman was J. P. Morgan, and the fellow on the right was Jamie Farr. They seemed to be having a great time! He thought "what an odd way to get my message across". At that moment, the producer says "You're on"! JC was happy he had prepared for this moment; he was going to wow the crowd he thought.

As the curtain rises, we watch the scene unfold:

Chucky: "Here's a guy we found wandering on the street..he's five feet nine, and ain't he divine, let's have a big round of applause for Hey-zuess Christ!"

JC: "No, it's Gee-sus"

Chucky: "I'll mention that to my Mexican gardener! But seriously, what are you going to do for us today?"

JC: "Well I thought I'd do a little miracle for you"

Chucky: "Can you make Jamie's nose a little smaller?"

Farr: Flips Chucky the bird

JC: "Well, I thought I'd repeat my "loaves and fishes" miracle I did a few thousand years ago"

Chucky: "OK, Take it away!"

JC: "As you can see, there's nothing up my sleeve"

J. P. Morgan "I want to see what's under that toga!"

JC, flustered: "um...I have a goldfish in this hand and a bagel in the other, and when I say the magic words, I'm going to make them big enough to feed the entire audience"

J. P. Morgan lifting her shirt "Can you make these bigger?"

JC, now clearly flustered: " just dropped my goldfish!"

Artie: "By the look on your face, I think you dropped it down your shorts!"

JC looks clearly flustered now, as Jamie Farr smacks the gong.

The band strikes up, and as Chucky comes over to console him, JC stammers "WAIT, WAIT", but it's too late, as "Gene Gene the Dancing Machine" crowds him off the stage.

He leaves the studio, consolation prize in hand. "Perhaps I should wait a little longer, until people here mature a little", he thinks to himself. "These folks are just plain crazy!" "Perhaps I'll come back in a few years, and meet with the smartest man in the country!"

(Cue the Wayback Machine, and set it for 2002!)

We find JC at the White House, standing in the Oval Office.
JC: "If this is the White House, and you are the president, you must be the smartest man in the country! What did you say your name was again?"
The Prez: "Um, George Bush."
JC: "Oh Shit, perhaps I should wait another 2000 years and see if things get any dumber!"

And so you see, that's the way it really happened. He came, he saw, and he said "screw it!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Constitutional Consternation

Over 200 years ago, a group of insurgents took control of a fledgling nation. These terrorists sought to block commerce, and by doing so, cripple the rulers in power. These thugs had the audacity to invade a harbor, and throw the contents of a merchant ship into the water. Who were these unlawful, unruly reprobates? Well, they were our forefathers! Yes, the very activities we find disturbing today, brought forth a new nation in their time.

The "Boston Tea Party" put the British on notice that the Patriots were "Mad as hell, and they weren't gonna take it any more"! A far cry from today's whining losers who offer the nation nothing but sour grapes over losing the last election. What could be more patriotic than what our ancestors did? They drew a line in the sand, and said "if you cross this line, your ass is grass", whereas today's "Tea-Baggers" just toss around the word "Socialist" and question the President's birth certificate. I guess a lot has changed in 200 years.

Times were different back then, the Declaration of Independence was put forth, and from that point, there was no going back. We had declared ourselves a new nation, and had Constitutional convention to form the foundation of our nation. Of course looking online at the liquor order for the event, you would have thought is was to be a bachelor party for about 500 people! We don't know how many strippers they hired, but methinks they were too drunk to have noticed them anyhow.

At any rate, the convention ended, after the constitution was signed (judging by the size of his signature, I believe John Hancock supplied the booze, and possibly the strippers), and a "Bill of Rights" was introduced.
While the Constitution itself covered the formation of government, the Amendments (bill of rights) covered stuff concerning the population at large. The Amendments to the Constitution (the bill) were written plainly and simply with no need for interpretation.

And here's where this post is going; the framers of the Constitution saw things 200+ years ago, and wrote the laws to reflect them. They were not able to see into the future, and would be scared to death if they were! The Amendments were clear cut, and precise.
Take for example the Second Amendment: " A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed". This means that the people of the nation had the right to keep arms that existed at the time the bill was written, mostly flintlocks and muskets. It certainly didn't mention AK-47's, Uzis and the like.

Thanks to many people's misreading of the bill, we now have people with more powerful weapons than law enforcement. I don't think that the signers would have appreciated their bill being taken out of context like that! The entire thing was written to be understood, and obeyed by the people of the day. There was no "wiggle room" written in, so it should be followed to the letter, in the spirit it was written.

The current Tea Party mantra misconstrues what was written years ago, twists the meanings, and uses it to strike fear in the hearts of their followers. "The government wants to take your guns away" they shriek, or "We're a Christian nation according to the First amendment"! Gradually, these untruths, and others become accepted "facts" and the whole meaning of the law is changed.

For them to call themselves "Patriots" is just crap. These people could care less about the people they purport to represent, and just want attention, and of course money. The poster child for the movement is one who craves the most attention: Sarah Palin. Given the choice between listening to, and looking at Palin, and Alfred E Neuman, Alf gets my vote every time.

So let's all follow the Constitution to the letter, and stop trying to second guess our forefathers. Ignore the pleadings of the Tea-Baggers to move the country backwards to the Bush Era, and most of all, ignore Sarah Palin! Every time I see her on television, I hear the late Dean Martin crooning one of his best songs: "That's Amore", only with different words:

Sing along, won't you?

"When the Party of Tea tells me Palin's for me, that's a moron,
Husband works for BP, they live comfortably, she's a moron"

I imagine that or forefathers agree.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Hava Cuppa Tea"

Seems that every day, the "Tea Party" makes the news in some way or another, proof positive that the squeaky wheel does indeed get the grease. Outside of complaining, what do they offer voters? They appeared right after the Republicans suffered a resounding defeat in the 2008 general election. Odd isn't it? They whine and complain about the state of the nation, but always neglect to admit that it was their votes that got us into the mess we're in now. 8 years of "Compassionate Conservatism" had cost millions of people their jobs, livelihoods, their homes, and nearly 3,000 American service men and woman their lives. And they long to get back to work at it, blaming all the country's ills on the current president. Isn't that like blaming the plumber that just unclogged you drain for handing you a bill, when it was you that clogged it up in the first place? The Tea Baggers offer no solutions, just complaints. Come on folks, you lost the election, get over it! If losing is what qualifies you for office, than the Chicago Cubs should hold the House and Senate, and Ernie Banks should be the friggin' President!

Tea Baggers also seem to gravitate to narssistic personalities, such as Sara Pain (oops, a typo....I meant Palin!) This empty headed buffoon offers no answers, mostly because she doesn't understand the questions. She loves to be in front of a camera, and act "folksy". Minnie Pearl was folksy, Gabby Hayes was folksy, Slim Pickens (the real star of "Blazing Saddles") was folksy. Sarah Palin is more like that annoying clown at a Jack in the Box restaraunt drive through, looking stupid, while someone puts words in her mouth! Is this the best the party can do?

Worse yet, there's another Tea Bagger hunting down every camera she can appear before. Christine ODonnell is the East coast version of Palin. No idea what she's doing, serious problems with her accounting for campaign funds, but once again, trying that forced "folksy charm" that Palin made popular. O'Donnell's troubles, besides money; her's and her campaign's, are worse than even Palins, because O'Donnel never met a camera she didn't like. Sometimes, what you do in the past can screw up your future. Recently O'Donnell has gained public scrutiny for some of her recorded clips on masturbation. This has to make the Christian Right a bit squeamish, but worse yet, she is also heard admitting an interest in witchcraft, and other Satanic rituals. This has to be making the Wingnuts crazy! No clean wholesome candidate here, she's a dildo totin', devil worshipin' Tea Baggin' threat to their values. Yee-Haw, ain't this fun!!

When the dust settles, we see that nothing has changed in the Republican Party since the disastrous Ronald Regan regime. Give to the rich, screw the poor, and take all the money you can get. Thanks a lot Douche (er Tea) baggers, but I'll take Hope and Change over Dumb and Dumber any day!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Who's Your Deity?"

I was working around the house today, painting the back door, and giving life a lot of thought. Since it was Sunday and all, my mind turned to religion, and to who would be best at being a deity. I settled on two; "The Big Guy Upstairs", and Santa Claus.
To start with, they're both fictional beings, possessing magic powers. I decided to run a comparison of the both of them and see who might win.
First off, they both have the ability to see you at all times (Even when you're sleeping), and know every aspect of your life.
Advantage: Neither.
Second, they both keep lists of who's naughty and nice. Only Santa will still bring you stuff even though you haven't been on your best behavior (and I can personally attest to this!).
Advantage: Santa.
Thirdly, God is everywhere, while Santa hangs at the North Pole 364 days a year. However, Santa has Mrs. Claus around, and she's always dressed in red leather and fur.
Once again, advantage: Santa
And now for the heavy stuff; While both know if you've been good or not, at least Santa cares one way or the other. The big guy claims to care about you, but won't hesitate to throw you in front of a speeding truck just for fun. Just how is that affection? Religious people will say it's just God calling you shit? My mother used to call me home for supper every night, and never once threw me in front of a truck (although I'll bet she did entertain the idea a few times). And what about this business of smiting people? That's not very loving, is it?
Sometimes you get smitten (or is that smote?) and live to tell about it and go on and do the same thing again. I'd have to borrow a phrase from a Great White song (a band famous for their pyrotecnics, rather than their music) and say "Once smitten, twice shy".
And so in the end, we have to give the win to Santa, for being the best deity, and for not whacking people just for fun.
Sorry big guy, but you need to take an anger management course!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Bottom Line

Have you ever really thought about the music we've listened to over the years? Sure, we know the lyrics by heart, we know the tune, and the artists, as we've heard the same songs for decades now. But have we really ever heard the songs, and not merely listened to them?

This whole thought came from an inspiration I received while working the other day. I was the only one working in the house at the time, and I was in a back room. I had found an old Zenith Console Stereo buried under a pile of stuff. It took a while to clean it off, but what I had found was a well preserved music machine. I fired it up, and to my surprise, it worked quite well. We had found about 75 45 rpm singles a few days beforehand, and looking through them I found a Beatles recording from the mid-70's. Hearing that song again brought back memories of listening to tinny transistor radio speakers, cheap stereo sets, and even televisions playing the same tune. But there was something different here, it was the bass line Paul McCartney was laying down. The higher quality sound system had picked up the bass and brought it into the song where it belonged. It was magical! Here I was with this 30 or 40 year old machine, being reintroduced to a song I thought I knew so well!

I was enthralled by McCartney's ability. Instead of just thumping the strings, he wove an intricate line of rhythm into a familiar tune. His talent at this left me amazed!
So that's the reason for this post; I salute the unsung hero's of the Rock and Roll world...the bass players! They play with a skill and talent that largely goes unrecognized. They are merely second fiddle to the singer, and lead guitarist, yet to listen to them, they could carry the show on their own!

Looking into a few more tunes, I found another player with a skill that left me in awe. Sarah Lee (yes that's her real name) is a female bass player that you might have seen in the B-52's "Love Shack" video. (She was the woman in the bath tub). Listening to her riffs in that song with my new found appreciation of music, I was blown away at how she filled the song out with her ability, and thinking how flat it would have been without her skills. What awesome talent!

And so here's to you bass players everywhere. Keeping the music alive with your talent, and giving me a whole new appreciation of real musicianship!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Shut Up And Drive!"

Like many of the fans across the nation, I've been following NASCAR's "secret fine" debacle, where unknown drivers were fined for unknown comments made, criticizing it's leadership. The web has been ripe with rumors of who was involved for speaking their minds. So far, we are led to believe that there were two; Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Newman. Of course none of this is official, it's all supposed to be a secret, so as not to let the news media replay the offending interviews. NASCAR has been tight lipped, merely saying the drivers were fined for "actions or comments damaging to the sport".

A quick glance at the less than optimal attendance at last Sunday's Indy race shows that the real damage to NASCAR's image is self-induced. Let's face it, calling the sport "stock car racing" is a misnomer. The cars are no more stock than a Formula One car. They are purpose-built from the ground up, with only a few decals to make them seem like an ordinary car. The cost of this, and all the other related expenses has driven ticket prices sky high. As the economy declines, fewer people have the kind of disposable income to attend the races.

But worse yet, are the plethora of rules forced upon the teams, owners, and drivers. A car 2" too high? Fine them! Too fast on pit road?
Fine them! I thought this was supposed to be racing!

When the moonshiners in the 1940's got together to see who had the fastest car, they would race on small dirt tracks. It was not unusual to see the cars driven to the track, raced, and driven home again. Mechanics turned ordinary cars into fast machines that hauled the 'shine when they weren't racing. These folks were true Rebels, running from the law one day, and running wide open on the track the next. That Rebel attitude is what started NASCAR in the first place, but over the years, things have changed. Now the rulebook is filled with things that aren't allowed, things that are mandated, and nearly every infraction carries some sort of punishment. Fans don't like rules, they pay huge amounts of money to attend the races, and want to see what they've always seen: their favorite driver tearing around the track and speaking his mind off the track. They want the sport to be like it was when it first began. Tempers, taunts, and the occasional fist fight are all ingredients to a day of racing. Take this away, and it lessens what fans came to see. They then respond by not attending the races.

NASCAR sees the sport as entertainment, not as racing. That's the key here; entertain the fans, sell them overpriced (official NASCAR) T-shirts, and make as much money as possible. Much like the WWF controversy (where the World Wrestling Federation was forced to become the WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment) NASCAR has lost all sorts of credibility as of late.

And that brings us back to the beginning of this blog; the secret fines for speaking out about an injustice real or perceived. The heavy hand of the sanctioning body crushes the naysayers! I grew up in the 1950's, when every conversation seemed to turn to the Cold War. We believed that the Russians were somehow going to invade us, and take away all our freedoms. Secret police would take us away for speaking out against them, and we'd never be seen again! I think this image is planted in the minds of fans to this day. No free speech, no Liberty.

If this behavior is to be considered the rule NASCAR, then please stop with the singing of the National Anthem, and having the military jets fly overhead. For we, as a sport, have indeed lost our freedom!

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Grand Theft.........Peotone!"

OK, I'll admit I'm a gamer, I've been one since computers morphed into the machines we have today. We went from copies of "Pac-Man" to games far beyond what we might have imagined way back when.
However, back then, the gamer was always "The Victim". From being chased by ghosts in Pac-Man, and Ms Pac-Man, and others, your character was always the one in trouble.

Enter the "Grand Theft Auto" era. In these games, you played the street savvy gangster, who would take anything from anyone.
This pretty much defines the current state of things pertaining to the eternal white elephant known as the Peotone Airport.

This scheme is like a video game zombie; it doesn't die, but merely keeps coming after you. Residents of Eastern Will County have been threatened with this abomination for over 50 years now.
Currently, led by Jesse Jackson Jr., the scheme is starting to reflect the "Grand Theft Auto" franchise. They see nothing wrong with taking homes and farms that have been in families for generations. The entire region subsists on agriculture, but to airport supporters, it's merely vacant land. Who cares if it provides a living for it's owners? Who cares if it brings grief to thousands of people surrounding the airport site? The promoters are looking to profit from this idea, while the people who are putting up the money are left holding the bag. No doubt Jackson and his ilk will pocket the money and slink away, looking for another victim.

And, much like GTA, they are using eminent domain threats to "carjack" peoples homes. They quote laws that really don't apply in order to strip away the rights and real estate of the people. Much like the last lines of a popular limerick "It wasn't the almighty that lifted her nighty, It was Roger the lodger, by god!", they base their thefts on untruths and innuendos. Until there is approval of this airport, the state (and assorted thugs) cannot legally take anything.
All this amounts to is simply carjacking. taking what doesn't belong to you, because you can use fear and threats to get it.
Fear seems to be a big thing in politics these days, scare people enough and they'll do your bidding.

Where is Duke Nukem when we need him??

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Decline of Modern Society

I recently saw that the Supreme Court struck down Chicago's ban on handguns. I found the very idea disturbing. That we as a nation, cower in our homes with guns drawn, while the criminals roam the streets is just wrong. This isn't the Dark Ages, where Kings erected castles to protect the citizens. This is supposed to be a civilized society! Yet we as a people continue to buy handguns to protect ourselves from unknown attackers. Sadly, it's a practice that has taken many bad turns.

For example, let's take the case of John Tabutt of Winter Springs Florida. MR. Tabutt and live in girlfriend Nancy Dinsmore were to be married the next day, when Tabutt heard noises to make him think there was an intruder in his home. He assumed that Dinsmore was still sleeping beside him, and upon seeing a shadowy figure in the hall, fired a shot at it. It turns out it was Dinsmore, and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Was this an intelligent use of a weapon? Should MR. Tabutt even have had a weapon? We'll never know what MS. Dinsmore was doing out of bed, but she gave her life for it!

This is just one in a litany of handgun deaths, all committed by ordinary citizens who react without thinking of the consequences. Do we really need to continue this trend?

Another example is the story of 69 year old former Marine Charles Clements of University Park Illinois, who had previously won an award for "The Best Kept Lawn in a Chicago Suburb". MR. Clements had words with 23 year old Joshua Funches when Funches allowed his dog to urinate on Clement's lawn. According to the news story, Clements pulled a gun, and pointed it at Funches. Funches is reported to have said "Next time you pull out a pistol, why don't you use it?" Funches never lived to hear the answer. He was shot dead on the beautifully kept front lawn.

And so I have to ask the question; "WHY"? What has changed in society so much in the past 50 years that we're now a nation of gunslingers? Are we educated enough in the use of weapons to use them? Apparently not.

America has seen a change in the last 50 years that frightens me. We no longer punish our criminals, and we allow gangs to rule the streets. People hide in their homes, afraid a stray bullet will end their life. Why is this tolerated? Why doesn't society do something about it's decline? Instead of facing down the problem, we sit behind locked doors with guns drawn.

Our parents, and grandparents didn't live like this. Why should we? Are we as a people afraid to take away the right of criminals to commit crimes?

Think back to our younger years, when there was no "Gangsta Rap", no drive by shootings, and no corner drug dealers. What a bucolic time that was!

I leave you with this thought:
Imagine transposing today's reality on to 1950's TV. I'll set the scene up for you:

We open with the Cleaver family gathered around Ward, who is seen holding a smoking 9mm Glock pistol. Off to the right, we see a lifeless body.

Wally: "Gee Beav, I guess dad was really sore at Eddy"
Beaver: "I guess so Wally, he plugged him real good!"
June: "Oh Ward, now I have to clean that up!"

This is our society today, and it's time to fix it!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Invention Uses no Common Sense!

In today's world, we are seeing more and more wireless devices. What got me to thinking about this, was another ad for Amazon's Kindle E-Book reader. What an amazing device. You can charge it's internal batteries, and read from it! Am I missing something here? You buy an expensive machine to read a book?
Seems to me we have a portable reader, and in fact, we've had it for some time now. It uses no power, and can be read in any light, even sunlight. What is it?? It's called a friggin' book! Why in hell's name would an intelligent person go out and buy a device to read a book on? Worse yet, have to buy the book as well?

I know we all love high tech items, like our huge flat-screen TV's, sat-nav systems in our cars and such, but why spend money to replace the common book?
Is it just because we want to be different, or show how we're too hip to believe? Or are we, like P.T. Barnum once said, one of those suckers born every minute?

Perhaps it's just me, finally getting sensible in my waning years. I love to read, and love the feel of a book in my hands, and the thrill of turning the page to continue the story. Simple pleasures, I know, but they're mine alone.

It just seems that in our rush to make everything complicated in order to make more money, that we've forgotten the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book. No plugging-in, no downloading, and no dead batteries. What a nice, clean energy efficient concept!

I worry that the next big thing to come along will be a rechargeable child's ball to play with. and when that day comes....I quit!

New Invention Uses no Common Sense!

In today's world, we are seeing more and more wireless devices. What got me to thinking about this, was another ad for Amazon's Kindle E-Book reader. What an amazing device. You can charge it's internal batteries, and read from it! Am I missing something here? You buy an expensive machine to read a book?
Seems to me we have a portable reader, and in fact, we've had it for some time now. It uses no power, and can be read in any light, even sunlight. What is it?? It's called a friggin' book! Why in hell's name would an intelligent person go out and buy a device to read a book on? Worse yet, have to buy the book as well?

I know we all love high tech items, like our huge flat-screen TV's, sat-nav systems in our cars and such, but why spend money to replace the common book?
Is it just because we want to be different, or show how we're too hip to believe? Or are we, like P.T. Barnum once said, one of those suckers born every minute?

Perhaps it's just me, finally getting sensible in my waning years. I love to read, and love the feel of a book in my hands, and the thrill of turning the page to continue the story. Simple pleasures, I know, but they're mine alone.

It just seems that in our rush to make everything complicated in order to make more money, that we've forgotten the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book. No plugging-in, no downloading, and no dead batteries. What a nice, clean energy efficient concept!

I worry that the next big thing to come along will be a rechargeable child's ball to play with. when that day comes....I quit!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A War of Words

Our English language is peppered with a myriad of words that can be used in more than one way, or perverted to mean something other than their true meaning.
I got to thinking about this after incessant news shows over the past decade mentioned the "War in Iraq". A quick look at a dictionary shows that the word "war" means "an open armed conflict, as between nations". I wonder why this is called a war at all? There was no formal declaration of war, no hostilities leading up to a war, just rumors of chemical weapons (which didn't exist). Could this just be a misuse of the word? Since there were no threats, nor previous hostilities, shouldn't we call this an invasion? After all, that's what it was. We Americans and allies invaded the sovereign state of Iraq without provocation. Shortly thereafter, we were treated to images from "embedded" news crews and reporters showing how the so called "war" was going. It's sad that no one told the Iraqis, because they didn't seem to know we were at war. We devastated the infrastructure if this sovereign land, and killed tens of thousands of it's citizens with air strikes. Soon after we saw the "Mission Accomplished Photo Op" for the president. It's good to be at war apparently.
For the next decade, and possibly into the far future, we will remain at "war". Not with the Iraqi government, but with the citizens themselves.

And here comes the next bastardization of a now common word: "Insurgents". We hear about attacks on our troops by insurgents, and yet we've played the role more than once as a nation.
When Northern troops invaded the South during the War of Northern Aggression, or as some call it, the Civil War, and our Rebel troops fought back, shouldn't we have been called insurgents? We had our own government after succession, our own constitution, leaders, and army. We were invaded by the North, and defended our new nation. We were called "the enemy". Now let me get this straight here, who invaded who?
And we're the enemy? Don't think so!

We've also seen insurgency in the West in the 1800's. Native Americans who didn't succumb to the invasion of the White Man, were either slaughtered, or taken off their tribal land and put into reservations. Centuries of history, and native culture were stripped from them in order to stop this insurgency. Once again, whose land was it?

Let's go back even further, to the Revolutionary War, where we fought off the British troops in order to form our nation. Weren't we the insurgents in this instance? No, thanks to the flexibility of the English language, we were "Freedom Fighters", defenders of our ideals. So I have to ask, shouldn't that very same phrase apply to our Native Americans, our Southern ancestors, and yes, even the people of Iraq?

Monday, March 22, 2010

We (used to) build Excitement!

With the economy on the mend, it seems that auto sales are picking up too. Automakers are pumping more bland, cookie-cutter cars into showrooms, and we consumers think that the crisis is over. Is it?

Since Henry Ford first produced the Model T, America has fallen in love with the automobile. Automakers have brought out better models with better features, better power, and better value to keep us hooked. In my opinion, the 1950's was the decade when our national prosperity gave us the opportunity to buy some great automobiles. From the iconic 1957 Chevrolet, to the Studebaker Hawks, we were awash in great cars, that not only were affordable, but stylish, and just plain cool. A real source of pride in American engineering, "Detroit Iron" ruled the roads here.
That smug feeling of superiority blossomed in the 1960's, when we were blanketed in muscle cars, cars with fins, and big horsepower. We embraced the "Muscle Car" era on a national scale. Cool cars ruled, and cars that were sort of bland were gussied up to appeal to the market. The 1960's gave us the Mustang, Camaro, Firebird, Marlin, AMX, Charger, Challenger, GTO, and a host of others. Even stodgy "family cars" like the Plymouth had an alter ego, in this case, the "Road Runner".
We couldn't get enough cool, and Detroit obliged us with newer and better cars. We wrote songs about our cars, and they defined us as people. While a Camaro was cool, a humble Rambler might be considered cooler, because it's seats could be turned into a bed....great for the drive-in!!

By the 1980's, we lost our way. The 1974 Arab oil embargo made anything with a V-8 seem decadent, and we were offered a host of boring vehicles. The insurance companies grip on lawmakers didn't help either. We were forced to have ugly "recoverable" bumpers, while emission standards crippled our horsepower. As Detroit, and the rest of the industry limped into the 90's, we had a glut of ugly jelly-bean shaped cars. Few cars could even try to act cool. Automakers would add a few tape stripes, or add the word "Sport" to a vehicle, but that was about as exciting as things got.

Then Ford brought the Mustang back from the grave, and threw in a real motor, and offered a manual transmission, just like the "good old days"! Sales perked up, and the public started to crave the fun they had in the past. Suddenly, Automakers had discovered that cars could be cool once again, and the public discovered that they could be cool driving one!
It seemed we were starting to walk that long road back to our glory days!

Then it happened; a car brand known for stuffiness, stodginess, and an average buyer's age somewhere around grand parenthood, broke the mold!
I remember it, as if it happened yesterday. I had gone to the Chicago Auto Show, (an annual rite of spring in our family) and as I was shuffling along with the huge crowd, I heard music. Not like your Muzak stuff, or pop, or commercial jingles, real honest to goodness Rock and Roll, played at the proper volume for the song ("Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin)! "What automaker was so smug to think that they could promote a car with this anthem?", I thought. As I moved towards the sound, I saw it was.......Cadillac! The music got louder as I approached, and I kept thinking of all the old grandpas that must have been laughing at us kids, thinking they weren't cool! As I reached the stand, with the music pumping, and the cars gleaming, I instantly became a lifelong Cadillac fan, and would have sold my soul for one on the spot! This was a kick in the pants for the industry! Show a little swagger, build a good car, a cool car, and the nation will beat a path to your showroom door.
More cool cars followed. The Dodge Charger came forth (alas, with 4 doors), and Pontiac (the "We Build Excitement" folks) gave us the GTO again, (OK, it was from Australia), and the prospect for an updated El Camino (also from Australia, known as the Holden Ute). Damn, we were rocking!!

Then the economy took the proverbial crap, and Detroit, and the rest of the industry, was fighting to stay alive. Executives from the "Big Three" went to Washington to beg for a bailout, humbling themselves before Congress in order to get it.

Where was that swagger we had just a decade ago? Our auto folks flew down in their private jets, in their expensive suits, and begged for mercy. Is this the way an American Icon is supposed to react? What a bunch of pussies! They should have gotten the finest American Iron they could cobble up, be it a Corvette, Mustang, or Charger, and hit the road for DC. No suits, or designer socks, just jeans and an old sweatshirt for everyone! Throw in a few tattoos for good measure! This is American swagger, and when the Congressman asks your name, answer "What's it to you?" That's what built this country! Not kowtowing to a bunch of clowns, but walking in and owning the situation. That's what real car guys do (when they're not drag racing)!

Sadly, the execs caved in to the pressure, and for a few billion dollars, killed Pontiac (one of the few brands that still had that 1960's swagger), Saturn, (which was beginning to see the light, as far as cool goes), and Hummer, which was never cool. Chrysler sold their soul to Fiat in order to stay alive, and while the others were going down for the second time, Ford came up smiling. As always, cool rules! Ford made the Mustang the "it" car that everyone had to have.

So where are we now? We're about where we left off in the 1980's. Instead of "Little GTO", we hear:

"Little Toyota Camry,
You're really looking bland,
Got you on a used car lot,
For 'bout 11 grand...."

Afraid to ruffle the feathers of our legislators, automakers have chosen the low road, except for Cadillac. It's cars keep getting cooler, and I still hear that music pumping! Yeah! Go, Granny, go!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh What a Feeling!!

As the new year dawns, auto manufacturer Toyota has been receiving Federal flack for their cars. It seems that the gas pedal, (or the software that drives it), sticks. The cars become runaways, quickly gathering speed until either the driver shuts them off, or they run into something.

It all boils down to the Federal Government dictating fuel standards. In order to meet these goals, manufacturers have had to come up with new ways to save precious fuel. We have become obsessed with fuel mileage, and less obsessed with how we achieve it. The cars of today sport fuel injection, and "Drive by Wire" throttles. There is no commercially produced car that has a carburetor, nor linkage from the gas pedal to support it. All this is an effort to gain fuel economy. Apparently, computers know how to save gas, and humans don't. With the passing of time, these standards grow stricter, and corporate fuel economy must keep pace. Toyota uses a computer program to monitor and control the flow of fuel into the injectors, thus propelling the car forward, and saving as much fuel as possible.

This reminds me of a movie from long ago called "Westworld", which was about a future theme park where robots acted out people's fantasies. The teasers for the movie used the phrase: "Westworld; where nothing can go wrong". Of course, it did!

We have that same thing in today's Toyotas. The software that drives the car, has a glitch, so in certain situations, the car will accelerate full throttle, and can only be stopped by shifting into neutral (and thus grenading the motor) and applying the brakes. Of course, if you went back to Toyota to report this, there would be no "trouble code" that could be downloaded. It would be as if it never happened! It's happened a number of times, and as time goes by, more and more people come forward with their stories.

Is this where we stand today, roughly 100 years after the invention of the automobile? We have so much technology in our autos, that we must be afraid of them?

We have the government to thank for all this, from dictating fuel economy, to the equipment a car must carry. It seems the inmates are running the asylum! We get so impressed when a full sized car can get 20-25 MPG these days, but back in 1959, it was different. In '59, a Studebaker car got just over 29 MPG, (and it had a carburetor, and throttle linkage just as the first cars did).

I don't know what conclusions you will draw from this, but I feel that we've lost our way in the automotive forest. We get demands from non-car people, forcing us to do dangerous things, with technology we haven't quite figured out. Then, we wonder why people are getting killed by their autos!

The answer would be to simplify everything. Quit all the fancy stuff, and go back to the basics. If Studebaker were around today, we'd all be driving one, and saving gas to boot! Sorry Toyota, it's time to dumb down your cars, and get back to basics. See you all on the road!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Life in the Poor Lane

Now that we're rolling along in this new year, I have to wonder just what's really new. Yes, the numbers read 2010, but it's really the same crap as last year, and the year before, and the year before that. As a matter of fact, I have yet to see anything truly new as of January 1st.

The common thought is that everything's brand new at the stroke of midnight. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. We are in the same boat that 2009 left us in! The world is in the same state of turmoil, our money (what we have of it) doesn't buy much, and the cost of living keeps rising. How is that a new year??

There is no magic incantation said at the stroke of midnight that in any way erases the past year. We're doomed to continue on, saddled with the baggage from the previous year, and things continue on as we left them. How does this make it a new year? If I were in charge, I'd damn sure change things!

First, I'd call a cease fire around the world. I really don't care about what sort of an agenda people have. Sit down, talk it over and try to reach some sort of compromise! Quit yer 'friggin fighting already!

Secondly, I have to wonder what's up with all this "luxury" stuff. Haven't we damn near killed off the middle class? We try to achieve a better life for our families, but end up falling short, and further from our goal. If success in life is measured by what you have, can you still be successful with second hand junk?
The world we live in today, can't even measure up to what our parents had. Inflation is so bad, we're just posers, and that's what has put many people in so much debt. Learn to live with what you've got people, and if you don't have it, buy it second hand! We can no longer afford the good things in life, but we can if they're slightly used, on sale, or greatly marked down!

Thirdly, we don't need the government dictating our lives, at the behest of the paying contributors. When you examine the cost of a new car (which most of us can't afford any more), you'll find items the insurance lobby had legislators add.
If we don't want the cost of airbags must we have them? Stability we need it, if we're paying attention while we drive? Both these things, and so many more, are added to the cost of a new car. Even a tiny change to a model, bumps the cost. With the average cost of a new car close to $30K, how many can afford one? When the Indian car maker Tata came up with the idea of a $2500 car, I got excited! finally a car for the rest of us!
That's what's so sad; we are no longer a prosperous people, we've sunk to a third world status.
Where will it end? Will we ever get our middle class status back again? I guess we'll all have to wait!

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Hey, Hey, throw 'Em away!"

I wrote my last blog about the late Jan Gabriel, the man who gave us "SUNDAAAAYYYYY, Sundaaay, Sunday!". I first heard that phrase on a commercial for US 30 dragstrip near where I grew up. It got me thinking on yet another tangent, about how we acquire things in life, only to discard them.

US 30 was a HUGE deal back in the 1960's. It was a mecca for not only racers, but spectators. Admission wasn't terrible, and we could afford to attend the races there without a problem. In fact, we could race our own cars there if we had the right equipment for safety! Over the years, thousands attended the races each season, yet after a while, the commercials went away, and we forgot about the track. It was just a memory, no doubt turned into yet another strip-mall in the suburban jungle.

Then, one day during a conversation with a friend, we were remembering our days at the track, when he mentioned "you know, it's still there"! This got my curiosity going, thinking I had to see the track one more time in all it's glory. Extensive searching of Google Earth finally showed me where the site was, and one Saturday morning, we left out to find it. It's still there, overgrown and decaying, but it still exists. No one had bought the site, nor cared for it, and it sat there, a sad remembrance of our past.

Upon moving to Arkansas, I found another major attraction that was left to decay. Dogpatch (later Dogpatch USA) lies just South of Harrison Arkansas on Highway 7. A once thriving attraction, drawing people from all over the country, it sits sullenly clinging to the side of a hill, just waiting to rot into dust. Investors were reported to have spent 26 million dollars to get the park up and running, yet by 1993, it closed, never to re-open. It's there today, as if it were poised for the new season, but overgrown and decaying. I have to ask, who would walk away from an investment of that magnitude? As hard as I've had to work for my money, I couldn't imagine owning something, and then walking away from it. It just seems so wasteful! Land is expensive, and to own land is part of the American dream. Who in their right mind would just walk away?

I guess it's reality, as over the past few years, I've seen way too many abandoned homes and businesses here. People just walk away from their hopes and dreams, and leave them to decay. I 'm amazed at this, and find it hard to understand. Everything has to be worth something, to just leave it seems wasteful.

Look at the town of Rush, Arkansas.
That's the General Store\Post Office in the photo. It's now owned by the National Park Service, but the buildings that are left, were just abandoned by their owners, as the town declined. It's hard to believe that the hard work and money required to buy the land and build the structures, is not important to the former owners.

I guess the real reason for this blog today, was to focus on just what a "throw away society" we've become. Don't need it? Just toss it and get something else! It all boils down to the fact that many people have (or seem to have) an unlimited supply of cash to do what they wish with. If something doesn't work, or work the way they want, it's forgotten as they move on.

So where is this blog going? Well, the last time we were up in Branson, I couldn't help but notice a growing number of vacant buildings along the strip. Signs still graced the properties, calling to visitors, yet the shops themselves were empty, abandoned by their owners. I wonder how long before Branson becomes another Dogpatch, or worse yet, another Rush?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On The Radio

I've debated for a long time over what I wanted to write next, work got in the way, and nothing got done. That changed today, when I saw an article in the former Hammond (IN) Times (now "The Times") about the death of a local disk jockey.

Jan Gabriel died from kidney disease at age 69. I remember he had the early evening shift at WJOB, and seemed to be on every night. He had a sense of "big city cool" but was always a local boy. To me, that was important. Chicago was the big market back in the '60's, with names like Dick Biondi, Barney Pip ("Turn into peanut butter!"), Ron Brittain, Larry Lujack, and more. The trouble was, they seemed to be so different to me. They spoke of "big city" events I would never go to, and sell products we would never see where we lived.
Chicago was about 40 miles North of where I grew up, but it could have been 1000. It was another world!
WJOB was more local, even though at the time, Hammond was a HUGE city in my mind also. Why heck, the Goldblatts store even had elevators, with men stationed inside to operate them!
This was amazing to me!

Gabriel represented the best in a small town radio DJ; just as good as the large market guys, but with a tinge of local flavor.
I remember the on the air contests he'd put on, and winning a record album on the show. Speaking to him on the phone (from a pay phone booth in downtown Hammond), and hearing that I had won, was the coolest thing I had ever done. It was my touch with celebrity!

In the late 60's, all the area stations did commercials for a local racing venue called "US 30 Dragstrip". It was Southeast of Hammond, just off US 30, hence the name. The commercials would begin with a manic beat, while the announcer would scream "Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAAAAAY, at Beautiful US 30 Dragstrip"! He would then go on to announce the stars that would be there (and there were many), from the "Little Red Wagon", to Art Arfon's "Green Monster Jet".
Being a normal teenager in the '60's, we read more hot rod magazines than textbooks. The siren call of the announcer was all it took to inspire us to head to the track. Later in life, I learned that the "SUNDAAAY!" announcer was in fact Jan Gabriel. I thought back to all the good times he brought us on the radio, and made a mental note to keep tabs on him. I felt a kinship with him, as he was a local boy, doing a job I always wanted to do.

Sadly, I never got the chance to go into broadcasting, choosing a career with the Post Office, and ultimately staying there for nearly 40 years. Over time, the changes in my life, the music, and the station's format, made me tune away from WJOB, but I never forgot Jan. I can still recall the sound of his voice, and how he sounded like a neighbor, not a stranger, speaking to me every night from the radio.

Later, I would connect with my past when I heard the song "On the Radio" by the band "Cheap Trick". It summed up my youth to a T, and ended with that same frantic DJ patter I used to hear. And when I hear it to this day, the one voice I always think of is that of Jan Gabriel.

Rest in peace, Jan, and thanks for a lifetime of memories!

It's on the radio...!