My Thoughts... Exactly!

Hey, you wanna know what I think?

Category: Observations (page 2 of 3)

Forgotten

Forgotten Windmill - CarlsbadDriving up Cannon Blvd to College Blvd. near our new residence, I spotted this old windmill tucked in the shadows of some trees. I decided to shoot it, thinking it MIGHT make a nice painting, especially on such a gorgeous Carlsbad day.

In the distance, you can see homes on a hilltop. That is where all the developments have spread to so far. It won’t be long until this entire hillside is covered with homes — available in 4 styles — all starting in the mid $700k range.

And the windmill will be long gone.

Reader Knowledge Test #1

Q. Who makes the most expensive Series 7 No. 4?
Hint: Why would I be asking?

Answer posted Friday as an Update in this post.
Update:Brock was dead-on correct, though I accidentally deleted his comment.

This refers to a Winsor-Newton Round Kolinsky Sable brush. When I was in school 26 years ago, I was told that the hairs of this finest of brushes were actually hand-rolled and pointed by craftsmen at the factory, ensuring the finest brush made. I have never, to this day, heard any other brush recommended as highly by cartoonists, inkers, or anyone else who is looking for perfect line-qualities and variation of line, ink or pigment flow, or just the right “springiness”—a subjective tactile quality experienced artists understand.

Diameter at the ferrul: about 1/8″
Length of hairs: about 5/8″
List price: about $50

End of Days

Yesterday marked 7 months since my father passed away.

Today, I watched a man die on the sidewalk in Rancho Bernardo.

Maybe he was already in Eternity as I held his hand, prayed for him and told him to hang on a little longer.

I don’t remember his name, now…. Somebody Burich, as I recall from his driver’s license. He was somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 years old, I imagine.

I had just pulled off the I-15 onto Rancho Bernardo Rd. I was picking up my daughter from her drama practice with CYT. 2pm. I saw a man hunched over another man laying on the sidewalk next to the road I was on. I’m not a doctor, but I always think there is something I may be able to do to help if the professionals haven’t arrived yet. So I pulled over. a little ways past the man on the sidewalk.

Another man was 20 feet away with a cellphone next to his ear, pacing a small circle on the sidewalk in silence staring impatiently into the sky. A woman was nearby standing by the passenger door of her car—probably the cellphone man’s wife. A young woman, about 20, with a closed cellphone in her hand stood on the other side of the fence separating the sidewalk from the Elepahnt Bar parking lot. She looked worried. She looked like she did not know him, didn’t know what to do or how to help or anything, but there was no way she could just leave. She was glued to the event by sheer compassion.

I backed up to where the collapsed man was with the first man I had seen hunched over him. “You guys have everything under control?” I asked, assuming help was on the way, and they would be fine. The gentleman helping the elderly man—who was obviously unconscious—had a fairly helpless look on his face and nodded back toward the cellphone man saying, “We still haven’t got anyone at 911.”

It would be a total of 15 minutes before the man on hold with 911 would get a live human to talk to. He’s been on for 5 minutes before I arrived, and another 10 after I got there.

I got a thick, plaid button-down shirt out of my trunk to put under the man’s head for a pillow. We got it under his head. I asked if anyone had searched his wallet for emergency numbers. No. So I fished it out of the left hip pocket of his brown polyester pants, unbuttoning the pocket button that kept it safe.

Inside were family pictures, cards, an AAA card, a medical doctor’s card. I called several of the numbers trying to get hold of someone who might know this man. Finally we ran across a page, handtyped, in one of his picture sleeves. It had a gal’s name and the designation: Granddaughter next to it and her phone number. One of the other guys called her number and was speaking to her, as the sirens could finally be heard in the distance, a half mile away. I figured they were too late anyway.

I realized I would have to move my car to make room for the paramedics, so as they got closer, I got into my car and pulled away from the curb. Then, as I pulled away, I realized I really could do nothing else for the man but say “God bless him.”

So I kept driving.

Another block, make a left, pick up Lauren.

15 minutes later we were on the road, and I drove by the scene again—now on the left opposite us—where I had seen the paramedics in my rear view mirror. The paramedics were doing chest compressions on him. He was still on the sidewalk.

It occurred to me that if they had thought he had even a fighting chance of making it, he would have been in the van and on his way to an Emergency Room within minutes of coming on the scene. I said to Lauren, “I think that man just died,” and then told her I had been with him 15 minutes earlier.

And I thought: Someone lost a grandpa today. Someone lost a friend. Someone lost a dad.

Tha man did not know it was his last day.

You so rarely do.

Wal-Mart Bows To Somebody’s Pressure

WalgrinchThe following story is true: I was at Wal-mart in Vista, CA yesterday to return some items I bought earlier in the day but did not need after all. I waited in line for Customer Service until it was my turn. Now, you have to understand, I have developed the habit—a modified behavior, if you will—of remaining in my first-in-line posiion until I am officially called forward by whomever is now available to serve me. I have made the mistake, before, of seeing a person leave the counter at customer service and deciding to rush up to that spot only to have a Please Use Next Window sign set up in my face and discover I’ve lost my place in line.

When it was my turn, the woman behind the recently vacated counter looked up and smiled at me and said “Happy Holidays.” She then looked back down at her paperwork.

I gingerly stepped forward and playfully announced that “I will assume that was the Christmas equivalent of ‘May I help you sir?'” She laughed and said, “Yes! May I help you , sir? Merry Christmas. Same thing.” I chuckled.

The Customer Service woman to her left (CS2, I’ll call her) turned to CS1 and said “You’re not supposed to say the Merry word.”

I piped up, “You’re not supposed to say ‘Merry’? You can say Happy Christmas, but not Merry Christmas?”

“No. You can say Merry, but you can’t say hmm-hmmm,” she said speaking a familiar two-syllable word with her lips shut like someone just zippered them.

I knew what this was about from the second she scolded CS1. Somebody somewhere is offended that the word Christmas has that ugly, offensive, filthy, uncaring, religiocentric, Crusades-inspiring word ‘Christ’ in it—clearly a reference to that Jesus character that made a big scene 2000+ years ago. Any reference to that name may offend some Wall-Mart customers and they may not return to buy more stuff.

I chimed in “Well, that doesn’t sound like the Sam that founded this company. I think he was pretty comfortable with the word Christmas.” I had read or heard back when Sam Walton was alive that he was a devout Christian who got his personal morals and business ethics from the bible and made a strong connection between his success and his faith.

CS1: Well, I’ll say Merry Christmas if I feel like it.

CS2: Eyebrows raised You can’t!

Me: What if I say Merry Christmas to her first… then she knows the phrase doesn’t offend me.

CS2: We can say ‘And the same to you.”

Me: Eyebrows raised You can’t say “And Merry Christmas to you?”

CS2: Nope. We’re not supposed to say the “C-word.”

Me: ‘Christ’ is now ‘the C-word?’

CS1: That’s ridiculous.

CS2: No… they just had a big meeting about that. Weren’t you there?

CS1: I never heard that. That’s ridiculous.

Now, the whole time this exchange was going on, CS1 was busy doing her job, and by now my return was done and she was counting change into my palm. With $69 and change in my hand, I quipped, “Gee… I didn’t get you anything.”

She laughed and I turned to leave. From about 10 feet away I turned back toward them and shouted “Merry Christmas!” and CS1 shouted back with a big smile to me, “And Merry Christmas to you, sir!”

I walked away realizing that her doing that could have cost her her job.

It kind of reminds me of the one oddity in movie-bleeping—you know where they cut or over-dub the “bad words” in movies so that they don’t offend. In some, they simply drop out the sound on the offending word. I have long thought it odd that a common tough-guy curse comes out:
“____ damn it!” since they leave in the damn, and bleep out God. Seems kinda backward to me, though I do understand it would lose the sense of an angry curse if they made it any other way. But, you know, movies have to have those angry curses or you can’t tell a good story…

What a world we live in.

Am I going to boycott Wal-mart? No. Just because a bunch off spineless weenies run the company doesn’t mean I won’t shop there. And frankly, I don’t think Jesus is too upset about the whole thing. He’s certainly heard worse.

But I will write to Wal-mart HQ and make sure there is a link to this blog entry.

Meaningful Relationships

I read an interesting account today. A [highly unscientific] sampling of [5] teenagers [from the Bay Area] was assembled as a panel at the Web 2.0 Conference to discuss the Internet or technology and their use of it.

What’s fascinating is that several attendees refer to this panel as one of the more interesting or enlightening things going on at the Web 2.0 Conference. I haven’t settled on any particular thoughts about the subject because my mind is still reeling from all the ramifications and implications, especially when you consider that these young adults spend so time daily much using communications technology instead of actually getting together with their friends. Wait… that sounds like my life. Anyway, it cracks me up that all the marketers and adult know-it-alls were dumbfounded at what they heard by listening to teenagers.

What is the world coming to? We have real, live grown-ups asking teenagers what they want and listening to their answers. Tell me this isn’t really happening.

Kareem Mayan’s Weblog
Web 2.0: Conversation with Five Teenagers

Safa Rashtchy, managing director at Piper Jaffray, moderated a panel with five Bay-Area teenagers. all are 17 and in highschool, except for Sasha, who is 18 and is a freshman at Berkeley.

This was one of the more interesting panels, because the perspectives that these teens provided were candid, novel, and insightful. At the same time, these teens were found on Craigslist, which means they’re probably more internet-literate than your average teen. In any case, the audience ate up this panel—my guess is because these folks rarely talk to customers.

[more]

It’s worth reading the rest just to see the quick notes Mayan took during the panel discussion.

Very Striking

Man! Did we have a thunder storm last night! Given that we virtually never have them at all, this indroductory offer was a whopper!

We were awakened at 1:30am with a house-jarring crack! that made us both sit up in bed, flashing immediately to all the Southern California earthquakes we’ve been through in our lifetimes. This thunderstorm was all but directly overhead, and low, and with that first clap, began an all-night spectacle that was at once enjoyable and exhausting.

Yesterday morning was sunny and hot. By 11am I was thinking of getting a tan for a half-hour or so. By 3:00pm, there were clouds covering all of the sky, and I commented to my wife that it seemed as if the weather was only a few days early for the first day of Fall. “How does it know?”

By 2:00am, we were wide awake listening to World War III.

San Diego beach-town thunderstorms lose a little of the romantic qualities when every clap is punctuated by the horn-honking car alarms of all the SUVs and Hummers parked outside our windows.

More than once I thought of wielding a brick or two, marching out to an offending vehicle and confidently telling them “I’ll give you something to honk about…”

Hands

I just got through reading a great article by an animator I have never met, Ward Jenkins—I stumbled on his blog through some art connection, and through his blog also found a blog of his wife Andrea’s doing. They are both on my regular-reads list. The title of his piece today is Meeting Giants where he relates well a touching story of getting to meet a couple of old animators—two of the Disney’s famed Nine Old Men—who were doing a signing at a place near him.

It was my turn. I walked up to Frank and shook his hand. That hand. The hand that gave birth to many inspiring characters, many incredible scenes. The hand that has drawn perhaps millions of drawings, each one a small birth of personality and life. The hand that has moved millions, perhaps even billions, on this planet to tears, to laughter, to sorrow, to pain, to wonderment, to exhilaration, to joy, to love. I shook that hand and time stood still for me. In this frozen moment, I wanted to be some kind of conduit where all his experiences and knowledge of the craft somehow channeled into me. Oh, if only. If only I could gather all his thoughts and feelings about animation, even the anguish and hardships that seems to be so evident of the art-form, and suddenly become this new creation myself, the Tenth Old Man, or something.

It reminded me of how I always look at hands.

Some hands do not capture my attention for long. Others draw me in. Few and far between are pretty hands, in my opinion, but many hands are interesting. I, too, place great importance on the hands of talented people. Whenever I am in the presence of great artists, I always look at their hands. If they are particularly famous, and “made it” a long time ago, and have been living in fabulous wealth for several decades, however, I look at my feet. But that’s another story.

My three-best-friends-ever all make their living with their hands… well I suppose most do. I mean, my good friend Celine Dion makes her living with her voice, but she still does that chest-pounding thing with her hands. Anyway…

Morgan Weistling is great painter. His hands look no different than anyone else’s, but the control they have is amazing to me.

Brock Meeks is an amazing fellow. He decided he wanted to be a writer about 15 years ago, and with no formal education or great grades in English or writing, went to the library and got books on writing, and made himself a writer. He’s now one of the top writers at MSNBC.com. Same thing with photography. He wanted to become a better photographer, so he got books (and some good camera equipment) and dang if he didn’t turn into a world class photographer.

Then there’s my high school best friend, Rick Gerber, who’s a magician. Was in high school, and still is, 30 years later. Full-time! You can’t help but watch his hands. The things he does with coins, cards, scarves, sticks, napkins and lovely assistants will make you sure that his hands are truly magic.

We always look at the hands.

But the hands are just a tool. An extention of the mind. If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the hands are the vehicle of experience. You don’t look at a Frank Lloyd Wright home and then stare at his saw. There’s just too much more inside the man.

Ward Jenkins reflects that the old animator gave him a distilled solution to being successful as an animator

OBSERVE EVERYTHING
COMMUNICATE WELL
DRAW, DRAW, DRAW

You can substitue your own fundamental skill for Draw, but that’s really the heart of excellence isn’t it? Observe everything. Communicate Well. Draw, Draw, Draw.

See, it’s drawing—the most fundamental element of art—that is the most critical element of all great art. New art students do not appreciate how critical to their future works is the fundamental regimen of drawing.

Drawing makes you observe, and observing makes you see better, and seeing is what makes the artist. Not the hands.

Seeing makes the great writer, not the hands.

Seeing makes the great magician, not— well, maybe that doesn’t work. But you get my point.

My father was Salesman of the Year in various companies he worked for, a pattern that started in the early 1950s. He was not your typical salesman. He was your friend. My dad was the living example of applying the Old Animator’s Advice to his profession as a salesman. The drawing my father did was in studying the client, finding out their technical needs and communicating with his own companies production teams and engineers what the client wanted and building detailed proposals for the other company’s engineers to peruse.

At my father’s Memorial Service, a gentleman named Don Baumann came walking up the aisle to an open mic and told the audience about the day Bob Darrow came to work for him. Don was my dad’s new boss. Don found out that day that my father was the replacement for someone they fired. The company hired my dad to work under Don without telling Don. And the man they fired? He was a very close friend of Don’s.

“Bob, I don’t think you’re going to make it here,” Don told his new hire that day.

My dad heard similar slams over the next few months as his boss wondered why my dad never turned in Expense Reports—the expected evidence of wining and dining clients, taking them to clubs and dinners and golfing.

My dad was busy drawing.

“Bob, I don’t think you’re going to make it here…”

At the end of the year, my dad outsold everyone in the company and remained the top salesman for his many years there. In short order the company restructured their sales procedures to model my dad’s methods. Everyone was required to get to know the clients’ needs, build solid proposals, observe and communicate.

My dad was fond of a phrase

Listen to Understand, Not to Respond

Still… I miss his hands.

Latte Lab

In our cute little beachtown, Carlsbad, CA, many of the local walk-in businesses such as liquor stores, taco shops, surfshops and even Starbucks have adopted the “courtesy” of placing dog bowls filled with water for passing dogs to enjoy—or, more likely, serving as a friendly message that your dog is welcome as far as the door.

Teresa was at Starbucks the other morning getting a Venti Drip—at a price that overshadows a gallon of gasoline—when she overheard a man at the door talking to his wimpering, young Lab.

Man: Okay, you stay here now. Daddy’s going inside to get a latte. Daddy will be right back.

Dog: <wimpering loudly in a pitch approaching that of a dog whistle>

Man, stepping back out of Starbucks: Daddy just wants to get a latte. It’ll only take a second. Now you have to be a good boy. Daddy will be right here.

Man goes back in; gets in line.

Dog: <wimpering loudly in a pitch approaching that of a dog whistle>

Man, coming back out of Starbucks: Okay. I guess we’re going to have to go now. No latte for Daddy!

And with that, he untied the leash and walked away with his dog.

I’ll bet that dog was embarrassed to be with such a weenie.

Full Circle

On Saturday November 20, 2003 I was just figuring out how easy setting up my own blog was going to be. In a rare moment of stepping back in technological time, I moved over at my desk to use the PC instead of my Mac G4. [wink, wink] I noticed Google was offering a “toolbar” that included a button that would allow a visitor to a web page to “add this to your blog.” It intrigued me, and so I went to Google’s recently purchased blogger.com to poke around.

In doing so, I finally understood that setting up a blog was extremely easy (I chose the slightly more technical option of posting it on my own site, which required a little bit of know-how, but nonetheless, quite easy). Within 15 minutes, I was able to post my first blog to this site.

I was excited, I suppose… but then I realized I had nothing to say. So in my first blog entry I commented on what was the news of that moment: they were arresting Michael Jackson. I felt at that time exactly as I do now:

If Jackson is guilty he needs prayer and some serious help, and so do any victims of whatever he is guilty of. If Jackson is innocent, he needs prayer because his reputation is at the very least brought under great suspicion by not only the charges, but the Media coverage. And the accusers need prayer, too. If they are wrongly accusing Jackson they need some serious help with the condition of their hearts.

I think several people need help.

I think what happened was terrible.

I speak for either side, and for whatever the truth is.

But I don’t know. Never will; never care to.

Season of Lint

I just made my second trip to the clothes dryer. I always set a timer for 20 minutes, and when it goes off, I go clean out the lint trap. This makes the circulation of hot, dry air more efficient, reducing the odds against me that I will have to start the one-hour drying cycle again.

Each time I do this, for every load I remove maybe 1/4 ounce of lint. It’s usually a good-sized pad of lint. What strikes me as more profound than the fact that lint is always purplish gray even when I have orange items in the load, is the fact that this little pad of lint used to be my clothing.

Lint is [are?] fibers of what was formerly individual items of clothing, and is no longer usable as such. In fact, the existence of lint is evidence of older, smaller, weaker clothing. The very act of cleaning and drying my clothes makes them a little closer to an inevitable unusable state.

As logic would dictate, I have decided to stop bathing.

Middle Age

If my mother lives to be 144, then today she hit middle age. She and my father are celebrating her 77th birthday—she’s finally as old as him again. (He turned 77 on April 12)

I would love it if anyone who reads this (whether I know you or not) would be so kind as to send her a simple e-mail message of “Happy 77th Birthday!” (Or, you can leave out the age, if you want). Feel free to say “You don’t know me, but I heard it’s your birthday,” if that makes you feel better.

Click here for an automated e-mail with the subject “Happy 77th Birthday!”… you can change it or add to it before you send it.

She checks e-mail everyday, so feel free to send the greeting any time for the next 5 days or so.

Thanks for blessing her heart.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Understanding

While I was visiting my parents (my dad’s condition has stabilized, by the way) I was doing a lot of scanning of old slides and photo album stuff. My expressed desire is to put together a tribute to my father in video form, and show him before he passes on. My brother and I discussed, but never planned, a memorial service for my dad before he goes. “Memorial Services are always too late,” John laments. All these people gather together and say such nice things about the one person who isn’t there to hear them. And then they have a party.

Dad saw me taking still images of things around their house and asked if I would shoot or scan the dictionary definition of understand.

My own appreciation of the subtle differences in, and the precise the meanings of words comes largely from my father. As a teenager, we had an old, blue Webster’s dictionary in the upstairs bathroom where other homes might have magazines. There was a yellow or pink highlighter nearby, too. My dad liked to highlight as he came to understand words. This particular dictionary is dotted throughout with yellow and pink.

After scanning the corner of the page that has understanding on it, I read the definition aloud to my father. After a long pause, he said something that will echo in my mind forever:

“After all my searching and researching, I do not know whether it is more important to understand or to be understood.” —R.A. Darrow, 2005

No Fear

I haven’t weighed in on the Terry Schiavo story despite the title of my blog: My Thoughts… Exactly! I have so many thoughts from all different directions that I could not make sense trying to spell them out. All my thoughts come to a grinding halt on one thought: I am not in their shoes. Not the Schindlers and not Michael Schiavo’s. And, for the record, they have not asked for my opinion.

It is just a horrible situation for everyone involved, and I am glad it is not me that’s in any of their positions.

But life just isn’t that easy, is it?

Today is “Good Friday” — the day that my Lord cried “It is finished!”—three words (in English, anyway) that have more meaning than we humans can possibly comprehend.

Ironically, today was my last day teaching at AI, at least for the near future. I walked out today feeling my own little “It is finished.” I mean no disrespect.

As I got in my car for the one-hour ride home, I pressed a few cell-phone buttons to retrieve my messages—I leave my phone in the car all day when I teach. My brother had left a message in the morning. My parents and he were just leaving the attorney’s office where my dad had drafted a Living Will. Well, at least some good has come from the Schiavo case, I thought. My brother continued, “We’re headed to the hospital now. Dad’s not doing very well.”

Mom and DadOn the Way toThe HospitalMarch 25, 2005.Married 56 yearsas of March 19, 2005.Photo: John DarrowA subsequent phone message told more. Dad is in bad shape. Something is wrong with his kidneys. I couldn’t get hold of John, so I left a message for him. My sister called right after I was done, and choking back tears, gave me her assessment.

After that call, there was no one else to discuss it with, so I picked up Lauren for the weekend on my way home, and called Teresa and we met at church for the Good Friday Service. As I arrived at the church, I received a call on my cell phone from my dad. He and my mom had come home to grab a few things to head back to the hospital where he will stay the night. He called to tell me he loves me. He did not say what I expected him to say: Don’t worry, I’m fine. He told me instead that he’s going into surgery to have tubes installed “permanently” to drain his kidneys which no longer perform their normal function. He added “I am in terminal condition.”

He’s an engineer, so you just have to understand. He is accepting death.

I asked him how he feels about that. “I have no fear,” he told me without hesitation. I replied, “That is how I have always known you.”

I feel my father letting go, and I do not know how long he will live. I do not fault him—in fact I applaud him—for not wanting to hang around long, if it’s time to go. He has always, as long as I have known him, lived life trusting the sovereign, gracious Hand of God.

Such is the peace that comes to a man who has lived Christ for as long as I have been old enough and sensitive enough to appreciate it. No, not always, but enough to make a life-long impression on this stumbling fool.

My father has never stood taller than when in his weakened, terminal condition told me in no uncertain terms that, facing death, he has no fear. He is not facing the unknown.

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him will not die, but have Eternal Life —John 3:16

Please pray for my mother.

Mile High Blog

It’s 12:23pm San Diego time, and I am sitting in left-most, aisle-seat C of row 45 on a 747 (or some other really big plane), Hawaiian Airlines Flight 33 on my way to Honolulu, Hawaii, and then to Kona. I have the honor of participating as a guest teacher for one week at the Illustration School of the University of the Nations in Kona.

But more on that later; some other blog.

I am on a plane right now, and I can think of nothing better to do than write about than what’s going on around me. It’s a 5.5-hour flight, the in-flight-meal of vegetarian lasagna and salad with a “petite roll” has long since been consumed; trash collected;and people are snuggling up with their hand-towel-sized blankets and carnival bean-bag-sized pillows lightly filled with something reminiscent of, but with less cushioning effect than, cotton candy. The 3 boys across the aisle to my left, in row 45, seats A and B—ages 3 to 5 I am guessing—are finally settling down, and it appears they will be napping soon.

Thank God.

It has only taken four hours for this to finally occur. And I have been praying alternately for the entire four hours for them to settle down or for God to grant me a superhuman measure of grace in order to not violently and suddenly “offer them my cotton candy pillow.”

The man who sits next to child number 3 in row 44 immediately in front of the other two is presumably the father of these three boys. If I had known their names earlier, it would make no difference since there has been an ongoing game of musical chairs since the flight started. This particular family has a peculiar variation of the game: The child in the seat behind Dad gets to sit by said Dad when said Dad is finally sick and tired of having his seat kicked from behind with the force of a log-splitter, rhythmically, every half-second. He is either extremely patient, or in a functional coma. He doesn’t even blink for the first, say, 40 kicks. The things this man can ignore are astonishing. If it were me sitting in 44B, everyone would have found out who today’s secret Air Marshall is three hours and forty-six minutes ago, my status changing to: soon-to-be-jailed in Honolulu.

Nevermind that it took Dad 20 rings to discover that is was his own son pushing the flight attendant call button that everyone on the plane can hear. That’s nothing. Even the Pepto-Bismal-colored PEZ candies strewn about the floor-area of 45 A and B are a pleasantry compared to the sheer volume with which these kids communicate. I hesitate to use the word “speak” as that suggests intelligible phrases spoken by civilized human beings. Most of the noises emitted are of a whiny nature, such as the plaintive “I’m hungry. Hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry… hung…..greee…” that began emotionlessly, yet with a variety of intonations, on the tarmac in San Diego’s Lindberg Field, where I first looked out the porthole window past the little demons onto a drizzle-soaked runway under a gray sky and thought, “Five and a half hours?”

I presume they are family for two reasons, no three. First, what’s most obvious is that they are all wearing the same khaki shorts (dad in trousers) and matching blue, cross-striped, button-down shirts. It’s like the Von Trapps having just replaced all their blue curtains. But there is a noticeably missing Problem like Maria—there is no mom in the immediate vicinity. My guess is she at home lying in a steaming bathtub, her fingers delicately tracing smiley faces in the condensation on a cold Mimosa, half-eyed, with a proud, weak, grin acknowledging to herself the brilliance of sending all the boys off to Hawaii. “Let him have a week with them!”

Secondly, they ignore each other as only family can do. And thirdly, they all look alike.

Mom must have booked the flight, laid their clothes out for them and disappeared leaving the rest to Dad. No mother would have—without malice, anyway—packed the goodie bags these kids have to keep them entertained. Only a Dad could have come up with this assortment of distractions. They each have little hand-held LCD game units, which do indeed make annoying, squeaky shooting noises. And they have “nutritious” snacks with the plastic/foil wrappers even the Incredible Hulk couldn’t open.

Ahh, but the most amazing inclusion of all, carefully planned and well-thought-out for a five hour plane ride was—and I am not making this up—the rubber-band paddle-ball games for each of the boys. The rubber bands in their slack position are longer than the distance from the boys’ noses to the seats in front of them (even when a seat is being kicked to its forward-most position). This leaves only one option.

Or so I thought.

The kid in 45B managed to shoot his ball in every direction but across my bow. Good thing for that; I was already fantasizing about the moment the little blue ball came within reach, seeing myself snatch it out of the air like Mr. Miagi on a fly with chopsticks.

Now you have to realize Dad—let’s call him “Job” [biblical pronunciation] for the moment—sat there through a good, ten-minute stretch of unskilled, multi-directional paddle-balling without raising an eyebrow. Awesome concentration… or denial, or whatever.

Well, that little rally ended when the ball entered the no-fly zone next to Dad’s head, prompting him to spin round in his seat, reach behind him with clinched jaw, grab the paddle-game by the ball and yank it out of his son’s hand, punctuating his annoyance by tearing the rubber-band to bits in front of his son’s face.

Which lead to a long, wailing session from little Mr. McEnroe.

I pity this man and his “vacation.”

The term vicious Cycle comes to mind.

Prejudice

My wife and I were having dinner over at our oldest daughter’s house the other evening. She was preparing some garlic bread to go with our lasagna and got out a really cool garlic press. I have actually broken several garlic presses in my adult life, and I could tell this one was made for a lifetime. It looked like German engineering for the kitchen.

I rotated it around to find the manufacturer only to discover it was a Hamilton Beach Deluxe Garlic Press.

I don’t know why, but my first reaction was surprise. And then I realized it was a prejudice I had never been taught.

See, when I was a kid, we had an Oster brand blender. An Osterizer to be more to the point. We also had, if I recall correctly, Oster hair clippers. No one told me they were superior. I just assumed.

When I first saw a Hamilton Beach blender, I assumed it was a cheap knock off. It may have been, but, just as easily, it may have been superior. How would I know? I never tried one before. The prejudging came only because I preferred what was familiar to me. In fact I was ignorant about Hamilton Beach, as I found myself acting surprised that they could come up with a quality product.

And isn’t that all prejudice is? Ignorance in its most silently aggressive form.

Now that I think about it, where would I likely vacation? Oster? or Hamilton Beach?

The Tsunami

I am still stunned, several days later, at the devastation from the tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

When I first heard about it, listening as I do most days to MSNBC on the boob tube, there was no video yet, just a short comment or two in the regular run of headlines, and they were saying “over 100 people reported killed in a tidal wave in Indonesia.”

It is with a slight tinge of shame that I admit I didn’t even look up at the TV, but went about my business, thinking at the time, “That’s sad. I wonder how big that wave was to kill 100 people?” There wasn’t much passion in the thought. It wasn’t in my backyard, so “it wasn’t that real.”

Later the total dead rose to 2000, then 10,000 then the videos came onto the TV. It was awesome to behold. I could—and can still—only stare in disbelief, numb. I don’t know what to think. I can’t form a thought. I think best when there is a problem to solve, and here, there is nothing I can do.

My parents received an e-mail from cousins of my mom that are Christian Missionaries who that know other missionaries that were on the beach when the tsunami hit. The following is personal account from those second missionaries serving in Phuket, Thailand:

We were on an island close to Krabi (Ben and I, our children, Ben’s parents as well as friends from South Africa). Someone phoned us on a mobile phone to say that a wave hit Phuket and we were all still standing at the beach talking about it when we noticed that the tide was suddenly pushing up very high. The next moment it pulled way back into the sea and then we saw this HUGE wave coming at us. Everybody began to scream and run, and I managed to grab Janke where she was playing in the sand and shouted to Joshua to run for the bushes (right behind us there were just trees, bushes and then limestone rock).

We’d run about 5 metres when the wave hit the shore and the next moment we were rolling through bushes and trees and under the water. It was horrific. I lost Janke out of my arms and when we finally came to a halt everyone (except Ben’s mother and Janke) was visible. I dashed down to feel and just felt a little body stuck under trees and bushes. I was SO scared. I recognized Janke’s swimsuit and pulled and pulled and got her out. We were all covered with sand and leaves and bruised and hurting. Janke immediately asked me why does her leg look so funny and I realised it was broken. Ben found his mother, covered under mud and his father was stuck under trees. He was in a lot of pain. They managed to get him out and then we had to run for safety as people began to shout that another wave was coming. We all scrambled, barefoot, onto a limestone hill, trying to get as high as possible. Ben stayed behind, helping people that were very badly hurt and finding one’s that were not yet accounted for. The shouts of people calling names of family members rung through the air, as well as shouts of people in pain, desperately needing help…

Almost 10 hours after being hit by the wave we finally arrived at the International hospital in Phuket. Another war zone but very well organised with many western doctors on holiday here who came to help. Ben’s dad is fine, he is still in hospital and will probably be released later today. Janke has broken her leg on 2 places and is fine. Ben’s mom has a deep cut on her head that received stitches, the rest of us are bruised and blue and hurting BUT PRAISE GOD, WE ARE ALL ALIVE.

The cousins that sent the e-mail to my parents added at the end of that account from their friends:

Many of the areas most stricken have been opposed to the gospel, and this may be an opportunity for the Lord to reach those who have been unreached until now.

As a Christian, my first thoughts are always thanksgiving and then questions. ‘Thank you, God, that it didn’t happen here, and that my kids and wife are safe, and I have my health—but why didn’t you stop this?”

I am certainly not among the many Christians who look at disasters as the judgement of God on a people. Many decent, loving Christians died in the tsunami, or on 9/11, or in the LA riots, or the San Diego fires… if “God is judging sinners” He is frighteningly indiscriminate, and people who hold such views are frighteningly impressed with themselves — ”Pharisaical, in my opinion. That we, the survivors, should believe we are alive due to anything we have done is to miscalculate our own good and to completely devalue the magnitude of God’s grace.

At the same time, I am somewhat amused by the talking heads and “experts” that refer to Mother Nature turning violent. Everyone tries to make sense of such disasters, but really Mother Nature isn’t a kind old lady (I remember her from the margarine commercials in the 60s). This is an old earth. She shifted her weight to get comfortable, and a couple of plates popped, making a ripple in one of her ponds. That ripple just happens to have killed , what, 116,000 as of today?

Oh my gosh, we are so small.

Rather than seeing this as judgment, I do hope, as the missionaries suggested, that people will take stock and see that the Earth is wearing out, and will not last forever, and will be reminded to consider their spiritual condition more seriously than they do.

In light of the tsunami, I don’t even know what to pray, except that God will allow some to hang on and have a moment to talk with Him and “make things right” before their journey into Eternity. And for the people who have suffered such incredible loss, I pray that they somehow find comfort, soon, in the midst of their pain.

I encourage you to make a generous donation to help the victims of the tsunami. An organization whom I trust, and that has a great financial responsibility track record is World Vision. Here is a link to make a donation through World Vision.

This is a direct link, and there is no way World Vision knows who directed you there; I get no credit for it, I don’t have an account with them; I don’t care.

Just give.

Don’t Forget The Time Change

It all started today, roughly 2000 years ago. Given the importance of the day, I am still amazed that the exact date is not known—not even the year.

But prior to the birth of a little fella, subsequently named Jesus, they were counting the date and time some other way, and none of them were using the term “B.C.”… no, things were rolling along like normal: Romans were storming the towns, and peasants were running for cover, and the date was like any other date… just another year added to the privious one.

And then everything changed. Someone came along so significant in human history that they started time all over again. We don’t say December 25, 03 ANE (After 9/11), even though that was an event that changed the world. So, reason would have it, this event was even bigger.

Even if you don’t share the same belief’s about Jesus that Christians do, you have to acknowledge that this one little baby, child… man, was a pretty big interruption to human existence. He caused a ripple in the lake that still bounces across the surface 2000 years later. This ripple wrinkled time. They set the clocks back like never before.

Find out for yourself what it was all about: read the fourth book of the New Testament: The Gospel of John. Gospel simply means good news, and John was the one reporting, in this particular piece of literature.

Someone once gave me a life-changing bit of advice: “See if you can find a red-letter edition of the New Testament. Read only the red text, in as much as it makes sense, and see if you can figure out the Heart if Jesus from only what he actually said.” [A red-letter edition has the words of Jesus only in red text].

Merry Christmas, and don’t forget to set your heart back.

Can’t Stop Shaking My Head

Disbelief makes my head wag.

“Los Angeles [from whence I originate] Officials” [whatever that means anymore] are asking that manufacturers of computer hard drives stop using the offensive labels “Master and Slave” on their products. I am not making this up.

The request—which has some suppliers furious and others busy re-labeling components—came after an unidentified worker spotted a videotape machine carrying devices labeled “master” and “slave” and filed a discrimination complaint with the county’s Office of Affirmative Action Compliance. ”

…We would request that each manufacturer, supplier and contractor review, identify and remove/change any identification or labeling of equipment components that could be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive in nature,” Sandoval said in the memo, which was distributed last week and made available to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Pacoima Dish Network Officials are requesting that the same manufacturers also eliminate the label Cable Select, as it implies “superiority of cable TV over Satellite.” Okay, I did make that up.

And this unrelated story gets filed in the “You really can get used to just about any annoyance” folder… A guy complains about a head ache he’s had for a long time. X-rays reveal the source of his discomfort. [My brother John sent me that one]

And finally—borrowing my brother’s caption “So, tell us again — we should keep you in our country because…”

There’s an interesting protest being staged by an asylum seeker. [Hattip to John again]

Incredible Thoughtlessness

In this post from a few days ago, I told about sitting through a second showing of The Incredibles with my daughter at a matinee.

Fortunately for my at-times-fluctuating sense of integrity, I have good friends and family who are interested in not only my well-being, but also, and more to the point, “what message does that send to your daughter?”

Admittedly, I sat through the second showing without giving much thought to the idea that it would be, as my friend challenged, like coming back the next day with my ticket stub and arguing that I’d already paid once, and I want to see it again for free. The message to my daughter has to be confusing at best. I’ll do my best to correct that, too.

One thing at a time.

I just got back from the theatre where I told them that I wanted to pay for a second set of matinee tickets that I should have purchased Sunday when my daughter and I had sat through a second showing of The Incredibles.

They were a little surprised, but rang up my two tickets, took their money and thanked me for my honesty.

Man, I hate it when my friend is right.

Now I have to tell my daughter I was wrong.

Again.

Hamm and Eggs

Paul Hamm may have egg on his face, if this thing doesn’t smooth out.

I am sure I don’t have all the details, and maybe that’s what Hamm is thinking to himself, too, but I can’t help but think what a hollow ring that Gold Medal must have if Paul knows it should have gone the the South Korean gymnast. Maybe Hamm thinks he did a better job than the South Korean, and that’s how he justifies keeping the medal that apparently should not be his.

I don’t get it.

There’s only once classy move to make, it appears, and it doesn’t involve hanging the medal around his own neck.

Paul’s performance was indeed awesome, but if I were his best friend, I’d tell him to hand it over to Yang Tae-young of South Korea.

But then, I never wanted the Gold bad enough to do anything Hamm has done, good or bad.

Musings of a Has-been

Watching the Olympics always makes me wonder what I could have done or been if I had really put my mind to it.

Thirty years has passed since I was a gymnast at Westchester High School, Los Angeles, CA. Other than having learned to do dives, flips and twists on the totally inflexible diving board at the backyard pool of my aunt and uncle, Paul and Mae Oden in Hacienda Heights, I came into gymnastics in the spring of my senior year knowing nothing about gymnastics.

No one told me that gymnastics took years of dedicated training.

I just thought doing an iron cross would be cool.

My dad was a top gymnast in his day. He did strength moves I could only dream of.

When I began training with the other guys, I was fortunate to meet up with teammate Todd Stoddard, a cocky, talkative, hulk of a high-schooler who had a few years of gymnastics competition under his elastic belt and suspenders. For lack of a good high school coach — “Bud” Brubaker, the football coach, filled in that spring — Todd was my trainer. Between him and my father helping me with handstands and form training, I managed to get good enough to compete.

Truthfully, on our fledgling gymnastics team, if you could fog a mirror with your nostrils, you could compete in the next match.

In two months I went from not even being able to get up on the rings, to being able to hold an Iron Cross for about one second — not long enough by Olympic standards, but longer than some of the people I competed against in the LA Unified School District. The few other tricks I learned, like an “L” on the rings, and this hanging thing, and this other hanging thing, were enough to allow me to place first in at least one match, when Stoddard wasn’t doing rings that day. And that allowed me to Letter in Varsity Gymnastics.

I learned floor exercise, and worked on my strength moves. I’d even do them at home to entertain traveling salesmen, house guests, and the family dog. If you didn’t mind watching a cocky, talkative, hulk of a high-schooler (no, I mean me, this time) in an apparent, desperate cry for attention, I’d do a plange for you.

At least I think that’s what that was called.

I dunno.

I never took it that seriously.

Time for a beer. It’s after twelve noon somewhere in the world.

Only Two Things Are Certain

Before the tears of joy have dried to a salty dust, here comes the tax man.

Teresa and I were wondering about this as we drove over last Wednesday to see the homecoming.

A Curious Thing

On Father’s Day, Sunday, I listened to a non-Father’s Day Sermon in church. The pastor explained—after he said, “Oh, by the way, Happy Father’s Day…”—that he’d given up the tradition of Father’s Day topical sermons, because he knew that a lot of fathers only come to church on Father’s Day, and they are probably getting tired of hearing the same thing.

Good point.

Before he launched into his morning lesson, though, a PowerPoint slide came up on the overhead screen showing a pair of books, as he explained that he wanted all the fathers in the audience to accept one of these books as a gift from the church for Father’s Day. One of the titles is Man in the Mirror, and the other is Seven Seasons of the Man in the Mirror. He explained that these were great, reflective, thoughtful books for men, to help guide them with sound biblical ideas through the various stages in life, and that if we’d pick one up and read it, we’d probably really appreciate it, and that there would be a table in the parking lot with both books available if the men wanted to take one.

After the service, the book offer was all but completely forgotten, but I stumbled upon the table of books as I left. I decided to take one of them, the latter title.

As I reached for mine, I saw in my peripheral vision books being snatched up all around me, and I thought, “these must be pretty popular books.” And then I looked up and noticed I was the only man at the table. As I backed away from the table, with my selection in hand, I saw that about nine out of ten of the people leaving the table with a book in their hand were women.

A curious thing.

As I watched this scene, trying not to jump to any conclusions, a quote came to mind from a speaker I heard once in a church setting:

Many men feel that women marry men hoping to change them, whereas men marry women hoping they won’t.

A curious thing, indeed.

Default Thinking

While attempting to research the letter in my previous post, I ran into a nice bit of writing in someone else’s blog who decided to post the same letter.

The curse and the blessing of the internet, and especially now blogs, is that everyone references so many other writers, bloggers, photographers and artists… it’s a blast! And a time sink. But with thanks to Rae (whom I have never met) for some great writing, interesting posts and myriad links in her blog, “A Likely Story,” I somehow landed on a little piece where the Media tells on itself, admitting to bias. (What?!)

My best friend is a writer for MSNBC, so it was remarkable to me that this confession of sorts, was on an MSNBC Opinion Page, and that it referenced an ABC article in the process.

I was particularly caught by the assumption revealed in this statement:

Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.

They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are “conservative positions.”

This notion of liberal thought being presumed default is what grabbed me. I have been trying to put my finger on why people with liberal social views seem to feel so free to blather on about them without being asked.

A neighbor from down the street whom I have never met ran out of gas last week right in front of my house. The guy is as big as a house, tattooed and bearded, and got out of his car with a few muffled expletives and a slamming door. He wandered around his car several times and then into my driveway and addressed Teresa and I as we were sitting in our beach chairs sunning and relaxing.

“Say, you wouldn’t happen to have any gas, would you?” I almost snickered.

But as I said, he’s a big man.

I told him “no” and somehow failed to offer to let him siphon some of my $2.499/gal. gas out of my 8-cylinder 1977 Oldsmobile Dry Sponge version of a Regency. I looked at my wife, and simultaneously thought of Christ’s words, “When you do unto the least of these…” (a thought that could reasonably escape the mind of anyone beholding this Pro Wrestling look-alike), and one of us suggested that maybe I could offer to take the guy to a gas station.

On the way there, and back, I got an earful of his politics, mostly the kind of parroted rants you hear from people who have no better ideas than simply calling for the heads of the top dogs. Ironically, he started his 20-minute monologue with “I don’t know what your politics are, but…” and then proceeded to prove that he also didn’t care what my politics are.

And I guess that’s what “default thinking” does to people. When you get to the place where you think most people agree with your thoughts, you don’t have to be polite. You just blurt it out, and see if you get a “Right on, Dude!” But if you don’t, just keep yacking.

Another thing about default thinking that bothers me: there seems to be an unwritten rule that permits the elimination of discussion. Contemplative conversing, exchanging of ideas and laying sound evidence on the table are cast away in favor of name-calling, inflated hyperbole, and a general sourness and lack of grace, wrapped up in monologue.

The day I start thinking everyone thinks the way I do will be a dark day.

Then again, I’ve always thought that if everyone thought like I do, the world would be a better place.

I Like Simon Cowell

Okay, I admit I have been following American Idol 3 this year. I don’t know how I got sucked in, but I am pretty sure I saw it promoted months ago and I wanted to see if Fox was going to have ‘that mean guy I saw smugly judging the last two episodes of season 2’—the first I ever saw of American Idol.

I thought this goofball known as Simon Cowell was just being ridiculously contrary, for the sake of ratings.

After watching him this season, I have come to appreciate what he says, though not exactly how he says it. 95% of the time, when he articulates his dislike using words other than his two now-meaningless and overused favorites horrendous and hideous, I find myself agreeing with his concise critiques.

After a while, knowing how theatrical his answers are, I have come to trust his taste and reasons. Who do you want to answer your “Does my butt look big in this?”: Simon Cowell or Randy “Yo-Yo Dawg Props” Jackson? Or maybe Paula “Pitchy” Abduhl?

For my money, Simon Cowell is the most trustworthy.

Maybe it’s because he agrees with me so much.

Coming of Age

“Hydrocortisone in Murky Water”

That’s not as touching a title for this image as “Coming of Age.”

This image represents something to me that touches me deeply. It’s an image of the growing up we all do, and that we watch our children do. Passing from one age to the next, we also see internal changes; a new age of spirit and maturity.

My daughter Lauren turned 12 today; her birth in a small town in the East San Fernando Valley foothills is as vivid in my mind as if it happened last week. My baby girl actually smiled at me the day she was born.

“It’s probably just gas,” the midwife deflated. “Babies can’t smile.”

I have rested comfortably these 12 years knowing she was absolutely wrong—you see, an angel touched my heart that day.

A week and a half ago, when Lauren was with Teresa and I for the weekend, she came into the room telling me that “a tube of something fell off the shelf in the bathroom as I reached for my hairbrush. It fell right in the toilet… and I had just flushed it.”

“Is it gone forever?” I asked.

“No, I grabbed it out.”

I looked at her with stunned pride. As a smile broke across my face, she knew what I was getting at. She beamed, a little embarrassment reddening her face as I probed deeper, dramatically. “You grabbed it?! Out of the toilet?!”

“Uh huh!” she smiled.

“As it was still flushing?!”

“Uh huh!”

“But that means the water was still—”

“Uh huh!” she said, stuttering into a blast of laughter.

I got up and wrapped my arms around her. “I am proud of you! You are growing up!”

She wrapped her arms around me, accepting my accolades. I grabbed her arms, ripping them from my waist. “Ewwww! Did you wash your hands?” I joked.

“Yes!”

I wrapped her arms back around me with a wink.

And I kissed the top of her head.


An hour later I wandered into the bathroom and found this scene. The hydrocortisone tube sitting in the bathroom sink, half-filled with murky, handsoap-tinged water.”

I smiled to myself, that my little girl was growing up—but she’s still my little girl.

Insomnia

I finally threw in the towel on sleeping and rolled out of bed.

I have been tossing and turning for at least a half hour, and if I don’t get up or go to sleep, I’ll wake Teresa, who is already graciously snoozing off the spooning and snuggling.

My nights have changed.

Before the news of my father’s cancer, I slept pretty well through the night. But every night since then, I have awakened thinking of my dad, that I haven’t seen him in a while, and that I have to go see him. And while I do have a plane ticket to go see him this coming Friday, it’s not soon enough for my unconscious mind.

My unconscious self doesn’t tell jokes, bake cookies, drink wine, finesse CSS, pay bills, vacuum, or read strangers’ blogs for consecutive wee hours to keep from dealing with this sense of time on fast forward. Instead it’s there hovering over my bed to wake me at 3 or 4 every morning with a jolt and a grim Time is running out. It’s like my wife’s 5x magnifying make-up mirror that lacks the fair warning Objects in mirror may be smaller, younger and less flawed than they appear. Somewhere between reality and abusive confrontation, my mind wakes me with a sense of urgency that is becoming loathsome.

A few weeks ago, my father asked me if I could take the sound track off a VHS HiFi tape my brother sent us and make a CD with separate tracks. In 2001 my brother John graced the family each with these VHS tapes as the best medium he had available for recording compositions and arrangements he’d made over the years with his synthesizers and keyboards.

My dad was wanting to be able to jump from track to track—a feature of musical entertainment made available first when CDs were introduced in the 1980s. In the next 24 hours, I completed that task, and then, in my ever present never leave well-enough alone way, set them aside while I came up with decent labels for the CDs. Plus some slim cases, and mailers for the copies I’ll send to everyone in the family.

2 weeks later I had them labeled and shipped.

But in that two weeks and since, I have awakened each night with the urgency that my dad needs me to do a little favor for him “before he goes.” In my fully awake moments, I can hear my dad saying “I’m not dying… I just have cancer,” or I can still in my mind read his humorous summing up of whether Stage D cancer is an upgrade or a downgrade from Stage C: “My understanding is, they all have a 100% mortality rate, eventually.” I can see the twinkle in his eye as he resolves his situation.

But it’s not clear and decisive thinking that slaps me awake.

It’s nothing particularly profound, either.

It’s usually that I have to pee.

And that makes me think of my dad, and how this all started. I don’t worry that my need to pee in the middle of the night is a sign of Prostate Cancer (then again, neither did my dad). But in that mental prison between half-awake and mad that the pillow isn’t comfortable enough, thoughts are not rational.

Last week I bolted out of bed to get to that other recording project I started 6 months ago: digitizing a 90-minute cassette tape my siblings and I made when we were all together again at Christmas in 1979—the first time since my sisters married. We all sat down in the living room with Mom and Dad and a cheap Realistic cassette recorder in the middle of us on the maple coffee table, and talked of our Childhood Memories (available soon on MP3-CD, for $19.95 plus $6.95 shipping and handling. Not available in stores. Realistic is a registered trademark of Radio Shack. “Radio Shack: You’ve got questions? We’ve got blank stares”).

I came into the office and sat down at my computer which already has on it a raw analog-to-digital audio transfer of the whole tape. In fact, I already have performed the necessary EQ tweaking necessary to make the weak signal stronger and cleaner. 25 years have taken a lot of life out of that copy of an originally cheap-quality cassette tape. It just needs to be broken into individual tracks.

And that’s what I sat down to do that night. But then, fully awake, I realized I can’t do that at 4am. My neighbors and my wife will have my head.

So I read blogs instead.

This wee hour, I write one.

Half-Time Half-Comments

In my earlier comments about the Superbowl half-time, I failed to mention how I felt about the whole thing.

Truth is, at only 46 I sometimes think that my gut reactions make me an old fuddy-duddy in the eyes of the world. I didn’t see the incident live on TV, but have subsequently seen the whole half-time performance.

What happened to the days when bands and drill teams would march out and form logos and words and images by lining up in precise formations? That was half-time! You could have the family sitting around the TV watching that. You could take the kids to the game. But not anymore.

Whose idea was it to turn half-time entertainment over to TV’s most controversial cable channel ever? There’s more skin and sexual content on MTV in a 24 hour period than any other (including, perhaps, even the Playboy channel, if it even exists anymore). Why are all the various execs backing away from responsibility for the “breast flash” when they already endorsed and hired the flash network? We can only assume they were just fine with the remainder of the titillation.

It is sad to me how American young people are brought up with such a vacancy in the taste department. Starting back when my boys used to see the older boys wearing their jeans half-way down their butts, with their boxers showing 8 inches above the belt—my boys would roll their eyes.

Two years later my own boys were wearing their pants half-way down their butts (except when they were in my presence, I have to add), and claimed it “is more comfortable.” Thanks to people who have made MTV very rich—and vice versa—it now appears to be normal for underwear to show outside the clothing. First boxers, then briefs, then bra straps, then lacy things, now black bras under white, spaghetti strap tops… did the whole of the teen world suddenly go Jerry Springer on us?

“But everyone does it—”

If that’s true, everyone’s lost their sense of class.

I don’t accept it. I tolerate it. Tolerance is a good thing, right? To tolerate, by definition, means to accept and allow something you don’t like.

Am I put off by underwear or nudity? Far from it. I enjoy them both, in their proper contexts. It’s just that it’s my definition of “proper context” that comes into question, it seems.

And besides, don’t the Jackson’s have enough sexual controversy to deal with for one decade?

Send in the Clouds

Teresa and I got to looking at Lenticular Clouds after seeing a beautiful one in a picture from Hawaii that a colleague linked to from his site.

She wondered casually if people see those and think they are spaceships.

Yes. People think Pia Zadora is an entertainer, so I am sure there are a few that think those are spaceships.

The Rich Keep Getting Richer???

In an AP story about Jack Whittaker, winner of the world’s largest undivided lottery, my eye’s hit a speed-bump in this paragraph:

Whittaker, a 56-year-old contractor, won a $314.9 million Powerball jackpot in December 2002 and collected his winnings in a $113 million lump sum.

I can’t believe he only got to keep 35.8% of the winnings! Forget that he gets $113 million he might not have otherwise earned. Someone else—and I suspect it was our government—just automatically gets $202.2 million?! I am really curious how much of that will actually get to charities, or schools.

They take $202 Million dollar of Lucky Jack’s money, and my daughter still has to raise money for school band.

I’m sorry, but it’s all just wrong. Even if my daughter can’t play in a fully funded band, Jack ought to be able to keep most, if not all, of his money. At the most the government should take 2 or 3 percent. That’s still $6,298,000, max!

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