30 March 2010

The Three World Wars

I was born in 1966. By the time I knew what was going on Nixon was caught up in Watergate. I remember one time when I faked brushing my teeth and my mom busted me, saying "That's why the President is in all this mess. He lied." She hasn't changed much. Before this I was vaguely aware of a world outside of my own. I remember wondering what POWs were and why we had to bring them home. My uncle George wore a POW button. He fought with the U.S. Army in the Korean War. He was referring, of course, to the prisoners of the Vietnam War.

North Vietnam and North Korea were the only countries standing between the U.S. and China, geographically, when we fought these wars. In both cases the U.S. operated from the southern half of a once united nation and, in both cases, the enemy nation bordered China. I'm sure China didn't think much of us having our troops so close to their border, which is why we fought to the 38th paralell of the Korean peninsula and no further. At the time there was serious concern that Communism would sweep through Asia, spreading from nation to nation, like a cold, and it could only be caught border to border apparently. This is referred to as the Domino Theory, the cornerstone of any good Cold War philosophy, which seems kind of silly to me. But I saw the Berlin Wall fall when I was barely in my twenties, so maybe I don't have an idea of how real the threat of Communism or nuclear war was. The Berlin Airlift of 1961 and the Cuban Missle Crisis of 1962 were both episodes of direct or almost-direct U.S.-Soviet conflict. When the 1980's arrived the U.S. hockey team defeated the Soviets at the Olympics, the Afghans defeated them in Afghanistan, and Rambo, Rocky and Bill Murray had faced off against them in the movies. Before I turned twenty the real life Soviets had become cartoon villains. Of course, by this time, Ronald Reagan had ridden into office and started to move us beyond detente.

I had a professor who argued that the reason for the Sixties, the reason that people became dirty hippies, is the failure of the U.S. and Soviet Union to blow each other up during the Cuban Missle Crisis. I guess he figured they figured that if it didn't happen then, it would never happen and it was time to be self-indulgent and self-centered; the professor was kind of a dick. I don't think that's why the Sixties happened. The Fifties were repressed and the Sixties just brought the pendulum the other way. Guys and girls that had to suffer through heavy petting in the Fifties got to have Free Love in the Sixties, if they weren't married to whoever they were petting. And if they were they could just get divorced. The Free Love-rs had to worry about being drafted and here begins distrust of the government in a whole new way, a distrust that Nixon would hammer into the public consciousness so deeply that it is still being felt today.

I wonder if all of the Cold War actions, the proxy wars, the Space Race and all the economic and political competitions will eventually be referred to as the Third World War. It has definitely been a different world since the Soviet Union collapsed. It's messier and not as well-defined. Our enemy now is not a nation, but a loose network. How do we define them? They aren't within specific borders, even borders as lazy as Vietnam's. And a "war on terror" does not make sense either. We are fighting a war against a tactic? Because that's what terrorism is: a tactic of war. Like I have said before, I miss the old days when Reagan was president and the Russians were clearly the guys in the black hats.

You're Probably Thinking..."A Vacation From What?"

I am officially on vacation. If you know me, if you have been to my house in the last three months, you will know, you will ask yourself, "what could he be taking a vacation from?" I don't work, I practically don't feed myself (not true), I don't do my own laundry, or housework, or dishes (almost not true). But my friend Ralph lives outside of Washington, D.C., one of my favorite places, and an opportuinity to road trip presented itself. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am a history nut and, for people similarly afflicted, D.C. is like a big playground, a history geek's Graceland.

I would like to go to the Library of Congress sometime this week. Maybe I can dig into my family history while I'm here. I would also like to go back to the National Archives and get myself a t-shirt with both Elvis and Nixon (they're shaking hands!) on it. Of course I want to sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for awhile and look out at the reflecting pool on the National Mall. I might do that Friday. Also, the cherry blossoms are out here.

When I was a kid my family drove to Florida a few times and we stopped in D.C. The cherry blossoms were out and, of course, it was a good memory. So I'm excited for that too. I think I am going to try to talk my friend Ralph into driving to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's house. We'll see. The rest of the time I am going to sit on the patio and enjoy the sun. Pretty much what I do at home when it's warm enough. Pics will be forthcoming.

30 March 2010 11:51pm
Tomorrow is gonna be 70 here in DC tomorrow.

31 March 2010 10:58am
Well my first day in the D.C. area was a lot like a typical day at home except I drank more and earlier. I have the patio door open at my friends condo to let the sunshine in and later we're going to a seafood buffet!

Right now I'm watching The Breakfast Club, the classic Judd Nelson/turkey pot pie monologue. The author of my favorite site on the internet, POP CANDY at USAToday, is going to call five of her 15,000 Twitter followers this week. I submitted my name and phone number and I am keeping two of my fingers crossed that she chooses me. She is from D.C. I think she would appreciate that I'm watching an 80's classic before noon on a weekday.

1 April 2010
I must be in the middle of an 80's movie marathon on tv because this morning One Crazy Summer, with John Cusack, was on. Strangely enough, it was not nearly as bad as I remember it being.

29 March 2010

I Explain 1986 And The Hot Tub Time Machine

"We were young. We had momentum." So says John Cusack's character in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine. It's about three friends who time travel back to 1986 and inhabit their own then-twenty year old bodies. I was 20 in 1986 and recently I've been missing it.

I don't really yearn to be in 1986, or lament the time gone by, but I liked the music and the detente of the Cold War. It was boring. Once in awhile we bombed Khadafi but we didn't have the open-ended war that we do now, nor did we have an enemy that was as pesky as the ones we have now. Back then I thought of Ron Reagan as my dad's president, but now I miss the old guy. Clinton lowered the bar and Bush Jr. just totally wrecked it. Reagan could speak clearly, his personal actions while in office weren't disgraceful (aside from being married to Nancy Reagan) and he single-handedly brought down the Soviet Union. It's true, you can look it up. Living through history is a weird feeling. The realization that you are living through history will make you feel old, and if not old, like a seasoned veteran.

I never dressed for 1986, with the thin tie or the mullet, but in 1985 I did own a white jacket which I might have worn two or three times (this was before I stole my roommate D.J.'s personal style). I'm glad grunge fashion came in and did away with all the silly colors. Suddenly, people like my dad became stylish in flannel shirts, jeans and boots. You could say the style came to him, which will happen if you dress the same way for forty years.

1986 is a year that changed my life. If I went back in time, like the guys in the movie, it would be imperative that I not change my first meeting with Eric or George or D.J. Everybody who's seen Back to the Future knows that when you time travel, you can't touch anything in the past, because if you do, you might not be born. Well, if Eric didn't walk in my room the second or third day of school and introduce himself I might not have met George, and if I hadn't met George, I wouldn't have met D.J., and I wouldn't have asked D.J. to be my roommate, and we all would've gone on to live life without each other. We wouldn't be PhiSigs and I wouldn't be writing this right now. They wouldn't be my best friends. Which is impossible.

The moral of the story, or movie in this case, is that although we think things were great in our youth, the reality is that we had problems even back then. The difference is, yeah, we had problems, but who cares. Let's get a keg and have some people over, put on some Beastie Boys, visit Tommy's room, and all is good with the world. Personally, I'm lucky because I get to go to Camp with DJ, and hang out, drink beer, and not much has changed. He's still responsibly employed and enjoyably manic. We don't have the House to go to anymore but that's been true since 1991. At the House we could drink and dance and be the center of the party. All of us, not just me and D.J. There were people there. Young people. If I miss anything it's the freedom of being there. All I had to do was get there, by bus or van ride or old car, and everything would be ok. I could see my friends and I would get back home somehow, eventually.

I like putting on the Classic Alternative music channel and hearing the old tunes, although it's hit and miss. I want to hear Jesus and Mary Chain and XTC and the Smiths, not Duran Duran. But, just like real life, you gotta take the good with the mediocre or just plain awful. How many hair bands did the '80's put out? Eventually I started listening to Neil Young, which was everything I liked about the world and life. Images of nature and country life, some manic energy, some tin soldiers and Nixon references, and an overwhelming feeling of bliss. I saw Neil in Pittsburgh with D.J., Johnny, and Eric, and I remember that Neil, at 45, kicked my ass and exhausted me then kept going. I may have been young and had momentum on my side, but Neil was a seasoned veteran. I hoped that I could keep it up when I was Neil's age. As we were leaving the stadium Eric was singing when a guy, probably as old as I am now, leaving the concert in a BMW was idling in traffic nearby. "Hey hey, my my," Eric sang, loud enough for the guy to hear. "My hair is gray but I got some dye." The old guy gave Eric a dirty look and we all laughed. Ah, youth.

Poisonous And Hateful Sarah Palin

BREAKING NEWS: I just started hating Sarah Palin. She was cute before, back with the McCain candidacy, when she was posing with a skeet rifle. Now she leaves this note on Twitter: Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" She writes this after the phone threats left for members of Congress, after members of Congress get spit on, after representatives are called "baby killer" and other assorted death threats are made against those who supported health care.

If you read this blog you will know that I don't like the health care law and I don't want to be forced to pay for a service I don't want nor should I have to pay a fine to refuse to pay for said service. Now I would almost change my mind if it meant I didn't agree with a vile person like Sarah Palin. Does she not have any sense of decency? Reload? You want the people who made these threats to reload? Maybe they'll sack up and use live ammunition this time Sarah. Maybe just making threats won't be enough for those who want to protect our Liberty. Is the stupid bitch trying to start a Civil War? She downplayed her gun rhetoric this weekend, writing an "inspiring" speech to the teams of the NCAA tournament. You see, all this talk of violence is just silly. Gun rhetoric is used in sports all the time. It's just like Ann Coulter's use of satire when she tells Muslim students to ride their magic carpet, and if they don't have one, to ride their camel. Yeah, it's satire, not inappropriate and racist. Like, hmm, Ann Coulter is a soulless, callous ghoul. No, that is too close to the truth to be satire.

During her campaign as Vice-President, McCain's camp gave Palin a crash course in 20th century history. Her response? "Wow, this stuff is awesome!" Yeah, history is like that. When Katie Couric asked her what she read to get her news, and her response was basically, I read, like, whatever!, I knew she was a lightweight. When I saw her address the Couric interview later, she disingenuously said that she was insulted and refused to answer the question in a forthright manner. It was like Katie Couric was asking her if she could read! That's why she stumbled and stuttered over the question. Bullshit Sarah. I know people and I know body language - you were stumped then and your cover-up was almost as thin. But it did reveal something else. Sarah Palin has an innate ability to play the victim with a sense of moral outrage and then change the subject. When David Letterman made a joke about her daughter, the one who got pregnant before she was married, Palin told everyone the joke was really about her thirteen-year old. Outrage, sure. Inventing something that wasn't there? Absolutely. I like that she steps down as Governor of Alaska, eighteen months into her term, to "help America". You see, the issue is that she wants to help America, not that she is not fulfilling her obligations to her state.

Now, amidst violent threats she thinks nothing of telling people to reload. Sarah Palin was once one death away from history. Now, she may be again but for totally different reasons

The Reagan Years

With all this talk of Hot Tub Time Machines, I've been thinking about the past. I liked growing up in the Reagan years. It must have been similar to the people who had FDR for a president. In 1980, Reagan's first year in office, I was still a kid. I was in that awkward stage between make-believe and real life. When we are children we pretend. When we start to grow up we don't pretend anymore. That's when we're supposed to play sports, or music, or embrace some other non-pretend activity. Then, after high school, after we've devoted ourselves to being square, to fitting in and "finding out who we are", we go off to college as fully formed people. Yeah, right. This is when we discover that alcohol is the new pretend activity.

When Reagan left office in 1988 I had had too many new experiences to count. They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Well, for me, March was like Reagan. If there was a checklist of adult activity, it would have been blank when Reagan came in and all filled out when Reagan left. I had a) had sex, b) had sex again, c)hooked up with some nurses on a weekend in the Thousand Islands (we had sex), and d) the list goes on. Driving a car, being on my own (somewhat responsible for myself anyway) and on and on. Reagan's presidency demarcated my childhood from my adulthood.

I started drinking when I was sixteen. Over at Pete Dugovic's house (my best friend for awhile) I had six beers. I was drunk. I didn't drink again until the next year when my friend John Pooley and I would mix whiskey and cokes from his parent's liqour cabinet (sorry Jack and Liz) and walk down on the rocks by the creek. I drank sporadically after that until I went away to school. After that it was SigPi's, the Teek House parties, and anywhere else we could get beer. Not to mention the summer of 1988, which I spent in a crazed frenzy of escapism. The last summer of the Reagan presidency went out with a bang, not a whimper.

1988 was the year I made my first adult plans. D.J. called me one December afternoon and told me we were moving to Arizona. "We are?" "Yeah," he said. "We're gonna go to ASU. Where Eva lives." Okay, I thought. Sounds good to me. We flew out that April. The first morning we were there we dropped Eva off at class at Mesa Community College, got a twelve pack, and drove to the highest point we could find. It was a park, not unlike Mendon Ponds Park or Cobb's Hill (for those from 'round here) with rocks and cactus and scorpions (poisonous varmints). We sat on the rocks and drank our beer and I really felt like I was somewhere I had never been before.

The rest of that year crashed to the ground like Springsteen's calliope and I ended up retreating to Edinboro, to waste the days away with George and Eric and everyone else, going to Stealer's Fair with Johnny and reading Steinbeck. I didn't get back to Arizona until years later, when Eric became a park ranger out there (Dead Horse Ranch State Park). George Bush was elected president that fall, the next year the Soviet Union fell, and the year after that Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The 1980's were finally over. From then on my life would continue to go in cycles, but they would be smaller cycles, and more compact. I think time speeds up as you get older, but if you spend some time looking back, it feels like looking at an ocean of time.

23 March 2010

Is That So Wrong?

So I had this dream about Jessica Alba last night. It was ok as dreams go and then it got kinda weird. We were in the basement where I lived (I don't really live in a basement) and I had to try and make it liveable and girl-friendly. By that I mean a girl would feel comfortable enough to have sex there. With me, not Brad Pitt. It was full of moldy, wet stones (like the basement in the house where I grew up) and I was trying to sweep the floor(?) which was generally mucky. I swear, I really don't have dreams about celebrities that often. This is the first and only one that I can recall right now. After I woke (about 5:30 this am) I did my usual thing and surfed the web for news. Don't judge me, but I stop at the NYDailyNews, the NYPost (very briefly), USAToday, and the DrudgeReport, before moving on to bigger and better things, like the POPCandy blog I refer to all the time.

Today, while I was at the Post, I saw a pic of a hot girl and clicked it. This link took me to a gossipy site where there was pics of various hot actresses. You know their names, they're the usual suspects: Angelina, Scarlett, Jessicas Biel and Alba, Miley, and a bunch of other girls who are fringe actresses to me but might star in your favorite tv show. Looking at these girls I started to think about girl issues, mainly self-perception. How do teen girls view themselves? Do they want to be these women in the NYPost? I thought about what a commodity a pretty girl's sexuality is. Maybe sexuality is the wrong word. Their beauty or their looks is probably more accurate, because that is why I am looking at them. They're nice to look at. I'm not going to see Scarlett Johansson at the store where I buy my groceries, but those girls in the store are cute, and some could even be considered hot. Normal, everyday girls, working at the checkout line. Is it my fault that teens have poor self-esteem, because I look at girls in the NYPost and think the cashiers are cute? I don't know.

Recently Sandra Bullock's husband cheated on her with a fully-tattooed part-time stripper who resembles Marilyn Manson. Strippers are supposed to be hot, and some are, but I'd have to give this woman a thumbs down. And I thought that before I saw her fully decked out in Nazi regalia. Tiger Woods cheated on his wife with a bevy of willing women, none of whom were any better looking than his wife. I met a girl once who I fell in love with immediately. It was love at first sight. I told a friend of mine about it and he asked if she was cute. I didn't know how to answer that. She is beautiful, of course, with long brown hair, but she is so much more than that. I like to look at the girls in the Post and online but they don't mean anything to me. On the other hand, the girl with the long brown hair means everything to me and I wouldn't trade that for anything. Even Scarlett.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

People complain about the rain. They see it "heading our way", as the weather guy puts it, and they shut down and gripe and lament the terrible weather. Even in March. Well, when I was a kid, I remember cutting out pictures of lions and lambs and pasting them to opposite sides of colored paper to represent Spring. And who could forget that "April showers bring May flowers"? So maybe I owe something to our public schools for my chipper attitude towards the weather. Spring weather was a fact of life, no different than the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria cutouts we pasted on the classroom's cork board before Columbus Day. The lion and lamb would eventually take their place on the cork board and we knew that Spring weather was coming.

I like rain. I think its life affirming. I like the sound of it as it pecks away at the windows, I like the melancholy it makes me feel, and I like the way it splashes in puddles. I even like puddles. My dad always told me a story about his dad, my grandfather, when it rained. "On a day like this", he would say as we stood in his shop, "Dad would sit on a bucket at the end of the barn, and sit and watch the rain." He was safe and dry. I've felt that too. Safe and dry and watching the day go by. We don't always get a chance to do that.

22 March 2010

Your New Healthcare Plan, Whether You Want It Or Not

I don't like the new healthcare law which requires me to have healthcare or pay a fine. Basically, the government is telling me what is best for me and fining me if I don't do it. Will the government restrict my diet next? Or my alcohol intake? Maybe. What is the Federal takeover of student loans doing in this law? What else is in this law that has nothing to do with healthcare? I don't like it, I don't trust it, and I am not going to abide by it. And I'm not going to pay the fine either. If I have to I will grow vegetables in the wild and sell them at a roadside stand. Of course, by then Big Brother will probably find a way to tax and regulate that too.

Obama says last week that "the insurance companies aren't going back to the drawing board." That's his response to a lawmaker who wants to start the bill over from scratch. Why not pass legislation separately from the huge healthcare bill to regulate the insurance companies? The healthcare system definitely needs to be overhauled, insurance premiums need to be lowered, the overall cost needs to go down, but how does mandating that I purchase a service help that? The U.S. government does not have the Constitutional power to force me to purchase a service, regardless of what this law is. General Motors, Chrysler, the largest insurance company in the world - AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the student loan industry, and the new healthcare system add up to 48% of the private economy. All of it is now under government control. Schools will be next and I'm sure people will rollover when that is suggested too. The camel's nose is in your tent and the rest of the camel is right behind it.

21 March 2010

American History Through Its Folk Songs

All history is linear. A line can be drawn from Jamestown, Virginia or Plymouth, Massachusetts to Lima, New York, where I grew up. The same could be said for my interests. If I like Bruce Springsteen, I'll probably like one of his influences, Bob Dylan. If I like Dylan, I'll probably like his influences, people like Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. It's kind of like six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Or six degrees of Kevin Bean. Or, as has been said before, six beers with Kevin Bean. In this case, however, history is literally linear: the construction of the Erie Canal, a straight line of travel that cut through Western New York.

Bruce Springsteen released and toured behind a record of folk songs made popular by Pete Seeger, called The Seeger Sessions. One of these songs is "Erie Canal". I have obsessed somewhat about travel in my life: rivers, trains, cars. Mark Twain escaped on a river, Woody Guthrie on a train, and Bruce Springsteen in a car. Like the man in "Proud Mary" who left a good job in the city, where he was working for the man every night and day, I dreamed of escape and freedom. Hiking over the field across the road to hop a train and go wherever it takes me, or floating down the Mississippi River on a raft like Huck Finn, was romantic to me. The Erie Canal was dug only miles from the homesteads of both my parents' families and I wonder if the sense of escape and adventure had overtaken any of the young men in my family, and if they had thought of escaping by way of the canal.

The canal had been proposed late in the 18th century but digging did not begin until 1817. In the early 1800's Western New York was a wilderness, and the California of its time. Americans have always pursued their dreams in the West. Go West, young man! Hollywood, the Gold Rush, the Great Land Rush, and the refugees from Oklahoma who gambled everything on a plentiful California.

The song "Erie Canal" was written by Thomas S. Allen in 1905. It is a sentimental song, lamenting the loss of the past, when the canal was powered simply by mule. By 1905 canal traffic had converted to steam and diesel power, passing by the 15-miles a day covered by the boater and his mule. I like this song for lots of reasons. The canal was a handful of miles away from my families 19th century homesteads. It opened up the area my family made their home. And I like it because Bruce and his band really rock the song.

I'm Not Kidding - Go Buy Springsteen's Seeger Sessions Live In Dublin Right Now!

Even if you are not a huge Bruce fan, you should go buy this cd or, better yet, the dvd. Springsteen and his non-E Street band cover songs that Pete Seeger made popular during the folk movement. Bruce covers them with a full band that includes a horn section, a fleet of singers, and some instruments that I can't even identify. The music is so full that it will blow away any blues you might be feeling.

Singing along to "O Mary, Don't You Weep" is better than a bowl of ice cream. Bruce attacks these songs with a mix of evangelical preacher and band leader, egging on a sing-off between the guys and the girls, with the guts of a street fighter calling out the devil.

The songs include sing-alongs like "Erie Canal" "My Oklahoma Home" and "Old Dan Tucker". Someday when I get a teaching job at an elementary school, these songs are going to be on an eternal rotation in the background. They are pure Americana and an opportunity to teach. Aside from this, the music is fantastic and fun. There are accordion solos, fiddle solos, banjo solos and steel guitar solos. Absolutely a blast! Go get it now, put it on, and feel your feet move and your spirit soar.

19 March 2010

My Ongoing History Lesson

I became a history nut when I learned that the Civil War was a clash between the two founding societies of our nation, Jamestown, Virginia and the Massachusetts Bay Colony of Plymouth. I like to see where things come from, and how and why they are the way they are. I'm sure it fills some Freudian need in me to put the universe in order. I have read about everything from the Native Americans (Indians is a very racist term if you ask me - conceived around the time of Columbus when he insisted that he had landed in India) to slavery in the Southern states to the emergence of the modern America that began after WWI, and there is always more to know.

I have given myself alot of projects to work on, such as a family history (both sides of the family had homesteads that would eventually be absorbed by the NYS Thruway), tracking the defunct local railroads (one went right by my grandmother's hotel/bar), and the legacy of the Erie Canal. Lately, though, I have been writing and interested in writing.

I recently found a collection of World War II reporting that brought my interest in history and writing together. These are original articles written from the frontlines of the war. The first article of the first volume describes the passiveness of the Allies during negotiations with Hitler in 1938. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain went down in history as a fool, capitulating to Hitler's demands and declaring moral victory. History has judged Chamberlain and Hitler but it will be interesting to see them in the context of their own time.

My aim in writing this particular post is to follow these articles in their succession and, through them, unfold a history of the war. We'll see how it goes. Maybe I'll get bored with it, maybe not. Check back in when you get a chance. I'll label each new post with the date I wrote it and the date of the article.

"It's All Over"
30 September 1938

So begins the article by William L. Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, describing the Allied capitulation to Hitler that gave up the land known as the Sudetenland. "It's all over. At twelve thirty this morning....Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Daladier signed a pact turning over Sudetenland to Germany. The German occupation begins tomorrow, Saturday, October 1, and will be completed by October 10." Daladier and Chamberlain "never pressed for a single concession from Hitler. They never got together alone once and made no effort to present some sort of common "democratic" front to the two Caesars," referring to Hitler and Mussolini. The two Allied (what would become the Allies but not yet formally) Prime Ministers arrived on separate planes "and didn't even deem it useful to lunch together yesterday to map out their strategy, though the two dictators did."

The world in 1938 had been suffering a years-long economic depression. No one in Europe wanted another war, except Germany. Hitler had cast off the shackles of the crippling reparations agreement that had ended World War I by paying off the debt. Rebuilding Germany's infrastructure created jobs, spurred the economy, increased nationalism, and gave Germany the roads it needed during war. When Ronald Reagan became president in 1980 he increased defense spending to negotiate with the Soviet Union from a position of strength. Hitler would build his defenses, but not to negotiate. Hitler believed in brute force over negotiation.

Sudetenland was an enclave of Czechoslovakia with a majority-German population, and Hitler not only aimed to unite the German people, he was fairly obsessed with the idea. He wanted the German people united with the "purest" German/Aryan blood. Czecholovakia's "two representatives, Dr. Mastny...Czech Minister in Berlin, and a Dr. Massaryk of the Prague Foreign Office, were told at one thirty a.m. that Czecholovakia would have to accept" the surrender of Sudetenland. They were told this, not by Hitler, but by their allies Chamberlain and Daladier. Hitler had taken Sudetenland through negotiation and intimidation without firing a shot.

March 15 2010

Dorothy Thompson wrote an article called "Peace" - And the Crisis Begins, describing the "peace accord" between Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain, and French Prime Minister Daladier. It is a lesson in writing, one of the most well-written pieces of fiction or non-fiction that I have ever read. The article begins with brevity and closes on the point quickly. "What happened on Friday is called 'Peace.' Actually it is an international Fascist coup d'etat." The Four Power accord could hardly be called a treaty and more closely resembled an "armistice in advance of war." Hitler took the Sudetenland, not with force, but the threat of force. It was a territory conquered by "agreement".

Thompson compares the accord to the Treaty of Versailles, a comparison that she says makes the Versailles treaty look generous. Whereas the Treaty of Versailles was arrived at after five months of deliberation, with scores of experts consulted, the Four Power accord was arrived at in four hours, and was drafted by four men who had never set foot in Czechoslovakia. The German-majority populated territories are to be evactuated and no provisions made for the property of those displaced. The property is to be nationalized by Germany.

The Four Power accord was not a treaty but a surrender made to look like a treaty. In the end Chamberlain pleaded to save the slimmest of face, and a joint communique was issued with Hitler: the two countries are "determined to continue our efforts to remove the possible sources of difference and thus to contribute to the assurance of peace in Europe." Conversely, Thompson argues that peace at the end of a bayonet point is peace at all. Czechoslovakia is dismembered and "what is left is destroyed as a democratic republic." She goes on to say that "this peace has been established by dictatorship, and can only maintain itself by further dictatorship."

"Let us not call this peace. Peace is not the absence of war. 'Peace,' said Spinoza, 'is virtue caused by strength of spirit.' This is not peace without victory, for the victory goes to Mr. Hitler. This is peace without virtue. Therefore it is not peace - but the initiation of a terrific world crisis."
Written by Dorothy Thompson and dated October 1, 1938

March 18 2010
I have fallen behind my goal of covering my WWII book at a pace of one article per day, but only because everything is so fascinating. I left off at the terrific piece by Dorothy Thompson about, what I learned later, was the Munich Pact, also as the Munich Betrayal by those loyal to Czechoslovakia. They have/had a right to be upset and hold a grudge. They had been sold out, caught in the tide of a coming war whose effects are still felt today.

The following pieces deal with anti-Semitism and the Germans in 1938, a first-person account of the arrest of 20,000 Jews on November 8, 1938, the invasion of Poland almost a year later, the fall of Poland several weeks after that, and first-person accounts of the bombing of London and Berlin in 1940. There is a lot of history here and so much more I need to know. Consequently, this project is going to take a lot longer than I thought.

Speaking of things I don't know, my dad and I were watching the first DVD of the Ken Burns special about WWII, entitled simply, The War. I did not know that:
German U-boats sunk merchant ships off the east coast of America in 1941, and even sunk a ship in the harbor off of Manhattan.
The United States surrendered 78,000 men in the Pacific arena before they established a toehold. The result was the Bataan Death March.

March 23 2010

I have not been keeping up on this post. I haven't lost interest but I am discovering that World War II was vast. The reports I've been reading have been fascinating. William L. Shirer has been reporting from Berlin and griping about the censors. The layers of censors. His reports are dated from 1940 and 1941. He says that when the U.S. enters the war, the reporters will be kicked out. Many of the reporters that he worked with, and that he replaced, had been kicked out before him. The major media outlets, such as the UPI and AP, cooperate more with the Nazis and are thus a little more in with what is going on. Of course, the Germans are keeping a tight lid on information regardless of who is reporting it.

Edward R. Murrow has been reporting from London with observations of the mettle of the English people. Germany attempted to break England's will but Hitler did not count on the character that gave the people with the smallest resources in Europe the means to rule the world (the part of it they wanted to rule) for a few centuries. The Germans bomb at night but the milkman still makes his rounds in the morning. That says something about the English.

Reading first-hand accounts of the war is fascinating. When not working on my blog, exercising my knee, or otherwise being unoccupied, I have been watching WWII history. The Ken Burns special to begin with, and then a series titled The War In HD. This is all color footage of the war. I am just beginning to comprehend the tens of thousands of stories that made up the tapestry of the war years. When I get my act together a bit more, I will try to do a better job reporting them.

April 1 2010
I left off with the bombing of London, which occured in 1940, but I am going to skip back in time to 1938. It is November 8. Neville Chamberlain had just given the Sudetenland away months before, Germany has annexed Austria, and hatred for the Jews has moved from a low simmer to outright action. The night of November 9, 1938, was known as Kristallnacht (literally meaning "crystal night") or the Night of the Broken Glass. A German-born Polish Jew killed the Secretary of the German Embassy in Paris, prompting the looting and destruction of Jewish owned stores throughout Germany and Austria. The looters were alleged to be hot-headed mobs that acted impetuously, but the looting was actually an organized effort by the Nazi Party and the S.S., using Hitler Youth to smash windows, haul goods into the streets, and otherwise destroy Jewish owned businesses.

16 March 2010

The Ramones Find Commercial Success

I love the Ramones. I have since 8th grade. "Lobotomy" "We're A Happy Family" "Judy Is A Punk" - love it! They never found radio success or commercial success but their songs are everywhere now. Commercials I can understand and, given Johnny's business savvy, I'm surprised they didn't start selling long ago. Johnny, Joey and DeeDee are all gone and Tommy is the only one left. This is kind of funny because Tommy was originally the producer and kind of had to be talked in to sitting in on drums. He was also the first one to leave the group, citing his need for sanity. I have nephews and they like ScoobyDoo, which subjects me to all kinds of new ScoobyDoo stories. I heard the Ramones in an episode last week or so and that was fine. It wasn't "Blitzkreig Bop" but it was one of their accessible tunes. Something beach related, I think. But today I heard "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You," Joey's rejection song. Has the world gone mad? The Ramones were the baddest punk bad on the planet. When they met the Sex Pistols in London, Johnny Rotten was afraid the Ramones were going to beat him. They appeared that dangerous onstage and off. To be used as bumper music in a kiddie cartoon is something Johnny couldn't have ever contemplated. I can't wait to see Freddy, dressed in his white shirt and blue ascot, cover DeeDee's "53rd and 3rd."

15 March 2010

Random Thoughts of the Day...

The Boston Celtics are my holdover favorite NBA team and they are headed downhill fast. One championship two years ago is all they are going to get from KG, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. Ray Allen is actually playing the best recently. KG has knee problems and Paul Pierce has back problems. It sucked watching Larry Bird go through that in the early 90's. There is something about LeBron that I don't like. Supposedly he was a jerk when he played a pre-season game in Rochester, pretending that he was checking into the game and then laughing about jerking the crowd around. He played about four minutes. Oh well. The NBA hasn't been the same since Jordan left and I really don't care all that much.

The Buffalo Bills suck. When are they going to make some moves to get better? It is supposedly an uncapped year, so teams can sign any free agents they want. Julius Peppers was out there, Jake Delhomme, Brady Quinn, LT. What have the Bills done? They brought in an O-line guy who was let go by the Raiders. So now they're getting the Raiders rejects? And they acted like they made a big splash. I guess simply bringing anyone gives them the sense that they are making progress. I was optimistic when they hired Chan Gailey but it's fading fast. Despite vowing to do whatever it takes to win, Ralph Wilson is running things much like he has before. It reminds me of the Who song: "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss." Without a new QB, my hopes for the Bills are limited. And without a new QB I am skeptical the Bills will be in Buffalo five years from now. Then what? Become a Giants fan? Football will never be the same for me if the Bills leave.

Wow, did shit backfire on Eric Massa or what? Saturday Night Live hammered him this weekend. And the SNL news desk made me laugh and think at the same time when they said, "You know you're in a bad position when you're the crazy one on the Glenn Beck show." Haha. Massa has to wonder what happened and I feel bad for him and his family. A Navy career and reputation down the drain and he became a public spectacle. Nancy Pelosi went on Charlie Rose and said, in a really strange way, "Poor baby. Ohh, poor baby." What did she mean? I like it better when I just pay attention to sports.

What is the deal with LOST? The week before last was an episode that saw Sayid become a bad guy, two main characters got killed, and Fake Locke take over. Last week's episode was the opposite. Viewers saw Ben become a good guy in the alternate universe. He was humbled, he did something selfless, and he became more human. As bad as the Sayid episode made me feel, the Ben episode made me feel good. It looks like there is an epic showdown coming. I hope Sawyer is on the right side - he's become the most complex character on the island.

Ok, I guess that's it for now.

12 March 2010

Tiger Woods Adds To His Legend

Tiger Woods had sex with lots of women who were not his wife then went to rehab to save his image/marriage/career. The announcement of his return to golf has been imminent and it was announced today that he has chosen the Masters as his first tournament. The Masters is part of the threshold of Spring for me. Held in Augusta, Georgia, it is the snobbiest, most blue-blooded event outside of the Kentucky Derby. I love to look at the green grass and think about the Old South.

Tiger won his first major tournament at Augusta. The following year an old, irrelevant golfer asked the media to make sure that Tiger "doesn't ask for fried chicken or collard greens, or whatever the hell it is they eat" to be served at the Masters official dinner. Yeah, I love thinking about the Old South and whitey.

Tiger can't lose this weekend and this is why I love sports. He has already taken the most traditional event in American sports and conquered it. By "traditional" I meankeepers of the status quo, white propertied men who will never surrender their power willingly. It is happening in small increments and when the World War Two generation passes I believe it will breathe its last dying gasp, and the baby boomers will take over. But Tiger has already won. He can play the tournament and lose, but he will have controlled the spotlight of the 24-hour news cycle for five days, from Thursday until Monday. If he wins, it will be a comeback along the lines of Muhammad Ali knocking out Frazier his first time in the ring after Vietnam, or Jordan stepping out of a minor-league ballclub's bus and into the Bulls' gym to win a title. Woods doesn't have to win the Masters, but he's already added to his mystique. Every other golfer on the course will be asked and be aware of Woods' presence on the course. If he does win, it will be a moment in sports when a chapter is added to a legend, and I will be thinking of the Old South when he puts on the green jacket.

Thoughts On Pop Candy

As you might know I am a huge fan of the Whitney Matheson blog Pop Candy. She talks about all things pop culture. You should go read her blog. It's really awesome. Here is what I am thinking about entertainment stuff right now.

Lilly Scott gets kicked off American Idol. I really liked this girl's version of the Beatles' "Fixing A Hole". She hit a note that was velvet smooth and I really liked her after that. My personal disclaimer is that I have never watched American Idol before I broke my leg. Then I winced through it because I had to (I was laid up in the living room) until I saw Lilly Scott. I hope she catches on and I can hear her music somewhere in the future.

I wish I thought up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a hybrid of Jane Austen and zombies. Sounds good to me.

I really don't like Chris from the NBC show Parks and Recreation. He began the show dating the hottest chick in town, became homeless and an otherwise weird loser. He lived outdoors in a pit, ate dirt-covered carrots out of the community garden, and acted like no real human being without some mental issues would act. I don't get this character and his fall from brief grace is unrealistic.

The new trailer for Iron Man 2 popped up this week and I am psyched. Six more weeks until the summer movie season! OK, that's it.

And That's What Really Grinds My Gears....

Johnny Cash Has A Message For All Those Things That Grind My Gears

Here is a rant of things that have been bothering me:

I know the trial will be held somewhere else now, but Attorney General Eric Holder wanted to hold a civilian trial for the terrorists involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and have the trial in New York City. This defied logic on two ends. Military justice should be applied to an act of war. Not civilian justice. No Miranda rights. The Underwear Bomber, in a sub-rant, was read his Miranda rights fifteen minutes after he tried to blow up a plane and kill every body on it. Once again, this should be tried as an act of war. The extent of their rights can be found in the Geneva Convention. On the other end, New York City?! Three thousand native New Yorkers, whether they lived in Jersey or wherever, multiplied by the number of people who knew them and loved them, sixty, eighty, a hundred, and that is how many people that can't escape the media coverage if they hold the trial in New York City. How insensitive can you be Holder? Aside from that, you have NYPD officers providing security for the people who killed their brothers and sisters in law enforcement. Despicable. It makes me think what Holder's real agenda is.

The ban of salt in New York restaurants has been proposed by a New York lawmaker. I have no problem with the government regulating the food served in schools, but they have no business telling me what to eat. I am a grown man. It's bad enough the local government regulates how high my bushes can be, where I can park my unregistered car, and whether I can put an addition on my house. I'm not giving the government power to regulate my diet because other people are fat. Salt, sugar, transfats, whatever. Freedom of choice should be as much a no-brainer as being able to shoot my own food. These rights came from God, not my government. Keep your hands off my rifle and my salt.

Those G.D. Time-Warner ads really bug me. Roadrunner is supposed to be the fastest internet access around yet they offer a "power boost". What a crock! Former comedian/present shill Mike O'Malley walks around an antique shop, cranks an old phone, and asks the viewer if they want an outdated technology delivering their internet service. DSL is not dial-up, you morons. But you know that already. If roadrunner is so fast then why do they need a "power boost"? I had DSL for three years and it was just as fast as roadrunner. Their commercials fall between misleading and outright lies. And then there is the old lady who holds a press conference and says that she only signed up because of Jenny, the sweet, young girl who was the service representative. Yeah, I make all my decisions based on whether I like the person who took my phone call or not. What a crock.

I covered this before but Steward Governor Paterson wants to seize the Public Market in Henrietta, New York, take the twelve million dollars it has accrued via competent management and fiscal responsibility, and liquidate the assets. Dismantling a successful business that contributes to the tax base defies logic.

Does putting black boxes in all new cars bother anyone else? The runaway Toyotas prompted discussion that black boxes in vehicles could determine how fast drivers go, when they braked, when they left the house, where they went, and how long they stayed there. Patch it in to the cameras that overlook every parking lot and the list of our purchases that stores track, and we can determine what any person did on any given day. Sounds scary to me.

A few other things: talk shows where they talk over each other, public figures who answer a different question than the one you asked them, the Buffalo Bills vowing to change their ways then staying the course, and girls who try to trash talk about sports but have no clue. So, with apologies to the writers of Family Guy, that's what really grinds my gears.

11 March 2010

The First Day of Spring

Although it was only March 10, today was the first day of Spring for me. I sat outside on the deck, sunglasses on, Yankee hat on, rehabbing my knee, reading in the sun, and watching the birds come in to the new feeder eight feet away. I swatted away a yellowjacket a couple of times and missed a few others. Some sort of centipede bug crawled along the rail of the deck onto my hand. The sun was glorious and so was the day. It was about 65 degrees. I live in Western New York and 65 degrees is good for any time of the year but especially above average for the first half of March.

I blame Spring for the academic flameout during my first attempt at a college degree. I went to a community college and on a day like this I would be at Mendon Ponds Park, drinking Busch beer from the trunk that still had a hint of coolness. After today I am officially Spring crazy. I start getting up earlier and earlier, anxious for the day to start. This might be my favorite time of the year. It's definitely the time that I feel the most energetic. Deep into summer it's easy to get lacksadaisical, sleeping til 9 or noon sometimes, especially if you've been like Springsteen and running the backstreets all night. But this time of year is alive and everything is restless and starting to come out. Water trickles and feeds the pond. Birds pop and flutter along the ground. The creek in Honeoye Falls gushes with the brown water of all the melted snow from here to Honeoye Lake. I don't see any buds on the trees yet but I know they're coming.

It doesn't matter if we get more snow or not. I'm sure we will. Some people will escape to see the cherry trees in Washington D.C. bloom and others will come back tan from a week in Florida, and that's fine. We'll get cold, wet days when you just can't get warm, and that's fine too. But my friend Melissa posted a note the other day and the refrain was familiar: I will not get emotionally attached to warm weather, I will not get emotionally attached to warm weather, I will not get emotionally attached to warm weather...You know if you have to tell yourself that, then it's too late.


Shenanigans At The Massa Townhouse

In 2004 I was so disgusted with the Bush administration that I actually got involved in politics. Well, if attending a meet-and-greet with a candidate is getting involved. I met Massa a few times when I was out with my friend Mary and he seemed to be a straight shooter. He served alot of years in the Navy and ran for Congress on a platform of pulling out of Iraq. He lost that election, Bush won his, and I was so disgusted again that I vowed not to watch nothing but ESPN for the rest of my life. I was done paying attention to politics. But in 2006, Eric Massa ran again and won. I attended a rally early that fall and was glad to see him out there again, putting his time and effort into doing what he thought was right. I still wasn't paying attention to politics but I was glad he won.

Congressman Massa supported the new health care legislation that was up for a vote last fall. I have no idea which bill he supported because I don't understand how our government works. I mean, I can grasp checks and balances, I know how a bill becomes a law (Oh, yeahhh!! thanks schoolhouse rocks!) but I don't know why there are multiple votes for the same bill. Anyway, when asked why he was supporting the bill when the majority of the people he represented were against it, Massa said that sometimes you have to do what is right for people if they don't know what is best for themselves. Not only do I not like that type of thinking, if someone said that to my face, I would have dreams of kicking the shit out of them. You can't take care of yourself and don't know what's best for you, but your elected official does. I believe in personal freedom, freedom of choice, and use-it-or-lose-it personal rights. Rights are like muscles; the longer they go without use, the weaker they become, until one day they quit working. I'm not a hero worshipper, I like the Grateful Dead but wasn't bothered too much when Jerry Garcia died. I like reading Hunter Thompson but never forgot that he slapped his wife. So as much as Massa's position on health care irked me, it wasn't like I had lost one of my heroes.

Flashforward to the first week in March and then-Congressman Massa has become former-Congressman Massa. First he said he was not seeking re-election because of health issues, then he said he was stepping down due to the same said health issues. Then he said he was stepping down over some inappropriate remarks he made to his staffers at a wedding, and that his language was "salty" and inappropriate. Then, during a radio interview in his hometown, he called White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel "the son of the spawn of the devil" who accosted him while they were both naked in the Congressional gym showers. Massa melted down after this, saying that the "inappropriate" behavior was a tickle fight he engaged in with his staff. What grown man tickles another grown man? Very strange. Massa spent an hour on Glenn Beck and filled the hour with abstract ramblings, saying that he couldn't tell his story in sound bites despite the long rope Beck had given him. He contradicted himself over the tickling and the groping, admitted to the groping but said that it wasn't sexual in nature. He just acted kooky. So that is the extent of my personal connection to politics in the last six years. Massa has never been a hero to me nor has he ever riled me enough that I should forsake politics for 24 hours of Sportscenter. I'm glad that I have reserved my hero worship for my mom and dad.

10 March 2010

Corey Haim Dead At 38

It's really weird watching people your age or younger live their lives and die. Corey Haim, from 80's movies like Silver Bullet, The Lost Boys, Lucas, and Learning to Drive was found dead yesterday from "an apparent drug overdose". I only put that in quotations because it seems like such a standard way to go. Growing up my neighbor Karen Pooley married this guy Dwight. He was in the Navy, he smoked alot, he grew up in Rush and we knew his parents. He eventually filed for divorce against Karen and a few years later he died - heart disease I think. He was, maybe, 40. Anyone who has read my blog knows what I think about my own mortality; I'm gonna die when I'm a really, really, really old man. Hopefully I'll go in the morning when I'm sitting in the sun on the patio. The choices we make lead us to wherever it is we end up, and sometimes a tree falls on our car on the way to work. You just never know. For those who are left living, like myself, I recommend sitting on the patio on a nice sunny morning. You never know how many you'll get.

07 March 2010

Stupid Viruses

All morning on Sunday I was looking forward to working on my blog post about American History. I got home from my sister's house, talked to my dad for awhile, set up my laptop in the kitchen and was really happy. Until I opened up a virus on my computer. It came in through facebook and was from my friend John Pooley. I thought it said something like "topfuelknowledge", which was his webpage. So I screwed around with that for about three hours and became increasingly frustrated. I ditched it for my mom's computer, which is really slow, and when I am on my mom's computer I have to deal with my mom. "You aren't downloading any viruses on my computer are you?" "Yes, mom. Just the one though." Then she tells me with disgust, "I don't want you going on that facebook on my computer. You'll get a virus." She just doesn't like facebook. "Why can't you just talk to people in person?" Oh well. My mom is sweet but old-fashioned like that.

So I haven't been able to sit down and concentrate on my American history blog. I worked on it some last night until I lost my focus. And then I caught my own virus. Or something. My nose is sealed up tighter than Fort Knox would be if there was really any gold in there. I couldn't breathe all last night and kept dreaming that I was suffocating. I wanted some meds but my mom, again, intervened. "That stuff does more harm than good if you take it too long. You've been taking it a long time. That's probably why you're so stuffed up." She insisted on Vicks vaporub in hot water and that burned my eyes, tasted awful, and gave me a headache. I was talking with a friend of mine last night and told her I was going to babysit today, rehab my knee, and write my blog. Well, I slept today. That's about it. Right now I am on the couch, my computer is in safe mode, and I am working offline writing this. So I have adapted but I still feel lousy. This morning I asked my mom if she could get some nasal spray for me. The store is only a few miles away. She left and went on a trek, washed her car, talked to the pharmacist about my condition, and got me some garbage decongestant for my nose and not the nasal spray I asked for. Just like working on my computer, I'm gonna have to adapt my behavior to suit my mom. That's ok though. I like her much better than my computer.

05 March 2010

I Need A Facebook Application Called Lifeville

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During my intial recovery from a broken leg I considered how I would spend my time. My first thought was to collect all the history notes from my college classes into an outline, catalog them, retype them, then write the history of our nation as I had learned it. I did this for a couple days but my enthusiasm petered out when I discovered online poker. For two weeks or so I played a tournament a day, sometimes more. Mostly these were free but here and there I threw in a few dollars or less to play. Given my mix of German/Irish temperaments, a few bum tournaments put me in a bad mood. I emm-effed the cards but kept playing. Then I stumbled across Farmville. I started, like everyone does, with a meager lot. I became obsessed with expansion. I kept building my collection of animals but, more importantly, I mortgaged every square inch of my property to grow more crops. I created two dummy Facebook accounts just so I could send myself extra gifts. I was jonesing to work on the farm so bad that a few times I even logged in to my friends account and managed his farm (he had more stuff than me). I had issues. Then I did something of which I am not proud: I put real money into my farm so I could get my greedy mitts on the "Big Plantation".

I grew up on a real farm and as a kid I knew the value of land. My father rented land cheap because it was supposed to be barren and untillable. Well, tough to turn a profit on anyway. My dad told me his secret was lots of fertilzer. As I got older I had visions of a knock-off Southern plantation, with white fence around the perimeter of the front property, a hanging willow near the pond in the front lawn, horse stables out back, deep pastures, and an orchard of apple trees. I would have a little cottage at the back of the property and I would store old records and whiskey there, and after dark I might wander back there to sip whiskey, listen to my records and enjoy the evening. I think I would be successful managing a real farm.

For awhile I was pretty obsessed with getting my Farmville crops planted or harvested because time, to farmers, is money. Oh yeah, I forgot the name of this blog post: Lifeville. Why can't we create an application called Lifeville, in which you could pick and choose a career. You could start out doing homework which would determine where you went to college. Your college work would determine where you placed in your chosen career. After you started you could work your way up, buying new cars and bigger houses and maybe you could even pick your wife. If I had put as much effort into my own Lifeville as I have Farmville, maybe I wouldn't play Farmville so much. But it is nice to think about that cottage and the old records and warm summer air.

04 March 2010

My Broken Leg

On December 7th of last year I broke my leg. Not just a simple break either. I couldn't have surgery on it for two weeks and when I did, it involved pins and metal plates and me in the hospital for Christmas. I couldn't wait to watch A Christmas Story twelve times in a row, which I almost did. And that is the secret of my success: the small joys in life have always been my favorite. I never prepared for something like breaking my leg and being out of work for six months and I am still convinced I am going to outlive almost everyone I care about and maybe dying when I am in my late nineties. Of course no one should live long enough to outlast everyone who cares about them so I'm hoping, since I don't have any kids, that my nephews or nieces or their kids will like me enough to visit me and make sure I don't freeze or starve to death. I keep hearing that I have to learn how to walk again but I think that's BS. I've been testing my leg and I think that I will be able to walk just fine. I don't think the rules that apply to everyone else apply to me. If it usually takes six weeks to heal, I'm convinced I might heal in four. I was told taking the drain out of my leg (really gross, but there is a tube and a sluice pipe the doctors stick in your leg to get all the pus out of there) was really gonna hurt. When the doc came in the room (at four in the morning) to take it out, I said "Go ahead." And that's all there was to it. Wasn't bad at all. What people call pain, no big deal for me. Same goes with speed limits, waiting a half hour after I eat to swim, and petting strange dogs. So, accourdingly, I don't think mortality applies to me either. Sure, I'll probably die eventually, but who knows. Lots of people say to me "You seem to be taking this well." Well, what else am I gonna do. Seriously though, I can read and sit in the sun all day. I have a cocktail around 4 o'clock. My brother and sisters and their kids and other visitors come and go and bring food. I get to be the default babysitter for everyone and when I need a change of scenery I go to my sister's house and sit in the hot tub. More than anything, though, maybe I should thank my lack of ambition. They say Buddha learned everything he needed to know sitting on the banks of a river and watching it go by. When my leg gets healed and I can get around maybe I'll try that.

Random Thoughts On Pop Culture

To Have And Have Not is playing on Turner Classic Movies. It's an old Bogart movie but I guess all Bogart's movies are old now. He plays his usual self, a cynical guy who says he's only looking out for himself but ends up helping people on the run from Nazis/social oppressors/the bad guys, et al. He met Lauren Bacall on the set of this movie and they got married and yada. This is the first time Ive watched this movie in HiDef with the new tvs. It looks awesome. Its almost like watching it for the first time. I certainly don't know this movie by heart. I love the shadows, the setting, and the crisp look in HD. Bogart made alot of good movies. I've never seen Casablanca in HD - I suppose I should get on that.

One of my favorite movies to watch in the summertime is Key Largo. Bogie and Edward G. Robinson face off in the middle of a hurricane. Bogie stands for the American way and Robinson is a Capone-like criminal who Bogie has to outwit. Alot of the movie is the good guys and the bad guys stuck together at a hotel in the Keys during the hurricane. The Seven Year Itch is a fun movie to watch in the summer. It's the middle of summer and Marilyn Monroe has moved in upstairs from a mild-mannered ad man whose wife and kids have gone away for a few weeks. He has fantasies about her that play out in a fantastical way, especially when she tells him she keeps cool by putting her panties in the icebox. And they say things like "icebox" which is a cool sounding word. The two of them go out on a friendly date and Marilyn famously walks over the subway grate and her dress blows up over her head. In the end he runs off to spend the rest of his summer with his family but not until him and Marilyn have a real kiss. It's a sweet movie. Another good summertime flick is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This one starts out with Richard Dreyfuss chasing a spaceship on a summer night. I like this movie because it inspires a sense of wonder like the one you get from staring at the stars on a summer night. Something about this movie makes me feel like a kid again. A few other movies that are good in the summertime are The Big Lebowski (make sure all the windows are open and you have a white russian in your hand), All The Presidents Men (something about Watergate and August still resonates), and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (did you know there is a band called Vic Damone).

If you haven't done it yet you should read PopCandy. It's a blog about pop culture by Whitney Matheson at the USAToday Life section. She posts about everything from tv to music to comic books. Ok, that's it for now. Ps - Best book to read in the summertime: To Kill A Mockingbird. "And Boo Radley had come out..." Pss - Good summertime tv: The Twilight Zone. The series, not the movie. This show came on at ten o'clock at night in the days before we had cable in the summer between 8th and 9th grade. I'll never forget the creepy dummy who takes control of Cliff Robertson. I gotta say it again - creepy.

03 March 2010

New York's Stewardship Governor

Former Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, paid for sex, which is fine with me if he had not run on a platform of ethics, law and order. He couldn't just pay for the sex either. He had to arrange his trysts across state lines, set up special accounts to pay the agency, and then transfer the money across state lines, all to commit a crime. Besides that, I hear he kept his socks on while he was going at it. I can just picture the creepy guy wearing black pull-up socks with attached garters. When this came to light he finally came to his senses and stepped down. The poor guy's wife stood on the stage with him. His replacement, David Paterson, should follow Spitzer's example of taking responsibility for his actions and he should step down too. Paterson had the advantage of being a guy who could do what he wanted and not worry about his poll numbers. He was playing with house money. He could make unpopular decisions and lead the way to balance the $8,000,000,000 deficit that the state faced. All he had to do was play the Harry S Truman card: the buck stops here! But Steward Governor Paterson could not escape the ways and means that passes for state politics these days. One of his inside guys beat up his girlfriend and the State Police urged her to drop the charges. Actually, the guy in charge of the New York State Police, the top guy, tried to influence her. Then Paterson personally called her and urged her not to show up the next day in court. She didn't and the charges were dropped. Yesterday Paterson's former aides revealed that the governor had asked them to try to talk to sense into the woman who was the victim. "Talk some sense into" means that he wanted her to drop the charges. Today the governor is embroiled in a Yankee ticket scandal and the people who decide such things are considering pressing charges against him for illegaly accepting gifts. Over Yankee tickets. Yeah, they were in the World Series but still. I supported Paterson earlier when I thought he had some cojones. Recently someone in his administration, or him, proposed to dissolve the Public Market of Henrietta, a successful business whose success has contributed to over 1.5 million dollars in property taxes. Now the governor wants to take over the Market, take the twelve million dollars it has in the bank and contribute that towards the state's debt. After that it would most likely sell the market piecemeal. So, aside from the ethics violations, Paterson wants to take a successful business and dismantle it. If this is a snapshot of how government works then it's not surprising that the Democrats can't pass anything even though they have a majority of the votes. Steward Governor Paterson should step down and let someone else lead for the next ten months. There is an election in the fall and then maybe, just maybe, we can get someone removed from the Old Boys' Network with a sense of right and wrong to run our state.

02 March 2010

Sarah Bringing It All Back Home

I became a fan of Bob Dylan on Facebook and my friend Sarah commented and asked me "Are we supposed to think you're cool now?", which is funny for a couple reasons. First, poseurs become fans of stuff they think is cool because they think it's cool. Second, Sarah is teasing me for being a poseur when she knows I love Bob Dylan. Sarah loves Bob Dylan too. Last year at this time my friend Dana gave me a Dylan biography and while I was reading it I listened to the records Dylan recorded at each particular time I was at in the book. It made me realize that Dylan's first six records were recorded in a little under four years. And then my head blew up. "Blowing In the Wind", "The Times They Are A-Changing", "Like A Rolling Stone", one of my personal favorites "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry", as well as freakin' "Visions of Johanna", and umm..I don't know, all of HIGHWAY 61! Incredible! At the end of this prolific period, or maybe just towards the end, Dylan had his mysterious motorcycle accident and disappeared up in the wilderness of New York somewhere. The changes that Dylan's music went through during this period are remarkable. He hit in '62, writing and singing "protest" songs while the Beatles were crafting pop love songs. Dylan went through his changes faster, "going electric" at Newport in '65 and then touring with, ahem, the (Freaking) Band(!), one of the best Americana bands, if not THE best, of all time. Highway 61 absolutely kicked the door open to my favorite rock and roll music, a blend of Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, and primal energy. Dylan's lyrics and music blend so that one drives the other. Singing along to Dylan with the rhythm of his phrasing is the closest I can get to playing rock and roll guitar. Dylan's music after '65 wouldn't be the same. He released one of my favorite records to listen to on Sunday mornings, Nashville Skyline, a record with "Lay Lady Lay" on it, and dismissed at the time by some fans as a novelty country record. But I love "Country Pie" and the duet with Johnny Cash, and the laid back feel of it all. I wasn't around to be a snob in the Sixties so I just take the music as I've discovered it and I've come a long way since wondering who this guy Bob Die-lan was when he sang for USA for Africa in 1984. I don't know everything. But when I heard and saw Dylan sing "Tangled Up In Blue" on footage from his '75 tour, I knew I had to get that song, which brings me to Blood On the Tracks. Talk about Sunday morning music. I'd play this one summer when I was going out with a red headed girl (wondering if she had changed at all, if her hair was still red) who was with me when I bought it. Of course she is long gone but the memory remains, which seemed to be the point of this record. Connection and loss, and then reconnecting with someone who had changed, bitterness, optimism crushed by our own faults, Dylan sings about it on this record. Between "A Simple Twist of Fate", "Shelter From the Storm" (I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn), and "If You See Her, Say Hello", Dylan takes something personal and makes it universal to anyone who has felt heartbreak. Like Bruce Springsteen, Dylan was a guy who had to become Dylan. He aped alot of music and people, like Woody Guthrie, until he broke out as himself. Springsteen is similar in that he lived his dream, no matter where it took him, and was transformed. So that is my riff on Bob Dylan. I hope you think I'm cool now, Sarah.

My Friend Eva In Wonderland

My friend Eva has a blog called Eva In Wonderland and you should go read it. Upon my first return to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where I had failed out the year before, I hung out with DJ on homecoming weekend. I left the party early Friday night (probably like 3am?) and the next morning DJ, Johnny, and Tommy came in the apartment, laughing hysterically at a frying pan while they cracked a couple eggs and said "This is your brain on drugs!" Later that day DJ was bummed out by some former Phi Sigma Kappas who thought that our fraternity President (DJ) should have put more of an effort into Homecoming. This was in 1987 and if these guys were thirty-something that means they would have went to the Boro in the mid-70's. I think these guys were suffering from "everything-was-cooler-when-I-was-in-college" like alot of those 70's, self-centered a-holes were. I'm sure they still thought they were much cooler in their forties than me and DJ are in our forties, to which I say "Good luck with that!" We have as much fun as we ever did even though our brains aren't on drugs nearly as much as they used to be. Anyway, DJ left that day and went home, ran into an old friend and together they ran into this girl named Eva. Her and DJ and DJ's friend had went to school together. She asked DJ and his friend to go out to a movie with her, the friend (maybe) stood them up, and they went to the movie just the two of them, where Eva threw herself at DJ. I hope she laughs when she reads that. The next day DJ told me about this girl that he met and after that it was history. We flew out the next year to Arizona where Eva had moved to combat the effects of the goddamned Lupus that she was suffering from. We drove to Mexico and slept on the beach, drank Coronas, ate burritos with rocks in them, and almost got busted at the border. We had a day that changed my life, a day that I can look back on and say that it affected the rest of my life. Even if it was just sitting in the backseat on a drive through the desert, looking at the rising moon traced against the daylight sky. Since then Eva has been my friend. I owe her for turning me on to the Grateful Dead, getting me out to Arizona, and just knowing that she's there. I'm so glad there are people like Eva out there. Just like her husband DJ, I can check in anytime and feel present in my life. She got me to write this blog and you should go read her blog Eva In Wonderland. Do it now. She needs the money.

Please Read Mary Karr

Mary Karr is a Texas native who wrote about growing up with an oil worker dad and an artist/bohmian mom in a small town that smelled like rotten eggs. She was a tomboy growing up and she wrote The Liar's Club about her eccentric family and her youth. This is a really tame description and you have to read the book to get the full effect of the dysfunction and nuance of her family and story. Her mother was married five times, twice to Mary's dad. He served in WWII and was a no-nonsense storyteller and drinker, part Okie and part Indian. Mary says that, in a town full of characters, her family stood out. There were gunshots, fires, and lots of drinking. Mary tells stories that are outright hilarious, sad, and bewildering. I fell in love with her after she tells the story about climbing the neighbors tree and taking shots at them with a bb gun as they are coming home from church. This was in response to a schoolyard altercation in which Mary did not get the best of the boy she was fighting. She writes about long, boring summer days, rereading To Kill A Mockingbird, and hanging out with her mom. One critic called her writing prose with a poet's use of words, which I guess is pretty accurate. If you love good stories or admire the use of language, this is a fantastic book. I personally liked Mary as a young girl so much that I developed a huge crush on her on the page. If she was my neighbor growing up I'm sure I would have been so infatuated with her that I would like her even if she shot me with a bb gun. Please go read this book.