Thursday, November 30, 2006

Not all DJ’s are created equal

On my way to work this morning, I surfed the FM radio stations, trying to decide if I wanted Talk-Radio for a heady blast of political commentary, or music. I usually find my way over to Donna MacHouston’s smooth Jazz station, KHJZ 95.7 and if Donna McKenzie is at the microphone, I know I can find just the right mix of smooth, relaxing Jazz music and soft dialogue. To be fair, KHJZ is replete with good DJ’s.

Let’s back up a bit. I grew up literally hating AM radio and so many disc jockey’s on air today reflect the AM DJ mentality. They call themselves “On-Air Personalities” as if the average lone commuter is starved for company. “Hey, BB! Mind if I ride along with you and blab senseless nothings while you wait for me to play actual music”? I know I could put in a CD or get Satellite radio, but please bear with me, while I plead my case.

If the song starts or ends and the DJ is talking, I brand them as an AM DJ.

Maybe I am being too hard on today’s DJ’s, as many did not experience AM radio and the industry standard of playing five 3-minute songs per hour. The rest of the hour was an equal split of commercials and jabber-blabber-clabber by the DJ, who sat like a potentate on the throne of power, dishing out meager music portions. Radio music for young people was dominated by whoever paid the radio station the most money, so in the 4-6 songs you heard the same one might come up twice. I hated it, but that is all there was, so I persevered.

Unless it is a drive-time radio program, a DJ should never forget that radio listeners are listening almost exclusively for music and any time a DJ is talking, it better be worth it. Donna Mac first caught my attention on Classic Rock 93.7, because her silky voice pours out of the speakers. She works it. That scores big points with me, as she is so pleasant to listen to. However, I, like all audiophiles, want the “Jams”; we want what we came for --- a lot of music. She dishes it up too.

Classic Rock 93.7 had a number of “good” DJ’s, but what really made Donna Mac shine was when she talked, she actually had something to say. She was always giving out choice tidbits of rock trivia and short bios about the Bands and music industry, which kept me listening. Short, sweet, to the point and then BAM, more music.

If the DJ talks too much, I brand them as an AM DJ.

My first foray away from AM radio came in 1969. Using my after school job money, I bought a small cassette player. I bought two cassettes, The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” and Glen Campbell’s “Galveston”. Led Zeppelin hadn’t begun its journey into the depth of my soul yet and Glen made Galveston sound like heaven on earth. Then came FM radio!

My first recollection of FM radio came one year later. K101 in Houston, Texas, which later became KLOL, blasted on the music scene and I was hooked! K101 played underground music, the likes of which, I had never heard. We listened to “Crash” Collins, the DJ who hardly talked, scratched vinyl (real bad), and generally sounded like he was barely able to keep going. He was the first real FM DJ I remember hearing. Crash would finish a record and sometimes it would be cold silent for 30 seconds, then you would actually hear him remove the record, sometimes scratching it severely (maybe it was a sound effect) and then you would hear “K-101, Crash, on the radio” and the next cool album cut would begin (sometimes with a skip). It was truly awesome radio.

If the DJ believes they are more important than the music, I brand them as an AM DJ.

When “Crash” was resurrected years later on KLOL, he was an “On-Air Personality, AM-style DJ, like “Outlaw Dave”, “Stevens and Pruett” and 93.7’s “Dean and Rog”. I know these folks have/had a terrific following, but to me, they’ve lost the essence of FM radio by switching to this format. Donna Mac hasn’t and that is why she is the focus of this article, that and the fact that she has “The Voice”. Whether she spins Rock & Roll or Jazz, she stays true to vintage FM radio.
Someone recently asked me what was so good about this area and asked me if I could name one thing.

Well, here is just one of the many good things I enjoy about “this area”…a REAL FM Disc Jockey. I hope she never leaves us.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My American flag

Call me a dumb redneck, but I love the flag of the United States of America. I own a good-sized flag and I like to fly it on patriotic holidays and whenever I want to show support for our country. Sometimes, I fly it when one of our soldiers is captured, or dies. Sometimes I fly it just because I want to. It means a lot to me.

“I Pledge Allegiance to the flag”

A couple of years ago my wife and I drove to Washington DC, so we could see “The Star Spangled Banner” in all it’s antiquity and glory. While we were there, we took in all the monuments also; the Lincoln Memorial being the most magnificent.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why any citizen of this country would want to deface our flag. I don’t even want to debate it and I love a good solid educational argument. Someone may say it is a symbolic gesture of protest when they put a match to the edge of “Old Glory” and I can see that. Someone may argue it is really just a piece of cloth that over the history of our country has changed many times and I can see that also.

”of the United States of America”

What I can’t see is why they would entertain that avenue of protest or artistic expression, when there are so many other ways to get a point across. Our enemies burn and deface our flag. Watch a demonstration in a foreign country and sure enough, out will come an American flag and the next thing you know, someone is lighting it off. Never mind that the good old US of A has nothing to do with what they are mad about. Something in me both cringes and angers when I see the symbol of our freedom go up in smoke at the hand of a person who has no idea what this country is.

Recently in Clarksville, Tennessee, home of the U.S. Army’s Fort Campbell, an art student of Austin Peay State University by the name of William Gentry exhibited, of all things, a deep-fried American flag, complete with peanut oil and black pepper. His inspiration for the piece was the result of his deep concern for the wave of obesity in America. This didn’t bode well in Clarksville, as most of the citizens there have loved ones who defend that piece of material in the very countries where it is burned.

“and to the Republic for which it stands,”

The exhibit featured three U.S. flags imprinted with phrases such as "Poor people are obese because they eat poorly" and more than 40 smaller flags fried in peanut oil, egg batter, flour and black pepper.

When the Museum Director took it down, just 18 hours after it appeared, Mr. Gentry was quoted as saying "I hope they are upset, but I hope they don't miss the point".

Now it’s time to show my indignation to Mr. Gentry, or what I like to call plain old common sense. I missed the point, because I could not see past the oily American flag.

I’d like to have a word in the back room with Mr. Gentry and as Louis L'Amour was fond of saying
“read to him from the Book”. Our freedoms and liberties allow us to do some things that common sense and propriety should forbid. I want to repeat that, because in this day and age of putting political correctness ahead of everything else, we forget what American liberty really means.

”one Nation under God, indivisible,”

“Our freedoms and liberties allow us to do some things that common sense and propriety should forbid”.

Many, many American servicemen and women have died or been beaten for that red, white and blue, star-sewn symbol of our liberty and freedoms and it is the ultimate insult to cheapen it, regardless of how artistic or outraged a person is. Abusing our flag as an expression of free speech just seems wrong to me.

”with liberty and justice for all.”

Freedom of speech is often cited when someone in our country wants to destroy or deface our flag and I can’t and won’t argue the legal issues involved. What I will argue and defend is what this great country stands for and our share of the reward, blame and responsibility as citizens. We should never forget the blood sacrifice our flag represents and if we can do that, we will never entertain the idea of turning it into a peanut-soaked exhibit or set it on fire in protest.

I grew up in this country, starting every school morning, by putting my right hand over my heart and pledging allegiance to this symbolic piece of cloth and in my heart, I still believe the message in the pledge.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving Holiday 2006

Well, here we are, another holiday and for some, a 4 day weekend, compliments of our obsession with stacking days off when a holiday falls on a Thursday, or a Tuesday. The true meanings of our traditional holidays are falling one by one, to the delight of those who capitalize on our desire to purchase more earthly goods. Black Friday here we come!

With new “special recognition” days being pushed on us all the time, we need to stop a minute and think about what days like Memorial Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Veteran’s Day and Independence Day meant to our forefathers and why they set them aside as special. “Talk like a pirate day” can wait.

Many of us present day Americans think sacrifice is skipping an ice cream late-night snack, or not getting a new automobile every three years. We are the most self-rewarding generation in the short history of this country. We want our “goodies” now and danged if we will wait. We truthfully have never really lacked for anything essential and the closest thing to starvation we know, is watching a National Geographic special on Somalia, or someplace we don’t care anything about.

We attempt to supersize/turboboost every holiday pleasure into a modern version of entertainment, three or four day weekends and power spending, because our excess in most every area has deadened our sensitivities. We crave more - give it to me, we cry out! Going to the local park and swinging on a swing set has been replaced by getting in a slingshot ride in Galveston, which catapults a pair of pleasure-seeking people at mach five. Christmas has become for many, a time to buy extravagant items that take months to pay for. Thanksgiving is binging and gorging --- and then binging again. Holidays are viewed as excuses to take time off from work and their intended purpose is long forgotten in excessive eating and revelry.

I am as guilty as the next person and all this brings me to a real life experience, that years later came home completely different, from when it happened.

In my arrogant youth, maybe 1973, I was walking through a tropical hamlet in central Thailand with a fellow Airman. We stopped at a street vendor and I purchased “Thai BBQ chicken”. The Thai’s have a peculiar way when it comes to cooking chicken on a brazier pit. They take a whole cleaned and de-feathered chicken and chop it up with a meat cleaver, bones and all, with seemingly no understanding of the anatomy and bone structure of the bird. So what I bought, resembled a cooked piece of strange-looking spicy meat with splintered bones sticking out in every direction and held together with two bamboo sticks and twine, all wrapped in green plastic film and newspaper.

I was accustomed to this after a year “in-Country”, as we G.I.’s called it, paid my five baht (25 cents) and started down the dirt path beside the highway. Suddenly, 8 to 10 filthy rag-covered children, ranging from 6 to 10 years old and every one of them wanting my chicken, accosted me. I was surrounded and overwhelmed! While half of the pint-sized thieves or “ca-moys” grabbed at the chicken, the other 50% attempted to relieve me of my wallet, watch, pocket change, lighter, smokes and worst of all, my dignity.

All this in broad daylight, beside the only blacktopped road in the hamlet.

My Air Force buddy, who hadn’t purchased food, was taken in surprise as much as I jumped back and I did my dead level best to keep all of my belongings, which basically was impossible. After a noble struggle on my part, which lasted all of 10 seconds, I tossed the hacked barbequed yard bird into the air and watched the street urchins dive on it head first. First come, first serve, evidentially. Looking around, I saw many Thai’s watching the whole episode and realized they empathized with the orphan band of brothers.

I was angry and felt violated and made a big show of yelling and gesturing and I’m ashamed to admit it, I cursed and swore at the little “street-rats”. I wanted to strike out and defend my mystery-meat snack, even if it wouldn’t have passed inspection by the most calloused diner here in the States. But they were little kids you say and this was a consideration, that and the fact that I had about 25 witnesses.

I eventually got over it, but kept the same view of the incident for many years, not understanding until much later, the kids were famished and had no resources to draw from. I had plenty and they knew it. To them, it was survival. To me, it was an inconvenience. If I remember correctly, I stopped a few minutes later and bought more “Thai Chicken”.

This year, I intend to take time to truly look at my wonderful family and friends as we gather and give thanks to God, for the inexhaustible Horn of Plenty we enjoy. We are a tremendously blessed Country and it’s time we recognized we are enjoying the benefit of years and years of past toil and sacrifice that has brought us to this place in 2006. I pray we do not become so caught up in self-indulgence that we forget our forefather’s intentions and begin to believe “all this” has come about by our own hands, as that is the time we will surely lose it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Longhaired Hippies

I remember the first time I saw real hippies. If I remember correctly, the year was 1968 and the band calling itself “Canned Heat” was on an afternoon music program. They were playing a song that was hitting the AM radio stations called "On the road again". This particular song was nothing like the later version Willie made famous. Canned Heat’s version was untamed and hypnotic, as was their appearance. They had long straggly hair. I mean real long and they dressed funny. It was disgusting and invariably “cool”.

*”Almost cut my hair
It happened just the other day
It's gettin kinda long
I could have said it was in my way”

It’s commonly reminisced that longhaired hippie types were common in 1968 and maybe they were in some small parts of the country, but mainstream America viewed the Beatles cutesy hair over the top of the ears, as real hippie fodder --- and it wasn’t. Long hair on young men didn’t really catch on across the country until the 70’s. I know, because I lived it and remember it as well as younger people can tell you the day they heard Tupac Shakur had died.

Back in 1964 when Ed Sullivan brought John, Paul, George and Ringo into our homes and Beatlemania swept almost every young person in this country off their feet, I imagine Barbers in every town let out a groan. The Beatles had hair hanging on their foreheads and their ears were plainly visible, but to hear people talk, they had hair “down to there”. It was just the beginning.

“But I didn't and I wonder why
I feel like letting my freak flag fly
Cause I feel like I owe it to someone”

Almost every parent hated the Beatle haircut and since I wanted to be cool and hip, like the Beatles (and everyone else), I quit wearing the “Flattop” haircut with that sweet-smelling pink “Butch Wax” pomade. More than once I walked out of the barber shop only to get turned around by my Dad, so I could get more hair cut off. He was determined I would get a “regular” and I was determined to have “bangs”, but the thought of wearing a ponytail never entered my mind…at least not for a few more years.

Long hair on men and the hippie persona was a strong attractant to most young rebels back then, but not in the Houston, Texas arena. Here, folks were comfortable in traditional western clothes and proud of their redneck ways, as the Marshall Tucker Band would later say and the very appearance of longhaired hippie boys, absolutely meant something unpatriotic and worthy of a good “licking”. Wearing that long hair cost a number of young men a few bruises.

“But I'm not giving in an inch to fear
Cause I promised myself this year
I feel like I owe it to someone”

By the mid 70’s I fit in quite nicely with the longhaired cowboy rednecks that unwittingly had adopted the hippie look (with cowboy boots, of course), thanks to Willie, Waylon and the boys. No longer did I have to fear getting a good beating because of my ponytail, but I, like most longhairs, instead had a good chance of getting a Gilley’s sticker on my truck bumper.

The country was exiting the Vietnam years and there was a lot of wild living going on. It was a time of optimism, debauchery and religious revival. Hippies were no longer called hippies, but “Freaks” instead because of the drug culture, and Willie and Waylon were doing their share to knock down that bridge also.

Hippie/Freak/Cowboys. Who would have believed it ten years before?

“When I finally get myself together
I'm going to get down in that sunny southern weather
And I find a place inside a laugh
Separate the wheat from the chaff
I feel like I owe it to someone”

In 1975, I found the Lord and inevitably gave up my heathen ways and my ponytail, freak-flags, and all the trappings that went with it. Long hair on men was already doomed anyway, as Lou Reed had launched the album “Rock and Roll Animal” in 1974 and on the cover; Lou had an almost shaved head. Punk Rock had arrived. It took 10 years for people to catch up with old Lou and even though I never shaved my head, I never grew that ponytail again.

*ALMOST CUT MY HAIR - David Crosby

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The truth is stranger than fiction

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and I would like to share some personal experiences, some good, some, well, read on.

I saw a dog with a broken back walking around on its front legs, like a human. It would even stand still while it waited to cross the road.

Back in 1975, while working for Brown and Root at the Mobay Plant construction site, I witnessed 3 millwrights inflating a cherry picker tire when it suddenly popped. 15 seconds later, an orange hardhat came floating down and landed on the ground. It had been blown about 100 feet straight up.

I watched a man plow his pick-up truck into the side of a Volkswagen Beetle on a construction site parking lot, because the other fellow hadn’t followed the normal protocol of every other car.

I witnessed a little boy sitting in the crook of a tree holding a monkey. The monkey jumped out of the boy’s hands onto a passing cat and before the cat could react, jumped back into the boys lap holding the cat. I even took a picture of it. I had a wild monkey attempt to wrestle my expensive SLR camera from my hands in Thailand (I won). I saw a monkey remove a wrist watch and retreat before the man could react and it was ten feet away when it began its move.

My brother and I watched a guy throw a longneck beer bottle over the top of his car and it smashed against the south entrance of the Baytown-La Porte Tunnel. It was so unexpected and bizarre all we could do was laugh.

An orange-robed Buddhist Monk in Thailand offered me a drink of water from a cistern, when I was out hiking. I was severely parched. He pointed into the large clay vessel and looking into it, I saw a snake swimming around. He dipped out about a liter and taking a small brass container from his pocket, “thumped a dab” of pink powder into the water and shook his head up and down, signally it was okay to drink. I raised my eyebrows (as we could not converse in each others language) and he nodded. I drank it down and thanked him.

I saw a snake the size of a full-grown boa constrictor in a creek in northern Georgia 35 years ago while hunting snakes. I nailed it with .22 bullets twice before it slipped off the fallen tree into the water...and then I ran like a Carl Lewis.

I didn't see this, but Baytonians Catfish Jack and Lovey Randolph, both long gone, swore they once had a friend who owned a pet javelina. The little stinker went everywhere with the man and get smoked cigarettes! The fellow would pull two smokes out of his pocket and light them, then put one in the javelina's mouth. They both swore the animal inhaled the smoke too.

Years ago a buddy and I drag-raced our beat-up pick-up trucks out in the country. We went about 115 mph before we shut them down. This area is just north of Lowe's and Home Depot…Garth Road.

My brother and I rode to work one day with an older fellow named Frank Briethaup, who owned a mint 1957 Chevy wagon (no, not a Nomad). It was just like it was sold, except there was a lot of refuse on the floor. We were headed towards Baytown on old 2-lane Hwy 225 when we came up on Miller-Cutoff Road, red light as usual, with about 10 stopped cars in each lane. Frank mumbled something about hating that *&^% light and onto the right shoulder, we blew through that light like we had a flux capacitor in our 'DeLoreon'. My brother and I were flabbergasted and we all broke out in a fit of laughter. We never rode with old Frank after that and he is long gone. God bless him.

I had a new .22 rifle and it was loaded. Dogs were killing my chickens and I had already lost close to 20. A friend came over whom I hadn't seen in a long time and he wanted to look at the rifle. I told him it was loaded and we stepped out on the porch. Directly, he shouldered it and fired before I could stop him. To my total surprise 2 birds fell out of the tree and he said "Well, lookie at that"! I snatched the rifle from him and still to this day do not know how he did that or why.

When I was about 16, I was riding in a friend’s car when we hit a section of 'black ice' just as we went into a corner. We spun round and round, then off the road, around a large tree and then back onto the road past the curve going backwards before we stopped. It was so wild we did it two more times.

I had a friend who had a giant old Buick car. One evening a load of us guys were driving out of the Washburn tunnel and ran right over a queen sized mattress, which immediately hung up under the car. My friend decided to do what all red-blooded American guys do and that was to put the accelerator to the floor. I think we lost the mattress somewhere around 80mph.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bring back the Commies!

I miss the good old days when a person could hate a Communist and everyone felt like it was good for the country. These days we’re stuck with hating terrorists and it’s just not the same. Man! Bring back the Commies! They were easy to prepare for. All you needed was a bomb shelter, a good supply of K-rations and daily nuclear fall-out drills and you were good to go.

I miss the good old days of escorting a guidance control canister for a Minuteman missile into the vault at Malmstrom AFB, Great Falls Montana. Yes sir! Security Police stood around me with locked and loaded M-16s while I punched in my part of the code. As soon as I finished the Officer of the Day entered his code, then the Policeman and finally the Maintenance officer. We knew we were under the Commie Threat and we took this business serious. It was great and it was satisfying.

The Commies were easy to hate. They were sneaky and had secret agents who worked for the KGB and the Politburo. They were taking over the world and Americans didn't like it. They had the bomb. We had the bomb. We had more bombs. We had dropped the big one more than once and by jiminy, we would do it again. The Commies were bad, real bad. They were going to take over the world and outer space!

General Jack D. Ripper put it best in the excellent Commie-scare movie, Doctor Strangelove and I had his words printed on an extra large coffee cup, just so I can get the old Commie-fear fix working again, it was so satisfying:

"I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all our precious bodily fluids".

He really brings the feeling home!

The Commies wore uniforms with red stars and they lived on the other side of a border somewhere. Sometimes they wore black pajamas and a straw hat, but you could tell who they were by their AK-47s. They lived where it was either real cold with snow or a steamy jungle. If we wanted to find a Commie, we knew where to look. When I watch footage of Iraq or Afghanistan, I cant figure out who is an insurgent and who isn't and it looks like a no-mans land; all rocks and sand and can someone please explain why folks lived there before oil was discovered?

I want to look in the back of a Mechanics Illustrated magazine and mail order a set of plans to build my own fall-out shelter, like god-fearing, Commie-hating Americans did in the 50s. Gee whiz, with today’s modern conveniences I could go down there, when my wife was mad at me, and just play Solitaire for hours while I waited for the big one. If I got hungry, I'd just toss a Hot Pocket in the microwave and drink a couple of diet root beers. Why, I could wait for weeks if need be.

I'd probably dial up the White House and let them know I was ready, in case they needed to recall me, even though I don't know if they need a 54 year old, Supply Sarge, who is, ahem, slightly rotund. Of course, I would do some push-ups and stuff to get in shape, in between the Twinkies and Oreos. I could maybe get some reloading gear and make me up some special "Commie loads" while I'm in my bunker and I'd share them with our boys, if they need em. I would be doing my part to stop the flow of Commie doctrine, just like the old days and I gotta tell you, it would be a good feeling.

A far better feeling than the one we have today. Our current enemy, radical Islam, has us sitting around waiting for something to happen and for some reason hates America, Israel, Canada, England, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, South America and heck-fire, I guess even France.

Yes fellow Americans, I need to find a Commie, so I can feel secure again.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Up in smoke?

I think everyone agrees inhaling smoke of any kind is bad and detrimental to ones health, but should it be regulated and penalized into a criminal act? I say no. Smokers know they are under attack and old habits are hard to break. Most smokers would quit on a dime if they could, with success.

We Americans (and I say we) want everything and we want it right now. It’s almost a curse. Stemming the tide of new tobacco users and helping long-term smokers quit is going to be a war of attrition and that war is going to be won by education and programs that help smokers quit, but only when they are ready.

I have to say, in this entire anti-smoking furor what really irks a smoker and should irk most ex-smokers is the self-righteous indignation non-smokers exhibit toward the smoking problem and it IS a problem that all smokers already recognize without constant reminder. Smoking is not illegal, but smokers are becoming labeled as social criminals and most smokers fear eventually, they will not be allowed to smoke in their own homes.

Let’s back up a bit and look at some history.

Tobacco usage is nothing like it was 40 years ago, but in today’s arguments, nobody seems to acknowledge that fact. Smoking is deeply ingrained in American culture and it’s just been in the last 40 years that the government has made inroads into educating people about its dangerous side effects.

When I was a teen in Georgia, I got my first job sacking groceries. What is now recognized as the gum and candy bar display, was then, filled with snuff, plug tobacco and chewing tobacco. Another equally large display was for cigarette tobacco, rolling-papers and many different cigars, pipe tobacco, and various paraphernalia for consuming tobacco. Behind the counter were cartons and individual packs of cigarettes.

95% of the store customers bought some sort of tobacco product and many times a kid came into the store with a note and took home a plug of “ta-backer for Paw” or “some smokes for Granny” and it was just the way it was back then. Everyone smoked, it seemed, and Americans were daily subjected to smoking commercials and movie stars with “cigs” hanging out of their mouths. They weren’t even the bad guys, unless it was a German officer holding his cigarette between his thumb and forefinger, or a Japanese officer with his cigarette holder and of course all cowboys with black hats smoked.

Ian Fleming’s James Bond character smoked seven packs a day. J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters smoked pipes. Smoking was a normal adult pastime.

I discovered an intense fascination with smoking earlier than most and began my tobacco romance with one of my Mom’s Kent-brand cigarettes, with the now infamous “Micronite filter”. The “Micronite filter” was marketed to cool down the hot smoke and make the smoking experience just that much better. Later when it was discovered that asbestos was harmful when inhaled, the “Micronite filter” was replaced (with something that was marketed as an improvement).

By the time I was eleven, I always had a pack of cigarettes on my person and in 1965 at the ripe age of 13 (and a committed smoking veteran of 6 years) I saw my first anti-smoking commercial. It was of a man sitting against a tree smoking, with his small son next to him. The man laid the cigarette pack down and the small boy looked at it. A voice and text pronounced “Like father, like son”. My Dad and Mom smoked, as did all adults, it seemed, and this was my first inkling that smoking was not something that adults did because they were adult, but rather...a vice.

All through school I was punished and grounded for smoking, but never quit. I particularly enjoyed “Viceroy’ cigarettes for some reason. I was told smoking was bad for me. Nothing deterred me though and my Dad told me the day I graduated from high school, I could walk through the door with a carton under each arm and pack in my pocket…and I did, except I couldn’t afford the cartons.

Within 3 years of smoking to my hearts content, I quit cold turkey. I was overseas in Thailand and G.I. cigarettes weren’t taxed, so I could buy them for 23 cents per pack and I quit anyway.

What caused me to start in the first place was I wanted to be an adult or a “grown-up” as we called them in the day. I wanted to be like everyone else and everyone else smoked. That’s the same reason I learned to cuss, swear, curse, use profanity, whatever you want to call it and in later years I eliminated that bad habit also. I found out that being adult was actually about responsibility and it was up to me to fulfill it in my own life, regardless of what other “adults” were doing.

The reason I quit is, I already hated cigarette smoking and wanted to quit. The day I took my first Karate lesson was the day I quit. I couldn’t breath. Smoking had already taken its toll and I was suffocating. I decided right then, that if there is a choice I can make between smoking or Karate and health, I was going to lay the cigarettes down and I did and never looked back.

Non-smokers need to reevaluate their stance on smoking and smokers and realize their problem with smoking is shared by those with the addiction. Our old enemy, time, can be our friend if we just let it do its effectual work.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Let's join the crowd!

Years ago, back in my formative years, I wanted a pair of hopsack pants. I wanted them real bad. They were becoming very popular and I whined that “all the kids were wearing them”, which as any parent knows, is fodder for objection, resistance and parental instruction. My Dad was (and still is) an expert at bringing fuzzy thoughts into focus. He was fond of explaining to me at times like this that “if everyone was eating mud sandwiches, would you want to eat one too?”

His actual version is a tad graphic for my more sensitive readers, but the point is, he had a way with words that always left me thinking and of course, I didn’t let on at the time, but I was ‘getting it”, albeit slowly.

I went on to get a pair of burnt brown hopsack pants anyway and I was so proud of them. I just knew my Dad didn’t have it right this time.

One memorable day, my really hip and cool-looking britches openly betrayed me and although I was horrified at the time, it is quite funny now. Hopsack is this rough material that is woven and can be made from a variety of materials. This pair decided, evidentially on its own, to separate in the seam between the back pockets and gave my fellow students a generous view of my Fruit of the Loom’s.

I remember thinking it felt rather breezy that day as I sauntered down the hallway heading for another class. I was cool and hip as usual when I was in my burnt brown hopsack britches and paisley shirt and I just knew I was viewed as such, when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said those most grievous words “Your pants are split out in the back, Bub”…

Reaching around at a speed that was something akin to Mach one, to my absolute horror, I found the great divide. Yikes and double yikes! With my face a crimson red, I headed directly to the boys bathroom.

Across the hall from the restroom was Home Economics class and my 911 plan was to have someone take my britches over there and have them sewn up, while I waited in the privacy of the bathroom. It was a good plan and the first student who came in that I trusted, was handed the offending pants and off he went, me peeking out the door in my “under draws”.

“Oh, why didn’t I wear my Levi’s to school?” I groaned, as only a youth can, when they think they are experiencing a real emergency. The bathroom door opened time and time again as high school boys came in and each one looked at me like I was a freak pervert until I hurriedly explained my situation. It was traumatic. It was awful. I was embarrassed beyond words and what made it even worse, was the girls across the hallway were laughing and carrying on and I just knew it was me and my britches that provided the entertainment.

Well, I finally got my pants back after a half hour of agonizing and donning them, scurried off like a defeated warrior-child. The hopsack pants weren’t “all that” after that experience and looking back to this one incident many times in my life, I always use them to judge whether I will go along with the crowd, or go my separate way. It sounds trivial, but true; it became for me, a life lesson. Dad was right again!

Over the years, my military buddies all went and got tattooed. I didn’t and tattooing back then, was only for Sailors, motorcycle riders, rebels and pirates and a sign that you were a bonafide hard case, but I still wouldn’t get one. I went my own way. Today’s youth all seemingly want to be tattooed and pierced and when my two teens professed an interest, I told them a version of what my Dad told me back when I was a teen. I also posed them this question:

“If everyone is doing something to stand out and be different and you don’t follow suit, who is actually the trend-setting person?” Adam Sandler is a perfect example of what I am writing about. He has no adornments at all and his peers practically invented the adornment industry. He proves my point. Less is more.

My Dad taught my sister, brothers and I to be our own person, even if it goes against the crowd and that’s the greatest gift he could have given us. The crowd is not always correct, even though they appear to be in the majority. If everyone wears lots of jewelry and you don’t or if all have tattoos and you chose not to, who is exercising the greater choice? Of course, some would rather “just fit in” and that is fine also; just not for me.

The bottom line in my life has been to shun group decisions that I feel are only fads and go my own way, especially if it is a long term decision, as in a tattoo or financing the latest cool car. If all are adorned with “extras”, then the one with the least amount of “extras” is ultimately, the best adorned and the least likely to follow the crowd.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Baptist Convention told: Muslims 'are here to take over our country'

I think there is going to be a groggy, but steady awakening in this country of tolerance that something is really, really wrong and is not going to go away.

Radical Islam has declared Jihad, or holy war against the world with the intent to dominate and enforce its brand of radical religion.

These radical Muslims plan to use our freedoms against us with no intention of assimilating into American culture. They are actively recruiting malcontents inside our country.

Many believe it is all caused by the Bush Administration, even though angry and violent Muslims have been killing and blowing up people for 30 years and is literally happening in every country including Muslim states. See the timeline here.

I remember a few months ago I posted an actual scenario where Muslims out-numbered everyone else in a Michigan city and instituted daily calls to prayer over a loud speaker system. I asked if people in Baytown would vote it down or what they would do if it came here and I was called a bigot by the liberal faction on the local forum.

When the local Mosque had a big open house, I called it an evangelical ploy and a recruitment tool and was again called a bigot and politically incorrect.

At the Baptist Convention in Missouri, Rev. David Clippard said the Saudi Arabian government and royal family had funded teaching positions and 138 Muslim student centers on university campuses across the United States, three in the University of Missouri system in Columbia, Rolla and St. Louis. "What they are after is your sons and daughters," Clippard said. "They are coming to this country in the guise of students, and the Saudi government is paying their expenses."

“Clippard said that Muslims were hoping to take over the United States government one city at a time, and that they were starting with Detroit, where there is already a large Muslim population.

"They are trying to establish a Muslim state inside America, and they are going to take the city of Detroit back to the 15th century and practice Sharia (or Islamic) law there."

In an interview Tuesday, Clippard said he believed the Islamic "strategy for taking over America" was to wait until there was a Muslim majority here and then "eradicate those who don't conform to their religion."

Of course there were immediate denials and excuses offered by liberal opposition. However, “Usama K. Dakdok, an Egyptian Christian and founder of Straight Way Ministry who calls himself a "Muslim evangelism specialist," said Tuesday that "every word (Clippard) said is true. It's time for us to wake up. They are not here to be in our welfare system, they are here to take over our country."

We as Americans have to take one on the chin (and often) or we go right back to buying and selling, like our prosperity will never end. We are the “fatted calf” blissfully ignorant that we are the next meal and the fallacy that we can not fall as a world power is just that, a fallacy.

The real poop on the Ukraine

Mitt Romney’s top adviser, Joseph Cofer Black, joined the board of the Ukraine energy firm, Burisma, while Hunter Biden was also serving on ...