Saturday, June 30, 2007

Was Theodore Kaczynski right?

In 4 days we will celebrate Independence Day; a day commonly referred to as just "the fourth of July", by those who care less about preserving heritage and liberty, but still want a day off. For many of us, it’s a patriotic day of remembrance and celebration and I look forward to it every year. Each year I try to reflect on what in the past year has changed in my country and this year is no exception. Some changes have been quite good and some are alarming.

Freedom - my freedom - my personal freedom in the United States of America and my personal state of independence as an American citizen and the state of Texas is still important to me. Did I enjoy the benefits of freedom this last year, as much as any other past year? Was my personal freedom enhanced, enlarged, reduced or restricted in the last 365 days? Has my idea of what freedom is (in this country) changed, or do I feel like society has redefined what is an acceptable amount of freedom?

Has my government taken steps to protect my freedom by taking more of it away? Have yet more rules and laws been enacted by our judicial system to save and protect my freedom, while at the same time making freedom less savory?

The answer is complex and all I can say is I’m uncertain that freedom will continue in this country. It’s been a rough year for Americans. I’m afraid we are riding a rolling snowball, which is just getting bigger by the second - the snowball of technology.

Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems wrote a paper back in 2000 called "Why the future doesn’t need us" and of course, I was compelled to read it. In this publication, he explains how the unchecked spread of technology, which is designed to free us from mundane and laborious tasks, will eventually replace and quite possibly annihilate us.

Genetics, Nanotechnology, and Robotics are advancing at an astoundingly exponential pace and Mr. Joy reasons we will see self-replicating and independent of human interaction hyper-intelligent robots in less than 23 years. If this doesn’t make sense, then ponder it this way. By the year 2030, machines could replace man, whether man will like it or not. If that is freedom, I want a rain check.

Nanotechnology, genetic engineering, stem cell manipulation and robotics, while having tremendous benefits and possibilities, could turn us from freedom, to a state of slavery, or worse. We are so tuned to believing advances in technology are progressive, that we accept breakthroughs in science with open arms. Progress is good – right?

Artificial Intelligence will replace human reasoning and all semblance of human intervention will become obsolete and extinct. This is the scenario envisioned in the popular science fiction "Matrix" series. By the third movie "Replicators" are producing robots to destroy man at a rate so infinitesimally fast that mankind has no chance of stopping them.

We love America’s military technology, but imagine if it was used against us. Scary, isn’t it?

I admit this is pure neo-Luddite philosophy and even though I am computer literate, I am guilty of leaning this way more often than not. When my future freedom is at stake and I read warnings from those who are in the forefront of advancing technology, it scares the bejesus out of me, or maybe I should say it makes me want to cry out to Jesus…

Ted Kaczynski wrote a fascinating and insightful manuscript titled "Industrial Society and Its Future", but it is better known as the "Unabomber Manifesto". It is a captivating document warning about the dangers of the technology industry and before anyone gets the idea that I agree with Mr. Kaczynski’s methods for stopping technology, let me say I think his solution of violent revolution is unacceptable.

I urge everyone to download a copy from the Internet and wake up to the reality that the misuse of technology is a growing menace towards our freedom. You will find it here: Bill Joy"s article is found here:

My individual freedom appears to be getting more restricted every year. Rules, laws, dangers, terrorists, criminals, regulations, limits, taxes and congestion are all vying for dominance. Is there any place I can go in America where it is less complicated?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Here Is How I See It

I am supposed to be in a state of euphoria, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Apple’s new iPhone. The latest “just to die for” techie gizmo is scheduled to arrive in stores tomorrow, June 29th. Some gadget-salivating people have camped out since last Monday awaiting the arrival of this contraption and at 500-plus dollars, plus service contract, they are either rich, obsessed with compulsive buying, stupid or all three. I’ll pass. Thank you.

This new convenience will allow the “average” user to surf the text and picture-based Internet on the giant 2 inch viewing screen, while listening to their favorite MP3 music library and yakking on the built-in phone while taking pictures and movies with the onboard camera – while driving – in the lane next to you! That’s awesome dude!

I sure hope all these iPhoners have automatic transmissions in their cars. Imagine trying to field those pesky text messages while shifting gears and navigating through traffic on Garth Road or slowing down unexpectedly, so that errant WIFI signal doesn’t fade. Add in the giggly fun of iPhone’s touch screen and it would take a Martian with 4 arms and 6 eyes to drive and operate the thing with any success and safety. The iPhone will make the term multimedia synonymous with this one ($%^&*).

There are two jaw-related news worthy items begging for our attention at this time. Japanese speed-eater Takeru Kobayashi, has developed arthritis in of all places, his jaw! As everyone knows, Tak’s claim to fame is wolfing down over 53 hotdogs and buns in 12 minutes. He has skills! Now all that fame is in jeopardy.

A Michigander woman is suing the makers of Starburst candy for $25000. It all started when she slipped a yellow Starburst between the cheek and the gum and after masticating vigorously (about three chews), she suddenly felt discomfort in her jaw regions. Since this nefarious day in 2005, she’s had trouble opening her mouth. Sounds to me like it was heaven sent.

Up there in the Upper P of Michigan in Marquette County, they are launching a new search for Bigfoot after fresh eye-witness accounts. Matthew Moneymaker of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization claims (with all sincerity) Sasquatch is not a myth. Now, my brother Bruce Marshall, Mike Elder and James Shipp all spent quite a bit of time hunting black bear up in Marquette County and they didn’t see a single Yeti. They have however; since eaten a lot of Jack’s Link jerky. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Paris Hilton is out jail and I’m sure this is newsworthy, because I’m told it is…over and over and over. Someone said she got religion while serving out her hefty sentence. I hope so. It would be sad to go through life with nothing but lots of money to salve your soul.

Rosie O’Donnell won’t be hosting Bob Barkers old haunt and I’m reasonably relieved. I think. I never watched “The Price is Right”, so I’ll take this breaking news announcement on faith. The good news is, oil dropped $2 per barrel when Rosie’s name fell out of the running.

Arch evil film maker Michael Moore has released a new expose’ that we can all agree upon. I haven’t seen it, but I’m willing to bet if Ol’ Michael gets sick, he will have to go to Cuba to get health care.

Iranians are freaking out over there in happy Iranland. The problem is gas rationing. Here’s a country that exports oil like there is no tomorrow and yet they lack refineries, so they can’t make their own gas. They import the stuff. Put two and two together here folks. If a country can not get gas and diesel to fuel their war machine, how in the world can they shake their fists at anyone? Us? We got plenty of fuel – heckfire, we own Iraq don’t we?

Did anyone watch Billy Ray Cyrus on that dancing show? Eeee-gads! Reality shows are getting more bizarre by the season. What’s next – marble-shooting Al Qaeda Imams? How about blind-folded taxi-driving illegal immigrants chewing tobacco-spitting for distance competitors (winner gets a green card)? I’d watch it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I Admit - it is My Own Fault

I’ve gone down the wrong path so many times, it’s a wonder I am still alive. I’ve ignored perfectly sound advice to pursue what seemed at the time, a good idea and suffered the consequences. I’ve stood with my toes dangling over the edge of the crevasse, blindly leaning forward, too many times and every time, it was a conscientious choice I made, which put me in that position.

You see, we have the innate ability to justify every course of action or entertainment we desire, so ultimately, we do what we want, instead of what is good for us. We all do it, some more than others, but we all do it.

With few exceptions, it is always our choice. We choose to follow the crowd, or give into peer pressure. We choose to look the other way to validate our own actions. We make the decision to eat ice cream more often (and larger portions) than is healthy. We stay up later than we should and we know we will be sorry when we suffer at school or work the next day. We allow other people to aggravate and distract us and when we finally vent our frustration, we mentally give in to anger and excuse our own ugly behavior.

Life is one choice after another, a mental fork in the road a hundred times each day and we accept this as normal living. The key to true happiness and fulfillment is taking the correct path a high percentage of the time. Many times we fall back on common sense to guide us and this approach usually rewards us. Other times, we use an educated guess or extrapolation of facts and this also gives us a better chance of success. Occasionally, we are forced to make a choice using a gut feeling (for men) or women’s intuition (for ladies) and once again, we are afforded a higher chance of achievement in our future.

Making no choice or decision leaves our future open for an outside source and can have disastrous or tragic results. Destiny, karma and fate become our choice makers and almost always lead us down an unfamiliar path.

Procrastination is the thief of time. I heard a preacher say that one time and I never forgot it. Since we live in the present, tomorrow simply becomes right now and when it arrives and we face the same problems, solving nothing. Failing to balance your checkbook on the hope that there is plenty of money in the bank will surely be a disappointment and a direct result of procrastination. Putting off choices to a later date simply prolong the agony of a choice.

Maturity offers an advantage in decision making that teens and children simply do not have as an option and lest we mature adults forget; maturity is basically defined as having “learned things the hard way”. We do NOT do some things twice and it isn’t because our Moms and Dads told us it was a bad idea. We didn’t read that it was bad, or see it in a movie. It wasn’t because convention told us not to do it twice, that we avoid a second exposure. The reason we do not repeat some choices is – we learned their negative effect first hand and we, with true conviction, choose not to repeat the same mistake.

A psychologist told me we tend to be very critical about faults we see in others, if we are battling them ourselves. We don’t like these traits in ourselves, so we point them out in people we come in contact with. The very things we do not like about ourselves, we have trouble tolerating. Our choices are issued wholesale passes to justify our desires, but others do not get the nod from us when they indulge in the same rationalization.

My path is littered with bad choices, going all the way back to 1959, when at the ripe age of seven, I decided to smoke my first cigarette. Somehow I stumbled through life relatively unscathed, in spite of my stupid mistakes, to reach my current ripened state of maturity. I shouldn’t have, many times over and I don’t ever want to forget that fact, especially when people are suffering the loss of their children and loved ones.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cursing, vulgarity, swearing and profanity

About 30 years ago, I cleaned up my speech. Other than a dad-gum now and again, I pretty much say exactly what I mean and I use adjectives instead of expletives to express myself. Sadly, this practice has placed me squarely in the minority, it seems. I call it the minority because it appears the majority of people not only participate, but tolerate others promoting this bawdy kind of social intercourse.

Many otherwise good people feel at ease spicing up conversations these days and it doesn’t appear to need a social acceptance confirmation. Four-letter words and multi-syllable “#$%&’s” flow from their lips like dirty water and with relative and practiced ease. Ribald jokes are something to share with semi-strangers and never mind passing someone talking on their cell phone in a store, because nothing will be censored.

X-rated music blasts from car speakers at the local carwash and no subject is taboo or sacred in today’s music. Angry conversations are enough of an excuse to cut loose and really let the “curse” words fly. Almost every comedian and daytime television program is spiced-up with adult language and even if we can’t avoid it at work, we let it into our house every time the television is on. It’s everywhere and it’s offending. I’m weary of it, but I’m also a realist, so I do my part to counter vulgar language by using adjectives instead of expletives and try to understand how this phenomenon has become acceptable in our society.

Years ago, I read somewhere about the various forms of gutter-speech, which constitute so-called cussing. I wish I could remember where I read it, but from memory, all manner of crude speech is broken down into three categories: cursing, profanity/swearing and vulgarities.

Cursing (cussing) has to do with placing a curse or a negative wish on someone through speech, such as “damn you” or “go to Hell”. “I wish you would die a horrible death in a wood chipper” is another obvious curse phrase.

Profanity/swearing comprise words which take the things of God lightly, or put us in the judgment seat of Christ. The root word here is the word profane. Using the name of Jesus angrily or adding the words of damn and God together is definitely profane in nature. According to the Bible, we should say yes or no and not swear oaths at all, thus “swearing” took on a negative bent.

Vulgarity is any speech, word, or phrases which are not socially acceptable and pretty much sums up the rest of the words you would not speak in front of a lady, priest, pastor, or preacher.

When I was a kid, I “cursed” every chance I got. I did it because it made me feel like a grown-up. I thought adults talked like this and since I wanted to be one, I would take my liberty and curse like they did. It’s the same reason I smoked cigarettes. I learned it from grown-ups. Movie stars like Clark Gable, in a passionate moment, would let the whole world know they were indignant and angry, simply by tacking on a swear word.

Comedians, like John Stewart on the Daily Show, love to use two, three and four syllable vulgarisms and then laugh with total abandon and the audience guffaws…so it must be funny – right? He does have a top rated show and some folks wouldn’t miss it for the world. Well, I miss it and I miss it every time and the reason is, I don’t care to sift through his raunchy earthy language, just so I can hear political humor.

I don’t dig through the dumpster behind Rooster’s or McDonald’s to fill my stomach and I don’t want my ears filled with verbal garbage either.

Vulgar coarse speech does not an adult make. Excusing your French to make a point simply means you have a limited vocabulary. The addictive nature of cussing actually causes your vocabulary to diminish. Instead of rapidly searching for the right adjective to express a thought, a choice curse word is inserted and voila! No tricky thinking is required. If you’re lucky, someone may actually be shocked. Do this about a hundred times a day and before you know it, its habit. Momma, where’s the soap when you need it?

To show how pervasive this practice is, stop for a moment and ask yourself how many curse words you know in a different language. Embarrassing, huh? I have way too many and although all words may have a strategic conversational purpose time to time, most cursing, profanity, swearing and vulgarisms are better left for a rainy day far into the future.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Easy come, easy go

“Daddy, what was it like back in the day, when America was a world power”? “Well, son, that was the baby boomer generation, before my time even and if I knew the answer to that question, maybe I could tell you, however I can tell you this – folks say it was a lot of hard work”.

This is a futuristic scenario I fear my children and grandchildren will realize. The so-called Greatest Generation fathered the Baby-Boomers and I realize now why my parents made us do chores, told us we had to work part time jobs and instilled values and work ethics in us. The BB’s were a chip off the old block, not the block itself.

I am a part of that aging baby-boomer generation and even though I did not have it easy by today’s standards, I surely grew up under the close direction of my parent’s scrutiny and paddle. I’ve never carried pails of water from the well to the house, churned butter for hours on end, or went without a meal (as is quite evident). I didn’t rise early to chop wood for the stove, walk 5 miles to school without a lunch, then home again on foot to finish my chores before sitting down to a supper of mostly vegetables from the garden, which I helped plant, harvest and preserve.

Instead of breezing through KFC’s for a quick meal, America’s kinfolk butchered their own chickens, dipping them in scalding water, so the feathers could be plucked by hand. They gathered eggs each morning from the hen house, taking the chance of accidentally grabbing a snake from the laying boxes and if they wanted bacon or pork chops, it was available only through the butchering process.

Almost every task required human horsepower and the days of our forefathers were mixed with sweat, hard hard work and long hours of toil. There was literally nothing easy about their daily existence. This is the secret of America’s past strength and the reason for its current weakness.

Today, we live in the disposable world of easy come - easy go. Want something now? No problem! You hungry? There’s hot food available in only 10 minutes (and that’s factoring in the drive and the wait at the fast food window) – or, pop something into the microwave, eat it out of the container and then just throw away the dish. No clean-up or awful labor! What - your car is dirty? Blam! A drive-through carwash will handle that and you can surf your Blackberry or Web-enabled cell phone while you wait…

It’s easy living these days in comparison to what it was when I first made an appearance on this earth…but, this fact and I say fact, because it is, is not obvious to many. Most would truly like to see it even easier. There is no apparent correlation between the honest to God lack of perspiration in today’s society and the amount of cellulite accumulation in our hinder parts.

Third World countries still labor under the conditions our forefathers experienced and for this reason alone, they have superior work ethics, the likes of which many Americans cannot duplicate, at least not without serious effort and lots of perks, bennies, kudos and nurturing.

The fossil-fuel/chemical industry is experiencing a surge of dramatic growth, as the huge profits and voracious oil appetites of Americans make this possible and thus, there are more job opportunities available for skilled plant operators. Some companies are testing 500 or more candidates at a time and still find it difficult to find qualified new employees.

Many do not test well, some have felony convictions, a certain amount cannot pass the drug screen, but the overall reason most do not qualify is they simply do not have the basic knowledge or job history required to get past the first hurdle. The result of this entire job candidate search by chemical companies is they hire experienced job-proven people from other plants, thus causing a migration of experience to and from companies.

The baby-boomer generation is reaching retirement age and the next wave of workers is in many ways not prepared to take the torch. This is my opinion, but also the opinion of the Plant Manager at the company I work for. He told me in a one to one conversation that this next wave of workers, once hired, has no intention of working, has little or no work ethic and simply plan to put in their time doing as little as possible. I see it on a daily basis, both on the job and off. The only time extra effort is expended, is when recreation is involved.

This is juvenile behavior. This is the way 14 year old boys act. This is traditionally expected from young teens and they are expected to grow out it by the age of eighteen. It’s not happening for some reason and they carry this lack of responsibility into their 20’s and 30’s. Add into this equation the reality that baby boomers, which came from large families, barely replaced themselves by having one or two children and we effectively are not replacing, or duplicating ourselves in the work force.

We’ve given them everything, so they could have what we didn’t and now it’s time for them to step up to the plate and start giving back. It’s time to grow up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Most of us don’t have a clue

Recently, I posed these questions on the Baytown Sun Forum: “What are the signs to look for in your neighborhood of possible illegal immigration? How would a person know? Do they talk differently, or dress differently”?

I had and continue to have responses and one thing is very clear. Most of us, although dutifully concerned - don’t have a clue.

Mixed into the banter is finger-pointing slander towards the American Hispanic culture and towards me for suggesting (what?) with these questions. Ethnic stereotyping is alive and well, both towards and by Hispanics, Rednecks and the general population. One character said a surefire way to spot an illegal alien, is by their “sombreros”. I’m suspecting this was written in jest.

I posed this also: “Since so many people are up in arms over illegal immigrants, is there a way to tell who is illegal and who is not, strictly by observation of culture, habits, or clothing? In my neighborhood, there is one house which has close to 10 cars around it every morning and all of the cars are higher-end cars”. Are a lot of cars at one location an indicator of illegal aliens?

One fellow, who is adamantly against illegal immigration, wrote concerning the extra cars: “That's often found to be a good indication. If you have a homeowner's association, you can complain to them about all the cars and the possibility that multiple families are living in single-family dwellings. Also, you can call the city as there is likely an ordinance pertaining to cars parking in the street. If the house and property are not being kept up, that could be another reason to complain to the HOA”.

Someone pointed out that I did not like my neighborhood and they felt sorry for me. Another good indication of illegal immigrants is, according to one soul: “I think when there are multiple families (excessive people) living in one house. When they barbeque in the front yard and garage instead of the backyard”.

An experienced observer offer this: “My next door neighbors are Hispanic, they are legals though, born here, and they are always cooking in their front yard and having parties that take place in their front yard and garage. Why they do this? I don't know because they have a big nice backyard. So how do you know if your neighbors are illegals? Could it be if they cannot speak or understand one word of the English language? Maybe. Could it be by their appearance? I think so”.

One fellow wrote with conviction: “A pickup or two filling each morning with guys headed to work is a sure sign. Also, the lack of social interaction with other neighbors. Illegals, of course, try to stay out of the public eye and not bring attention to themselves, so they come across as anti-social. I've noticed also, a family of illegals.... while hard working on their jobs... tend to ignore community standards for cleanliness and their property will indicate this. Crappy cars parked in the yard, trash strewn about, animals which normally run free and the tendency toward gaudy paint. A Mexican flag in one window is a great clue too”.

Another hyper-observant person noted that the whole idea of fingering an illegal by observation was only an excuse for self-righteous do-gooders to be nosey and intruding and since I started the whole discussion, I needed to be better informed about the laws.

I think a good summation of this important topic is the grand majority of Americans while very concerned with the estimated seven million illegal aliens in this country, 70 per cent of which hail from Mexico, have no clue when it comes to doing anything about it, or even recognizing the signs.

The only indicators we average Americans know to look for is what we consider odd behavior and customs we don’t understand. The majority of us agree the laws should be enforced and most of us agree what is presently happening concerning un-American assimilation by immigrants is unacceptable.

Immigrants coming to this country legally make America stronger and by assimilating into American culture first, then celebrating they’re past culture. This is the tried and proven method of our greatness and nothing short of this is acceptable.

Monday, June 11, 2007

North Main’s Dirty Dozen Revisited

North Main Baytown Texas

Eight months ago, I wrote about a dozen or so property locations on North Main which needed attention. I called them Baytown’s N. Main’s Dirty Dozen or so. Mayor Stephen DonCarlos agreed that it was time to give business and property owners a nudge to get their property in compliance with city ordinances and asked me to be patient, as city gears move slowly.

Channel Eleven News picked up on the story and contacted me wanting to run a feature. I respectfully declined their offer, telling them that Baytown’s problems were ours alone and we did not wish to make them something for other people to ridicule.

Eight months and 11 days later, I figure its time to take another look and see if something (anything) has changed. To my pleasant surprise, a lot has changed and some of it has made a big difference in the appearance of one of heaviest traveled roads in town.

Here are the photos...

Take a look at the posted pictures and information. As I stated eight months ago, my intention is not to place undue hardship on small business and even though one property owner told city council my article and web page had given their business “the kiss of death”, I see it has not made a bit of difference in the appearance of said business. Lawn care and damaged signs violate city ordinance and business owners should feel the need to comply as soon as possible.

Ask anyone in this town what they would change about Baytown and appearance is always in their top 5 requests, so this tool (web site) is to give everyone concerned an opportunity to view the various properties from the safety of their computer, instead of looking out of their car windows fighting traffic.

The above ground utility poles hurt North Main’s appearance and date it terribly, not to mention making utility service vulnerable to hurricane winds and death targets for distracted drivers.

As I drove along N. Main, I was impressed how some businesses took extra care to keep the outside appearance as clean and neat as possible, while the neighboring lot was overgrown and littered with trash. Along the street you will find empty vacant slabs of cement that is also overgrown and unkempt. I am particularly incensed by establishment which has high activity and customers, yet look rundown, unmowed and generally have maintenance issues.

Rather than push my opinion on as fact, I urge my fellow Baytonians to view the photographs and submit constructive comments and photographs for publication via email:

Please sign your comments. As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child and it will take a community to nurture this town back to a place where everyone will feel comfortable with its appearance.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Television and the Stupidity Index

Teach a child to love books and you will feed their brain for a lifetime. Put them in front of a television and they will be entertained for a spell.

I recently bought five boxes of books from a neighbor and one of the boxes contained many children's books in near perfect condition. Most of the books appeared to be unread. I was delighted when I realized what I had bought, as we have a young visitor at our house fairly often and I plan on sharpening my old geezer skills, by reading to him. My nephew, who fathered this little guy, came over yesterday and when he left, I gave him one of these books and instructed him to read it to his son and then make a big deal setting it on a shelf, so the boy could begin building his own library.

I explained that I began my love of books that way and as an adult; I still hoard books for the knowledge they contain. It all started for me at a young age by realizing books were special and something to desire. I received books for Christmas and birthdays and although I wasn't actually given to reading them at the time, I cherished them as prized possessions. Eventually, I turned the desire to just own books into reading them.

A real turning point for me was right after Christmas while in the 4 th grade. I rode my new bicycle over to visit one of my teachers (for some reason) and after she ooh'ed and ah'ed over my bike, she gave me a one volume Encyclopedia as a present. To this day, I don't know what prompted her to give me that tome, but I am forever in her debt.

I am still a voracious reader of books, magazines, email, cereal boxes, online forums, newspapers and Google News and sadly, amongst my peers, I've discovered I am in the minority in this regard. Most people I know simply watch television for all their entertainment and media needs.

The famous Science-Fiction Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Ray Bradbury, recently excited the literary world by dropping the bombshell that his classic futuristic book "Fahrenheit 451" was not about government censorship at all, but about how television was destroying an interest in reading literature. This struck home with me, as I feel the same way and having read his book three times, I now make the connection.

Repeatedly over the years, I too have realized we are being dumbed-down by the constant bombardment television puts on us. Is television making us stupid? I think it is. It is surely diluting our values and accosting us with so much useless factoid garbage, that remembering actual important events becomes clouded and nearly impossible.

One real contributor to our developing Stupidity Index, that is virtually nonexistent in books, is the multiplied steady diet of commercials. We are told everyday why what we have is no longer enough and we need to buy something else. It's like the drip-drip-drip of the old Chinese water torture. Eventually, even the most diehard resistant consumer is going to give in and make a purchase, they probably don't need. We are indexed pawns in the commercialized society we live in. Yes folks, we are pawns for Mattress Mac and any fast-talking business owner who can afford the airtime

Your car, house, shoes, soap, vacuum cleaner and auto-insurance is no longer good enough, so get with it Bub! We get our daily entertainment/adventure stupidity fix from a talking lizard and cavemen, while a hundred years ago; it was Herman Melville, Charles Dickens and Jules Verne who talked to us.

In today's society, Oprah Winfrey is quoted more often than Abraham Lincoln and young people identify more with Paris Hilton and Barry Bonds than Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys? Are you kidding me?

Ray Bradbury is right. You don't have to censor books and make them illegal; people simply need to stop reading them. In 1979, Mr. Bradbury wrote CODA, a short piece explaining how our society's propensity to please everyone and keep offence out of books, is destroying the written word. It's a favorite of mine and I read it often to stay focused on what is right. It evidentially doesn't apply to TV. Mindless offensive drivel is the staple fair on any given channel, either through the broadcast program or a commercial.

I read one time that scientists were conducting studies on the brain and the effect television has on it. They noted that television watchers brainwaves dropped to low levels of activity, while book readers showed very active waves and I do believe this is the case. Television thinks for you and you become nothing more than a casual observer, while reading causes a person to deduce and sift information.

I think it's time to see television for what it really is and on those nights when cavemen and lizards are no longer bumping up the our Stupidity Index, because we've elected to shut off the set, we can have family reading night instead.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

It was 40 years ago today...

June 1st, 1967, The Beatles told the world “It was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Peppers taught the band to play”. That was 40 years ago June 2nd for the American release and the Band is still playing in the hearts and minds of millions of followers worldwide.

Liverpool’s “The Quarrymen” become Beatles set out to make a truly artistic album and 129 days and $75,000 later; they recorded Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. The year was late 1966-early 1967 and they used a then state-of-the-art 4-track recorder to tediously record an album that stayed on the top of the charts (#1) for 15 straight weeks. The album has sold in excess of 10 million copies and as of today, ten million and one. I went to Wal-Mart and bought the CD…again.

700 hours of recording went into this endeavor which Rolling Stone magazines says is the “most important rock and roll album ever made” and rated it number one out of the top 500 albums ever produced. “A day in the life” is stated as the most complex song on the album, took 5 days to record. 5 days? Its amazing single piano chord at the end was actually done using 3 pianos and 5 people, including a roadie named Mal Evens.

This album set the Beatles on a course far different than the Ed Sullivan version, America had become accustomed to. The Fab Four were all in disguise as a fictitious Sgt. Peppers Band and the album cover was clustered with characters most people recognized. W.C. Fields, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Mae West, Carl Jung and even a garden gnome graced the crazy cover. Back in the day, virtually all buyers of L.P.’s spent hours gazing at the album art and this one beat anything we’d ever seen.

This particular album was the first to include a complete lyrics list, something we’ve all came to expect in the Internet age and Dolby Noise Reduction, still the standard for excess noise reduction in recorded sound.

This pivotal album, in the late 60’s was as much a part of our lives as was the space race, race riots and the Vietnam War. The 60’s! Wow! What an overload of emotions, trauma and turmoil America was immersed in. Political figures and civil rights leaders were dying right alongside friends and neighbors in the Vietnam War. Drugs, sex and rock & roll at the Woodstock Music Festival were in the news and yes, L.S.D.

Folks think this country is wild in 2007. They compare it to the hippie/Vietnam days. They either didn’t live through the 60’s, or they have forgotten. The 60’s were like a volcano in comparison to today’s bottle rockets. Mystical sounding Indian sitar music floated through the head-shops, filled with incense smoke, lava lamps and black-lights. On the walls were neon glowing posters of the wildest pictures of Kama-Sutra poses and misquoted scripture.

“Peace-Love-Dope!” cried many and to quote keyboardist Ray Manzarek of the band -The Doors “We were right about the peace and love, but we missed it on the dope part”. Back to Sgt. Peppers, the famous song Lucy in the sky with Diamonds no doubt is in reference to LSD, at least we all thought so. “Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile, the girl with kaleidoscope eyes”. Yea, it’s LSD, alright. Trust me…

Joe Cocker was given the song “A little help from my friends” by the Beatles, to help him get on his feet and we all know where that went. “When I’m 64” was about an age so far in the future that many of us haven’t reached it yet, but Paul has and so has Ringo. John Lennon and George Harrison, if they had lived, would both have passed the 64 mark also.

Find someone my age who can’t sing most of “A day in the life” and I’ll be surprised. “Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head – found my way downstairs and drank a cup, and looking up, I noticed I was late…”

Many people expressed alarm with Sgt. Pepper’s and the next album “Magical Mystery Tour”, but my generation saw them as the future and indeed they were, as the early 70’s is still considered the golden age of rock and roll. However, most people forget it was the Beatles who started it all and I predict, when Paul and Ringo finally pass on to the next life, there will be Beatlemania again in America and around the world.

Oh, by the way, the member identified as the one and only Billy Shears in the opening song of Sgt. Pepper’s? It was Ringo Starr…

Friday, June 01, 2007

How to get back at the oil companies!

Let's boycott ______ gas!

Fill in the blank with whatever oil company you own the least amount of company stock in.

I can't imagine how the escalating price of gasoline is catching anyone by surprise. The same people, who opt for a fancy-schmancy largish poor mileage vehicle, when a smaller more economical vehicle would have done the trick, have no one to blame, but themselves, in my not so often humble opinion – okay, it's rarely humble, I know.

At what point does a person wake up and decide a lifestyle change is in order, when it comes to a vehicle CHOICE? I came to Texas in 1970 in a 1968 Shelby GT-350, burning rubber and grabbing gears every chance I got, but I drive a 4-banger compact car now which gets 35mpg and it can't pop a wheelie to save its young life. If I had my druthers, I'd still be driving the Mustang or my lifted Jeep TJ with 33" mud-terrain tires, that got 12 mpg, but the price of gasoline and the gawd-awful waste of revenue, which accompanies it, make it not worth the final cost.

The solution is so obvious; I don't even have to put a pencil to it.

If a person decides to buy one of these giant gas-guzzling/high performance/ low mileage vehicles and gas prices jump straight up till it hurts their wallet, it's there own danged fault. Sorry, but that's the way I see it. Blaming a car company, an oil company or even the government for our gas woes puts the fault/burden on them and not on us, but doesn't change the fact that we empower those people by our stupid addiction to low mileage/high horsepower vehicles. I want a lot of things I don't buy, because I see the liability side to the purchase.

Now granted, a rare breed of people still exist who cannot afford to drive a Tahoe with 20's, or an Escalade (but not many based on personal observation) and to those folks, I apologize. I've been there and not all that long ago. I drove whatever I could get and many times it wasn't all that economical.

One of the Internet myths that pops up every time gas prices head sharply up, is the boycott Exxon-Mobil for one day, or as I wrote above (fill in the blank). It doesn't work folks and you will do yourself and everyone else a favor by letting this myth die a quiet death.

Sure if enough people banded together and quit buying gas from an oil company, it would deal a blow to their profits, but one day's abstinence only means a busy day before and a busy day after for the folks that work there.

If you really, really want to make a difference in how much gas cost YOU - you have to buy less. Absolutely amazing Bert. You're a fricken genius…you know that? Yes, sometimes I think I am, but it's leavened by embarrassing moments of personal stupidity. I do however have this one figured out.

Carpool. Yes, I said the 7-letter curse word. But for every time you ride in someone else's car, you save money (another genius moment right there). Make sure your tires are properly inflated (read the sticker on the inside of the drivers door, not necessarily the side wall of the tire). Don't make unnecessary trips in your car – make a list and get everything done in one trip, if possible. Ride together instead of everyone enjoying the American luxury of independence. Wow! Ka-ching-arino! Money in the bank, baby!

I want to share a philosophy I have attempted to impress on my bride for many years and I not only believe it - I practice it. "It's more fun to make money, than to spend it". Giving less money to the gas station attendant (as far as I know, you have to drive to New Jersey to find a real attendant) is way more satisfying than hocking your golf clubs just to fill up the Hemi M1 Abrams.

Who in their right mind would spend most of their remaining paycheck, just so they could "style" back and forth to work? Nobody cares what we drive, haven't you noticed? We only impress ourselves with all this extravagance. Not too many years ago, the parking lot at work was full of "work trucks". Cash in the titles on those trucks today and you could put New Orleans back on its feet. Most of these guys live 30-80 miles from the Plant and their 4X4, diesel, ¾ or one ton, 4 door pick-em-up trucks or 1800 cc motorcycles eat up a goodly portion of their spendin' money every week.

We're doing it to ourselves folks. I wish we could hurt big oil, but then again, my oil company stock might fall off and I'd take a huge loss.

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