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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What's good for General Bullmoose is good for the U.S.A.

General Bulllmoose

General Bullmoose was real... in a manner of speaking. He was the creation of cartoonist, satirist Al Capp, creator of Li'l Abner. Daisy Mae, Mammy Yokum and a host of others way back in the 1950s.

And for all you who say "Huh?", you're probably a millennial or newer. But there is relevance here because General Bullmoose is rather like someone we all know who acts a lot like him... someone new to the political scene in a very big way.

Capp created Bashington T. Bullmoose as the epitome of a mercenary, cold-blooded capitalist tyrant tycoon. His bombastic motto, "What's good for General Bullmoose is good for the U.S.A," was taken from the former head of General Motors, then America's largest corporation. Bullmoose had a boyhood dream: to posses all the money in the world and he--or General Motors--
Kim Novak a.k.a. Bim Bovak
nearly did. Bullmoose industries seemed to own or ontrol everything. He had a milksop of a son named Weakfish and was sometimes accompanied by is electable 'secretary," Bim Bovak (think Kim Novak). Li'l Abner became embroiled in many globetrotting adventure with the ruthless, reactionary billionaire.

America was the icon of the universe... the most powerful of the superpowers, the one all others looked to when something... anything was needed. We were the export kings... the breadbasket... the shining example of what everyone else wanted, as we still are, in some of the same and many new ways. Our capitalistic bent said supply and demand was the rule... we were the supply... and everything American was in demand. So what was good for General Bullmoose was good for the USA--more in truth than many were willing to admit.

Ah... it's good to be king.

But that was then. This is today.... America remains, as always, the tallest of the tall and still greatly admired by most.  But if you have read Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat, you have an interesting history of how things have changed... and they have. That's evolution for you. Things change, we adapt.

Supply and demand have changed. Best single example: Walmart. Most products are not made in America but we buy them-- making Walmart the world's largest retailer... for now--because we find stuff there that we want/need, and it is usually competively priced, having been made--here and everywhere in the world-- and delivered to their shelves at a most competitive price point. We create our demand, the flat world supplies it.

Today, we are consumers, by 2/3 to 1/3 over what we export.

Made in America is still a great thing... but far from the only thing. Made in China, made in Japan, made in Taiwan, Germany, Portugal, etc. is so today. Picture the world as (forgive me) one big Walmart. General Bullmoose is dead (and so is Al Capp, in 1979).

Think I'm kidding? One look through your closet... your garage... your house, will tell you I'm not. But there is more:

San Francisco just rebuilt its Bay Bridge, the link between 'The City' and Oakland. And that rebuilt bridge, honest, was built in China. Two dozen giant sections-- each as big as half-a-football field-- were built there and shipped 6,500 miles to Oakland for assembly. California says it saved hundreds of millions of dollars and obviously, believes the quality will serve its citizens well.

China, reports the New York Times, is also 'building' copper mines in the Congo, high-speed rail lines in Brazil and huge apartment complexes in Saudi Arabia. China also builds your iPad, toys, jetliners and lots and lots of other products. Want to have a look at what we import and from where? Check this out. Pretty interesting.

Yes, we still make stuff. Yes we still innovate. Yes we are still really good at lots and lots. But our product mix has changed and the world is larger, smarter, flatter... and much more productive. Has to be. World population has grown from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 6.1 billion in 2000 and will be around 9.3 billion by 2050! Prolific little buggers, aren't we?

General Bullmoose is dead... we are not. But we sure are different.

The pendulum swings. Lately, some American companies are bringing production back to our shores. Hopefully today's General Bullmoose (guess who) will be successful to find the perfect balance. But capitalism's rules (and we are capitalist) mandate that where it's made, how good it is made and how much it costs will always be changing variables that make products more or less attractive.

It's kind of like the old, and still true, maxim: You can buy it cheap and/or you can get it fast and/or it can be of the top quality... but the paradox: you can't have all three at the same time. No country--America included --can be all. So the perfect balance must be struck. Our most fortunate position; we are blessed with an abundance of so many things to make this balance work better... more than most other countries who also must find their perfect place in this world.

Note: Wikipedia helped with the General Bullmoose description.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

As they say in the circus, The Show Must Go On... or that's what they used to say, anyhow.

*This iconic image, with the greatest respect for the elephants who have been retired.
Sadly, sadly, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (The Greatest Show on Earth) will literally "fold its tent" for the last time in May of this year. The circus has been a fixture in the lives of Americans since 1884 when five Ringling Brothers began in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

I was one of thousands of big eyed kids across America who lived close enough to the railroad tracks to greet the circus train as it unloaded for its periodic stop in Peoria, Illinois. And the circus embraced us by 'allowing' us to carry water for the elephants (or any number of mundane chores) in return for 'absolutely free' tickets to see the Big Top at any matinee performance. The tickets did require that any youngster with a free ticket must be accompanied by at least one paying adult--a fair trade-off us eager kids always felt.

The circus with its three performing units will leave some 300 performers and support staff without its most grandiose venue and adults everywhere without an opportunity to ooh and ahh with eager-eyed grandchildren. There will still be a few other circuses touring but not the grandest of them all.

Rising costs, valid animal welfare concerns and diminishing interest were all culprits in the demise of an institution. And for me personally, a loss of heart as I recall a beloved business partner who had a circus lineage. I wrote about him not too many years ago. He was a remarkable man with a story well worth retelling:

Warren Braren

The Story of a Circus Dog and His Famous Owner

About two years ago, I told you about my friend, Warren Braren. He was the whistle blower who brought down the tobacco industry in the 1960s, forcing its advertising off the broadcast media and into a new reality of the scourges of smoking. While there can be no telling, he may well have helped save a large number of lives by his actions. If you haven't already done so, read his New York Times obituary, Warren Braren, 82, Dies; Urged Ban on Tobacco Broadcast Ads . It, in itself, is a history of the taming of the beast.

Warren was many things and had many great stories about them all. He had circus family relatives close to his heart and he has tales to match. You may recognize his uncle, Lou Jacobs, the famous Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus clown from his U.S. postage stamp and his dog Knucklehead.

First, about the clown because who doesn't love a clown... ok, not you Kelly: According to John Goodall on Buckles Blog, a site for the discussion of circus history, Jacobs was amazing. "He zipped around the hippodrome on water skis; zoomed past amazed spectators in a motorized bathtub; chased down a cigar-smoking clown "baby" who was attempting to make a getaway in a souped-up baby-buggy. In 1948 after years of work, Lou Jacobs had perfected his most famous prop, a 2-by-3 foot, working minicar. He contorted his 6-foot-1-inch body to fit inside the tiny car
"Lou opened the act by entering the center ring in his loud honking car. The car would start to sputter and backfire as he pulled up to a 'gas station.' His emergence from the car -- beginning with the appearance of an oversized clown shoe jutting into the air -- never failed to bring gasps of delight. Once he was out, Another clown insisted that the car was not parked close enough to the pump. Lou whacked him over the head with a mallet and a balloon welt rose on his head. The car would sputter and backfire as Lou tried to move it closer. He then removed the radiator cap, a snake lunged out and a geyser of water followed. Lou sat on the geyser only to have water squirting from the top of his head. When he stopped the flow with his hand, the water squirted out of his mouth. Finally, the car was pushed closer to the pump. The other clown climbed inside the pump and Lou threw in a bomb. The explosion sent up a dummy dressed like that clown and it floated down under a parachute. Lou closed the act by making a speedy exit in the midget car in an attempt to evade the pursuing clown cop. Needless to say, Lou was always a big top hit."

That's Knucklehead on the right
 Now about his famous dog:

Jacobs's trademarks included a tiny hat perched precariously upon his pointy head, and his feisty Chihuahua, Knucklehead, which Mr. Jacobs trained, always, to steal the show.

And, shades of Bugs Bunny, the canine played the role of a rascally rabbit, complete with bunny ears, eluding Big Game Hunter Lou Jacobs -- only to play dead when finally shot at. After Lou moaned with remorse, Knucklehead would sit back up, the pair happily reunited. Jacobs and Knucklehead remained partners for 14 years.

This is Warren's story story about Knucklehead:

"When the circus was in Madison Square Garden, I went to visit my uncle before the show. He asked me if I would please take Knucklehead to the vet who he had called earlier. Knucklehead was 14 and seemed very ill. Lou told me that because there were two shows that day, he couldn't take his beloved dog himself.

So I did. And while being examined, the dog collapsed and died, right on the vet's table. I just didn't know how I could relay that sad news.

I got back just at intermission and seeing me, my uncle rushed for the news.

"Knucklehead died while the doctor was examining him," I told him.

"He broke down and sobbed uncontrollably at his dressing table. Tears streaked his make-up.

"Then, the curtain to his cubicle parted and the ringmaster said, 'Five minutes Lou.'

"My uncle got control of himself, fixed his make-up and was ready for the second half of the performance. I watched from the back and he brought down the house as usual, as if being funny was his life. And it was.

"When the show concluded, he came back to his cubicle where I was waiting and began to sob again as I recounted the sad story in detail.

Several hours later, in front of another full house, Lou made them all laugh, again and again.

As they say in the circus, the show must go on. And amidst the laughter, he funniest man in the house was also the saddest.

This is possibly the last I will write about my friend Warren... but just one more for the memory:

Another time Warren was asked to take charge of a young, full grown lion who was raised from a cub by the lion tamer. The lion was too young to go on the first swing as the circus hit the road.

"He's as domesticated as a lion can be," he was told. "You'll enjoy his company." And Warren, always up for something fun and different, did. He often took the young lion with him in the front seat of his car as he was running errands. And many in the Sarasota area took notice. When Warren went in for a doctor's appointment, he mentioned it.

Unbelieving, the doctor decided to call his bluff. "If you really have a lion, bring him in."

Not long after, when the doctor opened an examining room door, there was Warren and the lion sitting on the table waiting for a treat.

The surprised doctor said there would be no charge for this visit as his delighted staff looked on.

Good Bye Warren and thanks. You were a rich part of my life. And good bye Ringling Brothers, you have brought joy and delight to very many of us. 

Good Bye clowns.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

We have so many reasons to be thankful in a complex world where negativity dominates our news 24/7. Sometimes, it takes a real effort to focus what we too often take for granted.

I am so thankful for my children and grandchildren, some shown here.
I am thankful for the love and respect of my spouse and the love that surrounds me.

I am thankful for the enrichment of friends near and far. 

I am thankful for living where I live,

I am thankful for the freedom I enjoy.

I am thankful for the blessing of health, to whatever extent.

I am thankful for the joy that often overfills my heart.

I am thankful for a returned smile and kindness in any and every form.

I am thankful for every new year.

I am thankful for every next breath.

I am thankful to share in others' good fortune.

I am thankful to worship God as I see Him/Her.

I am thankful for my fellow man/woman and the diversity of our world that makes us all greater.

I am thankful for all the skills and talent we all bring to a common table.

I am thankful to be an important part (as we all are) in a greater world.

I am thankful for every volunteer and participant in life and all its splendor.

I am thankful we never stop learning.

I am thankful that this list could go on and on. I know it is a different list for each of us. My overwhelming hope/wish/desire is that this is the year we can put 2016 and all of its negativity behind us and build a better us rather than WE vs. THEM.

Life is hard and the evolution of social media and instant awareness is challenging. But, like my favorite story, we can better-manage making a difference to just one person--ourself.

Two men were walking on the beach, naturally littered with washed-on-the-shore starfish. 
Every few steps, one of the men would stop, pick up a starfish and throw it back ito the sea. 
After this had happened about half-dozen times, the other man chided him.

"Why are you doing that? There are thousands of starfish on the beach. 
You can't really make a difference."

First man flipped the starfish he was holding back into the ocean. 
"I can to that one."

PS: This is the 5th time in more than 500 blog posts that I have used this Starfish Story. It is a story I/we should live by. Everything starts with one. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

SECRET REVEALED: How to cheat time

I stole an hour-and-a-half once and it was perfectly legal.

When the SST Concord was flying, before that horrendous crash that stopped time, I flew the Air France Concord from Paris to New York. I left Charles de Gauille Airport at noon, arrived JFK at 10:30... a full 90 minutes before I left! If I never go east again, that time is mine FOREVER!

The story behind that flight is a good one and I'll share it in my next post. This one however, is about time's unrelenting pace, or as comedian Groucho Marx put it, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

If you google 'death clock,' you will be taken to a page that, with the input of certain personal data, will tell you when you are likely to die. How unfun is that? What it will show however, is how fast time gets away from us. Mortality has its way.

So we usually come to a resolution like, "It's not how long you live but how well you live." Or, "There's only one thing more precious than our time and that's who we spend it on." Or. "You will never know the value of a moment until it  becomes a memory." Oh, there are more... lots more.

So I was taken by a letter, embodied in a newspaper ad by Paper and Packaging, an organization speaking for the paper producers of America. The Letter of Peace as it was called, was from a sibling of a 16-year-old brother who killed himself after being mercilessly bullied on-line. It concluded:

"The only way to end suffering in this nation, whether it be from bullying or discrimination, is not to highlight differences between groups of people but to focus on the importance of accountability and character. This holiday season, show kindness to strangers.  Share your light with others whose light might not be shining so bright. Only together can we be the beacon of hope this world needs. Peace, Cliff."

Please, if you want to see more of what makes us humanly rich, visit . It's a beautiful page. You won't be sorry.

Maybe Dr. Seuss says it in a way even a child can understand... or maybe only a child can understand. Do we all get cynical as we age or is it just the other person?

"To the world you may be one person but to one person, you may be the world." 

"Life is too hort to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don't and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it, if it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it."

"Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better, its not."

So it all comes down to how late is it before it's too late to make a difference?

 After all, 'Tis the season... "
Time's Awasten'



Friday, November 25, 2016

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620...

Thanksgiving is over... it lasts but a day, though if you've never read this chronicle of that journey and the anguish that prevailed, then read it now and imagine what it must have been like 400 years ago. This is what oppressed people do to seek freedom of religion.

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathanial Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.


The May- flower was just over 30 yards in length on which 102 Pilgrims risked their lives and their mortal souls to find religious freedom as our first immigrants.

The Wall Street Journal has published this passage as its lead editorial a number of years as a stark  reminder of what oppressed people have done to remain free. We see it today in tragic photos of drown children and adults giving their all in search for freedom from oppression.

Do we remain the beacon of freedom to an oppressed world? Does our Statue of Liberty still represent us? Time will tell.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Marching Bands Rule! And for 20 good reasons. (Read to the coda)

Granddaughter Jaci of Panther Creek on the mellophone

Ladies and Gentle-men... The Panther Creek Marching Band!

You rarely see marching bands these days. But believe me, they are there. Dollars talk and television follows the revenue. So if you only watch football on television, you will never see another marching band at football half-time. If you watch high school and college football, then you know what I'm talking about here.

Marching bands and music programs in school are so Number One in what they do for the kids and those watching.

If you have ever been involved in the process, you have to love marching bands. Nothing teaches teamwork and togetherness more than band... and nothing does it better than marching band, especially at the high school level. For two years I was Band Booster (money raiser) President at a smallish high school with a very dedicated and successful band program and it was an emotional high as I saw what it did for the kids... and what it did for me.

Half of my children and most of those beloved grand kids who are old enough are involved musically and love the experience for every right reason. For some though, it isn't their cup of tea. But that's the way it works.

Band at the high school level is richer than any sport because all are invited and the kids take the experience and skills with them forever if they choose. They are either together or not involved. It's all or nothing.

For marching bands, the kids work hard at week-long band camp before the start of school and often early morning and late evening practices in the fall to sharpen their field routine, which is some collaboration of talent and amazement. Then, after marching season, which is my highlight, concert season fills out the year.

One year long ago our high school went from Central Illinois to Winnipeg, Canada to participate in an international band competition. I was the trip organizer. We had a convoy of four buses and a large truck with students, parents and equipment, stopping first night in Minneapolis to play on the field for a Minnesota Twins baseball game. (Added bonus: Our kids got 6 foul fly balls.) Then we played a downtown noontime concert.

Me, left with the tympani and one-foot of water
Next night, we traveled west for another local band competition in Minnesota before continuing to Winnipeg. There, we performed before a 50,000 crowd at a Winnipeg Blue Bombers Canadian Football League game, delayed by a gigantic thunderstorm. We performed under the bleachers standing in foot-water to an avid crowd avoiding being killed by lightning. You see our our next day front page newspaper story of that event here. What an experience for all of us.

Then, we went on to win the Grand Championship of the festival as the best band in the land. Alexander (of Alexander's Rag Time Band) would be proud. We were welcomed home with a parade victory lap through the city. It was almost like the Cubs winning the World Series... maybe more for the experience.

Oh, band was not without its sad down side. Only in later years did I learn it was not for my young son. He confessed that he never really played his trumpet in the grade school parades... just went through the motions... and me with hundreds of pictures. With that transgression he never would have been able to run for President... but he is just so great nonetheless.

I recently had the opportunity to see the Panther Creek Marching Band practice for their trip to an Indianapolis Band Festival this past month. It brought back rich memories.

Band members have a special bond. A great band is more than just some people working together. It's like a highly specialized army unit, or a winning sports team. A unique combination of elements that becomes stronger together than apart. Steven Van Zandt 

 The National Association for Music Education has it right. From a published article in Bachelors Degree magazine. (Thank you NAME):

Nearly everyone enjoys music, whether by listening to it, singing, or playing an instrument. But despite this almost universal interest, many schools are having to do away with their music education programs. This is a mistake, with schools losing not only an enjoyable subject, but a subject that can enrich students’ lives and education. Read on to learn why music education is so important, and how it offers benefits even beyond itself.

1. Musical training helps develop language and reasoning:
Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds.

2. A mastery of memorization:
Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.

3. Students learn to improve their work:
Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.

4. Increased coordination:
Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children can develop motor skills when playing music.

5. A sense of achievement:
Learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be a challenging, but achievable goal. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement.

6. Kids stay engaged in school:
An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.

7. Success in society:
Music is the fabric of our society, and music can shape abilities and character. Students in band or orchestra are less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can greatly contribute to children’s intellectual development as well.

8. Emotional development:
Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures They also tend to have higher self esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.

9. Students learn pattern recognition:
Children can develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of musical education. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format.

10. Better SAT scores:
Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.

11. Fine-tuned auditory skills:
Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention, and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.

12. Music builds imagination and intellectual curiosity:
Introducing music in the early childhood years can help foster a positive attitude toward learning and curiosity. Artistic education develops the whole brain and develops a child’s imagination.

13. Music can be relaxing:
Students can fight stress by learning to play music. Soothing music is especially helpful in helping kids relax.

14. Musical instruments can teach discipline:
Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.

15. Preparation for the creative economy:
Investing in creative education can prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The new economy has created more artistic careers, and these jobs may grow faster than others in the future.

16. Development in creative thinking:
Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.

17. Music can develop spatial intelligence:
Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.

18. Kids can learn teamwork:
Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students will learn how to work together and build camaraderie.

19. Responsible risk-taking:
Performing a musical piece can bring fear and anxiety. Doing so teaches kids how to take risks and deal with fear, which will help them become successful and reach their potential.

20. Better self-confidence:
With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

PLAY IT BACKWARD: A lesson for the times

"Playing it Forward" is a humankind practice of doing something nice for the sake of doing something nice... just because. It could be something like paying the toll of the car behind you or digging for 25 cents when the stranger in front hasn't the right change, buying the lunch for an elderly couple in a restaurant, a military family, etc. and leaving before they even know what you did. But sometimes, 'Playing it Backward' teaches a richer lesson.

A young mother with two kids in the car pulled into a McDonald's drive thru and noticed another like herself with kids in the car behind her. In her rear view mirror she observed the mother behind pointing to her "I'm with Hillary" bumper sticker from the past political campaign. She then saw mom and kids laughing and pointing at her car.

Feeling somewhat raw, she did the only thing left in her bag of options... she paid for her meal and the meal of those in the car behind and drove on without a whimper or second thought.

Now really, I am not trying to be political, because this scenario could have played out in an opposite way somewhere. But the point is, sometimes when given a chance to take the high road, TAKE IT and make the world just a few persons better.

Many years ago sister was driving to a BIG WAREHOUSE SALE  (her thing) in a warehouse-type area in San Francisco and while waiting at a red light, a young, scary-looking individual in a beat-up car stopped beside her in the other lane. Feeling uneasy, she very casually reached over her lap and hit the 'lock' button on her arm rest. CLICK! All the locks depressed making that funny little noise.

The scary-looking young man in his car looked at her and smiled, then with a flourish of movement, he theatrically reached across his body and depressed his lock. They both laughed as they waited for the light to change. Here's this lesson,  beautifully told forward and backward.

You gotta say, that was a "Playing it Backward" kind of moment too, when action and reaction happen with full awareness.

In a world when there is far too much gnashing of teeth and seething anger, there is both a great and subtle need for a kinder, better way. This political campaign lasted 600 days--really! Twenty months--of the worst-of-us calling the other worst-of us-every name in the book. We weren't put on this earth to hate one another, but sometimes, you would have a hard time proving it.

This happened to me at a fast food restaurant not too long ago. I was behind a man ordering breakfast for his family. The final tally was more than he had in his pocket, he told the person behind the counter. "I'll be right back" he said.  "I left my wallet in the car."

I watched as he ran out the door, got into his older car with wife and kids and drove away, obviously not having the money to spend. The bag of food still sitting on the counter was sad testimony to a need unfilled, an opportunity missed.

I felt really bad when I recognized what had happened too late, and it was a blown chance to positively effect a better outcome. But those moments are there sometimes. Pay attention and have empathy for those who need it.

At an outlet mall last week with my daughter and her family, I watched as she bought 25 inexpensive high-bouncing rubber balls in a variety of colors and designs. She put them all in a cloth bag with handles and gave them to my 6-year-old grandson. He spent the afternoon handing them out to any child near his age that passed us by. It was win-win in the act of kindness department and a good teaching moment. This has become a tradition with them... just a nice thing to do that rewards all involved.

It's sometimes not easy to recognize an opportunity to play it forward or backward or even whatever we call it,  but it's never a bad idea to always be ready to be kind and maybe make someone's day. Sometimes just a smile or friendly word or innocent action carries more significance that we can see.

I do know we individually only have control of one person on this earth... and that person is you. Do something special for at least one person.

But can't we all try more? We really need this.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

AN OPEN LETTER to Me and Trump: Dear You...

In the end, that's what this election is about. 
Do we participate in a politics of cynicism
 or a politics of hope?  
Barack Obama

Dear Jerry,

All your life you have been an optimist... a Pollyanna kind of person, and you are happy about that. (What else would an optimist say?) But I have noticed Jerry, that a playful touch of cynicism has grown to an unhealthy frequency so that it sometimes colors your outlook. You even use it as a tease in your Bio beside this blog. (I'll change that after this post.)

This election and it's mere 600 day run-up is a splash of cold water in your face, Jerry. Optimism and cynicism don't belong in the same sentence (Oops.)

You chose hope, which was forced upon you in this everlasting political exercise that didn't go well, but hope, nonetheless. It's more than politics though... it's a sane, brighter, richer lifestyle. There is nothing positive about cynicism. It is a pervasive and dangerous way to think.

Optimism is hope and hope is healthy. One can't live as a cynic but one can certainly die as one.

Though you, Jerry, voted for Hillary because you thought she was THE person and better choice in a world so filled with strife and uncertainty, You now pray to be proven wrong. (FYI: Jerry, you call yourself an independent with strong democratic leanings--you voted for 12 candidates on the ballot, 9 democrats and 3 republicans, and only saw one of each elected.)

Being a lifelong Cub fan, you are very used to being disappointed, but even Cub fans have their day, right? However, you don't have another 108 years.

So GO big Donald! (You just can't say huuuge, can you Jerry?) You are my President-elect and while you are not in my "like" category yet... or perhaps ever, I know you will do all you can to be a good president for all the people. You said so yourself... and I do believe that.

I respect your office, but you still must earn my respect. I want that to happen. Our perspectives may always differ but if your intent is fair for all as our Constitution inalienably requires, and your actions promote equality, human dignity and  God-given rights, perhaps I can applaud more.

There's a 'thing' about us that the world admires. It's the way we care for ourselves and others. We are magnanimous and open to ideas and people. The Statue of Liberty still shines it's light and those who used it as a beacon have made us even richer. We are the third largest country in the world in land mass and third in population with 340 million people (China has 2.2 billion, India 1.1 billion). We are blessed with natural resources and opportunity for all. We are a democracy, which is not always easy, but always free. We are stylin'! 

The United States never stopped being great, so we don't have to be great again. We have to be greater and more inclusive for those that felt--and often were--left out of the mix.

You have an enormous responsibility to be everyone's President, but  given a republican President, a republican House and republican Senate, the temptation to govern for only half the people is big. Strange to say, Congress needs your serious effort to keep in check the 'balance of power' equation our government demands. And we need the 'third leg' to complete the balance that gives us our greatness, a Supreme Court that equally respects those values.

You actually lost the popular vote Mr. President-Elect. More than half the people voted for Hillary but you won by states, as is our system. Your mandate was thin but decisive. There are as many people today who see your victory as a loss. I'm one. So us owe us, Mr. President-elect as sure as 'the other half of us' that put you in because of that very perception.

For now and forever, may we put the divisiveness in politics--especially during election times--away? IT'S KILLING US! And please God, never again 600 days! If we did all of this in 12 weeks as some more sane countries mandate we would be seen as smarter. Some countries even automatically register voters. What a concept.

If done shorter and more civilly, hatred, threats, violence, name-calling, cynicism and disdain may not have been on our televisions, in our newspapers and social media til death or elections, do us part. It is absurd, and so are we.

You, President-Elect Trump, will become the most powerful, influential man in the world leading our great nation... the most blessed of all nations. As the world looked on for these 600 days, what did they see? WHAT A RESPONSIBILITY.

Your victory speech was good, but so were those in defeat and acceptance by Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. All class acts. We must keep that up.

My brilliant daughter once told me, "Dad, you should never feel bad about getting lost. It could be the start of your next great journey." So we begin: 

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

BACK STORY: In one week, my beloved Cubs won the World Series, my wife's heart stopped (momentarily, thank God) while being transported for a surgical heart procedure and I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then the election. Talk about a week!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Are we ashamed of ourselves, or what?

Come on, America. This was an election or a war?

It lasted 600 days... 1 1/2 years! 12 dog years! And it seemed longer than the last time the Cubs won the World Series.

Everyone is unhappy... and mad. Really mad. Most major political
ads feature the diabolical other candidate, usually portrayed in gray and black or purple, with a scowl or mad face. The ads tell us of how bad the person is, how evil, how dishonest, etc.

We are so angry at one another, so mad. We grit our teeth and snarl. We call each other liars, thiefs, bad people worthy of no respect at all.

As the world watches, we represent the worst of America. And bear in mind, the President of the United States is THE MOST POWERFUL PERSON IN THE WORLD! So how do we look to you now, world?

Now we do have smart, good, kind, embracing brilliance in many of our leaders... but those people are also smart enough to not swim in this low water muddy pool.

Do we need more time to find the best of us?  How about never ending campaigns that start at the end of the last election? The television companies would like that. They make enormous dollars--like a year-round Christmas--during campaigns with the political advertising dollars. Nothing is richer to a media company that warring sides.

In social media, anything goes. We can call each other names, threaten and blacken every opponent at every level. We can create both news and undistinguishable fake news in moments. Social media is unrestricted and as crude as the users choose. It fans the flames of fire.

Are we smarter or dumber than those countries that have limited campaign seasons that last, perhaps 12 weeks long? Are we smarter than the countries that automatically register every eligible voter and those countries that make voting mandatory?

What's with us that we do it so badly? And to add insult to injury, we don't forget or forgive. We remain enemies is fact and in spirit so that we can accomplish little except revenge and work negatively to make sure we hurt the leader of the world in accomplishment and cooperation lest he/she get credit. Our congress has achieved the lowest approval ratings in history and we're out to beat our record.

Is there something great about spewing hate and disrespect? You know, this is the world we all have to live in, and we deserve better. There are real problems to solve, both internally and internationally, and we can't even begin without respect for the people we elect and should support.

The rich get richer. The poor and disadvantaged grow larger and poorer. The divide widens.

After such an election, couldn't we create a new platform that embraces the best of both parties for a common good. Then we could have a document to follow. You bet there would have to be give and take, something that never comes easy when it is party first, public last.

Africa offers a similar scenario. Countries divided by tribe that put tribe first, suffer. Countries that focus on common benefit rise. But it's hard to put those rivalries aside. And cohesion starts with listening to what the other has to say, addressing the ails that separate. Rogue candidate Donald Trump touched people. He may not have been THE candidate but he found a message that resonated, an itch that needed scratching. That shouldn't be ignored because it won't go away.

OK, so I've made myself happier by expressing what I feel. I'm guessing that feeling is shared by many. But how do we get to the next step? I hope to God that we find the way. I hope to God.

We are all equally worthy and that's a fact. Not believing changes nothing. If, for one day, one week or one year, we could swap places and see through different eyes, that would be meaningful. But that can happen only in our dreams.

Sweet dreams America.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Backstory: About the Cubs winning... anything

Daughter Jill and one of the very young Cub players

Before the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, before time began, there was a hope that the Cubbies could do it again, just 108 years after their last world championship. My daughter Jill wondered why we cared, though she was not immune to caring. So why do we care? rationale says that, in the end, we're all crazy so why is worshiping baseball gods (small g) any worse than the real world? This is her take:

I’ve been con-vincing myself that tonight doesn’t really matter with simple thoughts of relative importance. My children are all healthy and decent humans to this point. Nate Silver still has my political candidate up. We will have a good meal tonight and many nights into the future. I can be placated, temporarily.

But my stomach is still in a knot.

As I sit in this coffee shop with my laptop open, a clichéd picture of somebody who wrongly assumes they have something important to think, I worry about the Cubs. I know I’m not alone.  All over Facebook, friends from Illinois and even friends who’ve never set foot in Illinois seem to feel that this moment touches them in a special way.

For me, every bit of cynicism in my being is grounded in the bedrock of Cubs Fandom. Though my Dad has always been my cheerleader of positivity around the largest of life issues, whenever the dog poops on his carpet, he takes a wrong turn, or he fails to fix the vacuum cleaner, a deep disappointment in life saturates his surroundings. I remember trying to move out of its way when I was little, the disappointment so pervasive and long-lasting like the coating on the inside of your mouth when you finish a donut or the superglue crust that doesn’t come off your fingers no matter how many times you wash them.

I know the foundation. I learned this deep, perhaps misplaced disappointment before I could even identify the chatter of the baseball announcers or the voice of Harry Caray. Though I never met my Grandfather, within my bones, I could feel him walk heavily across the wooden floor of his Uncle’s Chicago grocery store after a Cubs loss. I imagine him going through the inevitable ups and downs of life as his Italian family settled into their American world, looking toward the Cubs as an iconic symbol of hope, success, and victory. In the beauty of baseball, he always had next year. He had next year until the day he died on his walk home from his work in the bowling alley. He was probably around my age – 47.

I think I know how he must have felt around then, having moved through the ascent of life, the fantasies of meeting the incredible love of your life and creating enormously brilliant and beautiful children, the dream of finding a meaningful career that vaults one into either important notoriety or quiet peaceful satisfaction. At 47, one realizes that love is complicated, children bring worries, and work satisfaction is as mercurial as the moods of colleagues. When the Cubs lose, one must settle in for another year of recognizing that life is just like that. It can be a little disappointing.
Not that the sun doesn’t rise in the morning or anything. It does and it can be really beautiful with the haze and the heavy morning air and all that, but really, this game matters.

Tonight, as you attempt to calm yourself with those stories about how lucky you are that you have the ability to even watch a ball game, don’t kid yourself. All hope rests on this evening.

PS from me: World Series this year, Universe Series next year. Will this never end?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Special note to all who receive my blog posts automatically by email...

If you receive my blog posts by email as millions of you do, I accidentally posted my blog on the Cubs before it was finished. So you all got a short canged, half-baked version of something very religious about the best darned team in baseball, no matter what the World Series may... OR MAY NOT SAY, click  or just scroll down from this post for the new, improved, completed version now corrected. Thanks!

If the Cubs win the World Series, will hell freeze over? Maybe... just maybe!

I've been a Chicago Cubs fan all my life... just one of millions. We live... and die for the Cubbies. But if they win, do we go to heaven? Non-scientific evidence suggests we may not!

There lives a 110-year-old lady who may be the only one alive when the Cubs last won the World Series. She was just two at the time and has suffered 108 years--a lifetime-- of bitter Cub disappointments... a living hell! Now, if the Cubs win, it may spoil everything for her, and all of us.

Buddah says "Life is suffering," to which Cub fans say "Tell us something we don't know." As one writer says, "All religions, to some extent, understand the value of suffering to be 'worthy' of the promised land.

Catholics understand this as the most underappreciated Christian virtue, wrote Michael Laskey, a Yankees-loving National Catholic Reporter columnist.

A rabbi columnist for the Jerusalem Post hailed the Cubs as "the Jews of the sports world," an idea seconded by U.S. Jewish ambassador, Ron Dermer at a Cub game this year.

There are yarmulkes and caps spelling "Cubs" in Hebrew.  And a Hebrew language T-shirt asking "What did Jesus say to he Cubs? Don't do nothin' til I get back."

Well, it could be happening, but down 3 games to 2 at this writing, and going into the 40-year desert of the enemy, we may yet be saved. However, if the Cubs win and we are fulfilled on earth, where will our eternity be. Has all of our suffering triggered an theological apocalypse with God asking "But what have you done for me lately?"

John Sexton, an NYU law professor and theologian wrote "Baseball as a Road to God." But heaven-forbid we spoil it all with a giant W hanging over Wrigley Field or at Jeff's house.

Rabbi Arnold Kantor, in his annual remarks at Yom Kippur services at Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, Illinois sounded depressed at the prospect of the Cubs finally winning the world Series. "We Jews are not happy when we're happy. We need something to kvetch about. Forty years we walked in the desert. For what" To become the damn Yankees."

Aw, it's ok Cubs. As Adrian whispered to Rocky Balboa as he was coming out of a coma and promising to give up boxing, "Win. WIN! WIN!!!" So I'll take the chance.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Song that Changed Christmas

Irving Berlin's famous song, "White Christmas" isn't at all what you think. It has a backstory that literally changed the way we celebrate our most cherished--and profitable--holiday.

"Legend has it," says WSJ writer Will Friedwald, "that Irving Berlin was in Hollywood working on a movie, and missing his family in New York, as he wrote the musical score for (the movie) Holiday Inn.

Berlin was a prodigious song writer with about 1250 to his credit including 25 that reached number one on the pop charts of the day. He wrote "Alexander's Rag Time Band" in 1911, God Bless America in 1918, Easter Parade in 1933, There's No Business like Show Business in 1946  and a LOT MORE , mostly sentimental old favorites... so old and so sentimental that if you are under 40, you perhaps can't even hum the tune, let alone know the song. Hey, times change as they must. I just put my spats in a garage sale last week.

White Christmas, was first sung and played by Bing Crosby for his leading lady as he sat at the piano, and it is still one of the most played songs every Christmas season. If the words are not engraved in your heart, here are the first two verses:

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow
                                                       I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
                                                       With every Christmas card I write
                                                     May your days be merry and bright
                                                   And may all your Christmases be white

Christmas just wasn't as big then as it is now. Oh sure, trees and gifts and Santa... but it was so toned down by comparison that nobody had Christmas sales starting before Thanksgiving. 'Black Friday' was unheard of and sometimes, an apple (not the computer) was a worthy gift. Jingle Bells was the top Christmas song of the day and worse, there was no Charlie Brown special! How did we survive?

White Christmas was first written as a variety number to represent that season in a mix of others, but it was taken to heart and resonated deeply as we were just eight months into World War II, deeply worried and needing something that lifted spirits. There was no Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer or I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. White Christmas was richly flavored to where our hearts and dreams were.

It became the centerpiece of that day's blockbuster movie, Holiday Inn. "The song's first audience," said Friedwald, "comprised soldiers and those on the home front who embraced it as a prayer for peace." And it came on the scene just in time for the introduction of the long-playing record and that new medium, television. It was those two that virtually reinvented Christmas for all the emotionally needy of the time.

As Friedwald said, the song "created its own holiday mythology with itself at the center as a hymn for peace, love and family." And it changed Christmas sentimentality forever.


Two years later, still in the midst of "The Great War,"  Berlin wrote the perfect seasonal follow-up,  I'll Be Home for Christmas  . This link is my blog post on that classic, based on an actual experience. And cry if you must. I did.

Imagine Christmas today without these two songs. It just wouldn't be the same.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Old habits die hard... or "Over my dead body."

Betcha can't do this: zipper merge, that is. And if you are forced to it, bet it makes you mad.

Yes, the incredible, hard to believe, impossible, nonsensical, ridiculously wrong perfect thing is as logical as understanding climate change but it really (*substitute word to follow) 'ticks' us off.

Honk. Honk! HONK! HOOOOOONK!!!!

But it works. The zipper merge has been studied by experts for years and we ALL KNOW it works. It just isn't us. The 'zm' flies against bad logic when we know that driving right up the tail pipe of person in front of us is far more satisfyingly-right?... especially if we are frustrated or in a hurry. And letting some 'rule-breaking scum' into your traffic lane... "Over my dead body."

So I know I sure as heck won't do it*... except sometimes, and then not at the first honk or 'finger.'

I'll tell you, just a few months ago, I was returning to NC from St. Louis and took I 40 because I could 'get away' with 70-75 mph and still not be a radar magnet. (In all fairness, my Vespa scooter is not red so I might have gotten away with a little more.) But on a very pleasant Sunday when traffic is supposed to fly, there were two construction stops that added--no exaggeration-- 2 1/2 stop-and-go hours to the journey. I know, bridge needed repairs, but on Sunday with no workers present, big jam none-the-less.

"I'll get ya' through, baby... "
So if all thousands of us drivers did the zipper merge (to the tempo of "All the way" by Frank Sinatra), we would have zipped home hours earlier, and in a far better mood.

We could have slowed to a decent funeral procession speed, allowed a 3-or-4 car space between us and the driver in front, bobbed our heads back and forth in time with the music and smiled through every slow, God-help-us, mile without speeding to close the gap then slamming on the brakes and stopping till we get to go and speed again, then repeat forever. The catch: everyone has to do it or it doesn't work. (That's like never being able to take an in-focus picture of earth from space because somebody moved.)

OK America, that's the plan. Now let's get out there and just 'do it!'

Right everybody?... Anybody?... aw, never mind.

Notice: This has been a public service blog post because I couldn't think of anything fun to write.

*I actually do, most of the time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The secret "Yes, and... " trick

Amy Poehler

Don't you wonder where so many of our favorite comedians "cut their chops?" 

(Say Yes, and... )

Have you ever seen any of the improv comedy shows? That's where Amy Poehler and Tina Fey started... oh, and John Belushi and Steve Caroll and Will Farrell and Seth Rogen and the incredibly talented Canadian group from SCTV who brought us "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best of Show" as well as Monty Python and a good number from improv theaters around the country who became SNL cast members... and on and on.

Tim Conway
How did Robin Williams and Tim Conway and Johnathan Winters learn to make people laugh? Ok, so it's talent... I'll give you that. Oh, and a rich sense of humor... oh, and timing and imagination and on and on... but I mean, how did they practice their trade when they didn't know all the secrets?

That's where improvisation comes in. The good ones are quick on their feet and ready to be ridiculous at the drop of a hat. And here's one of their secrets--a four-lane expressway to the next best line:

It's referred to as the "Yes, and..." trick, never to be confused with "Yes, but... "

"Yes, and... " continues a thought, no matter how ridiculous, with an addition to that line of thinking but even more ridiculous. Someone starts:

"I had an aunt who thought she was a chicken... " 

Then you say "Yes, and she had drumsticks to die for."

And he/she says "Yes and did you see those silly little claw-like shoes she had on?"

And you say, " (Yes, and implied) They were the talk of the San Francisco Fricase-Fried Chicken Festival in February."

"Yes and she was especially popular around Easter... for the eggs."

Etc., etc.        

Get the idea? It's Yes and... until you have told the story for laughs or gotten booed off the stage... Yes and if you're new to the concept, you will be booed off the stage. But you get the idea.

Oh, there's lots more to comedy of course, but this shows how to keep a story going... and it works at cocktail parties too, though it comes with inherent dangers. Says one who knows, "You find yourself in a place where you're, like, how did I get here?" But nonetheless, it is a positive transition to whatever happens next. It could even lead to the next improve technique, "If, then..." and next thing you know, you are on SNL...  or the life of the party, or people avoid you like the plague.

Yes, and there is an improv school for you if you really care. Comedian Amy Poehler was one of four who founded the Upright Citizens Brigade, a New York 'cultural reach' for comedy where you can take lessons until you are good or run out of money, whichever comes first. An alum of the process said it is especially good if "you want to take the slow train to crazytown."

Yes, and the process is proving so helpful in boosting self confidence that it is sought by business men and women. Being comfortable in any communicative process is greatly enhanced by the confidence that is built over knowing you can always 'Yes, and...' Such confidence, those 'Yes, and' folks say has a holistic side for maximum feel good benefit.

All that is all especially complimentary if you are a comedian who's fortune is built on the next funny line. It's what you do if you choose to "be in the club." It's hard not to appreciate the many who make us laugh. And doesn't the world need more of that?

Yes, and... wait til you see my next exciting blog post.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Perfect day for Singin' in the Rain

... and a pretty darned fun movie, rain or shine. Released in 1952, Rotten Tomatoes today has it at its 10th best rated film. In 2007, The American Film Industry called it the 5th greatest movie of all time. And Entertainment Weekly names Singin' in the Rain it's highest ranked musical. Wow!

The reason I love this film is not only for it's title song but for Good Morning, the richest song and dance number I have ever enjoyed. Its opening line by Debbie Reynolds is still heard today on one TV network's morning show to open its broadcast.

Gene Kelly's script for the movie
And there is a rich backstory of the movie itself. It is set back in the 1920s when silent movies were transitioning to 'talkies' and the three principal characters were mirrored after real actors of the day, anxious about their future in this technical new world. (Sound familiar?)
Aspiring actress Debbie Reynolds was a newcomer in those days. When hired, she lived with her parents and had to leave home at 4 a.m. and take three different buses to get to the studio on time. She often slept on the set.

She had a good face and great voice but couldn't dance. Gene Kelly, who directed, choreographed and starred in the movie, was known as somewhat of a tyrant and was verbally critical of Reynolds inability to dance. The film's third star, dancer Donald O'Connor found Reynolds crying under a piano and promised her that he would help her learn.

Reynolds had gymnastic talent and, it was discovered, was a very quick study as the dance numbers will prove.

My favorite dance number started filming at 8 in the morning and concluded at 11 p.m. It required 40 takes before it was director-satisfied. Reynolds had to be carried to her dressing room after having ruptured blood vessels in her feet. She later said that having a baby and doing this film were the two most painful things in her life.

Filming was so demanding that several of the stars had to take time off after strenuous segments were filmed. In one segment, Donald O'Connor tap danced across the floor and up the walls before a backward flip.

Gene Kelly
He recalled,  "I was smoking four packs of cigarettes a day then, and getting up those walls was murder. They had to bank one wall so I could make it up and then through another wall. We filmed that whole sequence in one day. We did it on a concrete floor. My body just had to absorb this tremendous shock. Things were building to such a crescendo that I thought I'd have to commit suicide for the ending. I came back on the set three days later. All the grips applauded. [Gene Kelly] applauded, told me what a great number it was. Then Gene said, "Do you think you could do that number again?" I said, "Sure, any time". He said, "Well, we're going to have to do it again tomorrow". No one had checked the aperture of the camera and they fogged out all the film. So the next day I did it again! By the end my feet and ankles were a mass of bruises."

The first time they tried to film the famous "Singin' In The Rain" song and dance sequence, they shot it in the late afternoon. Unfortunately the homeowners in the area had just come home from work and had turned on their lawn sprinklers so there was not enough water pressure for the "rain" to work. They finally filmed the sequence the next day, early enough so that everyone was at work and the water pressure was adequate for the shot. And this is how it turned out.

Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly

Monday, September 12, 2016

Best dog book ever!

Aren't we suckers for dog books? Seems most 'must read' books about dogs are either instructional or touching tales, real or fictional... but I hate it when the dog dies in the end. By last count, we've more than 30 here and there, not counting what we've given away or 'rummage sold.'

But there is one that is a must. It has delighted every grandchild--17 in total--and every adult reader. And it gives a message so real and pure.

That would be Flawed Dogs: The Year-End Leftovers at the Piddleton "Last Chance" Dog Pound by Berkelley Breathed. It is probably the best dog book ever. It fancifully tells the story of every 'rescue' and how each got that way. Every ending will earn a smile and milk a tear. AND BEST, No dogs died in end.

The sign on the door of the Piddleton Last Chance Dog Pound, Piddleton, Vermont, Pop. 327 (People 243) reads:


So hurry lest you miss out.

It is whimsically drawn and told by Friends of the Piddleton Pound, Tammy Quackenbush, President (who is also President of the Piddleton Poetry Club, the Vermont Booster Broads, Vice president of Vegetarian Quilters against Land Mines and Bazookas and Treasurer of the Chicken Liberation Front.)

You'll read about flawed dogs Bipsie and Noodles, Tina and Lulu, Rollo and Titus, Jeeves and Pete, Pepe and Willie Wonker, Buttercup and Heather, iBoo and Ben, Sal and Barney, Spanks and my favorite, Sam the Lion. And here's the secret that's not so secret:

So in this world
Of the simple and odd,
The bent and plain,
The unbalanced bod, 
The imperfect people
And differently pawed,
Some live without love...
That's how they're flawed.

I promise you will fall in love with the story, the dogs, and especially the drawings. It is a richly told and illustrated tale of morality and kindness that applies to all creatures and touches humanity where there seems to be a need.

Ask for Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed (published in 2003) at your bookstore or electronically here where you can thumb through a few pages to see what I mean. Its cover may also look like this... but I like my cover best.