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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Power of One



OK, so you've heard it before... but one more time, to make a point: 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 into 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."
Interesting thing about The Power of 1... it can be so subtle that you don't even know when or how you affect someone. It often manifests itself without your knowledge or conscious effort... like being a good example, or smiling to a passer-by who needs a smile. It can be overwhelmingly incredible like grabbing hold of a stranger's elbow as he is about to step off the curb into an approaching car. It makes a difference...often an amazing difference.

Their names are Violet and Allen Large of Nova Scotia and you probably never heard of them... but that's the thing about the Power of 1... heroic actions are usually not notable for who, but what and how. Being a hero is often a selfless, quiet action that positively affects others. Though Violet is currently fighting cancer,  the Larges, who won $11 million in a lottery last July, donated the entire amount for various causes including their local fire department, hospitals and organizations that fight cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Said Allen, "The money that we won was nothing. We have each other." 

Hollywood has a neat way of showcasing the Power of 1. Movies (and television, books, etc.) can show the perspective of all the characters and showcase cause and effect actions. How about a seasonal example: It's a Wonderful Life showed the greatness of George Bailey in the way he lived his life of personal character without ever realizing the positive effect he had on those he touched. (I love that movie.)

An organ donor talked about in the news recently, saved a dozen strangers by his donations... and the film clip showed the donor's wife listening to her deceased husband's heart beating in another's chest. Very powerful. (You an organ donor? You should be.)

And this season, how about Santa? Oh yeah! the Power of 1... in hearts and minds.

Most of us celebrate Christmas because of one man born about 2000 years ago. Need a better example of the Power of 1?
May your holidays be blessed and the New Year bring a resolve to unleash your Power of 1 for a richer you.  (PS: Nice going you secret Walmart layaway angels. You make a difference!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's Howdy Doody Time!

It may be hard for some to believe, but starting in 1947, one of the best things ever, if you were a kid was The Howdy Doody Show on television. Wow! When Buffalo Bob Smith asked, "Kids... What time is it?" every kid in the Peanut Gallery hollered: "IT'S HOWDY DOODY TIME!" Funny how a puppet show could captivate an audience. We are much more sophisticated today  ; - ) with The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Muppets, etc. but even in its earliest days, television just knew what we liked.

Television was in its infancy and most of America didn't even have a TV set yet. We watched at grandma's house... got our programs from Chicago via a huge, ugly antenna on her roof. When reception was good (i.e. you could make out what was happening through all the 'snow' on the screen) and a call went out to the neighborhood: "Come quick. Television is coming in tonight."

All television was seen in black and white... and there were only three networks--no ESPN, MTV, HBO or anything else... and television went off the air at midnight or 1 a.m., replaced with a "test pattern" Programming was all 'live,' which meant we saw everything as it happened... slips, flubs and all... and we watched anything and everything.
test pattern

The first coaxial cable, which enabled television to be broadcast all over America at the same time, happened just 60 years ago. And it absolutely blew everyone's mind to think that a person could actually see the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the very same moment--live!... from anywhere there was a TV set.

Yep. That was technology then. And to place it in time, these were some of the prices:

Car: $1,800
Gasoline: 27 cents/gal
House: $16,000
Bread: 16 cents/loaf
Milk: 92 cents/gal
Postage Stamp: 3 cents
Stock Market: 269
Average Annual Salary: $4,200
Minimum Wage: 75 cents per hour

Garroway with co-host J. Fred Muggs
I Love Lucy was the first sitcom... you've seen reruns... and it was truly good.  Edward R. Murrow had one of the first news shows like the network news of today. Dave Garroway was the first 'Matt Lauer' of the Today Show, all the way back in 1952. His co-host for a time was a monkey--really! The Milton Berle show and The Ed Sullivan Show were the precursors of the variety and entertainment shows of today... and The Sid Caesar Show with Imogene Coca was Saturday Night Live before there was an SNL. If you think I'm kidding, take a look on YouTube.  Everything old is new again. Funny how that works, but does.

Alvin Tolfer, in his 1970 book, Future Shock, said there was so much change in such a short period of time, that if all of man's technological and scientific growth on earth were represented by a two-lane highway, from the first man to 1940 would be from one edge of the road to the middle line. Then 1940 to 1970 would be the other lane of the highway. And that was then! He also said, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."

One of the few constants is television programming. Technology has changed--sophistication in production, color and timeliness represents maturity--but we are still the same, simple-minded viewers of programming of the same genre... with hundreds of networks to burn our minds. Will we ever learn?

My... time sure flies when you are having fun.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To infinity and beyond...

Sounds like Buzz Lightyear... but this one is real!

Back in 1977... remember (if you were born by then), we all had shag carpet and avocado green refrigerators in our homes... oh, and if we were really cool, we wore leisure suits. And if we lived in New York City and wanted to visit Aunt Betty and Uncle Bernie in Denver, we usually drove.

Let's see... that is about 1680 miles or so. At 70 mph ( heavy foot/lots of coffee), we could get there in just 24 hours of drive time. Pretty impressive.


Consider this: In 1977, the United States launched two space craft--Voyager 1 and Voyager 2--to soar past Jupiter, then Saturn. Well, they did. In fact, by 1989, just 12 years later, they blew by Neptune, about 3 billion miles away from Earth. And having no brakes, they just kept going.

Now, 34 years later, traveling at about 38,000 miles per hour (about 10 miles per second) without bathroom breaks, refueling or flat tires, these two buggers are about to leave our solar system, 12 billion miles away--a far cry from Denver--and about to cruise interstellar space. They are so far away, in fact, that it takes signals, which travel at 186,000 miles/second, 13 1/2 hours to reach Earth.

Another amazing piece of data... the two space probes run on nuclear power using less energy that it takes to light three average lamp bulbs, so it really doesn't matter that the price of gas keeps rising. The 23 watt high-grain antenna uses less power than a refrigerator bulb.

This is us, to all ETs paying attention
Each craft also carries a golden record that holds analog images and sounds of Earth... just in case someone out there cares to listen. Of course, this is before digital so they (whoever 'they' are) may need an old fashioned record player... just like the one I have for sale for only $25. Isn't putting buyer and seller together always the toughest part?

Now, how do you answer the proverbial question: "Are we there yet?" We really don't know for sure. There are, astronomers say, one trillion galaxies containing three septillion (3,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) stars--yet to explore. So what happens when Voyager reaches the extreme edge of the universe as we know it? We'll find out in just 13.7 light years (at 186,000 miles per second). Truth is, the journey may be just starting.

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's a wierd, wierd world out there...

But miracles do happen: Take for instance, the man from Zimbabwe who was charged with having sex with a donkey. He told the court that, yes, he did pay a woman $20 for sex... and she miraculously 'shape-shifted' (read transformed) herself from a female to a donkey and tied herself to a tree.

"Your worship," he told the judge, "I only came to know that I was being intimate with a donkey when I got arrested."

Chalk up one miracle for the woman/donkey. Only three more required to meet one requisite for sainthood in the Catholic Church. But the road to sainthood is paved with difficulties. According to Father Guido Sarducci (of old SNL fame), beatification is slanted to favor Italians. "For Italians," he said, "they count card tricks."

British research (those Brits think of everything) has found that cows increase milk production if exposed to a little Shakespeare. After a theater troupe performed scenes from The Merry Wives of Windsor while rehearsing in a barn before a seemingly non-caring dairy herd, the herd's milk production increased 4 percent. (True) When several of the performers expressed disgruntlement at the lackluster audience who responded with nary a moo, let alone a standing 'O', the director angrily demanded they shape up or get out. "What," said the actor playing Falstaff, "and leave show biz?"


In America, we have the right to sue anyone for anything. Conversely, we have the right to remain silent... but we mostly don't...so the admittedly drunk lady who fell through the window of a hair salon in a sidewalk fight with her husband, is suing the hair salon. She contends the salon should have used safety glass because that sidewalk is "frequently traveled by intoxicated pedestrians." Good point since an Australian city has already installed rubberized sidewalks just in case an inebriated pedestrian falls. (True.)


Elsewhere in England, a 92-year-old great-grandmother was refused service in a liquor store because she couldn't produce a photo I.D. Serves her right, the little minx.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Should we be outraged or what?


This just in from CBS News: The House of Representatives will be in session for only 109 weekdays in 2012! Yes... 109 days-- not quite 22 weeks. Compare that to a 40-hour per week job (if you have one) where you would work 250 days--not counting two weeks vacation.

So what will our elected officials who watch over us, make all the rules, champion the people and fair play, gather pork for his/her constituents, show those republicans/democrats a thing or two, earn to work so hard? Well... basically, they receive:

  • $174,000 per year in salary alone--for the rank and file members--with adjusted cost of living benefits every year. Many make more than that, of course
  • The ability to set their own salaries--and they have been zealous in fulfilling their duties in that regard... although they have the right to not accept any increase ; -)
  • Nice retirement and health benefits--vested after 5-years of service (or, one re-election... whichever comes first)
  • A comfortable "per diem" allowance for when they are away from home--like all the time
Now here is the kicker: in 2012, they will be in recess for 151 weekdays so they can campaign back home for re-election. In the real world, that would be the equivalent of 30 weeks of paid vacation... IF YOU HAD A JOB! And we are actually PAYING THEM a decent salary to do this instead of watching after the things that need doing on the job... unless, of course, they already have them done and were just hanging around chewing the fat until it was time to clock out.

No wonder it is so difficult to unseat an incumbent, no matter how hard they work for us. They get paid, by us, to spend more than half of an election year to tell us how great they are... or better yet, to warn us about their unscrupulous, immoral, lying, no good scumbag opponent.

Speaking of that, I dearly love those negative, kick-your-opponent in the ass ads because, how would we know how bad they are?

Isn't the American public smarter that that? Answer: NO!

So, consider this post a 'rant." I truly detest "the endless campaign," from one election to the next, at the expense--and subterfuge--of helping and building America by doing what is best for Americans more than doing what is best for themselves.

I know our friends, The Canadians (see map... look north) limit their political campaigns by limiting spending. According to Wikipedia, the longest Canadian political campaign was 76 days... and that was in 1926. Well, maybe that is a bad example. How can we respect a neighbor that has a coin called 'a loonie?' We certainly wouldn't call our dollar coin by such a silly name... oh, pardon me. We have no dollar coin... except for those billions we have been making and storing for years because Americans are too smart to use a dollar coin--"Makes the pockets too heavy." We do, however, mint the penny, worth one cent, at a cost of about 1.7 cents per coin, because we can't live without them.

My next proposal... consider a .0099 coin so we can pay exact change for one gallon of gasoline.

Obviously, we are too smart to fall for all this.

Friday, October 28, 2011

6,999,999,998, 6,999,999,999, 7,000,000,000! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Just 11 years ago, somewhere in Bosnia, says the United Nations Population Division, we celebrated the birth of our 6 billionth living human being! I'm guessing the baby's name is not Brad or Tiffany, but whatever, he/she is now part of our earth family.  Oh, by the way, that is me in the photo... 28th row, 790th from the end.

And this year, on Halloween, to be exact (more or less), little number 7 billion will be born, probably in Asia. Welcome little person. As that baby will be so special to all mankind, it should be given the most popular first and last name in the world.

So welcome little Muhammad Chang (true). May you contribute mightily. Your Halloween costume should be our most popular: Angry Bird... though I still favor cowperson or firehuman, both generically and politically correct. 

It does seems we've reached that milestone rather fast, don't you think? Seems like just yesterday--in 1360-- we were at 300,000, which is less than the U.S. population today. It took us 600 more years to hit 3 billion... but times have been good, baby-wise.

Can you believe it only took us 40 years to double that number! I'd say that is pretty prodigious. Current projections show a continued increase of population, at a steady but slower growth rate. Looks like we will easily top 7.5 billion by 2050, and India will overtake China as the most populous. Those two countries represent about 40-percent of humankind... and if they ever accidentally jump up and down at the very same moment, good bye orbit.


Mom... put another plate on the table... we'll all be home for the holidays.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Well I'll be a monkey's uncle... again!

 Can't believe it has been almost three years since I last wrote about The Infinite Number of Monkeys Theory. It proposes that, given an infinite number of typewriters (word processors to those of us in the know), an infinite number of monkeys will eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. My, time does fly when you are having fun. But there is a need to update this monkey business with new, semi-scientific earthshaking data.

Remember six years ago when researchers at the esteemed Plymouth University in England conducted an experiment? Neither do I, but they did. To simplify the expected miracle, researchers gave six monkeys one computer for one month then, eagerly awaited the results.

Eventually, the monkeys, typing randomly, produced only five pages of text, filled mostly with the letter S with a few A's, J's, L's and M's thrown in. What researchers did seem to prove is that the monkeys were more "interested in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard."

Well obviously, they used uncouth monkeys... the slow learners.

Better still is the 1993 Simpsons episode, "Last Exit to Springfield" where Montgomery Burns has a room with 1000 monkeys (admit it--don't most of us have such a monkey-filled room hidden behind a staircase or secret wall like I do? Uh... you don't? Oh...) pounding randomly at typewriters. Looking over one monkey's work, he chastises it for mistyping a word in the opening sentence of A Tale of Two Cities — "'It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?"

"You stupid monkey!"


As everyone obviously knows, the original mention of the "monkey theory" goes back to 1913, proposed by Émile Borel in his essay, “Mécanique Statistique et Irréversibilité.” (Really.) Seems we have been interested in monkey-typed words far longer than any sane society would call normal.

Well, in this computer age it should be expected that a new experiment has been conducted with theoretical monkeys working hard at theoretical keyboards saved to the theoretical hard drive in the cloud for theoretical eons--actually two months, computer time--to produce all of The Bard's works. And guess what? The best that came out of this were four nine-letter strings that actually matched those Will had used. Theoretical monkeys produced therefore, glouceste(no r), gentleman and King Henry. There were no ten-letter strings produced... and no theoretical defecating on those theoretical keyboards.  


So it appears the monkeys have a long way to go... and chimpanzees are rated as the smartest non-human. But we never give up on the stupid stuff because... well, because we are human and we lack the basic animal instinct of common sense.

FYI: The smartest living creatures in the animal category--not counting us-- are (in order) chimps, dolphins, orangutans, elephants, crows, pigs, squirrels, pigeons, octopi and rats. And of these, I would pick the octopus as best able to reproduce Shakespeare randomly... because, of course, they have eight appendages... or in stupid experiment-speak, capable of four typewriters/word processors at a time using the classic two-tentacle touch method.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are you smarter than a 6-year-old?

No, you are not... if you don't follow the "Rules" as posted by six-year-old Jake, on the family refrigerator. 

 

Smart really isn't all about what we know, but how we interact in the world we all live in. Have you noticed that we tend to tolerate well, all who know more... or less than we do? We don't, however, choose to tolerate jerks of any intelligence. Kind of "Golden Rule-ish," wouldn't you say?

Really... can it be any simpler?  Thanks Jake for explaining it so well. Now if we would only listen.
  
Love, Papa

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Everyone needs a good head on their shoulders yet, sometimes that is not enough.



 Here's what I mean:


ONE HEAD... In Homer's Odyssey, it is Polythemus, the cyclops son of Poseidon (the Greek god of the sea) and Thoosa (a sea nymph) who gives Ulysses big problems in Ionia. Hmm. Might have been the breeding, I'd guess. Obviously, one head... and one eye, didn't get the job done. Maybe two heads ARE better than one.

TWO HEADS...Meet Frank and Louie, the two-headed cat--actually two-faced but that has a bad connotation associated with it... and it wouldn't then fit the theme of my post.

Frank and Louie (his given name) was born with two mouths, two noses, three eyes and a sweetheart of a personality. Dubbed a Janus cat (after the two faced Roman god Janus), he was supposedly doomed from the beginning.  Most like him don't make it past the first week because of congenital defects. They typically have cleft palates and can't nurse or their lungs fill with milk and they die of pneumonia.

But Frank and Louie was given a chance. His saving grace seems to be  that he eats with just one of his mouths. He is friendly, soft and silky and will relax in a person's arms like a rag doll. He walks on a leash and loves car rides. He is just another of nature's miracles. Frank and Louie broke all the records and is now 12-years-old. But still, he's a cat. Maybe two heads are still lacking.


THREE HEADS... Meet Fluffy, the three-headed dog in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Again it is Greek mythology that spawned Fluffy from Cerberus, another three-headed dog. Fluffy was supposed to be an obstacle preventing Harry and Ron and Hermione  from reaching the Philosopher's Stone... but failed. So just how good is three heads. Need we more?


FORE HEADS... the ultimate in brain power. If one head falls short, two heads don't cut it and three heads end up lacking, then the only choice left is... ta-dah, foreheads of course. However, from the looks of things,  that might not even be enough.

PS: You may have noticed that top three items have ties to Greek mythology. Not surprising since Greek is one of our oldest written languages dating back to 2000 BC.

One final quote by a Greek guy worth a read:

All men are by nature equal, made all of the same earth by one Workman; and however we deceive ourselves, as dear unto God is the poor peasant as the mighty prince.
Plato

Thursday, September 29, 2011

So you think you are smarter than a 5th grader? Than Watson? Than a monkey? Than something... anything, please.

Smart is subjective. There is no standard. We measure smart comparatively. If someone says you are dumber than a box of rocks, argue and you'll win maybe 80 percent of the time. But for any other comparison, be wary.

Alex Trebeck has all the answers but IBM's Watson has all the questions. So who is smarter? See! Already a trick question. Don't you feel stupid?

Einstein (renown is when you are recognized by just one name--not  counting Cher and Charo) seemed to be smart. After all, who can dispute E=MC squared (which proves I'm not smarter than my keyboard... can't find that tiny 2) which plainly shows that nothing in the universe travels faster than the speed of light? NOT SO FAST AL, you loveable lummox... scientists have just discovered that neutrinos (which sounds like Italian pasta noodles) are about a billionth of a millisecond faster than 186,282 miles per second. I guess that means all the car speedometers will have to be changed now.

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? A heptagon is a figure with how many sides? Another trick question. Obviously, a heptagon is formed in the shape of a snake. Hep- get it? Or is it Herp-etologist?

Well, at least we can compare ourselves favorably to dumb animals. Can't we? But where do you find a dumb animal... and how can you tell?

Remember Let's Make a Deal with Monte Hall? Each contestant, at one point, was give a choice of three doors, one of which hid a wonderful prize. The other two held booby prizes. After the contestant chose a door, Hall removed one of the two remaining doors and asked the contestant if he/she would like to switch door choice. Only a third of those on the show switched.

Marilyn Vos savant
The probability is that if the contestants switched every time, the odds and outcome would be largely in their favor. Why? I have no idea. Ask Parade columnist and person with the highest recorded IQ on record, Marilyn Vos savant.

In laboratory experiments, pigeons, pecking keys to make a selection, soon learned by trial and error that switching choices was better. The pigeons then switched 96 percent of the time! So who is smarter now?

In another such study, four rooks  (birds) were offered a worm floating deep in a water jar that was too narrow for them to reach with their beaks. After trying and failing, then pondering the dilemma, they collected rocks and dropped them, one by one, into the jar until the water rose high enough for them to grab the treat. Maybe they read Aesop.

Why didn't I think of that? Well, for one reason, I don't care for worms so I guess I'm home free there.

In another controlled experiment, lambs (and most other animals, I would think) learned which plants were good to eat by realizing the wrong choice made them sick. Me? I could eat chocolate til I die... and I'd probably still want more... or Big Macs or French fries or...

And I haven't even mentioned monkeys yet.

Yep. There is always someone (not counting Marilyn Vos savant), or some thing smarter than you... except for a box of rocks. One of life's lessons is that being smart does not always beget doing things well.

Good judgement and common sense... those are the qualities. And being smart... or not... is irrelevant to using best what we are blessed with. THAT is the key to life's riches untold.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Another top 10 list I didn't make

Actually, let's make this a top 11 list because it suits my purpose. The list is Forbes 400 richest Americans. And consider my shock when I didn't make it... again!

Bill Gates at $59 billion is the guy waving the big "No. 1" foam finger this year, after an embarrassing drop in world rankings last year to second place... kind of like Casey striking out. Reason for his surge in a down world: Coupons! He and Melissa always shop on double and triple coupon days... and it paid off. This is a lesson for all of us.

Yes, Warren Buffett, using his senior discount to the max, was second, and blah, blah, blah. But that's not the story.

  • Number 6 is Christy Walton and family at $24.5 billion (note they round off to the nearest hundred-million dollars in this league).
  • Number 9 is Jim Walton with $21.1 billion.
  • Number 10 is Alice Walton at $20.9 billion
  • Number 11 is S. Robson Walton with $20.5 billilon

(Side note: The Walton family dog, Snert, dropped to number 23 this year with $3.4 billion and is concerned where his next doggie treat is coming from.)

So let's see... the Walton worth, taking 4 of the top 11 spots, comes to $86 billion. Pretty good total for a discount retailer. You did good, Sam. But what does that tell us about America? (It's a different story than you think.)

Walmart (the new logo style) isn't the world's #1 retailer because nobody goes there. We all do... even if we go in disguise so our friends won't know... or dress so outrageously that we grab our 15 minutes on YouTube.

And we all buy there... in great quantity. Walmart did $450 billion in retail U.S. sales last year! And do you know what its biggest seller was? This will kill you... bananas!

Walmart is the world's 18th largest public corporation in size and the largest in revenue. It has 8,500 stores in 15 countries. Two million people cash Walmart paychecks. Founder Sam Walton did something that wasn't high tech, so I guess you can say, he earned all those billions the hard way... by being the most desired SUPPLY to the consumer DEMAND... and he did it in a way we all seem to like, with low prices, high volume and lots and lots of stuff.

While no numbers are public, opinion and data say that considerably less than half--some guess 15 percent or so--of Walmart product, excluding groceries, is made in the USA.

We are all for "Made in America," but the reality is that supply (at the price we reward with our purchases) to fill our demand is what it is all about. As Sam said, as he built his little store, "There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

There is a reason why half of the cars on our roads are foreign made and you can't buy a television made in the 50 states. It is not because we wanted it that way, it is because that's what happens in a free world market. Competition for the dollar is the key variable as consumers weigh benefits, quality and perceived value. It's called capitalism and we are "the deciders."

Just a little on Sam Walton's roots. Growing up during the Great Depression, Walton had numerous chores to help make ends meet for his family as was common at the time. Says Wikipedia, he milked the family cow, bottled the surplus, and drove it to customers. Afterwards, he would deliver newspapers and sold magazine subscriptions. Upon graduating, he was voted "Most Versatile Boy." As success came, he still drove his old pick-up truck from store to store, or flew himself in his small single-engine plane.

Today, his legacy for low-cost operation can still be felt at Walmart. The corporate headquarters of the world's largest retailer looks like an old elementary school or bus station--no marble floors, custom-built furniture or executive dining rooms. Management still travels on a tight budget when taking business trips and the overwhelming corporate mission is to keep prices low and associates happy.

Isn't it interesting that this impressive American entrepreneur founded one of the most successful companies in the world--a company that probably sells more foreign-made goods in the United States than any other? But that's not the story. The story is about the America dream that we all share-- to be GREAT-- and the impressive list of those like Sam that it has spawned. Where but here could it have happened that way? In this, we can take great pride. Seriously.

As for "Made in America," it's not them, it's us, the third largest country in the world... and its greatest consumer.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Do you know... ?

 Do you know that we have 10,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000 stars in our universe? Well, as astounding as that sounds, science has found that number to be a gross under-estimation! Astronomers recently discovered that a typical elliptical galaxy, thought to  contain of about 100 billion stars, could actually have as many as a trillion. And get this: there are about 100 billion galaxies--and we are just one of them! Is that mind-boggling incredible?

THE GOOD NEWS: We now have at least three times as many wishes.

Do you know that "In the first few years after birth, there are 700 new neuron connections formed every second of the child's life. The achievement gap between a child born into extreme poverty and one of the professional class is evident by age 3," says Daniel Pedersen, president of the Buffet Early Childhood Fund. "I would build new centers for preschoolers, infants and toddlers, with three teachers per classroom."


Do you know that in Canada, guess who sells a McLobster... or in France, the McBaguette... or the McRice Burger in Singapore... or (my favorite) McSpaghetti in the Phillippines? Come on, Italy... the Phillippines?


Do you know that Warner Brothers, which bought the rights to Patty and Mildred Hill's 1893 song, "Happy Birthday," collect about $2 million in royalties every year? Hmm. If I could only remember the words.

Do you know that on 9/11, when it was realized that United Flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane, was thought to be headed to Washington DC, two of our F-16 pilots were sent into the sky with orders to bring it down. Neither plane was armed with live ammunition--no time. It was expected that the pilots would use their planes as missiles... and they were ready. It was the heroic passengers on board that took care of that.

As an aside, I was in Washington DC the week before the 10th anniversary of that tragic day, and the city and it's venues provided an awesome, somber, reflective, pride-swelling experience. If you haven't been there recently, go again, soon. There is no greater place to feel American.

Another one: The social networking site Badoo.com, recently polled its 120 million users around the globe as to what nationality is "most cool." Guess what?  Americans were voted the world's "coolest." While anti-American sentiment is a high profile perception, "we sometimes forget how many people across the world consider Americans seriously cool." Less cool: Brazil, Spanish, Italians, French, Brits, etc.

Do you know it costs more than a penny to make a penny and more than a nickel to make a nickel. Oh, don't worry... I'm sure we make it up on volume.

Do you know that in America, anyone can sue anyone for any reason. Robert Lee Brock sued himself for $5 million. He claimed that he had violated his own civil rights and religious beliefs by allowing himself to get drunk, commit crimes and land in jail, just like the song. Sounds like a solid case, but certainly not win-win.

Elsewhere, a 290-pound man is suing burger chain White Castle because he can't fit into their seats. 

Do you know that a city in Taiwan has offered an incentive to dog owners who pick up after their  Bowsers and Fifis? For every bag of poop turned in, the good owner gets a ticket to a special raffle for poop-scoopers... a chance to win one of three gold ingots worth about $2,100 (shaped like a what?)... and the city gets all the dog poop it could ever hope for. Sales of dog laxatives have gone through the roof.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Maybe we ARE the Bizarro Universe


If you love Seinfeld... and don't we all, then you just might remember his 1996 episode, Bizarro Jerry, which supposes there is a parallel world where everything is (oxymoron alert) exactly the same, except opposite. There was a Bizarro Jerry, Bizarro Elaine, Bizarro George, Bizarro Kramer... and even a Bizarro Neuman.

  • Note: As Dummies.com --the company that brought us all those yellow and black 'Dummies' books to make us all feel equally stupid... not that there is anything wrong with that--says in its The Theory of Parallel Universes for Dummies: "The multiverse is a theory in which our universe is not the only one, but states that many universes exist parallel to each other. These distinct universes within the multiverse theory are called parallel universes. A variety of different theories lend themselves to a multiverse viewpoint. (If you are interested in more on this, click the link.)

Seinfeld's bizarro universe has everything "reversed" in some way. Heroes are villains, beauty is hated, ugliness embraced and nerds with pocket-protectors filled with pens make fun of 'normal' people. But really, is there a bizarro world? Well, if a number of physicists actually believe a parallel universe can/does exist, why not? Who among us 'normal people' care as long as it makes for good Seinfeld. And it does:

Jerry: Like Bizarro Superman ... who lives in the backwards bizarro world. Up is down, down is up. He says "Hello" when he leaves, "Goodbye" when he arrives.
Elaine: Shouldn't he say "badbye?"
Jerry: No, it's still goodbye.
Elaine: Does he live underwater?
Jerry: No.
Elaine: Is he black?
Jerry: Look, just forget the whole thing.


You know, I sometimes think we are probably someone else's bizarro world because so many things we used to value, today seem to be backwards. We embrace 'reality' shows by the hundreds (Fact: In 2000, there were 4 reality shows on TV. Last season, there were 320 of them--really!), fall for all things Kardashian, suffer political rancor and 're-electionitis,' and put up with outrageous politicians of all kinds while real problems become polarized and frozen.  

All of this, of course, makes for juicy media fodder, our anger at the outrageous, and great viewer ratings. We eat this stuff up. Beyonce's baby bump is a lead story. Sexting is news... and who was caught sexting is even bigger news. The Appalachian trail, which used to be for hiking, is now a punchline:

"Where did you disappear to last week Governor?

"I was hiking the Appalachian Trail."

TaDah!

The surest way to gain public attention is to to stand out... and wow, do we! Shop at Walmart, and if you dress 'right' you might go 'YouTube viral'. Cheat, lie, steal. Bitch, carp, complain... you are mainstream.
  • Lawsuit: Two lovely, delightful grown children, I'm sure, sued their mom for "bad mothering," because, they said, she failed to buy enough toys, "haggled" over the amount spent on party dresses and sent a birthday card that her son didn't like.
Even the 'hit' reality show, Desperate Housewives of Beverly Hills, knows how to boost its ratings by riding on the coat-tails of a tragedy. When the husband of one of its stars committed suicide, the news filled the Entertainment Today genre of 'exclusive coverage' programing for a week. Then the network announced--to satisfying media coverage-- that it would be running suicide prevention public service announcements during its showings. And while some were saying, "Isn't that thoughtful and wonderful," television moguls were saying, "When the world hands you lemons, make lemonade."
  • A very rich Malaysian with more money than he knew what to do with, just paid $5 billion for a 100-foot gold plated yacht. Its bedrooms are platinum and one contains a priceless statue carved from a T.Rex bone.  "It will never be topped," he boasted. 
Are we going crazy... or are we already there? What has happened to our values? Statistically, half of us used to be below average. Well, I'm thinking that today, at least 2/3 of us must be below average... a new world record!
      
Life is an emotional balance of what is happening, what we know, what we can do about it, and how we feel... but sometimes, I believe we are nothing more than a mixed up pot of people just waiting to be stirred.

Hey... wait a minute! We are are OUR OWN bizarro world... I'm sure of it.


PS: Lest I get too carried away, I really am an optimist-- with a touch of cynical sarcasm--who believes lots of good does happen, it just often gets lost in the media's weird demand for your attention... and our rewarding them by watching and caring for the wrong things. My comfort blankie:
  • A Los Angeles high-school senior whose good grades gave him an opportunity to compete in a unique free-throw contest, beat seven others to win a $40,000 college scholarship. Because of his skills, he was later granted a basketball college scholarship, so contest rules allowed him to take his prize in cash. But, the son of Ivory Coast immigrants said, "I've already been blessed so much and I know we're living with a bad economy," so he donated it to the contestants he beat. "This money can really help my classmates."
  • The Fresno County Schools Superintendent cut his own annual salary from $290,000 to $31,000. "If we face midyear cuts, I can have the money ready to go and it doesn't affect our employees.
Thanks, good examples. I needed that.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

If justice is blind, witnesses aren't... but perhaps it would be better if they were

The prosecuting attorney asked the key witness, a 60-year-old nun, to identify the man she saw murder the victim.

That man!" she demonstrably told the judge, jury and world. She pointed her saintly finger and repeated, with emphasis, "THAT MAN, the accused, right there." The trial was as good as over before the jury returned its guilty verdict.

Other trials saw witnesses putting it differently: "There is absolutely no question in my mind..." "I'm 120 percent sure...." "That is a face I shall never forget..." Guilty, guilty, guilty.

In this digital age of Photoshop and technically skilled users, courts will no longer accept photos as incontrovertible evidence... but an eyewitness... that's a different story.

There are 75,000 eyewitness accounts per year, according to the New York Times, and up to a third of those are, regrettably, wrong! We are human, after all. When DNA could offer absolute proof of a person's involvement or innocence in a crime, the first 250 DNA exonerations showed that 190 eyewitness accounts were wrong!

Marisa Tomei and Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny


Anyone who has watched My Cousin Vinny (and if you haven't, you should) with Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, and Ralph Macchio knows that. And how about that Marisa Tomei as Mona Lisa Vito... an Oscar, no less, for stuff like this:


Vinny Gambini: Your Honor, may I have permission to treat Ms. Vito as a hostile witness?
Mona Lisa Vito: You think I'm hostile now, wait 'til you see me tonight.
Judge Chamberlain Haller: Do you two know each other?
Vinny Gambini: Yeah, she's my fiancée.
Judge Chamberlain Haller: Well, that would certainly explain the hostility.

At one time, I knew flamboyant attorney F. Lee Bailey well enough to ask if it is difficult for him to defend a client that he knows is guilty. Bailey, whose famous clients included the innocent O. J. Simpson, told me that if a person is actually innocent or guilty has no bearing on the trial. Every trial, he said, starts as a clean slate and what happens there is the de-facto ruling of guilt or innocence, right or wrong... and the flamboyant egotist loved the game.

Sadly, O.J. was, perhaps mistakenly convicted--you know how juries are-- for another 'situation' and is now serving time in jail instead of exhausting every waking moment searching the world for the real killer of his wife and her boy friend. Boy... talk about a rotten break.

Isn't justice scary put that way? One of my childhood nightmares: I was wrongly convicted of a murder and got the electric chair... really! Then, as I grew up, I realized how silly that was. Then, as I grew 'more up,' I thought, happens all the time.

I guess it then makes even more sense that criminals try anything and everything to avoid being caught and sent to trial... much like the Washington state guy who, while allegedly (the key word the media uses to keep from getting sued) drunk, backed his car into a building structure and brought it down. As police arrived at the scene, he ducked into a portable toilet and doused himself with a bucket of human excrement. "He thought," said the unlucky office who had to drag him to the ground and 'cuff' him, "that the dogs were coming and he was trying to throw them off the scent."

Well, nice try. He now needs F. Lee Bailey to tell the impartial jury, "If the excrement don't fit, you must acquit."

Friday, August 19, 2011

FACT: Life is sexually transmitted

So admit it, love makes the world go round.


For as long as there has been life on earth, we have been trying to quantify love. It's an emotion we have all experienced times in our lives... and lucky ones seem to have it constantly on their shoulders. One would think that with such a familiar concept, researchers would agree on what constitutes love and how to measure it. That has not been the case... at least, not until now.

With a little research (Google), a few older recollections, scientific advances of quantum knowledge and wonderful personal experiences, I think I've got it! Just take a look at the song lyrics written way back in 1932, just as America was emerging from the disasterous Great Depression. Songwriter Irving Berlin (who also wrote White Christmas, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Easter Parade, God Bless America, There's No Business Like Show Business and other older classics) realized the only thing most of the country had left to give was love... and this song caught the spirit of that emotion.

HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN

How can I tell you what is in my heart?
How can I measure each and every part?
How can I tell you how much I love you?
How can I measure just how much I do?

How much do I love you?
I'll tell you no lie
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?

How many times a day do I think of you?
How many roses are sprinkled with dew?

How far would I travel
To be where you are?
How far is the journey
From here to a star?

And if I ever lost you
How much would I cry?
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?

That sentiment has been played forward by Billie Holliday, Etta James, Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, Lianah, Diana Krall and many others. It has molded into a jazz standard and made more than a few people cry. So how do we measure something so seemingly intangible? We don't... but we're humans so we still try to quantify.

  • So, how deep is the ocean? (Almost seven miles deep in the Pacific's Marian Trench near Guam.)
  • How high is the sky? (Latest guess, 156 billion light years across... with a scientific belief that there is more... much more.) 
  • How far is the journey from here to a star? (Closest star is our sun, a mere 140 million miles more or less, but we're talking love here... so let's hit it out of the solar system and travel to Proxima Centauri,  4.22 light years from Earth--or about 26 trillion miles.)
  • And if I ever lost you, how much would I cry? (A Pacific Ocean-full... or about 1/3 of all the water on the planet. Better hydrate.)
So that's love. See how simple it is to express the most profound feeling we humans know? What it means is that emotion knows no bounds. But in every lifetime, it seems to rise and fall like the stock market... which is good, right? For how would we appreciate the highs if we didn't have something less to compare them with?

That's today's lesson. Don't try to make sense of it. Just do it because, as another song says, love makes the world go round. And we sure could use more of that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My "novel" genius idea

Enjoyed author Michael Parker's  promo appearance at our local book store (one of the three that still exist) for his new book, The Watery Part of the World. The setting for his historical fiction tale is the early 1800s and the main character is Aaron Burr's daughter, Theodosia, who is taken by pirates off the coast of North Carolina.

Anyhow, he talked about writing 'real pirate dialog' instead of the usual "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum" stuff featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies..." not that there is anything wrong with that. Well, they made a bundle of pirate gold in a dead man's chest, for sure. What I didn't know, however, is that the movie idea came from the attraction of the same name at Disney World and Disneyland. Wow! That revelation brings with it, a plethora* of ideas.

*Thanks to The Three Amigos for the best use of plethora in a sentence:
Jefe: We have many beautiful piñatas for your birthday celebration, each one filled with little surprises!
El Guapo: How many piñatas?
Jefe: Many piñatas, many!
El Guapo: Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?
Jefe: A what?
El Guapo: A plethora.
Jefe: Oh yes, El Guapo. You have a plethora.
El Guapo: Jefe, what is a plethora?
Jefe: Why, El Guapo?
El Guapo: Well, you just told me that I had a plethora, and I would just like to know if you know what it means to have a plethora. I would not like to think that someone would tell someone else he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has no idea what it means to have a plethora.
Jefe: El Guapo, I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education, but could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me? (FYI: A plethora is two or more pleths.)


But, if you think about it, look at other Disney book/movie tie-ins: Space Mountain, Snow White, Peter Pan, Monster's Inc., Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin, The Haunted Mansion, Dumbo, Cinderella, Buzz Lightyear, etc... all, big money makers.

So I thought... what rides haven't been both a book/movie AND an attraction? All of a sudden, I had two best sellers: A mystery novel--The Spinning Teacups of Arsenic and Lace and a 'can't miss' musical-- It's a Small, Small World of Trouble and Woe starring all the cutest little kids in the world.

Now how does that song go again?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Absolute proof... there is a God

In South Carolina, one couple saw the face of Jesus on their Walmart receipt. Oh, they didn't see it right away or they would have been whooping it up, but after returning from church. They noticed the receipt had become discolored and bore the image of a man with a beard that was... well, I'll let them tell it so I don't mess up on the technical details: "It was like it was looking at me. Then the more you look at it, the more it looked like Jesus, and it was just shocking, breathtaking."

Add this to God on toast and grilled cheese sandwiches (popular favorites of Jesus when he was a child), God in clouds, Jesus-shaped potatoes, etc... and we're not even talking Blessed Virgin Mary here. Privately, I often wondered how toast knew what God looked like, but I guess if you are God, you have your ways.

Y'know, I often just breeze right by those who prophesy the rapture or the apocalypse.. but when word comes directly from the world's largest retailer, it stops me cold. Walmart even matches prices now... another sign?

This has me thinking about Hell. Purgatory was the safety net (you know... you just suffer a little--maybe with crazy acne and nothing to eat but chocolate or suffer allergies and ragweed is always in season-- until you have done penance for all your sins... maybe for one trillion-billion years, but since eternity has no time constraints, that might just seem like a few minutes, THEN you get 'invited up'). But since The Pope has officially eliminated Purgatory, that has a lot of us worried.

Worse yet, there is new proof of how hot Hell (which is deep in the core of the earth, right?) really is. A Japanese study suggests that radioactive decay added to primordial heat, which has been building for 4.5 billion years, generates 44 trillion watts of power. (Remember what it did to Godzilla?)

You talk about hot! In profound conclusion, Woe is us!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Mawidge is what bwings us together today... "

Statistically, most of us are married. And about half of all marriages end in divorce. And most of those divorced, remarry. Yes, most of us men/women, men/men, women/women, love marriage so much that we do it 1.4 times on average. (Statistics back this up, but they are confusing, so I've made your life easier by totally avoiding them. None of that mumbo-jumbo for my readers.)

Truly, "Mawidge is what bwings us together today... " 


And if you haven't seen Princess Bride, perhaps the most fun movie ever made... and the only one featuring Andre' the Giant, shame on you. What movie can you name that includes Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Andre' the Giant, Fred Savage, Robin Wright, Peter Falk, Peter Cook and Billy Chrystal?

FYI: Most marriages: An East coast groom married 28 times, only stopping to die at 88. (So that's the secret to long life. All this time I thought it was eating vegetables.) Not surprising, same guy holds the record for the most divorces... 27. (Side note: An Indiana lady has been married 24 times and is coming up fast on the rail).

Most brides, least divorces: Easy... polygamist Warren Jeffs who is on trial now for having marital bliss with his 12-year-old bride... one of his "100 or so" wives. Least number of divorces: tied for the record with none. Jeffs wants his followers to build him a mansion as big as a Holiday Inn in anticipation of his triumphant return home. Heck. He's no dummy. The guy will get rich just on the tips that are left for the cleaning maids. I do see a bigger problem... how does he keep from calling Stephanie, Suzanne... and Annette, Angelina... and Bernadette, Hey... You... er, what's your name again, sweetie?

Crazy mixed up bride and groom:  The white American couple who had a black baby when she became pregnant just by watching a 3D porno film. Now THAT'S realism. I wonder if she had to keep those special glasses on? Her husband said "I see no reason not to believe her as those 3D films are very lifelike. With the technology of today, everything is possible."

The wife and her girl friends had gone to see how a porno movie looked with 3D effects. GREAT, they obviously concluded. "A month after watching the film," she said, "I found I was pregnant." And the child, it is reported, looked exactly like the black male lead. The couple is suing the movie theater and the producer of that very realistic film, which has to be a "shoo-in" for a Special Effects Academy Award.


Best right hook for a bride: Rupert Murdock's 42-year-old wife who floored a protestor trying to assault hubby Rupert, age 80, with a shaving cream pie in the face.

Most children in a marriage: 69... really? At least that's what Guinness says. A woman and her husband, in a land far, far away (Russia), a long time ago (1700s), had 16 pair of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quads. Hmm. Documentation in the pre-pencil days only works well if you are writing the bible.

Longest marriage: 86 years... by a NC couple... both living into their hundreds... or as they tell it... at least it seemed like 86 years.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A tribute to NASA as Space Shuttle Atlantis heads home from the International Space Station for the last time...


Can you imagine... this is a real, undoctored photo!

It is astronaut Bruce McCandless II who became the first human satellite just 25 years ago! He is a football field away from the Challenger, 170 miles above the earth, moving at 17,500 mph.... though it doesn't seem as fast to him because he can't see the telephone poles zipping by. He and astronaut Robert L. Stewart made the first untethered spacewalks in history using their nitrogen-propelled "ray guns" (my words) to zip this way and that.

They were floating free in space for six hours while they circled the earth almost five times--105,000 miles-- with nothing but a few essentials (space suit, air, toothbrush, Swiss Army knife, etc.)  Without phone booths, even Superman can't match that.

Discounting the obvious mortal consequences if anything went wrong, that must have been like no carnival ride on earth... I can't imagine. I couldn't even step out on the glass floor section of Toronto's CN Tower.

Commander Corey fights for you!
Well, these guys may have been the first ACTUAL human satellites in space but we have long known what it is all about. We had Commander Corey of the Space Patrol on radio and early television in the '50s, Captain Video on TV and Flash Gordon of the comics who fueled the fire. These fictional heros introduced us to  space and stirred imaginations. And as kids, we were enthralled. From that generation came the space pioneers at every level, from scientists, astral-physicists and technicians to astronauts and the those who worked the launch pad.

Captain Video and Video Ranger
Space Patrol was best... it was first a radio serial where acting was over the top... with great sound effects--Whoosh! Zoom! Tzaaaap!-- to add (to the best of anyone's knowledge) realism. Commander Buzz Corey and sidekick Cadet Happy (really), with help from the beautiful Tonga of course, fought the the villains: Mister Proteus, Dr. Ryland Scarno and my personal favorite, the evil scientist, Prince Baccarritti whose evil laugh would curdle milk.

Program commercials were voiced by 'Captain' Dick Tufel for WheatChex and RiceChex with "... out of this world Space Patrol stuff that all Space Patrollers will want to have...spaceophones, projectoscopes and atomolights..." often with an important alert: "The letter "O" is very important in the future."


When Jules Verne wrote "From the Earth to the Moon" in 1865, who would have ever guessed... THANK YOU NASA FOR A GREAT RIDE.









Does that make Walt Disney the next visionary by naming Mickey's dog, Pluto? Hmm. Maybe.   


So, going from the sublime to the ridiculous, as Loony Tunes Porky Pig would say, "Th-th-th-th-"That's all folks!"

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I'm telling you... It's Nuts out there

College football mania is just around the corner, but some fans may be confused. For the coming season, the BIG TEN will have 12 teams and the BIG 12 will have 10. Meanwhile the PAC-10, perplexed and out of step, will just have 10.

Some are still reeling as the advent of same sex marriage moves to a broader acceptance, but get ready for the next big wave. Rajesh, a trend-setting Indian rickshaw driver, was recently married to Chinki, a monkey. As a side-note, monkeys are important in Hinduism. Well I guess! The happy couple is reported to have had a 'swingin' honeymoon. PS: Yes, true story. 

During an anti-helmet protest ride in New York, one of the 550 bareheaded riders lost control of his cycle, was thrown over the handlebars of his bike, hit his head on the pavement and died. He likely would have survived the accident if he'd been wearing a helmet, state troopers said. Are you listening Gary Busey?


A North Carolina man drowned over the July 4th holiday. Cause of death listed in the paper (so it has to be true): He got a cramp because he went swimming immediately after eating. See... mom was right.


Some lifeguards in Newport Beach make $200,000 a year and many make more than $100,000. Teachers of the world... you are so dumb to be stuck in a job where you can't get a tan, wasted all that time in school and, oh yeah, can't raise a family on one salary.

Side note: The MEDIAN salary of 350 CEOs of major corporations was $9.3 million (that is for each!) last year so it kind of makes life guards feel "like, ya know, hey man, what am I... chopped liver?"


Superstar Shaquille O'Neil missed 5,317 free throws in his 19-year NBA career. Such prowess at the line compelled his opponents to create a new defense against him... the 'Hack-A-Shaq,' figuring the best way to keep him from scoring was to make him shoot free throws... and they were right.


Gasoline is currently selling for 12-cents per gallon in Venezuela! None-the-less, for the first time in that country's car-loving, anything-goes-on-the-road culture, a driver has had his license suspended. He was speeding. He was drunk. He was an on-duty bus driver. His bus was carrying more passengers than it could legally hold... and, oh yes,  the bus was missing a wheel. I hope he has learned his lesson.


India is growing at the rate of 44 new people per hour vs. New York's nine and London's one-per-hour pace. India will overtake China in total population by 2050... and get this: 92 % of Mumbai's workers walk, use buses or trains to get to work. Now doesn't that seem a lot more relaxing than being stuck in traffic?

In an attempt to slow the population growth, India has recently begun encouraging man-monkey marriages. (Yes, that's a joke... but hmm... if it can work for one... )

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Made in America: What's good for General Bullmoose (ref. Al Capp) isn't--necessarily--good for the USA anymore.

ABC's World News with Dianne Sawyer recently produced a segment called "Made in America." The several-part piece has astounded us as to how few of the things we commonly buy are actually made in America. It is a surprise, but it shouldn't be.

Al Capp was the incredible, satirical genius behind Li'l Abner, a very cool, used-to-be comic strip that you have to be over 50 to remember. General Bullmoose, an early character, was Capp's personification of General Motors, an industry giant of the time. (But times change, don't they?) General Bullmoose knew how to make money... the American way, by ingenuity, boldness, dominance and opportunism... sort of the way Capp--and others--saw GM, the world's leading automaker and industrialist of the time.


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 still standing tall and still greatly admired by most.  But if you 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--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 is rebuilding its Bay Bridge, the link between 'The City' and Oakland. And that bridge, honest, is being 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 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 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.

Last note: The pendulum swings. Lately, some American companies are bringing production back to our shores. Capitalism's rules mandate that where it's made and how much it costs will always be changing variables.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Death never comes easy in the movies

I saw a guy die once... actually, a guy, his girlfriend and a fetus. He was 'hot-dogging' and tried to pass a car--his sister's car-- on a hill.  I saw it all through my windshield as I was driving toward him up the other side, about 50 yards below the crest. With a ditch and wall on my right, I was 'frozen' in place. He was coming at me, head-on, at a police-estimated 70 mph. When he realized he had to do something, he sped up and took a violent right, over-correcting onto the shoulder. When he pulled left, trying to save it and have a great story to tell the guys at the shop, he lost a wheel and T-boned my vehicle.

His story died right there, just a few feet in front of me. Mine, blessedly, did not. Whole thing, start of finish, took 5 seconds, max. Death in the blink of an eye.

Now in the movies, it's a different story... especially if you are Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger or Chucky. Yep, the super creeps of horror movies. (Wired magazine did the heavy research-- 41 originals and sequels in total.)


Jason, of Friday the 13th fame, drowns, takes a machete to the shoulder, an ax to the head and re-drowns (can you do that?). He falls into toxic waste, is stabbed with a mythical dagger and dragged to hell. You'd think that would do it... but NO! He is blown to pieces, stabbed with a fireplace poker and ejected into space. Dead? Don't bet on it. Latest sequel count, 11 plus the original.

Michael Meyers in Halloween is knitting-needled (Viola! A new verb, created by me) in the head, coat-hangered (Another! I'm on a roll) in the eye, is shot six times, falls two-stories, is shot five times, shot in both eyes, blown up, hit by a truck, thrown from a car, beaten with a pipe, stabbed with two knives, falls from a balcony, is thrown through a windshield, is pinned between an ambulance and a tree then decapitated with an axe... and if that isn't enough, he is impaled on spikes and stabbed in the face and chest. Whew! In the original and 10 sequels, dying is such hard work.

Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame is burned alive, sledge-hammered in the stomach, burned again, ignored (Oh no! Not ignored.), is splashed by holy water (and doesn't make the sign-of-the-cross), is buried in sacred ground, torn apart by souls of victims released from the dead, pipe-bombed in the chest, trapped in a furnace, decapitated, had his hand-severed and has his throat slit. Shame... he was the chatty one. All this happened in the original movie and 13 sequels!

Chucky of Chucky fame, the darned cutest of them all, is burned in a fireplace, cuts off his own legs to escape being impaled, is covered in molten plastic, has his head blown up, his face cut with a scythe, is shot and chopped up in a fan. This in only the original and 4 sequels... which makes Chucky a mere rookie in the Crazed and Impossible to Kill Killers Hall of Fame. Can't wait to see the next sequel.

The bad guys never die easy, or at all. And the good die young... but of course, they are not great box office. So I guess it makes sense.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Finally... A political figure that sets a good example!

Did you ever see a better mug shot than this one of John Edwards? How come more hardened criminals--and others charged and indicted--don't take more pride in how they look for the public?

ATTENTION ALL OF YOU CONVICTED, CHARGED AND/OR INDICTED: Wear your best white shirt and nice tie... no, not the one with soup on it, but the nice one. Make sure you have a $400 haircut (easily affordable it if you are a good thief) and, for God's sake, sharpen up those tattoos with a magic marker if you have to. How about a little pride and nice smile? You're trying to make a good impression.


To review: Bad Mug shot


















Bad mug shot









Bad mug shot









Bad mug shot... with redeeming qualities












Good mug shot
See what I mean? NOW THAT'S A MUG SHOT! Thank you, John Edwards, for setting a good example!