Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blog # 113: A Few Things Considered

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Stormy Crossing

Three Iraqi Schoolgirls cross a waterlogged street in Bagdad. Note how children can make even a difficult and challenging activity a fun adventure, something we tend to lose as we grow up.


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On top of the Ft. Hood shootings, and the Florida killings, Lee Siegal writes in Saturday’s Daily Beast: “More than health care, the economy, jobs, Afghanistan, Iraq, public malfeasance, private dishonesty, civil rights, disease or tainted food, mass murder is American’s primary problem and most fundamental shame. No prosperous country not riven by civil conflict has anything like our volume of mass killings.

”Nobody does a damn thing to try to stop it. Conservatives don’t want to make an issue of mass murder because then they would be confronted with the fact that nearly all of the massacres are committed by people using guns.”

These words are from an article in the Daily Beast which you can access by moving your cursor and clicking here!"

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Italy Convicts 23 Americans from CIA

An Italian judge convicted 23 Americans on kidnapping charges on Wednesday for their roles in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, an Egyptian cleric. The stiffest sentence was handed to the Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady — eight years in prison; the other 22 were sentenced to five years in jail. All of the Americans were tried in absentia and are urged to keep Italy off of their future traveling itenaries.§

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She went to sleep as Rihanna . . .

In a new interview with Glamour, Rihanna talks candidly about her relationship with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, who assaulted her on the eve of the Grammy Awards in February. She called the abuse and the ensuing media frenzy — during which a police photo of Rihanna's injured face was leaked to the press — "humiliating."

"That is not a photo you would show to anybody," she said. "I felt completely taken advantage of." The chaos that erupted the day after the news broke made Rihanna feel, "like I went to sleep as Rihanna and woke up as Britney Spears."§

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Hoping We’ll Swallow the Big One

Here’s to Republican whip Eric Cantor, standing there among Tea Party Pretenders as if he was reporting Gospel, who must try and pretend that the House Democratic Health Care bill will break the bank in spite of the Congressional Budget Office figures reporting otherwise. Keep in mind that Republicans vehemently opposed Social Security, Medicare, and all other legislation which would have returned a portion of a one’s tax dollars to them in the form of government services. Will the public look upon this latest towing of the GOP party line as the party of “No” in 2010? Let us so hope.§

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Borowitz Report Focuses on Lou Dobbs

Move over Elmer Fudd, Mr. Independent is on his way.

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NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - Controversial TV host Lou Dobbs announced today that he was leaving CNN and would soon be joining the primetime lineup of The Cartoon Network.

Mr. Dobbs will be joining a schedule that includes such programs as Tom and Jerry and What's New, Scooby-Doo?

While a press release from The Cartoon Network called Mr. Dobbs' show "a perfect fit," Davis Logsdon, the chairman of the media studies department at the University of Minnesota, took a dimmer view.

"I think the addition of Lou Dobbs will be a tremendous blow to The Cartoon Network's credibility," he said.

In other broadcast news, on Sunday the Fox News Channel reported that an American won the New York marathon and a Kenyan won the U.S. presidency.

To have the Borowitz Report sent to your very own email box, go here

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What the Constitution Giveth, Some Would Taketh Away!

The U. S. Constitution gives all of our citizens the right to their own beliefs, and extends to each of us the right to petition the Congress to express our point of view. But there is an element in our populace which, if they could have their way, would likely restrict one group of our citizens. The group that would do the restricting are the conservative Republicans, and the group they would restrict are actors, artists, musicians, and performers of all types who would lead their fans astray with their blatantly liberal views.

Ever notice how they decry actors, musicians, and performers who take political stands. They absolutely hate it because nine times out of ten the performer’s stance will be of a liberal persuasion. They thereby claim entertainers are not qualified to lead anyone anywhere. Conservatives are afraid the artist’s following will blindly follow their lead. As if people in this day and age follow anyone’s lead blindly.

Of course, you never hear them complain about those occasional conservative performers, the likes of which was the late Charlton Heston, as do the still alive and worth kicking, Tom Selleck, Chuck Norris, Dennis Miller and Ben Stein to name but a few. (Googling “conservative actors” will bring up a more complete list of 25 of them.) They love it when their own kind have a nice, comfortable following to reflect their politics and Fox News frequently has them on as guests.

However, there is a good reason why the overwhelming majority of performers, actors, musicians, etc. live on the liberal side of the street. The reason is quite understandable when you look at it without political bias coloring your view. Most artists are empathic towards people, which is the tool in their personal quiver which allows them to hone their art in an image which reflects and therefore appeals to people. And those artists who are heavy in conscience, such as the late John Lennon, frequently attract the ire of conservatives who can actually see such an artist as a threat to their way of life.

Of course, the final word is that our constitution delegates us all the right to have, and to freely express our opinion. And if the liberal left is more eloquent in expressing of their point of view, well that’s the way it is. It’s all in those empathic genes.§

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Apple’s Macintosh Celebrates 25

The Mac – Then and Now

To celebrate the Macintosh’s 25 Anniversary published some criticisms of Apple’s groundbreaking GUI upon its inception. We reproduce a few of them below:

Byte, Gregg Williams, February 1984: The Macintosh brings us one step closer to the ideal of computer as appliance.

InfoWorld, Thomas Neudecker, 26 March 1984: We think Apple has at least one thing right — the Macintosh is the one machine with the potential to challenge IBM’s hold on the market.

San Francisco Examiner, John C. Dvorak, 19 Feb. 1984: The nature of the personal computer is simply not fully understood by companies like Apple (or anyone else for that matter). Apple makes the arrogant assumption of thinking that it knows what you want and need. It, unfortunately, leaves the “why” out of the equation — as in “why would I want this?” The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse’. There is no evidence that people want to use these things. I don’t want one of these new fangled devices.

Compute! David D. Thornburg, June 1984: This refreshing one-step-forward is the Apple Macintosh — a computer designed for anyone to use. Macintosh is reasonably priced ($2500 including display and disk drive and operating system software — IBM, please note). But more important than Macintosh’s system price is the almost intuitively simple manner in which it is used. Macintosh is, quite simply, a civilized machine. After working with it for a while, I found myself quite intolerant of my other computers.

Bill Gates: Anybody who could write a good application on a 128K Mac deserves a medal. Bill Gates also said, “The next generation of interesting software will be done on the Macintosh, not the IBM PC.” Gates was so impressed by the Mac that he was able to get access to Apple’s patents and create the Windows platform. With Apple’s insistence of staying with vertical integration, Microsoft’s Windows prevailed by the misconception that hardware choice was essential, when all it did was commoditize the hardware.

But fear of not having Microsoft continue to support the Macintosh with Office, Apple’s John Sculley handed over key patents tech to Microsoft. IBM paid the same price when they allowed clones. It WAS the software.

Happy 25 Apple Macintosh. We have been using you for all of our computing needs for 19 of those 25 years. We presently prepare this blog on a 17” iMac we bought in 2007 and we couldn’t be happier with our purchase. Thank you Steve Jobs, may you Live Long and Prosper. For the complete listing of these early reviews point your cursor and click here

Fun Downunder

An unidentified Australian girl attempts to discover whether the lifelike Beach Boy statue is gender correct.

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Families at Mealtimes

At Home and In Camp

In some families mealtimes are when the entire family eats together, and they can sometimes be less than positive experiences, as siblings, or sometimes a parent and child work through some area of conflict. But in children’s camps meals were usually a time of great stimulation, almost a celebration.

The room that Blueberry Cove ate the midday and evening meals in was in the building we called the Maine. It was longer than it was wide, and each side of the room was lined with tables, and each table had a counselor, a camper waiter, and of course a full complement of campers. Tables were assigned, and campers ate with their own group. Counselors did table duty usually with their own group, with an occasional day off for rejuvenation at the counselor table.

One day in early August of 1965 my older son, Daniel, still a toddler, was eleven months old, having been born the preceding Sept. 9th in Houston. My wife Anne wasn’t a counselor that summer, but she lived at the camp with Dan and me. Previous to that day Daniel had taken one or two isolated attempts to walk, but his heart hadn’t been in it and so all had ended in a date with the forces of gravity. But on this day Daniel used the occasion of the midday meal to take his very first steps in front of the entire camp.

I happened to be sitting at a counselor’s table on the day of Daniel’s big achievement, but at a different one from the one Anne and Daniel were sitting at. The lunch room was very noisy on that particular day. I don’t remember what the morning activity had been, I imagine campers had done the usual variety of activities. Perhaps it was the weather, who knows, but the campers seemed excessively loud and high strung on that day. I was blocking out the noise, looking down at my food and concentrating on moving my jaws in the rhythm of eating. Suddenly the din in the room began to noticeably fade, and in a moment it got deathly quiet. You could have heard the proverbial pin if one had been dropped.

The counselor next to me, gave me a nudge and whispered, “check out your son.” I did, and there was 11-month-old Daniel, tottering in the middle of the aisle, facing the entire camp. Every eye in the place was focused on him. He gave a hesitant smile, jutted out his lower jaw, then proceeded to take a step. We all held our collective breaths. He took another one. You could hear murmurs travel from one end of the room to the other. He took five more steps, seven in all, before once again he yielded to the forces of gravity and sunk to the floor. The room burst into spontaneous applause and a nearby camper rushed to help him to his feet. Daniel took what many swore was a bow once he was standing.

Daniel was indeed a resourceful young child. He would not talk for the first two and a half years of his life. Maybe he’d let a word or two slip out every once in awhile, but after hearing it we were never sure we really heard right. And try as we might we could never get him to repeat it.

I was working in N.Y. City as managing editor of Sing Out! and we were living in Ft. Lee, N. J. when Daniel’s brother Joel was born. Ann’s mother Marty Bowman came to help take care of Dan while Anne was recovering from Joel’s birth. After a couple of days Daniel surprised her by saying his very first words. And Marty, who taught in the Houston school system, proudly told us it consisted of three words, it had a subject, a predicate, and a verb, and it made a complete sentence.

Evidently he had been holding back, waiting until he could do it right. Or perhaps it was that old buggaboo, competition, that made him do it. After all he had to say or do something major in order to stay ahead of that newly acquired little brother of his.§

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True Love Comes in Many Flavors

Love stories are always sweet to hear or to read. There is something soothing about people with loving feelings for one another. An entire industry, the motion picture business, and a large corner of popular music sings only of love.

In the three camps I worked for one of the most lovable things in camp for both campers and counselors alike were the camp pets. And these ranged far and wide beyond the usual pet dogs and cats.

Thanks to an interesting feminine physical characteristic horses and horseback riding came first with a number of campers of the female persuasion. But also high on the list for most campers were the baby farm animals we would rent from a neighboring farmer for the summer. These included chickens, sheep and goats, and most definitely a young piglet or two. Piglets are charming animals, they are clean (they don’t seem to acquire their gross habits until they gain their majority), and they are both warm and affectionate. In short they are all you could possibly ask for in a pet. If only they didn’t have to grow up.

Our mental picture of pigs has them as ugly, dirty creatures, rolling in mud and dirt, all the while swilling their food. However during one year at Blueberry Cove, love blossomed between a camper and a piglet. It was perfectly true. I didn’t notice when, or how, it started. I don’t know of anybody that did. But just like that camper and piglet had become an item. All of a sudden love had blossomed as surely as true love always does and the two of them became inseparable.

Tony B. was the camper’s name. Mother nature blesses all baby animals with beauty, and Tony B.’s piglet, for now let’s give her the name Mabel, was a truly beautiful member of her species. Her skin was pink and unblemished. Her snout, which when she grew up would be large and unseemly, as a baby was cute and cuddly. And Mabel’s devotion to her Tony, was a sight to behold.

Mabel had freedom to go where she pleased, and wherever Tony went the piglet was sure to follow. Tony would be in the Foc’sle doing art, and the piglet would be snuggled at his feet, quietly and contentedly snorting away. When Tony would engage with some other camper in a short foot race, the piglet would trundle along behind. One of the oddest sights was to see Tony in riding, with the piglet cantering merrily behind horse and rider. We used to worry that a trailing horse might trample her, but she was evidently being careful and as far as we know none came close.

At Blueberry Cove every afternoon at around 4 pm the entire camp would come together for what we called milk and crackers, a snack to tide us over until dinner. Tony would conscientiously feed Mabel a part of his snack, and pour some of his milk into a bowl for her to swill. Then Tony would stretch out on his back, lazily gazing up at the sky, and Mabel would crawl on top of him. And there they would lie, nose to snout as it were, each in total peace within him and her self, and with the rest of their world.

We couldn’t help but wonder what Tony’s parents were going to think when they came up for visiting weekend and got to meet Tony’s paramour. Well, we needn’t have worried, Tony’s parents were cool with his newly blooming relationship. His parents thought it was very cute, if not truly beautiful, and I must say I and most of the rest of the staff agreed. There was nothing quite as charming as the sight of Tony and his piglet friend lying nose to snout, freely trading kisses and snout lickings.

But Mrs. B. was ever practical, as all mothers are prone to be. How could they possibly separate the two of them at the end of the summer? She quietly inquired of us privately what was likely to happen to Mabel after camp. We explained as how we rented the animals from Mr. Victor Dennison for the summer, and after camp the pig would probably get some fattening up over the winter and then be sold next spring for slaughter. (Such is the fate of virtually all farm animals in our civilized society.)

At that Mrs B. got concerned with Mabel’s fate. To her credit Tony’s mom racked her brain to try and think of a way that her son’s pet could escape the inevitable, but try as she might she couldn’t come up with anything. For as downright beguiling as a piglet can be, it will sure as hell grow into a large, smelly, obnoxious grown animal in a matter of months.

And dealing with an adult hog in a N. Y. apartment would be impossible. And so Tony’s mom’s options were limited to none. Whereas we couldn’t say for sure, of course, we were reasonably certain Mr. Dennison would fatten Mabel up over the winter, and sell her for slaughter the following spring. Or if an animal showed real promise in the weight gaining department, he might just keep it for another year before selling it at auction.

Either way we told Mrs. B. that we were afraid it was inevitable that Mabel would end up as ham and/or bacon on somebody’s table by the next year or the one after that. This conversation was held well out of Tony’s and Mabel’s hearing, of course. And Tony’s mom assured us she would find a dog for Tony after camp to take his mind off of his loss. And so very reluctantly, Mrs. B. made the only decision she could make under the circumstances, and that was to do nothing.

And so sadly enough Tony’s affair with his fair swine would have to be a summer romance, blooming like a wildflower until the cruel mistress Time would end it just like She ends so many of our human to human love affairs, in total separation, with only memories to keep it alive. Tony cried for the first time ever at camp’s end, and Mabel tried her best to follow the B. family car as it drove away. A few days later Mabel along with all of the other once baby animals was duly delivered to Mr. Dennison, where we presumed she lived comfortably and happily until the day of the auction. Love was frustrating between man and beast, as it frequently is between human beasts. But as Humphrey Bogart might have noted, at least Tony and Mabel had had their Paris.§

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Pursuing a Mark Twain Moment in Maine

To all who have read Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court one thing you are left with is an audacious desire to see a total eclipse of the sun for yourself. Twain’s description of it, and the way he wove it into the story, surely left all who read it with an insatiable thirst to experience one.

In 1963 I had come to Blueberry Cove not only as a banjo and guitar playing song leader, but I also brought my darkroom with me. The local newspapers had reported that there was going to be a total eclipse of the sun, visible in Maine, on the afternoon of July 20, 1963. Tenants Harbor would not be in the line of totality, that would happen further north, Bangor, Maine was in the line of totality.

Henry Haskell wanted his campers to be able to see the eclipse even if Tenants Harbor wasn’t in the zone of totality, and he made a deal with me. He had a lot of unexposed photographic film. If I would expose it to light and develop enough film for the entire camp to be able to view the eclipse through it, then he would let me have July 20th off, so I could go north and witness totality, and photograph the corona. It was a deal I just couldn’t refuse.

Exposing and developing enough film for every BBC camper to have a piece was no easy task, but I cheerfully performed my duties with a smile. Then on July 20th, a counselor from Holland named Doris, another counselor and I started out on our adventure. I had driven my car up to Maine that summer. I had bought it in Houston and it still had the cardboard tags on it, for I wanted to register it in Maine, as I was living in N.Y.C. in the winter, and N.Y. and Maine don’t share each others lists.

The eclipse was due to happen around 4:35 in the afternoon. We left camp right after lunch, and drove the 60 or so miles to Bangor by about 1:30 or 2. However at Bangor a nasty turn of events happened, it began to seriously cloud over. It would be sufficiently dark in the eclipse, but the thick clouds would mask out the corona, which is what I was so eager to photograph. And so we did the only thing we could do under the circumstances. The clouds were coming from the west, traveling east. We started to drive east trying our damnedest to outrun our would-be cumulous spoilers.

We drove and we drove, and the clouds seemed to be keeping up with us, neck and neck. Maine is a series of peninsulas all of which end up at the Atlantic ocean. The one we were driving on soon ended at Bar Harbor, on a beach at the ocean’s edge. There were about 50 people scattered about, many of them obviously here to witness the eclipse, as there were numerous cameras on tripods, and small telescopes aimed at the sky. Near us was a small cabin, the kind locals charge an arm and a leg for to city people wanting a few weeks of beach living. There were obviously one or more children inside, for cartoons of the Bugs Bunny ilk were loudly playing on the cabin television. I set up my tripod, and pointed my camera. There was a slight haze in the air, but it was not yet cloudy. We had a great view of the sun, we had managed to outrun the clouds after all. Holding an exposed piece of film over my camera’s lens I took several shots of the sun as it became more and more obscurred by the moon.

The sky began to darken as a significant part of the sun’s surface was being blocked by the moon. This caused near mayhem in the aviary and insect world. Nature’s lower life forms have excellent built in clocks, they knew damned good and well it shouldn’t be getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon, and they were protesting this phantasm at the top of their lungs, or whatever it is that crickets use to sing with. I looked over to the cabin. Bugs Bunny was still blaring away. That child or those children were just before missing the phenomenon of a lifetime, an extremely rare total eclipse of the sun. Instead they were watching cartoons at full volume. Cartoons they have probably seen dozens of times before. Very sad.

It got very quiet and suddenly without fanfare it happened. Shadows of the hills and mountains of the moon suddenly raced across the ground and blip, when they passed us the sun went out. Just like that we could uncover our eyes from the exposed film we were holding over them and look directly up at the raging flares of the corona.

The sun’s corona flared really high, and was ever changing. Totality lasted 56 seconds, and during that time I was able to take four separate exposures of the corona, with no two of them looking alike. Whether or not the crickets and birds stilled their frightened songs, I couldn’t tell you, I was so into concentrating on taking photos of the corona I was unconscious of anything else. But then all too soon the 56 seconds had passed and shadows of the moons mountains raced by us chasing after the first, after which the sun turned back on. At about that time in the cabin a cartoon was ending with the traditional The Merry Go Round Broke Down and Elmer Fudd stuttering “That’s a-a-all, folks.” And so ended our remarkable Mark Twain moment, our unforgettable date with our very own total eclipse of the sun.§

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And so our memorable moments under the dimmed sun came and went, right along with our blog #113. It is our pleasure to spend our time dreaming up our blog. We spend the week writing and polishing our little creation like a fine jeweler polishes the jewels of his creation. And then when Saturday morning rolls around we upload it to Google.

We thank you for coming and making our blog a part of your life. Our blog stays up the entire week. We hope we’ve engaged you enough to lure you back for next week’s offering. Meantime, hang in there, don’t take any wooden Limbaughs, and have the very best kind of a good week.

The Real Little Eddy §

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