Archive for July, 2011

Atheist: One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or Gods.

Everyone, repeat, everyone is entitled to his or her beliefs. Everyone also has the right to agree or disagree with those beliefs. However, no one has the right to denigrate or deny another what he or she may hold as their own beliefs. I am a Christian and, as such, I do happen to believe in God. I can also accept the Jewish beliefs; for example, Jews believe that God is one and not indivisible, i.e, that there is no trinity.  I will accept that belief of my Jewish brethren…doesn’t mean I agree with it, but I’ll accept it because that is what they believe. I can accept the teachings of Islam, one of these being the Jesus was not crucified as planned by his enemies but that he was saved by God. To get into the differences between these three of the more than 20 major religions in the world would not be my forte. My beliefs are mine; your beliefs are yours…but don’t you dare tell me what I cannot or cannot do with my beliefs, because then, we have a problem. Such a problem now exists between me and the atheists who have brought suit to exclude the “cross-like” piece of one of the original World Trade Center towers from the memorial being built on the site of the disaster.

I agree with a number of people that the of wreckage from the World Trade Center tragedy is not the prettiest thing in the world. It’s a piece of wreckage that represents the memory of that horrible September morning. I don’t believe it ever should have been taken to St. Peter’s Church , and I certainly don’t believe they should have erected a plaque that read, “The cross at ground zero.”  The fact that it resembles the Christian symbol of a cross is irrelevant. It’s a piece of wreckage that has meaning for everyone…atheists included. As my friend would say, “Build a bridge…and get over it!”

 Having said all of the above, let me go on. One report that I read said that, “The 9/11 Memorial Foundation told ABC that other religious artifacts, including a Star of David and a Jewish prayer shawl, will be added the museum ahead of its scheduled opening on September 12, 2011.” Had I been on the committee, I would have asked, “How many religions are we missing? Why have we selected only these two? Other than the terrorists themselves, how many Muslims died in the Twin Towers? Were any of the fatalities atheists? Should we use the reversed ichthus with legs for them? What about representation of Hinduism; after all, it’s the third largest religion in the world…how many Hindu’s died?”

There are so many questions regarding symbols andsymbolism and what should or should not be considered in creating a memorial to the 3000+ victims – you can more than double that when you think of the families left behind – that it is an impossible task to design something that will fit appropriately. The design selected for the Oklahoma City Murrah Building was from 624 proposals. Every state and nearly two dozen countries submitted plans. The result is a museum and tribute that is neutral and non-denominational. Would that work in New York? Of course it would…but it would never get built because there could never be agreement. That is not to say that the tragedy in Oklahoma was lessened by what happened on 9/11/01. The 168 people in Oklahama are just as dead as the people in the Twin Towers. They are just as much a loss; the survivors and families are left with just as many questions. It is the magnitude of the New York tragedy that makes the task of memorializing those victims more difficult.

From what I’ve been able to learn the site of the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, PA will be a non-denomination tribute to those brave people who prevented the hijackers from achieving their goal. The Pentagon Memorial, likewise, has no religious connotations. It is described as something “…one meant to be felt.” If you’ve ever visited Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln or Jefferson memorials, or the Iwo Jima memorial, you can fully comprehend what is in that statement.

Perhaps in the long run, cooler heads will prevail. St. Peter’s would be a fine place for the steel girders. If Christians wish to honor theirs who died on that day, it would be the perfect place to do so; after all, Catholic and Protestant religions are bound together by calling themselves “Christians.”  As for the memorial at ground zero, since it cannot possibly please all religious or non-religious people, let’s please everyone by taking religion out of the picture. It’s been done in so many other places of tribute and honor; why can’t it be done at Ground Zero?

Read Full Post »

It’s confirmed. I’ve finally arrived as a ‘curmudgeon.’ “Why?” you ask (thank you, because otherwise I’d have no place to go with this particular opinion piece…whew). The answer is, perhaps, a bit more complex.

You see, I have a Facebook page. I’m also on LinkedIn, and have been invited to join – for free yet – a number of other social networking sites. If I look at my Facebook page once a month or every two months, it’s unusual. When this happens, I learn about everything my “friends” are doing. That’s not to say that these people with whom I’m ‘connected’ (by what I don’t know; perhaps it’s the Internet version of an umbilical cord) are not friends. They are, in every sense of the word. Some are friends I haven’t seen in days; others are friends I haven’t seen in months – you see where this is going, don’t you – while others I have not seen, heard from, or even received an e-mail from in decades. Many of these people post things that appear on my Facebook page that are so personal, I would never have shared them about myself, even with my late wife. I don’t need to know that you’ve been unable to go to work for the past three days because you’re suffering from a bout of diarrhea. As they say, “TMI.” You don’t believe me, do you? I’d tell you to check my page but I found a way to rid that message from my space – oh, damn, that’s another one!

So many young people who believe it’s fine to post U-tube videos just don’t understand the ramifications of what can happen. All of this ‘material’ – to be exceptionally polite about it – is accessible to the entire world. I’ve heard some people say, “Oh, my files are encrypted.” Do you even know what that means? There are people out there who spend their days just looking for ways to unencrypt data; many of them are very, very good at it. If you think you can send suggestive pictures or videos of yourself or your friends to just one other person, dream on and pray to God that someone whom you don’t wish to see doesn’t accidently grab on. If they do, you can be damned certain that the pictures or video will go viral in no time flat. Before you send out anything, anything at all, ask yourself this question: “When I’m 45 or 50, will I still be proud that I sent this?” If your answer is “Whatevah,” then it really doesn’t matter because you’ve just demonstrated that you’re stupid…and as the saying goes, “You just can’t fix stupid.”

We have all read the tragic stories of children and adults who have met someone online whom they believe to be Prince or Princess Charming, only to find themselves caught in a web that all too many of them have not been able to escape. I freely admit that I met my love, Juli, online. However, our circumstances are a bit different. My wife was dying of cancer; Juli had lost a boyfriend to cancer. Having lived through it, she was able to offer sound advice. Our hospice nurse once commented to me that I was fortunate to have an e-mail friend who could understand what our family was going through. In truth, we went through nothing; it was Joan, my wife of 50+ years, who was going through the tortures of hell. We were bystanders. Juli happened to be a bystander who knew what to tell us and how we could best support Joan. Perhaps what I’m saying is that when you strike up an acquaintance online, please be very, very careful.

When I first signed on to Facebook I thought, “Oh, this is really cool. I’ll be able to talk to friends in real time.” I soon learned that things don’t work that way. Instead, I was bombarded by gifts of a gold bar, an egg, a cow, some hens, a sheep, etc., etc., for my place called ‘Farmville.’ Never did play the game, and the requests I received for reciprocal gifts were quietly ignored. Then I began getting ‘poked;’ with what and in what part of my aging body, I was never certain. Hell, I have so many aches and pains that you could poke me ‘til the cows come home – to my place in Farmville, of course – and I’d never recognize that the poking was taking place. Somehow I think I preferred it when I was getting ‘snowballed’ or kissed by a leprechaun or ‘pumpkin-chunked’ by e-mail. One friend sent an e-mail the other day with pictures of spiders that could kill you. It was very interesting, particularly the ‘hairy spider.’  Since I’m somewhat arachnophobic, I was fascinated at how quickly some of these spiders can kill…and other things.

One of my dearest friends doesn’t “Facebook” me anymore. He has no reason to do so. I see him and his wife almost every day at the gym. Does that mean that I would ignore him on Facebook? Well, yeah, because I just don’t go there on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. You want to tell me what’s going on in your life? You have something important that I should know about? Pick up the phone; drop me an e-mail. I carry my cell phone with me wherever I go. I no longer have a landline in the house; it was unnecessary and cost an extra fifty bucks a month. I have other uses for fifty bucks. If you wish to e-mail me, I check it several times a day and I promise to answer you immediately. Does all of this make me a crusty old curmudgeon? If you want to think so, who the hell am I to tell you to go screw yourself…sorry, just being curmudgeonly.

Read Full Post »

This past spring saw some of the worst weather the United States has seen in sometime. Tornadoes in Oklahoma, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, Minnesota, Indiana Illinois, and even Massachusetts have wrought death and destruction wherever they touched down. FEMA along with President Obama and Congressional delegations from each state have visited the towns and cities, some completely wiped out.

Talk of raising the debt ceiling, balancing the budget, and cutting down on government spending seemed to take a backseat to “how much should we pay to clean up this mess. It seems that when something of this magnitude hits, the Federal Government normally covers 75 percent of the damage. In the case of Joplin, Missouri, which was so hard hit, the government has agreed to foot 90 percent of the bill. Missouri Senator, Roy Blunt (R), wants the government to pay 100 percent of the damages. Yet, when he was talking about the budget cuts that President Obama made to this year’s budget, Blunt said, “It would be laughable at any other level of government in America,” he said. “It would be a total non-starter that we’re spending way too much money, and so the solution in this discretionary area is (to) not spend anymore for the next five years than we are spending this year when we all apparently agree we’re spending way too much.” I’m sorry, Senator but you just cannot have your cake and eat it too. By the way, the Senator also believes that spending was out of control only at the end of the Bush Administration years and that the incumbent is the real culprit. I would invite the Senator to go back to the Reagan years to see when our indebtedness really began.

What has happened with these tornadoes has been horrific. Those who were affected, who lost their homes and all or nearly all of their belongings cannot possibly rebuild on their own. This is why we have state and federal emergency management teams. Hopefully, this is also why we have the American Red Cross, although I don’t trust them any farther than I can throw my Toyota Camry.

What has happened to the United States government in toto is an embarrassment to me as an American. I do not understand why some kind of an agreement cannot be reached. Is the debt ceiling being used as an excuse not to help those who suffered from the tornadoes and other natural disasters? Is it the President who is holding things up? According to one report, “Obama had proposed to Republicans a “grand bargain” that accomplished a host of individual things that are unpopular on their own, but that just might pass as a huge package jammed through Congress with default looming. Obama offered to put Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts on the table in exchange for a tax hike of roughly $100 billion per year over 10 years. Meanwhile, government spending would be cut by roughly three times that amount. It’s no small irony that the party’s dogmatic opposition to tax increases is costing the GOP its best opportunity to roll back social programs it has long targeted.” Of course, that was a week or so ago and since the time it appears that Congressman Boehner and his colleagues have backed away from “such a bargain!” Indeed, I would proffer that it is not the Republican members of Congress who are the proverbial fly in the ointment; no, it is the 56 members who now align themselves with the Tea Party. If ever there was a more disruptive group in government, someone will have to explain who or what it was. People like Michele Bachmann, Joe Wilson of South Carolina – you remember Joe; he’s the one who called Obama a liar on the floor of Congress –the “Ten Texans,” and the rest of the klan (oops, pardon me) will never be happy until the black man is out of the White House. Yes, I am playing the race card. It’s about time somebody did. If you take note of the states that represent the majority of the Tea Party, you’ll find the Deep South heavily represented. No one seems to want to say it. I’m white and I didn’t want to say it; however, it has become apparent that if the Republican leadership strikes a deal with Obama, the Tea Party will do everything in their power to block it and attempt to destroy John Boehner and company. For my money, the Tea Party is a new form of domestic terrorism. They are downright devious, deceptive, and diabolical! Wake up America, as my buddy, Ross Perot used to say. The Tea Party is not your friend. They are trying to grind the Federal Government to a standstill. What they say is their agenda –“to secure public policy consistent with our three core values of fiscal responsibility, Constitutionally limited government and free markets – is political rhetoric at its very best.  They are like a bunch of spoiled brats who want their cake and they want it now. They will not, however, contribute to the purchase of the ingredients to make the cake, nor will they drive the bus to the store to purchase these ingredients. Rather, they are the geese, the cats, and the pigs who wouldn’t help the Little Red Hen. Look out tea partiers or you’ll be left “swimming in the pond, sleeping in the hay, and lying in the mud,” which is probably where you all belong.

You people talk about taking away what you call “entitlements.” I paid into Social Security for over 40 years and now you’re trying to screw me out of it? Just because you dipsticks get free health care, unlimited sick days, nearly 70 paid holidays, three weeks paid vacation, and ridiculous retirement packages, you think you have the right to criticize me for getting $1,400 dollars a month. For those of you who can’t multiply, that’s just under $17,000 a year. I’d like to see you turkeys live on that as a retirement “benefit.” Thank God, my retirement is not totally dependent on what you seem to consider a “handout.”

During all of these debt ceiling negotiations, I don’t believe I have seen John Boehner in the same suit twice. With Obama you can’t tell. The Presidential uniform is blue serge or charcoal black. Have I just about reached the end of my rope with these people? You bet your ass I have and you should have too. When this brouhaha is over, take a hard look at who the naysayers are. Trust me, you’ll be able to tell. The next time they’re up for election, kick the bastards out. Let’s put people in office who can allow a government to function.

Read Full Post »

The subject is getting tiresome. The players are becoming boring. They’re all expecting some deus ex machina to be inserted by some unknown party who will bring the drama to its successful conclusion, where everyone can shake hands and congratulate the other on bringing the crisis to a close. Here’s a clue: It’s not going to happen!

I’m speaking, of course, about this debt ceiling thingie in Washington. First it was Obama taking his basketball and storming off the playground. Now House Speaker John Boehner has done the same thing. The only problem is that while Boehner might be willing to compromise and let Obama use his own basketball, the other players on Boehner’s team, to quote Sam Axe, are “a bunch of bitchy little girls” who will feed the House Speaker to the wolves if he so much as mentions the word compromise.

There, I guess that just about sums up what the Executive and Legislative Branches of the United States are going through right now. If Obama was Lyndon Johnson, he’d call John Boehner into his office privately and ask, “Okay, John, who’s giving you shit?” When Boehner told him, Lyndon/Barack would send a couple of his “outside staff” to the hill and very quietly inform those Congressmen that they were now under investigation by the FBI, CIA, NSA, DEA, as well as the detective squad from Sesame Street. They would go on to explain to these retards that it would be a good idea for them to not plan on reelection because the rumors about their drug use, infidelity, embezzlement, and kiddy porn would be appearing in their local papers any day now. In addition, they would be told that if they spoke of any of this, that the District has an extremely high crime rate and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he/she might wind up in the Tidal Basin with a two-dollar hooker by his or her side. That’s why Lyndon was known as the “great intimidator.” He probably wasn’t quite as brash as I describe, but you get the message…don’t screw with Lyndon; that’s the reputation that Obama needs to cultivate.

Frankly, it would appear to be that those who are holding out for no revision of the tax code and who wish to merely slash social programs to make up much of our deficit have their heads firmly entrenched in their collective assholes. It’s not that they don’t understand what is going on; it’s that they will use any tactic available to them in an attempt to destroy this Presidency. It is this kind of short-sighted thinking that will, I hope, result in the majority of the Republican House and Senate members being told to “take a hike” in 2012.

As for the Obama/Boehner debate, these are two intelligent and reasonable men. They recognize what needs to be done. Obama put social welfare programs on the table, something he swore he would not do. Boehner was willing to close tax loopholes for corporations and have the tax code rewritten. The gang of six came up with a bipartisan plan that it appeared both Obama and Boehner could live with. Unfortunately, there are too many Congressional Dipsticks who don’t understand the meaning of “consensus,” “cooperation,” or “compromise.” Perhaps the ‘c’ words were omitted from their copies of the dictionary along with “common sense.” (Yeah, I know it’s two words, but what the hell, it works for me!)

Remember, the old line, “Someday we’ll look back on this and laugh.” I-don’t-think-so. Should Obama be reelected, I think his memory will be extremely long. “Oh, he’s not vindictive,” you say? Perhaps not, but he has demonstrated that he will not bow down and kiss the collective Congressional ass. You can only push a person in his position so far. After that, push again at your own peril. And remember one other thing…he’s married. Have you ever known a wife with a short memory?

During the Revolutionary War, the Whigs and the Tories were violently opposed to the ideas of one another. After the war, there were repercussions. We have grown beyond that. We are “one nation under God.” It seems today that when one party or the other doesn’t get its way, they want a Constitutional Amendment. That’s the easy way…we’ll just amend the Constitution. There is a sickening disease that seems to affect these people. They’re behaving like a bunch of little children who seem to believe that temper tantrums will get them what they want. Suck it up, idiots; you’re working for the people, not for your own egos; not for special interest groups; not to please a small segment of your population, but for all of the people. You may well believe that you are doing what’s best for your district or your state, but there are 50 states and 435 districts; there are over 310 million people living in the United States…you actually represent them all. Your responsibility is the “common good.” Sure, Steve Lynch represents me in the House of Representatives. I would hope that when he is voting, he is also considering the overall impact of his vote.

Until stupidity and egotism is replaced with intelligent and self-effacing thinking, this nonsense will continue. I call on the President and both Houses of Congress to wake up and come together for the good of the nation…the entire nation, boys and girls!

Read Full Post »

Remember Miss Howarth’s English class in high school? Okay, so your teacher’s name was different, but I’ll bet you remember the situation. You were reading Hamlet or King Lear, Romeo and Juliet or Othello. Anyway, it was Shakespeare and you didn’t understand every third or fourth word that was used. Just to bring you up to date, when Marcellus told Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery,” he wasn’t necessarily suggesting she join a convent or a place of contemplation. It’s possible, although we’ll never know, that he was telling her to go to a brothel, the “other” meaning for the word. Okay, back to Miss Howarth’s class….

….if you were male, you dreaded the thought of being called on to read lines from a Shakespeare play. Perhaps “dread” is too mild a word; terrified also works as does panic. Our Miss Howarth insisted that we not stand by our desks to read but to come to the front of the class, standing near her desk but not touching it, facing the class and reciting our ‘lines.’ The majority of the girls in the class appeared to have no problem with this form of “teacher torture;” males, on the other hand, were generally dumbstruck. We’re guys; we don’t read plays (that’s the high school mentality); what if my fly is open – first thing a man surrepticiously checks when he rises from a seat – or what if I get up there and fart, or worst of all, what if Bobby ‘Flattop’ Thompson makes a funny face at me from the back of the room and I start laughing. Miss Howarth does like laughing; worse, she doesn’t like Thompson; worse yet, I might wind up on her shit list if I laugh…and that’s a list from which one is never reprieved.

By the time I got to college, I was grateful to Miss Howarth (the bitch!) for her English sub course on public speaking. She knew exacly what she was doing. In my sophomore year of college, I elected to take a course in public speaking with Professor Eugene Blackman. Gene was also advisor to The Silver Masque, the drama club on campus. I’d done a play with him as director and enjoyed the way he coached, so I figured the class would be a piece of cake…big WRONG! In the classroom, “Gene” became “Professor” and the nice guy gave way to some creation by Satan. One never knew when “Professor” Blackman would decide to call on ‘one’ and be told to deliver a five-minute extemporaneous speech on whatever subject the spawn of Satan decided was appropriate. For ten weeks, he made our lives a living hell. It didn’t matter that you were as articulate as Clarence Darrow or as informed and intelligent as Carl Sandburg, Blackman would find a scrap of something that would be used to shred your best effort. In effect, he was giving us wonderful preparation for speaking in public. By the time he was finished, those of us who had not dropped out understood full well what it meant to be a public speaker. His critiques allowed us to overcome any fear we might ever have of speaking in public for the rest of our lives.

While I was working at the institution from which I graduated, Gene and I become good friends. One day I was asked to represent the President and speak before a luncheon meeting of the National Association of the Deaf. If you wish to be truly intimidated, stand before 1,000+ people who are unable to hear you and give a talk about higher education for the hearing impaired. There is little, if any sound, other than the periodic clinking of silverware or the brushing back of a chair. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters were scattered across the dias and, when appropriate, applause would be given. When I returned to the college, I called Gene and told him of the experience. He just laughed and told me, “Well, I guess you’ve arrived as a public speaker.” From that day forward, I enjoyed standing before groups of any size. While one person has said, “Picture your audience naked,” I was never able to do that. I have the feeling that the sight would have paralyzed me rather than being of comfort.

Years ago, some researchers performed a research study of 10,000 Americans from all walks of life. There was a single question: “List the ten things you fear the most.” When the results were tabulated, death ran a poor third. While I don’t remember number two, I do recall that the greatest fear was that of speaking in public. All that I can say is, “Thank you Professor Blackman.” The man we thought of as being from Dante’s Ninth Ring turned out to be heaven sent for what he was able to drill into our heads.

There are all sorts of programs that “guarantee” they will cure a fear of speaking in public. Most of them are hogwash. However, if you know your subject and know your audience, there is little reason for fear. Whether it’s ten people or ten thousand, there will always be some kind of butterflys in your gut. It’s natural, but you don’t have to let it cause paralysis. Think of it this way…If they like what you have to say, they’ll cheer; if they don’t, they’ll boo. So what? The world will not end because of your remarks. Hell will not freeze over nor are you likely to be the recipient of a lightning bolt thrown from the crowd. You have to figure that you’ve been a member of an audience; now it’s your turn. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt so famously said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” There are few things as satisfying as expressing your beliefs to a group of people. Have I ever been booed? No, but I’ve been harshly questioned. If you know what you’re talking about, criticism or booing doesn’t really matter. Just keep your cool and let the other person make a fool of him or her self.

Public speaking can be a great deal of fun, and if you can picture your audience naked, (a) good luck and (b) don’t get carried away!

Read Full Post »

Holy mackerel! If I wasn’t convinced by Al Gore – you know him; he invented the Internet – I sure as hell am now convinced that “da climate, she’s a changin!’

As I’ve watched local forecasters warn people living in Massachusetts of how hot it is – yeah, thanks a lot, folks – I look at other parts of the country and think, “We are nothing compared to Arizona, Texas, and the entire Midwest. I made the mistake of saying that to someone at the gym who has a place in Arizona. “Oh, but out there it’s a dry heat,” she said.

“Dry heat, my ass,” I thought. Heat is heat, no matter how you cook it. I drove cross-country half a century or more ago. We took the northern route out, but we came back via the southern route. This was in August. Don’t tell me that Arizona heat is dry, bitch; it’s still just as hot as the hinges on the doorway to Hell!

Take this morning for instance – please take it and give me some cool air! I was up early, as is my wont, to go to the gym. At approximately 3:45 a.m., with the dog having been fed and given her morning treat, we ventured out doors so that Vikki could do her morning business. I sat down by the patio table. The birds hadn’t waked yet; the moon was a bit above half full; there were only a few stars to be seen, not because the sky was cloudy; quite the opposite, but because there was so much “whatever” in the air, it obscured all but the brightest stars. Sitting there; just sitting, I could feel air and humidity pressing down on my shoulders like a weight. You could smell the ozone. It smelled like death, a heavy smell not unlike rotting stumps in a swamp. If you haven’t been around it, you may not know what I mean. Once you’ve experienced it, you will never forget the odor. There’s an evil incense smell that you just don’t wish to be around. Even the dog came back quickly and we moved back into the air conditioned comfort of the house. To say it was weird is something of an understatement.

The sky had lightened just a bit when I went to the car. The smell and the heavy air were still surrounding each step I took, but it seemed that it was a bit lighter. By the time I arrived at the gym, a breeze had picked up and the air was stirring around. Thankfully, some wise person had left the air conditioners going in the gym overnight so we were able to work out in relative comfort.

If you’re a serious gym rat, sweating is an integral part of your workout. It doesn’t matter whether you begin with cardiovascular work on the arc trainer, treadmill, elliptical, Stairmaster, or bike or go directly to weight machines or free weights; you aren’t working out if you don’t break a sweat. Me, I’m a pig; I begin sweating about five minutes into any workout and by the time an hour has passed, it’s apparent that newcomers want to say, “Hi” from a distance.

Normally, I put a sweatshirt on before getting in the car to drive home. It absorbs the sweat from the body and it keeps the car seat and the seatbelt relatively dry. Over the past several days, I’ve said, “Screw the sweatshirt,” have changed the workout shirt for a dry one and put a towel over the driver’s seat (the car still stinks of sweat. I might just have to break out the Fabreze!)

I have developed a much greater empathy for those who experience this kind of heat every summer. Dry or wet, if your area is topping one hundred degrees for several days in a row, you will be enervated by the temperature. We don’t normally see an extended period of heat as we have seen this summer. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care if we see it again. Yes, I love some heat. In my youth, I was one of those whose sunscreen consisted of a bottle of baby oil blended with iodine. We would lie in the sun and sizzle for hours on end, trying to get as brown as possible…crazy huh? Let me digress for a moment because there’s a wonderful story about a white man who referred to a Black man as “colored.” “Who are you to be callin’ me colored?” asked the Black fella; “When I’m born, I’m Black; when I grow up, I’m Black; when I go out in the sun, I’m Black; when I get old, I’m Black; and when I die, I’m Black. You white folks are somethin’ else. When you’re born, you’re pink; when you grow up, you’re white; when you go out in the sun, you get red and turn brown; when you get old, your skin is the color of old paper; and when you die, you turn grey. So don’t you be callin’ me colored!”

My youngest daughter called from her car at 9:15 this morning. “Dad, I’m in the car with the boys. The temperature is 91o; no, wait a minute, it just jumped to 93o. This makes no sense at all!

This appears to be an unusually hot summer. People will die from the heat. It’s time we all take the weather people seriously. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate; drink, drink, drink. The Boy Scouts always say when referring to urine output, “clear and copious.” The other advice is also good; “If you’re old or have breathing problems, please use your air conditioning. If you don’t have it, go to a mall or a cooling center. Just take care, folks. We oldsters have to stick together.

Read Full Post »

Looking back, I can’t really be certain that I met Rupert Murdoch when he came to Babson College to be inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs. I probably did but to be candid, I was more impressed with Peter Sprague, founder of National Semiconductor, and that self-named “failure,” Donald Burr, who had conceived the brilliant idea for People’s Express Airline. That was 1985, more than a quarter century before the Murdoch empire came under fire once again.

Mr. Murdoch has always been something of a controversial figure, I gather. There was any number of telephone calls regarding his appearance at Babson. Because it was my job to plan and conduct most of the Founder’s Day day-long events that culminated in the induction of these outstanding business leaders, calls regarding the program were automatically channeled in my direction. While no one seemed to have a problem with Peter or Don (whose company, by that time had already failed), there was considerable controversy regarding Mr. Murdoch. Although his own security accompanied him, the threats were of sufficient importance, that the local and Massachusetts State Police were informed. For the most part, I had forgotten that incident until this latest episode with News of the World.

Is it conceivable, I wonder, that the callers in 1985 had had similar dealings or issues with media mogul Murdoch?  After all, it was during the 80s that he was consolidating his place in media annals by building his U.S. holdings, including Twentieth Century Fox and Triangle Publications, a part of Walter Annenberg’s own empire.

The media, I find, is nearly as good a subject for opinion as the United States Government. Both believe they are the most powerful thing in the world. Most would find it difficult to understand that educated, thoughtful people consider them to be laughable and pitiable. One of the small pleasures of my life is the ability to watch the BBC news in the morning. Aside from having difficulty understanding a few of the reporters, it’s great to view the world from another nation’s perspective…what is news and what is not. Perhaps if I were living in the U.K., I might grow as cynical about the news as seen from another side as I am about the news in this country.

When James ‘Whitey’ Bulger was captured by the FBI, after 16 years “on the run,” it was the lead story on every local channel for weeks…weeks, dammit! I find it difficult to believe that there were no news stories more important during that time. Whether the media were attempting to demonstrate the incompetence of the FBI, collusion, or whatever, I’m not certain. The one thing of which I am certain is that this man’s arrest did not warrant the amount of coverage it received. A story that has recently occurred regarding a woman’s body being found in a swimming pool in Fall River has not received the attention it deserves from the media. There are so many questions surrounding this death, those responsible and accountable, and what the town is doing to rectify this tragedy, I wonder why the media is not asking them. This story has been shunted aside. Is it because she was Black? Is it because no one cares about a mother of five and perhaps not the most responsible citizen in the world? Is it because no one wants to probe the politics of city/state accountability for allowing a swimming pool to become so murky that no one can see the bottom? What’s going on here?

In Boston, as I’m certain it is in other parts of the country, media outlets are so biased that the old saw, “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.” I would amend that to read, “Believe nothing of what you hear or read and only half of what you see.” Fortunately, most people today seem to be too lazy to read (except those who regard The Wall Street Journal as today’s version of the bible) but look to the telly for their information. It’s not dissimilar to using the Internet and believing that Wikipedia has all of the correct answers to everything.  If you happen to be a visitor to Boston, before you turn on the television set, ask yourself, “Are my views considered by others to be liberal or conservative?” This will govern much of your planning as well as your viewing. If you are liberal you will probably watch Channels 4 or 5. You will also find the South End and Kenmore square to be your ‘cuppa.’  If you’re an arch conservative, Boston’s only Channel for you is 25 and you’re best off in historic Boston and the financial district. While I’m being somewhat facetious here, it’s not that much of a stretch.

If you are a first-timer in Boston, it will quickly become apparent to you that Bostonians – indeed New Englanders as a substantial group – are very much into sports. Boston goes into deep depression if at least one of its sports teams does not bring home a championship each year. It’s better if it’s one of the traditional baseball, basketball, or football teams wins, but this year’s champion Boston Bruins hockey team became the darlings of The Hub in no time at all when they brought Lord Stanley’s Cup home to the “City of Champions.” It’s extremely important that you learn how to pronounce the names of the teams if you are to act informed during your visit. For instance, the Bruins, when not being referred to as those @#$%&* as they had been for 39 years, are lovingly known as the “Broons.” No ‘u,’ no ‘I,’ just a double ‘o.’ The Sox are not something that you wear beneath your shoes, but instead denote the Boston Red Sox, the professional baseball team that suffered through a drought of 86 years before winning the World Series in 2004 and again in 2007. “Da Celts” are the Boston Celtics, our NBA basketball  team whose most recent championship occurred in 2008; since then it’s been, “close but no cigar.” The New England Revolution, the soccer team entrant into Major League Soccer, has yet to make a great impact on sports enthusiasts in this area, but it is “The Pats,” The New England Patriots football team that is the darling of many fans. Winners of the Super Bowl in in 2002, 2004, and 2005, the team is expected to either win or at least be a contestant in the Super Bowl…obviously, it’s a stupid expectation, but what the hell. Thus concludes your visit to Boston sports teams as well as which stations to watch.

See, you thought this entire piece would be about dear old Rupert. You’ve found that nothing could be further from the truth. Oops, I’m sorry; I’m describing what the media feeds us day in and day out. Whether it’s Rupert Murdoch or any other media baron/owner, let it be known that their goal is not necessarily to tell the truth. Their truth is that they want you to read their paper, listen to their station, watch their channel, and frankly, whatever it takes to get you to do that, they will do. Ratings and advertisers are their gods. The truth, as they see it, is secondary. Casting blame, exaggerating the importance of one bit of news over another, and even outright lying are all just part of their daily fare. Freedom of the Press means one thing to owners, another to editors, a third to journalists, and bullshit to the general reader. My personal hope is that the Murdoch scandal reaches far and deep, exposing the same kind of behavior in the majority of urban media everywhere.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »