Monday, December 31, 2007


The lines are blurred these days by false assumptions that we Americans have regarding the products we buy every day. Americans are lulled into believing that if they buy a product with an American sounding name from an American retailer that they are actually buying products that were made in the USA.

If you go to Harbor Freight and see all the products there with the product brand name of “Chicago” you automatically think of a steel mill and tool works company in the mid-west where men dressed in gray work clothes stand in line with their lunch boxes as they punch the clock as they enter the tool mill for their shift. This picture may be real, but they are punching the clock in China.

The trouble comes when you think you are buying an American car only to find out it was made in Mexico, yet you can buy many Japanese cars that are actually made in America. In reality those cars may be assembled here, but most of their parts are manufactured in foreign lands.

It seems to me that manufacturing needs to come back to America in order for our economy to get back in gear.

If you are not a big fan of NAFTA and are looking for products that are made in the United States check out this web site.

Remember, it is also a good idea to buy local food as well. Every little bit helps.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wooden Flutes

I try to be tolerant of all sorts of music, but there is one type of music that I simply can’t stand. It makes me want to stab my ears with ice picks. The music that does that to me is wooden flute music. I don't care if it is Asian, Native American; I just can’t stand it and all the phony spiritual claims the flutists make, like their instruments are sacred, or that the music they create is the breath and voices of the spirits. It even gets worse when a non native plays and makes the same claims. Wannabe rat bastards, all of them.

It's sad to say, but I'd rather listen to bag pipes and harmonicas than ever be subjected to a wooden flute music again. Which reminds me, I wonder how Auntie is doing with her accordion?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Isn't That Swell?

Some call me nostalgic, some think I’m lost in the past and some say I’m resistant to progress. Yeah, yeah, yeah… Maybe so, but I find I’m really missing a term that was in heavy use during the 50s. Remember all those old shows where when someone liked someone or something they said, “I think that’s just Swell.”

No, I don’t get how the word “Swell” became something desirable. I should consult my Flexner-Berg books on that one, but that is a term that I haven’t heard come from anyone’s mouth in forty years. Maybe it's because things haven't been so swell since the 50s.

Doesn’t it just make you want to watch an old episode of Lassie, Dennis the Menace, or Jimmy Olson on Superman just to hear it again?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Green Eyed Monster

Recently I was talking with a friend about contact lenses. I’ve worn contacts for the last 30 years so I was happy to offer my personal experiences with them. We talked about daily wear, extended wear, bifocal and colored lenses. She wondered about the colored lenses I once had which brought to mind a funny story.

Once I had two pairs of colored lenses. My eyes are naturally light blue, but I got a pair of ultra blue and a pair of green lenses. I would wear one color for a week and then I’d switch to the other the next week. Oddly, I always found myself in a foul mood when I wore the green lenses. It was noticeable. One week I was fine and the next week I was a monster.

I even experimented by switching colors every day, and the effect was the same; green days turned me into a monster.

The lenses did tint what you saw. If I had a blue lens in one eye and a green lens in the other, I would see the world a little bluer in one eye and greener in the other. This to me was proof that color can influence moods.

I have since gone to clear lenses. Maybe I should try rose colored lenses to improve my attitude.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Then and Now

Recent posts and comments got me thinking about who I am now as compared to who I was thirty years ago. If you’ve never met me but are a regular reader you are pretty well clued in on my general nature and demeanor. Isn’t that right (people who know me)?

However a few of you readers may remember me back 30 years ago. OK, I’ll fess up to the rest of you. Here are some things I used to do back then:

I wore yoga pants in public.
I wore yoga shirts, too.
I sometimes wore man clogs.
I kept a guitar in my car at all times.
I had a perm, twice.
I bought philosophy and poetry books.
I had a rainbow sticker on my car.
I hung out with friends.
I owned guns.
I only wrote with fountain pens.
I had nice coordinated clothing that I purchased from Macys.
I wore suspenders.
I wanted to work in Advertising.
I generally ate out three meals a day.
I would drive into New York City every Sunday.
I had a radio show.
I had a record collection of about 3000 albums.
I did a lot of flying.

I’ll let you know if I remember or am reminded of anything else, but as I look at this list there is nothing there that I currently do or care for. So time does change some things. I’m not ashamed of who I was back then, but I think of it as more of a stepping stone to who I am now. I’d be curious to read this post thirty years from now.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Where Would They Be Now?

When Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison died in the 70s their music took on a special meaning. Sales of their music suddenly did much better than it would have had they remained alive. Their musical careers were encased in that moment. To this day I can listen to one of their pieces and I am immediately delivered back to the 70s.

This makes me wonder what would have happened to them if they hadn’t died.

Hendrix was pretty versatile, and I could envision him going in and out of Jazz, retiring and reinventing himself after staying out of the lime light for ten or fifteen years.

Jim Morrison, I bet would be working Las Vegas and have an active film career.

Joplin would probably no longer have a voice for singing. She would more than likely have a seat on the View.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Where Do They Come From?

I was recently in a waiting room when I got the opportunity to overhear a conversation two other people were having. They were both Progressive types and one while reading a magazine said to the other, “Where do all these Conservative Republicans come from?”

It was perfect. I’ve been holding onto the photo above for months hoping that something would come up that would encourage me to use it. My apologies in advance to my Republican friends out there.

So to answer the question, ”Where do all these Conservative Republicans come from?”, consult the photo above.

Monday, December 24, 2007

It Takes the Cake

I’m sure we’ve all been to parties where there was a cake. It’s usually a home made unprofessional cake or one of the cakes you can get from a bakery for under $10. Oddly at these parties there always seems to be someone there to photograph the cake. I’m curious what happens to all these cake photos. Let’s face it, the cakes are generally pretty generic and ugly. An unskilled person behind a camera couldn’t possibly make them look any better. They can only take an ugly object that might actually taste good and turn it into a two dimensional blob/disk.

I can understand taking a photo of one of those artistically done cakes, like the one above, but not a Happy Birthday Schlomo cake. So, stop it grand-ma. No one is ever going to look at it again. It needs to eaten and forgotten. Sorry, but someone had to say it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I can't remember the last time I ever sent someone a Christmas card. Sure I leave out an envelope to grease the mail carrier and the person who delivers my news paper, but I never even consider Christmas cards. Even when I get one in the mail, I always wonder what it is and why people are sending me a late birthday card and then I realize that people still send out Christmas cards. So far this year I received three cards.

I recall what a big thing Christmas cards were to my mother. She actually hated them, but to her it was a competition. She would shell out big cash for the nicest, most expensive cards every year. She actually visited the stationary store in September and spent an afternoon looking over cards and then order her cards way in advance. She didn't want to depend on what was in stock in November.

She kept a book of addresses just for cards. She would mark off people who sent her one and they would get one in return, but if she didn’t get one from a regular sender, she would cross them off her list.

Every card she got was displayed in the house in the event one of the senders visited; they would see that their card was important enough to display. She did take great joy in crossing people off the list. Every couple of years she could reduce her card purchases by a box or two.

One day she just got fed up with it all and stopped buying and sending cards all together. She is now 87 and spends her winters in Hawaii. Every once in a while I’ll get a Christmas card from her with a Christmas in Hawaii theme. I never send her one, but she expects that. It was a habit I never adopted, nor will I. If I were to, I would send out rude anti Christmas cards, but why piss off even more people than I already piss off.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Summer Time Santa

I don’t know if y’all read the comments that many of the readers leave after my articles, but I found Mooseheads reply the other day quite amusing. He wrote: ” Walking down an aisle of a grocery store, a lady with toddler in the driver's seat of a grocery cart approached and the little kid pointed his snotty finger at me in wonder and said questioningly "Pere Noel?"

I’ve seen photos of Moosehead, and he kind of does look like Santa in the modern sense.

The Santa that was engrained in my head as a child was one that was extremely obese with a long flowing curly white beard. He had a bulbous red nose and red cheeks and he smoked a pipe.

Somehow the modern Santa promotional machine has turned Santa into the image of a rather fit senior citizen. Moosehead isn’t old enough to be a senior yet, but his prematurely white beard could easily fool a child in a grocery store.

When I was growing up there was a famous Santa in my town. He was a superstar every December. He really looked the part. He was fat, had a rosy complexion and he had a long curly real white beard. He smoked a pipe and looked children in the eye when ever he saw them.

After Christmas was over you could still see him in town, usually going into or out of Pelzer’s Tavern. I don’t think he worked during the other eleven months of the year.

Since I saw him more often during the year than in December, I titled him “The Summer Time Santa.” My mother even called him that.

I think of this and how many Santa character actors have employment challenges during the other eleven months of the year. Maybe someone can organize them. They could form a company that makes toys. Moosehead can open the Canadian franchise. Opportunity knocks for all those with white beards and the Santa demenor.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Adult Children

There are some people who when you see them you can see the child that was once in them. I’ve always said that people are exactly the same people they were as children, only bigger and more-so. Having lived the first thirty-three years of my life in the same town where I was born allowed me to see many of the children I grew up with become adults. The kids that were douches in kindergarten were the same as adults when I left. The kids who were thieves in their younger years were in some sort of prison or rehab when I left.

Now the cool thing is what happened to the kids who never distinguished themselves as being good, bad, or creative, or special in any way. It seems to me that they simply turned into their parents.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Maybe it’s just me but I feel silly applauding. Think about it, clapping ones hands together to make noise in appreciation of something. Sometimes I think the price of admission to an event is my appreciation, or better yet stuffing cash into a tip jar.

There is a point where you can tell an audience is just doing it because they are supposed to, and the lack of length of the applause denotes a lack-luster performance. I love it when they ask the audience to hold their applause until the end of a debate.

I find the applause disingenuous at the State of the Union address the President makes every year. It nearly goes by party line, and sometimes the President forces all to applaud by throwing out a statement where it would be treasonous not to applaud.

Have you ever attended theater for the deaf? They don’t clap since they are deaf. No one would hear it. Instead they raise their hands and flutter them like Al Jolson going across the stage in black face.

I think it would be cool if we all carried electronic devices where we could reward performers with some sort of joyful stimuli. I’m thinking of a thing like a walky-talky that is combined with a taser that broadcasts energy that feels good. You point it at the performers, pull the trigger and waves of good feeling hit them.

When I go to a show I don’t want to become part of the show. I don’t want to have to sing along. I don’t want to dance. I don’t want to be called up on the stage. I want to sit like a lump and be entertained. If I like what I see and hear, I will hit the pleasure button rather than clapping like a seal.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Last week, I wrote about a Subaru Wagon I once purchased. I heard from several people that wrote who pledged their allegiance to Subaru.

All that Subaru talk took me back to 1978. I remember my father being disappointed that I was looking at buying a Japanese car. I tried explaining to him that every American car I ever bought was a piece of junk. I always bought new cars, never used. My first car was a 72 Grand Torino Sport which was pretty much shot at 43,000 miles. From there I bought a 75 Mustang II and I had so many problems with it that I had to dump it before the warrantee ran out. That one only lasted 10,000 miles. Then I got a 76 Jeep and replaced the transmission twice within 30,000 miles. American cars were not made to last back then. It was a national disgrace, really.

The cool thing about Subaru at the time was that even if you ordered every available option, your car would cost no more than $4,000. Another cool thing was that every part on every Subaru at the time was exchangeable with every other model of Subaru. If you dented the door on your wagon, you could replace it with a door from a BRAT.

One odd thing is that Subaru is made by Fuji Heavy Industries, which is the same company that made the planes that bombed Pearl Harbor and that was part of their promotion. I guess they wanted to high light that they've been around for a while, but that fact probably hurt them. I never heard much talk about Fuji Heavy after 1978.

Anyway, I was fed up after buying three American vehicles that were built not to last, so I plunked down $3500 on a new Subaru BRAT. In 1978 pickup trucks could not be imported into the US. To get around this restriction Subaru put seats in the back and called it a “recreation vehicle.” BRAT is an acronym for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter.

I drove that little truck 80,000 miles and it was still on the road many miles after I sold it for a new Subaru wagon in 1986. Since then I purchased another Subaru wagon and finally a Subaru Forester in 98 which we still have. My American made truck goes in the shop probably five times as often as the Forester.

I’m really getting cranky these days about shopping locally and buying domestic goods. I know I’ll have to replace both the truck and the Subaru one day. I just hope American quality is up to snuff by then.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Have a Rubber Christmas!

OK, here’s a Christmas story for you, in a warped sort off a way.

When I was about ten years old I was eager, as many children are, to make some money. I was too young to legally work outside of an immediate family business, but fortunately my father had a friend who had no regard for laws of such. His friend, Rocky had occasional seasonal businesses, one of which was selling Christmas trees in the corner of a shopping center lot, and here is where I found myself gainfully employed for a couple weeks one December.

It was pretty easy to pick up. The trees on one rack were $10, the next rack had $15 trees and so on up to about $30. My job was to pull out a tree that the customers wanted to see, Give it a bounce on the ground so the branches would open and to show that the needles weren’t falling out. Then I collected the cash, made change when necessary, and then tied the trees to the customer’s cars. Some customers would grease me with a fifty cents or dollar for doing a good job tying down their trees.

It was winter in New Jersey, which is usually cold. I had a hat and coat and gloves. Rocky had a warming shed at the end of the lot with a kerosene heater inside. When inside I’d throw my gloves near the stove to dry and get warm for the next time I had to go out to sell a tree. Once, my gloves were really wet and I had to use a pair of rubber gloves for a while. When my gloves did dry I placed the rubber gloves by the heater. I went out and sold some trees and when I returned to the shack the gloves had melted and the warming shack smelled of burnt rubber. It was pretty hard to take. Some of the rubber got stuck on the heater so it had to be turned off and removed to cool. The shack door had to be kept open for hours to vent the stink. Everyone was cold that night and it was my fault.

To this day I still think of Christmas any time I smell burning rubber. So much so that a few years back I was visiting a friend’s office. Their office oddly offered their customers free condoms. They had a Christmas tree next to a table that held a basket of condoms in different colored wrappers. I took some Scotch tape and adorned the tree with wrapped condom ornaments.

Rubbers and burning rubber; it all says “Christmas” to me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

It's Nearly Over

Yes, I'm using the picture that Port-O-San made for me last year. Wonder how he's doing these days.

I know many of you must be anticipating, with great fervor and hopeful joy, my normal vitriol Christmas diatribe. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I think I shot my wad last year. Sure I could go on about my displeasure of being held captive by this season, but I won’t even though as I write this I am in an airport being bombarded by all sorts of Christmas music interspersed with TSA announcements about presently being in threat level orange and what will happen to your unattended baggage if you are foolish enough to momentarily step away from it.

As I write I’m becoming more annoyed and reconsidering my positive attitude this year; Elvis is now on the sound system. Perhaps if I had head phones in my computer bag I could tune into something I don’t mind being put into my head. Some day I will learn.

I am not a great one for tuning things out; I’m too nosy. I have a hard time reading or writing if someone is talking or if a radio or TV are turned on near by. I have a hard time reading and writing if there are a lot people are around of if something is moving near by. Maybe I should get blinders, and download some white noise into itunes and wear noise canceling head phones.

Damn, I’m high maintenance…

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Counting Ninas

We all have rituals. Some are rituals that we have been perpetuated for generations. Parents are doing things with their children that their grand parents did with their children. It becomes a tradition. I know my wife’s kids love it if I make baked ziti or a home made pizza when they are visiting.

I remember one of my favorite rituals on Sunday mornings when I lived on the East Coast. I would wake up at about 5:30am and head out to a bagel shop and get fresh hot bagels and the Sunday Times. I would get home in time to tune into WNEW-FM where they played lectures of Alan Watts every Sunday while I brewed coffee.

When the Watts lecture was finished, Vin Skelsa would come on the air by playing Dave Van Ronk’s Saturday Alley to Sunday Street. Vin had an entertaining show with unique music and stories and the ever present Bayone Butch Book Report.

The Sunday Times was digested section by section, but there one part of the Times that was more fun the rest. Yes, the travel section, magazine section and the Book Review were all things to look forward to me the best part of the Sunday Times was the section that housed all the entertainment, but more importantly was the Al Hirschfeld illustration.

Hirschfeld was the artist who did drawings of notable figures of the 20th century, be they actors, musicians, authors or other notables. The fun thing about Hirschfeld’s drawings was that he placed his daughters’ name in every drawing. Her name is Nina and next to Hirschfeld’s signature there was always a number that denoted how many times her name had been drawn into the picture. Sometimes it was easy to find them all, but there were other times where one had to look over the picture for a while to find them all. They weren't high lighted in red like the ones above.

I look back fondly on those leisurely Sundays mornings. They were luxurious. My Sundays are now boring in comparison. I don’t get a Sunday paper. I get up early and take care of the animals. I check my email and post the blog. I tune in CBS Sunday Morning to see what stories they are going to cover. It is also the one day a week I allow myself to eat two eggs. By 7:30am my ritual is over, and I feel unfulfilled.

Thinking back, there was a feeling of accomplishment after finding all the Ninas.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Another Kind Friend

I have a friend who is a funeral director. I’ve always been fascinated by the whole funeral industry and my interest was peeked when the show Six Feet Under was being run on HBO. I taped the show for her until she had HBO installed at her home.

She attended the Funeral Directors convention in Las Vegas this year and brought back a coffin key chain and a chocolate coffin for me.

I’m wondering if she is trying to recruit me because she just sent me the December edition of one of their trade magazines, American Funeral Director. It surely is a different read. There are a lot of ads for customized Cadillacs and all sorts of morgue equipment in there. It’s a whole industry that most people never consider.

Oddly, the articles are fascinating as well. I won’t go into details, but lets just say they are fascinating.

If you have a sense of humor about death you should check out this website

Friday, December 14, 2007

Colateral Damage

Having seen some storm damage where trees had fallen on people’s cars and trucks reminds me of a heart sick feeling I once had as I was driving a new Subaru home that I just drove off the lot a half hour earlier.

When the roads got icy back in New Jersey the sanding trucks would come out. Here in Oregon the put gravel on the roads. Why they use gravel instead of sand here is beyond me, unless the folks who repair window chips have a strong lobby and fund the use of gravel in this state.

Anyway, the sand trucks would get loaded at the town shops and they would drive under a low rail road trestle that would level the top of the load of sand on the truck, hence depositing a good payload of sand on the road below the trestle and much of it getting stuck on the girders of the bridge above.

I was driving home on such a night when they were sanding. As I drove under the trestle a train was rolling over the tracks above. The train shook down a storm of sand that was scrapped from the sand trucks. There was no avoiding it. I watch in horror as sand covered my hood, windshield and sun roof. I pulled over when I reached the other side. My car had the equivalent of four wheel barrows of sand on it. I cleared the window so I could drive home and carefully remove the rest.

My new car didn’t even get a scratch from it. Had it been gravel the paint would have been ruined. Though everything was fine I still carried the panic and trauma with me as long as I owned that car.

Oregon was real, hard on that car after I moved here. I had a branch fall on it, a deer ran into the side of it once, and I had extensive windshield rock chip damage before I traded it in for a new car several years ago.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Friendliness and Sincerity

My father told me of a charming business man he often dealt with. He said, “When this guy is shaking your hand you know he is about to screw you, and you like it.”

It is interesting how well we can discern sincerity and motive when we deal with others, though this article is being written to highlight something completely different.

There is a person I come into contact with on a regular basis. When I am in the area I will pop in her office to say hi. We are not friends who hang out together. I have never been to her house and she has never been to mine. I don’t know her personal or cell phone number, and we have never touched or hugged. We have no history other than our occasional conversations in her office.

Once I saw her walking down the street while a creepy looking guy looked like he was following her. I drove back around the block and offered a ride to her destination; she accepted having felt uncomfortable about the perceived potential pursuit, herself.

I bring this friendship up because of her warmth. Every time I see her she seems to sincerely welcome me as though she is genuinely happy I popped in to say hi. It shows in her smile and in her eyes and the cocking of her head to one side. She has real basic body language indicators that tell me she is sincere in her welcome. I've seen her welcome others in the less than sincere manner, but for me it isn’t a fake reception that most people give and get. To me it seems like a heart felt welcome. It feels good to be welcomed rather than accommodated.

I hope everyone has a place where people welcome them warmly without premeditation or condition as I am welcomed when I pop in to say hi. More so, I hope that people can recognize the difference between sincerity and accommodation. She makes me feel sincerely appreciated and I sincerely appreciate her. It's nice being liked.

The Night Nick Took It "Out"

It's not what you think...

Back in my 20s I was single and flush with cash. I would go out for dinner every night at small restaurant in Piermount, New York, called The Turning Point. If you saw the Woody Allen film The Purple Rose of Cairo, it was featured as a Salvation Army shelter that had a sign on the porch that said, “And He Shall Be Your Turning Point.”

The Turning Point had live Classical music at dinner time, and then live Jazz until the wee hours. Sometimes folks like David Bromberg and Christine Lavin would play there on weekends.

At that time I was going to college with a guy named Nick who had a solo act. He would play some week nights when business was a little slower. Nick looked very much like Walter Becker from Steely Dan looked at the time with long straight hair and round glasses. Nick played a lot of Steely Dan and other types of soft Jazz on his Gibson ES-335 guitar.

One Wednesday evening he was playing his usual stuff, and I don’t know if people were just used to him or not paying attention, but he wasn’t getting a lot of applause even though his music was technically clean and very well presented. I could see frustration growing on his face.

After one song that got no response, he looked around the room then unplugged his guitar for a moment and re-plugged it into a box with switches and placed it on the floor. Nick then started a very mellow version of Jumping Jack Flash, but somewhere in the middle of the song where he would normally throw in some well placed Jazz licks he started stepping on the switches at his feet. Suddenly sounds were coming out of his amplifier that I had never heard before. They were good and wonderful sounds.

In Jazz terms, Nick took it “Out.” Nick abandoned all sounds that were reasonable at that time for casual listening. He wasn’t doing Hendrix-ish feedback, but rather echo-ish repeating loops that were highly phased and synthesized in a somewhat minimalist fashion.

This odd session went on for close to 45 minutes. When he was finished the room of about fifteen of us exploded with applause and standing ovations. It was the most incredible thing any of us had ever heard. Many who were there were also musicians and they were as stunned as the rest of us.

That performance earned Nick well over $200 in his tip jar that night. Even though I’ve gained an additional 30 years of music listening since then, I have yet to consider any live performance quite as magical as the night Nick took it “Out.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chance of Disaster

I just returned from speaking at an agricultural conference in Idaho this weekend. Though I do several speaking engagements like this every year, before each one I am consumed with fear that something is going to go terribly wrong. This conference and trip was no exception. I don't fear speaking in public, but I do fear technical or logistic problems.

First there was the storm. I feared I would have to cancel the trip if the roads out of the county would be closed or that damage to my house prevented me from going. Once all was clear I was able to worry if I remembered everything I needed to bring.

I was hurried at the airport and I forgot to remove my laptop from the bag and it went through the scanner. The TSA agents discovered it after they began the scan and removed it from my bag and bawled me out for not knowing to remove the laptop. Then they scanned it again. I don't know if they reduce the power when they scan laptops. This is all new to me.

In a panic on the other side I booted up the computer and sure enough the computer had some sort of problem from the scan. It performed a scandisk and automatically checked for errors. I thought it was ruined, but then I remembered I had my presentation on a memory stick, but then I realized that the memory stick was in my pocket when I was scanned so that was probably ruined as well.

Finally my computer booted up and all my programs worked and my data was all there. All my data was still on my memory stick as well.

As it turned out everything after that went smoothly. My presentations came together and worked well. The only problem was that someone who promised to bring some items for a technical demonstration never showed up. My presentations were well received and I’ve been invited to speak again at the conference next year in Idaho.

With this engagement out of the way I can can count down the days to my next engagement in March. I can start worrying about the next speaking engagement.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Changing Your Mind

I’m sure we have all seen a school yard fight where you could immediately see that one of the fighters knew exactly what they were doing and the other had no idea yet that may not have deterred them from becoming involved. I’m not talking about a bully and their victim, I’m talking about people who love to scrap.

America is a scrappy nation. We have to be considering all the wars we get involved in, and all those prize fighters we’ve glorified over the years. Most movies have some sort of fight scene in them. Whether you grew watching Max Schmeling, or watching Popeye eating spinach and whopping ass, or watching Itchy and Scratchy harming one another on the Simpsons you have grown up with fighting as a core value and touch stone to life in America.

Frankly I’m surprised that dueling, bull, dog and cock fighting is illegal here. It seems all so third worldly, yet Americans dump a bunch of money on Pay Per View and watch people brutally fighting inside a cage.

More genteel people save their fighting for politics or for intellectual banter in the opinion pages and Internet forums. Though this may be a different level of fighting it is still fighting but with a cooler edge.

In a fist fight you throw blows. It’s an instantaneous thing. Sometimes David wins and sometimes Goliath wins. Sometimes they both lose. However with writing you have time to form a response. It is said that there is still a teletype in the White House that is hooked up directly to Russia. There was never a red phone because talk is instant. A teletype allows the other side to ponder a reply and hold a response until one is truly ready.

Yes, I do get involved in Internet brawls from time to time. They are fun as long as you don’t lose your cool. Most of the time one of the fighters just stops replying, but every once in a while someone will actually say, “You know, you’re right, you’ve convinced me.” It may be entertaining to see two people flaming one another, but I am really drawn to a fight where two people are using reason and using it very well, and one is able to convince the other that their way of reasoning may be superior.

It is OK to have one’s mind changed. I think back on all the times I’ve changed my mind over the years. Most often it actually feels good and somewhat cathartic to see things with new eyes. I don’t get upset when people say to me, “But you used to be 100% of the other opinion.” Things change and they change all the time. Think of the millions of people who have changed their minds about George Bush’s approval rating over the last four years. It amazes me that people are able to change their minds.

I had a friend who was a Psychology professor at Temple University. He had his students write a paper about something they felt very strongly in favor of. Their next paper was to argue against their first paper. Oddly, after the second paper most students accepted and embraced their counter arguments more strongly than their previous opinions.

It seems that only when we learn to stop fighting with ourselves can we learn to stop fighting with others. Acceptance and an open mind is the key. However, though I understand this concept, I will admit that I still enjoy an occasional scrap.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


The moon was really special to me when I was young. It was a wondrous orb that really got my attention. I recall hearing the song, “Fly Me to the Moon” and years later, “Moon River.”

I remember at the age of four I was sitting outside on the porch swing with my father on a muggy New Jersey summer evening. A full Moon was rising in the East, the direction our porch faced. I remember the sound of crickets.

We discussed the moon and he told me that one day we would be able to go to the moon. I assumed he was meaning that he and I would go there one day, but I guess he had been talking about humankind going there.

Somehow that night and that conversation instilled an idea in me that there were crickets on the moon. After all one normally only notices the Moon at night, and that’s when you hear crickets, so it stood to reason to me that there should be crickets on the moon. That idea didn’t stay with me long because when I saw the Moon in October, no crickets could be heard.

Have you even noticed that no matter how cloudy and rainy it is you will always see the full Moon every month? You will generally see the first crescent moon as well, and those nights will be the coldest of the month.

It is dark when I go out to care for the animals in the morning. Sometimes I visit with the horses in the dark before I turn on the lights to collect their manure and feed them. Two weeks ago the moon was full and I visited my black gelding. As I combed my fingers through his mane I saw the reflection of the full moon in his calm right eye. It was a beautiful moment broken by the mare in the next stall that was becoming vocal because her breakfast wasn’t coming to her as quickly as she wanted.

I turned on the lights and commenced with my morning ritual. When I was finished I could hear the mare munching away, but my gelding was still there looking out. I turned the lights off and joined him for a few more minutes.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Men in Hats

I was never much of a hat person while I was growing up. I had a full thick head of hair where I could walk for twenty minutes in the rain before the first drops would make their way down to my scalp. My hair started to thin about fifteen years ago. Now I’m at the point where I can feel the mist in the air on my scalp even before I can see it.

I remember seeing the commuters standing at the train station every morning when I walked to school. All the men wore hats and oddly that tradition went by the wayside in the mid 70s. It seemed everyone had a hat. Even my father had a floppy pork pie hat that made him look like J.R. Oppenheimer.

After moving here I took to wearing a baseball type of a cap when I’m out doing chores around the yard to either keep the rain or sun off my head, or to keep sweat from getting into my eyes.

About six years ago I realized it was time I had a more formal hat. I was at a department store and I came upon a display of hats made by Country Gentleman. It is easy to buy a hat that wears you, and I wouldn’t settle for one that did that. I found a kaki version of the hat pictured above. It looked good on me. So I bought it and adopted its use.

Oddly at that same time there seemed to be a resurgence of hats among those I associated with. I would go to a conference and we were all wearing hats. I liked my hat so much that I purchased another just like it, just so I’d have another when I wore my original hat out.

Oddly, I haven’t worn that hat very often in the last couple of years. I keep it in the back seat of my truck in the event I get stuck in the rain, but even then I normally just rough it and take the drops. My peers have stopped wearing their hats as well. I kind of miss it.

I was meeting another Blogger for a drink the other night. Yes, I had a drink, Campari on ice. It was raining pretty hard when I arrived, so I brushed off my hat and put it on and dashed for the door of the bar. It felt good being reunited with my hat again. I think I'll have it ride on the front passenger seat for the winter rainy season. I'll be more apt to wear it that way. When I put stuff on the back seat I call it the collection in my sub conscience. I put stuff there I wish to forget.

Friday, December 07, 2007

R.I.P. Birks

It has been claimed that I only wear Birkenstocks or Wellingtons, which is kind of true. My sandals were never actually Birkenstocks. They were Dexters which I got at Costco about five years ago. They were perfect because they were comfortable but they came on and off easily, like clogs.

The Dexters were going down fast so about three months ago I got a new pair of sandals but after a week I discovered there was something really wrong with them. They were causing cramps in my legs, so I abandoned them and further used the Dexters. I’ve been noticing chunks of the bottom coming off. People think I’m crazy but I really want to have them resurfaced. Yes, I have search for new Dexters on line, but the style I like is no longer being offered.

I figured that maybe I should try something new and maybe I could learn to love them as much as my former Dexters. I went a local family owned shoe store in town and I tried on their Birks, but they were as hard as stone, so I tried on a pair of Keens and they actually felt pretty good. I bit the bullet and invested $95. They do feel good but they have more surface which I don’t like and they also have a heal strap which I don’t like. The jury is out, but I’ll keep you posted.

I still have the Dexters, and I am going to seek professional help with them.

This brings me to another gripe I have with modern society. Back when I was growing up every town had a shoe repair shop. Shoes have become a consumable landfill item. What the heck is that about?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

It Not Only Blew, But It Sucked As Well

Our power just came back on about an hour ago. It's been off since Noon Sunday. We lost about 30 trees on the lower property, I haven't been able to get to the hill to see what happened up there. There was a tree across our roof that I was able to remove without damaging the house. All the gutters on the windward side were ripped off the house. Large branches from the cedars made it impossible to get to the horse trailer. Our hay storage and tack room exploded and the roof was ripped off one of the horse stalls. We lost many windows from the greenhouse and there are no longer any trees in the back.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Knife

The only time I had a knife while I was growing up was when I went fishing. It was always in my tackle box and necessary for gutting fish, but other than that I had no interest in carrying a knife with me.

When I was 13 I worked on a farm. The farmer was one of my father’s friends. When the farmer died, his wife gave my father all of the farmer’s fishing equipment. In the inventory of equipment was a pocket knife. It was a non-descript knife with no intelligible markings that would hint of its origins. When my father died the fishing equipment went to my brother and to a nephew, but somehow I ended up with the knife.

This knife sat in my desk drawer for fifteen years or so. One day I came across it and realized how handy a knife could be. I was always looking for something to cut one thing or another, and it finally dawned on me that a pocket knife would be well worth the weight it would add to my pocket.

This is an old knife. It has a steel blade, not a stainless steel blade. Stainless steel blades can’t hold an edge. Sharpen them all you want and five minutes later they are no longer sharp, even if you didn’t use them. The steel blade on my knife sharpens well with a stone and will hold its edge through months of use. Yes, I am too lazy to photograph the knife so I found one almost like it on ebay.

It amazes me how often I am asked if I have a knife. I have to think about it and I’m always delighted to realize that I do have one that is sharp and ready to use. I will let people use it, but never out of my sight.

This knife has had three owners (that I know of) and it is becoming so much a part of me that I may have to carefully consider who will be getting it next.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Rose is a Rose

I find it interesting that movie studios found it necessary to change the names of their stars to mask their heritage. It was done mostly to Jews and Italians in an effort to make their stars more white bread Americans.

Some like John Wayne (Marion Michael Morrison) and Rock Hudson (Roy Scherer Jr.) got their names changed to add machismo value to their star power. Folks named Marion and Roy usually were associated with folks that sold insurance and lived in the suburbs.

More interesting to me are the people who changed their names in mid career like Cassius Clay who became Muhammad Ali after his conversion to Islam.

Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) changed his name to “Artist Formerly known as Prince” which was written as an unpronounceable symbol made of the male and female symbols put together and some other stuff. It was also called the Love Symbol. This was done because of a contract dispute with Warner Brothers. He reclaimed his name Prince when the contract expired in 2000.

Remember Rosanne Barr who became Rosanne Arnold and then became Rosanne? Mid- Career name changes are great for garnering attention, but seem to cause confusion and resentment by those who enjoy their careers.

For your entertainment, here is a list of just a few folks who had their names changed for career advancement. I'm not even going to get into P. Ditty...

Alan Alda - Alphonso D'Abruzzo
Woody Allen - Allen Konigsberg
Jennifer Aniston - Jennifer Anastassakis
Laura Antonelli - Laura Antonaz
Eve Arden - Eunice Quedens
Beatrice Arthur - Bernice Frankel
Jean Arthur - Gladys Greene
Fred Astaire - Frederick Austerlitz
Tony Bennett - Anthony Dominick Benedetto
Joey Bishop - Joseph Gottlieb
Charles Bronson - Charles Buchinski
Mel Brooks - Mel Kaminsky
Tony Curtis - Bernard Schwartz
Rodney Dangerfield - Jacob Cohen
Bobby Darin - Walden Robert Cassotto
Eydie Gorme - Edith Gormezano
Burl Ives - Burle Icle Ivanhoe
Larry King - Larry Zeigler
Michael Landon - Eugene Orowitz
Steve Lawrence - Sidney Leibowitz
Jerry Lewis - Joseph Levitch
Dean Martin - Dino Crocetti
Walter Matthau - Walter Matuschanskayasky
Tony Randall - Leonard Rosenberg
Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman) - Paul Reubenfeld
Joan Rivers - Joan Sandra Molinsky
Edward G. Robinson - Emmanuel Goldenberg
Winona Ryder - Winona Horowitz
Gene Wilder - Jerome Silberman