Saturday, May 29, 2010

Did Lucy have a soul?

Hey Riickiiii... No, not that Lucy.
A long-time teacher and coach espoused in class (back in the day) that all you really need to believe is; God started it, somewhere along the line he put a soul in man and that some day he will end it. That's a rather simplistic view but it is a starting point. Over the years it has given me pause to think. Those types of points can be discussed in a Catholic school. That's one of the problems with public schools is a simple statement that challenges someone to think just gets parents in a uproar instead of classroom discussion (genus homo ignoramus). But that's a topic for another ramble.

I guess the first question is, at what point did God put in the soul? If you believe like I, that man evolved over time from the muck and at some point stood up and looked around with a sizable brain, he didn't start with a soul. The opposing view would be God dropped the metrosexual Adam into Eden with his iPhone and he stood up and said, hey, where's my latte? That would imply that the soul started from the beginning.

So where did the soul enter the picture? Did cro magnon man have it? What about our favorite neanderthal?, Or Peking man? What about homo erectus? Did Adam have a soul? Before the Original Sin, I would think he didn't need one. He was on a preordained path to be in heaven, to sit eternally with the Creator of the universe. But then a funny thing happened. Man sinned. At that point, there would now need to be a soul. It could forever be lost and thrown down asunder from God's eternal embrace.

So, what does that mean for homo sapiens? Stealing food as monkeys to survive isn't about right from wrong. Evolving humanoids would need to develop a system of right and wrong for the soul to be stained. At what point did the brain become the moral compass for our race? At what point did homo fill-in-the-blankus look to the heavens and say, hello God? I will not do wrong today.

I would tend to think at some point a spark in man's brain awakened and within a short period of time, a soul developed as mankind learned what it was to be above the other animals. He developed logic and reasoning which is a short step above right and wrong. That led to developing religions so our leaders could keep us on a more formal moral journey.

Just a few random thoughts on this Memorial Day weekend. Honor the fallen who have done battle for our freedoms such as this.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My first crush

My formative years happened to be in the sixties and seventies. My parents were not very old; actually about the age I am now. Television and Hollywood at least seemed different from what it is now. Perhaps it wasn't but to a young boy it seemed more glamorous and from a different age. That being said, I have never been one to follow careers of stars. I had some favorites as a lad often due to what my father watched on television.

However, one was my own. One was my first and lasting crush, really the first time a little boy ever fell in love. Many of today's stars are still glamorous and beautiful but there is one that will stand forever above all others still to this day for me. She recently appeared in a Foster Grant commercial and I was surprised as I hadn't heard anything about her for several years.

One million years BC or now; Raquel Welch is still my first crush and no starlet to this day can hold a candle to her.

Perhaps N of 50 could use THAT man gene.

"Sir, you'd better come with us."

"What? Who are you?"
"You know who we are."
", I'm afraid I don't, and I am not going anywhere with you."

The four muscular men in dark suits and aviator sunglasses looked at each other, sighed in unison, and shook their heads.

The man who had spoken to me paused a few seconds and replied, "We really would prefer not to discuss this in public, sir, as it could prove quite embarrassing to you."

I repeated my denial and began to edge past them. The leader gently but firmly placed his hand around my upper arm and said, "Mr. North of 50, we are with the Emergency Response Unit of The MAN Institute, and you really do need to come with us."

I stopped dead in my tracks. The MAN Institute! After years and years of whispered rumors and partially-overheard conversations, apparently it was true! I was not exactly certain just what The MAN Institute was, but I had a feeling it would not be good for me to refuse.

The four men (in my mind I dubbed them Agents 1-4) led me to a black SUV with requisite tinted windows, opened the sliding door and ushered me inside. I found myself sitting in a chair facing a computer screen with my picture on it.

"What is this all about?" I inquired nervously.

Agent 1 clicked the mouse and began to speak: "Mr. North of 50, you have been detained by the Emergency Response Unit of The MAN Institute because you are in possession of a faulty, possibly broken MAN gene."

A what?!?"

"Please, sir, just listen and watch the monitor."

"Wait, before you go any further, please...what exactly is The MAN Institute?"

At a nod from the other three, Agent 1 then proceeded to tell me.

"There are agents in place at every hospital, trusted men, mostly doctors, who have made it their mission to improve and ensure the survival of the male human species. Shortly after birth every male child is implanted with a secret monitoring chip that records and tracks everything he says and does, and transmits this information on a weekly basis to our array of powerful Cray Supercomputers. All information is analyzed and anomalies are marked and monitored."

"What do you mean, 'anomalies'?"

Seeming to ignore my question, he explained further: "For nearly the first 16 years of your life you were a perfect candidate for the ultimate classification, Unmonitored Adulthood, wherein you are deemed to be a Perfect Male, and eligible to join the ranks of those fully initiated into the TMI Brotherhood, and help us fulfill our mission. The first chink in your armor occurred in the spring of 1971. You volunteered to usher and hand out programs at your sophomore class musical 'Hello, Dolly'."


"This was not as egregious an offense as actually singing and dancing in the musical, fortunately, but you managed to compound your error by purchasing the soundtrack to the movie, and repeatedly playing it to the extent that you memorized the words to all the songs. These actions appeared to be an isolated case, one that could be passed off as a youthful indiscretion, until you began to listen to Barry Manilow songs a few years later. Our notes indicate that you have purchased three Barry Manilow cds, and have added both his songs and the "Hello, Dolly" soundtrack to your ipod."

"But it is good music that you can sing along to!"

"Moving along, we placed you on Special Monitoring Status for a period of time, and it seemed you were going to go to Halfway House Status, in which you would still be monitored, but on a less stringent basis. You did, by the way, receive full credit for marrying a very attractive woman and siring three children, one of them male, but the most recent developments brought you to the attention of the ERU."

"What is so bad about Barry Manilow? Anyway, I love country music, too, and you can't get more manly than that! Why don't I get credit for that!"

"Partial credit, sir. As I mentioned, it all came to a head last night and prompted this Intervention."

"Last night? What happened last night?"

"Sir, we know that you had previously added five ABBA songs to your ipod, but last night, while you were working on your computer, you spent an entire hour listening to videos of their songs, not just the ones you know, but also songs of theirs that you had not known about before, and marked them down to add to your collection. Further, you know the names of the group members as well, something you never knew before."


"Sir, the evidence is overwhelming and damning. Do you not see how ridiculous it is for you to sing along in English to a song by four Swedes about a failed Spanish revolutionary? And then to play that song again in Spanish? You even know the words to "Memory", for goodness sake!
It is obvious that one of your MAN genes is damaged and needs to be repaired before it is too late, and becomes impossible to fix. If left unchecked, you could slide way down the scale and become, I shudder to even think of it, a ...Metrosexual."

I hung my head in shame, and whispered, "I'll go quietly with you, Agent."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Freedom of opinion

Interesting reading in the local papers the other day. As is my want, a good cup of coffee and thirty or forty minutes just sets the pace for the day. Over the years I have gravitated to reading more of the letters to the editors and OP-ED sections as much of the news I may have heard previously on the telly or radio.

It is still wonderful knowing we have freedom of speech in this country. Unfortunately much of that speech is nonsensical and myopic. The 'letters to' had multiple scintillating opinions which at least when put to paper were laughable. One wrote in a very racist style in response to a column by Thomas Sowell. Mr. Sowell is an African-American who is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute. I have begun to read his columns when they appear as he seems to be a regular in the rotation. I believe he has strong opinions and he often gives me pause to think. He tends to be on the conservative side which you don't find often from the black community. By the tone of the letter I was surprised it was published. It borders on inflammatory which is something my local paper usually hesitates to print. Opinions are one thing but racist letters don't fall into that category for me. To give it back to the author, you're just a red-neck racist, one who feels more at home with Jim Crow.

On the same page was another 'letter to' that is always one of my favorites to poke fun at. This author quoted the Bible (as it is always taken out of context) concerning the uproar in Arizona; which he writes you should give shelter to the alien in your land and love the alien as you would yourself. (Not a direct quote). Those who taught the Bible always seem to have little insight into the way scripture needs to be applied in the real world. Just let 'em come on in, problem solved. It doesn't work that way. Let the LEGAL ones in and give them comfort as they try to make a better life for themselves and their family. I would propose letting the author house anyone from the mid-east who wants a free pass. Gosh, hope he doesn't turn out to be a radical terrorist.

There is a saying that goes; if you say something out loud and it sounds wrong it likely is. That same practicality goes for writing down your thoughts. If you read it and it sounds stupid...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In the wee small hours of the morning...

For you kiddies out there, that is the title of one of Frank Sinatra's signature songs, a classic anthem to loneliness and heartache.

But, that is not for the here and now, though.

Rather, our state legislature, as is their duty, has proposed rules to regulate the soon-to-be-here casinos in our fair state. Among the proposals are these:

- no free alcohol
- no smoking
- no alcohol served between 2:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.

I can understand the first two proposals; they are almost no-brainers.

The third one puzzles me, though. If I had a yen to gamble at that time of the morning, I think I would prefer to have a cocktail or two to help pass the time while I am throwing away my money. Perhaps the legislators believe only drunks imbibe at that hour.

They have also decreed that a payback rate of at least 85% on slot machines is mandated. So, for every $100 you put into a slot machine, you should get at least $85 back in "winnings".

Maybe I'll just drive over there and hand them $15 instead, and spend the other $85 elsewhere.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


...did Sainted Mother throw out my collection of baseball and football cards when I went off to college?

...are the "important" or "classic" works of literature that we are forced to read in school so stultifying?

...are there so many Hollywood sequels?

...are they so bad?

...are there so many frozen dinners made with mushrooms (scuzzies!) or broccoli?

...did Sainted Mother serve us liver?

...or sauerkraut?

...did Beloved Father say spaghetti was not a Sunday meal? only songs you do not like stick in your head in an endless loop?

...can I not remember what it was I went in the next room to do (or get?) I have more interest in reading about science than I ever did when I was getting graded on it?

...does anyone ever use Twitter?

...does it have such a stupid name?...did Facebook replace MySpace as "the place to be"?

...are they called "reality" shows?

...are local political commercials even worse than regular local commercials?

...can't the weather prognosticators get the forecast correct a week ahead of time?

...can these same people tell us, with absolute certainty, that global warming is threatening the planet, and will cause terrible things to happen to us, based upon the same forecast models that cannot get the weather correct seven days ahead of time?

...was it that 30 years ago these same people were warning of a New Ice Age?

...are states and cities passing new laws to outlaw texting while driving instead of enforcing the laws already on the books about distracted driving and reckless operation?

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Kansas City turnstile

Last night the Kansas City Royals fired their manager of two plus years and replaced him with an in-house person. So what else is new you say? They do that every few years. Unfortunately that is the problem.

Teams like KCity and Pittsburgh have fewer resources than the 'bigger' New York and Boston clubs but at some level that shouldn't stand in the way of building a winning organization. Look at Tampa and Florida. Both have put their clubs in contending positions over the years and the Marlins have won the series twice in their brief history. Yes, it doesn't happen every year but it does happen more than once every twenty.

There is an expression simply put, "If you want to change the result change what you do". Teams like KCity continue to dwell in the basement of baseball because they do the same thing over and over and over again. If you've changed the manager every two to three years for the last twenty, that's not the problem. Baseball execs have become so beholden to the players and their own egos they can't see the real problem of their teams. Managers don't field the ball, pitch the ball, step into the batters box or score runs. Team owners however seem to think they do. They must face the fact that they have given the managers lower quality players and expect competitive teams.

A manager can only make out a roster with the players you have given him. If those players can't field a routine ground ball, that's not his fault. He can't go to the bench across the diamond and ask for a loaner shortstop.

I understand many club owners see teams as a business but the business is also in place to win and compete on equal terms with others, yes, even the dreaded Yankees. If you can't or won't you shouldn't own a team. Sell it off and go sit in the bleachers.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The U.S. Arizona

No, that is not a typo.

The State of Arizona recently passed a law giving authority to law enforcement personnel to check the citizenship status of individuals whom they have detained if they believe they may be in the U.S. (and Arizona) illegally.

This has caused all sorts of furor. Imagine, a state actually telling the federal government, "Since you cannot or will not enforce your own laws regarding illegal aliens, we will, within our borders."

Sad that it has come to that. I believe if I was able to sneak into another country without a passport or other required documentation I would either be jailed or deported, or both, not given free, unquestioned reign to work and/or collect welfare and other benefits.

The 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is scheduled to be played in Arizona in 2011. There are already people talking about organizing a boycott of the game, and players refusing to play if it is held there. Others are talking about a boycott of spring training games held in Arizona.

If any player is thinking about boycotting the All-Star Game (should said player be selected for the game), then he should, by reason of his convictions, demand to be traded to a team that:

A. does not do spring training in Arizona, and
B. does not play a regular season game in Arizona

Otherwise, your protests are just empty words.

What would you do if you actually made it to the World Series and had to play against the Arizona Diamondbacks?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Calvin and Hobbes, where are you?

As a child, many of the books that helped me take an interest in reading just happened to be books from the 'funny pages'. We had many 'Peanuts' books as well as 'Doonsbury' and others littering the coffee table in the family room. The original installments of 'Bloom County' were hilarious and helped give me insights into social life and politics and satire to some extent. They were not only funny but well-drawn. Although I was never 'drawn' to single panel comics, none were better than 'The Far Side'.

Sometime after the decade of the eighties, something happened to the funny papers and it hasn't been good. I dabbled in creation of a strip; 'Angel's Haven'. I thought it was good as did others. Unfortunately it is difficult to break into the world of publishing whether you are writing books or comics. Other than just having an opinion, I therefore know what of I speak.

Today's comics, at least in the newspapers, are as a group not funny and poorly drawn. Many have simply outlived their usefulness and creativity. Berkeley Breathed's attempts after 'Bloom County' were nothing more than pushing a penguin and a dead cat for commercial gain. Neither attempt was insightful or entertaining. 'Peanuts' has not evolved since well before the death of Charles Schultz but this one may at least help usher other children forward into the world as it did my family. 'Funky Winkerbean' has evolved but has turned into a serial version of soap strips that seem more at home on the editorial pages about a group of teens who grew up and have nothing but dour experiences in their present day lives with fond remembrances of better times past.

The art in most have suffered as well. Gone are crisply drawn characters having been replaced with pencil smudges and stick figures. If it weren't for two or three strips that hold my interest, the funny papers would be funny no more and that part of my world would be ended. The funny pages need to return to the day of being funny and entertaining with less reliance on social commentary, although it's always been there to some extent.

Alas, I guess I'm living in my own past hoping for a return to better times that will never happen. If current material was a good as people think the comics wouldn't be 'reruns' of several offerings. If I can find a 'Calvin' book I'll read that to my grandson as he pulls a stuffed tiger around the room. He seems to have more imagination than the current group of 'artists'.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Innocent in spite of the evidence

A few weeks ago in Toledo, OH. a trial ended in a hung jury and a mistrial was declared. That in itself is not unusual, however the reasons (or lack thereof) they did not convict the defendant leaves me scratching my head.

The trial concerned a shootout in a bar. The video footage of the shootout was seen nationwide on the news. Patrons scattered as several men stood over a pool table firing into the street. A second camera captured video of others outside firing into the building. The defendants were not actually on trial for creating a panic or endangering others but for having a weapon in an establishment that serves liquor. Fortunately they were so inept at firing weapons that no one was even injured.

The jury was hung because they couldn't agree that, what, weapons were discharged? One lawyer claimed his client merely found a gun and shot to protect himself. If you look at the video you will see one person coming out of the back with a gun before the shooting even started. He then proceeded to stand fully erect and plug shots into the street. He should be put away for just being stupid and a bad shot.

Another who couldn't have claimed such a feat since he rolled over the pool table and just came up shooting. I'm not sure which person was on trial but it was clear just by the video someone should have been guilty of something. If it wasn't the jury's fault it should have been the prosecutors fault for not pressing the proper charges. It was like watching a shootout at the OK Corral.

Apparently you don't have to actually look at the evidence to vote on a jury, you just have to ignore it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Miami Ink, where have you gone?

Several years ago when the TLC show Miami Ink made its debut I was fascinated. The 'tattoo people' where always those that should be avoided. That was the wisdom growing up. Tattoo wearers were ruffians, bad people.

Miami Ink gave a face to a world most people have no idea about. And then, there was the artwork. Most tattoos I had encountered in my lifetime were crude and primitive, not much more than a wiggly line scratched in the sand. But the tattoos from Miami Ink were pure artwork and these were surrounded by stories from real people. What these men could do with ink and a needle would rival works from the masters of the art world. As the show grew in popularity it seemed becoming inked exploded in the everyday world.

Sadly, some of that lost its luster for me the other day, or at least a shake of the head in disgust. As I walked out of my local grocery store I followed behind a young man who wore shorts. From the bottom of his knee starting at a single point was a tattoo draping his calf. It was a series of lines that brought immediately to mind that someone had traced the veins in his leg and called it art. I could not fathom why anyone would want to wear that tattoo on their body.

I have often thought about getting my own tattoo and then when I see something as poor as 'vein art' I want to change my mind. Two beautiful pieces belong to other extended members of the family with one being Hawaiian flowers falling gracefully down a woman's arm with a second etched onto Montana Man across his upper back shoulder. My Beloved has one discreetly tucked away on her hip. My design is for my upper arm and involves elements dear to me from my family. It involves the intertwining of a parrot, a rosary, the Roman numeral V and a blue butterfly.

Someday I may get that tattoo and proudly display it (when appropriate). I guess I had better get back into the gym as an arm tattoo always looks better on muscled flesh and not a flabby '50' as my arms are quickly becoming.