Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What price glory?

Today we learned of the death of an American film icon, Elizabeth Taylor, at age 79, from congestive heart failure.

Her life was the stuff of legend, or at least the stuff of tabloids. She was married 8 times, divorced at 18, a widow at 26, and suffered from substance abuse, weight spiraling up and down, and numerous other problems.

I do not believe I have seen anything other than clips of her work, so I cannot attest to her greatness, or lack thereof, when it comes to her film work.

Most of what I have heard about her over the years involved two things: her violet eyes and her troubled life. It would be unfair to classify her as The Charlie Sheen Of Her Time, but she was always good for an unflattering tabloid story and picture. She once commented that tabloids did stories on her because they could not get enough dirt on other celebrities.

My daughter said all the channels interrupted their regular programming to announce her passing, and many of them carried on with that story for an extended period of time.

I would hope that I would have been equipped to deal with all the vagaries of fame had I been famous, but since we are all human, that may not have been the case. There are numerous tales about people whose work I enjoyed or who were favorites of mine from sport who did something seemingly out of character, and my opinion of them was lessened, at least for a time.

Upon hearing about the passing of Elizabeth Taylor, the first thing that popped into my mind was the first ribald joke I heard. It was from Sainted Mother, of all people (that's what I thought at the time!), to wit: What has more fingerprints than the FBI? Answer: Elizabeth' Taylor's behind.

Indeed, what price glory?

I mentioned to Wonderful Daughter that when I was about 10, I could not believe anyone did NOT want to become famous. Now, I believe I will be happy just being famous for being her Dad, and the world's first E-pah.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The N word

This topic came about from a Sixty Minutes broadcast which I unfortunately was unable to watch due to rambunctious Ragin' Cage and his brother running around the house. I was interested in this subject matter but, oh well. I had to think this through on my own. Here goes.

In this politically correct world there seems to be no more divisive word than 'nigger'. Being Caucasian and over fifty, I wondered who really should react negatively to this word. Obviously it has no impact directly on myself as I have not faced the racial discrimination others have. I do however have some insight as it was a term regularly used in my youth. It seems to be a generational word to some extent. It was used in my parent's generation, fading some as they got older and it was likely considered a normal term in their parents generation. Remember, I am speaking about their generation, not necessarily about them personally.

Elderly Blacks grew up in a time of segregation and discrimination. It was they who bore the weight of the term through the actions of others. It has always been considered derogatory from both Whites and Blacks. I think the changes in how Blacks have been referred to as a race also has something to do with it. The N word changed to Negroes to coloreds, then to Blacks and now the current norm is African-American. This change seems to have developed over a period of about sixty years.

Now, who is offended versus who should be offended. And when I mean offended, I mean really offended and not just putting on a show. Obviously elder Blacks were the direct result of discrimination and should and do feel the most pain. Their children who as well felt direct ramifications of their parents suffering should as well legitimately be offended. However, as generations have progressed the direct results have faded. Today's Black youth use the term casually and often refer to each other in that manner. So how is it that person can claim offense? I don't believe they should. If the term is so offensive to you or your heritage it should not be tolerated or celebrated casually by yourself or those you associate with, family or friends, your music or your culture. If you do, it's just for show.

I think the outrage over the book by Mark Twain is worthy of discussion but the work is a reference to what this country was at the time. Right or wrong it is the history of us as a people, Black and White. The word was used then and Tom Sawyer is as much a historical record as it is a work of fiction. It was the times. Changing it is just revisionist history. Read it for what it was and learn to be better than we were.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Would you like to swing on a star?

...Carry moonbeams home in a jar...?

(note to MegaByte) those are the opening two lines to an old-time song that your mother likely still knows. Ask her.)

That popped into my head this evening as I played with our Wonderful Grandchildren. We were in the neighbor's yard, the Grandchildren were playing on the swingset, and I was taking turns pushing them on the swing. WGGS#1 wanted me to push him higher and faster so that he could touch the sky, and WGGD#1 wanted the same, so she could jump over the house! Ahh...the stress-free life of a 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 -year old! (And #3 is on the way!)

The excitement and sheer joy they had on the swings took me back to my Oakwood days, where doing nothing but swinging on a swing for long stretches was something I loved to do. I frequently stayed on the swing until I had counted to 999, and then on the 1,000th time swinging forward I would push that much harder, to get as high as I possibly could, before jumping off and trying to land without tumbling into the dirt. As often as not I then got back on the swing and repeated the entire procedure.

I think I will look around for a park that has a swing sturdy enough to hold me...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tis the season

Well, it's that time again. Yep, it's Lent. I know, I know it's not the season you thought I meant. It's time for my Lenten sacrifice. This year I thought I would try something different.

Usually Lenten sacrifice is about denial. I won't smoke; I won't drink; I'll give up...fill in the blank. That is such a negative but that's how I was raised. Often being Catholic is about abstinence. I guess the theory is the harder we make it on ourselves the more repentant we shall be. I suppose the theory is good, but I wanted a more positive approach this year.

Now, I'm not exactly a 'getting to Mass' kinda guy. In fact it has been many years since that has happened. I can blame it on work or other such things but I have just generally fallen away from that part of my faith. It's not that I don't try to live by the tenets of my religion, I try to be the best I can every day.

No, this year due to my failings of living the ecumenical life, I have decided to listen to my local Catholic radio station every day on my drive either to work or home. My travels are at least thirty minutes each way so it's not like I'm ducking out. I have actually found myself wanting to listen more often. Now, I'm not one to listen to preachers. If you start quoting Bible passages that's the quickest way for me to flip the switch back to sports radio. So far however, most of the programing I have heard discusses some Catholic traditions, theory and practices. Much of this I have heard at some point in my life but I have developed a renewed interest in names and places. So far, no Bible pounding, thankfully.

For now we'll see how it goes. So far so good. Hey, at least I didn't give up candy again.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A delicate procedure

I have always liked the feel of a good book. It just sinks into your hands. You can feel the worn leather of a proper book, a musty scent as it sits on the shelf. Books are timeless, yet often they wear out. Some can be repaired at a great deal of expense.

Today, I watched a gentleman copy pages out of an old book. At first I couldn't read the title but you could tell the volume was old. It was large and properly bound; the cover tattered leather. The spine seemed like it was just barely holding on. It was a large book taking up the full glass of a commercial copy machine. I watched him put it in and take it out several times. He was extremely careful as it looked as though it could disintegrate at any time.

I finally asked how old it was. He replied he wasn't sure as it belonged to someone else. He was gingerly copying page after page. I was then able to get a look at the title as he pulled it out again. 'Holy Bible'.

Now, people do some strange things. I'm sure there may have been a perfectly good reason for copying pages from this book. It is after all the most read book in the history of mankind. I guess, that's really my point. This book should be preserved if possible just for the type of book it was. It nearly seemed ancient. But to copy pages from it's delicate skin? I don't understand.

I know it's Lent and all, but what, couldn't find another Bible? I'll give you a hint; I don't think the story changes.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kings of the world

We often see ourselves as virtually omnipotent. Man is the king of the universe. We rise and fall by our own actions, our success or failure is fully in our hands. Our world is formed by our intelligence and our work and work habits. We are, all powerful. At least that is what we like to believe.

It is unfortunate that it takes a disaster on the scale of what has happened in Sendai, Japan to humble us as a species. We often believe it is us who shapes our world, and while man has a tremendous amount of influence and have pushed the planet about, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, it is evident we have little power over our Mother Earth. The events in Japan though tragic have shown us the pure power and awesome force of nature. The footage coming out of the east is powerful imagery.

What we generally see are quick videos of a tornado or hurricane and its aftermath. Although dangerous they pale in comparison to the destructive forces that have ravaged this coastal city. The windstorms and rains seem to last only a few minutes and then are gone. I think one of the reasons the tsunami seems so powerful is the length of some of the footage. We see powerful flows of water for extended time tossing our possessions around like tinker toys. Seawalls are overcome by monster waves which then flood the plains and streets. Even the ships in port are thrown about like paper in the wind.

What we will learn is what we have always learned. Although in comparison we are weak and powerless in the face of nature's wrath, we have an indomitable spirit which will again rise from the waters and make us whole again.

Nature is our master no matter how much we believe otherwise, but it is our spirit nature can not overcome.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


It is definitely a sad day for Buckeyes in the state of Ohio. What many believe to be an iconic figure has shown cracks in the foundation. The football coach for the university has been caught lying and covering up a major violation in the program. The fault lies directly on the coach. It was his "mistake".

What we as a people or culture consistently fail to realize is the pressure others face to succeed, in this case win. People in the national perspective face a different world than the rest of us. It seems grand and glorious to the common folk. But, it comes with a pressure all its own. What we see are only snippets on the news or in print of what they face. What I fail to understand is why we continually place these persons, no matter who they are, on a pedestal so high they blot out all light from the sun.

I have noted in other posts, I have no heroes in the culture or celebrity. My only heroes have been my parents. Why? The answer to that is easy. I lived with them. I know all their blessings and all their warts. Through it all, they loved us unconditionally and strove to do the best they could for us as children. Others who live in a far-off world have no basis in our reality. We routinely see only the good they do as it is edited or published by others. If or when something bad happens, it is often blown our of proportion or seems so opposite their public perception it completely rocks our world.

So, how do we work with our children or others to show them how things should be done? The easiest answer I can offer is to hold up the actions of another, but not the person. These are the actions one should try to emulate. Everyone has flaws. Everyone is subject to failure and misjudgment somewhere along the line. No one is perfect.

There is nothing wrong with having heroes, just remember, unless they are on the pages of a comic book, no one is "super", we all have our own warts. Pick the actions, not the person.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Times change

The recent commotion in the great state of Wisconsin hits home to many in the midwest and across the US of A. Let's face it, the economy is still lagging and many are continuing to struggle. My Beloved and I have faced it to some extent. We watch every penny we spend, don't eat out without a coupon, apply every benefit we can get our hands on to purchase gasoline. It's what people with reasonable intelligence do. We watch what we spend.

Even states are forced to balance their budgets against payments they will receive from the taxpayers. Too bad the federal government isn't forced to do the same. This nation can no longer afford to give give give to anyone wanting. I have no issue with those in short term need. It's the long term need issues that have to be addressed. Unfortunately, those who have been in a union and been able to negotiate favorable contracts for their lives often have a leg up on the rest of us. Here again, I don't have issue with unions being able to negotiate. But, times change.

In the here and now, those who live on taxpayer dollars need to be able to absorb the budget cuts coming just like the rest of us. I applaud what teachers and public servants do, but when you pay only one percent of your health care and the rest of us pay nearly fifty percent, you're not living in the real world. Some claim that will amount to an eight to twelve percent pay cut. I understand, too bad. When was the last time a public union actually had a rollback of any of their benefits, including pay? I willing to bet it has virtually never happened in the history of state governments. Sure, there have been pay freezes, but not rollbacks.

As for the governing representatives that have fled the state to avoid voting on these bills, at least they should be censured, at most should face recall. You were elected to do the job. If the job is too hard; quit. If you were on the losing end of the election, that's what your constituents voted. Deal with it and show up, cast your dissenting vote. If you lose, you lose. Work hard and win the election the next time.