Only the Gentle

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Leading roles in “Rebel Without A Cause,” “East of Eden” and “Giant” cemented James Dean as an enduring Iconic American film actor.

Ranked as the 18th best male movie star by the American Film Institute, Dean was the first to receive an Academy Award nomination after his death.

This t-shirt embodies his intense yet vulnerable style, “Only the gentle are ever really strong.” – James Dean

Stripped-Down Story

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Sarah Tressler, fired journalist of the Houston Chronicle, did not dis-clothes her part-time stripper job on her employment application.

After employment as the Chronicle’s Society Reporter, she continued with her moonlighting gig and began a blog, “Diary of An Angry Stripper.”

According to Tressler, she began stripping as a way to pay for her education.

She earned a master’s degree in journalism from New York University.

Honest Dialogue: A Fond Memory of the Past

Today, many do not relate to, or trust their government — believing strongly it is out of touch with ordinary citizens and has gone rogue. Worldwide, we are faced with ongoing problems in the Middle East, waves of migration which threaten to destabilize European nations, Russia unplugged, China on the march, hacking, terrorism . . . and the sad list goes on and on.

Also today, the House, struggling to find a new Speaker, voted on a bill to repeal the U.S. Oil Exports ban which has been in effect since 1975.

Back to the Future: On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter gave a speech at a time when the country was in the grips of an energy crisis.

Since our very way of life was being challenged by OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries), it is clear the overarching theme was about energy dependence. But Kevin Mattson, author of What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?, explained the intent of the speech as, “He wanted the country to become much more self-inquisitive.”

Mattson further explains, “Carter goes out there and he essentially condemns the American way of life.”

On July 15, 1979, 39th President Jimmy Carter delivered his televised "Crisis in Confidence" speech

So, while Carter’s infamous Crisis in Confidence was initially lauded, it quickly plummeted like a lead balloon — unaffectionately referred to as the Malaise Speech.

I recall the televised event, but upon reading it I discovered Carter coined the phrase, “feels your pain” although it later became synonomous with Bill Clinton’s presidential bid. But, beyond that amusing tidbit, it touched on many of the same sour notes our country faces today:

• All the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America
• The Federal government is isolated from the mainstream of our nation’s life
• The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide
• Congress is twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests
• In Congress, every extreme position is defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another
• Government seems incapable of action
• There is paralysis and stagnation and drift

Why is this important? Well, even though we’ve elected so many smart, experienced people to positions of leadership, the same issues from over 40 years ago still languish throughout the dysfunctional halls of The Hill, and citizens still lament. And, while President Carter believed “The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual,” I am as skeptical and unsure today as I was in 1979 with that assessment.

You see, it’s become painfully obvious life in modern societies have abandoned the expectations that leaders should actually accomplish feats they were elected to achieve. Feeling the systemic problems won’t be fixed in another 40 years, or 140 years for that matter, people have recognized the futility of hitting heads against the marble pillars of government. They’ve opted to throw in the towel. Instead of fighting losing battles, it’s easier, perhaps more satisfying, to fight with each other. And, what better way to achieve the sense of superiority than through threading the needle: The art of wordsmithing — censoring open and frank dialogue, curtailing varying views and solutions, advancing and furthering mistrust and divide among ourselves.

Just like Blue Laws which have lapsed into a fond memory, speaking clearly and genuinely also is a thing of the past. Words and phrases are couched in such a way that honest discussions no longer take place; replaced with evasive, legalese, veiled speech. Every word is metered and dissected — whether at school, work, or politics at home or on the world stage. Opponents assign their inner subconscious fears and ideas onto the speaker/author — rummaging through remarks looking for possible errant meanings.

Eerily sounding like the disturbing 1950s to me, it was Senator Joseph P. McCarthy of Wisconsin who quelled free speech, freedom of assembly, ruined careers . . . and  lives. This blight upon our citizens became known as McCarthyism. The dark period in our nation’s history which made it chic, laudable and easy to besmirch, label and unfairly accuse those of varying views as unpatriotic. This tactic handily repressed and restricted dissent and political criticism — a cold blanket of fear covered America. Today, over 60 years later, the cloaked words of choice are bigot, racist, right-winger, socialist, liberal . . . any one of which is hoisted upon an opponent in order to accomplish a McCarthyism end.

But there’s a new phenomenon, a new word which seems to be taking a prominent seat at the editorial board table of newspapers nationwide. I’d like to introduce you to . . . Tone.

• Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a hawkish tone defending the Iran nuclear deal in a speech
• Clinton strikes populist tone to make case for 2016 campaign
• Hillary Rodham Clinton changes her tone in responding to questions about her email
• Republicans Fear Donald Trump Is Hardening Party’s Tone on Race
• Trump Has Become the Tone-setter for Today’s GOP
• Trump: GOP didn’t tell me to ‘tone it down’

And, also today, as the 2016 out-of-the-box presidential race continues to pick up steam on the home front, I was sickened when a New York Times headline jumped off the page:

• NATO, Tested by Russia in Syria, Raises Its Guard and Its Tone

As the morphing PC one-way train expands their cheeky, feel-good words into critical issues of the day in lieu of honest debate, I’m very concerned the packaged homogenization of thought has paralyzed and desensitized us to the realities of armed conflict. And, while Rules of Engagement are necessary, never more haunting words were foreshadowed and uttered in the Malaise Speech, “When we enter the moral equivalent of war, Mr. President, don’t issue us BB guns.”

I, for one, am not interested in the touchy-feely word craze, or the significant damage it continues to inflict. Nor do I buy into the chic moniker “Tone,” especially at a time when citizens and the world ache for honest answers. The fact is we are in a dangerous place and alliances are being tested. It’s well past the time for all self-appointed PC-Tone Pundits to pack up their damaging wares.

Unfortunately, we’ll continue to experience the stagnation in government-citizen relationships, that just seems to be reality. But, one thing I know — although the Crisis in Confidence speech shared many concerns we continue to struggle with, none could be more critical — I’m in agreement with our 39th president, “for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in America.”

What’s The Problem With Humankind?

There is societal unrest in America, big time: A perceived notion exists that shooting and killing African-Americans is unchecked.

On June 20, 2015, 33-year-old Travis Boys shot and killed a New Orleans Police Officer, Daryle Holloway, when he was transporting Boys to jail. While earlier in the week, Dylann Roof, 21, cooly gunned down nine churchgoers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

President Obama jumped into the fray, announcing better, more stringent gun laws must be enacted; but, really, does that feel-good answer solve the problem of killings?

Executed on October 9, 2002, Aileen Wuornos is widely considered to be America's first female serial killer.

In 1989 and 1990 Aileen Wuornos, a hitchhiking prostitute along Florida’s highways, thumbed rides to turn tricks. Always traveling with a loaded pistol, her sole intent was to rob — then kill her victims. Florida’s state attorney John Tanner, one of the prosecutors at her trial said, “She was a homicidal predator. She was like a spider on the side of the road, waiting for prey — men.” Unfortunately, seven middle-aged men fell into her wicked web before she was stopped.

Also hailing from Florida, Danny Rolling sexually assaulted, decapitated one victim, mutilated, and then strategically posed each of his five victims to intensify the horror for those who found them. They were college students from Gainesville, FL, and these twisted, horrific acts occurred in August, 1990.

On the other side of the world, in March, 1995, Tokyo’s subways sustained five coordinated attacks by members of the religious movement, Aum Shinrikyo. They released Sarin Gas, which killed 12, severely injured 50 and caused temporary vision problems for nearly 1,000 other everyday people.

The Oklahoma City bombing somber memorial: A few walls with 168 empty chairs, created from glass, bronze, and stone, representing every person that died. Erected and placed in the spot where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood.

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The blast killed 168 and injured over 680 others. Their weapon of choice: Nichols purchased forty, 50-pound bags of fertilizer ammonium nitrate. McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran, hated the government and reasoned, “You learn how to handle killing in the military. I face the consequences, but you learn to accept it.” He believed his actions were necessary to prevent more lives from being lost at the hands of the U.S. government.

Who can forget the Heaven’s Gate group from California? Led by Marshall Applewhite, he convinced his followers to commit suicide so their souls could board an alien spacecraft which was following Comet Hale-Bopp. On March 26, 1997, all 39 members dressed in identical black shirts, sweat pants, brand new black-and-white Nike Decades athletic sneakers, and drank a deadly potion. Twenty-one women and 18 men covered themselves with purple sheets awaiting their rendezvous with the great beyond.

Students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris took Columbine High School by storm on April 20, 1999. A fire bomb was detonated to divert firefighters, and propane tanks were converted to bombs and placed in the cafeteria. An arsenal of additional explosive devices, and bombs rigged in cars rounded out their attack. Heavily armed with guns, knives, and an assortment of bombs, they walked the hallways of their Colorado school. Twelve students and one teacher were killed, 21 others were injured. These angry, hate-filled individuals then committed suicide.

How much hate exists in the human mind?

We soon found out. It was on September 11, 2001, when 3,497 people initially died in the Al-Qaeda terrorist attack on our country. Weapon of choice: Our airplanes. Since then, many first responders have succumbed to diseases attributed to being exposed to the toxic environment at Ground Zero, and our country continues to be affected by thousands of American military deaths and injuries sustained throughout the Middle East.

Arrested in 2001, DNA advances were able to link Seattle’s Gary Ridgway to at least 49 murders. The killings took its name from where the first bodies were found in 1987; hence, the Green River Murders.

April, 2002, the fourth homicidal attack at a school in Germany in less than three years occurred. The un-named murderer used a pump-action shotgun and a revolver to shoot and kill 15 adults and two students before killing himself.

In October, 2002, Washington, DC, and the great Commonwealth of Virginia found themselves victims of the Beltway Sniper. Ten people were killed and three were critically injured by John Allen Muhammad and 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo. But their inhumanity preceded the Beltway Sniper moniker: In February, 2002, the murderous duo killed seven and injured seven as they traversed through the states of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Washington.

On October 23, 2002, 40 Chechnen militants claimed allegiance to the Islamist separatist movement in Chechny. They armed themselves with a variety of explosives, and took 850 hostages in Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater. The siege, officially led by Movsar Barayev, lasted 2-1/2 days, and culminated in the death of all of the Chechnen attackers and 130 hostages.

Six people were killed in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, in July, 2009, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a theater as a crowd gathered for a performance. The second Chechnen bombing that month.

On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Brelvik killed eight people in the section of Olso, Norway, where government buildings were, then picked off 69 people at a Workers’ Youth League summer camp on the island of Utoya. He didn’t like the direction Norway’s society was going.

On July 20, 2012, James Holmes was well-equipped with multiple firearms. He dressed in military attire, threw tear gas grenades and shot aimlessly into a crowded Aurora, CO movie theater. Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 others. Knowing his apartment would be scoured through by police, he rigged it with explosives, hoping to add to his kill list. Holmes is currently on trial.

December 14, 2012, unveiled Adam Lanza, 20. He killed his mother then proceeded to kill more innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The New York Daily News wrote. “A mass murderer executed his mother with her own gun and then slaughtered 20 helpless kids and a half-dozen staffers in a ghastly killing spree at a Connecticut elementary school.”

December, 2012, also unveiled Christopher Krumm, 25. He stabbed his father’s live-in girlfriend to death at home, then used a high-powered bow and arrow to kill his father at Wyoming’s Casper College.

Two pressure-cooker bombs were concocted by the brothers Tsarnaev: Dzhokhar and Tamerlan, to detonate near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Three people were killed and 264 were injured. Mayhem followed as the brothers’ spree continued in their quest to escape. They killed an MIT policeman, and an MBTA police officer survived even though he suffered severe blood loss.

And, there’s more. The 1970s and ’60s apparently weren’t the decades of love, peace and understanding either.

Throughout the 1970′s abortion doctors and health facilities were selected for bombings, while the Una Bomber, Ted Kaczynski, delivered his brand of murder via the US Postal Service because he opposed modern technology.

The Chicago weirdo who worked birthday parties dressed as a clown, John Wayne Gacy, Jr., killed at least 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978.

During this time period our country was also exposed to Ted Bundy, who confessed to killing 30 women in seven states between 1974 and 1978. He decapitated at least 12, and kept some of the severed heads in his apartment for a period of time as mementos.

Speaking of dismemberment, between 1978 and 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer committed rape, murder and the dismemberment of 17 men and boys. He also ate body organs of some of his victims. He had a personality disorder . . . you think?

And, between 1974 and 1991, Kansas’ Dennis Rader, otherwise known as the BTK monster, was on the loose. He was convicted of killing nine women and one male. His weapons of choice to Blind, Torture and Kill his victims were plastic bags, ropes, a knife, a belt, bare hands, and nylon stockings.

November, 1978, introduced the world to Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple. Jones relocated his temple to Guyana due to increasing scrutiny of his practices. He renamed his paradise, Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, to what is now known infamously as, Jonestown. An astonishing number of willing and unwilling followers — 909 — died by cyanide poisoning and / or gunshots, while an additional five people were gunned down at a nearby airstrip.

Andrei Chikatilo, or Citizen X from the Soviet Union, was also coined the Red Ripper. His reign of terror lasted from 1978 through 1990. Chikatilo confessed to sexual assault, murder and mutilation of 56 women and children.

The Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, paralyzed and reduced the city to fear during the 1960s. Thirteen women were selected for sexual assault, rape and ultimately death. His predominant weapon of choice was the victims’ silk stockings . . . hence the murders were coined the “Silk Stocking Murders.”

Eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital were tortured, raped, and murdered on July 14, 1966, because Richard Speck said, “It just wasn’t their night.”

On August 1, 1966, police found a note Charles Joseph Whitman wrote, “However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.” He then stabbed his wife and mother to death, proceeded to the University of Texas at Austin where he killed 14 people, including himself, and wounded 32 others. This gruesome event is known as the Texas Bell Tower Murders.

And today, while bodies of 17 prostitutes popped up sporadically on Long Island’s Gilgo Beach, the Suffolk County police believe they have a serial murderer in their midst.

Throughout the world, Sarin Gas, Citizen X types, IRA, PLO, cults, bombs, beheadings, rapes, and torture attacks take place on a regular basis. Whether personal, religious or political reasoning — as if any reason could apply — bows and arrows, stockings, machetes, bare hands, knives, plastic bags, ropes, bombs, explosives, potions . . . and guns . . . are used to control others through power.

Oh!, I could sadly go on and on citing instances of cruelty, inhumanity and depravity hoisted upon fellow man from the beginning of time. We can never forget the creativity involved in crucifixion, burning at the stake, the guillotine, or gas chambers erected to snuff out millions in the Holocaust camps.

That being said, isn’t it naive to think new gun laws will ever be able to legislate empathy in the human minds of angry, hate-filled, twisted individuals? So, after reading this brief listing of murders with all sorts of weapons, do you think the feel-good remedy of enacting new gun laws will once and for all put an end to killings?

What about passing rope laws, stocking laws, bow and arrow laws, plastic bag laws, poison potion laws, etc? Do you think any of these sickos cared about laws . . . they didn’t care about people — what’s a law?

The fact is, there’s no rhyme, no reason, no pattern, no particular weapon of choice, no particular group, no particular race, no particular religion, and no particular country that owns atrocities.

Sadly, senseless killings will continue because humankind is neither human — or kind.

Wild In The Streets

When swarms of people mobilize and amass in the streets you automatically think their mistrust of the government bodies in authority resulted in revolution, anarchy, or coup d’états. And, when people feel their loss of safety and well-being is so extremely affected, the tumultuous eternal realities of fear nets action. Rarely do we think of happier occasions like ringing in a new year or the end of a war.

Cuba, Mexico, Russia, as well as countries in Africa, Central America, Europe, South America and the Middle East each are under incredible societal strains. In America . . . unemployment, underemployment, failing infrastructures, illegal immigration, taxes, spiraling cost of energy, food and housing, decline in family structures, shattered and bordered up neighborhoods . . . any, or all, could be legitimate causes for taking it to the streets nationwide.

But, the societal strains which reached a fever pitch in the United States — once again — was the result of the questionable death of Freddie Gray after being arrested. While in a police van, Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore, MD., resident, suffered three crushed vertebrae and a crushed voice box.

On the heels of Sanford, FL., Ferguson, MO., and Staten Island, NY., police found themselves in the crosshairs of citizens’ fury. Gray’s crushed voice box was unleashed, and found its way into the voices of those rioting in Baltimore’s streets — which prompted solidarity marches in cities across America: Alburquerque, Boston, Minneapolis, New York and Philadelphia.

Saigon was immediately renamed Ho Chi Minh City, and decades of war came to an end.

Blazed across television sets worldwide viewers watched the impending uncertainty, fear and angst in the mob’s action as they took it to the streets.

But, it wasn’t from Baltimore, or Philadelphia, or Minneapolis or New York.

It was from Vietnam forty years ago.

On April 30, 1975, the fall of Saigon ended the saga of war-torn Vietnam. South Vietnam President Duong Van Minh asked his forces to lay down their arms and called on the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong to halt all hostilities “in order to avoid bloodshed.”

As hostilities and bloodshed continue to run in American streets, I have to wonder when our decades-long saga will end.

U.S. Steel’s Iconic Sculpture Still Resonates Today

“Michael, we’re bigger than U.S. Steel.”

That famous line was delivered by Hyman Roth to Michael Corleone in The Godfather, the iconic film ranked by AFI as Number 2 in their Top 100 Films.

Those six words continue to introduce generations of viewers to what the powers-that-be understood many years before the film premiered . . . the importance and prominence of U.S. Steel.

First listed in 1901 with Dow Jones, and a 1957 original member of S&P 500, U.S. Steel was one of the world’s largest steel producers. After numerous reorganizations, spin-offs and re-branding, “Today, over a century after its founding, U.S. Steel remains the largest integrated steel producer headquartered in the United States.”

Designed by Gilmore D. Clarke, U.S. Steel was commissioned to build the world's largest globe and free-standing sculpture, Unisphere.

Knowing the history and skills within U.S. Steel, Robert Moses, president of the 1964-65 World’s Fair Corporation said, “What stronger, more durable and more appropriate metal in the record of American constructive accomplishments could be thought of than stainless steel. And what builder more imaginative and competent than the United States Steel corporation.”

And, nobody ever argued with Robert Moses. So it began, Unisphere, designed by Gilmore D. Clarke, took orbit as the symbol of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.

Although the Eiffel Tower was originally scheduled to be disassembled after Paris’ 1889 International Exposition, it was designed to be its centerpiece. And, while Unisphere was imagined to be of equal stature, it would have no equal. True to form, Robert Moses envisioned Unisphere as a permanent centerpiece for the ages.

On-site construction of this 45-ton beauty took 162 days to complete. It measures
140 feet high, 120 feet in diameter, and tilts at Earth’s angle of 23-1/2 degrees.

Seemingly floating in air are three orbit rings anchored to the structure by aircraft cable. Each ring weighs three tons, and represent the paths of the first man-made satellites launched in the late 1950s.

Mountain ranges appear in relief on continents affixed to curved, tubular steel lines of latitude and longitude. Park attendees marveled as magical, twinkling lights portrayed the locations of great capital cities of the world. And, understanding the symbolic importance of Unisphere, the request asked by Mohawk ironworkers was honored. The Indian Reservation capital, Kahnawake, was represented and proudly shined.

Ahhh, the 1964-65 World’s Fair opened April 21, 1964 with Unisphere as its symbol, and, indeed, jaw-dropping centerpiece. It is the largest globe ever constructed, and the world’s largest free-standing sculpture. Located at Flushing Meadows Park in the Borough of Queens, New York, visionary Robert Moses commissioned its construction to be an iconic landmark from its inception.

Widely recognized as the ”master builder” of mid-20th century, urban planner Moses left his mark throughout New York State, but sadly didn’t live to enjoy Unisphere’s landmark status. Moses, 92, died at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, New York on July 29, 1981. Fourteen years after Moses’ death, on May 16, 1995, Unisphere was recognized by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and officially “. . .  designates as a Landmark the Unisphere with its surrounding pool and fountains . . ..”

The World’s Fair welcomed over 51 million visitors, far below the anticipated 70 million, and was not considered a financial success. But time has a way of rounding the corners; today, the World’s Fair, which celebrated the dawn of the space age and whose theme was ”Peace Through Understanding”, is looked at fondly and resonates.

“It had to be of the space age, it had to reflect the interdependence of men on the planet Earth, it had to emphasize their achievements and aspirations.” That was Robert Moses’ explanation of Unisphere, and it still rings true over 50 years later.

Fifty men and 50 women from all over the world have been selected as the star travelers who will embark on a one-way ticket to establish a human settlement on the planet Mars; and Queens reflects the interdependence and harmony Moses aspired to achieve. With Unisphere prominent in its landscape, Queens has a population of over 2 million, which includes over 15,000 American Indian, and is the most ethnically diverse urban area on our blue orb.

While the World’s Fair technically closed October 21, 1965, it continues to embody its original mission statement. Apparently, the World’s Fair was a success after all — especially to me . . . a West Islip, New York resident, one of the millions of visitors, and proud daughter of a Local 361 Ironworker: Building For the Future.

Careful, Mr. Mayor: Slippery Slope When Wet

I’m sure New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio would like Groundhog Day 2015 to go off without a slip up, but I don’t think that’s in the air.

Last year's Groundhog Day festivities indeeed hushed New York's sweet Charlotte. Photo: Marc A. Hermann for New York Daily News

Not to be outdone by the head honcho, Pennsylvania’s groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, New York also has a critter who comes out of its burrow to look for its shadow. In case you’ve forgotten, butterfinger
Bill dropped Charlotte last year. She later succumbed to her internal injuries a week after her plummet to the ground — Charlotte died.

The saying, “Be careful what you wish for” must be resonating through the halls of Gracie Mansion. You see, I think Mayor
de Blasio’s wish came true — much to the delight of New York’s furry weather forecasters — he probably won’t be hosting Groundhog Day 2015. Likely, Mr. Mayor will be relegated to dealing with Snowstorm Linus issues, instead.

Not necessarily the best wish for Mayor de Blasio. He has been severely criticized for putting the city that never sleeps to bed on January 27, 2015. Estimates for shuttering the Big Apple due to Snowstorm Juno run from $200 million to $500 million. The costly abundance of caution decision resulted in closing roadways, bridges, LIRR, and the city’s subway system — the first time in its 110-year history. Stating with haunting “the sky is falling” fervor, Mr. Mayor referred to the impending weather as, “This could be the biggest snowstorm in the history of this city.” To make matters worse, he further added, “My message for New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have ever seen before.”

The mayor’s problem was he slipped up, again. No, he didn’t drop a groundhog — this time, but he was all wet . . . the sky didn’t fall.

Groundhog Day folklore dictates if cloudy when the groundhog emerges, then spring will come early. If sunny, the groundhog will see its shadow, and retreat back into its burrow to hunker down for six more weeks of winter.

So, because much of the country is in for another bitterly cold snowstorm on February 2, are we in store for six more weeks of winter? Who really knows . . . the Shadow knows. That is, the groundhog’s shadow . . .

Or should we ask Mayor de Blasio?

Taking the Love Out of Valentine’s Day

Cupid, best known as the God of desire, attraction and affection has been branded as Valentine's Day favorite messenger.

The giving and receiving of sweet words to fellow classmates happened but once a year — Valentine’s Day. As a kid in elementary school I loved the concept of Cupid, and hoped my arrow would land on my beloved for that year.

I couldn’t wait to painstakingly review my choices of Valentine’s Day cards from the box. Once all were chosen, each was carefully slipped into their little envelope which I carefully addressed in my neatest handwriting. Every classmate received a card, but my best friend received what I considered to be my favorite Valentine card. Then, of course, I couldn’t wait to select the best Valentine card to give my favorite crush.

That’s the time when being young and naive is allowed, heck encouraged … and treasured. But, life has a way of breaking hearts, and life’s harsh realities crash on top of you like waves during a violent storm. So much for boxed concepts of everlasting love and bliss.

If you scratch a little deeper into Cupid’s heart of love you’ll find duplicity — a heart of darkness, otherwise known as inevitability. But whatever word choice you’re comfortable using, the fact is Cupid’s ultimate message isn’t always light and airy. And, it’s under that cloak which has caused the emergence of Love Contracts … in order to pre-empt heartbreak when traveling down the road of relationships.

Really? Who enters into marriage — which is a contract — in today’s world using elementary school concepts of love, besides me? Isn’t that what prenuptial agreements were all about … to be prudent, no?

Sort of, I guess, but those agreements included property and monetary rights in the event a marriage ends in divorce. Love contracts are additional prudent forecasting methods now needed — because they cover behavior and expectations, better known as … lifestyle clauses.

Love contracts dictate a list of do’s and don’ts, and will’s and wont’s between the two parties. Doesn’t sound like much of a party to me; but, remember, I’ve been wrong before. These non-romantic clauses cover everything from weight gain, frequency of sex, date nights, vacation criteria, infidelity, house chores … and on, and on — depending upon what issues would be deal breakers in one’s relationship.

Today, in the United States, upwards of 50% of first marriages and 60% of second marriages end in divorce. While the reasons are many, indeed, I was under the impression “for better or worse” was “The” contractural sentence used in order to cast the widest possible net which included monetary, lifestyle and health woes. Then again, I’m not a lawyer, so apparently, I was wrong.

Is the croupier today's Cupid?

Something’s wrong all right, and I don’t think it’s me. I heard of covering your bets, but marriage was never a sure thing any more than placing all your chips on Red 32. When the ball lands on another number, what does the croupier do? We all know that answer, I guess the question today is what does the lawyer do?

So, as I see it, the question that needs to be asked isn’t, “Will you marry me?” it’s “Are you willing to ‘Bet the House’ on me?”

I just went through a box of Valentine cards, and Cupid’s arrow just shot me. One reads, “Love is roulette — xoxo”

Deja-vu Redux

(Please read “It’s Like Deja-vu, All Over Again”, posted June 19, 2014).

On November 7, 2014, we find ourselves on the heels of the midterm results. Nationwide, the electorate rebuked President Obama’s policies and tactics. As a result, you might think a review should take place before upping the ante, but that didn’t seem to occur.

November 7, 2014, President Obama authorizes deployment of 1,500 non-combat advisors to Iraq. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Mission creep seems to have taken hold — regardless of which spokesman goes on the record and rejects that notion. You see, the president has requested $5.6 billion to fight Islamic State militants. The Commander-in-Chief has “authorized Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to deploy up to 1,500 additional troops to Iraq” in non-combat advisory roles. However, this latest number is not to be regarded as the final number. Something tells me we’ll be revisiting our non-combat advisory troop levels in another 5 months.

Lawmakers remain concerned with President Obama’s decision because not too long ago he considered ISIS/ISIL as inconsequential and members of the JV Team.

When his naive description paled to the realities of the situation, the president announced the deployment of 300 advisors on June 19, 2014.

Several beheadings later, the president has slowly come to the conclusion ISIS/ISIL is a gruesome force to be reckoned with; maybe he’s elevated them to All-Star status?

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), House Armed Services Committee chairman said, “I remain concerned that the president’s strategy to defeat ISIL is insufficient. I would urge the president to reconsider his strategy and clearly explain how additional funding supports a new direction.”

Deja-vu redux.

Third Time’s a Charm – AGAIN

On June 6, 2012, I wrote below article about Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker winning his recall election:

I’m not a fan of recall elections, they smack of political sour grapes.

For the record, the first step to recall an elected official requires that a sufficient number of voters must sign a petition. If that is satisfied, a recall ensues –  a direct vote via a new election to determine if the official will be ousted from office before his/her term has ended.

It has been reported that 1 million signatures were submitted in the effort to force a recall election of Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker (R), exceeding the number of required signatures by 460,000.

Walker, barely in office two years, took a hard line on Wisconsin’s public workers collective bargaining rights, and enacted bold moves to close the state’s $3.6 billion deficit.

Opponents viewed Walker’s tactics as draconian and a blatant attempt to “break the unions.” The domino theory took on a country-wide issue: If one state lost collective bargaining rights, etc., then surrounding states would follow – in a domino effect.

Sound familiar, anyone? America lost the Vietnam Conflict, and now opponents of Wisconsin’s governor lost the recall election espousing that same logic.

Walker triumphantly stated, “Tonight we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country, and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions.”

Scott Walker is the third governor in our nation’s history subjected to a recall election, and is the first to survive. Two other governors faced a recall vote but lost: In 1921, North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier was defeated by Ragnvald A. Nestos; and in 2003, California Gov. Gray Davis was defeated by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Gov. Walker . . . say, “Cheese.”

Fast forward:

Victorious in his third election, Gov. Scott Walker has a lot to smile about. Photo: Darren Hauck/Getty Images

Another political hat-trick.

Widely considered a potential presidential candidate in 2016, Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker won his gubernatorial race in 2010, survived a recall election in 2012 for his controversial policies toward unions, and won the 2014 gubernatorial race on November 4.

Challenger Mary Burke (D) made history as the first female to be nominated for Governor in the state of Wisconsin. A win would have catapulted her into the history books once again — as Wisconsin’s first female governor. It wasn’t meant to be, Burke conceded to Gov. Walker’s 53 percent to 44 percent lead. Early on in the process, Burke was extremely competitive and attack ads from both camps flooded the airwaves. While the blue state Wisconsinites voted for Barack Obama twice, Burke’s strategy included campaigning with Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and the increasingly unpopular president. Looking in the rear-view mirror, Burke probably regrets that tactic. Twenty-one of the 31 candidates Bill Clinton campaigned for lost their races, and five of the nine candidates the president campaigned for lost their races.

Asked by The Washington Post to define her politics, Burke declined to “put a label on it.” But, she didn’t have any problem defining Walker’s politics, claiming he could have done better, and stumped incessantly on three issues:
– Walker failed to deliver on his promise to add 250,000 new private-sector jobs
– The state budget faced a $1.8 billion shortfall
– Walker was a divisive personality

In his victory speech, Walker hammered home “dignity comes from work” as he referenced and defended his unrealized 2010 campaign goal of creating 250,000 jobs. Speaking with AP Walker said, “We’re going to spend the next couple months putting together our legislative agenda.”

Obtaining political office doesn’t come cheap, and over a four-year period Wisconsin spent $200 million to choose a public servant: 2010 race, $60 million; 2012 recall election, $63 million with an additional $18 million the state had to expend; 2014 race, $60 million.

The 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial race finally closed, even the $5 million of personal money Mary Burke loaned her campaign couldn’t stave off the Republican tidal wave sweeping the nation.

November 4, a Pivotal Date

“Teheran, Iran, Nov. 4–Moslem students stormed the United States Embassy in Teheran today, seized about 90 Americans and vowed to stay there until the deposed Shah [Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlaviwas] sent back from New York to face trial in Iran.” That was the first paragraph in The New York Times late city edition on November 4, 1979.

Thirty-five years ago, The New York Times delivered two remarkably prophetic headlines to Americans on November 4, 1979

On that day in Iran, students supporting the Iranian Revolution quoted “a statement from Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, head of Iran’s Constitutional Assembly of Experts, ‘America must know it can’t play with the feelings of the Iranian nation.’ ”

From 1951 until 1953, Muhammed Mosaddeq became the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. He was a leading voice to nationalize Iran’s oil industry and expel Britain, as well as other foreign country influences. Although the Shah of Iran rose to power in 1941, he was exiled in 1953 during Mosaddeq’s rule. Uncomfortable with Mosaddeq, the United States believed the Shah was the only stable leader in the Middle East, so the CIA overthrew Mosaddeq, and one day later the Shah was reinstalled as Iran’s leader. The Shah ultimately put Mossadegh before the courts, and he was sentenced to three years solitary confinement for trying to overthrow the monarchy, followed by house arrest where he remained until his death in 1967.

Ten years later, in 1963, the White Revolution took shape in Iran. It was the Shah’s attempt to westernize and modernize Iran. Land reform and women’s suffrage became important, as well as increased anti-Shah sentiments from those in the clergy. It was from this group the United States first learned of Ayatollah Khomeini, and his message resonated with Iranians to such a degree that he was exiled by the Shah.

During the Shah’s reign, although modernization and untold wealth was realized by his country, he was regarded as a puppet of the United States. In his ongoing attempt to quiet anti-government forces, from 1963 throughout the ’70s, the Shah became more dictatorial, more secular, more violent. At a fever pitch in 1978, demonstrators took control of government buildings, officials were assassinated, and an incessant drumbeat called for death of the Shah.

No longer able to rule, on January 16, 1979, the Shah fled Iran; and exiled clergyman, Khomeini, triumphantly returned as leader of Iran. Students so inflamed with the Shah and foreign influences, The New York Times headline screamed, “Teheran Students Seize U.S. Embassy And Hold Hostages” as their bargaining tool for the return of the Shah to face charges.

So much for exiling political foes in Iran . . . doesn’t seem to work out too well.

And, so began the Iranian Hostage Crisis, a “terrorist act triggered the most profound crisis of the Carter presidency and began a personal ordeal for Jimmy Carter and the American people that lasted 444 days.” The crisis came to an end under a set of agreements, the Algiers Accords, effective minutes after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States on January 20, 1981.

But, there was another remarkable, interesting headline on the left side of that front page, “Republicans Seek to Gain Leverage For 1980 in the Voting Tomorrow.”

It’s been 35 years since that front page delivered those headlines to Americans. Have times really changed? I don’t think so. We’ve elected Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Liberals, Moderates, Conservatives, Tea Party, Libertarians, Green Party, and so on; but none seem to have the answers, solutions, know-how, or stomach to solve the problems our country faces.

Almost four decades later, we’re still at odds with the struggles and unrest in the Moslem world, Iran remains a thorn in our side, terrorism is on steroids, governments throughout the world are untrusted, and America’s political parties try to gain the majority. You see, our political rhetoric continues to revolve around feel-good, cheeky soundbite sloganeering instead of addressing real issues — to our dismay, our country and world remains in turmoil. Saddened with the pettiness of political races, we’re left scratching our heads and numb while our lonely blue orb tumbles toward its race to an unknown destiny.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

All we can do is vote in elections for politicians we hope will represent our concerns, hopes and dreams. But, time after time, we come to the realization our chosen leaders are ultimately rendered inconsequential due to the status quo forces on The Hill.

It’s that time again to cast a ballot, hold on for dear life and buckle up. I don’t know about you, but It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to hold on. My seat belt has lost it’s luster, and is becoming worn out and frayed. I’m afraid to ask the question I really know the answer to, “How much longer can it keep me safe?”

Ebola Unplugged

Named after the Ebola River, on July 27, 1976, a cotton factory worker from Nzara, Sudan, was the very first person to contract the deadly Ebola virus; ten days later he was dead.

A little over one month later, on September 1, 1976, a 44-year-old teacher contracted and succumbed to the Ebola virus in Zaire. Yambuku Mission Hospital was closed down after 11 of 17 hospital workers died in four short weeks. The outbreak came to an end by isolating the remaining Ebola victims.

Ebola claimed 431 lives out of 602 reported cases from Sudan and Zaire, and thus began the first Ebola outbreaks in human history. As of October 27, 2014 there have been 10,141 confirmed, probable and suspected cases worldwide with 4,922 deaths.

Spread from person to person by direct contact from infected body fluids, the U.S. State Department has ordered 160,000 Hazmat suits for Ebola. Do they know something we don't?

But, what is Ebola exactly? I found a very good explanation, “Ebola, A Nurse’s Perspective” and I’ve summarized the article below:

Ebola is a virus, not a bacteria, meaning it requires a host. It naturally lives in bats which are eaten by those who live in tropical Africa. The virus can be spread from bat to man through a process called Zoonosis: a disease communicable from animals to humans under natural conditions.

The virus can now be spread from person to person by direct contact with body fluids. Once the virus gets into a person’s system, it seemingly lays low for a period of up to 21 days. The virus multiplies, and symptoms akin to flu or malaria ultimately present themselves, masking the deadly disease. Common aches, nausea, sweating, diarrhea quickly gives way to the disease invading the liver and adrenal glands.

Blood clotting is a liver’s major role, but when invaded by Ebola, the liver begins to decompose and is unable to do its job. “Blood may clot and turn to jelly in your veins, stay liquid and bleed profusely, or a combo of both.”

While the liver is faltering, the adrenal glands also begin to falter. Blood pressure begins to drop, IV fluids are administered in order to keep the body’s circulation volume up, but the shallow vascular system is breaking down. Vessel walls begin to leak body fluids and blood; including from the nose, gums, vagina, rectum and eyeballs. Since the adrenals cannot maintain blood pressure, and blood and body fluids ooze from the body, IV fluids continue to be administered in an attempt to try to stave off hypovolemic shock, also known as hemorrhagic shock, “a life-threatening condition that results when you lose more than 20 percent (one-fifth) of your body’s blood or fluid supply.”

If the patient does not improve, a catch-22 is in full bloom. IV fluids are no longer beneficial and excrutiating pain cannot be handled by medication. The liver and kidneys have become part of the system-wide failure ravaging the body . . . the heart races. “Severe fluid loss makes it impossible for the heart to pump sufficient blood to your body” and many organs can fail.

Today, tempers in the United States are flaring — the Ebola Czar, who was going to be the voice of calm and reason, has been deafening quiet, while the CDC and Obama Administration continue to tweak/discard/add confusing protocols. Hospitals are less than prepared, those flying into this country from the “hot zone” can only enter through five airports, and five hospitals have been deemed capable of treating infected patients. The governors from New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Florida have reacted to the ever-changing information and took matters into their own hands to protect their state’s citizens. At this time the governors of those four states have ordered a 21-day imposed quarantine — not voluntary.

Also called Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF), “Ebola is a member of the Filoviridae family. There are currently five known strains of the Ebola virus: Zaire, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Bundibugyo and Reston. So far, the Zaire strain remains the most deadly (80% death rate) and the Reston the least (0% death rate).

From its original debut in 1976, “the Ebola-Zaire and Ebola-Sudan strains have caused all the major known outbreaks.”

Over-zealous Law Enforcement and Media, Repeat These Two Words: Eric Rudolph

On August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown died as a result of receiving at least six bullet wounds from 28-year-old Police Officer, Darren Wilson. The shooting occurred on Canfield Drive in the city of Ferguson, MO.

James Knowles III, elected Mayor of the city of Ferguson, MO, in April 2011. Knowles, 31, at the time of his election, became the youngest mayor in Ferguson's history.

Michael was an unarmed black male whose path intersected with Darren, an armed white policeman. This deadly encounter united the predominantly black community against the predominantly white police force culminating in protests, demonstrations, rioting, looting, injuries and additional deaths.

Deep-rooted skepticism laid the foundation
for cries of racism and mistrust of law enforcement. As a result, a variety of reassignments and strategies took place. While tear gas and armored tanks failed to quell the insurrection, local police were stripped of their authority by Gov. Jay Nixon, and oversight was transferred to Chief Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. A curfew was established and revoked one day later, the National Guard were employed, President Obama made an official statement and Attorney General Eric Holder made this comment during his visit to Ferguson, “I am the Attorney General, but I’m also a black man.”

“No Justice, No Peace,” reminiscent of the Rodney King-Los Angeles riots, as well as “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” became the rallying cries drowning out the sorrows of the Brown family. Community organizers, Rev’s Sharpton and Jackson, Black Panther members, outside agitators and instigators, and the media descended upon the tumultuous city. Furthering racial tensions, Baltimore and New York City have hosted solidarity marches, and uneasy feelings simmer in other racially-divided cities nationwide.

Forensic evidence takes time to assemble, sorting through claims takes time, interviewing witnesses takes time, preparing a prosecution takes times, preparing a defense takes time . . . in other words, justice takes time. So, it’s a little dismaying that authorities have succumbed to numerous demands placed on them from the public outcries. But, what does “justice” mean when high-profile circumstances muddy otherwise clear waters? Does it mean placing Immense pressure upon law enforcement to arrest and charge a police officer with murder. Or, demanding Bob McCulloch either recuse himself or be replaced as prosecutor because of his “compromised background.” Or does it mean to quickly assemble a Grand Jury while the governor simultaneously asserts a prosecution will take place. Or perhaps “justice” means assigning a second prosecutor, an African-American woman, according to Missouri’s Attorney General Chris Koster.

So, is justice determined according to the public’s demands, media’s ratings, or politician’s elections – at the expense of the individual – whether that individual is the plaintiff or defendant? Not a road I want to go down.

As you’ll read further, maintaining high standards of accuracy, fairness and balance under pressure is essential for any investigation.

Andrew Young, 55th Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia.

On September 18, 1990, Atlanta, GA was chosen to be the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. It beat out Athens, Belgrade, Manchester, Melbourne, and Toronto. A major win for then-mayor Andrew Young, he wanted to showcase our great American South to the world. Beaming in his success, Young shared with the world his city — they were able to overcome racial tensions which once defined the south during the 1950s and ’60s. And, so the American South was introduced to the world during the July 19 Opening Ceremony for the Games of the XXVI Olympiad, more casually known as the Atlanta Olympics.

As with any Olympics, there is untold pride for the country, state and city. Host cities benefit from city planning, architecture and construction jobs; and residents get to be part of the opening ceremonies, festivities and work in any of the scads of support roles. Atlanta was no different. The city was abuzz to share its historic Southern Charm, and its residents were honored to be part of an esteemed worldwide sporting event.

Along with the sporting-event venues, athletes dorm at the Olympic Village, and there are leisure facilities, shops, restaurants and open spaces. One of the popular open spaces enjoyed at the Atlanta Olympics was known as Centennial Park.

This was one of the most memorable Olympics for a variety of reasons: President Bill Clinton officially opened the event, Muhammed Ali entered the stadium to light the Olympic Torch, Celine Dion sang the official song, “The Power of the Dream” and the Games slogan, “Come Celebrate Our Dream” became security guard Richard Jewell’s nightmare.

On July 27 a terrorist bomb ripped through Centennial Park. The blast killed Alice Hawthorne, 44, of Albany, GA; and Melih Uzunyol, a Turkish cameraman, died of a heart attack as he rushed to film the mayhem; 111 people were injured.

Jewell found the backpack which housed the bomb, stood his ground, and saved countless lives by clearing as many from the park before the explosion. He was a hero . . . for three days. All-too-eager to report the scoop, on July 30, 1996, Jewell was named by newspaper, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CNN and NBC as the “focus” of the investigation. Richard Jewell, at the right place at the right time, was convicted by the media of the terrorist bombing at Centennial Park.

Believed to be criminally involved, the FBI swept into the apartment he shared with his mother, Barbara. They took his deer-hunting gun, his collection of 22 Walt Disney tapes, and all of his mother’s Tupperware. The media was drooling and tasted the red meat. Entrenched outside in the parking lot of the apartment complex 24/7, they filmed the bags being taken out of the home. He was distraught.

Originally eager to be the first to report the scoop, the media reversed roles. No longer reporting the bombing, they became an integral, willing conspirator in becoming the news. And, it was NBCs Jay Leno who channeled Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber moniker, and mocked Jewell as the “Una-doofus” which further embolded a federal agent to refer to Jewell as the “Una-bubba”and his mother as “Una-Momma.”

Although Richard Jewell was questioned and subjected to numerous search warrants, he was never arrested or charged. Sans media coverage and associated fanfare, the FBI quietly cleared Jewell of all suspicion three long months later in October 1996.

During a televised news conference, Jewell said, “I am not the Olympic Park bomber. I am a man who has lived 88 days afraid of being arrested for a crime I did not commit.” He further added, “I set out to do my job, and do it right.”

Sadly, the media didn’t do its job. They lost their way. They failed to understand the extraordinary burden of responsibility they have to report the news in an unbiased fashion. “Let the headline be based on the facts . . . don’t shape the facts to fit the headline.” No, the editor-in-chief from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution didn’t say that, it was said by the proud security guard who set out to do his job, and he did it right.

Nonetheless, Richard Jewell became a national joke, a joke he never fully recovered. At the mercy of law enforcement and an over-zealous media, Jewell was convicted in the court of public opinion. The once happy-go-lucky hero became a fractured, cynical man who was suspicious of people. Just shy of 12 years ago, on August 29, 2002, Richard Jewell, 44, hampered by diabetes, died of natural causes.

Ferguson, MO, and Atlanta, GA are proud southern cities which have undergone racial tensions. Andrew Young, former aide to Martin Luther King, Jr., became the mayor of Atlanta which overcame its racial past, and proudly hosted the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. James Knowles III, the mayor of Ferguson, defends his city 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s mired in violence, protests, UN admonitions, State and Federal Government interference, National Guard involvement, and racial tensions, but insists there is “no racial divide.” Words of advice: “With age, comes wisdom,” and “The first step in fixing a problem is admitting a problem exists in the first place.”

Nine months after Richard Jewell’s death, on May 31, 2003, an anti-government serial bomber was arrested and charged with the 1996 Centennial Park Terrorist Bombing. His name is Eric Rudolph.

The “erts” Have it: Radiant Color of the Year

Antiquities often humbles and shows modern man the wonders of the human mind.

We’re usually stunned by the level of craftsmanship and their understanding of mathematics, chemistry, physics and the natural world.

The pyramids would be one good example of the head scratching that continues
today . . . how did the ancient Egyptians build them?

Lawrence Herbert was a double-major graduate in biology and chemistry from Hofstra University in New York. His dream was to become a physician, and while working toward his dream, he took on a part-time job In 1956 with a small printing company in Manoochie, New Jersey.

While there, he learned printers had roughly 60 different pigments on hand to mix ink colors. Through trial and error, printers mixed the pigments until the desired color was achieved; an inefficient, time-consuming method.

Having a chemistry background, the pigment mixing task more than intrigued Lawrence. He knew there had to be a better method, and didn’t subscribe to “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Putting his chemistry mind to work, Herbert was able to produce a full range of colored inks from just 12 pigments.

Awesome!

The Pantone Color Matching System was created. But it wasn’t until 1963, when Herbert aggressively introduced his licensed system to 21 major ink suppliers – which now needed only 10 pigments to produce the full range of colored inks.

All but one supplier signed on, and as the saying goes, “The rest is history.”  Pantone revolutionized the printing industry, followed by textiles, fashion, interior design . . .

But, what does all of this really mean?

Customers would no longer get inconsistent printed colors. For example, the branding color used on packages of Kodak film varied greatly, from a light orange-yellow to a dark orange-yellow. And, Kodak found that customers tended to purchase the lighter boxes because they felt the film in the box was “newer,” while the darker boxes were left on shelves.

By standardizing their corporate colors using the Pantone system, regardless of where their packages were printed, the Kodak logo colors would be consistent: Pantone 123 (yellow) and Pantone 485 (red).

Pantone is used and recognized internationally as The Standard. This acclaimed color match system enables accurate representation of specific colors regardless of where, or what equipment is used to print and produce the color.

Pantone is so important in the world of color that each year they embark on a secret meeting comprised of color representatives from many nations. After two days of debate, a “Color of the Year” is announced and published in “Pantone View.”

Formulas to achieve Pantone's 2014 Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid.

This invaluable book helps guide industry professionals in their planning for trends in future products and designs, and is the pre-cursor of what customers will eventually purchase.

Pantone Color Matching System: A revolution which occurred a little over 50 years ago.

Heretofore, there was another unknown revolution which occurred over 300 years ago.

In 1692 Dutch artist, A. Boogert, painstakingly created an over 800-page color matching swatch book, “Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau.”

Radiant Orchid was already the "Color of the Year" in 1692. From a page of Mr. Boogert's color swatch book for watercolor reproduction.

Boogert’s “A Treatise On Watercolor Paints” illustrated how artists could quickly ascertain what mixture was needed to accurately reproduce a particular color into their painting. This jaw-dropping swatch book illustrates more than the ability to accurately reproduce color, it shows us that we have a lot to learn from brilliant minds of the past.

So, I’ve been researching to find anything out about Boggert’s art. Sadly, I have not found anything other than his book which survived and surfaced to the delight of Pantone lovers everywhere.

Hopefully, for Pantone lovers worldwide, we will uncover a piece of this remarkable man’s art before another 300 years pass.

Now, I beg the question . . . did Boogert get his idea from an artist 300 years earlier than him, and so on, and so on?

 

American Football – They’re Such Meatballs

Americans love our football, basketball and baseball, but not so much soccer . . . yet.

That being said, it was interesting to witness the excitement, hazards and global reach of the March Madness of soccer, er football, thanks to the World Cup. If you care, Germany was victorious over Argentina.

And, so, it was on the heels of that World Cup when I watched baseball’s Home Run Derby televised from Minnesota’s Target Field on Monday, July 14 . . . hmmm.

While baseball places the word “World” in their Fall Classic – perhaps that was when baseball bought into the Sun revolves around the Earth theory – this contest still resides only in the United States. Whereas FIFAs World Cup really is a contest which represents countries of the world – sort of like the Olympics.

But this little story isn’t about the World Cup, it’s about the many sports which use balls whose professional equipment specifications is painstaking. I admit it’s arduous reading, but glance through to get an idea regarding some of the specifications professional sports must adhere; in alphabetical order:

– Baseball: The spherical 9-inch ball is made out of either cork, rubber or a mixture of both, and must be 5 ounces. The ball is covered by two leather pieces which are sewn on by a cotton thread using 108 stitches.
– Basketball: Spherical ball should be made of a fiber case with a rubber bladder inside.
It measures  29-1/2 to 29.975 inches in circumference (Size 7). Almost all basketballs
have an inner rubber bladder that is inflatable. It is then wrapped in layers of fiber. It can have either eight or 12 seams no wider than 8.35 mm. Dropping a ball vertically from a height of 1,800 mm onto a hardwood floor the rebound should be between 1,200 mm and 1,400 mm at a temperature of 68 degrees F.
– Billiard Ball: All spherical balls must be composed of cast phenolic resin plastic and measure 2-1/4 inches in diameter and weigh 5-1/2 to 6 ounces. Balls should be unwaxed and unpolished.
– Bowling Ball: Spherical ball must be constructed of solid material without liquids or voids in the center. Any materials added to or included in the coverstock shall be equally distributed throughout the entire ball. Now hang onto your seats: The weight of a ball shall not exceed 16 pounds. There is no minimum weight. The surface hardness of bowling balls shall not be less than 72 Durometer D at room temperature (68 – 78 degrees F). The following guidelines are for balls weighing 13 lbs or greater: Circumference is 26.7 to 27.002 inches. The diameter is 8-1/2 to 8.595 inches. The Radius of Gyration is 2.46 to 2.8 inches. The Differential of RG has no minimum with a maximum of .06 inches. The Coefficient of Friction has no minimum with a maximum of .32 rating. The Roundness is .01 inch tolerance. Five holes maximum are allowed for gripping purposes, all for the same hand. One hole for balance purposes is permitted not to exceed 1-1/4 inches diameter at any point through the depth of the hole. One vent hole is permitted not to exceed 1/4 inch diameter. The center of the grip of a ball is determined by measuring the cut or front edge of each finger hole to the front edge of the thumb hole. Plugs may be inserted into a ball for the purpose of re-drilling the ball. Slugs may be used in place of plugging finger holes only when a new hole is drilled completely through the slug.
– Cricket Ball (Men): The spherical ball shall weigh not less than 5-1/2 ounces to 5-3/4 ounces, and shall measure not less than 8-13/16 inches to 9 inches in circumference.
– Croquet Ball: The maximum diameter of a spherical ball must not exceed 3-21/32 inches, and the minimum diameter must not be less than 3-19/32 inches.The maximum and minimum diameters of a ball must not differ by more than 1/32 inch. The weight of balls must be within 15-3/4 to 16-1/4 ounces. Dropping a ball vertically from a height of 60 inches onto a one-inch thick steel plate set rigidly in concrete, rebound should be between 31 and 37 inches. All balls must be milled with an identical pattern consisting of two orthogonal sets of grooves and the width of the grooves must be less than the width of the upstands left after grooving. Phew . . . pretty extensive specifications.
– Dodgeball: Spherical rubber balls should be used. Four 8-1/2-inch blockers and two 5-inch stingers.
– Golfball: A spherical ball which cannot be any smaller than 1.680 inches whose weight may not exceed 1.620 ounces. A perfectly smooth golf ball with no dimples would travel about 130 yards when hit with a driver by a good player versus a dimpled ball which travels about 290 yards. So, you’re right if you knew the sport of golf uses dimpled balls. Professionals tend to use three-layer wound balls which have either a solid rubber or liquid core. The ball contains many yards of elastic windings, with a molded cover made of either Surlyn, a thermoplastic resin, Surlyn like, or balata. Arrangement of the dimples on the ball must be as symmetrical as possible; however, the dimples don’t all have to be the same size, depth, or distributed uniformly. It has generally been found that less than 300 dimples is too few, and more than 500 is too many. So, to get it just right, most balls on the market today have between 350 and 450 dimples.
– Handball: Spherical ball made of a rubber or synthetic case weighing 2.3 ounces with a variation of .2 ounces. It is 1-7/8 inches in diameter with a 1/32-inch variation. Dropping a ball vertically from a height of 70 inches onto a hardwood floor the rebound should be between 46 to 50 inches at a temperature of 68 degrees F.
– Kickball: Pebbled spherical rubber ball case with a butyl bladder inside. It measures  27.2 inches and weighs 14.1 to 15.9 ounces.
– Lacrosse:
The spherical ball must be made of solid rubber and can be white, yellow or orange. The ball is 7-3/4 to 8 inches in circumference and 5 to 5-1/4 ounces.
– Outdoor Polo Ball: A spherical ball is usually made of a solid hard plastic. The polo ball must be within the limits of 3 to 3-1/2 inches in diameter and 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 ounces in weight.
– Paintball: Spherical gelatin capsule molded from two halves, creating a small and almost invisible seam. It contains primarily polyethylene glycol, other non-toxic and water-soluble substances, and dye. A very thin shell to guarantee breaking upon impact, and a thick, brightly colored fill that is difficult to hide or wipe off during the game. All ingredients used in the making of a Paintball are food grade quality and are harmless to the participants and environment. Paintballs come in a variety of sizes, including 0.50 inches (.50 Caliber) and 0.68 inches (.68 Caliber).
– Soccer Ball: Spherical ball measures 27 to 28 inches in circumference weighing 14 to 16 ounces. The inside pressure should be between 8-1/2 to 15.6 psi (Size 5).
– Stickball: Specially designed spherical tennis balls with extra low felt. All teams must use Official M.S.B.L. Balls. The balls can be burned to remove excess fuzz but cannot be burnt until completely blackened. Balls, which are blackened for play, must be rubbed down until acceptable.
– Tennis Ball TYPE 1 (Fast): Spherical ball 2.57 to 2.700 inches in diameter weighing 1.975 to 2.095 ounces. It is covered in a fibrous felt which modifies their aerodynamic properties and has a white curvilinear oval cover. Dropping a ball vertically from a height of 100 inches the rebound for type 2 should be between 53 to 58 inches.
– Volleyball: Spherical ball should be made of a flexible or synthetic leather case with a rubber bladder inside. It measures 25.59 to 26.38 inches, and weighs 8.26 to 9 ounces. The inside pressure should be at least 4.26 to 4.61 psi.

It seems I left out the sport of American Football in my alphabetical list. No worries, I didn’t, I just wanted to save it for last.

For those who have read my posts, you may remember I’m not a fan of American Football. I don’t like all of the body armor, specialist kickers, running into piles o’ people, limited use of foot contact, or the clock; and I especially didn’t like when the Baseball Cap was being morphed into the official field cap of the NFL Please read, Time to Flip Your Lid, posted September 15, 2012.

So, here it goes:

Design evolution of the prolate spheroid – better known as the American football.

– Football (American): A prolate spheroid made of a pebbled leather case with a urethane bladder inside inflated to 12-1/2 to 13-1/2 lbs. psi. It must be 11 to 11-1/4 inches long, have a long circumference between 28 and 28-1/2 inches, a short circumference between 21 and 21-1/4 inches, and weighs between 14 to 15 ounces.

Heads up NFL: Even a meatball is round - well bust my buttons!

As I was cooking last night – yes, cooking, I smiled as I placed the name of my food choice into its sauce. It got me thinking that a ball is a ball is a ball. Whether it’s made of plastic, ceramic, wood, resin, rice or meat; a ball is not an arrow, birdie, bullet, dart, discus, javelin, stone – or spheroid . . . it’s round, imagine that. Why won’t the NFL coin a better name for their pigskin?

They’re such meatballs.

Go to Jail, Go Directly to Jail

Ahhh . . .  the iconic board game, Monopoly®, certainly had a lot to teach, and seems to be relevant today.

At an early age I understood the importance of owning the railroads, ala Andrew Carnegie, and strived to include mid-level real estate purchases as I positioned my holdings around the board.

Among its many lessons, the game also taught players the importance of strategizing; while Chance and Community Chest both included two “Go to Jail” and two “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.

While we find ourselves in the middle of an IRS targeting probe and missing emails – another questionable government debacle in the growing number of questionable government debacles – their go-to honchos are anything but. Lois Lerner’s infamous taking the Fifth, while others provide non-answers, rambling answers, luke-warm answers, confused answers, Bush did it answers, lack of funding answers, finger-pointing answers, partisan answers and bi-partisan answers as they make their way around the board of the oversight committee.

IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, et al, have been strategizing and rounding the board – but someone should tell them Congress is not playing a game. Have the stonewallers run out of Chances? Will Congress play their card, “Go to Jail, Go Directly to Jail.”?

As life unfolded, I also learned that somewhere in the world you will find your twin. “Someone that looks so similar to you that the striking resemblance causes people to do a double-take.” Please read, I’m Confused: Who’s the Puppet?, posted September 20, 2013.

So, what does the IRS and having a twin in the world have in common with Monopoly, you might ask . . . you tell me.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen's twin, Mr. Monopoly.

“It’s Like Deja-vu, All Over Again”

Sound familiar?

This famous quote, “It’s like deja-vu, all over again,” is attributed to Yogi Berra, a beloved American professional baseball player.

Although Berra’s uncommon-sense approach to communicating is known as Yogi-isms, they should cause you to pause because they have some wisdom:

“I didn’t really say everything I said.”

“You can observe a lot by watching.”

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll wind up somewhere else.”

“We made too many wrong mistakes.”

In 1961, our military was the best in the world – we were unbeatable – after all, we were still basking in our WWII victory. Even so, our country was not willing to have American “boots on the ground” to join the fight in Vietnam’s civil war. However, our president felt compelled to do something to aid South Vietnam since the fear of the spread of communism consumed our country and democracies throughout the world.

President John Kennedy sent 400 of our Green Beret “advisors” to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers in the art of counterinsurgency and to mold various native tribes into a credible anti-communist threat.

“We are prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisors – up to 300 – to assess how we can best train, advise and support . . . going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.”

June 19, 2014: President Obama announces deployment of 300 advisors to Iraq.

America learned the many hard lessons of meddling in Vietnam’s civil war over a half-century ago. Has President Obama dismissed his oftentimes touted mantra – a teachable moment lesson?

I think so, because that remarkable quote is from his televised announcement before White House reporters on June 19, 2014.

Did President Obama really say what he said?

I couldn’t believe my ears. Certainly he is watching and understands the ramifications the United States faces as the world implodes before his very eyes – I thought. Does he have a solid plan, and know where we are going? I don’t really think so. Sadly, I fear we are going to wind up somewhere else – not foreseen; not part of his plan.

Our country is making another wrong mistake.

A quote which isn’t attributed to Yogi, rather George Bernard Shaw, bears repeating, “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.”

How incapable must President Obama be of learning from experience.

Scary times – deja-vu minus 100.

The Double Entendres in Publishing

I see it in my mind – a room filled with staffers and the editor. They have to decide on the title of a book. This is not just any book. After all, it’s a book written by an established public servant who has stoked a love/hate relationship with the public. A lawyer, wife of a governor, first lady, senator, presidential candidate, secretary of state – you know, accomplished. So, the title has to convey a seriousness . . . a respectability, if you will.

With all of the titles floated, tossed out, and under consideration, what editor thought the title for Hillary Clinton’s book, “Hard Choices” was apropos?

Better yet, why did Hillary think that title was befitting her experiences? Did she believe placing her signature above the title would add the necessary seriousness and respectability? Didn’t anyone see the glaring issue with that title? Or did Simon & Schuster follow Penguin Books wink-wink-nod-nod with the title they chose to represent disgraced 4-Star General and CIA chief, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.”

Wasn’t the country dragged through enough voyeurism and unwilling education on the peccadillos of her husband which unfolded during his presidency; but, more so, wasn’t she personally and publicly humiliated enough?

Sounds more like a Bill Clinton autobiography, and just so you know . . . I like President Clinton.

What were the other suggestions for the title of her book: Firm Hand, Behind the Door, Under Pressure . . . ewww, can’t get my mind off of her husband’s shenanigans. I for one, consider her approval for the title of her book as lacking judgement and poor.

Hillary’s “choice” doesn’t bode well for her decision-making capabilities, or does it . . . are we being punk’d?

Exposing Vivian Maier

An extremely private person who looks at the world through their oft-skewed perspective collecting seemingly unimportant things could be referred to as an eccentric, or maybe even a hoarder. But one person’s innocuous collection can become a treasure trove for another.

Within an untold number of storage lockers filled with books, newspaper clippings, knick-knacks, and the like; decades-long experiences of life were plucked from the depths of those impersonal walls. After years of obscurity, a very personal collection surfaced which documented moments in time through Vivian Maier’s steadfast perspective.

Self portrait: Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier began life in the Bronx, New York, with her French-born mother and Austrian-born father in 1926. Although her parent’s marriage didn’t survive, she lived with her mother along with Jeanne Bertrand, an award-winning portrait photographer, while in New York until the age of four. At some point Vivian and her mother went to France, and after numerous to-and-fro trans-Atlantic trips, Vivian returned to the United States in 1951.

And, it was then that her career as a nanny began. Did Vivian choose the life of a nanny because it coincided with her unencumbered free spirit? Possibly, but what we do know is the families for which she worked were not aware of the quiet, unassuming genius in their midst.

Vivian’s work captured life unfolding primarily in New York City and Chicago through the lens of her camera. Politics, social issues, race, class, gender, and inequality were among her subjects; and her career as a nanny was ever-present showing itself time after time as she documented the experience of children.

What’s the big deal, you may ask – we are awash with street photographers, what makes Vivian Maier so genius?

Maier was primarily a self-taught photographer who fastidiously cataloged her body of work. Vivian clicked the button on her camera to take the photograph, and never returned. Her images were left only to the moment in time, burned onto undeveloped spools of film negatives, and her memory – she never saw most of her images.

Due to non-payment to the storage facility, in 2007, the hoard-filled contents of Maier’s lockers were auctioned off to RPN Sales. They then held a subsequent auction, and one of the buyers was John Maloof. His life has never been the same.

Maloof was lucky enough to purchase Vivian’s breathtaking, lifetime body of work . . . well over 120,000 unexposed photographs which reveal a remarkable level of composition and sophistication. Reconstructing most of the archive, Maloof enthusiastically leads the project and spearheads sharing the genius of Street Photographer, Vivian Maier.

Never married, never a mom, would this intensely private nanny have wanted her treasures shared? After all, weren’t they hers, and hers alone to methodically catalog in the quiet recesses of her own mind? Would she have appreciated all the fan-fare, and having her life exposed?

We’ll probably never know the answer to those probing question, nonetheless, we have become the beneficiaries of this unique woman’s contribution.

Morning Has Broken

Although we all know the reality that life in America wasn’t as portrayed on television’s Ozzie and Harriet, or Leave It To Beaver, there was a part of us which admired and wanted those hierarchy structures and routines in our own lives.

Take breakfast for example: We sat down at the kitchen table with other family members, perhaps a glass of juice, half grapefruit, pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs, toast, or bowl of cereal . . . simple and sweet.

Imagine . . . people actually sat at a table, used real utensils, glassware and dinnerware.

Serving a breakfast takes time. You have to cook, set the table, sit at the table, talk to others, eat, clear the table, wash the wares, and then leave for school or work. But modern life doesn’t have time for those niceties which helped create proper social beings. We’re too busy, we simply don’t have that luxury.

Okay, things change, I get that, understood.

Are we at risk of loosing the colorful experience of pushing our shopping cart through the cereal aisle?

But . . . Americans no longer have time to sit down (table optional) and chow down a bowl of cereal? Pouring corn flakes into a bowl has become an effort which takes too long to prepare? Are you kidding me?

I kid you not. Kellogg’s released a statement, “Not all consumers choose a bowl of cereal and milk, for them, we’re developing foods that provide the benefits of cereal in portable and convenient formats.”

Cereal was already made portable years ago, and you can’t beat its convenience – I thought. And, let’s not forget, in order to keep up with the growing number of do-gooder’s zeal for healthy food options, cereal manufacturers constantly underwent transformations. Cereal is now more healthy, contains more protein, is less sugary, less caloric, and now consumers have gluten-free choices.

So, we’ve successfully covered two of the check points for all those multi-taskers: Portable and convenient, but how many more formats have yet to be invented?

Let’s see, it’s Taco Bell who knows all about new breakfast formats, notice I didn’t say healthy. Listen up Kellogg’s, Post, and General Mills whose always falling over themselves to be politically correct. Anyway, in Taco Bell’s wisdom they know Americans love quantity and taste, not necessarily quality; and we’re definitely not that into presentation or sitting at a table with our family.

Taco Bell introdues a new format for breakfast consumption – the waffle taco.

Knowing all of that, and knowing what we like to eat, can translate into big bucks and increased revenue for the Bell. Welcome their version of a well-rounded American breakfast: A waffle taco filled with scrambled eggs, sausage and side of syrup.

Taco Bell also knows another thing. They’re a business, and in order to stay in business, they’re interested in offering food – healthy, or not – which people will actually pay for with their hard-earned money. So much for First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move It” and Fresh Food Program, preservatives, trans fats, calorie, carbohydrate, fat content, obesity, and diabetes concerns.

I thought the do-gooders targeted households, schools, cupcake fund-raiser events, vending machines, deli’s, bagel shops, donut franchises – and fast-food restaurants – for contributing to the increasing waist lines of Americans. I hear peeling all right, but it’s not from the Bell, it’s the do-gooders peeling themselves off of ceilings all across America.

Breaking News: Photo editors are frantically retouching all images of June Cleaver’s famous pearls from her neckline. Taco Bell has eclipsed the Beaver’s mom of her long-standing home ec skills.

Hindsight being 20/20: Sitting at a table, talking to one another, and pouring cereal into a bowl wasn’t so bad after all, was it?

Looks Like Oprah Got Owned

Unless you were living under a rock you were aware of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) 8-part reality series covering the ups and downs of Lindsay Lohan.

The title for the OWN series should have been: Lindsay, the Art of Manipulation.

On OWNs website, they describe the series as, “The highly anticipated OWN documentary series Lindsay, directed by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Amy Rice (By the People: The Election of Barack Obama), follows movie star and media sensation Lindsay Lohan on her journey through recovery following a very public period of crisis.”

Today what passes for a movie star is somewhat embarrassing. However, in Lohan’s case, I would concede to a description of her as a celebrity . . . are the bookers for Dancing With the Stars listening? But, I do agree with media sensation as a legitimate description because that’s what Lohan has become . . . a sensation – a widespread reaction of interest.

A person who was given all the opportunity and benefit of all doubts, a person who has unfortunately become an addict, a person who has mocked the legal system as she pushed the envelope of reason and patience. A person who has been less than honest and up-standing.

That’s the person who was given an 8-week high-five. I did not – emphasis, did not – want to watch this unfolding train wreck, but I derailed, and I wasn’t surprised or disappointed. Let’s just say I was disgusted.

Sadly, what I thought is what I expected . . . and what I got. Lohan did her Lindsay-thang from day one. Often failing to meet her obligations for filming, appearances, interviews, appointments, and photo shoots on time.

Oh! sure, there were excuses upon excuses, after all Lindsay is so important. Nobody’s schedule for laying around in bed is as important. Nobody’s stress level is as important, either. As a matter of fact, nobody is as important – period. But her antics even tweaked the Goddess Oprah, who traveled to New York in order to have a mano-a-mano, come-to-Jesus meeting with Lohan. I only wish Oprah would have pulled the plug on the fiasco of a production as she hinted she was willing to do on her way to the “meeting.”

I did not dedicate my precious Sunday’s to watching Lindsay, rather I opted for stints of binge viewing. That’s the only way I could stomach the deft manipulation Lohan meted out to those who actually were giving her yet another chance.

The viewers weren’t treated to a positive journey of recovery, as promised by OWN. Instead, sadly, we were mistreated to weird, self-engrandisement where the only thing we learned was, “We were had. We, too, were owned.”

The good news for me is the series is over.

The good news-bad news scenario for Oprah is the series was watched, and there was lots of media buzz surrounding the series; but I’m not sure if Oprah knew the level of the con. Oprah hasn’t carefully built her reputation over many years to be publically punk’d.

The good news-bad news scenario for Lindsay Lohan is the series furthered her exposure.

I’m sure the spinmeisters for Oprah are doing their level best to define the series as a failed experiment, but a success nonetheless . . . anything other than what it actually became; you see, OWN has to make lemonade out of lemons.

And, I’m also sure Lohan’s camp has released their spinmeisters – Lindsay being Handler Number 1, because nobody can spin anything as well, or better, that’s for sure.

But, who was speaking for the viewers, though . . . Dr. Seuss, where was the Lorax when we needed him?

The word which comes to mind to describe Lohan is narcissistic – grandiose sense of self-importance, a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

And . . . to my points: Upon negative reviews of her unprofessional, strange, ongoing rude behavior the Handler Number 1, Spinmeister, Narcissist Lohan has announced the reason why she didn’t film for two weeks – drum roll please . . . she suffered a miscarriage.

That about sums things up – enough said.

 

Star Sailors Celebrated

The space race between the Soviet Union and the United States ramped up after a forward-thinking President John F. Kennedy threw down the gauntlet.

President Kennedy laid out our “Urgent National Needs” on May 25, 1961 during a joint session of Congress. In that speech the president avowed, “that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

Fifty-three years ago our country was prodded and motivated by an awe-inspiring, anything is possible dreamer – our president. He created the fervor and foundation needed so the American dream would become the world’s reality.

The nation of dreamers became the nation of doers, and on July 20, 1969 the three-man crew of Apollo 11 realized the president’s challenge. Neil Armstrong, Commander, became the first man on the moon; and Buzz Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot, was the second. Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot, orbited the moon while his crew members spent over 21 hours on the lunar surface.

President Kennedy had the right dream and NASA delivered – they had the right stuff. That’s when astronauts were admired and revered. That’s when the country – and the world – stopped and took notice. That’s when people on planet Earth believed all things were possible. We were proud.

Apollo 13 brought the world to a standstill . Left to right: Fred Haise, James Lovell and Jack Swigert.

But, there was another time when people throughout the whole planet stopped, took notice and ultimately beamed with pride.

Apollo 13 endured an assortment of smaller, manageable problems; but an on-board explosion, rising carbon monoxide levels, and ampere power limitations were life threatening.

The crew, manned by extraordinary professionals, were able to react to the explosion which resulted in the venting of their oxygen into space with the understatement of the century, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

I’d say the world agreed with their assessment. But we weren’t as calm and cool under pressure as they continued to catapult toward the moon. The eyes and hearts of the turbulent world were in unison – we had to get them home. Their crippled ship was perilously close to a catastrophic end over 200,000 miles from Earth. Did David Bowie’s 1969 song about fictional astronaut Major Tom, “Space Oddity,” foretell their fate?

The mission became an oddity, indeed. Many things went wrong, both before and during the flight, but an incredible number of talented people worked around the clock to get things right . . . enough to get the crew home.

Forty-four years ago today – April 17, 1970 – James Lovell Jr., Commander; Fred Haise Jr., Lunar Module Pilot and John Swigert, Jr., Command Module Pilot, survived four harrowing days in space. Never having landed on the moon, the world held their breath waiting for them to splash down safely in the south Pacific Ocean. Retrieved by the USS Iwo Jima, the Apollo 13 mission is considered a “successful failure.”

Ever since man could walk upright, our quest and thirst for exploration is part of who we are as human beings, and it continues.

In 2013, NASA selected their next crop of eight astronauts: Josh A. Cassada, Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy; Victor J. Glover, Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy; Tyler N. Hague, Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force; Nicole Aunapu Mann, Major, U.S. Marine Corps; Anne C. McClain, Major, U.S. Army; Andrew R. Morgan, M.D., Major, U.S. Army; Christina M. Hammock; and Jessica U. Meir.

Welcome the 2013 Astronaut Candidate Class:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “These new space explorers asked to join NASA because they know we’re doing big, bold things here – developing missions to go farther into space than ever before. They’re excited about the science we’re doing on the International Space Station . . . and they’re ready to help lead the first human mission to an asteroid and then on to Mars.”

I can only wonder if President Kennedy’s dreams were ever about missions to asteroids, landing a person on Mars, and returning safely to Earth?

This space age stuff gives me, well, goose bumps.

Logic: It’s All Black and White For Me

Armed with the ability to ask unending questions, we’ve all endured quizacle frustrations at the hands of a mere toddler.

Q: “Why can’t animals talk?”
A: “Their vocal chords are different from ours, sweetheart.”

Q: “Why?”
A: “Because they rely on speaking in another way.”

Q: “Why?”
A: “Because animals are special.”

Q: “Why?”
A: “Because they’re one of life’s mysteries.”

Q: “Why?”

And on . . . and on . . . and on.

I’m simply exhausted thinking about how these conversations play themselves out, or should I say . . . wear themselves out. But, truth be told, a toddler’s art of questioning is really quite charming.

You see, toddlers are amazed by practically everything, want to know everything, and want to know how things work. And it’s that very quality of wonder which has advanced human beings lot in life. One question leads to another, then another, and so on.

Although we still don’t know the answer to the number one question, “What is the meaning of life?” we tend to figure out the answers to probing questions over years, decades, or centuries.

Stripes are the ultimate bug repellant. Silly me, I thought they were Mother Nature's way of runway boasting.

In the 1870s Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace posed the toddler Q&A scenario, “Why do zebras have stripes?”

Earlier this month scientists were able to answer their question. It seems biting insects prefer to land on dark surfaces because it mimics their go-to breeding environment of mud and water. So, animals whose hides are dark in color tend to suffer from biting insects, while animals of lighter-colored hides do not.

Understood. But the striped animal, the zebra, is neither dark or light, and also suffers from an additional biting insect preference. According to Tim Caro, a biologist at the University of California at Davis, biting insects can easily penetrate a zebra’s thin coat of hair. No need to continue to chomp on your Fruit Stripes®, evolution tends to get it right over time, and had it all under control.

Striped animal hides tend to confuse the navigational system of biting insects . . . thin coat of hair, or not.

It took us smarty pants humans almost 150 years to figure out what Mother Nature mastered long, long ago.

Apparently another mystery of life has bit the dust: The zebra killed two birds with one stone . . . and didn’t have to say a word.

To Tell the Truth-ish

During the span of 1956 through 1968, Bud Collyer was the host of To Tell the Truth during its original reign on the idiot box.

The television game show’s concept was artfully simple: The host read aloud a signed affidavit about the real contestant. Four celebrity panelists asked a series of questions. The real contestant was sworn to tell the truth, while the other two imposters were encouraged to answer as though they were the real character in order to sway the panelists. The more votes the imposters received, the more prize money they were awarded.

After each panelist voted and explained who they felt the real character was, the host boomed this famous line, “Will the real xxxx please stand up . . .” and the three contestants made believe each would stand. Finally, only the real person did indeed stand up. Applause followed, and the host asked the remaining two to introduce themselves.

Good, clean, harmless television.

Frank Abagnale, Jr., made famous by Steven Spielberg’s movie, Catch Me If You Can, did a stint on the iconic show in 1977. Joe Garagiola, the show’s third host, described Abagnale as the “world’s greatest imposter” – posing as a doctor, lawyer, college instructor, stock broker and airline pilot.

Aired until 2001, To Tell the Truth was a true original. It made a lasting impact on the television format of panel shows, and made for many memorable images.

But memorable images and the “world’s greatest imposter” aren’t only reserved for television shows and audiences. Truth be told, we experience the greatest imposters of the world through nature. And lucky for us, the wonders of nature thrives all around each and every one . . . all we have to do is look and admire. @PurfectAdogable posted a tweet and image which looks remarkably like Easter Peeps sitting snugly in snow, and it brought To Tell the Truth flying back into my mind.

The affidavit follows:

During winter, this bird camouflages itself snowy white in order to provide the cover it needs to hide from their predators – which include hawks, eagles, falcons, owls, and foxes, Oh!, my. Easily confused by its prey for marshmallow Peeps, it stays warm in winter by burrowing down in large snowdrifts . . .

“Will the real Ptarmigan please stand up . . .”

This could be a Highlights Hidden Picture® puzzle. Find the camouflaged Peeps, snow chickens and Ptarmigans in the mounds of snowdrifts it burrows in to stay warm and fend off its prey. Thanks @PurfectAdogable

The Tortoise and the Hare

This Easter, it looks like the Aesop’s Fables hare has forced himself on the amiable tortoise. Most likely this year’s race will end in a photo finish.

Apparently the hare is looking for a win, but would be happy with a place or show.

Sour grapes!

Look Who’s Talkin’ in 1976

The year was 1976, and one of the most memorable lines from a movie made it’s way into our pop culture.

On February 8, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver was released. It starred Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle, an ex-marine who lashed out with his uneasy brand of murder and carnage.

Portraying such an unstable character left us all uncomfortable. So much so that AFIs 100 Years . . . 100 Movie Quotes has ranked Bickle’s eery statement, ” You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking . . . you talking to me? Well, I’m the only one here . . .” as the tenth most memorable movie quote.

Just rewinding that scene in my head gives me the creeps.

Ahhhh, but another renowned film made its way to the big screen that same year.

Nine months later, on November 21, Sylvester Stallone gave birth to, and introduced Rocky to the world. Rocky Balboa was a small-time boxer who got the chance of a lifetime opportunity . . . to fight Apollo Creed, the heavyweight champion.

Apollo mimicked the boxing landscape of that era with poetic taunting, media coverage, costuming akin to entertainment wrestling, and grand entrances. And so, when Apollo entered the arena in a patriotic float, the crowd went wild. As Apollo entered the ring he proceeded to taunt Rocky, pointing a hand-held American flag toward the underdog hopeful.

Apollo: I want you! you!
Rocky
(to Mickey): Is he talkin’ to me?
Mickey
: He is.
Rocky
: Is he talkin’ to me?
Mickey: Let him talk.

And so it began. Rocky made its way into our pop culture.

I guess people were confused with who was talking to whom in 1976 . . . at least that’s what the movies seemed to want us to think. But, although Rocky isn’t credited with the famous “talkin’ to me” line, it did enter our lexicon with another.

While Adrienne is listed as a popular first name for a baby girl; number 394 out of 4,276; AFIs 100 Years . . . 100 Movie Quotes has ranked the memorable, knock-out quote – yes, this time credited to Rocky – at number 80:

” Yo, Adrienne.”

Tea . . . Earl Grey Plunged Into the Drink

Much of the blood running through my veins is comprised of tea, but I’m not even remotely a tea aficionado, or a tea snob. I just love tea, and to my point of not being a tea snob, I happen to use tea bags as a rule – Red Rose, and especially look forward to finding my toy prize inside the 100-count box.

There’s nothing like drinking my perfected cup of hot tea. I don’t have to be sick, have a queasy stomach, or set aside a certain time of the day. I drink multiple cups of tea all of the time, anytime and every day of the week. My one criteria: Tea must be sipped from a real cup; ceramic will do, but I prefer porcelain.

Unfortunately, most establishments don’t offer Red Rose. Oh!, they come to the table with the box filled with fancy teas, and I either choose English Breakfast, or Earl Grey. But, regardless of where I choose to eat, I never will drink my tea from a paper, styrofoam, or glass cup; footed stem or not . . . no matter how much I want that cup of tea, and no matter how trendy the restaurant. And, it’s in those trendy restaurants where I have reminded the waiter to return to the table with my tea in a “real” cup, you know . . . with a saucer and spoon. Can you imagine?

It seems I am one of the shrinking number of tea drinkers, but you’re probably not that surprised; after all diners, food carts, restaurants, coffee shops and cafes abound. And, after all, over 80% of Americans consume an average of 3+ cups of coffee each and every day.

Amateurs – I drink over 10 cups of tea daily. Anyway, with such high numbers of coffee drinkers, I cannot be surprised that Americans prefer java over cuppa.

But . . . I am surprised that 8-out-of-10 Brits consume an average of 2+ cups of coffee each and every day; threatening the standard black tea as their go-to hot beverage.

“Brits have really taken to the coffee shop culture in recent years and many of us find it 
difficult to get through a day without at least one trip to our local coffee shop,” said David Black of Consumer Intelligence.

Thirty-eight percent of British consumers prefer lattes, closely followed by cappucinos. While 18 percent prefer Americanos, 11 percent Espressos, 4 percent Mochaccinos, and 2 percent drink Macchiatos.

The Boston Coffee Party? Sounds clumsy, and doesn’t have the same ring  – it lacks the England-inspired sophisticated call-to-arms urgency.

Java . . . it’s just not my cup of tea.

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

The majestic Statue of Liberty emits 7 rays from her crown signifying the 7 continents and 7 seas of the world. It’s unquestionably the iconic symbol for freedom . . . inviting anyone from anywhere to dare to dream.

Appropriately so, while the Oscar doesn’t even come close to her awe inspiring symbolism, the golden statuette is known worldwide with a little symbolism of his own . . . he also invites all to dream.

Louis B. Mayer came up with the idea of a dinner to recognize meritorious achievement in the film industry, and Cedric Gibbons, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s chief art director, expanded on Mayer’s idea. He floated the idea of presenting a trophy to those who were selected during the dinner’s awards ceremony. He envisioned the trophy as a knight holding a sword standing atop a film reel.

Sounded interesting and do-able, but who would translate Gibbons idea into reality?
Enter Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley.

And, on May 16, 1929 Stanley’s trophy made its appearance. Tickets for the first Academy Award’s ceremony cost between $5.00 and $10.00. The dinner was hosted by Academy President Douglas Fairbanks, and took place in the Blossom Room of Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel. The festive gathering was interrupted by a short, uneventful 15-minute ceremony to announce the trophy recipients who were already recognized three months earlier. Talk about a wet-blanket moment.

Hosted by Douglas Fairbanks, Emil Jannings was the first Academy Award of Merit trophy recipient, 1929.

Emil Jannings received the very first Academy Award of Merit statuette for his Best Actor roles in The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. However, receiving the award was so uneventful that Jannings didn’t even make an appearance at the banquet.

Ten years later, in 1939, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences adopted the statuette’s more affectionate name – Oscar. Nobody really knows why or how the statuette received its name, but folklore has it as being coined by the Academy’s librarian and future director, Margaret Herrick, who believed it looked like her uncle . . . you guessed it . . . Oscar.

However the hand-held statuette got its name, it represents the stuff that dreams are made of – thanks Bogey, as said in the first recognized film noir, The Maltese Falcon. By the way, The Maltese Falcon was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Writing, Screenplay.

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Back to Oscar . . . he stands a mere 13.5 inches tall weighing 8.5 pounds, and, oh,
yes . . . the film reel features five rays – signifying the five original branches of the Academy: Actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers.

Cedric Gibbons, designer of the Oscar statuette.

Incidentally, not only was Gibbons the designer of Oscar, he also won the golden statuette 11 times. Gibbons was incredibly nominated 39 times for films between 1929 and 1956, including for his art direction in The Wizard of Oz. He is considered the most important art director in the history of American cinema with a record number of over 1,500 on-screen credits.

Oscar and the Statue of Liberty: Both signify the stuff that dreams are made of, inviting anyone from anywhere to dream . . . Austin Cedric Gibbons – born in Dublin, Ireland immigrated to the United States as a child with his parents . . . and dared to dream.

Where is Flick?

It’s now a casual given to add the suffix “gate” to scandals involving government.

The most recent debacle involves Gov. Christie (NJ), whose administration allegedly knew of lane closures exiting New Jersey and entering New York via the George Washington Bridge . . . now known as Bridge-gate.

Something kind of sick about that alleged dirty trick – you know using the George Washington Bridge – which borrows the name of our first president, synonomous with above-reproach and honor . . . you know, the cherry tree, and “I cannot tell a lie” George.

I wonder . . . can any of Washington’s descendants sue?

Anyway, the George Washington Bridge is one of the most heavily used bridges in the world. Did you just read that – In the world. The bridge is a major roadway which supports commuters from New York and New Jersey, as well as a crucial roadway for truckers driving on the Boston I-95 corridor.

The “gate” revolves around the purposeful lane closures which made drivers merge into one long lane to get through the toll area before they could continue on their frustrated way.

It's time to call government misdeeds what they really are. Not the cheeky suffix "gate," but abuse.

Well, I really have to take issue at this point. You see, the regular folk, you know . . . us-ins, are constantly forced unwillingly to merge into lanes.

Just go to a bank, grocery store, big-box store, or think about your most recent experience trying to navigate through phone prompts – the thought of that scenario gives me chills up and down my spine. We’re always backed up in a queue if we don’t want to use self-service technology.

We’re penalized for actually wanting to rely on a check-out person, toll-taker to ferret us through traffic, a customer-service person to answer a question, or simply listen to our issue.

So, although Bridge-gate is a major issue it doesn’t phase me anymore. I mean there’s been such an overreach and plethora of gate-isms. One can almost visualize journalists licking their collective chops just waiting to hoist that suffix onto anything which smacks of governmental misdeeds.

But, are we really surprised and appalled with political dirty tricks, misuse of taxpayer funds, scandals, lines at government offices, or the “Do as I say, not as I do” modus operandi?

Us-ins are seemingly programmed and subjected to mindless, route conformity packaged as helping, or necessary in order to speed up a particular process.

It’s real comforting that journalists are looking after the minions by defining another gotcha debacle, but adding gate onto the ever-growing pile of gates isn’t exactly changing the herding we’re faced with each and every day.

I don’t know, I believe people will put up with only so much – just look at what happened in 1989 with the fall of the Soviet Union, most recently across the Middle East, and now with Ukraine.

It’s time to apply the appropriate suffix because gate doesn’t cut it anymore. Why not just call it what it is . . . abuse.

When people rise up and expect their government to be accountable, they’re discounted as anarchists, rioters, malcontents, etc., when the fact is they’re reacting to their abusers not in lines, or queues, but en masse.

Let’s see, Bank-abuse, NSA-abuse, IRS-abuse, ACA-abuse, Wall Street-abuse, unemployment-abuse, and Oh!, yes, Bridge-abuse . . . sounds accurate to me.

All the while our elected politicians sheepishly look around for someone to blame when they’re caught and mutter under their breath, “Flick? Flick who?”

Dazed and confused?

Nah! not even close, I’m very alert, and very aware.

What I am is numb and abused, how about you?

Take That “Best In Show”

The Westminster Dog Show is the second-longest-running American sports event after the Kentucky Derby.

Said in that context, it means the Westminster Dog Show is a high-brow sport.

That’s for sure, but the vast majority of dog owners are not high-browers, they’re wonderful Americans who simply have an immeasurable love for their mutts.

Ask anyone who watches the Show. Why, their Fido is just as adorable, just as special, just as well-groomed and mannered. The only criteria missing is their dogs lack of pedigree to establish the well-defined standards which judges must follow.

Tire Obstacle nothin. Rapture leapt through the obstacle with ease as the National Westminster Dog Show finally allowed mixed-breeds to compete in the Masters Agility Championship. Photo: AP John Minchillo

We collectively said, “Fooey” to that.

With perked ears, after 19.7 dog years, the Westminster powers that be actually listened.

This year, for the first time, a mixed-breed Masters Agility Championship competition showcased regular, stellar pooches.

And, the ribbon was awarded to: Kelso, a border collie.

Kelso, who sports from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, mastered the various obstacles showcasing the speed and agility necessary to beat 225 other furry competitors.

Kudos for Kelso . . . hot diggity dog.

If Someday Ever Comes

What many people subscribe to is the ability to retire, the desire to retire, to not have to follow someone else’s schedule . . . you know, to have “me” time – and the age when many sign up for that time is 65.

Not too young, not too old, MediCare kicks in, and you take life a little easier, if you will.

You deserve to relax, after all, you did everything you were supposed to do – went to school, entered the workforce with your first of many jobs, learned the business as the years marched on, received promotions in your late 30s or early 40s; and as you approached becoming an official card-carrying senior citizen, the calendar reminded you it was time to make room for the next generation who were clipping at your heels.

The personal and professional circle of life.

Except if you’re a Supreme Court Justice, Pope Francis, Queen Elizabeth, or Prince Charles – you know, the lifers who tend to hold onto their jobs for their entire lives, hence the word lifers.

Will Queen Elizabeth ever step down and let her son, Prince Charles, fulfill his Kingly duties?

I wrote a tidbit about the unlikely scenario of the Mad Hatter, er Queen Elizabeth, actually stepping down from the throne and allowing her son – Prince Charles – to put that historic crown on his head:

“Along with the public’s admiration of the Queen’s steadfast respect of public duty, and longevity which runs in her family, it does not appear Queen Elizabeth will be stepping down and transferring her duties to the next in line – her son, Prince Charles” see Sorry Charlie . . . 60 Years and Counting (posted June 4, 2012)

It reminds me of the eerie stepmother’s tactic in Disney’s Cinderella:

Stepmother: Well, I see no reason why you can’t go… if you get all your work done.
Cinderella: Oh, I will. I promise.
Stepmother: And, if you can find something suitable to wear.
Cinderella: I’m sure I can. Oh, thank you, Stepmother.
Drizella: Mother, do you realize what you just said?
Stepmother: Of course. I said, “If.”

I feel sorry for Prince Charles. He spent his entire life being told what he could and could not do, who he could marry, endures the continual, multi-decades process of being primped, prodded, and groomed – all so that he could receive his promotion; while his mother, the Queen, knew all along her if was slightly kinder – “someday.”

Well, Queen Elizabeth must have been listening to Snow White’s heartfelt plea, “Someday My Prince Will Come,” because it appears the Lifer Queen is transferring some of her lesser duties to the King in Waiting.

The Grandpa Prince holds tight onto his dream of being the King of England . . . but his mother still will not allow her eldest primped, prodded, and groomed son his promotion. Yes, the Queen continues to dangle the carrot, tosses him piecemeal a few extra-duty bones, but Prince Charles is 65, the age when most hang up their bootstraps, and subscribe to “me” time.

Clearly the Queen doesn’t seem to want to pass the full baton to her eldest, so will Prince Charles really want the job when someday finally taps him on the shoulder? Would you?

Perhaps the Queen really did heed Snow White’s plea, but she understood the prince as being . . . Prince William.

A Funny, Little Intersection Became the Crossroads of the World

Another year is closing, and another year is to unfold.

What lies ahead makes the optimists giddy, while the pessimists are white-knuckled.

If you’re like most of us, you’re somewhere in between.

So, for one night you’ll revel in some small way the opening of the door to 2014 as you help propel this world-wide 110-year-old tradition into the history books.

Massive, state-of-the-art printing presses were placed in specially designed sub-basements which could handle the monster presses in the new headquarters for The New York Times. The 25-story Times Tower was located at the triangular intersection of 7th Avenue, Broadway and 42nd Street – 1 Times Square.

To celebrate, the paper’s owner, Alfred Ochs, put on an all-day party like none before for over 200,000 revelers. At midnight a fireworks display from the base of the Times Tower prompted oohs and aahs so overwhelming that Trinity Church in lower Manhattan was usurped as the traditional gathering place to ring in the new year from that moment – the year was 1904.

The original illuminated ball welcoming the new year.

In 1906, the city forbade the display of fireworks, but that didn’t dissuade Mr. Ochs. Rising to the occasion, “a large, illuminated seven-hundred-pound iron and wood ball lowered from the tower flagpole precisely at midnight to signal the end of 1907 and the beginning of 1908.”

For 36 years the illuminated ball dropped from the Times Tower precisely at midnight to welcome the new year. It was during the wartime years 1942-43 when the illuminated ball succumbed to the dimming of lights throughout New York City. Revelers still gathered at this triangular intersection and welcomed in the new year to the sounds of chimes  . . . some celebrants were giddy, while others were white-knuckled.

In 1928, the Tower introduced an electronic news ticker, more affectionately referred to as the “zipper”. Its first news ticker announced a victorious Herbert Hoover as our new president, followed by countless other headlines of the day as the years marched on. Ironically, the once-dimmed lights at Times Square blazed across the zipper as another crowd packed into that famous intersection – but this time it wasn’t to usher in the new year. It was on August 14, 1945 when the packed crowd at Times Square read the WW-II surrender of Japan.

Made of Waterford Crystal and LEDs, the 2014 12-foot diameter ball weighs nearly 12,000 pounds and is completely computer controlled. Photo Ben Helmer, Untapped Cities

The Times remarkably outgrew the Tower in 1914 but still retained ownership of the building until 1961 when it was sold to developer Douglas Leigh. From then until now, there have been countless owners, but regardless of who owns the building, Alfred Ochs entrenched that little, seemingly inconsequential intersection in New York as “the place” to gather for historic news events . . . and to ring in each new year.

Today, over one billion people watch this simple, hopeful celebration from the Crossroads of the World. I am one of the billions, and I am cautiously optimistic for 2014.

For the first time in the history of the New Year’s Eve Ball, the numbers will be lit in colors and patterns that can be changed and controlled.

Turning Japanese – Are We Done, Yet?

What does WeatherTech® and the Official USA Olympic 2014 Snowboarders’ Uniform have in common?

They both protect the user from weather, other than that – Nada.

Olympic 2014 Snowboarders Uniform: A patchwork quilt of stars and stripes unveiled by manufacturer, Burton.

Guess which one boasts USA in their heart and on their fitted sleeve?

You really don’t have to guess – it’s WeatherTech®. Unfortunately, I’ll just confirm the Official 2014 Olympic Snowboarders’ Uniform were – outsourced. Not again.

Please read, The Emperor Has No Clothes, posted July 19, 2012.

Hmmm . . . sounds like Ralph Lauren’s fall from the bridge wasn’t so bad after all. Sounds like the Olympic 2012 criticisms from the halls of our esteemed Senate and Congress fell on deaf ears as well.

Speaking of deaf ears, I would have to surmise our Olympic Committee has reiterated its lame PR-approved stance which they trotted out during the heated Lauren-China alliance.

How ticky-tacky.

A lot of thought went into the design and manufacture for this Olympic’s snowboarder uniform . . . stars, stripes, quilt work . . . what’s all the fuss? These uniforms weren’t made in China, after all.

“The vintage quilt and flag print of the jacket combined with the corduroy pants give the uniform an `heirloom hippie’ vibe that lines up with snowboarding’s laid-back culture while paying respect to America’s longstanding creative heritage. It will stand out in Sochi for sure,” said Greg Dacyshyn, Burton chief creative officer.

Are you sick, yet?

One is proudly Made in the USA in toto, while the other isn’t – they’re just “paying respect.”

One desires to keep manufacturing here, while the other doesn’t.

One is concerned about maintaining jobs in the United States, while the other isn’t.

I guess it’s okay to outsource to . . . Japan and Vietnam – because these uniforms weren’t outsourced to China, after all.

Really? Read on.

Burton Snowboards released this statement, “The fabric of the competition fleece was woven in Italy, and the technical and waterproof corduroy pant fabric was developed in Taiwan and sewn in Vietnam . . . next, we turned to our longstanding, trusted vendors in China to produce several of the accessories.”

Wait, there’s more, “As such, every piece of the uniform has to perform at the highest level and keep the athletes warm and dry in the unpredictable weather conditions that could come in Sochi.”

Not a single trusted vendor resides on USA soil?

Not so fast Skippy . . . since 1989 MacNeil Automotive has been providing the best in automotive protection and vehicle accessories. So, it doesn’t seem to be such a stretch to protect uniform fabric, does it?

Maybe someone with hippie vibe should have spoken with WeatherTech® to learn how they manage to manufacture in . . .  egads, the United States.

New York and Knish: They Go Hand-In-Hand

Fifteen million knishes are no longer being sold as fire sweeps Gabila's knish factory.

Jack and Jill, Frick and Frack, Bat and Ball . . . you get the idea: New York and Knish.

Gotta have one . . . knish, that is . . . with spicy brown mustard – yum.

New York has always boasted having the biggest and the best of pretty much anything. Just ask Chicago, a city who is no longer home of the tallest building – it’s the 1,776-foot, spire-topped Freedom Tower . . . ahem, in New York.

The knish, a fried dumpling, was first introduced to New Yorkers by immigrants in the early 1900s, and has become a staple in American society.

But tongues are left wagging, not just in New York. You see, people all across this nation want their dumpling; simply stated . . . people are verklempt.

Gabila’s Knishes is the factory which is regarded as the biggest and the best makers of the knish. It is located in . . . you guessed it – New York – and they have suffered a fire which has caused a nationwide shortage.

Fifteen million to be exact, since the September 24 fire ruined the knish-making machines.

Food carts, cafeterias, delis, supermarkets, household refrigerators . . . and Bingo Halls – can I get an “Amen” – everyone, everywhere are having a collective knish-attack.

I think it’s Gabila’s which is too big to fail . . . not GM, or Fannie Mae, or the greedy banks.

Oy vey iz mir.

Halloween 2013: Will it be Another Nail-biter?

Residents from the East Coast of the United States stared Halloween 2012 right in its skeletal face, and were spooked.

They were left with the remnants of Frankenstorm Sandy which devastated thousands of miles of coastline – not to mention the massive amount of damage which caused permanent scars for many.

So, how can we put a smile on our faces once again? I’m from the school that it’s the simple things in life, not a hurricane, which pack the biggest punch.

French manicures with a vertical twist. Say, "fromage."

Our littlest of goblins can relish dressing up . . . remember Halloween really is for kids . . . while adults can subtly – yet effectively celebrate All Hallow’s Eve. No longer do we have to spend hundreds of dollars on decorations, costumes and treats.

All we have to do is apply the colors of Halloween to our . . . nails. Eeek!

I’m Confused: Who’s the Puppet?

It has been said that somewhere in the world you will find your twin. Someone that looks so similar to you that the striking resemblance causes people to do a double-take.

The world did that double-take upon the reading of the “Report on the Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Ghouta Area of Damascus on 21 August 2013″ written by United Nations inspectors.

I thought this serious assessment on the tragic event would have prompted Syrian President Bashar al-Asaad to pay heed, but it seems Asaad’s twin was the one who read the one-page report which concluded “. . . that any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is a grave violation of international law.”

Bert, from Sesame Street fame, has a striking resemblance to Syria's president. He was photographed reading the United Nations report on chemical weapons used in Syria while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blames the rebels for the attacks.

I’m confused. At this point, I’m not really sure who the puppet is . . . Putin, Asaad, the United Nations, the United States – or Bert?

The Wringing Out of Freedom

A very wise person taught me many lessons. One of which was to be resolute – to raise my personal antenna when the powers that be enact something to help your lot in life, under the guise of they know what’s best. Diminishing personal freedom little by little over time nets an end result of the loss of personal freedom in total.

Truer lessons have never been so forewarned. The glorious pealing sound of freedom is smoldering, and has just about been extinguished in my lifetime. Once proudly ringing from sea to shining sea, freedom is wringing alright . . . squeezed and corralled into the new norm of citizens who are being monitored, watched and plugged-in 24/7.

Case in point: In order to help drivers avoid the massive traffic lines at toll booths, especially in the Northeast, the handy E-Z Pass was introduced and heralded. When drivers set up an account and purchase a one-time dollar amount, or refillable dollar amount via credit card, they receive a transponder to place on their vehicle’s dashboard or rear-view mirror. Each time the vehicle passes through a toll area their account is automatically deducted the proper amount.

Sounds convenient, no more waiting in that awful line to hand your money to a toll-taker, and it’s really good for the environment, too; remember, we have to be careful of our carbon footprints. But did anyone raise their personal vehicle’s antenna? After all, those who are in control are doing something to help your lot in life, because they know best. Don’t be such a naysayer . . . don’t be so dramatic do-gooders will say – really?

"Midtown in Motion" should bring us all to a standstill. The program really should be renamed to, "We Know Where You Are."

A segment on this morning’s news program was about E-Z Pass, sort of. You see, the powers that be saw the inch and took the yard. Subscribers are suffering unintended consequences – not only is E-Z Pass monitoring your movement as you cross toll areas, it’s also monitoring your movement as you drive city streets . . . ahem, to help with traffic control. And you thought those devices were cameras trying to catch you going through a red light. Relax, nobody knows who’s driving, “they” just know where your vehicle is – date, day and time. Eerily similar to the NSA debacle – we’re not reading your texts or emails, we’re just compiling metadata . . . just in case.

Aha! so let’s advance the just-in-case metadata ball that insidious inch. Let’s assume you are an E-Z Pass subscriber and did something someone has defined as “wrong.” You never crossed a toll area, and only drove through city streets. Unknowingly – until this morning – your vehicle, not you, is being tracked by the E-Z Pass stations on the traffic lights. But, I thought the transmitters and motion sensors were to aid in traffic flow – well, that’s what we were told . . .

Looks like the metadata ball took that yard . . . your monitored vehicle now stops at a local gas station, convenience store, parking garage, etc. Smile, you’re on creepy camera. That seemingly innocuous metadata has led to your destination, and guess what – a camera has captured a photograph of . . . you, not binary metadata. Oops.

No matter where we bank, shop, dine, visit, or move about “freely” we’re being watched by some computer and eye in the sky. Freedom, in all of its forms, has become a distant, fond memory for me. The 24/7 monitoring of an entire population is not freedom, rather it smacks of being a manipulated, controlled, and indentured population.

In the business environment egos, arrogance, complicity, or fear of termination have motivated workers to don their Superman capes as workdays no longer have time constraints. The personal-professional line has been irrevocably blurred. A mere (w)ring-tone, text or email typically invades personal, off-the-clock downtime – and you thought you were making a decent hourly wage. Silly you . . . but you can download some really awesome apps.

Even if we wanted, we can no longer unplug. Human beings lost control, and little by little our freedom was handed over to technology. In my opinion, the cool factor has morphed into the creepy factor. And, if you people watch, you would see most are unaware that the house has fallen on their heads.

Strangely, many have bought into the Superman notion that they’re so important to the existence of life on Earth. These self-indulgent people must be plugged-in because somebody must have something . . . anything to convey to them. Talk about the air of self-importance . . . I don’t know, maybe they needed more hugs when they were little. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but nobody’s that important – or special – all day, everyday; and we’re no longer free – not by a long shot. I, for one, am glad that I lived in a freer America, and feel my kids have missed out on that experience. I fear the pending consequences that will unfold when the entire connected cloud somehow disconnects. Will those with the Superman schtick acknowledge the house falling on their heads then?

By the way, that very wise person was my very loved dad.

 

Three Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

President Obama, on the telephone, seems to be pretty confident. Do you think he got a leg up?

President Obama has kicked up controversy – again.

This time, Pete Souza, the White House photographer has captured the president in a causal pose speaking on the phone which was atop the desk in the Oval Office. Do you think the NSA is listening in on the conversation?

There are those who believe furniture, especially furniture in the White House, should be handled a bit more respectfully, and have made their voices heard. The problem: The casual pose depicts the leader of the free world standing, and placing his other foot on the edge of a very famous desk.

Although the spin-meisters were quickly unleashed, I don’t understand why we just cannot agree that placing ones foot on an historic desk is bad form – regardless of who does the placing. Correct me if I’m wrong, one of the etiquette lessons learned growing up included not putting feet on furniture, and certainly not on anybody elses. So, I don’t think expecting feet to stay on terra firma is odd; as a matter of fact a mea culpa of sorts seems to be a reasonable response.

But that wasn’t forthcoming, rather the spin-meister’s reasoning: Well two other presidents also did a similar pose – President Gerald Ford and President George W. Bush; what’s the big deal? Evidently their thinking is three wrongs make a right. Wow. I think it’s safe to say I’m not going out on a limb in this regard when I choose to refer to these presidents as The Three Stooges.

So, let’s visit the history of that desk.

Made from reclaimed wood from the HMS Resolute, England’s Queen Victoria presented the desk to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. Since then, the desk has been modified two times. President Franklin Roosevelt requested a front privacy panel be installed to obscure his leg braces, and President Harry S. Truman added the eagle.

Photo: Stanley Tretick, "Life" Magazine

But it’s the famous endearing photograph of John John peering out from the privacy panel while his father, President John F. Kennedy, was working which most Americans are familiar.

Would any of us really accept anyone going into a museum and making himself / herself comfortable with an antique? Better yet, would a museum allow visitors to mishandle their priceless works of art? If we can all agree the answer would be a resounding, “No,” then it’s time to be honest and stop the political nonsense. Let’s respect this wonderful gift . . . the Resolute Desk:

You Can Call Me HAL?

HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey: Voted as the 13th greatest film villain.

I have officially placed computers in the double-edged sword category.

They’re terrific, and horrific at this critical time of our history. Our lives have become easier / more difficult, quicker / more time-consuming, more responsive / too responsive. Just ask anyone who has become tethered to their devices, or fails to remember their litany of passwords, or ill-advisedly depressed the “Send” button.

Watching television, a once joyful experience, has become another task. Today’s remotes are mini computers, and have become so arduous to deal with that many features remain untapped. TV repairmen . . . who are they? That’s a job on the endangered species list, if not already extinct. Just call your “provider,” a help-center person from another state will read from the trouble-shooting document to work with you to repair your TV via your remote and set-top box. I didn’t know I was on the “providers” payroll . . . when did that happen? If the problem cannot be repaired, you will be charged for a scheduled in-home visit, or you can just throw your old TV in the garbage . . . and buy another bigger, cheaper, better model with even more bells and whistles.

Money? What’s money? Simply use or swipe your Debit / Credit / ATM card when making a purchase or payment. Your transaction is now recorded, time-stamped, confirmation number and all. And if you’re in a brick-and-mortar store, you’re also being photographed – say, “Cheese.”

As if life isn’t busy enough, we find ourselves willingly doing many jobs for which we don’t receive compensation. We are TV repairmen, bankers, check-out counter employees, gas-station attendants, I could go on and on. Every aspect of our lives is now monitored and controlled by computers – somewhere out there – as we have become participants in the petri dish of living on planet Earth.

Ahhh! All under the guise of helping and streamlining . . . you know, modernizing.

Mom-and-pop stores, to fast-food stores, to high-end stores love the technology packed into today’s cash registers since they can react real time. Oops, I said cash registers . . . a descriptive name soon to be replaced by maybe something like transaction data control. Anyway, they know your payment due date, recent purchases, what needs to be replenished, what’s not selling, what is selling, number of sales per hour, average purchase cost per hour, number of visitors to the store – brick-and-mortar or online, etc.

Marketing geeks go berserk for this type of data, and so does our government.

The much feared J. Edgar Hoover would have been in his glory. Just think for a moment: Imagine if his G-Men were able to acquire untold volumes of information on the bad guys by monitoring data. Well, that’s what computers have enabled modern law enforcement to compile. Wounding two birds with a single stone . . . unsavory characters and the underground economy can no longer thrive in the shadows. Maybe Joseph McCarthy would be in his glory, too. And, while we’re at it, let’s not fail to include the glory those Salem Witch Hunters would have experienced. Those chilling thoughts raise an obvious problem: Who defines who the bad guys are, and what makes them bad . . . because are we as a society really okay when the dragnet places regular folk into the bad category?

So, common sense begs the question – when do the powerful good guys become the powerful bad guys?

But what happens when things go wrong? What happens when the computer fails to apply empathy, or common sense, or stop for a nano second because things just don’t seem right?

Well, then we have crossed the sci-fi becomes reality creepy realm of HAL. Listed in AFIs 100 Years . . . 100 Heroes and Villains as the 13th-greatest film villain, maybe just maybe we should sit up and take notice of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece film 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel.

I repeat: HAL is regarded as one of the greatest villains of the last 100 years – that’s saying something. HAL was an artificial intelligence computer who was required by specific orders and programming to withhold the true purpose of his mission; leaving the last surviving crew members, David Bowman and Frank Poole, to take matters into their own hands and change the course of the mission.

Sound familiar?

Did our government and NSA honchos read the novel, see the film, and decide, “Aha! That’s what we should do.” Let’s implement a secret, huge, highly-sophisticated computer system whose true purpose of the mission is to . . . fill in the petri dish blank.

Smugly, the NSA never dreamed a crew member would exercise empathy, or common sense, or stop for a nano second because things just didn’t seem right. I say smugly because they never conceived that a lowly person . . . ahem, system administrator, would muck up their mission. Well, one did. Rightly, or wrongly Edward Snowden took matters into his own hands to change the course of the NSA mission.

The NSA is now faced with the unthinkable dilemma that people do indeed have intelligence. One of their over-reaching, reactive “fixes” as a result of the breach in our “security” is to replace 90% of their system administrators with automated systems . . . in other words a world full of HALs who exercise such a level of efficiency that one can easily deem it as evil. Just hearing HALs unemotional, measured voice brings chills to my spine.

No David Bowman, no Frank Poole, and no Edward Snowden to question the mission when told, “I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Have the powerful good guys who operate in the shadows morphed into the powerful bad guys themselves? Has privacy, and by extension freedom, been usurped by sterile computers under the guise of security? And, what happens when the mission – named government – cannot be altered?

Did Arthur C. Clarke write a novel about those horrifying concepts?

Made You Blink

You’re in the military, the Navy to be exact. You take your oath seriously, and you’re a crew member of a ship designated as an intelligence security vessel during the height of the Vietnam Conflict.

Because the creeping Communism threat was part of America’s vernacular, consciousness, and good-vs-evil modalities; things obviously were pretty tense. But things were also tense for North Korea since their border was defined by the DMZ zone . . . an armistice which was agreed upon by communist countries China and North Korea with democratically aligned South Korea and the United Nations.

The problem: The armistice was a loosly-based agreement which suffered ongoing, multiple incidents of coup d’etat plots and various territorial penetrations. So, let’s just say North Korea was overly wary, aggressive and cautious.

The commander of the American vessel was Lloyd Bucher. He was instructed to conduct an intelligence gathering mission off the coast of North Korea, and report on the Soviet Union’s naval activities in this hot-bed region.

The Law of the Sea recognizes that 12 miles off of a coastline is deemed as international waters. Commander Bucher did one better, he maintained 13 miles off of the North Korean coastline. Well, the Law of the Sea is all well and good when the country you’re gathering intelligence on recognizes that standard.

What happens when that country claims their territorial water extends to 50 miles? You have the USS Pueblo incident which unfolded on January 23, 1968 – the first time an American naval vessel was captured since the War of 1812.

Duane Hodges was killed, and the remaining 81 crew members were assembled, blindfolded and taken as prisoners. They suffered starvation and torture techniques, which included fake firing squads to compel confessions of espionage.

Photographed and paraded before cameras, the members of Pueblo were being used in North Korea’s ongoing propaganda campaign . . . to a degree. Amidst all of their torture, fear and uncertainty, they held fast.

But North Korea wasn’t the only country who practiced torture on American Naval POWs.

It was early in 1966, during the Vietnam Conflict, when the world found out that sadistic, unspeakable torture deluged American POWs at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors.

Jeremiah Denton, proud American and resilient POW held by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam Conflict. Photo: National Archives, records of the CIA

One remarkable prisoner was paraded out before cameras for propaganda purposes. Jeremiah Denton, who also did a stint at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, was a Naval Aviator POW for 7-1/2 years; four of which was spent in solitary confinement. He and William Tschudy were captured when their jet was shot down during its bombing run over Thanh Hoa in North Vietnam.

As Denton was being questioned before the cameras, he participated in the sham propaganda film . . . to a degree. He managed to subtly sneak out a message by blinking – yes, blinking – in Morse Code . . .
T – O – R – T – U – R – E.

Talk about having control and resilience.

On February 12, 1973, along with numerous other American POWs, both Denton and Tschudy were released as a result of diplomatic negotiations – Operation Homecoming.

Southeast Asia was a Cold War hotspot for our country. Thousands of American lives tragically were lost in those far-away lands. Ruled by despots who tried to extend the communism doctrine and portray our country as a Paper Tiger, the United States had to take serious notice of that region. And it was during those turbulent years in our history when American soldiers captured in Vietnam and North Korea showcased their control, resilience and patriotism.

While it took Vietnam years to ultimately release our POWs, North Korea released the Pueblo prisoners after 11 months as a result of negotiations with a representative of the United Nations, U.S. Army General Gilbert Woodward. In order to free the prisoners, Woodward agreed to sign a North Korean prepared document which included admission of U.S. espionage against North Korea. ” . . . solemnly apologizes for the grave acts of espionage committed by the U.S. ship against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea after having intruded into the territorial waters of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and gives firm assurance that no U.S. ships will intrude again.”

Propaganda still abounds: This June, North Korea celebrated "Victory Day" in Pyongyang, North Korea. The only captured Naval vessel since the War of 1812 is the USS Pueblo.

Of course, once the prisoners were out of North Korea’s control, the United States denied any wrong-
doing or infractions took place.

After 40 years, the USS Pueblo has never been returned . . . she remains a POW, and is listed as a commissioned vessel of the U.S. Navy.

They said tomay-toe, we said tomatto. They said potay-toe, we said pottato. But . . . nobody called the whole thing off.

It doesn’t look like North Korea has any intention to blink.

April 1, 2014 Update: Please See Welcome Page for remarkable video of American POW Jeremiah Denton’s during the Vietnam Conflict

Salamander Week

Last week I happened upon the NatGeo channel which was showing the first of a six-part series, Inside the American Mob.

So far it’s been pretty interesting. The undercover FBI agent, Donnie Brasco, infiltrated the organization during a six-year period. After amassing a wealth of information on the inner workings of the Mafia, Brasco’s findings netted 200 indictments and over 100 convictions.

The film, Donnie Brasco, starring Johnny Depp, was a pretty good overview of the real-life FBI agent Joseph Pistone’s unprecedented infiltration.

At some point it was commercial time, and I experienced Shark Week’s “Snuffy the Seal,” or was it a well-placed warning?

Mr. Butterfly's 15-second flight.

When my children were little we lived in Florida, and I brought my son to the Science Center’s Little Learners summer camp program. It brought science to youngsters, and was very age-appropriate.

There were many hands-on experiments which we loved, and I also signed him up for the Butterfly Growing Kit. We received a white oak-tag like house with clear plastic windows, sugar feeder, etc.

We carefully and responsibly charted our egg’s progress as it morphed into a larva, and onto a pupa. Then the day we were waiting for came . . . our pupa morphed into a butterfly.

We didn’t have any news coverage, and our neighborhood didn’t assemble for the freeing of our well-cared-for butterfly. But my family was very excited . . . we did a very good job. We were about to release this beautiful butterfly into the wonderous world.

We carefully carried the house outside and opened up its roof for the butterfly to spread its wings and fly. Mr. Butterfly found his way out, fluttered three arm lengths away from me to our tree in the front yard, and gracefully landed on a bottom branch.

As quickly as Mr. Butterfly landed on the branch, that’s how quickly a salamander pounced. The salamander whacked him, I literally heard the crunching of Mr. Butterfly’s wings. I felt like I was part of the code: You know, it’s your closest friend who brings you to the event, but you never come out alive.

Horrified, I sprang into action to distract my son from witnessing Darwin’s cycle of life La Cosa Nostra style.

I was deeply affected, and to this day I share this story with others . . . including you.

Snuffy the Seal’s fate cut too close to the bone.

The hit on Snuffy was captured by news cameras on the pier covering the event.

His public execution was perpetrated by a soldier working for Don Dorsallini, aka . . . the Sharkfather.

WARNING
This video contains graphic material. Viewer discretion is advised.

)

Selection of the Best and Brightest

1967 Print Ad for the Magnavox Aegean Classic Color Stereo Theatre with Remote Control in Walnut. This was my family's first color television, and we still have the cabinet today – pretty much in pristine condition.

My first introduction to nighttime baseball was on my family’s first color television. The vivid color of the baseball field and players literally jumped off the screen. I felt like I was in the stadium. Our television was from a day gone by . . .  a piece of heavy, magnificent furniture – the Magnavox Magna-Color Remote Control Console.

Did I just say remote control? Why, yes I did, and albeit rudimentary as compared to the remotes used today that require the user to have a degree, the simpler year was 1967. Imagine turning on this magic piece of furniture, selecting a channel, adjusting volume, or accessing the stereo without ever having to leave your comfortable spot on the couch? You see since my sister and myself were the official channel changers in our family, the remote was a great piece of machinery. So, not only was this state-of-the-art system great for TV watching, I can also tell you we spent endless hours listening to many vinyl singles and albums on this bad boy. But, remember back in 1967 we only had channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 (WOR which televised the Mets baseball games), 11 (WPIX which televised the Yankees baseball games), 13, and sometimes 21; while it was always extra-special when you were able to get reception on the UHF tuner to watch bullfighting from Mexico.

Experiencing baseball – in living color – on my couch! What a concept!

Well, that console was handled with the utmost of care, and really became part of our family. Boy, if it could talk. It shared holidays, birthdays, parties, and the changing face of America with us. We saw the space race unfold culminating with the moon landing, assassinations, Vietnam body counts, The Ed Sullivan Show, Star Trek, Batman, and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Disney. Although most shows were designed to have vivid, rich colors shine through the screen to capture the viewer’s interest, it was color baseball which was the steady thread throughout my growing-up television-watching years.

Life was no longer black and white – no longer Pleasantville. Life was and still is scary, sad, problematic, inspiring . . . and colorful.

This year baseball’s team, the New York Mets, hosted the 2013 All-Star Game in CitiField, Shea Stadium for those steeped in yesteryear. This annual baseball game pits American League teams and National League teams against each other. The managers and players are chosen by fans, and to keep the All-Star Games relevant, the winning league gets home-field advantage in that year’s World Series.

So, what became a lackluster display of talent prior to the new home-field advantage rule, has now become a consequential competitive game. But, there was more, much more this year. And, it was Nike that just did it . . . go figure.

They took the game of baseball up an incredible notch. After my introduction to color baseball on a Magnavox TV 46 years ago, Nike added vivid color to the players cleats . . . and once again I was awestruck as baseball players seemed to jump off the screen.

Their Red Apple Collection was worn during the Home Run Derby portion of the All-Star Series. Those players talented enough to be chosen to represent their team during the Home Run Derby entered the batter’s box in one of three limited edition cleats:  Nike Air Huarache Pro Low Metal, Nike Air Huarache Pro Mid Metal, and Nike Air Swingman MVP 2 Metal.

But then what cleats are the chosen ones going to wear during the actual All-Star Game? Ah! Not to worry – the swoosh had it all under control. Enter Nike’s Bright Lights, Big City collection: Nike Air Huarache Low Metal Pro and Nike Air Huarache Mid Metal Pro. Teams select from seven different base colors – black, navy, orange, purple, red, royal blue, and yellow.

Nike has dressed the best in the brightest of footwear, and has made my color baseball experience even more memorable. Remote control nothing. I actually love baseball even more . . . wait, is that possible? Why, yes it is . . . purple cleats!

 

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Newspapers across America announce the jury's verdict in the Zimmerman-Martin case.

Headline screams, “. . . In Panic of Fear Shoots Innocent Bystander,” and “. . . Fatal End to Auto Night Riding”.

That about summed it up: George Zimmerman was driving around in his car, saw a person who looked suspicious, got out of his car, pursued the suspicious character and ultimately fatally shot the 19-year-old, unarmed Trayvon Martin.

What can be learned from this no-win situation?

Hopefully look into and change the Stand-Your-Ground law, possibly change self-defense criteria . . . I’m not really sure, because it seems the human condition cannot be legislated. You see, that remarkable headline isn’t attributable to the Zimmerman-Trayvon horror.

It was about Max Annenberg’s shooting of 23-year-old Alexander Belford on July 14, 1913, as reported by Chicago’s “The Day Book” newspaper. Eerily enough, on the same day – 100 years later – newspapers were dealing with the same horror as headlines across America screamed George Zimmerman was found “Not Guilty” of the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Lesson Learned? I don't think so, my mother's advice still rings true: Don't judge a book by its cover.

While Annenberg’s supporters “. . . pulled every wire in the Invisible Government of Chicago for thirty-six hours to save Annenberg from arrest for shooting Belford”, it took 46 days of pressure before George Zimmerman was arrested for the shooting of Martin.

According to reports, “Annenberg never saw Belford before that moment; Belford never had seen Annenberg. Annenberg had no grudge against Belford; Belford had shown no animosity toward him, had not tried in any way to harm him. Annenberg had no reason in the world for shooting Belford. Annenberg shot and perhaps fatally wounded Belford because he was in a panic of white-livered fear brought on by his own guilty conscience, and because he held ready in his hand the revolver . . . the bullet struck Belford just below the heart and pierced the left lung.”

Sounds remarkably similar, and although it’s been 100 years since that event, the same problem raised its ugly head: Assumptions, petty biases, big-shot mentalities and a trigger finger. You see, the collision of fate unfurled as one person had the power of lead behind his jaded thinking, and one person didn’t – armed only with his own jaded thinking.

In a truly horrific case where there are no winners; not the families, community or country, we simply have to do a better job of respecting each other. Unfortunately, we have to teach our kids, and ourselves, to approach all encounters as potential problems. It doesn’t matter the age, size or sex of any person, what matters is when someone has an issue . . . real or imagined . . . it’s smart and brave to just walk away, call the police and make it home alive.

Neither party really knows who you’re dealing with, or what pre-conceived assumptions have been made, and when a concealed weapon is added into the mix, you’ve just heightened the lead-head ingredient.

The situation can only go from bad to worse as borne out by the Annenberg-Belford case, and the Zimmerman-Martin case. Today’s sick fact punctuates the very similar scenario experienced 100 years earlier only supports and proves history continues to repeat itself.

Are we ever going to learn? Sadly, it doesn’t appear anytime soon.

I’m going to hold tight onto my mother’s advice: Don’t judge a book by its cover . . . I don’t need to prove to myself that I’m right, I just need to get home alive.

The Incalcuable Personal Cost of No Man’s Land

A man without a country: Toms Hanks in Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal".

The art imitates life, imitates art scenario has hit once again.

Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal was an okay movie based loosely on a real-life person, Mehran Nasseri, who was relegated to the departure lounge in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport.

While Edward Snowden, the now infamous NSA leaker/whistleblower who is embarassing the United States of America, has been holed up in a Moscow Airport for only three weeks, Nasseri was holed up close to 30 years. Bizarre to say the least.

So, what’s the problem? Well, the United States finally confiscated Snowden’s passport – after he left Hong Kong – which means he cannot legally travel freely from one country to another; because you need a legal passport to enter a country . . . ahem, except if you’re sneaking into this country.

On top of that technicality, if Snowden does travel via plane/train/automobile . . . or boat/ship/yacht, chances are the passage will need to cross land/sea space of countries who maintain treaties with us, and recognize our laws. That’s the problem.

So, Snowden is stuck, snowed in, if you will, in a No Mans Land – in Russia. And the latest news is he’s seeking temporary political asylum in Russia until he can finalize travel arrangements to his new, yet undefined country.

I wonder exactly how many countries are thumbing their collective noses at us and laughing.

Snowden was faced with a moral crisis: Keep quiet, or divulge questionable practices exercised by our Government and stay in the country to face the consequences, or leave the country.

He decided to divulge and run. According to an article in Sky News, Snowden “had given up his family and a ‘home in paradise’ to put an end to what he said was a ‘serious violation of the law.’ ”

Admirable, naive, illegal, stupid – I don’t know, but his decision was quite a trade-off, one which I wouldn’t be able to exercise. Of course, there’s probably more . . . much more to the story, and Snowden’s Benedict Arnoldian ultimate decision will be studied over the passage of time.

But, why would Snowden decide not to keep his misgivings within the NSA family? Why would he choose to make his findings so traitor-ish, so public?

This morning on the television show, The McGlaughlin Group, three prior NSA whistleblowers were named. They are: William Binney, Thomas Drake and J. Kirby Wiebe.

Trying to do things the right way, you know letting your superior know your concerns, and, if necessary, following the chain of command – possibly ending with a congressional committee investigation, only netted these highly-seasoned and respected professionals nothing but mega investigations, trouble and personal ruination.

Perhaps Snowden saw the hopelessness of the situation he found himself. Trying to alert this country’s population of the goings on within the NSA didn’t work out too well for Binney, Drake and Wiebe. Maybe Snowden’s tactic would have to be more draconian. Maybe then somebody would sit up and take notice. Maybe then the secret would be exposed and a well-informed discussion could be had.

Maybe . . . maybe not.

So, here we sit. Bits of information are being dripped one drop at a time, and Snowden cannot budge from his Moscow terminal.

What the heck have I been thinking? I know, maybe he can somehow get to Mexico. It’s there that he can illegally cross the border into the United States, work in the shadows under a stolen social security number, request amnesty, receive social services, and vote . . . all while our politicians fall over themselves to accommodate the status of yet another undocumented resident.

Hello . . . Snowden doesn’t need a passport to thrive and live under the radar in this country. We cannot find over 11 million illegals who have sneaked through our porous border, why would he think the Justice Department will find him?

America: I Don’t Recognize Her Anymore

Throughout my blog you will find editorials about how government (local, state, federal) has gone wild. Nanny-states, ill-formed laws, do-gooders who “know” what is best for you, etc., etc.

I haven’t blogged for a while – not because there wasn’t enough raw red meat to write about, but because the raw red meat just kept on being thrown on me like feeding time at the zoo.

Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency outsourced employee who leaked America's top-secret surveillance program to the world.

So, instead of writing about a particular “scandal,” I’m going to lump everything into one tacky ball: The federal government is creepy.

As we all wade through the onerous Affordable Care Act, which threw the baby out with the bathwater, it dawned on me: The Affordable Care Act seems to be just that – an act. Stay tuned to see slight-of-hand professionals shuck this shell game on the Las Vegas Strip. We haven’t learned our lesson regarding that paper nightmare of passing it in order to know what’s in it, when enter the Immigration Bill – which just passed the Senate on June 28. It also is onerous with scads of things we don’t know about – yet, and has tons o’ pork. You know, the standard, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” fare which is legally used to get a bill through which otherwise would have difficulty passing.

PC-police, or should I say DC-police, are everywhere. Dare any citizen who flies the American Flag in an unauthorized zone, wears the American Flag at work or at anti-American rallies, speaks openly, unencumbered and freely, or believes in American ideals – you better watch out – the feds will come down on you quicker than fast-drying nail polish. Ideals are not perfect, that’s why they’re ideals. They include struggles, successes and failures. The most important guarantee we can hold onto is that we are guaranteed a shot at the American Dream. We are not guaranteed the American Dream.

So, what was the American Dream? Ahhh . . . it was a theory, a dream. It didn’t matter what your socio-economic background was, what faith you were, what political party you most aligned yourself with, what your birth order was, the color of your eyes, or what gender you were. What mattered was having a strong work ethic, a little luck to be in the right place at the right time to recognize when opportunity knocked, and the desire to improve your family’s future through upward mobility.

Fast-forward our collective American Dream. Citizens, or should I say legal in addition to illegal residents, barely maintain the status quo, are burdened with debt, and employment opportunities are abysmal at best; all while the DC runaway train transporting the homogenization of America is on the express track.

Just take a deep breath, real, non-biased look around. I, for one, don’t like what I see.

While the employment opportunities are scarce and becoming scarcer, they abound in the Federal Government, just ask Edward Snowden – the guy who leaked mega top-secret information about what Uncle Sam was engaged in . . . to the world.

I won’t waste anyone’s time in discussing whether Snowden should be revered or feared. What I do want to discuss is the fact that such a top-secret job was outsourced. Are you kidding me? The Federal Government has military at its disposal. Military elite with clearance up the ying-yang, and they decided it was a good idea to hire a civilian with civilian sensibilities for this highly-sensitive position. The same Federal Government who is going to administer health care, levy taxes, hunt down terrorism, and exercise prudent judgement and restraint?

Prudent judgement . . . restraint? I don’t think so.

Snowden, and those millions of other outsourced civilian government employees, didn’t undergo any mental stamina tests that Marines and the SEALs must endure in order to survive the rigors of training to don the life-long status of belonging to a distinguished, elite group. It appears Snowden was just a regular nerd-guy who didn’t like what he saw, didn’t like what he was doing, and couldn’t live with that information; and boy what information he divulged. I almost have to pity him, and feel like the government got what it deserved.

So, the world now knows for a fact that the American Government practices invasive techniques to root out terrorism. This is like the movie, The Star Chamber, where a select group of like-minded vigilante judges frustrated by the wheels of justice collectively decide the fate of some pre-determined “guilty” criminals. Apparently a select group of like-minded vigilante congressmen have decided it was time for a government sequel, The Star Chamber: DC 2013.

So, since this esteemed handful of congressmen “knows” what is best, invasive techniques are being used against everyone – the homogenization of America’s residents, as well as upon foreign governments and – hold onto your hats . . . their residents, too. You see, our government’s view is people might saber-rattle, but at the end of the day we’ll all do what we’re told, we’re all the same, we all possess the same terrorist tendencies, we’re all “guilty” of something – if not now, certainly in the future. And, we must always remember, the American government believes they are of a higher quality, a better grade if you will. . . so they think. They don’t stereotype, target, or profile. And if you, the mere minion does, you’ll be slapped with hate crimes, hate speech, profiling, and on, and on.

We have now experienced the Patriot Act on steroids. Oops, better not let the IRS sink its teeth into this – I mean the name “patriot” will surely raise the red flag . .  you know to stereotype, target and profile these activities. Oh! I’m mistaken, what was I thinking? The Star Chamber: DC 2013 decides who can, and cannot, be messed with, profiled, and ruined . . . ahem, I think it’s more like, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

All of the raw red meat congealed in order for me to write this blog. I turned on my computer last night, and attempted to logon. No luck. My internet provider blocked my ability to “browse the internet due to a breach in my terms of agreement.” What the heck did that mean? Apparently copyrighted material was downloaded by my kid, so my provider “blocked” my internet ability. They knew what was downloaded, what IP address it was downloaded to, etc. etc. – for all intents and purposes they were in my house. Chillingly, it was more than metadata. Of course, the files in question have been summarily trashed from the computer, and a firm lesson learned, but it has brought this entire concept of watching eyes from afar into very real focus: It’s not just big brother who’s watching – Main Street is watching, too.

So, although our country was founded on the idea that government should fear the electorate instead of the electorate fearing their government, we have become too cavalier and eager to relinquish our power and responsibility from future generations.

I fear alright . . . and it’s that the Liberty Bell doesn’t symbolize what I was brought up to believe America was about . . . yikes, are “they” reading this?

Memorial Day Is No Picnic

Soldiers who survived the realities of battle hopelessly watched as trench feet consumed their extremities, while shattered and lifeless trees, symbolic of many soldier’s fate, stoically presented themselves in the wide expanses of impersonal mud fields whose streams of oozing blood led to the web which forever captured its prey for eternity.

Cold weather only accented the fields’ horror, but as warm weather approached, the vast numbers of disturbed poppy seeds lying just beneath the ground began to germinate. That was 100 years ago: World War I, Flanders Field, Belgium. (Please read Michael: The Lady in Red, posted May 25, 2012).

Fallen UK soldiers from World War I are interred in Belgium's Tyne Cot Cemetery. It is the largest cemetery for the Commonwealth's forces in the world – for any war: 11,194 tombstones; of which only 3,587 are named.

Since then, the inscribed names and ranks of fallen soldiers have succumbed to Mother Nature’s toll on the once-pristine lineup of respectful tombstones. So, in order to prepare for the commemoration of the war to end all wars the quiet still of this sacred ground is being disturbed, once again.

Although old soldiers will never die, we will not permit them to fade away – not by time, nor Mother Nature. Dirt, chips or weather-worn, these ivory monuments are being cleaned, repaired, or replaced in order to restore the sharp dignity of the eternal soldier.

Between 2014 and 2018, hundreds of thousands of visitors will safely walk the fields to share their gratitude, and witness the restored rows of sacrifice and solemnity.

Keep your eyes on the . . . ad?

Driving.

You have to be responsible, alert, in the moment.

You cannot drink and drive, be medicated or under the influence, text, talk on your cellphone, put on makeup, apply mascara or lipstick, or be distracted in any way. If applicable, you must wear your corrective lenses, your auto must be in proper working order and road worthy, you have to know the road conditions, be cautious of erratic driving of others, leave enough stopping distance between you and the auto in front of you, adhere to speed limits, etc., etc., . . . in other words, respect the rules of the road.

And, you have to study in order to actually learn the rules of the road, take a written test, and if you pass, receive a Permit. Then you acquire more hands-on driving, and begin to understand the endless possibilities driving can present.

Driving is not an inalienable right, it’s a privilege. And, in order to earn the privilege, you have to learn the do’s and don’ts before you can begin to master the serious business of driving.

In this marketing savvy, albeit sated environment, I have become numb to the number of, and creative outlets for advertising. Not shocked anymore with advertisements in any and all nooks and crannies, receipts, billboards, bus shelters, print ads, back-lit ads, ads in windows, on buildings, on bus roofs, turnstiles, trains, subways, and on, and on.

Keeping your eyes safely on the road is becoming increasingly difficult since ads, video, TV and movie trailers, and breaking news are being displayed on mobile box-trucks.

Until last week.

A seemingly ordinary box-truck passed in front of me with a seemingly ordinary ad on its seemingly ordinary back doors.

I quickly found it wasn’t so ordinary. It seems advertising on trucks is going techno across the globe. No longer are we subjected to static advertisements, you see, this truck was running a dynamic sequence of video advertising spots from multiple advertisers on a video screen where its hum-drum back doors were once located. And, the new technology enables targeted advertising capable of customizing the ad from neighborhood to neighborhood; from fully digital full-motion video, TV-style commercials, breaking news, and clips from movies or sports – it all depends on the advertisers target audience.

It’s cool . . . but, it was also very distracting, even the pedestrians stopped and looked. I guess that’s successful marketing, but maybe not so successful if your driving becomes compromised.

I’m just counting down the clock as I wait for new laws to become enacted because drivers will be distracted as they watch the ad . . . not the road. Oh, and I do see insurance companies licking their chops to increase premiums.

In the meantime, I need a touch up . . . where’s my mascara?

 

See Welcome Page for video of dynamic mobile advertising

The Eyes Have It – Well, 300 of ‘Em Anyway

Although technology has improved the material, weight, and lenses of eyeglasses, the basic design used to correct and improve vision has not changed.

Monocles, bi-focals, featherweights, transition lenses, plastic, high-density polymer lenses, etc., etc., but we still need to wear glasses that sit on the bridge of our nose if we don’t go down the Lasik eye surgery route.

Since art and fashion is all around, and eyewear is over a billion-dollar industry, fashion houses have aligned themselves with heavyweights Luxottica, Essilor Groupe International, Oakley Inc., and Marchon Eyewear.

I just lost my breath – CliC reader 18K solid gold optical jewelry.

Oops, we need to add Ron Lando into the mix.

Aside from high-end designer names, functionality, and beauty there is a new approach to eyewear, and it didn’t come from any of the heavyweights.

Ron’s Optical Case Company has brought an innovative design to the otherwise static functionality of frames. His CliC reading glasses detach at the bridge of the frame for easy on-off wearability thanks to a magnetic closure. No more hanging glasses dangling from a chain fastened by a rubber loop, no more broken or misshapen temple stems from the constant on/off needs, no more misplacing of glasses.

But, plenty of style and innovation for those of us who have to wear glasses. And, not to be outdone by the fashion houses, CliC has significantly upped the ante by creating the world’s most expensive reading glasses.

Jewelry designer Hugh Power joined forces with Ron to bring the world a breathtaking piece of hand-made, handcrafted 18K Solid Gold optical jewelry. There will be 300 Limited Edition/Lifetime Warranty CliC Gold pieces – each one exceeding 50 hours to complete.

Too rich for my blood I’m sure, but I love the CliC design and will be adding the more cost-efficient ones to my eyeglass repertoire.

But, what does this statement optical jewelry cost for the person who wants everything?

A mere $75,000 retail . . . can I get a pair wholesale?

A Cold War Curtain Call

May Day in the Soviet Union? It certainly looks that way. No, it's North Korea's show of force – 50 years past prime.

Nostalgia.

Who would have ever thought that growing up during the Cold War would have been looked at . . . dare I say, fondly.

I say that a little tongue-and-cheek because it’s true and not-so true.

Would I want my kids to grow up knowing where Fall-Out Shelters were located, or perform Civil-Defense and Air-Raid Drills as part of the school curriculum, or know there was a stockpile of body bags under the school’s stage? No.

But, looking back – it was at least reassuring to know who your enemy was, what they looked like, what their leaders espoused, the colors of their uniforms, and how much strength their standing army possessed.

The evening news would broadcast the arms race, instill fear in us with their talk about “Red China,” and our presidents would negotiate with Iron Curtain leaders to ease up on the production of nuclear weapons – the Cold-War Iron Curtain Era.

Skirmish upon skirmish, contained war after contained war has been a part of the human condition from the beginning of time. However, the introduction of nuclear weapons has made the art of war even less personal . . . more cold, more remote, more devastating.

We can annihilate entire populations but keep buildings and infrastructure intact thanks to the Neutron Bomb – now that’s cold. Dirty bombs targeting civilian populations make attacks small, portable and plausible – just ask Japan about the Sarin Gas Attack on their subway system. And new-found fanaticism means anything and everything can become a weapon which can cause untold death and destruction – never before seen just 50 years ago.

Social media allows for the seemingly instantaneous ebb and flow of information, and when in the wrong hands this how-to, or logistical information can be used to unleash ruination.

During the Revolutionary War we were successful, in part, due to the Minutemen, groups of people who assembled quickly and practiced guerrilla warfare on enemy soldiers on our soil. During WWII, the French Resistance would plant bombs, hurl molotov cocktails, and derail the railroads against German occupation. And, during the Vietnam Conflict, the Ho Chi Minh Trail was used by the North Koreans who relentlessly practiced their form of regional guerrilla warfare.

So what made these groups so effective? No one knew who they were, they didn’t wear uniforms, they blended with the population, they did and said the “right things” so they wouldn’t bring attention to themselves. They united and took matters into their own hands outside of the structured standing infantry.

Standing armies that used to conjure many sleepless nights are no longer as necessary. Terrorists, homicide/suicide fanatics or those who practice resistance have really made civilized governments restructure their security home and abroad. And a single drone can be dispatched from far away, zoom in on a target and surgically destroy it quickly and impersonally.

War used to have rules, was measurable and honorable; everyone had a stake. But civilian populations were always off limits, only military structures and troops were in the scope. So, why does North Korea believe their show of force is relevant in today’s modern world?

Perhaps it’s because their society is cloistered and 50 years behind the times. Perhaps it’s because their newbie leader is trying to demonstrate his iron fist on his starving nation. Perhaps it’s because they really believe they’re relevant.

A world of technology that enables disenfranchised people to lash out and take down buildings, kill and maim people, and spread their brand of fanaticism is the world we unfortunately find ourselves. Man-made bombs, night lenses, satellites, technology and drones can affect destruction from miles away with the push of a button. No dirty hand-to-hand combat – instead clean, cold, devastating targeted strikes.

I am of the mindset to never underestimate your enemy. History simply bears that out. And, although we have to take notice that North Korea’s hostile stance has darkened the world’s doorsteps, I also know their parade of soldiers and armaments is ala the 1950s and ’60s.

I can only pray that North Korean misfits never master the new technology and create a reason to hate America. It is then that sleepless nights will again appear for me . . . and my kids . . . and their kids.