Monday, December 31, 2007

As the world turns

Last night,at 11:10 as I lay in my bed, only slightly inebriated, I completed my 55th complete revolution around the sun. To be fair, the rest of the earth came along with me, but for me, it was number 55. Tonight at midnight, the so called "common era" will finish revoulution 2,007 and begin on 2,008. In other words, it had already managed 1,952 revolutions without me. I think that the world will probably keep rotating around the sun long after I'm gone. Probably long after any of us are gone, and quite possiby, long after everything is gone. At some point, of course, the sun will "blow up" and take care of the issue for us. Scientists have some type of rough estimate as to when this will happen. Whenever it happens, it will make a lot of this blog keeping seem somewhat superfolous.

The last day of the year is the traditional time for accounting. How have you done this year (which in America means how much money did you make) ? I have never liked all of this accounting. I like to look at life as a journey and think that any snap shot of your life along the way is useless. It's where you end up that counts. A cynic would say that even that does not matter, we all end up dead. But I really believe that life is more than that. It is the journey that counts. When you are on a car trip to California, it is a pain in the ass to be in Yuma. But we all have to pass through Yuma to get to San Diego. Wherever we are going, we all have to travel the same road. Some nights you get to sleep at the Four Seasons, some nights you are lucky to get a roof over your head. Some nights the food is great, some nights there is no food at all. Sometimes you get to travel with friends, sometimes with people you don't like, and sometimes it seems like you are alone. But I am persuaded (as King James said that St Paul wrote to the Romans, and as Rogers and Hammerstein said in Carrousel) that you don't ake this trip alone. Not one step. all you have to do is open your eyes and you see your companions on the road. This next year, I'm going to open my eyes. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bearing down on double nickles

Just a few more days and I will be closer to 70 than 40. Yikes (only guys my age would say "yikes"). The worst thing about being 55 is it puts you in your very last survey group. When survey research guys do studies, they break their subjects down by age group, 18-24,25-34,35-44,45-54, 55-64 and then , finally, the dreaded and nearly irrelevant "65 and over". I ran through those first four groups awfully fast. Now here I am, lumped in with guys that are already collecting early social security. Guys who qualify for early bird specials over at the cafeteria, guys who live in Florida and wear white belts and white shoes and look forward to a wild night at the bingo parlor. How did this happen to me ? I did not die.That's the good part. I was reminded recently that divorce is not so bad, sure 50% of all marriages end in divorce, but the other 50% end in death. What's so great about that ? I was thinking of all the changes over the 55 years I have been hanging around.It is amazing. When I was born:

1. There were 48 states in the U.S.
2. The man who was President was eligible to run for a third term
3. In my hometown, blacks and whites could not use the same bathroom or water fountain
4. There was no vacine against polio or just about anything else except for small pox
5. Air conditioning was a luxary, found in only the most expensive homes.
6. Cars did not have seat belts
7. When you pulled into a gas station, you paid 19 cents a gallon, and for your money, you got your windows washed, your engine fuly checked and serviced, your floor vacumed, your seats "whisked"and a set of glassses given to you for your patronage. all of this was accomplished by 2 to 4 men, depending on service station and time of say.
8. There was no such thing as "fast food"
9.people all thought that by the year 2000 we'd all have our own robots and have cars that flew us around to our houses in the sky.
10. No one ever got divorced (just about no one)
11. No one ever lived past about 75 (just about no one).
12. It should go without saying that there were no commercial jets, no space vehicles, less than 100 proto type color television sets, very few people had black and white television sets, no cable, no satellite, no cell phones, no computers smaller than a barn, no pro sports west of the Mississippi, no Super Bowl, no factory in-car airconditioners,no super markets larger than about 33% of todays average size. No liquor by the drink, no store openings on Sunday,no lotto, no horse racing, no microwaves in homes, no haircuts that cost over $1.00, few candy bars that cost over a nickle, no hamburgers for more than a quarter, no cup of coffee for more than a dime. a bottle of coke cost five cents, a bottle of Pepsi costs the same but was twice as big.A movie cost less than 50 cents and if you wanted to see a movie again you generally had to wait until the theatre rereleased it because you could not rent it or see it on T.V. for many years.

This blog could go on for days. For all the talk about the simple life, I don't know anyone my age who would go back to the way things were. We don't live in homes in the sky, but even the poorest of us can live in a home that would have been considered no worse than average in the year I was born. Traffic sucks (because everyone has a car), the airlines get bogged down (because everyone can afford to fly), people get jittery when the stock market goes down, because everyone can have a retirement plan and invest in the market. There is no reason to ever get the flu, the measles, the mumps,the chicken pox or any of the numerous childhood diseases that I had growing up. of course we've got a few new viruses that have come along and peniciln, which could cure anything when I was a kid, is becoming more and more ineffective.When I was born there was no alzheimers (just "hardening of the arteries for people who lived a very long time), there was no health care crisis, because people did not have or expect to get health care from their employer, so they just got better or died. Going to the hospital was not that helpful anyway in those days.

But for all of this, I'd not trade with anyone for any other time or place. Things have been pretty peachy the last 55 years. Virtually no one in the history of the world has had it any better.I look forward to 55. Hell, I look forward to 56. 55 is not the new 30, or even the new 40, but it is probably about the new 47. That sounds about right. I think it's time to redo those survey research categories, and drop me back a decade or so. Instead of 65 and older, we need to add 65-74 and maybe even 75-84 with 84 and younger being the final catch all category. That would make me feel a lot younger.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

100 million people can't be wrong

It is reported that there are 100 million bloggers world wide. On a planet of six million, that is not a whole ot. But it is a decent percentage of the six billion people on the earth. And it is real big bunch of those with computers.As I've stated before, if there are 100 million bloggers, then there is a world wide audience for those bloggers of about 110 million. Most people's blogs are unread, or read only by individuals with the same last name.You could count up all the words in this blog (before this sentence) and the number you reach would be a multiple of every person who has ever read "Mills of the Gods". I may have reached more than ten people in the first 240 of so blogs, but if I have, you can count the remainder on one hand.

So why are 100 million people blogging to no one, or,to just about no one ? Who knows ? Why do people have shows on Public Access Cable T.V. ? Primarily, I suspect, for their own amusement. I have reread and laughed out loud at my blog on a number of occassions. I am pretty sure that in another 100 years or so, someone will come across this blog and pronounce me an undiscovered comic genius. Then they will put out a blog of my 100 greatest blogs, and no one will read that either. All bloggers think that they are an acquired taste, that if people will read them over time, they will begin to see that which the blogger himself sees in his own work.

But blogs don't work that way, for the reason that bloggers don't work that way. Few bloggers are clever, fewer are smart.None, I mean none, reach the literary level of a writer of trash fiction. Some can be about as funny as newspaper columnists, but that only bespeaks the fact that newspaper columnists are never funny anymore. Really, the only funny thingI have ever read in a blog was a headline "Tyson to fight Kangaroo", in a story about a series of boxing exhibitions Mike Tyson was planning. That was as funny as something in "The Onion" which is today, the best of American humor.

My law partner once asked me if I had ever talked to a mental health therapist, (I had). He told me that he had once done so and thought that it was wonderful. To be able to pay someone who has to listen to you. "Highly indulgent" was the way he termed it. I think that that's what blogs are. They are exercises in mental health therpay which have the built in advantage of not costing $175 an hour. If anyone actually read the damn things, you'd be very circumspect about what you write. But since no one reads them, you can act like you are in a daily therapy session that lasts anywhere from nine to twenty minutes. There has never been a time when I finished my blog that I did not feel better than when I started it. That's as good a reason as any to write.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Highway of Holiness

My Pastor preached on Isaiah 35 last Sunday. That's a good chapter. In it, the prophet talks about the creation of a highway of holiness. This highway,according to Isaiah (who got it straight from God) was going to be so well marked that even a "fool" could find it. At least in the Revised Standard text a fool could find it. I found another translation that said that anyone but a fool could find it. I like the first translation a lot better and believe it to be much more in the tradition of what at least ( a fool such as)I perceive to be the Judeo-Christian belief system.

Whatever. I now see by the news that a signifigant body of Christians (the exact number is not spelled out) believe that US Interstate 35 is that highway prophesised by Isaiah. This is an astounding stroke of luck for yours truly. I can see I-35 from the window of my office. I can see the traffic snarls and the rush hour congestion, as well as the occsional fender bender that would be the hallmark of any highway of holiness.

A Texas minister named Cindy Jacobs is the one who received the revelation that I-35 is the holiness highwy. She has spent the last couple of weeks going up and down the road praying for different things, among them that Adult oriented businesses should be removed from the highway. This brings up a sensitive point. How did a highway of holiness end up with a strip club on it anyway ? For that matter, how did a highway of holiness end up as one of the most important drug trafficing roads in America. ?If anyone has asked these questions of Rev. Jacobs, it has gone unreported. To be fair, even she is not 100% sure herself that I-35 is the predicted highway (she ought to think about the fact that it is not located in the middle east which is probably where Isaiah thought it would end up). Here in Texas, we have a Governor who would gladly have built the highway of holiness for her, or Isaiah, as long as it could be a toll road.

Isaiah mentions some pretty specific country in his description of the highway. I will admit that it sounds an awful like the land between Kingsville and Laredo, so I don't want to totally dismiss the possibility that I have spent years of my life on a sacred road. Perhaps I'm the very fool who Isaiah says could find, and stay on this road. I have been virtually run off the road on half a dozen occasions since the North American Fair Trade Agreement turned I-35 into a version of the Indy 500 for sixteen wheelers. But that is neither here nor there.Any highway of holiness is going to carry freight as well as souls. It just stands to reason. Whether any highway of holiness would have 100 Cracker Barrells on it, spread out over 1,000 miles is quite another question.

In the final analysis, it simply does not matter. What we have here is a good number of Christians roaming up and down I-35 praying for it. That can not help but make it a better place to travel. Even if it turns out not to be Isaiahs road, maybe we can get it cleaned up some and start some beautification projects.We can start be getting rid of the Cracker Barrells. In fact, I once had a revelation myself that Cracker Barrels were really Sodom and Gomorrah.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The question of cheating

My dear friend Bruce, one of over four people, world -wide, who sometimes look at this blog, and forgive it's grammar and spelling errors, believes that I should write about the steroids scandal in baseball. I generally stay away from sports stories because I don't know as much about them as I used to. I could not name more than half a dozen quarterbacks in the NFL, and when the Mitchell list came out, there were a number of players whom I could not identify.

But the steroids story is more than simply a baseball story, it is a story on the nature of cheating, in sports.Not life itself, sports, there is a big difference. I suppose that none of the players involved were technically cheating at anything.For the years involved, baseball did not have a specific rule, or testing program for steroids. Then again, there was no specific rule in baseball against homocide either, but I doubt one could have gotten away with killing a fellow player, although Roger Clemens, one of the alleged drug users, once through a sharp, broken bat at Mike Piazza as a Mike ran to first base.'Roid rage ? who knows ? If Roger had hit Mike in the right spot, it would have killed him. No action was taken against Roger because it was early in a prime time World Series game, and a little thing like attempted murder was not going to get a star thrown out of the game and risk several million potential Budweiser drinkers switching over to "Desperate Housewives"

Cheating has been around baseball for as long as there has been a baseball. Gaylord Perry made the Hall of Fame because of an ability to control an illegal pitch. Whitey Ford used to wear a wedding ring to the mound to nick the ball. Mike Scott of the Houston Astros was never caught scuffing a ball, but a team once collected a dozen foul balls hit off Mike and the all had a scuffmark in the identical spot. The 1951 National League Pennant race was probably decided by the fact that the Giants had a spy in their scoreboard who could pick up a catcher's sign and relay it to the batter before each pitch. Bobby Thompson knew exactly what pitch was coming when he hit his "miracle" homerun. Mike Scott's old teammate, Billy Hatcher once broke a bat and cork came spilling out (causing an opponent to say, "geez, it's like playing the Dalton Gang").The immortal (and steroid laced) Sammy Sosa went to a corked bat after drug testing finally came into the game. I could literally go on and one without having to go back to the players at the turn of the last century, who used to actually trip baserunners or hold onto their belts to slow down advancements on the bases.

And what about drugs ? Since the late 1960s, until just last year, when they finally began testing for it, ballplayers took, as a matter of course, amphetamines, or "greenies". John Milner of the New York Mets said that the immortal Willie Mays used to drink some mysterious special juice to boost his energy.I suspect, no, I assume, that hundreds and hundreds of ballplayers have played the game using performance enhancing drugs over the years. We have hearsay evidence ,from an admitted felon ,that about 80 were using over the past 20 years. One, by the way, was that little shit Lenny Dykstra who hit a walk off homerun for the Mets against my beloved Astros in game 3 of the NCLS in 1986.I knew at the time that that little creep was juiced and believe that the results of that game should be reversed. But other than that one incident, in which any reasonable fan would agree with me, I see no reason to get bent out of shape over any of this. I think that the absurd issue, that the players are a role model for the youth of our country, got put to bed long before Mark Mcguire decided that he wanted to look like Paul Bunyan. Heck, look at football. I read that the Bengals had seven arrests on their squad of 40 last year. There's some real role models for you. A child's role models are his/her parents. As a parent it is up to you to explain to your child how these guys are often the "anti-role models" of society, and to point out their problems and transgresions.

The problem with most of this is the hypocrisy of it all. The Astros released their everyday shortstop a few years ago because his wife claimed he slapped her in the parking lot. A charge later dropped. He was released the day the accusation was made because the Astro owner had promised the one female officer the team had, that they would have zero tolerance for such behavior (admittidly not a bad policy). Assuming Julio Lugo really did slap his wife, the team did the right thing. Now they have picked up a shortstop who has "hard evidence" against him (apparently checks) that he took performance enhancing drugs. But the Astros can't afford to make their new general manager look any dumber than he has already looked this off season, so they will do nothing.

Should the sacred baseball rcords be wiped clean, purged of illegal enhanced performances ? Hell, all baseball records are is one big asterisk. Cy Young pitched from 55 feet, Babe Ruth never had to play a night game or travel coast to coast,Jeff Bagwell had lasik surgery, giving him eyesight that no one but Ted Williams ever had before.Tommy John became a ground ball machine after he had a new procedure done to his elbow that had never been tried. A procedure that would have given Sandy Koufax another 100-150 wins.Walter Johnson never pitched to an African-American player in a regulation game.I'd leave the records alone.

Should the abusers be kept from the Hall of Fame ? Are we going to throw out Gaylord Perry ? Are we going to reverse the 1951 Pennant race ? There is a procedure on entering the Hall of Fame. It is a very stupid one, but there is procedure none the less. Let these maniac baseball writers do what they want to do. Who cares ? If they want to vote against someone who they personally watched grow a head as big as a double Texas Cantaloupe, let them. If they don't want to, fine. For better or worse, they have the vote. If we find out that Hillary Clinton is on steroids, I still want to vote up or down on her next year.

In the final analysis, the baseball fans over the last 100 years have collectively decided that they won't hold cheating against someone. Gambling, yes, throwing games ,yes, making insensitive racial remarks,yes giving up Grand Slams to Roger Freed in critical games(hell yes, Joe Sambito) yes, but not cheating. We have decided that, in the end, it's only baseball.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The campaign of Ron Paul

Two or three hundred of my fellow citizens, lead by a pipe and drum corps, garbed in revolutionary attire, just marched past my window. All were carrying signs and hooraying for Ron Paul, a United States Congressman who happens to be this year's candidate for the quirky and disaffected. I recognized a good deal of these supporters from the recent Kinky Friedman gubernatorial campaign. Some of the older ones undoubtdly stood with Ross Perot in 1992, Ralph Nader in 2000 and John Anderson in 1980. A few of the anti-abortionists in the crowd probably worked with God's last true quirky candidate, Pat Robertson in 1988, who was finally succeded by Pat Buchanan a few years later ,"Don't wait for instructions, ride to the sound of the guns".

A lot of Presidential campaigns have quirky candidates. The best of these candidates was the fictional Hal Phillip Walker who was running for president on the "Replacement Party" ticket in 1976 in the Robert Altman film "Nashville".The candidate (who you never saw in the movie) was stridently anti-lawyer, a stance which he would promote all day long through the use of sound trucks, cruising big city streets with recorded messages. He also wanted to change the National anthem because,as he said of the current one, "nobody knows the words, nobody can sing it, nobody understands it. The lyrics were written by a lawyer, and the tune by a Judge" In short, Mr Walkers's campaign was based on rage. Rage is the best platform on which a quirky candidate can run. The ultimate rage campaigns were run by Strom Thumond in 1948, and George Wallace in 1968. The Perrot campaign was a rage campaign which Perrot tried to hide, but in the end it was exposed for what it was. The Ron Paul campaign also does not appear to be a rage campaign upon first glance, but it is one. Ron has a rage coalition of anti war hippies, anti IRS conservatives and garden variety libratarians and dope smokers. But it is the anti war and anti governement (read anti tax) sentiment which fuels the rage and funds the campaign.Dr Ron himself seems so well under control (self medication?) that he does not seem capable of the Howard Dean meltdown that 2004's rage candidate supplied us. That one was a dandy.You can still see it on Youtube.

Rage candidates perform an important function in the body politic. It keeps the crazies fully occupied with electoral politics and not thinking about acquiring ferilizer to blow up Federal buildings.Are all of Dr Paul's suporters maniacs ? By no means. I am just saying that of the true maniacs working within the electoral system, many are Ron Paul supporters. If his libratarian credentials did not keep him from it, he could tap into the true rage issue in the country today, immigration. There was room in the campaign of 2007-08 for a candidate to take to the streets, a la Wallace and foment hatred against illegal immigrants. One of the Republicans may still pick up the banner, if he finds himself nominated and behind the Demo noiminee by more than 15 points, 90 days before election day. Hatred gets attention and it sells. It just never wins national elections (it can win on the state level, just ask Jessie Ventura). Rage candidates for President are all asterisks in history. Their supporters move onto the next quirky candidate four years later or, as is more usual, drop out of electoral politics all together, bitter over their messiah's defeat.

The best of the rage candidates are third party candidates (something Dr Ron was himself in 1988). Although not all third party candidates are true rage candidates. Some of them, like Secretary Wallace in 1948, Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 and Gene McCarthy in 1976, just have such incredible egos, that they can't imagine the country getting along without them. It always does.Rage parties from the Know Nothings to the Dixiecrats to the American Party, liter the histroic political landscape, and make our nation's history much more entertaining by their appearances.Historian love these movements, it is just when you have to actually live in the same time and space with the people behind these movements, that you become very uncomfortable. But for better or for worse, I like Dr Ron. I would not vote for him, but he is a man of courage, and quite possibly decency as well. He stood up and said the right thing about our adventurism in the middle east at a Repubican debate. That is roughly the same as screaming "praise Allah" during the sermon at the Hyde Park Batist Church 11:00 a.m. service. He knew that no one on that paltform would support him. This gave his campaign just the slingshot it needed to pick up a couple of million Davids, ready to slay Goliath. I doubt that he is truly in control of his campaign anymore. He is probably just enjoying the ride, and the ego boost of being a folk hero ,like his illustrious predecesors. Well God speed to you Dr Ron. Although never forget, I knew Hal Phillip Walker, I supported Hal Phillip Walker,you sir are no Hal Phillip Walker.

"Ever ask a lawyer the time ? He told you how to make a watch didn't he ? That's why we have a country that can make watches, but no one knows the time of day."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hee haw and Merry christmas

Driving home from church yesterday I heard a Christmas song which I had never heard before. The tune was called "Dominic, the Italian Christmas Donkey. " It was a gimmick song from 1960, aimed at the Italian American market. The simplicity (and moronity) of the song was so pure, that I became entranced with it for the rest of the day. There are several hilarious versions on u-tube (one x-rated) that I watched last night. I actually lost control of myself at one point and was unable to stop laughing. This very seldom happens to me. It put me in a wonderful mood.

The late 50s and early 60s were a golden age, maybe the golden age , of the gimmick song. The Flying Purple People Eater, the Monster Mash, Hello Mudah, Hello Fadduh, all were huge hits, I can still sing all the verses to each song. It was also a golden age for the parody song, where someone would take a big hit and make a joke song out of it. There was a revival of this in the 80s , but the stuff was never as clever as the earlier parodies. Alan Sherman's Classic album, My Son the Nut, is the kind of thing that would not sell today (even if people did still have turntables).

I was trying to recall the Alan Sherman songs, most were parodies of known tunes aimed at a Jewish audience. "The Streets of Miami" was a Jewish take off on 'The Streets of Laredo", "My Zelda" was a sendup of the calypso hit "Matilda". The country is not ethnic enough, and far too sensitive, for songs like those to make money now.I guess that's too bad. Of course, I saw an HBO special on Don Rickles this weekend and see that at 80 he is still walking around stages in Las Vegas spewing out insults of anyone's heritage, nationality, lack of hair or waist line.I thought that Rickles was funny when he made fun of Frank Sinatra, his humor loses a lot of its bite when he picks on some fat guy who happens to be Italian American. Rickles must be the last guy in the world getting laughs off of "boy the Irish sure drink a lot" jokes.

But back to the gimmick song. Maybe there are still a lot of them around. The invention of the cd and then the mps player meant that I froze myself in the music of my past. I hardly never listen to the radio anymore, and so for all I know there are still some gimmick songs running around. But they can never top the days of Dominick and Alan Sherman and the immortal Dave Seville...."Simon...Theodore....ALVIN ! "

Friday, December 07, 2007

Along for the ride

My daughter, whom I have mentioned before in these pages, has gotten further in the study of science than in Porter in her direct lineage going back to the 1680s, was studying for a Biology test last night. She enjoys studying by explaining things to people as she goes through her notes. When no one is around to hear, she will talk to herself. Last night, she had told me she wanted my help studying for a government test, which she knew I would enjoy.Then, catching me in a good mood, she pulled out an 11,000 page biology book and began explaining three methods of cloning to me. She explained a lot of other stuff too, but cloning is in the news sometimes, so I at least knew what that was. As I strained to understand a modicum of what she was explaining,it struck me that the life I am leading has been dependent upon a pretty small group of geniuses and near geniuses, and I am just along for the ride.

Not only would I have never discovered how to clone something, the concept of cloning itself would have never occured to me. The same is true with just about everything that has ever been invented or explained by science. I struggle to understand the freshman textbook, the real heros of this world came up with the ideas that someone else who only dimly understands them, dumb down for college freshman texts I don't understand.

I have no idea how I got to work, oh, I know I drove a car, but how does it work ? Why do the very walls surrounding me right now not collapse and send me through the floor, in a building that has been standing since 1859 ? How the hell did anyone ever now enough to tell me that it is going to rain today ? If I was placed on this earth with no knowledge of science (which I guess I was) would I ever be able to figure out that the earth revolves around the sun ? That a year is 365 days ? That if I plowed a field and sprinkled seeds in the furrow, that I could grow dinner for next year ? would the concept of the fishing pole ever come to me, or would I spend my time throwing rocks at fish ? Would it occur to me to heat meat, or would I eat it raw ?

My partner Allensworth once met a man who had been instrumental in translating Mayan hyrogliphics..As he correctly pointed out to me at the time "You could have stared at that stuff for forty years and never figured it out. " No, but then again, I have spent my life working on transferring money from one pocket to another. That must be worth something .I guess, it just seems to pale in comparison with the Salk vaccine. How in the hell does this computer work ?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Darwin and the nature of Fraud

Sure enough, old John Darwin told police that he had been suffering from amnesia for the past five years. Maybe his scam would have worked if pictures showing he and his former widow in Panama last year had not been uncovered. Mrs Darwin broke down and admitted that she and her formerly deceased husband had taken several vacations together over the past few years (weekends with Bernie !)The sons of the Darwins (31 & 29) released a statement saying that they had been the victims of a huge scam if what their "mam" told English media is true.

I am disappointed in Mr Darwin. I assume that this whole thing, including the recent admissions by his former widow ,was set up for book and movie deals. I had hoped for better from him. Maybe working as a merchant sailor for five years with an assumed name and no past. Perhaps falling in love and then suddenly finding out that he was married to another. I also expected that he would have been smart enough to set up his wife in a country with no extradition treaty with Great Britain. But then even great masterminds like Darwin can't think of everything.

It appears that this story is over before it really got started. 100 years ago, probably even 50 years ago,the Darwins would have pulled this off. The world is just too small a place now.Too many people have cameras on their cell phones and imediate access to the internet. The days of the great fugitives are just about over. More's the pity.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Darwin and the nature of amnesia

Earlier this were,John Darwin walked into a Police Station in England, where he had worked as a prison guard.He looked fine, perhaps a little changed, since no one had seem him in over five years. You see, five and a half years ago, Mr Darwin's kayak, with a large hole in it had washed ashore. Authorities had looked for him, but he was presumed drowned and the search was finally given up. And that's the last anyone who knew John Darwin heard anything about him until this week. This includes his father, mother, aunt, wife and sons.

Where had he been ? Darwin's father, a gentleman in his 90s suspects amnesia.Being a bit more cynical than old man Darwin, I suspect something else. The fact that his wife has suddenly disappeared, and this morning was traced to Panama ,sounds a bit out of the ordinary, coinciding as it does with John's resurrection.

I would guess that the very first mental disorder I knew anything about was amnesia. It was my understanding from watching hundreds of comedies and westerns that a rap on the head often produced a total loss of memory. In the shows I watched, the memory always came flooding back after a second rap on the head about thirty minutes (running time) later. I am sure that I believed for a good number of years that that was the way to cure amnesia. Actually, that causes what is known as "second impact amnesia" where the brain dangerously swells and you can die within about five minutes. I never saw a T.V. show where the second rap on the head lead to death. I hope that well intentioned children, being confronted with amnesiac friends, did not bop them on the head in an effort to return their memory.

For some reason I can not understand, it was one of my fondest childhood wishes to covince my brother that I was suffering from amnesia. I also thought it amusing to try to convince him that I had been knocked out after I received a bump on the head. It infuriated my brother no end to see me swoon and fall. He would begin screaming "you are not knocked out ! " After a few more seconds (lying face down to hide my grin ) I would open my eyes and glassily stare at my brother,finally giving him a quizzical look, and ask, "where am I ?". To this my brother would begin screaming "you do not have amnesia !". I would make a few more half hearted efforts to convince him, but always give up when he got too angry. It was not something worth risking second hand amnesia over.

Most of my childhood heros had amnesia. Chester of Gunsmoke, Hoss on Bonanza, Gilligan on the Island, Kelly on Charlie's Angels, I think it was amnesia that got Chuck Connors in trouble on Branded.... "All but one man dies, there at Bitter Creek, and they say he ran away ..." Virtually every cartoon character had a bout of amnesia.In a cartoon, the character will get a large knot on his head, swelling up through the fur or feathers, depending on the character. In some cartoons that knot can be fixed by actually hammering it back in again. Something non-animated medical science has not been able to achieve as of yet. Amnesia ,as a medical condition, was more prevelant than rhino viruses on television shows before about 1980. It is still around, Christina Applegate is sffering from it on a sit-com now. This show won't last. You can't sustain amnesia for 23 episodes a year. You can sustain it for several months on a soap oprea, because there are so many characters on those shows that the story moves much more slowly and the audience won't get bored with the concept. I think most soap 0preas have at least one character with amnesia at any given point in time. I can't speak for the Spanish speaking ones, but I presume that amnesia stories transcend all cultures. Maybe not, I don't recall any fairy tales about amnesia.

Speaking of fairy tales, we are about to hear a real good one from Mr Darwin. I bet he has been wandering around, living on hand outs for the last five years while his wife cashed his insurance policies in and bought property in Panama. Whether there were in cahoots (if they even have cahoots to "get in" in England) is anybody's guess. I can see him pulling this off to get away from the old nag, and then changing his mind when he found out about the wife's new property,nestled silent upon a peak in Darien. But you can never discount amnesia. While it occurs only about 2x 100,000, it seems to occur to people we all know, at least if they are on T.V. So let us not Judge yet. We shall follow the evolving story of Darwin and see how it unfolds.

Monday, December 03, 2007

From the People whp brought you weeekends

I nearly missed the story of President Chavez's referendum defeat in the paper this morning. Everytime I see the word "Chavez" in our local newspaper, my eyes glaze over. I assume that it is another story about the closing of a portion of Cesar Cahvez street here in Austin ,which will back up downtown traffic for a month or so. In my town that is a "dog bites man " story. So prevelant as to not even be newsworthy.

But in my second pass through the headlines I noticed that the story was about President Chavez of Venezuela. The newspapers should really always identify him with his first name, "Hugo". Hugo is a great sit-com name. Can't you just see a Fox comedy about the President of Venezuela and his zany antics. The ding bat First Lady would always be yelling up the stairs "Huuuugo, breakfast". It would be a scream.

At any rate, much to the surprise of the world community, Hugo managed to lose a referendum which would have allowed him to run for President forever, and not have to step down in 2012.This is a disappointment to Hugo who, I'm sure was looking forward to a life time of free rent and travel. All is not lost however, Putin's party over in Russia won a big majority in the Dumas this weekend and it looks like Putin, while he may have to step down as President of the country, can still maintain effective control of the country.His allies are talking about him becoming something called "leader of the state" which nobody has defined yet. I know what it means. Russia worked like this once before, in the early 60s ,when the country was theoretically run by its Premier, Nikita Khruschev, but, in fact, was controlled by the mysterious and charismatic "Fearless Leader", who was known in the United States only because he was the overall head of a spy agency which employed Boris and Natasha. These were two Soviet agents, whose objective in this country was the elimination of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose. A task which was never successfuly completed.Look for both Putin and Hugo to assume "Fearless leader" roles in the near future.

The Russian election is fun because the Russian Communist Party is complaining of election irregularities (of which proof is legion) and calling on President Bush to denounce the process. This is the same Communist Party which rigged every election in Russia from the 20s to the 80s and screamed "capitalistic interference" every time the U.S. complained about it.

How Hugo lost his referendum is beyond me. He had packed the ballot with all kinds of goodies for the faithful, the best of which would have constitutionally cut down the work week from 40 to 30 weeks. How in the hell could he have lost that vote ? Who is against working less ?That's really my question for today, even though we have arrived at it in a rather circular fashion.

In the late 40s and early 50s the United States faced a choice. It had established the highest standard of living ever attained by any species on the planet earth. It could maintin that standard of living and cut back on the work needed to hold onto it, or it could elect to work the same amount (and more) and push onto to an ever higher standard of living. Unlike Venezuela, we never put the question to a vote.The reasons are legal as well as cultural. Under American law, the officers of any corporation owe a fiduciary duty to their stockholders. This is measured by profits and utlimately dividends and higher stock prices for shareholders. Thus under law, American coimpanies have no legal choice other than to push for more profits. They have no practical choice either, since many of the large shareholders are officers in the company who want those larger profits for very personal reasons.

Coinciding with this legal reason was the rise of mass media and its american cousin, advertiseing. You can have mass media without the ads, we just chose to do it this way. By doing it this way, we managed to use well understood scientific techniques to convince people that what they really wanted was a total consumer society. Labor Unions were able to take advantage of this booming economy by forcing up wages and benefits to a point where they would choke the companies involved if the economy ever slipped. Which,of course it did. This did not stop American Corporations or American Advertising who then came up with the revolving bank charge card which enabled people to continue to buy the items needed to sustain the economy, although they could no longer afford them. This changed the psyche of the American people to the point where actual income, either to the individual, or the state, means nothing compared to what is spent. This is why we are a trillion dollars in debt to China.

So now Venezuela has chosen to go down our path. Probably a good thing, this 30 day work week was bolstered by high oil prices which may not last forever. Now the Venzuelans can make more money and buy more goods and then borrow more money to buy more goods and then get thesmselves in just about the same situation we are in here. Once they see how neat high def TV is, they will laugh Hugo out of office. 10 extra hours of leisue is nothing compared to watching futbol on a 42 inch Sony. Viva la revolucion !

Saturday, December 01, 2007

In the Pink

When 80 year old King Bumibol Adulyadej of Thailand checked out of the hospital the other day, he was wearing a pink blazer. This sent the entire country of Thailand (nee Siam) into a frenzy of shopping, as everyone in the country had to buy a pink shirt to honor the King. This, on top of the fact, that every one of any consequence in Thailand wears a yellow shirt every Monday to honor the King. Yellow, you see is Monday's color in Thailand. Over here it is blue. I didn't know what the other colors are in Thailand, just like I don't know the colors of the days over here. Except that we seem to have a lot of "black" Fridays, usually coinciding with stock market crashes.

Turns out Tuesday is the pink day in Thailand. So my guess is that people wil be sporting pink shirts every Tuesday now. If you have any interest, Wednesday is green, Thursday is orange, Friday is blue, Saturday is purple or black (which makes sense because on the other side of the International Dateline it is Friday and we know that means "black Friday". Sunday is red. The day you were born designates your lucky color.The King was born on Monday. For many years I thought that I was born on a Wednesday ("Wednesday's child is full of woe") but according to a consultation I just had, I was born on Tuesday ("in the pink") which makes me either "full of grace" or "fair of face", I can't recall which. Anything is better than the child who is full of woe, except possibly the one who "has to work for a living". That one never made any sense to me. Just about everyone has to work for a living.

But back to fashion. I recall that when JFK was elected, everyone stopped wearing hats and the haberdashers of the United States all went broke at about the same time. Kennedy had nice hair and it gave him a youthful appearance not to cover it up. At the time this happened, news types wrote about the fact that men had stopped wearing undershirts after Clark Gable appeared without one in the movie "It Happened One Night". Idon't know that this had much of an effect on the undershirt industry as, within a few years, men started wearing white cotton shirts as regular shirts and not just undershirts.

The biggest fashion trend in my lifetime had been that which saw men grow long hair in the wake of the Beatles. A similair happen stance may or may not have been the growth of beards after Lincoln's inaguration. I have not studied it. I do know that Presidents did not have facial hair before Lincoln, and after his death all but two of the next ten did.A trend finally stopped by that old prig Woodrow Wilson.Since then, no one with facial hair has gotten him or herself we can assume that Hillary will keep waxing under that lip.

As all will recognize, the current fashion trend among both men and women is the piercing of the body and the tatooing of the skin. I think I read that up to about thirty 30% of women in their twenties now have tatoos, and the trend is not subsiding. My father was an outspoken critic of tatoos, although you saw very few when I was young. He felt that no sober man ever got a tatoo and would tell stories of his service experiences involving the dangerous mixing of alcohol and tatoo ink which left many a soldier or sailor disfigured for life. His favorite denigrating expression "riff-raff" was often used in conjunction with these stories.The current tatoo trend will stop after this generation of youth. That is because the next generation of youth will grow up looking at the tatoo on the small of their mom's backs fading and shriviling over time until they looks to be so many oversized, mixed colored, wrinkled ,skin carcinomas protruding from the back of their unfortuantly lowridding pants. By the way, I aslo predict high waisted pants to be a fashion trend among women in 15-20 years. Yellow on Monday, pink on Tuesday and so on.