Wednesday, December 30, 2009

57 Orbits of the Sun

Today I am 57.The earth and I have traveled some 33 billion miles arond the sun together. The earth doing all of the work.That's a long way to travel and I have never even thanked the earth for the nice ride. Thanks !

I was thinking this morning about my early birthday parties, and a place called WEE Wild West came to mind. It was the kind of place we used to call a "Kiddie Park" although this one was larger than most. There are still a few kiddie parks around,there is one here in Austin called "Kiddie Acres".Wee Wild West was really something. It was located on the spot where the Houston Gallariea now sits. Like all Kiddie Parks it had a bunch of gentle rides that probably would not kill you if the machine misfired. They had little motor boats that were attached to rods and looped around a tank of water, a very small train,a merry go round, a small and short roller coaster and a few other rides.

The attractions I recall best were the self propelled mini trains and the Shetland Ponies. I don't recal the real name of the mini trains. They were small scooter like objects, attached to a metal track. A three or four year old could sit down on them without discomfort. A tall five year old could not. To propel this item of torture, you had to bend ove the front of the machine and grab onto two wheels on the front side of each scooter. Then, while painfully hunched over, move your arms as fast as you could, clockwise, to propel yourself forward (counter clockwise for a backwards trip.By the way, the seat of the thing was solid iron (burnig like fire in the Texas sun) and the wheels were always rusted.These items were used at Guantanamo on terrorists but that has been hushed up for obvious reasons.I never understood what was fun about this painful self propulsiom in that Houston heat. I'd have rather been water boarded.

The Shetland Ponies were the same as Shetland Ponies at every kiddie park. They were sad looking specimens with mangy hides and delapidated saddles. They were forced to spend all day, every day with a child on their back, often beating upon them, walking slowly around the outer fence at the park. They were the saddest looking animalss I ever saw.Imagine spending every day of your life, cicling and circling, one kid after another spilling popcorn and cotton candy all over you. Then you get a short night of sleep and tomorrow it is more of the same.Still, the ponies were the highlight of the park.

Could you take a seven year old to a place like that today ? Kids raised on video games,multi tasking and microwaved food. You could not keep a 21st century kid at a place like that for five minutes before the whining would start. I doubt that with current hygiene standards any mom would allow a kid on the back of one of those ponies.Times have changed a lot over the last 33 billion miles. PETA, of course would not allow the Ponies to stay at the park for any length of time.The park itself would have to carry about ten million in liability insurance which would cut out any profit they might make.I don't know how they stay open over at Kiddie Acres.

Regardless, here we all are,turning our rusty wheels in a clockwise fashion, circling the sun and trying not to fall off.We circle and we circle and end up 365 1/4 days later back where we started, a little older and with our back sore.That's the bad news. The good news is that it's a miraculosu thing to move around the sun, to see the weather change,the plants bloom and to hear the birds sing, not knowing what any new year will bring, but knowing that at the end, it was damn sure worth the ride.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words

" Sure it's a big job, but I don't know of anyone who can do it better than I." Kennedy, John F., 1960


Having spent the last twenty five years or so reading Presidential biography, I am always happy to learn something that has not been uncovered by the various writers.Today a picture of John Kennedy on a boat with four womnen surfaced.It is allegedly from his Carribbean trip Kennedy made with George Smathers in 1956. That trip, unfortunatly, coincided with the still birth of the Kennedy's first child.The fact that JFK was frolicking on a boat, while is wife was in labor is something historians have known for many years.There has always been suspicion that women were on board the Kennedy boat. The interesting thing about the four women in the picture published today is that they are all naked.

Now I have my suspicions about this picture.The picture has been looked at and is claimed to be authentic and the picture of the man appears to be Kennedy. That does not mean that the picture is authentic or that the man is Kennedy,but it's a good story for today anyway.

If the picture had surfaced in 1956 and had not been purchased in a blackmail payoff, Kennedy would have never been elected. While times were different regarding sexual mores in 1956 than now, if a picture of Obama in a similair situation had surfaced in 2008, Obama would never have been elected. Things have not changed that much. The American people would still have been leery of anyone on a boat with four naked women taken at the time that the man's wife was in labor, as the French always say,we are too puritanical over here.Morality aside, we can all agree that that is type of activity is in bad taste, right ?

In my reading on virtually every American President, I have found one thing to be true. There is something to dislike about each and every one of them.Kennedy's reckless behavior and boorishness, although tolerated by his economic class in those years, was a realistic reason not to vote for the guy.He was, in many areas a consumate liar. He apparently had unprotected sex with a number of women even though he had a venereal disease.He lied about his Addison's disease and obviously lied to his wife with fair regularly.Yet people today still adore him and histrians rate his abbreviated Presidency quite high.

The truth of the matter is that Kennedy's behavior was no worse than most of the other President's. It just happened to be in the sexual department, which attracts more interest than other behavior.Each President had something about him, which if known under today's standards, would probably have keept him from being elected.This does not prove that we have had a bunch of bums for our Presidents. It just proves that we have had a bunch of hummans for our Presidents who manged to keep the lid on many of their problems while in office.Think how much the world would have changed if that boat picture had surfaced in 1960. The whole world might be different, there might not even be a world if the Cuban Missle Crisis had been mishandled ( that assumes that there would have even been a Cuban Missle Crisis).Many will believe that the world is much better off that the picture did not surface. Many will believe that we would have missed enormous problems if the picture had come to light. Many believe that the press would have never let the picture come to light or that old Joe would have paid off the photographer.No one knows. Just like no one can ever really know if the picture is real, or really of Jack. Maybe one of the girls will surface 53 years later.It would take a lot of pressure off of Tiger Woods.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Quiet Before Christmas

" How silently, how silently
the wonderous gift is given", Brooks, Phillip (1867) "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

The Christmas season is drawing to a close. It seems to me that for the last few years I have had very quiet times the last couple of days before the holiday. The parties are over, business slows to a crawl and people seem to be letting out the sigh of relief that comes from a job finished and well done.That's the way Christmas should be. I realize that it is not that way for everyone, every year, but it is getting that way for most.There is a relaxation of the spirit that only this silence can bring about.Some of our most beloved Christmas Carols speak of this,"Stille nacht, Heilige nacht", "Silent Night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright".We sing those words and imagine Josef Mohr,the assistant pastor of the little church in the Austrian Alps, looking down from a high spot on his long walk home on December 23 and thinking of the words he wrote. We think of Franz Gruber, the organist at Mohr's church who had no organ to play that Christmas, but in only a day wrote the beautiful music for those words which would be played on guitar for the congregation that evening for the first time."Sleep in heavenly peace" the congregation sang.That peace which "passeth all understanding".

I always imagined the scene at the manger as quiet and cold, even the cattle and sheep quite still, the shephards standing in silent wonder.I know that this can't be true, no child birth is painless, but perhaps the labor made the moments after the birth of the child seem even more calming.For that little family, and that baby, it was the quiet not only after the storm, but before the storm to come as well. But for that night anyway,after all of the excitement, the family and the shepards and even the animals must have slept in that heavenly peace which Mohr wrote of 1800 years later, in a language the little family never knew, in a land that they did not know existed, in a future which would have been unimaginable.

I think of the Christmas truces in World War One, especiallly the first one where German and French soldiers sang carols together, ignoring their officer's commands to cease. That night, even if for only a night, the trenches were silent and no man had to sleep on his rifle. Heavenly peace.

I think of the long nights before Christmas in my childhood, where everyone except me was asleep.My excitement unabated by the quiet, in fact, perhaps enhanced by it as I looked over at my brother and listened hopefully for the sound of reindeer on our roof.

I think of the silence, leaving a church with my wife at midnight in Houston, holding a candle in my right hand and her hand in my left.I remember the chill as we walked to the car and the warmth when we got home.It was on a night like this when I heard the pastor of that church tell the beautiful story of Franz Gruber and his song.He told it every year, and I looked forward too it every year. Stille Nacht,Heilige Nacht, Silent night, Holy night.

I think of helping Santa Claus set out presents for my daughter, the most beautiful Christmas times of all. No present at Christmas is ever greater than your child's smile on Christmas morning or watching her wonder and excitement over a day which is different than all other days. That smile is the last quiet of the day, but by then your joy has overcome your need for quiet.

May you be granted this quiet before Christmas, this year and every year, and may it bring you the peace which was brought to that little family that evening as the Shepards looked on, and the Angels soared above proclaiming peace on earth for the family, and for all of us. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What's in the Daily News ?

I have actually sworn off of blogging Daily News stories (the New York
Daily News is my personal paper of record) but friend Griesel sent me
one today that I had to comment on.

In Memphis Tennessee, which is one large river away from being a
southern fried Gary, Indiana, a lawyer is being sued for biting off a
good part of the nose of a "self employed hairdresser" at a night
hotspot there called "Dish". Dish is a tapas bar in midtown Memphis
which I was lead to understand the last time I was in that city is a
place for the tonier Memphis folks to hang out.

The story is an odd one, and it comes from the New York Daily News makes
it better than an even bet that it is false. Greg Lambers, an attorney
with the Cochran law firm (you may recall the late Johnny from the
O.J. trial)had just consumed four Vodka Sodas and headed for the
restroom. Reports do not mention the alcoholic consumption of the soon
to be denosed Greg Herbers, if any, who walked into the same restroom a
short time later. Anyway, Herbers walks in and notices that all the
stalls and the urinals are in use (one of the urinals by lawyer
Lambers). He waits awhile and then becomes upset that one of the stalls
is occupied by two men, neither of whom is using the stall for its
"intended purpose". Hairdresser Herbers becomes understandingly peeved
as he sees no reason why his issue should not take precedence over what
is going on it the stall. After all, the stall was built for the exact
thing Herbers had in mind to do.

Herbers began screaming at the two gents in the stall who apparently
still refused to exit. Lambers, standing at the urinal is said to have
become incensed at Herbers' attitude and butts into the conversation,
weighing in on the side of the boys in the stall and whatever it is that
they are up to. At this point, testimony differs. Lambers claimed that
Herbers came at him and tried to put him in a headlock causing Lambers,
in self defense, to bite off most to the left nostril of Herbers.
Herbers claims that the attack was the other way around and that he is
down to his last nostril because of it. No word as to what happened to
the two guys in the stall.Herbers, of course, has sued Lambers for $7.5
million dollars claiming that he will have to have plastic surgery (I
have got to agree with him on that), a prosthetic nose and has lost a
portion of his sense of small.

Now nose biting is not quite an everyday occurrence, even in Memphis,
but there has been many a barroom brawl that has resulted in the loss of
a nose or ear. Why was this one newsworthy ? One thing to notice is that
every paper who ran with the story headlined it "lawyer bites nose" as
if the profession of the biter was relevant to the issue. As an
attorney, I am much agitated at this typical slur by the media on my
occupation. I have been called a leech, a blood sucker, a shylock and
numerous other things (my grandfather preferred horse thief) but I see
no reason to add "nose biter" to the list. I have never known of an
attorney who bit anyone's nose and I have never heard of an attorney
even contemplating such a thing. When I was very young I did once bite
Mark Roland's nosed because he had me pinned down and I could not move
my arms. I will admit that the nose can be a very tempting target when
you are in a tight spot, but how tight could this spot have been ?Did
Lambers honestly believe that he could not take out a hairdresser
without resorting to that ?

I was stunned to see that Mr. Lambers picture is still on the web site
of his firm. I assume this means they will stand by the young man in his
time of trouble. They might even get him out of this with the fabled
"small mouth" defense. As Johnny would have said, "if the nose does not
fit, you must acquit ".

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tiger's Tail

The world continued to rock with the news on the Nancy Grace show last night that Tiger Wood's number of mistresses has now climbed over 1,000, less than 100 being porn stars.Grace's investigators are still looking at the allegatione from an Australian Kangaroo that she had an affair with Woods, down under, during last year's Australian Open.Pictures of the Kangaroo are already circulating over the internet.

U.S. Weekly,which still claims that less than 500 women have had confirmed affairs with Woods, attacked the Grace story this morning. " This is typical of these cable shout shows." said that funny looking English woman who for some reason always appears on T.V. as the US Weekly spokesperson, "You can't expect a slipshod outfit like the Grace show to show to have the same journalistic integrity practiced by a respected magazine such as ours." Several sources from both of these news outlets,both of which leak like sieves, state that the difference in the divergent numbers is definitional in nature."It depends on what your definition of sex is.US Weekly is more Clintonian in its approach." said an unamed receptionist at US Weekly. " Quick oral sex and cigars do not count, jeez, didn't we learn anything from that impeachment trial ?"

Several of Tiger's fellow tour members have now come forward to admit they knew of what many have called for years, the "Tiger slice". "Woods would have a big lead in a tournament, playing perfect golf, and then he would slice a ball off into the trees so that he could go look for it. It took him a long time to find those balls and he always came back with his shirt tail hanging out or his zipper down, later we'd see some woman leave the woods and sneak back into the gallery. Put two and two together."

An interesting sidelight to the scandal has been the formation of several support groups of women who have not had affairs with Woods." It's really bad for your self esteem" sobbed a woman from the Pebble Beach group,"You throw yourself at this guy and he ignores you, then you find out that he's slept with most of your friends and just about every skank in America,imagine the humiliation."


The lasting affect of the scandal, other than ruining Tiger's career will be the new use of the term "Tiger", already competing with "Cougar" as the most overused sexual term in the country. A "Tiger", as everyone knows by now ,is a married man who will screw anyone, even though he is already married to a model.It is synonymous in some ways with "sexual compulsion" and in other ways with "death wish".

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Sailorman

If one is to believe Google, and really, who else is there left to
believe ? Today is the 115th birthday of the creator of Popeye the
Sailorman. I don't know if anyone under a certain sensitive age recalls
Popeye. My guess is that the sheer violence which dominated all of his
cartoons prevents them from appearing much on television anymore. The
war time cartoons contained such racial stereotypes that I am positive
that they are hidden away somewhere (although YouTube may feature
some).The Age of Popeye has really come and gone and the truth of the
matter is, this is no great loss to anyone.

When I was a kid, Popeye was a staple cartoon for every cartoon show,
and most cities had a local show called "Popeye's Theatre" or something
similarly named, where for thirty minutes you could watch a Popeye
cartoons. In my town it was hosted by a young man named Skipper Conway
from 5:30 to 6:00 on Channel 13 (KTRK) in Houston. Skipper was one of
those guys, in early local television, who kind of hung around as
"utility men" for one show or another. He was in college during at least
part of his time at 13. Unfortunately for Skipper, the T.V. gig for
Popeye required him to wear a little white sailor suit which would have
gotten him beaten up in any beer joint on Telephone Road.

As to Popeye, I was never a huge fan. He always looked about 65 to me,
which seemed old to be a sailor. He seldom sailed, which also seemed odd
for a sailor. Mostly he roamed around town, muttering to himself until
he came upon Olive Oyl, or something he thought would please Olive Oyle
(his girlfriend who is, even today, the thinnest character in the
history of film). Then he would run into his nemesis Bluto ,who would
also be pursuing the object of Popeye's desire. Bluto would always
temporarily come out ahead in the competition, usually by beating Popeye
to a bloody pulp. Bluto appeared to be ten or fifteen years younger than
Popeye, at least a foot taller and 150 pounds heavier. As far as I can
recall, Popeye never won a fair fight with Bluto. He relied on Spinach
to do that. Toward the end of every cartoon, Popeye would be lying in
extremis somewhere, often bound so that he had not use of his arms. With
some ingenuity he would manage to get an entire can of spinach out of
his shirt, pants or over from where the can was sitting. He often
accomplished this feat with the pipe which was perpetually stuck in his
mouth. Popeye's use of his pipe was nothing short of miraculous. It
could even open a can of spinach. When Popeye had use of his arms he
could open the Spinach by squeezing the can and letting the pressure
burst the spinach through the top of the can. The spinach would fly into
the air in one big lump and land in Popeye's mouth to be swallowed
whole.

The spinach had the instantaneous affect of turning Popeye into an
unstoppable human dynamo (much like steroids do for today's athletes).
This allowed him to break free of his restraints and give Bluto a
beating which would have left any other man (at least a noncartoon man)
dead. Then Popeye would go get Olive Oyl and sing a song and toot his
pipe (which never appeared to have tobacco in it and was never lit) and
the cartoon would end. It was a thin reed on which to build a cartoon
character empire, but it has lasted in some form or another for over 75
years.

How has it lasted ? I think that it is the simple humility of Popeye
himself. Despite the fact that he appeared to have fathered a small
child out of wedlock (Swee'Pea) you had the feeling that Popeye was a
sincere and upstanding individual, if somewhat dimwitted and ill spoken.
Of course when compared to the other male characters in the cartoon, the
afore mentioned Bluto and Popeye's best friend Wimpy, whose life
consisted of bumming money to buy hamburgers, he was bound to look good.
But even putting that aside, he was a man totally without guile. His
philosophy of life was simple. "I yam what I yam and that's all that I
yam" said it all about his character. He was decent. Of course I would
have liked him a lot better if he had been funny.