Archive for June, 2008

throw mama (and junior) from the plane!

June 29, 2008

So have you  heard about the two year old and his Mother that was put off an airplane because the kid was unruly?  Turns out the child suffers from autism and now the media is having a field day exposing the “big, bad airline” as being insensitive towards the mentally handicapped.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think the intention of the pilot was to discriminate against anyone and to suggest such an idea to me is bunk.

The media is a monster.  Somewhere, somehow a long time ago the people behind our news and entertainment realized the public has this insatiable appetite for news, and not necessarily good news.  In fact, most good news is boring.

So they put this spin on things in order to: 1) grab your attention  2) bombard you with their slant on the “story” and 3) assure you that for the most “update and concise” news always look to them first.  It is a jungle out there, folks.  ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, BBC, CBC, QRS… TUV  all of these stations plus radio, newspapers, magazines, books and online sources… ALL of them vying for your attention!  So everything has to be sensationalized day after day, 365 days a year. 

I have flown dozens of times over many years, each time it is a little nerve racking.  Though I have gotten to the point of not following along with my safety instructions when the flight attendants go through their review, I am still very much aware of where the exits are and my proximity to them.  Each take off I am silently encouraging the plane that it has “one more trip left in it” even though it is nearly 50 years old and every time we land I want to breath a sigh of relief and shake the pilots hand.

It is stressful to say the least, being couped up in a cylinder that is hurling through the atmosphere at 660 miles per hour with a diversified group of individuals that I will probably never see again though I share the same trepidation that they do.  Always wondering in the back of our minds… “Will we make it?” and imagining the headlines if we don’t.  Did I tell that certain someone that I loved him/her?  Are my dental records up to date if they have to identify me?  Will I scream all the way down?  (I’d hate to face my impending death that way, it’d be so girly)

Anyway, I have experienced crying babies on airplanes numerous times.  Sometimes my ears popping because of the shift in altitude makes me feel like crying, too.  I have sat next to the little closets they call restrooms and had people come out smelling like anything but a rose causing the flavor of my little bag of salted peanuts to change dramatically.  It seems every time I fly there is a problem with the air conditioning or worse, some navigational instrument needs replaced and I thank the powers that be they caught it on the ground rather than in mid-flight. 

I’ve always imagined I was going to get to sit next to some knock out, buxom redhead that had never flown before and needed my strong arm as a life support.  We would pass through the clouds into the sunset and tell each other our life’s story just in case we didn’t get out of this ordeal alive.  We might even steal a kiss or two and promise to keep in touch no matter what the outcome of our (potentially) doomed flight.  I even met a stewardess once that I asked out.  Sadly, I was turned down because she was leaving immediately on a returning flight.  Anyway, what I’ve usually enjoyed is being crammed into the inside seat with an overweight person that smells of too much cologne and bleeds over into my space.  Usually that person reads the latest choice from the Oprah book club, complains about the “snack” offered by the attendant, falls asleep on my shoulder and snores. 

I’ve sat on the tarmac for hours before take off and had people get irritated to the point of having to be calmed down by the pilot.  I have sat and been de-iced then sat so long prior to take off that we had to be de-iced again.   I landed once in Salt Lake City during a snow storm after we circled the airport for nearly an hour and had the pilot come on the intercom and announce, “We’re gonna try it!” and landed to a round of applause from the passengers. 

I’ve flown in those little puddle jumpers and had to sing to my claustrophobic travel partner to keep her from having a panic attack.  I did this so she could laugh at my silliness rather than claw her way out of the hatchway.  Songs like, “Big ol’ jet airliner… don’t take me too far away…” and “Give me a ticket for an airplane… ain’t got time to take a fast train…” loudly enough to be heard over the swirling propellers and groaning engines.  (true story)  I have flown through thunderstorms that could rival a Steven Spielberg movie.

So… adding to the stress level there is a child that is unruly, running up and down the isle screaming at the top of his lungs that is causing the Captain to announce his intention to remove the mother and child so the remainder of us, say 125-150 passengers can ride white knuckled and nauseously care free.  Is this what I signed up for?  No.  Do I want to spend the next 2-3 hours with this kind of behaviour 7 miles above the ground?  No.  Was the airline at fault because the child was autistic and the mother couldn’t control him?  No.  Does this make them insensitive?  Far from it.  They were sensitive to the remaining passengers just as they would have been with an unruly drunk, an overly aggressive leach or a scantily clad female (that one outraged me, I doubt anyone’s safety and/or comfort were in jeopardy because of exposed cleavage and/or a short skirt… see paragraph eight above)  on board.

Not to say I don’t have empathy for the Mother.  No doubt it embarrassed her to be singled out the way she was.  Could the child have been medicated?  Had he ever flown before?  Was there an alternative method of travel?  All these questions come to mind but the real rub is this…

When it comes to being in public; whether in restaurants, or parks, or theatres, or the beach, or on airplanes… sensitivity should be measured with common sense.  The public in general should not have to be subjected to the “right” of an individual if it creates discord amongst the masses.  The comfort and security of the flight depended on the care, custody and control of the flight personnel. 

They did the right thing.


the hippie dippy weatherman no longer sweats the ICBMs

June 28, 2008

George Carlin is no longer with us, he died a few days ago at the age of 71.  I used to think that 71 sounded old and that it was probably a good time to go but I’m not sure what to think anymore.  I mean, Tim Russert died last week at 58, Heath Ledger died at 28.  Age seems to be no factor when it comes to untimely deaths these days, because all three of these men still seemed to have much to offer.

I liked George Carlin early on in his career.  But as George’s comedy progressed he seemed to have become bitter about life, kinda like the cantankerous old coot that comes to your family reunion and no one recalls being related to.  Comedians lauded Carlin as “the thinking man’s comedian” and I have to agree that some of his routines left me howling, several made me think and one or two just made me cringe.

Early on the Tonight Show, George introduced us to “Al Sleet aka the hippie dippy weatherman.”  “Al” apologized to some of his viewers who were no longer located where the map last indicated (swept away by some natural disaster.)  His forecast was for thundershowers but then he pointed out these Russian ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) on the radar which should cause us not to sweat any other impending weather conditions.  I liked that George Carlin, but maybe it was the era in which we lived that struck more of a chord with me. 

In 1966, the Vietnam War hadn’t reached it’s staggering height yet, there were no anti-war demonstrations or draft card burnings, Haight-Ashbury was just another street corner and the Summer of Love was still a year away.  But George Carlin was making us laugh by bringing to the fore a symbol of counter culture that became synonymous with bucking the establishment by merely passively resisting it.  Non-violence was the movement then and it was working for a short time.  Though the mainstream laughed at it, the thoughts then molded much of what we are now… to a point.

But later George Carlin became cynical and took us for a different kind of ride.  Instead of the hippie micro bus heading for Woodstock, we were on the road to oblivion with no real hope, no guidance, only our delusions to be taken out and sadly criticized.  George said in an interview once that he didn’t believe in God, or his country or much of anything else.  I wonder if he, like so many others was/are really happy in that existence.

Mistakenly, a lot of people get into their religion of choice for what they can get out of it and not for what they can put into it.  Like any relationship, what you give comes back to you many times over.  Too many times we tend to turn to our Creator when times are rough and we need help.  Then when life is good again we’ll merrily go our way no longer taking heed to what God says.

I’m not a religious person but I do believe in our Heavenly Father.  I resent it when people imply that I am not strong enough in my self or that I need faith like some sort of crutch or drug and that is why I believe… because I lack some inner strength or need a “happy ending” to life like a fairy tale.  The realm of higher thinking has no more appeal to me than the people that rave about it.  In my mind, there is more proof that God exists then there is that He doesn’t. 

It is more difficult for a person to adhere to a principle then to go with the flow.  Weak minded people follow fads and conditions, adhere to the current trend or fashion themselves like everyone else.  I once heard a saying that goes like this: ” you must stand for something or you’ll fall for anything” and it is true.  But it is not just the standing for “something” or “anything” that is important.  That would be like an insurance policy, hoping you never have to use it but it’d be handy if you ever needed it.  Standing up for your faith, aside from some organized religion… on your own, through your own convictions and moral compass… takes a strong character.  As time goes on fewer people trust in God because of religious practices, not because of what the Bible teaches. 

I would like to be on the other side of this life to see George’s reaction to the truth, the coming aware to the fact that there is a God and a divine plan for mankind.  It is not a belief that I carry out in the open or that I make my daily concern, which is not to say that others that do are wrong.  But I am finding more and more that faith is perceived as a sign of weakness or a character flaw. 

Look at it this way.  If I am wrong and the George Carlins of this world was/are right, all I’ve done is enjoyed the fruitages of a divine spirit, a higher plane of hope and purpose and tried to govern my life accordingly.  Because of my convictions I have strived to be a good person despite my imperfections.  But if I am right… well, far be it for me to gloat and say “I told you so.”  Suffice it to think that we will both be pleasantly reprised.

Thanks for the laughs, George Carlin.  You no longer have to sweat anything… take your rest now.

Enjoy a couple of clips from George Carlin’s stand up routine by scrolling down. 

Peace, man.          

Religion is bull…

June 28, 2008

George Carlin – Religion is bullshit.

near the mark… not on it.


the hippy dippy weatherman

June 28, 2008

George Carlin at the Tonight Show (1966)

early report from “Al Sleet aka the hippy dippy weatherman”

peace, man

Inner – mission

June 17, 2008

As of today I’ll be out for a while… but fear not, I shall return.

There are distant voices calling me,

there is a heart I yearn to have

beating in unison with my own…

up close, in sync… beautiful harmony.

So I will travel to the Great White North…

we will wine and dine 

cram as much living as we can

into the next few days.

There are always the archives…

even I check them out once in a while

just to see where I was

and if I still am.

You’ll be fine… trust me.


Happy Father’s Birthday

June 15, 2008

The voice is far away in another country, yet it’s sentiments are being heard throughout the world today and very close to my heart.  “Happy Father’s Birthday,” he says.

I spent the morning reading the newspaper.  My home town is experiencing the flood waters that has dominated the news these past few days.  Cedar Rapids is only 27 miles from where I was born and raised.  I thought about the thousands of families that have been disrupted by this natural disaster and the holiday that wasn’t for them.

The paper highlighted military fathers.  It would be a severe strain on a marriage to be in that situation, with the family head off to fight in a war half a world away.  Sons and fathers leaving behind their own sons and daughters in a long distance relationship that would be difficult in it’s communication and sporatic at best.

I have raised my kids, they are now young adults who have their own lives to lead, their own stories to tell.  I remember many years of their depending on me to raise them right, to comfort and care for them, to raise them true to my ideals.  It wasn’t always easy, nothing worth while ever is.  We learned a lot in those years, even as they were growing, I was growing, too.

Often times being a kid with my kids was the norm.  Playing games or practical jokes, discovering the bond that is family.  Being a father puts you in all kinds of circumstances and postures; of being a teacher or a student to their needs, of being a friend or a disciplinarian to their desires.  Throwing a ball or helping with homework, learning a new idea or discovering an old one; being a dad opens the door to life in a  whole new way. 

Fatherhood.  A gift from God, the ability to procreate. It is a tough commitment that many are abandoning today.  It isn’t hard to become a Father, but it is hard to live up to the responsibility of being one.  It was a struggle for me, I’ll have to admit.  I didn’t have a lot to draw off of since my parents were divorced while I was still a baby.  So many of the ideas I had about what to do and what to be came by happenstance much of the time.

But we made it.  My kids came out virtually intact on into young adulthood and my ability as a father seemed adequate enough. Even after the divorce, I am still their Dad and the affection has turned from reliance to realization.  They have found it isn’t easy to be all grown up, gone are those days of being taken care of by the parents.  They must make it on their own.  I sense a new respect from them now.  Being accountable for one’s actions is what becoming an adult is all about; no body’s there to bail you out, you’re on your own.

I recently remarried.  I devoted the rest of my life to my French Canadian sweetheart.  She has recently divorced and shares the custody of her two children, which makes me their step-father.  Her oldest daughter is 11, her son is 9.  They have learned English as a second language, French being their mother tongue.  Living in another country some 1800 miles away is a long distance relationship  we work on every day.

I called this morning to talk to my new bride, and her son answered.  We have met briefly, but he is extremely shy and struggles with my American banter.  Usually our conversation is me talking and he giving one word answers like, “yes,” “no,” and “uh-huh.”  The longest sentence I think I’ve heard him say on the telephone is, “Wait, I’ll go get my Mom.”

But today he said something different in a low, shy voice, “Happy Father’s Birthday.”  Of course, I knew what he meant.  His mother and I chuckled over it when she came on the phone to talk, her sweet accent beckoning to me.  I know in my heart where my home is, it is there with her and our family.

It is a re-birth in a way, going through these times again of adolescents full of wonder, questions and reasoning’s far beyond what a mere adult can understand.  I bring with this new life a certain amount of experience I gained from the first go round.  I enter with my heart open to the new discoveries each child can bring about themselves and me. 

You never stop being a parent.  Being a father and becoming one again is probably one of the greatest joys a man can have. 

That little guy has a great future.


(scroll down)        

Eric Clapton – My Father’s Eyes

June 15, 2008

Eric Clapton – My Father’s Eyes (Live)

Happy Father’s Birthday… you know the rest.


that’s right, you’re what’s left (screwed, blued and anti-socially tattooed)

June 12, 2008

This just in from the and there’s nothing you can do about it , folks! a.k.a. the U.S. Department of Energy. Expect $4.00 a gallon gas prices through 2009. In other words, get used to it.

Now I wonder what the Secretary of Energy is doing about our fuel crisis? Originally the Dept. of Energy was supposed to help us find alterative fuel sources. Created back in the ’70’s it was designed to keep what happened then (the fuel shortage) from happening again. Well, guess what? Another crisis and all we get from them is, “tsk tsk, get used to it?”

Hmmm… now I wonder how other government departments would be received if they had that approach? Take for example, the Homeland Security people putting out this declaration: “Terrorism is up! Get used to it!” The Secretary of Labor: “Unemployment is up! Get used to it!” The Dept. of Commerce: “The cost of living is up! Get used to it!” The War Department: “Casualties are up! Get used to it!”

30 years is a long time to be in service with the prime objective still not realized. Oh, I know we have made “great strides” in becoming more fuel efficient, but really… is the average mpg of today really that impressive? I think the oil industry plays the public like a fish. Do you know that more money is spent on political lobbyists than on research for alternative fuels? Did you also know that we the people subsidize these oil companies with billions of dollars in tax breaks ultimately short changing our coffers and giving them more of a profit?

If we subsidize (which means financially backing an enterprise) shouldn’t we be getting it cheaper? I mean, we pay to get it then we pay to receive it and the profit margin is be cried at only about 8% though it induces huge windfalls? If we are paying the private sector to provide us a service, why do we buy product as though there were no difference between nations that do not?

Years ago there was only one way to get your mail, through the United States Postal Service. Someone came along with the idea that they could do it better and UPS was born and soon various other companies came along providing like service and competitive prices. USPS is still moving the mail and we have a smooth (!) delivery system what ever your needs.

Why not take these billions of dollars that are earmarked as “subsidiary funds” anyway and form our own energy department that supplies energy? Call it United States Energy. USE could be a major player on the market place, because it would not be profit driven. USE Oil could be supplied right here in the northern hemisphere. Canada, Mexico and the United States have oil. If it is found nearby it should be less expensive than oil found on the other side of the Earth, right? Why not concentrate our efforts locally and let the oil companies that love OPEC stay with OPEC and see what a little competition will do?

We originally got into Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s threat to shift to the Euro instead of the U.S. dollar in setting oil prices.  We felt threatened and didn’t want to buy oil from a hostile government any longer.  Now our “friends” in OPEC gleefully watch as we struggle with our economy and refuse to soften the market with the oil our research and development brought to them?  Which is better, to be screwed by your enemies or screwed  by your “friends?”  Either way, you’re screwed.

USE would be taking all the money that the Department of Energy earmarks for “independent” research and put it in the hands of the people that provide it, i.e. you and me. How? By making our own government accountable and not some private, nameless sector that is not. Energy officials could be elected, not appointed by presidents who have vested interests in the fossil fuels that we still seem to be “addicted” to.

You know, if they figured out a way to run cars on water there would still be enough gas running vehicles that would need fuel for the next 20 years. Oil companies would still be needed to supply these cars with fuel as the industry shifted to the alternative method.

Like the tobacco industry, our “addiction” to oil has been aided and abetted by politicians who reap rewards by lobbyists and oil companies.

I think we can do better.

Check out the accompanying video on alternative fuel sources below… it may surprise you.


water as energy

June 12, 2008

Water power

why not more of this instead of more rhetoric?

It Was/Is A Wonderful Life

June 8, 2008

   It was a wonderful life.

One of my all time favorite films is “It’s A Wonderful Life.”  I never tire of seeing it.  I love the way it reflects small town America of the mid-40’s and embraced the ideals that seem to be slipping away from us in this new millennium.

I’m only bringing it up now because George Bailey passed away last Friday.  Not the George Bailey played so inspiringly well by James Stewart, but the young 12 year old George Bailey played by a not so well known Bob Anderson.

You’ll recall it was this George Bailey that saved his younger brother when Harry broke through the ice and nearly drowned one winter’s day.  Saving Harry caused George to suffer from pneumonia and lose the hearing in one ear. 

George worked for Mr. Gower, the druggist.  George operated the soda fountain and it was here that Mary Hatch declared her undying love for him.  Mary whispered her sentiments sweetly in George’s deaf ear while he prepared her a sundae with coconut sprinkles from the Fiji Islands.

That day Mr. Gower received the news via telegram that his son had died and accidentally put poison in a prescribed medicine then called George to deliver it.  By then Gower had already started drinking to numb the pain of his loss.  George had found the telegram by the cash register and read it.  Knowing Mr. Gower’s sorrow, George asked if there was anything he could do for him.  But Gower, stricken with grief could only say no to young George and stare at his son’s photograph.  When George persisted, Mr. Gower chased him out, telling him to “get going” and deliver the medicine.  But George suspected the error and ran to ask his Father what he should do about it down at the Bailey Bros. Building and Loan. 

When young George went to seek his Father’s advice, old man Potter was there declaring George, Sr.  a “miserable failure” to which the youthful George retorted, “He’s not a failure!  He’s the biggest man in this town!  Bigger than you!”  and he shoves against Potter’s chest.  Quickly George, Sr. dismisses young George Bailey, and it was afterwards that George realizes he hasn’t found out what to do about the tainted medicine.

Returning to the drug store, Mr. Gower is on the phone with the customer for whom the prescription was for.  “What?” bellows an irate Mr. Gower, nearly three sheets to the wind with alcohol consumption, “that medicine should have been there an hour ago!” 

Enter an unsuspecting George and Mr. Gower; half drunk, over come with grief and irritated by the phone call, grabs George and starts hitting him.  “Why haven’t you done what you were told?  People need that medicine!”  Gower lands several blows to George’s head, causing him to cry out as his ear starts to bleeding.  “You’ve done something bad with that medicine!  It’s not right, I tell you!  Check it, Mr. Gower and see what you’ve done!”  Gower soberly checks the medicine and discovers young George prevented a double tragedy that day.   Reaching to apologize to him, George shrinks back crying, “Don’t hit my sore ear!”  The scene ends with George weeping in Mr. Gower’s arms,  “I know you feel bad,” he sobs, “I won’t tell anyone, I promise Mr. Gower, I won’t tell a soul.”

And he never does.

Later the adult George Bailey languishes over his life and declares it would have been better for everyone if he hadn’t been born.  His guardian angel, Clarence, has the job of setting him straight and shows George what life would have been like without him.

Bob Anderson later told the story of H. B. Warner (Mr. Gower) drinking alcohol on the set to get into the mood for his part and the scene where he confronts “George.”  

“He actually bloodied my ear,”  reported Anderson according to the L. A. Times,  “My ear was beat up and my face was red, and I was in tears.”  Later after the scene was filmed, Warner warmed up to Anderson, giving the young actor a sincere hug to set things right.

Bob Anderson acted in other films in his young life.  After serving in Korea, he went back to the movie industry and worked behind the scenes as assistant director and over the years worked up to production manager.  He died at 75 years of age. 

But 62 years ago, at the age of 12, Bob Anderson became an American icon.  As young George Bailey, he personified the youth of a period in time when honoring ones parents and respect for adults was the norm.  I will always see him that way, gripping an ice cream scoop and talking to Mary Hatch, who declared she didn’t like coconuts.

“Say, brainless… don’t you know where coconuts come from?  Tahiti! the Fiji Islands! the Coral Sea!”

It was this George Bailey that was an Explorer and nominated as a member of the National Geographic Society.  He was going to travel the world exploring, have a couple of harems and a few wives to boot.

There are many things in this life we set out to do, like George Bailey did.  But there are curves thrown at us and life doesn’t always turn out the way we planned.  This movie was an excellent vehicle for Frank Capra to convey that in every man there is a story to tell.  Though it has become a staple for the holiday season, I could watch it anytime.  It is a classic story of one man’s struggle to find himself. 

Each of our lives touch so many others.  As Clarence the guardian angel says to the adult George Bailey after seeing what the world would have been like without him, “You really had a wonderful life, don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

We may not accomplish much while we are on this Earth, but true happiness comes from within.  When it is all said and done, the external things mean nothing.

Thank you, Bob Anderson, for the part you played in revealing this truth.  It is a wonderful life. 

It really is.