Sunday, October 18, 2009

Further on musings from Oct 15

When I check for reader comments on a blog, I read and reread my own work to see if it could have been written better, or was worthless altogether. The worthless test may be pointless, since a blog is almost by definition an open diary and therefore its own reason to exist. However, so much has been said about self-absorbed soap-boxers dumbing down the web with worthless dribble, one has to wonder if one's actions add to the pap. Then again, does one really care? Merrily I roll along...

How did I come up with those musings from the 15th? Well, the first one is about food, 'nuff said. Oh for the good old days when so many foods were cooked in animal lard, like bacon grease. Eggs cooked in the leftover bacon grease were great but probably the poster child for a coronary (cholesterol, nitrosamines and fat--the perfect storm). Once upon a time McDonalds fries cooked in lard were far better than they are now, and I think they are currently the best.

On reflection, the comment about the bench car seats may be a bit chauvinist. Certainly the times were more chauvinistic. In this case, were the girlfriend driving (highly unlikely for the times) you would never see the guy squinched up next to her. But the scenario also includes my nostalgia for the concept of a "date." I am told most young people don't go on dates anymore, instead opting for group activities and only pairing up if/when they decide to "hook up." If that's true I think it's really sad, and they are missing out on a very special part of life.

The last two musings are related. The Thai kid, whose first name was Pote (long "O," silent "E"), lived across the street from me. When I was 9 or 10, he and I snuck one of my dad's Camel cigarettes and took a puff--it was my first and last thank God. I got to thinking there were 4 kids from other countries and were friends. One of them, the kid from the UK, played trombone, which was how I met him. He was actually a Scot named Becker, and when I proudly told him I was half Welsh, I found out that, in general, there is no love lost between the Welsh, English and Scots. After that he liked to call me "welshie," and not in a complementary way, which oddly gave me a very mild taste of what racism is like--and I didn't like it. Now that I think about it, he wasn't much of a friend.

Anyway, Becker was a trombonist, actually second trombone in the school band; I was third trombone and my friend who took me to concerts, Bob (he of the cute older sisters), was first. In all honesty, the rankings were accurate because I never practiced at home and it showed. But once upon a time... we had to learn the Welsh National Anthem! Feeling some pride, I practiced that tricky piece til I could play it without the sheet music, and quite well as it happened. Our cantankerous music teacher (putting it nicely, he had a temper) occasionally arranged the musicians by pop tests, and he tested us on this piece. I blasted away both Bob and Becker and became first trombone for quite a while (until the next pop test, that is). Bob was a good friend and his family were good people. I wouldn't mind looking him up one day.

So, to be honest, I am trying to blog more often and therefore topics may be weak. Going back to the question of worthless or not, are each of us worthy of a web-autobigraphy? Apparently, the blogosphere says YES!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Things that popped into my head today

I wish I was working again--whether or not I liked what I was doing, it occupied enough of my time so that I really appreciated, and perhaps more efficiently used, "down time." These days I have so much free time, and yet such a small radius of travel. Most everything I dreamed of doing in my retirement is a non-starter because it involved getting out more. So I don't seem to do much of anything. Instead, I find myself musing too much. I really don't like spending too much time in my head, inevitably I drift into the regrets category and where's the fun in that?

And yet, a little mind-wandering brings back the oddest things. Today, I thought of the following random things:

- Dominoes Pizza and Sizzler, Gainesville Florida circa 1975. The pizza cheese in those days was crazy thick, uber-gooey, absolutely delicious and probably heart-stoppingly deadly. Why else would they stop using it? As for Sizzler, when I had the cash I could get sirloin tips and a baked potato with all the trimmings for $1.29. Both establishments were on or near University Ave across from U of F campus.
- Bench-type car seats in the 60's and 70's. You really couldn't beat having your girlfriend squinched-up against you while you were driving. On a date, you knew she liked you when she slid over from leaning out the passenger window.
- Dial telephones. Even before we learned to be ridiculously impatient with electronics, dialing took a maddeningly long time, and if you goofed a number you really got angry at starting over.
- Embassy kids. I was friends with a number of kids whose dads worked in Embassies in D.C., including Thailand, U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Oddly, the Thai kid's family had both French and Thai surnames, depending on the occasion, I guess. The last time I saw the Aussie kid, his eyes were weird and he excitedly told me he had just taken some drug--we were in 9th grade for crying out loud.
- A fellow Junior High-School trombonist whose family gave me rides to school concerts. One time his older sister got tired of watching me fumble with a neck tie, and just came over and tied it without me asking. At that time in my life, it was a very personal and special gesture.

It may be a sign of aging that I reflect more on things from my past; but I'd really rather be engaged in creating more memories, here and now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

sob... " and she's not even my dog, she's my wife's..."

The internet never fails to surprise and entertain, for good or ill. I don't do as much on it as I used to, but I still check daily for e-mails from various friends, family and acquaintances. The point of most of these mailings is only vaguely to keep in touch--I think it's mostly about that age-old human foible of wanting to be the first one to tell/show your friends something spectacular, outrageous, or scandalous--it's that same trait that makes keeping a secret so very, very hard. Some of them are of the chain variety, beseeching you to send to seven other people for dubious reasons, including:

- proving your love for Jesus/saving your soul,
- saving the world,
- making you wealthy,
- giving someone a laugh,
- showing you have a truly macho set of cajones (be you male or female).

Each of us probably have friends who may appreciate forwarded e-mails, but even so I rarely forward.

Today, for example, I woke up to 4 e-mails that egged me on to forward, for some of the above reasons...but for other reasons, I deleted all and did not forward any.

Here you go:

1. Pix of cute toddlers doing outrageously funny things. I have people who would love some, but not all of these; I am too lazy to purge the ones that might offend.

2. Pix and narrative of an airplane badly damaged in a non-flying ground accident. This story amazed me and because of my background, really caught my interest. Unfortunately, the narrative was an unrepentant ethnic slam on the aircrew, who were 100% at fault and 100% all of the same background. I started to purge the narrative, then got lazy and deleted.

3. Pix of topless women commemorating "National Topless Women's Day." I didn't know we had such a holiday... and right on the heels of Columbus Day! But seriously folks, I don't solicit this stuff nor do I forward, but clearly I am a guy who knows guys who send it. I love a joke as much, maybe more than the next guy; I get lots of funny stuff and sometimes it runs on the ribald side. Though sorely tempted to forward a good joke, I don't promulgate this kind of stuff.

4. A quiz: NFL or NBA? "Which of these organizations is riddled with people guilty of the following outrageous, even illegal behavior? Answer: neither--it's your U.S. Congress!!! It's True!!!" Well, not exactly, as it turns out. There is a good lesson here. We all get e-mails that intend to startle us with some little-known but "indisputable" truth. It pays to check out rumor-ish types of e-mails at one of the debunking sites, like or before forwarding. I once forwarded an alarming e-mail to many people about the toxic danger of re-using plastic bottles--I later found out it was an urban myth. I sheepishly sent out an apology e-mail to dozens of people. There is also a corollary lesson. I once e-mailed somebody back that "I checked your e-mail and it was a myth"--I was probably perceived as a snobbish boor--they never answered and I haven't heard from them since. Moral: I don't forward these, and neither do I correct them.

So, what, if anything, do I forward? Mostly simple things that strike me hard with some sort of truth. Here are links to two things I would forward:

1. Something that harkens back to a simpler time, when patriotism was about ideals, and not so much sullied by momentary political folly:

2. Something that amazes me, like tying the omniscient to the omnipresent:

That second one really got to me, hence the blog's title. Enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

I'm Back, and Weighing-in on Roman Polanski

Ok, it's embarrassing to write a blog after a 3 month hiatus, which had me thinking maybe I should call it off for good even if I had my reasons. But in deciding whether I ever wanted to blog again I found I had written at least three of them in my head but was too lazy to type them. So, I'll give it another go, and first up is Roman Polanski.

Ah, where to start. First off, let me say what he did was heinous, no excuses, and no mitigation; but I'll come back to that later.

I think what really strikes me about the debate about what should happen next though, such as it is, is that some people on both sides are missing the most salient point at risk here. That point is about the will to pursue the rule of law, for no less a reason than to preserve the civilization we hold so dear.

Justice is not about revenge, punishment, retribution, any of that--not directly. At its root it is about how our society, perhaps even civilization, can survive, progress, and even prosper. says it's the quality of being righteous or fair, and wikipedia appears to borrow the next concept from the same site saying it is "the proper ordering of people and things." Wow! It is a key element of the "thin veneer of civilization." We should work just as hard at enforcing the rule of law as we do security, sovereignty and taxes. Consider then, and appreciate, the cliche "justice delayed is justice denied." We must maintain the will to pursue it regardless of circumstances.

So what are the arguments for mitigation in Polanski's case?
1. His body of work. I dismiss this offhand as ridiculous. Chris Rock put it best: "Even Johnnie Cochran don't have the nerve to go, 'Well, did you see O.J. play against New England?' "
2. It was a different time. Yes, it was. Some people my age seem to think you have to look at it with that perspective. Well, I lived it too, and even then this was wrong wrong wrong. The law was in place and for the record, any illegal acts committed by people under any circumstance are still illegal. As for the times, there is a scene in a '60s movie made by counterculture hero/musician Arlo Guthrie based on his song "Alice's Restaurant," in which Arlo discovers that a groupie who wants to sleep with him is underage. Anti-establishment, dope-smokin', authority flauntin' Arlo does not hesitate to turn her down and immediately makes arrangements to return the waif to her parents. So much for entertainment-business permissiveness in those days.
3. It was statutory rape. Yup, and yet regardless what anyone thinks the age of consent should be, "no" means "no." I have not read the child's testimony but I hear she described every act Polanski performed and prefaced every one with the word "no." It was statutory rape but it was also, first and foremost, rape.
4. The judge was crooked. Supposedly justifies him fleeing. Well, Polanski's money, power and influence bought him a pretty scant deal in the first place. There is every reason to believe it would have gotten sorted out eventually. He could have had all this behind him.
5. The parents dumped her on him with the expectation of her getting the "hopeful starlet treatment." I'm sorry, and bad parenting justifies his behavior, exactly how?
6. It's been 30 years, and he's suffered enough. Well, a lot of anger has been vented on this, but I have no comment on whether he's suffered. It is for a judge to decide, and he needs to stand before the court, justice demands it.

What of the people who want to hide this under the carpet for any of the above reasons? They are deluded, and truly don't realize what's at stake, represented in this one instance. In truth, not all victims get justice, not all guilty are punished, and not all people in prison are guilty. But this is our system, we must see it through, you must "get your day in court." Anything less invites anarchy, chaos, and injustice into our civilization, destabilizing it, even one case at a time.