Friday, May 27, 2011

The Joy (and Travails) of Traveling

An airline flight from hell. Robbed in Rome. Left behind by a tour bus on the way to Florence, Italy. All this and more coming shortly...

Sunday, June 7, 2009


A Broadway show that I think is under appreciated is Jekyll & Hyde by Steve Cuden, Frank Wildhorn, and Leslie Bricusse. This may be due in some part to the fact that Baywatcher and Knight Rider David Hasselhoff had the lead role when the show finally closed. He was, how shall I say it, NOT Robert Cuccioli or even Sebastian Bach, two others who played the lead.

Regardless of who played the lead, there were a bunch of good songs. For starters we have Facade:

There's a face that we wear
In the cold light of day -
It's society's mask,
It's society's way,
And the truth is
That it's all a facade!

There are preachers who kill!
There are killers who preach!
There are teachers who lie!
There are liars who teach!
Take yer pick, dear -
"Cause it's all a facade!

If we're not one, but two,
Are we evil or good?
Do we walk the fine line -
That we'd cross if we could?
Are we waiting -
To break through the facade?

Facade introduces the concept of "evil" and "good" coexisting. The subject is explored further in Good and Evil.

My philosophy
Any child can see -
"Good is evil -
And therefore
All evil is good"

How do you tell evil from good?
Evil does well - good not so good!
Evil's the one that is free everywhere -
Good is the one that they sell!
You must decide which is heaven -
Which is hell!

Evil is everywhere -
Good doesn't have a prayer!
Good is commendable -
Evil's dependable!
Evil is viable
Good's unreliable!
Good may be thankable!
Evil is bankable!

Where does it all lead? Murder, of course:

Try to ignore the influence of Mary Poppins in this scene...

Murder, murder -
It's a curse, man!
Murder, murder -
It's perverse, man!
Murder, murder -
Nothing's worse than
Bloody murder
In the night!

Murder, murder -
Or our doorstep!
Murder, murder -
So watch your step!
Murder, murder -
Take one more step,
You'll be murdered
In the night!

What drove me to Jeykll & Hyde was Jeffrey Feldman's article The Politics of Murder.

The violent killing of yet another American doctor at the hands of yet another right-wing political activist forces us to ask a crucial question: Why does the right-wing anti-abortion movement in America repeatedly give rise to people who see murder as a legitimate form of protest?

The answer does not lie in any single procedure (e.g. "late term abortions"), but in the violent rhetoric that defines a political movement.

The murderer of Dr. George Tiller is the product of a political movement that has so thoroughly expanded the definition of "murder" that it now includes everything and everyone who rejects or even questions the idea that a zygote is a citizen. Until that movement changes its focus, it will continue to give rise to activists who kill doctors.


No matter how many or how few late term abortions are performed, so long as the right-wing anti-abortion movement continues to fold dissent into an ever-expanding definition of "murder," then the right-wing will continue to give rise to activists who kill doctors.
These sentiments were echoed by Jane Ahlin in her column Abortion Debate: Poisonous Rhetoric, Mainstream Silence...

Be clear. No one wants to suppress free speech or compromise freedom of religion. But good people understand the power of language. And in a democratic society, good people don’t call other good people “murderers.”


As for the many Americans ambivalent on the abortion issue? Ambivalence is inadequate. Consider what common ground might look like, and insist on civility in achieving it.

Ambivalence IS inadequate. Insist on civility. We have a choice between good and evil. We can all do better. We must...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of the Feet

We missed the cut.

By one stinking stroke.

I accept full responsibility. I will never forgive myself for voicing doubt over the amount of break on number four during the first round. At that point Lindsey was one under par and putting beautifully (she is ranked number three on tour with 28.462 average - not bad for a "rookie"). She saw two balls, I saw less.

It was two.

Then she was left with a downhill slider that didn't slide and in less than a minute went from one under to one over. It's just not fair.

Lindsey recovered from my blunder quickly, however, parring all but one hole on her way to an opening 38. A second 38 on the back put her in a solid position for Saturday.

Unfortunately that 38 on the back nine could have easily been a 36 or better.

Why? For starters the skies parted and we had over an inch of rain late Friday. Lindsey was just ready (as in already starting her backswing) to hit her approach shot on 15 when the horns sounded. Lightening, wind, heavy rain, hail, you name it, it was headed our way. As a result over 70 players had to complete the first round Saturday morning.

At 7:00am Saturday morning.

The temperature was a brisk 51 degrees the next morning, and it was made even brisker but an 18 mph wind straight out of the north. Lindsey hit her storm-interrupted approach shot, off a water soaked fairway, into the wind --- 20 feet from the cup. Expecting slow greens after all the rain we had, her first putt went a little long. No problem - Lindsey sank 4 and 5 footers all tournament (no wonder she's 3rd in putting), but this one rimmed out. From birdie to bogey. And an indication of how the day was to go.

So, we finished round one a little after 8:00am Saturday. Then, an an hour and a half later we started round two. Temperature still in the low 50's. Winds still in the high teens. Oh, and to compound misery (although we were playing in Kansas), we started on the back nine, by far the tougher of the two nines. Then it was bad bounces, no bounces, poor bounces, cruddy bounces, lip outs, you name it. Shortly after we started round 2 Lindsey had a shot absolutely clear a bunker, then hit a mound and bounce straight back into the sand. It's just not fair.

So, no thrill of victory.

Not this time.

Lindsey is a great competitor and as soon as she gets a decent caddy she'll do fine. As for the agony of the feet - my dogs are barkin'. My thighs are tingling. My quads are quivering. Well, you get the idea. I'm not real sure I could have gone another round. But, I figure I didn't do to badly for an old geezer of 64 with two grandkids (one of which will be a teenager this year). And, fortunately for me, a wonderful lady of 63 with two grandkids (one of which will be a teenager this year), picked up the bag for the completion of the first round so I only had to carry 18 and not 21 plus. Thanks, Sweetie. Now we're both pretty beat, but we just have this one question...

Anybody need a caddy?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Life as a Tour Caddy

Life as a Tour Caddy - Imagined:
  • Arrive at the golf course a half hour before tee time.
  • Park in the VIP parking ten yards from the first tee.
  • Pick up some free food and drinks reserved for the players (and their caddies).
  • Step inside the ropes.
  • Bask in the glory of your player as the players are announced. You can almost hear the announcement: On the first tee, from Sarasota, Florida, Lindsey Bergeon, Member of the winning 2007 NCAA Division II Women's Golf Championship team WITH her caddy, from Ellendale, North Dakota, winner of the 1962 Ellendale City Championship, currently residing at Lake Lotawana, Missouri, CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK COMSTOCK. Let's give them a big round of applause!
  • Watch as your player puts her first approach shot 15 feet from the cup.
  • Check the break from both sides and advise player of right to left break of one and one-half inches.
  • Watch as your player drops putt for a birdie on the first hole and thanks you for great read.
  • Repeat as needed for the next 53 holes.
  • Watch as your player drops final putt for a one-stroke victory.
  • Receive hug and 10% of the winnings for your great advice and help.
Life as a Tour Caddy - The Reality:
  • Arrive at the golf course a half hour before tee time.
  • Park in any parking you can find within a mile of the course.
  • Gaze longingly at the free food and drinks reserved for the players (and their caddies), but you're too busy making sure your player has everything she needs but NOT too much (14 clubs, max), and gets checked in on time and picks up her scorecard and her towel is wet, but not too wet, and plenty of tees and balls, and, on a day like today, an umbrella.
  • Step inside the ropes.
  • Double check everything as the players are announced, hardly hearing your player's name since this time you've counted 15 clubs and you're breaking out into a cold sweat since that is big, BIG penalty, and make sure you're to the right side of the golfers and about eight feet away and slightly to the rear and hope you can see where her drive lands.
  • Receive her club back and clean with the wet (but not too wet) towel, cover and place in bag. Oh, crap. Player has taken off like a shot and is 30 yards away and you have to practically run to catch up before she arrives at her tee shot and is ready for you to hand her the yardage book but not the scorecard book and be ready if she asks what direction the wind is coming from and how strong and how many clubs different.
  • Watch as your player puts her approach shot 15 feet from the cup. TRUE STORY.
  • Check the break from both sides and advise player of right to left break of one and one-half inches. TRUE STORY.
  • But then take a look from the other side of the cup and realize, oh, crap, IT BREAKS THE OTHER WAY. But this is the very first hole of your tour caddying career and you don't want to yell, STOP, STOP, I WAS WRONG, IT BREAKS LEFT TO RIGHT!
  • Watch as your player drop putt for a birdie and thanks you for great read. TRUE STORY.
How that ever happened, I'll never know. But it did. One under for the first three holes until a small hickup (okay, okay, I overruled my player's read and I was wrong for real) put her one over. She (we) got through the rest of the front nine with only one more bogey for a 38. Lindsey was only one over on the back nine before weather forced play to stop. We'll be back at it at 7:00am tomorrow to finish the last four holes, then go straight into the second round.

There were times today when I felt like the proverbial one-armed paper hanger. I'd forget to get the scorecard book out of my pocket after Lindsey putted out and then I'd have to be digging around for that while taking her putter and digging in the other pocket for the cover while trying not to distract the players still putting and since I was the only caddy trying to hold the flag stick and keep the flag from flapping and the wet (but not too wet) towel from flopping and getting Lindsey's driver out and uncovered and by now the scorecard book is ready to put away and it's time to get the yardage book out. Oh, crap. There she goes again. She's thirty yards away and it's time to catch up again. Whew.

Put all that together with the fact that I haven't walked 18 holes of golf since last summer, and even then I used a pull cart but today I'm carrying "the bag". Tougher than I expected? Yes. A great experience? You betcha. Priceless. For all the rest, there's MasterCard...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is Facebook just for "feel good" stuff?

Is Facebook just for "feel good" stuff?

Yeah, we post pictures of our cute kids and grandkids, and Easter and Christmas, and birthdays and baptisms and Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs and just old fashioned get-togethers with friends. Our witticisms and our friends' repartees. Oh, I'm so happy. I'm so sad. Hoping you're doing okay. I'm making cookies. Blah, blah, blah.

Now granted there is a time and a place for all this "feel good" stuff. But life is not always a bowl of chocolate covered cherries. There is some serious shit going on out there. Today I came across this article regarding Governor Palin's nomination of Wayne Anthony Ross for attorney general. Ross, a colorful lawyer and longtime Palin ally who sports his initials, W.A.R., on his Hummer’s vanity plates, allegedly declared during a speech before a 1991 gathering of the “father’s rights” group Dads Against Discrimination, “If a guy can’t rape his wife, who’s he gonna rape?”

Mr. Ross responded with a letter to legislative members. Excerpt:

If I recall correctly, the only time I ever addressed this group, if indeed I ever did address them, was at a Denny’s restaurant on either Benson and Denali or on Dimond and the Seward Highway. To my best recollection the only time I have been in the Denny’s on Benson and DeBarr was to attend meetings of the Armed Services YMCA...

"If I recall correctly...". "If indeed I ever...". "...either Benson and Denali or on Dimond and the Seward Highway." "To the best of my recollection...". "The only time...". Zeez, Mr. Ross, which is it? You're starting to sound like Alberto Gonzalez.

But, back to my original question: "Is Facebook just for "feel good" stuff?"

I've only been using Facebook for a few weeks but I like the ability to quickly post pictures and thoughts, and make comments, and just generally socialize. When I discovered the Facebook Share option I thought I'd died and gone to heaven (figuratively, of course). A nice little icon. A nice little description. Space for a comment (but not THAT much space). One click and you've linked a post to your profile.

Since I have a small circle of friends that periodically email each other articles we think may be of interest, I thought that Facebook would be the perfect way to share this stuff. No sending of emails and clogging up everyone's inbox. Friends receive notifications of your post. Friends can choose when to look at your posts. They can even turn off (hide) your posts. Fast. Convenient. Perfect.

Well, almost perfect. For starters I just discovered there is some kind of limit to the number of characters you can put in a comment. No warning. No explanation. You just can't type any more. Or, more to the point, you can type all you want but the next letter just replace the previous. Nice.

Also, no formatting allowed. No bold. No italic. No identation. No nuttin'.

Am I soured?

Yes, indeed.

Am I giving up?

Not completely.

I guess I'll do the big stuff here and just link to it on FB. We'll see how it goes...

Good luck, Sarah.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Retrospective of the Bush Era

My picks from the Harper's Index for February (A Retrospective of the Bush Era):

Percentage of Bush’s first 189 appointees who also served in his father’s administration: 42

Minimum number of Bush appointees who have regulated industries they used to represent as lobbyists: 98

Years before becoming energy secretary that Spencer Abraham cosponsored a bill to abolish the Department of Energy: 2

Estimated total calories members of Congress burned giving Bush’s 2002 State of the Union standing ovations: 22,000

Percentage of the amendments in the Bill of Rights that are violated by the USA PATRIOT Act, according to the ACLU: 50

Minimum number of laws that Bush signing statements have exempted his administration from following: 1,069

Estimated number of U.S. intelligence reports on Iraq that were based on information from a single defector: 100

Number of times the defector had ever been interviewed by U.S. intelligence agents: 0

Factor by which an Iraqi in 2006 was more likely to die than in the last year of the Saddam regime: 3.6

Factor by which the cause of death was more likely to be violence: 120

Chance that an Iraqi has fled his or her home since the beginning of the war: 1 in 6

Portion of Baghdad residents in 2007 who had a family member or friend wounded or killed since 2003: 3/4

Percentage of U.S. veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have filed for disability with the VA: 35

Chance that an Iraq war veteran who has served two or more tours now has post-traumatic stress disorder: 1 in 4

Number of all U.S. war veterans who have been denied Veterans Administration health care since 2003: 452,677

Date on which the White House announced it had stopped looking for WMDs in Iraq: 1/12/05

Number of vehicles in the motorcade that transports Bush to his regular bike ride in Maryland: 6

Estimated total miles he has ridden his bike as president: 5,400

Portion of his presidency he has spent at or en route to vacation spots: 1/3

Minimum number of times that Frederick Douglass was beaten in what is now Donald Rumsfeld’s vacation home: 25

Estimated number of juveniles whom the United States has detained as enemy combatants since 2002: 2,500

Minimum number of detainees who were tortured to death in U.S. custody: 8

Seconds it took a Maryland consultant in 2004 to pick a Diebold voting machine’s lock and remove its memory card: 10

Number of states John Kerry would have won in 2004 if votes by poor Americans were the only ones counted: 40

Number if votes by rich Americans were the only ones counted: 4

Portion of all U.S. income gains during the Bush Administration that have gone to the top 1 percent of earners: 3/4

Increase since 2000 in the number of Americans living at less than half the federal poverty level: 3,500,000

Percentage change since 2002 in the number of U.S. teens using illegal drugs: –9

Percentage change in the number of adults in their fifties doing so: +121

Number of times FDA officials met with consumer and patient groups as they revised drug-review policy in 2006: 5

Number of times they met with industry representatives: 113

Number of White House officials in 2006 and 2007 authorized to discuss pending criminal cases with the DOJ: 711

Number of Clinton officials ever authorized to do so: 4

Years since a White House official as senior as I. Lewis Libby had been indicted while in office: 130

Number of U.S. cities and towns that have passed resolutions calling for the impeachment of President Bush: 92

Days after Hurricane Katrina hit that Cheney’s office ordered an electric company to restore power to two oil pipelines: 1

Days after the hurricane that the White House authorized sending federal troops into New Orleans: 4

Estimated amount Bush-era policies will cost the U.S. in new debt and accrued obligations: $10,350,000,000,000 (see page 31)

Percentage change in U.S. discretionary spending during Bush’s presidency: +31

Percentage change during Reagan’s and Clinton’s, respectively: +16, +0.3

Ratio in 1999 of the number of U.S. federal employees to the number of private employees on government contracts: 15:6

Ratio in 2006: 14:15

Total value of U.S. government contracts in 2000 that were awarded without competitive bidding: $73,000,000,000

Total in 2007: $146,000,000,000

Number of the five directors of the No Child Left Behind reading program with financial ties to a curriculum they developed: 4

Amount by which the federal government has underfunded its estimated cost to implement NCLB: $71,000,000,000

Rank of Bush among U.S. presidents with the highest disapproval rating: 1

Average percentage of Americans who approved of the job Bush was doing during his second term: 37

Percentage of Russians today who approve of the direction their country took under Stalin: 37

Friday, December 26, 2008

Making Congress Moot

From a recent email:

On Thu, Dec 25, 2008 at 11:29 PM, Ken wrote:

Chuck this is one you can appreciate........ good thing money grows on Christmas trees...


Santa is talking to the wrong people.

As George Will explains in Making Congress Moot (emphasis mine):

A new Capitol Visitor Center recently opened, just in time for the transformation of the Capitol building into a tomb for the antiquated idea that the legislative branch matters. The center is supposed to enhance the experience of visitors to Congress, although why there are visitors is a mystery.

Congress's marginalization was brutally underscored when, after lawmakers did not authorize $14 billion for General Motors and Chrysler, the executive branch said, in effect: Congress's opinions are mildly interesting, so we will listen very nicely -- then go out and do precisely what we want.

On Friday the president gave the two automakers access to money Congress explicitly did not authorize. More money -- up to $17.4 billion -- than had been debated, thereby calling to mind Winston Churchill on naval appropriations: "The Admiralty had demanded six ships: the economists offered four: and we finally compromised on eight."

...The expansion of government entails an increasingly swollen executive branch and the steady enlargement of executive discretion. This inevitably means the eclipse of Congress and attenuation of the rule of law.

...The administration has not, however, confined its aggrandizement of executive power to national security matters. According to former representative Mickey Edwards in his book "Reclaiming Conservatism," the president has issued "signing statements" designating 1,100 provisions of new laws -- more designations than have been made by all prior presidents combined -- that he did not consider binding on him or any other executive branch official.

...Still, most of the administration's executive truculence has pertained to national security, where the case for broad prerogatives, although not as powerful as the administration supposes, is at least arguable. With the automakers, however, executive branch overreaching now extends to the essence of domestic policy -- spending -- and traduces a core constitutional principle, the separation of powers.

...Most members of the House and Senate want the automakers to get the money, so they probably are pleased that the administration has disregarded Congress's institutional dignity. History, however, teaches that it is difficult for Congress to be only intermittently invertebrate.

"intermittently invertebrate". How can you not love that. And that is from a conservative! Turns out that when Vice President Cheney told Sen. Patrick J. Leahy to "Fuck yourself" he was really referring to all of Congress.

I leave you with the words of recently deceased Harold Pinter from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Art, Truth & Politics, in 2005. Read the whole thing. He was clearly pissed:

As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavor. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realizing that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost. ...

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

Have a fantastic Friday. We're leaving for Florida Saturday. Hallelujah!