Published Saturday, December 06, 2014 @ 10:11 PM EST
The events of the last few weeks make me feel like I'm living through a
foggy, feverish flashback to the 1960s.
While listening to some music from my ancient past, I stumbled across
Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction," which hit #1 on the US charts in
September of 1965.
1965 was quite a year. The first US combat troops landed in South
Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson pushed his "Great Society" vision through
Congress, which passed 84 of his 87 bills (!) including Medicare,
Medicaid, Head Start, the Voting Rights Act, immigration reform,
education standards, consumer safety and environmental protection laws,
and major infrastructure programs.
Dr. Martin Luther King was leading civil rights marches in Alabama,
where the participants were attacked by both police and civilians. White
supremacists beat to death a white Unitarian Universalist minister who
was working to secure equal treatment of blacks.
The first manned flights of Project Gemini were launched as the US took
its first steps toward landing on the Moon.
Flash forward 50 years. We're fighting over health care, education,
immigration, economic and social inequality. Public schools, arts, and
infrastructure programs are being eviscerated. Key provisions of the
Voting Rights Act of 1965 were struck down by the Supreme Court because,
of course, discrimination isn't a problem any more, as evidenced by the
fact that even corporations are people now.
It's been said the future ain't what it used to be. I really didn't
think I'd have a personal jet pack in this second decade of the 21st
century. But I also never thought I'd see the steady, deliberate
dismantling of the social contract responsible for the progress made in
the last half 20th century.
The first unmanned test of the Orion spacecraft was launched this week,
as the United States took it first steps toward deep space travel and,
perhaps, landing on Mars.
It reminded me of 1968- a really dreadful year, similar in tone to
what's going on now. The only bright spot then was the success of the
Apollo 8 mission, which orbited the moon in December of that year.
Everything else going on is some kind of perverse, inverted déjà vu.
Gore Vidal once called this country the United States of Amnesia because
people have no memory of history- even recent history.
Wake up, people. Spend an afternoon reading what's been going on in this
country since the 1980s.
And reflect that, with a few minor changes to remove explicit,
then-contemporary references, this song is- sadly- as relevant now as it
If you live in the greater Pittsburgh area and, like me, rank the
experience of taking your dogs to the groomer just above getting a root
canal, you're in luck.
Just call the lovely Shauna Caudill, a certified groomer and owner of Bow
WOW! Mobile Bath and Grooming, and she'll bring her spiffy
specialized vehicle to your home and work her magic.
To be honest, taking the shelties to the groomer was never a problem,
other than spending a week trying to get all the fur out of the interior
of the car.
But Pixie the Shih Tzu (Klingon for "small, insane, dog-like creature)
was another story. Within five minutes of leaving the groomer's, Cindy
received a call telling her to return asap and retrieve the wee beastie.
They couldn't handle her. I imagined it went something like this:
Our experience with Shauna was decidedly different:
Sassy is ready for her close-up.
Before Shauna, Pixie looked like a rabid tribble with legs.
Shauna abandoned a successful but unsatisfying career and decided to
take a chance and do what she truly loves. Her drive and dedication are
estimable, and her skills are obvious.
Smartphone technology is amazing, but if we're going to continue
anthropomorphizing these devices, let's get the casting correct.
They're not mature, thirty-something personal assistants with eidetic
memories and a preternatural awareness of our needs and their
surroundings. They're precocious ten-year-olds who don't listen closely,
are easily distracted, and are willing to sacrifice accuracy for the
chance to joke around.
This past Friday the local Rite Aid pharmacy couldn't completely fill my
prescription for montelukast, the generic form of the allergy drug
Singulair. On my way out of the store, I told Google Now to "remind me
about montelukast when I'm at Rite Aid."
To be fair, I didn't look at the phone's screen. I didn't want to remove
my sunglasses and I was in a hurry. I just confirmend the reminder and
So this morning I'm at Rite Aid getting milk and bread, and my phone
"dings' and vibrates. The reminder screen read:
Quote of the week: Don't force stupid people to be quiet. I
want to know who the morons are. -Mark Cuban
BBC says Senators have called for a new name for the Washington
Redskins. They suggest the Washington Powerful Old Honkies. -@PaulaPoundstone
The outstanding problem of cryogenics isn't whether future advances in
technology will enable you to be unfrozen and brought back to life
10,000 years from now. The outstanding problem of cryogenics is whether
250 consecutive generations of security guards earning $6.50 an hour
will remember to check the thermostat every night. -John Alejandro
King (The Covert
Skies over Chicago, Wednesday evening, May 21: a) lightning b)
they crossed the streams c) Dr. Jenning is summoning the Dark
Overlords (Photo by Andrew Chase)
There's a certain satisfying irony in the fact that the speed with which
same-sex marriage is being adopted is due not to states passing bills in
favor of it, but in the courts ruling as unconstitutional the bills
prohibiting it. An excellent example of the law of unintended
consequences. Interesting trivia: John Jones III, the federal court
judge who ruled Pennsylvania's defense of marriage act unconstitutional,
was nominated to the bench by then-Senator Rick Santorum.
Hate to say this, but because of Pat Sajak's awful remarks, I will no
longer look to game show hosts for moral guidance. =@FrankConniff
"Oh my God, we're all gonna die! You know this is serious if someone on
Fox News just said 'climate change is real.' I believe that is a sign of
the Apocalypse." -Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
Daugher-in-law Angela, granddaugter Joelle and son Doug celebrating the
at the little one's first birthday party. (It was a WonderPets theme,
hence the cape and tiara.)
I was rinsing out a plastic Dairy Queen cup which had contained one of
their "milk" shakes, and one minute of full-force hot water failed to
melt or otherwise remove all of the residue. I don't know whether I
should throw it in the recycling bin or call a hazmat team.
It's time for a Constitutional amendment granting Congress the power to
set aside Supreme Court decisions.
The President can veto bills passed by Congress. Congress can override
Presidential vetoes. Check and balance.
But the Supreme Court is not similarly limited. There is no appealing
its decisions. The only recourse is amending the Constitution, an
arduous process that requires the approval of two thirds of each house
of Congress, and ratification by three fourths of the states.
The Constitution does not explicitly give the Supreme Court the power to
rule on the validity of legislation. It wasn't until 1803, in the Marbury
v Madison decision, that Chief Justice John Marshall invented the
"doctrine of judicial review;" a principle which gave the courts the
authority to strike down laws deemed unconstitutional.
Justice Marshall noted in the decision that "an act of the legislature,
repugnant to the Constitution, is void." Unfortunately, repugnancy is
not limited to one branch of government, and the Constitution provides
no remedy for acts of the courts which are equally repugnant.
The people, through their legislative representatives, should have the
right to override the Supreme Court, especially when it appears the
Court's actions are based not on prior law, but ideological beliefs or
This isn't a progressive/conservative issue. It's a fundamental flaw in
the implementation of our government.
Vetoing the Court shouldn't be as difficult as passing a constitutional
amendment, but it shouldn't be easy, either. In fact, it should require
not the two-thirds vote of both houses necessary to pass an amendment,
but a three-quarters vote- the same majority as the number of states
required to ratify the change.
It would also force legislators to reveal their true positions.
Congressmen and senators can often rationalize their vote by pointing to
certain provisions of a bill with which they disagree, providing the
weasel room necessary when seeking re-election. A straight up or down
vote leaves no room for misinterpretation. A three-fourths majority
eliminates the taint of partisanship, and could only occur when the
Court has acted in a manner truly "repugnant to the Constitution."
Our government is based upon citizens' respect for the rule of law. When
that respect is lost, law becomes irrelevant. And a nation without law
is a nation that cannot survive.
"A lot of people I know believe in positive thinking, and so do I. I believe everything positively stinks." -Lew Col
"I was going to buy a copy of 'The Power of Positive Thinking,' and then I thought: what the hell good would that do?" -Ronnie Shakes
As a card-carrying cynical curmudgeon, I have little patience for
those cheerful "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" pieces of
inanity. That said, there are some grains of wheat in the following chaff. Pick away, but
use common sense. Don't get "brightsided."
Stop spending time with the wrong people. Life is too short
to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If
someone wants you in their life, they'll make room for you. You
shouldn't have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to
someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it's not
the people that stand by your side when you're at your best, but the
ones who stand beside you when you're at your worst that are your true
Stop running from your problems. Face them head on. No, it
won't be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly
handling every punch thrown at them. We aren't supposed to be able to
instantly solve problems. That's not how we're made. In fact, we're
made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that's the
whole purpose of living- to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve
them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into
the person we become.
Stop lying to yourself. You can lie to anyone else in the
world, but you can't lie to yourself. Our lives improve only when we
take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is
to be honest with ourselves. Read The Road Less Traveled.
Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. The most
painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too
much, and forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but
help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion
and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
Stop trying to be someone you're not. One of the greatest
challenges in life is being yourself in a world that's trying to make
you like everyone else. Someone will always be prettier, someone will
always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never
be you. Don't change so people will like you. Be yourself and the
right people will love the real you.
Stop trying to hold onto the past. You can't start the next
chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
Stop being scared to make a mistake. Doing something and
getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing
nothing. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every
failure is leading towards success. You end up regretting the things
you did NOT do far more than the things you did.
Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. We may love the
wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things
go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and
things that are right for us. We all make mistakes, have struggles,
and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you
are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape
your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in
your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.
Stop trying to buy happiness. Many of the things we desire
are expensive. But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are
totally free- love, laughter and working on our passions.
Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. If you're
not happy with who you are on the inside, you won't be happy in a
long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create
stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone
else. Read Stumbling on Happiness.
Stop being idle. Don't think too much or you'll create a
problem that wasn't even there in the first place. Evaluate situations
and take decisive action. You cannot change what you refuse to
confront. Making progress involves risk. Period! You can't make it to
second base with your foot on first.
Stop thinking you're not ready. Nobody ever feels 100%
ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in
life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won't
feel totally comfortable at first.
Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong
reasons. Relationships must be chosen wisely. It's better to be
alone than to be in bad company. There's no need to rush. If something
is meant to be, it will happen- in the right time, with the right
person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you're ready, not
when you're lonely.
Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn't
work. In life you'll realize that there is a purpose for everyone
you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach
you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
Stop trying to compete against everyone else. Don't worry
about what others are doing better than you. Concentrate on beating
your own records every day. Success is a battle between YOU and
Stop being jealous of others. Jealousy is the art of
counting someone else's blessings instead of your own. Ask yourself
this: "What's something I have that everyone wants?"
Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. Life's
curveballs are thrown for a reason- to shift your path in a direction
that is meant for you. You may not see or understand everything the
moment it happens, and it may be tough. But reflect back on those
negative curveballs thrown at you in the past. You'll often see that
eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or
situation. So smile! Let everyone know that today you are a lot
stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.
Stop holding grudges. Don't live your life with hate in
your heart. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you
hate. Forgiveness is not saying, "What you did to me is okay." It is
saying, "I'm not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness
forever." Forgiveness is the answer... let go, find peace, liberate
yourself! And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it's
for you too. If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do
better next time.
Stop letting others bring you down to their level. Refuse
to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise
Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. Your
friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe it anyway. Just
do what you know in your heart is right.
Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a
break. The time to take a deep breath is when you don't have time
for it. If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what
you're getting. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things
Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. Enjoy the
little things, because one day you may look back and discover they
were the big things. The best portion of your life will be the small,
nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to
Stop trying to make things perfect. The real world doesn't
reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done. Read
Getting Things Done.
Stop following the path of least resistance. Life is not
easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile.
Don't take the easy way out. Do something extraordinary.
Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn't. It's okay
to fall apart for a little while. You don't always have to pretend to
be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is
going well. You shouldn't be concerned with what other people are
thinking either- cry if you need to- it's healthy to shed your
tears. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile
Stop blaming others for your troubles. The extent to which
you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take
responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you're
going through, you deny responsibility- you give others power over
that part of your life.
Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Doing so is
impossible, and trying will only burn you out. But making one person
smile CAN change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their
world. So narrow your focus.
Stop worrying so much. Worry will not strip tomorrow of its
burdens, it will strip today of its joy. One way to check if something
is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: "Will this
matter in one year's time? Three years? Five years?" If not, then it's
not worth worrying about.
Stop focusing on what you don't want to happen. Focus on
what you do want to happen. Positive thinking is at the forefront of
every great success story. If you awake every morning with the thought
that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay
close attention, you'll often find that you're right.
Stop being ungrateful. No matter how good or bad you have
it, wake up each day thankful for your life. Someone somewhere else is
desperately fighting for theirs. Instead of thinking about what you're
missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is
Published Monday, December 30, 2013 @ 11:29 AM EST
I swear there's a person at Hamilton Beach whose sole function is to
review products before they're manufactured to make certain each
contains at least one maddeningly stupid design flaw.
The last Brewmaster® I owned had the dispensing spout so close to the
side of the coffeemaker that you could only use "regular" thin-walled
coffee cups. Have an insulated cup or one with a slight lip? Watch the
amazing Brewmaster® as the coffee pours down the outside
walls of your cup!
When I saw this model in the store, I thought... aha! An aluminium pot
with a hole in the side! How can you possibly screw this up?
Oh, Hamilton Beach, you adorable knuckleheads... I underestimated you.
At ten cups, the flow slows to a trickle. At six cups, it's below the
spout opening. But don't tip the pot, because safety!
This coffee is what's left below the spout opening. It exists to
remind you that perfection is a goal to be attempted, not achieved.
As the photos show, at the ten cup mark (60 ounces, using the six-ounce
coffee cup standard), the coffee level reaches the top of the spout and
the flow slows to a maddening trickle. At four cups (24 ounces), the
coffee level drops below the spout. Since the instructions
admonish the user not to tip the pot, this means you're
waiting forever for the last six accessible cups, and throwing away the
So, you may ask, why buy this sterling example of a badly-engineered
consumer product and recommend it to others?
Well, it's cheap. It's well-made. It brews ok. It keeps the coffee hot.
Its irritating behavior doesn't begin until the bottom of the pot, at
which point you should be sufficiently caffeinated to deal with it
without flying into a seething rage or collapsing, sobbing
uncontrollably, into a fetal position on the kitchen floor.
If your household drinks a lot of coffee, it's more convenient than
making several 10-12 cup pots.
And in some perverse way, the fact each Hamilton Beach coffeemaker I've
ever owned has had some dumb design element is somewhat endearing.
I picture a decent, dedicated guy in Ohio somewhere working feverishly
to come up with the Next Great Thing and, just like Wile E. Coyote,
being crushed when the first manufacturing run from China comes in and
he realizes he just designed a coffee pot capable of dispensing only 90%
of what it produces.
And then some middle manager-type, like Lumbergh in Office Space,
saunters over to his cubicle and says, "Ah. Yeah. So I guess we should
probably go ahead and have a little talk. Hmm?"
Hey guy, it happens. Hang in there. I'm rooting for you.
Which is why I keep buying HB coffeemakers. It gives me something to
anticipate in my advancing years. I used to say I hope I live to see my
grandchildren. Now I say I hope I live to see HB produce the perfect
Who knows? Perhaps when I buy my next unit in two years (the average HB
coffeemaker lifespan; about a nickel a day, which isn't bad), they'll
have a 16 cup unit with a programmable timer, a spout design that
accommodates cups of all sizes, and a pot that fully empties.
And, just for old times' sake, a power cord that's only three inches
So we're dealing with the "free speech" stuff again.
The First Amendment says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment guarantees that the government can't control your
It doesn't guarantee you freedom from the consequences of your
The government won't punish you for posting on Facebook that your wife's
new Christmas dress makes her ass look fat.
It doesn't have to.
"I'll tell you who I feel sorry for, folks... A&E. With this
controversy, they may have just lost Duck Dynasty's massive black and
gay audience." -Stephen Colbert
Published Tuesday, September 17, 2013 @ 7:12 AM EDT
The U.S. Constitution and the Bible have a lot in common.
Few people have read them in their entirety; they are quoted out of
context and cherry-picked; their official interpreters wear robes and
issue pronouncements that sometimes benefit an entitled few or
discriminate against women and minorities; and their decrees and
commandments are simply ignored when they interfere with the interests
of those in power.
The Science Is Awesome page on Facebook noted in a post that the
Curiosity rover has been on Mars for one year. It's measured radiation
there, found dried up stream beds which shows Mars once had flowing
water, became the first machine to drill into the surface of another
planet, and has discovered some of the elements that are essential for
Meanwhile on Earth, the US House of Representatives has voted 40 times
to repeal Obamacare.
With one exception, I've never cared for zombie movies.
The original Night of the Living Dead held my interest because it
was filmed near Pittsburgh, featured Chiller Theatre host Bill
Cardille, and contained realistic acting, like this classic scene:
While all horror films require a certain suspension of disbelief, zombie
movies are especially hampered by their very premise.
Vampires, werewolves and other mythical creatures don't exist in nature
and have no basis in science. They're fantasy, period, and all rules are
Zombies, however, fall into two categories: the traditional Night of
the Living Dead-type, who are essentially reanimated corpses, and World
War Z-type, who aren't zombies per se, but victims of some type of
disease which cause them to develop unpleasant behavior disorders and
odd dietary habits.
Zombies, by their very nature, are self-limiting. The processes which
turn them into the walking dead insure their destruction. Rotting
corpses lose their mobility after a while, and virulent rage-inducing
fevers have a way of turning brains into fatty piles of slush incapable
of seeing, hearing, or controlling voluntary muscle functions.
So the stories devolve into what are essentially simple chase movies.
And even if the heroes "win," they're facing life in a post-apocalyptic
hellhole where human civilization as we know it has ceased to exist.
I've had my fill of the apocalypse, regardless of its form. I don't find
the collapse of civilization to be entertaining. And to those who say
the handful of survivors bravely marching off into a horizon littered
with rotting corpses and shattered infrastructure demonstrates man's
indomitable spirit, I say bull. When the hero runs out of ammo and
potable water, he's going to learn that it's difficult to manufacture
antibiotics and water filtration systems with macho posturing, mixed
martial arts skills, and a delusional sense of self-confidence.
"The future ain't what it used to be," the saying goes. That may be
true, but I wish Hollywood would tone down the pessimism a bit. If I
want to watch humankind's slide into dystopia, I'll just watch cable
I got a rental car over the weekend, and the subcompact model available
was a 2013 Toyota Yaris.
It reminds me of my first car, a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle. Small, noisy-
probably less of a death trap because of the front and side airbags- but
somehow endearing in a "Little Train That Could" sort of way.
It has a trunk accessible through its hatchback, but that's being
somewhat charitable. Like the brains of some congresspersons, it's
there, it more or less functions, but it lacks the capacity to be of any
practical use. I managed to lug a new lawn mower back home from the
store last night, but it required dropping the back seats and a bit of
Toyota says the name is a combination of "ya," the German affirmative,
and "charis," a Greek word for beauty and elegance. As in, "What do you
think of my car?" "Cough.. Uh... yeah, beautiful and elegant. Snrk."
That's being unkind. Toyotas are known for their efficiency and
longevity, and the reviews I saw online really had nothing bad to say
about the car. And you have to admire the droll Japanese sense of humor:
140 miles per hour? Perhaps, if it's dropped from an airplane. There are
YouTube videos showing people attaining 119 miles per hour on the
Autobahn while traveling downhill with a tailwind, but it's not
something I'd attempt.
"Doctors have reported a surge in cases of ‘digital dementia’ among
"They say that teenagers have become so reliant on digital technology
they are no longer able to remember everyday details such as their phone
numbers. South Korean experts have found that those who rely more on
technology suffer a deterioration in cognitive abilities more commonly
seen in patients who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness."
My daughter had problems reading analog clocks because she grew up
surrounded with digital displays. I don't remember the phone numbers of
the friends and business associates I've acquired since the advent of
But- I remember the phone number of my mother, my kids, my family
doctor, the local drug store. I remember my Pennsylvania drivers'
We remember what we need to remember: what's important.
Brains are pretty smart. They learn things. They organically know there
are limits to memory and, therefore, store and discard data based upon
its importance and accessibility.
While I'm not as fanatical as some who have adopted his system, I agree
with David Allen's Getting
Things Done approach, which pretty much boils down to the rule: get
stuff out of your brain and written down somewhere.
I have a daily to-do list in Microsoft Outlook that contains 30 tasks
that need to be completed every day by 10 am. Some make fun of me for
doing this, or say I need to simplify my life- but simplifying my life
in a way that somehow still addresses their needs.
In any event, I've found that on days when I've neglected the list, I've
forgotten at least three or four items on it- taking medication, making
certain my cellphone is charged, reminding someone else of something they
need to do that will affect me down the line.
A long time ago I realized that I didn't have to know everything, I just
needed to know where to look. With the advent of Google and online
search engines, the statement needs some modification: I don't need to
know everything, I just need to know how to look. I learned how
to phrase questions and build inquiries, so that my online searches
return the precise information for which I'm looking, not pages and
pages of irrelevant references.
Albert Einstein said, "A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is
to survive and move toward higher levels." Should I develop the part of
my brain that stores telephone numbers, or the part that stores
knowledge about using systems that store far more information than I
could ever possibly stuff into that fat-based, hormone-soaked chunk of
wetwear between my ears?
While getting a dish of Breyers ice cream last night, I noticed
something odd... the package didn't say "ice cream."
Instead, in the lower right hand corner was the title "Frozen Dairy
I visited the Breyers
web site. The front page makes several references to ice cream, but
no mention of frozen dairy dessert.
I eventually found what I was seeking, about halfway down the FAQ page:
Frozen Dairy Dessert products are made with many of the same
high-quality ingredients that are commonly found in Ice Cream– like
fresh milk, cream and sugar– and offer a great taste and even smoother
texture. According to the FDA, in order for a product to be labeled ice
cream, it needs to meet two key requirements:
· Not less than 10% dairy fat · A percentage of overrun that
results in a finished product weighing more than 4.5 pounds per gallon
Anything that does not meet both of those requirements is not considered
5) Why did Breyers make the change to Frozen Dairy Dessert?
Our consumers are at the center of every recipe decision we make. We
work hard to understand what people want most and work to give them the
best possible product experience. People have told us they have various
flavor or texture preferences. For example, some tell us that they want
a smoother texture, which is what we’re able to deliver with our Frozen
Dairy Dessert products.
Yeah, in addition to milk, cream, and sugar, I'd like five different
types of gums and stabilizing agents.
And don't forget the corn syrup. Yum.
York Times article, "Ice Cream's Identity Crisis": "You might ask
what the difference is between ice cream and a frozen dairy dessert, and
I might answer that it is the same as the difference between a slice of
American cheese and a slice of Kraft Singles American Pasteurized
Prepared Cheese Product.")
Given the surprising number of negative reviews, I was worried when the
curtains widened and the stylized Warner Bros logo appeared at the
beginning of Man of Steel.
The review aggregation site rottentomatoes.com had pegged the latest
reboot of the Superman legend at a tepid 57%. But then, this was the
same collection of critics who rated the execrable Star Trek: Into
Darkness at an unfathomably favorable 87%. So I tried to be
I find myself agreeing with the guy on the AMC Movie Talk YouTube
channel who said, "My only explanation for why some critics didn't like
the show... is perhaps their heads were so far up their asses that they
couldn't see the movie screen."
Man of Steel is unlike previous incarnations of Superman. It
isn't presented like a fairy tale. It's a solid science fiction epic,
but one that requires far less suspension of disbelief than other
entries in the relatively new cgi-based superhero genre.
This isn't the childish Superman who spins the world backward to reverse
time, or gives Lois Lane amnesia by kissing her. The villain isn't
trying to destroy California in order to make a killing in real estate,
or forcing all the oil tankers in the world cruise in circles to jack up
the price of gasoline.
This is the story of an extraterrestrial refugee with amazing abilities,
raised by good people after he was stranded as an infant on an alien
world. He has to decide whether to defend his adopted planet or watch
its destruction at the hands of members of his own true race.
The criticisms I've read are disheartening. They mean some truly don't
get the concept of Superman. They aren't bright enough to follow a
straightforward narrative told partly in flashback to provide exposition
and character motivation. They can't put aside the archaic "rules" that
governed Superman's behavior, motivated not by a dedication to a higher
moral code, but by the fear that government intervention would
negatively affect comic book sales in the 1940s and 1950s.
My first memory of television is watching George Reeves pause at a
storeroom door, remove his glasses, then hurl himself via a
barely-concealed springboard into the monochromatic skies of a stock
footage Los Angeles. That was probably around 1958.
It took them 55 years, but they finally got it right.
(THE GIST) Multi-billionaire software pioneer, philanthropist, and
current No. 2 on Forbes Magazine's "World's Richest People" List Bill
Gates is putting some of his considerable largess to the task of making
sex more enjoyable by funding the creation of a next generation condom.
Gates is offering $100,000 in grant money for ideas that will make
condoms- already effective at preventing STDs- less effective at
preventing male orgasm.
(He's not doing it himself because Windows showed he wasn't really
very good at designing friendly or satisfying user interfaces.)
I've started referring to the proposed action against Iraq as Desert
Storm 1.1, since it reminds me of a Microsoft upgrade: it's expensive,
most people aren't sure they want it, and it probably won't work. -Kevin
G. Barkes (May 10, 2002)
I received an invitation on Linked In from someone involved in one of
those multi level marketing rackets. You know the routine: be your own
boss, retire a millionaire, our product sells itself. Of course, if the
product did indeed sell itself, it wouldn't need distributors and a
"down line" and a never ending campaign for new suckers- er, "team
The product being sold is not the product, but books and DVDs and
seminars which teach you the magic system that will make you wildly
successful. And when you find yourself in the hole, credit cards maxed
out and the mortgage due, it's not that the product didn't sell. Rather,
it's because you didn't work hard enough or master the magic system.
Here, we have a book and DVD for that- it's only $49.95.
My grandiose and deluded friend called himself a "Global Success
Architect." I stuck the term into Google, and the search engine
"No results found for 'global success architect'."
So I'm wandering the aisles at Giant Eagle and the missus, who is out of
town, sends me a text message admonishing me to avoid buying junk food
(not including, of course, the three-for-ten-dollars sale on Breyers'
In fact, I had skipped the junk and was annoyed by her honest
concern, which I chauvinistically perceived as condescending. Later, she
reminded me to put the ice cream in the freezer immediately when I got
home. Hey, I may not cook, but I am a freaking expert at the
preparation and handling of frozen food, having subsisted primarily on
pizza and Hungry Man dinners during my exile in Chicago.
I was sorely tempted to pick up a frozen strawberry cheesecake to share
with the dogs. I wouldn't even thaw out the sucker- we'd just lie on the
floor and lick it into yummy, sticky oblivion.
The groceries stored, I logged onto Facebook and was immediately
presented with this New Yorker cartoon by Eric Lewis:
Which reminds me, I left the Clementine oranges and tuna fish out in the
Published Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 7:44 AM EST
"Your call is important to us, but not important enough for us to hire
anywhere near the number of people required to adequately deal with the
never-ending torrent of valid complaints about our breathtaking
There are really only two small sections of the Unites States
Constitution that I've memorized. There's the last part of Article VI:
"...no religious Test shall ever be required as a
Qualification to any Office or public trust under the United States."
The emphasis is mine, and identifies the only place in the entire
document where the word "ever" appears. This is handy when dealing with
those who refuse to acknowledge the founders' intent to keep religion
and government separate. I mean, what part of "ever" don't you
And I also know the Preamble.
Boy, do I know the Preamble.
I recited it for a Veterans Day program in Homestead's Frick Park in
1962. I remember it was cold, and I was wearing my Cub Scout uniform.
And I didn't make any mistakes, because I had been studying it, living
with it, for an entire month.
I learned the Preamble from Margaret McGeever, the principal of my
elementary school. And when Margaret McGeever taught you something, you
not only memorized it, mastered it, and could recite it on command, you
assimilated it into your very DNA structure. It left a virtual,
indelible mark on your psyche, not unlike the actual physical hand print
of hers that I still have on my left shoulder, a result of The Bell
Telephone Movie Incident In The Auditorium.
Miss McGeever not only principaled, she taught drama. She emphasized
that the Preamble was not a jumble of words to be hurriedly recited in a
dull monotone. It had to be read correctly, with a combination of zeal,
reverence and perfect enunciation. "This is the very foundation of who
we are," she rumbled in her high-pitched yet gravelly voice. "Just
fifty-two words that define who we are."
And I learned them. Really learned them. I spent a half hour
every day finding the words in the huge dictionary in her office and
transferring their definitions to sheets of blue-ruled white bond paper,
the good stuff we used when taking our penmanship tests.
It took me more than a week. She looked through the sheets. She stacked
them, placed her folded hands on the neat pile, then gazed at me over
the top of her glasses.
I froze. It was not the look of satisfaction I had expected.
Her brow was furrowed. Actually, it was always furrowed; the
woman had the forehead of a Shar Pei. But the creases were even deeper,
and her voice was sharp.
"Mister Barkes," she intoned. "Your work is not acceptable. You have
forgotten one very important word: Preamble. You've managed to omit the
title of the work."
I looked at the copy of the Constitution I held in my pudgy, shaking
hands. I didn't see the word "preamble" anywhere.
"You won't see the word 'preamble' anywhere," Miss McGeever said, which
was simultaneously comforting and terrifying. "I don't see your name
written anywhere on your body, but I know who are, and if I were to
write about you, I would certainly put your name at the beginning."
"Preamble," she said. "An introduction. From the Latin 'pre', meaning
'before', and 'ambulare', to walk. Literally, to walk before, or to
lead. 'Ambulare' is interesting. So many English words are derived from
Latin. What English words come from 'ambulare'?"
"Ambulance?" I asked. She nodded. "Amble?" She nodded again.
I was blank. "Do you know what they call baby strollers in England?,"
"Prams?" I replied. "Right. Pram is English slang for perambulator.
'Per' from the Latin through or for, and 'ambulator' from..."
"Ambulare!" This was fun.
Miss McGeever spent the next half hour listing Latin antecedents
("ante-", before; "cedere", to go) for English words. I was sorry when
the end of day bell sounded.
"I'll tell Miss Sullivan she has a prospective Latin student," she said,
smiling. Miss Sullivan taught first year Latin in ninth grade at the
junior high school.
Then the smile disappeared. The stack of Preamble words reappeared.
"Review them. We'll have a verbal quiz on Monday."
Wait. Where was I?
Wow. I hate when I have one of those Billy Pilgrim unstuck in time
Right. The Constitution.
There are a lot of people who say the Constitution has but one purpose:
to restrict the federal government and limit its power. Anything not
explicitly covered within its original 4,543 words and subsequent
amendments should not even be considered.
I think they're missing the big picture. Miss McGeever explained it
quite well. I remember her florid cursive writing on the blackboard:
Who are "We"? The people of the United States of America.
What do we want? We want to:
1. Form a more perfect Union. (The Articles of Confederation just
2. Establish justice.
3. Insure domestic tranquility.
4. Provide for the common defense.
6. Promote the general Welfare.
7. Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
(We're serious about this.)
How are we going to do this?
We do ordain (from the Latin ordinare, to arrange or order) and
establish (from the Latin stabilire, to make stable) this
Constitution (from the Latin constituo, to confirm, arrange,
decide) of the United (L. unus, one, a union) States (L. status,
fixed, set) of America.(Mod.L. Americanus, after Amerigo
Sometimes I think this guy must have been one of Miss McGeever's
students. And after this past election, I know how he feels: