Category Archives: Arts

75th Anniversary WW II

Seventy-five years ago, the Second World War ended.

That was my parent’s war. The Greatest Generation’s war. At that time, every American was, in one way or another, invested in it. It was a very different time with very different values.

In a small gesture, I’ve been watching Band of Brothers–the story of one company of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army during World War II. The first time I saw any of this series was at the Pat Tillman USO in Afghanistan. I didn’t see much of it, as I was waiting for transportation to a FOB (forward operating base) or something. Nevertheless, the small exposure piqued my interest. Years later, my family gave me the set of DVDs.

The movie portrays the essence of the soldiers’ experiences. if not every precise detail. The movie is too intense for some, so the first time I watched it was with my son, Adam, when everybody else was away on a trip. Even for me, it was intense–as well it should be.

Today, when people view the history of warfare, some say, “I don’t get it, what was in it for them?” They’re right they don’t get it,” and it’s sad that they have passed through this life without  experiencing honor, courage, commitment, and camaraderie.

Virtual Flying

NOTE: I recently had shoulder surgery so I’ll be typing one handed for a while and may not blog as frequently.

I love flying–not riding in an airliner, but actually being pilot in command. However, as I’ve gotten older, it’s no longer practical. I was originally licensed as “private pilot, single-engine land.” I still qualify to fly as ‘recreational pilot,” but it would make my family nervous. Not to mention that renting an aircraft is about five times as expensive as it was when I first flew. Ouch!

The big issues over the years is that when I had spare time, I didn’t have spare money and vice-versa. Actually I’ve never really had either spare time or spare money. Sigh!

Nevertheless, in my lifetime I did learn how to fly and will be a licensed pilot for the rest of my life. Ta-da!

A few years ago, my family gave me a flight simulator as a gift, including the yoke, pedals, and throttle/lever assembly as well as the Microsoft Flight Simulator program. Wow!

Shortly thereafter, Microsoft stopped selling or supporting their flight software. Bummer!

Recently, Microsoft released a 2020 version of Flight Simulator. Yay!

I tried loading into my new lap top (circa February 2020), only to be informed that my computer wasn’t fast enough. Awww!

So, yes, I broke down and bought a real gaming computer. Ka-Ching!

My son hooked it up and I was ready to play. Hoorah!

So far, all the program seems to do is to tell me to wait while it downloads another update. Booo!

I’ll update you when I can, but this one handed typing wears me out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luddite Audiophile

Today I saw an advertisement for bone-conduction headphones at Sam’s Club.

In my young adulthood, I enjoyed stereo systems with awesome fidelity. I  worked my way up to a Dual turntable that had stroboscopic speed adjustment, a top of the line Fisher amplifier and speakers, a Technics-by-Panasonic cassette deck, and Koss Pro-4AA headphones.

Today, fidelity has given way to compressability–how much music can be fitted into the smallest space. Almost everything is MP-4 or other streaming media, which is relatively low fidelity. And bone-conduction? That was once a last desperate method to convey sound into the auditory nerves when the natural routes failed.

Cochlear implants use bone-conduction, not fine music systems.

Or do they? Maybe bone-conduction is superior. I don’t know. The range of frequencies I can hear has narrowed with time, so maybe bone-conduction would be better.

I’m not quite ready for that. I’ll stick with my Koss Pro-4AA headphones. By popular demand, they began manufacturing them again.

Success

When I was growing up, it was still possible—and often expected—that a young man would finish high school and get a factory job with one of the automotive companies in the area. Grandpa had worked there, Dad still did, and Junior would carry on the family tradition.

Success was having a decent wage, benefits, and a pension. It was expected that there were certain trade-offs, such as losing the occasional finger to a punch press or periodically taken from work to the hospital for stitches. The work was mind-numbingly repetitious, but that was just part and parcel of the process. It was okay, though, until manufacturing moved overseas or was automated.

For other people, the self-imposed standard is higher. People study music or art, practice their chosen mode of expression throwing themselves into it, heart and soul. Imagine, after years of study and dedication:

  • The musician finds that the culmination of his talent and effort provides music for telephone callers who are placed on hold.
  • The artist, skilled in a variety of visual techniques, from oil painting to sculpting, ends up producing billboard illustrations.
  • The young model who has posed for a variety of photographs, finds that one of them shows her face on the internet with the captions “All cheaters have one thing in common.”
  • The actor, after years of stage plays in high school, college, and off-off-Broadway finally makes it as a movie only to find that most of his time is spent repeat the same lame line over and over to allow for different camera angles, the reaction of other actors, etc.

I’m grateful for what life has given me, even though (especially?) I’m not in the spotlight.

It Will Never Be a Movie

If the Coronavirus COVID-19 were a movie treatment, it probably never would get made. Look at the plot elements:

  1. A deadly disease begins in a faraway city known for both selling live exotic animals for food and for having a secret government lab.
  2. The disease is viral. Viruses, unlike bacteria, do not respond to antibiotics. Since a virus is not actually alive, it cannot be killed, only neutralized.
  3. The disease preferentially attacks the poor, minorities, the aged, females, and people with pre-existing medical problems.
  4. Some who are infected by the disease show no symptoms, but are carriers of the disease and can transmit it to others.
  5. Some of those infected exhibit flu-like symptoms, are misdiagnosed. The defining symptom, death, follows soon thereafter.
  6. Some adult patients show no obvious symptoms, except upon examination, it is discovered that their oxygen levels are dangerously low, which can lead to death.
  7. Children, at first were believed to be asymptomatic, later many develop a whole host of symptoms that are completely different from those experienced by adults.
  8. Politicians, faith healers, scammers, etc. seize the opportunity to amass wealth and/or power.
  9. Much of the protective equipment, drugs, and medical supplies needed to handle the disease are produced in the country from which the disease originated. Many US companies had moved manufacturing offshore to save money; there is insufficient manufacturing capacity in the US.
  10. Scientific experts advice is ignored while the Internet and other sources promote a variety of alleged cures, treatments, and religious talismans–none of which seem successful.
  11. There is insufficient capacity to test all suspected cases, so the number of people affected are likely under reported. Some cases are only diagnosed after death, when an autopsy is performed.
  12. State and local governments discourage people from engaging in activities that spread the disease, encourage the use of masks to protect others, and maintaining a six foot buffer between people.
  13. With workers unable to do their jobs, the economy suffers. People are laid off or lose their jobs.
  14. The number of confirmed cases in the US approaches 1.5 million confirmed cases, with nearly 90,000 deaths. These numbers only include patients who were tested or otherwise diagnosed.
  15. Some claim the disease is caused by a new cellular telephone system; others call it a hoax; still others see it as a conspiracy to restrict constitutional rights.
  16. Armed dissidents, encouraged by a variety of sources, protest the social distancing, stay-at-home orders at the state capitals, clustering in large groups, usually without masks.
  17. In the meantime, the country from which the disease arose and several of its allies launch cyberattacks on the US to steal medical secrets relating to healing or preventing the disease–and anything else they come across, once they get inside a computer.
  18. As US cases seem to slow their rate of growth, state and local governments relax social separation. People immediately return to pre-pandemic behaviors and the dissidents declare victory.

The screenplay ends here. The audience is left in limbo, unsure whether the disease is indeed winding down, or preparing for a second wave. Unsure as to the future of the economy.

As I said at the beginning, no studio would ever consider wasting time on a script for this scenario.

Unintended Consequence

I managed to hang onto most of my hair until relatively recently. I felt pretty good about that, especially since one of my sons is follicly challenged to the point where he shaves those lonely hairs on his head. Nevertheless, things are catching up with me now.

In the sixties and seventies (the 1960s and 1970s–not my 60s and 70s) long hair was in vogue. My hair was curly, so I never looked as cool as Sir Paul McCartney. In those days, unfortunately, Brian May (Queen’s outrageously talented lead guitarist) was recognized for his musical talent–not his hair–so straight hair was far more cool.

Due to work rules, I kept my hair short for year, but I promised myself that when I was no longer limited, I’d regrow my Van Dyke beard and add a ponytail to my hair.

Alas, it was not to be. The beard was a nonstarter. I let it grow for a week once when we were on vacation, but it was an ugly shade of grey that made me look at least 30 years older than I was. If you had put me and Obi Wan Kenobi together, he would have looked like an innocent youngster compared to me.

With COVID-19, I’ve been self-isolating for nearly two months. I still shave most days, but no haircuts. So how does this work out for my decades-long desire to look cool? Not very well

When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I must admit that I look quite a bit like a movie star celebrity.

Between the balding and the curly hair, I look like a chubby version of Larry from the Three Stooges.

 

Make Me Laugh

We’re all getting a bit squirrely being stuck at home–especially if you have kids–trying to telework, and being bombarded by  the continuing banter of the various experts predicting the future. It’s difficult to find humor in the situation, but I’ll try.

Maintaining social distance—-“I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Turning to the groom, he continued, “You may now wave at your wife who is an appropriate six-feet away.”

If restaurants reopen, wait staff will have to wear masks and use disposable menus—–“Who was that masked waiter?”
“I don’t know, but he left this silver tip tray.”

A politician, an elected official, and a cable news personality walked into a bar. The bartender looked at them and asked, “Is this a joke?”
One of them replied, “Nope, just business as usual.”

 

Metamorphosis

Today’s hand me downs are tomorrow’s heirlooms.

17 Best images about Ugly Jugs on Pinterest | Ceramics ...

Random Thoughts

There’s no specific theme or topic–just goofy stuff that has gone through my head as I self-isolate.

1. There’s no understanding the lengths people will go through to take advantage of others. A museum near Amsterdam closed because of the COVID-19 emergency. Someone–or several someones–broke in and stole a Vincent van Gogh painting, The Parsonage Garden at Neunen.  As near as I can tell, except for artwork that the Nazis looted, there are less than a dozen masterpieces that have been stolen and not recovered.

Imagine if the thieves had put their time and talent to work doing something worthwhile. Then again, maybe they think that they look good in fluorescent orange jumpsuits.

2. The hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy supporting New York and Los Angeles are amazing. They started out as commercial supertankers, and if memory serves correctly, were cut in half to make them longer. USNS indicates that the ship is owned by the US Navy, but is not a commissioned vessel. The crew is a combination of military and civilian mariners under the direction of the Military Sealift Command.

The 1000 bed medical facility is under the command of a captain from the Navy Medical Corps or Navy Nurse Corps. Each has a complement of diagnostic and treatment facilities including radiology, CT Scan, 12 operating rooms, and a burn care unit.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the USNS Mercy and she’s an awesome ship. Both have helicopter landing pas for patients being medevaced. The trauma receiving area–similar to an emergency room–has its deck painted red, an old tradition so blood isn’t as obvious. After all, these were built to support combat casualties.

 

Bring on the NANOBOTS!

See the source image

I love nanobots.

Nanobots are microscopic robots that can do anything from curing disease to treating injuries or providing energy to weapons. There’s just one minor problem with nanobots . . . .

They don’t exist in the real world.

But they are a staple in science fiction. Have an insurmountable problem? Write how nanaobots resolved it—it’s the best Deus ex machina* tool ever. For example:

Powerful, evil dudes attack good people, who are powerless to resist.
Nanobots are released that change the mental and emotional state of the bad guys. Soon, everybody sings Kumbaya.

However, there may be technology on the horizon that provides the benefits of nanobots using existing materials. The first, albeit tiny, steps are being taken in utilizing a virus to edit genes in a patient by using the CRISPR technique. It’s not as sexy as the nanobots in a John Scalzi novel, but this is real world technology, which is rarely sexy.

Will it work, or like so many other ideas, fail to execute as imagined.

Stay tuned!

 

 

* Deus ex machina (/ˌdeɪəs ɛks ˈmækɪnə, – ˈmɑːk-/ DAY-əs ex-MA(H)K-in-ə,[1] Latin[ˈdɛ.ʊs ɛks ˈmaːkʰɪnaː]; plural: dei ex machina; English ‘god from the machine’) is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence.[2][3] Its function can be to resolve an otherwise irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or act as a comedic device.

Newspapers

I am one of those Luddites who still enjoys reading via pigment on cellulose (i.e., ink and paper). Several times in the past, I subscribed to more than one newspaper–usually a local paper, then another from the main city of the metropolitan area. I wanted the local news, but also the regional news.

How did I choose the newspaper? The local paper was geographic while the metropolitan newspaper was based on the funnies.

van halen

Why? Because if a newspaper treats the funnies as important, they will treat everything else they print as important. It’s kind of like Van Halen (and I RARELY get to compare myself to Van Halen in any way, shape or form). Van Halen specified in their contracts with their performance venues that there would be M&Ms in the dressing room, but all the brown M&Ms would be removed.

While it initially sounds like a 20th century ridiculous prima donna demand, there was a method to their madness. If, when they got to the site, the M&M requirement was met, they felt that they could safely assume that the other requirements were met. If there were brown M&Ms, they knew that there was sloppiness on other issues, like how safe and sturdy the stage was, security, and other real world issues. The M&Ms were like the canary in the mine shaft–an early warning system.

But I digress.

My local paper, The Virginian-Pilot (now owned by Tribune Publishing*) has continued to shrink over the past few years. The newspaper has gotten thinner, the lower quality newsprint pis allowed more space today than a year ago? The obituaries. You’d think that they would not want to feature how their readers are dying off, but since they’re all paid obituaries . . . .

Why do I like real newspapers? First, I’ll take a newspaper into situations such as rain, a bath tub, etc. where I would never take my computer or tablet. Second, it just feels more reliable. How many times, when reading online, do you see updates every few minutes. They don’t have to be accurate because they can always correct errers errors. Newspapers should (and I hope–I HOPE) do more fact checking before they publish because they can’t do updates.

I’ll have more to say, the next time I can sit down and write this blog.

 

 

 

*Tribune Publishing Company (formerly Tronc, Inc.) is an American newspaper print and online media publishing company based in Chicago, Illinois. The company’s portfolio includes the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, the Hartford Courant, additional titles in Pennsylvania and Virginia, syndication operations, and websites.

 

Win a House!

St. Jude’s Research Hospital for Children has a very clever method for raising money. Why? Because they do not charge patients for services.

Danny Thomas, the 1950’s television star, was born Amos Jacobs back in Toledo, Ohio (my hometown). He prayed that God would point him to the career God intended. He promised to build a hospital if God answered. God answered. The hospital is St. Jude’s.

Please note that Danny Thomas did not ask for success, only to be pointed in the right direction.

St. Jude’s prime fundraiser, at least around here, is to raffle off a house at $100 per ticket. Apparently, the house is constructed with each trade or contractor contributing their time, effort, and materials. The winner  gets a house and the money goes to the hospital to help the kids.

However, as nice as the house is, St. Jude could possibly double their money if they wanted to. The current house being built here has four bedrooms and three bathrooms–perfect for a young family. However, for this year we did not buy a ticket because we’re trying to downsize.

As we many,, many, many Baby Boomers age, maybe a second house raffle for a single floor ranch would be attractive. I know I’d buy a ticket (or two or three).

Oh, and build it somewhere without covenants, conditions, and restrictions. I don’t want Gladys Kravits isn’t a neighbor. (If you don’t get the reference, you wouldn’t be interested in a single floor ranch.)

When in Doubt–History

I love history–but you probably knew that. History, at least as taught, is imperfect because of two reasons:

  1. History is written by the winners, and it some times takes a century or more mitigate such bias.
  2. Much of the blood, sweat, tears, excitement, and intrigue gets removed, leaving only names and dates. Boring!!!

So here are some historical “facts” that I found interesting. I call them “facts” because we believe them to be true, but frequently,  as more research is done, we have to revise our understanding in light of additional evidence.

The “facts” I share are of no particular significance. I just find them interesting.

  • Creases in pants were once considered the opposite of fashionable. The upper crust had clothes custom tailored while those of less wealth purchased “off-the-shelf,” pre-made clothing. The crease indicated that the garment had sat on a shelf for a long time.
  • The term “an officer and a gentleman” refers to the fact that the elites were entitled to and enjoyed preferential treatment, including being assigned the senior positions on a ship. The “men,” on the other hand were commoners, often assigned to ships after being kidnapped. More than a few sailors started out at the pub enjoying free drinks but woke up, not only with a hangover, but also on board a ship at sea.
  • There is a legend that when the Emperor Charlemagne died, he was interred in a tomb sitting on a throne wearing a crown, holding a scepter, with his hand on his sword. Grave robbers, intending to steal the valuables with which he was interred, entered the tomb. They claimed that the seated body of Charlemagne began to draw the sword from its sheath. They did not stick around to find out what happened next.

Bait and Switch

Once upon a time, the Internet was lauded as a forum for intelligent discussion, but like most things, it soon became primarily focused on enriching a few people. I have nothing against commerce, but it seems that many websites will stoop at nothing to get you to click on one of their links. To whit:

The Fed dropped mortgage rates? No. They adjust the prime rate, which may affect mortgage rates. but they don’t directly control mortgage rates.

 

Let’s stop in mid -sentence to see if viewers will click. After all, Trump and the Washington Post are usually totally simpatic0.

 

It seems that there’s shock and surprise about where every movie / television / music performer lives–or that they don’t look like they did 30 years ago. Oh, and  what’s Lawyers Blvd got to do with Meg Ryan?

 

Do you think that maybe, possibly there might have been just a tiny bit of Photoshopping involved? Not much, just a smidge?

Then there’s this poor girl. When I travel, I see her being arrested in every city I visit. She must be innocent, or they wouldn’t let her out to be arrested again and again.

So much for intelligent exchange of ideas.

Musical Redux

It was totally predictable–marketing people freely disclosed their intentions decades ago. Nevertheless, it’s discouraging. It hearkens too much to Love, Actually when the word Christmas is squeezed into the classic rock song “Love Is All Around Me.”

What? You ask.

The use of rock and roll songs from baby boomers’ younger days to sell all manner of pharmaceuticals, now that we’re older. Songs by Blondie, The Doors, Steppenwolf, and the Who augment the television advertisements that bombard us.

Hey, didn’t the Who sing “I hope I die before I get old”?

Cut!

I finally figured out how I could finally become rich and famous–well, at least rich.

I planned on producing a reality TV show in my part of the world. Naturally, it was going to be titled Real Housewives of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

I went scouting for locations and talent. Location isn’t a problem, this area is very picturesque, with the beaches, Chesapeake Bay–you know, lots of excuses to show women in bathing suits, which appears to be a requirement for a reality TV show.

Talent was the problem. I’m not saying the women in this area lack talent, but every time I thought I had someone convinced to star in the show, I’d hear:

“Can’t, I’ve got to get to work.”

“Sorry, I’m the designated driver for soccer, tonight.”

“Ooooh, can’t make it. That’s my kids’ band concert.”

I even had one who laughed at me with this comment, “After the day I’ve had, you have got to be kidding. Thank heaven that tonight my husband is grilling, otherwise it’d be do-it-yourself peanut butter sandwiches for everybody.”

These women are all too busy dealing with real life to appear in a reality show about real life.

Damn, Wrong Guy!

I saw a headline that Joe Walsh was thinking of running for president–I got very excited. I figure Joe, the legendary guitarist from the Eagles, the James Gang, and the stairwells of Kent State University was jumping into the race.

Joe, no doubt, would not have represented the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, but the Party Party. No drugs, no alcohol, but just a good time for all. After all, with Ringo as your brother-in-law and the Bach sisters, all you would have to do is show up and say, “Hi!”

Alas, it was not THAT Joe Walsh, but just another politician (sigh).

It could have been awesome. Damn, wrong guy!

A Different World

This is an official request to NASA to conduct exploration of a mysterious world that we know exists, but is beyond my comprehension. It is well reported in the media–especially online–so its existence is irrefutable.

The people in this world live unimaginable lives, but someone believes it’s imperative that their activities are reported to everyone. These include:

  • The real estate transactions of multi-million dollar homes
  • The reliance on automobiles that cost more than all the houses on my block
  • Changes in the color of their hair or style of dress
  • Behavior that would result in arrest and deep shame for most people

The media would have us believe that this world exists in the same metaphysical plane as us, but I’m not convinced. In any case, it is bizarre and may represent a clear and present danger to most of us.

I’m not a conspiracy buff, but in this case I believe the media will try to bury this story by attributing it to actors, actresses, singers, financial experts, and politicians. Don’t be fooled!

“Promises, Promises” (wrote Bert Bacharach)

Musings and promises to myself:

  1. I do not (and will not) watch any television program with a title that begins with Real. Not Real Housewives of Dubuque, not Real Sanitation Workers of Santa Monica, etc. None. Zero. Zip.
  2. Likewise, I avoid any internet stories that claim that a celebrity “confirms what we knew all along.” If we knew it all along, why should we succumb to their click bait?
  3. Some of the stories on the Internet have lives of their own and refuse to die. One example is the story about the girl who passed herself off as a rich duchess. Or was it a countess? All I know is that whenever I see THAT SAME OLD PICTURE I shudder. It’s sounds like an addition to Chevy Chase’s old routine. “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead AND the phony countess is still in the news!”
  4. And, unless it’s a story about geology, any use of the word rocks (as in Former supermodel rocks a bikini or Barney rocks a Speedo) it will be ignored.

A Different Coda

As we’re trying to downsize, I’m trying to cull the musical herd. My daughter gets to take the piano once she gets her own place. My son’s clarinet doesn’t take up to much space. However, my guitar collection and the drum set do. I hope to get down to my Taylor 6 string, Greenbriar by Peavey 12 string, Peavy Raptor electric, and of course, my Brian May guitar.

My current guitar amplifier is an oldie but a goodie, a Peavey 112 Bandit Sheffield Transtube, Silver Stripe. By the long name, you might expect it to be big. It is. It is also heavy and loud.

My new Peavey Vypyr VIP1 is smaller, lighter, and has all kinds of effects built in. It’s got a 32 bit floating point computer processor, which is a marketer’s way of saying, “You have to learn how to program it.”

The bottom line, I now have a guitar amp, cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc., ad nauseum ALL of which are smarter than I am.

I miss the days when my biggest challenge was to get the VCR to stop flashing “12:00”.