Category Archives: Arts

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”.

Sports???

As regular readers know, I am not much of a sports fan. After Chuck Ealey was relegated to the Canadian league (my Northern-North America friends got a great quarterback) I lost almost all interest. Then, when I lived in the Cleveland area and Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore, I was pretty much done and over with sports.

However, I must wax poetic.

Professional sports pay people obscene amounts of money for their physical prowess and effort. Most sports take inborn physical abilities, training, and practice, practice, practice.  Being a professional athlete is the physical equivalent of being a Jesuit.

However, I always thought it was a stretch to consider auto racing a sport. To me it’s more technology; you build a vehicle that can do phenomenal things, get inside, then drive fast and turn left {repeat}.

In my opinion, billiards was pushing it and I thought it was beyond the pale when ESPN featured poker, until they advised that the “E” stood for “entertainment.” There explanation was a stretch, but, okay.

However, now that video games–VIDEO GAMES–are not only a “sport” but being proposed as a high school athletic program . . . Wait!

I hereby designate blogging as a professional sport, or will as soon as the city builds me an appropriate blogging stadium, grants me tax free status, and arranges for network coverage.

Let me know when I can pick out my $9 million sports car and my $100 million mansion. In the meantime, if you want something, call my agent.

Tear Them All Down–for Profit

Across the street from my house there used to be woods and open fields. The developers began clearcutting the trees and adding fill to the fields in order to build houses. This is an area subject to flooding; each tree they destroyed transpired 55,000 gallons of water each year and absorbed carbon that otherwise would contribute to global warming (whether you believe in it or not).

There was a small area that was still wooded–probably 50 trees or so–across from my house. As you can see that the trees were pulled up by the roots or pushed over by carbon belching, heavy equipment. I counted at least four machines. The dust blowing toward my house is just an added bonus  and will probably continue for months.

I couldn’t help but flash on The Two Towers, when Saruman commands that the orcs should pull all the trees down.

It’s taken us a while, but we’ve mastered the orcs’ technique.

 

Commitment

Have you ever read the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America? Most people don’t recognize that as the actual title of what we call the Declaration of Independence. Written in Philadelphia, approved on 2 July 1776, and published two days later on the fourth of July.

Those who signed the document risked much if they failed. If they were lucky, they would be hanged “until dead.” The practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering was the prescribed punishment for high treason. In this case, the condemned would be hanged, cut down while still (barely) alive, often disemboweled (again, while still alive), then beheaded and their body cut into pieces.

These founding fathers had to work hard to reach common ground since they had agreed that unanimous consent was required so as not to force brother against brother so many vehement arguments led to revisions that the authors vehemently opposed. The issue of slavery was particularly difficult, and striking a phrase prohibiting slavery did, in fact, lead to the war of brother against brother.

While most of the body of the declaration deals with the grievances against King George the third, I believe the most important part is at the end.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Who among us has that kind of commitment today?

 

The Play’s the Thing (Complete with Music!)

I’ve decided to write a play specifically designed for off-off-Broadway. I wanted a theme everybody could relate to–something familiar yet somewhat of a challenge. Then the muse hit me–I tried to duck, but she still caught me on the chin.

I realized that no matter what you do, a significant portion of your time will be spent in meetings. It may be called a class, a board, a tiger team, a training session, church, basic training, or whatever–it’s still a meeting. Fortunately, Office Space and The Office have already laid the groundwork. I want to take it one step further and write it as a musical. Imagine——

The stage curtains are closed. The house lights dim and the orchestra begins the overture. [For those of you not musically inclined, overtures are a melodic mashup of the music used throughout the production. Today, we call it recycling.]

SCENE 1: The curtains open to show a conference table with chairs all along the upstage side (a concession to the acoustics in off-off-Broadway facilities). A spotlight is focused on a door, stage right. A man in a suit [the Boss] enters with an armload of papers and breaks into the opening number. “It’s My Meeting So I’m in Control” He dances toward the head of the table, leaving a random portion of the papers in front of each chair, reaches the front empty handed, looks at the various stacks of paper, decides one is slightly taller, dances back to that spot, takes the extras from that stack, dances back to the front of the meeting room and crescendos with the final line, a redux of the first line of “I’m in control.” The spotlight disappears, leaving the stage dark.

SCENE 2: The spotlight, collimated very tightly fades up on a man [the Nerd] with a short sleeved white shirt, out-of-style skinny black necktie, pocket protector, and taped glasses immediately begins singing the second number, “Oh, What I’d Do for a Doughnut!” When he finishes, the stage briefly goes black.

SCENE 3: The lights come up illuminating the table but leaves it dark upstage (behind). The conference table now has people sitting in all but the last chair. The Nerd comes through the door, ignores the looks of derision, grabs a powdered sugar doughnut, leaving a trail of white on people’s clothing. When he sits, the white powder mounds like a snow bank in front of him [special effects, but inexpensive].

The Boss bows and with an exaggerated sweeping gesture points toward the unlit back of the stage. A stern women [Stern Woman] in a business suit emerges from the shadows. As she walks toward the head of the table, with a big smile she begins to sing, “Death by PowerPoint.” The last line, a Capella, is “And My Laser Pointer!”

I don’t have room for everything. Suffice to say, the rest of the play leads to the grand finale with the Stern Woman between the Boss and the Nerd performs a dance number on the conference table surrounded by the entire cast dancing together and singing “Meetings Are Better than Work!

Now, if I can just find a patron.

 

 

Wuttchoo Say???

I like to read, but more than once I’ve been embarrassed when I mispronounced a word that I’d read often but had never spoken before. So, one of the many things in life that befuddles me is how we handle foreign words. It is especially vexing when the word is translated from a phonetic language. Theoretically, since that society has its own written character and does not rely on the English alphabet it would seem that getting the pronunciation–rather than the spelling–right would be important.

For example, the United States has a naval base at Yokosuka, Japan. It’s actually pronounced yuh-KOO-skuh. Why didn’t we spell it phonetically as Yokuska? Japan uses a combination of kanji and kana, which bear no resemblance to the English alphabet. Incidentally, they refer to their home as Nippon, even though we somehow mangled that into Japan.

Not too far from Japan is China, which, based on its size and population is hard to miss. If you forgot, we did not recognize China after World War II until Richard Nixon was President. Its capital is Beijing, but for years (or maybe centuries?), we wrote it as Peking for (pronounced pay KING). Did some cartographer forget that English actually has phonemes for “b” and “j”? I’ve tried saying Beijing many different ways, but no matter what I do, it never sounds like Peking.

The Arabic world has its own form of writing with 28 consonants, no regular vowels (they indicate some vowel sounds by a superscript), AND NO English letters. Nevertheless, when we translate Arabic names to English, we tend complicate them. For example, why did someone plunk an “h” smack dab in the middle Baghdad (the word, not the city)? For years we wrote the name of their sacred scripture as the Koran (which tells you how to say it), but now it is often written as Qur’an. I can pronounce Koran, but if I hadn’t seen that first, I’d be clueless as to how to pronounce Qur’an.

Then of course there’s the Arabian Gulf State of Qatar, which I’ve been told can be pronounced “cutter,” “guitar” or “gutter,” without offending anyone. Somehow I think it would be polite to copy the pronunciation that those who live there use.

Of course, we’re just as imprecise with our own words, which is why Lima is pronounced LIE muh for the city in Ohio, but LEE muh for the city in Peru.

It’s no wonder that many people do not enjoy reading—or should that be
REDD ing, as in Pennsylvania?

A House Divided

It’s always good to reflect on the thoughts of great philosophers–Socrates, Plato, or Monty Python.

Graham Chapman: I think all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired.
All: Yes, yes…
Graham Chapman: I’m certainly not! And I’m sick and tired of being told that I am.
MC: Mrs. Havoc-Jones?
Mrs. Havoc-Jones: Well, I meet a lot of people and I’m convinced that the vast majority of wrong-thinking people are right.

Since this was performed about fifty years ago, I wonder how they knew.

[There was supposed to be a picture here, but WordPress’s new improved editor wouldn’t accept the upload. Too bad, because it was silly, very silly.]

 

 

Chewie, We Hardly Knew Ye

 

Peter Mayhew/Chewbacca

As everyone knows, Peter Mayhew died.

Peter Mayhew, brought a humanistic flavor to Star Wars as Chewbacca. Although Chewbacca was not human, he was the ultimate sidekick–and the most human character. We loved Peter’s performance as Chewie so much that most of us never  broke the fourth wall to the actor.

As an actor, Peter, in his Chewbacca outfit, had only his body language and eyes to convey the character’s message. Chewbacca’s voice was added later utilizing various animal sounds. For an actor, that is a challenge. Peter did it well.

But, be honest, which of us would not love to have a friend as loyal and strong as Chewbacca was to Han Solo?

Anyone?

Anyone?

I thought as much.

Peter/Chewie, you will be missed. Thank you for everything.

 

WordPress Screws It Up, Yet Again

I had begun this post, stopped, worked with WordPress, and thought that the problem was resolved.

NOT SO FAST! PUT DOWN THE IDEA AND STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD! KEEP YOUR OPIBIONS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!

(Sigh)

When something works, why do geeks (and yes, I’m a geek) insist on changing things? When I was in medical imaging, there was a Cardiac CT Scanner that was cutting edge technology. The problem was that the engineers kept improving it. That should be great, right?

Not so much.

Each scanner was slightly different than every other scanner because of the improvements. That meant that the parts, diagnostic routines, manuals, etc. were all different.

Play piano? Imagine if every keyboard you sat down in front of was laid out different. An 8 note scale? Nope, we like eleven (I would have used the numerals, but the WordPress program, in its infinite wisdom thinks it should be 11. Why?).

I remember when Japanese manufactured cars went from a novelty to the norm and every mechanic had to have both SAE (English) size tools as well as metric. I can deal with that; if you tell me the rules, I can follow them.

So, bottom line is that when I have a few spare minutes around job, family, chores, repairs, and the miscellaneous hurricane or other disaster, I want to jot down my  ideas and share them.

WordPress, if I wish to be frustrated, I have children and a job; I don’t need you to add to it.

(Sigh)

Oh, and I’m still looking for the draft of the post I wanted to put here.

(Sigh)