Category Archives: Celebrity

The Amazing Randi

About James Randi - JREF
James “The Amazing” Randi
A bit Gandalfesque, don’t you think?

James Randi has made his last escape–this time from this world.

He called himself a conjurer, rather than a magician. He viewed his craft from a very pragmatic standpoint and had no patience with those who claimed to have supernatural powers. These included stage magicians, faith healers, psychics, and others.

When he was younger, he carried a check in his pocket, which he would give to anyone who could perform “magic” that he could not duplicate as an illusion. I forget the amount of the check (large for the time, but not by today’s standards), which eventually fell apart along the folds because no one ever qualified. Later, the James Randi Educational Foundation offered a million dollars to anyone who could perform any supernatural, occult, or paranormal action under test conditions agreed to by both parties.

At one point, he was the magic expert for Alice Cooper. The show opened with sparks flowing from Alice’s fingers when he first stepped onto the stage. Naturally, one does not want live, extremely flammable pyrotechnics on one’s fingers until necessary. He related how, before each show, he’d be with Vincent Fournier in the dressing room, chatting about whatever. Randi was fascinated how, when they got the three minute warning and he’d start attaching the squibs and Vincent would immediately go into character, transforming into Alice Cooper.

He wrote 10 books, most of which are available from Amazon, as well as many public libraries. However, if you’re not a magic aficionado, a great book to start with is Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind by Alex Stone.

The Amazing Randi earned his title of Amazing by teaching and researching as well as performing.

James, thanks, and I wish you well.

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.”

 

Contrast

Crucifixion Definition - Ancient Method of Execution

I sometimes discover things that are blindingly obvious. For example, today is Good Friday when we remember how Jesus suffered and died for us.

In today’s world, there is so much self-centered living.

  • “I’m great!”
  • “What’s in it for me?

Jesus gave His all. His friends abandoned Him; one betrayed him. He was dragged from official to official, ending up condemned by a kangaroo court in the middle of the night. He suffered incredible physical pain at the hands of the Romans. He was put on display on the cross as he suffered for public humiliation.

How much better would the world be if we took Jesus’ example and teachings to heart?

HEADLINES!

The RMS Titanic and it's passengers | Just another ...

In newspapers, major event headlines were spread across the front page with large type. Day to day major-ish events had headlines in large–but not-so-large–type placed approximately mid-page to the right margin. Lesser events that either deserved front page coverage, or, on a slow news day were better than nothing, went to the left with (yawn) somewhat large type, but so what?

Notice the above. Major margin-to-margin headline, with sub-headlines for supporting stories below, on the right. The left? “Police Order Dorr’s Arrest.” I know the Titanic, but who the heck is Dorr? I Googled Dorr, but unless that Door was an attorney, I struck out.

So, to recap:
Across the Top=IMPORTANT.
Center to right side=Sort of, kind of important.
Left side=Not so much, but we want you to read it anyways.

However, now, in the marvelous 21st century, online news sites place their major stories on the left.

I guess we can claim that as progress.

Heroes

When I was growing up, there were heroes I looked up to.

  • Chuck Yeager–the first person to break the sound barrier in level flight.
  • John Glenn–the first American to orbit the earth and later US Senator
  • Neil Armstrong–The first man on the moon
  • Gene Kranz–NASA Flight Director for Gemini and Apollo

Each of these people did something noteworthy–PLUS three of the four are from my home state of Ohio. Gene Kranz graduated from the same high school I did.

Women who did great things in the 1960s didn’t get the spotlight, or even worse, the credit went to a male instead of the female who actually did the work. VADM Grace Hopper, NASA’s Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and their colleagues would not be publicly acknowledged until decades after they had achieved great things..

The closest I came to considering a celebrity as a hero was Jimmy Stewart. I liked his laid back style, but I admired the fact that he enlisted in the Army as a private as soon as he could, became a pilot, and volunteered to fly B-24s over Europe. After the war, he remained in the Air Force Reserve, attaining the rank of brigadier general.

Who are today’s heroes? Who do our children and grandchildren look up to? Who inspires them?

The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same

Jim Bakker is in the news; we’d say again, but he might say finally. Apparently he’s been promoting a coronavirus miracle cure (emphasis on miraculous).

Don’t know who Jim Bakker is? Maybe this will jog your memory.

New York Attorney General Letitia James sent a cease-and-desist order to Jim Bakker Tuesday ordering him to stop promoting “Silver Solution” as a remedy for the coronavirus.

My faith teaches that Jesus will come again, not PT Barnum.

Corona Virus Side Effects

There is a lot of angst regarding the corona virus (COVID-19). Oddly, most news coverage focuses on its impact on the stock market.

The news media, critically important for a democratic society, focuses on stories that sell newspapers, encourage internet clicks, or result in more pharmaceutical advertising during the evening news.

However, it’s best to put things in perspective.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are now 459 COVID-19 [link] cases in the United States. There was a death  today, which although is regrettable, makes a total of one.

On the other hand, influenza (the flu) has sickened at least 19 million across the U.S. and led to 10,000 deaths and 180,000 hospitalizations. This does not seem as significant because we encounter influenza every year. The Spanish flu in 1918 killed between 50 and 100 million people around the world.

The disease that infects millions and kills thousands is no big deal because we see it every year. A new disease, because it is novel, scares us to (near) death.

I’m not minimizing the potential of the virus. However, COVID-19 has been sensationalized, so the threat and probability of encountering it are more prominent in our mind, regardless of likelihood. Each of is, at least at this point, far more likely to be seriously affected by or to die from influenza, yet we focus on COVID-19.

I wish each of you good health–and a speedy recovery for your equity holdings.

 

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.)

Facebook–Say What?

Among many others

Moderators for YouTube must now sign a document acknowledging that they might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder by reviewing YouTube posts.

Excuse me?

When a website creates stress similar to a combat experience, it’s time to just stop and ask ourselves what the hell we’re doing. We expected Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites to be an opportunity to share ideas. Now, at best, they share thousands of pictures people take of themselves or pictures of their latest meal. At worst–they post images so disturbing that they can cause PTSD. Something is wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

I have a better idea. Make it a policy that postings are hateful, disgusting, or otherwise inappropriate for polite society, the social media site will respect their First Amendment rights, so long as they include their (verified) name, address,cell phone number, photo, and e-mail.

Decent people have no use for a coward.

Real-Life Rey

With the new Star Wars coming out in about a week, there is a lot of excitement. While there has always been excitement before each new episode, The Rise of Skywalker is expected to answer a lot of questions about Rey, the nobody from nowhere who became the main protagonist (i.e., “hero” without any gender issues) of a beloved story.

We are drawn to stories in which a reluctant and unlikely hero takes on an impossible challenge–it must be hard-coded into our psyche. We see this fascination in both history and legend—David in the Bible, Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Ring, and most recently, Rey. Wired Magazine commented that Rey is not only a role model hero for young women, but inspires young men as well. That’s not really surprising, given her courage and commitment.

What is common among all these (and similar) tales is that they feature a person who commits to something that they view as important—more important than themselves. Maybe we all wish that we would find some cause so compelling that we would commit ourselves totally .

There are about 8 billion people on earth; nearly 200 sovereign states; millions of corporations, businesses, churches and other organizations. Do they present us with the real-life Reys? Not so much.

However, thank God, we have at least one.

Greta Thunberg on Twitter: "“Now I Am Speaking to the ...

 

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.