Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hippies are to blame

Normally, I am an upbeat kind of guy. These days, I would much rather giggle than rage. But today, I am the bearer of bad news. Really bad news. I blame hippie parents for not explaining things better.

To set the stage: every day, The New York Times has a list of the top 20 e-mailed news stories. It's a snapshot of what grabs the most attention among readers.

Today, the number one e-mailed story is: A War We Just Might Win.

My favorite didn't even make the list: The Whys of Mating: 237 Reasons and Counting.


Friday, July 27, 2007

My pal, Dick Cheney

I never thought I would say this -- but, tomorrow, I'm pulling for the Prince of Darkness, Vice President Dick Cheney.

Don't get me wrong. I still have a minimum of high regard for the guy. I dislike him intensely. However, I have great respect for the office he holds.

I also have a pacemaker/defibrillator. Cheney does, too. And his battery is running low so tomorrow, the doctors will replace his entire device. I'm not clear why they have to junk the old machine just to replace a battery but what do I know?

Every time the medical electricians go through this kind of drill, they learn something that will help the rest of us. So I'm pulling for Cheney and his medical team.

Get well soon, Mr.Vader.

CNN equals Dems, Fox loves GOP

So, the GOP presidential candidates are shying away from the CNN/YouTube debate?

Can you blame them?

I don't think the problem is the Internet culture as much as it is with CNN itself. And that's too bad. For all of us.

Don't get me wrong, I love it when CNN reporters skewer Republicans -- and Democrats, too, for that matter. I hate seeing the bastards get away with stuff regardless of party affiliation. But, in the eyes of Republicans, CNN has become the avenging angel who smites Republicans. Only.

That's the GOP perspective.

Likewise, the Democrats despise Fox News for the same reasons. I no longer call myself a Democrat, but I agree that Fox is myopic at best, liars via selective detail at worse. "Fair and balanced" is just so much BS.

Too bad. When TV first came into power, there was balance.

But remember, the Democrats folded on a Fox News debate for the same reasons the Republicans are peeling off CNN. I'm not neutral. I'll continue to cheer Keith Olberman at MSNBC.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bush approval rating nears mine

So -- President Bush is second only to Richard Nixon on the disapproval scale. Polls show 65% of Americans don't like the way Bush is running the country. Nixon hit 66% four days before he resigned.

Who am I to gloat? That's probably my approval rate, too. After all, I am a journalist, a bounder, and a cad (retired, but that's still three strikes).

"It isn't just the Iraq war," said Shirley Anne Warshaw, a presidential scholar at Gettysburg College. "It's everything." (Washington Post)

Even Texas Republicans are beginning to splinter away from the Great Uniter. They will describe themselves as a "Reagan Republican" or a "Goldwater Republican." Although Texas voters would still re-elect Bush out of party loyalty, fewer and fewer call themselves "Bush Republicans." A little distance says a lot.

On the surface, it would appear the Bush Administration has lost the recipe for chicken salad. And lemonade.

But I wonder. Those folks are not as dumb as they appear. How could they be?

Maybe Bush is so calloused that he is content with leaving the huge Iraq problem for the next President, who is likely to be a Democrat.

Maybe Bush continues to support Attorney General Alberto Gonzales because he needs the clueless AG as a buffer to shield his own dark actions. After all, the longer Gonzales stays in office, the longer the story has legs.

Maybe Bush doesn't care about current ratings and hopes history will sort out the mess in his favor.

Or maybe they are a gaggle of incompetent jerks. That's what I think. No depth. Veneer. All shine, no tensile strength.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

YouTube follies

Did you watch the Democratic hopefuls debate last night? I didn't either.

Congrats to YouTube for attempting to liven a rehash of spin and posture. I hope the citizens asking questions were not lulled into thinking their query matters one jot. The unwashed sometimes make that mistake.

From news reports, I gather the program was entertaining but it did not produce any true illumination. Quick: give me one quote from any of the candidates last night.

See what I mean? At this stage of the election, it's just show business.

My plumber summed it up: "What the hell are they debating this early for? The election is next year."

I think I'll fire my plumber as my therapist and retain him full time as a political analyst. He's accustomed to working in that medium.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Justifiable homicide

I think my oldest son is trying to kill me.

It's 10:30 in the morning and I just woke up. I never sleep this late. It's because I am exhausted. He's trying to get me through sleep deprivation.

Background: I was a great father.

Oh. Well. Maybe I backed up too far. Steven is in the midst of a divorce. Since the Mystery Woman and I are supposed to be in Minneapolis for the summer, I invited him to stay in our Austin condo until he figures out where he wants to live.

It's a nice, but small condo. My office clutters the second bedroom. The Mystery Woman makes her mess in the loft. Works nice.

But when we discovered I needed hernia surgery, I wanted the Austin surgeons to do the cutting, figuring I might get a volume discount since this was my third surgery this year.

Long story explaining why I am sleeping on my own couch. Groin pain too tuff for stairs. Anyhow, I like sleeping on the couch. It's a guy thing. No sheets.

Only problem is, the couch is 15 feet from the front door. By definition, me, too.

So Steven comes dragging around midnight with a vigorous greeting from his dog, Poochie. That's OK. I manage to take two more pain pills and return to la-la land.

Here's where it gets diabolical. Around 2 a.m., it's a scene right out of Norman Rockwell: boy, dog, cigar, laptop and moonlight on the patio. But the damn dog starts scratching on the patio glass (also about 12 feet from my head). She has seen me through the glass door, thinks she remembers me, and wants to get reacquainted.

For fifteen minutes, scratch. SCRATCH.

Finally, I managed to contort my body into a standing position, hobble to the door and let her in.

Did you hear your dog scratching?

Yes, but I thought if I ignored her, she would quit.

Easy for you to say.

If I am found laying in the gutter with my belly to the sun, you know who did it. On the other hand, if he is found in the same gutter, it means I found where I put the Red Ryder.

Friday, July 20, 2007

She was First Lady of Texas -- First

Everybody has been telling their favorite Lady Bird stories. Here's one that made local news on Channel 8 but may have been overlooked by the networks.

The Channel 8 reporter snagged an interview with the long-term LBJ ranch gardener. The old man was telling how he planted $400 worth of pansies outside Lady Bird's window. The next morning, early, he noticed that the deer had eaten them all. Down to the nubbins. The gardener panicked and called over the secret service agents who had been on duty overnight.

They all panicked.

Finally, the gardener screwed up his courage and fessed up to Lady Bird that the deer had eaten all her new pansies. Slowly, she looked up at all the men, then turned resolutely to the gardner asking: "you got a gun?"

He answered yes he did.

She said "I'll drive, you shoot,"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Show business

Here's my theory -- at this age, no surgery is minor. Having said that, I had minor surgery Tuesday and am resting well, thank you.

Modern pain medicine is pretty good. Around 3:30 this morning, I nudged the Mystery Woman and said, "I'm having difficulty separating drugs from reality. I just have to ask, are we putting on a show?" Her reply: "No, but we can if you want to."

Did I mention modern pain killers?

After a couple of rough days, I'm up and moving about. Walking a block or so. Mending. But I don't really feel chipper enough to blog daily and you don't really want to be entertained by stories from the road back. So I'll catch up from time to time.

Meanwhile, did I mention modern pain killers?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Health nuts in bars?

The children have been playing with grown-up stuff again. Alcohol has gone on a health kick, according to a story in the Sunday NY Times. We're talking way beyond little green pistachios.

Consider these trendsetting new vodka drinks: low-calorie sugar- and aspartame-free airforce Nurtisoda-brand sodas -- each containing a day's dose of vitamins C, E, B6, and B12.

Or something called the Joie de VeeV, made with fresh strawberry, lime, mint and a dash of Splenda.

Have you tried the Ginger Smash? It's made with fresh cranberries and muddled fresh ginger. Muddled?

Not me. I'm not much for fancy drinks. I'll stick with the old favorite: Metamucil and vodka.

And I think I'll have another.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Airline travel the new Purgatory

Have you had to fly anywhere lately? What a trip. And I mean that in the worst way.

Disclaimer: the American Airlines ticket agent, Barbara Hopkins stationed in North Carolina, felt like our real, working partner as she helped us unscramble the goo we created from changing almost everything about our reservations to accommodate this blasted surgery. We changed cities, dates, number of people flying, everything. But Ms. Hopkins calmly guided us through the adds and drops. She was terrific.

Actually, the airport staff was helpful, too. Especially the wheel-chair wranglers.

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, the flight crew were nice, too. Harried, but nice.

If the people were nice, why do I think of flying as Big Trouble? I'm not alone. When was the last time you boarded a flight filled with happy people? (You cannot count flights to and from Cancun.) Seriously, remember when flying was fun?

Part of the problem is mine. I don't like pretending I'm a sheep. Part of the problem is Homeland Security. Idiots.

The biggest problem, I think, rests with the airline business model. They lost us (as happy travelers) years back when they decided to pack more and more people into smaller and smaller spaces. Greed is our co-pilot.

I have the solution.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Beats hell outta bingo

Although I am perfectly content to take it easy and nurture my inner imp while awaiting surgery, the Mystery Woman is not so blessed. She stays busy.

She spent half a day digging up the day lilies on the north side of the house and replanting them on the south side of the house. It's a thing they do in Minneapolis. I don't know why.

Still not content, she announced, "I'm going to the Lake Street Bridge protest tonight." This, too, is something they do in Minneapolis. For years, a band of protesters has been meeting every Wednesday around supper time to join the anti-war protest.

The protest organizers, mostly old hippies, all seem to know each other. In another life, you suspect they might be playing bingo. Or bowling.

The last time she joined the protesters was a couple of years ago when the Mystery Woman carried a sign protesting the torture at the Abu Ghraib because she was so disheartened. That time, response was mixed from car traffic over the bridge. Obviously, not everyone believed torture was unAmerican. You could measure the reaction in the drivers' faces. Some anger, some confusion, along with some agreement.

This time, the Mystery Woman carried a simple, straightforward sign: Anti-war, Anti-Bush, Anti-Cheney. One guy's sign read: "Libby Knows Too Much."

The sound was nearly deafening as people honked to signal their support. Obviously, the pendulum has swung.

At least on the Lake Street Bridge.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Truman Capote was right


We'll have to miss our 50th high school anniversary. For those of you who are new, the Mystery Woman and I were high school and college sweethearts. We re-connected after nearly 50 years and have been really looking forward to seeing old friends from that hormone-driven era.

Instead, I have a date with the surgeon. Again.

This will mark the fifth surgery in about as many years. All told, I have counted 18 scars on my body where doctors have earned their car payments by poking holes in my chest and slicing me into geezer hunks. Along they way, they have saved me from colon cancer, a heart attack, and terminal vanity. Wish they could find a cure for poor judgment.

Communications will be hit and miss for a while. I have a hernia operation next week. Next fall, I get to go under the knife again to replace the battery in my pacemaker/defibrillator. No joke.

Conditioning from more than a decade of bicycle riding, I'm convinced, has helped me rebound from each trip to the hospital. Ironically, my heart attack hit when I was riding a bike on a beautiful country road a few miles outside Dripping Springs. Had I been a civilian still on the couch, I would have died that day.

But frankly, I'm getting a little weary of all this. Plus, I worry about the odds going up for catching that terrible hospital virus that consumes you from the inside. Recent research shows one in twenty get tagged.

I think I'm a pretty good patient. However, my kids have a different view. For one thing, I like and trust nurses. More than doctors. My mother was a nurse and my daughter was a nurse. But I am really weary of having to come back each time from the rigors involved. Each rally takes energy I would rather devote to other endeavors.

Sure. It beats the alternative. Most days.

Life’s a pretty good play. But the Third Act needs work.
-- Truman Capote

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Geezer Hunk rides again

I didn't get off the couch until I was in my fifties. That's when I re-discovered bikes. And for the next ten years, you could expect to see me at sun-up riding ten miles around Town Lake in downtown Austin.

Riding a bicycle adds new dimensions for vacations. The view is much better, unobstructed by windows and roofs. And the smells. I'll never forget riding through a grove of olive trees in California. Or the glacier between Banff and Jasper. Or the Longhorns along Onion Creek outside of Dripping Springs.

One year, I logged over 2,000 miles. And I began to believe my own press: Geezer Hunk.

In Austin, there weren't many guys my age riding. Not so in California. Several times I have been privileged to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. There were so many older guys riding bikes over the bridge that I thought I was drifting into a Gray Panthers protest ride.

Upon arrival in Minnesota, one of my big surprises was the scope of the bicycle community . We like to think of Austin as bicycle friendly but Austin's efforts don't scratch when it comes to Minneapolis.

The Grand Rounds is a fifty-mile paved loop inside the city for bicycles and skaters only. You can actually ride from Point A to Point B without getting on city streets. This city planned ahead and the bike community responds by commuting to work. Studies show more than 4,700 adults sixteen-and-over bike to work up here. At 2.4 percent, that's above the 0.4 percent national average. Additionally, more than 10,000 ride their bikes for fun, for exercise, for errands. No. I don't know what they do in winters.

Although I still think of myself as a Geezer Hunk (until I pass a mirror), I can no longer make the 70-mile-per-day rides. In the last five years, I've had five operations and the recovery takes time. It's amazing how quickly we get out of shape.

But the Mystery Woman and I still ride bikes. Just not as far. We bought some of those new-fangled comfort bicycles which are much easier on back and bottom. I recommend 'em.

These days, we hear "on your left" more often than we say it. But we smile in both directions.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Naive? Probably, but still hoping

Ann Coulter. Michael Moore. Sorry, but I don't think much of either.

She is professionally hateful. He is a cheap-shot artist. Both are polarizing. Both are getting rich at our expense.

Actually, I want to like Michael Moore. More often than not, he and I share political views. But his half-truths and absurd stunts only tend to inflame the faithful rather than set up workable solutions. His BS does not move us forward.

Sadly, they are not alone. In Washington, the Republicans and Democrats continue to blame each other. I'm tired of the show. Enough finger-pointing.

Let's have some genuine leadership. Not one of this nation's problems has a simple solution. The fix for Iraq requires our best thinkers, not political spinmeisters with talking points. Ditto with immigration, Medicare, gas prices, etc. We are wasting not billions, but trillions. And we are running out of time for do-overs.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Media bias

I get so tired of people who whine and cry about newspapers never correcting their mistakes. Naturally, I disagree. I find newspapers are courageous in righting their wrongs.

Herewith is an actual correction from today's NY Times, page E2:


An article last week about inexpensive dresses misstated the name of a clothing store on Broadway. It is Yellow Rat Bastard, not Dirty Yellow Bastard.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Our favorite coloratura

I'm not certain I completely understand "coloratura." But Beverly Sills damned sure was one. And she brought opera to the rest of us.

Thanks lady.

Not sure you like opera? Read Anthony Tommasini's appraisal of Beverly Sills in today's New York Times. You'll come to love Bubbles Silverman. Check her out on YouTube as a seven-year-old singing an Italian song on the radio.

Imagine the fun she had as guest host for Johnny Carson with her gal pals: Carol Burnett, Dinah Shore and Eydie Gorme. Nothing stuffy about Beverly Sills.

Listen to her sing. It will make your heart happy.

On this uniquely American holiday, let's pause just a moment in memory of this uniquely American woman.

Hum a little coloratura if you're a girl.

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