Friday, May 29, 2009

Pull up a chair

Like most people, I have a fondness for sunup and sunset -- and for the special light that shines up the world at both ends of the day. Our primordial feelings probably go all the way back to the caves when the changing light re-wrote the rules of safety every day.

As I sit sentinel from the front porch, I feel like a co-conspirator with the sun. The changing light continues to fetch up feelings that long ago I quit trying to understand – and now just enjoy.

The dusk gently reminds us who controls the night. And from the primeval forest across the street, the cottonwoods launch fuzzy, feathery things that float gently on the air currents looking for fertile ground below. Watch them catch the thermals rising from the still-warm sidewalk. Ohh.

In the first light of morning, the animals take charge. Birds, mostly, announcing a positive take on another day. The biggest wild critter on the block is the rabbit, if you don't count the mailman. Urban rabbits have developed two personalities -- at the same time both fearless and tenuous. Truth is, as long as the Mississippi rolls through the Cities, so will the rabbits. They rule the Spring gardens.

At last, I am beginning to understand the sweet pleasures in the invitation: “come sit a spell.”

I love this porch.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Minnesota morning

Damn it’s cold in Minneapolis this morning. Last week, we made it to the 90’s. This morning, we dipped to the 40’s.

I’m going to call my children to come get me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dick Cheney -- man in the moon

Dick Cheney is at it again. He continued his relentless national television tour with an appearance on CNBC this morning where he continued to bash Obama. Cheney also did a little tap dance about Gen. Colin, Powell. He reversed his statement from last week and said the former secretary of state could, indeed, be a Republican after all. Will Rush agree?

Dick Cheney throws only two pitches – heat and spitballs. If his high, hard and fast ball doesn’t bean you, he’ll slime you with a juicer. (I’m right; you’re wrong and not a patriot, either.)

But, truth is, he’s pitching pretzels. Lies always turn backward like that. I think he is haunted because 9/11 happened on his watch. He is certainly talking (and talking) like a man trying to cover his ass.

That’s familiar territory.

While in office, Dick Cheney certainly mooned the Constitution.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wreaking havoc help line

Some things just go together. Like peanut butter and jelly. Like Katie and Couric. Like arsenic and old lace. You get the picture.

But few things go together with such strength as “wreaking” and “havoc.” Seriously, have you ever seen one word without the other? Try to use just one of those words in a sentence. I’ve never known a havoc that had not been wreaked. Well, June Havoc maybe. Early in her career.

Ask yourself: what would wreak do without havoc? While you are asking, has anything other than havoc ever been wreaked? The Wild Wind, that’s close. But I cannot dredge up any other word combination with such a knee-jerk response.

Can you?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day, 2009

In the democracy of the dead all men at last are equal. There is neither rank nor station nor prerogative in the republic of the grave.

-- Senator JOHN JAMES INGALLS,1889

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dick Cheney, highlights.

Dick Cheney prefers Rush Limbaugh over Gen. Colin Powell. Repeat:
Dick Cheney prefers Rush Limbaugh over Gen. Colin Powell.

Guantanamo.

Torture.

Two wars.

Collapse of the U.S. economy.

Collapse of the Republican Party.

These are just a few of the things that Cheney has brought us.

Remember: Dick Cheney prefers Rush Limbaugh over Gen. Colin Powell.

Dick Cheney is crazy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Baring your sole

Sitting barefoot on the screened porch.

This is a great place to knock back the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the New York Times, and a handful of on-line news aggregators. Barefoot. The stuff doesn’t seem as serious this way. Or as deep.

Shoe-less. Maybe we should demand that Congress shall enact no laws while wearing shoes. It’s difficult to take yourself serious while wriggling your toes in the carpet.

Now that the summer porch is up, naturally my thoughts turn to the theater. Cooking outdoors is always high drama at our proscenium. I prefer the hibachi which fits neatly on the front banister and still leaves room for the mailman and the occasional visitor from FedEx.

Space is tight. The opening flames are only a couple of feet from the awning. I know what you are thinking. But the neighbors across the street always call the fire department with time to spare.

Oops. I hear the Mystery Woman coming down the stairs. She’s wearing shoes. We must be going somewhere.

Hon, have you seen my shoes anywhere?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Porch season starts today

The screen porch is up. The morning is delicious at 64 degrees. Birds are getting at it. Coffee is hot. Wearing my favorite gimme cap. Ready…set…type.

Australia, like Texas, is a hot house for fables. The people are bigger than life (oxymoron?). Consider the Kei Islanders. They lure sharks on purpose with underwater rattles made from coconut shells. Tall tale? Remember, this is the land of the platypus and the occasional komodo dragon.

If your sneakers get washed overboard, widen your search. The right-foot sneaker will take a different track than the left. Plus, flotsam and jetsam are two different things. The first is an accident; the latter, on purpose. Some human bodies sink. Some don't. You probably know why.

Turkmenistan. Just the sound of it is harsh. The backwater nation was the least-wanted of the regions cast adrift when the Soviet Union crumbled. Perhaps that is what was so attractive to their last dictator. He was an evil lunatic with accidentally funny ideas. For example, the dude reworked the calendar. He renamed the days of the week and the months of the year to his own liking. He even renamed ketchup. None of it translates.

The World Medical Relief in Detroit is recycling pacemakers. They cajole funeral homes into harvesting the devices so the life-saving machines can be sent to poorer nations. Already, 50 have been sent to the Philippines, Ghana, Vietnam and Nicaragua. You can have mine if you don’t mind waiting until I’m done with it. Promise me you’re not just into scrap metal. I think they are made with platinum.

That’s it. Sixty-four degrees gets chilly after a while. I’m going inside.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Good neighbors make good porches better

Spring is truly a big deal in Minnesota. You can feel the tundra beneath you take a deep breath. As the people re-discover that the permafrost isn’t really perma, they rush outdoors half naked (hoodies, shorts and flip-flops) to once again give thanks.

The rituals vary. On our block, it is the raising of our prefabricated screened porch that is the most tangible testimony that Spring is truly, finally, here. Neighbors say they rejoice as the gossamer ramparts go up in early May. And they mourn when the porch is boxed up in October. During the ‘tween time, we enjoy the shade, the breeze and the protection from Big Damned Mosquitoes.

This season, the make-ready included putting a new stain on the deck and spray painting the wicker furniture. Last season, she made new cushions.

For most of the last decade, the Mystery Woman has single-handedly wrestled the porch into submission. No small undertaking (not one of my favorite words). There are eight screened panels, each six feett tall, which fold like an accordion for winter storage. Handy, too, for lugging from the garage around to the front deck.

Then the Mystery Woman and I struggled with wrapping straps around the contraption, Lisa, our neighbor to the north took pity and helped us carry the components around the house. She stayed for another two hours to help us fit the pieces of the puzzle together. It did not bode well that the first attempt to fit Part A into Slot B resulted in the entire screened porch being erected upside down and backward. But we fixed it in fairly good humor. Considering we were each sober. And two of us had heart-related surgery this year.

Then the Mystery Woman and I struggled with fitting the soft roof to fit in the slot that holds it dear to the side of the house. It didn’t work. We tried repeatedly but our aging stamina drained and we could not coax the canvas the last two feet necessary to close the deal. Frustrated, we called it quits for the evening, opened some Three Buck Chuck, and rested. Even casual passers-by could see we still had our work cut out for the next day.

As we fretted the job ahead, Laura, our neighbor to the south, sent an email volunteering herself and her husband, Bruno, What a gift. We eagerly await the new day. And young muscle.

Two things:

--caring neighbors are great, and
--we must be as old as we look.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Nooo. Not at the museum. Not cellphones.

Be sure to bring your cell phone next time you go to the museum. More than 500 museums have replaced the audio-tour handsets or earphones with, you guessed it, your cell phone. For example, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis asks visitors to dial a local number, enter a code listed next to a piece of art and get info about the piece. At the opera, you must still remember to turn the damn phone off. However, you might be asked to use text messaging at the conclusion to vote on the encore. Too much.

Most of India never had a land line telephone. But today, over 400 million cellphone users chirp away for less than five buck a month. And they get more bang for the buck than we do. Among other things, Indian phone companies have invented methods to wire money to temples, to pay for groceries, to find jobs in addition to humble e-mail messages.

Blame it on the recession. Some desperate people are becoming voluntary prisoners, committing minor infractions so they will go to jail just to get three hots and a cot. Detroit reports four or five such arrests weekly. Up from a dozen a year before the downturn. The criminal justice system is becoming the safety net of last resort. Sad.

The rich men in Qatar hunt with peregrine falcons. The birds, which sell for $5,000 and up, can hit speeds of 200 mph in a dive. Some prized birds even have their own passports.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Is that a newspaper in your pocket?

In the early to mid-1970s, Alvin Toffler's book The Third Wave predicted the coming changes in society. One thesis, if I recall correctly, was the changes will continue to occur and the rate of change will increase exponentially. At some point, he theorized, folks would give up trying to adapt to all the changes and opt out. From Ken Martin.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Perhaps it’s my age bracket (terminal), but I heartily agree.

And I’ll take a giant leap further: I think this is what will save newspapers. Not the technology fatigue so much as the fact checking.

Note: some schools are banning students from using Wikipedia because so many categories have been altered by hackers.

I think the newspaper industry shake-out may look something like this: newspapers, unfortunately will continue to die off. In a back-to-basics reality, smaller newspapers with more intense community coverage will survive along with hybrid on-line reporting and delivery systems. For a while, you’ll get everything you think you need to know in your pocket. Or ear-bud.

Gradually, it may take decade(s), the nation will realize you can’t trust what you read on-line even more than you can’t trust everything you read in the newspapers. And most people don’t have the time or curiosity to verify all this stuff.

Plus, government can run amok as long as independent newspapers are wussies. Believe me, it isn’t easy to stand in front of a speeding onslaught of professional liars. Government bears watching (see Bush-Cheney).

So gradually, a few newspaper giants will rise out of the ashes. Phoenix-like, as I am fond of saying. Maybe two or three nationwide. The people will once again sleep better.

And wrap fish better.

So long as the surviving papers are not owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sir, you malign crazy old coots everywhere

"Can't we send Dick Cheney back to Wyoming? Shouldn't we chip in and buy him a home where the buffalo roam and there's always room for one more crazy old coot down at the general store?" From Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Washington Post.

“I like Jeb. I think he's a good man. I'd like to see him continue to stay involved politically,” Dick Cheney said during an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “I'd probably support him for president.”

“This would not have happened if she (Carrie Prejean) was not so beautiful.” Donald Trump.

"I can see Russia from my house: The Sarah Palin story" suggested title by Alex Koppelman in Salon.

Oscar Levant supposedly said of Doris Day: "I knew [her] before she was a virgin."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The whole world is wireless

During the off-season, a vendor at Yankee Stadium works the comedy clubs in neighboring states. Steve Lazarus is serious about his stadium shtick. Here’s a sample: “Our oldest vendor is 83 and he got suspended. He tested positive for Maalox.” ... Peanuts! Popcorn! Cold beer!

Do you do Xocai? Me neither. Pronounced show-SIGH, it is to chocolate what floor polish is to Amway. Devotees take Tupperware to a new level. Ladies who live in NY penthouses peddle the stuff. Probiotic. Low cal. Slimming. Healthy. Want some?

There’s a fairly new train between Beijing, China, and Lhasa in Tibet that is damned interesting. For one thing, it’s the highest railroad in the world. At 16,640 feet, the pass is higher than light aircraft fly. Oxygen is pumped into passenger cars. Now you know why. To offset problems caused when tracks shift as the permafrost melts, engineers devised systems to keep the ground beneath fast frozen.

We have 18 – count ‘em —18 wireless gizmos at work in our house. Plus a few more in the van. Amazing. That’s a lot of “1’s” and “0’s” swirling around our recliners. No wonder I can’t think straight. Our newest technology is the device on the nightstand which monitors my pacemaker overnight and transmits a data stream to technicians somewhere. Hmmm. Do they have a reading for frisky?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dick Cheney needs surgery

Dick Cheney is long over-due for his gonad surgery. We all know he’s got ‘em. And we all know he thinks with ‘em.

Hang ‘em up, Dick.

Fear lost the election last November. Torture is not the American way. Torture is against our laws and against international laws. (See WWII.)

Cheney’s vigorous defense of water-boarding raises immediate questions:
--why is he the tail-gunner as the Bush administration leaves town?
--is he worried about the possibility of War Crimes charges?

He is attacking everything, anything that approaches his perimeter. Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell? Seriously? In the same blitzkrieg of weekend interviews, Cheney says it is time for the old guard in the Republican Party to give way to new blood – attacking all the while, defending the beliefs of a rejected political philosophy.

This bears repeating: fear lost the November elections.

Cheney is not Golem. He is Elmer Fudd.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

L. M. Boyd copycat

History, according to Cleopatra’s nose. Ever hear of the theory? Me, neither. According to some, the notion was coined by Pascal's remark in the Pensées : "Cleopatra's nose: if it had been shorter, everything in the world would have changed."

More history. Four hundred years ago, a fan glued together the largest collection of of drawings and writings by Leonardo da Vinci. The collection contains 1,200 pages from the master. In modern times, a facsimile sold in 1973 for about $40,000. And about 12,000 cows were skinned in that effort.

Speaking of slaughter, Australian troops have been told to kill 6,000 kangaroos in an effort to thin the huge herd roaming the army base near Canberra. Expect protests.

Blush wines are gaining favor as a companion for Asian foods. And, as you might expect, French winemakers have mixed feelings about rosé. Most don’t like it. But they sell it. One guy bottles his under the label “Arrogant Frog.” Another blends gewürztraminer (a white) with two reds, merlot and syrah and sells it in Europe as “Ménage à Trois.” Waiter!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Palin gets assault rifle for Mother's Day

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, nothing quite says “I love you” like a military-styled assault weapon. According to American Rifleman, the National Rifle Association will feature a custom made AR-15 made specifically for GovernorPalin at its upcoming annual banquet. From the Christian Science Monitor.

Have you heard? The talk on Wall Street is that the economic recovery has begun. Hope so. Question is, has the word trickled down to Main Street? Right now, the good news is muted – the rate of job losses has slowed. But how many jobs are being created? That’s the real bottom line.

The plus-sized Kindle DX is not going to save newspapers because, as one critic believes, "we can get our news online for free.” OK. But who is going to pay all those reporters? The ones who gather that news you get for free. Grumble.

Now you know the asparagus continues to grow for a spell even after it has been picked. Seeking the sun till the very end.

According to the Internet: The inscription on the metal bands used by the U. S. Department of the Interior to tag migratory birds has been changed. The bands used to bear the address of the Washington Biological Survey, abbreviated as "Wash. Biol. Surv."- until the agency received the following letter from an unhappy camper: "Dear Sirs: While camping last week, I shot one of your birds. I think it was a crow. I followed the cooking instructions on the leg tag and want to tell you it tasted horrible."

The bands are now marked "Fish & Wildlife Service."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pickles -- on journalism

Yes. I am a cartoon junky. Isn't everyone? For years, I accepted my
responsibility as a reader to take in every single cartoon on the
newspaper¹s comics page. If the artists were going to work that hard to
entertain me, I would honor their work.

Not so much so with today's comics. Too raunchy for a family newspaper (and
I'm pretty randy myself). In my view, few cartoonists handle a harpoon as
well and as clean as Brian Crane in "Pickles".



This guy understands the aging process ­ plus, he understands aging in
relation to the world around us. Always with humor.

See.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Patsy Cline sings our national anthem

I’m a little nuts. Ask anyone. My children will quickly stipulate their old man is goofy. If I had more money, you would say I am eccentric. But nuts will have to do.

Most of my friends are nutty, too. Crazy. But not quite psychotic. Or so we hope.

We’re in good company: Einstein, Salvador Dali, Tony Hancock, and Beach Boy Brian Wilson – all head cases. Creative minds in all fields share traits associated with psychosis.

And that isn’t all bad. After all, mental illnesses have been around for thousands of years. Must be some reason why, evolution being what it is.

Yup. New research hints there are survival benefits to being a little daft. We now know that different forms of creativity spawn from different weird turns. Problem is, there is no clear, bright line between milder forms of psychosis and debilitating mental illness.

Some of my friends argue that it’s the “normal people” who are crazy.
Not us.

Here’s the funny thing: crazy creative people can make a lot of money. Ross Perot comes to mind. A new study in Texas (where else?) quantifies how important crazy people are to the state. By 2016, one in 12 Texans will be crazy, err creative. Packing, too.

The logic herewith is a little tortured (remember, I’m crazy). But it should help you understand Gov. Rick Perry a little better.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lone Star/North Star

If you drive north long enough, like we just did, you get a second shot at Spring. And there’s a lot to be said for déjà vu. It is beautiful all over again in Minneapolis as the trees blossom and paint the boulevards with pastels – and with smiles. Lovely.

At this latitude, the sunlight is softer. The temp this morning is in the mid-40’s. Clear. Crisp. Low humidity. Perfect for a brisk walk in a hoodie and Bermuda shorts. Cross-cultural, you say? In Austin, we would be wearing the national shirt of Texas, the Hawaiian, slightly faded.

Older neighborhoods like ours are blessed with sidewalks, the thoroughfare of childhood. Bicycles, skateboards, baby carriages and sneakers – you name it, we got it up and down the block. Grins. Good grins.

We are lucky to have homes in two cities that we love and enjoy. Leaving either place is always difficult. Family, friends and familiar routes tug at us.

That lasts until we cross the state line. It’s good to be home again.

Come see us.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tough love

Guess what we did the minute we unpacked in Minneapolis? We went out for Mexican food. Big mistake. Just a few days back we had superior Tex-Mex in Austin. No fair comparing the two. Should have waited until the urge had built to epic proportions.

Jeff, my jaded son-in-law, scoffs and wonders whether next we’ll be going to the rodeo. And buying cowboy boots.

Switching towns is fun, but stressful. The Great Migration requires 27 phone calls to notify doctors, magazines, cable companies, newspapers, etc.

Newspapers? Yes, if you’re of a certain age, you probably still read your local newspaper. (Segue alert) If so, your attention is often drawn to two special announcements which are taking on more impact with every passing day. I’m talking "obits" and the "married fifty years" fluff.

Both lie.
Never is a single flaw revealed. And we all go along with the nudge, nudge, wink, wink confection.

Dead -- anybody can do that.

Married 50 years – child’s play.

Here’s the true test: the Mystery Woman and I have ridden 10,000 miles in the same car the past four years. With granny and a dog!




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