Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas from our home to yours






I would like to personally thank all of you who read my posts.  Gayle and I want to wish you all a wonderful Christmas!

Some of you may remember the old comic strip by Stan Lynde called “Rick O’Shay” and Rick’s buddy, the rough gunslinger, “Hipshot.”  The cowboy said very simply, "Happy Birthday, Boss." That was Christmas for old “Hipshot” in his church without walls.  

Enjoy the Christmas season.  It’s a time for family and friends and a peaceful oasis for reflection, for love, and all the good stuff.  Fyodor Dostoevsky said, "Man only likes to count his troubles, but he does not count his joys.”   

Christmas is a perfect time to count our blessings and joys.

Merry Christmas!

Ralph & Gayle Higgins

higgins@digitalpath.net

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Keystones and Other Stuff

     As you may have noticed, I like to quote smarter people to support my thoughts.  It’s like a preacher hearing someone in the congregation shout “Amen!” But maybe I’m the one shouting “Amen” after reading their wisdom. 

            I want to pick a mix of quotes to stimulate our thinking on some current issues starting with the quote by the brilliant C. S. Lewis under “Quotes I Like” above.  What makes these quotes interesting is that they are statements from the past made by voices on both the left and the right.  Some of these may seem prescient, i.e. foreseeing the future, since they are eerily predictive of events today.

            One quote that popped out at me was from Vladimir Lenin, because it’s so applicable to Obamacare.  Lenin said, “. . . medicine is the keystone of the arch of socialism.” 

            A keystone is the wedge-shaped stone at the apex of a masonry vault or arch, which is the final stone placed during construction and locks all the stones into position.  A masonry arch or vault cannot be self-supporting until the keystone is in place.

            Passed quickly by Democrats without reading the massive health care legislation, we were told by Pelosi that it had to be passed to find out what was in it.  Evidently no one knew what was in the bill.  Like a Christmas present, it was a surprise.  Not a single Republican voted for this bill, but the Democrats voted for it in lock-step.

            Socialized medicine has always been the goal of the left.  If medicine is the cornerstone of socialism, once the cornerstone is installed, the structure will be strong enough to withstand the weight of opposition.  

            In my opinion, the current chaos will be used to justify a single payer system, aka socialized medicine. Ostensibly presented in the interest of “fairness,” the government will bless us with a universal government health care plan based on the European model. The goal will be reached.   When that happens the keystone will be in place and the structure will be firmly established.  

            Along those lines, James Madison may have been looking into his crystal ball when he said, "It will be of little avail to the people . . .  if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”  

           Our ignoble “leaders” didn’t bother to read, let alone understand the healthcare law before agreeing to it. This seems to be standard procedure for bills passed in the Legislature.  Ignorance of the law is no excuse for the rest of us, but not so for legislators.  They just don’t have time for the trivialities of reading their bills.

            Back in 1920, H.L. Mencken, journalist and an outspoken Democrat, wrote this in the Baltimore Evening Sun:  “As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.  On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.”

            A narcissist yes, but is Obama a fool or a tool?

            President Calvin Coolidge said, "It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant."

            President Theodore Roosevelt clarified the term, “patriotism” by saying, “Patriotism means to stand by the county. It does not mean to stand by the president.”

            Those are a few quotes that I’ve read recently, but here is one of my favorite quotes: “There is none so blind as those who will not see.”  Rome may burn, but few smell the smoke or see the flames. This may be due to ignorance or it may be an act of will not to see.  Both are deleterious to freedom and democracy.  

            Did those who foisted Obamacare on us use ignorance to hide the fact that they didn’t care what was in the voluminous and onerous bill as long as it provided the setting for the cornerstone needed to catalyze their agenda?  Makes you wonder…



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Turkey, Stuffing, and Cell Phones

 

     Thanksgiving is a great time of the year for spending time with family and friends.  I’ve never understood why turkey is only eaten on holidays, but I guess it’s just tradition.  For example, every Thanksgiving the President pardons a turkey as a gesture of goodwill or something.  In Obama’s case his pardon was a gesture of professional courtesy.


            Gayle and I just returned from staying with my daughter Shannon in the house she and husband Steve just bought with an extra bedroom for us. Being centrally located, we were able to spend a lot of time with our family, the importance of which can’t be overstated.  Many of our trips to civilization are too quick and frantic, trying to see our expanding family and many friends, but this trip was an exception.

            There’s always cultural shock when entering the Bay Area and dealing with the persistent symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder upon returning home.  But what struck me this time was the fact that everyone, especially the younger generation, is on a cell phone.  I mean everyone. Even my own flesh and blood. 


            Our grandkids have thumbs that move faster than a. nervous chipmunk.  Teenagers are known to text each other while sitting across the table from each other.  Face to face communication has been replaced by isolated electronic communication. So far I haven’t seen two kids using their laptops with cameras to see each other on the screen while sitting across from each other, but it will happen.

            I would like to outlaw all cell phones.  We can’t get reception where we live, so that may color my reaction to hyperkinetic thumbs.  It’s a leap from smoke signals in Plumas County to the magic hand-held devices used by yuppies and even baby yuppies. My 2 year old granddaughter joined everyone in the room staring at one of those things while I stared at a football game on TV.  I may become a missionary to spread the word that there is a big world outside of a demonic cell phone, iPad, smart phone, or whatever they are.

            My buddy John Chaffin and I took my grandson, Gabriel, 13, to his first football game where San Jose State, my alma mater, upset Fresno in a big game at Spartan Stadium.  I made a rule that Gabe could not use his cell phone during the game, which must have been like going through detox, but he’s a great kid and was soon yelling with the rest of the crowd. That’s when I decided to go to the mission field and drive out the demons in those hand-held devices.


            Fisher-Price has a new product called the Apptivity Seat, a child's seat for newborns on up to toddlers with an iPad mount.  New research has found that more than half of gadget owners worldwide admit to suffering anxiety when they can’t use their smart phones and being without them was as stressful as a trip to the dentist or even their wedding day.  They call it “technology addiction.” There is treatment now for this addiction with a significant number of people hooked.  My solution is to take the addicts to a football game.

            We’ve now returned to the land of smoke signals and Gayle is whistling along with Christmas music while changing the decorations from fall to Christmas.  She loves that stuff.

            Since Gayle was born on Christmas day it took the first year of our marriage to convince her that all the pretty lights and celebrations weren’t for her birthday. I told her that there were no mangers in Michigan when she was born, camels are in the zoo, and if there were three wise guys hanging around with packages they were most likely Mafioso. She still runs outside Christmas Eve looking for the star.  Now there’s a real challenge for me.





  







Saturday, November 16, 2013

Man on the Street Interviews



Live - From XYZ-TV

Announcer:  “It’s time for our weekly ‘Man on the Street’ segment.  We’ve sent our reporter, Steve O. Smith, our S.O.S. man, out to San Francisco where the ‘Anti-Gravity’ protest is in full swing.  Now let’s join Steve at the protest rally.”

Steve:  “Thanks, Bill.  I’m here at the Anti-Gravity protest where there is a great deal of excitement.  Let’s talk to some of the folks who appear to have issues with the Law of Gravity, which they feel is unfair to weight-challenged people, white basketball players, and busty women.”

Steve:  “Hi young lady.  I’m Steve Smith with XYZ-TV. What’s your name and what do you do?
Suzie:  “My name is Suzie and I’m a college student.”
Steve:  “Why are you here today, Suzie?”
Suzie:   “My professor gives us extra credit if we show up with a sign and …”
Steve:  “But why are you personally involved?  How does gravity affect your life?”
Suzie:  “Well, my professor goes, ‘just show up, and I’m like…, well gravity is a problem.  And he goes, ‘we need to fight gravity.’ And I’m all, ‘wow.’ Like I really don’t know much about gravity, but, like, I know it’s bad.  He goes, ‘it started under Bush.’  And I’m all …totally. Anyway, my professor wants to, like, unpeel the law.”
Steve:  “I think you mean, ‘repeal’ the law.’
Suzie:  “Whatever…”
Steve: “Thank you, Suzie. 

Steve: “Here’s a young man who appears enthusiastic. What’s your name, young man?”
Tyrone:  “Mohamed Washington Milhous Willy Jackson.  Jus call me ‘Tyrone.’ What it be like, Bro?”
Steve: “It be cool.  Why are you here today, Mr. Jackson . . . ah, Tyrone?”
Tyrone:  “Too much gravity, know what ah mean.  That space guy hopping around on the moon.  He be jumpin’ like a grasshopper.  We need moon gravity for basketball - jump shots, slam dunks, nothin’ but net, know what ah mean.”
Steve: “That makes sense.  Thank you, Tyrone.”

Steve: “Here’s a fellow who…I think he’s a ‘fellow.’  Hi.  What’s your name and what do you do?”
Dr. Brucie: “I’m Dr. Gaylord Brucie. I’m a college professor.  I teach ‘gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual, and asexual studies.’  I’m also the author of two books:  ‘Joys of Bestiality,’ and ‘Catatonic Foreplay.’  I’m currently working on my next book, ‘How Traditional Marriage and Monogamy Contribute to Global Warming.’”
Steve:  “Well sir, one of your students said you were a little ‘light in the loafers,’ so I wondered why you would protest the Law of Gravity. Wouldn’t that be an advantage for you?  I mean, being so light and all…”
Dr. Brucie: “Oh, a big silly you. Gravity is not our friend.  Haven’t you ever fallen down?  Think of the lives that could be saved without gravity.  But I’m happy you asked, you macho savage, you.  Oh my, I simply love your hair.”
Steve: “Thank you, professor. I …Ah…I have to leave now. 

Steve:  “Here’s a young fellow who looks pretty calm among the excitement of the protest.  What’s your name, young man?”
Young man:  “Huh?
Steve:  “Why are you here today?”
Young man: “Where am I?”
Steve:  “You’re at the ‘Anti-Gravity’ rally.”
Young man:  “Seriously, Dude?  I knew I was somewhere.”
Steve: “So why are you here?”
Young man: “Free grass, man . . .”
Steve:  “How do you feel about gravity?”
Young man: “Huh.  What the hell is gravity?”
Steve: “That’s what holds you to the ground.”
Young man: “Oh. That can’t be good.  But it don’t affect me.  I stay high.  I don’t know jack about grav…What was that word again?  Here, take a toke, man.”
Steve: “No thanks.  I have to move on.

Steve: “Well hello Senator.  I didn’t expect to see you here.”
Senator:  “And who are you?”
Steve: I’m Steve O. Smith from XYZ-TV.  We’re doing a piece on the Anti-Gravity protest.  Are you involved in this?”
Senator:  “No.  Not really.  But these are my constituents and I’m here to support them.”
Steve:  “So you’re against the Law of Gravity too.”
Senator:  “Is that what this is all about?  I thought they were protesting daylight savings time or trans fats. But whatever it is, I support it.”
Steve: “But Senator, these folks don’t seem to know what they’re protesting.”
Senator: “That’s a good thing.  The less they know the better.  That’s how we get their vote. Buzz words like ‘women’s rights,’ ‘racism,’ or slogans like ‘hope and change,’ work every time.  Gotta appeal to their emotions - not their brain.
Steve: “So you believe that they don’t think about issues?  They simply vote on feelings and emotion?
Senator:  “Hell man.  Half the country votes like that.  Some of them can’t even read and most don’t even know who the Vice President is, so we have to tell them what to do and what to think.  We know what’s best for them, (he laughs) and what’s best for us, of course (laughs again).”
Steve:  “Well, Senator, I don’t want to keep you from your constituents.  I appreciate your taking time to talk with us.
Senator:  “No problem, Steve, but don’t forget to vote for me.”  
Steve: “Thank you, Senator.”

Steve: “Well Bill, that’s the scene at the Anti-Gravity rally.  Everyone here seems to be happy to be back protesting again. Evidently they believe that the Law of Gravity is racist and a violation of human rights.  They say the real victims of this law are women, minorities, and the poor. They want it repealed.  Back to you, Bill.”


Bill:  “Thank you, Steve.  I want to remind our viewers that our next report will cover Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid’s latest attempt to bring sexual neutrality and gender sensitivity to the nation.  The new bill proposes removing the “stand-up” urinals from men’s restrooms and banning offensive masculine references in words.  For example, former Governor Jon Huntsman, will be known as Jon “Huntsperson.” A college freshman will be a “freshperson” and so on.  Be sure to tune in for that report.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Big Fish Story

     Fishing in the mountain lakes and rivers of Plumas County is a popular form of recreation, but I’ve only been fishing once since we moved here.  I guess I’m all fished out.

            When I was a boy, my father took my brother and me fishing regularly in Monterey.  He had a favorite boat captain named “Sam,” who had a couple of fishing boats and guaranteed a good catch.  He always kept his promise and I remember coming home with gunny sacks full of fish.

            Much later, I would go fishing most weekends with two buddies who owned a fishing boat in Santa Cruz.  It was an old diesel thumper that required ether to start the engine.  Combined with the smell of diesel fuel, I was always on the verge of sea-sickness before we left the harbor. Despite the woozy feeling, I never got sick, no matter how rough the sea.  Never - except once.

            That “once” was during a particularly rough sea on a foggy morning.  When you can’t see the horizon, you become more vulnerable to getting sick and turning green.  I actually saw a guy turn green once.  I don’t know if I was green that day, but I spent a significant amount of time hanging on the boat railing straining to see a horizon line.  I was on the verge of losing it.

            Some of my “good buddies” are very skilled at pranks.  As I was struggling to keep my breakfast down, I got a tap on my shoulder.  The late Glen Dennee, a friend since high school, was a foot from me when I turned around.  He was grinning with a slimy squid hanging and dripping from his mouth.

            I have a fairly well developed diaphragm from playing the trumpet most of my life.  When I spun back toward the ocean and let loose, I swear I sent everything I had eaten since my tenth birthday party straight at Japan.  And I mean “straight.”  The trajectory defied gravity and shot in a straight line as far as the eye could see. I felt a sense of pride at my power. It was like hitting a high C on my trumpet.

            More recently, I did some halibut fishing in Alaska.  Reeling in a large halibut is like pulling a minivan up a hill. But the largest fish I have ever seen was right off the deck of our previous home in Discovery Bay.  Right in my own back yard. 

            We had decking that extended out over the water and you could fish right off our deck.  I was working on the deck railing when I heard a commotion by my dock.  When I looked, I saw two ducks under the boat lift and one seemed to be very agitated.  I thought he was just in love until I suddenly saw a monster fish come out of the water in an arc and take that full-grown duck in one swallow.

            That would require a huge mouth.  I was startled at the length of that fish.  It was six to eight feet long with a head over a foot across.  Hitting Japan with an abdominal purge may have been slightly hyperbolic, but this description is accurate.  The fish I saw was even bigger than the one in the photo below.

            At the time of this incident, I was writing a weekly column for the newspaper and asked my readers if anyone in the delta area had ever seen a fish that size.  I was amazed to get reports of other sightings that confirmed what I saw.  It was a relief to realize I wasn’t delusional. 

            I don't know where the fish in the photo was caught, but you never know what lurks below the surface - even in the delta.  Well that’s my fish story for today.  Some of you may have even better stories.




   

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Bum Rap?


     The Tea Party seems to arouse the same anathema as Christianity, global warming, acid reflux, and erectile dysfunction.  But why?  Are the tenets of the Tea Party so extreme and dangerous that they deserve denigration, contempt, and fear?  Maybe we simply disparage that which we fear.

             But do the media and the public have any idea why they hold the Tea Party in such contempt?

            If the rational segment of the public was aware of the precepts of this grass-roots movement, they may find that they are in agreement with the beliefs of the Tea Party without even knowing it. 

            Unfortunately, the term, “Tea Party,” has become a generic label for fanatics and snake-kissing swamp people led by the banjo player in “Deliverance.”  But most people have no idea what the Tea Party people actually believe. 

            The original Boston Tea Party was a protest by the colonists against the British tax on tea in 1773.  It had to do with taxation and the colonists rebelled by dumping British tea into the harbor.          

            As most informed people know, we live in Huxley’s Brave New World where words like Tea Party, freedom, patriot, and other normally innocuous terms trigger governmental spy agencies to check in on us to see if we are faithfully practicing our fascist salute.  It’s wise to be aware of government surveillance and control, but that doesn’t mean we should give up the fight to regain the freedom we’ve lost.  

            Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:  God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.”

           So if the Tea Party is as bad as the media and politicians make it out to be, let’s look at the nefarious and “extremist policies” that make up the Tea Party platform:

The Tea Party Platform:

* Abide by the Constitution of the United States
* Reduce the Overall Size of Government
* Believe in the People
* Eliminate the National Debt
* Eliminate Deficit Spending
* Eliminate Excessive Taxes
* Promote Civic Responsibility
* Avoid the Pitfalls of Politics
* Maintain Local Independence
* Protect Free Markets

"The Tea Party is a grassroots movement that calls awareness to any issue which challenges the security, sovereignty, or domestic tranquility of our beloved nation, the United States of America.   From our founding, the Tea Party represents the voice of the true owners of the United States:  We The People.

"The Tea Party includes those who possess a strong belief in the foundational Judeo-Christian values embedded in our great founding documents."

           Basically these folks believe in restoring America's founding principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, free markets, lower taxes, and individual freedom.           

           If you agree with these principles, you may be onboard with the Tea Party and not even know it.  Consequently, you will be considered an "extremist."  It wasn't so long ago that you would have been thought of as a typical patriotic American.  That's how far from shore we've drifted.

           Remember the ominous warning from John Adams:  "But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom , can never be restored.  Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."

           Liberty once lost, is lost forever . . . sad, but true.




Saturday, October 26, 2013

Trading Places

     I miss the Lone Ranger.  When I was a kid I could visualize the Lone Ranger and Tonto chasing down the bad guys on the radio.  I still remember the “thundering hoof beats of the great horse Silver” accompanied by the William Tell Overture.  My imagination came up with several possible definitions of Tonto’s name for the Lone Ranger, “Kemo-sabe.”  I think it was a profane Indian epithet unbeknown to the masked man.  Something like “pale-face horses ass.”

            I could visualize the Cisco Kid and Poncho, the Green Hornet, and Spiderman stuck in a cob web. I could visualize all of those radio characters prior to TV.  Sometimes the imagined characters were bigger than life and the later actors on TV didn’t measure up to the images in my mind. Television can usurp the imagination.

            Sex in the black and white movies left something to the imagination too, but no more.   Alfred Hitchcock was a master at creating suspense, thus stimulating the imagination.  Gayle and I watched one of his old movies last night.  As you know, Hitchcock always appeared in one scene, usually in a crowd.  Part of the fun was trying to find him during the film.  The suspense in his films allowed the imagination to amplify the tension, as in the 1960 film, “Psycho.”

            Today computer games do all the imagining for the kids playing them. 

            I’ve written on how the brain processes humor, the encouragement of creativity, the impact of music on cognitive development, and other related topics, including how science is bent on putting our brains on a computer.  Now scientists think they have discovered the source of human imagination.  And guess what they want to do with this knowledge.  Yep.  Put it on a computer.

            Without getting into how the brain manipulates imagery, suffice it to say that scientists think their findings move them closer to understanding how the organization of our brains sets us apart from other species, providing a playground for us to think “freely and creatively.” 

            You might think that all of this research is designed to better human beings, but the truth slipped out when it was stated that this information will help us design more intelligent and “imaginative” machines.  Remember my article on the scientific attempts to put you, i.e. your brain, on a computer?  This will be a new and improved computerized “you.”  The computerized you will soon be given an imagination.

            I guess someday we can own a robot that might cook more creatively than the best chefs and write more poignantly than Shakespeare. Maybe it can even imagine life as a human being.  That is unless we humans have become so well programmed and controlled that we aren’t much different than robots.

            But aren’t we seeing that now?  College teaches kids what to think – not how to think.  Laws teach us what not to do.  Political correctness teaches us how to speak and act.  Leaders even tell us what to eat and how much soda to drink.  The media tell us what to believe.  Now we find that the government can monitor our every move, as well as our communications.  True freedom has become an illusion relegated to what’s left of our imagination.

            So why do we need imaginative computers?  Maybe we are being programmed so well that we need “imaginative” computers to replace what we are losing.    

            Kinda like trading places…


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Culture Shock


            I doubt that most people want to read about someone else’s kids or grandkids, so I’ll make this brief.

            Two of our granddaughters spent a few days breathing clean air, seeing stars in a clear Sierra sky, and smelling authentic horse manure here in Greenhorn Ranch.  It took over seven hours for Vanessa and Emily to drive from San Francisco to our home, due to Bay Area traffic, but they agreed that it was worth it.

Emily, Grandma, and Vanessa
            We are part of a real western-style guest ranch, with an atmosphere reminiscent of the Lone Ranger days.  This is quite a contrast to the lifestyle of San Francisco, where both girls live and work.

            This isn’t the first time they’ve been here, so they weren’t shocked by the fall colors and cowboy hats.
 
            Both girls were here when we had horses and they were the size of a horse’s head.  Well, I may be exaggerating, but they were not too small to ride the horses.  We have photos of them when each looked like a little circus monkey on a Clydesdale.

Emily, Grandpa, and Vanessa
            Vanessa ( 26) graduated from the University of Oregon and works as a journalist in San Francisco.  She has traveled to Paris, Puerto Vallarta, and other places for work assignments, but had traveled to other parts of the world prior to here current job.  Both girls are well traveled.  Vanessa described her weekend with us in her blog http://vanessabrunner.com/.  She has some great photos along with a well-written description of life here in the mountains.  Click on it.  It’s very well done. 

            Emily (24) graduated from her sister’s football rival, the University of Arizona, and works as a graphic designer, specializing in logos and product branding.  If you happened to see the pink headphones worn by NFL football players and coaches for cancer awareness last week, you now know who designed them.  This is a famous and expensive brand called, “Beats” by Dr. Dre.  Emily travels to L.A. weekly to work with Dr. Dre on various designs.

Ranch owner and cowboy, Ralph Wilburn, falls in love with Emily while Vanessa cracks up.

            So that was a sample of a great weekend with our “city slicker” granddaughters.  Be sure to check out Vanessa’s blog at http://vanessabrunner.com/.


Monday, October 7, 2013

The Man behind the Brain

     William F. Buckley is a man I’ve admired since my college days.  I always enjoyed watching his intellect bury adversaries on the old TV program, “Firing Line,” and in more recent years when his words and ideas continued to challenge my thought process.  Most people at least know his name, so I thought I'd mention some things you may not know about Mr. Buckley.

       If you’re old enough you may remember when Buckley threatened to punch Gore Vidal during a debate on live TV in 1968.  Or his theological discourse with Malcolm Muggeridge, where both men were in agreement.  I have a video of that discussion and still enjoy listening to the harmonious thoughts of two great minds confirming the basis of their mutual belief.

            William Buckley initially gained attention when he published his first book, “God and Man at Yale,” a book that attacked his school for not upholding Christianity and free enterprise against atheism and collectivism.  I recently read “Nearer, My God,” which substantiates Buckley’s deep faith. The placement of the comma in the title is significant.

            Buckley was the force behind the conservative movement.  Even Ronald Reagan relied on him for ideological guidance.  The two families were close friends.  It’s interesting to note that Buckley was a CIA agent in Mexico City during the Korean War.  Maybe that was the source of ideas for his spy novels.

            In addition to authoring numerous books, he founded the National Review magazine.  Several years ago he turned the editorial chores over to Rich Lowry and the next generation of writers.

            In addition to being a prolific writer who never needed a second draft of his writing, Buckley was an outdoorsman and a man of adventure.  He was a passionate skier and a daring sailor, which provided balance to his talent as an accomplished harpsichordist.

            I was honored to meet Buckley – to drink cognac with him and listen to his stories about sailing across the Atlantic, which he did three times and crossing the Pacific using only primitive navigational devices like a sextant.  His challenge was to make these trips without modern technology and navigational equipment. As usual, he was successful.  He was known for docking his yacht too fast and crashing into the pilings, which always resulted in his wife, Pat, yelling at him.

            I met Bill (as he preferred to be called) Buckley shortly after his wife of 57 years had died and at the exact time one of his close friends, Milton Friedman, died.  As you know, Friedman’s economic policies were the antithesis of the Keynesian economics of the Obama administration.
 
            Buckley never actually recovered from his wife’s death.  He didn’t last long after her death and died in 2008, a couple of years after I met him.  He was 82 when he died at his desk while working on another book.

            I was profoundly impressed by his warmth, friendliness, and his “down-to-earth” and humble demeanor. He was just “one of the boys.”   He treated you like an old friend.  I don’t smoke, but I made an exception with Bill Buckley’s exquisite cigars.

            One of the things that I get a kick out of is that Buckley was a peanut butter fan like I am.  I don’t have his brain and I can’t afford a yacht, but we are on common ground when it comes to peanut butter. Bill started each day with peanut butter on toast and he would only eat a certain brand, telling room service at hotels that he could tell the difference and warning them against switching brands. There were only two brands he would eat – I hadn’t heard of one, but the other was Skippy. 

            This may seem unbelievable, but his son Christopher said he placed four items in the coffin with Bill – his favorite rosary, his wife Patricia’s ashes, the TV remote control,  and a jar of peanut butter.

            When asked what he wanted as an epitaph Bill said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”  William F. Buckley was a profound intellect and a great man.  It was an honor to meet him.


My good friend Jerry Horton, Bill Buckley turning 80, and some guy with no neck.  Photo by Gayle.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ooooops!


            I admit – I said I was done writing.  In all honesty, it wasn’t a lie.  And it certainly wasn’t a ploy to get attention or support.  I thought my posts might be starting to get boring, so I decided to hang it up. 

            But I was amazed and genuinely surprised at the number of emails I got just after I posted what was meant to be my last post.  Evidently, I was wrong.  If readers were bored, the response was the opposite.  So I promised many that I would submit an article now and then as a compromise to hitting you over the head every week. 

            Actually writing an article is not a “full time job.” It takes very little time. I once wrote a weekly newspaper column and many times I would forget that I had an article due the next morning.  I’d come up with something off the top of my head, edit it down to 700 words, and submit the final draft for publication.

            The point is that writing an article takes very little time for me and I enjoy it.  I actually have a normal life that is not affected by jotting down some thoughts. I will say that writing for pay was less fun than writing for fun, if that makes any sense.  I don’t have an editor making sure my articles are politically correct, although my wife tries to keep me on the straight and narrow.

            Part of the satisfaction of a blog is checking the world map of readers and knowing that readership in Europe has increased, for example, and people I don’t know are reading the blog in many foreign countries.  But the fact that so many of my friends enjoy my ramblings is even more rewarding to me.

            So I will get back in the game, if only on a “now and then” basis.  Thanks to those who wrote encouragement for me to continue or disappointment in my attempt to bail out. As I said, I was serious about closing shop.  It wasn’t a trick. If you enjoy my posts, know that I enjoy writing them even more.  And many thanks to those who contacted me.


            As Arnold famously said, “I’ll be back.”  


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Break Time

            Retirement is a time for contemplation, study, travel, kids and grandkids, and doing things you may not have had time to do while grappling for a buck.  A hobby can keep the mind active in retirement and I guess I have a few.  Music and writing are just two things I enjoy.

            I have a curious mind, which is why my business life was more concerned with learning new things; consequently I owned businesses or worked in areas totally unrelated to each other.  This was consistent with my philosophy that life is like a buffet table and I wanted to sample as many experiences as I could before reaching the cashier. 

            All this is to say that I never run out of topics that interest me and things I want to write about.  However, it is becoming more and more difficult to avoid what I consider the elephant in the room – that being the destruction of America; her moral constructs, economic power, educational system, weakened military, social and racial divisions, and the joke we have become on the global scene.

            In a nutshell, I think it’s time for me to take a respite.  I’ll keep my blog up for those who enjoy reading my stuff, because there are close to 150 articles in the archives under three categories.  By the time anyone who is interested has read them all, I may have decided to get back at it.  In the meantime, pray for America.

            Thanks to all of you for reading my posts.  Who knows – when Gayle and I are snowed in this winter and I can’t ride my motorcycles and travel, I may get back at it.  Writing sure beats shoveling snow.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

A True Hero

      Young people seem to need heroes.  Unfortunately many of the people they place on a pedestal boggles a rational mind.  This article features a truly heroic woman.  I’m drawing a contrast between an authentic hero and the women considered popular today. I’ll get to boys like Justina Beaverpup and Snoopy Dog-knot another time.

            Forgive me if I get the names wrong, but I hear far too much about Girlie Googoo, Madumbo, Kim Carcrashagain, and Miley Sorryass.  I don’t know anything about these people except what hits the TV news, but these women are heroes to 12 years old kids.  Sadly, even older kids with arrested maturity find these women fascinating and even iconic. As I said, it’s mind boggling.  
            Why the accolades?  Most are only famous for being famous and are devoid of authentic talent.  Some are famous for twerking – a term I only recently heard on a news program. Evidently twerking is a mating display that simulates sexual intercourse.  It reminds me of the voodoo zombie dances in Haiti combined with the behavior of a howler monkey in heat.   
            To be effective, the seductive ritual of twerking must be performed with the tongue fully extended, indicating unbridled enthusiasm.  When Miley Sorryass tried this, she looked about as sexy as a prisoner in Auschwitz with dysentery.
            Speaking of Nazi prison camps, this leads me to my subject - a woman who actually deserves to be an icon. History has authentic female heroes that we never hear about.  I want to write about a real hero named Irena Sendler.  
Irena Sendler
            Irena Sendler was a Polish Roman Catholic nurse and social worker.  During World War II she was involved in the underground resistance in German occupied Warsaw.  Her group was named Zegota.  She was head of the Jewish children’s section and rescued 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto, saving them from the holocaust and almost certain death.
            Irena knew that the punishment for her activities was torture and death.  She had a special permit that allowed her to enter the Warsaw Ghetto as a nurse to check for signs of typhus.  She and about 30 volunteers, mostly women, used the pretext of conducting inspections of sanitary conditions in order to save numerous babies and young children.  Most of the parents of these kids were killed by the Nazis.
            She smuggled babies out of the ghetto by hiding them in the bottom of a tool box she carried.  She sometimes put them in boxes and disguised them as packages. Larger kids were hidden in a burlap sack that she put in the back of her truck.
            She trained her dog to bark when passing in and out of the ghetto to cover the sounds of a baby crying and to keep the guards away from her truck.  But despite her surreptitious tactics, Irena was caught and tortured.  The Nazi’s broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely.  She was sentenced to death, but her group, Zegota, bribed the German guards as Irena was on her way to her execution.  She then went into hiding, but kept up her work for Jewish children.
            Irena died in 2008 in Warsaw, Poland at the age of 98.  She had saved the lives of roughly 2500 children.  Compare this woman’s life and contributions to the gyrating mannequins worshiped by our culture. 
            Irena was considered for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, but wasn’t chosen.  Instead, the award went to Al Gore for his slide show on Global Warming - a slide show based on a hoax, as we now know. Along with Gore, that “prestigious” award was given to Barack Obama for doing nothing more than being a community organizer, and Yasser Arafat for his "magnificent" contribution to peace in the Middle East
            Irena Sendler was a true hero and a woman who deserves recognition and admiration for her heroic deeds.  Considering the progeny of the children saved by this lady, there must be thousands alive today because of her courage. This lady defines the word "hero."



 



Friday, September 6, 2013

Immortality is Just around the Corner

     Hang on, boys and girls; eternal life is right around the corner.  Raymond Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, author, and futurist, believes that it’s just a matter of time before we become increasingly non-biological to the point where the non-biological part dominates our biological part.  In other words, we will soon be more machine than flesh and blood. As machines, we can be repaired, parts replaced, upgraded, and re-programmed.  Immortality is within our grasp. But there’s more.

            Kurzweil and others see a time when your entire brain can be downloaded onto a computer.  Just think…you may have the potential to become a computer.  How do we know it hasn’t already happened?  I’m suspicious.  I have a love-hate relationship with my computer and I’m convinced it’s female. 

            My computer takes awhile to warm up and I have to push the right buttons to get it started.  If I type in the wrong thing, it shuts down.  Even if it doesn’t shut down, pushing the wrong key gets me an emphatic and blatant warning, reminding me that I’m a clumsy moron. 

            Operating a female computer is like negotiating a minefield, but if you do everything right, it’s a great partnership.  She, uh… I mean “it” will even correct my spelling and fill me in on gossip.  So far it hasn’t told me to take out the garbage. I have a wife for that.

            I’ve learned not to be “heavy-handed” with my computer, but rather to be patient, gentle, and understanding. The “understanding” part is actually the hardest part, because I can’t possibly understand what makes my computer tick.  Sigmund Freud, after years of study, concluded that even he didn’t understand women.  Again, more reason to assume that my computer is female.  It has a woman’s memory.  Every mistake I’ve ever made is retained somewhere on its hard drive.

            Kurzweil says that soon scientists will be treating biology and the brain as software.  Think of the ramifications of downloading your brain onto a computer. You become the computer.  Someday you may be carried around in a laptop.  If you’re lucky, you could travel to distant lands, sit in on business meetings, take the cruise you’ve always hoped for, or rest comfortably on a gorgeous woman’s lap. However, if you’re unlucky and hit a glitch, you might be recycled into a tin can.

            We are already at a point where we have artificial parts.  I have an artificial knee that walks by itself and talks to me.  I once had a sinus lift where ground-up bovine bone (cow bone) was surgically implanted in my jaw to support a molar implant.  It took hours of therapy to break me of the impulse to eat alfalfa and juicy grass, but the oral surgeon assured me that I wouldn’t lactate.  Unfortunately, I don’t see any evidence that they used bone powder from a bull, doggone it.

            Functioning prosthetics of all kinds are being developed, so transferring the contents of our brain onto a computer may be the next step, according to Kurzweil. I wonder if the day will come when they can mount a computerized head on a human-like torso, creating a robotic you or me.  I don’t think it would take a lot of ram, gigabytes, mini-bytes, maxi-bytes, nibbles or chomps for the brain capacity of some of our political leaders and the voters who put them in office, but that’s another story.

            Since having a biological body would obviously defeat the purpose of eternal life, it’s more reasonable to expect that my “computer brain” would be sitting on a desk while one of my great grandchildren would be playing computer games on me or digging into my memory and posting all my misdeeds on Facebook.

            Not much is known about this new “immortality” technology, but at first glance I think I’d rather check out the old fashioned way and leave eternal life to my Creator. 



Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Makes You Laugh?

     An older gentleman, that is to say, a “senior citizen,” was pulled over by a frantic highway patrol officer.  Apprehensively he asked the cop what he had done wrong.  The cop was obviously very upset and said, “Don’t you know that your wife fell out of the car five miles back?”  The old guy seemed relieved and said, “Thank heavens.  I thought I was going deaf.” 

            That joke obviously plays on stereotypes and seems a little misogynistic.  My wife doesn’t think it’s funny, but humor comes in all forms.

            There’s the self-deprecating humor of Rodney Dangerfield - “I was such an ugly kid that when I played in the sandbox, the cat kept covering me up.”  This kind of humor works well, because it is not offensive.  The comic is making fun of himself.  You can laugh at him with impunity. 

            Consider the girl who brought her goldfish to the vet and frantically explained that her pet fish had epilepsy.  The vet looked at the fish swimming happily in the bowl and said, “He looks normal to me.”  The girl said, “Well, duh, I haven’t taken him out of the water yet.”  We like to laugh at stupidity in others.  This is where you find all the “blond” jokes.

            If you analyze a joke you can begin to understand why some hit your “funny bone” while others fall flat.  And not everyone finds the same humor funny. Most comics today rely less on creativity and more on profanity and shock.  If you read the humor of some of the great comedians from the past, you will find that some had very creative minds and didn’t need to be crude. 

            Aristotle said, “The secret to humor is surprise.”  A "paraprosdokian" is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for dramatic effect.    For example, “I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.”

            Some humor is complex and creative, requiring thought.  Profanity and bathroom humor is simplistic and usually devoid of true creativity.  I admire the creativity of comics like Jonathan Winters and others, who can spontaneously create humor out of thin air. 

            Laughter has probably been with us since human beings first noticed they were naked.  I’ve blogged on humor and how the brain processes it many moons ago, but by way of review, I’d like to go over it again for new readers.  This may only interest me because I taught psychology a long, long time ago - shortly before Freud discovered sex.  But, who knows, you may find this process interesting too. 

Here’s how the brain works when you laugh at a joke. In less than a half-second an electrical wave moves through the higher brain functions of the cerebral cortex, which is the part of the brain associated with higher cognitive functions.

We all know about the “right brain – left brain” stuff.  In the case of humor, the left hemisphere analyzes the words and the structure of a joke or humorous event.  Then the right hemisphere “gets” it, so to speak.

The right hemisphere appears to be involved in the interpretation of emotional material presented linguistically and when it “gets it” the process accelerates.  The right hemisphere actually determines if something is funny or not.

The visual sensory area of the occipital lobe creates images. The limbic or “emotional” system provides pleasure or happiness and the motor systems make you smile or laugh.  Kind of a chain reaction.  Simple, eh? 

Personally, I think the Corpus Callosum plays a major role.  That’s the thick band of nerve fibers that connect the left and right hemispheres of the Cerebrum, facilitating communications between the hemispheres. Incidentally, early music training helps develop this connection. 

All you really need to know is that humor engages the whole brain. Consequently creativity is enhanced, intelligence is exercised, and the brain is firing on all cylinders. So laugh and get smarter.   

But if you don’t enjoy humor, take the advice of W. C. Fields - “Start every day off with a smile and get it over with.”


Friday, August 23, 2013

Gender Surrender

       My last blog introduced “anachronistic displacement” as a psychological condition where a person feels uncomfortable in the world he or she inhabits, feeling that they belong in a different time period.  I try to avoid controversial social and political issues, but, due to the fact that I suffer from this displacement affliction, I can’t always keep my mouth shut or my computer keyboard quiet.

            California has the well deserved reputation of being the “land of the fruits and nuts.”  Many sane people are fleeing the state, but many of us have roots too deeply planted with family and friends to join those who have managed to escape the asylum. Most of my readers are outside of California or outside of the U.S.  They must laugh at the California side-show.  For you “non-Californian” readers, here’s a keyhole peek at the latest news from the mental institution called “California.”

            Our illustrious “re-Governor,” Jerry Brown, aka “Governor Moonbeam,” recently signed a bill into law that will allow school children, who are confused over their sexual identity, to use the bathrooms, locker rooms, and shower facilities of whichever sex they identify with at the time.  Birth gender doesn’t count.  Physical appendages don’t matter.  It’s how a kid perceives himself or herself.  This law has been described by opponents as “gender insanity,” but it fits comfortably in our national psychosis.

             I’ve always wondered if Governor Brown wasn’t a little confused over where he fit on the “male scale.”

            AB1266 applies to grades K through 12 and passed both the California Senate and Assembly by wide margins.  It goes into effect January first.  The fact that so many legislators voted for this is very discouraging, but it proves that the inmates really do run the asylum.  As usual, parents are not a consideration with these people.  After all, the government is the parent.

            The term “transgender” has to do with self-identity, not necessarily a physical change in sex.  If a boy feels that he is a girl trapped in a boy’s body, he can now use the girl’s bathroom or join the girls in their shower room.  The same works for a girl, who may think she’s really a boy when she first discovers hair under her arms. 

            The way I understand it, boys cannot be forbidden to join the girl’s volleyball team and girls can join the boy’s wrestling team. Picture that. All of this is to make sure that a “transgender” kid - if there is one - is not made uncomfortable or “bullied.”  Does that make sense to you?  Wouldn’t that increase bullying?

            I was a high school teacher for several years back in the ‘70s.  It doesn’t take much for me to extrapolate to 21st century schools and how unisex bathrooms will be utilized by teenagers with raging hormones.          

            The loons who run California don’t seem to care that the vast majority of young girls will feel “uncomfortable” when boys use their bathroom or change clothes with them in the girl’s locker room.  Most teenage boys would feel the same way, although there may be exceptions.  Look for miraculous conversions of teenage boys to transgender status when the girl’s soccer team hits the showers or when it’s “open season” in the bathrooms.

            When you thought things couldn’t get more insane in our country, California continues its march as the vanguard of our national degeneration, foisted on us by societal deconstructionists.

           I have a solution.  I think politicians should be required to pass an IQ test to qualify for public office.  In addition, political candidates should be evaluated by a qualified and unbiased psychiatrist to weed out the mentally ill.  Sadly, California is the petri dish for social experimentation by intellectually and morally vacuous politicians.

          Law should not trump common sense and logic. The insanity of confusing kids as early as kindergarten by blurring the gender lines is over the top – even for California.  Parents and grandparents have good reasons to be concerned with this latest law. 
       

Friday, August 16, 2013

Anachronisms

     An “anachronism” can be loosely defined as anything out of its proper historical timeframe. My wife prides herself on her ability to find anachronisms in movies and she’s good at it.  Movies are full of these things.  For example, in the movie, “L.A. Confidential”, Gayle noticed the plastic mustard and ketchup squeeze bottles on a restaurant table. These plastic bottles weren’t available until much later than the time period depicted in the movie. Most folks wouldn’t have noticed that.  I didn’t.

            There’s the famous anachronism of Kirk Douglas wearing a watch in the movie, “Spartacus.” Many folks remember that one. Although that may be more of a mistake, in a general sense it could qualify. Another one was a film in which a commercial airliner can be seen high in the sky as cowboys fight valiantly against wild Indians back in the old west.  I can’t remember the movie off hand.  Both of these are more editing oversights than true anachronisms. 

            Maybe the most profound and controversial anachronism is in the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, “The Last Supper.”  You will see oranges on the table with other fruit, but there were no oranges in Israel back when Jesus sat at the table. Oranges were available in Italy during the 15th century, so Leonardo was familiar with them, but they weren’t available to the disciples in the 1st century.

            The painting also shows the disciples eating what appears to be eel, which the Jews of the time would not eat. Some have speculated that da Vinci was playing a trick on the Catholic Church with these depictions, but no one knows for certain.

            Picture Paul Revere riding a motorcycle, Abe Lincoln watching that famous play on TV, or George Washington cutting down a cherry tree with a chain saw.  Advertisers frequently use anachronisms like this. Old Ben Franklin is always trying to sell us something.

            I think part of the genius of Mel Gibson was his use of Aramaic and Latin in “The Passion of the Christ.” The use of English would have been anachronistic and would have lessened the authentic feel of the film.  That was a brilliant touch.

            Some people suffer from an actual psychological condition called “anachronistic displacement.”  This is an obsession or dysfunctional belief that the person “belongs” in another time period and feels out of place in the world he or she inhabits.  I didn’t make this up.  I would guess that this condition is most prevalent in senior citizens.  The old Ronnie Milsap song, “Lost in the ‘50s,” puts “anachronistic displacement” to music. I like that song and I think I may have that dreaded condition.

            These days patriotism, religious belief, and traditional family values seem to be considered anachronisms by the more “enlightened” in our postmodern culture.  If you stand and take off your hat when the flag passes, open the door for a woman, and avoid profanity around women and children, you might be afflicted with “anachronistic displacement.”  But don’t worry.  This malady is not contagious and takes at least five decades for symptoms to appear, however there is no known cure and the condition seems to get worse with age.

            If your discomfort becomes unbearable there are some steps that can be taken to temporarily minimize symptoms: learn how to text, wear tight short pants and a girly helmet while riding a bicycle, always carry a plastic bottle of imported water, only drink Starbucks coffee, listen to rap crap and twitch around, drive while chatting on a cell phone, and never talk about the good old days. 

            If that doesn’t work, just give up and watch old black and white movies. That’s what Gayle does, while I frantically search for my high school block sweater.


                          

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Will Work for Food"

     Some of you read the story about the new pastor of a large church with 10,000 members, who dressed like a homeless guy or a bum and wondered around the church entrance prior to the service.  He greeted people through his false scruffy beard, but only three people said hello to him and no one gave him a penny when he asked for change for food.  When the service began, the ushers sat him in the back row.

            The congregation was shocked when he was introduced as the new head pastor of this huge church.  His sermon was simply a quote from the Bible that ended with the statement by Jesus that “whatever you did for one of the least of these . . . you did for me.”  With that last sentence, the new minister said nothing else and closed the brief service.  You can imagine the guilt and self-examination that went home with the church members. 

            Many phonies make an excellent living by pretending to be homeless and hungry and may even become aggressive if taken up on the offer to “work for food.”  Some even resent being given food, because they only accept cash in unmarked bills.  That’s unfortunate, since there are many others who are actually in need.

            Any gift given to someone should be given authentically. Many people give to charity or personally give to others with the wrong motives. Public recognition nullifies true altruism, as does a “gift” when something is expected in return, like a political consideration.

            Anonymous givers are examples of people who are not looking for credit or affirmation of their generosity.  Of course, if the purpose is a tax write-off that’s a different story.  But giving anonymously without selfish motives is true “giving.”  If it gives you secret pleasure, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

            If you give an item to someone when that item means little to you or maybe was on the way to the dump, is that an authentic gift?  I once gave my buddy, John Chaffin, a bottle of wine that someone had given me. I’m not a big wine drinker.  The problem was that I didn’t notice the note to me written on the label by the folks who had given me the wine. Chaffin is still laughing about that “gift” forty years later. He won’t let me forget it.

            I think a gift is only a gift if it is something that you value and something that has meaning to you. When giving it, you are giving a part of yourself to someone.  I failed that test big time with my ignoble “re-gifting” of a nice wine for the Chaffin family. 

            There are a lot of ways to give authentically.  If you see a hungry man warming his hands on a cup of coffee in a fast food place, but no food, you might buy an extra hamburger and drop it on his table as you leave without waiting for a “thank you.” Or you might provide financial help to someone, even a few bucks, without the person knowing where it came from – that can be authentic altruism.

            Is giving always about money or tangible items donated or given away?  How about “time?”  Time is the only non-renewable resource we have.  When you spend time with someone - a grandchild, a sick friend or a healthy friend, or time spent helping a stranger - is that less generous than dropping a few bucks on someone knowing you can always replace the money?  Time is all we have and our time on this planet is limited, so what could be a more valuable gift than giving your time to someone?

            It’s a good exercise in character-building to approach the concept of giving to others without the recipient knowing or the anticipation of a “thank you.”  And, as I said, a gift is not always money.   

            Based on my understanding of psychology, I’m not sure that pure altruism is possible.  Even if you help someone anonymously, you feel good about it.  So it’s not totally unselfish, but that’s about as close as we can get.

            Just a thought . . .