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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Friday, October 23, 2015

Points to Ponder



My previous blog opened the door to questions about the universe and how it may have begun.  Evidently this topic doesn't interest as many readers as I thought, so I've decided to discontinue my planned series on this subject.  But I do want to hit a few major points before I leave the topic.

            Here is my main point: Many people believe that science and the Bible are mutually exclusive, i.e.you have to believe one or the other.  I believe that science and religion are not enemies, but actually support each other. However it's necessary to consider many of the statements and stories in the Bible metaphorically.  That's not to imply that the Bible is not the inspired word of God.  I just mean that some things are not to be taken literally.  Jesus referred to himself as "the door." Was that a literal description or a metaphor? 

            I pointed out previously that there is no such thing as "settled science."  Science constantly changes as more and more information becomes available.  So if there appears to be a gap between science and the Bible, it could be a misunderstanding of the scripture or perhaps lag time on the part of science to fill the gap.

            Let's assume that the Big Bang Theory is basically correct.  In the early 20th century, astronomer Edwin Hubble applying the Doppler effect  noted that light from distant galaxies shifts toward the red end of the spectrum indicating an expanding universe. He calculated that everything in the universe, including matter, energy, space and even time itself, actually had a beginning. Creation or the big bang didn't take place in time.  Time began when there was matter and motion.

            Stephen Hawking, the most famous living scientist, in his book, "Grand Design", says the laws of physics explain the creation of the universe.  "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing."  But Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Genome project, argues that gravity is "something," therefore gravity and the laws of physics nullify Hawking's definition of "nothing."  And how or by whom were the laws of physics established?

            Dr. John Lennox, British scientist and mathematician,  in his book, "God and Stephen Hawking" says, "The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but not how it came to exist in the first place."

            I don't want to sound like a preacher, but it is true that the universe had to either have a creator or it must be explained by science.  I want to consider some options.

            Some scientists believed that our universe  never had a beginning.  They believed that mass, space and energy had always existed in time, but the big bang theory offered another option.  The term "big bang" was used sarcastically by British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, who held tenaciously to the idea that the universe had always existed.   But the scientific evidence of a beginning became overwhelming.

            Dr. George Smoot, the Nobel Prize winning scientist who came up with the big bang theory said that a parallel exists between the big bang theory and the Christian notion of creation.  Smoot was an agnostic, so he was comfortable sitting on the fence. (metaphor)

            It's important to realize that science has its limitations and is not the only path to knowledge and truth. Einstein said,  "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."  I said previously that science and religion confirm each other but require an adequate understanding of both.

            So here are some options:

Atheism eliminates the possibility of a creator or a supreme intelligence behind the universe.  Stephen Hawking would be in this category.   

Agnosticism is not sure about a Creator, like George Smoot.

Deism  is the belief that God set the universe in motion but does not interfere with how it runs.  This notion began in the 17th and 18th century and is common today.  Thomas Jefferson was a deist. 

Theism is the belief that God created the universe.  The difference from deism is that God didn't stop there. He continues to be involved in his creation and in the lives of human beings.

            There are subcategories to consider.  There is the New Earth position initiated by James Ussher, an Anglican Archbishop, who dated our earth's age at roughly 6,000 years with six literal days of creation. 

            British biologist Philip Goss, back in1857  tried to explain the scientific evidence of an old earth with the idea that God created the earth in six 24 hour days with the appearance of age.  God just made it look old. But this implies that God is a trickster.

            Regarding the old earth belief, many of the problems with the Genesis account can be ameliorated if it is understood that there could be millions of years between the first verse, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," and the second verse and those describing the days of creation that follow.  There are several theories about the order and sequence of the days described as well.

            Augustine took "morning" and "evening" figuratively, for example. John Lennox says that the Bible ". . . leaves the time of creation open."

            I've tossed out some ideas to think about.  I know that we'll never have all the answers, but, personally I find it impossible to believe in design without a designer.

             

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Who lit the match?



     I've been goaded  to come out of my catatonic stupor and write something.  There are a ton of topics I'd like to address, but I'm trying to stay away from the dismal condition of America and the ominous paradigm shifts we are seeing on the world stage.  If I state what I really think, my house would be destroyed by a drone.

            Sometimes refuge can be found in the contemplation of bigger things. I've always had an insatiable cosmological curiosity, i.e. questions regarding the origin and nature of the universe from a philosophical perspective.

            How did it all begin?  And why?  Do we exist by design or are we here by accident, magic, or the result of an ambitious amoeba in a primordial mud puddle?  I've always thought that if a human being woke up to find himself or herself on a deserted island the first thing that would come to mind would be "Where am I?  How did I get here?  Why am I here?"  Yet people jump in their cars and head off to work, come home, crack open a beer, and turn on the TV considering nothing more consequential than if Kaeperrnick will hold his job with the Niners.

            So how did it all begin?  There seems to be agreement that there was nothing prior to what many believe was the big bang.  The idea is that the original configuration of the universe was a state of infinite density where all mass, space, time and energy were contained in a single mathematical point with no dimensions.  That's easy for me to say, but to completely comprehend it is above my intellectual pay grade.

            Then came the big bang and the universe exploded into time, space, matter, and motion. This means that the universe had a beginning.  If my memory still works, I think Einstein said that without matter and its motion there could be no time and space.  So time didn't exist prior to this explosive event.

            I've learned not to put all my money on scientific consensus,  because science is constantly changing.  New information can change a hypothesis.  For example, we are told that man-made climate change is "settled science," but those words are never spoken by a true scientist for the reasons I just stated.  There is no such thing as  "settled science." I think the "settled science" sometime around the '70s was that the world was headed for another ice age.

            Prior to Galileo scientists and religious leaders had a geocentric view of the universe.  That's the belief that the earth was the center of our galaxy.  As you know, Galileo paid a price for his heliocentric view that the sun is the center of our solar system. Many more thoughtful scientist  today understand that the sun and other factors control climate more than an SUV or outdoor barbeque.  Climate has been in flux since that big bang or whatever kicked off the program.

            So what caused the big bang?  And why? How did that initial configuration come into existence? Philosopher Bertrand Russell, who was an atheist, took the easy way and stated that the universe was just there and that's all there is to it.  More importantly to many is the idea that science has usurped the biblical account of creation.  Or has it provided a scientific explanation that fits perfectly with the creation account?

            Another thing I've learned is that where it appears that there is a conflict between science and the Bible,  it is due to an incorrect interpretation of the words in the Bible or changes in science. 

            Perhaps the most common error many people make is to take every word in the Bible literally.  The writers use metaphors throughout the Bible in order to communicate to readers at every intellectual and educational level.  For example, is it logical to think that God came to our planet in a physical form, dug around in the mud, made a "mud man" called Adam, blew air in his nose turning him into a living person, then ripped out a rib and turned it into a woman?  (If a man told his wife that she had the value of one of his ribs, the guy would be banned from her "Garden of Eden" and relegated to the couch.)

            We're talking about the Creator of this vast universe.  If He created the universe by His word, why would He need to become human and get muddy? Or is it more accurate to take that story metaphorically?  The conclusion is the same.  The first thing we need to do is to get rid of the notion that science and the Bible are in conflict.  The more we learn, the more they seem to reinforce each other.

            This article was meant to look at theories from science and religion regarding how we got here, but the debate moderator is indicating my time is up and I've barely started.  If there is any interest in this stuff, I'll pick it up next time.  And if you have ideas or questions send a note to me at higgins@digitalpath.net.   













Sunday, September 27, 2015

Olivia

Olivia de Havilland

            Recently Gayle and I watched a documentary on the making of "Gone with the Wind."  Gayle is into old films, especially black and white movies. She likes the old "film  noir" stuff.

            She looks at these films through an artist's eye.  She's interested in scene composition, the use of light, shadows, contrast, and other subtleties found in black and white films.  She  believes that color covers imperfections in films.  In addition, with the absence of graphic sex,  violence,  and profanity, the old films put the emphasis on plot, acting, dialogue, and artistic quality.  I'll admit, I'm beginning to enjoy the old films for the same reasons.    

            What goes on behind the scenes in movie-making always intrigues me, so I found the making of the classic 1939 film, "Gone with the Wind" by producer David O. Selznick very interesting.  (The "O" in his name was only added by Selznick to create a certain rhythm to his full name.)

            More people in the world have seen "Gone with the Wind" than any other movie in history.  The year 1939 was called the "Golden Year" for films. "The Wizard of Oz," "Gone with the Wind,"  and John Wayne's first staring role in "Stage Coach" were just three of many classics that were born in 1939.   
           
           Since a former Los Gatos High School graduate played the role of Melanie Hamilton in "Gone with the Wind", my interest in the film increased significantly.   Olivia de Havilland had only been out of high school five years when she was chosen for her role in "Gone with the Wind."  She and her sister Joan Fontaine both attended Los Gatos High.  Both sisters had moved with their mother to Saratoga, California, after their British parents divorced in 1919. 

            Olivia de Havilland is now 100 years old and has lived in Paris, France, since the mid-fifties. Some interesting facts:  Her sister and she were both nominated for Oscars in the same year. She lost an Oscar to her sister in 1941, which caused problems in their relationship that were never resolved. 

            Olivia had a "thing" for Errol Flynn, which was reciprocated, but neither was aware of their mutual feelings. She had romances with James Stewart, Howard Hughes, and John Huston back in the thirties. Olivia also received the National Medal of Arts award from President Bush in 2008.
           
            Gayle took the photo of Olivia at the Los Gatos centennial celebration, where she was the featured speaker.  She was 72 years old in the photo and still a pretty woman. 
 
            My memories of Olivia go back to when I was in the six or seventh grade.  I was actually in a play. I didn't volunteer. They needed a trumpet player and somehow I was conscripted and I'm sure I went kicking and screaming.  The play was "Macbeth",  directed by Olivia de Havilland and performed in the high school auditorium, if my memory is correct.

            The fact that Olivia would direct a play for the Los Gatos community when she was at the peak of her fame, demonstrates her loyalty and attachment to her Alma Mater and the town of her youth.  I think she had taken a break from acting to raise her children during that particular time.  I can't find any record of that play and am writing what I remember.

            Back to the Macbeth - I was asked to play a fanfare on my trumpet and announce the entrance of some king.  I had to be dressed for the period, so I had to wear leotards as part of the costume.   I looked like a court jester and was more concerned with my skinny legs than the play.  I was also in some of the group scenes, but always in the back. That was my one and only experience as a thespian.  Even the word scares me.

            I had no idea who the Director was and thought her to be old, but very kind and encouraging.  She was in her mid-thirties, but to a pre-teen I guess that's old.  I only learned who Olivia de Havilland was when I was much older. This is one of many times I wish I could go back in time.  

            Occasionally while watching TV I'll say to Gayle, "Did I tell you that I was once 'directed' by Olivia de Havilland?"  Sometimes she'll patronize me and say something like, "Oh, really?  Did you get an Oscar for blowing a fanfare?"  

            I think she's heard so many of my stories from the past that while listening to me tell one she's heard, she'll just hold up the appropriate number of fingers for the times she's heard the story.  She says nothing.  She just holds up the fingers.  As the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield would say, "I don't get no respect."

                                                                                                                     

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Perfect Analogy




The following was evidently written by a UAL Captain.  I haven't changed a word.    

Think of this in the context of Obama's statement prior to his first election when he stated that he would dramatically change America.  He is succeeding by going around Congress, the Constitution, and the people.  It's not ineptitude or incompetence, as many believe.  It's something much worse. 

This article is worthy of serious thought no matter where you stand on the political spectrum.  Unfortunately half the country is oblivious to anything beyond a cell phone and social media.   But they vote.
..................................................................

The PERFECT analogy!!!!
LOCKED OUT OF THE COCKPIT

From a former Navy fighter pilot and a retired UAL Captain

"We are all flying on the Germanwings plane, with a twisted pilot at the  
controls.  Will we just wait, and assume the "Crash Position"?

"The 'real' pilot was locked out of the cockpit.

"That set of circumstances finally revealed the full horror of the crash  
of Germanwings flight 9525.  Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz waited for the  
pilot to leave the cockpit, then locked the door to prevent his  
re-entry. Then Lubitz, for reasons unknown and perhaps unknowable,  
deliberately steered the jet into a harrowing 8-minute plunge ending in  
an explosive 434 mph impact with a rocky mountainside.  150 men,women and children met an immediate, unthinkably violent death.

"Lubitz, in his single-minded madness, couldn't be stopped because  
anyone who could change the jet's disastrous course was locked out.

"It's hard to imagine the growing feelings of fear and helplessness that  
the passengers felt as the unforgiving landscape rushed up to meet  
them.

"Hard ... but not impossible.

"Because America is in trouble.  We feel the descent in the pits of our  
stomachs.

"We hear the shake and rattle of structures stressed beyond their  
limits. We don't know where we're going anymore, but do know it isn't  
good. And above all, we feel helpless because Barack Obama has locked us out.

Image result for photos of obama"He locked the American people out of his decision to seize the national  healthcare system.
 
"Locked us out when we wanted to know why the IRS  was attacking conservatives.
 
"He locked us out of having a say in his decision to tear up our immigration laws, and to give over a trillion dollars in benefits to those who broke those laws.

"Obama locked out those who advised against premature troop withdrawals. 

"Locked out the intelligence agencies who issued warnings about the growing threat of ISIS. 

"He locked out anyone who could have interfered with his release of five Taliban terror chiefs in return for one U.S. military deserter.

"And, of course, Barack Obama has now locked out Congress,the American people, and our allies as he strikes a secret deal with Iran to determine the timeline (not prevention) of their acquisition of nuclear weapons.

"Was Andreas Lubitz depressed, insane, or abysmally evil when he decided to lock that cockpit door and listen to no voices other than those in his head?  Did he somehow believe himself to be doing the right thing?

"The voice recordings from the doomed aircraft reveal that as the jet  
began its rapid descent, the passengers were quiet.  There was probably  
some nervous laughter, confusion, a bit of comforting chatter with  
seatmates, followed by a brief period in which anxiety had not yet  
metastasized into terror.

"It was only near the end of the 8-minute plunge that everyone finally  
understood what was really happening. Only near the end when they began to scream.

"Like those passengers, a growing number of Americans feel a helpless  
dread as they come to the inescapable conclusion that our nation's  
decline is an act of choice rather than of chance. The choice of one  
man who is in full control of our 8-year plunge.

"Lubitz was a nutcase.  But now we are on a 'plane' piloted by a  
narcissistic megalomaniac who has locked everyone out of his cockpit.

"It is very sad that our first African American President will be judged  
in history as the most inept, corrupt, wasteful, subversive,  
destructive, and divisive President ever. A man twice elected because  
of the color of his skin rather than the content of his character.

"Electing the former First Lady as president, who also happens to be a narcissistic megalomaniac, because she is a woman will likewise result in the continued practice of semantics over substance and deception over reality."  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Futile Attempt at Political Correctness



     I was accused of being “judgmental” by my wife today.  I made a politically incorrect and insensitive statement about someone in a “protected” group. I deserve to spend the rest of my life in a prison cell. 

            I guess I’m politically incorrect by nature.  I will admit that I find a certain joy in flaunting society’s arbitrary and irrational restraints.  After a certain age you can do that. (If challenged, just act confused.) 

            We've been told over and over that it isn't nice to discriminate and saying the wrong words can be even worse.  So I decided to experiment.  I will try to be politically correct for a week.  

            I'll avoid words that are considered offensive - things like "master bedroom,"  "policeman,"  "freshman," anything with "man" in it.  The rarely used word,  "niggardly"  caused an uprising in the black community when it was used by a black speaker.  The word means "miserly, stingy, cheap," but ignorance won out and the speaker was forced to apologize for using a legitimate word that had nothing to do with race.  We have to be very careful.

            Anyway, my anti-discrimination program began today.  After my shower I went to my sock drawer.  This was my first test.  I had planned to wear white socks with my tennis shoes, but a wave of guilt washed over me and I realized I was discriminating based on color, so I picked a black sock for my right foot and a white sock for my left. For more inclusion, I settled for brown dress shoes.  It didn't look right,  but I wanted to be politically correct.

            Upon reflection, I think I've discriminated all my life.  In fact, I can't think of an instance when I didn't discriminate.  I discriminated against men when I picked a wife and I discriminated against women when I chose football over being a flag girl. 

            I discriminate indiscriminately.  Every time I look at a restaurant menu, I discriminate.  Whenever I buy a car, I discriminate.  When I back Israel over Hamas, I discriminate.   When I prefer anyone over Hillary, I discriminate.  There is very little one can do during a normal day that does not involve discrimination of one sort or another.

            To avoid appearing bigoted I'll try to be ethnically inclusive when picking food for dinner this week.   One day it will be chow mien, then tortillas and beans, then fried chicken, collard greens, and watermelon, then paella, followed by shish kabob, spaghetti, and curry goat.

            We can't discriminate, but the government can.  This government discriminates against the coal industry, oil producers, gun owners, Christians, white males, traditional marriage, small business owners, to name a few.  Obama’s  terrifying wife put a hex on cheeseburgers and candy in schools. Elementary school kids are ecstatic about having carrots and broccoli on a sheet of lettuce for lunch.   

            If you own a business, when hiring you are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of genotype or phenotype, age, color, height, weight, language, sexual orientation, or "trans" anything.

            If you own a bakery and your religion is against gay marriage, you cannot refuse to build a cake for a gay wedding.  There are exceptions.  A restaurant owned by Muslims would never be forced to serve pork chops at a homosexual wedding. But, of course, a Christian baker is unlikely to behead you.

            If you are a 110 pound woman you must be considered for a firefighting job, which may involve hauling a 260 pound unconscious victim down a ladder from a ten story building.  Even the military has lowered physical requirements for women in combat. The logic of physical standards for these jobs evidently pales in comparison to gender equality.
                                                                                                                        
            Homosexuals serve openly in the army, which makes the shower room for the "chosen ones" the equivalent of a Muslim being greeted in heaven by 72 virgins. 

            Colleges allow both sexes to use the same bathroom. You would think that would have a dampening affect on promiscuity, but that doesn't seem to be the case. 

            Then there’s the Washington Redskin controversy and wimp announcers who refuse to use the term “Redskins.”  I’m losing interest in football, which was a passion before the NFL became politically correct and feminized.

            The thought police now determine the opinions we are allowed to hold and the language we are allowed to use.  The entire country is being told what is acceptable speech.  This is devastating to a "free" society. 

            The woman who is posting the cartoon of Muhammad is being threatened, but if she is forced to stop, we will have succumbed to Sharia law - not our Constitution.    

            Makes you wonder if anti-discrimination and censored speech are motivated by compassion or are they actually motivated by fear?  I don't know if it was Thomas Jefferson or John Adams who said, "Only a government that is afraid of its citizens  tries to control them." 

            When we lose freedom of speech America is gone.  After more reflection, I've decided to cancel that idea of becoming politically correct, even for a week.  I'm obviously not very good at it, as this article demonstrates, but mainly because the Bill of Rights allows us to be politically incorrect.   

           

Monday, June 8, 2015

Family, Friends, and Calamari



 
            I didn't want to start using my blog as a diary, where I "share" our personal life with our kids, grandkids, and friends and blather about what I had for breakfast, how Gayle was fixated on the Triple Crown Saturday and our latest vacation adventure.  Well, I'll skip breakfast and just touch on the horse race and our latest "vacation."

            As everyone knows, American Pharoah (misspelling is intentional) won the Triple Crown Saturday.  He's the first horse to pull that off since Affirmed did it 37 years ago.  It's assumed that this great horse has the ability to earn hundreds of millions in stud fees. But there's concern that an injury could jeopardize such a glorious future. You may remember what happened to Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro at the Preakness in 2006.

            Thoroughbreds love to run. Gayle and I owned a couple once. If the choice were left to Pharoah, would he trade running around an oval for a pasture full of mares?  I know that's not how the stud thing works, but it's still a heck-of-a-retirement program.  The latest news indicates that Pharoah will run a few more races before he retires.

            The day prior we drove the six hour trip back home after attending grandson Seth's graduation and spending a week with our families and friends.  We knew we were almost home when a chubby little bear cub shuffled across the road just ahead of us.

            On one of the days Gayle and I had lunch with my brother Tom and his wonderful wife Sharon at Aldo's on the wharf in Santa Cruz.  We spent much of the time bragging about our grandkids, but I won't subject you to a re-run of that.  Needless to say, our grandkids are all perfect.

            As mountain dwellers, years removed from the bay area, we are always amazed at the frenetic bee hive of activity in civilization; the race tracks that are called freeways, the crowds and traffic jams that are considered normal.  The scene reminds me of San Marco Square in Venice, Italy, where pigeons blanket the pavement and flock to the corn tossed by tourists.  Kids sprinkle corn on their bodies and within seconds they are clothed in hungry pigeons. This frenzied activity of human beings is similar to those pigeons frantically fighting for kernels of corn in San Marco Square.  The corn in Silicon Valley is money. 

            I spent most of one day in Carmel and Monterey with my old buddy of almost 70 years, John Chaffin on his birthday.  We hit a favorite restaurant on the wharf for lunch.  I ordered an appetizer of deep-fried calamari and the main course of calamari steak.  How's that for a diary entry?

            I had a lot of catching up to do on my consumption of calamari.  I had calamari for dinner once in a Los Gatos restaurant.  I had calamari for lunch on the wharf in Santa Cruz.  I had the calamari appetizer plus a calamari steak in Monterey.  I think I had another dose of calamari somewhere else, but I can't remember where at the moment.  For some reason I became fixated on calamari last week.

            I have yet to taste any calamari that can match what I used to get at the Race Street fish market in San Jose 50 years ago.  Maybe that's why I keep searching and tasting.

            The combination of calamari and the Monterey bay brings back memories of the good old days when we fished using squid as bait in those ocean waters.  Now squid has become calamari and is known as a "poor man's abalone."  When I was a kid, my dad dove for abalone and we had stacks of abalone for dinner.  We had so much, we piled it like pancakes and actually tossed abalone to the dog.  Today it's rare.

            All my experiences with calamari or squid are not positive.  I may have told this story before, but I remember well one day of fishing with some buddies when the sea was rough and the fog obscured the horizon - a lethal combination when fighting sea sickness.  Beginning to turn green and fighting to hold my breakfast, I grasped the rail searching for a glimpse of the horizon.

            Just when it looked like I might win the battle, my late prankster buddy, Glen Dennee tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned to see a squid, dripping slime, hanging out of Glen's teeth just inches from my face. That was all it took.  I sent a stream of everything I had eaten since the third grade in a straight-line trajectory at least a half-mile out to sea.   

            Despite that experience, I still like to eat those strange creatures.  Is this rambling what they call a stream of consciousness?  I sure got off the subject.  I don't think I had a subject. Once I start typing, I never know where it's going.  This stream of consciousness, like most streams, is obviously going down hill.  I'm going to quit while I'm ahead.
 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Kin to the Wind


            Many of us know Moro Buddy Bohn as Walter Bohn, musician and tennis player from the Los Gatos High School class of '57.  But how many of us are aware of his talent and his adventures?  Today, after traveling the world as an authentic troubadour, his musical talent can be experienced at www.moromusic.com online, and the book of his adventures, Kin to the Wind , can be purchased on Amazon.  I recommend both. 

            Frankly, I couldn't put the book down.  It's well written and moves from one exciting encounter to another; some so bizarre that you wonder how Bohn could have extricated himself from nefarious men and political subjugation. 

            The subtitle of his book is, "A troubadour's magical journey around the world with no money."  How many people would have the courage and confidence to grab a guitar and embark on world travel with no money and only the hope that somehow your talent alone could be traded for food and lodging?  We aren't talking about only nice civilized countries, but many place where you might be killed for your shoes.  And Bohn was only 21 years old.

            Combining his youthful exuberance, curiosity, and enthusiasm, his dreams to travel the world using his guitar as his sole medium of exchange were realized beyond his wildest expectations. The fact of his inability to anticipate and foresee many of the challenges that lay ahead could have been cause for him to reconsider such a journey.  But he took the unknowns head-on and succeeded in using his guitar and personality to explore cultures that most of us will never experience.  You will see by reading that Buddy has an unusually strong faith in the goodness of people, a great capacity for love, and an optimism that seems to conquer the negative experiences he encountered.

            He crossed the Arabian Desert with a camel caravan of champagne-smuggling Bedouins and performed with gypsies in Spain.  He played for Pablo Picasso in France and was a featured circus act in Italy.  His audiences also included Queen Elizabeth II of England, King Frederick IX of Denmark and the maharaja of Sandur.  He was the first to entertain U. S. troops in Vietnam, and he found himself court troubadour to King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit of Siam.  During his subsequent professional years he’s played privately for Howard Hughes, a number of movie and recording stars, miscellaneous celebrities, and, as if that wasn't enough,  he fell in love with a princess.               

            But Buddy's travels were not all wine, women, and song.  He had numerous encounters with authorities and was encouraged by the communists in Berlin to defect; he was attacked and almost killed by Tunisians, and he met a ghost in the Himalayas.

            Among the many interesting people he met in his travels, one stands out as a refreshing oasis in an otherwise rugged landscape.  It was in the Casbah of Algiers during the brutal seven-year civil war for independence.  Sonya was a legendary belly dancer who performed completely naked at the Fantasio, the most opulent nightclub in Africa.  Buddy's "magic" guitar facilitated a unique connection between the two.  They spent much time together and Buddy's guitar music was soon incorporated in her act.  He played and she danced until the end of her engagement in Algiers.

            All good things must end.  Buddy describes their parting: ". . . we said goodbye as easily as a pair of windblown clouds in the sky that touched only for a moment."  The parting was not without pain, but the world continued to beckon. And so beckoned  another young lady named Zoe, who arrived later in Buddy's travels.

            The book provides an interesting glimpse into parts of the world that most of us will never see.  The cultural idiosyncrasies add flavor to the variety of countries Buddy traveled during his two year stint as a pure and uncompromising troubadour. 

            I found the book very interesting, in part  because I've known the author since high school.  But it is well written and affectively projects Buddy's belief in the innate goodness of people, something he seems to bring out in those he met in his travels.  I should mention that his book is being considered as a possible movie.

            Buddy just sent me an email indicating that his recordings, streams, downloads and CDs are available on his website  www.moromusic.com.  You can hear samples and order CDs as well as complete-album downloads.  Streams and downloads of individual tracks are now available from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Beats, Deezer and Google Play.  I don't know what some of those are, but there are evidently many options. 

            You can buy his book on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Kin-Wind-Troubadours-Magical-Journey/dp/1609520556

            It's a good read. You’ll enjoy it.


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NOTE:   Most of you received a note regarding craigslist and the sale of a motorcycle.  I have no idea how that happened, but it was my mistake.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bruce Jenner's Transition



     Why would a former Olympic decathlon champion want to transition into a 65-year-old grandmother? 

 

            Most of us remember the 1976 Olympics and the world's best athlete running an extra lap, fists in the air while flashing that famous smile after winning the decathlon.  

 

            Bruce Jenner had it all.  He was a handsome 6 foot 2 inch kid in a toned body and a smile that still turns my wife into a quivering bowl of Jello.  I keep a spray bottle of ice water handy to cool her down during these attacks. I had to spray her down today while she watched Brad Pitt in the movie "Troy."  

 

            But now macho Bruce Jenner wants to be a woman...  He says that in his mind he is a woman.

 

            Back in the '50s all the boys, myself included, made jokes about Christine Jorgensen, the first man to become a woman.  In those days that was mind-boggling.  Contemplating the surgical "elimination" process was  enough to make a young boy instinctively curl into a protective fetal position.  Louis Armstrong singing "Mack the Knife" created an image of "Mack" in a surgical gown with a meat cleaver as a scalpel. 

 

            In his recent interview with Diane Sawyer, Bruce admitted that he was more female than male in terms of his self concept.  He said that this dilemma had haunted him from early childhood. Evidently, that's how Bruce always saw himself - as female.  

 

            Interestingly, after hearing Jenner's story, the Russian athlete that Jenner beat for the decathlon gold metal in the Olympics joked that he can't believe he got beat by a woman.  

            I don't follow Hollywood stuff, sitcoms, and celebrity trash, but when I stand in the check-out line at Safeway and wait as the checker yells "Price check on three," I can't avoid the rags in the rack headlines. The strange family that is famous for being famous continues to keep the tabloids in business. Now we watch as the patriarch of that family turns into a woman before our eyes.  

 

            Jenner was an international hero and I admired his athleticism, as I did with Bob Mathias before him.  I don't know and I don't care about Jenner's weird family, but I learned something about Bruce by watching his interview.  I also learned something about Diane Sawyer, who lacked the intelligence to decipher Jenner's explanation of the psychodynamics of the conflict he has lived with since childhood. She was more interested in what Jenner's sexual orientation would be after his transition.

 

            Sawyer went so far as to ask Bruce if he was a lesbian.  I told Gayle that if a magic genie popped out of a bottle and changed me into a woman, I would immediately become a lesbian.  Jenner responded that he is a normal heterosexual, i.e. he's attracted to women.  But sexual attraction is not his issue.  

 

            Jenner  tried to explain that sexual orientation and desire has nothing to do with his attempt to bring his body into alignment with his self concept.  The man is 65 years old and not focused on getting laid.  Unfortunately, Sawyer's depth of understanding went about as deep as Jenner's nail polish.

 

            I had firm preconceptions about this entire Jenner thing prior to hearing him explain his background.  Since early childhood when he would put on his sister's clothes well into his adulthood, as he tried to hide his conflict over sexual identity, Jenner tells a sad story. It's a very complex issue. 

 

            After listening to Bruce during the interview, I came away with better understanding of some of the psychological elements and the process that led to his "coming out."  The "nature nurture" question had been settled in my mind, but if Jenner is being truthful, I may have to allow more latitude in my position.  

 

            However, I still believe that the appetite that one feeds is the one that grows.  This is most easily confirmed in the area of sex and is a good topic for analysis sometime.  

 

            I admire Jenner for his honesty and courage in revealing himself to the world.  However I don't agree that he "had to" lay his problem at the feet of his ten kids and seven grandchildren, his mother, his entire family, and his many fans.  He had lived with this problem for over six decades and at the age of 65, why not hang in for the remaining years, maintaining his "manly" image for the sake of his family? 

 

            Many times confession takes the burden off the "confessor" and simply passes that burden on to someone else; in this case Jenner's family. 

 

            Diane Sawyer failed to focus on the developmental basis of Jenner's problem, but tried in vain to move it into the area of homosexuality and politics.  She was authentically shocked when Bruce told her that he wasn't an "Obama fan" and, in fact is a conservative Republican.  Even more shocking to Sawyer, he also stated that he is a Christian.  That blew the template. 

 

            Sawyer may have left the interview bewildered and confused by the psychodynamics involved in Bruce Jenner's conflicts as well as the fact that he is a Christian and a political conservative. I, on the other hand, am left with a better understanding of the lifetime psychological battle of a good, but conflicted man.  

   

           

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Huckleberry Days



     With all that is going on in the world, it's difficult to avoid negativity, so, at times, I find myself reflecting on the decade of the '50s; a time just prior to the onset of our national psychosis.  I thought I'd reflect on a few of my light-hearted memories from those great days when I was a kid.           

            I once wrote a book called, "The Huckleberry Days of the '50s" describing my personal experiences growing up in Los Gatos during the '50s.  Silicon Valley back then was a blanket of fruit trees.   Schools had to adjust their starting date based on the prune crop, because  most students worked picking apricots and prunes during the summer. 

            Blossom Hill Road, running from Los Gatos to San Jose, provided a panoramic view of blossoming fruit trees as far as the eye could see.  Those magnificent miles of orchards were the playground for young kids and a source of income for older kids.    

            The orchards and open fields served another purpose - forts.  The urge for young boys to build foxholes and forts seems to be universal.  I still remember those “fort-building” days and the competition between the ground-dwellers, who dug holes and camouflaged them, and the tree-dwellers, who had the advantage of prehensile tails for climbing.  The gopher guys usually did better, because the monkey guys didn’t have opposable thumbs and kept dropping their tools. 

            Miraculously this building urge hit all my friends at about the same time.  Our  neighborhoods were pock-marked with foxholes.  It looked like the area had been taken over by a hoard of large ground squirrels.  

            I remember my younger brother building a better fort than the one my buddy and I had built.  Tom is smart.  It takes brains to become a Captain for a major airline.  TWA honored him upon his retirement, which was rarely done. I've always been proud of him.  His mechanical skills blossomed early and I envied his fort. 

            Tom had the additional advantage of having a girl to share his domain.  Tom didn't know the unwritten law that forts were for boys only.  Girls were not allowed in a boy's fort.  But Tom hadn't yet grasped the concept that girls weren't boys.  He thought they were soft boys with long hair who ran funny.

            But ignorance of the law is no excuse.  To express our displeasure, my buddy and I lit Tom's fort on fire while he was inside playing doctor with his girlfriend.  The poor kid tripped over his stethoscope as they both scrambled out in a cloud of smoke.  

            If we had given him a few more minutes to finish his exam, he may have resolved any question he may have had as to why we didn't let soft boys who ran funny into our forts.  Of course, that attitude changed dramatically for all of us a few short years later, but by then we had forgotten how to build a fort.

            There is a lingering rumor that my fort-building buddy used Tom's stethoscope on dates in high school combining it with the reassuring ploy, "It's okay.  I'm a doctor." 
           
            We needed wood for our forts and we weren't adverse to commandeering wood anywhere we could find it.  A local contractor had just completed a house on the next street over from ours. The word on the street was that his house came up one bedroom and half a garage short.  He ran out of lumber.  The poor guy was still studying his wood order when I tossed the last of the camouflage over my hideout.

            I have a friend who was raised in Southern California where orange orchards covered the land.  He and his buddies built the mother of all foxholes.  It was deep.  It was huge.  And it was very well camouflaged.  One sunny day my friend and his buddies were making their daily trek to their underground home when they heard the sound of a tractor.  Suddenly they saw a tractor make a turn down the very row where this huge foxhole had been dug.  It was the farmer who owned the orchard blissfully guiding his tractor into fort-building history.

            The boys took off running as the tractor approached their camouflaged foxhole.  They looked back just in time to see the tractor disappear head first into the black hole.  That was many decades in the past.  Legend has it that the tractor is now buried under a shopping mall and when it's real quiet and the moon is full, they say you can hear the ghostly sounds of a tractor engine idling where orange trees once grew.   

            That's a true story, except for the ghost tractor, and I may have embellished the thing about burning down Tom's fort.  But that was the world I grew up in and it couldn't have been better.