Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
     If you are not familiar with Thomas Sowell, you are missing important thoughts from a great man.  Sowell is now in his early ‘80s and continues to be one of our best thinkers.  He is an economist, social theorist, political philosopher, prolific author, a professor, and many other things that give witness to a magnificent mind.

            He wrote an article in the Investor’s Business Daily entitled, “Is the U.S. now on a slippery slope to tyranny?”  This raised some liberal eyebrows.  But speaking truth to power sometimes has that result.  Sowell is a conservative/libertarian. Maybe that’s why I have such great admiration for this man.

            It would take a very large book to give Thomas Sowell the credit he deserves.  In a recent column he shared a number of quotes, a few of which I will include here.  These were included with his article relating to the Zimmerman lynching.  I hope you will think about them and how they apply.

"Many respectable writers agree that if a man reasonably believes that he is in immediate danger of death or grievous bodily harm from his assailant he may stand his ground and that if he kills him he has not exceeded the bounds of lawful self-defense. That has been the decision of this court." (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Brown v. United States, 1921)
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." (John Adams)

"A human group transforms itself into a crowd when it suddenly responds to a suggestion rather than to reasoning, to an image rather than an idea, to an affirmation rather than to proof, to the repetition of a phrase rather than to arguments, to prestige rather than to competence." (Jean-Francois Revel)
"The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie." (J.A. Schumpeter)

"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves." (T.S. Eliot) 
"It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow." (James Madison) 
"A society that puts equality -- in the sense of equality of outcome -- ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests." (Milton Friedman) 
"...leniency toward criminals contrasted starkly with severity toward the law-abiding citizen's right to defend himself or herself." (Joyce Lee Malcolm) 
"Criticism is easy; achievement is more difficult." (Winston Churchill) 
"The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false." (Paul Johnson) 
"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 Calvin Coolidge) 
Have you wondered why Obama, Holder, Jackson, Sharpton, and other race-baiters have put a racial spin on the Zimmerman case, when that wasn’t a factor in the trial?  Aside from increasing racial divisions, it has taken our eyes off government malfeasance in providing guns to Mexican drug cartels, the Benghazi cover-up, and the tyranny of the IRS and DOJ, among so many other things.  With help from the media, the masses are blindfolded again and led like children away from the train wreck, while being given something to play with that is simple and easily understood. Something as simple as black and white.

Monday, July 15, 2013


First frame: "I have a hammer!"    Second frame: "I can put things together!  I can knock things apart! I can alter my environment at will and make an incredible din all the while!"    Third frame: "Ah, it's great to be male!"
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            We’ve all heard the French phrase, “VIVE LA DIFFÉRENCE,” which implies long live the difference between the sexes.  There are obviously innate differences, despite attempts by some to blur the distinction.  These differences should be celebrated.  After all, if it didn’t work that way, you wouldn’t be reading this.

            When I was six or seven years old, I got beat up almost daily by a red-headed kid down the street.  I was a wimp and that little sucker was tough.  In fact, years later he was a champion wrestler at San Jose State College.  My mother didn’t want me to fight, so I didn’t know how to protect myself at that early age. 

            Finally, my dad got tired of watching me stagger home with black eyes and a bloody lip, so he got down on his knees and showed me how to throw a punch.  He was a tough Irish guy with a fantastic muscular build and was probably taught how to fight by his own father, who was a boxer.

            The next time the kid went after me, I put my dad’s training to use and got the kid’s mind right.  I never had a problem with him after that and we became good friends.  But that was then.

            Many boys today channel their natural aggression vicariously by fighting characters on computer games.  But who can blame them?  Boys aren’t allowed the physical freedom to let off steam.  Unfortunately, too many are raised by single mothers, most are taught by women in their formative school years, and our culture discourages masculinity, which sometimes contributes to confusion over sexual identity.  A scientific study recently stated that testosterone levels in boys are lower today than in the past.  There must be estrogen in French fries.

            I’m not including violence by youths in the “hood,” gang violence, or behavior outside of our cultural norms.  There are other dynamics involved with these problems.  I’m only talking about “middle America” and the unisex trend foisted on kids.

            When I was in school, it was natural for boys to have harmless fights during recess or after school. No knives or guns.  Just fists. Today, boys in the classroom are taught to behave like girls with no outlet for their natural male inclinations.  They are expected to sit quietly, do their work, and refrain from turning snakes loose in class.  If a boy draws a picture of a gun, he’s immediately incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay.  His Gitmo education will teach him to wail in a weird, high-pitched voice, eat a goat, and blow things up. 

            A.D.H.D. and other labels are attached to kids who can’t focus.  So when boys act like boys in the classroom, we drug them into compliance with Ritalin or Adderall.  Running laps around the track or banging heads on the football field would help.  Boys in my generation played outside, constantly seeking adventure and physical challenges.  Sadly, that’s not realistic anymore.

            Today, television cop shows depict “macho women” beating up huge bad guys.  Women are the heroes, judges, bosses, karate masters - besting men in all categories of brain and brawn.  Women in the military are shown crawling through an infiltration course.  TV shows depict the woman as the head of the family and the man as a wimp who can’t do anything right.  (Gayle will tell you that I melted a screwdriver changing a light switch with the power on.  Don’t believe her.)

            I guess I’m from the “old school” where women were women and men were men.  I still instinctively walk on the outside near the street when walking with my wife.  That’s something else my dad taught me.  It stems from an archaic practice back when people tossed garbage out of their windows onto the street, resulting in men being covered in coffee grounds and watermelon rinds.  "There is nothing new under the sun . . . "

            I’m waiting for boys to come to school in leotards, tutus, and paper angel wings.  If it’s an androgynous Peter Pan world, where is Tinker Bell?  As I recall, she was pretty good looking. . . and very feminine.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dusty Memories

     “Welcome” to a new group of readers from the Los Gatos area in northern California.  These are mostly former classmates and old friends, so I thought I would focus on some of my memories from the “good ol’ days in Los Gatos.  Just a few quick bits and pieces.

            There are three subject areas on my blog and articles from each can be found in the archives, but I haven’t written many in the category labeled, “When I was a kid.” Back then, the wheel had just been invented and we were trying to see if we could make the first go-cart out of a wooden prune crate using those new round wheel things.  It’s hard to remember events from that long ago.  But many stories about growing up in the ‘50s can be found in my book, “The Huckleberry Days of the ‘50s - Growing up in Los Gatos.”  You can find the book on my website.

            There’s been a lot online about the remodel of the old theater in Los Gatos.  Many of us have dusty memories of that theater where you could watch a newsreel, a couple of cartoons, a serial, and two feature films for 25 cents.  In contrast with the positive memories, I remember a very embarrassing situation from those days at that old theater. 

            I was with a bunch of my rowdy teenage friends when we parked ourselves in the very center of the theater.  All went well until one of the guys was overcome by an acute attack of highly explosive flatulence.  The victim chose to proudly advertise his condition, taking advantage of the acoustic in the theater. Whether by design or chance, he hit critical mass during a quiet, romantic scene in the film.  The more he laughed, the more he contributed to a temporary hole in the ozone layer over Los Gatos.  He actually cleared out most of the main seating section. I wasn’t alone running for the exit. That’s a true story, but not a particularly good memory.  Maybe I should have told you about the popcorn instead.

            Some may remember the old railroad that went all the way from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz.  It was called the “Suntan Special.”  I remember running after freight trains with my buddies, jumping on the outside ladder, and hanging on all the way to the beach.  To avoid detection, just before we got to the terminal we’d jump off, hit the ground hard, and roll in the gravel. 

            And then there was the train trestle.  If you remember the old movie, “Stand by me,” where the kids were trying to cross a trestle as a train approached, you can relate to the anxiety we always felt when crossing that ominous structure located somewhere up by Felton.  If you missed a crossbeam and caught your leg in the gap, you’d have a major problem if a train was coming.  That was not a totally irrational fear, but in our early teens it was fun to imagine frightening scenarios.

            Snow in Los Gatos was unheard of until it hit Los Gatos and the summit area in the Santa Cruz range back in the ‘50s.  It was a great time to cut school and head for the white stuff.  I remember a carload of us loading up on snowballs and nailing car after car until we broke a windshield.  Jun Sasaki reminded me of this, but neither he nor I could remember who put the rock in the snowball.  The school administration was called and we all had to chip in to pay for a windshield replacement.

            I still remember the “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.  One of my friends built the mother of all foxholes - a huge and deep foxhole hideout in an orchard that was so well camouflaged an unsuspecting farmer drove his tractor into the foxhole head first.  That tractor is now buried under a shopping mall.

            I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I would bet that many of you have great stories from that glorious decade of the ‘50s and growing up in rural America.  For the younger readers - you missed all the fun, but if you know someone with gray hair, ask them to tell what the world was like before cell phones and video games.  You’ll be amazed. 

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Donald Duck was an Exhibitionist

     “Anthropomorphism”, is not a new word for anyone, but it is interesting how it is applied in various cultures. Books have been written on Greek and Roman gods and other polytheistic cultures and the images they worshipped. Even today most people have a concept of God that includes human characteristics. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, might say it’s an archetype from our ancestral past or Freud might consider God a “father figure”.   We tend to “create” God in our image.

            We do the same with animals.  I might be a little anthropomorphic when it comes to animals, but I blame Walt Disney. I grew up with Bambi, Donald Duck, Goofy, who was most likely my role model, and Pluto, who actually walked like a dog. Frankly, I think Mickey Mouse makes more sense than some square sponge that lives in the sea. But all those characters are tangible manifestations of anthropomorphism.  

            In the movie, “Stand by Me,” the kids were arguing over whether “Goofy” was a dog or a person.  These cartoon characters confused kids in my generation.  I spent part of my wasted youth trying to understand why Donald Duck and his nephews wore shirts and no pants.  I tried that once, but my grandmother slapped my little pink ass and put my diaper back on.

            I thought maybe Donald Duck was a pervert of some sort, but settled on the idea that ducks wearing shirts and no pants was a cultural thing. Did you know that a duck’s “quack” is the only sound that doesn’t echo?  It’s true.  As a kid I had a duck, but I let him run around naked.  I think it embarrassed my grandmother.  But I wouldn’t kill a lady bug, because I knew her “house was on fire” and she needed to “fly away home.”   

            Those rhymes and cartoon characters must have left indelible impressions on a generation of kids, so that now when people look at a bird feeding its young they think the bird “loves” the baby birds, when in fact the bird is just doing what she has been programmed to do. The bird would probably rather be dropping markers on a statue of Lenin or trying for a moving target, like a pedestrian.  I remember being the target of a strafing attack by a seagull.  This bird had to be over 200 pounds with a sever bowel disorder.  He nailed me on his first pass. One can only hope that he loaded up on rancid squid and made it all the way to Washington, D.C. 

            When my dog runs to my wife with his lips drawn back, we think he’s smiling. When he licks my hand, I think he likes me, but then I realize I hadn’t washed my hands since eating ribs. We project our humanity onto our animals and interpret their instinctive behavior as more than it probably is in reality.  But I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

            I have a soft spot for animals generally, which seems to increase the older I get.  Many of my friends, who were once hunters, have given it up as they’ve aged.  I guess they’ve either lost the ability to hit anything or developed a greater appreciation for life in all its forms.

            I blame cartoons for the fact that I thought animals could talk until my senior year in college when I threw away my poster of Donald Duck and started wearing pants.  But applying human characteristic to animals is reinforced when my dog likes peanut butter sandwiches as much as I do.  I think a bit of anthropomorphism is a good thing.