22 August 2008

Business primer for drug dealers and other observations

Olympic achievement, not collective national superiority

As the Olympics start to wind down, I’m getting more and more peeved about comments in the press about “losing” athletes, how they have “blown it,” and how “disappointing [it is] to America.” Also, the press keeps close track of the “medal count,” i.e., which nation is winning more medals.

What trash.

Olympic competition consists of individual performances either in isolation or coordinated with other individual performances. Kobe needs his teammates, but without Kobe, the basketball results wouldn’t be as good. With the same teammates, I wouldn’t score any goals. These individual athletes started out mostly with an advantage, a gift from God of bodies and abilities in many respects far above average. No matter how hard I train, I will not be an Olympic anything, nor will nearly anyone else who reads this. BUT - these individual athletes ALSO worked their asses off to develop these skills. Had they not done so, they would be remembered as the kid from high school who was pretty good in sports and who is now selling insurance.

Are they doing this for some sort of national pride? Well, I don’t know. ASK THEM. As far as me being “disappointed” when they don’t come in first, they can quit worrying. Who am I to be disappointed? I don’t recall getting out of bed at 5 AM six days a week and training with any of them for 8 hours a day before going with them and working a full time job. I’d remember something like that. The medal winners are “just” the “elitist” of the people who have already proved themselves to be the elite of the elite.

Being the 10th fastest or strongest out of a population of 6 billion may not win a gold medal, but it’s certainly a gigantic win.

Quick Triumph in Obscure Contest

Three or four posts ago, I posited a quick contest to identify the automobile license number of Patrick McGoohan’s character in a short-lived TV series in which Leo McKern had a recurring role. Obviously, this was a pretty obscure and quirky contest. The prize was a decent paperback edition of Riders of the Purple Sage. Within hours of the post, Preacher Joel responded correctly that the series was the cult classic The Prisoner, and the license number was KAR 120 C, which figures prominently in one episode. However, he eschewed the book, preferring a Kindle version, so this scribe sent him the cost of one. (There’s no way I can figure to order something on Amazon for somebody else’s Kindle.) The paper book will go back into the bottomless bookshelf to await a future opportunity.

Handy business tip for drug dealers

If you plan to do continuing drug business on the main street of Fairmont, some care is required. If you see a rather shabbily dressed fellow in a Hawaiian shirt poking up the street towards the café, you may be looking at a drug seeking bum who will willingly part with $20 for a rock. On the other hand, he could be a lawyer (1) who doesn’t have early court, who has been at the office since before sunrise and who hasn’t changed yet, (2) who really, really thinks dealers are pimples on the ass of algae and (3) who knows the drug guys’ private phone number off the top of his head. If he is of the latter persuasion, you may suffer a sudden business reversal.

Say what?

I’m struck by all the people (mostly wannabe he-men who have been to too many movies) who have Chinese or Japanese ideograms tattooed on their necks. I doubt very much whether they have verified from any reliable source what those tattoos mean in that language. I assume that they are depending on the tattooist, who may or may not know him/herself. There may be some risk here. What if someone with a slight knowledge of Asian languages and a warped sense of humor wants to mess with cocky but ignorant Americans? Perhaps they might furnish characters meaning “Hey, idiot, I’m going to rape your sister.” I’m thinking that in some parts of the world, that would get you a few rice bowls worth of whup-ass.

Generally, there is a run on “mysterious” foreign symbols: ankhs, Celtic stuff, Indian symbols, runes, even things from fantasy “lit.” Why? Does anyone think that wearing those symbols means that the wearer has any information at all about the culture from which the symbol comes? Or does the wearer believe that some sort of magic will protect them or given them magical powers or impress someone as if they’re wearing a wizard’s outfit? It just seems stupid.

Well, I’ll mostly leave the subject of tattoos alone. When I get around to it, I plan to get a couple of small ones, because quite frankly there’s not a whole lot I could do to mar my appearance. When you arrive at my age, appearance is a little less important. In some respects, at all ages we go overboard with it. I remember when I was 13 having a truck run over me and give me a real large laceration on my leg. I asked the old doc who was sewing me up if there would be a scar, and he said, “Hell, boy, you ain’t gonna be dancin’ with the Rockettes, what do you care, it’s just something that happens to guys.” But if you are a female of any age or a male in your prime, I certainly recommend against the tattoo. Years later, when working EMS, I picked up a guy with a very similar injury and told him that story. He calmed right down.

Chief heretic stays stealthy

I was (as much as it’s possible for me to be) silent at a church planning type meeting last night. I was asked about the urgency of removing a tree that we believe is dangerous, and the circumstances appear to dictate that it needs to come down soon. Unspoken, though, was a real worry. There are my friends the squirrels living in that tree. Oh, I know, they have time to find other “housing.” But I honestly worry about them.

You know it’s a small town when . . .

. . . you ask for a phone number and you only get the last 4 digits.

Pippa passes.


19 August 2008

Urgent Contest - Fabulous Prizes - Vital Issue!!

The firm (i.e., me) is committed to some yellow page advertising for the upcoming year, and we have to have the information for the ads to Aubrey the sales rep by Friday. However, we can’t advertise as Curry & Swisher because that firm won’t be actively practicing past the middle of October. That time frame is nailed down tightly so that I don’t have a big chunk of down time during the transition as Amy winds up the campaign and, with a fair wind, assumes the Family Court judgeship. Drat. The new firm is in the process of forming, but we aren’t at the point of announcing any details yet. One thing that we must have immediately is a name for the new firm -- An ad for "The Unknown Law Firm" just doesn't have a whole lot of pizzazz.

And sooooooo - A contest!! NAME THE NEW FIRM!

I’ve been thinking -- sort of “kidding on the square” about possible firm names. How about “Uriah Memorial Legal Group”? (For context, see a post in a week or so.) Or maybe “Armageddon Legal Group,” that's the one I like the best. One of my other favorites is “MyLawyerCanBeatYourLawyer Legal Group”. But perhaps there’s something better available.

Contest Rules:

1 - No proper names of any lawyers involved. No “Curry,” no “Smith.”

2 - Must end in “Legal Group.”

3 - Must not give the appearance of connection with any public agency (i.e., “Fairmont Legal Group” would imply connection to the City of Fairmont, and that’s a no-no) or otherwise be misleading ("Best Damn Lawyers in WV Legal Group.")

4 - No doublespeak - i.e., no “certified,” “integrated,” “general,” “universal,” “innovative,” “advanced,” or meaningless blather like that.

The prize, the prize - OK, a veritable cornucopia from the bottomless bookshelves:

For (1) the name adopted or (2) if no entry is adopted, the best by the capricious standards of me and my mystery partner:

Living is Forever, by J. Edwin Carter (Quirky but fun philosophical novel, a pristine paperback)

This Land is Their Land, by Barbara Ehrenreich (New hardcover, lots of highlighting for review purposes)

The Making of a Country Lawyer, by Gerry Spence (Hardcover, great shape)

Blasphemy, Douglas Preston (Hardcover, Like new)

Enter early, enter often, but enter soon.

Pippa passes.


18 August 2008

Elu Again; America; High School Again; Too Damn Flat There and a Contest; Viva La Gazette

Word from Elu

I have just received a letter from my peripatetic and frustrating client, the Sublime Elu, handwritten on the stationery of the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, which is as follows:


"I’ve received your incessant missives, and let me first whisper wise counsel in your ear: Chill out. My feldspar interests are taking care of themselves. I do heartily agree with your plan to expand my position in hafnium futures. The bright kids may find a work-around for the electronic applications, but you can’t fool Mother Nature - not even cadmium or boron stands beside hafnium in neutron absorption, and high-heat research will be hog-tied by the shortages. We stand to make a killing, and you be sure to get a little of the action for yourself.

"Note above, I’m at Foursquare as an unpaid materials consultant. However, they are instructing me in pot distillation of rum. Given that I will return to West Virginia in the Fullness of Time, and the climate there is not conducive to the production of sugar (and for quality rum, the sugar must be fresh), it may not make a whole lot of sense that I’m becoming a master rum distiller, but since when have I let sense get in the way of learning?

"I am exceedingly concerned about our dear high school friend, Janese. Enclosed, please find a carefully wrapped (imperial) gallon of our best aged rum, and I charge you to personally deliver the same to her and recommend it as a wonderful restorative. And give her my love, as well as the attached SEALED letter, the contents of which are none of your concern (but which are worthy of publication in a blog which is less uptight than yours.) Perhaps my old friends in the Shelf community could pass along their own greetings to this wonderful lady, in care of you, if you will be so good as to pass them along - personally - it'll do you good to get out of that glorified whorehouse you call an office and get among people. [Note: An extra $50 bucks just went on SE's bill.]

"What is this blathering about the Israelis? Have you slipped a cog? I’m not talking fulfillment of prophecy stuff here, I’m talking cold, hard cash. Try to follow along, OK? My ceramics patent generates 3% of my off-shore income. (Handy of the Caymans to have PO Boxes and no income taxes, huh?) Both Pratt & Whitney and GE use my breakthrough ceramic materials in their engine housings. They sell the engines to Lockheed-Martin. Lockheed-Martin puts some in F-16's and some in boxes as spares, and sells all of the stuff to Israel. So when you get my wire transfer (to your offshore numbered account), say a little “thank you” to Moshe and the boys and get off their asses.

Back to the pots.


Church picnic

Dull, dull, dull? I suppose in some sense. Last night, we went to a little picnic at the church, and it was just a thoroughly American event. Wait, wait, wait. Yes, thoroughly American. Traditional. Nostalgic. This does not involve raising anti-Islamic/Russian/whatever flags, or disparaging anyone - but it’s a celebration of people and things and memories which are important to us. The church served hot dogs (odd ground animal parts, nitrosamines, and other goodies – I’ll pass) and otherwise it was the conventional covered dish thing, from the ordinary to the remarkable (e.g., someone brought a “zucchini-chocolate cake,” which was a lot tastier than it sounds.) One of the elders just bought a Prius, and there was a good bit of fun hassling him about it. Were he to park it outside (unlikely), it would be delicious to alternately add and siphon gas to and from the beast. Well, perhaps the remarkable part is that it was dull from the perspective of every external observer, and a thorough pleasure to be there among ‘em. I'm glad I committed to going with LaJ and Mama-san. I hope that all the little kids there keep this as one of their dim memories as they grow.


I spent Sunday afternoon with dearest Janese, currently doing heavy medical stuff, and Christina, another dear friend in the same high school class. Oh, yes, I did deliver SE’s fine rum, much to the annoyance of the various healthcare folks, and Janese promised to give it a whirl. (The nature of medical stuff going on is beyond the proper scope of this writing. Simply, please keep Janese in your heart & prayers.) Chris & I stayed for a couple of hours, much of that reminiscing about the years at Parkersburg High School. It’s a subject of wonder. Were those years long ago, or only yesterday? It feels like both. I think of all that has happened in the last 30+ years, and so those days are so remote. But then we talked about that niche in the hallway where we had lunch; the greasy burgers served downstairs; the rich kid who drove the pristine racing green Morgan; hurt feelings that last even to today; and just generally the things from a time that, in retrospect, seems very pure and very simple. And I’ve heard that lots of the teachers have died - good people - but I can see them and hear them right now. So how can they be gone? The building is still there - same hallways, same circular drive. I don’t know whether to feel joy to be back there in my heart or sorrow over some loss, the same loss that everyone at least has the opportunity to feel in their life.

Good grief, what schmaltz. I need a six-pack of Curmudgeon Cola.

Flatland, and a Luddite Contest

Jan is in Marietta, Ohio. It’s right on the Ohio River, at the confluence of the Muskingum. When you sort of fall off the Allegheny plateau a few miles east of the Ohio, the land changes noticeably. That’s when I realize how accustomed I am to very hilly terrain. And down by the river, particularly on the Ohio side, it’s just downright flatland. When I talked to Chris about where the nursing home is at, she mentioned GPS. Hey, a map, I can live with. Mapquest is OK, it’s just a source of detailed maps. I compass I use, although I seldom really need one. There is just some sort of directional awareness I have. I don’t know if that’s a guy thing, a mountain thing, or an individual peculiarity. But, but, but - NO GPS. You will not catch me looking at or listening to TomTom, DickDick or HarryHarry. I will not be led around by circuits and silicon. “I am not a number. I am a free man!” (Anybody recognize the last? OK, minor contest. The last two sentences are a quote from a short-lived TV series with Patrick McGoohan and a recurring role for Leo McKern. What was McGoohan’s characters car license number? Prize = pristine paperback copy of Riders of the Purple Sage, by Zane Grey. That's livin'.)

Viva La Gazette

The Charleston Gazette (the “state’s newspaper”) today features a story about a hoax where people were told to collect the screw on caps to plastic bottles to raise money for cancer research, and how horrible such a thing is and so forth. OK - hoaxes are nasty and evil, I’ll grant you, and the perpetrators should be hung by their thumbs. But give me a break - how smart is it to conclude that collecting bottle caps will materially aid cancer research? If you want to financially aid cancer research, there are a number of tangible things you can do:

1 - Contribute to legitimate non-profits, e.g., American Cancer Society.

2 - Do work that creates value and contribute the proceeds to the same - a car wash, a bake sale.

3 - Don’t fall for corporate nonsense, clicking websites and piously think you’re doing good when it’s just generating a corporate chuckle as they take a few pennies from the big bucks they save because they are on welfare and dangle it to distract you. Instead, call on government to treat so-called American corporations that exist as post office boxes in the Caymans as foreigners, to require American corporations to pay taxes on the income that they report to their shareholders (i.e., only keep one set of books), and for government itself to invest in the general medical system (dare I say universal health care?) and research.

The Gazette also opposes Governor Manchin’s amicus ("friend of the Court") brief in support of the Supreme Court hearing an appeal of a huge punitive damage verdict against DuPont which was rendered by a jury in Harrison County. The tort system is flawed out the wazoo, and everyone bleats about “reform,” but nobody really wants much reform. Damages are determined by a lay jury. In determining punitive damages, what it will take to deter a defendant from bad conduct in the future, it may as well be play money. To the corporation, offering a just settlement to atone for the actual damages it causes is unthinkable - unless the dollars are right. And then, it’s not a matter of doing the right thing for justice, it’s doing the right thing for the bottom line, and if that's just, it's an unintended consequence. To the warriors of justice, it’s a money thing. John Edwards didn’t get the cash to run for President by writing wills really well. One of the plaintiff’s counsel in the DuPont case is Mike Papantonio of Florida, who has written a couple of strange books on practice talking about Atticus Finch and Clarence Darrow. He’s venting outrage on behalf of the silent victims because of the nasty governor. The 1/3 of $400 million is unimportant, right? Why do plaintiffs get punitive damages? They do not reflect actual injury, they reflect deterence. Perhaps punitives should be paid into a foundation, to be used for the benefit of ALL persons harmed by the corporation. And are money damages a legitimate threat? Gerry Spence argues for a “corporate death penalty” for repeat corporate criminal offenders. And can we not do more effective oversight in advance of crashes? What about access by OSHA and EPA? What about responsibility in funding and investing pension plans? In revealing toxins released? (There are some toxins not found in nature for which zero is the only appropriate acceptable emission.)

The governor is entitled to an opinion. He is not going behind anyone’s back. He has filed a brief. He is asking the Supreme Court - a coequal branch of government - to consider what he has to say and to adopt a procedure followed in 48 states. They will consider it, and they may tell the Governor to go to hell for all I know. If the trial judge had thrown out the punitives, the plaintiff’s lawyers would welcome the “interference” by the governor, and DuPont would deplore it. All that counts is the cash.

Pippa passes.


13 August 2008

Peace, sadness and a bad attitude

Space to Rant? Nuts.

Dearest Friend Sheila made a comment to the last post that she terms a “rant” about John Edwards and his adultery, and she disagrees with my treatment of him, and she apologizes. Pshaw, dearest. Yours is not a rant – it’s an offering in the marketplace of ideas. It’s put forward with sincerity and honesty and a good heart and an open mind. If all discourse in this nation were done that way, we would be far, far better off. Long may you rant, darling, and you are always welcome here.


A dear friend from high school is in a world of hurting in a hospital in Marietta, Ohio. Her cancer has returned with a vengeance and she literally is fighting for her life. So when you’re complaining about four dollar gas, junk mail, impolite sales clerks or loud little kids, just shut up, quit whining [cf. Larry Winget], take your own pulse and get some perspective.

And keep Janese in your prayers. [That sort of requests bothers some people. If it bothers you, that's your problem.]

Jerome R. Corsi is a Nut Job . . .

And his new book, The Obama Nation, is a collection of evil fiction that distorts the legitimate discussion of our dismal electoral choices in lots of races this year, especially that for the presidency. Corsi told so many lies in his hack job on John Kerry, Unfit for Command, it took a few weeks to research them all, so it had free play in the gullible publish-or-perish press and the who-cares-about-a-bunch-of-lies Fox News & clones.

The legacy of Karl Rove is that, for the present, it is an effective political tool simply to make shit up.

The shooting in Arkansas and Dr. Reality says that the dinoflagellate parasite pundits are morons

The Democratic State Chairman in Arkansas was killed by a gunman today. Sadly but not unexpectedly, the autopsy’s not even finished and everyone with a loud mouth and deficient logic has an opinion that it’s “obviously” the fault of whoever it is they disagree with. Liberals say that it’s the Republicans who want everyone to have guns, including the nuts & criminals. Conservatives say that the Democrats are the ones who have coddled criminals and that if they had balls (figuratively), guys like this gunman wouldn’t be on the street. There are more sophisticated theories, but they are all on these themes.

As long as we look for simple solutions, we will continue to trade slogans with raised voices and solve nothing. There are 100 million handguns in America. That is neither “too many” nor “not enough.” Those are value judgments. The 100 million is a number, a fact. Guns are robust and last for decades. They are not going away. Some people are evil, and others will become violent because they cannot control themselves or choose not to control themselves. Again, fact. There are criminal organizations which promote arms and violence, particularly to youth, and that is reinforced by audio-visual entertainment sources. Fact.

It’s a darn shame that the guy in Arkansas was shot. He’s not alone. There were 50 other gun murders committed today in the United States. (Source: DOJ statistics, >18K gun murders per year) Another 50 people died by gunfire, due to accident or suicide. Without guns available, some of those people wouldn’t be dead. Fact. Guns are available. Fact. Without guns available, other people would be dead by gunfire or other means. Fact.

Sorry, it’s not simple. When the “solution” starts out with “all you have to do is . . .,” you are listening to a demagogue and liar, or an idiot, or both.

My “second father” Mr. Moon sent me something last week about interpersonal violence, some “rules”:

1 - The purpose of fighting is to win.
2 - If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck.
3 - When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.
4 - A Texas Ranger was asked 'Why do you carry a .45?' The Ranger responded, 'Because they don't make a .46.'
5 - An armed man will kill an unarmed man with monotonous regularity.

Close your doors, turn up the TV, this doesn’t affect you. It can’t happen here.

Pippa passes.


08 August 2008

Sweepings off the floor of my hard drive

I move like smoke

Like a wisp of smoke, I have wafted forth from Fairmont General Hospital. Illness sucks. I am working very diligently on reinstating my unshakable belief that “I’m invincible!” I confess that I was offended at the offer of a ride to the front door in a wheelchair, but upon arrival was thinking, darn, a few days on my ass didn’t do my balance any good, did it?

Consider health care people - The folks up at FGH are rather poorly paid. They deal with sick people, many of whom are grumpy, depressed, sad, angry or demanding. They get all sorts of bodily fluids & excretions on their hands. They stay cheerful and upbeat and in many instances loving. They very naturally refer to patients as “honey,” “sweetie,” (when of different gender), although that may be at least partially a regional thing. They have the same nobility as the folks who climb into the Mercedes’ and Hummers in the parking lot at the end of the day, and I was glad that they were there.


I met a young deputy for the first time today, and was talking with the sheriff about lots of different things. I mentioned that he was obviously a good kid, and going to be a good officer, and the sheriff agreed, and we talked about the learning curve and need for experience versus the need for good performance from the word go. The use of the word “kid” was not and is not disrespectful. We have entrusted this guy with a lot of responsibility, and one responsibility that we don’t think about is that of learning as fast as he can. I remember in my first years at the bar, Louis Schoolnic, an elder member of the bar, taught me a lot. He called me alternately “counselor” and “kid.” The former reminded me of my already-existing responsibility; the latter, on the need for humility and willingness to learn. Louis is one of the old guys who I really miss.

John Edwards and The First Stone

The press is all over what a terrible guy John Edwards is for (1) screwing around and (2) lying about it. Here is another story that could be reported simply and quickly that the conservative media is square dancing to. One CNN commentator today called Edwards a “rotten” guy. Since I saw about 30 seconds of CNN today, I’m betting that lots of epithets were thrown around.

Edwards committed adultery and lied about it. Now he has come clean, to the extent that it is any of our business. What bothers me the most is the hypocrisy. If you want to talk about screwing around, political orientation makes no difference, and I’ll omit the dozens of examples from each party. There are even several wife-sick-with-cancer examples. Reporters seem to have busy marriage-divorce cycles, so I’m thinking that perhaps they are prone to this failing, too. Perhaps a voluntary rule: Those without sin cast the first stone; all others, first state, “I have committed adultery x times,” and then ask the probing question.

I do not have the right to condemn John Edwards. You do not have the right to forgive him. That’s between him and his family. His screw up hasn’t killed any soldiers.

Senator Byrd book signing

We took a quick B&N run this evening. There was a sign that Senator Byrd will be there next Wednesday to sign his new book, Letter to a New President: Commonsense Lessons for Our Next Leader. Let me be clear: I respect Senator Byrd more than anyone else in government. He has not profited from public service. His personal “fortune” is modest. His ethics record is unblemished. He has always said what he believes. When he has made mistakes, he has owned up. The worst that anybody can honestly say about him is that he was a member of the Klan for a few months 60+ years ago, for which he has continually expressed chagrin and regret all of his public life.

I’m not going to the book signing. America is not a personality cult. It is a government of law, not of leaders. An autograph is meaningless. It means that someone wrote his/her name. It says nothing about the person, and it is not a real connection. If for some odd reason, I were called upon to do something for the interests of the Senator, I’d be off and running. I don’t count empty adulation on that list.


I can’t help a bit of envy and a lot of worry over Tim’s EMS work. Envy because those years of my own life were good; worry, because the work is somewhat dangerous. Wednesday night, Tim locked his keys in his truck while working at Mannington. He was stuck at the Fair, so LaJ and I drove the spare key up to him. He told me the combination to the station punch lock (same punch lock, same combination as when I was last there 20 years ago), and I left the key there. I did comment that perhaps the folks might want to spiff up the station to the point that husbandmen might hesitate to keep livestock in there. Mannington station looks a bit odd, a bit high. John D. Amos, a Fairmont attorney, was president of the corporation when we built the station. He and I found the lot, but found that it was about 6 vertical inches in a flood zone, which affected financing. With the help of a banker, we struck upon the solution of building the foundation & lower walls three courses of block higher than originally planned (above that, it was steel), so the building looks too darn high. It won’t flood, though.

Last evening, Tim came in after a double, and was talking about a fire call. They were called to a town house/apartment fire with a fatality in White Hall. Owing to population density, while the first fire engine usually will arrive promptly, additional engines take time. The ambulance got on scene immediately after the first engine. Because there was someone in the house, the first fire crew made an entry, but was driven back by heat even in their protective gear. Just as the second engine was pulling in, an outside staircase collapsed on the first crew, so Tim and his crewmate pulled them free. This very much skirts safety. It’s not interior work, but being right up next to the burning structure without fire gear is very risky and, to Dad, worrisome. On the other hand, it was the right thing to do and when you sign on in that business, sometime you just have some danger. Darn it. I remember a fire where we arrived with the first engine under similar circumstances, someone in the house, and the fire chief (one of two guys on the first engine) gave me a 5 second course on the pump panel, basically, if this happens do this, if that happens do that, and if anything else happens, lean on the air horn so we know to get the hell out of there. This is NOT a wise thing to do. But in a rural area, getting a lot of manpower to an emergency quickly simply isn’t going to happen. That is a tradeoff of rural life.

And this evening, Tim came in and asked me if I’d ever used a precordial thump on a patient in arrest. Well, yes, several times. A precordial thump looks theatrical on the TV shows, it’s where you thump the chest when someone arrests, and it creates a small electrical charge that may restart the heart. It’s actually done from 8 or 10 inches up, not a roundhouse punch. Then Tim asked if it had ever worked for me. Well, no. And he grinned, because he had it work for him today, and as far as he knows, the patient is still alive.


There was a big deal made last week about a black bear on golf course at the U.S. Open, with comments about danger and so forth. Bullshit. Black bear are not dangerous unless you corner them or mess with cubs. They are basically scaredy-cats. If you expect to see a bear, carry a whistle, and when you blow it, they will run. Of all the mammals at the Open, the Bear was the one least likely to have hasn’t gotten drunk & beaten mama bear; to have cursed anyone; to have lied or started a war. The less hairy creatures there were much more dangerous. In many respects, I envy the bear their simplicity and purity.


I’m getting tired of guys in divorces & criminal cases bringing their mommies with them when they come to talk to me.

Wedding planning

I’m sitting on the ridge en famile, MP3 embedded (playing Prokofiev, Alexander Nevsky Suite, loudly, to drown out the TV), and LaJ is watching something about people planning weddings and intending so spend $50,000. This is nuts. Get a church, a buffet caterer, spend $5K. Give another $5K to the church’s food bank. Save $40K. $50K on a wedding is idiocy incarnate.

Pippa passes.


04 August 2008

Confession time: I don't know Art

A couple of weeks ago, i commented on “art,” as if I knew something about it. I did receive a response to what I said about Picasso’s Guernica, a black-and-white large canvas depicting his reaction to an air raid on an undefended city in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930's. (I have not published that response. Yeah, right, try and get something intelligent and liberal into the Washington Times, then get back to me on the First Amendment, OK?) My correspondent explained to me that the lack of color was a starkness-of-war thing, that the abstract faces obviously were in agony-of-spirit, and so forth, and that only a country cretin such myself would miss that. Folks, I am writing from the ridge overlooking Coal Run, a tributary of the Monongahela River, not from the Gobi. Here in West Virginia, we use certain literary devices, in this particular case “irony” and “self-deprecation,” the latter of which leads to “social contrast.” Sometimes I wonder if I overdo self-deprecation, but it just feels so Right. Social contrast is, at times, funny. Funny as in ha-ha, that’s enjoyable and even thought-provoking. That’s one point of writing, that’s why I bother. I certainly do understand that intellectually insecure urban bigots may be surprised that such devices are used outside The City (i.e., in places where normal people aren’t afraid to walk at night).

Now, that being said, I still don’t know Art.

OK, I still don’t know what I like, either.

I was reminded by that when I looked at a website recently.

I don’t keep consistently good track of consumer technology. [And as long as the Earth’s magnetic field supports the magnetic compass, I will not use a GPS.] Up until 1997, I had little clue what this internet was all about, and didn’t really care. I did OK in DOS based WordPerfect, could type and produce docs like a fiend, had decent paper research resources, and I got along fine. It was all deliciously tactile, and I love paper. One effect of the tactile and line-of-sight life was that I lost track of a lot of people who had come and gone in my life. The deer in West Virginia seldom travel more than a couple of miles from where they are born. (No, I don’t know how “they” know that. I cannot prove it. I’ve heard it. It sounds plausible. Get off my ass, blogger.com doesn’t have a footnote function that I’m aware of, and if it does Tree and Emma will tell me, and this is not a term paper.) Well, I don’t geographically stray much, either. Others lead more peripatetic lives and have vanished from my sight. Some have reappeared briefly, often by way of notes they’ve sent when they’ve seen something I’ve written in trade journals or the like. [That’s not a big deal at all - I was never paid for that stuff. The closest I ever got to a writing fee was when I did a cover article for the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. The editor, Jim Page, offered to buy me dinner the next time I came to Los Angeles. I’ve never been to Los Angeles. Unless Friend JeanMarie needs swept off her feet and I can convince LaJ of the necessity/advisability/morality thereof, I have no plans to go there.] One of the people I lost track of was Friend Christina, with whom I attended Parkersburg High School. The last I had heard, she was in KC or thereabouts. Then, along comes this internet thing, and all of the sudden, I’m reconnecting with lots of folks I’ve lost track of. [I still can’t find Friend Christopher Todd Jones, formerly of Newport News, and Friends Geraldine Foucault Katz and Jo Walton Eaton, who I went to law school with. Smart and lovely people. If you know them, have them give me a call, ok?] Anyway, I reconnected with Chris, and have corresponded a bit with her over recent years. Because of my peculiar memory for dates and numbers, I remember her birthday in July, and usually send her a note. [I love it when a judge sets a hearing. I remember something historical about most dates and always pipe up something like, “October 26th? We can’t do it then!” “Why not?” “Well, that’s the 127th anniversary of the Gunfight at the OK Corral!”] This year, she sent me a note talking about her sister, Pamela Tanner Boll, who lives in the Northeast and is a (no kidding) nationally noted documentary film director. I dimly remember Pam at about age 12 as a gangly concentration of ball lightning for whom “sedate” meant only “subsonic.” Pam’s latest project is a film entitled “Who Does She Think She Is?,” a film about women/mothers who are artists. That is such a weak tea description for what obviously is a powerful and moving film, but I’m nowhere near smart enough to do much better. There is a website, www.whodoesshethinksheis.net, to which I refer you for an understandable – no, downright inspirational – discussion. In fact, go ahead and open another tab, take a look, I’ll wait . . .

I am a common sort of guy. I drink a little beer, but only when it is extremely, extremely cold. I drink wine to impress women. Otherwise, I consider it a shame that some idiot let bacteria screw up the grape juice. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a drink of wine, so perhaps my cynicism belies impressing women these days. The first thing I think of when the term “art” is used is the something-or-other-on-canvas painting. I like Norman Rockwell, particularly a painting called “The Scoutmaster.” It’s realistic (and I’m sure there’s a “Realist” view of painting) and it reminds me of stuff I’ve done. It brings a tear to the eye, and I can smell the “woodsmoke at twilight.” (Kipling) Other stuff, I’m not always so impressed. Let’s see: Monet should have stopped at WalMart and gotten some glasses, then his paintings might not have been so fuzzy. (Yeah, I know, “Impressionism,” but I Just Don’t Get It.) Ernest Thompson Seton, gruesome stuff, but again, realism. TR loved him, but he wasn’t a noted art enthusiast, either. Maxfield Parrish, too cute but, OK, it is a nice shade of blue. Jackson Pollock, if there’s something to understand there, damfino what it is. M. C. Escher, that guy must have been abused as a youth by a dysphoric architect. The stuff by amateurs who know how to draw & paint some looks fundamentally OK to me – I used to share an office with some guys, one of whom had this big (4 foot x 5 foot) acrylic painting of a sort of post-apocalyptic distant city skyline in browns and oranges that just fascinated me. I’m sure someone who “knows art” would say that it’s totally prosaic. Who’s right? I like it. It gets me thinking a little. It’s a starting point for thoughts with misty edges that make me uneasy which feels like a stretching thing that I need to do mentally. Anyway, somehow that painting ended up over at the County Clerk’s Office, and I don’t know how others react to it these days. I keep seeing ads in various catalogs and magazines (Smithsonian, National Geographic, Sojourner, even Popular Mechanics) for prints of stuff by Thomas Kinkade. His paintings are either quasi-religioius (images of the Little Church in the Valley) or the equivalent (small town scenes from the 1960's or before) and he does something that seems to play with light in a pleasant way. I’m betting that most Artistic Folks think he’s a commercial hack, but I could be wrong. I like his stuff, it prompts me to feel good. There’s a strange painter from around 1500 who fascinates me, Hieronymus Bosch - Not because of the color or shapes, this guy was so far into symbolism that even the culturally clueless such as this ignorant scribe have an even chance of thinking of some plausible explanation for his images – maybe the wrong one, but plausible, and Bosch isn’t around to give rebuttal testimony. I googled “modern art” and got a long list of artists (mostly painters) I’d never heard of or, if I’d heard of them, it wasn’t about their art. Matisse, there was an odd sci-fi story themed on his painting eyes on poker chips which also involved a beer tap in a prosthetic arm, and I doubt any of that comes from real life. Dali had a helluva moustache, that’s the sort of irrelevant things I remember.

Well, I looked at the film’s website because it’s Chris’s sister, and then I said wow, and I looked at it for real because no matter who’s sister it was, I was just stunned into thinking what a clueless cultural state I’ve been in, approximately since birth. I looked around the site for hours and emerged, well, sort of unexpectedly shaken, and I must confess, rather full of that pressing envy of the merely competent for the truly gifted. (I’m mindful that “gifted” is usually short hand for those who have unusually acute cognitive and/or perceptual abilities and who totally work their asses off to develop those abilities.)

The artists showcased by Pam Boll are mostly in painting/sculpture, plus one in theater. The trailer and website say things about the whole work-life balance thing that lawyers bleat about (but basically know nothing about) and which obviously has great implications for moms. That I don’t understand. Hey, I really love women. (Note to the Not Again Roger You Dumbass Response Squad: This is NOT one of Those Unfortunate Occasions. Sit back down.) Women are fundamentally different, and I don’t mean that in the snide vive la difference Playboy magazine sense. I started at the bar under Judge J. Harper Meredith, and I still revere his memory. (I think that the current young people will feel the same way about Judge Fred Fox.) When I started, the “maternal presumption” in domestic cases was just freshly overturned by trendy gender-neutral stuff, and Judge Meredith said that was stupid. “Roger,” he said, “you can’t overrule a million years of biology.” He was right. Moms are different from Dads. That pisses me off. It also pisses me off that, no matter how well I do dieting, I’m not going to be a jockey unless I find a track where they make traditional weight jockeys carry 150 pounds of lead in their saddles. Dr. Reality is a jerk. But still Reality. Dads have a unique and wonderful role to play in children’s development. It is not exactly the same role as the Moms’. Live with it, guys. Stay at home moms are not unemployed. They simply have about 1-3/4 full time jobs. If they work a full time out-of-home job, then they have 2-3/4 full time jobs. A great dad will come close, real close, and in my practice I don’t see an overabundance of fantastic dads. (Nor, for that matter, nearly enough fantastic moms.) But I hope they’re out there.

I don’t know what sort of time, thought, intensity or dedication Art requires. I assume it’s not accounting, you can’t enter your workspace at 8 AM, and work hard until 5PM, put down your tools, and leave without thinking about the work until tomorrow. (By the way, that’s not a description of a CPA’s job, theirs is an unexpectedly creative profession within brittle limits.) I’m assuming that Art goes on in the artist’s mind most of the time, in whatever form of art that the s/he creates.

Is “creative” writing “art”? Am I wallowing in some sort of art form when I sit with a Red Bull, an attitude, and a laptop? Well, I’d say that Rosary, Doreen and I would vote yes, but we have a huge vested interest. If it’s art, how much art? It has to vary. Mostly, I do reviews, essays, politics (ads, op-eds) and social criticism. (If I ever do a novel, it’ll be in the series-of-letters format of Up The Down Staircase, by Bel Kaufman – I do better in short spurts.) I remember that TR said forcefully that “It is not the critic who counts, it is the man in the arena,” and so forth. Doreen writes fiction (and heavy stuff as well) and Rosary not only writes, she teaches this “art” to others. (Rosary, I bought a copy of the philosophy text you recommended.) If writing is in any way art, the tools are to those of the painter as the charcoal of the cave dweller is to the modern palette. To deal with an intuitive (or at least multiple alternative algorithmic) universe, we have only extremely linear tools - less than 50 symbols, with a limited number of different ways to present them (italics, bold, underlined, different fonts, and so forth) and they only go one way, left to right from the top of the page to the bottom then turn the page and start again. Does that limit our art? Or is it the art of the gem-cutter, who is producing variations of the same thing each time, that being the whole point of the art?

The number of tools of the painter and sculptor and the different media of expression may not be infinite, but it’s so large that it might was well be. The painter has a visible spectrum with as many colors as the difference in the number of waves between the faintest red and faintest violet, plus every conceivable combination of colors, and as many variations of brightness as there are possible numbers of reflected photons. That’s a lot. For the sculptor, they have every possible geometric form, regular and irregular, and quite a few materials and methods, plus they also can use the same color universe as the painter. That’s daunting to me. Duh. There are no doubt as many jackleg physical artists in the world as jackleg mediocre writers, so what is it that sets these women artists in Who Does She Think She Is? apart from the mere dabblers? Is it a market decision? If art equals sales, the LaHaye “Left Behind” novels are better than Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Milli Vanilli beats Beethoven. Jackass: The Movie is superior to Citizen Kane. The Chia Pet is much more meaningful than the Pieta. OK, then is it the “critic who counts”? Critics differ. (See below the delicious argument I have with Pastor Josh about a film.) Critics may be ignorant snobs. Hell, I’m a critic, not even a good one, and I am. I look at the physical art in Who Does She Think She Is?, and I stare at the depictions, and I think first, you know, I’m seeing these on an LCD screen on a laptop, no depth, no perspective change, nothing tactile appearing, no “presence,” and while I can’t say, “Shazam, I love that” like I say when I see a familiar Rockwell [I just looked up The Scoutmaster to be sure], there is just something as I stare at the flat photos of these things that capitvates me and makes me wonder What I’ve Been Missing. There’s something there, it’s beautiful and I can’t pull it in. For some reason, I’m reminded of when I was about 4 years old, and saw my Dad driving a screw into wood. I couldn’t figure out how that worked, the screw was getting shorter and shorter, so there must be some sort of very complicated and small machinery going on in there that only Dad understood. The simple answer (wheel/cylinder plus 2 inclined planes plus lever) was so elegant whenever I learned it that it was just a beautiful thing. So when I see these paintings and sculptures in Pam’s movie, I know I’m missing the point, I know that there is beauty there, and I’m only seeing its shadow. What am I missing? What am I on the cusp of? Something as simple as how a screw works? And what worries me – OK, scares me – is that I’ll run out of time before I find out, and that there will be another world that I will never have visited which will be lost for all Time to me.

Is music art? What started it? Why did ancient Man (and I’m cognizant of the inherent gender bias in our language) start stretching animal skins over cylinders and beating on them? Or pulling and plucking tendons? What made them decide that the musical tone which comes from a string vibrating at 440 hertz equals A in the fourth octave, and that is “on pitch” and sounds pretty but a tone of 453 hertz sounds awful? Who decided how to arrange sounds side by side, let alone what different notes were acceptable when sounded at the same time? Music also presents pretty starkly another problem with art, that people like different things. I hope that the bulk of humanity would say that “rap” is to music as, well, I am to urbane. But beyond that, there is hopeless disagreement. Country music fans are fanatical nuts. (That’s me, give me some Aaron Tippin and a long neck on a hot afternoon.) New Agers are odd. (Me again.) Acid rockers, freaks. (My heart quivers.) But lots of them aren’t me, too. Disco, blues, dance, jazz, metal, latin, pop, R&B, soundtracks & musicals, and so forth, some groove and some would only marginally rather than listen than die trying to escape the hall. Is it all art? For a while in college, I thought that the mandatory “Music Appreciation” course was farcical, but I need music so today, understanding a little about it helps. When I first heard Satie’s Gymnopedies on scratchy (in both senses) earphones at the “music lab” at FSC (“lab,” my ass, a lab is where you have burners, test benches and so forth), I thought that the music was terminally inane - Moonlight Sonata, the Disney version. As as I edit this essay one last time, you’d never guess what’s cookin’ on the MP3.

OK, dance, there’s an alleged art form that I totally don’t understand. Part of that is that I move with the fluidity and grace of an offensive guard who’s just been tasered waltzing in snowshoes. Tragic, just tragic. Now, you can chuckle at ballet people as being frail and “artsy,” particularly the guys, but it isn’t so – take a look at their muscles, those people are athletes, and one of those guys could rip your arms off. Why is it artful and beautiful and worthwhile spending society’s resources on to have people rhythmically move their bodies? I’m sure someone who loves “the dance” could tell me, but I don’t know anybody like that. Universities have Dance Departments. Somebody thinks that this is important. It produces nothing. Well, neither does any other art in the strictest industrial sense. (And the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin. That was OK with Jesus, so why do I complain?) Why do we do any of it? Why don’t we all wrap ourselves into going into the coal mine and get our joy from bolting the roof and figuring BTU content or baling the first cutting of hay for the cattle or rebuilding that engine very, very well and exalting in the close mechanical tolerances? Why do we need the music, the painting (even Norman Rockwell), the film, the sculpture, the play, or other people dancing?

Maybe film is art. There’s a story. And pictures, moving. And color. Angles. Music. Sound. Used to be, for me to enjoy it, it had to be something a movie with Something Happening to get my interest. The Graduate was stupid the first time I saw it. Now, I do love it every time. To overfill a schedule one semester at old FSC, I took a Film Appreciation course to Jack Hussey. I thought it would be bullshit, easy A, a reason to slow down to idle 3 hours a week. But you know, I think I enjoyed that class more than any I ever had and got as much out of it as Physics. Even today, I’ll watch a film and thanks to Jack really be able to get into it. Oh, not on all levels. A confession: I’ve been happily hassling Pastor Josh Patty, a stealth intellectual and film critic (www.cinemautopia.blogspot.com) about his inability to appreciate the Clarke/Kubrick icon, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Josh pans it. I have told him he’s monstrously ignorant, and that can result in midnight shift coup getting counted on him. [Minor contest: Anybody recognize the terms? I had to explain it to Josh.] But: I do not understand the ending of 2001. Never have. There’s a hotel room, an old guy, a baby, something or other “full of stars,” a tiny spaceship, he forgot his helmet, corridors lined with neon lights “that split the night,” colorful visual chaos, all set to Richard Strauss. There has to be a Message there. I don’t get it. Acting superior as if I do could give me a little mysterious oooh and ahhh factor (or, to perceptive people, the knowledge that I'm full of shit), but I really have no clue what’s going on. Oh, I live on the same street as Jack & Nancy Hussey and see them taking a walk now and then. I love to stop and chat with them about literature, film, life & whatever, they are both lovely people.

And I don’t mean to ignore theater. Angela, the theater person in Who Does She Think She Is?, what is it that she creates, and where does she get her passion for it? Well, I haven’t done any or seen much theater, but it’s like a film, I suppose - but with 3 dimensions, limited space, limited venues and I suppose a more “representational” feel. And live, it’s done live, there are no do-overs or coffee breaks. And it’s quite ephemeral, a performance can be filmed, but then that’s a movie, not the theatrical production itself. When the curtain falls, it falls, and that identical experience will not happen again. Must that not be frustrating to Angela and her sisters? It’s like ice-sculpting – you can fashion a great swan, but it’ll melt the same as a lousy swan. Is human memory an adequate retort or an adequate archive for her art?

Why art at all? What role in our lives? Does it make our lives better? More meaningful? How should we support it? Individually? Through government? Should our tax dollars through the National Endowment for the Arts support art which insults Jesus or Mohammad? Or which depicts a very realistic Old Scratch Himself roasting Darwin over charcoal? Was former attorney general John Ashcroft justified (or even to be commended) for spending $8,000 of public money covering up the naked breast on Lady Justice in the press room at the Department of Justice? (Al Franken suggests that this was so there would be only one boob at a time shown on TV.)

Isn’t art everywhere? OK, appliance design. Years ago, all appliances were “avocado,” a baby-shit green, with lots of chrome. Then, they were mustard-golden-something with rounded edges, then black enamel, and now we see lots of brushed stainless steel with crisp right angles. You can’t tell me that science shows that brushed stainless steel with sharp edges keeps food in the ‘fridge colder. We buy cars for their looks. If function were all that counted, we would manufacture (1) the old VW Beetle (aerodynamic, cheap, dependable), (2) the Checker (simple, easy to repair), (3) Chrysler mini-vans (holds lots of people) and (4) Jeeps (for when you need 4WD). We'd also use one standard truck chassis with modular components to make pick-ups, delivery vans, flat-beds and specialized vehicles. Oh - everything with a manual transmission, cheaper to manufacture, more economical. We’d offer, say, 4 colors for minimal differentiation with industrial efficiency. Anything more would be, well, artistic. Now, what do we have? Soooo many artistic designs, and purchasing pays little attention to function. Yups buy unneeded SUV’s with never-used 4WD so that they will . . . will . . . what? Look manly? Is this the Marlboro Man thing? We judge books by covers, so there is quite an industry in book cover art. That Cone Cordless Vacuum, some engineer didn’t decide that was the most efficient shape, some artist said folks would think that’s pretty. Is commercial and industrial art cynical? Or just part of the beauty of the world? I’m lost here. No kidding.

I’m not intentionally omitting things that others see as art forms. I just don’t know them all. I like good leather work. I have (another) new cell phone, and the next time the gun show comes to town, Dave & I will go and immerse ourselves in that sub-culture go to the leather guys’ booth and see what they have in the way of holsters, and I’ll buy something decorative. Stained glass, some people like that. I remember my first creative writing course to a moderately well-known poet of the 1970's, Pete Zivkovic. (Google him, see some of his stuff. There’s also a Pete Zivkovic film technician who worked on LOTR and a Pete Zivkovic stunt driver, those are other guys.) One night, Pete went into one of the first free-form social rants I ever saw. Pete was a funny guy - built like a fireplug, had been a college football lineman, hair like Michael Bridges in Wall Street, Viva Zapata moustache, always wore down-at-the-heel cowboy boots. He showed a little film, all of 10 minutes, tops, showing a guy making a simple stained glass sun with a face and hanging it out in the woods in a tree. That was Pete’s starting point for Art and freedom and why nobody had the guts to do that “these days” (1972?) and maybe that was one of the events where I realized that worthwhile political and social speech doesn’t have to be sedate, polite and have the crusts cut off. I miss Pete, he died a few years ago, and I’d like to sit on a porch and exchange rants and jokes. But with Pete, I’d still come up with more questions than answers.

I suppose I should count the question marks here. I’ve used more of them here than in any other post.

I don’t know art. This is painful.

It’s your fault, Chris. And yours, Pam. You made me poke my head out of my limited world.

Thank you, dearest ones.

Pippa passes.


02 August 2008

Down time

I do not do down time in increments larger than multiple hours absent force majeure. Today, that comes in the person of Dr. Hall. I like him. In his office is a photo of him earning his way through med school -- as a coal miner. Is that relevant to the practice of medicine? Well, I don't need roof-bolted, but human experiences are always relevant to the professions.

In any event, my derriere is cozily parked in a quiet corner room at FGH, the door closed, I have my briefcase with books, laptop, cords & cables, an MP3, and an IV. So, screw it, it's Miller time, I'm off duty.

As a part of the intake process, they ask if you have any religious practice that the hospital can help accomodate. Saying that to me is like wheeling out the barbecue at a meeting of new converts to PETA, it's just irresistable. Did you know that I always start a fire in my room around 3 AM? Neither did I until I was asked that question. LaJ assured the young lady that she would arrange to have me beaten about the head and shoulders if I got out of line.

Oh, to get me here, LaJ called in the artillery. She had LaG (my Mama) call me. Since I've called 911 for her (albeit against her wishes) thrice this year, she occupies quite a bully pulpit, and when you are outgunned, smile and surrender.

LaJ is going to request prayer at church tomorrow. Not for me, for the staff of FGH.

Pippa passes.


01 August 2008

Everyone thinks I’m in a foul mood today, and they are right. Wanna make something of it? Bring it on. Yeah, you, I’m talking to you.

The responsibility of grown-ups to give a shit.

I went to a local grocery store last night. I shouldn’t name it. Let’s just say that food and the king of the jungle were involved. I bought $14 something of stuff, and gave the (college?) kid a $20. It’s late, I’m idling, I’ve been writing all day. The kid hands me a 5, a 10 and some coins. So I says to the kid, I says, “Hey, buddy, thanks for the tip!” “Huh?,” he nimbly replies. “Thanks for the tip!” I repeat. “Huh?’ “Um, you gave me $10 too much.” “Oh.” He retrieves the $10, and starts talking so some other cashier kid about something else. So what is appropriate here? Walk out, assume that cluelessness is permanent and irredeemable and that the Corporate King really doesn’t care as long as He has a 98.6 degree body there? No, you know me. So I says to the kid, I says, “This is the part where you say to the customer, ‘Thank you, sir.’" And damn if the kid doesn’t ignore me and keep talking to the other kid. And I carefully enunciate, “You. Weren’t. Listening. To. Me.” “Oh, thank you,” he mumbles and resumes his irrelevant conversation. Am I peeved at the kid? Not much. This guy has been raised in an era when human communication consists of texting and facebook, not looking people in the eye and using actual English and honesty. Commerce means the internet, downloading and debit cards, not actually having to count and use physical money. Hell, this kid is as culturally deprived as a Biafran kid is nutritionally deprived. No, the responsibility lies with the supervisors. This kid's attitude and performance last night was, I presume, not out of character or isolated. If supervisors haven’t seen it, they haven’t been looking, i.e., they haven’t been supervising. If they have seen it, they have let it slide, probably because people in business today do not have the guts to require that employees keep up their end of the bargain they made when they signed on. Who loses? The customer, sure. The organization, yes, they have a pretty website full of smiling people who look like they are polite and involved and perform their jobs with gusto, but I’m thinking that Dr. Reality isn’t the webmaster. But the big loser here is the employee. This guy and how many others like him are getting told by bad example and by gutless omission that it is OK to be mediocre, unfocused, unfriendly and generally not to give a healthy shit about performance. When the time comes for those kids to move on, they’ll be moving on, but not up. There’s another kid who used to work there who I liked. He worked, talked to customers like a gentleman, didn’t screw off, and was the kind of kid who, if the register wasn’t busy, grabbed a broom or replaced bags or did other stuff that needed doing, rather than standing around trying unsuccessfully to put the moves on the young ladies. Recently, I saw him up at Fairmont General, in a job that has him wearing a tie and moving around a lot talking to people and delivering some sort of customer service. Had he stayed with the king of the jungle, he would still about now be wearing a tie, supervising people and both delivering and teaching good customer service. Eagles fly. Chickens peck. Chickens can grow into eagles, but somebody's got to teach them.

Grown-ups have an obligation to teach young people. Young people can teach old people, too. EMS has changed a lot in 20 years, and Tim has taught me a great deal. “Brother Doc” is maybe 30 and is a hell of a physician. I would trust him with my life. Friend Torri, a behaviorist in weight management, ditto. Generally, though, older people know stuff to teach younger folks. Social and professional and business interaction is part of that. I remember blowing in that store a year ago. A couple of elderly men were in line in front of me. They were chatting and fumbling with coin purses looking for exact change and annoying picky stuff like that. (I never understood the whole coin purse thing until Friend Dave got me to try one. Damn thing works.) As they were going out, the two male college kids working that register started making fun of them, rather loudly because they were obviously hard of hearing, and when one used the term “pathetic fucks,” it was time for scripture. I told those boys who those guys were. One was a former U.S. Marshal who an organized crime guy had gone after. (That’s a euphemism for “tried to kill.”) That marshal helped the gangster take over a piece of land - one measuring about 7 feet by 3 feet, permanently. The other was a former Sheriff of Marion County who once went alone into a house and brought out an armed & barricaded murder suspect. The scripture was the part about kids knowing that the bar has already been set a hell of a lot higher than they can imagine.

We have a responsibility to youth as a whole and to our nation as a whole to cooperate, and to share commonly accepted wisdom. Lots of things are subject to varying opinion. Which way you put your toilet paper is up to you, my opinion doesn’t count. Democrat, Republican, whatever. But things like take responsibility, work hard, don’t bitch and moan, look people in the eye, those are not merely hokey things, those are among the commonly accepted truths that make humanity function at all. If we don’t foster this in those coming up, it’s our own damn fault.

A dissenting view on the wonders of medicine

Apparently, I’ve gotten something called MRSA, an infection by an antibiotic resistant staph strain which, in my case, has turned one leg a nice bright pink/red, caused lots of pitting edema and, until yesterday, an impressive little fever. If oral antibiotics don’t start working real quick, the fight re temporary residential status resumes. My doctor is as big a curmudgeon as I am. Both his med student intern person (a nice young woman whose husband's aunt was Betty Gill, a great lady, good friend, and one of the best supporters Marion County Rescue Squad ever had) and LaJ thought that the last interaction was humorous. Ha, ha. Dammit, the bug that bites me is going to die a nasty death.

Damn, I’m adventurous

I’m writing a long post on “art.” Part of it involves music. I listen to music a lot, part of which is to reduce random confusing imput to help me stay focused and partly to offset some hearing difficulty. And I like music. AOL “radio” recently changed format and is now somehow connected to CBS Radio. One of the stations (the one I listen to the most) is “New Age.” (Stupid concept, good music.) When I went looking for it today, a channel called “Adult alternatives” came on, billed as being "for the musically adventurous." You have to be kidding me. By sitting on your ass listening to the radio, you’re being adventurous? Hell, if that’s the case, I went down to use the microwave, so maybe they’ll let me in the New York Explorers Club now. We are gushing about the stupidest shit and ignoring the important things.

News to me?

Maybe I should save this and develop it and think about it for a separate post, but my damn leg hurts, I’m agitated, and blowing curmudgeonhood onto the screen is a whole lot safer than blowing it into the atmosphere shared with LaJ.

This week, I’ve looked at news, as usual and been really annoyed. Not that that's unusual.

What has been in the news:

1 - Earthquake in LA, 5.4 Richter, no deaths, no injuries, the city opened it’s EOC (or whatever they call it there) to assess damage. (And the story didn’t say, but you also do that as a drill for when you have a large scale incident that does cause a lot of human damage/danger, that’s just good sense in the emergency services business.) That story could have been told in, oh, an hour or so. CNN, Fox, etc., stayed on it all day, the same information, the same interviews (“It shook, I was scared.”)

Now, there could have been two side stories. One, emergency services is the unacknowledged bastard child of government until a disaster, and then it’s the star for the first 10 minutes and then if it’s a real disaster, it’s a bunch of incompetent boobs who caused the earth to quake and the hurricane to come ashore. Two, knowing that there are events which are statistically certain over time, we keep doing stupid stuff that denies they'll ever happen. We keep building stuff in LA. We keep building stuff in San Fran and much of that is on fill which, in an earthquake, acts like a fluid rather than a solid. We insist on rebuilding a city that will be hit by a hurricane below sea level. (I think I may have just peeved Rosary again. Darling, I’ll come to you, sweep you off your feet, candlelight dinner, porch swing . . . hmm, I wonder if LaJ will buy the candlelight dinner as a strictly platonic thing?) However, those are stories certain not to be reported. They might make someone mad, and then they wouldn’t buy the Cheerios or listen to Bill O’Reilley or buy or do whatever else is advertised.

2 - Britney wore a bikini somewhere that left nothing to the imagination.

3 - Brad and some woman whose name I forget picked somebody-or-other as godparent for a baby or two.

4 - Somebody found a 44 pound cat.

5 - Several actors & actresses had sex with other actors & actresses (or both) to whom they were not married.

6 - One or more of those sexual unions resulted in progeny who will be financially secure and emotionally hopeless.

7 - A small animal’s body washed up out of the Atlantic, but was too decomposed to identify.

8 - Some tow truck drivers are not nice people.

9 - Astrology warns that some people are in for trouble.

10 - Katie kicked Tom’s mother and sister out of the house.

Other stories we didn’t see or were buried:

China has shut down half the industry around Beijing so that the air will clear up to the point that the Olympic athletes can breath efficiently.

Several thousand Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan need to wear body armor, ride in (poorly) armored vehicles and look for bombs that target them, and 2 - 3 of them are killed every day on average.

Global supplies of halfnium, gallium and zinc are within two decades of total exhaustion.

The Rural Utilities Service (part of USDA) is spending money on functions that were completed by 1970.

A new study shows that half of teenage transplant patients lose their insurance within 44 months, and those patients are nine times more likely to die than those who still have insurance.

Why are we invited to focus on crap and ignore real issues? More later.

Pippa passes.