Archive for September 2008

My candidate

September 29, 2008

I’m growing annoyed at the stream of group e-mails I receive from people promoting or trashing a particular presidential candidate. These messages are sent as if I am on board and already agree with the sender. Or is it that the sender doesn’t care about me, my beliefs, or my feelings.

I receive e-mails trashing Sarah Palin, her record as a mayor, governor, wife and mother. I’ve been bombarded with information about the shortcomings of Barack Obama, his mother, his father, and his brother living on another continent. Some of these e-mails are funny, some nasty, some stupid. Whatever they are, I don’t want to see them. I don’t like having others’ opinions foisted on me like that, whether I agree with them or not.  But the senders don’t seem to get it.

There used to be a saying: Never talk politics or religion. I once thought that adage represented a head-in-the-sand reaction by people who didn’t want to be engaged in life, that is to say communicate and challenge themselves. But I frankly take offense at being told my candidate is no good. I react to these e-mails as if someone were attacking my religion – the other component of that adage. As if they were saying “Because you are Jewish/Catholic you just don’t get it, Rich.” Or, “Because you are NOT Jewish/Catholic, you don’t get it.”

No e-mail is ever going to change my mind. Infact, I resent them so much that they’ll likely further entrench me in my already held belief.

Gift giving

September 26, 2008

A couple years ago my two adult children and I decided to refrain from buying each other presents for birthdays, Christmas, etc. We instituted a new policy: we would only give gifts that were “found” or “homemade.”

On the one hand this might sound limiting. I mean, how much stuff can you make by hand, or find on the curb (or really cheap at a flea market)? But on the other hand, how much money can you spend on a gift for someone and still not be satisfied; still not be certain you got the best thing? Seems the more I spend the less certain I am.

The plan has worked. My daughter made me a bulleting board, and between my daughter and my son they’ve burned me a lot of CDs. I made my son a calendar, a guitar scuplture, and found my daughter a couple of cool antique collectibles in a deceased relative’s estate sale.

We like our gifts. Making them, finding them, giving them and receiving them. The pressure to perform (30-inch screen vs 40-inch screen) is off, gone.

Landscaping in the 21st century

September 24, 2008

What fell under the umbrella of landscaping when I was thus employed as a college student was working with the earth, planting things, getting your hands dirty. Tools were a shovel, rake, hedge clippers, pruning shears, and broom. Today, however, working with nature seems to have evolved into harnessing power to control it and even beat it back.

Today, clippers and brooms have been replaced by motorized gear. Now it’s as many motors running as a crew of three or four guys can sustain.

Leaf blowers? No such thing, really. They blow everything, everywhere, with a resulting cloud of dust that can be spotted for half-a-mile. What’s wrong with hand raking, anyway? It’s good exercise; cardiologists even recommend it.

All this equipment doesn’t necessarily make a positive difference on the completed project even though the customer is being charged an arm and a leg for these services and equipment. Besides seeing crews fill the air with dust clouds, I’ve seen them use weed whackers to trim shrubs. This tears – damages – the tissue of each branch and leaf. The shrub might look good now, but in the long run it will be more susceptible to disease and dehydration.

1979 Letter to the editor: some questions about oil economics

September 22, 2008

A friend who recently moved found this old clipping, written by her mother:

I am very confused about the rise in oil prices. During World War II, we were rationed because there was a shortage, but I don’t remember the prices rising sky high. Now, because Iran cut off our oil for several months, the price is skyrocketing. I hope some sensible economist will answer my questions:

If we only received 5% of our oil from Iran, and it is my understanding that we are now receiving 2.5%, whiy is the price doubling?

Why are we not buying oil from South America, which I understand has more than it knows what to do with?

What happened to the umpteen gallons of oil from the Alaskan pipeline that cost the American taxpayers more than a billion dollars?

Common sense should tell us that something doesn’t add up. Is it possible that the oil companies have contrived to jump the prices to pad their coffers at the expense of the gullible American people?

Or are the oil companies so powerful that they can jam anything down people’s throats and we have to accept it without any comeback?

Is there some enterprising person out there who can come up with a substitute for oil? Possibly a solar-powered vehcile?!

One more question and I am through: Are the oil companies accountable to anyone for their exaggerated profys besides their stockholders?

Signed (The late) Helen M. Heagney, 220 Ashbourne Rd., Rochester, NY

Appeared in the May 15, 1979 Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Building equity in songwriting

September 19, 2008

You don’t have to be into music to appreciate this. Read these 16 song titles and then read the punch line at the end. What do all these hit songs have in common?

Take Good Care of My Baby: Bobby Vee

Will You Love Me Tomorrow? Shirelles

Chains: The Cookies, The Beatles

Keep Your Hands Off My Baby: Little Eva, Beatles

The Locomotion: Little Eva, Chiffons, Grand Funk Railroad, and others

Go Away Little Girl: Steve Lawrence, Donny Osmond

Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby: The Cookies

Hey Girl! Freddie Scott, Donny Osmond, Billy Joel

One Fine Day: Chiffons, Rita Coolidge, Natalie Merchant, and others

Up On The Roof: The Drifters, James Taylor, and others

I’m Into Something Good: Herman’s Hermits

Don’t Bring Me Down: The Animals, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Pleasant Valley Sunday: The Monkees

You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman: Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion

Hi-De-Ho: Blood, Sweat & Tears

Care-O-Lot: for Care Bears movie

These songs are only a partial list of those written by Carole King. Can you spell “r-o-y-a-l-t-i-e-s?”

Richard Wright obituary

September 17, 2008

I don’t usually do obituaries, but Pink Floyd, for whom Richard Wright played keyboards, synthesizers and organ for over forty years, was the virtual oxygen for part of my life. Wright was a founding member of “The Pink Floyd” back in 1965.

He died Monday, September 15, 2008, of cancer.

This is Richard Wright in action on “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” a tribute to another late founding Pink Floyd member, Syd Barrett. He and understudy, John Karin, play the opening music on two keyboards and two synthesizers:

And here is another video Pink Floyd fans might not have expected, Wright playing and singing “Comfortably Numb” with Pink Floyd front man, David Gilmour:

Press uno for English: Part II

September 15, 2008

I’ve been exploring job opportunities overseas with USAid and through friends I have already working in Asia and the Middle East. They tend to have rigid requirements in terms of education, experience and skills.  In fact, they often aren’t politically correct: “No one 60 or over need apply” – imagine saying that in the US in a help-wanted ad?!

They often require a ridiculous amount of experience, graduate degrees (PhD preferred, Master’s considered), and proficiency in such exotic languages as Dari, Farsi, Pota, or Hindi. But the one requirement almost all of them have, no matter what country, no matter what level (even for one rare administrative assistant job I saw requiring only a high school diploma) is English.

Further, 90% of those requiring English go on to stipulate it must be flawless “Western” English, as in native tongue; i.e., “American.”

So, it appears that even in some of these backward or emerging countries where they shoot rather than smear political opponents, where they shit in the road, grow opium in the front yards of their shacks made of blue plastic tarps, and hate Americans – it would appear that even they know: The necessary language to enable advancement as a culture is English. And the necessary format is Western.

If these agrarian, woman-abusing, suicidal religious zealots know this, why don’t we, ourselves?!

Press uno for English: Part I

September 11, 2008

As a resume writer I recently interviewed two young men, both of whom speak Spanish. One is Puerto Rican, grew up in New York City, spoke Spanish at home, and English at school. So he’s bilingual. The second fellow is Italian, spoke Italian growing up at home, and English at school.  So he too is bilinugual.

The Italian then took an international customer service job requiring Spanish. Since he was already fluent in Italian, he taught himself Spanish somewhat easily.

Okay, so we have a Hispanic person who grew up virtually in the streets of New York City, and we have a Spanish-speaking Italian-American with an MBA working for a Fortune 500 company. I posed this question to both of them: “Do you think the day will come when we will hear, ‘Press one for Spanish, two for English'”?

Their answers were essentially the same: No.

Reason? There are not enough words in Spanish, they both felt, especially modern and technical words, to allow it to overtake English as the preferred language of this country

Justice goes to the dogs

September 9, 2008

In Rochester, NY, where I live, there have been two incidents in the news about dogs, and the control or lack of control of these dogs by their owners. The outcomes of these incidents to me indicate a blatant discrepancy in meting out justice.

First incendent: A father of three in the suburb of Greece calls police to report that neighborhood kids vandalized a Christmas display in his family’s front yard. An officer comes to take a report. The homeowner’s dog barks at the police officer. The officer shoots the dog in the head. The dog bolts out of sight. The police officer ultimately leaves without apologizing or checking on the welfare of the dog.

Second incident: An elderly man is walking on a public sidewalk. He is attacked by three pitbulls that got loose from a house. He is badly mauled in the face and legs. Passers-by use their cars to shield the man from the dogs, possibly preventing his death. The man who harbored these vicious dogs, then let them loose, gets to keep two of them.

The police officer overreacted when he shot the barking (not attacking) dog in its own yard, doing what dogs do – bark at a trespasser. The officer could have waited until the man housed this family pet. The homeowner had called police as a victim. After the officer shot the dog, he didn’t even apologize or check on the dog’s well-being. PS: the dog survived. The man and his family, in spite of the horrific impact of having their dog shot in front of them, accepted the explanation that this is “procedure” due to interference with a police officer in the line of duty.

The man who housed and loosened three pit bulls was assessed some legal costs, but he should also at the very least have all three of these potentially killer dogs taken away and euthanized.

LPGA, mangez le merd!

September 8, 2008

I am still reeling from the audicity displayed by the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA) requiring all contestants in this tour to be able to speak English beginning in 2009. That’s right, the US, the only mono-linguistic country in the world, requiring foreigners to speak our language. It’s the American way, or amscray!

This is obviously because the LPGA is about making money first and wants its players to be able to endorse sponsors; golf, sportsmanship and international relations are secondary.

Tour staff will identify players who need to be “evaluated.”

I thought the whole purpose of sports was to provide a level playing field, leaving behind politics and cultural differences, and providing a venue through which those who strive can excel.

This international arrogance perpetrated by the LPGA is the last thing the US needs. The tour has 121 international players hailing from 26 countries, many of which – contestants and countries – are multi-lingual. Imagine the Olympic Games requiring of its athletes fluency in host-country language, or fluency in any two languages. The irony is that only US contestants would be disqualified, because in almost every other country in the world people speak two or more languages or dialects.

LPGA officials say they hope it won’t really come to this but the damage is already done by the initial statement. Maybe no golfers are offended. Maybe no Muslim terrorists are offended. But I am.