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.

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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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZSWAkJ3h8E

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:

http://elbo.ws/video/rI67mMsl-Dc/

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?!