Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Inflation has been with us all our lives. It takes different forms. Sometimes you just have to pay more for things, and sometimes you pay the same, but get less. Either way, you have to be either taking in more money or wanting whatever you're buying more than you used to.
Mona and I customarily go out to eat on Fridays. Sometimes we sit down for dinner, but there's also the takeout option, so it's not necessarily classy food. Last Friday we took that option, then drove to a shady spot on the bay and watched things there - birds, seals and other water dwellers. We've done the same thing plenty of times before in our now nine years in the Golden State. My goal on such evenings is avoiding getting mustard or ketchup on whatever I'm wearing. No guarantees there, either.
Our food, such as it was, came from Burger King. I had what they still insist is a "Whopper". It's not so whopping anymore, but what really surprised me was Mona's "Whopper Jr.". This sandwich can now fit in your palm and still leave a little space. It's pathetic. Calling it a "Whopper" of any kind is false advertising. The "Three-biter" or the "micro-burger" would be more accurate, as would the "Baby-burger", a term I recall from long ago burger history. What we got was no more "whopper" than a Shetland pony is a Clydesdale. But, we payed for it, and ate it. After all, it's just inflation, right?   

Monday, June 09, 2014

Can't ...Resist!..... Temptation....Too....Strong!

My favorite party to poke fun at (the Republican Party) had a big event a couple of weeks ago called the Republican National Leadership Conference. No doubt they had plenty of speakers, but who do you suppose got the most ink for his contribution? The Speaker of the House, Mr. Boehner? The GOP Senate leader McConnell? Senator Cruz? One of the Fox News bigshots? His Excellency in Broadcastingness, Mr. Limbaugh? Nope. None of those.
The highlight of the show turned out to be that Duck Dynasty guy, the one with the epic beard. There he was, citing, incorrectly, I might add, biblical references. He had a suit on, but it's the same one he wears on the show, which isn't so much a suit as a costume. And even HE couldn't resist observing that the Republican Party must have been a little desperate to call on him to be the party's face of  "leadership". Ya think?

If you missed that little gaff, certainly you must have caught last week's massive instant flip flop concerning our country's last POW in Afghanistan, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  The guy was a Taliban prisoner for about FIVE years, and a deal was finally worked out for his return. At this moment, he still hasn't arrived. He's being checked out and restored to health at an Army hospital in Germany. He hasn't yet said a word about about his captivity to the US public.
Until recently, the right used this situation as one more griping point against the Obama administration. "Bring Bowe Back" was the cry alongside a hundred or so other nasty and factless accusations dreamed up against the Dems by the party of Lincoln.
When the announcement of the release came, a few of the party faithful forgot for a moment that the REAL enemy isn't in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but living (!) in the White House. Twitters and Tweaks celebrating the good news were quickly erased (yes!) when it was revealed that the release also involved letting free five Taliban goons, surely the five ugliest guys you've ever seen, leave GITMO for semi-freedom. AND there seemed to be some question as to how Bergdahl became a prisoner in the first place. Words like "deserter" and "traitor" were suddenly tossed around like confetti. The party instantly changed its tune from "congratulations" to another verse of "What's he done NOW!!??" "He", of course, refers to the president. The speed of this reversal was like a tsunami. Not everyone's signing on to the hate train, but you'll now have to look pretty hard to find a party member who'd even admit having heard "Bring Bowe Back". Even his home town in Idaho cancelled a "welcome back" parade. Guilty or not, I wouldn't blame Bergdahl for never setting foot in the town  again. The right even attacked the guy's father, who's evidently guilty of growing a beard.
So you see, the force driving me to attack my parent's political party is strong - very strong. In fact, it's too strong to resist.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

When You're Famous...

During May's trip to Iowa, I went downtown to see the new library. What made the new one necessary was the flood of a few years back. The new one isn't far from where the old one was, but it's pretty impressive. It seems to be enormous, easily accommodating groups of schoolkids taking  tours. It contains a few flood artifacts as well. What it seems a little short of at this point is, ah, books. Perhaps it's the size of the building, but all the volumes in the collection now seem to be paperback, and they fail to fill the shelves. I guess we should give them time and hope for continued high farm prices in order to get all the volumes the community needs. Good luck to them.

Should we feel a little sorry for Caroline Wozniaki? You know - the Danish tennis player. She's been a highly-ranked player for some time, and is also well known for her bright smile and fabulous teeth. But she's had things go south on her just recently.
Here's what happened. She had a romance going with Rory McElroy, the pro golfer from the U.K. They'd been close for two years or so, and planned to marry. The invitations were even sent out, but then McElroy backed out, not blaming Ms. W., but claiming that he just wasn't yet ready for marriage.
It's true that this has happened before to both would be brides and grooms, some famous, most not. But this one couldn't have happened at a worse time, because Wozniaki was scheduled to take the court this week in the French Open in Paris. So the breakup was even more public. Have you ever been surrounded by thousands of people all wanting to get a look inside your head? It couldn't have been easy, and she lost in the first round, though she has received some support from her tennis competitors, many of whom no doubt have lost a guy or two along the way.
I think, just speculating, that it's hard for celebrities to marry successfully. Andre Agassi was once married to Brooke Shields, and was forced to confess that their two schedules alone made it impossible for them to even own a dog together. That marriage didn't last, and neither did Chris Evert's three marriages to, respectively, a tennis player, a skier and a golfer, all of them well known. 
It's not wrong to want to excel, thence becoming both famous and wealthy. But people need to remember - Life is full of tradeoffs, and it has to be a problem when both spouses are accustomed to special treatment.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Presidential Possibilities

What qualities do we think of when considering who was, or might be, a capable president? The most obvious would be "makes good decisions", but how does one know that ahead of time, especially when we can't know what the issues will be? Even a good or poor past record says little about the future. After all, no president can be an expert on everything, and advisers can be wrong, too.
There's also the matter of how we view a president as a person. Should he be like Reagan, never too far from seeing the office as a role? Or is it just as good to be like Coolidge, who was willing to make decisions, but not to talk about them?
I saw Senator Elizabeth Warren on TV not long ago discussing several things. This is a person who came from humble circumstances in Oklahoma, becoming a Harvard professor. She has now done what many presidential wannabes have done in the past - written a book that emphasizes her own history. In the interviews I saw, she seemed a little like Margaret Thatcher - decisive, with some impressive accomplishments to boot. And by "impressive", I mean "forced the financial overlords to make refunds to people like you and me that totaled in the billions". That's something not many can say, especially since there are plenty working the other side of matters such as this.
Ms. Warren isn't young. She turns 65 next month, and you wouldn't call her "glamorous" even though she gives the impression of being a good listener who has taken care of herself over the years. She says she is not a candidate for president (she's a Democrat) and might not change her mind. But she knows, I think, her way around the political minefield as well as anyone. I liked a little homily I heard her state so much that it's now on our family bulletin board (the frig): "You can't get what you don't fight for." Well said, Madam.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The U.S.S.R.

It's now been over twenty years since the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) dissolved itself. Not many people, to tell the truth, miss it. Of course, one of those who does miss it is Vladimir Putin, strongman of the successor state, the Russian Federation. Putin is even on record saying that the USSR's end was the biggest catastrophe of the 20th century. He's in the minority on that one, too.
Still, with the passage of time, it isn't unreasonable to consider what that country might have done well and whether they deserve any credit. It sure wouldn't be for granting freedom to its citizens or providing modern consumer goods and services. Its schools were outdated, its culture stagnant and even the Soviet "style" seemed to emphasize a kind of one-size-fits-all clunky quality that reached all the way down to ugly, gas-guzzling autos and baggy suits. No one misses all that.
Even so, I don't think it's unfair to give the old USSR credit for two things. The first is their early achievements in space exploration. With a group of second-string German rocket scientists, they were the first to launch a satellite into space, and the first to launch orbiting capsules with human passengers. True, not all of them made it back safely, but at one point they led the whole world in space travel. Not bad for country with a second-rate economy.
But even this pales in importance beside the old Soviet Union's greatest feat. That was turning back a huge German army, forcing them to fight a two-front war long after they thought the USSR would be plowed under. This was, without exception, the largest battle front in history, with millions on both sides. Yes, the Russians had a little help from their western allies, but really had to do most of the dirty work themselves, all the way back to Berlin, where the European phase of the war finally ended, four years after the country was first invaded.
I'd never choose to live in a country like the old USSR, but it isn't wrong to give credit where it's due. Their old veterans are now, like ours, mostly gone. But leaving them off the list of WW II allies would be wrong. Sure, they were led by a ruthless dictator, but they managed to finally win in spite of, rather than because of, Joseph Stalin.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

GOWGs Step In It

Some time ago I tried to add "GOWG" as a new term, like "Millenials". It never caught on, but the GOWGs themselves (Grouchy Old White Guys) are still with us, and still saying some amazing things. Last week was a big one for them as a group.

First, there's Cliven Bundy, who had already attained infamy by recruiting an army of red-neck gun- toters to keep the BLA from confiscating his cattle as partial settlement for a million dollars he owes in unpaid range grazing fees in Nevada.
But then, just as Mr. B. seemed to be generating a little sympathy from strictly neutral sources like Fox News, he started talking about race. At this point it's good to remind ourselves that at this point in our history race hate hasn't disappeared, but its public declaration by guys over eighty years old is doomed to be rejected, sincerely or not, by just about everyone. I, for one, can hardly think of someone with less interface with other races than Mr. Bundy, with the possible exception of contact with Latino cowboys.
As I was opining, Bundy somehow got to talking about race and soon managed to tie himself so firmly in knots that he didn't require any pointed questions to show everyone the opinions we had as a nation about fifty years ago, and that we have moved away from, thank heaven. By the time Bundy's rants were recorded, the order had gone from Sean Hannity's office at Fox to never (!) again take any calls from the old coot. So - anyone got a million they can spare the old guy? He'd be willing to do a press conference on your front lawn - if you like. Maybe his next moneymaking effort will be as a cowboy hat model.

Then there's Donald Sterling, who got a mention here a few weeks ago as owner of the long horrible but now pretty good L.A. Clippers of the NBA. Like Bundy, Sterling is also the other side of eighty years old, with opinions to match. What's odd is that the NBA is the last place you'd expect to find race bigotry given the makeup of players, coaches, refs, etc.
Sterling has much more practice with the press than Bundy, but it was a conversation with his girlfriend that got recorded which has landed him in hot water. The girlfriend, who's luminously attractive, is multiracial and maybe a third Sterling's age, holds up her end of the debate pretty well while the geezer keeps contradicting himself as a way to justify his standards for her behavior. The Clippers players themselves are stuck in the middle, but reversed their warmups last night as a form of silent protest prior to losing their playoff game. They deserve better, and offers to buy the team are starting to surface.
Evidently there is something about getting old that makes you think your opinions are infallible. I suppose that goes for me, too. Just keep in mind that when you start to hear somebody talk in terms of "them" and "they" followed by examples of bad behavior almost always indicting a group the speaker has no firsthand knowledge with, you too could be talking to a full-blown, bigoted GOWG.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Some people think I'm crazy for still watching TV commercials. For reasons too boring to go into, I disagree. I think they can accidentally reveal plenty about how we see things and ourselves.
 I like, for instance, the BMW commercial featuring one little add-on feature which allows people to send a message from their computer to the auto. A little girl and a dog share the back seat of the car. The girl asks her mom the meaning of the message showing on the car's PC "Mommy, what is 'nu-ter-ing'?" This takes the mom by surprise, and in the brief moment she takes to compose an answer in her head, the dog somehow figures it out that this is not good news for him. He quickly jumps out of the car window and takes off at full speed. Well, you can't blame the car's system. It did what it was supposed to, right? It's funny.

On the other side of the scale, there's the now tiresome series of ads for the Mexican beer Dos Equis featuring the "World's Most Interesting Man". There he is, seated at a restaurant between two lovely women whose combined ages are about half of his. He makes a little crack about Sinco de Mayo that includes the term "dos", which the two women find amusing, then he delivers his sage stock advice, "Stay thirsty, my friends."
This guy needs to go somewhere to shave, then grow up and give us something that's really interesting instead of something that sounds like it came from a college kid. Who can say when he was the "most interesting"? All we can say for sure is that it isn't now.