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.