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Archive for May, 2008

“The mind is a strange thing, men.

We must begin by asking it…
…What is losing?

Losing is a disease…
…as contagious as polio.

Losing is a disease…
…as contagious as syphilis.

Losing is a disease…
…as contagious as bubonic plague…

… attacking one…
… but infecting all.

But curable.”

The preceding is a snatch of dialog from the movie The Natural.

The manager of a losing baseball team calls in a hypnotist to cure the team’s “disease.”

This snippet came to mind as I thought about the presidential election.

The Democrats are in their classic losers’ campaign mode…reacting to Republican attacks with no response but a whimper now and then.

And John McCain is only in semi-attack mode. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. War is the sum total of his platform, and he already has Barack reacting at every turn.

The latest McCain assault has convinced Barack that he needs to visit Iraq and get his information about the war “on the ground” instead of from the institutional media.

Only fools believe this, but apparently the Democratic Party is loaded wit fools. Look for Barack to land in Baghdad one of these days, have a meal or two with the troops, listen to some briefings by Petraeus and his staff, walk around a safe-zone surrounded by photogs and armored marines, hop on his plane, and return.

Will he have gathered any “facts” from his experience? Yes, he will be sated by facts spoon-fed to him by the few people he actually meets.

This is a prime example of reactionary political campaigning. While engaged in this meaningless activity, Barack and the Democratic Party will be diverted from the real problems of this country, problems like the economy, skyrocketing fuel prices, and a collapsing housing market.

Instead of reacting as usual, Barack ought to invite McCain to accompany him on a walking tour through the slums of Washington, D.C., slums within a stone’s throw of the White House and the “People’s House,” where high-level pols enjoy cheap neals and and a slew of other perks unavailable to most of the veterans McCain refuses to be lectured about.

The cure for losing doesn’t lie down the same old road. Winning requires a journey into the unknown, the road less traveled.

Maybe the Democrats could use a hypnotist.

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I’ve always been a lover of lists, stuff like The 100 Sexiest Jobs in Elko NV, Top Five Hunks in the History of Human Civilization, and The 100 Best Places to Raise a Family.

The latter is a real list put together by the Today Show’s Best Life editors from a plethora of sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, and the National Center for Educational Statistics among others.

Using these data and more, the editors ranked and rated the desirability of cities based on the congeniality of a city toward the safety, health, and education of its youth.

The thing that strikes me positively about this particular list is the large number of California cities on it.

Based on my unofficial and hopefully accurate summary, Cal had 22, or 22% of the nationwide total. No other state came close to that proportion.

Moreover, 11 of the 22 are located in the Bay Area, a number still higher than the number for any other single state. If that isn’t commendable, I don’t know what is.

However, I have serious reservations about the inclusion of some of them.

Richmond, for example, came in at Number 73, high but still on the list. I’m familiar with the city and the surrounding area, which causes me to wonder about the family friendliness of a city that has become a gang and murder center fully worth the extra gas it takes to circle the town when heading to Tahoe.

Oakland at Number 84 is another city I would think seriously about if I were raising children. The murder rate in Oakland is astronomical and the schools leave much to be desired. There may be pockets of tranquility within the city limits, but even that is problematic as a gauge of family togetherness.

One other city, San Francisco at Number 67, made my seriously doubt list. SF is a great place for fun and games, but is it a commendable spot to raise kids in? There are many good neighborhoods, but the question in my mind relates to proximity. Can a parent in one of SF’s garden spots rest comfortably knowing that their adolescent darlings can jump on a bus and ride to the center of the action the minute they’re out of parental sight.

The remainder of the Bay Area cities on the cut include some that seem quite nice. Santa Rosa at Number 10 would be my personal choice. And I always considered Number 64 Concord a real nice spot.

The balance includes the South Bay Area 22, Fremont 38, Berkeley 40, Fairfield 50, Antioch 51, and Hayward 93.

Worth mentioning, not a single California city made the list of the 10 Worst Places to Raise a Family (find this list below the Top 100).

I’m surprised that Davis didn’t make the California state-wide cut. It was Number 3 on the 5 Friendliest Cities in America.

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This is Post Number 500 since I opened this site in April 2007.

So what? Ho hum. Yawn. What’s the big deal, pal?

Well, I’ve been cranking these things out at the rate of more than one a day. That’s what the Blog Gurus advise a new blogger to do.

Their advice is based on the assumption that most bloggers want to be noticed, the way aspiring movie actors and nude models want to be noticed. Public nudity is a certain attention getter, but in my case, that’s definitely out of the question.

Besides, my purpose never was to be noticed (roll eyes). I wrote in the beginning and still do primarily for my daughters and a few redneck cousins. If a few others happened to stumble across the site, good.

I also wanted to kill a little time and exercise my brain muscles. As the intellect goes, so goes the universe, someone said once. So, blogging has been good. Internet research is a challenge. I love it.

And, man, there’s a lot of info about people floating around on the ‘net. A diligent and unprincipled researcher could build a biography of some poor, unsuspecting slob, complete with photos.

If I have a problem getting a post up and readable, it’s following those damned grammatical rules. I admire those who can knock out a grammatically correct sentence without raising a sweat. But that isn’t me. I keep a can of generic store brand spray-on eau de cologne handy to mask the emissions from my snapping and popping synapses.

But, little by little, I’m making progress, so much in fact, that I have decided to abandon my role as a blogger and become a Narrative Journalist. I figure 500 posts qualifies me  for a promotion and a new job title.

Besides, Narrative Journalist sounds more respectable. Blogger is a label with a nice sound to it, but it suggests beer and pretzels at Happy Hour. I prefer the ever chic and genteel double Diet Dr. Pepper on the rocks, hold the cherry. Cherries drive my glucose level out of sight.

Okay, so beginning with my next 500-post cycle, I will be a Narrative Journalist.

Actually, I just knocked this out to meet my self-imposed quota. I could have written something hateful, but I decided to let my thoughts of GB pass and concentrate on humor today.

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This is the day set aside as a national holiday to remind us that many Americans have died in wars over the years.

The holiday began as Decoration Day shortly after the end of the Civil War to commemorate Union soldiers who perished in that terrible conflict. The name was changed to Memorial Day after World War I and so it remains today.

In the beginning, Americans honored their dead by placing flowers at the graves of the deceased. Something seems to have been lost over the years.

My neighbor is celebrating by hammering, nailing, and sawing boards, interspersed with the sounds of a drill and a blower. Maybe he’s building a monument.

Facebook is celebrating by performing maintenance on my account. They’ve apparently been celebrating intermittently for a week or so based on the many notifications and abject apologies I receive when trying to sign in. Oddly, Facebook seem to celebrate none of my acquaintances. I feel privileged.

And millions of individual Americans will celebrate by whipping out credit cards and taking advantage of Memorial Day sales, perhaps on the assumption that a part of the price of their purchases will go to the Army and Navy Relief funds.

At Lake Havasu, a goodly number of virtually-naked women will bob up and down in fiberglass boats to the adoring looks of squadrons of equally semi-naked males, while deputy sheriffs wait for an opportunity to quell a fracas so they can get an up close and personal look at the cellulite.

Hordes of politicians will visit national cemeteries where they will orate in glowing terms and sweeping phrases about sacrifice and patriotism, adjourning thereafter to the air-conditioned comfort of their country clubs. I feel a little bit of acid reflux spilling out at the thought of these annual rituals.

Quite a few people who have actually lost loved ones in a war will visit their graves not so much to honor them but to cry futilely for their return. Their faces will twist with an agony so palpable that we want to cry with them.

In reality, Memorial Day is a day of grief and sadness for millions of Americans. Nowhere is that grief and agony so evident as in the face of Cindy Sheehan.

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Recently, Fog City Journal appointed me the very first Official Fan of Fog City Journal. This is a prestigious position, so prestigious, in fact, that they pay me nothing. Instead, my reward is my name on FCJ’s Facebook page alongside the names of other executive-level officers. For an ex-enlisted man, that’s a pretty heady promotion. Who needs money, anyway?

The position doesn’t come with a job description, either, so I’ll develop my own set of executive duties. Here are some important and critical concepts of the career progression requirements of an executive-level fan, based in part on my daughter’s experience as an executive assistant in Silicon Valley. She suggested that I start by recruiting a loyal following to carry the word.

And as a recruiting tool, she suggested that I develop a brief set of expected responsibilities that establish clear guidelines for all who wish to become loyal disciples. Like all key executives, I will lead by example. Here’s how I personally plan to spread the word.

  • Throw out the name Fog City Journal or its short form, FCJ, in business and social settings. For example, on the golf course, never congratulate a player for hitting a long drive by saying, “Good Drive.” Say something like, “Jesus, man, you pasted that pill right out of Fog City. That’s one for your Journal.” Raise your volume on the emphasized words.
  • In staff meetings, develop several stock statements for positive achievements using the aforementioned terms. Instead of saying “Folks, Jake is our Employee of the Month,” add a little sugar…”and as a reward, he’s been invited to join FCJ’s Facebook Discussion Group for an entire month free of charge.”
  • Church is a prime setting, also. I don’t know anything about Catholic requirements, but if the Hollywood version is accurate, you could step into a confessional and say “Forgive me Father for I have sinned. I failed to browse Fog City Journal yesterday.
  • If you’re not a Catholic, other protocols will work as well. My familiarity is with the Holy Roller method of gaining entry into Heaven. Holy Roller is a generic term for any church where the pastor prances around waving his arms and praising Jesus, to which the congregation responds with a chorus of Amen’s and Praise the Lord in Heaven. When the noise level subsides, there’s your chance to say, “Praise the Almighty for Fog City Journal.”
  • If you’re having a get-together at your friendly neighborhood tavern after church, order a round of drinks for everyone by shouting at the top of your voice, “Put that on FCJ’s tab,”  or a suitable substitute sentence like, Put that on Elaine’s tab.”

There are so many more, like developing subliminal messages. For example, instead of walking around with a flashing neon sign on your forehead that says “Will do sex for free,” a redundancy in SF anyway, program the sign to flash, “Will do FCJ for free.”

But that’s mere speculation, a matter for future contemplation.

We Can be Serious, too

For the humorless among you (and there are legions based on the multitude of comments sent to me which never appear in the Comment section), this is satire or irony or a Soliscism or perhaps some other sort of literary device the erudite use to confuse us.

In reality, and in complete control of my faculties, I read FCJ religiously. It carries the most complete and well-reasoned political analysis in the Bay Area. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the only source that seriously recognizes the existence of Cindy Sheehan.

All of FCJ’s contributors are top-notch, and the CrackBerry Chronicles by Elaine is both serious and ha-ha funny at the same time. It’s safe to say, she cracks me up (universal groan).

All right, yaw, git off yer buns and click on Fog City Journal.

Addendum
1. For the curious, “yaw” is the right way to pronounce “You all.” The L doesn’t exist down South, which raises an interesting question, “How do Southerners pronounce Liberal?”

2. Someone said the other day I ought to be disbarred. That’s what I mean by humorless people. Disbarred from what, I wonder. Law? Medicine? Dog catching? Personally, I agree with the statement.

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…only better…

Occasionally, I run across nice people on the ‘net. One such is Jeannie Watt. No, I don’t know her personally. She’s a romance novelist who writes about ordinary people in modern-day small town communities in Nevada’s Cowboy Country where she lives.

She’s the best author I’ve stumbled across in recent memory. When I say “stumbled across” I mean it literally. I’d been looking through a book rack in a supermarket when my eye caught the partial cover of a book in the bottom row. I glimpsed a cowboy and a ranch building in the background and quickly grabbed it without reading the back cover or browsing any of the pages.

When we returned home, I discovered that the book was Jeannie’s The Brother Returns, a novel classified in the Romance genre. I almost discarded it but decided to look through it because I had nothing else to do. Imagine my pleasant surprise when the book turned out to be an excellent read about two ordinary, 21st Century people in a small community in Nevada’s Cowboy Country. I was so captivated by Jeannie’s style and talents that I immediately logged onto Amazon’s site and ordered another of her novels, A Difficult Woman. This one was a page-turner of the first rank.

A Difficult Woman chronicles the relationship between Tara Sullivan and Matt Connors, two individuals who labor under the umbrella of unwarranted suspicion and mistrust. Tara’s family members are the virtual outcasts of the community of Big Sky, Nevada, and as usual in small towns, descendents are the beneficiaries of the sins of their mothers and fathers. In Tara’s case, her father served prison time.

Matt, a Reno police officer, is suspected of being a crooked cop because his father had been involved with a ring of crooked cops. The old corruption of blood characteristic of humans applies in Matt’s case as well.

At any rate, call if fate if you wish, the two wind up in Big Sky, Nevada, where Matt helps Tara renovate an old pioneer house bequeathed to her by an aunt.

Naturally, as you would suspect in a romance novel, romance flares. I don’t intend to include any spoilers here. Suffice to say, their path to love is filled with a few surprising twists and turns.

The pleasure in Jeanne’s style is the very ordinariness of its characters, ordinary people in an ordinary small town who go about their business in an ordinary way. There are no lords and ladies, no descendents of royalty, no powerful and experienced men teaching innocent maidens the exquisite joys of sex.

She doesn’t offer passages of glorious ecstasy, no orgasmic explosions or rocket trips to the moon. Jeannie Watt is a skilled author, a master of the art of suggestion. Imagination is always more powerful than detailed graphic descriptions. Diane creates the subtle illusion of the ultimate sexual experience and when the ultimate finally occurs, our imagination convinces is that we could be Tara or Matt.

A Difficult Woman was Jeannie’s first novel, but I swear you wouldn’t suspect it. Her dialogue is superb. In fact, if you didn’t know she is a woman, you’d think the author is a male. No woman could create such realistic male dialogue. That requires a great deal of observational and listening skills.

And she created a great little gathering spot, Big Sky’s only casino which also serves as a restaurant. She touched one of my nerves with its name–the Owl Club. I used to hang out at a spot called the Owl Club on San Pablo Avenue in San Pablo, which was remarkably similar to the one in Big Sky, Nevada.

Although Jeannie’s novels are of the Romance genre and published under the Ballantine imprint, they aren’t purely and solely about non-stop romance. Jeannie weaves love into her stories when it is appropriate, but the underlying currents run deeper, touching on hopes and dreams and the abilities of regular people to meet the challenges of life and cope with hardships.

We’ve all experienced the same kinds of travails. It’s good to read about people like us. And it’s good to be reminded once in awhile that ordinary people can experience extraordinary romance with a degree of intensity equal to that of lords and ladies and worshipful virgins.

Jeannie has other works in the mill which I fully intend to read. This is unusual for me because I do not read romance stories. Until now. Jeannie’s works are the first I have read in more years than I care to mention.

One final thought. As a classic American male, I am not overly romantic (at least not publicly). My reading tastes run to Westerns. Every little boy wants to grow up to be a cowboy, right? Somehow, Jeannie tapped into my interest in the West and my subterranean romantic tendencies.

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I notice that Cuba is on the front burner all of a sudden. I watched John Boy blasting Barack on television this morning because Barack says he will talk to Raul Castro. John wants to continue the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba for another 100 years.

John’s argument is interesting. He believes U.S. pressure on Cuba will result in “real” change for the “Cuban people.” Maybe. The future is unpredictable. The story is in the past. We’ve done our best to isolate Cuba since Castro came to power more than 40 years ago. So far, the strategy hasn’t seemed to work. I wonder why?

One reason may be because our embargo on trade with Cuba has been a complete and total failure. Other countries have filled any gap left by us as a result of the trade embargo act of 1996. But wait. There’s more.

The United States is Cuba’s seventh largest import partner.

Hola!

How can this be? Who knows. Maybe a total trade embargo doesn’t really mean “total.” Or, big money trumps “total” every time. Here’s the list of Cuba’s top export markets.

  • Netherlands, 21.8%
  • Canada, 21.6%
  • China, 18.7%
  • Spain, 5.9%

Hmmm. We aren’t buying anything from Cuba. But are we selling them anything? Let’s see. Here are Cuba’s top import partners:

  • Venezuela, 25,6%
  • China, 15.6%
  • Spain, 9.8%
  • Germany, 6.4%
  • Canada, 5.6%
  • Italy, 4.4%
  • US, 4.3%
  • Brazil, 4.2%

Hola! I wonder, exactly what the US doesn’t sell to Cuba to warrant a Number 7 spot on Cuba’s imports partners list?

I’d be willing to bet that that we enacted legislation in 2000 permitting exceptions to the “total” trade embargo.

I’d further bet that those exceptions were for “humanitarian” purposes, stuff like medical and agricultural products.

Heck, if it’s for humanitarian purposes, why don’t we show a little compassion and give the stuff to them?

Is it merely coincidence, a merging of the stars, that the medical and agricultural industries in the US are two if the most powerful lobbies in D.C. Hmmm.

Oh, well. At least we’re running a trade surplus with Cuba.

Where did I get all of this data? Why, from the CIA.

Say what, Bro?

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