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Archive for January, 2009

This is too good to pass up. I’ve been posting on Open Salon for a few days, inane stuff, no particular theme, whatever popped up in my mind. This morning, I received a private email through the Open Salon email feature. Here it is, edited to conceal the identity of the writer, a registered Open Salon member who hasn’t posted anything and whose profile is blank. Okay, here goes, quoted verbatim with personal info ex-ed out. Get ready. Ta da!

“Hello!!!
My name is xxx,i saw your profile today at this( open.salon.com) site and became intrested in you,i will also like to know you the more,and i want you to send an email to my email address so i can give you my picture for you to know whom i am.Here is my email address (xxxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxx.com) believe we can move from here!I am waiting for your mail to my email address above.(Remeber the distance, colour or language does not matter but love matters alot in life.”

This is rather astounding to say the least. But that isn’t the whole story. The following is the sum total of my Open Salon profile.

“Just an ordinary guy who is interested in a lot of different things. I write according to my mood of the moment. I have a difficult time taking some things seriously.”

This probably doesn’t bear mentioning, but I do not plan to take this one seriously. Aside from the atrocious language, spelling, punctuation, et cetera, this is obviously a come on. After running some possibilities through my mind (a hooker, someone looking for an American sucker to marry, an identity thief, a person with a few short circuiting synapses), I finally settled on the strong possibility that the message originated in a foreign country where there seem to be millions of people who have just inherited untold wealth and want to transfer it to an American bank.

Of course, they will be happy to reward me with a huge sum of money if I help them. But, wait, there’s more. They need some ready cash for their endeavor. Would I please do them a small favor in return for a share of their inheritance? Would I lend them $20,000?

Why have I selected you to help me? I have spoken to acquaintances who know of your reputation for honesty, kindness, monetary resources, and stupidity. Uh huh. Yeah. Right.

I’ve received messages like this before, although never from an individual who fell in love with 31 words. Very innovative.

Well, I referred the email to Open Salon’s editor as a possible scam and asked if she’s received complaints about this sort of thing before. Her response: just mark it as Spam to see if the new spam filter works.

So, what’s your take? Have I extrapolated too much? Or is the author of the email merely a simple soul looking for love in all the wrong places?

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An interesting game is making the rounds on Facebook. Once you’re “tagged” you’re supposed to write 25 random facts, habits, goals, or whatever about yourself and post them on Facenook. Here is my list.

  1. I have the attention span of a gnat.
  2. I crossed the Pacific Ocean three times on a troopship.
  3. My favorite snack is a Beanie Weenie sandwich.
  4. Carl Perkins’ version of Blue Suede Shoes beats Elvises hands down.
  5. I’m in love with Diane Lane’s legs.
  6. I was an Expert rifleman in the service.
  7. I hate the egotistical practice of beginning a sentences with a freakin’ I.
  8. One of my daughters was a Sears television model for several years.
  9. The same daughter became a firearms instructor for the Homeland Security Agency.
  10. Another daughter appeared on the old television show Jake and the Fatman as a regular background player, handing papers to Joe Penney and the like.
  11. I had brain surgery and when I woke, the world had changed.
  12. My aversion to assholes approaches the intensity of the speed of light squared.
  13. My favorite city is San Francisco, and my favorite major metro area is the Bay Area, although D.C. will do in a pinch.
  14. I want to be a cowboy.
  15. I would never have an operation in Seattle’s Grace Hospital.
  16. I pray that I can finish this list.
  17. My favorite sport is baseball.
  18. Everything I know, I learned from a crossword puzzle
  19. The world is flat. I know. I’m trying to climb back on.
  20. Savory crayfish make me want to gag.
  21. I used to hitchhike all over Washington State, Northern California, Arkansas, and Missouri.
  22. I once rode the back of a garbage truck, slinging 50-gallon garbage cans over my shoulder and dumping them in the truck. Then I would step aside and retch.
  23. The best job I ever had was clearing tumbleweeds away from fences way out yonder in the Eastern Washington prairie.
  24. I woke up one morning and I was a university professor.
  25. Then I asked, “What the hell am I doing here?”

Okay, I’ve shown you mine. Now, show me yours.

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I watched Must Love Dogs starring Diane Lane last evening. I first saw her in Lonesome Dove in the role of a hooker with a heart of gold. That was 1989, twenty-one years ago when she was a youthful twenty-three. In Must Love Dogs, she was thirty-nine and still retained her basic beauty.

Only last night, on my 46-inch high definition television, a few lines and tiny sags were visible. And that set me to wondering if the advent of hi def will have an effect on romance on the tube. I mean, here we have these aging but still beautiful women and handsome men filling the room with every pore magnified. How will that play with an American audience that demands perfection, either natural or artificial?

The future is unpredictable, but one thought popped into my mind. Hollywood’s make-up artists may have to develop new ways of hiding blemishes from those umpteen million pixels that record with accurate detail everything withing range. That may be a tall order.

But, then again, if we begin to see these icons of physical perfection as ordinary mortals like us, perhaps our standards of beauty will become more realistic. Is that possible? Can we accept two average-looking people engaged in hot romantic scenes?

I look for digital enhancement rather than makeup as a solution. Romance demands illusion, and I am sure Hollywood stands ready to honor our desires.

What are your thoughts on this Earth shaking development?

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Recently, I began posting on Open Salon. My blogger cohort, Alexandra Jones, who writes The Ax Files, introduced me to the site. She’s an Open Salon regular contributor, writing under the captivating handle Captivating Randomata. Alex receives top flight reviews and glowing comments. For more info, click this link and find out all about Open Salon, its content and policies.

My experiences have been pleasant so far. At least, no one has called me a “Fucking asshole!” Debate on Open Salon is a mite politer and more about logic and reason than name calling, although Salon’s editors had to cut short one thread that was rapidly sinking into the gutter.

The Open Salon blog that I write is similar to this one in content with variations to fit a national audience. In fact, I began on Open Salon by shifting a few SF Bay Area posts to the Open Salon site and altering them slightly. Recently, I have found myself reversing the procedure by writing for an Open Salon audience and then moving the stuff to this site.

cyclopic
is my Open Salon identity. That’s a ghost town in Arizona, and I use it as my personal code word for the ghosts of past behavior we all carry around. Besides, the name sounds pleasant to me.

On Open Salon, also, I’ve included a headshot clipped from a group photo. I am not exactly certain if the person in the photo is me or Matt Dillon. It could be my brother. Or it may even be a cousin. In any event, if the consensus is that the guy looks like a politician, then it’s one of the others.

If you’re a blogger, you may be interested in showing your stuff to a national audience. I have run across several bloggers from Canada and commented on their excellent input. Open Salon reaches an audience of—I forgot the number—a million? Anyway, a lot. Signing up is easy. Try it. You might like it.

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If I were the President of the United States (which I never will be for reasons too numerous to cover in a 10,000 page treatise), my first act would be to assign the White House Press Corps to an office in an abandoned mineshaft in Cyclopic, Arizona.

No insult intended to Arizona, but the Press Corps is rapidly becoming a royal pain in the you-know-what. The Corps has adopted the attitude that Obama is supposed to comply with its rules of behavior. Obama didn’t invite them into his office when he took his Presidential oath the second time around. He didn’t televise the event. Instead, he handed out still photos. He’s violating his pledge of an open White House, and so on.

So, all of a sudden, the Press Corps is up in arms about a perceived breach of Obama’s pledge of open government. Well, that’s a wide open concept. Surely the Press Corp doesn’t expect a carload of cameras and reporters to follow Obama from room to room, filming his every move, recording his every utterance, cataloging the number of times he visits the men’s room. The man needs time to accomplish his work, and it’s his call not the Press Corps’.

Adding to the media mix of childishness, several cable news outlets suddenly seem enthralled with nothing stories. Most of these overly dramatic non-stories originate with CNN, appearing in great profusion on the Wolf Blitzer show. Every time I click on the show, he’s out of breath over something manini. Does anyone care about Caroline Kennedy withdrawing her name from consideration as a Senator from New York? Sure, lots of rumor mongers and conspiracy theorists care. But the story isn’t of Earth shaking importance. Run it once or twice and let it go. But, no, it’s always lurking somewhere, ready to become “Breaking News” for the umpteenth time.

Another media excess reminded me of Milli Vanilli. This one is about Yo-Yo Ma, world renowned cellist. My God, the man only pretended to play at Obama’s inauguration! The actual music the audience heard was pre-recorded. Lord, what a travesty. What an insult to everyone in the universe. How utterly coarse and, dare I say it, un-American. I wonder if Wolf Blitzer’s show is ever pre-recorded in whole or in part.

Here’s something Wolf and the Press Corps might want to consider. For the last eight years, the Bush Administration locked itself behind closed doors and rarely ventured out for a substantive press “briefing. My memory tells me the institutional media pretty well laid low. Now, the American public needs a press devoted to the coverage of substantial news, like the domestic economy, national defense, and Obama’s overhaul of the destructive Bush policies of the last eight years. Leave the gossip and innuendo to TMZ.

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I recently stumbled across a blog site called Love is an Exploding Cigar. The site is mainly by and for women writers of romantic fiction. All of the current contributors, as far as I can tell, balance full-time jobs with families and kids while handling a whole slew of other activities, Yet they all manage to produce book after book for a variety of publishing houses such as Harlequin.

Yesterday, a contributor posted an interesting blog about the types of heroes she prefers to write about. Her blog contribution was followed by thoughts from other writers and readers who talked about their own preferences in heroes. On balance, the types fell into one of two categories: the flawed superhero who dominates the world around him, and the average guy-next-door type, the Average Man with hidden skills and talents. Based on the responses so far, the writers and readers prefer the Alpha over the Beta.

As I read, I thought about a similar phenomenon in politics. A seemingly large share of the American public seems to love bad-boy politicians. Over the past two or three years, we’ve had a slew of bad-boy scandals that have consumed enormous amounts of the public’s attention and resulted in the expenditure of public funds on investigations and lost productivity.

The usual outcome of most of these cases has been predictable. First, the offender apologizes, then the public chants, “Yeah, he is a dirty, rotten scoundrel, but he’s a good [Mayor, Governor, Senator, Dogcatcher, Whatever]. Besides, he’s hot.”

From this plethora of political revelations, some people have begun to offer an odd rationale to justify forgiving the offenders and keeping them in office. It goes something like this: “If we got rid of them, no one would be available to run things.”

“Who,” the argument proceeds, “would want to stand for elective or appointed office if their peccadilloes were exposed to the world? Besides, everyone does it.” (Fill in your version of “it.”)

This is a compelling argument on the surface. The problem is that it’s filled with so many deceptive undertones that it would take a lifetime to address them. Perhaps a more succinct method of approaching the whole subject would be the Street Level Summation: Bullshit.

First of all, not everyone does it. Millions don’t do it. Not every 45-year-old mayor has a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old intern. Not every nominee for the post of Treasury Secretary fails to withhold Social Security taxes for their employees to the tune of $34,000 dollars and then somehow suddenly reveals in the sophisticated, non-accusatorial language of politics that he used Turbo Tax.

Second, the argument suggests that people who don’t do it are incompetent, or, phrased another way, only bad-boy politicians are competent. Bullshit. The simple fact is that the number of people who don’t do it far exceeds the number who do. Just by chance, there are bound to be more competent people among the not-doers than among the doers.

Third, the argument suggests that only “hot” people make competent politicians. Bullshit. I can name several un-hot politicians who are the best around. Besides, a look at the distribution of the number of people who fall in the “hot” category on a Bell Curve will clearly show that there aren’t enough “hots” in the universe to fill the number of available government positions.

I could pick forever at the American tendency to forgive criminal and morally reprehensible behavior by politicians. I could also pick a little at the tendency of men and women universally who think bad boys are “hot” and “exciting.” This is probably sour grapes on my part. No one has ever referred to me as hot or exciting. I’m not a bad boy, unless you count a tendency to snore in 10th grade English class.

I think I’ll revisit Love is an Exploding Cigar and ask one of the authors if she needs a good Omega Model.

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One of our esteemed California Senators, Dianne Feinstein, was prominently on display during Barack Obama’s inauguration as our 44th President. Ordinarily, that would be a meaningless occurrence except as a photo op. But Dianne was one of the Democratic Senators who voted in favor of Michael Mukasey as Attorney General in the Bush Administration, even though Mukassey testified before Congress that he didn’t know if waterboarding is torture or not.

Dianne’s rationale for supporting Mukassey seemed odd. Mukasey admited that he is as dumb as dirt. Why would Dianne want a person in office who lacked the smarts to read a comic strip much less the U.S. Constitution? Well, she said, the Office of Attorney General has been vacant too long. The office neededs an effective leader.

We all agreed then and agree now with the second part, but the office had effectively been without leadership for the past seven years at the time of Mukassey’s hearing. So, what’s another year? Why couldn’t Dianne have waited for a new president? Only Dianne can answer the question and she doesn’t seem inclined to expand on her original “reasoning.”

However, if she wants a few facts to help her see the light, I refer her to Evan Wallach who wrote a compelling opinion piece for the Washington Post about waterboarding titled Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime.

As an ex-Judge Advocate General (JAG) in the Nevada National Guard, he cited a number of legal precedents for the argument that torture in general and waterboarding specifically are illegal under both U.S. domestic law and international law.

He recounted the case of two American soldiers court-martialed in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War for waterboarding two Filipino guerillas.

He also described in detail the process of waterboarding and its effects on the victims, including excerpts of testimony from the records of the Tokyo War Crimes Trial by two Americans who were waterboarded by Japanese interrogators during World War II.

And as late as 1983, a federal jury convicted a Texas sheriff and three deputies of civil rights violations for waterboarding a prisoner. The four were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

These are sketchy examples, to be sure, but the point is that waterboarding has a long history of illegality and any fool ought to know it. Maybe the fools in Congress didn’t, but clearly, the legal record cannot be ignored by any rational person. Not only is waterboarding a form of torture, United States courts have consistently held it to be a crime.

Now, today, we have Dianne Feinstein standing next to Obama and acting as if the whole thing never happened. And right in there among the power group was Nancy Pelosi who has vowed to take no crap from the commander in chief. Plus, there was Barbara Boxer in the mix. She’s an enigma to me, but if she follows in the footsteps of her Bay Area cohorts, look out, Barry.

We ought to be scratching our heads at the thought of any lawmaker waffling over the issue of torture. We further ought to be perplexed at Nancy for her sudden display of guts after her possum-like career as Speaker of the House of Representatives when Bush was President. And we need to watch Barbara Boxer closely for signs that she may have decided to join the Opposition Wing of the Democratic Party.

Then when election time rolls around, all good citizens should take into account any and all recalcitrant behavior by these individuals. If one or more of them stands for any future political office, whether the office is another term as a Senator, a Representative, the Governor of California, or dogcatcher, the voters should summarily dispatch one or all to the furthest reaches of political purgatory as the evidence may suggest.

I realize that America is in a joyous mood at the moment (except Republicans), and  I recognize my tendencies here toward negatives. I don’t wish to cast cold water on Barack’s vision of a new beginning for our country. But we need to recognize at the outset that Barack is going to face Congressional opposition on many fronts from members of his own party. We should be watchful for signs  that Pelosi, Feinstein, and Boxer may coalesce into an Axis of Opposition. Such an occurrence would be the coldest water of all.

However, our daughter is optimistic. She remarked succinctly, “I have a hunch Obama will not take any crap from those two (referring to Dianne and Nancy Pelosi). I hope she is right.

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