“Bend Over. Grab Your Ankles.”

corporal punishment (noun): punishment administered by an adult (as a parent
or a teacher) to the body of a child ranging in severity from a slap to a spanking.

For no apparent reason, I recently found myself wondering about the state of corporal punishment within the American educational system.  I grew up in a time when corporal punishment was a well accepted and oft administered practice, the exercise of which could be found in nearly every school teacher’s tool kit for maintaining order, decorum, and a focus on learning in their classrooms.

I wish I could say that I was surprised, when after a conducting a quick Google search on the topic, I learned that corporal punishment is not only discouraged in today’s overly litigious society, but that it has now been declared to be illegal in 22 states.  Such a shame; for it worked so well.

ShopThe autumn of 1966 found me enrolled in my junior high school’s Industrial Arts class.  Industrial Arts, more commonly known as “Shop“, was on virtually every boy’s short list of elective classes to take.  It being the course in which one learned the basics of woodworking, along with the use of table saws, band saws, lathes, drill presses, and belt sanders.  Before being turned lose in the shop, the curriculum at my school included six weeks of technical drawing or drafting.   This was a necessary prerequisite to flipping the switch on a band saw because we were required to create a detailed three-dimensional orthographic design of each item which we planned to create.

By now, you’re probably wondering what does this have to do with corporal punishment.  Let me explain.

It was a Friday, the last day of school before the beginning of the 1966 Christmas holiday break.  I was in Industrial Arts class, sitting at my drafting table in the classroom which adjoined the woodworking shop.  A good friend of mine, let’s call him John, was sitting at his drafting table just to my right.  Both of our tables were in the front row.  As class began, our instructor Mr. Carpenter, no pun intended, walked into the classroom from the shop and promptly told everyone to pass their completed homework up to the front.

Being a keen observer, Mr. Carpenter noticed that my friend John was not pulling the required paperwork out of his notebook.  “Where’s your homework, John?”  Mr. Carpenter inquired.

I don’t have it.”  replied John with eyes cast down at the work on his drafting table which suddenly had become of the utmost importance.   

“You don’t have it, or you didn’t do it?”  asked Mr. Carpenter unwilling to leave the subject at hand. 

“Uh, well I, um, … didn’t do it.”   

“Hmm? ”  replied Mr. Carpenter as he finished picking up the papers which had been passed to the front of the class.  We all could feel the slight yet unmistakable tingle of electricity in the air.  We all knew that on the weekends, Mr. Carpenter participated in rodeo events.  As such, we all were quite certain that he didn’t believe in taking “Bull” from anyone.

Mr. Carpenter walked over to his desk, dropped the homework papers, and instructed us to continue working on our drafting assignment.  He turned slowly, paused theatrically for a moment, briefly looking directly at John before walking to the door leading out into the woodworking shop.  The top half of that door contained a window which was normally closed from view by a venetian blind.  As Mr. Carpenter proceeded through the door, he nonchalantly pulled down on the string opening the blinds as the door closed behind him.

By pure happenstance, my drafting table was the only one in the classroom which provided a view into the shop.

John motioned to me and under his breath whispered, “What’s he doing out there?”

I glanced out the window.  I could see Mr. Carpenter standing at a large rack on which wood was stored.

“He’s picked up a piece of 1″X6″ about four feet long and is looking at it to make sure it’s straight.”  I replied.

As small drops of nervous perspiration began to appear on John’s brow, Mr. Carpenter walked over to the table saw, flipping the switch to turn it on.  Startled by the raspy, metallic sound of the saw coming to life, John gasped “Oh damn!  What’s he doing now?”

From that point, and for most of the 45 minutes remaining in that class period, I provided John and my classmates with a running commentary on Mr. Carpenter’s activities out in the shop.  With the table saw, he cut a piece of the 1″X6″ pine to a length of about 18 inches.  Mr. Carpenter’s actions were very slow and methodical.  While I never noticed him looking back into the classroom through the window in the door, I’m confident that he was totally aware that his every step was being duly noted and carefully reported to his charges in the drafting room.

Next he walked over to the band saw.  John’s body convulsed again as the band saw began to whine.  When I realized what was happening, I reported that it appeared that a handle had been shaped on to one end of the 18 inch board.  A sigh of total despondency slowly escaped from John.

Using the belt sander, Mr. Carpenter very carefully sanded the board and its handle; rounding and smoothing the edges around its entire perimeter.  Then it was over to the drill press, where a series of holes were drilled through the rectangular portion of the wood above it’s handle.

After giving his work a thorough visual examination, Mr. Carpenter took the device by its handle and quickly slapped it once or twice against the palm of his other hand, the sharp stinging sound of which seemed to awaken us all from a trance.  Suddenly, we realized that there were only 5 minutes left in the period.

Slowly, Mr. Carpenter opened the door.  “John, ….. can you step out here for a moment?”  Realizing that the statement was a command rather than a question, John stood and very deliberately walked out of the classroom and into the shop.  None of us were willing to make eye contact with John.
As the door closed, Mr. Carpenter led him into an area of the shop which even I could not observe.  In the drafting room, you could have heard a pin drop.  As we all sat at our desks, eyes fixed on our three-dimensional orthographic drawings, we heard the unmistakable “Thwack!”  of pine meeting rear end, followed in slow succession by two additional “Thwacks!”

Judgement had been decided.  Justice had been served.  All homework was completed for the remainder of that year!

As we filed out of class that day, Mr. Carpenter, paddle stored under his arm, wished us all a Merry Christmas.

“You too, Mr. Carpenter.  Merry Christmas to you.”


Photo credit: chazferret Foter CC BY-NC
Photo credit: buzzle.com

Things Aren’t Always What They Appear

News is anything that makes a reader say, `Gee Whiz’! “
– Arthur MacEwen, American editor

You may have heard or read about the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news story on the youth soccer league in Midlake, Ontario, Canada which has decided that they want to improve the experience of the children playing on its teams.  In order to achieve this goal, the league’s administrators have decided to eliminate what they consider to be one of the more damaging aspects of sports; that being competition.
Helen Dabney-Coyle of Midlake’s Soccer Association explained the objective this way, “This year to address some of the negative effects of competition, we’ve actually removed the ball.  And the kids are loving it.
(I added the emphasis)

According to the story, Helen went on to say, “By removing the ball, it’s absolutely impossible to say ‘this team won’ and ‘this team lost’ or ‘this child is better at soccer than that child.  We want our children to grow up learning that sport is not about competition, rather it’s about using your imagination.  If you imagine you’re good at soccer, then, you are.

Here in the U.S., several major media outlets including The Washington Times and USA Today picked up the ball-less soccer story, running it in their print and on-line editions.

There’s only one small fly in this particular ointment.  Nothing about the story is true.  It was originally broadcast on the CBC’s “This Is That ” program which, by the way, happens to be entirely satirical in nature.

Sadly, I don’t find it surprising that so many people were hoodwinked into believing that this story was true.  After all we do live in a culture which, far too often, is guided by ill-advised, but politically correct philosophies.

As an example, some school systems have eliminated the use of the letter grade “F” because it might serve to label particular students as not performing up to minimal standards.  No matter that those students are in fact not performing up to minimal standards!   We just wouldn’t want their egos damaged by their having to face the truth regarding their own lack of effort nor to hold them responsible for making an attempt to improve their study habits.

In the world of youth sports, political correctness is responsible for the now common-place practice of awarding every child on every team a trophy at the end of each season regardless of how they or their team performed.  Apparently, it’s now considered bad form to only recognize the hard work and achievement of those teams and individuals who actually put in the effort to excel.

From my perspective, those individuals who are wearing their rose-colored, politically correct glasses fail to understand the simple and age old truth that when events are structured so that everyone wins, in actual fact, everyone ends up losing.

The winners soon learn that their extra effort gained them nothing at all.  While the losers learn that little or no effort is required to achieve the same level of reward and recognition as those who did put in the extra effort required to achieve.

Hear that loud slamming sound?  That’s everyone being forced to the lowest common denominator at exactly the same time.

But enough about programming subsequent generations into being under achievers who expect to be rewarded for their (lack of) effort.

The really sad thing about this story is that main stream media in the U.S. picked it up and reported it as being factual and newsworthy.
There was a time when news stories weren’t published unless the facts contained within them could be thoroughly substantiated by at least two reliable and independent sources.  In those days, journalists actually worked very hard to vet, or to confirm, the truth of their stories before they were reported as being factual.  Apparently those heady days of journalistic accuracy and excellence are going, if they are not already gone, the same way as the “F” letter grade and the awarding of trophies only to actual winners.

Even if The Washington Times and USA Today had just taken the time to have an intern Google “Midlake, Ontario“, they would have learned that the place simply doesn’t exist.  Good job Main Stream Media.  I’d give you an “F” on this one if that grade still existed.

Edward R. Murrow most certainly is turning somersaults in his grave.


Photo credit: SportsGrid.com
Photo credit: newspaperalum.com

Grasping for One’s 15 Minutes

In 1968, the pop artist Andy Warhol uttered his famous words, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.

Frankly, that’s not an achievement that I’ve ever been interested in pursuing, but it’s very clear that the woods are full of those who are consumed by their personal vision of claiming even a momentary level of notoriety.

I was watching Stage 8 of the Tour de France earlier today.  This was the first mountain stage of the race and that got me to thinking how long will it be before I would catch a glimpse of “The Devil“?
If you haven’t been a regular viewer of past Tour’s de France, you might be asking yourself, “Who the devil is the Tour de France Devil“?

Well, I am a regular Tour watcher and I’ll be happy to bring you up to speed on this topic.  Since 1993, Dieter “Didi ” Senft of ReichenwaldeGermany has been attending the Tour de France dressed in a red devil suit and carrying a trident.  He’s an expert at postioning himself along the Tour’s route each day so as to optimize his opportunities off being picked up by the mobile television cameras capturing images of the riders.  He’s typically seen during the mountain stages of the race when the slower speeds of the riders in the peleton ensure him of maximum on-camera time.  A few seconds here – a few seconds there, pretty soon you’ve tallied up your personal15 minutes.

Unfortunately in 2012, poor health kept Didi away from the Tour for the first time since 1993 and so far this year, I haven’t had any Devil sightings.  But there’s still two weeks to go, so I remain cautiously optimistic.

I have absolutely no idea why this gentleman feels compelled to dress up like the devil for three weeks each July. Likewise, I have no idea how he manages to get so much time off from whatever his normal occupation may be to attend the Tour with such regularity, not to mention longevity.  But I do find him to be a leading candidate for becoming the poster child for Warhol’s prediction that fame will ultimately become an entitlement for all who desire it; even if it happens to be fleeting.

Didi is certainly not the only example of sport’s fans engaged in the pursuit of drawing attention to themselves at athletic competitions.

As a sports photographer, I’ve had many opportunities to capture images of other latter-day Didi’s pressing the bounds of fashion and decorum to the breaking point.  I often wonder if these folks truly believe that their efforts inspire higher levels of performance from the athletes and teams that they are supporting or if they would they be honest enough to admit that their real motivation is simply to draw attention to themselves.


Here’s to those valiant sports fanatics who continue to confuse sporting events with the celebration of Halloween.  May their efforts at unbridled and unique self-expression continue unabated; for both events would be less enjoyable without them!


Photo credit: TchmilFan Foter CC BY-NC-SA

Another (One-Sided) Tempest is Raging in the Teapot

We live in an age in which a fundamental right of individuals to never be offended has apparently been ratified. It remains unclear to me by whom and on the basis of what authority this right has been granted, but there’s little doubt that it now exists.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to the use of this dubious privilege and wish that my point of view was more widely held, but I’m wise enough to recognize that the genie is completely out of the bottle on this one.

That said, I find it troubling that it seems that this newly identified right may only be exercised in certain situations, rather than applied universally.
Doug gottlieg
Last Thursday night, I was watching the NCAA basketball tournament “March Madness” pre-game show on CBS when expert analyst, Doug Gottlieb, well and truly stuck his foot, not just in his mouth, but all the way down his throat.

Describing his inaugural appearance on the pre-game show, Gottlieb intoned, “Cream rising to the crop. I don’t know why you guys asked me, I’m just here to bring diversity to the set here. Give the kind of white man’s perspective on things from the point guard position.

Understandably, double-takes and uncomfortable shifting in chairs was evident from all four of his colleagues on the broadcast, all of whom happened to be black.  Obviously, it was an incredibly stupid thing to say, not to mention an assault on grammar and the English language.  At best, it was an extremely lame attempt to make a joke which fell harder and faster than the proverbial lead balloon.

I sat in front of my television dumb-founded and somewhat slack jawed at what I had just witnessed, knowing full well that this segment would soon become grist for every sports columnist and main stream media talking head desperately searching for the next controversial nugget to feed to the voracious 24-hour news cycle.

I was not disappointed.  Articles, commentaries, and news stories roundly criticizing Gottlieb have been appearing unabated since Thursday.  At least one sport’s commentator called for his immediate firing from CBS.  To his credit, Gottlieb admitted his mistake and issued an apology.  “It was not a smart thing to say and I apologize.

Let’s go back for a moment to our culture’s “Thou shalt never be offended” precept.  I’ve always believed that if a rule, or even a guideline, is to be effective – it must be universally and consistently applied.  Hold that thought for a moment, if you will.
NBA: Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls

On Thursday morning, the same day on which Gottlieb verbalized the faux pas heard round the world, the sport’s website SBNation, published an article on the ending of the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak which was entitled, “White people celebrate Heat loss in exceedingly white fashion

The article included a photograph of white male fans celebrating the Chicago Bulls’ victory over the Heat which was captioned, “White people in their natural habitat.

The article was rife with derogatory references to these fans.  Here’s a few quotes from the article:

This guy is pretty white, I guess.
…white dudes had courtside seats (because white people looooooove courtside seats) 
Just two white guys, enjoying each others’ company, wearing their finest Cherokee-brand shirts.
Never change, white people. You are a GOLD MINE.”

I’m still waiting for someone in the media to express righteous indignation at these characterizations of white basketball fans or to demand that the author of this article be dismissed.

At the moment, those voices appear to have been drowned out by the sound of crickets chirping.

Enjoy the rest of “March Madness” and have a blessed Easter.


Photos from rawstory.com and newsbusters.org


Gone, But Not Forgotten

Over the past few days, I’ve found myself reminiscing about my youth.   Specifically about events, cultural trappings, and social trends which I experienced while growing up in the 50s and 60s.  Without giving it much thought, I began to make a mental checklist of commonplace happenings from those days which, like the dinosaurs of old, have now long since become extinct.

Here’s a tribute to just a few of my memories of things which, to my way of thinking, have unfortunately evolved from the ordinary to the obsolete.

  • milkmanThe Milk Man:  Three times per week, in the early hours of the morning, the milk man delivered fresh bottles of milk to our front porch.  We would place the empty bottles there for him to pick up and if we needed eggs or butter, we’d leave a note stuck in the top of one of the empty bottles and he’d leave those items as well.
  • Doctors/House Calls:  Imagine being sick, calling your doctor’s office, and being told that the doctor would be out to see you at your house later that day.  Remarkable, but true. Now, I deem myself honored if my doctor even momentarily sticks his head through the examining room door as one of his Physician’s Assistants or Nurse Practitioners pokes and probes me.
  • Two Television Channels:  I grew up in a town of 250,000 people in which there were only two television channels available for viewing.  There was Channel 2 (CBS) from my hometown and Channel 12 (NBC) from a neighboring city.  About the time I entered Junior High School, Channel 8 (ABC) began to broadcast from another nearby town.  I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the selection and the quality of shows to watch on those three channels far exceeded what is available on the 200+ channels that I have access to today.
  • test-patternNo TV after midnight:  In the pre-cable television era, local stations ended their daily programming schedule a little after midnight with a 15-30 minute newscast quickly followed by the playing of the National Anthem and then static as the transmitter was shutdown.  Transmissions would resume the next day at either 5 or 6 a.m. with the broadcasting of a test pattern for a few minutes before regular programming began.  I have no idea what insomniacs and workers on the 3rd shift did with themselves during the intervening hours.  Nor why many test patterns included the portrait of an Indian chief.
  • Men in Hats:  When I was a youngster, most men wore hats when they were out and about.  Need proof?  Check out any crime or detective movie made in the 40s and 50s.  You’ll see men in hats everywhere.  My father, apparently an unwitting creature of fashion, wore a hat to work everyday for years.  This fashion trend came to a screeching halt in the early 60s when John F. Kennedy became President of the United States.  Kennedy simply didn’t wear hats.  Within a few years, much to the disdain of hat makers everywhere, neither did most other men.
  • $0.10 per Gallon Gasoline:  Through most of my childhood and right through my teen years, the price of gasoline never rose above $0.50 per gallon.  When I began to drive and pay for gas out of my own pocket, it was typically $0.35 to $0.40 per gallon.  But I remember one warm summer afternoon when I was at my grandfather’s house.  We hastily beat a trail across town in his Chevy because he’d heard a rumor of a service station that was selling gas for $0.10 per gallon.  It was simply too good of a bargain to pass up! 
  • attendant-cleaning-windowsFull Service Gas Stations:  I recognize that there are still a few gas stations around with signs over one row of pumps which says, “Full Service“.  Generally this means that some scruffy, totally uninterested guy will meander out to your car and begrudgingly pump gas for you.  The full service stations I remember featured attendants decked out in clean uniforms who would rush out to your car with smiles on their faces, check your engine oil level, check the air pressure in your tires, and wash your windshield, all in the time that it took them to fill up your gas tank.  Imagine that!
  • Tube Checkers:  Before the advent of transistors and integrated circuits, all televisions and radios utilized electron tubes.  If you’ve never seen one, imagine a glass test tube filled with glowing wires.  These tubes didn’t last forever and periodically one’s TV would cease to work properly.  The solution was to take the cover off of the back of the television set, pull out all of the tubes, and trek down to the local drug store.  There in the back of the store could be found the ubiquitous Tube Checker.   One at a time, you would plug your tubes into the appropriate socket and press the “Check” button.  Bad tubes would be identified by a meter located on the device’s panel.  Replacement tubes were stored in a cabinet underneath the tube checker.  You’d then rush home and plug the tubes, including any replacements, back into their respective sockets in time to watch the next episode of The Lone Ranger or The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • sodajerk2Soda Fountains:  While you were checking your TV tubes at the local drug store, you could have also strolled over to the soda fountain.  Most drug stores had one.  It could be found behind a low counter fronted with 10 or 15 revolving stools where you could sit and enjoy a soft drink, a milkshake made with real ice cream, a grilled cheese sandwich, a hamburger, or even the “Blue Plate Special” (whatever that might happen to be on that particular day.)
  • Paper Boys:  Way back when, newspapers were not delivered by shadowy chain smoking figures speeding through neighborhoods in battered minivans.  The papers, both morning and afternoon editions, were routinely delivered by young boys who rode their bicycles while tossing the papers from large baskets mounted to their bike’s handle bars.  Good paper boys could land a rolled up newspaper squarely on your front porch Welcome mat.  These were the guys who ended up being the quarterback of the high school team a few years later.  The others were more likely to deposit the paper behind a bush or in the gutter over the front door.  Years later, they could be found chain smoking while driving battered minivans.
  • Top 40 AM Radio Stations:   Today, AM radio seems to be universally populated with News talk or Sports talk stations.  Back in the 60s however, music programming was still ruling the airwaves.  There were of course stations playing all types of music, but I migrated to those stations with playlists featuring the ever changing pop and rock “Top 40 Hits”.  Now that I think about it, the demise of these stations and the migration to FM music broadcasts wasn’t such a bad thing.  The quality of FM stereo broadcasting far exceeds the static-filled monaural tones broadcast by the typical AM station.  Plus, today’s music stations aren’t quite as likely to play the current #1 hit at the top of each hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Believe it or not, there are many more memories captured on my list, but I think I’ll save them.  Maybe someday I’ll write a “Gone, But Not Forgotten – Part Deux“.


It’s Time to Let Idol Idle

I’ve not been a big fan of the American Idol television series.  Even when it was being hyped as the hottest of the hot “must see” TV shows, I wasn’t drawn to it.  The best that can be said about the show is that it was imported from Britain where at least a last lingering shred of television programming originality apparently still exists.ID-10049815

The concept of the series seemed to me to be little more than a latter day version of Queen for a Day, the 50’s daytime pseudo-reality show in which the woman, from among three contestants, who could churn out the most heart wrenching sob story would win a shiny new Maytag washing machine and a lifetime supply of Bosco.  For those of you not blessed with having been around in the 50’s and 60’s to witness this spectacle first hand, just “Google” it for more details.

The belief that a television show, in this case American Idol, is going to be able to routinely fast-track anyone to entertainment stardom may be appealing, but the show’s actual success in doing so seems to belie the hype.  Aside from Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, what other winners have acquired any lasting notoriety, much less Idol-status?  Some of the contestants who have so unceremoniously received the hook from the show’s panel of expert judges seem to have had just as much success in establishing recording careers as have the winners.

Last night, I happened to meander through our family room totally unaware that my spouse was watching American Idol.  I chanced to overhear the evaluation which Nicki Minaj, one of this year’s judges, was in the process of giving to one of the female contestants.
I just didn’t find any authenticity in your performance.” she intoned dramatically.

Upon hearing those words, I lost all equilibrium and came very close to careening into the door jamb as I was hastily attempting to exit the room.

I have to ask, is there any reasonable person who would grant even a modicum of credibility to a lecture on the subject of authenticity when it is being delivered by a woman who is wearing:

  1. a platinum blonde wig which looks as if it’s made from polypropylene,
  2. heavily applied day-glo orange eye shadow,
  3. false eye lashes which are longer than the tines on my yard rake, and
  4. finger nails containing more plastic than a Tupperware bowl?

I think not.
Clearly it’s time to pull the plug on American Idol and find out what the Brits have been watching on their televisions for the past couple of years.

It’s just possible that one of our sharper network executives might thereby be encouraged to import it under an assumed name and release it over here as one of next season’s newest #1, smart, must-see shows.


Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
icki Minaj photo from nme.com

On Becoming Comfortable With Oneself

I’m becoming very comfortable with the fact that I’m now in my 60’s.  I don’t find myself wishing that it would be possible to return to any earlier age.  On the contrary, I’m quite content with my lot in life and with the age at which I find myself.  I can’t imagine going back for another chance to relive those same missteps and blunders which I so thoroughly mastered on the first take.

Some aspects of my advancing age have been expected, such as the speed with which time seems to go by as I grow older.  I first started noticing this when I was in my late 40’s, but my perception is that lately time compression seems to have gotten very heavily into steroids.  Is that a dental drill I hear or the second hand on my watch spinning?
I’m sure that there has probably been some scholarly research into the phenomena of time speeding up as one’s age increases.  Short of that, I’ve always assumed that this appears to happen because as we grow older any particular segment of time, i.e. a day, a month, or a year, represents a constantly decreasing percentage of the total length of time that one has been alive.  For instance, at the age of 10, one year equals 10% of your lifetime.  At age 60, it’s only equivalent to 1.67%, hardly the blink of an eye!  Such is life.

A second aspect of aging that came as no great surprise to me was the onset of a common condition which a good friend of mine referred to as, “Creeping Obesity.”  I’m not talking about out of control weight gain, but rather that almost imperceptible expansion in one’s pants waist size from say a svelte 32″ to 34″; and then on to a husky 38″!  All as a result of faulty metabolic software which invariably seems to go out of whack at around the age of 40.
Now that I think about it, this age of 40 thing seems to be inexorably associated with the onset of many of the less enjoyable aspects of aging.

It was about that age when I first experienced random and otherwise unexplainable aches and pains upon rising in the morning from a well deserved slumber.  One day my right knee would arbitrarily decide not to straighten out properly, this oddity to be replaced a few days later with a crick in my neck or a perplexing spasm in my back.

Naturally, all of these symptoms seemed to heal themselves just as quickly as they had first appeared.  The root cause of this particular joy of maturation appears to reside in our firmware.  Which leads me to ask, where’s a good 40 year or 100,000 mile warranty when you need one?

On the flip side, I’ve been surprised to discover that as I continue to age, I’m becoming more and more sentimental.  It’s not that I find myself wanting to pet kittens, dismal creatures that they are.  Rather, I’m finding that I’m likely to respond emotionally to situations and events which in the past would have left me totally unfazed.  This has been the source of some slight personal confusion as this trait seems to be in direct contradiction to my evolving and very comfortably fitting persona of the Resident Curmudgeon.  This anomaly is going to require additional observation and study before I can comment further.
In the meantime, I’m going to have to avoid any mention of “Old Yeller” . . . . hold on . . . . give me a moment . . . . the very thought of what that rabid wolf did to that little boy’s dog causes me to go all verklempt!



 Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Communicate

We live in a decaying age.  Young people no longer respect
their parents.  They are rude and impatient.  They frequently
inhabit taverns and have no self control.

This sounds eerily like comments which were made by a few of my high school teachers regarding me and some of my closest associates from those days.  In fact, one of my English teachers inscribed the following tribute in my yearbook during my senior year:

To a genuine failure of a student.
Before I explain, or perhaps repudiate, the error in my English teacher’s assessment of my academic credentials, let me point out that the quotation which begins this post was found inscribed on the wall of a 6,000 year old Egyptian tomb, no doubt containing the mortal remains of a wizened Thebes High School language arts teacher.

In fact, I was a very good student.  I took several honors level courses during my senior year and was accepted early in the fall of that year by N.C. State University’s College of Engineering.
In retrospect, I must admit that the early acceptance may have resulted in an ever so slight reduction in the intensity of my studies for the remainder of my senior year.  I do have a vague recollection of a corresponding increase in my participation in regular weeknight poker games and occasional trips to a local Lums, home of the infamous “Yard of Beer“, with fellow scholars who had also received their college acceptance letters.

Nonetheless, the Egyptian tomb inscription and the gracious bon mots left by my English teacher cause me to wonder if, taken together, these somewhat barbed cross-generational assessments may be indicative of a socio-cultural trend which spans many centuries?

The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.

Sound familiar?

There must have been a rambunctious gang of adolescents in Amiens, France for the local priest, Peter the Hermit, to make this scathing pronouncement, circa 1096.  Peter would later let his feet do his talking by leaving Amiens for the relative calm of the First Crusade to free the Holy Land from the Saracens; not to be confused with the motorcycle gang of the same name.

Even Socrates found it difficult dealing with the teenagers who nightly cruised the Parthenon and the Agora in Athens.

Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.

Another reference to youngsters being misunderstood by their teachers.  How long has this travesty been going on?

I’m beginning to think that the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, was on to something when he wrote:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

In closing, I leave you with the optimistic words of Hesiod, an 8th century poet,

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.

Yeah right!  I’m fairly certain that ol’ Hes moonlighted as an English teacher.

 Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Celebrity In America, Sojourns Into Meaninglessness

Time for a old man rant.  I haven’t had one in a while and I’m feeling one bubbling just beneath the surface.

I grew up in a time when the term “Celebrity” meant much more than it does today.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines celebrity as “a famous or celebrated person“, but in my mind, bestowing the mantle of celebrity status on an individual also requires that they have achieved a high level of notoriety due to the significant individual accomplishments and contributions which are associated with them.
When I was just a pup, celebrities included people like John Wayne, undoubtably an American icon; Frank Sinatra, with a career spanning several decades; Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Hillary, Pablo Picasso, Jesse Owens, Winston Churchill, Jackie Robinson, and the list goes on and on.

Perhaps driven by Andy Warhol’s famous statement, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes” our culture, aided and abetted by media talking heads who are desperate to achieve their own notoriety, now grants celebrity status to the undeserving as fast as McDonald’s churns out Big Macs.

By the way, based on little more than that quote, a collection of really horrendous wigs, and a can Campbell’s soup, Warhol managed to achieve his own level of transient renown.
A quick review of a list of current “celebrities” including such notables as, Kim Kardashian, Michael Sorrentino (who?), Lindsay Lohan, Daniel Tosh, Snooki, Heidi Montag, Clay Aiken, and Pitbull; clearly demonstrates that the criteria for achieving celebrity status today requires little more than a willingness to engage in outrageous behavior, to embed large quantities of silicone in one’s body, to practice narcissism as if it were an art form, and/or to have “starred” on one of the innumerable reality television shows which plague our cable channels.

Pardon me, but I have to ask, is there anyone who has done less to achieve the designation of celebrity than Pitbull?  Appearing on Budweiser beer commercials while rhythmically thrusting one’s right arm into the air doesn’t seem like much of a resume’ to me.  But I digress.

No doubt, many of this generation of celebrities will soon be appearing on the Biography Channel’s “Celebrity Ghost Stories” series.  Why wraiths, specters, and poltergeists would choose to initiate contact with so many once notable personages just as their careers seem to be coming to an end is an interesting phenomena.  Perhaps it’s closer to the truth to suspect that the series provides an opportunity for these latter day Norma Desmond’s to see themselves on the tube one last time?
You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.

I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.

Yeah, right.

Multi-tasking My Way Through Middle Earth

This past Sunday on our way home from church, my wife mentioned to me that she’d like to go see the movie adaptation of The Hobbit that afternoon.  We’re both J.R.R. Tolkien fans.  When our two sons were just little guys, we team-read The Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy to them.
I tell you this so that you won’t question my motivations as I explain that I wasn’t all that excited about seeing Bilbo tangle with Gollum on that particular Sunday afternoon.

You see, at 1:00 p.m., the Atlanta Falcons were kicking off against the Seattle Seahawks in one of the NFC division playoff games.  But I also knew that my spouse had been through a lot over the past few months and could really benefit from a little entertainment downtime.

I know that you’re probably asking yourself, “What could have possibly been more entertaining than watching an NFL playoff game? ”  But you’ll just have to trust my reasoning when you learn that I agreed that we should spend the afternoon together in Middle Earth.
gandalf iphone
Understand however, that heading to the local cinema multiplex did not preclude my ability to stay in touch with the gridiron action down at the Georgia Dome.

For I had access to magic that even a wizard of Gandalf’s standing could not imagine: my trusty iPhone, a solid 3G network signal, and the Yahoo Sportacular app.

With just a few deftly executed flicks of my thumbs, I had the app set to notify me of any score changes, the ends of each quarter, and all incursions by either team’s offense into their opponent’s Red Zone.  All with only a brief, noiseless, and totally unobtrusive vibration.  A quick and surreptitious glance at my iPhone was all I would need to remain on top of the pigskin action.
Being a natural born multi-tasker and armed with technology rivaling the powers of the One Ring, I had no difficulty in following Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves on their trek toward Erebor and the Lonely Mountain, while at the same time staying in touch with Matt Ryan as he led the Falcons to a last second, come from behind victory over the Seahawks!

What an age We live in!