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Number of posts: 52
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By Steve Krodman:
will it stay airborne?
“Allowing a monkey to drive a race car sounds like an amusing idea, but only to those who have never tried it.” – The Bard of Affliction
The great Airship of State had been flying for 241 years now. It wasn’t always an airliner, of course. Back when it began to function, a hot-air balloon was sufficient to hoist its machinery. As the years flew by, however, and new technologies became available, it eventually transferred itself into ever more efficient aerial transports, the better to float high above the hostile environment below …
fable of buyer’s remorse
Years later, if you had asked Robbie exactly when it was that he decided to eat the elephant, he would have had trouble coming up with the answer. Perhaps the seeds had been planted in his early childhood. All those elephant jokes…
Q: What’s red and white on the outside, and grey and white on the inside?
A: Campbell’s Cream of Elephant Soup.
Naw, you don’t have to waste your pamphlets on me. I’ll be voting the Green Lady, just like last time.
I’m old enough to remember having my first Starbucks coffee, on a chill winter’s day back in 1991. So I guess you could say I was a Party man from way back… a whole lifetime ago, seems like.
It was the Citizens United decision that changed everything. Once corporations were considered to be people …
or i scream
It’s not quite springtime yet, but this unusually warm winter appears to have begun transitioning into an early spring. Tree buds are popping out throughout town, and the weather is turning downright balmy. With that warmer weather come thoughts of our favorite cold, creamy concoction: ice cream. And thoughts of ice cream – a food product with which I have the love/hate relationship of the Perpetually On Guard Against Chubbiness – always remind me of a summer long ago.
in the name of religion
Balm for the afflicted. Opiate of the masses. Fairy tales. Myth. The deepest truths.
Religion is a lot of things.
In today’s various wars – the War on Terrorism, the Culture Wars, the Jihad Against the Great Satan and the Little Satan, and the ever-popular War on Christmas (!), religion is a key element, if not the key element. Religion inspires us to do and be our best – but through so much of history, religion also has inspired us to kill and hate one another.
living in a secular society
“You are not being persecuted for your beliefs when you are merely being denied the privilege of shoving them down someone else’s throat.” – The Bard of Affliction
Several months ago, there was a lot of Sturm und Drang over one Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who had garnered a certain amount of notoriety for having refused to issue wedding licenses to same-sex couples despite having been ordered by the courts to do so. Putting her name on said licenses would (she had said) imply her approval of same-sex marriages, something she felt she could not do based on her religious beliefs.
A bronze statue stands in front of Jadwin Gymnasium at Princeton University. It’s a statue of All-American Dick “Kaz” Kazmaier, who won the Heisman trophy in 1951 – the last Ivy League player to do so – and who famously declined to pursue a career in professional football after being drafted by the Chicago Bears. Instead, he went on to Harvard Business School and proceeded to build an impressive professional resumé that included serving as “director of the American Red Cross; director of the Ladies Professional Golfers Association…
tale of two cities
Bookends. Pearl Harbor at one end, Hiroshima at the other, enclosing a four-year shelf containing tomes filled with misery, death, and devastation. It was important that I see both ends of that terrible War-Shelf. It took 28 years to go from one to the other.
It was September 1952, and Richard Nixon was in hot water. Nixon was then running for Vice President on the Republican ticket under Dwight Eisenhower. With his campaign people already looking ahead to 1956 with what the Smith System people call the “see the big picture” mindset, his campaign treasurer suggested setting up a fund to reimburse Nixon for expenses relating to campaigning: long-distance phone calls, travel in excess of normal reimbursement, campaign materials, et alia. Contributions would be limited to $1,000 per contributor, with their identities not known to the candidate.
A few years ago, a small mob of us had converged on Greenwood’s on Green Street in Roswell for a Thursday evening dinner. It’s a down-home place, noted for being the home of (among other things) an infamously rich chocolate pie. Normally, dinner at Greenwood’s involved a considerable wait, but with the economy being what it was at the time we had no trouble getting a table for our party of twelve.
It was after dinner, as we waddled with leaden bellies back to our car, that I noticed a powerful flowery scent, a scent that enveloped us like a cloud. Honeysuckle!
Our Collective Minds
“Appoint a teacher for yourself; acquire a friend for yourself…” – Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 1:6
The other day at breakfast, the Missus and I were discussing an item in the news… a Georgia pilot program in which students as young as five would be surveyed on their teachers’ performance. The results of the surveys would be considered as part of the school’s teacher evaluation process, which means…
It was sometime in 1956 or ’57 when the four-year-old Stevie noticed big doings going on next door.
Gargantuan machines came and dug out a humongous hole, piling up mountains of dirt around its perimeter. It looked like a perfect place to play, but the young lad was given strict instructions to stay the hell away from that big hole and those mounds of earth lest he be swallowed up in an unfortunate accidental manner. Soon other machines came, and with them an army of men with hammers, nails, and great planks of wood. And as the days wore on, a house – a big one, with two stories – began to take shape.
This time of year, as the holiday season approaches and the days grow short and chill, I will inevitably feel the stirrings of my Gumbo Jones. And nothing will satisfy it save a steaming hot bowl of gumbo.
What, you may ask, does a damnyankee Jewish kid know about gumbo? And I will answer: Years of living in gulf coast Texas taught me many things, among them the appreciation of this Louisiana elixir… an elixir that bears virtually no resemblance to the soi-disé “Chicken Gumbo Soup” of my youth, a product notoriously supplied by Campbell’s. I learned to love the Real Thing during my many years in Houston, and since then, I accept no substitutes, condensed or otherwise.
This morning as I left the house, there was an uncharacteristic hint – just a hint – of crispness in the air. No, the frost wasn’t on the pumpkin just yet. It’s still dead-center August in the Southeast, in the midst of what may be the most ferociously hot summer we’ve ever experienced outside of Houston. Yet it was possible to feel the coming change, the inevitable turn of the seasons.
That change signaled itself yet again when I drove past a small mob of parents and their elementary school-age children at the neighborhood’s bus stop. Being the husband of a teacher, I had of course already known that today was the day the schoolkids returned to their classrooms after summer vacation. There’s a big difference, though, between knowing it and seeing it.
We just spent a lovely couple of days visiting my dad Eli and stepmom Toni down in their Florida winter hideaway. Among the amusements and activities was a side trip to a spot in Florida that I never knew existed… a place with a bizarre, alien culture.
No, I’m not talking about Gibsonton. Also known as Gibtown, Gibsonton is home to mutants and carnies during the off season – it is, as a friend of mine put it once, “where all the real freaks live when the circuses and fairs are in hibernation.” That place is meat for a complete anthropological dissertation on its own… but I will save that for another occasion.
I’m talking about a place that’s even more sinister and bizarre. I’m talking about The Villages. A massive retirement community carved out of the desolate mangrove swamps and savanna-like grasslands of Central Florida, The Villages bills itself as “Florida’s friendliest hometown.”
I was saddened to hear of the passing of one of America’s original Fitness Gurus: François Henri “Jack” LaLanne, who died last Sunday at the age of 96.
LaLanne was a lifelong proponent of vigorous physical activity and good nutrition, healthy practices for which he proselytized with a hyperevangelical fervor. The analogy with religion is deliberate and one with which LaLanne himself wholeheartedly concurred. ”Billy Graham was for the hereafter. I’m for the here and now,” he once said.
With the roads in our part of the world still nigh unto impassable, we spent the day at home yesterday. Our major accomplishment: shoveling the walk and driveway. She Who Must Be Obeyed wisely reasoned that it needed to be done while temperatures were relatively high, i.e., just about at the freezing mark… because once the mercury dipped down into the low 20s at night, the heavy, ice-crusted snow would become like concrete.
The Friday after Thanksgiving is the Official Start of the Christmas Shopping Frenzy here in the States. Black Friday, it’s called – because this is the day that retailers finally see black ink on their books, presumably after bleeding red all year.
I generally have as little to do with these ridiculous proceedings as possible.
If I could, I would avoid any visits to shopping malls, arcades – pretty much any retail establishment – until after Christmas.
Civility in public discourse has become an endangered species in our great Republic… but I have a way to restore it. Enhance it, even. A modest proposal, if you will, that would provide a much-needed shave, haircut, shampoo, and massage to the Body Politic.
Once upon a time, when a gentleman’s reputation was called into question by a rival, said gentleman had the option – nay, the responsibility – to defend his good name on the Field of Honor by challenging his rival to a duel … Thus was redress achieved: by personal combat, not through the bloodless agency of the courts.
There was a small gang of us gathered this morning at one of the local Waffle House outlets. Normally, our group takes its Thursday morning meal at Panera, but several of us had dined there the previous evening, and so it was that we collectively decided to mix up the week’s Breakfasty Schedule a bit.
It’s easy enough to make fun of Waffle House … And yet…
We were dining at Ted’s Montana Grill this evening, celebrating our friend Gary’s birthday. Not to give anything away as regards his age, but he now can feel an especial kinship with a famous American highway, one that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. (Oopsie.)
As we waited for our orders to be taken, I spied a small placard on the edge of the table. It was an advertisement for Ted’s new Bison Nachos, and it set my mouth to watering … And then I remembered a summertime long ago — three decades ago, in fact — when She Who Must Be Obeyed and I learned a lesson about the Pernicious Power of the Nacho.
A while back, I was spending a couple of days in the Great Corporate Salt Mine’s headquarters in Sweat City – that’d be Houston to all y’all non-Texans. It was right after the turn of the year, and it was uncharacteristically cold, practically frigid. There had even been a freeze warning posted for points north of town. Of course, it’s against my religion to ever wear an overcoat when traveling to Sweat City, whether conditions justify it or not. An overcoat in this normally steamy clime is normally (as the locals say) as “useless as tits on a boar hog,” and the odds in any given two-day span are low that I’ll freeze to death between my rental car and the office. So, while I did not quite freeze to death, there were times when it seemed like my blood would turn into soft-serve. Yeef.
Fortunately, the Salt Mine has a pleasant on-premises cafeteria. Heated, too, as befits an indoor space. And so I stayed in the office and took my lunch with Fearless Leader.
As we hunkered down over our plates, the topic of pie came up somehow. Seems Fearless Leader Junior is a big Key Lime pie fan. I haven’t ever met this kid and already I like him.
A few weeks ago, as She Who Must Be Obeyed was celebrating her birthday, we ended up making a trip to the hospital. It was a harrowing experience. Elder Daughter had flown in from Washington for the occasion; we had spent the day with her and her younger sister, the Mistress of Sarcasm, gallivanting about North Georgia. We had wandered the faux-Alpine streets of Helen… Our daughters had never been there, and SWMBO and I had a great time watching their astonishment at seeing this slice of Southern-fried Bavarian bologna.
Remember the days when you were young and somewhat desperate?
Hell, perhaps you’re still young and somewhat desperate. But not me: I’m not quite so young, and certainly not as desperate as I was 34 years ago. Because back then, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were desperate (or hungry) enough to eat Weevil Chili.
She Who Must Be Obeyed and I enjoy living in east Cobb County, an area vaguely north-northwest of Atlanta proper, but no place is perfect. When, in 1968, the various metro area counties held referenda to decide whether they would participate in the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Cobb County voters soundly rejected any participation. Some people will try to tell you that it was a tax issue and that Cobb County residents wished to avoid the 1% sales tax that MARTA would necessitate, but that’s a load of crap. Simply put, the good people of Cobb wanted no part of a transit system that would make it easy for Atlanta city residents — translated loosely as “people of color” — to travel to their county.
What with the succession of economic crises over the past couple of years – collapses in subprime mortgage lending, investment banking, and the stock market; the Madoff Ponzi scheme fraud; the Big Fat Greek Economic Implosion, et alia – you may be asking yourself, “Just how bad are things, anyway, Steve-O? And how much worse can they get?”
My patented Quick ’n’ Dirty Answer is: Things are pretty bad… but they can get a whole hell of a lot worse. So far, they have not.
There was an old adage that defined a “recession” as an economic slowdown in which your neighbor lost his job, and a “depression” as one in which you lost yours. But I think I have a better way to measure the economy’s performance: the Krodman Dog-Food Index.
A recent post by Kevin Kim, who styles himself “The Big Hominid” at his Web-Log, told the tale of a Burger King cashier who was only marginally capable of doing simple math. Alas, not a rare thing these days.
Kevin’s story reminded me of my own First Encounter with innumeracy, an encounter that took place in coastal Georgia close to half a century ago.
It was springtime, and we were on our way to South Florida to visit with the maternal grandparents … This particular trip, the Old Man must have been feeling a bit sharp-set, and so we stopped to grab a bite of lunch at one of the local drive-in restaurants.
One of the long-standing traditions of American Independence Day celebrations is the grilling of meats. Hamburgers and beefsteaks are popular choices, but the quintessential Fourth of July comestible is, of course, that most American of foods: the Hot Dog. And hot dog is so much more American-sounding than frankfurter sausage, a name that reveals the Germanic origins of this Cylindrical Meat-Food.
Hot dogs are just one of a vast family of sausages, concoctions consisting of meat, fat, spices (and sometimes non-meat components), packed into a casing and then cured or cooked.
Those of us who have taken a few trips around the Sun have seen plenty of progress over the years. But it’s a two-edged sword, this business of progress. While some changes improve our lives in ways small and great, as we watch new technologies overtake old, some things are, inevitably, lost …
Now, I log on to my bank’s website, open up my online banking screen, grab the mouse, clickety-click, and I’m done … I fear the days are long gone when one could write such instructions on a postcard — anyone could read it! — and reasonably expect that it would end up in the hands of the correct recipient.
Nutritionists will tell you that whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet.
Me, I’ve been a fan of the whole grain for years. Coarse rye bread? Westphalian pumpernickel – the kind that is as dense as white dwarf star matter, the slices of which must be pried apart with a knife due to their powerful gravitational attraction for one another? Yummy.
When I get a Cereal Jones, I will, like as not, get out the Grape-Nuts.
As I was preparing dinner Friday afternoon, I thought of George Washington Carver.
Carver, you may recall, was a brilliant scientist with humble beginnings. Born into slavery in Missouri in 1864, he obtained a college education despite the prodigious roadblocks African-Americans faced in the Reconstruction era South. Carver found his intellectual home when, in the closing years of the nineteenth century, he received an invitation to join the faculty of Tuskeegee Normal and Industrial Institute from its founder, Booker T. Washington. Signing on as head of the Agriculture Department, he would remain at Tuskeegee for for the rest of his life, an achievement-packed career lasting 47 years.
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The mind is a strange thing, and memory perhaps the strangest of its abilities. It can discard useful data, such as what one may have had for breakfast that same day, while retaining in poignant detail the savor of meals taken years ago.
Back in my Snot-Nose Days, our family had evolved a Vacation Routine of sorts, one that lasted several years. My brother and I, accompanied by our mother, would fly down to South Florida in the springtime to visit the Maternal Grandparents. After a week, our father would drive down to join us, and after another two weeks, we would all pile in the car for the long trip home.
At breakfast a few days ago, one of my buddies pointed out that there are only three ways to make money: by putting people to work, by putting money to work, or by discovery. Anything that generates income will boil down to one of those three fundamental Money Making Methods.
But making money and generating wealth are two different things, and we, as a society, confuse them at our peril.
Back in the early 1930’s when Max was a lad, he would often play soccer with his friend Karl. In those days, it was, perhaps, unusual for a Jew and a Catholic to be friends – more so because this was in Poland, a place where Jews were often treated with contempt and loathing by their countrymen. But in the town of Wadowice, a stone’s throw from Kraków, the Jews and Poles played soccer together …
When war broke out, Max’s life changed forever … and Karl eventually became a very, very famous person.