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.
A friend reminded me the other day that it’s almost time for the Ides of March, a day celebrated in Shakespearian Literature.
But these days, we don’t celebrate March 15 on account of Julius Caesar. We celebrate it because it’s IEATAPETA Day: International Eat A Tasty Animal for PETA Day.
It’s the day we ceremonially stick it in the eye of the good folks at PETA by consuming mass quantities of Animal Protein. As Alex Bensky says, “If it didn’t have a mother, it’s not on my menu.”
“But, Steve-O,” you may be asking. “What did those nice people at PETA do to deserve this in-your-face opprobium?”
It being 2010, it’s time once again for the Great Decennial Head-Count here in the United States. Yes: the Census!
The process is simple, really. You get a form in the mail, you fill it in, and you send it back. [How easy it is to fill in depends largely on whether it’s the short form or the incredibly nosy long form.] And if you merit special attention, a real live census taker may show up at your door.
The tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, killed by an orca at SeaWorld Orlando February 24, has focused attention on the strange amalgam of science and showbiz offered up by the famous aquatic parks.
Brancheau, 40, was dragged underwater to her death by Tilikum, a 12,000 pound killer whale. “Killer whale,” a descriptor that has been largely replaced by the less-judgmental and more scientific name “orca,” is especially apt in the case of Tilikum, previously involved in the death of another trainer at a park in Canada and in the death of a man who apparently sneaked into Tilikum’s pool at the Orlando park after hours.
In the fullness of time, I have had Corporate Lunches in all kinds of settings. Fine restaurants, some in exotic overseas locations. Shanghai hairy crab and Singapore fish head curry. Sandwiches and salads in the office cafeteria. You name it; I’ve probably had it for lunch somewhere … with the possible exception of the local speciality of Evansville, Indiana. That’d be the Brain Sandwich, and you couldn’t pay me to eat that.
One time, I had lunch in the executive dining room at the top of the old Great Corporate Salt Mine headquarters building in midtown Manhattan …
Russian emigrés, newly arrived in the United States from the U.S.S.R. back in the 1980s, used to suffer a sort of Brain-Lock when confronted with the myriad of choices on any American grocery store shelf.
It was a real problem for people accustomed to finding only one brand of, say, toilet paper back home. One brand? Sometimes they were lucky to get toilet paper at all … but as Yakov Smirnoff used to say, “Is no problem to have no toilet paper in Soviet Union. No food, no need to have toilet paper.” Suddenly, these people had to choose between the countless brands and varieties we see here, an impossible task.
Meet Oscar, the Kitty of Doom. The Grim Reapurr. The Malakh ha-Meowvis. The Tabby of Toyt. The little guy that puts the “cat” in Resquies-cat in Pace.
Oscar, who works the dementia unit of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, has an uncanny knack for knowing exactly when one of the residents is about to shuffle off this Mortal Coil. He came to the attention of the general public thanks to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine back in mid-2007.
Yes, Groundhog Day. The day on which we ask the famous question, “How much ground could a groundhog hog if a groundhog could hog ground?”
You would think that Groundhog Day is a singularly American holiday, steeped as it is in Local Color, Historical Tradition, and More Than A Little Utter Silliness. Think about it: a day on which a giant marmot is expected to predict the weather based on its paranoid reaction to Conditions of Illumination. And as if Punxsutawney Phil weren’t enough, down here in Georgia we have our own General Beauregard Lee to do the predictin’ honors. Gaaah.
My old friend Queenie McFarland once wrote of her childhood experience with a tornado – the frantic gathering of the children, the rush to the safety of a storm cellar, the relief at having survived intact. Her writing resonated with me, for there are few Forces of Nature that strike as deep into the fear-reservoirs of the human brain as do the Tornado.
As Queenie put it, “The tornado is, to mankind’s residual caveman-level instinct, the incarnation of Nature; the Sky God taking a shape out of formless chaos to descend and rape the swan, the almighty Hand of an angry Deity forming in the sky, right before your terrified animal eyes.”
Erich Segal, author of the popular novel Love Story, died last Sunday at the age of 72 from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
The 1970 novel that made him famous was a weepie about Oliver and Jenny, two college students who fall in love and marry … shortly after which Jenny suffers a tragically melodramatic death from cancer. A huge bestseller, the book was made into an even more popular movie starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw … all of which provides added proof to support the contention that the 1970s were mostly crap.
With our brother-in-law’s entire family in tow, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I had gone to spend a few hours at the High Museum of Art in midtown Atlanta on a crisp, cold December day in 2005.
The High Museum is one of the genuine treasures of Atlanta culture. SWMBO and I don’t visit as often as we should, given the fact that it is all of a 40-minute drive from our suburban manse, but the presence of out-of-town visitors is a powerful impetus to do the Things of Local Interest you don’t always make time to do.
There’s a USPS ad on the teevee that features one of the great bogeymen of Popular Culture: the Evil Clown. The ad’s humor is based on the idea that people don’t find clowns funny; rather, they’re creepy. Turns out that this is a fairly popular sentiment.
Back in my Snot-Nose Days, I was never a particular fan of clowns… but neither was I terrified of them, as so many children apparently are. My dislike of circuses has more to do with my inability to enjoy the pong of elephant dung than it does my attitude toward clowns, but…
[In digging through my archives, I found this dusty clipping from an ancient – and as yet unidentified – newspaper. Was it the New York Sun? The AJC? Who knows? Who cares? What I do know is, the editorial response shown below has a timeless message for all of us during this Holiday Season of 2009… and it is especially apropos today, given that Chanukah begins at sundown on Friday, December 11.] We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the electronic-mail communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of our Unnamed Big-City Fishwrap News Publication: “I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there was no Judah Maccabee and that Chanukah is a load of crap. Papa says, ‘If you see it in the Unnamed Big-City News Publication, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth, […]
Anyone who has traveled by air lately is well aware of the ever-proliferating inventory of nuisance fees the airlines are levying in an attempt to bolster their sickly bottom lines. You want to sit in the front end of the coach cabin? Unlimber that wallet. Want a snack? Or a (gasp!) meal? Get out your ATM card. Want to speak to a real live person when booking your tickets? It’s gonna cost you. Years ago, on a Peoples Express flight, I had to pay for my cup of morning joe. I not-so-jokingly asked the flight attendant whether I would need a quarter to use the toilet. And she didn’t laugh. But now, the big revenue enhancer for the airlines is the fee they collect for checking your luggage. Not only will you shell out for each bag you check (excluding any massive overweight charges for which you may be liable), […]
It’s a seasonal thing, my Breakfasty Obsession.
During the warm months, a bowl of cold cereal buried in fresh berries is my preferred Daily Jumpstart. But on a chilly, rainy, blustery November day like today, what better time to consider the glories of a bowl of Hot Cereal?
[News Item: Walt Disney Co., the world’s biggest media company, outflanked Hollywood competitors while enhancing its film lineup with the $4 billion acquisition of comic-book pioneer Marvel Entertainment Inc. (source: Bloomberg)] The clubhouse was in an uproar as the new members filled the meeting room. It took a full twenty minutes of jockeying, shoving, negotiating, and wheedling before everyone found a seat. Then followed the traditional opening call-and-response: Phone: Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me? Antiphone: M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E! As soon as the cheers began to die down, Mickey pounded the gavel. “This meeting of the Mickey Mouse Club will now come to order,” he announced. Despite its squeakiness, his voice conveyed years of authority… authority that, on occasion, had demanded enforcement. Pegleg Pete, standing by the door with an ominous-looking club in his hand, caught Mickey’s eye and winked, receiving a barely perceptible nod in […]
Primitive humans, perhaps going all the way back to Paleolithic times, believed in spirits. A spirit – a soul, if you will – could animate a human being or animal, could cause disease or madness, could bring Mysterious Visions. And spirits were not confined to living creatures, but could inhabit inanimate objects as well: rocks, trees, bodies of water. Belief in this sort of pagan, animistic religious concept still abounds. It is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, and even those of us who subscribe to more modern belief systems still give a knowing wink and nod to the Old Religion when we throw a pinch of spilled salt over our left shoulders or say “Bless you!” in response to someone’s sneeze. I, myself, do not consider myself an animist, and yet I will confess that there is a certain indefinable power that certain objects seem to have… …this being a long-winded […]