Ten Years Later

If the anniversary of 9/11 can't get me to write something here, nothing will.
It hardly seems possible that it's been ten years since that awful day, but in some ways it is almost impossible to remember what life was like before the airplanes hit the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the passengers of Flight 93 managed to avert a fourth strike on symbols of American power.
I look back at the path our country has taken, and I see both successes and failures. Success in preventing any further significant attacks on our nation, in deposing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, in neutralizing some regimes like Iraq and Libya that sought to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Failure to overcome political correctness in identifying the enemy, which is not some nebulous "terror" that struck us for unknown reasons, but Islamic extremists who oppose everything America stands for and who make up a non-negligible portion of the Muslim world. You will not hear the M-word or the I-word today at all. Guaranteed.
And failure to remake the countries that our armed forces quickly defeated militarily, but failed to change politically. While the power of Muslim terrorist groups to attack us has been degraded, their militant Islamic ideology has not changed. The governments of Iraq and Afghanistan are not secular, nor are they ever likely to be; the same thing is likely to happen in Libya as well. It is quite apparent that nation-building in the Middle East is a fool's errand, a waste of vast quantities of American money and American lives. We've been in Afghanistan for almost ten years and it's still one of the world's armpits. Iraq is better, but only marginally so. We would have been better served if we simply crushed our enemies and then left them to rebuild themselves, with the warning that if they ever messed with us again, we'd come back and hit them twice as hard and make the rubble dance. That's the kind of lesson that once applied, seldom needs to be repeated. But such ruthlessness is unfortunately not in the American character.


Osama Bin Dyin'

I was at work last night when I got the good news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by Americans in Pakistan. I heard around 11:30, and when I went on break at midnight, I watched the coverage on television.

One thing struck me as odd: They were showing taped footage of a bunch of college-aged people celebrating in front of the White House, waving flags and shouting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" Now, that's the appropriate response, of course, but the timing was very, very strange: This group supposedly spontaneously appeared in front of the White House less than twenty minutes after President Obama made the announcement of Bin Laden's death, with flags on poles, ready to parade around in front of the television cameras.

Do you believe that? I don't, and if you do, I'd like to sell you some nice vacation land in the Everglades. I'd bet dollars to donuts that the supposedly spontaneous crowd was bussed in by Democrat political operatives and supplied their flags when they arrived.

People were wondering why Obama took so long to come on television to make the announcement. It was obviously because his crowd hadn't arrived yet. It was a made-for-television political event with all of the spontaneity of a Kim Jong Il rally in North Korea, and frankly, I find it disgusting and cynical that the Democrats would do something like that, although not surprising.

I am, however, glad that Osama Bin Laden has assumed room temperature. I'm also glad that they were smart enough to bury him at sea, so there would be no shrine for Al Qaeda terrorists to visit. It's too bad that they didn't sew him up in pigskins, but you can't have everything.



Well, well, well. What have we here? A moribund blog. No posts in almost five months. Any faithful readers have probably long since given up on the blogger's return, and who can blame them?

When I first started this blog, I felt a need to write. Over the past couple of years, that need waned, even though there was plenty of material being provided by the current administration. But if the desire to write isn't there, or if it's being channeled elsewhere, then even the most amusing material in the world won't make the writer write.

But enough of my sorry excuses...

I watched some of the British royal wedding the other day, not because I'm a big fan of weddings or British royalty but because I can appreciate a grand spectacle. I watched some of this morning's beatification mass from the Vatican for Pope John Paul II for the same reason, even though I'm not Catholic. Both events also featured people wearing fancy hats, although the "Cthulhu hat" worn by Princess Beatrice (daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson) was just a bit over the top...

What I'm listening to: The Meat Purveyors - Someday Soon Things Will Be Much Worse! This alt-country album from 2006 features an interesting mix of bluegrass and punk sensibilities, and has some interesting cover songs. My current favorite is their cover of Loretta Lynn's "Fist City," which some might say is better than the original.

They are a band from Austin, a notoriously left-leaning area, so it's not surprising that there are a couple of political songs decrying the state of the country at the time and lambasting the President at the time without calling him by name. I'm from the "shut up and sing" school. Don't try to tell me who to vote for and don't get all preachy about the environment, eating meat or the evils of Corporate America. I really hated it when the band Boston did that; their last couple of albums were almost unlistenable compared to their earlier "good time" music that wasn't weighted down with political baggage.

Anyway, most of the stuff the Meat Purveyors has put out falls into the "good time" music category. I especially liked their 2004 album Pain By Numbers, which features songs like "How Can I Be So Thirsty Today?" "It Won't Be Long (and I'll Be Hating You)," "Paint By Numbers," and a great cover of "Daydreams About Night Things."


The Good Life

"So I don't mind saying
"This is how the good life's supposed to be,
"The good life
"For you, for me..."

-- Cracker, "The Good Life," Gentleman's Blues, 1998

A lot of the news in this country lately has been about how bad things are, about how economic conditions are the worst they've been since the Great Depression, about how many people are struggling to make ends meet. For those who are unemployed or are living from paycheck to paycheck, it probably feels that way. I suppose it's sort of like getting hit by a hurricane: It doesn't have to be a Category 5 to mess things up for a while; even a minimal hurricane is a disaster if it happens to you.

Still, the vast majority of Americans have it pretty good. I was having lunch with Dad today, and we talked about him growing up on a cotton farm in rural west Texas in the 1940s and 1950s. When he was a kid, there was no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no hot and cold running water, no central heating, let alone air conditioning. He was in elementary school when he saw his first flush toilet. His mother cooked on a pot-bellied stove that burned coal. When the family got a bit more affluent in the early '50s and electricity arrived, one luxury was an oscillating fan. And remember, folks, west Texas is as hot as the Devil's tail in the summertime, but the people who lived there then persevered without air conditioning. They were made of sterner stuff then. Even our poor people now live in luxury compared to the vast majority of Americans several decades ago.

We also have access to more information in more ways than we ever have had, and the vast majority of our recent cultural history is available to us at a very reasonable price. It wasn't that long ago that the music you could listen to was limited by what your local radio stations played and what was available for you to buy at your local record store. Today, you can go on Amazon.com or similar online stores and find just about any type of music you want to find, as well as vintage movies and television shows from recent to ancient. You have the ability to find most albums by most artists somewhere on the internet, and to discover "new" artists that sometimes may be decades old. If you haven't heard them before, they're new to you.

Case in point: I'm on a bit of a Gram Parsons kick lately. I'll write some reviews later, but suffice it to say that if you like Americana/alt-Country, then his solo albums as well as the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo are something you would want in your music collection. I've become more interested in the Americana music over the past several years, exploring my musical roots and discovering great music from decades past that I missed the first time around because it wasn't my style at the time. Times change, styles change, but those old albums are still out there, now digitized instead of on vinyl. And you can get them, often cheaper now than they were when they first came out.

Yes, life is pretty damn good.


Buh-Bye, Nancy!

We didn't want what she's been cooking anyway!

Credit: Coraline.


Election Day

Well, here it is, the first Tuesday in November in an even-numbered year again.

Two years ago, things looked pretty gloomy. And considering what's happened since then, there was good reason for gloom. The American people had given the Democrats not only the White House, but also overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress; they were only a turncoat in Pennsylvania and some vote-counting shenanigans in Minnesota away from a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and they quickly achieved both of those goals. They were in position from that point on to do any damn thing they pleased, and they knew it. And unless they totally screwed things up, they would probably be in the majority for years to come.

Despite the fact that Obama had posed as a "centrist" who would extend his hand across the aisle, both the President and his Congressional leaders quickly proved themselves to be left-wing radicals who wouldn't even consult with the Republicans on any of the legislation they were writing on health care, card check, cap and trade, etc. Instead, the Democrats rammed their health care bill down America's throat, despite the fact that none of them had read the whole thing.

And a funny thing happened: The American people, who didn't want this particular health care bill rammed down their collective throats, didn't want trillion-dollar bailouts for Democrat cronies, didn't want stimulus bills that didn't create jobs, etc., got angry. Big government was getting bigger and bigger, and ever more arrogant, drunk on its own power.

Had Obama, Pelosi and Reid managed to buy off a few Republicans and get so-called bi-partisan legislation passed, then it wouldn't be only the Democrats with their seats on the line today when those policies proved to be hugely expensive abject failures. But in their greed and pride, they felt that they didn't need to cooperate with Republicans at all. They "won," after all, and they wanted to get all of the credit for the "wonderful" things that they had done.

Today, we get to see Hubris meet Nemesis. The only real question is how big a drubbing the Democrats are going to take today.

The Republicans, however, should take little comfort in their likely victory. It's not about them; it's about putting a stop to the Democrats' madness. As P.J. O'Rourke wrote recently, "This is not an election; it's a restraining order." Most of us aren't particularly in love with the Republicans, but we're hating what the Democrats are doing to this country.

The Republicans will be on probation: The American people want a return to fiscal sanity. They want an end to Frankenstein bills that are as thick as a phone book and as unread as a novel from the slush pile, and waste money like water over Niagara Falls. They want no more job-killing stupidity like cap-and-trade and EPA regulations that protect some stupid fish while preventing irrigation to grow crops, like in California's central valley. And they don't want taxes raised on anyone during a recession. If Republicans take over Congress and go back to business as usual, their days will be numbered, and that number will end in 2012.



So yesterday I was reading online about how CBS is remaking the old TV series Hawaii Five-O for the new TV season, and also that the Spike TV cable channel was running a five-day, 45-hour marathon of episodes from the original series. Well, I flicked it on and watched a couple of episodes from the first season, 1968-69. The first show (which I joined in progress around 12:20) was the fifth episode of the season, "The Samurai," guest starring Ricardo Montalban as a Japanese-American businessman who fakes his own death. Perhaps the most jarring moment from a 2010 perspective is when McGarrett goes to the Navy base to talk with one of the officers there about an old Japanese sub that had been found and recovered by divers off Molokai. The officer was probably in his late 40s, and McGarrett asks him, "You were here at Pearl Harbor during the attack, right?" And it is at that moment that I realized just how old that show was. It aired in October 1968. At that time, not only was LBJ still the President, but Nixon hadn't even been elected yet. The Beatles were still making records. And Americans had yet to walk on the moon.

Another interesting moment came in the next episode, which was actually the second episode of the first season, shown out of sequence. In the first episode I watched, the Japanese guy's daughter was wearing a lime-green dress with white lace. The next show was about a couple who preyed on wealthy widows by having the man romance them, get access to their money, then bump them off. Well, the first wealthy widow at the beginning of the show was wearing the exact same dress, lime-green with white lace. They must have had a small wardrobe budget that first season. Most people probably wouldn't have noticed it in 1968, with the episodes airing some three weeks apart, but when it's only fifteen minutes later, it's easy to say, "Hey, I remember that dress!" But in the original broadcasts, the widow wore it first.

Finally, in watching the promos for the 2010 series reboot, I'm kind of dubious about it. The new McGarrett just doesn't have the same gravitas as Jack Lord. And they Starbucked Kono! (That's when they switch the gender of a secondary recurring character, as they did to Starbuck from the original Battlestar Galactica series to the reboot version a few years back.) Gotta get at least one hot babe into the cast.


Murphy's Law Strikes Again

I was hanging out with Dad at his hospital room yesterday. Just before lunch time, the nurse came around to remove a couple of the "pacer" wires that were still under his skin from the operation. She hooked him up to a monitor and said that they would check his vitals every fifteen minutes for an hour, then every half hour for another hour, then every hour for the next two hours. After the wires were removed, he had to stay in bed for the next hour.

Well, about half an hour after the wires were removed, Dad started having an irregular heartbeat. The doctor who came by later said that this is fairly common and usually returns to normal on its own. However, while this was going on, the monitor's alarm was beeping incessantly. The nurse turned the volume down, but couldn't turn it off completely. Although Dad is somewhat hard of hearing, he had no trouble hearing the beeping and it was driving him bonkers. When his friend Dick came by to visit a little later, I was sent out to find Dad some earplugs to block out the beeping.

I went to the nearby Walgreen's drug store and found several different types to choose from. I got some foam earplugs that looked like they would do the trick. I also saw some cans of store-brand mixed nuts, on sale 2/$9. "Well, why not?" I thought. Impulse buy. And so, with purchases in hand, I returned to the hospital, only to find that the earplugs were too small and didn't solve the problem. So, back out I went to try again.

This time, I decided to try the CVS drug store instead. I found some earplugs that looked like the biggest ones available. I also picked up a bottle of Fuse Banana Colada drink (another impulse purchase). I managed not to buy the Godiva chocolates, though.

Back to the hospital! In the hallway, the nurse told me, "He's back in rhythm." And sure enough, the beeping had stopped. I muttered a choice oath under my breath and went down to hall to Dad's room.

I gave him the new earplugs anyway, just in case the beeping started back up again. And then I sat down to drink my Banana Colada and snack on cashews, almonds and pecans. A word of advice: You are better off sticking to name brands when buying nuts. The house brand nuts were covered with big chunks of sugar and salt. Let me just give a shout out to Planter's, since their quality is usually pretty high.


Off Kilter

There are times when one's existence is thrown off balance, when the normal routine is broken, when the regular schedule is altered not by choice but by necessity. When it happens, the only option is to go with the flow, which is what I've been doing for the past several days.

Dad had valve repair surgery on his heart last Tuesday and has been recovering in the hospital since then. His progress hasn't been quite as fast as we hoped that it would be. Originally, we hoped he would be able to go home from the hospital early in the weekend, but due to some minor complications, that hasn't happened. I took vacation time this week so that I'd be able to help him out once he got out of the hospital. Hopefully that will be in the next couple of days.

I spent several hours at the hospital over each of the past few days, mostly in the late afternoon and evening. Those are ungodly hours for me, since I'm normally asleep at that time of day. I did get the chance to see some nice sunsets from Dad's room. (I see the sunrise almost every morning, but rarely see a sunset.) Last night's was especially dramatic, and I watched as the western clouds turned blood-red. Then the sky began to crackle with lightning. My original plan was to stay until around 11 p.m. when Dad was asleep. Then, shortly before 11:00, it began pouring down rain. My umbrella was in my car. I went back to reading my book and waited until the rain had ceased around midnight. When I left, it was cooler outside than I remember it being in weeks. The rain had dropped the temperature all the way down to 73 degrees, according to my car's thermometer. In a steamy Florida summer, that's what passes for refreshingly cool.