I saw in yesterday's news that Don Adams died at age 82. If you're of a certain age, you remember him as Maxwell Smart from the TV comedy "Get Smart," or perhaps as the voice of the cartoon character Tennessee Tuxedo.

I was thinking about this last night while getting ready for work, about how quaint "Get Smart" and other TV shows from the early-to-mid 1960s seem in retrospect. There was a cultural sea change that happened during that time, and the way that people dressed and behaved changed radically some time around 1967 or so. The Summer of Love marked the end of the reign of the fedora-wearing man in the gray flannel suit almost as surely as the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs.

Even into the early 1960s, all men wore hats everywhere they went. A man wasn't completely dressed without one. If you look at archival film footage from the 1930s or 1940s or 1950s, you notice it: They were all wearing hats. And then you look at film from the 1970s, and you notice that very few men were wearing them any longer. The ones who did still have hats from then on were wearing them as part of a uniform: Military, law enforcement, culinary, sports. But for John Doe, the hat was no longer required or even desired.

I think that the man who single-handedly killed the haberdashery industry was President John F. Kennedy. Sure, he died in 1963, a few years before hats almost completely disappeared, but he was the one who set the hatless trend by appearing bareheaded at his inauguration. The die was cast; hats were no longer fashionable. The dinosaurs didn't all die off at once, either; it took a little time. It's always been my pet theory that the haberdashers were the ones who had Kennedy assassinated. Do you know what Harry Truman did before he entered politics? He was a haberdasher in Kansas City. Really.


"...Why Must You Live Out Those Songs That You Wrote?"

Nine years ago, it seemed like a "local girl makes good" story. 20-year-old country singer Mindy McCready went from southwest Florida to Nashville to seek fame and fortune and had a #1 hit in 1996 with "Guys Do It All the Time."

But now she's pushing thirty and the news lately has been all bad. Her life has been like a bad country song. She's been arrested for drunk driving, for possession of OxyContin, and for some kind of involvement with a con man in Arizona. She attempted suicide last year, and then just yesterday, she was hospitalized after overdosing on antidepressants after an argument with her boyfriend. She's also pregnant. And unlike Hank, Jr., she doesn't have "Family Tradition" as an excuse, as far as I know.

Sometimes fame isn't all it's cracked up to be. It seems to have brought poor Mindy more heartache than happiness.



I really have to compliment the USPS for their quick delivery of my DVDs. I placed the order on Monday with Amazon.com, and it shipped on Tuesday via USPS with an expected delivery of 3-5 business days. The projected delivery date according to Amazon.com was September 26th. Well, they arrived yesterday, in just two days.

"Wonderfalls" is a three-disc set which includes all thirteen episodes, including nine which were shot but never aired on Fox. There are also documentaries as well as commentary tracks on some of the episodes. I watched Disc 1 yesterday afternoon, which was the first four episodes, the ones that actually aired before the show was cancelled. After watching them, I had to wonder: What was the network thinking? If they'd put this show in a decent time slot and left it there, they could have had a hit on their hands. Instead, it was off to Canadian TV and then to DVD and the Logo Channel.

Would you like it? Perhaps. If you liked "Twin Peaks" or "Northern Exposure," which were a couple of my favorite television shows, then you probably would. "Wonderfalls" has a delightfully quirky cast as well as an interesting premise: Jaye, an Ivy Leaguer with a philosophy degree, is a slacker who works in a kitschy gift shop in Niagara Falls and lives in a trailer park. One day, a wax lion figurine in the gift shop starts talking to her, and soon other similarly inanimate creatures start doing the same. They tell her to do various outrageous things, but in the end, her actions change people's lives for the better.

Jaye is a very complicated woman, if not always a likeable person(much like Joel Fleischmann was in "Northern Exposure"). The show is cleverly written, and there have been some lines that had me howling with laughter. There's also the sexual tension of Jaye's growing relationship with Eric, the bartender at "The Barrel," a local bar, who came to Niagara Falls with his wife on his honeymoon a few days earlier, then found her fooling around with the bellboy in their hotel room. Heartbroken, he left her and started drinking and crying at the bar until they hired him. Jaye's best friend, Mahandra, waits tables at the bar as well.

I haven't watched the whole series yet, but so far, so good. And so, I'll finish this post and pop the next disc into the DVD player.


Sending a 1974 AMC Pacer to the Moon

Over the weekend, I read an article about NASA's plans to put Americans back on the moon in 2018. I was underwhelmed. First, why should it take so long to do it? John F. Kennedy set a goal back in the early '60s of putting a man on the man by the end of the decade, which was successfully accomplished. Less than ten years then, but now it takes us thirteen years? Why?

Even worse, NASA's plan is to cobble together a lunar mission using leftover parts from the Apollo and Shuttle programs. My reaction: You've got to be kidding me! That technology is 30+ years old now, so it will be almost 50-year-old technology by the time of the 2018 moon mission. I just do not believe that there haven't been advances in design, materials, technology, etc., that couldn't be implemented in a new and improved spacecraft design. Scavenging old parts to try to make a new spacecraft is hardly the hallmark of a vibrant space program. It sounds like something that a second-rate nation would do.

I'm not talking about the computer and communications technology, of course, which will certainly be state of the art. I'm talking about the bus they'll be driving. It's the equivalent of putting fancy chrome and a state-of-the-art sound system into a 1974 AMC Pacer and thinking you have a pimped-out ride. The proposed hybrid Apollo-Shuttle spacecraft would be the equivalent of a 1974 AMC Pacer, the Mirthmobile from "Wayne's World." Sometimes making something new look retro is a successful marketing tool. Look at the most recent incarnation of the Corvette, which looks much like the 1953 version, or the retro-inspired PT Cruiser. These are, however, new cars with all the bells and whistles. A hybrid Apollo-Shuttle moon mission would not be retro, though; it would just be old.

Back in the 1960s, the space program had a major "wow factor." It was glamorous. It was cool. And we thought it had a vision, although it turned out that the vision was far too limited, since all we really cared about was getting to the moon before the Russians did. Once we got there, we jumped up and down a few times and planted our flag, but then we left and we didn't go back. The mid-1970s were a bad time, with Vietnam ending badly, Watergate turning us into a nation of cynics, and then the trials and tribulations of the Carter administration. The whimpering end of the Apollo program was just another symptom of a nation that appeared to be in decline. The coolness of the space program, the wow factor, was gone.

NASA had an opportunity here to show some vision, to come up with something bold and new. Something cool. Something with flair. And they instead have decided to try to do it on the cheap, sending a 1974 AMC Pacer to boldly go where we've already been before. How disappointing.


No Meter Maid

No, lovely Rita is a tropical storm, soon to be a hurricane. We won't see much of it here, just a bit of wind and rain as we catch the edges of it as it passes to our south. I'm really ready for hurricane season to be over and done with.

This paragraph from an AP news story that I read over the weekend made me laugh:
Also, about 60 members of rival Palestinian security units engaged in a shootout in the center of the West Bank town of Ramallah after two officers feuded over a parking space, security officials said. No one was hurt.

I guess a Palestinian shootout involves all of them firing their guns into the air while yelling "Allahu akbar!" and then dodging the other side's bullets as they fall to earth. Apparently they think "aiming" is some kind of Zionist plot.

I was watching television yesterday and just kind of aimlessly looking through the DirecTV guide when I happened across a show called "Wonderfalls," which was about to start. The description said that the episode was about a Russian mail-order bride who comes to town and finds her groom is someone she did not expect. Well, I was curious, so I watched it. It was actually a funny show, so I did a little googling and found out that "Wonderfalls" was one of those "best shows you never saw." It was on Fox in the spring of 2004 but was cancelled after just four episodes due to poor ratings, even though the critics seemed to like it. A total of 13 episodes had been filmed, however, and the show later found other venues, including a DVD set. It's now being shown on the Logo channel, even though the "gay factor" of the show seems to be limited to the main character's lesbian sister. The show I watched yesterday was the eighth episode. Rather than try to catch them all on television, though, I decided to just go to Amazon and order the DVD set.


What I'd Miss Most About New Orleans


Now, I really don't think the city is gone forever. Other cities have suffered dreadful calamities and recovered; Lisbon, San Francisco, Chicago. It just takes time. Geography is destiny, and New Orleans' geographical location hasn't changed.

My main frequent connection to that city is that I've become rather fond of the New Orleans-style frozen dinner bowls from Zatarain's, which is headquartered in New Orleans. I don't know if they have any other manufacturing plants outside of that city or not. If not, then my supply will dry up soon and not return unless and until New Orleans is back in business. I usually eat one or two a week, since they fit nicely in my lunchbox. I like spicy Cajun-style food as a change of pace. I'll be sad if it becomes more difficult to get.


Katrina: Week in Review

I've been digesting the calamity that was Katrina. While I haven't written anything here, it's not like I haven't been writing anything. Mostly, it's been an e-mail discussion with a friend and the occasional comment on other blogs. Frankly, I'm disgusted with the coverage I've seen which tries to pin the blame for the "slowness" of the disaster response on the federal government, especially regarding the flooding of New Orleans and the heartrending pictures of those thousands of people trapped in the city, suffering from hunger and thirst in the heat. As I've written elsewhere, the fault for this disaster lies primarily with the state and local governments, who were totally incompetent and bungled this situation at the cost of thousands of lives. It also lies with those who were too complacent or too foolish to evacuate with a potential Category 5 storm bearing down on them. Don't tell me that they couldn't get out; I've seen far too many people still being coaxed from their flooded homes as their cars lie drowned in their driveways. And we've all seen the pictures (haven't we?) of the motor pool parking lots where the hundreds of school buses were parked, also drowned, and the dozens of NORTA city buses, also drowned, which could have been used to evacuate the city's poor and carless. Instead, they went to the modern day Black Hole of Calcutta, the Superdome and environs, which had no food or water on hand for the hapless crowds that showed up. The City of New Orleans had a disaster plan, which was not followed, and was totally inadequate for the situation in any case. And hundreds, perhaps, thousands, are now dead because of that fact.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Many of the poor people of New Orleans had been dependent upon government largesse their entire lives. That's not the sort of thing that encourages people to look out for their own self-interest, because they expect the government to look out for them. Well, the government let them down, and that's the lesson we all should learn from this tragedy: IF YOU TRUST YOUR FATE TO THE GOVERNMENT, YOU WILL EVENTUALLY BE LET DOWN. And that's local, state and federal. You have to look out for yourself.

Finally, I heard a lot of "What took so long?!" when the National Guard showed up with food and water on Thursday morning, about 96 hours after the hurricane made landfall and less than 72 hours after the levees failed, drowning much of New Orleans. Well, folks, that is NOT a long time for the feds to get those relief supplies together, stage them and then bring them in on guarded military convoys. The logistics involved would probably boggle your mind, if you knew about them. And anyone with any sense who lives in an area where hurricanes hit KNOWS that you're probably going to be on your own for at least 3-4 days after a major hurricane hits your area, and plans accordingly. If you don't have enough food and water to last for three days or longer, then you're just begging to suffer if disaster hits.

I saw those poor people suffering on the overpass on Wednesday and I wondered, "Why don't they just drop a couple of pallets of bottled water and MREs onto that overpass?" And then, after thinking about it for a moment, I knew the answer: Because there would have been a stampede for the supplies if there was not someone armed with an M-16 to hand them out. Remember that little stampede on the Baghdad bridge where almost a thousand people died? Well, it would have been something like that, and then we'd hear stuff like "See! George Bush hates black people so much that he drops supplies on the bridge to make them stampede and kill each other!" And don't tell me we wouldn't have heard just that. You know the sort of silliness that the press has been putting out. The funniest thing I read was some idiot named Randall Robinson, a "civil rights activist," who last week claimed that the poor starving black people were being forced to eat the bodies of the dead to survive, because George Bush and the federal government were so slow getting relief in to them. I just had to roll my eyes and laugh at the man's stupidity.

I liked this article by Ben Stein: Get Off His Back