Archive for August, 2007

The End of Summer Blues and Promises not Kept

Sometimes even dogs get the blues
I, probably not at all unlike most people at this time of year – most of all students, feel the End-of-Summer Blues coming on.  As I find myself approaching middle age, these post summer pangs are probably a bit worse than when I was merely a student with little else to worry me than another year of bully-induced aggression and education-induced drudgery.  For now, I view the end of summer as yet another milestone from which to measure failure, goals I did not meet, and promises not kept.

So let’s see how I did:

Goal: I’m going to go camping with the family
Result: The camper never made it out of storage and now sits unused under a black walnut tree covered in blackened walnut effluvium

Goal: This Summer I’m going to read more
Result: I read 2 chapters in the book I started on New Years (the last time I had a resolution to read more)

Goal: Take the family to parks more
Result: I took the kids on 3 occasions (we’ll call that partially met)

Goal: Take the family swimming
Result: Again, partially met – we went swimming together as a family 3 times

Goal: Take the boy to an amusement park and ride some really big roller coasters
Result: By some last minute maneuvering, I achieved one! With 2 months of constant prodding – and an almost immaculate confluence of weather, schedules, and finances – I was able to take him to an amusement park and he really enjoyed.

And even though I usually hate the crowds and commercialism, I really enjoyed it too. From the grizzled, middle-aged (and maybe hackneyed) perspective of someone who realizes this: when I am gone special memories like this may perhaps stand out and allow my son to remember me more fondly (than as the distracted workaholic he might otherwise envision) and to set a better example for his kids.

I know this is the true “theme” that these theme parks pimp and have programmed into hapless parents like myself, yet it is probably one of the few advertising gimmicks that has some ring of truth to it.  Spend a day with your kids, don’t think about anything else, and share a memory that might live on a little beyond yourself.

When your daily work, missed goals, and failures are forgotten, this is the one thing that remains and lives on: the fond memories of your friends and loved ones – perhaps at least one reason to feel less blue. 


The Anti-Michael-Moores Investigate the Murtha Pork Factory


Some Murtha Earmarks Waiting for Committee Vote 

A few weeks back a couple of Michael Moore wannabes went searching for Congressman John Murtha’s Center for Critical Instrumented Infrastructure.  Well, they are maybe not quite Michael Moore protégé’s – it seems these roving reporters are young, attractive, thin, and conservative – just a few things of which Michael Moore will never be accused.  But nonetheless, these young ladies, Mary Katharine Ham and Katie Favazza, in a lighthearted style not seen since Roger and Me, set out to document their search for John Murtha’s Center for Critical Instrumented Infrastructure in this video

As someone who has firsthand knowledge of both Concurrent Technology Corporation (CTC) and Johnstown, I could readily tell that these reporters did an excellent job.  For even though I understood these things from several years spent inside the Rabbit Hole, what I did not know, was how readily transparent Murtha and CTC’s corruption was to outsiders.  In this short film in fact, these perceptive young ladies really paint a pretty accurate depiction of Murtha, CTC, and Johnstown:

– a Murtha who buoys some inefficient -and probably undeserving companies- with some wasteful Earmarks
– a CTC who is both secretive and incompetent  (and whose spokesperson doesn’t even talk to people – but “needs to check with another spokesperson”) and feels absolutely no need to justify what it does with a reported $200M a year in overall federal funding
– a Johnstown with really nice residents and some pretty good bars

Ah, the naivety and impetuosity of youth – to think that these young ladies actually believed that $1M in congressional funding could actually produce some physical manifestation that could be seen, observed, and maybe even talk back to you.  $1M might get you a “Project Plan” to spend another $10M that might be capable of such things.  But to put this in perspective, it may be useful to understand this: Murtha throws back an estimated $200-300 million in federal funding/earmarks/pork chops back to Johnstown with similar non-existent effect. 

Heck, that is not just me and some conservative think-tank hacks saying this, even CNN piles on with this highly critical report on another perpetual Murtha earmark– the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) which gobbles up $40-50 Million a year in earmarks. 

Anyone yet think it is time for Earmark Reform -or- maybe even just forcing Lawmakers to provide a list of their earmarks, and specifically where they are going and who is benefiting, to the public?  Probably not, for I suspect that every district in the country has their own versions of CTC, the Center for Critical Instrumented Infrastructure, and the NDIC.  Pass the pork chops you Congressional Districts – for now at least – there are more than enough to go around.  

(Linguistic) Love Greek-Style

As any good protestant parishioner (or at least one who has had to endure the oft overwrought “God’s Agape Love” sermon*) can tell you – in the Greek language, there are several different words for love – Eros, Philia, Agape, and Storgē – each expressing its own different facet and expression of love.

So while I was bashing on marriage a few weeks ago in this post and lamenting that the “Eros” version too often only happens when one returns after an extended absence, I thought it might be useful to examine all types of marital love.  And just as the ancient and modern Greeks have 3 or 4 different words for love, expectedly there are also these types and manifestations of love in marriage: 

Eros – Erotic/Romatic/Euphoric Love (Timespan – 1 night to 1 year) – I think we all know what kind of love this is – it is what they show you on TV and in the movies (even the non-pornographic ones!).  It is the chemically addictive desire to mate that our selfish DNA has endowed us with.  This is like when you begin to really like a song and learn its words and you just want to hear it again and again – thinking it will be that fresh and interesting always.

Philia – Philial/the Love of Friendship (1 to 3 years) – This is the most broad and ambiguous of the greek loves.  It can mean anything from the love of friendship, goodness, or even pleasure.  It can even mean being “lovable.”  And this is my favorite definition, for at this stage we are still at least trying to be lovable.  We know ourselves and we know our mates for all our strengths and weaknesses.  This is like when you have learned that favorite song by heart, but you still like it (you just may not want to hear it all the time or necessarily over again and again).

Agape – Unconditional and Long Term (3 to 10 years) – This is the start of the love of family, of the love of the more permanent love artifacts (art, children, connectedness, etc.), and of the love of something more than yourself.  This is like when you continually rediscover that song you liked long ago.

Storgē – Love of Family (10 years to ?) – This is the willingness to sacrifice the Eros, Philia, and Agape for the familiarity, safety, security, and commitment of a long term relationship with your family.  It is when you finally understand-through hard experience-the vows of “sickness and health, richer or poorer,” and so on.  It is the final sweet and pleasant mix of erotic, philial, and agape love with family.  And, with luck, it is the end state of all happy and functional relationships.  So “play it again Sam.”

* I personally believe that modern Christians may be imbuing this word (Agape) with meanings it never originally had to have some sermon-writing material.
** I lived in Greece for a few years and would hear these words all of the time, and their meaning and connotation seemed almost nothing like when our preacher would use them (but in his defense, he may have been using the ancient meanings).  Some examples:
“Philemo! My Friend! You want to buy a rug!”
Agapemo! (My Love!)” – was a favorite when I used to hear the Greek Ya-Ya’s use it to call their grandkids in for supper (and they probably weren’t talking about God-like love, although it is possible).

Tipping your Postman with Postage

It is funny how memories work, they are always on and always in your head just waiting for the instant that some peripherally-related topic gives the right neuron a zap, and jiggles and coaxes them out of your head after many decades.

I was reminded of this fact while I was watching my postman sweat and deliver mail in the sweltering sun.  I thought: “what an ass I am, I’ve never once given him a tip on the holidays.”  (Even though technically the uber-bureacratic Postal Service specifically prohibts such activities)

Instantly I was carried back to the neighborhood where I grew up and the memory of a plucky neighborhood matron who was doing a holiday collection for our neighborhood postman.  My step-father’s reply?

No thanks – he gets a tip from me every time I buy a stamp.

A comedic reply that I somehow both shockingily and fondly remember for the first time 3 decades later.  As for my postman?  In the time it took me to write this, God gave him his tip 5 months early – a thunderstorm came and washed away the heat and humidity.  Thanks God – I owe you one – do you take postage? 

Best to Decline Chuck Berry’s Offer to Use His Restroom

I was alerted by a relative who observed my online fawning over Chuck Berry that Chuck is not exactly a squeaky-clean character.  He has in fact had several brushes with the law (although I did mention his felony record in an earlier post).

So I will just offer up in my defense that I believe you can admire and appreciate a person’s accomplishments without condoning every action of their life.  Or to pull an example from recent headlines, one can admire Michael Vick’s football prowess without thinking he would be a good person to pet-sit your dog.

Often extreme people have some extreme flaws.  A quick survey of most historical figures should quickly demonstrate this point.  Heck, a review of most current actors under 25 today reveal nearly as many brushes with the law each as Chuck (think Paris and LiLo) – and they haven’t been around in show-business even 1/5 as long. 

Not to further dump on poor Chuck, but because I had such a difficult time finding any information about this period in his life.  I felt there might be some value in aggregating some information on Mr. Berry and this legal scrape. 

His most recent legal troubles-and those with the greatest potential to damage his reputation(although this time they resulted in no prison time)-occurred in 1990.  Yet, oddly, it is somewhat difficult to even find any reference to this episode.  Here are some of the few sites that even mention the controversy. 

Wikipedia’s coverage of Berry’s scandals
Archives of Chuch Berry news stories from 1990 
A reference to the Spy Magazine exposé on Chuck’s tapes 
A discussion of early Invasion of Privacy Cases 
It seems that an odd assortment of record company executives, complacent media, and people who quite frankly don’t even want to think about such things were somehow nearly able to remove all references to the existence of this story as completely as the Ministry of Truth did when it “rectified” information in the novel 1984.

Apparently the synopsis of the story is this:  

While the FBI and local authorities conducted a dubious raid on a non-existant “major cocaine shipment” in Chuck’s home in 1990, they found video tapes containing the images of 70 women who had been secretly taped using the restrooms in his home and restaurant.  Chuck denied knowing where the tapes came from but plead guity to a minor charge and reached a $1.2M settlement with the women. 

OK, fair enough, Chuck quite obviously was not a very good adherent of privacy rights (and a penalty was extracted for this), but he was an outstanding musician nonetheless.  No thanks Chuck, I’ll just wait and use the restroom when I get home.

August 2007
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