News Nadir

April 21, 2013

Last week, like millions of Americans, I followed with rabid interest the Boston Marathon Bombing story.

From the first news reports of the sickening, cowardly act to the climactic  capture of the remaining at large, fugitive murderer, I was glued to both my computer screen and TV  hoping to hear any news. What I got, especially early on was a lot of rumor, nonsense and out right falsehoods by the media news people. It seemed everyone was either blindly racing to be the first to crack the story, or intent on pushing their own special agenda.
As superbly as the law enforcement people performed, the media wallowed in the mud and murk of misinformation.

First, the bombers were captured, then they were not. Then they were “dark-skinned.”  But no, then they became white again. Home grown terrorists or imported zealots? Sensationalism had replaced common sense and accuracy of reporting. Titillating the public became paramount. Being the “smartest , fastest reporter in the room” was all that seemed to matter. Is there no pride of the craft anymore?
Sadly, the laughable ignorance of these journalists was not  restricted to the professional network types.  The social media (God, I hate that term!) had their days of disgrace and embarrassment too. So much so the ambassador from the Czech Republic had to write a letter to the American people explaining that the murderers of the Boston Marathon were from Chechnya, a split off Islamic Federation of Russia, not from the Czech Republic, a central European Republic and a staunch ally of the United States.

My God, do they even teach geography in school any more?

While one can appreciate the pressures applied in modern news accumulation situations, considering all the electronic advantages today’s media have,  the networks fell far short of their responsibilities. Clearly, as sublime as  the police and FBI were in their performance, the media did not cover itself in glory last week.

Oh where have you gone Edward R. Murrow?

Perhaps, the current crop of journalists should take note of your professionalism and humility when you advised,

“Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”


Rumination and worry

April 19, 2013

    I just read about a study which concluded that acetaminophen (Tylenol) eases anxiety, especially existential anxiety— or fear of death.
    Before you nervous nellies run out to CVS and blow your budget on Tylenol, let me give you the benefit of my experience.
    First, I have taken Tylenol in the past and to me it has the same medicinal value as burning incense or  drinking a glass of water.

    Maybe by their conclusion that it eases the fear of death,  the researchers mean your pain continues so severely, you just wish you were dead.
    Existential anxiety to me like a lot of phobias, is a state of mind. I suppose when you are young and the world is your oyster, the end of  your existence is not your first choice in thoughts. Personally, I never did worry about it. I figure, all living things die, so why worry about it? I just hope it happens while I am asleep without an accompany painful debilitating disease.
    My anxieties that cause my worrying and rumination are much more banal. however, they crowded my day and keep me up at night.
    To me anxiety is…

    Worrying that I got up too late to let the dog out.

    Concern that I may have to go to the mall

    Shopping in any form.

    Having chunks of potatoes in my soup.( oh, I really hate that.)

    Discovering a strange noise (or smell) in my car.

    Having anything to do with the motor vehicle department.
    Being informed I have no reservation in a crowded restaurant on a Saturday night.

    When the power goes out (this is a particularly debilitating one!)
    Any exposure to 4-year-old children with the flu. Note: Anxiety will be heighten if exposure occurred in a bounce house or any Chuck E. Cheese.
    The list goes on and on. At the last official count I had 312 identified anxieties….just in this country alone. No amount of Tylenol or Shaman magic for that matter,  could bring relief.
    I think I will go home now and lock myself in my bubble.

The Haircut

April 10, 2013

I must have had about 1200 haircuts or so in my lifetime.

I can’t remember my first one, but I am sure it was a big deal to my mother who probably took me to the barbershop and then got me a lollipop afterwards.
Usually for the past 50 years or so I have been going to the barbershop on my own.

As a youngster, I went to Frank’s.  Frank and Dottie ran a combination barber and beauty shop that my father and I used to frequent. Although Frank was a friend of my father, I don’t think Frank was all that good a barber, but he cut my hair for free and I always got a Bazooka bubble gum. Frank’s  was where I first discovered Playboy magazines. They were hidden on the back magazine shelf.
When I became an adult and worked in business, I had a certain barber and had  regular appointments that included a snappy witch hazel finish. Being well-groomed was crucial to success in business I had been told.

Lately however, I have developed an aversion to the whole barbering experience. Regular readers of this space know that I have this uneasy relationship with hair and anything to do with it. I do not like waiting in the barbershop with all those fusty old magazines. Reading dog-eared Consumer Reports evaluations of eight track tape players or The Sporting News’ account of how the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series is just not fun anymore.

So, in order to avoid waiting, I would look for a barbershop that was not crowded. If one had people in it, I would drive to the next one. Sometimes going to 4 or 5 before I found one that was empty. The thought never occurred to me that if no one was in there, then perhaps the barber was not that good. Well it is only hair, right?

Last week, I needed a haircut really bad, but since I was low on gas, I did not want to drive around looking for an empty shop, so I asked Donna if she would cut my hair.
She said “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I can’t stand it any more.”
So she got out her old clipper set and we went outside on the patio, where she began to shear my objectionable locks.
When she was finished, she handed me a mirror. It wasn’t bad and I felt lots better.
I offered her $20 for her efforts, but she refused.
I did not know what to do. My hair was shorter. I felt better. It was a happy day.

I stashed the bill in my shirt!

I always thought that I had it together. Well basically together.

I figured that although I was not the brightest kid in the room, I did go to college, even took a few courses in graduate school. I received a professional CPA designation and was respected in my field.
I served in the military, and started and ran successful businesses.
This professional background plus raising a bunch of wild kids surely would enable one to handle anything that comes along.
Well, I was wrong.
I now know why seniors in this country begin to lose their cognitive facilities around the age of 65.
Since the first of the year, I have been receiving daily, unsolicited, confusing letters, pamphlets, books and CDs from scores of insurance companies and the Federal government. All of which deal with one subject; Medicare.
Now since everyone has heard of Medicare, as it has been around for nearly 50 years, one might ask, “What’s the problem, read the stuff and decide what you need to do.”
Well, that is not that easy. First, the brochures might as well have been written in Chinese… by Chinese lawyers. (They were probably printed in China.)

Second,  Medicare has all these complicated, moving parts.

They are deceptively named A, B, C, D and so on. You also have Medicare Advantage and dozens of supplemental programs offered by some very eager insurance companies.
The only trouble is that the programs are cleverly not  standardized, so a comparative analysis is like predicting the weather on Mars–with an Old Farmers Almanac.
To make matters just a little bit more interesting, the pamphlets never tell you exactly how much the coverage will cost and what is covered. For that you must contact an “Agent.” This, you don’t want to do unless you are on a 12 step program…. or dying or something.
These companies, and their agents  use terms such as, “not all vision care maybe covered”, or “certain drugs may not be covered. Consult plan L or K in your group folder, if applicable or check our latest website newsletter”…What?

Then,  you have to “guess” what the Government will do with Medicare subsidies in the future as it tries to rein in its runaway budget!

While trying to understand the whole thing a bit better, I recently asked Dr. Zorro about it. Surely a learned medicine man like Dr. Z. would have the answer. But even he had questions  and was unsure of the programs. He shook his head and gave me the same look of pity, puzzlement and concern he displayed that day he asked how I got poison ivy over 70 percent of my body.

If Dr. Z is puzzled about this,  how could a knucklehead like me figure it out?

By this time, the insurance companies  have become unhappy with how long I am taking to decide. They are beginning to put time pressure on me to  choose a plan. They seem to be saying ( in a nice way) what an idiot I will be if I miss out on this deal.

While I just know the insurance companies are caring organizations, only interested in my welfare and not in it for the money, selecting a plan that is “right for me” is a little like playing Blind Man’s Bluff with a touch of Russian Roulette thrown in.
So, here I am, in my golden years, wanting to play golf, sit on my front porch in my rocking chair, sipping lemonade and regaling my grandkids with funny stories of the olden days, but all I can think about is will I choose the right plan, or will I commit a hideous blunder and  become the laughing-stock of the senior center.

Oh, what to do…what to do.

5,002,013 Anno Domini

April 5, 2013

I just read an article by a researcher in the UK who proclaims that in 5 million years, women will rule the earth and men will have become extinct.

Her rationale apparently is that men’s genes in the Y chromosomes are declining too rapidly to continue to sustain the gender. Apparently, at one time we had over 1400 Y genes, but now we are down to a paltry 45.

Well, you know come to think of it, lately I have felt my estrogen/ testosterone ratio changing, but I thought this was just the result of pop culture telling me to avoid my masculinity and urging me to get in touch with my feminine side.
In spite of this,  5 million years is a long time; maybe 250,000 generations or so.  Considering recorded history only covers about 400 generations, give or take a few dozen, this is quite a leap.

She goes on to say that by the time  all the men gone, the women will have evolved into self pollinating, reproductive beings and will be able to reproduce on their own.
Now, before I get into a discussion about this, I just wonder who funds this type of research and why do the researchers always predict occurrences far into the future so no one can test their hypotheses? And why did I not think of a gig like this?

OK,  well, maybe I will buy into this prediction , but since showtime for this happening will occur very late, past my bedtime, and I am not going to stay up and watch it,  I have a few questions which might be considered by us here and now.

First, if women rule the world and men are extinct, and when all the women start talking at once, who will be there to listen… and nod their heads in agreement?

Who will take out the trash? For that matter, with no men around, who will make the trash? I guess if there is no making of trash, then there will be no need to take it out.

What about killing spiders? or changing  flat tires?


Who will stand out in the freezing cold  holding up potential Christmas tree candidates, while the women sit in warm cars and indicate their preference in trees?

Living room walls will never get painted in houses occupied only by women. As women perceived color much better than men and have strong opinions about color and design, there will be little agreement on the correct choice. No men around means there will be no one to say, ” Paint it any color you want, I don’t care.”

What will become of all the beer and scotch in the world with no men to drink it?  And will the earth be able to produce enough boneless, skinless chicken breasts, white wine and Activia yogurt to feed and nourish the expanded female population?


Then, not an unimportant consideration,… where will we put all the women’s shoes?

And last but certainly not least,
with no men around, who will answer the question,

“Does this dress make me look fat?”

Mailboxes R’ Mussed

April 3, 2013

Yesterday, I got a call from Wendy catching me up on some of the happenings in the neighborhood.
It seems there was a lot of excitement on her lane the other day.

It all started when she went up the driveway to get her mail, she noticed that her mailbox was not in its usual spot. Looking around , she saw it was in the neighbor’s yard.

Walking over to pick it up she speculated what might have happened. Perhaps some over zealous youthful baseball fans decided to play “mailbox baseball” in anticipation of opening day. Or maybe one of the construction trucks for that new house a few doors down got too close.

But then she noticed there were several other mailboxes scattered all over the lane. In addition, she observed that a parked car  looked as if it had been slashed with a giant can opener.
What in the world went on here?
A few houses down the street , there was a small gathering  of folks talking and pointing up and down the lane.
Mailbox in hand, she approached her neighbors and asked what happened?

Everyone started talking at once in a very excited manner. This obviously was a very big deal!

Apparently, there was an eyewitness who watched a fire engine either responding to a call, or returning from one, driving down the road. The only problem was that one end  of a 200 foot length of fire hose had become detached from the truck  and was whipsawing across the lane like some out of control very angry snake taking out everything in its path.

How did the driver not know the destruction he was leaving in his wake. The noise must have been deafening. When asked about the details, all the department officials would say was that the driver was “inexperienced.”

Later that day, officials of the fire department were on the scene to assess the damage and assure the residents that they would make full restitution.

Well at least the lane’s residents would not be hosed again.

Pasta Fa Fool

April 1, 2013

Every April 1, we have spaghetti for dinner.

I happen to like spaghetti so I enjoy the meal. But we do it on April 1, to remind us of the famous “spaghetti grows on trees” report by the BBC in 1957.
When, over 8 million viewers of the staid and respected BBC watched as the 3 minute report talked about a record “Swiss” spaghetti crop. This report,  which showed a buxom Swiss Miss pulling strands of spaghetti from the trees, explained the large harvest was due to the mild weather and the virtual elimination of the spaghetti “weevil.”
The BBC was swamped with calls from viewers wanting to know more about how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.

The BBC’s advice was to, “place a strand of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best”.

Apparently the UK’s climate was not suited for the production of spaghetti trees.
For years, we in this country, laughed at the stupidity of the gullible Britons. How could they believe something so outrageous as spaghetti growing on trees?

We Americans are too smart to fall for anything like that.
Not so fast smarty pants Americans. We have fallen into foolishness more times than I would like to count.
You probably don’t remember  actor Orson Welles’  War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938. Millions were fooled by that thinking the country was being invaded by aliens.

But those two examples were harmless April Fool and Halloween pranks.

Now we have a whole new paradigm of pranks playing us for fools. These new wave tricks however are not for fun but invented by the Government and Media Cabal for their own personal and political power and gain.
Remember how the government swore the existence of a Social Security “Lockbox” where all the social security monies were kept away from the greed and avarice of politicians? How many people fell for that whopper?
Or how about that we had to go to war with Iraq because of all the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussian had at his disposal.

That sick , sad trick cost us dearly.

Any statistics**  that the Government puts out about the economy or employment are usually suspect, even more so, if they are celebrated by the media.
The “Fiscal Cliff” we were all going to fall off is a prime example of this foolishness we Americans fall for. Just because it is on TV or the internet does not make it real.

And now comes the terror of the Sequester.

So tonight, eat some spaghetti, made of durum and semolina wheat and crafted in Italy and don’t be fooled by anyone.


** There is a great little book entitled, “How to lie with Statstics, written by Darrel Huff in 1954. It cost about $6 and it is worth the read.