Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween from the Famous Monsters!

The Famous Monsters faces of fear!

Frankenstein's monster, the Phantom of the Opera, and Mister Hyde!

Dracula, the Mummy and Wolfman...

Your sexy 8th grade English teacher after school!

Sarah Palin after you've had a couple of drinks!

The clown from your third birthday party!

Yo' Mama!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Make your own masks

It's hard to believe that:

a) It's Halloween tomorrow;

b) this damn election stuff is nearly over.

The way the news organizations are carrying on, the way the Republicans are acting, it appears that they are bracing for a big scare.

So, BOO!

While we're at it, let us not forget that we still have a sitting president with a sitting cabinet, and they are supposedly working, not watching The Daily Show, CNN or Fox News. Just to remind us you can print off one or all of these faces, cut eyeholes and holes at the ears, tie on some string and make your own Halloween masks.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Goodbye Uncle Jack

They held a graveside service for Sally's Uncle Jack today. He died last week at age 86.

This picture, taken circa the late 1950s, shows Jack at the very left. Next to him is his mother, we called her Nany, Jack's wife LaVon, Shirley and Ray, Sally's parents. That's Sally, sitting on the couch far right, holding her baby brother. Jack and LaVon's three kids are on the couch, intermingled with Sally's brothers and sisters.

All the people in the back row are gone. Jack was the last of them.

Jack had an incredible sense of humor and a natural storytelling ability. You gravitated toward Jack at a party because he was so entertaining. Jack had some funny sayings, including one that cracks me up just to think of it. "How was the honeymoon?" "Two pot bellies and a short pud."

Jack told a joke at a family function years ago, and I wish I'd recorded it. But when I remember it I can hear Jack's voice:

"A man goes to a doctor. He's got a big wart on his nose. The doctor says, 'Hmmm. Better lay in bed, rest the wart in a chair. Once an hour rub this ointment on it and call me in the morning.'

"The next morning the man called the doctor. 'So how's it going?' asks the doc. 'Terrible!' says the man. 'Now I'm in the chair and the wart's in the bed!'"

That joke was probably old during the time of Vaudeville, but no matter. They way he told jokes, stupid or not, they were funny.

When Sally and I first got married, 40 years ago, Nany told a story about Jack and Sally's mom, Shirley, when they were little kids. They were mad at their parents so they packed little suitcases and made their way down the sidewalk. They sat on their suitcases for a while, then wandered back home. Nany didn't respond to them, so Jack said to her, "Well, I see you've still got the same old cat."

That was Jack. Even at an early age.

We'll really miss you, Jack.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Republican for a reason"

We were driving on a street adjacent to ours when my wife noticed a man standing by his lawn sign. "Republican for a reason," she quoted. "Hmm. We ought to stop and ask the guy what his reason is."

I have written before about how Republican Utah is, for seemingly no reason except that some people feel they have to be. (See here.)

My mom and dad were staunch Republicans. My dad gave money to the party, attended money-raising dinners for a local congressman, and hated the Democrats.

If you asked my Mom and Dad why they hated Democrats they'd say, "They always get us into a war." If you asked why they loved Republicans they'd say, "They keep us out of war." If you consider Woodrow Wilson and World War I, FDR and World War II, Truman and the Korean War and Lyndon Johnson with the Vietnam War, that seemed to be the case. That was before Republican George W. Bush and the Iraq War (and does anyone call it Operation Enduring Freedom anymore?) As far as World War II went, there was that little thing called Pearl Harbor.

My parents might also have complained, "Democrats tax and spend," which is a Republican mantra. The difference is, of course, that our Republican generation spends and doesn't tax, just puts it on the tab "for later."

My father was a Goldwater Republican, very conservative, and if you mentioned Franklin Roosevelt you'd get a lecture on "those goddam government giveaways." Along with being Republican Dad was racist. He thought black people were all siphoning welfare money and using it to drink, take drugs, impregnate teenage girls and play craps. I'm sure Mom went along with that viewpoint. They were born in the early 1920s and were purely products of their generation and upbringing. I can hardly blame them if all they ever heard about other races was bad. It was what it was, an era of intense race prejudice.

What always struck me was that Mom and Dad, each coming from different rural towns in the center of Utah, where the Depression hit very hard, were so anti-Roosevelt and his government programs. I think I know why, because Mom and Dad came from successful families and had more than the people who were struggling. My dad's father died in 1932, before Social Security, and his widow, who never worked, and children got through the Depression just fine. Dad went to a private school and an exclusive college, so Grandpa must've had some good insurance. Even so, could they not see what was going on around them, the poverty, the bank failures, the near-anarchy that raged before Roosevelt got into office and implemented programs to bring back American confidence?

Lately there are some revisionist histories of the Depression, that laissez-faire economics could have eventually saved us. That was the platform of the Republicans at the time, and it's why they got booted from office in 1932. The Depression claimed the jobs of 25% of the population. As some historians have noted, America was very close to revolution. Maybe laissez-faire economics might have saved the system, if there had been time for it to work. However, we are talking about events that happened nearly 80 years ago. Someone can point a finger and say it didn't have to happen that way but it's immaterial because it did happen.

I'm sure that lurking in the minds of our modern politicians who pushed through the 700-billion dollar bailout were thoughts of the Depression and Roosevelt's New Deal. Bush and Company would want to be thought of in the same way, that they were the white knights who rode in and saved the economy.

When the time comes, everybody, conservative or liberal, signs up for Social Security, a Roosevelt-era program. They love Medicare, a Great Society program from Democrat Lyndon Johnson. No one wants to give up the social safety net those programs provide, and when George W. Bush tried to sell the idea of privatizing Social Security his sales job fell on deaf ears. Even Republicans claimed not to be home when he came to call with that proposal.

I don't believe the Republican party my parents belonged to is the same Republican party that exists today. Barry Goldwater was a thinking man's conservative, a pragmatist who was still able to work with Democrats. Today's Republicans have been co-opted by radical religious types, unthinkable forty years ago. They don't want to work with anybody, just dictate. Dad wasn't religious and he would have been appalled by their takeover of the GOP. The spending the Republicans now do would have disgusted him.

I'd hope that Dad, who died in 1967, a year of racial and civil turmoil, would have been educated over the years and would have realized that this is a different world than the one in which he grew up. I'd hope he'd have left those prejudices somewhere in his past and embraced the new era, where an African-American can actually be leading in the polls in the race for President of the U.S.

And, oh yeah. I was once also a Republican. My first vote in 1968 went to Richard Nixon because I believed him when he said he had a plan to win the war. By 1972 I was a Democrat and have never looked back.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Here's a Republican platform I could support

Just a couple of years ago this incident would have embarrassed me, but no more. Now I understand more about being male. It means we look. It means we have to look, must absolutely put our eyeballs on that spot that shows the least bit of femininity, that promises the allure of skin, of sex.

Women don't think like that. They just dress like they do to feel stylish, and if they turn us on, that's OK, but I'm guessing it isn't the reason they buy the clothes and shoes they choose to wear.

So I walked into the first school on my route yesterday, and saw a young woman standing behind the counter in the cubicle where all three secretaries sit. The woman--girl, really, because she's college-age--is January, whose mom sits right next to her: Kandie is one of the two main secretaries. January is the girl who keeps track of lunch money and does the accounting.

Both Kandie and January are probably 20 pounds overweight, but they both dress as stylish and trendy as they can. I glanced over and saw that January was wearing a pair of black slacks, but on her feet were a pair of patent leather platform shoes with 5" heels. A pair of shoes like that, especially at work, will get my attention. I guess I had a look on my face, or I looked too long. January didn't see me because she was talking to someone, but her mom did. I looked up to see Kandie smiling at me. She knew what I was looking at. Instead of blushing deep red because I'd been busted looking at her daughter's sexy footwear, I had the opposite reaction. I made the universal sign to Kandie of "OK!" with thumb and forefinger.

Maybe later Kandie pulled January aside and said, "That dirty old man was looking at your shoes!"

Oh well. Like I have said many times: It's deep down in our DNA. A man has to look.


I was wowed by the news that the Republicans have been spending campaign money--to the tune of $150 large--to dress Sarah Palin. Hey, Republicans...give me some of that budget and I'll dress her the way I'd like to see her. For starters, a pair of platform thigh-high leather boots with 6" stiletto heels would be great!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The buzz from the hive

When I was growing up the word Red meant communist. Now it means a state that votes Republican. Who thought that up? Utah is overwhelmingly Republican because the good people of the State of Utah, god bless 'em, really like to be told what to think and how to vote. They are deep red, scarlet. I read a statistic once--and again, who thinks this stuff up?--that about one-quarter to one-third of people like to be told what to do, what to think. It makes life so much easier, doesn't it?

Faithful red Latter-day Saints usually vote as a bloc, and are very conservative. It wasn't always so. During the 1930s Utah, like most states, was overwhelmingly in favor of Roosevelt's policies. Church leaders who hated Roosevelt were usually ignored or criticized. But nowadays if a church leader expresses an opinion he automatically has credibility. It's Mormon-think: When church leaders have spoken, all thinking is done.

In the 1960s Utah people elected Cal Rampton, a Democrat, as governor, and he was one of the most popular governors ever. He was followed by an equally popular Democrat, Scott Matheson. They were truly bipartisan and had to be, because the legislature was overwhelmingly then, as now, Republican. All of those days of bipartisanship are gone. Republicans hold every major office in the state except for one congressman, Scott Matheson's son, who could well be a Republican based on his voting record. Only local offices, some mayors and city and county council people, are Democrats, and they are from areas that usually vote for any Dem.

And why is this? Well, it goes back to that Mormon-think, back to the mentality that church leaders know what's right for their flock.

“In February 1974 Apostle Ezra Taft Benson was asked during an interview if a good Mormon could also be a liberal Democrat. Benson pessimistically replied: ‘I think it would be very hard if he was living the gospel and understood it.’”

- John Heinerman and Anson Shule, The Mormon Corporate Empire

“There is a joke in Salt Lake City expressing a feeling that Mormon Democrats say they know well. It goes:
I thought I saw Brother Williams in the Temple last week.
Why that’s impossible. He’s a Democrat, you know.”

- ibid.

Ezra Taft Benson, who served as LDS Church president for a time before his death, was Secretary of Agriculture during the Eisenhower administration, and had a narrow view of Democrats, or at least the liberal types, as expressed in his statement from '74. I remember when that came out, and what a bombshell it was. I'm sure a lot of faithful LDS who considered themselves Democrats had second thoughts, maybe even changed party affiliation.

What Benson didn't foresee is that when there is one-party rule, as there is in Utah, it just proves the adage about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Some of our legislators seem almost drunk with power to get their own agendas passed into law, helping a narrow group of people, or even just their families. It reminds me of the stories of Sarah Palin's abuses as a mayor and governor, bending laws to get her own way and settle her own scores. That happens a lot in Utah because when everyone is on the same wavelength, when everyone is part of that big beehive, they tend to go along for the good of the hive. Sometimes I realize how apt the state nickname as The Beehive State is; it was intended to mean we're industrious, but it also means that everyone is thinking exactly alike.

There are a few of us, though, who don't follow that buzz, and we'll find out after the upcoming election how many in Utah are there to protect the hive, and how many are attackers from outside.

Let's dance

Monday morning I got one of those annoying e-mails, not from some anonymous spammer, but from a coworker. It was yet another regurgitation of the lies, half-truths and libel about Barack Obama. Usually I’d just hit the delete button and forget it, but I approached it with him an hour or so later at work.

“Don't send me any more of your goddamn e-mails,” I said, “I've already voted, so you're not going to change my mind about anything.”

On Saturday Sally and sent in our absentee ballots. We signed up to be permanent absentee balloteers after being out of town during a couple of previous elections. It sure is easier than standing in line. Early voting at select polling places started yesterday, and will go through the week. Local news cameras showed long lines of voters, trying to avoid long lines on election day. If interest is this high then there will be more than a few problems on November 4 due to long lines.

In the meantime, we can always go dancing. (Thanks to Eddie Hunter, from whose Chicken Fat blog I swiped this. It’s very clever and makes me wonder how can anyone ever trust a photograph in the era of Photoshop?)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

That was the week that was...

Things have happened so fast this past week as the presidential campaign and financial crisis accelerate that it's been hard to stay current with editorial cartoons. These are my two favorites from the past week.

Pat Bagley's cartoon hits the nail on the head of what will be the Bush legacy, and Ed Stein shows how removed the campaign is from the meltdown of the economy.

Good ideas, great drawings!


Sally and I got back Wednesday night from our visit to family in Pennsylvania. We were there at the perfect time for weather and time of year; the days were sunny and in the 70s, and the leaves got more colorful every day.

We're walkers and we made use of the rural lanes and roads where we were, hiking out in the morning, camera in hand. This past Tuesday I not only got some brilliant leaves, but this stump.

This is a carving of...who? It looks biblical. It's a nice job and looks brand new.

Our granddaughters, Bella, nearly four, and Gabby, just over two, are both talkative and smart. We always swear we're going to write down what they say, like when Gabby said: "When I was little I was in my mommy's tummy."

Bella: "Grandma, where's your airplane?"

Sally: "It's at the airport, in a garage."

I also like the way both of them say "Daddy" with two distinct syllables, "Dad Dee." Of course Gabby has precedents to guide her, so she's way ahead of the curve. Her older sister is articulate and smart. She understands humor and uses it. It's also hilarious to listen to the two of them singing together. I think there's a potential for a duo in the future.

They are a couple of born posers. Bella leads the way with her expressive and different ways of standing for a photo. Little sister has to do what big sister does, so she does her best to pose, also. It makes for some great kid pictures.

Thursday afternoon Sally and David contacted each other using Skype, and there were the girls again on webcam, talking, laughing and joking. My heart did this little thing in my chest when I saw them. Now I know what is truly meant by tugging at your heartstrings. Consider mine tugged.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Here in Butler PA

My wife, Sally, and I have been in Butler PA since last Wednesday visiting our son and his family.

We find it a nice place. The fall weather is gorgeous as I write this, while at home in Utah I understand it's snowing. When Sally and I set out on our exercise walks passers-by smile and wave. We don't get that in Utah.

Yesterday we visited downtown Butler, looking in antique stores and bookstores. With two small children in tow it became a challenge, but I was enjoying the funky 1960s-style of the place.

We stopped at Democratic hq and posed in front of the big picture of Barack Obama. I'm planning to vote for him, but sometimes these pictures remind me of the cult of personality. Obama is bigger than life, and this artistic portrait represents some of that; an idealized view of a complex human being.

My son, David, swears as we were taking our pictures that an old man walked by and snorted.

On our way out of downtown we stopped at a local family restaurant for lunch. We were set up in a dining area with another family with young children, and I saw us as being segregated from the rest of the patrons so our children wouldn't annoy them. On the one hand I thought it was smart, on the other hand I was a bit perturbed.
The man and his family seated next to us as the only other diners seemed like a military family. Three boys and a dad, all with buzz cuts. Mom was a very pretty lady who somehow didn't look like she belonged with this testosteronic bunch. What made me think they were military--besides the haircuts--was Dad trying to get the boys under control by saying things like, "Keep this up and I'll make you run five laps with a 20-lb sandbag on your shoulders." Later he upped the punishment to 12 laps with thirty lbs. It didn't do a bit of good. The kids, all of whom appeared to have ADD, knew that Dad was a blowhard who wouldn't back up his threats.

With my poor hearing I couldn't hear this, but David told us later the man was telling a story about a past experience with a waitress in a restaurant. He said, "I told the waitress if she put on the receipt I paid $5.00 for the ice cream I'd give her a $5.00 tip. If she put down $8.00 I'd give her an $8.00 tip!" He finished by saying, "She wrote down $8.00 so I gave her the tip and I got free ice cream!" Wow, with math skills like those I'm sure this is the guy who engineered sub-prime mortgages or is one of the authors of the current financial crisis.

So that's Butler from my exceedingly narrow viewpoint. It has smart and friendly people, it has hicks and dumb people. Just like every other town in the world.

Oh yeah, the road out of town has a Dairy Queen, old-style. I haven't seen one of these old timey drive-ins for years. It turns out they serve just ice cream, and today is the last day of the season, but I got a picture because it can't last. It just can't. I'm sure someday soon it'll be a 7-Eleven or a gas station, but I wanted a picture to prove I saw one of the last of the old DQ drive-ins in America.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Do animals have souls?

Over 30 years ago I overheard two separate conversations by coworkers, just days apart. Aaron was lamenting the loss of his hunting dog, a Golden Retriever: “Best dog I ever had. He was a real friend. I'm really busted up about him dyin’. My only consolation is someday I'll see him in heaven.”

A couple of days later Rand was bragging about a bull elk he’d hunted and shot a few days before. He was telling the story in all its gory detail.

Fast forward to last week when my coworker Mel was talking about his upcoming hunting trip. He was discussing where he was going to camp. He then went into tales of hunts past, and the elk he’d bagged. I asked him, “Do animals have souls?”

Mel, who like Aaron  is a religious person, stopped. “I don't know. I suppose they do.”

“I mean,” I continued, remembering Aaron’s remark about someday seeing his dog in heaven, “if your favorite dog or horse [he owns both] died, would you expect to see them in heaven?”

“Well...I'm not sure, but yeah, I guess I would.”

Unlike Aaron, 30 years earlier, Mel had never taken the time to consider such a possibility. “So, if your dog or horse has a soul, and is able to be with you in heaven, then what about the elk you've killed?”


More silence.

“...I don't think like that. Animals like elk are here for food.”

“And some people eat dogs and some people eat horses, too. What if you get to heaven and your favorite dog and horse are being stampeded over by the herd of bull elk you've shot and eaten?”

“C’mon, you're messin’ with me now. That isn’t gonna happen.”

“All I'm saying is that from a viewpoint of whether dogs and horses have souls and can make it to heaven, then why not elk? Why not all the birds that ever lived, all of the alligators, or even dinosaurs?”

A wave of dismissal. “I’m not gonna debate this stuff.”

“There's nothing to debate. If you believe your dog has a soul then that would mean that all animals have souls.”

Mel left the room. He hasn’t mentioned the subject to me again, but I wondered if he was going to ask his clergyman if animals had souls. After all, he missed church to hunt an elk this past weekend. It might work on his guilt feelings. As for me, I don’t know whether animals have souls because I don't know if humans have souls, or if we do, if a soul is something different than what we think.

And yeah, I was messin’ with him. It's just the way I am.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The ick factor

The office building I work out of used to be a hospital. The hospital closed 15 years ago, but we still get mail addressed to them.

We got a catalog from a company that makes realistic-looking body parts for medical students and nurses to practice on. A nice arm, for instance, to poke a needle into so doctors and nurses don't have to practice on a live patient. I think it's great. God bless doctors and nurses, because they look at stuff that would make me fall over in a dead faint. I found out what a weak sister I was about body parts when I saw a real cow's eyeball. Some girls brought it to our fifth grade classroom. I made it just outside the door before losing my school lunch (and my mom had paid 35¢ for it, too).

WARNING: If you're easily grossed out or offended by human genitalia then click out of this blog right now. Here is some of the realistic wizardry:

Ewww. Ick.

I know there are artificial vaginas cast from porn stars, but who did they cast this from? And do they lock it up to keep it away from the male med students?

This reminds me to make an appointment for my yearly exam. I don't know what I'd do if I went a year without my tiny female doctor ramming it home, digging around for my prostate. I picked her because of her small fingers.

Very smart! Make a manikin that switches sexes.

I'll bet this class is well attended by guys eager to learn how to check for lumps.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A hundred billion here, a hundred billion there...

...and pretty soon you're talking about some serious money!

The whole financial bail out thing is so mind boggling that it's no wonder the country seems fixated, trying to come to grips with such large sums of money. I know I am.

The New Yorker cartoon, which is on my daily desk calendar for September 24, is prophetic.

We're all so fixated on the financial crisis that the major news media seems to have passed over at least one of the stories about Vice Presidential nominee Palin, and accusations that she used her mayoral office in Alaska to feather her nest.

She also used it for her friends and family. That's been done by mayors and officials since civilization began, but in this case, this year, it seems pertinent as to the character of the person running for office. Most Americans take a dim view of elected officials using office for personal gain.

Oliphant, who never pulls punches, has got Sarah Palin and John McCain's images down:

I never thought he nailed Bush, who has a face that seems to defy caricature. It's been done by many artists, but he just doesn't have the distinctive features of a McCain, Palin or Obama, who all make cartoonists lick their lips with glee. The Bridge to Nowhere theme of Oliphant's drawing seems a metaphor for the bail out, too. Everyone is walking along a bridge to nowhere with this deal. None of us know when we'll all be in the river being swept downstream.