Sunday, August 29, 2010

Every picture tells a story

When I go to a thrift store I look at photo frames because sometimes I find personal or family pictures. Yesterday I found the above sepia-toned portrait photo in a frame.

The picture appears to be from the 1930s, maybe earlier. The boy with the collar wing flying astray--and why didn't the photographer adjust it for him, or at least tell him about it?--is identified on the back, in a pencil notation, as Bain Hoopes. I googled the name and found a Bain Hoopes who was on the Philadelphia Social Register in 1914 (too early), and a Francis Bain Hoopes, who loaned an N.C. Wyeth original to Johns Hopkins University. With such an unusual name it could be this boy is related to those Hoopes.

There are reasons that personal snapshots or portrait photos would end up floating around in antique shops or thrift stores. A box of photos is bought at an estate sale; a picture is left in a frame when there's no one to claim it. I think it's kind of sad, really. Every one of these pictures, which fell into my hands in the same way as young Bain Hoopes, had a meaning to somebody at one time.

The picture of the bespectacled girl and her Marilyn Monroe-lookalike friend was found as a bookmark in a copy of The Savage God by A. Alvarez. On the back it says, "Marlene and me, gym class, 1953." No indication of which one is Marlene.

Another bookmarking photo is of the gent, standing before the fire, in a bowler hat and cane, obviously having a good time. I notice he has family photos on the mantle.

The baby in the New York Yankees baseball suit isn't dated, but I'm guessing he's one of the Baby Boomers, like me. Probably late '40s...?

Finally, one of my favorites, the couple by the sedan. The clothes say 1940s. Love her fur coat, his double-breasted suit coat and shirt sans tie. If I let my imagination go I can see them as a bank robber and his gun moll, but they're probably just somebody's Aunt Ruth and Uncle Joe, both long since deceased. It was taken on a Thanksgiving Day, when they were ready to drive home. Or, it's the day before Joe reports for induction into the Army, and gets shipped off to the war. Auntie Ruth is smiling bravely, Joe is grinning, wondering how he'll look in a uniform. Whoever they are, I have them by my desk and I look at them quite often.

As Rod Stewart put it, every picture tells a story. Sometimes we just have to make up the stories.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bad ads

Looking through the old issues of Life magazine on Google Books is an education on the middle decades of the Twentieth Century, especially in the advertising.

I've picked out some ads that caught my eye. The first one, from 1940, I chose because of the cowboy on the bucking bronco, who isn't selling rodeo, but coffee. The cowboy needs his coffee, except the copy writer decided that wasn't enough, so he tagged it with the phrase, "COFFEE CHEERS YOU UP!" and even included clip art of a lady in her closet and the tag, "HAVEN'T YOU GOT A THING TO WEAR? CHEER UP. What you need is a cup of coffee!" That's throwing everything into the ad but the kitchen sink, hoping some sense will come out of it. Better to have stuck with just one of the elements. "COFFEE CHEERS YOU UP!" is a stupid slogan. I drink a lot of coffee and it makes me alert, or gives me the jitters depending on how much I've had. It doesn't cheer me up. The cowboy on the bronco seems out of place because he can't drink coffee while a horse is trying to throw him off. The lady in the closet looking for something to wear just needs to concentrate. Another cup of coffee could just make her more nervous because she can't make up her mind.

On second thought...throw the whole ad out and start fresh with something, anything, else.

That ad doesn't hold a match to my next choice, also from 1940, Spud Cigarettes. Spud? Cigarettes? A Spud is a potato. I assume Spud Cigarettes were made with tobacco and not potatoes. There's a reason you've never heard of Spuds. They probably died a horrible death from consumer disinterest. It looks like they were marketing to women. No woman would go to a grocer or tobacconist and say, "Gimme a pack of Spuds." Lucky Strike, Chesterfield, Pall Mall, maybe even Camel...but not Spud.

Finally, my favorite ad of the bunch, which comes from 1966, and is supposedly about the 1966 Chevrolet Corvair Monza. It's really about sex.

Why is the driver old enough to be the girl's father? Why is she looking coyly up from behind her magazine at us? Why is she barelegged and barefoot? Why does she have on tight shorts? Why is her labia outlined?

No company like General Motors pays millions of dollars on advertising without carefully researching how to market their product. The red Corvair convertible isn't a car, it's for attracting girls. Of course, by the time Dad and Mom and their kids have been to the Chevrolet showroom where Dad is just dying to see the new Corvair, they will take home a beige 4-door family car. Like a lot of guys, Dad was lured somewhere with the promise of sex, and then left dangling.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A tribute to a Dick

This tribute to Richard F was in my local paper yesterday, mixed in with the obituaries. The piece is in extremely bad taste, and I don't know who wrote it. I was once a friend of Richard F, also called Dick.

We met in sixth grade, then remained friends as adults until politics came between us. Dick was what we'd call today a Tea Partier, but in the 1970's. He was ahead of the curve on that. I was then, as I am now, an old-fashioned liberal Democrat. We got into too many arguments. Occasionally Dick and I ran into each other and exchanged pleasantries, but for all intents and purposes our friendship ended about 1975.

Dick made the obituary columns twice yesterday. Besides this "tribute" there was also a matter-of-fact short obit that said he died after an extended illness, where and when he was born, who survived him, and where he'd be buried. It also stated "married and divorced." Dick and Lynda were married very young; she was 15 and he was 17. Their son was born in 1965, about the time Dick turned 18. He had dropped out of high school, but he got his high school diploma at some later point.

Before Dick got a car and a girlfriend he was an honor roll student. I used to envy him for his good grades. Unfortunately, Dick got to thinking with his dick, and that's the downfall of many a young man.

He was still married to Lynda when I last saw him.

In the past six weeks I've seen death notices for some people I knew: one high school acquaintance, one for another good friend I knew in junior high school, one for a former coworker, and now Dick. Three of the four were the age I attained last month on my birthday.

"Don't laugh when the hearse goes by, for you may be the next to die."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A flash to the Sixties

Here's a 1960s flashback: Jennifer Anniston does a turn as Barbra Streisand on the current issue of Harper's Bazaar. The catch is you won't see this cover on the newsstands, since it's only on the subscriber edition.

I think Jennifer is awfully cute and the Streisand image they chose to replicate is the one from 1963-64, the Streisand of Funny Girl and the famous TV special, My Name Is Barbra.

I went to the original article and on Google Books found this cover of Life from May, 1964, as well as the first page of their article.

I hadn't really thought about it, but up until that point in American popular music the female stars presented on TV were almost always the "All-American Girl" types, with bobbed noses and blonde hair. Nothing against those girls, but Streisand's ethnicity caught my eye when I first saw her. She used to make jokes about her nose, but once I read she didn't get it fixed because a doctor had told her he couldn't guarantee her voice would be the same. So she kept it, and good for her.

Speaking of the sixties...

It was a time when girls and women went nutty for fashion, and we guys really enjoyed watching how far up those hemlines would go! Here's a picture of some folks from Swingin' London. The mod in the middle is quite the natty dresser, like the Kinks song, "A Dedicated Follower of Fashion." ("He flits from shop to shop just like a butterfly..." A gay reference, I believe.) The gals are dressed to be looked at. Stopping traffic, from the picture.

I found these patterns in a thrift store and picked them up for their artwork. I noticed something...they are all made to fit a woman size 14, bust size 36. I assume they came from the same person. The first two are from '67, the last two are from '69, maternity fashions. So what happened in between? Ah, you figured it out, didn't you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happy birthday, Kyra Sedgwick

Kyra Sedgwick turned 45 today.

This beautiful actress is the star and executive producer of The Closer, shown on TNT Monday nights. It's in its sixth season, which means it's popular enough to stay on the air, and I believe much of the appeal of the program is Ms Sedgwick herself. I'm not dismissing the ensemble cast, which is excellent. But none of the guys are as pretty as the star.

As most of her viewers know, Kyra is married to actor Kevin Bacon, and has been for several years. A Hollywood marriage that works! Amazing.

I wonder if she gets annoyed when people bring up the old party game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?

Happy birthday, Kyra Sedgwick!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bookstore tales

From 1976 to 1981 I worked part-time in the rare books department of a large full-service bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our store was sought out because it was a counter-culture center, and it was celebrated by locals and out-of-town visitors as a liberal oasis in the middle of the conservative Utah desert. I got to know quite a few of my loyal customers because they came in several times a month, but some customers came in once or twice a year, to coincide with the Latter-day Saints Church General Conference in April and October. They were usually people from out of the state, or even out of the country, who made a pilgrimage to the Mormon Mecca for enlightenment by church authorities.

The fantasy artist Frank Frazetta died earlier this year. In the last couple of decades he was famous for his paintings where for many years before that he had been mainly known to just a hardcore group of fans. Frazetta had illustrated paperback book covers, comic books, and magazine covers, but he became really well known to the general public when this bestselling trade paperback book,The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta, came out in 1975. We sold a lot of copies of the book. On a day in 1980 a man came up to me in the store.He said to me, "I'm from Canada. I was here three years ago for Conference, and I remember there was a book of paintings by Frazetta. I didn't get it then, but I want it." He then pointed to a shelf. "It was right there! I remember, it was right there!" I saw a look in his eye. Sometimes you can tell obsessive-compulsive disorder by the wide-eyed and frenzied look, and this guy had it bad. My immediate reaction was, "He thought it was going to be in the same spot on the shelf for three years?" but there's no telling what customers think. Especially if they're people who've been thinking about Frank Frazetta for three years. I said, "Hold on there, pal...I think I can help."

I remembered that I had some worn copies we'd taken in trade a few months before. I found them on a back shelf waiting to be priced. The one I sold him was well-used, so I only charged him $2.00 and from his ecstatic reaction I felt like the Angel Moroni handing him the Golden Plates.
At one point we had a lot of copies of Warren magazines for sale on our shelves. Warren was a publisher who began with the cult magazine, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, then went into black-and-white comic books, fantasy and horror, usually with some sex involved. A cowboy from Wyoming had driven about 300 miles to buy Warren magazines from us, but in the months we'd had them on display they hadn't sold, so by the time he came in they were in boxes in a storage basement. He had such a fit that other employees gathered around to hear his rant. To satisfy him I went down two flights of stone steps and brought up the boxes one at a time. Out of five or six boxes of several dozen magazines each he bought maybe a dozen copies or so, so after the guy made his purchase my boss told me to set the boxes aside. He sold them to another local bookseller and told me, "If that cowpoke comes back in tell 'im to get on his horse and go over to see Pete." Pete was a local character who had guns under his counter in case he got robbed. I figured he could probably outdraw the cowboy if he was causing trouble.

In one case a customer of mine was caught stealing. He was suspected of shoplifting, so one of the employees brought his kids into the store, and when the man came in the kids followed him around and watched as he put a book under his coat. No one ever notices kids, even kids who are spying on them. The guy had been good for a lot of business, but maybe he felt we owed him something so he took freebies. He was banned from the store after that.

Another time my boss bought a big box of various issues of Classics Illustrated comic books someone brought in. He didn't really know what to do with them, but I had an idea. It was nearly June, the end of school. I put them on the shelf with a sign, "Kids! Remember your last minute book reports! Only $1.00!" I had no idea the trouble that would cause when a local teacher saw the sign and complained loudly to my boss. We even got a letter about our practices from the Better Business Bureau, no less. To me and my coworkers it was funny, but I ended up pulling them off the shelf and putting them back in the box. Maybe my boss sold those to Pete, too.

Before I worked in a bookstore I hung out in bookstores. I still do. Bookstore people, both customers and employees, are different. When you get into rare books or comics or anything else that can be collected you run into some oddballs. I had my share of that. I also saw myself in my customers, as if reflected in a funhouse mirror. After that when going into a used or rare bookstore I tried not to act too crazy or obsessive. It hasn't always worked for me.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy birthday, Gary Larson

It's Gary Larson's 60th birthday today.

Larson, who did the comic panel, "The Far Side", for 15 years, is still reaping the rewards of his twisted imagination. "Far Side" products continue to sell. No one else wrote or drew jokes like Larson, and they are still being appreciated.

I have an unused 1988 desktop calendar by Larson. I tried to sell it on eBay a few years ago and got no takers. If 1988 ever comes around again I'll try again.

My favorite book of Larson's is PreHistory Of The Far Side. If you've ever wondered what goes into the creative process this is a great book. Most fun are the panels that were misunderstood by readers, had captions switched, or were otherwise disasters. I also like the back cover, with its fake class picture. It's kind of scary, but that Larson figure in the middle row looks like me in sixth grade.

It's hard to be funny occasionally, much less 365 days a year for 15 years, but I think Larson came as close as anyone.

"The Far Side" Copyright © 2010 FarWorks, Inc.

Larson's people are vigilant about tracking down images on the Internet. My suggestion if you want to see more of "The Far Side" is buy his books, calendars, or one of the multitudes of other licensed products. Here's a letter that has circulated around the Internet purportedly sent by Larson to folks violating his copyrights. Nice letter, but he does make his point:


I'm walking a fine line here.

On the one hand, I confess to finding it quite flattering that some of my fans have created web sites displaying and / or distributing my work on the Internet. And, on the other, I'm struggling to find the words that convincingly but sensitively persuade these Far Side enthusiasts to "cease and desist" before they have to read these words from some lawyer.

What impact this unauthorized use has had (and is having) in tangible terms is, naturally, of great concern to my publishers and therefore to me -- but it's not the focus of this letter. My effort here is to try and speak to the intangible impact, the emotional cost to me, personally, of seeing my work collected, digitized, and offered up in cyberspace beyond my control.

Years ago I was having lunch one day with the cartoonist Richard Guindon, and the subject came up how neither one of us ever solicited or accepted ideas from others. But, until Richard summed it up quite neatly, I never really understood my own aversions to doing this: ''It's like having someone else write in your diary," he said. And how true that statement rang with me . In effect, we drew cartoons that we hoped would be entertaining or, at the very least, not boring; but regardless, they would always come from an intensely personal, and therefore original perspective.

To attempt to be "funny" is a very scary, risk-laden proposition. (Ask any stand-up comic who has ever "bombed" on stage.) But if there was ever an axiom to follow in this business, it would be this: be honest to yourself and -- most important -- respect your audience.

So, in a nutshell (probably an unfortunate choice of words for me), I only ask that this respect be returned, and the way for anyone to do that is to please, please refrain from putting The Far Side out on the Internet. These cartoons are my "children," of sorts, and like a parent, I'm concerned about where they go at night without telling me. And, seeing them at someone's web site is like getting the call at 2:00 a.m. that goes, "Uh, Dad, you're not going to like this much, but guess where I am."

I hope my explanation helps you to understand the importance this has for me, personally, and why I'm making this request.

Please send my "kids" home. I'll be eternally grateful.

Most respectfully,

Gary Larson

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy birthday, Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson is 56 today. Happy birthday, Joe.

When I listen to Joe Jackson's music I believe I'm listening to something apart from the normal run of popular music. Back in the '80s I don't know if anyone truly knew how to categorize him, and it's probably because there is no category.

I've always thought "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" shows the difference between men and women. A guy is puzzled because pretty girls are "walking with gorillas down my street." Guys often don't understand the appeal some men have for some women. They don't know that women can see beyond mere looks, unlike men, for whom looks are paramount. Sorry guys, you know it's true. Women are looking for something different in men than men are looking for in women. And thank goodness for that. Otherwise us homely guys wouldn't have ever gotten the girl!

The bass line on this song drives it. It's a great song for listening to in the car. Get on the freeway, turn up the volume and the bass will take you away.

A song about heartbreak. **Sniff** **Sniff** Sorry, I'm too broken in two to comment...

I hadn't heard this song before this morning when I was searching YouTube. It's from the Craig Kilborn show, Joe solo on his piano.

Did beards go away and come back...and I just didn't hear about it?

I read an article in my local newspaper, "Are Beards Back?" I was surprised by the headline because I didn't know beards had gone away. That's what I get for ignoring any kind of fashion trend for at last forty years. I didn't know it was at any point in that period unhip to wear a beard.

Dapper Dave Miller and I in the early '80s. Dave went into a line of work where he had to shave off his beard, and too bad, because it was a good one.

I grew mine in 1973 and it's been my more-or-less constant companion ever since. In the seventies hair exploded. One man my father's age told me he couldn't figure out why "you guys went nuts and grew your hair out," and then said, "I did a little research and found out that men's hair and beards come back every hundred years or so." Aha! So beards and long hair are like the play, Brigadoon, sprouting every century, only to disappear for another hundred years.

In 2005, with our first grandchild. Beard white.

A few days ago, in the act of trimming, I chopped a big hole in my beard, so I took it down to stubble. Even people who have known me for years will not comment because they are either a) polite or b) don't even notice the difference. I figure there were two types of guys, those who can grow whiskers and those who can't. If I'd never been able to raise a beard I don't think I would have cared. It's not like going bald where a guy might have hairplugs or wear a toupee. Hey, there's a thought: a beard toupee for men who can't grow beards!

I read a letter in the newspaper many years ago where a woman said men have beards because they "hide a skin condition". She didn't even know me yet she had busted me. Beards are great for hiding stuff you don't want anyone to see.

I get a kick out of the "No play for Mister Gray" commercials, with guys coloring their gray beards. C'mon,'re not fooling anybody. By the time your beard has turned white you've earned it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happy birthday, Ronnie Spector and Ian Anderson

Today's birthdays include Ronnie Spector, who is 67, and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 63.

When Ronnie sang "Be My Baby" there were a whole lotta guys who would have been her baby. As it was she picked nutbar Phil Spector, but luckily got away before she met the same fate as the woman he killed. This clip from Shindig shows how sexy and cute the Ronettes were, and how Ronnie could move those hips.

Jethro Tull, they of the dark sound, and live, the gyrations of Ian Anderson. His distinctive voice is just one of the many memorable things about this unique band.

Happy birthday to the both of you! When we listen to these great songs we're all living in the past.

Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes, Be My Baby

Jethro Tull, Living In The Past


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Happy birthday, Stan Freberg

Stan Freberg is 84 today. Freberg has made me laugh for over 50 years, and I want you to spend some time here today reviewing what I consider Stan Freberg's greatest hits.

First up, from Stan's The United States of America Volume One, the classic "Yankee Doodle," mixing jazz with the "mouldy fig" music of the American Revolution.

Bad Scene, Bix!

Freberg was an advertising man, among his many other talents. This commercial, which came out in 1967, combines the Lark cigarette man, the Lone Ranger and Tonto with the William Tell Overture, and the Jeno's Pizza Rolls jingle.

Pizza Rolls

Lawrence Welk, whose distinctive voice and speech patterns made him easy to mimic, is skewered by Freberg in this skit, originally from his radio program, but so popular it was put on record. In this YouTube video it's set to actual footage from the Welk program by a fan. Welk was reputed to have hated Freberg's record. No wonder! But to the rest of us it's...

...Wun'erful Wun'erful

One of Freberg's most popular take-offs on songs of the day is "Sh-Boom," a hit which came out in two versions, one by the original doo-wop group, The Chords, and the other "white" version by the Crewcuts. Freberg incorporated "A Streetcar Named Desire" in his version, with "Stellllllllaa!" The sound quality on this one is a little bit less than I like, but it is done from the original 78, on an old record player, and by itself that makes it worth it.

Another song done to the chagrin of the original artist is "C'est Si Bon." Eartha Kitt, who sang the original, told Freberg she couldn't wait for his version to go off the charts.

Sh-Boom & C'est Si Bon

Finally, Freberg in his advertising mode, did this Busby Berkeley takeoff for Great American Soups. Years later he complained that people told him they remembered it as being Campbell Soups. That meant he had failed, because it was supposed to implant the brand name in the mind of the viewer. What we remember is Ann Miller, her long legs and black hair, dancing on the soup can while singing the jingle.

Ann Miller makes a production out of everything

Stan Freberg with his song parodies and commercials, Harvey Kurtzman with Mad comics, and Sid Caesar with his television show all set the standard for satire from the early 1950s until today. They laid the groundwork for a show likeSaturday Night Live and every comedy since. We Baby Boomers would be the poorer for not having had these geniuses to make us laugh.

Friday, August 06, 2010

It was 65 years ago today...

Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

Sixty-five years ago today, August 6, 1945, a U.S. bomber crew dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

Three days later they bombed Nagasaki, Japan. Shortly after that the Japanese surrended to the United States and the war was over. It was the biggest, most devastating war in the history of the world. Millions of people died, many of them innocent. The atom bombs made the devastation much more efficient.

Nagasaki, August 9, 1945

It's been talked about, debated and discussed for many years, but one thing is clear: the United States is the only country to ever use nuclear devices on a civilian population in time of war.

Scientists studied the bombings of the Japanese cities for years. It was clear from the first that if the explosion didn't kill you, the radioactivity would. Despite that the U.S. conducted testing of nuclear devices above ground for years until forced to stop. They tested the bombs in Nevada, and waited to set them off when the prevailing winds blew over Utah, which had a "low yield segment of the population." Over the decades people who were in the path of the nuclear testing have come to be known as Downwinders, with high rates of cancer and other medical problems out of proportion to their population.

Since the very earliest part of the atomic age, scientists, the military, the U.S. government, have known the effects of nuclear bombs. To teach us schoolchildren to "duck and cover" during a nuclear attack was a total whitewash. They knew that anyone within a certain radius would be vaporized. An argument for using the first nuclear weapons was that they would end the war. They did. But they also dropped bombs on an innocent population at home, and while I can accept the reasoning of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, there's no excuse for what happened to U.S. civilians after the war was over.

Whither a creator?

On the Science Channel program, Through the Wormhole, host Morgan Freeman asked, is there a creator of the universe?

I'm not religious, but I'm not a scientist, either. I'm a layman with curiosity and a capacity to listen and form opinions. Since it's a science program, religious people who are strictly faith-based weren't polled on their opinions of God. One scientist said he thought God was in our brains, that in the right side of our brain we could stimulate those feelings of that "something" that people perceive as God. Another scientist said he saw God as being a future human, someone who is descended from us, who has created us as simulations on a future super computer.

Manipulating the brain to produce a God-euphoria seems reasonable; the future humans using super computers with us as sims seems like a science fiction hypothesis. It sounds like those "cosmic" beer and wine-inspired discussions my buddies and I had in our early twenties. Everyone at some point has wondered if they're real; everyone has wondered if anyone else but them is real. Maybe I'm the only real living human and everyone else is a simulation! I try to chase thoughts like that out of my head.

Years ago I heard two older gentlemen arguing about some mysteries of God. One man asked if God has a mother; the other man railed at him for asking such a thing, claiming it's a mystery the answer to which human beings will never be privy. My feeling on hearing the two men argue was to think, "If the God you believe in gives a person the mental capacity and intellectual curiosity to ask such a question, isn't that a sign that it is not after all a mystery that God would never allow to be solved?" As scientists delve ever more deeply into what makes us living, sentient creatures, uncovering secrets in our cells, they are finding things about our humanity which at one time were strictly heresy. During the Inquisition such a quest for knowledge would have earned the scientists a place on the rack. Ideas of God change over time; ideas of our relationship to God and religion change over time.

I'm not too interested in a question like does God have a mom. If I were to get in a meditative mood I might ask these questions:
With billions of stars and planets and universes, is Earth the only place in any universe with intelligent life? Is it a special place like a creator's laboratory, where species are tried out?

If there is a creator who created us, and there are other planets with intelligent life, did the same creator create them? Did that creator set them on an evolutionary path the same way he did on earth, and did that other life turn out like us, or something wholly different with similar DNA?

Is that creator someone who just set everything in motion, or the personalized God of religion; the omnipotent being who knows when a sparrow falls, or just a being who sits back and watches what happens without interfering?
I don't look to theologians for answers to science questions, just as I don't look to scientists for spiritual advice. I know enough about the human mind to know that everyone has a slightly different take on God, even when they say they believe in the same God as their neighbors. I know how intricate are the ways of belief in the human mind. Look how many religions there are in the world! What is it that makes yours special to you, as special as the religious folks on another continent who have a completely different idea of God (or gods)?

Why do you believe what you do, and why do people have faith in their own beliefs? There are a lot of mysteries out there. I just wonder if there are solutions to those mysteries, or if they will forever remain beyond our intellectual grasp. I don't know if there is a creator. I don't know if Earth is the only planet with life in all those universes. I don't know why we're here and what our purpose is, or if we even have a purpose beyond perpetuating our species. I don't know if we survive in another form after we die.

Most likely I won't know the answers to any of these mysteries. The questions are too hard. Yes, there are folks who say they have the answers, but I don't trust their opinions, any more than I would expect them to trust mine. Whether the universe sprang into being on its own, or whether it was created, it's all just one big puzzle to me. It will be until someone puts the truth in front of me and I, using the brain a creator may or may not have given me, recognize it as such.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Cheer up

We got our property tax assessment the other day. We're not so surprised that the value of our property has gone down, but we were surprised that our taxes have gone up. It's always an ouch! when we see what we owe. Here's something I've said many times. We have paid off our mortgage, but if you think you own your home try not paying your property taxes. You find out then who really owns your home.

But Sally and I have it so much better than other people. We didn't lose our jobs, we retired, and had we not retired we'd still be working, because there have been no layoffs where we worked. So to people who have lost their jobs, lost their homes, it's more than an economic downturn or recession, it's a full-blown depression. I feel very sorry for those folks.

What I'm seeing lately is the split personality of Americans. On the one hand they scream about deficit spending, yet sign up for Social Security, or Medicaid or Medicare when they're eligible. In their day when these programs were planned they were called evil by detractors, as if they'd cause the downfall of our country. But the social safety nets, as expensive as they are, have helped a lot of people and have become part of our everyday lives. Socialism is a dirty word in America, yet we have socialism in several programs, even those programs used by people who scream about socialism.

The Great Depression of the 1930s pointed out the need for programs to provide a social safety net. We aren't in a Great Depression like we were then. Very little is the same. In the worst part of the Depression there was 25% unemployment. Right now we have 9.5% unemployment, which isn't good but it doesn't reach that 1930s level. We came close in that earlier era to a revolution. Unless they lived through it, most Americans nowadays have no idea how depressing a depression can be.

But unlike today, where we have cable channels giving us 24 hours of bad news, in the 1930s, even in the darkest times, there was a streak of optimism. I was surprised to go through the Internet Archive music files, old 78 rpm records, to see there were some very cheery songs to help with public morale. So turn up the volume. If you're still working, play these for your fellow workers. If you're at home using the Internet to find a job, play them in the background while you search.

Good luck to you, and remember, cheer up, good times are coming.

Cheer Up, Good Times Are Coming, Phil Spitaloni Orch., vocal by Bill Cody.

Keep Your Sunny Side Up, Chick Endor.

When You're Smiling, Cliff Bruner.

I'll See You In My Dreams, Cliff Edwards. You may remember Cliff Edwards as the voice of Jiminy Cricket. Edwards was also known early in his career as Ukelele Ike.