Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wrong side of history

In my opinion protesters of gay marriage are in a losing battle. I believe that within a few years, maybe a decade, the majority of states will allow some form of gay marriage with full benefits that are the same as traditional heterosexual marital unions. The people battling against it are trying to turn back time. It may work in the short term, but in the long term they'll lose. As public opinion shifts the anti-gay protesters are on the wrong side of history.

So it was with public discrimination against African-Americans, as shown in these two articles in consecutive 1946 issues of Life magazine. In the first, a sorority at the University of Vermont was kicked out of the national organization because they had admitted a "Negro." The sorority's national president, Mrs. Beverly Robinson, said, "Life is selective, and maybe it's best to learn it while we are young." That's just a fancy way of saying, "Stay in your place." It was probably acceptable to say something like that at the time, and maybe one out of a thousand, even ten thousand, white Life readers of the day would say they saw anything wrong with it. History has taken that "acceptable" statement and turned it around against the person who said it. She was wrong, the young African-American woman and her sorority sisters were right.

In the second article the Ku Klux Klan was making a comeback in Georgia in 1946, led by an Atlanta doctor, Samuel Green. Even the article called them bigots, something that probably wouldn't have been said by a national magazine before World War II, lest they risk losing readers or advertisers who sympathized with the Klan, or at worst a fire-bombed office. Life treated the KKK as something of a joke, but twenty years after that 1946 article was published Klan members in Mississippi were killing civil rights workers, and the Klan still had some power to intimidate because it still had unofficial sanction by police and local government.

Because of those actions, nowadays the public perception of a Klan member is of an uneducated redneck and professional hater. Maybe a random Klan member isn't either of those and just likes to go to Klan meetings to have a beer with the boys, play cards and wear the hood and robe to fool around. But nowadays the image the public has is that he's an idiot. The Klan got on the wrong side of history in the 1960s by showing its violent, murderous side during a legitimate exercise of black citizens to enjoy the rights of our country's white citizens.

The Klan in its twisted way helped the civil rights movement by its actions. It changed public opinion.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Happy anniversary, Utah; happy birthday Mailman!

Today is a Utah State holiday, Pioneer Day, also called the 24th of July holiday. We celebrate it on Monday this year because the religious people didn't wish to celebrate it on Sunday. And most workers in the state get a Monday off. Part of the celebration is a huge parade, which lasts for three hours, going through downtown to Liberty Park. Tonight there will be fireworks.

The holiday commemorates the 164th anniversary of the Mormon arrival in Salt Lake Valley.

The story goes that Brigham Young, who was ill, looked out at the valley from the top of Emigration Canyon on July 24, 1847, and said, "This is the place, drive on."

One hundred thirty-eight years later a different pioneer arrived. Karl "the Mailman" Malone had been drafted by the struggling Utah Jazz NBA franchise. Karl, a young man at the time, had made his reputation at Louisiana Tech. Karl was a country boy, a huntin', fishin', motorcycle-ridin' kinda guy who, despite being African-American, listened to country music. He was the youngest of several children; his father walked out when he was little and he was raised by his mother, Shirley. The famous story is that Karl's mom would hold her arms in the shape of a hoop while he practiced with a basketball. Karl was an unashamed mama's boy, who never made any bones about his love for his mother.

Karl got to Utah just in time for the 1985 Pioneer Days celebration, and the big parade. They sat Karl in a convertible emblazoned with a Utah Jazz banner and drove him through the wildly cheering throngs, eager to see the new rookie. Karl, in his naïvete, admitted years later he thought the parade was for him. It was Karl's 22nd birthday, born on July 24, 1963. I can imagine his wonder at all those thousands of cheering white people.

Karl went on to a stellar NBA career, where he achieved fame, both good and bad. There are several YouTube videos and sports blog postings about Karl and his swinging elbows, his "dirty play." We didn't think that in Utah, of course, because we didn't think of it as dirty, just brilliant basketball play. A guy can't be dirty if he's on your team, can he? The 6'8", 265-pound Karl would get a rebound, plant his feet under the basket, hold the ball tight to his chest, and do a 180-degree pivot, with his elbows chest high. Any slow moving opponent who didn't get out of the way would soon find Karl's elbow knocking him into next week. An infamous incident was Karl coming down from a rebound, his elbow hitting David Robinson on the head, sending him to the floor unconscious. Robinson was out for two minutes. I used to refer to Malone as Karl "Elbows of Death" Malone.

Karl was a legend when it came to strength and his obsessive workout routine of six hours or so a day. Had he shown any weakness under that basket he would have been killed. As it was he got mugged a lot. As another story goes, Coach Jerry Sloan was screaming at an official that they were hurting Malone under the basket, trying to take him out of the game. The official reportedly replied, "No one can hurt Malone." That was part of his iron man image.

You can read about some of the havoc Malone wreaked on other players here.

I thought drafting Malone was the second smartest thing the Utah Jazz ever did. The first smartest was the year before when they drafted John Stockton, one of the greatest point guards to play the game. The dumbest thing the team did was go cheap and not give these star players the real quality players they needed to take them over the top to a championship.Things seemed to click for a couple of years when they added shooting guard Jeff Hornacek to the line-up. They had their championship runs in '97 and '98, but as the self-pitying wail goes in Utah, they lost because they went up against The Greatest Player That Ever Lived, Michael Jordan. I capitalized it because that's how sports geeks say it. Jordan never lost a championship series.

Malone got business opportunities from the late Jazz owner, Larry Miller, who owned a couple of dozen car dealerships. He set Karl up with a Toyota dealership, and then there is a Stockton-to-Malone Honda dealership. Karl has owned several businesses, and has some in Louisiana, where he now lives. He says he comes to Utah once or twice a month on business, but he keeps a low profile (or as low a profile as a 6'8" black local sports hero can have in Utah).

Late in Karl's career in Utah we found out he had illegitimate children from two different women. One girl was 13-years-old when 20-year-old Karl got her pregnant. His son by her is Demetrius Bell, who went into pro football.

The other was the mother of twins, one of whom, Cheryl Ford, went on to her own basketball career in the WNBA. She got a league championship ring. Malone settled with Bell's mother, without really admitting he was the father. He admitted paternity of Cheryl and her brother Daryl.

Perhaps earlier in his career it might have been enough to sink him in the court of public opinion. But by the time the news came out to his fans Karl was bulletproof. His detractors just added it to the things about him they hated, but his fans forgave him. That's the way sports fans are.

The Utah Jazz are in disarray right now, the NBA is in lockout, and we don't know when our team will again take the court. But we will always have those memories of the Mailman delivering his thunder dunks and cold-cocking players who got in the way of his Elbows of Death.


Friday, July 22, 2011

She got legs, she knows how to use them...

It’s pandering time again. In order to boost the statistics for visits made to my blog I need to give you some sexy content that will keep you horndogs clicking in and looking.

I’m shameless, I know. But you are too, or you wouldn't be here.

I torture myself by looking at pictures of beautiful women in order to bring you these selections. You’ll notice quite a few Asian women, who aren’t normally known for having long legs. But these girls do...and such lovely long legs they are.

I'm throwing in a couple of other pictures of interest: an original painting by Enoch Bolles, a Bill Ward cutie, and even the ZZ Top song, "Legs." I've spared no expense to bring you all this great stuff in appreciation of you padding my visitors stats!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy birthday Steve, Cat and Yusuf!

Steven Georgiou aka Cat Stevens aka Yusuf Islam is 63 today.

Happy birthday to all you guys!

The Baghdad booty with the looey on duty

Imagine this: a perfect stranger, an Army lieutenant no less, has offered me 20% of ten million dollars just to help provide his stolen Baghdad booty a hiding place in the U.S.!


I have a proposal for you, my name is Lieutenant John D. Bromfield, a US
Army [sic] serving in the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq. I want you to read this
mail carefully and understand it.

In 2003, I and my men found over $600 million in Saddam Hussein's hideout
in Baghdad, we sent some back to the Iraq government after counting it in
a classified location, but we also kept some behind for ourselves. Some of
the money we shared among ourselves worth over $200million, and I have
kept mine for a while here in a very secured place since then, just like
many others, but now our new president Obama is making plans on pulling us
out of Iraq, right now we have left the major cities of Iraq.

So I need someone that is not related to me, to help me pull this cash
out, everything is ready, I just need someone I can trust because we have
lost a box of gold to someone that said he will help us last time and I
won't like to make the same mistake, the total amount of money I am trying
to move out is $10million. You can view the link below to verify my

If you can handle this deal let me know immediately, you will receive 20%
of the money, all you need do is to find a safe place where you can keep
the box till we leave Iraq. Get back to me immediately.

Lieutenant John D. Bromfield
Private mail:

From the link Lt John Bromfield provided:

Stash of money found in Baghdad

“Last week, US troops found more than $650m in the same area of Baghdad.

The money had been hidden behind the false wall of a house searched by US troops. It is thought the stash could have been left by fleeing regime leaders.

Five US soldiers are currently being questioned by military officials after some of that money was allegedly stolen following its discovery.” BBC News, April 30, 2003

There was stolen money in Iraq, the BBC said so. It's true. Lieutenant Bromfield is not lying to me. Oh happy day. Twenty percent of 10 million is two mil. Wow, what I couldn’t do with that. I just have to provide a good hiding place. Imagine the sight of me rubbing my hands together in glee, chuckling over my good fortune.

Oh second thought, nahhhh. I don’t have any good hiding places. What would I do, dig a hole in my back yard? And that's only if I actually received the cash, which would have to be shipped to me. Lt. Bromfield doesn't indicate how he plans to do that.

I’m no crook, and have a fear of being locked up. I’m too old to go to prison, even for two million dollars. I visualize getting caught. When the FBI and Army CID came crashing through my door I’d sing like Frank Sinatra. I’d implicate Lt. Bromfield, and then I’d point out where I hid the loot.

I guess that little dream bubble of instant wealth just popped.

Now that the excitement has worn off, I have re-read Lt. Bromfield's note to me, and smell something like really old cheese. I see him refer to “our new President Obama pulling us out of Iraq.” Aha. Obama has been in office 2 ½ years. That makes him not new anymore, and while originally all troops were scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, that's been stalled. There are currently about 47,000 still in country, down from a high of about 184,000 at its peak.

So here’s a note of my own to anyone who is interested in tracking down the missing cash from Saddam’s stash: contact Lieutenant John Bromfield of the Third Infantry Division. He was good enough to leave an e-mail address.

I can't help you, looey, but write back in 25 years when you're out of federal prison.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy birthday, Carlos Santana!

Carlos Santana is 64 today. Happy birthday, Carlos!

July moon

Forty-two years ago today my wife and I took a break from moving into our new apartment, set up our black and white television, and watched the Apollo 11 moon landing.

In 1969 we Americans were engaged in a hot war in Vietnam, a cold war with Russia, debates on poverty, crime, and the direction our country was taking. Not much has changed after four decades except the cold war with Russia. Since humans began walking upright people had dreamed of touching the moon. On that day in 1969 we Americans fulfilled that dream. We can claim a national pride over our space program, but now our space shuttle program is over, with no new program to take its place.

I bemoaned the fact at a dinner with friends that the space program appears to have begun and ended within our lifetimes. It seems odd to think of it that way, because the technology still exists, and we could start a new program if we had the national will. A woman said to me, "Yes, but look at the costs," as if it were a waste of money. I believe that the world is a better place because of conquering space and reaching the nearest celestial body.

In 1946 astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell did a series of paintings on what a moon trip might look like. Bonestell's detailed art of other planets, which I encountered in the 1950s as a space-struck youngster, gave me a sense of wonder. A space voyage was then the stuff of fiction, but after it became reality the sense of wonder went out of it. It was, and is, a great accomplishment, but it seems like most things in our short attention span society there's a "been there, done that" attitude toward space.

These paintings are from Life March 4, 1946:

The July 17, 2011 Parade magazine claims that private enterprise is poised to take over the space biz. Yeah, well...when they do let me know. I know that there are a lot of out of work engineers and scientists for a talent pool to tap into, but would a viable vehicle be ready in the next five years? Ten years? Sooner? We'll see.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy birthday, Dion, Martha and Ricky!

Dion DiMucci is 72 today; Martha Reeves is 70, and Ricky Skaggs is 57.

Happy birthday to you all!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Third eye unblind

My mother was standing by the door when I tried to walk out with her car keys in my hand.

"Where are you going." It wasn't a question. It was more of a statement or even a challenge.

"I'm going to see my friend Rod." Rod lived about four blocks east of us. Mom looked at me the way she always did when she thought I was lying, with her third eye open, staring into my face. I thought I'd found a way to beat that eye by trying to move past it quickly enough, but she was blocking the door. I began to wither under its unblinking gaze. I reckoned I was busted.

"Okay," she said, giving me a reprieve. "Be home for dinner." I was out the door before she could change her mind. I was in her '63 Plymouth Sport Fury and out of the driveway in about thirty seconds. I was not going to Rod's. I was heading west a couple of miles, to see my new girlfriend. There were various reasons I lied to Mom about where I was going. One, I didn't want to have to explain who my girlfriend was, who her parents were, what her dad did for a living, on and on. Interrogations by my mother, especially under the gaze of her third eye, could go on for hours, even days, with no details overlooked. Two, the reason I lied is because I was I always lied to my mother. Going to Rod's was a lie I felt was safe. Mom didn't care much for Rod, and hated his mom, so I didn't worry about her calling up to find out if I was there.

As it turned out, it was my first winter as a licensed driver. Going through a residential bottleneck of a road, where the street suddenly went from two lanes down to just one. Another car cut me off. I skidded on ice and hit a telephone pole. I didn't get a ticket, although I got a lecture from a cop about driving on snow and ice. When I got home Mom's third eye was not only wide open, it was sparking with rage. "I thought you were going to Rod's! You were going in the other direction!" Smashing the front end of her car made her less angry than my lie.

Even forty years later, her mind mostly taken over by dementia, Mom would occasionally remember that lie, and her rage would begin anew. The problem with Alzheimer's is that time has no meaning, past and present are the same. For her it was as if she had just learned of my lie and her car's smashed front end. My long-ago lies were caused by immaturity, a teenage brain. My mother had no tolerance for the slightest untruth. Mothers have a built-in bullshit detector, and Mom, with her terrible third eye staring into my teenage brain, could detect a lie even before it came out of my mouth.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Happy birthday, Roger McGuinn

Roger McGuinn is 69 today. Happy birthday, Roger!

These are some of the faces of Roger, with the Byrds and solo. No matter the name (early on he was Jim McGuinn), no matter the hairstyle, bearded or not, the distinctive voice rings out.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Who was the oldest?

When I read this article in the January 7, 1946 issue of Life magazine, claiming a man, 120 years and 7 months old, had died in 1945, I went to the internet to see if he is listed as the oldest living American ever. He didn't even have a mention. "Uncle Jim" Wilson was supposed to have been born into slavery in 1825. The record was supposedly checked and he was found to be what he was said to be, according to the article, at least. (Five hundred people attended Uncle Jim's last birthday, including 100 whites, and they were able to gather together $13.04 in cash and "a dozen assorted gifts." This has got to be the cheapest birthday gift, divided by 500 people, ever. Even for 1946 $13.04 wasn't much more than walking around money, and there's no word on whether Uncle Jim was in any shape to walk around and enjoy it.)

How to explain the discrepancy on the age or honor of being the oldest? Maybe the records weren't really verifiable after all, and his reign as oldest living man was taken from him sometime after this article was published. But, for the time it made a good human interest story.

Anyone over 110 is considered a supercentenarian. This article, from Wikipedia, lists the oldest people, post-1955 and pre-1955, verifiable through some form of official documentation. According to the article, the oldest verified American man who ever lived, Christian Mortensen, was 115 years and 252 days when he died. That's pretty far off Jim Wilson's supposed ascendancy to nearly 121 years.

How is something like this article supposed to make us feel? I don't have any illusions I'll live past the century mark, and getting to one's biblical threescore and ten is still kind of an accomplishment, considering how many things there are out there that can kill us. Just call me Mr. Positive Thinking.


Saturday, July 09, 2011

Baby Boomers meet Social Security

I turned 64 yesterday, born in 1947. In celebration I favored a chocolate pie over a chocolate cake, thereby forgoing the call I'd need to make to the local fire department, informing them that what looked like a house ablaze was just a lot of birthday candles.

As part of the adjustment to my "maturity" I've been going through Life archives online, trying to understand the postwar world folks my age were born into. We are the Baby Boomer generation, a huge bulge in the population. January 1, 1946, eighteen months before I was born, is the "official" start of the Baby Boomers. Our fathers came home from the war and got down to business with our mothers. As a nation, Americans have been paying ever since.

The above soap ad is a precursor: ". . .2,700,000 babies for 1946!" It leads to another ad reflecting the 1946 American reality: a pretty young mother and her brand-new baby on brand-new sheets. That scene is idealized, but in various forms around the nation it was being repeated millions of times.

My point is that everyone was aware of the high birth rate, and everyone scrambled to make room. Schools could not be built fast enough. When I lived in Washington State in the mid-fifties I went to three different schools in two years. I didn't move, but because of the number of school age children the boundaries did. Having many people applying for Social Security and Medicare should not be a big surprise to anyone in America.

Now, 65 years later there are people who are trying to take advantage of that high birthrate by making it seem that us Baby Boomers are robbing the national treasury. They couldn't kill us all off in the Vietnam War, or kill us with drugs in the sixties. They couldn't even kill us all (yet) with environmentally-related diseases, so now they just want to take away those benefits we've earned over a lifetime by surviving!

The way Social Security is structured we workers paid for our parents and grandparents in their retirements, and now feel we're entitled to have someone else pay for ours. Unfortunately, there are those of our lawmakers who feel we're a burden on the system, so they want to cut our long-expected benefits.

I've got news for those politicians: we're not standing by idly, letting it happen. I'm going to speak up loudly to protect what I feel is our birthright as Americans: to go into old age with someone else footing the bill. Oh yeah, we still have to pay for food, gasoline and all the things we paid for when we were working and paying into the Social Security system, so perhaps our officials should think of it that way. By paying us, we're contributing back into the system and isn't that the way America works? Buying things we don't need so that stores like Walmart can exist?

In this final ad from 1946, thanks to some smart planning a couple is able to retire on $200 a month. That wasn't a lot of money even then, but coupled with Social Security or even a company pension, probably adequate to live on. I'm not sure, but even with my pension and Social Security much more than $200, in today's money I'm probably about the same as this couple right after World War II. I certainly don't need any of my income cut.


Monday, July 04, 2011

Gay-bashing, fifties-style

I notice on Statcounter that there has been some activity on a 2006 posting of mine, reprinting an anti-gay chapter from the 1951 exploitation book, Washington Confidential by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer. Someone has linked to the post, so I hope they'll re-link to this improved-looking posting.

I've re-scanned to make the pages more readable. Lait and Mortimer, authors of this book, were right-wingers who wrote in a tabloid style. If it's any comfort at all to my gay readers, Lait and Mortimer were just as tough on Capitol madams, communists and grafting politicians.

While we might still have negative opinions of those latter groups, the negative perception of many about gays
over the years has changed to a more positive view. In 1951 Lait and Mortimer could get away with quoting a Congressman A. L. Miller of Nebraska ("a physician" and "author of the District's new bill to regulate the homos") who proffered this idiocy: "It is found that the cycle of these individuals' homosexual desires follows the cycle closely patterned to the menstrual period of women. There may be three or four days in each month that the homosexual's instincts break down and drive the individual into abnormal fields of sexual practice. Under large doses of sedatives during this sensitive cycle, he may escape such acts." (Italics are mine.)

So now we know. When gays get horny sedate them. With large doses.

"Garden of Pansies" could now be considered hate literature, so beware, this is exactly as it was published 60 years ago.

Author Jack Lait died in 1954 of a circulatory ailment in Beverly Hills, California, at age 71. Lee Mortimer (pseudonym of Mortimer Leiberman) died in 1963 of a heart attack, age 59.


Sunday, July 03, 2011

The sanitized Bible

My visiting granddaughters, both Catholic schoolgirls, got a big kick out of Bible Firsts, a book from my collection of esoteric books. They knew some of the stories, and as young as they are, noticed how this version of the Bible is glamorized. The cover shows a smiling family, mommy, daddy and baby--purporting to be Adam and Eve and one of their children, Cain, looking very American.

The artist, Clyde Provonsha, used models for the paintings. He did a fine job, even down to Adam's razor-cut hair. Our girls also noticed that Eve appears to be wearing make-up.

When this book, written by Charles L. Paddock, was published by Pacific Press in 1956 (my copy is a 1963 reprint), the standard Hollywood bible epic had people who looked a lot like the people in these pictures. I see something of a resemblance to Tom Cruise in Adam, but Cruise wasn't born until 1962. It seems prophetic, since the Hollywood in this picture jumps out at the reader.

The Bible is a book with a lot of killing, vengeance and fury, and the author has sanitized it. Instead of original sin, Paddock calls Adam and Eve's transgression against God's orders, "a wrong deed." Huh. Sin sounds so much better, since the wrong deed was sex, but not for 1950's American children. My wife said, "She's wearing rouge." Well, no wonder sex was involved. Eve was a painted hussy!

After the wrong deed, Adam and Eve experience a "great sadness." Their sadness is to leave a wonderful home, with swans swimming in the local pond, and critters, lions, squirrels and deer, standing around looking bewildered. Our Hollywood couple got to keep Lassie, their collie.

Lassie shows up again, this time with a chagrined expression as Cain and Abel shake their fists at one another. The book calls this "the first quarrel."

"Cain was angry, and he hit his brother. Abel fell to the ground and lay still." The boys, with carefully combed pompadours, look more like they're playing paper-scissors-rock than having a quarrel, but once again, we're given the G-rated version of the event of the first murder.

I don't need to go on to the other parts of the book, Noah, the Ten Commandments, Jesus walking on water (but not crucified), to give you the point that not only is this book Hollywoodized and sanitized, it's bowdlerized, with the juicier parts of Genesis cut out.

For that I recommend R. Crumb's tremendous graphic novel, The Book of Genesis, which interprets every scripture and all fifty chapters of Genesis as they are written, including murders, incest, the "begats" and the inconsistencies throughout. It's all done with no editorial comment, just Crumb's vibrant drawing style, which reminds me of a cartoony Gustave Doré. One reviewer says of this book, "I’ve read Genesis before. But never have I found it so compelling. By placing it squarely in the Middle East—and populating it with distinctively Semitic-looking people—Crumb makes it come alive brilliantly." (Susan Jane Gilman - Morning Edition, NPR )

In the middle part of the century someone decided that for children it was better to present an American, Caucasian world, where there are no ethnic types anywhere to be seen. Some of this was pragmatic: showing ethnic characters, in the way they were usually presented in that era, would have engendered complaints, so popular media, publishers, TV, movies, decided it was easier to pretend whole groups of humans didn't exist. The Semitic people were represented as looking like their ancestry wasn't in the Middle East, but from Northern Europe. The pictures of Jesus in the book follow the modern look, American with long hair and beard.

In the movies Charlton Heston played Moses in The Ten Commandments, and Jeffrey Hunter was Jesus in King of Kings. You can hardly get more American than those guys.

It gives an impression, just like Dick and Jane readers were indoctrinated with, that the only people who count are white, that "the rest of you are 'others' who don't fit into our view of religion or the society around us." The world has changed, and even to my grandchildren, ages 6 and 5, the portrayals of biblical characters in Bible Firsts seem phony. They were also phony when the book was originally published. It was just the backward way things were done in those days.