Monday, August 17, 2009

Viva Toyota

I'm old enough to remember the late Telly Savalas telling that the car to buy was a Toyota. I loved the way he said the name: "Toyotaaaaaaa." It kind of drifted off into the depths of his baritone. Anyway, thirty or so years later I have taken him up on his suggestion and - with some assistance from you and your tax dollars - I have "purchased" a new toyota. Interesting note: in the owner's manual, it talks about the dangers of things being in the way of airbags when they deploy and it specifically states that things "such as hangers" should not be put on the coat hooks. Argh.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You Are What You Eat

At one point in my life I was more significantly involved in the politics of this state than now. And there is one meeting that stands out in my mind, because it so clearly set out, in a simple, edible metaphor, the differences between liberals and conservatives. For reasons that now escape me, a breakfast meeting had been set up so that members of the Governor's staff could meet with representatives of one of the houses of the state Legislature (I greatly dislike doing business at meals. Meals are for enjoyment, camaraderie, anything but work). As counsel to one of the Governor's Commissioners, I was told to come along. There was a group of perhaps five of us, and a like number of staffers from the Legislature. When all had arrived, we ordered breakfast, it being a breakfast meeting. The conservatives had: fried eggs, bacon, coffee, toast with butter, pancakes, etc. The liberals had dry toast, oatmeal with nothing on it, and tea.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, says it all.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

...Like Flies

The latest to die was Thomas Disch. He was one of the new wave of the 60's, more literary than many science fiction writers had been, also, more scatalogical. I didn't care that much for what he wrote. As for his more recent fiction and poetry, I cannot comment at all, as I have not read it. Still I hated to read that he was dead - but for purely selfish reasons. The giants I grew up with all are gone - Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov and the rest. I remember reading John Campbell's obit in Analog many years ago. This is part of growing old. People - not relatives or friends, but cultural touchstones - one is comfortable and familiar with grow old as well, and then they die. Or you see a picture of them as old, bent, wrinkled octogenarians and the shock of seeing that ancient face, that face which has buried somewhere within it just a hint of the youthful, ageless man or woman you remember, causes you to pull up short and contemplate just how little time we get.

Photos have only been around for about 200 years. Moving pictures, maybe 100 or so. Television a scant sixty. Yet these things let us see the past with that most vital of senses, they let us look into Lincoln's eyes, or watch Armstrong step on the moon for all mankind. Imagine what it may be like several hundred years hence. Imagine if we had movies of the Revolutionary War, of the first circumnavigation of the globe, of the pyramids being built...

Too much nostalgia, too much living in the past, is unhealthy. But it doesn't hurt to remember that, regardless of the world of physics, time flows for us in only one direction.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Prove It

I was at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles web site the other day, and I happened to look at the requirements for the new, improved, super-duper "Enhanced" Driver's License. For the uninformed (or too disgusted to look into it), the Enhanced Driver's License, or EDL, is a federal law-compliant license issued by a state that will allow individuals to drive across the border into the U.S. from Mexico or Canada. Or they can come in by boat from those countries (maybe a few other places in the Caribbean, I don't remember). However, and no, I am not joking here, it won't work if you FLY into the country from Canada or Mexico. Well, that makes perfect sense, you say. You see, if you're driving or on a boat, you're, well, um.... but, if you take a plane, see, then the security will be, er.... Okay, it makes no sense at all. In fact, it's idiotic. Almost as idiotic as having to take off your shoes to get on a plane. Or being forced to leave your toothpaste at the security station because it's more than three ounces. Pointless "do something!" responses to problems that no longer exist. Does ANYONE think a mad jihadist is going to try to hijack a plane and fly it into something now? The pilots know the score, plenty of them are armed, and the damn door to the cockpit is locked! No nut job is getting into a cockpit again in our lifetimes, but there we are, trampling on individual liberties, inconveniencing the HELL out of everyone, creating yet another dull-witted and money devouring bureacracy and treating citizens like cattle to prevent it from happening.

And by the way, the requirements for getting an EDL, which started this whole thing, are the typical government redundancies coupled with incomprehensible document requirements. One gets "points" for certain documents, and you must prove not only that you are you, but that the you you are is a citizen. One would think that a passport would be sufficient proof to get what is in effect a 'passport lite.' But, astonishingly, it is not. See, a passport proves you're a citizen, but it doesn't prove you're YOU. Honest to God, I am not making this up.

When the epitaph for this great and good nation is written, it will reference such pointless exercises in government control as the fulcrum upon which America was lifted and then hurled into the abyss.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Oooh, That Smell

I get that people have different levels of sensitivity; that some people can smell like a bloodhound, others like a - hmmm... what can't smell well? Anyway, most people can smell to some degree. So why do so many people ladle on their colognes/perfumes to the point that being near them is like being on the inside of one of those smelly pink cakes used in public restrooms? They must think it smells good; they must think others will like the smell; they must think they're using a reasonable amount. How can they be so wrong? This isn't quite the same as blabbermouths in public spaces on cell phones, or maniacs on the road. This is a calculated decision to put on something smelly, as a personal enhancement. It's just weird..

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Get Lost

I fear that America is lost. I don't mean lost in some metaphorical, fin-de-siecle, last-one-out-turn-off-the-lights way; I mean lost, as in "where the heck am I?" How else to account for the proliferation of GPS devices and services? From the way they are being marketed for cars, hikers, PDAs, cell phones and probably other things I have missed, one would think that we were a nation of bubbleheads who can't make it to the corner store without a little voice saying "...avoid the panhandler immediately in front of you and turn LEFT into the pharmacy in fifteen feet..." I get that the point of manufacturing is to sell things, and that the point of marketing is to make people feel that they will be left out, laughed at or ostracized if they don't run out and get the latest whosis RIGHT NOW, but GPS seems to be even less essential- for most people- than SUVs. And there aren't many people who actually need an SUV (remember those big station wagons?). Of course they're cool, and they can put you within six inches of any place on the globe, and for some that's reason enough to buy one.

But if we're really buying them because we're lost, that does not bode well for the future.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Will Elder, R.I.P.

He drew pictures that even today make me gasp for air as I laugh. He didn't have the sophistication and technique of Wally Wood, but the content of his panels made the work he did for the early Mad classic. Ping-Pong, Dragged Net, Starchie - Elder, along with the crazed Harvey Kurtzman, savaged the contemporary comics and movies of their day, and did so with staggeringly funny pictures and words.

I was too young to see their work in the original Mad comics, but the paperback reprints of the '60s and the full color reprints of the '90s have been the source of hours of laughter. I had no interest in his later work, but for what he did in his time with Mad I will be forever grateful.