Saturday, July 31, 2004

Book List 2004 - Part 1

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2004 was to make an effort to read more. Though I've read a somewhat respectable number of books in recent years (26 in 2001, 13 in 2002, and 25 in 2003), comparing to the number of movies I've seen (213 in 2001, 124 in 2002, and 111 in 2003), it's time to play some catch up. As of this writing, I've read 43 books and seen 38 movies this year - I think I am accomplishing my goal while proving to be something of a geek all at the same time.

Over the course of several posts, I plan on introducing to the books I've read this year. Perhaps one or more of them will tickle your fancy, raise an eyebrow, or even bore you to tears so much by my description, that I will have saved you the hellish waste of time it would have been for you to read for yourself. Onward...

1. Stupid White Men ...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!
by Michael Moore

I was on a plane ride back from Brazil just before the New Year (2004) and on the short jaunt from JFK in NYC to Logan in Boston; I found this book left behind from its previous owner beside the vomit bag in the little compartment that my knees touch on plane rides.

This book is predominantly a look at the disaster that was the 2000 presidential election written by what appears to be a regretful, then supporter of Ralph Nader, explaining the frightful realization that sometimes there really is no choice in an election. Though somewhat insightful, and often humorous, the real story being told is as scary a tale as Poe or Stephen King ever told, in fact, sometimes scarier because it is true. I don’t always agree with Moore’s views but appreciate his willingness to take chances and say what he feels. If you like controversial political viewpoints flavored with a dash of humor and a dose of the macabre that was the 2000 election and is the Bush administration, give this one a whirl.

2. Notes from a Small Island
by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson has become one of my favorite writers in genre that I have grown to love. A travel writer, Bryson decided to take a “farewell tour” of Great Britain before moving back to the United States after 20 plus years of living in England. Bryson is a terrific storyteller who has a way of putting me right next to him on his adventures teaching me things, letting me know exactly how he feels, and making me laugh along the way. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Bryson which is just about all he’s published.

Though I can easily recommend all of his books, and will mention others before the 2004 book list ends, I must make mention of “A Walk in the Woods” which I read last year. A Walk in the Woods is a must read; one of the funniest adventures, featuring Bryson’s lifelong chum named “Katz” that will just have you laughing all the way across the Appalachian Trail.

3. Along Came a Spider
by James Patterson

I started reading James Patterson shortly after seeing the film adaptations of this book, and “Kiss the Girls”. Patterson’s writing style is easy to read and incredibly captivating. Along Came a Spider is the first in a series of ten (if you count the yet unpublished “London Bridges” due in November of this year) novels featuring the character Alex Cross.

What I enjoy most about the Alex Cross series is the depth of complexity of the villains. Here, we have Gary Soneji, a mild-mannered, very popular, math teacher who turns out to be a psychopathic mastermind. Great story telling, great characters and a great read.

4. Lita: A Less Traveled R.O.A.D.--The Reality of Amy Dumas
by Amy Dumas, Michael Krugman

So sue me, I am a professional wrestling fan. This is the autobiography of a woman wrestler written while healing from a career threatening neck injury and major surgery. Though not a brilliant literary text, there is an underlying story of a woman who dared to dream of success in a business dominated my men, and saw her dream come to fruition as a result of hard work and determination. I admit that some of the choices made by Dumas along the way had me wondering about her moral fiber, but then I realize it’s simply not for me to judge. If you’re not a wrestling fan, you probably want to pass this one over.

5. Kiss the Girls
by James Patterson

Book two in the aforementioned Alex cross series featuring “two clever pattern killers are collaborating, cooperating, competing—and they are working coast to coast.” Once again, a brilliantly written, fast paced and thoroughly enjoyable read that will keep you at the edge of your seat.

I'll stop here for now, but until next time, May God Bless You All!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Jennerators Rock On!


The Jennerators @ Dick's Last Resort, Boston - August 2000
Amazon.com The Amazonian
Some things never change--and when it comes to the Everly Brothers The Jennerators, that's definitely a good thing. Seen here Performing at London's Royal Albert Hall Boston’s Dick’s Last Resort in 1983 for one night only in the midst of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, following a lengthy and acrimonious split, Don Jenn and Phil the boys (Pat, Paul, and Steve) barely miss a beat. They were in their mid-40s ageless, and performing together for the first time in some 10 3 plus years (Phil had smashed a guitar and walked offstage in what you might call a fit of pique), but their vocals, harmonies, and playing are as perfect as ever. , to the point where it's hard to tell who's singing which part. Backed by a A band of crack British musicians, they run through some 21 songs 4 blistering sets, including a dizzying array of hits such as "Crying in the Rain Kiss Me Deadly," "Wake Up Little Susie On the Road Again," "Cathy's Clown Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around," and "Bye Bye Love": the Everlys The Jennerators may not have written most any of their tunes, but they sure know how to pick 'em.
This is the real deal. --
Sam Graham Christopher Daniele

***********************************

The Jennerators are a group of really good people that I spent many, many, nights with a few years back and getting to see them play together again, if even for one night only, back where they brought the house down twice a week for so many weeks was just a blast.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Spontaneous Combustion

i'm finished, though I've barely begun
feel like death, another rising sun
can't move a muscle, I need to break free
from the hell of the moment
that imprisons me

the alarm clock is buzzing
and the world outside awaits
i just cant overcome
this tired soul just can't relate

another day of hell
when will this whole thing end
return me to my nightmares
and my one and only friend


The poem above, "Spontaneous Combustion" wasn't planned to be a part this post. However, as with many things I've written, my pencil hit the paper (actually, in this case, the fingers hit the keyboard) and there it was. I haven't even really had time to digest it though looking at it reminds me that I need to take my vitamins (how freaking scary is that?)...BRB...There, much better, I've downed my daily multivitamin (which I tend to forget an awful lot and pay dearly the next day) and can finish up my business here with you.

For those of you who may be reading this in the Boston area, come by Dick's Last Resort (55 Huntington Ave, Boston) sometime between 7:30pm and midnight - it'll be a blast as "The Jennerators" reunite for one night only!

In other random news, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the fact that I've charged myself with the manly task of installing a new stereo in my car. The problem of course is that I suck at shit like that. Granted, I'm pretty comfortable with the insides of a computer (in a clinical way that is) but the idea of installing the car stereo gets me anxious. I have lots of instructions, lots of tips from my brother (whose done it a bunch of times), but am having some second thoughts and may just breakdown and pay someone to do it. Yet another copout!!!

Okay then, this post has been around the block now and taken on a life of its own...I guess I'll move along...

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Happy Birthday Victoria

Today is my daughter's sixth birthday. It's been funny the last week or so watching her excitement and anticipation grow with each passing day as each morning, her first words would refer to the countdown of days remaining before her birthday (and kickass party at Plaster Fun Time).

{Authors note: I realize after the fact that "kickass" is probably not the best adjective to describe the birthday party of a 6 year old; live and learn.}

This morning, sweet little Vickie came crashing into our bedroom, waking my wife and I from a coma at the darling little hour of 6:00 AM! "Today is my birthday, I'm gonna have a party!" She sang while dancing her little heart out as my wife and I maintained our composure and offered up as convincing a rendition of Happy Birthday as one can provide at this awful hour of the morning. I suspect this startling wake up call is partly the cause for the back spasms I've been having today but since it is a recurring problem, I'll only place partial blame.

The fabulous birthday party took place at a place called "Plaster Fun Time." What a money making operation this is. Each kid gets a crappy piece of ceramic something or other to paint, then they spray it with some toxic glossy shit that has the fresh aroma of carcinogen. I was almost disappointed that they didn't provide cigarettes for each of the young patrons. Oh, no, I am starting to vent frustrations again and I was thinking this might just be a sweet little post in honor of my little one's happy day. Unfortunately, I need to vent a bit more so before I do, let me just say something nice. I absolutely adore and love my little girl more than anything. I am constantly fascinated watching her grow up an learn things. I's the first thing in a very long time that has offered true meaning and significance to my life. Now, time to bitch again...

When I was a little kid, my absolutely wonderful birthday parties consisted of my mother getting a cake from the local bake shop and inviting a few of the neighborhood kids over (the same ones who kicked my ass just days before and who proceeded to kick my ass again just days later), forced each into a Brooklynized mangling of the traditional birthday songs, on some occasions, a semi-non-violent game of pin-the-tail on the donkey, served each a piece of cake along with a soft drink, then sent the little buggers off on their way so they could plot their next beating of the little wimp ass I once was. It was terrific fun, a great time, and the one day a year I didn't bleed by someone else's hand.

Today is so different however. In the great tradition of "competition weddings" (perhaps someday to be discussed at length some other time, you know what I mean) today's children's parties require weeks of planning, RSVP invites, and several hundred dollars so that they can have essentially the same experience while the parent doesn't lose face by having a crappier party than one of the other kids. HMMMM! Okay, enough, I've got it off my chest for now. I am very happy that Victoria had a great time and a great day. Even though she's spent an amazing amount of time fawning over her gifts and "how great they all are" I hope I've invested enough time helping her to understand that the toys and present that she received weren't the actual gifts.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Vending, Venting

Ah, the convenience of vending machines. I’ve grown fond of, addicted to, reliant on, and frustrated with these marvelous byproducts of the Industrial Revolution and the free enterprise system. In fact, the moment I check into a hotel, my first mission is to hunt down all vending machines and make a mental note of their contents and locations. I am on a first name basis with the guy who maintains the vending machines where I work. And, most importantly, having typed the last two sentences, have come to realize how deeply disturbed I must be. What follows are just a couple of the frustrations that I wish the vending machine and or the psychological community would address.

I really hate when I put a dollar bill into a vending machine, and it proceeds to spit the dollar bill back at me. I am in constant wonder if this is a simple (or possibly not so simple) flaw in mechanical engineering or just a sign from somewhere that I could do without Three more Musketeers in my life.

Once an acceptable dollar bill has been digested by the machine (which requires persistence, a lot of one dollar bills, or advanced preparation-that is, having a fresh crisp dollar bill that appears to have been pressed and starched like a fine dress shirt at the corner laundry), there’s the pavolvian drool of anxiety/anticipation that occurs after pressing the correct letter/number combination that triggers the polished chrome spiral mechanism to turn just enough such that the Three Musketeers are released from it’s stronghold, ready and willing to drop into the receptacle to fulfill my chocolaty desires. Alas, the stronghold is stronger than strong should be, leaving the Three Musketeers to dangle dangerously over the edge of my building frustration; increased exponentially by the following unfortunate recurring circumstances:

(a) I am not strong enough to beat/shake the vending machine vigorously enough to free the Three Musketeers from their dangled state.
(b) The only other cash I have is a crusty one dollar bill previously rejected (several dozen times), and no one in the building has either change for a dollar, or another dollar that the vending machine deems acceptable.

Anyway, enough griping and onto some historical facts about vending (extracted from The History of Vending Machines, which can be found on the Internet here.

Vending (or "automatic retailing" as it is increasingly known) has a long history. The Greek mathematician Hero seems to have got the ball rolling in 215BC, when he invented a machine to vend holy water in Egyptian temples.

The first commercial coin-operated vending machines were introduced in London, England, in the early 1880s. They dispensed post cards.

Vending machines soon offered everything including; cigars, postcards, stamps, etc. In Philadelphia, a completely coin-operated restaurant called Horn & Hardart was opened in 1902 and stayed opened until 1962. In the early 1920's, the first automatic vending machines started dispensing sodas into cups. In 1926, an American inventor named William Rowe invented a cigarette-vending machine.

Finally, since one of the purposes of this blog is to reveal pieces of me, here’s something about me. I was once in the vending industry. Ever notice those machines as you leave the supermarket offering prismatic/metallic stickers of action figures, cartoon characters, superheroes, and the sort? For three years, I worked for a company in Brooklyn, New York called “Stuck-on-Stickers.” We had an in-house art department that created the designs, which then were sent to a printing company for mass-production, then returned to us for distribution and wholesale to vending machine operators. I assembled and repaired machines, and managed the office and employees.

I must go flat-iron and starch my "ones" in preparation for tomorrow. Therefore, until next time, May God Bless You All!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Just Checking In

Hello readers. I am only passing through for a brief moment because I want to share the laughter with as many folks as possible. I was just watching the news and they did a short feature on a website where both Bush and Kerry are being "poked" at via a comical animation.

Head on over to http://www.jibjab.com/and laugh you a$$ off!

Actually, before I leave, Linda Ronstadt is a friggin' idiot. Though I agree with her opinions that George Bush is an ass and Michael Moore is a hero (for the time being), there is a time and place for everything. After performing for audiences for more than 30 years, I certainly would expect Ronstadt, or anyone with that many years of "experience" to know how to read their audience. Let's fight the good fight together in an orderly fashion.

For those of you who haven't yet seen, read, or heard, Al Gore's recent statements made at NYU, I strongly recommend doing so; especially if you live in the USA. You can read Gore's comments by clicking on the following link:
Al Gore's Speech

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

More Haiku

In between reading the latest installment in The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, reading the Sunday Boston Globe, checking in on the Yankees (who sadly lost today), a few episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, and reflecting on the words of my fellow bloggers, I have been inspired to compose the following new haikus:



It's so hard to breathe
Trapped inside this loneliness
Rescue me from me
* * *
A wandering soul
In search of something called faith
This soul still wanders
* * *
The mind of a child
Discovery unending
Ageless, yet so young
* * *
His innocence lost
Just a child, yet sent to war
Who will fight for him?
* * *
Four new walls called home
A new lease on life for you
Beginning again


Thank you all for the inspiration.
Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Martha, My Dear!

 Today, Martha Stewart was sentenced to 5 months in prison, 5 month of home confinement, a $30,000 fine, and other punishments for doing what just about anyone with brain cells would have done, given similar circumstances. I'm not a huge Martha Stewart fanatic, but I do recognize that she is an woman of high intellect and is clearly a talented-whatever she is. However, I am and will continue to be supportive of her as far as this particular case.
The prison sentence punctuated a chain of events that began on Dec. 27, 2001, when Stewart, in a brief phone call from a Texas tarmac on her way to a Mexican vacation, sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems Inc., a biotechnology company run by her longtime friend Sam Waksal. Prosecutors alleged that Bacanovic (the stock broker), now 42, ordered his assistant to tip Stewart that Waksal was trying to sell his shares. ImClone announced negative news the next day that sent the stock plunging. Stewart saved $51,000.
I am not an expert on these matters, but the way my brain reads into this is that Martha Stewart hired a stock broker for the same reason anyone, even you or I may hire one. The stock brokers job is to find a stock worth buying before it's price is going to rise, then to advise on when best to sell that stock with the intent of maximizing profits. The broker did his job, Martha took the advice that she paid for and then all hell breaks loose. Technically, "insider trading (buying and selling shares of stock or other securities based on special knowledge not available to others, such as information about new products not yet public. -Encarta)" is illegal. However, for as many arguments one can make as to how this could be considered insider trading, I suspect there are as many, perhaps more to support the fact that is was a smart decision based on advice that was paid for; and NOT insider trading. In fact, I've viewed many brokerage and stock advice web sites. On many of them, there is a section actually called "insider trading" which lists companies and "insiders" who plan on either buying or selling large blocks of their company's stock.

Put yourself in the situation. You hire a stockbroker who recommends a stock and you buy shares on that recommendation. At some point after the purchase, the broker calls you and says there is good reason to believe that it's time to lock in your profits, I suspect the stock price may drop. Again, the way I see it, the only decision you have is whether or not to take the advice. Is it fair that you should be liable for how the broker received their information?

What I think is far more serious is the amount of resources this case has consumed (court time, money, press, etc). There are murderers, rapists, drug dealers, pedophiles, child abusers, and other hard criminals running wild in the streets. There are hundreds of young Americans fighting a war that appears to be justified only in the head of our insane President, yet somehow, two years of resources consummate in a prison sentence for a person who simply sold stock for a profit. Even if what she did was illegal, was it necessary for it all to have been as big a deal as it was? When you look at the implications all of this has had on Martha's company, all the press has pounded into our heads is the effect on Martha's net worth (being a considerable shareholder in the venture). In all of their exploitation, I doubt if ever once the media considered how many average Americans own shares in their retirement portfolios and what effect this will all have on them (note to press, this is not the same thing as Enron). Let it go on record that under the same circumstances, I would have done, and will do in the future should the scenario arise, the exact same thing as Martha Stewart did.

Perhaps the only people that may win in this case, should Stewart serve her sentence, are the other prisoners. On the news last evening, they mentioned that it is typical for a new prisoner to be assigned kitchen duty as their initial assignment. If this is the case, those prisoners will be eating better than they probably ever have.
Martha, my prayers and thoughts are with you.

Until next time, May God Bless You All.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

5 Things that are Wonderful to Me.

1. The ocean. Especially being far enough into the ocean, preferably on a boat, so that ocean is all that is visible. The power and majesty of the ocean always overwhelm me (in a positive way).
2. Making people laugh. Any age, any size group, for any reason. I especially like to make someone laugh who really needed it so bad that they not only weren't expecting to, but were doing everything in their power not to laugh.
3. Watching an open fire dance and crackle to the thoughts in my head. I'd swear that after staring long enough, that the flames are actually responding to my thoughts.
4. The fall foliage. There is something about the imagery of that particular seasonal change that has a warming effect on the cool crisp breezes that animate the foliage in change.
5. A walk around Walden Pond. The same Walden Pond that Thoreau called home from July 1845 through September 1847. I have no real explanation other that to say that this is a magical place that squelches the sounds of the everyday life we live and amplifies the serenity of it's own natural beauty. Walden Pond also happens to be a great place to observe the fall foliage.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Catching up with Me

I have been working with computers for 26 years of my life. Being a technical professional, I try my best to stay on top of modern technological trends. Blogging, somehow got away from me for the longest time. Though I've heard the term "blog", I had not taken the initiative to explore blogging until my friend Jill mentioned that she started one.

After reading Jill's blog, I went to some of the blogs linked from hers , then continued to check out links from other blogs (frankly until I was blogged out for that day). After looking at a number of blogs and the way they are used, I decided to give it a try, and From a Whisper to a Scream was born.

It's been about three weeks since my first post and I've found this all to be rewarding in many ways. I've met people online, through their blogs, and have been able to share feeling and thoughts with the blogging community, friends and family, and the entire world that I'm not sure I'd have had the chance to articulate elsewhere. I've even started feeling more self confidence and have begun to find inspiration for new writing ideas (right now my fingers are crossed as today I have come up with an idea for a short story - my goal is to write it and present it here in serial form). Though I have no idea where this blog will lead me from here, I look forward to having you all along for the ride.

Before I go, I'd like to invite you all to check out the blogs that I've linked to, there's a little something for everyone to be found.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Friends

I sometimes think of all the people that pass through one's lifetime. Throughout my life, I've used terms such as "oldest friend", "dearest friend", "best friend", in fact, I've all too often use the word friend more loosely than I should have. There are many people in a lifetime I've referred to as friends, perhaps in the moment or the context of a particular instance or conversation, which really are at best, strong acquaintances (which is not at all a bad thing).

Friends, to me, are people that will remain a part of my life forever. Time and distance have made it such that some of my friendships revolve mostly around memories of great times and an extremely rare phone call, email, or the annual exchange of holiday cards. There are a number of people in my life that I love dearly, with whom I've lost complete contact with or send a card every year - and that's the entire existence of our relationship. These are still people that I refer to as friends. The impact of my interactions with these people in the past has profoundly influenced who I am now. Whether or not I ever see or even hear from these people again, they will always be my friend. It's so easy to lose touch with people as time and distance leave their mark but I've learned that friends, true friends, remain such regardless of all boundaries.

Without question, my two favorite days every year are the days when some of my closest, longtime friends get together for our annual summer and winter reunions. We had all managed to get together one year and had a really great time together. Many of us had realized that the business of our lives and growing families made it difficult for many of us to see each other regularly. When we all finally got together, someone had the great idea to say that we really should try to do this at least once a year. I’m not sure how we ended up making the reunion a twice a year event, but we all agreed that a two Saturday a year commitment was something we were all very willing to make. Without fail, every summer and every winter, a large group of us, along with our families get together and just have a blast; food, drink, conversation, drink, karaoke. The day after every reunion I begin to do two things, remember how much fun this last reunion was and look forward to the next.

I love my friends; all of them. The ones I see very often, the ones I see twice a year, and the ones that I may never see again.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The Last Day of Class

Have you ever taken a research and/or statistics class? I had a research class back in grad-school. What a drag!!! I was so elated that it was over (as were my classmates) that I let our elation and pending beer fest inspire me to write a poem on that last day of class (circa 1992). Needless to say, unless your a statistics buff, or have taken one of these silly little classes, the poem will offer little more than a few rhymes.


"The Last Day of Class"

Been cursed out by "chi-square"
Been torn apart by "T"
and "standard deviation"'s got
a stranglehold on me

I'm stuttering statistics
a hypothesizing fool
I'm maddened by the mayhem
But I'll try to keep my cool

You see, the course has almost ended
and I'll go in Peace for sure
at the strike of 8:15 I'll be
the first one out the door!


Note: I pulled this from my archives after a recent conversation reminded me of it. I was amazed how easily I found it and am glad to finally share it with someone other than those in class that night I wrote and recited it (Geek that I am!).

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

10 Things That Annoy Me!

This list is in no particular order, just be sure that all of the items on the least annoy me (note: I use the word annoy, but many other words can be accurately substituted).

1. When someone asks a question they really don't want the answer to. There are plenty of ways this happens but of particular note is when someone asks something either personal, "deep", or intimate, I answer the question, and then they say something like, "hey, that a little more information than I needed."

2.When someone asks a question because they don't know the answer and are pretty sure that I do; I answer, then they proceed to insist on how my answer can't possibly be right.

3. When the cell phone conversation becomes more important than the flow of traffic (especially when the person driving in front of me is the guilty party).

4. Pedro Martinez.

5. When a retail store, that also sells merchandise via the Internet won't process returns for merchandise purchased via the Internet at one of their retail locations.

6. Being lied to.

7. When passengers in cars dangle their feet/foot out of the window of the car. It looks stupid and is a news story waiting to happen.

8. When you purchase/rent a movie and there are trailers and advertisements that play immediately when you put the DVD in the player (it's even worse when you press the menu button to stop the insanity and it does nothing but continue the friggin' trailer).

9. "Handling Charges."

10. Pop-up ads and spam. I think that the people responsible for these ads, and anyone nutty enough to respond to them should be imprisoned.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Monday, July 05, 2004

Roads Not Traveled

George Carlin has a comedy routine called "A Place for My Stuff" which alludes to the concept that a house is simply a place to keep all of your stuff. In fact, Carlin goes further by suggesting that if you have too much stuff, you can get a bigger house, and more comical, if you didn't have any stuff, you conceivably wouldn't even need a house at all! Carlin is poking fun at the attachments we make to our material possessions, a problem I myself have been and still am guilty of. The sermon I heard at church this past Sunday reminded me of how I've allowed myself to be weighed down by material possessions and resistance/reluctance/fear to/of change. Though I know it is selfish of me, I actually found some measure of comfort in knowing that I wasn't alone, mine however is the only story I have to tell.

Back in college I had a classmate who told of his wonderful summer where he traveled through Europe with everything he owned in a large duffel bag. I had a friend who spent one entire year of his life traveling across the US on a motorcycle just going from city to city and taking odd jobs when he ran out of cash. There is in fact a book (actually two books) by a man name Peter Jenkins called "A Walk Across America" and "The Walk West: A Walk Across America 2" which, chronicle the author's six year journey across the country. I myself have dreamed of hitting the road but have always backed down to the logistical dilemma of finding a place for all of my stuff while I'm away. Forever a victim of my possessions, or rather, my possessiveness, I remain burdened with questions unanswered, roads not traveled, and dreams unfulfilled (I wonder if this is all why I've grown so attracted to the travel writing genre in more recent years).

At this point in my life, it is clear that this journey of life requires me to carry some load. I also accept that the load I must carry is not only comprised of material goods, but spiritual wealth and responsibilities as well. I know that there is excess weight to the load I carry comprised of physical possessions and reluctance to change. Additionally, I understand that the weight of my load will determine how fast and perhaps how far on my journey I can travel. What I do not yet know, is that if knowing all I know will make a difference.


* * * * * * * * * *

Having earlier mentioned my love of travel writing, here is a short list of outstanding books (other than the two previously mentioned books by Peter Jenkins that are linked above) in this genre. All links will take you to Amazon.com where you can learn a bit more about the book and purchase it as well.

1. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
2. Investment Biker by Jim Rogers
3. Adventure Capitalist by Jim Rogers
4. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
5. Blue Highways : A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy Birthday America

In recent years, there has been renewed controversy over the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. In January of 1969, the comedian Red Skelton performed a reading of the Pledge of Allegiance that sums up beautifully what I feel to be the proper response to this debate. You can read and hear Red Skelton's performance at either of these links:

(1) http://www.poofcat.com/july.html
(2) http://www.spiritisup.com/pledgeofallegiance.html


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Earlier today I was reminiscing of how we used to celebrate the 4th of July when I was a kid. We'd all stash our money away and buy fireworks from the local kid who had some magical connection to the fireworks underworld. Only a select few would be allowed into the basement, usually on East 26th street, to check out the selection of fireworks. The rest of us would have to rely on "the list" which usually was headed by a "mat of firecrackers" or "jumping jacks". Then there were the lovely groupings of heavy explosives (for use by day) such as "M-80's" and the deafening "Blockbuster". The heavy stuff was always followed by an unbelievably large selection of rockets and "mortar shells" to turn the dark of night into a colorful explosion.

Once we've blown up the neighborhood and fueled several bonfires by day, it was time to hit the family barbecue only to return for the festival of "colorful stuff" usually comprised of an assortment of "rockets" (sold by the dozen) and the inevitable "roman candle fights (boy were we stupid; actually aiming colorful balls of fire at each other)." Throughout the entire day we'd tolerate the adults trying to scare us into being extra careful with all of the (true) stories of those that end up in the emergency room. Surprisingly, none of us ever had any serious injuries but I can attest to the truth of the emergency room stories having ended up there one 4th of July evening for reasons other than fire and explosives.

It was all an unusual mix of stupidity, naivete, and camaraderie that somehow helped shape what then could easily have been labeled a derelict group into what turned out to be a fine group of folks. It was nice to take a moment to look back at those days. For now, I'm going to flip on the tube on watch Keith Lockhart lead the Boston Pops which culminates in an extraordinary "professional" pyrotechnics display.

I hope you've all enjoyed your celebration. Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Friday, July 02, 2004

Have I Mentioned that I Love Baseball?

I've been a baseball fan for my entire life. I've been to more than 400 games in my life and have seen this sport through good, bad, happy, and sad (I did boycott for 1 season after the last players strike). Last night, the game between the New Yankees and Boston Red Sox enters into one of the top 10 baseball games I have ever seen.

The superhero flying through the air in this photograph is Derek Jeter, demonstrating something that has become rare in professional sports today. There of plenty of gifted athletes, there are many great plays, there are many students of the game, but there is distinctly something missing from sports as a whole. I know I am supposed to follow that up with what I think is missing, but I am not sure; at least not specifically.

What I do know, is that back in the 70's (the later ones), I'd take the subway from Brooklyn to Yankee Stadium, plop down a whole buck and a half (for you really young folks, that's a dollar and fifty cents) for a seat in the bleachers to watch my heroes, grab a hot dog, bum a sip of my buddy's soda, then hightail it back on the D train back to Brooklyn all for about five big ones (really, ONES). The people were amazing, the players friendly (they'd actually hang out to sign autographs after batting practice), and the experience, wholesome and rewarding.

Today, with all of the corporate sponsorship, the game is often played in venues designed to sell products and pay for big contracts to support a wealth of players who refuse to play because their thumb is sore or their pride is hurt. I wanna see this sport played with the same hunger and desire of a little leaguer, willing to get dirty and hustle and play the game of baseball. Sports has always been a business, but at some point, the business end became exceedingly more important that the sport.

Last night, over the course of four hours and twenty minutes, thirty-eight players, two managers, 55,265 fans, and two broadcasters brought back a little bit of yesterday. With the exception of the single most self-centered, egotistical, overrated, just plain idiot, Pedro Martinez, this amazing group of people demonstrated sportsmanship, fanaticism, and professionalism that made me proud of this game I love so very much. (Now all we need is to get rid of inter-league play, bring the DH to the National League, and make the All-Star game an All-Star game.)

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Greatest Generation

The baseball games between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have consumed me, therefore I was unable to complete this post last evening. I did want to briefly talk about this book I read last weekend; The Greatest Generation, by Tom Brokaw.



The book is a collection of stories of men and woman who "came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America." I quoted that because there is no way that I could have said it better. These are people that actually went out of their way to join the military and fight for our country, for something that they truly believed in, for something that truly made sense. Stories of families who survived the battle scars of the Great Depression and never looked back or down, only forward and up at what could be and how to make it happen. I don't know when or how it things changed, but I do not sense these feelings today, here in my generation or the one that has followed.

"This generation was united not only by a common purpose, but also by common values - duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family, and above all, responsibility for oneself." When reading the stories of these people, and this generation I couldn't help but be convinced that somewhere since, something has gone terribly wrong. I just don't see these attitudes in my generation. So often it seems to be about accumulating material wealth, selfishness, and excesses in the here and now. They were a generation united and we simply are not. This is a beautiful book and a wonderful read, but I have to admit it left me feeling so out of place. As much as I aspire to the attitudes of courage and honor, the man in my mirror is a product of his generation.

I don't mean to brand all members of the two or three generations since WWII as selfish, self-centered, and materialistic. I know plenty of wonderful, generous, caring, selfless people. However, it just seemed like those wonderful qualities were instilled and inspired from a different place.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!