Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The truth about the Assassin of Youth!

Be sure to watch this video, which I found while looking for other things, very carefully. See if you agree that its message is one which America's youth must hear and heed!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Beating a Horse That's Not Quite Dead

Much ink and pixels have gone under the bridge in the wake of the success of Proposition 8, a ballot initiative which rendered same-sex marriages null and void in the allegedly progressive state of California. Rather than vent my own spleen over this half-witted endorsement of intolerance, I'll turn the discussion over to someone who's said a lot more than I could say - and on national TV too. (Loyalty oath department - I'm not gay. I just can't abide medieval attitudes toward sex and sexual orientation).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One Size Never Fits All.

Photo Creative Commons by
Sparkletography - Non-comm, attrib,
no derivs.

Two of the blogs I follow regularly are the ones by author and commentator Greta Christina, both her own and the one she writes for (which is a sex-toy vendor, so it's probably not safe for work).

Her most recent one for Blowfish cuts to the very heart of our belief system concerning love, sex, and/or marriage. Most of us frankly don't give these beliefs a second thought. It's hard to do so when you're pressured to conform not only by friends and relatives, but by television, Hollywood and the music industry. We don't question these beliefs even when, when it turns out they're not quite right for us.

Check this excerpt out:

...If we know anything at all about human sex and human sexual relationships, it’s that the only constant is variety. Human beings have an almost infinite variety of sexual and emotional experiences: an eye-popping smorgasbord of feelings and desires, prejudices and preferences, turn-offs and needs. And we should be tailoring our decisions about sex to fit our individual experiences. We should not be forcing our sexual and romantic decisions into a one- size- fits- all garment . . . one which, like most one- size- fits- all garments, really fits only a handful of people. ...

Read the whole thing here

Monday, November 10, 2008

About the new graphic

Artist unknown.
Graphic Creative Commons 2008

C.S. Lewiston.
Non-comm, attrib, no derivs.

Like a lot of you, I spend a lot of time in thrift shops. The above graphic came from a mix tape. (Remember mix tapes? You'd sit down in front of a device called a cassette deck with a stack of vinyls. You'd choose songs from each of the vinyls and dub them onto the tape in sequence). I didn't even look to see what was on that mix tape, but this handmade collage caught my attention.

I have incorporated this graphic into my blog's new header. My sincerest thanks and compliments to the person who created it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

It can STILL happen here.

Like a lot of you, I'm elated that Barack Obama won the election.

Like a lot of you, I'd like to take a well-deserved breather. Nothing wrong with that.

Just remember, it's not over. Not by a long shot. Check out these excerpts from a press release by People for the American Way:

Did you read Paul Krugman's column in Monday's New York Times? On the day before the Blue Wave washed over national and state elections across the country, he asked the important question, "What will defeat do to the Republicans?" and provides several reasons why we can expect the Grand Old Party to take a hard turn to the extreme Right. We agree. With the Right in its new role as "the opposition," get ready to see an invigorated right-wing grassroots, media and organizational infrastructure.

  • The Heritage Foundation is already digging in its heels saying they will not let President-Elect Obama bring about the change he's promised.

  • Right-wing blogs, talk radio and television outlets like Fox News will experience a boom, and new personalities will emerge (remember that the Rush Limbaughs of the world became popular during the Clinton years and the power of the progressive netroots is in many ways attributable to backlash against the Bush administration and right-wing government).

  • With the failure of a Republican presidential candidate who tried to distance himself from the current administration, and the popularity of Sarah Palin, who appealed to the far-right base, many will make the case that the best political strategy is a hard-line and unabashed commitment to right-wing ideology.

  • One of the only victory trends enjoyed by the Right on Tuesday was in anti-gay ballot initiatives in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida and, sadly, even California, emboldening the Religious Right to repeat these tactics in state after state.

  • And finally, with President-Elect Obama and the Democratic Senate in a position to undo many of the Right's most cherished gains in its favorite area of focus: the federal courts -- this, perhaps more than anything else, will energize the Religious Right's grassroots.
...And we can't see a repeat of the early 90's. What happened was that the organized Left went dormant, became complacent and didn't keep the pressure on the administration and Congress to deliver on their promises to America. The Clinton administration was subject to unrelenting attacks from the Right -- as Obama's surely will be -- but too many progressives thought they could stop fighting once the election was over. ...

Read the entire press release here. Yeah, they're soliciting donations, but even if you don't want to contribute money, you need to know that the game is far from over. Stay current. Stay active. The worst thing we can do right now is to slack off. It's never too late for another Republican takeover, one which could make George W. Bush look like a moderate.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


As I sit here, listening to John McCain wax downright rhapsodic about Mr. Obama in his concession speech on WFMU's web-only special program, "Electile Dysfunction", I can only think of the words of the late Phil Rizzuto, who once said "HOOOOOLY COWWWWW!"

Mr. Obama's win was bigger than 1992, when Bill Clinton high-speed coasted to victory leaving the first George Bush in the dust. But remember, Bill Clinton had help in the form of third-party candidate H. Ross Perot, who sucked up a substantial number of Republican votes. Mr. Obama didn't have such an advantage this time around.

More news as it happens!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Shoe Leather Democracy, Part 2

Obama headquarters, Scranton, Pennsylvania.

(Names, except those of candidates, have been changed to protect the innocent).

The last time I blogged about door-to-door canvassing, I was doing voter registration in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a major city in a critical swing state (and the hometown of vice-presidential hopeful Joe Biden). Two weeks ago, I was in Elmira, New York, going door-to-door with our organizer, Janet, for two campaigns; universal health care (the dead issue that won’t go away) and congressional hopeful Eric Massa.

The first thing you learn as a door-to-door canvasser is that there aren’t many people home on a Saturday afternoon, at least none who’ll answer the door when you knock, especially when it’s a few weeks from Election Day! We knocked on several doors in a middle-class neighborhood before being greeted by a sweet gentleman and his family. Seems that he and at least one of his relatives lived on Social Security disability benefits, so when we informed them that Eric Massa’s opponent, Republican incumbent Randy Kuhl, wanted to privatize Social Security (you know, by turning over its trust fund to Wall Street), they were very interested indeed!

Another of our prospects was a 78-year-old widow who had lived through the Great Depression of the 1930's. Like a lot of us, she was convinced that we were looking down the barrel of another one, and she had not a few choice words for the Bush clan. On our way from her house to another, we ran across two young men standing next to their parked truck. When Janet asked them if they were registered to vote, one of them remarked that he had just recently been released from prison. She informed him that as long as he wasn’t behind bars, he had just as much right to vote as anyone else. Our most interesting prospect apart from the widow was an elderly man who’d been in the Navy when John F. Kennedy was president. He related his story about how he had been standing only a few dozen feet away from the president as he reviewed the men on board his ship.


Yesterday, (Saturday) several of us car-pooled once again to the critical swing state of Pennsylvania to canvass door-to-door for Barack Obama. Florence, Harvey, David and I (names once again changed to protect the innocent) all piled in to Florence’s car and drove down route 81, with a spirited discussion of our man’s standing in the polls going all the way down.

As if to remind us of just what is at stake for our nation in this election, we got a surprise when we arrived in Scranton. Normally, organizations which depend on volunteers count on 30 per cent of the people who commit actually showing up. Today was different. Today, all of the people who’d originally committed to help with the day’s work showed up, and then some. I met volunteers from as far away as Columbus, Ohio and New York City. The little storefront, behind a bakery, which served as a satellite office for Obama headquarters in that city was packed. It looked for a while as if we were all going to be fifth wheels. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing. In all the years I’ve been volunteering for political causes and candidates, I had never before seen this kind of turnout. Eventually we were given lists of voters to be contacted and set out for the appropriate neighborhoods.

The first thing you learn about Scranton is that the street corner you’re looking for might not necessarily have a street sign on it. This made our journey to our assigned neighborhood rather interesting. Fortunately, it wasn’t located too far away from a main drag. One of the first people that Florence and I encountered was a man washing his car in his driveway. Florence opened the discussion by asking who he’d planned to vote for. He replied that he had heard reports that Obama favored late-term abortions which involved the killing of babies. His concerns were obviously based upon inflammatory Republican and religious-right rhetoric. I pointed out that late-term abortions were relatively rare and were only done when absolutely necessary. I went on to remark that abortion was a megaton of cure, and that I believed in an ounce of prevention. I reminded him that in localities with legitimate sex education, where students are taught how sex and sexuality really work, and that sex isn’t the great forbidden fruit that Hollywood and popular culture make it out to be, that kids wait longer before becoming sexually active and take proper precautions when they finally do, which cuts pregnancy rates (and therefore abortion rates). Unlike a lot of right-leaning voters, our man seemed receptive not only to my arguments but to Florence’s about the state of the nation and the economy. We left him to his car-washing and wished him well.

The rest of the day went rather uneventfully. A lot of the doors that we knocked on went unanswered. Florence approached a home where three pre-teenaged boys were playing on their front lawn. Florence told one of them she was with the Obama campaign, and asked one of them if their parents were home, which they weren’t. One of the boys remarked, “I’m for McCain, because Obama has nothing to offer. But, I’m a child, so I can’t vote anyway!”.

At one point we got lost. We pulled into a nearby gas station, whereupon Florence asked a pair of young women who were passing by for directions. These recent high-school graduates were very friendly and helpful. Florence gave them some lawn signs and literature about voting rights, and sent them on their way.


It’s not over yet. I’m going to be calling voters in swing states. I’m going door-to-door and dropping off campaign literature. I’m calling and e-mailing everyone I know to remind them to get out and vote tomorrow. You should seriously consider doing the same.

This just in:My sincerest condolences to Barack Obama for the passing of his grandmother, Madelyn "Toot" Dunham.

This also just in: Filmmaker Michael Moore weighs in on tomorrow's election. VERY highly-recommended reading.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The election's over, right?

Picture copyright by Stephanie Yue.

Okay, it’s a little over two weeks to go before the election.

Things look pretty good for Barack Obama. He’s ahead in the polls.

John McCain has conceded one state (Michigan) before the election has even begun*.

Prominent Republicans like conservative media mogul Christopher Buckley and former secretary of state Colin Powell have publicly endorsed Barack Obama.

It looks like our candidate is a shoo-in and we can all just sit back and watch Senator Obama coast to victory. Right?


Don’t slack off. It ain’t over till it’s over. And it’s not over yet.

If you’re going door-to-door, canvassing by phone or soliciting donations, keep on doing it. Do it as much as time will permit.

If you have a good car, please consider giving voters who cannot drive rides to the polls. Check with your local Democratic headquarters, or with independent organizations like Citizen Action about doing that.

If you have the money, please consider donating to’s No Stolen Elections Fund. They plan to publicly expose and legally challenge any and all attempts by the Republican party to prevent people from voting (which they, or sympathetic organizations appear to be doing, even as I write this). There's an excellent web site called which tells you more about voter-suppression and what you can do about it.

If you value your country, if you value your rights, if you value your money, keep on working.

And don’t stop until Mr.Obama becomes America’s first African-American president.

* - In some states, you can vote early by absentee ballot. I would strongly encourage you to do so if you can. Check with your local Board Of Elections, in person if you can. And whatever you do, DON’T mail in your ballot. There’s just too much likelihood of your ballot getting “lost” in the mail, if you know what I mean. Instead, deliver it in person to your local Board Of Elections. If you absolutely, positively can’t get to your Board Of Elections, mail it in certified, return receipt requested.

THIS JUST IN: just sent the following message to everyone on their mailing list (including yours truly). I am including it here because I agree with their thinking points (hyperlinks added by me):

Dear MoveOn member,

If you're an Obama supporter, watching the polls or reading the news can feel pretty good right now. And we should feel good—progressives have worked hard to get this far!

But we can't listen to the pundits who say it's over. Can you share these "Top 5 reasons Obama supporters shouldn't rest easy" with your blog readers—and encourage them to volunteer for Obama between now and Election Day?


1. The polls may be wrong. This is an unprecedented election. No one knows how racism may affect what voters tell pollsters—or what they do in the voting booth. And the polls are narrowing anyway. In the last few days, John McCain has gained ground in most national polls, as his campaign has gone even more negative.

2. Dirty tricks. Republicans are already illegally purging voters from the rolls in some states. They're whipping up hysteria over ACORN to justify more challenges to new voters. Misleading flyers about the voting process have started appearing in black neighborhoods. And of course, many counties still use unsecure voting machines.

3. October surprise. In politics, 15 days is a long time. The next McCain smear could dominate the news for a week. There could be a crisis with Iran, or Bin Laden could release another tape, or worse.

4. Those who forget history... In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote after trailing by seven points in the final days of the race. In 1980, Reagan was eight points down in the polls in late October and came back to win. Races can shift—fast!

5. Landslide. Even with Barack Obama in the White House, passing universal health care and a new clean-energy policy is going to be hard. Insurance, drug and oil companies will fight us every step of the way. We need the kind of landslide that will give Barack a huge mandate.

If you agree that we shouldn't rest easy, please sign up to volunteer at your local Obama office by clicking here:

(This is a condensed version of the URL sent to me by It'll take you to their volunteer sign-up page.).

We're just two weeks away from turning the page on the Bush era—but we can't afford to take our eye off the prize. We've got to keep pushing until the very end.

= = = = = = = = = =

Thank you, I couldn't have said it better!


Senator Obama is temporarily exiting the campaign trail to visit his seriously ailing grandmother in Hawaii this Thursday and Friday (October 24th and 25th). Watch Rachel Maddow's MSNBC video about the situation here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Something to think about...

You might be too young to remember Three Mile Island, one of the worst nuclear accidents in recent memory. Permit me to give you a capsule history:

Basically, something went seriously wrong with a major nuclear power plant’s reactor cooling system, resulting in a partial meltdown. A meltdown is when the enriched-uranium nuclear fuel in a reactor gets too hot to be contained in the form of fuel rods, a form which allows the reaction to be controlled, and literally melts down like candle wax into a giant mass whose criticality, that is, rate of reaction, can no longer be controlled. (That’s how the word “meltdown” got into our vocabulary by the way, because of Three Mile Island).

Company and government officials told us that it wasn’t a serious accident. It turned out that it was.

Company and government officials told us that no significant amount of radiation had leaked into the atmosphere. It turned out that it had.

Company and government officials told us that there was no reason to panic. We panicked, silly us.

Company and government officials told us the reactor site would be cleaned up, the reactor fixed and placed back on-line as soon as possible.

That reactor is still off-line.

Do you see any parallels between Three Mile Island, and what’s now going down on Wall Street?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Notes from the road: Shoe-Leather Democracy

(Image copyright Image Comics. All
rights resererved).

Last Saturday, I did my bit for the cause of hope. I went door-to-door doing voter registration for the Obama campaign.

Pennsylvania is a swing state. If Obama clinches it, he’s probably going to be elected. Obama got a 9-point bounce in the polls after the debate last Thursday, so things look good right now. However, we know from past experience that nothing ever can be taken for granted. We also knew that Obama lost here to Hilary Clinton in last spring’s primaries. If McCain wins in November, given the state of his health, the net result will most likely be a know-nothing moose-hunting beauty queen in the White House for 8 years or more and a Supreme Court completely owned and controlled by corporate CEO’s and television ministries. So a dozen or so of us upstate New Yorkers took up clipboards and pens, grabbed stacks of Pennsylvania voter-registration applications, piled into cars and headed for the Rust Belt city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, about an hour and change south of us. I rode with our organizer, Donna (not her real name, protect the innocent, etc.). I think she was channeling Mario Andretti that morning as she piloted her subcompact car down Route 81, its check-engine light blazing all the way. We got to town in record time.

Obama headquarters is in a theater building not far from Boscov’s department store. Here we briefly mixed with locals working on the campaign as Donna checked in with one of their honchos. There were bagels and cream cheese, which I attempted to avail myself of until I realized that what I thought was a sesame bagel turned out to actually be a garlic bagel. I threw it away because no way did I want to go pitch for Mr. Obama with a breath that could stop a vampire. I had half of a whole-wheat bagel instead. Anyway, Donna soon hustled us back into her car and headed out for our designated turf.

I’ll tell you, if you ever need driving directions, forget Google Maps. It sent us here and there just to make a simple turn. It left street names out on maps. A drunken gas-station attendant could have seriously done a better job. But eventually we got to where we were going, a housing project on the edge of town. I set out with Donna for one side of the street while another volunteer, Harvey (again, not his real name), who’d ridden with us covered the other side.

I knew that convincing people in this particular economic class to register and vote was going to be a very tough sell. I’d attempted to register voters in the projects in my own hometown several years earlier, and while the people a fellow volunteer and I met were by and large decent to us, they made it abundantly clear that they had absolutely no interest whatsoever in participating in a system which they probably believed was keeping them in poverty.

The cross-section of the population of the housing project we arrived at last Saturday was African-American, lots of Hispanics and some white elderly people. The houses themselves were boxy brick-and-wood duplexes, and others containing four apartments each which looked a suspiciously like double-wide trailers. We met several Hispanics who politely told us in broken English that they weren’t interested in voting. They were citizens, not illegals, so there was no issue with immigration, but they were just plain not interested. Donna managed to turn some of these people around and register them anyway (we made a note to bring more Spanish-language registration forms with us next time).

Single mothers proved to be our toughest clients. One was an attractive woman in her late twenties with three children who made a living (though I still don’t see how) working at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant. She was knowledgeable and apparently paid attention to political developments, but was simply turned off to the idea of voting, period. She preferred to leave things up to chance, and that was that. I told her that I believed even voting for the lesser of two evils was better than letting the worst of them win by default. Donna reminded her of how many times John McCain had voted against raising the minimum wage in his career as a senator, but even this argument wouldn’t wash. After trying to convince her to at least register, for over 10 minutes, we bid her goodbye and set out for the other homes in the projects.

Our easiest sells were people over 65, some of whom had no doubt gone through the Great Depression of the 1930's. Many of them were Obama supporters, though we did meet one die-hard Republican who told us that Obama was trailing by 50% or so after last Thursday’s debate. His friend or housemate who was standing nearby reminded him that Obama had in fact gained several points. Donna and I suspected that the guy had been watching Fox News. The most bizarre encounter of the day was a buxom woman of about 60, who appeared outside her front door dressed only in a worn, ripped body-length T-shirt which didn’t hide very much. She proceeded to rant incomprehensibly about Hilary Clinton. She basically repeated the same sentences over and over, ignoring whatever Donna or I said. Finally, Donna and I politely excused ourselves and took off to the next home.

When we’d finished, Harvey had signed up five people, Donna and I had signed up eight. We went downtown to get some lunch and talk strategy with the other volunteers. I noticed that there was a comic shop nearby, so after finishing my meal, I sauntered on over and bought a few interesting titles, including an R. Crumb book which I’d never seen before. On my way out, I thumbed through the new-release shelves and found the book whose cover is reproduced above. When I showed it to the other volunteers, they stormed the comic shop and bought up every last copy.

I’ll be doing it again next weekend. Film at 11.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Good News and Bad News

Photo creative-commons Wikimedia.

My friend Niles is a railroad buff. He’s constantly collecting books and magazine articles about railroading history, and is a co-author of this post.

Recently, he found an issue of Trains magazine from May 1972 that had an interesting article by George W.Hilton called "The view of the viaduct from in front of the diner", recounting a rather odd incident on the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad in 1961.

According to Hilton's account, a westbound Erie-Lackawanna train from New York to Chicago, which he was on at the time, stopped at Hornell, NY, about an hour west of Corning, where things got interesting. Not even half a minute had passed since the train left the station to continue on its way when the engineer suddenly saw that just ahead was an eastbound freight train about to enter the main line at a nearby junction, which meant that his passenger train would be right in its path. Not a happy situation, to be sure. The engineer realized that if he jammed on his brakes right away, the freight would hit one of his head-end cars (the closed cars up at the front, for baggage or freight) and miss his single passenger coach, which was the last car on the train. As it turned out, one of the head-end cars was in fact hit by the freight locomotive, and the other cars derailed, but the passenger car stayed on the rails, apparently safe and sound. When the dust cleared, Hilton got up and jumped from the rear doorway of the coach.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. Hilton writes:

"What seemed odd to me was that two soldiers were running around,
obviously in some agitation, with their rifles over their shoulders
and otherwise ready for action. I hadn't seen them previously... From
where had these soldiers come, and why did they appear in such distress?”

It turned out that the freight car which had been hit had been carrying nuclear weapons. The soldiers were responsible for guarding them. The railroad very wisely called up the Atomic Energy Commission (or AEC, forerunner of the present-day Nuclear Regulatory Commission), who had good news and bad news for them. The good news was that no nuclear components were on board. Those were shipped separately through other channels. The bad news was that since all nuclear weapons contain a fairly powerful conventional-explosive detonator, there was some risk of a fairly big bang. The AEC cautioned the railroad against building a temporary bypass or “shoo-fly” track around the wreck to let other trains pass until a safety engineer could be flown in from Washington to oversee the safe removal of the detonators.

I think that the incident depicted in this article is a great metaphor for the fiscal train wreck we’re now witnessing on Wall Street. The safety engineers, Mr. Bernanke and Mr Paulson are recommending a taxpayer-financed three-quarters-of-a-trillion-dollar “shoofly” (the much-talked-about bailout which as of this writing is still not a done deal) for the criminally-mismanaged firms which ran the train off the track in the first place. The porter, Mr. Bush, is trying to reassure the passengers that everything is under control and there’s no reason to panic. Meanwhile, no one knows, or will say how big the explosion from the damaged lead freight car will be, a recessionary fizzle or a 1929-style Armageddon.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Everything I know I learned from record shopping

Some of the least worthwhile stuff ends up being bestsellers.

Some of the most worthwhile stuff ends up in the bargain bins. .

Some of the stuff at the top of the charts (or in the bargain bins) actually deserves to be there.

Whoever said that you can’t judge a book by its cover never worked in a record shop.

Attractive packaging is no guarantee of quality. In fact, it’s often used to hide mediocrity and shoddiness.

Just because the cover is torn and mildewed doesn’t mean the record inside isn’t worth at least one spin.

Life’s too short not to check out some new things.

“Used” doesn’t necessarily mean “damaged”.

“Virgin” doesn’t necessarily mean “perfect”.

Some things aren’t worth having, even for free.

Better a 7-inch vinyl with one really hot 3-minute song on it than a boxed set containing hours of boredom.

Some days you can spend hour after hour digging in bin after bin and not find anything worthwhile. And sometimes, what you’re looking for jumps right out at you.

Always check the goods before you lay down your money.

When presented with two equally-attractive selections, but only able to take one, pick the one that’s least likely to show up again.

There’s absolute garbage at the flashy place in the mall, and great stuff in the basement of that thrift shop just outside of town.

The quality of a band’s output is often inversely proportional to the amount of hype it gets.

Sometimes even the artist doesn’t believe the hype.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Can it be? Yes it can!

You may count me among the jillions of bloggers who saw Barack Obama’s nomination acceptance speech tonight and had their eyes glaze over, but not from the usual ennui which occurs while watching candidates for public office speak on TV. No, this time it was a magnificent case of not believing what I’m seeing.

African-Americans have held federal office since the late 19th century. But the idea of one getting this close to the presidency, and actually having a fair shot at it has, to say the least, blown this observer’s mind. When I was a kid (a very considerable period of time after the late 19th century), my country was only beginning to get that African-Americans were human beings and ought to be treated like them. Whatever you might think of Senator Obama’s politics, there’s no denying the trail blazed by those who came before and the barriers he himself has crashed through. Racial politics in America will never be the same.

For the record, I intend to vote for Senator Obama. I know better than to think he or any candidate is a knight in shining armor. But I definitely expect better from him than from his rival, Senator John McCain, who, far from being the second coming of George W. Bush is actually far more dangerous. When Ronald Reagan made his infamous “bombing in five minutes” wisecrack in 1984, it was meant as a private joke. He didn’t know he was being recorded. When Senator McCain nonchalantly made light of the idea of attacking Iran by parodying a Beach Boys tune, he did it in front of a roomful of supporters and reporters.

Senator Obama’s got charisma. He’s got class. He’s articulate, smart and as he’s proven by his rise to Democratic presidential nominee, he knows how to get things done. And if he’s elected president, as I hope he is, he will have made history twice.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Great Moments in Advertising (first in a series)

What’s with the third leg?

When this ad for Dingo boots ran, the football superstar who was then known simply as “The Juice” had been traded by the now-defunct American Football League from the Buffalo Bills to the San Francisco 49ers. It would be another 16 years before a pair of more conservative shoes that he wore on a certain evening would become evidence in the murder trial which eclipsed the impeachment of then-president Bill Clinton.

Long, long ago, in a head shop far, far away...

Back in the 1970's, when everyone from President Ford’s son on down “inhaled”, in the Bill Clinton sense of the word, people who couldn’t quite get the hang of rolling their own, who needed to roll lots of product for a party or who just wanted a little more convenience in the whole process bought a cigarette roller, quite possibly like the one pictured here.

The mascot in this ad looks suspiciously like a certain character from the motion picture, Star Wars (now titled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), which came out only a year earlier. Personally, I can’t think of why a protocol robot would need a rolling machine when it’s no doubt been programmed to roll 100 perfect sticks of Tattooine Purple in less time than it takes to power up a lightsaber.

Impress women with your knowledge of impedance!

This advertisement appeared not in a technical journal or audio-hobbyist magazine, but the September, 1978 issue of Penthouse magazine.

Howard W. Sams has been printing technical reference materials for the electronics industry since 1946. They have a well-deserved reputation among technicians and engineers for excellence in that field. But selling a specialized technical manual to the readership of what is politely called a “men’s magazine”? I don’t know about that.

I’ve skimmed the Audio Cyclopedia while sitting in the waiting room at an NPR station. Now out of print, it was a great textbook for anyone who wanted to seriously study the principles of analogue audio. It was an excellent reference guide for anyone who worked in a recording studio, a motion-picture studio, a broadcast facility or an audio or video archive. For anyone else, it was probably too technical and too expensive.

Click any image to enlarge.

The preceding advertisements appeared in Penthouse magazine, September 1978.

Friday, August 15, 2008

This joke isn't funny.

We’ve all gotten junk e-mails from time to time. Most of them are annoying. Some of them are mildly amusing. Still others are dangerous, like the ones claiming to be from your bank and credit card companies but which are really sent to you by identity thieves (“phishing”). Or the ones which promote hysteria. One such e-mail is currently making the rounds:

Subject: Minister With Aids

To those of you who are single or married, saved or not saved, this is for you. I am a 35-year-old African American or Black brother dying of Aids. I would like to share my testimony with you.

I am an owner of a Mortgage Company in Atlanta , GA. I own a 2007 Jaguar and I also own a $350,000 beautiful home in Cobb County .

I have a beautiful Lady who is deeply in love with me and a loving family. But most important, I have Jesus, this is just a wake up call to all single brothers and sisters who are professing to be Christians, but don't want to be complete.

Brothers, I had a beautiful young lady who loves the Lord and worships the ground I walk on. But I still wasn't quite happy because sometimes I would see another sister with a Coca-Cola bottle shape and just wanted to hit it. Because I was using a condom, I thought that I wouldn't catch the killer 'AIDS' but guess what? I did..

And the person I caught it from was a girl that I knew well.

But the condom came off and now I am dying of AIDS. Yes, I wore a condom. But yes it did happen.

God gives us time after time to straighten our lives up. I do know the Lord in the pardon of my sins. I've been saved now for 7 years.

I found out 7 months ago that I had the virus, and now I have full-blown Aids. I really didn't think that I was doing anything wrong, because I would tell the women who I would deal with about the woman I love. I thought that was good enough. But it wasn't.

I am a good man and also a God-fearing man; but my weakness was women... I really wasn't out there like you may think I was, but every once and a while I would see something I wanted to try. My girlfriend is a praying woman. I know now that she was intimate with me because she loved me and she wanted to make me happy.

Now I've given AIDS to the woman I love (who has been faithful to me) because of lust.

Brothers and sisters, what I am telling you is that God is tired of us hurting each other and using each other for self-gratification.

God has given me my home, my dream car and a beautiful woman and I took it all for granted. I've been tithing for 7 years. I am the chairman of my Deacon Board. But when I told my Pastor I had AIDS, he could not believe it because of the way I would carry myself.

Brothers, if you have a sister who loves the Lord and who loves you for who you are and not for what you look like and not for what you have, cherish her.

Sisters. If you have a brother who loves the Lord, love him and cherish him.

My life has been altered. I've been with my lady since I was 20, and I've always used my young age as an excuse for not being loyal and not settling down with the woman I loved. I was being a hypocrite thinking that I was missing something, and not realizing that I had a good woman who loved and adored me.

I wish I had been a real man and had appreciated the good woman God had sent me by not making excuses and dedicating my life to her. I would love to travel and marry this beautiful young Lady, but now I can't.

I've embarrassed my family, my church and my friends. But I was hardheaded and now I must suffer.

God is cleaning up. Stop playing with God. God is revealing the secrets of us Christians. Brothers and sisters, we don't have to have so many 'friends,' you know what we call them. The ones we are planning to sleep with but haven't yet.' We often say that we don't want anyone to know our business, but God is about to reveal something. Especially to us young people.

We think so carnal. But we say that we have been transformed. We have been transformed from what we want to be transformed from. Let's be real. God knows that the opposite sex attracts us. And he knows the desires we have for each other, but we don't have to have multiple partners.

If I could do it all over again, I would marry the woman I love and live happy forever. But now I can't! But you can!

Singles...I gotta tell you, it's not worth it. I love you all!

Get rid of casual sex.

This is really deep. After you've read this, think about yourself. Could this have been you? Some of you may not relate, but think about anything you are doing right now that is not of God.

We are living in the last and final days, and pretending to be saved is not going to cut it. Professing that He is Lord, and yet worshiping the devil every chance you get will lead you to the same path as me. Get your mind out of the gutter and put it in the Word of God and you'll have great success. Don't and you'll have great woe.

I love the LORD and thank Him for all that He does in my life; therefore, I'm passing this on. Yes, I do love Jesus who has forgiven me of the repeated sins. That forgiveness does not cancel out the consequences, at least not so far. But that's on me. Still, the Lord is my source of existence and Savior. He keeps me functioning each day and is letting me share my story with you.

I'm telling it like it is. THIS REALLY is to help somebody. Without Him, I will be nothing. Without Him, I am nothing but with Him I can do all things. Phil 4:13

If you love Jesus, send this to lots of people!!!!!! Be Positive - Be Progressive...Take the time to make a positive difference in someone's life.

Minister Anthony J. Cox

God Bless

And I thought that Reverend Jimmy Swaggart was pitiful. This inflammatory screed apparently hasn’t hit yet, but I suspect that it won’t be long.

First, these chain letters (messages which you’re expected to forward to all your friends and relatives) are spam. They’re written and circulated by people with far too much time on their hands and nothing constructive to do with it.

Second, while unprotected sex is certainly inadvisable in this day and age, the idea of a man catching HIV - zap! - the very second his condom fails is ludicrous. I know of at least two instances where a married man whose wife caught AIDS from a blood transfusion stayed uninfected even though they continued to have unprotected sex until the wife was diagnosed long after the fact. One was Paul Michael Glaser who played Detective David Starsky in the 1970's action/comedy TV program “Starsky & Hutch”. His wife Elizabeth, who died from AIDS in 1994, was diagnosed with HIV ten years earlier, about 3 years after his daughter Ariel was born (she was also HIV-positive and died from AIDS in 1988). The other was a man named “Pete”, a friend of National Public Radio film reviewer Bob Mondello. As with Elizabeth Glaser, Pete’s wife became pregnant before she was diagnosed. Pete’s wife and child died of AIDS, Pete remained uninfected.

This is not to advocate unprotected sex, or to minimize these peoples' terrible losses, but hopefully you see my point.

Third, there are treatments for HIV and AIDS now which didn’t exist when Pete’s wife and Elizabeth Glaser became infected. While a cure still hasn’t been found, we’ve come a very long way from the days of AZT and hopeless despair.

Lastly, let's all stop demonizing "casual sex" (read: sexual relations between reasonably intelligent but unmarried adults). Ignorance and carelessness. are what spreads HIV, not "casual sex". By the way, the one part of America with the greatest number of new AIDS cases is the deep south, the most moralistic, socially-conservative part of America. What does that tell us?

HIV/AIDS is a serious matter. Let’s treat it like one, and not make a moralistic anti-sex crusade or a stupid practical joke out of it. For solid facts on this pestilence that has been in our face for far too long, check out:

The Body - Lots of information, some of it a bit technical, but factual and without moralization. - As the name suggests, it's geared toward high school and college-age people, but still has plenty of useful information for people of all ages.
National Public Radio hosted a call-in program about AIDS on August 5th. They've also got a blog to accompany the on-air discussion.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

“This is a plausible theory”

The BBC has been a wellspring of world-class reportage for many years. For detailed reports about world events to pithy, hard-hitting in-depth news analysis, the BBC has no competition.

Recently the Beeb ran a story about studies done on prostate cancer by Australian researchers. The researchers concluded that frequent solo-sex sessions could significantly reduce a man’s chances of coming down with prostate cancer by regularly flushing toxins which can cause prostate cancer out of a man’s reproductive system.

So, solo sex now joins more common fitness regimens like jogging, weight-lifting and dieting. Though I strongly suspect that people will be a lot more inclined to stick with it than the latter three!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Maybe we're taking the wrong approach...

Word is that the United States Department of Energy is working on a new generation of nuclear weapons. The Pentagon doesn't even want them. Peace groups are naturally up in arms at this development. They claim, rightly in my humble opinion, that building new nukes only encourages other nations to go nuclear as well.

The late Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Rokyo once suggested that instead of trying to curb gun violence through gun control, guns should be as plentiful and ubiquitous as ballpoint pens. He cited as an example an armed robber trying to victimize a subway car full of people. The prospect of being on the wrong end of not one, but dozens of revolvers and automatics would presumably make a criminal think twice about pulling off a job like that.

Which leads me to my point. Attempts to limit the spread and manufacture of nuclear weapons, by peace groups and governments over the last 60 years, have been an uphill battle at best, fruitless at worst. The big nations want them, well, just because, and the little nations want them to protect themselves from the big nations and from neighboring countries that they don't get along with. So, instead of going against the flow, instead of trying to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons, let's give every country on earth, from the biggest superpowers to the smallest island nation, nuclear missiles and bombs.

Before you question my sanity, hear me out. I'm in no way beating the drums for Armageddon. Quite the opposite. I believe that if every government knows that any military adventure could result in mutual assured destruction, they'd probably think twice about engaging in them. Wars over resources would be replaced by vigorous negotiations. Border disputes would be settled by teams of surveyors rather than by armies. And tyrants would have to seriously reconsider their plans for world conquest.

Is this wishful thinking on my part? Probably. But if you can think of a better way to insure human survival, please let me know!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Martial Law Declared! Elections Postponed Indefinitely!

Citing civil disturbances arising from the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the Bear-Stearns bailout and skyrocketing oil prices, President Bush announced today that all civil liberties would be suspended effective immediately and until further notice. He also announced the indefinite postponement of the upcoming presidential election.

(Sorry, just kidding! April fool!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

April 15th is just around the corner!

"Only little people pay taxes!"
attributed to Leona Helmsley

Is this what Adam Smith had in mind as the founder of capitalism?

The following are passages from Susie Bright's blog:

... Jimmy [Cayne] is the disgraced former Bear Stearns CEO whose company went kablooey this week, but which was saved by a bailout the Feds engineered with... our tax dollars.

Funny, I was just working on my taxes. Also this week, twenty thousand California teachers got their pink slips, taking our state to the the absolute bottom in public education spending.

But Jimmy and the other Bear Stearns blowhards need my money more.

Jimmy just closed a deal on a twin set of adjacent apartments at the famous Plaza Hotel (home of Eloise!) for $28.24 million.

Altogether, Jimmy and wife will have 6,000 square feet at the Plaza, plus room service, maid service, a concierge, and stunning views of Central Park. I'm so glad everything is working out for them!...

And after all, it's these people's fault that their fortunes went up in smoke, just as it is to Jimmy Cayne's credit that he's found a golden parachute. Right. ...

Read the whole thing here.

(And remember, since Ms. Bright's usual journalistic beat is sex vis a vis politics, this link may not be work-safe).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to remove a bumper sticker

"America is just a Latin dictatorship!" - Abbie Hoffman

A friend of mine has weighed in on the recent character-assassination (under very shady circumstances) of Eliot Spitzer. (That he was complicit in said assassination is beside the point):

Songs for the headlines:

O'Jay's "the Love of Money" and

ABBA's "Money Money Money"

Listen with a sense of irony to the latter, because, as of yesterday,
it ain't even a really rich man's world.

Oh yeah- how to remove a political bumper sticker from your car- in my
case with regret, because it is the only one I have ever applied [“Spitzer 06”]. Body
temperature tears of shock and disappointment won't do it, but there are
no dangerous solvents required:

Boil a teakettle of water and pour half a kettleful of water back and
forth, slowly across the top edge of the bumper sticker, over the height
and width of it. Plastic bumper stickers peel off in 1/4 of a NY
minute. Make yourself a pot of chamomile tea and consider our life and
times for a few cupfuls.

The time it will take to get over the destruction of of this excellent
NY governor is a lot longer than it takes to drink 2 cups of tea. If
Mr. Spitzer had had the chance to stay in office a term or two, would
have transformed how America does business.

I wonder if it is the enmity of the banking industry or the mob or the
vested business interests which are the puppeteers of the Federal
Government (or all 3) that dug up this dirt. Surely it was not just the

I wonder why those who knew handed over the goods just now. I
would watch other news items given much less prominent play for the
answer, with special attention to legislation and policies just being
passed. Just like 9-11, what was *not* in the news was much more important
than what was. Watch especially for laws rammed through in late night/
early morning sessions, you newsies.

I am guessing it may have something to do with [NY State Attorney General] Andrew Cuomo's recent
sifting of the Pearson cat box, the Halliburton of textbooks, on line
education "systems" and "deep" IT/ pre-emptive BI and PR, contractors to the
US Departments of Education and Defense, among many other important

It could be Cuomo's fingering of Ingenix, its parent company,
UnitedHealth Group and three additional subsidiaries, the nation’s largest
providers of health care billing systems which enabled billions of health
insurance consumers to be defrauded by automated manipulation of
reimbursement rates, rigging the data for the largest insurers in the country:
Aetna, CIGNA, and Empire BlueCross BlueShield. If you didn't know it,
the health insurance racketeers are not only more powerful than the
Federal Government, they are more powerful than God and screw everyone,
rich or poor with the help of the distancing new technology provided by
voice-recognition-enabled circular Internet customer service routing,
call-center customer service ranking.

Maybe you have your theories????

One thing for sure, this is not about how Elliot Spitzer has a good
time. It is surely about how most of the rest of us don't.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why should Republicans have all the fun?

Dear Governor Spitzer:

How could you?

I'm not talking about your dalliances with a call-girl. As certain Republicans and other professional moralists have demonstrated time and again, that kind of thing is par for the course these days. No, I'm talking about how you ignored your better judgment and took the advice of the gubernatorial assistant in your pants.

Back when you were The Sheriff of Wall Street, you should have known that you had some very powerful enemies who would want nothing more than to get revenge on you. When you became governor, with a mandate to dismantle and reconstruct New York's notoriously dysfunctional state government, you should have expected that those who have benefited from the status quo for decades would stop at nothing to frustrate and discredit you. You should have behaved accordingly, refusing to give your enemies any easy opportunity to strike. Instead, you literally bared your flanks.

At least you didn't insult our intelligence by telling us that you did not have sex with that woman. I personally hope that you do survive this incredible blunder. There have certainly been people in Albany and Washington who have done things many orders of magnitude worse than what you've been accused of. And unlike some, I do not wish to see you cop out and resign from office. After over three decades of watching my home state sink further and further into decline, no thanks at all to certain governors who went before you, you were, and in my humble opinion are still, a breath of very fresh air.

Don't screw up like this again, OK?

ADDENDUM - Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks that someone in Washington's not merely prosecuting wrongdoing here, but is actively trying to smear Governor Spitzer.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Vonage Out, In with POTS

Enough is enough.

After having had my fill of their mediocre-to-non-functional telephone service, I closed my Vonage account this morning. And I'll tell you that it was no easy task. First of all, I could find no contact information on their official web site. So I filed a complaint with the New Jersey Better Business Bureau. After about 3 weeks, Vonage e-mailed me a copy of the message they sent to the BBB in response to my complaint, in which their representative said “As stated in the Terms of Service, for the purpose of security, customers are required to contact us if they wish to discontinue the Service. “. Yeah, right.

I called the number mentioned in their letter (1-866-243-4357), and was connected to a Mr. Lopez in a back-office in the Philippines. (Why any American firm has to farm out so-called customer service to some poor schlubs halfway around the world, who are probably getting paid far less than what typical American phone slaves used to earn, is beyond me, but hey, that's progress, right?) Even though I made it clear that I wanted to terminate my Vonage account immediately if not sooner, Mr. Lopez kept on trying – again , again and again - to sell me more Vonage gimmicks and service plans, even offering to charge me only half my monthly fee for I guess 6 months or so if I stayed with them. For several minutes Mr. Lopez and I had a pointless back-and-forth exchange in which I would reiterate my request to terminate my account and Mr. Lopez would immediately ignore my request with an "OK, but..." and then toss out another Vonage come-on. When I told him I didn't want to hear any more scripted sales pitches, he replied that he was making them not from scripts but “from the heart”. Oh, please!

After about 5 more minutes of that, I told him in no uncertain terms that I was no longer interested Vonage in any way, shape manner or form, and asked him one last time to terminate my account. Then I hung up.

A few minutes later my Vonage line stopped functioning, which indicated to me that Mr. Lopez had finally honored my initial request. The fact that I was now disconnected was confirmed when I made a follow-up call to Vonage at the same toll-free number. This time, I got a “Rafael” who said he was located in Vonage's corporate headquarters in Holmdel, NJ. I asked Rafael what I should do with the interface box Vonage supplied me with now that I was no longer a customer. He told me that it was not necessary for me to ship it back, and that I would not be charged for it.

I have never had an experience like this with Verizon, Time-Warner or AT&T. Never before have I been treated in such a hucksterish, unprofessional manner. It'll be interesting to see if I continue to get charged by Vonage for the service that I am now not receiving. Oh yes, I'm told that the New Jersey Attorney General's office has one person in it whose job it is to handle complaints about Vonage.

So much for voice over IP (VOIP). It's back to standard phone service I go.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tough shit, Dubya (why there might be hope after all)

"Congress' failure to pass this legislation was irresponsible. ... It will leave our nation increasingly vulnerable to attack. ... It is unfair and unjust to threaten [telecommunications] companies with financial ruin only because they are believed to have done the right thing and helped their country". - President Bush in his weekly radio address, 23-February-08

In a rare display of spine, Democrats in the House Of Representatives let the dishonestly-named “Protect America Act” expire rather than permanently sanction the lawless practice of warrantless wiretapping and grant legal immunity to the telecommunications companies which made it happen. President Bush practically accused the Democrats of handing the country over to our enemies on a silver platter.

Dubya, I've got a newsflash for you. America has always had enemies. And you know what? We've dealt with them. And we did it without turning America into a Stalinistic surveillance state.

For instance, ever hear of Adolf Hitler? He was one of the worst criminal sociopaths ever to hold high office. He had a powerful army at his disposal. He was bent on conquering the world, and he almost did it. He declared war on America while his buddy, Japanese Emperor Hirohito was using his air force to bomb the hell out of our naval base at Pearl harbor. It was the most destructive war in human history, but we won it. Did we have wartime security? We sure did. But our government basically left the Constitution intact. When authorities caught a gang of Nazi spies in the New York area, they followed standard criminal law proceedings. The spies were arrested, tried, convicted of espionage, and then executed on New York State's electric chair. No USA PATRIOT Act, no warrantless wiretapping.

How about the Soviet Union? Talk about an enemy. Their leaders once vowed “We will bury you!” No mere ramshackle gang of terrorists with box cutters, they had the world's largest army. They had enough nuclear weapons to reduce not just our country but the entire planet to a fine, radioactive mist. Some were on military bases, some were being moved constantly on railroads and still others traveled unseen on submarines, each of which could carry enough nuclear missiles to wipe out several major U.S. cities in one go. We eventually defeated the Soviet Union, without turning our society into a mirror of their failed totalitarian state.

Pardoning telecom companies for being accomplices in your unwarranted, wrongful surveillance of thousands of law-abiding American citizens would mean the final triumph of official lawlessness. You claim that it was vital for national security. I say to you that gathering dirt on citizens is nothing but a classic instrument of tyranny.

It would be tempting to call you a tyrant, Mister Bush, but that would be unnecessarily glorifying you. All I see in you is a pitiful man who has had everything handed to him all his life by his rich and well-connected daddy, who has never had to do any real work in his life, let alone fight alongside other members of his generation in the Vietnam war. Your drug and alcohol abuse has led you to embrace a twisted, perverted version of religion and given you the paranoiac notion that you are doing God's will. I'm glad that the House of Representatives has finally lived up to its name and, at least this time, delivered you the defeat that you deserve.

Monday, February 18, 2008

More than a jittery feeling

"I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards." - Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Michigan campaign stop, January 18, 2008

Under the heading of “Stranger than Fiction”:

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is jazzing up his campaign by playing bass guitar in a band he calls “Capitol Offense” (yuk, yuk, yuk!!). Joining him for part of his campaign tour is Barry Godreau, a former member of the 1970's arena-rock band, Boston. One of the tunes Capitol Offense has featured is the 1976 hit single, “More Than A Feeling”, which has also been used as background music in a Huckabee campaign ad. Trouble is ,Tom Scholz, lead singer-songwriter of Boston and the guy who wrote that song didn't give his permission for it to be performed in public, let alone by a band fronted by a man who if elected would probably do whatever it took to get rock music (and “liberal media” news) off of every radio station in America.

Mr. Scholz has publicly expressed his disapproval for Mr. Huckabee's philosophy in general and Mr. Godreau's actions in particular. Mr. Godreau has pretty much chosen to ignore Mr. Scholz's admonishments. Fred Bramante, who was chairman of Huckabee's New Hampshire campaign chimed in: "Gov. Huckabee plays 'Sweet Home Alabama.' Does that mean Lynyrd Skynyrd is endorsing him? He plays 'Louie Louie.' Does that mean the Kingsmen are endorsing him?"

Regardless of whoever does or doesn't endorse Governor Huckabee (who by the way, stands a good chance of becoming John McCain's running mate since McCain has to somehow appease the religious right), what bothers me the most is the image of a virulent, avowed religious extremist trying to make himself look like a regular guy by playing in a band that covers classic rock tunes.