Monday, February 27, 2012

Springtime 2012

It's still early in 2012, but I do believe that this absurd imitation of a winter is drawing to a close, giving way to  . . . guess what . . . Springtime . . . I know, I know. It's early and there remains plenty of time for spring white stuff . . . you know . . . schnee . . .
So, here's my take on it so far . . .

And on that republican Gong Show. Well, like all really, really bad stuff, this too shall end. But lest we forget, here's a way to think on that dreary affair.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Obama, Clinton & JFK

We have begun watching a little series on the Clinton era.  I was unsure how I would feel, but watching him and Hillary, together again, brings back a sort of fondness I had only experienced once before—while watching JFK as a much younger person (me not him).  There was always a sense of promise while watching them both, a promise missing from the current antedeluvial men roaming the countryside in search of  votes from the fringes of the Christian right wing—the Taliban wing. However flawed they were, Clinton and JFK brought a freshness to our political scene and a sense that our political leadership really did intend to bring something positive to the country that it needed. This crop of republican oligarchs and theocrats (well, to be fair, only Santorum is a true theocrat) presents in contrast a disheartening spectre, a true menace to our fair land.
Bill Clinton brought an energy to the table that I found exciting. That he failed to deliver on his full promise was disappointing, but perhaps predictable. His personal flaws, coupled with the negative energy flowing over us from the Gingrich revolution practically guaranteed that he would deliver less than he promised.
To be fair, I had this same sense of a “breath of fresh air” when Obama replaced the imbecile Shrub. But as president, he has underperformed, mainly I think because he has been dealing with a Congress that is spectacularly negative in opposition. He gives in too often, sometimes ahead of the negotiations, much as his recent corporate tax overhaul, a gift to our corporate leaders  in advance of the negotiations on the tax code.
Still, a President Obama so far surpasses anything the royalists at Republican Central and their Christian Taliban serfs are offering the country that I just need to be patient with our president. JFK he isn’t . . . yet.
And on another front, as I was listening to NPR this morning, they were reporting on the recent Arizona pseudo-debate that took place last evening. They were speaking with one of the faithful; who had attended. He seemed borderline crazed. He said that he hated Obama, that he had destroyed the country, and that were he to be re-elected, he thought, despite his age of 80 years, he would move to another country.  My first thought was, bravo . . . please go. But then I thought, but where could he go? Who would take him? Then a brilliant thought came to me (it was 5:15 in the morning remember). Why don’t you find yourself a wormhole somewhere and travel back to 1933 Nazi Germany, you racist pig? They would welcome you there.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It’s Been a While Mom

A while ago, my brother left this world and I wrote a little tribute to him, my appreciation for a life well lived.  It is now coming near to another birthday of old—my mother. She left this world a while ago—in 1980, having rented a space here since 1899.  So she managed to traverse parts of two centuries.
But much as my brother exceeded all my expectations of a brother, husband, father, and all around good man, so too did my mom surpass any reasonable expectations for the good mother.

Many women who become moms manage to get some help in this enterprise called family and child-rearing, the help coming from folks called fathers/husbands. In our case, the father-husband of the household was mostly missing in action. I have never been sure why he was only rarely present. Nobody ever seemed to talk about it. But it is a fact that he was gone more than he was around.
Now, until my brother decided on his own to not only graduate from high school, but went on to complete college, no one in our family, to my knowledge, had ever gone beyond high school and most never reached high school. To be fair, we are talking late 19th and early 20th century life, when education was more the province of the upper classes than now. So, with no education or trade skills, my father became a drifter. He drank often and to excess on more than one occasion. I am told that at one time he played a violin well enough to land a job at the CBS radio orchestra. However, although I once spied a violin in our apartment flat, never did I see or hear him play . . . not a note. So, whether he was just not good enough, or more likely that he drank too much and so lost his precious position, I cannot say. However, raising three kids during the 1920’s and 1930’s cannot have been much fun for the lower classes, the group to which we were firmly affixed, so perhaps the stress got to him.
My mom managed somehow to get enough training in bookkeeping to get herself employed during the war as a bookkeeper for Gibbs and Cox, as best I understand it, a naval architectural firm that designed surface warships for the US Navy. Apparently, the job she held paid well enough for mom to pay for a “railroad flat” on Second Avenue in Manhattan, near 71st Street. We lived in several such places as I remember it, but this one actually had a bathroom within the flat. The previous unit in which we lived had a bathroom in the hallway between two flats.

Each time my father came home for one of his brief stays (generally by whining) we would have some brief periods of calm, followed by another storm after which Rudy, the pseudo-father figure would depart. But in between all these bouts of sturm und drang, my mom kept on truck’n. She went to work every day, without fail, and brought home a paycheck routinely. She managed even to buy war bonds and thereby to put away about $3000 during the war. This all without financial help from Rudy. See, when he left, he never sent home any money. Mom had to keep on by herself.
And Mom did all this, continuing to raise her three kids by herself, while also periodically having to care for her aging parents, who were fast running out of money, thanks to the Republican banking and stockbroker-induced Great Depression. Mom never once complained about her life, which, seen in retrospect, was a tad depressing.  She never bad-mouthed her deadbeat husband. She just worked, and tucked me in at night.
After the war (WW II for those still paying attention) my mom had these war bonds which she had accumulated. She thought that maybe life in New York City wasn’t such a hot idea for a family with little money. Mainly, she was afraid what the city would do to her kids.  Our sister was by then married, but my brother and I remained within her care. And she worried.  We were, I guess, the original latch-key kids.  So, she took her savings and went upstate a bit to look for a place to buy. She found a little place in Rockland County, in a little village called New City Park. There was a little house that had been a clubhouse for this little village by a lake.  My grandpa—Grandpa Inglis, who had been a carpenter and sometime house-builder before the Depression, agreed to fix up the place and convert it into a two-bedroom house, with a proper kitchen and bathroom.  So, buy it she did and fix it up he did, all of course, with no help from Rudy.
Then my mom extracted my brother and I from our life in Manhattan, and moved us to “the country”. But, the move was accompanied by yet another of Rudy’s home-comings. He came home just before the move. He agreed to get a job in New City or Nanuet and to take care of us, while Mom continued with her job in New York City. She even bought him a car, so he could go to work.  Wow, we were to become a two-income family.
So, Bill and I enrolled in the local schools—me in Chestnut Grove, a K-8 grammar school, and Bill in the Spring Valley High School.  Bill had been going to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, so Spring Valley would be quite a change from his high-performance, big-city high school. But, we began life in “the country.”

That pastoral period lasted about six months. One morning, during a very cold winter, our oil heater failed. Rudy, not one to solve problems, decided that it was obviously time to leave again. So, without even a fare-thee-well, Rudy took off in Mom’s car and left his two sons to cope.  Bill did the obvious. He called Mom in the City. She did what she always did. She dropped whatever she was doing, left behind her life in Manhattan and came to New City Park. She quickly got the heater fixed and almost as quickly got herself a new job, this time with Widman’s Bakery, a local firm in Spring Valley.  And Mom just kept on truck’n. Again, she never bothered to complain. She just did what was necessary for her kids. In that, Mom never waivered.
So, Daisy—Mom, your birthday’s coming around again. You would have been 113 years old on this February 23rd.  You didn’t make it that far—almost no one does.  But I wanted you to know that we all noticed. You always performed. You were a great Mom and when the going got tough, you always remained firm. You stuck by your kids, always, always. And we noticed. As a family, we weren’t much on talking, so maybe we never got around to telling you how much we appreciated you as our Mom.

You were great. And I will always remember that about you. I have not forgotten you Mom. None of us forgot you. We all loved you much. I’m the only one left, so I wanted you to know that, wherever you are, you were a Mensch while here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Braindead GOP

Quote of the Day

"Garry Wills, NYR Blog
Wills writes: "Rick Santorum is a nice smiley fanatic. He does not believe in evolution or global warming or women in the workplace. He equates gay sex with bestiality (Rick 'Man on Dog' Santorum). He equates contraception with the guillotine. Only a brain-dead party could think him a worthy presidential candidate."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Today marks our 57th Valentine's together. So we wish to send Valentine's greetings to all the lovers out there.
And to mark the occasion further, Slate Magazine had a lovers photo contest that we won along with 19 other lover couples. It was to tell a love story in three pictures. Here is our picture below, and here is the URL to the Slate article. We appear on the second page.
Again. Happy Valentine's.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The McIntosh Model Industry

In 1968, I bought a new stereo system, soon after arriving back in America after four years living in India. For that system, I went to the very best on the market—a McIntosh power amplifier and a McIntosh stereo receiver, both made by the legendary McIntosh Labs in Binghamton, in upstate New York State.  It is important to note that McIntosh Labs has nothing to do with Apple. Apple was not yet a gleam in Steve Jobs’ mom’s eye when our system was purchased. We bought a McIntosh MC 2505 power amplifier, and a McIntosh MX 512 tuner-preamplifier, the first fully solid state equipment the McIntosh Labs had developed.  In the old days, when dinosaurs still roamed freely, McIntosh equipment employed very large vacuum tubes. These new units left all that behind in the dust.

Now, guess what? These units continue to work their magic today. Yes, 43 years later. The McIntosh equipment continues to function and function beautifully. It makes me wonder how many of Apple’s I-Pads/Pods/phones will still be functioning in 2055. Oh, but to be fair, the Apple stuff is made in China.
In 1969, I purchased a Rolex “Oyster Perpetual Date” wrist watch—remember wrist watches of old??? It is a self-winding watch that, guess what, still self-winds and still keeps accurate time.  The same can be said for my Rolex gold pocket watch, one of the Cellini collection, purchased in 1966. It is an old fashioned wind-up watch. But, it still keeps accurate time. But, again, to be fair, neither of these watches were made in China.
So, what’s the point of this discussion? Well, I have been thinking for some time about Crap—made in China—and quality, mostly made elsewhere.  And I’m tired of all the crap.  So, I have been wondering whether anybody else in America is tired of all the crap, made in China, foisted off on us by pseudo-American companies who make believe they actually make things, but mostly import them from China.  It really does seem to be the case that we have no industrial capacity to make much of anything (aside, I guess, from nuclear bombs) any longer. Once US industrialists (we will really have to come up with a different term for these guys) discovered that cheap was the sole criterion of interest and that cheap meant high profits to them, even if it also meant no jobs for the middle class, it was “Katy bar the door.” I guess American industry has been moving to other shores for decades now, but it seems to have been accelerating in these early decades of the new century. It seems almost impossible to buy anything now that is not made in China. And what about all these goodies made in China? Well, my take is that they are mostly all just crap. China now is the world’s largest producer of crap—merchandise made expressly to fill land dumps.  Not too long ago, I was shopping at Sears, looking for a leaf blower. I asked a salesman whether he could help me find a leaf blower not made in China. His response? “Sorry sir, I can’t help you there.”
So, now, I’m thinking of a new department in, say, Home Depot (pick your own store). It would be called, “Not Made in China”. They would have tools and other products that are high quality, reliable (remember those characteristics?)  AND NOT made in China.  And after Home Depot proves the marketing success of such a venture, I can see stores springing up all over America, many featuring quality, reliable products actually made in the good old US of A.
Now almost assuredly, these quality, reliable products would cost more than the crap made in China. Such products always did cost more. So, the profit margins might not be as high per unit as the crap made in China. But those products might begin to recreate the American middle class, and we might once again have pride in Made in America.  Doesn’t that sound good??
I should note that this idea should probably await the end of the great Gong Show known affectionately as the Republican Presidential Primaries, since anything that might be good for America would be dismissed by the Republican candidates as Obama’s Folly.
Just a thought.