Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Part 2 Published

Part 2 of my series The Coolest Movie Cars With the Coolest Drivers is out: http://www.motoringnortheast.com

This one discusses Bullitt, with that awesome chase scene. Steve McQueen and a Mustang. Doesn't get cooler than that...

Valli Values

Values are important to me, and I'm often amazed at what other people value. I read a recent interview with Four Seasons singer Frankie Valli (not his real name), and he stated he was proud of the fact that he never took unemployment. On the other hand, he said that he had, in his youth, robbed grocery stores...

Let's see now-- a program that offers temporary assistance to workers who have had their work taken away (through no fault of their own) is somehow a bad thing in his mind. Hmm. Well, as a former recipient of a period or two of unemployment, I fail to see the inherent evil in being able to buy groceries for my family and keep a roof above our heads. Am I missing something? Is it so terrible to have a safety net for millions of workers who are victims of corporate greed, mismanagement, and/or a bad economy?

Yeah, I suppose so. Better to fall back on good old American self-reliance and pulling onesself up by one's own bootstraps. By Valli values, when one needs money, one just picks up a nearby gun and robs a guy trying to earn his living. Think of your fellow humans and those who work as your own private ATM. 'No evil unemployment for me, that's weakness-- when I need cash, I get it the old-fashioned way-- I steal it!'

So he won't take a payback for something earned, but he will rip the food from someone else's hand and leave them hungry. Oh, nice.

Imagine if we all felt like this twerp? Too stupid and proud to participate in getting by the rational way, we all start robbing each other. Given our current rates of joblessness, about 15-20% of us would soon be engaged in crimes against each other. Our civilisation would soon end.

Social programs like unemployment have been set up because modern life and our economic system have a way of hammering workers. We have a system that demands continuous employment, but all factors converge to constantly put people out of work! It is insane. One way of keeping us from attacking each other for basic necessities is to provide a stopgap method of easing us through crises.

But this dumb mook publicly disses that idea. Screw the social contract, it's a bad value for him. For me, a bad value is sticking a gun in someone's face to steal their money. I have no tolerance for those who would be stupid, and vicious, and prey upon their fellow man, when there's a smart, rational way of helping everyone.

What a concept. Walk Like a Man, indeed.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Days

When I was young, Summer seemed endless. I didn't have many requirements on my time, and long days could be spent on whatever activity I wanted. Now at my age and current situation, the days of Summer fly by in a whirl and are gone like a fast-food meal. Whole seasons go by in the blink of an eye. It'll be Labor Day, and I'll blink and wonder what happened to June, July, and August.

We lived out in the country, and I roamed through forest and field. Anyplace that was farther than a walk, I rode my bike. We didn't have personal music devices, unless you count a transistor radio. We didn't have personal computers of any kind. No cellphones or texting. There were no movies available on television, unless it was a movie of the week, and that was only at night. So apart from reading (which I did a lot of), you had to create your own diversions. No one was there to make sure you were occupied. If you were bored, you had to figure it out for yourself how to get unbored. Parents left the house early and were gone until late afternoon, almost suppertime.

We didn't have any neighbors, unless you count the cemetery, and the inhabitants weren't very lively companions. If you wanted to see a friend, you rode the miles over to their house (on a bike while not wearing a helmet). But if you called them, and they weren't right by the phone to take the call, you couldn't reach them, as answering machines weren't around either.

Many kids my age were outside for most of the day during the Summer months. We didn't wear sunscreen, and we didn't wear bug repellent, unless we were camping in the woods or by a lake. Now to merely sit outside on my deck for a few minutes, I have to slather myself with various gooey chemicals.

And if I want to drink water from my tap, I have to have it specially filtered through an expensive system. Back when I was a kid, if you said you paid money for plain water, people would have thought you were crazy, or really stupid. So why don't we have clean water we can trust, running from our home faucets? When and why did that become acceptable?

There are so many things to do now, so many committments and tasks to do. If I had the rest of the Summer off, I still wouldn't get everything done. But I don't just hurry through a long to-do list, I like to linger, to enjoy lovely Summer days. Yesterday we were at the Lowell Folk Festival, and it was a magnificent day for us, sitting in the shade, feeling the cool breeze, and listening to world-class music. About the only thing that could have made it better for me would have been to be on a sailboat.

So today is less sunny, but still a nice Summer day. And I'm at a computer, like I am almost every day of the week. Maybe I'll take a break and get outside...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Article Published

It's been a busy time. The good news is, my latest article is out on the NE Motoring website: http://www.motoringnortheast.com

It's Part 1 of a series about the coolest movie cars and drivers.

My Number One pick has to be James Bond in Goldfinger driving the Aston Martin DB-5. Looks great, and was tricked out by the weapons specialists to be lethal to Bond opponents. I wanted one before I was even old enough to drive.

The movie is great. Bond is at his best: cheating a cheater at golf, showing the only true fear in a Bond film (when a laser slices a deadly path for Bond's loved ones), and fighting a martial arts tank in Fort Knox and then being chained to an atomic bomb. And looking cool and sophisticated the whole time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Songs of Life

Does music matter to you?
What are the songs that define your life?
If someone was looking to understand what your journey on this earth has been, what songs would represent that?

What tunes, what melodies, what lyrics are relevant to you? What has meaning? What just makes you feel good? Does a song remind you of a lost love, a happy time, or something else entirely?

Put a list together. See what comes up. Maybe a few serious songs, a few party songs, a few silly, a few expressing what you feel…


Born to be Wild
Wild Thing
You Made Me So Very Happy
Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n Roll
I Did it My Way
Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat
Amazing Grace
Blowin' in the Wind
La Vida Loca
Singin' in the Rain
I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sorry Charlie (with apologies to the tuna)

So the newspapers (remember those?) say that Charlie Baker, a rich, tall, Republican businessman, has announced he wants to run for governor of Massachusetts. You'll pardon me if I don't cheer, and if I don't vote for him. You see, Charlie Baker stole my Christmas…

A few years ago, I worked for a company that worked for Charlie's company, helping him get richer, and make his company a top healthcare operation. But we couldn't get the nice healthcare we helped provide for others; instead, we got the third-world-type crap package, even though we got all the emails about how wonderful they were to everyone else who got the nice treatment. One day at work I had chest pains, and dutifully went to get it checked out. 24 hours later, they'd found nothing and left me with $2500 in bills. Hundred bucks an hour to find nothing- you call that being "covered"? Good thing I wasn't in for a few days, we'd be bankrupt.

And then Charlie and company made some bad business deals, and told the subcontractors to cut back. So a lot of people lost their livelihood around Christmastime, me included. My wife had just ordered me a gift, something I'd been wanting for a long time. We sent it back, and it was a pretty scary time, and a very bleak Christmas. Because in this country, if you don't have a job, you can't afford healthcare.

Another guy got laid off five minutes after his wife called to tell him his child had medical problems and would need expensive care. Thanks, Charlie. Hey folks, you think Charlie will help the people of this state because he knows about healthcare? When workers in his OWN BUILDING couldn’t get it?

Charlie's political party sneers at the concept of affordable healthcare as something dirty, as "socialism." They have fought against it for a long time, and will make sure we never get it. Of course, they all have it, paid for by us, but somehow good healthcare is not for those who work for a living.

A lot of rich, successful business people think government is like running a business. It's nothing like it, and even Carly Fiorina, the problematic CEO who ran HP (into the ground), said, “It is a fallacy to suggest that the country is like a company.” Remember her? She got rich while her company floundered. And now she too wants to play around in politics.

These damn privileged business people want another box to check off on their resume. Governor, President, whatever. They've had everything handed to them all their life, and now they want another prize. Old Mitt presided in this state while I had the longest period of unemployment in my life, but he did okay. Then he went around trashing Massachusetts and everything we stand for, while he twisted his beliefs into knots to get votes from people he wouldn't spit on if they were on fire. He was suddenly against illegal aliens, but he sure did like them cheap workers taking care of his manor estates. He wore an expensive suit every day, but tried to pass himself off as a gun-totin', varmint-killin', tobaccy-spittin' good ole boy who hated Massachusetts folk.

News flash, plutocrats—to you it's just another job, but to us, it's our lives. We're dying for lack of affordable healthcare, and we have to worry about our jobs to boot. So keep your soft manicured mitts off our political positions, because we don't need another rich tall guy from a party who doesn't believe we even have the right to a decent doctor.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A writer I know, Chris Bernard, has been tapped to write a book about bicycling in New England to be published next spring. It's a narrative travel guide to bike rides throughout the region, and includes family-and-beginner-friendly rail trails and bike paths, leg-busting road rides up to about 150 miles, and off-road routes like fire roads and mountain bike singletrack. Some rides are just good bike rides, others are scenic, and some travel through areas of historical or other interest. He's also recommending accommodations and restaurants in the vicinity of each ride to help cyclists string trips together.

He's lining up trips now, and looking for places to stay--couches, floors, B and Bs, hotels, the Lincoln Bedroom, any and all are fair game. He's also trying to identify good bike rides, so if you know of any, please send them his way.

His blog for the journey is at http://bikingnewengland.blogspot.com, and he says to check back often (or subscribe to be kept abreast of updates).

Please pass this link along to anyone you know who might be interested. His audience for the book is anyone who rides, or might ride, a bike, whether occasionally, recreationally, competitively, or otherwise.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day! Wishing everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July.

I'm a sentimental old fool for the idea of the country begun by the Founding Fathers. They worked their butts off, while risking their lives to create a united nation. And they did it by traveling by horse or bumpy coach to a very hot city in JULY, while wearing layers of clothes. You go to Philly and try getting work done in the Summer, while wearing multiple clothing layers, without air conditioning. And create something that lasts quite well for over 200 years. With a quill pen… and no copier… and no bottles of ice water…

Yeah, and by the way, sign your name for the loss of everything you own, and your death warrant, in case your ill-trained, underfunded, divided, quarreling, ragtag, volunteer army loses, which looked like the probable course. Put your whole families' life on the line for a fools' dream, a combined nation that defies the King and Country of the greatest army and navy in the world. In a region where one third of the populace like what you're doing, one third are violently opposed, and one third just want to survive without taking sides.

Can you imagine? The Founding Fathers had everything in the world to lose, and they chose to stake it all on a concept of Freedom (mostly for landed Caucasian males, but still, a good start…).
They had a dream where a government could not grab a person and torture them in a dungeon with no cause. Remember that, remember Human Rights? It's still the Law, by the way, and anyone who violates it must be held accountable as a criminal. No matter what office they held or currently hold.

The Founding Fathers established a principal of Rule of Law that mattered, based on the Magna Carta and the writings of John Locke and Thomas Paine. Because back then it mattered, that the individual rights of a human being had priority over the desires of the State for control.

Read carefully the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Study how it grants a person the privilege of living like a human being, with protections that cannot be arbitrarily taken away by a dictator. And then look at our past and current government and the current media, who cannot even bear to say or print the words "torture" and "murder." Which has now become the de facto government policy, even though they are too cowardly to admit it. Our elected government now accepts kidnapping and torture as a public policy. This should outrage every true American. We cannot, we must not allow this to go further. What we allow to be done to others, we grant permission to be done to us. Many persons, so-called religious or otherwise, conveniently forget this primary rule.

"No good can come from anything done in secret." So very true. If those in power have to hide a thing, it cannot be good. Demand that every act, every deed, become available for public scrutiny and review, and possible prosecution, if so warranted. Do not give away your rights as a person, or as a voice on government.

By doing nothing, we will lose everything. Make a difference, stand up for your rights, and let those in charge know you demand they act according to the Law. Without Law, those in power can do anything. If you do not speak up when they oppress others, who will speak up when they oppress you?