Always on the grid?

Several years ago there was an episode of NCIS where then Director Shepard( Lauren Holly) made a clandestine  trip to Moscow in search of information that would either clear her father or help her in capturing ”  la grenouille” . During that time she went off the grid as was bluntly called to her attention by good ole Leroy Jethro Gibbs ( Mark Harmon) , once she returned to Washington.

For my purposes, the key element in that scene was the grid to which Gibbs referred. In this case it was not the electric power grid that  is  somewhat well publicized, but  a different kind of grid.  Holly’s character was the head of an armed federal agency and as such could not  become incommunicado. And in our story she did that very thing.

I was reminded of that  upon seeing a segment of the Today Show that dealt with the death of the telephone. The part that I saw interviewed at least two people  in the know about such things, one of them from Wired magazine, who opined that the telephone was dead and it was about time. His feelings are most definitely shared by  outsidethebeltway.com writer James Joyner. He wrote an article on July 31, 2010  expressing how annoying and terribly intrusive a telephone call actually is. And he made this point that really ties in to the point I am trying to make. The current generation hardly ever makes phone calls because they are in constant  lightweight contact, defined as texting, instant messaging , tweeting, etc.

So, its it a good or necessary thing to be in constant contact. to be always on the grid, so to speak? The majority of us do not need to be always available via  a tweet or Facebook or hundreds or thousand of  daily text messages. I   share Mr Joyner’syner that this is,generally speaking, lightweight communication. Surely a part of my inclination is that I am from  a generation that has not always been  totally wired, but I think/hope it is more than that.

My wife and I have shared many times with one another in  a phone call the  words that” I just wanted to hear your voice” . We do text, but for us, it will never be an adequate substitute for the voice of the one person who means more to  you than any other.

Perhaps, Mr Bell’s invention is on the way out.  But from my  perspective, I hope that it takes the long way.


March 10, 2011 Posted by | Media, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going Bananas for Bananas

One of my favorite, if not the favorite, tv programs  of my childhood was Captain Kangaroo. One of his recurring characters was the Banana  Man. He always fascinated me with the endless  variety of items he pulled from his bottomless coat pockets , featuring of course the lowly banana.

Both the Captain and Banana  Man  are long gone but the banana  has now become a bigger star than  ever  before. Thanks to Japanese ingenuity ( who else)  it now has its own vending machine. A Japanese subsidiary of  David Murdock’s Dole Corporation  installed its  first banana vending machine almost a month ago in Shibuya station on one of the country’s busiest subway lines. Kept cool by a refrigerator inside, bananas sell for $1.50 each  or $4.50  a bunch. Thus far the machine  has been  a big success.

This is the perfect solution for those locales who are busily banning soft drinks, etc from city owned facilities. I wrote about that exact thing taking place in San Antonio under the direction of city manager Sheryl Sculley. She now has a healthy alternative to the evils of soft drinks. First bananas and then the sky or banana tree is the limit. Then the city can just  wait and peel in, uh reel in the profits. Probably should not locate a machine anywhere near the zoo’s primate habitat though. It would be  a shame to turn lawful chimps into criminals.

July 26, 2010 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Big Mess at the Agriculture Department

The Department of Agriculture and its head, Tom Vilsack  are not really a high-profile combo. But they are sure in the news these days. Kinda reminds me of an oft-repeated comment about baseball umpires. They are doing a good job when they are not noticed. But alas, for Mr Vilsack  that will no longer be possible. Whether he even retains his job is probably open to question. Would that not be  ironic if Ms Shirley Sherrod whom he fired and  has since tried to rehire retained her job and he didn’t?

A couple of things have intrigued beyond the actual firing/re–hiring. One is the fact that the White House said it was on board with the action and then after the media firestorm began to build, the President disavowed any connection to the firing. Could not resist that disavow. Mission Impossible was always one of favorite shows.

Ok, number two was a media type David Rodham Gergen, comparing Ms Sherrod to Nelson Mandela who by the way spent 27 years in a South African prison, led the country for  a time and would have to be considered an internationally known figure. Quite  a stretch, even for the liberal media.

Finally, a comment from Ms Sherrod, but not what you might think. Her epiphany she said came when she realized that it was not black vs white but rather rich vs poor. There are many comments that one could make. Rush called  it the idea of Obamunism which isn’t bad. I remain  convinced that it does not have to be  a situation of one side vs another. But when one of Ms Sherrod’s  latest media comments ( and she is all over the media now) is that she will not appear on Fox News since they are both biased and racist . Gotta wonder  on what basis she formed her opinion, do you not?

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The famous of the famous

Read on USA Today, today, about something called the Celebrity Heat Index. The first thought that came to mind was that it had something to do with algore, alias the goracle. Maybe not the first thought, but up there close. Alas, there was no mention of the prophet from Tennessee but there was interesting info nonetheless.

The article or more precisely, the list refers to  the paper’s tracking of what it considers the  most popular celebrities. I am unsure of the criteria or qualifications that are used but I was immediately intrigued. As I age, I am almost amazed to learn that I am not as aware of who is “in” and who is not as I once was. This list reaffirmed that quite well.

I was pleased to note that I was familiar with the person occupying the top spot, which she has held for 4 months  in a row. That would be Sandra Bullock, formerly Mrs Jesse James and MTV smoocher of Scarlett Johansson, aka, the”smoochee.”  Also on the list for June are  Mrs and Mr Angelina Jolie, sorry Brad Pitt; the late Gary Coleman and Jennifer Aniston. Those  are the five with which I was familiar. The others were connected to the Twilight movies and various reality( actually unreality) television shows.

Beginning with January 1 the list was led by Bullock, Jolie and Pitt. Not sure what I think of this, but of the 300+ people on their list,most if not all of the Jolie -Pitt children were included. Just to prove my long-expected theory that there is an actual phenomenon of celebrity overload, I tried a number of times without success to access their all time list.

We are indeed fascinated with the comings and goings and ” doings” of the celebrities among us, both the good and the bad and even the living and the dead. Although they often complain about it and bemoan their lack of privacy, one suspects that their tune would change if far less attention were paid.

Although I do not read People and rarely watch Etertainment Tonight, I shall probably return to USA Today’s site, but only for a peek, ok?

July 5, 2010 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Long, Mr Coolidge

Thought I would share a bit more about  our  old friend Calvin Coolidge before bidding him adieu. Plus , it allows me to avoid  talking more about the Etheridge fiasco, which is playing out as I feared. Perhaps more in a day or so.

The Coolidge book was  different in its frequent use of lengthy quotes, both from and about him, than many bios. I would love quote a number of them but shall refrain. I thought that I would just  mention  just a few vignettes that struck me as interesting. What made them so was not necessarily their significance but more so the insight that they provided. Bear in mind that I am taking some chronological liberties as well.

The author calls Coolidge an enigma, perhaps borrowing from a New York World article  on September 13, 1919 that called him a sphinx or an enigma  referring to his habit of saying little. The article commented that it  was his silences that seemed to speak the loudest. Further on  was a comment about him seldom smiling or shaking hands, atypical for a politician even then.

Most of the pictures in the book show an individual that seemed to ” fear” the camera as much as it feared him. Now, couple that with a poor voice and style for public speaking and one wonders how he got anywhere. Food for him that television was in the future. He did, however do well on the radio with a type of fireside chat, without the  cool name. That would come along with some other guy.

Although  a proven vote getter in Massachusetts who  won virtually all his elections, he was not a popular choice  as Harding”s running mate. He was colorless, little known etc, but ended up as sort of  a compromise choice. And even when time came to run again in 1924, the Republican Party was not so enthused. He won of course by a  nearly 2-1 margin over  John Davis , the largest plurality ever for  a Republican.

There are several more stories that were worth  a mention, particularly the tragic death of his son, Calvin, Jr  at age 16. The young man developed a blister while playing tennis and soon he had blood poisoning. He died just five days later on July 7, 1924.  Many people felt that Coolidge was never the same , as one can readily understand.

I shall close with a bit of an amusing story that took place at the end of his term when he went quail hunting in Staunton, Virginia. Coolidge wo was not overly  amusing becomes just that in the author’s description. Sobel says that he posed for photographers with his normal dead-pan face. And a great quote on which to close. ” Coolidge,who was not  a sportsman, took many shots, but the quail had little to fear: he didn’t  hit one.”

June 15, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Serenade and a Snide Remark

Many years ago, Art Linkletter hosted  a daytime tv show entitled “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” I thoroughly enjoyed his questions of little people and their genuine, no holds barred answers. Linkletter’s expressions  at their answers, whether contrived or not, were almost as much fun as the questions. Any one who has been a parent has probably  had family secrets shared with  a school teacher or Sunday school teacher by a little person who was just being himself/herself.

I wonder if that’s the reason for Paul McCartney’s inane comment at the  White House today. The singer, who is from Liverpool if I remember correctly, decided it was  an appropriate forum to  make fum of a former American president, George W Bush. But you probably knew  already at whom his comment  was directed.

McCartney was in Washington to receive the Gershwin Award for Popular Music. Not sure if his comment was made before or after his serenade of the First Lady with a song entitled, wait for it, wait for it, yeeesss!!  Michelle. Saw a picture of Obama and McCartney grinning together. Wonder if it was after the serenade or the comment. Oh, the comment? ….it’ s  nice to have a president who knows what a library is. Isn’t that just so funny?

One of my ongoing pet peeves is celebrities who think their political opinions are so worthwhile just because they can sing or act or whatever. Even more puzzling, McCartney is in the United States receiving an award and chooses a very unexpected venue for his barb. Adding to its impact was his statement earlier this week that people should stop bashing Obama because”  he’s a good guy.” Oh well, there is always Charlie Daniels.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Culture | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paging General Zachary Taylor

General Zachary Taylor in uniform.

Image via Wikipedia

I will admit to being somewhat confused. Just a  day or so ago, President Obama  dispatched 1,200 of America’s finest to the U S – Mexican border. Just a guesss, but they  are probably not there for vacation. Several members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat have been urging the President to send troops. Do you think it has something to do with  illegal immigration and the increasing violence on the border ? If I am a Border Patrol officer, I am thrilled about this. But we must temper our enthusiasm by wondering what the rules of engagement are. But still, I am glad to see this action.

But just a few days ago, Obama was side by side with his  bff, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and agreeing with his denunciation of the Arizona immigration law. By the way, Calderon’ s remarks were wildly cheered by Democrats. Now this is the President Calderon who presides over what could charitably be called a rather corrupt government, who has trouble taking care of its own internal security. But Calderon seems to have no difficulty taking potshots at one of our states. Just a reminder, do not forget that Mexico has extraordinarily tough laws against illegal immigration. Just sayinglse you forget.

For a bit of historical perspective, President Polk sent troops to the U S Mexican border way back in  1846  under the command of General Zachary Taylor. Of course, the Mexican War ensued shortly thereafter. Not that we are expecting  nor do we have any wish for such a thing today. But make no mistake, there is some heavy duty stuff going on the border and sending the troops , albeit belatedly, was a good move.

Meanwhile, demonstrations occur  outside a  baseball stadium in Chicago trying to get spring training  in Arizona cancelled. Thank goodness, Commissioner Bud Selig has refused to consider moving the 2011 All Star game from Arizona.  Don’t you wish that  the protestors would take a little closer look at the overall picture.

Can’t resist  an NCIS allusion. Last night was the season finale  and in a turn of events that I expected, Abby’s Mexican government friend did turn out to have connections to the drug cartel. Just did not  expect them to be family connections. Once again, art and life intersect.

May 26, 2010 Posted by | History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oprah’s at it Again

The Oprah is on the move. A few months ago, she announced that the end was near for her daytime show. She announced  a couple of days ago the  show that will serve as the bridge to her new network, entitled( I know this will shock you) The Oprah Winfrey Network or  OWN. Gotta love  those call letters. Guess BHO was unavailable,huh?

Anyway, her nighttime show called , Oprah’s Next Chapter, will premiere next year. Billed as  sort of  a traveling talk show that  in her own words( pun  most definitely intended) ” I’ll do it anywhere, I’ll do it anytime, with anybody I want.” So, let me get this straight. She will interview anybody she chooses to interview ( with or without their permission?, shucks who wouldn’t want the Oprah to interview them) and at a time  and place of her choosing. That could prove quite interesting, could it not? She wouldn’t want to interview El Rushbo would she?

Ok, back to OWN. She spoke with media buyers Thursday at an event hosted by her partner, Discovery Communications. She assured those present that she would be appearing on the network herself as well a s being its guiding force. Since I missed the invite, I wasn’t privy to her description of the dozen or so shows that will help compose the network’s lineup. Since it will be a 24 hour network, there may be a need for a few more programs. Just happen to have a few suggestions.

  •  Bo Unplugged, True Adventures of the First Dog
  •  Gardening With Michele, Organic Style  Veggies Fresh From the White House lawn
  • Yes We Can !  ( you figure out that topic)
  • Rachel and Dr Phil- famous duets of the 50’s
  • Win Oprah’s Shoe Collection


Any other suggestions should go  to the offices of Harpo Productions. You’re welcome! Maybe there will even be a   Bill Clinton night. The possibilities just boggle the mind.

April 10, 2010 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Want My Obamacare

Years ago, before it became so ubiquitous, MTV  had a commercial campaign that war either annoying  to the nth degree or an inspired bit of genius, depending on  your age group, I guess. In an effort to get their “product” on cable systems, we were treated to repeated commercials screaming from the telly, “I want my MTV.” Apparently, enough of the younger generation took it to heart because MTV became must see and must listen to for lots of people.

Now, some  27 years after the fabled ad campaign, people see to be asking for something entirely different. They are wondering where is their Obamacare? Not 2014, but now! There was such an intense campaign to get the bill passed and the Democrats euphoria  and celebration over the passage ( cue Joe Biden here) that one can hardly blame folks for wondering where all these great benefits are and when will they see  them? Supposedly, on the HHS website, information is forthcoming. You would think  it would have long ago been there. Perhaps  the reality of being the “health czar” has not quite sunk in for Secretary Sebelius  or maybe it has and she is just enjoying the afterglow.

The President doesn’t seem to  helping matters with some of his thinly veiled barbs at those  lawmakers who opposed the plan or the one comparing the criticism to people  expecting seeds  to sprout overnight. I  just keep remembering a comment he made to John McCain. I won, you lost, so get over it.

But with insurers  being flooded with calls about the plan’s  provisions and being surprised with the answers, perhaps Pelosi and company over sold the deal. Wait, it had to pass so we all would know what was in  it. Maybe that even applied to those who rammed the bill through?

April 8, 2010 Posted by | Health, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A One Term President?

Just a few days ago, the president did an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC. She happens to be one of the very few media people who I will tolerate for any length of time. Anyway,  the president said something very interesting. He said that he would rather be a very good one term president than a mediocre two term president. ( Paging Jimmy Carter, at least on the one term part.)

Let’s look at that statement for a moment. First though, a bit of history. Other than the pious Palestinian from Plains, the one term club includes George H W Bush, Herbert Hover and Martin van Buren.  Other than Carter, all were denied a second term by economic issues. The panic of 1837 domed Van Buren as he evidently lacked a Rahm( never waste  a good crisis) Emanuel to get him through the situation.

The point, which Sawyer did not seem to address, is that no president steps down voluntarily when doing a good job or even a mediocre one. We just do not see voluntary retirements from the Oval Office. Perhaps George Washington  I  guess, who could have served for life had he been willing. So, what did he mean by his comment? Maybe it was  just for effect, along with a later statement that he will continue ” full bore” to tackle the tough issues.

Perhaps it is time for the president to heed the words of an Elvis Presley song-a little less talk , a little more action.

January 28, 2010 Posted by | History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments