Saturday, November 18, 2017

There Must Be Something in the Water

Did you know I had a blog before there were such things as blogs? Neither did I, yet before I became a reluctant blogger I tried two brief stints as an enthusiastic one. My first attempt was at the end of the last century (I’ve waited all my life to say that phrase) and was merely a column on my personal Web site (remember when people had personal Web pages in the days before Facebook and MySpace?). It was entitled “rAnts and Raves” because it had these cool JavaScript ants crawling across the Web page. I know, but it was 90s and the Internet was new.

I ran across several of these posts locked in stasis in a time capsule and I thought I would share them with you over the next few weeks. Think of it as summer reruns in the fall. My first thought as I reread these words I penned so long-ago was, Wow, the more things change the more they stay the same. Then I realized how far we have come. In this first post from 1999, a prominent white man was accused of abusing his position of authority and power to solicit sex from a 13-year-old girl; today, U.S. Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore of Alabama is accused of abusing his position of authority and power to solicit sex from a 14-year-old girl. Clearly, in the intervening 18 years the age of nonconsent has been raised from 13 to 14.

There Must Be Something in the Water

Thursday, September 23, 1999 - Have you noticed lately how people in positions of power and responsibility in both the corporate world and government have been saying and doing outrageous absurdities without the slightest thought as to the inappropriateness of their actions or the effects on the institutions they represent?

It seems to have begun when the president of the United States unzipped his pants for a dalliance with a girl young enough to be his daughter. To paraphrase Monica Clark, when we elected him we knew he was horny; we didn’t know he was stupid. How can someone spend his whole life working to rise to the most powerful position in the world and then blow it (no pun intended) so stupidly?

You would think that people who work so hard to achieve the pinnacle of success would exercise a modicum of common sense when it come to their comments or actions. Not so, apparently. Last week, Patrick Naughton, head of the Walt Disney Company’s Web sites, was arrested and charged with using the Internet to solicit sex with a 13-year-old girl. Let me rephrase that: this guy’s job is to make both the Internet and the world’s largest children’s entertainment company look good, so what does he do?

Now consider the comments made this week by two men seeking the U.S. presidency. Pat Buchanan stated America should not have entered World War II to fight Hitler. If he were president – and he’s trying to be – he would have let Hitler conquer Europe and complete his genocide. Meanwhile, former P.O.W. Sen. John McCain was quoted as having been “outraged and deeply hurt” by Buchanan's remarks, while himself quipping to reporters that “the reason Chelsea Clinton is so ugly is because her mother is Janet Reno and her father is Hilary Clinton.”

Today, the NASDAQ suffered its fourth largest point drop in history after comments from Microsoft President Steven Balmer, who told reporters he thought the technology sector was overvalued, along with the price of his company’s stock. “There’s such an overvaluation of tech stocks it’s absurd,” he told a conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. So the man who is paid (some would say absurdly overpaid – Balmer is No. 4 on the Forbes 500 list with a net worth of $23 billion) to promote his company tells a press conference his company’s stock is absurdly overvalued.

So what is going on? Is there something in the drinking water making top executives and national leaders loony? How ironic that George C. Scott died today. I guess his character in Dr. Strangelove was right all along.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Talking Fish

On the radio today, I heard about a filmmaker who devised an idea for a documentary: he would go door to door and film people’s responses to one scenario. What if you found a magical talking fish that could grant you three wishes before you released it? What would you wish for?

Of course, this is merely a variation of the Aladdin’s lamp tale from the Arabian Nights. On the other hand, it also recalls W.W. Jacob’s cautionary tale of “The Monkey’s Paw” that warns to be careful what you wish for. Or as a lawyer would put it, draft your wishes carefully to consider all the possible loopholes and save the last wish in case you need to undo the first two.

But my reaction on hearing the question was visceral, without thought or consideration. I immediately knew what my wishes would be, in order of priority. But first, what would yours be? Go on, write them down. I’ll wait. I’ll meet you back at the next paragraph.

Are you back? Got your list? Good. Here were my three wishes, off the top of my head: (1) To rid the world of hatred; (2) To rid the world of illness; and (3) To be reunited with all my loved ones I’ve lost. I probably might have made different choices as a child, and again as a young man. I think age plays a role in one’s perspective. So does a degree of selfishness. Perhaps more than ever in my lifetime I see so much hatred in the world today. It’s the cause of much persecution and most wars. In my own selfish way, I’d like to spare my family and friends, and myself from being touched by this senseless violence. And why not extend that protection to everyone else, too? Similarly, as I age, I see more of the debilitating and painful effects of illness afflicting so many, including myself. I’ve spent time at cancer hospitals watching not only adults, but young children, walking the halls or dining in the cafeteria in hospital gowns, their hair long gone and their eyes staring back with a gaze hinting at the unimaginable suffering they are enduring. However, illness affects not only them but their healthy family members as well: the mothers and father, siblings, husbands or wives… the toll it takes on them is equally devastating. Most selfishly of all, I miss my departed loved ones: both human and pets. They had been my nurturers and support system throughout the years, and the source of constant unconditional love — the nutrient we all need to survive and prosper.

No amount of money could purchase my wishes. Henry David Thoreau wrote: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” No one aspires to a life of mediocrity. We all wish to accomplish something meaningful with our allotted lifetimes. Many of us would like to leave the world a better place than we found it. So that’s how I would explain my wishes to the talking fish.

“If wishes were fishes…” But of course, magical talking fish don’t exist.