Archive | September 2016

Religicide

Suicide. Homicide. Genocide. Religicide.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Catholics vs. Protestants in Northern Ireland, 9/11, Islamic State, Ku Klux Klan (they targeted Jews, Catholics, African Americans and other social or ethnic minorities), Crusades (Muslims vs, Christians), Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970, Muslims vs. Christians), Bosnia in the early 1990’s: Croatians vs. Serbians vs. Muslims, Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990 Sunnis vs. Shiites), French Wars of Religion (1562-1598, Protestant Hugenots vs. French Catholics)), German Peasants War (1524-1525, tax war, Dutch churches vs. French churches)…it’s never-ending. Many different religions. Many different wars. They kill in the name of their God. Religion is powerful. Interpretation of religion by fanatic followers is deadly. In extremely heinous acts.

Holy War LetterpressReligion is more significant today due to globalization (cultural and economic)which is challenging and changing everything. Upsetting the apple cart worldwide. Social, economic and political systems are disrupted, ignored or undermined. Exposure to the broader world causes many to now see what they never had and never will. Income inequality is exacerbated. How their government has failed them is brought to light. Countries that liberalize trade imports often create poverty. The realization that they have no future is devastating. And infuriating. An easy call to violence.

Cultural globalization along with the spread of secularism has caused a resurgence in religious beliefs which, of course, includes strict fundamentalist/orthodox views. Views that people are prepared to die for. Religion, compared to other ideologies, is more divisive. The more orthodox, the more divisive. People get angry if the orthodoxy is not followed strictly. On the world stage, faith means something completely different in the East vs. the West. In the East, it is more political and a way of life. The West sets it aside from civil society. It is personal. Although it looks like things are a changing.

This is just a short, light post to get you thinking. Why? How did all these horrible, evil acts occur? And why do they continue? The root of the problem: religion. So far, as Richard Dawkins (Britain’s best-known atheist) said, “no atheist has gone into a crowded, public place, blown themselves up while shouting no god is great.”

 

 

Stop Or I’ll Shoot

Ok, I’ve had enough. Police bashing. Police ambushes. They are getting a bum rap. Stop or I’ll shoot. What is it with people who don’t obey this command? My parents and your parents taught us to obey all police commands, no matter what. And we do. Where is any sense of accountability here? Where suspects cause their own demise by not respecting officers. Why is this not discussed in the media? Would their ratings suffer? Brutal spectator events seem to be in the crosshairs of their pursuit of high ratings.

PROTOCOL

Let’s start with police officer protocol when faced with an armed suspect (or one that indicates he’s armed):

  • The officer takes cover and creates a barrier (such as a building or the police cruiser) between themselves and the perpetrator.
  • He  draws his weapon and commands the suspect to drop the weapon, get on the ground.
  • If the suspect complies, one officer searches for more weapons while the other officer keeps the gun on the suspect. If a concealed weapon is found, they cuff him.
  • If the suspect doesn’t follow the command and makes a threatening movement, the officer has a split-second to decide whether to fire.

TOY GUNSbigstock--123305915

Officers cannot always tell if the gun is fake. Toy guns are supposed to have orange tips on them. Children often take them off. Criminals may put them on real guns to cause the officer to hesitate with using lethal force. So, of course, it’s common sense to not point a real OR fake weapon at an officer. Every child should have this ingrained in their brain. No excuses. If you do point a weapon, there is going to be a gun fight. That’s the officer’s response training kicking in.

OFFICER RIGHTS

Officers have to protect themselves. They have the right to go home at night. They live in a hostile world. Everyone and every encounter is a potential threat. To control the scene, the officer has to maintain the upper hand. We, the public, don’t always realize this.They have to always be on guard. If they’re not, they could be beaten, disarmed and killed. “Complacency kills” is a police slogan. So is “risks of  a mistake are far less than risks of hesitation.” “Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” “Action trumps reaction.”

NYPD transit bureau K-9 police officer and Belgian Shepherd K-9PERCEPTION OF DANGER

Danger can be tricky to gauge. One officer may perceive a situation as dangerous whereas another officer will not. The fear factor  also plays into the situation. It can be different for every officer. Rocks can kill you. Cars can be weapons. Sticks can be lethal. The suspect may try to grab the officer’s gun. Or assault him. Both are acting in the heat of the moment. Many say that an officer’s dialog with the perpetrator throughout the situation IS the most important part of police work. Make them feel heard. De-escalate first. Crisis-intervention. Critical thinking. Non-violent tactics. Communication. If the situation allows, all of these are tried first before pepper spray, a baton, a Taser or a gun is used. This is part of their training.

FREE-FOR-ALL

I’m not going to get into the whole race free-for-all. I don’t deny that there are isolated incidences of police malpractice. There are 18,000 state and local police agencies in our country. Less than 3% of these reported fatal shootings by officers. There are  163 million interactions between police and civilians every year. We need the police to maintain a civilized society. We sure loved the police on September 12th. In the fifty largest U.S. cities, murder rates have spiked by 17% in the last year and a half because police are reluctant to police neighborhoods with a high concentration of criminal violence. Disproportionately, they will be confronted with armed and resisting suspects. This raises the officer’s own risk of using lethal force. It’s all blown way out of proportion. The statistics verify that. But nobody wants to talk about those or accountability. Are there more police shootings or just more coverage with videos, social media, and mainstream media? If we keep this distortion up, our society will be the biggest victim of all. Anti-police rhetoric has deadly consequences.

The police deserve respect from all of us. It just might save our lives!

 

Only In America

Only In America:

  • Criminals who don’t obey/respect police commands and then cry foul.
  • String cheese
  • A person does not necessarily become president by winning the popular vote of the people.
  • Highest money donations in the world when there is a disaster somewhere in the world.
  • Cool George DollarAmericans have less attention span than a goldfish (based on scientific research).
  • Red-light running capital of the world.
  • We care more about homeless animals than homeless people.
  • Friendliest people in the world.
  • Two presidential candidates with extremely poor approval ratings.
  • There is no civility in the presidential campaigns.
  • People make their presidential choice based on 30-second soundbites.
  • Everything is labeled gourmet. How can ice cubes be gourmet?
  • Apartments are labeled luxury living even if you’re directly in the flight path with constant jet noise.
  • Young adults forego college, live at home, work retail jobs to pursue their fantasy celebrity party life with martini lunches and fabulous clothes they cannot afford.
  • Automobile vending machines (Carvana).
  • Vote Election Badge Button For 2016 Background 3D Illustrations254 different kinds of cereals to choose from at the grocery store.
  • Public Housing For Millionaires (stadiums/athletes)
  • A presidential candidate with five children from three wives criticizes minorities for their broken families.
  • There is no federal regulation of pharmaceutical companies.
  • They can charge what they want and raise the price anytime.
  • To be continued. Please help. Your donations are welcome.

Size Matters

Invaders Of The Personal Space

You know what really grinds my beans? Invaders of the personal space. Anywhere. But this time, we are talking airplanes.

Bored and boarded in cattle-car class. $877 to be crammed into a space the size of a dog crate for six and one-half hours. In today’s world, is there much difference between the cargo hold and the passenger area? Your economy seat is sixteen and one-half inch wide with 31″ from the back of your seat to the back of the seat in front of you. Getting something out of your carry-on underneath the seat in front of you is like groping in the dark. Only worse. You are leaning forward maybe thirty degrees with your head turned to one side, plastered up against the seat, hoping you don’t pop a rib and reaching as far as you can for who knows what. Like a mystery grab bag booth at the fair. Who knows what your fishing expedition will turn up. If only you could see. Aggravating. Maddening. Do dogs, hamsters or ferrets feel the same way in their cages? Some of them become neurotic. And some of us do.

Airlines are making record-breaking profits while making us miserable.

Are You A Double Wide?

I’m not exaggerating. Airline seats are getting smaller while passengers are getting bigger. Examples of seat widths through the years:

  • 1960’s: 17″
  • 1970’s: 18″
  • 1990’s: 18.5″
  • Today: 16.5″

Has your butt lost two inches in width since 1990? I didn’t think so. Mine is not yet the size of a couch but I have put on twenty pounds. If it was more, my butt would become a permanent part of the airline seat. You know…like those cheap, white plastic patio chairs that are all too easy to get stuck in? I call them lard buckets.

And just to educate you more on average seat sizes, here you go:

  • airline business class: 21″
  • movie theater: 25″
  • U.S. train: 20.5″
  • stadium: 19″

Nefarious Neighbors

Let’s talk about the creatures next door. The invaders of the personal space. This passenger with arms like ham hocks who, of course, has to rest the hams on both armrests for the entire trip. I’m in the center seat. On the other side, there is a sleepy, drooly soul (also known as a seat hog sleeper) who keeps trying to rest his head on my shoulder. I’m the center of a sandwich that is going bad. Constant jostling from both sides makes me want to throw the sandwich out.

The Yakety Yaks

Then there’s the yakety-yak tour group. They kept standing up, bellowing at each other across the aisle and three rows back. Just like a herd of cattle being driven across the flat, dusty Great Plains. Constant fidgeting, drinking, not so funny jokes and tedious talkers surrounded me. What’s a ferret to do? They were having a party in the sky. But it needed live music and entertainment. Glad I wasn’t invited but there I was at the party.

The Little Devil

Across the aisle, I watched this angel-faced small child become possessed by the devil. He kicked the seat in front of him non-stop. The look on his face was pure joy. A glaring look from the victim or me did not deter him. This called for creative intervention. Leaning over, I whispered to him that airlines now have an overhead bin just for children like him who are kickers. Or screamers. But don’t worry, they will bring you your pretzels and juice. Or other crappy snackies if you pay for them. The foot froze in mid-air.

Turbulence In The Toilet

I need to use the restroom but don’t want to wake up my resting neighbor. What is the proper exit etiquette I asked myself. Shall I flap the window shade up and down like I’m obsessive-compulsive? Crawl underneath all three seats? Crawl out over the top of them? Straddle my seatmate on the way out and hope I don’t fall on him? Instead, I chose what Amy Vanderbuilt would have considered proper: tapping on the shoulder and apologizing…

After all that just to get here, I then experience the worst. Turbulence in the toilet. Bad enough to be in this claustrophobic stinky space when the skies are calm. Then the flight attendant announces, “the Captain has turned the seat belt sign on. Please return to your seat and fasten your seat belt.” My hands and feet are braced against whatever they can. Departing is not an option until mission accomplished. There are knocks at the door. “Okay, okay, I will leave this can as soon as I can,” I yelled in desperation. By this time, I’m sweating profusely. And then, the skies opened up and a calm rushed in. The seatbelt sign chimed off. Glory be to whoever. I shall be relieved.

Stuck In A Stupor

Thank goodness there’s no internet over the ocean (did I mention the destination: Hawaii?). An incredibly beautiful place that might not be worth the journey. Trying to use an iPad would require elbow room. Not. Have you ever tried typing with your elbows super-glued to your sides?

My options became clear. Sit there in a stupor (people do this), read a book (a small one at that), pay five dollars for a headset to watch a movie that they chose, not you or talk nonstop about nothing to a seatmate. Ladies behind me did just that. For six and one-half hours. How is that possible? They didn’t even know each other!

Blessed By The Rabid

It could have been worse. Belligerent alcoholic. Bad body odor. Screaming infant. Sneezing, coughing sick person who will not cover their mouth. Children playing a loud video game over and over and over. Roaring snoring. Despairing over-sharing. Cell phone use (it’s coming). Soon, we will be using a credit card to pay for oxygen when the emergency masks drop down as we’re instructed to help others with their transaction.

I surrendered to the situation and slept as much as I could. Dreams about alien space invaders took over my life. I mean my brain. I mean my space.

The Ultimate Car Event For The Non-Car Person

Say What?

You don’t need to like cars. Or even know anything about them to truly enjoy the world’s most famous and most important race for historical race cars. The Italian Mille Miglia (pronounced MEE-leh MEE-lia). Just throw open the shuttered windows above the Piazza Della Vittoria on race day in downtown Brescia in Northern Italy. Feast your eyes on the museum in motion below. Reverberating exhaust pipes rip the morning air with a deafening roar as the le belle macchine (the beautiful cars) come to life.

Bugatti T 13 Brescia Corsa (1924) Runs In Mille Miglia 2014Voluptuous Beauties

Since 1927, the 1000 mile Mille Miglia from Brescia to the eternal city of Rome and back occurs every May. The race features 1927-1957 cars from at least 25 countries. It is a colorful parade that includes Italy’s sleek red Ferraris, voluptuous blue French Bugattis, elegant racing green Jaguars from Britain and slick, silver German Porsches. These moving sculptures will take anyone’s breath away, car-crazy or not.

The thunderous roar of motorcycles and flashing lights of the Carabinieri (Italian police) signals the beginning of the grueling two-day challenge. Many of these pre-1957 classic race cars have no tops or windscreens. Drivers are flagged off at one-minute intervals, outfitted in driving goggles, leather helmets, and rain gear. They careen off through the countryside with gusto, sometimes in drenching rain. Drivers become unrecognizable due to the mud caked on their faces.

PESARO, ITALY - MAY 15: unidentified crew on an old racing car in rally Mille Miglia 2015 the famous italian historical race (1927-1957) on May 15, 2015

Ripping The Rally

The rally course  entails diverse terrain from the most dangerous Futa and Raticosa mountain passes to the low hills covered with vineyards and olive groves that surround Firenze (Florence), the cradle of the Renaissance and home to Michelangelo’s David. Then it’s on through Ravenna, the former Byzantine capital that offers the dazzling Christian and Byzantine mosaics on churches and monuments, rivaled only by those in Istanbul. The flashy caravan starts its return in the capital city of Roma (Rome) with the rally winding past baroque fountains, churches, and palaces that feature Medieval, Gothic and Rennaissance period architecture. The drivers then race on to Modena, home to the famous tenor, Pavarotti, and famous car makers: Ferrari, Maserati, Bugatti, Lamborghini and De Tomaso. The race ultimately goes through fifty towns in the Italian countryside, many of which have been the inspiration for artists, writers, and poets.

Scan 1Ardent Admirers

At each of the fifty towns on the course, cheering local dignitaries, townspeople of all ages, tourists and beauty queens line the streets showering the drivers with gifts unique to that area. Gifts include espresso, pastries, produce, flowers and champagne toasts. Even brown-robed priests are there to offer their blessings with a wave. With great zeal, the drivers race through the narrow, winding streets while affectionate fans wave hankies, palm leaves, and flowers to urge them on. No one loves sports cars like the Italians do, and during the Mille Miglia, everyone’s Italian.

Scan 2Beauty Queen Qualifications

Participants’ cars are highly scrutinized by the selection committee. Preference is given to cars with a particular racing history and to those who have done the Mille Miglia in its earlier days. Cars must be original in their parts, authenticated and certified as such by race officials. The entry fee of $14,400 along with additional shipping and mechanic fees seems an inconsequential amount when you consider that few of these cars are worth less than $500,000 and many fetch multi-million dollar prices. Add up the values of about 450 entries and you have a remarkable, expensive parade, festival, show and competition.

Rally For The Rally

OLD CAR Fiat 600 MILLE MIGLIA 2014Now, the car-challenged might ask; what is a rally? A rally is not actually a race but a competitive run and a series of precise time trials over public roads under ordinary traffic rules. The objective is to maintain a specified average speed between thirty-four checkpoints. For example, one must drive 7.7 kilometers in ten minutes and sixteen seconds exactly. These magnificent machines slowly creep up to the checkpoint to get as close to the allotted time as possible and then with a deafening rumble of six cylinders, roar off to the next challenge. Every tenth of a second more or less than the fixed time is a penalty (reduction in points).

Heart Rumbles

After thirty hours of punishment on the road with perhaps four hours of sleep, the bleary-eyed but jubilant drivers return to the Piazza Vittoria behind a police escort. They hear their names blared over the loudspeaker as boisterous crowds close in around them with congratulatory shouts. While the actual winner of the silver cup is the one with the most points, each arrival is victorious. They finished the 1,000 miles and they brought these irreplaceable works of art to life. The wild enthusiasm of the spectators is as important and enjoyable as the cars or the race. It has been said that Brescia has the rumble in its heart. After a trip to the Mille Miglia, so will you!

 

 

Tickling The Ivories

It’s not a good scene to be jealous of eight-year-olds.

That’s what happened at the party my piano teacher gave for her students and their parents. I tried not to let it show as I turned green with envy. These eight-year-olds, who never practice, played beautifully. No choking. No losing your place in the sheet music. No sweat. No being flummoxed beyond control. No panic. No big deal. Eating cookies and drinking lemonade was more important. Thank you Apollo, god of music, for not requiring the adult students to play at the party. Relief like you feel when your dentist tells you that you don’t need a root canal.

I choke when I play for just one person: me. The brains in those eight-year-olds are sponges, absorbing anything and everything even if met with resistance. My brain is quite the opposite. It can be pounded on with knowledge, some of which seeps in, but then it disappears. My brain gives me the silent treatment. And I can’t figure out what I did wrong to deserve that.

At age sixty-three I started piano lessons. Something I have wanted to do since I was a kid. A beautiful piano entered by life unexpectedly as a gift from a beautiful person. I will write about her later. The first lesson entailed stating my goals. Did I want to do a recital? No way. You have to memorize the song, no sheet music crutch. All on your own. With an audience. I’d faint. And then die. And then go to piano purgatory. Give me a pass–straight to hell.

Understanding and appreciating music more is the primary goal. The secondary goal is just to play for the sheer fun of it. By myself. It’s a brain game! Maybe get rid of some of that gray fluffy stuff for something more substantial. So I will be attractive to Zombies who feed on the brains of the living. It would hurt to be passed up.

The lessons go well if I practice one hour a day. But sometimes I feel like an eight-year-old in that I’d rather just go out and play. Or watch paint dry. Or go to the dentist. Anything but. I give myself a good talking to and then behave and do what I’m supposed to. Other times, the hour breezes by like a gentle wind. I’m carried along carefree and confident. But sometimes the monsoon storm hits, wreaking havoc in my brain and with my chords. I just can’t find shelter in the correct fingerings. Over and over for over an hour, the chords are played, sometimes right, sometimes wrong. And then the skies (and my brain) clear up. There it is. Epiphany!

The first time I played the easiest of songs was an absolute thrill. Something pleasant to my ears that I was creating. A wow moment. Joy and pleasure can be so simple. The music has become  more challenging, complicated and elusive since then. I have to work harder. But that’s okay. The payoff is such a sense of achievement. I still have a brain. And it seems to be working. Ta Da!

Rainbow Piano Keys

If any of you have a similar pursuit of happiness story, please share it. And let’s encourage everyone and anyone to chase their dreams. Age doesn’t matter.

Car Guys

Car guys, gearheads, shade tree mechanics, wrenchers, petrolheads if you’re British…all one and the same. Crazy car guys. Let me tell you about the ones I know. Some are missing a piston. Some have over-active exhausts. A few don’t have their bearings straight while others just have a lot of highway miles on them. One is an airbag. Another one needs a pressure check. More specifically:

Wayne’s wife was looking for him to do some yard work. He’s out tinkering in his garage. She was calling out his name. What does he do? He hides in the trunk of the car he’s working on. Wayne actually admitted this to me….the wife of a crazy car guy. Junk in the trunk? No. Look for bodies.

Mistresses

Cars are their mistresses. They sneak around with them and bring them gifts. I don’t know who is more excited about the gift. The mistress or the coolant giver. They are more interested in the horsepower that their mistress puts out than their girlfriend or wife. They love to give them lube jobs. My hubby likes mistresses that aren’t good-looking on the outside but they have a good heart. Their voluptuous bodies are important too. Especially the dashboards and the rear ends. A rough exterior might be acceptable as long as they are not missing a piston. High RPMs are more desirable. They, themselves, might have a dead battery. Maybe they just need a charge. Or a tune-up. Some of these car guys have no cruise control. They will tell you this is their last one, no more and then the next week, they find another mistress. Their new all-time favorite. And…they bring her home. Shameful!

Old Car In The YardConversation Translation

Have you ever heard a car guy conversation? It goes something like this:

“I sold the 356.”

” Why? For a 911?”

“No. Maybe an XKE or DB7. Or MT4.”

“MGBGT’s are nice. 280SL, sweet. How about a 2CV? Deux Chevaux, Primaquatre, Heynsdyk 2500, Borgward, Volga, Humber Super Snipe, Zaporozhets?”

Get the picture here? If you don’t know the language, you are lost. Like a needle in a haystack. And there is no way to fake it. Pinch yourself to keep your eyes from glazing over. Or just drink more wine and be a good listener. Or retreat at full speed to join the flock of “Normies”, the non-crazies who drive boring cars but that don’t give them too much grief. They can talk about things like the weather. Sometimes I wonder if car guys know any other language. Do they need to?

They share car photos like they are their children. Boasting with such pride over their accomplishments, their looks, their capabilities. Some of their children are named after the cars: Mercedes, Aston, Porscha, Royce, Enzo, Audi. I’m surprised (and relieved) that they haven’t yet named them Borgward, Talbot, Bugatti, Targa or Humber Super Snipe! “Hi, this is my son, Lamborghini and his sister, Topolino.”

Getaways

Car guys are the only people that can get away with:

  • “Hey kids, do you want some speed?”
  • “Go home smart car…you’re drunk!”
  • Car parts in the dishwasher.
  • Buying an entire car in boxes that they are sooooo proud of.
  • Refusing to take their car out into the rain.
  • Parking in the most far away space. Ding prevention.
  • Inebriated chest-butting and bidding at car auctions.
  • Making their wives widows during car auction week.
  • “Look what I just bought you, honey!” (a car that doesn’t run and looks like hell.)
  • Hearing the muffler on a passing Porsche before he hears you.
  • Classifying his cars that don’t run as your cars.
  • Referring to a car half-buried in the dirt for years with flat tires and busted out windows as an orphan that so desperately needs a home.
  • Tearing a car dashboard completely apart in a parking lot because of some annoying noise.

Parts Unknown

Car guy hubby spends hours every morning scouring the internet for parts (and of course the sum of these parts: the whole car). This search is not just for him but for every single car guy on the planet that he might encounter. During these sessions: bills paid? Not. Take out the trash? Not. Eat breakfast? Not. Hear anything I say? Not. Evacuate due to a house fire? Not. Fuhgettaboutit!

The giddy look on his face when his buddy Fed Ex brings him gifts is the emotion of sheer joy. It does not matter that he can’t remember what he just bought or where the other gifts are hiding out in his garage. It’s the thought that counts.

Born To Be Wild

He walks in, after driving a convertible with no windshield, with crazy eyes, wild hair and the grin of The Joker. The bugs in his teeth are not a problem. Just kidding. A joyride without the theft: driving with no particular goal other than the pleasure or thrill of doing so. It’s an addiction. He can’t stop. Steppenwolf told him, “Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway, looking for adventure…”

The owner’s manual for a car guy is difficult to comprehend at first. Give it some time and your shock absorbers will be like new.