Monday, January 31, 2011

Born Free To Dance With Black Holes


John Barry
11/3/1933 - 1/30/2011

Like many of us, I have gone through stages in my musical tastes. There was a time when the Beatles were Gods to me. Then I found Led Zeppelin in high school, and that changed everything. Gin Martini’s sipped to the tunes of Steely Dan, Little Feat and the Clash followed in college.

We all have a soundtrack to our lives. Even more so with the advent of digital music players. Back when I was in college I studied a lot of film. The films I really liked, I read the credits to. I learned about Foley Artists, and Production Design and Directors of Photography. More than anything else I learned to pay attention to the Musical Score.

There aren’t any ‘classical’ composers around today. They are all long dead and buried. They have been replaced by film composers. Those individuals that can give even more of a sweeping scope to the images created by David Lean and Stanley Kubrick.

One of those composers passed away yesterday. His name was John Barry. He had scored dozens of films and won Oscars for his work. You might not have known him, but you have heard his music. You have probably heard more than you realize.

I have a bunch of it. Along with the works of Jerry Goldsmith, Alex North, Michael Legrand, John Williams and Thomas Neuman, their works have been filling my headphones for a long, long time. While I walk in the wilderness, or stroll through a museum, walk to work, or build things in my garage. They give an epic scale to what may otherwise be an ordinary life.

From the James Bond films, to 'Out of Africa', to 'Dances With Wolves' to 'The Black Hole'. This guy was good. Very good.

Thanks John, for making my life a bit more cinematic.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Quick Friday Update


Unlike most of my well scripted and precisely thought out web log entries, this is just going to be a quick update. I know that sends gasps through my reading audience, who have come to expect my Hemingway style and James Joyce subtle wit, but this is Friday and I am in a hurry.

I want to comment on a couple of things. First of all, this whole civil disobidience thing in the Middle East that started out in Tunisia and appears to be rolling across the Arabian Peninsula like a Caterpillar tractor with no one at the controls. I had a sneaking suspicion that something like this was going to happen. I had this suspicion three years ago, in a blog I wrote called “New World Order”. Things are changing and they are changing much faster than old world governments can react to. This is going to be a different century. A much different century.

Next up are my ebay auctions. They will be over in a day or so, and I am somewhat dumbfounded by how they are going. At this rate, it looks as though all four of the items I put up for auction are going to sell. The one that I thought would garner the most interest hasn’t. The item that has garnered the most interest is the one I thought bidders would be least interested in. The most bids are for an item that started out with an opening bid of $1.99 and is now up to over $40.00! Watch out Donald Trump.

Finally, I got an e-mail this morning from some anonymous shit-head about someone that I read and comment on on-line. They must have gotten my e-mail address from a comment that I wrote on one of my friends blogs. The e-mail was a long documentary about how this friend was a convicted felon, had spent time in jail and was not remorseful for the heinous crimes they had committed. This sort of piggybacks onto my recent web log about ‘Whistle-Stabbing’ that ranted about how anonymous people come out of the shadows to dispense fear and doubt and then quickly disappear back into the darkness. I hate these scumbags. My response to them is below, although I doubt they will ever read it, since they have gone to ground again.


So what is the point of all this?


She has paid her debt and is doing what she can to put this behind her and live a good life.

How does this disclosure and character assassination make any positive statement what-so-ever? I have known for several years that she served time in prison, so what? I have made mistakes in the past, are you going to dig those up as well if I piss you off?

Would it make you happy if she lived in 'regret' all her life and walked around with a scarlet letter on her shirt?

Have you ever done anything that you regret in life and let it burden you until your death? Was the time she spent incarcerated pleasant? Should she be required to be a pauper for the rest of her life to pay for her sins?

Our society dictates that she has paid her debt, and will continue to do so for years to come through parole and restrictions placed upon her.

How do you know that she "isn't" making monthly restitution to the courts system to the families?

This just seems like anonymous character bashing from someone in the shadows.

Why don't you do some background checks on me and see if you can dredge something up to post on-line, without telling anyone who you are. Your actions seem pretty cowardly to me.


So it has been an interesting week. Hope you all have a good weekend.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paranoia Sets In


This is going to sound as though I am a bit paranoid and possible have a screw loose, but I have been noticing something of late that is really starting to bug me.

At first I wrote it off as just bad timing, or karma, or just too many idiots in too small a space. However, after weeks, months and years of this, I am starting to think that there is something else going on.

It might just be where I live, or it could be that I have a different expectation set than most others I come in contact with.........or, there could be something sinister at work here.

I have often spoken to my wife about this at the end of a long day, and it has almost gotten to be routine. “What stupid things did you have to deal with today honey?”, is usually how we begin our evening as we veg and unwind at 7pm. We aren’t just bitching about our jobs, we actually discuss all the things that went wrong in the past 12 hours and document them, to compare notes. It has become obvious that our notes tend to match up pretty closely. She works in the private sector, I work in the public sector.

What I am referring to here, is the general lack of competency in almost every aspect of American culture, especially here in the southwest. And when I say competency, I am talking about the basic human ability to do the simplest acts.

A day does not go by in my world, when I am driving on a street or walking on a sidewalk and the following things don't happen, usually more than once a day;

Someone driving their car will come to a complete stop in the middle of the street (nowhere near an intersection) to look at a map, or book, or just stare at the floor mates, totally oblivious to the traffic piling up behind them.

People walking on the sidewalk randomly wander out into traffic without bothering to look to see if anyone is coming, often times causing drivers to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting them.

People come up to me weekly asking for directions, such as “Is this the Human Resource Building?”.....while the name of the building is obvious above the door in huge letters. (I have learned that this is because there is an extremely high illiteracy rate in this state, most people on the street can’t read.)

These are just examples on the street. In our professional lives, it has become obvious between my wife and I, that American society has totally lost the ability to ‘problem solve’. Instead, our co-workers are constantly seeking aid from their office-mates that they perceive can solve their work / personal problem. I touched on this topic in my recent web log called “Fear Of Failure”. No one wants to assume the risk of failure anymore.

I can continue to expand on these topics all the way to the top of the heap. People like Bernie Maddoff, and the boys at Enron and General Motors. Educated people that knew they were playing inside a house of cards, but did nothing to correct the problems and instead just continued to try and grab the brass ring until they fell off the Merry-Go-Round.

My question is this. Are we just getting more stupid due to a decline in our civilization, or is there something else at work here? Is there something in the water? Could terrorist or foreign governments be seeding the clouds to make us all stupid after it rains? Is all that genetically engineered corn and hormone fed beef messing with our brains?

The frequency of all the stuff that is going on around me has made me wonder. I am waiting for the day when my supervisor comes to me with a staple through his finger and asks me to pull it out for him, all the while stating, “I don’t have any idea how this happened.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making Money The Old Fashioned Way...


.....on Ebay!

I have spent the last two weekends cleaning out the garage. Since it is the start of a new year I am determined to get things around Casa Johnson back on track and....

...this time I mean business! I have been taking a lot of stuff to Goodwill over the last few weeks, in an effort to get things cleaned, organized and the priorities back on schedule.

Some of the stuff might be worth something to someone, so I am throwing a few of the items up on E-Bay to see if I can find anyone who might be interested. If no one buys this stuff, it goes off to Goodwill as well. If you want to take a gander (or god forbid, actually bid on some of this stuff) check out the links below. You have 5 to 7 days to get out your wallets.

Military Documentary on VHS (Not your average war movie)

External Iomega Jaz Drive (SCSI / USB Interface - Complete)

Jeppesen Manual Flight Computer (before computers - pilots navigated with these things)

Apple External CD-ROM Drive (SCSI Interface)

I put this stuff out there because it is pretty eclectic and not things that you would find every day. Hopefully, some folks who really want one or more of these items will start a bidding war! Cha-Ching!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Golden Age


The Second Coming.

Haven’t been around much so far this year. Been super busy, and hope to be able to get caught up on bunch of blog reading in the next few days. This year has been super busy so far, and I am just now starting to get on top of the work-pile.

Been watching a lot of television recently. We have both been so tired when we get home that by 8pm in the evening, all the wife and I can do is plop down in-front of the HDTV and veg before we pass out.

Netflix and downloaded content from Usenet (played through my AppleTV) is all we watch anymore.

Without all of the media saturation that comes across the broadcast airways and cable, our view of the world has shifted significantly in the past few months.

I am actually happy to say that we really don’t have much of a clue about what is going on locally. There are a bunch of killings and scandals and other trivia that go on in Phoenix, Arizona, be we know little about them. A co-worker made the comment about two young African-American girls that were raped in South Phoenix last week, and I admitted that I had no knowledge of it. The world would not change if I did know about it. While it is sad, it is also just the story-de-jour. It will be forgotten with the next anxiety soundbite that comes along.

Once you learn how to search Netflix and Usenet, and empower yourself to watch the kind of programming you would be interested in, as opposed to the programming that someone else markets to you, things start to look a lot different.

Recently, I have been forcing my wife to watch a lot of documentaries. At first she rolls her eyes since she assumes they will be boring. But after about 10 minutes she becomes engrossed. If you have never watched documentaries before and think they will be akin to a two hour lecture on calculus, think again. Modern documentaries are light years ahead of their predecessors. We recently watched The Smartest Guys In The Room which documents the rise and fall of Enron. Highly recommended. It shows the hypocrisy in corporate America and government in an almost overkill fashion. Followed up by Bernie Maddoff and the real estate bubble, you realize that we are all pretty much screwed for the next 20 years. Other exceptional documentaries of note have been King Corn, Smash His Camera and In Search of Beethoven.

However, television isn’t always about truth. Sometimes it is about fiction as well. Many may have forgotten, but there was quality television prior to ‘reality television’. Much of this television has been forgotten, but it is still out there. Either on DVD from Netflix or from Usenet.

Some of the gems that I have run across of late have been;

- The 1950s and 60s Christmas Specials. I played these through the month of December on the AppleTV. Such gems as ‘A Petticoat Junction Christmas’, Christmas with the Beverly Hillbillies, The Donna Read Christmas Show and my favorite, the ‘Car 54 Where Are You?’ Christmas episode.

- Numerous episodes of Highway Patrol starring Brodrick Crawford. This was basically the pre-cursor to the television shows ‘Cops’....where a world populated totally by Caucasian people, drove 1950 late model cars and solved rather simplistic crimes with a Gestapo like efficiency.

- Several Episodes of "77 Sunset Strip", with Efram Zimbalist Jr. Ulta hip, ultra cool, thin as rails and smoking in every scene. Sort of like Mad Men in Black and White, only solving crime instead of doing advertising.....and the hair on Cokie Barnes is not to be missed. Hilarious.

- Companion episodes to Sunset Strip were a spin off called Surfside 6. About three hunky bachelors that live on a house boat in Miami Beach and solve crimes. The theme song alone is worth watching. It dawns on you while watching this show, that it is basically an advertisement for Miami Beach, for cold folks living in New York and New England during the winters of the early 1960s. Margarita Sieraa as Cha Cha Obrien is hilarious. She looks and acts like she just stepped out of the Sharks gang from “West Side Story’.

- Before there was Hawaii 5-0, there was Hawaiian Eye. Another escapist crime solving hour, this time in the tropics during the 1960s. Robert Conrad (of Wild Wild West and Black Sheep Squadron) stars in this along with Connie Stevens. The opening credits showing them all on surf boards with Diamond Head in the background is worth watching alone.

Add to these some British television documentaries, such as “Lost Gardens”, where a team of folks from the BBC find and restore gardens that have been overgrown and lost to the ages. Sounds ridiculous, but it is actually very interesting. This is something that could never make it in the US, even on cable, but the Brits do a very good job of it. Watching it makes me want to plant a garden.

Then there is “Narrow Boat Afloat”, about a guy that restores an old English canal boat and powers it all over southern England at 8mph through century old canals. There is a whole subculture of this in England, which at first seems odd, but after watching a few episode, I am seriously considering taking a narrow boat holiday in Britain sometime this decade.

So after watching this sort of fair, I am actually proud to say, that I have never seen an episode of “Glee” and I have no idea what is going on with “The Bachelor”, or when the award shows are on, or who won. I don’t care.

I program my own channels to watch....and the world is a much better place.

Thursday, January 6, 2011



The concept of Whistle-Blowing and Back-Stabbing, all rolled into one.

I have been watching with some disgust, the case of Owen Honors, the Captain of the U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier “Enterprise”. Not disgust at what he did, but the unmentioned back story of how this whole episode transpired.

For historical reference, for those that may not know what happened. Captain Honors was relieved of command of the Enterprise due to his participation in some morale videos that were created and distributed to the Enterprise Crew back in 2005. At the time, Honors was the second in command of the aircraft carrier. The videos, meant for crew viewing only, were laced with profanity and references to homosexuality and were meant to be entertaining and humorous and not to be taken seriously.

Everyone on board the ship knew about these videos, including the captain of the Enterprise. Honors was promoted to captain of the Enterprise almost two years ago and was generally well liked by his crew. He has a long and distinguished military career as a high ranking naval officer and a navy pilot.

Was what he did proper? Probably not. Did what he do merit his termination and the end of his military career? Probably not. But the military was embarrassed and needed a scapegoat,..... five years later.

So much for the back-story.

This whole episode makes me pretty upset, because I have been in the same situation, but for totally different reasons.

No one is asking the question, why this came to light five years later? The answer is, because someone was pissed off with Captain Honors and went to a newspaper with the videos. And they did so anonymously. They did not confront Executive Officer Owens at the time of the videos were made nor follow the military chain of command on-board ship with a complaint, or even notify the Captain about their concerns as far as we know. They waited for five year and then stabbed him in the back and ended his military career.

The reason they are ‘allowed’ to do this is a mantra in our newer, politically correct government, that states “something that is ‘offensive' to one worker, is offensive to ALL workers” and won’t be tolerated. This supposedly makes for a more safe and secure work environment, but when abused, it has the opposite effect. It creates team-splitting as opposed to team building.

Let me share my personal experience with this concept.

Back in the 1990s, I was employed in a state office. For reasons that are still a mystery to me, one of the supervisors that I worked under decided that they did not like me and wanted me fired. I assume she determined that I wasn’t a ‘team’ player, which meant that I didn’t back her up in certain office situations. So much so, that the other supervisors in the office counseled me to ‘stay away’ from her, because she ‘had it in for me.’

One day, I was called into my directors office and told that a complaint had been filed. That a ‘fellow employee’ (anonymous) had found something in my office offensive and it had to be removed. What was the offensive object? A small painting by the artist Maxfield Parish that was hanging on my wall. The painting showed a person (androgynous, you couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman) sitting by a campfire with a naked back. I agreed to remove the picture.

Now mind you, both the director and I knew what was going on, and we both knew who had filed the complaint, even though no name was mentioned. Since he was advised that someone was offended, he was obligated to take action.

Never-The-Less, for the following year, there were copies of Cosmopolitan and Vogue magazines laying on our office break room table that displayed naked models hocking Channel #5 and stating 10 ways to have better sex with your lover that were never removed. The hypocrisy was evident.

Was hanging the picture in my office not really, and if someone found it offensive and told me, I would have taken it down in consideration. Was Captain Honor’s foolish in what he did, yes, but life on board a Navy ship is different than life on main-street. The culture is different and the stress and chain of command are different.

In both instances, anonymous individuals sought to tear down people that had done nothing wrong in most of their co-workers eyes and were allowed to get away with it. The only thing they accomplished was to cause descent among the ranks.

I keep a watchful eye on my co-workers now, because anyone of them can 'claim' I told an off color joke in the men's room and make an issue of it with management in order to have me reprimanded. They won’t come to me to discuss the matter directly in order to resolve it.

The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is more wary now as well, knowing that as soon as someone's tour of duty is up, they can spill the beans (anonymously) and ruin someone else’s career.

Whistling blowing is one thing, if it involves criminal intent or defrauding someone. Whistle blowing just to get revenge is back stabbing. The Navy and the Government need to know the differencee.

….and that supervisor that had it in for me many years ago? She walked away from the job under a cloud of suspicion about a year later and no one knows what ever happened to her.