Category Archives: Personal

I found a $100 bill, and didn’t know what to do with it…

Walking out of St. Peter’s after Mass yesterday, I bent to pick up a cough drop wrapper from the sidewalk. A fellow parishioner walking up behind me joked, “If that’s a hundred-dollar bill, it’s mine.”

“Funny you should say that,” I told him…

My wife and I spend most of the weekend raking and bagging pine straw. My estimate is that we filled, and put by the curb, 50 39-gallon lawn and leaf bags (our trash people won’t take it unless it’s bagged). I say “estimated” because on Saturday night, someone in the neighborhood took about half of what we had bagged that day. They’re welcome to it, but it threw off my count, but it was somewhere close to 50 bags.

After we ran out of the bags we had on hand late Saturday, I went to Walmart to get some more, along with a couple of other items I needed. But when I got to the checkout, I had forgotten my wallet.

100_bill_back-565x246So, I ran home, apologized profusely because I knew the sun would be down before I completed another round trip, and rushed back to Walmart. And when I got out of my car and started to rush in, there, on the pavement between my car and the SUV next to it, was the sight at right.

“That’s not…” but I bent and picked it up, and it was — a crisp, new, $100 bill, folded in half and dropped on the grubby tarmac. (My initial doubt arose partly from that cheesy, block “100” that makes the new bills look cheap and phony.)

I’ve never found that much money. Have you?

I didn’t know what to do. The chances of finding the person it belonged to inside Walmart during Christmas shopping season seemed dim. What would I do — get customer service to get on the P.A. and say, “Did anyone lose a hundred-dollar bill?” That didn’t seem practical. I started to walk in and figure it out on the way, and was about to stick it in my pocket while I walked, but suddenly got a shock of “Candid Camera” paranoia. What if this was a prank, and I was being watched? Sticking it in my pocket would look like I had decided to keep it. So I held it up in front of me so anyone could see I had not appropriated it for my own, and looked about ostentatiously.

I decided — not because it was certain, but I felt that I had to decide something (remember, I was in a hurry) — that it must have come from the SUV. A passenger had gotten out, and in sticking a handful of things into his or her pocket, dropped it. I figured I would concentrate on trying to return the bill to whoever had been in the SUV, because if the money belonged to anyone else, my chances of finding that person were close to nil.

So I walked around the SUV. It was dark green, with a couple of Dallas Cowboy stickers on the back window. Not helpful. With my phone, I took a picture of the license plate. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with that, but it seemed it could be handy in a last-ditch effort to find the people it belonged to.

Then I thought, “Maybe it’s unlocked!” So I tried the passenger-side front door, the one closest to where I’d found the bill — and it opened!

And immediately, the antitheft alarm started blowing the horn, over and over (did you know that would happen with an unlocked door? never having had a car with an antitheft system, I did not). Got to get this over with! I dropped the bill onto the seat, and closed the door. Then I walked slowly and casually into the store. The whole way, with that obnoxious horn blowing behind me, I expected to be accosted by someone who thought I was trying to take something from the vehicle — and kept imagining how that conversation would go: No, actually, I was trying to put a $100 bill into that vehicle that didn’t belong to me…

But I made it, eventually found my way to the register where I’d left my stuff, paid for it and headed out.

Immediately when I got outside, I noted that the alarm had stopped blowing. As I approached the two vehicles, I could make out that there was someone in the driver’s seat of the SUV, just sitting there looking down at his phone. A young man, black, about 30-40 years old. I tapped on the window, he opened the door, and I asked, “Was your alarm going off when you came out?” He said it was, and he was calling someone about it. I told him what had happened.

“Did you find the bill on the seat?” He said yes, he had. Good, then, I said, and started to leave. And with real feeling, he said, “You have a blessed day!” You too, I said.

Note that I didn’t ask him whether the money was his. I left it up to him to tell me if it wasn’t. I was just happy to have concluded the business in a way that was good for somebody. I went home, and managed to fill of three or four of the new bags before it got too dark out.

It was only on the way home that I wondered, Where was the person who had been in the passenger seat? And if there hadn’t been anyone in the passenger seat, how did the bill fall on that side of the vehicle? I decided he had dropped it on his side, and wind had blown it under the SUV to the other side. Except, I reminded myself, there had been no wind that day while I was working outside.

Whatever. As I type this, I recall that there was a bunch of stuff sitting on that passenger seat — a jacket or sweater and several other items — and I had just dropped the bill among the clutter. So… that would indicate that maybe no one had been sitting there. Which means… oh, I don’t know.

I think it was his money. But honestly, I was just glad to get rid of it.

A brief postscript: On Sunday, as we were about to resume bagging up the pine straw, I walked up to a pile of it right by the curb, and… there was a $20 bill there. I said, this one I’m keeping, and stuck it in my pocket, thereby increasing the amount of money I had on me by 2,000 percent. It was on my property, after all. And we laughed. But we knew it probably belonged to our daughter, because she sometimes parks in that very spot.

I meant to ask her about it when she got home from work last night. I forgot…

How can anyone have any objection to THIS government?

10678786_10101093577978073_5564972959038737037_n

I don’t normally celebrate family birthdays here on the blog, but since my youngest is so far away, in Thailand, and I don’t even get to see her on her birthday, I feel the need to do something out of the ordinary.

So here’s an update on her sojourn in the Far East, in celebration of her birthday today — which is already yesterday where she is. I understand that she spent part of her birthday teaching a classroom full of kids how to tell time. I asked whether she tried to explain time zones. She said no, they’re having enough trouble with a.m. and p.m.

cropped AIDS dayAbove, you see her and a fellow Peace Corps volunteer at a World AIDS Day conference in Bangkok. Now I ask you: Who could be opposed to a government so small and friendly and pleasant as this? At another point in this same day, the young ladies were handing out free condoms in the street (at right). Something which caused me some anxiety. “Handing out condoms to strangers on a street in Bangkok” doesn’t exactly top the list of things we Dads recommend as approved activities for our young daughters. But it was a good cause and all, and it went OK, and I didn’t find out about it until after the fact…

Another favorite recent photo is below, which she captioned thusly: “They finally dressed me up like the Thai princess that I am on the inside!”

10711111_10203822249491493_2210558707381613443_n

What ‘we believe,’ compared to what I believe

Bear with me, those of you who aren’t interested in religious arcana. I’ll post something for you later. But it is Advent, after all, and therefore a time for reflection…

On a previous post, Mike Cakora shared a favorite quote:

“A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.”
– Abba Eban, Israeli diplomat (1915-2002)

My response to that got so involved, I decided to turn it into a separate post…

I really like the Abba Eban quote, even though I suspect he is trying to say something negative about consensus, when I think it is a wonderful thing.

The point he makes is at the heart of why I’m so pedantic about the distinction between an editorial and a column. An editorial expresses a group opinion (preferably an actual consensus, which was our goal at The State), and a column is what one person believes. (It particularly drives me nuts when innocents say they’ve contributed “an editorial,” when they mean a letter or an op-ed. It’s all I can do to keep myself from telling them, “That’s impossible, because you do not belong to an editorial board.” Because, you know, I don’t think it would be taken well.)

This distinction also lies at the heart of my objection to the changes to the Catholic liturgy in English in this country a couple of years back. Well, my substantive objection, as opposed to my merely aesthetic ones. (I thought the words were more beautiful before.)

I only have my nose rubbed in this problem when I attend a Mass in English, which I usually don’t do, since I’m a Spanish lector. (The irony is that the Spanish version has many of the same flaws as the new English one, but it’s the only version I’ve known in Spanish, so I don’t have the sense of loss.)

Last night, I attended a Mass in English, because I had a personal conflict with my usual Mass time. When we got to the Creed, I couldn’t bring myself to say the new words, and muttered th old one under my breath. Here’s the new creed, the one that bothers me so much.

Here’s the old one. Or rather, a comparison of the two. The old one is on the left.

I have a number of objections, as I said, arising purely from my love of the language. If you care about words, “one in being with the Father” is greatly preferable to “consubstantial with the Father.” Or compare the old, “he suffered, died and was buried” to “he suffered death and was buried.” The latter minimizes both the suffering and the death, coming across almost as though “he suffered inconvenience.” The old stresses that he SUFFERED, and then he DIED. Whole different emphasis. Or rather, the old actually does emphasize, and the new does not.

But the BIG objection is that the old is about what “WE believe,” and the new one says “I believe.” And yeah, I know this gets us back to a literal translation of the Latin Credo, but that doesn’t legitimize it for me.

Here’s why: For me the creed works as an editorial (the old way), but not as a column (the new way). As with the Eban quote, the creed describes what we have agreed to believe collectively, not a single person’s conclusions about faith. Switching to “I” negates the communitarian nature of Catholicism, and moves us more toward the nonliturgical denominations, where they talk a lot about their own personal faith, and their personal relationship with Jesus. I prefer to stress, through our statement of faith, that we are all part of the Body of Christ, and that these statements reflect a 2,000-year-old process of discernment.

And for those of you who still don’t understand my communitarian leanings, this is NOT about subordinating my ability to think to a collective enterprise. As you know, I object deeply to that sort of thing; that objection lies at the heart of my critique of political parties.

I object because I DO think for myself. And if I were working out a personal, “I” sort of creed, it would be quite different from this one. I’m not a Christian and a Catholic because of the things stated in the creed. At no time would I attach great importance to the Virgin Birth, for instance. I’m OK with saying “WE” believe that; I don’t object to it. But it’s not core to my faith. The core of my faith, and I think, truly, the Catholic faith, is what Jesus stated as the Great Commandment, and the second commandment that is inextricably related to it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Were I to write a creed, it would center around those things, not around a sort of religious cosmology or the description of a Trinity-based pantheon of versions of God. I’m happy to go along with (WE believe) what they came up with at Nicea, but it’s just not what I, personally (I believe) would have come up with.

Which reminds me. I have for years had this idea for a project — to draft a new creed, based in what Jesus actually taught, rather than in all the arguments that occurred after his death as to who he was. A creed that Jesus would actually recognize, that would make him say, “THAT’s what I was talking about.” I’ve just been intimidated by the scope of it, and I worry that trying to do such a thing would show abominable hubris on my part. Lacking a good grounding in theology or in deep study of the Bible, I fear that what I came up with would be woefully inadequate, and therefore it would be presumptuous of me to try.

But I really ought to try sometime… Maybe the difficulty of the task would make me appreciate the Nicene one better…

And maybe I shouldn’t be intimidated. After all, I think an atheist, Douglas Adams, did a great job of summing up the faith, even though he was being offhand and flippant about it:

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change…

Like we really needed another place like this…

store

Yesterday, my wife was trying to dress my grandson, who’s two-and-a-half, to go outside and play in the chill. She couldn’t find a coat that fit him. Then, she found one of his older sister’s heavy coats, and tried to put that on him.

“No!” he said.

What was wrong?, she asked.

“Purple!”

She corrected him: “No, it’s pink.”

“Girl!” he said. He has lately taken to calling himself, rather emphatically, “Boy,” and instead of struggling the way he used to to call his sister by name, she is “Girl.” As are each of the Twins, his cousins.

We don’t know where he’s gotten this all of a sudden (not from me, not from my wife), but it’s taken quite a hold on him. Call it pink, call it purple, call it what have you, he wasn’t having any of it. Nothing against girls; they can wear that if they’d like. But it’s not for him.

So today, we went to find El Machito something he would accept at Once Upon a Child in Harbison. We found something that we hope he’ll like. It’s safety-vest orange on the outside, and has an olive drab quilted liner that he can pull out and wear separately. He might think the orange is too much like pink. We’ll see. The main point is, it’s warm.

But that’s not what I wanted to tell you about…

After we got the coat, I dropped my wife off at the store that went into the space that once held my favorite store in the world, the Harbison Barnes and Noble. I wanted nothing to do with it. I went to run an errand at the mall.

When I came back, she was still in there. So I made myself go in. And you know what I found?

I found a place that looked, to me, almost exactly like Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx and Ross. Yet another place like those. Nothing special about it. OK, technically, this place had brand-name items those other places lack. My wife showed me a pair of canvas Adidas shoes the right size for our grandson, as she was explaining this place was a little more expensive than those other places.

I said it wasn’t too bad — less than three dollars for a pair of toddler tennis shoes. She said, “What are you talking about?” I said, look, they’re $2.97. Then I looked more closely: $29.97.

Thirty dollars?!?!” I said. “Thirty dollars for a little kid’s canvas shoes, like Keds?” She told me to lower my voice and said yes, and that this was very reasonable; elsewhere they’d probably cost $45.

I was happy to get out of there. Is just seemed so unfair. The B&N had been a special place. Yes, it was as chain, but I liked it better than any other B&N, and I like them all.

There was nothing special about this, not to me.

But you know what really hurt? I had had trouble finding a nearby parking place outside. That never happened when it was a Barnes and Noble. Which doesn’t seem right. In that same shopping center were two other stores that looked just like this one, regardless of quality of merchandise. The bookstore was special. But there it is.

Why does Pandora get me, while Netflix doesn’t?

pandora2

I had Pandora playing on my iPad while showering and getting dressed this morning, and I marveled at this sequence:

What did those tracks have to do with Radiohead? When I listen to Pandora on my laptop, there’s a place where I can click to answer the question, “Why was this track selected?” I don’t see how to do that on the iPad app, though.

After that Tweet, I continued to be mystified by Dylan’s “Temporarily Like Achilles.” What really blew my mind, though, was that it was followed by Leon Russell’s “Shootout On the Plantation.
Dylan, maybe. Beatles, OK. Even the Stones. But Leon Russell?

Even when I can check, the answer to the question doesn’t help me much. Here are songs I heard later on the same station on my laptop, together with the “explanations:”

A Salty Dog by Procol Harum
Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features acoustic rock instrumentation, folk influences, mild rhythmic syncopation, thru composed melodic style and acoustic rhythm piano.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Live) by George Harrison
Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features electric rock instrumentation, blues influences, gospel influences, intricate melodic phrasing and thru composed melodic style.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall by Leon Russell
Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features basic rock song structures, blues influences, gospel influences, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation and acoustic rhythm piano.

Under The Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features a subtle use of vocal harmony, repetitive melodic phrasing, major key tonality, electric rhythm guitars and a dynamic male vocalist.

For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield
Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features acoustic rock instrumentation, folk influences, call and answer vocal harmony (antiphony), demanding instrumental part writing and repetitive melodic phrasing.

To me, these explanations are non-explanations. The commonalities are just so generic, in pop music. What matters to me, though, is that I like all the songs. Pandora is able to go, “You, Brad Warthen, like this, so we think you’ll like this other, too.” And they’re so often right.

But Netflix, which has thousands of ratings from me to go by, is still befuddled as to what I’ll really like. Almost never does it suggest something I haven’t seen before, and then when I watch it, I think, “Wow, that was awesome; I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before. Thanks, Netflix!”

Almost never. And yet, it happens all the time with Pandora.

What is it — is musical taste easier to predict, because of fewer variables? I don’t know…

pandora

The results are in: More of the same

Two weeks ago, I wrote of being dispirited by the prospects of the upcoming election. I was sufficiently down that Bryan Caskey did a Ferris Bueller to my Cameron Frye and took me skeet-shooting, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

But now, the election results are in, and they did not disappoint. They contain nothing likely to instill enthusiasm.

The bottom line is, things will stay the same in South Carolina — and in the nation, too. Anyone who thinks it matters which party controls the Congress is seriously deluded. It’s the same bunch of people, playing the same game (the “Which Party is Up Today?” game) the same way. I see that Harry Reid is out of power, and I go, “Yay!” and I see Mitch McConnell rise to power and I go, “Oh, dang.”

The way I feel (and yes, I’m talking about feelings rather than thoughts, which shows I’m just not myself today), overall, about this election is captured well in this datum, which The Washington Post describes as “The single most depressing number in the national exit poll“:

One of the fundamental truisms of American life is this: Your kids will have a better life — more opportunities, more creature comforts, more whatever — than you did/do.  Except that people don’t believe that any more, according to preliminary exit polls.

Almost half of all Americans — 48 percent — said they expected life for “future generations” to be “worse than life today,” while 22 percent said it would be better. Another 27 percent said life would be about the same. Do the math and you see that more than twice as many people are pessimistic about the future that they will leave their kids as those who are optimistic.  (Not surprisingly, among the 48 percent who believe future generations will be worse off, two thirds of them voted for Republicans in today’s election.)

Those are stunning — and depressing — numbers. And they are far from the only evidence that the American Dream is, if not dead, certainly dying in the eyes of many Americans….

How do you like them apples? Well, I don’t either, but there it is. And I think it reflects the national mood, as expressed in this election. Americans are fed up with politics, and have lost faith in its transformative power. They’re unhappy about the way things are going, but they don’t see a way to make them go better. So they express their dissatisfaction in the standard way — they punish the president’s party in the “midterm” election. They don’t have high hopes for change or anything, but they’ve expressed their pique.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Good things happened. I’m happy that Lindsey Graham won. I’m glad to have him as my senator, and I get tired of everybody ragging on him. I’m not disappointed, exactly, that Vincent Sheheen lost because I expected him to. We’d be a lot better off if he’d won, and I probably wouldn’t be such a Toby Zeigler today, but that was never in the cards.

And good for Alan Wilson and Beth Bernstein and a number of others. I’m glad the Lexington 2 bond referendum passed.

But unless you are one of the winning candidates, or related to one of the winning candidates, I doubt that you are elated by the mushy gray events of yesterday.

Yeah, I think it’s nice that a black man was elected to the U.S. Senate, and a black Republican at that — anything that bumps us out of the usual ruts of partisan voting patterns is good. But I’d feel better if I thought he had inspired people somehow with ideas for how to better our nation. I can’t really put my finger on anything that I know he wants to do in office. We just, as a state, found him unobjectionable. He had the office, and we saw no reason to remove him from it. Tim Scott’s election is something that will look more exciting in the footnotes of history than it actually was.

OK, one other good thing happened that represents progress for South Carolina. I’ll write about it in a separate post. Don’t get your hopes up. It’s not exciting…

It took me 17 minutes to vote. A normal person would have taken 10, tops

The Quail Hollow precinct, at 8:21 a.m.

The Quail Hollow precinct, at 8:21 a.m.

Well, so much for the long lines that had been anticipated at Lexington County polling places, partly because of the plethora of referenda on the ballot.

From the time I got out of my car until the time I got back into it, 17 minutes passed. I figure at least seven of those were due to:

  1. My obsessive carefulness about voting. I’ve always been this way, since my first time voting in 1972 (I stood in the booth agonizing over the fact that I saw Nixon as an abuser of power, and McGovern as an incompetent, and trying to decide which was least bad). Once, in the days of actual booths with curtains, a poll worker asked, “Are you all right in there, sir?” When we used punch cards, I would put the card in and take it out a couple of times to make sure it was aligning properly, then take the completed ballot out, make sure the numbers next to all the holes corresponded to the numbers of the candidates I had meant to vote for, then run my hand up and down the back of the card a couple of times to make sure there were no bits of cardboard stuck there (this was before I knew they were called “chads”), and hold it up to the light to make sure all the punches were clean and complete. To this day, I find it absolutely inconceivable that anyone in Florida could have inadvertently voted for the wrong person in 2000. I always made sure. (And I preferred the cards to electronic machines because there was a physical thing proving how I’d voted.)
  2. The fact that the machine offered me two chances to go back and check — when it offered a summary of how I’d voted, and when it asked me to make sure that the races I’d left blank were intentionally left that way. I went back and reviewed everything both times, and then once more before hitting “confirm.” I take my vote very seriously.
  3. I took pictures of the how-I-voted summary pages, so I could remember how I voted, and not only for blogging purposes.
  4. When I initially got back to my car, I realized I hadn’t gotten an “I Voted” sticker, so I went back for one.

Then, of course, there was the small matter of making 27 separate voting decisions. Sure, I’d already made up my mind on most, but I took a little “are you sure?” couple of seconds on most of them.

Some stats and trivia:

  • I voted for three Democrats, seven Republicans, and one member of the new “American Party.”
  • I voted a straight State newspaper ticket, where applicable (they endorsed in some S.C. House races other than mine, and did not endorse in any of the Lexington County referenda).
  • I voted “yes” on four of the five referendum questions, and “no” on the other.
  • I left seven places blank, including, of course, the execrable, contemptible straight-party option, which should not be allowed under the law. Most of these involved unopposed people, but some involved competition between candidates with whom I was unfamiliar. And my standard rule, which I only occasionally break (see next bullet), is not to vote when I’m unsure of the candidates.
  • I voted for myself as a write-in for Congress. I had to choose three candidates for Lexington Two school board. I was not familiar with any of them. I wrote in my wife and my Dad (my Dad actually ran for the board once, many years ago), and the guy who had shaken my hand outside the polling place. That was my one whimsical, irresponsible, uninformed, against-my-own-rules vote. He had an honest face.

Overall, it went smoothly. There were three people in line to sign in ahead of me when I walked up, and one of those was gone before I could get out my phone and shoot the picture above. I had been handed several sheets of paper with explanations of the referenda, supposedly so I could study them in line, but I had no time in line even to glance at them.

The picture ID thing afforded me no trouble, beyond the hassle of digging it out of my wallet.

So how’d it go for you?

I had to go back for it, but I got my sticker.

I had to go back for it, but I got my sticker.

Some things I will NOT look at on the Web

This news

Jennifer_LawrencecroppedGoogle has removed two links to a site hosting stolen nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence after requests by the actor’s lawyers.

The takedown requests were filed under the digital millennium copyright act (DMCA), with her lawyers Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp stating that the stolen photos impinged on Lawrence’s copyright….

… reminds me of this new category of Web content that I have gradually become aware of recently.

The Internet grants us access to almost anything that can be digitized. This is both a wonderful blessing and a terrible affliction. Once, I just had to avoid the dictionary to stay on task — if I looked up one word, I’d get sidetracked by fascination, as I’d inadvertently run into one interesting word that led to another that led to another.

Now, I never wonder about anything. No matter what I’m going at the time, if the thought begins to form, “I wonder…,” I stop and look it up — which in turn is likely to lead to link after link, because scratching that itch releases something in my brain, something related to what makes addicts act the way they do… hang on… dopamine. Dang, I could have sworn it was “endorphins,” but it turns out it’s dopamine. “Endorphins” would have given me an excuse to link to that clip in which Annette Bening says, in such a sexy way, that she digs “the endolphin rush.” Which, it turns out, is not that easy to find…

See what I mean?

But there are some things I won’t look at on the Web. There’s been a rash of them lately. They include:

  • The aforementioned nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence. I still agree with Ricky Gervais when he said celebrities should make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of them from their computers by not putting nude photos of themselves on their computers. But I have a responsibility in this, too, which is not to look when celebs fail to exercise that most basic form of good judgment.
  • The ISIL videos of the beheadings of Western journalists. I hear that they’re out there if you look, but I’m just not going to cooperate with the terrorists to the point of looking. I don’t need to get whipped up by viewing these atrocities; I’m fully committed to the “degrade and destroy ISIL” agenda without it.
  • The video of that football player beating up his girlfriend. Everybody has something that turns his stomach, and one that that does that to me is the very thought of a man hitting a woman. I have a very deeply conditioned response of revulsion at such a thing. I don’t ever want to see it. Just knowing it’s out there is bad enough.

What do you pointedly avoid online?

 

Haley, Sheheen SHOULD join together to call for a ‘yes’ vote on adjutant general reform

images (7)

On Nov. 4, South Carolina voters have the chance to put an end to an embarrassing anomaly — we have the power to cease to be the only state in the union that elects its adjutant general, the leader of the state’s National Guard.

The reasons why it’s a horrible idea to have a popularly elected general are many; Cindi Scoppe goes over some of them in her column today. It’s something I’ve never had to think about very hard, because when I was a kid, I lived in a place where it was accepted that that military officers got mixed up in politics.

In fact, it was far from an abstraction to me. We lived in the upstairs of a large house that was owned by a captain in the Ecuadorean Navy. One day, the captain asked if he could borrow our part of the duplex. My parents went out, and my brothers and I went downstairs to stay in the captain’s part of the house, while the captain and an Ecuadorean admiral met upstairs in our home. The next day, the president of the country had been put on a plane to Panama, the admiral was the head of the new military junta running the country, and our landlord was the minister of agriculture.

Actually, given what a disaster el presidente had been, Ecuador was no worse off. But in a country such as hours, with it’s deeply treasured culture of constitutional government and subservience of the military to legal authority, such a development would be catastrophic. Fortunately in our national history, such events have remained the stuff of political fiction such as “Seven Days in May.”

Except in South Carolina, where we require our top general to be a politician first (and really don’t even require him to have any military background at all).

Fortunately, our current adjutant general, Bob Livingston, is a well-qualified officer who also understands that we need to do away with this anomaly. That’s a very good thing, since his predecessors resisted reform, and the Guard followed their lead, and the electorate followed the Guard.

But now we have the opportunity to change the situation. We also have two people running for governor — the incumbent, Nikki Haley, and Sen. Vincent Sheheen — who are both known for advocating this reform (as well as doing away with other unnecessarily elected constitutional officers). In her column today, Cindi put forth a great idea:

Most of all, we need to hear from the most visible advocates of empowering governors to act like governors: Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Vincent Sheheen. This is a signature issue for both of them. It’s not too much to ask them to set aside their bickering for long enough to make a joint appearance — or to cut a TV ad together — asking voters to vote yes for the military meritocracy.

If they’re not willing to put some skin in the game, they’ll have no one but themselves to blame if we keep electing the adjutant general — and all of those other constitutional officers who ought to be appointed.

That would be wonderful on so many levels — including the first level, which is that it would make this long-awaited reform all that much more likely to occure.

Why don’t I write like that any more?

hemingway-writing

For my entire career, whenever I look back at what I wrote a year or two in the past, I think, “Why don’t I write like that anymore?”

This is, I hope, a twist on the “grass is always greener” phenomenon. Either that, or my powers as a writer have been declining for four decades, which means that by this time, I should be incapable of putting a noun and a verb together in an intelligible order.

Anyway, I had that experience again today. I accidentally ran across this post from four years ago, in which I had a little fun mocking the way Republicans talk in South Carolina:

As I’ve said from Day One I’m a conservative a true conservative my daddy was a conservative daddy my mama was a conservative mama I’m a bidnessman meet a payroll don’t take bailouts lazy shiftless welfare takers the key is to starve ‘em before they reproduce 100 percent rating from conservative conservatives of America my dog is a conservative dog I don’t have a cat because cats are effete I eat conservative I sleep conservative I excrete conservative I got conservative principles a conservative house and conservative clothes take back our government from the socialists even though we don’t really want it because who needs government anyway they don’t have government in Somalia and they’re doing alright aren’t they National Rifle Association Charlton Heston is my president and Ronald Reagan is my God I will have no gods before him I go Arizona-style all the way that’s the way I roll I will keep their cold dead government hands off your Medicare so help me Ronald Reagan…

That was prompted, of course, by my being fed up at hearing Republicans who are unable to complete a sentence without using the word “conservative” at least once, and preferably multiple times. In case, you know, you missed it the first time. It is mind-numbingly monotonous, and I needed a little comic relief. I thought we all did.

That got me sufficiently charged up that I turned and made fun of Democrats, saying that just once, I’d like to hear a candidate for office in South Carolina say the following:

Actually, I’m a liberal. A liberal all the way. I drive a Prius, I love wine and cheese parties with the faculty, I think America is a big bully in the world and no wonder people hate us (I’d be a terrorist, too, if I didn’t abhor violence so), and I never saw an abortion I didn’t like. My spouse and I have an open marriage, so scandal can’t touch us, because to each his or her own. I’m a white, male heterosexual and the guilt just eats me alive; I wish I belonged to a group that was more GENUINE, you know? The first thing I’d do if elected is raise taxes through the roof, and spend every penny on public education, except for a portion set aside for re-education camps for people who now home-school their kids. Then, if we needed more money for excessive regulation of business and other essential government services, we’d raise taxes again, but only on the rich, which is defined as YOU or anybody who makes more than you. Probably the best word to describe my overall tax plan would be “confiscatory.” And my spending (OH, my spending! You’ve never seen spending until you see my spending!) would best be termed “redistributive.” If elected, my inaugural party will have music by the Dixie Chicks and the Indigo Girls, and then we’ll all bow down to a gigantic image of Barack (did you know it means “blessed”?) Obama, the savior of us all, and chant in some language other than the ultimate oppressor language, English. French, perhaps. Or Kiswahili….

I had fun reading that. Why don’t I write like that anymore?…

You ever notice how much Jed Bartlet aged in office?

Once, he was so young and vigorous.

Once, he was so young and vigorous.

Well, there’s not much “West Wing” left.

As I was working out this morning, Leo McGarry — now Matt Santos’ running mate — was sweating over debate prep, and Josh and the rest of the campaign were leaking how badly he was doing, to lower expectations.

One by one, President Jed Bartlet’s key staffers have pulled away. Sam Seaborn just sort of fell off the face of the Earth when he went West to run for Congress (the way he faded away, without any mention of what happened to him, is one of the few weaknesses in the writing of the show). Leo stepped down after his heart attack, but is now “jumping off the cliff” again with Santos. Josh is running the Santos campaign. Toby is — well, you know what happened to Toby — and if you don’t, I’m not telling you.

The Bartlet administration is winding down. This was episode 10 of the 7th and final season. Only 12 episodes left.

And if you think the presidency of Barack Obama has aged him, have you ever compared pictures of Jed Bartlet from season one and season seven? Being a TV president can be pretty rough, too, apparently.

Of course, the transformation is more startling to me than it was to folks who watched the show the first time around. I saw my first episode at the start of this year.

As you know, I have loved this show. I don’t want to lose it, and have to go back to the horrible real-life politics. Or to vastly inferior television, for that matter. I try to cling to it. I get excited when someone else out there writes about how much he or she loved the show, and I nod enthusiastically. When a young woman asserted in the WashPost that “I’m the biggest ‘West Wing’ fan you’ll ever meet,” I protested, “No, you’re not.”

I’ve started following “Leo McGarry,” my favorite character, on Twitter. A sample:

All this fanboy behavior is pitiful, I know, but then my plight is truly pitiable: I’m about to run out of West Wings. And I fear there’s nothing out there that I haven’t seen that is as good as this.

Showing his age, with Leo in Season 7.

Showing his age, with Leo in Season 7.

Anybody want to give some platelets with me (or FOR me)?

This was what they needed last week. I'm not sure what all they need now, beyond platelets.

This was what they needed last week. I’m not sure what all they need now, beyond platelets.

As I told y’all, I had been scheduled to give red cells last week at the Red Cross, but at the last minute they called and asked if I’d give platelets instead, because there was a dire need. I had never been asked to do this, in all the years I’ve given blood, so I figured it MUST be dire, and said OK.

So I did. And learned to my surprise that this is a way more time-consuming process than giving whole blood, or even double red cells. From the time you start pumping until you stop, it’s 90 minutes. Not counting the interview and blood test and other preliminaries.

Not only that, but while you have to wait 16 weeks to give double red cells again, you can give platelets every week.

And sure enough, they called me today, and I agreed to go in and donate tomorrow. I said, “You sure you don’t want whole blood, or double red?” They said no, this need is quite urgent — regular donors have been out sick, so they really need me to do this.

So I will, assuming I don’t come down with something in the next 24 hours.

But now, I’m thinking it would be good to share some of this warm, self-congratulatory glow that I get from being such a good guy. I’m thinking maybe some of y’all should give, too. Because it’s needed.

And because, frankly, I don’t think I can find this much time to do this every week. I need some backup. I don’t mean to complain, but it’s just a matter of practicality — this burden needs to be shared.

How about it, folks? I’ll be glad to help set you up…

So why can’t a hallucination be an actual message?

Unfaithful

 

First, a confession…

Sometimes in Mass, my mind wanders. This is not entirely my fault. I love St. Peter’s and its architecture, but the acoustics have always been terrible. Everything said from the altar or the pulpit bounces around in the dome above it, so that the last thing a speaker said is competing with what he or she is saying after that. This is particularly bad for me with my Meniere’s problem, because it causes me to have particular trouble separating speech clearly from background noise. Add to that the fact that the Mass I attend is in Spanish, and while my pronunciation is good, my understanding isn’t what it was 50 years ago when I lived in Ecuador. Even when I can hear it clearly, I have to work hard to catch enough words to get the drift.

Put all that together, and I have a lot of trouble following what is being said. So my mind wanders. Frequently. And when it wanders, I often think of religious-themed posts for the blog. But then, by the time the Mass is over, and I go home and have lunch and, if I have my druthers, have a nice Sunday afternoon nap, I’ve forgotten about it. So Sunday posts remain rare.

But here’s the one that was going through my head in Mass yesterday…

The night before, I watched on Netflix an episode of “House,” from Season 5, titled “Unfaithful.”

It opens with a weary, dissolute-seeming young priest (Greene’s “whiskey priest” in The Power and the Glory seems to be a literary antecedent) who has just taken off his collar and is trying to relax in his dingy cell, located in the charity that he runs for the homeless, by knocking back a whiskey or three.

A few moments before, a homeless man had knocked, seeking a warm coat, which the priest gave him. Now, someone is insistently knocking again. Reluctantly, grimly, he drags himself to the door, opens it, and before him is a bloody Christ, with fresh stigmata, scourge wounds all over, and the crown of thorns.

The priest says, “That’s not funny, freak.” The figure before him answers, “No one is laughing, Daniel.” The priest looks down and sees that the figure’s nail-pierced feet are hovering several inches from the ground.

This, to say the least, freaks him out.

The priest immediately turns himself in to the hospital where House works — because, of course, he was hallucinating. He leaps to that conclusion because, after being hounded from parish to parish by a false sexual abuse charge leveled at him by a young man several parishes back, the priest has no faith left.

So to him, as to the atheist House, the only explanation for such an incident is that there is something wrong with his brain. It’s a symptom, not a message from God — a diagnosis with which the writers of the show clearly agree. And we viewers, being moderns, are meant to assume this is the case.

The next day, thinking about this in Mass, it occurred to me that there’s something wrong with the logic underlying the show’s premise. To follow me, I ask my unbelieving readers to suspend their disbelief for a moment. Stipulate — just for the sake of this discussion — that there is a God and that He does try to tell us things from time to time.

So, if we accept that… why would the incident being a hallucination mean that it wasn’t an actual message from God? Mind you, I can’t tell you what the message in this case would be, beyond shocking the priest out of his faith slump.

But what about a hallucination makes it an invalid form of perception, within the context of faith? Think about this: The Bible is filled with instances of people receiving divine messages through dreams, from the original Joseph of the many-colored coat to Joseph of Nazareth. No one says, “It can’t be a real message because it was just a dream.”

And what is a hallucination except a waking dream?

We mortals have a wide variety of methods of communication. We can speak to people face-to-face, or tell them what we’re thinking with sign language. There’s writing, smoke signals, Morse code, email, videochat, texting — some of which are more “virtual” than others, but all seen as genuine communication. And let’s not forget movies with special effects — do such effects mean that they can’t communicate a serious message? (Not that CGI-rich films tend to be heavy on ideas, but they can be, just as any other film can.)

The hallucination, or the sleeping version, seems to be a favorite mode of communication of the Almighty.

And you don’t have to be a believer to find meaning in dreams, to see them as powerful communicators of important ideas. Ask a Freudian. Absent God, it could be your superego is trying to tell you something.

We empirical moderns like to think that something isn’t real if it can’t be independently confirmed — which seems rather narrow and limited of us. If someone else looking out his window at the moment the priest was having his waking dream did not see the crucified figure hovering there, then the priest didn’t, either. Except that he did. And if anyone could make him see something that his neighbor didn’t  — encoding the message for him alone to see, which is not a radical concept — an all-powerful God who knows everything about how every individual is made would be the one. Again, you have to believe in God to follow this, but if you do, why would you think the Deity couldn’t do that?

A photograph taken at the time wouldn’t show the Jesus figure. There would be no drops of blood on the sidewalk. But then, there was no physical evidence of Moses’ burning bush experience, either. The scripture specifically notes that although it was burning, the bush was not consumed.

So while you might not believe, if you do believe, why is this priest’s vision automatically less legit than that of Moses, or the dream in which Joseph was urged to go ahead and marry Mary?

There are some belief systems that are all about hallucination, even about deliberately inducing them — I think of shamans who treat peyote as a sacrament.

Have you ever read any of Carlos Castaneda’s books? They’re all about achieving greater enlightenment by inducing hallucinations, and actually entering into those hallucinations and taking action within them. The Separate Reality is as legitimate, within the context of that system of thought, as one that concrete thinkers see as the only reality.

So, given all that, what’s the justification for seeing a hallucination as just a hallucination, and therefore automatically devoid of meaning? That seems a very shallow, and at the least unimaginative, explanation.

Anyway, that’s what I got to thinking about during Mass when I was supposed to be paying attention…

This turnip isn’t giving YOU any blood, anyway

I knew the Democrats were in trouble this year, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw this email appeal today from Nancy Pelosi:

Dear Brad,

What’s the main difference between Republicans and us?

Them: They rely on the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and outside interests to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy elections for them.

Us: We rely on grassroots support from Brad…

Wow, y’all really are hard-up.Turnip_2622027

I mean, first, you can’t get blood from a turnip. And second, even if this turnip had blood to give, he wouldn’t be giving any to you or any other political party.

So you might want to review your strategy. Better do what the Republicans — and you — have long done. Turn to George Soros, Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and the rest of your “outside interests.” (And while you’re at it, take a good look in the mirror at the beam in your eye.)

Oh, but speaking of blood — I have an appointment this afternoon to give again at the Red Cross over on Bull Street.

This time, I’m doing something new. I was all set to do my usual double red-cell donation, but then on Friday, they called to say that right now, they need platelets even more. So I’m going to do that.

I don’t even know what that entails. I’ll tell you later…

And so it begins: Walk for Life 2014!

Walk2013

With six weeks to go until the event (Oct. 18), I’ve set up our Walk for Life team for this year — so it’s time to sign up and start raising some money to fight breast cancer in the Midlands!

We have a reputation to live up to, you know — our team came in 9th in total fund-raising last year, with a total of $3,651.44 raised.

The lion’s share of that was raised by MVPs Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross. Doug always makes a strong showing in fundraising, but Bryan topped the charts last year with an email appeal that is still talked about with awe over at Palmetto Health Foundation. It began, “Cancer: Are You For It or Against It?” and then worked the word “boobs” into the second graf.

How we’re going to top that this year I have no idea, but that’s what we’re going to do.

You’ll be hearing a lot from me about all this this year, as Palmetto Health Foundation has signed me up to be a brand ambassador for the event, or as they have dubbed it, a “Pinkador.” On account of my alleged social media prowess. So I intend to have a lot of fun with that, while at the same time flogging potential donors to boost our team’s contributions.

Watch for more in this space. And go ahead NOW and sign up for the bradwarthen.com team. And then get busy hauling in the moolah. If anyone hesitates, mention boobs. It worked for Bryan

Last year's actual walkers -- yours truly, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey, Doug Ross.

Last year’s actual walkers — yours truly, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey, Doug Ross.

 

A typical day, and then the one with the scorpion

cropped

At the office this morning, a little dialogue box popped up on my laptop saying my daughter in Thailand is online on Skype.

Thinking she might be skyping with my wife, I decide to join the conversation and say hi. My daughter answers immediately, and asks whether her mother told her to call. I said no, then asked why.

Because she got stung by a scorpion today.

She didn’t know what it was at first, she just felt this intense pain radiating from her big toe up her leg, and looked down and saw a small gray scorpion skittering away. She got a ride to a medical clinic in her village, and they sent her to the hospital in the next town. They gave her a shot for the pain, then when that didn’t work, another in her hip. They wanted to keep her overnight, but the Peace Corps doctor she had reached on the phone said that wasn’t necessary. So they sent her home with an antibiotic to take.

I decided to call my wife to make sure our baby isn’t allergic to the med. She’s not. So we strongly urged her to take it, and to call us in the morning (this evening, for us).

That was today, which sort of has us vibrating with apprehension. Here, from her blog, is a more typical day. She posted this Friday:

6 am:  I wake up to the sounds of my neighbor calling for her cat, “JUNIOR!!! JUNIOR!!!!” and the clanking of pots and pans as my neighbors busy themselves preparing breakfast.  I reach for my headphones.

7 am:  The school across the street plays Pit Bull and KPop at a dangerous volume as my alarm begins to go off.  I change the alarm to 7:30.

7:30 am: Snooze.

7:35 am: Change alarm to 7:45.

7:45 am: I lay in bed, contemplating my past, present and future.

7:50 am: Run to the bathroom and throw buckets of water on my shoulders. Nevermind the tadpoles. Brush my teeth with a bottle of water.

8 am: Put on my most missionary-looking outfit.

8:10 am: Mix some bottled water with a scoop of instant coffee and stir.  Good thing I have all those years as a barista under my apron.  Review my lesson plans as I choke on the bitter elixir.

8:20 am: Put on some mascara and lipstick and smile at myself.  J

8:25 am:  Walk across the street to the school.  As I traverse the 15 feet, two different people on motorbikes will stop and ask if I need a ride, and then laugh because they remember I’m not allowed to ride a motorbike anyway.

8:30 am: Say “Sawatdi ka” and wai all of the elementary school teachers as the kindergarteners do the same to me, followed by them yelling English words at me,  “HELLO!” “THANK YOU!!” “1,2,3,5,7!”  I then go to prepare my classroom and wait for the students to trickle in.

8:40 am:  I greet my students.  One of them will yell, “STAND UP PLEASE”, and then as a group they will all say, “GOOD MORNING, TEACHER”.  No matter how I respond, they will continue with, “I AM FINE, THANK YOU, AND YOU?”  I normally try to stick with the script at this point because I can’t undo years of training and it’s good for them to feel confident greeting me in English, even if they really don’t know what they are saying.  My English class will then consist of some kind of active review game, followed by the introduction of a new conversational question and answer with new vocabulary, and then an activity to encourage the students to practice speaking. My students are typically very well behaved and adorable.  I really like them and am impressed with their big person personalities inside their little person bodies.

9:45 am:  I ride my bike to another school for another class.  On the way I grin at everyone I see and yell “Sawatdi ka”.  Most people do the same to me and ask me where I’m going, though occasionally I will so surprise someone with my Caucasian-ness that they can only stare at me with a hilariously confused expression, or utter “Oh! Farang!”

9:55 am: I continue riding my bike and as I feel my skin getting warmer in the sunshine and look around at the endless green meeting the endless blue I tell myself again not to forget how lucky I am to be alive.

10 am: Ride into another school and am greeted much the same way as at the first, except, what is this?  Why is everyone gathered outside, along with lots of villagers?  I notice a tent set-up near the field and am told as I walk towards the principal that this is Sports Day!  Wahoo!  The principal greets me and hands me a microphone, saying, “speak”.   He just laughs when I ask what I should say, so I start, (translated from Thai of course), “Hello, how is everyone today?  Today is Sports Day.  I am happy.” (Hundreds of people staring and taking pictures of me) “Umm…  I Iike soccer and dtacraw, but I cannot play.  Students at this school are good at volleyball. ”  (Someone in the audience asks if I have a boyfriend, and another if I can eat spicy food.)  “No I do not yet have a boyfriend and I can eat spicy food. Thai food is delicious.  Thank you.”  And then I try to run into the crowd but am intercepted and encouraged to sit at the obligatory VIP bench.

10:20 am:  A chubby little girl brings me some 3-in-1 coffee and a little green cake.  As she sets it down, a teacher yells at her to go do something else, turns to me, and says, laughing, “I make her run around because she is a fat girl. She needs exercise.”

10:30 am: SOOOO HOTTTTTT.

11 am: I am instructed to stand up and award the winners their medals, however, I am confused and think that I am being gifted an honorary aluminum foil.  I realize my mistake and only I laugh…

Noon:  Lunch time!  Today we are having Gang Fak Tong, a hearty potion of pumpkin, chicken, and God knows what else.  I am no food critic, I just know what’s good and it REALLY is.  I chat with the parents and teachers and ask them how to make it, which I understand a lot of but forgot all of.  Someone gives me a kanom wrapped in a banana leaf.  It consists of cream soaked sticky rice sculpted around candied peanuts.

12:30 pm:  Thank the principal for having me and make my way to another school to do Life Skills activities.

1 pm:  I have managed to find my co-teacher.  I explain to her my goals for the lesson and I think she understands.

1:20 pm:  We begin the guidance period about Leadership skills with about 20 14 year olds all dressed identically. I am astonished at how patiently they listen to me stumble over their language, and am again impressed by their insight when I pose introspective questions.

1:50 pm:  My co-teacher hands a student a camera to take pictures of us teaching together.  I try to smile and not forget what I was talking about.

2:30 pm:  I ride my bike to the SAO (Subdistrict Admistrative Office).  I greet everyone and tell them where I’ve been when they all say, “I haven’t seen you in forever”.

2:35 pm:  Someone grabs me and says we are going to the market.

3 pm:  We go to the District Office and I try to be charming.

3:30 pm:  We go to the post office.

4 pm:  We stop at a Wat where, I am told, over 500 monks will be arriving the next day for a lecture.

4:15 pm:  I entertain a large group of grandmothers hanging out at the Wat.  They tell me I have to come to the event tomorrow.

4:30 pm:  I am told to help make the Wat beautiful.  So I am handed a bag of big yellow flowers, walk around and find nooks inside of these big leafy plants to put them.  It really did look nice.  I then threaded flowers through the middle to make garlands.

5 pm:  We return to the SAO, having never made it to the market, and I get on my bike to ride home.

5:01 pm:  Dogs across from the SAO chase me, so I get off of my bike and walk for a while.

5:03 pm:  Everyone I pass asks me why  I’m walking, so I get back on my bike and ride home.  Where I put on some electronic or classical music and dance alone in my room.

6:00 pm:  I go to aerobics with a group of ladies from the village. Everyone tries to make me teach but I refuse. Afterwards someone will insist on accompanying me home.

7:30 pm:  I am hungry so I load up a bowl of deliciousness with rice and eat it while I watch Roseanne on Youtube.

8 pm:  I screw around on the internet, try to learn something about what’s going on in the world via BBC 1 Minute World News or Vice, or make collages with cut-outs from Thai beauty magazines.

9 pm:  Skype America or watch more Youtube videos.

10 pm:  At this point in the night I want to eat something sweet, so I go look in the refrigerator.  Sometimes I get lucky and there are little bottles of this sweet and sour fermented milk thing that I guess is kind of like yogurt.  I eat it and feel great about it.

11 pm:  I cut out my light and ask the Great Spirit to watch over my family and friends.  Then I fantasize about my future in the mobile sweetened milk product business until strange things start to happen, and then suddenly I hear my neighbor yelling at her cat again.

I prefer that she have more days like that. Without scorpions.

Ha, ha! That’s very funny! Right? We’re laughing here, right?

dinner

Last night, my wife made a big pot of spaghetti sauce. It was very good. And normally, I’d be looking forward to having it a couple more times before the leftovers ran out.

But at mid-morning today, I got this text:

Just found my spaghetti sauce on stove. Was planning on giving it to kids for lunch.

Ohboyohboyohboy. Homina-homina. I was the last one to eat last night, and the last one to bed.

I have excuses, real ones. I had meant to put it up, but the pot was still hot, and I wanted to wait until it was cool enough to put in a plastic container. The light is out over the stove (not just the bulb; something wrong with the switch), so I couldn’t leave it on to remind me when I was turning lights out in kitchen. Etc.

She wrote back that there was nothing in the house (fortunately, she found some chicken nuggets in the freezer for the grandchildren), and that I was cooking tonight, and “I am hungry by 6. 7 at the latest.”

I answered with the equivalent of “aye-aye,” and went back to what I was doing.

Later, I happened to take a second to check Facebook, and found the above update, with a link to the story I made a pun about yesterday.

Good one, huh? Ha-ha!

Heh-heh.

(chuckle)

Yeah…

By the way, Sunday we’ll be celebrating our 40th anniversary.

If I make it to Sunday.

Gotta get that light fixed on the stove…

Richard Nixon, impersonated in all his awkwardness

Hard to believe that Friday marked the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation speech.

I was already working at my first newspaper job at the time. I was a copy clerk at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. I spent a good part of that evening running back and forth between the newsroom and the composing room (on the next floor), as the managing editor sent me up to have various headlines blown up to full page-width, and I brought full-sized proof of those heds back down for him to peruse.

That was how you did an eye-popping, historic headline in those days. Now, you’d just try various heds on your screen, and see immediately how they’d look on the page. Then, with the news pages still done on hot type (loud, clanking linotype machines, cutting-edge technology in the late 19th century), we had to get the hed set in the desired font by a compositor, have a high-resolution proof of it made, and have a camera shoot it at the right distance and magnification to blow it up on the page camera — a process even more tedious than that employed by David Hemmings in Antonioni’s “Blow-Up.” Then, a proof was made of that.

At least, I think that’s how we did it. It’s been so long.

I saved at least one of those proofs I brought down to the M.E. Don’t know what I did with it.

Anyway, to celebrate the milestone, I share the above weird little video with Harry Shearer playing Nixon. Here’s a description of the video:

In a new video just posted online, Harry Shearer inhabits Richard Nixon in a verbatim comedic re-creation of Nixon’s poignant last 6 minutes before he resigned the Presidency, forty years ago today.

This excerpt, from Shearer‘s TV series “Nixon’s The One,” includes Nixon’s previously little known – and surprising – words to the CBS camera crew, which Shearer uncovered using advanced audio restoration techniques.

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD46pHpRVzo

For the rest of “Nixon’s The One,” Shearer and his co-writer Nixon historian Stanley Kutler combed through thousands of hours of the legendary Nixon audio tapes, and re-enacted word for word the best moments as if filmed by a hidden camera.

“Nixon was one of the great comic characters of the 20th century,” Shearersays. “When I first began listening to his secret tapes, the revelation to me was the crazy conversations that went on in this place on the public dime. Stanley and I aimed to be as accurate as humanly possible in the way these lines are spoken, in the intonations, in the pauses, in the way people interact. Our job was to be faithful transmitters of this incredible record of craziness.”

Stay tuned for more news on the US launch of the series in fall 2014, which aired earlier this year on Sky Arts in the UK.

With a program like this, maybe even I could have served

I’ve always chafed at the fact that I could not serve in the military, because of something as simple and stupid as chronic asthma.

As long as I use Asmanex and Singulair daily, it’s totally under control, as my nightly strenuous workouts on the elliptical trainer prove. (Although, I confess, the drugs available when I was military age were considerably less effective.) But as an Army general confirmed for me recently, they don’t want you if you need to take anything on a regular basis.

But according to this video shared by Stan Dubinsky, Israel makes it possible for anyone and everyone to serve in the IDF.

That’s the way it should be. I think everyone should serve. It’s good for the individual, and good for the society overall. But at the very least, you should be allowed to serve if you want to.

Here’s a piece about the Israeli program:

Children with special needs in Israel face an often harsh disappointment at the age of 18, when they are left behind as others join the IDF. A unique project seeks to change that, allowing disabled children to overcome their limitations and enlist.

Maj. Col. (res.) Ariel Almog founded the project ten years ago, to integrate disabled youth into the IDF in a three-year program, helping prepare them for independent life in Israeli society.

A few months ago the association “Lend a Hand to a Special Child,” founded in 2005 by parents of special needs children, joined the project to help increase its scale and allow thousands of disabled youth to join.

Rabbi Mendi Belinitzki, CEO of Lend a Hand to a Special Child, explained that the project “starts in the army but doesn’t end there. We can clearly see how afterwards it leads to a better integration into the society, the community and the workforce.”…

Yeah, I know, wise guys out there. This indeed invites comparison to the classic Onion piece about “very special forces,” which was funny but cruel.

But this is a serious matter. Everyone should have at least the opportunity to serve.