Monday, October 24, 2005


Well, Hurricane Wilma has finally come on shore in Florida, right about at the point where Mrs. Blue and I are planning to go in about three weeks for a conference. My conference had to be rescheduled to November because of one of the summer hurricanes that barely brushed the same place and caused little damage; guess they weren't so lucky this time. Maybe everything will be back in place and all shiny by the time we're supposed to leave.

I think that the entire Gulf coast of the U.S. has gotten a bad case of hurricane nerves. This is where all of our technology, the radar, the satellites, the aircraft and the computer modeling of the path, has probably made things worse rather than better. In the old days, folks just looked up and said "Looks like a hurricane's comin', best we lash ourselves to a tree"; now we sit glued to the TV and to various internet weather sites, waiting to see if we're going to be in the crosshairs of an increasingly arbitrary Mother Nature. We either sigh with relief when we realize that the Big One isn't coming our way or we begin sweating with fear and start trying to figure out which set of china to take with us on a mad dash to somewhere, anywhere, just as long as it is far away from where the Big One might land.

We had that experience quite some time ago in Boca Raton. We were there for a conference when a hurricane started making its way towards our hotel. Mrs. Blue started telling me that we really should leave, as she was watching the hotel staff put up all the outside furniture, while I was reluctant to leave until the bosses putting on the show said to leave. They finally did so and we started trooping north with all the other refugees...oops, I mean evacuees, up the Florida Turnpike. We finally stopped at my sister-in-law's place just north of Orlando, only to find out that the hurricane had missed our hotel and was heading our way. Too late to run anywhere else, we just sat and listened to the monster move by in the night. We never lost power (though others in the neighborhood did) and had a good visit with our relatives.

That's what you put up with for living in certain places. In Florida, it's hurricanes. In the Midwest, it's tornadoes. In California, it's earthquakes. Up North, it's ...well, it's being a Yankee.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

It Ain't The Years, It's The Mileage

I turned fifty last week. It is a very strange sensation, to intellectually know that I'm a half a century old, yet to still feel like I've barely experienced life.

The title of this entry comes from the first of the Indiana Jones movies where our intrepid adventurer, beat up and battered by the Nazis, is put to bed by his old flame Marion and he points out that it really isn't your physical age that matters so much as the experiences that you've been through that make you feel old. The Interstate of life has a lot of potholes on it and running over and through them is what puts the dents and dings in our psyche.

My youngest daughter, on the other hand, turned sixteen. Right now she's like a little sportscar that is still in the showroom, all potential but very few miles on the odometer. I hope she stays that way for a while; there's plenty of time to experience life's detours and some of the wrecks that are probably inevitable.

Me? I'm starting to feel like my dad's old '39 Ford coupe.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Blue As Omega Man

There are a couple of old sci-fi movies out there based on a short story by Richard Mathieson from the Fifties dealing with a guy who survives some sort of plague or chemical war and finds himself the last "normal" human on earth. Vincent Price and the the great scene-chewer himself, Chuck Heston, took turns playing this guy who finds that everyone else, that's still sort of alive, have been turned into creatures that sleep during the day and only come out at night. Our hero is the only one with immunity from the disease and somehow feels compelled to go out during the daytime to dispatch the mutants in various and sundry ways (wooden stakes, fire, bullets, etc.). In the original story and the Vincent Price movie version, the lonely guy begins to realize that HE'S the stuff of nightmares for the new inhabitants of the Earth, their boogeyman, their monster-in-the-closet to scare mutant kiddies for all time to come as the mutants catch up to him one night when he gets sloppy.

There might be a good reason why I've always liked the story and the two movies ("Last Man on Earth", I believe, was the Price version; "Omega Man" was Heston's), the sense that maybe I'm the only one who thinks the way I do, who sees the world through my particular set of lenses. It might actually explain a lot about my life, why I have such a fascination with wondering how I'm perceived by others and why I seem to so easily offend folks that I deal with, both on the business and the personal level. Maybe I'M the mutant, the one who has a different take on things than everyone else; perhaps my ideas and views are the ones out of touch with the mainstream.

Heaven knows that I've had an impact on literally hundreds of thousands of lives over the last couple of decades doing what I do for a living. It makes me wonder if I'm the bogeyman, the source of nightmares for a bunch of folks out there. Well, the bright side of being the bogeyman is that you're certainly memorable.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Proud To Be An American

My ancestors started showing up on the shores of the New World, much to the future consternation of the native population, with the Pilgrims. That line of the family hung around New England for about a century, then started moving South, then West to Kentucky and Illinois, then out to Iowa. In the meanwhile, another line of the family had popped up in the deep South, taking the future site of Jacksonville for its own, while a German immigrant showed up in Virginia to start yet another eventually converging line of ancestry. These divergent people, English, Germans, picking up some Irish and probably Scottish along the way, eventually came together in the great State of Florida, where I live today. I'm proud to be an American and wouldn't know what else to be.

That's what I find so strange about the current element of criticism that's going on in our society; somehow the more conservative types have decided that anyone who is critical of our government and its policies "hates" America and wants to pull it down. A new movie is coming out about Joseph McCarthy and Edward R. Murrow's coverage of him on CBS; George Clooney, one of the stars and a co-producer, was approached by a prominent Big Elephant Hollywood mover and shaker who asked him why he "hated America" enough to put out a movie like "Good Night and Good Luck". Clooney was apparently taken aback by the comment, since he thinks, as do I, that criticism of your government doesn't equate with hatred of your country.

This does seem to be the methodology of the Big Elephant tacticians, to smear the reputations of those who disagree. Karl Rove, the Dark Lord of the Smear, has gotten the Big Smear down to a true art form, using it to pummel the Democrats and even moderate Republicans (ask John McCain next time you see him about the South Carolina primary in 2000) and now just about every Big Elephant running for everything uses the same tool in every race ("Yep, ole' Clem over there, my opponent for dog catcher, is a liberal and would let them Nepotists and Thesbians run the country!"). "Liberal" has become a dirty word, even an epithet, spat out by Rove-clones at all times, but the tactic has expanded now to question the patriotism of anyone who dares question the wisdom of the Iraq War, the free spending and borrowing of the Big Elephants in D.C. or the credentials of those nominated for a seat on the most prestigious Court in the Free World.

Well, if being critical of the government and its policies is treason, then I should be hung with the rest of the pack. The policies of Bush and his cronies have just about ruined what once was a great nation. We're now more concerned about someone's religious beliefs than we are about making sure that our schools are the envy of the world (which they most certainly are NOT), more concerned about cutting taxes than we are about making sure all of our citizens have adequate health care and can afford it and not starve to death (which at least 30 million cannot) and more concerned about the riches of the few than the welfare of the many. Instead, we're told constantly that those of us who disagree are disloyal and traitorous, that we're "persecuting" Christians and others of "faith" if we don't agree with giving money to private schools in voucher programs instead of doing our damnedest to make sure the public schools are the very best they can be and by insisting that religion stay in its place in society and not be rammed down our throats every ten seconds in government-funded programs and facilities.

No, the patriotic among us are the questioners, the critical, the ones who make everyone else mad by wondering if we're going down the wrong path. It doesn't mean that Democrats have a monopoly on common sense or that they are the only ones raising questions; even some Big Elephants are getting hammered by their own more right-wing brethren for daring to question the party line. Anyone can ask "Why?" and shouldn't be attacked for doing so; it is the Attackers who are the unpatriotic and the disloyal.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Fun Stuff To Be Found

In my last post, one of my "dark" views of human nature and the future of humanity, I mentioned "Star Trek" which, despite its sometimes Pollyanna-ish views of our distant future, I still watched in its various incarnations from my days in grade school until the cancellation of "Enterprise" last year. There's little doubt that the concepts in "Star Trek" and its progeny have had an impact on our society, both cuturally and technologically.

However, just to show that you cannot take cultural icons too seriously, I ran across a website talking about a Finnish takeoff of the sci-fi horse opera genre called "Star Wreck: In the Pikinning". It was made over a seven-year period by students and others on a very low budget, but if the trailer is any indication, "Star Wreck" should be a real hoot. From what little the trailer shows you, "Emperor Pirk" (i.e., Kirk) somehow goes back to our time to insure that the "P-Fleet" will exist in the future and then somehow gets involved with "Captain Sherrypie" of Babel 13 (Captain Sheridan of "Babylon 5"), resulting in a "fragfest" with Federation-style starships fighting a huge battle with ships from the "Babylon 5" franchise in what looked like pretty good special effects.

Now, for those of you who never watched those shows or who laugh at the occasional pretentiousness of them, I have to tell you that anything that spoofs modern culture in the way "Star Wreck" seems to is probably worth watching, if only because it lets me laugh at stuff I've watched over and over and over. My wife can testify that I watched the reruns of "Bablylon 5" until the Sci-Fi channel finally lost the broadcast rights a few years back and I'll still sneek a peek at the reruns of "Star Trek: DS9" on SpikeTV whenever I get home for lunch before 1 PM on weekdays. Yes, sometimes the stories and the physics weren't always so hot, but I'm a sucker for sci-fi horse operas (as the original "Star Trek" was labled by a network suit in the Sixties because of its resemblance to "Wagon Train").

I liked "DS9" (and yes, you can always tell a sci-fi show geek by the fact that they usually refer to the show by initials or acronyms) because it eventually told a fairly good story, albeit with stutter steps and downright weird curveballs. Many of the characters ended up with all-too human failings and some of the plotlines wouldn't have been out of touch with a good dramatic movie set in the present day. B5 (at least the first four seasons) was one of my favorite shows because it didn't try to be all nice and fuzzy about Earth's future; yes, we'd made progress, but we'd also made stupid mistakes that were going to come back and bite us in the posterior. There was a dark side to Earth politics that seems pretty much on the mark to the present day and there wasn't a lot of preaching about our "better nature" that the "Star Trek" universe has occasionally lapsed into.

The kind of Sci-fi that I like is at the very least not another lawyer/cops and robbers/doctors in crisis/formulaic sitcom creation. Those type of shows are few and far between and there's a fine line between drek like "Lost in Space" and on-going sagas like "Stargate SG-1", DS9, B5 and others. The trouble now is that everyone has decided to get on the bandwagon this year after the success of "Lost" last year, so every network has a supposed rash of "sci-fi" stuff that, from what I can tell, may well keep everyone from producing good sci-fi for years to come, once the big crash happens and everything gets cancelled.

Oh well, there's always DVDs, the last resort of geeks like me.