Archive for the Multi-Essay Category


From time to time I find myself pondering about events of long-forgotten years. Perhaps this is the mark of an aged mind but I tend to view it in a positive sense in that I apparently still have a mind that is capable of pondering.

One of my recent essays had to do with ponderings of the sort that I am attempting to wrestle with today. And so here are some subsequent ponderings that are absolutely innocent in purpose and which will not affect the outcome of world events.

For example, I often wonder about what has happened to words in the English language which have tended to fall into disuse. One word in particular comes to mind, which is “hussy.” As far as I know, “hussies” refers to females and is usually accompanied by an adjective called old or brazen. I don’t believe that in my study of the English language I have ever heard somebody refer to another female as a young hussy but perhaps Ann Coulter would qualify. Generally speaking, it seems to me that all hussies are old or brazen. They are not desirable people who seem to be poking their fingers into other people’s business. On the other hand, I have heard some people refer to other women as hussies who don’t deserve that appellation. But that is really beside the point. My question is why the term hussy is falling into disuse these days. It may be a case where the world has moved on and has found new terms to define females who have objectionable traits. But my question is innocent. I simply want to know whatever happened to the word hussy.

As you can tell, none of these ponderings are connected one with another. They are all independent ponderings. In that spirit, I now turn to the sport of badminton. My foggy memory tells me that at one time the Olympic games included competition for badminton metals.

During the 1930s and 40s and even into the 50s, many homes were equipped to play badminton with a set of small rackets together with a shuttlecock. The shuttlecock looks like half a small rubber ball with feathers attached to the flat part. When the ball was struck, the shuttlecock would fly quickly until it lost its momentum, with which it would then attempt to float to the ground, using the feathers that it came equipped with. Aside from the rackets and the shuttlecock, there was a small net and in many cases people would simply bat the shuttlecock back and forth without worrying about who was ahead or behind. But again if my memory serves me correctly, Asian players such as the Japanese excelled at badminton. Again I am left to ponder whatever happened to the game of badminton. It was a game that could be played by young and old, and I still remember the joy of watching the shuttlecock when, struck firmly with the racket, it went floating into the sky and then floated gently to the ground.

There is a further matter of pondering about why dentists and barbers traditionally take Wednesdays off. I know that they have demanding jobs but people would like to get their teeth fixed on a Wednesday just as people would to get their hair cut as well. It seems to me that the dentists and the barbers could operate short-handed on that particular day, simply to cover the office. But that is not the case. When barbers attend barber’s college and dentists attend dentistry schools, are they instructed that they should take Wednesdays off? I have no idea why barbers and dentists take a day off on Wednesdays. If any of you can help me with my work on this monumental subject, I will appreciate your assistance.

Now we come to my ponderings on male facial hair. Specifically, my pondering leads me to wonder how men decide what kind of a mustache they will produce. One of the most famous mustaches in the world was the one worn by Adolph Hitler, which was sort of a rectangle beneath his nostrils. I did not care for Adolph Hitler, and I cared even less for his mustache. But my pondering leads me to wonder why a man would have this small block of hair below his nostrils on his upper lip.

If I could grow a mustache, which I can’t, I think I would favor a small line above my upper lip. That used to be favored by Spanish movie actors. I stand in awe of how the razor is manipulated on the upper lip to avoid cutting the nose and the mouth and yet produce a nice-looking mustache. But the Carr family was always fair haired and could produce no mustaches of any kind, and so I let that subject pass out of my realm
of thought.

Why men grow muttonchops and handlebar mustaches is something that I really do not understand. Neither do I understand men such as my Uncle George Carr, who grew a brush mustache on his upper lip which was untrimmed. When a liquid is drunk, the hairs on the mustache become soaked and must be dried by putting the lower lip over the top lip to suck them dry. This is a fascinating sight for children to watch but I am now of the belief that it is unsanitary and not very pretty.

A pondering that goes back to World War II has to do with the use by GIs of addressing each other as “Joe” or alternatively as “Mac.” When a GI would approach another person to whom he had not been introduced, but to whom he needed to speak, he would almost inevitably address him as “Joe” or “Mac.” For example, if I were working on an airplane, particularly in a location foreign to my home field, and I needed to borrow a tool from the tool-crib, I would address the GI who ran the tool-crib as “Joe” or “Mac.” I have no idea where these names came from, nor do I know where the term “tool-crib” came from either, but those terms were in common usage during the 1940s when World War II took place. I want to emphasize that there was no hint of condescension when a man referred to another GI as “Joe” or “Mac”; it just meant that the two had not been introduced. In any case, it seems to me considerably better than “Hey you.” A GI who would say “Hey you” might soon find himself flat on the floor with some of his teeth missing. But again if there are any lexicographers out there in this vast audience of mine who recall the words “Joe” or “Mac” or “tool-crib,” I would be glad to hear from them.

My ponderings have led me to wonder about why women wear black dresses on festive occasions as well as in a time of gloom. When I worked, if one woman saw another woman wearing a black dress during the daytime, she would often say something like, “Do you have a heavy date tonight?” At perhaps 70 or 80% of the cocktail parties I ever attended, the women usually showed up in black dresses, which they would describe as “simple.” Cocktail parties were happy occasions.

At the same time, when a woman would attend a wake or a funeral, she would find that the black dress was a requirement. Perhaps there are those who will argue that the black dress that could be worn to the cocktail party as well as to the funeral parlor was a matter of good economics. On the other hand, I can understand a black dress at a funeral or the viewing, as it is sometimes called, but on a joyous occasion such as a cocktail party, I am at a loss to know why the women appear in black dresses.

Finally, whatever happened to women’s hats? There was a time when any woman who wished to go to a function of one kind or another in the evening would wear a hat. Some were very small bonnets that had to be held on with hairpins and there were others that were wide brimmed in the fashion worn by Mexican bolero players. Ordinarily when women came to work, at least with AT&T, they tended not to wear a hat but when evening came, if they had a date or if there were a cocktail party to be attended, the women would retire to their lockers and don their hats. I wonder about whether that custom still exists. But like it or not, that does not keep me from pondering.

There is one additional final thought that I wish to ponder about. That is: when people who live absolutely alone and visit their own bathrooms, do they always close the door? As far as I can tell, there has never been a survey of this subject and I suspect that perhaps there will never be such a survey. But that fact does not keep me from pondering about it.

Well, there you have my set of ponderings for the moment. All of them are innocent ponderings and will not have any effect whatsoever on the fortunes of this once great country. There are those who would argue that ponderings such as the foregoing ones are evidence of advancing age and perhaps losing one’s mind to dementia. On the other hand, I would argue with some vehemence that they are the products of a curious mind which has a period to go before the closing bell is rung. I have been pondering such as those reflected in this essay for most of my life, and unfortunately it has turned out that my ponderings have produced very few answers. But if my current ponderings form the basis for an essay here and there, I would conclude that that is a reward in itself.

November 29, 2008


This is probably one of my favorite multi-essays on the site. I enjoy how much it reveals about how things were, and how they changed.

Anyway, now for some answers based off of a few minutes of internet research:
First, the “closing on Wednesday” thing seems to have a number of causes. Apparently in much of the South, for instance, Wednesdays were popular days for Bible study and big community events like auctions. More broadly, many merchants worked very long days on Saturdays, so they all chose to take half-days on Wednesdays to even out the work week, which makes sense. It’s kind of like just transferring your Saturday afternoon to a more financially appropriate part of the week. That said, in a town of 3 dentists, if two 2 dentists takes Wendesdays off, the third becomes very incentivized to stay open on Wednesdays. Unless you have some sort of collusive agreement, it seems like the market has evened out this trend quite a bit — I’ve actually never encountered a doctor or dentist closed on a Wednesday in my life, as fas as I know.

Second, badminton is definitely still a thing. It’s an Olympic sport!

Third, I think black dresses are reliable and always acceptable, so they’re a good default in the same way that men default to suits. We wear suits to both funerals and cocktail parties, too!

Fourth, I for one don’t see the point in closing the bathroom door if you’re home alone. Why bother?


The title to this essay, “Disparate Ponderings,” may well reflect the influence of the New York Times editorial pages upon my brain. The ponderings in question really have to do with remembrances of years past. There are six thoughts in this essay and I hope that some of them will remind old-timers of the days before television and e-mail ever existed.

One of my recent ponderings had to do with female girdles. It seems to me that in years past whenever a female reached the age of puberty, she was obliged to buy herself a girdle. The Sears Roebuck catalogue, published annually each fall, was avidly read by the females as well as the males in our household. I can assure you that Sears had girdles galore. There were long ones and short ones, as well as black ones and flesh-colored ones. What baffled me then in the old days was why a young woman weighing no more than 110 pounds would need a girdle. Yet it seems to me with my faulty memory as a guide that every young woman looked forward to the day when she could order a girdle. In those days, women wore silk stockings with a seam up the back. It is hard to believe but there was a time in this country when there were no panty hose. I suspect that girdles were worn for the sake of keeping the silk stockings anchored so that they did not fall down around the ankles.

But the Second World War seemed to have altered everything. There was a shortage of rubber, and silk stockings were a thing of the past. Your old essayist cannot say that he misses girdles or silk stockings, but it is pleasant to ponder the fact that in the age before television came along there were such things. Sears Roebuck has fallen on hard times and, as an economist, I would suggest that it has much to do with the demise of the practice of women wearing girdles.

Now that we have settled the issue of girdles, another question arises about “Do you remember?” There was a time during the 1930s when athlete’s foot was a matter of serious medical concern. During my years in high school, when the boys would take showers following the gym classes, athlete’s foot was a common occurrence. It is not clear to me what causes athlete’s foot but I can tell you that it existed and that once someone had acquired it, it was difficult to rid oneself of it. During my high school years, I had at least two or three cases of athlete’s foot, which had to be treated with a liquid I remember as Camphophenique. Athlete’s foot was so common that advertisements for its cure appeared in almost every newspaper in a small ad at the foot of the newspaper. The pictures in those ads showed athlete’s foot at its worst, with cracking and peeling of the skin around the toes.

I am not here to proclaim that athlete’s foot was an ailment affecting only youngsters but as I also recall there seemed to be no athlete’s foot in the United States Army, where men traipsed in and out of showers at all hours of the day. This of course assumes that one saw service in a location where there were showers. There were occasions when men did not remove their shoes and socks for a few days at a time, yet my recollection is that no one ever seemed to complain of athlete’s foot. I suspect that athlete’s foot went the way of rheumatism, which has now been replaced by the more upscale term of arthritis.

Now that we have disposed of girdles and athlete’s foot, we must turn our attention to Charles Atlas, a gentleman who promised to turn “98-pound” weaklings into 210-pound behemoths. During the years of the Depression, many magazines were adorned with the advertisements of Charles Atlas. There were half pages and full pages, and each one of them showed a man with bulging muscles who contended that he used to be a 98-pound weakling. I never knew anyone who was taken in by the Charles Atlas advertising, but it was good entertainment during the Depression when there was no television or email.

I suspect that Charles Atlas was a man who sold barbells and other weightlifting equipment. That statement is totally unsupported by fact and it flows only from my memory that some of the people who posed for Charles Atlas advertising seemed to be carrying barbells. How it was that he changed a 98-pound weakling into a 210-pound behemoth never was clear while I was reading those magazines, and it remains unclear to this day. Yet there is a certain nostalgia about recalling Mr. Atlas because his advertisements were so widely printed that almost everyone in this country knew who he was. Perhaps your preacher might not have known who Mr. Atlas was, but I suspect that 95% of his congregation would know a good bit about Charles Atlas. I never heard Mr. Atlas being interviewed on radio and it is clear that no one ever referred to him as Charlie Atlas. And so it is up to us old-timers to remember that
Mr. Charles Atlas ever existed.

Now we turn to another pondering that took place during the Depression years. During those years, there was a great drought that settled all over the Mid West and into the plains states, so that the skies were virtually cloudless. From time to time, I assume wealthy advertisers would hire small aircraft to write their messages in the sky. The messages were brief, but they were quite effective, judging by the number of people who seemed entranced by them as the skywriter went about his work.

Skywriters always flew single-engine airplanes, which were of course propeller driven. They must have carried a tube of white exhaust that, when released, could linger in the sky for several minutes. Naturally, I was entranced by skywriting. It seems to me that letters such as “e,” “f,” and “t” should have been the easiest to write. The more difficult letters would be the letters “s” and “b.” My memory is that it would take perhaps ten to fifteen minutes for a skywriter to write his message in the sky. They only wrote the name of the product, and there was great excitement among the viewers after the first letter or two appeared as to what the message would eventually read.

My last exposure to skywriting came, I believe, in the early 1960s, when my family accompanied me to the New Jersey shore. On a cloudless day, a skywriter would appear and would write a message for the benefit of weekend viewers. There was even a romantic occasion when a skywriter wrote “love U” for the benefit of some love-struck youngsters.

No matter how you cut it, I was a draftsman who had a great interest in the formation of letters, here on the earth as well as in the sky. My regret is that I never had the opportunity to ride aloft while the letters were being written. One of my companions as a child always hoped that the skywriter would misspell a word. To the best of my knowledge, that never happened. All the words were correctly spelled and I regret to this day that skywriting is a function of a long-forgotten era.

Now that we have disposed of my pondering about skywriting, let us turn to a pondering about a wonderful entertainer named Burl Ives. Ives was a singer of folk songs who, like many other singers of folk songs, played a guitar. He was the son of a farming family from Jasper County, Illinois. Jasper County is far removed from the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and other environs. But in the end, Ives eventually made it to New York where, in 1940, he was given his own radio program. His voice was absolutely distinctive. Fortunately, my ponderings have been helped along because I have several recordings which I have made into compact discs which offer such selections as “Blue-Tail Fly” and “I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” I am happy to report that folk singing is a vibrant art that has survived the assaults of rock music, hip hop, and other attacks on mankind.

Ives died a few years back at the age of nearly 90. I suspect that a good many of my older readers will recall him fondly. I certainly recall him fondly and my ponderings take me to the point of inquiring, “Where will the future Burl Ives come from?”

There is one other pondering that takes me into the field of religion where I am usually reluctant to go. In this case, however, it is a matter of economic circumstances having overtaken the teachings of a church.

For many years, the Roman Catholic faith has taught the evils of artificial contraception. Simply put, they dislike every form of birth control. The only exception came during recent years when the Vatican reluctantly approved the use of “natural birth control,” which seems to exist only during the time of the infertility of the female. I suspect that there are thousands of unplanned pregnancies that happened with the use of the so-called “natural planning.” My belief is that natural planning worked perfectly if one or both parties were sterile. But be that as it may, it appears that the economic circumstances of the 21st century generally require those who engage in sexual intercourse to use birth control. When one thinks about the cost of raising a child and putting him through college, sometimes at the expense of $50,000 per year, most people will conclude that fewer children are better than many.

Perhaps these economic circumstances came along a little late because your old essayist is the seventh child of an eight child family. But I was born in 1922 and today things are much different. There is a medical group that we patronize that has many nurses who have graduated from Catholic schools. As a general principle, it seems to me that those nurses are producing only one or two children per couple. One nurse had her second child not long ago and proclaimed that “This is it!” These are healthy young women who, I suspect, are not going to live the rest of their married life in celibacy. And so it is that the Popes over the years who have denounced the evil effects of birth control now find their parishioners practicing that art. With the cost of raising a child, particularly for those who plan to send their children to college, I can only say that this is a logical improvement.

Well, there you have six cases of disparate ponderings. Perhaps it can be argued that my ponderings reflect a wandering mind. Naturally, I would not agree with that conclusion but I would argue on the other hand that my ponderings recall an era when life was simpler and perhaps more rewarding. Any man who contends that my pondering about girdles for example is evidence of a disturbed mind will most likely never recall the use of girdles. Whatever my ponderings reveal about my inner soul is probably irrelevant. At my age I am very happy that I have enough cerebral power left to think about things such as girdles, athlete’s foot, Charles Atlas, skywriting, Burl Ives, and birth control. I would argue that men who have those kinds of ponderings ought to be celebrated with caviar, foie gras, and the clinking of champagne glasses.

August 16, 2008


These type of essays do a number on my search history. In one tab I have a whole set of pretty horrible images of Trench Foot (they definitely had that in war, even if athlete’s foot wasn’t a thing), and in the next there are all these hokey old ads for a bodybuilder man. Incidentally the Charles Atlas company, insofar as it still exists, seems to have not updated their advertising since the campaign that made them so famous. It’s a pretty incredible throwback to go to his site.

Girdles and skywriting are both common, too. Skywriting is pretty typical at big events like airshows, and girdles go by “Spanx” now but it’s the same deal. Another fun set of search terms, by the way, is “Spanx” followed by “Burl Ives.” I like to think that somewhere out there is a VERY confused advertising robot who very much would like to figure out what I’m trying to buy, but can’t at all piece together what these terms have to do with one another.


In a previous essay, I commented on the effects of aphasia, which is a stroke-induced ailment. As I mentioned in that essay, aphasia is a brain-related injury as opposed to a heart-related injury. People who have strokes often call for the cardiologist but in fact what they need is a neurologist.

One of the characteristics of aphasia is that it hurts not at all. That is to say, your arm or your leg or your head doesn’t hurt, but the hurt will only be to your confidence and your feelings of well-being. Aphasia has to do with the inability to recall names of people and other items of interest. It is quite possible, indeed it is more likely, that I can describe all of the circumstances surrounding an individual or an item of interest and still be totally unable to recall its name. That is aphasia. As I reported earlier, I could describe the NBC announcer Tom Brokaw, who wrote the book called The Greatest Generation, in great detail but I could not recall his name. At least I am a civilian with no great responsibilities any more but it would be catastrophic if I had aphasia were I to be a druggist. For example, I would mix up a prescription and put it in a bottle; a customer would come in and I would tell him to take two in the morning but I can’t remember his name. He might tell me that what I had prepared for him was an aspirin. That’s fine with me, but I couldn’t recall it.

Another aspect of aphasia is that highways with numbers on them are a blur to me. I can’t really recall the difference between Highway 78 or Highway 80 or any other highway anymore. All of this goes to say that I would not be a great guide to lead you around this part of the country or any place else. Another aspect of aphasia is that I frequently forget its name. In addition to that, I frequently forget the name of glaucoma, the ailment that has taken my sight. As I say, aphasia hurts not at all but it is a problem to be forced to ask my wife or my friends, “Who was that fellow?” or “What was the name of that highway?”

One of the few benefits of aphasia is that the people at the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute told me to write essays as a means of stimulating my brain activity. At this point, I suspect I have written perhaps 200 such essays since 1997. For unknown reasons, I have never enumerated them all. They are in binders behind my desk and the totality of the binders suggests that perhaps 200 have been written. But nonetheless aphasia offered me the opportunity to be instructed by Shirley Morgenstein who remains as one of my treasured friends.

In preparing for this essay, I had forgotten the name of the Kessler Institute and had to be reminded by my wife. Earlier this evening I wrote a letter to William Rudin, the man who bought 32 Sixth Avenue where there is a plaque honoring the dead from World War II among Long Lines employees. I remembered Rudin’s name but of all things I forgot for a time the name of one of the dead men who sat within seven or eight feet of me and whom I knew very well. His name was Bernie Wheeler and he was killed shortly after the war started because he was an army reservist who was called up immediately.

I have been writing essays as you can see since 1997 and I suspect that if I had not written essays, my ability to recall names probably would be much worse. Nonetheless, recalling names of people or places or things still poses a problem. On the other hand, there are names that come to me almost instantly from people I knew not very well at all. For example, I have known Tom Scandlyn for 48 years. Over that span of years, I met his wife perhaps five or six times. Nonetheless I can recall Naomi Green, her maiden name, almost instantly yet I can not fish out the name from my mind for the Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation. Please go figure.

My advice to all my readers is fairly simple. If you wish to avoid aphasia and all of its attendant disabilities, please do not lay yourself open to having a stroke. On the other hand, if you are ever afflicted with aphasia, I will welcome you to the club, providing I can remember your name. And as I said at the outset of this essay, aphasia doesn’t hurt at all. There are no aches or pains or anything of the sort. You may become insane from not being able to recall a name but that doesn’t qualify as something that hurts. Again, my advice to you if you wish to avoid aphasia is to avoid having a stroke. But on the other hand, my neurologists have been lovely women. So there may be some benefit after all.

While I am in a state of I am going to torture my baseball playing grandsons by asking them if they know who had the names of “Big Poison” and “Little Poison” and the Detroit pitcher called Eldn Aucker. Those three fellows played major league baseball in the 1930s and 40s, and my grandsons will go nuts trying to figure out who they are. For the private information of all of my readers, Big Poison and Little Poison were Paul and Lloyd Waner, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Eldn Aucker was the submarine pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who pitched in the 1940s and perhaps the early 1950s. It will be a pleasure for me to watch somebody else trying to figure out who that name represents. Those two baseball playing kids may develop juvenile aphasia, which will be my contribution to the lexicon of neurology.

While we are in the business of extending remarks from previous essays, I thought that it would be well to extend remarks on the essay written earlier having to do with old time language. You may recall that was the essay where my mother, upon learning of the death of my father, commented, “I reckon he was plumb wore out.” As soon as the mailings were taken to the post office, four more thoughts occurred having to do with ancient English language that I had not thought of before. For example, if a lawyer stands up in front of a jury and says, “I aim to prove this man is innocent,” he means “I intend to prove this man is innocent. Intend has apparently simply replaced aim in the American language. There is another aspect here. My parents would consider the word “cemetery” an upscale word. Ordinarily they always referred to what we now call cemeteries as the graveyard. It is hard for me to understand why graveyard was replaced.

Finally, there is the matter of dinner and supper. For example, Tom Scandlyn invited Judy and me over to his house for lunch. In old-time English, my parents and his parents would have referred to the noon-day meal as being dinner. The meal that is eaten at the close of the day is called supper. I suspect that Tom will agree with those designations.

As time goes on, I suspect that more words will pop into my mind having to do with latter day substitutions for perfectly adequate words that existed in the old days. If that happens, I will try to keep you informed.

May 17, 2006

As a fun fact, it seems like this essay never finished its editing process; it wasn’t sent to Pop’s normal mailing list. It featured a few edits from Eva that indicated that it was still incomplete. However, it was the only one I could find that hadn’t yet been put on the site. I’m away from my normal computer where I track all these sorts of things (I’m at a wedding in Austin) so it was surprisingly difficult to locate a new essay to publish, so here we are. I’ll be double checking when I get back that I haven’t somehow missed a year full of essays or something, but from the looks of it this project may soon be complete. Strange for me to think about — I’ll write more on that when it happens.

FROM VAUDEVILLE TO MLK, JR. | Meditations 16, Anonymous Verses

Vaudeville is now largely dead having been a victim of first radio comedians and later, the comedies appearing on television. In the Catskill Mountain of New York, where many of its patrons are Jewish, there still are “tummlers” who tell Yiddish jokes and who good naturedly insult guests.

My recollection of vaudeville goes back to the Garrick Theater in St. Louis prior to the start of World War II. One standard vaudeville joke had a man with a cigar saying he had told a female, “If I don’t get what I am here after, you will be here after I am gone.” In the days before television, that line was greeted by hearty laugher from the basically male audience.

Many of us regret the passing of vaudeville, but this Meditation is not about its unfortunate demise. It is more about the hereafter as reflected by ecclesiastical figures in the news these days. You’ve heard about the Reverend Pat Robertson’s statement on behalf of the U.S. Government that Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, should be assassinated. Well, there was more, starting with Bill Frist, who is a big shot leader of the United States Senate.

Verse 1: Frist the Theologian
By training, Bill Frist is a heart surgeon. He claims to have transplanted several hearts. An urgency of one kind or another led him to Republican politics where he is now the majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

Frist has always done everything the White House demanded. And so a few weeks back it came as a surprise for Frist to make a semi-break with the Supreme Commander – Bush, not God – on the issue of stem cell research. He stated the obvious that our present policy would leave us far behind in the effort to cure ailments such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord cases. Frist called the White House with the hope that they would not be too angry with him for his proposal that we ought to work on stem cells beyond what Bush had said were the limits.

Then Frist took part in a televised broadcast to churches which was right out of the neo-conservative Republican playbook. Activist judges, abortion, same sex marriages and the like. He was dead set against all of them.

Before that, Frist had lent his medical knowledge to a TV examination of Terri Schiavo whom he declared as certainly not in a vegetative state. The autopsy proved otherwise and Frist said he had made no diagnosis of her condition in spite of the TV record of his action.

By now, it must be clear that we are dealing with a dishonest politician. Frist, who is a Southern Baptist, espouses as all his brethren do, that everyone who intends to go to heaven, must be born again. Yet for political purposes, he adopted the Catholic doctrine that life begins at conception. My suggestion to Frist is that he should simply claim that all applicants to heaven should have undergone not only the born again requirement, but the conceived again experience as well. This is called, in Southern Baptist circles, playing God across the board.

Now we find that Frist, in a bow of obeisance to Bush, has announced that he too believes in Intelligent Design. Gravity, for example, got that way because it was the product of Intelligent Design. Before ID, things could not be held down due to the absence of gravity, hence the surfeit of paper weights.

So you can see that the pious such as Bill Frist would have us making vegetative state individuals live forever with the belief in being conceived again all in the name of some anonymous Intelligent Designers. It is no wonder that my hopes for angel wings seem out of the question until all this is settled. One thing that can be settled now, is that Bill Frist is an opportunist and among the most stupid of all politicians. It wouldn’t surprise me if he will do well in the Republican presidential race.

Verse 2: Standing Shiva
Among those who subscribe to the Jewish faith, there is a lovely tradition that needs greater acceptance and encouragement. Upon the death of a member of the family, the survivors gather for a seven day period of mourning. Friends are encouraged to join in this ceremony by meeting with the family and recalling pleasant memories of the departed one. The process is called a “Shiva.”

The colloquial term for this ceremony is called “Sitting Shiva” primarily because the participants sit in a home to recall pleasant memories. As this custom is adopted by the Gentile population – or at least this one Gentile essayist – it must undergo one basic change which will probably be acceptable to Jewish clerics. The Gentiles, at least in my case, will not be Sitting Shiva, but rather, Standing Shiva.

There is a reason for this revised designation which it is hoped will not offend any of my Jewish friends. Upon my departure to heaven where angel wings will be installed on my back using Phillips head screws, instructions have been left to my survivors that a small party should be held. It will be a one afternoon affair as contrasted with the Jewish seven day period of mourning.

Everyone will be asked to appear say between 2PM and 4PM, which means that there will not be sufficient seats for everyone, thus my mourners will have to stand. A second thusly is that the Shiva will become a Standing Shiva. It seems to me that pleasant memories can be recalled standing up as well as sitting down. On the other hand, at that point, my views may well be ignored.

We are not done yet. If the cost of living stays in the same general ball park, it is planned to offer the mourners a glass or two of champagne on the ground that a drink of that bubbly stuff will encourage positive recollections as distinguished from dire memories. This may look like the mourners are being bought off, but my wife, the estimable Miss Chicka, will have additional supplies of champagne to dispel any thoughts of corrupting the audience in my favor. Taking a page from the Bush campaign, each mourner will be asked to sign a pledge before being admitted to the Shiva that each utterance will start with, “That Ed Carr was a great guy.”

Standing on both feet, drinking the best extra dry brut champagne may be the best innovation in history to come along for what would normally be a doleful time. Remember, this innovation was NOT brought to you by Christian doctors, preachers and monsignors. It is brought to you by a non-involved, non-believer who believed that going out in style called for a toast or two of dry brut champagne which is the only way to go.

Verse 3: Ray Charles’ Mistake
Ray Charles was an excellent entertainer. His style was all his own. He died earlier this year after having reached his seventies. If you have forgotten him, he was a blind piano player-singer. He also fathered 12 children by eight different women, which is an accomplishment by itself.

Not long before he died, Charles told Ed Bradley from 60 Minutes, that his blindness detracted only about one percent from his enjoyment of life. A large, rousing dissent arises from your ancient essayist. In the days of my soldiering, about every GI would say that Ray Charles is politely full of spit. Sorry to say, soldiers talked like that.

When your eyesight is compromised, walking becomes a chore watching out for cracks in the sidewalk or holes in the road. There are times when it is difficult to see if the road is cleared of traffic. Curbs are a menace. When your vision is limited, it is difficult to find your way when paths diverge. The situation at night is considerably worse as there is no structure for orientation. Nighttime may result in walking into telephone poles and all kinds of obstructions.

People with compromised sight tend to walk tentatively. In the world of boxing, when a fighter is on his heels, as distinguished from his toes, it is likely that disaster awaits him. People with compromised vision tend to walk on their heels because of their fear of taking the wrong path and/or because of fear of running into an obstacle.

Indoors, there are all sorts of things that may be knocked over by not being seen. Salt shakers, small potted plants and fine glassware only starts the list.

This is not to say that people with compromised eyesight have no reason for not continuing to live and to enjoy life. Of course not. On the other hand, it says that adjustments have to be made which can be done. But they are adjustments that people with ordinary sight don’t have to make.

There are two points to be made. The first is that people with compromised sight seek no sympathy. One way or another, they will endure. The second point is that Ray Charles, who said that complete lack of sight only detracts one percent from the joy of living, was in the words of old GI’s, completely full of spit. Now if Ray Charles were to talk about his exploits with women, we would all listen and pay attention. Twelve children by eight women – or was it twelve women and eight children – whatever – that is indeed impressive. Ray Charles should have stuck to music and women and forgotten about enjoyment of life. Finally, Ray Charles told Ed Bradley that “You can only make love to one woman at a time.” We wonder what that was all about.

Verse 4: Sunday Segregation
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis on April 28, 1968 by James Earl Ray. Sometime before his untimely death, Reverend King once observed that 11AM on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week. Indeed, it is.

When politicians campaign, they embrace brotherhood of all kinds. When preachers enunciate their sermons, one would think that love of ones fellow man was an idea endorsed by everyone. When the Army sets out to recruit African American youth, one might believe the Army is a benevolent place of love and understanding. George and Ira Gershwin had it right when they wrote, “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess.

In New Jersey where this is being written, there are no laws of segregation. People can pick their churches or charitable organizations or political parties. Taking one thing with another, those New Jerseyans seem inclined to associate with others who are similar to themselves.

That is a shame for white people. They miss out on all the good fun and ironic humor of the African Americans who work with them or who serve them. It is a grave mistake to conclude that the good natured African American is unaware of the prejudice taking place all around him in his daily life. Those who find themselves entangled with the police know that there is no such thing as innocence until proven guilty. Those folks know that their job mobility is often foreclosed and that they often work for a lower wage than their white counterparts.

In this general neighborhood, there is a church service on one day of the year that brings together two black Baptist churches and a white Presbyterian establishment. That happens on Dr. King’s birthday. That is good as far as it goes, but it does not alter Dr. King’s observation that 11AM on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in the week. Maybe it will get better – and maybe it won’t. But my long held conviction is that being friendly with – and showing respect for African Americans – will bring a greatly increased joy to life. It is one more way to honor Doctor King’s life and accomplishments.

August 27, 2005


Pop’s Shiva did in fact take place in a restaurant in the afternoon, and if memory serves, it featured champagne. I’m pretty sure we sat down, though, but still — pretty darn close.

As far as blindness goes, I’d hazard that losing one’s sight at age seven is a lot different from losing it at age 85. I’d imagine that if you ask someone who has been blind for decades and decades how much of a problem blindness poses to their daily life, they are likely to downplay that percentage, because they don’t remember it any other way. By that same token, losing a key avenue for perceiving the world at age 85 would almost always weigh very heavily on that person.

ATTENTION: FALL OUT | Meditations Chapter 15: Verses Clayton, Mo. Through Crawdaddy, Texas

In Chapter 13 of these sacred Meditations, there was a reference to one of the basic principles of the American Army. If the Army possessed a stone tablet reflecting the Ten Army Commandment, high on that list would be the injunction about not thinking. Simply put, soldiers would be warned that they don’t get paid to think. Thinking in the Army is done at great peril to one’s own body, brain and career.

Thinking about the sinfulness of Army thinking has led me to other examples of screw-ups in the Army establishment which may or may not involve the wickedness of thinking. Here are three examples which precede the merciful thoughts of General Omar Bradley, a learned gentleman from Missouri, of all places.

Verse 1: General Casey Trying to Bat
It is quite clear that there are factions at the White House which have fundamentally different agendas. Last week, General George Casey, the commander of forces in Iraq, got caught in the middle. His failure to speak truthfully about the troop situation in Iraq, earned him knots on both sides of his head.

Some of the people at the White House understand the public pressure for some sign of American forces leaving Iraq. Apparently, they told Casey that he should recognize this political response. So Casey called a press conference to announce that if the political situation in Iraq stabilized, if the Iraqi elections worked out well together with some other caveats, Casey hoped to reduce the American forces in Iraq by about 30,000 perhaps next spring of summer.

Listening to Casey’s announcement was an exercise in “If everything works out.” Casey hoped to please his political White House bosses by suggesting that if everything fell into place, we could reduce our forces by about 30,000 troops. He emphasized that everything had to fall into place, which in a war rarely happens. But to please his White House political shot callers, he suggested that sometime in 2006, some of the troops could start home.

Please remember General Casey made this semi-good pseudo announcement in person. No anonymous sources at all.

This must have angered the other faction in the White House who demands that “we stay the course.” So they over-rode the “feel good” faction and told Casey in effect, that there would be no reduction in American forces in the foreseeable future. Bush came down on this side.

One sentence from Tom Oliphant’s report in the Boston Globe says it all.

“This formulation angered many of Bush’s conservative supporters which produced fresh instructions to poor Casey to switch to a say-the-course pessimism. The result was a story in the Washington Post quoting a senior military official in Baghdad as saying no way Iraq’s ‘leaders’ would be ready to lead some operations against the insurgency until next summer, if not later. The anonymous official was the same General Casey.”

Two things emerge from this continuing fiasco. The first is that when there is some sort of good news to announce, the principals wave their arms and take several bows. When the news is less than superb, those same officials hide behind “anonymous sources.” This, of course, is the essence of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by Bush’s brain, Karl Rove.

The second fact to emerge is that when military people start to play a political game, the soldiers will almost always be the losers.

There is no full blown sorrow in this quarter for General Casey. He was simply following orders from two opposing camps in the White House. If Casey feels used, he could resign. He won’t do that. After all, he has four stars on his uniform. But soldiers don’t get paid for thinking. Those that do usually get burned. The mighty Casey seems to have struck out.

Verse 2: Base Closing May or May Not Save Billions
Recently, the Pentagon’s Base Closing Commission announced the proposed closing of a high number of military bases. Some of the more famous military bases were on the list to be shut down. The Groton Submarine Base and the Ellsworth Air Force Base were among the more famous bases which the U.S. military said were no longer needed.

Closing bases would have devastating effects on the economy of the surrounding towns. Politicians of all sorts have now banded together to save the bases in their territory. It seems that the politicians have an ally in Anthony J. Principi, who had been the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs and is now Chairman of the Base Closing Committee.

When Principi and his helpers analyzed the list of base closings, they concluded that the Pentagon had inflated the savings of closing the bases by a factor of 50%. Simply put, the Pentagon lied and were caught in it by Chairman Principi.

Since the Principi group made its counter claim of the reduced savings that would flow from base closings, the Pentagon has been mysteriously quiet. It is reasonable to expect that the Pentagon will be back gnawing on the same old bone at a later date, but getting caught in a lie will not help them to make their case.

Verse 3: Anyone in Favor of a Draft?
The Army has done about everything to encourage people to enlist. Education and age limits have been expanded to make less well educated and those up to nearly age 40 eligible to enlist. Bonuses are enticing, and yet, recruitment goals have been missed repeatedly. The answer is, of course, that young men and women are not eager to be blown apart in Iraq or some similar place.

There are commentators who suggest a draft for the military. They argue a draft imposes an equal obligation on everyone to serve. The current all-volunteer Army is peopled often by young men who are not equipped educationally to compete in the job markets of the 21st century. Joining the Army is viewed in many quarters as a respectable job where if things work right, the Army experience may lead to opportunities in education and future civilian employment. Maybe so, but not many students are eager to become freshmen at age 23-27 years and not many employers are eager to hire new workers whose main talent is shooting a machine gun. So the volunteer army becomes an army of “lifers” who have no other employment opportunities.

Now if we are ever to spread the responsibility among a much larger pool of Americans, it appears a draft would be one way to do it. There are many reasons to support a draft because it imposes an obligation on all young men. But curiously, the chicken war hawk factions particularly in the Republican Party either say nothing or they oppose any idea of a draft.

George Bush, Tom DeLay, Richard Chaney and Bill Frist have nothing to say about equal opportunity to get killed in Iraq. Nothing to say. But when the ghouls gathered to prolong Terri Schiavo’s misery, they were all leading the parade. Bush even flew back from Texas using hundreds of gallons of aviation fuel to sign the unconstitutional bill to extend the misery of Ms. Schiavo. But not a word about a draft for which he has two daughters who seem to be going nowhere.

A draft is fine for poor people, but certainly not for kids of the country club set.

Verse 4: Omar Bradley’s Thoughts
For those who do not know of Omar Bradley, he was in many minds the most successful General of World War II. Bradley’s credentials are too long to summarize here, but he led Army forces in North Africa and in Europe in the 1942-1945 period. Your ancient author became aware of Bradley in early 1943 when he had a leading part in directing allied forces in the Battle of Kasserine Pass in Tunisia which led to the surrender of Rommel’s Afrika Korps a short time later.

Bob Herbert, a columnist for the New York Times has a new book called “Promises Betrayed.” It is largely a collection of his essays. It is very worthwhile reading, particularly if you abhor war.

On page 306, Bob Herbert cites a quotation from a speech made in Boston 57 years ago. Herbert quotes a news release on a paragraph of Bradley’s speech.

“General Omar Bradley , a hero of World War II, delivered a speech in Boston in 1948 that is remarkably appropriate for the violent and chaotic world of today. ‘The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom,’ he said, ‘power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical midgets. We know more about war than we know of peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

For me, there is nothing whatsoever to add to Omar Bradley’s speech except to state that he came from the hills of Missouri, home of Howard Davis and Harry Truman.

August 20, 2005


I feel like Bradley does a good job of summarizing why we don’t need bases OR a draft; the U.S. should endeavor to do less occupying and killing in general. Aiming to have fewer bases and fewer troops, regardless of the cost savings associated by closing them, is a great goal. I’d agree that the socioeconomic component to the army is frustrating, though. It obviously shouldn’t be the poorest Americans that have to be the first to die. But even more obviously, no Americans should be dying overseas in the first place when there’s no real war to be waged, and we’re just trying to control oil interests.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON THOUGHTS DURING AUGUST HEAT | Meditations Chapter 14: Verses Amos to Andy

It may be that the string of temperatures of over 90 degrees has gotten to the old essayist. For an old geezer from St. Louis where the summer temperatures are reminiscent of the home that Satan enjoys, it must be said that the heat is more than impressive.

All of this leads to a series of unrelated thoughts that may have some wisdom in spite of the heat. Take for example, Tom Eadone’s Rule.

Verse 1: Eadone’s Rule
For many years, Tom Eadone together with his sisters, ran a limo service based in Chatham, New Jersey. Tom was a man in his 50’s who had grown up in the environs of Newark. Political chicanery was a factor that Tom looked for in every politician. In this state, Tom was absolutely right to doubt any word of any of our politicians.

Over a period of time, Tom developed an immutable rule about New Jersey politics. Any candidate who spent more on his campaign than the job he sought would pay him, was clearly a suspect.

If Tom found a candidate spending $20,000 for a job that paid $8,000 or $12,000, he would be convicted by Eadone’s Rule. In New Jersey politics, any candidate spending more than the job would pay would be aiming for kickbacks and bribes. Think about that proposition. Does anyone spend a fortune for the purpose of pleasure as he watches his money squirt away? Of course not. The candidate is making an investment.

On the other hand, we now have two zillionaires running for Governor where the pay is about $125,000 to $150,000 per year. They are prepared to spend as much as $75 million to get a job that, in other circumstances, would be considered as below their station in life. The Democratic zillionaire hopes the governorship may lead to the presidency provided he doesn’t trip over a girl friend or two. The Republican zillionaire seems at this point to be satisfied if he becomes governor where he can introduce right wing foolishness.

Tom Eadone retired a few years ago and we are left alone without his wise counsel. But if Tom could be reached for comment, it is clear that he would regard both candidates for governor with consummate suspicion.

As a scholar who has studied at Professor Eadone’s feet, his suspicions are shared by me. What would a man who uses a trunk for a wallet do with a job that pays only $150,000 per year? We shall see soon enough.

My memory is that Tom picked me up or delivered me to airports on perhaps more than two hundred occasions. He and his other drivers were never late, and Tom’s philosophy was free. That is my finest tribute.

Verse 2: An Arab Army is a Bona Fide Oxymoron
The United States is on a fool’s errand in Iraq. Our alleged exit strategy from this debacle of a war is to train an Iraqi Army that will see to it that the unpleasantness of war stays “over there and not over here.” We are depending on an Arab army, yet to be formed, to carry our burden in fighting other Arabs. This is treasonable foolishness.

An oxymoron is a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as a peaceful war. There is no such thing as a prosperous depression. Similarly, there is absolutely no such thing as an effective Arab army.

A few years back, Iraq and Iran started a war that seemed to be fought at long range. My observation is that hand-to-hand fighting did not take place. Obviously, the Iranians are Persians and not Arabs. The Arab army of Iraq fought their long range war and ended up territorially, right where they started.

Arab armies exist to protect their Arab Kings and dictators. After the Iraq-Iran war, Saddam overran Kuwait which he had always considered merely a province of Iraq. Kuwait had a police force but no Army of any consequence. When the Allied forces showed up, the Iraqi army, including the vaunted Republican Guards, flew headlong back toward Baghdad. There was no such thing as the Iraqi Army when push came to shove.

In 1948 when the State of Israel came into being, there were many people who expected it to be destroyed by Arab armies. Israel defeated all the Arab armies including Egypt, and did so again in the 1960’s. During my service in North Africa, it occurred to me and to several other GI’s that Arab armies were hollow. Again, it is my long held contention that Arab armies exist to protect the king or dictator from the native population. So any consternation about them is nothing more than a continuing oxymoron. When they march in formation, they swing their hands up to shoulder height. Nice to see, but it doesn’t make them anything like an effective army.

And so when we are finished training an Iraqi army, we allegedly can “stand down.” Much more likely is the thought that all our training will be put to use in fighting a sectarian civil war in Iraq. Don’t let the paid commentators who have political fish to fry tell you that life, when all the Iraqi soldiers are trained, will be all milk and honey. It ain’t so.

Al Goebel, a fellow AT&T employee and a B-20 bomber pilot in World
War II, used to say that when you put on a uniform, it was not just for marching in parades or impressing the girls. Sometimes the man wearing the uniform might be asked to shoot at an enemy or to be shot at by an enemy. Unfortunately, my conclusion is that Goebel’s Rule is not understood by the Iraqi recruits being trained by U.S. forces. If and when we leave Iraq, that training and equipment may well be invested in a sectarian civil war. Remember, an Arab army is generally an oxymoron.

Another thought about the situation in Iraq is expressed in Verse 3.

Verse 3: Scowcroft’s Rule
When the Gulf War was concluded by Coalition forces chasing the Iraqi Army back to Iraq, there were many commentators who faulted
George H.W. Bush and his National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft for not occupying Baghdad and Iraq.

Scowcroft and the elder Bush thought such a move would have disastrous consequences. They wrote a book in 1998 called “A World Transformed” in which they said occupying Iraq “involved incalculable human and political costs.”

They went on to say:

“We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well…Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different – and perhaps barren – outcome.”
(emphasis mine)

When George W. Bush was asked about his own father’s advice, he said that “I listened to a higher father.” Presumably, Bush receives messages from God. Most people who talk to God are candidates for psychotherapy.

So you see, it was God herself or himself who got us into the quagmire of Iraq. No one can blame Bush as he was a mere messenger.


We started this Chapter with a rule from Tom Eadone and ended with a rule by Al Goebel. The Scowcroft-Bush quote is probably more than a mere rule, but it took the intervention of God herself to overrule it as we are now trying to occupy a “bitterly hostile land.”

When the President talks to God, there are many of us who say the United States is in trouble. Earlier this summer when the Prime Minister of Palestine, Mr. Abbas, came to Washington, he was told by the U.S. President that God had told him to “smite” Al Qaeda. Then he told Abbas that God suggested that he destroy Saddam. So Bush again was simply following God’s orders. To use the elder Bush’s evaluation which comes from a cloistered New England upbringing, “We are in deep doo doo.” Do you believe that it was God who got us there?

August 13, 2005


China is perhaps the greatest violator of Eadone’s Rule of which I am aware. For communist party insiders, governmental positions are basically bought and sold on the market – but the price of each job has nothing to do with the salary it pays, and everything to do with the companies and industries that it has jurisdiction over. Bribes and relationship building (guanxi) are an expected part of any large business venture or contract in the country, so being a gatekeeper can be phenomenally lucrative. Positions that pay a few thousand dollars (USD) a year are routinely purchased for millions.

China winds up with a lot of local gatekeepers, in this fashion. It is one of several reasons that I’m not on the “China is about to eat the U.S.’s lunch” train that seems to be gathering steam lately.

Anyway, the funny part is that this system represents one of the very few ways that China could have downgraded the caliber of those who hold public office, which for centuries (until 1911) were determined largely by a series of incredibly intense examinations where performance was mainly tied to one’s ability to memorize incredibly extensive sections of the ancient Chinese classic texts. You would sit for like a week, quoting these texts extensively, verbatim, in essays that touched far less on good governance than they did on philosophical questions and Confucian principles. The result is that these Chinese government was staffed for years and years and years by those who were, first and foremost, good at memorizing things.

But ultimately, unlike the open-market solution currently in place, the essay system was a vague meritocracy which guaranteed that all officials were dedicated, educated, literate, and capable of applying previous learnings towards new problems; the Tang dynasty would have never been saddled with Betsy DeVos.

QUESTIONS IN SEARCH OF ANSWERS | Meditations: Chapter 13, Verses Pre-Genesis to Mid-Malachi

From time to time, questions come along that make me wonder if anyone else has similar questions and whether any solutions really exist. The questions are so persistent that they must be acknowledged even though there may be no answers at all. Try some of these.

Verse 1: Poor Health, Men’s Division
The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court has been afflicted with cancer. To see him try to walk is a disheartening experience. His cancer treatments kept him home bound for much of the 2004-2005 Supreme Court term. In recent weeks, he has required hospitalization for fever. The Chief Justice, William Rehnquist is now past 80 years of age.

He claims that he is keeping up with his work while at home by reading briefs and the minutes of court proceedings. In spite of his myriad of difficulties, he seems intent upon remaining as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

If he retired, it is likely he would receive a substantial pension along with health care. But he elects to shuffle along with his cap pulled down tightly on his head and tries to go to work. If Rehnquist worked for me, there would be a small personnel conference, at which time he would be told that between his ailments and his age, he should attend his own going away party as promptly as possible.

The business of the U.S. is too important that it not be left to aged invalids. This old essayist has never enjoyed the spiritual comfort that some derive from Catholicism. None-the-less, for several years it struck me that the Polish Pope, John Paul II should have retired for the same reasons that apply to Rehnquist. He was well past 80 years and had suffered from Parkinson’s disease. His mobility was seriously compromised. His voice was often inaudible. Yet he went through the motions of being Pope of the Roman Catholic Church until death claimed him.

Is this a matter of male vanity? In my own family, my father was basically blind from age 65 onward. Yet he found a used car salesman who sold him a big Buick that would barely fit in the garage. And the used car salesman had to drive the Buick home as my father could not see.

Women have face lifts. Some men have vanity in such proportions that it tends to blind and to kill them. This is one question that needs an answer.

Verse 2: Senator Frist’s Pre-Born Again Conversion
Bill Frist is a heart surgeon from Tennessee who is now the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. For a time now, he has been running hard to convince Right Wing Conservatives that he is a Bible believing Southern Baptist who would make a good president. In many respects, his campaign has come at the expense of his legislative duties.

For unknown reasons, Frist and other politicians have adopted the positions of the Catholic Church. For example, no Protestant church that is known to me, has decreed that life begins at conception. For all the years that preachers have tortured me with their prolix sermons, no Protestant preacher has ever preached on conception being the original key to life. They may think so, but Protestants have never made a point of it being a matter of infallibility.

Even the far out sects such as the Nazarenes, the Pentecostals, the Southern Baptists and the Free Will Baptists have preached that their adherents must be born again. That is a matter of infallibility.

Yet Frist, a Baptist, who will apparently do anything or say anything or adopt any religious precept, has announced that life begins at conception. How does that square with being born again? It isn’t a matter of being conceived again; Protestants believe in being born again.

That raises substantial questions. In dozens of cases such as enlisting in the U.S. Army, one of the major questions has been “Date of Birth” and “Place of Birth.” Now if we are going to take Frist and the other politicians seriously, we are going to have to change countless forms and applications.

How could a person state the date when she or he had been conceived? Hard to say. Can anyone imagine the embarrassment when the proper amount of time had not elapsed between the DOC and the DOB? Why bring up skeletons from the basement?

Now what are we going to do about where the conception took place? When a live baby appears, hospital personnel fill out a birth certificate saying that the birth took place in this hospital in a specific city and county. So we know where the DOB took place. But what are we going to do about the DOC’s? Are we all to be Paris Hiltons whose parents contend that she was conceived there within a few meters of the Eiffel Tower? What are we to do with people who travel a lot, such as traveling salespersons? They would have no idea as to whether the DOC took place in Chicago, Des Moines or Crawford, Texas.

Obviously, Protestant Frist has not thought through his adoption of the Roman position on conception. But if this is the wave of the future, all of us must prepare ourselves with some rational answers. There are questions here that need to be answered as long as politicians embrace the precepts of the Roman church. Perhaps the Roman Church might blaze new trails by holding that as a condition of entering heaven, everyone must be conceived again. That will keep this Roman Church a full stride ahead of Martin Luther’s Protestants.

Verse 3: The Dullest Speakers Wear Eagles and Stars
For more than 63 years, that is the summer of 1942, it has been my sad duty to attempt to figure out what Colonels, Generals and Admirals are attempting to say. When it comes to sheer absolute dullness, high level military people compete with preachers and politicians in the World Series of uninspiring discourse.

There is a reason for this, of course. Early in my career as an Army private, a situation arose where it seemed appropriate to offer a solution. The sergeant informed me in thunderous tones that “You, Private Carr, don’t get paid to think.” For quite a while, it became my practice to think, but not to announce the results of my cerebral activity. Like Galileo Galilei who muttered to church authorities that regardless of what they thought, it was the earth that turned. And so this Private also muttered about less consequential things.

Simply put, the military services put a premium on acceptance of authority even if that authority is completely wrong. Men, and now some women, rise in the ranks by keeping their mouths shut. There is no such thing as a maverick general or an admiral who demonstrates a better way. The mantra is to get along by going along. Even on a disastrous course.

An example may be helpful. General Shinseki was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff which is the top U.S. military job. When the Iraq invasion took place, General Shinseki offered the thought that to occupy and pacify Iraq, something like 400,000 to 500,000 troops would be needed.

That viewpoint flew in the face of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who had persuaded his boss that Iraq could be conquered on the cheap. The Assistant Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, was caustic in criticizing General Shinsiki. In a matter of months, Shinseki was, in effect, fired. Remember, you don’t get paid for thinking. That seems to apply to Privates as well as to Four Star Generals.

In point of fact, ever since the disastrous Iraq invasion has taken place, there have been calls for more troops to make our occupation succeed. But no General in the field wishes to have the Shinseki treatment visited upon him, so we struggle with a grossly undersized force.

The military doctrine of not being paid to think shows up when our military brass tries to explain things. To prevent criticism from Congress, the press or other military officers, they invariably read from a script which makes for utter dullness. When they agree to answer questions, they lapse into military jargon using initials for names and say virtually nothing.

Even the sainted Colin Powell had trouble speaking effectively. His major speech to the United Nations Security Council shortly before our Commander in Chief launched his ill fated invasion of Iraq, was shortly shown to be false. This was the speech where he guaranteed the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq.

The blunt fact is that the U.S. military abhors innovation as much as they protest to the contrary. This is a get along by going along outfit. To make an interesting statement or an interesting speech requires thought and the willingness to advocate something other than saying something absolutely without controversy.

The question that must be posed to our readers is how must dullness be considered a virtue in military matters? It appears that dullness in our military will be with us as long as the generals and admirals insist that soldiers and sailors don’t get paid for thinking.

Verse 4: Monuments
In the civilized world, there must be several million monuments. Maybe many more. Of all these edifices, only one involves me. That is the World War II Monument in Washington, D.C. which honors the military men and women who took part in that war.

Unfortunately, that is indeed an enormous monument which pleases politicians, but it doesn’t say much for the soldiers and sailors who were involved in World War II.

This overwhelming monument was built with no input from any old soldier known to me. It was built largely because there were memorials for the Korean War and the War in Vietnam. Bob Dole, the Senator from Kansas, was the moving force to build the monument which is why some of us say it was built to please politicians.

Aside from being antiseptic, it is overblown. It is a loud military brass band backing the National Symphony with a chorus of 10,000 voices. It would be better to have a single guitar player or a cello to memorialize that war.

The Korean War memorial is a stark reminder of what soldiers encounter in dealing with an enemy. It is a magnificent memorial.

The wall with the 58,000 names of the dead from the Vietnam War carries a moving message. More than anything else, it is an antiwar statement and it is a magnificent memorial to the fallen.

It seems to me that the World War II monument would have profited from simplicity. There is a wall in that monument that honors the 400,000 military people lost in that war. That might just be enough of an understatement to make an impression. But in addition to that wall, there are 50 or 52 tall stone obelisks for each state. But understatement has never been a characteristic of American politicians.

So the question that remains is whether it is worth seeing. Absolutely – provided you see it together with the Korean and Vietnamese memorials. The key here is that World War II is marked by a monument. The other two are marked by memorials. Memorials are better.

Verse 5: Envelopes and Screw Top Bottles
Companies that send me bills often include an envelope that requires me to be certain that the addressees name shows through the plastic window. This is a hassle that no one needs. Is there anything wrong with sending a return envelope that does not require such dexterity?

Now about screw top containers that require that the lid be forced down before it may be unscrewed. Allegedly, this is a device to protect our children. In this house, there are no children. When a bottle of 100 tablets is purchased, for example, for each of those one hundred attempts to extract one pill, the cap must be pushed down with which it becomes cross threaded. People become heathens for less provocation than the push down caps.

There has to be a better way of dealing with envelopes and bottles. Your suggestions will be welcome. And while we are at it, the fastening devices at the top of cereal boxes are often deplorable. There are those of us who believe the alleged most advanced country in the world ought to be able to design cereal boxes that shut without a degree in industrial engineering.

These are a few of the questions that give me pause. Perhaps future Meditations will provide some answers. But in all likelihood, as age creeps up on me, there will only be more unanswered questions and fewer answers.

August 13, 2005


I wonder — I think Pop’s blindness set in in 2005 sometime, but this essay doesn’t reference it in the fifth section. You’d think that would be the reason why everything else mentioned was particularly inconvenient, but maybe that’s implied.

Meanwhile I think the bit about male vanity towards the top of the essay was pretty spot-on. Pride can definitely drive people to make some pretty obvious mistakes. The best thing Joseph Ratzinger ever did was to recognize when it was time to retire from the papacy.

BLOODY CODGERS | Meditations: Chapter XII, Verses Leviticus – Levi’s Jeans

Meditations: Chapter XII, Verses Leviticus – Levi’s Jeans

Verse 1: Good Old Words
Don’t pay too much attention to the titles for this part of the current Meditations series. Nostalgia has overtaken me as there is a yearning to hear glorious words that have some how fallen out of style.

There are new words today by the dozens that often use the language of computerese. There is nanosecond and lip synching and sound bites. But those words have no staying power. When the next generation of computer devotees comes along, they will be forgotten and replaced by another set of largely meaningless words and phrases.

Bloody, as used here, is simply an intensive. It has nothing to do with blood on the floor or on someone’s face or clothing. The Brits and the Irish used to use bloody frequently. When a Tommy, a British Army enlisted man, is denied a furlough, he may well refer to the “bloody British Army.” It might be expected that the Underground bombings in London would be an occasion for Brits to mumble something about the “bloody Moslems.”

The word according to English dictionaries dates to 1661. It is defined as an “intensive” which may, in some cases, have vulgar overtones.

My father, a thorough-going Irishman, used to delight in adjusting the tappets on his Studebaker automobiles. When the tappets were out of adjustment, loud clicking noises would come from the engine. The original Ezra would say, “Man, we have got to fix those bloody tappets.” Nothing vulgar. Simply an intensive as it applied to tappets.

But alas, Ezra became an angel in 1958. It has now become difficult to assuage my nostalgia for vibrant English such as the use of the term “bloody.”

The modern definition of “codger” says that term is used to describe a “mildly eccentric person who is usually an elderly fellow.” That is a crabbed definition. In the first place, “codger” always referred to a male person. He might be eccentric as Mr. Merriam Webster says, but most often he would be a good natured man who laughed and joked. My mother, Lillie, always used that term appropriately. If a man of Lillie’s vintage was mean or eccentric, she would use a term other than codger. On the other hand, Harry, my mother’s favorite brother, was called an old codger by Lillie sometime after he reached age 50. And so it is that my definition of codger is a more generous one than the dictionary definition. But one way or another, it would be nice to hear codger or old codger once again.

Ornery, according to the dictionary, is only 185 years old. That is hard to believe as it seems to me to come from the 17th Century. The modern definition is “having an irritable disposition.” Cantankerous is a synonym for ornery.

An ornery mule is one who bites and kicks. An ornery man is one who cheats and may not take care of his family. Politicians were often described in days past as ornery – so nothing has changed. There may be occasions where ornery could be used affectionately as in a father saying – in jest – “I have three ornery sons.” But as a general rule, ornery used to be used to describe a cantankerous man or a person with an irritable disposition. So Mr. Merriam Webster is close to right on ornery. But that is no help when no one says ornery any more.

As was said in my first paragraph, nostalgia has overtaken me. It would be a pleasure to hear a preacher or a politician or a TV commentator such as Bob Schieffer utter the words bloody, codgers and ornery. If they would do that, they would have my business forever. If the Archbishop of Canterbury would utter those old English words publicly, it might even have some kind of effect on my view of the Anglican Church – but in all likelihood, probably nothing would change.

Verse 2: Bombings, Angels and Virgins for Martyrs
In recent weeks, London’s Underground and a double-decker bus have suffered bombings with attendant deaths. The resort city of Taba in Egypt’s Sinai, popular with Israelis and Egyptians alike, experienced a horrific bombing. The explosions in Iraq have become so routine that they usually go unmentioned unless there is the loss of American lives. In many respects, bombings in Baghdad have become a way of life.

After the London bombing, an Arab man was interviewed. From what he said, he was a well educated man who put credence into Islamic concepts of life and death.

He said that from the moment of our births, we are all waiting to die. Some die young and some die older. To a large extent, it is a matter of chance as to when our lives end. He then said that for a worthy cause, advancing the day of death would be a favorable development. He then said that if the death meant a blow to the Christian occupation, as in Iraq, advancing the day of death would be more than worthwhile. This man was not a terrorist or anyone’s “dead ender.”

He was a rational man who seemed to have no zealotry for Islamic beliefs. From time immemorial, Moslems have disliked Christians and Jews. The Arab man was saying that any blow to the Christian occupiers of Iraq, and other Arab lands, was not only justified but in some ways desired.

Tony Blair is all tangled up in his John Bull underwear. Blair loudly contends that the Arab view amounts to no more than a “vile philosophy.” He and his Texas handler refuse to discuss the occupation of Iraq as the reason for the bombings. In so doing, they have buried their heads as far as they will go in the sand.

Before we occupied Iraq, London suffered no bombings. It is an immutable fact that for every action there is a reaction. We occupy an Arab country and the reaction is bombings in London and soon in the United States.

If the situation were reversed with an Arab army occupying Britain or the United States, both of us would resist mightily and would do everything to thwart the Arab occupiers. In English, the proper word for such action is patriotism.

Blair has invented the term “vile philosophy” in the hope that citizens of England will overlook his disastrous course of following George Bush in occupying Iraq. It seems to me that a dose of reality is in order to demonstrate that occupying an Arab country leaves Britain without a rational reason for complaining. By occupying Iraq, they asked for it.

When George Bush said, “Bring ‛em on” he probably overlooked the fact that the Arabs could indeed, respond and do so lethally. When England stops occupying Iraq, it may be that the Arab recriminations will diminish or cease. The same idea applies also to the British occupation of six countries in Northern Ireland. When the occupation stops, there will be peace with the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Every rational person should know by now that occupying another country has consequences that are often deadly. But the American and British occupiers of Iraq wish to be blind and deaf to that immutable fact.

Verse 3: Some Thoughts and Questions about Fornication
Everyone knows that proper born-again Christians and Moslems have nothing admirable to say publicly about fornication. In some ways, it is similar to Americans condemning monster sized SUV’s – and then buying a Ford Navigator or Explorer with gas mileage averaging between 10 or 12 miles per gallon. The human race may publicly deplore fornication, but the evidence is clear that a lot of it is taking place and has always taken place.

This old codger-essayist hopes that the word fornicate does not turn you off. As a matter of fact, on page 483 of the Merriam Webster Collegiate dictionary, you will find that word has been a standard English term since 1552. So it is well established word and has its proper place in the language of the Anglo-Saxon race.

While it has a fairly modest listing in standard dictionaries, the King James Version of the Bible is found to have 40 verses referring to fornication. For example, according to Revelations, some powerful religious person – God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost or the Virgin Mary – destroyed the thriving city of Babylon because the residents there were found to be fornicating and drinking tankards of wine. So the powerful religious figure or Intelligent Designer, had it reduced to ashes. In the 18th Chapter of Revelations, Verse 3, we find:
“For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and merchants are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies” (my emphasis).

In Verse 7, there is more about Babylon’s wickedness. “How much she hath glorified herself and lived deliciously…” (my emphasis).

There you have it. Fornication leads to delicacies and worse, to deliciousness. It frightens me just to write those lines. Are we here in Short Hills waxing rich over delicious delicacies?

If the Bible uses 40 verses to warn us of delicious and delicate developments, there are some questions to be asked about fornication. It is assumed that each incident of fornication is marked in a heavenly ledger very much like a baseball box-score where each error or wild pitch is entered in the ball player’s record.

It is clear that each act of fornication will result in a black mark. That much is understood. But what if the fornicator uses some form of artificial birth control as a means of avoiding a possible pregnancy and a subsequent abortion. Does this mean two or more black marks on the heavenly box score? Most observers would vote for an error for each transgression. And, of course, if it applies, adultery is another black mark. Observers would vote for an error for each such trespass.

Now while we are on the subject of multiple errors, we should consider the case of Strom Thurmond, the Senator from South Carolina who lived to celebrate his 100th birthday. When Thurmond was 22, he lived in a large home that required the assistance of help from female maids who were African-Americans. Polite, educated South Carolinians referred to the maids as “Nigras.” One of the maids, a 16 year old, caught Thurmond’s eye and at his insistence, they fornicated. In more civilized climes, their liaison would be called rape. The testimony was the Thurmond forced himself on this youngster more than once. She became impregnated and gave birth to a daughter.

In a fit of noblesse oblige, Thurmond paid for the daughter to attend a black, female college. Aside from secret and rare visits to Thurmond’s office, he never acknowledged his daughter even though 100 years would have given him ample time to do that.

Now Thurmond was clearly guilty of fornication. But at the time, it was illegal to have sexual relations between races. Read white and black. Now in the heavenly ledger, Thurmond must have been given black marks for fornication. Do you think he should have received two black marks because he violated the law on race mixing, that is the law on miscegenation? And if he had used a condom, my instincts are to give him three black marks. The fact that Thurmond’s paramour was under- aged also deserves a big black mark. Did Strom believe the housemaid was a slave? If so, he deserves another black mark.

Writing about a miserable wretch like Thurmond brings us to the unfairness of life. John Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullet at the age of 46 years. Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary of Great Britain died yesterday in his 59th year. And Thurmond hangs around until he hits the century mark. What a cruel turn of events.

An allied subject would involve the U.S. decision to reject the Kyoto Treaty on global warming. The Chief Executive of this country has said on more than one occasion that to adopt the Kyoto Treaty would “wreck the American economy.” Global warming is no longer debatable. It is here with 103 degree readings in the Windy City of Chicago. But this administration says it is protecting the American economy by nixing the Kyoto Treaty.

That same Chief executive has loudly proclaimed his desire for this country to embrace abstinence in sexual matters. A small aside. If abstinence is such a great virtue for single people, why should it not also be a similar virtue for married people as well? That is a matter for musing on another occasion.

In practical terms, if Kyoto would have a deleterious effect on what the Chief Executive and Commander in Chief on our economy, or “wreck” it, does he not care what his abstinence policy would do to the lodging segment of our economy? My thoughts here go to motels, tourist cabins and the so called “hot sheet” hotels. They are an integral part of the American economy.

Everyone knows that there is a zero chance of our practicing abstinence. Just this week we read of a four star Army General being run off for dallying with a civilian person other then his wife from whom he was separated. There was also a report of a 79 year old Monsignor from
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, who was accused by an irate husband in a divorce suit, of spending excessive amounts of time with the angry husband’s wife on weekends and vacations. The wife is 49 years of age. They were videotaped, according to the husband, entering a motel on Long Island. Five hours later, they left the motel wearing different clothes from the costumes they wore as they entered. This is hard for this ornery old codger to relate, but it is a pretty good bet that they may have been more than hand holding. The Monsignor has resigned saying all this publicity is making it impossible to carry on as Rector of St. Pats. The irate husband might be well advised to make his next confession in a church other than St. Pats.

The point is that if the Commander in Chief is truly worried about the American economy, he must be concerned about all of it. If we are going to wipe out the lodging industry with a policy of abstaining from relations between the same or different sexes, why should the smoke stack industries continue to proliferate and profit? The King James Version has nothing to say on this particular point.

It seems to me that if the Grand Ayatollah Chief Executive wants to take on the ancient custom of fornication, he will clearly bite off more than he can chew. With Iraq and the Social Security fiasco, that would be a disastrous and monumental trifecta.

And so endeth Chapter XII of the New Jersey Meditations. You are advised to consider the delicacies and deliciousness of fornication until the next meditation appears.

July 11, 2005


I think most American patriots forget just how long the Iraq occupation period was, and that for the vast majority of that time we were supposedly in a post-combat, “Mission Accomplished” status under which we were getting more and more entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan for less and less defensible reasons about WMDs.  By the end we were occupiers without a cause. The citizens of these countries never “hated us for our freedom,” they hated us because we were obstructing theirs. By, you know, filling their daily lives with our soldiers. And then replacing those soldiers with missile-equipped drones.

A POTPOURRI OF THOUGHTS | Meditations: Chapter 11, Verses Genesis to Exodus

My final job at AT&T was in the Overseas Department where it was necessary to deal with all the other telecommunications organizations in the world on mutual problems. In many cases, it was a matter of maintaining harmonious relations with people who were very different from ourselves as well as people who are very much like the people found in this country. It was a job that brought considerable enjoyment to me. Among the people who contributed to that enjoyment were two Assistant General Managers of the Overseas Telecommunication’s Commission – Australia. One was Randy Payne and the other was John Hampton.

We were all veterans of World War II which contributed much to our friendship. Before long, it also developed that all of us were offended by attempts to sully the English language. John Hampton said at one point that he had heard the term “to envelopize” a problem. Randy and John were baffled by that term as their American correspondent was by “cut to the chase.” Somewhere along the line came the phrase “pushing the envelope” and the penchant of one of my colleagues for the use of the absurd word “proactive.” When a new imbecilic phrase turned up, we all laughed as its meaning was guessed at. The three of us reserved a special place in hell for those who said, “At this point in time” meaning now, or “That point in time,” meaning then. That also applied to adding the suffix “wise” to any word, such as, “It is hot here, heat-wise.”

Randy Payne died bout 20 years ago at a much too early an age. John Hampton retired and unfortunately, we have been out of contact for nearly two decades. But the search goes on. In the past few years, particularly since the Iraq war, insane neologisms are found everywhere. This is the time Randy and John are sorely needed. Here are only a few of the new words that beggar definition and meaning.

How about “awesome” or “like” as in the ardent swain saying to his beloved, “Like, I want to kiss you.” She should reply, “Like when is it going to happen?” She might also say, “You know what I mean?” Then there is the recurring phrase “you know.” When George Bush speaks extemporarily, his sentences go on and on as he says “and uh…” instead of a period. Employers are looking for people who “think outside the box.” What box are we discussing?

From the war in Iraq, we have “tipping point,” “boots on the ground,” “standing up and standing down,” “closure” and “renditions.” Rumsfeld speaks a language all his own. He loves the word “metrics,” which means nothing more than a measurement of some kind as in the war in Iraq may go on for twelve years. Twelve years is a metric and a long one.

Condoleezza Rice, the recently appointed Secretary of State, has a compulsion to use the word “task” in dubious forms. Rumsfeld, of metrics fame, joins Madame Rice in trying to dress up that well understood term, in fancy and in illogical clothing. When someone has been assigned to oversee a project, Rice and Rumsfeld will say that he or she is “being tasked” with that responsibility. Prospectively, they may say that a subordinate person is under consideration “for tasking” a certain project. Because these are peculiar American usages, Randy and John would have pummeled me endlessly, and with good reason.

On the ecclesiastical front, we have an entry from EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), the Catholic network. They now refer to children in the womb as “pre-born.” When a birth occurs, is it possible that the child would be called a “post-born” or an “after-born”? My driver’s license says born only. “After and post born” would lend some class to a classless entry.

From the baseball commentators we now have “going yard” which means hitting a home run. This takes insanity to a lofty level.

So you can see why Randy and John are sorely missed. We have much more to work with than when we plied our trade back in the 1980’s. Like I mean, like really. It is awesome! How about, at this point in time, may we say, awesome-wise? Or, proactive-wise? How about prayer-wise?

Your old essayist is at a loss to tell you if nuns who taught school were as tough as some parochial school graduates now claim. My main source is Francis Healey, a former major league catcher who is now a broadcaster of Mets baseball.

Fran is not alone in claiming that the nuns he was taught by were overly strict and that some of them were given to corporal punishment. There are those parents who want their children to be taught by demanding teachers. Perhaps that is a laudable trait, but it seems to me that something is missing here. Parochial school graduates speak not of the love of learning, but of the strictness of the teaching nuns. Rulers seem to have been used to rap knuckles of errant school boys. Is that the image that people such as Fran Healey, who must have left his parochial school 40 years ago, want to be known for?

My grade school teachers were demanding, but sometimes they would join the children in school yard games at recess. The question remains, were the parochial school nuns as tough as some graduates say they were? Were the Catholic kids that unruly? But the nuns are still at it so it is clear that some parents prefer for their kids to toe the line. Do bad boys ever get excommunicated? Maybe the Eternal Word Television Network can answer that question as soon as “pre-born” is explained satisfactorily. EWTN might explain that the so called “Morning-after pill” is designed to avoid the pre-born situation. That would be a clear definition that all of us could understand.

In previous essays, an attempt was made to describe hatred between people and countries. The Chinese, for example, are still smoldering about the treatment by the Japanese Army in World War II. The Italians are roundly hated in Ethiopia for the invasion in the 1930’s under Mussolini. In turn, the Italians hate what the German Army did to them late in World War II. The Poles hate the Germans and the Russians, with good reason. Even after 800 years, there is absolutely no love lost between the Irish and England. Old Mother England is reviled in Africa because the Brits referred to male natives as “boys” and demanded that natives call them “Master.”

Our occupation of Iraq – and particularly the torture that has been visited upon Iraqis – will earn Americans the undying hatred of Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world forever.

On the subject of torture in American prisons, Burton J. Lee III wrote an article for the Washington Post called, “The Stain of Torture.” Lee served as a doctor in the United States Medical Corps and was for four years, the presidential physician to George H.W. Bush. The final paragraph of Lee’s piece reads like this:

“America cannot go down this road. Torture demonstrates weakness, not strength. It does not show understanding, power or magnanimity. It is not leadership. It is a reaction of government officials overwhelmed by fear who succumb to conduct unworthy of them and the citizens of the United States.”

Dr. Lee, many of us believe you have said it all. This is what hatred is all about.

The G-8 Summit meeting was badly overshadowed by the London bombings. Yet there were one or two statements of note.

With respect to the war in Iraq, one of the delegates proclaimed the conflict was “Laying the foundation for peace.” He really said that. Presumably, the bloodier the war in Iraq, the more likely that the foundation for peace is laid properly.

On global warming, seven out of the eight delegations were in favor of doing something about it. The United States, which contributes more to greenhouse gasses than any other country, declined to become involved. So the U.S. government holds that seven out of the eight governments are on “the wrong road.”

It may come as no surprise that the speaker in both cases was Mr. Bush. Mr. Bush may have been thrilled to learn while he was in Scotland on G-8 business, that the Shia’s have started to establish a Shia theocracy based in Basra, Iraq’s second city. A theocracy is a government based, in this case, on the Islamic religion. As far as this group of Shias is concerned, they will take a pass on democracy.

Bush may not have understood all that was going on around him in Scotland, but it is a pretty good guess that he was sobered by the events in London and in Iraq. It could – and probably will – happen here.

In recent years, it has become de rigueur to depopulate retail stores. Bakery counters don’t have people to explain the differences between breads. The products are packaged and placed in a bin and the customer is forced to paw through them.

Butchers are quickly passing from the scene as cuts of meat are packaged and placed in bins. Help at the cheese counter is largely a thing of the past all done in the name of getting rid of employees with a consequent boost in corporate earnings.

Perhaps the ultimate is the Staples office supply chain. It is quite possible to shop there for the better part of an hour and see no one but a cashier or two. The difference between products is left for the customer to divine. It is sort of like Rumsfeld saying you go to war with the Army you have. In this case, Staples has filled a store with products which may or may not fit customer requirements – and there are precious few clerks or cashiers to ask for help. Staples says it has done its part. If the customer is baffled, that is not Staples problem.

With the “no help” situation in Staple’s stores, the losses through shop lifting must be significant. But there we go worrying about Staple’s problems. Perhaps we are lucky to have the cashier available, but knowing of the desire to depopulate stores of every kind, it may not be long till they are gone as well.

The inescapable fact is that a good employee will pay for himself by showing how a product is used or by telling customers of other bargains or services supplied by the store. Ah, but the owners are not listening. Curiously, the owners do not share the increased income with the few remaining employees. They keep it for themselves. How short sighted. How immoral.

In Clayton, Missouri, my home town, there was a pool hall that was viewed by my mother as the ultimate den of iniquity. My mother suspected that Sol was selling some sort of beer to patrons during the days of Prohibition. That practice was known as “peddling home brew.” When Franklin Roosevelt assumed the Presidency in 1933, he legalized the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. At that point, old Sol – last name unknown – could sell his beer openly to players who used his pool tables.

My brothers who were 11 and 13 years older than myself, were accused by my mother of patronizing Sol’s place. As my young years advanced, Lillie, my mother, warned me that going to Sol’s would endanger my soul from any heavenly reward. All of this took place when Nora, Lillie’s sister, made home brew all during the Prohibition era. As a child, Nora’s home brew was so repulsive that now, 75 years later, there is not one atom in my body ever crying out for beer.

Secondly, the lure of pool-playing ranks somewhere below watching a dull person try to solve a crossword puzzle. My current interest in pool and golf are somewhere near zero or below.

Nonetheless, as my years mounted, Lillie was assured from time to time that Sol’s Pool Hall was not where my after-school hours were spent. Lillie was completely certain that her fervent prayers for her youngest child were paying off in terms of pool playing and drinking beer. Lillie went to her grave believing that my abstemious conduct was a product of divine intervention. Lillie knew of my non-belief in religion. She elected to declare her non-belief in my non-belief. Given that situation, it seemed best for me to let sleeping dogs lie.

Lillie never played pool in her life nor did she ever see the inside of a pool hall. Why she was so angered by the existence of Sol’s Pool Hall was inexplicable to me. But none-the-less, for more than three quarters of a century, my consumption of beer is in the range of two or three bottles per year. My visits to a pool hall over that period of time are zero. Do you believe these non-accomplishments are, in fact, divine intervention as specified by Mother Lillie? When this old geezer reaches eternal ecstasy in the hereafter, he will go to the divine ledger to see if that was indeed the case. My hope is to see Sol, who will offer me a cold one, and who will spin out the whole story. But seeing Sol, or Solomon, may be difficult because he subscribed to the Jewish faith. Perhaps Jews live in a different housing development from the Protestants. But that is an issue for another day. My unshakable belief is that Lillie and Sol will have worked things out long before it is necessary for me to knock on those golden gates.

July 5, 2005


Most of the time when I’m shopping, I’d much rather use my phone to look up reviews for a product than listen to a biased salesperson tell me about it. And even when a phone is available, having a sales rep staring you down as you attempt to shop is pretty disconcerting for me. I was in Shanghai last week, where this practice is taken to the extreme. In one of the giant counterfeit goods markets, Jen and I made the fatal mistake of asking someone how to get upstairs. That person proceeded to follow us around doggedly for at least ten minutes, despite my becoming increasingly rude to her. “We do not want you here with us, please go away, goodbye” was insufficient deterrent to get her to leave us alone. We eventually had to leave the store to get her to go away. Maybe it’s a generational thing, or maybe I’m just antisocial, but my ideal shopping experience is one where I’m left entirely alone.

FURTHER PROFOUND MEDITATIONS | Chapter Nine: Verses Leviticus to Haggai

The last Meditation seemed to exhaust the ready reserve supply. So it was my thought to put the Meditation series aside and go on to other projects unless there was a celestial sign that further work on this series would be met with ecclesiastical acclaim. In the middle of the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium, Kate Smith sang a recorded 1945 version of “God Bless America” during which Verna, my renowned sister spoke from the sky and said to me, “Write another Meditation.” Verna is now an Arch Angel so it must be assumed that further Meditations will have canonical blessings. And so here is another Meditation which is intended to get Verna off my case.

Verse 1: CLAYTON 714-J
After my father found a job in 1933 or 1934, the Carr family was able to subscribe to telephone service offered by Southwestern Bell. It was a four party line so all the other people knew when an incoming call occurred. On outgoing calls, if someone was on the line, it was necessary to wait for them to end their discussion before another party could make a call. Calls were kept reasonably short as a matter of courtesy. Aimless gossip was exchanged at the peril of other people on the four party system hearing it.

All of this comes to mind after hearing the mindless meanderings of cell phone users. There seems to be no limit on what they will talk about and for how long. For example, you may recall my Meditations about Myrtle’s Ovulation. Last Thursday, a ten year old boy was speaking on a cell phone as he and his mother were shopping. He said such things as, “Like why did he say that” or “Like, I don’t know. Search me.” All of this passes for the transmission of thought processes. He is a kid who will grow up to hassle other passengers on trains and buses with the vacancy of his thought processes.

If such stupid inanities were exchanged over the four party line at Clayton 714-J, the other subscribers would have complained loudly and in all likelihood, would have been joined by the operator. The words are clear after all these years. “If you want to discuss all that trash, get a one party line.” The fact is that single party service was so expensive that most folks during the Depression were forced to subscribe to party line service.

To bring closure, as today’s pundits say, we have not ridden the train to New York for awhile so it is impossible for us to say whether Myrtle’s ovulation resulted in the desired pregnancy. We will keep our ears open for further developments which will inevitably be discussed by riders using cell phones.

America’s premier evangelist Billy Graham, wound up his “crusade” on Sunday after three days of bringing the gospel to the natives. People came from Canada and Tennessee and the Carolinas to attend the extravaganza. Significantly, old Billy was not preaching to New York heathens, but to born-again believers from out of town. But when the believers answer his call to the altar, he claimed each one as a new-born sinner who has been persuaded by Graham’s call to glory. Objective observers would say Graham’s conversions are grossly inflated.

Graham was accompanied at his crusade by his son and successor, Franklin, who has repeatedly announced that the Moslem faith is nothing more than an idol-worshipping sect. When you couple this with his father’s denunciation of Jews in a recorded conversation with Richard Nixon, we have two alleged holy men preaching hatred of all who don’t subscribe to their distorted view of Christianity. Billy and Franklin are insular preachers who have not yet tumbled to the existence of Buddhists and Hindus or dozens of other faiths. If those other religions ever appear on Graham’s radar screen, stand by for further denunciations of those faiths as infidels, apostates and idol worshipers.

As Billy closed his crusade in Queens, he more or less demanded repentance from everybody. If you don’t have a reason to repent, it would be advisable to sin egregiously thereby giving a strong reason for repentance to please old Billy.

Curiously, Billy’s last day of his crusade coincided with the Gay Pride parade in Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg attended the gay parade and did not appear at Billy’s crusade. But he is a Jew and Billy and Nixon dislike them intensely. A passing thought that if repentance is required of anyone, it should be Billy and Franklin and all those born again Christians repenting for their conduct to Jews and Moslems and to the homosexual community. But folks, don’t expect that to happen in our lifetimes.

Age creeps up on all of us. Inevitably, as people age, they require the attention of all kinds of physicians. Acquiring treatment from the medicos is made much less pleasant by having to sit in the physician’s waiting room listening to daytime television programs. It seems that every physician feels an obligation to entertain patients as they wait to tell their problems to the doctor. Daytime television programs are insipid, vapid, banal and devoid of any respectable quality. They don’t entertain, they agitate.

In days gone by, it was enough for physician’s waiting rooms to be equipped with old magazines. These days, people try to read those old magazines as one means of shutting out the intrusion of unwelcome television programming.

It seems to me that physicians ought to take the TV sets out of their waiting rooms. An intelligent person visiting the doctor for a trivial matter may be transformed into a patient with greater problems by having to watch or hear daytime TV, thus becoming a mean, cynical and hypocritical sort of person.

This opinion is delivered only to those covered by Medicare and no-fault insurance. All the rest are to be diagnosed by Senator/Doctor Bill Frist who found from a TV picture that Terri Schiavo had no sign of a persistent vegetative state. But at least Frist does not have a television in his waiting room. He makes it up as he goes along.

Last week, Donald Rumsfeld, the Emperor of Abu Ghraib, testified before a committee of the Senate. At the table with Rumsfeld, sat four officers of general rank. In the first two rows behind Rumsfeld were other officers who appeared to me to be two to four start generals. Rumsfeld is well protected. This assemblage of generals is there to pick up any papers that might be dropped by the Emperor.

Every officer present had on the left side of the jacket of his uniform, a virtual signboard of ribbons. My count showed they were stacked eight rows high and that each row of ribbons contained at least six or seven decorations. This means the aides to Emperor Rumsfeld were wearing in this one block of ribbons about 48 or more than 50 decorations. An uninitiated onlooker might conclude that each of these clowns had committed 48 or more individual acts of heroism. Don’t be mislead.

Looking at the sign boards on these Rumsfeld retainers led me to recall a line from Henry Mencken who would have said that this seductive display of ribbons glittered, flashed and sparkled as the mouth of hell itself. But wait. That is not all. On top of the rows of ribbons were pins signifying pilot status or infantry leadership. Below the ribbons were one or two more pins signifying who knows what.

On the right side of the jacket were two more ribbons probably signifying a unit commendation from the president and there were more pins.

On both shoulders were patches identifying the organizations they must have been assigned to at some point in their illustrious careers. The straps on their shoulders sported the stars of their rank. In case anyone missed the point, the shirt collars also carried the general’s stars on both the left and right sides. If these red hot generals were ever caught in a lightening storm, they would be certain to attract a bolt what with all this metal above their waists.

Now here is a secret you should know. These men did not participate in anything like 48 acts of bravery. We give medals and ribbons for such things as good conduct. The generals award other generals medals and ribbons because of “superior” performance. No one ever heard of an enlisted man who was the recipient of the general’s largesse. They keep that for themselves and it explains why their uniform jackets glitter, flash and sparkle as the mouth of hell itself.

There is one other thought about the “Signboard Syndrome.” No other military organization in the civilized world dresses up its uniforms as does the United States. They must believe our actions are bizarre and of a piece with our stated intention to police the world. Significantly, General Vo Nguyen Giap from Vietnam who defeated first the French and then the forces of the U.S., wears no decorations at all. As a matter of fact, it is difficult to find evidence of his rank. He doesn’t glitter, gleam and flash like the mouth of hell itself. He presents himself as a simple soldier unadorned by the “signboard syndrome.”

There is no hope here, as long as generals can decorate other generals, this mockery of bravery will continue to persist.


When my sister Verna was here on earth, she enjoyed telling other people what to do . Her service as an Arch Angel has not robbed her of the desire to suggest to other people actions that would please her. Verna was delayed in reading this Meditation because she had mislaid her angelic spectacles. Also, a dark stain was found on her long white gown near where her wings emerge. Once these problems were solved, she suggested strongly that she would be pleased to see at least one more Meditation. To please Verna, it will be produced forthwith – whatever that means.

July 1, 2005


Not to worry — there are a solid nine more meditations in the pipes. I’m a huge fan of these.

For fun, try image searching for “General Petraeus Medals” he basically has a square foot of crap on his chest, with all sorts of other adornments festooning every available surface.

But Pop is wrong to insinuate that we’re alone in this absurd practice. Plenty of other countries do it, including several African countries, and of course North Korea, which is probably the best one. North Korean generals look like this:

I wonder what they do when the front of the general runs out of space. Do you start affixing medals to their backs? Their pants? Their hats? So many options!