Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The cat snoozing at the top of the page goes by the name of Stanlee.  He is taking a protest nap while we less cosmic humans run around in a 2010 jet powered dither wringing our hands over the upcoming mid term elections.  

I never intended to write about politics in this space because (1) I'm not qualified, (2) I find the whole process boring and (3) there is not much I can do about the outcome.  However, I can offer some observations about what I think might occur.

The smart money says the House of Representatives will be taken over by the Republicans.  The Senate will barely remain in the hands of the Democrats.  


Well, Americans are in change mode.  Things have not righted themselves quickly enough since President Obama took office.  If you really look at the problems we have faced since George Bush took office and left the fruits of poor management strewn about the American countryside and the rest of the world, you would have to wonder how anyone could have repaired the damage in such a short time.  ("Don't you love us anymore, Superman?")   However, for as much time as the electorate allowed Bush to to wreak havoc upon this great country of ours, their tolerance and patience have become exhausted.  So, after deciding they had enough, in 2008  they voted for change and brought in Obama.  Now, two years later, when things are still not so good, the folks are ready to expel almost every incumbent in sight in hopes that if they give a bunch of unknowns two years to grapple with the evil giant, the kingdom will restore itself to a healthier and happier place. 

Logic says that these wishes will not come true because as that great pundit Ringo Starr once noted, "Time takes time."  However, there is nothing Americans like more than change.  In November, they will march to the polls and vote out almost every incumbent in sight.  And, after a few months, they will awaken from their reverie and find that nothing has changed.  (Remember what Ringo said.) What to do?  What to do?

We have experience with these dilemmas.  Once, when we decided that alcohol was bad, we enacted the Volstead Act which brought us prohibition.  When that didn't work, we repealed it.  The Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that a woman's body was hers to do with as she pleased and abortions moved from the back alleys to the doctor's office where they belonged.  Now some folks are not so happy with that decision, so it appears that we're going fight about that issue again.  Let's not even talk about Korea and Vietnam.  

"Don't ask don't tell" appeared to be working  for both the military and the gay community, but now there are folks who want to fix that machine even though it does not appear to be  broken.

Face it!

We are a country of knee jerk premature ejectors!

However, I believe there is long term good news.

In two years when the smoke clears and we see what we have wrought, old predictable us will vote out the incumbents again.  And who will be left?  Hopefully it will be our  friend President Obama and the folks who were helping him and us to repair this nation before all of us were rudely interrupted.  It is just a shame that we are going to have to suffer with instability for two years while the ship of state blows the manure out of her ballasts and rights herself.  

But, not to worry, Stanlee.  We will keep the crunchies coming and will try to let you nap for the next few years until the world is a better place.  In the meantime, even though you are the biggest cat in the house, go easier on the others.  You don't want to be voted out do you?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fixing a Hammer with a Watch

E-mail is one of the by-products of the computer evolution. One of the geeks, or maybe it was a gaggle of geeks thought, "Hey after we're finished crunching this data, we can send notes to one another." Well it didn't take long before a subset of geekdom took over and AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo and Whoopee or whatever were born.

E-mail was a great invention. It evolved much like the creation of synthetic rubber and penicillin...by accident. Soon we were e-mailing one another frantically. I think this happened because it was one of the few things EVERYONE who owned a computer could do. And let me be the first to tell you that I embraced e-mail like a long lost sibling. I sent jokes (still do), urgent memos (during the working years), addresses and all kinds of information. It was easier than faxing and faster and cheaper than FedEx.


We received the first social invitation that arrived via e-mail.

I remember it well...it said, "Would you like to have dinner some night?"

And then, as if it were a serialized television program, what followed can only be called randomly episodic.

"Yes," I replied, "When."

"Saturday night."

"Can't, we're busy."

"How about Friday."

"Great, where and what time?"

"How about that new Ethiopian place, it's very lo cal?"

"You know my legendary sensitive gut, how about that new place, the Bland Kitchen?"

"Ok, what time."


"Great......do you want us to pick you up?"

"OK, how about 6:10?"

"We'll be there?"

Now this exchange took place over a period of 4 days because not everyone checks their e-mail regularly and there were spouses to consult, babysitters to be hired and, I suspect, astrologers to be queried. During the e-mail flurry I had to fend off other invitations while I was in the midst of cementing this single social contact.

As electronic books will not replace paper books, we must look to the fact that e-mail should not replace the telephone. This whole electronic process which took almost as long to play out as "Roots" has pissed me off. Don't wanna say, "hi?" We won't keep you on the phone. Generally, I begin the telephone querying about a social engagement by saying, "This will just take a minute." Maybe it does and maybe it doesn't, but it's still faster than "War and Dinner," "Crime and Dessert or "The Godfather's Soup and Sandwich."

If you don't want to talk to us, why have dinner with us? Just send us an e-mail questionnaire and we'll send you one.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's Poltical

One of the other things I write is a joke compendium which I send to a select list every Thursday. It is a rehash of jokes people send me through the week. Sometimes there is a great deal of hilarity and sometimes not. I attribute the "not" to the performance of the stock market. A particularly drab week this was which I attribute to the sour market and the even more sour political climate. This climate is a result of over reaction. The country stood still for George Bush for 8 years and maybe raised their eyebrows when they should have been raising him and Dick Cheney onto the gallows. But, in fairness, the voter folks gave those two bozos the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, now we have knee jerk politics which will accomplish nothing unless we manage the bad times until we can see how things will work.

Clearly, many incumbents will be swept from office in the next year and when the resulting chaos continues to pervade, the voters will do it again contributing even more to the mass political instability which is looming in our future. We cannot afford to have the entire congress involved in on the job training. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. I fear that soon the whole of the US and maybe Puerto Rico will be in Kansas and then where will we be?


Yes, everyone is mad as hell and they're not gonna take it anymore. We are a nation that was founded on revolution by a bunch of folks who couldn't get along with anyone in the world in which they lived and either fled to this continent or were sent here against their will. We were not very civilized then and we are not very civilized now.

Please remain calm and stay in your seats with your trays in the upright position until the captain can stabilize the political atmosphere.

Thank you for reading this and if you have patience, we should be arriving shortly at some place you may find acceptable.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Where There is Life, There is Hope.

I was born and raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was a wonderful place to grow up. It was small (about 14,000 residents) and everyone knew everyone else. In the summer, there were lots of jobs for young people because it was a tourist town and it seemed everyone needed someone to sell newspapers, hand out towels at the hotel pools and cook hamburgers in any one of the myriad of hamburger joints on the boardwalk.

When I graduated from high school in 1962 in a class of about 560, we discovered there were very few full time jobs available and that the town was slowly dying. It had the highest suicide and alcoholism rate per capita in the country. So, 90% of the graduates from the Atlantic City High School class of 1962 left to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

When gambling came in 1978, the town was revitalized. There were lots of jobs and staggering inflation. My late mother's $200 apartment became $600 in one year and this 7 mile long island I loved as a child became much like a landing strip for an alien culture. Of course, Thoreau was right, you can't go home again. But who was I to curse progress because my childhood playground had been despoiled?

They don't euthanize towns.

Prior to gambling, Atlantic City tried some very creative schemes to restore itself. They provided hotel guests with rain insurance that reimbursed them if it rained during the weekend they were there. They put together $3 million dollars to bring the 1964 Democratic National Convention there. All they got for their money were a bunch of filler reports from the network newspeople in attendance about what a dump the once great resort had become.

When my wife Ellen and I began courting in the late 80's, she brought me out here to Riverhead where, in 1978, she had purchased a second home. One whiff of the salt air and I was home to stay. When we married in 1990, we decided to retire here and renovated the house and here we are. It's just like Atlantic City except I think the alcoholism and suicide rates are lower. In the past 12 years since we have lived here full time, I have witnessed the complaints, schemes and mudslinging about the town that has become the town pastime. It's like ice fishing in Minnesota or dwarf bowling wherever they do that. But, like shaking your fist at the sky imploring God to do something about your crappy life, it does no good.


Can't do it. Not possible. Against the law. Maybe if we became a ghost town we could attract tourism. Why do all the ghost towns have to be in the west?

Thank you for bearing with me through one of the longer preambles to a point in blogging history.

A few weeks ago, our friend Nancy Swett contacted us about attending a meeting at the Riverhead Library where we could discuss the problems of the town and and possibly form a Riverhead Civic Association that could address these problems and, better still, solve some of them. That first meeting was sparsely attended by a few die hard Riverheaders (Riverheads?) who live and/or work in the downtown area and sincerely want things to get better. We agreed that we would meet again in 30 days and see what could be done by attracting more people to the meeting. Last night, the second meeting was held and about 3 times as many people attended. Nancy did a great job of cutting short anyone who wanted to unearth some old gripe and limited the discussion to bringing out the positives about Riverhead of which there are many. Essentially, we have a marketing problem. People saw the negatives for so long, they were completely oblivious to the positives and inertia set in.

Last night, there was electricity in the air and maybe the town has another chance at success fueled by positive thinking. Somewhere, there is a marketing campaign that can turn this place right side up. When Saran Wrap first came on to the market it was a failure because it stuck to itself which made it difficult to handle. Some marketing genius decided to turn this negative into a positive by promoting the fact that Saran Wrap stuck to itself and therefore would adhere to the containers the consumer was using the product to cover. The rest is marketing history.

So, last night we saw the beginnings of an adhesion of minds to the singular problem of saving Riverhead and a dedication to solving its marketing problem. It's the most positive thing I've seen in 12 years.

Let's nurture it!

Oh, and no one can play a sad song on a banjo.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Where HAVE I been?

Well, I guess that's a good and fair question.

I have been typeface down in my own blog. When I first started writing the blog a little over a year ago, I thought of myself as a diarist. And being a retired guy, I thought this will provide some structure in my life and it will be like writing a weekly column. And pretty much for a year, I just about made the deadline. (Not really, I wrote a little better than one a month.) Shortly after I wrote the Leno piece (it was in September), believe it or not, I just forgot about the blog. I was hanging a major photographic show in the Mattituck/Laurel Library which Ms. Ellen and I have done for several years in a row without disrupting anything. Then I started getting a phone call here and an e-mail there asking where is the blog? At first I blamed it on being busy and told the inquiring minds that I'd be back at the keyboard shortly. And then it was February. And here I am.

Why did it take so long? I just don't know. It was going to be a splendid indoor winter activity. I pictured myself sitting by the fire with my laptop waxing eloquently about just about everything. Sometimes, even our easy daydreams do not come true. And other times they are delayed. Currently, I am sitting here in my photographic studio overlooking the frozen Miamogue Canal and the fireplace is downstairs. However, I am blogging.

Let's wrap up the Leno thing. By now, we all know that Leno is going back to late night as the NBC affiliates took big ratings hits on their 11 PM newscasts. For those of you who don't know, local newscasts mean big bucks for television stations. And when their ratings drop 30% because of a poor lead in (read: Leno) they lose a lot of revenue and they get cranky. I don't know how NBC missed that scenario ahead of time and what's worse, I don't know how I missed it either.

You also know that the odd late show host out is Conan O'Brien whom NBC decided to sacrifice in their $45 million Solomon decision as to what to do about all of the late night hosts they had on hand. Here's what I think. They made the wrong decision.

Granted, Conan's ratings were lackluster. They were, in total audience, half of what Leno had, but these viewers are much younger and more desirable to advertisers. Now, Leno and David Letterman will fight over the 50 plus set and Conan, who is rumored to be going to Fox, will scoop up the younger and more desirable audience that he was starting to build during his short stint at the Tonight Show.

Ok....so I have completed the rest of that blog.

Now, I must move on to more from the blog part of my brain and I will be back shortly to continue. I apologize for stepping away for a while. (sob) I didn't know you cared. I'll try to do better this year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Leno or Lame-o

Last week, I thought I would jump the gun and make some predictions about the success or failure of the new Jay Leno program on NBC at 10 PM eastern time. I was beaten to the process by just about everyone except the elementary school Weekly Reader if it still exists.

The thrust of all of it was dramatic television shows (i.e CSI, NCIS, Law and Order, et al) cost about $3 million dollars an hour to produce. Television audiences are fragmenting due to other choices (i.e. cable, DVRing and TiVoing). Advertisers are unwilling to pay top dollar for diminishing audiences, so, therefore dramatic series television may become greatly diminished by reality programming, Dateline type programs and less expensive programming like the Jay Leno Show. It is no secret that NBC has said we can be #4 in the 10 PM time slot because our product is significantly cheaper to produce and make a lot of money. I suspect some people think it is unamerican to strive to be anything less than #1, but it does make economic sense to lose the war and have the most money in the bank. NBC has been quite candid about their strategy and maybe it will work for them.

However, my beef is with my intellectual compatriots who began sniping at the Leno show from its inception last Monday night. "It's not very good, it's lame, it's disappointing," are some of the things I've heard.

Granted, it is all of those things if you believe that over the summer Jay went to Lourdes and stuck his wit into the water. Did you expect he'd become Jack Benny? George Carlin? The Python all rolled up into one?

No, he's Jay Leno. The guy who clearly won late night for the last 15 years. The truth is he is still Jay Leno who is mediocre at best but has done a fine job of casting himself as everyman who does a yeoman job night after night. He is what you've known and what you'll get. He is where he was and where he'll be.

Get used to it.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Riverhead Man Ranks High in NY Eye Hand Test

First of all I was waiting for famous people to stop dying because I had run out of original things to say about them. Also, I was tired of running the "dead letter" picture. However, the seagull is there as only a marker that really has nothing to do with what I want to blog about today.

About 9 months ago I decided to get an i phone. I swore up and down after an absence of 11 years from the corporate life, all I needed was a cell phone that made phone calls as a convenience to me and Ms. Ellen. However, there was something seductive about the i phone. I have had an i pod for a few years because I really couldn't stand listening to the radio. All I heard were the mistakes and I want more control over the tunes that assault my psyche. But, a device that had my tunes, my e-mail and access to the Internet might be a wonderful thing to have.

The trip to the Apple Store is a story for another time, but without too much trouble I came home with the i phone and familiarized myself with it by inputing my phone contact list as the low end Verizon phone I had could not be cloned. I did, however, keep my phone number.

After a while, I discovered i phone users are somewhat pack like and they are very proud of the "apps" or applications that you see advertised on TV. I suspect there is a lot of "app" envy among users. I was seated next to a guy on Friday night at a charity event who had an i phone and we jousted back and forth showing each other our "apps." He had some really cool stuff. But I have a Star Wars Laser saber complete with sound effects that almost decapitated him. So, now you understand the environment in which one lives and works with his or her i phone.

A few weeks ago I was visiting with our 24 year old nephew who works on Wall Street. He's a smart young man and quite competitive. He's a paint baller, car enthusiast and one time miniature rocket launcher. We were seated at dinner. We each had our i phones out of their protective holsters resting on the table close at hand. My nephew said, "Hey, Uncle Steve, have you seen this neat game that you can download for free, it's called Paper Toss."

Essentially, this game consists of tossing a piece of paper into a trash can by launching it with your finger. There is a fan that varies in position and speed so that you have to launch the paper at different angles in order to drop it in the can. The levels increase in difficulty by varying the distance from you to the can. Well, I was never an athlete of any kind. Always the last one picked and I still can't throw a ball overhand. But, when I found games like golf, fishing, target shooting and corporate and business warfare, where you competed against yourself, it changed my life. I found some things at which I could compete and sometimes win. It changed my self esteem and stature in life.

In the retirement years I missed the competition a bit, so Paper Toss became a passion. I chose to master the easiest level and was quite proud of my score of 79. Remember, I was competing against myself. Until one day I noticed that you could post your score. I pushed the button and saw that I was number 1 in Riverhead. I was very proud of myself even though I was the only Riverhead contestant. Today, I noticed I could check my rank statewide, nationally and internationally. Imagine my surprise to find that my score of 79 ranked me 18th in the state of New York. The other rankings are not important as I don't compete in those arenas as competing probably requires travel and I don't travel.

Well, I don't have a great, mediocre or poor ending for this piece, so I'll do what the late George Carlin did when he had no ending for a piece, I'll simply take a little bow.

Thank you.
Author's note: As of yesterday (8/11/09) I hit 91 which put me tenth in New York State. I'm finished counting now. Thanks to all of you who made this possible.