Monday, February 22, 2010

The Fairy Scientist

This is a little short I entered into a contest sponsored by The Reason Project, on Sam Harris' web site. The short clip features my granddaughter, Lydia as the Fairy Scientist. Enjoy. (Special thanks to Aunt Kara for providing the fairy costume).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Atomic Dreams

My pre-teen development happened during the 1950’s. It was a strange time; the Cold War, Communists and “The Bomb”. We had Duck-and-Cover drills at school and some used car lots in town were converted to bomb shelter sales.

Still it was a wonderful time to grow up; and other than the looming threat of global annihilation I had a pretty fun childhood. My parents were middle class and so we had a house in the suburbs. The first one was a simple two bedroom ranch house built for the returning WWII vets. We moved into it soon after my birth. But we were upwardly mobile back in those days and soon outgrew our little cottage and moved into a bigger home.

By the mid 1950’s we were living in what is now called a Mid-Century Modern home. This house was totally cool. The MCMs were often designed by famous architects and influenced by designers such as Wright and Eichler. The house we lived in had a flat roof, lots of large windows, flagstone floors, wood paneled walls and open beam ceilings.

But soon this design became to be associated with the 50’s and was considered “dated” or passé’. My mother felt we needed to move to a more contemporary house. The desired style then was Avocado green appliances and two tone Harvest Gold exterior. Such heralded in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Fast forward now to the 21st century. The Mid-Century Modern houses are making a comeback in a big way. These styles were common in southern California, Arizona; in places like Palm Springs and Orange County. Some of these styles made it all the way up to the Pacific Northwest where I live. Now Eichlers and Rummers command a hefty price tag and their rarity makes them highly sought after.

Every two months Nancy and I buy a copy of Atomic Ranch magazine which we peruse looking at “retro” houses from the Mid-Century Modern era. Vast expanses of decorative brick, huge pane windows enclosing an atrium and kitchens that George Jetson would envy. We page through the magazine and dream.

Recently we decided to try to put our dreams into action. We began in earnest looking for that Atomic Ranch in which we could live out our retirement years like we did our formative years – In a MCM “Atomic Ranch” home. We sold one of our rental properties and started working with the realtor. But the MCM is a rare bird now, and the few that exist are way out of our price range.

There are plenty of blah ranch houses. The Realtors call them “deja-vu” houses because you already know where the bedrooms and kitchens are without going in. These are rectangular boxes where the most prominent feature is the garage door. Boring.

We are still looking but we may need to settle for a “Faux Craftsman” style which is the popular rage. These newer houses have garages that are so small, if you parked both cars inside; there isn’t enough room to open the car door to get out. They have no yards because people work so many hours they don’t have time to enjoy a yard.

We have been looking at 1950 house plans now. We wonder that if we want a Mid-Century Modern home of our dreams, we may need to build one – new.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bag your Tea, switch to Coffee

Well the Tea Baggers have won and Massachusetts voters have spoken and voted in a Republican to replace Ted Kennedy. So now the message is clear: “If you have your own employer paid health insurance, we don’t give a rat’s-ass if you die for lack of medical care, or go bankrupt over medical bills”. This country is increasing all about - “I got mine – go get your own”.

The Republicans can now block any health care reform proposed by the Democrats. This will be a slam-dunk as keeping Democrats on the same page is like trying to herd cats. Republicans, on the other hand, are like The Borg – They think in unison like the collective. Independent thinking is frowned on in the GOP.

Republican mouthpiece, Senator John Andrew Boehner is continually parroting “Americans don’t want Washington-Run health care.” I really want to ask him; ” …you mean like the Washington Run health care YOU enjoy, John?” Really, I think there is an opportunity here for the Republicans to make a clear statement about what the American people want really want – Republicans should all give up their government “Washington Run” health care and self-pay their own insurance. That way we Americans could be confident that the Republicans are not just mouthing support for the insurance industry and really believe their own rhetoric. I’m waiting!

The same thing for these dumb-ass Tea Baggers who don’t want “Obama Care” or “Socialized” medicine; let’s put all their names into a database so that when they turn age 65 they are denied Medicare. Well hey; we don’t want you guys compromising your ethics. Uh, just be aware that private insurance companies do want customers of Medicare age except under “supplemental” policies. So be sure to save your pennies to cover that that coronary bypass surgery because you sure as hell don’t want “Washington Run” Government to be involved in your health care.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate, but I am guessing roughly around 100% of these Tea Baggers have completely subsidized medial insurance through an employer or other patron. We Americans never get charged up about an issue until it affects us personally. As much as I admire Candice Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), she didn’t become an activist until her daughter was killed by one.

When my daughters were young, they asked me what the difference was between a Republican and a Democrat. I responded that a Republican wants America to be a place of opportunity for their family, their friends and other deserving people like them. A Democrat wants the same thing… but for everyone.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fact and Fiction

My Uncle Allen was a character. He was my Aunt Betty’s second husband after my Uncle Marsh divorced her for a more exciting woman. Another story for another time.

Uncle Allen was one of the most jovial people I had ever met. He was toothless and didn’t wear dentures, but managed to hold a corn cob pipe in his perpetually smiling mouth nonetheless. If he could manage an eye squint, you might make him out as the real life model for Popeye.

Betty and Allen met at work, Douglass Aircraft in Santa Monica where she was a clerk and he was a security guard. The family was a bit reticent about Allen marrying Aunt Betty, but soon it was quite clear that he worshiped the ground she walked on. They were really in love.

Uncle Allen was gregarious and outgoing and truly had the gift of gab. Sometimes that gift was a bit of a white elephant as the gab occasionally reached a point where the thought of silence started to sound pretty good.

When Allen met someone for the first time he would always ask where they were from. It seemed that no matter where you claimed you hailed from, that was where Allen claimed he was “born and raised”. Soon an “interesting” anecdote about that city, town or village followed. He used to ride the rodeo in the Pendleton Roundup or he lived on a farm in Hastings Nebraska.

So loquacious was Uncle Allen that we began to wonder if his stories were just that… “stories” embellished or even fabricated from with the mind of a man who just wanted to be liked. Listening to someone’s life stories can be interesting and informative; but when you begin to suspect that they are fabrications, listening to these tales can start to become tedious if you don’t believe they may be true. This sometimes made being with Uncle Allen a bit awkward.

One day Aunt Betty and Uncle Allen were visiting our home and some cop show was airing on the TV. Allen lit into a story of how he had been a Los Angeles police officer; it was back in the days when police radio was transmitted only one way, you know, like “Calling all cars…” By now I had heard so many Uncle Allen stories that I really didn’t know if he even knew the difference between fact and fiction; but I was damn sure that he had never been a LAPD patrolman. It sounded like just another lavish tale that I would give tacit interest to.

Betty and Allen moved to their retirement home in Idaho. My first wife and I visited them as we passed through while on vacation. They were pillars of the local Lava Hot Springs Senior Center and they loved Allen and his stories. He asked my wife at the time where she was from and, of course, he too had been "born and raised in Tillamook, Oregon".

Betty and Allen were extremely happy together in Idaho. Then one morning Uncle Allen just didn’t wake up. He had died in his sleep. A merciful way to go for a very lovable man.

Some few years later I was with my Aunt Betty, now long since a widow, and we talked of Allen and how much we missed him. She pulled out a box of memorabilia that she was going to give to Allen’s grandson. There in the black leather box was a .38 caliber snub nose police revolver and Allen’s police shield – LAPD.