Thursday, February 28, 2013

Japanese explain the technological fax of life

A recent story in the New York Times caught my eye the other day.


It seems the biggest rage in electronic equipment sales in Japan is the fax machine.


Yes, that ancient tool of the Pharaoh used to quickly send hieroglyphics, the fax machine.


It seems that the old fax has some unique qualities.


For one thing, it's dependable.


All you need is a phone line to send any message.


This made a big difference when the tsunami wiped out portions of the Japanese islands a year ago.


Internet signals were destroyed, but messages got through using fax machines.


The Japanese also love the personal touch afforded by the fax.


You can take a pen and hand-write a special message or greeting.


The Times article said Japanese love to fax take-out restaurant order forms with hand written admonitions for extra gravy or other personal requests.


In short, the fax is efficient, reliable, and allows a more human touch.


Just goes to show advanced technology isn't always advancing.


Years ago, NASA spent millions researching a pen guaranteed to write in all gravity conditions.


A Russian cosmonaut shocked the Americans by proclaiming Ruski technology equivalent without the huge price tag.


"Ees vhat ve in Moscow call… pencil."


Touché, Vladimir.


We Americans tend to embrace new technology blindly.


Without looking at its real purpose.


Sometimes faster isn't better.


Sometimes digital isn't more efficient.


It's just, well, digital.


Here's another classic example.


We have digitized our music.


Every sound has  been converted into bits and microbits.


When this first occurred, experts hailed the beautifully clean reproductions of old jazz and classical recordings.


And it was true that the sometimes infernal noises found on those scratchy LPs were eliminated.


The pristine sounds of Duke Ellington in digital format did make "Satin Doll" seem brand-new all over again.


Unfortunately, these clean-format reissues have removed the imperfections that gave character to the performance.


I want to hear Satchmo's breathing.


I even enjoy the coughing you hear in the background of George Szell's conducting Beethoven's Fifth Symphony at Severance Hall.



The fact is, sometimes not using digital information is a good thing.


I fear baseball will ruin the game by replacing umpires with digital sensors.


They've already gone to instant replay to check whether a home run ball went foul or fair.


The great managers, like Casey Stengel and  Tony LaRussa, worked the umpires according to their personalities.


They were artistic in conducting the nine inning ballet.


The non-digital aspect of baseball, it's humanity, if you will, is at the core of its genius.


That's the joy of it.


So, go ahead, technology, march in the direction you call forward.




I'm chilling.


Got my 33 RPM going, sketching a little pencil cartoon that I'm sending to my wife while traveling.


For those of you who think I'm really backward, I'll surprise you by not using a postage stamp to send it.




I'll tell you why.


Just got the fax warmed up.


Play Ball!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Catalogues of spousal shortcomings can't break the bonds of love

Ken sits with his wife Catherine as she lays dying.

Her death is proceeding slowly.

She can not turn over or even scratch herself.

Ken meets her every need.

He even  serves as her personal bathroom hygiene attendant, not an easy task.

But he does it with joy.

And with complete love.

The couple spends every moment together, she motionless on the bed, he in the chair next to her.

Catherine has lost all bodily function except one.

God in his grace allows her to speak.

Colleen, a neighbor girl about 25 years old,  checks in on Catherine and Ken.

She gets them to tell stories from their long marriage.

In few of these tales,  Ken didn't live up to Catherine's expectations.

"Ken, you were such a jerk that time," whispers Catherine.

Colleen laughs.

Ken laughs.

Then Catherine laughs too.

At the absurdity of it all.

Catherine knows she is dying in the presence of this gentle caring man.

And yet, for a brief instant, she got mad at him all over again as if the offending event had just occurred.


This much is clear.

Ken and Catherine had an imperfect relationship.

Disputes over personal failings.

Moments of antagonism.

But in the end , Love prevails.

My Dad used to play tapes of an old radio show called "The Bickersons".

Frances Langford and Don Ameche played a married couple constantly carping at one another.

Always arguing.

She a nag, he an insensitive bore.

But loving each other.

There for each other when the chips are down.

Our popular culture has produced many other examples.

Archie and Edith Bunker.

Raymond  and his wife  Debra on "Everybody loves Raymond."

How about you?

Is your marriage imperfect?

I bet it is.

Join the club.

Prince Charming I'm not.

And June Cleaver is a fantasy.

However,  when life interrupts your fairy tale,  the golden core of love is revealed at the center.

The irritating habits of your beloved can't sweep away the unbreakable connection of loyalty and devotion.

The love endures.

When your spouse lies in bed dying, you recall the good times and the bad.

 Then you laugh and cry together.

Don't  let the  repeated acts  of infuriating carelessness get to you.

Instead cherish the one you love, warts and all.

Because it's the love that counts.

Love often unspoken, but softly saying, "I'll always be there  for you."

Yes, your marriage is remarkably imperfect.

Stunningly less than ideal.

Know that your love may be the only thing that you take with you into eternity.

Your love makes you rich, despite the bills, forgetting to let the dog out, and bad breath.

Remember Ken and his  Catherine.

Be there for each other to the very end.

"Good bye, my dearest  Catherine.  This is your Ken telling you this: I will see you on the other side, still with you, forever."


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Smoke filled rooms occasionally lead to better world

A recent viewing of the movie  "Lincoln" engenders thoughts regarding political deals.


The greatest and most noble president in history, the film reveals, made one stinky underhanded  "arrangement" after another to ensure passage of the thirteenth amendment.


Rotten-to-the-core-inside-the-dirt-road-beltway of 1865 trading of votes to end slavery  in return for Federal jobs.


How do you react to that?



Spielberg's send up of Mr. Lincoln's

quest for votes from easily bought political hacks paints a picture of a man driven by an almost religious commitment to end one of the worst institutions  ever perpetrated upon humankind.



Lincoln was more than noble.


This explains the remark of Secretary of War Stanton when a  physician pronounced Lincoln's death.


"Now he belongs to the ages."


Of course, there was much more to Lincoln's achievements beyond the passage of the anti-slavery amendment.


How he fought to hold the nation together.


How he maintained his sanity amidst pressure beyond description.


Dead bodies of young men mounting.


A wife bordering on psychotic.


Melancholy over the death of a young son so deep that modern day psychiatrists would recommend extreme treatment.


Washington helped build this land against impossible odds.


But Lincoln preserved it when even his own friends abandoned him, facing the greatest challenge ever before a president.

Never before or since had leadership been such a lonely desperate burden.


Which brings me back to the dealmaking.


Always bad?


Is it corrupt  to hand out toll booth directorships  if the trade-off ends the trading of human flesh?


Could you look into the eyes of a black Union soldier and tell him that he fights merely to watch his family auctioned off like so much furniture after the war ends?


Lincoln couldn't.


I don't think you could either.


Let's face it folks.


This great man paid for votes with jobs and, if the cinematic story is accurate,  bribes of cash.


One time when I was mayor in Euclid I needed  council votes to approve a union contract.


Nonpassage meant severe threats to the safety of our citizens.

One holdout councilman said he would change his position if certain sidewalks in his ward were repaired.


The service director said the sidewalks in question wouldn't need repair for another two years and were not  on the projected work list that summer.


I overruled the service director.


The important legislation passed.


Was I wrong?


Are those of you who believe in Obamacare so naïve to think that the  leader of the free would didn't do a little horse trading to pass his agenda?



Here's my point.


There are times when saving the realm involves the dirty business of politics.


I'm glad Lincoln pulled out all the stops to free our brothers and sisters.


Only  a Lincoln  could make such a call.

And there are precious few Lincolns around these days.

Does this change your view of  backroom deals?

Freedom for slaves versus integrity of the process.  

Before  you throw a dart at a leader, examine the  motive and the goal.


And look for a little Lincoln.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mud throwing opponents diminish their own effectiveness

This is something that is way overdue.


It's is an invitation to the legions of naysayers who hate my column.


Here's the invite: hate my opinions, but not me.


This is  what I mean.


I have taken a stand against abortion and gay marriage.


I believe these things are helping to  disintegrate the moral fiber of America.


There are reasons for this approach.


I believe a child exists fully human at the moment of conception.


Deserving full constituitonal protection as any other citizen. 


Marriage by definition is a union of one man and one woman.


This union has served as the foundation of families for generations.


The Holy Family depicted in the bible is our shining example.


I actually believe any other definition causes confusion for youngsters awkwardly growing into the sexual identity God intended through his assignment of gender.






I welcome and encourage debate.


Maybe I'm wrong about the Bible stuff.

Maybe I'm wrong about the definition of fully human.


I'm pretty sure I'm on target about such matters.


But let's dialogue regarding these issues because our free-speech society gives us that opportunity.


I would love to have a talk with my detractors.


But let's skip the name-calling.


You've got some good arguments, I'm sure.


A recent letter to the News-Herald didn't attack my logic, it attacked me.


At least the writer signed her name.


That brave literary giant named Anonymous fills the News-Herald blogosphere with the following epithets directed at me.







Look, I hope I'm none of those things.


But you can do better than that.


You can tear apart my reasoning and my research.


In the film  " The American President",  Andrew Shepherd, played by Michael Douglass, makes the following speech:



    You want free speech? Let's see you       acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.


I guess what I'm saying is that if you disagree with my writing, attack its content.


I am not without flaw when I set pen to paper.


And I can survive the personal attacks. 


My prior  life in politics means I'm used to that kind of response.


It's just that we isolate  ourselves from each other even more when we detour from the subject matter by resorting to invectives.


I like all of you who disagree with me because you are at least engaged in the debate.


Apathy is a most egregious crime.


So please, vigorously reject my propositions.


Vehemently spit on my rationale.


But the figurative spittle I wipe off my personal countenance does nothing to advance your viewpoint.


It diminishes it.


You see, there's something that you are seeking that you refuse to embrace  when it comes to those whose opinions vary from your own.