Saturday, June 30, 2012
Dewey Defeats Truman, Internet Domain
Mandate Struck Down, Internet Domain Photoshopped
I recently watched the premier of the new HBO series Newsroom. The focus in the fast paced show revolved around the first breaking hours of the now legendary Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion and the resulting oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. One young producer had the gut sense that this had the potential for the breaking news story that eventually evolved, but those initial hours and days were short on facts. As they scrambled to use all their networking resources to verify the implications of the impending headline grabbing story, the evening news segment had started. Their sources would have been valid in real life, but implausible. However, once they had verified the integrity of their information, they scooped the competition as the situation unfolded while they were reporting it which made for good television in a one hour time slot, albeit the real life story took a few days to sort out.
Just a few days later, I found it fascinating to watch a live real world cable news network grab the voluminous document relating the US Supreme Court decision on the individual mandate of Obamacare. Perhaps it was their bias and/or their attempt to scoop the competition, but they immediately began reporting that the program had been struck down. CNN ran a “fake breaking” banner headline proclaiming “Mandate Struck Down”!. Then the on-air anchor apparently received a news feed from another web site claiming the program had actually been upheld based on the Congressional authority to tax versus involve themselves in commerce. I just read a "Monday morning quarterback" article in USA Today that faulted FOX, CNN, NPR and other news agencies as violating one of the basic tenants of journalism—that speed is the enemy of accuracy.
I’ve always liked the image of a good ol’ Missouri boy, Harry Truman, holding up a copy of The Chicago Tribune showing the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman”! It probably didn’t help that the newspaper had earlier referred to Truman as a nincompoop! What I remember from a college statistics class was that the headline was partly derived from a quick telephone poll of households. The serious flaw, however, was that it was a sampling of a biased demographic that could afford the new communications technology at the time and they were mainly Republicans. Once again we have validated Human Behavior 101 revealing that those who don’t study history and learn from it are doomed to repeat it. And we should always take a deep breath and determine the risk/reward balance of any real world situation before making a gun-jump decision where the risk of long term embarrassment far outweighs a very short term reward.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Cloudgate, Chicago, IL
Crown Fountain, Chicago, IL
Pritzker Pavilian, Chicago, IL
American Gothic, Chicago, IL
America Windows, Chicago, IL
Yes, the wind does blow in Chicago, but it does so in a lot of other cities with tall skyscrapers that create a lively air flow at their base. The unobstructed wind off Lake Michigan which actually helps to cool the area in summer and warm it in the winter certainly perpetuates the nickname of Windy City. Newspaper men and politicians have also kept the name alive over the years. The name Chicago appears to have its derivation from the Native American word shikaakwa, meaning wild garlic, which is appropriate for all the fantastic restaurants in the city.
A summer Sunday afternoon tour of the city’s history of skyscrapers on the Chicago River makes for a very pleasant day. The great Chicago fire of 1871 was fortuitously timed at the convergence of significant technological advances in plate glass, electricity and steel-skeleton construction. Millennium Park is located in the heart of downtown and includes such landmarks as Anish Kapoor’s Cloudgate, Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain and Frank Gehry’s Pritzker Pavilion. All of this and so much more are located across from the Chicago Art Institute and Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Marc Chagall’s America Windows and a collection of priceless art works from around the globe.
Paris is a partner city to Chicago.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Victory, London, UK
Winged Victory, Paris, FR
I captured this winged image of “Victory” atop the Queen Victoria memorial while waiting for the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace in London. I had noticed the ascending jet out of the corner of my eye as I was shaping the photograph and was elated when my shutter caught it just as two eras of human history intersected in my camera lens. Many ancient cultures have left behind amputee sculptures amid the sands of time depicting winged personages that can defy the gravity that keeps all of us from floating off into mid air. And yet, it has only been within the past two generations that mankind has been able to free themselves from the ubiquitous pull of that unseen force. Until that time, human beings could only gaze heavenward and imagine in their mind’s eye what an exhilarating experience the birds aloft must be enjoying as they soar and glide across the skies.
Just a few days later, we were standing before “The Winged Victory of Samothrace” in the Musee du Louvre. This depiction of the Greek goddess of Victory, Nike, was unearthed from its original location within a rock niche that had been dug into a hill overlooking the theater of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on the small island of Samothrace in the Aegean. The sculpture is considered one of the great masterpieces of the Hellenistic period.
We don’t create figures with wings as much these days, with the possible exception of angels in Christmas plays and Victoria’s Secret fashion shows. Perhaps that’s because we can now go on the internet or dial up a cell phone, purchase an airline ticket for a reasonable price and fly that very same day. We’re whisked off into the blue horizon in an aluminum cylinder at dizzying speeds and impossible heights over and through drifting clouds while sipping a drink, eating peanuts and listening to rock music on our iPods. So, we no longer seem to associate spiritual beings with the need for feathered wings any longer. In fact, I suspect that I’ve actually met an angel or two in my lifetime, but the absence of wings didn’t give them away at the time. And I’m quite all right with the concept that their wingless spiritual bodies, like that of the resurrected Son of God, are very capable of transporting them wherever their mission calls them to victory.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Buckingham Palace Gate, London
A recent review positioned Acura’s new entry car as their “gateway” model to entice younger buyers into the brand with a lower price. The expectation is that as their incomes increase, so will their buying power and interest in moving up to more expensive models. It occurred to me that we encounter a variety of gateways that provide access to enhanced experiences all of our lives—some considered either good or bad for us.
When dieting, the temptation of ordering a simple tart can be a gateway to cheesecake and crashing the program. An avowed lifetime alcoholic always considers one small beer as the gateway to a thousand. But there are also many positive gateways to encounter on our life’s journey as well. Seeking a higher education or highly technical job skills can ultimately be the gateway to a lifetime of increased earnings and standard of living. Dedicating oneself to a sport or personal activity can be the gateway to a lifetime of pleasurable experiences, stress reduction and meeting interesting people. And of course, taking the time to understand both ourselves and our creator in the great scheme of this earthly existence opens the gateway to a more joyful mortal life and a rewarding eternal life.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Monday, June 11, 2012
Meet the Beatles 1962, Manhattan, KS
This morning’s cover story in USA Today featured the golden fifty year anniversary of the launch of the mop top lads with a cheeky attitude from Liverpool—The Beatles. They entered Abby Road Studios with producer George Martin in 1962 and the rest is history, including a world sales record of 600 million albums later. Our little band of engineering students at Kansas State University literally wore out the first LP vinyl record to hit the states that year! When Martin lectured the band about their shoddy equipment and then asked if they had any complaints, George Harrison summed up the groups’ persona by replying, “I don’t like your tie”.
The article attributed an incredible convergence of factors and an inexplicable charisma for their phenomenal success. Again, Harrison summed things up by explaining that “the world used us as an excuse to go mad”. I think that was extremely insightful, right up to the present day “Bieber craze". A quick search reveals hits on Justin “with a hat on” and another “with no shirt on”. But I like a quote from Beatles scholar Martin Lewis, who observed that “they left seven years of brilliantly recorded music and a perfect corpse that kept the mystique and beauty of The Beatles intact”. They “disbanded” at the top of their game and forever fixed their youthful image in our minds. Of course, not everyone follows their example. I attended a Rolling Stones concert in Raleigh about six years ago which folks were dubbing the Social Security Tour. When lead guitarist Keith Richards introduced the show, he mentioned that “it’s good to be in North Carolina again---actually it’s good to be anywhere”.
I was first introduced to the phrase “live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse” while reading the book Knock on any Door by Willard Motley in high school. This credo of a young man from the slums on trial for murder became a clarion call for disenfranchised youth. And since then I’ve observed people that become frozen in the prime time of their lives that evolve into something larger than life. We humans seem to idolize even more those notable people that exit stage right in their prime such as Vincent Van Gogh, James Dean, JFK, Martin Luther King, etc. John Lennon was shot four times in the back and murdered at age 40 in 1980. Don McLean’s haunting lyrics to Starry Starry Night were written in homage to 37 year old Vincent's untimely suicide. Billy Joel had a hit song during the Vietnam era lamenting that only the good die young. Jesus Christ was crucified at the age of thirty three. And all of these untimely departures imprinted a legacy in our minds as being “forever young”.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Two Generations of Blood Donors, Blowing Rock, NC
I recently received an e-mail from an old high school friend who had written about another classmate that had been killed in Vietnam on February 24, 1969. He was manning a 50 caliber machine gun in the back of the lead jeep of a fuel convoy when they took a direct hit from a Viet Cong rocket. That emotional remembrance led to a short exchange of e-mails regarding our fallen friend whose name we both had independently sought out on the black granite wall on the National Mall. In the course of that exchange, my friend mentioned that he had been employed as an engineer after completing a four-year undergraduate program. He was encouraged to enroll in college when I drove by his home one day in 1960 and invited him to accompany me. And he had always been grateful that I did. I really had no idea, but fifty years later, I’m humbled and also grateful to know it now.
Ironically, I was facilitating an adult class this morning at church about the influence of fathers and parents in general. And the discussion moved along to sharing examples and stories about our father’s behavior that we saw as a positive influence on the direction of our own lives. As it turns out, many of these examples did not have to be earth shattering. But they all made permanent marks on young impressionable minds that have lasted a lifetime and have now been passed on to the next generation as well. We can never underestimate how our words, actions and the unspoken language of our lives are silently, innocently influencing those around us. I fully expect someone in heaven to one day tap me on the shoulder and thank me for helping to save their life through the blood donation I made for a complete stranger at the time!
Saturday, June 9, 2012
My Father and I, California Beach
This coming Father’s Day is a great way to pause and celebrate fathers past and present. Thankfully, I had a great father growing up who died all too young. But I’m grateful for the time we did have together and the time we had fishing and playing baseball. My father worked as a railroad engineer, so his schedule was perpetually changing. Many days he was either forced to be working or sleeping to manage the responsibility of supporting our young family. We had only begun to know one another as adults when cancer took his life. But I do recall one early childhood incident when he was throwing me batting practice in our back yard. Our Victorian neighborhood had no concrete driveways or trash containers obscuring the front yards thanks to the alleys that separated everyone’s back yards. So we were both caught by surprise when I finally caught one of his faster pitches in the sweet spot and sailed the hard ball out of our yard, over the alley, and into our neighbor’s back window! I believe my first instinct was to vamoose, but my dad put his arm around my slight shoulder and walked me across the back yard to apologize to our neighbor. At the time, I don’t recall being too excited about that, but I do remember being quite relieved when he forgave my transgression. We then proceeded to replace the window pane—well, mostly my dad replaced it. It was kind of a George Washington apple tree moment, with my dad’s prodding. And another life lesson learned.
Saint Augustine observed that “When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God.” Jesus relates that God is our Abba or eternal Father and we are his beloved children. Unfortunately, confusing our Heavenly Father with imperfect mortal fathers has caused many folks to withdraw from Him. I believe that we were created in His image and that we share many emotions. I simply cannot look around me, sense the life forces around me, or study current scientific research such as DNA coding, the Big Bang Theory, etc., and believe otherwise. And I think there will always be room for free will doubt and therefore faith.
When Jesus taught us to pray The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, he started with the words, “Our Father, who art in Heaven…”, and he addressed God as Father a total of 170 times in the Bible. Jesus created a new way of praying that is as natural as a child talking to his father. By creating us in his own image, God truly wanted someone to love and someone with a free will that was capable of returning that love. Most of us have learned that behavior from our own mortal fathers or attempted to model it for ourselves.
Friday, June 8, 2012
Freedom Tower Ten Years Later, Internet Domain
My cardiologist detected a minor abnormality in my heart function at my annual checkup recently. He announced that it wasn’t something to be terribly concerned about and that we should just consider it my “new normal”. I considered that for a moment and then had to agree, although I had never characterized or labeled a changing milestone in my life as my new normal, it seemed quite fitting. So I moved on. I’ve since heard a newscaster refer to a world of terrorism after 911 as the new normal. Change is the only constant in this world.
One of the best observations I’ve learned in life is that when we’re confronted with situations that are essentially out of our direct control, our best response is to respond in a positive way. When I lost my wife of forty years, my initial thoughts were regret about all the times that we will no longer share together. But I’ve come to understand that a better response is to recall the times we did have together with a grateful heart. So, I now regard moving forward with the single life and grateful memories as my new normal. And after all, what is normal any way? What exactly passes for normal behavior? What is a normal person? What is a normal relationship? What is a normal life? What’s abnormal?
Monday, June 4, 2012
Rainbow Room, New York
Manhattan, New York
Empire State Pigeons, New York
Lookin' Down, New York
MOMA, New York
Times Square, New York
Central Park Artist, New York
Central Park Art, New York
Juxtaposed Architecture, New York
Sidewalk Musician, New York
Ground Zero Cross, New York
Never Forget, New York
For me, Frank Sinatra will always represent the attitude of New York with his classic hit of the same name. We found that resolve very much apparent on a visit there three years after the Twin Towers were destroyed along with the 3,000 innocent spirits within them. If you can make there, you can make it anywhere, and the city that never sleeps will never forget 9/11 nor will the rest of the world. And we must never lose sight of the simple prayer one determined person left written on the fence surrounding the hallowed area of Ground Zero for their souls to rest in peace.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Buckingham Red Head, London
Door Knob, London
Tower School Girls, London
Tower X-Men, London
Book Mark, London
World Cup Soccer, London
Eye on Thames, London
White Swan, London
Buckingham Gate, London
Juxtaposed Buckingham Wheels, London
Juxtaposed Buckingham Wings, London
Juxtaposed Architecture, London
Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating the sixtieth diamond jubilee year of her British Monarchy reign in 2012 which pretty well covers all of my adult life. I’ve witnessed her attending state affairs with every United States president that I have known. This Sunday’s jubilation included a flotilla of up to 1,000 boats on the legendary Thames River that snakes through the capital city of London. That prompted me to go through my images which I captured on a 2006 visit to this historic and vibrant world center to find a few out-of-the-ordinary impressions from the streets.
Part of the character of London we discovered is how well both the historical and contemporary worlds coexist. I've never known a city by arriving at the airport on a business trip, checking into a hotel, being taxied to a corporate office, and then flying home. You have to walk the streets for at least a few days to really know the people and the place in that particular corner of the world.
Saturday, June 2, 2012
GPS, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Cycling, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Cruising, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Sundown, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
It’s been said that perhaps we are always a little uneasy in this life because deep down among the strands of our common DNA is the memory that our true home is actually not here but elsewhere. And when we die to this earthly, mortal life we are transitioned or reborn into our destined spiritual life with the essence of the soul we have developed on our “recalculated” journey. It’s like driving along a route calculated by our trusty GPS device. We come to a realization that we need to redirect our life and we change direction. In spite of that little voice sternly admonishing us to turn the other way, we set a new course and leave it frantically acquiescing with the now all too familiar refrain, “recalculating, recalculating”! And we can easily silence the chatter with one simple final command, “Go home”.