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39 Years Later

In the summer of 1980 I went to the “bird sanctuary,” now the Jamestown Audubon outside Jamestown, NY, and painted a landscape of a few rotten trees in a swamp. The original painting is long lost. All I have left of the painting is a yellowed, discolored photograph:

At the Bird Sanctuary – 06/80 Oil 24×30

Today a friend sent me a photograph she just took there:

What a difference 39 years makes – or does it?

Keep up that fight. Bring it to your schools. You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.

— Donald Trump Jr. at rally in El Paso, Texas

The oligarchy we are now living in and allowing to continue every day is making more and more decent Americans sick. I know a lot of teachers, and they are some of the most hardworking people I know. They are dedicated, and they are not getting paid nearly enough to account for the value they provide to our children and to us.

But to oligarchs, anyone that does not get rich by money-laundering, tax evasion schemes, stiffing contractors, hiring illegal workers to keep wages low, anyone struggling to get by day to day, paycheck to paycheck, apparently looks like a loser.

And this is what we are supporting and allowing to continue, day after day.

An oligarchy.

I always enjoy when I can relate to the location where a novel takes place, or when I can visit such a location. I have experienced this several times in recent years.

One was when I read the novel Full Measure by T. Jefferson Parker. The story plays in Fallbrook, California, a town where I lived for almost 20 years of my life and raised my children. I knew many of the locations in the novel, including the streets, parks and some of the stores and businesses referenced.

The other was the book The Crazyladies of Pearl Street by Trevanian. This played in Albany, New York early in the last century. In 2013, when I read that book, I made regular trips to Albany on business and I actually went to see the locations and the actual address on Pearl Street where the protagonist lived. I took pictures of the empty lot that is there now.

Reading a novel and retracing the locations of the protagonists gives the story a special meaning and the feeling of the story sinks in much deeper than it would by just reading the book.

And so it happened with Stoner. I had never heard of the book, or the author for that matter. Then, last Sunday morning while waiting for a flight at the Admirals Club at the Dallas / Ft. Worth airport I received a text from a friend, a member of an informal “book club” is was “accidentally” pulled into, that the next book we were going to read was Stoner. Stoner – what – I texted back. What author? John Williams was the response, and two minutes later I had the book downloaded on my phone ready to read when I got on my flight. I stopped reading The Greatest Story Ever Told to squeeze in Stoner first.

In the next few hours reading into the book I found out that the entire story plays in Columbia, Missouri, most at or around the University of Missouri. William Stoner was born in 1891 on a Missouri farm. He grew up working with his father on their land. His parents had done nothing in all their lives but work the farm. They wanted a better life for their son, so they sent him off to college to study agriculture. The father’s hope was that after four years, the son would come back with a better bag of tricks and make the farming more profitable and rewarding. However, Stoner fell in love with English and literature, and unbeknownst to his parents, switched his major and eventually went through graduate school, got his doctorate and started teaching literature at the university. And that was Stoner’s life – except – things didn’t go so well for him.

His worst mistake and the one causing many other misfortunes that befell him later was that he married a truly awful woman. Edith caught the eye of the young instructor at a party and he was smitten by her beauty. Even though she showed no interest in him, he courted her and eventually proposed marriage. She accepted. And within a month of being married Stoner knew his marriage was a failure. Edith was the epitome of the worst possible woman ever to be married to. She was a loveless, self-absorbed, vindictive, morose and frigid person who obviously loathed Stoner. Why she married him we never figured out. But Stoner was a good man, with character, conviction, honor and a tendency for brutally hard work and commitment. So he dealt with his marriage. He spent pretty much his entire life sleeping on the couch in his living room. It was truly painful to witness.

Stoner lived to support his wife and their only daughter, Grace, who also grew up screwed up due to the terrible situation of her parents. He only found real love once in an affair with a young instructor at the university. Besides stolen hours in her apartment when they could manage it, they only got to spend 10 days together on a vacation, which was the single true happy time in both their lives.

Stoner is a remarkable book. It’s a story about nothing, and it’s a story about everything, about life, hard work, and academic life in an American university in the first half of the 20th century. It’s depressing to read and it made me think about my own life and my own decisions.

And here is the funny part: Remember I was at the airport when I bought the book. Guess where I was flying later that week?

Columbia, Missouri.

When I landed I was 86% through the book. So rather than going to the hotel from the airport, I got into my rental car and drove into town and spent a bit of time around the University of Missouri, just checking out where Old Stoner was supposedly teaching his courses all those years ago, and getting a sense of the locations. Of course, the college described in the book in 1910 is no longer. Now it’s a sprawling campus with many modern buildings from the 1970s vintage and thousands of students milling about. I did see some old buildings like those described in the novel, and most of those are now fraternity houses. like this one:

It was truly thrilling. I was on my way to Columbia, Missouri when I received the message to read a novel that plays entirely in Columbia, Missouri. I just finished it now, writing this review while I am still here, ready to leave in the morning.

I recommend you read Stoner by John Williams. I for one am richer having done so.

Both Nixon and Trump called the investigations witch hunts.

Some witch hunts!

I think I’ll side with the blues on this chart.

When Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is 21, his father (Bill Nighy) pulls him aside and tells him that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. They can do it at will by going into a dark area like a closet or a bathroom with the lights off, clenching their fists, closing their eyes and wishing for another time. Boom, there they arrive, properly dressed the way they were at that time.

He can’t seem to find a girlfriend, so he decides he is going to use his new skill to get one. That does not turn out quite the way he expected. When he meets a girl and falls in love, she gives him her number, and he bounds away excited. Mission accomplished! But then he travels back in time to help out a friend and realizes too late that he is now in a time where he has never met the girl and never received her phone number. He now has to figure out how to meet her again – but where to start?

I ran across this 2013 movie at a hotel flipping through the HBO channels. Time travel is one of my favorite science fiction genres (just search this block for the category and it’ll be obvious I am an aficionado –>) so this was a natural choice to stop on. The mechanics of time travel in this story are very simple and not scientific, like they would be in a fairy tale, which this essentially is.

About Time is light feel-good movie with no antagonists but perhaps life itself and the curve balls it throws at you. It plays in England, the characters are all delightful and light, and life is — almost — perfect. When the credits rolled I was convinced that I need to live every day as best as I can and I was satisfied.

Movie Review: Vice


Vice is a biopic about Dick Cheney’s life. Cheney is played by Christian Bale, and his wife by Amy Adams.

How did a quiet man from Wyoming of humble beginnings become arguably the most powerful man in the world during the George W. Bush presidency?

Cheney reshaped our world. First, he made sure that he and Bush won the election in 2000. Bush won against Gore by less than 600 votes in Florida, as far as the world knows. What would have happened if Gore had won just his own home state and therefore the presidency? We will never know. Because Cheney was in charge.

After the terrible events of September 11, 2001, Cheney took the reins and shaped the world to his liking. What he did affected all of us, all over the world.

This movie guides us through Cheney’s life, and gives us a glimpse of his reasoning and motives. The likeness Christian Bale achieves at times is eerie. There is also a very powerful performance by Steve Carell playing Donald Rumsfeld and a hilarious one by Sam Rockwell, playing George W. Bush. Rockwell does not quite look enough like Bush to be convincing, but when you close your eyes and listen to him talk, he really comes to life.

I enjoyed the film, and I didn’t like Cheney any better when it was over than I did when I walked in. I just had more insight.

We live in a frightening world, where men with immense power can do horrific things to thousands, no, millions of others.

 

Flip Flop Selfie

Picture Credit: my shoe – sorry, actually don’t know.

Tesla has changed the landscape of the automotive industry. Musk, through sheer vision and will, made that happen. Other people certainly could also have done it, but it would have taken longer. The large automotive firms, like Toyota, Daimler-Benz, BMW, GM, Ford, Nissan, all could have started the revolution, but they didn’t. Just like Checker Cabs could have become the Uber, but didn’t. It takes vision and grit to make a revolution happen. Musk had both, the started something unique, he started something big. In the the end, Tesla might not succeed, but the movement will certainly survive and there will be electric vehicles everywhere.

In Insane Mode, McKenzie guides us through that revolution and gives us the back story. He also shares some of his own thoughts and vision on just what an impactful revolution the electrification of automobiles actually brings, and how much it will change the way we live, work and play.

Insane Mode will change the way you think about electric vehicles. If you have an enterprising mind, it will make you ponder where you might apply your own ingenuity in the tremendous opportunities the near future offers.

I watched this movie again while channel surfing HBO last night. I had forgotten most of the details, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had also forgotten that I had actually reviewed it. When I re-read this review, I thought it was spot on. I would have written exactly the same thing again.

Norbert Haupt

Some viewers might come away from this movie disappointed. For me, I got exactly what I expected. A comedy with a pop-culture backdrop that I was interested in. There is enough mystique about Woodstock to feed another generation’s marvelings.

I went to the town of Woodstock once, only to realize it wasn’t Woodstock where the concert took place, but Bethel. Why we’re not calling it the Bethel festival I don’t know. I am sure a lot of others of my generation, who were to young at the time, drive into Woodstock off of I-87 and stop at a diner, just to have been there.

In Taken Woodstock, we learn that the town of Wallkill, NY actually turned down the festival. They didn’t want the traffic and other headaches. Go figure. I wonder what would have happened to the name if Wallkill had been the venue of the festival as originally planned? We’d…

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The president is now trying to use a chant to present to the American people a complex problem that no one has been able to properly address let alone solve in decades. Chants like this are useful for second-graders as mnemonic devices, or for indoctrination, but they do not work for me.

The president looks foolish and puerile to me when he spouts such drivel.

I am an immigrant. Not a third-generation immigrant like Trump himself, but a direct immigrant, like two of his wives and his in-laws. I have voiced my views about immigration many times in these pages.

Ponderings on the Trump Wall

Trump and his Scare Tactics about the Migrant Caravan

Immigrants are not Bad – Like Trump would have us Believe

Trump’s Police State – the Beginning

Book Review – Spare Parts – by Joshua Davis

Immigrant Statistics

Immigrants Who Created Jobs – and Tucker Carlson

Is there something wrong with our immigration system? Of course, I agree, and I don’t think I know anyone who does not agree. Trump proclaiming that “Democrats want open borders” is a foolish soundbite that does not reflect reality. Nobody wants open borders. Everyone agrees that to have a nation you need borders.

The United States, compared to many or most other countries, is in a unique position in that it only has two neighbor nations. This position has contributed to the country’s rise over the last century. It’s difficult to invade or attack a nation in such a geographic location.

We have immigration laws that are not being enforced properly, and when being enforced, result in public outcry, like family separation policies. We have immigration laws that prevent legal immigration for jobs where we need the help, like in agriculture, service jobs, etc. Immigration reform is a huge challenge and needs to take place. The problem is that it hasn’t been addressed, and no administration or Congress has found it possible to pull it off.

Trump is trying to reduce it to a soundbite. And while a border wall may well be necessary and helpful in some places, or all places along the southern border, it’s not going to get public support by spouting soundbites, particularly when those soundbites are based on incorrect facts.

Many of us don’t believe that “the wall” Trump wants would actually work and bring down crime. I don’t believe that immigrants are our main source of crime. I actually think Trump is vilifying immigrants as a political pawn game. He knows that sowing fear works, as proven by dictatorships throughout history. Scare the people enough, and they’ll let you do anything!

If Trump really wanted a wall, he should stimulate an active dialog. He should have the problem studied properly and he should educate the public with the facts. If the facts showed that a wall would solve the immigration problem and bring down crime, 90% of us would support it. There is no question in my mind about that.

Trump, if he were to stimulate a productive debate about the immigration problem, and came up with an immigration bill that would solve that problem, he would have the support of every Democrat and Republican in Congress. If he did that in his remaining two years, he would truly by viewed as a successful president.

Show a Will – Craft a Bill!

 

Witch Hunt? Not!

 

Witch Hunt:  : the searching out and deliberate harassment of those (such as political opponents) with unpopular views

Trump keeps calling the investigation a witch hunt. Yet, many of his senior aides during and after his campaign are now either indicted, or serving prison time, or are scheduled to serve prison time, or have already served prison time.

Most of the felony charges came after confessions, not convictions in trials. Most of the charges are not about the crimes themselves, but about lying about them.

Why are all these people around Trump lying about their contacts with Russia? If Russia is so benign, why are they lying and willing to go to prison – for Trump?

Witch hunt?

Not!

This is really hard to watch.

Watch!

A couple of weeks ago I drove westbound on Rancho California Road in Temecula, getting ready to turn left onto the I-15 southbound, when BAAAAMMM I was hit from the right. An SUV had tried to cross into my lane, apparently didn’t see me, and tore up the entire right side of my Prius, from the front bumper, through both right doors, the rear fender and the rear bumper.

I have never before been hit like that. I pulled over to the right side, and the car that hit me followed. It turns out the driver was a 15-year-old girl who was out on a practice ride with her mother two days before she was scheduled to take the test to get her driver’s license.

The poor girl was upset.

While we waited for the police to come, we exchanged information, taking pictures of each other’s driver’s licenses, registrations and insurance cards. When the police finally came, the officer didn’t actually do anything, since there were no injuries involved. He gave us each his card with the ticket number on it, and told us that we should both contact our insurance companies and they would work out the details.

I was depressed all the way home. I didn’t want to have to deal with getting the car fixed. It didn’t look like it would be cheap. The wheel was hit, and the entire right side of my car was scraped. The door didn’t open. The mirror was bent.

When I got home, I needed a break. I sat down at the TV and watched the depressing evening news. But I calmed down. At around 8:00pm I went to my desk and pulled up my insurance policy with 21st Century Insurance. It was time to call this incident in.

Just as I was getting started I received a call from Geico, the insurance company of the car that hit me. The agent first asked me whether I was ok, hurt in any way, and whether my car was drivable. I told him it was a bit wobbly at high speeds, since the wheel was hit, but I was able to take it home. He asked me to describe what had happened, and I did.

Then he told me that they would take full responsibility for getting my car repaired, and they would provide a rental car in the meantime. He was ok with me calling my own insurance company, but he didn’t think it was necessary, since they’d take care of the problem.

The gave me a phone number to call in the morning to take my car in.

The next morning, I called the number, and they told me to take the car to Henson’s Fix Auto, a shop in Escondido, not more than a mile from my office. I made an appointment at 10:30am.


When I walked into the lobby, there were three people there. The first person got up and introduced himself as the Geico representative. He’d take care of my problem. Then he introduced me to the lady at the other desk, who worked for Henson’s shop. She’d get the work done. And the other gentleman was a representative from Enterprise Rent-a-car, who was here with my car.

The man from Geico looked over my car with me and explained all that he saw and that they were going to do. Then he led me back into the office, and the lady from the shop gave me all the paperwork. The man from Enterprise handed me the key to the blue car he had brought for me and checked me into the car. I was out of there within less than 30 minutes.

It was the most pleasant, helpful and efficient customer service experience I can remember. Something as traumatic and upsetting as a trashed car was made easy and comfortable.

The next day Geico called me with the cost of $4,800 and assured me that Geico was taking responsibility. It would take two weeks to get the car fixed. He said he’d call Enterprise and tell them how long I’d need the rental car.

Every day in the last two weeks I received text messages updating me about the status of the repairs and that all was well.

Today I received the call that it was done and I could pick it up. I drove back, gave them the key to the rental car, checked out the repairs – looks beautiful – and drove away.

Geico has the most impressive customer service I have ever experienced. Henson’s Fix Auto shop does customer service like it should be done in the digital age. And Enterprise supplied me with a hassle-free car.

I hope the 15-year-old girl learned a valuable lesson about traffic from this and I hope she got her license. I remember the day many years ago when my own son totaled his first car, and how relieved I was that he was ok. He learned. We all want our kids to grow up alright, safe and responsible. And this family did the responsible thing and took care of this for me as effortlessly as it could be done.

And now I think I need to switch to Geico.

Movie Review: Icebox


Oscar (Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12-year-old boy from Honduras. Forced to flee his home to escape gang brutality, he goes on the long trek in hopes of meeting up with this uncle, who lives and works in the United States. Eventually he reaches the border and tries to seek asylum. But the journey is not simple, and he ends up in a cage in an ice-cold warehouse (the Icebox) with nothing but little space blankets and a thin mattress. Rather than reaching the promised land after a long and arduous journey, he is lost in the American immigration system, and that’s where his journey only starts.

The timing for this movie could not be more appropriate. In an age where our leadership vilifies immigrants, and demonizes those that come from the south as criminals, rapists and drug dealers, it is enlightening to witness the human story of the immigrants themselves.

Frightened in an alien world, separated from their families, terrified by the crime and gang violence at home, these people are abused, beaten and subjugated — all for the “crime” of trying to make a living for themselves and their families.

Now more important than ever, go watch Icebox and then tell me you are afraid of those monsters and criminals who threaten us from the southern border.

In early December I visited Detroit and called an old friend (EP). We had not seen each other in many years, and it was time for a visit. As friends dating back to high school are wont to do, it took only a few minutes for us to be back in the groove. He is a professor at a large university, and we have nothing much in common, other than our love for art, writing, philosophy and a general feeling of living lives of joy and integrity. We disagree on religion, and that brings spice to the conversation.

We met at a Chinese “deco” restaurant; the sushi was great, we downed a bottle of Champagne, and before we knew it we might as well have been back in high school, so the discussions went. I got a call from work in the middle of it telling me that a critical public server was down, and the internal stress went through the roof, but I recovered, and I hope I was not too absent-minded after that.

Of course, in the age of smart phones, it was appropriate that we two old dogs took a quick selfie before we said good-bye, for the record, and for evidence that we actually met. Hey, I had forgotten about the visit we both did together to the art museum in Toledo, some 15 years earlier. He reminded me of that.

Here we are, the professor and the software CEO, with a set of titties on a painting between us photobombing the occasion.

We have to get together more often.

Friends. Timeless.

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