Monthly Archives: April 2013

Boston from the Air

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Boston, Massachusetts has been in the news a great deal recently; unfortunately because of the marathon bombings one week ago.  But, Boston – one of America’s greatest cities, and the birth place of the American Revolution – has the distinction of being the first metropolitan area known to have been photographed from the air.

The first flight of an untethered balloon took place over Paris in 1783, and the first known photograph was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.  In 1858, another Frenchman, Gaspard Felix Tournachon, merged the two technologies to take a picture of Paris from aloft.  Unfortunately, that photograph has been lost.

But, in 1860, photographer James Black managed to capture a shot of Boston from about 2,000 feet above the city.  This was a major achievement, considering photography was still very much in its infancy and subjects had to remain steady while their images were embedded in the glass plates.  Oliver Wendell Holmes, a poet and professor of medicine at Harvard at the time, gave the photo its title, “Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It,” in a July 1863 article in the Atlantic Monthly.

“Boston, as the eagle and wild goose see it, is a very different object from the same place as the solid citizen looks up at its eaves and chimneys. The Old South [Church] and Trinity Church [left center and lower right] are two landmarks not to be mistaken. Washington Street [bottom] slants across the picture as a narrow cleft.  Milk Street [left center] winds as if the old cowpath which gave it a name had been followed by the builders of its commercial palaces.  Windows, chimneys, and skylights attract the eye in the central parts of the view, exquisitely defined, bewildering in numbers…. As a first attempt [at aerial photography] it is on the whole a remarkable success; but its greatest interest is in showing what we may hope to see accomplished in the same direction.”
The photograph is now in the possession of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Bad Drug, Bad Drug!

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Yes, drugs are bad – most drugs, that is, like crack cocaine and methamphetamine.  But, it seems as if many prescription drugs are equally detrimental to one’s health – to the point where they’re probably not even worth taking.  If you’ve seen TV commercials advertising stuff like Nasonex or Viagra, it seems the adverse side effects outweigh any potential benefits.  There’s actually a legitimate reason why this information is provided.  For years pharmaceutical companies could not advertise their products on television without also listing the potential side effects.

I remember seeing a commercial for an allergy drug in the late 1990s that showed a person windsurfing through a meadow.  I can’t recall the exact verbiage accompanying the ad, but I got the hint that it was to help alleviate allergies.  And, what better way than to show someone gleefully hurtling through a pollen-laden field on a surfboard!  Hint, hint, the commercial quaintly implied; if you suffer from allergies, you too could do this.  I wondered what people with less vivacious imaginations than mine tried to make of it.  I mean, I would have come up with something more direct, like rubbing your face in the furry but of a German shepherd.  Or, getting drunk on beer at some rural East Texas bar and passing out in a field of bluebonnets.  I once had a German shepherd and I’m from Texas, so I write what I know.  For the record, I never stuck my face in that dog’s ass.  I’m just trying to make a point!

Many of these drugs have the same ill side effects: headaches; diarrhea; nausea; cramping; loosened sphincters; abdominal pain; numbness; swelling of the throat; developing a fascination with Kim Kardashian; shortness of breath; loss of coordination; the urge to write a profane-laced letter to your congressman, etc.  The drug Chantix, for example, has been linked to hellacious hallucinations and violent tendencies.  Ambien has been associated with sleepwalking and even sleep-driving.  I guess from the way people in Dallas drive, every third person in this city is on Ambien.

Now, let’s be honest.  Wouldn’t you just rather just suffer from an ailment, or even die from it, than fall in love with Kim Kardashian?  If I want to see hyper-tanned chicks with big butts who think they’re better than anyone else, I’ll attend a fucking drag show.

But, if you listen closely to these commercials, the dangerous side effects of certain drugs aren’t just dangerous, they’re too damn plentiful!  The voice-over narration rattles them off like spit coming out of Barbara Walter’s mouth when she tries to pronounce supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  Why bother?

The real problem is that Americans are too drug-dependent.  We’ve become a narco-state; reaching for a pill with every ache and every cough.  We want to suppress what often comes naturally – such as reacting to pollen in the air with a sneeze, or to someone who says ‘Axe’ instead of ‘Ask’ with a crow bar – by grabbing a little plastic bottle.

So, what do you folks think?  I’d love to know how my readers feel about this morass.  In the meantime, I need a screwdriver.

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Thoughts and Prayers for West, Texas

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“Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all,

And round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world.

And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw;  

For I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit,

And the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.

And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops

That made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight,

And in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter,

All the children of one mother and one father.

And I saw that it was holy.”

Black Elk’s Great Vision” – Black Elk, 1931

This is for the victims of last week’s fertilizer plant explosion in the tiny central Texas hamlet of West.  The blast and ensuing fire killed 14 and injured more than 200.  The town is almost completely devastated.  It’s sadly ironic this incident occurred right before Earth Day; considering that highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer is the key component in the debacle.

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Happy Earth Day 2013!

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“Can earth be Earth when all its trees are gone,
And sudsy waters have become unfit,
And poisoned life no longer greets the dawn
With raucous sounds that death has caused to quit?
Will trees no longer wave, with limbs unfurled,
On hapless earth, that ever in orbit roams?
Will human ego sacrifice the world
To satiate its lust for pompous homes?
Will distant space look down on orb that’s bald.
I now can hear the mother say,
“I was once called Earth.
But now, bereft of mirth, I weep. 
That treeless orb’s no longer Earth”

Can Earth Be Earth? – Garvit Agarwal

Earth Day.

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Accidental Dumbass

Paisley is the dark-eyed White guy on the right.

Paisley is the dark-eyed White guy on the right.

The pop music world here in the U.S. has been abuzz (somewhat) about a new duet by country and western singer Brad Paisley and rapper LL Cool J (real name: James Todd Smith, because you know most rap singers can’t use their birth names).  The song, “Accidental Racist,” is Paisley’s allegedly bold confrontation of the South’s deep-seated and lingering racism.  If you listen to the media rhetoric, you’d think Andrea Bocelli and Leontyne Price had gotten together for a world tour.  Now, I’d drag myself off a death bed to see that!

I’ll be up front and admit I’m not a big country and western music fan – despite being born and raised in Texas – and I don’t care much for rap or hip-hop.  Paisley and J make a cute couple, but that’s about as much as either has going for them.  I haven’t heard many songs from either man.  But, if J’s singing is like his acting, I know Bocelli and Price have nothing to fear.

Paisley has come under the proverbial fire for his previous displays of the Confederate flag; an emblem of the “Old South” where Negroes and Indians were sub-human critters.  Looking at Paisley, I have to wonder if some Negro or Indian didn’t sneak into the main house of his family many years ago.  I mean, seriously, if you look at White people from the “Old Country” (e.g. Europe), they are nowhere near that dark-haired or dark-eyed.  Not even Southern Europe!  They just aren’t.  But, I’m nitpicking.

Many White Southerners are still trying to redefine the Confederate flag as a symbol of some ancient noble cause; what they call state’s rights; what the rest of us normal people call stupid.  The southeastern quadrant of the United States didn’t try to secede from the Union 150 years ago because of excessive taxation, or the charming “state’s rights” mantra.  They wanted the freedom to keep Negro people in shackles, right next to the cows and mules.  But, damn!  Some of those old White Southerners won’t let go of that myth.  They’ve been fighting the Civil War for all this time and still haven’t won!

Paisley apparently hopes to make us all realize that his inherently racist actions and statements aren’t deliberate; they are – as the song implies – purely accidental.  In other words, that silly White boy didn’t know what the fuck he was doing!  Hence, the innocuous placement of the Confederate flag on his tee shirt; a shirt that was probably sewn by a Chinese 5-year-old.

If I think about it, much can be said of the term “redskin.”  Who would guess the name “Washington Redskins,” for example, would make Indian people see…well, red?  It’s just a name, right?  Wrong!

It’s really amazing how stupid people can be.  Several years ago, while working as a customer service representative of a bank’s wire transfer division, a man asked me my name.  When I told him, he replied, “Oh, well, let me speak to someone who speaks better English.”  When I told him no one in the department spoke better English than me, he angrily said, “So, what do you have there?  A bunch of dumbass Mexicans?!”  I told him to close his account and hung up on him.  Back in 2006, a young White police officer who stopped me for running a yellow light asked if I’d ever been to prison “with a name like that.”  I got his badge number and filed a complaint with the Dallas police.  But, nothing ever came of it.  President Obama once said he knows what it’s like to be standing outside a restaurant, waiting for a valet to bring him his car, when a White person thinks he’s the valet and asks him to retrieve their own vehicle.

Accidental?  No, none of it is.  People really do know what they’re saying or doing in these situations.  They just haven’t thought much about it and what it means.  That’s no accident.  It’s ignorant.

Oops!  I forgot that was still there!

Oops! I forgot that was still there!

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Find the Hero!

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“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.  It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

Arthur Ashe

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Best Quote of the Week

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“That’s what you’ve taught us, Boston.  That’s what you’ve reminded us – to push on.  To persevere.  To not grow weary.  To not get faint.  Even when it hurts.  Even when our heart aches.  We summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had, and we carry on.  We finish the race.”

– President Obama, during an interfaith service for victims of Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing.

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