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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Those oldies but goodies and you

Rick Derringer (left) and The McCoys did "Hang On Sloopy" in 1965

It doesn’t matter who you are or whether you are a man or a woman, you probably have a lot of old popular songs that are etched into your mind. Why are they there? Probably because music is one of the greatest sources of bringing back memories, whether good or bad. Is there anyone on Earth who doesn’t know some of the lyrics from "Louie, Louie"?

I was listening to Music Choice Solid Gold the other night on Cox Cable and it was like a trip back in time. Suddenly, I was remembering old cars I had, former girlfriends, and nights at the drive-in movies (I think I hold the record for the fewest movies seen at a drive-in between 1957 and 1961 and I’m damn proud of it!). Then there were the tunes from the military years, early days of a great marriage, and beyond. Songs are great memory makers, those old 2 ½ to 3 minute tunes are hard to forget. Here are some I heard recently and my recollections of them. What are some of your favorites and your memories of them?

1957: "Diana," by Paul Anka, "Wake Up Little Susie," by The Everly Brothers. I turned 16 and started driving legally that summer. Those songs remind me of make out sessions in a ‘54 Ford.

1959: "Sleep Walk," by Santo and Johnny, "What’d I Say?" by Ray Charles. It was a great summer, met my first steady girl, drove a ‘57 Chevy to California on Route 66 to meet another girl. I was young, free, and life was good along with the music. Remember "Venus" by Frankie Avalon? "Pink Shoe Laces" by Dodie Stevens?

1961: "Runaround Sue" by Dion, "Runnin’ Scared" by Roy Orbison, "Moody River" by Pat Boone. I was 20, had a girl, a job, went water skiing almost every day until September when Uncle Sam called.

1962: "Peppermint Twist" by Joey Dee and the Starlighters, "Duke of Earl" by Gene Chandler, "The Loco-Motion" by Little Eva. Stationed near Kansas City, no more girl friend but still had my ‘57 Chevy and chances to meet new girls. Sorry, Nancy, It was fun while it lasted.

1963: "It’s My Party" by Lesley Gore, "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer, "Surf City" by Jan and Dean. Back from Germany, partying a lot in Kansas City, eating at McDonald’s so I had more money for drinking. Listening to the tunes on "Yours truly WHB,"AM radio full blast.

1965: "Downtown" by Petula Clark, "Help Me, Rhonda" by The Beach Boys, "Yesterday" by The Beatles. Discharged from Air Force in September, back to Cincinnati and college. Met future wife Barb a month after hitting town. The number one tune when I met her? "Hang on Sloopy" by The McCoys with lead guitarist Rick Derringer ("Rock and Roll Hoochie-Coo").

I could go on but you know what I mean. Most of my stuff may be a bit old unless you are Don, Tom Moore, or animadvert, some of my contemporaries. Don’t be afraid of the newer stuff. I remember disco, electronic ‘80s stuff, Madonna, Falco, Rockwell, Phil Collins, Supertramp, Rush, U2, Kim Wilde, etc. If it’s hip-hop or rap, though, forget it. I have to draw the line somewhere!

Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in their "Beach Party" days. His "Venus" was a big hit in 1959. It was great drive-in song.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Have a great holiday

Christmas 1968 in cold Ohio


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama not smoking joint, or is he?

Have you seen the TIME photos of Barack Obama? They were taken in 1980 by Lisa Jack and are all over the internet. Obama was a freshman at Occidental College in Los Angeles at the time so he is probably eighteen in these pictures.

A mild furor has arisen over whether the cigarette he is smoking is a marijuana joint or not. Some also say that the bracelet on his right wrist is some sort of Islamic spiritual bracelet. My opinion is that the cigarette is a plain old Winston, Marlboro, or whatever. It looks too round and manufactured to be a joint which would have that "roll your own" look.

However, if it is a joint, so what? He was an 18 year old kid and 18 year old kids do things that are stupid and regretted later. If you show me a photo of him puffing a joint at age 47 in the East Room of the White House, then I will be concerned. Bill Clinton admitted to smoking a joint but, of course, he didn’t inhale. (Yeah, right!)

As far as the bracelet, I don’t know anything about Islamic spiritual bracelets but the one on Obama’s wrist looks like one of those bracelets golfers wear to supposedly combat wrist pain. The Obama naysayers will have to do better than this to succeed.

For others who think they can dig up something to get the election reversed, they better hurry. They have one month and three days before he takes the oath. Let’s not forget the people who claim he is a draft dodger and not a "natural born citizen." I have to believe he isn’t a draft dodger and is a citizen or he wouldn’t have gotten this far. The only thing that troubles me is why he doesn’t pull his original birth certificate and draft card from his files at home and produce them as proof? Wouldn’t that end all doubts so we could move ahead? Maybe he has done that and it has not been publicized. Does anybody know? I didn't vote for him but I would like to see some concrete evidence against him before I say throw the guy out.

I guess a lot of scrutiny has to do with Obama being an exotic kind of guy. He is of mixed race and has a background unlike any president we have elected. That makes a lot of people suspicious; people who would never have dreamed of investigating guys like Ike, Reagan, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, or Lincoln.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Memories on a Safeway Shelf

Recently I was shopping at Safeway in Scottsdale and as I picked up a can of Consort hair spray (Hey, sportscaster Dan Patrick recommends it!), I noticed some old favorites are still on the shelf. They may have been reduced to one facing but it was like a trip down memory lane to see them. In all their glory sat Vitalis hair tonic, Groom and Clean hair gel, Alberto VO5 cream, and Brylcreem.

At some time in my life I used all those items along with others that are probably non existent now like Wildroot Cream Oil and Fitch hair tonic. I remember putting so much of the white Wildroot cream on my hair as a kid that when I combed it, the white cream collected on the comb. Fitch was a barber shop favorite. As a kid, you would always get your hair doused with that stuff after the barber cut your hair. He also would never cut your hair the way you wanted. He would always say "I think your mother would rather have it this way." Kids had no leverage in those days. Now, they would probably pull out their cell phone and call their lawyer on the barber AND their mom.

Vitalis was like Fitch, full of alcohol. It was actually flammable as I found out one day when I dropped a match in some. VO5 was basically a cream that you used to slick your hair down. It was more of a dressing than a gel and women even used it to give their hair a bit more body. Most guys remember Brylcreem and its great slogan of "a little dab’ll do ya, you’ll look so debonaire." Groom and Clean was a favorite of mine in the ‘60s. It was a blue gel that was not greasy, it would wash off your hands with plain water but left you hair with that nice 60s slicked down look.

By 1970, the "slicked down" look was disappearing after Gillette came out with a hair spray for men called "The Dry Look." By then I had been married for three years and made the big decision to change my act and have been a dry hair guy ever since. However, I still have fond memories of the old days of Groom and Clean and the other stuff combined with a splash of Brut or Hai Karate after shave. A guy couldn’t miss with the ladies on a Saturday night with those combinations! Add a pipe full of Captain Black tobacco and their slogan of "The chicks are back" could come true.

Now, if I can find some Butch Wax in case I go back to a flat top hair cut, I’ll be all set.. By the way, did anyone see a can of Burma Shave laying around? I lost mine.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Are print newspapers doomed?

As I continue observing Main Street, I notice a lot more driveways without the morning paper, both on Sunday and during the week. Is the death knell being sounded for the daily newspaper? The economy could be a factor as discontinuing the paper is one way to save about $5 a week. But, I think it is more than that. Newspaper subscriptions have been dropping for years and many nationally known papers have gone out of business. With the internet and TV, the daily hard copy paper has become a Model T in the age of jet travel.

In October, the East Valley Tribune dropped its coverage of Scottsdale and Tempe. They will now serve only the East Valley with emphasis on Mesa and Gilbert. They will also be a four day a week publication free to the public. They say that seven day per week coverage will be through their online edition. These cutbacks included a layoff of 142 jobs or 40% of their workers.

The key words are "online edition." That’s the way many papers are going. It allows them to compete with the immediacy of the 24 hour TV news stations and it is a lot less expensive to operate. Advertising is a main source of revenue and if you read any online editions, you will notice that there is no scarcity of ads surrounding the stories. Whether they have the same effect as a newspaper ad, I do not know but it may get to the point where it doesn’t matter. Long time Phoenix journalist Jana Bommersbach reports "Subscriptions are down, advertising revenue is down, and there are only so many cuts you can make in a business with expensive overhead–big buildings, larger printing plants, miles of newsprint, all that ink, a cumbersome distribution system, etc."

Other factors in the success of online editions is the emergence of the blogger. Many bloggers have large followings which means that every time a reader tunes in to them, they will be getting impressions of ads surrounding the blogs which in turn can mean increased revenue. And, since bloggers are normally unpaid, it is all plus business.

People want their news fast. If it happened at 10:00 this morning they don’t want to wait until they pick up their paper in the driveway at 5:00 tomorrow morning to read about it. Many have decided that they also don’t want to have to pay for that type of service through subscriptions when they can get news immediately for free.

The handwriting may be on the wall for hard copy papers but, as I have said before, I am a newspaper guy and I love to read my morning paper with a cup of Joe. I suppose the hard copy edition will survive but in an unfamiliar form. That is what the East Valley Tribune found out.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The inportance of RSVP

It’s a reflection on today’s society that before sporting events the public address announcer has to request the crowd to please honor America by standing and "removing your hats" for the playing of our national anthem. There was a time when it wasn’t necessary to ask a crowd to do that but it was in another era when "respect" was a common word in everyone’s vocabulary. That’s not the case as much today in our cell phone, iPod, hurried up mentality world.

With Thanksgiving behind us, we now enter December with its multitude of holiday parties. It is a time when many invitations will request an RSVP. This is not a new practice but, strangely enough, according to Jill Haney of JH Consultants, about 30% of invitees do not RSVP as requested by invitations. As with the national anthem, an RSVP is a show of respect and a response should always be made to the inviter.

For anyone who is not clear about RSVP, it is a French expression ("respondez s’il vous plait") that simply means "respond please." If you receive an invitation, you are being asked to let the prospective host know if you will or will not attend the function. To not respond is very rude and is not an option. It is an insult to the inviter who thought enough of the importance of your attendance to invite you. Also, the number of RSVPs allows the host to make plans as far as drinks, food, and the size of the room for the party.

An RSVP should be made the day the invitation is received or, at the latest, one or two days later according to Haney. How hard can it be to make a simple two minute phone call to someone who thought enough of you to invite you to their party?

Many invitations these days are being sent with a "regrets only" request. That makes it a bit easier on the invitee as they are being asked to respond only if they can’t make it. Even if you receive this type of invitation, it is still a nice touch to call the inviter and tell them "Thank you."

The RSVP is nothing new to most people but if 30% are still not respecting the request it desires, the above explanation hopefully will remind them of its importance. By exhibiting some manners, it may get you invited to more parties too.

Monday, November 24, 2008

To tip or not to tip

Here is a bit of trivia for you: The word "tip" originated from the old English inns where a jar was placed by the front desk with a sign that read "To Insure Promptness." In other words, if you wanted anything done efficiently by the innkeeper, you better put something in that tip jar.

Tipping is controversial to this day. How much should you tip? Some people won’t tip at all as Elaine did in an episode of Seinfeld many years ago. She and Jerry were traveling to New York and Jerry tipped the airport Red Cap $5 per bag. Elaine thought that was exorbitant and chewed out the Red Cap for expecting such a tip. The Red Cap shipped Jerry’s bags to New York and Elaine’s strangely went to Honolulu. A lesson learned: Don’t mess with service workers!

I’m not saying everyone deserves a tip. In my case, I will tip 20% in nice restaurants like The Roaring Fork in Scottsdale or Ruth’s Chris in Phoenix if I have been well taken care of. I think that is standard for today. I might even throw in another 5% if I’m especially happy that night. Conversely, if the service is inattentive and the food is bad I will reduce it accordingly. Nothing is automatic. Excellent service on a special occasion can make a tremendous difference in the experience and I see no problem with a proper reward for it.

One thing I will not do is put money in "tip jars" when no extra service is provided. Places like fast food restaurants come under this category. They are a perfect example of the "give me something for nothing" mentality we see today according to Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute in a Sonoran News editorial this week..

Connerly also mentions the annoyance of ordering room service in hotels and having an automatic 21% gratuity added to the bill. On top of that a space is usually available for "additional gratuity." A room service waiter told him the gratuity is added on because some people might not tip. That sounds like how the government works: "If we don’t like the service, we are taxed anyway" explains Connerly.

Tipping makes sense for those who earn it by providing excellent personal service. Taxi drivers, hotel attendants, waiters, and shoe shine people know about earning tips and deserve them for excellence. They better be good because 99% of their livelihood depends on those tips.

When do you think tipping is and isn't appropriate?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Every senior guy's dream

There have been some wonderful inventions within the last century.

In 1926 Robert Goddard invented the liquid fueled rocket. Without it, we probably wouldn’t have discovered water on Mars recently. I know you are thrilled about that.

In 1927, Philip Farnsworth invented the electronic television system. Technicolor for movies was also introduced that year as was the first talking motion picture, The Jazz Singer.

By 1938, items like automatic transmissions for cars became available as did the ballpoint pen, Teflon, and freeze dried coffee.

I know you are impressed by these accomplishments and there are more things invented after that time that are even more amazing. However, while watching a sporting event on television recently, I saw advertised the most amazing and useful invention probably in the history of mankind: Gentlemen, welcome to the world of the Cialis daily dosage pill.

We all remember when Viagara was introduced to help the guys out in times of stress with their ladies. The jokes were everywhere about Sun City being renamed Viagara Falls, etc. Funny stuff and Viagara was a nice help for many guys. However, it didn’t last very long and took a while after dosage to take effect. What self respecting stud could put up with that?

Fear no more, there is now the Cialis daily dosage pill that keeps the guys at full power all the time. No timing involved anymore, guys, you are always ready for action. I can see it now: The dry cleaners in Sun City and elsewhere are receiving hundreds of maroon and lime green leisure suits to be pressed for party time. The stores are running out of white shoe polish and the bars have been asked to extend happy hour by thirty minutes to 7:30. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby records are flying out of the stores and there has been a run on used Buicks with Dynaflow. Run for the hills, ladies!

In 1969 we put a man on the moon. So what! We now have daily dosage Cialis.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Scottsdale AZ has foreclosures too

For those who think that home foreclosures in the Valley of the Sun are restricted to areas like the West Side or Queen Creek, think again. Recent figures from the Independent show that four affluent zip codes in north Scottsdale have 542 foreclosures. A lot of the people in those areas have been strung out for a long time without much cash flow. They have enjoyed the high life of credit card debt and buying cars that they couldn’t really afford.

I have seen young families with 3,500 square foot homes in places like Grayhawk and DC Ranch where the 30 year old husband is the only income producer while his cute wife tends to their 2.4 kids and goes to the gym and pool every day to keep her waist at 19". Their driveway usually has a large late model SUV and maybe a BMW Roadster for mom with a license plate that reads "My Toy."

My first thought has always been, "How can they afford it?" Unfortunately for them, with the current state of the economy, they can’t. Expensive gas, loss of jobs, maxed out credit cards, failed loans, the crash of the housing market, and other factors have taken their toll. For example, there is a 2,296 square foot home in Grayhawk that was built in 1996 and was previously valued at $529,900. It was put at auction recently with a starting bid of $239,000. Grayhawk and DC Ranch alone have 88 foreclosures listed and even super wealthy Troon has 24. Many of the foreclosed loans are between $500,000 and $1,000,000.

As a side effect of foreclosures, many homes in affluent neighborhoods are being left in disrepair with lawns not being mowed or weeds taking over properties. Homeowner associations are also suffering losses from monthly fees not being paid by the lenders who have taken over properties.

It’s a downward spiral everywhere and shows no real sign of improving soon. It’s time for many of the pseudo-rich to tighten their belts, ditch the toys, swallow their pride, and realize that driving a used Kia and living in an apartment in Mesa may be better than walking and living in an Amana refrigerator box. At least for now.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is Mexico the new Detroit?

I can see why Mexican immigrants are anxious to sneak into the USA to make what Americans would consider "slave wages." As bad as those wages are they still beat what can be made in Mexico working in the auto industry. According to a recent AP story, Ford and GM have turned to Mexico for much of their manufacturing needs which has brought about a two tiered system of hiring because of the demands for cheap labor by the American companies. It sounds like the supply and demand law kicking in again.

Ford is forcing the auto union in Mexico to further decrease already low wages for new hires of $4.50 per hour to about half that as an incentive to get the business of building cars for them. As a comparison, the United Auto Workers tried a similar ploy last year in Detroit by offering their own two tier plan. However, their plan involved cutting starting pay in half from $28.40 per hour to about $14.20. Obviously, that is laughable as the jobs are mostly going to Mexico where $1.50 per hour with minor benefits is standard at some plants. Even China pays workers in foreign owned plants $2 to $6 per hour.

Meanwhile, GM has threatened to close one of their plants in Mexico because of slow sales. That may also be a ploy to lower wages. The immediate response of the auto union was to offer wage concessions to keep the plant open. The workers there make about $6 per hour, very high by Mexican standards. It looks like those "salad days" will be ending shortly.

Would you go to work in an auto plant in Mexico for $1.50 per hour? I made that much working part time in a grocery store in the mid 1960s. However, these days there is an abundance of young workers in Mexico who will flock to get hired under those conditions because of the supposed "stability" of such work. Juan Arreola, the Ford union leader, says "I guarantee that if we advertise for 2,000 workers, 10,000 are going to show up." Once again, supply and demand rules.

What does this mean to Detroit where second tier workers were offered a "low" $14.20 per hour? That is not close to being competitive with Mexico. Chrysler sales are down and layoffs are expected in Detroit. More jobs for Mexico?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Kids growing up too fast

When I was ten or eleven years old, girls my age were considered "little girls." They wore frilly little dresses, patent leather buckled shoes with little white socks, and usually had their hair in "pig tails." Playing with dolls was not uncommon and they had no interest in going to a mall, because malls didn’t yet exist.

I know parents who have girls this age who are now pestering their parents for mini skirts, thongs, and cropped tee shirts. Also popular with these kids are short shorts with words like "Juicy," "Hot," and "Yum," printed on the rear end. Obviously, dolls and pig tails have disappeared from the equation.

This is only part of the desire of young girls and boys to pass up childhood. As Karina Bland points out in her recent Republic column, it is not unusual for kids to be "hanging out at the mall unsupervised, and going to boy-girl parties." Most of these kids have cell phones and computers and may even have a site on MySpace. Gone are the days of board games and toys.

Karina says that many experts blame the parents for allowing kids to become this way. I agree. Kids are impressionable and when parents allow them to see programs like "Desperate Housewives" they may want to emulate the characters on that show. Some parents think it is "cute" for kids 9 or 10 to date. Here are more statistics: 55% of parents say childhood is over by 11. 75% of parents allow their kids to drink alcohol before age 18, and in Arizona, half of the eighth graders in 2006 had tried alcohol. 54% of children are allowed to dye their hair and wear makeup before age 14.

Some parents justify this behavior saying "It’s harder to say ‘no’ to a child than it is to say "Go ahead and do it.’" What? So, you don't say "no" just because it is hard? What happened to sensible, disciplined parenting? I can’t say I am surprised that parents take this attitude. In Scottsdale and Phoenix I have observed kids controlling their parents for years. The parents are too lazy or disinterested in their kids to "lay down the law." A lot of parents also have their own agendas which don’t involve their kids. It’s selfishness on their part as they refuse to give up their precious time and interests for the sake of their kids.

Maybe I am behind the times and this is now acceptable behavior for kids and parents. I see mobs of kids in the malls. There are usually boys and girls hanging together. When I was a kid, there was no way my friends and I hung around with girls. We were intimidated by them! Taking a girl to the movies was a special occasion. That was a different era but I think it made a lot more sense than some of the stuff I see today. At least we had a childhood.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A lifetime lover of LifeSavers

Does anyone besides me eat LifeSavers candy anymore? I went into a Safeway store in Scottsdale the other day and they had no LifeSavers for sale at the registers. The checker told me that they carry some LifeSaver items in bags in the candy section. My response was,"In Bags??!!" I asked where the LifeSavers were that came in rolls and were always by the register. She looked at me quizzically as though I was from another planet. It figured, she was young and was probably a Tic-Tac girl.

I have had a lifetime love affair with LifeSavers. Sure, when I was a kid, occasionally I was disloyal and would buy a roll of Sherbets or some other unworthy substitute, but LifeSavers were always the best flavored hard candy on the planet. Every store sold LifeSavers and they usually carried the entire selection. I especially remember the candy/tobacco stands at the main downtown post office in Cincinnati. They were run by guys who had lost their sight, probably veterans of World War II. They had a display of LifeSavers that contained every flavor from the assorted fruits to each individual flavor. There they were, in long rows on the counter: assorted, cherry, Wint-O-Green, Cryst-O-Mint, Pep-O-Mint, butter rum, and others. They sold for 5 cents a roll and were wrapped in wax paper and foil plus a printed paper outer wrapper. It would have been a tough package to open if not for the little string on the end of the roll which easily opened them when pulled.

LifeSavers were invented in 1912 by a candy maker named Clarence Crane who was primarily in the chocolate business. Because chocolate was hard to sell in the summer, he came up with the idea of selling a hard candy during that season. He got the idea to make them round from watching a local pharmacist make pills. The idea of putting a hole in the middle was his own.

In 1913, Crane sold LifeSavers for $2,900, probably a big mistake since the buyer, Edward Noble, went on to make millions from them. They were eventually bought by Kraft, then Wrigley’s Gum.

Like Lifebuoy soap, Prell shampoo, Ammident toothpaste, and many other popular products from the past, I guess LifeSavers have lost some of their appeal and sales to the many modern mints and candies. I still remember their ads that read, "LifeSavers, the candy with the hole, still only 5 cents." Those days are gone, they now sell for 89 cents and worse than that, they don’t have the little string on the end anymore so they are very difficult to open.

Times have changed and so have LifeSavers but as long as I can open the package, I will buy them. It would be nice, though, if they put the little string back on the end.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Give kids good financial start

My buddy at Wachovia in Scottsdale periodically sends me newsletters with financial advice. The following may affect you if you have kids and are concerned about their financial future. Hopefully they will listen to you and your advice. This stuff makes sense:

It's a common goal — to live a better life than your parents. While you may be able to say you accomplished that goal, how likely is it that your children will be able to say the same thing? To help them with that pursuit, make sure to teach them these important financial lessons:

Graduate from college. Even if your children are interested in pursuing careers that don't require a college education, encourage them to obtain a college degree first. It is much easier to go to college straight out of high school before getting married or taking on other responsibilities. And financially, college graduates have higher earnings on average than nongraduates.

Live well within their means. As your children start lives of their own, help them make some fundamental decisions about how to live. Before your children decide where to live or what kind of car to drive, help them prepare a budget to see how much they can really afford for those items and still have money for saving.

Utilize all retirement vehicles available. As soon as they become eligible, your children should start contributing to a 401 (k) plan at work. If their employer doesn't offer a 401 (k) plan, teach your children the benefits of individual retirement accounts (IRAs), both traditional deductible and Roth. The importance of saving for retirement at a young age can't be stressed enough.

Use debt sparingly. If your children take on too much debt early in life, they can spend the rest of their lives struggling to get out of debt. Stress to your children that it is best to use credit cards only if they can pay the balances in full every month. You enhance your credit and can earn points toward cash with certain cards. Other debt, like car loans and mortgages, should only be taken on after a careful analysis of whether your children can afford the payments and whether the purchase fits their financial goals.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I support John McCain

I am voting for John McCain for President of the United States.

I’m not a political expert, but I have opinions, and after watching the debates and hearing the speeches, here are the main points in my reasoning:

1. Experience: McCain, in Congress since 1982 and a war hero. Obama, Senator for 4 years, most of which spent campaigning for presidency.

2. The need for split authority in Washington. We may be seeing a Democratic majority in both houses. With a Democratic president, that party would have control of all issues.

3. Obama’s statement about "spreading the wealth" through higher taxes rather than encouragement to citizens to set higher goals to increase tax revenue. He states that "A strong government hand is needed to assure that wealth is distributed more equitably." That’s scary and reeks of socialism. Why should someone who has worked hard to attain wealth have to split it with those who don’t make use of their opportunities? How about educating various groups as to the impracticality of having ten kids rather than supporting them through government assistance?

4. Obama would like to have a global poverty tax which would tax Americans billions to help eradicate poverty in other parts of the world. You know, those places that love us so much. The administration of the funds would be through the U. N. of all places. Does that sound a bit like socialism?

5. Obama has been weak on energy. McCain led the way for more drilling and nuclear energy while Obama gave reluctant support for drilling only after he saw that voters favored it.

6. Obama’s relationship to Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He attended his church for twenty years as Wright referred to white people as "the devil" and said that HIV was created in Washington to wipe out "people of color." Obama has distanced himself from Wright during his candidacy but why not sooner?

I have nothing personal against Barack Obama, I think he means well. However, as a lifetime Republican I find it difficult to pull the handle for Democratic candidates as they usually endorse stronger national government control of our lives. I think part of being a successful American is "going for it" on your own by showing the initiative for self support, making logical and common sense financial and social decisions, and not depending on the government to support you.

"Spreading the wealth" from the rich to the poor by government is not the answer. It takes away man’s natural competitive desires to make something of him/herself and reduces them to a weaker dependent level. By voting for John McCain you will reduce government interference in your lives and reduce the effectiveness of Democratic leaders in what could possibly be a Democratically controlled Congress.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The misery of the migraine

One Friday morning in 1977 I was making my weekly call on my largest account in Kansas City when I suddenly started seeing jagged lines in front of me as I tried to read a stock status report. I had been drinking a lot of coffee that morning and the first thing I wondered was, did the large amount of coffee trigger this sensation?

Fortunately, the lines cleared up within 10 to 15 minutes but I was still concerned as to what had caused the temporary problem. I looked up the symptoms in a medical book which explained that I had probably experienced a minor migraine headache.

Ever since then, I have had "migraines with aura" many times if I overindulge on regular coffee, chocolate, Coca-Cola or any product that contains a reasonable amount of caffeine. The aura usually lasts 10-15 minutes and sometimes I am left with a headache that can be relieved with aspirin.

The few migraines I get are considered mild and affect about 20% of migraine sufferers. They are not a hindrance. Unfortunately, there is another class of migraine that is very severe: the migraine without aura. Migraine without aura may be caused by stress and is the most prevalent type of migraine. It may occur on one or both sides of the head and tiredness or mood changes may be experienced the day before the headache. Nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light often accompany migraine without aura.

I have had people with this condition tell me the pain and suffering involved is incredible and can even become disabling. Patients are advised to lie down in a dark room and take proper medicine for the condition. These migraines can last one to several days and can become recurring. Be thankful if you have never experienced the condition.

According to Dr. Seymour Diamond of the National Headache Foundation, about 10% of the population of the USA, about 30 million people, suffer from some type of migraine. Dr. Diamond recommends seeing a doctor if you have headaches severe enough to interfere with regular activities, especially if they are getting progressively worse.

The Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale has a division that deals with migraines that is supposed to be very effective.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Online banking makes sense

Banking online is a treat that I never thought would exist in my lifetime. Do you do it? If not, you are missing a time saving, accurate, economical, and handy way to bank, especially when it comes to paying bills.

I used to dread the monthly bills. Utilities, credit cards, doctors, and whatever else all required sitting down with my calculator, a book of stamps, envelopes, return address stickers, and my checkbook to go through the boring rote activity of paying all these people.

When online banking came along, I must have been the first in line to use it. Now I can pay ten bills in one minute. It used to take about half an hour. Plus, I save 42 cents postage on each bill and don’t have to travel to the mailbox. Also, unlike having hard copy bills floating through the mail for three days, there is no paper trail when you bank online.

It’s a sweet deal but there are a few things to be careful about: According to Ron Burley of AARP always check the amounts and payees before hitting "send" (I have Bank of America and if you make a mistake, you can change it.). Beware of automated payments. Unless it is a regular mortgage payment or car payment, don’t allow deductions from your account. Check later to be sure transactions were processed correctly (I look at my account daily, it only takes a minute.). Never give out pins, passwords, or account numbers by phone or email. Also, be sure the "lock" icon is on your bank’s site to ensure extra security.

No, I am not doing a commercial for Bank of America, Chase, or anyone else. I am sold on online banking and I want every one to know how easy it is. Look at it as a service to you from me as a "thank you" for going online and reading and commenting on my blogs for the last few years.

Now....if I can get everyone to start charging everything on a credit card and paying it off monthly while accumulating points towards cash, I will have accomplished my goals.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Over 50 and going back to work?

Heaven forbid that I would ever have to go back to work. I don’t include writing newspaper stories as work because I enjoy that and I have even been paid for my efforts occasionally. I’m talking about having to go back to work full time because of loss on investments or some other tragedy evolving from a bad economy. However, if I did have to put my selling shoes back on and face the current youth oriented brave new world, I would have a few strategies up my sleeve.

Probably any agency would tell you that there is a bias today against workers in their 50s and older. If that pertains to you, as it does me, we better be ready to compete. The first thing I would do is check my appearance. I ditched my 1980s suits a long time ago but I wouldn’t wear them now anyway. Old fashioned clothes project the wrong image. I would invest in a new wardrobe with conservative colored suits. Shirts would be white and light blue with conservative ties and well shined shoes, probably nice loafers. I always took pride in looking professional and would continue that thought.

I would keep my hair in a conservative cut and if I wore glasses, I would have a nice stylish pair, preferably not the ones that turn dark in the sun. I would never wear any political or religious accessories like lapel pins.

Probably the most important thing for the over 50 job seeker would be to catch up on the technological part of business. I’m pretty good with a computer and own a cell phone. I’ve never sent a text message, but I guess I could do that too, it looks simple enough. If you aren’t proficient in these skills and others, get that way ASAP. A good appearance AND up to date knowledge will go a long way in Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Hopefully, this is all academic and I will be able to continue in my tee shirt and shorts existence for a while longer. But, if worse comes to worse, I have my strategy for returning to the workplace. And, if I do return, I hope I won’t be required to use a Bluetooth. Those of you who know me know what I think of those!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thanks Mom and Dad!

I guess it all depends on how you were raised and the mentality of the era in which you were brought up. I look at the people going "belly up" these days with the bad economy and my first thought is about how easy it would have been for them to avoid such travail if they employed some common sense. I wonder if common sense is even part of their vocabulary.

My parents were in their mid to late thirties when I was born and I used to lament the fact that they were older and a bit less vibrant than the parents of my friends. As time passed, I changed my mind as I realized they instilled some old fashioned values in me that have lasted a lifetime.

For example, I was taught never to let impulse take the place of good sense. I think of that these days when I see the foreclosures happening around me on homes in supposedly upscale north Scottsdale. Young families have gotten into unmanageable loans on homes and cars and are losing it all. When I was their age, I would never have considered the debt burden they have assumed. I was married five years before I thought of buying a home. When I did buy in the early 1970s, I had a payment of $220 per month on a 30 year loan. Before we signed up for that kind of debt, my wife and I put a lot of pencils to paper to be sure we could handle it. We also did something that seems unheard of these days: We SAVED our money to apply a nice down payment on our house.

Today, we are inundated by ads on TV and the newspaper to "Buy now, no money down, no interest payments until 2010!" Then there are the ads for the suckers who got overextended on credit cards to go to a service where they will "cut your credit card payment in half and get those pesky creditors off your back." Guess what? There will still be a payday on that stuff. The 70s may have been the "me generation" but today is the "I have to have it NOW generation" and many are paying the price for bad credit decisions on silly material items.

It doesn’t seem fair. I have always used common sense in my financial dealings but because others haven’t and lenders have been foolish, I now have to pay the price for their mistakes by having my investments drop in value. However, I do have an ace in the hole. My house, cars, and everything I own are long ago paid for. I will never be involved in a foreclosure and I thank my parents for teaching me the value of living within my means.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thieves are smarter than you are

Recently there have been a lot of thefts from parked cars in lots belonging to health clubs and in areas near soccer fields, parks and other recreation areas. This follows a rash of incidents within the locker rooms of the clubs.

Some thieves are stupid and do things like walk in front of security cameras during burglaries. Those crooks usually have short careers. Then, there are the guys who rob locker rooms. According to AARP Bulletin, they can do pretty well if they are careful and not too greedy. If they steal just one or two credit cards from someone’s locker, they can easily use the two hour window before the cards are noticed missing to buy a lot of goods such as electronics. Usually, after two hours have elapsed the person robbed notices the missing cards and has them canceled. By then, the damage is done.

Because of locker room theft, many people are now locking their valuables in the glove compartments within their cars in the parking lot. That is dumb. There must be a thieves newsletter or grapevine because most of them know already this is happening. Or, maybe they have figured out that since the lockers are empty of valuables, maybe they are in the victim’s cars. A skilled thief can easily bust into a car and get the goodies out of the glove box.

Recently in Denver, a theft ring was busted that had stolen credit cards from cars of 500 victims. They had purchased more than $400,000 worth of stuff with the cards. The Phoenix/Scottsdale area is not immune and some similar cases there have been reported.

What can you do? The obvious thing is to not leave valuables in your car. That’s elementary and it’s hard to believe anyone wouldn’t figure it out. If you get new credit cards write "ask for I.D."on the back instead of writing your signature. Also, why not leave credit cards and/or other valuables at home? Or, if possible, carry them with you to the activity.

Remember, successful crooks are smart in the stealing business. You aren’t, so try to use some common sense and don’t leave you valuables laying around for these guys to take.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The games kids played

Migrant kids playing marbles in Texas in 1942. There seems to be a lot of interest in the game. (Rothstein)

I wonder if any kids still play the games that kids played once upon a time. The kids I see these days have cell phones in their hands continuously checking for and sending messages. At the same time they are listening to music on their iPods. I have seen kids crossing the street 3 or 4 in a group and they all are doing this. I guess they are friends but do they ever actually speak to each other with all that equipment dominating their time?

The only messages kids of my generation got were when our parents told us we BETTER do this or that chore around the house before we think of doing anything else. It didn’t take a cell phone to get the point across. I wonder if kids even do chores at home anymore. They seem way too busy handling their calls and downloading more music into the iPod. Besides, if their parents give them too much of a hard time, they can always have their lawyer get in touch with the parents concerning child cruelty.

Maybe I’m being a bit unfair to the kids of today but they are definitely a different group. I don’t see many on the school grounds or the streets playing the games of the past. In fact, as we have discussed in this space before, "tag" is a game of the past since the dreaded PC crowd took over. I imagine the kids are in their homes playing TV games or "X Box," whatever that is.

Just talking about the kids’ games of the past whets my desire for a good game of house ball, hide and seek, marbles, mumbly-peg, jacks, running bases, jump rope, or maybe some kick the can. The girls seemed especially adept at hopscotch.

Those were all great games that required very little equipment or expense. Some of them, like jumping rope, were the reason for kids being so thin in those days. You jump your mom’s clothesline for a while and you will know what burning calories is all about. Not too many calories disappear sitting in front of the TV. (For those who don't know the term "clothesline," leave a comment and I will explain.)

Kids had a great time with those games and no electronics or computers were necessary. I have seen a photo of kids playing marbles in the middle of a dirt Scottsdale Road in 1910. Imagine: kids playing outside, getting healthy, and actually having fun doing it. And, those kids had names like Harold, George, and Henry. I wonder if the Zacharys, Sawyers, and Tiffanys of today have ever heard of those names.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

This week's McCain-Obama debate

I watched the McCain-Obama debate this week and once again was disappointed. It wasn’t because of the candidates because I think they would be capable of better interaction if there were better moderators and less time constraints. This time we had Tom Brokaw, late of the NBC Nightly News. Tom is 68 now and seems set in his ways as to how a debate should be run. He asked the usual questions that we have heard numerous times about the economy and foreign policy with something about health care thrown in. I was hoping for something about gun control or maybe gay marriage. Immigration is a white hot item especially in Arizona. How about that?

The whole thing seemed so scripted that they could have used actors to portray McCain and Obama. Brokaw was constantly checking his watch as the dreaded red, yellow, and green lights kept prompting the candidates to time their answers to fit the time frame. To make matters worse, at the end when the candidates met to shake hands, they were scolded by Brokaw to please move aside so he could read the TelePrompter!

Please don’t think that I am ganging up on Brokaw. I was a fan of his for many years and thought he usually did a good job at NBC. It’s just that he is not a good debate moderator when he lobs rhetorical questions at the candidates and checks his watch every minute. It’s not entirely his fault, he has a boss too. The same goes for Jim Lehrer of PBS. He’s a good newsman but does he really need to tell the candidates to "look at each other."?

I think the networks need to cut back on the stodginess of the debates and have a wide open time frame. If a good discussion gets under way, let the guys go at it. If it goes past the 6 to 8 time slot, fine. We will happily wait an extra hour for "Boston Legal" to watch a lively debate. After all, the networks delay programming to finish NFL games that go long.

Also, we need better moderators. Brokaw and Lehrer are too boring. If they weren’t dead, I would nominate Sam Kinison and George Carlin. Those guys would keep everyone awake! Since they are unavailable, how about Jon Stewart or David Letterman?

Of course I jest. But, wouldn’t it be fun to see the debates loosen up? Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen. It might delay the latest Taco Bell commercial.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Remembering Woolworth's

Knowing my interest in all things historical, reader Don sent to me a copy of a Woolworth’s lunch counter menu from the early 1950s. Many of you are now thinking, "Woolworth’s"? What is Woolworth’s?

From 1879 until 1997, Woolworth’s was as common as Wal-Mart is today. They were known as a "5 and dime" store as their products were of low cost. If you needed a thimble, a spool of thread, a cheap toy, penny candy, or a pair of socks, Woolworth’s was the place to buy those items along with thousands of others.

There was hardly a town in America that didn’t have a Woolworth’s store. Eventually as the chain grew, they started putting lunch counters in them. The counter within the store in Greensboro, North Carolina became famous on February 1,1960 when four Black students sat down in an attempt to desegregate the store. They failed but the incident became famous in the civil rights movement of the time.

There was a Woolworth’s in downtown Phoenix that became a popular place for workers in the area to eat lunch. That store also had Pima Indian women sitting on the sidewalk in front selling little beaded knick knacks.

By 1997, after some failures in the retail business like their discount Woolco stores, plus a decline in the 5 and dime business, Woolworth’s closed their doors. A lot of you who are of a certain age will remember those stores and the distinctive smell they had. I referred to it as "that dime store smell." I also remember most of the stores having creaking wooden floors.

Enlarge the above menu and check the prices. Don’t you wish you could eat out that cheap today?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Cycles and re-cycles

A 1952 audience is watching a 3D movie of the day in this photo from Life Magazine.

Somebody once said "There is nothing new under the sun." That may not be entirely true but in many ways it is. Take a look through history and you will see that many styles, occurrences, and trends are repeated through the years. Not many items are "one and out" anymore, it seems to be about cycles.. Even the horse and buggy may make an encore performance in light of the current energy problems.

I saw an ad on television the other night for the latest Hollywood mind numbing violence movie and one of the features of that production is that it will be in 3D. They were touting 3D as some magical special effect. The producers must be too young to remember the 3D movies of the early ‘50s like "House of Wax" and "Bwana Devil." If you are old enough I’m sure you remember the special glasses we had to wear to get the 3D effect. By the way, that fad didn’t last, those glasses were a pain. Good luck with the new version, guys.

The late ‘60s and early ‘70s saw the emergence of bell bottom trousers. They quickly went the way of Woodstock but they sure made a comeback in recent years. I guess the designer figured that enough years had passed to regurgitate an old style to a new generation born after 1970. I think it is brilliant, just file the style and do it again a few years later. It saves a lot of time when one doesn’t have to be innovative.

How about wide and narrow men’s ties? Women’s hemlines? Sideburns? Long hair? Short hair? Mustaches? One I haven’t seen make it through the cycle is the ladies’ "Marcel" wave hairdo of the 1920s but fear not, I probably just gave someone an idea.

One of the most expensive and wasteful items to go through a cycle is the old fashioned streetcar technology of the 19th century which evolved into gasoline and diesel buses and is now making a return as "light rail." Light rail is a waste of money that will cost the taxpayers of cities like Phoenix millions in subsidies but just try and tell that to the geniuses who decided to install it.

We all know only too well about the cycles in the economy. Then there are the remakes of popular songs from years ago that become popular all over again through the cover version. The same with movie remakes. If it worked 20 years ago, surely it will work again, or will it? The guys who tried to remake "Psycho" found out the hard way that remakes aren’t a guarantee of success. Ann Heche is no Janet Leigh.

Maybe there is nothing new under the sun after all.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Stoneman Military Road in Arizona

The remains of the Stoneman road run from lower right to upper left in photo.

The Stoneman Military Road is an important part of Arizona history. I’ve done a blog and column in the Scottsdale Republic about the road within the last year, so you may have at least some remembrance of this important lifeline that ran between Fort McDowell near Fountain Hills and Fort Whipple in Prescott during the era of 1870 until 1890.

In the Carefree, Cave Creek, and north Scottsdale area, there are still a few traces of the old, long ago abandoned trail that at one time was a vital supply line. Between Windmill Road and Stagecoach Pass, you can walk the ruts of the old road over to Cave Creek Road. That’s fascinating to me since I love the history of this area.

I bring this up because recently the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak helped the residents of the area derail a California developer who wanted to re-zone a 20 acre area at Windmill Road and Stagecoach Pass. The land was designated for four 5 acre lots which the developer wanted to change to 13 lots. After his plans were refused, he decide to stay with the original zoning of one home per 5 acres.

Because of COPP and local residents, this area will retain the rural lifestyle that is preferred. Also, the area where the Stoneman Military Road once ran in the 19th century, will be less disturbed and another out of state developer who tried to come to town and make a quick buck, will be rebuffed.

COPP reiterates that if you live in Scottsdale, you have your choice of a variety of lifestyles. There are golf communities, urban living downtown, areas with great views, and large horse properties. Saving the few 5 acre zoned areas is important to the northern area of town. And, for me, saving any trace of the Stoneman Road is vital to the remembrance of that important 19th century route to Prescott.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The day I met Paul Newman

Paul Newman died yesterday of cancer at age 83.

We all know Paul Newman from his many great roles in pictures like "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956) which was his breakthrough role playing boxer Rocky Graziano, and "Cool Hand Luke" (1967) where he plays a loser convict who can’t quite escape from a southern prison.

His other credits are numerous and well known. They are much more famous than the picture Paul made in 1989 in Kansas City with his wife Joanne Woodward. He was in his mid 60s by then and the juicy "sensitive young man" roles that he was so good at were long gone. He and Joanne were in Kansas City to make "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," the story of a couple in K. C. during the 1930s and 1940s and the changes in their lives that meet them during that period.

I read in the Kansas City Star one morning that the crew of the movie would be filming some scenes at a house in the wealthy Loose Park section of town. Being a movie guy, I thought I would go to that area and see what was going on. Maybe I could catch a glimpse of some of the stars.

When I arrived, there were trucks and old cars on the street to impersonate the era of the film and I could hear dialogue coming from within the house. I thought, "Drat the luck, they aren’t filming outside today." After about thirty minutes, my luck changed as Paul Newman himself walked outside dressed in full1940s clothing from his previous scene. There were many of us groupies standing by the curb on the street and Paul walked right up to us. In fact, he stopped in front of me! All I could think of was, "Damn! It’s Paul Newman and he is only about 5-8!" I felt I had to say something so I uttered, "How’s it going, Paul?" He answered, "O.K, how about you?" Nervously, I replied something like "Fine." So, there you have it, my brush with a famous movie star.

Newman had a long career making some great films with a few clunkers along the way. "Mr. And Mrs. Bridge" was released in 1990 and was not a huge financial success, but, I thought it was an interesting little film. It showed the versatility of a guy like Paul Newman who was able to adjust to his age and pull off a good performance.

I still laugh when I think of the hard boiled egg scene in "Cool hand Luke" and the way he swindled Robert Shaw in "The Sting."

I’ll miss Paul Newman.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What's in a name? Plenty!

Johnny Cash sang a classic song to the prisoners in San Quentin many years ago. It was called "A Boy Named Sue." The final line was: "And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!"

I can see his point. What young man would want to be named "Sue"? After reading Susy Lambert’s column this week about crazy names given to kids, "Sue" doesn’t sound too bad.

A court in New Zealand recently made a 9 year old girl a ward of the court so her name could be legally changed. Her idiot parents had originally named her "Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii." The judge explained that "The court is profoundly concerned about the very poor judgment which the child's parents have shown in choosing this name. It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap."

I don’t know why it took 9 years to make the change but I agree with the judge. The parents must have been smoking something when they came up with a handle like that. Although it is their kid, I think this is an example where clearer heads needed to step in and administer some common sense.

Here are some other names thrown out by New Zealand officials: Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Keenan Got Lucy, and Sex Fruit. I feel sorry for the kids, their parents obviously have mental problems.

This silliness is not restricted to New Zealand. We have plenty of crazy names in this country too. Most of them come from the entertainment crowd. Many years ago, rocker Frank Zappa named his daughter "Moon Unit" and his son "Dweezil." More recently we have rapper T. I. and his kid "Messiah Ya’majesty." U2 singer Bono named his son "Elijah Bob Patricius Guggi Q" and then there is cute little "Audio Science" from actress Shannyn Sossaman, whoever she is.

What are these people thinking? Whatever happened to Bill, Bob, Mary, and Jane? How about Jason, Jared, Emily, and Sarah if you want to update it a bit. I think I would even settle for Heckel and Jeckel at this point! Kids deserve better than having their parents hand out idiotic names that will hamper them through life.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm still a newspaper guy

Who buys daily newspapers these days? A check of circulation of the major papers in the U.S. shows that most are down by anywhere from 4% to 10% with the Rocky Mountain News in Denver having a whopping 14% decrease in their Sunday edition sales. About the only paper to show an increase is USA Today which is basically a hard copy internet news piece.

Maybe that is why USA Today does so well: it copies the internet which is the medium that many have gone to for news, especially younger people. Most of the younger crowd I know have rarely ever read a newspaper. They claim they can browse all the news in the world right from their desktop and it is more current and less messy than a hard copy, ink smeared, newspaper. They say that a hard copy paper is "just a vehicle for ads, cartoons and sports scores anyway... They aren't ‘news-papers’."

Another factor in the decline of the newspaper is the cost. I received my bill from The Arizona Republic this week and it reflects another price increase. It now will cost me $37.10 for eight weeks to have the paper delivered to my door. For that amount I get to read news that happened the day before, a comic page that has deteriorated badly, and I am purchasing a product responsible for the destruction of millions of trees. However, I get to enjoy watching my efficient shopper wife gleefully cut out coupons that will more than pay for the cost of the paper, I have a great bird cage liner, and when I need some packing material my newspaper will always be there for me.

I admit that I check out the internet daily. It is a nice complement but, for me, it will never replace the newspaper. Maybe it is tradition since I grew up in the era of dependence on newspapers. Maybe I yearn for the sound of the corner newsboy shouting the latest headlines as cars pulled up to give him a nickel for his wares. Maybe it’s the remembrance of kids getting their first taste of work by delivering newspapers. Maybe its because I bought my first car from a classified ad in the newspaper. Or, maybe it’s because I cannot enjoy my morning coffee with out the newspaper as a companion.

Newspapers may have become to news what the Morse code became to modern communication but as long as there is a newspaper available, I will be a subscriber.

Oops! I have to go. I just heard my paper hit the driveway. I wonder what today’s headlines are!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

50 Reasons to love being 50+

When I turned 50 I still considered myself a young guy. Having been a distance runner for about 14 years at that time, I was still in great shape, had all my hair, very little of which was gray, and felt that the last thing I needed was to be a card carrying member of AARP.

However, I joined AARP and started receiving their regular publications, many of which have some interesting information. In the September-October edition there is a good article about "50 reasons to love being 50+." My first thought when seeing this was "50 reasons? This I have to see."

Here are a few of AARP’s 50 reasons about how great it is to be 50+:

#14: Because if Keith Richards can make it into his 60s there is hope for all of us. Here are a few episodes from Keith’s life: 1965: Knocked out by electric shock on stage after whacking microphone with guitar. 1974: Falls asleep in mid-sentence during live TV interview. 1980: Declares in interview, "I’ve been drunk for 27 years." 2006: Falls out of coconut tree in Fiji. 2008: Gives key to his longevity: "I’m doomed to live." Go, Keith, go!

#46: Because you grew up in era before video games: When we were kids, we played outside. Our bodies were hard breathing, little rainbows of energy and earth. We had sword fights and threw mud balls and loved every moment. Today’s kids are micromanaged and remote controlled and pale from spending most of their time indoors with electronic games and computers. THEN: Climbing trees, stickball, summer camp. NOW: Allergy tests, Xbox, fat camp.

#20: Because you experienced The Beatles: 1964 was a great year. It was the year of the British Invasion with The Beatles leading the way. Gone was the previous boring pop music, The Beatles started a movement in music that exists through today. There have been great concerts since but those groups owe it all to the original Fab Four.

#40: Because high school reunions don’t suck as much: No more one-upmanship or jealousies like during previous reunions. You can now enjoy those fleeting moments with your youth, but, in case you still can’t handle it, there will probably be an old classmate there who became a psychiatrist and will be glad to give you his card.

There is no sense in crying over spilled milk if you are over 50. You lived through some great times. I have listed four of them. AARP lists 46 more on their website. ( Here is my own number 51: We get to live in Arizona.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Best Workers: Young or Old?

In the not too distant past, a person could go to work for a national company fresh out of college at age 21 or 22. They could work until 65, get the gold watch, retire, and go fishing. Times have changed. With companies merging, going out of business, or jobs being shipped overseas, it is not uncommon to see people out on the street at age 50+ wondering what to do next. Most of them have bills and need jobs but now they find that at age 50+ they are competing with the same 21 or 22 year olds they once were.

If you are an employer, this situation presents some decision making. Do you hire the older experienced worker or the young kid right out of college? Age discrimination is illegal but some companies fear the older worker because they are afraid they may lack the energy they demand in the job, will not work enough years before they retire and a new hire will be necessary, or, because of their experience, may demand more money.

On the other hand, younger workers are inexperienced and many times immature, have no track record, and can tend to have a "know it all" attitude. However, they usually will work for less money even though we know that you usually get what you pay for.

I know some of you like Desert Ghost own your own companies while some probably have thoughts on which group is the most desirable to employ. Here are a few opinions from others:

"Older workers don’t like to start anything new because they plan to retire at 62. Young people think 6 months to a year at an employer is plenty. Loyalty? Forget about it. They don’t believe in making a difference long-term, and they’re out the door at 5PM sharp … if not m-u-c-h earlier."

"Everything depends on the individual … there are good people and slackers at every age range."

"The over 50 crowd has been over the falls too many times in a barrel, and they aren’t that willing to bang the cult drum like the young folk."

"Give me the energy of the younger pros plus the experience and value system of the older ones and I’ve got a dream team."

What is your opinion? Who would be the best hire for you?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Palin Rocks Lebanon, Ohio

Sarah Palin is huge in Lebanon, Ohio, a small town in the Cincinnati area. She visited there on a recent rainy day and drew a large crowd of mostly women in rain ponchos according to Peter Bronson of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "SARAH, SARAH, SARAH," 7,000 of them chanted, waving signs that said "Read My Lipstick - Drill Now," and "Working Mom 4 Palin."(Best T-shirt: "Small-town Gun-toting Christian for McCain." That was a woman, too.)

Bronson says "the speeches were cut-and-paste leftovers." But, only the press seemed bored. When Palin said, "This is what America is all about - small-town America," the noise could be heard five blocks away.

Meanwhile, Obama refers to the McCain platform as "putting lipstick on a pig" while Biden says Palin is "a backward step for women." Those may not be the smartest comments in the world if the old adage of "every knock is a boost" means anything. It sounds like a bit of sour grapes as the polls are starting to swing in the direction of McPalin.

Rachel Hutzel, Warren County, Ohio prosecutor and mom, looks at Palin and sees her own career reflected. "A mother, a politician, a conservative - it's tremendous," Hutzel said. "I have had so many young mothers call and express their enthusiasm. I think the Democrats kind of think they have a lock on women in politics."

It looks like the Palin steamroller is having some success, especially among women voters. But, election day is fifty-two days away. Is she real or a novelty? It’s easy to make a lot of general statements initially after being added to the McCain ticket, but is there some substance behind them? For the momentum to continue, Palin will have to do more than just show up as a woman. She will have to come up with some concrete platform planks.

I like her. I think she is a breath of fresh air in a business usually associated with smoke filled rooms. McCain was McCain, until Sarah entered the scene. Like most Americans, she comes across as a real person: one who doesn’t carry a glossy Harvard degree and who may slip a double negative into a sentence occasionally.

One reader told me that she may be "Mrs. Smith goes to Washington." As I compare both campaigns at the present time, that doesn’t sound so bad.

Defending Sun City

Andrew Blechman is the author of a book titled Leisureville. In his book he is casting a critical eye at retirement communities like Sun City which he feels are eroding community values in the U. S. He doesn’t believe that senior citizens should live in an area of relaxation, play a lot of golf, enjoy a senior center, and generally drop out from the "rat race" world of the younger generations. He calls it "living in a world of exclusion."

Blechman thinks that seniors should embrace their younger neighbors outside of Sun City and not live in the world of age segregation. In other words, they should allow younger families to move into Sun City. He states that residents don’t like kids and schools but fails to mention they are paying Maricopa County property taxes, of which about 50% goes to schools. According to Blechman, places like Sun City represent "an acknowledgment of societal failure."

Andrew Blechman lives in Massachusetts, and from his photo, I would guess that he is 35 to 40 years old. I’m sure he worked hard researching his book, but, how can he be an authority on Sun City or its residents from his Eastern vantage point and looking through the eyes of one his age? I compare his opinion to that of a 16 year old girl who is convinced that her current boyfriend is the one she wants to marry NOW. In a few years she will laugh at such a notion as being the silly thought it was. The same applies to Blechman. He is viewing Sun City through the naive eyes of his youth. He has no way of knowing the feelings of its citizens and he has no idea what it is like to be 70 years old.

Blechman takes himself too seriously. Many Sun City residents work part time and are big into volunteering. Many also leave in the summer and plenty of Boomers who are now retiring say they are not going to quit working at all. This is not the selfish utopia that Blechman thinks it is. The residents simply want to live out their golden years in peace and quiet in a sane community devoid of children and crime. Besides, do younger families really WANT to live with the golden-agers next door? I don’t think so.

Although age wise I could live in Sun City, I prefer not to. However, I defend the rights of those who enjoy that lifestyle. Even Blechman admits that Sun City is "a powerful vision that has proved to be very appealing to a sizable segment of aging Americans."

That’s good enough for me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's not a man's world anymore

When my wife and I decided in 1989 to move permanently to Scottsdale, it was a moment of joy combined with some apprehension. The joy was in knowing that I was finished with Mid-west winters; the apprehension was that it meant decorating a new house. If you are a guy, you know what I mean. We have our ideas of what a house should look like but so do our wives.

I subscribe to the code of Rick and Bubba which states that one’s wife will always respect his opinion on home decorating as long as it agrees with hers. Oh, sure, we go through the motions of selecting paint and upholstery samples, but it is an academic procedure. We are going to do what she wants although we will be told that "your opinion really matters."

For example, if our opinions mattered, wouldn’t we have a refrigerator full of beer next to the recliner? Also, what is the point of china cabinets? They cost about $2,000 and hold a lot of expensive dishes that no one uses. They are totally unnecessary and can be replaced by paper plates which cost about $2 and never have to be dusted or washed.

Another thing women waste money on is furniture. With men, a piece of furniture is for life. We don’t understand how furniture that our wives "couldn’t live without" in 1994 is suddenly ready for the Goodwill truck only 14 years later.

Another unnecessary item is curtains. What is the point? You just paid a bunch of extra money for a mountain view and you’re going to cover it with curtains? Dining rooms are also unnecessary. Who eats in the dining room when you can eat on TV trays in the living room, sit in your recliner next to the beer box, and watch all the sports you want on your large high definition TV? Don’t the women know the Diamondbacks are in the heat of a hot pennant race and the NFL games are just around the corner?

I know it is difficult, guys, but we must continue to try to educate our wives on what real living is all about and the importance of following the codes of Rick and Bubba. In the meantime, I have to get into the living room. My wife has a new show on the Home and Garden Network that she wants me to see. She says she wants my opinion on some decorating ideas. ARRRRGGGGHHHH!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Slang expressions that evolve through the years are always interesting. A few have succeeded in standing the test of time. One of my favorites is "cool." I remember that one as a kid in the 1950s and I still hear it said by younger people today. "Cool" has always been around but didn’t take its current meaning until sometime in the 1940s when it was picked up by jazz musicians to define their music as in "It’s really cool, man."

"Groovy" came around later but has pretty much disappeared now. Remember the hit song from Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders in 1966 called "Groovy Kind of Love."? It’s history, man, and you are not cool if you use groovy now. The same goes for "far out."

Remember "beatniks" in the 1950s? They were "bohemians" in the 1920s and became "hippies" in the 1960s. They have retained that nomenclature through the present day.

The 70s had some good slang like "gross" for something not pleasant (used mainly by young females), "out of it" meant you were not cool and could possibly be "square," a 50s term for "dorky." A person who came on strong was "too much" and someone who was not too sharp mentally was "lame."

The 1950s probably had the best slang of any decade. If something was unusual it was "unreal." Clothes were "threads" and a well build female was "stacked." If you had a good time, you had a "blast." However, you would need "bread" which was the word for money. A "cat" was a "hip" person ("hip" is another slang word that has survived the test of time and is also synonymous with "cool").

If you were angry, you were "frosted," if you called the "heat," you were calling the police. To "dig"was to understand, to "split" was to leave, and you were no fun if you were a "party pooper." If you were happy you were on "cloud 9." If you were upset, someone must have "rattled your cage."

In summation, I now have to "cut out" (leave). I hope you enjoyed these older slang terms. If you did, I’ll feel like I have it "made in the shade" (guaranteed success). One caution, though: You may want to leave these terms at home if you intend to get lucky on a Friday night with the beautiful people of downtown Scottsdale. You may get some odd looks otherwise.

Monday, September 08, 2008


Are there movies that you never get tired of watching? I know of several that belong in that category. Most of you know that my favorite era for movies is 1930-1950, the true golden age of Hollywood. In that 20 year period there were movies covering the Depression, wonderful musicals, screwball comedy, film noir, World War II, and the postwar era.

Some of my favorites from then include Since You Went Away (1944) which deals with life on the home front during World War II, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) which is about the lives of three servicemen returning home after World War II, and High Sierra (1941), a film noir favorite that was Humphrey Bogart’s last role where he didn’t receive top billing.

Later faves include The African Queen(1951) starring Bogart in an Oscar winning role with Katharine Hepburn and Teacher’s Pet (1958) starring Clark Gable, in one of his last roles, with Doris Day. Charley Varrick from 1973 with Walter Matthau is a nice little crime caper, Tootsie (1982) with Dustin Hoffman is still one of the funniest movies I have seen and the Coen Brothers outdid themselves in 2000 with O Brother, Where Art Thou starring George Clooney.

One of my favorite scenes in a movie is the restaurant sequence with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple (1968). It’s the one where Lemmon goes through all sorts of gyrations and noises complaining about how the air conditioning is bothering his ears and sinuses.

There are a lot of great movies in most eras and, as good as they are, we tend to get tired of some. I used to love It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) but eventually tired of it. The same holds true for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). It’s a great movie but enough is enough.

Now that you know some of my favorites, let me know yours. Remember, your selections have to be movies that you feel you never get tired of. I’m sure you have some good ones too.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Scottsdale Fashion Square Clerks Bare It

Remember Meredith Willson’s smash Broadway and Hollywood hit The Music Man? In that show, con man Professor Harold Hill warns the good folks of River City, Iowa of the dangers of a pool table being allowed in the town: "There’s trouble in River City, with a capital T that rhymes with P and it stands for pool!"

That pool table must seem minor compared to the shock some customers received this week at Fashion Square in Scottsdale. From noon until one on Wednesday, the four young female clerks at Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics waited on customers naked except for an apron which covered their fronts but exposed their bare backs. Their reasoning for this eye popping exhibition was to promote the store’s environment friendly products as reported by Republic columnist Nathan Gonzalez.

Clerk Laura Fielding explained that "66% of the products in our store are unpackaged....or naked." Because of this, customers can save the packaging cost and help the environment by saving some of the 79.6 tons of packaging that is thrown away yearly. Interesting, huh? I know what you are thinking if you are a guy: What about the naked girls? Well, they figure that the best way to get the idea of non-packaged cosmetics across to customers is to present them while naked. Clerk Shawna Thompson says "Sex is definitely going to bring people in."

Some female customers weren’t in agreement with that and a couple of elderly ladies seemed in a state of shock. At this time there are no reports of any men complaining about beautiful 20 year old naked clerks.

I think they have a great thing going there. Imagine: One of Lush’s 2 ounce shampoo bars lasts as long as three 8 ounce bottles of shampoo. That’s astounding but I think I need to go to the store tomorrow at noon to see Ms. Fielding for a demonstration of the (ahem!) product.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Overt Texters Lack Common Sense

You have heard me complain about the self important cell phone and Bluetooth users before, but, I haven’t made much mention of the texters of the world.

The text messaging fools are probably the most irritating of all. You have seen them weaving down the road as they furiously punch in their messages to whoever. I feel sorry for anyone in the bike lane on Pima Road, or anywhere else in Scottsdale, when these guys come charging up their backside as they make that "must message" that simply can’t wait.

Recently Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to Barack Obama, fell off a curb in Chicago and twisted her ankle according to the AP. She fell because her thumbs were flying over the keys of her Blackberry and she was not looking where she was going. She admits she was not paying attention and promises to be more careful in the future. That’s baloney, she isn’t going to change, those people never do. They are caught up in the world of multi-tasking and aren’t about to change.

The American College of Emergency Physicians warns of the dangers of more serious accidents that may be caused by texters. Remember, these are people who don’t care about watching the road while they drive which brings up all kinds of possible accidents involving them with pedestrians, bicycles, in-line skaters, and other motorists. This doesn’t include injuries that these fools may incur while walking into lampposts or walls or tripping over curbs like Ms Jarrett did. Two people have already been killed in California this year when they stepped in front of vehicles while texting.

Is it worth it? I guess they think so as these incidences keep occurring. Most texters admit they are taking chances but will continue to text while walking or driving "because it saves time." One guy says that "There are a lot of things you shouldn’t do. This is another one on my list." So much for common sense.

Of course, just because one is being rude and ill mannered doesn’t enter the equation. Since when do manners matter in our current society? Ask any woman who is pushed aside by a man entering an elevator.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

DUI Ads Make Good Point

Have you seen the new ads from the Department of Transportation relating to DUI? They are over the top and hilarious. One shows a guy being stopped by a cop and when he rolls his window down, beer pours out like water through Hoover Dam. The cop says, "Sir, have you been drinking tonight?" Check it out:

Funny stuff, but it re-enforces the dangers of drinking and driving. It’s hard to believe that at one time, drunk driving and drunks were considered funny. I remember a cartoon where a guy is stopped by a cop for drunk driving and he says, "I had to drive, I couldn’t walk." Then there was the character actor in movies of the 1930s who made a career out of playing "funny" drunks. I’m sure many of you also know Foster Brooks who made a career out of playing drunks. Ironically, Brooks did not drink in real life.

The debate over the drinking age being 18 or 21 continues to rage but what difference does it make? I have seen 18 year olds who are more mature than 25 year olds when it comes to drinking, especially in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. When I was 18 in Ohio, the state allowed those between 18 and 21 to drink 3.2% beer while you had to be 21 to drink 6% beer or whiskey. That worked pretty well as beer is primarily what the 18 year olds wanted anyway.

What about those who serve in the armed services? With the national drinking age now being 21, should those in the military under that age be exempt? I think so. If you are old enough to fight for your country you certainly should be allowed to have a beer.

There will always be a problem with enforcement of drinking laws. College kids under 21 are going to have "keggers." They have their ways of getting the stuff and couldn’t care less about the drinking laws. This applies to adults also. From 1919 until 1933 the U.S. had "Prohibition" which meant that it was illegal for ANYBODY to drink. That amendment was one of the biggest failures of all time as people probably drank more during that era. Have you ever wondered why they were called "The Roaring Twenties"?

People like to drink and are going to do it regardless of Sunday or age prohibitions. We can only hope that most do it responsibly. TV spots like those from the DOT are funny and meaningful. We can only hope they are effective.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Rich Speeders Get Slap On Wrist in AZ

I think it was Ray Charles who once lamented in a song, "Them that got, get." That is well illustrated in a recent law passed by the Arizona Legislature just before they took their break a few weeks ago.

Under the new law, if you are wealthy, you can speed all you want on the state’s highways with no fear of losing your driver’s license or insurance coverage. All you have to do is pay the fine of about $180 when you are caught by one of 100 speed cameras to be erected through a private company, and you are free to hop in your car and do it all over again. If you are poor, the same rule applies but how many average citizens can afford those multiple $180 fines?

In an E. J. Montini column from The Arizona Republic in July, Nicole Mahrt of the American Insurance Association states that "It’s like your politicians have turned highways into toll roads." That is basically what is happening. When a speeder is caught, he/she pays the fine but the ticket does not become part of their permanent record and the information is not made available to their insurance company. They can speed all they want, pay those $180 fines, and be on their way with no penalty. Hey, Governor Napolitano has to work on that deficit somehow, right?

Nicole Mahrt adds that "Insurance is about assessing risk and you need information to do that. This law encourages people to speed and their behavior is not being punished because their insurance company doesn’t hear about it." She is correct, of course, but since when do politicians pass up the chance to pull in another $90 million a year in revenue?

How is this for logic: One lawmaker justified the law by saying that if the speeder knows the ticket will not go on his record, he is more likely to pay the fine. Excuse me? What happened to arresting him for not paying the fine? The law is a joke and they know it.

I’m sure you will feel a lot better now knowing that when that gas sucking Escalade roars around your ‘92 Datsun, he will basically not be punished for speeding other than a fine he can pay out of his pocket change. That’s not too bad. As Montini reported, I feel sorry for the family who has a loved one killed by a speeder who goes unpunished.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bush should imitate Truman in 1948

Peter Bronson writes of an incident during the 1948 presidential race that had a profound effect on the outcome which was a stunning upset by President Truman over Thomas Dewey.
The polls loved Dewey as Truman’s approval rating was in the range of President Bush, very low. The Democrats were in the same unenviable position that the Republicans face today: certain defeat.
Little did the powerful Republicans know, President Harry had a trump card up his sleeve.
During his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, he called Congress back into session to "finish the people’s business." The Republicans had already taken their summer break but before they left town, they had obstructed several of Truman’s policies on items like civil rights, health care, and Social Security. At the Republican Convention, however, some of Truman’s polices suddenly appeared in their platform.

On June 26, 1948, the so called "do nothing Congress" was ordered back in session by Truman proclaiming "they can do this job in 15 days if they want to do it." Congress refused to return.
In 2008, we see a similar situation. President Bush has a low approval rating and the rating of Congress is even lower. Before recess this year, Bush asked them to vote on his proposal for offshore oil drilling. As Republican House leader Robert Taft did 60 years ago, Nancy Pelosi refused. Suddenly, with about a week to go before the Democratic Convention, Pelosi and Obama are adding offshore drilling to their policy. If that is so, Bush should make them vote on it now. If they refuse, Bush still wins and can relate to the "do nothing Congress" of 1948.
When Pelosi and Harry Reid shut down Congress last month, their approval rating was 9% and dropping. Regardless, many in the media are now ready to print the "Obama Defeats McCain" headlines. Not so fast, fellas. The polls show BO with a lead of 2% to 5% with a long way to go and something like this over oil may give McCain that extra boost to pull off the same type of upset that Truman accomplished in 1948. In politics, one never knows.

Every senior guy's dream

There have been some wonderful inventions within the last century.

In 1926 Robert Goddard invented the liquid fueled rocket. Without it, we probably wouldn’t have discovered water on Mars recently. I know you are thrilled about that.

In 1927, Philip Farnsworth invented the electronic television system. Technicolor for movies was also introduced that year as was the first talking motion picture, The Jazz Singer.

By 1938, items like automatic transmissions for cars became available as did the ballpoint pen, Teflon, and freeze dried coffee.

I know you are impressed by these accomplishments and there are more things invented after that time that are even more amazing. However, while watching a sporting event on television recently, I saw advertised the most amazing and useful invention probably in the history of mankind: Gentlemen, welcome to the world of the Cialis daily dosage pill.

We all remember when Viagara was introduced to help the guys out in times of stress with their ladies. The jokes were everywhere about Sun City, AZ being renamed Viagara Falls, etc. Funny stuff and Viagara was a nice help for many guys. However, it didn’t last very long and took a while after dosage to take effect. What self respecting stud could put up with that?

Fear no more, there is now the Cialis daily dosage pill that keeps the guys at full power all the time. No timing involved anymore, guys, you are always ready for action. I can see it now: The dry cleaners in Sun City and elsewhere are receiving hundreds of maroon and lime green leisure suits to be pressed for party time. The stores are running out of white shoe polish and the bars have been asked to extend happy hour by thirty minutes to 7:30. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby records are flying out of the stores and there has been a run on used Buicks with Dynaflow. Run for the hills, ladies!

In 1969 we put a man on the moon. So what! We now have daily dosage Cialis.