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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Routine items becoming extinct

Who remembers the first video played on MTV? The date was August 1, 1981 and the song was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by a British group called The Buggles. It was appropriate as MTV spelled the beginning of the end for pop Top 40 radio as we knew it. In Phoenix, stations like KRIZ and KRUX battled it out for supremacy in the AM pop music market during the 60's and 70's, but by 1978 with the influx of FM rock and the dawn of videos, those stations disappeared.

While MTV was largely responsible for the demise of Top 40 radio, it is not the only invention that has made an impact on the passing parade. Many of the items we took for granted a few years ago are now disappearing as new, and usually better, items appear to take their place. A friend in New Hampshire recently sent me a list of items that will probably be extinct in America within the next few years. Here are a few:

LAND LINE PHONES...Here are the stats: At the end of 2007, one in six homes was cell only. In the homes that had land lines, one in eight received calls only on their cells.

NETWORK NEWS ON TV...In 1984 the three major networks had an audience of 41 million for the evening news. It is now half that.

DRIVE-IN MOVIES...In their peak year of 1958 there were 4,000 drive-ins in the U.S. In 2007, it was down to 405, with at least one being in Tempe on McClintock..

HAND WRITTEN LETTERS...With 183 billion emails sent daily and 3.3 billion people owning cell phones worldwide, where is there room for a polite, elegant, hand written letter? Unless you have a sweet grandmother, forget about it.

VCR’s...They are REALLY extinct having been replaced by DVD’s, then DVR’s. Don’t even ask me what a Blue Ray is, it sounds like something from a 1950's sci-fi movie by Ed Wood.

CLASSIFIED ADS IN THE NEWSPAPER...With Google Base, Craigslist, and ebay, do we need classifieds in the paper? As a double whammy, will we need the paper? We’ve discussed the future of newspapers recently in this space. (See blogs of 1-26-09 and 12-02-08).

CAMERAS THAT USE FILM...Even I have a digital camera. I know one person who still uses film.

There are some other items that are also becoming extinct like personal checks, answering machines, dial-up internet, and movie rental stores, but I think the above list gets the point across. To those of us of a certain age, we understand that progress is inevitable and most of us are happy to take advantage of it. I still hate cell phones because of what they have done to people in the form of rudeness and the danger with their use behind the wheel. However, If I was still out peddling and working a territory, I would be using one as much as anyone. I would be a bit more discreet with mine than some of the ill mannered people I have seen, though.


Saturday, January 24, 2009



Obama’s followers think he can walk on water and I have no proof that he can’t since I have never seen him give it a shot (ice doesn’t count as "water"), but I doubt if he can. One thing I KNOW he can’t do is bowl. You may say, "What?" Bowling is America, it is apple pie, Blue Ribbon beer, and Chevrolets. Who hasn’t got the gang together sometime in their life and thrown a few lines at the local bowling center?

I’m not saying that everyone is or was a great bowler but even if a guy took his high school sweetheart, who never bowled a game in her life, on a bowling date, she could usually shoot a 75 or 80. In bowling, 300 is a perfect game so 75 or 80 is pretty bad which brings me to the subject of Mr. Obama’s prowess on the bowling lanes.

Last year Obama and his Gucci suited entourage rolled into Altoona, Pennsylvania seeking some important blue collar votes. Since bowling is a big deal in that area, Barack decided to show what a regular guy he was by bowling a game at the local bowling establishment. So, off came the suit coat and with his tie flapping against his white shirt, our future president proceeded to bowl a rousing score of 37 (Check out this one minute YouTube). That means that with ten pins on the lane per frame and ten frames per game, he averaged 3.7 pins per frame. You are allowed two throws per frame so that tells you something about his ability.

Okay, so he is not a bowler, but 37 is still really bad. The late night TV guys had a good time with this. Jimmy Kimmel said that "I bowled a 37 when I was a baby. And, I was drunk, by the way." Conan O’Brien joked that afterwards, Obama said, "That’s it, no more white guy sports for me."

Fast forward to 2009. Barack Obama is now the President of the United States and with the busy schedule he has had since the bowling fiasco, I’m sure he hasn’t had a chance to polish his bowling skills. Originally, there was even a rumor that he was going to remove the bowling lane that President Truman had installed in the White House in 1947. However, the 67 million bowlers in the country are now rejoicing as the President announced in a recent Barbara Walters interview that he will keep the bowling lane in an effort to improve his game.

Who said this guy isn’t a diplomat?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The cycles of history

There were wars and revolutions overseas and terrorist attacks in New York and on Wall Street. The country was in recession and the outgoing president was increasingly unpopular. Unlikely dark horse candidates were chosen by the Democrats and the Republicans to run for president.

One publication suggested party platforms containing four planks. Those planks were: America, Law, Order, Work. Taken together, those spelled no more than common sense. Taken together they would automatically end hysteria. They also would automatically dispose of the question of which shall occupy the grave...Europeanism or Americanism. They were disposed to assign the role of the deceased to the former. It was time to bury anarchy in America and open up a new country to actual law, actual order, and actual work.

Pray observe, there is no labor plank in that platform. There was a better word. It meant much that "labor" does not mean today. It was a short word, but one of the biggest and best in our language: Work!

Wall Street was in a chronic state of being reviled, and more or less rightly so, for its part in absorbing credit. It was a place where, among other activities, men had formed a habit of buying more stocks than they could afford to pay for out of their own resources. These purchasers borrowed money from their brokers to make payment, and in turn the brokers borrowed from such banks as would lend to them.

Does the above piece sound familiar? We know about terrorist attacks in New York, not just on 9-11 but the attack on the twin towers in 1993. We still have Iraq and Afghanistan overseas. We know about recession and a departing unpopular president and I would consider Obama and McCain as dark horse candidates.

Many want a strong America and have no interest in global poverty taxes to fix up the rest of the world that hates us anyway. Law, Order, and Work are still strong points for many regardless of the push for more welfare plans and looking the other way on illegal immigration..

Wall Street is a mess and the credit situation is out of control. Unemployment and foreclosures are increasing every day.

By the way, the above italicized comments were printed on the Opinion page of The Saturday Evening Post on February 14, 1920. Who says history doesn’t repeat itself?

NOTE TO READERS: I also write for azcentral in Arizona. Some of the blogs are duplicates of what you read here but contain many comments from local readers. To check it out click "Jim's azcentral Blog" under links on the sidebar. Thanks, JM

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Put 'em in debtor's prison

What a world this has become. People used to accept responsibility for their actions. Now, we constantly hear "It’s not my fault."

Once upon a time, no one would consider buying anything for other than cash. Occasionally you would meet someone who had a "charge-it plate" from a department store but in most cases people saved for the things they wanted and paid cash for them. Others bought items "on time" and put them in "layaway" which meant that they did not get the item from the merchant until it was paid for.

Today, it is a different story. Many people have to have everything that comes down the pike and they have to have it NOW. Credit cards have been issued indiscriminately to people with bad credit who ignore their financial difficulties and charge items like there is no tomorrow. I’m sure they have no intention of ever paying for the junk they have bought but, oh, what the hell, maybe they can get another credit card to cover it.

Have you heard the ads on the radio for debt consolidation companies? What an industry they have going. They have some loser announce that he just can’t stand it anymore having all the phone calls from people wanting him to pay his bills. The poor guy: He went crazy with his credit cards and now can’t pay them. Imagine that, creditors wanting their money, the nerve of some people. But wait, there is a solution! He can call ACE Debt Consolidation and they will get his debt reduced by 60%!!

Here is what those guys do. They take on the sucker’s debts and make sure nothing is paid on them for at least 90 days. At the end of that time, the guy usually has accumulated a few bucks so they call the bank that holds his credit card and tell them that they can cover about 40% of the debt if they are willing to dismiss the rest. The bank figures they are lucky to get that much so they take it and charge off the rest as a bad debt. The bank has lost money and the credit card holder enters the deadbeat file. ACE gets a fee, of course.

I have never defaulted on a loan or credit card in my life so it annoys me that people can get away with not paying their debts. Knowing that their credit is shot is no comfort to me, someone else will probably give them a new credit card anyway. Paying your debts is about being a good citizen and showing you are honorable. Unfortunately, for many, that doesn’t matter.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

College sports are too important

Do we really need 34 college football bowl games? Going to a bowl used to be an honor set aside only for the most elite teams. There were four major bowls: Orange, Cotton, Sugar, and the most important of all, the Rose Bowl. There were two other bowls one step below those four: The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville and the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando. The Gator and Tangerine were played just after Christmas and the other four were played on New Year’s Day.

If a team wanted to play in those bowls they had to have a record of 10-0 or 9-1 which was typical in the era of 10 game seasons. Only the best of the best played in a bowl game. Today, a team can make a bowl with a 6-6 record and at the rate the bowls are proliferating, teams with losing records will soon be eligible.

I realize it is all about the money as most of the bowls have sponsors now. Some are pretty comical. Remember the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl? The Papa John’s Pizza Bowl? My favorite this year was the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Whew! That’s a mouthful.

I think the next new bowl should be the Dakota Beer Who Cares? Bowl to be played outdoors in Fargo, North Dakota on New Years’s Day. A great match could be Slippery Rock Teachers College vs. Alabama School of Cosmetology. It would probably be as interesting as the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho between Maryland 8-5 and Nevada 7-6.

My next statement will probably have some of you in an outrage but here goes: I think collegiate sports have become too big a deal. Coaches are now recruiting kids from junior high school for college teams. That’s how important winning has become. I haven’t heard of any coaches going after kids for their academic achievements but, of course, who cares about that?

The Ivy League has the right idea, they offer NO athletic scholarships. If you want to play football you simply go out for the team; everybody is a "walk-on." Academics is the name of the game at schools like Harvard, Yale, and Penn. Sports are fine but they are secondary.

I remember many years ago when Harvard and Princeton were playing for the Ivy League Football Championship. The Princeton quarterback was the best player on either team and he didn’t play in that game. Why? Because he had to spend that Saturday at the library to finish an important paper that was due the following Monday.

To the football freaks, that probably sounds ridiculous. To me, I admired that kid. Colleges are for academics first, not sports. For the sports fans who need a team to root for, there are plenty of professional teams out there who play for a living. Pick one and let colleges do what they are best at: academics. Who knows? Maybe we will catch up with the rest of the world academically someday.

My alma mater is The University of Cincinnati. Once a basketball power, Cincy now is among the "also rans." Why? Because a new school president (Nancy Zimpher) insisted that the players actually attend class, obey the law, and know how to read and write. Many fans thought it was an unreasonable request!! This is not unusual in college sports.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

More tunes and Moorad

(left) Jeff Moorad

Five O’Clock World.....The Vogues (1966)
Workin’ in a Coal Mine.....Lee Dorsey (1961)
Dreamy Eyes.....Johnny Tillotson (1959)
Just Like Me.....Paul Revere and the Raiders (1966)
The Last Time.....The Rolling Stones (1965)
Tell Laura I Love Her.....Ray Peterson (1960)
Got To Get You Into My Life.....The Beatles (1966)
Hold On! I’m Coming.....Sam and Dave (1966)
I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonite,,,,,Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (1968)
Crimson and Clover.....Tommy James and The Shondells (1968)

The above are the last ten songs played this morning on Music Choice “Solid Gold.” through Cox Cable. Every song has a memory but I won’t dwell on that since my 12-28 blog pretty much covered it. However, I’m sitting here with a snoot full of Saturday morning coffee and felt a bit rambunctious so there you are. Another cup and I may switch to ‘80s techno pop. Maybe I can catch Gary Numan and “Cars.” Cox has every genre you can think of plus I am saving a fortune on aluminum foil for my former rabbit ears.

RATS DESERTING SINKING SHIP?.....Jeff Moorad has resigned as CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks and hopes to buy the San Diego Padres. That’s fine with me, I never did like him. He used to be a player’s agent and to me those guys are at the bottom of the food chain.

After that stint, he decided to switch sides and get into team management with the Diamondbacks. Now that they are hurting, he is moving on again. He owns 15-20% of the team so he will get about $70 million I guess.

So, what happens with the D-Backs now? Someone has to pick up that $70 million and this is a team that just canned 31 employees because of financial woes. They couldn’t afford to keep Randy Johnson or Orlando Hudson and probably will lose Brandon Webb when his contract is up. Add to that a declining economy, an unexciting team, and weak fan support even during the good times, and I don’t think the team’s future is “so bright I gotta wear shades” (Timbuk 3, 1986).

Meanwhile, two guys instrumental in the Diamondbacks’ early success who were eventually unceremoniously dumped, have to be sharing a good laugh as they watch the team flounder. Isn’t that right Jerry Colangelo and Luis Gonzalez? What goes around comes around and here it comes.

Thursday, January 01, 2009