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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kid's Antics of the 1950's

I watched one of my favorite Depression era films recently called Wild Boys of the Road (1933). In that movie, homeless kids are forced into some unpleasant circumstances as they try to survive the hard financial times of those years.

Watching those kids brought back memories of some of the crazy things I saw and did as a kid with my friends. Fortunately, the Depression years were long gone by the time I was born so my friends and I had only to deal with the late 1940's and through much of the 1950's.

In conservative Cincinnati, Ohio during those times, a lot of people thought nothing of leaving their cars overnight in the driveway or in an open door, detached garage with the keys in the ignition. I had some buddies who knew where those cars were and they would sneak out of their homes during the night an go joy riding in their neighbor’s cars. Never mind they were bad drivers and had no licenses. I was gutless, I never went and I have never been sorry for it.

I knew a kid named Barney Clark who was born to get in trouble. He and I used to go to swimming lessons at the local high school during the summer of my 4th grade. Barney was a couple years older than I and not too swift. One Saturday morning as we were walking to the pool, he saw a car by the curb with a parking ticket on it. He thought it would be funny to tear up the ticket and at the time, it seemed pretty funny. That is, until a police officer pulled up in a ‘48 Ford after we had walked a couple blocks. I was scared to death but fortunately, a good citizen pointed out Barney as the culprit and away he went to the police station in that Ford coupe.

Another fun activity was to go to the local train yard and hop the freight trains as they pulled out of the yard. We would ride them for a few miles then jump off except for the times they were going too fast which meant a longer ride than planned. Sure, we could easily have been killed but kids don’t worry about such minor details.

We used to like to pitch a tent in one of the kid’s backyards and sleep out. Then, we would wander the streets until dawn looking for some way to get in trouble. I remember one time we were fooling with M-80 firecrackers which were quite powerful and loud. We were in a school yard at around dawn when we threw one in a sandbox. As soon as it hit the ground, I looked up and saw a police car coming around the corner. If he heard the M-80, we were cooked, so I stepped on the firecracker as hard as possible and put it out. I could have blown my foot off!

One of our biggest thrills was when a group of us went downtown to the Gayety Burlesque Theater to see the strippers. The headliner in those days was named Rose LaRose. They let us walk right in despite our underage status. What the hell, we had the admission cost. That was quite a night and a signpost on the road to adulthood.

Then, there were the games of spin the bottle with the neighborhood girls. Uh....... maybe I’ll save that one for a later date.

I’ll always remember those kids that I knew all those years ago but never saw again after we grew up. We fooled around for fun and were lucky to live in a less hectic era than the Wild Boys of the Road.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Some financial thoughts

Did you know that approximately 32% of Americans have spent less money over the past few months and plan to continue to do so in the future? (Source: Gallup Poll, May 2009) That probably doesn’t include the fools sleeping on the floor at Scottsdale’s Fashion Square this past week to be the first into the new Microsoft store.

Almost 66% of consumers feel that advertising agencies are partially responsible for the current economic crisis because they persuaded consumers to make purchases beyond their means (Source: Harris Interactive Inc., April 2009). Please! This is a typical 21st century reaction from weak willed losers who always look for someone else to blame for their own mistakes. "Gee, I would never have bought that 50" flat screen TV if they didn’t make me. It’s not my fault!"

In a recent survey, the average 401(k) plan investor lost 28% of his/her balance in 2008. Approximately 63% said their confidence in their ability to retire had declined in the past year, and 15% said they were worried that they would never be able to retire. Participants believe the best way to recover losses is to save more or work longer (Source: Barclay’s Global Advisors, April, 2009). Sounds logical to me even though it is unfortunate.

A recent study reveals that today’s pre-retirees will need to postpone retirement by 4.2 years on average to make up for losses caused by the housing market and stock market. That is the first time in history that the retirement age has significantly increased in America (Source: Age Wave, 2009). I’ve see lots of old timers sacking groceries at Safeway. I’m sure they are not doing that because they enjoy that type of work.

To quote the late great actress Bette Davis from her film, All About Eve, (1950): "Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy ride."

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tiresome words and expressions

The 1960s had their share of expressions that a lot of kids today may not understand. For those of us who lived through that decade and were old enough to have an effective level of consciousness, we remember terms like "cool," a word that has lived on into the 21st century. Fortunately, "keen" died off.

Some others, like "going ape" and "all show and no go" are forgotten. The former meant getting excited over something and the latter described a car which was nice looking but a bit shallow in performance. The 1960s was the era of high performance cars and when the light turned green, you didn’t want that Pontiac GTO to leave your ‘57 DeSoto with typewriter drive "in the dust" as we used to say.

Probably the most irritating expression from that era was "We can put a man on the moon but we can’t (fill in whatever). Since we put a man on the moon in 1969, that was a popular expression to describe a feat that couldn’t be done on Earth. It got old quick.

Today we have some expressions that have become REALLY tiresome. For example, do you ever wish the word "dude" would be eliminated from the English language? How about when a teenage girl says "Ya know" or "like,"or "I mean" about ten times in one sentence and when she varies from those gems, replaces them with "um, uh, um" or "really." See Michelle Wie interviews for more.

Here are a few more I don’t need to ever hear again: "At the end of the day," or "Back in the day." "You go, girl" was cute for a while but enough is enough as with "Whassup?" I probably sound like I’m picking on the teenybopper girls but it wouldn’t bother me a bit if I never again heard them say "Whatever!" in their frustrated tone when they don’t get their way ("No, Erica, you can’t have the BMW tonight!")

A woman from Ohio tells me that an expression that really bugs her is "Children are a blessing from God." Her feeling is that if a woman is infertile she shouldn’t feel that she will miss being blessed by God just because she can’t have children. Then there are those who CAN have children and don’t have them. Should they be unblessed because of a lifestyle choice? I agree with the Ohio lady, it’s a silly expression.

Annoying words? How about "irregardless"? Try "regardless" instead. The "Pacific" is an ocean. Try "specific" when referring to a particular item. Finally, wouldn't it be great if no one ever said "these ones" again?

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Monday, October 12, 2009

The ACORN scandal

I’m not an expert on the political scene, and frankly most of it is boring to me, but I have enjoyed the recent exposure of ACORN by a couple who disguised themselves as a pimp and a prostitute to tape the comments of ACORN representatives advising them how set up cathouses and import children as prostitutes while cheating the IRS. This isn’t the first of problems for ACORN as they have also been investigated for voter registration fraud in 13 states among other scandals.

ACORN sounds like a fine bunch of people. Fortunately, the U. S. House and Senate have voted overwhelmingly to "de-fund" current federal allocations to ACORN and forbid it from receiving any of the $787 billion stimulus money according to the editorial in The Arizona Republic on 9-25.

Now, it appears that ACORN wants to sue the two young people who caught them with their "pants down" in a deliberate fraud scheme. ACORN leader Bertha Lewis is complaining that its reps were "entrapped." That’s funny, as they didn’t know they were being recorded on a candid camera and they were certainly being candid. This would have been a great show for Allen Funt.

ACORN receives federal funds to operate. In a recent interview on ABC’s This Week, President Obama was asked about the ACORN scandal which has been a big story on the airwaves. His response?

"Frankly, it’s not really something I’ve followed closely," Obama said. "I didn’t even know that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money."

One would think that he would know a little more than that based on his past relations with the organization. Maybe he is trying to avoid a bit of embarrassment by inserting his head in the sand a wee bit.

If anything involves politicians, don’t be surprised at what you may hear. As a guy told me once, "Anytime you get into a bad situation, deny everything."

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Obama and humility

President Obama received a lesson in humility last week as the 2016 Olympic Committee in Copenhagen turned down Chicago’s bid for the Olympics in the Second City. To make matters worse, the Committee dumped Chi Town on the first ballot. It was quite a letdown as some windy city dwellers claim the city spent $48 million in promotional efforts to get the games.

I don’t think the good citizens of Chicago are complaining too much as a recent poll by the Chicago Tribune showed that those in favor of the games dropped from 61% to 47% since February. The city is also facing an estimated $500 million deficit next year while city employees are being laid off and taking unpaid furloughs (sound familiar?) Many don't feel the cost of setting up the Olympics is worth it compared to the return on investment.

After facing rebukes from Iran and Russia at the U. N., this was the last thing the prez needed. I’m sure he felt confident flying into Denmark with his entourage of Michelle, Oprah Winfrey, and Mayor Daley. It looked like a pushover meeting with the president in his Amani togs, Oprah in whatever depending on the progress of her latest diet, and his honor, the mayor.

Unfortunately, the Committee may have viewed it as overkill and another attempt by a new, inexperienced president to carve an international niche for himself. I would have loved to have been a mouse in the corner of Air Force One listening on the ride back to Washington: "How can they turn us down!! They gave the games to Atlanta, but not Chicago?" Maybe Atlanta showed a bit of southern hospitality, not overkill.

Personally, I don’t care much about the Olympics. I think too many times results are determined by politics. The U.S. was cheated in the ‘72 basketball finals, there were the killings in the dorms, we boycotted Moscow in ‘80, Russia boycotted L. A. In ‘84 and on and on.

Greece is where the Olympics originated so why not have them in Athens every year and stop the fighting over who gets to host them? It’s laughable to think that will ever happen; about as laughable as Air Force One playing a CD of Danny Kaye singing "Wonderful Copenhagen" on the ride back to Washington.

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