Saturday, December 31, 2011

When the End Is the End

This week I received a phone call from Detroit that Wallace Sheldon Shanbrom had passed away. I knew him as “Wolf,” his Hebrew name, and we kept a friendship going over a fifty-five year period, and at times, thousands of miles apart. We shared an apartment on Prentis in Detroit in the late 1950s, spent a short time together in California in the early 1960s, acted together and separately a few years later at the UnStabled Theatre in Detroit, drove cross country together in 1981 after my parents died, davening as we went. He house sat for me in Santa Cruz and welcomed me into his home in Detroit.

He was an intelligent, articulate and zany individual with writing to match. I can attest to the latter when I look at the hundreds of letters I have saved where the writing goes up, down, sideways and backwards, yet the thoughts were always meaningful.

Wolf firmly believed in what he was doing, regardless of how far removed it was from mainstream thinking. He was, in fact, his own man, a distinction many have failed to achieve.

He never really “published” his writing, saying he didn’t want to go through a publisher’s editing process that might diminish what he fervently believed in and wanted to say. At times, those are my thoughts, too. He would duplicate his writings and hand them to others and me when we traveled, and asked us to drop them off at libraries and universities.

The Detroit Public Library’s Burton Historical Collection contains boxes of his work that he had placed there himself, as well as artifacts of his life. I was amazed when I went through them a few years ago.

Wolf said that he was “mechanic-nisht,” and didn’t understand the electronic world, nor cared to try and do so. He was truly a Luddite, anti-computer individual, but when I went on line and checked “Wallace Wolf Shanbrom” on Google, I found some of his writings listed there at: and at

His life is not solely represented by what those boxes contain. It is impossible for anyone to select exactly what it is that they have experienced and accomplished as a true representation of their short time on this side of the earth.

It is not for a Rabbi, a Priest, an Imam or atheist to close out our time here with a eulogy, using recently garnered data from family members and friends. What we do is best remembered in the hearts and minds of those we touched along the way.

However, I plan to have a videotaped eulogy written by, edited by and delivered by myself, and let others do their own editing and revising of my life story afterwards.

People of the Book

Today is December 31, 2011, and I plan to finish writing the final pages of my book, The Oy Way. You can gib a kuk at its web site at to find out its exact publication date and how to purchase copies. I have already spent countless amounts of monies, and easily spent more than four-hundred hours working on it; researching, writing, editing, going on photo shoots, attending conferences, and the end is near. So is my patience in working on its creation.

Next comes the arduous task of selling the book and have already been inundated by people offering me sage advice as to what I should do. Some friends are upset that I am selling it through Amazon and among other reasons, because they don’t like the fact that Amazon doesn’t pay needed sales tax here in California. My bookstore owning and working friends would rather have it on their shelves, and I will bring them copies on consignment when I speak there. One person has demanded that I offer the book at “a substantial discount” if I speak to his group,

Perhaps I should have named the book oy vey.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wired and Weird

There are at least sixty people, some of which I don’t even know, want me to join them on LinkedIn. The same goes for others enraptured with Facebook.

With my book The Oy — on the way, some wired in friends and family members are pushing me to use Facebook, saying that it is safe and no one could possibly hack into my account unless I let them. But I am wary of the security problems that could occur and today’s business section story about Facebook’s leader headlined “Zuck’s private photos slip out.” The subhead read, “CEO, girlfriend in G-rated shots, but security issues arise.” Look, if a crook can get Zuck, I, too, can get “tooked.”

Shoppers at Lucky markets in Northern California got “tooked” when some scam artists fixed the self-service line, and debit card numbers along with their personal IDs were captured, and their bank accounts tampered with.

Some of my wired in friends and family are very excited about having electronic communication devices that allow them to send emails, surf the net and find visual images of their houses online. This is all well and good, but if they don’t know where they are living without this enhancement, they are in real trouble.

My computer and the Internet are valuable for I am able to go online and do research, get forms for copyrighting my book, send out emails to family and friends here, there, and everywhere.

However, I use my iMac primarily as a writing instrument, and have spent an inordinately large amount of time in front of its screen lately as I try to finish the book. I also used it to write this blog entry and pieces for the Huffington Post, like the one just published on meaningful post-season football games.

A forty-year-old Royal typewriter sits three-feet away to my right,, and each day I longingly look at it and think of all of the pre-computer writing I did on it. I even bought two small bottles of White Out Correction Fluid, just in case my yearning gets strong to move further into what seemed to be a simpler past.

Before that happens, I am going to go outside and try and find my house.

NOTE: If you have any problems opening up any of the sites, copy them into your address bar at the top of the page, and click them there.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Things That Make Me Wonder On a Thanksgiving Morning

For more than a year, when I arose at 430 in the morning, I was thankful that there was a pale green plastic bag on my doorstep containing the San Jose Mercury News (the Merc) to help me began my day. About two months ago, it started arriving after 7, and I wondered why. When it did arrive I also wondered why it sometimes landed on the lawn or in the bushes.

At 455 on this Thanksgiving Day morning when I opened my front door there was the familiar pale green plastic bag but it looked far larger than any I had seen before. I lugged the hefty bag to the dining room table and unfurled its contents. There were two separate, rubber band encased sections; the first had nineteen separate items and the second had a mere fourteen. I meticulously searched through each and every item and to my dismay I couldn’t find the newspaper, only advertising inserts proclaiming the virtues of shopping early for fabulous Black Friday sales.

The earliest beat Black Friday opening was for three of what we used to call drug stores who were open all Thanksgiving day. I wondered why Walmart held off ruining Thanksgiving for its employees by waiting until 10 on Thanksgiving night when other more benevolent retailers waited until 4 AM Friday for their own “door buster” or “early bird” specials. By that time, it will be too late to rescue any of 43 million birds that will be devoured today across our great land.

The bulging insert don’t wait winners were jcpenney with one seventy-two page entry, tied with Macy’s with two inserts of 56 and 16 pages, Sears totaled 68 pages in two inserts, and Kohl’s added a 60-page one. As usual, all of Kohl’s models were wearing their forced smiles as they leaned to the left or the right. None was able to stand up straight and I wondered why. I also wondered why there wasn’t any model who was within fifty years of my age.

Since it definitely would not be me doing the shopping, I wondered who would be one of the estimated 152 million people hurrying off with inserts in hand in the middle of the night. These perhaps guilt-laden individuals would be in the forefront of the masses participating in the annual frenzy known as holiday shopping. The National Retail Federation is hoping that they at least spend the predicted $465.6 billion during the season to help retailers feel jolly.

At 755 AM, I saw the newspaper person pull up again in his beige Jeep and I met Dan and wondered why the paper started coming so late. At first he had to learn his new route with 500 customers who subscribe to either my hometown paper the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which I never read, or the Merc or to both.

Both newspapers are part of the same media group and the Merc is delivered from their plant about 40 miles to the north. When the Sentinel was acquired, the group disposed of all of their printing presses here. It is now printed by another of the group’s newspapers in Monterey, some 40 miles to the south and it is delivered to Dan nearly two hours later than before.

I don’t envy Dan and his early morning work but it’s better than not having any source of income. I doubt if he will be occupying anything in the early morning other than his Jeep early every day for as long as he can.

Wonder Who Is In Charge?

Along with advertising inserts, every Thursday the Merc has a section called “eye” which is labeled as their Entertainment Guide. In today’s 32-page “eye” dated November 24, 2011 there are advertisements for everything from musical shows, concerts, plays and movies coming up during the holiday season. A one-third page one that caught my eye was for a grill promoting several different events. On November 11 2011 they were presenting Rhythm District, the next day, November 12, there was wine tasting on the afternoon and a concert that night for Southern Rock with the Beach Cowboys, followed by Vegas Nights on November 19, 2011.

It is obvious that this advertisement ran much earlier this month and you might wonder was it someone at the grill or at the newspaper who forgot to withdraw the advertisement after the events were over.

The I’s Have Id

I doubt if it is the same person or persons who proofread an advertisement that once ran (or ran once) in national magazines in the 1970s with a headline that proclaimed that Chevrolet was the car for “Amerca.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To Air Is Human

It’s A Lock

On November 17, the captain of a Delta flight to New York City accidentally locked himself in the bathroom. A passenger with an accent tried to alert the co-pilot in the cockpit, and the co-pilot panicked and radioed, “The captain has disappeared in the back, and I have someone in a thick foreign accent trying to access the cabin right now, and I’ve got to deal with this situation.” There are two ways to avoid such terrifying situations in the future. Pilots and co-pilots should be trained in how to avoid profiling people as potentially troublesome solely by their accents, unless the accents emanate from either New Yawkers or Texans. The airlines could also have port-a-potties installed in larger cockpits and have bedpans available in the cockpits of commuter planes. Then the word “cockpit” would be a more befitting name.

Fare Enough

Hundreds of passengers on a flight from India to Great Britain were stranded for six hours in Vienna when their charter service ran out of money and needed $31,000 to pay for the rest of the flight to Birmingham, England. A cabin crew member told them “We need some money to pay the fuel, to pay the airport to pay everything we need if you want get to Birmingham.” A collection was started and passengers who were cash-strapped hurried to the airport’s ATM machines. The flight continued after enough money was collected. This may be the beginning of an exciting new method of fund raising during a sour economy.

There's No Place Like It

With the holidays approaching and you might mull over these apropos lyrics found in John Howard Payne’s 1823 song “Home! Sweet Home.” The second significant line reads, “be it ever so humble,
there’s no place like home.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

A VW Convertible, an MGB Convertible, Sterling Hayden and I

At the end of our last entry, you were promised that in our next one we would tell you the story of what happened in 1964 when two red convertibles ended up parked side-by-side in a restaurant’s parking lot on the Connecticut Turnpike.

That year I went back to Newport, Rhode Island where I had worked the year before and I drove there in my 1964 red MGB roadster. When you travel alone and are open to whatever comes your way, you may encounter the unexpected whether that may be an unexpected occurrence or individual that for a short while makes the journey well worthwhile.

I stopped at a Howard Johnson-like restaurant on the Connecticut Turnpike for lunch, and when I was done, as I headed down the elongated steps to the parking lot, I saw a red VW convertible park next to my car and watched a familiar face get out and start walking up the stairs.

It was Sterling Hayden; sailor, actor, activist and author. His autobiography Wanderer had been published the year before, and his latest film was released in January 1964. His role was General Jack D. Ripper and the film’s complete title was also captivating to the imagination: “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

He now stood one step down from me, and at 6’5” to my 5’10” we were almost on the same level when I greeted him with “Mr. Hayden, read the Wanderer and sorry that I didn’t arrive in the Bay Area until 1960. Would have loved to have sailed with you.” In 1959 he “kidnapped” his children and sailed off to Tahiti from Sausalito on the Wanderer.

Since I knew something about him from the book, we talked about his life as an adventurer and as an actor. I had seen “Dr. Strangelove” and we talked a bit about the absurdity of the then current and frigid Cold War situation where a mad man could accidentally set off an atomic bomb.

We talked about life and living and what a great adventure life was, and after thirty minutes I had to move on and so did he. He offered me his huge hand and we shook and I said, “It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Mr. Hayden.”

Before he let go he asked, “And what is your name, young man?” I answered “Harvey Gotliffe.” We shook once more and he held on as he said, “It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, too, Mr. Gotliffe,” and we parted. He headed up to the restaurant and I down to the parking lot where his red VW convertible sat next to my red MGB roadster.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Andy Rooney Was Our First Paid Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator Subscriber

Just after I launched the Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator in October 2004, I mailed out the 16-page Volume 1, Number 1 to relatives, friends, acquaintances and to people of consequence in the media. I had hoped that among those in the latter category, there might be some who would write about my latest venture and in doing so might help publicize and promote the publication.

A subscription solicitation box on the back cover offered the next four issues for $12 for “regular middle-class individuals in the U.S.” It would cost $16 for “companies and more affluent individuals in the U.S.,” and issues would be “free for those with limited income.” I received more requests for the latter “subscription,“ primarily from relatives, friends and acquaintances.

Soon after I received a business envelope with a CBS logo and address in the upper left-hand corner dated October 28, 2004 by U.S. Postage Meter #7112220. The cost then was 37¢. I knew that this could be a “lucky letter” since the meter contained the numbers “122” which was both my birth date (January 22) and the number I used when I raced sports cars in the 1960s.

My eye drifted back to the CBS corner and there in a steady pen and ink writing I saw the words “Andrew A. Rooney.” When I opened the envelope there was a two-paragraph letter, typed by Andrew himself and began “Dear Mr Gotliffe,” with no period after my designated title, and this was the letter that followed:

“I came close to pitching out your envelope containing The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator without looking at it. I get a ton of junk. I did look at it though, in part because The Practical Cogitator by Ferris Greenslet and Charles Curtis is my favorite book. You got me for half an hour – which is pretty good, considering my attention span. Where have you gone wrong in life – including leaving The Village (Ho-Ho-Kus) for Santa Cruz?

Although I don’t have confidence there will be four issues, am sending my Unlimited Income subscriber’s check for $16. Please dont (sic) send me a funny letter.


Andrew A. Rooney”

His hurried signature appeared to be “Andy Rooney” but I couldn’t say for sure.

To tell you the truth (as my wife prefaces some pronouncements), at the time I didn’t know if there would be four more issues either, however the latest issue was Volume 5, Number 1, the eighteenth.

Andrew A. Rooney was sent his four paid-for issues, and with each issue I duplicated his original letter and wrote a brief note while being extremely careful to respect his wishes and I refrained from writing anything funny on any of them. When his four-issue subscription expired, I solicited a renewal explaining, “according to my records this is the final one of the four in your subscription that you doubted would ever be published. I guarantee you four more with your subscription renewal.”

Andrew never responded to this one nor did I ever receive any more correspondence from him. That didn’t stop me from sending him every subsequent issue along with his original letter, and each contained a benign note written on it.

Among my verbal missiles through the years was one in September 2005 where I complimented him on a piece he did on Peter Jennings who had just died. When I sent him Volume 2, Number 4 in April 2008. I wrote “Ah ye of little faith, you have now received 8 ½ issues for the price of four. A funny letter would be acceptable.” In August 2009, along with Volume 4, Number 1, I wrote in green ink on his original letter “Issue Fourteen is enclosed, Andrew A. Rooney. Binders will soon be available to hold all issues. As you see on p. 12 — you are receiving it free — Best to you always.” The latter referred to the word “Free” on the back page that I had checked off for him in the subscription box.

On January 12, 2011, Volume 4, Number 4 was published and I sent it to him two days later along with what would be my last correspondence to him. “HAPPY 92 – Mr. Andrew A. Rooney. Consider your $16 sent more than six years ago a lifetime subscription, and here’s the seventeenth issue. Hope you will be receiving many more issues; after all I only turn 75 this month. Best to you.”

I never had the opportunity to send him the most recent printed issue and although he never responded to any mailings other than the first one, I would like to think that he read parts of some of them. I will always consider him my first and only lifetime subscriber. However, subscribers like subscriptions, have an expiration date and Andrew’s was November 4, 2011.

For free copies of the online version of The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator, please send an email to If you are the first to reply, we will send you the next issue of Andy’s lifetime printed version that “is published regularly on an irregular basis.”

A VW Convertible, an MGB Roadster, Sterling Hayden and I

We would like to tell you the story of two red convertibles parked side-by-side at a rest stop on the Connecticut Turnpike in 1964 and the chance meeting with actor Sterling Hayden. But that’s next time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Post Office Got It Right by Accident

In a tragic crash on the Las Vegas Speedway last weekend involving fifteen IndyCar drivers, thirty-three-year-old driver Dan Wheldon lost his life. The October 25 issue of Sports Illustrated ran a simple and meaningful two-page obituary on his life complete with a photograph of him after winning the Indy 500 Race for the second time last May with an average speed of 170.265 mph.

The United States Postal Service, discredited in yesterday’s post, accidentally righted itself when earlier this year it had issued a 44-cent stamp on the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. It was won by Roy Harroun with a winning speed of 74.602 mph. Dan Wheldon will be honored each time the stamp is affixed to an envelope.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Mail Must Go Thru, Or the Mail Is Through

The United States Postal Service is struggling and wants to eliminate 220,000 jobs, close more than 300 facilities, and faces another quarter with losses totaling more that $3.5 billion.

It needs to become more efficient with the way it deals with the average customer and two recent instances help me to understand why the USPS is failing. In July I received a postage-paid envelope in my postal box at the local branch along with a note saying that my annual rental fee was due. I immediately wrote out a check for the correct amount, as I have done for more than twenty-five years, put it in the envelope and mailed it.

Two weeks later when my wife Carmen went to check the box, our key wouldn’t work. After she waited in the stamp line and told her tale to the clerk, the clerk said the lock had been changed since no payment had been received. When Carmen explained that we sent a check two weeks earlier, she was also told that if we didn’t make a payment in the next two days, we would lose the box forever. We charged the amount, still wondering what happened to our check and the postage-paid envelope addressed to this post office branch.

We found out three weeks later when we opened the box and found an envelope with the original check inside and a note saying that this check is being returned since payment was already received. No one at that branch could explain what had happened to the wayward envelope.

Yesterday I sat in the side office at the branch with Eduardo, the supervisor, as I tried to find an explanation to another postal mystery. When I had stayed in Henderson, Nevada a few weeks earlier, I had left a pendant behind that had the Chinese symbol for The Way; apropos since I am finishing a book entitled The Oy Way, whose web site is The hotel mailed the pendant to me and when I found their envelope in my home mailbox, it contained the stamped words “POSTAGE DUE $1.27.” However, it did not contain the pendant only the bubble wrapping inside and a neat, square 1 ½ x 1 ½” tear in the lower left corner which someone did in order to steal the pendant, which they did.

Eduardo defended all of the postal employees in Henderson, then Las Vegas, San Jose and in his branch in Santa Cruz. He said that the neat tear and deft removal of the pendant from the envelope was most likely caused by a sorting machine. He vehemently stuck to that explanation no matter what I said, and suggested that I fill out a report describing the pendant and he would send it to the USPS Lost and Found Department in Georgia. Our conversation ended after I asked if there was also a Stolen and Found Department near by.

Raise You A Penny

To solve all of the above problems, the USPS announced today that as a birthday present, it would raise postal rates on January 22, 2012, including a 1-cent increase in the cost of first-class mail, to 45 cents.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nu? Math? The Odds Are Against Them

When Hamas finally released Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after more than five years in captivity in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, his captors gloated claiming it a great victory for their side. It was, for 1,000 of their fighters were released, but does it mean that one Israeli soldier has the same value as 1,000 members of Hamas?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

They'll Get Buy

The first two weeks of the 2011-2012 season for the National Basketball Association has been cancelled as players and owners fight for their “fair share” of the projected $3.8 billion in Basketball Related Income (BRI). BRI constitutes all the money made through basketball operations, including gate receipts, broadcast revenues, in-arena sales of novelties and concessions, arena signage revenues, game parking and program revenues, and sponsorship revenues.

Under the previous contract, the BRI was a 57-43 percent split in favor of the players and the owners want it to be a 50-50 deal. The last time that the two sides met, each was reluctantly willing to accept a 53-47 split in their favor. However, each side can’t have 53 percent of the BRI, for any math-challenged person knows you can only divide 100 percent of the total, not 106 percent.

The practical, cost-conscious owners want a greater share based on their claim that most NBA teams are losing money, while the players don’t want to relinquish their current share. Just how practical are the owners? In November 2011, the NBA board of governors approved the sale of the Golden State Warriors for a record $450 million to a group of financially knowledgeable investors. The buyers were well aware that since the 1999-2000 season that franchise had qualified only once for the playoffs and boasted a 371 won and 603 lost record during that period. What a bargain.

Then there is the other half of the equation — the players whose average salary is $5.15 million. This isn’t too bad considering that their main talent is to run around in their underwear and try and put a round sphere into a wire hoop.

Carmelo Anthony, the star of the New York Knickerbockers team, was set to “earn” $17,149,243 for the season. With the cancellation, Melo already stands to lose approximately $1.6 million in salary and he lamented, "It's stressful. If it's a dollar, if it's 10 dollars, losing money is losing money, regardless of how much you have."

For the moment, Carmelo may be able to commiserate with the 14 million currently out of work, and with those who do have a job earning the median salary of under $47,000 a year. When the strike ends, he will be able to get buy with his salary of $209,137 for each game that he plays. Since he averaged 35.7 minutes playing time in each game during the past season, based on his present salary that would come to $5,858 per minute played. It would take him less than nine minutes on the court to reach that yearly median salary.

Carmelo’s salary was larger than most Americans, but was only thirteenth in the NBA. With that fact weighing heavily upon him, Melo might not be mellow regardless of the outcome.

Friday, August 12, 2011

An Ode to Ineptitude

Think about the party, tea,

It now controls the GOpee.

When the tea party makes a wish,

Scared Republicans start to pish.

This stifles success, makes chances wetter,

But Obama now, is not that much better.

His lack of action is quite banal.

Smooth in talking, actions anal.

Problem with all of this inaction,

Our country has lost, all its traction.

We are about to run, dry as can be,

Does it really matter to you and me?

Wish this were the election year,

Both parties would live in fear.

But if we vote to throw them all out,

Those voted in will still cast doubt.

About their ability to lead a nation,

Both ins and outs are a sad rotation.

The solution is, without hesitating,

Move to a land with a AAA rating.

Oh Canada! We Stand On Guard for Thee

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Oy Way, or Oy Vey?

While the use of the Yiddish expression Oy Vey is far more prevalent in society today, there would probably be far less of a need to utter that agony-induced phrase if people would only inculcate the calm-inducing, meditative lessons learned by following The Oy Way.

However, in this fast-paced electronic world, seemingly fraught with unattainable demands, we have little time to quietly meditate upon our condition, yet alone being able to find a small oasis to relax in, even if it’s for only an hour.

Expect or Accept?

A psychologist friend once told me that we humans expect too much and that the multitudes of disturbances that occur in our lives are just a natural part of our existence. She further emphasized that the best response is having the right attitude and learning how to accept the overwhelmingly large number of infringements that can rob us of our peace and tranquility

Here's the Rub

Earlier this week, I scheduled a massage in my living room from the masseuse who helps relieve unwanted stress for my wife and myself. Before she came, I disconnected all phones, put a sign on the front door that reads “Massage In Session, Please Do Not Disturb,” and turned on the small fountain by the window. I enjoy listening to the soothing sounds of the gently flowing water as I let my aching body succumb to healing hands.

Then as I sank deep into state of pure relaxation on the massage table, I was rudely yanked out of it by the unnerving sounds of a power mower cutting the lawn immediately outside my front door. I took a deep breath and was grateful that the insidious sounds lasted but a few minutes, as the operator moved on to the next lawn in our nine-unit townhouse complex. But the noise abatement was momentary as the man in charge of edging the lawn approached with his own instrument of aural destruction. His intrusion was also short lived, but it lasted long enough to stop any relaxing flow. Oy Vey.

Ballet Shoes and Roller Skates

These two intrusions were like a light-footed field mouse wearing ballet shoes noiselessly walking across the floor, compared to the thundering sounds of a rampaging rhinoceros on roller skates. The latter came in the form of another landscaping craftsman wearing impervious-to-sound ear plugs, who had turned his leaf blower up to the maximum disturbance level. Oy Vey.

He completely obliterated the fountain’s soothing sounds and for the next forty-five minutes, I barely felt the healing massage, and was unable to follow the advice of my masseuse. “Think of it as the sound of a swarm of bees,” she advised me. I ignored her suggestion believing that a swarm of bees flying around me would not lend itself to my peace of body and mind. Oy Vey.

The Oy Way

What I desperately needed was to remove myself from this hectic world and escape to another where peace could more readily be found. The way to realize this was to follow The Oy Way.

I have learned to do so and you, too, can follow the path of most resistance by mastering the lessons learned in The Oy Way. Rather than encumbering you with excessive, unnecessary descriptive verbiage, simply go to the source at

Thursday, May 12, 2011

An Elephant Should Never Forget, Neither Should a Don Quixote

I will be going to Vienna this July and playing in the 13th Maccabi European Games as a member of the Men’s Masters Table Tennis Team, and have been reading Vienna and Its Jews, The Tragedy of Success, 1880-1980s.

On page 172 the author notes that Hitler addressed the Austrian Nazi party conference in 1920, spoke in several cities the next year to “the party faithful,” and in 1922, Hitler was the main speaker at the Party’s first major public rally in Vienna.

It’s My Party and I’ll Shout If I Want To

The main political parties were the Social Democrats whose ideology was basically Marxist, and the Christian Socials with its strong relationship with the Catholic Church. In late 1926 while setting their sights on the following year’s elections, the Christian Socials emphasized their opposition to Marxism and to the “predominance of the decomposing Jewish influence.”

As you may readily discern, these parties promulgated their opposing ideologies, much like America’s two major political parties do today.

The following paragraph found on page 177 is put forth here almost verbatim, only inserting any changed words in Italics including the substitution of “Congress” and “Congressional” for “Parliamentary” and “Parliament.”

Insert names here had both learned the arts of compromise and conciliation as party leaders but they nevertheless took a sacred view of their respective missions. Consequently, the two major parties confronted each other across a chasm that was both wide and deep. Congressional interchanges were marked with a minimum of courtesy and a maximum of acrimony. Personal insults including racial slurs were traded back and forth. One noted writer says the whole set up ‘emphasized division instead of debate, doctrine positions rather than weighing of concrete issues. Congress, then, instead of nursing a basic consensus, as it generally does in western democracies, emphasized the divisions in the country and contributed to the destruction of consensus.’”

2010 Is Dead and Gone, 2012 Is Now in Sight

Santayana is well known for his perceptive and sadly reaffirmed line, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In Volume I of his 1905-1906 five-volume “The Life of Reason,” Santayana offers that thought and another for ineffectual, conciliatory weaklings like Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Harry Reid, who will be serving his fourth consecutive two-year term as Senate Democratic Leader. The two parties seem to have no knowledge of or have forgotten to heed or understand Santayana’s other pronouncement, “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.”

George Santayana, Philosopher, Essayist Poet. December 16, 1863 – September 26, 1952

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Absurdity Becomes Reality

Certified Absurdity

On May 2, I sent an entry to the Huffington Post entitled “Certifiable Idiocy in the Matter of Birth and Death.” It described both the insanity of the birthers and the denial of European insurance companies who refused to pay claims to families of Holocaust survivors. The reason for the latter’s purposeful injustice was based on the fact that the Nazi had not issued death certificates “after they had extracted the victims gold teeth, gassed them, and then burned their bodies in the crematoriums in Auschwitz and Birkenau Concentration Camps.” The complete post can be found at:

At the conclusion I facetiously wrote, “Now that Osama Bin Laden has been killed, there is sure to be Doubting Donalds who see it as a sinister ploy by Obama to boost his ratings and increase his chances for re-election in 2012. They may demand to see a properly signed, official death certificate.”

The next morning when I turned to the letters-to-the-editor page of the San Jose Mercury News, John W. Lillpop had written in part, “Osama bin Laden’s death must be tempered by the probing question: Where’s the death certificate?” On his home page, J.W. describes himself as “a recovering liberal, 'clean and sober' since 1992.” On a recent blog he lauds the GOP’s leader writing,

“Donald Trump has demonstrated that he, and he alone, has the grit, determination, prestige, and intelligence to lead where the weak dare not go!”

I sent an email to J. W. praising his work and within five minutes he responded, “Wow! Thank you ever so kindly for your words. I was actually shocked that the SJMN published that.” Many others probably had the same feeling.

He added in another email, “Good to know there is another conservative in San Jose!” My problem is that J.W. is now sending me three emails a day, believing he has found ideological kinship with me.

Bay Area Absurdity

Leave Me Out of the Ball Park

When Atlanta played the Giants in San Francisco on April 23, the Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell allegedly made homophobic comments and crude gestures toward fans before a game. The leader of young men was also accused of using a baseball bat to threaten a fan that objected to his actions. McDowell was suspended without pay for two weeks by Major League Baseball and was fined an undisclosed amount. He will be required to complete sensitivity training and apologize directly to the fans involved.

Across the Bay, to celebrate the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Oakland A’s public address announcer asked fans to “Raise their Budweisers” in appreciation of those who serve their country.

Previews of Coming Distractions

Are you at all curious about the following juxtapositions?

1. On May 2, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the USA cost $3.963.

2. One year earlier, the cost was $2.898 per gallon.

3. During the first quarter of 2011, Exxon Mobil “earned” $10.7 billion, up 69% from one year ago.

4. In the same period Chevron “earned” $5.69 billion, up a mere 25% from 2010.

5. In 2010, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, survived on $21.6 million in compensation.

6. John Watson, CEO of Chevron, got by with $14.0 million in 2010.

That’s the Way the Ball Bounces

In a recent table tennis contest, one player was quite ebullient after winning a close game. Have you ever been ebullient and if so, when? If not, why not? We await your response by clicking on “Post a Comment” found below.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another Advertising Tail

The San Jose Mercury News with an estimated circulation of 225,000 has lost abundant amounts of classified advertising revenue as well as most large retail advertisers except for Western Appliance and Macy’s. The downturn in the economy fostered the increase in two-page, full-color advertisements from motel-based companies like Treasure Hunters Roadshow who try to “help” financially beleaguered citizens by offering to acquire their “gold and silver coins, jewelry, wrist & pocket watches, toys, trains, dolls, military items & swords, and advertising items.” Perhaps they’ll make an offer on this advertising article.

It’s a Small World

Newspaper advertising seems to have grown in one small, seemingly innocuous category; that which requests vehicle donation for a charitable organization. Each advertisement is black and white, 3-inches wide and two to three inches deep.

The eclectic list of organizations lead with a bold headline asking readers to either “Donate Your Car” or “Donate Your Vehicle.” This is usually followed by a description of what vehicles are acceptable and the list includes cars, trucks, vans, rv’s, boats, motorcycles, trailers, “and more.” It might be a blessing if they would also accept two-wheeled, motorized Segway scooters, the terror of the sidewalks. Many walkers and other non-users would be grateful if the charitable organizations first accepted and then scrapped them.

Not a Cliff Hanger

In a bit of irony, in September 2010, the millionaire owner of the Segway company was found dead in a river near his UK estate, having plunged over an 80-foot cliff while riding his Segway. The scooter was found near the body. Now let us segue back to the charitable organizations.

These organizations running solo advertisements include Make A Wish Foundation, the Polly Klass Foundation, the City Team Ministries, and The California Council of the Blind. There is one advertisement which is a triple-header seeking vehicles for the Diabetes Society, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and South Bay Purebred Rescue.

They all offer free pickup, have a web site to let you easily donate online, let you know that your donation is tax deductible, and have a phone number and “Live Operators 7 days!,” which is better than dead operators.

Seeking a Local Locale

When I called them, I received a busy signal at one organization, a recorded message from another, and a woman answered on her cell phone and our conversation kept being cut off. I was able to get through and talk to someone at Make A Wish who said that she could take down my information and have a towing company pick up my car. I said it was running and I could deliver it and she asked for my area code and then offered me several Northern California locations to take it to, the closest of which was about fifty miles away. I would get a minimum $500 write off, and if the car was sold at a higher price, I would receive a Form 1095C acknowledging that price as my donation.

When I asked her where she was located, she replied “Minnesota,” but quickly explained that while Make A Wish was a national organization, all proceeds from the sale of my car would go to my state.

After thinking it over, I will either keep my 1987 Honda CRX, give it to my daughter, or drive it off a cliff with Thelma by my side.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Truth in Advertising and Other Lies

Our two local weekly publications are aimed at a 25-to-35-year-old audience, and occasionally offer readable and usable writing. They are primarily published to siphon local advertising dollars away from the town’s only daily newspaper. Both of the weeklies’ use a standard gimmick of publishing a “Best Of” issue where employees, relatives and friends vote as many times as possible for their favorites, and the top three in each category are officially listed. Occasionally, customers also vote if egged on enough by the establishment. In turn, all of the first, second and third-place “winners” are convinced to run full-color advertisements bragging about their pseudo status.

Categorically Denied

The cornucopia of categories cover every entity from dog parks to dentists, and in the latter category, two dentists proudly placed a headline in their ads thanking voters for making them “The Best Dentist.” One did earn that dubious honor however the other finished in second place. When I called the second-place “winner,” the receptionist said, “People just cast their vote. It’s not democratic. We just get called by the newspaper’s advertising people who asked us to run an ad. We never usually advertise at all.” She was reluctant to discuss why the second-place winner was advertised as “Best.”

Not Really My Type

There are two main types of advertising in print media. There’s classified where the advertisements are placed according to classifications such as “Help Wanted,” Used Cars” and the like, and display where larger advertisements are run throughout the publication. This is something any neophyte should be taught their first day on the job.

When I called the weekly, a sophomoric intern answered the phone and I asked if she could connect me to display advertising.  In a squeaky voice she incredulously asked, “Display?” After I explained what the term meant, she transferred me to a more mature twenty-something saleswoman. I innocently asked how two dentists could be “The Best,” especially in light of the fact that her publication listed one of them as being in second place.

The Last Shall be First

She answered firmly, “He is a winner in second place, so he is ‘The Best Dentist.” I tried to convince her that he was “The Second Best Dentist,” probably because he didn’t have as many employees, relatives and friends voting for him as the first-place winner. She adamantly defended her point by saying, “There are thousands of dentists in the area. (Only190 are listed in the Yellow Pages). The voters voted for the top three and that makes him a winner in ‘The Best Dentist’ category.” I tried once again to convince her otherwise, but she was probably too busy planning for the next “Best Of” issue and figuring out how to hustle advertisements from all of the future first, second and third place winners, as well as those who finished last.

Some of those latter establishments probably didn’t have enough employees, relatives and friends voting to finish in the top three, so they created their own advertising headlines declaring, “Thanks for making us winners.”

I wonder which of my neighbors’ noisy dogs had the inclination to vote for the “Best Dog Park?”




Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hear Today and Gone Tomorrow

On January 9 the front pages of most newspapers were filled with stories of the tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona, as were the lead stories on radio, television and in the major news magazines. The primary focus was on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the perpetrator.

Within a week, the shootings were relegated to shorter side stories on the other victims, the motivation for the killings, the funerals, and then coverage drifted to stories on gun control and Arizona’s Wild West persona. They were accompanied by editorials from the left and the right. Each screamed for attention and went to ludicrous lengths to offer something new and different. A syndicated columnist with a Spanish surname offered the following headline to his screed, “To Latinos’ relief, suspect was white.”

Please Step to the Rear

Slowly but steadily the stories moved away from the lead item on television’s evening news and the front page of newspapers. It found a resting place first on page A4, then A6, and then was pushed back to A8. On February 5, four weeks after the tragedy the story shifted to astronaut Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband and his decision to command the space shuttle Endeavor’s flight in April. That flight will be news again in two months, but will remain a dormant story until then.

But that’s the same with any news story whether it is the heinous shootings in Arizona, the revolutionary demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, or the suffocating snowstorms that closed much of the country from the Midwest to the east coast, at one time causing the cancellation of thirteen thousand flights.

News is news when it happens and just like the snow, when it melts away it is no longer news. It is easily replaced by the next grab-your-attention-for-the-moment story.

News vs. Unadulterated Hype

The annual Super Bull is the uncontested winner of the non-news hype award as its coverage in late January and early February pulsates on the pages of newspapers and magazines, resonates on the airwaves and even clouds the skies above. The latter takes place during the game when a commercial blimp flies overhead thumping its sales message while the broadcasters below marvel aloud on what a wonderful view they are bringing you. Like the game itself, the blimp is filled with hot air.

Locals Go Loco

Local retailers succumb every year to the hoopla and join the hype of the game trying to sell whatever they are pushing. Some advertisements intimate that to preserve lifelong relationships, you have to “score big with your friends” by having enough to eat and drink at your party. Other retailers offer “Super Deals” on everything from big-screen television sets to automobiles, and the consumer who buys one of their products are told that they will have their lives transformed for they “will be a winner.”

The Big One Is Coming

The February 5th edition, known as SB XLV, is a showcase for advertising and national advertisers who are willing to spend $3 million for thirty seconds of time; that comes to $100,000 per second. To many advertisers it’s well worth the price; of the twenty all-time most-watched television programs, sixteen have been the Super Bull, including those in first, third, fourth and fifth place in the years 2010, 2008, 2009, and 2007 respectively. Last year’s SB XLIV reached 51.7 million households with an average audience of 106.5 million viewers. In second place was the last episode of M*A*S*H which ran on February 28, 1983 and reached 50,150,000 households.

A Straight Beats a Flush

For many people, the commercials are the highlight of the game, but there’s a concomitant problem connected with them. During the 1956-57 television season “I Love Lucy” was the number one rated television program, as it had been three of the previous four seasons. The water department in White Plains, New York was puzzled as to why every Monday night at 8:10 PM and 8:20 PM, the level in the reservoir dropped dramatically. One astute worker finally figured out that was when the commercial breaks for the “Lucy” show occurred, most viewers hurried straight to their bathrooms so as to not miss any of the program, and then they all flushed at about the same time.

I’ll Drink to That

Among this year’s SB XLV advertisers are Pepsi, Coke, Dr. Pepper and Anheuser-Busch and combined they are scheduled to run a minimum of nine commercials for one form of liquid refreshment or another.

With viewers being subliminally or overtly encouraged to quaff a drink or two or more during the game, when commercial time arrives, don’t be too surprised if the reservoir level in your town also goes down leaving advertisers high and dry. 







Saturday, January 8, 2011

You Betcha — Our Campaign Was Dead On Target

Sarah Palin, the darling of the Tea Party and  irrational Republican conservatives, is as dangerous as a loaded gun when her mouth shoots off ill-timed and straight-from-the-hip proclamations. Her campaign managers are inept in many media. During the fall campaign, her SARAHPAC targeted Democratic congress people who voted  for the Obama Health Care Plan. In a not-too-subtle, not-too-intelligent way, Sarah and her gang  did it by creating a poster that displayed crosshairs of gun sights directly aimed at twenty of her Democratic enemies around the country.

One was pointed at the occupant of Arizona’s Eighth District, Gabrielle Giffords, who was first elected in 2006.

On Saturday, January 8, 2011, a deranged twenty-two-year-old gunman approached Congresswoman Giffords at a voter meeting in Tucson, Arizona. He shot her in the head, killed a federal judge and five others including a nine-year-old girl. Giffords was among at least twelve people who were wounded.

Ever the leader the GOP desperately needs, just hours after the shooting Sarah issued a statement expressing “sincere condolences” to the family of Giffords and other victims.

Keep your powder dry as the 2012 congressional candidates, all 435 of them, start loading up on the rhetoric, ready to shoot off hopefully only their mouths. Care for another cup of tea?