I belonged to Toastmasters for about ten years. I had a good time, learned a bunch, met good people, and gave some good speeches. When that stopped happening, I dropped out.
Toastmasters has a lot of competitions. One is the Evaluation speech, where someone gives a
test speech, contestants evaluate it, and the evaluations are evaluated. This is one of the test speeches I gave. It was sometime between 2005 and 2010. It's sad that a lot of the things I place in the future are still in the future
There are five great movies: The Producers, The In Laws, The Wizard of Oz, Charade. These aren't movies like Casablanca or Citizen Kane that grace most great lists. So you ask,
John, what makes a movie great? I will stop and watch it whenever I see it on TV, no mater how many times I’ve seen it before and can recite all the dialogue. The fifth great film (for those of you counting), Raising Arizona, was on the other night. If you’ve seen it, you know it concludes with a dream sequence where Hi sees into the future. If you haven't you should, and trust me–it ends with a dream sequence.
I don’t know if it was the movie or the double mushrooms on the pizza, but that night I had a dream, too. It was about America.
I had a dream where people listened before they spoke, and asked more questions than they gave answers.
I had a dream where elected officials went to their legislatures and offices, and governed in the best interests of the people, not playing more politics and looked out for number 1.
I had a dream where the outstanding floor cleaner got more respect than the average CEO who walked on the floors.
In my dream, people didn’t have to live up (or down) to other people’s expectations of them.
In my dream, we could all look up to a star-filled sky, no matter where we lived, and dream.
In my dream, Cuban doctors could volunteer to help American disaster victims and their help would be welcomed, not turned away.
I had a dream where a little white boy or a little Vietnamese girl would be honored for delivering the best Martin Luther King Day speech.
I had a dream where everyone had a passion and a belief, and were enthusiastically encouraged to follow their passion and their dream.
I had a dream where everyone was treated fairly, no matter who they knew.
In my dream, daydreaming was a good thing.
In my dream, people wished me luck and meant it.
In my dream, people rejoiced in what I could do, not complained when I fell short of the mark.
I had a dream, where the bar was raised, but nobody said I couldn’t jump.
I had a dream where people never stopped asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I had a dream where television reporters actually told me about new things.
In my dream, I could dance and sing, and even if I wasn’t good, nobody cared.
In my dream, when somebody started to sing, everybody knew the words and joined in, just like in the movies.
In Raising Arizona, it’s unclear if Hi ever wakes from his dream. Personally, I don’t think he did–his dream stretched on and on into the future.
Sometimes, you just wish that life could be like the movies.
This will be a light week for comments, as my brain has been occupied by visions of flour, sugar, butter and eggs that come together so beauteously as to win the gingerbread house competition in a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, even though none of them are housers, and only one is gingerbread.
There's generally universal agreement that 2020 was the mist sucky year in memory. That would be a more compelling statistic if we could remember much before 2017. However, as we're about to put the year behind us, I've noticed some stuff that, if only for a moment, we could be thankful for.
For me, the year in thanks breaks into two parts: January through, oh, mid-November, and from then to now.
we're all in this together,or that
we're in difficult (or unprecedented) times,or all the other cliches that got spewed out. I think most Americans have figured out that the correct responses are
No we're notand
they always are and we already knew that.In November, politicians and their lawyers brought their comedy
Agame to the table, but thankfully faded slowly into irrelevance.
guy insisting on not wearing a mask,but they, too, seem to have mostly faded with the summer heat.
But there are solid year-long good news stories, too. Like food banks always seem to respond to people in need, no matter how stretched they are. Or nurses and hospital staffs who complain about being stretched to the breaking point, but still show up to do the job. Ditto all the essential workers who were invisible in February, but now have some visibility. I hope all that recognition continues. And finally, no matter how much some people will say we have to get back to normal, they're not well. The old normal was not a good healthy place.
The BBC reports that a
mysterious monolith made out of gingerbread appeared in Corona Heights Park in the US city of San Francisco on Christmas Day.
I read the article and was rewarded with this finale:
the city's Recreation and Parks Department's General Manager, Phil Ginsburg, told Californian news company KQED: 'We will leave it up until the cookie crumbles.'
I wonder if they found the remains of a yet unseen Hallmark Christmas movie? Also, kudos to Phil for bringing his best Dad-joke file to the party.
A Boeing 737 Max was being moved from storage to deployment in Montreal. It took off, but mechanical/instrumentation difficulties forced the pilots to abort the trip. In Tucson. Not encouraging, or a good look.
Last week (?) I wrote about how surprise should be added to the inevitabilities of death and taxes. well, I forgot one–software (especially system) upgrades. The are two rules governing their behavior. They will appear, demanding to be installed, when you least want them to. When they are installed, They will break something, usually once you've learned to rely upon your customization, and once you've learned to live without the customization, whatever you did will mysteriously reappear of its own accord.
I didn't think about it much at the time, but my wife pointed out that she hadn't seen It's a Wonderful Life on TV anywhere (it finally showed up on Christmas night). I didn't recall any showings of he original Miracle on 34th Street, either. We had to make do with two marathon days of A Christmas story and multiple showings of White Christmas.
According to The New York Post:
Keith Richards gets cockroach named after him for 77th birthday.
The Keith Richards roach was given its own guitar. As opposed to the
The Keith Richards guitar was given its own roach, which happened many times during performances, I'm sure.
I also wonder what they have planned for Keith's 80th birthday.
OK, so maybe a few comments.
This is probably one of those
you're doing it wrong things, which I detest, but we are encouraged to take cat naps, which are normally thought of as being short.
Our cat has been napping in my lap for over four hours, and will wake up only when I push her off my lap, which will annoy her no end. So if you're going to catnap, do it right!
The BBC has its own specialist disinformation reporter. I wonder if that means that now that the
adults have latched onto disinformation, if the cool kids will have to do something else.
The Week, a time for anticipation. A large percentage of the population will be braving the elements and CDC warnings and travel over the river and through the woods. Weathermen anticipate snow. What will Santa be putting in my stocking? Will it be coal? And if so, where did Santa find coal? Some parts of the anticipation will be anticipating snow. A subset of that, like me, who know too much stuff, will be wondering if Santa brings anthracite or bituminous. Another segment wonders what coal is. and finally, Trump supporters wonder if Santa will bring Donald Trump 7,500,000 votes that were erased by fraud and by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.
Don't forget December 21 marks the reappearance of the Christmas Star. Right after sunset in the southwest is the best viewing time. It's also good of the sky is clear. If you want the best view, though, you're going to have to go to the Southern Hemisphere. Don't forget a swimsuit. It's summer there.
Pantone announced their Color of the Year. Actually, it's two–Illuminating and Ultimate Gray.
Pantone has a lot of reasons and research behind the choices, as well as having aspirational goals for the effect the colors will have. But you gotta wonder sometimes. Laurie Pressman, a VP at the Pantone Color Institute, said this about the Ultimate choice:
We have to acknowledge that gray has been around forever. It's sort of like Labrador Retrievers–always one of the most popular dogs, but never a winner of the AKC's Westminster Dog Show.
BTW, for you webweavers out there, the new colors in hex are #F8D948 and #939597. However, Pantone colors don't make good background colors, as I found out to my chagrin in, you guessed it, 2020.
Many people are shocked and horrified that the divisions in America are so deep.
It's always been like that, frankly, and nicely encapsulated by Shirley Jackson's
Thanks to Garrison Keillor for the story around the publication.
Just when I thought 2020 was going to go out with all the nastiness that it showed throughout the year, it goes and does something like this, as seen on the camellia bush in the back yard.
Gardeners tell me that camellias aren't necessarily all that strange this time of year, but that narcissus are, like these in the front yard.
From NBC News.
Former Israeli space security chief says extraterrestrials exist, and Trump knows about it. A 'galactic federation' has been waiting for humans to 'reach a stage where we will understand... what space and spaceships are,' Haim Eshed said.
'Galactic federation,' huh? We don't 'understand space and spaceships,' huh? So I guess that would make us pre-Klingon. Not good news. Their ships are so icky looking.
We can do better.
The reason Trump hasn't said anything about knowing this is his team is scouting locations for the Trump/Galactic Federation Casino and Golf Resort, with ample parking for spaceships. These are aliens that Trump likes!
Anyway, it proves what I've been saying all along–if there's intelligent life out there, they're most likely smart enough to not contact us.
If you write, you have to read. If you've begun writing something you've spent your life up to this point avoiding (oh, let's say poetry), you read more poetry. So, in this hypothetical, you probably read some authors that you like, and who influence the way you write poetry, say, folks like Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg, Charles Bukowski, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and Gil Scott-Heron.
Start Two: Being a writer can be hard, seeing as there are so many things to write, each with its own standards of excellence, and these change over time. Some require self-revelation (a current fashion in poetry); others promote a complete absence of self (as in technical writing). One universal across all forms (with the possible exception of some boilerplate text) is
thou shalt not lift a particular collection of words in a particular order from somebody else, unless you want to give credit to the originator.
So imagine my shock/grief when I was reading Gil Scott-Heron's poem
Coming from a Broken Home, and encountered these lines:
She could take hers and outdo yours,/or take yours and outdo hers./
she may not have been in a class by herself,/ but it sho' didn't take long to call the roll.
Now, they're not bad lines. In fact, I like them a lot, particularly when I first heard them, attributed to Bum Phillips, the one-of-a-kind football coach of the Houston Oilers in the early '80s. Bum was known for catchy turns of phrase. I don't know who copied who, or if they both copied someone else, but I do know (his'n/your'n) can be tracked to 1960. On the (class by himself) the first citation I chased down is from Bum, in 1979. Gil's poem was first published in 1990. So I dunno. Enough sadness to go around.
We were listening to NBC News a few nights ago (
listening to: background noise and flickering images to accompany dinner, some of which surface into the frontal cortex, where they are are usually discarded quickly). When the broadcast was over, I realized that, for the the first time in living memory,
Donald Trump was not mentioned in any context for an entire newscast.
This may not be a big deal, as I am a charter member of the short attention span theater. Of course, lots of sports shows are willing to point out that
xxx is the first player since 2019 to achieve this feat. Which deserves either a golf clap or a yawn. It's like Jim Thorpe or Abraham Lincoln was involved somehow.
Already the middle of the month, and it's just going to get more frantic. Packages must be mailed now. Which means things must be wrapped now, bought now, selected now. That's my Christmas Eve routine–I don't appreciate having it pushed forward.
I'm thinking it's time for us to emulate the Brits and the Canadians, who have Boxing Day on Dec. 26. But let's do our new holiday right–have a
reception of the Christmas gifts day, maybe around the beginning of February. I know we have a lot of holidays then (MLK Day, Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day&341; but what better time of year to have an extra holiday than in the middle of winter? Maybe we could roll restocking and buying of the live Christmas tree to that day, too. I'll be darned if I'm going to be forced to rush out and buy a tree on December 1.
It's an interesting concept to push the Christmas season back as well as forward. I'm sure retailers won't complain.
The Big Think reports
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated. 2,000 light years closer, in fact. They don't tell us how how close we are now. The 20-year study also says Earth (and presumably the entire solar system) is moving faster–about 16,000 mph faster.
Good news for those with a need for speed.
For many people, travel over the holidays has become a Christmas tradition. Airports and highways are crowded as millions of Americans travel home, metaphorically over rivers and through woods, or jet off to warmer climes sometimes to visit an aged parent in a Florida or Arizona senior city, or sometimes to get to Cabo or Vegas to dislax themselves.
It's nice to see old traditions being continued. After all, travel around the celebration of the birth of Jesus is the only thing we know that the Holy Family did, first from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and then from Bethlehem to Egypt. All the other stuff is just pasted on.
I have no explanation for Thanksgiving travel, though.
slight severe storm risk for this area: A shortwave trough over the Mid-South will amplify and become negatively tilted as it reaches the Lower Mid-Atlantic Coast towards 12Z/Saturday.
Before you laugh, remember you're paying for this stuff.
I just saw one of Buzzfeed's lists of things that you do that show you're adult (AKA old). I hit a bunch of them, but one was interesting, about the adjusted value of a hundred-dollar bill.
That didn't particularly interest me, but I started thinking back (which is much more predictable than thinking forward). In my lifetime (let's just say it started sometime in the Truman administration), I have possessed perhaps three $100 bills. The money wall gives me $20s, and so for me that's the high end of the American currency system. If I recall, I was able to use one to actually buy something, but the other two I had to deposit in the bank to make them usable. So if you're looking for a drug dealer or money launderer, I'm probably not your guy.
Whenever police conduct a raid, they list the things taken, and it almost always includes a large sum of money. Two questions: what exactly is a large sum of money? Right now, I'm carrying a sum approaching $100, and I think that's a lot of money. And two: why is having a large sum of money at hand a sign of criminal activity? I thought that was the way America worked. Have a dream. Work hard. Get rich. Have lots of money. Run for President.
Maybe the large sum is all in $100 bills, and, like me, the cops never saw any growing up, and figure they had to be acquired through nefarious means. Or maybe all the cash is in wrappers marked
Mike the Money Launderer or
Doris the Drug Dealer.
It's amazing how easy it is to be a lawbreaker. Pretty much every time I get in a car, I'm going to speed. Not much–five miles an hour, but still...
Every Thursday, the city where I live collects the trash, and insists that for them to do the job, I must put the trash cans at the curb between 6 pm Wednesday and 7 am Thursday. I have had weeks where the trash was put on the curb as late as 9:30 am.
This life of crime is very exciting. I wonder what I should try next. Maybe walking in the street, and walking with traffic instead of against traffic.
Then I'll rob a bank, and take only $100 bills.
I've been noticing a lot of webpages are screwing up grammar and word choices, especially homonyms (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean diifferent things. Today's group is sight, site, cite.
What, you want more? Greedy buggers.
Snowfall is a depressing sightqualifies.
Sometimes, the only things that are remotely palatable on TV are ghost shows. Sad commentary on the time we're watching TV, I guess. Anyway, there are three things that intrigue me.
How do old ghosts, like from say the Civil War or 17th Century, manipulate new technology? How does a ghost from 1650 know how to make a flashlight turn on and off, speak through a radio or make a TV or ceiling fixture go crazy? I'm surprised a ghost hasn't reformatted a hard drive yet.
can you...? Lots of shows have investigators who ask the ghost to answer a question, or manipulate an object–a light, a door, or perform some activity–bake a cake, sing a song. Why would the ghost want to do that? I mean, what's in it for them?
professional human response. Actually, if they like a laugh, the ghosts will comply. There's nothing funnier than when one of these
professionals gets the response they requested, and then runs off screaming like a child.
It used to be that someone who won a lot of money immediately acquired a lot of unknown relatives and people with sad stories to tell, the goal being to separate the winner from some of his winnings. But you had to be a big, famous winner.
Nowadays, we all get to share in that tradition, as unknown relatives are replaced by telephone scammers. I got maybe a dozen calls yesterday, none of which were answered or left messages, but I bet they were going to tell me there was a problem with my Amazon account or my Apple device had experienced a security breach.
A while back, I talked about businesses impacted by the pandemic. One industry I forgot to :mention was convention centers. I imagine they're getting hit pretty hard by group meeting restrictions. Of course, many if not most of those convention centers were funded by taxpayer bonds, and I'm sure many of the contracts have clauses making the operators whole if certain goals aren't met, so we're probably on the hook for that, too. I say probably because
economic development and
transparency are never uttered in proximity to one another, proximity in this case meaning
in the same state.
It's December. I mention that because in the flurry of post-election blues, continued covidity, endless Black Friday, and a not-really-Thanksgiving, you may have missed it. One day blends into another.
Today is the feast of St. Nicholas, a third-century bishop of Myra who somehow morphed into Santa Claus. He was reputed to give gifts secretly, but that's still a stretch to fat guy, beard, red suit, North Pole and sitting in a mall. Nick is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, prostitutes, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, unmarried people, and students. Personally, I don't have any special celebrations planned, but you would hope in that list of motley folk, somebody will.
So why am I always #2? I'm more popular–no one ever says
You're full of #1. Does #1 have an emoji? Well, yes, but I dare you to tell me what it is without looking it up. I'm much more socially responsible. Do you ever hear of a guy walking casually up to a tree in the woods to take a dump? or off the end of a dock? No! Have there been entire episodes of South Park dedicated to pee? Don't be silly! Does #1 give you quality time alone to think deep thoughts or read a good book? Never! It's all about do, zip, and go.
Even though I have a majorly recognized brand presence, just once, I'd like to be #1. Thank you.
I think this is a positive sign. NBC News reports
rapper quit his music career to start a cat rescue. The rapper TrapKing thinks it's a good career move, too.
In another NBC News report, that monolith in Utah has disappeared and been replaced by a small stone pyramid and rock cairn. One visitor examined the original structure and showed it was more curved than straight, not at all like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, not what earlier pictures would lead us to believe. Also, informed speculation calculates the original might have been there over five years without being noticed, which means the suspected original prankster is off the hook.
I'm not sure if I am disappointed or delighted that the trickstery continues. But if all the above is true, I admire the dedication and fortitude of whoever could have left it there that long without saying anything, and not just getting discouraged and removing it.
We are supposedly living in a
Golden Age of television. If so, they forgot to tell our cable provider. Constant ghosts, Nazis, cooking contests, people fixing houses, alien abductions, strange creatures, archeology, and what all, all the same. There is no new programming, just renaming and repackaging and reshowing. It's trash TV at its finest.
You can tell they're running out of ideas, so they're cross-pollinating, injecting aliens into ghost stories, mashing up architecture and Nazis, bigfoot and engineering and cooking shows and auctions with, well, everything.
Still, it's got limitations. I'm here to help, with some outside the box thinking. To wit:
hot chick.There's a fresh challenge from a different alien race each week. And you don't want to see what happens when a bachelor is voted off the island and into his partner's digestive system!
The Computer Chronicles continues. Last week, the program I used to upload files to the internet server broke. This week, Dropbox has started eating files, including a number of poems for a class assignment, and (drumroll, please) snippets and tidits I was collecting for your delight and delectation. So if this is shorter than you might anticipate, well, that's the reason.
If you happen to look up at the moon on November 30, you will be looking at a full moon variously known as the Cold Moon, Frost Moon, Winter Moon, Beaver Moon, Oak Moon, Moon Before Yule, Child Moon, Kartik Purnima, Karthika Deepam and Tazaungdaing Festival Moon, and Ill Poya.
There's supposed to be an 80% eclipse then also, but nobody wants to tell me where on earth we can see it, which is OK, since it's supposed to happen around 4:00 in the hey of hem, so I'm not seeing it anyway, even if it was happening in my backyard.
The New York Times has a nice report on a metal slab that appeared in the rock canyons of Utah earlier this month. Nobody has taken credit for it, or knows how long it's been there.
The picture in the Times shows the monolith in Utah with another picture showing a similar sculpture in a gallery in Manhattan. I think it looks a lot better in the desert.
The suspected artist said something in 2002 about putting his art pieces in remote natural places. Unfortunately, he died in 2011, so we'll never know if he got around to it..
According to authorities, and artist needs permission to place art on federal lands, so the sculpture is illegal. If that's true, that's the kind of regulation that should be repealed, not the stuff about clean air or continuing to protect birds or workplace safety.
From the U.S. Sun:
Trump ‘furious’ at Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and legal team ‘fools that are making him look bad’ in election battle Now, I thought Trump was able to, and did, everything on his own, and didn't need help with anything. Strikes me that's the case here.
TomatoPlanet!! has been in existence (with a couple of name changes) since about 2003. It reflects the interests of its author/creator, John McCarthy. The sole purpose of Tomato Planet!! is to provide an outlet for my attempts at being creative. At various times, these interests have included writing (always writing–fiction, poetry, speculative essays, and humorous writing), coding (html and css) taking pictures, cooking, and cartooning. As interests waned (camera broke and was never replaced, cooking became more functional and simpler), pages devoted to these activities were phased out, to the point where TP!! was a single page. A lot of the writing and subject matter had a limited shelf life, and so instead of archiving it in an accessible fashion, it was just taken off-line and parked in the shed.
Some people missed things, and I put some things back. Most pages have been updated (Stories is a work in progress). Miscellany, which actually has a long history (one of the predecessors of TomatoPlanet!! was called McCarthy Miscellany.), has been rethought, and should be getting more love this year.
All work is based on observation of the world around me.
Serious writing, the poetry and stories take a different approach to capturing these observations. Cartoons and speculative essays take very little seriously, reflecting the world. If you look long enough, you realize that the orbital pattern is random ellipses, not perfectly round. I try to capture the absurdity of that. Not all the way to dark absurdity like Camus and Sartre, or even like Samuel Beckett–I sort of pull up in the land of Douglas Adams and Joseph Heller. I should be so lucky as to write half as well.
If you view the world through absurdist-colored glasses, you will enjoy some of the material here. If you're not an absurdist, well, you haven't been paying attention.