Monday, December 14, 2009

Confessions of An Irrelevancy, Vintage 2009

Ah, Christmas and New Year's -- annual occasions when people of good will celebrate religious traditions and/or look back to reflect fondly upon the last 12 months.

Unfortunately, I can't be bothered with any of that today. I'll leave the good cheer stuff up to my readers because, by George, you can probably handle it better than I. Merry Christmas! Happy 2010! Okay, my turn. . .

Maybe it's my age and the realization that nothing gets better and every motion becomes more painful with time. Perhaps it's the mortal fear involved when I actually consider attempting exercise with a hula hoop, certain that I'll awaken the next morning with my quadratus lumborum switching positions with the rectus abdominis. Forget mere floating kidneys, this is the serious stuff of which self-contemplation is made.

I decided to take this opportunity to do what thousands, millions of bloggers do every day, and that is to bore the living daylights out of you with my personal mind baggage. That's right, today I'll be using the word, "I" at least half as many times as President Obama inserts it into his speeches. Ol' Robert is gonna put you to sleep, right here, right now, with a few of my concerns over the years, and there's nary a UFO in the bunch.

My Confession: First, because I've mentioned President Obama now and again in these pages in uncomplimentary terms, there will be the occasional reader wondering if I'm a racist. Well, that's an interesting point, so I'll both clarify my position and shoot myself in the butt at the same time.

The truth is, several years ago when then-Senator Obama spoke eloquently before the Democratic National Convention (the previous one, not the last event), probably for the first time ever, I found myself very impressed with his demeanor and ability to express issues far more coherently than many of his colleagues. I did, in fact, e-mail his office within hours and congratulated him for a fine speech and said it was my opinion that he would make a good presidential candidate someday. I don't believe I have a copy of the e-mail by now, but surely his office must because his speech was an historic political occasion, and I can't imagine that any form of communication (including letters and telegrams) reaching his office regarding that special moment would have been deleted or destroyed, so somewhere in cyber land the evidence of my questionable advice remains. My bad, as modern clueless youth, unable to organize a proper sentence in English class, would say.

However, my opinion softened considerably when he actually began campaigning for the job, because I -- and, by far, I am no political genius -- felt and continue to believe that his plans are just too expensive and radical for the turmoil our country currently experiences. I don't know that he's going to go down in history as a very good President, and of course that would be a shame. And no, I was no fan of President George W. Bush, either. Politically, I'm an Independent voter, a creature traditionally both hated and coveted by the established parties, and there are days when it wouldn't take much to push me toward the Libertarian side. To me, the Democrats and Republicans have become evil twins in many respects, and we should be appalled at the evidence of corruption frequently emerging from either party -- appalled enough to do something about it the next time elections are held.

So no, I'm not a racist. My immediate supervisor in the Air Force 40 years ago was a black man who wrote excellent performance reports for me (he is shown in a group photo in my Air Force blog), and my roommates included black and Hispanic airmen (though I admit to a special place in my heart for Santos L., whom I once drove to town outside our Texas USAF base, and every time we passed somebody on the street he would open the window and shout, "F*** you, you mother!" as my face graduated through shades of red).

Climate Change: If there's anything profoundly more dangerous than changes in climate and/or "global warming," in my opinion as a non-scientist, it's the frenzied compulsion among many people for numerous self-centered reasons to "do something." Steady progress in "green" alternatives is a great idea, but don't sledgehammer the process into the heads of others. If anything, I believe that a significant decrease in world human population is the key to everything, but, of course, nobody wants to tackle that issue -- which indicates right away that it's likely the most important culprit causing problems.

One tires quickly of opponents who insist, well, if we took all the humans in the world and put them next to each other, they would only fill a space the size of Rhode Island or New York City or a bird cage or whatever calculation they throw out -- but the truth is that each person requires (according to statistics, and who even knows how accurate they are?) 14 point something acres, or far more, to sustain himself or herself throughout a lifetime, so things quickly become enormously complicated at that point. In the meantime, Third World countries persist in clear-cutting forests at an alarming rate, rare animal and plant species disappear forever, and we are left with just more and more of. . .us.

Drug Companies: To stay in business and to be amenable to huge profits and funds for further studies, pharmaceutical corporations must continue researching and producing medications, and then somebody has to purchase and actually put them into their bodies. Yep, that's where we come in. They and/or we must convince our physicians to make us/allow us to enhance or foul our organs by ingesting or injecting their stuff. Their efforts have become remarkably successful, particularly via the expensive marketing campaign evidenced nightly during national news broadcasts among the major TV networks.

My current favorite is a commercial for Ambien CR, a sleep medication, and while we concentrate on the cuteness of a rooster parading through bedrooms and city streets, I wonder how many folks hear warnings in the background that the medication may cause hallucinations, death, suicidal thoughts -- and the possibility that you might even get a swollen tongue (great for making you appreciate your airway, before you lose it)! Well, maybe they'll invent a pill to prevent that, too. At least the rooster looks healthy and apparently harbors no ad-induced neurotic requirement to beg for a sleep aid.
Wonder drugs can be good things, but Wonder-Why-They-Invented-This-One drugs may not be, as one contemplates the disturbing frequency of news announcements and lawsuits regarding medications that turn out to have questionable, injurious or even fatal benefits. Which shall be next? Who shall be next? If we ever return to nutritious eating, lots o' meds could disappear overnight.

Americans who travel overseas for terrorist training to use against U.S. military personnel and American citizens: Your age doesn't matter, you really deserve only to be executed swiftly by authority of my government upon your return to the states or on the battlefield. I don't give a damn what a great all-around high school student you were or how nice you were to grandma.

AM Radio: Fingernails on a blackboard, that's what it's like when I hear callers to talk shows say, "thank you for taking my call," because it's the show hosts who should thank people for phoning in. Without callers, they would be out of business, and in many cases should be. Some "talk shows," mostly on the local level, are merely hourly blocks bought and paid for by various businesses or corporations. In my area, for example, local weekend radio mornings are fouled by "help" talk shows funded by home builders, auto repair people, financial advisers, health food advocates and a hospital. Hourly blocks can cost, I've heard, around $2,000 in many circumstances, but I'm sure that's extremely high or low, depending upon one's location.

AM and FM radio, often a mere shadow of their former selves, have become vast wastelands populated by commercials disguised as other formats, and one longs for the days when radio was fun, informative and not just a tool for advertisers and a blatant political agenda machine.
As one example, perhaps you've had the displeasure the last few months of having your ears pounded with frequently played "Mrs. Douglas" commercials. Intended as a commercial to sell a brand of automobile, these annoying and, in my opinion, over the line commercials start out with the sound of a ringing phone whose tone and pitch are obviously intended to rattle the listeners' brains, and the sound is repeated as the spiel reaches its end. Worse, I heard this commercial repeated as often as three times within 20 minutes, and certainly for at least 2-3 times per hour for days on end. Then the commercial would go away for a few days or weeks, and then would return, where the cycle started all over again. Ad agencies aren't stupid and obviously the commercial helped sell cars -- but it must also have instilled hostility among many potential customers once they knew they were being played by this nerve-jangling promotion intended through a ringing phone to force your undivided attention.

Radio station management whom make it so transparent and obvious that advertisers are appreciated more than loyal listeners do a real disservice to the industry. In fact, any ad agency, in-house commercial production team or sponsor which chooses loud noises over intelligent writing and marketing to sell a product should be looked upon with suspicion, because we often find that there's very little substance behind the noise and flash they churn out.

Illegal Immigrants: No. Get out or let's help you get out. We can do that by monitoring and criminalizing employers who hire border-jumping criminals, and by at last taking extreme legal action against both public officials intent upon operating "sanctuary cities" and against those with various other agendas who illegally import the world's human detritus inside our borders. When you look at throngs of people who sneak in with no intention of assimilating or caring about our borders, language or culture, bold moves are definitely required. Call me cold and dispassionate, call me cruel and harsh, but don't call me if an insurrection due to government inaction evolves.
Gays in the Military: Of course, why not? Already there, dude, nothing new.
Heterosexuals in the Military: Of course, why not? Already there, dude, nothing new.

Radical Islam in the Military: Uh, no. That doesn't seem to work out well.

Animals: Be kind, just be kind. Our human idiocies are not their fault and, as relative latecomers to this planet, it could be said that we are merely their guests of a temporary nature. William S. Lemur and Spike the Rat will be smiling over sun-bleached human bones in eroded international human graveyards long after the universe forgot the moment it burped us into a brief and troubled existence.

Major Lifetime Surprise: I was gratified and very much surprised when (the late) former Central NY Congressman James Hanley recommended me to the Carter Administration in case they organized a new UFO study (see letters above) -- an intention rumored, but apparently never established. Anyway, we all know where the real UFO studies are going on, don't we? Hmm?
Far Less Than 15 Minutes of Fame Moment: Actually, this less than shining moment only lasted 2-3 seconds when the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind used one of my magazine articles as a background prop among props, during a crucial moment displaying a collection of the main character's (Richard Dreyfuss) UFO newspaper and magazine clippings (see above). Chosen obviously because the Argosy Magazine graphics department produced a stunning and easily recognizable depiction of the subject at hand -- published just in time for Steven Spielberg's people's people's people to find this gem on some newsstand -- I remain particularly grateful that the rest of the article wasn't shown on The Big Screen. This article was one of the worst I ever wrote and the best thing about it was the artwork. Yeah, a couple of seconds in a motion picture, and I can tell you, stardom ain't all it's cracked up to be - and just where ARE my residual payments??? Been waiting for years and years and years. . .

Major Annoyance of the Moment: 2001, 2100, 2900, 1910 -- just wondering how long it'll be before I get the numerical 2-0-1-0 combination right this next year. The ones and zeroes in dates are so, so computer-ish. Must be a conspiracy.