10/30/2014

Thomas Menino 1942-2014

I actually had two meetings with Mayor Menino: once, when he handed my diploma in 1990, and the other when he visited my grandparents personally in 1993 in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary.

Depending on your feelings for the former mayor, he was either the savior of Boston or the hardest politician to get through.  He was skilled in getting things done, even though it seemed he was talking through PlayDoh.  If something didn't please Menino, he blocked it until it benefited everyone.

His finest hours were when the city needed him most: the Marathon bombings, major snowstorms, even outside of the public eye.  To serve twenty years as major is a feat that no other mayor in this nation can replicate - not even the notorious James Curley can speak to that kind of longevity.

His health - cancer, especially - was the one thing that the mayor could not negotiate or bargain with, even though he tried with an iron will.  The city of Boston will be forever in his debt for making it better.

10/26/2014

Dale Dorman 1943-2014: an appreciation

Back in the late 1970s, cartoons came on at around 2pm on Channel 56 and my brother and I (and later, my other two brothers when they got older) watched them religiously.  

"Uncle" Dale Dorman came in and announced each half-hour, and told jokes only kids would cackle about in between commercials.   He also did Creature Double Feature and weekends at V66 video channel.

Dale Dorman was a consummate DJ and announcer.  He arrived in 1968 in short hair, and left in his trademark long hair with a ponytail (in one picture in 1973, his hair was nearly at his waist!).  At WRKO, WXKS and WODS, he was more lovable goof ball than boss jock, messing up song titles, telling dumb groaner jokes and announcing that someone from Quincy won two front row seats to see Prince.

Dale was already retired when WODS changed its format to AMP 103.3, but you always wonder if he would be ready for one more go, one more dumb joke that you get out of Laffy Taffy, one more "Aretha Franklin is coming to TD Garden and I've got tickets!"  Now he gets to enjoy life elsewhere, meeting up with legendary jocks of yore like Jefferson Kaye, Jim O'Brien, George Michael (of Sports Machine/WFIL fame, not the singer from Wham!), Juicy Brucie, and stars past who departed much too soon.

I met Dale once when I did the Walk for Hunger in 1990.  (At that time, if I remember correctly, he was wearing a mullet).  We talked for a bit - hey, you don't see local celebrities that often! - and then I went on my way.

Thanks, Uncle Dale.

A castle cemented by cronies and sycophants

Most journalists of the past reported stories that brought down leaders of all stripes.  However, if those editors are too cozy with those leaders in question, then those who wish to expose wrongdoings are blocked out by those who wish to keep the status quo, either out of convenience or corruption.
In this article, a former CBS reporter has lobbed the first arrows over the moat against the reporters and editors who routinely blocked stories and scandals that would damage the Obama administration.  If the person in office were a Republican, she would have praise and prizes lavished on her; she has done so in the past.  Since the people who were involved in these scandals were cronies of the President, she's now as welcome as a skunk.

The real reason the rest of the press will not go after the President is that the fear of access to the President and his inner circle would slam shut.  Cronies too happy to shower the President with money and donations would also slam shut and put them at risk for investigation - up to and including arrest, seizure of property and assets, and lengthy jail terms.  Hence it's easier to put up puff pieces and demonize their bête noires than investigate why such scandals occur.

If members of the media demanded why Wall Street executives masterminded the largest transfer of wealth in history in 2008, many of those same Wall Street executives would receive federal prison terms.  Those same Wall Street executives are also donate heavily to Democrats for influence peddling, so for the media to have wall-to-wall stories about this theft would crimp that ability severely.

These days, however, the media is happy to gossip about celebrities, dole out medical quackery, and complain about why we're not like Europe with their high taxes and "free" medical care.  The media fears people who go outside that box and not only direct sunshine to dark places, but to their shallow and superficial colleagues codependent on Washington's leaders.

10/24/2014

TLC's Boo Boo: not getting rid of other programs

I never watched the Honey Boo Boo show, but given that TLC canceled the show, I'm glad the network chose common sense over profits and publicity.

I don't watch reality TV shows if they exploit people through drama and conflict.  Reality shows have become conduits for this kind of sleazy exploitation of the fringes of society: the poor, the uneducated, the socially inept and awkward, and the ignorant. Producers regularly egg on these types of people to do outrageous things for ratings and buzz - "what are they going to do next" is a great hook for an easy profit.

However, when a show introduces people who have criminal records, especially those in which they're required to register as offenders, it is no longer funny.  Someone in TLC's upper management discovered that having an offender who regularly violated children as Honey Boo Boo's mother's boyfriend would cause enormous outrage.  That person, seeing their future profits would be sullied and child protection groups would be demanding their heads, wisely ordered the show to shut down.

TLC should review all of its reality TV shows thoroughly.  Then it should decide whether to dump all of them and revert to its old intentions as The Learning Channel.  An appropriate first show?  How to Stop Exploiting Children For Profit.

10/17/2014

Avoiding the panic machine

The Very Bad Disease That Shall Not Be Named is getting too much hype and not enough unbiased education.

Hype kills.  If the press were a responsible organ and source of advice, it would stop the TMZ-style reporting and hype in a USMC second (i.e. right freaking now), lest they become irrelevant boys and girls crying wolf.

You know how you stop a panic?

First, recognizing that right now, at this very second, you are not in any danger, and that you're safe.

Second, recognizing that you should get necessary information from the appropriate, unbiased sources will help much more than running around and screaming like a chicken with their head cut off.

Third, recognizing that self-prevention, i.e. proactive measures, and preparation greatly reduce the fear that you'll be affected

In other words: the quicker you walk away from the hype, the better off you will be.

With that in mind...let's have Shepard Smith give you some advice...

And for a little light entertainment...and and some more from Maj. Sidney Friedman...

10/02/2014

Cranks and knit-wits

II don't know what's worse: a person thinking they're smarter than everyone else and are offended at the drop of a hat, or people who counter concerns with an explicit and frustrated "get lost!"

So it goes with the great anti-math sock battle, to which a math teacher states she is offended by a sock saying, expecting the company to see the error of their ways.  Instead, the company first berates her for attempting to control manners, then sends her an inadvertent followup, calling her a "crazy b***h," then when the offended comes back with an even stronger retort, she receives the final "get a life!" (in a much stronger, nastier form).

From my viewpoint, both sides are wrong.

The math teacher is being insufferably rigid in defending her career and is rent-seeking in the most obnoxious of manners.  She sounded totally shrill and unyielding in her letters, all but demanding the company kowtow to her grievances. 

People like that have a special name: crank.

When the company pushed back, hard, because of her viciousness, she sent back an even more inflammatory letter, in which she continued to be insufferable.   The company delivered the final shock - a crass reference to getting fresh air to a private part - to end the conversation.

For the company, that shock was harsh, crude, and unnecessary.  It is tempting to purge frustrations by telling people they should get a sense of humor, but once it crosses into private parts, that's a oath you can't recall.  If the author persisted on railing on, the best path of action would have been to send a firm, yet polite letter, ending with "We consider this matter closed" and any further communications forwarded to legal counsel.  (They didn't help matters when a letter intentioned to placate the math teacher had the words "crazy b***h" attached to it.  Best to keep those opinions to yourself, lest you end up being part of a lawsuit.)

I didn't treat math as a religion when I took it as a major.  There are plenty more corny jokes about math (don't drink and derive, integral e^x = f(un)) and equally sharp derisions about math.  The arguments need not devolve into mudslinging and crass remarks - each party could have stepped back and been a lot more civil towards each other, with one understanding that the joke might be offensive and sexist to her, but true and a little funny to others, and the other understanding that empathy goes further than telling a customer to go find Elvis.

9/18/2014

Suffolk Downs 1935-2014

Suffolk Downs was the first horse track in the nation to have its public transit authority build a trolley station in record time - three days, so that the trolleys from Maverick Square (signed Gladstone at first, then Suffolk Downs) could take bettors to place their bets before the race.

In its heyday, well before the Internet, state lotteries, and casinos took away its luster, horse racing has always been called the Queen of Sports (with boxing as the King).  Suffolk Downs was no different.  It had its share of colorful personalities, bettors with a "sure thing," bettors with their own accounts, and the occasional bettor who could never seem to win because their favorite got beaten by a nose.

I went there occasionally.  I could never figure out Daily Racing Form, so most of the time I went on hunches.  I didn't spend that much - maybe on a good day I spent $20 over two or three races - but the horses running like mad to the finish line offered plenty of excitement (and copious amounts of obscenities if the horse you selected didn't win).  I didn't win that much either, but here or there a win over $50 was considered a good day.

Six years ago, voters went to the polls to ban greyhound racing.   In a vote in 2012, the residents of East Boston voted no on their side of Suffolk Downs; the Revere side voted yes.  This week, only three people were deemed necessary and sufficient to approve a casino in Everett.  The voters already said no; the three on the gambling panel assured its demise.

Suffolk Downs will end its live racing for good on September 29; it will end simulcasting on December 31.  Thousands of people - not just the jockeys, but horse groomers, bet takers, and stable owners - will be out of jobs.  When I passed Wonderland Greyhound Track this summer on the Commuter Rail train, the once-grand track was rusting and choked with weeds.  Suffolk may suffer the same fate, but only if developers are discouraged from building there.

Imagine people walking out of the new Suffolk Downs Mall, anchored by a SuperWalmart on the Revere side and a Market Basket on the East Boston side, doing a bigger and better business than Suffolk Downs the racetrack ever could.  A developer could put up true low-cost apartments that everyone can live in, not just those who can afford $3,000 a month or more.  Even putting up a new MBTA bus garage with a transit museum that would rival that of Seashore in Kennebunkport, ME would improve the area.

All of those are possibilities for the old Suffolk Downs grounds, and whoever purchases the Suffolk Downs land will convert it into something the NIMBYs despise even more than a casino, but can do nothing about because the concept is so successful.  That they cannot complain because doing so would make them sour, rent-seeking do-nothings would be delicious irony.

Suffolk Downs may have its best races and handles yet thanks to well-wishers and bettors trying to get in one last bet and one last hurrah.  That's what happened when the Hilltop Steak House closed last year; people who never stepped foot into the restaurant were there just to feel the aura of a more genteel era gone by.  

I may yet hear my last "You [expletive deleted] nag, you cost me a $900 trifecta" from a frustrated bettor before I leave.  That phrase won't be from me, though.

The Top 30 Gold Survey