Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Perspective on Ferguson From a Translucent White Guy

I was reading an editorial from a local station on Ferguson and the prerequisite flustercuck of racist and ignorant comments in response.   Here's a sampling of the insightful and thoughtful comments from my fellow white guys and gals:

  •  If they weren't looting shoe stores and rim shops it might be a diff situation but they make them selves look utterly stupid running out of a store with 6 Nike boxes and 24" wheel.
  • Stupid is as stupid does let's fix the problem by making it look like a thug was a choir boy that was doing nothing wrong by beating a police officer in the head I agree build a wall pull out the police and let them make it on their own. And if you think it's alright to loot steal and throw molotov cocktails at police then you are the true racist
  • Reports say that of every shoe store robbed, not one single pair of work boots were taken

  • they want to act like animals, there going to get treated like animals. "peaceful" protest,? haha i havent seen one thing that has been peaceful!
  • some people like the blame game blame the white people blame the police blame blame in america everyone has the same choices either work hard or give up some get free checks some get food stamps and some have 3 or 4 jobs
  • I AGREE WITH YOU 100%.....SCOTT NEEDS TO KEEP HER MOUTH SHUT UNLESS SHE HAS SOMETHING INTELLIGENT TO SAY...ITS PEOPLE LIKE HER THAT EGGS IT ON AND INCITES THINGS LIKE THIS TO HAPPEN....SHE HAD NO BUSINESS GOING THERE AND SAYING ANYTHING...IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH HER OR LOUISVILLE...SHE DID IT JUST TO STICK HER NOSE WHERE IT DIDNT BELONG AND WANTED ATTENTION FOR HERSELF....I AGREE ALSO WITH THE GENTLEMAN FROM THE COLLEGE HERE, HE SAID THAT IN SO MANY WORDS NOBODY PROTESTS WHEN BLACK PEOPLE KILL OTHER BLACK PEOPLE ITS A SHAME, WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE OVER THAT....LISTEN TO WHAT HE SAYS.....PLUS I KNEW THE TRUTH WOULD COME OUT, THE OFFICER WAS ATTACKED FIRST, HE HAD AN ORBITAL FRACTURE WHICH MEANS THE OFFICER WAS ATTACKED FIRST AND EYE WITNESSES STATE HE WAS...THIS TEEN WAS A MAN, LET ME GET THAT OUT THERE..YOU ARE A LEGAL MAN AT 18....HE ALSO ROBBED A STORE BEFORE HE DIED...THERE ARE PICTURES OF HIM WITH GUNS AND DRUGS.....HE WAS A THUG, WHERE DO PEOPLE NOT GET THAT?!?!?! FYI....IF YOU ARE SO AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS....DONT DONT DONT CALL THEM WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS TO YOU LIKE BEING ROBBED AT GUN POINT OR RAPED AND WHATNOT, CALL SOMEONE WHO DOESNT GO OUT OF THIER WAY EACH DAY AND PUTS THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE FOR YOU SO YOU CAN SLEEP WELL AT NIGHT...REMEMBER YOU ARE THE ONES WHO CONSIDER THEM BAD....JUST SAYIN
Yup, "just sayin'", and sayin' it real goddamned dumb.  So here's a perspective from another white guy (me) I'd like to add, with the hopes that one of my fellow white guys who subscribes to beliefs like the crap above might see it and say, "hmmm.... I never thought of that."

See Skippy, you and I are white.   And being white, there are some things that we simply don't know and cannot understand.    In fact, I can say with almost 100% certainty that as white guys we:  
  • Will never watch people cross the street when they see us coming toward them
  • Will not have to see the bad actions of a few be said to be the mindset of the entire population of our race
  • Won't find ourselves subject to multiple police stops, questions about why we're hanging out or driving in an upscale neighborhood (that we happen to live in)
  • Won't be followed around a store by people who aren't interested in selling us something
  • Won't get arrested and jailed for the pettiest of offenses, often discovered because we've been subject to unwarranted police stops 
  • Will never have it assumed that we only like country music, Barry Manilow, the comedy stylings of Jeff Foxworthy, or hockey, simply because of the color of our skin
  • Won't see people struggling to talk about "white" things when they meet us for the first time
  • Won't have people come to us solely to discuss concerns they have dealing with other white people or to be reassured that they're not prejudice against white people  
  • Won't have trouble renting a house or buying a home when we have adequate income and credit
  • Won't have it presumed that we're in our position at work or secured a spot in college solely because of the color of our skin 
  • Won't have the most threatening looking picture of us chosen by the media to represent who we are if we should fall victim to murder  
  • Won't have people act shocked that we're "articulate" or "well-spoken"  (okay, maybe this isn't true after reading the comments above
  • Won't get cussed at, presumed guilty by, harassed, or shot dead by a cop for jaywalking, or doing nothing at all
As white people, we enjoy the privilege of not being noticed, judged, or standing out because of longstanding racist perceptions of who we are.     There are hundreds of negative experiences that African-Americans have that we will never experience or be aware of.  So before you look at Ferguson and dismiss the protests of the population as simply angry rantings by people who don't understand how good they have it, I'd ask that you take the time to talk to your black friends, coworkers, or neighbors about their own feelings and life experiences and try to learn from them.    

Just sayin'.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rest in Peace Robin Williams

When John Lennon died in 1980, I can remember the images of people crying with deep sorrow over their loss.  I remember my brother's friend acting as though he'd lost a best friend.    It was something that made no sense to me.   Yes, it was sad, but they weren't someone these people knew.    Celebrity deaths tended to impact me like that.  It was always sad, sometimes a shock, but always a distant feeling of sorrow.  

Then I remember May 16, 1990.  On that day I was coming home from college, sitting in the backseat of a car and listening to the news when I heard Jim Henson had died.   That was when it hit home.  Jim and his Muppets were a major part of my childhood.  Henson was an expert in bring sheer joy to life in the form of some googly eyes and felt.   The Muppets made me happy.   The Muppets made me laugh.   And the man that created them was gone, and with it a piece of my childhood.  

When I heard about Robin Williams' death yesterday, quite honestly, I couldn't get a real read on why I felt down.   I hadn't seen a Williams movie in years, and honestly, I hadn't thought much about him either.   But there he was, and I felt the same way I did with Jim Henson.  Crushed.  

After thinking about it, I remembered picking up Dynamite Magazine around 1979 via Scholastic Books, most likely the one shown here.  For some reason, I remember vividly that Robin Williams indicated in the piece that he was a shy, fat, and lonely kid who lived a lot in his imagination.   As the years went on for me in elementary, middle, and high school,  I watched myself grow up and sideways, and felt that same loneliness, which manifested itself in an active imaginary world.      The sheer goofy outgoing nature of Robin Williams at the time was both a representative of who I was, and who I'd love to be.  

But in watching and listening to the many retrospectives of clips and interviews from Robin, I realized that it went much deeper than that.    Robin was a kid at heart who seemed always to want to make others feel better.   But it wasn't hard to see that in his personal life, Robin probably felt he was hurting people, and probably never really stopping to think about what would make Robin feel better about himself.    

Robin Williams talked in Marc Maron's WTF podcast interview about how he briefly thought of suicide, but knew in his heart that he had it good.   Somehow in the four years since that interview, the part of Robin that embraced the rational thought of all of the good things in life got jettisoned on a life raft to drift further and further away from his mind.    The insidious hold of depression kept the voices of those who loved him and his own mind's assessment of his self worth from breaking through his suicidal thoughts.  The gleeful clown we loved got overtaken by the hints of sorrow that always lurked in the background of his best movie roles and the most personal interviews of him.    That someone who was such a force of good could so tragically battle these demons and lose is devastating.    Something inside of him kept him from seeing the love we all had for him, or perhaps allowing Robin to love himself for who he was, who he is, and who he could be in the future.   It's scary for those of us who are a bit like Robin, a bit too eager to please with humor, a little too harshly critical and unforgiving of ourselves, and who sometimes get lost in our own melancholy.  

And so I find myself crushed again, sad that a bright light for good chose to snuff itself out for reasons we may never know.    Good Night, Robin.   May you find peace in death that eluded you in life.  

A Few Thoughts on Robin Williams and Mental Illness


Have you ever said any of the following to a person who is battling cancer, about someone who died from cancer, or to their family?

  • Why didn't he fight this harder?  
  • My God, get over it.  
  • You've got everything to live for.  
  • It's not that bad.  
  • Why would you do this to yourself?
  • Why did you do this to your family?  
  • Why were you so selfish?  
  • Why didn't you do more for her?  
  • Why didn't you get her help?   
  • Get out of bed, you're faking it.   
  • You had everything.  Why???????
Then why in the hell would you say it to or about someone who is fighting mental illness or who has lost their battle with it?

If it helps, think of mental illness as a cancer that attacks your thought process, and one that can be treated, sometimes cured, but often results in a relapse that can be worse.  

Rest in peace, Robin Williams.  Thanks for the laughs.   I wish the world could have provided you a few more yesterday.   

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Questions for All Education Reformers, Including Campbell Brown

Education is in crisis.

Public schools suck.  

Our teachers are failing.

Our schools are failing.

 It seems as though not a day goes by in which we hear about how our educational future is a mess.   The latest "savior" in education is former reporter Campbell Brown, who is attacking teacher tenure and/or teacher unions for being one of the driving forces behind educational underachievement.   And Brown has been rightfully ridiculed for asking for "transparency" while refusing to name the backers of her Partnership for Educational Justice, and sadly, since she's a journalist, for having trouble with the facts.     As someone who got an incredible education in a Kentucky Public School, and who is working toward getting my daughter a great education in Louisville's much maligned public system, I'm certainly interested in improving education.   But so many of these "reform" minded individuals seem to spend more time attacking easy targets than really proving they've invested in the factors that play into schools, teachers, and students underperforming.    So here are a series of questions to ask anyone who places themselves in the public eye as an education reformer, especially those who found or are backed by larger organizations.  

What is your background in education and what experience do you have as a teacher, parent, or student in public schools?   

In my own personal experience, many of the biggest critics of public schools are those who have neither attended nor sent their children to public schools.  Additionally, many of these reformers have little if any experience in public school education.   Campbell Brown's biography appears to show private schooling and one year teaching English in a foreign country.  Many of the backers of school "choice" or charter schools in the Louisville area have similar backgrounds of private schools and limited or no teaching experience.

The reason this question is important is because it is important to understand motivation.   While I do not doubt that there are people who want to improve education out of altruistic reasons, it is also true that many reformers back plans that have political, religious, or economic motivations.    As a parent in public schools, I want my fellow parents with experience within the system to be driving the discussion and debate, because the decisions made impact us directly.  

What is your motivation?   Who is backing you, and what is their motivation?   

True education reform should be motivated by improving educational outcomes.   Unfortunately, in the field of education reform, we see a lot of individuals and groups with interests that have nothing to do with true educational improvement.   Some "reformers" are motivated by profit, looking to bring their own educational materials, programs, or charter schools into districts they seek to reform.   Some are motivated by political reasons, seeking to weaken teacher unions, or to dismantle publicly funded schools.   Others are motivated by religious reasons, seeking to push religious education or dismantle science education within the public school systems.     And still others are simply looking for the attention and fundraising that such efforts can bring.  

Knowing who is behind and who is funding an educational reform effort goes a long way toward judging their true motivations.   Anyone who refuses to speak openly about this, like Campbell Brown, should be considered suspect.  

What specific research and analysis have you done into the problems you've identified and the reforms you are proposing?   How will the reforms you propose fix these issues, and what evidence do you have that supports this?   And how will you measure and compare your results to 

School reformers in Louisville and elsewhere love to shout "charter schools" as a panacea for all that ails public education.   If you research charter schools, you'll find mixed results at best, and find that even those that do appear to improve results often do so through selective enrollment, questionable measurement, or don't raise the overall level of schools within the district.   Change for change's sake is not real reform.   Improving anything requires in depth analysis of ALL factors that go into deficiencies.  Any reformer who cannot provide a detailed and well sourced analysis of what is wrong and how their proposed reforms will fix it, including a detailed plan for how they will compare educational outcomes from the existing system to the new one, should be considered suspect.    



Friday, August 8, 2014

A Limerick for the Kentucky Senate Race

There once was a wife named Elaine Chou
Whose group went after the coal cash cow.
Her hubby Mitch was a slime
Attacking Alison Grimes
When he's full of the stuff of moved bowels.

(News story:  Elaine Chao Committed To Ending American's Reliance On Dirty Coal)

Reflections on a Week Off Of Facebook

It's been one week since I deactivated my Facebook account.  Honestly, the deactivation was a whim, following in the footsteps of my wife who killed hers a few days earlier.    Here it is a week later, and upon reactivating it briefly, I thought it was a chance to reflect on what I learned.  

MUCH OF FACEBOOK IS HABIT 

That big F on my phone (no, not the one aimed at me from an angry twitter follower) was still there this past week, taunting me to click through it.   And like the Pavlov's dog of gossip, I kept clicking it mindlessly every time I'd check my phone.    Thankfully Facebook wasn't evil enough to make their app automatically log me back in.    

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS 

I follow every local station and a few news programs on Facebook.   Each one of these posts stories of breaking news, controversial stories, and a Greyhound Bus Line full of trollish comments about each of them.  I never really reflected on how much I used Facebook to learn about these stories, nor how much time and brainpower every little story about a crime, injustice, cute kitten, or reality star took up.   How many times did I read a story and feel the need to post an angry comment at a fellow poster or at the news media for posting a worthless story with no significance to the local area?   Seven days without this urge was pleasant.   An added bonus was that I didn't feel the need to tune in for these stories on the local news either, saving myself a couple of hours of repetitive local news.

MISERY CAN'T LOVE COMPANY IT DOESN'T HAVE (AKA: HOW BIG A CIRCLE OF FRIENDS IS ENOUGH)  

In my brief return to Facebook, I learned of the death of someone my parents age whose daughter my brother had been friends with, as well as two other deaths, and a person whose parent was facing a terrible diagnosis.    These were all things I saw within the first five minutes of my return.   All of these made me feel horrible, but none of these stories involved people who had played a part in the last 20 years of my life.  The part of me that is full of empathy felt terrible about all of these things.   But another part of me realized that had I not been on Facebook, none of these stories would have reached my ears, and the stress and sorrow I felt about these things wouldn't exist.    Do I really need to know the triumph or tribulations of 500 people I have known for awhile, but have never been close to?  While I certainly care, there is an emotional toll exacted on some of us that is disproportional to the strength of our relationships with our social media friends.  

HATING THE PEOPLE YOU LIKE 

Ever seen someone's status on Facebook and envied them for their vacation, degree, marathon, or job they absolutely love?    Ever find yourself reading a status and judging a friend, coworker or relative?   Facebook throws the best and worst of people at us, with no consideration as to what the audience on the other end may be feeling.   Just a few weeks ago a relative left a comment under an article I posted that rubbed me the wrong way.   I responded with a response I thought was pointed but fair.   She blocked me after making another comment that rubbed me the wrong way.    Do I really need that in my life?   Did she?  Would either of us have discussed this issue in person at a reunion?    I feel both angry at her and mad at myself for what transpired.  On Facebook many of us lay out pieces of our lives and beliefs that we didn't normally lay out for our casual acquaintances.   What our real friends accept and love about us can annoy our Facebook "friends".   It's both a blessing and a curse that Facebook allows us to be who we are and share our interests.  I'm beginning to think that I'd prefer to keep my relationships with some people at a comfortable distance so that I may maintain both my and their positive viewpoint about each other, and maybe to keep the understanding that face to face relationships provide that online relationships just don't have.  

TIME AND PEACE OF MIND 

Did I mention time?  I finished two books this week.  My wife has plowed through two big ones.   I've watched Jeopardy with my daughter.    I've focused my mind on writing some blog posts.   I've let my mind think about things beyond the most recent news.   I've picked up my phone..... and put it immediately back down.    The peace of not drinking from a fire hose of information has been nice.   It's even made me rethink my first love, Twitter.     I don't feel caught up in the news, angry about comments made by people I don't know (or those that I do), or worried about the lives of people I don't know that well and who I can't do much of anything about.    Truly, ignorance is bliss.  

DID YOU MISS ANYTHING?  

Both my wife and I realized that Facebook has replaced e-mail for keeping in touch with people.  There were several people whose updates I look forward to, and I always love seeing happy stories about my daughters friends and the kids of my relatives and friends.    Truthfully, I want to stay in touch with these people, and Facebook remains the best way to do so.  

SO NOW WHAT?

I'm thinking about extending my Facebook absence another week at least to see what I really miss.    Once I do come back, I plan on reducing my friends list and the information I can see about some of the other people I keep as friends.  I also think I will reduce the amount of news sources I subscribe to so that I can avoid endless news stories that make me angry.     And I may delete the application on my phone to cut back on the mindless clicking through it when I'm bored.     No matter what I do, I see a future where I

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Going to Church

I've been taking walks at work for months now.   For 30 minutes I get out and about, usually taking my walk to the more touristy places that surround me in Louisville, if only to watch families and buses of tourists and school children marvel at the giant metal Louisville Slugger, or giggle at the smaller gaudy gold slugger on the naked statue of David nearby.  

But the last couple of weeks I've been taking a detour.   This time I go south toward another tourist area, Fourth Street Live.   It's a converted downtown mall full of overpriced restaurants expressly designed for businessmen with expense accounts.   Here you can get a $15 overcooked cheeseburger with ice cold greasy fries served to you by a charmless overpierced college student who just texted your order to her boyfriend on her iPhone and sent an order to the kitchen for a date tonight at 8 PM.    I walk through there and I cut past the Hard Rock Cafe (celebrating Louisville's rich musical history with an Aerosmith display) and through some doors toward the Cathedral of the Assumption.      I walk down the small alley/sidewalk beside the building, past the tiny birds that line the way, and round the corner to the entrance of the church.   I open the massive doors, which always opens the set of doors up the stairway from the entrance, leading me to believe someone is up there in front of me, which always seems to unsettle me.

It unsettles me because I come here for one reason.   To be alone in quiet thought.    I grew up Catholic, and whatever my beliefs now (as of 6 AM on Wednesday, we'll go with agnostic but spiritual) I always appreciated the ritual of mass, especially those few moments of silence after communion or when the priest would offer a moment of silence to offer up our own personal prayers when you could let go of your worries, offer up some positive thoughts for the people that you cared about, or the situations in the world that you hoped would be better.     On weekday afternoons, I get the church all to myself, free from the distractions of other people, a priest, or the American Idol concerts that mass seems to have become in recent years.   The only noise is a babbling pool of holy water near the back of the church.     I can sit anywhere I like and quietly contemplate the day, my stresses, my worries, and my hopes, and silently (or quietly) toss them out to God, or the world, or simply back to myself, and walk away a little bit lighter than when I walked in.   And when I walk out, I try to write something in the prayer book in the back,  wishing for something positive for me, my family, or the world.  And I often put some spare change in the poor box, thinking of it as an admission fee, still cheaper than a walk to Starbucks.  

While I will not claim any divine intervention, or reaffirmation of my faith, I will simply say that doing this does make me feel better.   I'm trying to reflect on the ways in which I fall short of being a kind, caring, and loving person, and do better.   And I try to take all of the worries that fill my ever stressed mind and give at least a few of them up for awhile, trusting that the cosmos, my family, and others will take care of me.  It's a nice retreat from the world, if only for a few minutes.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Ephemeral Digital World

From Shoeboxblog.com
If you'd have told me when I was my daughter's age that I would be able to buy any book, magazine, videogame, movie, or album in a format that would be transferred to my house in a matter of seconds, and that I could store all of these on devices that were the size of a dictionary or less, I'd have rolled my eyes and gone back to playing Atari. The idea that in 30 years we'd be able to have almost instant access to such vast sums of information through a simple search would have blown my World Book loving mind.
And honestly, 30 years later, it does feel like my mind is indeed blown somewhat, but not necessarily in a good way. Consider my iPad. On it there were numerous apps that stored dozens of books, hundreds of magazines (with new ones every month!), tweets, news articles, facebook updates, more movies than I could ever watch, music, video games, podcasts, and photos. It was everything I loved in one easy place. And it sucked.

We now live in a world where everything is at our fingertips EXCEPT the experience behind obtaining them and consuming them.

I have a collection of thousands of CDs. I can tell you where I bought almost everyone of them. Just looking at the covers can bring back experiences of walking through Tower Records, or even Walmart. The smells of the CDs, the booklets, and the CDs themselves all stick in the mind and frame pieces of history for me.
Mixtapes and radio tapes told the tale of their time, and forever linked two songs in your mind simply because they were recorded there in order.

The books on my shelves all share stories beyond their pages. I can look at some of my older books and feel the joy of the amount of times I thumbed through their pages, and their spines show the wear they got as I bounced back and forth through them time and again.

There are old magazine copies with covers and even multiple pages long gone. They show how much I loved rereading old articles, revisiting lists of albums I must own, and movies I must see. Obscure magazine titles that I saved tell the tale of the visits to bookstores with huge newsstands that fascinated me with titles you never saw at the drug or grocery store.

And photos. So fearful were we that we'd not have enough film to capture the moment when we needed it that we have relatively few photos of some of the events that shaped our lives. But these photos have become representatives of that moment. Faded and distorted colors represent the 60s and 70s. The heads cut off reflect the crude cameras we used. The person just out of the frame or slighty blurring whose identity remains a point of contention. When was this taken? Where was this taken? All of these questions hidden from us by cameras that didn't record our locations, the time of day or date, facebook tags, or anything but the photo in front of them. We pull the photos out and examine them, looking at the back to see if the photo paper, or even some unseen ghost just off the photo can tell us something we do not see. And those events forever become shaped by just a few representative photos.

Today most all of this exists in our devices. Everything has the same empty weight and feel. We do not own our books, music, magazines, or even our photos. They are zeros and ones we keep in little windows in our pockets, on our laps, and in our hands. We experience them when we see them, and then they're gone, stored away in files that we may never come across again. We have no sense of completion or fulfillment from these digital files, because they seem temporary, part of a realm that is always slightly out of our reach. There is always one more thing to read, listen to, or see that keeps us from lingering on what we do own, or treasuring them for what they represent to us.

And I think that's what's bringing many of us back. E-book sales have flattened. Used bookstores seem to be doing brisk business. Albums have enjoyed a spike in sales as everything else remains flat or crashes. Moleskines, notebooks, and fancy pens are written about with glee by people who otherwise embrace technology. We need the things we enjoy not just to be experiences, but to also exist. We have to have the feeling that we've used things, taken a part of them and made it our own.

As I thought about this, I walked by my daughter's room. She has all of the various forms of digital entertainment at her disposal. But in her room are dozens of books. Real paper books that she has bought and won't part with. Even as a child of the digital age, she sees why some of us still embrace an analog world. May she always know the joy of ownership.

(Cartoon taken from shoeboxblog.com)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Reflections on Old Technology

I look at my daughter's room and her toys and I think to myself, "How in the world did we ever cope or live to see our fifth birthday?" Here are some random thoughts on things I grew up with that my child will probably never understand.

Handheld AM Transistor Radios

One of the websites I'm fond of here in Louisville is 79waky.com. It is devoted to an AM radio station that defined rock music for Louisville in the 60's and 70's. I can remember listening to WAKY 790 on my little AM FlavoRadio from Radio Shack. These radios were inexpensive, and had speakers of less fidelity than you'd find in a dollar pair of headphones. They were usually powered by a 9 volt battery, and after about a week of use, they built up static in their volume control that would result in some nice white noise everytime you tried to turn it up or down.

They also had nice little schematic diagrams in them that showed how it was all wired. Apparently in the 1970's, we were all MacGyver. My parents also had a Panapet, a cute little radio that had a radio dial and a volume and tuning control that looked like eyes. It was attached to a long chain with a keyring attached. This always fascinated me because the thing weighed about 2 pounds, which meant that if you used the chain to carry it around, you could also defend yourself by swinging it over your head and chucking it at someone. At last check, my parents still had one, and it worked. I like to think that the iPod's white earbuds are a nod to the old earphones we used to shove into our earcanals with these radios.

8-Track Tapes


My family still has three 8 track tape players and a large selection of the tapes. 8 Track tapes represented the latest in technology in the mid 60s, providing the user with a nice way to take their music on the go. Unfortunately, the limited amount of tape that the 8-Track could hold, and the fact that it contained 4 separate sets of stereo tracks meant that record companies had to be creative when separating an album. Sometimes songs would get tracked in the middle, so you'd hear the song, then a loud "KACHUNK" as the player moved the heads down a track, then your song would start again. According to 8trackheaven.com, the last 8 tracks were produced for record clubs up until 1988, with the last 8 track apparently being Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits (A selection I bought on CD that year).

Black and White Television


As analog television rapidly fades into the sunset, let me give a shout out to Black and White TV. Our house has seven televisions right now. All color, two digital, five analog. It may be hard for my daughter to believe, but there were still people back in the 70s who didn't even have COLOR televisions. And most kids were lucky to have a television. If they did have one (like me), it was typically a black and white model, with rabbit ears, a large wire "Bow-Tie" antenna that would pop off when the wind blew too hard, a horizontal hold that would get wonky and cause your picture to roll, and a volume control with the exact same problem as their FlavoRadio, namely static whenever you moved it. 19 inch televisions were BIG SCREENS, and having a remote control would add a hundred or more to the price.

My 12 inch Zenith probably cost about $150.00 at the time, but did a pretty good job of sucking in the Louisville TV stations with a minimal of effort on the bowtie antenna. It received hundreds of hours of play watching reruns of Gilligan, Leave It To Beaver, the Brady Bunch, and others.

Records and Record Stores

These 12 inch vinyl platters have never really left us. Following their alleged "demise" in the early 90's, they were repositioned as a niche product, appealing to a snobby subset of collectors and bands too hip for their own good. Many audiophiles claim that lp's sound better than CDs. Of course, these are the people who spend more on a diamond needle than I did on my wife's diamond ring, and who probably take better care of their records than just running a Ronco Record Vacuum over them occasionally. Still, there was something satisfying about owning an album on record than on cassette or CD. The covers were big enough to be appreciated as art. The discs themselves could be different shapes, colors, and designs. And they were a lot easier to flip through at a record store.

Ah, the record store. While I have an iPod, and appreciate iTunes, there is something that just isn't that satisfying about clicking links to see albums. You miss the community of people that gravitates toward record stores, people who loved music. You miss the chance to hear that random song that will make you a fan of an artist you never heard before. You miss the posters, the sights, the weird guy with the pierced scalp, and above all the chance to buy music in a permanent form, not an impersonal electronic file.

Boom Boxes

A few weeks ago, my daughter did a little dance on the floor and said to us, "I'm break dancing." Unfortunately, because we laughed a bit too hard at her wholly unexpected statement, we have yet to find out where she heard about break dancing. It brought to mind the visual of the boom box, the allegedly portable radio/cassette players powered by $30 worth of batteries, and with enough lights to land a plane in the fog. Granted, these were only a small subset of the boom box industry, but most of us in the late 70s and early 80s had some variation of one of them. I remember measuring quality by the smoothness of the eject. If it shot out like Dick Cheney spotting a lawyer on a hunting trip, it was junk. If the tape mechanism slowly slid out like it had nowhere to go in the next year, it was a quality piece of merchandise. And these things weren't cheap. Often the barest bones brand name model was over $100, and one that would make an 80's street dancer proud might cost over $500.

I can't imagine explaining to my daughter, who no doubt will have some sort of implanted earbud by the time she's a teenager, that people used to carry these things on their shoulder's with them like some sort of crowd clearing luggage. Perhaps it is just best to point her to the Pocket Calculator Show's boombox section for a primer.