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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Going Back Fifty Years, Politickler #7 and a Short Story about Lies

Once again, I am including a short story from my archives on the posting.  I would much rather have included something which one of you had written, but that hasn't happened, at least not lately.  In any event, you may enjoy this one.  It has a moral, I think. But first ....

Taking You Back Half a Century

Back when we were young  (wouldn’t that make a good song title!), many musical performers commented on the social and political scene about them with the songs they sang.  Who cannot remember the Weavers, Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and innumerable others like Simon and Garfunkle, Bob Dylan and of course, Woody Guthrie?  They told us what was “blowing in the wind,” and also let you know that “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.”  They told us about the social injustice perpetrated on the likes of “John Henry, a steel driving man” and also reminded us that “the banks are made of marble, with a guard at every door.” (That was on the flip side of the Weavers’ socialist anthem “If I Had a Hammer,”) These people, although their politics invariably came from the left, were patriotic, and wanted to share America’s greatness with each other: “This land is your land, this land is my land, from the redwood forest to the New York island,” we all sang with Woody.  As the years passed and as music merged the world of protest into the drug culture, we had “American Pie,” “MacArthur Park” and that innocent ditty about marijuana, “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

But here’s some news for you.  That culture is not dead.  I heard it resurrected in a song from Tom Pacheco’s 2011 CD, Luminol (a tradename for phenobarbitol), entitled “We Looked the Other Way.”  It is straight out of the 50s or 60s, addressing today’s problems and of course, it is coming straight at you from the far left and could be an anthem for the “Occupy Movement,” if they need one. 

 Luminol (the Houston Sessions)

Give it a listen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdUSqnOROT0.  It runs a little under seven minutes and while the lyrics are a bit hard to make out at the beginning, you can eventually get them all if you turn up your sound and listen a couple of times.  It will take you back half a century.  You may not agree with everything Pacheco sings, but his message is worth hearing. 

Jack Lippman

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Politickler #7: Keeping Informed on TV

You cannot keep up with what is going on in the nation and the world by watching the major TV networks. With few exceptions such as ABC’s Nightline and the Sunday morning interview shows, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC just don’t offer enough news coverage on their primary channels.  More comprehensive news and opinion does appear, however, on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN. (And of course in many daily newspapers.)

The Fox News Channel, although boasting that it has a “fair and balanced” approach, is significantly oriented toward the right wing conservative viewer, despite its dropping the overly partisan Glenn Beck earlier this year. At the other extreme, NBC’s MSNBC subsidiary is heavily weighted in a liberal direction, even with former G.O.P. Congressman Joe Scarborough hosting their Morning Joe program. CNN provides news on a 24/7 basis, and tries to follow a middle path, often unsuccessfully, but does try hard to avoid featuring opinionated hosts like Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow at MSNBC or Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity at Fox. 


Clockwise from top left:  Bill O'Reilly - Fox News,  Ed Schutz-MSNBC,
Anderson Cooper - CNN,   Mika Brzezinski-MSNBC   
It might be a good idea for liberals to check out Fox once in a while and for conservatives to try watching MSNBC. Please, though, If you do this, start with just five minute doses and try to avoid throwing things at the TV screen, particularly the first few times you try it.  I have become a Morning Joe fan where I find co-host Mika Brzezinski to be a competent liberal balance to Scarborough.  Incidentally, I was turned on to Morning Joe by none other than a registered Republican. 

And speaking of Republicans, I see where the Democrats are running anti-Romney ads with the dual purpose of taking an early poke at him, should he be the G.O.P. candidate in 2012, and also weakening his position in his efforts to win the Republican nomination.  The Dems know that Romney would have a far greater appeal to the decisive independent voters than any other Republican aspirant, and that Barack Obama would have an easier time if anyone other than Romney were the nominee.  The problem with this strategy is the danger of getting what you wish for, and finding out that it is really not to your liking.

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He put the cassette into the VCR, settled back into his recliner, and prepared to learn, once and for all, courtesy of Jack Nicklaus, how to rid his golf game of his recurring propensity to slice the ball off to the right, usually into a clump of trees or shrubbery, on about half of the tee shots he had been making over the past few weeks.   He thought he had that problem licked last fall, but it was creeping back into his game, and more importantly, it was getting into his head every time he set foot on a golf course lately and making a shambles of his efforts to get within twenty strokes of par.

“Herman,” called out a voice from the kitchen.  “I’m going over to the clubhouse to play canasta. I’ll be back a little after ten.  Marilyn is outside for me now.  Are you okay tonight by yourself?”

“Sure, sure,” he answered.  “I’m just fine. Got this golf tape I been meaning to look at. You have a good time, Stella. See ya later.”   And with that the door slammed and she was gone.

The tape was an excellent one, and Herman really got into it.  After watching it twice, he went out into the garage and took his favorite driver from his golf bag, gingerly removing the furry cover from it, and used it to caressingly wipe it off a speck of dirt remaining from his last visit to the golf course.  He brought the club into the family room, where the tape was still rewinding.  Standing over an imaginary ball, he positioned the head of the club on the floor about eighteen inches in front of him at a point midway between his left and right legs, which were firmly and comfortably planted, knees bent slightly, on the floor.  Keeping his head down and his eyes on the spot where the ball would have been, he firmed up his interlocking finger grip, his right thumb pointing downward on the club’s shaft. He then brought the club backward and upward, keeping his left arm as straight as possible, until the club stretched behind him, slanting down over his right shoulder-blade.  He then reversed the arc he had just moved his arms through, and ever so slowly brought the driver downward and forward until it reached the point where the imaginary ball sat.  Continuing his forward swing, in a liquid yet powerful slow motion follow through, his mind’s eye watched the imaginary ball sail two hundred yards, firm and true down the center of the fairway.  The drive, at least in his mind’s eye, had not sliced to the right at all so Herman’s face broke out in a self-congratulatory smile.

One more time, he said to himself.  And this time, with a little more oomph. This would be the way he would do it tomorrow on the course!  Keeping his eye on the imaginary ball, Herman once again brought the driver back, this time with more speed, and this time he would dream of it exploding off of his club with a rocketing drive which would approach within thirty yards of the green!  And as he, with increasing velocity, swung the club forward, he heard behind him a crashing noise as the driver’s head caught the edge of a capademonte figurine which his wife had only yesterday placed on a shelf in the open china cabinet which shared a wall in their family room with Herman’s recliner, across from the television set.

It lay on the floor in at least a dozen pieces, far too severely damaged for Herman to even contemplate looking around the house for the crazy glue.  He was panicking.  His wife had been looking for that particular piece of porcelain for several years, she had said, and had just found it in an antique shop on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach.  She had paid well under a thousand dollars for it, but it was one of those things which to her way of thinking was irreplaceable.  And Herman knew she would be angry.  He did not know what to do, so he got into his car and drove off into the night.  He had to think about this for a while, outside of the house.

It was shortly after midnight when Sheriff’s Deputy Mendez found him, half dozing, over a plate of silver dollar pancakes and a cup of coffee at the all-night IHOP on Atlantic Avenue.

“Pardon me, sir,” the Deputy said, “But would you happen to be Herman Brown?  From the description I’ve been given, you look something like what I guess he must look like.”

“And if I told you I’m him, what would happen, officer?,” Herman answered.

“I would call your wife and let her know we’ve found you.  She’s half out of her mind, you know.”

“Officer,” Herman continued.  “I see you got a ring on your finger so I figure you’re a married man.  Maybe you could understand my problem.  I came out here to think.  I gotta come up with a good story, you see.”

“Sir,” the Deputy responded, “I haven’t the slightest idea what you are talking about.  Are you okay?”

“Sure I’m okay.  But maybe you should listen to my story and maybe you can tell me what I can do.”

“I’m listening,” Deputy Mendez said.

Herman recounted how he had been practicing with a golf club in his house and had accidentally smashed a porcelain figurine which his wife had just purchased.  She had quite a temper, he explained, and he was trying to figure out a what kind of excuse he could come up with which would make things a little easier for him.

The Deputy thought a while and turned to Herman, who was finishing the coffee and the last of the silver dollars.

“I know where you’re coming from, Mr. Brown, and I can sympathize with you. You know, you might say something like the doorbell rang, you stupidly opened the door thinking it was your wife coming home, and an intruder pushed his way in and said he was going to rob the house.  You faked that you were not going to put up a fight, but at the first opportunity, you grabbed the golf club you had been practicing with a few minutes earlier, and started swinging at him with it.  In the course of doing that, and driving him out of the house, you accidentally hit the cabinet, smashing the figurine.  The robber fled and you went chasing after him with your car up and down the streets around the neighborhood.”

“Yeah, yeah, That’s great,” Herman shouted enthusiastically.  “And I tailed him to the IHOP here and that’s where I lost him.  So I just sat down and ordered something.  And that’s where I was when you found me.”

“That’ll work,” the Deputy said. 

“Stella really called in a missing persons report on me? “

“No, it’s far too early to officially list you as a missing person.  But she did give us your description and asked us to keep an eye open for you. Look, Mr. Brown, you drive home and I’ll follow you and we’ll both explain to your wife what happened. Okay?”

“You would do that, officer?” Herman asked.

”Sure. I have a wife too, and I understand what it is to try to keep the peace at home.”

Much later that night in bed, Stella turned to Herman and whispered, “Herman, you don’t think for one second I believed that cock and bull story you and that cop told me, do you?”

“It’s the truth, dear, believe me.  How could you even think that I would make up a story like that?  I wouldn’t lie to you about something like that.”

Stella smiled, though in the dark, Herman could not see it, as she replied to him.

 “No more than I would lie to you about spending almost a thousand dollars on a piece of porcelain without talking to your first, dear.  Come off of it, Herman.  I bought the damn thing in the ninety-nine cent store.  No matter what I paid for it, the important thing is that you’re home safe!  Will you tell me the truth now?” she whispered as she kissed him gently on the cheek.

And he did.  He felt good about it too.  And that good feeling continued on into the next day on the golf course where he came within ten strokes of par for the first time in his life.

Jack Lippman


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