Why dont all drivers out there stop at stop signs? asked Keith Whitmore of Duquesne, PA, yesterday in a letter to the editor. I am tired of coming up to an intersection and having a jerk come up to the same intersection and blow through a stop sign. Just by the grace of God I see these drivers first and avoid them before they hit me. ...My dad used to say, He must be late for his own funeral!
Personally, I havent noticed many cars failing to at least come to a rolling stop. And almost everyone seems to stop at a red light and wait obediently for it to change, even with no other traffic in sight. (Why do red lights command more respect than red signs?)
On the other hand, my uncle Jim didnt even slow down for a stop sign if he deemed it unnecessary. If he could clearly see there were no other cars within half a mile of a rural crossroad, hed fly through it doing 70.
He served overseas but never saw combat. During the year when his age was 35, he was stationed at a base at Chabua in northeastern India.
By the time he was 36, the war was over, and he sailed home with thousands of his buddies on what could be called a Mediterranean cruise. Im planning a new picture article about that experience for next month.
JAN. 31, 2016 THEY DON'T STAY ON THE SIDELINES
JAN. 28, 2016 FIFTY YEARS AGO TODAY
Youre looking above at a classic 1959 Chevrolet El Camino driving down North Franklin Street in Richwood, Ohio, exactly 50 years ago. It was sunny that morning but very cold. After a low of -2°, by eleven oclock the thermometer had made it up to zero. As you can see below, the Corn Crib popcorn stand outside Livingstons store was not open for business.
Local insurance agent John Cheney had decided to take his business to a warmer clime. On his last day in the office, he photographed the scene from his window, all the way up and down the block. That panorama has made it onto this website, and you can find it here.
JAN. 25, 2016 HAVE WE THE WILL?
Ive been revisiting some old speeches. For example, when President George H.W. Bush took office, he said in his 1989 inaugural address:
As I listened to that last line 27 years ago, I immediately objected. No, Mr. President, its the other way around! We have more wallet than will!
Dont pretend that we the people are no longer able to keep our Constitutional promise to promote the general welfare. America is the richest nation in the world. Our wallet is bulging. What we lack is the will to open it.
Dr. Martin Luther King, after his return from receiving the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize in Scandanavia, reported: In both Norway and Sweden, whose economies are literally dwarfed by the size of our affluence and the extent of our technology, they have no unemployment and no slums. There, men, women and children have long enjoyed free medical care and quality education. This contrast to the limited, halting steps taken by our rich nation deeply troubled me.
Concerned about the U.S. government deficit? Increase revenue. Those of us who can afford it ought to give back more to the commonwealth.
The corporate lobbyists have convinced the fearful and angry among us to contribute tax money for armaments and never-ending wars, but many tightfisted Americans have no inclination to contribute tax money to improve their fellow citizens lives.
The question is whether America will do it, Dr. King said in Washington four days before his death. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.
JAN. 23, 2016 PACKERS vs CHIEFS
I watched Super Bowl I on television for the first time last night. In 1967 I must have listened to this historic game on the radio in my college dorm room. (I'm sure I listened to Super Bowl III that way in 1969. Back then, I myself occasionally announced small-college football and basketball, doing play-by-play on the campus radio station.)
The first-ever showdown between the champions of the National Football League and the American Football League was televised by CBS and also by NBC, but tapes of those broadcasts are not available. Therefore, NFL Films has dug film footage out of its vaults and matched it to an edited version of Jim Simpsons NBC Radio broadcast to produce something resembling a complete telecast. Its only 90 minutes long because the dead time between plays is not included. NFL Network aired it last night with a minimum of modern-day commentary. Some thoughts from me:
JAN. 18, 2016 REMAINING AWAKE
Last night the American Heroes Channel ran a documentary on the 1968 hunt for Martin Luther Kings assassin. They called it Justice for MLK.
Perhaps they should have called it Revenge for MLK. James Earl Rays pursuers were not seeking justice as much as retribution.
For Rev. King, justice was not the electric chair. It was equal rights, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Justice was not about punishing bad people. It was about guaranteeing good people the opportunities they deserve.
JAN. 12, 2016 DIGEST VERSION: NOVELTY'S WORN OFF
Under the new four-team college football playoff format, the second annual national championship game last night (Alabama 45, Clemson 40) drew noticeably less interest than last year's much-ballyhooed first game. At least around here it did. Pittsburghers care about only Steelers football. Clemson plays in the same conference as the University of Pittsburgh, but that means nothing. Yesterdays advance story about the upcoming college championship was buried on Page C-5 of the sports section.
JAN. 7, 2016 YOURS IS ONLY MILD-TO-MODERATE
Commercials often feature actors portraying real people speaking directly to us. My rash was really bothering me. So finally I went to the doctor.
However, Ive seen a pharmaceutical ad that begins, My Moderate-to-Severe Chronic Plaque Psoriasis made a simple trip to the grocery store anything but simple. So finally I had an important conversation with my dermatologist.
Do you ever speak with such clinical specificity? I think Id like to have an important conversation with Humiras ad writer.
Of course, they dont deliver to Mega Lo Mart no more. Not after the big blowup over there.
This felt familiar. I too went through a period of pre-adolescent angst. Fortunately, in my case, what frightened me was merely the global situation, not a drunk uncle. In my case, my father didnt tell me to stop watching the news, but my mother did tell me we shouldnt worry about things over which we have no control. I recalled the experience in this post-9/11 article.
Angst is a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general. We fear horrible things are about to happen. What things they may be, we cannot tell.
But demagogues and other politicians are quite willing to gain our support by scaring us even more, making us even more afraid. The government is coming to take our guns! The Mexicans are coming to rape our women and take our jobs! The environmentalists will take our SUVs! The Muslims will behead us!
Such overblown trepidations are no longer merely ludicrous, writes Scott Renshaw from Utah. I can't laugh at scary, delusional, desperately-frightened-of-change people any more. There are too many of them, causing too much damage.
Who wouldnt be depressed about the world today? asks another Canadian, Margaret Wente, in a Christmas Day article. Everywhere you look, its doom and gloom. So, turn off the news and consider this. For most of humanity, life is improving at an accelerated rate!
Most people find this hard to believe. After all, were programmed to look for trouble. Here are some reasons to start the new year on an optimistic note:
This year, for the first time on record, the percentage of the worlds population living in extreme poverty has sunk below 10 per cent, the World Bank says. This is a stunning achievement. As recently as 1990, 37 per cent of the worlds population was desperately poor. ...Malnutrition has all but disappeared, except in countries with terrible governments. Eighty per cent of the worlds population use contraceptives and have two-child families. Eighty per cent vaccinate their children. Eighty per cent have electricity in their homes. Ninety per cent of the worlds girls go to school.
What about violence? Weve never lived in such peaceful times, says Wente. Wars and conflict fill the news, but they are at historic lows. ...As for terrorist attacks, youre far more likely to be killed by a collision with a deer. ...Between 1993 and 2013, according to a Pew Research Center analysis, the rate of U.S. gun homicides fell by half, from seven homicides for every 100,000 people to 3.8 homicides in 2013.
What about illness? We are gradually wiping out the worst of the worlds diseases. In 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries. Now, there are just two: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Make a New Years resolution, Wente advises, to count your many blessings including flush toilets, electric lights, polio vaccines, and peace.
And the apostle Paul advises, Do not be anxious about anything. His recommendation to the Philippians goes something like this: If there is anything excellent, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things instead. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.
DEC. 28, 2015 ROW BRIDGE, LOW BRIDGE
Less than a mile from my apartment, theres a Bridge Street without a bridge. How come? My explanation is in an article called Everybody Down!
Television manufacturers, having failed to convince enough of us to invest in three-dimensional TVs, have essentially given up on that idea. Theyve moved on from 3D to 4K.
Ultra HD, or 4K, boasts over eight million pixels. That's four times as many as HD. To accommodate so many tiny dots, the screen has to be bigger too large for my little one-person apartment. Besides, as far as I'm concerned, ordinary HD usually offers enough detail.
I also get along fine without 3D, both for TV and for movies. Production techniques can be employed to depict the third dimension without requiring special glasses.
DEC. 13, 2015 WHAT IS IT, GIRL?
An episode earlier this year of ABCs sitcom Last Man Standing began with a couple trying to sleep. The neighbors dog was barking again. The first 17 seconds of dialogue included three very dated jokes.
DEC. 8, 2015 ALARMED CLICHÉS
Wake up, America! Some people actually disagree with me! They have attitudes they're trying to shove down our throats! Thats the frantic warning in many embittered letters to the editor and postings on social media.
For example, someone called dankies213 wrote: People are always complaining that they don't like religion shoved down their throat, when Hollywood shoves beauty and looking good down our throats and no one complains about that really.
And someone named David Nedlin posted last week: Maybe now some people will wake up & listen to me when I say we have to deport & eliminate ALL Muslims & Gather up ALL illegal firearms & execute their owners. Think thats too extreme? Maybe someday a loved one of yours will be SHOT DEAD & then you may change your mind. Wake up, people or you will be next!
Im tired of being told that Im being duped, because others are somehow forcing me to swallow their ideas. Im tired of being told that Im sleeping through reality, because Im hesitant to eliminate all Muslims and kill gun owners.
At a minimum, we need new metaphors.
We need a lot else besides.
DEC. 2, 2015 REVERSE GROUNDHOG DAY
The Pittsburgh region experienced its warmest November since 1931, and it still hasn't snowed here. Zelienople Zeke, a groundhog I just made up, predicts six more weeks of autumn before the really abominable weather arrives. Lets hope hes right.
At the end of last snow season, Scott Sturgis wrote a column on lessons learned from winter driving. Im happy to say that I followed all three of his insights (slow down, use an all-wheel-drive car, and respect the laws of physics), and I didnt have any trouble. When the frozen precipitation finally does arrive this time, lets hope everything goes equally smoothly.