Sunday, April 12, 2009

American Football; English Hotels

The Americans and the English...two people divided by a common language.

Back in 1978, Woody Hayes, Ohio State's legendary football coach, had his career come to a very sad end when he hit a player on the opposing team. Just a few weeks later, Arizona State's football coach, Frank Kush, got fired after it came out that he'd hit one of his own players. While I do not defend their actions (both men quite correctly got sacked) to hear *some* commentators tell it, this was a sure sign that the Apocolypse was upon us.

In the midst of the hulabalo one American football coach decided that he needed to take a nice, restful vacation, and he decided that he wanted to go someplace where nobody knew or cared about American college football, so he got on a flight to London, England. When he got to his hotel, he was positively *aghast* when he saw a huge sign that read "NO FOOTBALL COACHES ALLOWED!

(In the UK, buses are sometimes of refered to as 'coaches', and busloads of English football have a reputation for being quite unruly)

Yay, US Navy!

Captain Richard Phillips is safe, three pirates are dead, and one is in custody. I'd say those SEALS did some really good shooting. Best news I've heard today. I think this piracy on the high seas stuff has got to go.

Louis Eppolito - NOT a Goodfella

Anyone interested in the question of whether art imitates life (Aristotle) or life imitates art (Oscar Wilde) might want to consider the case of Louis Eppolita. He was born in New York in 1943, joined NYPD at the age of 26, served 21 years and won several medals for bravery. In 1990, when Martin Scorcese made the film "Goodfellas," he cast Eppolito in a small role as "Fat Andy"- a New York "wiseguy." If you see the film, there is a scene where Ray Liotta's character of Henry Hill walks through a night club, introducing his girlfriend (and the audience) to the mob guys he hangs out with. So a film 'wiseguy' was actually an NYPD dectective.

But the irony doesn't stop there. It turns out bit movie parks wasn't Eppolito's only extracurricular activity. A couple of years back, Eppolito and his partner were indicted on charges of carrying kidnappings and contract 'hits' for the New York mob. (I must say, that *really* shocked me- I saw 'Serpico' decades ago; I was well aware that some cops take bribes, but being contract hitmen???) Both men were convicted on multiple counts two years ago and sentenced to life in prison with *no* possibility of parole.

I wonder if they'll get to watch 'Goodfellas' where they're serving time. It certainly makes the mob life look glamorous.

Anybody interested how things turned out for the real life characters in "Goodfellas": Paul Vario (Paul Sorvino's character) died in prison; Jimmy Burke (Robert DeNiro's character) died in prison, and Henry Hill is still alive, 29 years after turning state's evidence - and he's living in Malibu.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ciudad afraid, be VERY AFRAID!

Several years ago, I watched the film "The Battle of Algiers", about the Algerian War of Independence 1954-1962. It depicted the rise of the Algerian National Liberation Front. The first step of any insurrection is to establish your own government infrastructure, and destroy the other guy's infrastructure. In the case of the FLN, this entailed bushwhacking uniformed French police officers in the Casbah. Very soon,things got entirely too dangerous for the police- so the French government sent in the paratroopers- and things got *really* unpleasant in the Casbah.

Down Mexico way, the violence in border cities (especially Ciudad Juarez) has gotten so bad that the local police simply can't deal with it- they are either out-gunned, corrupt, or both. So the Mexican Government has now sent in the Mexican Army. What happens if *they* can't handle the situation- and as long as American demand for illegal drugs stays strong (it will) what happens?

Pat Buchanan recently predicted that in 5 years, we won't have 50,000 troops in Iraq- we'll be MUCH too busy on the Mexican border. I'm afraid he's right.

At the Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court building is located in downtown Columbus on Front Street. Whenever I go down there, I have to go through what must be the most sensitive metal detector in the state of Ohio. I do not like that BEEEEEEEEEE sound *one* *bit*. One day, I got my photo ID, emptied my change, keys and pens into the tray, and stepped through.

So I took off my watch and stepped through. BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
So I took off my *shoes* and stepped through BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
So I took off my *belt* and stepped through...

When I was finished re-dressing myself, I said to the female State Highway Patrolman behind the counter, "I do all that and you're not going to even slip *one* dollar bill into my waistband?" That gal had *no* sense of humor- she didn't even crack a smile.

United States of Tara

Recently, I've been watching every episode of "The United States of Tara", a program on Showtime about a woman with DID (Disassociative Identity Disorder). Aside from indulging my cinematic crush on Rosemarie DeWitt, I've found that the storyline has grown on me considerably.

Check it out.

76 Years Ago

At noon eastern time March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office to serve as President of the United States. Just five days before, in Berlin, the burning of the German Reichstag gave Adolf Hitler the pretext he wanted to ask for dictatorial powers- and the rest is a very terrible chapter in history. Just after Roosevelt took office, the humorist Will Rodgers commented, "'bout now, if Roosevelt burned down the Capitol building, a lot of people would say, 'well,...he got a fire started, didn't he?'"

Whatever FDR's failings, he looks like an angel compared to some of his contemporaries.

Titanic Transvestite Legend

Another urban legend bites the dust:

Ryugyong Hotel North Korea Pyongyang

There are many things to strange to be believed, but none too strange to have happened. I think the Ryugyong hotel qualified. The North Korean regime started construction in 1986, it stopped in 1992, and now 17 years later, it's still there, completely empty.

I've read that when visiting Pyongyang, it is extremely bad form to *mention* the building. (Kind of a 1,000-foot-high elephant in the living room.)

I understand that the elevator shafts are too uneven to operate, and there's no electricity to operate them. If anybody ever actually stayed there, that would make room service delivery to the 105th floor a real adventure. (pant, pant, pant, *gasp* for breath) "Here's your sandwich, sir!" "Look, I *specifically* said, *no* *mustard*. Take it back!"

Changing Campus Customs

I once spoke to an elderly gentleman who had attended Ohio State before World War II. He informed me that way back then, freshman guys were supposed to were "beanies" and were not supposed to cross the "Main Walk"- the sidewalk that stretches across the Oval from the entrance of the Main Library to the entrance of the campus- unless they wanted to risk getting dunked in Mirror Lake by upperclassmen.

This custom came to an *abrupt* end when World War II veterans started attending college on the GI Bill. Veterans, some of whom were married and in their mid-twenties, just weren't interested in that kind of fun and games.

I once shared that story with an active-duty Marine Sergeant who was going to take some college classes. *Rarely* have I managed to crack someone up that completely.

Here's a picture of the Oval from the 1930s-1940s. How things have changed!

Hitchens on the First Amendment

I disagree with what some people say, but will defend to the death their right to say them.

Justice one, Philip Morris zero

Philip Morris spent ten years and a day fighting the case on appeal, but the US Supreme Court has spoken; PM is going to have to pay a $155 million verdict. Best news I've heard in a very long time.

Captain Sven Svenson

Today is a good time to remember the extraordinary feats of Captain Sven Svenson, Norway's greatest fighter pilot. I once saw him on the BBC, describing how he won the Victoria Cross flying his Spitfire during World War II. He said, "Vell, I was up there flyin' in mah plane...I look to mah left and i see dis German fokker...and behind him is another German Fokker....and then der is anudder German Fokker...I vas *surrounded by dese German Fokkers!"

At this point, the interviewer broke in to inform the audience that during the war there was a German aircraft called the Fokker, that's F-o-k-k-e-r."

To which Captain Svenson replied, "Ja, but *zese* Fokkers vas *Messersmits*!'

A real German Fokker

Hazel Blecha - The Last Word

My great-aunt Hazel Blecha was an amazing woman. In 1916, she was denied the right to vote because she was a woman. She made up for this by voting in each of the next twenty-two Presidential elections. (While it is true that you're only young once, she came withing 13 months of being a teenager for the second time.) I'm proud to say that my family has a looooong history of supporting women's athletics: she played varsity basketball at Kansas State University in the class of 1917. I had a great time helping her celebrate her 107th, 108th, 109th, 110th, and 111th birthdays. I figured if you don't attend somebody else's 111th birthday, *they* probably won't attend *your* 111th birthday. (Who knew you could have so much fun in Des Moines, Iowa?)

As a history buff, it boggles my mind to think how much the world changed the space of her lifetime: when she was born, the American flag had only 44 stars, Grover Cleveland was President, Queen Victoria's reign had six years left, Czar Nicholas, Emporer Franz Joseph, and Kaiser Wilhelm was on the thrones of Russia, Austro-Hungary, and Imperial Germany. Albert Einstein hadn't started his clerk job yet (where he came up with his theory of relativity), the Wright brothers were designing bicycles in Dayton, Ohio, and the HMS Dreadnought hadn't even been designed yet. Mao Tse-tung, Emporer Hirohito, and Britain's Queen Mother hadn't yet arrived. (She was there to see them in, and was around to see them out.) Gavrilol Princep was just a few months older than she as. (Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth were born the next year). The fictional Rose of "Titanic" was the same age as Aunt Hazel- she was 17 when that ship sank.

I've never visited my great-aunt's grave- but I think it would've been great if she'd ordered a headstone that read:

Hazel Blecha November 30, 1894 - October 27, 2006. and underneath: "I *TOLD* you I was sick!"

Overheard on the USS Detroit (AOR-4)

I taught onboard the USS Detroit, a fleet oiler between October 1994 and February 1995. The Detroit had a coed crew, and there are two statements I overheard on that ship that I'm sure I will always remember:

1. "Nah- that's not harassment- he's enjoying it too much."

2. "You know, that was a pretty good fight, once he started hitting her back."

The USS Detroit.

Understanding Kim Jong-Il

In dealing with Kim Jong-il, it is absolutely essential to understand that not everyone thinks the same way we do.

North Korea

Well, North Korea has just test-fired an ICBM that flew over Japan and Japan has just called for a special session of the United Nations.

Just wondering: does *ANYBODY* think that the United Nations is going to accomplish ANYTHING?!?! I remember listening to the UN debates after the Six-Day War in 1967, when I was on summer break, having finished sixth grade- I was not yet 12 years old. Clear back then I concluded that the UN was complete BS, and that it was as useful as you-know-whats on a bull. Nothing has happened in the past 41 years to change my mind.

If it was my call, I would advise the President to call a special session of Congress and request the authorization to force N. Korea to disarm- by *any* *means* *necessary*. We are facing a very bad situation- and if Kim Jung-il stays in power, it can get a *WHOLE* *LOT* *WORSE*. I'd remind Mr. Kim of a quote from Mao, a matching of pearls is a game between two sea dragons- it is no contest between a sea dragon and a beggar. (I'd also ask Hugh Hefner to give KJI a room at the Playboy mansion to give him an easy way out.)