Monday, November 30, 2009

Norwich Meetings 30 November-4 December (Everything to Everyone)

Amongst and between all the Christmas shopping, holiday hubbub, and seasons' greetings sloganeering, the business of government, unglamorous as it often is, goes on. And as much as we rail about it, it's that lack of glamour that keeps those engaged in it from getting distracted and allows all of us to benefit from municipal routines that run because we have neighbors to man them and guide them.

Next Sunday in Norwich, we'll have the Annual holiday parade complete with marching bands, floats and little cars piloted by people with fez hats (or did I get that backwards? I hope not) but don't think we're gonna coast all week. We're not, and neither are the neighbors who make up our boards and commissions that work for all of us.

This afternoon at five is a special meeting (and listed as a workshop) of the Board of Education at the Norwich Inn and Spa on the "Roles and Responsibilities of Board Members presented by CABE". CABE is the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and while the meeting is intended for new members of the Board of Education (I think there are TWO, of nine, who would not have received this presentation), parents and residents are certainly welcome (or should be).

At five fifteen, in their offices at 1642 Route 12, Gales Ferry, it's a regular meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority. I mention them, even though Norwich Public Utilities provides the water here in The Rose City because, we're all learning to think regionally and potable water is one of those universal, and extremely finite, resources that impacts everyone. We are all joined at the spigot and not looking beyond your own drinking tap is short-sighted. I'll get off my soap box now, before someone is tempted to kick it out from under me.

Tuesday evening at 7:30 is an organizational meeting of the Norwich City Council. The meeting agenda outlines how our new Mayor and alderpersons hope to approach their job of governance, and include some changes in the conduct of their meetings. There's been mumbling about the proposed changes, which is part of who we are and how we roll, but before anyone gets too exorcised, what if we let the ladies and gentlemen we elected sort themselves out first? Being one of seven on the City Council is not the easiest job in Norwich, and, in light of approaching challenges (known and unknown), will be even less so in the coming months. When our Mayor and City Council succeed, ALL of us succeed. Go us (or go home).

Wednesday afternoon it's such a deal for you especially if you like meetings but hate having to go to different places to take part in them....We're talking not one, not two, but three in a row (I'd say three-peat but Pat Riley owns the rights). How can we do it for so little, you ask. Volume! We hold the meetings enmasse and pass the savings on to you! Just remember the address, 23 Union Street, and be there by five because that's when the Board of Review for Dangerous Buildings meets, though judging from the posted minutes (September is the most recent) perhaps there's been more danger than we know in recent months.

At six fifteen, it's the first of two sub-committees (I call them that, because all the members of them are also on the Board of Review) in a regular meeting of the 21 West Thames Street Advisory Committee followed at 6:30 (or when the previous meeting ends) by the 751 North Main Street Advisory Committee. Committees like these are posters for how all change is incremental and why it requires a lot of work. If you've been by either of the properties, you can already appreciate the scale and scope of what our neighbors have to do to make a difference.

At seven, in Room 335 of City Hall, is a regular meeting of the Republican Town Committee and now that Chief Pudge has finally made me smart enough to understand who can go and who can speak, I can't make this month's meeting (proving there is a Cosmic Prankster). Actually, since my recollection is that sometimes this meeting gets moved, I'd suggest checking a local newspaper Wednesday morning to confirm the meeting place.

Thursday afternoon at three-thirty in the John Mason School, now the Norwich Public Schools Central Office (across from the Norwichtown Green), is a regular meeting of the Board of Education's Budget Expenditure Committee whose web page has agenda (but no minutes) from two meetings in April and no others, at all. The reductions in state grants and aid to municipalities, including Norwich, may have impacts yet to be determined on our schools, and this committee would be the first group of citizen-volunteers to attempt to manage that change.

At seven, at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Inlands, Wetlands, Water Courses and Conservation Commission whose last posted meeting minutes on the city's website are a draft from September . I'm not sure, and I've read variations of it in other minutes, what to make of 'absent with notification' or 'excused' when reporting the absence of members. The charter of the City of Norwich (Chapter XVIII, Section 12) doesn't recognize nuances. You're present or you're absent. Nothing else matters. And why do we have Roman numerals rubbing shoulders with Arabic numbers anyway? Who, among us, watches Fox LXI? That's what I thought (it's IX on my cable box, if you were wondering).

Finally, at ten o'clock Friday morning in their offices (at SCCOG) at 5 Connecticut Avenue in the Norwich Business Park, it's a regular meeting of the Route 11 Greenway Authority Commission who are another example of regionalization, albeit for some more of a cautionary tale. I leave it to much more talented people in Hartford and Washington DC to better and more fully explain Route 11 and its progress, or lack thereof. Perhaps if we renamed it Route XI....?

What happens if we stop seeing government as something done TO us and see it as something we do FOR ourselves? Stop letting somebody else do all the heavy lifting. The easiest part of the earth to change is the plot we're standing on. Start local and be vocal.
"...I think you like to be the victim/I think you like to be in pain."
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What if They Just said 'Sari'?

It was Andy Warhol who first postulated that in the future everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes and it's Michaela and Tareq Salahi who are putting the sweep in that sweep second hand on the wrist watch.

They are the Virginia pair who popped up, literally and figuratively, at a White House dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this past Tuesday evening though, it seems, they had no reason and no invitation to be there. Every story I've found on-line about these two goes no more than four lines before mentioning they are auditioning for a role in a new Bravo TV series, The Real Housewives of D. C. because if there's one thing no one has ever accused Bravo TV of, it's originality.

When I first heard mention of these two, I thought, perhaps, in keeping with what I think of as 'Who's Called Shotgun in AC's Bronco?' that they were the logical followup to the cretinous couple who claimed their six-year old, Falcon (why didn't they have other children named for Ford products, like Fairlane and Galaxie?) was in a runaway hot air balloon. Both of these folks could have fit in one of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons-how perfect would that have been, especially if Macy's can be persuaded to sign on as a sponsor for Bravo's TV show?

Put that on Facebook and watch your friends twitter with envy, eh? Actually, the part I love about this whole story, and it's become the sidebar, is the safety of the Chief Executive of the United States of America, his invited guest of honor, and the processes supposedly in place to assure the safety and well-being of everyone, okay not the Salahi's. For the Secret Service whose job it is to guard and safe-guard the President, every day is binary: one or zero. Protection is perfect, or it fails. There's no middle ground, no gray area, no 'kinda/sorta/nearly' place to equivocate. And by that standard, Tuesday night was a failure.

Not for the Salahi's, mind you. At least not yet. And I'm not sure they're doing themselves any favors with that picture on her facebook page with Vice President Biden but experience is what you get when you didn't get what you want. Though, as Keef and Mick have made abundantly clear for the last three decades (and more), 'if you try sometimes-you get what you need.'
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ga-Ga for Zhu-Zhus

I am VERY happy our two children are out of the buy-me-that-toy-for-Christmas phase; I'm sure they both wish their father were as well, but you can't have everything and in my house that's a lesson you can't learn often enough.

A decade or so ago, I endured the traipsing from store to store in search of Furby, an object whose appeal eluded me and that still eludes me. Our little girl wanted one and that was good enough for me. I think she ended up with no more than two though my recollection is that there were battalions of different models of these little dust bunnies available. I was always proud I resisted the temptation to train it to speak incredibly rude sentences, but only just.

She, and we, collected beanie babies with a little more vigor than we pursued Furby, but their saving grace (when was the last time that phrase was used in connection with them?) was that you collected them all year long, they weren't specifically tied to this time of year (I keep visualizing the Gift of the Magi at the original Nativity where each of the Wise Men gives the Baby Jesus a different Beanie Baby.)

I know I've gotten old when I recoil in dismay at this year's must-have, mucho-buzzed-about toy, Zhu-Zhus, a robotic rodent (so much for alliteration; it's actually a mechanical hamster) that neither eats nor poops but does all the stuff between those two actions and whose scarcity has driven the price into the stratosphere for moms and dads shopping for their special someone.

Zhu-Zhus are actually going, at on-line auctions, for more (by two and three fold) than it costs to donate for the care and feeding of a third-world child, or (dare I say it?) one much closer to home (ask your local equivalent of Children and Family Services department). I'm sure you'll be as excited as I am to discover when you visit their website that the Zhu Zhu pets (notice the absence of the hyphen? I think that means they are related to but NOT identical with, a Zhu-zhu hamster) have their own blog!! (I think it's worth an extra exclamation point).

I'm not sure how anyone can walk past one of the bell-ringers with the kettle this season and NOT put something in for those in need if they've already given a zhu-zhu a good home. And perhaps, in the spirit of the season, I should take it a little easier on these toys except we both know that before the holiday season is over we'll read or watch reports of adult shoppers coming to physical violence over a store's last shipment of these toys and someone, somewhere will set up a cottage industry (if it hasn't happened already) on selling all the accessories every child will need for her/his zhu-zhu.

And if the past is the prelude to the future, in a couple of years, as part of local collections to help the hungry and indigent, our children will be donating their now unwanted zhu-zhus to those in need of a roof or a warm coat. I guess if you're a real live hamster, all of this will constitute a happy ending, at least until the next trend surfaces.
-bill kenny

Friday, November 27, 2009

Not Quite a Miracle on 34th Street

If you got up before the chickens (or turkey leftovers) and before my brother this morning to avail yourself of Black Friday holiday savings, this may be past your bedtime, though it starts late this afternoon and goes into the early evening.

In my house, there's two things we try to do during the Thanksgiving Day holiday, with varying degrees of success. One is to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (this year the question wasn't so much 'who knew Jimmy Fallon sings?' as 'who cares?' but we're a sentimental lot) and on the day following Thanksgiving (today), make it to Angelo Sanquedolce Square on Broadway in Norwich for the lighting of City Hall.

I don't imagine we are alone even in the state of Connecticut much less across these fifty states, united (for the most part), in having an event like this. If you don't have one near your house, you can come to ours as it's the more the merrier. And if there is one where you live, I'm telling you what you already know, as they're very alike in all the important ways.

They have lots of people we see every other day of the year, but who are happier and smilier than they were even as recently as this morning. There's a ton or more of people who energetically and enthusiastically sing Christmas songs with varying degrees of success (defined by staying on key and in pitch) but that's NOT why they sing or why we listen, and it's generally a time when we celebrate ourselves for having come together for another holiday season.

This year around here, much like where you live, it's been a harder slog. Times have been tougher than in recent memory for a lot of us and we may have a ways to go before we can look a little on the sunny side, but this is the season of hope so we do. And it's okay to smile in anticipation, as my wife does, that a new annual Christmas ornament will be offered at a booth set up just for this afternoon at City Hall as part of the festivities. We take it home and every year Sigrid adds it to our tree, and it becomes part of our Christmas tradition.

I think, but am not sure, we have every ornament that's ever been made. Ido know we have a memory to go with each, to include the year the lighting was postponed because of the ferocity of the weather that landed on us, without warning, and then disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived. Lots of us hiked down Broadway anyway, just to make sure it didn't happen without us, and it didn't. The following week we all came together and oohed and ahhed as Santa waved to all of us from a third story window and we counted down the last ten seconds before the lights came on. For a moment we were all six again. I wouldn't miss it for all the seven year olds in the world and hope to see you there this afternoon. Merry Christmas!
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Breakfast Club Fixes the World

I took off from work yesterday, my homage to tomorrow's Black Friday, known as Magenta Wednesday in my car, and started my day, creature of habit that I am, at a fast food joint, having already grabbed the other daily newspaper for the area (we get one home-delivered and the other one I buy out of a box because I'm an old-fashioned guy, or I was until I stopped drinking).

When I'm off during the work week, and have breakfast out, I'm always amazed at the number of people I encounter in these places. Everyone knows everyone else, basically from eating breakfast in the same location. Who knew hash browns and a senior coffee had such a powerful impact on building a community? Maybe we should think about carpet-bombing Kandahar or, closer to home, Bridgeport, and see what happens.

I knew it would be a magic experience when the guy in front of me wearing a vivid (and that word doesn't even come close) golden sweat suit, hood down, ordered 'a medium coffee, black, with eleven sugars' while jogging in place. Yeah, he probably hates the taste of sugar and uses the coffee to cover it. My own breakfast was slightly less turbo-charged and as I sat down, I was within earshot of four elderly men analyzing the newspaper (the one we get delivered to the house) over their growing colder by the moment coffee.

The fellow in the yellow shirt offered his insight into the crisis du jour, Governor M. Jodi Rell's intent to shrink the state of Connecticut's ever-expanding current year operating deficit by reducing aid to the 167 cities and towns across the state, thus putting the deficit monkey on someone else's back. He and his dining companions agreed 'we need to get rid of the lot of them.' There were no suggestions on who would replace 'them' or even much of a discussion on exactly who 'them' is, and I estimate of the four of them, at least three probably voted for the Governor in her election attempt, as did so many of us, but now, M. Jodi, don't call us, we'll call you. You may not like what we call you, lady, but you know the gig was iffy when you signed up.

Sitting across from the yellow shirt was Buzz, for haircut-inspired reasons, warning his repast companions of 'what happens after the government starts running health care' though I couldn't help but wonder, in light of their probable ages, if any of them had Medicare and what they thought that was all about. I decided discretion was the better part of valor and kept silent. Good thing, too, as one of the other two, with high-water pants (cuffs that wave to, but are nowhere near by three or more inches, his shoes), explained that government health care will allow 'the illegal aliens to go to the hospital' adding he knew all about this because he'd 'read it in the paper or heard about it on television'. That threw me for a moment because of the confusion on the source. The only way I can ever hear anything while reading the newspaper is if I'm having Rice Krispies with milk.

Of course, we dissected the sports page-all overpaid babies (they may have been talking about the high school football scores, which means I'm in the presence of hard-core), and wondered as to the whereabouts (and the health) of 'Dave' and 'Bob' (who's going to "New York City tomorrow (Thanksgiving Day)" for the parade") as the four of them set about putting the world in order at least for the day from their table facing the window looking out on to West Towne Street.

I smiled listening, but envied them a bit as well, as when they finished and stood to leave, they shook one another's hands, remembered to say hello to those spouses who were not in attendance and offered each other a breezy 'have a great Thanksgiving' and 'see ya tomorrow' (as they undoubtedly shall) before heading out to inspect how successful their solutions had been implemented. I imagine they'll come rolling back in here this morning between seven thirty and eight, regular as clockwork. Even though it's Thanksgiving. Except maybe for eleven-sugars-guy. I wouldn't be surprised if he were still running it off somewhere.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

WWDD (What Would Dave Do)?

I never had the chance to see David Letterman, in a previous life, as an Indiana television weatherman, but I did think of him when I came across this story. To my "Ruth is Stranger than Bridget" file, crammed with examples of The Lord's puckish sense of humor, I can now add, just in time for the holidays, "Paula Deen Hit With Ham, Doing 'Okay'".

To everyone's relief, this story doesn't seem to have any long term harm or injury to add a lot of tears to the snickers, giggles and guffaws and it helps underscore the importance of community support for food banks.

I don't know anything about Paula Deen except she's another media attraction and creation. She's famous for being famous, y'all, (and for something to do with food). Heck, I eat food-if you've seen me in the flesh you know it's been decades since I missed a meal, but I don't have a TV show.

Yes, I understand that Paula Deen's TV appearances are, more often than not, connected to her culinary abilities, which, as someone who struggles with Ramen Noodles, I find to be terribly discriminatory. Just because the woman has a skill (and a killer drawl), she gets a TV show, and poor me, with no skills, gets zip! Discrimination hurts.

As does getting popped in the kisser with a ham. You know the Hormel guys had to be sitting in their corporate headquarters, staring at their pig screen, sorry, BIG screen, TV watching that news clip, trying to calculate just how much that kind of product placement cost Smithfield (and how handsomely it paid off).

I think we've all learned a valuable lesson here: there's a difference between a spiral ham and a spiral pass. And the consequences for dropping each seems to be different as well. Between us, I wouldn't be surprised to learn Paula doesn't volunteer to help unload the trailer of donated candied yams. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, y'all.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When At First I Learned To Speak...

Someone much wiser than I once explained to me that freedom of speech doesn't entitle you to shout fire in a crowded theatre, nor does it afford you the privilege of sitting next to someone and whisper non-stop as the celluloid races through the projector gates. The danger, he said, each one of us faced was that 'sometimes the things you do speak so loudly I cannot hear what you're saying.'

I thought about that yesterday as I watched people scurrying through the local mall beginning the search for low-cost holiday gifts for their mailmen and newspaper carrier, oil tank filling guy, coffee making person, etc-a dozen or a hundred jobs that no one notices until they're not done. The trick is to make sure to find somethng that doesn't like cheap and when you start the hunt early, you have a better chance. I've had this conversation with neighbors in years past who have a very complex and complicated mental math they do to compute just how much to spend on a gift for a person whose name they more often than not don't know or for one who, if the job is done right, they rarely see (not at Adam's house, of course; he probably takes the news carrier with him for a jog).

And in the case of the 'sandwich guy' or the 'coffee server' (and the like), it's a person with whom you would never speak, aside from 'please' and 'thank you', but if you crossed paths in a locale such as Borneo or even Boise, you'd chatter away like magpies who'd known one another your whole lives. The concept is called familiar strangers and many of us have a world populated with them and very few others.

I've gotten better as I've aged (I'm not bragging; I set the bar pretty low) and I no longer immediately say everything I'm thinking, which I did for decades and then wondered why I had tension-filled relationships with people. Turns out I had difficulties distinguishing between inside and outside voices, especially as I tend to hear both, and if you don't, it's your loss. Blurting is often hurting, a little tip from me to you about getting along here on the ant-farm.

There was a time I'd ask those shopping for the knick-knack thank you gifts, 'why don't you just give the person money?' After all, it's a holiday whose primary colors seem to be red and green and since most of us are in the former why not share some of the latter? I think we give each other seconds of pleasure that are put away and forgotten or lost by the end of the holiday season because we can't stand the insulted silences if we didn't.

It's not words, so much, that frighten us, it's the quiet between the words. That the words have, perhaps, sharp edges is all well and good as long as they keep coming, because that way we don't have to worry there might be time to think about their meaning and the last thing many of us want to do is find ourselves alone with our thoughts. I wonder if there's life on other planets and, like us, have giant parabolic microphones to pick up the sounds emanating from this septic orb if they've long since learned to turn the volume all the way down. We wouldn't mind, I fear.

"Dumbed down and numbed by time and age.
Your dreams that catch the world the cage.
The highway sets the travelers stage.
All exits look the same."
-bill kenny

Monday, November 23, 2009

Out Here in the Middle

Late last week, one of our newspapers offered (perhaps as a one-time experiment) an editorial page that had a 'left' opinion and a 'right' one flanking their own editorial in the middle. In light of how much of our lives most of us spend in a variety of states, politically and philosophically, I am disquieted by lines of demarcation that will, ultimately, do nothing to help us build the bridges we need throughout this country, but will speed the expansion of walls we keep erecting.

Nationally we have too much 'my mind's made up, don't confuse me with facts' already, so folks like Fox News and MSNBC, both recently admitting they had 'mistakenly' used crowd shots from other events in the reporting of stories that underscored their reportorial perspectives, need to stop helping now. And at the local level, we must get better at distinguishing a good person from a good elected official. Sometimes they are one and the same and sometimes they are two different people. All ducks are birds but not all birds are ducks.

We'll find out as merrily we roll along, I guess. And as we are rolling, if you live in the Rose of New England, Norwich, Connecticut, here's a quick snapshot of this week's municipal meetings, all of which welcome citizen guests and input and all of whom are populated with our neighbors.

The Redevelopment Agency meets this afternoon at five in Room 210 of City Hall. Based on the minutes of their October meeting there's good news on progress in the remediation of Shipping Street and an excellent discussion that MORE volunteer agencies should be having, on defining the role of each group of volunteers and how their efforts fit in a larger context.

Speaking of which, I'd hope the next City Council considers, as an agenda item within their meetings, a five minute (and not one second longer) on-the-record briefing/report from each volunteer board telling all of us who they are, what they do and how, concluding with how they further the mission of the City Council and Mayor (and by extension all of us who live here).
Have a reason for everything you do--that doesn't get said enough around here and it damn sure doesn't happen anywhere near often enough. Sorry about the 'd' word.

Monday evening at six, a day earlier than previously announced (hence 'special') are meetings of both the Norwich Public Utilities' Board of Commissioners and the Sewer Authority-the agenda for these meetings are not as available on line as they may have thought. And neither are the minutes of the 4 November meetings.

Tuesday morning at eight up in the Norwich Business Park at 108 New Park Avenue (I say 'up' from where I live; you may be more of an 'over' person) is another real-world, real-time instance of an idea that gets a lot of buzz but needs to get more than that, 'regionalization': the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board. I know of them, but admit I know very little about them. Their website made me smarter (which is an herculean task, I know), so you should have an easy time getting up to speed.

Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 in the Main Office at 90 Town Street is a Board of Education Policy Committee meeting, about which no minutes for this entire year have yet been posted. When I read articles about voter apathy, I try to consider all the causes and sources. I'll bet you can guess some of the ones that come to my mind.

The Harbor Management Commission meets at five in Room 219 of City Hall. As someone who likes to hike the Heritage Trail along the riverfront, I was happy to read in the October meeting minutes that the dock/pier/seawall project is expected to be finished by the end of the year. It will be nice to end my walk in downtown at Brown Park instead of having to detour as I and so many others do, especially since that has been the case for a very long time.

Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve (when the marketing guys and gals finally rule the earth) there are two meetings. One at 12:30 in their conference room in their facility over on New London Turnpike is a special meeting of the Golf Course Authority.

The other, at six, is a regular meeting of the Recreation Advisory Board, who seem to meet every two months, reading their September minutes. In light of the election results, and because all the appointments have otherwise lapsed, there will be a need to reappoint and/or repopulate the board (and others, when you look at the rosters), and the City of Norwich is looking for volunteers to serve, so fill out the application and be part of The Help.

Thursday is, of course, Thanksgiving Day (or as it's known in the Land of Merchandising, The Day Before Black Friday).

Friday afternoon, if you've survived the brawl and sprawl of the mall, please consider joining all of us, starting at 4:30 (Santa arrives much closer to six) for the lighting of Norwich City Hall. My wife pointed out Sunday morning that Michelle, our daughter and my wing man for a score or more of years at this event, will be working until six and may not make it, so I hope you can join us. It helps underscore that while each of us is our own message in a bottle, it's a big beach.

"Well out here in the middle, You can park it on the street.
Step up to the counter; you nearly always get a seat.
Nobody steals. Nobody cheats.
Wish you were here my love. Wish you here my love."
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Disclaimer as a Title?

I know this will be one of those 'the more I explain the loster we all get' moments and I'm sorry. That I wouldn't have anything else to say if I weren't talking about this might suggest my empty life is more so than your empty life, except you're reading this and I'm not reading you (so maybe I win, anyway).

I was noodling around on line yesterday afternoon and stopped in at the home page of one of those "ISP/Aggregators" (I cannot make this stuff up)-that is, someone who is considered to be an Internet service and who also provides and accesses content, self-created and others. In this case, it was (whatever happened to their wonderful TV commercials with the yodeling at the end of 'em?) and they had a featurette entitled "Four Things Guys Notice." I had a funny feeling I might know where this was going.

I'm old, but I'm not dead so I figured I could guess two of the "four things guys notice", and I did, except the article only considered them to be one thing (as in a pair of pants, I guess). And I appreciated the helpfulness of the links to getting a new hairstyle. To digress for but a moment and without meaning to whine about or reproach anybody, in this article of the Four Things Guys Notice, #1 is 'smile' and #2 is 'hair', in that order. Oh? That's the article's numeric ranking and they're sticking with it.

However, what caused me to mentally stutter step was the reference to Cleavage Wars. Of course I clicked on the link, I'm not made of stone; nor are you I suspect. Now, hand on heart: are ANY of us surprised at where this came from? How'd ya vote? Oh, you didn't vote and you'd like the rest of us to believe that? By the way, every time you go to the site there's two more choices. Yeah, pretend you didn't know that either-very suave. How would I know that you ask? Let's just say that's why my life isn't as empty as yours and move on, okay? While I'm growing odd, you're getting even and I suspect NONE of that ends up in the top Two Hundred Things Anyone Notices.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Moving at the Speed of Life

Somewhere this week, I lost track of almost all the days in it. I've had this happen before and have put it down to 'getting old' but that doesn't actually make sense since I've lived through all the days, I just didn't seem to get any of 'em on me.

The large item, as best as I can recall was shopping for the fixings for Thanksgiving. My wife and I have two children who are, in every sense of the word, adults themselves, though I have a vision problem that precludes my successfully seeing them with my heart as anything other than as they once were.

I have memories of my son, Patrick, now 27, being no more than two or so when I'd pick him up to put him in his backseat car seat in our BWW 518 while cheering 'nur Patrick!' to which he shouted in return, 'nur Daddy!' It was always a pep club rally in the garage behind Ahornstrasse 67, Offenbach am Main. Zwei Deppen aber glucklich.

Michelle, our daughter, a senior at Eastern Connecticut State University, would balance herself on my right arm as I held her up so she could see herself as a tiny toddler in our bathroom mirror as we (her brother and I) serenaded her with 'How Much is that Baby in the Mirror' to the tune of some other song whose name I've forgotten, as she peered solemnly into the mirror and then slowly smiled when she realized the baby she was seeing was herself. I smiled because the song was one of the ways I obliquely introduced English as a language into my son's life.

And now, part and parcel of all the days I don't recall, our family which went from two to three to four and then down to three and back to two again will be whole if not forever than for a meal and a moment next week. Some of us will enjoy stovetop stuffing while at least one of us (hint: me) absolutely loathes the stuff while only two of us will eat sweet potatoes, assuming we even have them this year, and one of us won't have any jellied cranberry sauce.

My wife, whose country and culture have no formal Thanksgiving holiday is the architect for every reason I have to be thankful for every day, even the days that have rushed by, unheeding and unmindful. The moments that I thought I'd remember have so often, too often, been joined by all of those now lost to me forever. And though I've always tried to move as quickly through life as it has through me, I've not been as successful as I could and should have been. And yet, somehow, the days I'll remember all my life are those of miracles and wonder and all of those seem to involve, and revolve around, those I love.
-bill kenny

Friday, November 20, 2009

(No) Smokin' in the Boys Room

Because I stopped thirteen years ago (on 30 September 1996) yesterday's Smoke-Out Day went by in a puff of --well, you know what kind of puff. I smoked three packs a day for about twenty-two years. I started out smoking Pall Mall Reds (my father had smoked them for all the years growing up as a kid that he smoked before he quit). They were a cigarette other new smokers (we were all college kids and let's just admit that smoking tobacco was akin at times to a palate cleansing exercise and leave it at that, okay?) were reluctant to bum as they were unfiltered so you needed to dry lip or you flossed to remove tobacco from between your teeth.

I'm not a former smoker-I'm a recovering smoker. I don't know if it was the nicotine or the tobacco or whatever chemicals were supposedly put in cigarettes, but I was, and am, addicted to and always will be. Even to this day, I miss smoking a cigarette, despite everything I know and believe to be true about the health dangers associated with it. And, hand on my heart but also on my wallet, smoking now is a danger to my precarious financial health. (Now sounding like an old codger, mainly because I am) I can remember back in the day, at the Air Force commissary at Rhein Main buying a carton of cigarettes for (maybe) six dollars. By then, I'd traded up through Pall Mall Golds to Benson & Hedges. Now, if I'm reading the signs correctly, it's over six dollars a pack with well over half of it in taxes, federal, state and whatever anyone can get away with.

I was in the last generation to watch TV ads for cigarettes and remember slogans like "I'd Rather Fight than Switch!", "A Silly Millimeter Longer, 101" and "Come to Where the Flavor Is". Look at gyroscopes of old TV shows, to include newscasts, and you'll see Chet Huntley (of Huntley and Brinkley) smoking on the news set, on camera. Cigarettes were everywhere-there were "Show Us Your Lark Pack" commercials that eventually provoked the genius who was Stan Freberg to respond as only he could.

I stopped completely because I knew if I didn't, I'd die from some health condition created or aggravated by smoking. That my health is so poor now, but that none of my maladies have anything to do with cigarettes, makes me smile, albeit ruefully, at how the Lord's sense of humor is so often puckish (and 'p' isn't my first choice for the first letter).

The biggest challenge after I stopped was what to do in the car while driving. It was the most natural thing in the world for me after putting the car in gear, just to light up a cigarette and for many months after I stopped smoking I struggled. It was odd, too, to get used to how food tasted when you finally descended from the cloud of smoke. On the other hand, I didn't miss that 'licked an ashtray' feeling in my mouth when I first awakened. And oddest of all, and to this day I don't get it, all the years I smoked I couldn't smell cigarettes on someone else, simply unable to detect it, and now, I get almost ill when standing next to someone on an escalator who was just outside on a smoke break.

I try to take it easy on people who continue to smoke, because I appreciate how hard it is to give it up, even for a day even with all we know about what happens to us if we can't stop. So if you struggled with the nicotine monkey yesterday and was able to keep him at bay for the day, good on you and maybe today, you can take another step. And if you tried but couldn't do it, don't worry-you have the power to make any day you want your very own smoke out day. Nowadays, you can kick the butts in the butt, if you so desire. Save your Zippos for those live shows now that you've sworn off cell phones.
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hugs Not Drugs

We live in a most amazing age.

As residents of a planet where around the world via the electric fire of television, we watched the murder of a President, a walk (actually more like a skip) on the moon, the tearing down of a Wall that divided a continent and a nation, and the destruction of buildings and thousands of lives in a flash of jet fuel, steel and glass, it's sometimes easy to forget we are, each of us, skin covered miracles.

Helping underscore this assumption (actually for me, more like an article of faith) I can offer you only one item as 'proof', conceding I don't know that it proves anything but that everyday we get up and amaze and amuse, often in unequal parts, the other six billion of us on this ant farm (with beepers) we call home.

Somedays are so hard, it's almost impossible to celebrate yourself, no matter how important that is to do--it's okay, watch this, and celebrate someone else, and know we can do this, too.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tell Frank and Joe Hardy 'Nevermind'

I've been working on mysteries without any clues for the last couple of days. I discovered some marks on the side supports of our detached garage (as in from the house; not aloof), about mid-calf high on my leg (I'm 5'9"). I smell one of those dreaded math word problems: 'if a locomotive leaves Yakima heading south at 60 mph departing at two in the morning and another train leaves Wombat Falls at 3 AM, heading North at 45 mph, what's the conductor's name?' I HATED word problems and have spent most of my life unsurprised math is a four letter word.

I've been looking for animal teeth marks on the wood, or maybe paint flecks on the noses of some of the squirrels that hang around in our backyard hoping for Wednesday when Michelle stops in for dinner because of her class schedule. She stands on the back steps and throws handfuls of peanuts at the rodents as the darkness gathers before dinner. I don't know how they know she is coming home but they start to gather about two hours before she arrives. And then we don't see them again until she comes the next time. Spooky.

I'd almost not be amazed if the squirrels had been involved in this, not that I'm attached to the paint job on the garage door, but it was the NOT knowing part that was making me crazy. Coming from a meeting yesterday at mid-morning and walking past my parked car as I returned to my office building (hey, if you can't have pony rides for your birthday, get yourself an office building; that's what I say), I noticed on my front bumper on my side what seemed to be cake frosting at about the mid-calf level (probably about the same height if I were Richard Harris in the rain, oh no....).

Yeah, it turned out, speaking of turning, I've been creating my own zebra customized front end auto treatment while slowing widening incrementally my garage door. At least that's what I'll be telling myself I was up to when I go shopping for that double-wide.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No More Mr. Bad Example

This not-at-all-November-like-weather we've been having presented me with an opportunity this morning to do a good deed that, except that you already know I'm pathetic, I should be too embarrassed to recount.

I wound up with a hitchhiker in the front seat with me-barely visible. A gnat I guess or maybe a tiny fly, who didn't appreciate the grasp of tools we humans have that enable us to form glass and make windshields for our cars. The little bug(ger) kept bouncing off the inside of the windshield, regrouping on the dashboard and attempting to fly off again, into the window.

I don't consider myself to be anything vaguely like a 'one with the universe' kind of guy. As a matter of fact, I'm very much the person most of the rest of the planet cites on surveys as why they don't want to be from 'here' anymore. Despite what others say, I believe we should all take turns-it's just that I think the line forms behind me, if you follow my drift and I know you do because deep down, you're the same way.

This weather right now is remarkable (and if you wanted a sled for Christmas, please don't hate me if I hope you are keenly disappointed) in terms of temperature and temprament and yeah, I know fall and winter will arrive with a vengeance and probably on the same day, but this would be the best Thanksgiving ever if I could wear cutoffs (long enough to cover the scars on my knees) and a short sleeve shirt.

That's probably why, to NOT jinx anything or anger Anyone, I decided to roll down the front windows and coax the bug to escape. I'll be honest, it was about as mild outside as it was inside and who among us doesn't love doing favors that cost them absolutely nothing in the first place. You doubt me? Try this: ask me if it's okay to borrow your neighbor's car this weekend. Sure, go right ahead! See? That was easy and trust me, in five minutes I won't even remember giving you the green light.

It took the bug more time than I'd have liked to make his way out. Perhaps I was the first car it (or (s)he) was ever in (glad I'd just had it cleaned inside and out; you never get a second chance to make a good first impression) and after the bug was gone, it occurred to me I had no idea where it was from. Perhaps it was a Norwich gnat and now was wandering around in Ledyard (or Preston, I sort of lost track). I'm not sure how territorial bugs are (or need to be) or how well they interact with strangers. I may have provided safe passage for a colonist or an innovator.

Of course, driving home I heard and then saw a splatter on the outside of my windshield and wondered if I had just witnessed another Circle of Life moment. Hakuna Matata, indeed.
-bill kenny

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is There Life After Breakfast? (Norwich Meetings 16-20 November 2009)

As we head towards Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays, maybe just me but the year seems to feel like it's accelerating. Perhaps because daylight has shifted, the days all seem to be shorter and more jammed with activities. Personal calendars that were already pretty full are now loaded with holiday parties, travel, shopping outings and all kinds of other activities.

It's understandable if you have even less time now for municipal meetings in your town, because it tends to happen here, in my town, Norwich, Connecticut. This week in the Rose City is a great example of 'so many people in the same device' as there are as many different kinds of gatherings as there are people to have them. They're competing for our attention with everything else in our lives, so the burden is on us to choose wisely and well (something we're not always known for as a species; see seersucker jumpsuits and porkchop sideburns as just two examples of what I mean).

This morning at nine is a regular meeting of the Senior Affairs Commission (based on what I understand of their published schedule, it's their last meeting until March). Here's a draft copy of their September meeting minutes (which did mention an October meeting, but I didn't find any posting of October meeting minutes).

If you support regionalization, you should enjoy a double dose of it in the Norwich Business Park, at 5 Connecticut Avenue, as the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, SCCOG, holds an RPC Reference Committee (suspect RPC doesn't stand for really pretty crazy) at 6:30 followed by a Regional Planning Commission meeting at 7:30 this evening.

They seem to be two different meetings for (I assume) two different purposes but I don't have enough familiarity with their functions to grasp the why or how. What I find of more interest, and hope the new City Council will as well, is the mechanism (or lack thereof) for relaying information to the Norwich City Council by its representative at these meetings. A check of the SCCOG website, where minutes are a hit or miss proposition at best, doesn't help me understand the attendance at meetings.

At City Hall, there's a welcome and thank you reception for incoming and outgoing City Council members, beginning at 5:30 in Room 335 (old courtroom) followed by what will be, in all likelihood, the last convening of this City Council at seven.

The Council meeting agenda reflects a variety of issues. The one getting a lot of the ink is the hospital property purchase. I believe in 'have a reason for everything you do'. And try as I might, I can't see the reason for the rush to acquire this property. I've been to meetings of the Hospital Site Development Committee (more than at least three of its members) and you can review the cost benefits analysis on the website and applaud the committee's candid and clear-eyed assessment. To me, we need to think in terms of decades not years or months for development and return on investment. While you're looking at the Council agenda I'd call your attention to item one of the public hearings as well with a new definition of a 'resort'.

Tuesday afternoon at 5:15, in their offices at the Buckingham Memorial, is a regular meeting of the Public Parking Commission (the private parking commission's meetings are by invitation only, I believe). Based on the minutes of their September meeting, I don't understand why we don't consider downtown parking more of an economic development issue than we do (to their credit, it seems the members of the Committee do).

The Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees meets at 5:30 in Room 6109 0f the Latham Science Center; if you have a child in NFA or your taxes support the tuition of students attending NFA, you have good reasons (and incentives) to pay attention to these meetings as NFA is another example of regionalization and shared benefit.

At six, it's a twofer, The Norwich Public Utilities Board of Commissioners and the Sewer Authority meetings, beginning at six in the NPU building at 16 South Golden Street. The minutes of their 4 November special meeting aren't available from their website or the municipal website.

The Commission on the City Plan meets at seven in the basement conference room of 23 Union Street. There are September meeting minutes, but none for October on the city's website (but there was a meeting to produce an item, report #1, for the City Council's Monday meeting agenda).

Also at seven, is a regular (and investment) meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board, whose members are in need of (re)appointment, at least as detailed on the municipal website and whose efforts, in a turbulent investment market on behalf of city employees, are laudable.

And finally also at seven, is a regular (I think) meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Committee at ArtWorks to Empower. No, I don't know where that is, but I also couldn't find minutes of recent meetings so I may not be the best person to send out as the scout.

Wednesday morning at 8:30 in their offices at 5 Connecticut Avenue in the Norwich Business Park is a regular meeting of the (entire) Southeastern Council Council of Governments. If this helps, September's meeting minutes are posted but NOT October's.

The Rehabilitation Review Committee meets at a quarter to nine in the basement conference room at 23 Union Street. As a review of their October regular meeting minutes suggests, they're also actively engaged in what could be seen as economic development. I point this out because there's been an effort to get arms around all the agencies and activities with a place at the economic development table, and now, during the post-municipal election honeymoon, is as good a time as any to get coordination accomplished.

At nine in the community room of the Dime Bank on Route 82 is a regular meeting of the Norwich School Readiness Council, Children First. A newspaper lists this meeting as being on Thursday, but the city's website says it's Wednesday. That underscores my larger frustration: we use all kinds of information dissemination tools (texts, tweets, facebook postings IM's) for the most varied of pursuits, but cannot successfully deploy them to support public policy initiatives. Here's what's on the CFI website about their meeting. Yeah, nothing. If information is ammunition, we, in the public, are too often unarmed.

The Housing Authority meeting has been cancelled for this month. One of the newspapers lists a meeting at 5:30 in Room 319 at City Hall of the 350th Anniversary Executive Committee, but it's not on the city's website and we observed this anniversary in July.

There's a special meeting at 5:30 in the Norwich Public Schools Central Office, 90 Town Street, of the (Kelly Middle) School Building Committee and at six, in Room 210 of City Hall is a regular meeting of the Norwich Baseball Stadium Authority, whose members' appointments need to be seen to, and who are, I hope, soon going to have good news about a new tenant for Dodd Stadium and the baseball season of 2010.

Thursday afternoon at five is a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission in Room 210 of City Hall and if the city's website is correct it's their first meeting since June. The Norwich Ice Arena Authority meets at six in their facility on the New London Turnpike-there are no meeting minutes posted on line and their appointments expired, or melted might be a better choice of words, two years ago.

And that's an attempt at what's going on in Norwich, mostly after breakfast (to include, where necessary, brunches). Don't bring a cake fork to a knife fight, but always carry a napkin, Virginia, in the event that there really is a free lunch. It'd be a pity to use your sleeve. Put the kettle on, mate.
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Run Straight Down

How do I explain this one? Carefully, I guess. In the course of hopping across the world wired web yesterday I came across a discussion on a 'dis' that may or may not have been administered as part of a comment offered by someone connected with the other evening's telecast of the Country Music Association's annual awards. This has actually NOTHING to do with the awards, the recipients or the respect and/or lack of it that was, or wasn't, offered (not sure that constitutes a full disclaimer, but I hope so).

As is so often the case these days when a service posts a story and invites visitor comment, very close to ZERO monitoring of the comments themselves happens. So after two or three (at most) reader notes that are actually about the original story, all the trolls and gnomes come out and start posting on, in this case, a variety of 'social' sites some of which read like Cougar Country and/or SugarDaddy dot ayup. I'm at an age where I shake my head in as much disbelief as embarrassment when anonymous strangers share way too much about the emotional bankruptcy by which they define themselves. By the time I read the third consecutive troll post, my brains had been thoroughly shaken but not stirred.

That may have been why as I read "...Life is so lonely, I am a gothic (sic). My friends told me about GothicConnecting.Com and ..." my mind started to dry heave. You know I had to copy the url into the web browser and see this one for myself. And it was worth it. Breathtaking-especially the self-congratulatory mention of "the...most effective dating site... for vampire singles in the world!" Talk about a time saver. Vampires only have half as much time, daylight and all that, than the rest of us so I'm sure glad someone's got their back.

I'm getting old when I wonder if this is the brave new world Al Gore envisioned when he invented the Internet back when the last Ice Age was ending. We've engineered ourselves practically out of existence and, as it happens, no one and nothing else on the planet will miss us when the last of us has gone. And some days, I worry that day may be coming sooner than we thought.
"I went walking in the wasted city,
Started thinking about entropy.
Smelled the wind from the ruined river,
Went home to watch TV.
And it's worse when I try to remember,
When I think about then and now .
I'd rather see it on the news at eleven,
Sit back, and watch it run straight down."
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Anecdotes and antidotes

I caught part of a late afternoon clips compilation show yesterday that has convinced me I have got to start watching more NASCAR racing on TV. Considering I don't watch any, some will be a quantum leap and near-massive overdose, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. I might even like it. I mean, I have a car, that's half of it right there--and I can make left turns, and...I don't think there is a third thing.

Actually I'm being catty and unkind and you probably didn't bat an eye. One of us has been at this too long and I got here first, pilgrim. I've never watched any form of auto racing, be it the Indianapolis 500 or stock cars or the Grand Prix of Hohokus. It's like pumpkin pie (we had this discussion in my house last night of what to have after Thanksgiving dinner. And when I say 'we', I mean my wife. Lots of talk about lemon meringue and apple pie and one mention of cherry-bet you can guess by whom and bet you can also guess what kind of pie we're having); I've never had pumpkin pie in my life (so far) but I know I won't like it.

And that's what I thought and felt (notice the past tense of the verbs) about auto racing. But then I watched this clip: a guy, in one of those flame retardant suits with a helmet on, fast-walking past a LOT of race cars on a banked turn, all kind of nose to butt stacked behind one another. Obviously he's a driver and equally obviously he's looking for someone and then (I guess) he sees the someone he's looking for in an orange Impala (maybe?) and the fast-walker JUMPS WITH BOTH FEET through the car's windshield and he starts wailing on whoever is behind the wheel and then fast-walks away. The guy in the car climbs out and chases the first guy and they start beating the shifter out of each other.

It was amazing. I love baseball but baseball players fight like gir--well, in light of the soccer player let's use a different comparison, one that you say to yourself, okay? It never crossed my mind that the race car guys would be this passionate, but why not? They're going at ludicrously high rates of speed, risking their lives so there's three, or more, boxcars of adrenaline rush in the general vicinity and large sums of money are involved (I'd love to know what it costs to buy a space on a hot driver's car for whatever it is you're selling). I guess hearts could flutter a bit, all in all.

So to review, you've got money and lots of it; you have prolonged high speeds in very tricked out cars with literally hundreds of thousands of people watching you in the stands (other sports have pauses (innings, quarters, frames) so you can get a soda or hit the bathroom; what's the deal in NASCAR or the 24 Hours at Le Mans?), and I'm the world's most surprised guy that tempers flare. Don't you wonder what's actually in that milk? I saw another video clip of a winning race driver climbing a fence without a ladder. I don't think Federer or Tiger are quite as into that in what they do, at least not with that 2% stuff.
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Breeze Blows Leaves of a Musty-Coloured Yellow

One of the downsides to living where there are four seasons is the transition from summer to autumn, especially for the trees and their leaves. I am very much of the 'live and let live' persuasion which translates to the 'lie and let them lay' position on leave gathering. I've noticed this year in my neighborhood, some of us have gathered so many, it's as if we're waiting for them to fall from the trees and nab them on the first bounce. We rake them up and some of us, maybe you have the same kind of neighbors where you live (maybe you are that neighbor where you live) place them in black plastic bags awaiting pickup by the trash folks.

If it happens around here the way I watched it happen yesterday in Waterford (the home of the speedbowl, not the crystal), the dustmen empty the plastic bags into their trucks and discard the bags. Causing me to wonder what the point of the plastic bag was/is. Elsewhere I've seen these VERY large paper bags filled with leaves-in theory because the paper is biodegradable, all of it can go directly into the landfill--or do you think they're headed for incinerators? Around here we have trash to power incineration units though I've no idea how much energy we get from such an operation.

For millions of years, I estimate, we as a species did nothing with the leaves as they fell. You see all that dirt all around us? I have a funny feeling where some of it might have come from and I'm not sure what we're accomplishing by how we're operating now. While I wasn't looking compost has become a lost cause, it seems, perhaps even a dark art. In its place we have created a first class annoyance, the leaf blower. We went from devices that looked like vacuums and picked up fallen leaves and plopped them into bags (do you remember those?) to a gadget that hangs from your hip and can be used to blow leaves that have fallen on your property into someone else's yard or out into the street.

I think leaf blowers are a much more accurate and contemporary symbol of America in the 21st Century than either the Bald Eagle or the Stars & Stripes. There's nothing that says "Wha?!" more than a guy on a Saturday afternoon working a leaf blower wearing dark shades with Ibuds in both ears. And I'd ask him why he's doing what he's doing, but he's as oblivious to me right now as I am to him for the rest of the year. Ahh, Sweet Suburbia. We've got Mother Nature on the run--now what?

"This is my street, and I’m never gonna to leave it,
And I’m always gonna stay here If I live to be ninety-nine,
’Cause all the people I meet, Seem to come from my street.
And I can’t get away, Because it’s calling me, (come on home)
Hear it calling me, (come on home)."
-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

For many today is a day off, maybe an opportunity to get a head start on Christmas shopping. Yeah, I know we're in some tough economic times and we have far too many too-big-to-fail business operations, so while I'm reluctant to harsh your einkaufsrausch (no more for me, Herr Ober, I'm buying) I'd remind you today is Veterans Day.

I'd hope you could could spare the time today to find an observance, there are still a few being conducted, honoring some, most and actually ALL of those who've worn the uniform of our Armed Forces just to make note of their choice and of their service. Veterans Day gets confused by some (as happened at the Norwich observance Saturday at Chelsea Parade) with Memorial Day, but from its beginnings as a pause to mark the end of World War I (the war to end all wars-who says The Lord has no sense of humor?) it's much more universal and more all-encompassing.

This is the day, and some years the only day of the entire year (but if you know how self-centered I am that doesn't really surprise you, does it?) when I remember my family's ties to uniforms and inspections. I think about my dad's two brothers, Uncle George (his older brother, whose real name was Michael. No one ever told me why he was called George. George was in the US Army stationed in Germany and went home to California to work for Sparkletts (who bought drinking water in the 1950's? Los Angelenos, that's who) with his braut, Mitzi) and his younger brother, Uncle Jack (who spent almost a career in the USAF before his wife, Alice, died of cancer and he was left to raise their tribe of children by himself).

I recall two of my mother's younger brothers, Uncle Jim (on the US Army CISM swim team. Jim served in the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He smoked Camel cigarettes that he opened from the bottom of each pack) and Uncle John (who was wounded at Pork Chop Hill during America's nearly-forgotten war, Korea. John should have never been in the Army because he could only see out of one eye. When the doctor administered the vision test, he covered his bad eye with his left hand and read the chart. When the doctor told him to 'change eyes', John switched hands but continued to cover the bad eye). All of them were ordinary men, as were all of those with whom they served, the people who are mentioned in the history books are only possible because of all of those NOT in them. All made extraordinary sacrifices for generations unborn and never to be known by any of them.

There's a small event today, in Norwich, at eleven this morning over in Taftville at the little pocket park near the Knights of Columbus. Dennis told me about it, and extended an invitation. I don't think he'd mind if you came along. Like I said, it's small and with each passing year, observances like this seem to get smaller, which in light of current events and world-wide deployments, I find both confusing and dismaying.

Make your life a prayer, I can recall Father Costello from St Peter's telling us as kids. In that spirit, at least for today, "Say a prayer for the common foot soldier. Spare a thought for his back breaking work. Spare a part for his wife and his children, who burn the fires and who still till the earth."
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What was the Second Best Idea?

I'm minding my own business last night watching television, reveling that House is back because I really like that show (I knew more than one person who suggested, prior to my TKR in March, the show's main character and I shared a personality. I accidentally hit that person with my cane. Fourteen times, according to the arrest warrant) and up popped a commercial for a synthetic motor oil with a character with a Scots accent, who smacks people while shouting 'think with your dipstick, Jimmy!' I dimly remember this spot from much earlier this year-I'd hate to think they brought it back for me.

This commercial is so bad on its best day it could only hope to be stupid and offensive. As it is, I just sat there with a head full of questions, asked nearly as much in sorrow as in anger. The commercial plugs the only oil (the non synthetic variety from back in the day) the Kfz-Meister at Autohaus Winter would allow to be used in the BMW 518 we had in Offenbach.

I'm not sure if I were the only American patron the dealership had but I was the only customer forbidden to buy tools from their parts department because as the mechanic explained to the parts people, 'the gentlemen doesn't know how to work on our cars--or any other cars.'I just assumed the oil was a serious and sober product. Obviously it doesn't mix well with alcohol, at least not at whatever ad agency they were using to come up with commercials.

All I know about the place where my oil is changed in the car I drive now, is that it's not the one the guy with the dipstick is flogging. How many of us know what brand of oil, or what weight, we're putting in the vehicles we drive? I write down the brand of gasoline and the mileage I get from every tankful, every time I put gas in my car, and have no idea what I have from this 'data', if that's what it is.

I think I could be practicing a variant of an out take from Deming's Red Bead Experiment, but I'm not thinking with my dipstick. And if you've been elected to public office, bookmark that url for the Red Bead stuff. We're gonna talk a LOT about that concept in the coming months as newly elected people who wanted to change the world take office and swiftly learn the limits of their new powers, and why 'power' is a pretty stupid word to use. And how ashamed should all of those with opposable thumbs be that there's a Facebook page dedicated to this pap?

Later in the stop set (commercial advertising cluster) there was a thirty-second spot for car insurance that plays the company name off of the notion of a Lizard or Not (as opposed to the Wizard of Oz) involving a temporary employee filling in for the company mascot. That you have to keep your eye on the whole frame and see the full candy dish on the desk helps make the cut in of the now-empty dish as we hear the payoff line, 'aw, he ate all my mints!' really sing. Whatever those ad guys are drinking they should share with the oil guys.

There's two thing I never understood about the oil spot. This is obviously the best idea for a campaign they had-so what did the second best idea look like? Could it have been worse than that Super Bowl TV ad that fired gerbils out a cannon and bounced them off a wall (I could remember what was being sold in that spot, could you?) And secondly, do you think if we had a 105mm howitzer we could jam that Glaswegian bully into it as payback for Jimmy?
-bill kenny