Now with Freshness Dating!
We had an odd sort of double feature at our house over the weekend: the adults watched most of The Brother's McMullen, then we all watched Babe, and then the adults finished McMullen. The Brother's McMullen is one of those pretentious art house movies that wins awards at movie festivals for it's supposed penetrating insight into the human condition and the tough choices that face real people. Ha. It's really just a sad movie about self-centered jerks who do stupid things and then whine about it. As I grow older (not that I'm old, I'm just getting a glimmer of the final destination), I have begun to understand that when people talk about the complexities of a situation (or life), what they really mean is that they are having a hard time self-justifying their own selfishness. King Solomon would have been almost as accurate to have written, "selfishness, selfishness, all is selfishness". Knowing what to do is easy; actually doing it is hard. So when we balk at doing right because it conflicts with our own selfish desires, we say life is complex, life is full of gray areas, everything is relative, all to try and blind ourselves to the truth of what we should be doing. If I hide what I should do from myself, I won't feel so bad when I don't do it.
Babe on the other hand was a wonderful movie, a very funny movie (I laughed so hard I cried in more than one spot). I for one am glad that they still (on occasion) make a family movie, and by that I mean a movie that the whole family can enjoy on their own level. Far too often, humor that only an adult understands is inserted into what is otherwise strictly for children (Rugrats comes to mind). I also prefer when there is a larger context to the movie. Take The Sound of Music for example (another family favorite), where the movie is set against the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, and the family is forced to leave everything behind and flee for their lives. Babe is set against the backdrop of a slowly failing family farm and the hardness of farm life (for both the farmer and the animals). These are topics that are not normally thought of as suitable for children, yet both movies would suffer, in fact loose all meaning, without them. I'm sure the same people who loved The Brother's McMullen would claim that Babe was just a sappy feel good movie with a stock happy ending. Call me a fool, but I don't see anything wrong with showing that doing the right thing, no matter how hard it seems at the time, will eventually lead to happiness.
I was struck by an idea the other night of such profound importance to our daily lives that I feel that I must share it with you. Let me preface the subject by saying that I work for a large Aerospace manufacturer that claims to want its workers to work smarter, not harder. "Continous Improvement" is our watch word (well, our watch words, or is it watches word, like courts martial?). Anyway, I was sitting at the dinner table, having consumed another fine dinner (me, not the table, sorry about the dangle) prepared by my adoring wife when the thought struck, well, more of an insight really, when the thought just grabbed me and the import made me shiver. I don't know how you work things at your castle, but at Murphy Castle® we (1) wash the dishes before we put them in the dishwasher, (2) wash the dishes in the dishwasher, and (3) wash the table after each meal. Some of you brighter people have probably raced ahead now that I've laid it out like that for you, but I'll continue for the laggards. My idea was to, in its glorious simplicity, cut out two of the three steps, by simply not using a plate and putting the food on the table. Think of it. No washing dishes twice, nor owning plates, nor owning a dishwasher, or buying dishwashing detergent. Think of the savings in time and money, or better yet the savings in time converted into money coupled with the savings in money providing a heaping pile of money in one spot in your mind, and best of all, it's all yours. I know, a few sacrifices would be required, like only beverages that come in disposable containers could be served, and a new table with bowls built right into the top would be required for soup and cereal. But, wowser, think of that heaping pile of savings again.
I've enjoyed watching the Secrets of Magic Revealed specials on Fox. First they show you the magic trick, and then show you how it's done. This format allows you to be entertained and informed by the same show, a trick PBS could stand to learn. Even the voice over by Mitch Pileggi (AD Skinner on X-Files) is great - just the right note of weary cynicism. Without giving too much away (unless you don't realize that magic is just a trick), the thread that runs through almost all of the tricks is that the assistant does the work - both in performing the magic and in diverting the attention of the audience. As the assistants are usually women and the magician men, this sadly only reinforces the stereotype where the woman does the work and the man gets the glory (and the money). I'll just point out that there is good reason for the assistant to be a superb physical specimen (most of magic is physically demanding), and scantily clad (most magic requires that your attention be diverted at some point). This brings us to the final point: since audiences are composed of men and women, the assistant is almost always a woman because most men will look anywhere but at a scantily clad man dancing around, while most women have no trouble watching a scantily clad woman dancing (at least in America). Oh, they make a big deal about keeping the identity of the magician a secret so as to protect him from fellow magicians. I just wonder if the magical talent behind this show isn't a woman assistant. This way she gets the glory and the money (hot dog!). Remember, you heard it here first.
There were tornadoes in Florida this week, part of the general wackiness of El Nino. A radio station reported that a man was saved when he was hurled into a pond during the night by wearing a life preserver to bed. Either he is a fine scout (semper paratus - always prepared) or pretty kinky. The newspapers reported that a little boy was hurled from his bed into a tree cocooned in his mattress, and was found the next morning with only his foot sticking out. Fortunately, he was essentially unhurt. I think next time the tornado sirens go off here in the middle of the night, I'll run to the basement since I sleep in less than a life preserver and on a water bed.
I haven't commented (yet) on the latest Clinton scandal, but this week there was a development so startling that I feel compelled to speak out. William Ginsberg (Monica Lewinsky's lawyer) told reporters that he was underpaid for his work on behalf of Monica. My breath was taken away when I read this. Here is a man who has done nothing for his client (and badly at that) who has the unmitigated gall to claim he isn't making enough money at it. I don't recall seeing a gun to his head during all of the far too many interviews he's given. I think it is good to learn as many skills as possible, but I don't think adding greed to incompetence is the way to go. Of course, there are those who say this is a signal to the White House that he's interested in a little payola in return for not cooperating with Ken Starr, although its doubtful that Clinton would pay off someone who is already not cooperating for free.
AP ran a story recently that is the kind The Murphy NexusTM loves, not because it is filled with sex and violence, but because it gives insight into people. It seems Jesse Rosson went into a casino and shot five people, none seriously, because he was jealous that his wife or girlfriend (the police weren't sure which) was stepping out with another man. The part that makes this story worth noting is that the 78 year old Rosson was easily captured as he shuffled away from the scene of the crime with his walker, and that two of those wounded refused medical treatment so that they could continue to gamble. Normally I try to come up with some funny quips with something like this, but this time I'm going to let it stand on its own two feet, with only a little support from its walker.
The State of Texas executed a woman recently, and to more coverage and discussion that any other execution since Gary Gilmore. I have mixed emotions about the death penalty, and to me the only issue is whether or not it is acceptable for the state to kill criminals. Deterrance, cost, etc. are to me non-issues. Let's face it, this was one of those cases where the brutality of the crime calls out for the death penalty. But what this execution pointed out to me had nothing to do with all those side issues, including the gender of the criminal. What this pointed out was that in our current system, when you wait 15 years to carry out the sentance, you often are no longer dealing with the person who committed the crime. Whether you believe her conversion was sincere or not, frankly Carla Tucker today was not the same person she was fifteen years ago. Few people are, especially in younger people. So we need to decide in this country whether or not we are going to have capital punishment. If we do, then it needs to be quick enough to fall on the person who committed the crime, and it needs to be uniform enough to avoid bias. If not, then life in prison is the maximum penalty. But the way we do it now is really the worst of both worlds.
The Microsoft legal saga continues, despite the lack of coverage anymore. After a lot of legal briefs and arguments, and public arguments and posturing, we're exactly nowhere in the case right now. In fact, as far as I can see, the only thing that has happend is we've been given the opportunity to learn two lessons. One, the American legal system is as slow and blundering as a blind hippo with arthritis, and two, Microsoft has an arrogance that knows no bounds. In a case that could have been decided pretty quickly, as the issues, in my humble opinion at least, were pretty clear cut, delay has been the norm. First there were hearings just to set the date of the next hearing. Then, after evidence was finally heard, there was a long silence. Then, there was a flurry of activity: an injuction against Microsoft, and a grand master was appointed who was given months to report. Then the injuction and grand master were fought over, until the appellate court stayed the lower courts action, and a time was set, again months later, for a hearing, no doubt as to when the actual appeal will be heard. I'm a big believer in the truth in the phrase justice delayed is justice denied, and the fact that our legal system is going to take at least six months to decide something so simple is mind boggling.
The only more mind boggling part is Microsoft's arrogance. Here is a company whose idea of innovation is to buy or swipe the advances of others, claiming that progress will be stopped by fettering them in anyway. Here is a company that scorns all others, and then can't somehow understand why everyone doesn't love them. They actually have the chutzpah to claim that the court required them to ship a non-functional program, and to send some poor (actually, he's probably filthy rich) techie in to lie about the browser being an integral part of the operating system. He'd probably make a pretty good three card monte dealer, except given the overcomplication involved, Microsoft would have three hundred card monte and claim it was a hundred times better than the original. Bill Gates ought to go see Star Wars, and realize that Microsoft is like the Death Star. Most people are afraid to speak against it, but everyone will cheer at it's demise.
In addition to justice being blind, we can stupid to the list. In one of the little towns hard by East Saint Louis where strip joints flourish, the city council passed a law limiting the number to four. It seems many of the citizens are tired of people from all over the region coming to their little town to look at naked women instead of all those people going to places in their own back yards. When the fifth establishment was opened, it seems that the town no longer had a copy of the law that was passed so they couldn't enforce it. The councilman who spearheaded its passing claims (and frankly, I believe him) that a copy was stolen right out of his desk at City Hall. Sadly, the mainline media didn't report (or possibly I failed to notice) if the city repassed the law, although I have a sneeking suspicion that it was probably too late to kick the offending joint out of town. That's the way our legal system works (or fails to).
It was either an Ann Landers or Dear Abbey column, I can never keep the two separate, that had a letter about stupid criminals. My wife and I differed on our favorites, so I'll give both. Her favorite was the thief who confessed after the police put a colander on his head, wired it to a copy machine, told him it was a lie detector, wrote "you're lying" on a piece of paper, put it on the glass, and pressed the copy button after his every answer. She thought not only was it pretty funny, but he had to be pretty darn stupid to be fooled by a colander and a copy machine. My favorite was the counterfeiter who was arrested after passing two 16-dollar bills. I mean, what was he thinking? Didn't he know it would be easier with just one 32-dollar bill? Didn't he know the cashier would suspect when there wasn't a slot for 16-dollar bills in the register? Maybe he was a true artiste and didn't just want to copy somebody else's work. I wonder whose portrait he put on the bill -- Millard "I really was President" Fillmore, Richard "I'm not a crook" Nixon, Michael "I was almost President" Dukakis, or Bill "I can get away with anything" Clinton? And just to round things out, I'll mention my favorite Darwin award winner (people by whose death have made significant improvements to the human gene pool). His name is unknown, but he welded two JATO bottles (rocket motors) to his Chevy Impala and lit them off without performing the necessary engineering studies or course survey. While the augmented vehicle was apparently stable, it lacked either a good method of steering or a good method of stopping which our winner discovered when the straight desert road took a turn and he could neither follow it nor stop before he impacted a nearby cliff at a speed estimated in the neighborhood of 200 mph.
The federal trial of Terry Nichols finished a while back with a guilty verdict of involuntary manslaughter and a sentence of life in prison. Some were not satisfied with the outcome, including the State of Oklahoma which will now try him on state murder charges. Since he was tried only on the deaths of those who came under federal statutes, this apparently won't be double jeopardy -- being tried twice for the same crime. I take some satisfaction that both his trial and Tim McVeigh's trial were well run and pretty tightly focused on the facts. I personally find it much harder to second guess a jury in this case than I did in say the O.J. trial. Finally, I have to say I get the impression that McVeigh was a man embittered by life, while Nichols was more bewildered by life, and maybe that is why the jury had a hard time in giving him the death penalty. Which brings us to the Unabomber trial, and a man who is a raving lunatic, a poster boy for not letting mental illness go untreated, even if it means forcible commitment. What do you do with a guy like Ted? Fry him and be done with it, or put him in a mental institution for the rest of his life? I say get him the help he needs. And for a change, the legal system agrees with me. The guilty plea may have been one of the few sane decisions the man has made in recent years.
There was a ceremony a while back to mark the dismantling of the last nuclear missile silo in Missouri. Before you become alarmed by the prospect that we are no longer a nuclear power here in the sovereign state of Missouri (whatever that means, but they always say that during political party conventions), be reassured that we still have nuclear armed B-2 bombers stationed right here in [CLASSIFIED]. Still, an occasion like this is a cause of reflection, and I always try to rise to the occasion. So, my musing led me to the obvious -- I'm glad we won the cold war, and I'm glad it was fought be all means short of declared war. This last part is becoming more obvious as more events etc. are becoming declassified and we discover just how many training accidents occurred in and around the USSR and other communist states. I'm sure we can all understand the sentiment of the farmer on whose land the silo was located who said he was happy to no longer be near the top on the nuclear target list. Of course, the people who live in [CLASSIFIED] still are, but then, somebody has to be a deterrent to the Dakotas.
Thank you sir, and could I have another please?
Take me back to The Murphy NexusTM, please. I've had enough of this.
This page last updated 5 May 1998.
Contents copywrite Kevin Murphy 1998. All rights reserved.