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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

ANAPHYLACTIC YOUTH

    
    I am unwilling to relinquish the pastoral pleasures to, on the one hand, the Teddy Boy survivalist mentality or, on the other, to the cosmic John Denver types, both groups containing members who apparently love to smoke weed from corncob pipes, yet simultaneously seeming to cultivate a mutual contempt for one another in between Presidential elections. Personally, I'm doing my best to sit this whole Lesser of Two Evils thing out. Matter of fact, I haven't actually been excited about a Leader of Our Country Election since 1976 and that one blot on an otherwise pristine non-voting record only occurred because that was my first opportunity to legally vote. Back then the choice was between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. The former smiled a great deal and made much of his nonexistent rural roots and during the course of a Playboy interview admitted that he had on occasion lusted in his heart after women to whom he was not married. Meanwhile, Gerald Ford, the incumbent, continued his habit of walking into airplane propellers and falling off ski lifts, at least when he wasn't being assassinated by Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore. His biggest foreign affairs snafu was perhaps the destruction of East Timor, but, as the late Alexander Cockburn so aptly put it, Ford probably didn't even know where East Timor was, much less whether or not it deserved to be bombed, so it was hard to hold that against him. I ended up casting a write-in ballot for Alfred E. Neuman. Someday I'll explain "write-in ballots" to you youngsters, even though you'll probably think I'm making it up.
   Where was I? Oh, yes! Rural living. Where I was born and lived the first nine years of my tiny life was in the extreme rural outskirts of a decidedly small village called Portsmouth. One had to take a very rough road to get out to where we lived. The nearest neighbor was across the road and happened to be my Uncle Leo and Aunt Edna. A quarter mile down the bumpy lane from them lived my paternal grandparents, Clay and Macie Mershon. A bit over a mile in the opposite direction lay the spread belonging to my maternal grandparents, Albert and Edna Spradlin. We owned a property right in the center of all this fun, an acreage as large as our house was small. My father built our first house and from what I've been told it took him thirteen years to finish it. That may seem like a long time to build a house, especially a small house. And yet by God when the place was completed there was not one nail head standing up, not one hinge out of place, not one speck of paint anywhere other than where it belonged, and not one drop of oil on the driveway. The house and its environs were immaculate, as befitted a place that had taken so long to construct. Winters were warm on the inside and frigid out of doors. Summers were hot both in and out. My parents burned our trash in one of those rusted out fifty-five gallon drums, this being a time and place where the concerns of ecology had yet to permeate. Mom used wooden pins to hang our laundry on a nylon clothesline. And even though I never once used it, an outhouse stood next to our tool shed. I never used the tool shed either, come to think of it. Maybe the reason why, even to this day I remain shy around things of a mechanical nature harks back to the lack of geography between outdoor crapper and supply hut. 
    We had snakes. I should say, the snakes had us. I don't mean to give the impression we lived adjacent to a herpetologist paradise, but often enough it seemed as if the reptiles ran the show. Crawling about on the basement steps at the age of six months, my noggin came upon a copperhead which my mother, in her horror and outrage, chopped to bits with a garden hoe. Jumping across the rivulet that bordered our land, I looked down and spied a rednecked coral snake, possibly the most poisonous snake in North America. The snake didn't care that it was poisonous. It just wanted a place out of the sun. Then there was the time I walked over to Jeff Hansen's house. He was a classmate of mine and lived even farther out in the boonies than did I. He and I were walking along a road of mud on our way to climb his tree house when I noticed that a thin, curved strip of the muddy road lifted its head up and struck out in the direction of Jeff's shins. It turned out to be another copperhead. I nearly passed out from shock, although Jeff, to his credit, was very nonchalant and just kicked the damned thing off the road and into some bushes. 
    So, yes, we had snakes, just as we had bees, wasps, mosquitoes and yellow jackets, all three groups of flying terrorists enjoying nothing so much as they did swarming after me any time I dared poke my head out our front door. Even as a child, I wasn't about to display how terrified I was of the evil winged bastards, so I used to run around in our clover-infested front yard sans socks and shoes, invariably returning home with a stinger nicely lodged in an arch. The last time this happened to me, I remember quite clearly, the bee refused to let go of its stinger and before I could pull out the stinger, I had to knock the bee off my tender arch. Within a few minutes, my foot had swollen to three times its normal size, I found it difficult to swallow, and for some reason I couldn't remember my middle name. After a while the name did return to my memory, however, probably because my mother began shrieking "Phillip Eugene Mershon! Are you going to die?" I really didn't think I was terminal and as things turned out, it was only a mild anaphylactic reaction. All the same, I steered clear of bees as well as their reptilian counterparts. 
   The one safe haven I had against the presence of buzzing or slithering interlopers was my sacred sand pile. Lord, how I loved that sanctuary! My father brought home a dump truck load of sand one Saturday afternoon when I was four years old. He backed the truck up near the shadiest tree in our backyard, emptied out the truck bed, and in a few minutes I was watching brown and shiny granules of earth fall between my fingers. I dug caves and set up all kinds of obstacles for my toy soldiers and Indians to navigate. I dug holes and filled them with water. I set up a Hot Wheels track so that the cars could descend from a perch, hit the straightaway at the speed of light and with a whish become airborne across that pile of sand, once in a blue moon actually landing on the other piece of track I'd set up. My entire life I have been either cursed or blessed with the ability to lose myself in thoughts of either real or imagined adventure and that skill--if that's what it is--began right in my own backyard. 
   It is easy to fall victim to the delusion that one's childhood was all bliss, with everything beyond a certain age representing one's post salad days demise. I have been fortunate in not falling victim to false memories or inappropriate emphasis. I can still summon the ability to get lost in my own thoughts, observing the passing of hours as if they were seconds, accomplishing nothing yet feeling more refreshed than if I had taken a cruise to the Bahamas--and without the botulism. I used to believe this was due to my early roots in rurality. Nowadays I am not so certain. I have lived in what is today the sixth largest city in the United States since 1982 and, in spite of doing my best to avoid learning anything useful, I have come to the conclusion that even in a megalopolis such as Phoenix, one can still find moments of surcease from the cacophonous buzz of our own creation. One of these days soon, however, I aim to find out for certain. I don't know how I'm going to do it, but some way or another I am going to make my way back to my adopted home of Circleville. It may not be in 2012. It won't be long, though. And then I will know joy. Or something similar.
    I just hope they don't have bees. Or snakes.

Monday, July 30, 2012

ALL THAT GLITTERS

    First the good news.
    Giant Olympic rings have been erected in iconic locations in London and around the UK over the last few months as the hoopla surrounding the Games gained momentum. Known as "Olympic Spectaculars," the rings often coincided with key milestones in the run-up to 2012 or the arrival of the Olympic Torch to that area. Locations include Heathrow Airport, the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, George Square in Glasgow, outside the city halls of Cardiff and Belfast, and the Mound in Edinburgh, while the Newcastle and Gateshead Rings can be seen hanging on the famous Tyne Bridge.
    In London, Olympic Rings were lowered from Tower Bridge to mark 30 days to go, and at Kew Gardens the giant rings were formed using flowers ready for the arrival of the Olympic Torch Relay on day 67 of its journey.
    The largest official Olympic Spectacular can be seen in south London at Richmond Park National Nature Reserve, where they have been mown into the grass by the Royal Parks’ shire horses and are visible on the Heathrow flight path.
    The five Olympic rings represent the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic Games. They are one of the most recognizable logos in the world, even more so than those on the front of an Audi.
   Seb Coe, LOCOG Chair, said earlier this month: “The Olympic Rings are an iconic symbol, inspiring athletes and uniting people around the world. To athletes they represent the culmination of thousands of hours of training and reaching the highest level in sport. These Rings will excite and inspire visitors coming to London.”

   Now for the bad news.
   The main reason the IOC is thriving in the modern world is because it can sell television rights, among the world’s most sought-after commodities, on a scale that promises a massive audience for the advertising space that can be attached to the televising of the event. The Olympic Games is in effect the biggest billboard in the universe.
   Television companies are therefore the IOC’s biggest customers. The Vancouver Sun reported in 2007: “Television rights, according to figures released by the IOC, will generate more than 1billion US dollars from the 2010 [Winter] Olympics alone, and some $3.8billion in total between Vancouver and the 2012 London Games.” The National Broadcasting Corporation of America (NBC) alone paid $2billion for the US broadcasting rights to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and 2012 London Games.
   The IOC earns more than half of its income from selling television rights with around 30% coming from sponsorships and partnerships, 10% from ticketing and the rest from direct marketing and/or licensing of products. It also gains the large fees paid by candidate cities at each stage of the bid process, which amounts to $14million for each four year period.
    Overall the IOC makes around $750million a year. It is not possible to gain a more accurate figure because information about the IOC and its revenue is not publicly accessible. The IOC claims it only gets 8% of this total, with the rest going to the National Organizing Committees and other organizations involved in the Games, but there is no independent auditing to prove this. So the IOC  makes a minimum of $60million, which does not include their own revenues from the sale of Olympic products.
    So what does the IOC do with its profits? Pay local taxes? Not exactly. It does not pay taxes anywhere. The Host City Contract ensures it does not have to pay tax on any aspect of the Games or Games-related profits. In many countries, such official tax exemption only applies to charities, non-profits and religious organisations. The IOC’s illusive status as neither a corporation as such nor as a state institution, or indeed as any other known category of organization, means it manages to operate in a way that enables vast profits with few formal responsibilities.
    But surely the IOC uses the money to pay its employees a living wage? Nope. People volunteer to work at the Olympics in huge numbers. Only the people at the top see the money.
    Does the IOC invest in progressive projects relating to the official Olympic values, such as ethics in sports? I guess not. The IOC works towards the values in the Olympic Charter relating to its own protection and preservation, but only plays lip service to its other alleged values, such as promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

SANTORUM IS AN IDIOT. . . AND OTHER NEWS

    Worldwatch Institute
    Unaddressed, we risk global disaster. But if we channel this wave, intentionally transforming our cultures to center on sustainability, we will not only prevent catastrophe, but may usher in an era of sustainability—one that allows all people to thrive while protecting, even restoring, Earth.
    Worldwatch Institute's Transforming Cultures project turns a critical eye to how we can shift today's consumer cultures toward cultures of sustainability. The key to this transformation will lie in harnessing institutions that play a central role in shaping society—such as the media, educational services, business, governments, traditions, and social movements—to instill this new cultural orientation.
    The project also seeks to bring women into educational, economic, political and health equality with men. This will require the erosion of cultural norms that promote early and frequent childbearing and expanding women's capacity to choose when to bear children. Studies show that such advances slow and eventually end population growth, allowing for more sustainable development worldwide.


    World War 4 Report
    At an unusual joint press conference in Mexico City on July 19, the presidents of Mexico's governing center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) called on the federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) to investigate evidence of money laundering by the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). PAN president Gustavo Madero and PRD president Jesús Zambrano cited indications that during the campaign for the July 1 presidential and legislative elections PRI officials moved large sums of money through fake corporations and the Grupo Financiero Monex foreign exchange company in order to circumvent campaign finance restrictions. Madero said there was no implication that the money came from organized crime, but it may have been "stolen, from tax evasion, from companies, from the government, from state governments." (La Jornada, Mexico, July 20)
     Jesús Murillo Karam, the PRI's legal representative for electoral matters, admitted on July 19 that the party had paid some workers through gift cards—a total of 7,851 cards worth 6,326,300 pesos (about US$465,335)—and he said the cards may have been funded through Monex. But the PRI dismissed allegations that it used millions of dollars' worth of gift cards for Organización Soriana, Mexico's second-largest retailer, to pay voters to mark their ballots for PRI candidates. (LJ, July 20)
   The focus on Monex, which some Mexicans are starting to refer to as "Monexgate," comes amid investigations of widespread money laundering through Mexican exchange houses. On July 17 a US Senate subcommittee released a 330-page report on the failure of the London-based corporation HSBC, Europe's largest bank, to institute safeguards to prevent money laundering through some of its affiliates. The subcommittee said it had found that HSBC Mexico "transported $7 billion in physical US dollars to [HSBC Bank USA] from 2007 to 2008, outstripping other Mexican banks, even one twice its size, raising red flags that the volume of dollars included proceeds from illegal drug sales in the United States."


    Think Progress
   Former Senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum (PA) has long positioned himself as a champion of family values, so one might think he would be the strongest advocate for children who had been sexually assaulted by trusted adults.
    But during an appearance on Dallas-Ft. Worth’s KSKY 660 AM on Friday, Santorum a Penn State alum and football fan denied the overwhelming evidence that former Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno, President Graham Spanier, and others intentionally covered up evidence that Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky molested and raped at least 10 boys:
SANTORUM: I actually read the Freeh Report. I don’t know if you did or not, but I did. And, my concern with the Freeh report, a lot of the conclusions in the Freeh report aren’t matched by the evidence that they presented and so I’ve been talking to a lot of folks at Penn State and they say, ‘you’re just gonna have to wait for the criminal trial of these two guys at Penn State.’ I think there is going to be a whole new line set on what really went on there. So I’m sort of sitting back and waiting for the facts to come out as opposed to at least I’m being told is a version of the facts. … Let’s get the truth. So I think we’re going to see some things come up a little different in the next six months. I just want to make sure we get it right.

ANOTHER NIGHT AT ZIA'S

   These days getting thrills out of the things that used to excite--well, let's just say it hasn't been easy of late. But in the land of Take No Prisoners on the Roller Coaster Stick Slide of Life, last night was something special. Naw, I didn't get laid. It was way better than that. Naw, I didn't get high. What I did makes getting high in the traditional sense of the word lame in the extreme. What I did was I went to Zia's Record Store--again. 
    Hey! Where'd everybody go? 
    Looks like it's just you and me, kiddo. Well, screw them pikers. What do they know about fun? Fun? You talk about a great time! It's like running in a loin cloth through the best days of your own youth with a bone in your nose, laughing like hyenas at all the oldsters who are gawking and shivering in fear that their wives might be getting just a wee bit too excited over what to them can only at best be a furtive quiver of excitement racing up and down the spine while to you and me, it's the very life blood of existence to race up and down the aisles gazing avariciously at all the tracks of wonder, some recalled and some never yet experienced. Oh, God, it's that most rare and precious of body-mind melds and nothing short of rapture could approximate the splendor of it all.
    I moved through the reggae section into R&B, wondering in my Dante-like mind why there have to be divisions at all, supping on a little Marvin Gaye while showing off to the seven-year-old dragged there by his grandma as I juggle three Ray Charles CDs with one hand and the kid giggles as his old lady's old lady yanks him out of the line of sight. Books written by brilliant hacks fall from the shelves, the interior photographs spraying like a dopamine waterfall. 
   Naturally the proprietor was ill-prepared for my level of unbridled enthusiasm so he sent a bully-boy to keep tabs on me, which was pretty much what I was hoping would happen. This big bolshy bastard was no match for my scientifically precise frolicking up one aisle and down the other as if I were a ballerina on black beauties. He pretended to be interested in the latest saturated fat from women with only one name or less while I gawked back at him as if he were the missing link in a Planet of the Apes movie. Eventually I settled into serious shopping, which, I believe, is where we all came in together.
    I had originally gone there seeking out the newly remastered edition of Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram album because I'd heard that it had a few new tunes on it. That turned out to be a vicious lie; yet it's still good to have it around the house in case any old people stop by. While they're listening to that pap, I'll be wanking my own ass to the raving wails of Joan Jett and her thirteenth greatest hits collection, except this one--Fit To Be Tied--actually was worth the nine bucks, shattering all kinds of planets throughout infinite lunar systems with the standard stuff, plus previously unreleased versions of "Cherry Bomb," "Roadrunner," the extremely rare "Light of Day" (remember Michael J Fox?), and the album closer, "Love is All Around"--yup! The one from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
    There was no way I could approach the check out counter without the dignity of a jazz purchase, so I scooped up Charlie Parker's four-disc collection Chasin' the Bird, released by a label calling itself Proper, which is a bit of a misnomer, since most of these live recordings wouldn't have made it onto an officially-released Parker latter and yet there's just enough bebop discordance happening here to explain why it was that people such as Ornette Coleman were positively necessary.
    I lost the bully-boy somewhere in the New Age section and hastened my booted toes to the oldies racks where I picked up a threesome I'd owned at one time which included the first three Elton John albums, which actually wouldn't be a very interesting bit of information were it not for the fact that one of those was the soundtrack for a dirty movie called Friends. That latter soundtrack contained two unfathomably bad-ass rockers, being "Honey Roll" and "Can I Put You On," neither of which is redeemed in the slightest by the stupid lyrics of Bernie Taupin but both of which are indeed redeemed by Elton--for the one and only time--rocking out as if his life depended on it. 
   When I got up to the counter I saw the bully-boy panting like a sailor. The clerk asked for my Zia Card and I explained I'd lost the damned thing using it trying to burglarize apartment houses. She laughed and issued me a new one, so that all these albums made their way into my pocket for a mere thirty bucks, which is one of the world's best bargains, if you think about it, or even if you don't.
    So don't sell your plasma too cheap. Head on down to Zia's and pig out instead.

Friday, July 27, 2012

DINING RIGHT OF CENTER

    
    Personally, I don't care whether your fast food restaurant is open on Sundays. In my more impetuous days, Sundays were reserved for tossing back gin and tonics at the strip club and no one I knew gave much of a damn about chicken fingers on a sandwich, if you catch my meaning and I suspect you do. But just try explaining that to Chick-fil-A. The company's proud president and ambiguously named leader Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that the company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family." In a later radio interview, he amplified his message: "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'"
    I looked Dan right in the eye and replied, "Dude, who says you know better than God what God means by marriage?"
   That one simple remark of mine probably is what got the guy so angry in the first place. Oh, you know how I can be. I stood outside his Atlanta-based company with a sign that said something to the effect of "If Domino's Pizza hates abortion, then YOU should support gay marriage." Two police citations and a few rotten tomatoes later, I was back in Phoenix, reading virtually nothing about those harmless escapades. Ah well.
    But it does cause a person to wonder about the politics of certain venues, does it not? Sure, it does. You remember Cracker Barrel. Back in the 1990s and beyond, that Tennessee restaurant got itself in all kinds of heated pools for segregating African Americans and other black people into special sections of its eateries and for dismissing employees they suspected of enjoying an alternative lifestyle. I suppose if the employees had been miserable instead of enjoying themselves, no one would have minded. 
    All this politicizing about lousy food and lame service got my tiny mind to ruminating. Next thing you know, I discovered a circle of hell called Right Wing Restaurant, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There was also a Right Wing Tavern situated in Woodstock (?!?), Georgia. The latter joint, I have been informed, closed down last year. 
    So what is the role of food and beverage joints in the political sphere? It has been nearly one year ago that  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sent a letter to its customers complaining of the political gridlock in Washington. The letter called for positive change in the U.S., but also called into question the level of involvement quick-serve executives should have in politics. For Schultz, the actions of politicians demanded that someone, no matter if he was the head of a global coffee corporation, take action. As he stated in his letter, elected officials “have chosen to put partisan and ideological purity over the well-being of the people.” Well, sure. I mean, that's pretty much the definition of a politician. 
    Unaccustomed as I am to agreeing with anything ever said by Joseph Stalin, old Uncle Joe was exactly correct when he drunkenly quipped that "Politics is everything," except the way he said it was "Политика-это все." (I just had to get that BCE thing in there.)
    What I am getting at here is that rather than being angry about certain places espousing their political predispositions, I actually think it's a pretty good idea. After all, if I know going in that a certain diner is owned and operated by a member of the National Socialists Party, I'm more inclined to stay the hell away from it. Likewise, if I know that a given southern-based restaurant doesn't much care for black people, I'm happy to ask the Southern Poverty Law Center to investigate that establishment's hiring and serving practices to see if there have been any recent civil rights violations. And fuck you, Rand Paul. So, yes, by all means, Chick-fil-A, wear your reactionary mentality on your Sunday-Go-To-Meeting napkins, please. 
   Here in the wild west, there's a chain of overrated toad-burger emporiums called In-and-Out Burgers (which ain't half as fun as the name suggests) that enjoys placing Bible verses on the bottoms of their cups and on the wrappers of their sandwiches. Despite the questionable marketing practice of suggesting a prayer along with consumption of a given product, if I want scripture, I'll go to a place more sanctified than a burger drive-thru. Like say maybe a strip club, where they honor the Sabbath and keep it holy, you should pardon the attempted pun. But then again, this is America, where we like to push the concept of free speech as far as it can go, which is not necessarily a bad thing, unless the aim is commerce, in which case it is almost always rancid. Whenever someone is selling T-shirts with a peace symbol, you have to wonder about the real meaning behind the company logo. Whenever someone is selling chicken wings to Mormons, you have to wonder about how those chickens were treated prior to being slain for our delight. 
   So, yeah, I guess I won't be basking in the orange and white glow of Chick-fil-A any more, not that I ever have. I just can't help wondering where this political enthusiasm will go next. Perhaps we will find a Klan-based dry cleaning service that offers a Sunday special on laundering white sheets. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

SUMMER LONDON OLYMPICS BEGINS THIS SUMMER IN LONDON

    After a suggestive sixty-nine days travelling the length, width and depth of the United Kingdom, the Olympic Flame takes to the River Thames on the morning of Friday 27 July. Starting from Hampton Court Palace, Olympic Rowing gold medallist Matthew Pinsent will carry the Flame on to the Royal Rowbarge, the Gloriana, named by Her Majesty as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations; that's sixty-five years to you Yanks! The Rowbarge will be rowed down the Thames (that's Tim's, to you Yanks) to Tower Bridge by 16 oarsmen and women including Olympic Rowers James Cracknell and Jonny Searle.
    Once on board, Pinsent will light a ceremonial cauldron (not a witches' cauldron, Yanks--this ain't Macbeth, y'know!), that will be used to light the Torches of seven young Torchbearers, in turn, to carry the Flame as it travels down the river.
    One of the Torchbearers aboard will be Amber Charles, 22, from Newham who played a key role in London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games seven years ago, presenting London’s proposal to stage the Games to members of the IOC at Lausanne in 2004.
    As the last Torchbearer on the Thames, Amber will carry the Flame to City Hall. The Flame will then remain out of public view until it appears at the Opening Ceremony.
    Over the past 70 days (that's sixty-nine plus one) over 13 million people have lined the streets of the UK to show their support. LOCOG Chair Seb Coe commented “Thank you to each and every person for giving the Olympic Flame such a magnificent welcome and celebrating the best of the UK with us. Together we have given the London 2012 Games the best possible start.”
    The Flame will arrive at the Olympic Stadium tomorrow evening during the Opening Ceremony, where the cauldron will be lit and stay alight until being extinguished on the final day of the Games.


   After a first-round bye, the draw - which took place on Thursday - pits ValentinaVezzali (that's the moment's greatest athlete, to ye Yanks) against either Japan's Shiho Nishioka or Hong Kong's Lin Po Heung. But it would not be until the final that she would have to face either team-mate Elisa Di Francisca, who beat her at last year's European Championships, or Korean Nam Hyun-hee, whom she beat 6-5 for gold at the Beijing 2008 Games.
    Even though she is world number one, Vezzali is seeded second to Nam.
    Mariel Zagunis, who became USA's first Fencing gold medallist for 100 years in Athens eight years ago and then retained her women's Individual Sabre title in 2008, does not start her campaign until 1 August. Her first fight is against Indonesia's Diah Permatasari.
    Richard Kruse, Great Britain's standout hope for a first Olympic Fencing medal since 1964, will begin his bid in the men's Individual Foil against Russian Artur Akhmatkhuzin, ranked six places below him at 21st, in the last 32.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

CRACKING UP

    

   As a wiser person than myself once observed, nothing is simple in life except pain. 
    I had intended to say nothing whatsoever about the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. The road to hell, as they say, is filled with good intentions.
    My roommate, the indefatigable Lisa Ann, likes the weatherman on the local morning Fox News affiliate here in Phoenix. Otherwise, rest assured, nothing Murdoch-oriented would ever permeate these otherwise hallowed walls. Still, peace and harmony remain in short supply upon this madly spinning orb, so I put up with it and even on occasion find myself laughing at some of the witticisms of one the anchors, a smart and often pregnant woman named Andrea Robinson. Were it not for her and my unending search for domestic tranquility, I would hurl the television set through an upstairs window and urinate upon the remains from my bedroom window. Why? Well, here's the latest reason: In an attempt to pretend to be above politics, the other anchor, some midget named Rick D'Amico, quipped this Ayem about how the government was sure to start banning "high powered assault bows and arrows," a comment he tied into the weatherman's on-the-spot report from an archery range. The point could not have been more clear: those radicals in Washington want to take away your right to bear arms in their unending efforts to exploit for political purposes the tragedy in Colorado.
    I know, I know. You're expecting me to rant and rave about how nobody really needs an assault rifle in this country and if those weapons had been properly illegal then maybe just maybe those people in the movie theater in Aurora would not have been murdered. Actually, that is not what I believe at all.
    Oh, sure, I see no need whatsoever for anyone anywhere being legally permitted to amass the type of firepower required to wipe out a room full of people. But in this particular case, the poor bastards had no chance at all. The perpetrator was going to kill people, even if he'd had to use a can of Raid and a sling shot. And before we go off half-cocked (you should pardon the expression) blaming Hollywood for fostering a culture of celebratory violence, let's not forget that a country as chronically married to wars as ours will from time to time give birth to monsters like the young man in the neuroscience department. So, no, I am not here today to convince you to rethink the Second Amendment.
    I am here, however, to try against all odds to convince you to rethink your day. 
    A wonderful friend of mine named Paula posted something on Facebook which I think deserves some attention. She posted a link to what is for her a local story about burglaries, one you can read here. The headline refers to reports in the town of Chillicothe that they have experienced sixteen residential burglaries in the past twenty-four days. Paula works nights and tries to sleep days, so it isn't terribly surprising that she remains mindful of the potential for a home invasion. She attached to her post the admonition--which I think you can take to the bank--that if anyone tries to break into her home, they will not make that same mistake twice. This is not paranoia. There is nothing delusional about her concerns and, having been to Chillicothe myself, I can assure you there's not much grandeur going on, either. 
    There's a couple legitimate reasons a person might want to keep guns. The first one Paula has articulated: fear of a hostile invasion. The other reason is for purposes of legal hunting. I used to be fair square against the latter practice until it occurred to me that there's not much difference between eating a rib-eye steak that appeared on my plate as the result of Betsy the Cow being slaughtered by a factory and eating, say, deer meat caught and cleaned in the wild, except that Bambi probably has less carcinogens. 
    What does trouble me, however, is the purchasing of weapons for offensive purposes. The dude in Colorado appears to have had murder in mind from the get-go. So how do we make the distinction between the intent of a person who wants to buy a gun for defense of home or for hunting versus a guy who wants to shoot up a movie theater? One way is that no one I've ever met acquires an AR-15 to hunt squirrels. 
    When I was in college, my friend Bill, a self-described gun nut, decided to show me his newly acquired AR-15 by pointing its barrel right in my face and squeezing off an imaginary round. Once I recovered my composure--about an hour later--I asked him why he wanted such a weapon. His response: "Dude, you never know when you'll need one."
    According to disgraced former State Senator Russell Pearce, if everyone in the theater in Aurora had had semi-automatic weapons of their own, the gunman would never have been permitted to kill as many people as he did. That's one thought. Another thought is that if the Japanese had had atomic weapons in 1945, they might have prevented the United States from leveling the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

AURORA BOREALIS

    I knew if I had my chance. . . 


    We will not be talking about the Colorado shooting.
   Two prominent British media figures are charged with conspiracy today together with six others in a phone hacking scandal that has made swoon much of Rupert Murdoch’s British yellow journalism empire and shaken the British political establishment since coming to light last summer. Melissa Leo lookalike Rebekah Brooks, former head of Mr. Murdoch’s UK News Corp., Andy Coulson, a former Murdoch chief editor and Prime Minister David Cameron’s ex-media chief, as well as six of twenty-seven others who have been arrested in the past year are involved. They are charged with conspiracy in using often salacious or offensively personal material gained from illegally hacked cellphones as fodder for tabloid stories, embarrassing the Cameron administration.


    With every paper I'd deliver. . . 


   More high school students are using condoms than they did 20 years ago - but a lot of more work needs to be done to protect young people from HIV and AIDS, government researchers reported Tuesday.
    Today, 4 of every 10 new HIV infections occur in people younger than 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - and the teen years, just as youths become sexually active, are key for getting across the safe-sex message.
    Using a long-standing survey of high school students' health, the CDC tracked how teen sexual behavior has changed over 20 years. The results are decidedly mixed.
    About 60 percent of sexually active high school students said they used a condom the last time they had sex, researchers said Tuesday at the XIX International AIDS Conference. That's an improvement from the 46 percent who were using condoms in 1991.
    "This is good news," said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's HIV prevention center. But, "we need to do a lot more."
    The problem? Condom use reached a high of 63 percent back in 2003.
    Black students are most likely to heed the safe-sex message, yet their condom use dropped from a high of 70 percent in 1999 to 65 percent last year, the study found.
    If mom and dad get antsy about discussing condoms, well, about half of high school students have had sex, a proportion that hasn't changed much over the two decades, the CDC reported. Today, 47 percent say they've had sex, down just a bit from 54 percent in 1991. Again, black teens made the most progress, with 60 percent sexually active today compared with 82 percent two decades ago.
    The average age when teens begin having sex: 16, CDC said.


    I met a girl who sang the blues. . . 
    NASA scientists say the ice covering almost all of Greenland experienced some melting this summer. It was an event "so extraordinary" that one scientist involved in the discovery at first questioned whether it was real.
    Here is NASA's summary from a report issued today: "On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically.        According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July."


Sunday, July 22, 2012

MISSING ALEXANDER COCKBURN

    
    One of the most tragic aspects to the passing of Alexander Cockburn is the use of the word "was" to describe him. The New York Times called him an acerbic left-winger, which is sad enough. The Guardian lamented the loss of the "radical journalist." But to add the prefatory verb "was" to the laudatory and often reluctant farewells feels most wrong of all. Many of us knew Alex had been fighting cancer for a couple years. Yet it never felt possible that we could wake up in a world that didn't have Cockburn in it.
    I enjoyed the man for what he wrote, as did most of us who felt we knew him. He wrote and edited the often brilliant and typically scathing newsletter CounterPunch. His column "Beat the Devil" in The Nation has often been the best part of that ancient periodical. In those pages and in the endless stream of fascinating books he wrote and co-wrote, we learned right off that Alex hated one thing more than any other and that one thing was bullshit. I remember a blistering article he wrote against the film JFK (a film I still maintain is one of the best ever made, but so what?) wherein he argued that Kennedy could not have been murdered by the Establishment because he was the establishment. Of all the reasons to disbelieve conspiracy theories, that was perhaps the most offensive and hence the most necessary. 
    Cockburn never creamed his jeans in awe of the presumed progressive leaders of the day, being nicely critical of Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama right through to the end, and just as happily contemptuous of G H W Bush and family. 
    But let Cockburn say it himself. Here's an excerpt from March 12, 2002, featuring an article called "When Billy Graham Planned to Kill One Million People."

    [President Richard] Nixon cites Paul Keyes, a political conservative who is executive producer of the NBC hit, "Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In," as telling him that "11 of the 12 writers are Jewish." "That right?" says [Preacher Billy] Graham, prompting Nixon to claim that Life magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and others, are "totally dominated by the Jews." Nixon says network TV anchors Howard K. Smith, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite "front men who may not be of that persuasion," but that their writers are "95 percent Jewish."
    "This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain," the nation’s best-known preacher declares "You believe that?" Nixon says. "Yes, sir," Graham says. "Oh, boy," replies Nixon. "So do I. I can’t ever say that but I believe it." "No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something," Graham replies.
    Magnanimously Nixon concedes that this does not mean "that all the Jews are bad" but that most are left-wing radicals who want "peace at any price except where support for Israel is concerned. The best Jews are actually the Israeli Jews." "That’s right," agrees Graham, who later concurs with a Nixon assertion that a "powerful bloc" of Jews confronts Nixon in the media. "And they’re the ones putting out the pornographic stuff," Graham adds.


   Now this is significant because to hear the nonsense that Cockburn's former friend and ultimate nemesis Christopher Hitchens spouted out, you'd have thought Cockburn was on the same side as Graham. Au contraire. Hitchens became pro-Israel at any cost, especially when it came to persecuting and waging war against countries with substantial Islamic populations. To against quote Cockburn, this time from his obituary of Hitchens: "He courted the label 'contrarian,' but if the word is to have any muscle, it surely must imply the expression of dangerous opinions. Hitchens never wrote anything truly discommoding to respectable opinion and if he had he would never have enjoyed so long a billet at Vanity Fair."
    Cockburn, unlike Hitchens, and indeed, unlike almost everyone else, was dangerous. He took chances. He threw rocks into still ponds. He referred to himself to his half-niece Laura Flanders as her "wicked uncle." He supported whatever needed supporting, which was usually whatever the majority was against. But there was much more to the writer than being a mere "contrarian." Cockburn possessed a literary style, something usually neglected when discussing political writers. Sure, there was vitriol in his lambasting, say, the critics of Scientology as being on a par with Nazis, and yet every sentence had its distinct rhythm, every paragraph stung not only from the bite but also from the beauty. I believe a single sentence from a piece he wrote about Maureen Dowd and Judith Miller will suffice to make the case. "Miller has been the sport of a million stories and there was nothing much by way of startling revelations in what Dowd wrote, but in operatic terms it was as though Maria Callas had suddenly rushed onto the stage and slugged Elizabeth Schwartzkopf." 
    We will not be getting sentences such as that anymore, unless someone goes through his tomes and steals them. As a matter of fact, within a few days most people will have moved on to other stories, just as we will move on from the truly frightening stories coming out of Aurora, Colorado. In both cases, most of us will do our best not to learn anything useful or even important from the events. Crazy people such as Russell Pearce write things on Facebook about how if only someone in the movie theater in Aurora had had a gun, why, then probably someone would have shot and killed the perpetrator. Alexander Cockburn might have had something useful to say about this, or about how Pearce turned right around, deleted the message, and claimed himself as the victim of insensitive people. Cockburn would have driven Pearce to apoplexy. 
    So we say good night to this sweet and angry man who made us feel better simply by showing up. Thank you, Alex. Goodbye . . . and amen.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

BEING JOE ARPAIO

    
    It isn't easy being Joe Arpaio these days. Three cases face the Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff, a guy who bills himself as America's toughest law enforcement officer. Opening today in Phoenix comes a case led by the American Civil Liberties Union, the latter group alleging that the MCSO targeted Latinos in their enthusiastic pursuit of undocumented residents. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Justice has brought a similar suit against Arpaio, the DOJ contending that the sheriff and his deputies aggressively targeted Latinos, regardless of their immigration status, and retaliated against anyone who got in their way. A Department of Justice probe last year accused Arpaio of targeting Latino residents, illegally detaining them, then denying them basic rights behind bars. Settlement talks between Arpaio and federal officials broke down over Arpaio’s resistance to allowing an independent monitor of his department. In addition, a federal grand jury has been  investigating the Arizona sheriff for possible abuses of power in launching investigations of local officials who disagree with him. 
    The ACLU case that begins today--Ortega Melendres, et al. v Arpaio, et al.-- charges that Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office have unlawfully instituted a pattern and practice of targeting Latino drivers and passengers in Maricopa County during traffic stops. MCSO’s practices, the suit says, discriminate on the basis of race, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and have resulted in prolonged traffic stops and baseless extended detentions, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In its zeal to rid the community of persons that it believes are undocumented immigrants, MCSO has violated the civil rights of countless U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants. 
    Who are the parties involved in this litigation? First there is Manuel Ortega Melendres, a legal visitor to the United States who possessed a valid visa. On September 26, 2007, he was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped by officers from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Cave Creek, Arizona. MCSO was conducting an operation targeted at day laborers. Although the officer who stopped him claimed that the reason he pulled the vehicle over was because the driver was speeding, the driver, who was a Caucasian male, was not given a citation or taken into custody. The officer instead asked Mr. Ortega and the other Latino passengers to produce identification. Though Mr. Ortega provided identification, he was nonetheless arrested. Mr. Ortega spent four hours in a cell in the county jail. Eventually he was taken to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, who confirmed that he had proper documentation to be in the United States. After an hours-long ordeal, Mr. Ortega was released. 
    Then there were Manuel Nieto and Velia Meraz, who are brother and sister. They were stopped during a sweep in North Phoenix after they had witnessed the MCSO detaining two Latino men at a gas station. After pulling into the gas station, the MCSO deputy ordered Ms. Meraz and Mr. Nieto to leave. They left the gas station, but were subsequently pulled over by deputies in front of their family business at gunpoint. While Mr. Nieto called 911, MCSO deputies pulled him out of his car and threw him against it. Family members who were present at the time informed the officers that both Mr. Nieto and Ms. Meraz are U.S. citizens. MCSO ran Mr. Nieto’s identification and then released both of them without a citation or any apology. 
    And finally there is the matter of  David and Jessika Rodriguez, who, along with their two young children, were off-roading near Lake Bartlett in December 2007. As they were leaving the preserve, they were stopped and ticketed by MCSO for driving on a closed road. But several other drivers who were not Latino and driving on the same stretch of road were allowed to leave with only a warning. During the stop, the MCSO deputy demanded to see Mr. Rodriguez’s Social Security card even though he had produced his Arizona driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. Mr. Rodriguez eventually relented and provided the deputy with his Social Security number so that he and his family could leave in peace. As the Rodriguezes drove to the exit of the preserve, they were able to stop and speak with other drivers and confirm that not one of them had been given a citation. The Rodriguezes allege that they were treated unfairly because they are Latino. The Rodriguezes are U.S. citizens.
    But are these merely anecdotal instances of what might be, in the larger scheme of things, a fair and balanced approach to enforcing local laws? Not bloody likely, says Dr. Ralph Taylor, a criminal justice expert, author, researcher and professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. The plaintiffs will be calling Taylor as an expert witness who has analyzed racial and ethnic patterns in traffic stops made by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. His findings support the plaintiffs’ claims that MCSO is engaged in a pattern of racial profiling and unlawful detention.
    Taylor’s statistical analysis shows that during Sheriffs Arpaio’s “crime suppression sweeps,” or saturation patrols, Latinos were stopped at higher rates in comparison to non-saturation patrol days. Some of those findings include:
• MCSO officers were significantly more likely to stop Latino persons on saturation patrol days in comparison to days when such operations were not taking place.
• MCSO officers assigned to work saturation patrol operations were 46% to 53.7% more likely to stop Latino persons than officers not involved in the saturation patrol on those days
• The length of time MCSO officers took to complete a traffic stop was about 21% to 25% longer when at least one of the persons stopped was Latino.
• Dr. Taylor’s analysis was shown to be highly statistically significant, meaning that the chances of obtaining the results by chance would be less than one in a thousand.

    And yet it is fair to say that Arpaio has many supporters in Maricopa County. Back in April of this year, some happy white folks from Fountain Hills, where the Sheriff lives, held a rally in support of the law and order dude. “All he does is enforce the law that's already on the books,” said Walt Lyons, one of dozens of mostly retirees who attended a Saturday rally and chanted “go Joe, go Joe,” to show they stand behind their sheriff. As many as 200 people, some holding signs touting the longtime lawman, took part in the event northeast of Phoenix in Fountain Hills, where Mr. Arpaio  enjoys strong support even as he faces a federal investigation involving accusations of racial profiling during immigration sweeps. Arpaio maintains he's done nothing wrong and is merely doing the job the federal government neglects.
    “He's kind of a sacrificial lamb,” adds Mr. Lyons's wife, Regina. “It's part of the process and he's willing to put up with it.”

    Wow.
    Earlier this week, Arpaio released the nonexistent results of his group’s investigation about President Obama’s birthplace, once again questioning the president's legitimacy. The issue resurfaces periodically despite Hawaiian officials' repeated explanations that the president was born in their state. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

MY BRAIN--AND WELCOME TO IT

    

    About five years ago I had a headache, which is something I rarely get. The damn thing wouldn't go away. Pain in the morning, pain in the evening, pain about supper time. It was, in the words of a close friend, "a colossal bitch." I had to do something to get some relief. I took aspirin. The headache sneered at my feeble attempt at relief. I took ibuprofen. My headache shouted, "You fool! I eat that shit for breakfast!" I got hold of some Vicodin. The headache grumbled a bit, but did not give up. So I did one of those things that I really hate doing. I went to my doctor.
    My doctor is a nice old man. He usually sees me without much advanced notice. In turn, I agree not to mention that the voodoo imagery around his office creeps me out.
    The doctor recommended an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging. I said sure. That's why God invented insurance. So they put me in the tunnel and I had my fun looking up at the top of the tube. I tried not to sweat. I tried not to move. In a few minutes the fun was over and they pulled me out.
    A couple days later--my headache still firmly in place--I went back to see my doctor. He was smiling. I asked what was so funny. He said, "Mershon, I've always thought you had the mind of a child. Naturally, I assumed you kept it in a jar on your mantle."
    What the lovable old quack bastard was telling me was that my brain report looked remarkably similar to what one would expect to see on that of a five year old boy. The doctor continued to smile and said, "You have no cysts, no swelling, no tumors, no bleeding, no infections, no inflammations, no structural abnormalities, no vascular issues. In fact," and here he grinned from one side of his head to the other, which is one hell of a stretch of acreage, "your left and right cerebral hemispheres resemble those of a child. There's virtually no deterioration whatsoever and it looks as if your frontal lobe is still developing." And then he laughed.
    I asked if any of this could explain my headache. He admitted it could not. He wrote me a script for Depakote. I took some and the headache went away.
    The reason I bring this up is that I have noticed over the years that a lot of people take me to be a heavy doper. I am not even a light doper. I smoked joints in college once in a while, and a line or two of cocaine has passed my sinus cavities. But I haven't touched anything in many years and these days I'm inclined to see narcotics as a conspiracy perpetrated by the merger of organized crime and the government to keep us all horny and stupid, and so I would rather pluck out an eyeball than even think about using a drug. 
    And yet the rumors continue.
    About twenty years ago I was working for a big ass charge card company. One day I had a mild toothache and was treating it with some Ambosol, a liquid goo that comes in a tiny copper-colored vial. I was applying this quite openly, unaware that several people in the office assumed I was rubbing my gums with cocaine. I have always had a lot of energy, I have always looked at the world just a wee bit differently than most people, and I have always been able to detect or perceive humor in situations where a more measured and reasonable person would see gloom. Many people in turn have simply taken it for granted that I must--at a minimum--be a substantial pot head. Well, ladies and germs, I'm here to tell you that it just ain't so. 
    What is so is that human beings--in fact, all mammals--have something called cannabinoid receptors in their brains and bodies. Tetrahyrdocannibanol or THC is the psycho active component of marijuana. Some doctors, calling it Dronabinol, have prescribed synthetic THC to their AIDS patients when those patients need to have their appetites stimulated or need to control their vomiting. A few studies on nonhuman animals have even shown that a special cannabinoid several hundred times more powerful than THC has been effective in preventing Alzheimer's disease. 
    I suspect that we humans have very little control over our physiological lives. We can't will ourselves to be taller or better looking or more athletic. What we can do, I firmly believe, is have a say in how we feel about ourselves and about others. And so I admit I take a little bit of pride in my diminutive fore-brain, at least insofar as I am able to experience pleasure in ways that apparently escape the abilities of my compatriots. In other words, I believe that by combining my childish mind and what little free will I have amassed, I am able to get off on simple things such as the shadows dancing on my wall as the wind blows and the leaves on the trees bending and swoop. I love staring at our dogs and thinking about what they might be thinking about. I fill myself with fascination dwelling on concepts such as the "original cause," or whether there was a God who created God, or that kind of thing. But better than all of that, I love the fact that I feel a genuine and deep love for the friends who have waltzed through my life. In the same way that your dog has no real sense of time--you can walk him five minutes or fifty minutes and to the dog it's all the same--it matters to me not one whit whether I last saw the friend yesterday or thirty years ago: if I loved that person then, I remember that person today exactly the same way and feel precisely the same way about that person. It's a neat trick. 
    So when on occasion I ramble on in these electronic pages about some bit of apparent trivial silliness that took place eons ago--or yesterday--please be patient with me. I simply have no sense of time. Whether I knew you in college, high school, grade school or pre-school, whether we met in a bar (in my drinking days) or at a land fill, whether our paths crossed last week or last century, it's really all the same to me. I carry you around in my heart. Nothing short of electro-convulsive therapy is going to dislodge the shining recollections. My only hope is that I may have, in some way, made a favorable impression on your life. Chances are I did not. Maybe that's why I'm so passionate about writing these days. It feels good to remind people of what it was like to be happy. Sometimes it's good just to remind people what things were like back when they too had the mind of a child. 
See these related posts:
E.D.ucation,  New Psychological Studies Moving Your Boulder  Experiment Fifteen  Addicted to Addiction  Three Phases of Life

Monday, July 16, 2012

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

    
    Not to make excuses, but the last several days have been quite busy for your Humble Narrator. They have been so busy, in fact, that I have been forced to neglect my duties here at Philropost, something that I truly hate to neglect. This blog is the one place where you and I, Dear Reader, get to spend some pleasant time tripping around the world bellyaching in cosmic bliss about one thing and another and, truth be told, I have missed the last three days a great deal. I'll tell you what I've been doing.
     Much of the time I have been creating websites for some people who wanted them. Because a wonderful person back east was nice enough to advance me a bit of money, I was able to acquire a new computer and, lo and behold, right at the same time these requests came in from about a dozen different people who wanted sites and I had no better sense than to take them up on their offers.
    Why did these people want websites? A few of them actually believe they have something useful to contribute to society by posting their hopes and aspirations. But the bulk of the people for whom I have been working hope to make money from the ads I have placed on their sites. It is even possible that they will make some decent money. In fact, it is likely, assuming they follow my recommendations.

    Because it is possible that you, Blessed Reader, may have a site of your own, I am going to impart to you some of the things that you too can do to generate additional dollars.
    There are two kinds of people who will buy things advertised on your website. The first of these are your friends and family. They will buy because they feel like you will appreciate it if they do so. That is very nice of them and if you become aware that they are doing this, you owe it to them to show your appreciation.
    The other group of people who will buy things from the ads on your site are those who come across your site totally by accident or via a search engine, as opposed to being a person who was directed to your site via some third party or link. If a person finds your site through a search engine while researching a related topic, he or she will have confidence in your site and therefore will feel more predisposed to trust your content and, by extension, your adverts. 
    So how in the world does one get other people to "organically" come upon your website?
    Search engine optimization. Those are the heavy words these days. What they refer to is a plan to increase the likelihood that your site will appear high in the ranking of a given search engine based on whatever keywords the user keys into the search field. There are several things a person can do to accomplish this. Some of them actually work. The more of them a person does, the more pageviews he or she will receive. The more pageviews or hits you get, the greater the number of people who are looking at your site. The greater that number, the more people who have an opportunity to make a purchase.
    Content is king. You can't just throw a bunch of ads on your site and expect anything to happen. Why not? Because nothing will happen. Not one thing. You have to write interesting content that some people will want to read. You have to come up with new things to write about every day. 
    You must register your site with Google, Bing and Yahoo. If you want to know how to do this, go to Google and type in REGISTER WITH GOOGLE, or go to Bing and type REGISTER WITH BING. You'll get the instructions. Doing this is free and it's really pretty simple.
    You must sign on to Google's webmaster tools. Do the same for Yahoo. Once you are there, click on HEALTH and select the FETCH option. Clicking Fetch will direct Google to crawl your site. You are able to do this 500 different times. There is no need to do this more than once a week. Doing it will encourage the search engine spiders to micro-examine your content. That in turn lifts you higher.
    It takes hits to get hits. Get 500,000 people to type the name of your site in the Google search field all in one day. I guarantee you that you'll immediately be very high in the rankings if you do this.
    If you cannot do the previous thing, you will need to promote your site through social media, meaning through Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Myspace, Digg, Mixx It, Linked In, Pinterest, and Google Plus. Post one link to each of these outlets every time you make a new entry on your site. 
    Put ads on your site that your readers will find interesting. How will you know who your audience is? Two ways. You must register with Alexa (and install their toolbar on your browser--it's free) and you must register with Google Analytics. Both of these sites will give you invaluable feedback about who your audience is. However, I will make a prediction that the demographics of your readership will be very much like you. 
    There are hundreds of companies that will set you up as an affiliate. Most of these are grouped by brokers who charge nothing for their service. The broker will provide thousands of stores--real and virtual--that will love having their ads on your site. Apply to as many of these stores as possible and then be very selective in which ones you actually display. The two most popular ad brokers are Linkshare and Commission Junction. I prefer the latter because they allow you to have the ads open in a new window and because Linkshare's ads do not work well with the Google Chrome browser. The third store with which you should become an affiliate is Amazon. You can join for free at Amazon Associates. 
   Your content and ads can be controversial or even provocative without being offensive or pornographic. Sexy is one thing; raunchy is another. A lot of advertisers are turned off by gratuitous sites and you will loose far more than you gain by going that route. 
     Post links on your site to other sites that you like. Call that section of your site "Resources." This will in turn encourage the webmaster at the linked organization to do the same for you. This bond becomes mutually advantageous and definitely will get you more pageviews.
   Use your website url as a signature on appropriate correspondence. You should create a signature for the email account you specially create to promote your site. You may be surprised how often this url link gets recycled.
    If at all possible, use a custom domain for your site. Blogspot and Wordpress are terrific, but there's more status--and hence more credibility--in using your own domain. If you use Blogpot, you can do this for ten dollars. Go to the Settings selection on your dashboard. Then select Publishing. You'll be prompted to purchase a custom domain. You'll need a credit or debit card. Ten dollars takes care of your for a full year. There's no other fee attached. 
   People like to read about themselves. If you know of someone who checks out your site often, do a profile on that person. Make it sincere rather than a puff piece. After all, you should be grateful for that person's attention. Be kind because you want to be, not because you have to be. On that subject, get your readers involved in contests or other promotions. People often enjoy being a part of something bigger than themselves.
   That's about it. Granted, you may decide to purchase external advertising to promote your site and depending on who you work with, this can be very helpful. Probably the most important piece of closing advice I can offer is that meta-tags are overrated. Beyond that, be patient, always admit your own mistakes, love your readers with all your heart, and tell the truth. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

LONDON TOWN

    If you want to join PhilroPost in London--and I'm pretty sure you do--you should keep up with our itinerary. The fact that we actually have an itinerary comes as a bit of a shock. Personally, I was hoping to take in some of the Olympics while we are there, but evidently we'll be busy checking out a bunch of cultural things that will make us more rounded people.

The British Museum. You'd think this would be a drag but it turns out there's all kinds of fun to be had, if by fun you mean exhibits of the works of man from prehistoric to modern times from around the world. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures, and the mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection. Entry is free, which is really cool.


The Tower Bridge. Never litter off this. I'm here to tell you. One of the most famous London attractions and just over a hundred years old--a virtual child in English terms--the Tower Bridge with its twin drawbridges, or bascules, each weighing about 1,000 tons, have been raised more then half a million times since it was built. It takes only 90 seconds for the bascules lift off with electric motors which replaced the old steam engines. From Tower Bridge you can view HMS Belfast, an 11,500-ton cruiser that opened the bombardment of the Normandy coast on D-Day. The closest tube stations are, Tower Hill and London Bridge.


Tate Modern has nothing to do with the Manson murders, okay? Sitting in all its grand finery on the banks of the Thames is Britain's national museum of modern and contemporary art. Its unique shape is due to its previously being a power station. Inside you'll find temporary exhibitions by top artists from Damien Hirst to Gauguin. The gallery's restaurants offer fabulous views across the city. Entry is free. Right on.


Buckingham Palace, they tell me, really rocks. Johnny Rotten used to throw egg rolls at this place. Popularly known as "Buck House", this joint has served as the Monarch`s permanent London residence since the accession of Queen Victoria. It began its days in 1702 as the Duke of Buckingham`s city residence, built on the site of a notorious brothel, and was sold by the Duke`s son to George III in 1762. The building was refurbished by Nash in the late 1820s for the Prince Regent, and again by Aston Webb in time for George V`s coronation in 1913. It is the largest private house in London - it has more than 660 rooms. The palace is actually back-to-front: the side you look at from the Mall is the back of the building.


The Brits' Science Museum is a little different from the kind you'll find back home. From the future of space travel to asking that difficult question, "Who am I?", or the more pertinent question, "Who are you?" the Science Museum makes your brain perform Olympic-standard mental gymnastics. See, touch and experience the major scientific advances of the last 300 years; don't forget the awesome Imax cinema. Entry is free. Yay.


Trafalgar Square. I always wanted to see this simply because it's one of those places Americans like to talk about without actually having visited it.
Here the statue of Admiral Lord Nelson dominates the square from 167 feet above it. Built to commemorate his naval victory in 1805--which you'd think people would be over by now--it is the focal point of this magnificent area. Trafalgar Square was laid out in 1830 and is a popular venue for political rallies and used to be home to thousands of pigeons. The Mayor of London’s recent ruling banning pigeon food sellers is designed to purge this patch of London of a health hazard. The pigeons don’t seem to realize they’re not welcome and you still find tourists feeding them and taking photos with them. Each year people from all parts of London congregate there on December 31 st to celebrate the New Year. Four majestic bronze lions, each 20 feet long and 11 feet tall guard the base of Nelson’s column and the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, with its lunchtime concerts, dating from 1721 makes it popular destination for tourists.



Tower of London. Oh, to be locked in the tower now that summer is here. I don't know about you, but I plan to discover its 900-year history as a royal palace, prison and place of execution, arsenal, jewel house and zoo! While you're feeding the pigeons, I'll be gazing up at the White Tower, tiptoeing through a medieval king's bedchamber and marveling at the Crown Jewels.


Daily Walk. The bottom line is that we're going to London for the Olympics, so we might as well take in the Daily Walk, even if we don't do it every day. Here's what the tour book says. "The tour starts at Bromley-by-Bow underground station and finishes at Westfield shopping centre. The route taken is mainly off the road, much of it along a tow path in the former industrial Lower Lea Valley. Your guide will then lead you to a footpath which goes alongside the Olympic park perimeter fence. From here there are views of the Olympic stadium and other 2012 constructions such as the Aquatics Centre and The Orbit. (Please note that members of the public are not allowed access to the Olympic Park). You will hear the latest on the athletes and the venues, but crucial to London’s successful 2005 bid for the games was the legacy, so you will also learn about the plans for the future of the site and the venues after 2012. This has been a massive project, reclaiming 2.5 sq. kilometres of contaminated land and transforming it into a place where people will want to visit and live."
    That sounds just peachy, you know. The only part that worries me is that thing about spelling center with the last two letters reversed and I kind of hate to read the word "whilst." All the same, it ought to be a grand hoot, so I'll keep you folks apprised --and the influence of the Brits is taking over already, which you probably noticed when you read the word "apprised"--of the plans if they change, which I'm sure they will.
    Adios for now.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

SUMMER OLYMPICS PREVIEW

    
    While I have not been much of a fan of the Summer Olympics in years past, I am genuinely looking forward to the once-every-four-years extravaganza this time out. Why have I not always been on board with this festive occurrence? Beginning in 1992, the rule prohibiting professional--as in money-making--athletes from competing was removed from the competitions (except in boxing and wrestling) and I thought then and still maintain today that that has robbed the event of some of its plebeian charm, despite the fact that originally, amateur status was often reserved for the aristocracy. Today, professional athletes are the aristocracy, but we'll save the rest of my diatribe on that subject for another time.
   Athletes from more than two hundred countries will be participating in the thirtieth Olympiad in London, England beginning July 27, 2012. The song "Survival" by Muse will be the official tune. We can expect to become conditioned to seeing lots of Chariots of Fire imagery from the beginning and throughout the final day on August 12. A major sponsor of the pageant, Dow Chemical, has been getting a lot of well-deserved criticism for their sponsorship of an event about human health considering they own Union Carbide and have been rather cavalier about the ongoing clean-up of the catastrophic mess they made in Bhopal in 1984 where more than 2,200 people died from a gas leak. 
    On the up side, let's look at the different sports that will feature competitions. 
   The competitions are archery, athletics (which most of us know as track and field), badminton (honest!), basketball, beach volleyball (because we want to see the athletes in various stages of undress),  boxing, canoe slalom (because we like to hear the broadcasters say the word "slalom"), canoe sprint, cycling BMX (which is actually motocross or, if you prefer, extreme bicycling), cycling mountain biking, cycling road, cycling track, diving, equestrian (horses, dude), fencing, football (and, yes, there is a women's division), gymnastics artistic (brief routines on several apparati), gymnastics rhythmic (an attempt by the IOC to make the Olympics into Cirque de Soleil), handball, hockey, judo, modern pentathlon (a very strange combination of pistol shooting, fencing, show jumping, a 200 meter swim, and a three-k cross-country run, presumably not simultaneously, although I would definitely pay to watch it if it were), rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, synchronized swimming (bringing the concept of Dancing With The Stars to water), table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, trampoline, triathlon, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling. 


    If you're going to the games, you may want to think about getting tickets, as this is not a free concert. London announced the ticket prices way back in 2010, and this is what was being said at that time: 8.8 million tickets to be available for the Olympic Games; 75% of tickets on sale to the public from March 2011; 90% of tickets £100 or under; two-thirds of tickets £50 or under; 2.5 million tickets £20 or under; young people 16 and under benefit from 'Pay Your Age' scheme
People aged 60+ pay £16. 
    Or you can just grab some friends, take a vacation from work, and watch it on the telly. 

Question: Where will the archery stuff be happening?
Answer: The archery events will be held at Lord's Cricket Ground, a place that looks like this:

Question: How do you play badminton?
Answer: Players hit a shuttlecock over the net into their opponents’ half. The aim is to score points by playing the shuttlecock so that it cannot be returned over the net within the boundary lines. Olympic shuttlecocks weigh between 4.74 grams and 5.5g and contain 16 feathers, each plucked from the left wing of a goose. They can travel at speeds in excess of 400km/h.

Question: Will the female athletes in the beach volleyball competition be, well, you know, naked?
Answer: No. At least, not on purpose. However, you can nevertheless watch the battles at the Prime Minister’s doorstep in central London, where Horse Guards Parade provides an iconic location for the London 2012 Beach Volleyball competition.

Question: Football? Really?
Answer: That's technically two questions, but never mind. all you need to know is that competitions begin with a preliminary stage: the 16 men’s and 12 women’s teams are divided into groups of four teams (four groups in the men’s and three groups in the women’s competition), and each team plays every other in their group. Teams receive three points for a win, one point for a draw and nothing for a loss. The best eight teams in both the men’s and the women’s competition qualify for the quarter-finals. In the men’s competition these are the top two teams from each of the four groups. In the women’s competition the top two teams from each of the three groups go through to the knockout stage, along with the two best third-placed teams.
In the knockout matches the winners of the semi-finals go head-to-head in the gold medal match and the losing semi-finalists play for the bronze medal.

Question: How can I help?
Answer: You can watch the games in the U.S. on NBC. In the United Kingdom, the BBC will carry the events. In Canada, Harper willing, it will be on CTV. And in Mexico, it's on Televisa. Otherwise, check out the schedule on this link.