May 31, 2006

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This is not a group of boys from Wales; they are from Pennsyvania. They were called Breaker Boys and they seperated the shale from the coal back in 1910. This picture was used to help pass child welfare laws. I found this at Life magazine 100 greatest pictures. I think the picture is a great reminder that we here in the United States didn't and won't always do the right thing. We need to be constantly watched and prodded. But whatever it takes.

May 29, 2006

I ran across this print at American Heritage, which got it from the library of congress I believe. I was struck by how clear and colorful it is. It is depicting transportation in all its modes of the time. I don't know who the creator of the print is, I wish I did.

May 28, 2006

WOW, After reading the build-up in the letter, seeing the painting would have to be an anti-climax. It is beautiful, but the most beautiful? I don't know about that. Twain was a travelling kind of guy so I'll bow to his judgement, sort of... But if we saw it in person, 10 feet wide, it might be rather awesome.


Frederic Edwin Church's panoramic Heart of the Andes, almost 10 feet wide, had attracted awed crowds in America and Britain since it was first exhibited in 1859. Clemens saw it in St. Louis in March 1861 and described it to his brother: . . . I have just returned from a visit to the most wonderfully beautiful painting which this city has ever seen—Church's "Heart of the Andes"—which represents a lovely valley with its rich vegetation in all the bloom and glory of a tropical summer. . . . We took the opera glass, and examined its beauties minutely, for the naked eye cannot discern the little wayside flowers, and soft shadows and patches of sunshine, and half-hidden bunches of grass and jets of water which form some of its most enchanting features. There is no slurring of perspective effect about it—the most distant—the minutest object in it has a marked and distinct personality—so that you may count the very leaves on the trees. . . . Your third visit will find your brain gasping and straining with futile efforts to take all the wonder in— . . . and understand how such a miracle could have been conceived and executed by human brain and human hands.

Samuel L. Clemens to Orion Clemens, 18 March 1861,published in Mark Twain's Letters, Volume1: 1853-1866(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 117

May 26, 2006

Several years ago I wrote a series of stories of a conversaton between two unlikely participants. They're really quite absurd, but I really enjoyed writing them. Here is the first.


By Jim Kittelberger

A Surreal conversation takes place between two unlikely participants.

The man, Augustus Robert Clary has grown old, and tired. The world outside this room no longer matters to him. His strength has been failing, so just turning on his side unassisted is an accomplishment of which he feels considerable pride. He peers through rheumy, nearsighted eyes at the stack of books sitting on his bedside table, and manages a smile as if again seeing old friends. They remind him of a time when he wasn’t riddled with sickness, one damn thing after another. Life is wonderful, he thought, and his had been, but the end sometimes can be hard when your strength has gone and turning from side to side becomes almost impossible. Your once vibrant body diminished to the degree that death is welcomed with open arms. He thought of death often now, in just that way. But like everything in life, death will happen when it happens, and who knows, he thinks, maybe he’ll cheat the collector of souls once again. He closes his eyes to rest a moment from the effort expended turning his worthless body in this direction. Oh how wonderful, and agile, and strong his body once was, he thought with a sad smile. But not being a bitter man and knowing he had gotten all a person could expect from a body designed to house a soul for seventy-four years, he felt fortunate that it had given him that, and ten more for good measure. And his brain, that wonderful organ that houses your ability to reason, and stores knowledge and memories, those wonderful memories, had continued to function well. That is until just recently, it seems, when a strange and wonderful thing occurred.

On a night several weeks ago, the house was silent and still, except for the occasional unidentifiable sounds that old houses make when the world outside is silent and a listening ear is alert enough to catch it. Unidentifiable it was, but not in a frightening way. The old man had heard these sounds for many years and they were always comforting to him, as they were now. Getting very old is much like being very young in sleep patterns. He dozed more now than he slept, and he tossed and turned, as he was doing this night. As he turned once again to his right side facing the omnipresent stack of books on the nightstand, he was aware of what seemed like two rays of light atop the stack. His eyesight, which had never been good uncorrected, and now with the aging process taking it’s toll, images were not always bright and clear to him. He blinked his eyes a time or two and looked again. The rays of light were still there and he was able to recognize them as eyes, glowing eyes. Now why he was not scared out of his wits, he never knew, but he suspected that since he was not always lucid now, and he knew it, that perhaps this was one of those times and he was imagining things or events that were not real. Whatever the case, he stared back at the two glowing eyes, and whispered “Hello there”, in the direction of the eyes. The bravado or stupidity of the act never occurred to him as he spoke the words, so he was not overly surprised when the glowing eyes answered back, “Hello to you too, my friend.” The old man gave a start, but then relaxed and stared until his eyesight seemed to clear and he was treated to the sight of two big ears, a pointed snout, long whiskers and a long tail. It was a mouse, he thought, not a regular mouse, but a mouse wearing horn-rimmed glasses. A sight to make an old man smile, and he did. There he sat, atop the stack of books as calm as could be. Not scared or skittish, but calm and collected, waiting politely, it seemed, for the old man to speak.

“I suppose I’m off on some drug induced trip, but it’s good to see you, Mr. Whatever your name is,” the old man said, as he looked askance at the mouse standing on the pile of books.

“Well, quite the contrary”, answered the mouse, “in fact your eyes are quite clear, and I believe all your mental faculties are functioning well for a man of your age”.

The old man was astounded by the mouse’s vocabulary and mentioned that to him. The mouse acknowledged that his vocabulary was superior to most mice, but he had spent many years acquiring his knowledge from well-known colleges in the mouse world and by constant reading.

“My name, by the way, is Winston James Cartier. You may call me Winston.”

The old man was impressed with the name, and it fitted him nicely. He seemed, to the old man, to be a mentally superior mouse indeed, to say the least.

“Thanks Winston, I shall. By the way my name is Augustus Robert Clary. You can call me Gus, if you prefer.” He said as a way of contrasting Winston’s option of correctness in his name preference. But if Winston took it as a reproach, the old man never knew as he smiled and nodded.

“Well Gus”, Winston said, “seems you’re a little depressed these days. Of course, I’m sure you feel that life has pitched you a hard inside fast ball, but you are of an advanced human age as you know.”

“No, to the contrary Winston, I don’t feel as if I’ve taken a cruel blow, I know I’m dying”, he paused for a brief second or two, “it’s just that dying is such a lonely road to go down.” Winston thought he was through speaking, but the old man started up again as if awakening from a deep thought. “We humans”, he began, “have many, many books available on the subject of dying, so we should be prepared, and we are, to a point, I believe, but it’s a road you must go down alone. It’s not fair to try and take loved ones too close to the path with you. They’ll have their time and once is enough.”

Winston mused that over for a while, then decided not to comment and asked instead, “Tell me about the women in your life Gus”.

Gus was surprised at such a request. “Wait a minute Winston, what the heck are you asking?”

‘No really,” Winston repeated, “I want to know more about you. Come on, you can clean up any parts you’d like,” he said with a smile.

Gus looked at Winston for a moment, “There was really only one woman in my life. I met her young, and kept her for sixty years. She gave me children, with a little help from me, of course, and we had fun in the creation process. I was never lonely when she was around, not for one minute. We talked and talked for sixty years. I wonder how any two people could have that much to say to each other. Oh, I really miss her,” he said and sighed, “but those were good years with a few being better than others”. He stopped and just gazed at Winston.

“I’ve never married,” Winston said, “but I would imagine that you gave each other purpose and direction in this life, is that not true?”

“Well, sure that’s true.” Gus answered.

“And now you feel that you have no purpose, no reason for carrying on, isn’t that right?” Winston responded.

“Good try my little mouse friend, but you don’t win a silver dollar for that one. Yes, I miss her terribly, every day, and I have no doubt I’ll see her again when I leave this life. But time is relative as you certainly know, and I’m certainly not trying to end this life any sooner than is necessary. I’ll wait. If it’s tomorrow, that’s good, if it’s a year from now, that’ll be okay too.” Gus relaxed, and paused a few seconds, then said in a questioning tone, “No, I’m anxious and ready for the gathering above, but what I’m not too sure of is how forgiving St. Peter at the gates will be. I have not lived a saintly life, and at times I have been too human, with all the foibles that entails. I’m not Catholic, so I don’t believe in purgatory, but even so, I don’t think I’m in for a free pass through the gates.”

Winston gazed at Gus with a condescending look over the tops of his glasses, “I have it on good authority that many theologians of different faiths believe that God is an all forgiving God, thus your admittance is assured.”

“I wish with all my heart that I could believe that in its entirety, but being human for all these many years, I know that we must take responsibility for our actions, and sooner or later we must pay the piper. Sorry for the metaphor. I suppose in the scheme of things, my sins might be a little less than some others, but who’s to know. Among our contemporaries the same sin today is probably less a sin than it was when I was young, but my brain cannot make that ninety or one hundred eighty degree turn on the judgment scale.”

Winston, in a consolatory tone of voice answered, “Agustus, my belief is that it is a matter of intent. When you sinned did you intend to sin?”

“Well no, it was not my intention to sin, but I knew the difference. I knew I was crossing over from right to wrong. I knew my sin would be hurtful to the other person, but I went right ahead anyway. But as in the old children’s story Pinocchio, I was blessed or cursed with a conscience as hard on me as Jiminy Cricket was on poor Pinocchio. I have felt contrition for my sins all my long life. But is that really enough to minimize the damage caused by me? I’m not sure of the extent of any damage I may have caused, or even if there was any, but regardless, whatever damage there was or is rests with me. Is there a statute of limitations on sin? I don’t think so.”

“Mister Augustus Robert Clary, I must say I am much impressed with you. I could regale you with a hundred platitudes and a hundred psychological theories, but I think you have it about figured out. Your theory of walking this earth and enjoying the fruits of your labors, but also bearing responsibility for your deeds and misdeeds are indeed commendable. I salute you and believe you are a good man. I could say what I believe will happen to you in the next world, but I think you know better than all of us. I have to go now Augustus, it’s getting toward dawn and if your caretaker were to see me, she would more than likely treat me rudely, so I will take my leave now and wish you well.”

Winston turned to go, then turned back again, “I believe, Mr. Clary, that the chances of you still being on this earth tonight are approximately seven to three according to all indicators I have studied in the medical books I have access to.”

He smiled then and turning away for the last time, looked over his shoulder. “If you are here tonight as I believe you will be, I would like to chat with you some more. Perhaps I can learn something I don’t know, however I doubt it.” Winston gave a quick smile, did a beautiful about face and walked jauntily away.

To be continued.

© Jim Kittelberger 2002. All Rights Reserved.

May 24, 2006

If ever I were a public figure, movie star, athlete, whatever, I would hope that I could have the faithfulness, the energy, and the loyalty of groups of fans. A group that, even though the show is long gone still watch reruns and comment on scenes and possible reasons for this or that. I have a particular show in mind. Homefront was its title, and it ran for only two seasons but it struck a cord obviously in many people and they won’t let it go into television history. I admit I liked the show a lot and videotaped it during one of those marathons on Nick at Night or TV land I don’t remember which. I have forty-two episodes, which I re-recorded onto DVD’s when I graduated to that medium.

The show appealed to people on several levels. It was of course nostalgic. It was history. And it was just well done. I was born in the thirties so I lived through those years as a kid and it brings back lots of memories. The attention to details of the day, the clothing, the cars, and the subjects covered are top notch, or I should say were. I am attaching a video clip from a site that is trying its best to convince the owners of the show to release it on DVD. I hope they prevail

May 23, 2006

I was listening to a radio show from 1945. The title of the show is ON A NOTE OF TRIUMPH. It was in its day thought to be a great show. It was written and directed by Norman Corwin, a writer and director of radio shows. He had it prepared and ready to air when Germany was defeated. It went on the air May 8, 1945 on the CBS network. It is very moving. But for me it was also in a way very sad. The thoughts of a job well done and finally to have peace again was on all their minds. This time they were sure the world had learned it’s lesson and would give peace a try, a phrase I read somewhere in a book or someone saying it, a good phrase. But looking back from where we are now, sixty years in the future, we know it was a lesson not learned. America has participated in three wars since then, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf war. If you take into account WWI, then just about every twenty years it seems talking peace does not work and killing takes place, a disheartening record for the human race.

May 22, 2006


I was thinking the other day about Ted Williams family, a majority, not all, deciding to put Ted's body in a vat and cryonically freezing him, to unthaw sometime in the future. When it is said medical technology will be able to use a magic pellet, and zap he is up and running again. What a bunch of baloney. I guess Ted wanted to be cremated and his ashes tossed into the Pacific. But I guess he also said he didn't really care what they did with him. That was his mistake I would say. When I think of it I just shake my head thnking of the nonsense of it and also what was the son's rationale behind his decision to do that?

May 21, 2006

The picture is of Marion Sweet, one of the radio actresses who portrayed The Dragon Lady on the Terry and the Pirates radio show that ran from 1937-1948. I listened to the show in it's later years. I never thought that the Dragon Lady dressed like that.
Of course at the age I was I probably couldn't have cared less. I still thought the world revolved around baseball. I discovered a little later that it didn't. I found this picture and an article in WIKI, the free encyclopedia on the internet. If you haven't found it you should. It also has old time radio shows like Terry and the Pirates that you can download and copy or just stream them and listen. It's a good thing as Martha Stewart used to say.

May 20, 2006

A Retired Man's Period of Adjustment
An Essay

Here it is ten o'clock in the morning, and I am sitting around in my robe trying to figure out what to do today. I remember when I was preparing to retire, one of the things high on my list of what I would NOT do, was sit around at ten o'clock in the morning trying to figure out what to do. I would schedule my time and involve myself in matters of the mind and body. I would read a book a week, and join discussion groups to figure out what I had just read. I would keep my body in trim. I would not become one of those overweight, gone to seed, ex-whatever's.

Welcome to my world, here I sit at mid morning, sporting a three-day growth of beard wearing a robe that no longer covers my inflated, unchisled, camouflaged abs, pondering my next move. This is not to imply that even in my good days were my abs chiseled, but this is ridiculous.

Well, after running my hands through my as yet unshowered, unshampooed, too long since I've been to the barber hair, I have decided to rededicate myself to a life of worth, to perform works for the betterment of mankind AND womankind. Now here I have to pause a little trying to figure out just what that might be. But anyway, you get the idea. I am Man, I am not ready to be dumped in the surplus store of redundant old men. I am going to put myself through a regimen for mind and body and come out a new and more vital elder statesman, ready to offer my vast knowledge of the ways of the world and how to navigate its intricate, dangerous paths to all who seek my wisdom.

As I am sitting on the side of my bed, feeling noble and wise, my grandson appears at my door, and asks if I would play in the sandbox with him? A trip of many miles must start somewhere and if the sandbox with my grandson is not the destination I was thinking of, it seems somehow to be just what I want to do.

After an hour of mentally losing about fifty-six well worn years, and indulging myself in the world of the six year old, which surprisingly was not too hard to do, I reemerged into my sixty-two year old body and mind still unshaven, unwashed and unshampooed. At my lovely wife's subtle hint, a finger pointed toward the bathroom, I marched dirty but happier to enter the world of the clean and socially acceptable.

The youthful highly muscled man in the commercial flexes his muscles and tells me that my flabbiness and general lack of fitness can be remedied. The only reason, he adds, that I don't have women strolling by and casting sexy glances my way and saying, "Nice Buns", and smiling knowingly, is because I do not use the Bowflexor. With this machine, you lie down on a bench and pull the bowflexor down and then add more weight to make it a challenge. I think about this for a few moments and the vision comes to me of not only feeling, but hearing my muscles and tendons and whatever other stringy stuff we have in our bodies going twang, twang, twang, as if in an echo chamber, and I never rise off that bench again. I think I will settle for a leisurely walk around the block with my wife. She never tells me I have nice buns. Oh well. A diet. That's it, a diet.

When the road to wellness leads through a gym with all the sweat and aches and pain, my mind, steel trap that it is, thinks maybe I should lose the weight first, then tone up what's left. Yes, that the ticket. A diet. Through the years, I have been on many kinds of diets. Carbo diets, protein diets, a cabbage soup diet, guaranteed to make those pounds drop off as you watch. Me, not liking to go through pain alone, always asks my good wife to accompany me down that mined road. Her being the good wife, usually does.

The cabbage soup diet consisted of eating several portions of this obnoxious mixture several times a day. I remember calling my wife from work and telling her I was in maximum crankiness from the darn cabbage soup, thus ended the cabbage soup fiasco, although I did not need any bran in my diet for about a week. So today for breakfast I had a cup of tea and a piece of toast. Lunch, one hotdog and a diet Pepsi. Snack at three o'clock, a piece of cake and a cup of coffee. At five I thought I would have one cheese-it and maybe a glass of water. I did it. One cheese-it followed by six pretzels, seven more cheese-its and four jalapeno flavored pretzel pieces, several soda crackers with butter and more water. Things might not be going too well.

The computer, the conduit of the information age, something that does not take much physical strength to operate or the brain of Einstein to use turns out to be the primary source of my mind enhancement program. While searching for historical essays, I happen to fall into the dancing baby web site. I spend half a day watching him dance to the macarena, a couple rock tunes, and a waltz or two. His footwork and rhythm amaze me. The next thing I want to know more about is the law. Just as I am ready to click on the Supreme Court site, I see a link to lawyer jokes, so I figure I will loosen up a bit with a few jokes about a very deserving group. After about thirty minutes with the law (jokes), it's time to take a break.

Well I have been on my mind and body rehab program for several months now. I haven't lost much weight and my mind is no sharper than it was and I still love to play with my grandsons. I sleep well, I love my wife and she tolerates me, and I look forward to each day. I try to read more and I hate to admit it, but I like some of the stuff on television. We listen on occasion to our local orchestra play some beautiful music, and we explore our surroundings with pleasure. So if on occasion I happen to forget my razor and find myself at ten o'clock in the morning still in my robe, I will not misread this as sloth, but as a contented man that is sometimes a slow starter.

May 19, 2006

Introducing Rosie the riveter. Before the United States entered WWII in 1941 women working in factories totaled about 10 percent of the work force. When the war broke out women were needed to fill in for the men who went to war. The women came in and learned to do the jobs very well. At the peak they accounted for 30 percent of the force. When the war ended the women lost their jobs and their men took over again. The thought that this started the feminist movement wasn't so. Women entered the job market big time in the seventies, and it's been onward and upward since. The picture on the bottom is a receipient of what the original Rosie's did. She also gets paid the same as men do now, the original Rosie's didn't.

May 17, 2006

There were two moments in the twentieth century when two men said and did the right things, took the right actions, and I would not be exaggerating to say they saved us all to live another day. There have been innumerable men and women who have done the right thing knowingly or unknowingly that have made our world better for it. But these two men and these two events I believe dramatically allowed us, without being too melodramatic, to continue to live.

The second man and event was John Kennedy and his advisors defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis. It took the accumulative wisdom of many men and a Russian dictator who had a clear vision of where his bombast had led him and backed off. How close they came to unleashing nuclear war that was frightenly imminent? If everyone had not stepped back for that one moment and saw the clear vision of what the next minutes would reap, it would have been disaster. But they did and we can celebrate the courage and wisdom of all who had the control and the power that day to blow all of us to hell and back for taking one more breath and doing the right thing.

The first man and the events he precluded with his courage and brilliant rhetoric twenty-three years earlier was Winston Churchill when he was the only man in a position to keep Hitler and Germany from conquering all of Europe and turning their attention to the United States who was ill-prepared militarily and politically to hold them off at that time. The time was 1940 and France had surrendered leaving Hitler poised to invade England who stood with no allies except America who had handcuffed Roosevelt from offering any assistance except offering used military supplies, too old, too few and not quick enough. Time and circumstances would bring America into the war, but not until December of 1941. So for a year and a half England was the last barrier against Hitler and his hordes. It is the stuff of what if novelist and historians to how long it would have taken Germany to turn toward America and test our military unpreparedness.

But Churchill like a bulldog refused to allow his country to capitulate and roused them with his brilliant rhetoric and his gallant RAF and held off the Germans and decimated their air force so badly that Hitler decided to send his troops into Russia instead. A move that proved England and Americas salvation. When France surrended in June 1940 Churchill went before his house of commons and delivered this speech that inspired his country to stand and fight until the end. Thank God they did.

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

May 16, 2006

It all started with this, now you can hold it on your lap.

ENIAC, short for Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, was the first large-scale, electronic, digital computer capable of being reprogrammed to solve a full range of computing problems[
Physically, ENIAC was a monster. It contained 17,468 vacuum tubes, 7,200 crystal diodes 1,500 relays 70,000 resistors 10,000 capacitors and around 5 million hand-soldered joints. It weighed 30 short tons (27 t), was roughly 8 feet (2.4 m) by 3 feet (0.9 m) by 100 feet (30 m), took up 1800 square feet (167 m2), and consumed 150 kW of power. Input was possible from an IBM card reader, while an IBM card punch was used for output. These cards could be used to produce printed output offline using an IBM accounting machine, probably the IBM 405 The computer was commissioned on May 17 1943 as Project PX and constructed at Penn's Moore School of Electrical Engineering It was unveiled on February 14 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania, having cost almost $500,000. ENIAC was shut down on November 9 , 1946 for a refurbishment and a memory upgrade, and was transferred to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1947 There, on July 29 of that year, it was turned on and would be in continuous operation until 11:45 p.m. on October 2 1955

May 15, 2006

I have always liked the song SINGING IN THE RAIN sung by Gene Kelly from the movie of the same name. I ran across this computer enhanced, updated version of the song on BOFUNK. It was used on a Volkswagon commercial. They've added some hip hop in it, but I don't think Gene would mind a bit. It is really cleverly done. Take a look. Click in at the bottom of the picture.

May 14, 2006

May 13, 2006

I was reading about John Kenneth Galbraith who just died after living to a grand age of ninety-seven years. He was fortunate to have worked for FDR and JFK among others in his long career. His recollections of Kennedy took me back to my early years working in D.C. as a low-level government employee with a wife and our first child.

We were too young to be cynical or think that the world owed us anything and was enjoying the life we were starting out on. Indeed most of the country at that time was not taking on cynicism as a life’s work. We were enjoying the new young president and his optimism and the classiness he exuded. Watching him, as we could in those days, going by in an open car in a greeting parade for the president of Venezuela Mr. Betancourt, bolstered our confidence that anything was possible for our country. He was better looking in person than on TV. Our only regret was that Jackie who was supposed to be in the little parade did not make it.

Then too soon the world changed and the confidence we felt then for our country and ourselves disappeared with him. I think now as an old man how it is today and wonder if ever again we will find the right person at the right time that we can be proud to have him speak for all of us as one nation, not just a blue president or a red president but a president of all of us rich or poor.

May 12, 2006

Baseball, I Love It.
BY jim kittelberger

Here comes the pitch, he swings, and oh my he hit it high and deep, its outta here, and the Indians win it in the bottom of the ninth. How about that!

If those words don't give you a thrill, then you're not a baseball fan and I can't imagine why you're not. From the time I was a small boy, I have loved this game. H/R/RBI/ERA/BB/K/HR/E/BA/W/L. This is the alphabet of the game. These are the indicators of success or failure for the practitioners of the game. It's money in the bank for those talented ones who have good numbers and a ticket out of town for those that don't. A boy may have a problem with his algebra but he will have no problem with the statistics of baseball.

There is not a boy that does not remember his first time in a major league ballpark. The bigness of it, the first hot dog, the memorabilia, the walk up the ramp and then that first sight of the field that you knew only in your dreams and imagination, the sight that fills your senses. It is so green; so beautiful; the bases and foul lines are so white; the scoreboard so big; the seats so red or green. Then the heart starts pumping, because there on that beautiful field is a person who is so much bigger than real life, someone you have idolized, someone you would like to be, someone who does heroic things, who stirs your soul, is right there in front of you.

These pictures and feelings will remain with you always, as real fifty years from now as if they were yesterday. Baseball is a game that is a great leveler. Bigness does not mean greatness. A small man can be the hero and slay dragons. Skill is the element that raises these men above all others. Can you imagine standing 60 feet from someone and he throws a round, hard object at you at speeds up to 95 mph and you are expected to hit it with a 34 ounce piece of wood, and sometimes that hard object curves or dips before it gets to you. Being able to throw it that fast or being able to hit it. That takes skill that only very few people have.

How can you not love a game where the rules have hardly changed a whit since its inception? It's the law of life in pinstripes. If you have the God given talent, follow the rules and master the game you can be the idol of boys from all over the world. It is order, it is precise, and it is beautiful.

Baseball has become big in the movie business. The Natural, Major League, Field of Dreams, Beat the Drum Slowly, these have all been good moneymakers for Hollywood. What do they have in common? Average guys becoming big guys through baseball, and isn't that every boys dream. If you have the skill, can learn the rules and play within those rules you can achieve your dreams. Not a bad thing to teach kids.

So the next time you're feeling beat and your job is wearing you down, grab a coke and hit your favorite chair, turn on the baseball game and try to remember what it was like the first time you went in that stadium and enjoy.

May 11, 2006

Isn't this cartoon about Pickles being frightened by the guy looking back at him from the mirror right on the button. I've heard many times of the predicament we all face when we get to a certain time of life. The question always is, Why can't I work all day like I used to? I feel fine. But time and nature always wins. But our brains either don't want to admit that it's host body is wearing out or it is very clever and does not want the host to lose all hope too soon. So it fools us, but we are soon found out after working at a task that in times past was thought of as a piece of cake and having to stop and rest or worse quit for the day. But in the end hopefully we all become philosophers about our dilemma and enjoy the slower lifestyle. I have.
By Jim Kittelberger

What has happened to the television networks? There isn’t anything to watch anymore. That is if you are over twenty-five, and that’s stretching it a bit. I understand, I think, that this is all a money game, and art does not enter the picture. If they could make a game out a gall bladder operation and have several nymphets trying to find it while removing their clothes, they would do it. It is all in the demographics, so I am to understand. The age group of 0-19 appears to have all the disposable money and will spend it, so they pitch all the shows to that group. I also understand that reality shows are a gimme to the network executives. They can group together three young ladies that will not hesitate to let garbage come out of their mouths, I suppose to startle the audience or show how worldly they are, get real, while losing their shirts, and three young studs also losing their shirts, panting and posturing in front of them. It used to be men chased the women, but that’s another story. The game perhaps may be to see how soon the women can bed all the guys, or vice versa, and she or he, will win a million bucks. Wow, what a lot of money for the networks to pay out. Nonsense, legitimate entertainment shows, re: Ray Romano’s show pays each of the stars, and I count five of them, a million or so a week, now that’s money. So the reality shows are a bonanza for the networks, but disaster for anyone with even enough taste or discernment to think ‘Everybody loves Raymond’ is art. It’s not, of course, but it can be watched by anyone, that counts for something; it’s funny; adults, that forgotten demographic can watch it; different age groups can view it, and if grandma comes in the room, you wouldn’t feel embarrassed and feel you should throw a blanket over the television set.

Wouldn’t you think the networks would feel a little embarrassed about what they offer the world each week? They once employed creative people and offered some first rate, original drama. Even at their worst they could not be accused of not having a variety of offerings.

I don’t pretend to know the root cause of the deterioration of the television networks, but perhaps it is the plethora of cable shows that caused them to cede any semblance of an effort to offer quality programming. It is apparent that they have all become bean counters, and if they can shove more drivel down the throats of the viewing public produced at rock bottom prices, they will do it.

So what can we do about it? I suppose we can write a letter, send an e-mail, but why do I think that if I folded the letter into a paper airplane and threw it out the window, it would have about the same effect.

Money is all they are interested in, so an economic boycott is an idea, but who among us is militant enough to go that route? Probably not too many of us.

So, we get what we deserve I guess. For me, I cannot do without television completely, so we have subscribed to the lowest cost cable available, but who gets hurt doing it this way? Not the networks, they don’t even know we’re not watching any particular show, so we rent movies of our choice and sit and gripe in frustration. They’re too big and too rich to take on. If there is an answer, I will enlist in the cause. (If it doesn’t take me out of my comfort zone.)

May 10, 2006

This came in my email. Of course I won't attend due to costs involved, but it sure would be interesting listening to them. Each of the three have had just a little bit of success. Jeeze.

What was the best purchase you ever made?

What was the best purchase you ever made? Maybe I should define that a little bit, make the parameters a little more exact. How about comparing amount of money paid for the object to amount of hours of enjoyment it returned. Of course this is all a setup. I have a purchase in mind already. A couple years ago, at an annual used book sale I attend each year, I picked up a book and added it to my sack of other goodies. The rationale at used book sales is different than the rules buying at a bookstore. At a bookstore the costs are prohibitively high so your selection process is much more strict. If you’re paying out twenty-five bucks and more per pop, you know you have to be convinced that you are buying the corresponding amount of enjoyment per dollar spent, not always easy.

But at a used book sale the fun is put back into the process. At twenty-five cents for a paperback and fifty cents to a dollar for the hardcover, it is all changed. You can buy a book because you once read something by the same author and enjoyed it, so maybe you will like this one by the same guy. Or perhaps the cover art grabs you, or the title interests you, whatever, if it grabs you, pick it up and toss it into your grocery store size bag, which are kindly provided by the hosts of the sale so you will keep browsing and adding to the bags contents. It is one of the best hours I spend each year rummaging through books that were once pristine and full of promise to the buyer. Now they are here among other much used or slightly used compatriots being once again analyzed for their worth. Which brings up another buying point; is a book in immaculate condition a better choice than the other which has obviously been much handled or ill-kept, is that a clue to its value? The answer is yes or no because, of course, there is no answer. But every once in a while luck enters the process and a book will be picked up by the person it was meant for. This happened to me once.

The best purchase I ever made, using the cost versus enjoyment-received criteria, was the book I mentioned in the first paragraph. It was the book titled, TO SERVE THEM ALL MY DAYS, by R.F. DELDERFIELD. I love this book. I have read it twice now, and the second reading was a good or better than the first. I suppose judgment of a books value is subjective and not objective. It meets your internal value system or it doesn’t. It’s as easy as that.

It is a book of over six hundred pages and I am a reader of each word, versus the fast reader who gulps paragraphs at a time, so the amount of time to read the entire book is not really calculable, but many, many hours to read the whole work is a fair statement. I enjoyed each and every hour I spent on it, each time, and all for twenty-five cents, picked up at the used book sale. This was the best purchase I ever made.

By Jim Kittelberger

When I have the opportunity to view paintings, rather in person, or in various media, books or the internet, I throughly enjoy it. One thought that occurs to me if I am taken by a painting and look at it deeply is that it’s not merely because it is enjoyable to my eyes, and touches something that I can’t explain inside of me, but I also am thinking or wishing I suppose is closer, that I would have had a modicum of the talent needed to be able to create something out of nothing on a white blank space that could move the viewer to an extent they would talk about it, or write about it, perhaps years or centuries later. And then sometimes I run across a painting that I can’t stop looking at. It digs further into my brain and I become part of the painting or want to know what happened to the subjects. In this painting by Mervin Jules 1912-1994 painted in 1937, it caused a flutter of anxiety to occur. What did these poor people do? The title of the painting is DISPOSSESSED, so it is obvious that they have entered the world of the homeless in a large city. It is also important to note the age of the subjects, and to realize that in 1937, there were no shelters that would take them in. Perhaps they have children that would take them in, but judging by their meager belongings, they were receiving no assistance from any children they may have had, so that would seem to be out. The depression was still going on at that time and President Roosevelt had not created any programs yet that would help them. The artist Mr. Jules has gone on to his reward in heaven, so we can’t explore his mind about his creations. What then do we do in situations like this where we become empathetic, but cannot reach in to help. Our minds will have to protract their dilemma onward and just hope that all turned out well. This is the power of putting a little paint on a canvas. It can move people in ways you never think about.

One of my favorite paintings was painted by George Wesley Bellows who lived from 1882-1925, and was born in Columbus, Ohio, which is why he is one of my favorites, No, that's too shallow, because his paintings showed energy and realism. That was something pretty new in his day. He and six other guys formed the ashcan school of painting or they were called the seven. STAG AT SHARKEY'S shows that energy. Look at the muscles in the fighters legs and back and blood splotches here and there. He showed the fight fans as the common sort with stogies in their mouths. Another Bellows painting that shows life as it was then was CLIFF DWELLERS, showing a tentament in some large city with I suppose immigrants crowded together trying to get some relief from the heat. I can feel the heat, hear the different dialects and smell the smells.
By Jim Kittelberger

One of the joys of home ownership is the chance to tinker in 'home improvement'. Home improvement is a multi-kazillion dollar industry that tells American men that you don't need to hire a professional, you can do it yourself and save lots of dollars and be proud of your accomplishments. The sales job has been hugely successful, but the sad fact remains that there is a segment of the American male and female population that are outrageously inept mechanically. I believe I may be the calendar boy of that group. It's not that I'm stupid exactly, but I definitely lean toward being mechanically challenged. My fingers, for example, don't seem to be able to hold a screwdriver in the appropriate slots for more than one turn before it pops out. Maybe I'm a little cross-eyed, but I can't hammer three nails in succession without one of them bending in the wrong direction. I have installed overhead fans, but each night when I say my prayers I give a little thanks to God for leaning a little on the side of the unskilled, and saving us all from going up in flames. I got some dandy power tools from my late father-in-law's estate that he used with precision and proficiency. I, of course, have lost the user manuals, and am reluctant to use THE table saw. I know the saw looks at me with repugnance as a horse seems to with a novice rider. I am throughly intimidated by it's ability to eliminate one or all of my fingers in a microsecond without warning. I am in awe of that kind of power, thus I keep the electrical current away from that one. My aforementioned father-in-law was the antithesis of me. He was so good with his hands and anything mechanical. He could work with electrical wiring without first turning off the electricity, because he knew which wire not to touch or whatever, it was all a magical ability to me. His daughter, my wife, has been the model of spousal support by never comparing his abilities to my woeful arsenal of ineptness. But comparison is inevitable, and I know below her understanding smile and supportive assistance is an 'oh my', and a shaking head when another nail is bent. I blame the shame I live with on the Home Improvement industry and their attempts to put their power tools into hands that should never, I repeat, never be allowed free rein with instruments that can bore holes through walls, slice through a large piece of wood like it was butter, or shoot nails like bullets into anything they wish. There should be a little qualifying quiz given to anyone who steps up to buy one of these marvelous inventions, like "can you pound a nail in straight?" That will eliminate guys like me and make America and the world a much safer place in which to live.


I wrote this several years ago, and for my ego I must update what you have just read. After much of what you read about, we hired a contractor and for a year our house and surroundings were a mess with major rework being done inside the house and a new garage outside. It's completed now and I think it qualifies for a before and after snapshot somewhere. The house was brought up to date and we had added many new accroutrements such as a deck and new fencing and driveway repairs.

But to my ego as I mentioned above. Necessity is the mother of invention, someone bright once said and it is so. In the time since I wrote the essay above and now I have learned to use tools and figure out solutions that I never thought I could do. I am not a Norm Abrams, more like the brighter of the dumb and dumbest, but I can achieve a lot of things I would have had to hire out before. At least my wife is proud of me (sometimes) and that's more than enough fanfare for me.

One of the most telling photographs from the depression years, taken by Dorthea Lange. A more widely circulated photograph was Depression Mother.

By Jim Kittelberger

The smell that permeated for miles around, a mixture of smoke, exhausts and that slight aroma of something electrical burning, was an unmistakable beacon, an unneeded street sign that harkened all who would encroach upon these streets that you had entered the dedicated area that the factory dominated, lock, stock and people. For indeed the people who populated the streets a mile hence and a mile yon were assets of the factory as if they were iron ore or coal.

The factory that spread over six city blocks consumed raw materials and people twenty-four hours a day, its insatiable appetite never sated never tired never rested. As it’s appetite increased, train tracks were laid to accommodate boxcars filled with more and more fodder pouring into the bottomless maw. Conveyer belts sped the metal, the rubber, the glass, north, south, east and west into every environ of the factory to be hammered, screwed, shaped, cut, shined, buffed, fitted, assembled into product by human beings rooted into one spot receiving, performing a task, moving it on; receiving, performing a task, moving it on; receiving, performing a task, moving it on and on and on until every muscle, every nerve, every part of the persons brain wishes to scream, STOP, I’m a person, I have an identity, I am someone. But the factory doesn’t care about your identity, your thoughts, your hopes, your fears. They want product, product, product. Do your task or move away to be replaced by another nameless raw material in the never-ending chain, in and out, in and out, faster, faster and faster. Product is profit, more product means more profit. A Christmas turkey and fifty dollars is yours if you hold on. What about the wife and kids, the bills, the bills, the bills.

Hands wrinkled, scarred and aching reach for the gold watch as the speaker talks about the years of devotion to the factory. Legs tired and arthritic struggle one last time through the factory saying good-bye to younger faces still not lined with worry, searching in vain for those he finally remembers went out before him. Slowly, sadly, he struggles toward the exit one last time. The factory has used him up, has taken all that he had to give and threw it onto the conveyor belt to be used along with the metal, the rubber, the glass, his sweat, his sinew, his spirit and converted it all into product.

The weather is sweet and the smell of the factory hardly recognizable anymore as the rocking chair on the porch beckons him and he willingly lowers his used up body, sighs a little and soon dies.

The factory sends its regrets, misspells his name, and states he was a fine man and is sure that his son’s will live up to their father’s legacy at the factory.

a postscript:

My grandfather and father both worked at the same factory. They spent their whole working lives there. My grandfather was a German immigrant and fathers did not speak freely to their sons about much of anything, as it followed with my father and me, so I really have no reason to believe they hated their work place. In fact, the opposite is likely. I think they loved their work and the factory. I did not follow them into the factory.

I appreciate art, mostly american art. I suppose that's because I can understand most of what I see and can relate to it in one way or another. But the one form of art, american or otherwise, that I cannot understand is abstract or modern art, epitomized in this painting by Jackson Pollock.

I selected Pollock because I know he used the 'paint bucket' school of painting for a period in his career. That is putting a huge canvas on the floor and mixing his paint in buckets and by pouring, throwing, drizzling, the paint on the canvas created some of his most famous works. I do appreciate the colors, the mixing and matching and designs, not unlike wallpaper or tile for walls, but I cringe when I hear intelligent people wax elequently about the meaning of it. Please, come on, what meaning can there be in a drop cloth?

"Jackson Pollock Quotes"

It’s all a big game of construction, some with a brush, some with a shovel, some choose a pen.

The method of painting is the natural growth out of a need. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them.

On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.

The painting has a life of its own.

Every good painter paints what he is.

I am not a great fan of 'surrealism', but I like Magrittes stuff. I find a lot of his paintings humorous. I don't suppose he thought any of his work was humorous, but I can't help it. I do.
The two Stuarts

Two of my favorite authors are also two of the most prolific guys out there. Stuart Woods writes an easy to read book featuring several different main characters. My favorite is Stone Barrington, a former NYC cop turned attorney. Woods puts him into adventures that sometimes take him out of the big city into plush surroundings with well to do friends. Of course he’s a stud who flies his own airplane. In fact, and most of us I think are glad of it, he is bigger than life. Sounds like it could be kind of banal but Woods is a master of plotting and the books always move along quickly. Buying his new books, which come out frequently, can be quite costly, as you all know. Books new are never less than 25 bucks a shot and that’s too much for my wallet for a book I will read once and give away eventually. So I get him from my very, very good local library. I am currently on the list of his latest and as usual I am 68th on the list. He is popular, give him a try.

The other Stuart is Stuart Kaminsky. Kaminsky is another very prolific writer with many different heroes featured. My favorite so far because I am a glutton for anything ‘forties’ is his series featuring Toby Peters. Toby is a private eye living in Los Angeles and works in Hollywood employed by various movie stars of that period among others hoping for him to get them out of some predicament. WWII is in progress and he lives in a boarding house with a variety of strange folks. It is light and interesting because at the same time entertaining it brings back to life how it was to live in those days on the homefront.

I give a high recommendation for both for just pure enjoyment.

I have absolutely no reason to post this painting except I really like it. It's call NOAH'S ARK of course. It was painted by H. TAKINO.

Why do we like corny jokes? I admit I do. Is it because they are usually clean jokes or perhaps because they appeal to the lack of sophistication that resides right under our public persona? They’re usually brief, but then again not always. Maybe it’s because simple is best. A psycharitrist could write a paper on it I suppose. A medical doctor would tell you it’s good for your health to laugh. As they say in the vernacular of the day, Whatever. Just for an experiment let’s read a couple cornies. This is just an experiment remember so if you laugh it will help medical and psychiatry science.

A turtle was walking down an alley in New York when he was mugged by a gang of snails. A police detective came to investigate and asked the turtle if he could explain what happened. The turtle looked at the detective with a confused look on his face and replied "I don't know, it all happened so fast."


A doctor says to his patient, "I have bad news and worse news."

"Oh dear, what's the bad news?" asks the patient.

The doctor replies, "You only have 24 hours to live."

"That's terrible," said the patient. "How can the news possibly be worse?"

The doctor replies, "I've been trying to contact you since yesterday."

Are we still the land of the free? Do we still feel the same about the huddled masses yearning to be free?