One Second

I saw a wreck on the way to work yesterday morning. A bad wreck.

Well, I didn’t see it actually happen;  I just saw the aftermath, and it looked really serious, perhaps even fatal.

It was dark outside. A car had slammed into the rear end of an eighteen-wheeler, become lodged under the trailer and dragged to the shoulder of the freeway. By the time I got to the scene, after crawling along with the now slow-moving traffic, the car was out from under the truck. It was one mangled heap of metal. I thought, no way the driver survived that.

I read later that day, he was in critical condition at a local hospital. I don’t know if he made it.

I wondered briefly if he was texting right before it happened. For all I know, he was doing absolutely nothing to distract him from his driving. The accident may have simply been unavoidable, however careful he was.

And maybe, he’ll recover from this. Judging by the looks of that car, though, I think that would be a miracle. But, miracles do happen, sometimes.

I just know this for sure: it only took a second for that man’s whole life to change.

Or worse, end.

 

We’re all such skillful drivers, aren’t we, that we can just multitask all day behind the wheel. We eat, we drink, we talk, we text, we shave, we put on makeup, we read a book or a map, we write, we mess with the radio…

All…While…Driving.

Amazing to see how many people get behind the wheel of a vehicle, and then treat driving as something ancillary to what they really want to do. To them, driving is just Muzak, playing in the background as they go on about other business. How many times have we been on the road and noticed someone doing one of the above activities as they drove? We thought they were insane, right? Or just plain stupid.

Now, truth time. How many of us are guilty of doing one or more of those things, ourselves?

I know I am.

The thing is, folks, there’s no such thing as a slow accident. A second is all it takes; one second of your attention paid to something else besides driving.

Next thing you know, you’re under a truck. Or you’ve “t-boned” another driver. Or veered off the road, into a ditch. Or even struck a pedestrian.

And I know what we all think: Oh, nothing will happen to me. The ego might even jump in, here: I know what I’m doing; I got this.

I’m sure the driver yesterday morning thought the same thing.

According to http://www.distraction.gov: In 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

All those people, injured or killed, because the driver was distracted.

Not to mention, all the families of those 3,179 victims, asking – through angry, bewildered tears – why their loved ones were so suddenly and savagely taken from them, leaving them to pick up the pieces and, somehow, move on.

Because some driver was focused on something other than driving. For one second.

Does that make any sense at all, to anyone?

Friends, let’s be careful on the road, OK? These aren’t toys we’re driving around in. They can do serious, permanent damage. To other vehicles, other people, other lives.

Put the phone/razor/mascara/hairbrush/book/map/burger/soda down and just drive.

Will you?

 

P.S. – Just learned the driver that crashed into the eighteen-wheeler died early this morning.

He was 24.

 

Monday Night…Football?

It’s Monday night.

Are you ready for some high-powered offense?

Some lockdown defense?

A few trick plays?

Some questionable game planning?

A few blown calls by the ref that could be controversial?

And, especially, enough bad blood between the opponents to possibly escalate this contest into an all-out war?

Then you, my friend, are ready for some…

PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE!!!

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That’s right, America, this Monday night, you can tune in to the first of three televised debates between Hillary “What Emails?” Clinton and Donald “Boy Hands” Trump. As former NFL braggart Terrell Owens once infamously said, “Getcha popcorn ready.”

I mean, let’s face it, these debates have long since stopped offering anything of substance; just a bunch of well-rehearsed responses to generally unchallenging questions. The candidates will say what they think they should say in order to win your vote. So, the only reason to watch them anymore is for the entertainment value.

Well, this time, there should be plenty of that, because we got us a wild card.

Donnie treats every debate like A Night At The Improv. Preparation and rehearsal are for wimps; he’s just going to dazzle us with his spontaneous brilliance.

Which is a statement dying for a punchline, but I’ll refrain.

Fortunately, every answer he will give can be reduced to one very simple statement: “It’s gonna be great, folks, trust me.”

Like those Trump University students trusted you? Like all those unpaid Trump campaign staffers trusted you? Like that?

Tell me, Donnie, how great is it for them right now?

 

Hil, meanwhile, is all about preparation, as you would expect. She will be prepared out the WAZOO. Even now, she is probably cramming, researching, rehearsing, studying game film, all to get ready for the big matchup. She’ll be so full of information, if someone asks her if she’d like a drink of water, she’ll probably give a ten-minute recitation on the importance of conserving natural resources.

And the minute the referee, er, moderator, NBC’s Lester Holt, brings up the emails, (you know he will; he learned nothing from Matt Lauer) she may bust a spring, her head may spin around, and her eyes may light up and say, “TILT, TILT, TILT…”

You know, the more I think about it, the more I think this debate is going to sound suspiciously like a conversation between Muhammad Ali and that robot from the show, “Lost in Space:”

TRUMP: I AM THE GREATEST!!!

CLINTON: My sensors indicate the presence of aliens.

TRUMP: I’LL SHOCK THE WORLD!! I’LL SHOCK THE WORLD!!

CLINTON: That does not compute.

TRUMP: YOU GOIN’ DOWN, SUCKER!!

CLINTON (arms flailing): DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!!!

Anyway, it promises to be a treat. Don’t miss it.

You’ll only miss the first half of Falcons vs. Saints.

 

Tip Your Cap

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The end of an era is upon us, sports fans.

Vin Scully, legendary baseball announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is retiring this season, after an astonishing 67 years in broadcasting.

Sixty…seven…years. Let that sink in for awhile.

Nobody has ever done his job so well, for so long. Nobody even close.

It makes me envious of Dodger fans. He’s more than just their announcer. He’s more than just their buddy, inviting them to sit back and enjoy a ball game with him.

He’s their dad, the one with all the memories of former Dodger heroes like Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, Steve Garvey and Davey Lopes, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson, on and on and on.

Wow!

This man is inextricably intertwined with the history of the Dodgers; indeed, of baseball.

He is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, of course, as a recipient of the annual Ford C. Frick award, presented to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball.”

And boy, has this guy contributed.

 

Back in ancient times, before television, radio was the only way to broadcast a ballgame. The announcer, therefore, was an artist; it was up to him to paint a complete picture for the listener, to describe the brilliant blue sky, the gentle breeze blowing in from left field, the smell of the freshly cut grass, the jubilant roar of the crowd…every sight, sound and smell of the game brought vividly to life, transporting the fan listening at home right to the best seat in the ballpark.

Vin Scully has skillfully painted these pictures day after day, game after game, for decades.

Not only does that take a great deal of talent, which he certainly has, and a singularly mellifluous voice, which he also has. It takes a true love and passion for the game, and a warm, inviting, friendly manner that makes people want to tune in and listen to him. Vin Scully checks both those boxes, as well.

Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams once said, “If there was a guy born to play baseball, it was Willie Mays.” I say, if there was a guy born to announce baseball, it’s Vin Scully.

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My two favorite ball games, called by Vin Scully:

1986 WORLD SERIES, GAME 6: As the New York Mets mounted a crazy ninth-inning, two-out comeback to defeat the utterly gobsmacked Boston Red Sox at New York’s Shea Stadium, Vin asked rhetorically, ” Can you believe this ballgame at Shea?”

As the infamous game-ending ground ball rolled improbably through the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run for the Mets, Vin described it like this, the shock and disbelief at what was unfolding, clearly heard: “Little roller, up along first…BEHIND THE BAG!! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER!! HERE COMES KNIGHT, AND THE METS WIN IT!!!”

Minutes later, after letting the television audience take in the raucous celebration in the stadium, except for the stunned, silent Red Sox dugout, he declared, “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words!”

(Which is another skill of his: letting the images on television tell the story. As valuable as his words are, he knows when they aren’t needed.)

1988 WORLD SERIES, GAME 1: Dodgers vs. Oakland A’s, Dodger Stadium. Bottom of the ninth inning. Dodgers trail by one run with two outs and one man on base. Kirk Gibson, pinch-hitting despite a badly hurt right leg, is at bat. Three-ball, two-strike count. Here comes the pitch. Mr. Scully, take it away:

“High fly ball, into right field, she is GONE!!!”

In that call, you can hear the hopeful anticipation of what could happen, followed by the amazement and joy at what just did.

And then, amid all the resultant pandemonium, he added, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”

Side note: At that moment, another legendary announcer, Jack Buck, delighted the radio audience with his own immortal line: “I DON’T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW!!”

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Vin Scully will announce his last Dodgers home game this Sunday, September 25, at 4:00 PM, Eastern Time. It will be broadcast live on MLB Network, as well as the Dodgers’ and Colorado Rockies’ local networks. Do yourself a favor; take a break from football this Sunday.

And enjoy a baseball game with a living legend.

A Day to Imagine

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Tomorrow, September 21, is the International Day of Peace, as declared by the United Nations. In honor of that, allow me to share this message from Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General:

Every year on the International Day of Peace, the United Nations calls on warring parties to lay down their arms and observe a 24-hour global ceasefire. The symbolism of a day without fighting is a crucial reminder that conflict can and must come to an end.

But peace is about much more than putting weapons aside. It is about building a global society in which people live free from poverty and share the benefits of prosperity. It is about growing together and supporting each other as a universal family.

The theme of this year’s Peace Day highlights the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – the SDGs – as Building Blocks for Peace. Conflict often starts when people compete over limited resources. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our blueprint to prevent such conflicts from arising by making sure no one is left behind.

When the 193 Member States of the United Nations unanimously adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals last September, their message was clear.

Sustainable development is essential for lasting peace, and both depend on respect for human rights. We need to protect our planet. And only by working together can we make our common home safe for future generations.

All of us can be sustainable development advocates and spread the word about the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. And we can all hold our governments to account for keeping their pledge to the future.

Let us all work together to help all human beings achieve dignity and equality; to build a greener planet; and to make sure no one is left behind.

On this International Day of Peace, express your commitment to peace by becoming a champion of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Go to http://internationaldayofpeace.org/ to learn more.

 

It isn’t hard to imagine; it’s extraordinarily difficult to achieve.

But, the moment we convince ourselves it is impossible…

We’re doomed.

May we all turn our thoughts toward peace in our world tomorrow, and our actions toward it every day thereafter.

Peace and love to all of you.

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Let Us All Bow Our Heads and Play

Honestly, people…

What did we ever do before we had cellphones?

When we actually had to go more than two minutes without talking to someone? How lonesome we all must have been!

Now, I’m surrounded by people who are constantly talking to someone on the phone. In the grocery store, at the restaurant, in the men’s room…

My wife wonders all the time, who are they all talking to?

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a guy talking on his phone in the restroom while standing at the urinal. Really, I thought, you can’t even stop talking long enough to take care of this?

What’s great is, these people talking on their phones in public places think they’re having a private conversation when, the fact is, everyone in the grocery line can hear it. I SAID, LET’S TRY A THREESOME TONIGHT! YOU UP FOR IT?

Another problem with these things: I can’t tell you how many times, when I was a chauffeur, I’d hear a passenger in the back seat say something on their phone, and I would answer, thinking he was speaking to me.

As Rick Perry famously said: Oops. (That’s for all my Texas friends.)

True cellphone story: Friend of mine goes in a public restroom one day. He finds an unoccupied stall, steps in, closes the door, and takes a seat on the toilet.

Guy in the stall next to him – we’ll call him the neighbor – says, “Hi, there!”

Gee, this guy’s friendly, my friend thinks. Guess I’ll be friendly, back. “Hi,” he replies.

The neighbor then asks, “What are you doing?”

Well, shouldn’t that be obvious?, my friend thinks, somewhat puzzled. “Well, if you really have to know, I’m over here taking a s***.”

Couple of seconds later, the neighbor says, “Whatcha got planned for later?”

Okay, now he’s just being nosy. 

“Well, if it’s any business of yours, I’m gonna go home, put my feet up, open a beer, and watch the game,” my friend replied, a little irritated at this point.

“Hang on a second,” the neighbor says to his cellphone, “some a****le in here thinks I’m talking to him!”

Again, OOOOOOPS!

Now, we have Bluetooth, which enables people to walk around with some gizmo in their ear, looking for all the world like they’re talking to themselves.

Of course, that’s great for a guy like me, who’s been talking to himself his whole life; I look normal, now.

 

But, it’s not just the talking…

I figure, chiropractors must be making a ton of money these days.

I mean, the number of cases of neck pain and stiffness has just got to be spiking lately.

Look around you. Everywhere, people are walking around with their heads down, staring at whatever fascinating image, text, etc. is on their smartphone. It makes me wonder how many of them eventually make it to the nearest ER, having just smacked into a tree, a building, a competitive weightlifter, what have you.

I’m telling you, it’s dangerous out there.

I’m worried; I think eye contact will soon become a thing of the past.

And, as if there weren’t enough distractions on those smartphones, the video game sadists have created another one, which involves chasing down fictional characters in real world settings, by way of what’s called Augmented Reality (AR).

And I mean, these players are focused, heads bowed and eyes firmly fixed on the image on that phone. THEY ARE ON A MISSION. You could walk right by them stark naked and never be noticed.  (Not that I recommend any of you try that, you understand.)

It ain’t all fun, though. Some people have been injured, some even killed, either playing this game, or at the hands of someone playing this game. Seriously.

So this message is for all you gamers out there:

You want to play your smartphone games, by all means, go out and have fun. But, please, folks, don’t abandon your common sense in pursuit of these cute creatures.

And, for Pete’s sake, watch where you’re GOING HEY LOOK UP WALL!!!!!

Hands to the Task (a set of lyrics)

Well, I’ve been around awhile, and I’ve seen a few things change,
But, sadly, I’ve seen others stay the same.
We’ve gone a thousand miles on, what seemed, a forward path,
Still, we ended up right back from where we came.
I used to think that, that was just our fate.
But, just in case it isn’t yet too late,

I think it’s time I set my hands to the task,
And start working to make this world somewhere peace and love can last.
Yes, I know it will be hard, but it’s worth giving everything,
Finally, I see the truth: I receive just as I bring.

We say, “We need to talk about what’s going on,”
Only talking’s all we ever seem to do.
And we can talk all night and day, but it won’t do any good
If we don’t take that next step and follow through.
Even if that step we take is wrong,
We’ve already put it off for much too long.

I think it’s time I set my hands to the task,
And start working to make this world somewhere peace and love can last.
Yes, I know it will be hard, but it’s worth giving everything,
Finally, I see the truth: I receive just as I bring.

Black and white, in between,
Men and women, all convene
To edit and rewrite the scene
And show it on the giant screen.
No more inhumanity,
No more inequality,
No more hatred, no more war,
No more hunger anymore,
No more homeless, no more poor.
Isn’t that worth striving for?
I think it’s worth trying for.
I’m all done with crying for…

I think it’s time I set my hands to the task,
And start working to make this world somewhere peace and love can last.
Yes, I know it will be hard, but it’s worth giving everything,
Finally, I see the truth: I receive just as I bring.
Finally, I see the truth: I receive just as I bring.

 

The 0.05 Cu. Ft. Cell, Part 2

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In a previous post, I mentioned a website called http://www.wingofmadness.com, a site dedicated to educating and helping anyone who suffers from depression, or lives with someone who does. I recommend it.

I’d like to share a portion of one post from that website, entitled, “What Does Depression Feel Like?”:

Sometimes the Depression Self-Screening Tests are just too clinical, and the symptoms don’t really “click” with you. Some of the criteria are general, and if you’re suffering from depression, specifics are easier to understand.

I know that I might not have diagnosed myself with depression just on the basis of those symptoms. I had no change in appetite, and no sleep problems (getting out of bed was what was difficult). Below are some un-clinical symptoms.

Things just seem “off” or “wrong.”
You don’t feel hopeful or happy about anything in your life.
You’re crying a lot for no apparent reason, either at nothing, or something that normally would be insignificant.
You feel like you’re moving (and thinking) in slow motion.
Getting up in the morning requires a lot of effort.
Carrying on a normal conversation is a struggle. You can’t seem to express yourself.

You’re having trouble making simple decisions.
Your friends and family really irritate you.
You’re not sure if you still love your spouse/significant other.
Smiling feels stiff and awkward. It’s like your smiling muscles are frozen.
It seems like there’s a glass wall between you and the rest of the world.
You’re forgetful, and it’s very difficult to concentrate on anything.
You’re anxious and worried a lot.
Everything seems hopeless.
You feel like you can’t do anything right.
You have recurring thoughts of death and/or suicidal impulses. Suicide seems like a welcome relief.
You have a feeling of impending doom – you think something bad is going to happen, although you may not be sure what, and/or…
…You have a very specific fear that torments you constantly.
In your perception of the world around you, it’s always cloudy. Even on sunny days, it seems cloudy and gray.
You feel as though you’re drowning or suffocating.
You’re agitated, jumpy and and anxious much of the time.
Your senses seem dulled; food tastes bland and uninteresting, music doesn’t seem to affect you, you don’t bother smelling flowers anymore.
Incessantly and uncontrollably into your mind comes the memory of every failure, every bad or uncomfortable experience, interview or date, like a torrent of negativity.

Trust me; I can check several of those boxes, as, I’m sure, many other people with depression can.

Now, gentlemen, for you I offer the following, from a post on the same site called, “Men and Depression”:

In the last few years, attitudes have begun to change about the prevalance of depression in men with the advent of some new ideas. The mental health community is beginning to use these to challenge the long-standing beliefs about men and depression.

The most important new idea, in my mind, is that depression actually manifests itself differently in men than in women. While women tend to exhibit the classic symptoms of sadness and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, men tend to more frequently exhibit less classic symptoms like anger, irritability and abuse of alcohol.

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(My therapist told me that 13 years ago. Guess she was ahead of her time.)

Now, I haven’t resorted to alcohol abuse, but I sure have the anger and irritability down good. And I’m willing to bet, so do a lot of you guys. Look at that list up there, again. Do you identify with any of those symptoms?

I remember an incident a few years ago, when I let my depression medication run out, for several days. By that weekend, I had a fuse so short as to be almost nonexistent. I couldn’t get that prescription refilled soon enough.

Understand two things: To have depression does NOT mean you’re crazy, and it does NOT mean you’re weak.

It’s due to a chemical imbalance in your brain, and it can be treated medically.

Not that a few sessions with a psychiatrist couldn’t help. I had five years worth of them, myself. I just think that alone, in most cases, is not adequate.

Now, keep in mind, I’m not telling you this as a medical professional, because I promise you, I ain’t one. I’m simply sharing some of what I’ve learned in the course of dealing with this illness. My purpose here, primarily for the guys, is to destigmatize depression. YES, it is a mental illness. (And it’s time to destigmatize that, too, but that’s a whole other discussion.) YES, you can get help.

NO, it’s not a sign of weakness, either to have it, or to ask for help.

Why am I focusing on the men so much? Because men are less likely to seek help for depression than women, and more likely to commit suicide.

Again, from “Men and Depression”:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) men are four times more likely than women to die from suicide; it’s the eighth leading cause of death for men in the U.S. (emphasis mine)

That is a statistical fact. And it doesn’t have to be.

Ladies, I know it’s serious stuff with you, too. But, fellas, this is a Red Alert.

For yourself, your family, your friends, your job, please, get some help. It’s available.

And there’s NO shame in it.

I wish you all well.

The Movie Music Man

Watch out, here comes a shark!

Oh, no, and a T-Rex!

And, OMG, Darth Vader!!

Someone please help us!!!

Wait, look! It’s…Indiana Jones! And Luke Skywalker! And Superman!!

We’re SAVED!!!!

Okay, quick, how many movie theme songs just played in your head?

You’ve got one person to thank for that: John Williams.

 

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching the annual American Film Institute (AFI) Lifetime Achievement Award presentation, given to someone in recognition of his or her outstanding contribution to the movie industry. (As a movie lover, I dig this kinda stuff.)

Usually, this award goes to an actor or director but, this year, for the first time ever, it was given to a composer.

And for John Williams, it’s about freakin’ time.

Here’s but a small sample of the movies for which Mr. Williams composed the soundtracks:

Star Wars. Jaws. Raiders of the Lost Ark. E.T. Born on the Fourth of July. Schindler’s List. Jurassic Park. Superman. Harry Potter. Home Alone. Saving Private Ryan. Hook. Far and Away. JFK. Seven Years in Tibet. Lincoln. Empire of the Sun. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The Witches of Eastwick. Amistad. Presumed Innocent.

And that’s just a VERY small sample!

Some of the best known, best loved films of our generation. And a major reason for that is the inspired music that graces them all. We attach that music to our memories of those movies, and they assimilate into our regular lives.

Example: Have you ever been in a pool or a lake and pretended to be a shark, about to put the big chomp on some poor, unsuspecting victim? I dare you to tell me you didn’t start singing, “Da-dum…da-dum…da-dum…dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum…” Yeah, I knew it. You couldn’t resist.

Have you attended or watched a Major League Baseball game, and heard one of the batters stride up to home plate to the tune of “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)?” When pro basketball star Kobe Bryant came back for his first game after an Achilles injury, in 2013, he was introduced to the crowd with “The Imperial March” playing in the background, as he requested.

One other thing: how many marching bands, high school or college, have you heard playing the theme from Star Wars at halftime of a game or in a parade? Or, maybe, some other John Williams tune, instead?

And that music has infiltrated other movies, too. In The Big Chill, before Kevin Kline’s character races heroically to the attic to do battle with a pesky bat, what does he do for inspiration? Sings the theme song for Indiana Jones!

His music stays in our minds because it stirs our hearts. Who can listen to the plaintive theme from Schindler’s List and not get a little teary-eyed? Who hears “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan and doesn’t feel pride and sadness in equal measure for our men and women who have sacrificed everything in war? Who hasn’t been carried back to the wonder and magic of childhood by the theme to E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, longing for the chance to ride a bicycle through the air?

All these unforgettable melodies, and so many more, blossomed from the sublimely brilliant mind of one man. Lucky us.

The AFI Life Achievement Award presentation to John Williams will be rebroadcast Monday, September 12, at 7:00 PM Central time, and on Tuesday, September 13, at 1:30 AM Central time, on the Turner Classic Movies network (TCM). Do yourself a big favor: Record this show, enjoy hearing from the actors and directors who had the pleasure of working with John Williams. Listen, also, to the man himself, and know just what a genuinely humble genius he is.

And sing or hum along to all those terrific movie themes. C’mon, you know them.