Monday, February 05, 2007
Monday, November 20, 2006
We beamed as we looked down on the world' most beautiful blue-eyed, blonde, curly-headed baby. However, somewhere in the endless playing of video games, reading Jon Stewart and avoiding all school and home assignments, he has morphed into the creature from the abysmal sinkhole.
His footprints in the ooze are size thirteen, indicating feet shod in costly peculiar appurtenances, which may be laced only one specific way. The yellow and green laces must not be tied but tucked somehow into all that space. From the feet we must crane our necks upward to see more of this abominable shoe man.
His jeans and shorts must be only certain brands, and large enough for two of his skinny butts side by side. In each leg. His shadow looms wide and threatening in these drawers. But the shirts! Ah, the shirts must pass rigorous requirements!
They mainly must be football jerseys size large or above. Keep in mind that football players usually are pretty big guys, and then their jerseys have to go over extensive protective padding. So one has great difficulty in determining just how large this mutant really is. But not just any football jersey will serve.
The one in current favor is a Favre, with the name and number 4 sewn on in tackle twill. This kid, oblivious to everything else, can tell an applique from a screen print at thirty yards. He distinguishes between Throwback, Authentic and Replica jerseys.
The Authentic apparently must be the actual quality of the player's jersey. If the player is retired, or if he has changed teams, the jersey he wore before is the Throwback. Occasionally one must make do with a Replica, which is available most anywhere, and sadly, screen-printed.
The lower left sides of the jerseys display jock tags. On these, the Replicas give minimal information; the brand name, or name of the maker. Some jock tags give the brand, a picture of the team helmet if for football, or a basketball logo if otherwise. Believe it or not, the smaller the jock tag, the more important the shirt! Since the actual team jerseys get tucked in for games, the tags can't be seen anyway.
Who would have suspected that the creature require such attention to sartorial details? (I last encountered a like persnicketiness when I was a member of an antique collectors club full of ole folks) There are differences between them and him, however. He actually wears his collection and he is much younger.
In any case, the excessive size of his clothes determines his gait. He must swing each leg around in a wide half circle as he walks. Otherwise, the mighty pants of choice would drop around his ankles, impeding his forward progress and scandalizing his public with an unscheduled exposure of all of his underwear, not just the prescribed six inches below the natural waistline. He finds it impossible to push a shopping cart and walk at the same time because his arms are put into use constantly hitching at his sides to prevent such accidental drop of trou.
Might there be a glimmer in the muck? To be fair, he handles these clothes in a manner not typical of usual behavior. When they need to be washed, he cares for them according to the directions on their inner tags. When dry, he folds them gently and puts them away himself! Yes! There is morphing!
May one hope this morphing process will expand into areas vitally important to his future? At some point will the monster be vanquished just like on Level 6 of one of his video games?
Saturday, April 01, 2006
My Civil Disobedience
My government, the one managed by the compassionate conservatives, has let me down. It has allowed the ravenous manufacturers of medications to pillage my pockets for far too long. As an act of protest because of my frustration, I arranged to purchase medications from a friendly neighboring nation. I knew no drug company would miss the pittance I chose to send to a country that had the good sense to negotiate lower prices for the medications for its citizens.
Rather than such a negotiation, my leaders developed a diabolical scheme arranged to appear to help senior citizens to manage the escalating costs of their drugs. Instead, it beautifully developed a wonderfully profitable arrangement for insurance companies and drug companies. Now, if I had any money remaining in my pocket, I would certainly know in which companies to invest it.
My arrangement with a reputable Canadian drug company allowed me to save quite a bit more than the system contrived by my government. So it seemed only common sense to continue to do business with them, rather than pay more for less in my country. Therefore, my kindly, concerned, compassionate leaders; those my fellow country persons eagerly elected to serve the nation and to monitor our best interests; those selfless examples of rectitude and morality generously giving their time and expertise to this governing business, have thoughtfully seized my medicine at our friendly open border with another nation.
When I inquired of the truly patient, helpful customer service representative at my Canadian drug company as to what becomes of the confiscated medications, he said the drug packages may be opened by our border people and examined to be certain they are safe for our citizens, and then, of course, because seals have been breached, the contents must be disposed of. Or, packages might be returned to the sender and could possibly be reshipped if untampered with, but probably would have to be destroyed. One must only hope that our border personnel are as righteous and conscientious as those we sent to the halls of governance, or little black market drug stores will be popping up in all our border cities and poor people will be popping pills that had been meant for me.
This coercion may finally accomplish what our highly self-esteemed leaders intended. To get my medications I suppose I must discontinue my little act of civil disobedience and conform. But oh, does it rankle!
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
While I desperately want the SSUS refreshed and saved for posterity, it seems to be something that will not happen because of the practical realities of the world. (She is not just a webpage.)
Perhaps more managable would be the saving of her stacks to some appropriate locale--Mariner Museum property in Newport News, VA--for example, or anywhere in the city where she was built.
The best thing is to start collecting money for this to be accomplished now while those who built her with pride still live. They are becoming fewer daily.
I am always expending concern about things that probably cannot happen. As examples, I want to save the Chamberlain Hotel in Fort Monroe, VA and all of historic Fort Monroe, for that matter. It is terribly impractical to save the hotel but we all have to dream about something.
I do not want to save these buildings just because I am trying to save memories of a long lost youth. They are actually designed with some knowledge of classical proportion, crafted in an age when workers took pride in their work and from a time when companies valued their employees enough to reward their pride with at least some concern for them and their futures. These things represent the good that comes of not allowing the bottom line to be an architectural entity.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Most of us collect things. We may keep small things in a shoe box, such as shells, arrowheads, Matchbox Toys, or buttons. We may collect for our larger spaces and have a house full of furniture, ship models, Hopi jars or whatever catches our fancy. Our garages may be filled with classic cars, our barns with early tractors.
These collections and/or the things that contain them may be called Kunstkammers. This German word means arts chamber or cabinet. The original Kunstkammers were formed to display
(1. Naturalia) oddities from nature--human freaks (preserved), weirdly shaped deer antlers, exotic shells, coconuts or unusual types of wood.
(2. Artificialia) Items acted upon by man--A chambered nautilus, gold encrusted and bejeweled; coconut half bowl covered with intricate gold work displayed on a stand of ebony; carved ivory tusks.
These rarities were kept in cabinets until the collections grew large enough for rooms, then whole buildings.
In the 15th century, Germanic rulers developed this collecting to the ultimate degree. Their accumulations became spoils of war. European museums today display some of these early items. If we are unable to travel to foreign lands, we are able to view many of these collections via the internet.
How fascinating it is to view their items from the perspective of their time!
Monday, November 07, 2005
SS UNITED STATES
She was framed symmetrically in my rearview mirror, an elongated picture post card hanging above my dash board. I drove as slowly as possible to keep her there as I headed south across the James River on Interstate Highway 664 and she traveled east into Hampton Roads. The alignment was perfect for over a mile. The time was ten minutes to nine on the morning of June 4, 1992, and that was the last I saw of her.
Looking back, she was mine. What a sight! There was no bright sunlight to show her streaked paint and faded stacks. They and the rake of her hull gave the illusion of speed. She was every inch the Blue Riband winner. The tow bridle was not visible and to my mind she moved under her own power. It was not the first time she brought tears to my eyes.
For young teens in the early fifties in Newport News, Virginia, things were pretty ordinary and dull, except for the fantastic ship being built in the local shipyard. We read her specifications (those that were not top-secret) in the paper and marvelled at her size. She was a frequent topic of conversation in families because most fathers worked on her or close by in the Yard. We all had the feeling she was ours. We heard details of the construction of her all-aluminum superstructure. We heard the rumors and speculation about her potential speed and her ability to be quickly converted for use as a troop ship by the Navy. "The fastest ship in the world," we heard. She was said to be virtually fireproof and built with watertight compartments so she couldn't be sunk (at least not by an iceberg). We were so proud when famous government people came to the Yard to look her over. (These days we call that a photo-op.)
She made us feel improtant. On the way to Sunday school each week we checked on her progress as we drove past. After school on Tuesdays, she was the topic of our Mariner Scout Troop meetings. We had chosed her to be "our" ship and eventually, because of that, we attended her christening!
We stood warm in the crowd in our long-sleeved sailor dresses and hats, thrilled and excited. During our tour of the ship our guide pointed out that each of the forty-eight states had contributed something to the ship. We remarked on the blue and green decor, noting smugly that usually those colors "didn't go together," but that they were used with distinction on our ship. To our minds the etched glass and aluminum artwork represented "modern art," but we were able to appreciate its classical deep-sea themes. We knew what we liked.
Enthusiasm for the ship was a community thing, but it probably never entered the minds of most of us to ever hope to sail on her. And most of us did not. She left us for her home port in New York City, a world apart. We later shared the excitement when she returned to the Yard for yearly maintenance. She was still our ship.
I foolishly continued to feel personally connected to her when, in later years, I saw her docking or leaving Pier 86 at the west end of 46th Street in New York. But I was not the only one. She attracted attention with her coming and going even in Manhattan. Her deep-throated whistle rattled windows. Tugs tooted, bells rang, and people stopped to watch her when they could. Who doesn't stop to watch a parade?
We don't like parades to end. We are forced to leave the euphoria behind with the ticker tape and horse do. After her parade it was no different. In her case the clean up crew shamefully cleaned her out and stripped and sold most of her insides when she was retired in 1969 after 400 voyages.
People who wanted to get across the ocean in a hurry were becoming jet-setters. American union maritime workers wanted higher hourly wages than workers from other countries. It became impractical to run her.
In later years while she sat docked in Norfolk or Newport News I'd sail close for a look with a horrible sense of her defenselessness. I would helplessly moan something about somebody should do something and shrug my shoulders.
On that day in '92, somebody did something. They had her towed for 36 days across the ocean to Turkey, where she was to have her super fire-retardant asbestos removed and be refitted as a cruise ship. The refitting never materialized and now she is back in this country, thank goodness, and docked at a private dock in Philadelphia with paint peeling. For some reason it was not to be prosperous to run her on the Bosporus.
Now her fate is largely in the hands of at least two organizations--seemingly at odds over her future. One, the S. S. United States Foundation, wants her to be docked somewhere meaningful to her history, designated a national monument, and maintained as a museum.
The other, the United States Conservancy, is working with her current owners, Norwegian Cruise Lines, exploring the possiblity of having her refitted and put to sea once again, this time as a cruise ship.
That company at least offers some validity to the dream. They have recently launched a ship, The Pride of America, and developed on-board a library dedicated to the memory of the sister ship to the SS United States, the SS America. NCL apparently has an interest in preserving the maritime heritage of these ships, whereas no one in our country can afford it. (NCL is receiving a subsidy from our government enabling The Pride of America to be the first cruise ship to sail under the American flag. As part of this arrangement workers on board must be American, thus allowing this ship to cruise the Hawaiian Islands).
Personally, I'd probably be more likely to visit her again as a museum than to go on a cruise on her, so I lean more to that outcome. I'd prefer either result, though, to thinking of her being totally dismantled and sold off as just so many tons of scrap.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
In an unprecedented moment of hubris I thought I could have a blog if anyone else could. There is so little I know about how to do this but others are able to so maybe--- I am feeling like an idiot here.
I thought I had something to say but the blank screen cleared my mind. Think I'll have a nap.