Reality check

“Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.”

That’s a mantra that the power-of-positive-thinking folks pushed on us, and I really bought into it. The idea is that if your brain believes something, your body makes it real.

It works just fine when you’re 15, and even when you’re 25 and probably 35. Because every day in every way, you really CAN get better and better. But then one day you wake up and you’re staring your 60th birthday in the face and every day in every way you are getting worse and worse. And that whole positive-thinking thing starts to look like a crock.

Merry Christmas!

These kids today

“But I tell ya, these kids today …” Comics have been starting bits with that line for a thousand years. Like this rant from Dave Barry: “These kids today don’t know how easy they have it, with their iPhones and their iPads and their atmosphere consisting of 21 percent oxygen and 78 percent nitrogen and 1 percent various other gases. When I was a youngster we didn’t have ANYTHING. We didn’t even have HAIR. We sat around naked in the cold, sucking on rocks for nourishment. But you never heard us complain, and by God we licked the Great Depression and won World War II. No, wait, that was our parents’ generation. But we faced challenges of our own. Junior year abroad, for example. That was no picnic.”

We interrupt this comedy sketch for the point of today’s bloggy thing: These kids today are smarter, faster and better than we were in every way. Well, maybe not EVERY way, but most. My son Brad and daughter Tara amaze me with their routine daily brilliance, and now I have GRANDCHILDREN who are smarter than me. And that fills me with joy. But enough of this maudlin crap, back to the comedy. This is from a Monty Python sketch with four old Yorkshire men sitting around having wine and one-upping each other:

“But you know, we were ‘appy in those days, although we were poor.”

“BECAUSE we were poor!”


“My old dad used to say to me, ‘Money doesn’t bring you ‘appiness, son!'”

“‘E was right!”


“I was ‘appier then and I had nothin’! We used to live in this tiny old tumble-down ‘ouse with great big ‘oles in the roof!”

“‘Ouse! You were lucky to live in a ‘ouse! We used to live in one room, all 26 of us, no furniture, half the floor was missing. We were all ‘uddled together in one corner for fear of fallin’!”

“You were lucky to ‘ave a room! We used to ‘ave to live in the corridor!”

“Oh, we used to DREAM of livin’ in a corridor! Would ‘ave been a PALACE to us! We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woke up every mornin’ by ‘avin’ a load of rottin’ fish dumped all over us! ‘Ouse, ha!”

“Well, when I say ”ouse,’ it was just a ‘ole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin. But it was a ‘ouse to us!”

“We were EVICTED from our ‘ole in the ground! We ‘ad to go and live in a lake!”

“You were lucky to ‘ave a lake! There were 150 of us livin’ in a shoebox in the middle of the road!”

“A cardboard box?”


“You were lucky! We lived for three months in a rolled-up newspaper in a septic tank! We used to ‘ave to get up every mornin’ at six o’clock and clean the newspaper, go to work down ‘t the mill, 14 hours a day, week in, week out, for sixpence a week, and when we got ‘ome, our dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!”

“LUXURY! We used to ‘ave to get out of the lake at three o’clock in the mornin’, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, work 20 hours a day at mill for tuppence a month, come ‘ome, and dad would beat us around the ‘ead and neck with a broken bottle — if we were LUCKY!

“Well, of course, we ‘ad it tough. We used to ‘ave to get up out of the shoebox in the middle of the night and lick the road clean with our tongues! We ‘ad to eat half a handful of freezin’ cold gravel, work 24 hours a day at mill for fourpence every six years, and when we got ‘ome, our dad would slice us in two with a bread knife!”

“Right! I ‘ad to get up in the mornin’ at ten o’clock at night, ‘alf an hour before I went to bed, eat a lump of cold poison, work 29 hours a day down at mill and pay the owner for permission to come to work, and when we got ‘ome, our dad would kill us and dance about on our graves, singin’ ”allelujiah’!”

“Oh, ay. And you try and tell the young people of today that, and they won’t believe you!”

“No, no they won’t!”

Dylan Thomas, whoever he was

A friend of mine has been dying for five years … well, yes, we’re all dying of course … but he has some mechanical thingy that keeps his heart ticking, so while his body and brain fall apart piece by piece, his heart will just beat on and on forever. Please don’t put one of those in me. I think about these things too much because I’ll turn 60 in, oh, approximately something like 47 days.

So, yes, I think about the finish line. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are higher than my doc would like, my prostate gland feels like it’s larger than a walnut (so I’m told), and I knew this rainstorm was coming because my lower back started to ache. And I have a pain in the neck (literally).

But after years of agreeing with Dylan Thomas when he wrote, “Do not go gently into that good night,” I’ve now decided that he was full of booze-soaked crap. Let other people hook up electronics to their organs and pump themselves full of meds as they “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

As for me, I can’t think of a sweeter final scene than to go gently into that good night.

My momma always said …

Bronze Star, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit and so many other honors you can’t count them on all your fingers and toes … and also an adulterer. Gen. Petreaus proves to be just another human being. The yin and yang, dark and light, they run through all of us. I’ve never been unfaithful and indeed have found myself on the hurtin’ side of infidelity, but this I know: we are, all of us, flawed.

The election is over. Some celebrate, others grouse.

Neither Obama nor Romney is the demon we saw on TV ads. Nor is either saint or savior. For that matter, the saint has never existed who was perfection … by that, I mean the perfection of fairy-tale minds that ache for Superman in a universe of Forrest Gumps.

Life is like a box of chocolates.

Royal Nipples and Other Stories

Random thoughts on random knots:

Did anyone question whether Kate Middleton had breasts and nipples? What’s the big deal about the photos? And why did I Google it?

If the Super Bowl can’t be the Game of the Century because they’re going to have another one next year, why does everyone absolutely HAVE to have an iPhone 5?

If Muslims kill people and riot in 50 cities because of a bad American film, do we dare show them “Christmas with the Kranks?”

True story: In July, Mozart Morris of Virginia received forms in the mail so he could register to vote. Perhaps he would have registered, except he’s a poodle, and he’s been dead for two years. The forms came from the Voter Participation Center, which tries to register minorities, young people and unmarried women. No word from Mozart’s former master on whether the pooch leaned toward Obama or Romney.

Also a true story: A 69-year-old man got on a train in San Fransisco Wednesday, and when it arrived in Chicago, his luggage, cell phone and medication were on the train, but the man was gone. CNN said he had “disappeared.” I think that’s the way I’d like to go. One minute I’m there, and the next I have simply vanished.

New test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that high skool girlz are much bedder wriders than boyz.


Say It Ain’t So, BO

I’m not a Republican. But I can’t figure out why it’s a good thing for a President to make a video plea for all African-American voters to turn out and support him.

I know! It can’t be true, right? He’d never dare suggest anything like, “we blacks all have to stick together.” That would be divisive. Anti-American, even. I mean, this is the Great Melting Pot, where we are to be defined not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. But here’s the video, and it’s The Man himself, his own face, his own words, his own website:

President’s Video

If a white candidate filmed a video like that, asking for all Caucasian folks to support him, he’d be hooted down for the racist bigot he is. “We whites have to stick together” would be a disgusting and intolerable message. Some might rightly respond to that by saying, “They’re gonna have y’all back in chains.”

It’s Happiness Happens Month!

I’m David Cunningham with your KPTZ news update, and here’s what’s happening. It’s Wednesday, August First, and that means today marks the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, National Catfish Month, Get Ready for Kindergarten Month and Happiness Happens Month. Seriously. We are not making any of this up.

And do not make fun of Happiness Happens Month. Last week, we here at KPTZ took a light approach to our report on a Port Townsend event in connection with World Breastfeeding Month, which unleashed a flood of angry callers, and both were unhappy with our cavalier attitude.

So it is with the utmost seriousness that we report that in 1998, the Secret Society of Happy People declared August 8th as Happiness Happens Day. In August 2000, the society expanded its celebration to be a month-long event, and we quote from the society’s website, “so that you can celebrate whatever day is convenient.”

August also is Cataract Awareness Month, Peach Month, Motorsports Awareness Month, and What Will Be Your Legacy Month. Seriously.

We report all this in tribute to KPTZ co-founder Ann Katezenbach, who regularly began or ended her newscasts with tidbits like the fact that Monday was National Cheesecake Day. Ann soon will be leaving Port Townsend to spend her golden years under the golden sun-shiny skies of Arizona, and we will miss her. Seriously.


Cheaters Must Prosper

Athletes who cheat should be allowed to receive awards and honors. Discuss. Show examples.

OK, it gives me a sharp pain in my left ventricle, but I’ve decided Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Lance Armstrong should keep all his Tour de France trophies. I do not come to this decision lightly, and it’s not just a mental exercise for me — I actually have to (get to) vote for induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

On a gut level, I recoil at the idea that cheaters should be allowed to prosper. And there’s almost no doubt that Bonds and Clemens used PED’s (performance-enhancing drugs), which gave them an unfair advantage. So why not lock them in the Pete Rose Wing of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Prison for Immoral Ballplayers? Two reasons: (1) we’ll never know for sure who used PED’s and who didn’t, and (2) if you banned every player who ever cheated, the Hall of Fame might be empty.

Also, I’ve finally come to realize that baseball’s love of tradition and consistency is a crock. Baseball likes to pretend the game is the same today as it was in 1916, when Babe Ruth went 23-12 with a 1.75 earned run average as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox (you could look it up). The Game scoffs at the NBA for adding a 3-point line, the NHL for giving everybody helmets, and the NFL for introducing the forward pass. “These sports are not pure,” Baseball scoffs. “You can’t compare statistics from one era to another. But we remain straight and true.”

Or, as James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams: “The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.”

Sadly, it’s a myth. Cy Young pitched in the dead-ball era and started a third of his team’s games. Babe Ruth hit homers in a time when pitchers like Satchel Paige were banned because of the color of their skin. Sandy Koufax threw from higher mounds into larger strike zones than we’ve ever seen since. Everything’s changed over time: ballpark size, jet travel, schedule length, designated hitters, wild-card playoffs, interleague games, instant replay, juiced-up baseballs and juiced-up players.

Cheating? Athletes have always cheated and always will. Corked bats, stealing signs with cameras, watering down basepaths. One pitcher told me, “It ain’t cheating if you’re not caught.”  Ed Walsh threw spitballs when they were legal, had the lowest career ERA ever (1.82) and is in the Hall of Fame. Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford threw spitballs after they were outlawed, and they’re also enshrined in the Hall.

Gambling Pete Rose got more hits than any man ever, but because he bet on baseball, he’s banned for life from the Hall of Fame. Yet Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker gambled on baseball and even made bets with each other, and both their plaques hang proudly in the Hall.

Does it bother me that Sammy Sosa (allegedly) not only used PED’s but also swung a corked bat? Yes. But it all comes down to this: he played in an era when (allegedly) more than half the hitters in baseball were shooting up steroids. If you only ban the ones who admitted it, like Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez, you just encourage the kind of (alleged) lying we saw from Roger Clemens.

So I toss away my Rose-colored glasses and say screw it, let ‘em all in. Everyone who’s accomplishments merit it.

There’s a line in the Hall of Fame Rules for Election that says voting “should be based  on a player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the teams” on which he played.

Integrity, sportsmanship and character are among the reasons McGwire has not gotten a Hall of Fame vote from me. I regret to admit now that when it comes to sport, those qualities shoulde be taken on a sliding scale, judged in relation to place, time and culture.

There, I said it. Now I think I need a drink.

Help, My Computer’s Been Hijacked

My Windows software just updated itself a few minutes ago. No, wait! This is really weird! See, I don’t have Windows set to update automatically. I demand that Microsoft ask for permission first. Therefore, according my little libertarian pea brain, that means Microsoft can only upload stuff into my personal computer IF I SAY IT’S OK.

But Microsoft just ran right through my stop sign and uploaded a bunch of crap all by itself. I couldn’t even stop it. Believe me, I tried. When I saw that little logo on the bottom right of my screen (looks like a satellite dish or something), I clicked on it. Until today, that would ALWAYS bring up a screen that told me which “important” and “optional” updates Microsoft thinks I should put on my computer. And then I’d install them, happy in knowing that at least I got a choice.

But this time, clicking on it did nothing .. except reveal a tiny notice that Windows was already 55% done with uploading the updates that I hadn’t approved. They hadn’t even bothered to ask.

Naturally, since Microsoft has always been so polite in the past, I assumed that this had to be the work of a Hacker Virus Trojan Worm Death Star, only pretending to be Microsoft. So I tried to open my Task Manager so I could stop the process of the download. It refused to open. Gulp. This is one crafty hacker nerd.

So I can’t open the Windows screen that confirms what I’m downloading against my will, and I can’t open Task Manger to stop it. Help. I’m being invaded. The download progress is at 66% now. So I click to restart my computer. That’ll fix ‘em.

And then the reboot hangs up on the “shutting down” message for an agonizing 14 minutes. My god, SuperHacker has managed to force the computer to finish downloading all its evil mayhem before it reboots. And I’m powerless to stop it.

Finally, my PC restarts, and all appears normal. No little “update” icon, nothing appears amiss. I Google search for “Windows updates itself without permission” and find that Microsoft did this at least once before, in 2007, and a lot of people were pissed off about it.

So then I click into the Microsoft update web page and read that they indeed do have 9 “important” updates for me. At that instant, I see that the dreaded little satellite dish icon has reappeared — and now it says its upload is 82% complete. I still haven’t given anyone permission to upload anything. Damn.

And now it’s done. As I sit here at this very moment, Windows is asking me to restart my computer “in order to finish installing your important updates.”

If Microsoft had told me I needed these updates because of security issues and junk email filters and the usual blah blah blah, of course I would have obediently installed them. And I know they can tell me any lie they want and I’m going to just trust them and install the stuff.

But the minute they put something into my PC without my permission, I get very suspicious. If this turns out to be the last blog entry you ever see in “The Media Room,” you’ll know it’s because my computer has been hijacked by some Big-Brother, intrusive, self-important, nerd hacker who thinks he can do anything he wan





Discovering a Dust-Covered Gem

I’m wondering today if Millennials and Gen-Xers (like my own “kids”) have the same bias I once did: that “our collective knowledge is doubling every year, so nothing that was written more than a few years ago can possibly be as good or relevant as the latest stuff.”

You might think that here I’m going to mention Shakespeare or Aristotle, but you would be wrong. I’m thinking Ken Keyes, Jr.

I am re-reading his “Handbook to Higher Consciousness” for perhaps the third or fourth time. It was written 41 years ago, so it can’t possibly have anything of value to say to humans in The Year of Our Armageddon 2012. Ah, but it does.

But let me first tell you why many would dismiss it, as my younger brother is fond of saying, as “pap, crap and claptrap.” Keyes’ mother was an alcoholic. He worked in naval intelligence as a censor for cablegrams to and from the U.S. He was married four times, two of those wives were clinically depressed, and Keyes admitted his own serial affairs and obsession with sex. He suffered from polio and for years was quadriplegic. He fought with his partner in his “Living Love” center. He was, like all of us, a flawed human being.

But his “Handbook to Higher Consciousness,” written and self-published at the height of the peace-love-hippie movement, has transformed lives ever since. I’m about to clip and paste just a few of the comments by contemporary readers of the book, but I’ll preface it by lowering your expectations yet again: my 1974 copy contains amateurish drawings, the 12 Pathways and Seven Centers of Consciousness might sound corny, and Diagram 2 (“How You Create Happiness in Your Life”) is ridiculously confusing. Like the man who wrote it, this book is not perfect.

But it is the most effective self-help book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read hundreds (and have even written one), and it makes more sense with each reading.

This is what other readers posted about Keyes’ “Handbook to Higher Consciousness” on Amazon:

“Most important book I’ve ever read

“Simply, the best that ever was, or ever shall be

“The one book that really changed my life

“This book is timeless and one to give to all your loved ones

“Better than the Bible, and I read the Bible cover to cover 34 times”

Oh, and check out Shakespeare and Aristotle, too.