Monday, December 22, 2008

It's all my fault...

I love snow

Okay, okay...all you people in the Northwest US who are complaining about the snow and cold, it's all my fault. You see, I have broken with all traditions and after 54 Christmases in New York City I decided to go and visit my sister in Portland, OR for the holidays. And since I am from Maine, where we nearly always have a White Christmas, I wished to make my visit extra special by arranging with Mother Nature to have a little of the white stuff on the ground for my arrival on tomorrow, Tuesday.

So, it is all my fault and I apologize. I promise that I will take all of the white stuff with me when I leave, but that will not be until December 30th.

Sorry. Merry Christmas.


Image from Flickr

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Blog 2008

As I get older, I am terrified at how quickly time seems to pass. I now measure weeks like minutes and gasp at how the last 10 years have shot past like a lightning bolt. It seems like yesterday that we were all worried about Y2K (remember that?) and I simply cannot believe that I have been living in the same place for the last 13 years.

This time of the year is always a reflective time for me. The Christmas cards and blog make the process more formalized, but I think reflection is a psychological process that takes on greater importance the older one gets.

So as I reflect upon 2008 there is the good and the not so good, the happy and the sad, the scary and the comforting, the troubled and the hopeful. I suspect that many of you are nodding in agreement.

The New Year began with the “cold from hell” that seemed to make the extra long winter of 07-08 all the longer. This necessitated several trips to the clinic, meds, more docs, more meds, and a new appreciation for people who experience chronic diseases. It didn’t help that I was running a fever during Super Bowl Sunday and also working at a conference in Rockport. For those who are New England Patriots fans, we want to forget that day. For those who are New York Giants fans, we want to never forget. And, for those like me who are both well, let’s just say I was too sick to care.

We got some sad news in late February that Uncle Bob Brandt had passed away. Uncle Bobby - as I prefer - was my father’s youngest brother and one of the happiest people I’ve ever known. The sadness of his passing was elevated by the opportunity for just about all of the Brandt cousins to get together with Aunt May to celebrate Bobby’s life at a wonderful memorial service that was held in Bristol, Connecticut. Though none of the “Bristol Brandts” live in Connecticut anymore, it was a central location and close to where Uncle Bobby’s many friends were.

You may recall that Sister Mary celebrated her 50th birthday in 2006 and we were not able to pull together the family reunion she had requested until this summer. With the aid of Cousin Ralph and his wife Schley, we were able to secure a beautiful cottage at Point O’Woods in South Lyme, CT. As kids, this is the place where we spent two weeks each summer and so two weeks in August 2008 – 40 years later - seemed like the right thing to do. The Brooklyn Brandts, aided by some of the Wethersfield Brandts, Bristol Brandts, the Ivoryton Astles and the Merry McShanes (aka the Merry Macs from Ossining) helped to make the time special and enhanced the celebration of both Sigrid’s and Mary’s birthdays.

The not so pleasant experiences of the year included one of my two jobs evaporating, astronomically high energy prices and the general queasiness of the economy. All of these came about in the last quarter of the year and has made for some interesting conversation. And that’s all I’ll be saying about that!

I will spare you any political commentary other than to remind you that it was an election year (in case you forgot) and with that there appears to be – at least for now – a sense of hope and renewal. I am not ready to say that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but I am having a good feeling about things to come and I hope that this feeling is contagious.

So here’s to wishing you and yours the Merriest of Christmases and the Hope and Happiness of the New Year. As I extend my best wishes to you and yours, may you all be safe and warm; and may God Bless You.


PS: The image on the Christmas card this year is from some old 8mm home movies that Sister Sigrid converted into DVDs for Christmas last year.

First Snow

I just recorded the first snow of the season in Augusta, Maine. The forecast is that it will be warming during the night and turning to rain. So since it will likely (hopefully) be gone by morning, I took these at 9:00 pm - November 30, 2008.



Thursday, November 27, 2008


I read this in the local paper the other day though the story is several weeks old. But it "bares" repeating:

The owners of the company that makes the Whizzinator, a prosthetic penis used to mask illegal drug use, were charged yesterday in federal court with conspiracy to defraud the government and are expected to plead guilty.

Gerald Wills, the president of Puck Technology, based in Signal Hill, Calif., and Robert D. Catalano, the vice president, are charged in a 19-page criminal information of conspiracy for selling two different products that mask illegal substances in a user's urine.

The products, the Whizzinator and Number 1, are sold through the company's Web sites.

What the Puck??? Ya can't make this stuff up...Here is the complete story from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Traditions

Speaking of A-holes...
I know this is in poor taste (and I am not referring to the photo on this page - talk about A-holes!), but I had to share this story from The Onion with everyone:

26-Year-Old To See Every Asshole He Ever Went To High School With On Night Before Thanksgiving

While not as vicious as these experiences, I too did partake in this annual rite of passage for a number of years following high school. My conditions were enhanced with an annual basketball game at the HS played with a team made up of current faculty and some alums vs. the Varsity. Always an ugly scene.

This was followed by free beer in the cafeteria. At the last one I attended - some time in the early 1970s - I recall watching a group of my "A-hole friends" build a pyramid made out of Schaffer beer cans and then knock them down. It was hilarious at the time. A-holeism was rampant in those days - as now; I suffer from it too.

In later years, this activity was replaced by an annual trip to the Little Neck Inn on Northern Blvd. They served up a free turkey dinner all night on the Wednesday before T-Day. Always nice to prime the pump with plenty of tryptophan .

Gobble gobble.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out Kid...

Jean Shepherd age 17
Ah, it's getting to that time of the year. I saw my first Christmas lights a few weeks ago and it won't be long before we are sitting around the old TV and watching The Christmas Story marathon on TBS.

As a way of getting you all into the nostalgic mood, and to prep you for the 25th Anniversary of said movie, I am linking to a story in today's paper about the real Jean Shepherd and his real house in northwest Indiana. It seems the real Shepherd, just like his cinematic character, did things all kids did; he wrote his name up in the attic of the family homestead located in the Hessville section of Hammond, Indiana.

It's a great little story about the family that lives there now and the history of the house and the Shepherd family.

Enjoy and Flick Lives!


Saturday, November 08, 2008

More West Wing

Josh Lyman

Continuing in the "life mimics art"category, I read in this article about "Rahmbo" Rahm Emanuel stating, "The congressman (Emanuel) himself has been cited as an inspiration for presidential aide Josh Lyman on 'The West Wing.'"

You may recall that the character, played by actor Bradley Whitford, serves as an Deputy Chief of Staff to President Jed Bartlet only to step down (in the last two seasons of the show) to become the campaign manager for Rep. Matt Santos who runs for president. I had forgotten this part... (from Wikipedia)

After Matt Santos is elected President of the United States in a narrow victory over Republican Senator Arnold Vinick, Josh becomes the White House Chief of Staff of the incoming Santos Administration.

Since the TV show The West Wing was full of drama and scary things (assassination attempts, kidnapping of the President's daughter, etc.) I hope that the similarities with the show end here.

Stay tuned.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Same Outcome?

The White House

A friend just sent me the New York Times article comparing the current presidential campaign in the United States with the plot of the TV show "The West Wing."

First, I have to admit that I loved The West Wing. I remember the coming attractions in the summer of 1999 (hard to believe that was nearly ten years ago...ouch!) The cast, the acting, the directing, the plot, I loved it all. Well, at least at first. I think the show did "jump the shark" in 2001 with its rather bizarre fantasy/reality attempt at making sense of the senselessness of 9-11, but apart from this, it was some of the best television of my lifetime; and I HAVE watched a lot of TV.

I remember running into Jimmy Smits one night on a street in Santa Monica. I was looking at one of those cheeky California dress shops that were over the top in design and outrageous in price. Looking into the window I was muttering to myself and turned to my colleague to made some more disparaging remarks about the absurdity of the shop wares and the apparent idiocy of the locals for shopping in such a place when I recognized Smits standing two feet from me. It caused me to stop mid-sentence and do the proverbial double take. Our eyes met and he had clearly heard what I had said. I smiled and nodded. Years of driving a taxi cab in NYC had taught me to not fuss over celebrities. I knew they generally appreciated to be ignored when in this kind of public setting. I nodded at Smits and he nodded back, his arm clenched around a diminutive young woman who probably loved this dress shop. Later I thought of many wonderful and witty things that I could have said at that moment: "Hey, Jimmy, what's two guys from Brooklyn doing in a place like 'dis?" But I held my tongue and walked off.

So, when Jimmy Smits turned up as the quintessential "minority" candidate to run for the presidency to replace President Jed Bartlet, I felt a sense of completeness and pride. After all, Jed Bartlet and I were practically neighbors. The character played my Martin Sheen was supposed to be the distant direct descendant of the real-life Josiah Bartlett, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. From 1979-1983, I lived in the town of Bartlett, NH and worked in the Josiah Bartlett Elementary School. It only made sense in my fantasy that my old neighbor from NH would be replaced by my old neighbor from Brooklyn.

When Barack Obama appeared on the scene some 20-something months ago, his eyes firmly on the White House, I immediately thought of The West Wing, President Bartlet and Congressman Matt Santos. Honestly, I secretly thought Aaron Sorkin might have been snorting a little too much of the happy stuff when he came up with that plot line. It was too much of a stretch, even for Hollywood.

In the beginning I thought the same about Obama. Twenty month later and four days before the biggest election in my lifetime I wonder if my fantasy will continue.

We will have to stay tuned to see how the plot turns out. But, I must tell you...I am praying for the same outcome.

Please remember to vote on November 4th. The world is counting on you!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Feeling Patriotic?

We are getting to that time of year when there is a lot of talk about patiotism and duty. Somebody sent me a link to this YouTube video. It seemed to be appropriate to share.

Please remember to VOTE!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Old Fogie?

A year or so ago I read an article about microblogging on the MSNBC blog site. The writer talked about how "old people" don't understand the concept of microblogging. She states:

I’m betting the majority of all these Twitter-hatin’ cranks are war-torn veterans of Web 1.0. They’ve been through the bubble and bust. They experienced the unbridled excitement of wicked-cool technology with all it promises … and they got burned. Bearing all the cynicism that typifies Generation X, these Twitter-haters sneer at un-jaded Generation Y with anticipatory schadenfreude and jealousy. Yes, jealously. Admit it or not, inability to immediately embrace Twitter means you’re old.

As a direct assault on my ego, I took this as a challenge and have been trying to "like" Twitter...with not much success... since then. I admit, I don't get it. Ultimately the author also states, "Twitter, then, is the latest evidence of the Paris Hiltoning of America." God help us.

The other thing I don't get is Second Life and the whole gaming thing. Yes, I was a "junior exploder" as a youth but born way before the age when little boys were given GameBoys for their first birthday. We got Erector Sets. I apparently missed that critical period of gameboy development or "D&D" indoctrination and never have been able to find any value in having an avatar or a magic sword. 

The latest assault on my ego comes in the form of a political commentary blog which has been tearing up the blogosphere in the last two days. From someone calling themselves Hedgehog and using LiveJournal, they have created what is apparently a comical faux IM transcript between and among the presidential candidates of the 2008 election cycle. It is written in the venacular of gamers and using an IM scripting model. I didn't get this either. I am sure there are people out there who understand "I rift in from Sigil!  I'm a Chaotic Neutral Tiefling Barbarian/Monk/Rogue!" - but not me. 

I'm betting none of the presidential characters mentioned in this piece understand it either. Should we be concerned? 

May the Force be With You.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Thomas Friedman's New Book


I just heard that Thomas Friedman, author of "The World is Flat" has written a new book. It's called "The World is Flat Broke."


Saturday, October 04, 2008

Everyone Loves Sarah?

Everyone loves Sarah?

Week in Review

The debatable: Last night's vice presidential debate caused sparks locally when an intoxicated thief stole a life-sized cardboard cutout of Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin from a Bangor Young Republican's debate-watching party at Bleecher's Sports Bar in Bangor, according to a press release from the Bangor Republican City Committee. The thief ran with Palin to a get-away car in the
parking lot and managed to peel away with Alaska's governor despite a scuffle
with a young Republican.

It wasn't me - I swear!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Apple Store

The Apple People opened an Apple Store in the Maine Mall in South Portland today. It was a much awaited and heralded affair. So I went to visit the store on a quest...


Monday, August 25, 2008

A Lighthouse in Maine Needs Your Help

The folks at Jeld-Wen Company, makers of windows and doors, are holding a contest which will decide who gets a FREE face lift with a complete set of new windows and doors. According to, "the Pemaquid Point lighthouse is a finalist in a national contest, but it's trailing, and needs people to vote. The lighthouse looks pretty good for its age - more than 170 years old. The Pemaquid Point lighthouse is a monument to the work and skill and ruggedness that built Maine.

So help us out and VOTE for Pemaquid Point!!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

How I (Almost) Failed Sex Education

By John Eric Brandt

I exited the men’s room and found Tony C waiting anxiously to speak to me outside. We were attending a college reunion and, for many of us, this was the first time we had seen each other in years. Tony had heard I was attending the reunion and had been searching for me most of the evening.

Grasped in his arm was a small, middle aged woman looking a bit uncomfortable about the circumstance. We were, after all, standing in front of a men’s room.

It has been about 33 years since I had last seen Tony and, except for a head full of gray hair, he looked essentially the same as I remembered him. One of those perpetually happy characters back in the college years, Tony C always had a quip or humorous comment to make about the world. He had a face that made you want to smile.

We were not particularly close friends in those years, but I soon learned that we had shared a painful experience back then that apparently had affected him as much as it had me. He was anxious to find me to confirm the story.

“This is my wife, Marie. I have been telling her about you for years. Now, tell her the story?”

I smiled at Marie and initially expressed confusion as to what Tony was talking about.

“You know, tell her about the Sex Ed course and Michelle. I’ve been telling my wife this story for years and she never believed me. Now you can confirm my story.”

I started to laugh loudly.

“Oh. you mean the time we almost failed sex education?”

By now Tony was hysterical. “Yes, yes, tell her, tell her!” he shouted bending over in pained glee.

I had forgotten Tony was in the same class. I reminded him of a third fellow victim, Bobby S, who had also been in the famous 1975 class. Bobby S was a fire plug of a guy, short and tough. A valued member of the college hockey team, Bobby was missing two or three teeth. That winter he was always wearing a bandage on some part of this body.

It was the final spring semester in our senior year at St. Francis College, a rather conservative Catholic institution located in Brooklyn Heights. In the early 70s the college was trying bold new approaches to education and a 400-level psychology course, Human Sexuality, seemed to fit the bill.

“Yeah, Bobby! Yeah Bobby was there too.”

It was supposed to be “an easy A” by my calculations. Being a psychology major, I figured this newly posted elective course might propel me to a higher grade point average and give me the opportunity to graduate with honors. A “cum laude” announced after my name at graduation would sound nice and likely come in handy down the road of my chosen career path.

Collectively, Tony, Bobby and I made up the only three members of the male gender in this historic educational experience. We, of course, did not know the agonizing significance of this at the time, and it would not have made a difference. After all, how difficult could a course in human sexuality be? We had all just recently experienced the “summer of love” and I figured this was going to be, well, groovy. Added to this, for safe measure, was the fact that the course instructor was none other than Michelle M, the associate dean of students and a woman who was the faculty advisor for one of the college clubs I belonged to. She was someone I use to see daily, someone I would speak to on a first name basis, she was – a friend. This was going to be easy.

The course began in the bowels of winter and moved along smoothly for about a week or two. Then our first assignment was given and things started to change. Our assignment was to view an Ingmar Bergman film and write a multiple page “reaction paper. Exuding in confidence, I figured this would be a piece of cake.

“Scenes from a Marriage,” a 1974 production, is described on the Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB) as follows: “The movie … follows the relationship of Marianne and Johan as they separate, engage in extramarital affairs, bond, re-bond and eventually divorce. Their relationship continues after the divorce, it seems this is a couple that can't stay away from each other, though they argue most of the time.”

Well, being the ripe old age of 21 and still a virgin in every sense of the word, I knew little if anything about marriage and divorce, and absolutely nothing about extra marital affairs. So, in an effort to give my best Gene Shalit review of the Bergman classic, I proceeded to pen a real winner of a reaction paper. Analyzing the plot from several angles, I provided great and deep insight to Bergman’s use of shadows and light. It was one of my more sophisticated and erudite works; a real page turner.

Thus it came as a bit of a shock to see a large “D” on the top my page along with lots of red marks and comments throughout the paper indicating that the instructor believed I had obviously “missed the point” and was not “expressing my true feelings!” I had indeed expressed my “true feelings” the movie was boring and stupid. I sensed danger.

I explained all this to Tony’s wife as he stood next to her, strenuously nodding in full agreement. By now we had thankfully walked away from the entrance to the men’s room into the cafeteria and Marie was appearing to recognize the similarities in my story with that which Tony had apparently been gracing her for years. Up until that point I thought I had suffered this disgrace singularly, but apparently I wasn’t the only victim. Ah, the joys of youth.

I continued in my explanation about how we soon discovered the classroom was filled with “angry women,” mostly middle aged nursing students who frequently appeared to feed off each other’s anger, commiserating in great detail about the inequity in their lives and collectively hating their husbands and boyfriends – indeed all men. Each week their voices grew more and more shrill until they reached a crescendo calling for the castration of all males over the age of 10. By now I had moved our little trio to a quiet corner of the college cafeteria and we sat down to continue the conversation. I crossed my legs in reflexive action.

Needless to say, we the three, non-female members of the class volunteered very little to the discussion that semester. We usually sat slumped in our chairs in a corner of the room wishing we were elsewhere. We spoke little to each other at that time, apparently all oblivious to the shared pain we were experiencing.

By midterm I was riding a D+ in the course and the fun was just beginning. In desperation I made an appointment with Michelle in part hoping to convince her I was trying by best, and in part hoping to reestablish my position in the human race; or at least my half of the human race. Ultimately, I hoped to at least salvage a passing grade for the course. The effort was doomed from the beginning.

“You’re just not being honest,” I was told in no uncertain terms. Apparently the truth that I was a complete retard when it came to matters of the heart didn’t matter to Michelle. She seems totally insensitive to my plight and apparently assumed all men were liars. I skulked out of her office, my tail between my legs, verbally castrated.

Things only got worse after that. Several time a month, Michelle brought in a guest speaker to the class. Nearly all were female and shared the same “male bashing” mind-set. The only two “men” she brought into class were a transsexual (he-to-she, she-to-he, I can’t remember) and a “latent homosexual” man who had decided at age 50 to come out of the closet and ask his wife of 20 years for a divorce. He spent a great deal of the evening detailing how he tried to explain this revelation to his teenage children. Apparently, his wife needed little convincing.

By the end of the semester I was wasted and angry. All hope for a happy ending was out the window. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

I ended my little story by telling Tony and his wife that I had “barely passed” the course with a C or C- and, of course, missed graduating with honors. I also told them that the last person I saw at graduation that otherwise momentous day in June 1975 was Michelle standing at the edge of the stage; a tight smirk on her face. She had won that battle and I was the living proof. I explained to Tony and Marie that I had to strongly resist the tremendous urge to spit in her eye.

The conversation with Tony C and his wife that evening, while funny, was completely true. Over the years it has led me to often wonder why I have been an absolute klutz when it came to - how should we say this - interpersonal relationships. Recently, I think I discovered the reason.

While digging through my storage closet in search of old photographs, I came across three shopping bags full of stuff from my father. Dad died in 1996 and, like me, was part squirrel; he kept everything. In the collection were theme books of his from eighth grade, old newspapers and magazines, and every letter, Christmas card, post card, and birthday card I had sent him from 1972 to the day of his death. All of this was collected by my siblings and delivered to me when we sold the family compound in 2004 after my mother had died. In my grief of my Dad’s death, I had never opened the bags figuring I would do so some day, but knowing instinctively it would be an emotionally draining experience.

Packed away among the aged and yellowing baby pictures of cute little John Eric in his sailor suit, stuffed away among the first grade report card, photos of my First Communion, my first grade Christmas pageant, the snapshot of eight year-old me sitting on Santa’s lap, was a small blue booklet: “The Story of Life” by Ellis W. Whiting. The subtitle states, “An intelligent answer to the question, ‘Mother, where do babies come from?’”

I handled the booklet carefully and examined the opening page. It looked vaguely familiar. With a photograph of the stoic and circumspect Mr. Whiting himself proudly displayed at the top of the first page, the book begins:

In his message to parents Ellis W. Whiting says:

“Your reward for telling the story FIRST will be that you, rather than any playmate, will be your child’s confidant for future questions on this and allied subjects…and you will be able to offer friendly counsel whenever it is needed to help solve any vital problem of life.
“’Where do babies come from Mother?’ Most of us are confused and uncertain when called on to answer our child’s first innocent questions about sex. We don’t know what to say (italics his). Here is a character-building solution to this delicate problem, with the EXACT WORDS to use – an accurate, beautifully told story of how life begins.”

Wow, what a treasure. My first thought was that perhaps my parents had FORGOTTEN to read this to me, hence my near fatal experience with Human Sexuality in 1975. But as I pored through the manuscript, the words sounded eerily familiar.

Leafing through the brown edged pages I notice that one page had been torn from the volume and then carefully placed back. It was page 23-24, Chapter V “How Our Babies Come Into the World.”

That’s it – this had to be THE most important chapter in the book. Why it was ripped out of the book we’ll never know. Perhaps my father, while preparing for the requisite “man-to-man” talk he would give me at the ripe old age of 11, needed to keep that page handy so he would know the EXACT WORDS to say to me. Good lord.

Chapter V reads as follows:

Now in animals and in people, the babies come into the word just as do the flower babies and seeds. Just as in the flowers, the ovary is the part of the mother’s body which furnishes the seed that helps to make the baby.
There are two ovaries which produce the mother seeds in every mother’s body. These ovaries are right near and connected with the little nest in mother’s body where the baby starts to grow. This part of the mother’s body is just below the “tummy” under mother’s heart, and just below the navel. (Show the child on self.) The part which receives the seed from daddy’s body is the opening in the mother’s body just below this. The part of the daddy’s body which gives the seed to the mother is in about the same place on his body – below the navel and “tummy.”
You see now, _________ (at this point you are supposed to insert your child’s name), that part of your body which you use when you have to urinate (substitute family term in place of urinate), is used also to bring our little babies into the world. As you were told in Chapter IV, this part of your body makes up your sex organs.
Boys and girls should always be careful to bathe often enough to keep these organs clean. They should always think of sex organs as part of the body that are necessary to bring more babies into the world.
Isn’t it wonderful, _________, to think that even you, when you get a little older, will have within your own body the power to help create a new life?

Well, there you have it: the smoking gun, the reason for my apparent and continued confusion, the reason why I practically flunked Human Sexuality.

I’ve read and re-read this passage about a half-dozen times and still can’t figure out what this guy’s talking about. It’s a wonder anyone born in the 1950s were able to figure out how to procreate. It certainly didn’t help me. Little nest? Bring OUR little babies into the world…? My God, who writes this crap?

So, that’s my tale. This explains why there are no little Johnnies running around the house. And, it is all Ellis W. Whiting’s fault.

Damn, I gotta call Tony C. I just wonder if HIS parents read him this book too.

© 2008, Copyright all rights reserved by John Eric Brandt.

Excerpts of “The Story of Life” were first copyrighted in 1933 and last copyrighted in 1961. My understanding is that that copyright expired 20 years later. Attempts to contact the original holder of the copyright were not successful as I suspect that Mr. Whiting has been deceased for some time.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Clean up the mess

Bush Hall

About 20 years ago, I worked at a small independent college along the banks of the Saco River in Biddeford that will remain nameless. One year the college was offered a gift from the local Pratt & Whitney plant of one slightly used waste treatment plant. It was sorely needed since the college was growing and I believe was still using an antiquated septic system. Given the close proximity to the river and ocean, and the college's environmental flair, a waste treatment plant was just what the doctor ordered. The donation was accepted and the equipment was installed in a rather nondescript, one story building down next to the baseball field and tennis courts.

The director of facilities at the time was a guy named Bob Henry who probably did a great job, but apparently was not too popular with the facilities staff. I suspected that the fact that he came to work in a suit and tie did not go over well with the blue-collar-Maine-good-ole-boy mindset. To mark their displeasure, the facilities staff always referred to the new waste treatment plant building as Bob Henry Hall. I thought it was rather clever myself.

Also rather clever is an idea floating around the Internet about a petition to rename a sewage treatment plant in San Francisco for the outgoing chief executive, George Bush. The article states:

The Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco wants to switch the name of the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant to the George W. Bush Sewage
Plant...Proponents of the renaming plan see it as fitting tribute to a
president they contend has plumbed the depths of incompetence.

I think it's a great idea. What do you think?


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Psychic Hotline

I've reacquainted with an old friend who I have not seen or talked to in 30 years. He was turning 50 this year and I decided it was time to contact him. Then the strange things started to happen.

I won't give you the play by play, but rather tell you a story about my "talent" for strangeness or whatever you want to call it.
It starts back in the early 1970s when I first met my friend. Strange coincidences began to occur then with some regularity and I had the occasional premonition. It was all very cool. It was, after all, the 70s and this kind of thing was part of the ambiance of the times.

I was attending a small Catholic college in Brooklyn Heights. In I think my sophomore year which would have been circa 1972 I signed up for an elective course called The Religion of the Occult. It was taught by the chair of the Theology/Religious Studies department - a brilliant teacher who always made his courses fun. He filled us with convincing conversations, discussions and readings about all forms of supernatural studies and he even had a guy who was a self-professed Warlock serve as a regular guest speaker. Well this guy, Mike, was one of the strangest guys on the planet - even for 1972. He had had that special experimental stomach surgery to help him lose weight and had already lost hundreds of pounds. But the remaining flesh hung from his body like an old coat. He also had rather prominent facial features, prematurely thinning hair and, like all self-respected warlocks, was always dressed in black.

One day after class, Mike pulled me aside and told me he had something important to tell me. I went along with the flow even though I sensed something creepy was about to happen. Mike moved closer and told me I had "it." The "it" was not defined. Further questioning by me could not bring about a definitive answer. I was simply told, I had "it." I thanked him and tried to leave. Turns out Mike needed to "test" me to confirm his hunches about "it" and we made arrangements to meet outside this remote storage room located behind Founders Hall later in the afternoon. The storage room was home to a derelict baby grand piano and the general accouterments that one would find in a store room located behind a stage - theatrical lighting equipment, sound equipment, etc. Mike escorted me into the room and closed the door. Then he turned off the lights. I imaged I was going to be raped or murdered or both, but it was the 70s and there were always interesting things happening.

"What do you hear?" the ephemeral, mystical voice spoke. Mike tended toward the melodramatic. It must have been something they taught in Warlock College.

I listened carefully. All I could hear was the sound of the air coming out of air conditioning duct in the ceiling.

"I hear the A/C, Mike."

"Listen carefully." Mike didn't sound happy.

A few minutes went by and the AC was still doing its thing. Sorry, as much as I wanted to hear them, there were no voices from the dead or other celestial creatures calling to me, just the steady scouring sound of air moving through a ceiling vent.

Mike tried a different tact.

"What do you see?" Again his spooky voice just barely audible.

I looked around and all I could see was the thin strip of light leaking under the door to the storage room from the outside corridor.

I told Mike I could see the light. He seemed disappointed. I figured I was failing the test. I better try harder or I was going to be send to warlock detention.

"Tell me, John...what do you feel...?"

I figured rape was now imminent.

"I feel cold, Mike" I stated the obvious. I was standing below that damn AC unit and it was blowing cold air on my head.

"Hmmm. Excellent."

Minutes later we were back outside in the corridor, my virginity intact.

I'm not sure I passed the Warlock Test that afternoon, but lately I been thinking Mike may not have been too far off.

To be continued . . .


Saturday, May 31, 2008

More Animal News

Yesterday's news included another exciting story about animals. "Man hurls hedgehog at teen, pays fine," was the story picked up by the Associated Press and reported in my local news. It seems a teenager in Whakatane, New Zealand was "attacked" by a man wielding a dead hedgehog. The man received a fine for his indiscretion. It was not clear what the teenager did to deserve this treatment.

This just in from National Nine News in Australia:

William Singalargh, 27, was fined for assault and offensive behaviour by a court in the east coast North Island city of Whakatane after a more serious charge of assault with a weapon -- the hedgehog -- was dropped.

Singalargh claimed he was not the phedgehog hurler, but judge Ian Thomas preferred the evidence of other witnesses who identified him by the bright orange trousers he was wearing.

The 15-year-old boy was returning home with two friends when he was confronted by four men on the road outside his home, the court was told.

Singalargh was holding a hedgehog and asked the boy: "Do you want to wear a hedgehog helmet?"

After the boy declined, Singhalargh threw the prickly weapon, leaving a large red welt and four quills lodged in his hip.

When the boy's mother intervened to prevent a second throw, Singalargh pulled down his trousers and exposed his buttocks.

"He admitted to having been in possession of a hedgehog," police Constable Lyndon Reid said.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jersey Drivers

Ford Taurus
If you grew up in New York City, you heard the expression - usually spoken with disparaging adjectives - "Jersey driver." Everyone in New York always assumed the people residing on the other side of the Hudson River were among the worst drivers on the planet.
Now there is proof.

According to an article in yesterday's Portland Press Herald (PPH), a "nationwide survey" by auto insurer GMAC reveals Jersey drivers scored dead last in their knowledge of driving rules.

"Doesn't surprise me at all," said Ken Elias of Edgewater, N.J., who was driving
to Acadia National Park on Friday. "There are a number of really rude drivers in
Jersey. But, hey, it's great to be first in something."
Here in Maine, the disdain for bad drivers is directed towards people from Massachusetts. Indeed in my nearly 30 years in Maine, I have to agree that the folks from Mass are pretty bad, but clearly, in my mind, not as bad as those from The Garden State. According to the survey, Massachusetts drivers came in fourth from the bottom, one step ahead from New York drivers.

According to this same survey, Mainers scored 31st among the state - somewhere around half. So, if asked, I will tell you I am a (great) Maine driver and deny the fact that I learned to drive in New York.
Drive carefully!

PS: I just took the test and scored 95% (one wrong). Take that New Jersey!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Animal Tales

There were three unrelated animal tales in yesterday's paper that made me laugh.

First, a Vietnamese Pot-bellied pig has been running free on the campus of one of Maine's prestigous institutions of higher education, Colby College. According to the Kennebec Journal, "The pig was last under human control when Colby students, who were not identified, had taken the pet pig to a campus cookout, where it slipped its leash, Collins said. The students were not planning to kill the pig at the cookout." Here is the whole story.

The second story is in from Maine. According to the AP article, Blacky, a Mexican donkey was released from jail for biting and kicking two men. My guess is they probably deserved it. Here is the whole story about Blacky.

And last, from Japan, "When Yosuke the parrot flew out of his cage and got lost, he did exactly what he had been taught — recite his name and address to a stranger willing to help." Apparently the owners have been teaching the bird his name and address but the bird was selective in who he spoke to. "'I’m Mr. Yosuke Nakamura,' the bird told the veterinarian, according to Uemura. The parrot also provided his full home address, down to the street number, and even entertained the hospital staff by singing songs." Read more about Yosuke.

Much better than the other news in the papers these days.


Monday, May 05, 2008

PHC in Maine

If you didn't tune in to hear Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion last Saturday night, you missed one of the great performances of the year. One of the featured guests was Maine's own David Mallett who provided an excellent performance. First was a work called Angel Standing followed by a new piece Fishing. Fishing is part of a project called The Fable True, based upon the words of Henry David Thoreau and celebrates the 150 anniversary of Thoreau's final trip to Maine. You can get more info about Dave and the new album on his website.

Mallett also closed the show with "the Maine state theme song," The Garden Song which itself is celebrating a 30th anniversary. There couldn't have been a dry eye in the house.

But not to despair! PHC is streamed on-line and can be listen to by visiting the website. Here is the link to the May 3rd show.

Get Your Choo-Choo On!


"To raise awareness of the vital role rail plays in our nation’s transportation system, Amtrak will celebrate its first annual National Train Day during six weeks of celebrations culminating on Saturday, May 10, 2008.
"On May 10 Amtrak will host events at four of its largest stations, Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where visitors may take part in a variety of activities including live musical performances, exhibits, trip planning, VIP appearances and trip giveaways. Serving as spokesperson for National Train Day is television personality Al Roker. Mr. Roker will experience, first-hand, the benefits of rail travel when he travels from New York to Washington, by train, for the day’s festivities."
There is even a place on the website to vote on your favorite "train song." Sorry my two were not among the choices provided. My all time favorite is City of New Orleans written by Steve Goodman but made famous by Arlo Gurthrie and Pennsylvania Sunrise by Dave Mallett. More on Dave in another blog.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It's the Economy, Stupid!

This was the phrase that set the mood in the 1992 election when Bill Clinton ran against, and beat, George Bush I. It should well be the theme for the 2008 elections, but apparently the issue is not the same everywhere.

On a recent trip to Connecticut a few weeks ago, I was amazed to see the local mall filled with people at 9:00 PM on a Friday evening. Here in Augusta, the Target that opened last month often looks like a ghost town.
As I had to wait for a table at the Ruby Tuesdays in that mall, I struck up a conversation with a local dude who was sucking down a few brews at the bar. "I guess you guys don't know there's a recession on..." I announced. He agreed, but we both noted that things in Connecticut looked a bit more green that in other places.

This insight has been confirmed in a series of news articles (and this article too) that have appeared in the last few days. It seems that if you live in an oil-rich state like Louisiana or Texas, you got money coming out of your ears. If, on the other hand, your state depends on others for energy - and you tend to use a lot of energy, as we do here in Maine - you're screwed.

I guess it should not come as a surprise when former Governor Angus King suggested we build a army of wind generators off the coast and get into the energy business ourselves. I'm sure his millionaire buddies who "own" the Coast are not happy with that suggestion.

Seems to me that there really is only one short-term solution for Maine. We gotta reduce our energy consumption - and we gotta do it real fast.

The long-term solution is to establish an energy policy in this country that eliminates, or dramatically reduces dependence on foreign sources of energy.

And I don't expect any former - or current - presidents from Texas to be helping Mainers out any time soon.


Friday, April 18, 2008

King Korn

When I saw the coming attractions in my monthly Maine PBS viewing guide that there was going to be an independent film called King Corn shown, I quickly assumed it would be about King Korn trading stamps, those orange and gold flecks of paper that, as a youth, I had spent innumerable hours licking and sticking into trading stamp books. All the rage in 1964, the trading stamps were given away to patrons at grocery stores and gas stations all around America.

But the King Corn here is an independent film about...corn. I strongly encourage everyone to see this film if it comes close to your home or on your TV. It is a real eyeopener.

The film is about two young dudes who, upon learning that their bodies are made mostly of carbon made from corn, decide to move from Boston to Iowa and arrange with a local farmer to grow an acre of corn. After planting and fertilizing, the boys have plenty of time to discover what happens to the corn growing in their field. It is a fascinating discovery.

Not surprisingly, if you Google the words King Corn (or King Korn), you will find a paid ad from the Corn Refiners Association disputing the findings of the film. Geez, you'd think they would be thrilled by all of the free advertising. But Corporate America is obviously paranoid, and well protected by the powers in Washington.

In addition to MPBN, King Corn will be shown in Portland, ME next Friday, April 25th at SPACE

Can't wait, check out King Corn on You Tube.


Monday, April 14, 2008

My Footprint

We Can Solve the Climate Crisis
I just finished watching the National Geographic Channel's special called the Human Footprint. I am pleased to say that overall I think I am doing better than most of the statistics they threw up on the show. There is no way I consume all that milk in one year.

The show got me thinking about my old buddy Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth. I understand he has put his energies into supporting a new effort to combat global climate change. That effort is called The Alliance for Climate Protection. And their big effort is called We Can Solve It. Check them out.

Now I have to go back to the National Geographic website and take the personal consumption test to see how well I am actually doing.

12,129 hamburger buns in one lifetime? Please!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Where ya been?

I know, I know. I'm a fair weather blogger.

The problem is I am maintaining - or trying to maintain - three blogs and when things get crazy, the blogs suffer.

Anyway, I am sitting in a Marriott Courtyard in Farmington, CT. I'll be attending the memorial service for my Uncle Bob Brandt who died last month in Florida. Uncle Bob - or as we called him - Uncle Bobby - was the youngest in his family of four children and the last of his generation of Brandts. It will be an emotional day.

Anyway, I arrived here around 7:30 and headed over to the local mall, Westfarms, and had dinner at the Ruby Tuesdays.

I guess no one told the people of central Connecticut that there is a national recession and everyone is suppose to be hold up in their depreciating homes waiting for the end of the world. At 9:15 pm the mall is mobbed with people. Folks are still waiting in line to get a table at RT and the parking lot is still filled.



Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sweet Caroline

I was traveling home from Washington, DC two weeks ago and picked up the Sunday New York Times at Union Station. First, I was a little freaked by having to pay over $5 for a newspaper, but I figured it would keep me occupied for several hours.

I used to read the Sunday Times when I lived in New York. We were initially a Herald Tribune family and only became a Times family when the Trib went out of existance. New York has two kinds of people: Times people and Daily News people. People don't read the Post.

So, there I was, streaming along in the Acela at 130 mph reading the Sunday Times and sipping on some orange juice.

And then I read something that brought tears to my eyes.

"OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they
wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did
when my father was president..."

My mind returned to a time many years ago. Thoughts of two small children on a cold day in late November who had just lost their father. A few years later they would lose an uncle. Both deaths were violent and crushed the nation's spirit. My interest in politics was born with the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. My sense of cynicism was born when Bobby was murdered.

Can I/we risk taking a chance on another charasimatic politician.

Caroline ends with, "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them."

In understand completely.


I am a Patriot

I'm a New Yorker, by birth. I am a Giants fan, by birth. Nearly 30 years ago I moved to Maine. I became a Patriots fan about that time. I am a Patriot fan by design.

I love Bill Belichick. My family in NY hates Bill Belichick for "what he did to the Jets." New Yorkers hold grudges for a long time.

I love Tom Brady. I "dislike" the Mannings, especially Peyton. Tom's all about team, Peyton is all about himself.

It was a great NFL season to be a Pats fan. I watched some of the great football this season. I didn't really care if they went 19-0. In fact, I was hoping the streak would end at 16 or 15. I would have been fine if the Giants had one that game at the end of the season and the Pats entered into the post-season with one loss. It would have sparked something. Had the Giants one that first game in December, I am convinced the Patriots would be the World Champs again.

I am looking forward to next year.

I am a patriot.


Where Ya Been?

I've been sick. I've had the crud for over three weeks and I sick of being sick. This has been the cold from hell. It started on the January 13th with a hacking cough that felt like my lungs were going to turn inside-out. By Monday I was in bed with a fever. But the killer part of this bug is that it comes and goes. By the following Saturday, I was just starting to feel better and on Sunday, I was back in bed with a 101 degree fever.

A trip to the doctors, antibiotic prescription, bad reaction to the meds, and another week of hacking and sneezing and I was feeling better only to have another relapse. And then another.

Others who have apparently had this same bug this winter are reporting the same results.

My advice - don't get it. Put on a surgical mask and don't go near anyone who is sick.

I turn 55 this week. I hope I make it.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Winter? Doah!

Last week I work up one morning and it was -5 degrees F. This was part of a month of below average temperatures in Maine with lots of snow.

Today, I awoke to 40 degree tempurature and it hit a high of 61 in Portland (about 57 here in Augusta).

Anyway, my Homer Chia Pet seemed to like it.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

A couple of months ago I discovered that the television signal I was receiving at my house had about a 5-6 second delay. This was determined one day when I was on the phone with a friend in southern Maine and he was watching the same TV program that I was and he was seeing it before I was. We speculated that it was probably because Augusta was "just a little behind the rest of the world" and laughed it off. But the effect became rather noticeable last night when Dick Clark "rocked in the New Year" about six seconds later than the time on my atomic clock. You see I am one of those loonies that has four atomic clocks in the house and I even set my watch to it. As someone who is perpetually late, you would think I'd have no interest in the exact time, but precision has always fascinated me.

In between my fussing about the the time, I have been having fun observing the extreme weather we have been experiencing here in Maine this early winter. December may have broken some records in the amount of snow received and the temperatures have been well below average. I've posted some photos here and on Flickr of latest snowstorm. This was the largest so far with just under a foot of fresh powder recorded. And the fun part is that another foot it forecast for tonight into tomorrow. Despite the vast open expanses of this great state, we Mainers are actually running out of places to put all this white stuff. So, if you want some, c'mon up and help yourself.

Anyway, I celebrated the new year from the comfort of my recliner in my living room, warm and relaxed. I hope you all have been as fortunate and have a bountiful, peaceful and happy new year.