Saturday, May 31, 2008

After the Crash

Standing outside in the misty dark, Jess felt unusually still. A rusty pipe propped open the door of the tin shed, its butt end digging into the gravel driveway. The single dim bulb in the shed revealed a green John Deere and the dusty clutter of four decades -- old car bumpers, boxes of paper, pitchfork, rusted garden tools and oily engine parts. The sepia haze made the whole scene appear fuzzy and colorless as if draped in a shroud of gauze. Only the green John Deere reflected any color, sitting in a cleared space in the midst of, but seemingly detached from, the labyrinth of rubble. Hank Denmark stood alongside the rear wheel of the tractor, his cap pulled snug over his brow.

"It's got to get more gas!" he shouted to Stanley Ross, who had climbed up into the tractor's seat and was now attempting to disengage the clutch. Stanley pulled the stick up, and then back part way.

"It needs more oil here," Stan said animatedly, pointing.

Hank told him why it had to be stiff like that, and stepped away as the engine turned over, the old John Deer lurching backward with a heave.

Stan quickly cut it off. "This thing's dangerous!" he laughed, dropping down now from the green behemoth.

Jess looked across the way to a street lamp softly diffusing its light through the evening fog. The thickness of the moist misty night made everything seem strange, Hank and Stan, too. Their bodies seemed thicker, bulkier, more real.

Hank and Stan closed their business with the tractor and shuffled out of the shed, hard heels making a gritty sound on the gravel. Hank turned out the light.

Over by the truck Hank asked a question about a guy who had recently returned to town who was now divorced. Jess continued watching and listening as the two men talked on, standing in the shadow of Stan's box-shaped truck. A loudspeaker was blaring from some remote distance, but not enough to distract from the story Stan was telling.

After a while Hank said, "Let's go in the house." The temperature had been dropping quickly.

The three went inside but feeling awkward and alone Jess said goodnight and stepped back out again, a nauseous churning in his gut.

He wondered how much of his life work the computer tech would be able to recover, and why he hadn’t backed up more often. And how did it happen this time? All this technology is called progress, but in times like these he wondered. There was something attractive about the idea of just being a farmer. Or maybe a worm. That one made him laugh. Sightless simplicity, a dark dirty life.

Wishing there were more things that made him laugh, he folded his arms across his chest and shivered against the cold.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The M Zone

The revelation came suddenly. Like an “Aha!”... only it was an “Oh no!”

Richard Busby slumped into his chair, leaned his head back and stared off into space, attempting to make himself deaf to what he was hearing. “This is verified?” he asked, referring to the data in a report that had fallen from his hand.

“Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir,” Dr. Frey, Director of R&D, said.

Busby’s brain was numb. Even though he’d begun to suspect it, had himself experienced the effects, he had remained in denial. “Do you realize what this means?” Busby asked.

Frey nodded, the small, thin line of mouth grimly expressionless. His dark eyes scanned the desktop and came to rest on the latest Forbes, which featured the ten most significant men of the first half of the 21st century. There, alongside Bill Gates, the world’s first trillionaire, was Richard Busby, developer of the M Zone.

In the instant of Busby’s epiphany his whole life flashed. His birthday in 1991. His celebrated experiments in computer design at age twelve. His national awards for innovation in computer aided brain mapping while still a teen. His leadership on the A.I. Research Team at Stanford resulting in the development of silicon implants to improve memory. His discoveries regarding the nature of memory, including his reknowned theorem that memory is a series of hyperlinked rooms in an endless hallway, each room filled with neural impressions braiding internal and external stimuli.

His father had been an entrepeneur who distrusted government. Like his father he brought his ideas to the marketplace. Eventually he founded a company of his own with enough venture capital to attract the best minds from around the world. His breakthrough using wet wire connectivity allowed computer hardware to be intergrated with brain synapses.

His chief claim to fame had been the development of the M Zone product line. By means of a cerebral probe a person could locate and re-experience memories. Busby verified, in his early research, that each memory is contained in a tiny shell or room within the brain, draped in such a manner as to both reveal and conceal it. When properly stimulated, the full and complete memory is revived and re-experienced.

Connections between man and technology were nothing new. The twentieth century saw the development of pacemakers, cochlear implants, pain relief modules and other forms of embedded electronics. Implantation of chips inside the heads of paraplegics to interpret brain signals and silicon retinal implants to recover sight were ancient history now.

Utilizing the M Zone Activator (MZA) one could safely locate, experience and re-experience the best times of one’s life. Once approved by the FDA and BGS the patented MZA took the world by storm. At first it was presented as a means to comfort people in their twilight years. Before long Busby’s marketing team exploited the general consumer markets with ads like, “Relive the Best Times of Your Life!” and “Can Memory Be More Real Than Reality? Try It & See” and “Deja View? Yes, You May!”

After its much ballyhooed market introduction the safety of the product had never been questioned. Testing showed that memory could be re-played endlessly without being damaged. Or so Busby had been told. Richard Busby never realized that Dr. Frey had not allowed his staff to present contrary findings. It was only a matter of time before inklings of a terrible truth began to emerge. The tech support hotline began receiving complaints from people who had trouble finding and dialing in their favorite memories. Tech support staff insisted that the product was not being used properly. The problems were designated user error. That the MZA was slowly and imperceptibly depleting the contents of each memory until it was used up seemed inconceivable.

When Busby learned of the increasing number of complaints he requested new studies. The truth had not been discovered in part because memories are like a gas which expands to fill the space available within a container. While being depleted the gas thins but is still present. Likewise a nearly depleted memory can be re-lived in full force. Holographic in nature, one atom of memory contains the whole. But when that last atom has been tapped, there is only a void and nothingness. A blank. An empty shell.

With horror Richard Busby understood what the MZA was doing. With an M Zone Activator in nearly every home in the civilized world his invention was erasing the best memories in human history. Everyone who had purchased his product would eventually erase all of their good memories, memories designed to comfort us in our old age when memory is all that we have.

Formerly heralded as a hero, he now realizes that he has unwittingly been worse than a fiend. His face is pale as he turns away from Dr. Frey and stares at the wall, then closes his eyes.

When he opens them again he is seated in a plush cushioned chair at his cabin on Lake Tweed. He glances down at the MZA which which is connected to his cerebrum via the electronic probe. On a notepad he is making hashmarks, four downstorkes and a diagonal, four downstrokes and a diagonal. He counts 194 strokes. “Only 306 to go,” he mutters to himself. “If I’m lucky.”

He leans forward once more, doublechecks the settings and pushes the button.

The revelation came suddenly. Like an “Aha!”... only it was an “Oh no!”

Richard Busby slumped into his chair, leaned his head back and stared off into space, attempting to make himself deaf to what he was hearing. “This is verified?” he asked, referring to the data in a report that had fallen from his hand.

“Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir,” Dr. Frey, Director of R&D, said.

More Original Short Stories by Ed Newman HERE

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Aqua, Por Favor

I woke this morning to a strange sound coming from my basement, a repeating periodic tone, a vibration of sorts. When I got up to go to the bathroom and get a drink of water, I learned what it was. My well pump was no longer functioning. We were without water.

It made me think of a scene from the film No Country For Old Men. Llewelyn Moss comes across a drug deal gone bad out in the wilderness where he is hunting. In addition to several dead bodies there is a wounded Mexican bleeding in a car. Moss warily approaches. The man looks at him with pleading eyes and says, "Agua. Agua, por favor."

This is what happens when we bleed. We get cold and thirsty. Fluids are essential to life, and without water, whether bleeding or not, we die.

I was reminded of our year in Mexico and a couple of our visits to Mexico City. We stayed for a week with a family in the barrios and learned how precious water is when it is not readily available. Because of the immense population, water was rationed. The water would only be turned on for ninety minutes a day, and the people would fill their 55 gallon drums at that assigned time. The sector we stayed at only had flowing water from three a.m. to four thirty.

To be sure, water is just one of the many conveniences we Americans take for granted.

While my own well was kaput this morning, I did a quick Internet search to see what other parts of the world were experiencing water shortages. Here is just a small portion, and a big reminder that we ought not, can not, take this precious commodity for granted.

From a story about the water and power crisis in Islamabad: "With the arrival of summer, the capital’s water crisis has assumed a new dimension leaving tanks and taps in thousands of homes in several sectors running virtually dry."

Water allocations to farmers need to be cut due to shortages. "Israel can't afford to continue supporting the farming community - from the perspective of water. There just isn't enough, say ministers." ...from story titled "Looming water crisis endangers local food supply."

An article about India's water situation states that the "crisis has reached critical levels."

East Africa
Article titled "A water crisis of unimaginable proportions."

A week long power outage has resulted in fears of an outbreak of cholera due to the bad water situation.

Another story introduces readers to a killer drought that is having a devastating affect in this African nation.

When I mentioned to the two men who came to replace our submersible pump that the experience of being without water (for several hours) led me to think about those whose hardships in this regard were far more grave. I told him I would be writing about it on my blog tonight. He said that he'd be willing to postpone fixing our well for a couple days so that we could have a more intimate understanding of the experience. I thanked him for the gesture, but was pleased when by noon today we had running water again.

Let's not forget the less fortunate. And let's not forget to be grateful for the many things we take for granted.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Scary Realities

A few years ago, I received an unwelcome email from Ohio University, my Alma Mater. Evidently, a hard drive with information about every student from way back whenever was improperly disposed of. My records, including Social Security number and other personal data, happened to have been on this hard drive.

If I recall correctly, the school did take action. (A) They notified us, the potential identity theft victims, and (B) they fired two IT personnel, as if that would somehow help prevent my future identity theft should this info get into the wrong hands.

I graduated Ohio University in 1974. The incident, three decades later, is a somewhat unnerving reminder of how vulnerable we are. How many people have your personal data? How many schools have you attended, places where you have worked, banks that you have done business with, mortgage lenders, hotels that you have stayed at, etc. The list is probably long.

So today, I received a letter from an investment firm through whom I purchased stock securities in the late 1980’s and early nineties. In February of this year one of their boxes of backup tapes of data was evidently missing. The missing tapes contained… guess what? … “certain personal information, such as your name, address, Social Security number and/or shareholder account information.”


So, they are offering twelve months of “free credit monitoring.” Great… like then what? In thirteen months I will still be anxious because, frankly, though I do not lose sleep over it, I remain internally unsettled by the previous potential dispersal of my personal information four years ago.

From everything I have read, identity theft is an enormous nightmare to experience. Personally, I do not want to go through it any more than I want to catch the latest staph infection that has no remedy.

It’s all part of the game of progress, and I don’t really know the alternatives. Cash and carry has limitations that put a crimp on my style. I dislike shopping, and all those goods that get delivered to my door with a handful of mouseclicks is so pleasing. But… then again… I sure don’t like the way this letter from Shareholder Services is making me feel.

How does it make you feel? Am I overreacting to imaginary boogeymen, or are these really scary realities?

Monday, May 26, 2008


He arrived on a comet's tail, and left the same way, having dwelt among us for a lifetime shining a light in our faces. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, humorist, satirist, lecturer... and one of America's greatest writers, better known as the incomparable Mark Twain.
What follows are a number of pithy Twain quotes and notes for our mutual pleasure.

"Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed."

"It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt."
"I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey."

"Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principal one was that they escaped teething."

"Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits."

"In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made school boards."

"Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved."

"What are the proper proportions of a maxim? A minimum of sound to a maximum of sense."

"To be witty in France is very simple -- one merely needs to be dirty."

"Truth is stranger than Fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dylan Days

Well, another Dylan Days week has come and gone. The event, which now takes place annually in Hibbing MN, honors their hometown boy who made good, Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan. Once again I failed to make it due to other commitments, but for sure one day I will make the trek since it is practically in my backyard.

The broader purpose behind Dylan Days is to encourage a greater appreciation for the arts, whether music, writing or pictorial. In whatever form it takes, let your creative spirit rise up and fly.

One highlight of this year's Dylan Days was the opening of a special exhibit at Ironworld called "Tangled Up In Ore," a retrospective of Dylan's life in Hibbing. For more info about this annual celebration of a native son, visit

Ah well, this afternoon Susie and I went downtown for another annual event, the Battle of the Jug Bands. It's music to our ears, and live. Can't beat it. If you've got music in your heart, let it ring out.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Take a Picture, or Engage?

I was working on my Honda out in front of the garage this morning when I heard a loud buzzing noise behind me. It sounded like a giant bumblebee, making a vibrating buzz sound. When I turned, it surprised me to see that it was a hummingbird, trying to fly out through the window pane. My first reaction was to attempt a rescue, to make sure he found his way out of the garage. I opened the second door.

He then became fascinated by the lights, flew up to them and took interest in the bulbs and then the bright colored wiring. For half a second he perched on the red wire there after examining it, then resumed his exploration.

I ran houseward to fetch my Sony Cybershot, but when I returned he was gone.

The thought I had next was that I wish I’d stayed to watch him a little more… just because he was so near, so interesting. I wished that I had remained engaged, involved with this surprisingly wondrous visitor.

So often we reach for a camera to “capture the moment” but what is really happening? The irony is that we may capture an image, but we missed the real moment, the opportunity for engagement.

I am not opposed to picture making, video taking, or other forms of documenting special moments in time. What I do believe is that we need to take care to keep it balanced. Here are three areas where I believe engagement it vital.

Engaging Our World
Buzz Aldrin, in his autobiographical recounting of his moonwalk with Neil Armstrong in 1969, reflected that the mission was not really about humans experiencing the moon as fully human beings. Rather, NASA used them to accomplish objectives, assigning them the task of completing nearly eight hours of experiments in a four hour period. Aldrin wrote that for about fifteen seconds he was able to stop and allow himself the luxury of an emotional engagement with this incredible experience. He was standing on the moon. It had been a lifelong dream, and the dream was actually being fulfilled.
Unfortunately, he had no time for fully living and experiencing that moment. It was back to work, documenting, taking pictures, gathering moon rocks.

So it is that we ourselves can forget to engage the wonder that is all around us. The way the sun slants through the trees and glistens on morning dew, the shimmer of stars on a crisp moonless night… It’s an awesome world. As we travel through, let’s spend the whole of our time simply setting up the next shot.

Engaging Others
Listening is more than simply hearing words. Engaging others is more than simply being in their presence. We’ve all seen scenes in movies where the man is reading the paper, the woman is looking through her magazine. Engagement is possible when you put the newspaper down and the mag away. In our house, it was a dinnertime rule: no books at the table. This was a family time, a time to be present, not checked out.
One of the reasons many of us fail to ache for the poor and needy of Third World countries is that we do not encounter or engage such persons very easily. It is easy to stereotype the poor, or Republicans and Democrats, or business people, but wrong. Every person is a unique individual. Each has their own dreams, sorrows, hopes, disappointments. Every one is significant and important. In point of fact, it is impossible to fully understand the meaning of our own lives without connections to others through engagement.

Engaging Our Selves
Who am I, really? A lot of people don’t know because they afraid to peer that deeply within. Loneliness, anxiety, feelings of meaninglessness… what will I find there? What if I don’t like what I see?

Yet, true life satisfaction can only happen when we make contact with our true selves. Many there are who have idealized images of themselves, or distorted ideas of who they feel they ought to be. The net result is self-frustration, disappointment, tyranny by a host of shoulds, self-reproach and a divided self.

Let it go. Begin the quest to know and understand who you are. It will help you in every way, including relationships, career and life purpose.

At the end of your days, the pictures and journal notes you made will trigger memories long forgotten, and will indeed be precious. But the experiences are what have real value. The pictures are but a tool to re-illuminate them.

Thanks for letting my words engage you briefly. I hope you have enjoyed my pictures, too.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Politics of Hate & Manipulation

Years ago, when I read Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, the section about how propagandists use hate to manipulate people really hit home with me. Here are some excerpts.

“Common hatred unites the most heterogeneous elements… Hitler used anti-Semitism not only to unify his Germans but also to sap the resoluteness of Jew-hating Poland, Rumania, Hungary, and finally even France. He made similar use of anti-communism.” (p. 86)

By concentrating hatred on a single foe, Hoffer notes, it unites disparate groups as “adversaries far removed from one another seem to belong to a single category.” (p. 87)

With the advent of the internet, I have been on the receiving end of quite a few “pass this to ten friends” emails that foster hatred toward either Muslims or Hispanics. The Democrats do nothing to discourage hatred either, though with a different object who goes by the name Dubya.
The Oscar winning film Crash showed the corrosive power of prejudice, fear and mistrust. And the tragic consequences at an individual level.

On the national level hatred, whether from left or right, may unify disparate groups for a time, but it does not lead to a good society in the end. If the masses are led by manipulators instead of educators, we will most assuredly see them manipulated in ways that are not good for us.

My big concern today is that in the name of freedom from (Muslims or illegal immigrants or whatever we can be coerced into being afraid of) we will give up our still more of our freedoms.

In the light of history, it is not unwise to be wary.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sound and Unsound Bytes

In 1991 Duluth MN experienced a four day blizzard that literally buried the city in snow. The Halloween Blizzard, as it came to be known, dropped nearly four feet of powder on our Northland city-on-a-hillside, blanketing cars and everything else. With the mayoral election just days away, it became an amusing spectacle to see even the weather used as a political issue.

Once the snow finally ceased, the city began the challenging process of digging itself out. I lived in the Central Hillside at the time, and decided to take a walk around our neighborhood on the first illustriously sunny day after the four day blow.

It was probably Sunday morning. I had walked down the hillside to Fourth Street and headed east. There were no cleared roads except the snow emergency routes, which are maintained in all circumstances.

When I got to the corner of Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue East, I was somewhat surprised to see three people tromping through the snow up the middle of the road from below. It was a news camera from Channel 3 TV, along with mayoral candidate Gary Doty and his handler. I was the only person in sight, and so they walked up to me. I greeted them. They were looking for people in cars who were stuck and needing help getting pushed out of the drifted snow. Mayor Doty had makeup on his face for the sake of the camera to help reduce the glare of the sun on his shiny white skin. In other words, it was a staged event

Did I get a warm fuzzy from seeing the mayor-elect pushing cars out of snowbanks? Truth is, it left me feeling weird. What I do not understand is how they think people don’t see through this kind of bogus “compassion.” They (the people orchestrating media, political candidate and news byte) were looking to capture images for the evening news, to show that Mr. Doty cared about people.

It brought to mind my short term involvement in politics in 1984. I was at a Republican district meeting where they were seeking volunteers to show up on a Saturday morning to paint a house for an 87 year old woman in St. Paul. The media would be there to cover the (staged) event. I asked the question, “If our (Republican) policies help the poor and needy, why don’t we explain HOW our platform is better for everyone than the Democratic platform.” The facial expressions essentially dismissed my remarks as impertinent. The sound byte was more important than explanations. Besides, they had already made arrangements with the TV news directors. It would make a good story.

Sadly, what is important is not truth, not rationale, but the sound byte. Manipulation based on the assumption that people are too stupid to see through the crap they are told to swallow.

This submission to the PR “experts” was the nail in the coffin for the Dukakis campaign in the 1980’s when he allowed himself to be filmed riding a tank… in an effort to show he was pro-military. Stupid. The real message is, “You are not a leader. You listen to your idiot PR experts instead of following your own gut based on experience, observation, expertise.” (I can't believe Michael Dukakis thought of his bungled byte all by himself... when he road in a tank to show he was pro-military. It was his handlers, right?)

I like Gary Doty as a person, but politically, that day in November a few days before the election was too fakey for me and a symbol of at least one thing wrong with America today.

And why do the journalists go along with it? I thought the media was supposed to be a watchdog that informs, not a tool in the hands of power seeking orchestra conductors.

From where I sit, things are not getting better any time soon. A lot of our leaders are themselves only pawns in a game.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I watched the documentary Comedian this past week. As a few friends are aware, I have taken an interest in stand up comedy this past six months. (Actually, I have been doing it for two decades, having performed once at the White Elephant in the early nineties.)

My own personal stake in this is essentially to improve my public speaking skills. A side benefit has been meeting some interesting people, and finding expression for new regions of my creative self.

All that being said, the documentary Comedian follows the parallel careers of two comics, Jerry Seinfeld and an up and comer Orny Adams. Seinfeld is trying to re-enter the stand-up scene after having had a successful name in lights with his TV show. Orny is a nobody trying to become a Somebody and see his name in lights.
Every wannabe comic should see this film. Stand up comedy is definitely not easy. Here’s Seinfeld, arguably one of the funniest guys in show business, and we see him struggling to build a new act, struggling to feel confident again in front of a crowd. The documentary shows his anxiety before shows, his frustrations when skits bomb, and all the building blocks of developing a solid fifty minute performance.

The entertainment business really is a business. Comics, like athletes, writers and musicians, must continually polish their craft. It doesn’t “just happen.” But the battleground where these arts are tested varies. Athletes are “tested” when they compete in the arena of their given sport. One team wins, one loses. The writer’s primary battles are fought in solitude. But the comic is right out there in front of the spotlight. It is the closest you ever get to being naked with your clothes on. That's why they call me Eddie Danger.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


It doesn’t matter what the critics think, keep making more art. ~ Andy Warhol

The bon vivant
making naked remembrance
of a background shooting,
film and history intermixed
with oceans of grief
in an eerie replay of his childhood.

“The scars look pretty in a funny way.”

But wow, the narrative rises to meet
horror and reality in a crazy mixed media scheme
involving blood and fantasies, dream and tissue,
as if God had given a second chance.

But what does it all mean, this porous existence
expressed in a tired vision of decay?
And so it was, we reeled with the aftershocks
of the Sixties.

Up to his sleeves in sleaze.

Amid the portraits and lavish commissions
he buried himself in fortunes
and an expanding influence pressing outward
in all directions.

Indifferent portraits of Mao, Jackie, Marilyn,

the ubiquitous soup cans,
diffused with phenomenal intensity.
Portraits in a wired weird washout of wicked wildness,
inundated with ample iconography to create a sense
of mad genius pervading all.

A Charles Dickens of the pop art scene,
immersed, devoured, ever pouring out the work,
ever provocative, forever progressing, energetic,
splashing the world with tacky wonder.

Celebrating Existence

We are here. For a short period of time we pass through the material world. It is up to us where we go, what we do.

One way I celebrate life is to create. The creative process has many facets. One facet is the element of emergence. Emergence might occur while you are actively doing, or it may happen when you have stopped doing. I can begin a drawing without knowing where it will go, but all throughout I am pensively watching to see when the real idea will emerge.

Many times, the idea will emerge at the moment of waking, as if the subconscious has been waiting for me to awaken so it can upload the new ideas it has processed during the night. Occasionally the upload of an idea is accompanied by a great adrenaline rush, and I am projected into the new day.

My lists grow in reaction to inputs from both without and within. Bills that need to be paid, poetry that needs expression, and doodles that long to feel significant.

At the end of each day, most of us have left a few more fingerprints on the world that surrounds us. A creative way of saying thank you, an original way of giving encouragement, an unusual anecdote that splashes a new insight into the minds of its hearers… these are all ways in which we can add sunshine to the dreary world and leave our personal marks in time.

Ultimately, for me, there are simply too many projects, too many ideas, and not enough time, but I’m doing the best I can. I hope you are, too, creating and celebrating existence.

Isn’t it wonderful?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Snickers Story Has Unexpected Twist

“Detectives used a partially eaten Snickers found at the Cato Pet Hospital in west Jonesboro to track down the suspect in its January 2007 burglary. Police sent the nougat-filled chocolate bar to the state Crime Laboratory, where medical examiners obtained DNA, Jonesboro detective Jason Simpkins said.” ~ Kenneth Heard, Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Did anyone see this news story about a guy who was implicated in a burglary because he left his DNA on a half eaten Snickers bar? Police said that DNA from the Snickers bar on the counter at the scene of the crime helped them zero in on the suspect, Brian Bass.

Here’s the rest of the story. It turns out that the Roscoe & Hermann Agency, a PR firm from New Jersey, set the guy up. Bass was apparently unaware that he’d become part of a clandestine marketing scheme. Barry Adams, a mid-level manager at the firm, told Bass that the company would get him off within sixty days. The marketing plan was nixed in the Snickers board room after legal review, but no one notified Adams or Bass.

Bass’ actions were intended to be part of a branding event designed to get the Snickers brand name into headlines across the country. According to unnamed sources, more than eighty burglaries had been slated for the same weekend, with Snickers bars to be inadvertently left at the scene of each crime. The underlying message to criminals: “Guys, this is the candy bar that bad guys eat.”

The plan appeared to include major rollouts of Snickers inventories to prison vending machines around the country. Right before the story broke, prisons in all fifty states had become buried in pallet loads of Snickers products.

When the Bass story broke, requests from inmates for Snickers candy bars became a trickle and then a flood. Because Snickers distribution pipelines were apparently in place before the news story hit the wires, several legislators have lobbied the FTC for a deeper investigation.

Kudos to Snickers for identifying this untapped market. The marketing plan is a bit nutty, but sweet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Checkin' Out the Bob Dylan Way

I came to Duluth in 1986, and thought it was cool they were discussing the naming of a street after Bob Dylan. What a surprise when fifteen years later they were still debating the issue. And then twenty.

But alas, it has finally happened. As Hibbing’s Dylan Days festivities arrive once more, Dylan’s hometown has finally honored its departed troubadour. This week, Bob Dylan Way has appeared on the maps of Duluth… or will appear next time maps are printed.

The idea of making a Dylan Drive street legal has finally stopped blowing in the wind. Approved by the Duluth City Council in May 2006, the final two signs went up this week. They actually did not change the name of any streets, however. They simply put up signs along the route from the Depot to the National Guard Armory.

During my lunch hour yesterday I went to take photos of some of the signs, thirty in all, and was surprised at how many share signpost space with No Parking signs. Though not a Dylan song, I could not help but think of that Sixties classic, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blockin' up the scenery, blowin' my mind; do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign.”

Once I was hitchhiking on a highway in Maryland when a police officer stopped to issue me a written warning. Hitchhiking, he said, was illegal. I said I did not know that, and then he pointed. I was standing right in front of a Hitchhiking is Illegal in the State of Maryland sign.

OK, so I digress.

Truth is, we do not have a Bob Dylan Road per se. It is a Bob Dylan Route, or officially, Bob Dylan Way, which maybe is pretty cool. We are going to do it the Bob Dylan way, which is ambiguous and confusing sometimes.

Now that we have succeeded in this achievement, I would like to propose some additional passages for future re-naming. Here are just three recommendations. Maybe you can offer a few more. Let's see if we can change:
Highway 61 to Highway 61 Revisited.
Skyline Drive to Nashville Skyline Drive.
Fourth Street to Positively Fourth Street.

It’s a New Morning in Duluth.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Healing Our Sick Health Care System

I was recently sent a review copy of Dr. Robert Gumbiner's Healing Our Sick Health Care System - A Solution to America's Health Care Crisis. It's a another proposal for universal health care, and many voices will be raised against the idea when it returns to the table for discussion inside the beltway. But let's face it, the realities are disturbing. Michael Moore's film Sicko showed some of the reality. People's lives are being destroyed by our current system of "for profit" hospitals, drug companies and insurance companies. It's a gigantic racket, but these racketeers are not going to jail for their crimes. Rather, they are buying condos in the Caymans.

According to Gumbiner, the health care system is a dysfunctional mess with entrenched special interests. But our legislators in Washington do not have the courage to overturn the applecart, and are tacitly committed to maintaining the status quo because it is "safe." As with most other major issues on the table, there's a lot of jawboning going on, but the masses suffer.

Americans believe they have the best health care in the world. But as Gumbiner writes, "How can it be the 'best' when adequate health care is unavailable to millions of people?"

Like many such books, this one begins by citing stats about our current situation, followed by a chapter outlining the history that has lead to us to where we are today and why small reforms will not solve our major problems.

I once heard a story that illustrates the problem. A man was fleeing from an adversary and came to a place where there was a twenty foot gap and five hundred foot drop. He could either find a way to make the twenty foot leap, or take two to three smaller steps. We all know what the result of small steps over a twenty foot gap would bring.

One of the biggest arguments against universal health care is that we as a nation could never afford it. But in point of fact, Gumbiner notes, more than two-thirds of all Americans have some or all of their health care paid for by taxpayer dollars. This includes, federal, state, county and local employees plus our military personnel, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. In short, the picture very different from the one we are mislead to believe.

Alas, if the situation makes you ill, you are not alone.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Global Warming Revisited

"Countries around the world, especially advanced economies, are stepping up their efforts to fight global warming. However, their action has not been enough ..." ~ Korea Times

An Interview with Ennyman
Question one: Are scientists in agreement that global warming is in fact occuring?
Answer: No
Question: Was there some global warming from sixties to somewhere in near past?
Answer: Yes, there was apparently some measurable global warming.
Question: Have there been periods of global warming in the past in human history?
Answer: Plenty, none of them related to greenhouse gases produced by man.
Question: So global warming and cooling is normal in earth history?
Answer: Yes.
Question: If melting polar icecaps were due to greenhouse gases, how does this explain the melting polar ice caps on Mars?
Answer: It would appear to be due to another phenomenon... maybe solar flares? Scientists do not know for sure.
Question: Then why do scientists want to mess with the atmosphere here on earth the way they have been messing with turning food crops into fuel crops (ethanol)? Could it be due to lobbysists who work for companies who stand to profit from such an adventure?
Answer: I do not know.
Question: Is Global Warming a true threat or Politically Correct?
Answer: The hysteria seems unfounded, but those who are not in agreement with the Politically Correct stance seem to be objects of scorn and vilification.
Question: What would Mark Twain say about all this?
Answer: Be afraid of the politicians.
Question: Is the Green Movement bad?
Answer: Of course not. I am totally against the irresponsible rape and pillage of Planet Earth. But the hysteria that the world is coming to an end because people drive big cars is a bit overboard. The smokestacks of Pittsburgh disappeared 100 years ago. And diesel engines are 98% cleaner than fifteen years ago… with EGR (Engine Gas Recirculation) and other advances, vehicles will get cleaner still.
Question: So you are saying that technical advances have been making a difference?
Answer: Factually, yes.
Question: Then why the hysteria?
Answer: Ask who benefits from global warming hysteria….
Question: Are you an authority on these matters?
Answer: No, I just read widely and with a fair measure of skepticism. The world is a mess right now, on many fronts, and I believe global warming should be the least of our concerns. But I'm just one voice... and I am grateful we still live in a land where free speech is theoretically a constitutional right.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Seriously Bad Stuff

Last week I learned some information that was pretty scary to me about local hospitals and the new strain of infection many are spreading that is resistant to antibiotics. The hospitals send people to nursing homes after surgery, and a lot of people are arriving at the nursing home with this infection that they picked up at the hospital. The patient dies from the infection at the nursing home, which then blamed for unclean conditions. But only the patients coming from the hospital are dying.

As a result, most of the nursing homes in the region refuse to accept patients who are recovering after having been at the hospital. Why? Because they do not want to get a bad reputation when in fact it is the hospitals doing the dirty work. It is the hospital spreading this incurable infection.

How serious is this problem? Check out these stats from a Fort Worth article: "An estimated 2 million Americans annually get one of a variety of drug-resistant infections, leading to about 90,000 deaths, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate. Of those afflicted, 87 percent catch the infection at a healthcare facility, the CDC says."

These are only estimates. It could be worse. My daughter shared that five students at her small Midwestern college have died from this "superbug." She had us pray for a girl whose leg was amputated to keep the infection from spreading to the rest of her body.

This is seriously scary stuff, if you ask me. Here's a darn good reason to eat healthy and stay fit. If you go to the hospital for a procedure, it just might kill you.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I’m Not There: My Prose and Cons

Disclaimer: I am a Dylan fan. Seeing this film was therefore obligatory.

The film I'm Not There was a freewheelin' take on another side of Bob Dylan, and another and another and another….

I have read half dozen Dylan bios and his Chronicles, own most of his albums, listened to the Dylan hour for years and still wasn’t sure what I thought about this film… OK, Dylan is enigmatic and it maybe makes sense to be enigmatic in telling his story. But did it have to be THIS enigmatic?

What follows then are my observations using Dr. Edward de Bono’s PIN method approach. That is, everything has a positive, interesting and negative aspect. If we get our analytical side awakened, it will help us avoid kneejerk reactions.

1. Cate Blanchett… not just the mannerisms but the script Haynes gives her is simply wonderful. She is actually hilarious at times, and profound often. I would love to hear what she thinks about Dylan after having played Dylan

2. In a movie that doesn’t play by the conventional rules of story telling you can potentially inject some really profound insights with new ways of seeing things that create memorable a-hahs.

3. The film offers serious insights about the culture of celebrity and the challenge of being a whole person when standing in the searing spotlight of Fame. >>> John Lennon’s recluse years come to mind here.

4. Dylan music throughout

1. Funny line Cate Blanchett delivers when she asks “Am I the only one who has any balls around here?” Pure irony.

2. Truly original, non-linear film. Writer/director Haynes took risks to make this film in light of the challenges it would encounter in terms of mass appeal.

3. A Negro Dylan… That’s interesting. I do understand where that comes from.

4. Interesting how the different actors played Dylan.

5. I heard some criticism beforehand of Gere’s portion, but I had no such problem once you buy in. I’d seen Billy the Kid a couple times and, well, it is what it is.

My problems with the movie (which I watched twice in a row.)

1. The six characters had six different names, which made it a challenge to follow what purported to be a story line about a person.

2. The first character, Woody Guthrie (Dylan), mumbled lines that were hard to decipher and we missed things…. seems that if Haynes wrote the lines, they should be delivered in a manner that we can understand the words, even if we don’t understand meanings. This was the first character and it may have been intended to be comical, but it didn’t work. Interesting idea poorly executed.

3. For some reason I expected to see a linear story with a different character representing different eras in Dylan’s life. Instead the film is a shuffling together of his various personas in pretty much the same time frames, with the naturally difficult confusion.

4. No apparent storyline… which means the viewer is never really able to get lost in the film. Because it takes so much effort to figure things out it is too much like work and not really fun (until one gives up trying, and just goes with it the second time around.)


This is definitely not a film for everyone. What follows are some excerpts from the reviews of the movie. The great majority were very positive, so you can go there to read them. I tack these on because they add some insight as to why I’m Not There pretty much failed at the box office, despite fawning reviews by the critics.

In "Chronicles, Volume One" Dylan dwells on the moment when he stumbled across Rimbaud's declaration "Je est un autre" which translates into English: "I is someone else". Dylan writes: "When I read those words the bells went off. It made perfect sense. I wish someone would have mentioned it to me earlier." That insight has sustained Dylan thru all his multiple personalities, finger pointing folkie, rock & roll rebel, Nashville good ol' boy (Oh me oh my, love that country pie), tormented lover, Born Again Christian. When he performed on his first album, aged 21, he was trying to summon up the voice of a 60 year old blues singer.

Nowhere in the film do we get a glimpse of the excitement that surrounded Dylan's emergence as an artist, or the kind of musical poetry that brought Allen Ginsburg to tears. While the film has some of the great Dylan songs, some sung by Bob and some by stand-ins, there is nothing deeply felt here and Haynes fails to capture the passion and inspiration of his music. Bob Dylan is not a series of archetypes or shifting faces. He is a poet, an artist, a musician, a man who had something important to say and said it in a way that articulated the built-up frustrations of an entire generation. In I'm Not There, in spite of the conceit of the multiple actors, there is only one Dylan - the shadow - masked and anonymous, not the man - vital and creatively alive.

Unless you know a lot about Bob Dylan and the context in which he lived - Vietnam War, folk music ... - you will be completely lost while watching this film. I went into it knowing virtually nothing about him, and really learned nothing from watching this. In fact, after about an hour, I think I slipped into unconsciousness a few times, wondering if I had been reborn in one of the 16 hell realms.

A classic case of the Emporers new clothes!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Guy In The Glass

As a kid I was a fan of Captain Kangaroo, whom I believe was the source of this very interesting quote: "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool Mom." On this Mother's Day entry, I must say that I am ever grateful for my mom's love... and mercy. I did indeed put her through the wringer, yet she never stopped loving me. Thanks, Mom.

Well, there is another person we don't fool very well, at least when we really look him in the eye. And that is our selves.

I once heard Mike Ditka, former Chicago Bears coach, speak about success and his own life lessons. During his speech his shared the following poem, which he said he'd hung in the locker room (or somewhere where it would become a perpetual reminder of the important message it conveyed.) It's called The Guy In The Glass.

The Guy in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass

He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the guy in the glass.
Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Notes from a Grey Notebook

Was doing some cleaning today. Came across a grey notebook with miscellaneous undated entries circa 1999. There are several pages of notes pertaining to my unpublished novel The Red Scorpion, and a three page summary of my evening in Hollywood when the wheel was stolen off my rental car which I may save for tomorrow. Here are a few of the other extracts.

1. Winning a million dollars involves no skill, no duplicatable formula, whereas creating a million dollars is highly instructive and empowering. Learn how to create wealth and you can do much good.

2. Slogans:
“Show me the money.” ~ from Jerry Maguire
“Where’s the beef.” ~ from Burger King campaign
“Remember who you are.” ~ from Lion King

3. It’s humbling to admit our insufficiency. We are weak and desperately needy. Yet so often we forget. But God does not and provides us a family, friends, a community as gift… to strengthen, encourage, give hope.

4. Preach to broken hearts and you’ll always be up-to-date.” ~ advice to Robert Schuller when in seminary.

Blustery winds driven by trembling fortunes
and foreign experiences within the galaxies;
the concept of attraction denies the existence of meaningless motions.

Motion is purpose, fueled by desire… illuminating the void.
Apathy is a black hole sucking energy and matter into nothingness.
The complacency of fools destroys them.

6. Interesting note:
Fear, the opposite of complacency.
explore this thought

7. Idea for a book
Letters to My Daughter
~ Fame and Ambition
~ Success
~ Love
~ Hardship
~ Suffering
~ Attitude
~ Wholeness
~ Balance

8. Keep your eyes on the prize, and your back to the wind.

9. On Gambling
I’ve never seen anyone who bought a house or car with gambling money. I’ve seen plenty who lost a car or home.

10. Planet Sandtrap
Gambling, Drinking, Drugs, Sex
(source: Robert Lookup)

11. Learning Rage: Nature or Nurture
explore this idea

12. "No one ends at himself,
each one is an all in all
in another all,
in another one.
The other is contained in the one,
the one is another:
we are all constellations."
~ Octavio Paz

Friday, May 9, 2008

1968: A Very Dark Year

Just watched Tom Brokaw’s “1968” this week and it was quite thought provoking. David Hinckley’s review of the same gets it right, though. Hinckley, of the NYTimes, noted that "1968 doesn't lack integrity, interest or insight. It just stops short of exploring the questions that could move the chains from where the discussion left off a few years ago when media attention started shifting from the '60s to the '70s and '80s.”

The biggest insight of the program for me, which aired on the History Channel and is now available in DVD, came in the first two minutes or less. There was a draft in 1968, and the unpopular war mattered to everyone in every part of the country because, well, we were all potentially eligible to go, or our friends and brothers were on the line. It was a very different time. It was not so easy to disregard what was happening. "Something's happening here" affected all of us.

Today’s war is nonesuch. Sure, it has an impact on some people somewhere, but young people can get lost in their video games and iPods and beer parties and online social networks without once encountering a direct hit with someone whose life is actually touched by it all. And the rest can be lulled to sleep by the television shows, movies, sports, fishing, and other assorted distractions.

Add to the war the racial tensions, all sublimated today by comparison. Men like Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King took bullets for a dream, which vaporized to some extent. Cities burned, but it was the ghetto homes that were destroyed and charred, and white America pretty much escaped unscathed.

Brokaw’s 1968 ended with NASA’s year-end achievement showing astronauts circumnavigating the moon, but it was not an event that mesmerized like the 1969 moonwalk, and it hardly addressed the real questions that flummoxed this nation.

My guess is that historians will continue arguing about the meaning of 1968 till the day it’s forgotten altogether. One thing is certain, there was a lot of anxiety going down. And whatever story you’ve heard about any facet of the sixties undoubtedly has another side, and another, and another. Every picture tells a story, don’t it?

Thursday, May 8, 2008


A magnet attracts iron, yet has no effect whatsoever on wood.

Years ago I heard someone say, "The two strongest influences on our lives are the people we meet and the books we read." In one sense, these are one and the same thing, for is it not true that when we read a book, we are meeting with another's mind, their thoughts, attitudes, opinions, feelings, beliefs?

This is the wonder of books. Though the Greek philosophers have been dead twenty-four centuries, their writings laid the groundwork for much of contemporary thought. Likewise a man like St. Augustine, Christian thinker originally stirred by Greek philosophy, was extremely influential in the direction of Western Civilization, even though he lived in an obscure period of history during the fall of the Roman Empire. Through memoirs, letters, essays and speeches, we can become acquainted with all kinds of people from all periods of history, including philosophers, musicians, pioneers and even presidents.

We have no choice over some influences. We don't choose our parents; nor do we choose the nation of our birth.

Nevertheless, we do have the power to choose other influences, particularly the books we read, the friends we associate with, the places we choose to visit. The influences we choose reveal as much about who we are as they help mold what we shall become.

As you reflect on the people and experiences that touch your life today, which are the influences you have chosen and what do these things say about who you are and what you long to become?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My Near Death Experience

This past winter the flu that was going around grabbed hold of me and shook me hard. I went through two forty-eight hour stretches where I couldn’t sleep, had fever and chills, and at one point literally wished I could die.

Then my life flashed before my eyes. The strange part was that half of it was fiction.

In one scene, I was sitting with William Shakespeare. He -- or we I am not sure – was trying to work some humor into the third act of Taming of the Shrew. I told him that the notion of having Petruchio stick an eggplant in his pants and strut around on stage as if it were a codpiece was a bit too lowbrow.

“Bill,” I said, “You can do better.”

He seemed to take great pleasure from imagining this scene, but finally cut the eggplant. I then took a knife and sliced another piece off, and he cut off another slice and in a few minutes we had a plateful of eggplant slices. I suggested we pour tomato sauce and cheeses on it, and bake it. “What would you call something like this?” he inquired. I hesitated, then suggested we call it eggplant parmesan, and he said maybe he could work this into a story he was developing about Venice. He was torn between Death in Venice and The Merchant of Venice as a title. I proposed the latter. (Tom Mann would later be relieved.)

In another scene that flashed before my eyes I was manicuring Charles Dickens’ nails. He was chattering on and on about Great Expectations, how much it just seemed to be flowing right out of him. He had evidently shown me an early draft of the first half, because I told him I thought the scene with the eggplant was quite hilarious. He leaned back in his chair and frowned.

“What?” I asked with my eyebrows tilted upwards.

“I didn’t think the humor was working in that scene at all. Besides, it didn’t tie to anything else in the story,” he said.

“It was an anecdote,” I said leaning forward.

He leaned a little further back, as if I had bad breath, which I may have had because of a bad tooth. He shook his head in a dejected way. And finally said, “I really don’t think there is anything funny that you can do with eggplants. Do you?”

I replied, “Maybe that’s why I am having such a hard time coming up with a punchline for ‘Why did the eggplant cross the road?’”

He gave me a quizzical look, and the next thing I knew I was trembling violently in a sweat on my couch, remembering my flu, grateful for life.

Having survived my ordeal, I have great expectations for the next chapter of my life, whatever it brings.

Eat healthy, stay fit, and you have a good day, too.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Another Inconvenient Truth

The global warming crowd has two items on its agenda. The first is to convince us that global warming is a given. The second is to convince us that this global warming is caused by man made behaviors that produce greenhouse gases.

The problem is that the facts do not line up with the realities. And here is the real Inconvenient Truth: How do SUV emissions explain why the polar ice caps are melting on Mars? I want to know.

Al Gore has stated that a sea-level rise of up to 20 feet would be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland “in the near future”. The What Would Jesus Drive PR campaign five years ago was built around the same premise. Ice caps melt, poor people in coastal regions will die. Proof that Americans driving SUVs are self-centered, self-serving bums.

Last week I learned that Wikipedia has active thought police who make sure that only the Global Warming message gets posted on Wikipedia. Opponents are shut down through vigilant PC editors who make sure "the people" speak with one voice.

There are no smokestack industries on Mars. No SUVs or pickup trucks. So why do Martian ice caps melt? Maybe it's solar flares. There are scientists pointing this out. But there is a little too much noise to hear.

Here's something I wrote five years ago addressing this from a different angle. It may be even more relevant today. The "What Would Jesus Drive?" Doomsayers

Monday, May 5, 2008

There's Nothing Funny About Ug99

I have been writing about the world hunger crisis this past week since our dinner with Joe and Pat Richter of Farms International. What caught my attention was the food riots in fourteen countries. And nary a word in our newspapers.
Once you start to look, the picture looks less than promising. Can too much knowledge be a bad thing? I would like to believe that the only way we can begin to fix things is by knowing how broken they are.

My brother forwarded the following article to me about a killer strain of black stem rust that destroy wheat crops called Ug99. One of the articles I read last week made reference to this wheat disease as one of the variables in a "perfect storm" of trouble brewing, which also included the decision to fight global warming by making food crops into ethanol.

Don't take my word alone. Do a Google search on the topic and you'll see it's serious.


“Ug99” is the name given to a strain of wheat fungus (Puccinia Graminis). This virulent new form of the disease first appeared in Uganda in 1999. It is spread by wind and now is responsible for driving up food prices.

It appears that the present genetic composition of wheat has little or no resistance to this new fungus strain. In some areas of the globe, crop losses are expected to reach 100%. In Africa there are known experiences of loss of over 70%. The economic losses expected from this fungus are now estimated in the many billions and growing. Worse there is an intensifying fear of exacerbated food shortage in the poor and emerging countries of the world. The ramifications are serious.

Food rioting continues to expand around the world. We saw the most recent in Johannesburg last week. So far this unrest has been directed at rising prices. Actual shortages are still to come. Remember: food shortages can cause changes in governments and can lead to severe repression of populations. Also, remember that the food chain starts with grains. All grains are under severe price pressure and the ability of substitution is shrinking because there is no surplus grain inventory to replace one in short supply.

Governments are responding with protectionism and tax policy modification of export-import taxes and tariffs. Typically they reduce the import taxes so as to lower the domestic price of incoming grains and foodstuffs. At the same time they raise the export taxes in order to keep homegrown foodstuffs within the country. In some cases they actually embargo exports. These tariffs and embargoes end up only adding to trade barriers, reducing global efficiencies and ultimately only raising the prices for everyone. Such actions have already occurred in Argentina, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, Zambia, and others.

The world’s mature and wealthier countries are food exporters as a result of developed and efficient agriculture. Australia, Canada, European Union, New Zealand and the United Sates are in that category. But these countries have taken little advance action in the face of the increasing global food imbalances. The US Agriculture Department reports global grain stocks at half century lows.

America’s bio-fuel policy is worsening the situation. We have a huge subsidy in place for corn-based ethanol. That is raising and has driven up the price of corn. There is no end in sight for that subsidy and, thus, the upward corn price pressure is imbedded for all practical reasons. Ethanol is American politics at its very worst.

In addition it seems that the new form of wheat fungus has risk to America’s wheat crop. Present American wheat has very little resistance to Ug99. It will take between five and eight years to genetically engineer a resistance. In the interim period, US agriculture now faces this higher risk of fungus.

As with bird flu (H5N1), North and South America have been spared from Ug99 to date. And as with bird flu, the professional epidemiologists are worried just as the rest of us go about our daily lives taking things for granted. Complacency is always the enemy.

Meanwhile, Ug99 is windborne and on its ways to the breadbaskets of Asia. And meanwhile, H5N1 is avian borne and spreads globally. The most recent human case was confirmed in Egypt on April 17th. So far, H5N1 virus is still a bird disease and not efficiently transmitted among humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 30 confirmed cases and 23 deaths, year-to-date in 2008.

Copyright 2008, Cumberland Advisors. All rights reserved.
The preceding was provided by Cumberland Advisors, 614 Landis Ave, Vineland, NJ 08360 856-692-6690. This report has been derived from information considered reliable but it cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy or completeness. David R. Kotok, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, email:
For information on Farms International, visit
"Doing Good That Is Good."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Eating Words Won't Won't Satisfy Hunger

This past week I made several blog entries regarding the world famine crisis that is unfolding. In my most recent entry I used the phrase "idiot legislators"... which for many is a relatively mild accusation, but in my case it feels unkind to be so harsh. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you be doing right now about the energy issues and economic challenges and international food supply issues our world currently faces?

Personally, I do currently feel that efforts to convert farmland from food production to energy production can be easily labeled idiotic. When people make stupid decisions, this does not mean they are stupid people. A lot of smart people make stupid decisions. I have made my share. This does not mean I am a stupid person. When I jumped out of a moving car, for example, it was a stupid thing to do. I still aced most of my tests in school.

So, as I eat my words I am noticing that there is not a lot of nutritional value in words. If there were, we could have our printing presses do overruns on every job. Words in abundance would pour forth from our shores. We're already bombarding the world with words through radio, and other media. And here I am pushing out more words through my fingertips onto computer screens potentially visible around the globe.

At the end of the day, an empty tummy needs food, not words.

I myself do not have an answer to this crisis since I myself do not have the facts. My hope is that those who have all the facts will be able to sort things out and make decisions based on truth. What we don't need is for moneyed interests to determine national policy for personal gain. It is in this sense that I do not always trust our legislators.

We cannot lose sight of our global interdependence.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Swamp Sisters Re-Opened for 2008 Season

Anyone looking for a way cool, fun place to catch a breakfast or lunch on Fridays or Saturdays should check out the Swamp Sisters Café & Gift Shop. The restaurant and gift shop, located on 7249 Industrial Road, 4 miles West of Twig, is open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from April through mid-November.

A special feature of the menu is Bonnie’s Swamp Skillet with buffalo sausage or ham, onions, peppers, mushrooms, tater tots, eggs and cheese, which I should have taken a picture of before I ate it. (my favorite! yummm!) The lunch fare is equally as exciting. It’s home cookin’ at its finest, seasoned with warmth and a sense of humor.
The gift shop, featuring bison meat, antiques and crafts, serves to occupy the faithful when the dining area is overcrowded. Be sure to take in the signs. These sisters, and the ever faithful brother, have a wry sense of humor that pervades all they do. They named themselves the Swamp Sisters because relatives had joked about their family trying to farm in a swamp.

With no business experience, or business plan, they just plumb opened their doors with good food and Northern Minnesota rural hospitality. It soon became apparent there was a need in the community for a place to gather for coffee, etc. Word got around that the eatin' was good, too, and today they can't keep customers away.

If you see something you like, it just might be for sale. If not, well, the food sure is good anyways. For more information, or to find your way if you get lost, call 729-0088

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Legislative Idiocy: An Inconvenient Truth

In 1901 there was an automobile wreck in Kansas. The amusing thing about this wreck is that there were only two cars in Kansas at the time. I guess there were no stop signs at that intersection. The sad part is that someone was probably killed.

This is where politicians are so good. They quickly realize that something has to be done, and they step right in, flex their muscles and pass a new law. The 1901 law stated that you had to stop your car every mile and shoot a flare up into the sky so that other cars would know you were approaching.

The story is true. And the tendency of politicians to take action, even when absurd and ignorant, shows no signs of going away any time soon.

Examples are legion. It appears that things are going to get worse before they get better because we somehow seem incapable of learning from the past. Can the leopard change his spots?

Phillip V. Brennan, in an article titled Global Warming Hysteria Creates Food Shortages, notes that "at this very moment, the world is plunging into a food scarcity crisis that is the direct result of the global warming hysteria. The headlong rush to grow food crops to make ethanol instead of growing crops to feed the world is pushing food prices skyward and creating the threat of famine in Third-World countries."

The more I read, the more amazed I am that our leaders are so spineless so as to be swept up in this global warming hysteria. It should not surprise me. I've many times read that politicians inside the Beltway are more concerned about staying in tune with public opinion than with facts about Reality. As is historically their natural bent, the laws legislators pass will be more destructive than helpful, despite their earnestness.

Many nations that used to export rice are now holding back and even banning exports. Countries dependent on these foods are already experiencing riots. Some newspapers are printing that the hunger and upheaval caused by the current passion for ethanol, and subsequent food shortages, could result in World War III. This is no joke.

How alarmed should we be here in the States? Well, it's your call, but in many places they are already rationing certain foods.... in the U.S.A.