April 27, 2009

I remember the first time I hit a proper 6-iron…

It happened about 23 year years ago, on a sunny summer morning, on the 7th fairway at the Wonthaggi Golf Club, 80 miles southeast of Melbourne, Australia.

Prior to the hallowed moment, I just wasn’t getting the hang of golf, even though I’d made literally hundreds of strokes.  Getting the ball up in the air from a non-teed lie in the grass isn’t easy.  This is a game where a 16th of an inch mistake can translate into yards and yards of error, and I was darn near ready to give up.  Still, there’s something to be said for thick-headed determination, so there I was, up at 6:30, again attempting to add another sport to my quiver of athletic pursuits.

Then, without warning, the great moment came.  It all clicked.

Standing on the emerald green carpet, about 180 yards from the pin, I stood over the glistening white orb awash in the morning dew only just baking off the tines of the pristine lawn.  Taking the club head back, stiff lead arm, rotating through the swing, and up, up the soaring ball went!  Then, after arcing high in the beaming sun, the dimpled Dunlop began its descent, and I heard the wonderful sound of “phoomp-phoomp” as my prize landed and lay 3 feet from the pin.

In that very instant I was hooked.  I knew I could “get” this game, and hours of frustrating hacks gave way to an ever more thrilling sense of real accomplishment.

Because it had not come quickly, or easily, my heart was full of a particular joy reserved only for those who find pleasure after persevering through significant pain.

Like tennis, initially, golf is a most unforgiving, unflinching critic.  One always receives instant feedback with each swing of the driver, and it is plainly obvious to everyone nearby whether success has been achieved, or not.  You simply cannot pick up a keypad, joystick or wireless wand, thrash about or flail wildly and still hope to find a happy result waiting at the other end of the court or round the dog-leg.

It’s neat to be able to pretend playing at various things without ever having to leave the den.  But it doesn’t come close to the blistered, sweaty, sun-burned, aching thrill afforded to those who would risk finding the fruits beyond actual defeat over the make-believe sensations packaged within a virtual victory.



April 24, 2009

Waterboarding is a technique some refer to as torture.  It promotes an immediate gag reflex and induces the recipient to believe they are drowning — in other words, dying.  I have almost drowned three times.  It’s a frightening experience to say the least.

The CIA has been accused, perhaps even admitted to, waterboarding certain people.  People like: Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim a Nashiri.  You can Google these folks to acquire their respective and continuing curricula vitae.  Each one has led a most interesting life, especially as it pertains to those who don’t agree with them.

A few summers ago my son spent significant time in East Africa, a place where AlQaeda lives, operates and murders.  Naturally, as his father, I wondered what would/could happen if he, as an American aid worker, was caught by those following UBL.  What I hoped and prayed for was that, if such an eventuality transpired, he would be treated like those who were held under US auspices in Abu Ghraib.  Sexually humilated, threatened by dogs, photographed in the nude…

What I truly feared was that, if kidnapped, he’d have his eyes ripped out, and his head sawn off.  The fact is, these techniques have been used by our enemies for years, and years, and years.

Whether it can be termed as legal or not, waterboarding is ugly.  What is a tad uglier is viewing the remains of humans beings turned into disparate collections of mutilated limbs and rotting flesh — the result of a hotel bombing or skyscraper immolation.

So, if a known terrorist is in custody, holding information on imminent threats likely to cause untold damage, apart from the barbarity of waterboarding, what exactly would you suggest our leaders do? 

Come up with an answer that, in retrospect, will make sense amidst columns of heavy smoke and the cries of those trapped under tons of crumbled rubble and hot ash — if your style of coercive interrogation fails.

Come up with an effective and pristine solution.  One that guarantees success and violates no one’s politically tenderized sensibilities.

Oh, and do it quickly — in real-time, with real threats on the table.

Because if you don’t, later on you could be charged, disgraced, even imprisoned. 

Good luck.

And may the Lord guide us, and help us.

Climate Change

April 18, 2009

Recently, and reflective of where we are nowadays, I’ve heard various challenges and warnings urging me, and you, to “combat”, “fight”, “end”, and/or “stop”, “Climate Change”.

The phrase “Climate Change” seems to have taken over from “Global Warming” as winters in Europe and North America turned out a bit more severe than predicted by various “models”.

Last year, when European ski resorts were looking at too much grass, the spectre of “Global Warming” was bandied about with abandon.  However, this year, as various resorts found themselves rather socked in with more “fresh pow” than they could handle, it became necessary for true believers to switch rhetoric to catch phrases like “Climate Change”.

Credit where it’s due, this is a stroke of genius!


Because, in point of indisputable fact, climate IS change.  Always has been.  Always will be.

Fighting it, then, could turn out to be an almost eternally profitable business.  Like hoodwinking people into a struggle against sunrises or tidal variation! 

Imagine, just a few billion years ago, when a large interstellar object slammed into our adolescent Earth, not only was a chunk ripped out of our beloved Terra-Firma, but temperatures were inexpressibly high on our now most beautiful and inhabitable planet.  That’s a fact.  For some, a most embarrassingly inconvenient truth.  Still, it gave us our Moon, without which you and I wouldn’t be here to read this.

65 million years ago, if scientists are to be believed, a fairly good sized comet smashed into what we now call the Yucatan Peninsula.  Dust, ash and tongues of fire were splattered all over the 3rd major orb from the sun, and while this most certainly would have qualified for a gold medal in the category of “Climate Change”, it also gave rise to the demise of T-Rex, and the emergence of that species called “homo-sapiens sapiens”.

Let’s put it more simply.  Once there was an Ice-Age.  Then there wasn’t.  This is what we could refer to as “Climate Change”.  Neither people or oil companies had anything to do with this warming transformation.  I swear.

Last week, Las Vegas recorded snow further into the Spring than ever before.  Colorado just got socked in.  But see?!  These events do not just empirically debunk theories of Global Warming, they just bolster the allegience to the new zeal focussed on “Climate Change”!  My heavens, look at that divergence from the locally perceived norm!  It must mean something!

Why, even in your back yard today, you personally experienced, “Climate Change”!  So please consider signing some treaty or disavowing some technology.  It’s your fault that the ambient temperature in your neighborhood has not held steady at 72.5 degrees.

Oh, and by the way, ignore those who have tracked and measured the melting Martian ice caps and warming behavior also present for a time on Pluto, and not just on Earth.  The sun has NOTHING to do with climate.  Only SUV’s do.  Ignore those astronomers and other scientists who have always tracked and recently measured a now increasingly dormant sun.  They were expecting a trough consistent with a well documented 11 year cycle, but now they are seeing a performance that could turn out to be a new Maunder Minimum.  For outdoor skaters this could be phenomenal.

I don’t know if Al Gore knows about the Maunder Minimum, or if qualified astronomers would even care if he did.  When he says, in reference to the catastrophe formerly known as “Global Warming”, things like, “The science is in,” he’s either ignorant or he is lying.  ABC’s John Stossel just presented a few bona-fide scientists who were quite willing to say that the “science” has been polluted by political agenda.

Yet, even so, if you’re interested in “Climate Change”, you should really look the “Maunder Minimum” up.  Last time we had one it seemed rather closely linked to something now called “The Little Ice Age”.  If it occurs again, this would be a most inconvenient phenomenon for those tenaciously clinging to the recent, but outmoded phraseology of “Global Warming”. 

Still, there is hope!  With finesse mixed with a certain level of gullibility, a new, miniature “Ice-Age” could easily be used to prove something.  Anything.  The phrase “Climate Change” wouldn’t even come close to doing it justice, but, yes, a frozen Thames (as it was a few centuries ago) could easily be the poster-child for some platform.

Nevertheless, apart from what may happen in the future, consider that, lately, in the Northern Hemisphere, the days have been lasting a bit longer!  Surely this change must mean something!?  Reports confirm that in the Southern Hemisphere, in the exact same time period, it has been getting darker, day by day! 

Surely we’ve got to stop this!  It’s the most dramatic climate change we’re likely to see in the next 6 months!  It’s happening right now!

So be active, and do what you can do.  Our children’s lives depend upon it.


No, really.  No matter how silly it seems.  This is no joke. 

Even in a bad economy, we’re on track to spend billions on trying to change the weather.

B&H Photo… Shabbat, Pesach, Shalom!

April 9, 2009

I’ve been a loyal customer of B&H Photo/Video since they were on 18th Street in lower Manhattan.  Back in the 80’s they established themselves as a market leader with incredibly competitive pricing, and as the years passed the medium sized merchant grew into the MegaPlex facility now on 9th Avenue.

Naturally, as technology has changed, B&H has adapted as well, and so ordering via phone, or even in person, has been matched by clicking menu options on line and making purchases through their website.

But as much as things have changed, one very special aspect has remained entirely the same.

Expanding into an operation literally spanning the globe, the management of B& H Photo haven’t forgotton to keep God first, placing their business interests second.

Imagine closing a SuperStore for a week in celebration of the Passover!  A full week!

Think of the money lost to other sales establishments — the customers allowed to seek other retailers, the revenue passed up in preference for a higher consideration.

And remember, this is all done, not because of a city ordinance, but because of a loyalty and deference to a faith, and an abiding reverence for the Lord.  It is a costly devotion, apart from the nominal connection so commonly seen elsewhere across our country.

You see, we in the “freer” traditions stemming from the Judeo-Christian soil, have long since abolished antiquated “blue laws”, and thus we have been liberated, not only to shop 24/7, but also, to work nearly as much.  We realize that spending extra time with family and setting apart special time for God is outmoded.

Quite beyond communing with the Wholly Other, and thereby gaining a better insight into ourselves, we have learned the ways of texting, and ipods, and Blackberries, and pagers, and beepers, and palm-tops.

Manifestly different from those who fervently keep the Sabbath, and intentionally assert the need for Shabbat Shalom, we have advanced to the point where we can work, anywhere and everywhere, at anytime.  Why, even behind the wheel, driving to meet friends, we can don headsets and earpieces and serve the company from which we earn a paycheck.

We need not seek solace in the One Who gave us life, and meaning, and identity.  We are past that.  We know better, and it shows.

When it comes to all things photographic, partly because of their selection and price, B&H will remain at the top of my personal preference list, along with like-minded institutions like Adorama…

But I will also hold a partiality to these vendors because they have a due and inspirational partiality to the Almighty.  They set an example we would all do well to follow.

They have my admiration, so I don’t mind giving them my money.


April 5, 2009

Did I hear that right?  A CBS executive said the ad revenues for the NCAA College Basketball tournament are over $650 million? 

$650 MILLION?!

This apparently doesn’t include local affilate revenues, nor does it include sales of tickets, beer, soda, hot-dogs, pennants, jerseys, airfares, hotels, restaurants…  Let’s see, would that bring us anywhere near a billion?  Annually?

UConn coach Calhoun makes over a million in salary, not including endorsements, and he’s worth it.  Why?  Because his team generates it.  It’s that simple.  He’s a fine coach, who earns what he’s paid.  That’s America.

But here’s the issue.  The kids, on whose backs all this income is generated, year after year, make zilch.  De nada.  Zip.

Do they make it to the NBA?  More than 95% won’t.  And let’s not even talk about so-called graduation rates, because regardless, they’re generating the massive income NOW, for schools, vendors, salespeople, waiters, airlines, taxi-drivers, etc.

How about a system where trust funds can be set up for Division I athletes?  How about a setup where for each year they play for a given college, they can have an additional year of scholarship to really get a complete education after they’re ineligible to play?

Only the Superbowl generates more TV revenue than the kids playing for UConn, Michigan State, the Wildcats and the Tarheels.

The coaches get paid, and paid very well.  Actually, a lot of people get paid! 

But no one would get anything apart from the talented youth who take the floor.  Those young men, donning a uniform and playing the game, get not one cent.

Not one penny of percentage.  Not one.

Glory and accolades are a real thrill.  But they will ring very hollow when the applause dies down and bills have to be paid and kids have to eat.

College basketball is a truly great game.  But the current system reeks.  It needs to be changed.