Sunday, January 25, 2015


The other night I sat down in front of the television to watch Brian Williams give me the news. The U.S. embassy in Yeman possibly was in danger because of an attempted coup, a couple of Japanese hostages were being threatened by Isis, and the President of the United States (POTUS, for short) was about to give the State of the Union address.

Imagine my disbelief when the lead story turned out to be how many pounds per square inch of air was or was not in a football.

DeflateGate was the lead story. Holy smokes.

DeflateGate, of course, is the scandal that keeps on giving when it was discovered that 11 of the 12 footballs that the New England Patriots brought to last Sunday's 2015 AFC Championship game were allegedly underinflated. The implication is that an underinflated football is easier to throw and catch in inclement weather.

New England clobbered Indianapolis 47-7 for the right to go to the Super Bowl, scoring 28 unanswered points in the second half —after the balls were reinflated to league standards at halftime.

(The following Saturday Night Live skit about the so-called controversy is hilarious, in my view perhaps one of the best skits the show has done in years):

 To me, the issue is a non-issue. I am not a Patriots fan by any means, but I really don't care how much air is in a football at game time.

What does bother me, especially as a retired journalist with more than 30 years in the business, is the media use of the suffix "-gate" to describe yet another scandal. Ergo, DeflateGate. Sheesh.

Journalists are supposed to be original types, occasionally equipped with the necessary brain cells to cut through the crap and get to the truth. Yet, since the original Watergate scandal that brought down an American president in 1972-74, almost every scandal since then — about 40 years' worth — has some kind of "-gate" attached to it (see a list of "-gates" here). It doesn't even make sense.

OK, smart guy, what would I call the Patriots' latest faux pas? "Airball" quickly comes to mind. So does "Pfftball." These headlines took all of three seconds to come up with (well, maybe it shows), but at least I managed to avoid the offending suffix.

It's time to close the gate on those gates.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Vive la France!

I love the French.

I love French fries. I love pie ala mode. I love French bread. I love, pardon moi, a French kiss. I love a good Bordeaux. I love the Statue of Liberty.

I especially love the French under assault, or more specifically, their response to it. I am referring, of course, to the recent horror in Paris and the subsequent show of defiance a day or two later by four million Frenchmen to the deaths, by terrorism, of their fellow citizens. It was an inspiring moment.

The French haven't always fared well in the face of adversity. World Wars I and II weren't particularly shining moments for the French. The Maginot Line, as it turned out, wasn't all that good an idea and ultimately resulted in that offensive newsreel of Adolf Hitler gloating under the Eiffel Tower.

But World War II did spawn a highly effective Resistance movement, and these days, Interpol is headquartered in Lyons, for whatever that means or might imply.

For the moment, at least, it appears that France is running point in the war on terrorism. For a country whose motto is "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité", I'll take it. Sure, it might be because of necessity that the French are seemingly out in front on this, but their remarkable response has given me a sense of confidence in this global malaise.

I'm not sure what purpose terrorism serves, other than to terrorize "soft" targets like you and me. It's a political tool that almost never works to effect the desired change, but rather, in the long run, it seems to embolden, inspire and fortify the intended target. To my mind, if you look closely enough, terrorism as a form of persuasion is ultimately counterproductive. You'd think that would be obvious to the terrorists. Do they really think they're making any headway with murder?

Terrorism conducted by fanatics brainwashed into believing in their own martyrdom makes the issue problematical, of course. This phenomenon crops up every once in a while in human history, as the U.S. Navy learned in World War II with Japanese kamikaze attacks.

I don't know what the solution is.

But I'm glad the French are in on it. Maybe, when this mess is all over and resolved perhaps in a 100 years from now, we can give the French a statue of their own.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


I think I might have come close to death the other day.

Not mine, but rather the guy on the scooter, who I never saw.

It went something like this: I was in my car coming out of Barbecue Alley, getting ready to make a left-hand turn on to First Street on my way to the post office.

I came to a stop at the intersection of the alley and the street and looked both ways, as I always do. I saw no automobiles in either direction, so I slowly pulled out into the road.

Moments later I thought I heard some frantic, toy-like beeping, accompanied by a shouted "Hey!" I looked out my passenger-side window and there was a guy on a scooter, puttering along with me on the right-hand side of my car, an angry look on his face and a hand gesture or two adding emphasis to his bile.

I was stunned. I never saw him coming. I could have hit him. I could have killed him. And I had looked both ways. I don't use a cell phone when I drive (another topic entirely — don't get me started), so I was not distracted. I was in no particular hurry to be anywhere.

Shaken, I made it to the post office, where I sat in my car for a moment, replaying in my head what happened and why I didn't see him.

I don't know if I would have been responsible if there had been an accident, especially if there had been an injury. I don't know what the law is on that point regarding scooters. I assume it would be the same as for bicyclists.

In my memory, the driver was dressed in neutral colors, wearing, I believe, a brown jacket. That coloring tends to blend in with the surrounding brick buildings in town, not that it really matters here. I'm not sure if he had a light burning on his moped or not, but I think I would have seen a light if it was on.

To continue the story, after he passed me on the right-hand side (I waved him forward), he got in front of me and then immediately made a left-hand turn into City Hall, presumably to pay his utility bill. Or to complain about reckless drivers.  I don't know.

I've still been thinking about this incident days later. Scooterists are not required to be licensed or to take a driver's exam to be on the road. The only law they are to follow, for now, is that they wear a helmet (they may be required to register and license their mopeds starting in July. Here are the only scooter "rules" I've been able to find — see here.)

The one "rule" I found interesting was the one that says "Stay out of traffic, as much as possible."


And here is an interesting story about the impending registration of mopeds.

If I drove a scooter, I think I'd take the stance that automobile drivers just can't see me. It's a good first step. I'd make it a priority (if not a law) to wear a fluorescent caution vest. I might attach an eye-catching flag or pennant to the scooter as well.

Driving a car responsibly is difficult enough. Maybe it's time for the scooterists to take some responsibility, too, especially if they insist on sharing the road with automobiles.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Here's hoping...

On Tuesday my cell phone prompted me to read the text message that had just arrived.

Text messages are about as technologically advanced as I get. I know how to read them, but unless I have an instruction booklet in my hand, I pretty much don't know how to send them. (Note: If you send me a text message and I don't respond in kind, I'm not ignoring you. It's just that texting is beyond me. In fact, I might actually call you back. Heaven forbid, I might even leave a voice mail, my other concession to technology.)

My logic tells me it's still more convenient to actually speak with somebody on the phone one-on-one as opposed to thumbing my way over a minimalist keyboard to bang out an essentially vowel-less message that, in an effort to save alphabet characters, resembles something like an Ultra secret code.

The message I got was from my neighbor across the street: "Pls come help us bring n 2015 @ r house. BYO Bevs Snax2Share & Games. Firepit & Fun! See u 2moro @ 7 pm!"

I got about halfway through the decoding process when I realized my neighbor was inviting us to a New Year's eve party.

Yay! I was Xcited.

Kim had received a similar message at work, and we immediately made plans. I went to the store and bought my bottle of Korbel and she decided to make her famously sinful pralines.

A day later and party time had arrived. We decided to arrive at 8 p.m., but a nice little crowd of friends and neighbors had already assembled. I'm guessing there were about 30-35 of us roaming through their house. A TV was on and several of the guys were watching Georgia Tech dismantle Mississippi State 49-34 while elsewhere little knots of people collected here and there for small talk.

About nine-ish several of us went outside and gathered around the firepit. Even though the temperature hovered around freezing, there was no wind to chill us. That was nice. And what is it about firepits that are so mesmerizing anyway?

By quarter to midnight, those of us who brought champagne were uncorking the bottles. Everybody jammed into the TV room and the kids counted down the seconds as the Waterford crystal ball dropped and lit up 2015. We shouted Happy New Year to each other and shared hugs and kisses while privately hoping for the best.

It doesn't get much better than that: friends coming together surrounded by laughter, camaraderie and each other.

If nothing else, I think we got the new year off to a good start.