Saturday, March 29, 2008


This being an election year, we are lectured regularly on the need for character in our candidates. We are told that character is in fact essential in a good political leader or candidate. Since this appears to be so important a trait and since I want to vote for the right kind of candidate, I decided that the best thing to do would be to look up the word in the dictionary. Much to my chagrin, Merriam Webster shows a number of different definitions of the word.
  1. A symbol (as a letter or number) that represents information. Nope, I don't think that this is it, unless the man formerly known as Prince is running for something or if you are running for mayor of Sesame Street.
  2. The aggregate of distinctive qualities of a breed, strain, or type. Nope, this sound like some form or racial profiling to me, so I am SURE that this cannot be what they are talking about.
  3. The personality or part which an actor recreates. Now this one has some possibilities, as I am always convinced that politicians are always acting in public (and of course some actors have become politicians); but somehow this doesn't strike me as an ideal to strive for.
  4. A short literary sketch of the qualities of a social type. More references to racial profiling, this time seemingly by documenting social status. Though it seems to me that only rich people can afford to run for political office, again I doubt that this is an enviable trait or one to be sought after.
  5. Moral excellence and firmness. Oh this has got to be it, though I can only say this with a sense irony. While I freely admit that morals, unlike ethics, change with time and society; I refuse to believe that we have sunk to a level that the behavior exhibited by most politicians today could be called excellent or firm. Consistent maybe, but only in the way that one can say that tornadoes consistently damage property.

So maybe what everyone is trying to tell us is that the most important trait in a political candidate (or office holder) is something which we simply cannot define, and if we could, cannot actually have. I have to say that this is a disappointment to me. How am I to cast my vote properly in the upcoming elections in November? How are we to have those in office with the very trait that the political parties, and the candidates themselves, feel is so important? Why are they trying to make this so damn confusing?

Perhaps someone else out there has the answer and will share with the rest of us...

Though never a political candidate, nor aspiring to such office I have been told from time to time that I "am" a character, and I was never quite sure what was meant by it. Having done this research and looking back on it now, I suppose that I would have to go with #2. Some might additionally go so far as to say that I am a flawed character, though a flawed "aggregate of distinctive qualities" seems somewhat contradictory to me. Then again, perhaps it's the flaws that make me distinctive. Hey I like that!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ohio Professional Hockey - The Lame Name Game

There has been a large local focus on the recent naming of the new hockey team for the city of Toledo. Even though the team will not begin playing in the ECHL until the 2009, the ownership decided that the time had come to pick out the team name. After considered discussion, suggestions from the pubic (which they apparently paid no attention to), and marketing studies, they came to the conclusion that the new franchise name would be the Toledo Walleye. Now once you have picked yourself up off of the floor, and your laughter has reduced itself to a manageable level, I will attempt to explain why this is not as strange as it might appear. It appears that such things are common practice in the State of Ohio.

Now Toledo has had professional hockey on the minor league level for many years going back in its past. The Toledo Blades, the Goaldiggers, the Hornets. and the Mercurys. In fact, it only recently lost it's latest effort at a minor league franchise (it's hard to play after they tear down your arena). This team, the Toledo Storm began a play during the 1991-92 season and won two Riley Cup championships before its recent demise in the 06-07 season.

Cleveland, which now has the Lake Erie Monsters of the IHL (not a bad effort at a name), used to have the Lumberjacks. Pardon me, but I don't recall large tracts of virgin timber in the area, nor an abundance of beavers. It would however, allow the singing of the Monty Python "lumberjack song" as a team anthemn, so it's got that going for it.

Cincinnati has had the Mohawks in the past (pretty bad logo, but it was 1948-59 after all) and now has the Cyclones of the ECHL. This too is OK as names and logos go, but might have been confusing when Toledo had the Storm. Had somebody simply run our of inspiration or did they just think that two Ohio teams named for atmospheric events was a good idea?

Dayton has had the Gems and the Owls (lucky for you, I couldn't find the logos), and currently has the Bombers of the ECHL. This name isn't bad either. It takes in the whole Wright brothers / Wright-Patterson AFB thing into account, but the logo with the bomber on it is a lot cooler than this one. I suppose however, that it is the more politically correct.

Columbus, the only city in Ohio currently with a team in the NHL, has had a number of teams over the years, some of which I have been able to dig up logos on. The Checkers, the Seals, and the Owls (yeah, the same ones that were in Dayton) at one time played in Columbus.

They gave up their last minor league hockey team and a pretty good team name and logo, the Columbus Chill, to go with the Columbus Blue Jackets. This name was supposed to celebrate Ohio's Civil War heritage (I know, who knew that it had one). They started out with a losing record and a logo that was even a bigger loser; and the Blue Jacket bug, like the team itself, faced a fair amount of ridicule at home and around the league. The team and the logo are fairing better these days (even incorporating the flag of the state of Ohio in its latest logo), and there is a chance that they could even make the playoffs this year.

And then we have the Toledo Walleye...

Sure it may not the best name in the world, and the logo might leave a little bit to be desired; but when you consider it in the light of the history of naming Ohio hockey teams, we could have done a lot worse. (By the way, why does everyone think that it becomes a better logo by placing a hockey stick in its hand. See Beavers, Cyclones, Seals, and Blue Jackets.)

So I am choosing to do a catch and release with the Walleye, will give them a break, and wait to see them play. Having done the research, I now understand now that Ohio seems to have little understanding for this game invented in Canada, in spite of its proximity and of having had many teams over the years. I am an old hockey player myself, having chased my way up and down the ice for some 30 years, and that may also be part of the reason that I am willing to cut them some slack. You may even see me in a jersey one of these days in support of this new Toledo franchise (After all, I have one of the bug jerseys from Columbus, which proves that I have no shame).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Separation of Church and State

Many people believe that the concept of the separation of Church and State comes directly from our Constitution, and is outlined in the 1st Amendment. In point of fact, they are wrong. What this part of the Bill of Rights states is, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…". 

This was something that our Founding Fathers were rather concerned about, having suffered under religious persecution in Europe before coming here, and therefore they felt it was essential such protection be included in the founding document of this country. No, the concept in question actually comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson on January 1, 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association, where he writes of, "building a wall of separation between church and state". Now I am sure by now that you are wondering where in the heck I am going with this and how I knew it in the first place. (Does the word Wikipedia mean anything to you?)
Where I'm going with this is to state that in fact religion does not seem to be separated from government, in spite of the fact that we adhere strictly to the 1st Amendment. No non-Protestant president was elected to the office prior to the 20th Century. John F Kennedy was a candidate whose greatest flaw (at least that we knew of at the time) was that he was Catholic. Mitt Romney's biggest liability as a candidate during this latest election cycle seemed to be his Mormon religion. Barak Obama's fatal flaw may not be his positions or policies (how can they be flaws when we don't know what they are), but his association with Jeremiah Wright and the Trinity United Church of Christ. At a lesser level, we are told to celebrate Muslim members of Congress as if this says something about us that Jewish, Buddhist, or Hindu representatives in Congress does not.

Now I don't want to get into the specifics of the belief systems of any church and I am certainly not criticizing anyone here (I'm not qualified). These things are important, but they are a posting for another day. I am more concerned with the ties that seem to bind religion to politics. The right is pummeled and bullied by Christian zealots seeking to control the discussion and party platform on their side, and the left is overrun by special interest groups who want to treat everything from global warming to animal rights as religious beliefs. The process of debate in this country has become poisoned by doctrines which cannot and must not ever be questioned.
Any form of calm, reasoned political discussion is shouted down by these Inquisitors of moral exactitude on both sides and any questioning of either side's dogma are met by cries of "Blasphemy".

Perhaps it is time in this country for a true separation of Church and State. Personally I don't care if a candidate practices Zoroastrianism (look it up, I had to), is agnostic, or (dare I say it) an atheist; as long as they have a proven track record of honesty, good judgment, and ethical behavior. Practicing an organized religion does not qualify anyone to run for or hold political office. It does not in fact, even qualify them as a good person. Only their actions will give us the answer to that question. In one of the few times that you will ever hear me break with the spirit of the Founding Fathers, I will say that a belief in God (in any name, shape, or form) means nothing to the good governance of this country, unless it is part of a larger framework of closely held personal beliefs. Until we truly understand that, there will be no separation of Church and State.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fear Factor

Though I have never actually watched this show, I believe that I at least understand its premise. It didn't take much thought however, to realize that this show had missed it's calling in providing truly chilling experiences for its contestants. I don't know if it's still on, if it is on hiatus due to the writer's strike (though how would you write a reality show anyway), or if the producers are merely sitting back waiting for just such ideas as I am about to present before going back into taping. I offer these thoughts up however, knowing that most of them would either be considered too cruel to actually use, or would eliminate all of the players in the first round, ruining the episode.

- Being forced to watch political debates for 24 straight hours.

- Being forced to watch political commercials for 24 straight hours.

- Being forced to watch Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Will Farrell movies non-stop for an entire weekend.
(I am adding Will to my "Hall of Shame" of deplorable comic movie actors. I can't think of anyone who's career deserves it more.)
- Repeated Viewings of Michael Moore's "Sicko", followed immediately by Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth". (I can't decide if this or the previous movie festival is worse, but believe that both will eventually be outlawed by the Geneva Convention.)
- Waiting in a doctor's waiting room for 24 hours with nothing but health guides and out of date magazines to alleviate the boredom.

- Submitting to back-to-back physical examinations until the contestant's spirit breaks.

- Forcing contestants to stand in horribly long lines at the BMV.

- Participation in any course taught by the IRS.

- Being forced to fill out tax forms for 24 hours straight.

- Being forced to watch Reality shows in all of their forms while still particpating in them.

Those of you out there who watch these shows will have to let me know if they steal any of my ideas, as I have no intention of changing my practice of ignoring these shows. I will be happy to cut you in on any settlement recieved from the unlicensed use of my ideas.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Special Post: The Blessing of St Patrick

There are very few Holidays that I celebrate these days, but being Irish, St. Patrick's Day is one of them. This is not to say that you will find me in what passes for a pub in Toledo, drinking green beer and making a fool of myself. (In fact, there is probably no incentive that could be provided that could convince me to drink green beer, and I refuse to limit myself to one day a year to make a fool of myself.) I may enjoy a quiet drink at home however, toasting the patron saint of Ireland, and someone a little closer to home.

Now St. Patrick is curious as a Irish saint. This is first of all because he was in fact British, and only came to Ireland the first time as a captured slave of the Irish. He escaped however after six years, and returned to his home in Britain, eventually becoming a deacon and later a bishop. He returned to Ireland as a missionary, working in the north and the west of the island. While little is known of the places that he actually worked, and though the diocesan model of the Catholic church that he worked for did not come about as a result of his labors; he was never the less named the Patron Saint of Ireland by the eighth century. Likewise, while St. Patrick was credited with chasing
the snakes from Ireland, the truth of the matter is that there were no snakes in Ireland. Regardless of the truth of the situation and the fact that he was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church, we celebrate him on March 17th, believed to be the day of his death.

Now as a lad of good Irish Catholic stock (and a bit of Scotch-Irish as well), it has been my privilege to celebrate this most Irish of Holidays with the very life-blood created by the Irish, a pint of Guinness and a whiskey (even the Scots have finally admitted that they learned to create this nectar from the Irish monks). Over the years I celebrated in my home of Chicago, well-known for turning the river of the same name green for the event (it's green on all of the other days too, but not nearly so attractive a color). I have likewise celebrated in Savannah, Georgia, an experience that I highly recommend to those to whom the opportunity presents itself.

I have never had more reason to celebrate however, than in the last couple years, as my daughter Laura presented me with a granddaughter on St. Patrick's Day two years ago. Margaret Ruth Tipatina Demaria was presented to the world on March 17, 2006; and was the best reason that a family ever got for St. Patrick's Day celebration. Coming from good Irish stock on both sides of her family (and a little Italian, as her last name clearly implies), Maggie's smile carries an Irish sunrise and her displeasure all of the terror of an Irish winter. Now, as she reaches her 2nd birthday, and is able to better communicate her wants and needs (something she has never been shy about), she has become the center of this holiday for the family. Her birth did insure however, that at least for the next few years, her parents will celebrate this day with cake instead of Guinness.

Don't get me wrong here. I have four grandchildren: Michael, Madeleine, Andrew, and Maggie; and all of them are special to me. On St. Patrick's Day however, Maggie is queen. So here's to you Maggie on your birthday (and to all of you on St Patrick's Day), a traditional Irish toast:

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

Happy Birthday Maggie! I will see you soon...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

15 Minutes

It seems as though my local weekly newspaper, the Toledo Free Press, has decided that it would be a good idea to profile some of the local bloggers. Michael Miller, it's editor-in-chief, further decided that it would be a good idea to do a profile on yours truly first (a decision that he may soon come to regret). For those brave souls who have enough courage, clicking on this link lead you to it. This means that I am about to get some limited form of exposure (probably indecent) and notoriety (something that in my past has usually carried negative consequences). In other words, the clock is ticking on my 15 minutes of fame.

While I was pleased to realize that anyone beyond friends and a few twisted individuals were actually paying attention to what I had been doing, I was forced to question the lack of judgment on the part of The Free Press in considering me worthy of such notice. That they should do so in an issue dedicated to "Brain Gain", only speaks further to my amazement and to Mr. Miller's keen sense of irony. When asked to participate, I took great pains to point out that there are many bloggers in the Toledo area that cover far more important issues than I do, and do a much better job of it (and you know who you are)

Those of you not visiting for the first time might even recall that I have more than once called myself the comic relief to those far better and more serious efforts. I would therefore like to apologize here and now to you serious participants in the blogosphere for what I am sure is the unintended insult to your efforts that this profile creates. I believe that while Michael was doing this feature with good intentions, by placing me first on the list (or anywhere else on it for that matter) he has unwittingly condemned by association, those of you who follow.

There is some good news here, in that by having me go first the rest of you will all undoubtedly come off looking far more intelligent by comparison (this may have something to do with the fact that my IQ and shoe size are similar numbers). While no one involved at The Free Press would admit it, I sometimes think that this may have secretly been their plan all along. For those of you selected for these future profiles, let me point out that your brief notoriety will provide something additional to look forward to. Working with Rachael and Lad, the reporter and photographer that the Free Press sent my way, was a truly enjoyable experience. They made what I would have expected to be a very uncomfortable situation a rather painless process. I am sure that your experience with them will be equally as pleasant as mine was. 

So this is my 15 minutes then, huh. I suppose that I should be reveling in it while it lasts (it is only 15 minutes after all), but it really doesn't feel any different than normal yet. (Yes I know, this a rather curious term to use in a sentence regarding my life.) I doubt that anyone will be stopping me in the street for my autograph or asking me to appear on the local talk show circuit. Neither do I expect that new career opportunities will suddenly present themselves, or that my love life will improve as a result of this brush with fame; and I guess that's OK with me (though a couple of talks shows might be kind of fun). It may bring a few new people to the site at least, and that's a good thing. Anyone who writes does so to be read, and the more who do so the merrier. Who knows, maybe such attention will inspire me to write better, and that couldn't hurt anything. 

Despite my apparent cynicism on the subject however, I am grateful to Michael Miller for the opportunity that he has presented to me here. I am likewise grateful for the chance to get my 15 minutes out of the way, allowing me to me return to the mindless tedium of my every day existence and fade quietly away into obscurity. (One minor correction on the profile. I have 4 grandchildren, not 3. I don't know which one Rachael forgot, but I consider each of them rather important.) 

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Six Degrees of Illogical Separation

A person whose opinion I value has shared with me that I would better serve both this site and my audience by reducing the verbiage in some of my postings. 

Taking such things seriously (and knowing that I have talked too much for years) led me to consider the concept of brevity in all things. That in turn led to the creation of a string of quotes in which brevity was a part. (Besides, this is a crazy week, I am working at a conference, and I don't really have the time to do a real posting any justice.) 

In an effort therefore to be more to the point, and perhaps take this blog to a new level of absurdity, I present the following quotes as a sort of warped "connect the dots" form of poetry for you:

"I am not young enough to know everything." - Oscar Wilde  
"I am agnostic; I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure of." - Clarence Darrow  
"You can pretend to be serious; you can't pretend to be witty." - Sacha Guitry
" A witty saying proves nothing." - Voltaire  
"Brevity is the sole of wit." - William Shakespeare
" Brevity is the sole of lingerie." - Dorothy Parker

(... yeah, I know that this whole thing appears silly on the surface, but it is almost a form poetry after all. Besides, I really like the last one.)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Road Warriors

This time of year is conference season in the newspaper industry, and at the behest of my lords and masters, I have been asked to participate in some of these gatherings. As well as providing me with a much needed opportunity to improve the status of my imperfect and outdated knowledge of my industry, these sessions have granted me a new level of respect for those who lead the life that I used to, THE ROAD WARRIOR. While few if any bear any resemblance to Mel Gibson, and only a few drive with the same speed and reckless insanity of that movie character, all are constantly fighting battles in the trackless wasteland more commonly known as the real world.

For those of you, who have never lived out of a suitcase for any length of time, let me tell you that this is no pleasure cruise. Not even the worst vacation that you have ever been on can prepare you for the life that has to be led. So let me try and share some of the facts:

1. Yes you will get to eat out a great deal, but only the few meals with customers will probably be anything special. The rest will need to fit within the budget constraints of you bosses, and will normally be eaten alone.

2. Yes you will stay in hotels, but again, good ones only when customers are present. The rest will need to be in the best place that you can manage, again within company policies, and they will hopefully be critter and bug free. They will need to be, since you will be spending every waking hour in them. (Imagine going home from work at the end of the day and spending the rest of the evening in your bedroom, with nowhere else to go.)

3. Clothes will be hoarded carefully, as you never know when a trip will be extended and you don’t want to get caught short. Most evenings (in those lovely hotel rooms) will be spent sitting in your underwear to prevent wrinkling them any more than you have to.

4. Yes you may get to fly a good bit, which means endless TSA checks, delayed flights, bumped reservations, and lost luggage. You will soon find that you can sleep sitting in the chairs at the gate, on the plane, and sometimes standing in line outside of the security screening. You will also grow myriad aches and pains from too much time spent in a chair never designed for it.

5. And then there are the hours of course. Bored with the offerings of cable television and the design of the wallpaper in the room, you will find yourself working well into the wee hours of the morning. You will never be able to make up for the days and weeks of your life lost to traveling; but you will try, banging away at it until exhaustion takes you each evening.

Having served some 27 years on the front lines, and now suffering from what I can only believe to be a form of battle fatigue and post traumatic stress disorder(among my other quirks, defects, and shortcomings), I can only salute those of you who manage to continue. I convey my respect and my condolences for the battles you have fought and those that you will fight. You may never be granted the rewards nor the gratitude that you truly deserve for your sacrifice, but you will at least have the airline and hotel points.
(Which you can use for more travel. whoo hoo!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Post Election Depression

Well the Election Day madness is over in Ohio, and a couple of things became apparent. 

On a national level - Who really cares! McCain clinched the Republican nomination and Obama and Clinton are both willing to continue the fight. Blah, blah, blah ... This election has gone on so long that I can't keep an adequate supply of duct tape around the house to keep my head from exploding. I refuse to comment further on that madness, as every news wonk for 10,000 miles around has already talked it to death. 

Besides, I am too depressed to care (and I am sure that you want to know why). It is because on the local level, the city of Toledo voted to continue a .75% income tax and for a 6.5 mil levy for the Toledo Public Schools for the next 5 years by almost a 3-2 margin. 

Now you might wonder why in the world people would vote to remove money from their own pockets, but that would be because you don't understand the politics of the city of Toledo, so let me explain. Toledo is a union town (surprise, huh). In fact, approximately 30% of the population holds union membership. Any reduction in taxes, either in the city income tax or the levy, would predominantly impact the wages of the union workers in Toledo. These workers (police, fire, trash pick up, city office workers, teachers) have some pretty sweet contracts right now. 

Those contracts are negotiated by the politicians asking for the higher taxes. The unions therefore, vote for what the politicians ask for, and in return, the politicians keep the government taps open for these union contracts, as well as any other projects that are required to keep those in power - in power. 

And power in Toledo passes through families as if it were organized crime. Sons and daughters follow fathers and mothers in a form of political genetic engineering that seems to result in the shallow end of the gene pool forever in charge of local government. 

Quite frankly, the entire thing seems like a real-life version of "Groundhog Day". No matter when you wake up, Toledo is the same, and people with the same last names are running it.  

So the insanity continues, and the population of the city of Toledo (at least the smart ones or the ones with choices) seek for ways to escape the madness. I know that I should too, but I am simply too depressed to think about it right now. I am the Brando character in "Apocalypse Now", sitting in the dark, endlessly repeating: "The Horror, the horror ..." 

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Election - Words of Wisdom

On this, the day of the Ohio Primary, I thought that it would be worthwhile to share some of the wisdom recorded over the years about politics. For myself, I will say only this, "Get out and Vote!"  

"Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business... frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite."
 - Ronald Reagan  

"We in America do not have government of the majority. We have government of the majority who participate.

- Thomas Jefferson  

"Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain."
 - John F Kennedy 

"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"
- Abraham Lincoln  

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." 
- H L Menken

"This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer. - Will Rogers

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Sensitivity Training

The Ohio and Texas primaries coming up in just a couple of days, and their completion will probably crown either an African-American or a woman as the Democratic candidate for the office of president. I find with all of this, that there has been an increasing concern with sensitivity to issues of race, gender, and creed in politics and in life lately. This increased focus caused me to do some prodigious pondering on the sensitivity issues that may not be getting proper media coverage, so I have decided to point just of few of them out.  

- Mexican and Chinese restaurants should now be called Hispanic and Asian restaurants to prevent any offense that such names might cause those of these particular ethnic origins.

- BET (Black Entertainment Television) should change its name to African-American Entertainment Television, as the term Black is often considered offensive.

 - The United Negro College Fund should change its name as well, as the term Negro is likewise considered offensive.  

- The people calling themselves Christians, performing rather some rather deplorable acts while protesting outside abortion clinics and family planning centers should stop using this term for themselves, lest actual Christians should become offended by behavior which goes against their very creed. 

- Notre Dame should change the names of its sports teams, as both the Irish and Irish-Americans might take offense at the name "Fighting Irish" (and punch their lights out). 

 - All bars should refuse to serve the shooters known as "Kamikazes", as this could be considered offensive to soldiers considered to be dead heroes to the Japanese during World War II. 

- The American Civil Liberty Union should change it's name to the Progressive Liberal American Group Using Everyone, as these initials seem to more closely fit the agenda that they have chosen to follow and will therefore be less offensive to those of us who believe in true civil liberty and the Bill of Rights.  

- The name "White House", first used by Teddy Roosevelt for the presidential Executive Mansion should be changed, so that minority groups could find it less offensive that nothing but old, white guys have lived in it up until now. 

- People should stop calling the Federal government of the United States a "nanny state", as real nannies are becoming extremely offended.