A great deal of what we read in newspapers, magazines, and books, and what we see in the movies and on TV is written and produced in New York City or Los Angeles. Much of the "political wisdom" comes from the PR machines of the White House, the Congress, and from the Washington media corps.
In short, one might conclude that all knowledge, wisdom, and wit are confined to those who inhabit New York City, Washington, DC, or Hollywood.
As I creep gingerly up on my 7th decade of life experience - which was gained in many cities in the U.S. and in about 30 foreign countries, I decided to put down some ongoing thoughts in a series I call "The View From the Outback." That experience has included the U.S. Marines, law school, the ATF, the CIA, Fortune 500 executive, writer, public speaker, educator, editor, and publisher - for openers. For over 20 years, I have written articles off and on for various magazines and newspapers. I've had an enormous number of letters published in major national publications. The Outback is the rural area in Northeast Texas where I have lived for the past 10 years. Each Monday I will attempt to post a new set of musings from the Outback.
Congratulations to Gloria Steinem, the feminist matriarch, who got married at age 66! Her hubby, age 61, is an animal-rights activist. It is a stroke of luck that they are too old to have children together. Can you imagine a kid who stands on a soapbox at the beach in California proclaiming that it is the beached female whales who are left to die, while the male whales are pushed back to sea? And that female Dolphins at Sea World do not get as many fish as the male Dolphins? And you thought Felix and Oscar were the Odd Couple. Keep your eye on these two.
You can't bring a can of Pepsi into the Olympics. No guns, knives, or Pepsi. Coca-cola is an official sponsor of the games. People are running around taping over the logos on non-sponsor computers and TV sets. The only way to escape the onslaught of this general commercial madness is to live in a cabin in the woods with no car, radio, newspaper or TV. You will live a lot longer, too. Less stress, less anxiety, more time for smelling the roses. The Unibomber had the right idea up there in Montana. Then he had to go and spoil it with that stupid bomb thing.
Has the political campaign got you down? Do you get angry, as I do, at some of the stupid things said on both sides? Tip! Don't watch another news show or read the front section of the newspaper until after the election. You won't miss a thing. We lived for two years in Laos during the Vietnam war (wife and two sons). We had no TV, no English newspapers, and only rarely listened to Voice of America on AM radio. Back in the Washington, DC area, we attended a cocktail party. We asked several people standing around to bring us up to date with the goings on in America in the past two years. After ten minutes of recap, people ran out of things memorable to mention. You ain't missing nothin'. You just think you are.
Anne Heche, recently estranged from Ellen Degenerate, has sold her memoirs to Scribner. There ought to be a rule that nobody can write an autobiography until age 65, unless they have a terminal illness. Wait until you have something to talk about. The sad thing is that idiotic books like this take up shelf space and take away ad revenue for "real" writers who write "real" books. Anne may have had a sad life so far (hey, sweetheart, it may get worse), but doubtless not an interesting one. Not $29.95 interesting. The book will probably sell well if there are descriptions in there of "what it is like for one woman to make love to another woman." With photos? Otherwise, invest in penny stocks.
A report from Duke University Medical Center said that exercise worked as well as Zoloft in treating clinical depression. For nearly 20 years, I was a member of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, where many top executives worked out. One day a friend, who was the president of a large company, came dragging onto the track. He said, "I had a really rough board meeting today. Looks like it will be a 5-mile day." That was how we judged our days. A two-miler meant you got lucky and had a hot date. Exercise is also good for your heart, your cholesterol, helps your digestion, helps you sleep better, and improves your sex life. Forget the HDTV set you have been eyeballing. Buy a treadmill.
Hillary Clinton a Victim Again
Congressman Rick Lazio lost some ground after his debate with Hillary. Some are saying that he was too rude and aggressive, and some are painting him as a mean person. Poor Hillary. If you have never lived or worked in New York, you cannot appreciate the irony of this "Hillary is a victim" thing. New Yorkers, particularly those in Manhattan and the boroughs, are brought up in an adversarial climate, where whoever shouts the loudest wins.
It is the "in-your-face" sort of existence that a simple boy from the Midwest could not comprehend when first he ventured into NYC. You think "The Sopranos" is fiction? I watch the news from NYC on satellite as a "sociological study." I once wrote a female anchor in NYC that she could not be a native, as she was too nice. She responded by calling me to chat and telling me of her non-New York background - and we have exchanged a few notes over time. What we saw in the debate was a typical hard-nosed New Yorker in Lazio. He probably cut Hillary some slack, since she is a woman.
Over many years of watching Senators, for endless hours on C-SPAN, and in various TV forums, one can point to Chuck Schumer as the prototypical New Yorker. He is the most rude, abrasive, contentious, and obnoxious person I can remember in the Senate in the last 40 years or so. If Hillary were a Republican and Chuck were running against her, she would have run from a debate in tears. Give me a break! Hillary is about as much a victim as those who shoot Heroin into their veins and blame the pusher for their problems. This is New York, baby. Learn to live with it. And watch "Judge Judy" for tips on how to get up to speed as a New Yorker.
There are a lot of nice folks in New York, and I count a few of them as friends. But, if you were brought up in New York or Philly, and are honest with yourself, you know that the level of dialogue is very high and shrill - even at the simplest level. When I was a Federal agent in Philly, one night in a gas station I asked two guys for directions. They had differing views and ended up shouting and shoving each other! All I asked was for some street directions. One of my partners in the Feds had been a Philly police detective. If we were driving around on a case and somebody cut us off in traffic, or whatever, he would show his badge and motion the guy over. Then, he would slide his jacket back so his gun was showing and say to the driver. "Hey, buddy. How would you like a new asshole?" I have never forgotten these little glimpses of life in the City of Brotherly Love and similar incidents in NYC. Hillary got off light.
The Shocking Price of Gas!
I got an e-mail from Jennifer L. the other day that was very thought-provoking. It had to do with the "high price" of gas. The e-mail pointed out that you have to drill for oil, refine it, transport it, and sell it at a gas station. If you take away the taxes, you pay about a buck a gallon, even with gas at $1.50 for regular.
Then, there was a list of what some common items cost per-gallon. Gatorade at $10 a gallon, Evian Water at $21 a gallon, Scope mouthwash at $85 (I keep telling you to buy the house brand), and Whiteout correction fluid at $254 a gallon - among several other examples. Farmers cannot make a living selling wheat and corn. Yet, a box of breakfast cereal costs nearly $4 a box. Somebody along the way is making a killing - on a lot of different products.
Have you bought any designer jeans or shirts lately? For the privilege of wearing Hilfiger across your chest or back, you pay several times what the same grade shirt would cost in a non-designer line. Make a list of everything you bought this month. For most of it you paid way too much. Instead of a basic T-shirt with a little animal on it for $35, you can get the same quality at Wal-Mart for $12. And on and on. Gas is the least of your problems.
The Handspring 30-day Return Guarantee
Last week I got a Handspring Deluxe PDA direct from Handspring. Their web site touts a "30 day return for full-credit." My unit never got past the opening screen, no matter how many times I did a soft reset, or a hard reset, or took the batteries in and out. I know how the thing is supposed to operate, since it is almost identical in function to the Palm IIIx, which I have used. I called the Customer Care center (a misnomer) to get an RMA number and was told that I had to call tech support first, on a non-toll-free number. If I am unhappy with the unit, even if it worked, I am supposed to be able to return it for credit. I don't need to talk to tech support in any case. I refused and asked to speak to a supervisor. After a long time on hold, I hung up. Stay tuned.
Coincidentally, I decided to put together a Pentium III 800 MHz machine from parts and assembled them from various sources. It took less time to build a complete computer than it took me to fuss and fume for hours trying to get the Handspring Visor to work. Ain't technology grand? For what it is worth, the ASUS CUSL2 motherboard looks like a winner. Windows ME installed perfectly. I am off to the races with my new computer, which gives me another place on which to stack papers.
Elton John is Now a Senior Political Analyst
Just when you thought you had heard the most outlandish drivel from the Entertainment Elite about the political campaign, Elton John has thrown his hat in the ring as a pundit. Elton John is from England, so he cannot threaten to leave the U.S. if Bush is elected, as did Robert Altman. He says that "it's back to the Dark Ages" (if you vote for Bush).
He had just paid $10,000 for a seat at a fund-raising dinner for Al Gore. One has to question his judgment along with the others at such events - Democrat of Republican. I wonder if Al Gore ever paid to hear Mr. John perform? But, Mr. Gore no doubt appreciates the English gay-vote-of-confidence even though Elton can't vote in our election.
Elton, please tell us that if Mr. Bush wins, you will not perform in the United States. We can live with that - even in our deep despair over our decline into the Dark Ages.
A Surge in Drug Advertising Boosts Sales
I mentioned in an earlier column about the ads on TV for prescription drugs. In 1999, pharmaceutical companies spent $1.8 billion in ads beamed at consumers. We would all be better off if they would use that money to lower the price of their drugs and let doctors do the prescribing. Some commercials don't even tell you what the drug is good for. It may say only, "Ask your doctor what XXXXXX can do for you."
I can't imagine starting a conversation with your doctor, which is usually only going to last about 3-4 minutes, with "Doc, can you tell me what XXXXX can do for me? But here is the amazing part, doctors wrote about 34% more prescriptions in 1999 than in 1998 for the 25 most-advertised drugs! It's going to get worse. It seemed to me that there has been an big increase in the Rx ads in just the last few weeks. Oh, for the good old days of the "Quicker picker upper" versus the other paper towel. And for Tiger and his Wheaties - with none of those depressing-sounding side effects.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Richard C. Rhodes
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