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Monday, August 29, 2011

City of Austin Might Close Our Pool

City of Austin: " Ned Smith
Your e-mail address:
Subject: Winter Closing of Dick Nichols Pool
Categories: parks
I have recently heard from several of my fellow swimmers that closing of the swimming pool at Dick Nichols Park is under consideration. The apparent reason for the discontinuance of services is purported to be the costs of heating the pool during the winter.

The majority of my neighbors in the area immediately adjacent to Dick Nichols Park are not aware of the possible closure and I only learned about it today (Aug. 29, 2011) . The use of the pool throughout the year is of major importance for many reasons including health, social interaction and recreation.

If such an action is under consideration it should be examined in open forum since it does concern a fairly wide swath of the community.

Please provide full information about this possible curtailment of services at your earliest convenience.

Thank you,

Ned Smith


'via Blog this'

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Check out my magazine!

Check out my magazine!

Fame comes to those that deserve it? Not in the 21st century where we have proven as And Warhol suggested "everyone is famous for ________ minutes

Friday, August 12, 2011

Post Political "Activism"

From "Prospect", a British monthly covering politics, economics and culture:
"The nihilistic grievance culture of the black inner city, fanned by parts of the hip-hop/rap scene and copied by many white people, has created a hardcore sub-culture of post-political disaffection. The disaffection is mainly unjustified. It’s as if the routine brutalities and racist humiliations of 30 to 40 years ago have been lovingly preserved to provide a motor of real anger for what is really just a kind of adolescent pose. But this disaffection is lionised in popular culture and feared and admired—and mainly simply ignored—by white Britain. It’s time the rest of the country took more notice.

The shooting of Mark Duggan does give the original rioting a link to the more political disturbances of the 1980s. There clearly was a problem with the handling of the Duggan case, and there is still a problem between young black people and the police with stop and search. But by all accounts relations with police are vastly improved on the 1980s, and Operation Trident, the police operation to combat the hugely disproportionate gun crime in the black community, was requested by the black community itself and is generally regarded as a success..."

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Games We Played

 Back in the old days, when I was a kid...
 Radio was our main source of “home entertainment” (the expression wasn’t even coined until more than 30 years later) It was News and “Arthur Godfrey”* in the morning, “Jack Armstrong- All American Boy, The Lone Ranger, The Shadow” et al in the evening. Late at night, (10:00) I’d listen to the baseball games and jazz on the portable in my bedroom until my mother turned it off when she checked on me on her way to bed.
; During the day, after school, we’d play in the yard outside the kitchen. My first playmates were mainly my cousins, Patsy, Kathleen and Billy.

We’d play School: I’ll be the teacher and you’re the kids... 
 Doctor: OK what’s wrong with you? Here’s a prescription, take it to the drugstore... 
 House: I’ll be the daddy. Kathleen, you’re the mom and Patsy you’re the daughter...
 Store: Good morning Mrs. Smith, what can I get for you today...
 War: (When Billy was playing with us or with some of the boys in the neighborhood)
Cops and Robbers (with Billy and /or neighborhood boys)
 Cowboys and Indians (“Whoever heard of girl cowboys?”)
 We gave our imaginations full workouts every day in our play and visualizing the people, places and action we heard on the radio. Saturdays we gave our imaginations a rest when we went to the Children’s Show at the neighborhood movie theater. Eleven cents for admission to a four and a half hour extravaganza. Three or four serials (Lone Ranger, Superman, etc.), a few cartoons like Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, “Stooges” or “The Ritz Brothers” and two full-length features. Plus a comic book and three cents worth of penny candy. Besides taking a break from our imagination-training, Saturdays gave us a chance to verify or modify our imaginative images of our radio heroes - sometimes. Or sometimes we thought “Tonto doesn’t really look like that at all” 
 In some ways, reading was my favorite entertainment. When I read, it was all in my imagination and I could return to important events in a book any time I wanted to.
 The earliest reading experiences I can remember were comics. First, the “funnies” in the newspapers (we got the morning and evening papers every day and they all had “funnies”. ) “Lil Abner” “Dagwood” and “Donald Duck” were my early favorites and then I discovered comic books - that I devoured almost insatiably until one day, when I was about eight, I decided that they were a waste of time and money and I switched to real books. A friend of the family had given me her sons childhood library and I soon became obsessed with “The Boy Allies” Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” , “Tom Sawyer”, Huckleberry Finn, later “My Friend Flicka”, “Call of the Wild” and more 
> Whenever I think of my childhood reading, the book that comes first to mind is “Scaramouche” by Rafael Sabatini. The book opens with these lines “ He was born with the gift of laughter...and with a feeling that the whole world was mad... and this was his entire inheritance” 
> The events that were taking place in Europe and the Pacific were frequently in the News and on our minds and many kids like me dreamed of being war heroes- fighting the Nazis in Europe and the “Japs” in the Pacific.
> Our uncles and cousins were in the Army or Navy and many of the kids were secretly disappointed when the war came to an end in 1945 and I was eleven. We hoped to join join up as soon as we were old enough but World War II ended before we had a chance. Little did I suspect that I’d have an opportunity to live out my fantasies before I was 20.
> The thing I’ve been wondering about for a long time is how do kids develop their imaginative muscles today when almost nothing is left to the imagination. They watch “Cops and Robbers”, “Doctor” “House” “War” etc. on 40 inch TV screens or play it on their Xboxes. When do they exercise their imaginations, flex their poers of visualization and build-up their mucles of creativity. Their grandparents, the baby-boomers or “flower-power” people as they were known in the ‘sixties, had at least one imagination-expanding exercise, they watched TV with the sound turned off, supplying dialogue for the images on the screen, frequently inspired by and facilitated through the use of recreational drugs i.e. marijuana and sometimes (rarely LCD or “acid”). Please note:
> “Don’t do this at home” or anywhere else for that matter. The side effects (including arrest and detention) aren’t worth the “trip”
> So please tell me, how do you insure that the imaginative/creative synapses are connected? What pratctices or devices can you think of that might help develop those intellectual and emotional qualities that will help make your creative juices flow and your empathetic feeling develop and thrive. Or doesn't that matter anymore?

On the Road with My Shadow

It was in the early forties, during WWII and somehow my dad got hold of a car with gas and we drove from “the City” (NYC) to Rockaway Beach, via the causeway that is now part of JFK. As we drove towards Rockaway, we had a panaromic view of a half dozen beaches. Each beach was known by the street that led to it.
 116th St. was the main drag of Rockaway Park with arcades,Irish bars and custard stands lining both sides of the street. The Boardwalk separated the beach from the street and the wide, sandy beach was well-covered with bathers and condoms from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Dad and I approached the beach from Far Rockaway, whose center was around 25th St. about four miles east of Rockaway Park. As I looked at the beach from the car, I noticed that some of the beaches were dark blocks and others were almost pure white.
I asked my dad why some beaches were dark and others weren’t. He explained that the dark beaches were crowded with people and the others were empty. I wondered why so many people would choose the crowded beaches and avoid the empty ones. My Dad, told me that most people inevitably would gravitate towards places where other people were- that they felt “safety in numbers” he said. We found a great beach with plenty of space- away from the “maddening crowd” 
Throughout the rest of my life, I have consistently avoided the crowds and rarely regretted it. If something, a beach, a book, a movie or place  was “Top of the Pops” I found an alternative. As a result, I discovered some wonderful people, places and things and often found myself solitary in my explorations. Certainly no one can dispute the fact that man or woman is a gregarious animal but perhaps some are more gregarious than others. 
In the time of our prehistoric ancestors, it was probably only after the emergence of agriculture that our ancestors begin to show a marked tendency towards what I’ll call “crowding” for want of a better term. Hunters might work in small groups to facilitate the capture and kill the larger prey but it was not carried over to other activities and the gatherers worked primarily on their own. Yet, there appears to be a genetic predisposition toward “crowding”: seeking out opportunities to commune with others, often complete strangers. None the less there are some of us who eschew large parties, stadiums, rallies and any congregation of more than twenty (‘is plenty”)  individuals. Perhaps, we missed an evolutionary step?
Or perhaps as Emily Dickinson wrote: “The heart knows...”
In this, my second road trip of the 21st century, I have been a solitary traveller, going from place-to-place without much of a planned itinerary, on my own for the most part.
In comparison last year, I had a number of pre-set destinations: from Austin to Iowa where I picked up my new camper and from there to Madison where I picked up my youngest daughter who had completed her studies for her Master’s degree. Together, we travelled to Montreal for my granddaughter’s graduation from the University of Montreal. Then my daughter Amelie went back to Madison and I drove south to Hudson, NY to visit with my sister who I hadn’t seen in about 20 years and attend a reunion of her family including our brothers and assorted nephews.
Then, it was to Albany, NY to pick up my wife Danielle at the airport and drive to the Green Mountains where we spent a week together. Danielle then returned to Austin and I headed south to Okracoke Island, NC where I fished for bluefish, flounder and other fish for a week and then headed back north to Charlottesville, VA and then back to Madison where  I picked up Amelie complete with furniture and her personal belongings and returned to Charlottesville where I deposited my daughter and her belongings, spent some time with my son Matthias and his family and drove west to the mountains of West Virginia where I did some white water rafting and then headed home to Austin via Nashville, Memphis Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. During my odyssey, I spent as much time in the company of family as I did alone, or perhaps more with family than alone.
Summer 2011 has been a very different trip. Aside from 1 week in July, with my wife in Wyoming (mostly in Yellowstone, National Park, where we ogled the elk and beheld a lot of buffalo.) I was completely alone in my travels and that was good - up to a point until I began to tire of my own company. Like the old song “Me and My Shadow” ... “And when we climb the stairs, we never knock ‘cause nobody’s there. Just me and my shadow- all alone and feeling blue”
I do believe that solitude is good for the soul - and the mind but even I, not the most gregarious of men, need a little company once in a while. In an email she posted to me at the start of my trip in late June, my elder daughter wrote to wish me “happy trails” and
said that she thought I’d meet some interesting people on the way. I’m afraid the interesting ones were few with hundreds of miles between encounters. If I hadn’t given up drinking a few years ago, I might have met a few in the watering holes along my route but “I quit, so I didn’t” and besides, they probably wouldn’t have proved truly “interesting” in the cold light of day.
So, here’s one [ice tea] for the road, hoping that there’s a cool fellow traveller at the next campground.

Nature, Nurture?

Thanks to recent breakthroughs in brain research and DNA technology, what has been until now a major controversy is no longer in serious dispute. As an example, brain research has identified a plethora of concrete indicators pointing to clear evidence of inherited indicators of many of the traits and tendencies that were previously concerned “learned” or somehow absorbed from the environment.
  “_ _ _ _ _ _ are made not born” (Fill in the blanks with virtually any qualification or acievement: “musical genius, star athlete, creative writer, painter, serial killer, drug addict etc.”) and you’d probably be wrong. As an example, a 40 year study of Korean war orphans adopted by American parents at the end of the Korean war, indicated quite clearly that the effects of “enlightened or ‘serious’ “ parenting by college educated upper middle class couples who adopted one of a pair of Korean infant twins, produced no better results than the other twin who was adopted by a couple without advanced education who were fairly “casual” or “hands-off” parents. It is clear from the Korean Orphan Study and most other research on the subject, that it is our genetic inheritance,   our DNA, that is the determining factor in potential success as a pro basketball player, a classical musician or composer , or sculptor. With the “wrong” DNA you might become a drug addict, a “gang banger” or a “serial killer” Your success will very much depend on the amount of time you devote to developing the skills you inherited, but without the necessary genetic predisposition, “practice, practice, practice” will not get you to
Carnegie Hall.
The implications of these findings has obvious effects in many areas, including philosophy, education and the law. In the area of moral philosophy, we are returning to a serious controversy that was raised by Calvin and became the foundation for the protestant sect that he founded. This was the concept of “predestination” the idea that from birth, your life and its outcome was already decided by God. Prayer, good works, sacrifice - nothing you do would change your destination. The successful merchants of early New England were obviously blessed by the almighty, the slaves they transported in their ships were not. So, perhaps Calvin and his followers were on the right track and those who questioned predestination were not.
Education? If a child is born without the intellectual equipment to indicate probable success in school, should the state spend funds on traditional academic training or should she be channeled into a vocational educational track?
The Law? 
If someone lacks the DNA that creates the synapses for moral judgement or conversely a predatory “killer instinct”, can we convict him of homicide if he kills. If the argument is “My genes made me do it” how can we incarcerate the perpetrator? Or execute the serial killer?
How should society deal with this truly revolutionary information? 
It could just ignore it and hope it would all go way
Accept some of the implications and “stonewall” those that conflict with our Judeo-Christian ethical system
Leave it all to individual choice and provide no official guidelines. 
Control reproduction by “ carriers of anti-social genes”
What do you think?