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Posts Tagged ‘Xenia Gazette’

Confronting your greatest fear

In Children and Family, Health, Local News, Opinion, psychology, Uncategorized on April 26, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

In the aftermath of the 1974 Xenia tornado, people in surrounding communities did what they could to help with the cleanup. Although my father was a teacher at the vocational school at the time, he also had heavy trucks so we went to help as well.

Everywhere you looked was devastation. Stunned families cried or stared blankly as broken water mains sprayed the splintered remains of unrecognizable homes. It was horrific. Even as a first-grader, what I saw that first day among the shattered remains of Xenia was inexorably seared into my memory and cultivated a fear of storms that’s hard for me to, even now, put into words.

During my first couple of years of college, I was fortunate enough to live at home and commute. One after class I went home and settled in to watch a movie and scarf down some drive thru before hitting the books. It was a dark, rainy day and the sky had that “look” about it.

Ever since that day in 1974, I’ve been keenly aware of unstable weather, as if I had some kind of built in, biological barometer in my head and this was one of those days when that sense was at its peak.

As I plowed through my burger and onion rings in front of the TV, the power flickered several times, but I did my best to ignore it. I was home alone, and as the wind and rain picked up, the trees in the valley surrounding our small farm it sounded like wild animals roaring in the distance.

At one point, I ventured out the back door and stood behind the house, watching the clouds off to the southwest. The wind became still. The rain stopped. It was dead quiet. I walked to the other side of the house for a better view on the far side of our barn. And there it was. About a hundred yards away, spinning down from the sky to the pasture in front of me – a tornado. It was small, gray, kicking up debris and dancing its way across the field in front of me as if with some kind of purpose in mind.

The 1974 Xenia Tornado was one of hundreds in a massive storm outbreak on April 3.

The 1974 Xenia Tornado was one of hundreds in a massive storm outbreak on April 3. This is probably the most famous photo taken of the giant twister from Greene Memorial Hospital by Fred Stewart.

I was frozen; not with fear, but with fascination. There it was, right in front of me, the thing I feared most; no, more than that. It was the only thing I’d ever been afraid of. Any normal person would have bolted to the nearest cellar. But I didn’t. I stood there, motionless.

A moment later, the funnel met the ancient wooden sideboards of one of my dad’s old farm trucks and they exploded into splinters with a sound like the cracking of a dozen brittle bones. I still didn’t move. I wasn’t afraid at all.

It seemed like it took an eternity for it to cross the 10-acre spread of pasture field, but it was probably more like 30 seconds. It bounced across the road a quarter mile away, circumvented one neighbor’s home completely but then crashed into an adjacent barn, destroying it in the blink of an eye and scattered bits of wood, sheet metal and hay for miles. I stood there, still motionless, taking it all in.

And as quickly as it came, it was gone. After it wrecked the barn across the road, it dissolved into nothing. A moment later, I realized I was being soaked by rain but still staring off across the field. It left a path of small debris along the way and mashed down the high grass as if some kids had tromped a trail through the field. But it was over. And any fear I once felt of these storms was gone.

As I got older, I studied everything I could about tornadoes, even going on a few local storm chases back in school. Over the years, I faced with two more of the swirling monsters but no longer fear any kind of storm. Today I am respectful of their power and unpredictability and still have a sixth sense when things aren’t right in the wind. The best thing any of us can do during Ohio’s tornado seasons is to be alert and prepared.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com.

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Is America ready for a Muslim president?

In Business, Opinion, Politics, Religion on October 12, 2015 at 9:50 am

 Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOPresidential hopeful, Dr. Ben Carson, recently stated that he believes a Muslim should not be president of the United States. No sooner had he finished the sentence than the Internet exploded with sharply negative responses.

It’s hard to say exactly what Carson meant by this comment, which was most likely intended to endear him further to his conservative base. But, although it may not be politically correct to say so, there is a logical and practical concept behind the idea.

Professionally speaking, there is no reason a Muslim couldn’t or shouldn’t be president, anymore than there is for a Catholic. Perhaps a more correct statement might be that America, over all, may simply not be ready for a Muslim in the White House.

That said, a recent Gallup poll reports that six out of ten Americans questioned would say “yes” to a Muslim presidential candidate, that’s about 60-percent. That’s a higher number than one might expect but keep in mind poll numbers reflect only the demographic being surveyed. And, some might respond more positively so as not to appear bigoted, even if they don’t totally approve.

Can a Muslim achieve the presidency? Conservatives continue to debate the religious leanings of President Obama.

Can a Muslim achieve the presidency? Conservatives continue to debate the religious leanings of President Obama.

Christianity and Islam are the two largest religious groups in the world, at 33-percent and 21-percent of the population, respectively. So it’s only logical to assume there would be a greater number of each who are already serving in public office and aspire to something higher.

One major concern against the idea of a Muslim president seems to be that his faith would somehow force him to undermine or find himself in conflict with certain anti-terror policies. However, it’s vital to remember that it wasn’t “Islam” that attacked the U.S. on September 11th, but extremist terrorists – something with which Christianity should be all too familiar.

It only takes an eyes wide open look over the shoulder of Christianity to see that, historically, its followers have been responsible for more and bloodier deaths than any other single religious sect on earth. It may not be a popular truth but it is, in the end, the truth. As with most emotionally driven ideals, people have selective memory when it comes to Christianity, ignoring the bad and highlighting the positive.

During the Crusades, horrible wars were fought between European Christians and Muslims, so the arguments between the two groups are certainly nothing new. Over the millennia, Christians have fought in support of some pretty awful ideals including slavery and anti-Semitism. Even the spiritual beliefs of the Native American nations are all but extinct because of Christian influence and forced conversion.

In addition, given the sheer power and reach of the Catholic Church, it would seem far more dangerous an influence on U.S. policy than any Muslim could achieve. The resources and impact of the Vatican are as great as any first world country.

On the flip side, why would anyone in the Democratic Party vote for a Muslim? The liberal base is made up of civil rights heavies and women’s issue activists. If push came to shove, wouldn’t they steer clear of endorsing or giving any kind of authority or power to an individual whose beliefs include the subjugation of women and other groups?

Should a Muslim be president? Why not? But, is America prepared for it yet, probably not, despite what Gallup says. For the most part it’s not because of bigotry or racism, at least not intentionally. It’s just that people are often very frightened of change.

Still, as the election draws nearer over the next year, remember that the best reason to vote for someone is not because of gender, religion, or the color of his or her skin. Choose because of sound qualifications and agreement with the platform.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

More money needed to combat child poverty

In Children and Family, Economy, National News, Opinion, Politics, sociology on May 19, 2015 at 11:51 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOFor many Americans, a day of suffering might include a flat tire on the way to work, the cable going out right before a favorite program, or a long line at the coffee shop. But for millions of children, suffering means doing without basic necessities like proper nutrition and even the most basic health care.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), more than 16 million children in the United States live in families with income below the poverty level of $23,550. That’s a staggering 22-percent of all the kids in the country.

Some people today believe that childhood poverty in America is something from the past. In fact, one in six children in the United States lives below the poverty line.

Some people today believe that childhood poverty in America is something from the past. In fact, one in six children in the United States lives below the poverty line.

Despite the political rhetoric, generally coming from conservatives who feel poverty is a problem of the lazy, the NCCP reports that most of the parents of these children do indeed work. But low wages and in unstable employment situations continue to restrict any sort of progress for them. Experts agree that poverty is the single greatest threat to the welfare of American children in modern society.

In addition, for those who believe that poverty is a problem mainly suffered by minorities, here are some statistics. The NCCP reports that among America’s poorest children, 4.2 million are white, 4 million are Latino, 3.6 million are African American, 400,000 are Asian, and 200,000 are American Indian. That’s right; the majority of American kids living in poverty are white. But, clearly, the numbers are fairly close, so it’s certainly clear that poverty doesn’t seem to discriminate.

Red Nose DayMost of what’s needed to help this problem involves, as always, more money. There just isn’t enough funding through government social service programs to provide the needed services to support poverty-stricken children and younger adults. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC), along with charity partners such as Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Feeding America, is sponsoring a national day of awareness and fund-raising called, “Red Nose Day,” on Thursday, May 21st.

The United Way of Orange County, California explained the event on their website, “The campaign encourages everyone from children to corporations to do something fun in the name of raising awareness around a serious global issue, while also raising funds to help identify and deliver solutions. Red Nose Day USA activities culminate in a 3-hour telethon airing on NBC Saturday May 21 at 8pm.”

In addition to events like Red Nose Day, people are encouraged to help out in whatever capacity available to them, and it’s not just about writing a check. Those interested in volunteering can check with their local chapter of The United Way or other social service organizations to find out more.

Living in the richest, most powerful country in the world should inherently provide some kind of security for a child, at the very least with regard to food and shelter. Without proper living conditions, a child will simply not be able to learn well and that makes school less of a priority than eventually helping the family to support itself.

Children who can’t learn or leave school will only continue the cycle of poverty in many instances, forever locking themselves into the lowest paying work, when employment is even available.

So the question begs to be asked, “Can’t the government do more?” Yes, it can. But it hasn’t, and it probably won’t. Annually, only a pittance of tax dollars is allocated towards this problem and local social service programs are continually scaled back because of lack of funding.

Even the great Affordable Healthcare Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), which was supposed to provide health insurance for America’s poorest citizens, has made no significant difference. Because of its incredibly complicated application procedures, among other reasons, the program has thoroughly failed to meet healthcare needs of these children and their families.

Even if someone only has a little more, there is always a way to help those with far less. Red Nose Day is a fun start, but there needs to be more done to help those living in poverty. Congress (liberal and conservative alike) and the president share the blame for this tragic disfigurement of American culture. It’d be interesting to see how they would handle living without the six-figure salaries and free insurance.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

A short discussion of time.

In Entertainment, history, Literature, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Science, sociology, Technology, Uncategorized on January 12, 2015 at 12:51 pm

DIH LOGOTime is a concept, at least on Earth, unique to humans. No other creature has a sense of time nor do they seem to miss it. When deprived of its constant ticking, however, humans do indeed miss it – sometimes to the point of madness. People can go insane without the ability to follow the hands around the clock, chasing them as if to pursue food or shelter.

But time simply doesn’t exist. With all due respect to clock makers and the people who force you wait incredulously for an hour after arriving on punctually for a doctor’s appointment, time has no basis in reality; none, whatsoever. Oh sure, early man followed the sun up and down and watched moon phases to generate a calendar with which he soon began measuring the march of days. But he (figurative “he,” not intended to slight the fairer sex) is the only creature on the planet that has done so.

Contrary to the beliefs of theoretical physicists and science fiction fans, the “space-time continuum” is, for lack of a better word, hooey. Time travel will never be possible, forward or backward, regardless of whether one climbs into a souped-up DeLorean or a Frigidaire. It’s just impossible to physically move through a “concept.”

GLD_DIH_JAN15_TIMEThe great physicist, Albert Einstein, couldn’t have said it better when he theorized that time was relative to the position of the spectator. Time exists only in a single instant and even then only in the mind of the observer. There is no yesterday; no tomorrow. Man has no future and no past.

“History,” as it is referred to, is merely the recorded experience of one onlooker in a particular moment, captured in human memories, cave paintings, crayon, photos, writings, and now selfies. One cannot pass to and fro through history and every moment is affected by whom or whatever is present at that instant, without exception; otherwise referred to as “causality.”

For creatures with such a self-confident understanding of the passage of time, human beings certainly spend a great deal of it wastefully, ignoring the precious moments that can never be revisited or repeated. Mankind can be so caught up in his own affairs that important lessons whiz right by his primate-anchored brain cells, forcing him to forget to learn from his recorded past.

In youth, human beings tend to feel, somewhat accurately, that time is endless. In fact, since it is nothing more than a concept, time is endless, but the lifetime of the person is what turns out to be far more limited.

Young people burn up their early years in the ridiculous pursuit of high school glory, good grades, the first of a string of hopeless romantic partnerships, and, eventually, trying to get into the latest night spot by claiming to be older. Sadly, none of these efforts generally result in a fortunate use of time, mostly ending in yet another suitcase on the ever overstuffed baggage cart of life.

As the cart grows, letting go of some of that baggage is something with which humans have an incredibly difficult time. Resolving the past often requires thousands of dollars and hours on the analysts couch, but to no end. Life is cumulative, but time isn’t.

Eventually, humans created machines to measure time’s conceptual passing. Clocks are designed to offer a graduated visual representation of the passage of conceptual time based originally on the movements of the sun. In reality, it was the movement of the earth that was being marked.

Clocks and calendars are man’s way of trying to wrangle time to behave the way he wants it to. The fact is, since he created the idea of time, he has had complete control of it all along but never realized it.

Whether it’s being measured or not life goes on. Human beings would be far happier if they spent less time wallowing in the past or worrying about the future.

As hair turns grey and bones go brittle, the clock continues to tick down the conceptual passage of time. But real or not, the most important thing anyone can do is try to appreciate that one, amazing, wondrous moment of time within which everyone exists.

 

The Jamestown Comet.com Publisher / Editor Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

 

Let go of the past, focus on tomorrow

In Education, Holiday, Opinion, psychology, Uncategorized on January 1, 2015 at 1:48 am

DIH LOGOAs we come to the close of a tumultuous 2014, I am reminded that, as a society, we seem to be obsessed with looking over our shoulders with barely a single glance toward the road ahead. Using contemporary terms, our most common mistakes as a people might actually be labeled, “distracted living.” We are so focused on yesterday that we forget to prepare for tomorrow.

Someone much smarter than I once said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. The statement generally refers to preventing the recurrence of negative events. But if something good happened, it’s only logical that you would want to repeat that success. To truly progress, however, we must learn from the past while at the same time keeping our attention focused on the future.

Unfortunately, we are often more affected by the negative in life than the positive; a death in the family, lost job, financial struggle, and so on. People and events from the past have us constantly looking over our shoulders, dwelling on our sadness, sense of loss and nostalgia. But while they may provide momentary comfort, these feelings also tend to hold us in place and keep us from advancing to a better future.

clock-2As 2014 comes to an end, I implore my readers to look to the horizon and make an effort to work towards better things in the coming year. Life is all about making the best choices possible based on personal experience, the current situation, consequences of your actions and your own needs going forward.

Writers are generally encouraged to omit anything – settings, objects, characters – that do not serve to keep the plot of a story moving forward. To keep life moving ahead we must do the same thing by eliminating anything that keeps us stagnant.

First, you need to focus on yourself more. It may sound selfish, but it’s necessary. As someone who has had to help care for aging parents, I have learned that in order to help them, I have to keep myself going. Maintaining your mental and physical health is vital if you are to be of any use to anyone else.

Dismiss negative people from your life and don’t get mixed up in the drama of others. Some people exist solely in their own world, completely unaware of how their behavior affects others. If someone is literally exhausting you from drama or they’re incredibly high-maintenance, it’s time to cut them loose. You can’t move ahead if someone like this is always dragging you down.

Stop repeating pointless behavior while expecting a different outcome. Very often, we can get stuck in a pattern of useless behavior, always doing the same thing and hoping that “this time,” it will come out differently. But it never does and it never will.

Stop procrastinating. Yes, this is probably the hardest piece of the puzzle. How to do today what you can very easily put off until tomorrow. But if you’re someone who constantly complains about your situation yet does little to change it, procrastination could be a big chunk of the problem.

Most people find excuses to cover procrastination; “they’ll never hire me for that new job,” “that’s too hard,” or, “she’ll never say yes.” Get over yourself – and your fear – and take that first step forward. And yes, most procrastination is the result of being afraid, not of failure but success.

Finally, I’ve never been a big believer that writing down a list of goals does anything more than make you feel inadequate. “Self-help” nonsense puts so much pressure on goals that if you don’t meet the ones you wrote down, then you must be a failure and that can result in its own devastating effect.

Forget goals, but at least have an idea of what a better, more successful tomorrow looks like to you. In the end, the future belongs to you, no one else. Get off your tail and do something about it and stop looking backward. Happy New Year! Now get out there and make this one your best ever!

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, ohio. More at gerydeer.com.

India vs. China: Economic growth and national security

In Economy, history, National News, Opinion, sociology, Uncategorized on June 9, 2014 at 9:47 pm

DIH LOGOOn June 4, 1989, after three weeks of civil rights protests by nearly a million Chinese, many of them students, Chinese troops stormed a packed square in Beijing, killing and arresting thousands. The Tiananmen Square Massacre shocked the world and confirmed the belief, not that there was any doubt, that China’s political system is completely incompatible with that of the United States and pretty much any other democratic nation.

A quarter of a century later, it’s still largely incomprehensible why America is so tied to a country with no decency with regard to human rights. It’s about two things that shouldn’t surprise anyone, money and political power. There’s a little fear thrown into the mix as well associated with China’s massive military might and a government with no reservations about using it.

Labor costs are incredibly also low in China, with the average factory worker earning just one-tenth of what their American counterparts bring home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cheap labor is an attractive prospect to American companies looking to expand production with fewer tax and employment expenses. It seems there is no end to U.S. manufacturers relocating in China; producing cheaper goods to be shipped back America and sold at a premium profit.

Contrary to popular belief, however, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, only 15-percent of U.S. imports come from China. That comes out to something like $29 billion of a $1 trillion monthly output. There are more than 1.3 billion people in China, many of whom, like their American counterparts, want, more than ever, the latest technology, fashions, entertainment and so on. Although it is generally exaggerated, a definite trade deficit exists between the two nations, which is unlikely to change anytime soon.

China or India? Which makes more sense for the US?

China or India? Which makes more sense for the US?

It’s entirely possible the United States should be looking a little further southwest for political and economic growth in Asia – India. After all, which would seem a much more stable and amiable political and economic ally? With more than 1.2 billion people living in 29 states, India is the world’s second-largest country and second-largest democracy, English speaking and primed for growth.

If India is a more lucrative and stable prospect, what’s holding America back from a greater fueling of the fire of partnership, economically and socially? Unfortunately, recent years have seen the U.S./India relationship strained over trade and intellectual property disputes. Plus, the Indian economy has had some rocky spots recently.

In 2013, the average median income per capita in India was around $1,200 (Compared to China at $2,100). Add to that, India’s economy has fallen off nearly 5-percent with 8-percent inflation and the country’s fiscal health is a major barrier. However, the election of a new prime minister, Narendra Modi has encouraged investors and the economy has reflected that confidence.

According to CNN Money, “The prospect of a government led by Modi has boosted Indian stocks by 15 percent so far this year. The rupee has responded too, gaining six percent against the dollar after a dismal performance in 2013.”

There are other more politically charged issues slowing down a more aggressive relationship with India, but most U.S. officials see the country as a thriving democracy and a strategic gold mine. Close to Afghanistan and Pakistan, a more advanced partnership between America and India would benefit both countries in terms of economic growth and national security.

America imposed sanctions against India in 1998 because of nuclear testing. But, thanks to former presidents Clinton and Bush, relations improved greatly and the two nations even signed a ground-breaking defense and civil nuclear (power) agreement.

With the possible exception of the political unknowns surrounding a new prime minister, previously a Hindu Nationalist, there is little reason to spend so much time courting the stagnant communist regime in China instead of nurturing a reasonably stable democracy, and growing economy, in India. In the end, it certainly seems that it would be much wiser for Washington to advance trade and economic partnerships with India.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.

 

V.A. health care debacle is nothing new

In Health, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on May 27, 2014 at 8:06 am

DIH LOGOAs an organization that serves more than 9 million, it would be difficult to imagine a more complicated system than the United States office of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). Recent allegations of wrong doing within the V.A. health care system has erupted in congressional investigations and strong admonishment from President Obama, one of a half-dozen occupants of the Oval Office under whom this system has thoroughly failed its distinguished beneficiaries.

Naturally, the White House spin doctors tried to express the president’s astonishment and outrage over this issue with their typical press room song and dance. When he finally spoke about the matter publically last Wednesday, Mr. Obama said, “I will not stand for it. There must be consequences.”

Of course there was absolutely no mention of exactly what kinds of consequences.  Even more insulting was the way the administration has fained ignorance about one of the worst kept secrets in America – that there is a mind-blowing level of back-door politics and bureaucracy grinding away below the V.A.’s spit and polished façade.

In the 1992 movie, "Article 99," Kiefer Sutherland struggles to adapt to a broken V.A. system.

In the 1992 movie, “Article 99,” Kiefer Sutherland struggles to adapt to a broken V.A. system.

Critics of the administration are also using this crisis to, once again, lambaste Democrats over Obamacare, to which they compare the crippled V.A. medical system. Some of them have even suggested that the problems deep in the core of the V.A. health care system will eventually overwhelm Obamacare in a similar manner.

Plagued with technical issues and lackluster participation, the “Affordable Care Act” has not been the overwhelming success once envisioned. Legislating mandated health care coverage for all is one thing, but managing patient care based on politics is quite another.

But if you think it’s a stretch to compare the V.A. problems with eventual Obamacare snags, consider this.  Once the Affordable Care Act became law, the U.S. Government suddenly turned into a middle man for selling health insurance and controlling the care received by the patients. Keep in mind this isn’t a “Conservative vs. Liberal” problem. The simple lesson to be learned here is that the government should stay out of the health care business.

As for the existing V.A. problems, the congressional hearings so far have managed to do little more than humiliate the head honcho, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, a guy who, while maybe turning a blind eye to these concerns, most certainly inherited the majority of them.

Way back in 1992 director Howard Deutch released a dramatic comedy  called, “Article 99,” which followed a V.A. hospital intern played by Kiefer Sutherland who struggled to acclimate in ridiculously bureaucratic and money-driven system where patients are either denied treatment or made to wait months for life-saving procedures until it’s too late. In a style similar to Robert Altman’s original 1970 film, “MASH,” the main characters are dedicated doctors who regularly defy government rules to help get their veteran patients urgently needed care.

Set in present day – 1992, during the Clinton administration – “Article 99” exposes only a few known problems within the veterans’ health care system. Apparently, things grew increasingly worse.

Oddly enough, government’s treatment of veterans (of all ages) can often mirror the way in which American society deals with the elderly; by putting them off a few more times until they eventually die and the problem solves itself. Shameful.

Perhaps it’s time for the V.A.’s executives, congress and the president, maybe even Supreme Court justices, to be forced to wait a ridiculous amount of time for care. It’s a foregone conclusion that a solution would rapidly appear if the Obama daughters had to wait six months to get their tonsils out, or if John Boehner knew that coverage for some future tanning-induced skin cancer would be denied because it wasn’t a work-related condition. Instead, they enjoy free, top-of-the-line medical care, all on the dime of hard-working Americans, including veterans.

So what to do? Well making a blustering speech on TV is a start, but it’s also an overture to a lack of any real action. Firing the head guy is a gesture to appease the public but it’ll last about 12 seconds. Instead, the entire system needs a full shakedown. That’ll take time and money. Meanwhile, more veterans are waiting for treatment. Drop the bureaucracy and treat the patients, regardless of the paperwork and expense.

 

The Jamestown Comet editor, Gery L. Deer, is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

Godzilla: King of the anti-nuclear message

In Entertainment, Environment, Movies, National News, Opinion, Politics, Science, Technology, Uncategorized, World News on May 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm

 

DIH LOGOIn 1955, the Japanese film company, Toho, Inc., introduced America to “Godzilla, King of the Monsters.” The bulky, green monster terrified audiences in the marginally familiar form of an enormous T-Rex, with notable size differences, muscular body and bigger arms and all brought to life by a puppeteer in a rubbery body suit. Originally called by the Japanese word, “Gojira,” meaning “gorilla whale,” the monster was so successful he’s been a worldwide star since his first black and white appearance in Tokyo.

Uncertain how a Japanese film would fare only a decade after the end of World War II, American exhibitors insisted an “American” element be added to make the dubbed, foreign monster flick more relatable to U.S. audiences. So, who better to report on the devastation than one of the most trusted faces on television at the time, Perry Mason himself, Raymond Burr. Not included in the Japanese version, Burr played an American journalist reporting on Godzilla’s attack into a tape recorder from the safety of a nearby office building.

During the 1960s and 70s Godzilla made his way into color features where his ominous appearance was softened a bit and his character reworked a bit from a menace to more of a hero as he battled other creatures threatening Tokyo from Monster Island. His gigantic, “30-story” upright posture, signature stomp, glowing dorsal plates and fiery breath were a hit with movie goers around the world.

Gozilla's original appearance in Japan, 1954. He appeared in America a year later.

Gozilla’s original appearance in Japan, 1954. He appeared in America a year later.

In 1985, Godzilla reappeared in a more serious, direct sequel to the original. Although the monster had made countless appearances in other, sillier films, like “Godzilla vs. King Kong,” and “Godzilla vs. Mothra,” this reprisal brought Godzilla back to his roots – as a devastating, uncontrollable statement on the increasing nuclear scare at the peak of the Cold War.

Although it was no longer necessary to smooth over American audiences, Raymond Burr reprised his role from the original film in a few scenes added to the U.S. release to provide continuity and attract a nostalgic audience. “Godzilla 1985,” did well at the box office and even better in the newly-minted home video market.

Fast forward a few years to 1998, when the monster was licensed by Tri-Star Pictures for an American, almost campy, version set in New York City. Studied by a worm biologist played by the likable Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off / The Producers), Godzilla takes up residence in Manhattan and is hunted by the US Military who manages to lay waste to everything except their target, even wrecking the iconic Chrysler Building. A liberally-preachy, anti-nuclear storyline and a totally computer-animated Godzilla, that didn’t look or act much like the original, completely failed to lure audiences.

Over the years, Godzilla appeared in 28 films and an American cartoon show. He even achieved the honor of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But the origins of the character are deep in Japan’s nuclear pain and far more serious than most people might know.

Godzilla as he will look in the 2014 version.

Godzilla as he will look in the 2014 version.

Like the newest American incarnation set for release in May 2014, Godzilla is portrayed as a mutation directly resulting from nuclear testing, emphasizing the need to do away with these weapons. He was, essentially, the symbol of everything that can go wrong with nuclear power and weaponry.

The underlying message in the more serious Godzilla story lines is that use of nuclear weapons and power has unimaginable consequences. A mutation that can cause a giant monster with nuclear powered breath is a pretty good personification.

In any case, the new film is sticking closer to the original concept, not just in story but in the look and actions of the monster himself. He’s a rampaging beast and the addition of Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, adds another level of drama to a once-campy character.

In no loss of irony, Japan is the only country in the world whose people have experienced the horrible result of nuclear devastation and America is the only country who has ever inflicted it on anyone else. It’s somehow fitting that people from both countries come together to create a fictional character that personifies the horror that can result.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business contributor to the WDTN-TV2 program, Living Dayton. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

E.T. game dig reveals start of Atari collapse

In Business, Economy, Entertainment, National News, Opinion, Technology, Uncategorized on April 28, 2014 at 11:36 am

DIH LOGOIn the nerd-infested world of video game lore, legend says that Atari was so embarrassed by the abject failure of its “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” video game cartridge, the company buried all remaining copies of the game in a secret, desert landfill. Following the phenomenal success of Steven Spielberg’s big-budget, heart-wrenching feature film of the same name, the E.T. game was released in 1982 for the classic Atari 2600 game console.

Recently, the legend of the secret cartridge burial was confirmed as a documentary filmmaker set out to unearth the long-lost Atari graveyard, located in a landfill outside Alamogordo, New Mexico, about 200 miles southeast of Albuquerque. Three hours and several layers of trash later, digging in a 150 by 150-foot area, workers uncovered the first signs that this was, in fact, the legendary Atari burial site.

The dig was undertaken by Microsoft Corp’s Xbox Entertainment Studios, the producers behind the documentary film reportedly to be focused on the early years and eventual collapse of the Atari video game empire. The story goes that Atari was saddled with most of the 5 million E.T. cartridges, which were a commercial failure, and buried them, secretly, under cover of night.

One of the VIP’s at the dig was Howard Scott Warshaw, the game’s original designer, who told the press that there could be as many as 750,000 game cartridges buried at the site. Warshaw also designed one of Atari’s biggest hits, “Yar’s Revenge.” Given the “archeological” nature of the Atari dig, there’s an irony in that the game maker also put out a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” video game, also listed with E.T. as one of the company’s worst releases.

ET_GAME_SCREENOn a personal note, and possibly stranger than this story to some, is the fact that I actually still have my original, 1982 Atari 2600 console and game cartridges, all in pristine, working order. Ah, I still marvel at the sleek, faux wood grain finish and the uncomplicated joystick with a single button; classic. I know weird, right? But I always loved my Atari set. It was one of the first “computer” games to which I was exposed and probably contributed to the years of work I spent as a programmer and computer specialist.

A couple of years ago, a friend gave me a modern knock-off of the classic console which is considerably smaller with wireless joysticks and 20 or so games already programmed into it – so no cartridges. Strangely, it loses something on the 46-inch, HD TV screen it’s plugged into. I kind of miss my little, 19-inch color Zenith. Incidentally, I still have my Atari E.T. cartridge and a book that tells you how to win the game. The newer version is just not the same.

In spite of the nostalgia experienced by those of us who grew up in the 80s, there’s a lot to be learned from the E.T. game story. In 1983, Atari was struggling to recover from a failed product and losing sales during a national recession. When a company like Atari creates a product based on a film franchise like “E.T.” or “Batman,” the expense of licensing alone can significantly increase the cost of production over an original title like “Pong” or “Missile Command.”

Because of the added expense, the licensed products must far outperform their counterparts just to be considered successful and add profit for the manufacturer. The E.T. game clearly started out in the red and, because people simply didn’t like the over-priced cartridge, Atari couldn’t recover from the financial blow.

Since Microsoft’s production division is funding the excavation of the Atari landfill site, it stands to reason there is finally money to be made from the demise of the game. My guess is that the dig is simply a film-length “advertisement” for the Xbox game consoles engaged primarily as what now appears to be a highly successful publicity stunt; something Atari could have used more of back in the day.

There’s probably a lot more to be gained from a study of Atari’s successes and failures, but I just don’t have the time. I have to go and see if I can get to the next level on my “Asteroids” cartridge. Good gaming!

 

Jamestown Comet Editor Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and owner of Deer Computer Consulting, Ltd. in Jamestown, Ohio. More at www.deercomputerconsulting.com

 

Alas, the plight of the plastic shopping bag

In Business, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, history, National News, Opinion, Politics, Science, Uncategorized on March 31, 2014 at 8:42 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer
The Jamestown Comet Editor

bag_blowingTake a look around outside after a storm and you’ll see them, clinging to the lathe of a garden fence like barnacles to a ship’s hull – those sad, indigent, plastic shopping bags. They’re everywhere, bouncing along the roadside, hung up in the branches of your backyard tree, even melted and tangled around the undercarriage of your car. Once revered for their strength and amazingly useful handles, these marvels of modern shopping are now the scourge of environmental political correctness.

With humble beginnings in 1950s Sweden, the modern plastic shopping bag was the creation of engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin who developed the simple, one-piece bag for Celloplast, the company which patented the design in 1965. Popularity of the product grew rapidly, for a time even knocking paper bags into relative obscurity.

Never again would husbands need worry about earning a night in the doghouse after losing a gallon of milk to the pavement when it crashed through the bottom of a wet paper sack. But, it was that set of wonderfully brilliant handles that really endeared the bags to shoppers. Since the dawn of time, mothers everywhere have struggled on shopping trips to juggle groceries and family.

With plastic bags, Mom now had the ability to carry half a dozen fully loaded bags on her arms while clutching Junior in one hand and the dog’s leash in the other. Her world now under complete control, at least for one brief moment, thanks to a simple pair of parallel holes in a plastic tube. Once the groceries were put away, she could even re-use them to line the bathroom wastebasket with a water-proof bag that fit both the can and her household budget.

PBThere was no doubt the plastic shopping bag was truly a miracle of modern commerce. By 1982, most major grocery chains, including Kroger, began replacing paper shopping bags with plastic citing cost savings and customer preference. Sadly, however, as with most other success stories, rival jealousy led to ridicule and scrutiny, mostly from operatives of the paper bag industry determined to unseat the plastic bag from its world-wide fame.

By the 1990s, world ecologists became increasingly vocal about plastic’s potentially destructive effects on the environment. Soon, the plastic shopping bag became an innocent by-stander, caught up in the ever increasing fight between good and evil, liberal and conservative, environmentalist and capitalist – or whoever was paying the most lobbyists. More than ever, environmental groups were touting the need for more extensive use of recyclable materials in consumer goods.

Almost overnight, the plastic shopping bag became the poster child for everything wrong with the environment as pundits heatedly debated their recyclability on cable news and in fiercely negative op-eds.  As usual, the critics had it all wrong because plastic shopping bags were every bit as recyclable as their paper counterparts, but were, in a way, victims of their own success.

As it turned out, the very innovations that made plastic shopping bags so powerful in the supermarket were like Kryptonite to the sorting machines used in recycling. When put through, they bound up the machinery and left it jammed and inert, and the cost to overcome that problem outweighed the benefits.

For years, rumors of a plastic bag uprising have permeated the media, suggesting that millions of these poor, trodden-down bags were massing a resistance in landfills all over America. There, they waited silently, collectively preparing to strike back against their opposition by refusing to decompose, even over thousands of years.

Sadly, an empty threat, since the structure of a landfill is meant to keep the refuse dry and stable, limiting degradation. Nothing is intended to fully decompose; not paper, not food, not plastic … nothing. In fact, newspapers buried in the 1960s have recently been exhumed intact and readable.

Perhaps one day, the full truth of their story will be exposed and plastic shopping bags will regain their once proud position at the end of the checkout. But for now, these bags exist as second-class totes, drifting like tumbleweeds on the wind, dancing their lament of a time when they were kings of the market.
Deer In Headlines is available for syndication. Contact GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing – http://www.gldenterprises.net.