Monday, April 21, 2014

Funeral Birthday

   My family was having one of our biggest gatherings ever.  It was the day my nephew Brett turned six years old. But nobody was there to celebrate Brett's birthday. Quite the opposite. We had come together for the "celebration of life" of Brett's 22 year old brother Anthony, who one week earlier was found dead, thousands of miles away in Florida.

   On the way to the church I showed Brett the key I always wore on a chain, a Key to the City of KCMO that I'd bought on ebay, my most prized possession.  It had spent months right next to my heart.  I told Brett we were going to send it along with Anthony.  Brett asked if he could hold it 'till then.  "Of course!"

   We got to the big, beautiful church early, but not early enough to beat the "Early Birds," those mourners who show up to a funeral extra-extra early and get good seats so as not to miss a single dramatic reaction.  As I saw the beautiful and angellic face of the nephew I'd lost, the only thing the Early Birds needed was popcorn as they watched me tearfully and emphatically try to persuade my nephew's stepfather that none of this was actually happening, that none of this was real. There was a tug on my dress.  "Don't worry, Aunt Leigh Ann. It just looks like he's sleeping, and besides, he's in Heaven now. It's better than here."

   That snapped me back to reality, and the Early Birds seemed satisfied as they readied themselves for the next scene.

   For the remainder of the three hour visitation (which ended too soon), I was given charge of the Birthday Boy.  The first thing he wanted was the laminated funeral card that he'd seen in the hands of everyone else there.  We went up to the funeral home representative that was giving them out (not associated with the wonderful people of the church, who were angels of mercy) and I asked for a card for Brett.

"Adults only," she said, reminding me of a matronly liquor store clerk in the winding-down days of a decades-long career. 

  "You see, today's Brett's birthday!" I told her, "and that's his brother in there.  So would you give him one of those cards, please?"

  "If you want him to have one so bad, give him your own," she suggested, without a trace of warmth or sympathy.

   Instead I handed her one of my business cards, and told her that if she didn't give Brett a card I would spend the rest of the year telling everyone I could in Kansas City how her family's company treats bereaved child siblings on their birthdays.  Hardball.

   "Here!" she said, and gave me another card. Brett was thrilled with his funeral card as I walked away, scowling at her.  Wrong date on the card.  Misquoted.

   Most of the visitation I spent proudly showing off Brett to people I hadn't seen in many years.  "This is Anthony's brother Brett.  Today's his birthday!  He's six today!" I'd tell them, seeing that jolt of sad irony dozens of times.  "Today is Brett's day," I kept telling myself.  "Make this about Brett," and I tried to keep him amused while the whole time my heart was just being ripped out of my chest because of why we were there.  I honestly don't know what I would have done without Brett that day.  He kept pulling me back from the worst abyss of my lifetime and I'll be grateful forever.

   His spirits were good.  We looked at pictures. He made me laugh a lot.  He loved the Key to Kansas City.  "Do you want that key, Brett?" I asked him.  "Yeah," he said, "but I want to give it to Anthony."
I told him I had another one almost just like it, but older and better.  "It's from the 1950s," I said.  "From the 1950's? Wow!"  All my family loves nostalgia.  I promised him he could have the other key.

On his sixth birthday, my nephew Brett spent the whole day with everyone he loved saying goodbye forever to his hero big brother.

And today he may be the only 9 year old kid in KCMO with his very own Key to the City.

Happy Birthday, Brett.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The End of Cable TV? (1965)

In 1965 the world's foremost authority on everything to do with television, TV Guide, turned to the experts to find out, "What Ever Happened to Pay-TV?" The answers were sobering for people in the mid-1960s who had been looking forward to the promise and variety that cable television offered.
   "You're probably wondering whatever happened to pay-TV. Where is it? Why hasn't the bright promise materialized? For years, you've been conditioned to beleve that 'feevee,' or 'tollvision,' or 'pay-see,' as it's called variously by its friends and enemies, will one day offer surcrease -- to hipper, more discerning minds -- from the banality of much prime-time TV programming: concerts instead of cowboys, ballet instead of bathos, opera instead of soap opera.
   "Well, so far it hasn't worked out that way, and a lot of experts are beginning to believe that it never will."
Dr. Joseph Smith of the Oxtoby-Smith market research firm pronounced dismally, "I don't see any hope of any pay-TV system ever working."

A few companies, like Zenith and RKO, had seen the potential. John F. Pinto, vice president of the RKO General Phonevision Co., was optimistic. For three years RKO had been offering pay-TV services to 5000 subscribers in Hartford, Connecticut, and insisted, "If we gave the Hartford experiment the full push, we could put it in the black in three or four years."

TV Guide pointed out, though, that the facts could not be ignored.  Two of the three pay-TV experiments in the U. S. and Canada had gone bust, and it wasn't looking good for RKO.  They'd already spent ten million dollars, and would need 20,000 subscribers just to break even.  Zenith was fighting FCC regulations that was keeping them from selling their "unscrambling device" from coast to coast.

The 3 networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS felt threatened and fought hard against pay-TV in Washington. One of the networks called in the Oxtoby-Smith research firm for reassurance.  Dr. Joseph Smith, the impartial researcher, who, by the way, helped design the NBC Peacock, reassured them that Americans would not be willing to spend the $65 a year it was costing to bring arts and culture into their home to replace the Hayseed shows of the day, like The Beverly Hillbillies and Gomer Pyle.  Oxtoby-Smith estimated that cable companies would have to charge as much as $175 a year per household just to survive.

Zenith Radio President Joseph S. Wright called that idea preposterous.  He said they would be happy to get $2 a week per household, but that they could get by charging $1.25.  "The economy and convenience of subscription TV is of greatest importance to middle- and lower- income families who can least afford the higher prices of entertainment."

TV Guide found the most fascinating revelation of the market research to be the fact that people were far more likely to spend money on pay-TV for movies and sports than they would be for culture and educational programming.  The motion picture industry already knew this and was fighting alongside the TV networks in a regulation battle to limit choices for consumers so as to preserve their monopolies over entertainment.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Enticing the Troops

This commercial from Mexico reminds everyone what the men and women of the Mexican military are gearing up to protect:

The Ukranian Army has a novel approach for enticing young men to serve their country:

Building on that theme, the Russian military takes a higher, more sophisticated road:

Young Chinese men and women are offered an exciting alternative to making our iPhones under harsh conditions:

In the Royal New Zealand Navy, young recruits are there to help the Lord defend their country:

In India, a young person can make everyone proud by joining the Air Force:

and members of the Romanian armed forces can also hold their heads up high:

In Slovenia it's business as usual. V vsaki slu┼żbi means "In every job..."

while in Taiwan, you flat-out get to be a Transformer:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


This blog post won't score me any Brownie points with Prof. Ulichne (or most people) but there's an important religious issue that nobody is talking about and somebody needs to bring it up.

This statue that was supposedly found by a fisherman in Gaza

should strike the fear of God into the heart of every Jew, Christian, or Muslim that sees it.

By Biblical definition, it is absolutely, 100% a pagan idol of another diety.  I won't even tell you the diety's name.  You'll have to read the article to find out.

Different religions have different ideas about what angers the Lord.  In the church I grew up in, drinking caffeine made God mad. Lots of churches told me that caffeine was okay, but God gets mad if we drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes.  I never read any of that in the Bible, but one thing I've read enough times that I can say with absolute certainty is that idolatry angers the Lord.

See for yourself.  Scroll down this page to get a general idea about how the God of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims feels about statues of other dieties, and what the consequences can be for displaying said statues for the adoration of others.

This item is now in the hands of Hamas authorities.  According to archeology official in Gaza,
"It is a precious treasure, an important archaeological discovery," said (Ahmed) Bursh. Once the statue was released by police, his ministry plans to repair it and put it on show in Gaza.  "International institutions have also contacted us and have offered to help with the repair process," he said, adding that a museum in Geneva and the Louvre in Paris wanted to rent it.
 If you're an atheist or your religious beliefs are not Abrahamic, this is no doubt an incredible archeological find that should be celebrated by lovers of antiquity everywhere.  But if your religious beliefs stem from Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, this is not just an artifact... it is in every way an idol.  Prayers are always needed for the Holy Land, and anywhere else this abomination might happen to turn up.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Back from the (Brain) Dead

My uncle Al's brother remembers hearing the doctor tell his wife that he was "brain dead" and should be removed from life support.  It was enough to give him the strength to open his eyes and blink them.

Many people who doubt that "brain dead is dead" will point to the case of Zack Dunlap, who also remembers hearing doctors declare him brain dead.
Are these simply two isolated miracles, or could it be that doctors routinely declare people "brain dead" for the sake of harvesting organs when there's a chance that a recovery could occur?

I posed the question to the professors at Google University and came up with many more such "miracles":

Officer David Salgado

Rae Kupferschmidt, 65

Ross Smith, age 37,

Alexis Salaz, age 2

Kate Allatt 

Steven Thorpe

Cole Hicks

Isla Traquair's mum

Kitt52's Cousin

Frank England

Ann's Dad

Colleen S. Burns

Ruby Lambert

Sam Scmid, 21

Scott Maloney

36-year old woman in Kuwait

Jeff Markin

Carina Melchier, 19

Katlielou80's dad

Perhaps you can see what I'm getting at.  I'm not saying we should end organ transplants and force people to live on machines that otherwise wouldn't want that.  What I am saying is that patients and parents deserve the choice of when life support is discontinued.  In the United States, we are only given the option of discontinuing treatment.  A family that wants to hold out hope is given enough time to gather the family for one last goodbye once "brain death" has been determined (unless they get the courts involved).  The government has decided what "dead" means, and a lot of times it doesn't really mean dead.

You can find many more stories such as these and learn some scary things about the Organ Harvesting industry at Organ Facts