Thursday, February 28, 2019

Superheroes, real or imagined

The modern comic book superhero is the current manifestation of the semi divine gods of myth and legend that fight off evil in their universe. They were typically incredibly strong, cunning and exceptional fighters that existed in both secular and religious history. They are found these days populating the entertainment universe  - movies - and print - comic book notably Marvel,   DC and the somewhat lesser known Dark Horse comics. Most people my age were weaned on the DC Comics superheroes with Marvel and  Dark Horse entering the party much later. My superheroes fandom started with DC Comics and Superman, added Batman and The Justice League. I was also a fan of the Blackhawks.

As the real world grew crazier and crazier the comic universe and characters kept pace. Marvel introduced a whole new generation characters - I was a Green Arrow and Speedy fan along with the Flash. To this day I am a fan of those characters I enjoyed as a kid. I had a great Superman suit made by my seamstress grandmother. I leaned fairly quickly as it offered little protection when I jumped into a still smoldering fire pit in the alley by my house. I only made that mistake once. Ahem. I guess I was just caught up in the moment.
TV and Mov ie Supermen

These days we are seemingly buried in movies and TV show depictions of superheroes and their universes. It all seemed to start with Star Wars at the movies and Star Trek, initially on TV and then resurgent in the movies. We  are up to Aquaman now - that movie is quite successful with the box office currently sitting at 1.149 Billion dollars per Forbes after just over 6 weeks in release.
TV, Movie Wonder Woman

Justice League - AquamanLately, in this divisive era of Trump art is imitating Art is imitating life as several shows are focusing on the superheroes - in this case Superman and Supergirl being illegal aliens and with a segment of the earths population opposing them because they are aliens. One thing that has not changed - the good guys usually win, though it may take several episodes  to complete the task at hand.. Somewhat surprisingly to me, my black grandson prefers the female superheroes to the black ones. Wonder Woman is kinda hot.

We are also seeing a ump in female superheroes. Wonder Woman now has a group of lady friends. Captain Marvel is next. And, black superheroes are joining the fray.

Superheroes. Serious popcorn movie stuff. You might say I am fortunate to have an 8-year old grandson under the same roof so I can stay current on the various superhero universes. I might disagree due to the nicks and gashes in the walls from his plastic swords and spinning kicks but what the heck.

What does prove a bit tougher is to convince Damien that the real superheroes are the first responders and men and women in the military service that risk their lives daily to protect and serve us. Police, fire, EMTs and the like are constantly on the front line and often in the line of fire of our urban battle grounds. Damien is biracial but identifies as black. He has been in the car with his mom and a friend that was stopped simply for driving while black. That is a very real thing that happens more  than it should. I have been stopped both while driving with two other people - both black - and have been a passenger in the car with two other people - both black - with one of them driving.

That is a quick take on the topic of Superheroes. Be sure to check Ramana's Musings .

Thursday, February 21, 2019


Well - it appears my buddy Ramana got me this time. Dancing. Not in my wheelhouse - that is for sure. I went to one dance in junior high and I think 4 or 5 in high school. And that includes a Junior Prom and a Senior Ball. I went to a Christmas dance and a Sadie Hawkins dance - that's one where the girl invites a guy and is responsible for their dressing the same (jeans and shirts). I was at other dances but I went with my buddy Brian and lugged equipment. I was a roadie of sorts.  And I loved hearing the New Chessmen play live. I have always loved live music.
  As I have said before, I was painfully shy and the thought of having people watch my large self dance  pretty much kept me away from dances and the dance  floor. We even had a segment of PE class that "taught" dancing. I tried the cha cha - maybe once. I was not a particularly good waltzer either but I liked that slow stuff the best. I mean there was no fake yawn and stick the arm around the girls shoulder like in a movie theater - slow dances they could just snuggle close if they liked you.  My first real girlfriend was a very cute, 5'2" blonde and I am 6'2' so that was nice. So was she -very nice and a very close friend these days. She knows where many of those teen age skeletons are buried. She may have helped bury a few - LOL. She was my date to that Christmas dance.
 You can travel all around the world with dancing. There was the dance of love in Brazil
 How about the Locomotion here in the USA? When this came out I was visiting friends at Lake Tahoe and flipping burgers at their place- the Minuteman Cafe
 Now I must confess to a bit of a fib. I did say early on  that dancing is not in my wheelhouse. I did spend two years in a Polynesian dance group where I performed Tahitian (yes in a grass skirt), Filipino, Samoan (knife and fire knife), Maori (hakas were actually a lot of fun - here is a sample of the New Zealand national rugby team performing one before a game - Kamate) and Tongan dances. Gotta admit - that was a lot of fun - and No Ramana - NO PHOTOS EXIST  LOL. I was actually a decent Samoan knife dancer - the required hand-eye coordination IS in my wheelhouse. At least it was back then. How and why did I do that you might ask? My friend, the future Ranger Rick and his family moved to Hayward from Hawaii and got involved in dancing through the Walnut Creek Recreation Department. Rick got all of our friends to join and off we went. There was a big annual show in Walnut Creek and we took jobs  whenever offered - did several frat shows and danced in dance competitions. 

Tap dancing, ballet and the like is an entirely different matter. Those folks offer some of the most graceful, athletic performances you will ever see. They are truly amazing. The athleticism is astonishing and it is easy to see why for decades athletes have taken ballet courses to improve grace, balance and even more. that was going on over 50 years ago when I played HS football - maybe if my school had done that we'd have won a few more games. Ahem, 

I am not a great fan of ballet but I can fully appreciate the athleticism and efforts of the dancers. Tap dancing, though, is truly awesome when you are watching someone like Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr or any of the other classic performers. I could barely walk in the dang tap shoes let alone dance,
And then there is Michael Flatley
Different styles but both amazing,

Dancing is many things to different people. It is an activity that can be enjoyed by entire families and multiple generations. Nothing warms the heart quite as much as senior citizens tripping the light fandango with ear-to-ear grins and thoroughly enjoying themselves. If you doubt that check out the goings on at any high schools 50th reunion and watch time melt away as old friends reunite and celebrate their lives.

That's it for my take on dancing. Be sure to visit Ramana's Musings to check his take on this 2-on-1 topic. See ya next week - same bat time, same bat channel.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

WHich mythical lost treasure do you think is real? Why?

It's time for a little fun. Throughout time there have been legends about lost treasures, cities and the like. Are any of those tales real? Do any of these lost treasures really exist? It seems nearly every bandit, bank robber, pirate or bad guy/gal worth his or her salt has stashed something of value that is waiting to be found - just as that Mega Millions or Powerball jackpot is just waiting to be won. And of course there are those shipwrecks just waiting to be found.

As a child of the fifties I was naturally a cowboy fan and so I naturally was drawn to those tales of yore. But, I was an even bigger fan of pirate movies - one of my first great movie memories is of Burt Lancaster as the Crimson Pirate   carrying his sabre and wearing red and white striped pants flying
around like an acrobat in the ships lines. Of course there was Blackbeard,  who allegedly left treasure stashed along the eastern seaboard and what kid back then did not know of Long John Silver. Then there was Captain Kidd.

For years there were tals of treasure buried by Captain Kidd on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. And there were other rumors about Oak Island too - maybe the British buried treasures from their looting of Havana.

Other rumored booty on Oak Island includes Marie  Antoinette's jewels and even the Ark of the Covenant the Holy Grail and some original works of William Shakespeare.

I first heard of Oak Island in my high school library when I read about the deaths of several treasure hunters in August of 1965. I then read what I could find about the island and its treasure lore. I was somewhat dubious but still interested so I kept up with the goings on. I periodically heard about the Templars possibly visiting there and the Templars have always fascinated me

 These guys were the Christian warriors that launched Crusades against the infidels in the Holy Land and accompanied Christians on treks to the Holy Land.  They are also an alleged reason for modern day Islamic terrorism. Like the Chinese, radical Islam plays a long game and holds grudges apparently eternally. They are also perhaps the source of Friday the 13th being an unlucky day as the King of France ordered their arrest on Friday the 13th. In the 1960s the Templars were suggested to have taken possession of certain religious relics such as the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant when  they occupied the Temple on the Mount. They had the ways and means to transport any such relics almost anywhere, including Oak Island.

Jump ahead to 2011 and The History Channel comes out with a series called The Curse of Oak Island. Huzzah - maybe the questions will be answered. We are now midway through the sixth season and we have more questions.
That, of course, includes Oak Island.Read what History Channel says about the Curse of Oak Island here.

A pair of brothers from Michigan, Marty and Rick Lagina have led a team seeking to solve the mystery of Oak Island. You can read a blurb about the  Laginas and their business interests here. I freely admit I am thoroughly hooked on the show and the Mystery of Oak Island, At first I was convinced there was pirate treasure buried there but the more I researched the more that did not seem likely as the things encountered by searchers pointed to something much deeper than Oak Island being a simple pirate treasure dump/hiding place.The engineering required to create the water booby trap alone seemed to me to be well beyond the capabilities of pirates.

So what have the searchers actually found on Oak Island? Read about that here.

What does the future hold for the search? Time for my fanboy conjecture - IMHO there is sufficient evidence to indicate the Templars spent considerable time and effort transporting and hiding religious artifacts on Oak Island. There are some that believe Sir Francis Bacon's manuscripts are buried here. Though sufficient material shows many old books are or were sequestered on Oak Island much of that could also support the Templars and religious texts. Gold and jewels? I don't really care - I find the religious artifacts notion more compelling and interesting. If wrong and there turns out to be nothing? Then I have been watching the worlds longest popcorn movie and have loved every bit of it. But I firmly believe there is something hidden on Oak Island waiting to be found. Only time will tell.

Be sure to visit Ramana's Musings to see what Indian lost treasure Ramana  thinks is real.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Families then and now.

Families then and now - another check on our cultural progress it seems - albeit more open ended than a good old days type of post. With the inherent 2-on-1 east west vibe it will be interesting to compare notes when this one is finished.

The old family standard - dad works and makes enough to purchase car and a house is foreign to me. I cannot begin to describe that lifestyle as I never experienced it. My birth father left before I was born. At the age of 61 I saw a picture of him for the very first time. Subsequent contact with that part of my
family was met with stony silence and in fact his brother told me in a tersely worded email basically to pound sand.  Daddy Wes apparently was a loser - a dirty cop who spent his share of time in the state pen in Canyon City. I do know he got married later in life so I may have another half sibling or two out there somewhere.

My mom's parents were closer to a classic family - my grandfather was a self-employed contractor and my grandmother had a seamstress shop. Jump ahead to 1949 when I enter the scene - our family consisted of my mother, me, my Uncle Chuck, grandmother and grandfather. My Uncle Chuck was soon in the Marines. I was known as Charles or  Butch Higgins until my mom married Jack McConvey when I was 8. Unfortunately my grandfather died  in 1953 and everything changed again. Daddy Harry - as I called him  - was an avid hunter and fisherman- both which I would have been exposed to.He was also a Shriner - part of the Masons, Again - something I would have been exposed to and participated in had he lived. I actually remember going fishing with him once and we got skunked, We stopped at a place on the way home that had pools stocked with trout and so we returned home successful providers (for a small fee of course). That was our little secret.

No photo description available.No photo description available.My grandparents were entrepreneurial - both self employed; The house Daddy Harry built had a full basement which was rented out at various times to players on the Pueblo Dodgers, a Brooklyn farm team or football players from the local JC up the street. Jack McConvey was a basement tenant who worked his way up to the main floor by marrying my mom.

All of the neighborhood kids were in the typical family and I had a very pretty single mom but as far as I could tell we were accepted as part of the neighborhood.  My pal Kenny had one sister and one brother, both older than us and my pal Tommy had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. His dad, Sparky, was a railroad engineer and kenny's dad Jim was a businessman - think Ward Cleaver. Main employment centered around the railroad and the Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) steel mill. The population of Pueblo then was 80-81,000. My mom worked at a place called Railway Savings and Loan. I went to YMCA camp the last 2 summers after selling candy door to door to cover the costs. Most of the neighborhood kids went to Camp Crockett. The boys were in scouts, we played Bantam League football and Old Timers baseball. There was no Little League in Pueblo. 

Everything I saw and experienced seemed very typical of the times - very Beaver Cleaverish. The boys slept out in each others back yards (Virgil Barnhart had the best yard) and Tommy's older brother Adrian and his friends would harass us and we'd all sneak off and raid the gardens of the neighbors. I had cousins in town and nearby in Trinidad. It was from what I could tell a very normal childhood centered around families.

My sister was born in Pueblo and a few  months later we moved to California to a town with the a population of 72,000 but it seemed much larger. Pueblo was a city whose nearest neighbor was 20-30 miles away. Hayward - the new place - in the middle of the East Bay - the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area.

My dad worked for his dad in the newspaper subscription business at a place called Periodical Publishers. My mom quickly found a job at a local Savings and Loan called Pioneer Savings. I noticed right away that nearly all of my friends' mothers worked. The pace of life in the Bay Area was much quicker than Pueblo. We moved into a new housing tract called Palma Ceia.I remember the first few months groups of neighbors would get together, get acquainted and we started putting fences up in the back yards. When everyone agreed on what to build off we'd go for the weekends supplies and shortly thereafter all the fences were done. Then came the patios. Those got built in 3s and then lawns were planted but oddly enough nary a white picket fence was built anywhere. Dinners were generally marked by family conversation around the dinner table or we ate off of TV trays in the Living room and watched TV while we ate.

In 1972 Lynn and I got married and after a pair of cross-country forays we found ourselves back in the Bay Area. My folks had gotten a divorce and mom was getting remarried so we bought her condo from her. We were both working, had excellent childcare and things were moving along smoothly until we decided to sell the condo and buy a house. Shortly after moving into the house the economy started to slip in the Bay Area and Lynn - unbeknownst to us - was beginning to feel the effects of the as yet undetected Huntington's Disease that would eventually take her life. She began having difficulty at her job as things that once came easy to her were fast becoming a struggle; Long story short, we both lost our jobs and were having difficulty making ends meet. We had always been able to make it but we started hitting a wall and had begun the slide out of that vaunted economic powerhouse known as the American middle class.

We sold the house at a huge loss and ended up in Texas, essentially starting all over.  Because of my job at RadioShack we were a techie family. If it was new and cool we had one. We were so busy that dinners were rarely around the table - we ate out a lot or ordered takeout. Dinner communication was almost non existant. We did, however, participate in the kids activities. Lynn handled Jamie and dance classes while I coached both kids in soccer and baseball/softball. I was a VP in the local youth soccer league.

Jamie graduated from the same high school as I. She even ran into some of the same teachers I had. Once she came home from school with a puzzled look on her face. She said there had been a substitute bteacher in one of her classes and tha the called roll like a PE coach. When he got to her name he said McConvey - looked up from the page and queried Chuck or Mike? She responded Chuck was her dad, Mike her uncle. He laughed and told her to see him after class. He was my wrestling coach and his son and my brother were best friends. Unfortunately Sean did not complete high school - not uncommon for Texas.
Lynn eventually succumbed to Huntington's disease and Sean and Jamie set out to make lives for themselves. They have kids - Jamie 3 and Sean 2. Sean is with his significant other for the long haul, Jamie is flighty and restless, more so now that she has been confirmed to have Huntingtons Disease. Sean refuses to be tested - he is just working hard to make a good life for his family, jamie is sulking and pouting about her fate. She has strained relationships with her kids, her brother and me. Both of their families are completely hooked on techh and whenever possible are texting merrily away. They both have completely different outlooks on the world than Iand are completely apolitical. I - on the other hand -m am a poitical junkie.

Thjat's a wrap on my take on families then and now. Like I said I have little experience with NORMAL -I have always simply called my family dysfunction junction.

Be sure to check Ramana's Musings to get Ramana's take on the subject.  I'll see ya next weeek, same bat time, same bat channel.