Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mad Macs

It's almost hard to believe that I've been using a computer for half of my life.  My first computer was the second generation of user friendly Apples - the Macintosh 512K Personal Computer.  Brook had been telling me about this little computer and I saved up for it.  My little Mac had only a few applications, MacWrite and McPaint.

I remember the evening that I brought it home.  I removed it from the box and set it up on the living room coffee table.  Dan Noojin dropped in about that time and we both played with it.  It was pretty cool and exciting stuff for that day.  The text in the front of the manual instructed the Mac owner (me) not to worry about reading the manual.  Now that's my kind of manual!  The manual also instructed me to just play around with it and get to know it.  The Mac 512K was very user friendly.  The manual did say to refer to the manual only if I had trouble doing anything with my friendly personal computer.  It was a very sharp looking manual. I never read beyond the initial instructions on the first page.  I never went back to it.  I never knew what eventually came of it.

I remember Dan watching me as I highlighted a word on the screen.  He just marveled at the cool flickering effect and asked me if it would print out that way.  It was all so new and high tech.  And for a moment I sat there looking at the flickering fonts in amazement.  I actually had to think about it for a moment - then told him, "I don't think it will."

With the computer, I purchased a dot matrix ImageWriter printer.  It was a pretty sturdy unit that never jammed on me, never gave me a lick of trouble.  I will say that I envied the new HP LaserJet printers when they came out.  I didn't own one till years later.  I did get to work with them in various jobs.  Nothing was the same after I saw the high dpi output of a laserJet.  I simply could not afford one when they first came out.  The technology was so new that to own one was almost like having to buy a car.
The reason I bought the Mac in the first place was to write a book that I never finished as well as eventually own a design program called Aldus PageMaker.   The PageMaker thing was to come later.  For years I had been doing page layout the old school way, with rubber cement, ruler, X-acto blades and art board.  The Mac and PageMaker was what was going to revolutionize the graphic design business.  And it did.

I packed my Mac in the car for my venture to Art Institute of Atlanta.  At the time, the school had old school computers in their computer lab.  It was a big room that was always locked with the lights turned off.   All I could do was press my nose up to the big window - and peer deep into the dim lab where computers seemed to sleep eternal.

Word quickly got around that I had a Mac.  All my fellow art classmates wanted to come over to my apartment to touch it.  I had a huge closet in my apartment that I facilitated as a workstation - as well as a closet.  I did several art projects with it, printed out in crappy dot matrix in all it's splendor, and matted.  Nevertheless, my McPaint rendered projects were always a technological marvel to my instructors as well as fellow students.  If I didn't render entire projects on the Mac, I used it to typeset faux body copy for others.

After Atlanta, I came back home to work with Jamey Moore as Creative Director / Vice President of Jamey Moore Productions.  I continued to use my Mac through out the rest of the nineties.  It was so small that I'd take it back and forth from home to office.  I used it to develop comps for brochures, text for storyboards, etc.  It was a little work horse.

It made a funny little work horse sound.  I can still hear in my head.  It went eeee-UURRR eeee-UURRR.  It really worked hard for me.  eeeee-UURRRR - eeee-URRRR!  I really needed the computer to do more for me, but couldn't upgrade the machine, and couldn't afford a newer model.

My Mac entered into my marriage with Gina.  We drove up to Kentucky with it in September of 1990.  I used it for a few more years.  I got a job at Western Kentucky University doing layout in 1992.  There I worked primarily on departmental brochures.  They had lots of work stations with little Macs loaded with PageMaker.  Though I had been a designer for well over a decade, it was a wonderful learning experience for me. I learned more in that job than I did in Atlanta thanks to a great fellow (my benevolent overseer) Tom Meacham.

It wasn't long after that that I crossed over to IBM compatibles, loaded with Windows.  At the time Mac had established itself as the industry standard in multimedia production.  It still does.  It's just that Macs are so darn expensive that I ended up staying with flawed Windows all these years later.  The good thing about it is that the world changed for me with the advent of Adobe Acrobat.  It didn't matter what kind of computer you had, almost any printer would accept and publish four-color CMYK from a PDF.

I don't remember when I eventually let go of my Mac.  Either I sold or gave it to my sister Irene for her kids to play with.  If I sold it, it was for a song.  It gave me many good years of service and traveled with me on many a creative venture.

By the way, it was my Mac 512K and ImageWriter that was used to print out many of those old Christian Brother's / Skylight newsletters back in the late '80's and early '90's.  Sloppy but fun.  Hard copy and rubber cement.

I love the smell of rubber cement in the morning!

Friday, July 23, 2010

old school phone

How many people out there still use rotary phone?  There must be some folks out there still using them.  After two decades we still get the message when dialing into the corporate world - "If you are using a rotary phone, please hold on for an operator."

Back in the mid-eighties, I bought a cherry red rotary phone from my sister in-law Jennifer when she worked for TelNet.  You could buy rotary at that time, but they were already well on their way out.  I bought it because I've always been a retro kind of guy (even as a kid).  I used the phone until about the time I got married in 1990.  By then, I was convinced that push button was quicker and easier on the finger.  New technology always makes one more impatient.  Enough with the retro-technology thing.  I'm for progress!

Growing up, our old home phone number used to be (205) 547-5658.  Back in the sixties we only had to dial the last four digits of our number 5658.  I don't remember what my parents had to dial before that. We then had to dial 7-5658 by the time I was in junior high.  That lasted for a long time.  I was irked when we had to dial the entire seven digit number.  I guess it was about ten years ago that our area code changed to 256.  Recently we have all had to start dialing all ten digits when calling someone in town.  Imagine having to dial ten digits on a rotary for every phone call.  Thank goodness for buttons - thank goodness for speed-dial!

Rotary phones are something that all of us old and crusty babyboomers can hang over the head of  all those young whippersnappers.  

"Back in my day, we had rotary phones!"  

"Rotary phones?  What are those grandpa?"

"Yep, we didn't have to walk thirty miles to school or study by candle light - but we had to use rotary phones.  We also got to talk to real operators too - real people."

"Gee whiz grandpa - real people?" 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

the cola teet

"How soon is too soon?  Not soon enough.  Laboratory tests over the last few years have proven hat babies who start drinking soda during their early formative period have a much higher chance of of gaining acceptance and 'fitting in' during those awkward preteen and teen years.  So, do yourself a favor.  Do your child a favor.  Start them on a strict regime of sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now, for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness."  - The Soda Pop Board of America

The above Ad is a fake.  They've been circulated by many as the real thing.  The following 7-Up print advertisement ran in the late 1950's.  Another prime example of truth being stranger than fiction or fiction being almost as strange as truth...or something like that.
"By the way, Mom, when it comes to toddlers- if they liked to be coaxed to drink their milk, try this: add 7-Up to the milk in equal parts, pouring the 7-Up gently into the milk. It’s a wholesome combination- and it works!"

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Heroes of the Vietnam Generation

This is something Danny Daniels posted on his facebook profile today.  It's well worth the read.
By James Webb

The rapidly disappearing cohort of Americans that endured the Great Depression and then fought World War II is receiving quite a send-off from the leading lights of the so-called 60s generation. Tom Brokaw has published two oral histories of "The Greatest Generation" that feature ordinary people doing their duty and suggest that such conduct was historically unique.

Chris Matthews of "Hardball" is fond of writing columns praising the Navy service of his father while castigating his own baby boomer generation for its alleged softness and lack of struggle. William Bennett gave a startling condescending speech at the Naval Academy a few years ago comparing the heroism of the "D-Day Generation" to the drugs-and-sex nihilism of the "Woodstock Generation." And Steven Spielberg, in promoting his film "Saving Private Ryan," was careful to justify his portrayals of soldiers in action based on the supposedly unique nature of World War II.

An irony is at work here. Lest we forget, the World War II generation now being lionized also brought us the Vietnam War, a conflict which today's most conspicuous voices by and large opposed, and in which few of them served. The "best and brightest" of the Vietnam age group once made headlines by castigating their parents for bringing about the war in which they would not fight, which has become the war they refuse to remember.

Pundits back then invented a term for this animus: the "generation gap."  Long, plaintive articles and even books were written examining its manifestations. Campus leaders, who claimed precocious wisdom through the magical process of reading a few controversial books, urged fellow baby boomers not to trust anyone over 30. Their elders who had survived the Depression and fought the largest war in history were looked down upon as shallow, materialistic, and out of touch.

Those of us who grew up on the other side of the picket line from that era's counter-culture can't help but feel a little leery of this sudden gush of appreciation for our elders from the leading lights of the old counter-culture. Then and now, the national conversation has proceeded from the dubious assumption that those who came of age during Vietnam are a unified generation in the same sense as their parents were, and thus are capable of being spoken for through these fickle elites.

In truth, the "Vietnam generation" is a misnomer. Those who came of age during that war are permanently divided by different reactions to a whole range of counter-cultural agendas, and nothing divides them more deeply than the personal ramifications of the war itself. The sizable portion of the Vietnam age group who declined to support the counter-cultural agenda, and especially the men and women who opted to serve in the military during the Vietnam War, are quite different from their peers who for decades have claimed to speak for them. In fact, they are much like the World War II generation itself. For them, Woodstock was a side show, college protesters were spoiled brats who would have benefited from having to work a few jobs in order to pay their tuition, and Vietnam represented not an intellectual exercise in draft avoidance, or protest marches but a battlefield that was just as brutal as those their fathers faced in World War II and Korea.

Few who served during Vietnam ever complained of a generation gap. The men who fought World War II were their heroes and role models. They honored their father's service by emulating it, and largely agreed with their father's wisdom in attempting to stop Communism's reach in Southeast Asia.

The most accurate poll of their attitudes (Harris, 1980) showed that 91 percent were glad they'd served their country, 74 percent enjoyed their time in the service, and 89 percent agreed with the statement that "our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win." And most importantly, the castigation they received upon returning home was not from the World War II generation, but from the very elites in their age group who supposedly spoke for them.

Nine million men served in the military during Vietnam War, three million of whom went to the Vietnam Theater. Contrary to popular mythology, two-thirds of these were volunteers, and 73 percent of those who died were volunteers. While some attention has been paid recently to the plight of our prisoners of war, most of whom were pilots; there has been little recognition of how brutal the war was for those who fought it on the ground.

Dropped onto the enemy's terrain 12,000 miles away from home, America's citizen-soldiers performed with a tenacity and quality that may never be truly understood. Those who believe the war was fought incompletely on a tactical level should consider Hanoi's recent admission that 1.4 million of its soldiers died on the battlefield, compared to 58,000 total U.S. dead.

Those who believe that it was a "dirty little war" where the bombs did all the work might contemplate that this was the most costly war the U.S. Marine Corps has ever fought-five times as many dead as World War I, three times as many dead as in Korea, and more total killed and wounded than in all of World War II.

Significantly, these sacrifices were being made at a time the United States was deeply divided over our effort in Vietnam. The baby-boom generation had cracked apart along class lines as America's young men were making difficult, life-or-death choices about serving. The better academic institutions became focal points for vitriolic protest against the war, with few of their graduates going into the military. Harvard College, which had lost 691 alumni in World War II, lost a total of 12 men in Vietnam from the classes of 1962 through 1972 combined. Those classes at Princeton lost six, at MIT two. The media turned ever more hostile. And frequently the reward for a young man's having gone through the trauma of combat was to be greeted by his peers with studied indifference or outright hostility.

What is a hero? My heroes are the young men who faced the issues of war and possible death, and then weighed those concerns against obligations to their country. Citizen-soldiers who interrupted their personal and professional lives at their most formative stage, in the timeless phrase of the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, "not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, but in simple obedience to duty, as they understood it." Who suffered loneliness, disease, and wounds with an often-contagious elan. And who deserve a far better place in history than that now offered them by the so-called spokesman of our so-called generation.

Mr. Brokaw, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Spielberg, meet my Marines.

1969 was an odd year to be in Vietnam. Second only to 1968 [TET Offensive] in terms of American casualties, it was the year made famous by Hamburger Hill, as well as the gut-wrenching Life cover story showing pictures of 242 Americans who had been killed in one average week of fighting. Back home, it was the year of Woodstock, and of numerous anti-war rallies that culminated in the Moratorium march on Washington. The My Lai massacre hit the papers and was seized upon by the anti-war movement as the emblematic moment of the war. Lyndon Johnson left Washington in utter humiliation.

Richard Nixon entered the scene, destined for an even worse fate. In the An Hoa Basin southwest of Da Nang, the Fifth Marine Regiment was in its third year of continuous combat operations. Combat is an unpredictable and inexact environment, but we were well led. As a rifle platoon and company commander,

I served under a succession of three regimental commanders who had cut their teeth in World War II, and four different battalion commanders, three of whom had seen combat in Korea. The company commanders were typically captains on their second combat tour in Vietnam, or young first lieutenants like myself who were given companies after many months of "bush time" as platoon commanders in the Basin's tough and unforgiving environs.

The Basin was one of the most heavily contested areas in Vietnam, its torn, cratered earth offering every sort of wartime possibility. In the mountains just to the west, not far from the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the North Vietnamese Army operated an infantry division from an area called Base Area 112. In the valleys of the Basin, main-force Viet Cong battalions whose ranks were 80 percent North Vietnamese Army regulars moved against the Americans every day. Local Viet Cong units sniped and harassed. Ridgelines and paddy dikes were laced with sophisticated booby traps of every size, from a hand grenade to a 250-pound bomb. The villages sat in the rice paddies and tree lines like individual fortresses, crisscrossed with the trenches and spider holes, their homes sporting bunkers capable of surviving direct hits from large-caliber artillery shells. The Viet Cong infrastructure was intricate and permeating. Except for the old and the very young, villagers who did not side with the Communists had either been killed or driven out to the government controlled enclaves near Da Nang.

In the rifle companies, we spent the endless months patrolling ridgelines and villages and mountains, far away from any notion of tents, barbed wire, hot food, or electricity. Luxuries were limited to what would fit inside one's pack, which after a few "humps" usually boiled down to letter-writing material, towel, soap, toothbrush, poncho liner, and a small transistor radio.

We moved through the boiling heat with 60 pounds of weapons and gear, causing a typical Marine to drop 20 percent of his body weight while in the bush. When we stopped we dug chest-deep fighting holes and slit trenches for toilets. We slept on the ground under makeshift poncho hootches, and when it rained we usually took our hootches down because wet ponchos shined under illumination flares, making great targets. Sleep itself was fitful, never more than an hour or two at a stretch for months at a time as we mixed daytime patrolling with night-time ambushes, listening posts, foxhole duty, and radio watches. Ringworm, hookworm, malaria, and dysentery were common, as was trench foot when the monsoons came. Respite was rotating back to the mud-filled regimental combat base at An Hoa for four or five days, where rocket and mortar attacks were frequent and our troops manned defensive bunkers at night. Which makes it kind of hard to get excited about tales of Woodstock, or camping at the Vineyard during summer break.

We had been told while training that Marine officers in the rifle companies had an 85 percent probability of being killed or wounded, and the experience of "Dying Delta," as our company was known, bore that out. Of the officers in the bush when I arrived, our company commander was wounded, the weapons platoon commander wounded, the first platoon commander was killed, the second platoon commander was wounded twice, and I, commanding the third platoon, fared no better. Two of my original three-squad leaders were killed, and the third shot in the stomach. My platoon sergeant was severely wounded, as was my right guide. By the time I left, my platoon had gone through six radio operators, five of them casualties.

These figures were hardly unique; in fact, they were typical. Many other units; for instance, those who fought the hill battles around Khe Sanh, or were with the famed Walking Dead of the Ninth Marine Regiment, or were in the battle of Hue City or at Dai Do, had it far worse.

When I remember those days and the very young men who spent them with me, I am continually amazed, for these were mostly recent civilians barely out of high school, called up from the cities and the farms to do their year in hell and then return. Visions haunt me every day, not of the nightmares of war but of the steady consistency with which my Marines faced their responsibilities, and of how uncomplaining most of them were in the face of constant danger. The salty, battle-hardened 20-year-olds teaching green 19-year-olds the intricate lessons of the hostile battlefield. The unerring skill of the young squad leaders as we moved through unfamiliar villages and weed-choked trails in the black of night. The quick certainty when a fellow Marine was wounded and needed help. Their willingness to risk their lives to save other Marines in peril. To this day it stuns me that their own countrymen have so completely missed the story of their service, lost in the bitter confusion of the war itself.

Like every military unit throughout history we had occasional laggards, cowards, and complainers. But in the aggregate, these Marines were the finest people I have ever been around. It has been my privilege to keep up with many of them over the years since we all came home. One finds in them very little bitterness about the war in which they fought. The most common regret, almost to a man, is that they were not able to do more for each other and for the people they came to help.

It would be redundant to say that I would trust my life to these men. Because I already have, in more ways than I can ever recount. I am alive today because of their quiet, unaffected heroism. Such valor epitomizes the conduct of Americans at war from the first days of our existence. That the boomer elites can canonize this sort of conduct in our fathers' generation while ignoring it in our own is more than simple oversight. It is a conscious, continuing travesty.

*** Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star medals for heroism as a Marine in Vietnam. His novels include "The Emperor's General" and "Fields of Fire". ***

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

bring me the head of Warren Oates

There was always something about Oates that reminded me of Bogart.  But Warren Oates was his own actor with his own rugged style.  

Not long ago I watched him co-star along side Vic Morrow in an old Combat episode.  It was just good seeing him again.  He's been in countless old Western television shows.  Though he got his start on television, his talent was always bigger than the small screen.

Warren really shinned in Sam Peckinpah films.  Oates was a character actor who only had four leading roles, thanks to Peckinpah.  I wish that Warren had been utilized more as the leading man.  He was an incredible talent.

Peckinpah made great movies with Oates.  I wonder what John Ford would have done  with this incredible character actor.  I think of Oates, and I am reminded of the Ford's regulars.  I think Warren would have worked well among the likes of John Wayne, Victor McLaughlin, Ward Bond, et all.   I can imagine a place for Warren Oates in Fort Apache.  Like Warren's close relationship with Peckinpah, I get the feeling Ford would have taken a liking to Warren as well.

Warren could have played so much more if given the opportunity for other types of leading roles.  I believe he would have if he had lived longer.  Up front I mentioned that Oates had some Bogart qualities.  I don't know of any actors that could take on Humphrey Bogart kind of roles.  I can picture Oates as Duke Mantee in Petrified Forest or Charlie Allnut in The African Queen.  Oates could fill those shoes as well as so many other great actor's shoes, he was just that good.

I am sorry he is gone, because he could have shown us more.  I believe he was more versatile than what we saw of him in his short lifespan.  Even so, he is still remembered by many and regarded as one of the best.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

tra-la-lala live for today

We got some good music from the era, and that's about it.