Category Archives: People Watching

Love Is Tolerance #MondayBlogs


     All men are created equal. That is, we are equal in utero until week six, when the presence of a certain chromosome starts the wheels a-rolling. Then the hormones kick in, or not, and everything changes.
     The differences between men and women can usually be readily seen: the presence of testosterone in the body influences characteristics like the growth of body hair, jaw angle, strength of connective tissue and deep tones of the voice, among other things as well. Testosterone will enable the male to be stronger, more prone to fight and propagate his species. The absence of testosterone will soften the facial features, round out the hips and enhance the breasts. This also helps the female give off certain scents in order to help her attract a male and propagate the species. Absence of testosterone will limit aggressive behavior, so, in theory, a female should be docile and even-tempered. 
     But how can one make such general, superficial, sexist statements? Those are organic differences and by no means do they influence the roles that women and men take on. These roles are mostly determined by the environment the child grows up in. Or are they?
     The way a man or woman develops over the years is, yes, to a certain degree, determined by the environment that they, as children, grew up in. But there are also so many organic factors at work here; so many that they cannot be ruled out.
     For example: The Shoe Gene. It does exist. I have first-hand experience. I personally do not care about shoes. I have two, no, four pairs of sneakers, combat boots, and yes, dress shoes that come out once a year for Christmas. In contrast, my daughter’s first words were: SHOES. She lived in patent leather shoes for the first few years of her life. At this point, we had no TV and she wasn’t exposed to fashion magazines, so I came to the conclusion that it was an organic trait. Her love for shoes has not waned, not a bit.
     Now the world of advertising is, alas, a major factor in determining to what extent a man or woman will accept or alter their perception of gender. Way back in the old days, when the razor companies felt they needed to earn more money, Madison Avenue started an ad campaign, urging women to shave the unsightly hair off their legs and from under their arms. The razor companies had tapped into a huge untamed market. What a success that was!
     And such campaigns still hold true today. Women are urged to shave all the hair off their bodies. But not only women, men too! Hairy chests were once so sexy. Do you know how many razors a week are needed for such an undertaking? And depilatory and wax. The cosmetic industry has taken this one step further. They have found that men can be just as vain as women. And another flood of non-necessities has saturated that massive untamed market—men’s anti-wrinkle cream, body lotions and a whole slew of products endorsed by David Beckham.
     Now, this is not to say that a man should not take care of his appearance. By all means, pluck that uni-brow! This is just a message to spark some awareness about the feminization of men, a term coined by my best friend. 
     This process starts in our education system. Education was once exclusively male. Today the education system is geared to females. Today, boys are trained to sit in rows like dainty little sunflowers and paint rainbow pictures and play with silk scarves. Pump them full of ritalin and they may just do that. Dress them in pink shirts. Tell them it’s OK to cry. Give them Celine Dion CDs. 
     Or dress boys like they may get dirty. Allow boys to fight out their differences between themselves—they’ll probably be friends again by the time their parents get off the phone with their lawyers. 
     A man must not suffer through the Sex in the City film to prove he’s sensitive. Maybe he’d rather pet his dog. Men need to sit sometimes and say nothing, without someone asking, “Darling, what are you thinking about? Are you thinking about me?” Men can only do one thing at a time. They can’t, for example, chew and think about what they are supposed to be thinking about and answer dumb questions all at the same time. You wouldn’t bother the dog when he was eating, or disturb a feeding baby. When the man is feeding, allow him that time to concentrate on what he’s doing!
     In conclusion, living with fellow human beings demands a certain degree of open-mindedness. Of course it’s OK to cry, whoever you are, but don’t make a habit out of it. Wear any color you want, but guys, please don’t wear pink. (You know you don’t like it.) Live and love like it was your last day on earth. Love is Tolerance. Tolerance is Love.
Here’s a cool link from PBS. Click on the Launch Interactive button to start:  NOVA-How Is Sex Dertermined?

The Georgian Washing Day

This wonderful post comes from Pen and Pension, the blog of William Savage. Will writes historical mystery novels, set in Norfolk between 1760 and 1800. His first in this series, “An Unlamented Death”, appeared in January 2015. The second book, “The Fabric of Murder”  was published in May 2015. The third installment, “The Code for Killing”, will be published on 25th January, 2016.

Pen and Pension

17th century washing drying laundryAs I noted in a recent posting, one of the myths that goes the rounds is that everyone in the past was always dirty. It isn’t true. The wealthy weren’t, the poor almost certainly were. As I pointed out there, the costs associated with keeping yourself clean were considerable, both in money and time. In a society in which cleanliness and class mirrored each other, keeping not just your body but your clothing and linens clean was straightforward for the rich, a matter of continual care and concern for the middling sort, and probably a hopeless dream for most of the poor.

Don’t misunderstand me. No one in the eighteenth century could hope to match current personal hygiene standards. The means to do so were not available, not would it have been considered necessary. But within what was possible, most people above the very lowest income levels did what…

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Headless #mondayblogs #electricguitar

Eddie van Halen-behaving—Photo courtesy of


Speaking of Guitars:

      In 1976, furniture designer Ned Steinberger and luthier buddy Stuart Spector got together in Brooklyn, NY and developed a new electric bass called the Spector NS2. The ‘concave / convex’ body form, designed by Ned, became the distinguishing factor for Spector Basses. After that, Ned’s interest in the music industry grew and he pulled out all the stops. He went on to develop some of his more innovative designs. The headless bass was born and the rest is history.
     The unique construction of the Steinberger L-Series headless bass and it’s design made it a real eye-catcher. The neck and body were one solid construction molded out of carbon fibers. The body was then covered with a plastic face plate that also housed the electronics. The neck contained no truss rod, that metal rod inserted in the neck used to adjust the curve of the neck. The curve, or relief, was built into the neck and optimized with the frets. Because there was no headstock, the tuning pegs were incorporated into the bridge and string change was a breeze using the double-ball stings.
     In the early 80’s, Ned got some cheap factory space in Newburgh, NY and moved shop upstate. Shortly thereafter, a six-string guitar version was launched and Ned’s ground-breaking transposing tremolo system, the Trans-Trem. It was at that time, in 1985, that I started working in the fret department. The necks were pre-formed in a machine so that we could install the frets with little or no top-levelling. This procedure for ‘calculating the deflection of carbon graphite necks as they were displaced by the cumulative effects of installed fret pressure’ was developed by Ned and Jeff Babicz.
     Other new models were released. I transferred into the assembly department and worked on the P-Series project: molded necks bolted onto wooden bodies. Guitarist Mike Rutherford of Genesis inspired the M-Series, a molded neck bolted to a more-traditionally shaped body, built by English luthier Roger Giffin.
     Steinberger never officially endorsed artists. The artists just played the instruments. At this time names like Eddie Van Halen, Rick Derringer, Geddy Lee and many others were touring with their Steinberger guitars and basses.
     But, alas, every story has an ending. On my last day, in the summer of 1987, the big blond guy from Gibson came by and bought the company. At that point, the NY company was producing over 25 guitars and basses a week. Eventually, the NY factory was dismantled and the operation was moved to Nashville. 

Here’s some links for more infos:

Ed Roman’s story: Ed Roman’s Steinberger Story 
Jeff’s Website:

#FlashFiction #MondayBlogs 2 minute read

The Newby

     “I don’t have to love them, but I do,” Libby said and sipped at her chai latte.
     A bus accelerated away from the bus stop next to her table, leaving a cloud of diesel. Mario turned suddenly in his chair next to hers and thanked the waitress as she set his espresso down. He had a fine aquiline profile, hair and eyes black like coffee.
     Libby took another sip. “That’s why I want to put them out of their misery,” she said and looked past him to the clack-clack-clacking source of approaching stiletto heels. Four pairs.
     Mario raised his eyebrows, confirming the suspicion that he heard them coming, too. He pulled a cigarette out of a pack, balanced it between his lips and lit it. Libby watched smoke curl away from his chocolate-brown two-day-old mustache.
     Four blonde women, one blonder than the next, each exactly the same height, the same weight, the same measurements, wearing the same regulation-blue skirt and white blouse, ID tags wagging merrily over their left breasts, clacked in unison through the tables of the sidewalk café. Another bus pulled away from the bus stop and honked its horn at a courier on a mountain bike. The four women lined up at the counter.
     “Probably to order the exact same soy milk latte, no sugar, and an extra shot of clone espresso.” Libby said.
     “You know, we’re so close to the city. All the women look like that.” Mario stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray. “I think you’re overreacting.”
     “They can’t be real. I’ve been watching them multiply. First there were a few working for The Group. Then ‘we’ all started losing our jobs.”
     “’We’?” Mario waved the waitress over, put his empty espresso cup on her tray and nodded, ordering another one.
     “Us humans,” Libby said.
     “Oh, and it had nothing to do with your all-nighters and your bartending job? I remember how you used to come to work in the morning. Your brother was just as bad, Libby.”
     Libby turned her head as the four pairs of stiletto heels ticked in time out of the café, down the sidewalk, towards the center of town. To the heart of the city. The Group.
     The waitress set Mario’s espresso on the table and looked towards the clicking of four more pairs of oncoming stilettos.
     “They only travel in fours. No matter where they are,” Libby said. “Shopping, in restaurants, even at the bar in the evening. That’s not normal.”
     The four women, one blonder that the next, lined up at the counter. They received their drinks from the waitress behind the counter and filed past Libby’s table, down the sidewalk, towards the center of town.
     “It’s like a parade. Every morning. In the evening they all go back to their apartments in those new blocks. I heard they’re all furnished the same.”
     “I’ve been out with a few of those women. I’ve had them alone.” Mario laughed and shot his espresso back in one gulp. He lit another cigarette. “They aren’t clones. You’re just jealous.”
     “You would never notice if they were, Mr. Thirty Seconds.”
     Mario shot her that predictable angry glare. A bus slowed at the empty bus stop and then sped up again. Clack, clack, clack came the cadence of three pairs of stilettos along the sidewalk.
     Mario turned in his seat. Libby stood. Teetering behind the three women, an offset honey-blonde struggled to keep up with the other three. Her hair was unkempt and her clothes were too small. Or her breasts were too big, Libby wasn’t sure which.
     “The novice revenges the rhythm,” Libby said.
     “Never saw her around before,” Mario said.
     “Should I get her?” Libby said. “I have some of my antidote in my purse. We can try it out and see if it works.”
     “What? That stuff you made yourself? It’s poison, you said.”
     “Yeah, well, if it doesn’t cure her, it will kill her. I love them too much to see them suffer this horrible existence.”
     “Don’t you dare. Look, Libby, as much as I love you, there is no such thing as clones and especially not in Mitteltown. I got to get to work.”
     He stood, threw a few dollars on the table, kissed Libby on the cheek and took off towards the center of town. Libby turned and admired the sight of him walking away. She forgot all about him as the beat of stiletto shoes pulsed into motion. Three pairs. Towards the center of town.
     The honey-blonde stood alone by the counter. She handed the waitress a bank note and the contents of her wallet emptied all down the counter, coins chinking on the sidewalk. Libby sprang to her side and knelt down next to the newby.
     “Let me help you,” Libby said.
     The flustered honey-blonde said nothing. Sweat beaded on her forehead. She smelled like a mix of that same perfume all these women wore and some sort of chemical, like bleach.
     “Are you new here?” Libby touched her clammy arm and tried to get a reaction out of her.
     The honey-blonde dropped one coin after another into her wallet and would not meet Libby’s gaze. Libby sighed, was about to stand up and get a move on. Maybe Mario was right. The honey-blonde touched her hand. Libby looked up, instantly mesmerized by the clarity in the blonde’s steel-grey eyes.
     The steel-grey eyes did not blink. “Help me,” she said. 

When Was Your Last #FirstAid Training?

Head Tilt-Chin Lift


First Aid ABC

A. Airway, Breathing, Circulation
B. Blood Pressure is too high when it hits 140 / 90
C. Chin Lift
D. Defibrillation
E. Elevate extremities with bleeding wounds, apply direct pressure and then a pressure bandage.
F. Fire can engulf a room in 45 seconds, so get out of a burning building!
G. Gloves may not be a bad idea.
H. Head Tilt
I. Intubation
J. Jaws of Life
K. Kids exhibiting symptoms of poisoning will probably not tell you what they ate or drank. Do not induce vomiting or give them milk to drink. Poison Control in Munich: Tel. 089-19240
L. Loss of limb
N. Nose bleeds are best treated by tilting the head forward and laying a cool, damp cloth on the back of the neck.
O. Opioids
P. Protruding objects are never to be removed from a wound. Stabilize the object and bring the patient to the hospital.
Q. Quiet children are a bad sign.
R. Remove the injured motorcyclist’s helmet if you live anywhere besides Pennsylvania.
S. Stop, Drop and Roll!
T. Telephone Numbers in Germany are 110 for Police and 112 for Fire and Ambulance.
U. Underwear should be changed every day in case you end up in the Emergency Room.
V. Varicose veins can rupture and are treated by applying direct pressure.
W. Why are the lights on German Emergency Vehicles blue? ‘Blaulicht,’ literally blue light, was introduced for emergency vehicles in 1933 because it was harder to see from the air, a plus during air raids.
X. Xyphoid process is the point on the sternum that you no longer have to look for before starting CPR. Just put your hands on the middle of the chest and keep a rhythm of 100 bpm. Start with 2 breaths and then 30 chest compressions.
Y. You, the first-aider, must always think of your own safety.
Z. Zero is the amount of times we hope you need this sort of training.
So, when was your last First-Aid training?

The Artistic Crime of the Century

…or Le Coup

August 8, 1974
New York, New York. This morning, Phillippe Petit, 24, was arrested for disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing after entering the World Trade Center and stretching a high wire between the two towers. Petit, assisted by six accomplices, has been taken to Beekman Downtown Hospital for psychological observation.
A traffic jam formed in the streets below at 7:15 a.m. as spectators gathered to watch Petit 1,350 feet above them dance on the wire. After eight passes back and forth between the towers, approximately 45 minutes, Petit surrendered to waiting Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officers.
Eyewitness Sgt. Charles Daniels told reporters:  “I observed the tightrope ‘dancer’—because you couldn’t call him a ‘walker’—approximately halfway between the two towers. And upon seeing us he started to smile and laugh and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire….And when he got to the building we asked him to get off the high wire but instead he turned around and ran back out into the middle….He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again….Unbelievable really….Everybody was spellbound in the watching of it.”
Petit, a Frenchman, told reporters that he had planned the stunt over the last six years. When asked why, he told reporters, “If I see three oranges, I have to juggle. And if I see two towers, I have to walk.”
The seven men reportedly spent the last three days, disguised as construction workers with fake IDs, lugging their gear up to the top floor of the tower, including the 450 pound inch-thick tight rope and a disassembled 50 pound, 26 foot custom-made balancing bar. They spent the whole night setting up the tight wire. Using a bow and arrow, a line was shot across from one tower to the other and used to pull subsequently thicker ropes across. Then the tight wire was pulled across, fastened and stabilized with two guy lines to minimize swaying.
In a 2003 interview in the Observer by Adam Higginbotham, Petit said:
“Notre Dame and Sydney (Laura’s note: two other high-wire stunts he had performed) – that was nothing. Notre Dame doesn’t have a police station, it is not 1,000 or so feet high. It was a public structure, very easy to access. And Sydney Harbour Bridge was half-and-half: a bridge, in the middle of the night. The World Trade Center was the end of the world. Electronic devices, police dogs. It was l’attaque de la banque. Bank robbery, you know?”
When asked what he felt his chances to pull the stunt off were:
“Zero. Under zero. It was impossible. And the walk was not even to think of. I’m trying to sneak inside the biggest, most surveilled, protected building in the world. I was a kid from the street and I thought: maybe I could have two crews coming at more or less the same time and then putting a ton of equipment across and then guylining it and then tightening it – without being caught by all the cops and the guards? And you’re asking me did I think about the walk? Of course not. The walk was a stupid, ridiculous objective. And maybe when I did think about the walk, it was nothing. I am a wire-walker. I can walk any time, anywhere – I’m indestructible. So the walk was never a subject. Really, the tough part was the bank robbery. Getting out alive? Pfft! I was not interested in that.”

But survive the stunt he did and it is the topic of his book To Reach the Clouds, now released as a paperback titled Man On Wire. Man On Wire was not only the description of his crime on the police report, but the title of the 2008 award-wining British documentary directed by James Marsh. That’s my DVD tip for the weekend.

Where were you on August 8, 1974?

Here’s a link to the 2003 Observer article by Adam Higginbotham: