Storm Damage

IMG_2627Summer is the season for thunderstorms in the Midwest.  Last night a strong series of cells moved through central Ohio, and the high winds did some damage.  In our neighborhood and in Schiller Park some large limbs were knocked down — including the branches that fell against the house pictured above — and I suspect that lightning struck the steeple of St. Mary Catholic Church, because the clock was stopped when I went for my walk this morning.

When the severe weather moves through, you grit your teeth, cross your fingers, and hold your quivering dog who is scared to death of thunder, hoping that no serious damage comes your way.  Last night, we were lucky.

Dirty Harry

The other day Kish and I watched Dirty Harry, the 1971 thriller starring Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan, the .44 magnum-toting cop who eschews political correctness, believes in using maximum force in bringing down criminals, and doesn’t care a bit about breaking the rules to do so.

146909The movie still holds up well, 45 years later.  In many ways, it’s superior to the current Hollywood product, because it doesn’t rely solely on car crashes and shoot-outs to sustain the plot and pace.  There’s a suspense element to it, from the initial scene where the Scorpio killer uses a long-range rifle to shoot and kill a woman on a rooftop swimming pool, to the later scenes where Scorpio tries to carry out his threats to kill others in order to be paid a ransom, to Harry’s long jog around San Francisco to reach different phone booths so he can deliver a ransom before a young girl hostage is killed.  And while Harry obviously is the best cop around, the rest of the police force and the mayor aren’t ridiculous caricatures or light comedic foils — which is standard fare in later cop movies — but competent people who obviously are trying to do their best to deal with a crazed killer.

The writing is good, too.  We all know the famous scene where Harry has a shoot-out with bank robbers while eating a hot dog that ends with him asking a wounded robber who is considering going for his gun “well, punk, do you feel lucky?”  But there are other pieces of crackling dialogue, too, such as the scene where Harry rescues a potential suicide standing on a window ledge by making him so mad that he physically attacks Harry, or the interaction between Scorpio and the guy he pays to beat him up and make his claim of police brutality by Callahan more plausible.

One of the more interesting elements of the film, considered against the ensuing 45 years of action movies that followed it, is that it doesn’t try to answer all of the viewer’s questions.  Sure, he’s probably called Dirty Harry because he does all of the dirty work in the department, but it just might be because he’s got a bit of peeping Tom in him, too. There are no flashback scenes to show us exactly how Harry got the way he is, and no effort to give Scorpio a back story or explain why he has decided to kill random strangers.  He’s just a disturbed lunatic, presented matter-of-factly as an unfortunate reality of modern life.

The fact that some key points are left for the viewer to wonder about is refreshing.  You can imagine people leaving a theater after watching Dirty Harry and actually talking about some of these issues, and others.  How many modern action films that you’ve seen in the past few years could you say that about?

We Are All Clevelanders

IMG_2619This sticker I saw on the back of an SUV in the parking lot at Lowe’s today cracked me up.  Not sure whether this one was developed after the Cavs won the NBA championship a few months ago, but it does show a certain Cleveland pride that was somewhat lacking during the dark days.

Or does it?  The fact that the stick is orange and brown indicates that it is referring to the beleaguered Cleveland Browns.  Given how crappy the Browns have been for years, and are likely to be again this year, is this guy saying that the United States as a whole is down at the Cleveland Browns’ level of suckiness?

The Power Of A Photograph

We live in a digital age, where streaming video rules the day — but old-fashioned still photography nevertheless has its place.  The picture of poor Omran Daqneesh proves it.

Omran is the five-year-old Syrian boy who was buried in rubble when an airstrike by Russians or the Assad government (no one is quite sure which) caused his house to collapse.  After the being pulled from the wreckage, Omran was taken to an ambulance, where he sat quietly, waiting to be treated, when the now-famous photograph was taken. His older brother, also pulled from the ruins, later died of his injuries.  Omran survived.

omran-large_transzgekzx3m936n5bqk4va8rwtt0gk_6efzt336f62ei5uIt’s a powerful photograph, indeed.  A five-year-old boy sits, dazed and lost, in an orange chair.  He is a small boy, and his feet barely extend out past the seat, much less reach the floor.  His arms and legs are covered in dust, and his face in particular is caked with dark soot.  One side of his head is covered in blood and the eye on that side is swollen partially shut.  His eyes are open, but he appears to be staring into nothingness.  His blackened face and vacant eyes paint a brutal picture of silent desolation.  It’s one of the most compelling pictures of the impact of war on children that’s been taken in years.

Photographs can change the storyline and turn public opinion.  The famous photograph of a young Vietnamese girl, naked, screaming, and running from a napalm attack, helped to turn American public opinion decisively against the Vietnam War.  Perhaps the picture of Omran Daqneesh, which has garnered worldwide attention on social media, will help to focus the world’s attention on the unfolding tragedy in Syria, where for years civilians have been desperately trapped in a civil war that has produced death and destruction and seems no closer to ending now than when it began.

During Omran’s five years of life, he has known nothing but war.  Now his house is destroyed, his brother is dead, and his family has been torn apart by a conflict he can’t begin to understand.  It’s not what childhood should be.

Slowing Down

I’m sorry to report that our dog Kasey seems to be slowing down.  That’s OK — it’s what happens to old dogs, and to old people, too.  But it also makes us sad.

We first noticed it because Kasey is now having trouble jumping onto couches and chairs.  In the old days, she could spring onto just about anything from a standing position.  Then, it took a running start, but she made it.  Now, she just puts her front paws on the seat and looks around beseechingly for a friendly face who might give her a lift up to one of her accustomed spots.

IMG_2601There are other signs as well.  She limps from time to time, and she doesn’t seem to like long walks quite as much, and she doesn’t strain at the leash like she used to.  Her head is turning white.  Her eating habits have become more erratic.  She’s more content to sit in the backyard in a cool, quiet spot.  And she’s had a few of those unfortunate “accidents” around the house.

When you notice these kinds of things, the antenna go up and you begin looking for more indications of health problems.  So far, though, we haven’t had to deal with any of those — aside from Kasey’s awful teeth, which seem to be more a product of bad care when she was little than advancing age.

We don’t know how old Kasey is, because she was a fully grown rescue dog when we first met her at the Erie County Humane Society.  We guess that she’s 14 or so, but she’s a smaller dog, and they are supposed to live longer.  We’re hoping that’s true.

In the meantime, Kish is watching Kasey like a hawk, keeping an eye out for gimpiness or apparent bowel problems, so we can get ol’ Kase to the vet at the first sign of trouble.  Kish’s careful observation of Kasey for signs of aging is a bit unnerving, though.  Now that I’ve passed 59, I’m squarely in the zone of scrutiny, too.

100 Years Of The National Park Service

IMG_1961On Thursday, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary.

That’s a bit deceiving, because America’s first national park, Yellowstone, was actually created by a statute signed by President Ulysses S. Grant 144 years ago.  Initially, Yellowstone, and then other parks that were created, were under the control of the Secretary of the Interior.  The NPS was created in 1916 to provide for unified management.

Now, there are more than 400 national parks, and the NPS employs more than 20,000 people — but an additional 220,000 people volunteer in national parks.  That’s impressive, but not particularly surprising, because national parks are beautiful places.  And that employment number doesn’t count people who are employed by private companies that offer rafting trips, red bus tours, and other services related in some way to a national park.  In 2015, more than 307 million people visited one of our national parks.

America has has some good ideas in its history, but the concept of national parks — striking and special areas that are to be preserved and maintained for the American people — is one of the best of those ideas.  Anyone who visits a national park can’t help but feel a certain pride in our country, which not only has such beautiful areas but also has carefully cared for them.  And with people hiking, biking, rafting, camping, and otherwise enjoying the magnificent scenery and clean air, national parks tend to be enclaves of enthusiastic, active folks who care about their country and its environment.

I’ve had the good fortune to go to many national parks — including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, the Grand Canyon, and this year, Glacier National Park — but I’ve not visited Yosemite and many others . . . yet.  Hitting many more of our national parks is a bucket list item for me.  And whenever I got to a national park, I’m grateful for the NPS people who keep them patrolled and well maintained, because those parks are a true national treasure.

Happy birthday, National Park Service!IMG_1827