Davy Jones, R.I.P.

I was saddened to read today of the death of Davy Jones, one of the Monkees.  Jones died of a heart attack at age 66.

When The Monkees TV show first began airing and their songs dominated the airwaves, Davy Jones became the heartthrob of millions of adolescent girls.  He was one of the first post-Beatles teen idols.  At that time, at least, the role of teen idol carried a certain responsibility — you had to be squeaky clean in your public persona, give mindless interviews about your pet peeves and favorite foods to magazines like Tiger Beat, and pose in the most ridiculous publicity photos imaginable.  Jones carried it off with elan, and then he handed off the baton to Bobby Sherman, who handed it off to David Cassidy, who handed it off to some other fresh-faced, inoffensive object of the platonic affections of millions of teenage American girls.

Who cares if Davy Jones wasn’t the world’s greatest singer or the world’s greatest actor?  He brought joy and excitement to the lives of many, he was part of a TV show that a lot of us liked at the time, and he managed to be part of some pretty darned good music that helped to define the ’60s.  I think Daydream Believer was one his best Monkees tunes, and it seems like a fitting point of remembrance.

Davy Jones, R.I.P.

Down To The Wire

The Ohio State Buckeyes are struggling, no doubt about it — but they aren’t out of the Big Ten race yet.

We’ve been saying all season that the Big Ten is balanced, and the regular season has proven that to be true.  The top team, Michigan State, already has four losses after getting drilled by Indiana last night, Ohio State and Michigan have five, and Wisconsin has six.  If The Buckeyes can win their last two games, against Northwestern and Michigan State, they would finish tied for first place.

That’s a big “if” right now.  The Buckeyes have lost two out of three at home and three of their last five.  In Sunday’s grim loss to Wisconsin, Ohio State had silly turnovers and couldn’t hit free throws, allowing the Badgers to stay in the game and pull out a last-second win.  The team seemed disorganized and undisciplined at crunch time.  These aren’t the kinds of qualities you want to see as tournament time arrives.  If a team can’t figure out to gut out close games, their season is likely to come to an early end.

Tonight’s game against Northwestern will be a good test.  The Wildcats are fighting for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time, and a win over Ohio State would bring that dream a lot closer.  Northwestern already has beaten Michigan State this season, and behind their senior and scoring machine John Shurna they are fully capable of hanging another loss on the Buckeyes.  If Ohio State hopes to win this game, key players like Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, and William Buford need to step up and provide leadership at key moments, the team needs to play defense and rebound, and the players need to play smart basketball — which includes making their shots at the charity stripe.  It’s time for this Buckeye team to pull together and start playing like a contender.

Sitting On A Gas Price Spike

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress,

Could you please talk to your chauffeurs about the price of gas?  I know that you probably don’t drive or gas up your own vehicles, but your handlers and advisers and staffers just might, and therefore might know what I’m talking about.

The price of gas is spiking.  Here in Ohio, the average price per gallon increased 20 cents last week, and the price continues to climb rapidly.  This week, on my drive to Cleveland, a three-quarter tank fill-up cost more than $60.  Just to make sure you understand, that is not a good thing.  $60 is a lot of money.  If you have a job that requires you to drive a lot, as many of us do, higher gas prices suck.  As you’re driving, watching the fuel gauge drift down, you feel like you’re sitting on that sharp gas price spike, if you catch my drift.

Please don’t tell us nothing can be done about it right now, because drilling for oil in America wouldn’t affect prices in the short term.  Incidentally, why does that rationale only get used to avoid developing our natural resources, and never when we are talking about things like building commuter rail lines that wouldn’t be ready for years?  In any case, no one expects you to snap your fingers and lower prices immediately.  We do know, however, that the law of supply and demand works, and if we collect the oil and gas within our borders it will result in lower prices than would otherwise exist.  We just want you to stop flapping your gums and get off your duffs and do something to avoid the likelihood that we’ll be dealing with $6.00 or $7.00 or $8.00 a gallon gas for the indefinite future.

Speaking of commuter rail, please don’t lecture us about public transportation.  Out here in the Midwest, we don’t have the luxury of subsidized Amtrak trains as a travel option, and most of us who need to drive can’t plan our business trips around bus schedules.  You need to accept and embrace the fact that ours is a country of car owners and drivers, and we need gas.  Welcome to reality!

So please, figure out how to get our oil and gas out of the ground and into our tanks, and to do so in a way that is environmentally sensitive.  If you can’t do that, we’ll find somebody who can.  If that happens, perhaps you can experience firsthand the joys of crushingly expensive gas as you are driving to your cushy lobbying job or your next lucrative speaking engagement.

Sincerely, the American Commuter

Having Class Outside

Today was a beautiful day in Ohio.  The sky was bright, the sun shone down with friendly rays, and it was unseasonably warm.  Looking longingly out the window from the conference room of an office building, I was reminded of grade school and those fabulous days when you convinced your teacher to hold class outside.

It usually happened on the first warm day of spring.  You would walk into your classroom through a landscape reeking of grass and growth, with flowers starting to bloom and birds chirping.  One of the kids in the class would raise the possibility with the teacher, and then other kids would join in.  Soon the pleas would build to a crescendo:  “Please, Miss Tibbles?  Please???  We promise we’ll be good!”  And then the teacher, who probably was dealing with a touch of spring fever herself, would relent, and we would go outside and sit on the asphalt of the playground to listen to the day’s lessons.  And, because we appreciated the gesture and didn’t want to get our nice teacher into trouble, we actually would try to be good.

I always had a soft spot for teachers who agreed to hold class outside.  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it showed some real flexibility — and real confidence in their ability to control their class.  And when it happened, it made those rare spring days that much more special.  Who doesn’t look back fondly on the days when they got to have class outside?

The Vermilion Town Hall

The Vermilion Town Hall is found on one of the wooded town squares near the railroad tracks and the downtown area.  It was built in 1883, at a time when Ohio was booming and towns like Vermilion were interested in displaying their prosperity and success in tangible form.  Town halls were good ways to make that kind of statement in a civic-minded, yet unmistakable, way.

The Town Hall is an imposing brick structure with an eclectic architectural style that includes large circular windows, towers, and an odd bit of ornamental work over the doorway that looks like two swans yelling at each other.  I’m sure the distinctive architectural flourishes were the source of great pride when the Town Hall was built in the 1880s — but now, perhaps, the town government may look at them more as the subject of nagging, and ongoing, maintenance costs.

What Price Political Endorsements?

One good thing about this year’s seemingly endless Republican presidential campaign — it has demonstrated, clearly and conclusively, how empty and meaningless political “endorsements” really are.

We know this because Rick Santorum endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008, saying that Romney was the clear conservative candidate who could be trusted.  Now Santorum is arguing that Romney is a wimpy flip-flopper who couldn’t possibly be expected to govern in accordance with conservative principles.  What has changed?  Not much — other than that now Santorum is running against Romney for the 2012 Republican nomination.

We should all be grateful to Santorum for giving us such a powerful demonstration of how silly endorsements are.  Which really reflects Santorum’s beliefs — his wholehearted statements of support for Romney in 2008, or his strong criticisms of Romney in 2012?  The correct answer, in all likelihood, is neither.  In 2008, Santorum probably wanted to weigh in on the race — because it is hard for any career politician to remain fully on the sidelines — and to have a chit in the bank if Romney won.  In 2012, Santorum has been possessed by his own lust for national office, and he’s not going to let his past statements get in the way of his ambitions.

It’s hard for me to believe that any voter attaches much weight to endorsements.  After Santorum’s abrupt about-face, no voter should.  Whether they come from Republicans or Democrats, political endorsements are the product of calculation, not conviction.

Monday Night Not So Madness

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be asked by a great group of guys to join their pool team based out of Halftime Tavern and last night we went out with a whimper finishing in ninth place in the 2011-2012 Winter League. Our final record was 39-66 so there is plenty of time for practice and room for improvement during the summer before we start back up in the fall. Thanks again guys (me, Eric, Nevin, Mike and Nick) this was a lot of fun.

Another Senseless School Shooting

It is hard for me to imagine what the parents of high school students in Chardon, Ohio must be thinking tonight.  One student was killed and four more were injured after a student went on a shooting rampage at the Chardon High School this morning.

As parents, we struggle with the awful randomness of events like this.  You send your children off to a school that is just like thousands of others, and then one day you receive the horrible news that your child’s unremarkable school has been the scene of a remarkable and tragic event.

Notwithstanding a lot of speculation — much of it offered without a lot of factual basis — it is not yet clear why the shooter acted as he did.  The parents of students who were victims must wonder whether their children were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and struggle with why the shooter, among the many students are dealing with significant issues in high schools across the country, decided to act out his problems so violently.

Are we to the point where another school shooting seems commonplace, and is no longer capable of generating outrage?  If so, we should fear for our future.  If our children cannot go to a public school without fear that they might be gunned down by a troubled classmate, or by a disgruntled nut, then we have lost an essential part of what makes up a civilized country.  A society that cannot provide for safe education for its youth is hard-pressed to call itself a society at all.

The Old Public School

On Route 60, on the outskirts of Vermilion, sits the decaying edifice of the Vermilion Public School.  It is a huge brick building with multiple floors – the kind of school that would not be built today, in our era of single floor facilities.

Although the building seems to be in significant disrepair, the lovely front entrance, with its graceful multiple arches, has escaped the ravages of time.  Looking at it today, it’s not hard to imagine the children of Vermilion streaming through that front door, books in hand, chattering with their classmates and ready for another day of school.

A Hound In The House

We’ve inherited a new dog at Webner House.  Her name is Kasey, and yesterday she came to Columbus to join Penny as part of the Webner Kennel Club.

Kasey’s back story is unclear.  She was retrieved from the Erie County Humane Society six months ago and served nobly as a companion for Kish’s Mom.  We’re not quite sure about her age; our best guess is that she is about seven years old.  She appears to have a lot of American Foxhound in her blood lines — which makes getting her around President’s Day particularly appropriate, because the American Kennel Club reports that George Washington bred American Foxhounds and loved the dog.

Although we don’t know much about Kasey’s life so far, we know from experience that she is a sweet, lovable, energetic pooch who is, unfortunately, prone to household accidents.  We’ll have to work on training her up to the high Webner House standards of conduct.  She’ll be sharing sleeping quarters with Penny, which should be an interesting arrangement.

Getting To Know Our New iMac

After a few weeks of trying to make do with just Richard’s old laptop, I broke down today and bought a new iMac.  I was just afraid that Richard’s laptop, which already has no battery power and is somewhat battered, was going to break down.  Given that computers have become my main informational resource, I thought we just couldn’t do without one.

I’m enjoying the wireless keyboard and the magic mouse, which are big improvements in my book.  The screen is a bit bigger, which is nice for my aging eyeballs.  There are some weird new icons on the desktop, though, and I can’t yet figure out how to access the stuff that was on the hard drive of our old computer.  That will just have to be a new project.

There’s a kind of “getting to know you” period when you get a new computer, even if it is just a newer model of the kind of computer you had before.  (In our case, a much newer model.)  It’s like getting a new car.  For a while you have to figure out where the windshield wipers are, and how to program the radio to your favorite stations.  The things fall into place and the car, or the computer, become as familiar and comfortable as an old shoe.

The Captain’s Chair

In Vermilion, Ohio, the barber shop is located in the heart of downtown.  In view of Vermilion’s long nautical heritage, the shop is called the Captain’s Chair.

The Captain’s Chair is a barber shop in its unadulterated form.  There is no pretense of hair styling, or unisex salon trendiness.  The barber pole is in its classic form, if a bit battered.  There is a red and white striped awning, scissors and comb are shown on the big front window, and old-fashioned barber chairs inside.  As you walk by, you can see men getting their clipping or thumbing through magazines as they wait their turn.

Shock and Horrors! Crest Sullied!

No appreciation of his heritage, that is what it is!  It’s who he is and he doesn’t know it and worse, he makes fun of it.  I am in a state of shock to learn that the original pencil drawing, made by my father, of our family crest was stuffed somewhere in that crowded “hoarder’s” basement of Bob’s and allowed to become coffee stained and curled.  Why, I wonder, has it not been carefully preserved, framed and hung in a place of honor?  And, what is with these slurs at the family heritage through the libeling of the crest?  Indolent?  Family yarn?   I am mortified.  It is our/his heritage he scoffs at.  Webby (Jim), on the other hand, took the time and interest to learn some of the Webner history.  He would treat the crest with significiantly more reverence, I am sure.

Personally, I have always been proud of the crest and the fact that an ancestor was nobility, even if only for a short time.  In fact, I have been considering formally adding “von” back to my name.  “Mack von Webner” has a certain aristocratic sound to it, don’t you think?   Well, maybe not.

In my house I proudly display the oil painting of the family crest.  Dad painted it after he did the pencil drawing Bob has.   It is hung in the bar right next to the vodka so that I can admire it at least once or twice a day at eventide while mixing my martinis.   Dad was very proud of the family crest.  Thus the pencil drawing (which needs preserving and a great deal more respect for his work, if not for the value of the family history,) and the oil.   As Dad understood it, and told it to me (I believe he had no hard information on which to base his belief), our ancestor was a scribe for some Austrian royalty  (perhaps some obscure Austrian prince) and was given the title  “von” for his good work.  As none blood line titles were only good for a lifetime, like knighthood in Great Britain, the von was only good for the scribes lifetime and long gone before the Webners came to America. 

The “oven mitts” are merely Bob’s derisive imagination.  Those images appear as a result of the breastplate shield over hanging on the purple colored (nobility color, of course)  background on which the helmet and armor breastplate appear.  Indeed if one felt the need to describe them otherwise, a more sensitive person of and with familial pride would have identified them as gauntlets, the metal gloves worn with suits of armor which only noblemen were entitled to wear.  The ostrich plumes were, of course, fashionable accessories available only to the wealthy i.e. nobility and often a part of crests.  The “Stars of David”, are fancy fleur de lis, more signs of nobility, though if they were  Stars of David, that would only add to the family mystique.  Indeed, the Webner that came to America, from whom we all on this blog descend, was David Webner, a tailor.  David is often a Jewish given name and tailoring is often a trade populated by Jews.  Moreover, I have been told, on no particularly great authority, that the “ner” as in Webner is common among Austrian Jews.  A non-Jewish version of the name would be “Weber.”  I find it interesting to contemplate that we do have  Jewish lineage.  We are Americans, for sure, with Scotch, Irish, English, Austrian and who knows what other nationality mixes in our background.  Why not some Jewish ancestory as well? 

Unfortunately, the “von” title was not one of inheritance and we later Webners have had to work for our maintenance with no particular fancy recognition.  But, it is fun for we proletarians to think that we had that one shining moment of entitlement.  There is other family lore of nobility, as well.  My grandmother was a Ferguson who, lore has it, were direct descendents from King Fergus of Scotland, as, I suppose, are all Fergusons.  I have been too “indolent” to find out who King Fergus was, when he was or how important or not he was.  (Don’t all families have such tales?)

I do trust that now that it has been re-“discovered” and rescued from Bob’s basement, the family crest will be given proper respectbe framed and appear in a prominent place in Bob’s home. 


On The Gray, Windswept Shores Of Lake Erie, Vermilion, Ohio, February 25, 2012

It’s cold and blustery up here, with snow squalls rolling through.  Ohio’s Great Lake reflects the weather.  It’s been whipped into a lather of waves by a gusty wind that slaps and tears at all it touches — be it human faces, clothing, trees, or the swing set that creaks on the shoreline.  You can feel the spray 50 feet away.