Around 1977, someone suggested that we have sushi at lunch. My favorite lunchtime companion was interested but I was lukewarm. The guy who suggested it tried to convince me by saying that it was reasonable.

The three of us went to the Sakura Palace. We ordered a la carte and should have gotten the message when the waiter said: “Order special. Cheaper.” The other guy and I had a beer apiece and I stopped with the first helping. The other two had a second serving and I encouraged them to get back to work because of a deadline that I (falsely) claimed I had to meet. The bill for this meager repast was $50 plus tip. I put it on my plastic. Upon return to work I was reimbursed and posted the bill on our bulletin board with a little ditty:

If you knew sushi
Like I know sushi
Oh, oh, oh what a dish
If you knew sushi
Like I know sushi
Oh, oh, oh what a fish

I did go back one more time but the lady paid the bill. It was her suggestion.


How do some accomplishments really relate to the betterment of society?

Great works of music and their performance can yield a great deal of delight that can be enduring in the case of the work.

Much in the world of art and music has a fleeting appeal and reflects the fads of the day.

We can admire an athlete for his accomplishments but should we deem him or her to be a potential role model? Many a star has fallen into deep disrepute. Should we give any credence to the advice on politics from some entertainer or sports star?

There are times when we concentrate on what is trendy but effectively irrelevant in the greater scheme of things. Roman decadence was accompanied by an overdose of bread and circus.

Am I a snob for avoiding television shows that have a track that tells me when I should be amused? It is one of the many insults to my intelligence that I find insufferable. Why should I have ever wasted my time watching a show that was allegedly about nothing? Some may find that watching certain shows and events allows them a sense of camaraderie when they discuss them with their associates the next day.

It has been said that those with average minds discuss people, those with great minds discuss events, and those with great minds discuss ideas. Perhaps those with below average minds discuss what happened on Seinfeld when they gather at the water cooler.

Perhaps I will take a break and see if I can catch an episode of Sponge Bob.


Another Philadelphia Police Officer, John Pawlowski, has been murdered in the line of duty, and, once again, the killer is a career criminal who was treated leniently by the criminal justice system, and, in the words of Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, “should not have been among us, period.”

Ramsey calls suspect “cold-blooded killer”

By Barbara Boyer and Michael Matza, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writers

The suspect in Friday night’s murder of a Philadelphia patrolman is an “unsalvageable” career criminal who “should not have been among us, period,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said today.

“This guy was just a cold-blooded killer who made a statement prior that if police showed up, he was going to kill them,” Ramsey said. “That was his mind-set, and that was his intent.”

Simmering with anger over the death of 25-year-old Officer John Pawlowski – the eighth officer to die from on-duty injuries in less than three years – Ramsey was accompanied at a midafternoon news conference by Homicide Division Capt. James Clark.

Clark identified the suspect as Rasheed Scrugs, 33, of West Philadelphia, whose decade-long rap sheet includes several aliases and multiple arrests for theft, robbery and gun crimes. Scrugs was wounded by police after Pawlowski was shot, and was in critical condition last night.

When Ramsey was asked at the news conference about the injuries to Scrugs, pain and sadness clearly overwhelmed his usual discretion and decorum.

“He wasn’t hit enough. That’s the only thing that matters,” he said. “I don’t care.”

Mr Scruggs had been through the criminal justice system:

Born in 1975, Scrugs was first arrested as an adult for shoplifting at 18. Those charges were withdrawn. Over the next three years, he was arrested several times on counts of robbery, receiving stolen property, assault and gun crimes. Many of those charges were dismissed or withdrawn by prosecutors in apparent plea bargains. The most serious charges were held for trial.

In June 1997, he pleaded guilty to robbery and carrying a fire arm without a license. Common Pleas Court Judge Gary Glazer sentenced him to a minimum of five years and a maximum 10 years in prison.

He served five years and was paroled. In 2002, he violated parole and was sent back to prison in 2004 for six months months. He was released again in 2005.

It does not appear he was on probation when he was arrested in September on charges of car theft and receiving stolen property.

His next court date on those charges is Wednesday.

Emphasis mine.

Crime was reduced significantly in New York City when former Mayor Rudolf Guiliani instituted a program where minor offenses were not just ignored, where the police and prosecutors aggressively pursued charges for minor offenses, trying to get the bad guys off the streets before they they became really bad guys; the City of Brotherly love somehow never saw the wisdom of that.

One of the things that got to me was a column by Annette John-Hall in today’s Inquirer. Mrs John-Hall goes through the same old rigamarole of saying that we shuld not give up on the community:

Sure, it’s tempting to throw up your hands and write off a whole generation of young men on their way to becoming Rasheed Scrugses. As a seething Ramsey declared Saturday at a news conference: “Lock them up, throw away the key. Build another prison. Don’t let them out.”

But somewhere along the way, we have to step in. Because there’s a fine line between the path Rasheed Scrugs took and the path Charles Gibbs is taking.

The Charles Gibbs about whom Mrs John-Hall wrote is an admirable fellow, a law student, intent on doing good things. Mrs John-Hall noted that Mr Gibbs was the beneficiary of having some caring adults around him, from the single mother who reared his sister and him, and scraped up the money to send them to Catholic school, the “block captains,” and the police officers of the 18th District.

But Mrs John-Hall failed to note something else: as there were good people who helped rear Mr Gibbs properly, there were in-community enablers who allowed Mr Scruggs to live and prey in their heighborhood.

It’s clear that the criminal justice system in Philadelphia is a criminal enabler, because it does not take things seriously until they become very serious. We read about thugs who should have been off the street being on the street only when they do something really newsworthy, which, in Philadelphia, has meant killing a police officer. The system enables the petty thugs the freedom to graduate into the big time.

But there are other enablers. The people who live around the thugs, the people who befriend them, who tolerate their behavior, the people who know that their neighbors are bad guys dealing in crack and robbing cabbies and do nothing and say nothing, the people who wear the “Stop Snitchin'” t-shirts and the parents who give them the money to buy them, the people who see the goons as role models and the, let me be very blunt here, women who sleep with them, these people enable the thugs to remain thugs.

These are the people Mrs John-Hall needs to see, needs to tell us about. Instead, she wrote about Mr Gibbs, apparently a fine young man, but someone who is being made a hero simply for doing the right thing. Too often, it seems that doing the right thing is the exception rather than the expectation.

And that told us more about the problem than Mrs John-Hall ever realized.

I thought that this was an emergency

There was an interestig headline on the front page of today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

Obama to sign stimulus in Colorado¹

The bill passed with little support from Republicans. The president still hopes to persuade the public.
By Steven R. Hurst, Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Keeping the economy front and center, President Obama will head west this week to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill and tackle the mortgage-foreclosure crisis. The direct appeals for public support follow scant GOP backing in Congress for his agenda and increasing partisan bickering.

Yet, somehow, someway, it was absolutely urgent that the Congress not delay, that they pass the Porkulus Plan without even reading the damned thing, ’cause delay would turn a crisis into a catastrophe, right? Yet, apparently, it’s not so much of an emergency that President Obama can’t delay signing it for another day, and spend a couple hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer money to fly out to Colorado, to sell the bill that has already been passed by Congress to the public.

I would have thought that, if this bill is so great, so necessary, and will save our economy, it wouldn’t need to be sold: its effects will be self-evident.

Well, I’d say that it’s President Obama’s economy now! He’s told us how this would fix things, how he was going to Change the policies of the past eight years, and he just pushed through a massive federal bill to do so. While I have never believed that presidents control the economy, it’s a fact of life that presidents get the credit for a good one and the blame for a bad one, and the President has just staked his claim for credit. That means it’s fair to give him the blame for a bad economy.
¹ – The Philadelphia Inquirer, Monday, 16 February 2009, p. A-1

A Modest Artistic Proposal

As a student, my worst class was art. Catholic school music with the emphasis on Gregorian chant was also rather uninspiring. I did develop a great appreciation for music but never could be enthusiastic about much that was avant garde in the art world. I did appreciate Dali and much of the work of Picasso but some of the weirder stuff turned me off.

I have been looking at some tidbits of the Porculus Scheme and am contemplating a change in my ways to be more attuned to the spirit of change. I remember the furor when Andrew Serrano got a Federal grant of $15K for his Piss Christ that was nothing more than a crucifix in a vat of urine. Those who might be deemed either philistines or snake handlers found the expenditure wasteful or sacrilegious were treated as unlettered rustics. The ‘artist’ did keep the money.

Perhaps I should explore novel media and create a work that is relevant in an era of Obamania. I am considering a piece of sculpture that truly captures the spirit of political innovation embodied by the new president and his loyal band of followers. It would use a natural substance that would require no artificial coloring that might be deemed to be carcinogenic in California.

I would require little in the way of material other than some rubber gloves and a clothespin for my nose and a supply of airsickness bags. I even have an Obama pin that I could wear when I put in for my grant. I might send some money to that Telescreamer with the coat covered with question marks to discover where I have to go for the money.

Will the world really appreciate “Shit Obama”? After Serrano, would I be deemed to be merely Number Two?


Telescreamers are the commercial variant of the televangelist who will save your soul. Both want your money. The worst is Billy Mays, with his headset and big mouth. There are times when I fall asleep while watching the news and wake up to hear the obnoxious rants of one of these annoying pitchmen. What troubles me is that people actually buy the products they are pushing. To me, they are a turnoff.

Yet there are some who seem to win arguments by shouting the loudest and Josef Goebbels demonstrated the effectiveness of the Big Lie. Imagine if Goebbels had access to international television. Wir könnten alle Deutsch sprechen.

Billy Mays is not the first of the breed. I remember the early days of television when the first telescreamers were pushing their wonderful snap-click-slide windows or touting the powers of lanolin. Those endless commercials were a bit more entertaining than the test pattern.

Will Billy Mays be enlisted by the Mavins of Nebulous Change to encourage a greater love for Big Brown Brother as he trades off pork for freedom? He may be just what the Commissar ordered.