mm209: Happy Birthday, Dad!

November 30, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I wrote a note to my children today, and I’m just self-indulgent enough to share it with you.

My father was always proud of the fact that he shared a birthday with Winston Churchill, one of the giants of his time.  Churchill has been gone for 42 years, and the world is a lesser place for his passing.

Dad was no Churchill, but he was student enough of history to aspire to make a difference in the world, and with his optimism and generosity, he did.

His own father died when Dad was a small child, but he once related to me that, well into middle age, he would meet someone who remembered his father, gone for 40 years, as a respected businessman, scrupulous and fair.

In the years since he’s gone, I’ve had that same experience about him.

At the age of 31 (eerily close to the age his own father had died) he was afflicted with a brain tumor. The art of brain surgery was pretty rough in 1956; my mother was told to prepare for widowhood. Yet, he survived, recovered fully, and went on to lead a worthy life.

He sold paper boxes all of his adult life, first for other people but later running his own small company (in which I worked for 15 years), but politics was his first love and avocation.

As our township’s committeeman, he managed to carry the town for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in its history in 1964.

Later, he served as our town’s first Jewish alderman, and narrowly lost his race for mayor, He once told me, after seeing a picture in the weekly paper of the victorious opponent officiating at a Veteran’s Day ceremony in cold driving rain, that losing that election was absolutely the better outcome.

If politics was his first love, baseball was next. Time and money were in short supply during my childhood, but he made up for it while my children were growing up by sharing many a Cubs and White Sox game (he maintained season’s tickets to both for years) with his grandchildren.

He sponsored a Little League team in town (the first individual to do so), and my brother still does. It’s a blast during the spring and early summer to see kids biking to the park with Dad’s name on their backs.

His love of baseball took an unusual turn when his close friend Gus, whom he had had known for many years, revealed that he had been a promising rookie with the Cubs before the war, until his arm blew out.

Attending many games on Saturdays with my father and my older son relit the fire for Gus. Comfortably retired, he purchased the Triple-A farm team in Omaha, and one year that team won the Triple-A World Series. My father, who served on the team’s board of directors, always cherished his World Series ring.

Dad moved from elective office to appointments, and after spearheading the fundraising campaign to create a still thriving cultural center from a shuttered school, served the town’s recreation board for a number of terms, including as its president.

A recreation center he had helped the city build was named for him shortly after his untimely death from heart disease at 67.

That was 15 years ago, and his family misses him every day.

Oh, yeah, the note I wrote my kids today.

Hi, Children,

Today, November 30, would have been Grandpa S—–‘s 82nd birthday.

He was an extraordinary man and we’re all fortunate that he’s been in our lives.

He, along with dear Grandpa J—–, remain examples for all of us of integrity, generosity, optimism and courage facing crippling illness, and, most of all, the importance of family.

Grandpa S—–, as you’re sure to remember, used to love to give gifts to his children and grandchildren on his birthday.

I hope that his memory serves as that gift today, and every day.

Love,
Dad

Happy Birthday, Dad.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm158: Miscellanea, or, this and that

October 1, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention

Short attention span blogging: Item 1:

Mike Garibaldi Frick: Elect the U.S. President with the Popular Vote – Politics on The Huffington Post

It’s time to elect the President and Vice President of the United States by direct, popular vote.

In addition to being given greater proportionate representation in the Senate, individuals living in states with smaller populations are given more political influence than those people living in larger states. That’s simply undemocratic. Electing the President by popular vote might also increase voter turnout and most certainly would extend the power of third party campaigns.

We’ve looked at this topic previously several times; it won’t go away… Take a look at the full post, and the comments.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Mike Garibaldi Frick: Elect the U.S. President with the Popular Vote – Politics on The Huffington Post

MUDGE is beginning to think that the Electoral College can be characterized in the manner that Winston Churchill characterized democracy:

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

The Electoral College is a lousy system, whose latest inadequacies have led this country to an abysmal seven years and counting, but I fear that it may be better than any other system for this country.

Short attention span blogging: Item 2:

Space Race Turns 50 With Sputnik Anniversary

MOSCOW (AP) — When Sputnik took off 50 years ago, the world gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension, watching what seemed like the unveiling of a sustained Soviet effort to conquer space and score a stunning Cold War triumph.

But 50 years later, it emerges that the momentous launch was far from being part of a well-planned strategy to demonstrate communist superiority over the West. Instead, the first artificial satellite in space was a spur-of-the-moment gamble driven by the dream of one scientist, whose team scrounged a rocket, slapped together a satellite and persuaded a dubious Kremlin to open the space age.

And that winking light that crowds around the globe gathered to watch in the night sky? Not Sputnik at all, as it turns out, but just the second stage of its booster rocket, according to Boris Chertok, one of the founders of the Soviet space program.

MUDGE was a kid when Sputnik launched the world into the space age. It’s been a long time, but I dimly remember stepping outside to peer at the city-light polluted sky for something winking up there.

Eerie.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Wired News – AP News

Reflecting years later, one can’t help remember that, not mentioned in this story, in the end the Soviet Union’s captured German World War II rocket scientists (those wonderful folks who brought London the destructive power of the V-1 and V-2) beat the U.S.’s captured German rocket scientists into space. At least the first couple of steps.

It took a visionary John F. Kennedy to define an inspiring goal for our Germans and their mentored U.S. colleagues to focus on, and the U.S. won the war of which Sputnik was the first overt battle.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

They don’t build presidents like that any more.

Speaking of which…

Short attention span blogging: Item 3:

If Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize, will he run for president?

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Sept. 24, 2007, at 12:00 PM ET

Al Gore. Click image to expand.Al Gore

I am occasionally asked why it is that so many Europeans display reflexive anti-Americanism, and I force myself to choose from a salad of possible answers. One of these is the resentment that I can remember feeling myself when I lived in England in the 1970s: the sheer brute fact that American voters who knew nothing about Europe (and cared less) could pick a president who had more clout than any of our elected prime ministers could exert. America could change our economic climate by means of the Federal Reserve, could use bases in Britain to forward its policies in Asia or the Middle East, and all the rest of it. Americans could also choose a complete crook like Richard Nixon, or a complete moron like Jimmy Carter, and we still had to watch our local politicians genuflect to the so-called Atlantic alliance.

Love him, hate him, respect him as one (somewhat reluctantly) might, Christopher Hitchens is always interesting.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

If Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize, will he run for president? – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

In this very, very long presidential election season, most anything can happen.

And most anything probably will.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE