Time Is A Telescope

clock

Next Sunday in North America, we are switching to Daylight Saving Time, which means we move our clocks ahead one hour.  What a crock!  That’s like cutting the top end off a blanket, sewing it to the bottom and saying you’ve got a longer blanket!  Here’s the deal.  Time is a telescope.  It contracts and expands and, depending on how you look at it, throws everything out of proportion.  For example, an itch in the middle of your back can seem like an eternity; whereas a kiss, no matter how long it lingers, is always gone too soon.  When I was a kid, Saturdays were too short, summers were too long and February frequently had 35 days.  Now that I’m an — uh — older gentleman, days, weeks, months and even years are flashing by at warp speed.

The reality is, though, time is actually getting bigger.  The rotation of the Earth is slowing down ever so slightly, so a second is now an itty-bitty bit longer than it was when we first discovered them.  Luckily, the international time people (Coordinated Universal Time) have noticed this, and they add a leap second to the clock every once in a while so we don’t stray that far from solar time.  Cool fact, huh?  Here are a few more that might change your concept of time.

It takes most people more time to tie their shoes than it takes Usain Bolt to run 100 metres.

There are only 525,600 minutes in a year.

Cleopatra’s reign in Egypt is closer to our time than it is to the time when the Pyramids were built.

Oxford University is older than the Aztec civilization in Mexico.

Spain was a predominantly Moslem country for 200 years longer than it’s been predominantly Christian.

Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone the same year Crazy Horse and his buddies killed General Custer and all his troopers at the Little Big Horn.

The 10th President of the United States, John Tyler, who was born in 1790, has a grandson, Harrison Tyler, who is alive today — and living in the family home, Sherwood Forest Plantation, Virginia.

This year’s Oscar presenter Eva Marie Saint is older than the Empire State Building, Hoover Dam, Mount Rushmore and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Barbra Walters, Christopher Plummer and Anne Frank were all born in the same year.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show toured Germany and Austria in 1906 — when Adolf Hitler was 17 years old.

William Shakespeare and Pocahontas were contemporaries.

But my absolute favourite is:

According to The Economist, the median age of all the humans on our planet is 28 years– which means that half the people on Earth were born after the first episode of The Simpsons!

Playboy Changed The World

vargasNow that Playboy magazine has renounced nudity, it’s become an easy target — a misogynist relic of the 20th century — more silicon than substance.  Perhaps.  I don’t know.   Like most people, I don’t actually read Playboy anymore, so I’m in no position to judge.  However, I do know this.  If you’re over 35 and not dead, you’re part of the massive impact Playboy has on our society.

Take a look:

The Playboy Interviews read like a history book of our times:

Malcolm X, Jimmy Hoffa, Federico Fellini, Fidel Castro, Orson Welles, Ralph Nader, Marshall McLuhan, Ray Charles, Germaine Greer, Tennessee Williams, Jimmy Carter, Barbara Streisand, David Frost, Marlon Brando, G. Gordon Liddy, Lech Walesa, Ansel Adams, Jesse Jackson, Carl Bernstein, Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos, Yasser Arafat, Donald Trump, Martin Scorsese, Michael Jordan, Salman Rushdie and on and on and on.

In one single year, 1964, Playboy interviewed Vladimir Nabokov, Ayn Rand, Jean Genet, Ingmar Bergman and Salvador Dali.  And Playboy didn’t just follow what was trending; it tried to understand.  It interviewed Martin Luther King Jr. at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1965; Timothy Leary, when mainstream drug use was a brand new phenom in ’66 and Steve Jobs, immediately after getting booted out of Apple in 1985.  Plus, Playboy took some chances, like sending Alex Haley, the author of Roots, to interview George Lincoln Rockwell, the leader of the American Nazi Party.

Yes, Alex Haley wrote for Playboy and so did Norman Mailer, Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson and Gore Vidal.  There were others too, but the list of fiction writers is even more overwhelming:

Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, Ray Bradbury, Bharati Mukherjee, Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Ursula Le Guin, Martin Amis and, once again, on and on — including four Nobel Prize winners: Saul Bellow, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Doris Lessing.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the boobs, Playboy would be considered a literary magazine — one of the best.

But what about those boobs?

Some of the most beautiful women in the world have voluntarily taken their clothes off for Playboy:

Farrah Fawcett, Olivia Munn, Robin Givens, Katarina Witt, Ursula Andress, Tia Carrere, Kim Basinger, Elle Macpherson, Kate Moss, Catherine Deneuve, Shari Belafonte and Raquel Welch among many, many others.  The numbers alone take Playboy pictorials beyond sleazy.  Besides, is there any great distance between Charlize Theron and Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” or Naomi Campbell and Goya’s “The Nude Maja?”  Argue all you want about objectifying women, but if you want a lesson in that go to the pages of Vogue or Fashion or Harper’s Bazaar.  Rhetorically speaking, is a pouting, uber-skinny supermodel a more acceptable female image?  Or is it just that she’s covered up their naughty bits?

At 62, Playboy magazine is old and grey and nodding by the fire.  In a one-click universe where the most outrageous porno is at your fingertips and few people are willing to wade through serious pages of unbroken prose, Playboy is passé.  Eventually, it will dissolve into history — the history it helped shape.  Like it or not, Playboy changed the world — no doubt.  But, mostly, it let us be adults about sex and it single-handedly transformed sexuality from Downtown smut to Uptown sophistication.  It made smart sexy, and that’s what made Playboy cool.

Margaret Thatcher and Ugly Politics

thatcherOkay, I’ve had enough.  I really thought that I could let it go and maintain the moral high ground by not acknowledging — forget responding to — the hate.  I can’t.  I’m not that fine a human being.  So…

We live in cowardly times, mean-spirited and smug.  We celebrate cheap shots and slink away from honest debate.  We attack those who can’t defend themselves while insisting it is our moral principles which give us the open warrant for this revenge.  We applaud bullies in our streets and on our social media and then wonder why they’ve crept onto our playgrounds.  In our society, many of us are not very nice, and because of that, history will probably judge all of us as vulgar.

The infernal optimist in me thought that we couldn’t sink much lower than making fun of 86-year-old Pope Benedict XVI for wanting to retire.  Old Christians are easy targets, but the same folks, so quick with the jokes, had already loudly refused to publish satirical Moslem cartoons under the guise of sensitivity.  I thought integrity was not a flexible commodity.  I was wrong.  As of last week, the vitriol circus three-ringing itself around the death of Margaret Thatcher proves the “progressives” among us have hit intellectual rock bottom and are now starting to dig.

As a public figure, even in death, Margaret Thatcher’s policies should be (and are) open to vigorous debate.  For those who disagreed with her methods and results there are any number of well thought out arguments they could use to support their opposition.  However, I doubt if “bitch” is one of them.  Perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t see abandoning my political position on the strength of that thesis.  At least, “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” — although about as original as most leftwing ideas — has a sophomoric air of carnival about it.  However, neither of these responses to one of the most divisive politicians in recent history is exactly a tsunami of intellectual prowess.  If this is all the left is bringing to the table, it’s no wonder they couldn’t convince the voting public that Margaret Thatcher was the personification of evil – on three separate occasions.  And this bringsthatcher1 us to the interesting question: What does one do with one’s political self-righteousness when the ballot box disagrees with them?  (After all, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government was democratically elected three times.)  Does one snarl and cry and demonize one’s opponent, or pout and call her names?  Or perhaps one tantrums through the streets in sanctimonious anger, smashing things, burning cars and injuring police officers?   Or maybe one merely gathers enough explosives to attempt to blow one’s opponent’s head off and thus alleviate the need for any further discussion?  In Margaret Thatcher’s case, the answer is all of the above — plus one more.  Many on the left just quietly waited until the object (she was an object by then) of their hate died and now attack her viciously and personally with no fear of repercussions.  Plus it should be noted that those who profess an absolute abhorrence of hate are among the first to cast a stone.

To those who disagree with Margaret Thatcher’s policies — with measured argument and open debate — I wish you well.  To those who rant their hate from the rooftops and “celebrate” her death: you are the embodiment of all that is dull-witted and crude in our times.  I want nothing to do with you or your politics; you’ve shown the world the ugly face of both of them.