Reader Mail

Rack and Roll

Pool hall memories and sounds. Also: The dirt on the Bulgarian find. Uncle Walter not so avuncular. Acts of conscience. Relocation, relocation. Plus much more.

7.31.06

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BEHIND THE 8-BALL
Re: Lawrence Henry's Capital "P":

Hallelujah!

What a joy it is to read someone waxing fondly about the joys of the game of pool. Though I never actually hung out in seedy urban pool halls, I identified with most everything else Mr. Henry wrote. Coveting a table as a boy ... taking the game up seriously in college ... getting a whole new taste of what "good" really meant ... and "wasting" many, many hours honing my game (and gambling away my grocery money) when I should have really have been doing something else.

When my buddies and I weren't playing pool, we were watching "The Hustler" on video (VCRs weren't common on campus yet, but my roommate had one). I think I read the book version at least 10 times during my college years. It's a wonder I never flunked out. (Technically, I did once, but managed to petition my way back in for a second chance.) I once spent $300 (an ungodly amount for a college student in the late '80s) for a pool cue, because I coveted it so. I still have it, and long considered it my "prize possession."

Like Mr. Henry, I haven't played seriously in a long time, probably for many of the same reasons. I also share his opinions regarding comparisons to golf. Golf and pool were my two favorite sports for ages, and when asked to choose a favorite I would typically reply, "You know, just because it's played in the sunshine and on green golf, I'd probably go with golf. But based purely on how much I enjoy it and how it engages you, I'd say pool." I'd be hard pressed to name a sport or game that requires such intense concentration for unbroken periods of time. In golf, you have all that time between shots to relax and mentally prepare. In pool, when it's your turn at the table, there's no let-up. It draws you in like nothing else, and suddenly it's 2:00 in the morning.

Thanks for the fun article.
-- Mike Zimmerman
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Lawrence Henry is right. There is something entrancing about the sound of pool balls clacking around on a fine slate table. Or a not-so-fine cheapo table in a dive pool hall. A few years back I was house-sitting for some friends who had a nice pool table in their home. I was taking advantage of their cable and was watching a nine-ball tournament. One of the players set up his break shot and sank the nine ball on the break. I ran downstairs and tried to duplicate his masterful technique. I racked up nine and set my cue ball to the left about a foot from the rail and let 'er rip. The nine ball went straight in the corner pocket and I felt like Minnesota Fats. True story.
-- Bryan Frymire
Louisville, Kentucky

Mr. Henry, you brought back many memories of my youth. In the Panhandle of Texas, in the late '40ss, there wasn't much for anyone to do after the workday was done. (No TV, can you imagine?) The vets were back from WWII. They had seen the world and now they were back to making a living and building new lives. Pool tables were where they met in the evening. My father took me along to the volunteer fire department where the smell of the fire truck and the water hoses overlayed the click of pool balls. The vets played pool, smoked, talked and laughed. Oh my, how they laughed! And then there was the American Legion Hall where there were two pool tables, and a bar. Again my father took me along. I was so small and they were all so tall, heroes all. Sorry, no women allowed.

Gosh, what a different era.
-- Nelson Ward
Ribera, New Mexico

HERE'S THE DIRT
Re: Hal G.P. Colebatch's Thank God for Bulgaria!:

Nuclear density machines are used for measuring the density of road subgrade. They don't have anything to do with agriculture or agronomic "soil-testing." Although the Iranian regime is generally not to be trusted, in this case, the machines may have been ordered for perfectly legitimate purposes.
-- E. H. Earles

Hi my name is Kalin Kirkov and I come from Gorna Orjahovitza, Bulgaria.

I am very proud to be BULGARIAN sitizen and thank you for very good words for my country!!!

God save the America and his prezident G . Bush!!!
-- Kalin Kirkov

If antinuclear activists were to represent " a soil-testing device containing radioactive caesium 137 and americum-beryllium. " as the moral eqivalent of a dirty bomb, I'm sure you would publish a put down of their paranoia, based on the real world response of Federal authorities to the loss or theft of the many soil gages and countless smoke detectors that employ them : here is a relevant example of the non-panic ensuing from the theft of exactly the sort that figures in "Thank God for Bulgaria! by Hal G.P. Colebatch. It happened in Colorado in 2004:

Emergency Class: NON EMERGENCY
10 CFR Section:
AGREEMENT STATE
Person (Organization):
JACK WHITTEN (R4)
JOHN HICKEY (NMSS)
TOM ANDREWS (R4)

Event Text

AGREEMENT STATE REPORT CONCERNING STOLEN GAUGE

"At 3:50 PM [MST] on 19 Feb 04 - The Department received telephone notification of a stolen gauge by Larry W. Chisman, the RSO for Soil Testing and Engineering Inc.

"The theft occurred between 11:30 AM and 2:00 PM [MST] on 19 Feb 04 in a parking lot at 314 W. Bijou, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"The stolen gauge is a CPN Model MC-2, serial number M21084026. The gauge contains 10 milliCi of Cs-137 and 50 milliCi of Am-241:Be. The incident was reported to local police on the day of the theft. Emergency class: NONEMERGENCY"


Russia has suffered the theft of an assortment of multi- megacurie cesium 137 radiothermal batteries , and the oil business uses, and has been known to misplace, well logging neutron sources bearing whole curies of americium - and worse. Given the factor of a million shortfall relative to real "dirty bomb scenarios that ' milicurie cases pose, one wonders why an Australian lawyer is crying wolf in your pages.

(Still) missing WMD envy and sheer technical illiteracy are two possibilities, both having manifested themselves before . Neither absolves the author of sounding a quantitatively false alarm in an already dangerous neighborhood.
-- Russell Seitz
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Interesting. The British film "Dirty Bomb" that was recently on HBO had exactly the opposite plot -- a Bulgarian trucker smuggling cesium or another agent into Britain to create a pair of "dirty bombs" to contaminate Fleet Street and the rest of the financial district.

Life imitating art?
-- Cookie Sewell
Aberdeen, Maryland

DROPPED ANCHOR
Re: Jeffrey Lord's Thanks, Uncle Walter:

...I don't agree that Cronkite deserves any respect whatsoever. He started a public landslide against Vietnam that was based totally on what he knew at the time to be lies about Tet, and the damage of that continues to this day. Cronkite left a legacy of opinionated and deceitful reporting. His liberal support of increasing poverty programs hurt blacks, his open support of abortion hurt children and families, and his open and corrupt opposition to Vietnam hurt America....
-- Bill Margeson
Dundee, Illinois

Walter Cronkite's legacy was created in a vacuum where there were few other competing news sources and delivery systems. What is ironic about it today is; if you miss CBS, you can get the same take on ABC, NBC, or PBS. But if you miss FOX News, you've missed something completely different.

These liberal commentators past and present, and their "financial benefactors" still fail to understand why "conservative radio" or even "fair and balanced" news works. Their disdain for its content and reasoning is why their billionaires continue to subsidize Air America and PBS against all logical business models and continue to force its programming upon a public that has mostly rejected it.

Conservative commentators thoroughly examine liberal opinion, practices, and results on the air daily. On "conservative talk radio" liberalism enjoys a better explanation than even its advocates provide elsewhere (were nobody listens!). Perhaps, that's the problem. Liberal commentators still reflect disdainfully about conservative philosophy and fail to contrast why their opinions, ideas, and results are better. So in the end, even on the worst televised platforms, only one opinion gets examined and thoroughly explained and it is "conservatism."

In the end, broadcast liberalism now has to compete on a premise built upon by "broadcast conservatism" or nobody would tune in at all.

Let's remember this and be humble but steadfast.
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

I recall that when Cronkite retired and he explicitly said that he was a Democrat, the media expressed surprise and said you could not tell from his broadcasts. Well, at my Republican family's dinner table where we watched the news, we could most certainly tell. He seems to have invented the technique for finding the least appealing spokesman possible for any conservative position. I can remember us yelling at the set about how liberal he was. The other networks were no better and we did not have the alternatives we have now. The media bias was especially obvious on election night. If the Dems were doing well, the "newsmen" were dancing. If the Republicans were doing well, the "newsmen" were gloomy and surely. I still get mad about media bias and the mainstream media is if anything worse than before. But now we have somewhere else to go. Thank God.
-- Mike Bergsma

Jeffrey Lord bestowed an unexpected accolade upon Uncle Walter with his tribute, but I don't imagine Mr. Cronkite will be too pleased with it. I recall one of my college history teachers, way back in 1968, telling us that Cronkite's take on the world was not necessarily "the way it is." At the time, being a typically immature college student with no solid foundation or core beliefs, I didn't have the slightest idea what my professor was talking about. Over time I discovered his assessment was right on target.

As media personalities became more arrogant and increasingly more liberal many people longed for an alternative. Progressives felt no need to change the way they reported the news because they controlled the medium. I remember Spiro Agnew's famous lament in which he referred to the liberal media as "nattering nabobs of negativism." In retrospect, I believe he was being overly kind. With the advent of satellite technology and the Internet that all changed. Now that liberals have to compete in the marketplace of ideas they must be getting discouraged as they watch their influence wane. We can only hope that one day the light bulb will go on in their collective brains and they will come to the realization that the majority of Americans will not buy what they are selling.
-- Rick Arand

Let's see. You conclude this article with the statement that Cronkite deserves to be applauded for "contributing" to American life. But you admit that he lied to the American people about the Tet offensive, he deceptively masked his extreme leftist views, he did not report the news but instead gave his leftist opinion, and he slanted the news to discredit Americans with contrary views.

Sounds like a lying, traitor to me-why did you not conclude your article with a conclusion that logically connected with the facts? Are you trying to appease Cronkite?
-- Michael Root

I never paid much attention to him when he was broadcasting as I was usually at work. Heard him from time to time.

Now I see him at least once yearly on PBS and the Vienna New Years concert. He is irritating as hell. Just wish he'd shut up with his avuncular and slightly condescending yapping and let the music roll.

Incidentally, he his family originally from Germany? Cronkite sounds exactly like "Krankheit" which means illness or sickness.
-- Donald A. Holloway
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

RATED ADULT
Re: James Bowman's review of My Super Ex-Girlfriend:

Mr. Bowman seems to have written a very thoughtful review of this silly movie. I hope the producers, director, and cast are flattered by his attention. My guess is that he's given them a more grown-up treatment than they deserve.
-- Jessica O'Connor
Bayonne, New Jersey

ABSOLUTELY RELATIVELY
Re: Doug Bandow's A Right of Consience:

Doesn't Mr. Bandow give away the game when he allows a JW Dr. should be forced to give a blood transfusion (contrary to conscience as the JW absolutely sees it), to "save the life" of a patient?

Under this logic, what is the practical difference between (1) Two absolutist camps prioritizing differently when "absolute" more values are in conflict, and (2) Labeling a person with a different value judgment a "relativist"?

Further compounding what seems to be an absolutist-based defense of the right of conscience is the acknowledgement that one's value choices are essentially an individual judgment; and that "moral" individuals could come to different conclusions, especially in complex situations a.k.a. "gray areas."

How is that different from moral relativism, again?

I had thought of myself as in the absolutist camp, but somehow this article in particular raises troubling questions of "whose 'absolute' values are truly so, and whose are just relative?" when obviously for most of us, without deeper reflection, the answer for the former is "mine" and the latter is "those who disagree with me."

Trying to hang absolutism on "divine revelation" rather than human ethical systems hardly solves the problem, given the infinite variety of claimed revelations, and/or interpretations of even a single revelation, that exist. None can "prove" theirs is correct, certainly not absolutely so.

And acknowledging the ambiguity but maintaining the principle of absolutism, e.g. "absolute values are 'out there' and we're all just trying our best to decipher them" is hardly satisfying, and again, indistinguishable in effect from relativism.

How do wiser heads than mine resolve this dilemma?
-- Kevin Amaro
Hayward, California

"The moral status of an isolated embryo is not obviously the same as that of a fetus."

Yes it is, in the same way that the infant Doug Bandow possessed it as fully as the one who now writes columns.
-- William Luse
Orlando, Florida

CASE STUDY
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Bullish on Bearing Arms:

"Guns in the hands of solid citizens actually make a society safer."

Jay is so right about this...The perfect "gun control" environment was the passenger airplane, and that allowed terrorists to kill thousands of Americans on 9/11. An armed attendant or passenger would have prevented the hijacking.

In The Twilight Zone's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," William Shatner is able to save the flight only because a deputy on the plane had a firearm ...
-- C. Baker

FEE HAPPY
Re: R. Trotter's letter (under "Rifle Rationale") in Reader Mail's UN Doings:

R. Trotter seems slightly misinformed about ownership of submachine guns and other automatic weapons. The National Firearms Act of 1934 didn't ban the aforementioned weapons -- most likely, because its congressional sponsors realized that it is unconstitutional to "ban" firearms. Rather, NFA 34 "regulated" automatic weapons by imposing a two-hundred dollar transfer tax on the sale of such items. According to NFA 34, no other "license" is required for ownership. Some benighted states (including Illinois) prohibit their citizens from possessing such weapons. In those states, one can circumvent the prohibition by applying for a Class II Federal Firearm License -- in all the other states, one need only pony up the $200 transfer fee to satisfy the federal law.
-- David Gonzalez
Wheeling, Illinois

CITING SEITZ
Re: Russell Seitz's letter (under "Color Schemes") in Reader Mail's UN Doings:

Mr. Seitz -- just because government funding cannot be used (for a change) it does not mean that those who truly believe in the efficacy of such research and will profit from the results, cannot nor should not spend their own money. The wish to feed at the government trough but, when the results (if viable and successful) come in, I can guarantee that nothing will be freely returned to government, not the taxpayers from whence the money came. If these folks want to do the research, let them privately fund it.
-- C.D. Lueders
Melbourne, Florida

PEACE GESTURE
Re: Mike Showalter's response to Sam G. (under "Ditto") in
Reader Mail's UN Doings:

Like Mike, I "cannot countenance the prospect of another Vietnam-like reaction by the left to soldiers returning home from a controversial war." Like Mike, I "will not stand by and again watch the 'enemy within' destroy the spirit of those who, in this case voluntarily, are risking their lives to defend us."

My niece has just returned from service in Iraq with the Air Force. Another niece and a nephew are in Iraq now, serving with the Army. I am not silent, Sam. And I am not alone. All across this country, soldiers in uniform are spontaneously applauded by fellow passengers on commercial airline flights, their restaurant tabs are picked up anonymously by strangers, and entire communities are turning out to stand holding flags as impromptu honor guards when the fallen are brought home to their rest.

From your suffering, Sam, Americans have learned a powerful lesson. I believe and trust that we will never again allow our servicemen and women to be treated as you and your Vietnam-era compatriots were treated.

May God bless you, Sam, and bring you peace.
-- Mary Ann Bosnos
Fountain Hills, Arizona

REMEMBERING
Re: L. Chuck Lira's letter ("Judge Not Judging") in Reader Mail's UN Doings:

A recent letter writer accused conservatives having forgotten Jesus' teachings about "truth, compassion, fairness, and other values increasingly absent from our society." Apparently Liberals forget to actually read the Bible before preaching their version of it.

Jesus commanded individuals to "love thy neighbor" not to make government do it for us. He also sided with the employer, not with the laborers who, in demanding fairness, went back on their contractual agreement. Matt. 20:1-16

Liberals deny the existence of "truth" and never seem to have compassion for the unborn, or people on life support, or people struggling against tyranny.

When they say "other values" do they mean abortion, gay marriage, welfare dependency?

Sadly, our Liberal brethren seem to have forgotten the basics of religion and morality, not to mention common sense.
-- Matt M.
St. Paul Minnesota

RELOCATION, RELOCATION
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Bring Back the League of Nations:

If New London, Connecticut, can find a more productive use for the Kelo homestead, cannot New York do the same with Turtle Bay?
-- Scott Martin
Madison, Wisconsin

The U.N. should be moved to somewhere in Africa where the locals need the work. Then salaries could be adjusted to local prices rather than Manhattan prices.
-- Walter E. Wallis
Palo Alto, California

STANDING ON THE CORNER
Re: Christopher Orlet's The Return of SDS:

While your points are well taken with respect to the SDS crowd, old and new, your "hottest hippie chicks" are way off base. Then, as now, that crowd had anything but the best looking young ladies around, quite the contrary then, as now. Haven't you noticed that the crazies of the left are generally not very attractive physically or mentally for that matter? The more independent minded, not easily led, and better looking women are rarely mouthpieces for the party line. And, therefore, in current day political affiliation the Republican women are, by far, the more attractive of the fair sex on a number of counts.
-- P.A. Melita
Charlottesville, Virginia

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