Month: December 2017

Nixon Vs. Reagan (as Librarians)

My wife and I ventured forth and found a unique experience. We visited two presidential libraries over the past three months. First we toured the Richard Nixon library in September, and then the Ronald Reagan library just last week.

We were enamored with the Nixon library. That’s what motivated us to see how Reagan was doing as a librarian. But although we enjoyed it, we didn’t love it. It was just okay. This left us feeling kind of disappointed. Our high expectations were unmet. I guess Tricky Dick is a hard act to follow, even by a former movie star.

This was as warm a welcome as we received at the Reagan library.

I mean, here’s a president who fell from office in disgrace and dishonor. For years, he was the most reviled man in our country. Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan left office riding a massive wave of popularity. Since then he has been idolized, oft-quoted, and used for reflective glory by aspiring politicians who never seem to come close to actually matching him.

So naturally we expected Reagan to outshine Nixon in the library department. After all, a presidential library is intended to celebrate a president’s legacy. And Reagan’s legacy far outshines Nixon’s, most would agree.

A segment of the wall that Mr. Gorbachev was told to tear down. Here is one of the few exceptions where Reagan’s library outclasses Nixon’s. You are allowed to touch and feel this exhibit to your heart’s content. Whereas Nixon’s exhibit includes a sign that reads, “Please do not touch Berlin Wall”. Er, kind of chilling, don’tcha think, Mr. Nixon?

Yet we still found ourselves more intrigued with the Nixon library. It detailed his presidency, and historical events surrounding his presidency, in an informative and painfully accurate manner. And it put Watergate and other Nixon scandals, on full display. It whitewashed nothing about this man, but instead seemed to give equal time to both his successes and failures. The open honesty disarmed us, and we liked and respected Nixon better after leaving his library.

But the Reagan library seemed artificial. It emphasized his successes, while making little or no mention of his failures. For instance, it celebrated his success at tax reform. It highlighted his ideology concerning the evils of big government. And it hailed his victories in the Cold War. This left us with the sense that Reagan was proud of his achievements, proud of his ideology, and proud of his country. Quite possibly in that order.

Remember this enthralling game in the 1980’s? No?! Why just think of all the fun-filled wholesome nights your family missed. This byproduct of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign had interesting rules and strategy including the movement of tokens by rolling a . . . a . . . snnxxx . . . zzzzzzzzzz.

Meanwhile, we found no mention of the Iran-Contra scandal in his library. Perhaps it was in an exhibit hidden in some shadowy corner, but we sure couldn’t locate it. I believe a man with more pride in this country would highlight what makes it so great. And that is our freedom to debate anything and everything, and our liberty to challenge the authority of our leaders, including the highest leader of the land.

Nixon’s humility and honesty, compared with Reagan’s ego and elephant-in-the-room elisions, left us respecting Tricky Dick better than the father of our modern-day GOP.

The much ballyhooed Titanic exhibit was visiting the Reagan library, so we eagerly flocked with the crowd to see it. Turns out, most of it contains props from the movie, Titanic, such as this reproduced debris field in underwater illusion lights. We felt disappointed to find that the exhibit features very few genuine artifacts from the ship itself.

We were also unimpressed with the panhandling we encountered at the Reagan library. While standing in line to buy our admission ticket, a nattily attired library employee introduced herself and began a friendly conversation. She was personable and demonstrated an inquisitive interest in us, leaving us feeling flattered. Then she handed us a flyer and made a pitch to get us to donate to the GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program. We politely declined, then proffered our $29 per person admission fee, and quickly slipped away from her in the least awkward manner possible.

While perambulating through the library, we encountered more panhandlers. This was usually in the form of photographers, trying to persuade us into having our photo taken in front of an exhibit. I don’t know what these photos cost, because we always declined their advances.

However at the Marine One exhibit, I found I could not refuse the persistent paparazzo. She would not allow me into the helicopter until I stood before the door, held a flag that she handed to me, and waved, saluted, and performed other poses for her camera. I finally got rid of the fucking bitch and made it inside the stupid aircraft to see where Reagan always planted his ass when flying off to Camp David. Perhaps it was my mood, but I felt much less impressed than I felt while touring Nixon’s helicopter.

By the way, we encountered absolutely zero panhandlers and professional photographers at the Nixon library. This left us feeling much more welcome and free to enjoy his premises, than we felt in Reagan country.

Our favorite part of the Reagan library was the Air Force One exhibit. Here it is hanging out where airplanes hang, in a hangar of course. Or as they call it at the Reagan library: The Air Force One Pavilion.

We found that the most impressive aspect of the Reagan library was Air Force One. The complete, full-sized, original Boeing VC-137C that seven presidents used, from Nixon to Bush 43, was on full display in a hangar. And we were actually allowed to stroll through it, from the cockpit to the rear exit (after circumnavigating the photographer stalking us at the front entrance).

The view outside the Air Force One hangar was pretty spectacular.

We also loved the view. The Reagan library is constructed atop a hill that affords a panoramic vista of orchards, fields, and settlements in Simi Valley, California. The weather was mild and the pellucid air felt delicately cool that day, and we found ourselves more inclined to tarry outside and enjoy the view, than return inside and endure more dry, dull showcases of Reagan’s perpetual successes.

One of the many gorgeous perspectives in the viewshed of the Reagan library includes this path that leads to a white cross. I kind of wonder if hiking this trail would have created better memories than hiking through the Reagan library.

All in all, we left the Reagan library with a lesser opinion of the man than we held when we walked in. But I still like Ronald Reagan. In spite of my semi-liberal attitudes, I believe he was an overall good influence for our country. But I wish his library possessed the same honest humility we witnessed at the Nixon library.

Perhaps Reagan had been steeped too long in Hollywood before entering politics. Perhaps for him it was more important to put on a good show than to bare himself as a fallible human being. And perhaps that’s why he rarely excelled in Hollywood beyond being a “B” movie actor.

As president he was, in my opinion, Grade A. But as a librarian Reagan seems to have retrogressed into the same “B” status as his old movies. In my view his caliber as librarian falls far short of that master Grade A librarian, Mr. Tricky Dick.

Ronald Reagan farted here.

The Beauty of Climate Change

I think most folks really haven’t grasped the utter splendor and beauty of climate change. Especially the folks in our government. Recently, David Smith, the superintendent for Joshua Tree National Park, got chewed out by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, just for bringing up the subject.

On November 8th, Joshua Tree National Park posted some tweets that left officials in the Trump administration feeling alarmed and disturbed. Tweets such as the following:

An overwhelming consensus—over 97%–of climate scientists—agree that human activity is the driving force behind today’s rate of global temperature increase.

and

Current models predict the suitable habitat for Joshua trees may be reduced by 90% in the future with a 3°C (5.4°F) increase in average temperature over the next 100 years.

Secretary Zinke himself was so upset about these tweets that he had the reprobate Smith flown all the way to Washington, DC so he could vent to him in person. When Mr. Smith went to Washington, he made it clear to him, and all other national park superintendents, that the Trump administration doesn’t want national parks to put out official communications on climate change.

You can read more on this story by clicking this link: Trump’s Tantrum Over Terrible Tweets.

Anyway, I believe everyone is missing the point. Climate change is nothing we should feel ashamed of. Climate change is beautiful!

Drought and warmer temperatures are killing off pinyon pines in the Southwest. But you can’t help admire how majestic this pine skeleton appears, near the Pine City trail in Joshua Tree National Park, with its naked branches pointing upward, as if imploring something from the heavens.

I live near Joshua Tree National Park, and hike there frequently. I have snapped many photos of our park, and some of these pics graphically demonstrate the beautiful effects climate change has had on our environment.

Another expired pinyon, in the Pine City area of Joshua Tree National Park, lifts its lacy tendrils upward, as if it were shouting, “Why?! Why?!” How inspiring.

Please take a moment to drink in the awesome scenes. Reflect on the beauty of nature, and how we humans have improved the pulchritude of our parks with the artistic touch of carbon emissions.

This fallen pinyon, on the West Side Loop Trail, advertises the beauty of its bark, as it dehydrates, and strips of its integument selectively peel away. The brindle-striped pattern that remains is stunning.

This is the tallest pinyon pine in Joshua Tree National Park, and in fact, one of the tallest in the United States. Its towering form invites the question, “How did it achieve such lofty heights?” And, “What made it stop growing?” You can find this majestic spectacle on the eponymous Big Pine Trail–a trail established for nature lovers at a time when this tree was just another ugly example of living biology.

This view atop Ryan mountain shows off the mysterious beauty of carbon haze, as it enshrouds rocky inselbergs in the distance.

Barker Dam was built by cowboys in the early 1900s. Bill Keys, a historic pioneer of this park, extended its height after the cowboys left, so that Bighorn Sheep could use it year-round for water. But bah-h-h humbug to those sheep. Drink in the beauty of the sinuous lines and water-level marks left by the extended droughts of global warming. What a work of art!

Instead of trying to hide from climate change, and shirking our responsibility for causing it, let’s put it on display with all its magnificence and beauty, point to it, and proudly proclaim, “Here is what we humans have accomplished!”

Brush fires have devastated large swathes of Joshua Tree National Park, leaving denuded areas such as this. Twenty years ago a forest of Joshua trees thrived in this spot. But a massive blaze left the desert floor studded with silvery skeletons of Yucca Brevifolia, except this lone survivor. Magnifico, eh! To capture this artistic impression of loneliness I had to commence hiking on the Quail Springs trail before sunrise, to be there in time for the long shadows of short shrubs. But it was worth it, to see the long shadows cast by puny creatures. Thank you global warming, and all the wildfires you have so generously bestowed upon us!

Stolen Quote: Science

The general public has long been divided into two parts: Those who think science can do anything, and those who are afraid it will. ~ Dixie Lee Ray, Governor of Washington State


And then there are the science-deniers, such as daredevil stuntman and flat-earth researcher, Mad Mike Hughes. The latest news on Mad Mike is that he has postponed his launch into the troposphere, indefinitely, while he addresses some mechanical and logistical issues. Mad Mike has also clarified that the purpose of this launch in his steam-powered rocket is simply to establish a world record that nobody can break, as well as raise awareness of his flat-earth cause. He admits he cannot prove that the earth is flat until he can figure out how to launch his rocket to a much higher altitude than 1,800 feet. Here’s a little youtube update from Mad Mike himself, via the Flat Earth Network:

Mad Mike and His Steam-Powered Rocketship

Just four miles east of Roy’s Cafe, on Historic Route 66, near the ghost town of Amboy, CA, Mad Mike Hughes is setting up his steam-powered rocketship. Many believe this launch will be groundbreaking (literally). The launch date has been tentatively set for Monday, December 4th, 2017.

Stolen Quote: No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit. ~ Helen Keller

Is the world round or flat? Is global warming real? Did NASA fake the moon landings? Most importantly, is it sane to trust modern science?

Mad Mike Hughes does not. He has pessimistically claimed there is no difference between science and science fiction. And he’s willing to put his life on the line to prove it.

Mad Mike is a desert rat from the Mojave Desert. And like most of us desert rats, his brain may have spent a little too much time baking in the sun. I chase unicorns, myself. And Mad Mike, well, he tries to prove that the world is flat.

But there’s a genius to his mad mind. He has figured out how to build a steam-powered rocketship. Yep that’s right, good old-fashioned steam. Just like the paddle-wheelers of yore, or the locomotive, or your mom’s steam iron.

He’s been making the news lately, with a planned launch in the Mojave Desert, near the ghost town of Amboy. Check out this youtube news story on the madman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am0bPTiUUDg.

My wife and I first became aware of him through the news. And guess what? It was not fake news! Imagine my delight when we were driving through the Amboy area on a road trip, and happened upon this mad science-denier setting his rocketship up right next to the highway, in plain view of passing motorists.

The rocketship will launch Mad Mike up this ramp built out of a motor home frame, and over 1,800 feet into the troposphere.

I can recognize a unicorn when I see one, and pulled over immediately. We got out and snapped a few photos of this steam-fueled contraption, and got to see Mad Mike himself setting the dern thing up.

We didn’t actually speak to him though, because his assistant walked out and intercepted us. He introduced himself as “Pioneer Pat”, and claimed to have been Mad Mike’s friend for several years. Pioneer Pat explained that he and Mad Mike are pioneers at proving the fiction in science.

Pioneer Pat informed us that Mad Mike was going to launch himself 1,800 feet into the air with his rocketship, and all under the power of steam. He said that a new, tentative launch date was set for Monday, December 4th (a prior launch date of 11/25/17 had been scrapped, due to interference from the golderned U.S. Gummint).

We sincerely expressed to him our worry for Mad Mike’s safety, and conveyed our wishes for a safe, successful landing. The poor man creased his brow as he thanked us, betraying a bit of worry, himself.

Pioneer Pat explaining the methods to Mike’s madness.

I asked him how this rocket launch would help to prove that the world is flat. Pioneer Pat admitted that it wouldn’t. But before I could follow up with a question like, “Well then what the hell is your real reason for this suicide mission?” he changed the subject and began educating us about Stanley Kubrick directing fake moon missions. So I kind of got the gist that the real reason behind this stunt was to make a mockery of the science of space exploration.

Pioneer Pat was a friendly, affable man, and quite garrulous. We enjoyed our conversation with him, but walked away with doubt in our heart that his friend had much longer to live.

I can’t help but wonder if this risky rocket launch is symbolic of the risks we take when we deny the validity of science. When we teach creationism and forbid the teaching of evolution, do we risk lives by slowing advances in biology and medicine? When we deny climate change, do we risk submerging major cities across the globe in seawater? And can science-denying lead progress down a screwball path? A path where time and talent is wasted on crazy things, such as steam-powered rocketships and eccentric researchers, who try to disprove that which most of us take for granted as true?

Or are we really the mad ones, and Mad Mike the sane one? Have we been duped by scientists? Did Stanley Kubrick really direct the moon missions? And did Christopher Columbus fall off the edge of the earth, only to be replaced by a cunning imposter?

I suppose we’ll have wait until Monday, December 4th to discover the answer. For on that date a marvelous man named Mad Mike Hughes will soar 1,800 feet into the air, on a jet of hissing steam, and somehow prove to us that the world is, indeed, as flat as a frisbee.

Or, on the other hand, rescue workers will be scraping a rocket man off the desert floor. And it will not be the earth that is flat, but rather, it will be Mad Mike himself, and all his science-denying theories.

Although we believe in science, we still like Mad Mike Hughes, and wish him a safe and successful return to Earth. You can see him in this photo, in the right-hand corner, gazing up. Up. Up there. To whatever wonderful mysteries lie beyond. Mysteries that are yet to be discovered by that dastardly field of so-called knowledge which we call science.