Saturday, July 5, 2014

Elementary - A Review

by Bert Carson
Between 1939 and 1946, 13 Sherlock Holmes films were created starring Basil Rathbone as Arthur Conan Doyle's one-of-a-kind, consulting detective.

From 1984 through 1994 Jeremy Brett portrayed Sherlock in 41 television episodes.

After 1994 a number of actors took a run at being Sherlock.  None managed to capture the hearts of Sherlock fans.  Then, in 2010, along came Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, Holmes and Watson respectively, with Sherlock, an updated version of the timeless duo.  They were an instant hit with British audiences, the world's most expert judges of Sherlock Holmes presentations.  Through 2014 they have appeared in nine episodes.

Personally, I loved the first six and hated the next two so much much I couldn't watch the 9th.  Nothing went wrong with Cumberbatch and Freeman.  In my opinion, their writers failed them.

A few weeks ago, quite by accident, while looking through Amazon Prime Movies and TV, searching for something new to watch, Elementary, a Sherlock series staring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu caught my eye.  In spite of our disappointment with Sherlock (the series), we remain Sherlock fans, so we decided to give the pilot a look.

That was the beginning of a love affair.  Here's a clip from that first episode.  It will better explain our addiction in one minute and forty-seven seconds than I could in ten thousand words:

Elementary is a CBS series that is shooting its third season at this moment.  We own the first two, forty-eight episodes, and we are currently watching them for the second time.  I suspect we'll watch them all again, at least one more time before the new season begins.

What do we think of the show?  Well, that's elementary, isn't it?

Here's what Jonny Lee Miller said about the series:  "For me, there are two different things that make Sherlock, Sherlock.  One is, you know, within the books: obviously he's a genius with an attention to detail, his ravenous hunger for all aspects of knowledge that might feed his work... But the major thing that makes him Sherlock is his relationship with Watson - their friendship.  For me, that, I guess is the biggest side, the more interesting side than the genius."

Jonny Lee Miller is one of the best, if not the best actor its been my pleasure to watch.  The writing hasn't missed a beat since episode one.  If Sherlock (the series) is an indicator, the third season could break the spell, but frankly, I don't believe that will happen.

Friday, July 4, 2014

To Francis Scott Key

by Bert Carson
Dear Francis,
In our universe of infinite possibilities, I know you are still out there somewhere.  That being the case, I want you to understand that from my current vantage point in time, which is July 4, 2014, I'm thinking of you as I do every July 4th.
I don't think of you on this day because I admire you.  I don't.  Even if you were "nice" to your slaves, you were pro-slavery in the lifetime about which I'm writing.  However, your opinion regarding that subject, as repugnant as it is, isn't the point of this correspondence.

From the safety of a British ship, you watched and heard the British bombardment of American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore.  Sometime later you wrote a poem about the experience.  Later still, the poem was set to music, and 102 years after you wrote it, it became the national anthem of The United States of America.

Today, the legal department of any newspaper or book publisher would reject your poem for two reasons.  First, you stated that you watched the perilous fight "o'er the ramparts."  That just isn't true.  You were being detained on board a British ship, hardly in the thick of things as you implied, and second, you described the action as a "perilous fight," when, in fact it was the one-sided attack of a superior force against a defenseless position, and a tribute to the poor marksmanship of British.

Still, that isn't the point of this letter.  It's the bit about the rocket's red glare and the bombs bursting in air that bothers me.  If you had ever participated in an armed conflict, you'd understand why.  You would know about flashbacks and PTSD.  And if you followed the history of the fireworks industry you would also know that single line, which we both know was a gross exaggeration, is the primary reason millions of pounds of explosives will be detonated this day, to the delight of hordes of people and the dismay of millions more who have participated in armed conflicts in the name of freedom.

In the future, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation and elect to write a poem about it, for the sake of veterans and war survivors everywhere, please omit all references to bombs and rockets.

Most sincerely,

Bert Carson

the man formerly known as Staff Sergeant Carson of the 214th Combat Aviation Battalion - Republic of South Vietnam - in the years 1967 and 1968.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Yogi Berra On Thinking

by Bert Carson
Yogi Berra is one of the best known baseball players of all time.  For most of his nineteen year career, he was the super star catcher for the New York Yankees.

Casey Stengel, his long-time manager, said of Yogi, "I never play a game without my man."

His records and awards are both astounding and far too numerous to mention or attempt to recap here.  However, if you are curious, check Wikipedia for his records along with his history.

Besides playing, Yogi was also a coach and a manager.  However, as time passes, it's his career as a writer and commentator that most people remember.

Quotes like these have assured Yogi a place in history that I'm convinced will surpass his membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"It ain't over until its over," which he said while managing the Mets and leading them to a division title on the last day of the season after trailing by 9 and a half games halfway through the season. And then there's this:

"It's deja vu all over again," which he said after watching team mates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hit back-to-back home runs.

And there are the classics, "You can learn a lot by watching" and "When you come to a fork in the road take it."

A lesser known Yogi quote that recently caught my attention is:  "You can't think and hit at the same time."

Like most Yogi quotes, when you get past the humor of them you find a simple and profound truth.

I've come to know, not always the easy way, that human beings cannot "multi-task."  We do have the ability of quickly, though not effectively, shifting our attention from one thing to another, which some people have mistakenly identified as "multi-tasking."  However, unless you're just into doing sloppy work or have a death wish regarding texting and driving, attention shifting is not the answer to getting the most out of every moment.

Doing one thing at a time and doing it the very best you know how to do it is the only sure way to success an longevity.

Thanks Yogi.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Until Then - Two Times - Two Ways - Both GREAT!

by Bert Carson
One of my first coming-of-age milestones was being allowed to join my Mother, Daddy, and Grandmother, at the All-Night Gospel Singings they attended every two or three months at the Birmingham (Alabama) Colosseum.

Of all the gospel groups I heard there, none were black, and that was my loss, one I didn't realize the full impact of until I heard Albertina Walker sing Until Then at Christ Universal Temple in Chicago.  For years I searched for a copy of the song with no results.  I did obtain a number of Ms. Walker's albums, but none of them included Until Then.

A couple of years into my search, I found a different version of the song by Charles Johnson and the Revivers.  I fell in love with that one also, and have listened to it more times that you would believe.

Then a few weeks ago, I found it on YouTube and since then I and my neighbors and quite a few pedestrians passing our house have listened to it a number of times.

This evening was a running off-night for me, so while Christina ran, I cranked up the volume and played Charles Johnson yet again.  As the song ended, I had an inspiration - search YouTube for Albertina's version and you guessed it, I found it.

Here are both for your listening pleasure:

The Contradiction

by Bert Carson
It all started like this.  At 4 AM, on September 9, 1942, I was dragged into this world, slapped on the ass, and while I was screaming from the shock of that rude reception, I heard someone tell someone else, "It's a boy."

No one whispered to me, "Its going to be alright.  Just close your eyes and take a nap and we'll explain everything later."

Though no one told me a thing over the next couple of years, they  talked about me enough for me to figure out that I was a boy, that I had two parents, though as far as I was concerned that was hearsay, since one of them was on a submarine, somewhere on the other side of the world,  fighting men he didn't know, over something I didn't understand nor was I even sure I wanted to understand.

Later, after I'd pretty much figured out who this group of strangers was and who they thought I was to them, they packaged me with a group of kids like me and sent us to a place where we were to be further indoctrinated in the rules of this organization that, as near as I could tell, had kidnapped us from wherever in the universe we had been residing.

Our indoctrination began with daily recitations of something called the Pledge of Allegiance.  Every day, while standing at attention, we said:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Sometime later, the boys and girls were divided into separate groups. I don’t know what the girls did, but I remember well what the boys did. We stood at attention and repeated the Boy Scout Oath, which went like this:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law:
To help other people at all times:
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

With that bit of indoctrination behind me, I now knew I was not only a boy, and a member of particular clan of humans, I was also a Boy Scout committed to helping other people at all times.

I finished my formal schooling, married a woman I'd met in one of the schools I attended, got a job in a city near the one my parents had bought me to when I was thirteen years old, and the two of us began doing what we had been taught to do:  Going to work, going to church, going to bed, waking up, and doing it all over again.

A couple of years later I once again stood at attention and repeated another pledge.  This one went like this:

I Bert Carson, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

The bottom line of that one was, I found myself involved in a war with men I didn't know, in a country I'd never heard of, halfway around the world.

Now, seventy-one years later, I have a new pledge, one that I wrote and I'm pleased to report that its working out a whole lot better for me than the other three did.

If you would like to know what it is, e-mail me at and I'll tell you.

Monday, June 16, 2014

We Are A Primitive Species

by Bert Carson
I'm in the final days of my 35th year of running.  I embarked on my first run a half hour after sunset on July 2, 1979.  That means that July 3rd will be the first day of my 36th year of being a runner.  On September 9, 2014, I will become 72 years old.  Mathematically speaking, on that day, and for the remainder of my "running year," I will have been a runner for one half of my life.  That's a marvel considering that for the first half of my life I had no intention of ever running anywhere, much less running for the fun of it.

Though I keep running logs, they aren't cumulative.  Every year stands on its on, and I've never felt it important to make them one log, and I still don't.  That means I cannot tell you exactly how many miles I've run.  Since that number is of little consequence to me, I'm confident it's of no consequence to you.  On the other hand, just to add a bit of emphasis to the event that prompted this tale, I can safely report that in my years of running, I've logged more than 35,000 miles.

For a long-time runner, that isn't a phenomenal number.  However, in geographical terms, it is the circumference of the planet plus 10,000 miles.  Though I've done it in small increments that is still staggering to me.  Add to that the fact that at least 90% of those miles have been run at night, and you might be a bit surprised to know that in all those years and miles, I've had less than a dozen encounters with law enforcement personnel.  And, if you take away the number of times I've initiated the encounter to report something I'd witnessed, the dozen encounters I just mentioned is cut in half.

One of the remaining encounters occurred last Friday evening.  It's the one that prompted this post.  I left the house twenty minutes before sunset, unusual for me and at the time I wasn't sure why I was starting earlier than usual, beyond the fact that I had a feeling that it was something I should do.  My normal route takes me through the heart of downtown Huntsville where there are a number of clubs.  Beyond being a source of loud noise and heavier traffic, they are normally of little concern.  That general description didn't hold true last Friday.

Just after full dark, about a half mile from the center of downtown, I began to encounter heavier traffic, both auto and pedestrian.  Using my handheld strobe light to mark my location for approaching vehicles, I wound through the area, concentrating on the milling crowds in order to avoid a collision with one or more of the hordes of humans who seemed to be drawn to the loudest of the clubs.  Finally, after several blocks of strobe lit concentration, I was away from the marching crowd but not the less than attentive drivers, so I was forced to resort to the strobe a number of times to mark my presence for preoccupied drivers.

Finally, I worked my way back into a relatively quiet residential neighborhood.  Running north on Lincoln Avenue, I saw a police cruiser stop at a stop sign for what seemed to be a long time before finally making a right turn onto Lincoln.  It traveled only a block before making another right onto Randolph.  As I neared the intersection of Randolph and Lincoln, the cruiser reappeared, stopping at the stop sign at the intersection.  The officer lowered the window and I knew I was about to have one of my infrequent encounters with a police officer.

I stopped beside the cruiser, and the driver, one of Huntsville's few police women, smiled and said, "I want you to be very very careful tonight."

"I did notice that things seemed crazier than usual when I went through downtown," I said.

With deadly seriousness, she replied, "There's a reason for that.  This is Friday the thirteenth and there is a full moon."

Then she gave me a curt wave and began raising the window, as she said, "Remember, be very very careful tonight."

As she drove away, I skipped back into my running stride, and began thinking about what she had said.  Friday the thirteenth and a full moon.  I quickly turned it into a mantra to keep my stride cadence - Left right left - thirteenth full moon - left right left - thirteenth full moon...

I understand the effect that the full moon has on all the creatures who reside on this planet.  It's a physical phenomenon that has affected things on earth since the moment the planet and the moon first appeared in the universe.

Friday the thirteenth isn't a physical phenomenon.  It's a groundless myth that we humans have made up to scare ourselves.  In so doing, we have confirmed, yet again, that we are in fact a primitive species.  Think about that and be very very careful.



Monday, June 9, 2014

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

by Bert Carson
Photo by Yvonne Kirk - Australia
Last Sunday I posted a blog called On Commitment, where I reported that on May 12th I'd made a commitment to myself to run every scheduled running day for the rest of the year - that amounts to running three days, resting one day, running three days, resting one day... or to put it in simpler way, I committed to running six out of every seven days.

Last night (Saturday) was the 26th day since I made that commitment.  At 7 PM, I began getting ready to run.  A few minutes later my iTouch beeped and informed me that a thunderstorm warning had been issued for all of Madison County, Alabama.  As if orchestrated by the iTouch, seconds later a thunderstorm moved into the area and camped out.

The storm came complete with torrential rain, screaming erratic wind, and a lot of lightning (note - I did not take a picture of last night's storm.  The lightning in the photo above is Australian lightning, photographed by my friend Yvonne Kirk - click the link under the photo to see her work on Flickr and go to Corresponding Writers to read more about my renaissance pen pal.)

Before I made the commitment a thunderstorm would have been more than enough justification to scrub a run.  That's no longer the case.  I waited until 10:30, going out on the porch many times to check the rainfall.  Finally I told myself, "I've been wet before.  So I get wet again," and I began strapping on my gear.

At a 10:45, I was in my major yoga stretching pose when I noticed the lightning had departed leaving only a moderate rain fall.  Back on my feet at 10:55, I pulled my baseball cap low over my eyes, checked my flashlight, and told Christina I'd either be back after two miles or else I'd go the full, short loop.

Five minutes later, a quarter of a mile into the run, I was as wet as I could get.  Another mile and I decided to run the full short loop, 5.1 miles.  An hour later, less than a half mile from home, the rain stopped.  I laughed, skipped a step, and marveled at the power of commitment to get me out on a night like this one and make me happy about it.

I've been a runner since July 2, 1979.  In all those years, I've never run 27 consecutive running days.  The most amazing thing that's happened in that time period is the runs are easier, faster, and way more fun.

So I get wet every now and then.  I've been wet before.