Phoning It In

40 years of the cell phone


Four decades of cell phones: Big, smaller, smaller, small, bigger, bigger, big.


(h/t Pictures in History)

The flip phone had a nice, long run.  It defended the vulnerable little digit keys and, when operated, tucked underneath your chin to give you that traditional phone feeling.  I remember moving to the flat rectangle took some getting used to, initially hoping that whoever I was speaking to could clearly hear given the phone was (relatively) far from my mouth.

And the era in which there were no cell phones gets further and further in the rear-view mirror.  I enjoy the safety and insta-information having these brings, although it has disrupted human interaction and, for many, created a whole new vice of dependency.

Alan Morley


I’m still wrapping my head around this Facebook News Feed post lead-in by the Detroit News, which is still up over three hours after posting and getting rightfully mocked in the comments section:


Putting aside the grammatical error for a moment (“an” instead of “a”), in what mathematical universe does 84.5 inches, the height of some of the tallest NBA basketball players, equate to a 7-story building?  Are they measuring it in LEGO buildings?

For a moment, I considered they might’ve meant if they piled up all the snow fallen within Flint’s city limits into one place.  But stacking up 36 square miles worth of 7 feet of snow would tower far higher than a 7 story building.

Either I’m missing an “ah-ha” riddle somewhere in there, or the Detroit News is hiring bizarre interns to write their social media posts.

Alan Morley



RIP R Lee Ermey and Ode to FMJ

I didn’t see Full Metal Jacket when it came out during my teenage years (1987).  I wound up catching it in my university dorm room somewhere in the early 90s.  Over twenty-five years on, I don’t recall every scene of the film, but those I do recall have stuck in my brain.

Drawing from his real-life background as a drill instructor, R. Lee Ermey played Gunnery Sgt. Hartman with dark-humor precision and intensity that rightfully earned him accolades, dressing down ‘Joker’ and ‘Private Pyle’ and others in a rapid-fire series of humiliating put-downs.  He even revisited his “role” decades later in a Geico advert.

He was also a key component of one of the most emotionally disturbing scenes in movie history: the confrontation with Joker and Pyle in the toilets where an obviously mentally-broken Pyle goes off the rails on both Hartman and himself.

Sadly, Mr. Ermey passed away last night at the age of 74, which was younger than I might’ve guessed him to be.

(NSFW language)

Full Metal Jacket was a juxtaposition in of itself.  The movie felt like two separate films: training during the first half, Vietnam in the second.  Both separated by the aforementioned toilet scene.  Second, that mix of “funny” with harrowing. We laughed, albeit uncomfortably, at Hartman’s colorful language beat-downs and donut scandal to the ‘Me So Horny’ scene.

However, the parts that haunted me were the soap-beat punishment as a wailing Lawrence lay helplessly in his bunk.  The face-to-face confrontation with the Viet Cong sniper at the end.  And of course Lawrence/Pyle’s mental decay.  All of which Kubrick brought to the screen brilliantly and pulled at my emotions.

War movies, and Vietnam movies in particular, are in essence horror movies.  I’ll never know what it’ll feel like being drafted and sent to an unforgiving jungle, not sure if my next step will render me shot or amputated.  Having nothing but my own wits and those around me, trying not to descend into madness and hoping that no one gives into dark actions in the midst of anarchy.

I’ll need to watch FMJ again, to salute these fine actors and rediscover the scenes I may have forgotten over the years.  In the meantime, rest well and godspeed Mr. Ermey.

“The real R. Lee Ermey was a family man, and a kind and gentle soul. He was generous to everyone around him. And, he especially cared deeply for others in need,” (Manager Bill) Rogin said in a statement.

Alan Morley


Baseball, Internet, and Steve Bartman

Major League Baseball is upon us next week.  Too soon, if you ask me, as the nation oughta first fully rid itself of winter jackets and Winter Storm Warnings before the Boys of Summer race onto the field.  And do we really need 162 games to determine post-season participants?  Each individual regular season game feels so insignificant.

But I digress.

Anyone with even a minimal interest in sports news will remember this story from 15 years ago, where a Chicago Cubs fan named Steve Bartman reached for a foul ball at Wrigley Field during a playoff series featuring the previously-“cursed” Cubs, thereby ‘robbing’ what would’ve likely been a catch (and a valuable out) by Moisés Alou.  The Cubs, leading at the time, eventually blew the game and the playoff series. Predictably, Bartman was the victim of a torrent of abuse from armchair sportsaholics who would’ve done the exact same thing if sitting in Bartman’s seat.

A few things…

Thankfully this was pre-social media 2003. 

Indeed, by that time, it was bad enough already. The Internet was in full swing with its simple message boards and anonymous chat rooms.  According the event’s Wikipedia page, “Bartman’s name, as well as personal information about him, appeared on Major League Baseball’s online message boards minutes after the game ended.”  Of course.  Sure, in previous decades it likely would’ve been spread via traditional newspapers and radio shows by overzealous media hacks anyhow.  But the digital age shows no mercy.  Your identity is spread quickly and swiftly, ensuring you land on countless trolls’ laps in a hurry.

However, regardless of how much hell Steve endured, I can’t help but imagine if this occurred within the past 5-10 years.  2010s Internet would laugh in 2003 Internet’s face.  The newspaper comment sections.  The Tweets.  The Facebook posts.  The Snapinstachatgrams. The myriad of other ways this guy would’ve been beaten down in the social media space.

Steve Bartman had thick skin and was steadfast in staying in Chicago despite the abuse.  However I wonder if he would’ve caved and skipped town in today’s world.  Even Steve might’ve not had it within himself to stay in a city where he’s branded Public Enemy #1, where the toxic abuse would’ve been far more readily available.  I would’ve sought asylum in Florida.

Steve Is a Rock and an Island

I don’t know if Mr. Bartman went to therapy to deal with it all.  But it’s rare to see someone so committed to principles and privacy.  He turned down a lot of interviews and offers that could’ve given him publicity (of the sympathetic kind), including a 6-figure offer to appear in a Super Bowl commercial.  On the one hand, that kind of bank could’ve really helped his financial standing.

On the other hand, as someone who is more introverted, I admire Bartman for not wavering on who he wanted to be: a private citizen with… privacy.  He didn’t want to be paraded around like a circus animal, such as throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field.

Moisés Alou was more culpable in the Cubs’ crash than anyone mentioned. 

In the clip, we see the Cubs outfielder throwing a toddler-sized tantrum after Bartman reached for the foul ball.  Not only did it certainly help encourage the crowd ire toward Bartman, but also gave a glimpse into Alou’s own (lack of) confidence in the game.

Following the play, Alou didn’t pound his glove with determination and give off a sense of, “no problem, we got this!”  His hissy fit, I believe, was infectious to the whole team gawking at his meltdown.  What Alou showed was that he had little to no confidence in the Cubs’ ability to win the playoff series.  He let it be known that Bartman, a fan, on one play, might’ve just destroyed his team’s chances.

Anyhow, cheers to Steve Bartman.  He endured one of the first widely-known cyberbullying cases since the advent of the Digital Age, and took it all with grace.  Things like that could’ve and would’ve broken anyone’s spirit.

Flashback to 80s Wendy’s Training Videos

Paula Abdul had nothing on this fast-food sweetheart.

I’ve already mentioned how so much of 1980s music (and their associated music videos) offered layers of delightful cheesiness that really froze the scene to that decade, cryogenic style.

So I’m oddly fascinated by training videos for Wendy’s employees that have resurfaced not long ago from the Reagan era, which replicated every early-years MTV video stereotype you’ve ever seen. This looks like a modern-day Saturday Night Live parody of what a training video might’ve looked like roughly 30 years ago for laughs.  But no… this is real.

This one’s an instructional music video on serving cold drinks:

Don’t fret.  There’s one for hot drinks as well here.  To be frankly honest, these really aren’t any worse than a lot of songs played on the radio during that span.

Ah, 80s, how I miss thee.  Embarrassing cheese and all.

Alan Morley


50 Years On – The My Lai Massacre

“I sent them a good boy and they made him a murderer.”

War is hell.

And one of the fiercest spotlights on that statement occurred a half-century ago, on this Friday.  16 March 1968.  In short, a US battalion wiped out an entire village called My Lai of primarily unarmed women and children.  Even infants weren’t spared.  And rape.  There are various accounts, but the total number meeting death in that hamlet was said to be over five hundred.

If you want a dark cloud to rain on your day, you can read in-depth backstories offered at the New Yorker here and more background at the History Channel here, although any Google search will provide you some accounts that will send a chill up your spine.

The Vietnam War was before my time, and mercifully ended by the time I reached kindergarten.  Still, it provided countless case studies, some of which certainly involved mob mentality, struggles with ‘taking orders’ vs. one’s own conscience, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  If anything “good” came out of that conflict, there have been ample documentaries, films, and books that have driven home the point that war is not a video game, and getting thrown into these harrowing situations can really mess someone’s mind up.

In the case of My Lai, it’s unfathomable to understand how a seemingly ‘good kid’ might turn into someone who didn’t hesitate to point a gun at defenseless civilians – and small kids, for Christ’s sake – and pull the trigger.  Some reveled in it, some did it reluctantly out of “following orders,” and some refused and even aided Vietnamese survivors (this latter group, of course, got shunned back home).  And therein lies the challenge with any nation’s military, where you need people who are hardened enough to kill enemy and forgo emotion, but not crossing that line into madness where there is no point of return.

My Lai was but one large example, but these instances occurred throughout the war on less-covered, lower-casualty scales.  Indeed, there are accounts of rogue North Vietnamese not being much better in “handling” situations in villages either.  And quite obviously, to be fair, this has happened in countless wars in the past, current and will in the future.  Syria comes to mind as something freshly recent.

I don’t know what it feels like to descend into such a pitch-dark place, where I would take the life of anyone (outside of immediate self-defense where my very life was in danger, and even in that case, it’d mess up my head for a long while).  Let alone a village of families.  

So My Lai was but one scary, infamous example in a history littered with similar examples. And as much as I feel scorn and anger toward the soldiers who participated in that massacre, and Lieutenant William Calley in particular, who all wound up getting slaps on the wrist, the ingredients were all there to create these situations.  Round up thousands of teens or barely-twentysomethings via draft who had little desire/training to shoot at things, send them overseas into a civil war jungle where every moment is blanketed in fear, in the heat with temptations of drugs to distract the brain, and suddenly you get a psychological petri dish of “everything that could go wrong.”  Especially when you start seeing your close cohorts getting plucked off one by one.

That all being said, I’m an ardent supporter of our servicemen and servicewomen, who vow to protect the homeland.  My utmost respect. But I approach war in a liberal or even Ron Paul-ish way: it literally needs to be a case of last resort, and when our security is under immediate and imminent attack.  Diplomacy, tough negotiations and sit-down conversations, even with our worst adversaries, is a positive thing.  Again, my ongoing fear is that too many view war like playing an X-Box video game, watching from a distance, with little emotional connection to the ‘players’ caught in the battle.

A dark post for today.  But for me, personally, Friday will serve a valuable reminder of these things.

Alan Morley

Daylight Saving Time Hysteria

The semi-annual time shift was upon most this past weekend, and with it came the usual array of “Should we do away with Daylight Saving Time?” columns, brief histories into its origin, and – of course – the frightening articles of how the 60 minute shift will leave workers helplessly incapacitated come Monday morning:

Of course I could be downplaying something that’s more ‘serious’ than I realize. But I cannot fully grasp how moving the clocks one hour between Saturday/Sunday is so detrimental to one’s ability to focus on a Monday. 


But are you really condemned to “losing” an hour of sleep?
Pre time change:  Go to bed at 11 pm, wake up at 7 am = 8 hours of sleep
Post time change: Go to bed at 11 pm, wake up at “new” 8 am = 8 hours of sleep

Your Sunday is now off a bit, sure, but you still got your 8 hours in.  And if you feel the seismic shift in space-time has seriously screwed with your mind and body, then take a cat nap during the day Sunday, or go to bed an hour earlier Sunday night.

But even beyond this, let’s not forget that thousands and thousands of people fly or drive every day crossing time zones.  Most of them just one time zone.  Anecdotally, I’ll hear people explain how Daylight Saving Time shook up their sleep habits.  However, I have yet to hear those who fly or drive to/from Detroit and Chicago (1 hour time change) for a weekend of fun say the same thing.  If there’s any sleep readjustment, it has more to do with recovering from a little too much pub-crawl fun.  There are no scare-articles about the physiological dangers of driving from Central Time Zone into Eastern Time Zone.  But there’s a storm of them when EST changes to EDT.

Shoot, travelers flying across 2-3 time zones and going into work the next day do less complaining.

I’m no doctor.  But here’s my hunch: the “hour of sleep lost” is an overblown part of our culture that could be more mental than anything else.  Meaning that, Spring Forward is not having a true physical impact on people; but if you think that you’re more tired on Monday morning because of the time change, you will convince yourself of it and, essentially, make yourself more tired.

Alan Morley