Dick Tracy and the iPhone

I was walking the 2 blocks home from Wray’s Supermarket when I first saw IT…..a friend of mine had IT on his arm. He was talking into IT as he approached and IT seemed to make a crackling sound between his verbal commands. This mimicked sound was an early introduction into the world of deception of which time, experience and lost innocence make us ever so aware. IT really didn’t crackle as my regular radio often did at night when I couldn’t quite get the dial exactly on the station. Without this dialing precision I couldn’t listen to the St. Louis Cardinals on clear channel KMOX, some 7oo miles away as I lay in my bed with my ear touching the radio speaker. My deceptive but imaginative friend made the crackling sound himself. Oh yes…”IT“…was the Dick Tracy Wrist Radio! My friend  told me he could talk to his friends and if I got one, we could talk to each other from blocks….even miles away. I believed him…but it didn’t matter, I couldn’t afford IT anyway. Anyhow, I was saving up to get a baseball bat pencil for $1.25, postage included, and the radio-watch was $2.95….too much! But I was fascinated with the thought of talking to someone over a phone buckled to my arm…with no wires…unbelievable! I was fascinated by it then and I still am today.

Chester Gould gave comic strip birth to super detective Dick Tracy in October of 1931. The wrist radio I saw in 1950 was soon followed by a wrist television, and later a wrist computer with voice recognition capabilities…..pretty cool stuff for over a half a century ago, I’m sure you’ll agree. Well, Ole Chester was either clairvoyant or had a great imagination, take your pick. I do know that he was right and he also underestimated the technological genius of the super geeks of today, headed up by Apple’s Steve Jobs…or more correctly, Steve Jobs’ Apple.

Well, I have decided to indulge my childhood fantasy, 21st Century style. I, just today, closed my eyes and took the “gee whiz” plunge by getting the new and second generation iPhone. Me, the quintessential technological hack with the cynical but well earned nickname, “Crash”? Go figure! In case you haven’t scoped it out let me, “Mr. Techno Dunce”, introduce you to its features. First it is a phone of exceptional clarity….no surprise here. It will also show me who is calling in case my visual acuity is better than my memory of names. It also has an integrated GPS (Global Positioning System) built in to tell me where I am. At my age this is a great feature. It will also tell me the location of the nearest Starbucks…information as desirable as a root canal.….or Steak and Shake or Chick-fil-A, information no culinary connoisseur should ever be without. I can e-mail and text message, assuming these sausage fingers can touch only one letter at a time. The weather feature will enable me to tell if it is raining outside without ever leaving my recliner…ya gotta love that! It will allow me to listen to my favorite music anytime and anywhere. I must reveal here that my musical tastes include bluegrass…the twangier the better, folk, 50’s-60’s style, not that weird modern stuff, traditional hymns and spiritual songs……not too broad of a lyrical appetite I agree……but it suits me. I just learned that I can also get the entire Bible in multiple translations. Oh yes, I can get baseball scores…with video highlights…and real-time stock quotes. I’m all over that, but my wife is none too happy! I’m sure that’s no surprise.

Chester Gould died in 1985, so he missed the cell phone and more recently the iPhone revolution. Something tells me that he had an inkling of some of the things that were coming. At any rate, he gave us old codgers a look into what was out there over the technological horizon.

I wonder if this new contraption can help me make my VCR quit flashing 12!

A D-Day Paratrooper’s Influence On A Young Boy

On D-Day 2007, I watched a 2-hour Military Channel documentary on the June 6, 1944 invasion of France that began Operation Overlord.  This bloody but successful battle on the beaches at Normandy initiated the effort that resulted in the re-capturing of France and an ultimate end to the War in Europe 11 months later on May 8, 1945.

Thoughts of the brave invading troops coupled with; film, candid photographs, quotes and in some cases actual voices of the young men,  were combined to make a riveting documentary.   About 40 minutes into the film I was startled to see the face and hear the voice of a young man with the same name as my 6th grade grammar school teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee.  My heart raced as I realized that it was not just a man with the same name…….it was him…..Mr. Raulston, a man I admired and who had influenced me greatly.  As a young, impressionable boy, I was always struck by his: optimism, friendly smile, command of the classroom and broadly administered kindness to his students.  Woops…I almost forgot….and his ever present bow tie.

I could hardly wait for the program to finish so I could try to find him after all these years.  I remembered his home town, South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, because it had an odd name and Mr. Raulston spoke of it often.  I was so afraid that I would not be able to find him.  As I began to Google him, thoughts raced through my mind.  Did he move, how old would he be today and is he still alive, will he remember me…..so many students…..so many years.   I can’t believe it……his name came up.  I clicked a link and found a book that talks about his parachuting onto Omaha Beach that fateful day.  I’ll get to that later, I thought…..I want to find HIM!   A few more clicks on a people search site and his name came up.   WOW!  He is still in his home town!  My heart was really racing now.  This was not just a grammar school teacher he was a builder of young men and women….and he had really influenced me.

I picked up the phone and punched in the numbers.  In my nervousness I hit two keys at once.  Realizing this error I started over….how hard can it be to get 7 numbers right…..right?  Ring….ring…..”hello” came a sweet energetic voice on the other end of the phone….I choked.   “Is this the home of Mr. Raulston who taught grammar school in Knoxville?”   “Yes it is” she said.  Bingo!!  I gave her my name and she responded excitedly by asking if I was……and she related my full name.  I was shocked.  She said he had talked of me often over the years that had ensued.  Her use of the word “had” was an ominous indication of the reality that she then related…….”he died in 2000.”  I was crestfallen…..because he was gone….because she was without him….and because I would not be able to tell him how much he had meant to me.  We had a great and uplifting conversation and I hung up.   After searching through photographs sequestered away for years, I finally found the photo of that class.  I showed this photo to my wife and children as I related this story to them.

Three years passed and this year again I watched the D-Day documentary.  Knowing the approximate time his story would be told, I waited expectantly to see his picture…there it is…I listened and watched and smiled.  My mind then floated back to the conversation with Mrs. Raulston years earlier and I decided to call her again.  That same sweet, strong voice greeted me again.  We enjoyed a warm time of fellowship discussing a man we both loved and by whom we were both influenced.  I told her I had a photo of the 6th grade class and wondered if she had it also.  She did not……but she does now.  I sent it to her along with a photo of my family.  I learned more about their family and purposed to go see her in the next few months.

If this were only a story about me and my 6th grade teacher it would be nice for a few people, but that would be about it.  I think, however, that it has much more significance.

First, I think it is indicative of the incredible power words can have on impressionable young men and women…….that would include EVERY YOUNG PERSON YOU KNOW!  Loosely quoted but  very accurate he told me; “….I’m going to watch you in the years ahead.  You can amount to something and you will if you don’t get distracted or lazy.”  He had seen me get distracted…..but he had also seen something in me he wanted to make sure I developed. He also cared about me….a snotty nosed kid on a collision course with puberty, hurdles, opportunity, worldview challenges and…well just life.  I told Mrs. Raulston that I could to this day take her to within one foot of the place I was standing when he told me this.  I can’t  remember specifics of what he taught me during the 6th grade, but I remember how he treated me and what he told me.

Secondly, I am embarrassed and chagrined that I didn’t find him early enough to tell him in person how he had influenced me.  Have I amounted to anything?  I’m not the judge.  God is.  If the standards by which I am judged are my faith in Christ,  the quality of; the wife God blessed me with, the three children from that marriage and the eight grand-children that are still young enough to think I’m pretty special,  I believe I have successfully met his challenge.

The broader message for us all is to take both care and time to encourage impressionable people who we engage daily, especially young people.  We can make a difference.  And when those who have influenced us come to mind….TELL ‘EM, it’ll bless us and them.

Thanks Mr. Raulston.   I know he can hear me somehow….and is smiling.

Tennessee Takes a Body Blow but Dodges a Bullet

No Big Orange fan, of which am one, felt comfortable when Lane Kiffin was announced as Head Coach of the Tennessee Volunteers in December of 2008. Many, including me, were very happy to see Phil Fulmer go. He had let the program slide into virtual oblivion and few singers of Rocky Top were excited about what the ensuing years would be under his continued tutelage. Fulmer exited with his head held high and exuding tremendous class. His replacement entered completely devoid of same.

Kiffin spent much of the press conference, called to announce his hiring, talking about what a bad guy Al Davis was.  Davis is the owner of the Oakland Raiders who had fired him after a brief tenure. The reasons seemed to be that Kiffin was an arrogant, narcissistic flake. Davis should know, he’s not much different…..but he signs the paychecks.

Tennessee should have talked with Davis before hiring this “narrow Lane”…..they might, as a result, have continued their search beyond Kiffin. Tennessee fans cringed, saying “this guy may know a lot of X’s and O’s, but he seems to be terribly deficient in the class category.” Our worst fears were soon realized.

Over the next weeks and months Kiffin proceeded to offend most coaches in the S.E.C., the hierarchy at the NCAA and skiddish Vol fans alike with his out of control mouth.  He also came under fire for potential recruiting violations.  This issue might still be an open one…..only time will tell.  I must admit that as the 2009 season went on I never lost my concern that orange blood, I mean the beautiful Tennessee Orange, was not coursing through his veins.  I was, however, smitten by the revitalization that he seemed to bring to the Vol football program and despite the good ole “yard dog whippin’” that Virginia Tech put on us in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, I thought that Tennessee might be up-ticking in the football market.  It was not to be…..at least for about 80 hours.

When Pete Carroll left as head coach of U.S.C. for the NFL, Kiffin bolted Knoxville for the vacated position.  Some of his assistants who also departed in lockstep with him, proceeded to back track and try to talk recruits they had rushed so strongly for the previous weeks into changing their minds and follow them to Trojan country.  It may have worked…we will see.

All of this was a severe body blow to Tennessee, the football program, fans and players.  But after 3 days of whirlwind activity by the U.T Athletic Department, tons of cyber ink and wasted work time by Tennessee faithful, and speculation by the college football world, Tennessee announced on Friday that Derek Dooley had been named as Tennessee’s 22nd football Coach.  WHO????  Derek Dooley….son of the extremely successful Georgia Bulldog Coach and A.D..   The initial fears of the Tennessee faithful were and for many may still be that U.T. made a panic move and picked quickly so as to not lose the recruiting battle that will rage over the next 2-3 weeks.   I must admit to have been one of the skeptics.

Well my brother called me this morning and said, “do you remember how we said we felt when Ronald Reagan spoke the day after he was elected…..proud to be an American and excited about the future.”   He urged me to listen the Dooley’s news conference and see if I had a similar feeling with this hiring.  I did and am sold……and I’m not an easy sell.  Only time will tell whether Dooley will return Tennessee to top 5 -10 status in NCAA division one football.  I think he has all the ingredients to be successful….7 years as an assistant with Nick Saban, a fabulous football heritage, great recruiting skills, a brilliant mind, the consummate work ethic and is a fiercely independent thinker.  But the real thing that makes me a convert and makes me feel that I will not be embarrassed by an off the rails coach is that this is a man of conviction and class.

I also watched Kiffin’s introductory news conference at U.S.C……..what a difference between Dooley’s obvious character and Kiffin’s lack of same.  Kiffin still doesn’t get it in terms of his self centered worldview.  As I watched I wondered what he is teaching his children and what kind of reflection it is on his father and his upbringing.  Stupid me….his father went with him to U.S.C..  Commitment and honor be damned….take the best deal you can get, shake the dust from your feet and leave the broken promises and carnage behind.

Tennessee may have taken a severe body blow, but we have dodged a major bullet.  If you have to deal with a cancer, do so early before it grows.  Thanks Lane and good riddance!  Let’s go Dooley!!!!