Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Weekly Reader

Many thanks for all the comments to my last post. I appreciate the kindness very much.

I remember that when I was a kid, they had a publication they sold to us called the Weekly Reader. We had to bring money from home to buy the Weekly Reader, although my memory is that the cost was slight and that it usually was some odd figure like 23 cents an issue rather than a simple figure like one dollar or two. These were in the days when a huge soda fountain drug store milk shake cost a quarter, a Coke cost a dime, and a Snickers bar cost a nickel (please pardon me if I am this moment too lazy to do the inflation adjustment calculation for comparison's sake). For some reason, it seems pertinent to me to report that our grade school usually got to attend the high school junior and senior class play in special matinees, and that this cost a quarter a ticket each.

The Weekly Reader had really cool "weird technology" articles, like the man in the DC area who built a working helicopter using his washing machine. In these days (and maybe still today), a magazine called Popular Science was always showing one how to build incredible wonders of science from scratch--a "sky car" from an old Studebaker, rather like "Back to the Future". One could also go to Radio Shack and buy a Heathkit apparatus to build any electronic thing. I had to build a computer in college, using a similar kit. It took me numerous semesters to complete this electronics class (which, for some reason, the kind people at my school treated more as a life's mission than as a conventional class). When my computer was done, it could do simple math, and answer simple logic questions. I could have done more with a slide rule or an abacus, but an abacus would have probably taken me longer to build. I am one of that generation who were taught how to use a slide rule, right before they were obsolete. It was cool how much one could do with a slide rule--complex math, some square root stuff, and all sorts of cool approximations. But then the computer made slide rules things that showed up on the bargain table at the scholastic book stores. I bought a really nice one, thinking it would be a collectible. But I have no idea where it is now.

One Weekly Reader article stays with me today. This was the Pedal Car. During the 1970s, the fuel crisis bore in upon us, because our leaders had made (and still have made) no plans to deal with oil over-dependence, everyone was into alternatives. Solar research was being funded, and resulting in windmills in Palm Springs. The Pedal Car was devoted to the idea that we would all pedal to work. It had a really sleek design--a plastic yellow look, rather like a Kia Rio as drawn by a five year old with limited art skills. I also liked that one did not pedal a pedal car, but that instead it had a "push pedal" mechanism, just like those little cars that toddlers have. The Pedal Car didn't last. I wish I owned one now. Other great pedal cars do exist, somewhat more practical in design. But they weren't in Weekly Reader.

This was a kinder, gentler time--if you ignore things like the Vietnam War, leftist terrorists knocking over banks and killing minimum wage security guards in the name of "social justice and revolution", Richard Nixon, an FBI which regularly intruded on anyone to the left of center, and racial strife erupting into violence regularly in our southern school systems. For one thing, the fire hydrants in almost every town were repainted to look like little toy soldiers or other appropriately playful images.
For another, little smiley faces were everywhere.
Houseplants had a renaissance, devoted, as I recall, mainly to ferns.

For some reason, Weekly Reader conjures up a vision of graham crackers and milk for me. I loved (and love, for that matter) graham crackers, but I did not often dip them in milk. But I know that one day I must have been reading a Weekly Reader, while dipping graham crackers in milk. I don't really remember it--but the sensation is wired into me now.

Lately I think of LJs I would enjoy creating. I think of making photo displays of this gorgeous overlooked part of Texas--a north Texas museum.
I think of having an ant website or LJ> But today I realize that the ideal journal would be like a Weekly Reader. You know--lots of dinosaur content and people building volcanos in their back yard.

Yesterday the people of California recalled Gray Davis and elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor. The recall is not a shock, though Mr. Davis, colorless as he is, did not deserve to be recalled. Ken Lay and Enron deserve to be recalled, but that's in process now. But the election result is not a surprise. In the last general election, the Republicans could have run any candidate with moderate social credentials and won, but elected to run Bill Simon, a social conservative, who, along with current candidate Tom McClintock, could never win a statewide election. In the last election, LA mayor Dick Riordan would have beaten Davis handily, but his own party nominated social conservative Simon instead. Now that the recall permitted a social moderate to run despite the Republican party elite, he won handily. There's a lesson for Republicans there, but I hope they don't learn it.

The Democrats' choice to run Cruz Bustamante as the "alternative" choice proved a misstep. He managed to embroil himself in "business as usual" controversy through taking masses of Indian gaming money. I always thought it would be ironic if California replaced Davis with Bustamante, another "loyal party guy", much as Davis had always been. But his campaign wholly misfired. The strategy of running only one CA Democrat alternative now looks very questionable. Running two,and then having the weaker drop out just prior to absentee balloting,would have been much more wise.

I think I would have run for governor if I still lived in California, because it is just an absurd thing one must do, like roller skating to disco music in the 1970s. Of course, I could always run as a Democrat here, which would be almost the same thing. I'll bet I could easily get one tenth of one percent of the vote. My platform? Abolish the death penalty, and reconfigure government to fund roads, schools, police, libraries, and nature trails.

If Weekly Reader were covering the recall, it would focus on the younger candidates among the
numerous recall candidates. The election surprised me in that the lesser candidates drew so little of the vote. Camecho, the Green, drew 2 percent, and Gary Coleman drew 12,000 votes.
But I always figured that a recall would involve tons of protest votes, split among the lesser candidates.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, for all his many faults, is at least a social moderate. He is far from the kind of candidate that the arch-conservatives that started this recall hoped to get elected, but arch-conservative just does not play well in California, at least since Reagan's day.

I am not sure how California will restructure. I have to admit that I live in Texas now in part because I could not figure out how I would open my own business in a state where everything is so expensive--commercial rentals and house payments can be astronomic. Ultimately, both Los Angeles and San Francisco need lower populations, and the eastern, desert part of California will inevitably grown in population. But I don't see Arnold, or any current California politician, as having the vision to start planning for that. In the Weekly Reader, though, I'm sure they wouldn't spend time worrying about all that stuff. They'd just report who won, and have a scene from "Kindergarten Cop".

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