Speaking Of Religion….

In keeping with the Pope’s visit I will start off with a mea culpa. I was jammed up here in Denver so the Holy Father and I had to speak by phone. He spoke broken English and I spoke broken Italian, so we were even. I wasn’t at all nervous. He said I could call him Frank and I said he could call me, Ted The Great. Gotta establish boundaries.

The mea culpa thing was when I asked him to hear my confession. He told me he only had six days in our beautiful country. Maybe next time, TTG. I told him I ran into a buddy of mine who is also Catholic. This guy started ranting and raving that he didn’t like the Pope. He said the pontiff hated capitalism and America in one fell swoop. “Doesn’t that dude from Rome understand that all that underhanded shenanigans that go from fixing LIBOR,to VW headquarters in Germany to docs cheating on Medicare go a long way to bringing a lot of people up from poverty?” What was I thinking? Frank said don’t worry he hears that all the time. “It’s kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul” he said in his best Godfather impersonation. Got it.

But the reason I didn’t write last week is that I have too many thoughts and crosscurrents buzzing around in my poor little brain. I got into the whole concept of religion. It seems that in its purest sense it is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems and world views that tries to explain the origin of life or the universe. That’s a lot to digest.

You figure that out and you develop a set of ethics, morality or a life style. It’s not just Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Buddhism but you can throw in atheism,consumerism and hedonism to boot. I can buy that but the sad part is we spend half of our time trying to prove the other guy wrong and very little time trying to be tolerant and just accept our differences.

I guess that concept of belief wants you to be a soldier to fight the good fight whether you use Christ or Neiman Marcus as your rallying point. The fascinating part about last week was that people of all denominations stopped to take note. I heard deeply intellectual conversations among the pundits as to whether this guy was liberal, progressive or communist but I think they missed the point. Why do we have to label him? Why do we have this irrepressible urge to categorize people and put them into this slot or another and then as a corollary, figure out if they pass our own personal litmus test? I really hope a good portion of these United States just sat back and enjoyed him.

When you dig little further into formal ecclesiastical religions you find an ebb and flow. Assuming Christianity started in Rome in 35 or 40AD (that’s Anno Domini for the secularist) and it spread throughout Europe. Look at the cathedrals and monasteries of the Continent and you can see the great impact formal religion has had for a couple of thousand years. Now Marx will tell us it is opium for the people and it might be said the downfall of formal religion had its roots in the Renaissance. The more educated we became the more we felt we didn’t need any sort of a Superior Being. Churches and temples in Europe today are being sold off to developers of night clubs and shopping malls. C’est la vie.

Pew Research tells us Christian religiosity as we know it is more hispanic than white. Female to a greater degree than male. Low IQ(under 92) versus high IQ(93 on up). Poor going to the rail a lot more than the rich. This is all statistical and not some sort of moral judgment. For a major portion of believers salvation results in admission to another world. For a lot of us today we think this world is just fine. When you look at what a lot of people have why the hell would you want to think the next life is better? Aha, that is why cryogenics is a growth industry.

I am not going to try to convert anyone. You have your own life to live and I have more than enough to worry about with moi. But I would like you to consider something. Let’s not call it religion but maybe spirituality or a state of mind. My buddy Frank was running around waving, shaking hands, hugging and kissing babies and some of our most challenged fellow citizens of the planet Earth. He spoke about helping the poor and giving thanks to anyone who will listen for all we have. He said we should never leave any mortal without even a hope of something better. He said the church had screwed up in its handling of sexual abuse and he knew it and would try to make it right. Was he really that far off your or my message?

Most Sundays Kathy and I go to church. Counter to most Catholic churches there is a din when you enter. Holy crap,(no play on words) people are talking to one another,shaking hands and saying hello. We have musicians of all sorts and instruments and people sing loud. Fr Pat is a young priest who does not pontificate but gives you everyday things to hang your hat on that are part of every day life. Sometimes you think about God and sometimes you just think. How’s that for a break in the action?

I thought to myself wouldn’t it be great if we as a country brought back Sunday morning again. Not necessarily church but the one where the Firestone store doesn’t open at 7:00AM to get your car fixed. What if we got together here and there and had a cup of coffee, talked about life and just how lucky we are? Maybe we invite some poor bastard that’s down and out? We wouldn’t have to sing a hymn but maybe just America the Beautiful. Then we would just shake hands or bro hug and go on our way just a little bit better for it. I asked Frank what he thought? He replied, “mucho frio”. I think that is Spanish for very cool.

As always
Ted The Great


The more etherial a concept is to grasp the more difficult it is to internalize. It is easier to require proof than to take something on faith. The concept of hope is counter to pragmatism. The offset to charity is self sufficiency and survival of the fittest.

Secularism: a spirit or tendency, especially a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.

Atheism: A doctrine or belief there is no God.

Agnosticism:a belief that holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.

Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure is the primary or most important intrinsic good In life. Party on!

If you want to have some fun Google “Consumerism as a Religion” Read a few of the articles and then you will see why my cranium is bulging at the seams.

I’m Falling…

Or at least I was. Last Saturday I cashed in on a gift my daughter had given me for my 70th birthday. She and I travelled about 30 miles from Denver to Longmont,CO and proceeded to go up in an airplane to 17,000 feet…. and then we jumped out! Seemed to make perfect sense. She is about to be 40 and just about as crazy as I am. The high(no play on words) was incredible. I am still feeling it.

The lead up to the launch was notable not for fear or anxiety but for an incredible desire to do this and do it right. Sure you think about what could happen but not for long. As we entered the hangar area there was an interesting clash. The reception staff and instructors were young and you had the distinct feeling this was more of a love than a job. Perhaps cult like. Shorts and flip flops were the uniform of the day but with an air of experience and business. Quite unusual and it gave one a sense of confidence that they really knew what they were doing. Let’s hope so.

The ride to the staging area on the other side of the airport was unique. We bounced around on benches in an aluminum trailer that could have carried horses or cattle if the sides were higher.Like livestock going to the slaughter. I had long gone past the point of no return so you get with the program. The most interesting part was how many people were doing this either in tandem or solo. Throughout the prep we had to see well over 50 jumpers. Some packing their chutes and others just chilling. And that was just in the noon hour.

Flight suit on and strapped up, we climbed into a King Air twin engine and we were off. My man, Sean and I were close and about to get a lot closer. Just after takeoff he told me he was taking off my seat belt. Huh? He said if anything went wrong we were outta there. Comforting to say the least. As we went into a steep climb I was trying to find the most secure foothold I could to avoid zipping out the side door which had been pulled up…for ventilation of course. I watched the ground get farther and farther away. What the hell am I doing here?

When we got to altitude things started happening and quickly. Sean strapped us together so tightly I thought we were welded at the hip. I got my last few instructions. The yellow jump light flashed and there we were standing in the doorway. I crouched low and then we were off. The initial sensation of just being in midair was mind blowing. You saw the ground far below, you felt the cold air and then it really sank in what you were doing. Once again not so much fear but sheer amazement and a bit of blind faith as we hurtled downward. We did some free falling with spins and turns and then the photographer shot up right in front of us and tells me to wave. I gave her a thumbs up and grinned one of my best. I was beyond relaxed and into it.

After a bit more maneuvering I heard my buddy Sean pulling this and that and lo and behold that beautiful canopy popped and I knew we were home free. The ground was no longer coming at us at warp speed and we made graceful turns over the airport. Not far from the staging area he told me to pull my knees to my chest and put my legs out straight. Then with a final whoosh we came to a stop not on our butts but standing up. The old fart and the young Turk pulled it off.

There was no kissing the ground as we were reintroduced to mother earth but a bit of sadness that the ride was over so soon. It actually takes somewhere between six and seven minutes but it was a blur. High fives and fist bumps around and that was it. My instructor and photographer said a quick good bye and they were off again. They were going to do 10-12 jumps that day and during the summer they might do as many as fifteen. Not a bad life.

When we got back home Megan and I had a long awaited beer. We were jabbering about this and that and Kathy listened patiently. By the way we did not tell her in advance. Smart move, TTG. Our conversation wasn’t braggadocio or bravado but more trying to convey what a cool thing it was. I guess you had to be there.

I have so many things to tell you at a later date. The past few days I have been thinking about innovation, creativity and imagination. That happens to you when you look at the world in a different way. More importantly you feel empowered to look at things you have cast aside. Your freedom of thought is just that. Convention and routine are just not part of your vocabulary right now and I hope not for a long time to come.

I guess what I am really saying is we should think about taking chances. We put such a premium on being right but it is by being wrong that we grow. We have so many situations in our world that need a fresh approach. If one more person tells me “But we have always done it that way” or “ that will never work” I may be forced to reconsider my resolve to get rid of firearms. I really didn’t fall but rather grew up. How very cool.

As always
Ted The Great


Parachuting, or skydiving, is the action sport of exiting an aircraft and returning to Earth with the aid of gravity, then slowing down during the last part of the descent by using a parachute. It may or may not involve a certain amount of free-fall, a time during which the parachute has not been deployed and the body gradually accelerates to terminal velocity. SAY WHAT???

Despite the perception of danger, fatalities are rare. About 21 skydivers are confirmed killed each year in the US, roughly one death for every 150,000 jumps (about 0.0007%)

Equipment failure rarely causes fatalities and injuries. Approximately one in 750 deployments of a main parachute result in a malfunction.[5] Ram-air parachutes typically spin uncontrollably when malfunctioning, and must be jettisoned before deploying the reserve parachute. This actually happened but my man Sean got it figured out and we didn’t have to deploy the reserve.

85% of injuries occur while landing.

All of the above factoids are from Wikipedia. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Haven’t received the film at press time . May forward later.

It Takes A Picture….

If you were unaware or unmoved by the picture of the three year old refugee boy washed up dead on a beach then maybe you should not read on. I am just one of millions if not billions who saw it and the madness ripped at my soul. Has this so called civilization we live in come this far or this low that we have to be uber shocked to sit up and take notice?

Our first reaction is to explain it away. If Assad hadn’t unleashed his fury on his populace they never would have come and everything would have been hunky dory. Same for Afghanistan, Iraq, Honduras and India I guess. The Donald says the world is transactional and he may be right. It comes to down to pluses and minuses and net effects to deem whether something is worthy of our consideration. Sorry for being emotional but I have a little more soul than that. But let me try another track.

As I put on my detached professorial hat, the current crisis is not really such but rather a recurring theme of history. For millennia people have been moving from one place to another. Incredibly for the most part the motivation has been the same…to find a better life. Now they may beset by a myriad of factors from hunger, thirst, poverty, political oppression, physical danger et alia but the grass somehow has to be greener somewhere else.

Forget about Mesopotamia to Africa and the land bridge from Asia to North America,we have a wonderful example of wanderlust in our young nation. Pre 1820 there were 11.3 million immigrants to the New World. Incredibly 8.7 million were slaves which can only be considered forced migration. But the others were well to do. They had the wherewithal and the gumption to set out on a rather arduous journey to seek their fortune. By definition they were some of the youngest and brightest and they put their business plan into play.

As time went on they needed manpower for their enterprise and that had to go beyond slaves and indentured servants. Post 1820 it turned to a more muscular if shall we say a less educated group. The Chinese to Left Coast and the Italians, Irish et al to the East Coast. They were harassed and derided but were put to use as cogs in this economic engine that the Industrial Age was fueling non stop. They didn’t speak the language and they hung out together in ghettos of a sort (sound familiar?) but that was okay. Just keep working and mind your manners. It wasn’t until 1920 that we started to put the brakes on.

Even without the horror of war the same is true today. Over 350 million Chinese have made the transition from a rural economy to an urban one. Why? The guys in the sticks make less than $1000 a year. Go beyond that and the young and restless of Italy, Russia, Spain and Portugal want to call Berlin, London and Copenhagen home. The end result is that the deserted countries now have an aging population that doesn’t pay taxes but now lives off the dole. Fascinating stuff.

This gets enormously complex if you don’t pause and look at the possible scenarios and pitfalls. The obvious is the need for social services from everything to schooling to medical help. The oil fields of the Dakotas bring workers and families that overwhelm the local governments. Very much akin to the Gold Rush days, they have to cast a wary eye as to when the gravy train stops running and $45 oil takes its toll.

Now you can say no more and good for you. I find it comical that we even consider sending 11 million illegals back. This is not a political statement but one of fact. Who would clean the houses,cut the lawns, bus the tables, mind the children if that happened? Well, TTG they are taking jobs away from us good old boys. I guess that is why 25% of the current crops are lying rotten in the fields from California to Georgia because they can’t find workers to pick them. They are paying $18 an hour with meals and housing with no takers. I drive down Colorado Boulevard and see sign after sign asking for help at anywhere from $9-15 per hour.

Immigration is good for any country. Several have actually seen a reverse migration. Mexico has a net inflow of people coming back. The economy and opportunity is on the rise. It is in the older countries of Europe that these people should be welcomed with open arms because they will be reinfused with youth and talent that is sorely needed. There are doctors, engineers and architects in that group that should be regarded for their talents rather than their funny language.

It is mind boggling that Germany has set goals of hundreds of thousands of immigrants while France and GB will graciously accept 20,000…over five years. I don’t know about you but I watched the good people of Munich applause and warmly welcome train loads and a bit of pride welled up in me that they are part of our developed world. Someone said they were just trying to make up for WWII. Well good for them. The Poles and Hungarians seem to have a short memory.

Maybe I am on a bit of a soapbox. Sorry for that. It’s just another one of those things that we have to put more than dollars into the equation. I think of my grandmother and her sister who walked down a lane in the town of Boyle to make their way to Cork and the unknown of the States at the age of 14 and 16. It took guts and some open arms. I am glad I am part of a country that had the largesse. I wonder what would happen if that little boy had washed up on the beach on Long Island or Santa Monica if we might give a different thought? Immigration and striving for something better is a part of life. I am not so smug that I can say let someone else do their part. I think we have to do ours.

As always
Ted The Great


The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus . The inscription on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Take a moment to read it.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Unless you were born in the Levant or the heart of Africa, depending on your version of history, all of us from Native Americans to European were immigrants at one time.

Hang Gliding and Procrastination…

As our mountain journey came to a close I took US 6 towards the farmer’s market in Edwards,CO. I had to  get some tomatoes and sweet Olathe corn for dinner Saturday night. This old time meandering highway maps out roughly parallel to the Eagle River. On the south side the jagged cliffs soar beautifully and provide a great launch pad for hang gliders.

On a scale of one to ten on the insanity index, those who want to tempt fate as Icarus once did, push the needle just a skosh over nine. For the uninitiated you lash your body to this contraption of an aluminum frame with stretched nylon covering every lift surface you can find. You then take off on a dead run over, you guessed it, a precipice that may be a couple of thousand  feet or more above mother earth below.

Now assuming you have the tilt angle correct and you don’t trip on your dash then you are soon soaring like an eagle. You make great swooping turns as you seek to catch updrafts that may hold you aloft and extend your ride. That was the easy part. Now you have to push the stanchions this way and that to not only turn but to effect a landing on something approximating the size of a large postage stamp. Then you one, two or three point land to the applause and huzzahs of your friends. Like a car race I think everyone just comes to see if you are going to go splat on a large rock. C’est la vie.

Pulling over to the side of the road I watched several flights and most if not all the aviators were very good at their craft. I had just read a book by Malcolm Gladwell and one of his chapters dwelt on how even the best laid plans of mice and men can go awry. In specific he spoke of the Challenger disaster that met its fate because of a faulty “O” ring. Point being that if it was not a bad seal, it very well could have been something else. There are a gazillion parts on a space shuttle. The were quadruple backup systems at Three Mile Island. We seem to have to have this obsession with getting everything perfect when in the long run….Shit Happens.

Think about our lives from so many vantage points. Take medicine. We are now in an age where we test everything about our bodies. We are paranoid about what goes in and yes that which comes out. There has to be a reason for everything because God knows no one just gets sick and even worse it could not be possible that someone just died of natural causes. We have to find a culprit and root him out forever. Better yet we have to put safety nets in every part of our lives to ward off the evil invaders. Seat belts, helmets, air bags and a pill for this or that has caused us to be just spectators to this thing called life.

This morning there was an article in the Wall Street Journal about procrastination. The topic has intrigued me for years from both a personal and intellectual viewpoint. Why do people put things off? Of course we might have other things to do but there is a more satanic reason we don’t act upon our instincts. We hem and haw and throw up every roadblock possible. When it comes right down to it, we don’t want to be wrong and ergo embarrassed.

It comes back to that little marvel that creeps into our life known as self esteem. Forget how we look to ourselves. It is how we look to our fellow man and woman that matters. If it was a passing moment that would be fine but people will tie themselves in knots fretting about this or that and imagining the repercussions and incredible failures that might result. So they do absolutely nothing. The longer they wait the worse it gets. That wall of doubt soon morphs into a mountainside that no one is going to get you to jump off.

The saddest part is that this turns into a solitary confinement that becomes a lot worse than Supermax. You pace your little cell and only can wonder what if? You pass on opportunity and circumvent relationships and maybe love itself. Oh yeah, you are close to making decision. I just have to do a little more research. I will wait until next year because it just doesn’t feel right at this very moment. And on and on and on.

Our world only exacerbates this. We have left ourselves to be ruled by experts. Economists tell us what is going to happen this year and next. In sports we have pros to cure our swings and our psyche. Quants and algorithms rule the markets. Want to buy something? We have to check Consumers Reports and a thousand websites to make sure we are buying the absolute best products at the cheapest price imaginable.

Then there are our friends and enemies. Each one knows everything. That’s not a bad bottle of wine but I am going to tell you about a truly great one. Oh, you went to Rome and didn’t see the Church of St Catastrophina? Well you really missed out and are worthless. I just took a lesson from Joe Gasotz and he has found the answer to great golf. Only $300 an hour and worth every penny.

Now you may get everything right by following twenty nine steps before action. But do you have any idea how much fun you missed out on in the meantime? There is a certain thrill and yes fear about going into the unknown but it is like going down a double black ski run and then looking back up from the bottom and saying.”Hey, I did that.” Me? I am going to jump off that cliff on my hang glider. I will see you at the bottom…I hope.

As Always
Ted The Great


In sociology and psychology, self-esteem reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs (for example, “I am competent”, “I am worthy”) and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame
“Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.” Psychology Today

Rate Of Death in sports per 100,000 population

Base Jumping 43. 17
Swimming 1.77
Cycling 1.08
Skydiving .99
Hang Gliding . 86
Running .79
Table Tennis .40
Skiing .06