Thursday, December 28, 2006


(News-Herald, December 28)First Night celebrations have sprung up around the country like ticks on a lazy hog.
It’s a great idea. Sure, Christmas carries emotional weight, the performance anxiety of producing a warm fuzzy family day. But at least on Christmas you’re staging an emotional high point with family that you’ve known your entire life.
New Years is supposed to be National Date Night, but if you don’t have a honey to hang the huge happy hat of romance on, then you’re expected to come up with a handy stranger with whom to make celebratory magic.
And if you’re actually married, New Years is a stumper. If you have small children, you could have them celebrate in the Kids Time Zone, where New Years comes at about 10, followed by bed time and the hope of a little grown-up New Years Whoopee.
So First Night is a grand step forward because it transforms the holiday into a celebration of something other than tragic drunken coupling. It’s no wonder that First Night has swept the country as a family-friendly evening of merriment.
For us, the best of the First Nights is Oil City’s because it is here in Venangoland.
Oil City’s First Night looks pretty good this year. You can get a gander by looking at their website; the address is complicated, but if you google “Oil City First Night” (or click on this link)it pops right up. It has most of the info you need (plus, mysteriously, a link to a website about mesothelioma).
The lineup of entertainment this year looks outstanding. A portion of the line-up is devoted to acts of regional or national repute.
Cahal Dunne has become a regular favorite in Venangoland, and he puts on an outstanding show. If you haven’t seen him, you’ve heard about him, and now you get another chance to catch him in beautiful musical action.
Stevens and McLain are an international duo. McLain has over forty years of musical experience in bringing traditional bluegrass from Kentucky to the world; his partner is an award-wining Canadian harmonica whiz.
Tanglewood is a quintet that—well, they look like a heavy metal band that’s trying to sneak into a Renaissance Faire. Their website describes their music as “Intelligent, well-written folk-influenced songs played with hell-bent, rampaging abandon.” They look like a heck of a lot of fun. I listened to some bits of their stuff; they remind me of the Weavers with less High Seriousness or how the Limelighters might have sounded after tall the squares went home and they could take off their skinny ties and unwind. Fabulous harmonies.
Guy Davis is a New York blues player. He’s appeared on both Conan O’Brien and Prairie Home Companion, and his recent cd release was picked as one of the best of the year by NPR. He also writes short stories and writes and acts in theater pieces (I’m guessing that’s because his parents are Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis). He’s just coming off touring in the Netherlands, and he’s already booked through mid-May. And he’s going to spend New Years Eve in Oil City.
In addition to all of the high-powered imported talent, there’s a good supply of local folks. There will be weird science at the museum. Community Playhouse will be presenting two sessions at Christ Episcopal Church, and there’s enough talent within that group alone to handle the whole city for the whole evening.
Andy Mitchell will be at Calvary Methodist; Andy has more music in his little finger than most folks have in their whole bodies. I’ve known Andy since we both had hair, and I don’t think there’s much in the way of playing or singing that he can’t do.
So to serve up all this plus a few other mysterious offerings (Frisbee Dogs—trained animal act or punk rock group?) for a total cost of ten bucks is beyond a bargain. You’d pay ten bucks to see just one of these performers in concert. To offer them all for one price, on a night when folks are just dying for a way to stay busy, is a public service. And on top of all that, two rounds of Cartwright fireworks.
Only one complaint—Oil City organizers routinely assume that everyone understands OC geography, and throw around “North Side” and “South Side” and the names of various churches as if we all have an OC map in our heads. Add in the mysteries of one-way streets and hidden parking lots, and making the trip can be intimidating for the non-OC native. There will be shuttle buses, but when it’s time to put up next year’s website, let’s have a map.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


(News-Herald, June 2002)Of all the notable historical figures to pass through Venango County, none may be more difficult to unravel than John D. Rockefeller. I’ve recently finished Ron Chernow’s biography of him, Titan.
The advent of the oil industry shows how a variety of threads can converge in one critical moment. If medical charlatans had not packaged the obnoxious black goo as medicine, then George Bissell might not have been tempted to explore its worth as an illuminant. If the rise of industrial and urban America had not created a greater demand for artificial light, few might have cared about his idea. It took a laboratory chemist (Professor Benjamin Silliman of Yale) to prove Bissell’s idea had merit, and a batch of capitalist investors to dispatch Edwin Drake to Pennsylvania. And Drake needed the assistance of laborer Uncle Billy Smith to figure out how to get the whole thing accomplished.
And when all tarnation broke loose, it took someone to take the many far-flung pieces of the puzzle and tie them together.
We think of the oil boom as a sort of uninterrupted explosion of money, but it didn’t work that way. People smelled money; they drilled wells. Oil was suddenly as plentiful as raspberries, and the price plummeted. Men’s holdings were suddenly worth nothing, and they went out of business. Then there were fewer producers, so oil was rare, and the price went up. So more people went into the business, and oil was as plentiful as raspberries. Rinse and repeat.
It’s no wonder that there are empty fields that were once cities in our area.
Rockefeller saw that a free market can be an ugly, brutal, wasteful thing. But with that volatility comes an opportunity to bring control and order.
What Rockefeller did was simple; he bought every oil-related business he could get his hands on. He knew the business; he visited our area, traveling through the oil fields. He was not afraid to get his hands dirty as he learned. One of the first acquisitions of the new Standard Oil Company was Miller and Sibley’s Galena Oil Company. And just over a decade after Drake’s triumph, Rockefeller controlled the refining and the transportation of oil.
Rockefeller was himself the product of a deeply religious mother and a charming con-man father. Some of Rockefeller’s techniques were brutal, but not illegal. At the bottom of the business cycle there were plenty of businesses for sale cheap; Rockefeller bought them. This did not make him many friends; it’s easy to feel bitter toward a man who profits from your own business mistakes.
Some of his techniques were not so ethical. Most notorious was the system whereby Standard Oil not only was paid a kickback from the railroad for the oil they shipped, but for the oil shipped by their competitors.
Rockefeller’s company was not much-loved in these parts. When word of the South Improvement Company conspiracy leaked out , Captain J. B. Barbour threw an SIP official through the big plate glass window of the Exchange Hotel.
Odd to think of Venango County as hot-bed of turmoil, intrigue, and controversy, but there it was. Local drillers tried to organize boycotts to hurt Standard Oil by cutting off its supply of oil. There were even processions, led by the band, out to wells for symbolic shutdowns. Three thousand angry people gathered at the Titusville Opera House to denounce the “great anaconda.” But the small operators could never keep their ranks closed. Ironically, one of the speakers at the Titusville rally was John Archbold, destined to become Rockefeller’s successor at Standard Oil. Titusville also produced Rockfeller’s great journalistic adversary, Ida Tarbell.
Rockefeller spent decades avoiding the law. His life as a fugitive began in 1879 when a Clarion County grand jury indicted him and eight other Standard Oil officials. To the best of my knowledge, they never got a piece of him.
Rockefeller was a devout Baptist who considered oil country a moral cesspool of loose women and indecent men. Once, while staying at the Exchange, he refused to go to help save his oil barrels from flooding because it was Sunday.
He pumped millions into philanthropy, setting the stage for numerous modern medical advances. He was one of the great supporters of higher education for African-Americans.
Many look at his brutal business techniques and his Christianity and wonder how much of a hypocrite he had to be. Chernow thinks the two sides were not in that much conflict, that Rockefeller felt that his business triumph was his own mission from God. But in Venango County we’re still reluctant to lay claim to him, to say we knew him when.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


(News-Herald, December 21) There’s nothing like happy family gatherings for the joyous Christmas holiday. Actually, in many cases, that’s true. In some homes, on Christmas, there will be nothing going on that is anything like a happy family gathering.
Here are a few guidelines to help make the day a little less like a Fingernails On Chalkboard Festival.
First the rules about gifting. You may not (and Miss Manners backs me up on this) dictate the form of presents to be given to you. Broad hints are allowed (“Gosh, but my life seems so empty without a pair of fuzzy bunny slippers”), and you are always free to respond to subtle inquiries such as “So what would you do if you suddenly won twenty-five dollars?” or “Good Lord In Heaven, you are impossible to shop for—what should I get you?”
You may do gift-giving as you wish. But you may not pretend to have given someone a gift when you didn’t actually do so (“I know you’re concerned about poverty, so I adopted a twenty-year-old Korean orphan in your name”).
On the actual celebratory day, you are obliged to follow certain meal rules. Unlike Thanksgiving (turkey) or July Fourth (hot dogs charred over an open flame), Christmas does not have an official food. Some items are mentioned in various carols (bowls of wassail, figgy pudding, snow), but these fit better in holiday paintings than on your actual table. Some people push ham as a Christmas standard; I have no idea why. Search any Christmas story—neither pigs nor any of their byproducts make an appearance. Personally, I like to grill a hunk of the Christmas Cow.
The correct meal for the day is whatever is preferred by the host cook. Presumably this comes fully advertised either by advance notice or years of tradition. The only correct response is general merriment and delight. If you have issues, supplement your diet before and/or after the main event.
Don’t help the cook, unless she specifically asks for your help, which she won’t. You don’t know how to prepare any of the dishes. Really, you’re not helping. That’s not where the pepper slices go, and what do you think you’re doing with that lemon. Stop. Your hostess is not shooing you out of her kitchen to be gracious; she wants you to leave her alone.
However, post-mealage, all protests that no one need help with the dishes must be ignored. Any dope can do the dishes, and even if they can’t, you’ll be home before your father discovers that you loaded the dishwasher All Wrong.
So. Help with the cooking—no. Help with the dishes—yes. It’s amazing how many people get those simple instructions backwards.
The day must include something traditional. Your tradition may be to feed leftover ham to the neighbor’s dogs or paint the cat green. Maybe every year the kids hide grandpa’s teeth and nobody gets dessert until he finds them. As long as it’s traditional.
Part of tradition is that some members of the family must be dragged into grumpy compliance. This is important. It doesn’t mean that some people hate tradition—this little dance signifies that the family observes its traditions on purpose, not through mindless habit. Tradition is never mindless.
You should also do something untraditional, different from every other year. It may or may not be fun, but it will allow you to identify this particular milestone (“Yeah, that was the year we set fire to the driveway…”).
Video games are okay, but they must be played on a big screen and everyone in the room must be allowed to provide color commentary or ask irritating questions. Board and card games are good, but you must allow people to either participate or kibbitz. Television can be watched if you watch a sporting event that allows for much vocal armchair coaching or a Holiday Classic of some sort. Classic Rudolph, Nightmare Before Christmas, Pee Wee’s Christmas Special, or any number of Christmas Carol variants (I favor Muppets or Mr. Magoo). It’s even better if the classic is bad enough to draw group heckling; my family finds joy in watching “The Year without a Santa” which is quite possibly (sorry, fans) the dumbest Christmas show ever.
You may set up a neutral corner for people who need a little quiet (a table with one of those six billion piece puzzles of a small Bavarian village will do). But after a short time, you may drive them back out.
Christmas is, after all, not about being all warm and cozy. It can be awkward, uncomfortable and inconvenient. Which, I figure, proves we really love these people—why else would we bother.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


(August 2002)I was watching the various works of art which had been rendered on each and every car or a passing train, and it got me thinking about graffiti.
It seems humans have always had an urge to leave their mark on things. The first known graffito (that’s the singular form) was left at the Sakkara pyramid in Egypt about 3500 years ago. It says, roughly, “I am very impressed with Pharaoh Djosers’ pyramid.”
The Vikings left graffiti all over the place. By the 1800’s scholars were actually studying the stuff. The word “graffiti” was first coined by archaeologists studying Pompeii. In the late forties, there were actual scholarly studies of Kilroy
Graffiti was used by urban gangs to mark their territory. So-called modern graffiti traces its origins to the late sixties, and took off in the seventies with artists like Taki183, a NYC courier who left his name all over the city.
Around these parts we don’t have anything that approaches the spray-paint artists of major cities. I went looking for local graffiti and didn’t have much luck. There are a few names under several bridges. On the bike trail, someone faithfully maintains a few scratchings on the giant pole that carries electric lines across the river. The word “knites” is regularly reworked onto the metal surface. I don’t know if that’s some sort of clever satire, a secret code word, or the name of a roving band of FHS dropouts who can’t spell.
Of course, the granddaddy of Venango County graffiti locations is the Indian God Rock. The rock (for those of you not already in the know) can be found a bit past the eight mile mark on the bike trail going south from Franklin. Explorers in pre-colonial times used it as a landmark because it’s big and it had, at one time, Indian markings on the exposed side.
A Captain Eastman copied the markings down. There were cougars and panthers, severed heads, a female and various bows and arrows. A Mr. Schoolcraft interpreted those as symbols of triumph in hunting and war, but it’s hard not to wonder if they translate as “Cornplanter Rox!!” or “Senecas Rule!”
Plenty of people have traveled to the IGR over the years, in part because when the French explorer Celeron claimed this territory for France, he left his own marks in the form of lead plates (pre-manufactured graffiti), one of which was supposedly buried near the IGR. No one has ever found that plate, but not for lack of trying.
The IGR is fully out of the water now; when the river rises, it can claim the bottom feet or two of the enormous chunk of stone. There’s a large face, steeply angled, facing upriver. The 1890 history of Venango County notes “Like all other works of man, this monument is fading and perishing.”
Well, yes. It was fading and perishing because everybody and his brother were carving their OWN names into the thing.
Travel to gape at IGR (and its surrounding subsidiary rocks) today and you won’t see a trace of Native American hieroglyphics, but you can peruse a century and a half’s worth of graffiti.
There is some stone-carved artwork. A hand pointing downriver. A donkey’s head. A large rooster. Something that wants to be a fish, I think, and another symbol that may be a peace sign or a Mercedes-Benz symbol. There is even a Masonic symbol, which I suppose indicates that IGR is a possible staging area for when the Catholic church and the Illuminati create the New World Order by helping space aliens dominate the UN, or something.
Mostly, though, the rocks are covered with names. Some, like F. Adsit and C. Sidlauska, are carved deep into the stone. Some are barely scratches; CH or CS, from this year, will probably not survive till October.
Many have dates attached: D. R. Shaw, 1908; Seth Randolph, 1875; R. I. Hagan, August 1, 1893; C. E. Barnes, 1869; Tony, 1988. Some of the names are good local names: RJH Johnston (1860), J. H. Mitchell (August 13, 1885), C. H. Cole, J. C. Duffield, A. Witherup (1881). A few signers made their mark for some larger group. Someone in 1959 carved some Greek frat letters. Oil City and Alleghany City are both on the rock, as is someone called the T.A.T. Crew.
Some are simply mysterious. RYE ’41 could be initials, or the name of a town, or even a last name. Many have been worn down by time and the elements. Someone recorded a name and the date April 22, 1883—only the date remains legible. NK and CH recorded their initials in a heart. As near as I can tell, Kilroy has not been there. At least not yet.

Friday, December 15, 2006


(News-Herald, December 14) The pre-Christmas season is kind of like beating your head against a wall—not much fun, but it feels so good when you stop.
It’s always to meet the expectation that Christmas be a special, unusual day, more pleasant and blessed than any other. But maybe we’ve cleverly discovered that if we can make the first twenty-four days of December particularly grueling, the twenty-fifth will seem pretty sweet by comparison.
I do the majority of my shopping locally. The choice is partly personal--my salary comes out of the local tax pool, so it’s only right that I put as much of it back there as I can.
The other part is philosophical. I see the free market as a form of democracy. Every dollar is a vote. And while some people have more votes in the bank than others, the beauty of free market democracy is that every vote always counts.
This is different from politics. Recently many of us cast our votes, but in the end only some votes counted. If you voted for a loser, you might as well have voted for Harold Stassen or Winnie the Pooh.
But your economic vote always counts. A buck is always a buck. That’s kind of the genius of Wal-Mart—they got all the people with just a few votes to choose them. That might not be enough to elect Harold Stassen, but it was enough to make Sam rich.
It’s a way to view the Two Mile Treehouse lawsuit. The Beichners are arguing that the government stuffed the ballot box; the park is arguing they’re not running for the same office (in this, I lean toward the park—I’ve been in the prototype tree house, and if that’s the same sort of accommodations that the Beichners are offering, they’re in trouble).
Every time we buy something, we are casting a vote for what kind of products, stores, and service we want to have. If we want to see more successful local businesses, we can put our money where our mouths are. I know some people rank getting the exact right doodad more important than keeping money moving in Venangoland. I’m just not one of those people.
Not that I don’t recognize some of the shortcomings of local shopping. More than once I’ve found myself in a store with staff apparently shocked and surprised by the presence of Christmas shoppers. I imagine the panicked worker running to the back room. “Fiona!! There’s somebody out here in the store,” she hollers at the manager. “And he wants to buy something!!” And I know stores have to work hard to control costs, but there’s something tragic about the spectacle of one harried temp trying to ring up 172 customers.
Many of whom, it must be added, are not exactly brimming with Christmas joy. Here’s a quick Christmas shopping tip—if you don’t want to buy presents for Certain People, then don’t. Stay home and keep out of everyone else’s way.
And while we’re one the subject—I’m not all that excited about the return of the “Merry Christmas” greeting to retailers. Not that it wasn’t stupid to use the “Happy Nonspecific Reasonably Special Day” greeting in hopes of not offending anyone—it was to stupid what the Pacific Ocean is to wet. But I don’t think that it’s a great victory for the True Meaning of Christmas that strangers who’ve just sold me something pretend that we’ve shared a religious moment. The Wise Men were not welcomed to the manger by a Wal-Mart greeter.
But hey—we can all lighten up. Christmas shopping should be fun. We get to run into people we don’t always see. We get to spend an entire shopping trip thinking not about ourselves, but about the people we love.
There really are several holidays wrapped up in this season, and I don’t mean Hannukah or Kwanzaa or Beanie Baby Ascension Day.
There’s Christmas, the religious holiday that celebrates the birth of the Christ child. There’s Christmas, the family holiday that brings relatives together to share fellowship and family traditions. And there’s Christmas, the secular holiday marked by Santa and vague admonitions to be nice to other people.
Let’s add to the list PreChristmas, a community holiday devoted to shopping and festivals and concerts and a hectic schedule that tests the cheeriness of even the most happily medicated. We often see PreChristmas as a sort of anti-Christmas, but maybe that’s not right.
Maybe the commercialism and the shameless huckstering and the weeks that we spend so very much In The World are the perfect set up, so that by the 25th we can remember not only that God came into this world, but why we needed Him to.

Friday, December 08, 2006


(News-Herald, December 7) When you want romantic tragedy, it’s hard to beat a teaming of a sad girl with an angry boy.
Most people know one of these couples. They are not only locally numerous, but they are usually kind of, well, noisy. People often find their partnership mysterious, marked mostly by abuse, meanness, and co-dependency.
Friends of Sad Girl wonder why she takes it. He’s neglectful, mean, and misbehaves badly.
Sad Girl cannot be swayed. “You just don’t understand him like I do,” she’ll say. She may acknowledge that he has a problem with drug abuse, general responsibility, or faithfulness—but those little issues don’t matter. They aren’t the real him. He’s really a wonderful, sweet guy.
Does he push her around, call her names, treat her with enormous disrespect? It’s his unhappy home life, or her fault for the way she behaves.
Sad Girl stays for two apparently contradictory reasons—1) she doesn’t believe she deserves anything better, and 2) the fact that she is the only human being who can see the golden part of this guy is proof of her own special qualities. There’s a certain cachet in being the beauty who can tame the beast.
It’s easier to see why angry boys stay with their sad girls. The world is not exactly filled with people who want to put up with their misbehavior. It’s an area in which the sad girls and angry boys are in perfect agreement—none of the Bad Things in his life are actually his fault.
Can’t hold a job? It’s the fault of his stupid bosses who get all upset just because he won’t show up for work every day, and on time. Got in a screaming match with a relative? It’s because that big stupid jerk disagreed with him.
Broke again? It’s not his fault that people keep taking his money for the things he wants. Stoned or drunk yet again? Hey, he’s entitled to an escape when everyone keeps pushing him and picking on him. Arrested for breaking a law? Again? It’s those darn police who just keep trying to push him around. They don’t like him. They’re out to get him. Just like his school teachers and the mailman and the checkout girl at Giant Eagle.
Angry Boy is angry so much of the time because he can’t quite get a handle on his life. He wants to be able to do what he feels like, when he feels like it, but he still wants things to turn out the way he wants them to.
Somehow, the whole cause and effect thing escapes him. If he feels like hitting himself in the head with a hammer, then by god nobody should be able to stop him—but afterwards why should his head hurt? It’s just not fair. It must be somebody’s fault. Just not his.
It is easy to imagine that Sad Girl and Angry Boy are, well, not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. But this is often not the case. I’ve known lots of Sad Girls who were poised to graduate near the top of their classes who still worked hard to maintain their devotion to an Angry Boy.
Her friends tell her to get out. Even if she have started to think she should, she feels responsible for Angry Boy. “If I leave him,” she says, whiningly, “I don’t know what he’ll do.” In her mind, his fate is in her hands.
Which is part of the attraction, though she would never admit it—perhaps not even to herself. Sad Girl is usually sad because she has lived a lonely, powerless existence. But oddly enough, with Angry Boy, she has some real power over someone.
Still, as much as she hates to give up the power, she usually does. After all, the alternative is to eventually marry him so that he won’t be upset. Sometimes he stomps off; she always begs for him to come back, and he always does.
This is how Angry Boy wants it. Angry Boy never, ever breaks up with Sad Girl. He just keeps pushing her until she’s finally had enough and walks away. This suits him fine, because the end of their relationship, just like every other rotten thing in his life, is not his fault. She walked out on him. She’s just one more person who has dumped on him. In fact, her rotten betrayal will make a great story for softening up the next Sad Girl he meets.
She hurts him when she pulls away(or glances at other guys). He hurts her when he is thoughtless and mean. But don’t tell them to get away from each other. After all, it’s True Love.

Friday, December 01, 2006


(News-Herald, November 30)Humans love to make stuff up. We spend about 80% of our lives making stuff up and then acting as if that made-up stuff is Really Important.
I’m not just talking about silly garbage that you can catch on cable channels like E or in magazines like People, where millions of people convince themselves that the color of Britney’s boots qualifies as Real Important.
We create objects, make up customs, invent a variety of activities that we invest with great amounts of time, care, and worry. I don’t think it’s simply a matter of distracting ourselves with stupid stuff like brand name t-shirts.
No, I think we humans have an interest in something larger, better, more infinite. I think we are repeatedly drawn to that 20% of life that is Something True, but we can’t quite figure out how to get there. So we make widgets.
We make widgets because we believe that the widgets, somehow, open up a door to what is real and true and important.
Sports are a widget, a big useless endeavor that has no deep and lasting value. Yet, somehow, in the middle of some of the strain and sweat, we can find something true about human strength and spirit and effort. Music is another widget, a pattern of sound that can beautiful and moving or cold, heartless plastic. We keep at that widget because there is something in it about beauty and humanity.
Money is a widget, a made-up construct that for some comes close to the truth because it opens a door on power and control. Even religion can be a widget, human beings’ made-up way to get closer to the truth of God.
We love our widgets; we each have our set of widgets that we think are most important, and our own deep-held beliefs about how those widgets should be groomed and cared for and preserved. Lots of us lose sight of the true thing that the widget is supposed to lead us to, and we become pre-occupied with the widget itself. We become devoted to the made-up foolishness that we humans do so well. Once upon a time this was called idolatry; nowadays we call it addiction or obsession or commitment.
Human history is filled with stupid widget arguments. Can a woman be a priest? Should a king be allowed to divorce? Should native Americans be allowed to run casinos? And what about that designated hitter?
There are times when events cut through the widget haze. After death or tragedy, people usually realize that a whole lot of things just aren’t important. Facing Really Bad stuff gives us great clarity, and we see the widgets for the artificial trivialities that they are.
But it never lasts. The clarity fades, the fog rolls in, and we get all excited about stupid stuff all over again.
It would be easy—and many have done it—to dismiss that 80% of human experience and activity, to say “It’s just a bunch of widgets. It’s stupid. I’m not going to pay attention at all.” And lots of people, many rather cynical and cranky, kick the table over and do so.
That’s where it gets tricky. Because behind every widget is a person who really believes in that widget. That person has invested some of their hearts and souls and spirit in the widget. The widget itself may well be stupid, fake, and artificial. It may be completely worthless. But the person who stands behind it is not.
Your three-year-old brings you a pie plate full of mud, announcing in a voice filled with pride and love that this is the world’s best apple pie. Now, you know a mud pie when you see one. But you take the pie, treat it like it’s made of gold, maybe even take a little muddy taste.
The pie has no value. It’s mud in a pie plate. But because that child has put heart and soul into it, you treat the pie with kindness and respect and love, because that’s how you want to treat the child.
Same thing with widgets.
Widgets are empty, hollow constructions, but we pour parts of our hearts and soul into that empty container, and it is impossible to smash the container without hurting the heart that some living person has poured into it.
So there is one of the great challenges of life—to not become so distracted and hoodwinked by the widgets that we waste our time on foolishness, and at the same time not to run roughshod over our fellow human beings. The greatest irony of all is that, sometimes, widgets, through no one’s intentions, are the best tool we have for touching each other.

From my Flickr