Thursday, April 28, 2016

OZZIE SILNA 1933 - 2016

Longtime Malibu resident Ozzie Silna has died at the age of 83.

Silna was given a Malibu Times Dolphin Award in 2002 for his extraordinary generosity. Silna was commonly thought to be the bankroll behind many political and social causes in Malibu. Some of the local causes he contributed to over the years include the Malibu Boys and Girls Club, Malibu High School, Webster Elementary School and Heal the Bay.

As treasurer of the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy, Silna was primarily responsible for the arranging the largest private donation that Malibu received toward the purchase of the Chili Cook-Off Site in 2005 — a $500,000 gift.

Silna is known for his involvement for what is routinely ranked as the greatest sports business deal of all time. In 1976, Silna and his brother Daniel were the owners of the St. Louis Spirits, a professional basketball franchise in the outlaw American Basketball Association (ABA). After years of competing with the dominant NBA for basketball fans, the ABA was folding, and the Spirits were not invited to join the NBA.

The brothers rejected the cash payment. Their lawyer, Donald Schupack, instead made a counteroffer. The four ABA teams joining the NBA — San Antonio, New Jersey, Denver and Indiana — would give the Silnas a one-time payout of $2.23 million. The Silnas would also receive one-seventh of each team’s national broadcast revenues in perpetuity.

The total intake of Ozzie and Daniel Silna from the deal was $300 million. They sold their rights back to the NBA in 2014 for an additional $500 million, making their total earnings $800 million.

I wrote about the Silna brothers here and here focusing on what was referred to above as the greatest sports business deal ever made.  By mere coincidence, I once had a chat with Ozzie, and he was a very unpretentious affable fellow.  We talked about the ABA and the fact that I actually had some Spirits of Saint Louis basketball cards.  One certainly would not suspect that he was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  RIP

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


I would wager that many of you have never heard of Slab City.  I was also unaware until very recently - our niece visited there and posted some pictures on Facebook. are some tidbits of information taken from here and here [nice pictures]:

Slab City, or The Slabs, is a free campsite and alternative living community located near an active bombing range in the desert city of Niland, California. Previously an old WWII base, Marine Barracks Camp Dunlap, the campsite earns its name for the concrete slabs that remained long after the military base had been bulldozed and abandoned.

 There are no rules or fees at the Slabs. The community enacts no laws, and has no running water, power lines, sewage service or trash pickup, giving the place a Mad Max post-apocalyptic look and feel. During the winter months, as many as several thousand campers – mostly elderly retirees – flock there for the warm desert weather and the lack of fees. These seasonal residents, known as "snowbirds," live in a variety of housing structures. Though most come to the area in their RVs, many also squat in abandoned structures such as old inoperative buses, driftwood shacks, abandoned water tanks, or any place that provides a little protection from the elements. A small population lives there year-round, braving the harsh summer months when temperatures can reach above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Our niece's review of Slab City:

Slab City is adjacent to the Salton Sea which is just a strange thing too- communities built and abandoned based on the behavior of the rivers feeding it. And Slab is an abandoned Naval base (technically toxic land) so people squat there for free. The winter season can bring as many as 2-3k and only about 200 stay all summer. Everything from ex cons, extremely poor retirees, dirty hippies, misfits. At the Saturday night social event, I had a fellow to my right, a rugged young man studying alternative living cultures in the US for his PhD in anthro-biology or something like that- and to my left, an older white woman who had been "livin' in cages" (prison) the past 7 years until she found heaven at Slab. 

I spent one night but jumped ship about 6 hours into the desert heat of day 2. I left my friend who wanted to tough it out. I just couldn't bring myself to actually crap in the hole out back. And then make food. And then lay around in the filth, which was the only agenda for the day. I found a cool motel room nearby and went back for a visit the next morning. 

There is no running water, but they've got their community system- one guy supplies water bottles and fills water tanks, (meanwhile "town" is literally 2 miles outside the borders of Slab but some folks just actually never go out into reality) another guy sells solar panels, (so even little shitty shacks made of nothing have solar panels on them), they have a library, two music venues, an Internet cafe, they hold weekly events and "feeds".... But let me paint it properly-  there is nothing "quaint" about it. They live in their own trash- I'm not trying to be demeaning- just giving you the raw truth, it's not cute. Its poverty, filth, unsanitary conditions and lawlessness like you've only seen in the 3rd world. And then there's art, everywhere.... 


There is a fenced off canal they say they bath in sometimes. I noticed police patrolling quite regularly and they said its because the canal is a through way for "illegals" coming up from Mexicali. Well... That AND in less than 24 hrs I saw 2 people get arrested and hauled off, (and thankfully the night I slept at the motel), someone set someone's camp on fire- a woman said it was a huge blaze with propane explosions and all. Apparently the community was fed up with him because he likes to shoot at cars that drive by his camp too fast and last week he unwittingly shot the leg of a woman who was hanging off the back of the truck. He aimed for tail lights and didn't see her. Anyway- he was taken to jail the night before we arrived and the community purged him while he was gone. Can't help but wonder what ensued when he came back to find his camp in ashes. 

Had I actually KNOWN the type of lawlessness and unsanitary conditions, I probably would not have gone. So I guess some things are better left a mystery. Reminded me that there are alternate realities all around us. 

Monday, April 18, 2016


Islamophobia is term that is thrown around a lot, with many folks claiming that being fearful of Islam is unjustified, biased, bigoted, and lots of other accusatory terms. But take a look at the data published by the Pew Foundation here, some of which are copied below. It seems to me that the data indicate there are justifiable reasons for being very wary of Islam. It also appears to be that the peaceful moderates are very much in the minority. A phobia is an unreasonable fear, but being aware and concerned about the negatives of any situation is not unreasonable. These data represent hundreds of millions of Muslims, and thus I find that using the term 'radical Islam' to describe a small minority is disingenuous. It would seem to me that moderate Islam is the minority position. In all fairness, I would also say the moderate Christianity is also a minority position. Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 7.41.25 AM

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Friday, April 15, 2016


Before getting started on the content of this post, read this disclaimer:

If you are a Snowflake or a member of the Perpetually Offended, you had best stop reading here.  This post contains some words and pictures that you would no doubt find disturbing which would likely lead to your whining.  So read and whine if you want, but your complaining will be ignored.

Second, I am using the term innate not to imply that there is an inborn or genetic component to racism, but rather that for many of us, we grew up embedded in a local culture that had a variety of racist components.  I will give some examples from my days growing up in New Paris, Indiana, an all-white, lower to middle class, Protestant community in which the minority group was the Catholics [who had to drive go Goshen to go to church].  When I share these stories with younger people or with folks who grew up in more diverse settings, we are all quite amazed at how these things were simply an accepted part of our lives.

I love black licorice and thus it did not seem odd that whenever I had a few extra cents, I would go to Reynolds/McMeekin's corner store and buy a few nigger babies.  Bald heads and big stomachs did not matter since it was the flavor that interested me. For a while, the candy was referred to as tar babies. Obviously these candies disappeared from the stores, but some folks claim that black licorice NIBS are simply a not-so-subtle reference to nigger babies.  Today, I satisfy my black licorice craving with licorice twists!

One of our favorite winter-time activities at the New Paris homestead was getting a large bag of mixed nuts still in the shell and spending time cracking and eating them.  The Brazil nuts were always the last to be cracked because they were so hard to get out of the shell.  For many years, I did not know that they were called Brazil nuts.

And speaking of Nigger Toes, I cannot tell you how many times we used this little ditty to chose sides:

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a nigger by the toe
If he hollers let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
My mother told me
To pick the very best one
And you are [not] it.

Thankfully the 'nigger' slowly gave way to 'tiger'.

For many years, New Paris High School put on Minstrel shows as a part of their theater productions.  This picture is fairly representative of the black face that was used and the stereotypical outfits.  One Halloween, my sister and I dressed up pretty much like this to go trick-or-treating.  Nobody mistook us for real black kids, particularly since there were none in New Paris and none were allowed to stay overnight in nearby Goshen, IN.
A View From Nigger Heaven

I am pretty sure that I had never heard this term until we went to a White Sox baseball game at the old Comiskey Park.  Our seats were way, way up toward the top of the stadium, and my dad told our companions "It looks like we will be sitting in nigger heaven."  I am not sure where he would have learned the term since there were no places around us the had balcony seating where the black people were supposed to sit.   In retrospect we were probably lucky not to get rightfully harassed by the many black people around us.

A fair number of people, including some folks from our church, had these in their front yards or gardens.  I never understood why in the world they had them since they served no functional purpose as far as I could tell.  No one had anything that would be suitable for hitching up to these things since they were generally smaller versions of the original hitching post.  I highly recommend the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia website and its informative articles such as this one on Lawn Jockeys.  

It seems as though black people bore the brunt of the racist comments and attitudes in New Paris, never being referred to as black, but as colored people, Negroes, darkies, spades, jigs, coons, jungle bunnies, spear-chuckers and Sambo  [There used to be a Sambo's Restaurant chain decorated with paintings depicting the story of Little Black Sambo].  However, I remember a few other terms that were less than edifying, referring to some of the local non-WASPS:  heebs, kikes, mackerel-snappers come to mind, and although not racist, I heard pinko commie cowards for us pacifist conscientious objectors.  Sadly racism still runs deep, if not as wide, in Elkhart County with Hispanics now also being the target for race-based comments.  Many folks cannot abide President Obama, and a couple of years ago I heard a local old-white-guy complain about "the niggers in the White House."  I have not seen the shirt below around town, but would wager that there are some.

So what's my point - I am not sure.  It is interesting to reflect on the fact that a town like New Paris, with the closest blacks living over 20 miles away, could have such negative attitudes.  Perhaps one of the reasons is that the main thing that they heard about blacks was always bad news - robberies, shootings, welfare cheats, etc.  My observation is that many locals who did not go off to college or to work elsewhere have continued this 'heritage' if you want to call it that.  Not all, to be sure, and the inverse is not necessarily the case either.  There are highly educated, wealthy whites who have basically the same attitudes that I witnessed 60 years ago.  However, I think that it is true that many New Parisians who went off to school or to live elsewhere somehow managed to become more accepting of "the other".   Am I free of racist thoughts and attitudes?  No - I do not think that anyone is.  But, the rubber hits the road on how we act or don't act on those thoughts.