A profile of the actor Ben Johnson

A profile of the actor, Ben Johnson, originally published in Arizona Highways Magazine

    In 1972, when Ben Johnson walked to the stage to accept an Academy Award for best supporting actor in The Last Picture Show, he carried with him a fairly predictable though unfinished speech which would at least have saved him the trouble of having to think in front of so many people. Johnson, a cowboy who had performed in numerous western movies filmed in Arizona, was in real life a lot like the people he usually portrayed, not particularly at ease in a big crowd.

    Hollywood critics later said Johnson stole the show that night by putting away his unfinished speech. He decided against reading it, he told the glittering assemblage, because “…the longer I worked on it, the phonier it got.” Then, holding his shining Oscar in his right hand, he declared, “What I’m about to say will start a controversy around the world:

“This couldn’t have happened to a nicer fellow!”

    Just a little quip, of course, but there are many who would agree in an instant. The circumstances that brought him his first Oscar show clearly why so many have found him not only “a nicer fellow” but a breath of fresh air in a world where garish pretentiousness is widespread.

    Johnson won the Oscar for his role as Sam the Lion, the philosophical owner of a pool hall in a dreary Texas town. The director, Peter Bogdanovich, sent Johnson a copy of the script and asked him to play the part of Sam.

    “It was the worst thing I ever read, ” Johnson said. “Every other word that I had was a dirty word, so I turned it down. I don’t do dirty movies and I don’t have to say four-letter words around women and kids to make myself a name.”

    At Bogdanovich’s request, John Ford, one of the pioneer directors in the film industry and the man who converted Johnson from a wrangler to an actor, called him back and asked him to take the role as a personal favor to him.

    “So,” Johnson recalled, “I said to Bogdanovich, Okay, I’ll do it if you let me rewrite my lines and get rid of all that dirty language. He agreed. I won an Oscar from the American Academy Awards, I won an English Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and The New York Film Critics Award and I didn’t have to say one dirty word.”

    Johnson, who lives in the Phoenix area a few blocks from his 95-year-old mother, has been working in movies as a stunt-man or actor, since the 1940’s. He never became a star, and it probably would have surprised him if he had. Johnson was, literally, a cowboy who got into pictures. If you see him as the young Trooper Tyree riding with John Wayne in the classic, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, or later in life as the sympathetic rural sheriff in Sugarland Express, it’s easy to get the impression he isn’t acting at all.

    Johnson made several movies with John Wayne and also spent time with him at his various cattle operations.

    “That’s how I know that John Wayne was an honest man. I watched a lot of deals being made, watched him doing swaps, and he was always honest. But, he could get pretty mad, too. If somebody tried to beat him out of something or act dishonestly, he’d get mad. I’ve seen him get into fights when he was pretty mad about something..”

    On the set, Wayne was an amiable co-worker, Johnson said.

    “I just returned from the Cannes Film Festival, and all these people over there were asking me about John Wayne and John Ford. I told them all the same thing. John Wayne was very professional, and a good fellow to work around. If you were willing to work he was easy to get along with.

    “With me, I was much better with horses than with acting, but watching John Wayne and watching Ford directing him made it easier for me. It’s a shame there aren’t more people around today like John Wayne. A lot of the younger people don’t even know what honesty means.”

    Johnson is at home in the culture of the West. Now 77 [in June, 1995], he continues to compete in rodeo events, and he still lights up a bit when he recalls that in 1953 he won the world championship in team roping.

    “That big silver buckle they gave me means more to me than that Oscar,” he said, though he acknowledged the Oscar had a much larger impact on his income than his rodeo award did.

    J.P.S. Brown, of Tucson, author of a forthcoming biography of Johnson, remarked, “You have to understand that Ben is a very humble person. He was a top hand meaning a cowboy who could handle anything that might come up on a ranch long before he ever became a movie actor. His father was a foreman for Chapman Barnard, a big rancher in Oklahoma who ran about 20,000 mother cows, an enormous operation, and Ben was unique in the movie business because he’d been working on a ranch as a cowboy since the time he was a little kid.”

    In fact, it was Johnson’s skill with horses that turned out to be his admission ticket to the movie business. The late Howard Hughes bought some horses from the ranch where Johnson’s father worked for use in a movie he was making in Monument Valley. He needed a wrangler to get the horses from Oklahoma to northern Arizona, and he hired Johnson.

    “He wanted me to get these horses from Oklahoma to Arizona and then take them on to Hollywood,” Johnson said. “I loaded them on a box car in Tulsa and took them by train to Flagstaff, where they had trucks meet me for the rest of the way to Monument Valley. You might say that’s how I got to Hollywood, in a carload of horses.” .

    Johnson’s ability with a horse and rope led to a warm friendship with Hughes.

    “That movie Hughes was making in Monument Valley, The Outlaws, had a scene where the government had rounded up something like 4,000 horses. Well, Hughes owned this palomino stud named Cherokee Charlie, which he also used in that movie. He had an enormous insurance policy on that horse, and he said to me, ‘When they start moving that herd, whatever you do, do not let Cherokee Charlie get into the middle of that bunch of horses.’ Well, of course, as soon as the herd starts to run, the first thing that palomino does is start running toward the bunch, so I took off after it and roped it real fast. I’d been doing that all my life, but it imprinted on Hughes’ mind so much that he became a pretty good friend of mine. He liked to come out and go riding with me all the time, and he’d roll up a hundred dollar bill and tuck it in my shirt pocket. I thought that was pretty good…”

    Johnson spent his first few years as a stunt-man and wrangler, doubling for such famous actors as John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Alan Ladd, and Joel McCrea.

    “You know,” he said, “when I left Oklahoma I wasn’t even sure which direction Hollywood was, but I could ride a horse pretty good. I had no formal education to speak of. I was a cowboy from the time I hit the ground. I knew if a cow weighed 1,000 pounds and bought $10 a hundred, I knew how much that was. But, I was fortunate because people accepted my character. I ran my life a certain way. I didn’t hobnob with the elites because I didn’t do drugs and I didn’t drink a lot of whiskey oh, I might take a drink now and then, but you know what I mean. I think I got a lot respect from people in the business because of my honesty. Honesty is like a good horse, you know it’ll work anyplace you hook it.”

    When Hughes hired him to bring the horses to Monument Valley, Johnson had been working as a cowboy for $40 a month. Hughes, already a multimillionaire in 1939, gave him $175 a week. “It didn’t take me long to figure out this was a good deal,” Johnson said.

    After working as a wrangler and stunt-man, Johnson got his first speaking part around 1943 in a movie called Red Riders. His role called for him to ride up on his horse, dismount and run into an office and declare, “I have a telegram for you from the United States Treasury Department.”

    He studied the line eight days and eight nights, he said, and then muffed it.

    “I messed up the shot about three times before I could remember my line.”

    Johnson never had any training as an actor.He was a classic case of on the job training.

    “I was doubling for people like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Joel McCrea, and I would watch the way they did things, but you know, I never really had a desire to be an actor. I always had something else to do I didn’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. I could always make a living working on a ranch or in a rodeo.”

    Johnson’s acting ability also benefited from exposure to some of the most talented directors of the last fifty years. After he left Howard Hughes, the legendary John Ford hired him as he was embarking on his series of epic cavalry movies in northern Arizona.

    “I worked with Ford, Steven Spielberg [He was in Sugarland Express, the first movie Spielberg directed], Peter Bogdanovich and Sam Pekinpah [In the classic western, The Wild Bunch], and I listened to what they had to say. That John Ford, I worked for him for six years. I mean, he was a mean old bastard, but if you listened to him, you could learn something. He was a real educator. The last words Ford ever said to me was, ‘Ben, don’t forget to stay real.’ I think that’s pretty good advice anywhere.”

    In 1953, Johnson took a year off from the movie business to compete full-time in rodeos.

    “My dad was a world champion three or four times, so I wanted to be. Fortunately I won the world championship in team roping, but at the end of the year I didn’t have $3. All I had was a wore-out automobile and a mad wife. But, you know, I am the only cowboy that ever won an Oscar in the movies and a world championship in rodeoing.”

    In later years Johnson started sponsoring the Ben Johnson Celebrity rodeos in major cities throughout the country, including Phoenix, to raise money for sick or deprived children.

    Johnson eventually had roles in approximately 300 movies, most of them westerns. At least a dozen of them were shot amid the specular buttes and mesas of Monument Valley or along the bottom of Canyon de Chelly in the heart of the Navajo Reservation, and some at Old Tucsona movie set destroyed by fire in 1995. Johnson remained obscure, however, until he was hired for a supporting role in Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 bloodfest, The Wild Bunch, starring William Holden.

    Peckinpah, who had a reputation as a wild man, was, in fact, a near lunatic, Johnson said.

    “The first time I met him was when he asked me to appear in Major Dundee [1965], with Charlton Heston. I went to his office to meet him, and I was sitting across the desk from Sam when a stunt-man comes in. Well, Sam abused him something terrible, yelling at him. He did it there, in front of me, and when the man walked out, I just said, ‘I can’t work for you.’ He said, ‘Why not?’

    “I says, ‘By God, if you did to me what you did to that man there, I’d hit you right in the damn nose and you’d run me out of the business, and I’m not ready to leave..’ ‘Well,’ he says, ‘I’m not that bad. I was just trying to scare him a little.'”

    Peckinpah evidently enjoyed scary encounters of any kind. As Johnson recalled:

    “Sam was a fatalist. He was a pretty talented guy, but he didn’t care much about life, and some of what he did, he didn’t care much about the outcome as long as the movie had blood and guts and thunder. He was pretty dingy. I saved his life about a dozen times, I guess. He’d start drinking whiskey and taking pills and he’d go crazy. He’d go into a bar, walk through the place and find the biggest guy there, and pick a fight with him. He was crazy.”

    Ben Johnson, on the other hand, was eminently sane, which is why, some say, he never became a super star.

    “Ben was a very good businessman and invested the money he made in movies very wisely, and in a way that was why he never learned to be a great actor,” a friend said. “He didn’t have to. The fact is he was doing so well that he didn’t need Hollywood, and his ego definitely didn’t need Hollywood either.”

    I asked Johnson about that statement before I left his home in Mesa.

    “Well,” he said, “I can’t handle phony people, and there are a lot of them in Hollywood. I’ve built my life around the principles of honesty, realism and respect, and if the people in Hollywood are so pumped up on themselves they can’t deal with that, I say the hell with ’em. I think I’ve won the respect of some people over there and I think I managed to stay real.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bosch Mania

Bosch, a series on Amazon Prime


Bosch Season 4 is a television series based on the novels of Michael Connelly. It’s a grossly overrated series and I’m going to tell you why, but first I think I should explain my name. It’s one of the first things people ask me about when we meet, and indeed it was one of the first things Mr. Negri brought up when I proposed that I write some reviews for his blogsite.

I was born in Indonesia and named after my grandfather, Mano. My father was so close to his father that when my mother suggested he express this affection by adding my grandfather’s name as my middle name, he thought it was a delightful idea, hence Mano Mano.

But enough of all that. This series, Bosch, revolves around the angst-ridden detective. Harry Bosch, an L.A. cop whose father named him after the 14th century Dutch painter, Hieronymus Bosch. That may have been the first of Harry’s problems, though many others were to follow.

The Bosch series consists of 10 episodes with enough digressions to keep the endgame obscured until the last chapter, when it wraps up with a barely believable explanation about money and political power. If you want to understand how all the digressions dovetail with the plot, take my advice and spend your time on something else. Most of them dangle and expire and serve only as vehicles for the stilted quasi-military jargon the script writers have assigned to the cops. Roger this. Copy that, and so forth. All the clipped jargon is interspersed with abbreviations for various departments. You may figure out that IA refers to Internal Affairs but with most of the others, you’re on your own. The script writers refuse to tell you what they’re talking about.

The spoken language was my biggest problem with this series, second only to the inevitable weariness of formulaic writing. Bosch the detective is well-acted by Titus Welliver, possibly the 500th detective who survived a dysfunctional childhood, screwed up his marriage, which ended in his getting divorced from a woman he still can’t forget, so enduring is his love. Naturally, this neurotic legacy is passed along to his adolescent daughter, an introvert who quietly struggles to understand her father’s world. Of course, there is always a hint that she will get sucked into the evolving violence.

This sort of thing has been done so many times that it rapidly becomes tedious. The viewers who have read or seen P.D. James’ books, or complex plots like Dorothy Sayers “The Nine Tailors,” or almost anything by Ruth Rendell, will find it difficult to endure the endless platitudes in Bosch, Season 4.

But let us not ignore some of the finer ingredients in this series. The acting is consistently excellent. The same can be said for the set designs and cinematography. But my favorite scene was the introductory footage that begins each episode, a collage of mirror images that slide into each other and disperse rapidly. The collage captures Los Angeles much better than any literal explanation of the place.

It could be that this is all Connelly hopes to achieve. He’s been writing the same story for many years but, for my money, has never been able to duplicate Lincoln Lawyer, which was turned into a movie in 2011. What is consistent throughout, however, is the corruption of Los Angeles, the money, the greed, the lust for power that is almost palpable, even on smog-strangled freeways.

Connolly’s novels are good escapist reading. They make a three hour flight go by quickly. You turn a page or two and can forget what you just read. On the screen, the opposite happens. We are constantly reminded of the implausibility of the plot and the impossibility of the cryptic dialogue.

On the plus side, you can get out of your chair for a bathroom break, leave the TV running, and never miss anything when you get back.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The tragic tale of Thomas Gates

The story behind the Gates Pass namesake

By Sam Negri

Approximately 7,000 people lived in Tucson in 1883. One of them, a saloonkeeper named Thomas Gates, achieved a degree of immortality when Gates Pass was named after him.

The Gates Pass scenic overlook, the route that Gates opened in the Tucson Mountains, provides unrivaled panoramic views of undulating hills of the Sonoran Desert densely covered with giant saguaros.

Gates Pass

Gates, a Canadian, came to Tucson from Los Angeles in 1874. He dabbled in mining, ranching and other businesses and was one of the founders of the Arizona Historical Society.

Among Gates’ assets was the Abbey Waterman Mine, located in the Waterman Mountains at the north end of Avra Valley in what eventually became Ironwood Forest National Monument. A report commissioned by the Territorial Legislature in 1882 noted that the mine “shows a body of carbonate ore nearly 10 feet wide. It is a fine smelting ore, and assays high in silver.” Patrick Hamilton, who wrote the report, declared, “This promises to become one of the most valuable discoveries in Pima County.”

The mine was an onerous 35 miles northwest of Gates’ home in Tucson at a time when the horse was the main mode of transportation. Gates more than likely would have ridden north along the Santa Cruz River and eventually west in the vicinity of today’s Avra Valley Road to get to his mine.

In 1883, he found a shorter route through the Tucson Mountains and spent $1,000 of his own money to clear and grade the road that is now Gates Pass Road, the western extremity of Speedway Boulevard. Historian William Ascarza estimated the route shortened Gates’ commute by eight miles.

In 1886, Gates was appointed superintendent of the Yuma Territorial Prison, a job that ended in tragedy. On Oct. 27, 1887, three inmates took Gates hostage during an escape attempt. One of them stabbed him in the neck and back with a butcher knife. He survived his injuries but was plagued with excruciating pain. Finding the pain unbearable, he committed suicide in Phoenix March 13, 1896, and was buried in Los Angeles. He was 63 years old.

In the early 1900s, Gates Pass and the federal lands that eventually became Tucson Mountain Park were open to mining and homesteading. By the time the Great Depression hit in 1929, Arizona’s economy was shifting away from mining and leaning more toward tourism.

C.B. Brown, who came to Tucson in 1920 to take a job as the Pima County agricultural agent, became the catalyst for getting the Tucson Mountains area withdrawn from mining. Mine owners and the thousands of tuberculosis victims sent to southern Arizona to soak up the healing properties of the desert’s dry heat dominated the area. At a time when it was hardly the norm, Brown urged local leaders to set aside large tracts so that future generations could enjoy the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

On April 11, 1929, just seven months before the stock market crash that plunged the nation into the Great Depression, 29,988 acres was withdrawn from mining and established, by a vote of the Board of Supervisors, as Tucson Mountain Park, which included Gates Pass. The park, which was expanded in recent years, was in 1929 the largest county park in the United States.

Then, as now, Gates Pass provided local residents and visitors a window from which to see the sweep of the desert landscape and to witness memorable sunsets. In 1933, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed buildings made from native stones to blend in with the surrounding terrain. They are indestructible and can still be seen at Gates Pass today.

The scenic overlook, managed by Pima County’s Department of Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation, was expanded and improved in 1999. Among other improvements, the parking area was enlarged, a lookout building was restored and a new restroom was built.  In 2005, the road over the pass was widened by 10 feet.

Those working on that project were influenced by the same ethic that governed the CCC crews. Brian Sager, a landscape architect who worked on the 2005 project, notes, “Great pains were taken to remain environmentally responsive.” When the road was widened, the west-facing rock face had to be excavated, which exposed raw stone.  A rock stain solution was applied to the raw stone to accelerate its aged and naturalistic appearance.

Joy Lyndes, of Coastal SAGE Landscape Architecture, said, “Our firm also conducted the environmental reviews for the project which included analysis of the existing biology, archaeology and visual resources and assessment. These studies helped to document the sensitive resources that we then addressed in the design, including the rock staining.”

Gates Pass today remains one of the most popular landmarks in the Tucson area, a magnet for nature lovers, hikers and photographers.

Posted in Arizona, C.B. Brown, History, Pima County, Thomas Gates, Tucson, Tucson Mountains, Yuma Territorial Prison | Leave a comment

Slow down in Arivaca

It still feels like 1850

Story and Photo by Sam Negri

Those of us who live in the Tucson area tend to think of Pima County as everything we can see on our daily trips around the urban area –– the Catalina Foothills, the suburbs of Oro Valley and Marana, and unincorporated communities like Green Valley, for example. Relatively few realize most of the county is rural, isolated, and tranquil compared to the busy county seat at Tucson, which encompasses approximately 1 million people.

You can get a good feel for what the “other” Pima County is like by taking a short drive to historic Arivaca, population 695. The village, roughly 55 miles southeast of Tucson, is one of the oldest settlements in Arizona.

Arivaca Road, which extends westward from I-19 at Amado to the village, was a dirt track until 1976, which may have contributed to the enclave’s Sleepy Hollow ambience.

Like much of southern Arizona before the first Europeans arrived, Pima and Tohono O’odham Indians originally populated Arivaca. In the 1700s, when Arizona was part of New Spain, Spaniards were attracted to Arivaca because of its water, grazing, and mining potential.

Arivaca scene

Agustín Ortiz, a member of a prominent Arizpe, Sonora, family who had moved to Tucson, was one of the earliest settlers. Ortiz applied for a land grant in 1812 at a time when Spain was auctioning lands in the nearly uninhabited regions of Arizona. Ortiz was the highest bidder with 747 pesos and three reales (reales were silver coins) for the land surrounding Arivaca. The typical size of these land grants for stock grazing was 17,350 acres.

Before and after the arrival of the Ortiz family, miners blanketed the mountains throughout the Arivaca region. Eventually there were more than 100 mines, most of them small operations, in the surrounding mountains. Gold, silver, lead, copper and tungsten production started in Spanish colonial times and continued intermittently through the 1950s.

One of the best known of these mines was the Cerro Colorado or Heintzelman Mine, named after Samuel P. Heintzelman, president of the Sonora Mining and Exploring Co. The mining company bought all of the Ortiz family’s mineral rights in 1856. Investors from the East, principally Samuel Colt, the Connecticut firearms inventor and manufacturer, financed its operations.

Silver from the Heintzelman Mine was processed at a smelter in Arivaca. The bullion was then hauled across the Mexican border, about 11 miles to the south of town, and transported to the port at Guaymas, Sonora, for shipment to San Francisco. One of the most engaging accounts of these mining operations in the Arivaca region can be found in Samuel Peter Heintzelman’s journal, much of which is included in Samuel Peter Heintzelman and the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company by Diane M.T. North (University of Arizona Press, 1980).

Arivaca village was always more or less where it is now, yet three different countries governed it. Once part of Spain, it became Mexican after Mexico won independence in 1821. It joined the United States with ratification of the Gadsden Purchase in 1854.

Today, people are drawn to Arivaca because of its great natural beauty and the presence of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

If you like fresh air, uncluttered natural landscapes and wildlife, you’ll enjoy a visit to Arivaca Ciénega, an easy one-hour drive southwest of Tucson. The ciénega is part of the Wildlife Refuge, which has its headquarters about 12 miles west of Arivaca at the edge of Sasabe.

A ciénega is a marshy or swampy area, a rare place to come upon in an arid climate like ours. This one has a flat trail that makes a loop slightly more than a mile long. Parts of it are on a raised boardwalk that will keep your feet dry on those rare occasions when the ground actually gets soggy.

There are seven springs feeding Arivaca Ciénega and while water isn’t always visible, the broad wild grasslands, willows, and towering cottonwoods nourished by the water can be seen year round.

There’s also an abundance of birdlife, everything from Vermilion Flycatchers to Great Blue Herons and a variety of hawks and owls, as well as muledeer. Wildlife viewing is so popular at the ciénega that the Arivaca branch of Pima County Library allows you to check out binoculars and bird books.  The library is one-eighth of a mile west of the entrance to the ciénega. It’s open all week except Sunday and Monday.

Getting to Arivaca Ciénega is simple. From the junction of Interstate 10 and Interstate 19 in Tucson, drive I-19 south for about 33 miles to Exit 48 at Amado.
take a right off the highway, turn right again at the “T” for about a block, and then turn left at Arivaca Road, which is adjacent to the Cow Palace restaurant.
Drive 22 miles and watch for the entrance and parking area for Arivaca Ciénega on the left. There are restrooms and picnic tables near the parking lot.

The village of Arivaca, where you’ll find gas, food and supplies, is just a quarter miles beyond the entrance to the ciénega. The altitude at Arivaca is about 3,600 feet and temperatures will likely be between five and 10 degrees cooler than Tucson.

Posted in Arivaca Cienega, Arizona, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, History | Leave a comment

Problems with a sleepy printer. . .

HP Printer Found Innocent – Router is Guilty

By Sam Negri

century link sam

Life is not simple. Despite what Apple wants us to believe, computers are not simple. And if you thought printers were among the simplest devices in the technology kingdom, you’re overly optimistic.

For nearly four years I’ve had an HP8600 all-in-one printer that worked fine. Until the day it it did not. Suddenly I found that once the printer entered Sleep Mode, it would no longer accept any print jobs.

The normal behavior for this and most other printers is that once you send another job to the device, the printer wakes up and prints. Not mine. Every time I tried, I’d see an error message saying the printer was not connected, which was nonsense. The front panel on the printer showed it clearly was connected. The only remedy, I discovered, was to power off the machine and then turn it back on. Then it would print until it went back to sleep.

I thought I could solve this problem by disabling Sleep Mode. But it turns out there is no way to disable Sleep Mode. Now what?

sam scratch head

Since the printer did not work properly with a wireless setup, I connected an Ethernet cable between it and the modem/router thinking certainly a hard-wired connection would make a difference. It did not. When the printer slept,  not even a sledgehammer would wake it up.

I searched the Internet and discovered numerous other HP customers were faced with the same issue. Nobody seemed to have a solution, though there was indeed a solution at hand. After spending weeks on the phone and communicating through email with a patient HP tech representative, HP announced it could not duplicate the issue and sent me a refurbished HP8620, the upgraded version of my 8600. But even that didn’t solve the problem.

sam hp

Finally, the HP rep said the problem was probably with my network, specifically with my router. In the last year I had switched Internet Service Providers. My modem, an Actiontec PK5001, came from Century Link, my local phone company, and is a combination modem and router. I had retired the Amped Wireless router I used to use with my previous ISP and put it in a cabinet. However, HP observed, “We did contact a person in R&D at your [Century Link] router manufacturer and they did confirm that there is no option to control multicast on the router, which we know can cause problems since the printer will not recognize the information being sent to it to initiate the job.”

I had no idea what “multicast” meant, but I was told the remedy was to disable the wireless portion of my Century Link modem, install a separate router, and run the printer cables through that. Fortunately, I still had my Amped Wireless router. I re-installed it, then went into the settings for the Century Link modem and disabled its Wireless Radio (which is a checkbox). Once all my Ethernet cables were connected to the Amped Wireless router, lo and behold, the HP printer started working normally.

actiontec sam

Call me masochistic, but I still wanted to know what this multicast business was all about. I turned to a computer engineer who used to run large scale networks at my former job. His explanation went like this:

“Multicast is a kind of one to many network communication. It differs from broadcast, which is addressed to everyone on the network, in that there are standard multicast groups that devices may listen to. In your case, the device probably sent out a multicast request to identify the physical address of the IP address of the printer so it could send a wakeup message. If the message (called an ARP message for Address Resolution Protocol) was not received because the multicast message was not propagated or responded to and the device didn’t know where to send the wakeup message, the printer won’t wake up.”

I know he meant well but this was still pretty arcane for an ordinary consumer. I really don’t know what it means. What I do know beyond a doubt is that months after switching to a separate router my printer continues to wake and sleep and run beautifully.

If you suspect you may have the same problem, check out this website. There you’ll find a list of routers and notes on whether they support multicast.

Posted in Computer frustrations, Tech Stories, Technologically challenged | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Gotta Have It Fantasy

By Sam Negri

In the mall where I sometimes shop, a very short distance separates the REI store from Victoria’s Secret. Most of the customers in the REI store are older people, my contemporaries, purchasing equipment for their outdoor fantasies. At Victoria’s Secret, the fantasy is different, but no less tenacious. Everybody is longing.

Lately, a lot of them are longing for Apple’s not yet released iWatch. When I saw the excitement among Apple fans, I was bewildered. If you own a smart phone, why do you need this item? Do you really need to monitor your fitness with a watch on your wrist? Will your cellphone not plink or buzz or ring when you have a text message, email or appointment reminder? I had already established that the iWatch was a marvelous novelty, but why do people buy it? I know several consumers who already say they’ll buy it even though they don’t know what it will cost.

Marketing people like to describe many products as “must have” and a lot of techno fans are looking at the iWatch that way. As far as I could make out from the advance hype, however, there is little in the way of practical value. That’s when I began to wonder what kind of fantasy would separate a consumer from his or her money. Something else was afoot and I think I found it walking between REI and Victoria’s Secret.

Fantasies are compelling, and marketing fantasies is evidently a huge business. Look at the curvaceous females appearing in Viagra ads on TV. No imagination necessary for that one. Take a pill and get naked. What could be easier?

Nothing, of course, until you start thinking about all the backpacking equipment and bicycle gear REI is selling to customers who wake up each morning stiff (in all the wrong places) from arthritis or burdened by fat and deteriorating joints. Or, what about those women in the tantalizing teddies who hopped into bed and discovered that Viagra isn’t a universal solution because the problem is not always blood flow?

Suppose that, after all is said and done, your partner finds you a cold fish, or maybe his body has quit producing testosterone and he’s the cold fish? Your two ounces of see-through polyester is now a useless purchase, just as the $200 hiking boots are for some of my fellow septuagenarians. You don’t need them if most of your wilderness experiences amount to rolling the garbage barrel down to the curb once a week.

The most enduring fantasy is that you can kill death. As one of my friends put it, “Massive amounts are being spent selling products that will make you live longer, hump longer and let you check your Facebook pages at the same time.”

If we look at the billions spent each year on unproven health supplements, we can say that the world of fantasies is a wonderful business model for the desperate, uncritical consumer.

Are all of these people dumb? Is it an education issue? How ignorant do you have to be to fall for all the supplement nonsense? I once stayed overnight in a townhouse owned by two lawyers, husband and wife each earning millions a year. In the medicine cabinet I discovered every nonsense cure from Echinacea to “cure” the common cold to capsules allegedly filled with fish oil to strengthen bones and joints.

I don’t think the snake oil appeal has anything to do with education. It has more to do with a fear of death and the fantastic belief that we can all remain vibrant, virile and healthy well into old age.

And maybe, after we spend enough money monitoring our fitness on a wrist watch, we will actually live forever, just like email. But I wouldn’t count on it. Remember, all hard drives die eventually.

Posted in Fantasies, Marketing | 3 Comments

The pastel desert

Saguaro Natl Park looking West


Saguaro Monument West, looking west.

Image | Posted on by | 4 Comments