Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Rerun: Way back when

We use the term "Neanderthal" to disparage a brute, a boor, an unsophisticated knave.  "Oh, he's just a Neanderthal!" we exclaim as a guy races by us in his jacked-up pickup, throwing beer cans and caution out the window.  "Irv wouldn't stop and pick up dinner for Grace on his way home; what can you expect from a Neanderthal like him?" we say.

What do we really know of Neanderthal man?

We know his brain was bigger than ours, which has to mean something! And for another thing, he was European, and today we associate that with grace and élan.  To us, a European drives a race car, drinks the finest brandy, wears a beret, says witty things while eating tidbits of cheese and sipping champagne.  Or she's a slinky fashion model or actress walking a pet ocelot along the beach at Cannes. 

To be technical about it, these folks are known as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis,  and they paraded around from about 100,000–40,000 BC, at which time they were replaced by the Eurasian early modern humans known as Cro-Magnon man, although it is widely felt that a small contingent of Neanderthals still live in the Oakland, California area (photo left).

There are small hints here and there in the research into Neanderthals that lead one to believe that these people were maybe a couple pineapples short of a luau.  For one thing, we have uncovered their primitive cell phones, and they apparently knew nothing of taking selfies, their playlists were redundant, relying heavily on the throbbing disco sounds of the 45,000 BCs, and they could not for the life of them figure out how to add new names to their contact list, so everyone, to them, was "Ogg." 

Neanderthal skull, still waiting
to be seen in a Neanderthal HMO.
And there was this: The very name "Neanderthal" was first proposed for forerunners of us brainy Homo sapiensby the Anglo-Irish geologist William King in 1864, and it's a good thing he came up with the idea to name them after a German river valley, because two years later, one Ernst Haeckel proposed calling them Homo stupidus.

And that would be hard to live 

Sunday Rerun: Way Back When

We use the term "Neanderthal" to disparage a brute, a boor, an unsophisticated knave.  "Oh, he's just a Neanderthal!" we exclaim as a guy races by us in his jacked-up pickup, throwing beer cans and caution out the window.  "Irv wouldn't stop and pick up dinner for Grace on his way home; what can you expect from a Neanderthal like him?" we say.

What do we really know of Neanderthal man?

We know his brain was bigger than ours, which has to mean something! And for another thing, he was European, and today we associate that with grace and élan.  To us, a European drives a race car, drinks the finest brandy, wears a beret, says witty things while eating tidbits of cheese and sipping champagne.  Or she's a slinky fashion model or actress walking a pet ocelot along the beach at Cannes. 

To be technical about it, these folks are known as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis,  and they paraded around from about 100,000–40,000 BC, at which time they were replaced by the Eurasian early modern humans known as Cro-Magnon man, although it is widely felt that a small contingent of Neanderthals still live in the Oakland, California area (photo left).

There are small hints here and there in the research into Neanderthals that lead one to believe that these people were maybe a couple pineapples short of a luau.  For one thing, we have uncovered their primitive cell phones, and they apparently knew nothing of taking selfies, their playlists were redundant, relying heavily on the throbbing disco sounds of the 45,000 BCs, and they could not for the life of them figure out how to add new names to their contact list, so everyone, to them, was "Ogg." 

Neanderthal skull, still waiting
to be seen in a Neanderthal HMO.
And there was this: The very name "Neanderthal" was first proposed for forerunners of us brainy Homo sapiensby the Anglo-Irish geologist William King in 1864, and it's a good thing he came up with the idea to name them after a German river valley, because two years later, one Ernst Haeckel proposed calling them Homo stupidus.

And that would be hard to live with!

Sunday Rerun: Way Back When

We use the term "Neanderthal" to disparage a brute, a boor, an unsophisticated knave.  "Oh, he's just a Neanderthal!" we exclaim as a guy races by us in his jacked-up pickup, throwing beer cans and caution out the window.  "Irv wouldn't stop and pick up dinner for Grace on his way home; what can you expect from a Neanderthal like him?" we say.

What do we really know of Neanderthal man?

We know his brain was bigger than ours, which has to mean something! And for another thing, he was European, and today we associate that with grace and élan.  To us, a European drives a race car, drinks the finest brandy, wears a beret, says witty things while eating tidbits of cheese and sipping champagne.  Or she's a slinky fashion model or actress walking a pet ocelot along the beach at Cannes. 

To be technical about it, these folks are known as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis,  and they paraded around from about 100,000–40,000 BC, at which time they were replaced by the Eurasian early modern humans known as Cro-Magnon man, although it is widely felt that a small contingent of Neanderthals still live in the Oakland, California area (photo left).

There are small hints here and there in the research into Neanderthals that lead one to believe that these people were maybe a couple pineapples short of a luau.  For one thing, we have uncovered their primitive cell phones, and they apparently knew nothing of taking selfies, their playlists were redundant, relying heavily on the throbbing disco sounds of the 45,000 BCs, and they could not for the life of them figure out how to add new names to their contact list, so everyone, to them, was "Ogg." 

Neanderthal skull, still waiting
to be seen in a Neanderthal HMO.
And there was this: The very name "Neanderthal" was first proposed for forerunners of us brainy Homo sapiensby the Anglo-Irish geologist William King in 1864, and it's a good thing he came up with the idea to name them after a German river valley, because two years later, one Ernst Haeckel proposed calling them Homo stupidus.

And that would be hard to live with!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, July 23, 2016

It happens in Manhattan every July, when the setting sun lines up perfectly with the grid pattern of Gotham's mighty avenues.  It's like Stonehenge, except that we know where the buildings came from.
Sure, this LOOKS like a safe place to set up camp, but...
You make your stew and then you cook some rice and you make little stewmen by sticky-ing up the rice balls with wet corn starch. Food should be fun!
Speaking of which...behold the classic Baltimore Crab Fluff...a crabcake dipped in batter and deep fried in oil.  Don't even ask if it's any good.
Early morning cattin' around!
Chrysler says Lee Iacocca invented the minivan in the 1980s, but here is the 1955 GMC Universelle, a prototype smaller version of what they used to call a panel truck. It was only 30 years ahead of its time.
And of course, it's a panoramic view of the Milky Way from the skies over New Brunswick, Canada.
People often ask why I am reluctant to get aboard their boat, ship, skiff or kayak.  From here on out, I can just show them this picture.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Bowieball

The city of Bowie, MD, is our fifth-largest city in population (after Baltimore, Frederick, Rockville and Gaithersburg, but ahead of Accident, Chevy Chase, Indian Head, Accident and Boring) and there used to be a horserace track there, with a lake in the middle of the track.  And one day in 1955, people who came to the track were surprised to find a cabin cruiser afloat in the lake.  And no one knows why.

In 1961, a train carrying bettors from Philadelphia went off the train tracks near the race track, killing six and injuring over 200. Survivors - some of them among the injured - were seen climbing out of the wreckage to clamber down to the racecourse to get their bets in.  And no one knows why.

Speaking of things we don't know, no one knows why the town name is pronounced "Boo-ie" (as in Baba Booey) and the name of the late great performer David Bowie was "Boh-ee" like a bow tie. 

But now the two are coming together in one magnificent night of minor league baseball and rock.  And roll.

Tonight, the Bowie Baysox (the Baltimore Orioles's AA league team) are hosting a David Bowie Tribute Event at Prince George's Stadium at 7:05 p.m.

Besides the ballgame against Erie, there will be Bowie music, contests and tributes all evening long. 

The Baysox will wear special David Bowie-themed jerseys, and after they are finished getting them all sweaty wearing them, the uniform shirts will be auctioned off, the proceeds to benefit Feeding America.  

I'm hoping that when a manager comes to the mound to relieve a struggling pitcher, the stadium will rock to "Changes," and that they'll play "Let's Dance" when some slugger slugs a homer and sashays down to home plate.

Sounds like fun, even if you don't like baseball.  Tonight, you will see at least one future big league star as the team salutes a former star whose light will always shine.



Thursday, July 21, 2016

"B" is for Bongo

How long has it been since you saw someone playing a set of bongo drums?

Just asking rhetorically, because many of us have never seen the sight of someone beating the hell out of a pair of little drums from Cuba (by way of Africa) held between the knees.

Drum historians, of which there are not too many, trace the bongos back to late 19th-century Cuba, where the influence of African music was added to the local flavors by recent immigrants from Central Africa.  The little drums became a part of various Cuban musical forms such as nengón, changüí, and son

By the 20th century, Havana became a tourist destination and Americans who had visited the Cuban capital brought the music home with them.  Sometimes, travelers even brought souvenir bongos home with them, handing them to the kids when they got home ("Lookit! I broughtja somethin'!") just before the kids went up to their room and mastered the hand drum technique in a matter of days, if not weeks.  



James Dean, man.
And it became the instrument of choice for guys like James Dean and Marlon Brando to bring to parties in the 1950s to sit around and brood over. Like the bagpipes, it takes no musical training to play them as amateurs.

Marlon Brando, man.
I suppose the heyday of the bongos came in the 1950s, when it became illegal to have a beatnik hootenanny (a gathering of Bohemians where coffee flowed and authentic folk songs about horses named Stewball were sung by bearded young men, and when they were finished, everyone snapped their fingers instead of applauding) without someone whaling away on a set.  There was a hit record called "Bongo Rock" by Preston Epps, but his efforts at a followup hit floundered, with tunes such as "Bongo in the Congo", "Bongo Rocket", "Bootlace Bongo", "Bongo Boogie", "Flamenco Bongo", "Mr. Bongo", and "Bongo Shuffle" all being soundly rejected by an increasingly discerning audience.

A group called The Incredible Bongo Band did a new version of "Bongo Rock" in 1973, and I facetiously mentioned the other day to a good friend that it was the recessional music at our wedding that winter.  No, it was not, but one main reason why Peggy still puts up with me, almost 43 years later, is that I never owned or played a pair of bongos in our home.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Read a book instead!

I like food and I like buying food and so I go to the supermarket a couple of times per week.  I always get a laugh out of the Enquirer and the other trashy tabloids that sit by the checkout counter like ants at a picnic.  

The headlines on these fishwraps tend to be of three sorts:



  • Some actor or actress is caught in either a "dope den" or a "love nest" with a person who is not their spouse
  • Some star you haven't seen since Carter was president is now in his or her "brave final days," and there is a picture of that person in which they bear a great resemblance to The Crypt Keeper, or Don Imus
  • "Jennifer Aniston: Pregnant at last!"
The fascination that America has with Jennifer Aniston is hard to figure out.  She played Rachel Green on "Friends," which I watched about 4 times before I couldn't take David Schwimmer anymore. But plenty of people watched that show the whole time it was on, and continue to watch it in reruns when they could just as easily be watching something funny.

And people were thrilled when she married Brad Pitt, and broken-hearted when they broke up.  Why the marriage of two actors matters to some people is something I can't explain.  

I have seen Jennifer in a few movies..."We're The Millers" and "Horrible Bosses" (and "Horrible Bosses II") and she is a good actor in light comedies like that, and let's face it, I'm not looking for her to play Desdemona in "Othello," or to play the board game Othello with someone named Desdemona.  Light comedy suits me fine.  I can enjoy her as a crazed dentist and move along, never once stopping to think about whether or not she is having a baby, wants to have a baby, can't have a baby, whatever.  Why would I care about that?

She has not had too much to say about all this, but Ms Aniston did write a piece for the Huffington Post the other day in which she says, "For the record, I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up. I'm fed up with the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of 'journalism,' the 'First Amendment' and 'celebrity news.'

It's worth your time to read, even if doesn't make you think twice about spending your hard-earned money (or your hard-earned time) on these dumb papers.  Read these words instead, and think about what she is trying to get us all to understand:

"We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies...We don't need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own 'happily ever after' for ourselves."

I'd be happy ever after if there were less public interest in matters like the private lives of actors.  But that's just me...


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Oh really? No. O'Reilly.

Image result for bill oreilly
Bill measures up
Bill O'Reilly, FOX news bloviator, was interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning the other Sunday morning, and he made the interesting point that he was born without the gene that makes some people need to be liked.  O'Reilly says he has no need to have people like him, which, in his case, is a very good attribute.  Pomposity and arrogance serve him well, and who would want to compete with him for how much he likes himself?  No one could top him at that.

Anyway, let him be.  His statement got me to thinking about the need to be liked.  I believe that a person of healthy mind (and I do know some!) has a certain need for this.  The goal should be to avoid letting the need for acceptance and praise occupy too much space in our noggins.  I mean, I need all the room I can find up there for phone numbers, dates of upcoming doctor visits, and directions for restoring audio to the TV in the living room.


“Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

So I found online a list of ten reasons why we shouldn't care what others think of us, and I really really truly hope that everyone will like it and embrace the ten reasons in the very core of our souls:


1. It’s Not Their Life, So It’s None Of Their Business

Unless they're going to come fix your tire or tutor you in English, they haven't got a nickel in it, so do what you gotta do.

2. They Don’t Know What’s Best For You

Making decisions about your life requires having all the information.  Someone might decide to make you a pistachio/tapioca cake, not knowing of your rare but deadly pistachio and tapioca allergies.

3. What’s Right For Someone Else May Be Completely Wrong For You
Same deal, but don't let that pistachio/tapioca dessert go to waste. Send it to me at once, please, so it can go to waist.

4. It Will Keep You From Your Dreams
You're the only one who knows about your lifelong desire to be an extra in a Tom Cruise movie crowd scene, and you're also the only one who should.

5. You’re The One Stuck With The End Result

"Success has many parents," said a wise man, "but failure is an orphan." And do you know who that wise man was?  Or who his parents were?  Neither do I.

6. People’s Thoughts Change On A Regular Basis

Look back at your high school yearbook to see that stonewashed jeans and big big hair, once thought to be the best way to look, are no longer cool except for Retro Night at the pool.

7. Life Is Simply Too Short
I'm no psychiatrist, but this is one item on the list I would question.  I'm not sure that it's good to remind a worried person that all their worries might come to an end in the next few hours.

8. You Reap What You Sow
So don't fear the reaper.

9. Others Don’t Care As Much As You Think
While you fret about what Jimmy and Kenny and Mabel and Doris are thinking about you, it turns out, they aren't.

10. The Hard Truth: It’s Impossible To Please Everybody
The great Rick Nelson taught us that "you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."  I see no reason to dispute this.

Now get on out there and like yourself as much as I like you!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Phi Beta Whatsis

I might have to quit watching the morning news and just stick with reruns of "That 70s Show."

Beside the daily cavalcade of floods, fires and hyperloquacious politicians, I keep seeing examples of people who are supposed to be at the top of their professions, by dint of their superior brainpower, demonstrating that they really aren't much smarter than Baba Booey.

The people who run cruise ships. You would assume they are far above the norm, but a little 8-year-old boy died on July 11 after falling into a pool, found unconscious in that swimming pool aboard the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas cruise ship, not long after the ship took off.

The Anthem of the Seas has 1,500 employees aboard, none of whom are lifeguards.

The people who thought it would be a good idea to come up with a car that drives itself. They were the big shots in the Science Club in high school, you may be certain, but in a country where 92 Americans die EVERY DAY in traffic accidents (33,580 meet the reaper on the highway per average year) in vehicles where, supposedly, sane sober people are driving and controlling the cars, trucks and I don't know what-all else, how can it be a good idea to have cars running around that don't need driver participation? (They call them "autonomous" cars.) A former Navy seal was driving a Tesla car on autopilot in Florida. A semi turned left in front of him, but the car failed to notice this event because the sun was shining and the truck was white. Uh huh.



I humbly suggest that a nation that has secretaries of defense and homeland security and housing and agriculture and so many chiefs and underassistant deputy HMFICs could use a person appointed to be secretary of good sense. This person could just go around and say, "If you have an accessible pool, you need a lifeguard on duty, or put up a fence!" and "Stop telling people they don't need to pay any attention while their cars are in motion! If you're going to drive, then drive, doggone it!"
 And of course, wear your seat belt.