Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Rerun: The best things really ARE free!

I don't think that a lot of other cities have something like we have in's called Sherwood Gardens, a free park that really is like the old shampoo claimed to be: a garden of earthly delights.

It's in the Guilford section of town, near Johns Hopkins University and the high-tone homes on North Charles Street. This is where the old money lives in Baltimore, friends, and the people are generous with nature's bounty.

A.S. Abell, who founded the Baltimore Sun newspaper, originally owned the property where the gardens bloom.  In his day, that part of the  
acreage was the location of a pond on his large estate, but as the property was sold off in lots with the plan to build houses (very large houses!) six acres, formerly the pond, were filled in with earth, for planting pretty things. 

Enter John W. Sherwood, the chairman of the Sinclair Oil Company, who first planted tulips imported from Holland in the 1920s. Interesting local connection: Sherwood's father was the president of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, a passenger ship line nicknamed the "Old Bay Line." Their ships took passengers down the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, Virginia. Our beloved local Old Bay crab and seafood seasoning was named for those boats. 

It was Sherwood's idea to have the public come down and stroll around the grounds, enjoying the amazing sights and smells.  When he died in 1965, he bequeathed enough money to the community to maintain the Gardens for a year.  Ever since, the Guilford Association has assumed the costs of keeping the Gardens pleasant for all and free for all.  There are no gates or entrances of any sort.

Today, Sherwood Gardens still flourishes.  There are 80,000 tulip bulbs and other spring flowering bulbs planted annually. Shade trees such as dogwoods, flowering cherries, wisteria and magnolias just happen to blossom all over at around the same time at the ground plants...including the beautifully colored azaleas.  They say that some of these plants date back to the 18th century and were brought up from old colonial estates in Southern Maryland.  

On the other hand, each of those 80,000 tulip bulbs is planted every single year. Locals are allowed to come down and dig up bulbs after the season ends.

Peggy and I try to get down there every year in late April or early May.  I recommend going on a weekday if you like to avoid the big crowds. People saunter along, enthralled by the sights. Frisbees fly, dogs on leashes gambol about, kids bring juice boxes and snacks, but you won't see discarded litter...just happy people having a free day enjoying nature.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, April 29, 2017

Here it is: the tallest bridge in the world! It's the Millau bridge, which is in France on the road from Paris to Beziers, which they say is a town full of the best and brightest over there. 
You have to give it to nature.  It would be one thing if there were one perfect bluebell, but there are billions and billions of them!
This was recently found in an archeological dig in Turkey. They say it's 13,000 years old, and meanwhile, some people say the world is only 6,000 years old. I've got socks older than that. It seems to depict ancient people playing baseball or volleyball.
Here we see a seal protecting a penguin, but we don't know from what.
In the US during World War II, people were encouraged to plant "Victory Gardens," because so much of the food supply went to the war effort. This is a poster advocating the same self-sufficiency in Great Britain during those dark years.
The mating ritual of the Great Crested Grebe, shown here, involves the male bring the female a clump of seagrass for a snack or a decoration.  The Not-So-Great Crested Grebe shows up empty handed.
I want an Uncle Fester nightlight for Christmas, please.

I know that Clear Lake is in Minnesota, but this is a REALLY clear lake in Montana!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bob on this

It was just the other night that Peggy was reading a book that contained the phrase "Bob's your uncle."  

I had an Uncle Barrett, and his daughter married a guy named Bob, and that's as close as I can get to that phrase.  And you know what? I had heard it before, from an English friend on Facebook. 

I had to look it up, as it's not part of my everyday lexicon. People use those words to mean "and there it is" or "and there you have it" and the one that Mitch uses on "Modern Family" all the time..."There it is."  

From what Wikipedia says, "Bob's your uncle" is the thing to say when you've finally figured out how to assemble the grill you just dragged home from Lowes, or when you get your vacation trip to the Gilligan Islands all set for next winter. 

Paul's his grandson!
Something about it doesn't make perfect sense, to be Frank about it. As in, you get off the phone with the reservation clerk from the Step Back Inn, and proudly say to your significant other, when asked if everything is all set, "Bob's your uncle!"

You might get that look we've all seen.

Wikipedia also says that the British sometimes append "And Nellie's your aunt!" or say, "And Bob's your mother's brother!" just to change things up a bit.

Apparently, every other English speaker in the world gets the humor of all this.  I don't see it.  But that happens all the time, doesn't it? I have a joke about a hitchhiker that just floors me every time I tell it.

It seems to floor everyone else too.  At least, that's what they stare at when I get the punch line out.

And my parents had a friend whose last name was "Bacon." Everyone called him "Ham" as a first name. The very mention of a man named Ham Bacon would reduce me to paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter every single time, and my parents would look at me in knitted-brow disbelief, wondering what was so daggone funny.  

They say the expression dates back to the 19th Century in England, when an unpopular prime minister named Bob appointed his nephew to a sinecure government position, and the easy explanation was that "Bob's his uncle!"

Here in Maryland, we would say that "(name of crooked manipulator) is your neighbor or he belonged to the same political club or he was Agnew's bagman...".

So I'm happy that I figured all this out! Maybe someday I will run for office, after changing my name legally to "Bob Shurrunkle."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

State of Gracie

As always, The Simpsons presaged this years ago, in the 1993 episode "Marge On The Lam," when Homer, reaching up inside a soda vending machine gets his hand caught:

Repairman 1#: Homer, there's no easy way to tell you this: I'm afraid I'm gonna have to saw your arms off.
Homer: They'll grow back, right?
Repairman 1#: Oh... yeah.
[He cranks up the rotary saw and moves it toward Homer's arm...]
Repairman 2#: Wait a minute. Homer, are you just holding on to the can?
Homer: Your point being...?

Gracie Henderson of New Caney, Texas, had her Homer moment the other day. It was not her best day by any means, as she moved into a new house.

"A water pipe busted (sic) in the wall the day I moved in. I got my car stuck in the mud in the front yard. My brand new lawn mower stopped working," was how she described her mishaps to the Houston Chronicle.

With all that happening, the last thing she needed was for the toilet to clog up.

So, of course, the toilet clogged up, and, not having a plunger, she decided to take the old advice that one can always find a helping hand, right at the end of one's left arm.

In she plunged, right up to her watch, and then the watch got stuck in the commode. And since she couldn't very well reach in with her other hand to remove the watch, she was stuck.

But, she works as a paramedic, and so she reasoned, "It’s not really stuck, I’m not really about to call 911 for this. We’ve done all kinds of crazy stuff [as medics], but I have never done a hand- stuck-in-the-toilet call," she told "Inside Edition."

Guess what! Someone really did call 911 for her, and EMS came out to the house. They removed the toilet from the floor, carried it and her outside, and smashed the American Standard to American Smithereens with a sledgehammer, while Gracie writhed in mortification.

Good thing she had a free hand to cover
her embarrassment
She got a new toilet installed, and the "Inside Edition" people gave her the gift of a plunger, and she is all happy now, and would give you this advice, I'm sure:

Before you attempt to do anything this silly, stop and ask yourself, "Is there a chance I could wind up on one of those goofy Inside Access shows that come on at 7:30 by doing this?"

If there is, don't do it. There are much better ways to meet Deborah Norville.

A Texas woman took the plunge into viral infamy when she got her hand stuck in a toilet.

Gracie Henderson was having a tough time with the move into her new home in New Caney.

Then she got the royal flush of misery on April 12 when her toilet clogged and she didn’t have a plunger. Henderson thought she might be able to fix the clogged commode by sticking her hand into the pot.

Instead, she got herself into a real shitstorm when her watch got stuck and, by extension, the hand it was on, according to KHOU-TV.

Henderson was flushed with embarrassment because she works as a medic and knew how ridiculous her call was going to sound to other first responders.

Emergency Medical Services came to Henderson’s home to “rescue” her. The operation required removing the toilet from the bathroom, carrying it outside with her hand still in it and then breaking it open with a sledgehammer, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“My son was mortified when all the EMS and fire showed up!!!” Henderson told the paper.

Henderson now needs a new toilet for the home, but she already has something that is almost as important: a new plunger, donated to her by “Inside Edition.”

“This is my best friend from now on,” she told the show.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cohen down a bumpy road

Even before Brian Williams of NBC News got in all that trouble for claiming to have been in the thick of a battle in a helicopter landing, I always thought he was trying juuuuuuust a bit too hard to come off as momentous... ponderous...memorable.

Such as...the night of the Virginia Tech shootings ten years ago, when he opened his newscast by saying, "You will always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news of this mass attack on a college campus..."

Well, no, and not because that was not an awful event, but because it occurred in what has become a whirling vortex of terrorist attacks across the nation, it really does not achieve singularity in our memory. Can you name the killer, or how many people died there? Chances are, you can't, and that is a shame, because the killer deserves infamy and the departed deserve our honor, but they were just more people in the morbid montage of America Today.

And now that B-Dub has been demoted to the minor leagues of MSNBC, forced to do a late-night newsreel review, he seems to be itching for a chance to knock one out of the park. So recently, when the USA sent missiles to ruin a Syrian military airfield in response to unspeakable acts Syria did to their own people, killing 70 in a chemical attack, Williams took official Pentagon footage of the American bombs bursting in air and got all rockets'-red-glare about it, quoting "the great" Leonard Cohen, of all people, calling
the bombing "beautiful."

The footage showed Tomahawk missiles sent from Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, lighting the decks and the night sky as they homed in.

I'm willing to admit the possibility that Williams may have been nonplussed at the sight of war live on late evening television, and maybe that's why he used the word "beautiful" to describe it.

"We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: 'I am guided by the beauty of our weapons,'" he opined.

"They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield," he added before asking a guest, "What did they hit?"

The song he was taking the quote from is "First We Take Manhattan." one of Cohen’s best-known tracks. The verse says:

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

The late Leonard Cohen said this song is a "terrorist song,"
and when the song came out in 1988, he actually said he admired certain types of extremism:

There’s something about terrorism that I’ve always admired. The fact that there are no alibis or no compromises. That position is always very attractive. I don’t like it when it’s manifested on the physical plane — I don’t really enjoy the terrorist activities — but Psychic Terrorism. I remember there was a great poem by Irving Layton that I once read, I’ll give you a paraphrase of it. It was 'well, you guys blow up an occasional airline and kill a few children here and there', he says. 'But our terrorists, Jesus, Freud, Marx, Einstein. The whole world is still quaking.'
I believe that all Americans are entitled to free speech, and that the above is a perfect example of why some Americans should keep that entitlement folded up and unused. And of course, Brian Williams, who used to enchant audiences of late-night talk shows with his casual hip relevance...maybe someday, he will find someone not so Leonard Cohen-ish to quote.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017


There is a rap performer who suffered a certain loss of "street cred" when it was revealed that he had worked as a jail guard years before putting down the metal detector for a microphone.

And of course there was a guy on Faxe News who claimed to be a former CIA agent...and another one who claimed to be an expert on Sweden...all fakes.

But millions of people listen to the radio show, and watch YouTube videos, of this Alex Jones, a Texan who claims that the children who were shot to death by another crazy guy in Newtown were not really children who were shot to death, but actors.

And of course, Jones said that 9/11 was fake news ("controlled demolition"), that it was all an inside job. There are some among us who dwell in the shadowy world where reality blurs with mental disorders, and they use the term "false flag operation" to categorize things they do not wish to accept as fact. The list goes on and on with these people: the former president of the United States was an Al Qaeda terrorist born in Kenya, and was responsible for a series of tornadoes in Oklahoma, mass shootings are staged to give the government a reason to go door-to-door confiscating guns, and dozens of nations are headed for financial collapse. Oh, and the government is rounding us all up into FEMA camps. And controlling the weather.

That sort of thing.

Well, Jones makes a lot of money selling crazy, And he is one of those people who bellow and caterwaul and howl and yelp and yowl when they speak. There's a lot of that going around lately.

So maybe it was no big surprise that Jones's wife had enough of his bombast and filed for divorce several years back. Kelly Jones - his ex - and her lawyers are trying to get custody of the couple's children, and attempting to paint him as an unsuitable parent.

But the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, down there Deep In The Heart Of, says, "At a recent pretrial hearing, attorney Randall Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo that using his client Jones’ on-air Infowars persona to evaluate Alex Jones as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in 'Batman.' "

So there it is. Watch him expound on his theories and judge for yourself. His own lawyer said this is all make believe, he's only playing a character, and we shouldn't take all this seriously.

Or maybe it is all true, and he's an actor.

Watch for Kevin James to play him if they really ever make a movie about this nonsense.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Half a loaf

I'm going to talk about the vice president of the United States of America here. 

Mike Pence, a man who proposed to his wife Karen by hollowing out the two halves of a loaf of bread, hiding a bottle of champagne in one and a ring box in the other (she was prepared for this magical moment by carrying around a gold cross with the word "YES" engraved upon it.)

Mike Pence, who calls his wife "mother" or "Mrs Pence."

Mike Pence, who says that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife, and will not attend events where there is alcohol available without her being right there. 

Well now. I don't know these people personally (for which I am eternally grateful) but as someone whose marriage predates streaking, disco, Gerald Ford in the White House, and every gas crisis, I'm here to tell you that if you're in a marriage in which the partners keep suchacloseyeoneachother as this, something is wrong in the marriage.

Or you are people who think that every woman is out to seduce every man in the world, and that no man has the power to refuse those "womanly wiles."  That's a phrase we don't hear too much anymore, but then again, we don't see loons like this couple too much either.

Love does not mean constant vigilance and check-ups. I've said this before: I could be the only male in an auditorium full of females and I would not cheat on my wife, because I love my wife. 

And I will tell you this. If a person - male or female - is open for business, he or she will find a customer, if you catch my meaning. 

It never fails. The guy who times how long it should take for his wife to get home from the hair saloon and grills her like Lennie Briscoe if the ride takes 2 minutes more than that has something hidden, and the wife who posts spies around hubbyguy's office to let her know if he stops at the cute receptionist's cubicle to sharpen his pencil is also guilty of wandering thoughts.

Either that - or the spouse is guilty of breaching the marital vows, and why are you still around, in that case?

Pence is big on telling you what a wonderful Christian he is, and then he throws in with a man who represents that segment of society that holds men to be superior in all ways, while subjugating women to serving supper.  And even more insidious, setting them up in million-dollar businesses so he can claim they are million-dollar businesswomen.

Pence says loves and respects his wife, and is in with a crowd that chants horrible obscenities at a woman who happened to be running for office.

You can't have it both ways. Half a loaf of this is still half-baked.