Monday, March 19, 2018

Untied Airlines

Happy Monday to you, and unless your name is Oscar Munoz, no one in America had a worse week than you did last week.

Most of us have no idea who Oscar Munoz is, and if you guess he's a backup infielder for the Minnesota Twins, you'd be wrong, but still funny.

Oscar is the CEO of United Airlines, and man oh man, did he have himself a week.  You have to figure he went home on Monday benumbed by the horrible thing his employees did to a family's pet French bulldog. I'm sure you saw the story - a flight attendant forced the dog's family to put it in its carrier into an overhead bin in the plane, and the poor little pooch suffocated.

And remember, it hasn't even been a whole year since the world saw airport officers, at the behest of United staffers, physically dragging a passenger down an airplane's aisle.

Map shows flight path
 between Kansas and Japan.
So home he went, and figured Tuesday would be better.

Guess again, Einstein.

On Tuesday, some gozzlehead who sorts baggage for United, charged with sending a German Shepherd home to Kansas, managed to put the dog on a flight to Japan.

“We apologize for this mistake and are following up with the vendor kennel where they were kept overnight to understand what happened,” the company sputtered.

United promised to bring Ole Shep home, and wound up putting him on their corporate jet and eating the $90,000 + cost of chartering such a flight. He got home late Thursday.

Would you have blamed Oscar Munoz if he had just taken off the rest of the week?

For those of you currently studying to become Captains of Industry, please learn from the mistakes of others, and Oscar's history is dotted with errors like shells on a beach.

Last year, when United wanted to make room on a flight to Louisville for four of their employees, and not enough people took the offer of free vouchers and deplaned, they forced Dr David Dae off the jet, dragging him down the aisle screaming.  

And at first, Munoz criticized the doctor, who had to make the flight to be at work at a hospital, but soon changed his tune and made a big deal of promoting big changes in his company's customer service practices. And shortly thereafter, United started a training program called Core4, which was supposed to encourage more compassionate service.

It's hard to believe that "killing a dog" or "shipping a pet to Japan" were topics covered in that training, but I can't say for sure.

And, true to form, the company's initial reaction was to say that the flight attendant did not know there was a dog in the dog kennel she was handed by a little girl whom she asked to move her dog to the bin above. They soon backed off of that stance, though.

Perhaps United wants you to think that the baggage handler thought "Japan" was a city in Kansas.

And then people ask why I don't like to travel.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Rerun: The beat goes on (and he played it!)

Don't you love it when two things you are thinking about just happen to meld into one topic?  It must be how it felt for the person who made a bowl of macaroni and day and said, hey, how about if we add some cheese to this, huh?

OK - the two topics blended into one are Hal Blaine and the Ringling Brothers Circus.

And you might not know the first, Hal Blaine, but you have pounded your steering wheel along with him a thousand times. 

And many of us are pounding their fists in dismay over the impending folding of the Ringling Brothers tent, a piece of Americana about to subsumed by entertainments such as pro wrasslin', monster truck shows, and Disney On Ice.

Hal Blaine was born Harold Simon Belsky almost 88 years ago in Massachusetts. His family moved to Hartford, Connecticut when he was 7, and by the time he was 14 he was playing drums with a marching band in town.

Blaine playing drums for a Phil Spector record

In 1963, Hal was working in Los Angeles as a session drummer for Phil Spector, who hired him to keep the beat on "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes. Go ahead and click on that link! Those opening drumbeats are probably the most famous in all of rock history. Hal went on the be a founding member of the instrumental group called the Wrecking Crew, and he and his fellow musicians actually made the music you thought was being made by The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Carpenters, The Partridge Family and thousands of others.  His drums were on 40 number # one hits, 150 top ten hits and a total of more than 35,000 recorded tracks.

He accepted his behind-the-scenes status, happily making $35 for playing drums on a Beach Boys record that Dennis Wilson made $3500 a night for playing in concerts, as he said.  The simple fact is that until more accomplished "star" musicians came along, The Wrecking Crew made great music for us.

So what does he have to do with Ringling Bros?  Well, on July 6, 1944, at 15, young Hal went to see the circus when it came to Hartford. There are several versions of how he came to be there that afternoon. One story has it that he was one of the locals hired to do some chores in return for a ticket to the show.  At any rate, he was there when a fire broke out in the Big Top, and the fire spread rapidly across the canvas tent, because it had been treated with paraffin and gasoline to make it watertight. 

When the fire began in the back of the tent, the bandleader saw the smoke and flame and immediately cued his band to play "The Stars And Stripes Forever," which was always the signal to alert circus personnel of an emergency in the tent.  

Hell on earth
Around 7,000 were under the big top trying to get out of that hell. 167 died, over 700 were injured.  

Young Hal Belsky escaped and was able to help others get out. He volunteered to ride with burn victims in makeshift ambulances, as people were taken to hospitals for treatment.  It was that day, riding back and forth with those poor people, that he decided that life was meant to be lived to its fullest, and he vowed to make his music his life.

And why was he able to escape the inferno? Because he chose a seat right behind the band, not the best view of the show, but the best way to see the circus drummer at work. And the band was playing right near an exit.  That saved Hal's life and led him to make music that still comes out of our radios and iPods and everywhere else.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, March 17, 2018

I thought this might make a nice wallpaper for the phone or tablet. 
They pushed back the dates of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, but things should be all a-bloom very soon!
A woman named Marina Amarol colorized this old (early 1900s) photo of what they call the "Banana Dock" in New York City. It always amazes me that people wore suits and ties for every single activity in those days.
I don't know if this is legit, but the story is that Tom Hanks was out having a cold one with some friends, saw this guy drunk on his ax, and took a picture with his phone.  What a surprise, when he looked in his gallery the next day!
This is the left baseball shoe of rightfielder Josh Reddick of the World Champion Astros.  Only pair of shoes I ever saw that pay homage to another pair of shoes. You don't see PF Flyers so much anymore, but I hope we see plenty of pictures of these shoes!
Happy St Patrick's Day! This is how they used to make corned beef sandwiches at the Carnegie Deli in New York, which is now out of business. The deli, not the city. I guess people thought they were skimping on their sandwiches.
I can't even figure out how to fold a fitted sheet, and Nature knows how to fold snow neatly. How fair is that?
Ever had to go so badly that you're standing on one leg waiting your turn? 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Take it off (the docket)

Let's get all the "keeping abreast of the news" and "thanks for the mammary" jokes out of the way right now, please.  Because the fight in Ocean City, MD, our fabulous Atlantic getaway spot, over women going topless on the beach is still bubbling. Five women have filed a complaint in Federal Court against the town and its mayor and they seem to have a fair right to claim discrimination.

Last summer, OC passed emergency legislation to ban bare-chested women in public...but not men, and the women filing the complaint say it's a simple matter of equality.

The leader of the group is Chelsea Eline, who comes from the Eastern Shore and is what is called a "top freedom" advocate.  Her lawyer is Devon Jacob, and he told WBAL-TV, "Unfortunately, the town of Ocean City does not want to follow the law. And so, here we are. We're going to litigate it."

Last summer, Ms Eline said that she would be doffing her top in places where men were similarly unclad, and the beach town about lost their mind, hastily convening the town council to pass the rule forbidding women from being topless.

The mayor of Ocean City, Rick Meehan, said,"The town of Ocean City is not a topless beach and will not become a topless beach."

Except for men. No problem with all those barrel-chested men you always see on the beach with a grey thatch of chest foliage, in which nestles a Mr T starter set of gold doodads.  They need no shirt to go above their Speedo, no sir.

The women say this is sexist, that a law can't say one thing for one gender and another for the other.

"There are good men and women out there who are fighting for equality and you see it in the #MeToo movement, but you're seeing it here as well. This is where it starts, or rather, frankly, this is where it's going to end," Attorney Jacob says

For his part, Mayor Meehan says, "There is no constitutional right for an individual to appear in public nude or in a state of nudity. It does not implicate either the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the right to privacy, or a protected liberty interest. It lacks any communicated value that might call for First Amendment protection." 

Image result for big pecker t shirtNot being a lawyer, I can't tell you what 'communicated value' is, but I can surely tell you the difference between a man and a woman.  This is going to wind up in court, and I hope the women prevail in their fight not to wear shirts in a town whose tourism industry is largely based on selling t-shirts with profane mottoes.

And really. If they force a woman to wear a bikini top no larger than two fifty-cent pieces, does that make a dollar's worth of difference?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

"I do." Do you?

Ever been at a wedding where the preacher says, "If anyone can show just cause why this couple cannot lawfully be joined together in matrimony, let them speak now or forever hold their peace"? 

I remember our pre-wedding rehearsal because the minister said that the period of silence that would follow those words would be the longest period of silence we would ever know.

Well, at our gala nuptials, no one piped up with any objections, and when the sinbuster returned to the Order of Service, that ended the last period of silence Peggy would ever know. Except for when I had laryngitis that one time.

And now, except for Hallmark Movie Channel movies and family hitchin's with shotguns involved, that line is pretty much never mentioned at a wedding.

"It has become obsolete," said Paula Posman, a New York City-based officiant who is the operator of a wedding services company called "A New York Way to Say I Do."

(Are you glad you don't work there and have to answer the phone with, "Good afternoon, A New York Way to Say I Do, how may I help you?")

Posman goes on to say, "You can't object simply because you're in love with the bride. It has to be a legal reason why the couple can't wed."  In other words, just because you're standing there in tears because The Only One You Will Ever Love is marrying the guy who mows her lawn, you can't stop them.  Nor would you really want to.

Image result for benjamin braddock stop wedding
It worked for him, though.
Posman: "Today, the legal aspects of a wedding are squared away before the couple gets to the altar, so most officiants just don't ask the question."  The couple has their license all filled out, all the i's have been dotted and the t's crossed, so standing there bellowing during the service won't get you anything but thrown out.

But, back in the long-ago, someone might know something about one of the participants being married already, or underage, or having been kidnapped or otherwise forced to the altar, or being too closely related to the person they were fixing to marry...(?)

So if you show up the church begging Grizelda or Wilberforce to change her/his mind and marry you instead, you're too late.  Holler out, and Posman will say, "That's not a legal reason," and keep right on marryin'.

Have fun at the reception, though.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wisdom from Toni Morrison

I was listening to an interview on public radio (Kurt Anderson's "Studio 360") in which Hilton Als of The New Yorker was talking to Toni Morrison, the novelist, essayist and professor emeritus at Princeton.

Just mentioning those three names, you know they weren't talking about how sad it is that Jennifer Aniston is getting a divorce or which Kardashian had a baby.

They talked about the experience that comes with age, and the fact that some people don't even hit their stride until they are into middle age. And experience comes from hearing things such as what Ms Morrison heard her father say one day.

He was a shipyard welder during World War II and he came home from work one day, telling her that he had made such a perfect seam on the hull of a ship he was helping to build that the took the time to sign his work!

Image result for at the end of the day, be proudAnd she, a teenager at the time, wondered why he signed his name in a place that no one would ever see. And he told her that all that mattered was that HE knew he did a good job.  Acclaim and applause from the people around us is one thing, but what really matters is the satisfaction of doing something right. And you can't fake that sort of satisfaction.

Toni Morrison also said that she worked as a young woman, cleaning the house of a crabby, fractious older woman who griped and groused all the while. She told her father about this, and her father said, "So! You don't live there! Go to work, earn your money, and come home to be happy!"

I know so many people who have devoted themselves to some corporation or some entity and have given up their own lives to try, usually in vain, to satisfy some employer. I probably won't ever be asked to deliver any commencement addresses, but I would tell people just that same thing that Toni's father told her. 

Your work is what pays for your life. It isn't your life.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Real creepy real estate

When I feel like seeing a horror story on television, the last thing I need is something called "American Horror Story."  Why root around on cable for shows like that, where it's all made-up fiction, when the nightly news gives me enough to shudder about, in between commercials for prescription medicines ("Don't take Xylometazoline if you're allergic to Xylometazoline") and promos for network shows coming up later ("Tonight, on a very special Shasta McNasty...")?

So no, I never watched "American Horror Story," but a lot of people who enjoy horror shows apparently did.  Clearly, the show attracted a larger audience than "Shasta McNasty" had.

The first year of that FX series was filmed at an old mansion in Los Angeles, a house since sold to Dr. Ernst von Schwarz and Angela Oakenfold for 3.2 million American dollars in 2015.

The previous owner of what the show called "The Murder House" was Elizabeth Axelrod, who has well over three million reasons for not wanting the house back. But von Schwarz and Oakenfold say they aren't so happy in the house, and they are suing Axelrod and the real estate firm that represented her in the sale. 

The rub seems to be that the buyers were not told that the house was once the setting for a tv show. Interesting, because back here in the East, we believe that EVERY house in Los Angeles was once the setting for a show or movie.

And, by the way, von Schwarz and Oakenfold believe the house is haunted by not one, but two, actual ghosts. 

von Schwarz and Oakenfold (save that idea if you need a cool name for a folk music duo) say in their lawsuit that the place has become a “macabre tourist attraction,” and that fans of the series “trespass” and “attempt to break in” and are generally a “nuisance.”

One guy hired a front-end loader to take him to the fenced-in house and hoist him high enough to look over the brick walls meant to keep people like him at bay.

An attorney for von Schwartz and Oakenfold (I simply cannot type those words enough!) told The Real Deal website the couple have been tormented by loony fans coming to see the site “almost immediately” since they moved in. They also report  “weekly” break-ins.
American Horror Story: Murder House
Attorney Doug Vanderpol, a member of the legal team working on the matter, said, "A week before I first visited them [to work on the case], they had been awakened by the sound of glass breaking—someone came in through the window in the kitchen."

And although they did not mention this in the court papers they filed, in a kind effort to prevent the judge, bailiff and jury the embarrassment of pulling rib muscles laughing too hard, the attorneys say the house is haunted by two ghosts.

Oh, and by the way, Oakenfold and von Schwartz don't want to sell the house, but if they can get a bundle o' moolah for "compensatory and punitive damages," they'll be fine.  I'm thinking that $3,200,001 will do the trick.