Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday rerun: Shirting the issue

I've heard it said that the definition of grace is the ability to eat soup with the fingers and not need a napkin.

Graceful, I ain't.  And no steak, no crab fluff, no hunk o' broiled salmon stands much of a chance when I show up with my knife and fork.

The hapless victim in all this often turns out to be my shirt.  Therefore, over the years, I have tried to keep a few shirts just for when we go out and no food is involved, and some shirts that have seen the glory of bleu cheese dressing and Holland Daze (yes! I saw it that way on a menu) sauce bouncing off its buttons.  Often, I would come home and attempt emergency treatment with Spray 'N' Wash, but many times, after anxious moments by the laundry machines, the verdict would come back...stained for life.

The other day, the proverbial straw must have broken the camel's back in my closet, and shirts and pants went a-tumblin' down because of a broken shelf.  I fixed it, all right, but I decided to get rid of a few excess items. Oddly enough,  I came to this decision shortly after Peggy strongly suggested that I do so.

Three bags - the B.A. drum-liner size - went to the Goodwill yesterday morning, filled with shirts and pants and many many ties.  I think I need maybe 3 ties for the rest of my life.

There are now three categories into which my shirts may be sorted:

a - not for wearing when eating spaghetti
b - already been worn while eating spaghetti (and you can tell if you look really closely)
c - shirts that I will wear out to dinner, and if something gets on them, out they go.

It's not all that hard to say goodbye.  It's only a shirt!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, August 1, 2015

If you could have just corraled his talent with words alone, you'd have had something great.  But Roger Miller wrote great lyrics and great catchy tunes, too.  He didn't live long enough to be all that he could have been, but while he was here, he made some great songs.
This is the sort of balcony on an apartment where people live and say things like, "Yeah, well, we DO have a balcony, but we never really USE it..."
I never saw the point to the BABY ON BOARD bumper sticker. It's not people would see it and say, "Oh, I should be careful! There's a baby in that Biscayne!"  People who are going to drive carefully don't need a reminder, and the rest won't heed one anyway.
Almost apple-picking time, and time for apple pie and applesauce and apple cider and all the rest!
I don't know where this is posted, but it's a really bad season for mosquitoes all over this year.  That really bites, ya know?
Jen Welter has made a big first step as the first woman hired for any kind of coaching position in the National Football League. She will work with the team’s inside linebackers in training camp and the preseason. I always say, any job should be open for anyone willing and capable of doing it.
I think often about the advice my wise old Dad offered me.  One which still reverberates is this: Never give your wife a present that plugs in.  Imagine!  "Merry Christmas, honey!  Here's an iron for you!"
I'm not big on black-and-white photos, but this one is so cool! The man on the left is Victor Mature, a handsome movie actor famous for being handsome and for saying, "I can't act, and I have 146 movies to prove it!"  And on the right is bandleader/singer/comedian Phil Harris, beloved to me as a bandleader/singer/comedian, and to children everywhere as the voice of Baloo The Bear in the animated "Jungle Book" movie.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Biggest Story of the Mall

All I know about the Hollister stores is that I don't shop there.  I went there once to buy a gift card for a friend considerably younger, and I remember the staff looking at me as if I were there to commit an armed robbery, or, worse, try to be cool.


I walk past their stores in the many malls I mallwalk, and I hear the music and sniff the scent they exude, and that reminds me of the fans that food vendors use at carnivals, to blow the delightful aroma of frying sausage and onions into a crowd of suddenly-hungry people.

If you're going into business to sell clothing to people for whom coolness is important, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be cool or selling things to those who are, you'd better come up with a cool hitch, and that is what Dave Eggers wrote about in a recent article in The New Yorker ("The Real Hollister," July 20, 2015 issue). 

The whole Hollister story is all made up!  To quote from the article: 

For years, employees of Hollister stores, during orientation, were given the story, and it goes something like this: John M. Hollister was born at the end of the nineteenth century and spent his summers in Maine as a youth. He was an adventurous boy who loved to swim in the clear and cold waters there. He graduated from Yale in 1915 and, eschewing the cushy Manhattan life suggested for him, set sail for the Dutch East Indies, where he purchased a rubber plantation in 1917. He fell in love with a woman named Meta and bought a fifty-foot schooner. He and Meta sailed around the South Pacific, treasuring “the works of the artisans that lived there,” and eventually settled in Los Angeles, in 1919. They had a child, John, Jr., and opened a shop in Laguna Beach that sold goods from the South Pacific—furniture, jewelry, linens, and artifacts. When John, Jr., came of age and took over the business, he included surf clothing and gear. (He was an exceptional surfer himself.) His surf shop, which bore his name, grew in popularity until it became a globally recognized brand. The Hollister story is one of “passion, youth and love of the sea,” evoking “the harmony of romance, beauty, adventure.”
Eggers writes that a man named Mike Jeffries concocted this entire story to build an aura of surf 'n' sun 'n' California fun for his stores so that kids in Conway, Arkansas would flock in and shell out $45 for a hoodie to get in on the Cali vibe.

Again, nothing wrong with this.  That's how businesses position themselves in the marketplace.  

Eggers drove to Hollister, California - the real town -  to look around.  His great-great-grandfather T. S. Hawkins was one of the founders of that town.  Hawkins was a man who went west in American's 19th Century expansion, and he became prosperous enough to leave large tracts of land that partially make up what is now the town of Hollister.  And the town's only hospital was named in honor of his late granddaughter Hazel Hawkins, who died at age 9 in 1901, in part because there was no hospital to serve the newly-formed town.  

California Schemin'
Hollister today is a town of 36,000 people, 2/3 of them Latino, a typical unglamorous American small town with some business and a lot of agriculture. It's just that most American towns did not have their name pulled out of thin air to serve as the fictional backdrop for a fable about a brand name. Abercrombie & Fitch owns the chain of stores, and so zealous are they to protect their brand name that they took legal action against a woman who lives in Hollister and tried to sell vintage blue jeans under the name "Rag City Blues: Hollister".  And the student athletes at Hollister High School began to worry that the company would come after them for wearing, say, a baseball jersey with their school name on the chest. 

With these things in mind, the local business community approached Abercrombie & Fitch, only to be told, they say, that the Hollister brand would not find the right audience in Hollister.
And this is why I love big commerce, whose attitude is, "We'll take your town's name and sell sweatshirts with it, but not in your town."

Eggers also wrote that he spent an entire day in town and saw not ONE item of "Hollister So Cal" clothing being worn. Well, I guess not! You can't get it there.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Worst Person

Walter "Chiclet-Teeth" Palmer
See?  This is why we need Keith Olbermann on the air every single day, because in a world filled with billions and billions of people, we need to have someone pointed out as The Worst Person In The World.

I doubt that anyone would argue that today's WPITW is Walter Palmer, of Bloomington, Minnesota.  He is a dentist by trade, but I won't dignify his dastardly life by calling him "Dr," out of respect to those who have earned that title and should be respected.

At his office
Palmer is the scoundrel who killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. Cecil lived in a park and was a beloved national treasure to Zimbabweans, so Palmer went there and participated in a scheme to lure the lion out of the park (where killing him would be illegal) with food so that he could shoot him with an arrow and then track him for a day before shooting him to death. And skinning and beheading him, leaving Cecil's six cubs fatherless and condemned to death as other male lions seek to exert dominance in the savanna.

And you wonder why Americans are so beloved all across the globe.

In 2008, this jackanapes went bear hunting here in America, since it's not fair to have all his atrocities happen overseas. He pleaded guilty in federal court in Wisconsin to misleading a federal agent in connection with the hunting of a black bear. He had killed a bear 40 miles outside of the zone where he held a permit to hunt bear, then he and his cronies took the carcass back to where it would have been legal to shoot it, and lied about it.

He could have been given five years in prison, but this being the American system of justice, Palmer was sentenced to one year’s probation and fined $3,000.

At his home
Now he goes to Africa, murders a beloved creature and says he thought everything was copacetic about it. People in his town of Eden Prairie (how ironic) are leaving stuffed animals at the door of his suddenly-closed dental clinic and at his home. His Yelp! reviews are scathing and venomous, as they should be.

I don't approve of people sending death threats to this cutthroat goon.  

But I think it would be appropriate if, after a trial is held and he is found guilty, he be taken on a helicopter flight over the Everglades and given a chance to observe nature in the wild, as ecosystems interact and species find ways to exist.

And then he should be thrown into the swamp.  See ya around, nature boy.  This is all for research, you see. As a dentist, he would see first hand how many teeth an alligator has.

And also second hand.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A good way to get kilt

I've been hanging onto this story since May, and since it's almost August, I thought I should pass it along. I would have done it before, but the days lately are just full of stories of people giving to the Girl Scouts and then retracting the gift, and the proper pronunciation of baseball players' names, and so on.

But it's time for this country to get it together, and we can start right down in Johnston County, North Carolina, where a 16-year-old student was kept out of his high school prom for a while because he...

a) set fire to the school building
b) poured an unpleasant substance over the Prom King and Queen
c) owed a library fine of 73 cents
d) wore a kilt

If you chose "d," then congratulate yourself for reading the newspaper so thoroughly, because David Leix and his date were shown the gate when Leix came to the door in the traditional Scottish male attire.

Leix says he's been wearing this kilt to formal events since he was a wee laddie, and has never had a problem before.  Kilts are worn by police and fire fraternal organizations the world over and by men of Scottish heritage.  And I checked as many sources as I could, and the answer for "injuries caused to person 'B' when person 'A' is wearing a kilt" comes back a big 0.  Nada.  Zero. The square root of sweet-who-cares?

The prom that the two teens paid money for and had to miss the first two hours of was called a "Praise Prom," thrown for children who are being homeschooled.

The teenager said volunteers at the door told him the “dress” was too short. Leix said calling a kilt a dress is offensive.

(Sounds like he's learned a lot in homeschool, which I am glad I didn't go to, because there are no Czechoslovakian delicatessens or pool rooms on the way home when you're already home, and those were two places I haunted in my angelic adolescence.)

So there you have it, the kids show up for the big night and some opprobrious mommy turned them away until a friend of his ran out and bought him a pair of black pants, two hours later.

Traci Lanphere is the organizer of the Praise Prom, and she says she has "never had a young man question this dress code. It is my understanding that David felt we didn't allow him into the Praise Prom because of his kilt. I was very sad to hear this because it is not true, as I want every student who attends the Praise Prom to feel loved and respected. His delayed admittance into the Praise Prom did not have to do with his kilt, it had to do with him not wearing the dress pants we required."

I guess I'll have to remain in the column of those who wonder what the difference could possibly be who wears what, as long as people are decently covered up. There are parts of this country where people are just not willing to allow people to do as they please, but I did not think that North Carolina was one of those areas.

I also hope that this yout ("Did you say 'yout'?  What's a yout?") will someday avoid growing up to be the sort of adult who tells teenagers they didn't keep them out of the dance because because they wore a kilt, but, rather, because they didn't wear pants. It's saying the same thing in different words while denying you're doing so. It's like saying that a steaming pile of asparagus is cherry pie because it isn't broccoli.

It's a sign of adults with insufficient faith in themselves and the kids in their community. Kilts are legal, so let's stop skirting the issue.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

1, 2, 3!

Good things seem to come along "in pairs of three," as I once heard someone say.  Take little lists, chock full of advice.

Homer Simpson once shared with us this list of three sentences that will get you out of any situation at work:

  1. Great idea, Boss!
  2. Cover for me!
  3. It was like that when I got here!

Simpson & Simpson
And, never to be outdone, his son offered three handy phrases for anyone caught getting down with something or up to something:

  1. I didn't do it.
  2. Nobody saw me do it.
  3. You can't prove anything.
And for those who aspire to be CEOs and COOs and CMFs of airline companies, graciously quadrupling airfares between DC and NYC when there has been a tragic multifatal AMTRAK collision that shut down the trains, here you go. Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed wrote a book entitled The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think, and from them we learn how to make a bundle in the marketplace:

1. Better before cheaper. In other words, don’t compete on price.

2. Revenue before cost. Profits need to come from price and volume, not cost-cutting.

3. There are no other rules.

Oh, but there are.  Three more hints, and then I'm off to do whatever today, as I wish you a happy one too!  Jean Shepherd, radio raconteur best known today for writing "A Christmas Story," said that with just three sentences, you can carry on a conversation with anyone about anything, especially someone who is going on and on about something. So, take these with you today, and be ready:

  1. "Beats me!"
  2. "That'll be the day!"
  3. "I'll be damned!"

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hard copy - because it's hard to read

A lot of people went to the movie "The Jerk" believing it to be a biography of Mel Gibson, but at least they got to see Steve Martin running 'round hollering, "The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!

I mean, really.
There was a time that people wanted, liked, and needed the phone book from the phone company, that compendium of people's names and addresses and phone numbers printed in a volume the size of your Aunt Tilly's sofa cushion that you sat on while wondering who would ever buy, let alone eat, that crazy hard candy seen only in old people's houses.

But we're talking about phone books here, not hard candy. The phone companies still print them, and most people toss them in the recycling bin about 15 seconds after bringing them in from the doorstep where some pixie dropped them off before scampering off as only a pixie can.

People with those cell phones have all their friends' numbers in their Contacts, and when they need the name of a new pizzeria or drywall contractor, they just Google the thing and off they go.

But there's a commotion brewing in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.  I heard about this on the Canadian radio news show "Here and Now," which I listen to on NPR late at night after the Orioles have rendered me sad and sobbing.

The new 2015 phone book came out, and the book itself is smaller, and the font they used to print it is smaller, and guess which segment of the population uses phone books?  Those in the upper age demographic.

What else do we know about people in that age bracket, which is to say, my age bracket?

They can't see little tiny print!

Beverly Joseph, of River Ryan, pictured here, doesn't like the new little book and she says the print size of the listings is too teeny.

"You can't read it. You need a magnifying glass," she said. "People that don't have eye problems are going to have eye problems. They cut the book down to a child size."

Someone up there contacted the phone company, and their spokesperson, Fiona Story, said they have been changing the format of their phone books all across Our Neighbor To The North for several years now.

"These changes are permanent,* however, the directory does continue to evolve with the introduction of new covers and increasingly localized content and neighbourhood information," wrote Story. "Many of these changes were made based on user feedback and research, aligned with our efforts to ensure we’re meeting the needs of print directory users while making sure we’re being efficient in our use of recycled paper resources."

She said all this in an email that she probably sent in "normal" size font.  She went on to say that most of the phone listing business up there is now digital, and "Print, however, remains a part of our product offering as it continues to address specific needs of both users and businesses alike."

Wow.  They even employ that Business Speak up in Canada!

My free suggestion to the Canadian phone company?  Free magnifying glasses with every phone book!

* - "These changes are permanent" means "We saved a nickel and we're not about to go back to a comfortable font, so tough noogies."