Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Price Ain't Right

If the name Steven Adler rings a bell (or bangs a cymbal) with you, it's because he's the drummer mainly famous for being thrown out of Guns N' Roses for using too many drugs too much.

And that's like being asked to leave Old Country Buffet for eating too much meatloaf.

For years, I have kept Adler's name in my mind because I think that's the classic example of pots calling kettles black, but now we have a new one.  

You've heard about the commotion over the Mylan pharmaceutical company raising the price on its EpiPens, the medication for children and others dealing with potentially deadly allergic reactions.  Mylan currently has no real competition in the market - the other company that makes a similar product had a massive recall wipe out their inventory - and so, capitalists being capitalists, they raised the price of an item that can save a person's life by a stunning 544.77 percent (from $56.64 in 2007 to $365.16 now).  I mean, there was a chance to make some big money, right? Too bad for all those who might die from accidental peanut ingestion or bee stings, but Mylan is going to fatten their coffers while the sun shines.

At least one in 50 Americans have had this type of allergic reaction. It is called anaphylaxis, and it can be fatal. Mylan is "forcing many families to gamble with their children's lives, when your costs haven't gone up," as one person said on Facebook. 

We learned as kids selling lemonade that if you can get 20 cents a cup and then find people will just as willingly shell out a quarter for a drink that costs you 3 cents to produce, you pocket the extra nickel.  No biggie. 

But when you are forcing families who might not have the resources or insurance to cover this insane expense (the same product is much less expensive all over Europe and Canada), then you are playing with other people's lives for a huge
pile of nickels.

It's fine by me if you support gouging people to feather your own nests, but you have to stop and think how it felt when people such as Axl Rose, Slash, and Izzy Stradlin (I love it when someone's name is also a question) came to tell Adler he was doing too much dope.

Or imagine this: Martin Shkreli, the weaselly guy who, as head of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, raised the price of his malaria and HIV medicine Darapim from $13.50 to $750, has weighed in on all this.

"These guys are really vultures. What drives this company's moral compass?" Shkreli remarked to NBC News.

There are people among us who dare not walk even to the mailbox without their EpiPen, and when they feel the same way that Martin Shkreli does about a company, maybe that company should look around a little.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Oh say!

I guess we have to talk about the football player who sat down rather than stand for the National Anthem.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum (and dogs abhor vacuum cleaners), the Internet hates it when we aren't arguing with each other about some topic, so it sends little angels to land on the shoulders of people like Colin Kaepernick, angels who say, "Stir things up a little!"

On Sunday, he said to the press, "I'll continue to sit. ... I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change, and when there's significant change — and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it's supposed to — I'll stand."

And Bang Zoom!  We were off to the races.  He has actually not stood up during the anthem at all three of the 49'ers games, but this time, it got noticed and he got blasted.

Kaepernick's ex-teammate, Minnesota Vikings guard Alex Boone, spoke for a lot of players and citizens when he said, "It’s hard for me, because my brother was a Marine, and he lost a lot of friends over there. That flag obviously gives (Kaepernick) the right to do whatever he wants. I understand it. At the same time, you should have some (expletive) respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom.

That sums up the feelings of those opposed to CK's stance.  And Boone goes on to say, "We’re out here playing a game, making millions of dollars. People are losing their life, and you don’t have the common courtesy to do that. That just drove me nuts."

Michael Che, the Saturday Night Live comedian, pointed out online that no one seems to stand when they're home watching a ballgame on tv and someone sings the anthem...it's more of a public demonstration of patriotism than a private moment. And we've all been at parades when a marching band struts by to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner...some people stand up, and some don't.

There are as many opinions about this as there are people in the United States.  And all of those opinions are valid.  People will say that many people made great sacrifices - the supreme sacrifice - in order to preserve our freedom of speech.  Kaepernick has his feelings and is no more or less entitled to express them than any other citizen.  Just because he makes a fortune playing football does not mean he should give up that right to express himself, any more than it would be right to deny paupers the right to say how they feel just because they are economically bereft.

This is what makes America great.  There are places in the world where this freedom does not exist, where speaking one's mind can be the last action of one's life.

The First Amendment means that people can publish all sorts of wonderful writing and all sorts of sludge you wouldn't allow in your home - but I wouldn't give up the right of the sleazeballs to write what they want. Agree with Kaepernick or not, but don't tell him he can't say what he wants.

It's a big enough country to allow room for all of us.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Rerun: I Never Would Have Guest It

Here's a tricky etiquette question:

You receive a wedding shower invitation and a "hold-the-date" for a wedding..from a woman whom you have never met, who briefly worked with your husband several years ago.  Unless her husband saved this woman's life through a well-timed Heimlich Maneuver or CPR, why are you getting an invite to the nuptials?  

Ahhh...cast a wide gift net.  So many people just get invitations, say, "Meh," and send some Corningware® or a Keurig coffee machine, those little K-cup deals that work so well for two months and then just make gagging, grinding noises when all you want is an honest cup of mocha java.

BUT there is an alternative!  Here's how it works.  You buy the gift and send it along via ME!  I'm looking for a steady source of retirement income, and surely a well-paying job as Wedding Guest Stand-In would do me well.  I have a nice pinstripe suit, some shirts and ties, and I'll even find a pair of dark socks to wear in place of my customary crimson footwear.  

In return, I will take along ZipLoc bags so I can bring you some Lobster Newburg.  I will shout out "Nice pull!" when the groom toasts the bride. And I will lift up the centerpiece, look underneath and claim that it has my seat number written on a little label, thereby entitling me to take it home.  

I don't enter this profession without a background.  I love weddings, I love love, I love the church part even when everyone oooohs and aaaaaahs, and then I love piling back into the Biscayne and driving over to the conception. What better way to wile away a Saturday than to hear the DJ croon,"And now...making their first appearance as husband and wife...will you please give it up for Dickie and Dixie Normus!!!!!!!!!!!"

And while all this is going on, I'm sizing up the fruit table or the giant lasagna, as it sits bubbling away. 

And I can Chicken Dance like nobody's business. Snap snap snap snap!

I had that buddy Johnny years ago who made a Saturday habit of putting on his sports jacket and tie and showing up at receptions, blending in after everyone was seated for the main meal, showing up in time to scarf up chow and guzzle free suds.  If anyone asked who he was, he would just reply that he was an old friend of the bride.  Or groom.  His great gift was his ability to look nondescript. He just blended right on in.  I think a lot of that was owing to his sport jacket being the exact color of Lobster Newburg.

Wedding season is coming up; please contact me soon and arrange to stay home while people whom you don't even know, and/or like very much, get married.  Let Mr Guest be there for you!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, August 27, 2016

I love Lucy's hometown of Celeron, New York, because their first attempt at memorializing the great Lucille Ball turned out looking more like a deranged Andy Griffith (right.)  But they asked for another chance, and another sculptor did a great job (left).
Yes, people in remote African villages still balance things on their heads like this, and I can't even carry a mug of tea upstairs without spilling something.  
More than a million people gathered in Istanbul for an event led by President Erdo─čan, following last month's failed military insurrection.  I don't care for big crowds, and this must have been the biggest since the Adele concerts last summer.

Hello, all your Pokemon trainers!  Here's a rare sighting of ComeoninIwannagrillya!
This kind of contest didn't just start last week, you know...
He's rare and he's back in the ocean!  Rather than steam this blue lobster, caught off Cape Cod, the fisherman tossed him back into the briny deep.  If he had been netted in New Jersey, he would be dinner tonight.
A little philosophy for a Saturday morning.  Happy doesn't start with an "H," it starts with "U."
More philosophy for you...this Galapagos Island resident lived to be 100 years of age, because he took his time doing things!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Jan, Jan, Jan!

Any discussion of "The Brady Bunch" that I get into must contain my firm declaration that I am a Jan Man from day one.  I found Marcia Marcia Marcia annoying annoying annoying, and Cindy was just too young, but I dug Jan for wearing glasses (which she hated) and having freckles (ditto) and for worrying so much about not having a boyfriend that she invented a beau named George Glass. And when she figured she couldn't beat Marcia in the blonde hair department, she went out and put on a marvelous black wig that made her look like a tiny lounge singer.

So, I went for Jan, and Alice, too (although I know I could never come between her and Sam The Butcher) and that's the deal.

Speaking of deals, did you see that Eve Plumb, the actress who played Jan, bought a house with that TV money when she was 11 years old?  A little place on Escondido Beach in Los Angeles, and she plunked down $55,300 for it in 1969, and sold it this summer for $3,900,000...a tidy profit of $3,844,700.  

It's a flat-roofed beachfront bungalow, 850 square feet, and the new owners are planning to install a moon roof and other amenities for beach parties to which they really ought to invite Ms Plumb.

In other news about investment opportunities we all passed by, just imagine if you had spent $2,368 for a brand new Mustang in 1964, and kept that Ford on ice...you'd be drinking the best beer and buying the thickest steaks tonight.  

A dime for the first Superman comic...$956,000.

Where were we when all the great ideas were hatched?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Instead of being sorry later, how about just being nice now?

"Be careful of the words you say; keep them short and sweet.  You never know from day to day which ones you'll have to eat."
This year's winner of the I Wish I Hadn't Said That Award goes to the young lady who also just won the coveted tiara that goes with being Miss Teen USA.  Her name is Karlie Hay and she learned a lesson at age 18 that a lot of people still have yet to apprehend:  The Internet is forever.  

Take it to the bank: whatever you write or paste on these electronic walls will be around when Karlie Hay's great-grandchildren are taking driver education.  

So it was with chagrin that Ms Hay and the people around her found out, just minutes after her triumphant walk down the runway, that in 2013 and 2014, she was twittering tweets using the unacceptable-in-any-setting "N" word.  Hay, born in December 1997, was 15 and 16 in those years, certainly old enough to know better, yes. 

You know, there is a whole profession dedicated to scrubbing off the tarnished images of people who should know better than to call each vile names.  I can see that one such practitioner had a hand in crafting this response that Ms Hay put out:  

"A few years ago, I used language that is inexcusable, and I sincerely apologize for my actions. At the time, due to a number of personal struggles, I was in a place that is not representative of who I am now. Through hard work, education, maturity and thanks in large part to the sisterhood that I have come to know through pageants, I am proud to say that I am today a better person. I am honored to hold this title and I will use the Miss Teen USA platform to promote messages of confidence, inclusion and perseverance."  
Apology tour underway.
It's just my opinion, but these pageants for women of any age are just outdated and kind of sad.  The Miss Teen USA people proudly promoted this year's extravaganza as being more relevant because they ditched the swimsuit competition and only had female judges. This still leaves the impression that beauty and the ability to be dolled up are the only worthwhile criteria for judging a young lady. 

I don't know anything about Ms Hay besides all this commotion, but the fact that she used such language at any age is revolting. For all I know, she spends weekends visiting the aged and infirm, collects food for the needy, works as a volunteer firefighter, plays rec league softball and maintains a stellar grade point average to stay on the Honor Society.

Oh wait.  That's a couple of other young women I know.  You won't see them sashaying around with sashes and tiaras on television.  They're too busy being beautiful, doing beautiful things in the real world.  And using respectful language all the while.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'." - John Greenleaf Whittier

Thinking about the lives lost in the flooding here in Maryland and the balloon crash in Texas, I got to thinking about others who went home too soon.  Hank Williams comes to mind, and Buddy Holly as well.  What else would they have brought to our music, had their lives not been cut short?  

And thinking of Buddy Holly makes me think of Bobby Fuller, another Texan who brought a little Lone Star State to the 60s garage rock sound. (Before record production became so dependent on studio electronic tricks, groups rehearsed and recorded out back in the garage, and that's where that raw sound comes from.) Bobby came out of El Paso and got to Los Angeles and a deal with Del-Fi Records on the strength of his cover of "I Fought The Law (And The Law Won.)"*

Fuller's career in the national spotlight was just taking off in 1966. "I Fought The Law" was a top-10 record after its release in February, and the follow up "Love's Made A Fool Of You"** came out in May.  

Image result for bobby fullerBut on July 18, 1966, Bobby was found dead in his car outside his apartment in Los Angeles.  There was an 1/3-full gasoline can and a gas-soaked rag in the car, and his death was attributed to hemorrhaging caused by the gas vapors and the July heat, and by the inhalation of the vapors. The police report has checks next to "accidental" and "suicide," but also question marks written next to both. 

The investigation is thought by many to have been sloppy and rushed, possibly because the chief of the LAPD, William Parker, had died suddenly two days before and the department was focused on his funeral arrangements and replacing him. 

Cause-of-death theories floated included possible Manson Family involvement, suicide (Fuller was said to be concerned about the direction of his career) and a mob hit. 

We may never know who killed Bobby Fuller, and we certainly can only speculate about what sort of music he might have made, but listen to those two hits of his! Spectacular pop, basic rock, the sound that bands still want.  Bobby had it and we can listen to what he recorded as we wonder what else he might have recorded.
*This gets complicated.  Buddy Holly, in his time, released records as "Buddy Holly" and as "The Crickets," although they were the same people.  After Buddy died in that plane crash in 1959, Sonny Curtis joined The Crickets as songwriter and guitarist (but not singer) in Buddy's place, and Sonny wrote "IFTL(ATLW)".  

**Buddy Holly and writing partner Bob Montgomery wrote this in 1954.  It's thought of as a "Buddy Holly song," but Buddy did not sing on The Crickets' version, which came out after the crash.