Monday, July 16, 2018

"Just like The Hunger Games, only fluffier!"

I like to imagine certain things that take place at certain workplaces. F'rinstance, every time I see a office with a sign that says "Furpenfloofer and O'Hoolahan, Attorneys at Law," I imagine it's someone's sad task to answer the phone with "Furpenfloofer and O'Hoolahan, how may I direct your call?" 147 times a day.

That can't be fun. And meetings! The worst part of any day. Man oh man, I dreaded having to go to meetings for my entire working career, so much so that I often fell asleep in them.

But one meeting that must have been interesting was held Friday for sure at the World Build-A-Bear Headquarters, the subject of which was "Just whose idea was it to hold a promotion for a day in July when all kids are out of school and have them show up at our stores with the promise that a four-year-old can make a teddy bear for four bucks?"

Because, you know what happened, and if you're older than four, you already knew what would happen with such an idea!

Predictably, the first step, after Thursday's debacle at mall after mall, which saw lines of sobbing kids and seething moms and dads queuing up for hours for a bear they would never get to make, was to trot the boss out on morning television to eat a little unstuffed crow.

"I am sorry that we were not able to provide the service that we wanted," CEO Sharon Price John told Hoda Kotb and Willie Geist on the "TODAY" show.

"We are doing our very best and we are staying very focused on making sure that we do the best we can to make it right for people."

It seemed like a great idea, but the turnout was immense, with reports of people waiting on line for up to nine hours. By mid-afternoon, the company pulled the plug early over "crowd safety concerns."

"There was no way for us to have estimated the kind of impact, those kind of crowds,'' John said. "It far surpassed anything we ever could've known. We did see it wind up in social media, and we did put a notice out for people that we thought the lines could be long, and we worked with the malls, but it was beyond anything we could've ever imagined."

So, after waiting in line for hours all the way down by Auntie Anne's Pretzels and That Potato Place, kids did not get to make a bear, but did get to see harried managers handing out vouchers good for 15 dollars off a bear when they get around to returning.

Thursday's ill-fated deal was an offshoot of the company's popular "Count Your Candles" birthday program. which enables kids under 14 to "pay their age" to build a bear during their birthday month.

Even the British were disappointed
"If I could do it over, if there was a way to extend the day to just make sure that we service everyone, I would've loved to have seen everyone be able to get a bear, but it was the sheer amount of crowds and how much time we had in the day ... we couldn't possibly move everyone through the process,'' John told TODAY.

Ms John also said, "It's heartbreaking. I'm a mom of three, I know that the most disappointing moment is when a kid is super-excited and something doesn't happen."

I hope that some of the parents of the kids who stood in a mall on a beautiful summer day were able to remind the kids that life does not always work out the way we want it to, and someday they, too, will have jobs and meetings and bosses who want to know, "Whose screwy idea was this?"

Ain't life great?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday Rerun: Got to cerebrate it

I'm always on the alert for changes in our language since Sarah Palin, former half-governor of Alaska tried to explain her use of "refudiate" by saying that English is a living language.

It won't be living for much longer, with people misusing it and then comparing themselves to Shakespeare.  And to noted wordsmith Geo. W. Bush, who coined "misunderestimate" for us.

But my friend Jennifer Lantz pointed out that there is a divide between the younger generation and, well, the, uh, older generation, in terms of the word "swag."

For reasons best known to themselves (I called Chris Brown to ask, but got no answer) the younger set uses "swag" when they mean "swagger" or "sharp appearance.  As in, "He showed up for his first day on the job rocking a lot of swag."

For those of us who were speaking English before it "b came OK 2 rite n e damn way u wanna," the word "swag" refers to the proceeds of an operation, with a hint that the operation was not quite on the up-and-up (burglary, piracy, embezzlement, bags full of bribe money handed to Spiro Agnew when we was vice-president of the United States.)  Add to that the fact that crooks and pirates tend to swagger around when they talk, and you can see how the words are being conflated.

I mean confl8ed. Sorry. That's the 411. TTYT.

Sunday Rerun: I guess that's why they call it the blues

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, July 14, 2018

This picture reminds me of those memes you see all the time asking if you could live here for a year with no wi-fi and no cable, and I say, sure, because I would just spend all my time mowing the roof.
Redheads always have to put up with people coming up on them and running their hands through the scarlet mane "for luck." At least this fellow is going to raise money for cancer research. In fact, I would pay a buck just to avoid running through someone's hair.
I saw this and figured it was a collection of small pebbles from a beach, but no! It's dried beans that need to soak overnight in the big yellow bowl and get turned into bean soup!
TV's Ed O'Neill got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, accompanied by his two TV wives, Peg Bundy and Gloria Pritchett. Only Gloria seems to be happy to be there.
Lichtenstein Castle, Germany, where for centuries, people have wondered if they could have built it just a tad bit closer to the edge. Makes me wonder...
If you're from New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware or Baltimore, you know what this is. It's a Taylor Pork Roll sandwich with cheese and egg. Pork Roll, often referred to as "Taylor's Ham," is a regional treat that we enjoy five or six times a week here.
After we had a pork roll sammy for breakfast, we'd go to Hutzler's to shop. No Dupont T-64 polyster pants for me, though; I only like natural fabrics, but I'll take the BALTIMORE Colts pennant. And who else thinks that calling pants "slacks" sounds like you're about to put a Jackie Gleason record on the hi-fi and pour a highball?
Today is July 14, Bastille Day in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille on this day in 1789, an event which signalled the beginning of the French Revolution. But getting through those walls proved to be difficult, because the prison walls had been fortified with the bastille they could find.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Feels like snow

I'm one of those nuts (and some would say the sentence could end right here) who insist on knowing about as many weather forecasts as I can read, hear, or see on television, because a) I'm always looking for a reason to plan to wear shorts  and b) I would hate to be the one standing in line at the Giant as a torrential downpour soaks our town, saying, "Gee! Were they calling for rain? I hadn't heard anything about it!"

So it's July, and a perfect time to begin planning for this winter's weather.

Are you sitting down?

Some projections are calling for a lot of snow this winter!

And you didn't even get a chance to turn your pajamas inside out!*

Image result for snow chaosYou see, they take the weather seriously in Washington, D.C. because an accurate forecast enables the president of the United States to plan all of his 496 annual golf outings without causing disappointment to his wife and son.  The newspaper down there, the Washington POST, has a weather team called the Capital Weather Gang, and they share three reasons for getting the snowblower in good working order by Thanksgiving.

  1. The National Weather Service has posted an El Niño watch, calling for Señor Niño to be "weak to moderate" this winter. Doesn't sound like much, but 2/3 of the time when El Niño is weak to moderate, meteorologists around here are reaching for their yardsticks.
  2. The Pacific Ocean is warming, which gives an extra boost to the jet stream, bringing in that delicious cold Canadian air that's a key ingredient to snowmaking. Even if we place a tariff on cold Canadian air on the grounds of national security...
  3. The sun - that big old yellow skylight - is entering into a quiet period with reduced sunspots, and that means more high pressure zones in the high latitudes, which means colder air than normal in the Eastern US and Western Europe.
We've already had the longest day of the year, and soon the sun will set earlier, leaves will change to golden hues and fall in gentle piles, the air will turn crisp and even a bit chilly, and with any luck the snow will cover up all those unraked leaves, and pile up a foot or so and there will STILL be people running to Home Depot or the Lowe's to buy snow shovels, driveway salt** and windshield antifreeze.
Image result for snow chaos
*Note to foreign readers: American schoolchildren hoping for snow (which will close schools!) go to bed at night with their pajamas on inside out, a superstition which is supposed to make it snow. Accuracy rate varies.
**Note to foreign readers: So avid are we to get in our cars and go during massive snowfalls that we treat our driveways to a coating of rock salt, so we can get in our cars, drive a block, and sit in a mammoth traffic jam because the roads are not nearly as well-plowed as our driveway.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Oh, Rochester!

Baseball used to be such a simple game, at least where the uniforms were concerned. 

The home team wore white and the visitors wore grey, because that saved them on laundry fees on the road. Really!

But then along came the multi-hued uniforms and things changed.

Meanwhile, someone came up with a brilliant idea.

Seeing that fans would shell out the money for the official caps and jerseys that the players wore, the team owners figured out that if a fan already had the white jersey and the grey jersey, there would be nothing to stop them from purchasing the orange "alternate" jersey and the black "alternate" jersey and the jersey with the pink logo for Mother's Day and the camo logo for Memorial Day and before you knew it, your closet was bulging with jerseys.

And the bank accounts of the owners were also bulging with jersey money, so it's all good.

And down in the minor leagues, anything goes. They will don most any crazy hat or shirt to get attention, and now the Rochester Red Wings, former AAA farm club of the Baltimore Orioles (currently affiliated with the Minnesota Twins) have partnered with the Seneca Park Zoo to celebrate the Naked Mole Rat.

Yes, fans, Monday, July 16 is "Naked Mole Rat" night at the ballpark, as 16 as part of their upcoming "Animals of the Savanna" Expansion coming in August.

The first 1,000 fans to mob the stadium will walk away that evening wearing Naked Mole Rat hats that show the little varmint curled around the side of the Red Wings "R".

The team will also be wearing the same caps, and they will be auctioned off to benefit the Seneca Park Zoo Society.

Besides just being so cuddly and adorable, there is a suspicion that Naked Mole Rats have in their genetic makeup extraordinary abilities to resist cancer and diseases related to old age.

And you have to figure, if there is anything more fetching than a baby NMR, it's an old one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I need to go to Rhode Island!

Down here in Maryland, we don't know much about Rhode Island, except that it's our tiniest of the 50 states, and that Family Guy is filmed there, featuring a local family from Quahog with a brilliant baby, a talking dog, an idiot dad and a mayor who was once Batman.

Huh? It's a cartoon? Whaaaaa?

Well, alls I knows about Quahog, the town in which Family Guy takes place, is that they seem to have a great educational system, with a high school named in honor of local resident and one-time movie actor James Woods, and Buddy Cianci Junior High, named for the former mayor of Providence, R.I., who had to resign from office twice due to felony racketeering convictions.  Twice! That's a record for Baltimore politicians to aim for. I mean, anyone can be escorted out of the mayor's office in handcuffs once, but twice! Go Buddy!

He is gone, as a matter of fact, having passed away in 2016, but not before he got out of prison after four years and started a spaghetti sauce company. A friend of a friend got me a jar of his tomato gravy, and I have to say it was molto saporito! (Very tasty!)

Meanwhile, among the living, in North Providence, the mayor, Charles Lombardi, ordered Dr Anthony Farina to tear down a building Farina owns, claiming that it's a public health hazard, since it's filthy in hizzoner's opinion.

Farina is not a man who cares to be told what to do with the building he owns, but he did try to spruce things up a bit by painting the building, and hired Paul Morse to do just that.

Morse went to work and, at Farina's direction, painted a tribute to the mayor on the outside wall.

Morse told the local news,“I hope the mayor is not too mad at me.” 

NBC 10 contacted Mayor Lombardi, who was out of town and had not seen the magnificent mural, to see how he liked the artwork.

“He has the right to, you know, how I can say, ‘showcase,’ if you want to call it, his property. It doesn’t bother me," Lombardi replied.

“In a longstanding dispute with the doctor and some of his actions in the past, this doesn’t surprise me,” Lombardi told NBC 10.

“Good stuff,” says Morse, reaping the whirlwind of artistic notoriety.

There has been no further comment from Dr Farina, who seemingly wishes to let the painting he commissioned speak for him.

And the fight over whether the building should be demolished still goes on.

One last tidbit about Buddy Cianci: he claimed that the profits from the sales of his spaghetti sauce would go toward the education of children, but once the company went out of business, their ledgers showed a net profit of $3. No word on what they bought with it...maybe some paints to encourage future artistic endeavors in Rhode Island, a state that might be called "Baltimore In Miniature"?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My favorite movie of the year

Image result for the catcher was a spyAs it turns out, the average American movie theater made more money off the sale of JuJuBes and Junior Mints than on ticket sales from the recent movie "The Catcher Was A Spy."  According to the movie business papers, it made $114,771 from 49 theaters in its opening weekend, for an average of $2,459 per venue. Fortunately, the star of the movie, Paul Rudd, also stars in "Ant-Man And The Wasp," which took in about $2,549 from every single American citizen, even those as yet unborn.

I didn't even expect it to do that well. I didn't even think the movie would even get produced, although a movie about it was being talked about for some years. In a world (as they say in the movie trailers) in which people flock to see Avengers movies and Incredibles and Deadpool and Jurassic World pictures, who would care about a movie about Moe Berg?

Right here, Dude. And maybe it's because I love the whole legacy of Moe Berg, and maybe because I share his love of eccentric behavior, but I loved the picture, which we saw on the pay-per-view the other night.  Peggy loved it too, even though she is not such a fan of idiosyncratic behavior, since she lives in a house full of it.

First, who was Moe?

Morris "Moe" Berg (March 2, 1902 – May 29, 1972) was New York born, son of a pharmacist, brother of a doctor and a schoolteacher. Moe went to Princeton, Columbia U. Law, and the Sorbonne in Paris, placing him leaps and bounds ahead of the average baseball player, which he also was.  So great was he in college that he went to the big leagues, where he made a nice living as a catcher for 15 years. He was never a star, and one reason for that was that he really was not as interested in baseball as he was in his other activities: learning things and going places.

He spoke a dozen languages and made it a habit to read 10 newspapers every day, as well as the suitcases full of books he traveled with. He wore black suits and white shirts every day. He would not read a newspaper if anyone else had read it before him, and he cultivated a habit of disappearing from view suddenly, even if he were in the middle of a conversation.

Because Japanese was one of the tongues he spoke in, he accompanied some other American ballplayers to Japan for a tour and series of exhibition games, and Moe dressed in traditional kimono to visit a hospital - but instead of visiting anyone, he climbed to the roof and took aerial footage of downtown Tokyo.

Moe Berg signed with the Brooklyn Robins as an infielder after graduating from Princeton University magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in modern languages in 1923, turning down more prestigious offers in academia and business. “I would rather be a ballplayer than a bank president or a judge,” Berg would explain. (National Baseball Hall of Fame) 
But his baseball career ended as World War II began, and he offered his extensive knowledge of pretty much everything about everything to his country. He served the war effort as a spy. The movies he brought back from Japan served very well as background information for the generals, who also asked Moe to look into whether Germany was building an atomic bomb.

And thereby hangs the tale of the movie, which we enjoyed a lot. I guess it was a good idea to have the movie be about spy stuff rather than Moe and his bizarre habits. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor for his valor during the war, but refused to accept it (his sister accepted it for him after his death.)

A baseball fan until the end, his last words were, "How did the Mets do today?"