Monday, January 15, 2018

In honor of Dr King, from 2016

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses crowd in Washington, DC
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
addresses crowd
in Washington, DC
“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” - Dr Martin Luther King, Jr

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was a preacher in from Atlanta, serving as minister of a Baptist church in Montgomery, Ala. It's hard to believe, but this occurred in America some sixty years ago: Black citizens were required to ride in the back of the municipal buses (they did pay the same fare as all others), and were not allowed to shop in certain stores, dine at some restaurants, or even use public toilets or water fountains. Or Vote. 

Inspired by the resistance of a hard-working seamstress named Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus, Dr King led a boycott of those buses.  It took almost two years, but in the end, the buses in Montgomery were desegregated, open to all.  

Today, we pause from the day-to-day to honor a man who had the courage to lead the nation away from the awful practices of legal racial prejudice and discrimination.

 He went on to lead the fight to allow all citizens to vote.  Again, I am writing this for the benefit of the young, who might find it hard to believe there was a time and place in this country when a man or woman of legal voting age could be denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin.

Of course, even the young can see that a political platform that damns an entire race or religious group or seeks to keep them from coming to the Land Of The Free is based on "hair-brained" foolishness.

There was an interesting article in the Washington POST the other day about the Dr King Memorial in Washington.  National Park Service guide John W. McCaskill, stationed there, encounters all sorts of visitors to the monument.  Some are just learning about the fight for civil rights in the US, and some are people who were there on the front lines of the fight - literally.

One day, he met Rev. C.T. Vivian.  In 1965, Rev. Vivian was on the steps of the Birmingham municipal building, trying to register new voters. And a violent sheriff, one Jim Clark, stood in their way and said they could not register.  

Vivian stood firm for the right to vote. Clark hit Vivian so hard that he broke his hand. As blood poured from his nose and mouth, Rev Vivian had the courage to say this to the news cameras recording this horror:  
   "We are willing to be beaten for democracy."

And that courage flowed from the heart of the man whom we honor today. 

Please remember that, the next time that voting seems an inconvenience, or kindness to persons of a different faith or background seems to be too much trouble. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Rerun: With Mallets Toward None

Billy the Kid (born Henry McCarty, but that doesn't sound like a name for a legendary gunslinger) was a pretty tough hombre in America's Wild West days, the days when people walked around with guns, shooting at each other. (Can you even believe such a time ever existed in our country?)

He became a hero, a well-known name in cowboy lore.  There is even a kid's clothing line named after him, which leads me to wonder why no one ever came up with "Lil' John Dillinger" suits, overalls and jeans for America's youth.  

The original Billy was a common crook, a thief and murderer, and he met his maker at the age of 21 in a gunfight.  He died as he lived, with a gun in one hand, and possibly a croquet mallet in the other.

No kidding. Historians have just authenticated a photograph as being of a group that included BTK.  He is seen in the picture playing croquet with his posse ("The Regulators") in New Mexico in 1878.  It was taken after a wedding that summer, just a month after the gang took part in the brutal Lincoln County war, a dispute between rival factions over dry goods and cattle that was resolved by having people shoot guns at each other repeatedly.

Having been imported from England, croquet became popular in 19th Century America. There is even a letter from Gen. George Custer to his wife, asking that she procure and bring him a croquet set so he could play the game with his Army buddies in Kansas. There's no word on whether he took that equipment to his final battle at Little Big Horn.
Billy's other picture

A fellow named Randy Guijarro paid $2 for the picture in a junk shop in Fresno, CA, in 2010, and it's on the auction block now, expected to bring in a few cool million bucks.  The only other picture we have to keep the young felon's dear memory alive is the picture taken in 1880, the one where he looks like a member of Blake Shelton's entourage.  

Billy also went by the moniker "William H. Bonney." It would seem that he had more names than good qualities.  He was a horse thief, cattle rustler, and murderer of at least eight people (although he claimed to have killed 21) and was not missed at all by anyone who liked it peaceful and crime free.  Still, in the inexplicable way we have of turning scoundrels into folk heroes, his name alone inspires people to reach for their checkbooks to buy the original tintype of this photo for their den walls: 
This picture for sale

That's Billy on the left in this closeup

By the way, the historians went to a lot of trouble to make sure this is not a picture of a Billy the Kid impersonator or something. In the course of a year-long investigation, they where it was taken: Chaves County, New Mexico. They even dug up the remains of the building shown. Jeff Aiello, director of a National Geographic Channel documentary on this story, says, “We found the old lumber underneath. We found those exact rock piers are still there.”  There will be a TV show about this later this month.  

137 years from now, Keith Richards, who will still be alive, will be hosting a TV special about a VHS tape that someone just found that shows Tonya Harding's wedding night, and people will pay billions for it.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, January 13, 2018

It's my long-held belief that some of the wittiest wits in America are working in the field of roadside sign, fortune cookie and T-shirt epigrams.  Dream on!
This person might have just been in New Jersey, where, often, left turns are made from the right lane on what they call a "jughandle." Good luck to him/her either/or way.
Someone in the quality control department over at Staircases "R" Us needs to step up just a bit...I guess they need to rail at someone...
I have this weird relationship with the Cleveland Browns, the spectacularly inept football team with some really good players. I love their uniform colors (brown and orange) and would gladly give up the Ravens' purple surple to go brown and orange. But, anyhow, the Browns had 16 Losses and 0 Wins in 2017, and then celebrated with a Shirts With No Ws.
This must be the idea of some flinty local judge somewhere. Do you think public shaming is the answer? We'll see if she steals again.
Hi! Welcome back to The Late 1960s, where Mr. Jimi Hendrix is fixing a spaghetti dinner and a cup of tea for you. 
Yes, it snowed in the Sahara Desert, and nothing makes a bit of sense at all.
If only the reason for people being so cranky was solely because their toilet paper irritated them, all the domestic backbiting in this country could be wiped out. I mean, eliminated. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Don't be pedantic when telling someone what pedantic means

One of the advantages of being my age is getting to sit up and watch college football games that last until almost one in the yawning.

The other is seeing some of life's eternal truths coming true, and therefore I can share some wisdom that must have fallen into my brain when I bent over to pick up a string bean or something.

Here is a truth that comes true time after time, and the sooner young people learn it, the better they are.  

Be prepared for the next step up, because you never know when the chance will come to take that step.

Viewers of the "Sunday Today" show on NBC saw an interesting turn this past week: Unctuous host Willie Geist showed up at the beginning of the show, but said he had a cold and sore throat and "no one wants to hear this voice for an hour."  So he called NBC Correspondent Morgan Radford, who apparently lives near 30 Rock, and asked her to get down to the studio and pinch hit.  She did, and she filled in just perfectly! If you look at her wiki page, you see that she is studded with degrees like cloves on a ham, as Max Shulman once said, and so she is smart and capable  - and she was ready when the time came to step up.  

She might not turn out to be the next "Today" host, and Geist might not be this year's Wally Pipp, but it cannot hurt her professionally to have been seen doing so well at sitting in on the anchor desk - and so good for her!

Image result for alabama quarterback

The same can be said for someone who got their chance to fly the next day. Monday evening brought Tua Tagovailoa, the second string Alabama quarterback, the chance to step up when starter Jalen Hurts couldn't get his team moving in the championship game. Ask anyone how that turned out! (Hint: that is he holding the championship trophy after the game.)

Another piece of wisdom is:

Be a mature team player, even when things don't go your way.

Because, you might ask, what of Hurts, the sophomore star quarterback who led the Crimson Tide to a 12-1 record this season? How did he react to being told at halftime that he was being taken out of the game in favor of Tagovailoa? Did he pout, throw a clipboard or a fit, refuse to leave the locker room?

He did not. He was on the sideline cheering, encouraging, exhorting his backup to go out and win the game, and when the game was won, Hurts was the first guy out there for a hug 'n' shake.

That sort of thing gets noticed too. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Think about it

Image result for h&M hoodie

It became clear to all that the abrasive sports commentator Howard Cosell was deep into his dotage on the night of September 5, 1983, when, broadcasting a Monday Night Football game on ABC, he said, "That little monkey really gets loose, doesn't he?" to describe the play of Washington Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett.

Now, most of us became aware of the horror of using such a foolish, demeaning term to describe an African-American man such as Garrett long before 1983. There are pejorative terms for every race, ethnicity, religion, whatever grouping one can belong to. Cosell's protests that he called his own grandchildren "monkeys" did not do much to stem the tide of disapproval, and 1983 turned out to be his final season braying about MNF games.

People are uncomfortable around people using language like that, and you'd like to think that people would think about it before they use it. But no.

The H&M clothing stores were selling this hoodie with the belittling slogan pictured above until someone noticed how insulting it was, and now they are breaking their necks to take these hoodies off. Off their shelves and catalog pages, that is. The company's statement is a masterpiece, in case there are any students of corporate stilted speech out there: 

“It’s obvious that our routines have not been followed properly,” H&M said of the monkey hoodie. “This is without any doubt. We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.”
George Carlin used to talk about how you could go into a novelty store and buy fake vomit and dog feces to leave around on someone's desk for "comic" purposes, and he always pointed out that someone was at their desk, at work, when they came up with the idea to make and sell fake dog droppings.

Someone was at work when they decided to make and sell such an offensive hoodie, and someone needs to go away and think about that for a while.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

People hate to be labelled, but appliances don't care

Maybe I should label each cat.
I like having one of these DYMO labelmakers around the house. My handwriting is not so good, even to write "OREGANO" on a spice jar lid, so I let the good people at DYMO take over. I have labelled flash drives, keys, DVDs, CDs, clipboards, framed photos and newspaper clippings, books, and, in the ultimate Zen moment, the labelmaker itself (with my name, in case Lightfinger Louie tries to rip me off.)

And, you know, nothing lasts anymore. My first labelmaker stopped making labels right before Christmas, so I treated myself to a new one from Amazon. And, in the interest of not buying 36 AA batteries a year, I sprang for the extra ten bucks for the AC adapter, so I could plug the thing into an outlet and roll on through the new year, happily printing labels and sticking labels on everything like a loon.

So along comes UPS with the new labeller and the adapter, and there is no place for the adapter to plug into the new device. So, I picked up my phone, which is labelled, and called the DYMO people on their customer service hotline, only to be told that the new models do not have ports for the adapter anymore.

So how come the adapters are still for sale, I had to ask.

The lady on the phone was very nice and I know it's not her fault that I felt like a guy with an electric car and no place to plug it in. I packed up the charger and emailed Amazon, and got a prepaid shipping label, and dropped the package off at Postman Plus, and by the time I got home from running errands, the ten bucks was credited to me and I ordered a package of AA batteries, for which I will make a label as soon as it comes to my mailbox (also labelled.)

For those of you looking forward to retirement, this is the sort of thing that makes the whole thing worthwhile...all this puttering around! I have to go to BJs now.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Oregon Trail

Many moons ago, a wise old friend told me that things are very different out West in the US, that people out there think and act very differently from back here in the stodgy East.

Oh, and he also told me never to go out there, or the top of my head would fly off. Reasons cited included a tendency out on "the coast" to be chronically late and underdressed for business meetings, and a habit of spreading guacamole all over everything.

But now, if I were to decide to Oregon, I could pump my own gas when I get there.

Readers in other parts of the world might find it odd that it only became legal last week for Oregonians to pump their gas at filling stations. Until January 1, Oregon and good old New Jersey ("Home of Chris Christie") were the only two states where drivers were not allowed to hop out at the Gas 'N' Go and fill up with Hi-Test. 

We go to New Jersey for the annual Christie Days festival, and it does make you feel like you're a Hilton or something to pull up to the pump and tell the guy "fill 'er up!" We've been pumping our own here in Maryland for a while now, and it's a nice break from scrinching behind the wheel to get out and nozzle up. It also gives you a chance to squeegee the windshield and go inside the FillMore and see the array of items for sale: blunts as yet unstuffed, Slim Jims, energy drinks, and the complete line of TastyKake treats.

But in Oregon, they are flipping out all over the place!

The new law signed into law last year by Gov. Kate Brown lets drivers pump their own gas in half of Oregon’s 36 counties.

And a tv station in Medford, Oregon was hosed down with Facebook comments from its viewers, who were outraged at the very thought of getting out of their Priuses (Pria?) to do something for themselves.

Among the exasperations: 

“I don’t even know HOW to pump gas and I am 62, native Oregonian … I say NO THANKS! I don’t want to smell like gasoline!”  - - To which I add, go to Dollar Tree, get a pair of cotton jersey gloves for pumping purposes, and store them inside the little door to the gas cap!

“I’ve lived in this state all my life and I REFUSE to pump my own gas … This a service only qualified people should perform. I will literally park at the pump and wait until someone pumps my gas.”
 - - As much as I respect other people who pump their own gas and find employment at service stations, it does not require a PhD to squirt gasoline into a car.

“I go to work at 5 in the morning. Not a lot of people at the gas pumps at that time in the morning. And yes, I will not feel safe pumping my own gas … Not to mention it’s freezing and rainy. So thank you to all who voted to change it. You have now taken away a nice luxury that most of us enjoyed.” - - So you didn't mind the people who work there getting frozen and rained-upon? And that canopy overhead will protect you at all hours of the day and night.

“Many people are not capable of knowing how to pump gas and the hazards of not doing it correctly. Besides I don’t want to go to work smelling of gas when I get it on my hands or clothes. I agree Very bad idea.” - - Again, it's an easily-acquired skill, and the hazards are pretty much limited to not setting yourself, your car, or the gas station on fire. Think you can manage that?

“Yuck! Pumping my [own] fuel in freezing temperatures and handling a nasty ole fuel nozzle that 50 other people have touched that day (and who knows what cooties are on there), no thank you. It’s nice to not have to pump your own fuel.” -  - After you pump your gas, pump your Purell!

Someone, please tell Oregonianites that millions and millions of Americans fill their cars with precious petrol every day and manage to go to work without a) being on fire b) reeking of gasoline and c) having cooties.

It's been years and years since I ever saw a cootie, and it wasn't at a gas station, I'll tell you that right now!