Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pants on Fire!

Sometimes as I cast about the world wide nets to find news to share with you, I see a story that I figure must be fake news.  I mean, when you see a story about a lifelong beer lover winning a brewery in a lottery, or someone falling down while getting off the x-ray machine, thus breaking the leg that the x-ray has just shown not to be broken, or a hapless motorist driving a Ford crashing into the display room of a Chevrolet dealership, it catches the eye, am I wrong?

But how does "lawyer's pants catch fire" sound?  And add to it what he was doing at the time the tweed started blazing...

His name is Stephen Gutierrez, and he practices law in Florida. And his defense (unsuccessful) of one Claudy Charles, 49, was taking place in a Sunshine State courtroom when, suddenly, the attorney's slacks began smoldering.   

And Charles was on trial for arson! He set his own car on fire, or, at least, the guilty conviction the jury handed down said he did.  I imagine the jurors were spellbound by Gutierrez's defense of his client ("Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, pay no attention to the evidence the state showed you, and remember, the police have been out to get my client for years and years!") as he stood in the Miami-Dade county courtroom, weaving his masterful defense in an oration that led many observers to compare him to the young Clarence Darrow, or would have if they knew who Clarence was.

And then his pants caught fire.

He was trying to convince the jury that Charles's car had just *poof!* spontaneously combusted, but it was his trousers that did that. It wasn't all that spontaneous. He had several batteries for those electronic cigarettes in his pants pocket, and the cells contacting each other led to sparks and smoke and embarrassment, as Gutierrez darted out of the courtroom and into the mens' room  to scoop water out of the sink and onto his onto his britches.


Gutierrez
The word that stunned witnesses used in describing the smoky scene to the Miami Herald was "surreal."

The attorney returned to the chamber with his pants all wet and his pocket all singed.

"This was not staged," Gutierrez told the paper. "No one thinks that a battery left in their pocket is somehow going to explode. After careful research, I now know this can happen. I am not the only one this has happened to, but I am in a position to shed light on the situation."

And what's great about it is, he doesn't need a flashlight to shed light on it...he can just hold up his pants!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Music as Poetry

I've been toying with the idea of making an occasional entry in this blog about music as poetry. Trust me, I have plenty of idea-toying time to spare. 

It's long been my theory that some of the greatest poets the world has known since the days of Shakespeare are men and women writing rock songs, pop standards and country music.  

Image result for chuck berryWhat I'm saying is, if we READ a song as opposed to LISTENING to it, by taking away the music, we are still left with great poems in many cases.  And although this does not apply to all songs ("Sussudio" and "You're Beautiful" bob to the surface of that list), if you take time to read the lyrics, you'll see pretty remarkable poetry right in front of your eyes.

We recently marked the death of Chuck Berry by playing a lot of his old songs. The man had an interesting life, and even though his guitar playing ranked in the Top 10 of any list, and his singing was fine, and the melodies top-notch, I am always amazed at his words. Take "Promised Land," the story of a rock star's cross country trip:
I left my home in Norfolk Virginia
California on my mind
I straddled that Greyhound,
and rode him into Raleigh and all across Caroline
We stopped in Charlotte and bypassed Rock Hill
Never was a minute late
We was ninety miles out of Atlanta by sundown
Rollin' out of Georgia state
We had motor trouble that turned into a struggle,
Half way 'cross Alabam
And that 'hound broke down and left us all stranded
In downtown Birmingham
Right away, I bought me a through train ticket
Ridin' cross Mississippi clean
And I was on that midnight flier out of Birmingham
Smoking into New Orleans
Somebody help me get out of Louisiana
Just help me get to Houston town
There are people there who care a little 'bout me
And they won't let the poor boy down
Sure as you're born, they bought me a silk suit
Put luggage in my hands,
And I woke up high over Albuquerque
On a jet to the promised land
Workin' on a T-bone steak a la carte
Flying over to the Golden State
When The pilot told us in thirteen minutes
He would set us at the terminal gate
Swing low chariot, come down easy
Taxi to the terminal zone
Cut your engines, cool your wings
And let me make it to the telephone
Los Angeles give me Norfolk Virginia
Tidewater four ten O nine
Tell the folks back home this is the promised land callin'
And the poor boy's on the line
(Listen to the song here)

---------------------------------------------------------------
Here's another one that showed Chuck's ability to write about the real people of this world - in this case, the story of a young married couple.  Would they make it?  Well, "You Never Can Tell."


It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle
And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell,
"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale
The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale,
But when Pierre found work, the little money comin' worked out well
"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records, all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music fell
"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
They bought a souped-up jitney, was a cherry red '53,
They drove it down to Orleans to celebrate the anniversary
It was there that Pierre was married to the lovely mademoiselle
"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell
Listen here.
---------------------------------------------------------
"Memphis" has been a hit for several others, most notably Johnny Rivers, and Lonnie Mack with an instrumental version.  But as poetry, you think it's about a guy trying to reach a lost love...and it is, but not like you think...

Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee
Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
'Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall
Help me, information, get in touch with my Marie
She's the only one who'd phone me here from Memphis Tennessee
Her home is on the south side, high up on a ridge
Just a half a mile from the Mississippi Bridge
Help me, information, more than that I cannot add
Only that I miss her and all the fun we had
But we were pulled apart because her mom did not agree
And tore apart our happy home in Memphis Tennessee
Last time I saw Marie she's waving me good-bye
With hurry home drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye
Marie is only six years old, information please
Try to put me through to her in Memphis Tennessee


Here it is!

So many great songs, so much great poetry.  I love it when things rhyme.





Monday, March 27, 2017

Knit wits

I've heard Bill Murray (as John Winger) say this line so many times in "Stripes" that I can repeat it verbatim: "Chicks dig me, because I rarely wear underwear, and when I do, it's usually something unusual."

Well, how about, "Chickens dig me, because I make sweaters for them"?

Here's the deal: Some ladies at Fuller Village, a retirement home in Milton, Massachusetts, got the word that wintertime is tough on chickens.

Not as tough as Colonel Sanders is on them, but still.

Some kinds of chickens lose their plumage and molt new feathers in the cold months, and some chickens who just moved here from the tropics get the chilblains something awful between Autumn and Spring.   

Nearby the senior home is an estate called the Mary M.B. Wakefield Charitable Trust, and there's quite the coopful there. Nursing home resident and knitter supreme Nancy Kearns said that once her squad heard about the chilly chickens, they needled each other into action (think about it.)

"I don't think in my wildest dreams I ever thought anybody made sweaters for chickens," said Barbara Widmayer, 76, who's been knitting since the age of 15. She knitted a sweater for "Prince Peep," a rooster from Malaysia.

"There's so much going on these days that's kind of contentious in the world," Ms Widmayer said. "It was actually very calming to me to work on this."

Libby Kaplan, also 76, said she used to be afraid of birds, but making sweaters for them put those fears to rest. 

Image result for fuller village chicken sweater
This lady looks just like Clara Edwards
 from the Andy Griffith Show
"One person I heard say there were more important things to do in this world. 'Make things for people that need it.' I think animals need to be warm, too, and I'm so glad we did it," Ms Kaplan said.

There must be something to this Chicken Cardigan Craze: Erica Max, a spokesperson for the estate, says the chickens are laying more eggs since they started bundling up.  


Doing this has helped some of the formerly hard-boiled ladies at the Village come out of their shells, and now they are scrambling to outfit every hen with a pullover they can pull over easy. And I hear they recently welcomed the first male member of their knitting circle: General Tso!

Did anyone consider just going to LL Bean and getting the chickens those vests lined with duck down?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Rerun: Back when she was Young

It always amuses me to hear people wistfully going on about the "good old days" when "people were honest and did the right thing" and were "good Americans, especially them actors and all, 'cause up til this Jane Fonda, they were people you could look up to."


Until you knew the truth, and then you'd find out that people have always been pretty much the way they are.  Ever heard of Judy Lewis?

Judy Lewis passed away last week, but she was born in 1935 to actress Loretta Young, just back from spending eight months hiding out in touring Europe.  No one was to know that Loretta Young had given birth, you see.  For one thing, she was a VERY Religious Young Lady and for another thing, her baby daddy was jug-eared hambone actor Clark Gable, who was a VERY married man at the time. They fell in love while making a movie called "The Call Of The Wild" (indeed!) and they acted like two telegraph keys: they just didit, didit, didit. And all this without a condom or at least some sort of rhythm!

So what they did was, Loretta had the baby, put her in the bullpen of foster care, and then  - because she felt the same maternal urges that so many single women with burgeoning careers have - she told everyone she adopted the little jug-eared baby who looked more like Clark Gable than Gable himself.
They operated on the child's ears at the age of 7, for the love of Pete, to pull them a little closer to her head.

We don't know why Clark Gable, once free of his marriage, didn't marry Loretta.  Maybe he found her a little too deceptive.  Or maybe he was busy banging 1/2 of Hollywood.  But Loretta married a guy named Tom Lewis, and they had two children, while continuing to claim that Judy was "adopted."
Gee, you wouldn't think that would mess up a person's head, would you, to find out from the guy you are about to marry at age 23 that your father is a bad actor in movies and the woman you had always been told had adopted you as an infant was your birth mother? “It was very difficult for me as a little girl not to be accepted or acknowledged by my mother, who, to this day, will not publicly acknowledge that I am her biological child,” she said in an interview in 1994, when her inevitable tell-all book came out.

For  heaven's sake, COVER THOSE EARS!
Her mother, saint that she was, responded by not speaking to Judy for three years.  By that time, Judy had given up her career as a soap opera actress and had become a licensed family and child counselor, a job to which she must have brought a great deal of empathy.  Perhaps she could understand her mother.  I don't.  Loretta never came clean about all this when she was alive, which she stopped being in 2000, and then her tell-all posthumous autobiography told it all. 

Here's what the old girl told her daughter when she finally admitted what she did:  “And why shouldn’t I be unhappy? Wouldn’t you be if you were a movie star and the father of your child was a movie star and you couldn’t have an abortion because it was a mortal sin?” 

Loretta Lynn, noted country singer, was named for Loretta Young.  A picture of Ms Young hung on the wall of the Webb family home in Butcher Holler KY, and her mother liked the name.   I just thought I'd end this on a happier note.  Loretta Lynn has brought pleasure to millions.  Loretta Young couldn't be honest with one.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, March 25, 2017

American ingenuity at its finest is on display in our approach to homemade mailboxes.  The neighbors of this family can always tell people, "We're at 6344...when you see the crazy mailbox, we're right next door!"
We have adorable twins in our family, but they're fraternal. These quads have a lot in common...in fact, everything. But I'm sure they all have their own personalities, goals, desires, dreams. I wonder if one of them gets a headache and the others get one too.
If I were the judge in this case, this fool would not be driving until after the Winter Olympics...of 2022. Not only is it bad enough that he or she is driving around with a pack of ice on the roof, roof that might easily come flying off at high speed, smashing windshields behind the car, but look at the windshield. Unbelievable. Unforgivable. 
Show me the best "cute animal*" picture you have, and I can top it with this zonked-out squirrel. (* cat pictures excluded.)
Take a little sidewalk foliage, and some chalk...and there you go!
If you're taking a straw poll...this one wins!
When I was a kid, we heard about polio, and we got our shots and sugar cubes and all that, but the horror stories about "don't get chilled" were even worse than "don't go swimming for half an hour after you eat."
It's interesting, the way birds raise their kids, until they determine it's time for them to fly away on their own. And you wonder if the kids ask every afternoon, "What's for dinner, Mom?" 

Friday, March 24, 2017

No strings attached

For violinists, there is nothing like playing a Stradivarius, which were fiddles made by Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737). Roman Totenberg, a famous violinist, had one that he played for 38 years until it was ripped off in 1980. He had played at a reception in Boston that May, and saw a young violinist named Philip Johnson hanging around the venue, and then, boom! Totenberg went to go home, and the violin was gone.

Some say that the craftsmanship that Stradivari employed still can't be duplicated, and some say it was the now non-unavailable Italian maple wood that he used that creates that unmistakable tone.

Totenberg pointed the finger at Johnson, but the police couldn't act on his suspicions alone, and so he lived the rest of his life without what he called his "musical partner of 38 years."  And he lived to be 102!

Johnson didn't make it to 102, for sure. He bought it in 2011 at the age of 58, leaving behind a locked violin case, the locks of which his wife finally figured out how to open in 2015, and guess what was inside?

The priceless Stradivarius violin, that's what! The fiddle has now been returned to the Totenberg family (one of whom is Nina Totenberg, the legal affairs reporter on NPR). They have returned the $101,000 insurance payout the late Mr T received long ago and are looking for a new owner, someone who will be the right steward for this musical treasure and also can come up with the price, which should be much higher than the $15,000 that Totenberg paid when he bought it as a young man.

Ms Wang has just received a request to play
"Orange Blossom Special" on the returned fiddle.
The Totenbergs put on a private recital the other night, and Mira Wang, who studied with Mr Totenberg, had the honor of giving the violin its first public airing since that night in 1980.

That locked case reminded me of a story in my own family. When my parents were just newlywed, they went to the shore for a vacation, and while they were seeing the fishing boats come back to the dock one sunny evening, the diamond fell out of Mom's ring, and into the bay.

Well, of course, she was disconsolate, and a couple of days later, Dad figured he could cheer her up with a seafood dinner. Mom ordered the flounder, and when she cut into that fish, what do you think was inside?

That's right...Bones!


Thursday, March 23, 2017

On a role

It counts as exposure to real high culture when I walk through the family room and the classier 1/2 of the family is in the room watching some English drama on the PBS. At the time this takes place, I'm usually upstairs listening to old radio shows online, but the other night I needed something from the garage and walked past the TV and saw a lovely young English lady on one of those shows.  I skillfully interrogated Peggy and found that the show was called "Victoria," and it was about Queen Victoria, the 5-foot mighty mite who ruled Britain from 1837 until 1901.

Now, it's none of my business to say how good a queen old Vicky was. (I'm in the iron and steel business: waffle iron and steely looks.) But I have seen pictures of the old girl, and she was quite different in appearance from the stunning young lady who portrays her on the television.
This is Jenna Coleman, the actress charged with the daunting role of playing Queen Victoria.




 And this is Queen Victoria. Again, she might have been the greatest monarch in the mercurial history of monarchs, but she did not look like the woman who now plays her any more than they could hire John Stamos to play the lead in a movie about me.


And so I got to thinking about other people who had a lot to live up to, name-wise.  Like the bank robber at left. Born Lester Gillis, he somehow wound up being called Baby Face Nelson, and since his death in 1934 due to being shot 17 times by FBI agents (his final words: "I'm done for"), I have often wondered what baby ever born looked like him.


Or take Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd.  The FBI did, that's for sure, and the death of this fleeing crook also took place in 1934. "Pretty Boy" was more voluble with his final words: "I'm done for. You've hit me twice." But would you call him "Pretty Boy," I ask you? I think "29078" is a better nickname for him.

There was a movie called "Knock On Any Door" fifteen years after those two unstable Americans were dispatched, and it was not the best movie Humphrey Bogart ever made. For one thing, his false teeth must have bothered him during the courtroom scene, leading to an unfortunate sibilance in his diction. But the focus of the movie is on the murderer that attorney Bogey is defending: Nick "Pretty Boy" Romano, played by John Derek, a man who grew to be chiefly famous for being handsome.

I'm never going to be either famous for being handsome or handsome for being famous, but who needs stardom? It so bored John Derek that he gave up movies and married a succession of beautiful women (Pati Behrs, Ursula Andress, Linda Evans and Bo Derek) who didn't mind making movies at all, and they all lived happily ever after, just like in the movies.