Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Blame it on the moon

I still haven't figured out who was kidding whom down in Florida as Irma the Hurricane approached.

A guy started a Facebook page exhorting locals in the path of the behemoth storm to "Shoot at Hurricane Irma."

Having just recently read about how one Billy Ray Taylor and some others in Kelly, Kentucky, shot their weapons at what they perceived to be "Little Green Men" invading from Mars in 1955 (it turned out to be a parliament of owls), I was on the hunt for another story in which men (it's always men) shoot guns at some otherworldly force.

Well, sir, the Pasco County Sheriff's office took this seriously, posting a tweet as the storm drew near. "To clarify, DO NOT shoot weapons at Irma," read the tweet in an earnest, albeit poorly worded, bit of advice.  "You won't make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects."

Such as shooting the people next door, or your car.

46,000 souls clicked "like" on the page started by Ryon Edwards. Edwards was later to write that he was "amazed that anyone could see it as anything else than a joke." He told the news down there that the idea for the page came to him out of "stress and boredom."

Sometimes I just shake my old head and hear the thoughts (or something) rattling around in there, and one of the thoughts is that a joke ought to be funny.

Just to give you an example, here is a joke that is funny, as told by comedy master Norm MacDonald:

"A guy said, 'I want you to buy this pit bull. This will protect your valuables.' I don't own anything very valuable. If I buy the pit bull, that would be the most valuable thing I own. I'd have to buy something to protect it then."

And this one, which I have heard from comics like Buddy Hackett and Mel Tillis:

A guy goes into a pet shop and tells the owner that he needs a pet for his mother. The guy says that Mom lives alone and could really use some company. Pet shop guy says, "I have just what she needs. A parrot that can speak in five languages. She'll have a lot of fun with that bird." The guy says he'll take the parrot and makes arrangement to have the bird delivered to his Mom. A few days pass and the man calls his mother. "Well Mom, how did you like that bird I sent?" She says, "Oh son, he was delicious!" Aghast, the guys says, "Mom, you ate that bird? Why, he could speak five languages!" 

And the Mom says, "Well, he shoulda said something!"

All in good fun, and no bullets flying.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rock and role

Image result for kindness rocks
Not long ago, the thing to do was to do random acts of kindness. Remember them? Paying the toll for the guy behind you on the interstate, or buying coffee for the entire crowd at S'Bux, or icing down a case of bottled water and passing out chilly Dasanis at the Fourth of July parade...

If I ever go back on the radio, I will use the air name "Chilly Dasani."

I'm sure that still goes on, the random act thing, but now the thing to do is to emblazon messages of love, admiration or encouragement on rocks and leave them where people in need of love, admiration or encouragement will find them.

They're called Kindness Rocks, and here is a link to a site that tells you how to make your own.

According to the Kindness Rocks Project, you can leave a message rock where the intended recipient will stumble over it (not literally) or you can create an entire Inspiration Garden.

Image result for kindness rocks inspiration garden

Rocks go through this, this spate of popularity, every few years.  They are plentiful, so you don't have to spend a nickel to find some, and they are easily cleaned and painted. Pet Rocks made a fortune in the 1970s for the guy who figured out that people would spend $5 (that's like $4 in 2017 money!) to get a little rock that looked like a potato in a cardboard box with ventilation holes to put on their desk to hold their paperweights down.

And any family with a simple home smelting operation can mine their back yard and produce their own zinc, lead, copper, aluminum and aquarium gravel.  OR you can paint inspirational slogans on them and leave them on the neighbor's porch or your child's lunchbox or the reception area down at the loan office where you go to make payments on your smelter.

Image result for finding painted rocks

Related imageI think the choice is clear. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sugar and Spice

Maybe we misjudged Sean Spicer.

He got off to a bad start, coming out the day after the recent poorly-attended inauguration to declaim to a skeptical press corps that the ceremonies drew, in fact, a gathering of humanity seventeen times the size of Woodstock, with the New Year's crowd from Times Square thrown in. He was put in a tough spot, forced to repeat spurious information to balm the ego of the new guy.

In so doing that day, Spicer came off like a substitute shop teacher who was brought in after the tough guys in Metal Shop soldered Mr Pipgrass's pants to his BVDs and was told to crack down right away.  He got off to the worst start of any presidential press secretary in our history, and never really got his footing behind the podium.  And it didn't help that as the press hurled scorn and invective at him, his sardonic boss was sprinkling disdain all over him as well. Within days, Melissa McCarthy was lining up to knock him every Saturday Night Live and the country roared as "Spicey" came to life as a Barney Fife-like caricature.

It seemed that things really hit their nadir when the traveling White House road show played the Vatican. I'm not Catholic, but I understand that meeting the pope is, without question, the top goal for anyone of that faith.  And it must have crushed Spicer when his boss cruelly did not allow him to meet the pontiff as much as it would have hurt me had I not been allowed a private audience with Ernest Tubb at the Civic Center in 1967. 

I think that's when the public tide turned and people started to feel sorry for Sean, and it wasn't that much longer that he was replaced by someone's hard-to-employ daughter out of Arkansas.

And then - this happened! Spicer appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show and played along with the jibes, and then here he was on last night's Emmy awards telecast to the surprise of all. He rolled out behind a podium, just as Melissa did, and he mocked himself with, "This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmy’s, period, both in-person and around the world." 

And the audience in the theater and at home laughed, this time with him, and not at him.

A lot of times we start out in a new venture tripping all over ourselves and landing right on our asterisks.*  If someone is keeping score, I'm sure they could tell you that I am a world leader in making an ass-embly of myself, and one thing I have learned is, if they're laughing, don't get mad, laugh with them!

Spicer seems to have learned that, and now we might as well all go to Amazon to pre-order the book he will certainly have up for sale in time for Christmas. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Rerun: Space Doubt

In the days before microwave ovens made it possible for us to nuculate Hot Pockets and Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sandwiches at work for lunch, lunch choices were limited to whatever one could stuff in a brown bag.

And it was even worse for astronauts! Floating around in space in a multi-million dollar space capsule, those brave men couldn't very well pack cheese and crackers for lunch. There were very delicate electronic parts aboard, and crumbs hanging in the air in a weightless environment could very well get in the works and jam things up.

If you remember Space Food Sticks, that was Pillsbury's idea, bringing to American pockets, lunch pails and vending machines the tubular Astronaut food with the consistency of a Tootsie Roll and the taste of tree bark and sawdust. But food for grinding on in a space ship had to be crumb-free and molded into blocks or tubes. All other food was strictly not A-OK, in NASA parlance.

John Young was the pilot of the Apollo III mission in March, 1965. Later, he became the ninth man to walk on the moon (1972) but first, he became the first man to smuggle a corned beef sandwich aboard a NASA mission. As Apollo III hurtled spaceward, he reached into the pocket of his spacesuit and pulled out a corned-beef-on-rye-with-mustard and began to chomp away.

 It turned out that another astronaut with a penchant for practical gaggery, Wally Schirra, had slipped off to a deli in Cocoa Beach FL, brought the sammy to Young, and sat back to enjoy the hijinx.

We can say that this was not the worst thing that ever happened in the state of Florida or in the province of American space travel. No beef or rye molecules ruined any onboard equipment, although the next guy to take that spaceship for a ride did complain that there was mustard all over the steering wheel.

And the bigshots at NASA had to do some fancy scrambling when, at the next Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to determine how much more of our tax money would be wasted spent on flying around like William Shatner, Sen. George E. Shipley blasted NASA: “My thought is that after you spend a great deal of money and time, to have one of the astronauts slip a sandwich aboard this vehicle, frankly, is just a little disgusting.”

To end the suspense, they got their money anyway and Americans landed on the moon in July 1969.  

Or so you think.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, September 16, 2017

There was a time that children were told that "the stork" brought babies. I was really upset when I found out the truth about them being found under huge cabbage leaves in the garden. 
Someone with a curious mind put out two rolls - one under, one over - to see which was the preferred setup. You can see for yourself, the clear winner is "over."
There is nothing I enjoy seeing more than a sight like this, soon to be seen on roadways all over our town. It's almost October, and we could be snowed upon as early as next month!
And here is another good idea for fall, a time of year when everyone wants pumpkin spice errthang. Your car will thank you and let you know it's time to bundle up by needing a new muffler.
The New Orleans Pelicans were a minor-league baseball team for many years. During the time (1940 - 1942) that they were affiliated with the St Louis Cardinals, they wore jerseys sort of like what the Cards wore, but with pelicans balanced on a bat instead of cardinals. That is a cool-looking bird. 
We were happy to make a picture of a rectangular-looking giraffe back in the early days of Etch-a-Sketching, and now people are doing all sort of complicated designs on there. That little red frame on a silver screen has been around since 1960!
The hands, and "Trigger," the guitar, of Willie Nelson. 
With cats in the house, our plans to do jigsaw puzzles have waned, but they still provide lots of fun for old and young.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Hunker Game

Did you know there's a game called "Hunker Down"?

Don't confuse it with Husker Du, which was a children's board game, sort of like Concentration on TV, but with no Hugh Downs.

No, the Hunker Down game is played when everyone is sitting around watching The Weather Channel or some local coverage of an impending hurricane or blizzard or Ed Shearan concert - the sort of calamity that makes us take shelter. You play it this way: every time someone on the news (an anchor in the studio with his jacket off and his shirt sleeves rolled up to indicate seriousness of purpose, or a reporter out on the street wearing an LL Bean anorak and holding onto a "YIELD" sign for dear life) says, "It's time to hunker down..." you take a nip, and the last person standing wins.

I said it was a game. I didn't say it was a good game.

But, fascinated with words, I looked up "hunker" in the Merriam-Webster, and from there I found that it's
 "Originally Scottish. Origin unknown, but probably of Germanic origin, perhaps *hunk- or *huk-. Probable cognates include Old Norse húka, Dutch huiken, and German hocken.


hunker (third-person singular simple present hunkerspresent participle hunkeringsimple past and past participle hunkered)
  1. (intransitive) To crouch or squat close to the ground.
Derived terms[edit]
Are you like me, picturing German-Scots wearing kilts and eating sauerbraten, getting ready to hunker?

I'll tell you something really cool you can get just by going to the Merriam-Webster site! You can look at a word and find when it was first used in print...or look at a year and see what words were first used in that year! 

Image result for hunker downI take no small pride in seeing that "cable television," "Cargo pants," and "water gun" first saw the light of day in the year I did the same. 

And "hunker" dates back to 1720, a dozen years before George Washington came along, but surely, sometime that year, some colonial in a tricorn hat told his neighbor that his aching knee told him that a big storm was coming in and so it was time to hunker down in the sod hut.

Isn't history fun?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The cool cool word of the day

It's fun to keep up with the English language (what's left of it), and a good place to follow the torn and tattered remnants of our mother tongue is the morning tv news shows, where grammar is hardly even considered, and mispronunciations are the rule of the day.

I'm all through hammering on their grammar and pronunciation, although I'm usually glad that Peggy is outside enjoying her porch coffee when Michael Strahan reports on the "Chipolte" restaurant chain.  

My new thing is catching the trending words on the news shows. For the longest time, everything was "horrific." Car wrecks, natural disasters, Madonna movies: all got the "horrific" label stuck on them and everyone had to use it.

Also on the abused words and terms list: "latebreaking," which covers anything that happened since breakfast, "overnight," which on Good Morning America means anything that happened since 9 AM yesterday, "walk back," which does not refer to when your car won't start and you leave it at work, but, rather, to when a politician or crook of some stripe gets caught in a big fib and they stutter and stammer three choruses of what they MEANT to say, and, of course, the Cliche Twins, "the devil is in the details," and "Pride goeth before a fall."

"The devil..." is used to describe something so byzantine as to defy description by mortals, such as the federal budget, or a Madonna movie.  "Pride goeth..." is always trotted out in winter, and used to describe a video of some stuffy business type taking a pratfall on an icy sidewalk in some icy city.

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But I am here to report on a new addition to the Top 10 Overused Words.  I've heard it all week to describe the response to Hurricane Harvey, kids going back to school, batting against Steve Dalkowski, and finding really nice cilantro.

The word is "daunting," and here is what your Google says about it: 
seeming difficult to deal with in anticipation; intimidating.
"a daunting task"
synonyms: intimidating, formidable, disconcerting, unnerving, unsettling, dismaying; discouraging, disheartening, dispiriting, demoralizing; forbidding, ominous, awesome, frightening, fearsome; challenging, taxing, exacting
"the daunting task of raising five boys"

So don't let Amy Robach, Jenna Bush Hager and Charlie Rose beat you at the game. Grab a word and use it, use it, use it! That's not too daunting a task, is it?