Monday, September 29, 2008

Eight honors

I hear that the number 8 holds mystical powers in the Asian mind. Always wanting to learn more about this crazy old world, I googled around and found that it's true. For instance, China put out a list called "Eight Honors, Eight Shames." ("Be rong ba chi" in Chinese.) It is the set of behavioral guidelines for the people of China.

The eight rules are as follows.

1. Love the Country do it no harm.
2. Serve the people, do no disservice
3. Follow Science, discard ignorance
4. Be diligent, not indolent
5. Be United, Help each other, Make no gains at another's expense
6. Be honest and trustworthy, do not spend ethics for profits
7. Be disciplined and law-abiding, not chaotic and lawless
8. Live plainly, struggle hard, do not wallow in luxuries and pleasure

OK, I can see #1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 working here. #5 goes totally against the grain of our capitalist system, so that's out, and you try to get any three Americans not to "wallow in luxuries and pleasure" and let me know how that comes out. There goes #8! And I'm not so sure that we all agree on not being chaotic and lawless. I mean, just watch afternoon tv, or COPS on FOX. There are enough misdemeanors, felonies, civil actions, torts and trumped-up charges to fill the air with courtroom shows every single day, banishing reruns of "Eight Simple Rules" to the almost-unseen ABC Family network.

Here in Baltimore, there is arguably no greater hero than Cal Ripken, Jr., who wore #8 every day for 2,632 consecutive Oriole games, many of which were quite boring, but still he was there every day, disciplined and law-abiding. Because he came "from nearby Aberdeen, MD" he was considered a local guy who embodied the best of Baltimore's blue-collar work ethic. I don't mind telling you that I am only one of many whose den fairly creaks with Ripkenania, and the few times I have been in his presence have always been memorable. He is, pure and simple, a great guy. Peggy and I were at a mall one night during Christmas shopping time and we saw Cal and family chowing down at a TGI Friday's. Some other guy and I stood transfixed, watching the great man eat french fries just like any mere mortal.

Of course, another local hero is Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, with whom I proudly share a high school alumni affiliation (Towson!) and a height (6'5") and a birthday (June 30), and there the similarities end. He has a slight edge in Olympic swimming gold medals, 8 - 0. This Saturday there is going to be a huge parade through the streets of Towson, saluting Michael, and fellow Olympic medalists Katie Hoff and Jessica Long. The crowd should be epic, to allow everyone in town to cheer loudly.

Baltimore County has a long tradition of making a fuss over our celebrated citizens. Last summer when Cal Jr was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, the county painted orange '8's on eight intersections around town. For this parade, in recognition of Phelps's eight gold medals, the county has painted a big gold '8' right in downtown Towson.

You know, there's an old expression, "Everyone loves a parade." This is why!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'm A...

I understand why people from Marshall University came up with the expression "We Are Marshall." It summed up the feelings of shared sorrow and mourning after 75 members and associates of their football team died in a plane crash in 1970. It's a nice motto, and it joins the bereaved and their friends and loved ones and the entire college community in a circle of sorrow. That's nice, and worthwhile, that they own their emotions and the balm that helped them heal.

Not so other schools, so when I saw a "We Are Penn State" bumper sticker the other day, I chortled at how crass it is to steal a slogan and re-purpose it for your own parochial use. And surely, Penn State is not the only school whose alumni or student government association ripped off the Marshall mantra.

But it seems like anyone can just apply any label to themselves these days. Singers do it all the time - when their pop music fans desert them, they just go country and claim that they've "always been country." Jewel is trying this image on for size now, and I understand Eddie Money is trying that path as well. It's Vince Vaughn in "Wedding Crashers": "I feel so tiny in your arms...I'm 6' 5" but I feel like I'm 4 feet." It's "I'm a Mac" vs. "I'm a PC." Claim to be tiny, claim to be one sort of computer or another, just say it often enough and maybe it'll come true.

Old McCain has taken to calling himself "The Original Maverick." That comes as news to the many who thought he was so inside the Washington power elite that he had been criticized for improper judgement in that whole stinky Keating Five Savings and Loan scandal. Maybe that was another John McCain?

His adherents demonstrate their mastery of spelling.

I had an original Maverick. A 1977 two-door model, it ran pretty well, didn't always want to start on cold, rainy mornings, and just as old McCain did when he dumped his first wife, I replaced it with a younger, better-looking model. One thing I remember about that car is that because of the odd slope of the rear window, you couldn't see what was going on behind you. Sometimes, it's best to look behind you and realize you should have stayed where you were. Wherever that car is now, I don't think it's of much use to anybody. You couldn't even drive a hockey team around in it. It had its day, performed its useful service.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Admit it!

We all fell for it - we all thought there was something to hypnosis. I mean, it was advertised in all the best comic books, and we all thought we could waggle a pocket watch in front of Miss Rennie in room 4 at Hampton School and then snap our fingers and make her cluck like a chicken. Notice that the ad informs us that this deals in modern hypnosis. None of that ancient stuff. After all, we had timidity to conquer.

And these gas masks! We all had 'em, gotten from Sunny's Surplus, and so we all walked around looking all bug-faced. These ads must have been from the 50's, because that was the last time that two guys had to form a limited liability corporation, pooling half a buck each to send away for war surplus gas masks.

Elementary school kids. Gas. You know where this always wound up going.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I wanted an Ümlaut, but whaddya gonna do?

If you don't have an IKEA near you, I'd consider moving. Of all the great Swedish furniture stores that we have in the greater Baltimore area (JC Torkelson and Montgomery Gottfrid spring to mind), IKEA is the greatest. They have a scratch-and-dent room where a handy man, or I, can buy wood shelves that fell out of a bookshelf for 50 cents and make our own bookshelves, or not. They have all sorts of furniture and home items. They even have Swedish food for sale - grog! salmon! loganberry juice! And a restaurant with Swedish meatballs and cold salmon plates. It's the sort of a place that's suitable for a family field trip, and I think that just being there makes one feel, I dunno, sort of Ikea-ish.

IF YOU GO, you'll notice the brand names on everything from sofas to light bulbs are not you're used to seeing down at Value Village. Hearty, stocky Swedish names! Vivika! Komplement! Furuskug! Ofelia! Fortunately, if you have any questions, you can ask Courtney, Lauren or Justin, who all work there along with Jessica, Nicole and Matthew.

But I found this site on which you simply enter your own first name and the amazing computer machine, right over what your president calls "the internets," will bestow upon you your own Ikea brand name. That's mine, right above: Markind, a walloping, hearty meatloaf of a table. Hope you like yours!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Two cool web sites

In my radio days, one of the worst things you could call a DJ was " a time and temp jock,"meaning that the jock in question had little to say to his audience besides, "10 'til 7 here on the mighty 740, got 57 degrees here at the station, and it's time to hear from Mr. Al Martino." I tried to avoid that syndrome, but to this day, two of my favorite things to know are a) what time is it and b) what's up with the weather? links to an amazing array of world clocks and you can even set one for your home town, as I did (click on the above to see what time I'm enjoying right now.) This gadget is accurate to the second, as anything should be.

A local guy has this weather site that just absolutely stuns me. Click on it - and behold. It tells everything about current conditions, links to radar and other charts, and the great thing is, Perry Hall is right around the corner, literally, from us, so this is close enough to count as my home weather station.

With these two sites, and, of course, Merriam-Webster to look up new words, maybe this crazy internet thing will take off! You never know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

So shoot me for liking good grammar

Friends, it's past the point of just hollering about people saying, "my computer needs to have it's hard drive replaced" or, "I know your only fooling" or, "Its a long way to Tipperary" or, "I wanted to see if I could borrow you're lawnmower." These are the classics that everyone pulls out of their hat when they want to demonstrate the grammatical errors so often seen in everyday writing. Oh yeah, that's another one: "Our low prices save you money everyday." When I tried to explain why this slogan was ineptly expressed at a local grocery store, to share the subtle difference between an adjective and an adverbial phrase, the manager looked at me askance, and kept peering over my shoulder, apparently looking for a hidden camera. I, too, enjoy the work of Allen Funt, but it was not afoot in that instance. I've become so inured to all this that I no longer even comment on any but the most egregious offense, but today I saw signs of a mutation that, if allowed to spread, could threaten the Franco-American way of life we have come to cherish. It all began with a certain predilection for saying "Voila!" but so many people kept spelling it wrong; it began to lose its effect. They would say, "I put the cake in the oven and Viola! It came out perfect." I kept waiting for someone to say "I wanted to buy an instrument that was like a violin in many ways, but richer and darker in tone, and Viola! I found it" but that never came across my reading. But, there developed in the national consciousness a desire to throw this French exclamation around (it's not that heavy, anyway.) I have now, for the second time, been plowing through some prose and found this: "I was looking for Renfrew Court and then wala! I found it." So, because of lax vigilance on the part of Linguistic Security, " \vwä-'lä\" became "\vi-'o-l?" and now is hiding under the neologism "wala."

Is it too late to run to Chick-Fil-A for some Chick-n-Minis?

Just because I had no other picture to run today:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's a crime, the way they treated this man

I am a big fan of old movies, and I like the ones set in old prisons, such as "Angels With Dirty Faces," starring James Cagney, Pat O'Brien and the Dead End Kids. That's the one where Cagney is a big mobster and O'Brien is his childhood friend from the streets who, rather turn to a life of crime, went into the priesthood. He tries to get Cagney to "turn yellow" to set an example for the urchins among the great unwashed of his parish. While Cagney is in prison, the men are not allowed to talk, and they work about 22 hours a day in a jute mill, and the meals consist of a harsh gruel (possibly Krusty© Brand Imitation Gruel, for all we know.) There are lots of other old prison films in which some guy in the mess hall suddenly breaks the silence and screams, "I ain't eatin' this slop!" and throws his tin plate and the contents thereof toward the closest guard, who deals with the infraction by getting about 27 other guards to pummel the man until the next commercial. Or the one where Victor Mature gets out of jail, and they give him the customary five dollars and a new suit, only on Mature, it's a custom-tailored dandy of a suit. Unlikely, unless he made extra money in the jute mill and could pay for alterations.

I just checked - jute is a cheap natural fibre from which man has made twine and burlap. Glad I checked.

What brings all this up is that some former high school teacher from a county just west of here is currently in Maryland's Big House. He would not have had to go there, except he kept talking his students - male and female - into posing for nudie pictures. Clearly, a man who belongs in jail, and for a good long time. But he recently was turned down for modification of sentence. He claimed that the other inmates were really being nasty to him ever since they found out he was a convicted child sexual offender. The nastiness took several forms. Sometimes he was not invited to join in the nightly Faro competition, and sometimes he was shunned for weeks on end. Tonight's segment here on American Jurisprudence concludes with this entreaty: prison is a tough, tough place. A real hellhole. Considering some of the people you will meet who ought to be there and aren't , think of what the ones who currently are incarcerated must be like. And that should make it easy to want to avoid their ranks.

Monday, September 22, 2008

11:44 AM, September 22

I love autumn. It's such a great season that it has two names; you can also call it "fall." What other season has two names around here? Oh yeah - summer, also known as "hell." Heat and humidity are my natural enemies, and when autumn arrives this morning at 11:44 AM (but who's counting?) I will be one happy guy.

Here's what summer always looks like around here:

And this is our lush autumn landscape:

No contest. Welcome, sweet autumn. We greet thee gladly!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Told Sarah Palin, "Theeeeenks but nooooe theeeeenks"

Seem like a nice couple...Papa John and Cruella

I got schooled and now I understand. To think what a fool I was, not to see the clear-cut superiority of a nasty old man and his trophy veep. But thanks to my friend Carole, who passed the following along to me, I no longer have to wallow in ignorance. Also, thanks to Carole, I can go enjoy the Ravens being 2-0 without having to come up with my own daily blogfiller! Thanks, Carole. I thought it was funny the other day when old McCain accused Obama of being a Washington insider, when all along he's been saying the man from Illinois was too new and inexperienced. You can count on me to pass this valuable information along to my friends Oak, Algebra and Turf!

*Now* I understand McCain and Palin

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."

* If you grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, you're a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack, you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

* If you name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

* If you graduate from Harvard Law, you are unstable.

* If you attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black
President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as
the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful
daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.

* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and
married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

* If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of
birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex
education in your state's school system, while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible. And you try to make victimized women pay for their own rape kits.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm
to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.

* If your husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI conviction and no
college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

* If you claim to be an advocate for special needs children, and then cut the Special Olympics budget in half, you're a sensible and sensitive haaaaackey mohhhhhm.

OK, *much* clearer now.

Author unknown but deserving of a big hand!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Right up there with Yogi

As they bring down the curtain this weekend on Yankee Stadium, also known as The House That Ruth Built, and aka to me as The Place Where A Guy I Used To Work With Got Hosed Out Of Sixty Bucks In A Game Of Three Card Monte, it's time to look back on the storied career of stumpy Yankee catcher Yogi Berra. I'll leave the accounts of his baseball career to the Gotham scribes and hard-bitten baseball beat reporters, preferring to remember Yogi for his outstanding devotion to Zen-like kōans, which are "statements in the history and lore of Zen Buddhism, generally containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet may be accessible to intuition. (thanks to Wiki P.) In other words, it's stuff that he said that seems at first blush to make no sense, but somehow, you understand it. The latest one I heard was from an Old-Timer's Day at the Stadium. Yogi was on the field with the other retired ballplayers, and the video display showed venerated Yankees who had gone on to the Big Ballgame in the Sky. Yogi's comment? "I hope I don't live long enough to see myself up there."

A few more?

  • "This is like deja vu all over again."

  • "You can observe a lot just by watching."

  • "He must have made that before he died." -- Referring to a Steve McQueen movie.

  • "I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early."

  • "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else."

  • "If you can't imitate him, don't copy him."

  • "Baseball is 90% mental -- the other half is physical."

  • "It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much."

  • "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded."

  • "It gets late early out there." -- Referring to the bad sun conditions in left field at the stadium

  • "Do you mean now?" -- When asked for the time.

  • "I take a two hour nap, from one o'clock to four."
  • "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."
  • "Yeah, but we're making great time!" -- In reply to "Hey Yogi, I think we're lost."

  • "If the fans don't come out to the ball park, you can't stop them."

  • "Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel."

  • "It's never happened in the World Series competition, and it still hasn't."

  • "I'd say he's done more than that." -- When asked if first baseman Don Mattingly had exceeded expectations for the current season.

  • "You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours."

  • "I didn't really say everything I said."

To which I humbly add something from Peggy, in a discussion of the location of a certain WalMart SuperStore:

  • "I knew where that WalMart was; I just didn't think it was there."

Friday, September 19, 2008

What makes Peggy laugh

In my private life, I often tell a joke that is, in all modesty, hilarious. No need for me even to be modest about it...I got the joke from Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling, former gagwriter for Howard Stern. I have been asked not to tell the joke at certain events requiring an element of gravitas: funerals, felony trials, the opening of a new Angelina Jolie thriller. But, here's the joke, and you will have to picture me with my google-eyed comic delivery and fake Cockney accent:

A guy is hitchhiking...he has three eyes, no arms, and one leg. Picture that...three eyes, no arms, one leg. Anyway, an Englishman pulls up next to him in his little sports car...the hitchhiker is standing there balanced on his leg, hitchhiking...the Englishman has the plaid wool scarf and one of those newsboy caps...he looks the hitchhiker up and down and says, "Ay ay ay! You look 'armless! 'op in!"

Killer stuff. It never fails to make me laugh like Dick Cheney at a peace rally, although for different reasons. Of course, come 2009, I will be celebrating 35 years of happy laughing at "Hi, this is Jerry Ford, Sales Manager at Dick Nixon Ford! Dick's gone crazy, and he's making deals like you never saw before!" That was on the National Lampoon Radio Hour right after Nixon resigned, and yet I laugh even still.

Peggy, on the other hand, registers no expression at either of these mirth-makers, except for a slight furrowing of the brow (indicating wonder), a barely perceptible shake of the head (indicating exasperation) and a tiny tiny sigh (indicating 35 years of agony.) From time to time, she will fetch my oxygen, if either of these gags lives up to its literal name. But laugh? Nah.

We found ourselves in Wegman's not long ago, in search of chipotle sauce. (Enough of that on a turkey burger makes you forget it's a turkey burger.) Wegman's is a grocery store like M & T Bank Stadium is a vacant lot where kids play pickup football. They don't have aisle numbers; they have zip codes. It's huge. It could beat the crap out of Rhode Island in a war (sorry, little tribute to Arthur
the movie there). (I like Rhode Island.) The young woman who works at Wegmans as the Mayor of Cheesetown told us to look in the Mexican section and pointed 25- 30 miles from where she stood, surrounded by Gruyere, Emmenthaler and Royal Blue Stilton. I saw a sign lettered "Latin American" and pointed it out to Peggy, who immediately found herself seized by such violent paroxysms of laughter that one of the fullsize medic units that prowl the aisles of Wegman's was dispatched to her aid. All she could manage to say was that she found the term "Latin American" a bit old-stuffy. It does conjure the image of Cesar Romero in a guayabera shirt with a ceiling fan going oh-so-slowly as Katy Jurado insinuates her way across the cafe floor. When Peggy regained consciousness, we agreed that 'Hispanic' would be more appropriate nowadays.

It's been days. I swear to you, I just called out, "Hey Peggy! 'Latin American'! " and she is doubled over, gasping for air.

Anyone who can explain this will be given his or her own space in this blog!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A well-prepared pair

It's becoming apparent why the Republicans kept Gov. Sarah Palin away from the probing questions while they tried to school her on what to say and how to say it. They let her out of class a tad bit early, it seems. She still doesn't know enough to answer a question. Last night someone asked her to dispel concerns that she lacked foreign policy experience. She responded by saying she expected critics to look for things to attack. “I think because I’m a Washington outsider that opponents are going to be looking for a whole lot of things that they can criticize,” she said. (Do you remember getting caught coming home at 3 in the morning when you were 17? How did it work when your best explanation was, "I knew you were going to look for something to pick on me for!" ? Also, mention that you're an outsider! It makes you seem like a maverick hockey mom.)

“As for foreign policy, you know, I think that I am prepared and I know that on Jan. 20, if we are so blessed as to be sworn into office as your president and vice president, certainly we’ll be ready,” Palin said.

“I’ll be ready, I have that confidence,” she continued. “If you want specifics with specific policy or countries, go ahead and you can ask me, you can even play ’stump the candidate’ if you want to, but we are ready to serve.”

There you have it. I am ready because I am ready. The official Palin family crest, under a field of crossed hockey sticks, bears the family slogan, "Ego Sum Paratus, Ergo Sum Paratus." ( I am prepared, therefore I am prepared.) When your history professor asked you for causes of the Peloponnesian War, when Professor Pomfritt asked for a chemical analysis of some mystery solution, when Mrs Mulligan in 4th grade wanted you to call out some timeses and guzinthas, you should have said, "I know this stuff. I am ready to answer, if you want specifics. I have confidence that I know the answer you seek."

She changed questioners and topics before the announced game of stump the candidate could begin. But that is a good way to answer a question. Tell you what, next time you're considering brain surgery and are choosing a surgeon, look for one who tells you they are sure that they know the medulla oblongata from the fusilli carbonara. No proof needed, as long as they tell you that they know stuff.

Last night, Sen. John McCain took a question as to whether he would invite the prime minister of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to the White House if, God forbid, Americans elected him president.

"I would be willing to meet with those leaders who are friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion," came the confused reply. He then mentioned Mexican President Calderon, who he said "is fighting a very tough fight against the drug cartels."

So when the reporter said again that the topic was Spain, McCain responded: "I know the issues, I know the leaders."

So the reporter asked again if he would invite Zapatero. Here is what old McCain said:

"All I can tell you is that I have a clear record of working with leaders in the Hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not and that's judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region."

So that's your Republican ticket. The man on top confuses Spain and Mexico, placing Spain in the Western Hemisphere, and seems unsure about who governs where. The second banana answers questions by saying she knows the answers to questions. "I know this stuff!"

Somehow, in some undisclosed location, Dick Cheney is laughing his head off.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

American Jurisprudence

Here's the news story:

Thomas Jane has pleaded no contest to drunken driving after he was clocked doing 120 mph in a Maserati.

The star of last year's movie "The Mist" and 2004's "The Punisher" pleaded no contest Tuesday to a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence. Jane wasn't in the courtroom but made the plea through his lawyer.

Jane, who's married to Emmy-winning "Medium" star Patricia Arquette, was sentenced to a year of probation, $1,700 in fines and must take alcohol abuse classes.

Two other alcohol and drug charges and two speeding tickets were dismissed.

Police stopped the 39-year-old actor twice on Interstate 5 in Kern County last March for speeding. After a third stop, he was arrested for drunken driving.

Here is what I would like to say, your honor. I shall keep my remarks brief so that the honorable court, this jury, and the crowd in the gallery can dash home and see Mr Jane play Mickey Mantle in the engrossing biopic "*61." (pause for laughter.)

Your honor, Judge Whoozit, those of us who reside in the world of actually doing responsible things were kind of wondering how it is that Mr Jane did not actually have to take time off from his busy schedule of making movies that no one ever goes to see in order to drop by the courtroom and see how his trial was coming along? What could possibly have been more important on the day of his trial that he had to send his mouthpiece to the courthouse instead? I'm certain that Kern County Cali has plenty of sheriff's deputies, police officers and crowd control experts who could have dealt with what certainly would have been a roiling throng of Thomas Jane admirers, hoping to see his slumpy grin light up your courtroom.

And Mr. Jane, Baltimore native that you are, and soon to turn forty: have you given much thought to the way you are conducting your life? Do you not see a problem with driving your Maserati at 120 miles per hour on a public road? Twice? Three times, and while intoxicated? While you were cruising about that March day, did you wonder if anyone else was on the road, or did you even care? Sure, anyone can make a mistake, judge not lest ye be and all that, but come on, Mr. Jane.

I was all set to talk about the picture above featuring your pneumatic wife and you with the Stanley Laurel haircut, and Oliver Hardy jacket and tie and I don't even know whose plaid kilt. Drunky McDrivey, maybe? I just have to wonder, and I seriously ask this of the public, of the judge and of Mr Jane, what possible reason is there for not putting this no-talent assclown in jail for at least a couple of months? It's how we teach our recalcitrant children; we punish them.

If this man had killed someone you love...think about it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And a haircut, two bits





Burma Shave

Altho insured

Remember, kiddo

They don't pay you

They pay your widow


If you see this doggerel and say,"what is this?" that means you never saw a Burma-Shave sign, because if you ever saw them, you never forgot 'em! Before we zipped along the eight-lane superslabs, we took the regular roads to get to places, and a lot of times that meant tootling along some farm country road, where the Burma-Shave company posted sets of signs spaced along the road so drivers and passengers could read and enjoy the signs and their poetry, which usually was about road safety, mixing in a little plug for their brushless shaving cream along the way.

I don't know what the deal was for the farmer or whoever owned the land where the signs were placed. Maybe they gave him a case of Burma-Shave.

Well, I'm not getting any celebrity endorsement money for this, but I have to tell you, if you have something that needs a good shavin', break your neck to run out and get a Gillette Fusion razor. I remember reading about this new shaving technology in The New Yorker when the good folks at Gillette were working night and day to bring us this razor, and as someone who has been dragging a foam-covered piece of steel across my face for some time now, I have to admit, I did not put a lot of faith in the account. In fact, I didn't buy the razor; I got it for free in the mail and saved it while I used up some of the other razors I have. But friends, I don't know if it's the five blades or the pivoting head or just what, but this razor fairly glides across the stubble and leaves the face feeling smoother than a...than a freshly-shaven face. Not going to say "than a baby's behind" because that only invites unpleasant comparisons.

So, again, I don't know what kind of compensation deal was worked out in the past, but I'm stating that in return for a case of these razors, the Gillette people can put these signs on my front yard (pending zoning approval, of course):






We all know the feeling

This diet I have been suffering through is now one week old. It's already easier to walk away from dessert, to skip mayonnaise on a sammy, to make a breakfast of lowfat yogurt and wheat germ rather than an Egg Mc Markin. But one of these days, I'm afraid I'll wake up hungry and just be a bear about the whole thing:

Monday, September 15, 2008

I like the songs, # 11-20

back to the list:

11. Longhaired Redneck - David Allan Coe -
we have a long-standing American tradition of people who are famous for being famous: Zsa Zsa Gabor, Paris Hilton, and current veep nominee Zsa Zsa Palin. But David Allan Coe got out of an Ohio prison, bought some sort of old Cadillac hearse and put decals all over it billing himself as the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. It got him a certain amount of attention, and for a while he cut and wrote some pretty good songs, such as this one, but today as he ekes out a living touring the biker bar circuit, he's back to where he began when he left the Big House: famous for WANTING to be famous.

12. Highway to Hell - AC-DC
"May I first point out, St. Peter, that I in no way liked the message of nihilism espoused in that song? That bantam-sized lead singer Ronald "Bon" Scott made the lyrics come hauntingly true when he drank himself into a early grave? You see, St. Peter, all I liked about that song was the vocal performance and the amazing chunky guitar of Angus Young. So may I come in now, please?"

13. Roundabout - Yes
- A long one, and a bit close to the dreaded Art Rock of the early 70's, but something about a wonderful world where mountains come out of the sky and they just stand there dragged me along. In or around the lake, it sounded good.

14. Bristol Stomp - The Dovells -

15. Buddy Holly - Weezer -
I liked Weezer doing their song "Buddy Holly" and it made me wonder if Buddy, were he still alive, could be doing a song called "Weezer." The Beatles got their name as a tribute to The Crickets, Buddy's band, and of course Weezer got their name from the derisive nickname applied to leader Rivers Cuomo, a childhood asthma victim. They made a great video of this one, a takeoff on Happy Days.

16. The Other Side - Aerosmith -
You have to admit that for being almost twenty years old, this song still sounds great on the way to work in the morning. I don't know if Steven Tyler can still scream the line "I'm looking for another kind of loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove" in quite the original fashion anymore, but don't ever count out a Toxic Twin.

17. Young Americans - David Bowie
- After Bowie got out of his epicene cross dressing glam rock glitter phase, he started putting out some records that really had something to say, and then he quickly stopped doing that and put out dance hits. So my favorite Bowie era was when he was writing stanzas such as
Scanning life through the picture windows She finds the slinky vagabond He coughs as he passes her Ford Mustang, but Heaven forbid, she'll take anything But the freak, and his type, all for nothing He misses a step and cuts his hand, but Showing nothing, he swoops like a song She cries "Where have all Papa's heroes gone?"

and then it ended.

18. Life - Sly and the Family Stone - "Life! Life! Clouds and Clowns! You don't have to die before you live!" It's a book's worth of wisdom in a quick pop song. You talk about a wasted talent. Sly Stone was a DJ, he produced those hits by the Beau Brummels ("Laugh Laugh" and "Just A Little") and then he formed the Family Stone, the first integrated, gender-diverse group ( except for Lawrence Welk, but you know...) So many great songs, and then he looked down at his nose at everything and lost it all. He had to look down his nose so he could shove drugs up it. Pity.

19. Dance To The Music - Sly and the Family Stone - I couldn't choose between these two by Sly, so I squeezed them both on my list. This was their first hit, and probably their most well-known. Like very few other hits from 1968, this one would still sound like it was recorded today if you listened to it tomorrow. So why don't you?

20. In Dreams - Roy Orbison
- there are some voices that no one else's voice sounds a bit like. Roy Orbison, Burl Ives, totally unique. The "Big 'O'" (!) from Wink, Texas, did not sound like anyone else ever has or will, and this wistful one from the early 60's must be a sweet balm to any yearning heart.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Welcome Isabella!

The official announcement is here

and here also are the return sticker pictures from the envelope:

very cool! Great-uncledom brings me a lot of pride and joy. I have to go now because I am all out of pink ink. Blessings to all!

Saturday, September 13, 2008


The audiologist in my building (a cool guy) says I possess something called eidetic memory. I said I do not possess any such thing and no one can prove otherwise! But he said it was a good thing - relating to the ability to remember a lot of things, sometimes by sense memory. As in, I don't have a bloodhound's sense of smell, but if you take me back to my junior high school cafeteria, it probably still reeks of the pungent floor wax they used back in my day. And reading the Information Please Almanac as a youth filled my noggin with useful items such as Donna Reed's real name (Donna Mullenger) and biographies of some lesser-known US presidents (James Polk, we hardly knew ye.)

What's weird is that I can recall minutiae from long ago, unimportant factoids that take up space in my melon that really ought to be used by the name of our insurance agent (Mike Somebody?), where my spare sunglasses are (a booth at Applebees?) and how to replace a garbage disposal (call a plumber?) It used to be that I remembered names for a day or two, and now it's down to where I meet someone new and by the end of the conversation I can't remember their name. As Edd "Kookie" Byrnes (born Edward Byrne Breitenberger)
used to say, I've got smog in my noggin.

But on the second floor of the building, one of the offices has one of those bells
that is the same kind of bell that we had at the good old A&P, in the days when the shoppers would ding the bell and whichever clerk was close by in the store, loading eggs or cheese or preparing a handful of whipped cream to be dumped on an unsuspecting coworker from atop the dairy cooler (I know nothing about that), would scoot over and grind the coffee for them. I hear that bell when I walk past that office, and I still involuntarily whirl around to see if anyone needs their coffee ground.

What's really troubling is that last week, two people did!

Friday, September 12, 2008


Spent some time this evening poring over old photo albums, and I came across this classic shot from the early 90's.

Did you ever have company that just loved the same meal every time, so that's what you always put out? We had friends who just loved what I called the "Pennsylvania Porkfest" menu - they were both from north of the border *, as it were, so this put them in mind of home. We always had a great time at this!

There were no appetizers, no preprandial canapes, nothing to amuse the bouche. All bouches were amused by the real thing, the main course, the pork loin roast grilled on the charcoal grill and slathered with KC Masterpiece Bar-B-Q sauce. Pork gravy, mashed 'taters, and sauerkraut more than filled up the plates, and then I would make a cherry pie and top that with a scoop of Breyer's vanilla ice cream the approximate size of Delaware. A cuppa mocha java, and it was time to let the belt out a notch or two.

And then, hours later, when we were cleaning up the dishes ("putting supper away," in Pennsylvania parlance), daggone if I didn't feel hungry again! And then the midnight choice - cold slab of pork roast or rice cake?

If I were to become president, and that looks quite doubtful unless I suddenly become a hockey dad (that seems to be a deal-making attribute with the plebiscite all of a sudden) I would be ready for that 3 AM phone call, because I'd be up anyway, looking for the bicarbonate of soda.

Memoirs of a life well-lived...

* The Pennsylvania - Maryland border, that is!

Come On, Baby, Let's Twist the Do!

'Tis said there are statistics and there are statistics...but here's one for you. Owing to some sort of math that we may never understand, Billboard Magazine has declared "The Twist" by Chubby Checker as the most popular single in the 50 years of their Hot 100 chart.

If you read the article, it turns out that the Einsteins at Billboard had to "weight" the charts differently from the long-ago days when the most popular records were actually the most popular records. Who knows how they figure it today, but how many times have you ever heard the answer to, "What is your favorite song of all time?" come back as "Why, it's 'The Twist', by Chubby Checker! Was there any doubt?" Asked for a comment, Chubby (born Ernest Evans but renamed in honor of Fats Domino; one can only surmise that "Porky Parcheesi" was already taken in the adipose tissue- child's game name contest) had this to say: "I'm glad they've finally recognized it." Not a lot of elaboration from a man who clearly has all kinds of time on his hands, you say? Well, wait! There's more! El Chubaramo compared "The Twist" to the creation of the telephone as a groundbreaking moment. Pause to let that sink in. How does that come, Mr. Checker, that recording "The Twist" is as important as getting the first phone call from Alexander Graham Bell? Well, it's because, he said, it was the first time people were dancing "apart to the beat."

"Anyplace on the planet, when someone has a song that has a beat, they're on the floor dancing apart to the beat, and before Chubby Checker, it wasn't here, and I think that has a lot to do with me being on the charts," he said. Attention! Celebrity-referring-to-self-in-the-third-person alert!!

I know you might think I have a sense of folly, and I might open up a can of silly in the name of satire, only to have it close on Saturday night. But this is all true. Poppa Chubby inserts himself high atop the pantheon of rock's immortal performers, because, you see, before he came along, no one ever danced apart. I guess all those people who claimed to be doing the Charleston, the Big Apple and the Madison never really existed!

One last blast of Chubby's ego: "My music is less played than any performer that has been a No. 1 chart man on the planet," said Checker, who also had hits with "Pony Time," "The Fly" and "Let's Twist Again," which earned him a Grammy. "I don't get the respect that Rod Stewart gets, or the Rolling Stones, or Frankie Valli. ... But I have to deal with it."

Ah, Chubster, so do we all. As the noted novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." It's a past in which Chubby Checker was more important than the Rolling Stones, and General Tso was a great military leader in China who operated a chicken carryout on the side. And Art Deco was an interior designer, and Frankie Valli got respect? Who knew?
thanks to Yahoo! Entertainment for the original story!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I like the songs the whole world sings

It all started with an innocent question, and much like the Watergate hearings, that innocent question led to thousands of hours of research, and several high-ranking officials were forced to leave office in disgrace. All right, not so much that last part, although there has been some talk of the Parks Commissioner of Albert Lea, MN, abdicating over the bogus Milli Vanilli concert held on his watch.

The innocent question came from friend Jonie, out in California: What are your 100 favorite songs? I took it to mean, if you had an mp3 player that could hold 100 tunes, which songs would you load on it before taking a three hour tour? (A three hour tour!)

I was a DJ, which means that my basement holds about 10,000 45 rpm records, most of them with white labels bearing the inscription "Radio Station Copy - Not For Sale." Albums? Got to be a couple thousand of them down there. Audio cassettes - a veritable plethora. CDs - almost five hundred purchased, plus another 200 or so home-burned. In other words, if I started listening to every recorded song I have right now and never did anything else again until I had played the very last record ("Jim Dandy", Black Oak Arkansas) I would be listening for a long long time. And I don't talk about all this music to brag - there's a lot of OCD in all those CDs. Chances are that I will never want to hear "Jim Dandy" again, but I just can't start throwing records out. And don't even get me started on my elementary school report cards, all downstairs in a box.

I'm pleased to share the songs with you, ten at a time, and this is coming in no particular order, except in the order in which I thought of them. I'll be tickled to hear your opinions!

1. Dear Hearts and Gentle People - Bing Crosby
The perfect example of someone supremely talented in show business and totally lacking in human relations, "der Bingle" sure could sing, even though he was quite the patootie in his personal life.

2. He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones
Talk about perfect examples - this is a perfect example of the good old country music so fervently mourned by many of us. It's the story of a guy who never got over getting dumped until he moved into a one-man bungalow with silver handles.

3. S
he Loves You - Beatles - 1964, we had just lost JFK, plunging the nation into a torpor. Timing being everything, the Beatles' popularity across Britain had reached fever pitch in time for their arrival here in February. They did this one on The Ed Sullivan Show, and for all we know, the other networks had a reanimated George Washington wrestling rebirthed Abe Lincoln that Sunday night.

4. Yes It Is - Beatles - Not a big hit, the flip side of "Ticket to Ride" featured what music experts call dissonant three-part harmony. I like it because it makes a stark emotional appeal, so rare today.

5. White Room - Cream - Not a one of us had any idea what they were talking about - In the white room with black curtains near the station. Blackroof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings, huh now? Proves that sometimes it's the song, not the lyrics. How do you know if a starling is tired?

6. Norman - Sue Thompson - (Didn't I tell you there would be some doozies on this list?) In this song, written by John D. Loudermilk, who also sent us "A Rose and a Baby Ruth," Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye," and "Indian Outlaw," Miss Sue is fending off offers from Jimmy, Joey and Billy, but she's holding out for Norman. Bonus: this is the intro music the Letterman band plays when Norm MacDonald saunters out on the show to prove once again why he is the funniest Canadian in America.

7. Surrender - Cheap Trick - I promised a guy I worked with at 911 that I could arrange to hear this song at least once a day for the rest of my life. There couldn't have been but a handful of days that I missed. Everything about Cheap Trick appealed to me: the stupendous playing of drummer Bun E. Carlos and guitarist Rick Neilsen, the semi-operatic singer Robin Zander, and the interchangeable bassists. The sound, the lyrics, the way Rick looked like Huntz Hall, and the fact that no less a critic than Homer Simpson says, "I prefer to listen to Cheap Trick." And "Surrender" has this deathless line: "When I woke up, Mom and Dad were rolling on the couch....rockin', rollin', rollin' numbers, got my Kiss records out..." We're all all right!

8. California Man - Cheap Trick - I burned a CD with the studio version of this followed by the live version from Budokan. I often play them back-to-back and over again, listening for the subtle nuances, and I can't choose a favorite recording. They didn't write this one, but The Cure got healed for the line "I don't care if your legs start aching, I'm a California man!" Whatever that means.

9. Statesboro Blues - Allman Brothers Band - Gregg Allman has seen his share of sorrow. The death of his brother Duane, his own descent into drug addiction, marriage to Cher: it's a blues festival weekend whenever he looks back. But this live version of an old blues number features Duane's amazing slide and Gregg's keyboard and vocals, all stunning.

10. Road Runner - Joan Jett Maryland's own Joan, from Rockville, and a huge Orioles fan (and there aren't that many huge Orioles!) It's easy to forget that she was a leather-clad trailblazer, not quite like Daniel Boone, but she did some great things. A lot of people will put "I Love Rock and Roll" on their list, and that's a cool song too, but I'm partial to this one and Joan said it's ok to be yourself in these matters.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ironically enough

A couple of years back, because Alanis Morissette
wrote and recorded a song called "Ironic", the lyrics of which were pretty much free of irony, there ensued a discussion in academic circles about what irony really is. Irony is best illustrated in stories such as O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi," in which the guy sells his watch to buy pretty combs for his wife's hair, and she sells her hair to buy him a watch fob. (Such failures in planning by married folks have been a constant in network sitcoms dating back as far as Ozzie and Harriet.) It would have been amusingly ironic had the publisher of the Magi story paid the writer with a check made out to O. Henry, because that was only his nom de plume (French for "to each his own"), having been born Wm. Sidney Porter. Try cashing that check, and the teller's going "Yeah right, 'O' ! Your ID says Porter and you want to cash a check made out to Mr Henry?"

Rain on your wedding day, lighting a smoke in a no-smoke zone, having a plethora of spoons when all you want is one knife: these are not ironies, but coincidences or mockeries of what should have been, had things worked out. Although, ironically, you're better off not smoking...

Lovers of the ironic have long noted with a shake of the head that Keith Richards, the man whose dissolute lifestyle has regularly astounded even his debauched and libertine friends, is as of this writing (and I just checked and the Comcast home page, just to be sure!) completely alive, and, as you see here, the very picture of health and refined living.

On the other foot, Jim Fixx passed away after running, and he was well known for extolling the health benefits of running. It's not known if Keith Richards ever read Fixx's books, being busy as he often was having his blood drained and changed to overcome the toxicity of opiate abuse.

Whatever, à chacun son goût,(pen name, as they say it in sunny France.) It's his life, and until the day he "rings me up" on the "telly" and inquires as to my wellbeing, it's none of my concern.

But this is irony: Dave Freeman died the other day way too young, at the age of 47. That is way too young to fall down and hit one's head and die from it for anyone, but for the guy who wrote 100 Things To Do Before You Die, it has to mean that he left things undone. Reading his book just made it onto my list of things I want to do before I head up to that big express checkout, as is making my own list of 100 things I want to do. I've been planning to write a list of the 100 songs I would load onto my desert island mp3 player, because my friend Jonie asked me to, and the list is ready! I will blog about it. Trust me, there are no esoteric, rare cuts on the list...I just pointed a finger at the clipboard and it came to rest on "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis A. Presley...but it does list the songs I can listen to over and over. Ironically, none of them are by Alanis Morissette.