Thursday, April 30, 2009

Every day, another page in the Facebook

It was just about a year ago that our dear friend Solange in Hawaii said to me - in a cell-to-cell conversation from Baltimore to Maui - that I ought to get on Facebook to see the photos of all she was up to out there in the 50th state. Back here in the 7th state, I stuck my big toe into Lake Facebook, and within a few months, I was finding people from all sorts of corners of my life, and now, here I sit, with 265 "friends."

Now, then. Among them, you'll find relatives, coworkers, past schoolmates, really close friends, and people who wouldn't know me from Mayor Adam West but who "friended" me nonetheless - e.g. my Sunday "Today" show favorite, the fabulous Jenna Wolfe. Being her FB friend does not mean that if she were in town to do a story, she would ring up Peggy and me and get together with us for a latte or something. But I get to see interesting pictures that she wishes to share from her life, and if, (as if!) she would like a tiny glimpse of mine, it's all there, one click away from seeing pictures of me and the giant Amish figurine we saw this week. I remain reasonably certain that Jenna Wolfe has far more interesting things to go and do and see, but she's so cool!

More likely, friends who actually know us would be interested in seeing these pictures. And I love to see what friends are up to as well, so it's a great thing, this Facebook.

But - I saw this
photo online the other day - and I said whoa Nellie, here comes the backlash! All of a sudden, people are knocking Facebook as some sort of insidious infection of the superego. I take it that this is a photo of the front window of some coffeehouse whose proprietor, while providing free internet access, wishes to brook no babble in his bubblehouse about social networking. The most common complaint I hear is, people don't like other people changing their status to something seemingly superficial, such as:

"Esther is wringing her hands at the thought of Danny
Gokey getting sent home"


"Vladimir is heading for Home Depot, the dry cleaners, Wendy's, and a well-deserved nap."

I think that if you really care about Esther, you want to know how she feels about the thrilling, yet seemingly pre-ordained outcome, of this year's American Idol competition. Your concern for Vladimir and his Saturday errand-and-snooze schedule may ebb and flow depending upon your own ability to pick up spackle
, your seersucker suit, and a Spicy Chicken combo before sacking out on the settee.

I wouldn't take Facebook as seriously as some do. I have enough to fret about with the Orioles.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Slumdog Questionnaire

I like to amuse people who ask me my religion, political affiliation or sign of the Zodiac by saying, "I'm a Philistine." One wonders why all the residents of Philistia were branded as disdainful of the seven lively arts (acting, dancing, painting, singing, instrumental music, storytelling, and making prank phone calls on morning radio shows.) I mean, didn't there have to be one Philistine who would have liked "Waiting for Godot"?

I bring all this up to point out that we rented "Slumdog
Millionaire" the other night, and a clearcut majority of 50% of us around this house liked it. The other one lost interest shortly after a kid plunged into a privy pit, and turned instead to reading an article in The New Yorker about the wildlife released in Florida following Hurricane Andrew. I looked up from the magazine, and my concerns about how hard it would be for a python to hop on a Greyhound (bus, that is) and ride up here to establish residence in Baltimore County, often enough to follow the story. You might be the one person in a thousand who has not seen this movie, but I have these thoughts to share, without tipping the thrilling conclusion:

a) if you ever have any notion that life might be better on the Indian subcontinent, rent this movie and be so glad to live in America that you want to run out an bake an apple pie and wave a flag. I'm sure there are tranquil, pleasant parts of India, but this movie doesn't show any, and what you do see just looks horrible. Hot. Crowded. Noisy.

b) I had to wonder if, out in Los Angeles, which is also hot, crowded and noisy, they brutalize people who are just a little too good at knowing the prices of Tappan® Gas Ranges and folding camping trailers on The Price Is Right. Tappan, the leader in kitchen appliances since 1889.

c) How come it's artistic to show poop pits in this movie, and just let one guy drop a deuce in a hardware store in "Jackass," and everybody's up in arms (or something)?

d) where the hell was Regis

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Steak Out

I was sorry when the Steak and Ale restaurant chain went under. Primarily, I was sorry for the people who worked there and lost their jobs. Second, they did have a fine salad bar and nice cold beer. Third, because my work group will no longer be able to have their annual holiday luncheon there. You talk about "wishing I had my camera handy" or even "remembering that there's a camera on my cell phone..." We were chowing down in there once and a large chunk of ceiling tile plummeted earthward (is there really any other direction in which to plummet?), landing on the plate of the guy next to me (and splashing me so that all that afternoon, people were asking if my after-shave was Worcestershire sauce.)

But the funniest thing was that we were unable to distinguish the soggy brown ceiling tile from the soggy brown steak.

Anyway, without a camera, we had to commission an oil painting to commemorate all those holiday luncheons:

Monday, April 27, 2009

I just want my pension and Social Security

found this online:

Jordan, having “retired” with $40 million in endorsements, makes $178,100 a day, working or not.

* If he sleeps 7 hours a night, he makes $52,000 every night while visions of sugarplums dance in his head.
* If he goes to see a movie, it’ll cost him $7.00, but he’ll make $18,550 while he’s there.
* If he decides to have a 5-minute egg, he’ll make $618 while boiling it.
* He makes $7,415/hour more than minimum wage.
* If he wanted to save up for a new Acura NSX ($90,000) it would take him a whole 12 hours.
* If someone were to hand him his salary and endorsement money, they would have to do it at the rate of $200 every second.
* He’ll probably pay around $200 for a nice round of golf, but will be reimbursed $33,390 for that round.
* He’ll make about $19.60 while watching the 100-meter dash in the Olympics, and about $15,600 during the Boston Marathon.
* This year, he’ll make more than twice as much as all U.S. past presidents for all of their terms combined.

Amazing isn’t it?


If Jordan saves 100% of his income for the next 500 years, he’ll still have less than Bill Gates has at this very moment.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Our National Image

This fellow plays baseball for the Washington Nationals, the major league baseball team in our nation's capital. His jersey says a lot about the people who make our jerseys, and serves to remind us all to proofread all our clothing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Nothing ain't worth nothing but it's free

with all due apologies to all little girls everywhere:

Friday, April 24, 2009

I can't! I'm Sandra Dee!

One of my favorite bloggers is Anne:Straight from the Hip, out in Los Angeles. I got to know her work when she was based here in Baltimore, but she competely switched coasts a couple of years ago and wound up out in the land of "palm trees, swimming pools and movie stars." Our loss is Los Angeles's gain, and I wish her all the best out there.

I was thinking of writing about the weather today, because Anne writes that the three-day heat wave out there is ending, and we are just getting ready for one here! Whereas last week we had shivering high temperatures in the 50s, by this Sunday we will be sweltering in the upper 80s. And from the 80s, it's just a short hop to the 90s, and then you have chaos in the streets and vital services break down. It's all part of the great mystery of life: all winter long, I hear the keening and the chafing, the yearning for warmth. So then as as soon as Nature sends heat, people break their necks to turn on the air conditioning. It's like when you go to the diner, because all day you've been hankering for spaghetti 'n' meatballs, and then you sit down and order the breakfast special (two eggs, two pancakes, bacon and sausage.)

Hungry now?

My first big boyhood crush was on Sandra Dee, who married Bobby Darin just to make me feel bad I mean because she loved him so much. They were the "it" couple of the early 60s, until Darin's ego became so overgrown that it was given its own zip code, leaving no room for the model/actress/goddess born Alexandra Cymboliak Zuck in Bayonne. New Jersey in 1942. Of course, these boyhood crushes don't last forever, but it was still sad about a dozen years ago when a friend moved to LA and reported that the broken-down, messed-up woman who lived in the next apartment "used to be an actress or something" and her name was "like Sandra Dee or something."

Or something. She was something, for sure! Such a vision, a symbol of beauty and purity that the Broadway show and movie teased her image with "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee," the song about the plastic "lousy-with-virgini-teeeeeeeeeeeee" ethos to which so many subscribed in the early 60s, only to have their subscriptions lapse by the end of the decade. But our friend said Sandra borrowed her blender to make mai-tais, returned the blender - broken, backed her battered Rolls-Royce into the dumpster, and looked a fright.

Which is why I stay here in B'more, where my memories reside. The truth of what happened to all of our crushes is way too sad to see bouncing off dumpsters and slugging down poorly-mixed mai-tais.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mark's Thoughts

...I see the big posters for Hannah Montana eyewear for kids at WalMart. Just one thing. Hannah is NOT WEARING glasses. So they're saying, buy these glasses and you can look like this young woman who...isn't wearing any?...I know I'm not musically sophisticated, but it seems to me that jazz - hot, cold, smooth or Dixieland - is lots of people playing more or less the same melody and ending more or less at the same time...but what happens between the start and the end is a lot of different voyages down different avenues by a lot of musicians...It's sad to see newspapers heading down the road to that Irish town called O'Blivion. I can't get used to reading the paper online, and what is Baltimore to use for lining the table at crab feasts all summer?...Prom and graduation season is coming right up. Make friends with someone who works at a tuxedo rental place, and get ready to hear stories about what gets returned in formal wear that will last you through Homecoming Dance time!...I see that good sense is coming back! People have started a drive to eliminate the use of the COMIC SANS font. Now if every advertiser who wants to look "hip" in every coupon clipper magazine could just stop using PAPYRUS...I look forward every week to Friday, when TheSmoking treats us all to another batch of Mug Shots of the Week...I once said I didn't want a computer...then I said I didn't want to should I even bother to say I'm not going to Twitter, nor shall I Tweet?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Prying priorities

There's an awful lot of awful talk going around today about the possibility of the state of Maryland using speed cameras to a) deter speeding on the state's roads and b) collect revenue from those who insist upon speeding.

This brings out the predictable statements from predictable speakers who always turn things back around to "the overwhelming amount of time the government spends intruding on our lives." On and on they declaim about losing our freedom and "big brother is watching," and I don't know what-all else.

You want to know a great way to end of those rants? Just say,"You have really made some good points. You know, you ought to contact your (county councilperson) (state delegate) (state senator) (US congressperson) (US Senator) (state governor) (president of the United States)" - whichever is applicable. "You know who that is, right?"

Oh, the answers you'll get.

But the opposition to speed cameras must be a little bit about people wanting to break the law! There are speed limits posted everywhere one drives, and yet some people just want to exceed those limits because they are a) in a hurry b) more important than any law or c) homicidal maniacs. Sometimes all three!

Then on the other hand, the same people who will tell you that the state has no business enforcing such laws will get all in a lather and tell you that it ought to be a federal offense to burn a flag. It's a dumb thing to do, but the same people who want to career around the highways as if the highways were a Nascar® track want the FBI to redeploy their people to the many, many flag burnings which take place across the length and breadth of the nation daily.

It's a crazy world. Somebody ought to sell tickets.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Swimming in Tainted Water

For all we know, Charles Manson, deep down, is a really nice guy who used to volunteer at day camps, help the infirm carry their groceries home, and wax the vehicles of the downtrodden. Not likely, but possible.

Similarly, Sirhan
B. Sirhan may well be operating a free lending library out of his jail cell, the Khmer Rouge might have sponsored Little League teams every summer, and the Tonton Macoutes could have really been a beneficent organization with just a few bad apples in the barrel.

It would take the greatest optimist in the world to find redeeming value in the people mentioned above. Therefore, most of us avoid swimming in the waters they inhabit, for fear of being consumed by them or of being regarded by others as being like them.

Which is why, before jumping into the water with all the teabaggers (!) out there, one should consider the intelligent, well-stated views reproduced below:
(from Salon)
Another seemingly sedate protester, Brian Smith, a marketer from Greenville, S.C., who was in Washington on business and came by the rally, wandered equally off message. "I love my country and I don't like what's going on," Smith said. "Government -- to be honest with you, and this will probably be misquoted, but on 9/11, I think they hit the wrong building. They should have gone into the Capitol building, hit out, knocked out both sides of the aisle, we'd start from scratch, we'd be better off today." I pointed out that "they" did try to hit the Capitol. "Yeah, I know, they missed," he said. "The wrong sequence. If someone had to go, it should have been the Capitol building. On that day I felt differently, but today that's the way I feel."

So there you go; if you were out there masking your unbridled hatred for Barack H. Obama by pretending to protest taxes, which have gone down for you unless you earn over 250 Gs a year, Rockefeller, you're in league with this yokel from the home town of "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, and he wanted every member of the U.S. Congress to be killed by foreign terrorists. And tell me how Rush O'Reilly would react if Tim Robbins even dreamed of thinking of mentioning wanting that to happen.

We liberals want the best for everyone without hurting anyone. Brian Smith, hick town marketer (chewing tobacco? flyswatters? Iron Boy® overalls? Goo-Goo Clusters? Confederate flags?) wants 435 congresspersons and 100 dead senators, not to mention their staffs and whoever else might have been in that location on 9/11/01.

Maybe he'll be a top draft pick next month when the Macoute chooses next year's rookie candidates.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cataract Convertible

Big shout-out today to my eye surgeon, Dr Parris (not to be confused with Dr Connolly, widely known as the greatest optometrist in the nation, if not the entire world.) Dr Connolly spots my cataracts, explains them to me in the most comforting calming manner (even drawing charts, graphs and thumbail sketches of eyeballs as needed), and then I report to Dr Parris to have the cataracts removed and replaced with lenses that don't make everything all cloudy and rainy-night-windshield-y, if such a term exists. I've conferred with my medical people, my scheduling staff and TV Guide, and June 8 will be the day. It's right in my horoscope: "This is a good day to have someone slice the bottom of your cornea."

The cataract in the right eye came out two years ago this spring, and we've been waiting for the one in the left to "ripen" for all that time, a period in which with my left eye closed I've been able to read the Surgeon General's warning on a can of beer being guzzled by a guy riding in a truck coming my way as I drive home. But with the right eye closed and no glasses on, I couldn't tell Rush Limbaugh from a large pile of straw, and there IS a difference. (The straw would never come out in favor of the sea pirates as the radio comedian did this week in his apparently interminable quest to diminish everything that our popular president does. El Limbo even refers to the pirates as "teenage Somali Merchant Marine Organizers," and yet people continue to tune him in.)

Semanticists, please note how deftly we changed topics here from a discussion of an unpleasant growth to a few words about Rush Limbaugh. Now that's no change we can believe in!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Teabagging Around the Bush

I stumbled across this interesting quote th' other day...

"The really right people know how to dodge taxes anyway"
President George W. Bush, on Sen. John Kerry's (D., MA) proposal to rescind tax cuts for the wealthy.

So it's the Democrats who've wanted to take away tax cuts for the rich, and of course GWB would be all for his rich friends keeping every nickel they "earn."

But it's the Republicans who are clamoring for tax cuts all of a sudden.
This must mean that these are people who don't know how to dodge taxes.

That must mean that George
Bush thinks that all you tax protesters are not the "right people," or else you'd just dodge those nasty old taxes and roll on down the highway!

I wouldn't stand for it, if I were one of you! I'd go Democratic!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Quiz Time (I always fall for these)

40 Secrets about yourself.
Be honest no matter what.

1.) have you ever been asked out?

2.) where was your default picture taken?
Havre de Grace right by the town dock

3.) what's your middle name?

4.) your current relationship status?
Married for 35 years, headed for together forever

5.) does your crush like you back?
She married me.

6.) what is your current mood?

7.) what color underwear are you wearing?
Navy blue.

8.) what color shirt are you wearing?
Grey St Louis Cardinals Baseball tshirt

9.) Missing something?
Dark hair, youthful vitality, naivete and innocence

10.) if you could go back in time and change something, what would you do?
I never would have hurt anyone's feelings.

11.) if you must be an animal for one day, what?
the adorable town mutt who sleeps in the sun all day

12.) ever had a near death experience?
Sure did - got last rites and everything

13.) something you do a lot?
infosurf online

14.) the song stuck in your head?
"Fool Me" by Joe South

15.) who did you copy and paste this from?
Paramedic JoAnne Boyd

16.) name someone with the same birthday as you
Mike Tyson, Jazz Bassist Stanley Clarke, Superman.

17.) when was the last time you cried?
15 years ago.

19.) if you could have one super power what would it be?
Ability to save anyone who needed saving from anything.

20.) what's the first thing you notice about the opposite sex?

21.) what do you usually order from starbuck?
Plain coffee, light cream.

22.) what's your biggest secret?
My recent transfer.

23.) favorite color?

24.) do you still watch kiddie movies or tv shows?

25.) what's on your walls?
Sports Memorabilia in my den

26.) what are you?
My name is legion, for we are many.

27.) do you speak any other language?

28.) what's your favorite smell?
tie btwn bread baking or pit beef

29.) Describe your life in one word.

30.) have you ever kissed in the rain?

31.) what are you thinking about right now?
Feeling sorry for Peggy, sick with a cold and sore throat.

33.) what should you be doing?
Just this

34.) who was the last person that made you upset/angry?
The woman at the Royal Farm Store at Joppa and Old Harford Rds who would not honor an online coupon from Not bad enough that she was ill-informed about how to handle the coupon, but she went beyond implying that I was trying to cheat her -she said I made the coupon up on my computer and that was the same as stealing.

35.) how often do u talk to God?

36.) do you like working in the
I like working where I've been working and I hope to love my new position as much.

37.) if you could have any last name in the world, what would you want?
Last name Normus, first name Richard E.

38.) do you act differently around the person you like?
I am always the same no matter who is where

39.) what is your natural hair color?
Born blond, went brown, goin' grey (but at least it's staying around)

40.) who was the last person to make you cry?
No person can make me cry. Try me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Goose Me

"Pâté de foie gras" is a French term meaning "something I wouldn't eat if you spooned it out to me on golden doubloons with Alexis Grace doin' the spoonin'. With the marvelous economy of words that is a hallmark of the French language, they say so much with so few words, n'est-ce pas? (Literally, "huh?")

What it is, is a French delicacy made from specially-fattened goose or duck liver. This raises certain questions.

  • How does a duck get specially fattened?

  • How do you get down from an elephant?

  • Did the duck pay cash for a Cherry Chapstick?

and right back came the answers.

  • A duck or goose becomes specially fattened through a process known as 'gavage,' in which corn is literally forced down their necks in the style of American sycophants being force-fed their conservative doctrine.

  • You get down from a duck.

  • No, he told the clerk to put it on his bill.

SO there you go. It's someone's job to jam a feeding tube down the throat of a duck or goose - talk about fowl work environments - and then when the liver of said animal is as bloated as Bill O'Reilly's ego, the goose's goose is cooked and his liver is turned into something rich, buttery and delicate and served in various forms. According to Wikipedia, this substance is enjoyed in mousse, parfait or pâté form, along with stuff that people might actually wish to consume, such as toast or steak.

All right, now we come to the meat of the discussion. Out in Columbia, MD, which is an entire city built the ground up 40-some years ago out of former farmland, there is a restaurant which serves this food for their patrons. Suits me. I last visited Columbia in 1971 and have seen no reason to return since, and surely goose liver parfait is not going to be what gets me turned around on that issue.

But, for those who want to have it, let them eat all they want!

Animal rights protesters have raised a stink about the restaurant, known as the Iron Bridge Wine Company, having the guts to sell liver. Listen, this is not my kind of restaurant at all. Most people I know would find it adorable and check out the wine list and have the times of their lives chowing down on food that is "plated" and "presented." Being a Howard Stern sort of guy from a Martha Stewart sort of family, I have experienced both the swanky and the stanky, and let's just say that the one French word I like to hear around mealtime is ''buffet.'' But this is what the protesters (apparently it was done by them, but one cannot rule out copy-cat spray painting by socially conscious graffiti-tagging kids) do when they don't like your menu offerings in Coumbia MD.

Their choices are:

  • A) spray "get rid of the foie gras" on the stone sidewalk
  • B) break the windows of the place
  • C) eat someplace else.

Oh, would that they could 'C' their way clear to a form of protest that doesn't damage the property of others!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Take Me Out

There's been a lot of talk about baseball uniforms around here, since the Orioles are doing pretty well this early this season, thus denying the boo-birds the chance to take up their annual spring litany of complaints about everything concerning the club from the owner to the hotdog hawker.

I like the fact that the new Orioles road jerseys have the word "Baltimore" on them for the first time since 1972. It was taken as a huge municipal insult by many people that it was removed, as the team positioned itself as a regional franchise, hoping to attract fans from southern Pennsylvania and northern Virginia and DC. But they have their own team in DC now, and no one goes to see them, and they doggone well are not trying to get us to drive down there to see their team play. And a survey of all Oriole fans from southern PA revealed that it was all right with both of them if the road shirts said Baltimore again, so all is well.

Speaking of baseball uniforms, if I were a big leaguer, I would go with the BA baggy pants look favored by physical fitness specimens such as C.C. Sabathia. I do not like the sixteen layers of pine tar and tobacco juice that obscure the logo on the batting helmet of lots of guys. I would insist on the real eyeblack instead of the black bandaids now in vogue, and I would wear one of those warm-up jackets on my way to the ballpark and on the way home, just like any other fan.

But that's IF I were a big league ballplayer, and it seems more likely that I will become the winning jockey in this year's Kentucky Derby, although there are those who will tell you that I have a lot in common with the hindquarters of the winner.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Spector of Violence

First of all, let's say right up front that I abhor gunplay, murder and suicide. You'd think that really did not need to be said these days, but just so there's no misunderstanding, I said it. I curse the day that guns were invented and I direct to perdition all those who commit violence just because they feel like it. And there are plenty of people roaming around who would literally shoot you as fast as look at you, but they tend not to be imprisoned for reasons I tend not to understand.

Legendary music producer Harvey Phillip "Phil" Spector has been convicted of second-degree murder in Los Angeles. You have to figure he was really guilty, what with LA being the bastion of justice unable to get a conviction in the cases of O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake and Michael Jackson.

In 2003, Lana Clarkson, whose career as a model and actress apparently peaked when she played the gorgeous wife of the odd-looking Biology teacher in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," found herself working in a bar where she met the diminutive Spector. He took her home to what is usually called his "Mansion in Alhambra," the implication being that he has a fantastic house in a not-so-great neighborhood. Ironically, the initial supposition was that Clarkson was star-struck and thought that the man who produced such classic hits as "Be My Baby," "He's A Rebel," "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," and that entire great Christmas album, could possibly do things for her career. But it turned out, she didn't know him from Adam Lambert.

Clarkson is dead, killed by a handgun shot to her mouth. It's been almost six years, and it took all this time through the delays and one mistrial to arrive at this verdict. At 69, Spector faces 18 years in prison at his May 29th sentencing, and, with his legs shackled, seems destined to shuffle off to an ignominious end, barring an unsuccesful appeal. The evidence against him was preponderant. Not only were the prosecutors able to point to countless episodes of Spector menacing friends and loved ones with pistols and brutality in years past, they also had his chauffeur testify he heard a gunshot, and that Phil came out of the death scene with a gun in his hand, saying, "I think I've killed someone." The defense's effort to paint Clarkson as despondent to the point of suicide over her failed career proved unsuccessful.

He was a terrific music producer. His records for the Crystals, the Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers, even the Beatles, still sound great to me after 40-some years. He hired the greatest musicians and assistant producers - one of whom, Salvatore "Sonny" Bono, was his #1 lieutenant until the day he honestly told Phil that he didn't think a certain record was the greatest music heard since Gabriel. Sonny got fired that day and went on to eke out successful niches in show business playing the schlamozel to Cher and the congressman from California. Phil had issues, they say. Problems with rage. Well, his music helped a lot of us learn to love music, and share that love with others.

Where was the help for Phil?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Had 4 thoughts today and here they are

Ms Peggy and I took the day off for Easter Monday, and just lazed the morning away watching TV, munching toast and relaxing. But the following thoughts darted across my brainpan:

a - what is the reason for all these TV commercials featuring voiceovers done by female announcers to be so uninflected, nasal, and drone-y, if you will? I hear these ads, and the voices are so dull and lifeless, almost like parodies of long-ago telephone operators. But it seems to me that most of the products advertised are directed to female purchasers, and trust me on this about people in advertising, they wouldn't step in out of the rain unless a focus group assured them it was the best way to stay dry. Meaning, they have all sorts of research telling them that this straightline adenoidal delivery is not likely to displease a female viewer.

b - Your results may vary, but one of the side effects of one of the drugs we heard advertised today was tuberculosis. Really, doctor? I can take this drug, and there's just a chance that I'll get tuberculosis? Can you write me a six-month scrip for that?

c - There was a movie on TCM. I didn't get the name of the movie, nor could I name any of the ham-fisted actors who plied their trade in it, but if this was any sort of accurate depiction of American life in the 1940s, I'm not too sorry that I missed a period when people smoked constantly, treated wives like staff members whose main tasks involved whippin' up dinner in a hurry and keepin' the homestead spotless, spent their evenings leaning on pianos in drawing rooms while some member of the group "tickled the ivories," wore two-tone wingtip shoes, talked to each other in the staccato fashion of Broderick Crawford, and punctuated their speech with "Say," and "Why," and "That's super, Allan."

d - All props to the Navy Seals. All props to the merchant ship captain who gave himself up as a hostage to free his crew. But, now, I mean really, Pirates?
Is this 1709? Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

Monday, April 13, 2009

REALLY cool kids

I really want to hand it to the younger generation. It would seem that the millions of years of evolution (or however we got here - see my sixth-grade essay "A Bold Fresh Look At Darwin," for further details) have inculcated into teens the ability to withstand cold.

I leave for work by 6:45 AM daily, so I see lots of high school kids hanging around bus stops on my way in. There are the usual faces - the owlish, bookish ones, the glamour kitties, the guys trying with varying levels of success to glower menacingly, and the band kids (piccolo seems a better choice when you think of the inconvenience of toting a French horn and its case to school) all clustered, peering down the street for their orange chariot. No matter how cold it is, kids today wear - at the most - a hoody on the coldest days. And they don't even shiver. Nor is the hood on the hoody to be employed for covering one's melon. The hood hangs there, as useless as Dick Cheney at a gathering of people who never shot their friends in the face.

Back in the days of my bucolic childhood (see my essay "Shovelin' The Tundra" from National Geographic, January, 1960) we would bundle in more layers than an Inuit nudist. Corduroy pants, wool socks, heavy wing-tip shoes or Weejuns, a button-down shirt, a cranberry V-neck sweater, a wool scarf, leather fur-lined gloves, and a heavy Mackinaw were de rigueur for bus stop apparel and also for walking home from detention.

Just this past Sunday, I added to my extensive collection of Mackinaws, parkas, topcoats, car coats, anoraks, windbreakers and lined jackets by finding a brand-new Carhartt Duckcloth Chore Jacket - brand new - at an antique store for just 25 bucks. There had to be a story for why someone would sell a new 85-dollar jacket for 25, and so I deftly inquired as to why it wound up for sale. "Did someone have a boyfriend my size who didn't want this?" was how I opened the conversation, which did not go much further. I gleaned from the reply that the coat wasn't all that the big guy didn't want. I just hope he's not out in the cold somewhere.

If he is, he should try a hoody.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

To settle two ongoing debates...

Just in case there's still some doubt about it, yes, there were people practicing Monkey Dentistry as early as 1924. Herewith, photographic evidence:

And, just in case the many dozens of people who are organizing "teabagging"
parties in order to express their expressions of expressed disdain on April 15 were wondering, yes, teabagging has more than one connotation.

Paging Dr Freud!

Friday, April 10, 2009

C'est la vie, say the old folks : it goes to show, you never can tell!

Weird yesterday morning, to have heard on the early sports reports that Maryland native Nick Adenhart, 22, did fairly well as starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels the night before out in LA. He pitched six shutout innings and left the game in the hands of the bullpen, and the Angels eventually lost the game due to the fact that the Oakland A's scored more runs. But again, it was nice to hear that a guy from Williamsport High in Western Maryland had made it to the major leagues and was off to a good start.

But by lunchtime came the news...Adenhart died early yesterday morning in a car accident in Fullerton, Calif. Three people were killed and another was seriously injured in the three vehicle-accident. Police blame the accident on a motorist who ran a red light with his van and then fled the scene.

According to the news reports, it was unclear if Adenhart was killed immediately or died after being transported from the scene. A passenger from the van was taken to Western Medical Center in Anaheim with minor injuries. A third vehicle, which was stopped in the intersection at the time of the accident, was also involved but the driver was not seriously hurt.

It seems to me that some things are put out there to serve as lessons or thought material. We see a blind guy on American Idol, and we give thanks for our gift of sight and his determination to stride on. We see others with loss of mobility, speech, hearing, cognition, and we get that reminder to be grateful for ours.

But no one watching a big-league ball game on a Wednesday night in Anaheim, California, is going to sit and think that the pitcher who is doing so well on the mound will never make it home. 22, and he had probably been the star athlete and a local celebrity since he put on his first Little League uniform, and he had a bright future, and it's all over in the time it takes a three-car pileup to unfold.

No warning, no sign, no harbinger of doom. That's the way life is: sometimes you get the test first, and then the lesson.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Boo Hiss

I don't want this to turn into a sports blog or a sports talk review blog or anything like that. But this is more of a social commentary.

Over the past offseason in baseball, first baseman Mark
Teixeira, who was born and raised down the road from here in Anne Arundel County (inexplicably pronounced "Anne Darundel" in true Balamerese) signed a lucrative (8 years, 180 million dollars) to play baseball for the New York Yankees. Over the course of his career, he had hinted that he would someday like to come home and play for his hometown team, the Orioles. But he did not, for two reasons: the Yankees offered him more money, and they seem much more likely to play in the postseason than the Orioles will, for the next several years, at least.

No one in Baltimore will deny that this is a free country, and people unemcumbered by contracts and other binding agreements can work for whom they wish. If you're sizzling patties for Mc Donald's and the local Wendy's takes note of your advanced talent with a spatula, they might offer you more money than you're finding under the golden arches. Not quite Teixeira money, you understand, but when more money is offered, it's a basic American right to go for it, if you wish.

It's also a basic American right to go to a ballgame and express your disdain for Teixeira and his decision to sell out to the evil New Yorkers and their ill-gotten filthy lucre. That's what thousands of Baltimoreans did at the opening day game here the other day as the local boy came to play for the Bronx Bombers and went hitless, letting his team down in several vital situations. The fans reacted gleefully as the prodigal local came back and did not do so well.

But a certain Colin
Cowherd, a sports radio talk show host (got to be proud) on ESPN, said that the Orioles fans were wrong and had no right to hiss and boo at Teixeira. He enumerated reasons, all logical and valid, why the burly first sacker (see? just like in the sports pages!) had no other choice but to go Yankee.

If it's come to where a baseball fan can't even go to the ballpark and boo a Yankee, then, by golly, it's time to form a committee to look into this!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Regular, like clockwork

My birthday is in June, and we're months away from Christmas, but TV's entire Palin Family is just a gift that I get to open every day.

In case you don't remember the matriarch, Sarah Clampett Palin, why she was the g-droppin', nasal-talkin', ill-read, poorly-spoken, ridiculously unqualified candidate on the Republic ticket last fall. At the time, superannuated running mate John McCain stated that she was thoroughly qualified to run the country should ill health or another juicy divorce hamper his inability to run the nation, in the event of his election, which did not happen. Another thing that did not happen was Her Honor getting the Neazod** from the Reazod** as a viable candidate. Last week, old McCain was asked if he would support his erstwhile veep candidate, should she run for president under her own power.

"I'd have to consider all the candidates," rang his ringing non-endorsement.

Then there's all this unpleasantness about that oldest Palin girl, new mama Bristol Connecticut Palin, mother of the sonny jim sired by Levi Johnston, who would be far better off if he could keep his Levi's on. Just when you thought those two crazy kids were gonna work it all out, they broke up! Who'da thunk it? And Levi, gallant to the end, is saying that Mama knew all about the whole lotta shakin' goin' on with him and Bristol, shaking which produced young Tripp.

"Did not!" came the icy reply from the governor's office. And then, just when a little silence from her would be so becoming, she adds that Bristol is now going to concentrate on raising the baby and serving as an "advocate for abstinence."

In a recent Fox interview, Bristol Palin told Greta Van Susteren that “everyone should be abstinent but it’s not realistic… [sex] is more and more accepted among kids my age.”

The younger Palin told Van Susteren that it would have been nice if the pregnancy that produced baby Tripp had happened later in her life. “Of course I wish it would happen in like 10 years so I could have a job and education and my own house… But he brings so much joy. I don’t regret it at all.”

Certainly, one of the most clearly-stated positions in favor of abstinence that I can recall. But that's the great thing about the R's. It's either this, or forget it.

But here comes dessert! Sarah's sister-in-law, one Diana Palin, was arrested on Thursday for allegedly burglarizing a house. Not once, but twice in a matter of days. And because, just like you see on COPS, these people drag their children into all their misadventures, she reportedly brought her 4-year-old daughter along for the heists, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

The paper reported that Diana Palin (half sister to Sarah Palin's husband, Todd) was caught
by the homeowner, Theodore Turcott, who was hiding in his bathroom with a gun. He found Palin going straight to a bedroom cabinet where he had kept his cash in the past.

Palin's four-year-old daughter, who had been waiting outside in an aging Camry during the theft, entered the house shortly before police arrived at the scene, according to the prosecutor. The affidavit read that the girl told police she had been to the house days before with her mother. Diana Palin denied this, the Daily News said, and claimed she mistook the house for a friend's place.

Governor Palin and her family have declined to comment on the matter.

Really, now, what more is there to say?


(**Legendary Baltimore DJ Maurice "Commander Hot Rod" Hulbert used to create new words by inserting an "ee-ahz" in the middle of old ones. To him, I would be Maeeahzark, and his sign of approval - a "nod from the Rod" - was a neazod from the Reazod. Undereahztand? Me neazither!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Guns 'n' Loses

From The Christian Science Monitor, troubling observations about an apparent trend in the nation: the economy seems to have played a particularly negative role in the shooters’ lives. And they're not saying that as an excuse, just a common factor cited by friends and relatives of the murderers.

But it would also appear that with these shooters - forty-four people have died in a string of five such incidents in the past month, from Oakland, California to Alabama to North Carolina - there is always something troubling them besides the economy. In Binghamton, New York, Jiverly Voong, 41, barricaded the back door of the American Civic Association Friday morning, then went in the front door shooting at everyone in the room, killing 13 and then shooting himself. Initial reports say the gunman was deeply upset over being laid off and for being disrespected for not speaking English well.

So he shoots up a place where they try to help immigrants fit in.

In Oakland CA, a guy gets mad at his parole officer and feared going back to jail.

So he shoots four police dead with a gun.

An Alabama man strolled his town with a rifle, looking for victims.

Seven seniors were shot dead at a North Carolina nursing home.

And on that same Sunday, six people, including four kids, died in an apparent murder-suicide by gun in an upscale neighborhood in Santa Clara, CA.

The Center for Public Integrity claims that President Bush and his sidekicks made 935 false statements between 2001 and 2003 about Iraq's alleged threat to the United States.

How many times did the counterfeit cowboy from Kennebunkport worry about the weapons of mass destruction being stockpiled within these borders?

How come no one was following Richard Andrew Poplawski
around to document his actions? According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, " Poplawski was a young man convinced the nation was secretly controlled by a cabal that would eradicate freedom of speech, take away his guns and use the military to enslave the citizenry."

"Crazy to me is going through the motions," he wrote on his MySpace profile three years ago. "Crazy to me is letting each day slip past you. Crazy is being insignificant. Crazy is being obscure, pointless."

Pointlessly, Poplawski lured three police to a trap on Saturday morning and shot them all to death in his defense of his Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, as part of a well-regulated militia, of course.

"He was really into politics and really into the First and Second amendment. One thing he feared was he feared the gun ban because he thought that was going to take away peoples' right to defend themselves. He never spoke of going out to murder or to kill," said Edward Perkovic, who described himself as Mr. Poplawski's lifelong best friend.

The Post-Gazette also says that both Poplawski and Perkovic appeared to share a belief that the government was controlled from unseen forces, that troops were being shipped home from the Mideast to police the citizenry here, and that Jews secretly ran the country.

"We recently discovered that 30 states had declared sovereignty," said Mr. Perkovic. "One of his concerns was why were these major events in America not being reported to the public."

(Experts agree this these major events are being kept from the public on the grounds that they do not occur.)

"For some time now there has been a pretty good connection between being sucked into this conspiracy world and propagating violence," said Heidi Beirich, director of research at the Southern Poverty Law Center and an expert on political extremists. She called Mr. Poplawski's act, "a classic example of what happens when you start buying all this conspiracy stuff."

Some thoughtful people have suggested that people ought to stop listening to corpulent radio hosts with their whack-job theories. These people who are "really into politics" and really "into" the Constitution are often ill-informed, poorly thought-out, and really need to be "into" learning what they are talking about. But instead of taking time to read and learn apace, it's easier to be force-fed fallacy in a Rush. No need to stop listening. Just a need to stop believing.

Monday, April 6, 2009

C'mon, Get Therapy!

Wisecracking redhead Dante Daniel "Danny" Bonaduce will turn 50 years of age this August, and you really have to say he has packed a lot of living into what will then total 18,250 days on this earth.
He first came to public attention playing wisecracking redhead Danny "Danny" Partridge on the Partridge Family tv show, which ripped off The Cowsills in the manner of The Monkees ripping off The Beatles. That show went off the air in 1974, and even though Danny was very good at playing a wisecracking redhead kid brother, he found but limited demand for his acting services thereafter. Within three years he was doing The Love Boat and making quickie auto theft movies with Farrah Fawcett and the late Sonny Bono (R, CA).
Danny had a childhood which could best be described as awful; his father, who wrote sitcoms such as The Andy Griffith Show and One Day at a Time, is said to have beaten him regularly. This tendency to use fists where wits might serve better was to surface again and again in Danny's life.
But think about it. What would you do? What would you do? Here, one minute you're famous for being on a tv show, pretending to sing along with Susan Dey and getting to hear Shirley Jones and David Cassidy sing for real, and the next minute no one wants you to fake anything. Fame is a harsh mistress. Danny soon found himself a mister without a mattress, homeless on the streets of LA, a drug abuser seriously in need of mental rehabilitation. Cassidy, whose post-teen idol career has not been the second act that there aren't any of anyway even hired him as a supporting act in his Las Vegas show for a while, but that failed to cause a stampede of eager ticket buyers.
What's sad about America sometimes is how we so worship fame that we are even somewhat in awe of those who once had it. Bonaduce came to find out that he could always turn a quick $500 by appearing at KMart stores at the holidays, billed as a Partridge in a pear tree. 500 bucks is 500 bucks, and it led to even greater media exposure as a radio sidekick, and then as the host of his own radio shows in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and now Philadelphia. For one season he had a syndicated talk show titled "Oprah" I mean titled "Danny" in which he tried day after day to show just how pugnacious he was willing to become for money. One sad highlight of that show was his promised reunion of the Partridge Family cast, except that Susan Dey called in with her memories and David Cassidy was too busy recording an album that no one was going to buy. Sort of like saying we were gonna have spaghetti and meatballs except I cut out carbs and meat, so here's some sauce.
Danny, never shy with an opinion that might not be too popular, has taken a sharp rightward turn away from the peace and love of the Partridge 70's, lambasting Jane Fonda and Rosie O'Donnell for expressing political viewpoints unlike his own. But this sort of stuff keeps him in the public eye. In his job as a wacky morning radio host up in the City of Brotherly Love, he regularly incites petty feuds with such as Jose Canseco, former baseball player best remembered for having a fly ball bounce off his skull and over the fence for a homerun, and also for bouncing off Madonna. Recently, Danny boxed Canseco to a draw, the point of the match still being in question.
Yes, we Americans love our stars and still want to keep them in the firmament (maybe to keep a wary eye on them.) As Dante Bonaduce nears a half-century of this life, he can surely look back on the recent show The Smoking Gun Presents: World's Dumbest.. in which he ripped off one of his own eyebrows.
Whatever's best for him, as long as he keeps it classy.