Monday, November 30, 2009
Just what the heck is going on with Eldrick "Tiger" Woods? I'm not the only one asking that question all of a sudden, but it cracks me up that the local police in his gated community have gone to his house twice, as of Sunday, to ask just what the heck was going on as he roared out of his driveway and hit a tree and a fire plug at 0225 hrs Friday, only to be rebuffed.
In my mind, I picture what would happen if I slammed my truck into several perpendicular solids and, when the cops came around to ask questions they have every right to pose, I had Peggy tell them, "He's asleep now. Come back some other time. How's 2017 sound for you?"
Lookie, I don't know what's going on in Tigerland. I can say that from where I sit, if you're racing out of your million-dollar mansion in the middle of the night and smacking down your ride, sumpin' ain't right. But maybe he was out of smokes and had to run down to the Kwik-E-Mart for some Marlboros. Or, maybe he wanted to get to the Midnite Madness DoorBuster to surprise the wife with one of those big-screen TVs from Best Buy. Or, let's say he was fixing a late snack with some Thanksgiving leftovers and he was all out of stuffing for his sandwich, so he thought he'd just scoot on over to the Winn-Dixie for some StoveTop. Now, let's say he makes it a habit to drive around his community and make sure that no one has left on any unneeded lights. See? There are all sorts of reasons why Tiger was out smashing up his Escalade just past last call the other morning, and surely, as soon as he's all rested up, he will share with us all the details.
Speaking of the middle of the night, I see that Kevin Trudeau fella is back on TV with another deal. You might remember him as the guy who sold about 25 million copies of a book with medical advice of dubious value, positioning himself as a purveyor of inside information that "they" don't want you to know. His setup then was to appear on a fake TV talk show that sort of looked like the Larry King Show. Now he's back, after being so busy settling millions and millions of dollars worth of claims, judgments and settlements with government regulators whose job is it to protect consumers from sending $24.95 to him for a book that claims that sunscreen, not UV rays causes cancer, and that diseases are not caused by viruses or bacteria, but by energy imbalance. Well, it is a free country, and he has every right to publish these books - the latest is on how to get free money simply by going online and asking for it - just as we have the right not to buy them. The setup now is that they make it look like he's on QVC or Home Shopping Club. That's the great thing about a free society - the government can't stop anyone from writing and selling a book. Do you remember the guy who ran an ad saying "Get rich quick - send one dollar for information to PO Box ____" He made a fortune. All he did was send to those who sent in their dollar a piece of paper that said "Here's what you do...run an ad that says 'Get Rich Quick - send one dollar for information...' "
Sunday, November 29, 2009
One of my favorite weekend pastimes is watching the amazing team of Jenna Wolfe and Lester Holt on the Today Show. Let's face it: Garrison Keillor is who he is because there is no one else alive with the same skill set as he, and the same holds true for Jenna and Lester.
First of all, what is the old expression that baseball umpires like to say describes the best part of their job? "You can't beat the hours." Well, if there were some award for working both ends of the bad part of the clock, step right up, Lester, you win! The man does the Saturday morning TODAY show, meaning that he has to get to work at o-dark:30, and then work that show and then come back to be the anchor on the NBC Nightly News that evening! Then he gets to go home for a while and come back on Sunday for TODAY, and then in the evening, when all the world is enjoying the second NFL game, reaching for the butter and getting ready for the third NFL game, Lester has his overcoat on again and is heading back in to do the Nightly news again. I bet you anything when he goes home, he just tosses his overcoat on the sofa, saying he's only going to have to put it on again in a few minutes anyway.
Listen, you don't hear him complaining! It's an honor to be asked to host either one of those broadcasts, and if they ask you to do them both, well, where do I sign? And you have to figure he is amply compensated for giving up his weekends.
And one of the nice things is that he gets to hang around with Jenna Wolfe on the Sunday TODAY shows. My admiration for Jenna is unbounded. We had not seen too much of her in her previous career as a sports reporter, as she was primarily local to New York or else doing sports that I don't care about so much. But she wound up on the TODAY show, likely as not because some shrewd bigwig up there with a keen eye for talent knew that this lady was greater than all the jai-alai tournaments and what-all else the sports world needed her to cover. Like the best of the hosts in the long history of TODAY, Jenna can intelligently interview a senator, a small-town law officer with a missing child case on his hands, or rival debaters embroiled in an argument over one of the issues of our times (gay marriage, abortion, etc) in one segment, and then come back in the next to help cook a brisket or participate in a bell choir concert at 30 Rock. And there is no one better at the bread-and-butter TODAY show filmed package stories: Jenna goes back to her alma mater! Jenna enters an air-guitar competition! Jenna sings with Barry Manilow! Her engaging manner, throaty laughter and all-American good looks (even though she was born outside of this country, thus dashing my dream to have her run for president some day) make her perfect company for your coffee, Danish and omelet on a Sunday.
So much so that when my sister and her husband returned home recently from a trip to New York and she told me that one of the 130 pictures she took showed Jenna walking down the street, apparently heading to NBC, I tore through those pictures like an Secret Service agent goes through the White House state dinner guest list looking for Ms Wolfe, whose confident stride and workpersonlike backpack are on display above. Right on Jenna, and Lester! Sunday would really suck without you!
And I offer that slogan free of charge to the NBC publicity department.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Many people don't care for the comedy of Jerry Lewis, but just to think of him with a drinking glass stuck in his piehole makes me guffaw like Bristol Palin at an Abstinence Rally. And as his birthday approaches (3/16/26, as if you didn't know, but do you want to wait to plan this at the last minute?!) it is altogether fitting and proper to pay homage to the comic genius known to the few kids who would play with him on the playgrounds of Newark, NJ as Joseph Levitch. I said "homage" because that's the French word for cheese, right? How dumb would it be to pay "fromage" to the man idolized for having so much Gaul?
Jerry's parents were in vaudeville; his father called himself Danny Lewis and he was to climb the ladder of success to but middling fame, if that, in his career. But he elevated himself to top-rung status in the field of picking on his son. (After Jerry really hit the big time, he bought his father a Cadillac, only to hear the bitter old man say,"What? You couldn't afford a convertible?") Thanks to this constant humiliation from Danny, we have been left to deal with Jerry's need to "make us laugh, make us laugh" for many years. Jerry was doing pantomime to popular records in the mid-40s when he was noticed by a young singer from Steubenville, Ohio, named Dino Crocetti. Crocetti later changed his name to Dean Crocetti, but still never became famous. Just kidding! Jeesh! He changed his name to Dean Martin and took a liking to Jerry, whose last name fit perfectly with the dream they both shared of being a comedian named Martin N. Lewis.
The "N" stands for not funny, you're saying. Bear with me. Martin and Lewis were the zaniest of the post-war zany comedians, a group that included Abbott and Costello, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, and Richie Nixon. They were all over the place in a partnership that lasted exactly ten years, until July 25, 1956, when Martin stormed out, claiming that "Jerry had begun acting silly of late."
Dean Martin later became a respected college administrator, and Jerry Lewis went on to star in movie after movie. The very picture of a modern egomaniac, he's known for referring to himself in the 3rd person so often that a movie was written about that trait. Who can forget Joseph Cotten, as Jerry, in "The Third Man"?
Friday, November 27, 2009
Synesthesia (also spelled synæsthesia or synaesthesia, plural synesthesiae or synaesthesiae)—from the Ancient Greek σύν (syn), "together," and αἴσθησις (aisthēsis), "sensation"—is a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.
If you read the rest of the article, you will find all about how some people see numbers as colors and months as having distinct personalities. Well, bulletin for the scientific community – we all have a touch of this! Especially for days of the week. Who doesn’t see their Monday as wreathed in funereal pallor, if it’s the first day of your work week? (All this goes out the window if your job involves rotating days off. It’s awful when everyone else’s Friday is your Monday, but the sweet revenge comes when your Friday is their Monday. But you need a special calendar for this sort of thing.)
Tuesday registers as kind of blue to me; at least you’re in gear for the week. And if it’s a week of vacation, then you can say, ”Hey! It’s only Tuesday! There’s plenty more fun ahead.”
Wednesday has a beige sort of affect. Middle of the week, time to think about the weekend and start checking the weather forecasts, usually some decent shows on TV that night.
Thursday to my mind is kind of green, ripe with expectations. To the social set, Thursday is now the new Friday, with the bar scene hopping like a Saturday night. This also accounts for my sunny bright mood on
Friday! When hardly anyone still goes to work, or so it would seem. Smooth sailing to the office, weekend ahead, all is golden.
Saturday is made of what Vin Scully calls “the sky of cerulean blue,” as he basks in the warmth of Los Angeles sunshine to call an afternoon ballgame at Chavez Ravine, home of the Dodgers. For the rest of us baskers, Saturday usually means a chance to get out in the yard and check the aspidistra. While doing that, we can see if the foliage needs any attention as well.
Sunday is of course, the same color as the beams of sunlight that illuminate the congregrations around the world. There’s also a little tinge of purple in there for the Ravens and orange for the Orioles.
There’s also a thing about this---ever notice how when you think of your old high school, you can still smell the floor wax in the hallway, the gravy in the cafeteria and the stanky sox in the gym?
It’s all for the good. Senses help us place the places and times that mean the most.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
for Presley, Elvis and Zappa, Frank.
For cool winter mornings and shady summer days
And because “things just turn out that way,”
For friendships and pizza and multi-grain bread
And that certain Love song that gets stuck in my head
For red pickup trucks and Friendly Farm ducks!
Plaid shirts, sweatshirts, jeans, Jami Gertz
Hominy grits, hominy canned, bacon bits and peace in the land
Garrison Keillor, none of the Steelers, and Blaze Starr, Baltimore’s favorite peeler
Cal Ripken, Junior and Cal Ripken, Senior, both high on the list:
and have your seen your
Señor Wences puppet (check the end of your wrist!)
Stewie Griffin, Stuart Little, R.C. Owens, Y.A. Tittle,
God-daughter, great nieces, great nephew and kin
What an encompassing family we’re in!
Coffee and iced tea, cold beer in a glass
With a Domino’s flatbread, what more could I ask?
And speaking of tea, my favorite must be
The brand called Punctuali- (see?)
Christmas lights, snowy nights, peace on earth, heavyweight fights,
Johnny Knoxville, Memphis Slim, Cleveland Brown (we’re missing him)
Red fire engines, Richard Benjamin, Paris Hilton’s fitness regimen,
Newspapers, New Yorker, Timonium Fair,
Bing Crosby, Bing cherries, ribs (short, and spare)
Laughing at Bam and Nigerian e-scams,
Early Beatles, Buddy’s Crickets, Mr Dylan: that’s the ticket!
For computers that work, and lies that don’t, and Willie Clinton (I bet he won’t)
Digital cameras, mp3s, Olbermann nightly on the tv,
70's songs that still mesmerize, and the great Dr Connolly who Doctors My Eyes,
Shopping for lip balm, always a thrill; when a duck waddles in, put it on his bill!
homemade granola, jukebox Rock-Ola, I went cold turkey on the old Coca-Cola,
magnets and flashlights and heavy key rings: (keys are a few of my favorite things!),
Peggy’s hugs and Peggy’s kisses,
It’s no mystery: she’s my Mrs!
DVRs and VCRs and free salad bars,
iPods, cell phones, pea pods and ringtones,
poems without meter, scan or good rhyme
Just like this Thanksgiving doggerel: mine!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
This is not my TV or my house! Stock photos for lazy blogger!
I DVR Keith Olbermann every night, so I can watch "Countdown" while I munch my breakfast in the morning. Procedure is the same: watch show, delete.
Except for that Friday the 13th (!) when the show simply would not delete. I call Comcast, Comcast tells me they never heard of this happening and then the guy asks for the serial number on my cable box. I ask where is this number. He says on back of cable box. I tell him there are so many numbers back there it looks like a men's room stall wall. He does not laugh. He tells me to call back to make a service appointment.
I made the service appointment, and then, no fewer than three times did Comcast call me to make sure that I still wanted the guy to come. I guess they do this for every service call, but I certainly would have called to cancel if the problem had healed by itself which, to my experience, happens but rarely in electronics.
Anyway, Cable Guy shows up Saturday morning and I tell him there is a show on the box that I have watched and tried to delete and it will not delete. He said he had never heard of that. "That's a new one on ME!," he exclaimed. That's a sentence you don't want to hear from your cable guy, or your doctor, or your wife. But I showed him that the show just would not go away. After we made some predictable jokes about how "Keith Olbermann must really be a stubborn guy; he won't go away!" he tried it himself. I love that. That's sort of the same thing as someone coming along and pushing the elevator button when you have already done so. But it didn't work for him any more than it did for me, so I said, "maybe we need to reset the box; do you know how to do that?" And he said, "Yeah, let me make a technical adjustment over here..." and he reset the box.
Which then allowed us to delete the show, so keep that in mind, Comcast people! That's the secret when something gets stuck...reset the box.
So I asked him what was the secret technical thing that he had to do to reset the box and he said, "I unplugged it."
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Before we get to Today's Top Story, I have come up with a term that I would like to submit for your consideration as an addition to the everyday lexicon:
How about this to describe the area where one's gaze goes when one is bemused, besodden or beset by confusion or anxiety...and you kind of stare off, not into the next block, more like the next room:
It's either that or the name of a road in Columbia. Could be both. Now, this news:
From the wires of the Associated Press:
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - A woman quietly left $40,000 worth of rare U.S. coins near a Catholic shrine for safekeeping so the Virgin Mary could watch over her life savings while she was out of town, and apparently it worked: The money was returned to her when she got back a week later.
Operators of the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes near Emmitsburg thought they had been blessed with a big donation when a groundskeeper found the two plastic freezer bags filled with gold and silver while raking leaves.
But Shrine Director William Tronolone said the woman approached him after a noon Mass Sunday, six days after the discovery, to ask whether anyone had found some coins she had hidden beneath fallen leaves at the site on the campus of Mount St. Mary's University.
"I said, 'Why did you leave it there?' And she said, 'Well, I had to go away and I was afraid to leave it and I wanted the Blessed Mother to watch over it for me _ and evidently she did because you found it,'" Tronolone said.
By then, university officials had had the coins appraised, notified police and placed the money in a safe while awaiting word from investigators.
Tronolone refused to identify the woman. He said she had been out of town about a week.
After the school's security director returned the coins Monday, he accompanied the woman to her bank and persuaded her to put them in her safe deposit box, Tronolone said.
The shrine, about 50 miles northwest of Baltimore, features a replica of the grotto in Lourdes, France, where Catholics believe Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to a French schoolgirl named Bernadette several times, beginning in 1858. The Emmitsburg replica draws more than 200,000 visitors annually, Tronolone said.
Grotto visitors often leave anonymous donations, including a $3,000 cash gift two weeks ago.
"Up here at the grotto, you get a lot of people that are very, very faithful," Tronolone said, "and they do things you and I would never even attempt to do."
Monday, November 23, 2009
Her father was Peter Fonda, who made Easy Rider. Her grandfather was Henry Fonda, who made dozens of great movies. Her aunt was Jane Fonda, who made a lot of great movies and also dabbled in politics, made a ton of weight-loss exercise videos, and exercised her free speech rights a time or two. She's married to Danny Elfman, musical composer for everything from The Simpsons to Pee Wee's Big Adventure to Good Will Hunting, and whose nephew is married to Jenna Elfman.
Dag if you didn't guess it right! Say hi to one of my favorite actresses, Bridget Fonda. Bridget gave us starring roles in "It Could Happen to You" and "Point of No Return." ICHTY was the one where she played a down-on-her-luck waitress who accepts the tip of 50% share of a lottery ticket from henpecked NYPD cop Nicolas Cage, who guffaws his way through another whole movie. Her luck sure changes!
PONR was the one where she was a street thug in DC, known as Scooter Libby. No, seriously, she played Maggie. And when she was arrested, a secret government entity took her away, teaching her everything from martial arts to etiquette (taught by good ole' Mrs Robinson herself, Anne Bancroft.) Trained to kill in 17 different ways, she was sent out into the world to do the bidding of this mysterious organization, and then a lot of people's luck changed, mostly for the worst. Diving down a laundry chute to avoid a rifle-launched surface-to-air missile, killing a bad guy with his own breakfast, and taking care of the real-life father of the guy who played Mike Damone in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," Bridget was everywhere in this movie.
And then she made a few more movies and she retired in 2002, and has not made a movie since. I'd like to see that change next year. Not gonna happen, but I'd like to see it! She left the movies about the same time Peggy and I did: she because she had tendered enough money to be able to retire from making talkie movies for theaters, and we because we were tired of people eating chicken tenders while talking during a movie in a theater.
And did you know that the real-life guy upon whom the nerdy Mark "Rat" Ratner was based in that FTARH movie was a real-life computer geek named Mark Rathbone, who later wrote "Windows for Dummies" and made a fortune?
Bridget Fonda already had a fortune, I guess, so she doesn't need to make any more movies. I wish she would. Then I could get all worked up and say, "Oh boy I can't wait til that new Bridget Fonda movie comes out... on pay-per-view so we can enjoy it in peace and quiet without cell phones ringing, people conversing, people chewing chicken tenders in my ear, and all the rest of those things that drove us out of the theater in 2002!"
It could happen to me!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The 1950's ended on this day in 1963. Even though the country had "transitioned" (a noun that had yet to be verbed then) from the befuddled, grandfatherly presence of Dwight D. Eisenhower to the vigorous and youthful John F. Kennedy, we were still young and kind of innocent then. The innocence was stolen when Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK that day in Dallas, 36 years ago.
We had gone back to our 7-M homeroom at the close of the school day to get our report cards. Even as we went through the halls, some people had already heard the news, and there was a murmur in the heart of the crowd. Not until the principal's voice came on over the intercom system and made the announcement that the president had been shot and we would now be listening to the radio coverage of the event did the rumor become the news.
But here we are, 36 years later, and we still wonder about so much. The very basis of any story - the who-what-when-where-why is pretty much filled in. Our youthful president was the who, his murder the what, the when and the where is established, but we don't know why. We don't even know for sure if Oswald acted alone or had help, or at least advisors and co-conspirators. He had been a troubled man, drifting in and out of the Marines and various political persuasions, but we will never know with certainty all the details.
Two days later, while being paraded around for the press like a Derby winner or something, Oswald was gunned down by a shady nightclub impresario who went by the name Jack Ruby. This remarkable episode of police ineptitude gave the nation its first live-on-TV death that Sunday morning, even as we headed for church with the burden of grief. Or was it police ineptitude, or the playing out of a grand scheme to use this patsy Oswald to do someone's bidding and then wipe him off the map before he could talk too much?
Of all the people involved - the Kennedys, his successor Lyndon Johnson and his family, Texas Governor Connally and his kin - only Oswald's widow, Marina, survives, and she doesn't seem to have any information about all this anyway. The only thing we do know for sure is that the nation changed tremendously that day, 36 years ago. Our national sorrow continues, and I feel it still, most powerfully on this day every year.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Any time I want to stir up a lively debate, I can just mention Peggy's oft-repeated lamentation that I really shouldn't wear those boxers any longer. Women are only too glad to tell the tales on their men, how they insist on wearing briefs, boxers and t-shirts that more than anything else resemble swiss cheese or Frank Gusenberg. The old caution about being sure to wear nice undies in case one is hit by a car or, as in the case of Frank Gusenberg, shot 14 times by the Capone gang, and being taken to a hospital just doesn't fly with most guys. We reason that, if we're going to be in the emergency room with hoses, tubes, IV lines, EKGs, EEGs and medical personnel all over us, our underwear is going to be way, way down on our list of things to fret over.
But, today as I write this, let it be known that I have broken out a new pair of Jockeys, and I don't mean Eddie Arcaro and Willie Shoemaker. I didn't go crazy. I bought these in a two-pack some time ago at an outlet mall; the original price said 26 semolians, but the day I spend 13 clams on a banana hammock is the day I stand in line to meet Sarah Palin. The little orange sticker that reads "CLEARANCE $6" is my assurance that I invested wisely. This is, what, 2009? This pair of boxers won't even be broken in til 2012!
Friday, November 20, 2009
You know that speed enforcement zone over on Joppa Rd near Spring Ave? There is such an interesting dynamic there. Actually, make it two interesting dynamics (they're small.) First, now that the radar zone has been in place for so often for so long, everyone who lives in the area knows very well to slow down when approaching that stretch of road from either direction. The problem is that it's a very wide stretch of road in that area, and it tends to make some motorists feel as if they are on the highway, so they hit the gas, scattering pedestrians and Smart Cars in their wake.
Wisely, the police slow them down by setting up enforcement. It's almost Pavlovian now; people get to where the police are usually perching in wait, and they slow down, and then, once they get past that point, it's back to trompin' the pedal. That's dynamic #2...people think the law is back there in the last block, so here we zoom! So, why not have another zone in the next block? Once would-be speeders think it's safe to speed again, then nail 'em a block away.
This could also work for a variety of other crimes. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I am available for consultation.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I was very sad to hear that former MTV game show host and comedian Ken Ober passed away the other day. He was only 52. He was the host of "Remote Control," which was a postmodernist phenomenon in the late 80's. It was sort of like Jeopardy or Split Second or any one of those game shows hosted by slick unctuous hosts in the early TV days, but with a witty twist.
The show's setting, and its entire setup, was that it took place in the fictitious Ober basement, at young Ken's house (address: 72 Whooping Cough Lane) The set had easy chairs for the contestants, and whoa! watch out! If you were the first player to get eliminated, you and your recliner went flying out into the ozone void, off stage literally and figuratively.
I say it was postmodern, because while the premise had everything to do with mocking, gently, the cheesy game shows of the past, the overall sum of its parts was a tribute to the cheesy game shows of the past. Ober's dais was overlooked by framed 8 x 10s of legendary show hosts Bob Barker, Bill Cullen, Bert Convy, Monty Hall, and Tom Kennedy. And who can forget the episode in which Bob "The Newlywed Game" Eubanks sat right at Kenny's side, coaching him in the finer points of quiz- mastery? Well, I can't, is all I know!
But all this wittiness took place on MTV - it was the first non-musical show they had - from 1987 to 1990. That was a long time ago. People who were conceived while their parents were watching that show are now driving cars, stuffing iPods full of Lady GaGa, and becoming parents themselves. Perhaps someone should start a new game show that somehow gently mocks and honors Ken Ober at the same time.
Think about this: Happy Days was a big hit in the 70's, sending up the 50's. That was a 20-year gap. It's now been over 30 years since the heyday of Happy Days, so it's high time for a show in the 2010's about people in the 70's watching people in the 50's.
Or maybe not. But if someone told you there was a show in which Martha Stewart's daughter and her daughter's friend watch Martha's show and try to duplicate Martha's recipes and crafts, all the while goofing on Martha on camera, and you thought they were goofing you, I'd tell you to watch "Whatever, Martha" on the Fine Living Network, Tuesdays at 9.
There are a lot of networks and they need a lot of shows to fill the time!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
We love to go leaf-peeping in autumn. We drive along the country roads that loop around our town like fettucine around a meatball, and for a week or two in late October / early November it's glorious to see the color spectrum spread across the sky...especially the red/orange/gold/brown part of the spectrum. Even the air is awash with the fragrance of falling leaves and withering mountain greenery, "where God paints the scenery."
But I'll be doggoned if we don't see some other things that just make me want to scratch the cranium. The choices some families have made about houses can boggle the average already-boggled mind. And I'm not talking about who can afford what, or whose idea of elegance it is to make a brick-and-mortar mini-Taj Mahal to house their mailbox, or whose collection of wooden yard doodads, bendovers and metallic reflecting balls atop former birdbaths merits another look.
First, I see houses with very steep front yards sometimes. It's like, the house is way up in the clouds from the street, and the practical side of me wonders about how to get in and out of the driveway on a snowy icy morning. Then you wonder, if you're out there tossing the old baseball or football around, you'd better make sure to catch the ball, or it's going to roll to North Carolina once it gets going down that hill. And cutting the grass! I've seen guys who stand at the top of the hill and let the mower down gradually on a rope to mow their lawns. I wouldn't find that enjoyable, but maybe some do. It's their choice.
And then there is always the question, asked for generations now, "Would you live next door to a McDonald's?" And I mean, literally, your side yard and deck adjoin Mickey D's parking lot, meaning that as you sit out on the deck on a mild evening, your conversation is punctuated with raspy intercom caws of "WelcometoMcDonald'sMayItakeyourorderplease?" You can go a little farther down the block in this neighborhood - and these are all nice houses, all built AFTER the Golden Arches bloomed there - and you wouldn't even know that Big Macs® were sold mere yards away. A real estate agent told me that the house that butts up against the burgertorium parking lot sold for just as much as the houses way down the block.
I don't know. You hear about people who buy houses down by the airport and don't mind going outside to get the paper as the gleaming underbelly of a 747 glides earthward twenty feet overhead too. There's a toll bridge a few miles up route 40, and southbound traffic zooming by has an unencumbered view directly into the upper floors of a newly-built house that is so close, if the traffic stops, people in the cars can catch a couple of plays of a ball game on TV inside.
I know it's everyone's choice. I know a guy who loved the way his house was right behind the beltway; he said the traffic helped him sleep at night.
So there you go!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Another thing that happens every year at this time is seeing people, mostly young people with highly developed senses of style and fashion, rushing the season a bit by wearing their winter coats long before it's time to do so.
But it's not all kids. I saw a man with his his own kids on Saturday, all dressed up as if he were ready to go on an arctic expedition. The weather? Well it was cloudy, but the temperature was in the upper 50s, maybe even 60-something. It was all finished, the rain was. The outfit? One of those wool, red-and-black checked baseball-style caps that we normally associate with Darryl or Darryl from "Newhart." The boots were fawn-colored NuBuck Timberlands, left open at the ankle so that the jean cuffs could flop around foppishly. But the topper was the heavy Norwegian-style fisherman's sweater worn UNDER one of those hefty, chunky, burly, husky down-filled vests. I'm telling you, he had to be roasting underneath all that, but I guess the kids would have ragged on him mercilessly if he had starting divesting himself of, well, the vest.
So when I got home, I got out the Oslo, Norway, telephone directory, and called the following people: Arvid, Asbjørn, Canute, Didrik, Edvard,and Ludvik, and none of them could see the sense in wearing a Norwegian fisherman's sweater when no real Norwegian fisherman is wearing one yet. It's about 39°F in Oslo these days, and if they can handle that, we can handle a trip to Shoppers Food Warehouse and Home Depot without bundling up.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
If someone could write "Hey It's A Turn Lane, Not Your Personal Lane," that would be marvelous. First, they could write a new title, but we are seeing more and more people pulling out of side streets into packed traffic and just bopping along in that center lane as if it were paved and striped off just for them and their little jitney.
The other morning, I'm schlepping off to work, and here comes a blue car doing that number on the main road. Both westbound lanes were occupied steadily with cars going to work or school or wherever, and The Impatient One just had to get somewhere, so zoom! here came that blue streak, right in front of me.
When we got to Harford Rd and the stop signal, I looked over into the car with my practiced baleful look, designed to help the miscreant remember, the next time they have an urge to cut someone off in traffic, the last time they cut someone off, and that guy in the pickup with the Stewie stickers looked at them with daggers shooting out of his eyes like Sarge looks at Beetle Bailey. The driver was a slightly-abashed looking mom, but her son, backpacked and ready for another day in the grove of academe, looked at me like, "Yeah, I know, mister, she drives like holy hell."
Then it dawned on me. We learn our driving habits from our family, because it is their fenders which we dent first. And worst. But chances are, this woman had a mother or a father who drove as if they were in a demolition derby, too, and that's where she learned that devil-may-care way to drive.
Since she lives right around the corner from us, I guess I'll be running into her again, as it were. Do we really suspect that the devil may, in fact, care?
Saturday, November 14, 2009
The first Christmas lights are up in our neighborhood.
Second week of November, and those red, green, blue and yellow C-9s are blazing away in the house down around the corner in that part of the main road that got cut off and turned into a court. But I cut through there on the way to the grocery store or drug store, and I was surprised to see the lights on so soon.
The other night at WalMart, we saw the new Peanuts® Front Yard Nativity Set, perfect for holiday decoration. I can't wait. Even more so than the first day of school, the holidays are really the most wonderful time of the year.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Friday the 13th is one superstition that never has troubled me. I have my various little habits, such as always putting on my right sock and then the right shoe first. I can't tell you where that got started or what it would do to my day to start with the left foot. Probably, nothing, but who wants to take that chance?
It could never happen on the 13th of a month, but the department where I work has a policy. Every time there is a 5th Friday in a month...and it happens four times a year, like clockwork (or calendarwork)... we wear jeans and t shirts or sweat shirts and clean up the office, throw away old files, get rid of stuff that's been sitting around since we moved in (2002) and so forth. You might want to try it at your office. It's not only a great way to get junk disposed of regularly, it's also a morale booster to see what kind of t shirts your coworkers will show up wearing.
I should mention that I always thought Terri was a terrific coworker. We happened to be working together a lot when it came time for me to leave my previous department, and she wound up covering for me many times without complaint when I was leaving the workplace to go to Human Resources to fill out transfer paperwork and what-have-you. She was a great supervisor because she had been a great employee at the entry level position of 911 calltaker. Her excellence got her promoted and her excellence made her a compassionate boss, and I was proud to know her then and now.
So who knows? Maybe all this positivity will catch on. Like ions, maybe we'll get a charge out of it.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
At 5'11", Caroline Michelle "Carrie" Prejean towers over no man.
Actually, she towers over a lot of them, but she seems so much taller because she is standing on her principles.
Ms Prejean was Miss California 2009, a title that is undoubtedly sought by many a beautiful young woman. She was first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, brought to you by Donald Trump and his hair. She feels that she lost the crown because she gave a conservative answer to a question from pop-culture chronicler Perez Hilton about same-sex marriage.
Although she is from California, where over the years millions of people have gone in search of freedom and fortune, she made this statement when asked about marriage:
"In my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman."
Well, I think that I believe that whoever wants to marry whomever, it is none of my business, nor that of Carrie Prejean, nor anyone else.
And I also wonder how all of this came together this past week...she dropped the lawsuit she had filed against the pageant promoters, Mr Trump, and his hair, reportedly because the pageant promoters and Trump had a self-service video of Ms Prejean takin' care of business solo-style. If you catch my drift. Mr Trump reportedly wore a hat while watching the tape, lest his hair see her in action and get ideas.
And...how about this...she has a BOOK that came out this week! And so she had to appear on the Sean Hannity show and the Today show to point out that making the tape to send to her boyfriend was the worst mistake she ever made. And she looked so sad, but oddly defiant as she continues to try to cast herself as a wholesome woman who is against other people marrying the people they love. Others may not have the time nor the batteries to make the kind of tape she did, and they ought to be left the hell alone by people such as her.
This is why I prefer to be a liberal, and leave others to do as they will. I just read the facts and pass 'em along, which is why I want you to remember that in the pageant, she came in second, but she came in first on the tape.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
If you click on the Media Guide button, you are transported to a veritable smorgasbord of things to listen to and watch. Then if you hit "internet radio," you can select one of 36 genres, and from there, just go to town.
As a young man interested in radio, I would sit up all night listening to AM stations from all across the Eastern and Midwest US and Canada. It would be a thrill to hear WCFL Chicago..WOWO Ft Wayne...CKLW Bristol Ontario...and other rock and roll blowtorches of the era.
Now you can listen right on the computer, but radio is not the same. The deejays are told what to play and what to say, and everything is all corporate and sterile. But I find things like the BBC talk shows and an all-comedy internet station.
Which is where I heard this joke from Billy Crystal:
"These video stores, they're everywhere now! A woman comes home late one afternoon, her husband says, "Honey, where you been?" She says "I was at the doctor and the video store." He says "What do you have?" She says "Cystitis and Amadeus" He says "Cystitis and Amadeus, is it serious?" She says, "Yes, in parts, but the music's really lovely!"
See, if radio was the way it used to be, I wouldn't have had to hear that again!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I always say that, here in Baltimore, we have politicians like nowhere else has politicians. The good and the bad, the smart and the nonsmart, the honest and the crooked, the young and the restless, all of them have been here.
But clearly, there ain't another like William Donald Schaefer, who served as city councilman, mayor of Baltimore, governor of Maryland and State comptroller over fifty years in public service. He was a single guy who was almost literally married to his job. Riding around the city as mayor, he would spot trash on a street corner, a dilapidated-looking structure, or even incipient criminal activity, and then dash off "action memos" to the heads of the Sanitation, Housing, or Police departments as the case might be. And things would be taken care of, expeditiously. He made regular appearances on the call-in show on the local AM radio blowtorch, and citizens could call him to report traffic lights being out, abandoned cars on parking lots or brothers-in-law needing honest work, and in a trice, the light would be fixed, the car would be towed, and the brother-in-law would be on the sweeper truck crew.
He had his faults, if any Democrat can be said to have faults (someone take Jeff's blood pressure now, please!) He was often intemperate of tongue, speaking disparagingly of people who did not seem to share his vision of a state without flaws. He was short of temper and was known to show up at the door of a citizen who had written letters of complaint about his intemperate tongue. But most people just regard him as their lovable, if somewhat cranky, old uncle who liked things his way, and that was that.
I bet he loved "Gran Torino."
I once wrote to him concerning my complaints about the name of one of Maryland's 23 counties being misspelled at the equestrian barn at the State Fair. The fairground operators were profoundly unmoved at my importuning, but one letter to the governor got me "Allegany" on the wall and a letter from hizzoner thanking me for my devotion to getting things right...and an invitation to his upcoming inauguration.
Not long after he was turned out of office in his bid for reelection as comptroller, I was delivering my mom and a carload of her friends to a restaurant - they have one in every town, the kind of restaurant where, if you are 63 years of age, they call you "kid." You know the place? Well, Mr. Schaefer parked his car and was walking slowly and sadly into the place, head down and looking so forlorn. I sprang into action. I skittered to his side as he approached my car, and said, "Governor, if you have a second, I have a car full of good Democratic ladies who would love to say hello to you!"
It was like turning on a light switch. He beamed. I beamed. All the ladies beamed, bringing the total of beamers to six. They regaled him with stories of this one who went to City College in 1937, and that one who joined the Army and served with Jimmy from down the street, and the time the highway flooded out, and he went on about how good the chow was inside and my mother said that his long-time escort, Hilda Mae Snoops, was buried very close to where my father is enjoying his well-deserved eternal rest, and they hugged and wept and dabbed and reminisced. And I noticed something. This man lives for his job and the people, and being out of politics was like taking a bird out of the sky. Just four women to chatter with for a few minutes on a sunny Sunday was all it took to put the air back under him.
Monday, November 9, 2009
And that's just in line at the Try'N'Buy!
But I couldn't help but notice that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (see blog entry "The Most Wonderful Woman, yea, Most Wonderful Human to Walk this Planet in Many Many Years"), who put her heart and soul and "considerable" clout and gravitas into the special election for a congressperson from New York State's 23rd District, who foretold of the inevitable sweeping victory of some unknown CPA who ran on the Conservative ticket because the Republicans were too liberal for him, who all but promised that her people had found their Valhalla, their promised land, their district of milk and honey...lost. Big time.
Swell Rushbo blamed the other Republicans, sputtering his way to an exegesis of the election that any fable writer would envy.
But leave it to Sarah to put it in simple terms, because that's where she lives. Her guy did NOT lose, you see.
As CNN reported:
Democrat Bill Owens may have won last night's special election in New York's 23rd congressional district - but Sarah Palin said Wednesday that race "is not over."
Writing on Facebook early Wednesday morning, the former Alaska governor praised Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman and "all the other under-dog candidates who have the courage to put themselves out there and run against the odds."
"The race for New York's 23rd District is not over, just postponed until 2010," Palin wrote. "The issues of this election have always centered on the economy – on the need for fiscal restraint, smaller government, and policies that encourage jobs. In 2010, these issues will be even more crucial to the electorate."
OK. First off, I love Facebook and I love seeing old friends in exotic vacation spots and posing with their families at graduation exercises, weddings and reunions. I love the freeflowing exchange of photos, videos, pictures, and, most important, the words of encouragement and solace that friends can post on each other's walls. I don't think that it's a great place from which to orate and delineate, if one has aspirations of leadership. It's more for friendship, not campaigning.
But even so, will someone please notify the Phillies that the World Series is NOT over..just postponed until 2010? Levi Johnston's almost-mother-in-law is like that little girl who overturns the Monopoly board because she's losing. And hey, in her world, you can see next fall from her house!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Quick - name the document from whence this cometh:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.The opening lines of the Declaration of Independence, right? Schoolkid stuff.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Oh.) does not know that. He stood outside in DC the other day at some sort of teabag grassroots overturn-health care-rally and spouted off those words, aiming for the oratorical flourishes that have so distinguished the congressman from Cincinnati. But he said that he was reading from his pocket copy of the Constitution, pledging to "stand here with our Founding Fathers, who wrote in the pre-amble: 'We hold these truths to be self evident ..."
The preamble to the Constitution says :
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, asked about the mixup, said, "Both texts are vital to the liberty beloved by every American." Hey, what's the diff? Could be salt, could be sugar...could be wrong, could be right?
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
For one thing, we don't always know how to respond appropriately to something so awful as this soldier killing other soldiers. Trying to grasp the enormity of it all is beyond us, so maybe we should not quickly denigrate the president for not being verbally dexterous when given such news. I knew a traffic police who worked the midnight shift, and it was often his sad duty to go to a home to inform citizens that their loved one had been killed in an accident. He told me that often, the suddenly-bereft would reach out and smack him in the face, for such can be our untoward reactions to horrible news.
Can anyone really say that the president lacks kindness, considering all the effort he is putting into improving the country? Oh, how the racist invective poured out on the righty blogs. The man simply cannot win with some people. If he mentions something, he did it in the wrong manner, or in the wrong context, or he should have reacted more slowly....more quickly...not so moderately. They call him "ghetto" for using a term that is in common parlance among all people who aren't named Rush O'Hannity. And if we who defend the man dare to mention that his addlepated predecessor sat there reading a book about a pet goat while the nation came under attack due to his inattentiveness, whoooo boy!
Couple of facts for you: Barack Obama is a smart man. Smarter than I, smarter than most people, and I doubt that anyone can gainsay my claim that he is many times smarter than the previous occupant of 1600 Pa. Av. Another interesting fact, often ignored in the FOX world, is that a year ago this week, he was overwhelmingly elected to serve as president of the United States.
If you think you can do better, if you think your reactions and handling of everything would be more proper ("more better," according to Bush), then by all means, I encourage you to run in 2012. For now, though, how about backing up a little and giving the man room to breathe?
Friday, November 6, 2009
The whole point of the store is that they sell "420" supplies and gear.
Now, if you're not hip to what these hepcats are putting down, let me clue you in, Daddy-O. Seems that 420 is the California penal code for marijuana offenses, so avid hopheads have adopted that as their pet number.
I've never been in the store. I have no more use for it, or for dope, than I would a store that sells equipment for eye surgeons, bingo supplies or tofu chunks. But it makes me wonder.
If the entire point of the store, all of what I imagine their inventory to comprise - tshirts with photos of Bob Marley, rolling papers, pipes, screens, posters that glow in the night, patchouli oil, one supposes - is based on the love and consumption of cannabis, that would be about the one commodity that you WON'T find there. So imagine a hardware store where they sell you everything but hardware! A grocery store where you can't find any food for sale! A McDonald's with no burgers!
One imagines that the staff at this store would tend to be consumers of weed, but they surely can't do it on the job. Much as you expect the clerk at Home Depot to be able to help you choose a toilet tank flapper, or a librarian to recommend a nice anthology of verse suitable for a book report due tomorrow (hint: avoid Eliot!) or a sommelier to help select a perfect sommel (bad joke alert!), you would have to have some experience in the field of rolling giant spliffs and sparkin' up doobs to work at this place. You have to wonder how the job interviews are conducted. And of course, all major business and marketing decisions must be made within the proverbial smoke-filled room.
Having a 420 store must be like driving a red Corvette with "Catch Me if You Can" painted on the trunk lid past a highway patrol car. You're asking to be checked out by the law.
Again, I have nothing to do with this store, and it really shouldn't interest me so much, but to have a commercial venture totally revolving around illegal activity makes me shake my head as I drive by.
Do you smell something funny?
Thursday, November 5, 2009
You read in the paper how a guy who was beating on a woman shot the first police who arrived on the scene, only to be shot dead by other cops who arrived and could not get him to surrender.
You read how some dude, upset because his wife left him for dude #2, entered #2's workplace and shot him to death, then ran outside and shot himself.
Now, Second Amendment fans, how do either of these deceased individuals, who were alive Friday at noon and didn't live until suppertime, fall into your description of militia members, defending their homestead against redcoats or other depredation?
I just need someone to explain to me why these people should have been allowed to walk around carrying guns. One at a time, please.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
But, Brian Williams was saying on the news last night that the pollwatchers weren't so certain there would be much of a turnout for this election. He said that last year's presidential election brought out an unprecedented amount of people who had not been inclined to cast their ballots before, and it did not seem that they would turn out yesterday.
I reject the notion that many people use, that they didn't vote because "they're all bums, so what's the use?" I think that people like to use that canard because they just don't feel like going to the polls. I mean, it's inconvenient, sure. You might miss Regis and Kelly or Gulla-Gulla Island on tv, you might have to leave home a few minutes early or be an extra ten minutes getting home, and you might just have to park your car and walk into the church hall or fire house or school lobby or senior center and wait in line for a little while to vote for the candidates upon whom you have settled after hours of reflection and investigation and decision.
I would point out that many people who classify themselves as patriotic and will stand for the Star Spangled Banner and fly the flag on holidays and listen to bloviating talk show hosts fly in the face of all they say they stand for when they dishonor the memory of those who have fought - and died - in combat in this country and abroad by failing to vote. It's a precious thing, suffrage, and if you read the article in this week's New Yorker about the deprivations forced upon the people of North Korea at the hands of dictators, you'll appreciate living in this country a lot more.
And that's coming to you from the most liberal person you'll likely ever meet!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
And that's like saying that a 747 is sort of a large airplane, that Danielle Steel sells a lot of books, that Starbucks sometimes seems to verge on ubiquity. Arrogance is woven into the Yankee pinstripes as Scottish heather and bramble is part of a fine worsted wool suit. (I always wonder why some suit manufacturer never tried calling their outfits the "bested worsteds." Probably because they hate lousy puns.)
But never let it be forgotten that the greatest New York Yankee of them all began his days here as a Baltimore Waterfront Incorrigible. We don't know which record we are most proud of around here: his 60 home runs in 1927 or his 23 hot dogs in one meal in 1923. May the Curse of the Bambino afflict his own team this year, and may the Phillies dance down Broad Street one more time!
Monday, November 2, 2009
You wanted to run on the cross-country team, you trained and ran, and on meet day, you put on some shorts and running shoes and ran like a sonofagun.
You played baseball, and someone got hurt with a batted ball, and that was too bad, but you took it as part of life's roulette wheel of chance and risk.
Last week in our county, there was a cross-country meet, and the winning team from Hereford High had the victory taken away from them because one of their runners was wearing compression shorts under his shorts, and the compression shorts - stick with me here - had a stitch on them that was not the same color as the rest of the shorts. So, say he had black shorts, and there was a thin stripe of white thread running down the side of the leg. The runner was DQ'ed, and that doesn't mean they took him to Dairy Queen. They disqualified him.
The people running the competition had no choice but to enforce the rule. To tell you the truth, I can't remember if I read that some other team complained about the shorts or if some official spotted this egregious violation himself. I can't kick either way; that rule is posted somewhere and you have to know the rules.
But I would really like to meet the person or persons who sat in a meeting somewhere and decided that this rule was needed, necessary, and called for, and would become a rule by which all skinny high school cross country team members would either abide or have their hearts broken. I really, really would like to meet this goof or gaggle of goofs. For the love of Pete, have you people nothing better to do than worry about what's on some kid's underwear? As long as it isn't a jet-pack, what's it to you?
The baseball story is a little tougher all around. In 2003, a young man was killed by a batted ball. So, clearly, the bat manufacturer was to blame.
You don't think so? A jury of our peers in Montana would hasten to disagree with you, sirs and madams. These twelve good persons and true just handed $850,000 to the family of Brandon Patch, who was 18 years of age when he was killed by a batted ball in an American Legion ballgame.
To quote from WAVE TV in Louisville:
The Patch family argued aluminum bats are dangerous because they cause the ball to travel faster than those hit off wooden bats. They said Brandon did not have enough time to react after the ball was hit. Although the jury did award the Patch family money saying that H&B failed to place warning labels on the aluminum bats, they also said the bat was not defective.
I'm sitting here typing this to you in my den. Within arms' reach there is a digital camera, many framed photos, a computer with modem, scanner, speakers, etc., and a tabletop lamp. I just checked, and none of these items carry a warning sticker of any sort. If I try to swallow the digital camera to get a better picture of my duodenum than the one I've been carrying around in my wallet, why, I would choke to death, and the good people at Canon better plan on writing a fat check! Photos! If I smash them on the ground and take the jagged shards of glass to open my carotid artery to get a little air in there, somebody's going to make Peggy a rich widow. And I can only hope that no one moves in here and sits at my computer and tries anything funky with it, because there is no warning against ingesting the computer or using it as anything else but a computer!
Listen, the death of this young fellow from the baseball accident was sad and tragic and awful and horrible. But how in the name of blue blazes is the bat company any more responsible for it than the ball company, or the car company that made the car that took the batter to the ball game, to the sponsors of the game, to the owners of the field, and the list goes on? As sorry as I am that the young man died, I am almost as sorry that some person took that family aside and said, "Listen, you deserve money for this!"
Things used to be so simple.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
It's ok though. Our friends Jesse and Clarissa will wind up with the lion's share of the leftover Milky Ways, Baby Ruths, Tootsie Roll Pops and what-all else I scooped up. I always buy way more than we'll need, just in case of an invasion by minivan, like the ones we would get in the old neighborhood. Now we get a couple of kids here and there, going door to door in a most desultory fashion, the parents always right there on the sidewalk or in the waiting car. And that's the hell of it. There used to be such glee when you opened the door to behold a bevy of costumed kids. Now it seems to be more for the parents and the kids aren't really into it so much anymore. I could be wrong.
I suppose it's all gone the way of everything else; the kids can't do anything alone for safety reasons. In my bucolic childhood, we were sent out on Halloween after dinner and not expected back until the morning of Election Day. Then we were taken from polling place to polling place to vote for the Kennedy of our choice.
It was a simpler time. I liked it a lot!