Friday, July 30, 2010

Just like crosstown traffic

So, I'm coming home from the second day of a two-day training class over in Ellicott City, about 35-40 miles from home.  You know me; I am not an easy rider and do not travel well.  And I really do not like driving the superslabs, especially because so many people on the highway are so heavily influenced by either NASCAR or methamphetamine that they change lanes every 8 seconds, darting in and out between other cars willy-nilly.

Marky no likey.  So I found the backroad trip and had a wonderful time - and speaking of time, I made it in just the same amount of time on the scenic route as I had on the ob-scenic route.  I timed it.

But, on the way home yesterday, I was accompanied by a hellacious second round of a two-round summer storm.  It lightninged and thundered and poured around lunchtime and then while I was on the way home the sky got dark and the thunder boomed and the rain poured down, starting off with those big splattery drops that it only takes two or three of to cover the windshield, the drops that say "You ain't seen nothing yet...there's a couple million more just like me heading down right this minute!"

And then I got to a major intersection - Old Court Road and Greenspring Avenue.  And the traffic signal was out; it must have just gone out due to a lightning hit and it didn't matter.  All the drivers were looking at it, but it was like any other lamp with no electricity - useless, unless you had a minute to watch it swaying in the gentle breeze, which none of us did.

But it reminded me of those halcyon days in the immediate aftermath of 9/11/01...the days gone too soon, when people were being kind and courteous to each other.  Instead of bullying their way through the intersection, all the drivers were inching up to the line and taking turns - just like at a four-way stop, but with a hundred times the traffic.  No one was honking their horn. It was, ok, you go, then he'll go, then she'll turn left, and then it's my turn to go straight, and then we all say thanks for the courtesy and drive on along. I have to say, cooperation is the key!  People can actually take turns and look out for each other and show kindness and think more of the other guy!

It was a small thing.  But it felt like a big thing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Call Me Deacon Blues

I can't even tell you why this happened, but I am a big fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team. It might be because of the purity of the kind of college football they play down there in the know, where the elephants are tight but the Tuscaloosa.

It's also great that one can enjoy NCAA football without all the silly political posturing that enters our lives, often unseen and unnoticed.

But here's the thing. The Ravens, the Baltimore Ravens, are having a little trouble with this year's top two draft choices. The first rounder, Sergio Kindle, somehow managed to fall down two flights of stairs and is in a hospital in Austin TX, suffering from a fractured skull. He will miss training camp, so you don't want to count on him as a starter any time soon.

Then the rookies came to camp this week and our second-round draft pick out of Alabama, Terrence Cody (above), a broth of a lad at 6' 4" and a listed 349 pounds (just shy of the mythical 350 mark) could not pass the physical conditioning test, which consists of walking past a tray full of donuts. No, the drill consists of running 25 yards, doubling back, resting for 70 seconds and repeating it twice. I was just joking before.

I might not be able to do that, what with my back needing surgery, and maybe not all of us could, especially those of us who are toting around 350, I mean 349 lbs. But Mr Cody has been to college, and this is where young people go to prepare for their careers. Someone should have mentioned to him that he might want to tone it up just a touch in time for his first day on his new job, for which he shall be paid $3.385 million over the next four years.

But besides all this good publicity, Mr Cody has also gotten himself a new nickname, courtesy of defensive line-mate Haloti Ngata, not exactly a slip of a man himself at 6' 4" and 345. Cody is now known as "Cheeseburger."

Roll Tide!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hotter than the hinges of

You know what was funny, was that after a few days when the temperature exceeded 100° around here, a day when it was "only" 88° felt downright comfortable. Everything is relative, even your relatives, and even the relative humidity, which is often cited as the reason why it is so uncomfortable here in Baltimore in the summer. "Oh, down in Phoenix, sure it gets hot in July, but it's a DRY heat!" is the quote often uttered by loyal Phoenicians and others who have been out in the sun for a little too long. Listen, I was putting a noodle-bake in the Whirlpool the other day, and it was 350° in the oven when I reached in for the pan. Hot, yes, but it was a DRY 350°. and that made all the difference.

There must be a lot of either Mad Dogs or Englishmen in my part of town anymore, because you see them every day, roasting and jogging and sweating and biking. You know the old song, don't you?

Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
The toughest Burmese bandit can never understand it.
In Rangoon the heat of noon is just what the natives shun.
They put their scotch or rye down, and lie down.
In the jungle town where the sun beats down,
to the rage of man or beast,
The English garb of the English sahib merely gets a bit 
    more creased.
In Bangkok, at twelve o'clock, they foam at the mouth 
    and run,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

Noel Coward was brave enough to write that in 1932, and to this day, pip-pip and cheerio, Englishmen are out there wearing wool suits, drinking hot tea, and exercising at noon as the mercury threatens to shoot right out of the top of the old thermo-meter. Listen, you go out there and jog or bike or whatever you're into, and you're in good shape, and that's its own reward. But for crying out loud, could you break a smile, and not just a sweat, once in a while? Does it have to be so serious, the look of pain and anguish as you thunder along in the special pants and hat and shorts and sneaks? Could you maybe download some funny tracks on your iPod and chuckle a little as you whittle off the avoirdupois? I have several songs in mind that might cause you to give us the old piano keyboard grin as you slide by.

What do you have to lose, but a couple more pounds and that way-too-serious countenance? "Stewie's Banjo Song" from Family Guy always kills. "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" from Allan Sherman: spot on. Cheech and Chong's "Earache My Eye" has been known to cause laughter during dirges.  Actually, to see someone bust up laffin' while joggin' would probably make lots of others crack up too, ya know? 

I just found out that "relative humidity" means you don't want to have your family over when it gets sticky outside.  Also, "provolone" means "in favor of volone."  It's true!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On the other hand

Idly leafing through a "Real Simple" magazine while idly leafing through a sick day yesterday (I think the meds I took were harder on me than the cough/fever/cold) I came across an article in which a woman listed ten things that her father had told her - and was RIGHT about!

You remember what Mark Twain said, about how when he was 16 his father was the stupidest man alive, and how surprised Twain was, at 21, to see how much the old man had learned in five short years!

Of course, that can go both ways.  If your father happens to be a foolish bloviating
ignorant poophead, then don't hold your breath waiting for wisdom to be conferred upon him anytime in this century.

But most Dads are not mel-contents, so you can learn from them.  The woman who wrote the article mentioned a couple of old maxims: keep plenty of baggies around (big yeah from me!), you can't go wrong with a Clint Eastwood movie (with only the sole exception of Bridges of Madison County, but no one is perfect) and always have a handkerchief (I wouldn't be without my bandana.  Ask to see it, any time.)

One interesting note that the writer learned from her pop, and I really liked, was this one:

1. Hold hands while you hash it out. My folks have been married for 47 years. One of my father’s rules for a happy marriage is that if a nasty argument erupts, hold hands as you fight. You’ll feel goofy doing this, but here’s the thing: It works. Recently my husband, Tom, forgot to pay a few bills that were buried under a pile of clutter. I was incandescent with rage. So we interlaced our  fingers while we talked it out, and I felt my blood pressure plummet and my endorphins flow in spite of myself. It’s impossible to scream at someone who is giving your hand a gentle squeeze. It just is.

Now, now, now.  I really like this one.  It's from the "a soft voice turneth away wrath" school of behavior, and many marriages and relationships seem to run off the fumes, if not the grapes, of wrath.  So, since you can't fight if you can't find someone to fight with, try this out and let me know how it works, will ya?  Because Peggy and I, well, we just don't have those fights.  Peggy is the greatest wife in the world.  She deals with my mother with the economic skills of Ben Bernanke, the healing skills of Ben Carson, the dessert skills of Ben and Jerry, and the diplomatic wisdom of Ben Franklin. After 37 years, and with neither of us being hotheaded or temperamental, we know each other so well, that there is little chance of becoming "incandescent with rage."  I mean, really.  You're gonna go ten rounds just because he forgot to pay some bills?  Did the world come to an end?  I hear you can forgo house payments altogether for like two years before the sheriff even has chance to mail foreclosure papers to your front door, so, come on with the bills already.  Oh sure, there are times I have to sit down and give Peggy a good listening-to over something I did or didn't do, and yes, I was wrong to a buy magazine subscription when a pretty girl came door-to door putting herself through college, and I was dead-to-rights wrong when I was certain that "Light Brown" paint from K-Mart was a perfect substitute for "Raleigh Tavern Tan from the Olde Williamsburgh Collection" paint for the backsplash at the old house, and yes, I thought it was pretty funny to move all the pots and pans and plates and cups in that same kitchen, but if only someone had been holding my left hand, I would only have been able to prank half as much that night.  It was to be the next morning that I came to find out that rearranging the kitchen was not nearly as funny as I thought it would be.  

I know that now.  Give me a hand.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Everyone has a cell phone now

I was going to write a quick blog entry to say that I have been sick since Thursday but I noticed a news item that, if left uncommented-upon, could ripen into something horrible.  So I must comment upon it.

Authorities at the Lynwood Correctional Center, where Ms Lindsay
Lohan is serving her sentence, are having to deal with 100 phone calls PER HOUR from fans seeking to speak with Ms Lohan.

That means that every hour, 100 of our fellow citizens are going to 411 to get the number for that hoosegow and then dialing the number in the apparent belief that the jailer will then take a wireless phone to her cell and say,"Lindsay, you have a call from a Hugh Jass in Massachusetts.  Please don't take too long on the phone, now, honey."

It's only really horrifying when you realize that these 100 people might not have anything better to do on Election day than to go and nullify your vote.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Boom Boom Out Go the Rights!

Quoting from Wikipedia here:

A petard was a small bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. The term has a French origin and dates back to the sixteenth century. In a typical implementation, it was commonly either a conical or rectangular metal object containing 5 or 6 pounds of gunpowder, activated with a slow match used as a fuse. Petard remains a French word meaning a firecracker today (in French slang, it means a handgun, or a joint). The word remains in modern usage in the phrase hoist with one's own petard, which means "to be harmed by one's own plan to harm someone else" or "to fall into one's own trap", literally implying that one could be lifted up (hoist, or blown upward) by one's own bomb.

So when you go to the store and buy one of those wash-off glass marking pens that are supposed to be used to write slogans such as "Marge and Nick 4ever" or "Good Luck Seniors" or "For Sale Runs Good" on the window of the car, but instead you write "THIS IS AMERICA AND OUR ONLY LANAGUAGE IS ENGLISH"...consider yourself hoist.

Sic Semper Stupid.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

There Are Worse Things I Could Do

If you ask me to name a movie that I could watch over and over, the answer(s) will be comedies or musicals. Of course, I stretch the definition of comedy to include all four Die Hard movies, because, really, is Bruce Willis not a comedian at heart? Yippie kye - ay-yay, he is!

I could watch Animal House and Stripes a thousand times, and probably have. But having seen them once, Peggy had enough of both of them a long time ago.

And that takes us to musicals. I hear that Grease is coming out this summer in a sing-along edition. Now that's living! Just think of sitting in a theater singing along to "Summer Nights" and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Born to Hand Jive" for hours on end! In fact, many people own the Grease soundtrack on record album and cassette and CD, and the movie itself on VHS and DVD. It is possible to hear "You're The One That I Want" and "Sandy" and "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" on the radio or any other kitchen appliance at any time of day.

But here you go...a little coldwater math mixed in with the Grease. The movie came out in 1978. It celebrated life at a high school named for Bobby Rydell circa 1959. OK, so that was 19 years before the movie. Now the movie was 32 years ago and we still love it. Meanwhile, 1991 was 19 years ago from now, and is anyone making a movie with songs by Jesus Jones and R.E.M. and Nirvana? And those madcap cutup hijinx as George H.W. Bush launched us on the road to the Operation Desert Storm? And the dissolution of the USSR? The songs could include "Look At Me, I'm Mikhail Gorbachev!" and "Hopelessly Devoted to Harry Potter" and "Born To Watch 'Ghost' !"

Some kid just being born this week, in 13 years, will start classes at the Justin Bieber Middle School. I want 1959 back, please.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pat Answers

The Orioles used to have a slugging first baseman, name of Lee May, a good guy to have on the field and in the clubhouse, by all accounts. He had a way of keeping things on an even keel, so when ace pitcher Jim Palmer started bellyaching about his contract one day, according to legend, Lee said, "Did they ever catch that guy?"

Palmer walked right into it by saying, "What guy?"

"The guy who held the gun to your head and forced you to sign the contract!"

I was thinking of that byplay today while attempting to wedge a one-gallon bottle of orange juice out of a spot large enough for a pint in the dairy cooler at the Giant across from work. The guy who worked there said,"You must be a Yankee fan!" as he slid the bottle sideways and then tilted it back like a Russian gymnast, eventually freeing it with the use of a jackhammer and some other handy equipment. They just have to keep those shelves jammed up!

No, I am not a Yankee fan, been an Orioles fan all my days and this current suck-season doesn't bother me a-tall, because I just imagine life in a town without baseball, and it feels so much better to have a team, even if they aren't exactly great.

But. I'm about 1/5 of the way into reading Pat Benatar's autobiography "Between a Heart and a Rock Place" (I cannot take her to task for the pun-nish title, can I now?) and already she's carping about this and that. She dressed up pretty for herself, you see, not to please her audience or to sell more records and concert tickets. It was just for herself and then the nasty record company, in between cutting her checks for untold sums of money, told her to keep dressing up pretty! Can you imagine?

People go into show business because they like to entertain people and look good while doing it, and then they find themselves being forced to entertain people while looking good doing it and being paid beaucoup bucks!

And then those monsters at the record company were always after her to write more songs and make more records so that they could pay her more money! Oh the ineffable horror! Those bastards want to make me a millionaire!

I was talking to a good friend at work the other day, a lady whose husband is a steel worker "down the Point," which is how we say that someone is employed at the old Bethlehem Steel factory in Sparrows Point. She told me that the other day at work he had to climb on top of a boiler and weld something back together, and right above him was some sort of heat exhaust vent that kept him right toasty, one may be sure. That's a tough job in this type of weather. It's a tough job in any type of weather. But there is one tougher: rock star.

So I'mma keep reading this book to find out if they caught the guy who forced Pat Benatar to become a rock and roll legend and very wealthy in the process. If she names his name, I want him arrested and brought before Judge Judy at once.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Driving Me Crazy

I am always intrigued to see the gadgets and gizmos that people have on their cars. I love those rear-deck cameras that allow you to see just what you're about to run over or back into! (Don't try this at home, but you can always ask the driver to put it in reverse to activate the camera, then scamper around to the back bumper, drop trou and show 'em how pretty the moon is tonight!) Some cars allow you to plug your iPod - and soon, probably, your iPad - right into the sound system to jack out the hits. No self-respecting kiddie-hauler SUV is complete without twin rear fold-down plasma DVD screens so that little EmmyLou and Jim Bob can see a movie while enroute to the movies. (Heaven forbid that the children go without entertainment for 10 minutes!)

Radar detectors, satellite radio, intelligent parking assist (I.P.A.), under the grandstand (I.P. Daily), and on the Prius, Toyota offers something called the Pre-Collision Package, which is supposed to "help minimize the effects of a collision." Another thing that helps to minimize the effects of a collision is paying attention to the road and the traffic around you, instead of fooling with the entertainment systems in your car, but hey, that's just I.

This parking assist thing. Would you really sit back, press a button, and allow your car to parallel-park itself? Wouldn't you want some sort of input into the process, or would you rather just sit and sip your lemonade as the Biscayne parks itself 'neath a tree of shade? What's more American than a grumpy Daddy riding shotgun in the Rambler on some huge empty parking lot while Bud or Princess try to learn to parallel park between two upright posts - goal posts, if you will - so spread out as to allow parking for a 1962 American LaFrance fire engine? And, as I have advised countless youngsters over the years, once you pass the driver's test, you will never have to parallel park again for the rest of your life, unless you want to!

Same advice for struggling math scholars: get past Algebra, and you will never have to solve for 'x' again unless YOU want to! And this business with the one train leaving Albany at 4:18 going 135 mph towards Brattleboro...and what time will it meet the 5:27 train coming from tell your teacher there is no answer to that one, because in all of recorded history, we find no evidence of any time when two trains left their respective stations on time!

But anyway. I just thought of one more option that the new car manufactures ought to consider. We have fog lights and hazard flashers, hi-beam headlights, lo-beam headlights, parking lights, turn signals, every which-kind of light. But...for those people who sit through an entire red light, with 17 cars behind them in traffic, only to turn on the left turn signal when the light turns green...for those who pull onto a highway ramp behind you and then pull out and cut you off...for those who ride behind you for 23 miles through the pine barrens of New Jersey with their headlights illuminating the interior of your car like a crime scene...for those who pull out from a side street right in your path, only to putter along at 23 mph in front of you...for those who pull up next to you in traffic on a quiet morning playing the latest CD ("The World Is A Terrible Place Full Of Pain And Suffering") by a band of the same name...for these goofs and so much more...

How about an optional light that would look like this, for the rear window?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thank you, Ted Turner

Thank you for so much. For CNN. For Headline News. For Superstation TBS, which had all the cool reruns. For TNT and all the rest...and for Turner Classic Movies, which shows great old flicks 24 - 7 for FREE!

Take this picture that Peggy and I watched the other night. "The Two Mrs Carrolls," starring Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and Alexis Smith. And of course, for extra British flavor, there was a guy named Nigel Bruce in the cast, along with Leyland Hodgson and Anita Sharp-Bolster.

And so do we all sometimes.

I won't give away the plot, but it had everything you want in a movie from 1947 set in England:

  • hammy acting
  • dramatic staccato music (da-da-da-DAAAAAAAAAAAA!)
  • people expressing their fear or discontent by grabbing their head in their hands
  • rainy nights in England, with people coming into a house dripping wet and shaking off the rain
  • people driving on the wrong side of the road
  • props that just happen to be there just when needed...
  • black and white film
  • a 10-year-old child who speaks as if she were 53 or something ("Oh you mustn't do that!," "Father, do tell me it's all true!")
  • an alcoholic doctor who guzzles everyone's whiskey and then treats patients a minute later
  • old-time phones that you didn't dial, but, rather, told the operator the number you want ("Fare-thee-well 459, please!")
  • I think Bogart smoked while he ate. There is not a scene in which he isn't either smoking...or doing something else hazardous....
  • A cranky maid who, apparently, worked 24 hours a day seven days a, cleaning, answering the door. She never went home or anything.
  • Thinly-veiled threats of intense bodily harm hissed from person to person, while these persons were all dressed to the nines!
  • and a movie poster that had the stars' first names in regular size print and their last name all gigantic. You could do this at your office. Just order a name plaque for your door that says jimbo JONES and you can feel like a star!
I'm not going to tell you any more about this picture because you might want to watch it. Great fun. You might even want to wear a tuxedo or a formal gown, to fit in.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Desiccated To The Ones We Love

I just have to say this.

For everyone who caterwauled during the lovely blizzards that we enjoyed in early February, and the near-blizzard that gave us a White Christmas last December, now look at what you've gone and done. Everyone picked on the snow, and it got its feelings hurt, and drifted away.

The Baltimore region usually experiences (suffers through somehow) 26 days of 90°+ temperatures per year. This year, we have had over 30 such hellish days, and we just passed the middle of July.

In the winter, one can always put on more clothing, add a sweater, get some wool sox (red, please) and maybe a jacket or so.

In summer, it's often said, there is a limit of how much clothing can sensibly be removed without attracting attention of the wrong sort.

But, here's a point: how does it come that, as soon as nature sends us the first crisp day in November, just a couple of weeks since we were all air-conditioning our spaces to 74°, people break their necks to turn on the heat and make it warmer than 74°?

We can worry about that after the leaves change. Whoa, they already have begun to change here. It must be the time of year known as "Indian Autumn," when desiccated leaves plummet earthward in July because the trees are taking off as much clothing as they can.

It's all the talk of the town. People's pools are hardly cooling oases, warmed by the relentless heat. TV news crews are keeping the bears at the zoos busy, showing that "these guys really know how to beat the heat!"

Worse, I read on the news that the heat in Kansas is taking an awful toll on the cattle industry. The price of beef will be going up! While we all roast! I'm not ribbing you! I've milked this for all it's worth!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Nickel's Worth

A lot of guys I know are working part-time jobs on the side these days. You know, bring in a few extra bucks, have a few little luxuries now and then (tank of gas, marshmallow topping on a snowball). Some guys deliver flowers, some drive a cab, some pick up work here and there doing odd jobs.

I get the mail!

All of a sudden, every charity - name one, and they are doing this - is sending a nickel along with their letters asking for money.

And the letters go on to ask for money!

So, I understand the plan. It's a mini-version of the deal that Pastor Robert
Tilton used to use on TV. His deal was convincing the rubes that:

a) they wanted to get into Heaven

b) no poor, ill-clad, ill-fed, ill-housed loser is going to get into Heaven

c) God will swing wide open the gates of Heaven to a well-dressed, well-fed, well-housed preacher - and his flock

d) so if the audience would send Tilton their donations - he called it seed money - he would be that sort of prosperous televangelist and lead them all into Heaven.

It worked for quite a while until his operation was shut down for all sorts of violations. You might recall the time that Diane Sawyer did a story about his racket on ABC, and reported that he was renting his mansion from a drug dealer and taking all this "prayer money" that people were sending him and tossing their prayers, unread and unprayed, into the dumpster.

The charities that are sending me all these nickels - and it does add up to around, oh, 15 cents a week - are banking on that nickel making me feel like the biggest ingrate in the world if I were to pocket the picture of Thomas
Jefferson and not send them 50 semolians in return. And the truth is, we do give to charities if the charity is worthy, in our estimation. If it seems like something that should chug along without our money - like the kind of mailing we see asking for money to buy fur-lined gloves for the retired population of Key West - I keep the change.

In other words, sending me a nickel isn't going to make a diff as to whether or not we will contribute. But oh boy, am I proud of all my nickels!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

He was the only one of us who "knew too much"

This is a real true story about a real guy. That's as far as the facts go. I know only this - and I 'm going to be as vague as Sarah Palin on a geography final exam, because, well, because.

This guy came to work with us in the early 80's. He had been some sort of bookkeeper for some wise guys, and he knew too much. It's never wise to know too much about wise guys. He went over to the Feds and testified about what he knew. Then the Feds put him in the Witness Protection program, and called our boss to say that he would be starting work with us on midnight shift the following Monday, and had been given a new name and Social Security number.

We could tell they were real FBI guys from out of town because they said "Social Security" number, instead of the way people from here say it ("Soshacurity") with a trail of expletives preceding it when they try to drive through the traffic jam engendered by that federal behemoth on the west side. ("Wesside").

I also wondered if there was a Federal office in charge of making up new names for these protectees. Did some guy in a fedora look at them for a while and say, " 'Joe.' You look like a 'Joe' to me."

Anyway. The guy shows up for work, does pretty well at it, and every now and again the Feds would call the boss and say that he would be picked up at such-and-such a time, to be transported to some distant city to testify against men with flamboyant nicknames. Oh, and he was to be marked "present" for any days he missed, and paid just as if he were at work.

And every now and again he would leave work at 7 AM and drive straight up to New York to get his bagel on, or however they say that sort of thing now. He went up there to get bagels, because they make the best ones up there; how's that sound? And that night he would present his shift with a dazzling array of bagels, bialys, schmears with the cream cheese, lox, whitefish, pickled herring...the only way it could have been more New York would have been if he had taken everyone to Central Park and had them mugged.

Then one day he got sick and then sicker and eventually died. Or not. There still exists a lively debate about that. No one actually saw him; all contact came from phone calls toward the end, and then someone got a message that he was gone and had left instructions about who was to get what of his personal effects. I don't know and I guess I never will. I did once ask him if he thought it was ok for me to go by the mob nickname of "Marky the Existentialist" and he said he'd have to check with Paulie Bananas or Vinny Bagodonuts or one of his other contacts.

And that's all I know, Your Honor.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Eleanor, gee, I think you're swell

If you remember the great sitcom "The Honeymooners," which starred "The Great One", Jackie Gleason ( a nickname he gave himself out of an overabundance of immodesty) you will recall Gleason, as Ralph, had a buddy named Norton. Any time trouble was afoot, or Ralph was up to hi-jinx, Ralph would bellow "Nahton!!!" in Brooklynese and his flustered sidekick would appear. To this day, if I hear or even read the name "Norton," I am strangely compelled to holler "Nahton!" And there seems to be nothing I can do about it. Last time we got a new computer, the guy was telling me about the anti-virus protection, and how it's a Norton product....and I'm going "Nahton!!!" and he looks at me like ?????

The sad thing is, it has cost me any chance I would have to run for the US Congress. You see, there is a delegate to that august body from DC by the name of Eleanor Holmes
Norton, and I can promise you that if I were in Congress, and was sitting on the floor of the House during a crucial debate that would shape the ends of our national weal, and some other congressperson stood up and said, "I yield to the honorable representative from the District of Columbia, Eleanor Holmes Norton..." everyone in attendance, and watching on C-Span, would hear my dulcet tones yelling "Nahton!" It could not be avoided, and it might have caused some sort of national hubbub, so I just figured it was better not to run.

Other jobs I cannot do:

Deli clerk: because I am so literal as to be incapable of dealing with someone who asks for their salami to be sliced "medium thick to medium thin, but not too thin," as I recently heard someone say.

Bill O'Reilly's limo driver: because he wouldn't allow me to make any left turns!

Highrise window washer - because I tend to step back to assess my progress.

Fortune-cookie fortune writer: because I could never top "Help, I'm a prisoner in a Chinese bakery"

and I guess I can't hope to be an Attorney either, because during tense trials I'd be prone to sitting at the table coughing "Bull$h!t!" at someone's bogus testimony, or hollering "Oh you are so full of it!" to a judge who ruled against me.

Good thing I can retire in a few more years. My list of go-to job alternatives is dwindling rapidly!

Friday, July 16, 2010

We'll be Beck right after this

In October of 1974, the satirical group known as Firesign Theatre released an album called "Everything You Know Is Wrong," in which a wacky futurist prophet - sort of a Glenn Beck precursor - made the following points for his rabid audience:

"Dogs flew spaceships! The
Aztecs invented the vacation! Men and women are the same sex! Our forefathers took drugs! Your brain is not the boss! Yes! That's right! Everything you know is wrong!"

Of course, now we are able to look back at 1974 and comprehend just how wrong we were, with the exception of the Aztec thing, which of course was quite true. (Cancun).

But I don't know; maybe I'm growing up a tiny bit, because more and more I talk back less and less to people who say things that are just blatantly wrong. And no, I'm not talking about people who will tell you that they intend to vote for entertainer Sarah Palin for president if they get 1/2 a chance. Or people who will tell you that cricket is more fun than baseball, or fish sandwiches should not be served with tartar sauce. These are opinions, and everyone is entitled to one at a time.

No, I am talking about people who just plain get stuff wrong. And recently, a woman I know said out loud that Marilyn Monroe held advanced degrees in psychology, and only affected the ditzy blond affect in her acting roles. I can't say whether or not Ms Monroe had to augment her natural ditziness, but I know for certain that she did not attend college, let alone be graduated from one. (It didn't hamper her career, either).

But I chose not to make a deal of it.

Then the other morning, I was getting gasoline in the truck, and the guy at the next pump started in on how my gas mileage was. I said my Tacoma did very well in that department and he said,"It's a shame they don't make them any more." I thought he must have been talking about something else that "they" don't make, so I asked him what was it that they don't make and he said, "Tacomas."

Friends, if Toyota isn't making Tacomas any more, then there ain't a cow in Texas, and they're raising them there all the time.

But let him think he's right! What's the diff? There's no use in trying to dissuade a made-up mind. And plus, I have to save all my strength to help people be graduated from the tough curriculum at Beck

Everything that's wrong, he knows.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Marc: My words

My friend Liz from work commented the other day when I put up a quote ("Life's a gas - I hope it's gonna last!") from Marc Bolan as my Facebook status. Bolan was a guy, born Marc Feld in England in 1947, who became known as the leader of the rock band T Rex, who gave us memorable records such as "Bang A Gong (Get It On)," "Jeepster," "Mambo Sun," and my favorite, "Raw Ramp." I mean, who could not love music with an insistent boogie-woogie backbeat, conga drum percussion and albums with titles such as "My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows." And how was I to know, way back then, that the phrase "Baby, I've got metal knees!" would take on added significance in my life, what with having knee replacement surgery and all.

In the intro to Raw Ramp, we hear this verse, which has ricocheted across my tender brainpan countless times since 1972:

"There was a time everything was fine,
we got drunk on the day like it was wine,
and all the children, they put flowers in their hair
and all the grownups, they put daggers there instead."

Which totally explains Dick Cheney's baldness.

But Bolan, who was not only a marvelous lyricist and great singer, was also a fantastic guitarist, good enough to play on sessions for the likes of Ike and Tina Turner, and David Bowie.

Ike and Tina Turner

He was only two weeks away from turning 30 when he died, one month after the passing of Elvis and one month before the death of Bing Crosby. It was a car crash that claimed his life; he was riding in his own car that was being driven by his girlfriend. The car hit a sycamore tree and Marc, who never learned to drive because he feared that he would die in a car crash, died in a car crash.

So. Am I the only person who thinks of him when people talk about riding the commuter line known as the MARC train? There must be someone else who would sooner ride the Maryland Area Regional Commuter Train than drive a car. Get it on, or get on it, whichever. Let's go Bolan.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Have to Go to Tinkletown to Powder My Nose in the Water Closet

Collectors of euphemisms - those easy-to-swallow words that we use in place of chunky, not-so-great words - have long thrilled to hearing old houses referred to as "existing homes," old cars as "pre-owned," and yesterday's unsold Wendy's Hamburgers as today's "chili".

Of course, there's always the story of President Harry Truman using the term "horse manure" to his wife's bridge club. And the horrified women protested to Mrs Truman, who said, "You don't know how long it took me to get him to use that word!"

We don't hardly ever go to the hospital for an "operation" any more. We go for a "procedure." Uncle Linus didn't get "drunk" last Thanksgiving before he fell into the rhododendrons; he was "three sheets to the wind," or "feeling no pain." The rhododendrons felt all the pain. And of course we don't have to urinate; we have to "see a man about a horse," or "shake hands with the governor."

Understood. But this latest one to catch my eyeballs really stands out.

The Maryland Lottery has some sort of way to lose twice now! There's a deal going on in which you mail in a certain amount of losing lottery tickets, so you can lose again, what with stamps costing almost a half a dollar nowadays.

But they don't call them "losing" lottery tickets! They are "non-winning" lottery tickets, according to this promotion.

Good day to you all, from the non-husband of Paris
Hilton. And really, who isn't?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mark's Thoughts

All the crowds we saw gathering on Sunday across Europe were celebrating the end of the World Cup Soccer Football tournament. Europeans by the millions and Americans, at least a dozen of them, were so tickled that they would no longer be watching people dribble while wearing shorts that many of them made plans to mail their vuvuzelas to Venezuela...Office workers, remember to bring some extra grocery bags with you to work for the next few weeks. It's Home Garden Giveaway Time across the land, as people with produce to spare that their garden produced bring it in to work, leaving huge pyramidal stacks of tomatoes on lunchroom tables from here to Seattle. Garrison Keillor says this is the one time of year that people lock their cars in his mythical home town of Lake Wobegon, lest they come out in the morning to find the passenger seat filled with squash. My question: much as I love the free garden goods, how about those people who own cows? Could we get them to leave some nice strip steaks free-for-the-takin'?...If you can name a better sandwich than Taylor Pork Roll, some cheddar cheese, and a slice of tomato on a toasted English muffin, tell me about it quickly please!...two more culinary notes... If you're looking to cut down on salty snack food, yet you still love the taste of processed corn snack, head to the Mexican Food aisle and get yourself a pack of tostadas . Just crack 'em up for snacks or use them for flat sandwiches! They have all the taste of Tostitos or Fritos and about a tenth the salt...And here is one I got from a lady in line at the Try 'N' Pay: next time you want to make a big lasagna for the family, use thinly-sliced sheets of eggplant instead of starchy noodles. No need to precook, either! Just slice 'em up, layer them in a pan with noodle sauce, cheese, and sausage if you wish, and bake it up to a golden turn! ...Bob Sheppard, the Yankee Stadium public address announcer from 1951 - 2007, passed away the other day at the age of 99. The story in the New York paper said that Sheppard didn't like to give his age! This October, he was to turn 100. I think that's something to be proud of. Trust me, if I get anywhere close to living for a century, people are going to hear about it! Hey, if I get close to 60, people are gonna hear about it!...Well, it's July, and we all know what that means. It means it's not a great month to go the hospital, since the staff is largely made up of brand-new interns, just out of medical school. So if you find yourself in need of emergency medical attention this month, see if you can hold on until these new folks get some more experience, according to the National Bureau for Economic Research, which no one has ever heard of before. Or, look at it this way - these newly-minted doctors were just in class, learning about what ails you, a couple of months ago - and old-timers learned the old way of fixing things a long, long time ago...So Switzerland refuses to extradite Roman Polanski, in the apparent belief that it was all right for him to have sex with a child. I can now state without fear of equivocation that I am hereby canceling my plans to take Peggy to Switzerland next spring. It was going to be a surprise, and now look, they ruined it all. And speaking of Polanski, how nauseous was it when all sorts of Hollywood types came out in support of the perv, claiming that it was OK for him to force himself on a 13-year-old because he is a really talented artistic movie director who has had a sad life? It is against the law to have sex with a 13-year-old, and remember, many of the people in the "film community" are people who believe they are creating great art by holding a camera fairly still in front of other people who are pretending to be other people. Maybe ask the parents of a girl who just turned 13 how they feel...Speaking of movies, and I'm not saying these people are as bad as Polanski and his misguided friends, but the people who made the movie "The Road" really need to lighten up. Peggy was watching that on ppv downstairs and I had to keep coming down to make sure that she wasn't slitting her wrists or fashioning a noose out of some old bath towels as she sat immersed in the preponderant gloom that the movie depicts. And yet, it was hailed as a great artistic achievement, while "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure remains curiously Oscar®-free. You tell me why!...We had about an inch of rain this past Saturday, which was not enough to slake the drought we've been dealing with, but what a refreshing change to have a steady rain for most of the day! You could almost hear the grass, trees and shrubbery saying "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!" Good times!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Brakin' the Law

Hello, there. I'm the guy you glare at, because I get to the intersection of Northern Parkway and The Alameda at about 7:05 AM, and the sign says "No right turn on red, 7 AM - 4 PM, so I don't turn right on the red light.

So honk at me all you will and give me all the fingers you need to. I don't like to break the law. For a liberal, I take a most illiberal stance on breaking the law.

I don't even like to patronize the farm stands who break the law. In our county, farmers are allowed to pack up their produce in the ol' pick-'em-up truck and sell it along the streets and roads, as long as they keep moving. Setting up a permanent roadside sales venue is not allowed, because it's not fair to the guy who built a brick-and-mortar produce stand or grocery store and has to pay taxes and so forth. But on the other hand, I'm not the one breaking the law if I stop where the farmer has pulled her pickup over on Putty Hill Avenue (if you're reading this in Kankakee or Keokuk, do you think we have oddly-named streets?) to get some sweet corn and tomatoes. I just hope that if the police dept. sends around their undercover Produce Squad, I don't get busted and wind up with my name in the newspaper ("....also being held at the Towson Precinct and charged with patronizing an illegal roadside stand, and violating the Taft-Hartley Act, was...") because they always put in your mug shot and I don't look my best in this heat.

I didn't look so great in the cold last winter either, if you want to know the truth.

But I am really on my high horse about this thing, this Stretch Spelling. When I first heard of this, I thought it must refer to Tori Spelling's really tall younger brother, for surely we know that there is no way to strrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeettttttttttttcccccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhh the correct spelling of a word. Click on that website and find out what they are saying...stretch spelling is inventive spelling, Kid spelling, phonetic spelling, temporary spelling. Now this really rankles me, the more I read about it. I keep reading this sentence over and over, and still, I am rankled. Stick with me for a second:

"As children are encouraged to express their thoughts and ideas on paper, stretch spelling allows children to experiment with written language without feeling the restraints of the correct rules of punctuation, capitalization, and spelling."

Oh for the sweet love of all that is good and holy! The words of Shakespeare, Shelley, Keats, Byron, even Mickey Spillane and, heaven forbid, Vachel Lindsay are to be cast aside so that the class can learn more about how young Marmaduke or Mildred feel. Good-bye, Ernest Hemingway! Farewell, Garrison Keillor! Ave atque vale, John Milton! We have entered that Brave New World! Orwell, we knew it was coming. Written language is now a place to experiment. If you don't feel like spelling words correctly, pheel phree 2 mayk upp ur oan wayz too wright. Wee R pleezed 2 hav a chantz 2 cher ur pheelings. And punctuation? Why bother? Capitalization, sorry, go join spelling and pronunciation on the unemployment line. And be quick about it so that wee Wilberforce here can give us his thoughts on this one time when he went to the meadow and there was this cal and the hoarse chased the cal and we went for a hey ride.

Ring Lardner wrote like that as a parody, to show how the unlettered would express themselves. He did not mean for people to start writing like that for real!

Kids, if you are within the sound of my voice, run as fast as your little legs will carry you away from this madness. One day you will leave school and be out in a world in which people will expect you to punctuate, capitalize and spell properly. There is no stretching here in the real world; there is only the right way to punctuate, capitalize and spell. If you fall short of these standards, your words will be regarded as those of lesser import.

And I don't even blame the kids. They are the unwitting victims of a society that has forgotten what made it great. We worked, we learned, we earned the right to use the English language that was our inheritance from our forefathers. I was encouraged to express myself in writing (people seemed to prefer it to hearing from me vocally). But no teacher of mine ever encouraged me to use creativity in punctuation, spelling, grammar or pronunciation.

Ask your teacher, if he or she says it's ok to spell things wrong as long as you're expressing yourself, if it's all right to say that 4 times 5 is 19. Really, how close can you get?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tipping Point

I get a boot out of watching sitcoms such as "Seinfeld" and "Rules of Engagement," because they always show people who eat all three of their meals every day in restaurants, soup takeout joints, and diners.

Apparently there is a law in New York City forbidding the preparation and/or consumption of food in one's own home.

Well sir, we don't go out to eat all that often, but we like to do so every now and then. It's fun. And I love talking to people about their jobs, and if you've ever talked to a server at a restaurant who has more than two weeks on the job, they will tell you some stories! Uhh huhhhhh!

People want this, people want that. Don't cook it too much. You didn't cook it enough. I know it says no substitutions, but could I have a hot-fudge sundae instead of cole slaw? I need more water/beer/napkins/hot sauce/Splenda®. Where's my roll? These are the questions these fine people have to deal with all day long, and to me, they can't be making enough money to deal with what they have to deal with. It's not a fair deal!

Given the insanity rate in this nation, you start by figuring that a certain amount of the people who come into a place for supper are certifiable. Add to that the number of people who only treat themselves to an out-of-house dining experience once every time Halley's Comet streaks overhead, and then figure in that percentage among us who just think they are entitled to every doggone thing, and right now!, because they're cute, and that adds up to a lot of hard-to-satisfy people.

So next time you're out at the Try'N'Chew, please remember that your server is working hard to please you, and that you may be one of several dozen people he or she is attempting to please simultaneously. Tip like you've been out before.

By which I mean, the setup is that the price of your BigMac is one thing, and the price of your chateaubriand at Le Grande Macoise is yet another...and you don't tip at McD's because all they do is toss your chow into a bag. At finer places, you are served, and you tip, in exchange for that service. 15 - 20% is nice, but toss in a few extra bucks if the service was really nice. Most of the servers you will meet are not the children of millionaires, doing this work to get some funny anecdotes for their autobiography or psychoanalyst. They tend to be students or young people trying to make their way, so help them out, please!

If the service was great but the food was bad, you can tell the server you'd like to tell the manager that the food was not up to par. But don't cheat the server on the tip, just because your corned beef and cabbage weren't corny enough. If the food was great but the service poor, then cut back on the tip, sure.

(To ensure that the food and service are always top-notch, eat all your meals at Bonefish Grill.)

We go to a family-style place up in the country - you've heard me talk about Friendly Farm before, right? You place your entree order, and then the appetizers and vegetables come in big heaping tureens for everyone to share, with your entree coming to you on a plate big enough to hold Mel Gibson's ego. And up there, you see a lot of people tipping a dollar or two because "It's not like a real restaurant; she didn't take your order and bring it to you on a plate!" No, she just hauled out a dozen plates and a dozen bowls and a dozen beverages, that's all. Let's not be cheap!

Tipping. It's the thing to do. Go big or go home.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Photo Finish

I like to sail the Web and find pictures. Presented here for your Saturday enjoyment are four that I enjoyed and I hope you will as well. The last one is not only funny, but also contains a misspelling, thus qualifying it for my Facebook album about why people can't spell things correctly. Click on 'em and enjoy!

Friday, July 9, 2010

I Hate to Russia but it's almost Midnight in Moscow

"Russia is about Czars Stalin Poetry Secret Police Communism barefoot in the snow But that's not really Russia it's a concept" - - Allen Ginsberg, "Is About" (1996)

So! The US and Russia are about to have another Spy Swap! Man, you talk about retro! That is old school stuff.

Back in 1960, an American CIA pilot named Francis Gary
Powers was driving a U2 spy plane over Russian territory and was shot down. President Eisenhower, trusting that Powers would do as all spy pilots are supposed to do and kill himself with a curare-tipped needle hidden inside a fake silver dollar, said that the plane was just a weather plane, sent over Europe to observe cloud formations and a developing low-pressure system over Vladivostok. (I like saying 'Vladivostok,' although I have never been there.)

Meanwhile, back in Russia, Powers was singing like Bing Crosby, telling everything about his mission. Embarrassed at being caught telling a fib, Eisenhower had to admit it all and deal with the Russians. We traded some of their superspies that we had in custody for Powers, along with cash considerations and a second-round draft choice. To make matters worse, some guys in Ireland formed an irritating band and called themselves U2, using their musical platform to show off some very odd sunglasses and self-righteously angry records, which sold millions of copies. Everything involved with the U2 mess was extensively horrible.

Powers came home to a life in the shadows, eventually becoming a test pilot for Lockheed, only to lose that job by publishing an autobiography. He then became an airborne news reporter for a TV station in Los Angeles and died in 1977 when his helicopter and out of fuel and crashed.

So now we have captured some Russian spies and they have got some of ours. Fine. But tell me, in this crazy era with all the internets and those little cell phones and digital cameras and reality tv all over the cable, do we need spies? Does Russia? Do they have to send people over here to observe our goings-on, when they could simply watch TMZ every night and see what Lindsey, Tiger, Jenna B. Hager, Jon, Kate, 8, Lindsey Lohan's fingernails, TV's entire Kardashian Family, the man who claims to be LeBron James's long-lost daddy, "Twilight," and Justin Bieber have done to our culture?

"Ya! No wonder they listen to the U2!" is what the report would say.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

That's Hot!

As I wrote this, it is 10:19 PM on Wednesday, July 7, and the outside temperature here in my "neck of the woods" is a stunning 91°. That's too hot for any time of day, but especially for this close to bedtime.

But I'm not complaining. Other people have it a lot worse with their climate problems, so I'm saying nothing. But my prediction of silly wacky goofy behavior on the part of our fellow citizens is coming true.

Viz: I see people wearing wool pants. Are they worried about getting a chill?

Viz: Peggy was at the Giant food store today at lunchtime. A woman, dressed for office work, grabbed a cart on the parking lot, RAN up to the door of the store pushing the cart (while wearing high heels) and began loading the cart with mulch! Mulch -that dried out shredded tree bark that you put around trees and shrubs in like April or early May! Mulch, which is used to keep tree and shrub beds moist. And we haven't had any moisture around here at all. And who runs across a blacktop parking lot in dress clothes and high heels at noon on a day when it's 104°, and who buys mulch in July?

Of course, the tv news people are busy doing stories about:
  • the polar bears in the Zoo, who couldn't care less how hot it is, so long as they have their swimming pool and a huge cake of ice with frozen fish in it
  • some poor guys working on roof tarring crews or asphalt paving crews
  • kids setting up a snowball or lemonade stand
  • someone frying an egg on the sidewalk
I guess there is always someone who hasn't seen that before. After all, who's seen a high-heel-clad woman running across a supermarket parking lot to buy mulch in July?

I mean, besides Peggy!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


They still have the "Nancy" comic strip in a lot of the newspapers and online, but I miss the classic Nancys drawn by Ernie Bushmiller. Such as:


because the world of Ernie Bushmiller was quite a world, in the way he expressed it. You had Nancy, a little schoolgirl, who lived with her Aunt Fritzi Ritz, who was a really nice-looking woman (for a cartoon character). Fritzi did not seem to have to work for a living, and it was never explained just how she came to be the legal guardian of her niece. Fritzi used to go with a dude named Wally, but once she hooked up with Phil Fumble, Wally was out with last week's magazines.

Fritzi could have done better than Phil:

but she never tried.

Plus, they all had to wonder what was going on with Sluggo Smith, Nancy's little chum. He lived alone, even though he was just an elementary school kid. He had his own house, and the walls were cracked with bare plaster showing, the sofa always had a spring sticking out of the pillow, and for electricity he used candles stuck in old wine bottles...tres chic if you're a restaurant, hazardous for a little boy who shouldn't have been playing with wine bottles, matches or candles.

But the world of Ernie Bushmiller was so wacked-out that way, that a little child (precursor of Beavis and Butthead) could live alone and no one ran to the authorities...yet anywhere else in the town where all this took place, things were in apple-pie order. As in, the streets were always clean, any pile of rocks alongside a scene contained three rocks - no more, no fewer - and all is perfect. You could tell all you needed to know about a person just by the way they looked in their drawings: rich business guys wore hombergs and carnations in their lapels, hippies wore ponchos and sandals, and everyone at a carnival was dressed as if headed to a job interview.

Or, perhaps Bushmiller was an early explorer of astral projection:

I told you he was a vagrant! No visible means of support!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nathan's Jonesin'

If you watched the news on Sunday, you were likely as surprised as I to find that there is, in fact, an organization afoot that promotes abuse of the intestinal tract. The fine folks at Major League Eating held their annual hot-dog eating contest at Coney Island in NYC and well, let's put it this way: The World Cup of hot dog consumption is safely in American hands for now and for the foreseeable future. The only way to wrest that cup from the sweaty hands of four-time winner Joey Chestnut would be to offer him something else to eat.

From the press release offered by proud MLE brass:
Number-one-ranked eater Joey Chestnut won his fourth straight title by winning the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island, downing 54 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes in oppressive heat to retain possession of the Coveted Musted Yellow Belt. In second place was Eater X of New York City with 45 HDBs and in third was Patrick Bertoletti of Chicago with 37. The 100-pound Sonya Thomas ate 36 and Bob Shoudt consumed 34. Erik The Red Denmark consumed 32, Gravy Brown ate 31, Allen Goldstein 28, Ben Monson and Juliet Lee 27, Sean Gorden 26.5, Pete Devekos and Badlands Booker 24, Crazy Legs Conti 27, Bryan Beard 16.5 and Kris Adams 11.

It would seem that in their haste to be a true major-league sport, and also to separate themselves from lowly amateur overeaters, these folks have come up with their own jargon.
So whereas one sportswriter might be able to write that Nick Markakis had 3 RBIs one shimmering Sunday afternoon, the scribe assigned to this competition is given the acronym HDBs to work with, as in "In second place was Eater X of New York City with 45 HDBs." That's 45 hot dogs and buns, if you're scoring at home. And if you've eaten 45 hot dogs and buns, chances are, you will not be scoring at home.

It would also appear that the writer of this press release is so deeply imbued in the speech patterns of New York City that he or she spelled "mustard" as it must sound to one from Gotham: "musted." That's why it's still so funny to me that a headwaiter from up there once called a buddy of mine a "stooopid baaaasted."

There's one more sad thing about how our love for shoving far too much food down our necks has gone too commercial. These guys learned from the folks in tennis and NASCAR: if there is an available square inch of skin or metal, cover it with advertising and make more money. Thus, MLE has an official antacid, and winner Chestnut was seeing hoisting a pink bottle of Pepto-Bismol moments after his stomach-turning accomplishment.

Good idea, Joey.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Family Feud

Did you hear about that survey taken among random Americans, the result of which was that only 74% of us can identify just which country we broke away from to gain our independence? 26 out of 100 Americans thought we wrote Dear John letters in Spanish, or Chinese, or I don't know what-all else. The uninformed and misinformed segment of the populace grows exponentially every day, or everyday, as they would say.

I'm all out of sorts over this because, with the midterm, gubernatorial and congressional elections just four months away, Silly Season has already begun. Watch out for misleading statements, doctored photographs, and bogus claims of self-righteousness and blame. And that's just for starters.

The other night, someone was passing around on Facebook a photoshopped picture that purported to portray the president (enough ''p's'' already!!) and his wife holding their left hands to their chests while saluting the flag or saying the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the national anthem. The president and his wife, a couple of people who are studded with degrees like a ham with cloves, to steal a phrase from Max Shulman, are quite intelligent people, and the chances are, they know how to salute the flag. But for someone sitting around who sees this sort of claptrap online, it's a chance to put them down, make them seem like they aren't real bright..or insufficiently patriotic.

Truth to tell, I have cracked on the brainpower of Geo. W. Bush many a time, and this very blog used to carry a picture of 43 holding a phone upside down while trying to talk into it. That photo may very well have been 'shopped, and so I dropped it. I'm here to say that GWB is not the dumbest person ever to sit in the White House, and that he is a well-educated man, being a Yale graduate and possessor of a Harvard MBA. He lacked a lot, but to call him stupid is wrong. Not as wrong as calling Obama stupid, but wrong, nonetheless.

I just had to weigh in with my 2¢ worth on all this the other night, in the overbearing, pedantic manner that I employ when others wage foolish polemic wars. Every night on the news, we see oil gushing into a major body of water because of sloppy work done by some people in the oil business, and it is threatening not only that major body of water, but the marine life therein, the economic viability of the people ashore and in the Gulf, and so much more.

And here we sit, passing around goofy pictures, spray painting over campaign signs, many of us not knowing the literal first thing about American History, and we seem more concerned with tarring the image of the politicians we dislike while lionizing those we admire, and still the tarballs wash up on the beach, and there's no painting over how damned sad that is.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Ever really read this document fully? Neither did I until just now. But please do...and pay particular attention to the last line before John Hancock signed. Words to think of today, and to remember the bravery of the Founders.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton