Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Poem for New Year's Eve, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

In Memoriam    by Alfred, Lord Tennyson 
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Wake me up in case it snow-snows

Well, we just got one step closer to being like the Jetsons or something around here.  As 2012 approaches, those of us who live in Snowville can now hit the sack at night without having to worry about what will happen if it snows, or gets frosty, overnight.

Why, you ask? Because now there is an app, available for iPhone or Android, that will wake you up five minutes early in case of frost - or twenty minutes early in case of snow, giving you time to clear off the Biscayne and get on the road.

Here's the link to the Winter Wake-up app:

I didn't click on it, so I can't even tell you if it's a free app or not.  I don't think it works on the phones of teachers or students, who are likely to have snow days off anyway.  They don't need this!  They can actually hear the first flakes hitting the street at 3 in the morning.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Traipse of Roth

Roth and Rat
You know what I really feel sad about?  It's the saddening fact that we are all bound for that same sorrowful destination, that place where our hopes and dreams all wind up, heaven's waiting room....the court system.
Everything winds up as a big fight in front of a judge or mediator these days.  The most recent example that came to my mind was the fact that Ed "Big Daddy" Roth had to go to court before he died to settle down all the hue and cry ("Hugh and cry" as I saw it in a magazine not long ago) over the rights to his beloved artwork.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth?  you ask yourself.  Is he a Dadaist, a Cubist, a Neo-Impressionist, a Primitive, a pre-Raphaelite?  Well, he is certainly a pre-Rafaelite, in that he was famous before Rafael Palmeiro was, but we remember Ed for his hot rods and his beloved "Rat Fink" character which came to be seen like a rodent version of Dino Flintstone, gigantic head sticking out of a car, holding a 6-foot long stick shift and roaring off in a supercharged car.  There were Rat Fink decals on almost every notebook in my junior high school, and plenty t-shirts too, being proudly worn by the same guys who toted those notebooks. 

I re-read Tom Wolfe's "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" at least once every year, amazed that a book of essays from the early 1960's is still relevant today. (One of the pieces, "The First Tycoon of Teen," is about Phil Spector, and we were just talking about his Christmas music and Darlene Love last week.)  The title essay in the book centers on the "Kustom Kulture" of highly-stylized cars created by guys like Roth and George Barris in Southern California, and how the car culture was so predominant in those waning days of the American 1950's (which ended on November 22, 1963.)  Wolfe refers to Roth as the Salvador Dali of the hot rod world, and that implies a timelessness to his art (although without a drippy melting clock to tell the time.)

Dali's "The Persistence of Memory"
But, according to the Los Angeles Times, all this happiness and mirth came crashing down with the sound of legal briefs being filed and decisions being handed down.  To think of a jury sitting around deciding who would get the rights to "Sick But Happy" t-shirts or "Grim Reaper" decals is cause for a head shake.  

My will will be a simple will, and I will will my few belongings to those who I feel will care for them well.  One of you will come into possession of several thousand 45-rpm records and as many LPs.  If I'm up on my cloud somewhere playing a harp and I hear that people are down here in a courtroom arguing over ownership of Jerry Lee Lewis's classic album "The Greatest Live Show on Earth" I will smite you mightily, so don't be a rat fink!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fiddler on the Route

We had our good friends Ray, Michele and Maria over for dinner the other night.  Good times!  I made my patented lasagna and then threatened to demonstrate my patented pull-out-the-tablecloth-while-everything-stays-on-the-table bit, but at the last minute, I was overcome by an attack of good sense and settled for merely yanking out the napkin, leaving my knife and spoon right where they belonged.

That's the kind of thing that only works on TV, anyway, that tablecloth trick.  In real life, you try that and the gravy goes splattering all over a guest's bodice, and the tumblers filled with water go tumbling all over.  Maybe that's why they call them "tumblers."

But nature has a way of making things even.  So what, if you can't count on that working.  Here's something I can guarantee will work every time:  Bet your buddy that within six months, a story just like this will appear in his local fishwrap: (from the Canadian National Post:)

Lost $170,000 violin returned to Boston music student after being left on bus

By Eric Johnson

Christmas came early for a Boston music student who was reunited with the $170,000 violin she forgot in the overhead compartment of a regional commuter bus she rode last week, police said.

Muchen Hsieh, a student at the New England Conservatory in Boston, had traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arriving at roughly 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

Christine O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia police, who helped Hsieh track down the missing instrument, said then came a moment of sheer panic for the student.

O’Brien said Hsieh realized she had forgotten the instrument after she was picked up from the bus station. She blamed her absent-mindedness on travel fatigue.

Hsieh called the bus company, Megabus, roughly 30 minutes after she arrived but the bus had already left the Philadelphia station, O’Brien said. Hsieh also notified police, making a plea for the instrument’s recovery, O’Brien said.

The 176-year-old instrument, on loan to Hsieh from a Taiwanese cultural foundation, was found by bus cleaners in the same compartment in which Hsieh left it. They put it in storage, and police returned it to Hsieh on Friday.

Hsieh joins the ranks of esteemed musicians who have mislaid or forgotten their valuable and sometimes priceless instruments. World renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma once left his in a cab.

One German string player required medical attention from the stress caused when he left his violin, worth roughly US$1.4-million, on a commuter train in 2010.

It is not unusual for students at Hsieh’s school to have such valuable instruments, Ellen Pfeifer, spokeswoman for the New England Conservatory, told the Boston Globe.

The violin, which is in pristine condition, was made in 1835 by Vincenzo Jorio in Naples.
Somewhere, the ghost of Vincenzo Jorio is hollering "Che stupida!" and ordering Neapolitan ice cream.  I see these Megabus disgorging their passengers down by the mall and most of them have had a nice ride for a dollar.  How many of them left their fiddles in the overhead compartment, up there rolling around by last Friday's New York POST and an couple of empty Snapple bottles and Bachman's Old Style Dutch Pretzel boxes?  

We have an epidemic of forgetful musicians, and I feel a lot of symphony for them...perhaps we could orchestrate some sort of fund-raiser...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Albert and his father

Albert Brooks is a funny guy - so funny, in fact, that he has to sit back and be less famous than other "funny" guys such as Tim Allen and Louie Anderson.  But he can stand it.  As he explained the other day on "CBS Sunday Morning," he did not get into show business as an all-or-nothing deal, and if he hadn't made it there, he would "gone and sold shoes or something."

But make it he did, and we've liked him in movies such as "Lost In America" and "Modern Love."  His real story, though, is almost as interesting as some movie plots.

To begin with, he was born with the name of Albert Einstein.  This little joke was played on him by his father, who was a radio comedian born Harry Einstein, who went by the name "Parkyakarkus." As in, sit down right here.  He did funny dialect bits on radio and in movies, and by the time television took over as America's choice of entertainment, he was wealthy from California real estate investments, so it didn't matter that his form of humor didn't work too well on the small screen.

He was still considered one of the funniest comics around, and so it was that on the 23rd of November, 1958, he was topping the bill at a roast for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz at the Friars' Club in LA when stricken by a massive heart attack.

The odd thing was that he collapsed, just after leaving the audience gasping for breath after a hilarious monologue, into the arms of Milton Berle.  Trust me, the last person you want to be saying something serious on your behalf would have been Uncle Miltie, but that's the way it worked out for "Parky."  Berle stood there hollering, "Is there a doctor in the house?" and the crowd thought it was a gag of some sort.

No joke, but really, even though some doctors actually were in the audience, their efforts to bring him back were for naught, and Parkyakarkus passed away that night.

Albert Brooks had one half-brother, the late Charles Einstein, who was a well-known baseball historian and writer, and two brothers: Bob "Super Dave" Einstein, a stunt comedian, and Clifford Einstein, who was in the advertising business.

One of Parkyakarkus's friends was Frank Nelson!  Which means that young Albert had the thrill of answering the doorbell and hearing this famous "Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss?"

Interesting lives, all.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Face value

One of our local blogs has a running comments section.  Major news stories are analyzed by hoi polloi,  and there's a lot more polloi in there than you might think. To say that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion is quite true, although the judicious among us choose wisely which opinions to lend credence to.  

We are all entitled to just one identity, though.  Now, you might want to remain anonymous or pseudonymous on one of these websites.  After all, if you happen to be a high school principal, say, you wouldn't want to chip in with your low estimation of today's young people.  And it would not be wise for a guy who runs a pit beef stand to proclaim publicly that meat is murder.  So, we all have the right either to sign our names to our words, or use a nom de blog such as "Big Shirtless Ron" or "Hometown Honey."

But I found this interesting: one of the frequent participants on this local chat box, a woman who talks of "loony lefties" and their "liberal indoctrination," always posts with her name, or what seems to be her name, and her photograph, or what seems to be her photograph. She frequently points out that she is so brave as to use her real name and photo when responding.  It's a picture of a very pretty woman, to be sure.  

The other day, people who also chime in on the blog started calling her out, posting a link to a photo website.  If you click on the link, you see a much larger version of the picture of the woman  - and the startling news that the photo is that of a mammose Playboy magazine model.  

So, either a curvy Playmate® has moved to our town or, more likely, this local conservative has been using someone else's photo as her own.  I can't say for sure which one it is.  

But how sad it would be, were the latter to be true.  Not all of us are born beautiful, with bodies like gods and goddesses and faces that cause stunned breathtaking stares from swooning passersby.  I know I wasn't, but on the other hand, I am happy enough with who I am to be that person all the time.  Love me or not, but please join me in wishing we could all just be proud of what the Lord gave us, and not need to wear the mask of another's face.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Andy Williams gets it right when he says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!"  I'm sorry for those who don't agree, but there is enough glee (and "Glee"!) for everyone to share from mid-November to the bleak days that start on January 10, the day after the BCS Bowl Championship is decided, and continue until opening day of the baseball season.  

I love Christmas and all that it brings.  It's more than the gifts, more than the ham and turkey and pie, more than the carols, more than the snow we still might see ONE of these days.  It's that settled feeling that you can't really feel in August, a feeling that means there is hope for renewed goodness and spirit, hope for peace and joy and love.  Because, why not? 

I notice we don't send or receive nearly as many Christmas cards as we used to, and at first that seems sad, but then you realize, this e-world we're living in means we are all connected more or less all of the time.  Time was, you'd get a Christmas card from your second cousin once removed and it was the first time you had heard from her since the time Uncle Walt fell down the well.  Now, she's on your Facebook, you get texts from her asking what size scarf you wear, and she publishes a regular email newsletter updating one and all on the activities of her children, including Eddie, the oldest boy for whom no one held out much hope in the early days, but who expects to be graduated from chiropractic school in the spring semester.

Mr Gates and Mr Jobs did a lot more for keeping the world's families and friends close than a power outage in Buffalo in January.  I don't know how you feel, but I love that feeling of being in touch with the people I love and who love me right back!

This is my (typically) long way of wishing you and yours the happiest of Holidays.  Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate, may the best of everything be yours, and may your heart be merry and bright!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Crime takes no holiday

Clearing off the local crime blotter: It seems that crooks in Baltimore can't get enough copper!

So, the coppers can't arrest them fast enough!

I don't know what kind of price people are getting for copper these days, but it must be a pretty copper penny, because thieves are going to the tonier neighborhoods, where people have copper rain gutters, and literally ripping them off in broad daylight, hauling the metal down to the recycle yards for some extra holiday money.

Or they go into abandoned houses, which are as numerous in the city as former Kardashian sex partners, and yank pipes out of long-abandoned plumbing fixtures.

Or they go to the Baltimore Gas and Electric substations and cut through the fence for access so they can steal spools of copper wire, failing to have any sort of lookout in place, so when a county police comes along and sees the hole in the fence, he can just radio for a helicopter to help spot the hapless crooks...

as they attempt to hide from a helicopter spotlight by lying facedown on a big pile of dirt.

Brilliant play, Shakespeare!

Or, check out this story about a dude in Miami Gardens, FL, whose plan to Spiderman himself into a copper pot of gold went slightly awry...

We always heard that the masterminds behind criminal enterprises are so brilliant that, were they to turn their brains to honest endeavors, they could find success in any legitimate pursuit.  Why, any drug kingpin - even those who moonlight as a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears - is well-versed in supply chain regulation, promotion, security, customer relations, and inventory control.

Maybe that used to be the case.  Are our schools letting us down?  Do we need to worry that even our criminals are being graduated from high school while still stupid?  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

10,000 hours

 10,000 hours might seem like a long time.  It's a year and 51 days, if you start on it right now.  An easy way to measure it is this:  although it only takes an hour and 45 minutes out of your precious life to watch the movie "Sleepless in Seattle," it seems to take 10,000 hours.

Here's an article that I saw, read, and found less than fascinating, since I am  in the middle of the eighth inning of my working career.  I'm pretty certain that spending 10,000 of my remaining hours learning how to be a surveyor or washing machine repairman or Republican will not avail me of happy prospects. But this fellow Wilson quotes from the book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell and mentions the 10,000 hours that it takes to learn the motor skills needed to, say, play the piano. 

Suddenly, I see this 10,000 hour figure everywhere I look.  Brad Paisley, country singer and guitar slinger, writes about it in his book "Diary of a Player: How My Musical Heroes Made a Guitar Man Out of Me."  In writing advice for people who wish to become famous guitarist/singers, he sagely counsels aspiring stars to stay home and learn to play a guitar and sing.  He recommends 10,000 hours of practice at doing what you want to do, pointing out that an odd trend in America now has people becoming famous without even learning to do anything first.  This makes me think of Sarah Palin or several Kardashians.  Brad, kinder, does not name names.  

He doesn't paint a glamorous picture of it, though.  To learn to play a guitar at his level of skill takes both innate talent and development of skill.  You have to have both.  Brad got his first guitar from his grandpa at age 8, and worked on it every day all through his childhood, eventually landing a place in a band with much older guys by middle school, and continuing to flourish as a musician through adolescence and college. 

And he is too modest to make this point, but I'll say it:  part of the problem is that the great ones make it look easy.  You don't see Paisley staring at his guitar, brow knitted, trying to remember how to play that certain note in his song "Waitin' On a Woman."  Same as you don't see your surgeon leafing through Reader's Digest magazine as he prepares to trepan your medulla oblongata, you don't see your dentist marveling "Well, lookie there!" as he stares in amazement at your throbbin' molar. Or at least, you don't want to see that!

So, there is no shortcut to knowing what you're doing, and the only way to know what you're doing is to do it over and over and over until it becomes 2nd nature.  

Yet, oddly enough, it's hard to find a person who is truly excellent at doing something and is good at teaching others how to do it just as well.  The best managers and coaches in professional sports don't tend to be former stars.  They might not relate well to those of lesser innate skill, while the guy who hung on the fringes of the the big leagues got there by dint of talent and a lot of hard work.  

On the other hand, there is an old horse I see hanging around a meadow near our house, and you could spend the next 10,000 hours of both your lives riding around the oval at Pimlico, and I'm still fairly certain he won't be winning the Preakness.

But all that trying will still be better than not making the effort! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Put Another Nickel In

"If I didn't have a dime, if I didn't take the time to play the jukebox..."  was the opening line to a song by Gene Pitney way back when. Jukeboxes, if you can find one, cost more than a dime to operate these days, I am certain.  They probably have jukeboxes that take your credit card.

I once had a sales clerk take my credit card.  Wouldn't give it back, either.

But seriously, folks.  It's called "jukeboxing," in radio parlance, when a station is changing format or just going on the air.  They don't have commercials to run, so they play music 24 - 7 for a couple of weeks.

Which this year means that people in the Baltimore area get Christmas music nonstop from 99.1 FM in DC.  That station used to be El Zol, the Latino station, but El Zol is now on 107.9, which used to a religious station that moved to 860 on the AM dial to make room for El Zol, which stepped aside to make room for a new all-news-all-the-time station on 99.1

I hope that clears all that up.

But let's face it; Christmastime is no time to be coming on the air with a new all-news station, with nothing but Boehner's intransigence, Kim Il Sung's death and Beyonce's parents' divorce to tell us about.  

So they are saving the news til after the New Year and spinning Christmas music all day and all night, without commercials or anything else to stand between us and hearing "Do You Hear What I Hear?" 7 times a day.

I never tire of that song, nor of "Feliz Navidad", nor of the Chipmunk's Christmas songs.  So far this hear, I have not heard The Singing Dogs, and some skillful dial-punching at the last minute the other day saved me from exposure to the dreadful "Christmas Shoes" song.

I'll make a deal:  you don't play "The Christmas Shoes" and I won't play Jimi Hendrix's Christmas medley of "Silent Night," " The Little Drummer Boy," " and "Auld Lang Syne." 

Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

DVR alert!

I rarely make television advisories, or recommendations, because what I consider funny, most people think is serious, and vice versa.  In fact, I still wonder why there is no canned laughter accompanying the "Today" show, but I supply my own chuckles, chortles and guffaws whenever "Face The Nation" or "Teen Mom" loom on the screen. 

But - if you love a good laugh and a pop classic Christmas song, you have to make sure to see David Letterman this Friday (12/23).  This is something he does every year on the final show before Christmas: the guests are Jay Thomas and Darlene Love, and Jay tells his Lone Ranger story and throws a football at a Christmas tree, trying to dislodge a meatball where the star at the top ought to be, and Darlene sings "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." 

Jay Thomas is one of those guys that, when he comes on, you go "Oh, I know him from..." and the answers are many.  He's a DJ on Sirius, he's an actor on TV shows, movies and the stage, and he does voiceovers for a lot of shows.  It takes talent to tell the same story over and over for years and years and still make it work.  George Bush tried to do that and failed, but Jay will have you bustin' a gut with his Lone Ranger story, it says here.

Darlene Love is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her work with Phil Spector (l).  That's her voice on hits such as "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" and "He's a Rebel," although Spector, who added his own peculiarity to everything he did, labeled the records as being by "The Crystals," even though Darlene did the singing, accompanied by her backup group, the Blossoms. 

It's Friday night, 11:30 Eastern time on CBS, and I am pretty sure you'll like it! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

All Wound Up About It

The other day I mentioned the grandfather's clock that my father made for Peggy and me.  It's still ticking along just fine, at 26 years of age, but I mentioned that it stopped running on the day that he passed away.

This is the clock he wrote about!
Not everyone knows that they used to call these big tall clocks with long cases "longcases," but they started calling them "grandfather clocks" way back early in the 1800's, and later in that century a fellow with the cheery name of Henry Clay Work found himself at the George Hotel, a hostelry in Piercebridge, England, where there stood a longcase clock that had slowed down when one of the proprietors stopped ticking and stopped ticking itself when his brother did. Mr Work heard the story and came home to Connecticut to write "My Grandfather's Clock," which is still being sung today.  You can hear Burl Ives singing it, you can hear Lawrence Welk's Champagne Music Makers Featuring Larry Hooper singing it,  and you can hear Johnny Cash "singing" it too.

Henry Clay Work - not to be confused with Andrew Dice Clay - also wrote a cheery little number called "Come Home, Father" about a family's efforts to get their dad out of the saloon.  And he wrote "Dad's a Millionaire," "Agnes by the River," "Take Them Away! They'll Drive Me Crazy," "Used-Up Joe," "When You Get Home, Remember Me" and of course, his last hit, 1884's "Drop the Pink Curtains."

They just don't write songs like that anymore.  But when you get home, remember to drop the pink curtains.  I'm sure there's a message there for us all.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday rerun: Book Report

Somehow I will have to make sure that Peggy does not pick up the book I am reading these days and start reading it.  

Just the right thickness for a wobbly chair leg

It's the autobiography of the noted actor, raconteur, Hollywood swinger and tanmaster George Hamilton.  "Don't Mind If I Do" tells the tale of the life of a man chiefly famous for being famous...sort of the male version of the Gabor sisters, without all that acting talent.  I picked this book up at Barnes & Noble on their reduced rack for $5.98, because I was interested in reading about just how it is that he became an actor, and also because the book looked so lonesome, sitting there atop a gigantic stack of other copies of itself. 

And I'm not even that far into it, to tell you the truth. I've read up the part where his mother, having left his father, supports herself by striking up friendships with Hollywood notables such as Hoagy Carmichael.  

I am telling you, there is a world out there in which people do such things.  Then again, there is a world out there in which people used to be able to spend their vacation at Twitty City, the Hendersonville TN home of country music legend Conway
Conway Twitty (1933 - 1993)
Twitty.  And after paying the admission charge, fans were able to roam the grounds and visit the mansion wherein dwelt the man born Harold Lloyd Jenkins.  Fans could even enter his house and walk around in there.  Sure, there were velvet ropes set up to keep people from entering the bathroom while the great man loofahed his back, but they say that one could actually stand right outside the dining area and watch Conway spooning Shredded Wheat down his neck in the morning.  

And people planned their vacations to be in Twitty City for this.

George Hamilton IV
You ask how in the world does Conway Twitty have anything to do with George Hamilton, and you might think I am confusing Hamilton with George
Hamilton IV, the country singer from North Carolina who had such a big hit with "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" in 1956.  But no.  Here's the angle:
Hamilton had an older brother Bill who was interested in decorating and had a real flair for design.  His mother let Bill decorate their apartment in New York, and Bill got the idea to put one of those velvet ropes in front of the door to a rarely-used closet.  People walking by were to get the impression that the door led to another whole area of the apartment, but it was currently closed for renovation: hence the velvet rope.

I'm not kidding you.  There are people who actually think like that, deceiving people into thinking there is more to   them than the eye can see at first glance. And the velvet rope is all that stands between them and reality. Then there are people who will cluster on the east side of a velvet rope while Conway Twitty goes about his life on the west side.  

I just don't think that Conway would have fronted in any way.  He seemed like a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy.  Hamilton comes from that there-must-be-more-to-see-than-just-this school of thought.  

I think I prefer the Conway.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday rerun: Hey there, Geordie Girl!

Hey There Geordie Girl!

If you don't know who Cheryl Cole is, don't feel too bad.  She is the darling of olde England.  Pretty and talented, she rose from poverty in the city of Newcastle Upon Tyne (I guess if we named our towns like that, we could say that people hailed from Glen Burnie Upon Linthicum or Lutherville Upon Timonium, but we don't seem to have time to do that sort of thing here) to become a winner on a show where people become singing stars.  Her name before she married English football player Ashley Cole was Cheryl Tweedy.  I checked, but her father's first name was not Conway.

Yes, Simon Cowell is involved in that show she won, under his real name of Simon Upon Cowell.  And Simon brought her to America this past March, after she recovered from the malaria that almost took her life last year (I tell you, this woman is a walking Lifetime movie) so she could be in the American version of his show The X Factor.

And now all of a sudden she is an Ex Member of the judging panel of that show, for unspecified reasons.  You can read this article in the English newspaper, but no need to take a jet over to Merrie Olde.  Just click 'ere and you got it, guv'nuh! And as you see from this picture, she is as pretty as a picture, and is bound to have plenty of success in whatever nation she resides.  I wish her well, and I thank her for getting me to read up on something I consider fascinating.

When I was reading all this about her struggles with America and being homesick, I kept seeing that her fellow British kept calling her their favorite "Geordie."  Well, I knew that Brian Johnson - the one from AC/DC, not the one from The Breakfast Club - was once in a band called Geordie before he got the call to replace tiny terror Bon Scott.  I didn't know what a Geordie was, but it turns out that people from this Newcastle Upon Tyne are all called Geordies!  Here's this from Wikipedia:

"Geordieland" is a term usually referring to the entire region surrounding Tyneside including Northumberland and County Durham, but excluding Wearside where locals are referred to as Mackems.

And the article goes on to say that George is a popular name in that town, so maybe that's why they call the natives Geordie, or maybe it was because they have a lot of coal mines there, and the miners used to wear a "Geordie" brand headlamp. 

Again, I am fascinated by England, for reasons of my birthline and because as a child, I spent many a happy hour in the dentist's waiting room reading all those "There Will Always Be An England Dept" spacefillers in The New Yorker.  But there is an entire dialect in this town, this Northumberland region.  They speak English, to be technical about it, but they sort of have their own words for a lot of things, such as "bairn" for children, "ahent" for behind, and "lowy" for money.

It must be fascinating to live in a city with a lexicon all its own.  Attention Newcastle Upon Tyne residents!  We do the same here in Baltimore Upon Highlandtown, where a police nightstick is an "espantoon," a guy driving a horse rig around to sell produce is an "A-rabber," and lightning bugs are called "fireflies.

I love words.  Here are five more:  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't take that tone with me

In a public setting, people are often startled to hear my cell tone ringing.  I think they are surprised that I have friends, or at least friends with unrestricted access to a phone.  

They take their bands seriously down South
Or maybe it's my ring tone.  It's "Yea Alabama," the fight song of the University of Alabama, a school with which I have no affiliation besides this obsession with their football team.  I can't explain where that came from, but I love the ring tone.  

Like the bumperstickers hanging off the back of the Fairlane, and the t-shirts we sport, our ring tones say a lot about us. A lot of people go for the various free ones that come with the phone, and that's cool, but then they are limited to what they can use.

I was in a police supply store and a City officer came in, apparently on his way home from a ceremonial function.  I mean, this guy was decked out in his finery, with the leather belts and badges and pins.  And he was looking at a new sidearm when someone from somewhere decided to call him on his cell.

And the cell said: "I like big butts and I cannot lie; You other brothers can't deny..."

And there was snickering all around.  

Another entire category of ring tones would be Songs That Are Currently Popular But I Never Heard Of Them.  Ofttimes, I'll turn to Peggy when someone's tone comes crashing into our silence to find out what song that was, and she'll say, "Oh, that's 'For the Sweet Love of God, Will You Stop Breaking My Heart' by 3 Random Wurdz."


Funny sound effects, or sunny found effects, are both good to hear on the phone.  Just get one of those sound effects CDs and soon, your every call will ring with the merriment of "Cross-Cut Saw," "Crowd Noise," or "Fire Engine and Ambulance Sirens."

Of course, if you really want to stir things up, most phones have a tone option called something like "Old Fashioned Phone Bell."  Use that one, and watch the heads spin - people don't even know what it is.



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Astonishing, yet true

I've talked here before about my father, how he sends messages from beyond to let us know he's still cool up in Heaven.  There was the time I was post-operative at Sinai and they couldn't find a room and somehow at the last minute,  a room became available - a room that just happened to have the same number as the final four digits in my parents' phone number.  Or how, on the day he died, the grandfather's clock he made for us stopped running.  And only after Peggy's importunings to him in the beyond did it start to work again, and it ticked away merrily until we moved, and he didn't seem to like where we placed it in the new house, so it stopped again until we moved it. 

Oh, there have been many such things over the years, and here is the latest.  Dad passed away on December 14, 1997, and as I write this on  December 14, 2011, I have to tell you, he sent a message on a device that had not even been dreamed of when he departed this vale.  During his last weeks, all he wanted was a little peace and quiet, and to hear a books-on-tape version of Robt. Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island."  Apparently, this was a favorite of his from boyhood.

Peggy and I got Motorola Xooms so we can keep up with the important aspects of society at all times. Xooms are like iPads; they are little tablets that have internet, email, cameras, and I don't know what-all else.  A Xoom is the Android version of the iPad, and as I understand it, Mr Steve Jobs went to his fate cursing Android technology. But we like it.  I mean, what if a Kardashian got married or divorced or pregnant and we were out of e-touch?  I'm looking forward to using mine as a book reader and jumbo camera.  And it came loaded with a few things free for nothin'. 

Such as my all-time favorite song, from my all-time favorite album: Cheap Trick doing "Surrender" live at Budokan.  (Bonus for CT fans: here's "Ain't That A Shame" from the same concert. 

And, as one of the three free pre-loaded books: Robt. Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island."

Go figure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bruise Clues

Story Image

 A few years ago, there was a goofy mugger in New York City who begged the judge at his trial to put him in the Ironbar Hilton for a long long time.  Since there is almost always something else behind such a request, the judge found out that the mugger had mugged the wrong mug's mother.  He knocked down a lady and stole her purse - and that lady was the mother of a made man in the Mob.

Oooops.  And no chance to say "ooooooops I did it again."

Now we meet Anthony Miranda (above).  Young Anthony, until last week, earned his keep in Chicago by committing strong-arm robberies.  I guess it's always a risk, when you walk up to people in cars and wave your phallic substitute gun in their face and demand their money and their dignity and their sense of well-being in a world that is set up to keep the bad people away from the good.

Anthony, it turns out, is a convicted felon!  And yet, he was let out of jail before he had learned all the lessons that his penologists should have taught him.  One of those lessons should have been: Get a job, you dreg of society, and work to earn a living.  Any form of gainful employment is more honorable than your current procedure.

And for his part, Anthony, as he sits and waits for his face to mend, can tell us that he has learned this valuable lesson as well:

Always make sure that the guy you are attempting to rob is not a 6'2", 250-lb. Romanian mixed martial arts champion.

That's what he tried to do last week, Friday night in Chi., and he picked the wrong guy.  He walked up to the man in his parked car and asked for a light off his car lighter, and then pulled out the gun and told the guy to get out of the car and hand over his wallet and valuables. 

With about as much effort as it takes the rest of us to brush away a gnat, the Romanian, who works as a bodyguard and hostage rescuer, disarmed young Anthony and decorated his face for Christmas,  all red and green.  

Anthony shot  himself in the ankle during all this.

The good guy told (laughing Chicago) police that bad guy Anthony was begging for mercy, saying that he had a baby.  

If the baby is over six wks. of age, he already knows what kind of guy his Daddy is. 

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hold the phone

I don't know anyone involved in this story, as far as I know, but a look at the local crime blotter for my town includes a story about a man who called the police because he was ripped off to the tune of $250.

I can't sing that tune. I can hardly hum it.  

But this fellow thought he'd finish his Christmas shopping a little early, I guess, so he saw an ad on Craigslist and followed up on it.  Someone was offering to sell an iPhone for $250, so he thought what he'd do, he'd make an appt. to meet that guy at the parking lot of the fire house, which happens to adjoin the police station, to make the deal.

Anyone thinking that proximity to a police station is a deterrent to crime need only ask the proprietor of the 7-11 ("Sem-Elem" in Baltimorese) across the street in the other direction.  As police cars whizzed by last week, the place was held up by a man brandishing a handgun.

Poor "brandish."  It's a word that means to shake or wave in a menacing fashion or to display ostentatiously.  So, you could just as easily say, "Snooki brandished her cheesy clothing, makeup and personality" but no one uses "brandish" in that sense.  It always winds up in the small print in the police blotter, part of a crime story.

Anyway, this bright citizen meets the guy at the fire house parking lot, forks over 250 semolians, and calls Verizon to activate "his" new iPhone, only to be told that he is holding a stolen phone. 

He should have used his iBrain.  

It's like when people drop everything and run to the car dealership that ran a TV commercial swearing that they sell cars "below factory invoice!"  That's right; they will sell you a Biscayne for less than they paid to buy it themselves!  Don't be fooled!  Sign right here!

A few years back. we were getting calls from honest citizens who met with upstanding entrepreneurs who were selling Sony TVs right out of their van behind the A&P.  For your $300, you got a Sony TV...carton.  Sealed up nice and tight with a cinder block inside.  

Folks, take it from someone who reads the papers:  do your shopping at a real store with real merchandise.  People who agree to meet you at the firehouse parking lot are not generally members of the Chamber of Commerce.  And they don't accept coupons! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Jailhouse Lawyer

The name of the young man pictured at left is Jesse Dimmick.  You have to wonder what his prison nickname might be, given the myriad possibilities.

You and I might consider this to be the idea of a dimwit, but old Jesse here filed papers on a couple residing in his native Topeka, Kansas.  He needs some satisfaction, and as all American citizens have to the right to do, he has gone to the courts to get some.  His beef, out there in the grain belt, is that Jared and Lindsay Rowley broke an oral contract into which they had entered with him. 

Jesse is hoping that the judge will hear him out, and uphold his rights, because there is nothing more sacrosanct than a solemn promise made among adults, and anyone who would back out of an oral contract is just no doggone good.

The Rowleys’ side of all this includes the facts that Jesse took them hostage in their own home in 2009.  He was, at the time, on the run from authorities who wanted to question him in the beating death of a Colorado man.  They would want you to know that they entered into an agreement to hide him out shortly after he entered into their home; for an “unspecified” amount of money, they said they’d help him make his move. But instead, they fed him snacks and watched movies with him until he fell asleep.  I’m guessing they made him watch a Julia Roberts picture, any of which have soporific effects.  The original version of “Desperate Hours” would not have been such a great choice.

So, he nods off, the Rowleys run out, the cops are called in and poor Jesse gets shot. "I, the defendant, asked the Rowleys to hide me because I feared for my life. I offered the Rowleys an unspecified amount of money which they agreed upon, therefore forging a legally binding oral contract," Dimmick said in his hand-written court documents. So he figures he’ll be made whole if they hand him $235,000.  He just feels awful about the bullet-wound-treatment hospital bills he left behind when he was convicted of four felonies in Kansas and then shipped off to Colorado, where they are still going to run him before a jury on that murder charge.

Samuel Goldwyn, the master of malaprops who was a movie bigshot (he’s the ‘G’ in M-G-M) used to say, “A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.” 

Veteran court-watchers agree, the phrase “hand-written court documents” always means the case will not go much further.  And that will give old Jesse a chance to sue his current jailers for not providing him with a nice new PC and a decent printer so he can make his stupid suit look all nice and prim.

Oh no!  Now he’s going to sue me for calling his suit “stupid.”  Well, get in line, buddy boy!

Oh no! Now he's going to sue me for calling him my "buddy."
I can't win.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Watch out!

This is an email that I got from our friends Rick and Bonnie - I love these "rest of the story" stories! I hope you do, too!...

If you were in the market for a watch in 1880, would you know where to get one? You would go to a store, right? Well, of course you could do that, but if you wanted one that was cheaper and a bit better than most of the store watches, you went to the train station! Sound a bit funny? Well, for about 500 towns across the northern United States , that's where the best watches were found.

Why were the best watches found at the train station? The railroad company wasn't selling the watches, not at all. The telegraph operator was. Most of the time the telegraph operator was located in the railroad station because the telegraph lines followed the railroad tracks from town to town. It was usually the shortest distance and the right-of-ways had already been secured for the rail line.

Most of the station agents were also skilled telegraph operators and that was the primary way that they communicated with the railroad. They would know when trains left the previous station and when they were due at their next station. And it was the telegraph operator who had the watches. As a matter of fact they sold more of them than almost all the stores combined for a period of about 9 years.

This was all arranged by "Richard", who was a telegraph operator himself. He was on duty in the North Redwood, Minnesota train station one day when a load of watches arrived from the East. It was a huge crate of pocket watches. No one ever came to claim them.

So Richard sent a telegram to the manufacturer and asked them what they wanted to do with the watches. The manufacturer didn't want to pay the freight back, so they wired Richard to see if he could sell them. So Richard did. He sent a wire to every agent in the system asking them if they wanted a cheap, but good, pocket watch. He sold the entire case in less than two days and at a handsome profit.

That started it all. He ordered more watches from the watch company and encouraged the telegraph operators to set up a display case in the station offering high quality watches for a cheap price to all the travelers. It worked! It didn't take long for the word to spread and, before long, people other than travelers came to the train station to buy watches.

Richard became so busy that he had to hire a professional watch maker to help him with the orders. That was Alvah. And the rest is history as they say.

The business took off and soon expanded to many other lines of dry goods.

Richard and Alvah left the train station and moved their company to Chicago -- and it's still there.

YES, IT'S A LITTLE KNOWN FACT that for a while in the 1880s, the biggest watch retailer in the country was at the train station. It all started with a telegraph operator: Richard Sears and his partner Alvah Roebuck!

Most kids today never heard of Roebuck...only Sears. 

And now you know the rest of the story!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Rerun: One For the Books

We got married on his birthday
It gets a little tricky following my reading habits; I prefer biographies and autobiographies and it's not uncommon to be reading two or three of them at once.  That's the present case; at home I have "Life" by Keith Richards going on as well as "Deconstructing Sammy," which is an account of the nightmarish accounting and legal problems involved in settling the last will and testament of the great Sammy Davis, Jr.  Incidentally, Sammy wrote two autobiographies along with collaborators Jane and Burt Boyar, "Yes I Can," and "Why Me."  If you're pressed for time, the Boyars condensed the two into the posthumous "Sammy, " and I also have a book of writings about SDJr called "The Sammy Davis Reader."

Sammy was many things to many people, but boring, he was not.  And if you ever want to sum up in one sentence the ego that drives talent to the top, how about this quote from Mr Davis: "It got to the point where there were only three important people in my life: Sammy, Davis, and Junior."

And I also read during my lunch hour at work, when I turn around and shove a sandwich down my neck and enjoy a book.  Right now lunchtime reading is "Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke," and I am learning a great deal about the life and sad death of the singing legend, who came up through the gospel tradition and was the lead singer of The Soul Stirrers before stepping out on his own pop music path.

JT - 1937 (?) - 2000
His replacement in The Soul Stirrers was Johnnie Taylor, chiefly remembered for his disco hit "Disco Lady,"  but please do yourself a favor and click here to be taken to the magical You Tube so you can hear Johnnie do "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me"), the 1973 hit that was playing the summer that Peggy and I met, and you know the rest.  All summer long I heard that song and every time I heard it, I knew she would believe in me forever.

If I were ever to write an autobiography, all that would be a great chapter.  Not that anyone would believe that two people could meet on a Thursday and be engaged on Monday, but it happens!  It's my true story.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Used to be close to the fans, now it's closed to the fans

Even back to when I was a kid (see "My Civil War Memories") the pro football team from Baltimore had their summer training camp in bucolic Westminster, MD, a town in Carroll County known for that camp, and for being almost universally called "West MINIster" around here.

The name of the pro football team has changed from Colts to Ravens, and the name of the college where the estival practices are held went from Western Maryland College to McDaniel, but still, every summer, the crowds go out there, packing local bars and restaurants and outlining the fields, watching both established stars and rookies who are soon to be on their way back home sweating through calisthenics and scrimmages in the unrelenting August heat. Then, after practice, the players would sign autographs for the kids.  It was good family fun, and good public relations for the team, and everyone benefited.

So, naturally, it's never going to happen again.

This past summer, with the NFL player strike or lockout, whichever it was, there was no time for the traditional summer camps, so the Ravens had their workouts at their palatial practice facility at Owings Mills, here in Baltimore County.  Owings Mills is a town chiefly noted for being almost universally referred to as "Owings MILL."  The Ravens have offices, fields, gymnasia and other facilities there.  It sort of looks like Versailles did before it got so run down over there. 

And they found out that it worked out just fine to have camp there, where no fans are allowed, so they told Westminster and McDaniel College "thanks a lot, fellas" and bade them goodbye.  They said they will arrange to have a scrimmage or two open to the public at the football stadium downtown, but something about that felt a lot like when someone you work with gets a great new job and they promise to come back "all the time" and "write and call every day" and you never hear from them again.  It's a shame, and people who used to plan a week of summer vacation around a "ride up to Westminister hon" are going to have to think about a few days at Twitty City instead.

Fans are, as you might expect, vexed and miffed, possibly even irked, over this.  But, also a predictable outcome: they took their vexation to the wrong forum.

Ravens Running back Ray Rice (from Rutgers) (r)has established himself, in three years, as a star in the league, a fan favorite around here, and a popular member of the community as well.  He grew up in tight circumstances, and it's particularly nice of him to be as generous as he is with his time and effort and resources.  He maintains a Facebook page, shares thoughts and opinions with his fans, and also uses the page to arrange charity drives around back-to-school time and Christmas time.  In exchange for autographed photos of #27, people can donate gifts to these causes, which wind up in the hands of the deserving, so it's all good. 

But this past weekend, Ray had to step in on his page and ask people to stop hollering at him because of this move by the team. "I don't make these decisions; I just run the ball!" he had to tell those who upbraided him for the choice made by management. 

Again, it's like when people howl at the server because they don't like the way their Chateaubriand tastes, or because someone was Palin too much sauce on their baked Alaska. The owner of the team is a man named Steve Bisciotti (r) who started a temporary-employment agency in his basement,  and now is the 655th richest person in the world, with 1.5 billion semolians in his mattress.  He would be the man who signs Ray Rice's paycheck, so if you have comments on his football operation, I'm sure he'd want to hear from you.  His home phone number is oops out of space, sorry.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

12/8/73 - 12/8/11

It must be magic
The way I hold you and the night just seems to fly

For you to take me to a star
Heaven is that moment when I look into your eyes

Those are words from the song "I Just Fall In Love Again," written by Steve Dorff,  Larry Herbstritt, Gloria Sklerov and  Harry Lloyd and performed, with varying levels of sophistication, by Anne Murray, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, and Artie Lange.

The song describes very well how I feel about my wonderful wife of 38 years, (as of today): the marvelous Peggy.  The term "varying levels of sophistication" is, of course, also a reference to me, a man once described as a Tony Danza sort of guy with a Martha Stewart sort of wife.

Unlike Martha, Peggy never served a bid in the federal slam (unless she did it in her early teens) but she is classy, proper, elegant, appropriate and, well, just so great about everything all the time.  She works hard at work and then comes home and works hard at home, never with a complaint.  She manages our finances with the wizardry of a CPA, she deals me with with the wisdom of a wise adviser, and in recent years she has taken on the somewhat confusing task of being my mother's bookkeeper, juggling those payments and checks perfectly.

Here's the thing about Peggy: we don't agree on very much, but we do agree on love.  She likes those books where self-appointed gurus tell people how to control their fate by meditation, and I like books in which people go to diners a lot.  She likes Enya and Yanni music.  I like everything from Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm to Ke$ha, with the exception of Yanni and Enya.  She likes to watch Self-Aggrandizing Old Oprah, I like to watch Grand Ole Opry. And don't even ASK if she wants to watch Jackass in any of its iterations.  She does not.

We wouldn't seem to be a match except for one thing: I love her totally, unconditionally, and constantly.  I can honestly say that there has not been a nanosecond in these 38 years that I wished for my situation to be any different. She is the first thing I think of in the morning, and the last at night. People kid us at parties and supermarket openings because we stick together.  That would be because I am never "tired" of her, I've never heard everything she has to say, and I can't wait to hear what's next anyway.

38 years!  I could tell you how much the world has changed in that time, but in many ways, it hasn't.  People are still getting up and going to work in cars, buses and trucks: the modes of transport predicted on The Jetsons have not come to pass.  People still come home from work and watch situation comedies or Monday Night Football.  And we still love to be loved, and to love in return.  I don't see that changing, no matter how many more decades come and go.  You can have a lot or have a little, but if you have love, you're lucky, because that means a lot.

Yep, we'll be going up to Friendly Farm to celebrate our anniversary, after our great-nephew's birthday party.  We'll giggle and guffaw just like on our honeymoon, and the only difference is, in 1973 we were looking only forward to spending our lives as one.  And thirty-eight years later, we get to look forward and backward.  

Happy anniversary to my wonderful Peggy!  I love you!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Back when she was Young

It always amuses me to hear people wistfully going on about the "good old days" when "people were honest and did the right thing" and were "good Americans, especially them actors and all, 'cause up til this Jane Fonda, they were people you could look up to."

Until you knew the truth, and then you'd find out that people have always been pretty much the way they are.  Ever heard of Judy Lewis?

Judy Lewis passed away last week, but she was born in 1935 to actress Loretta Young, just back from spending eight months hiding out in touring Europe.  No one was to know that Loretta Young had given birth, you see.  For one thing, she was a VERY Religious Young Lady and for another thing, her baby daddy was jug-eared hambone actor Clark Gable, who was a VERY married man at the time. They fell in love while making a movie called "The Call Of The Wild" (indeed!) and they acted like two telegraph keys: they just didit, didit, didit. And all this without a condom or at least some sort of rhythm!

So what they did was, Loretta had the baby, put her in the bullpen of foster care, and then  - because she felt the same maternal urges that so many single women with burgeoning careers have - she told everyone she adopted the little jug-eared baby who looked more like Clark Gable than Gable himself.
They operated on the child's ears at the age of 7, for the love of Pete, to pull them a little closer to her head.

We don't know why Clark Gable, once free of his marriage, didn't marry Loretta.  Maybe he found her a little too deceptive.  Or maybe he was busy banging 1/2 of Hollywood.  But Loretta married a guy named Tom Lewis, and they had two children, while continuing to claim that Judy was "adopted."
Gee, you wouldn't think that would mess up a person's head, would you, to find out from the guy you are about to marry at age 23 that your father is a bad actor in movies and the woman you had always been told had adopted you as an infant was your birth mother? “It was very difficult for me as a little girl not to be accepted or acknowledged by my mother, who, to this day, will not publicly acknowledge that I am her biological child,” she said in an interview in 1994, when her inevitable tell-all book came out.

For  heaven's sake, COVER THOSE EARS!
Her mother, saint that she was, responded by not speaking to Judy for three years.  By that time, Judy had given up her career as a soap opera actress and had become a licensed family and child counselor, a job to which she must have brought a great deal of empathy.  Perhaps she could understand her mother.  I don't.  Loretta never came clean about all this when she was alive, which she stopped being in 2000, and then her tell-all posthumous autobiography told it all. 

Here's what the old girl told her daughter when she finally admitted what she did:  “And why shouldn’t I be unhappy? Wouldn’t you be if you were a movie star and the father of your child was a movie star and you couldn’t have an abortion because it was a mortal sin?” 

Loretta Lynn, noted country singer, was named for Loretta Young.  A picture of Ms Young hung on the wall of the Webb family home in Butcher Holler KY, and her mother liked the name.   I just thought I'd end this on a happier note.  Loretta Lynn has brought pleasure to millions.  Loretta Young couldn't be honest with one.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Republican Party Like It’s 1979

Out in Iowa, where they’re known for being stubborn, Michele  Bachmann also seems to hope they’re forgetful.  The other day, after people in Iran stormed the British Embassy in Tehran to protest London's support of recently upgraded Western sanctions on Tehran over its disputed nuclear program, reliable old Michele told a group of Hawkeyes that if she were president, she would close the American Embassy in Tehran.

Cue the memory of Sgt Hulka in “Stripes” saying, “Son, there ain’t no draft no more.”

Earth to Michele: there is no American Embassy in Tehran, Iran.  You see, back in 1980, there was a little bit of commotion over there, and forces loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Bazargan regime.  These people did not like the US one little bit and they held 52 of our people hostage for 444 days.  We thought you had heard about that.  It was in all the papers.  We have not had… diplomatic relations…with that country…since 1980.  

We watch Brian Williams every night, a man so cool that he can keep it together for a live 30-minute news wrap-up and not be bothered by a little thing like a fire alarm klaxon sounding in his studio.  He didn’t even bother to mention this latest gaffe by Ms Bachmann.  I think it’s like when your goofy cousin from Peanut Prairie shows up at a funeral wearing cutoffs and drinking a Dr Pepper.  Best just not to say anything about it.

Back to live action, don’t you love it when foreign students run around burning up cars and burning flags just to demonstrate their outrage?  What cheesed the Iranians off against the British is that the Brits are shying away from the Iranians since it appears that Khomeiniville is working on a nuclear program.  

We scoff at these students. Over here, we reserve our rage for when an overage football coach gets a can tied to him because he knew that children were being raped in his building but he said nothing.  It would have been nice had those goobers at Penn State gotten mad over JoePal’s failure to act in any honorable way, but no.  They were worried about the future of their football team.  

I’m living in a country where some people think Michele Bachmann knows enough to be our leader.  That’s why I worry about our future.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tooling around

(Orange) Juice S2
My nephew wants a Leatherman for Christmas, and I couldn't agree more.  A Leatherman is the ne plus ultra - the finest kind - of pocket tools.  I myself proudly tote a 2001 Juice S2 - orange in color - and it has literally gotten me out of any number of situations.  

Let's face it, ladies and gentlemen, when it's time to pass out the Christmas presents, the family always turns to the one person among them who carries a Leatherman (there are fake-y brands, but wouldn't you really rather have the real thing?) so he or she can slit tape, snip wire, remove staples, and open up battery compartments for toys.  

Have you ever tried to remove a doll from its wrappings on Christmas morning while eager hands try to pry it from yours? It's glued and bolted onto a piece of cardboard suitable for patching holes in an airplane chassis, and then they wrap a mile or two of baling wire around it all.  If more police secured their prisoners the way Fisher-Price packages Tackle Me Elmo for delivery, there would be far fewer escapees sauntering around, I'll tell you that right now.

My Dad used to know an old guy who ran a hardware store, and when he and his friends got together, if one asked the other to show his pocket knife and the guy had no pocket knife on him, he had to pay a dollar.  I have always remembered that, and so I have been able to hold on to many of my dollar bills, because I always have my mini-Swiss Army knife on my keychain, my regular Swiss Army in my pocket and the Juice in my manpurse, where it is ready to go on active duty for holidays and gatherings.

I once found myself trapped by a faulty trap door leading to my parents' attic.  The door was jammed, the latch would not open, and the only way out was to remove the hinges.  I was prepared, and here I am today to tell the story.  If not for the pocket took kit that I lug around, I might still be in that attic, wearing an old fur coat, watching old home movies...

Leathermen (Leathermans?) are not cheap, but you can get a decent one for around 35 bucks.  You can go all the way up to a hundred or so, but then you have to stop and think, how often will you need an electrical crimper or an awl?  But I remember fondly how my Dad would look over his tool collection, pick out a long wooden-handled device with a steel spike on the other end, and say, "Son, someday, this awl will be yours."