Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Kid on the Sunblock

Well, there's no question that Summer and I are on the outs.  98° on the dashboard thermometer on the way home yesterday afternoon, and that is just too hot for this time of the year.  In fact, it's too hot for any time of any year, unless you are from Equatorville, Ecuador, and are therefore used to feeling like the world is a frying pan.

But just as some people like the smell of coffee and yet dislike the taste, as much as I disdain summer, it at least brings me ample opportunity to use one of my favorite words.  That word is "ointment," and it's second only to the venerable "d-bag" in my list.  ("Venerable" is third.)

And when do we use the word ointment, everyone? When someone has failed to heed the sensible warnings and gotten themselves a classic sunburn.

This would have been great to send to that "peopleofwalmart.com" website.  We were in the new WM up in Fallston and I saw what appeared to be a man leading a woman with a severe visual handicap around the store.  She had her eyes closed and her hands on his shoulders.  But when I got a better look, she was reaching under his t shirt to apply an OINTMENT to him.  His face, neck and what I could see of the rest of his torso (I wasn't craning my neck to see more, I'll tell you that right now) were RED. I mean redredred. Fire engine red. Crimson, Venetian, Scarlet was he.  He would surely have given a vermilion dollars not to be that sore, because that's the kind of sunburn that makes Rose Madder.

If only he had taken the advice to slather on the  sauce before heading out on a day of pure sun, not a cloud in the sky, and UV warnings on every newscast. Anyone who's ever been burned that way can relate.  It happens to us all, but once burned, SPF 30!

Monday, May 30, 2011

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 three more: Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

In Russia, they call it "One Steppe Beyond"

I'm writing this on Saturday night, and tomorrow, I will be awakened by the sound of Madness.

And not the kind you think!  This is the 80's British group Madness and their great hit "One Step Beyond" which you can see by clicking the words above!

Madness (l)  was one of those groups of guys running around doing all sorts of goofy senseless things and making music at the same time: sort of like the Republican Party with saxophones!  Their music was defined as "pop/ska," which I understand half of.  Ska, so they say, was a precursor to reggae.  It's all that Caribbean sound to me. I am not musically sophisticated enough to be able to say, "Oh, that's ska!" or "Love that cha-cha sound" or "You've got to know, that's good reggae!"  So I don't know Bob Marley from Jacob Marley; I'm happy with what I hear. 

But I like to be thorough, so I looked up Madness and found they were influenced by a guy born Cecil Bustamente Campbell, but better known to his legions of fans in his native Jamaica and all across the British Empire as "Prince Buster."(r)  Buster is highly regarded by Madness; they call him "The man who set the beat." (In the days when I was so good at fixing a balky TV by smacking it with my open palm, I was known as "The man who beat the set," but that has nothing to do with anything here.)  Here is Buster's version of One Step Beyond; check it out and see what you think.

Which version do you want me to wake up to on Monday?  Vote early, and often.  If you don't want me to awaken at all on Monday, please don't vote. Harrumph.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

High School Consequential

High school teachers, please don't think I'm grinding on you here.  I think my concern is more with our culture overall.  

You see, the other day I was talking with a man of about 30; he was a graduate of one of our local private high schools, and I asked him if he knew that the school was located right across the street from the house occupied by Spiro T. Agnew back in the day.

"I've never heard of Spiro Agnew," he pointed out.

"What kind of education excludes learning about Nixon/Agnew/Watergate, etc?" I asked myself.  I've long since learned that people don't really appreciate these questions, no matter how valid I find them.

I get into this all the time with Peggy, and her point is that people don't tend to learn about things that occur before their birth.   My rejoinder is that if that were true, no one would know much about the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution and the Monroe Doctrine.

Her rejoinder is that no one really does.

So, teachers, why not?  We've argued about the way schools teach math these days, with less reliance on basic arithmetical principle and more concentration on just how all those digits make up a Facebook status change.  We've been all over English.  I mean that in every sense of the word; I believe that each and every day, our lovely language is dragged down to the town square and beaten to within an inch of its life by television hosts, athletes, and the people who write commercials for television hosts and athletes to read. How a person can sit there and read aloud "A portion of all the donations go to charity in your area" without decrying the lack of subject-verb agreement is beyond me.  How a person can fail to comprehend basic English words is also beyond me.  And how the schools can hand a diploma to someone who cannot write a simple declarative sentence is so far beyond me, it would take extra postage to get me there.  

But history?  Don't we want the children to know about how we got to where we are? "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," said George Santayana, to which I can only add, "How can one remember the past if one's school focused their curriculum on the teaching of tone poems and performance art?"

Just for those unfamiliar, Spiro T. "Spiro" Agnew was a local politician here who took sacks full of money from paving contractors while in several high-ranking offices, was chosen by Richard M. "Dick" Nixon to be his vice-president because "No assassin in his right mind would kill me, because then they'd get Agnew as president" (as Nixon was quoted by felon John Ehrlichman) and then Agnew resigned the office in disgrace when the Feds finally brought him down on tax evasion charges, and later Agnew wrote an autobiography which implied that Alexander Haig told him to "go quietly...or else" when the G-Men showed up with the papers.

That's a story worthy of repeating, so that today's youth will learn not to repeat it.  Or something.



Friday, May 27, 2011

Going through a rough spell

I just looked it up: it will cost $40,920 to attend world-famous* Georgetown University in world-famous Washington, DC, in the coming academic year.  (I also noticed that the late fee is $100, so be sure to enroll on time, to save that extra C-note.)

That's just eighty dollars short of costing 41 thousand semolians to attend this august academy, home to noted scholars such as Bill Clinton, Savannah Guthrie and Patrick Ewing.  It's a fine school, so one can appreciate how the parents of this year's graduating class felt last weekend when they showed up for the commencement exercises and saw the program (at left).

That's right, Mom and Dad! Thanks a million for spending over a hundred thousand to send me to Georgetown Univeristy

Seems to me, if you are putting on a graduation hoopla and you send the program down to Lou at the print shop, someone or several someones ought to check the thing over, am I wrong?  

And not just with spell check, because every won nose ewe ken make miss steaks that spell Czech jest Will naught ketch.  Fact is, spell check can be a real pain in the asp, because it doesn't reason as we do when we write.  It knows there is a word "everyday" and it doesn't care if we use it wrongly (as in, "I use spell check everyday") because we forget that it's an adjective, not an adverb.  So, use spell check every day, but be sure to have a lot of peephole check your stuff!

If I seem like a stickler about this, it's because I kind of am! Our lovely English language, spoken and written by Shakespeare, Keats and Kerouac, is being torn apart by the uncaring and unwilling.  I say, let's all take more classes at leading univeristies or something.

* I threw that "world-famous" in, because the voiceover on the Oprah Winfrey Saying Goodbye After 25 Years Gala Farewell made a huge point of saying that it was taking place in the "world-famous United Center" in Chicago, Illinois.  To put that to the test, why don't we call a Maori bushman in world-famous New Zealand and ask if he has ever heard of the United Center?  Any subway rider in Tokyo?  A Swedish accountant? A guy who rents catamarans on Eleuthera, the Bahamas?   It's a basketball arena in a big city in the American midwest, not Mecca, for crying out loud.   Is this place near where Ferris Bueller danced on the parade float?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tick Tock

If you're a schoolteacher, this is the time of year that you have my undivided sympathy.

Not so much during the many, many vacation days, snow days, it-might-snow-later days and religious holidays that find our schools shuttered tight.  That's just jealousy on my part, although I do worry about the rumors that our schools will close for a week next year to celebrate the Druid feast days of Rhomaine, the god of lettuce, whose early work with dried seasoned bread crumbs and anchovies led Caesar to invent the salad.  That's a little beyond what's needed, to my mind.

But this last month of school is when the Miss Crumps and Mister Novaks really earn their pay, which is not high enough, I hasten to add.  In high school, you have the seniors sauntering around like Lord and Lady Fauntleroy, untouchable by discipline (the principal is tired of looking at them, to be honest) and grades (you're not about to fail a senior and then, what, have him around for another whole year? No way!) as they tick off the remaining days until graduation.  

Also ticking off those days are the good people down at the Ocean City Police Department, who are stocking up on supplies needed for Senior Week, the bacchanalian festival by the sea that is a "right" of passage for a lot of people who by all "rights" should still be in classrooms learning about their rites.  Be that as it may, in a couple of weeks, the seniors will be gone, down to the ocean, to be followed by trips to campuses and recruiting depots all across the land.

Which just leaves the kids in grades K-11 sitting around watching a clock that just seems to go backwards, if it moves at all, until the middle of June, when they are free to compete with their teachers for summer jobs as pool attendants, ice cream vendors, and groundskeepers.  I remember the summer after sixth grade, seeing our teacher working in a liquor store.  What was I doing in a liquor store at age 12?

I had an in - I knew the guy behind the counter!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Name Blame

Funny how things can slip your mind for years and years, and then pop up, isn't it?  
I had forgotten this for a long time until the other day, when I was recounting the time a cop I knew was sitting in a nondescript police car, wearing nondescript plainclothes, at a shopping center on the county's east side.  A guy came darting over and said, "Hey buddy, can you give me a lift outta here? I just robbed Kresge's!"  The guy and his bag o' loot plopped down in the car, and got a free ride outta there and right to the local precinct, where he and his bag o' loot were unceremoniously separated.  For all I know, it might have been ceremonious, but I'm certain the guy didn't get to keep the loot when he moved to the license plate factory.

Kresge's was where the fake clock tower is now.
But on that same shopping center parking lot several years later, a guy who had the same name as I - not the WWII general, or the slain Black Panther leader  or the onetime major league pitcher, to name some other examples of people with my moniker - killed himself and his family, blowing them up in his Ford Taurus station wagon.

 I heard the story on the morning news and had the usual reaction to suicide, which is that I feel bad for whatever lunacy would drive a person to miss even one day of this wonderful world that unfolds daily, but mainly really being mad that other people -his wife and kids - had to go with him.  The line from Neil Young always comes up: "There's one more kid who will never go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool."

But then the curious thing started happening.  No one called to see if I was a) a general in WWII b) a Chicago militant  or c) a Chicago Cub,  as the aforementioned Marks were, but people we hadn't heard from for years called (this was pre-email, for crying out loud!) to say...how are you?  Or they'd call Peggy and say...is everything ok?  No one called and said, I was just making sure you weren't the guy who blew up his family at Middlesex...

But you know, they just had to be sure.  

And just for the record, I ain't this one, either!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Can't We?

 Time was, you went to a ballgame and the only people likely to be injured at the stadium were on the field.  But our society, with its ever-increasing anger, has caught up with that, and so it was that Brian Stow, a 42-year-old father of two and paramedic - a man who was making decent contributions to society - was beaten savagely at Dodger Stadium on March 31, following Opening Night at the ballpark.  The Los Angeles Dodgers were playing the San Francisco Giants that evening.  Stow, a Giants fan, wore a Giants jersey to the game, and for this, was beaten into a coma and will now live with brain damage for the rest of his life.

The Los Angeles police put twenty full-time detectives on the case.  They had collectively worked more than 6,000 hours on it by Saturday, when they arrested one Giovanni Ramirez, 31, at his Hollywood apartment.

Remember when Hollywood meant glitter and glamor, the kind of life we all wanted to live?  Now it's where people like this hide out.  Ramirez is, police allege, the man who meets the description of "Suspect One" in this case.  Witnesses reported one of the attackers to be a bald man with a goatee and neck tattoos. A parole officer gave the cops a tip, and they rounded up Ramirez over the weekend.  

Still at large are another guy who was in on the beating, and a woman who drove them away from the scene.  You have to wonder, in these cases,  how long til the guy under arrest starts naming the names of his confederates.  My bet says "before lunch today."  

And then we will see the trial, and the defense attorney will claim, what?  That his client was so enraged at seeing a Giants jersey after the Dodgers won a baseball game that he and his buddy blindsided Stow, knocking him to the ground and kicking him to near death?  That his client was so full of rage that he acted this way?

Notice that a parole officer fingered the suspect. This meant, of course, that one time he was let out of prison - possibly the same prison to which he might soon return.  I'm sure someone in LA will be looking into that.

Meanwhile, can we all remember that we all are just people, no matter what jersey or hat or skin color or political affiliation or faith or language?   It's become more of a punchline than it ought to be, but can't we all just get along?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sad life, sad ending

Here's some news, via the AP :

NEW YORK — Joseph Brooks, the Academy Award-winning songwriter of "You Light Up My Life" who was awaiting trial for rape, was found dead Sunday of an apparent suicide in his Manhattan apartment, police said.

Brooks, 73, was discovered in his Upper East Side apartment around 12:30 p.m. by a friend with whom he had planned to have lunch, police spokesman Paul Browne said.

Brooks was found on the living room couch with a plastic dry-cleaning bag around his head and a towel wrapped around his neck, Browne said. A hose attached to a helium tank was hooked up to the bag, he said. It was not immediately clear how long Brooks had been there.

The apartment door was ajar, Browne said.

The medical examiner will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Police said a suicide note was found but they didn't reveal its contents.

Brooks was awaiting trial on allegations that he molested women who were lured to his apartment for supposed acting auditions. He pleaded not guilty to rape and other charges.

Now, I'm no doctor, or medical examiner, but I do take medicine and read The Examiner.  But - just tossing out one possible scenario here - perhaps, just maybe, the cause of death had something to do with his being on the living room couch with a plastic dry-cleaning bag around his head and a towel wrapped around his neck, and a hose attached to a helium tank hooked up to the bag.  Whaddya say, Columbo?

Someone just mentioned that You Light Up My Life song the other day at work and I mentioned it as one of the leading memories that I carry from the fall of 1977. I was still a DJ then, and having to play that execrable piece of schlock day after day- sung by Debby Boone -  was no easy thing to do. And it stayed #1 on Billboard for ten of the longest weeks of my life.  Not even the corniest oldies station would touch that song today, for fear of driving listeners into some sort of frenzy, making them predict a rapture.

Not to jump on the dead, but the story always was that Brooks was a scheming angle-player who wrote the song just with the goal of milking tear ducts all across the nation.  He later wrote a movie of the same name, and produced the movie, but to far less success than the Boone record.  Didi Conn was in the picture, as I recall, but fortunately her career survived long enough for her to play Frenchy in "Grease."  Brooks then wrote another movie and had himself play the lead. This one was called "If Ever I See You Again."

You won't be seeing Brooks again.  Again, he was not convicted; in fact, his trial had yet to occur when he did himself in, but this was not some simple misunderstanding of affections. At the age of 73, he was facing trial on 82 counts of sexual abuse for allegedly raping 11 young actresses.  He would get these women to come to his Upper East Side residence by saying he wanted to audition them for screen roles.
Then he allegedly gave them doped wine to drink "as part of the audition" and proceeded from there, allegedly.

I mean, it all could be a merry mixup, and maybe these 11 young women got together and concocted 82 stories and went to the police because...yeah. I know. He had enough talent to write that song, which was at its time the longest-running chart topper in Billboard. But he did his disgusting debauchery and then chose to check out early rather than defend himself.

To have a talent, and to waste it, and to have a life, and to taint it with iniquitous behavior and throw it all away, is beyond me.  I still grieve for people who would have given anything for another day to live their good, pure, sweet lives, and to see what this mountebank did with his...

You know what I mean.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Perfect Storm

The other day, we had what the sports pages might refer to as a "helluva" thunderstorm in the middle of the night.  BOOM! boomed the thunder and CRACKLE! crackled the lightning.  It was intense! 

And then the lights went out, or, more accurate to say, the night lights and the ceiling fan stopped doing their things.

And Peggy said, "The power went out!"

And, she quoted me the next morning as replying to that by saying, "Damn!"

There was a time that, faced with that information, I would have:
  • jumped out of bed
  • set 14 different wakeup alarms: cell phone, travel alarm, old windup clock
  • gone to the wired phone in the basement or gotten my cell out of my pants pocket and called the electric company
  • set flashlights out every ten feet around the house
  • made a perimeter check of the house to make sure all was well

But instead, here's what I did under my new approach to Fixing Everything That's Wrong In The World:
  • went back to sleep and slept like a pile of railroad ties
And so, in the morning, we awoke on time, gently alerted by the clock radio, with its battery backup.  Sure, I had to reset clocks all over the house, and reset the many digital radios, but one o'clock in the morning is hardly the time to be darting around the house, fussing over everything.  

And I drew this wisdom from the great sage Mr Porter Wagoner, whose teachings include the valuable maxim, "What is to be will be, and what ain't to be, just might happen!"

Let it happen to you!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Meat Mr Gorske

Tell me this does not look great!
I live by a few basic tenets, one of which is, there are certain days when just nothing is going to do but that we have a Big Mac for dinner.  Oh I know, they are just the worst thing that a person can eat, or not, depending on which recent study you read.  And any scientist knows that it's possible to live to be ninety nine if one is willing to forgo red meat, alcohol and sex, but then again, those would be ninety-nine pretty doggone boring years, now wouldn't they?

So, everything in moderation.  My nutritionist tells me, go ahead and have a slab of huckleberry pie; just make up for it by cutting back elsewhere.  And there was a time that I could eat like a horse and still be the size of a jockey.  A very tall jockey, to be sure, but I was one slim dude back in the day: 6' 4", 140 lbs were the stats on my first driver's license, issued during the Lincoln administration.

But here's a lucky dude: twice lucky, because he's a retired prison guard, which means he doesn't have to roam the halls of the pokey and hear the mournful wail of a harmonica and a lachrymose voice moaning, "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" any more.   Don Gorske is his name, he's from Fond Du Lac, WI, and Don ate 9 Big Macs on May 17, 1972 (I bet you don't remember what you did that day; neither do I, but we would have if we had stuffed 18 all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on 9 sesame seed rolls, am I wrong?) and he liked them so much he took to eating them almost every day.  The other day, Mr Gorske consumed his 25,000th Big Mac, and before you get to thinking that his cholesterol must be right up there with the Dow Jones averages, you'll have to guess again.  The article I read says he's slender, gets a good checkup, cholesterol looks fine, and - I like this part - he logs in his McIntake on a calendar, so he can look back over the years and reminisce about all those burgers.  I also like how he says he gobbles every Mac in sixteen bites: no more, no fewer.  You wanna know what that is? That's consistency, my friend.  Consistency.

There are 540 calories in a Big Mac, according to McDonald's, and that is more than a quarter of the calories a person on a 2,000-calorie diet would consume. The burger also contains 29 grams of fat and 1,040 grams of sodium, which are both more than 40 percent of the Food and Drug Administration's daily recommended value for a 2,000-calorie diet.  So we're not looking at a watercress salad here, but, again, to each his own.  Gorske's metabolism, honed by years of walking slowly down cellblocks filled with crooks, must be one of the best of all time, so I say, keep chowing down, Don!

Hey, what's for dinner?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bird Dog

He does take a nice mugshot
Out of the four major spectator sports (baseball, football, basketball, and counting Arnold Schwarzenegger's offspring) I am least interested in basketball, but Eric Torpy would disagree.  Eric is the wise young man who currently calls the
Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville, Oklahoma, his home.  What he did was an armed robbery in 2004, and he fired some shots and the judge thought that thirty years in the hoosegow sounded about right.  (Sounds a little light to me, but).  

But the big butt was Mr Torpy, whose trial took place in the courtroom in Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain and the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain. Oklahoma, where ev'ry night my honey lamb and I sit alone and talk and watch a hawk makin' lazy circles in the sky and ev'ry night, Eric Torpy can sit in his cell and say, "What the devil is WRONG with me?"  

You see, ET is a big basketball fan, and his favorite hoopster was Larry Bird, the pride of French Lick, Indiana.  Bird wore uniform number 33 during his dribblin' days, and the genius that is Eric Torpy stood in that courtroom and asked the judge to give him a 33-year sentence so that the number of years he would spend in jail would match the # on the sweaty green jersey that Bird finally peeled off for good in 1992.  

So, the judge complied, probably deducing that keeping this bozo in the Ironbar Hilton wasn't going to harm the progress of the nation in any way, shape or form.  And, if you've been following along, we've managed to do all right without him.  Now, beside the whipping wind and waving wheat that sure smells sweet (might want to have the DEA check that crop) something else has come waving through Bright Boy's mind, and he regrets asking for the additional 1,095 days in the clink, stating his case thusly:

Now that I have to do that time, I kind of wished that I had 30 instead of 33. Recently I’ve wisened up. That three is a big deal, you know? Three years matters.

Ah, how many times have you heard someone say, "Recently I've wisened up" ? Not all that often, huh?  Well, the Torpmaster General has!  And just think, if you're an employer, he'll be available for hire in, maybe, 2030-something!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Benedict Arnold

Hi Arnold -

Got your message late last night and by then it was way too late to call you back. Of course, you and Arnold Jr can crash on our sofas next weekend on your way to Hyannisport to apologize to your inlaws.  They always enjoyed your puckish, Teutonic wit, and I'm sure they will see their way clear to giving you just one more chance.  One example of your wit was the time you said... oh never mind.  Someone wrote that for you.    

You know, Arnie, I've always been a fan of the Kennedys, because they so believe in justice and opportunity for all, so when you married into that family, I was willing to give you a pass, figuring they saw something in you that I hadn't.  Your over-the-top portrayals of musclebound goons in film after film, your arrogant strut with a plume of disgusting cigar smoke trailing behind you, and your idiotic statements about the nature of mankind ("My relationship to power and authority is that I'm all for it. People need somebody to watch over them. Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave" is how you described humanity in 1990 to U.S. News magazine) all make you tend to look like a petty Neanderthal, unwilling to see things through modern enlightened eyes.

But, I kept thinking, Maria loves him, must be something good.

There's one thing you seem unable to process, and that is that Americans will line up to pay money at the MallPlex17 to see movies, or rent them for dollar from a red box, or even purchase the DVD if they really love the picture.  But we see this as entertainment, diversion from the lives we lead.  You take a guy and his wife and kids.  Let's say the guy works as a history teacher, his wife works part time selling real estate, and the kids go to middle school and high school.  Unless they attend school with that kid from 2 1/2 Men, there's not a lot of excitement there, and Dad spends his week going on about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff to kids who, if they are named Michelle Bachmann, will somehow get elected to Congress and think that the bill was called the Hoot-Smalley Tariff and blame it on Franklin Roosevelt, when Willis Hawley and Reed Smoot  were not only a couple of Republican congressmen from out west somewhere but were also the shortstop and second basemen on the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early 30s.  Just kidding. About the last part. Anyhow, by the time the weekend rolls around, the entire family needs a little lift, and just in case it's that odd week with no new Amy Adams movie coming out, they can always rent something like "Commando."  You were great in that one, Schwarzie.  The bad guys grabbed your daughter Alyssa Milano, and the one bad guy dressed like Freddie Mercury, and there was a guy named Sully, and you got to say that line:

You're a funny guy, Sully.
I like you.
That's why I'll kill you laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaast. 
But, Arn, remember when we all got together at the Dodger game and I was trying to 
tell you that "three strikes, you're out" is not a valid part of American Labor Law? 
And we talked about how the movies are not real life, because in real life, bad guys 
shoot with real bullets, and they don't take numbers and wait their turn to be beaten
by the hero.  And we said that movie audiences might forgive a man some 
indiscretions because they're not invested in the guy for real, and fiction is not fact, 
people with four kids and a loving wife should not run around impregnating the 
household help.  Because that hurts your wife and your children, AS.  Your one son 
Patrick now signs his tweets with his mother's surname, so ashamed is he of your 
This - for what it's worth, for what we all make of it - this is our REAL LIFE and we
owe it to ourselves and to those who love us - even more than we deserve - to try 
at least to live in a decent, honorable fashion.  The next time you go to insert a
part of yourself into somewhere where it should not be, why not say, is this what I
ought to be doing right now?  If the people who love me were here right now, would
they approve of this unsanctified insertion?
And yes, Arnold palm-er, you said something in the message about "Bill Clinton did
it and John Edwards did it and even Teddy, John and maybe Bobby did it" and yes,
that's sad but true. The rest of us didn't exactly turn cartwheels of joy upon reading
that of them, but at least none of those men went around claiming the moral 
superiority that you and your fellows do.  You align yourself with the "family values"
and "bedrock core decency Middle America" faction, and you can't even keep lil'
Arnie zipped up?  Yes, lots of men have been caught with their hands in the nookie
jar, but even in the New Math, two wrongs still don't make one right. 
And, Arn, listen, when you touch down here in BMore, check your calendar.  It's 2011
and we don't say things like this: "She's either Puerto Rican, or the same thing 
as Cuban, I mean they are all very hot. They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them 
and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it," which is what you said about 
Bonnie Garcia, a Latina Assemblywoman back there in Cali who was just trying to
to her job and not pose for your wandering eyes.   
So, call us when you get to town, and we'll run down to the Airport and pick you
guys up.  We have some extra throws you can put on the Barca-lounger, and we'll
have a great weekend before you head for the Cape.  This is not your proudest
moment, Eggy, but you know a really great thing about your adopted homeland? 
We forgive, we move on, but we need to know that you realize that life is not a 
Because, if you do realize that, that's As Good As It Gets. 



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Disney Whirled

What was your reaction to the news about bin Laden buying the farm at the hands of US Navy Seals a couple of weeks ago?

A lot of Americans took to the streets in sheer expressions of joyous jubilation, and I think it was only partly attributable to a sense of justice and payback.  A lot of people are glad that he won't have the chance to harm us again, the rat.

A lot of Americans prayed and tried to find a spiritual answer in their souls.  Is what he did a sufficient justification for what we did to him? they asked.  It's still a good question to ponder - if you had the chance to shoot Adolf Hitler in 1939, knowing what he was going to do, and without worrying about getting caught or tried, would you have done it?  Questions like this can keep me up all night.

A few Americans, a minority to be sure but their opinions are to be heard, did not care for this action, and they have the right to their opinion.  I mean it.

But - how come none of my friends or I were smart enough to say "Hey, let's trademark the Navy Seals Team 6 logo and likenesses for sale in merchandise and films, etc!"

That was late Sunday night, May 1, when those brave men went in and did bin Laden in.  Bu Tuesday, the good folks at Disney®, never ones to miss a chance to sell, market, lease or profit, had copyrighted the Seal Team logo with intentions to take advantage of the deal in merchandising "shirts, shoes, hats and feet wear” as well as "action figurines” and “snow globes,” “Christmas ornaments” and “Christmas stockings.” 

This is not to say that Disney® plans to defile the most Christian of holidays with tree decorations depicting Osama getting plugged.  I believe we can expect a movie - get in line to play BHO, Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and the members of the Seal Team - and Halloween costumes, hoodies, ball caps and even those rear window decals showing a guy in a Navy uniform peeing all over OBL. 

I'm not even saying this is a bad thing - it's a capitalist society, and people have a right to sell (and buy!) what they wish!  But just remember, when you heard that news a couple of weeks ago, you felt a swelling of national pride, and Disney's crack team of lawyers saw a chance to sell you a snuggie.

Uncle Scrooge McDuck just made another vault full of moolah!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ektorp My Tuvull, please

On Saturday while Peggy prowled the mall for A New Outfit To Wear To Abbey's Wedding, I decided to strut on over to Ikea. From the mall, Ikea on a foggy day looks like a giant Cub Scout uniform, all blue and yellow.  But it's a Swedish furniture store, and from the looks of the parking lot, I should be ABBA so grateful that they have a store right near us.  People come from all over to shop there: Philadelphians, New Yorkers, Virginians: the parking lot is a veritable treasure if you happen to be playing license tag bingo.

It's a furniture store that also sells food and has both a sit-down restaurant and a hot dog and pizza take out deal, where you can wash down the tube steaks with a nice cold lingonberry soda.   No foolin'!

Ikea's founder, Ingvar Kamprad, who must be worth a few zillion Swedish semolians, rides on public transport to save money. 'Ikea' stands for Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd Agunnaryd (the last two letters stand for the farm and village where Kamprad grew up). This means that if I founded an international chain of furniture stores, it would be called MCPT, which people would then call 'Mc Pit' and not want to go there for fear of falling in.

If you fall in at Ikea, try to land in the ballpit, which is where smart shoppers can drop off their kids for two or three days while they shop for sofas and spatulas, mirrors and meatballs.

There are 202 Ikea stores in 32 countries, and they claim that a million people per day visit the stores.  I claim that almost all of those million people spent almost all of their time figuring how to get the hell back to where the office furniture is sold, because they went to the men's room and are now wandering in circles around the kiddie furnishing area.

Ektorp is a brand of armchair and Tuvull is a travel rug.   These are real, although, the good people at the Blogadilla blogadilla have given us the name generator so we can give anything we want an Ikea name. Sometimes, we can't make them funnier than they already are, however.

What are you doing on that pc?
You probably remember the Simpsons episode called "Eight Misbehavin' " - that's the one in which Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and his wife Manjula become sudden parents of eight babies:
Poonam, Sashi, Pria, Uma, Anoop, Sandeep, Nabendu, and Gheet.   Homer, whose advice on procreation led the shop owner and his wife led to having octuplets,  finds himself at a store called SHØP!  The Springfield version of Ikea!

Back in Scandinavia, the Ikea team is busy coming up with unpronounceable names (DUKTIG is for children's furniture, Klippan is for upholstered furniture) for their products, but they maintain that puckish Swedish sense of humor, don't you know. All their floor coverings are named after Danish towns and cities. Denmark was enraged! One blazing headline said, Denmark will not be Sweden's doormat.

Oh, we should have such troubles.  Here you go, Denmark.  Have a meatball and some lingonberry soda.  You've got to see this place!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The End of Daze

Preakness crowd discussing Goethe
Well, here we go with this again, and right off the bat, I wanna say, I'm not judging, not mocking.  But a lady handed me this flier as I left the Try 'N' Bag the other night, and I was rather surprised.  May 21 just is not going to be a good day for me.  It's a Saturday, and there goes my nap.  And not just any Saturday - it's Preakness Saturday here in Baltimore, where around 100,000 inebriated people jam the infield at Old Hilltop, as we fondly call Pimlico Racetrack, and spend the entire day guzzling beer and urinating in holes they dig in the ground, unaware that horse racing is going on all around them.  I heard a jockey whose hoss lost the Kentucky Derby speaking on the tv the other night.  He said that coming down the backstretch, his steed started paying more attention to what was going on in the infield at Churchill Downs than to the track in front of him.  If that's the case, you might want to put blinders on Old Swayback for the Preakness.  What he sees will surely make him stumble a bit.
Very few women leave their tops on.
Anyhow, if the end of the world really does occur this Saturday, just remember, you read it here first.  I asked the lady who handed this to me if there were any wiggle room on this due-date, but she smiled sweetly and told me no.  I remember the dire predictions of yesteryear, including the one that swept my junior high school that claimed that Martians were coming to earth to take us all away.  Apparently, wiser Martians realized how annoying a planet full of American junior high school kids would be, and the plans were scrapped.  (They sent Snooki here instead).

Brunch at your place Sunday?  Lookin' forward to it!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Check This Out

As a former member in good standing of Retail Clerks International (Local 692, Baltimore MD) I have always disliked those self-checkout lines at the Food Clown. I thought it would put someone out of work, replaced by an optical scanner and a grating recorded voice.  ("Please move your VINE RIPE TOMATOES off the belt!")

But no!  We were using one of them last night down to the Giant, and OF COURSE it got all screwed up when my VINE RIPE TOMATOES got in the way of my EGGS JUMBO DOZ.

And two clerks had to come over and sort the whole thing out.  Adding to the confusion was the way the deli guy put my roast beef in a baggie and charged me for it at the price of ham, which to me is like ordering a Rosie O'Donnell movie and getting Vince Vaughn. The two clerks were looking at the bag full of roast beef and a ham price tag, the VINE RIPE TOMATOES that the disembodied voice kept hollering about, and it took no more than half an hour to get me on my way.  Well, maybe not that long, but what's time to a man who is keeping two clerks busy doing what one could have done in 1/2 the time?

Good thing I didn't cut myself during all this. I hate to think of going to the hospital and finding that they have the same sort of thing for an incision, only to find that they have a "suture self" station.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday rerun: Be funny if she came from Reading, PA.

So I had to run down to one of our sites today for a clinic, and when things were well in hand I headed back to the main office. Right there on a main road, I drove in the center lane. A woman in her early-to-late 60s was driving in the right lane. I say she was driving, because she was doing something more than driving. She was reading a book. I swear this is true.

I thought at first that she was looking down at the steering wheel on acct. of some sort of mechanical problem. The mechanical problem was that the last time her mechanic serviced the car, he should have disabled the starter. I pulled up next to her and saw that the book was, I guess, a novel. I mean, who reads Toynbee or Edith Hamilton while they're driving their car? What fun would that be? Anyway, she and her paperback pageturner rolled along. Just before the traffic light at Josenhans Corner, she turned the page, no doubt in eager anticipation of what was to be revealed on the next page.

Having learned long ago from the wisdom of "Animal House" ("You'll be glad later if you're not here now") I vamoosed away from her, fast as I could. For all I know, she's still out there tonight, reading her Danielle Steel, being a menace to society,
driving her little white econobox. A Corolla, I think it was, and you know, that's kind of a frugal chariot, am I wrong, Emily?
There Is No Frigate Like A Book
Emily Dickinson
There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
I hope to avoid her on the roads forever..my pickup also bears a human soul who's in no rush to earn his wings, Clarence!

Friday, May 13, 2011

It Happened One Spring

Yep, she's broken!
Friends and neighbors, I urge you to look at the picture to the left.  If you know what it is, it's likely that you have been a victim of the Heartbreak of Overhead Torsion Spring Failure.

That big beauty up there is the spring that provides counterbalance to the garage doors in our lives.  The fact that this big spring broke and turned into two smaller springs is not a cause for celebration, unless you own an overhead garage door company.

You see, the other night, I hauled the recycling down to the end of the driveway and lumbered back up to the garage.  As I've done a hundred million times, I hit the garage door closer button.  The door closed just like it has the previous hundred million times, but when it landed down at the bottom there arose such a clatter, I turned to the door to see what was the matter!

"What the (heck) is going on out there?" hollered Peggy, a woman who leads in any contest of wondering what the (heck) any noise is.  There was a springy sound, which, when I described it minutes later to Donnie, our friend who is also the King Of All Handymen, led him to diagnose the problem expertly.  The people hired by our homebuilder to install the door had left 27 stickers and magnets with their name and phone number, so we could reach them at any time.  I called, but it was after hours, and the recording explained how much it would cost to get a guy out to the house after hours.  For less than that, I could have had Dr Ben Carson scoot over and perform brain surgery on me, so I decided to wait until regular business hours.

Which left us with the problem of how I was going to drive to work in the morning, because the SUV was in the garage and with the door down I couldn't drive very far at all...maybe a foot or two! Adrenalin pumping through my veins, beads of sweat forming on my forehead, and the little muscles in my cerebellum rippling like a Kansas wheatfield, I grabbed that door and man, was it heavy!  Peggy gave a shove too and finally we got it raised.  So then, I asked Peggy to dart in and get the key, which she did, and then she drove it out as I stood there like Big Bad John holding up the mineshaft in the old Jimmy Dean song.  Our song had a happier ending, though, since I am still alive to tell you that the guy showed up yesterday, ignored my joke about "springing" into action, replaced the springs and drove off with a check signed by me for $283.  Not a bad half-hour's work!

It did remind me of the need for an word to be the antonym of "deja vu."  As soon as Peggy and I started telling friends the story, people were breaking their necks to tell us that the same thing happened to them, the reason I bring this up. There is an opposite of deja vu, where you find yourself in a scene that everyone else but you knows all about!  I am the last to know that you are supposed to lube that big boy with WD40 once or twice a year! But I get the point now.

And every time I come down with a medical condition or a traffic ticket, I always say, "That's a new one to me!" only to be greeted with lots of friends who have had dipoxy of the lingual frenum, or already knew that 42 was too fast to drive in front of the high school.

I'm always the last to know!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another BP disaster

As if it isn't tough enough going through life named "Bristol," our Alaskan pal Bristol Palin decided she needed a facial overhaul, now that she in is show biz, with a reality show on the BIO channel (we get it, but I had to check. It's down there near The Military Channel and BBQ America) and her new home in Arizona.  Bristol is, of course, the daughter of  comedian Sarah Palin, who appears on FOXNews with her pithy observations on modern life - sort of like Erma Bombast, if you will.

I really am sad to think that a fairly attractive 20-year-old mom and student has time, money, and most of all, the inclination for having work done on the old kisser, but one look at the before-and-after photos removes all doubt.  Plus, BP spills all about it in US Weekly, saying that "It's not plastic surgery, it's a procedure!" She says this is all from corrective jaw surgery in December.  Her face now appears thinner, with higher cheekbones and an angular jaw. Sort of a female version of Jay Leno.

She also lost 5 pounds and trotted out her new look the weekend before last
 at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in D.C.

"Yes, it improved the way I look, but this surgery was necessary for medical reasons," she told the US magazine.  Bristol claims she had the procedure so her jaw and teeth could properly realign.

(Jaws are really important in that family, what with all the talkin' and feudin' and pointin' out Russia and all! And you need well-aligned teeth for chewin' all that whale meat!)

"I look older, more mature and don't have as much of a chubby little baby face," she told US.

And that non-chubby face will soon beam out at you from this reality series which will show her and sonny Tripp moving to Los Angeles to work for a charity.  And she's writin' a book! She's going to publish "Not Afraid of Life"  this summer.  The publishing firm says the memoir would provide "an inside look at her life." That would be the life of which she is so unafraid, you understand.

And baby daddy Levi has a book coming out soon! This fall, look for  "Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin's Crosshairs."

I never want to be in or near Sarah Palin's crosshairs.

Sounds like all three of these people - Sarah, Bristol, and Levi, are right on target.

But I once worked with someone who was in a minor auto accident, had to be out for three months for "rehab," and came back looking like Groucho Marx when he played in "The Mikado."  Life gives you a face. Unless you're in the show business, it's the one you should stick with, unless you feel more comfortable having...two faces.

“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.”

Tennessee "Tuxedo" Williams said that quote above, and I have to agree.  

I am, by nature, gregarious, and also, I enjoy meeting new people and maintaining friendships old and new.  People are endlessly fascinating to me, because each and every one of our fellow citizens is like an artichoke.  You keep finding layer after layer of good things, and it's always fun to discover that someone you know happens to be the world champion in hopscotch.  

Scotch has a lot to do with a lot of people I know, come to think of it.

But really, finding out that one of my parents' friends was a man who earned a handful of ribbons and stars at the Battle of the Bulge was a big deal to me.  Everyone is more than they seem.

And sometimes, just being what we seem to be is more than enough.

I bring all this up because of something stunning on my facebook page.  I noticed the other night that I have a stunning amount of friends there.  Now look, as BHO would say: they're not all close boon companions or anything.  In fact, you could categorize them pretty well in five groups:
  •  really close friends!
  • kinfolk by blood or marriage
  • people I have known since I was a barefoot boy with cheek of tan
  • people I have never met but we friended because of fic's (friends in common)
  • people I went to school with or knew long ago 
I am a lucky man.  I look at the tiny pictures of my friends and for each one, I recall a dozen happy memories right off the bat. Maybe I'm crazy, but I'd rather have my friends than all the money in the world.  Friends can say nice things and support us when we're down, pat us on the back in good times and bad, and make a crumby day into a slice of crumb-cake in a jiffy. 

We have Mother's Day and Father's Day and Arbor Day and Doris Day: all great celebrations.  I think that at least one day a month, we all should take time to thank our friends for being our friends.

Thanks, friends! I appreciate it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bad Office Manners

Never ones to be outdone, the good folks at the Comcast website have published a list of the Top Ten obnoxious things that people do at work.  I looked it over, but I can't say they hit everything.  I mean, for some people, the obnoxiety starts before they even GET to work, the way they drive and, once there, take up two places or so.  The other day, we got an email advising that someone had parked out front in a B.A. Ford Excursion, taking up FOUR spots at once.  That's got to be some sort of record, but where would you look it up?

I haven't even taken a gander at the Comcast list of offensive things to do at work.  I thought of my own - and I must point out that this list is not reflective of where I work now!  Those people are all angels, and put up with my singing and bad jokes. 

But let's go with:
I like to use a picture every day. Say hi to Phil Silvers!
  1. wearing stanky cologne or perfume or aftershave, or having other forms of bodystank.  Will cause people to use the fisheye.
  2. playing someone's favorite music loudly on a scratchy cheap broken clock radio that they didn't want in their bedroom any longer, it's such a brokedown relic, but it's good enough to play Cyndi Lauper's execrable "Time After Time" every day around 10.
  3. having an office that looks like the Rain Forest down at the Aquarium, with vines and trailing arbutus hanging in one's face when one stops by to pick up the Bramblebury account folder.  Notice: this sort of foliage is often accompanied by macrame.  Beware.
  4. Setting up what looks like the Salad Bar area from a Golden Corral buffet on the work area.  
  5. Similarly, setting up what looks (and smells like) the coffee section at a WaWa.  Mr Coffee, Keurig, French Press, Drip-O-Lator: we've seen all the coffee setups in offices, with the little note about remembering to feed the kitty, and the IOU's in the coffee mug where dollars ought to be.
  6. The people who have something to sell on behalf of their children, fraternal group or Chowder And Marching Society every week.  Every so often, sure, and everyone likes a chance to purchase pizzas and candles and popcorn, especially when it benefits a good cause.  But...every week?? For young Brattleboro's Free Form Ballet group?  How much candy can we eat?
  7. Smokers who congregate right by the door so they can exhale something KOOL right in your face as you enter the building.  I am sorry for smokers, a group that once numbered me among them, but I am willing to betcha that most smokers would still go out and puff up if they were required to put on some sort of clown costume and ride around the parking lot on a unicycle while getting their nicotine fix.
  8. People whose cell phones are set on maximum volume with the weirdest ringtones you ever heard...and will hear...all day.  Enchanting as the lilting love ballad "Beaten, Gagged, Bound and Chained," by Sadie O' Masochist might be to you, others  might find it, well, repugnant.
  9. People who "speak' to service personnel by using only hand gestures (pointing the index finger at them, and then pointing that finger at a spill or pile or trash) or third-person irregular ("Custodial! Custodial! Overflowing bidet in executive men's room!")
  10. Insensitive, inappropriate "jokes" or comments about someone else's race, color, creed, ethnic background, physical condition, area of domicile, or sexual preference tell us a lot about the boors who spout this bilge.
That's your Top Ten, and be sure to tune in next week to see if anything changes.  "Using swear words, cheap vulgar terms or taking the Lord's name in vain" is moving up fast!