Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thumber time, and the livin' is easy

Editor's note: The author of this blog is having extensive dental-oral surgery today.  He wrote this the day before yesterday, not knowing what kind of condition he would be in when all the gauze, dental tools and rubber-gloved fingers were removed.  He is a big dental baby, owing to the antics of a dentist in 1965. 

Well, I see that something else that was popular in the 1960s has come back.  No, I'm not talking about ridiculous armed invasions of foreign countries.  I see that John Waters is hitchhiking his way across the USA.

Waters, who is legally known in our town as "Baltimore's own John Waters" is the director and/or  writer of "Hairspray," "Pecker" and "Cry-Baby," among other films.  He also writes humorous books and articles and is a certified treasure for the witty things he says and does.  I once had the honor of perusing the cheapie book rack at a Borders Books right next to him, but, in the face of genius, I was unable to come up with a single bon mot, so I browsed in silence.

But here is the article that says he's thumbing his way from coast to coast.   There is a certain Kerouac sort of vibe to this, a chance to live a picaresque lifestyle while someone else pays for the gas.  I hope John gets back safely.

In the dimly-recalled 1960's, I hitchhiked all the time.  It was an acceptable thing to do.  Most days after school, soon as detention was over, I'd weave my way up the various food places on York Rd and then get to Fairmount Av, with my right thumb my ticket to the old homestead on Providence Rd, out near the reservoir.

The Runaway Bribe
I would get rides from these types: workmen on the way home, suited businessmen on the way home, teenagers on the way to who knew where, and some other kid's mother.   I never heard of anyone being picked up by a creep or pervert or anything of the sort.  The worst I can recall was being handed "Agnew for Governor" material by some goon, but I put that right in the file when I got home.

By the time I had my own car, hitchhiking was a thing of the past, making its last cultural impact in the 1973 Johnny Rodriguez record of "Ridin' My Thumb To Mexico, " which must have been awfully uncomfortable.  Not the song, but the act of riding a thumb across the border.

Hitchhiking was a great way to get around the nation or the neighborhood.  Now we have to worry about someone on LSD bath salts wanting to eat our face, so it's better to ride in one's own ride.  What a shame. That sounds like something from a John Waters movie, to tell you the truth.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tell the tooth

Today is Wednesday, meaning that tomorrow is Thursday.  Thursday is usually a pretty good day here in RetirementLand, but tomorrow is a special kind of Thursday.

Tomorrow is Root Canal day for me.

A root canal is a process for extracting maximum pain out of the dentally challenged.  The term comes from the old song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with its refrain "...for it's ROOT! ROOT! ROOT! canals for the home team..." indicating that chewing on the upper right side had been a tough experience for an entire ball club.

The "canal" part of the term also refers to the large body of water known as the "Erie Canal," because from what everyone is telling me, this will be an eerie experience.

As I'm understanding it, first step will be to knock me out with the same tranquilizers that Arapaho tribes use to knock out the Great White Buffalo.  And that's just for my head and neck; the rest of me will be free to flail and flinch in the manner of James Cagney being led to the electric chair in "Angels With Dirty Faces."  My mouth will be open wider than the entrance to the Harbor Tunnel and filled with suction equipment, drills and fingers, but the rest of me will be doing the Funky Chicken.

Once I am under, a specially-trained SWAT team will be brought in to keep me nice and still for the procedure.  The leader of the SWAT team, Cpl. Punishment, will say, "Now we can do this the easy way or the hard way..."  I will, of course, choose the hard way. But once they have me hogtied and too tired to wriggle anymore, the process can begin.

A little bit of heaven
The process itself, so they say, involves drilling a 3/4" hole into a tooth that has already been crowned (and I didn't even know we were playing checkers!) and the drill bit, pictured at right, will go 7 inches into my head, coming to a stop just before reaching my medulla oblongata.  Then a rubber stopper will be inserted into the hole.  I understand that discarded traffic cones are used in this step.

And then, in just under 14 hours, the whole process will be over, and I will be discharged, a free man once again.  Staggering crazily across the parking lot, I will somehow get into my ride, and head for one of the numerous back alleys in Lutherville where OraJel is for sale, no questions asked.

And then I will stop for a bagel and a coffee.  Note to self: wear a coffee-colored polo shirt tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On a role

As a kid, I was that kid who read the Information Please Almanac as if it were a novel or something.  I would just sit and read and read that book, learning stuff.  I figured there would come a day when someone ran up to me, demanding to know the height of the tallest building in Cleveland, Babe Ruth's lifetime batting average, or Edward G. Robinson's real name (Emanuel Goldenberg).

So the Internet was a natural fit for me, being a cornucopia of information.  And with a few taps on the keyboard, one can hopscotch from place to place, learning this, that, and the next thing.

We watched "Key Largo" on tv the other night, that great black and white movie from 1948 with Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and Jay Silverheels.

Jay Silverheels?  The guy who played Tonto on The Long Ranger?

Yes, Kemo Sabe!  Silverheels played John Osceola in the movie.  I am always thrilled when I see someone who later became known for other big roles playing smaller roles at the beginning of their careers, such as the time that Jack Nicholson appeared on The Andy Griffith Show as a guy whose child was lost, or the time that Ronald Reagan shared billing with a chimpanzee. The chimp went on to do some great things.  So I went to Wikipedia and found out some facts about Jay Silverheels, one of which is that he was born a Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River in Ohsweken near Brantford, Ontario, Canada.  Another interesting fact is that his birth name was Harold J. Smith.  He changed it to Silverheels when he went into acting, taking his old nickname from when he was a speedy lacrosse player in the 1930s.

So, from there I went to an article about the experiences of Native North Americans in the field of showbiz and learned something about that Iron Eyes Cody guy, the guy who was in the public service announcement in the early days of the ecology movement.  You probably remember it - Cody is paddling along in his birchbark canoe when people zooming along in a speeding car throw some trash out of the car.  Cut to old Iron Eyes, and a tear rolls down his eye as William Conrad says "People start pollution.  People can stop it." You can watch it by clicking here.  Go ahead; we'll wait for you!

All right then.  The man who billed himself as Iron Eyes Cody, the man who claimed to be Cherokee, was no more a Native American than Cher.  He was born Espera DeCorti in 1904 in Louisiana, son of Italian immigrants Antonio DeCorti and Francesca Salpietra DeCorti.  When Espera was five, the senior DeCorti decamped for Texas, where he was to change his surname to Corti.  Espera and his brother later showed up in Texas to join their dad, after their mother remarried, to one Alton Abshire, and bore him five children.  After his father died, Espera "Corti" moved to Hollywood and got into the motion picture business by presenting himself as a Native American, appearing in hundreds of movies and television shows.  He married a woman of Indian descent and they adopted two Indian boys, and for the rest of his 94 years on earth, Iron Eyes Cody went everywhere in Indian garb, pretending to be an Indian.

By the way, the articles I read online also said that the tear that rolls down Cody's cheek in that PSA was glycerine.  Not a real tear. It reminded me of what Oscar Levant said about Hollywood, how when you strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood, you'll find the real tinsel underneath.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A poem for Memorial Day

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae (1872-1918).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Rerun: Hot Dog!

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

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

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

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

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

Good idea, Joey.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday rerun: I hate to Russia but it's almost Midnight in Moscow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 25, 2012

Volume 1, Number 1

Starting a new magazine is always a risky proposition.  Especially now, since fewer and fewer people read printed material anymore.

Be honest and tell me the last time you stopped by a newsstand for more Chiclets and a man in a trench coat ran up to the counter, flinging quarters and nickels, and hollering, "Gimme the current "O the Oprah Magazine, and hurry!"  It's been quite a while, as whiles go.

But rightwing hearts across the Babble Belt were gladdened this past winter, and not only because high school tough guy Willard "Mitt" Romney soared from the bottom of the pile to win the coveted GOP presidential nod, which is a good as a wink. No, there was something else to cheer: the online and in-print arrival of a new publication...stand by for catchy title..."The Conservative Teen Magazine."

You can read all about what happened to the magazine right here on the internet, because you can't read the magazine anymore, either in the print version or online.  It was the biggest flop since Kate Gosselin wrote that book about good family planning and how to keep a family harmonious.

Looking at the articles, you see it was the standard conservative fare:  the mandatory piece stating that Ronald W. Reagan was pretty much the best person ever to walk the face of the earth (written by his son, in a neat twist), an article warning today's youth that the big mainstream media outlets are as chock-full of liberal bias as an egg roll with cabbage, and one that explained that the TV show "Glee" is dangerously liberal.

And here's why that is:  Katie Couric appeared on the show in some sort of small role.  In her office when she worked at CBS there was a picture of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. Ergo, Katie is a liberal and everything she touches is therefore tainted with liberalism.

I'm sorry this magazine didn't make it, because ever since National Lampoon went under, I have been on the lookout for bigtime laffs in my mailbox.  But the people behind it, whoever they were, missed their bet because they forgot one basic thing about teenagers. For the most part, they don't care about Ron Paul and Willard "M" Romney and such.  They care about themselves and the other teenagers they know, and they don't really have time to worry about Margaret Sanger, with the prom coming up and all.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sometimes, it's hard to find the right accommodations

Gary Giordano absolutely did not have anything to do with the disappearance of Robyn Gardner, who went to Aruba with him on a vacation.  She never came back from a snorkeling sojourn they took together, but his story  -  he knew "nothing about it" -  washed with the Aruban authorities.

He was held down there for four months, but they let him go, because he needed to be back here in Maryland, attending to his business.

Nice toup.
It would seem that he was getting real busy last Friday night.  Annapolis Police have released a report detailing Giordano's arrest on charges of indecent exposure.  In the capital city of Maryland, Mr Giordano and a female partner, one Tammy Lynn Bock of Springfield, TN, were found nekkid - or at least in a partial state of dishabille - and trying to cover themselves with towels in the back of a black Cadillac SUV inside the Gorman Street parking garage.

Of course, just being arrested for being undressed and having your black "under ware" (sic) fall to the ground when you climb off the mattress in the back of the black SUV along with your semi-clad female partner does not mean that you are guilty of anything, Mr Giordano.

But your attorney, Stephen Kupferberg, is not returning calls to the media.   I thought it would be good to let someone know that I Googled "Hotel room Annapolis MD" and got 649,000 results.  I assume that not one of those results would have said "Get all nekkid up in here and do the horizontal shuffle in the back of an SUV in a public garage" but I could be wrong.

I'll be staying out of Annapolis for the time being.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The future isn't what it used to be

The new thing on Facebook is to show a picture of some object long ago relegated to the dustbin of history and let everyone wonder what it is and for what it was used.  Skate keys, floor-mounted headlight dimmer switches, ice cube trays, Vote for Reagan buttons...all relics of a dimly-recalled past.

So of course, I started thinking about what your great-grand-children will pull from underneath your socks in the chest of draws that you bequeath to them.  Or household objects of the present times..what mystery will they hold for little Brattleboro and Desdemona in 2092?

For one thing, they will puzzle over the VHS tapes of "Quincy" and "Dallas" that they find, packed in boxes that once held ream upon ream of Xerox paper.  For that matter, they will wonder what Xerox paper was, since in 2092, everyone will have every document relevant to their life on a tiny hard drive in their thumb-sized personal retention device.  No more need to carry a driver's license, passport or proof of membership in the Tea Party, as long as you can get your thumb to boot up, so to speak.

The descendants will find a Keurig machine in the dustbin of history and some old-timer will tell them that these machines made one cup of coffee at a time for only 76 cents.  Sure, it was weak, and sure, it came out so tepid as to require microwaving to heat it up and a little instant coffee to strengthen it, but what a marvelous device it was for making weak cool coffee for you, and billions for Hans Keurig, its inventor!

Someone is bound to leave a pile of those little padded mailing envelopes among their stationery supplies.  People of 2092 won't remember this, but we could tell them: these envelopes were used to send precious fragile items from place to place, and contained a microchip to signal the Post Office to place them directly underneath several of its vehicles on their ill-fated journey.

And speaking of Journey...people in 2092 will read of a band popular in the 1980s whose songs became mandatory parts of the playlist at every wedding reception, bar mitzvah, crab feast and supermarket opening in the first twenty years of the 21st Century.  Members of our farflung families will find the 27 various Journey's Greatest Hits CDs and, dusting off someone's old heirloom Discman, listen over and over again, seeking the significance of the lyrics to "The Party's Over (Hopelessly in Love)" and "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" and surely, they will Wonder Why (Anyone Ever Cared To Begin With).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Just another Multicolored Monday

This Robin!
I'm like June Cleaver or Donna Reed around here lately in the mornings...I get Peggy off to work and then turn to my housework.

Not this Robin.

So yesterday, as always, I kissed-and-waved Peggy a sweet goodbye and then turned to cleaning up the breakfast dishes and getting the overnight breaking news from Robin Roberts.  I was up to my elbows in suds when the kitchen floor flew open and in flew Peggy, madder than a scalded hen.

She had left and got about 1/2 a block away when she realized she had an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction.  Not of the Janet Jackson variety, though. 

The problem? She was wearing an olive green shirt, Navy pants and black shoes.

If you see the problem there, you're far smarter than I.  "I should be wearing black pants," she panted, dashing up to change her pants.  While this was going on, she told me that wearing navy pants with black shoes was completely unacceptable.  I know it's OK for men, but did not know that the color laws were different for women.

The fact is, I don't know what colors go together and what clashes.  I'm not colorblind, but no one ever took the time during my rural upbringing to sit me down and spin a color wheel, showing what to wear with what.  Consequently, during my working days, I got into the habit of picking out my duds the night before, so that Peggy could walk by where they hung and let me know if the colors matched up all right.

Now that I have joined the ranks of the Retired, it doesn't seem to matter what color gym shorts I wear, and for that I am glad.  There are days in which the only other non-televised person I see is the woman who delivers our mail, and she never complains about a thing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wire you sending me this?

Not for the first time, the joke was on me!

Not our kitten, but a cute one, huh?
An early wireless router
Now that our home is filled with PCs, smart phones and tablets, it seems propitious to go wireless.  So I ran around the house removing wires where I found them, and soon found that it's not enough just to yank out wires to go wireless. One needs a doodad called a wireless router. As I understand it, rather than being powered by the good people over at Baltimore Gas Electric (which must be their name now, since they insist on being called "BGE" rather than the sensible "BG & E"), these devices are self powered, and look like this (at right).

Well, just like the time that I thought a "psychopath" was a trail in the woods for the insane, I was wrong. A wireless router is much smaller than this, and requires no churning by the user. I found this out by calling the good people who provide me cable and internet service.  I called 'em and they said they'd send a wireless router right on over, and I was all set for installation, because I am fortunate enough to have a friend who knows how to set these things up who volunteered to help.

So I emailed him when the package was delivered by the good people over at UP & S.  I was so excited to live in this modern age when a little device that hardly weighed more than the box it came in could connect me to a world that showed me pictures of the entire Kardashian family! 

This is all that was in the box!
And then, curiosity getting the best of me, I decided to open the box to see up close this talisman of the electronic age.  And I found that they had sent me an empty box, reminiscent of earlier days in which box factories were set up to ship air from place to place.

I knew that today's doodads were light and also not heavy, but they are not invisible.  The lady on the phone over at the cable company, once she finished chortling over the image of me opening an empty box, expecting it to be packed with more than just air, said they would send a router for real, real soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday rerun: Relief pitcher

Peggy's childhood was the stuff of storybooks, the only problem being that these books were written by Charles Dickens. There are but few artifacts from her childhood - some beat-up old snapshots, one or two items around the kitchen. All the rest of her childhood things wound up in the hands of her brothers Pecksniff and Skimpole, her sister Miss Mowcher, and her mother, Mrs Micawber. (I told you it was Dickensian!)

Peggy lets things go, so she doesn't fuss about the past. But for many years, she has remembered a certain pitcher that the family used in their kitchen for iced tea and water. Peggy also does not obsess, so she has kept an eye out for a similar pitcher, but she never turned it into a lifequest, with the scouring of antique shops, eBay surfing and frenzy that consume so many lives. She just kept figuring that the pitcher would show up some day.

On Sunday (you know where this is going!) we went up the road to see our nephew and niece's new house under construction. Just slightly smaller than the Pentagon, it promises to be the sort of place in which happy family members gather to guzzle iced tea merrily. Then, we drove along to an antique store in BelAir. We like antiques and find they add a homey atmosphere, which is perfect for me, since I think that the Cracker Barrel stores and eateries that dot the nation's highways represent the pinnacle of hi-class decoration. So, we were only there for a few minutes, when along came Peggy back to where I was idly idling through some old LIFE magazines ("Country Doctor Heals Family, Horses; Takes Pay in Biscuits, Ham"). She found the pitcher!
Voilà! The untrammeled bliss in Peggy's eyes - priceless! I can't describe how happy it made me to see her so happy!

Now, to many, this was just luck. I say it's divine intervention for someone who gives so much to others all the time. Peggy takes care of me all the time, and even more when I am sick, and then she does a million things for the rest of the family, for our friends, for her work gang... I say, Somebody bigger than you and I put that pitcher in her path to say "Well's a little something for you."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Rerun: How can that be MY fault, Carmine?

"I made a mental note to go out and buy a Club© when I read in the local paper that car thieves were targeting Dodge Intrepids like mine in my neighborhood, but I didn't get around to it, and then two days later, my car was stolen."  Actual statement made on WBAL-TV news by a car theft victim who cannot say she was not amply warned. Emphasis mine. 

This all goes back to that sense of responsibility that we seem to lack. Next, she will point out that the police should have posted an officer 24-7 alongside her car until she "got around" to purchasing a Club©. Of course, had she gotten around to protecting herself against this crime, she would have been intrepid.

 I remember a call to 911 reporting a dwelling fire. The captain of Engine 6 told me later that the fire was caused by a man on one of those oxygen tanks, sitting in his living room, smoking a cigarette. The captain asked the man's daughter why she allowed her ill father to light smokes around oxygen. "It's his one pleasure," came the reply.

 Drive around on a rainy day, and see how many street drains are clogged with the unwanted detritus of everyday life: McDonald's bags, Red Bull cans, copies of the Baltimore Examiner. How many people do you see going out to the curb with a rake or even their hands, to clear the grate and open the drain?

 A Canadian woman, whose 9-year-old son tunneled under a fence into an electric sub-station and was badly burned, is suing a Manitoba power utility for negligence. (UPI). They should have made the foundation a mile deep, and of granite, you see. 

 In Texas, the Patterson Nissan dealership held a contest awarding prizes to the participants who could hold their hands on a car the longest. One contestant dropped out, ran to a nearby store where he broke a gun out of its case, and shot himself. The dealership has now settled the lawsuit by Richard Thomas Vega II’s widow claiming that the stress and sleep deprivation of the event amounted to “brainwashing” and that the sponsors failed to make allowances for temporary loss of sanity. (AP/ 

15-year-old honor student and SADD member Lindsey Billman snuck out of a slumber party with three of her friends and had an alcohol-fueled night with two 18-year-old boys. Around 2:45 a.m., two boys and two girls had the clever idea of stacking milk crates to reach an air-conditioning unit that allowed them to clamber onto the roof of Anna S. Kuhl Elementary School. The two couples went to separate sides of the roof. Billman and Nicholas Moscatiello then had the further clever idea of doing whatever they were doing while sitting on a skylight, which didn’t support their weight, and the 33-foot-fall onto the gymnasium floor below killed Billman.  This is, alleges an Orange County, New York, suit filed by Lindsey’s parents, the fault of the school district and the city of Port Jervis, New York. After all, the district was “irresponsible” stacking milk crates by the school. (UPI) 

 Back here in Baltimore, a few years ago a teenaged girl was systematically and routinely beaten by her mother's boyfriend, until she finally succumbed. People who had been working with the family testified that yes, they knew about the horrible abuse, had even documented it in their files, but did not see that it was their place to report it to the police.

  Calvin once talked about how the world had failed to empower him. Calvin is supposed to be a child. The rest of us are not.  Red Forman would know what to do.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I might write a book and call it "Breakfast at IHOP"

I believe there was an episode of "Leave It To Beaver" in which Beav and Gilbert fail to read a book as required by their teacher, preferring instead to watch a movie version of the book starring the Ritz Brothers.  Hilarity ensues when they base their book report on the movie version, and Beaver and Gilbert get bad grades, as they should have, for even thinking of watching a Ritz Bros. film.

I know it's late in the school year, but any high-schooler who turns in a book report of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," the 1958 novella by Truman Capote, after watching the 1961 movie starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard is going to feel like young Mr Cleaver upon getting a failing grade.

The movie should have got a failing grade as well. The original short novel features the delightful Holiday ("Holly") Golightly as what Capote called "an American geisha," who would wine and dine with well-to-do men of the upper strata of society, with an eye toward marrying one of them and landing in a sweet blueberry pie made of uppercrust.

In the movie, Holly is presented as a happy sort of diz-bang, more emphasis on the diz than the bang. The book takes care to point out that she suffered from something called the "mean reds," even worse than the blues.

Truman Capote packed a lot of living into his time on earth, which ended in August, 1984, a month before what would have been his 60th birthday.  He said he did not like the changes that the moviemakers made to "B at T," although there were no reports of him failing to cash the checks they sent him.   At the time the movie was made, it must be pointed out in his defense, he was busy in Kansas, researching the murders of a farm family of four for his 1966 book "In Cold Blood."  This was a first in American literature: a true story written as if it were a novel.  And, as is the case with the "Tiffany's" movie, the book - the masterful way he had of crafting sentences, paragraphs and pages - far exceeds the movie. The movie co-starred Robert Blake, an actor who played a guy who committed murder in the story.  Some years later, Blake stood trial for the actual murder of his wife.  He was acquitted on the murder charge but later found liable for his wife's death in a civil trial, as is the custom in California celebrity-murder sprees.

If you haven't experienced both the movie and the book versions of "Breakfast," I recommend you enjoy the movie first and then savor the book. In fact, you might want to read the book while playing the DVD of the movie, which would be a lot like having your dessert and your entrée on the same plate.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ina Drew a nice salary until last week

$2 billion loser
Up on Wall Street, where the smartest and the brightest play with your pension funds and are supposed to know what they are doing, a woman named Ina Drew made some foolish investments in European derivatives (which I always thought was a term to describe all those half-fast princes who drove race cars and married Zsa Zsa Gabor.)   Ina's boo-boo cost her firm $2 billion.
I need to meet Ina Drew.  I just have to wonder if she thought, that day in her office as she ker-chunked the numbers on her adding machine in the office, and when the printer printed out $2,000,000,000.00, did she say what new Oriole Bill Hall said on live TV on Saturday night when Adam Jones pasted him on the mug with a shaving cream pie? 

"Oh, Shiiiiiittttttttttttt..."

And then did she go down the hall to see the head cheese of JPMorgan Chase, this banker with a gangster name Jamie Dimon, and say, "Boss, I got some bad news for you..."

Then the boss, managing somehow to avoid spilling coffee on his $750 tie, realized that this meant he would have to go on "Meet The Press" and Face The Music.

I like what Mike Lupica wrote in the New York Daily News paper the other day:
 "You have to know Dimon is the guy always standing up and acting insulted at the notion of more regulation, even after what happened after all the dumb, freewheeling, Vegas years of Bush and Cheney. Dimon is the one always saying that the economic recovery in America has been slowed by too much regulation, and likes to go around calling any Democrat who talks about more federal regulation of banks like his as being "anti-business."
Jamie "Baby Face" Dimon
In 2008, this nation's economy almost went under and we were very close to another great Depression, and even so, every attempt that level-headed people have tried to make to rein in these people who seem to be quite far out of their heads as they gamble poorly with peoples' hard-earned savings and pension funds.  Dimon says  that such regulations are  "attacks ... on successful people" which is like John Dillinger saying that laws against bank robbery were restraints upon his trade.

Only in America can a firm lose $2,000,000,000.00 and call themselves successful.  He must be thinking of the old Bob Dylan line, "There's no success like failure, and failure's no success at all."

Are you still thinking that the Occupy Wall Street people are the worst people on earth?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Modern Family Medicine

All I know about acting is that I couldn't do it.  But I love to see people who can, doing it.

And I love this Modern Family show on ABC.  It's the one with the guy who used to be Al Bundy and his glorious wife Gloria, and the gay couple, and the family of five headed by a goofy Dad and the pride of Baltimore, the lovely Julie Bowen.

That family - the Dunphys - has three kids, the oldest of whom is Haley, who is just finishing high school on the show and is hopeful about going to college.  The young actress who plays her is Sarah Hyland, who is just as perfect in the role as she can be.  She has all the high school attitudes down perfectly, she's not exactly an angel, and she has her ups and downs with her siblings and parents.  Perfect!

But we just found out that life has not been perfect for Sarah Hyland.  She has been fighting kidney dysplasia since childhood, and last month, received a kidney donated by her father.

In a Tweet to her fans, Sarah said, “For those asking I’m doing great! I take it day by day :) of course there are some days that aren’t so good but you fight through.”

I also read that she never missed a day of work in the three seasons the show has been on.  Here in Baltimore, we read about some star throwing a tantrum because they brought him decaf instead of mocha java, and someone else going home sick every other day because they were sick of only earning $25,000 a week.  Ms Hyland, although weakened by the kidney problem, showed up every day, rested when she needed to and got through.  Now, at 21, she has a new kidney and a much better medical future.

She deserves our congratulations.  Her father, also an actor, is named Edward James Hyland.  He deserves our awe and love.  What a gift, from a man who clearly already gave his daughter the gift of professionalism!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Headed for Las Vegas; only made it out to Needles

How many times have you been in a store, needing to purchase just the right length of rubber tubing or the right size of ceramic tile, and you WISH you had a ruler handy?

Well, here's a guy who has a ruler, not handy, but forearm-y.

I have not yet succumbed to the lure of the tattooist's needle, but I am crazy about practical things like this, so I think I'll see how Peggy would feel about turning my right arm into a measuring device.

I'll let you know how that turns out.  If she won't go for the ruler, maybe she'll let me get this one on my back.  It's either Phil Silvers or the Dalai Lama, and either way, it says something.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Calling All Earthlings

Sometimes I like to pretend that I'm not from here, meaning earth.

So I'll take a turn looking at things as if I were ET <<(and not Ernest Tubb) and wondering about things that people on earth do.

Such as...they will spend untold fortunes on 92" television screens. That's 7 feet, six inches of video right on your wall, 5 inches taller than Shaquille O'Neal laid diagonally. (And he probably has been.) Twin speakers the size of Chevy Volts, with a sound system so loud that you expect to see that THX guy rolling out of your kitchen, sandwich in hand, ready to crank it up.

Then they sit down and watch their shows on their cell phones.

Some Americans give birth to babies and, from the moment that young Brattleboro emerges, they want to help the child establish his own identity in the world.  No slave of the mass culture, he! 

Then they mail away for a baby toupee for the kid to wear.

And how many times have you seen this?  Slim and trim, toned and zoned, they strut into Jittery Joe's Java Hut for a cuppa mocha java and a protein bar.  They're talking about their workout, their carb intake, their plan to reduce their BMI to HFA (hardly friggin' anything!) 

Then they take their coffee and their snack outside to have with their cigarette.

And of course, you'll see earthlings NOT calling 911 when someone is having a coronary occlusion or a baby, saying that it's better to put the patient in the Explorer and drive on over to the medical center.

And then a week later they'll call 911 to ask if the medic crew outside saving their neighbor's life could be a little quieter as they perform CPR.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday rerun: Shun Gun

I've been thinking about the practice of "shunning," practiced by the Amish in Lancaster County PA, where we recently spent some happy days.

Young Amish males reach a point where they can choose to go on a "rumspringa" (literally, 'running around,' in German) and try out the world beyond their family and faith. If they like it out here with the car payments and the electric bills and the dumb stuff on the radio and dining on Lunchables, then cool, they can stay away, no questions asked.

About 90% of them come back from their rumspringa with plenty of the world and ready to go back to the Old Order. The other 10 per cent, we assume, become commodities traders in Chicago and soon are indistinguishable from Charlie Sheen.

However - (there is always a hitch!) - if you come back and sign up for the faith, and then you decide you don't like it, well, son, you better just pack up your valise and hit the road, because the only thing awaiting you in your town is a big old shunning.

That's right. No one will talk to you, everyone leaves you alone, you're treated like an outcast, an untouchable, a pariah, a castaway. Sort of like being voted off American Idol.

But then I was fondly remembering George Carlin, who had a novel approach to the nation's gun problem. Reasoning that "never'' would be when we could ever get some sort of gun control legislation passed, Carlin said "Ok, let them keep their guns. Just make BULLETS illegal! And when they run out of bullets, they can just throw their guns at each other all day long."

Why don't we try shunning? As in, the sensible people (readers of this blog, NPR listeners, granola consumers), could just all say they were going to ignore the buffoons, the blowhards, the criminals. Let's stop spending money with people who use their ill-gotten gains for foul purposes. Let's make child molesters and sexual predators feel really unwelcome. Let's refuse to be washed away on a wave of evil, and let's build a waterwall of goodness to keep the badness at bay.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday rerun: 'Sic' Semper Tyrannis

Last night, an odd thing occurred. There was a good show on PBS and no one asked for money! It was about the Lincoln Assassination, and John Wilkes Booth's bumbling escape plan. Any time you plan to commit such a heinous crime, don't let an actor be part of your getaway scheme. They rarely do well without outside direction.
But that's not what I'm yammering about today, and I only made the horrible pun in the title (Booth, a showman to the end, hollered "Sic semper tyrannis" (Thus ever to tyrants) after shooting Lincoln and jumping to the stage of Ford's Theater, breaking his leg in what must have been the most awkward stage entrance ever until the day Frank Sinatra brought Dean Martin onto the Jerry Lewis telethon) because when one is SICK, there is never anything good on television.

Why, when we were young, we loved snow days and sick days because in that horrible pre-VCR world, we got to see what the housebound enjoyed every day: Art Linkletter's "House Party," Mike Douglas, and Password, starring Allen Ludden
("The password is 'naptime'...... 'To Nipsey Brett Somers Klugman....and to you at home...' ").

No more, although if you can hang on 'til three o'clock, Ellen DeGeneres puts on a pretty good show, and then comes Oprah with her collection of doctors.

And fans of jurisprudence - let's hear it for the judges and defense attorneys who work so hard to keep our criminals out of jail and on the streets!  For crying out loud, there's Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Mills Lane, The People's Court, Judge Mathis, Divorce Court, Judge Hatchett,and Texas Justice. Now we know why so many crimes are being committed! All the judges in the nation are busy appearing on syndicated television shows, and have precious little time to bang down the gavel on the murdering thieving fingers of a repeat felon in downtown Baltimore when there are momentous cases involving someone's ex-girlfriend and the $753 bill for the fender she banged up on the Sonata, pulling out of that strip club parking lot the other night.
Hizzoner Larry Joe Doherty

And to the makers of Texas Justice: the show where people from deep in the heart of come on to settle their feudin' and rustlin' and divinin' rod issues: why are all these people wearing cowboy hats indoors? The coach of the Houston Oilers, Mr Bum "Bum" Phillips, refused to wear his 20-gallon Stetson inside the Astrodome! And these Cletuses (Cletii?) are standing around jawjacking in a court of law wearing hats.

There ought to be a judge show in which judges judge judges. And their wardrobes.

Friday, May 11, 2012

He went Piscataway

I bow to no one in my love for New Jersey.  Actually, I make it a habit to avoid bowing at any time.  I spent an entire calendar year having my spine repaired, so it's best that I remain vertical as much as possible.

But this boy loves New Jersey - its beaches, its food, its people, its varied cultures, with the exception of the beachy Snookistas and that bunch.  We love vacationing in Cape May every summer.

I don't believe that we've ever been to Piscataway, a town where, one week ago tonight, a Little League umpire opened a can of whoopass on a Little League coach.  The umpire's name is...well, let's have tell you the story...

Dave Delnegro III literally took his umpiring job into his own hands while calling balls and strikes at a Little League game between 8- and 11-year-olds on Friday night.

According to Piscataway police and Piscataway Little League President Frank Uhrin, the 21-year-old Delnegro punched Joe Bellamy in the face several times after a brief exchange during the second inning of the game between the minor-league Astros and Mets, played before approximately 50 fans.

Bellamy, 40, who coaches the Astros, did not strike back, citing the code of conduct. Police responded to the Little League complex on Sidney Road at approximately 8:50 p.m. and, after a brief investigation, issued a Simple Assault at a Youth Sporting Event summons to Delnegro. No Municipal Court date has been set. Delnegro is claiming self-defense.

“The first thing was to not get physical with him because of the kids’ sake,” Bellamy said. “At no time did I even think about hitting him back. I didn’t want to make it worse.”

Uhrin, who was at the complex but did not witness the altercation, said that Delnegro was “rushing the two teams to get on the field to start the game because the first game ended a little late.

“Joe (Bellamy) didn’t mind,” Uhrin said. “He understood.”

However, when Delnegro called a pitch that bounced in front of the catcher a strike, Bellamy went on the field to discuss it.

“Joe said to him (Delnegro), ‘You’re cheating the kids. Before he knew it, the umpire punched him four times. His face was full of blood and I asked what happened? He said, ‘The umpire punched me.
“I’ve seen bumping between guys, but never anything like this.”

The umpire has a different version of the altercation.
Delnegro, through his attorney, Jordan Rikards, issued the following written statement: “Mr. Delnegro was initially reluctant to umpire in Piscataway, having been previously warned about the unusually volatile nature of certain coaches and fans in that township.
“In fact, Mr. Delnegro’s father is also a little league umpire, and was greatly concerned for his son’s safety and well-being in Piscataway. Their concerns proved to be well-founded."

The attorney - you'll be shocked at this - says that Bellamy  advanced upon Mr. Delnegro in a loud, aggressive and threatening manner, and actually made physical contact with Mr. Delnegro, such that Mr. Delnegro feared for his safety.“Accordingly, Mr. Delnegro intends to assert self-defense should the meritless charge against him be maintained.”

So, if you're scoring at home, the game got going late, and so the ump chose to speed things up by calling balls that bounced in front of the plate "strikes."  The coach gets steamed and goes to give the ump hell, during which period of hellgiving he MAY or MAY NOT have made physical contact with the arbiter.  There seems no dispute over Bellamy's claims that Delnegro III clocked him a good one.  

So often we hear the question, what's the matter with kids todayAnd now, Piscatawagians have the answer. 

They are going to grow up and act like the adults they see at the ballfield.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Burning the scandal at both ends

You know how people are always saying they'd give their right arm to be famous, rich and popular?

Well, say good morning to Rihanna, the noted mononymous, famous, rich and popular singer.  This >> is her left arm, hooked to an IV drip in a New York hospital. 

She showed up at the hospital on Monday night, complaining of exhaustion and dehydration.

This being the modern era, her fans had become worried when she didn't send 127 tweets on Monday, so they tweeted her, causing her to send the picture above.

What was really cool is that she appended no words to the phototweet.  So remember, next time someone calls, emails, texts or tweets to ask you whatcha doin', just send a picture of what (or whom) you're doin' at that very moment.

Anyway, the life of entertaining people is rigorous, and from all accounts, Rihanna is entertaining people at clubs all around the world...sometimes as a featured performer, and then sometimes as a partying member of the audience.  Her friends say she is burning the candle at both ends, and of course they say they are worried about her.

Robin Rihanna Fenty was born in February, 1988, making her 24 years of age.  If she is insufficiently self-aware, perhaps one of the many people who are making fortunes off her talent will take her aside and bring her to me.  I will do a cursory examination and then tell her the following deep secrets known only to a privileged few:

For exhaustion, get some rest.
To ward off dehydration, drink some water.
To treat simultaneous exhaustion and dehydration, drink the water first, and then get the rest.

Visits to emergency rooms should not be regarded as suitable substitutes for basic personal health care.

That's my medical advice, Rihanna.

That'll be $10,000, please.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Say it; don't spray it

Here is a picture I found online.  I don't know where this wall is, or who sloppily stenciled their philosophy onto it.
The philosophy, I might add, is not the original thought of the person with the stencil and the can of spray-on Krylon.  These words - "I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery" were the words of Thomas Jefferson, who quoted from the Latin " Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem."

And I couldn't agree more.  It's a worthy philosophy, striking the note of being willing to fight for freedom rather than acquiescing to a slave-master.

The old church in 1902
But I'll tell you about something else I really like, and that is old brick walls.  You go to Williamsburg, VA, and see the bricks on the Bruton Parish Church, right in the middle of the restored area, and you realize those bricks were in place when Geo. Washington, Patrick Henry and many others instrumental in founding this nation walked into the church for worship services.

I don't need to see some slogan spray painted on those walls. And somehow I have a feeling that the owner of the wall we see above is not the person who wielded the can of spray lacquer.

I feel this way, and you might disagree, but graffiti vandalism is morally and esthetically wrong.  If you have a burning desire to spray your thoughts (or Jefferson's) onto a brick wall, you ought to be the owner of the brick wall.

Otherwise, we can only wonder what TJ would have thought of this kind of defacement. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Even Freud had a fake id

Everything gets so complicated!

Back in the day, one could get a fake driver's license just by using a razor blade and a little cut-and-paste action.  I never did this, of course, as I had no interest in drinking beer and/or Boone's Farm Apple Wine until I was well past 21, but some misguided youths whom I knew and rode around in cars with fell prey to demon Rum.

All right, all right, so I had a fake ID, but it was just so I could vote!

"Barbara Pierce," pictured here, is actually Barbara Pierce Bush, hard-drinking daughter of our wonderful 43rd president, former hard drinker George Wonderful Bush. She was caught with this fake ID in a New Haven, CT saloon during her father's ill-advised presidency.  A sharp-eyed security guard realized that there is no 160 Madison Ave in the tony 21210 zip code, that section of Baltimore where Roland Park, Mt. Washington, and Johns Hopkins University pick up their mail.  Ms Bush was a serial violator of the underage drinking laws in several states, and now look at the disgrace into which she has plunged her entire family! Her father is without work, her mother wrote a poorly-received autobiography, and her twin sister Jenna was forced to take a menial position on the Today show just to keep ahead of the taxman.

I certainly don't endorse chicanery, and I recommend that everyone with a penchant for overindulgence follow a wholly abstemious life path, but there's a better reason for that now for the under-21 crowd.

According to this article in the Albany Times-Union, some teens in upstate New York bought bogus beer-getters online from a Chinese company for 75 bucks each.  The people overseas at ID Chief farmed their work out to England, where the cards were made, but the main harvest they were after was a rich crop of personal information.  You see, along with the 75 semolians, these kids were supplying their names, birth dates, pictures and signatures, and this mistake will cause lifelong repercussions.

As it says in the article, "As these kids get older and try to get jobs, try to be stockbrokers, or get a mortgage, or credit cards, they will find in 90 percent of the cases that they have thousands in credit card debt, that they will have several mortgages they have yet to pay, holds on their licenses to states they've never been to, Interpol holds, because they gave their information to a foreign Web-based company," Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said. "All just to get a beer..."

It's funny.  We purchase shredders and grind our mail to confetti, we refuse to reveal any part of our Social Security numbers to anyone, we zealously guard our data lest it come back to haunt us in identity-theft schemes, and yet teens will gladly hand it over and pay for the privilege of assuming a mountain of debt.
Everything is just so complicated anymore!

Monday, May 7, 2012

NASA's gone funky

Stop me if you've heard this story before.  It's true, and it says a lot about predictions.

Gaylord Perry was a major league baseball pitcher from 1962 - 1983.  When I say "major league," I mean it, because he pitched for just about every team in the major leagues.

His strong points as a pitcher were two: throwing spitballs, and making batters believe he was throwing spitters.  You know that putting a foreign substance on the ball - saliva, Vaseline, WD40, mayonnaise, tofu - is totally against the rules of baseball.  Wetting the ball makes the pitcher able to throw an elusive dipping pitch.  Making the batter think that an elusive pitch is coming his way is effective too - and drier!

Gaylord Perry
Gaylord won 314 games in the big leagues and was voted #97 in the Sporting News list of the 100 greatest baseball players.  This was not for his batting prowess.  In fact, his manager for the San Francisco Giants, Alvin Dark, said in 1964 that the US would put a man on the moon before Gaylord Perry hit a home run.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon one warm Sunday afternoon.  An hour after Apollo 11 got to the moon and found a parking spot, Gaylord Perry hit the first of his six career home runs. While Neil and Buzz flipped packages of Tang to see who would hop out first, Perry ran around the bases on earth while the astronauts were on the moon.

And I read about it in the SUN!