Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday rerun: On the phone

Well, wasn't everyone all worked up the other day when they glanced at the calendar and saw that the date was 8/9/10?  Haven't seen that much calendar-based excitement since 7/8/09!

But, I got to thinking about something else when I was watching a King of Queens rerun, one of 14 episodes in which Carrie refuses any more of Doug's amorous advances unless he starts doing something or stops doing something; I can't remember which.  I loved that show the most when Arthur, the wacky father of Carrie, would emerge from the basement where he had just had his four-hour nap, and get into one of his loony adventures.  I plan to be a lot like him someday.

On one of the outside scenes in the show, there was a sign for a store where they sold phone cards.  Remember all that?  Around 1990, suddenly everyone in this nation was consumed with an urge to call friends and kin in far-flung outposts, and so we turned to phone cards.  Phone cards were the size of credit cards, and had imprinted on them a simple 127-digit code number.  When you got the urge to call your buddy Pat McButoks in North Dakota, you went to a pay phone, picked up the handset that contained no fewer than 127 bacteria, flu germs and cold-causing contaminants, entered that code number, and then heard a beeping tone telling you that you had entered an invalid code.

You didn't get to make your call, but you did catch a case of whooping cough.

Pay phones?  Remember them?  Now you walk through hotel lobbies, mall food courts and detention center waiting areas and see nothing but phone jacks, still on the wall, but without anything plugged into them.  Go to court or some other gathering, and when someone comes out and reminds everyone to make sure their cells are on vibrate, every man, woman and child reaches for the Samsung and kills the noise.  Except for one dozing individual, who is shortly to become the center of barely-suppressed tittering when his phone rings and his ringtone is that "I Like Big Butts And I Will Not Lie" song.  But later, no one needs a pay phone except for that guy (the bailiff confiscated his) to call their friends and tell about what happened in court.   

Eva Savealot
And the 8/9/10 part reminded me of those deals where you called 1-800-10-10-10-10 or something and got long distance at really cheap rates.  What happened to all the people - Alyssa Milano among them - who worked for these companies?  Now that all cells have free long distance and you can call your friends Bill Loney or Ty Malone, what are we doing with the money we used to spend on long distance calls?

Because, I got to tell you, everyone is on the phone with someone all the time.  Grocery shopping, driving, walking along, those Blueteeth are biting into important conversations. Now, the woman in front of me in line at the Buy 'N' Pay the other day was apparently tired of the conversation she was having.

The only thing she kept saying was "Shut up!"  "Shut UP!"  "SHUT! UP!"  But still her friend went on talking.  I headed home for my four-hour nap.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Hey, for 20 bucks you can buy the name of this blog

Time was, a town built a ballpark or a civic arena for playing baseball, football, hockey, what have you, or for hosting concerts and political rallies.

The towns gave these gathering places names such as Memorial Stadium, War Memorial Stadium, Veterans' Arena and the Civic Center.

Along came the Money Men with their crisply-ironed shirts and their crisp ideas.  "We can make money by selling the naming rights to this place!" they said, as a roomful of other Money Men swooned.  "Who wants to put their corporate sponsorship on the ballpark?" they asked, as other Money Men broke their necks pulling out their checkbooks.

And so it has come to this.  Baltimore's Ravens in the National Football League play at the enchantingly-named M&T Bank Stadium.  It used to be called PSI Net Stadium, but that went away in the bust.  If you'll recall, was some sort of competition to CBS in some way, so when the football announcers were here, they were forced to say "Live, from beautiful Ravens Stadium, down by Baltimore's shimmering Inner Harbor - three weeks without a tourist being beaten senseless - it's the NFL on CBS!"

Even radio stations, which would sell commercials during their Emergency Alert System tests if they could, have gotten in on this.  Notice how your local station says "That's your 14-second news roundup from the  Socks, Socks and more Socks newsroom. Now, live from the O'Hoolahan Honda studios, here's more of what passes for country music today with Hugh Jerection!"

Her Majesty graciously appears in public
The ultimate ignominy is that I see that my Britney Spears, having graced the judging panel of The X Factor, was forced to evaluate the talents of aspiring singers, dancers and chainsaw jugglers at a venue known as the Dunkin' Donuts Center in scenic Providence, Rhode Island.  Reports are that every contestant passed with flying crullers.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Now, he's the one up the creek

Say hello to Michael Hamilton, who lives in Baltimore County and is 61 years of age, and during those 61 years has apparently failed to learn that we don't get to shoot at people just because they float past us on kayaks.

According to the Baltimore Sun, old Mike doesn't much cotton to people careering down the mighty muddy Gunpowder River, especially the part of the river that fronts his property.  He's just had it up to here ^ with this ersatz flotilla of people on their rafts, floats, rowboats, inner tubes and kayaks going past his house.  So he hollers at them, and, according to seven of them who claim to have been shot at, he shot at seven people.

His side of it is that these folks litter and toss beer cans in the busches and rolling rocks down by the river, but wiser National Bohemians know better than to shoot at people with a Colt .45 just because they give you some schlitz.  Of coors, I thought this sort of behavior was all in the pabst, but we can talk about that lager.

The police came up and explained to Mike that he does not own the river, and floated the idea past him that he should refrain from such behavior until his trial on charges of first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment.

And probably after the trial, it would be a good idea to put the guns away, too.

Gun control opponents will now take to our forum here and explain why people like Mr Hamilton need to be armed so they can ALLEGEDLY shoot at people willy nilly.  Have at it, friends: fire when ready!

Oooops. I did it again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Evening it up

It's a crazy day to have kinfolk out in Colorado, near the huge wildfires going on out there, and family in Florida, which has been getting slammed with one-foot-per-day rainfalls of late.

How great would it be to be able to lift the country up with some sort of giant crane -they might use the one that's in service carrying resort clothing for TV's entire Kardashian family - and slosh some of this rainwater out west, where it could douse those hundred-square-mile flames.

Remember the story of the Seven Chinese Brothers, men with extraordinary physical gifts (legs that could stretch to the sky, iron bones, and so forth)? One of those men could drink an entire ocean, a skill later envied by Charles Sheen of Los Angeles.  If only we could have that man in the story drink up the seas of rainwater, travel to the western US and open up the old sluice out!

There is evidence that something similar happened last winter in Baltimore.  We got snow on Halloween, which frosted many a pumpkin, and then no more at all, all winter long.  Maybe those brothers found a way to lasso Miami weather and install it over Baltimore. 

Or not.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Feline, Ursine, Summertime

Am I the only one who notices that as summer rears its hot head and sensible people head inside, to get out of the sun, the sensibilities of the nation, if there are any, are being taken over by cats and bears?

If you're on Facebook, you see the veritable plethora of cat photos all day long.  You won't hear me complaining about that! I love cats.  If there is anything cuter than a little tabby cat prancing around like the King or Queen of Sh'Boom, I don't know what it would be.  Cat photos!  All day!  Cats being cute.  Cats outwitting dogs (always an easy matter.) Cats riding surfboards, cats hanging around seafood restaurants, cats looking haughty.  Cats dressed as doctors, cats napping, cats serving as governor of Arizona. 

And then, if you get off Facebook for a minute to watch the news, even the nightly network newscasts are featuring video of bears running around.  These videos would normally be the exclusive province of the chatty morning shows, but now that everyone carries video equipment in their pocket, there is more video of bears to be shared than can fit into a two-hour morning show, since they have to make room for Tyler Perry, Katy Perry, Steve Perry and periwinkle shoes.

It's bear mania all across the US of A! Bears eating campers' lunches!  Bears swimming in peoples' pools! Bears chasing each other around, bears disrupting graduation exercises outside in early June, bears sticking their snouts into cars at Jellystone Park and asking for chow.  Last night the news showed a baby bear locked in a garage, climbing all over the rail for the door opener, and the bear's mom opening the bay door with one swipe of her paw, and coming to the cub's rescue.

And of course, now that bears are almost as domesticated as dogs, you will see them sitting at the picnic table, waiting for the burgers 'n' franks to come off the grill.  You can ask this one, but I don't think he will take his elbows off the table.

Wouldn't it be funny as all-get-out if these weren't really bears, but wacky Tea Party stalwarts playing another practical joke on a nation starved for humor? I mean, they're not getting much attention walking around waving misspelled protest signs and pistols, so why not dress up like a bear and be seen on Good Morning, America?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Change of address

This is the last thing I should be writing about on a Monday, but it's on my mind, so here goes, and I promise something funnier for tomorrow.  How about a picture of Willard Romney in his fake State Police outfit?

Three years ago this month, I lost two old friends quite suddenly.  Barbara was a high school classmate and was killed in a head-on wreck up in northern Baltimore County.  Don was a broadcasting school classmate who was taken away by a sudden, massive, heart attack.

These deaths were hard to deal with, but I said my goodbyes to Barbara at the funeral parlor.  I couldn't get to New Jersey for Don's homegoing, but I said my goodbye in my own way.

Three years now, and I still can't remove their names from my email address book.  I just can't.  And, fool that I am, I thought with the new pc on which I am typing to you right now, everything would be updated, like I expected a computer to carry over all the names and email addresses of people who were still with us, and leave Barbara and Don off. 

The computer brought them over and, if they are going to come off the list, I am going to have to delete them myself.  And that's more than I care to do right now.

Anyone feeling me on this?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday rerun: Tuxedo dysfunction

From the wires of the Associated Press:
LEBANON, Ind. (AP) - A Lebanon High School senior is suing the school after her principal said she couldn't wear a tuxedo to the school's prom.
Court filings say the 17-year-old girl, whose name is not revealed in the lawsuit, is a lesbian and doesn't wear dresses because they represent a sexual identity she rejects.
The lawsuit filed yesterday says that the principal told the girl a special dress code for prom requires female students to wear a formal dress.
The lawsuit filed on the girl's behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana says that the dress code discriminates based on gender and that because the school receives federal funds, the policy violates federal law.
Lebanon Community school district attorney Kent Frandsen says the school will follow the ruling of the court.

You know what’s funny about this? Besides nothing? I was just thinking about Paul Harvey and then I stumbled across this story and all I could think of is how old Paul would have told that tale…some comment about how people just want to change everything, things ought to stay the way they are, what was good enough for Gramps and Grammy oughta be good enough for today, blah blah blah.
You can take that to another level. What if we just kept all the old policies in place? Let’s do a system reset on American History to, let’s say, 1856. People still literally own other people, people are still ill-fed, ill-clothed and ill-housed, women can’t vote, there are no planes or automobiles…wouldn’t want to go back that far?
All righteeo. 1956. You can’t own slaves, but you can keep people out of public accommodations based on their race, and woe betide you if you fall in love in the wrong way. A woman pregnant and unmarried was just about cast out of the village, forced to move out of town while the family claimed she was under treatment for her asthma or something – or, the ill-prepared young couple was hustled up to the Justice of the Peace, prodded along with a Remington 30.06, right into the vows of matrimony at a time when the most appropriate vow for most of them would have been the Boy Scout Oath or something similar. “Jest as long as that child has a last name, by cracky!” And of course, sometimes it didn’t work out, did it? Isn’t that right, Bristol and Levi?
The old “your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins” doctrine is in full effect here. If this young woman chooses to wear a tuxedo or a flour sack or a knight’s chainmail or a letter carrier’s uniform, tell me how that affects you. I just wish that we could learn to let people do what they think is best for them. If they step off a curb, not seeing an oncoming vehicle, yes, by all means, run out there and push them to safety. But if they step off a curb and you don’t happen to like what they’re wearing, keep it to yourself. MYOGDB.
Mr Shakespeare, you wished to say…?
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
So maybe it would be better to keep our impediments 
to ourselves! Unless you can
provide proof that the wearing of a tuxedo
by an unnamed young woman out in
the heartland will damage our lives here. OK thanks!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday rerun: I had them at the busts of Elvis

I'm off Monday and Tuesday of this week, and that means the garage is in for a thorough cleaning and sweeping. A great deal of the Elvis memorabilia that lent such a festive, yet workplacelike, atmosphere to my old office at my former job looked perfect there but will not fit in at all in my new place. So it's been in the garage and there, most of it will be hung or displayed in some form. If you drive by the house Monday or Tuesday, pull up the driveway and who knows, you might drive home with an Elvis guitar clock or a reproduction of his first paycheck ($23.51) from Crown Electric. I'm making deals like crazy on this stuff.

We once had a boss at my old, old job who saw that
the collection of busts, posters, photos and other mementos relating to the King was good for morale, enabling employees to talk to each other, even if only to label one of the priceless artifacts as gauche. Shrewdly sizing up the situation, he ordered that it all be removed one day in a peevish fit. Smooth. He really had the team behind him then! First tip I offer to someone who wants to supervise - if there is something the employees have that hurts no one, offends no one, and contributes to morale, leave it the heck alone! Of course, this was a man who once told a certain team leader not to leave her post - and then went around to a side entrance and called her on the intercom, telling to come to that door, so he could holler at her for leaving her post! Capt Queeg, Jr!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sorry, I have a haddock

Every year at about this time, the Baltimore region comes under attack from natural sources. Sometimes they call it a "Bermuda high "and sometimes they say that it's an "occluded front,"but most of the time they call it "another hot day in Baltimore."

You will meet the occasional citizen who says they like this weather. Under further questioning, they usually reveal that they were raised in the cotton fields of Alabama, near a Bessemer Furnace in that same state, or along the swampy bayous  of Louisiana. If that's your background, the chances are that the merciless sun beating down on a helpless populace, accompanied by temperatures of around 99°, and humidity readings beyond all previous measure are not a problem.

For the rest of us, that sort of climate is too much to enjoy, so we sit inside and watch the news, hoping that the air conditioner and the cable will continue to function. 
How else could we see the annual, time-honored news stories showing roofers spreading tar atop buildings, polar bears swimming amid giant cakes of ice and frozen haddock, and eggs sizzling on sidewalks?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Life in 30-minute chunks

I love America and its people, some of whom work nobly in the most honorable vineyard of the creation and production of situation comedies.  There's the one on ABC Family called "Melissa and Joey" which displays the everyday merry mix-ups of four people, one of whom is a city councilperson raising her teenaged niece and nephew (after their parents are incarcerated) with help from a manny who used to be a bigwig financier but was ruined by his involvement in a Ponzi scheme.

I know, I know, you're thinking, everybody knows a family like that. It's like the Kardashians, only with proper foundation garments.  Councilwoman Mel Burke is portayed by Melissa Joan Hart, late of "Clarissa Explains It All" and "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" and her factotum Joey Longo is Joey Lawrence, still known for hollering "Whoa!" all the time on "Blossom." As exemplified by Tony Danza, who always plays characters named "Tony," this trend of actors playing same-name roles dates back to the early 1960's, when present-day game show host Mitt Romney essayed the title role in "Meet Mister Mittens," a short-lived  ABC series about a teenaged venture capitalist who gained ownership of the one factory that sustained a small Vermont town, and the hilarity that ensued when he shuttered the business, plunging the town into a Stygian gloom.

One of my earliest memories is watching the grainy black-and-white image of William Bendix, bumbling through "The Life Of Riley" on my parents' tiny DuMont TV in a living room in a house in the city where today, people enjoy "Melissa and Joey" on an 84" plasma screen. Circle of sitcom life, is what that is.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Your huddled masses

The new pc is supposed to be here today, so I will hang around the first floor of the house today, for fear of missing the FedEx guy over the roar of the vacuum cleaner or something . Then, the excellent Computer Handyman of Md will be here to hook it all back up and the house will seem normal again.  Well, you know what I mean.

I've accompanied a friend to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Admin. offices up in BelAir, and this has been about the most time I've been in the MVA in about ever. I tell you, you could write a book just from what you see up there. There were a couple of dozen nervous teenagers studying the driver's handbook for the 432rd time while waiting for their number to be called. And no matter what teenaged socioeconomic group the kid came from: be he or she a preppie, a dweeb, a stoner (there was a dead ringer for Jeff Spicoli, even down to the Vans on his feet and the potsmoke miasma faintly hanging around him) a young biker or a New American, they were all jumpy as a cat in a room filled with rocking chairs.

My buddy Danny had a long wait one time at the MVA and there was One Of THEM in the throng...Joe Sixpack complaining about the wait, grumbling about the inefficiency of the State employees, carping about how He should not have to wait along with the little people . In Maryland, you take a slip with a letter and a number and wait for that to be called.  When you're called, you hear your alpha/# called, and it flashes above on a screen.

Danny took a picture of the querulous one as he lumbered away.  It showed his number very well:   A55.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Their loyalty is flagging

I was pleased that Baltimore was the center of national attention this weekend past as the War of 1812 was commemorated with a Sailabration. Tall ships sailed into the harbor, the Blue Angels flew overhead, and people flocked to see it all unfold. I guess that the enormousness of the crowd was daunting even to the crooks, because the celebratory weekend passed without major incident.

My memories of the weekend will all come from what we saw on television; I haven't been downtown since Nixon was in the third grade, or so it seems. I have a gigantic aversion to gigantic crowds, and so I hold with the teaching of Yogi Berra, who said, "That place is too crowded; no one goes there anymore."

In such a myriad of splendid images, there's bound to be one disturbing one, and for me it was the sight of a happy young family camped out in a shady knoll, using the American flag as a blanket upon which to place their cooler and their glutei maximi. A quick glance at the flag code shows that the flag is not supposed to touch the ground, let alone be sat upon by a family of four.

I didn't get the feeling that the family shown on the TV were trying to make some sort of political point as Abbie Hoffman did when he wore a shirt made of US stars and stripes on the Merv Griffin show in 1970. Chances are better that they consider themselves good and patriotic Americans and would be aghast at the thought of someone desecrating the flag.

You've got to love the irony there.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jerry mandering

As the Jerry Sandusky trial has been getting underway, I find myself reviewing all the news stories we've seen about this person, and it's all scuzzy. All this interest in young men, taking them to football practice, football games, going here and there with them, showering with them, and ascribing  all of this abberant behavior to being part of the      " normal jock culture."...

Listen, I think this guy is as sick as last week's rotisserie chicken carcass out in the trash And, I'll tell you why I feel that way. I look at his face and I truly think he believes he's doing the right thing, and has nothing to be ashamed of. I think he feels that buggering boys in the shower is normal behavior .

And I'm afraid that the jury just might side with him and excuse him because he coached at Penn State. After all, the school covered for him for a long time.

Please, jury, allay my fears and send this horror show to the hoosegow forever!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday rerun: Defending the Indefensible

On Saturday, while Peggy was shopping at Greetings and Readings, I perched myself on a chair in their cafe area and leafed through the latest Esquire magazine. I was interested in a article entitled "Why Men Cheat," because I don't do that, and I always love to see the crazy justifications that guys come up with. Whoever wrote this article stayed anonymous, and with logic such as he demonstrates, perhaps that's best.

First thing he says is, he cheats because it helps him remember. " Infidelity makes me remember things." Try to follow his logic there, and you can't. He says that the little details of his life just melt away when he glimpses the naked spine of his latest conquest in some motel room. So, dude, you just said it helped you remember stuff, and now you get all worked up over her spine and forget stuff.

Spine. Got to say this, I have heard men discuss women all my life, and this is the first time I have heard anyone ever say, "I'm a spine man!" Or maybe it's because you envy in her what you lack in yourself... a little spine, and a little rigidity in your bearing.

Then he goes on with the usual bushwah about how he cheats, not because he can, but because he must - it's in his blood, you see. And also, he really really really loves women. Well so do I, but no so much that I have to take them to motels and have a midafternoon shag-a-rama.

He also says that cheating is fun, that it's often justified because the wife is not all she seemed to be before they got married (and he is, right?) and also he gallantly points out that he has gotten horizontal with unattractive overweight women. So that's it - he is performing a public service, and should get some sort of award at next year's Community Service banquet.

Mr Anonymous and all of you who find comfort in your poorly-reasoned defense of what you do: for your inflammation, I would like you to think of a married state in which each mate just can't wait to share every morsel of life with the other. I know I am lucky to have the greatest wife on this earth to come home to every night. The best thing that I can do, is to make sure that everything I do every afternoon is something that wouldn't make her cry, should she find about it. Try living your life for someone else for a change, Anonymous, and put your little toy away for a while, be my advice.

But then, Esquire wouldn't sell too many magazines with advice such as mine.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday rerun: Jersey, Sure

The breaking news in the world of "entertainment" last night was that Snooki got arrested.

I guess it's the old story, so often told in America.  A short, zaftig 22-year old party girl lands a spot on a ''reality" show on MTV that purports to depict life at the Jersey
Shore, becomes famous for being famous, and then winds up charged for drunk and disorderly conduct in Seaside Heights NJ.

I guess there is some appeal to the woman, although it's lost on me.  Plenty of people seem to like her and the rest of the people on her show - J-Wowwwwwww and Angelina "Jolie" Pivarnick (who got thrown out of the beach house wherein dwell these citizens because she did not work her shift at the t-shirt shop), Michael Sorrentino, a man who refers to himself as "The Situation"  - really, Paul "DJ Pauly D" DelVecchio, Sammy "Sweetheart" Giancola, who calls herself "the sweetest bitch you'll ever meet," and new guy Vinny Guadagnino, a college graduate who plans to go to law school "if acting (sic) doesn't work out."

Heavenly Father, I humbly beseech thee, please let acting work out for Vinny Guadagnino.

Notice that all the shows on Broadway are revivals, which is the show biz term for re-doing old stuff because no one is writing new stuff.  Movies, tv shows, nothing is new.  Reality shows show nothing like the reality that any of us enjoy.  And as bad as things get, even as oil ruins the Gulf and political incompatibility leads to fractiousness from coast to coast, as the war rages on and the rage is almost worn out, at least we still have Snooki around whom to rally, right?

Meanwhile, The Public Figure Formerly Known As Nicole Polizzi, or Snooki, to you viewers, is in police custody as of late last night for looking like this in public:

Justice, don't be slow. Her 15 minutes have to be up by now, right?

Friday, June 15, 2012

our local wrongdoers

The power supply unit on what just became our "old" computer french-fried itself the other morning and so now I will be doing the blog on my tablet for a while, until the good people at Dell get my new pc made and shipped to me. We started to smell something a little funky in the computer room the other day, and for once, it wasn't my socks. 'Twas the computer, which gasped and wheezed to a final halt on Wednesday . Since typing anything longer than a joke about what an unbearable prig Mitt Romney is takes forever on the Xoom, the blog will be shorter for a while.  (Pause for joyous crowd reaction).

But i want to say that I read in our local Patch that a guy from our town had been fired from his job at a restaurant for showing up in what his boss considered an  intoxicated state. According to charging documents, the man came back to the restaurant an hour later, pouring a flammable liquid about, and starting a small fire, "according to multiple eyewitnesses." This took place at a restaurant called  Tark's in Greenspring Station, where I have never eaten and probably never shall. But the whole thing seems to be a misunderstanding. The chagrined former employee thought that's what they meant when people said fight "fired" with fire.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's On Your Mind?

You'll be Facebookin' and you see a status that doesn't really tell you all you want to know...such as..

  • I don't know how much longer he's going to be around
  • Thanks for your concern - it really helps
  • It's so sad.
  • Is this thing ever going to heal???
  • Sometimes I just don't know why I even care anymore
And that's ALL it says!

And then, if this person is a good friend - as in a Real Life Good Friend, not just a Facebook friend - you click on them and scroll down through their last dozen or so status messages to see just what the heck they're talking about.

It never says anything about it.

So why do people puzzle us like that?  Why not say, as in the first example - my 17-year-old hermit crab came down with a terrible case of nepotism and we don't know if he will be around to blow out 18 candles.  Or, my spouse's deadbeat Uncle Roscoe has been sponging off of us for three weeks, but he said something about leaving the other night, so we don't know how much longer he's going to be around...

I tend to fret about my friends and I just don't like to worry needlessly!  I just don't know how how much longer I'm going to be able to breathe (life into the old sad, tired stories I tell over and over).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Give it Arrest

People think I'm a liberal on every issue because I'm a yellow dog Democrat, but on crime and punishment issues, I guess you'd describe my stance as existentialist.  One aspect of existentialism stresses personal responsibility for making it (or not) in this mean old world.  In fact, at crime scenes, when mobs form around the cops and robbers, I am often able to cut the line and gain access to a front row vantage point by shouting, "Let me through! I'm an existentialist!" as the crowd parts like the Red Sea.

Recently, our part of town has been beset by house burglaries.  These are not usually well-thought criminal conspiracies by masterminds, but, rather, a couple of losers kicking in a door, ripping off electronic devices and any cash that might be lying about.  Take a look at our local Patch, and their story about a couple of upstanding locals who were pinched the other day.  This couple was arrested yesterday afternoon with a lot of stuff of which they could not immediately establish ownership in their car, but that's beside the point.  They'll have their day in court and if they have any luck at all, they won't see my unforgiving face in the jury box.

But the comment made by one fellow citizen really makes my furrow my brow and shake my head.  It's the comment where the guy says he knows the dude involved, that he has struggled with drug addiction and he hopes he gets some help with that.  How about, I hope that people who have been burgled in our town get their stuff back AND I hope this fine young man gets to go to the Ironbar Hilton and spend some being penitent in the penitentiary?  They named it that for a reason!

I don't hold with the theory that people who are drug addicts and therefore have to steal stuff to pay for their habits deserve to be treated with the same respect as those who are afflicted with, say, leukemia, or some other random illness that strikes with no reason or cause.  I doubt that there is one person who has never heard that drug use and abuse lead to awful consequences.  Paying the price for those consequences is part of growing up and being a responsible member of our community.  We can help these people by not treating them like victims of a disease.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The chores! The stores!

It's happened again and this time it wasn't my fault!

"It" is my bizarre predilection for having some famous, semi-famous or infamous person come to my mind for no particular reason, and then find out two days later they died. 

This time, it's Frank Cady.  If you're saying, "Whose Frank Cady?" we need to discuss a little grammar issue. If you're saying, "Who's Frank Cady?" we need to talk about Green Acres and Ozzie and Harriet.

Cady as Sam
Frank Cady was a character actor, playing neighborly kinds of characters on shows such as Ozzie and Harriet ("Doc Williams") and of course he was "Sam Drucker," the genial owner of the general store in Hooterville where  Oliver Wendell Douglas and his wife Lisa shopped on Green Acres.

Well, over the weekend I was reading a book about the history of The Andy Griffith Show. I am sort of serious about my classic sitcoms.  Among the many nuggets of information I gleaned was this one:  Hal Smith, who played the loveable town drunk Otis Campbell back in the days when drunks were thought to be loveable, was not the first to play that part!  No sir. Do you want to guess who played Otis in the Griffith pilot episode?

If you said Frank Cady, doggone if you aren't right.  And I read this on Saturday, and on Monday I opened up the World Wide Web to find that Frank had died on Friday in California at age 96. 

Eddie Albert, who played Oliver, lived to be 99.

Mary Grace Canfield, who played Ralph Monroe and said "Howdy Doody!" when she greeted people in her role as a fix-it-lady, will be 88 in September.

It appears that Green Acres really IS the place for me, since I want to live a long long time as well! Rest well, genial storekeeper!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Read all about it

It got to the point at which my buddy Frank didn't want to ride shotgun on a pizza run with me because of my habit of asking people about their jobs.  There's so much I need to know about the process of throwing a doughball up in the air, dousing it with sauce and cheese and sliding it into the oven.  It just fascinates me, to hear about how things work from place to place. And to hear a skilled worker speak in almost loving terms of his/her job is so fulfilling!  It's pride in action, when you hear a pizza maker or paramedic or plumber talk about work experiences.

The late great Studs Terkel wrote a book of oral histories entitled Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.  I love the book because it enables one to get a glimpse into the lives of cops, truck drivers, car salespeople, farm workers, professors, photographers, barbers, ballplayers and baby nurses. People used to use the term "slice of life" to describe a vignette that allows others to peek past the veneer and read about how it feels to feel overpaid, like an actor says, or how it feels to work on commission and realize that you're not going to take much money home if you don't sell cars - there's no such thing as getting paid for nothing there.

It's just a fascinating book and I'd recommend it to anyone.  You can probably find it your local library, but before you go home, why not ask the librarian about how it feels to work there? 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday rerun: I'd like to be a clone with you

Nice-looking woman here, you'd say, am I wrong? Pretty smile, well-dressed, well-coiffed...the kind of person you'd like to meet and hang around with, correct? can't meet her. Not because she's far away or locked behind castle walls or anything.

You can't meet her because she does not exist. She is no more real than a Republican tax break for the working class.

"Tica," as they call her, is the creation of Blair Art Studios. It took 70 hours to create her by the use of PhotoShop. See the process here and wonder why people do this sort of thing. I guess it's better than cloning people in some Frankenstein-type lab, but geez, it gives me the Willies.

Two of whom are real...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday rerun: Peanuts Envy

One can always learn something from a book, with the sole exception of calculus textbooks. But I'm glad and sad about having finished Schultz and Peanuts by David Michaelis. Glad, because I loved Peanuts in its golden heydays of the 50s and 60s, but sad because it turns out that, at least in the eye of the biographer, Charles Schulz, the genius who gave us 17,000+ daily and Sunday Peanuts strips, also was a bit of an odd duck. He was one of those people who demanded a lot of approval and sought it by downgrading himself, so that others would rush to fill the emotional vacuum with words of praise. He was also very harsh in criticizing other cartoonists, and even took Lynn Johnston to task for having her "For Better or For Worse" age its characters and have a beloved family dog die. For someone who preached clean living and so forth, he had several affairs with young women before the breakup of his first marriage.

And he did not like children...his own (5) or anyone else's. It wasn't like he went around throwing things at kids or anything; he just felt uncomfortable around them and found it difficult to converse with them. This, from a guy who, again, cranked out 17,000 and some-odd cartoons populated entirely by kids. You would think that he would be just like a big kid himself, but no! He was like a big adult who lost himself in his art and relived certain aspects of his childhood that he wished could have gone better.

Parenthetically, does anyone else remember seeing this in Parade magazine in early 1986?

L.A. of B'more got all confused. That was the same year that someone wrote to Parade magazine to ask how the Smothers Brothers could get away with calling Ronald Reagan "a known heterosexual" on TV. No wonder Stewie disdains Parade magazine.

Schulz was a genius, I feel, in that he changed comic strips from the cheap laffs and sight gags and made them far more cerebral than The Katzenjammer Kids, say. Whatever turmoil existed within him is more his business than mine; that's why I sort of wish I hadn't read the book. Perhaps I should have gone with an anthology of the strip itself, in which the reader will find gems like this one from October, 1969:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Driving Me Crazy

Outer-space planning session
Shhhh.  I don't want to talk about this too loudly, but I have evidence that we have been invaded here on  earth by space invaders.  You can tell who they are by the way they drive.

I mean, do you remember the man everyone lovingly called "Shakes," the driver ed teacher who told us without quibble that the people currently driving on a highway have the right of way over the people on the on-ramp who want to be driving on the superslab. In other words, people who come barreling down the ramp and just cut on in, in front of speeding SUVs and GMCs and a hopped-up trucker with a trailer full of cabbages and not a lot of maneuvering room.  Clearly, drivers who do this just got here from some other planet.

You're sitting a big intersection and the people in the turn lanes have the green arrow.  The arrow goes yellow and then their light turns red.  BUT here comes Mr Hurrypants, who is running late for a Ménage à trois, so in the face of all that's sensible, smart and legal, he's gonna run that light so that he can take his place in the Twister game.  On his home planet, hardly anyone stops for red lights; it's considered an "infamita," which is an Italian entree involving rolled-up flank steak and flanked-up roll steak.  Quite tasty.

Here comes the trash truck down the street!  And here comes the traffic confusion.  The guy behind the  Pak-mo-bile swings out and needs someone to let him come forward.  As a considerate motorist, you do, and then when he zooms up past you, you get no wave or nod or high sign.  They don't do that way beyond the galaxy, where he was born.  They don't have trash trucks, either.  The robot butler crushes it into an energy cube and it fertilizes the 40' tall edamame stalks out back.

Anyone who goes Christmas shopping around Baltimore knows this're looking for a place to park the Biscayne and a guy leaves the mall with a stack of gifts.  Hopefully, you follow him to his car and when you see that the gifts he has purchased for his family consist of 50-lb sacks of walnuts and tanks of compressed air, you know that sinking feeling that confirms his alien status when he opens his trunk, deposits the gifts, and closes the trunk, heading back to the mall for another foray among us earthlings.

This has nothing to do with his driving, but chances are good that he will also consider purchasing Electric Cigarettes, Dead Sea body scrub, a cellphone case bearing the images of the cast of Dexter, and a fruit smoothee.

And on the way home from the mall, chances are good that you will be behind a driver who comes from that far-off land in which replica testicles hang from the back bumper instead of license tags, and it's considered a compliment to sport a bumper sticker exhorting women to show their mammary equipment.

How did these people get here, and when are they going back? the tall man asked.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Burgers and Sighs

I'm seriously contemplating changing the name of this blog to "Oh, For Crying Out Loud."

Here we go with today's asinine behavior: some members of a volunteer fire company went to the new Sonic drive-in in their town and demanded the same discount that is given to cops and military personnel.

And they didn't get the discount.

They aren't cops or military personnel.

Oh, but they do have Facebook accounts, and so now eight members of the fire company are in hot water (!) because they wrote things on Facebook about how "unfair 'your' being" (for the five millionth time, it's "you're"! "YOU'RE!" "YOU'RE"!) and how maybe they just might not respond to a fire at the Sonic.  And then one of the brainiacs wrote that maybe they ought to set fire to the dumpster at the Sonic.

And the fire company president had to apologize for these guys and the image of the volunteer fire service takes another punch in the eye.

Place #1, any smart fast food operator offers discounts to police.  Nothing deters an armed robbery like pulling up to the place you plan to take down and seeing a prowl car in the parking lot.  Second best is the thought that if the cops aren't here now, they might be sliding by for a burger any minute now.

Volunteer firefighters, people do appreciate your service and sacrifice.  But if you are willing to withdraw your service and sacrifice over a 50% discount on a bacon double cheeseburger (pictured) and a shake, perhaps you might want to think about why you got into the Fire Department in the first place.

And place #2 - on the comments page of one of the news sites discussing this burger imbroglio, a woman who claims to be a lawyer (although she uses the term "bi-laws" in place of "by-laws") says that the firefighters do not give up their right of free speech by donning turnout gear.  And she could not be more correct.  We all have the right to say what we think.  And we all have to face the consequences of saying something wrong.

For a firefighter to threaten to commit arson or threaten not to respond to an emergency call is the ultimate dereliction.

And all this over a damned cheeseburger.

Oh, for crying out loud.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

American Yin and Yang

I only have to drive a few miles north to get to Harford County, Maryland, the county known as "The Gateway to Cecil County, Maryland." 

And from there, it's just a couple of bridges to New Jersey.

But I like Harford County, and in the past week, that land of 244,000 people spread out over 526 square miles has shown us the best and the worst in American attitudes.

Let's get the worst out of the way first and give the big stinkeye to the woman who runs their library system, one Mary Hastler, who decided that the print version of the novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" is just too salacious to carry on library shelves that sag wearily under the weight of the Danielle Steel bodice-busters that sit there. 

Apparently fearing that she would wind up being castigated by the community as a latter-day Marian The Librarian from "The Music Man," the Shirley Jones character who "advocated dirty books!  Chaucer! Rabelais!  Balzac!", Ms Hastler took a bold step forward into the past.  Remember George W. Bush, a minor political figure from earlier in this century?  He once stepped up at a time when he and his friends had a chance to make a bundle in the war munitions field, and set out to make war, after first reassuring an anxious nation that "Somebody has to decide...well, I'm the decider!" 

Ms Hastert is given a budget and many buildings to run.  She is the literary decider for the taxpayers who pay her and grant her money to run a library. She is supposed to fill the buildings with books.  A popular book that is in demand (the waiting list for "Grey" is in the thousands here in Baltimore County's library) should be on the shelves, but Ms Hastert deemed otherwise.  Dirty, she said, and also: not well written.

Which would seem to rule out Danielle Steel and most of the "I'm feeling pretty doggone happy - how about you?" books that clutter Self-Help shelves from here to Silicon Valley. 

(In New York, the Self-Help section is called the "Hey, Whassamatterwitchoo?" section.)

My point is, banning books is close to burning books. Put the ideas and the written words out there, and let the public decide what's good and bad. 

And I will tell you right now about something I think is good!  In that same county, there was a tornado touchdown last Friday.  Rabid readers of this blog (and there are shots available at the clinic) will remember how Peggy and I tried to go see Laura and the girls, only to be turned away by diluvian rains.  Up across the county line is Fallston, a town where the last real excitement was caused by a visit from Ronald W. Reagan to the local high school in 1985.  Having recently seen "ET The Extra-Terrestrial," Reagan, a minor political figure of the 20th Century, spoke to the assembled students that December day of the ever-present threat of alien invasion. Not "aliens" as in people from Paraguay or something...he thought the little purple people eaters were coming to get us. Well.  Here's the video, if you can stand it. 

Harford County, MD
Fallston was hit pretty hard on Friday by an invading tornado, and we saw the best in people (with the exception of the people running the local WaWa store, who locked their doors in the face of the daughter of a friend of mine, who ran to the store seeking shelter from the wind and the rain.)   We saw neighbors helping neighbors and we saw that most purely American concept - the volunteer fire department - in action.  These are men and women from the community who leave their homes and families and businesses and rush off to help others in need.  And they do it, free for nothin'.

That's what's best about America.  I could write a book about it, but would Harford County's library stock it?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Land of 1000 Stances

I'd like to be able to walk down the street and not feel that the next person I encounter is likely to commit mayhem in the general area I'm in, but of course no one can guarantee that.

There are things that can be done to cut down on the possibility of being injured or maimed by malevolent strangers - or malevolent friends, for that matter.  The cops try awful hard to round up the bad guys, only to look out the window of the police station and see the bad guys out on the street while the cops are still doing the paperwork on their short time under arrest.

I'm getting to a point here.  Give me a sensible answer, please:  if you knew that a person had:
  • gotten tossed out of a college ROTC program for punching holes in a wall in a fit of temper
  • been described by the sergeant in charge of that program as "Virginia Tech waiting to happen"
  • suggested that his college's hazing policy include “blood sacrifice”
  • beaten a man with a baseball bat on that college campus, fracturing his skull and making blinding him in one eye, only to be freed on $220,000 bail.
If you knew this much about this man, you'd probably say that he does not belong out with us in the world where we can come and go as we please.  You would have raised that bail and kept him locked up pending psychiatric evaluation, wouldn't you?

Well, just a few days after blinding this man, the man in question went home to his family dwelling up in Joppatowne, MD, a home they shared with another college student.  He stabbed that man to death, and then cut out his brains and heart and ate them.  He admitted all this, so I don't have to bother saying he ALLEGEDLY did it. I don't know how he pleads on the maiming of the other guy, but he's in real deep water now.

I wish someone smart like you had been making the decisions about bail.  We always hear this - some guy gets a life term, serves 7 years and is out right behind you in line at Popeye's ready to do who knows what.

But just let me commit a crime someday and whoa Nellie! The judges and the juries and all the King's horses will make an example of me and send me to the chill factory for 119 years, no parole, bread and water, no library privileges.

I make light, because I cannot wrap my head around a society that allows disturbed, violent individuals to wander freely.  Can you help me understand?  Or better yet, can you explain it to the families and loved ones of these two victims?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sign here!

To the list of organizations and groups that shun me as a potential member - a group that currently includes Oprah's Book Club, the Republican party and the various offshoots of the Druid faith - it looks like we can add the American Dog Association whose Members Never Follow Ordinances and Other Laws.

ADAMNFOOL, as the group is acronymically known, comprises people who are apparently gifted with both sight and literacy, but who also feel that a sign indicating that all dogs at a certain location need to be leashed needs to be ignored, after being seen and read.

In the county where I live, Baltimore County - the finest of counties in the US - the law says that any dog off the premises off its owner must be restrained by a chain or leash.  That's fairly simple.  Poochie can run around your 1/2 acre all he wants to, but when you take Poochie to the walking trail at the County Park, which is shared by creatures walking on two legs and four, ol' Poochie-Poo needs to be leashed. None of the signs makes any exception for any dog who is just so cute and everyone loves her and she wouldn't harm a fly and it's better for him to run 50 yards ahead of me but he always comes back as soon as I whistle and I woulda brought a leash but I had to bring the new armoire from Cousin Bernice's house since she is moving to join her husband in the Coast Guard.

Now, please listen to me: I happen to like dogs.  Their wagging and panting and friendliness can be balms to the soul.  Peggy and I don't keep company with a dog in our home, but we often stop and chatter with neighbors and their canine companions. I have nothing against dogs per se. 

But it makes me wonder why people would violate the law so easily as to bring their dog to the walking trail and let it roam at will.  Chances are, these are people who consider themselves law and order people, and follow all the laws that they happen to like.

The case in point is that when Peggy and I went to the trail yesterday, the first living being that emerged from the shadows was a rather homely, unleashed spaniel with buck teeth. (Of course, he might have paid more than a buck for them, for all I know.) Not that he bared his fangs to us, not that he made any sort of threatening gesture, and not that I, at my size, was in fear, but still.  Fifty yards behind, along lumbered the animal's human companion, who seemed more interested in what she was hearing on her headset than what Bow-Wow Booey was up to as he trotted on down the path.

So why would she choose to ignore a posted rule?  Could it be the heartbreaking increase in the rate of selfishness, leading people to shrug themselves into thinking that it doesn't matter what they do, since they don't care anyway? 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday Rerun: Let's Go Moonin'

I am not a big fan of movies that involve a lot of emotion without a lot of action (helicopters landing on roofs), comedy (people running around on a roof) or some combination thereof (helicopters landing among crowds of people on a roof.)

But the other night, through the magic of On Demand (from the free selections), we chose a winner. I knew it would be good, because Reese
Witherspoon was in it. This one was made in 1991, when she was 15, and it was called "The Man In The Moon." (Please don't confuse it with "Man On The Moon," in which Jim Carrey portrayed Andy Kaufman and more or less fought him to a draw.)

Just watching young Reese in this picture, one could tell that she was going to go on to big things in acting. She's both adorable and utterly captivating in her portrayal of a young Southern woman on the brink of womanhood, dealing with her first heartbreak, and remember, I'm a guy who generally reserves the word "captivating" as regards actors for the likes of Bruce Willis and Paula Marshall. All I know about acting is whether or not I find a person believable in their role. Reese Witherspoon is always great, for my money.

Don't tell the Comcast people, but I would have paid some of my money to watch this movie; that's how great it was.

Two hearty thumbs up. Fine summer fun!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Whethering the Storm

Last night we had a devil of a storm, and by "we" I mean the entire Baltimore metro area, which is quite a few people on their way home and doing other things from like 4 til 7 PM.  It was a giant thunderstorm that got us, with winds and possible tornadoes right up the road from us in Fallston, and down near the BWI Airport.

But it's not as if we were not ready for the storm.  "Forewarned is forearmed," I always say, unoriginally. The TV weather people had been telling us about this BA storm headed our way since like Wednesday.

We had plans to spend the evening with our niece Laura and her kids; our nephew is out of town and we were just going to run up there with a pizza and chat awhile. I went to the great Pizza John's down in Essex earlier in the day, and got a couple of the 1/2 baked pizzas that they sell to go - just throw them in the oven for 7-9 minutes and stand back out of the way when they come out.  When I was buying the pizzas, I was waited on by two very attractive young ladies, and they were joined by another woman, equally attractive, but closer to my age, which is only young compared to Betty White. Anyway, I was saying to the three of them that it was good to have dinner all bought in advance of the big storms that were coming our way.

The two young beauties stared at me as if I had said the parking lot was knee-deep in marshmallows.  They had no clue about the impending weather.  Clearly, these two have a lot more going on in their lives than sitting around watching the 11 O'Clock News.  They had the look that said if they felt like dancing last night, they would be on the dance floor whether or not there was a flood or a cyclone. And you know they each could have called up to a dozen guys and said, "Come get me - I feel like sushi and pub crawling" and up to two dozen guys would have been out there driving through hell in a handbasket just to please them.

On the other hand, the woman my age knew all about it, from the estimate time of arrival to which areas were expected to be hit the hardest.  I'm sure that if I had asked her the projected rate of rainfall and how many warnings had already been issued, she would have been up on that.

To each her own.  But to the lady...thank you.

Storm damage all over town
The trip to see the family fell short of fruition anyway.  Peggy and I got in the machine and started up the road, but were forced to turn off into a side street when the rain was coming down at such a pace as to obviate forward vision, which is always nice to have when driving.  And then when it slacked off just enough for us to make another attempt to drive up Manor Rd, what looked like a brown river was driving down the other way on Manor Rd.  Boy oh boy was it raining!  And when I saw a log floating along the Manor Rd River, I turned our ship around and went back to safe harbor.

I bet that pizza lady was already home by then with her feet up, watching The Weather Channel.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Like "Laugh-In," only funny

There was only one good thing about the Orioles' loss of three straight games in Toronto, and that was seeing Salvatore Anthony "Torey" Lovullo out there, coaching first base for the Blue Jays.

Lovullo was supposed to be a can't-miss major league star, but somehow it didn't turn out that he should book reservations for the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.  Which is not to knock the guy; he did well enough getting to the majors at all.  It's tough to get there.

But there was more to Torey for those of us who like country music, corny jokes, and people popping up out of televised cornfields to sing country songs or tell crummy jokes.  We're speaking of the magic of "Hee Haw" here, and Torey's father, Sam Lovullo, was producer of that show that gave us so many fun Sunday nights back when country was country.

Hee Haw was hosted by Roy Clark and Buck Owens and featured a regular cast of dozens plus hundreds of Nashville stars over the years, singing their songs and taking part in skits.  The show was only on network TV for two years, and then stayed around in syndication for another two decades, long enough for all of us to learn the words to:

"Where, oh where, are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?
I searched the world over, and I thought I'd found true love,
You met another, and PFFT! You was gone!"


"Gloom, despair and agony on me-e!
Deep dark depression, excessive misery-y!
If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all!
Gloom, despair and agony on me-e-e!"

 (Click on lyrics for audio-visual treat)

So Hee Haw lives on, if only in the hearts of us who remember it.  Apparently, the good people over at the Family Guy TV show respect their Sunday night at 9 PM time slot so much that every so often, they say,"Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Conway Twitty" and you see this!