Tuesday, July 31, 2012

All this over a soggy sandwich?

I've got no dog in this fight about Chick-Fil-A because I don't really care to eat there anyway because I don't like their food.  So it's no skin off my filet if I never go there again.

The man who runs the place, Dan Cathy, is a firm believer in Christian values, so he closes up shop on Sunday so his employees can attend church and be with their families.  And he contributes his influence and his money to the cause of promoting marriage as between just one man and just one woman.  This is what he believes.  It's in the Bible, right near where it says in Deuteronomy 22:20-21 that if a woman gets married and she is not a virgin that she shall be stoned to death.  And don't even think about having the Shrimp and Lobster pu-pu platter over at China Chow...the good book says seafood without fins is an abomination (Leviticus 10-11).

Whatever your faith, I think it's wrong to jump up and down telling people what to do with their faith.  So no, I don't give a Chick if anyone wants to eat there.

But I do wish that those who are so mad at gay rights supporters would try to see why people are upset at what they consider a biased stance.  Surely Dan Cathy has a right to his opinion, and surely Dan Savage does too. 

And here's an idea.  If you support the idea of August 1 being Eat More Chikin Day because you strongly support the right of a person to hold their own truths while running a business, then surely you'll want to join me at Jane Fonda's Fish 'n' Chips someday soon.


Monday, July 30, 2012

You bet

The only thing that interests me about the gaming parlors that now dot Maryland is the buffet.  I love a good buffet, where you can have a nice salad and then some meat and veggies and maybe a teeny sliver of pie if no one is looking.

They have this Hollywood Casino up in Perryville, off I-95, and we were up that way once and stopped in to tie on the feedbag.  That part was good.  The rest of the time  we were there, we wandered around a little bit and heard a lot of noise and saw a bewildering ballet of people playing slot machines and other devices.  I really have no idea how any of this stuff works, but boy oh boy did the people who played the games know how!  They were having a great time.

I have to tell you this.  The TV ads for the state casinos show a crowd of glammed-up happy young people, dressed in the latest styles with the shimmering tops and the high heels and the tight skinny pants with just a touch of dangling bling.

And the women are dressed nicely too.

Point is, when you see the casino-goers on the TV, it looks like Taylor Swift and that Tatum Channing guy plunking money into the games. 

When you get there, the people who are there in real life tend to look a little more like Andy Taylor and Carol Channing. 

And maybe that's better.

Another thing.  Apparently, some people want to build more casinos in this state.  They want to do this at some place called National Harbor.  Now, I've lived my life in the state of Maryland, with the exception of the two months I spent in the south of France as Mick Jagger's man Friday. (We parted ways over a schedule disagreement: I wanted Fridays off.)  But I have never heard of National Harbor, and here all of a sudden they want to build a casino there! 

And then someone will say, let's go to National Harbor and gamble, and no one will know how to get there!

There are radio and TV ads being presented by both sides of this debate.  One side says, "If even one slot machine is brought into our sacred National Harbor, the entire state of Maryland will be swallowed whole by a fiery serpent and regurgigated all over Wyoming."

This is countered by the pro-slot forces, who say that another derecho will come along and drag you, your spouse, your children and most of your pets and your aged Aunt Mildred off to play slots for free, and you will go home with no less than $590 in your pants pocket every time you set foot in the place.

Surely the truth lies in the middle someplace.  But as long as there's no law that says we have to gamble, I'll be right here on the sidelines.  Me and my pie.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday rerun: The Names Ring a Bell

I saw surprised to receive an invitation to "Old-Timer's Night" at my old volunteer fire house a few weeks ago. When the invitation arrived, at first I couldn't imagine to whom it was supposed to be addressed, and then it dawned on me: I was the Old Timer.

Well. I joined the Providence Volunteer Fire Company at the age of 16, right after the Civil War and before the birth of commercial aviation. Not really, but it was 1967, and things were different then in the world and in the fire service. Firefighters rode on the back step of the engines, for one thing, and the science involved in putting out a fire, or washing away hazardous chemicals at the scene of a car wreck or leaky tank was more rudimentary: grab a hose and pour water all over it. We didn't know about air tanks for breathing in a smoky atmosphere, and hazardous materials handling, and so many other things, but we were there to do the best we could, the best way we knew how.

I was a member for six years, right up until the time I got married, and they were six of the best years of my life. Besides the avocational aspect of helping the community, putting out fires, standing by downed power lines and helping people with flooded basements, there is a social aspect, a brotherhood, that can't be denied. It's marvelously instructive for a young man to learn to work with others for a productive purpose, and to learn to follow orders and directions without stopping to think about one's own idea of what to do. At the scene of an emergency, someone has to be in charge, and that person's orders need to be followed, or you have chaos and disorder, and nothing gets done. This message is not getting through to a lot of young people, as I see it today, because schools, organizations, and far too many parents are more concerned with how young Earl or Mildred might feel about how to proceed, and if their psychic needs are being considered when the directions are being given, and whether or not the orders are in alignment with their wishes. It's not easy to learn, when one has been the object of personal veneration, that only a team effort can subdue a mighty opponent, and there is no "I" in "team."

There is "meat" in "team," however, and there were plenty of social occasions with the gang at the fire house. That's what I mean. It's good for young people to learn lessons and learn to socialize. A compatible group at a fire house learns to do both, and lifelong friendships are often formed there.

So, the reunion was great. It was held at the fire house, which has twice been rebuilt since my days there. Back in the day, the building had the architectural charm of a Texaco station, but now it looks like a spa in the middle of an elegant setting, all glass and brick and subdued lighting. I saw guys that I am still in touch with and guys that I haven't seen since bell-bottoms and platform shoes were all the rage. And the stories! Oh, the stories! Funny stuff that happened, funny stuff that people said, serious stuff that happened, serious stuff that people said...all retold, no embellishment needed, and recounted for the enjoyment of all. It was great. We're all doing well, and we had wistful thoughts of those who have gone on, and we know, each of us, that when we go to join them, we will take memories like this with us.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday rerun: Lightin' up McGraw

Giving up cigarettes is a tough thing to do.  As the old Bob Seger song said, "I used to smoke five packs of cigarettes a day.  It was the hardest thing to put them away..."

Well, I didn't smoke five packs a day, but I was good for a pack, more or less.  And I enjoyed it, to tell you the truth, even knowing that it was bad for me.  It was that knowledge that eventually wore me down.

Today's young smoker might be fascinated, or envious, to learn of a time in America when more or less everyone smoked, more or less everywhere.  Restaurants, offices, grocery stores, funeral parlors, buses: you name a place, and the chances are that one could light up with impunity at any time.  And demand "an ashtray, if it's not too much trouble..."

In the late 1980's, things started to change, and smoking was banned in more places every day.  Bars and restaurants were the last public places to change.  You might recall the plaintive cries of Baltimore's bar and restaurant owners, who all claimed long and loud that without the right to puff a Camel, their customers would not come in, and their business would be gone in a puff of smoke.

This, of course, did not happen, nor did the increase of sales tax on the smokes themselves stop the dedicated smokers from smoking in their own areas.  I leave it to you to decide if that tax increase was fair, but I think that it's fair that smoking be done either in the Great Outdoors or someone else's Great Indoors. You want to smoke, or commit acts of self-defenestration, or listen to vile radio programs, go for it, but please don't force it on me.

Take a puff - it's springtime!
So all this comes to mind upon reading that President Barack Obama has been nine months without a smoke break, and I salute him for that.  In my case, after three months, the temptation to bum one and light it up was all gone, and there was nothing left to go but go around apologizing for my crabby behavior during those three months.

Those three long, long months.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Big Tough Guy

This fella Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the big tough guy who brags about being America's toughest sheriff, is on trial defending himself in a class-action lawsuit brought by new Americans who are sick and tired of being harassed by Arpaio's deputies in Maricopa Co, Arizona, a place I pretty much can promise myself never to visit.

We've read about this guy for years, how he likes to serve substandard food to his prisoners, how he sends his men and women out to round up anyone who looks Mexican.  This current trial will be followed by a federal case against him for biased law enforcement.

Sheriff Joe swears to tell the truth in court, so I guess we have to figure he's being honest when he denies any prejudice against people of Mexican background.  "We don't make arrests based on skin color," he says in court.

All immigrants "exclusive of those from Mexico, hold to certain hopes and truths" is what he said in a book he wrote, handily titled "Joe's Law, America's Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegal Immigration, Drugs and Everything Else that Threatens America."

Did you really write that, tough Sheriff Joe, he was asked in court? 

He said that was written by a co-author.

Outside the courtroom in Phoenix, a crowd gathered to counteract a group protesting Arpaio's violations.  They chanted a favorite motto of the unenlightened: "Don't believe the liberal media."

But you can believe what Joe writes in a book...unless he didn't write it.

By the way, you know what they say about Phoenix...how it might be 110°, but it's a dry heat?

Well, when Sheriff Joe speaks, it's a big steaming pile of bullhockey, but it's a dry steaming pile of bullhockey.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mrs Ripken kidnapped!

Cal (r) with father and brother
If there is anything close to a family that most everyone around here admires without a second thought, it would be the Ripkens, of nearby Aberdeen, MD.  You know Cal, the Iron Man of baseball, and how he became the great player he was under the tutelage of his father Cal, Sr.  And he has a brother Billy who was a pretty fair major-leaguer himself for a long time, and another brother, and a sister.

And a mom named Vi who has been the glue of the family for all these years.  At 74, she's still active with the Harford County Boys and Girls Club, and is a regular at Ripken Stadium, the complex of fields where kids from all over the world play ball, as does an Oriole minor league team.  The widow of "Senior" is a beloved figure in her town, her county, and the entire state of Maryland.

Cal and Vi
So when we awoke yesterday morning to hear that she was missing from her home, and then that she had turned up on her own street, it was shocking.  It seems that on Tuesday morning, she was abducted in her garage and led to her own car, in which this crook drove her around for almost a day.  When he stopped along Ebenezer Rd in Baltimore County, he told an inquiring motorist that he was seeking medical help for his mother, who was having seizures.  The other driver wisely deduced that something was amiss, since wrapping duct tape around a mother's mouth is not recommended first aid for seizures.  That person called police, and the hunt was on.  Eventually, Mrs Ripken found herself waking up Wednesday morning in her own car, still bound, and blew the horn for help.

Once this guy is found - and trust me - he will be found, we will know what his story is.  It might be very tough to find twelve citizens of this state who would give him a fair hearing, though.  That's how much we love our Ripkens.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

See ya later

My two favorite things from Louisiana are still hot sauce and Britney Spears, and that doesn't seem likely to change after watching this video about a cat who lives at a place where people pay cash money to pile onto a pontoon boat and take off down the Louisiana Bayou to see alligators sunning themselves and climbing out of primordial ooze.

The hook on the video is that the cat, Mugsy, is a ferocious guardian of his own food and his own feline body, fending off attacks by these current-day dinosaurs on the shores of the bayou.  I watched the video with a certain horror, in dread of someday finding myself in the swamps, watching a cat slap an alligator silly.

Coming over for dinner
It looks humid and hot down there, and to anyone planning a fun vacay among the reptilia of the American Southeast, you go on ahead without me.  And remember, it is true that an alligator will not attack you while carrying a flashlight.  But it's rare to find an alligator who needs a flashlight.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Foot's Forecast

We always read that the greatest thing about America is that it's the land of the free and home of the brave.  And nothing could be more true, because under a dictatorship, the government would step in and forbid people to go walking on hot coals, thus preventing dozens of injuries, but crimping the rights of people to attend a Tony Robbins event in California where they burned the hell out of their feet.

Cheaply-toupeed motivational speaker Robbins got 6,000 souls to lay down good money and show up at his shindig, the big finale of which is The Firewalk Experience, where people parade across coals glowing at a balmy 1200° - 2000° in order to have a transformational experience.

They certainly do!  They change from people who walked in on their own two feet to people who need help getting home, what with their feet all blistered.  Some of them were soaking their paws in fountains for relief.

No one can convince me that there is any value to singeing your soles on coals, but there is one side benefit not often discussed.  The birth rate among festival goers will be down for the foreseeable future, since this procedure made all the men limp.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Getting your goat

From where I sit, it's only about 165 miles to the Atlantic Coast, which is comforting, as it seems that the farther west one goes, the less this one can figure things out.  Witness this story from northern Utah, where a man has chosen to dress in a goat suit and run around with a herd of wild goats.

There he is!
All right. I know it's Monday, so I'll repeat that verbatim.  A man has chosen to dress in a goat suit and run around with a herd of wild goats.

This story tells the story.  Phil Douglass, with the Wildlife Resource people out there, points out that it's legal to hunt goats out there, although he does not say why anyone would want to. I always thought that man hunted for food.  But sometimes, that's not enough, as Woody Allen said: there must also be a beverage.  For the record, I am not interested in a McGoat sandwich.

Mountain Goat
And beside the possibility of being shot by Ted Nugent, there must be several unpleasant aspects about living among goats.  One would be the smell, two, the braying, and number three, the dietary restrictions.  According to Wikipedia, "mountain goats are herbivores and spend most of their time grazing. Their diet includes grasses, herbs, sedges, ferns, moss, lichen, twigs and leaves from the low-growing shrubs and conifers of their high-altitude habitat."

The flamboyant Mr Nugent
Great.  So when Saturday night rolls around, and this guy wants to cut loose a little and order in some General Tso Chicken or a Triple Cheese Steak pizza, what happens? He gets outvoted, because the rest of the herd wants lichens. Again.

And, while people are calling the wildlife folks, saying, "Leave Goat Man alone," the wildlife folks are worrying that the goats will turn against the interloper and headbutt him back into the last century.

And that's the latest news from northern Utah.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday rerun: I see dead peepholes

This is a rerun from September 2010.  I do know that Osama bin Laden has moved on to his reward, as it were.  But I didn't know when it would happen when I wrote this:

I am not claiming any psychic or metaphysical powers here, and I know it might seem a little spooky to be going where I'm going here.  But here I go.

This has happened far too often to be anything less than weird.  It just seems that many times when I think of someone I haven't thought of for a while, they wind up on the no-longer-in-existence list.  The most recent example is baseball player Bobby
"The Giants Win The Pennant!"
Thomson.  His career, though long and fairly productive, is chiefly recalled for one single swing of the Louisville lumber - a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning that gave the 1951 New York Giants the pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The Dodgers had been 13 games ahead in the pennant race and then the Giants overtook them at the end with Thomson's epic homer.  It had all the elements of baseball that appeal to me - a grey October day in an old long-gone ballpark, a homer hit by a man in baggy flannels and no batting helmet.  And the Brooklyn pitcher threw the pitch that Thomson hit was Ralph Branca, who is now remembered for lugubriously chanting, "Why me?  Why me? Why did it have to be me?" after the game.  

The Scottish-born Thomson played 15 years in the major leagues, ending his career going hitless in six at bats for the Orioles in 1960.  But, like being Britney Spears's first husband, nothing he ever did after that brought on quite so much adulation.  He retired and, in the manner of athletes of the days before they earned 274 million dollars the day they signed their first contract, thereby obviating any contact with the work world forever, went to work as a paper salesman, and was also available to hire out as an autograph show tandem attraction along with Branca, who, one imagines, was somehow able to pick up the shattered pieces of his career and write his name on baseballs along Thomson's.  

So avid was my interest in Thomson's moment in the sun and the cast of characters in the game that day that I have made it a point to read as many books, articles and bubble gum cards on the topic as I could find.  A fine author named Joshua Prager wrote a book about it called "The Echoing Green," which details allegations of cheating and sign-stealing by the Giants (Thomson denied repeatedly having any idea what kind of pitch Branca was about to throw on 0-1). That's something I love about sports - one pitch, one swing, one play, can reverberate for decades.  I was 4 months and 4 days old when this happened, so of course I knew nothing of it at the time.  But with this interest, I found it curious that on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I saw a book about the argument some people are having over who has the actual baseball that Bobby sent on a line over the disappointed head of Dodger left fielder Andy Pafko.  I thumbed through the book, but decided not to buy it for now.  And I stood in the bookstore and wondered how Bobby Thomson was doing - hadn't heard his name mentioned lately.

So the next morning, I picked up the papers, and there was the headline in the New York TIMES, announcing that Thomson was now on the big baseball team up in the sky.  

I feel sometimes like I have one of those goggle-eyed peepholes that lets me look out and see things...but I don't know what I'm seeing at the time. I know this happens too much, and it does dawn on me that many people scamper across my consciousness and live for decades thereafter, but it feels so eerie to be Mr Predicto.   

Hey! I wonder how Osama Bin Laden is doing these days!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday rerun: Shake my head

The mileage between my part of Baltimore and the DC suburb in Maryland known as Bethesda is only 40 miles as the crow flies, but the average crow would rather stay here, judging from how many I see peckin' around on my way home.

And I can't blame them.  I often mention that there might as well be a giant brick wall on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, as far as many of us around here are concerned.  I realize that in, say, Idaho, two huge cities 40 miles apart would more or less be twin metropolises.  And I know that meteorologists on The Weather Channel like to point their doodads in our direction and blithely refer to "the Baltimore-Washington area," but take this simple test.  Have you ever been watching a show or listening to people talk, and when one asks the other where he/she is from, heard, "Oh, I come from the Baltimore-Washington area, Jay!"?

Baltimore is the biggest small town in the world, where we all relate to each other by the answer to "Wheredja go to high school?"  When you go to the doctor, you'll invariably find that the medical assistant's mother's cousin was the steady girlfriend of your uncle by just asking a few simple questions in conversation.  We sold our first house to a guy and his wife who ran a sub shop that we liked, and they in turn sold it to a guy who was in my class in high school, who sold his old house to the significant other of a good friend of mine. You get the point.  We are Mayberry, writ large.  

DC, as we call Washington, is a city that no one really calls home.  The cast changes all the time as new presidential administrations come and go.  Whereas I went to all twelve grades with the same core group of outstanding young scholars, and myself, kids in DC finish high school having attended a dozen or so schools previously.  

Baltimore is renowned for its cuisine, and the only signature food item I can really think of as being "pure DC" is the half smoke, which is kind of like a chubby hot dog.  We don't see them up here.  

Speaking of smokes, DC is the temporary home of John Boehner, who smokes in his office, in violation of law, common sense, and hospitality.  But he will be Ohio's problem to deal with soon, one can hope.

But I think this is the difference that really sums it up for me.  I was, like everyone else, disgusted, when a woman named Jayna Murray, working in a store called Lululemon in Bethesda, was killed this past March 11 by her coworker, one Brittany Norwood.  322 wounds to the body was the mechanism of death in that case, we found last week as the Norwood trial began.  

And that's not even the most shocking part for me.  Sure, the murder was beyond comprehension, but so was this fact:

The Lululemon store was next door to an Apple store, whose employees heard the commotion of the 322 wounds being administered to Ms Murray and heard a female voice calling for help.  Here's part of the story as reported on Channel 9 in DC:

According to the state,  an employee at the Apple Store next door to the Lululemon store told stated that she heard the sound of "furniture moving" and two women yelling. Then, the employee heard a voice say: "Oh God, please help me." The employee got her assistant manager, who pounded on the wall, but didn't follow up.

I know, I know.  The 20-year-olds who worked at the Apple Store can sell you a little box the size of an Etch-A-Sketch that makes pictures come out of the air, brings you email and music, functions as a camera and I don't know what-all else. 

But these are people so disconnected to humanity that their response to agonized cries for help is to bang on the wall.  Shut up over there!  We're trying to play a video game!  You need help, grab your iPhone and call 911. I'm not helping you.

And something that cold would never happen in Baltimore.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Do not go gently into that Dark Knight

Do you remember "Batman"?  A 60's tv show based on a comic book, laden with colorful POW! and ZAP! words exploding off the screen while Adam West, before he became the mayor of Quahog RI, leapt around in tights? 

Batman fan all dressed up to go!
It certainly was an action-packed comic and tv show and series of movies. They're still making movies about it.  A whole comic book world, right there in Gotham City, with all the characters - the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, the Mother In Law. And people line up to see the movies. The new one comes out this weekend, the one we talked about because El Rushbo got his knickers in a twist about the villain.  The movie is called The Dark Knight Rises, and the reviews are in, and they're not all that kind.

So here's the quiz:  When the negative reviews came in - and only 14% of the critics knocked the film - did the Batfanatics...

a) take a neutral stance, planning to see the movie and judge for themselves


b) reply with so many profane and threatening comments - threats to commit murder and rape upon the dissenting critics - that the RottenTomatoes.com movie review site had to suspend user comments. Marshall Fine, a movie reviewer, received emails from people with nothing going on whatsoever in their lives or their minds, messages saying, "You should die in a fire" and another from a person who said he/she (probably he!) would like to beat him “with a thick rubber hose into a comma [sic].”

Let us bray.
No wonder this country can't have a presidential election without rancor and vitriol and thinly veiled threats from gentlemen such as the one pictured (left).  I mean, choosing the leader of the Free World is one thing, but don't you dare try to get in the way of a Batman movie!

Please don't threaten to beat me into an ampersand.

Rush to misjudgement

Never one to let facts stand in the way of his dopey (!) bloviations, radio babbler Rush Limbaugh now claims that the people who made the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises made some sort of slam at Willard M. Rmoney, the Republican candidate for president of the United States and the Cayman Islands.

This was one of those days when Rush started pounding on his console and biting off every word.  He tends to be one of those who overpronounce every word, as if each of them were a pellet of golden truth manna.

Rush, probably acting on a tip from one of his well-informed listeners, went off on one of his rants the other day, claiming that the Dark Knight movie has a villain named Bane.

And this is a direct slap at Rmoney, because Mitts used to work for an outfit called Bain, although he's not sure when he left them or anything.

The creators of the Batman comic book introduced Bane as a character in 1993.  That's almost 20 years ago, Rushbo!

Curiously, Bart Simpson likes movies starring McBain - a character loosely based on the loose-moraled former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.   Do you think that Bart was in on the deal all along?

Do you see any reason why people would continue to listen to Rush Limbaugh?

Neither do I!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A dime extra for cheese, too

Every Wednesday of my Mayberry-esque childhood, a GMC Step-Van would pull into the driveway, and Mr Foehrkolb would holler out his nickname and his business in just two words:


And the neighborhood ladies would go get fresh live crabs, soft crabs, rockfish, shad and shad roe and whatever else he had brought up from the shore.

Now these food trucks are all over downtown Baltimore and in the suburbs as well, but I still feel a little odd eating chow handed down to me from inside a truck.  You can't call me a food snob, as much as I love diner food and the buffets.  Here's why I think the food trucks are a trifle odd:

Click right here and read details about a hamburger for sale out of a food truck in New York City.  We think of New Yorkers as being shrewd with their money and their safety; after all, living in a town where one needs to dodge bullets and rats just to get from the subway to a fire-free zone teaches one to be wary. 

But Gothamites are up there shelling out $666 for a devil of a burger. This banquet on a bun serves up lobster, caviar, truffles, and a beef patty...wrapped in six sheets of gold leaf!  It's ok to eat that much gold leaf.  That much beef, the jury is still out.

And to spend $666 on lunch, enough to feed dozens of others, is conspicuous consumption of the highest order, to my burger-lovin' eyes.  If you have that much to spend on lunch, call me and you can come over any day!  Be here 12:30 the latest; that's when my story comes on.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Can it

Among the foods that I could  -were I so disposed - consume in massive quantities in some sort of eating contest are Chex Mix and Pringles potato chips.  To be accurate, they are not potato chips: the snack association, the people who make potato chips out of thinly sliced potatoes fried up in oil and then heavily salted, fought to have Pringles known as potato snacks.  At first, they even tried calling them "newfangled potato chips," but the snack people were adamant, and no thinking person calls them potato chips to this day.

I love Pringles potato chips. And do you know who else did?  One Fredric John Baur, who was born in 1918 and hung around until 2008.  Fred developed the tubular packaging for Pringles in 1970, probably right after playing tennis.  He loved his Pringles all right, so much so that when he shuffled off four years ago, his family honored his request to package some of  his cremated remains in a Pringles can. 

I don't know.  I think about being cremated when the time comes, but the whole idea just burns me up.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Shave every day and you'll always look keen

So it's happened twice now this season, that the hero of an Orioles game on a Saturday evening is given the salute of the shaving-cream pie in the face by team leader Adam Jones - and then the recipient lets fly a vulgarity on TV!

The first time, it was since-departed outfielder Bill Hall, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays with a home run on May 12 .  Fairly dripping with Noxzema Medicated Comfort Shave, he sputtered "Oh $hit!" on MASN, which was conducting the post-game interview with him.

Then on Saturday night, backup catcher Taylor Teagarden (left<), playing his first game of the year after being injured in spring training, hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th inning to beat the Tigers for the O's. This game was televised nationally on FOX, and as Taylor spoke with announcers Bill Ripken and Kenny Albert, Jones and friends smacked him a good one with a payload of Gillette Foamy, leaving Teagarden sputtering the same expletive that Hall had used.

There was a time that these events would have caused a huge crisis across the length and breadth of our land, and civic leaders would have decried the increasingly profane nature of society and boycotts would have been threatened and I don't know what-all else.  But I do know that today, no one even has time to worry about a ballplayer's spicy vocabulary, since everyone is headed out to see "Ted" again. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The old Nae Mair, she ain't what she used to be

We don't know what they were trying to do at Stonehenge between 3000 BC and 2000 BC, arranging giant rocks to line up with the break of the sun on days of solstice and equinox and so forth.  Best guess is that they were planning for a Rolling Stones concert to be held in several weeks.

And certainly, the people who laid out the streets of New York, NY, in 1811 had no idea that on certain days of the year, the sunset would be perfectly framed by the canyons of Manhattan.  Calendars being what they were in 1811, they  were lucky if they didn't miss Saint Swithin's Day, which is today! Good thing you didn't miss it, because you're supposed to check the weather today, and what we have today will be what we have until Saint Tom Cruise Day, when the days get real short. 

I guess there's not a man or woman alive who doesn't remember chanting this as a child:

'St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.'
dost = does
thou = you
nae mair = no more
forty = ounces in a bottle of malt liquor

Manhattanhenge was celebrated this year with many bottles of malt liquor.  Dost thou desire to travel to Manhattan next July 12 to see sunsets like this?  Because until next July, 'twon't set like this nae mair.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday rerun: Hugh must be kidding

When most people see an 85-year-old man chasing after a 25-year-old beautiful woman, the first reaction is usually a chuckle, followed by a guffaw, a chortle, all-out giggling and then uncontrollable paroxysms of laughter.

Unless, of course, the golden-ager is ageless wolf Hugh Hefner, who is 85, for crying out loud.  Same age as my sainted Mom, and she has always had more sense than most people. Or, at least, more than Hugh Hefner.

The happy couple, in happier times
Hef, and his pajamas and his Pepsi, are about to be left at the altar, his plans suddenly altered because Crystal Harris, his sixty-years-younger bride-to-be changed her position on all this and now is to be regarded as his bride that ain't gonna be.  She is even featured on the cover of the July issue of "Playboy," billed as "Mrs Crystal Hefner" (hey - if she already got monogrammed towels, no problem!) in a move that was bound to move that tired old monthly past "Surf Kansas" and "Modern Spelunking" magazines in circulation.

Now it's turning out that there was a TV deal for all this commotion.  Someone was planning a reality show, but with a twist: old Crystal was planning to dump really old Hef at the altar, all on tape, but then no one ponied up any money for her, so she quit the whole deal.  But she did put out a new song on iTunes just hours before she packed up and ankled out on Hugh.

You hate to see someone who just doesn't know when to bow out gracefully.  At 85, it might be better to have some tapioca pudding and wait for the news or "Matlock," and then get to the Early Bird seating down at the Thai Tanic restaurant (where everything is prepared in sinks - get it?  Sinks!) The whole Playboy thing - the nudie magazine, the key clubs, the Jazz Hall of Fame - now seem as dated as anything else from the 50's.  A wiser Hefner would have stayed home and not planned a wedding with someone so young.  I mean, what would they have talked about on their honeymoon, once they got to Viagra Falls?

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Try and explain: scab of a nation, driven insane" (Zappa)

There's no sense flogging this topic til the end of time, but the report by Judge Freeh and his commission into the sickening Penn State situation points fingers directly at Coach Paterno (am I the only one to notice the irony of that name?) and his minions.  You can download the entire report at this link.

Nice shoes, Joe.
One would hope that the beloved (for whatever reason) old coach would have said,"Hmmm. This is inappropriate,  to receive reports that my assistant coach is sexually abusing young boys in the football building shower.  Perhaps I should look into this, and if I find any scintilla of evidence that Sandusky is a predator, I should both fire him and report him to the police."

But no, that didn't happen.  How wonderful that Paterno's family is now claiming that the old fool didn't realize that the man reported to be molesting children was a child molester!  "We wish he'd have been more aggressive in following up," his son Scott Paterno now says. "But clearly he thought it had been handled."

Hypothetical situation:  You're the branch manager of a bank.  Someone reports to you that one of your top staffers has been seen stuffing huge piles of money into his pockets and walking out the door.  You mention it to the brass, but months later you still see this dude hanging around the bank, laughing and carrying on.  You have to wonder why he is still around, so you...

a) call someone and say, "Why is he still around?"


b) shut up and keep coaching  managing the bank.

Paterno is the man who for years claimed that PSU's uniforms had to be plain, blue and white, no adornments of any size.  This was all in keeping with his allegedly plain and simple lifestyle, which saw him amass millions of dollars to donate to the school library on a coach's salary.  He would have no logo, nothing on the team's uniforms...until the people at Nike cut him a deal, and suddenly, the Nike swoosh stripe appeared on PSUniforms.  Even the black football shoes he wore with his white socks and rolled up khaki pants- all part of his 'aw shucks' persona - were Nikes, and sported the swoosh.

He also made a big deal of being technologically ignorant, so he said, "I don't do email or twitter or any of that stuff."  Perhaps he should have learned a little more about how things are today.  People have now come to realize that one little boy being anally raped is actually more important than a college football team. 

Joe Pa never got that.  Which is why, after 1998, when he claimed that he thought the whole Sandusky matter had been settled, he was able to go on and set the record for most (hollow) victories by a football coach.  409.

7.  That's how many more young men were assaulted by Sandusky after 1998.

And 7 is greater than 409.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Win, Lose or Tie

Josh Elliott on ABC News wears his necktie to do the Good Morning America show, but by 2 pm when he's on Good Afternoon America, he doffs the tie and goes open-neck.

Tony Pann was doing the weekend weather last weekend when it was about 106° (but it FELT LIKE 166°!) so he did away with the tie, too.

Ray Romano had some hilarious jokes on Letterman the other night.  No tie, but a suit jacket, just like Josh and Tony.

I am usually the last to pick up on sartorial trends, having only recently disposed of my Nehru jacket and love beads, baby. So was I out of the room the day the words came down from Fashion Central that said neckties are optional for guys - but you still need the daggone sports jacket or suitcoat?

It really doesn't help one to cool down, leaving the jacket on.  So maybe that's not the point.  Would you feel better hearing the news being read by a guy in a tie? Does wrapping 75 dollars worth of silk around the old windpipe add credibility?

Once again, I was born too soon, because when I accepted a high-level position (grocery clerk p/t) with the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company in high school, we had to wear a white shirt every day and a tie and dress slacks. White shirt, although you could get away with wearing a t-shirt with a Rat Fink iron-on ironed on to it, underneath the white shirt.  And for years, I wore the same tie almost every time: a club tie with tiny insignia of a little boy taking a whiz all over it.  I mean, pictures of a little boy were all over the tie, and the little boy pictured was actively making water at the time. He wasn't tinkling on the tie. He was some sort of prince from Belgium and he got lost in the woods and his father, the King, said that he would commission a statue of his darling son, showing him doing whatever he was doing when he was found. 

At least, that's what the guy at Jos. A Bank told me when he sold me the tie!  Do you think that's why Josh, Tony and Ray left their necks open and dry?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's a hot mess

My dad was in the Navy during WWII, serving on a repair ship that went alongside the big boats and served as fix-it guys for everything from electric motors to cannons.  Like most of the men I have known who served in that war, he did not talk about it very much. 

Now and then he would pull out some sort of souvenir from a big trunk he kept upstairs.  I wound up with a Japanese knife - a scabbard - and what I always called a Japanese mess kit.  Dad said that his ship came upon a Japanese ship that was still floating but had no survivors aboard, and so he and his shipmates jumped aboard and made off with all sorts of stuff.  That's where this stuff came from, and probably some stuff that he chose not to bring home. Guys on Dad's ship, the USS Delta, used to drink Aqua-Velva in their coffee to get alcohol, and they also made some sort of homebrew by fermenting raisins in large crocks.  Dad did not partake in these exotic libations, but he used Skin Bracer exclusively for the rest of his life.

Japanese Bento
I did not know until this very day that the mess kit - an aluminum box with little dividers that separated rice from fish and I don't know what-all else they served in the Japanese Navy - is and was called a Bento Box.  They are still popular in Japan, and from what I read, people go to great lengths to fill the spots within with all sorts of tasty food.  And they try to arrange it in a colorful, pleasing fashion.  And they don't make them of aluminum any more, the better to allow microwaving.

In America, not to be outdone, we send the young-un's off to school with our US version of the Bento Box:

American Yucko

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Koda clones

We tend to forget that there has always been color in the world, because we see black and white movies and still photographs from our parents' day, and it's like color didn't exist until they perfected color tv.

Actually, they perfected color.  TV, not yet. 

But lookie here at these old color pictures from the 1940's.  It's fascinating to look back on the good old days in color.

Here's an example from that array that is timeless, because there's no way to tell a horse from the 1940s from one of today's hosses.  And guys who work on farms still tend to wear overalls and ball caps, so what's the diff?

Here's one that sort of cheers up the grammar nut in me, as it shows that the "you're/your" problem existed long before I born. "We cut pipes while your waiting," indeed!

And here's one that is dated, because you can see how old the cars are...but wouldn't it be fun to take a picnic to the Maryland State Fair and sit there behind the sideshows chomping down on sandwiches and chocolate cake that you brought from home?  While wearing a fedora? 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Archery Bunker

I was in 9th grade when our English teacher decided it was time for us to stop diagramming sentences and read a short story.  Apparently, she chose one by picking a slip out of a hat, and we wound up reading "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson.

Shirley was to write four more stories for The New Yorker; today, this quintet of tales is known as the Jackson 5.

I would have made that joke in 9th grade, but the timing would have been off.

If you've never read it, it's a good one and I can recommend it to you and can even hook you up with a link right to the June 26, 1948  New Yorker where you can read it right off the original pages!  Just click here and away you go!

But I thought that people had forgotten "The Lottery" until last evening, when I heard a radio dramatization of it on The Big Broadcast on WAMU 88.5 FM from long ago, and it reminded me that just a few short weeks ago, every teenager in America was lined up to see the movie version of "The Hunger Games."  No, I haven't read that book, nor did I see the movie, but enough people who have experienced the book, the movie and the Lottery tale have said what I suspected: the setups for both stories are very similar, although the endings are quite different.

If you're a school kid and have finished your summer reading, I urge to you to read "The Lottery" and compare it to the "Hunger" book.  Of course, if you're a school kid, I urge you to subscribe to The New Yorker and read every single issue from 1925 on.  All those back editions are yours free to read online as a subscriber, and you will learn so much about everything that your grades will improve exponentially, your allowance will treble, and your newly-expanded vocabulary will help you vault to the top of the SAT standings.  

And, that person you've had your romantic eye on since 8th grade will fall helplessly, hopelessly under your captivating spell.  And, my friends, that's what's called winning the Lottery the right way!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday rerun: High-end Low

Here's a perfect example of that New York mentality that we down here find so quaint. A story appeared in the New York Times the other day, and here is the gist of it: a guy was having dinner in a "high-end" restaurant on a Saturday night, when the chef came out of the kitchen to holler at one of the waiters. So disturbing and annoying was the chef's scolding that the guy (who happens to be a writer for the Times) got up, went into the kitchen, and told the chef that he found the outburst to be disturbing and annoying. And then he went back to his seat.

And then the chef came out and told him he thought it was time for the man and his wife and the other couple with whom they were dining to hit the bricks. Vamoose. Scram.

And then the guy called the chef the following Monday and told him he was going to write about it all in the New York Times, and what did the chef have to say for himself? Here it is, right from the Times:

(He) said that I had scolded him like a child on Saturday night. “First and foremost, you came into my kitchen and spoke to me very disrespectfully in front of my cooks,” he said. “The kitchen is a sacred space.” He told me that my reply to his attempts to explain why he was yelling, while I was in the kitchen was, “We’re not interested.” That sounds about right, since we hadn’t come to the restaurant to listen to him yell repeatedly at his staff about whatever it was that he thought they were doing wrong.
That wasn’t what got us kicked out though. He claimed that he didn’t decide to ask us to leave until he explained to us tableside that his yelling was all in the interest of making everything perfect. “Well you aren’t,” he remembers me saying. “And then,” he continued, “you waved a hand in my direction as if I was an annoying bug. Someone who acts like that in my restaurant, I would never serve.”
Now, then. Let's look this thing over before the fists start flying. The kitchen is a "sacred space"? It's a place where the profane, the impure, the fallen dare not tread? Perhaps that's why the chef chose to berate the waiter out on the dining room floor, so as not to sully someone's omelet or curdle a souffle with his rancor. And, while I'll admit that my taste in restaurants runs more to the diner than to places named for the chef himself, I have been served plenty of eats in my day that had nothing sacred about their origin, I'll tell you that right now.

But not even the grave offense of telling the chef to cool it in front of his prep chefs, as they busily filleted parsley for a chiffonade, was enough to get the boot. No, that came because he made a dismissive hand gesture to the chef. Can you just picture it? The fully extended arm, hand up, and then the fingers quickly point down...that same gesture that Billy Crystal used to describe how his grandfather would tell customers at his clothing store, "We're closed, gawdammit! Get outta heah, you stupid baaaaaaaastid!"
Oh, New York. They say that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. But here's this guy who won't even make dinner for you if you tell him to knock off the pre-meal hollering! And here's this writer who runs into the kitchen to make that knock-it-off complaint!
I don't want to be a part of it, New York, New York. It's up to you.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Saturday Rerun: Pirate walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder

Well, it's spring, and time for the cruise ships to be sailing away and coming back with a ship-pot full of people sick from some mystery illness. Everyone has a great time sailing the high seas aboard the SS Edward Teach, don't they?

Blackbeard's Flag seems corny today
It appeals to my mordant sense of humor to name a ship after Teach, who is better known today for his nickname, "Blackbeard the Pirate."  Long before Keith Richards was born, Blackbeard knew of the advantages that came with cultivating a fearsome appearance.   Another pirate had this to say about his look: "...such a figure that imagination cannot form an idea of a fury from hell to look more frightful."  He wore his hair long and wove colorful ribbons into the braids of his beard.  This sort of appearance today is called "Being An Oakland Raiders Fan."  He had a thick black beard. Remember, this was before there was before the days of Just For Men or Clairol Natural Instincts for Men, but then again, most accounts of his life say that it ended at the age of 38, the age that most American men of this era are just beginning to spread out a little, shall we say.
When I read about the dude, I was fascinated with the names of the other people who figured in his short yet colorful life.  His pirate apprenticeship was served under a pirate named Benjamin Hornigold.  Teach and Hornigold met a pirate named Stede Bonnet, who invented the hat that even today is worn by pirate girlfriends and bunnies at Eastertime. Or not.  But Mr Bonnet was an incompetent pirate!  I know! We don't often think of pirates as being incompetent, but he had deficiencies in sailing a ship and ordering a crew around, and those two skills have to be at the top of any pirate's list of talents to master.  So Blackbeard took over the Bonnet crew and sailed with his merry men around the Southern Atlantic and then wound up off the coast of South Carolina, where they blocked access to the port of Charleston (then called Charles Town). 

Timbers being shivered
His career plundering the high seas was short but, as you might imagine, colorful.  The colonial governor of Virginia, one Alexander Spotswood, sent a fleet of rickety ships, commanded by Lt. Robert "Bob" Maynard, after Blackbeard.  There was a short period of unpleasantness between the two men, which ended with Blackbeard's head being removed from his body against his wishes and being displayed on the bowsprit of Maynard's vessel.  

This is why, to this day, to ask a boat's intended course of travel, we ask, "Where are you headed?"