Monday, December 31, 2012


I see by the local Patch that a local psychic predicts continued growth and togetherness, but we should watch out for a major challenge by June.

Well, there's good news.  I was worried about our continuing growth and togetherness.

Ronald Reagan, probably our greatest president of all time (among those who starred in B movies as a younger man) and his wife consulted a psychic, so there you go.

Tarot cards, crystal balls, tea leaves, the lines on your palm, the lines of people waiting to buy Lotto tickets can any of these foretell the future?  More to the point, how often do you see the headline "PSYCHIC WINS LOTTERY FOR TENTH STRAIGHT WEEK"?

I know it's comforting for some to be reassured by someone who possesses no more knowledge of the future than the kid who wrangles the shopping carts down at the Try 'N' Save, but I just feel bad for people who put their money into the palms of soothsayers in exchange for looking at their palms.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday rerun: Best Blade Plans

Shhh!  Please don't tell the good folks up at Gillette Razors Inc., but something went wrong with their OctoSmoothieSupreme Hawaiian-Jazz Fusion Razor.  At least, the one I am currently using, and have been for about six months.

Now, I'm the first to admit, I am not the most hirsute in the bunch, and so shaving my face is not quite as tough on a razor as, say, removing shellac from an old dining room table with Hepplewhite legs.  But I'm doggoned if I haven't been using the same blade insert doodad since Tisha B'Av (which is in August). I don't know why this is.  Every time I lather up the old face (emphasis on old) I always think, today is the day I will start whittlin' off the whiskers and leave abrasions and contusions on a facial plain that, quite frankly, does not need any more damage done to it.

See how it gleams in the morning sun
But no!  The multi-bladed wonder slices through the face forest like Grant took Richmond (not to bring all that up again...) Like a snowplow in last year's blizzard, like Charlie Sheen at a high school prom, like that guy you always see at a buffet who can balance two plates at a time, the razor makes easy work of my quotidian pruning.  A quick rinse in some lukewarm water is all it asks, then it's back into its ready position in the little jar that holds my toothbrush, all set to be pressed into duty again.

I don't think it was supposed to happen this way.  This is maybe the fourth or fifth newly-installed blade set in this razor, and none of the others lasted this long.  As Oprah® would say, What I Know For Sure is, when I do need to change it, the next razor will give me one, two, maybe four good shaves, and then will slice me dangerously close to the carotid artery.

You guys know what I mean.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Saturday picture show, 12/29/12

 Photo 1, above, shows a nice cooperation between the Highway Department of some municipality somewhere and a certain hamburger chain.  They get to advertise their McFries and pedestrians  walking off their McCalories have a nice place in which to do so.
As with photo 1, photo 2 shows a road someplace, and again, I don't know where this is taking place, but it's funny and why not be a little whimsical, if you can't be a little Popsicle?
 There is often something haunting about old, rusted, abandoned structures (such as the Republican party) but this is particularly interesting, because this Ferris wheel is located in Chernobyl, Russia, where the worst nuclear accident in history took place in 1986 in a town still largely deserted because of it.
Apparently, it used to be popular to depict a new year as being a baby delivered by a stork on December 31.  However yours arrives, I hope you have a great 2013, and thank you for sharing 2012 with me.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Nuttier than a .....

With snow in the forecast for Saturday, I ran to the Giant Food in full panic mode yesterday.

Not for the standard Oh My God! Baltimore order of Bread, Milk and Toilet Paper.  We're all stocked up on that.  I had in mind a more basic, more primal, winter need.

Fruitcake!  Ah, sweet fruitcake.  Say it with me!  Say it loud, and there's music playing!  Say it soft, and people start to wonder, so just say it loudly, all right?

I know it's the butt of all cake jokes.  The stories abound about people being given fruitcake for Christmas and how mad they get, especially since they went out to the drugstore and got a nice Jean Nate Deluxe Travel Set for the person who then turned around and handed them a five-pounder. 

I'm never that guy!  I will be glad to scoot down to the all-night drugstore and buy you the Super Deluxe Two Weeks in Sunny Paris Jean Nate set if you'll lay a fruitcake on me next Christmas.

I asked for a fruitcake, and Peggy couldn't find one, and then when I went to the Giant to ask for one, the woman in the Bakery Dept. looked at me a little oddly, as if I had asked for porcupine pie or something.  And no, they won't be getting more of them in stock, sorry.

But then as I rounded the corner past the gigantic display of paper towels, there was a table with a sign reading "Whoops We Over-Baked!" and there sat four little bricks of joy, with expiration dates well into March, 2013. 

Nothing says baking like fruitcaking!  I snagged one of those bad boys and took it home, ready to sprinkle it with whisky and slice a little bit every night.  If I work it just right, I'll have the last slice while watching Alabama beat Notre Dame on January 7.

Whooo Doggies, do I love me some fruitcake.  Hot a-mighty!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bad grammar

 From the Associated Press:

The owner of an Annapolis trolley company says he’ll no longer offer wedding services because he opposes same-sex marriage.
Discover Annapolis Tours was a longtime fixture of the city’s wedding scene. The Baltimore Sun reports that the company’s decision to get out of the wedding business was publicized by a straight groom who was offended by the move.
Business Owner Matt Grubbs declined to comment on the decision beyond acknowledging that it will cost him $50,000 in revenue. He says he’ll post a full explanation on his company’s website by Jan. 1, the first day that gay couples will be allowed to marry in Maryland.
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal in public accommodations in Maryland.

There's a simple way to test your grammar.  For example, let's say you want to indicate that you and your friend are going to the mall later today to return some doo-dad.  If you find yourself saying, "Me and Fred are going to the mall..." just pretend that Fred can't go, owing to a late bout of common sense.  Would you, going alone, say, "Me is going to the mall"?

Likely not. And you can use the same test when you want to share with your friends that your Aunt Grizelda sent you an antique vinegar cruet for your anniversary.  Should you find yourself wanting to say, "That was a sweet gift she sent to Jim Bob and I" because, if you hadn't married Jim Bob (and your father urged you not to) you would never say,"It was a sweet gift she sent to I."

I'm not beating the drum for good grammar here, as much as I am for good citizenship.  Take the sentence:  
  the owner of an Annapolis trolley company says he’ll no longer offer wedding services because he opposes same-sex marriage

 and change it to

  the owner of an Annapolis trolley company says he’ll no longer offer wedding services because he opposes interracial marriage

or     marriage between Lutherans and Methodists

or     marriage between short people and tall people

or     marriage between Steeler fans and Ravens fans

and you'll see how using a little sense makes things better for all of us!


Monday, December 24, 2012

With a child's heart

Christmas Eve finds a certain sadness lingering from the Connecticut horror from a couple of weeks ago. This year has been tough in every way.  Killings, tornadoes, bickering over politics and policy, murders, hurricanes, a college football child abuse trial, so much sadness. 

We end the year soon, not soon enough for many. 2013 beckons and there is always the chance for hopeful people to see a brighter day beyond that blue horizon. 

For now, let's pause and ponder what the holidays can be for us all.  If I could, I'd have us all see Christmas through the same eyes we used as children, when even the simplest little thing could fill our hearts with happiness and laughter.  We got older, that's all, and things got bigger - our wants, needs, things in general. 

If you feel a vague sense of being disquieted, why not turn down the surround sound, close your eyes and think back to another day.  Look around at the children in your life, in your family or in your neighborhood.  They still feel the joy.

May God send you joy at Christmas and all through this coming year.  And when we speak to - and of - each other, let's try to pretend that it's Christmas every day. And ask the drug store or the grocery to keep candy canes and egg nog in stock all year long.  That will end a lot of the agitation.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Rerun: The importance of train-ing

See, this is what we get for assuming. 

As children in the Baltimore area, we all figured that everyone everywhere had train gardens of some sort around the house at Christmastime, and that most firehouses did too, all around the nation.

Wrong again, Santapants.

The tradition of having a Christmas garden - a miniature diorama with wee villages and model trains, often with hovering helicopters, ascending aircraft and plummeting parachuters (I just renewed my membership in the American Alliteration Association) displayed above - may take places in lots of houses around the nation, but somehow it became a Baltimore tradition to have them in fire houses, and there is where we find amazing work in action: in plenty of local fire stations.

It wouldn't be the holiday season if Peggy and I didn't make our annual trip to the wonderful display at Baltimore City Engine 45 house at Cross Country Bl and Glen Av (21215).  The firefighters there have nowhere to store the huge plaster mountain and other features that make up the base of their garden, so they have to tear it down at the end of the holiday season every year, put the thousands of miniature houses, buildings, cars, trucks and people in storage along with the train sets, and rebuild it again every year, beginning in August. 

And what great work they do!  The trains go around, skiers jump, skaters skate, and you really have to pay attention to the teeny little details.  A few years ago, my childish heart was made even more gleeful by the sight of the Coca-Cola polar bear...walking away from a patch of yellow snow.  This year, in one of the scenes of a burning house, they managed to make ordinary cotton and some well-placed lights look just like smoke wafting from a burning hotel.  And they made a rock formation on one side of the mountain look just like ET the Extra Terrestrial...with "phone home" graffiti right nearby.

There is something for everyone to enjoy.  Peggy loves seeing the trains go around, and I like the little villages.  The lights come up and go down, and I think you should go down and see this great train garden. Here's a link to further info, and some pictures.  See you in Plasticville!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Saturday picture show, 12/22/12

This is an old picture; I've seen it around for years. The anthropomorphism of a gun dressed in a tiger suit shoveling snow just amuses me. OR!  Is this a tiger who worked on a highway crew and was making such good money that he was able to afford a human hand transplant, the better to grip the shovel? 
I've kept this picture around for a couple of weeks to see about something, and that is, whether it would continue to suggest an aroma every time I see it. And it does.  When I look at it, I get the smell of a walk in the pine forest out near the reservoir, or cleaning the floors with Pine-Sol.  I recommend pine trees for everyone who wants to put some great trees around their yard.  They are nature's miracle: no leaves to rake, and they drop their needles cleanly at their base, forming their own mulch!  Maintenance free! And so aromatic!
Here are some more pines, but you can't see the needles for the snow.  And that's the way it should be all winter long!  Please?
Almost as funny as someone spelling "misspelling" incorrectly is someone's "Alignment" sign being out of...alignment.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Don't Miss Letterman Tonight!

Darlene Love
She had a mild heart attack this past summer, but Darlene Love is back and ready to sing for Letterman tonight.  So, set your DVR or VCR or BetaMax, or just stay up late tonight and watch The Late Show with David Letterman, tonight at 11:35 after your local news concludes with a fake "lighter side" story about a child being abducted by an eagle.

Spector in his heyday
Lana Clarkson (far left)
Letterman does this show every year.  Darlene recorded "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" for the amazing Phil Spector Christmas album in 1963.  Spector was a genius record producer and is, well, a pretty lousy human being who currently resides at  the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison (SATF) in Corcoran, California.  He was convicted in 2009 of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.  Ms Clarkson, best remembered as Mr Vargas's wife in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was shot at Spector's mansion in Los Angeles.

But the records he made are still among the best parts of any radio playlist in December, and Letterman's favorite Christmas song is the one we'll see Darlene sing tonight.  It's always a huge production with Paul Shaffer leading a big band.  We call this the Big Band Theory.


Jay Thomas will make you laugh!
Also, Jay Thomas will make his annual visit to the Late Show, throwing a football at a meatball atop a Christmas tree and telling his Lone Ranger story.  I guess the true test of a great story is whether you can listen to it over and over.  You can, when it's a) funny to begin with and b) told by a master storyteller, which Jay is, as you'll see tonight.

I can't wait!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Santa Jimi

In December, 1969, Jimi Hendrix continued to defy other guitarists, who to this day are unable to duplicate what he could do on an electric guitar, and spelling purists.  He accomplished the latter by naming his new band, which was to replace The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Band of Gypsys.  The more conventional spelling would be Gypsies, of course, but then, Jimi never did anything the conventional way.

He had hired veteran drummer Buddy Miles to slam the skins, and Billy Cox (not to be confused with the old Dodger third baseman) to play bass. Cox and Jimi had become friends while serving in the US Army together in 1961 at Fort Campbell, KY.

Jimi and the band were booked for the holidays of '69-'70 at the Fillmore East, the legendary rock concert hall in New York.  There were new songs ready for the band - most notably "Machine Gun" - but Jimi wanted to do something special. 

While rehearsing for the shows at Baggy's Studios in Manhattan, the band wove together the melodies (melodys?) of The Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, and Auld Lang Syne.  Someone wisely hit the "record" button, and we are left with these holiday treasures to enjoy, 43 years later.  At the concerts on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, The Little Drummer Boy and Auld Lang Syne wound up as parts of medleys with other songs.

If you'd like to hear this tripartite medley, YouTube is standing by.  Just go here and enjoy!

The album of the concerts was released in March of 1970, the last to come out during Hendrix's life, which ended that September. 

We don't have any way to know which direction his career might have taken, but it's good to hear his music again.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

5'll get ya 10

I mean it when I say I just don't seem to understand life these days.

Remember when you were a little kid and you did something wrong?  I certainly do.  And my punishment was usually being sent to my room, which contained none of the following: TV, stereo, DVD player, PC, tablet, video game system or entertainment of any sort, save books and a checker board, which was not much fun alone.

Later on, when granted parole, I would enjoy the TV more than ever, cranking the Dumont on to every prison movie I could find.  "Angels With Dirty Faces" was a perennial favorite, bringing together the toughness of Humphrey Bogart, Father Pat O'Brien, and screen beloveds The Dead End Kids.

In that and many other movies that I watched in grainy black and white, prisoners filed into dinner silently (until one of them tossed a tin plate of gruel skyward, crying, "I ain't eating this slop!" and being set upon by two dozen uniformed bulls swinging billy clubs and clobbering him into submission and 30 days in "the hole") and then slunk back to their cells, where they were allowed to read letters from their sweethearts and stare at the ceiling until "lights out."
In baggy jeans and thin chambray shirts with numbers stenciled over the pocket, they served out their days, weeks, months and years as calendar pages whizzed by.

I believe that seeing this type of movie was a deterrent to my generation.  We didn't want to wind up in some big Ironbar Hilton, playing mournful music on the harmonica while the days dragged on.

"Hi! What's your number?"
Funny, then, that a guy whose grandfather and father played plenty of cops and robbers in movies would wind up in the calaboose, but that's where Cameron Douglas is getting his mail these days.  The son of Michael, the grandson of Kirk, the stepson of Catherine Zeta-Jones (she is 9 years his senior) is in the tank in New York, doing a ten-year bid on a drug distribution charge, making a third conviction for narcotics violations.

Young Douglas was only a short time into the sentence when he and a girlfriend came up with a real smart idea.  She brought him some heroin in the battery compartment of an electric toothbrush.  Not easily fooled, the police put her in jail as well.  And how is he to follow a conscientious program of oral hygiene by using a manual toothbrush...or even more sad, a non-electric electric toothbrush?
Dead End Kids

But here's why Cameron is in the news today.  He recently had a fellow prisoner make a wishbone of his femur and his finger, breaking both bones, and leading to young Mr Douglas dropping out of the prison flag football league, what with the word being out that he was a rat and naming names.

Sometimes, words just don't go together.  "Healthy McDonald's Meal," "President-Elect Mitt Romney," and "Prison Flag Football League" are but three examples of word groupings that make no sense.

Hello, penitentiaries?  How about a little less flag football and a little more penitence, whaddya say? I can't imagine The Dead End Kids playing flag football out in The Yard at Sing Sing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Toss this one around

I'm gonna cross some people up now and discuss a gun crime without getting into the gun aspect of it.  The Charles Village Pub is in Towson, been there a long time, and recently re-opened following a fire that completely burned it out a couple of years ago.  It's a very popular place, and it would seem that Mr Francis Minsung Kang, 26 years of age, had nothing better to do at 0205 hours early this past Sunday but to toss a bottle of Gatorade at a woman outside of the place.  A fight ensued, according to the narrative provided by the County Police, and Mr Kang ALLEGEDLY withdrew a weapon and fired five shots into a crowd of people, striking one man in the hand.

For his alleged efforts toward making this a better community, Mr Kang is currently a guest at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Towson, the town that knew me when, has changed a lot.  Used to be, the worst that happened on a Saturday night would be when a drunk would roll a bowling ball down the middle of York Rd.  But times are different now, and Mr Kang finds himself dining on county chow while awaiting trial.  This is not new to him, as a glance at the record will show. 

Crime Scene
But what really troubles me is the nonchalant attitude that several of Kang's friends show about the whole deal.  True, he has not been convicted of anything, but there seems little doubt that he was not at home reading Sylvia Plath while all this mayhem was taking place in Towson.  His friends just about broke their necks to write to the local Patch to say such things as:

 I know the "wannabe tough guy", I've known him since elementary school, and he is not a tough guy at all. He's a good guy; always has been. None of us have any idea what really happened just because we've read a news article. I don't mean to make excuses. He clearly lost his sh*t and that's not acceptable, and there have to be consequences for that, but he's been a good person as long as I've known him, which is a long time, so let's hope he's not in for too tough of a ride in prison, because if someone like him deserves that kind of suffering, than there's not many of us who don't.


 If you read the article, then you know a biased side of the story. Do not make an opinion, do not start makin stories, and do not believe what other ppl are sayin. He is a man who made a mistake, and is payin for it. This man is a good guy who i have known my entire life. Everyone makes mistakes, and yes, this was a big one. But there are multiple sides to every story, so dont go making assumptions just because you read an article, mostly of police statements. Who were not there during the altercation or shooting... If you were out numbered and in fear for your life, how would you react?!

OK.  First...spelling and grammar?  Second...friendship is great, and sticking up for your old grammar school chum is admirable, but only up to a point.  If your "friend" is accused of pulling out a handgun and firing into a crowd of people, and, his markmanship being what it seems to be, hitting one of them, please don't take the "well, you weren't there!" approach!

And finally, this bit of advice.  Friends, try to avoid the temptation to throw bottles of popular electrolyte-replacing sports drinks at people.  It will help you avoid that "out numbered (sic) and in fear for your life" feeling!

Can't anyone just go out and have fun and then go home in peace anymore?

Monday, December 17, 2012

What's news?

Last Thursday, students at South River High School, down past Annapolis, were evacuated for a second day that week due to what turned out to be a dryer malfunction.  Apparently, all that time standing outside led some of them to decide to set up a fake "Breaking News" site and share with the world the amazing, although spurious, news that the school had been evacuated because a live tiger was roaming its halls.

Had this been Sri Lanka Senior High School, it would have been believable.  Those with a knowledge of the fauna of Central Maryland know that tiger sightings outside of the zoo and the ballpark, when the Detroit nine come to town, are so rare as to be nonexistent.
Ha, ha, kids.  Very funny joke.  Now, back to reading "Heart of Darkness," solving for "y", and wearing the same gym socks for the third consecutive marking period.

However, according to the local Patch, a "national news website" picked up the story and ran it.  It turns out that this "national news website" is something called "Elite Daily...Voice of Generation-Y" which is not to be confused with The New York Times.  For one thing, the megapaper from New York knows better than to use dashes when they are not needed.  Members of Generation Y, please take note of the way proper grammar solves for "Y".

Of course, the next day, an ineffable enormity occurred in Connecticut, and as we watched, listened and read of the unfolding details from Newtown, a debate took shape on the social media sites about "how much news is too much."  Some people took to the keyboard to tap out messages about how we are only "giving this young man what he wanted" by paying attention to his evil deed.  Others pointed out that what he wanted was to kill people, and maybe we should try to find out how such an abhorrent mode of behavior surfaced in what seemed to be a "normal, everyday" kind of guy.

That's a debate with many sides, but for those who say, "The news shouldn't cover this so extensively; it only gives other people bad ideas", I say bad ideas abound all by themselves.  Those who don't want to see the full-scale coverage by news channels such as NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN have the option of turning to another channel, or turning the tv off altogether.  The news is the news, and wishing it were better won't make it so.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday rerun: Atom Jones

I believe we all knew a guy like this:

Swedish man caught trying to split atoms at home
The Associated Press

STOCKHOLM -- A Swedish man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen said Wednesday he was only doing it as a hobby.

Richard Handl told The Associated Press that he had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment in southern Sweden when police showed up and arrested him on charges of unauthorized possession of nuclear material.

The 31-year-old Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove.

Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden's Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.

"I have always been interested in physics and chemistry," Handl said, adding he just wanted to "see if it's possible to split atoms at home."

The police raid took place in late July, but police have refused to comment. If convicted, Handl could face fines or up to two years in prison.

Although he says police didn't detect dangerous levels of radiation in his apartment, he now acknowledges the project wasn't such a good idea.

"From now on, I will stick to the theory," he said.

Ya.  Good idea.  You just know that guy who lives down the street from you is up to something, building a love machine down in his basement or something, who knows what?   But here in America, our hobbyists build boats that are too large to get out the basement door, or make models of baseball stadia out of toothpicks, or train animals to become a bell choir, performing Handel at the holidays.

Over in Sweden, fellow blogger Richard Handl is leading the way among Scandinavian nuclear hobbyists, but listen, if your name was his name too, you might have an interesting hobby as well.  He "just wanted to see if it's possible to split atoms at home." 

Message to Dick:  see if you can go find yourself a date.  Learn to cook. Volunteer at the library, the hospital, the firehouse. Learn to make ships in bottles. Collect old records.  Take up traveling. Get one of those ham radio rigs and talk to other ham radio operators all around the world on your ham radio.  Become a gardener, coach Little League baseball, start your own puppet theater.

We don't want Sweden becoming a nuclear power.  And we certainly don't want anyone to hold the world hostage with his homemade WMD.  

And for the love of IKEA, please clean up that stove!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Saturday picture show, 12/15/12

 Of course, I would be partial to Jane Parker Fruitcake, as a former A&P employee.  The fact is, I love fruitcake, which makes me a member of a very small but well-fed group.  What's sad is, there are no more A&P grocery stores around here, but if you happen to have an old fruitcake around, don't worry.  Just add a little rum to some cheesecloth, wrap the remaining chunks o' cake in it, and in a day or two, you'll have a fine dessert.
 I love the color known as "rust".  It would appear that these nails were driven into this log before the log was burned, and then someone took a picture that I like just because of the colors. 
 Look at this for a minute and I'm sure you will figure out what it's a visual alphabet.  Thanks for showing us your 'O' face, Office Space fans!
OK.  So she crossed the road and will soon be on the other side.  And for what? 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Crossing the road'll make you JUMP! JUMP!

I found a way to combine my love of getting books to read for free with my habit of walking in cold air, by walking to the library yesterday afternoon. 

Retirees have all sorts of time for these things, you understand.

On my way home with two books I would not buy, but will read (My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall and Not Taco Bell Material by Adam Carolla) I cut through the parking lot at Carney Elementary School just as a school bus pulled up to discharge some kids.

Crossing Joppa Rd at any time other than maybe 3:30 AM is hazardous at best.  Four lanes wide with a turning lane in the middle, the road seems to remind local motorists of the straightaway at the Daytona 500.  We're a couple of blocks from the speed trap enforcement area over by Spring Avenue, so any chance at a break in traffic is a break we appreciate.  I thought, "This will help me cross the road" as the bus driver put on the flashing red lights that clearly indicate all traffic must stop.

Well, guess what.  Yes, about 6 or 7 cars stopped to let the kids out safely, and allow this old kid with his canvas library sack to dodder across the road.  But two cars zoomed past the big yellow bus with lights aflash as if nothing else mattered but them getting to Wendy's before all the Mozzarella Chicken Supremes were gone. 

So, it's one of two things: either the drivers of these cars did not see the bus and the flashing red lights, or they saw them and did not care one whit about the law.  I mean, don't worry about me.  I've been jaywalking around here for a long time and I know how to avoid that rundown feeling, but the kids!  The kids!

I would bet next week's retirement check that these people, these two drivers, would hop up and down if they thought a pervert or a drug dealer was hanging around the schoolyard.  Anyone would be angry.  But kids had gotten off a bus, and the bus was flashing its lights, and they didn't even slow down, let alone stop.

Even moody actor James Dean knew better than to zoom around like that.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Down the Rocky road

You can go here to see the video of a raccoon being removed from Paul Brown Stadium in beautiful Cincinatti, Ohio on Sunday.

Just how the varmint got into the stadium is unknown at this time.  It's quite possible that one of the Bengals playing in the game had invited him, or possibly he snuck in.

But please take this bit of advice if you find a raccoon roaming through your house, garage or office.  Do not pick him up with your hands.  Don't even attempt to do so.

For one thing, it's wise to regard all free-roaming wildlife as rabid.  They might NOT be, but do you really want to take that chance and get bitten by a raccoon, and then have to undergo a painful series of shots?

For another, wild animals, and raccoons specifically, are known to be represented by law firms based in Beaver Falls, PA.  They will take you to court to fight the removal, and you will lose, and be humiliated when the video of you, hands bandaged, winds up as the "lighter side" story on the nightly news.

So leave the critters alone.  They won't eat much.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


We didn't know about this until very recently, but with the release of this official government photo, it turns out that the notion that space aliens landed here in the early days of this century, once thought to be only believed by the most outré among us, is now a proven fact.

Pictured here with a former government official, Mr Alien landed somewhere in America and immediately sent for more of his home folk, so as to preclude the need to date and reproduce with local singles.  He was not doing so well with them anyway; the music of A Flock Of Seagulls, so popular back home on Mars, is not regarded as particularly seductive here.  

In the decade since a whole passel of people from REALLY far away joined our nation, they have subtly transformed our society in ways that suddenly make sense now that we know for sure they are here.  Before the damning photo was released, all we could do was ascribe off patterns of behavior to brain softening as a result of watching The Osbournes.

For instance, you might have noticed that of late, people around here are in no hurry to remove campaign signs long after an election is over.  You might also see cars or trucks displaying the stars 'n' bars of the Confederacy, despite the fact that the Civil War ended with them on the losing side, and more important, despite how many people's feelings are hurt at the sight of that flag.  On Mars, no one has feelings, so there are no feelings to worry about, and history can be undone by just waiting for everyone to forget who won wars and elections.

As people who had primo seats out in outer space to see it all happen, the Martians were happy to land in a country that had sent men to the moon (and threatened to send Alice Kramden too.)  It was their idea to start the rumor that the whole thing was a Disney production, faked by the same people who brought you Goofy and Pluto.  Disbelief in the moon landings makes a certain percentage of us goofy too...and that's what the Martians want!

The good news that came out of a Gallup Poll was that more than four out of five Americans realize that the Earth revolves around the Sun.  The bad news, then, was that 18% of the people around whom you live, work, shop and play believe that the Earth is the center of the universe. 

One third of the people in Texas believe that dinosaurs and men roamed the earth at the same time

We could go on, but it's clear that we all knew a lot more before the space creatures came and spread crazy rumors and distorted facts.  If we can trick them into going home for a vacation and remain vigilant, maybe they'll stay away and we can get smart again!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Coach outlet

So, yesterday, following the Ravens' defensive collapse on Sunday that led to their losing to the Washington Redskins, the club did the appropriate thing and fired their offensive coordinator.  Apparently, their feeling is that this will serve as a warning to the defensive coaches as well.

Cam Cameron was the man fired, and you don't have to look far to see why.  Right along Joppa Rd there is a locksmith named for a famous spring holiday, and their sign along the road had a winter holiday theme the other day: "Ho Ho Ho...Cam has to go."  Cameron, shown here measuring running back Ray Rice for a new cap, bore the brunt of the fans' outrage, because the Ravens have been inconsistent on the field this year.

The NFL is an entertainment consortium, a lot like the movie industry, television, and competitive eating.  People gladly part with with what used to a good week's salary in return for being able to sit in a stadium, pay $25 for a hot dog and a beer, and watch the game.  That's all good for all concerned.

The only part of this that makes me shake the old melon a little is what I hear on the radio and television.  The people who call the sports talk shows say the funniest things in the world!  As in, "Listen, I played quarterback in high school, so I know what I'm talking about here.  What Flacco needs to do is...."

Or..."Cam Cameron don't (sic) know what he's doing.  I guarantee you, any fan could come down, put on that headset, and call the plays much better."

Here in Baltimore, we have a world-renowned neurosurgeon named Dr Ben Carson, who is the #1 man anywhere for separating conjoined twins, and removing brain tumors, and other things that require skill, training, experience, and such.  I'm not saying that sliding a scalpel into someone's medulla oblongata is on a par with deciding whether to throw the ball or hand it off to a running back, but here's one thought.

If Dr Carson's work was discussed on some sort of radio show, and someone called and said, "Listen, I took a lot of first aid training to become a Cub Scout, so I know that he should first have trepanned the dura mater so as to relieve the intracranial pressure," there would be a lot of people pointing out that these things are best left to the experts.  Cameron is a recognized leader in his field, and just because things didn't all work out during his time here, that doesn't mean that he doesn't know more about his business than old Brutus from Arbutus, quarterback for the Bulldogs back in '78.

As Ray Rice himself said yesterday morning - before the firing - on Facebook, "Man, the people are my page are polar opposites - no in between - there are the great fans who support me, my team, and our community....then there are the ones who fill my inbox with cursing, name calling, and game advice. Think you can coach or play better? Maybe the NFL overlooked you by accident.... SMH. ON TO THE NEXT!! #FOCUS"

Maybe the NFL overlooked you by accident.  Classic. 

Later in the day, he posted that he was "Thinking about visiting the workplace of an armchair QB to tell them how to do their jobs even though i have no clue. That might be kind of fun!"

If Ray Rice showed up at your workplace and told you were arresting people wrong or putting out fires inefficiently or writing legal briefs inaccurately or parking your delivery van illegally, you might suggest that you know your business better than he.

And vice versa!

Monday, December 10, 2012


Sometimes, you have to let a scenario play out all the way to see it all unfold, and that's the only way to learn about the pitfalls.

Look, everyone loves shock DJs, if only because they say the things that we all wish we could.  When Stutterin' John asked Imelda Marcos if she ever passed gas and blamed the dog, and when he asked Tracy Chapman if she was still in show business, a nation laughed as one, because Imelda and Tracy, being public figures, could take a little gentle ribbing.

And so can The Duke of Ellington, Prince Willie, and his lovely wife, Barfin' Kate.  I don't really think that her morning sickness is any worse than that suffered by millions of women around the world at this very moment on this very morning, and darn few of them are checking into Her Majesty's Public 'ospital, are they, now?

So if those two wacky Australian DJs had been able to call the hospital last week and get Kkkkatie on the phone herself, and prank her into thinking that 'twas Her Majesty ringing on the telly, that would have been a corker, I say.

Nurse Saldanha, RIP
But they didn't get her on the phone; they got a nurse by the name of Jacintha Saldanha, who fell for the imitation and spoke with the Wonders From Down Under.  So upset was Ms Saldanha that she committed suicide over the humiliation.

Unspeakable.  Tragic.  And so unnecessary.  That's the difference in a sensible entertainment such as "Jackass," in which the only people who have to be the schlamazels are the stars themselves.  Now this nurse, a wife and mother is gone, and the DJs are in hiding, and the radio station is lawyering up.  All of this could have been avoided, but it's easy to see that when the whole thing has ended.

I say, pick on the people who have chosen a life in the spotlight, and leave others alone.  For the love of God, someone please annoy Donald Trump, and leave innocent people to live in peace.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Sunday picture show, 12/9/12

 I found this magazine ad online, and it reminds us of the days none of us can remember.  Apparently there was a time when few home bathrooms had showers.  I guess if the showers had been more prevalent early on, they would call that room "the shower room," but that's how it shower, just a bath, and I am very glad I wasn't there for those days. 
 A week or so ago, we saw the picture of the house in China where the city had built an airport approach road.  The owners of the house had refused to sell their property and were planning to stay, in defiance.  That lasted less than a week, and they capitulated after all.  Looks like it took the city about ten minutes to level the house and finish the road.  Lesson learned?  I don't know.
 Here's a picture I found that the moon up there, or is it a security light high overlooking a stand of trees outside a building or campus?  Either way, I like the light shimmering off the branches.  Are they just wet, or icy? 
The Chive ran this picture of Neil Patrick Harris meeting and greeting fans at Disneyland.  I really like hearing that celebrities, athletes, performers and Kardashians take time to be good to people.  Guys like Harris, who have been around for a while, know how to mingle and stay popular.  It's just as well that I am not famous, because if anyone ever asked me for my autograph, I'd be glad to sign it, but then they would have to ask, "Hey, what does this say?"

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Anniversary, dear!

Yesterday for lunch, Peggy wanted Chicken Noodle soup.  She will only eat Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup.  She takes all the pieces of chicken out.  I can't blame her; the chicken in that soup always reminds me (in appearance and in taste) of Chiclets without the candy coating.

Peggy removes every one of them, saying, "I don't like the chicken."

I once got a can of Giant ® brand "Lotsa Noodles" soup, which promised the taste of chicken broth and noodle soup, without the bother of removing all the minute pieces of chicken.  Halfway through it, Peggy told me it was not good, that she missed taking the chicken pieces out.

I have been with her so long that it doesn't even matter anymore that she reminds me of the old burlesque joke where the guy puts 12 spoonsful of sugar in his coffee and then commences to sip at it.  His friend says, "Hey, you didn't stir your coffee!" and the top banana says, "Who can stand it so sweet?"

On the other hand, when she saw me walking into my shower stall with a bottle of white vinegar, a plastic bag and a plastic wire-tie, she knew there was a logical explanation,  and that it did not involve some novel method of self-gratification.  I read that if you tie a bag o'vinegar around your shower head, it will remove all the gunky deposits and allow the shower to shoot more water.  So I gave it a good overnight soakification and enjoyed a veritable Niagara of steamy sudsy shower satisfaction the next day.

These are things that we have learned about each other in 39 years of happy matrimony.  Beyond her preference in soup (above), music (Enya and Sarah McLachlan) and TV shows (Raymond, Mindy and Oprah get thumbs up, Car 54 and Phil Silvers thumbs down), I can't predict much about her, except for one thing.

And that one thing is that as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, as sure as it's going to rain some days and not others, and as sure as God made little green apples, Peggy, for whatever reasons, loves me in the most perfect, loyal, and devoted way that a person can love another. 

Even when I'm wrong, she acts like it's all right.  Even when I'm being a horse's patootie, she acts like a horse's patootie is just what she wanted.  I can't even begin to talk about how much I love my Peggy and how much we enjoy each other's company, so I won't even start enumerating the ways.

Before I started artificially graying my hair
Other people wonder about our story and how we fell in love on a Thursday and got engaged the following Monday and then got married in just five months.  I marvel at it as well.  As far as I'm concerned, I would have been happy to get married the night we met, but there was no church open, so I waited.

39 years later, on our way to together forever, as Paul Harvey used to say, and not one petal has fallen off the bloom of our love.  You don't have to tell me how lucky I am to have her.  I know it every time I look in her eyes, which are still the exact color of root-beer barrel candy.

Thank you, Peggy, for all these years of love, encouragement, support and fun and laughter.  I don't know what I ever did to deserve all this happiness, but I'm glad to have it.  And thanks to friends and kinfolk for being there, too.  No one would believe this story if not for you being witnesses to it all! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor Day

Among my cherished possessions is an old work schedule for the shift my Dad was on at the Baltimore Gas and Electric.  I kept it because it showed his remarkable penmanship, which he used when lettering his great handmade crafts or writing me a note about how many faults he found with Jerry Lewis being so egotistical as to write an autobiographical sketch without mentioning his partner of ten years, Dean Martin.  (I wish I had saved that note!  A quiet and humble man, my father was appalled at any display of immodesty and flamboyance.  So look whom he raised...)

As I was saying before I interrupted myself, I have this old schedule framed, and it shows who was working on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the day which still lives in infamy.  It was that day that Japan attacked America's naval base in Pearl Harbor. Some 2,400 Americans were killed, with 1,100 wounded, as four of our battleships were sunk and four more heavily damaged, along with many other ships and planes.

Of course, I have often wondered about the men who were working with Dad that day 71 years ago.  How many of them went off to war and did not come back?  Dad was in the Navy within a year and served for the duration on a repair vessel in the Mediterranean and the Pacific.  Beyond that, I don't know much about his war experiences.  Most of the baby boomers I grew up with said the same thing: their dads heard the call to duty on this day in 1941 and went off to serve, and came back without much to say about it all.

To honor them, those who went and were lucky enough to return, and those whose lives were given in the defeat of the Axis powers, the least we can do today, in my opinion, would be to give a little thought to all those men and women and what they did.  Thanks for taking the time today, Pearl Harbor Day.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A friend indeed

Something jarred this story loose from my memory bank the other day, and it brings to mind two essential facts for everyday living. 

Well, they are to me, anyway!

My friend and his wife and kids were coming back from Ocean City late one night when they were involved in a car wreck in Cambridge, MD.  Cambridge is a fairly big town on the Eastern Shore, maybe a couple of hours from here and two-thirds of the way to the beach.  Sitting there at a red light, their car was smashed into by some dude.  The details of all this are hazy to me, but for sure, my friend was the hapless victim.  His car was a total wreck, so there he was in a police station late late at night, wife and three kids and luggage and beach stuff and no way home.  Trailways was not going to be an option.

He called his neighbor back home, and that fellow got into his car and drove on down there to get them.  And when they were a block from the police station, he pulled out an unopened pint of Southern Comfort and passed it to my buddy, saying, "Take a slug."

Now I am not saying that alcohol is the cure for all that ails us, by any means.  Take a listen to any country song to see what I mean.  But, a little medicinal shot of hooch can help the soul at times.  I say, a little shot.  It's good for shock and stress. I guess.

That's lesson #1 for me, and I've kept it in mind over the years when helping others in distress.  But thought #2 is, how great is it to have friends and like that!  As the old song says, if you've got friends and neighbors, though your house may be tumbling down, you're the richest person in town.

And if your house is tumbling down, better make friends with a carpenter!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gotta hope it looks like her

Well, there is excitement afoot, and at hand, because Kate Middleton,  AKA Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, has an English muffin in the oven, due next year.

Not for me to question the excitement over her and her husband, Prince Fielder William, Duke of Cambridge.   I know she is pretty, if a bit skinny, and she seems nice enough.  But why Americans get all worked about about the British Royal Family escapes me.  I know one thing for sure.  His father, Charles "Big Poppa" the Prince of Wales, has been waiting to become the King since Hector was a pup, and so the offspring of Kate and Willie will have a short route to the top only if compared to the American Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, who is 12th in line for the good seat at the White House as of right this minute.  Yes, Jolly Cholly, as he likes to be called, once he's wearing that crown...he will not give it up too soon.

Do you remember that Americans dressed in tiaras and other "royal" gear and sat in movie theaters in the middle of the night last April (2011) when those two crazy kids tied the knot at a quickie ceremony in London?  There is something about us that makes us care about these folks, and so I want to do my part.  Here are some names that I have chosen for the royal kid...

MALE                                       FEMALE

Elvis                                         Brandine
Jerry Lee                                   Jinx
Hector                                       WhiskeySue
Duane (or "The Rock")               Goldilocks
Forrest                                      Lexus-Ferrari
Joe Don                                     Britney
Baldy                                        Camilla
Lee Harvey                                 Kinki
Marmaduke                                Deja Vu
Nixon                                         Ricola

These names are offered to Willie and Katie, free of charge, in a hands-across-the-sea gesture.  Should one of these be chosen, I will expect an invitation to the Royal Christening and a fortnight's stay at the Palace.                                

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time to grow up

I have it on good authority - and also from FOX News - that Nick Lachey was thrown out of the San Diego- Cincinnati game on Sunday.

Lachey is a Cincinnati native and a big fan of the Bengals.  He went to see his team play the Chargers in San Diego on Sunday and apparently was unable to moderate his behavior to an acceptable level, and so was thrown out of the stadium by Chargers security.

This being 2012, he didn't even get to his car before he took to the Twitter, tweeting, "Just got kicked out of the chargers stadium and couldn't be prouder! Go Cincy Bengals!"

We all remember Lachey from his ill-fated marriage to Jessica Simpson.  They were both young crazy kids in love in those days (2002-2006).  Now he appears on reality shows such as "Stars Earn Stripes" and makes records that no one hears and seems to have enough money to run around Southern California making a patootie of himself at professional sporting events.

But, when I looked up information about his life to write this, I was startled to see that he was born in November, 1973.  The man will be 40 years of age this time next year, and he doesn't know any better than to run around acting like a galoot in public?

His final tweet on the topic of his getting shown the gate yesterday was, "Bengals win again. i'd (sic) talk trash to everyone in SD, but what's the point? you already had me kicked out of the stadium and you still lost."

Efforts by this writer and anyone else concerned have so far been unable to establish a causal relationship between Nick Lachey getting thrown out of a stadium, and the Cincinnati Bengals winning a game that he came to see and had to leave.



Monday, December 3, 2012

Suspending time

On Saturday, we went Christmas shopping in the afternoon and did not get home, bearing presents and a nice hot pizza pie, until about 7.

But the all-important South Eastern Conference football championship game, pitting the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama versus the Bulldogs of the University of Georgia, started at 4!  Oh no! What to do?

Bearing in mind the ancient Chinese proverb about the second-best time to plant a tree being today (with the best time being twenty years ago) I had planned for this collision of the shopping world and the football world by setting the DVR to record the game.

Then, it was simply a matter of avoiding the television department at the Super Try 'N' Save (because they would likely have a 64" screen showing the game) and making sure the car was playing a CD rather than the radio.  Also, when we went into Italian Sensation to get the 16" pie with sausage and mushrooms, I peeped in first to make sure there was no tv playing to wreck my plan.

So we went home and watched the game from the beginning, just as nature had intended.  It was an indoor game at the Georgia Dome, so for all that daylight mattered, it might as well have been three o'clock in the morning.

And the only other step I had to take was to make sure not to check Facebook or email, so as not to be tipped off about the outcome.  I'm glad I didn't!

It was a great game, not decided until the very second that time ran out!  And just in case you recorded it and have not sat down to watch it yet, I won't wreck it for you other than to say that the winning team had red in their uniform.

The Alabama baton corps is always smiling
There is nothing that the NFL can offer, great as their football is, that can match college football in terms of pageantry and excitement.  Maybe this is because a tiny percentage of the college players are being rewarded handsomely (now and forevermore) for their ability and skills, while the great majority of them are humping along for the four years of football without the option of going pro - but they give it all they have without the weary nonchalance of a 38-year-old pro offensive lineman.  And to see the cheerleaders, the bands, the baton corps is to see the best of young America spirit on display.  Nothing is wrong with pro football, but for me, you can't beat watching a kid who, six months ago, was being handed a high school diploma, and on Saturday night, was being handed a football and told to run like a galloping ghost.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday rerun: Your call is impotent to us

Yesterday, the computer doohickey attached to the pfisteris that makes pictures and words come up on the screen went down, or "went down," in technical parlance.  WiFi became NoFi! Or maybe WiNo!   And I couldn't see email or any videos in which wide-eyed kids and skateboarding dogs and cats amuse an entire nation, so I called the good folks at Comcast, or "Xfinity," in technical parlance.

It's always a good idea for a large company to go by two names.  Is it still Comcast, or is it Xfinity, or what, huh?  It's so confusing that one friend of mine, who uses them for phone, cable and internet service, says he has "Verizon Fios," which sounds like a great Greek dessert.  But I assume my friend's check gets to the right place every month, or I wouldn't be getting emails from him.

I wasn't getting emails from anyone, the reason I called Comcast.  By means of answering 27 questions, I got to the lightning round, where I got to sit and listen to Muzak for seven minutes.  It was almost a relief when the problem-solver picked up my call, uttered a sigh heard round the world, and promptly disconnected me.  Within seconds, I was being entertained by that "If you'd like to make a call..." lady, who sounds for all the world like a grade school librarian hollering at the kids for picking up books and not shelving them properly, or at all.

Second call, waiting time was much faster, and as a free bonus, I got to talk to someone and also help him learn a new language: English.  I had to repeat and define something in just about every sentence, but I considered it my "hands across the sea" gesture.  Reading from his script, he told me not to worry, and that he was sure we could get me back on line.  Then he said something that sounded like tech talk when he told me what he was going to do and suddenly, we were like Abbott and Costello:

Him: Fine, sir, at this time I am going to flapper the noddistrand, so please look at your obfuscator and tell me what you see.

Me: What does that mean?

Him: What does that mean, "what does that mean?"

Me: I don't understand what you are going to do.

Him: (Silence)

Me: (two minutes later)  Are you still there?

Him: Yes, do you see the lights going off?

Me:  On the modem, you mean?  Yes they're off, and now here they come, one at a time...

Him:  How can that be happening?

Me:  I dunno, but here comes my email!

Him:  What does that mean, "here comes my email"?

Me: It means my email inbox is filling up with important emails.  I must go at once and reply to the widow of a Nigerian prince.

And then, just like when you go to look at a video, I got a commercial.  The guy asked me  - and I am not making this up - if I planned to put an addition on my house.  I thought at first he wanted to move in and be my tech team, but he said he was asking in case I wanted to add more cable outlets or anything.

Some people just live to torment me.