Sunday, March 31, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, 3/30/13

 This is not a fake fortune cookie fortune; it's for real.  I had lunch with Tammy, an old friend who refuses to look old, and we went to my favorite Asian buffet, and this is my fortune. I never eat the cookie but I always check out what it says inside.  As to the traditional folklore that you're always hungry an hour after eating Chinese food, I have to point out that this is true for me with almost all foods.   But I go to bed feeling hungry and I'm not as hungry when I wake up.  Is it possible that I sleepwalk to the Kelvinator and fix myself a sandwich in the middle of the night?  Some substance is given to this theory by the fact that I am one of few Americans who actually know who Carson Daly is.
 I saw this somewhere and like it.  The poor punctuation in #5 is almost outweighed by the wisdom of #2.  I think it is healthy not to worry about what others think.  What do you think?  Oh, wait.
 I had this picture hanging on my bulletin board as a kid, near photos of other heroes (Alfred E. Neuman and Sandra Dee.) This is Gus Triandos, who passed away on Thursday at 82.  He was the first big star the Orioles had during his playing days here (1955-1962) and they named a street after him in Timonium, near Peggy's office.  He was a catcher, the way catchers used to be...he'd slug some homers, but you timed his  run from the plate to first with a calendar instead of a stopwatch. Our local, vibrant Greek-American community took to him right away, and he became well-known around town as a guy who would show up at school fairs and whatnot, signing his autograph and spreading good will. I wish him many sunny afternoon doubleheaders up above.
This field of lavender, genus Lavandula, growing in Sunny France, is surely a pretty sight, am I wrong?  And it makes me think of how cool is must be to be a lavender farmer.  Just the lovely aroma makes lavender farmers very glad they aren't garlic ranchers!

Friday, March 29, 2013

I kneed surgery

It was bound to happen.  I am not exactly a trim little slip of a lad, and while I was once a disc jockey, I would never be mistaken for a jockey, so my knee replacement, which dated back to the millennial year 2000, needs to be replaced now.

My future
This should put an end to the limping that I've been strutting around with for the past few months, and once the physical therapy and all that commotion is over with, I will once again be ambling about smoothly, gliding through life with the briskness that once marked my pace.

My lunch
The staff at Sinai Hospital should keep an eye on the admissions chart for early May and plan their vacations accordingly.  I don't like being in the hospital, although my past stays have always been rich in comedy material, once the stitches and staples came out.  And of course, what hospital staffer wouldn't enjoy hearing me say, "What is this on my plate?  I ordered the Chateaubriand!"?

Just kidding.  I don't expect great food on a plate in the hospital.  Last time, I woke up from surgery to see the beaming face of a beautiful nurse staring at my eyes.  At first I thought, uh-oh, something went wrong, this is an angel and I'm in heaven.  But then I heard Oprah chortling on the tv and I knew that was not the case.

Due to some sort of mixup, they brought me a dinner plate, while I was still on an IV drip, and in seconds, an orderly grabbed that tray away from my table like Manny Machado scooping up a hot grounder...but not before I snagged the dinner roll, which I hid beneath my pillow and nibbled on through the night.

As always, the real angel in my life, Peggy, will come through like the champ she is, helping me dress, putting on those daggone tight white socks, bringing me tea and biscuits.  All the while, she can count on hearing those four special words that mean so much to any woman:

"Peggy, is that you?"

I can't hardly wait!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ars Gratia Artis

One of the many areas in which I have no appreciation for the art of others is the field of "performance art."  People have made tidy fortunes by getting paid to do everyday ordinary stuff, but with an audience oohing and ahhing as they sit there eating a corned beef sandwich on rye.  

Oh listen, I understand that the practitioners of performance art do it as a way to show disdain for traditional theatre.  They say they do these things as an antithesis of theatre.   A fellow named Chris Burden, and I'm sure he is, received his Master of Fine Arts diploma from the University of California and now goes around performing performance art.  In 1972, right out of that college classroom, he had a guy shoot him in the arm from a distance of five feet.  In 1974 he allowed himself to be nailed to a Volkswagen (picture).  1975 saw him lie motionless on a big sheet of glass for 45 hours and 10 minutes.  A guy brought him a pitcher of water and he stood up, using a hammer to break a nearby clock.

So here's the deal: you have to choose pretending to think this sort of insanity is great art, and mooning over the wonderful symbolism in breaking a perfectly good clock and saying that lying on a sheet of glass for almost two days represents man's inability to gain traction against the forces of evil and torpor that even now threaten to engulf us all, or you can say that your innate sense of what represents worthwhile activity precludes this nonsense.

What brings all this to my mind is that actress Tilda Swinton (right) spent Saturday afternoon sleeping inside a glass box at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  There was a card next to the glass box with this explanation for the uninitiated, the hicks who stumbled across a woman sleeping in a glass box and failed to recognize great art when they saw it: "Living artist, glass, steel, mattress, pillow, linen, water, and spectacles," said the card.

"You paid to get in there!" said the man who sits in Baltimore shaking his head.

Has Ms Swinton been in the box doing card tricks or knitting scarves for the underprivileged or even just reading a book out loud for the benefit of the visually handicapped, she would have been doing something entertaining or valuable.  

But no.  She slept. And they call that art.  

I could just scream.  Will you pay to hear me?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"His future is ahead of him" - Casey Stengel

Julie Scharper is a splendid Baltimore journalist whom I have admired for her writing in the Baltimore SUN and for her contributions to our local public radio station, WYPR.  I am honored to follow her on Facebook and Twitter; she is a local gem for her reporting on our machine politics and local issues.  When you once had a mayor, Sheila Dixon, convicted of "misappropriating" gift cards donated for the use of the needy, you have a lot of fruit to pick on the local news tree, and even though I believe that particular scandal occurred before Ms Scharper worked the City Hall beat, there will be plenty more of that sort of story for her to cover.

Recently, though, she has been off on maternity leave; she and her husband have become parents of a beautiful little baby boy named Charlie.  Part of the magic of Facebook is sharing photographs.  What happier picture could there be than one of a mother and her baby?  So I commented on one of those pictures on her page, wistfully remarking about the wonders this little man will grow up to see.  

And she replied with thanks, and pointed out that "he could live to celebrate New Year's 2100!"

Stop a second to let that one sink in.  Just a few years ago, the world we live in was turned all sideways when Y2K became the big big deal.  Remember the dire predictions that the world was sure to grind to a wrenching halt, that elevators would stop between floors and municipal water systems wouldn't squeeze out a drop as chaos reigned in the streets on January 1, 2000?    And now, here's a darling little boy, just joining the earthly fray, and all he has to do is live through 87 summers in order to watch January 1, 2100 appear on his calendar!

What marvels he will see!  Perhaps the eradication of dread diseases, the establishment of world-wise systems of communication and transportation, the elimination of poverty, despair and ignorance, and a suitable vehicle for the talents of Krysten Ritter!  All this and more are possible, and this little baby could see it all, experience it all, live to be a 22nd Century Man.  I wish the youngster a life of grace, knowledge, kindness and comfort.

He'll be there!
And I kinda hope he will become a journalist too.  That way, he could interview Keith Richards on Y2K1 Day and get to meet a man with more stories than Sheila Dixon.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Help Us Get The Word to Ellen

On Saturday on my Picture Show, I showed the picture that our friend Ann sent from Meridian MS, where she and her college colleagues had spent their week of spring break, not cavorting around Mexican beaches, but doing hard good work for their fellow Americans.  Through Habitat For Humanity, they fixed up houses for people who needed a hand.

And I think these young people deserve a lot of credit, not only for forsaking the chance to relax and party and tan for a week, but by going down South and facing up to real life and the problems faced by many real Americans.  Getting to see how others live and what they face every day is a valuable part of their education, and I am very happy that Ann, daughter of some very good friends of ours, chose a fine school   - Villanova - for her college education.

And here's where you can do more than simply read this blog and say, "Oh yeah!  Those kids are splendid."  You can spread the word around that they want to appear on the Ellen Show to spread the word around about how great Habitat For Humanity is.  After all, we preach to the young that "Actions speak louder than words."  Apparently they have heard that, and they picked up hammers and paintbrushes and brooms and got active!  
Villanova Students who went to Mississippi to help!

And those of us who admire their dedication and sense of purpose from afar can do two things:  first, watch this video that the students made.  Marvel at their youthful energy. They were down there doing hard work and they still have the zip within them to dance and let loose like this!  I mean, really!

And then, if a whole lot of us fill in this form and tell Ellen DeGeneres that they want to see the students from Villanova University on the Ellen Show, showing some students who spent a week opening paint cans instead of beer cans, that will show these great kids that we appreciate them and their efforts. 

Because we really do!

Monday, March 25, 2013

One for the book

I've said it before and I'll say it again...this has to end.

Not speaking of the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth caused by the Ravens letting go of some old guys who were close to the end of their careers.  Football is a business, and the people who run the Ravens were smart enough to put together a team that's been in the playoffs for five years running and won the Super Bowl last month.  So please quit worrying.  These people know what they're doing.  Next man up!

No, I'm speaking of my weird habit of thinking of people just before they die.  And the coincidences roll on.  Just last week, I checked Wikipedia to see how many of the original cast of the great English britcom "Are You Being Served?" were still trotting around, and the answer was, two of them:  Frank Thornton, the ego-puffed Capt. Peacock, and Nicholas Smith, who will forever be described as "jug-eared" Mr Rumbold.

So long, Captain Peacock.  Frank Thornton died last Saturday.  He lived to be 92, so you can't say he got cheated, but still, it makes me feel bizarre, and also makes me want to stop thinking.

And there are those who will insist that I never started!

But now, things take another turn.

Peggy and I were riding up the road the other day and she mentioned one of the 17 books she is currently reading. (Her reading diet leans toward the intelligent, the learned, the thoughtful, while mine is less so.  And by less, I mean far less!) She mentioned the story of Solomon from the Bible as part of the narrative she wove.

Of course, in an effort to join the conversation or even relate to it, I went to the "Solomon" file in my memory and came up with Solly Hemus, a fiery infielder and former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.  There was a time that all infielders were "fiery," all outfielders were "fleet of foot" and all left-handed pitchers were either "quirky" or "crafty."  Sometimes both.

Judge Liss
That one didn't land, so I went to the next Solomon I remember...Judge Solomon Liss, who was quite the important figure in Baltimore legal circles years ago.  I knew that, unlike Mr Hemus, this Solomon has already gone to his reward, but I haven't thought of him for years.

Until we went to the Smith College Book Sale, and I, in my lifelong effort to purchase a copy of every book of Robert Benchley's essays, purchased "Love Conquers All," a 1922 compendium.  This is a used book sale, remember, so you never know who used to own the books you buy.

Unless they wrote their name on the inside front cover:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Rerun: A lovely neighborhood called Audrey Meadows

Yesterday’s entry used the word “tawdry,” and I had heard the word had an interesting etymology, so what I did was, I looked it up. The story reads like “The Princess Bride,” or something from the Brothers Grimm.
Around 640, there lived an English princess named Ethelreda, better known as Audrey. ( Perhaps she did not wish to be confused with Ethel Mertz.) She married a guy to help her father, King Anna (listen! I’m not making these names up!) but hubby #1 bought the farm within three years, and in all that time, they had never got around to consummating the marriage. Even though she had taken a vow of virginity, she got married again, when her Uncle Ethelwold (!) thought it would be a great idea if she tied the knot with Egfrid, son of King Oswy of Northumberland. Old Egfrid wouldn’t go along with the chastity pledge, being married and everything, and so he started making moves on her, to no avail. He attempted to bribe the local bishop, Saint Wilfrid of York, to release Audrey from her vows. Saint Wilfrid refused, and helped Audrey get away. She fled south, with her husband right on her heels. They reached a promontory known as Colbert's Head
(sorry - wrong picture!) (there it is!) and it was there that suddenly the waters started to rise, and for seven days Egfrid had to cool his own heels in the muddy waters.(I am going to pause here to tell you that this Colbert's Head is near Dover, and to remind you if you ever go to England and have someone ask you if you saw the White Cliffs of Dover upon your return, the only possible answer is "See them? I had dinner with them on Thursday!"). I mean, "E" was only a man, and he wasn‘t going to hang around forever without his connubials, so he took off and married someone with a more conventional view of marriage. Audrey, taking a conventional view herself, moved to a convent, and went on to build an abbey.

Now here’s where the story takes an interesting turn. Audrey was to die of an huge tumor on her neck, and thought this was visited upon her because, in her youth, she liked to wear many necklaces. But, prior to her death, she had become enormously popular in her area, owing to her many good deeds and steadfast faith, so throughout the Middle Ages, a festival, "St. Audrey's Fair", was held in her town of Ely on her feast day. People, as they will, bought all sorts of cheesy merchandise at these fairs, and the necklaces and neckerchiefs for sale in her honor were considered low-grade, but still, they were dedicated “to Audrey,” and that became corrupted to the present-day word “tawdry.“

Still no explanation on why her father’s name was Anna. This is all true, I’m telling ya! 

Now I’m going to look up why I’ve never met a girl named “Jackie” (or any alternative spelling thereof) who wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun to be around.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show 3/23/13

 Whenever I see a picture of a kangaroo carrying her kid around, I wonder about the bonding process among the marsupials, and if they have a problem cutting the apron string, as it were.  Since there is no Kangaroo Channel with shows about how the offspring is 34 and still hanging around the pouch, perhaps they work it out somehow.
 This is our friend Ann.  We have literally known her since she was born; her mom has been a friend since she attended college here and let me tell you something, Ann is just like her mom: outstanding in every single way.  Ann went on a trip on her spring break this year (she's a freshman at Villanova) to Meridian, Mississippi, where she and other students worked with Habitat for Humanity to help fix up peoples' houses.  I said she was great, didn't I?  I mentioned to Ann that Meridian was the birth and death place of one of the founders of Country Music, the Singing Brakeman, Jimmie Rodgers, and look here: she was kind enough to find Jimmie's star in front of the Civic Opera House down there and show me a picture of it.  Any time you're worried about the future of this world, just write to me and I will tell you all that Ann has done in her 18 years.  "Outstanding" really isn't descriptive enough for how we feel about her and her family!
Well, this must have been right tasty.  This is a menu from the last lunch served aboard the RMS Titanic.  At 11:40 PM that night, the mighty ship struck an iceberg and you know how that worked out.  So, we have to hope that the ship's passengers enjoyed this lunch.  Cockie Leekie, despite its name, is not a situation requiring penicillin, but, rather, a soup consisting of chicken, beef, prunes and leeks.  I can't imagine ordering it without being greeted by a gale of guffaws, but then again, people were so proper in those days.  But notice, you could have Chicken a la Maryland, which is the proper way to serve chicken.  It starts off with frying the chicken, all floured and lightly breaded, in a cast iron pan in plenty of fat.  You're supposed to put a lid ("lead") on the pan to help the chicken steam as well as fry, and then when you've taken the breasts, legs, thighs and wings out of the pan, you add some cream and flour to make gravy.  A bottle of hot sauce later and you're on the way.  It's just interesting to see that they dined so royally on the Titanic.  I'd still rather be on that ship than on anything Carnival floats past us these days.

The top picture shows an interesting sort of windchime at the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago.  A friend sent this to me, and here is the story attached with the pictures: When visitors first enter the museum, they will hear a sound like wind chimes coming from above them and their attention will be drawn upward 24 feet to the ceiling of the two-story high atrium.

Dog tags of the more than 58,000 service men and women who died in the Vietnam War hang from the ceiling of the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago on Veterans Day, November 11, 2010. The 10-by-40-foot sculpture, entitled Above & Beyond, was designed by Ned Broderick and Richard Stein.

The tens of thousands of metal dog tags are suspended 24 feet in the air, 1 inch apart, from fine lines that allow them to move and chime with shifting air currents. Museum employees using a kiosk and laser pointer help visitors locate the exact dog tag with the imprinted name of their lost friend or relative.
This is something I found online; it appears to date back to the late 19th Century, and while many of us have scroll saws down in the shop (I do!), I daresay most of them are electric and very few are operated by leg power like this dude is doing to his, all the while running the risk of getting his beard tangled up in the saw blades or having a wood chip fly off the board and hit him in his unprotected eye.  And they wonder why need OSHA.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Preach to me

My buddy Rob Dickson down in sunny Florida called to tell me of a preacher who had some common-sensible things to say.  I thought that was a refreshing change, so I asked his name and said I'd check him out.

You know I'm a little dumb, right, and slow on the uptake?  When Rob said the man's name is Ronnie McBrayer, something in my noggin clicked on Scott Player, a former NFL player nicknamed Punty McOneBar, because he was a punter who shall forever be remembered as the last player to wear a one-bar facemark, so we could all enjoy his mustachioed glory.  I was surprised to think he had drifted into preaching, because I was sure he was still down on some 38-yard line, holding for a long field goal attempt by Phil Dawson.

So, once I figured out just whom we were speaking of, I checked out the interwebs and found that McBrayer calls himself a storyteller, scribbler and seeker, who publicly announced that he was leaving religion to follow Jesus.  That must have ruffled some feathered hats down at the First Holy Temple of the Sanctified Brethren, but Ronnie points out that God has a great sense of humor, and so he preaches with that in mind, a little common sense, a little laugh now and then.  And instead of worrying about who might have been doing what, he spends time working with Habitat For Humanity, and did a lot of work on Hurricane Katrina relief.

Yes sir and yes ma'am, as long as there are suits with two pairs of pants (and we spill mustard on the jacket) there will be proof that God has a sense of humor, and again, not to turn this daily whatever into something deep and ponderous, but if you believe that God created Heaven and Earth, then you have to figure He invented humor, and comedy, and the good old guffaw.

I have to think that people like Ronnie McBrayer are on to something.  My early church days were filled with some of the stuffiest, most judgmental and opprobrious souls ever to put on wingtips and Enna Jetticks.  Ronnie's stance seems to be, let's try to lead good lives here and worry more about ourselves than judging that family up the street a bit.

And he shares life lessons.  Here's a link to one of his syndicated newspaper columns in which he talks about the phrase "getting your goat."   It's interesting to me as a lover of words and I hope you like it too.  He not only talks about that expression but also touches on the need some people have to put on a big front, driving a fancy car or hiding some fault or shortcoming, again, worrying too much about what Harry down on the corner says.  

What I get from McBrayer is what I have gotten from other worthwhile speakers:  Harry is not living your life, nor is her responsible for it.  And what's more, while we're so worried about what Harry thinks of everything, Harry is thinking about his next meal and really not at all about our new car.  Unless we use it to bring him a pizza.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

It's Only Natural

Those movie people, man, I wanna tell you.  They take a story from real life and turn it into!

You might have seen that movie "The Natural," starring Robert Redford.  Baseball guy goes to girl's hotel room and she plugs him a good one right in the belly, see?  But then the kid comes back, see?  And hits a ton o' homers, see?

It was all LOOSELY based on a real story.  Eddie Waitkus was the name of the first baseman, and he looked like the young Redford like I look like any two members of 1 Direction.  But he played for the Cubs in postwar Chicago and a teenager named Ruth Ann Steinhagen had the hots for him.

It happens.

She was fine swooning over him from the stands at Historic Wrigley Field, but when Waitkus was traded to the Phillies after the 1948 season, she wasn't about to commute to Philadelphia to see him play.

So she decided to shoot him.

When the Phillies came to Chi to play the Cubs in June of '49, she got a room in their team hotel and sent Waitkus a note, saying that she was in the Edgewater Beach Hotel and had something to discuss with him.

As you might imagine, Eddie about broke his neck to get to her room and see what was up.  So to speak.

She leveled a rifle at him and fired, striking him in the chest.  But he refused to press charges, citing both the 2nd and 5th Amendments.  Waitkus then joined the list of World War II veterans who came home from the war unscathed, only to be shot in his own country.

Waitkus flashes the high sign to an anxious nation
Adjudged insane, Ruth Ann Steinhagen was confined to a mental institution for three years, released in time for the 1952 season.  But she stayed "in the shadows" until she passed away this past December.  So deep in the shadows was she, according to John Theodore, who wrote a book about the subject in 2002, that no one around her seemed to know why she was once so notorious.  There's nothing anywhere about her having a job, family, marriage, anything.

Waitkus returned to play six more big-league seasons,although he was never the great player that his cinematic alter ego Roy Hobbs was, died in 1972, and to his dying day, was wary about visiting strangers in hotel rooms, we may rest assured.  Ruth Ann Steinhagen's parents took her in, and they survived into the 1990s. Even the Cook County Coroner, who confirmed Ruth Ann's death, had no idea in December until a reporter dug up her background last week. 

How a person once so famous can learn to hide in a house, and how the entire community can forget why she was so infamous, are fascinating topics to think about. It would never happen today.  Between TMZ and reality shows, she would be a fixture on television nightly. Hell, she might even have her own show on FOX News.

In the old wire-service picture at right, RA is seen in an institution, apparently writing to her idol while gazing lovingly at his graven image.  This sort of  staged photography used to pass for journalism.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Emerald Legacy

I was sound asleep, I guess, when our culture decided to add spectacular new dimensions to St Patrick's Day.  This was always a holiday that Americans would celebrate by wearing green clothing, eating corned beef and cabbage, and drinking entirely too much alcohol. The popular toast "Sláinte" means "to your health, which may be compromised if you drink a quart of Old Hoolihan's Finest."

Celebration is fine, as far as it goes, and March 18 was traditionally a huge day for the people at Alka Seltzer, but now, overnight, a new aspect was added to all this hoopla.

Over the past weekend, I started seeing statuses on Facebook, people saying that their children were disappointed because "the leprechaun didn't come."  As one mom put it, "What's the Leprechaun supposed to do? Who came up with this? Santa Claus, the Elf on the Shelf, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are pressure enough. Stop the madness!!!"

Hallmark Holidays, which have grown to include Sweetest Day and Grandparents' Day, are those holidays that seem to be puffed up by the greeting card industry.  Everyone loves grandparents, but all of a sudden there's a Sunday in September to send them cards?  Sweetest Day was cooked up by the people who cook up candy - it's supposed to be celebrated on the third Saturday in October, a tough stretch on the calendar for America's confectioners, who then have only Halloween to make money from while awaiting Thanksgiving and Christmas and Valentine's Day and Aunt Norma's birthday.

I don't have an Elf On A Shelf, but over my shoulder as I sit here typing my quotidian thoughts sits a little Bart Simpson image. He does not bring me candy or trinkets, but he does bring me cheer when I think of things he has brought to our world. 

Sometimes I wonder if Bart's work among us has been in vain, but then, when I see news like this, I know his message lives on.

Happy Holidays, everyone!  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Heavens above!

It's a rite of passage, or it used to be:  young couple gets married and lives in apartments until they get enough cash to move to a house.  

It was that way for Peggy and me when we got married in the waning days of the Nixon Administration.  It was all right.  For one thing, neither of us had the vast collections of things that we now curate.  We didn't have many possessions or much money. So, we lived in a couple of rental units.

One of them was in a garden apartment complex; we were on the second floor there and right next to the laundry room. This, of course, led neighbors to knock on our door looking for change for the washer and dryer.  It got to where it was easier for me on Saturdays to wear one of those aprons (left) and a paper cap that said CHANGE.

And all current and former apartment dwellers know about the joy of finding a parking space.  They plan the parking lots around those places, seemingly, with one spot per apartment, and when someone throws a party, you'll be lucky to park at the VFW hall's back lot two blocks away.

And then one night, while I was in the bathroom brushing my long luxuriant wavy locks (so wavy that many of them have waved goodbye) I heard the top end of a conversation that two neighbors were having.  Her voice, although raised, was not clear, so I don't know what she said, but it was just like being in the audience at a Tennessee Williams play when I heard him say, "I don't care if you're going to be a (woman of easy virtue), but tonight, you're going to be MY (woman of easy virtue)."

And I always wondered how things went for those two crazy kids during the remaining three weeks of their marriage.

Which brings me to a blog I stumbled upon while riding my web surfer one day.  It's called Dear Girls Above Me, and it contains the thoughts and opinions that a certain guy would love to share with the women who rent the apartment above his.  They're loud, and, it would seem, not terribly bright ("So the right to bear arms has nothing to do with acting like a bear?")

The writer of the blog hears these gems all day and then writes his imaginary responses.  It must be a thin ceiling that divides him from them.  Check out the blog and see how he's doing!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Pope and I

My ears perked right up the other day, believing that the new Pope, Francis I, had read my blog.  I heard on the news that he said that faith without foundation is washed away like a child building sandcastles on the beach.

The foundation is a faith and belief in Jesus, and I profess that belief as well.  I'm not in a position to say much about the new Pope, not being Catholic.  But a lot of people are saying that he might bring a new vision to the 1.2 billion members of his church.

Two things I remember from my early days in Vacation Bible School: singing "The Wise Man Builds His House Upon a Rock," which, evidently, was written by someone who never thought of drilling for well water, and the awful taste of Kool-Aid, also known as "bug juice."  

Hendrix's album cover photo
A few years after my days in Vacation Bible School, I spent a summer in Vacation Algebra School, following a dispute with my Algebra II teacher.  I thought that I deserved a higher grade than a 'D' for my dedicated work involving trains leaving Chicago at different times, and the detailed research I turned in concerning my opinion of the Quadratic Equation (I was all for it.)  He thought I was damn lucky to slide through with a 'D' and recommended summer school, because he was not teaching summer school. 1967, this was...The Summer of Love.  I did not love being in summer school, but six weeks in a non-air-conditioned classroom reinforced in me a lifelong distaste for solving for 'X'.  But...that summer brought us the "Axis: Bold As Love" album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.  

One of the songs on that album, "Castles Made of Sand," has a captivating melody line and words that bring a novel's worth of wisdom to a 2 minute, 45 second song.  The last verse was especially meaningful to me, as I had a friend up the road, a girl just a little older than I who was confined to a wheelchair by cerebral palsy.  She could not speak, but she communicated by means of striking the keys on an electric typewriter with a prong fitted to a headband she would wear.  And her words were lovely and thoughtful, and spoke of her faith in a bright future in a land where her spirit would soar freely.

So in the last verse of the song, when the girl in the wheelchair contemplates an awful ending, the golden winged ship comes along just in time.  It's not clear what happens to her, but the song speaks to me of the faith and the deep foundation I find in religion.  That same ship has brought me favor time and again, and even though I'm like everyone else in having built castles of sand while watching it sail by, I've learned how important the foundation is.

I do not mean to proselytize; you can take this for what it's worth to you, but if the Pope is interested in knowing that I titled my blog for a song about the same topic he brought up the other day in his homily, I'd be glad to play the song for him.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday rerun: I wanted an Ümlaut, but whaddya gonna do?

If you don't have an IKEA near you, I'd consider moving. Of all the great Swedish furniture stores that we have in the greater Baltimore area (JC Torkelson and Montgomery Gottfrid spring to mind), IKEA is the greatest. They have a scratch-and-dent room where a handy man, or I, can buy wood shelves that fell out of a bookshelf for 50 cents and make our own bookshelves, or not. They have all sorts of furniture and home items. They even have Swedish food for sale - grog! salmon! loganberry juice! And a restaurant with Swedish meatballs and cold salmon plates. It's the sort of a place that's suitable for a family field trip, and I think that just being there makes one feel, I dunno, sort of Ikea-ish.

IF YOU GO, you'll notice the brand names on everything from sofas to light bulbs are not you're used to seeing down at Value Village. Hearty, stocky Swedish names! Vivika! Komplement! Furuskug! Ofelia! Fortunately, if you have any questions, you can ask Courtney, Lauren or Justin, who all work there along with Jessica, Nicole and Matthew.

But I found this site on which you simply enter your own first name and the amazing computer machine, right over what a former president calls "the internets," will bestow upon you your own Ikea brand name. That's mine, right above: Markinda walloping, hearty meatloaf of a table. Hope you like yours!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, 3/16/13

I am a diner-loving guy and so I share this picture of a classic diner sandwich - the chicken salad BLT.  I would like to share something else - my newfound affection for turkey bacon!  Fry it up and try some.  It's great, and you get that feel-good feeling from saving calories. 86 the fries and soda for bonus diet points!

Pictures taken in St Peter's Square eight years apart, showing the jubilant crowds after the announcements of new Popes.  Notice the difference - in the 2005 shot, I don't even see a camera in use, and this year, almost everyone has their cell or tablet out, getting a picture of history.  8 years. 

Yes, I did this once and I admit to stealing the gag from Robert Benchley.  I did indeed call a coworker and, when she was not in, I left a message with her assistant" "Arrived Venice, streets flooded, please advise."  That pink message slip stayed on her bulletin board for many a year.

From the Dept of Plenty of Time:  This is one pencil.  See what the person did?  They whittled the wood away to leave only the graphite "lead," and then they cut these intricate chain links out of the lead.  How amazing it is, what people can do when they put their minds to it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

It takes brains

We talked the other day about baseball wit Mickey Rivers, who, upon hearing that Reggie Jackson claimed to have an IQ of 160,  asked,"Out of what? A thousand?"
Lauren Marbe

And then, I surfstumbled across an article about 16-year-old female Lauren Marbe from Essex, England, whose IQ measures 161.  This puts her one point ahead of both Reginald Martinez Jackson and Albert Einstein, who used his noodle to come up with "  E=mc²" and we all understand that completely, don't we?

So here is the article, and as it says, Einstein was never actually given an IQ test, but the geniuses who admire genuises have always figured him for a 160, and a 44 regular in sports jackets.  Being legendary for forgetfulness, Einstein might not have even shown up, had he been scheduled to take an IQ test.

Lauren, daughter of a cab driver, is the possessor of a mighty mind, and she seems like any other 16-year-old.  She likes to dude herself up and go out, and she is wavering in her career path between being an architect and being a singer/actress.  There seems to be no middle ground there, although it would seem that the people behind certain buildings were only acting like they were real architects...
Here is a sample IQ test question:  

 Which number should come next in this series?
A. 4
B. 5
C. 10
D. 14

If your answer is (c) 10, congratulations!  You and Lauren should spend some time together being smart.  My answer was (b) 5, because a list that has #25, Don Baylor, #24, Rick Dempsey, #22, Jim Palmer, #19, Johnny Unitas, and #15, Davey Johnson, needs a great third baseman:  #5, the one, the only, Brooks Robinson.

The above serves to show how (and if) my noggin works, and why I am a stranger to the people who select the top IQ people.  

Congratulations, Lauren, and good luck in your career. It must be nice to be brainy!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Face It

Like most people, I eventually figured out that what other people thought about me was not even a tiny bit important, right up there alongside whether they even thought about me at all.  I was a self-conscious kid, but I got over it.

Which is why I'd like to say a big hello to Jackson Blankenship as he rounds second base and finishes his sophomore year at the University of Alabama.  You've seen him, if you've ever seen the Crimson Tide basketball team on TV.  And no, he wasn't on the court playing basketball.  

He was in the stands, playing with basketball players' heads.  Jackson is the guy who began the trend of casting an exophthalmic (medical term for bulging-eyed) look at players on the other team at critical moments in the game.

Oh, you're saying!  Spectators have been giving the stink-eye to the other team since Betty White was in third grade!  True, but Jack Blankenship came up with the Mega Stink-Eye:

He got this giant picture of his mug and he takes it to the games, which led to imitation...

Remember  during the National Championship football game, when the cameras couldn't get enough of the lovely Katherine Webb, girlfriend of 'Bama quarterback AJ McCarron? And the announcer Brent Musburger, with the game's outcome no longer in doubt after the first ten minutes or so, was so taken that he burbled on for a long embarrassing time about her?  Well, now there are Big Heads of Brent and Katherine on display at games.

And the Alabama basketball team is here represented by people much shorter than they!  

I think the key to this is that young Blankenship felt so at ease that he was able to start this trend by displaying his immense face.  He says he's been embarrassing himself since 1992.

That being the case, he's six years ahead of Paul Ryan, elected to Congress in 1998!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My secret addiction

I'm fairly well-versed in poetry, and can handle myself in any discussion of the Seven Lively Arts (music, literature, dance, poetry, painting, drama, and Carney) although a bum knee keeps me from talking about dancing for long.

I'm no intellectual, not a high class guy by any means, but what I'm saying is, I know enough about enough things to get by in case the dinner conversation rises to the level of "All Things Considered."

But by any standards, there is no reason for a man of 61 summers (and almost that many falls!) to be able to sit here right now and tell you he was stunned when Olivia dumped Nick the other night.  Did NOT see that one coming. I mean, as often as we advise people to get to know themselves before committing to another in a relationship, I never thought that Olivia would heed those words.

And Gigi broke up with Carmine, after he finished painting her living room wall, and then did a special day at the Gatsby called "I'll Dye 4 U," in which she demonstrated her mastery of the art of applying new hair color over old.  And, she now seemingly wishes to be called Genelle, please.

Corey and Tracy are making their wedding plans, her family's disapproval notwithstanding.  Jackie was steamed because she heard that Gigi told Michelle that she (Jackie) is not a good mother, which Michelle intends to be just as soon as she becomes a wife again.

Yes, dear friends, my secret is out of the Jerseylicious closet now.  I am hooked on the goin's on and big doin's up in the Garden State on the Jerseylicious show on the Style Network.

About half the cast.
It all concerns the relationships, pairings and breakups, and  jealousies, romantic and professional, of people in northern New Jersey who do hair and makeup in two salons - the Gatsby and Anthony Robert.  Even the network hedges away from calling it a reality show - it's officially a "docudrama," because no group of people could pack that much commotion into a 24-hour day without a team of scriptwriters back in a dim office, writing "Gigi gets mad at Miguel because he feels marginalized by being asked to be her assistant on the special hair color day."  And then they all act out their parts.

To be honest, as I always am, there was a day about a year ago when I was ill, and spent the day on the recliner with the bottle of Robitussin in one hand and the remote in the other.  During a particularly lengthy coughing fit, I failed to change the channel fast enough, and wound up watching a Jerseylicious marathon, as entranced as a young seminarian listening to a cardinal preach.  Later that day, Peggy came home, took a glance at the TV, and asked the question that has come to be asked so often in our marriage (by her): "What in hell are you watching?"

Twenty minutes later, she was saying, "Now wait...Frankie and Gigi are breaking up because she said what....?"  and I saw another victim of the insidious Jerseylicious plot factory.  

It ain't Shakespeare, it ain't Arthur Miller, hey, it's not even "Dallas," but it's free.  Feel free to join us one Sunday evening if you're free as well.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Almighty Tired Man

I have made some promises in my life, and one of them is to avoid talking about sports too often in this blog.  The last thing I want to do is turn this into a forum in which people will feel like engaging me in a discussion of Who Is The Best Outfielder Available In A Trade For The Orioles or Whether The Ravens Can Repeat Their Super Bowl Victory or, worst of all, Here Is Why Nascar Really Is A Sport And All Its Drivers Are Too Athletes!

No time for all that. And any time I talk about sports, I try to avoid deep discussions of what happened in the games anyway.   The people who play the games know what they are doing, much better than "Joe from Overlea - first time caller!" who seems to be on every sports talk radio show in town.

It's the people inside the uniforms that are darting about the field that I like to think about.  For instance, one outfielder that I wish the Orioles could have added to their roster in the 1970s was the man born John Milton Rivers, but better known as Mickey.

I always wondered whether "Mick The Quick" was, indeed, named for English poet and polemicist John Milton. You have to be careful, though.  I once knew a dude whose first and middle names were Chester and Arthur.  I asked him if he had been named for the president, and he said, "Which one?"

Mickey Rivers, to get back on topic, was a pretty good leadoff hitter for the Angels, Yankees and Rangers during his 14-year big league stay (1970-1984).  He was not the perfect leadoff man, because he didn't get many walks, thereby reducing his on-base percentage, but he could steal bases when he did bat his way onto first, and he could dart across the field and catch long flies with the best of them.  

But why is he so fondly remembered?  He is remembered for the things he said, and for the jaunty nonchalance he brought to life. Teammate Sandy Alomar called him "The Almighty Tired Man," and can you imagine a cooler nickname than the one Mickey used for everyone whose name he couldn't recall: "Gozzlehead"?  A writer once said Mickey looked as if he had been assembled from spare parts; he had a way of walking like a string puppet, and he always seemed to be leaning forward, no matter whether he was running, walking or standing.  And, he claimed many times that his plan for how to spend his days once he was through playing ball was that he wanted to be a bus driver.  There is no indication that he achieved that goal, but take a moment and revel in the casual wisdom of the man who left us with these quotes:

"Me and George and Billy are two of a kind."

To Reggie Jackson, after Reggie claimed to have an IQ of 160:
"Out of what, a thousand?" 

"It was so cold today that I saw a dog chasing a cat, and the dog was walking"

"Pitching is 80% of the game and the other half is hitting and fielding"

On playing in Texas:  "I was brought up in Florida, so there isn't much difference between playing there and playing here.  The climax are about the same."

And, the greatest of them all, a quote that distills all the wisdom in every self-improvement book that Barnes & Noble ever sold:

"Ain't no sense worrying: If you have no control over something, ain't no sense worrying about it -you have no control over it anyway. If you do have control, why worry? So either way, there ain't no sense worrying."

Learned men and women have spent countless hours trying to get that point across to us, in words far too thick to understand.  They would have done better to just listen to Mr Rivers.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sad lessons

The last thing I want to do is seem unsympathetic to the young woman who was killed by a lion at a big cat zoo in California.  

Ms Hanson
Dianna Hanson was a self-described big cat aficionada, and she was a volunteer at Cat Haven, out near Fresno.  She told her father that she chafed at the zoo's policy of not allowing people to be in the cage with the lion, a four-year-old named Cous Cous.

So last Wednesday, she unlocked a door which was supposed to be locked and, in so doing, unlocked the door to her own mortality.  The lion broke her neck when he attacked, killing her at once.  Responding personnel had no way of knowing for sure that she had died, and were unable to get the lion away from her recumbent form, and so were forced to kill the lion as well.

Her brother, Paul Hanson, told CBS News, "Anybody that encountered Dianna couldn't help being enraptured with her and with her enthusiasm," he said on Thursday. "She knew the risks and we knew the risks, but that was her passion. You always wondered when she was going to work, but the risks were part of that."

Ms Hanson loved these animals, but sometimes, love is just not enough.  Again, I hate to say anything critical of her in death, but this seems like another case of someone so in love with something that they feel the rules really don't apply to them - or can be broken "just this once."  After all, maybe 99 times out of 100, the lion would sit docilely by as an attendant cleaned the cage.  Maybe 999 times out of 1000.

But this rule was not put into effect to curtail the volunteers' enjoyment of the animal, or to do anything other than make them safe.  There is a tendency in our world today for people to assess the rules that are in place and then to decide if following the rule is really what they care to do.

In our county seat, we have the annual Towsontown Spring Festival.  Signs are all over the place asking people not to bring their dogs to a crowded street festival.  This policy is mentioned in the ads, and in most of the promotional articles in the local papers.  

I happened to be present at the Festival on the day that a little girl was sitting on the front steps of a bank, eating a pit beef sandwich.  A dog in the crowd attacked her and severely mauled her face.

This is why the policy is there.  People love dogs, but large crowds and dogs don't mix well.  But ask any officer who deals with someone who has brought Poochie to the festival, and they will tell you, the answer they get all the time is, "But people LOVE my dog and it would break his heart to miss the festival."

Ms Hanson's brother said she would be "devastated" to know that Cous Cous was put down.  And to think, none of this had to happen, had the rules been followed.

Perhaps her life was lost so that others will be saved. I'd like to think that personnel at these zoos will learn from her sad, sad death. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday Rerun: I Never Would Have Guest It

Here's a tricky etiquette question:

You receive a wedding shower invitation and a "hold-the-date" for a wedding..from a woman whom you have never met, who briefly worked with your husband several years ago.  Unless her husband saved this woman's life through a well-timed Heimlich Maneuver or CPR, why are you getting an invite to the nuptials?  

Ahhh...cast a wide gift net.  So many people just get invitations, say, "Meh," and send some Corningware® or a Keurig coffee machine, those little K-cup deals that work so well for two months and then just make gagging, grinding noises when all you want is an honest cup of mocha java.

BUT there is an alternative!  Here's how it works.  You buy the gift and send it along via ME!  I'm looking for a steady source of retirement income, and surely a well-paying job as Wedding Guest Stand-In would do me well.  I have a nice pinstripe suit, some shirts and ties, and I'll even find a pair of dark socks to wear in place of my customary crimson footwear.  

In return, I will take along ZipLoc bags so I can bring you some Lobster Newburg.  I will shout out "Nice pull!" when the groom toasts the bride. And I will lift up the centerpiece, look underneath and claim that it has my seat number written on a little label, thereby entitling me to take it home.  

I don't enter this profession without a background.  I love weddings, I love love, I love the church part even when everyone oooohs and aaaaaahs, and then I love piling back into the Biscayne and driving over to the conception. What better way to wile away a Saturday than to hear the DJ croon,"And now...making their first appearance as husband and wife...will you please give it up for Dickie and Dixie Normus!!!!!!!!!!!"

And while all this is going on, I'm sizing up the fruit table or the giant lasagna, as it sits bubbling away. 

And I can Chicken Dance like nobody's business. Snap snap snap snap!

I had that buddy Johnny years ago who made a Saturday habit of putting on his sports jacket and tie and showing up at receptions, blending in after everyone was seated for the main meal, showing up in time to scarf up chow and guzzle free suds.  If anyone asked who he was, he would just reply that he was an old friend of the bride.  Or groom.  His great gift was his ability to look nondescript. He just blended right on in.  I think a lot of that was owing to his sport jacket being the exact color of Lobster Newburg.

Wedding season is coming up; please contact me soon and arrange to stay home while people whom you don't even know, and/or like very much, get married.  Let Mr Guest be there for you!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, 3/9/13

 Back in 1917-1918, this was the latest in body armor.  Depending on what is was made of, it looks like it would protect the critical organs in the torso and midriff, but leave the arms and legs vulnerable.  Police today wear their body armor under the uniform shirt, and we pray for all the police I know and love that a) their armor is never tested  and b) if it is, it works perfectly!
This was always the signal to your friends or date or creditor that you were tapped...pulling out the pockets to indicate their complete and utter emptiness. I haven't seen anyone do this move for years, so that's why I clipped the picture to share with you.  Congratulations to all of us - it looks like we're all rich as Trump, but with our own hair.

For the love of timeliness, please don't forget to set your clock ahead tonight.  This time of year, I always think of my days as a supervisor.  One year on the day of St Clock Setter's Day, a new employee showed up an hour late, because she had not set her clock ahead.  It was a slow Sunday morning, so I didn't belabor the point beyond a mild reminder that we were a 24-hour operation.  Well, next day, doggone if she didn't roll in an hour late, and this time I wasn't quite so mellow about it.  I told her that I had been on the job for (however many years it had been) and I said,"You know what, in all that time, I've only been late once, and that was because a truck got stuck on the beltway off-ramp one icy morning and no one could get past him. And now you're been late twice in two days and you've only been here a couple of months!"  She considered this information with a furrowed brow, and said, "So, you've only been late once in all that time?" and I said that was right, and she said, "Dude, you're way uptight!"
Everybody loves mimosas.  This is the sort that grows on trees.  Almost spring!