Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Take your breath away

It's that most wonderful time of the year, when we start getting a lot of mail that contains cash money.  Open an envelope from a charity, and the chances are that a nickel or a dime will fall out on your foot.  The gimmick is, you will either send the money - and 25 more dollars - back to the charity, or you will walk around all day feeling like the biggest ingrate in the world for pocketing their nickel.

Another item we get all the time in the mail now is calendars for next year.  I feel for the people who make all those celebrity calendars ("2014 with Marie Osmond!") because you have to trot out to the store and buy them, whereas every charity and foundation sends you their calendar, and you would be the biggest ingrate in the world for sticking their calendar on the wall and marking down all next year's birthdays, dentist appointments, and bail hearings on it.

Well, we got what must be the 27th calendar of 2014 just yesterday.  This one is courtesy of the American Lung Association.  It's called "Breathtaking Views."  It's everything you want in a calendar.  A page with little blocks for every day, and a nice big picture above..."Deserted beach at Sunrise - Miami Beach, Florida" and "Lake of the Clouds  - Porcupine Mountain State Park."  Pretty pictures, plenty of room to jot down those dates, and the important Judeo-Christian holy days are all listed.

But there's something a bit odd about this calendar, and you should be forewarned if you like it so much that you tack it to the back of the pantry door in yet another vain attempt to get the whole family organized for 2014.  According to the American Lung Association, here is how the months of 2013-2014 will play out:

  • September, 2013/October, 2013 (sharing a page)
  • March, 2014
  • April, 2014
  • May, 2014
  • November, 2013/December, 2013 (sharing)
  • January, 2014
  • February, 2014
  • September, 2014
  • October, 2014
  • November, 2014
  • June, 2014
  • July, 2014
  • August, 2014
  • December, 2014
I looked all over the calendar, but I can't find the name of any printing firm willing to take the blame for this one.  On the other hand, I kind of like the concept of putting your calendar on "random" and letting the months occur in an unnatural order.

I'll pay a king's ransom to anyone who can take July and August away and give us an extra November and December. I'll give them until the 31st of next February to figure it out!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gun control control

Things are getting crazy here in Baltimore County, as we vie with the City for the honor of being named Crime Capital of Central Maryland.

The other night down in Essex, Mr Kenneth David Cox, 24, broke into a man's apartment on Strawflower Court.  Speaking of court - talk about irony - Cox had been to court 24 times for his various activities, prior to the untimely end of his life on Saturday.

Along with a colleague in crime, Cox entered the apartment of the still-unidentified citizen.  The citizen was shot several times.  He did not have access to a gun, so he grabbed a blunt object  - perhaps a rod of some sort - and taught Mr Cox the last lesson of his life. It's sad, because, certainly, someone out there loves Cox.

At first, people surmised that it was the other way around, that the apartment dweller had beaten off Cox with a pistol, but that thesis became inoperative when the police announced that the unarmed person emerged victorious.  Cox's sidekick ran off into the night and has yet to be apprehended.

What was the blunt object that was used to subdue the hardened criminal Cox?  We may never know, but the standard storyline that shows people turning back marauders with their firearms got turned back this time.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A shore thing

It's like when someone opens up a can of peanuts or a bag of can't avoid dipping in and then you can't stop dipping in.

Peggy asked me to be sure to DVR this new series on The Hallmark Channel (!) called "Cedar Cove," starring Andie MacDowell.  It tells the story of a divorced woman who is a judge in a seaside town in Washington State and how her life and those of every single other human in the adjoining 50 square miles intertwine all over the place.

Watching it is sort of like that game your parents gave you on a long car ride, where they give you a list of things to spot along the highway as you go to Crestfallen Lake for a family vacay.  You watch this show, and it's like a Parade of TV Movie Cliches, to wit:

  • The judge hands down a crucial ruling involving an old lighthouse on the edge of town, and the sun streams in through the window behind her, turning Andie's famous mop o'curls into an angelic backlit halo of gold.
  • The judge's friend recently got divorced herself and is down about it, but the judge, plucky to the core, is determined to help her find the bright side.
  • The new editor of the local newspaper used to be a bigshot columnist in Philadelphia, but alcoholism and scandal forced him to relocate to this dinky town with its small weekly paper,where honest work will allow him to rebuild his life.
  • The editor, when attending a dress up occasion, shows up in a corduroy jacket and jeans...the sartorial equivalent of scooting into a classroom just as the late bell rings and the teacher is closing the door to latecomers.
  • The judge's daughter was involved with the developer who wanted to tear down the lighthouse and build dozens of houses on a development that most surely would have been called "Lighthouse Point," but she dumped him and seems to be headed back into a rekindled relationship with a younger guy who lives on a boat and fails to observe a regular shaving schedule.
  • When the townspeople get all worked up over the lighthouse, a bearded, longhaired 60's relic shows up to block the demolition equipment, shouting "Power to the People."
  • The judge's home phone number is listed in the phone book, because, as she says, "This is a small town; we're like a family."  Suggestion:  next time you're in District Court for some minor traffic offense, ask the judge for his or her home phone number so you can call them later to discuss the verdict.  
  • The judge's daughter, while she was dating the older developer, wore a denim jacket so we would all understand that she is still a flaming youth.  But now that she tied a can to him, she is back to wearing dresses, and thinking of going back to the boat guy, who wears denim.
  • A certain number of citizens have nothing better to do on a weekday than to become an orderly mob.
  • The judge's mother, somewhat annuated but still plucky, works as a volunteer at the town hospital.  A man has been brought in, unconscious at first but now awake but seeming to suffer from amnesia.  The judge's mom goes in and talks to him, suggesting that she knows him from somewhere in the dimly-recalled past. She discusses this with the only doctor at the hospital, who is, of course, an Asian female.
  • Bruce Boxleitner is in it.
But, do you want to know the worst thing about the show?  I've seen the first two episodes and can't wait for the third!  This is how I got started on The Young and the Restless!  Help me!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Rerun: Put it right over the plate

I think we need to talk about a problem that bids fair to end life in America as we know it, especially on weekends, especially at times when we choose to dine out.

Friends and neighbors, and friends of neighbors, I speak today of a real nationwide problem.  There seems to be a shortage of plates in the diners and dining halls and finer restaurants in America.

How else to explain that I am still eating my food and some 17-year-old busboy dives in from the left, much like Ed Reed going for a deflection interception, and grabs my plate as he says, "Can I take that away for you?"

"Son, I ain't finished yet," is my standard reply.  See, I am a slow eater.  Oh, I can gobble when the situation calls for it.  Was a time when I got 1/2 an hour for lunch, and you deduct from that 3 minutes to nuke a Stouffer's lo-cal tuna surprise, and by the time I sat down to chow down, it was either gobble or go hungry.  And you know how I voted on that one!

So, a lot of times when we're eating out on real plates, I will linger over my few remaining scraps, maybe sop up some sauce with bread, or spear one more broccoli spear.  It's hard to do that when I have to be vigilant, lest young Fisher or Hunter or Sailor make his move and snatch the platter from in front of me.  Peggy is always great about this, and pleasantly tells the young man that I am not ready to relinquish the crockery, but it unnerves me to think that someone over near where it used to be the smoking section has to wait for his club sandwich because I am still using the plate they would put it on, if only I'd give it up.

So maybe we should all start taking our own plates, mugs and cutlery down to the ChewSumMor next time.  I don't know.  It's a nationwide problem that threatens to curtail our nights out and make us stay home and watch "Everybody Loves Raymond" reruns on TBS.

And that's not nearly as much fun.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, July 27, 2013

 An anonymous person posted this picture and said "Tonight and every night," meaning that they got to sit and watch the sun set from this lovely waterside stand as often as they wish.  And because they showed it anonymously, the rest of us can't just show up and ask where's the clam dip and beer?
 Attention, WalMart employees.  It's one thing for the cobbler's children to be barefoot, but you ought to be able to find something to fix this sign...right in this aisle...
 Times Square, NYC, 1943.  There was a war on, gas rationing was in effect, and that cut way down on the aimless driving.  But you could take the subway down to the Globe Theater and see the screen debut of Brazilian parrot Jose Carioca in "Saludos, Amigos!" for maybe a quarter.
This was a Hell of a fire.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hernando needs a hideaway

I'd like a minute to speak to the young job seekers who are reading this.

I have one thing to tell you.  If someone named Joseph Michael Brannen ever gets out of jail and writes a book about how to go about getting the job of your dreams, turn and run the other way.

Young Brannen, the pride of Brooksville, FLA (why are there so many crazy people in that state, I wonder parenthetically) came up with a novel approach to getting hired.  He wanted to be a firefighter.  So he bought some firefighter turnout gear online and...ALLEGEDLY set fire to the East Hernando Library in that book-crazy town.  Someone called 911, and when the engines arrived, they found Brannen at the scene, all decked out in his gear, including an air tank, which was likely as empty as his thoughts.  Since he didn't know what he was doing, standing like there a sore thumb at a hand clinic, he was told to stand back.

Nice try, son.
The fire was extinguished, there was half a million dollars damage to the library, and the fire department started looking around for clues to what was clearly a deliberately set fire. It didn't take either of the Hardy Boys to look around and settle on a suspect.

Apparently, Brannen does not come from a hugely affluent family.  He is currently cooling his heels in the Hernando County Hoosegow, unable to come up with $3,000 bail.

He wanted to be a probationary firefighter and now he will probably be a non-firefighter serving a term on probation.

So, job hunters, let this be a lesson.  If you want to play for the Orioles, buying a uniform and showing up for batting practice at Camden Yards is not the ticket you're looking for. Becoming a brain surgeon will not happen just because you get some stylin' scrubs and a nice pair of clogs and loiter around the scrub room, just as getting a plaid polyester suit and a salmon-colored shirt and a garish tie will not automatically let you sell used cars at one of those corner car lots with hundreds of clear light bulbs strung overhead and pennants of red, yellow and blue flapping in the breeze.

But if you lean your head real close to the window of Brannen's jail cell, you can hear those pennants.  Soon he will go to court, accompanied by a person in a nice blue suit.  He should hope that person went to law school and paid attention.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Always avoid cliches like the plague

All right.  This started a few years ago in the fashion world, where people who have no idea what the rest of us wear try to tell us what to wear.

If they had their way, we'd all dress like Lady GaGa going to a wedding.

Green is the new blue, they proclaimed!  Stripes are the new plaid!  Ugly is the new pretty!

I pretty much leave the world of fashion to their own odd pleasures, but then "blank is the new blank" started spilling over into the real world, where you and I live.

Small is the new big!
Old is the new new!
Awake is the new asleep!

It got so ridiculously overdone, as do just about all cliches, that it almost went away.

But now there is evidence of a new groundswell in this inane equation.  "Orange Is The New Black" is a new TV series about someone sent to jail because she was in a relationship with a drug smuggler.  Well, in this case, "ignoring the hell out of it" will be the new "watching it" for me, just because every time I think of the show, I will have to think of this picture, sent via Tweet by an apparently insane FOX News contributor by the name of Geraldo Rivera.

Geraldo sent this picture on Sunday, thereby ruining what had been planned as a pleasant day for those so unfortunate as to stumble across it.  The tweet said:
70 is the new 50...Erica and family are going to be so pissed, but at my age......

And all any of us can do is hold our heads and our senses of taste and shake them.  Our heads, that is.  Geraldo already shook our senses of taste.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

500 words, due tomorrow

So, what would you do if your boss came in one morning right after Labor Day and told you to write a composition about "How I Spent My Summer Vacation"?

I always wish that someone would do that for adults.  Facebook is fun for sharing vacation pictures, but it can be dangerous to announce to all of your online friends that you are leaving the house unoccupied for the next two weeks while you and the whole family, including Uncle Ambrose, head down I-95 to see South of the Border, including Pedro's Nutte House, with its oddly phallic decorations.  Especially if you mention that the key is under the mat or duct-taped to the third rock from the sunflower in your garden.

But when you get back, post up those pictures.  We love to see where you've been.  A lot of people like to go to places they have never been and explore on their summer weeks off.  They think nothing of loading up the Family Truckster with sleeping bags, a couple of extra pairs of jeans and a shirt or two, some rudimentary toilet supplies, canned food, bottled water, bottled gin, and heading out to Montana or New Mexico.

Others among us go to the same beach or lake with the same people, wearing the same Speedo, and staying in the same room with a 40-watt bulb and a sliver of soap in the bathroom, which you get to share with your own family and that of Cousin Ozzie, with his illbred offspring.

That's why they call it a vacation - you vacate the office or your workspace for a while so you can come back refreshed and renewed, vowing more desperately than ever to find your ticket out of there.  That first day back, as you plow through the 1,395 emails that have clogged your inbox just as your recent dinners have clogged your carotid artery, you take a solemn oath that by next summer, you will have that dream job as drummer for Journey or personal hairstylist to Prince William.  And as you dream and plot, you click on a phishing email and the entire office network drops dead and you have to wait for the summer intern from InfoServices to come and declogulate your "machine," as he likes to call it.  This takes two hours, which would be much better spent roaming down the corridors of your building, demonstrating your tan and passing out macaroons and salt water taffy that you brought back.

I think I just figured out why corporate America doesn't ask anyone to write those compositions.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We'll cross that bridge...

It was just the other day that I was talking to a friend who suffers from gephyrophobia, the fear of crossing bridges.  It can be a very big problem around here, because the Chesapeake Bay almost cuts Maryland in two, and in the summer many people want to be on the other side, where there's an ocean with high tides and french fries and amusement rides and fewer homicides where the fun never subsides and it's far from the Continental Divide.

With my usual poor sense of foreboding, I told my friend to just drive the car over the bridge and not to look to either side. This tunnel vision works well on a bridge but not so much in the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, a huge tube that connects one side of Baltimore to the other by taking drivers under the harbor.  Fun thing to do while driving through it is to hit the windshield spray ever so lightly and then say, "Oh!  I thought they patched up that leak!"

The timing was bad because last Friday night at the peak of the oceanward migration, a car being driven by a 22-year-old woman from Calvert County was hit by a tractor trailer, and forced over the parapet wall of the bridge into the Bay, 40 feet below.  Amazingly, the woman survived, probably because she was still near the shallow end of the water.  She got out of the car once it was in the Bay and swam to safety on a some rocks, where a rescue vessel picked her up.

But for those who suffer from fear of driving over a bridge, the best advice is to get help.  There is counseling available, and it has helped some people, and there is a service that, for 25 smackers, will drive you in your car over the bridge.

Imagine, you're driving along and a truck hits your car and you and the car career off the bridge and into the drink...and you still have the moxie to get out of that car and swim to safety!

I don't think there's going to me too much in her future that will scare Ms Morgan Lake.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Save picture as........

I was surfing the net and found this list on a really cool site called easyhomestead.  I tell you, the contributors to this site really think of some great tips..such as, take some old keys that you don't even have any idea what they were ever for, screw them onto a small board, bend up the tooth end with pliers, and you have...a keyring holder.  Perfect for those mornings when it's carpool time and no one can figure where Junior left the keys to the Biscayne.

But here is the list I wanted to share.  Since almost everyone carries a cell phone with a camera these days, why not take  -and save in your photo gallery - pictures of things you are going to need...such as a picture of your pill bottle that you need refilled?  That way, you'll have the name of the pill and the Rx # and everything else.

Or, pictures of:

• Where you parked. It's not always easy to remember the name or letter or color of the garage and level where you park outside the Mul-Tee-Plex 48 Cinema, and after you've enjoyed seeing "Ernest Needs a Kidney," you want to get home right fast!
• Your printer cartridges. Make sure you can see the refill numbers. But my advice is NOT to use those cheapie refilled cartridges.  I bought some once and they were as useful as a sundial in a blizzard.  Spend the money for the real factory jobs...
• Your family members' clothing sizes.
• The measurements of your air filter.  16x24x1 here.
• The types of lightbulbs that fit your home fixtures.
• A recipe from a book or magazine that you want to use soon.
• Something that you use someplace and want to get one of for yourself, e.g. the great gel pen that the doctor's office has at the check-in (and is tied down with rubber bands, twine and a chain to stop us from ripping it off!)
• Homemade kind of stuff you see in a craft store or antique shop that you know you can do yourself, but it would be good to have a picture of the bookshelf set made from old beer boxes.

And, of course, don't forget to have your phone handy when shopping at the megaretailer.  That way, when you see something like what's below, you can share it!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday rerun: Don't Talk Back

You like to sing in the car, don't you?  Come on!  I see you at stop lights and making sharp turns, belting out a medley of Broadway show tunes, country classics and rock 'n' rollers.  I do too.  It's amazing how great I sound in the truck, and I always think some sharpie ought to hook up a recorder in here and really make some fine records.  Of me singing along with someone else's records.

To someone else's songs.  Just think of how great it would be if we could compose a lilting melody and smart lyrics of our own!  Just think, if we had a happy day and were in the Biscayne heading home and could just write a happy-day song about it all!  How great would that be!

Also greatbeing Jerry Leiber, who, along with partner Mike Stoller, wrote a few songs you might have heard over the years.  A few!  Such as, for starters:

  • "There Goes My Baby" 
  • "Hound Dog"
  • "Kansas City"
  • "Smokey Joe's Cafe"
  • "Yakety Yak"
  • "Poison Ivy"
  • "Charlie Brown"
  • "Ruby Baby"
  • "Stand By Me" 
  • "Jailhouse Rock"
  • "Love Potion No. 9"
  • "Searchin'"
  • "Young Blood" 
  • "Is That All There Is?"
  • "I'm a Woman" 
  • "On Broadway" 
 Baltimore claims Jerry Leiber as a native son, although he didn't hang around here for long.  In fact, he was in Los Angeles, finishing high school in 1950, when he met Stoller and began their collaboration with the tender love ballad "Real Ugly Woman."  (They got better after that.)

Leiber and Stoller wrote "Hound Dog" for the King (left) and also gave him "Love Me," "Loving You," "Don't," "Jailhouse Rock" and "King Creole."

Leiber, who passed away last week at 78,  and Stoller were among the crowd that made what's called "Brill Building" music.  The Brill Building is an office building on Broadway in fashionable New York City, where songwriters sat around all day in the 60's - people such as Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Neil Diamond, and Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry - and wrote songs that got lots of dimes dropped into lots of jukeboxes in lots of malt shops.  You've done songs like "Be My Baby," "Save the Last Dance for Me," "Stand by Me," "Up on the Roof" and "On Broadway" while you were nowhere near Broadway!  But I bet you were somebody's baby, up on the roof dancing with him or her one summer night, and those songs remind you of the then that is always part of the now.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, July 20, 2013

Knowing how much I love nurses, you won't be surprised that I just had to share this.  I'm sorry that some people need coffee just to keep running, but if you do, you do, and it should be fresh.  How to tell how old it is?  This simple indicator costs 2 styrofoam cups.
One can of Pepsi, a couple of nails for feet, and an old piece of grate.  There's your one-person grill!
How cool would it be to have a baby kangaroo around the house?  "Here!  Put this in your pocket!"
Somebody went to Scotland and met a body comin' through the rye, it would seem.  Perhaps this sign maker saves his best stuff for his paying clients.
Of all the accents in the world, I love to hear people with Scottish accents.  Here is a sign painted that tells you phonetically how to read it, lads and lassies!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Are You Sirius?

In the days before cable TV, the ancient Romans had nothing better to do on the hottest summer days when the sun set than to gaze heavenward, and they noticed, at both sunrise and sunset, that Sirius - the dog star - rose and set at the same time.  Sirius is the largest star in that constellation known as Canis Major - the "Large Dog."

Today, of course, modern man realizes that it gets hot as hell this time of year because this is when the Hinges on Hades are being oiled, and they leave the doors open.

This explains why we call the period roughly running from late July to late August "the dog days."  The Romans took this very seriously and believed that Sirius was angry at them, so they sacrificed a brown dog to appease him.

I can understand the first sentence above, but not the second. Why killing a dog was supposed to make a star cool the temperature down does not compute, but that was their story, and, again, they had no cable tv, and no Sirius satellite radio either.

 In 1815, one John Henry Brady published "Clavis Calendaria: Or, A Compendious Analysis of the Calendar, Illustrated with Ecclesiastical, Historical, and Classical Anecdotes."   They did not believe in snappy titles for books in those days, you see.  But, Brady said in his book that the ancients said this time of summer was when "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies."

I just checked.  The sea is not boiling.  Some wine is supposed to be sour.  Dogs are only mad when people wake up them from one of their 17 daily naps.

If this happened because someone was negligent,
you can bet there would be thousands of lawsuits.
But these people VOLUNTARILY expose themselves to
horrible gore, in the literal sense of the word.
But just turn on the news, and sure enough, all of us other creatures are burning with the fever and other diseases, and acting borderline hysterically.

And people pay good money to go to Pamplona in Spain so they can run around the streets with a good chance of getting gored by a bull.  Now that's what I call a phrensie.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Take the crimson from me, Jimson!

For all the years I worked for Baltimore County, I would donate blood every time the Bloodmobile came around.  Sure, it's easy to say I did it for the cookies and the free drinks, but it felt good to be able to help out.  And there was always the fun of being interviewed and asked if, within the past six months, I had been tattooed or been to Haiti or Zaire.  Or if I had any "unexplained night sweats."  I stated firmly that I was able to explain all of my night sweats.

I gave so often, I wound up in the Three Gallon Club, but I never heard about when the meetings were held, so I guess I'm out of that by now.

When I retired, there went the chance to hook up with the County blood drive, so when the Red Cross called me at home and asked if I would come over and drop a half pint or so, I said I surely could, after this knee surgery thing.  So they called last week and we set an appt. for today, the 18th, at 2 pm.

The next day I got an email from the Red Cross with all sorts of instructions:  eat a good meal!  Drink plenty of fluid!  Call if you need to cancel!

The day after that, I got a phone call, reminding me of my appt. on the 18th at 2 PM at the White Marsh Center.

I didn't hear from the Red Cross over the weekend, but they called this past Monday to remind me of my appointment on the 18th at 2 PM at the White Marsh Center.

Yesterday they called me twice to remind me to come in and give my blood.  I felt this was excessive so I asked if they could stop calling, as I am reliable enough to remember to keep appointments that I have made.  The young man I spoke to said he understood and would check off a box that would indicate to all concerned that I did not need reminder after reminder after reminder to show up and give blood.  That was the first call of the day, around 10 AM.

At 4:30 yesterday afternoon, as I was settling down with my Eyewitness News (they said it was hot and they would "see us through" the heat wave) the Red Cross called again, breezily informing me that they wanted to remind me that I have an appointment for a blood donation on Thursday, July 18th at 2 PM........

I asked for a supervisor so I could be placed on their "don't call to remind this guy" list.  A woman named Kate got on the phone; she was in Canton, Ohio.  I asked her if they had a problem with people scheduling appointments and then forgetting them or just failing to appear, and she said "Oh no!  It's just that with the hectic pace of everyday life, we know that things can get overlooked, so we just like to call and...."

Which must be written in their manual as the official response to questions like mine.  I mean, who talks like that?  But it said to me that yes, lots of people make the appointment and then forget it, or something comes up and they can't make it, or they only said they'd come just to get the Red Cross off the phone.

If there is one thing that people will say about me, it's that I do tend to show up where and when I am supposed to.  I hope that when I get to the Red Cross today, Ashton Kutcher will be there to explain that all those reminder calls were just an elaborate annoying prank.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Butler did it

I didn't even know there was a retirement village for aging female elephants, but when I saw this story on Facebook, originally from CBS News, I checked it out and hung with it, because of the atrocious pun in the very first lines (elephants packing their derms?  Worthy of me at my most pun-ishing) and I'm glad I did.

Click on the story, please, and check it out if you have a couple of minutes.  The elephants pair up in a sort of huge buddy system, and one of them wound up with a buddy who is decidedly non-elephantine.

Funny thing about animals, non-domestic variety.  You see them roaming around the neighborhood and they are having a really good time.  Just recently, here at the Lazy 'C' Ranch, we had a family of wrens nest for a while and fly off with their new hatchlings, and then a mama rabbit dug a little pit in the mulch beneath the crabapple tree, and within days, four little Bugs Bunnies were the darlings of the neighborhood.  None of these animals have internet access, high-fructose corn syrup, or Pat Robertson's maniacal bleatings in their lives.

And they are better off for it!

Samuel Butler
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
There was a fellow from England, name of Samuel Butler, who said two things that I think are worthy of thinking over.  It was he who pointed out that "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all,"  which turned Tennyson's "Better to have loved and love than never to have loved at all" right on its ear.

But keep this Butler quote in mind also..

"Man is the only animal that laughs, and has a state legislature."

And think of how happy that squirrel who just ran down your street is about that!
Alfred, Lord Neuman

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our American Culture Thrives

Hank Jr
(2006 mugshot)
Hank Williams, Jr, is a galoot of the first order when it comes to dealing with people (see his court records, not his hit records, and this article) but when it comes to singing and performing country music, he is a talent of the first order.  And I say that, knowing that he and I have huge political differences.  And differing opinions about whether it's nice to choke cocktail waitresses we just met.  (I'm against it.)

Hank Sr
Hank's daddy, Hank Williams, created the style and cut the pattern for much of what we used to call country music.  He was a frail skinny wreck of a guy whose dissolute lifestyle put him in a grave in his native Alabama before he reached 30, but his musical legacy is undisputed.

His son, Randall Hank Williams, was trotted out on stage as soon as he learned to pick and sing a little, billed as "Hank Williams, Jr" and told to go out there and try to remind the folks of daddy and earn his keep that way.  But a funny thing happened, right about the time that people weren't that interested in hearing Hank's hits redone by his son.  Young Hank got into the country rock that started to replace traditional country in the 80s, and he showed himself to be an able performer.

Now, while his dad was alive, the way songwriters demonstrated new songs was to make a record of a simple performance of the song, with minimal backup, on an acetate disc.  Years after HWSr passed away, someone found one of those old acetates of a song called "There's a Tear in my Beer" at a yard sale somewhere in Florida.  The disc had been stored outside for years under a canvas cover.

Next thing you know, someone cleaned up the scratches and pops as well as they could, and they brought Junior into the studio to sing along with the record.  Here is the sound of the original version and here is the video they made of the updated song.  They took one of the two existing films of Hank performing, put a fake mouth on the film to lipsynch with these words, and electronically inserted his son into the video.

You have to understand, in country music terms, this would be like Leonardo da Vinci, Jr. coming along and finishing a painting his father had begun, or Colonel Sanders's son, Sgt. Sanders, coming out with a new way to fill a bucket with fowl.

Hank III

Meanwhile, don't look for Hank Williams III to get involved
with another version of the song, as he is too busy playing with a "metalcore psychobilly" band called Assjack.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Let 'em eat TastyKakes

There's a frenzy afoot in the nation, and if you've ever had a frenzied foot, you know what I mean!  Twinkies are coming back!  It's that yellowy cakey treaty thing with the "creme" filling that can be used as spackle in case your brother-in-law cracks a hole in the wall hanging up his picture of him getting voted into the National Honor Society ( a photo of spurious authenticity, what with him dropping out in 8th grade to pursue the carny life.)

People of all walks of life and all girths are waxing rhapsodic about these little cake-like starch tubes, which were first baked by Dolley Madison as the White House burned down in 1814. It was in the paper not long ago when the Hostess Company went under rather than pay a decent wage, and some other firm bought up the precious right to churn out these jaundice-colored belly grenades, and they will be back on the shelves down at the Try 'N' Save this coming week.

With millions of culinary sins dotting my life and my files at the HMO, one thing that I can't be charged with is ever eating any Hostess products at all.  Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Chocodiles, Ding Dongs, Donettes, Fruit Pies, Ho Hos, Mini Muffins or Zingers have never been part of my diet.

And that's because I am from Ball-tee-more, Murland, hon, and we eat TastyKakes here.

Or we eat tofu.

TastyKake goodies include Cupcakes, Krimpets – butterscotch iced or jelly filled, Kandy Kakes, Juniors - a tiny little layer cake iced with chocolate or coconut, and the amazing little pies, a staple of my lunchbox from first grade thru twelfth.

They are vastly superior to Hostess and I recommend them, although I haven't had any of them since Carter was in office. Tastes change and we all grow up, but I have my memories.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday rerun: Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?

Legendary bandleader and guitarist Duane Allman, founder of the Allman Brothers Band and the guy who supplied those wailing slide guitar notes on Eric Clapton's "Layla," was tragically killed in a motorcycle wreck in October, 1971, so there's no telling how great he might have been in the years since, or how many other tremendous performances he had left to give.

But you know what else is interesting? He would not pose for a photograph!  After he reached a certain point of being recognized in public, he just figured, if people want to take a picture of me, they may, but he sure as shootin' wasn't gonna stand there grinning like a fool while shutterbugs snapped away.

Duane could play guitar like nobody's business, and he had quite a business playing for others, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Boz Scaggs and B.B. King among them.  He was a simple, humble Southern guy who liked to play his guitars, fish, ride his motorcycle and be left alone.  And even though he was around at the time of the tumultuous social upheaval in this country, he was not out there on anyone's front line of revolution.  Asked about his philosophy, Duane, whose father was a career Army sergeant killed by a hitchhiker, said, "There ain't no revolution, only evolution, but every time I'm in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace."   

And the surviving members of the band went on to call the album released shortly after his death "Eat A Peach."

But I bring this all up because I would not like to be in show business and have to stand around posing for photographs every time I showed up for the Oscars® or one of Kelsey Grammer's frequent weddings or a supermarket opening.  Yet, it's all you can see in the papers and on line: the stars in their finery, flashing the piano-keyboard grin and posing like nuts.  And the cameras and the flashes go crazy.  And people are calling their names like mad.

And the other night, Peggy wanted to see the red-carpet arrivals at the Grammys, where these days, one is rewarded for selling lots of music by being subjected to an interview with Ryan Seacrest.  It was sad because as he relentlessly grilled luminaries such as P. Diddly, or whatever he calls himself this week, and Justin Bieber, we saw Cyndi Lauper walk by, without a soul paying her any attention.  In her heyday, they would have pursued her for two blocks to find out which colors she used in her hair, and now her heyday is over, and no one even says "hey." 

Seacrest always asks, "Who are you wearing?" and I would have to answer this way: "That should be 'whom' are you wearing, and it's Eddie Bauer."  And then he would turn and greet the arrival of Steve Lawrence.

Ring finger, left hand: Coricidin bottle
And one last thing about Duane Allman, in case you think that having a cold is always the worst thing that could happen.  In 1968, Duane had a cold, and his brother Gregg brought him a bottle of Coricidin pills.  You remember those, those red pills that did nothing for your cold but everyone took them anyway?  Duane found the best use for Coricidin in the glass bottle of yesteryear.  He emptied out the pills, stuck the bottle on his finger, and used it to make those beautiful slide guitar sounds.  Listen to him play here.  Those notes that sound like teardrops falling?  That's the best picture of Duane there is!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Saturday picture show, 7/13/13

I have a feeling that if this little greened-over bridge is close to your house and you get to walk near or over it now and then, you feel a lot better just for having been there.
 Someone found this and posted it.  It's the original cast of "That 70's Show" (minus Red and Kitty!!) and look at how young they all look.  Everyone figured that Ashton Kutcher would become a huge movie star, and instead he winds up as mop-up man for Charlie Sheen on a now-silly sitcom. And mega-stardom surely lay ahead for Topher Grace!  But not so fast.  Mila Kunis, virtually unrecognizable here on the lower right, is in all the movies today and clearly has the best career of all the kids from Point Pleasant.  As Mitt Romney would say, you never can tell how things are going to work out.
Well, this could be a recent photo, shot with one of those Olde-Time FotoFilters to make it look like it was actually taken during the Civil War.  Or, it could actually be a relic from the War Between The States, and if so, would be the first recorded photobomb.  Look on the lower left.
Three years gone, and we still miss Leslie Nielsen, the man whose career had two lives.  Early in his movie days, he was the handsome leading man in movies such as "The Poseidon Adeventure," "Tammy and the Bachelor" (he played the bachelor) and "Forbidden Planet."  In 1979, he was watching television one evening, and saw himself looking ridiculous in a made-for-tv movie, pitching woo to a co-star young enough to be his great-niece.  The next day, as he told it, he was given a script for a satire of disaster movies, called "Airplane!" That was the first time you ever heard someone who had been asked, "Surely you can't be serious?" reply with, "I am serious. And don't call me Shirley."  And that led to playing Sergeant Frank Drebin, a detective lieutenant in "Police Squad."

Friday, July 12, 2013

Doin' that right thing

Not so long ago, when I was just out of the walker and starting to get around on a cane, I stopped at my local Giant grocery store for just a couple of items.  I tried going cane-free, figuring that the cart would help me get around, but by the time I rounded up what I needed and got to the front of the store, I was plumb tuckered out.  A young lady who was there to assist people at the self-checkout lines saw me dragging, and beckoned to me to come over.  She opened her register, got me rung up and on the way, and I appreciated it so much that I went on the Giant website and sent the honchos an email about how much I appreciated her help.  After all, she could have just looked the other way and ignored me.

Well, the other day I was in the Giant again, and she saw me up by the registers, and she thanked me, because the Giant had apparently made a little fuss over her, printed out my email and posted it, and placed a copy in her folder.  She said, "You really didn't have to go to the trouble of sending an email - all I was doing was doing my job."

In one of the rare moments of cranial celerity that come my way, I said, "Yes, but don't you know how special you are just because you do your job!?"

That being a rhetorical question, she answered with a smile and a thanks again.  But ever since, I have been thinking about how well things go when we just do what we're supposed to do.

And, as with the woman we talked about yesterday who bemoaned the crime-ridden status of her neighborhood, I thought about how well things go when we DON'T do the things we're not supposed to do!

We all want a cookie.
Chris Rock used to do a bit about a guy who bragged that he hadn't been to jail and that he took care of his kids!  In that inimitable Chris Rock voice, he followed that with, "You're not supposed to go to jail, you dumb (expletives deleted)!!!"  And about taking care of the kids: "You're SUPPOSED to take care of your kids!  What do you want, a cookie?"

I guess it is true; life is simple when we follow simple rules. Such as: don't rob banks, don't sell narcotics, don't shoot other people on the street, don't drive 87 mph on a suburban road, don't get all liquored up and drive anything anywhere, don't shoplift, don't lie.

On the other hand, if you have a job, go do it, as you're supposed to.  Be on time, be properly groomed and attired, be pleasant and cooperative.  Treat people kindly and fairly.  If you're married or in a committed relationship, don't have sex with people other than your significant other.  Keep your property decent looking, try to be a good neighbor, don't let your dog run all over the neighborhood leaving poop on other people's yards.  If you're a member of a neighborhood watch group, don't confuse yourself with Dirty Harry and go chasing people down, leading to fatal consequences.

Do what you know is right and things will be better!  I know I'm going to try.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's a crime

I think I'll start a new category, and will call it my "Favorite Citizen Of The Day."  It won't be hard to pick a nominee every day.

Today's winner is a woman, I didn't catch her name, but she appeared on the channel 13 news yesterday.  News crews had a hard time finding a place to park their Mobile Live Local Latebreaking News Vans in her West Baltimore neighborhood, since most available parking was taken up by police cruisers responding to the 50th (fiftieth) person having been shot in Baltimore City in the last three weeks.

Now, for the benefit of our far-flung readers in Holland, England and points east, a bit of background:  Baltimore City, where the stadiums are located for people to see the Orioles play baseball and the Ravens play football, and where other cultural meccas are as well (the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where the Town Band performs) is a totally different jurisdiction from Baltimore County, the largely bucolic suburbs which engirdle the city (just not tightly enough.)  The City comprises 92 square miles; the County, 682, although the populations are not that dissimilar in number (809,000 for the County, 619,000 for the City.)

OK.  The City is urban, and the people are packed together, and there is so much crime down there, they celebrate a New Year's Eve in which the murder rate stays below the coveted 300-mark.  I can understand all that.  The more people, the more trouble.  Except, I read in The New Yorker that Gotham has reduced certain levels of crime by as much as 80% since the 90's.  Are people different up there?  More tolerant, more forgiving?  I don't get it.

Back to the woman who appeared on the news to say that "People are dropping like flies around here, and no one is doing anything about it!"

The Police Department is flooding the affected areas with cops.  One block that has been the scene of several shootings has a cop - one officer - assigned to just that block 24-7 til further notice.

So yesterday, a guy two blocks over got shot down.

On the Fourth of July, wanting to avoid the carnage that has marked the past few Fireworks gatherings at the Inner Harbor area, the police cancelled leave, had all hands on duty, and called in help from the State Police, the City Sheriff's Office, and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.  That meant there were almost as many police as there were spectators for the spectacular aerial barrage, and there was no reported trouble.

It's hard to understand the mindset of the young lady who told the news camera that no one was doing anything in the City.  Plenty of people are doing plenty of things.  Criminals, drug dealers, and holdup crooks are out there doing their nefarious deeds, and the cops are out there catching as many of them as they can, and the judges and prosecutors are doing what they can to send the miscreants off to the Walled-Off Astoria.

I know many people who are or have been city police and they are honorable men and women, doing a fine job in the face of awful odds.

But until bad guys stop committing crimes, crime will continue to be committed.  I'm sure the lady on tv is not involved in crime.  We need more people like her, and then the problem will get better.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I have my -oon way of doing things

I have my theories, one of which is that I never met a Jackie (or Jaci, or Jacquie, or any other homophone) that I didn't like.  I saw some survey once where they rated names by what people thought of them, but I discarded the whole thing as silly rubbish when it said that most people's impression of the name "Mark" was that of a spoiled child.

Stupid survey.  See if I care!

But it dawned on me that words ending in "oon" are usually in the fun realm.  Balloon!  Who doesn't like a nice balloon bopping along in the breeze?  Pontoon?  one of those floating patio pontoon boats!  Who wouldn't like to be out one of them, slowly coursing up one of the many waterways that connect us all around here?  You can even have a grill on one of those boats, because you're not going to be going 85 knots and sending up a wake like when an SUV splashes into the water.

Brigadoon!  Everyone loves that old musical about a mythical town that comes to life every hundred years or something, much like Crawford, Texas.  When you sing "Almost Like Being In Love," you're singing a show-stopper from Brigadoon, lassie.

Mac and Katie Kissoon were brother and sister, born Gerald and Katherine Farthing, but every time you sing out loud "Chirpy-Chirpy Cheep Cheep," their big hit from 1971, you're not only paying homage to the Kissoons,  you're risking involuntary commitment.

Afternoon - everyone loves the afternoon; it leads to dinner!

Buffoon - see Crawford, Texas, reference above.

Cartoon - the old kind! Like Top Cat or The Flintstones.  Cartoons are fun to watch!

Doubloon - if you ever watched a pirate movie, gold doubloons were what was in the sunken treasure chest, so guys like Errol Flynn would always run their hands through the coins and holler "Avast ye!" Note to self: look up "avast."

Macaroon - it's a sweet, soft cookie!  Mainly made up of coconut!  What else could you ask from a cookie?

Spermatozoon - without which, none of us would be here....

Mr Lodge's first name is "Hiram"!
Tycoon - Mr Lodge from "Archie" comics! The Monopoly man!  Any stuffed shirt wearing a suit (monocle optional) who has one of those stock tickers in his office and sits there scanning his fortune, in the movies, is a tycoon.  Donald Trump is a modern day tycoon and look at how beloved he is!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

You're in the picture

Daytime Halloween scene
When a buddy told me about this website that shows real pictures that real
Daytime Armed Robbery
(Short-armed Robbery, to be precise)
people find on Google Street View, I had to stop and tell him that anyone who seeks the Street View of our palatial dwelling, the legendary Lazy 'C' Ranch, will see the house and grounds in all their glory...and our recycling, down at the end of the driveway.

it must have been a Tuesday when the Google Camera Car came by, because that's when we bundle up squashed beer cans, old newspapers, magazines, junk mail, yogurt cups and "tin" cans for the county to haul away.  We have single-stream recycling, and that's handy.

What if I had been checking the mail while
wearing a ratty bathrobe or something?
But I like to use old cardboard beer cartons for packing up the goodies.  And so, when you look at the picture from the front of our place, you see
a couple of packed-up National Bohemian beer boxes and some other beer box, and a paper box full of who-knows-what.  Charming, I know.

But take a second and click on this site and see pictures from all over of people doing amazing things as the Google Camera Car lurched through their neighborhood.  They see everything! Including, as you see here, E.T. wearing a doo-rag and waiting for a parade to come by.

I know that many of you are at work as you read this.  This would be a great time for you to signal to your boss and invite her or him over to your monitor so they can see what's so dad-blamed funny!

Monday, July 8, 2013

It's Just the Sun

You can fault me for many things, but you cannot accuse me of inconsistency.  I like what I like and dislike what I don't, and I don't flipflop on things.

I don't like Brussels sprouts and I really don't like liver, and no one ought to wait for the day when I ankle in and say, "Hey, I been thinkin' on this liver thing..."  It just won't happen.  The last known change of mind that I can recall happened in maybe  5th grade, when I put aside a lot of my boyish toys and decided I liked girls, after all.  And Sandra Dee had already married Bobby Darin by then, so I was too late.

This brings me to the heat.  Good heavens, it's hotter than the hinges on Hades around here these days, and even as I stay inside and avoid the infernal streets and sidewalks, I can take comfort in knowing that in four months, it will be November 8, and it's got to be cooler on November 8.  And for all those who clamored for it to be a bit warmer last winter, are you ready to give up now and say you'd rather be cool?

I found this picture on the excellent Bits And Pieces blog, and it's one of those pictures that are worth 1,000 words.  I don't know where this poor letterbox was, but it demonstrates why I am glad my mailbox post is made of wood.  Plastic just can't fight back when the sun is only ten feet above the surface of the earth, as it is this week, and that's why we ALL feel a little droopy.  It's just the sun.

You're supposed to call your doctor if it stays this way for more than four hours, according to the good people at Cialis.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

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, July 6, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, 7/6/13

 Mariano Rivera, the great Yankee closer (final relief pitcher) is retiring after this season at the age of 127.  To send him off to a well-deserved retirement, the Minnesota Twins saved some of the bats broken by their hitters in their attempts to hit his cut fastball, which is a devil of a pitch to hit.  At the last second, it makes a sharp lateral move as it sails over the plate and hapless hitters swing.  The Twins made a nice rocking chair for the elderly Rivera as he heads to well-deserved retirement.
 I saw this picture and I thought, why can't all parking garage owners and operators be this smart?  Here, they have painted the yellow line up the wall a bit, so you can line your car up right as you back in.  So simple, and yet...
 A man posted this picture of his friend's daughter.  She took a line drive right off the melon while seated at a ballpark, and for her trouble, she was given an official ball and bat.  I also understand that her parents' insurance company paid off in a lump sum.
How nice of the Nat'l Security Agency to open a supermarket for us to shop!  And here is the great don't have to worry about bringing your list with you...they already know what you want....