Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, November 30, 2013

 People ask what's missing in country music these days, and I say three things:  whining steel guitars, twin fiddles, and Nudie suits. Nudie suits, like the colorful number worn here by Faron Young to salute a #1 hit called "Goin' Steady, " were fashioned by Nuta Kotlyarenko, known as Nudie Cohn, a Ukrainian tailor to the Nashville elite.  Classy.
 I love winter and snow and cold air and biting winds and trees all lighted and schools being closed.
 But before we say goodbye to harvest season and ring in the Yuletide, let's take one last walk through the pumpkin patch.
 As the sun sets, we need heat and light and power for our TVs.  This is how it gets to our houses and taverns.
Later today (3:30 EST) The University of Alabama football team will defeat intrastate rivals Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl game.  Their Million Dollar Band will be playing and their equally valuable cheerleaders and baton twirlers will be rooting for the Crimson Tide.  And so will I.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Will a goose help warn you if there's an intruder on your property? There's no better way!

There was a time that Paul Lynde was one of the top comedians in America.  He was on TV variety shows all the time, he played Uncle Arthur on "Bewitched" on TV and Harry MacAfee, the dazed Dad in the movie "Bye Bye Birdie," and he kept America in stitches every afternoon on the "Hollywood Squares" TV game show.  This was a show that was made for the Lynde brand of snarky humor.  He and the other stars appeared in a giant tic-tac-toe board and were fed questions and answers in advance, while the audience bet on whether the star was bluffing or giving the real answer.  For example, when asked "What's the lowest form of humor?" Paul was 100% right when he answered, "Harvey Korman."

Well, if you check out this documentary about Paul, you'll see that he was one of thousands - millions, I guess - who achieved professional fame and fortune and never quite got happy personally.  Talent took him far in his line of work, but this was in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and Paul had a secret back then, not so much a secret in Hollywood but very much not well known in Peoria - he was gay.  In those days, to be so was not as well accepted as it is today, and even today, it isn't as well accepted as it ought to be.  So that had to make Paul feel constricted, boxed in.  Coming out of the closet was unthinkable, although he did drop hints that none of us seemed to catch on the Squares     ("Man overboard" is what you say when a man falls off a boat; what do you say when a woman falls off?" was a question that Paul answered with "Full Speed Ahead!") And even though public opinion has largely turned around all the way on the topics of gay rights, same sex marriage, and the incredibly surprising desire of all people to be left alone with their lifestyles and the people they want to be around, we still hear horror stories of people being denied their freedoms.

As the story goes, it was the old story.  Paul got a little bit old to play an impish wise guy.  He verbally humiliated his friends and treated strangers horribly.  He was the classic "mean drunk" and that was part of the downward spiral into alcohol, drugs and dissolute behavior that ended in 1980, when he got clean.  His life ended, though,  two years later, due to a heart attack.

They always say that if you have something unique to offer the world, success will find you.  Paul Lynde brought a quick wit, a humorous way with a funny line, and a unique persona to show business, and success came to him.

What a shame that happiness couldn't come along for the ride, too.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Role of the Tide

If you get Showtime on the cable, I'd recommend checking out the documentary they are running called "Against the Tide." That is a clever play on words, the title.

The football team of the University of Alabama is called the Crimson Tide, a nickname that sprang into use after the underdogs from Tuscaloosa fought heavily-favored Auburn to a 6-6 tie in 1907.  The game was played in a sea of mud down where the red clay earth gets right messy, as anyone who ever saw "My Cousin Vinny" can verify.

As anyone who was around in this nation before the 70s and 80s can also attest, racial equality, while officially the law of the land, was certainly not in practice all over the South.  My childhood news-watching memory is full of images of redneck governors standing in school doorways to prevent black people from going to school, and federal marshals being sent in by President Eisenhower and President Kennedy.  Still, as the 60s came to a close, Alabama's football team had as many black people on it as the White Aryan Resistance currently counts among their members.

Bear Bryant in his heyday.
As you'll see if you get to watch the show, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant scheduled USC to come to Alabama and play his team, and he was the least-surprised man in Alabama when the integrated team from Southern Cal doubled up on the Tide, 42-21, thereby proving to the Bama Boosters that maybe it might be time to look beyond the pale, as it were.

The question remains: did Bear do this because he wanted to advance the cause of civil rights, or because he knew it would be the only way to regain national supremacy for his football team?

He took the answer to his grave.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Beyond the Blue Verizon

I hate to argue with Alanis Morisette, but it's not ironic when it rains on your wedding day, or when you hit a traffic jam when you're already running late.  But I'll tell you about something that is true irony all day long...

I have had a telephone since shortly after Thos. Edison got off the phone with his asst.  The name of the local service provider has changed, from C&P Telephone Company of Maryland to Bell Atlantic to the current snappy name, Verizon. I pick up the phone, I get a dial tone, everyone's happy, especially since we pay our bill every month.

But, of course, big companies cannot be content to just take your money in return for their services.  They all have a Department of Screwing Things Up All To Hell, and recently Verizon decided to unleash that group on me.

A nice lady called and said they wanted to come to the house and install a battery backup system, so that if we lost electrical power, we could still call and order a pizza, and she and I set a day and time for them to come and do the work.

Every day since then, I got a call from Verizon - the automated kind of call, reminding me that we were getting together between 1 - 5 PM on Thursday the 21st.  The day before, a technician called and said he would be at the house at about quarter after one the next day.  We even discussed nice places for grabbing lunch in our part of town.

So of course, the next day at 0754 hours, here comes a call from another tech, saying that HE, not the other guy, was coming to the house that day.  Being a representative of the telephone company would certainly mean that the cell phone he used to call me would be crystal clear and problem free, right?  Nope.  It was one of those deals where I heard my own words back on my phone right after I said them, and could hardly hear his words at all.

Well, whatever.  I don't care what the tech's name is or anything.  Just come and do the job you asked if you could come and do.

And that happened, and he did the job, and he was a nice guy with a lot of interesting phone information.  (You come to my house to do work, you get peppered with questions about what it's like to do what you do.)  He had me fill out a survey about how good his service was.

Two hours later, the phone rings.  It's Verizon...another automated call, asking me how the service was.  In fact, they asked the same questions on the phone that I had answered on the paper the tech gave me.  As the call ended, I was given thirty seconds to leave additional comments.  My additional comment was that for a fairly simple service call, I felt that the phone company made an inordinate amount of phone calls that I had to answer.

So, in half an hour, another phone call, another survey, this time asking how I felt about getting all those phone calls.  I answered it, all right, and then I called back the number on the caller ID.  I wound up talking to a guy at the phone company and told him I was getting tired of getting phone calls from the phone company about my phone.  He said he was sorry and guaranteed that I would be getting no more phone calls.

Half an hour later, the phone rang, and it was the phone company, calling to see if my complaint about getting too many phone calls had been properly addressed.

They CALLED me to see how I was doing with all these PHONE CALLS.

Alanis, back to you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Some More of the Dharma

Let's say you are kidnapped, hogtied and dragged from your office or the deep fryer where you work and taken hostage by Venezuelan nationals bent on avenging some slight or another.

For days you remain tied up in Caracas, subsisting on leftovers from a Subway located in the hotel where your captors have set up a command post to further their cause of prolonging the Bolivarian Revolution.  At length you are untied and paraded through the streets as fiery locals call you unkind names and toss burros at you as they ride their colorful burritos.  Or the other way around.

You are brought before the Queen of the Revolution, Her Majesty, the leader of the Puppet Government, Mary Annette.

"Silence, Insect!" she commands, as you cower and beg for mercy.

Mimi Kennedy
"At the stroke of 11 this morning, you shall be defenestrated if you cannot answer the following question:  Which cast member of 'Dharma and Greg' suggested a song topic to Jim Steinman, which led to Steinman writing Meat Loaf's biggest hit ever, based on an Elvis Presley song?"

That's when you say, "Mary Annette, stop pulling my string. The answer is Mimi Kennedy, who played Dharma's mom Abby, who was in a musical with Steinman. Steinman was complaining that he couldn't make progress as a songwriter, and she told him that his songs were too complicated, and advised him to write something a little easier to comprehend. And while she was saying that, someone had an oldies station on the radio, and 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' was playing, and Steinman started to sing along but then put his own twist on the song.  In his take, the guy wants and needs the girl, but there ain't no way he's ever gonna love her...but two out of three ain't bad, right?"

Steinman finished the song, Meat Loaf cut it for his first album in 1977, "Bat Out Of Hell," and now you can tell Queen Mary Annette that you do not a) want her, b) need her or c) love her.

She will understand. You might as well go back to work tomorrow.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Rerun: Pat McButtocks

Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson, the dimwitted former preacher whose goofy image leers out of a few tv screens every morning on the television, took his nickname from his childhood.  His older brother Willis would pat the little baby on his cheeks, saying "pat pat pat" as he did.

Whatchoo talking about, Willis?  I think he must have patted the baby a little too hard, so let's not be real rough on Pat Robertson, who has made a fortune taking money in the name of the Lord, so that he could operate tv networks and shows that feature his nutty views, such as:

  • His belief in Dominionism, which says that conservative Christians have the right to rule and run our government under biblical law.  This would be tough on guys such as I, who often covet our neighbor's ox (Commandment #7).
  • His bragging that it was his prayers in 1985 that made Hurricane Gloria change course, rather than making landfall in Virginia Beach, where Robertson's CBN network was beaming reruns of "The Life of Riley" to its dozens of viewers nationwide.
  • His book "The New World Order" claimed that a conspiracy exists between Masons and some people called the Illuminati, a group of Masons and Jewish bankers.  Perry Mason, Derrick Mason,  Mason Williams and the Mason-Dixon line are all involved.  Pat knows.
  • His statement that the cracks that appeared in the Washington Monument are "a sign" from God that the end times are upon us.  Similarly, the jovial man of God said, right after the Haitian earthquake, that the people of Haiti made a pact with the Devil and are being cursed for it, and also he said that Hurricane Katrina was the result of legal abortion.
  • His joint comment, with the always humorous Jerry Falwell, that the events of 9/11/01 were something we deserved for our tolerance of secularism, gays, abortion, feminists and pagans.

But now the wheels have really come off of old Pat's wagon.  I really don't know how this got out, because frankly I don't know anyone who watches his show, but apparently he, an ordained Southern Baptist sinbuster, gave the go-ahead to some poor man, whose wife is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, to go ahead and divorce her and "start over again."  A guy called the show and said "his friend" was in this situation (and Pat didn't see through that?) and had begun stepping out on his wife.   

"I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again - but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her," Robertson said.

In younger days
Oh, Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson!  It's not just that it sounds cruel, but that it IS cruel!  And then the woman whose job it is to sit next to this maniac tried to help him out of the ditch he dug with his oversized mouth.  Terry Meeuwsen asked the old goofball about whether Christian marriage vows - to care for one another "for better or for worse" and "in sickness and in health" - still applied.

"If you respect that vow, you say 'til death do us part,'" Robertson said, adding that Alzheimer's "is a kind of death."  

I'm here right now to tell you, I'll stand by Peggy every second of her life, and wouldn't think of doing anything like this.  And I'm just an ordinary man, with Christian beliefs that I don't try to force on anyone.  You have to hand it to Robertson, who leads the league in hypocrisy and foolishness.  

An old sky pilot once told me, "God never told anyone to be stupid."  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, November 23, 2013

 It seems so easy to say, but no matter where you find yourself, there you are, and it's best to stay until it's time to go.
 I'll admit it.  I have tried since childhood to eat with chopsticks, and no good.  Unless you count all the chunks of shrimp that have rolled down the front of me, not much leaves the plate when I chop it up.  So I have given up, and use a fork.  I say Egg Fooey to the concept.

 This week in Nashville saw the unveiling of a monument to the late great George Jones.  His widow, Nancy, who is credited with turning George's life around, poses with the stone that marks The Possum's grave.  She announced the creation of a scholarship in his name for music students at Middle Tennessee State University.
There are foreign policies, Company Policies, Communications and Information Policies, Human resources policies,  Privacy policies, Public policies, ‎Monetary policies, Life Insurance policies, Regulatory policies and Auto Insurance policies.  But until now, no one set forth an official Sauce Policy, and we have the friendly folks under the Golden Arches to thank for it.  Honestly, it's the best policy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Things Change

Fifty years ago, the world was a different place, and I say that knowing full well that if you go to any date in history and back up fifty years, the changes will be huge.  Think of the period between 1875 and 1925.  In the span of those fifty years, Americans gave up horses and buggies for the car, fought in the First World War, and stopped wondering why the birds were the only creatures aloft.

But changes like that are gradual.  It wasn't like Orville and Wilbur Wright flew their plane at Kitty Hawk and the next day, TSA agents all over the country were making people take off their shoes and step into an x-ray viewer, and it took years after the first car chugged down Main Street for someone to realize that people would pay big to sit in the sun in the South in the summer and watch other people drive in circles.  And buy a ton of beer while doing so!

But on the morning of November 22, 1963, I left for school in the full spirit of Camelot which informed the nation since John Kennedy was sworn in to office.  He replaced Dwight Eisenhower, a man who, for some reason, came to be seen as a low-key bumbler in many ways, although he had the supremely daunting task of leading American forces in the D Day invasion and to victory in World War II.  Kennedy fought in the war as well, a decorated and heroic Navy lieutenant, but he seemed so young and cool in the White House with his lovely young wife and children and the trademark family "vigah," with which he went after everything from standing up to the Cuban Missile Crisis to playing touch football on the White House lawn.  Everything in those days seemed so magical.  The United States was the world's top power, and all was good and only getting better for all of us.

And then, by the time the final bell for school rang that afternoon, the final bell tolled for Camelot, and we found that one man with a $22 rifle and a head full of cabbage can ruin all that is good and pure and hopeful.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Replacements

I have friends who are involved in capitalist enterprises, may God bless their souls, and maybe one of them could shed light on the following conundrums:

 - - A man (let's call him "Mark") buys a cordless drill that comes with two batteries.  Some years later, both of the batteries are dead as mackerels.  He finds that the cost of replacement batteries is higher than the purchase price of a new drill with batteries.

 - - The same man ("Old Mark") buys a pc printer/scanner/toaster combination.  When the printer cartridges are empty, he goes to buy replacements, and finds he can buy a whole new printer for fewer dollars than the price of the ink cartridges.

 - -Guess who finds the same deal with a replacement wheel for the wheelbarrow which he wheels through streets broad and narrow.  A whole new wheelbarrow, although getting rid of the old one was a challenge. (I put it in the new wheelbarrow and pushed it around until I found someone who wanted it.)

On the same theory, I took an empty pizza box back to Pizza Heaven and asked if they would refill it, but while I was there, a police came in and asked who left the wheelbarrow double parked out front, so I had to leave.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No reports of anyone being forced to shop

The other day I heard a definition of society given as "a large group of people in search of something to be offended about."

Which brings me to this latest source of irritation: stores that plan to open up on Thanksgiving evening for those who want to get a leg up on Christmas shopping.

Many people will enjoy getting their legs up and off the sofa for an hour.  This can only be good.

Many will be so glad to get away from Cousin Winthrop and his tales of Thanksgivings long long ago that they will run to the closest WalMart in search of DoorBuster special bargains, like the combination printer/scanner/food dehydrator that's sure to be the big seller of Christmas '13.

Still many more will veg out on the sofa or recliner, deep in a food haze, and some will sit and nod at the TV, watching sitcom families argue over the last turkey wing.

But, some stores are opening and this has many people all upset.  "Thanksgiving is for families, and being with the ones you love, and commerce should take a holiday!" they exclaim.

It's good to find the balance.  Yes, in an ideal world, everyone should be able to be home stuffing turkey down their neck, but it just can't be.  We need police, firefighters, EMTs, hospital staff, the people at the electric company...thousands of people will be at work anyway, not able to get in the mob seeking the new "High-Strung Elmo," the toy that natters on almost as much as Cousin Winthrop.

One of these years, the Patriots will
play the Chiefs on Thanksgiving Day.
Many people who work at the stores - and especially, those who OWN the stores - look at this holiday season as a way to get the green into Black Friday, and if Friday starts at 8 o'clock Thursday, all the better.

I understand that it's nontraditional for Try 'N' Save to be open on Thanksgiving Day, and that upsets a lot of people who will decry this naked moneygrab, this awful disruption of a traditional family gathering during dinner, and then get up from the table and head downtown to M&T Bank Stadium to watch a professional football game.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A baseball love story

I heard about this on the Keith Olbermann show on ESPN 2.  In my opinion, Keith Olbermann should be the voice of everything - all the news, sports and weather, and the voice that calls out the floor on the elevator, the PA announcer at the megastore who tells you about flashing blue light specials in the Tire and Auto Department, and, way off in the future, I would like it to be his voice that announces me to St Peter as I step off the celestial escalator for what might be a brief stay.

I have the highest regard for Mr Olbermann, as does he.  Here is the story he wove the other night.  A man named Verlon "Rube" Walker, a journeyman ball player in the 40s and 50s who turned out to be one of those guys much more adept at coaching baseball than playing it, spent years as a coach for the Chicago Cubs, and passed away at the age of 42 in 1971, from leukemia.

An odd  fact about Verlon Walker - his nickname.  About 10,000 ballplayers had nicks like "Rube," "Babe," and "Cookie," all of which are great baseball names.  But you would not feel so great about a neurosurgeon whose business card read "Dr Edward Bryce "Cookie" Furlington III, M.D., FACS," would you... No.  The odd thing here is that Verlon got the "Rube" sobriquet from his brother,  Albert Bluford "Rube" Walker, a ballplayer and later coach of much greater renown.  Kids today holler if they have to share a GameBoy or video screen with their brother.  Imagine having to share the same nickname!

Verlon and Leigh Ann, 1969
At the time of his death, Verlon had a three-year old daughter named Leigh Ann.  All grown up and married now, with a family of her own, Leigh Ann is on a quest to hear the sound of her father's voice.  She's appealing to radio and tv stations, and to anyone else who might have a recording of her pop speaking.

You can see the story here and contact her through that website if you happen to have such a recording.  It would be so cool to see her find one!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stealing in the name of the Lord

If you add up the cost of all the low-rent ocean resorts in the world, you come up with a lot of cheap sums of beaches.

This leads me right into a favorite topic, namely, the 1001 ways that sum  some people get out of paying a decent tip at a restaurant.  I can't stand it, but read all about it - a new way to avoid what you should pay.   People are leaving what appears to be a ten dollar tip when all along it's a phony with a message about how to be a better person on the other side.
Looks legit....but wait!  There's less!  
John 3:16 says: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." It does NOT say "Some things are better than money."
  The flip side.

And to make it all worse, they drag God into it, as if He endorses cheating people out of money they have earned. As the Good Book says in Mark 10:19:

You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'
And I'd love to see them try to cheap their way into a movie or out of a gas station or law firm with some of these bogus bucks.

People who take a fake ten spot and leave it hanging out of the payment folder in a restaurant, only to have the poor server find it's not a sawbuck at all, but a religious tract, need a swift boot in the Galatians.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday rerun: Goose Me

"Pâté de foie gras"is a French term meaning "something I wouldn't eat if you spooned it out to me on golden doubloons with Alexis Grace, formerly of American Idol, doin' the spoonin'. With the marvelous economy of words that is a hallmark of the French language, they say so much with so few words, n'est-ce pas? (Literally, "huh?")

What it is, is a French delicacy made from specially-fattened goose or duck liver. This raises certain questions.
  • How does a duck get specially fattened?

  • How do you get down from an elephant?

  • Did the duck pay cash for a Chapstick?
and right back came the answers.

  • A duck or goose becomes specially fattened through a process known as 'gavage,' in which corn is literally forced down their necks in the style of American sycophants being force-fed their conservative doctrine.

  • You get down from a duck.

  • No, he told the clerk to put it on his bill.
SO there you go. It's someone's job to jam a feeding tube down the throat of a duck or goose - talk about fowl work environments - and then when the liver of said animal is as bloated as Bill
O'Reilly's ego, the goose's goose is cooked and his liver is turned into something rich, buttery and delicate  and served in various forms. According to Wikipedia, this substance is enjoyed in mousse, parfait or pâté form, along with stuff that people might actually wish to consume, such as toast or steak.

All right, now we come to the meat of the discussion. Out in Columbia, MD, which is an entire city built the ground up 40-some years ago out of former farmland, there is a restaurant which serves this food for their patrons. Suits me. I last visited Columbia in 1971 and have seen no reason to return since, and surely goose liver parfait is not going to be what gets me turned around on that issue.

But, for those who want to have it, let them eat all they want!

Animal rights protesters have raised a stink about the restaurant, known as the Iron Bridge Wine Company, having the guts to sell liver. Listen, this is not my kind of restaurant at all. Most people I know would find it adorable and check out the wine list and have the times of their lives chowing down on food that is "plated" and "presented." Being a Howard Stern sort of guy from a Martha Stewart sort of family, I have experienced both the swanky and the stanky, and let's just say that the one French word I like to hear around mealtime is ''buffet.'' But  this is what the protesters (apparently it was done by them, but one cannot rule out copy-cat spray painting by socially conscious graffiti-tagging kids) do when they don't like your menu offerings in Coumbia MD.
Their choices are:
  • A) spray "get rid of the foie gras" on the stone sidewalk
  • B) break the windows of the place
  • C) eat someplace else.
Oh, would that they could 'C' their way clear to a form of protest that doesn't damage the property of others!  (They did all three).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, November 16, 2013

These are the Baltimore Colts of 1958, the World Champions who played in the famous Sudden Death game against the Giants and won on the touchdown scored by Alan Ameche (35).  Other notables?  Johnny Unitas, of course, (19), Jim Parker (77), Art Donovan (70), Lenny Moore (24), Gino Marchetti (89) and Raymond Berry (82), Hall of Famers all.  #80 is Andy Nelson, who still runs a barbecue here in town.  These men played football for an entire season for what Peyton Manning spends on tips to the clubhouse guys and bellhops, but it was a different world, a world in which Don Joyce (83) could edge Donovan in a fried-chicken-eating contest, 27 pieces to 26, and then put saccharin in his iced tea because he was watching his weight.
We talk in philosophy classes about whether God could make a rock so heavy that even He could not lift it, or whether or not science could come up with an acid so potent that it could eat through any container we might try to use to store it.   But the people at Rustoleum really ought to consider using their own product on their own cans, doncha think?
We accept the love we think we deserve.  It says so right here.
Ever read a book so wonderful that you just wanted to scoop up every single word and relish them one by one?  That's how I am, too.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dear Old Golden Rule Days

I love people and I don't care how young or old they are; everyone has a story and a point of view to be considered.

F'rinstance, one of my young young friends had this to say on FB the other morning: "The whole school routine pisses me off."

Yes, it tends to do that, and then once the middle school routine is over, the high school routine mars your life and then college - what you can remember of it - will be years of doing this and doing that, as you're told, preferably on time.

And then, your education solidly completed, you are prepared to enter the workforce and fit into other routines.

With the benefit of hindsight, we get older and realize that the nonsense of having to be in our seats at a certain time, having to do book reports and Science Fair projects and charts showing the progress of American Civilization as we expanded westward is not so much nonsense, really, as it is good training for having a job and having to produce a cover sheet for a TPS report or arrest a crook or put out a fire or give someone a flu shot or defend the crook that someone arrested.

No one ever asked me to speak at a high school commencement, least of all my own high school, which made my attendance at the graduation exercises optional, but if it ever happens, I will make sure to point out that it's not the being in your seat on time or making a plaster volcano or naming the presidents in order that makes your education worthwhile.

It's the learning how to do those things that counts.

But if any kid ever asks me the value of solving a quadratic equation, I'd have to say there is none.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Have you ever heard of a yogurt chain called "Pinkberry"?
Neither have I, but it seems they are all over the place out on the West Coast.  We have a few of those places in our malls, similar shops where people see the word "yogurt" and think "healthy!" when they should think, "It's got guar gum, maltodextrin, sodium citrate, cellulose gum, disodium phosphate and propylene glycol monoesters," which are chemicals found in many popular frozen yogurts. Some froyo is thickened with carrageenan, a goo made of red seaweed. It's a colloidal substance that, according to Dr Andrew Weil, is not very good for you.

Well, this is not a health blog and I wouldn't worry about eating frozen yogurt, unless it's all you eat.  Even the gummy worms, Fruity Pebbles, Rainbow Sno-Caps, Heath Bar chunks, Caramel Turtles, Cheesecake chunks and M&Ms that people pile on before heading for the cash register to pay $11.83 for a chilly snack aren't all that bad in moderation.

Let's say your name is Young Lee, you're 49, and you founded the Pinkberry chain in 2005 with your now-ex-wife.  But in the summer of 2011, a year or so after you cashed out and left the everyday world of "yogurterias," as they call them, you were coming home from someplace with your fiancee when a homeless man approached your car and showed you his tattoo, which depicts two stick figures having sex.

Are you still with me here?

So, Mr Lee, according to the homeless man, Donald Bolding, the police, the District Attorney and the judge who found you guilty last Friday, you became incensed with the display of the tattoo, so you got out of the car, chased and caught Mr Bolding and then took a tire iron and gave him a savage beating.

And then you took off for Korea, only to be arrested in 2012 when you returned to Los Angeles, and remained free on bail until your trial concluded with you being led off in irons.

This is a nightmare all around, and when we break it all down, it's another of those stupid incidents that resulted because of a perceived lack of respect.  Lee told others that when Bolding showed his tattoo to the couple, that constituted disrespect, so that called for a beatdown.

Here in Baltimore, a guy shot another guy the other night because guy #2 had talked to #1's girlfriend.  Talked to her.

Maybe it would be a good idea to respect ourselves a little bit more and not worry so much about how much respect others show us.  After all, what others think of us is really none of our business.

Mr Lee is in custody, awaiting sentencing in January.

I can respect that.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

And why is he not in jail?

Do you know who Ed Bolian is?  If you ran a jail, it would be great if you could say, "Yes, I just put him in his cell for the night."  I wish someone could say that.

You may have heard of what this jackanapes did a couple of weeks ago without ever learning his name.

He thought that a nice way to spend 29 hours or so would be to rig up a fast car with extra gas tanks and drive the car from New York to Los Angeles.  This has long been an obsession with the easily-obsessed Bolian, who wasted time in high school interviewing one Brock Yates, whose fertile brain hatched the idea of speeding from coast to coast, which gave someone in Hollywood the idea of making a movie about people hauling across the country, with Mr. Burt Reynolds as lead oaf!

Bolian, a Georgia Tech graduate, installed a switch to kill the rear lights and bought two laser jammers and three radar detectors...all with the intent of foiling the police.  He tried to rig up a radar jamming device, but, sad for him, it wasn't ready in time for his foolhardy venture. He also installed a police scanner, two GPS units and chargers for smartphones and tablets that his co-driver and navigator were to use.  And, like anyone else setting off on a motor trip, he packed some snacks, iced coffee and a bedpan.

Movies are made under controlled conditions, but when halfwits career across highways meant for all of us to use in a safe manner, endangering lives and property all over, that's just stupid behavior.

You can read the articles online if you want to.  Just google Bolian and you'll see them, mainly glowing accounts of the intrepid young man and the friends dumb enough to pile into his Mercedes and the scouts that he had driving 200 miles ahead of him to let him know of, you know, bothersome impediments such as radar traps and people driving at the lawful speed limit.

Young Bolian piped up to say, "Most of the time, we weren't going insanely fast."  This, after driving 2800 miles in just under 29 hours.

Bolian. You've got to love the look of sheer unadulterated stupidity.
We should not allow the incapable to define what sanity is. Had this knucklehead smashed into a stopped school bus or a car driven by an elderly couple, and had people died, the old hue and cry about menacing people on the highway would have been sounded.

But that didn't happen, so let's forget it, ok?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Sad Anniversary

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the murders of David "Stringbean" Akeman and his wife Estelle, and I remember it very clearly.  It was one of those moments when two cultures came into violent collision, and, like when a warm front meets a cold front, bad things happened in Nashville that day in 1973.

Stringbean was a featured player on the Grand Ole Opry...a star, but not among the big stars such as Ernest Tubb or Hank Snow, back in the days when country music still sounded like country music.  His shtick was wearing a goofy getup made from an old pair of "Little" Jimmy Dickens's jeans and an elongated shirt, making comic use of his lanky frame.  And he played a banjo in the old style, strumming it in the fashion of those who invented the only purely American instrument. Here's an old clip that shows what he did so well.

He made a nice living on the Opry and playing concerts, and he and his wife lived outside Nashville on a farm where, as a sideline, he grew ginseng to sell to the Chinese.  He did not drive, but bought a new Cadillac every year so Estelle could drive him to concerts and the radio show and his appearances on TV's "Hee Haw," which brought him to living rooms across the world. Stringbean was as country as country could be.  He hung hams to smoke in a cave on his farm, but would not touch beef or any dairy product.  According to a fascinating article in the Nashville Tennessean newspaper,  String used apple cider vinegar as after shave and rubbing alcohol as deodorant.  This was 40 years ago, and yet, in the ways that matter, he lived as others did 400 years ago.

One other thing about String - like many who lived through the Depression, he did not trust banks.  The Opry and his concert bookers paid him in cash, and Estelle sewed a pocket inside his bib overalls where he hid his hundreds.  She carried money in her bra.

I guess a guy who grew up on a dirt farm and then made a good living playing a "banjer" had reason to be proud, and Stringbean was known to flash his wad of bills around Nashville, a fact that came to the attention of  23-year-old cousins Marvin and John Brown, who, that Saturday night, went to the Akeman home and listened to the Opry on String's radio to hear his last performance at 10:18 PM.  The songs were “Going To The Grand Ole Opry (To Make Myself A Name)” and “Hot Corn, Cold Corn.”

Then, with $3,182 in his overalls, and $2,150 in her bra, the Akemans went home to their fate. The Brown cousins waited in the house, String tried to fight them off, but he and Estelle were killed by their own shotgun - a gift from fellow Opry star Grandpa Jones, who went to pick them up for a planned hunting trip the next morning and found their bodies.

The Browns, predictably, blamed each other for the murders. One of them died in prison and the other is still locked up.

Two simple, country, plain people, who lived their lives as they wished and bothered no one, were killed by two young men who planned to steal their money rather than working for their own.

It's a story as old as time itself and as new as tomorrow.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Life takes funny bounces

I think that writers decided that sports made a great metaphor for life right after Richard Nixon made his Checkers speech in 1952.  His place as running mate to Dwight Eisenhower was in jeopardy after opponents questioned a gift fund that he had been dipping into. Nixon's response was to go on TV, get all misty, and say that he was a humble man of modest means whose wife couldn't afford a fur coat but he would never give back "Checkers," the dog that was a gift to his family, no matter who said what.

He should have mentioned that if people wanted to get mad at him for his crooked ways, they ought to wait twenty more years and he'd REALLY show' em somethin'!

But as the years went on, Nixon would mention, at every opportunity, that he had played college football, and would bother the coach of the Washington Redskins with his suggestions for plays, sort of like a sober version of Robert Irsay.

Fans of the Baltimore Ravens saw a great life lesson yesterday, delivered by James Ihedigbo, one of the safeties on the team. The team was doing great in the first half of the game against the Bengals, but Cincinnati was closing fast as time ran out.  Ihedigbo had made quite a few great plays during the game, and with two seconds left to play, all Baltimore had to do was defend against a long Hail Mary pass to win, but Ihedigbo, playing pass defense, batted the deflected pass up in the air, and a Bengal caught it for the tying touchdown.

He was wearing the Crown of Shame and Disapproval as he went to the bench, and then one of his own teammates, Jimmy Smith, went over to him and berated him for making the mistake of not knocking the ball down. Nice, Jimmy.  But Ihedigbo said he knew he made a bonehead play, and he had a decision to make: to sit and mourn what was already done, or to make a difference in what was to come.

Pronounced eeHEDeebo
If you saw the game or the highlights, you know that the Bengals, in overtime, were moving toward a winning scoring play when our man James, who had been knocked to the ground on a fourth-down play, got off the ground and make the crucial tackle.  And then the Ravens won, once they got the ball back.

I guess I'm writing this more for the young than for us old salts, but it seems to happen so often that we allow a setback to knock us off course.  You can't change the past, as Nixon found out as he packed up his personal effects, but you can't allow the past to keep you on the bench while the future unfolds.

And that's our lesson for today.  Please pass your texts to the front of the room.  Thank you!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday rerun: Albert and his father

Albert Brooks is a funny guy - so funny, in fact, that he has to sit back and be less famous than other "funny" guys such as Tim Allen and Louie Anderson.  But he can stand it.  As he explained the other day on "CBS Sunday Morning," he did not get into show business as an all-or-nothing deal, and if he hadn't made it there, he would "gone and sold shoes or something."

But make it he did, and we've liked him in movies such as "Lost In America" and "Modern Love."  His real story, though, is almost as interesting as some movie plots.

To begin with, he was born with the name of Albert Einstein.  This little joke was played on him by his father, who was a radio comedian born Harry Einstein, who went by the name "Parkyakarkus." As in, sit down right here.  He did funny dialect bits on radio and in movies, and by the time television took over as America's choice of entertainment, he was wealthy from California real estate investments, so it didn't matter that his form of humor didn't work too well on the small screen.

He was still considered one of the funniest comics around, and so it was that on the 23rd of November, 1958, he was topping the bill at a roast for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz at the Friars' Club in LA when stricken by a massive heart attack.

The odd thing was that he collapsed, just after leaving the audience gasping for breath after a hilarious monologue, into the arms of Milton Berle.  Trust me, the last person you want to be saying something serious on your behalf would have been Uncle Miltie, but that's the way it worked out for "Parky."  Berle stood there hollering, "Is there a doctor in the house?" and the crowd thought it was a gag of some sort.

No joke, but really, even though some doctors actually were in the audience, their efforts to bring him back were for naught, and Parkyakarkus passed away that night.

Albert Brooks had one half-brother, the late Charles Einstein, who was a well-known baseball historian and writer, and two brothers: Bob "Super Dave" Einstein, a stunt comedian, and Clifford Einstein, who was in the advertising business.

One of Parkyakarkus's friends was Frank Nelson!  Which means that young Albert had the thrill of answering the doorbell and hearing this famous "Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss?"

Interesting lives, all.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Saturday Picture Show, November 9, 2013

 Our first picture this week finds us in Clearwater, Florida.  You might be joining me in wondering what the devil is going on in the Sunshine State these days.  More weird news and pictures comes from there than, say, Wisconsin.  For example, here is what happened when a stripper was hauled into court and forced to demonstrate to the Honorable Judge Whoosit that her panties were not so tiny as to allow an unabridged view of her whatsis.  The bailiff, the court reporter and the judge were all being paid for their service as this landmark moment in American jurisprudence took place.
 CJ?  Where's the W?  Don't you realize, it's a silent W?
 Toronto's crackhead mayor goof is seen here, posing with America's cracked-head major galoot.
You can talk about your tough jobs...corrections officer in a maximum-security lockup...sewer inspector...refuse collector...John Boehner's tanning machine operator. But I still have to give it up to Mr Harry C Dumler, Shop Teacher at the now-shuttered Towsontown Junior High School, where I matriculated for three straight years. Mr Dumler found it within himself to announce to a room full of 14-year-old boys, "Now men, we have three kinds of files here in this wood shop..the rough files, the smooth files, and the bastard files."  From that moment on, all we could do was ask each other to hand over that bastard.
No words for this,  except RIP Marcia Wallace.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Courting Trouble

Yesterday morning on CBS This Morning, there was a story about a young man in Missouri (the "Show Me" state) who was convicted of homicide on the words of people who didn't know much more about the case than you or I did, and we were all many miles away.  So maybe Missouri should start calling themselves the "Blame Me" state.

But the good news is, the janitor who was pretty sure he saw a guy who was also wearing a shirt at or close to the crime scene and it was probably the same night, so put him in jail for twelve years already, recanted his obtuse testimony and reckoned that he was wrong.  The poor accused man must have had one poor lawyer, if he got sent up with flimsy evidence like that.

I have to share this story from my shadowy past.  In one of my many positions with the County, it was my task to be Custodian of Records for 911.  As you might figure, everything that happens on the phones and the police and fire radio system is recorded, and attorneys for both the prosecution and defense sides often use those recordings as evidence in trials. This meant I spent a lot of time in courtrooms over the years I did that job.  I mean, if you are trying someone for murder and his name is Seamus Ellingboe, and you can come to trial with a tape of the victim's last words on the phone to 911, saying "Seamus Ellingboe just broke in through my kitchen window and he is about to shoot me" and then you hear gunshots on the tape, you can pretty much count on getting your case wrapped up by lunchtime.

So it was one morning as I sat in a hard wooden pew at the old Towson District Court, awaiting my turn to testify in a case I can't even remember.  I sat there, shifting every so often so as to avoid Numb Butt Syndrome, and waited and waited.  One of the early cases that day concerned a man who claimed to be driving his car up I-95 at 3 AM one day, only to be driven off the road by a road-raged 18-wheeler driver.  The State Police got in on it, because after the car driver got back on the highway, he went to a rest area (pre-cell phone days!) and called them, and with the description he gave them, they later made an arrest, and the case went forward.

Remember being 1/2 asleep in Math class and suddenly from deep in your cortex being aware that the teacher just called on you to solve the square root of 144?  I had that dim awareness that morning.  I heard the guy giving his impassioned testimony, and then the Ass't State's Atty. said, "Do you see that man, the man who was driving that truck and forced you off the highway at great speed, placing you in grave danger, in this courtroom today?"

The proverbial hush fell over the courtroom as the man replied, "Yes!  He's right there!"

And he pointed

The ASA looked crestfallen, as his case fell apart in front of his sad eyes.

The judge said, "Let the record show that the plaintiff has indicated that Mr Clark from 911 was driving the 18-wheeler. Mr Clark, are you willing to answer whether you were driving a large truck on I-95 at 3 AM on April 16 of this year?"

I firmly stated that I was not.

Then the guy goes, "Oh wait, it was THAT man!"  And he pointed to some other citizen sunning himself among the throng.

The judge pounded on his gavel to quell the excited titter that ran through the courtroom.  "You only get one guess, sir," he pointed out as the ASA packed up his briefcase and I, wide awake now, accepted congratulations from my buddies and dreamed of the retirement that I now so happily enjoy...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

TV alert!

Sorry for the late notice, but if it's still this morning when you read this, you'll have time to switch over to the "TODAY" Show on NBC and see Matt Lauer and Al Roker get prostate exams live on the air.

Yes I did say that.  

Long a feature of annual physicals for men over 40, prostate exams are now popular at social gatherings and supermarket openings.  Just invite a qualified medical doctor and let the fun begin!  (Note: in Baltimore, these exams are known as "prostrate exams," even though they're performed with both the star and the supporting cast standing up.)  It's considered proper for the guest of honor to lean forward, his elbows on the end of the exam table, assuming the position, as it were. advises that it goes this way:
  • Usually you will be asked to stand, feet apart, facing the examination couch and bending forward so that your arms or elbows are on the couch. If you're nervous about not being able to see what's going on, this is a good time to ask the doctor to describe each step to you before it happens.
As someone who has been down this road a time or two, let me advise those of you who just got on the bus that this is NOT a good time to ask your doctor what he's got in mind.  When you hear that latex glove snap on his right hand, that's all you need to know.  The following questions are permitted, and even expected:

  • "Hey, Doc, did you ever do time?"
  • "Don't you just hate it when you have an itch you can't reach?"
  • "Did you see that special on PBS about Civil War surgical field amputations?"
  • "How about those Kansas City Chiefs, huh?"
I am very sorry if this will disappoint you, but I have received word from New York that satin drapes will shield sensitive viewers from the nekkid buttockular regions of Messrs. Roker and Lauer.  However, 8" x 10" glossy photographs, taken at a discreet, tasteful distance, will be available for sale Friday morning wherever fine lubricants are sold.

Good luck, Al and Matt!  Don't forget to send a little thank you note to the doctor!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tough Beans

The list of differences between my wonderful Peggy and me is seemingly endless.  We've talked about it for 40 years and it just fascinates me, how many things she likes that I don't, and vice versa.

Let's talk about hot beverages for now.  Peggy likes coffee.  I like tea.  If she drinks tea, it's got to be one of those herbal atrocities such as Jasmine-Lavender-Orange Blossom, which sounds like it was on the way to the shampoo factory but wound up in a teabag. Tea.  Regular tea, black tea, the kind with Colonel Lipton on the box, that's what I like. Tea.

For those of you who are not tea drinkers, especially in restaurants, here's the deal.  The server comes around after a nice meal and says, "Who's for coffee?" and all the adults say, "Yeah!" and "Me too" and "Me three" and a couple of them say they want decaf and then the lone tea drinker asks for hot tea and the mood chills instantly, as if a member of the Hasidim had asked for a ham and cheese sandwich.

Minutes later, the server returns merrily, balancing 5 cups of mocha java and a dozen little cups of creamer.  And a cup of lukewarm water and a tea bag with a lemon on the side.

I have been alive for many years and have yet to see a hot tea drinker dump a lemon in their tea.  Just sayin'.

And Lord help you if you want more tea.  The server buzzes back around with the regular carafe of java and the tub o' decaf and everyone gets their fill, and if you ask for more tea, they might bring you some water that they drained out of the relief valve of the sprinkler system the other day, and your used teabag gets to do double duty, while the Jittery Java The Hut lovers smack their lips and say it's "good to the last drop®!"

I hasten to add that this does not occur at the wonderful Friendly Farm restaurant, my favorite in all the world, because they have good coffee there and I drink their coffee happily!

Now.  About coffee.  The specifications!  It's got to be piping hot, scalding hot!  No more than 10 cc of cream! Then they get into the whole latte grande /frappuccino/ cappuccino/ Al Pacino thing.  Caramel brulee!  Macchiato, the forbidden dance! (Not to be confused with Ralph Macchio, the forbidden actor.)

I think the people at Starbucks take a certain pleasure in being confusing, being a land where a tall is a short and gingerbread is a liquid.

And of course, if you like to make your brew at home, just get yourself a Keurig machine, where you use tiny little plastic cups of ground coffee that only cost about $3 each.  And then add a little instant coffee to that so it's strong enough and then by the time you get all that done you need to put it in the microwave to heat it up.

It's true.  Coffee makes me nervous.  Not from drinking it, but from hearing about it!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Men will be boys

This was the story on FOX Sports:

Miami Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin loves playing football.
But what a source told FOX Sports was an abusive environment that developed during Martin's 1 1/2 seasons with the Dolphins led to him taking a personal leave of absence to spend time with his family.
Martin left Dolphins headquarters last Monday when finally (sic) reaching his limit with the persistent bullying and teasing from some teammates that has plagued him since joining Miami as a 2012 second-round draft choice. As first reported by FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer, the latest taunt – a group of players stood up and left when he tried joining them for lunch – led to Martin getting up himself and walking out the door.
There is no timetable for a return, which could lead Miami to ultimately place him on the reserve/non-football injury list. It also raises questions about his future with the franchise.
This wasn't an abrupt action by Martin, who is Stanford-educated and the son of two lawyers who attended Harvard University. A source said Martin has tried dealing with a slew of indignities that crossed into personal and family insults, including being bestowed with the nickname of "Big Weirdo."
Knowing his background, the 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin probably felt that challenging teammates to fistfights wasn't the answer to the situation.
It's believed the Dolphins were aware that the cruel actions of some teammates toward Martin went well beyond the customary hazing sometimes given to NFL rookies and youngsters, the source said. Martin experienced some of that when the Dolphins appeared on the 2012 season of HBO's Hard Knocks.
The Dolphins declined comment to FOX Sports about whether they were aware of the bullying issue allegedly surrounding Martin.
Veteran players also apparently failed to help support Martin and draw a line as to where the bullying should end.
OK.  First of all, I loathe bullying in all its forms, but this reminds me of that deal in Texas we talked about in which a group of parents claimed that their kids were getting bullied in a football game, when all that really happened was that they were getting the hell beaten out of them.  It's not the same, and to call it bullying diminishes and demeans the integrity of people making a claim of real bullying.

Second, these are men of considerable means playing in a multi-million dollar sports industry.  Since all this broke, the Dolphins have suspended another offensive lineman, the curiously-named Richie Incognito, for conduct detrimental to the team. One of his offensive lines was the one in which he allegedly demanded that Martin shell out 15,000 semolians so the veterans on the line could fly to Las Vegas, presumably to enjoy an evening of Celine Dion in concert.

To me, it's a real shame that we live in a society in which the truly defenseless - the 12-year old girls picked on by their peers to the point at which they see no way out short of suicide, the nerdy kids, the different ones, forced to live lives of shame and fearful hiding in school and out at the hands of their loutish schoolmates, and the members of minorities, be they racial, ethnic or religious, the world over, victimized by the some of the majority in the name of a deity - now have the yoke that surrounds their pitiable necks, the scourge of bullying, be applied as a name for some overstimulated jocks driven mad by the Miami heat and their own overindulgences. The team leaders need to step up and deal with Martin's grievances, which, legitimate as they are, are not in the same class as a scared middle schooler, any more than a dahlia is as stout against the elements as an elm tree.