Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What do you know about that?

Sometimes I sit around, thinking about what I can think about next.

And here is what I came up with today:  It's based on an aphorism attributed to Will Rogers - "Everybody is dumb, just on different topics."

Couldn't be more right.  Take me.  What I know about dinosaurs and the solar system could fit in one of the little plastic cups that come with cough syrup, and yet I know children - pre-schoolers! - who know more about those topics than I do, and I say good for them.  As long as T Rex isn't charging after me when I go to the Try 'N' Save, and the sun keeps coming up every day, I'm fine not knowing why the former doesn't happen and why the latter does.

Ring Lardner
I hasten to point out that there are topics on which I am quite knowledgeable, such as the works of Ring Lardner and Jerry Lee Lewis, and how to make grits just right (not soupy, not thick), and things related to the study of history, so I always have something to talk about in case I'm invited to a cocktail party. ("Benjamin Franklin was the only president of the United States who was never president of the United States!")

But...there's always a but. Why do so many of us talk of things about which we know nada, zilch, zed, zero. F'rinstance, the recent disappearance of the Air Asia plane - still a mystery as I write this - has brought out a veritable plethora (all plethoras are "veritable," just like all long waits are "seemingly interminable") of people whose work brings them no closer to Asian air travel than the latest issue of US Weekly, and yet are willing to state what happened to that Malaysian airplane earlier this year.

"It was shot down by the Taliban"
"It was hijacked to Syria"
"It was vaporized by gamma rays by the Martians"

And they make these statements so unabashedly, and their friends all form an echoing chorus of approval, never once asking, "How do you know that?"

Jerry Lee Lewis
The last moments of people who passed away under mysterious circumstances, the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa, and the reasons why Jennifer Aniston has never found true happiness in love are all grist for these mills.  They couldn't possibly know, but that doesn't stop them from sharing their uninformation.

And we're polite enough to act like we agree.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Circle the date!

A shameless plug for people and an event close to my heart:  If you live in or around Baltimore, you should bring your kids and yourselves to the Child Safety Day at the Providence Volunteer Fire Company, at 1416 Providence Rd in Towson.  (Take exit 28 off the Baltimore Beltway and go north a mile; the firehouse is on your left.)  Circle Saturday, January 10 on your calendar - 10 AM til 2 PM.

What goes on at Child Safety Day?  New York Life Insurance Co. (I should do a plug for them because that's where my nest egg is being kept warm) will be there to make identification cards for the kids.  That's important these days.  Kids (and folks of all ages who wonder) will learn how to call 911, and the family can find out how to set up an escape plan in case of an emergency in the home. There will be lots of fire department and police department exhibits. It's also a chance to meet the men and women who serve their community for free -  the firefighters of Providence VFC.

And - Holy Batmobile in the parking lot!  - there will be a special guest from Gotham City from 11-1...Batman himself!

Back in the day...
This is the volunteer fire company that was across the street and down one from my childhood home, so I pretty much came of age there, waiting to become a member at age 16, and fighting fires until I got married and moved to another part of town.  But this company is still in my heart as the place where my public safety roots grew, and Child Safety Day is the perfect place to spend a worthwhile time with the family on a Saturday in Baltimore MD USA!
The station today

Come see the new ladder truck!

Monday, December 29, 2014

She thought it would be something sweet to do

Just one quick reading of Heather Cagle's information page on the Catoosa, Oklahoma, Public Schools website makes me shudder for her spelling and grammar deficiencies, but that's not why the school board down there tied a can to her this fall.

Ms Cagle taught 6th grade math, and was yearbook advisor, at Wells Middle School right up until the day in October when she decided it would be a great idea to treat the kids to some WalMart candy.

That was a good idea.  Kids love candy.  What wasn't so good about the idea was to take the students off school grounds to the WalMart in her Honda Accord. 11  - eleven! - students, 12 to 15 years of age.

It's like the old "how do you get four elephants in a Volkswagen? joke (Two in the front seats, two in the back) but the clearly resourceful Ms Cagle had two kids in the front with her (I presume she was doing the driving), seven in the back, and two girls in the trunk.

This also sounds like one of those college student stunts from the 1950s.  Before they had XBox and Play Station to fool away the hours, students would see how many of themselves they could shoehorn into a phone booth, or they would eat live goldfish, or dance for seven days and nights.

Someone dropped a dime on Ms Cagle, and the local school board voted 4-1 to fire her for taking the kids off school grounds without parental permission.

Always dignified, Ms Cagle posts a picture
from a lighter moment for her students to enjoy
I love this ungrammatical quote from her attorney, Richard O'Carroll: "There wasn't any danger and it was a farce. All you got to do is cry a lawsuit or something these days."

There's nothing a lawyer hates more than a lawsuit or something.

In a related development, when I was in high school, I was often summoned to the office, where the vice principal would hand me a dollar with the instructions to go to the nearby drug store and get him a pack of Kents and a large Coke, "and get yourself something too."  No one asked my parents if it was ok for me to wander off school grounds.  They would probably have been shocked to find I was there in the first place.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday rerun: This tragedy could be avoided

Zookeepers and others involved in the care and feeding of brass monkeys all across the Eastern United States are reporting that there are hardly any new ones being born!

Brass monkeys are traditional adornments for the well-to-do and the well-done, for the hale and hearty, the lean, the lank, the content, the querulous, in their swanky mansions and spare huts.  They are said to bring good luck to those who display them, and good fortune to all those who gaze upon them in the course of their daily meanderings.

And they just look so nice out on the porch, gazing beneficently on all who pass by!

But scientists and fanciers of metal animal replicas are all concerned by the recent, huge, decline in the birth rate of the primates in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia orichalcum - the common brass monkey, so beloved of American decorators and the locals of the United Brass Workers International.

Renowned expert Adel Vice, reached at his office high on a hill, pointed out that it's believed that the tendency of many Americans to leave their brass monkeys outside on nights like last night is to blame.

"People know good and well what happens when a brass monkey is left out in sub-freezing temperatures," he said in a phone interview that I just made up.  "It doesn't have to happen this way.  When you hear two 'thuds' on the porch in the middle of the night, it's already too late."

Don't let this happen to you!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, December 28, 2014

Here's a picture from a thrifty homemaker who wisely put up jars of the things we need to make it through a tough winter...
There came a time that I had cataract surgery and was sent home without the proper medications.  Peggy had gone on to work, so I had to put on the eye patch and bandage and the gigantic Elvis sunglasses the doctor gave me and run over to Walgreens.  And then the pharmacist told me I would have to wait 20 minutes. And they had an electric vibrating chair in the waiting area.  So I sat down, looking like a visionless mummy, and hummed along with the chair for about 90 seconds, at which time the druggist called my name and sent me on home, lest I scare any more children.
 I love the way that farmers cut their crops into fun shapes and designs.  It's even more interesting when you realize that very few farmers have airplanes or helicopters to oversee their work - but now they are getting drones!
 There's only one today.  Make the best of it!
What could be sweeter than two foxes exchanging Christmas presents over a nice cup of cocoa?
FedEx last Tuesday.  That package you got from Uncle Albert and Admiral Halsey is in there someplace!
 A World War I poster reminding citizens not to waste paper.  Printed on paper.
Castles Made of Sand thanks you for a wonderful 2014, and a happy holiday season!  See you back here all through 2015, how about it?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Two things I wonder about

I wonder why...when a consumer has an issue with a product or a company that sells the product, he or she can write and phone and camp out in their lobby and do just about anything to get the problem addressed...but when that consumer is asked by Amazon to rate the product, and they write an honest review that tells what's wrong, the company calls within 18 hours, begging for a chance to make everything right?

I needed a keyboard for the computer; the old one was all gummed up, and when you pressed a key it would stay down for a while. Not good.  So, I saw an exact replacement for the one I wanted, and ordered it from Amazon.

What I got was not an exact replacement. The old one was the "quiet" sort of keyboard and the replacement was not, and the old one had a picture of a 1/2 moon, which would put the pc in sleep mode.  That button wasn't there on the new one.  I can still put the computer to sleep in either of two ways: by pressing the Windows button and choosing sleep mode from the startup menu, or by telling one of my tired old jokes for the umpteenth time.  The one about the English hitchhiker ought to do it!

So Amazon asked me to write a review, and I did so honestly, saying that I did not get the keyboard that was pictured in the ad and that I wish I had.  That was late one night.  By midafternoon the next day, my cell was lit up by a phone call from an ENY (Excited New Yorker) who wanted to know what they could do to get me to take down the negative review.  I suggested that they could find, and send, the right product.

Still waiting.

Another thing I wonder about.  These little quizlets on Facebook, in which people dare each other to "think of a word that starts with a D and ends with a B"...are they for real?  Does anyone really have to stop and ponder this?  That's really dumb.  Some lives are too drab.  Just a little dab of fun ought to help!  But I don't want to be a dweeb about it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Keeping track of the sleigh

We pause on the eve of this sacred holiday and put aside our usual rantings, ravings, queries, adulations and nonsense to link you to the Santa tracking system, so that you can get an idea of when Mr Claus will arrive on your block.  I know that all of us who meet here every day have been good little boys and girls all year long, so the swag should be stupendous!  Enjoy the last-minute holiday hubbub, and track Santa here!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dog days numbered?

Peggy said something interesting the other day about animals having more sense than many people give them credit for.  For one thing, when's the last time you heard a dog arguing with another dog over political matters?  That's a sensible approach.

And do you see cats taking drugs, driving while impaired, or wearing polyester clothing?  I rest my case.

But, animals have soft hearts and often love people who clearly deserve no love. Take the case of Connie Lay, a former resident of Dearborn County, Indiana, who recently passed away.  She was the human companion to a German Shepherd named Bella, and she could not face the Great Beyond without Bella by her side, so she stipulated in her will, according to her attorney, Doug Denmure, that upon her passing, Bella was to be euthanized to join her up in the clouds.


This sort of thing is what keeps my head spinning.  "I love my dog so much, I want her to die" is not a charitable outlook, but there is hope in this case.  People are trying to get the dog to a safe place, to forestall the legal action sought by her former owner.

If Bella could talk, she'd surely say, "Thanks a lot, Connie."

But, just to make us all feel better about people in this Holy Week, here's a story  about a woman named Megan Asadi, a waitress in Herndon, Virginia, a single mom and recent refugee from Iran, who was "tip bombed" $1200 on a $128 check.

The people who leave these large tips remain anonymous, but they seem to have enough moolah to pass some around, so let's wish them good luck!  And for the servers I know and love, I hope they come your way soon!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Inmate No. 174594, formerly No. 81

He just turned 25, an age at which most of us are just getting a career underway, but Aaron Hernandez has already had a career as a tight end in professional football and is now well into a second career as a jailbird.

Coming out of the University of Florida, All-American Aaron did very well for three years with the New England Patriots, until being held without bail following his indictment on three murder charges.

Hernandez was indicted in August, 2013, for the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player, in July of that year.  Additional charges were brought in May of this year for a double homicide in 2012, which took the lives of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.

To the surprise of no one, Hernandez has maintained his innocence.  Against all logic, the charges indicate that his swollen ego gave him to believe that he could eliminate people he no longer had a use for, if he is indeed guilty.  But if he isn't, he surely was foolish to destroy his cell phone and his home security videos, and spend money having his new house surgically cleaned, as the police closed in.

Lloyd had been a friend of Hernandez, and the reasons for the murder are unclear.  This article in Rolling Stone paints an interesting picture of a man who could run past, or over, most any defender on the football field, but seems unable to have outrun the demons from his crime-and-drug riddled past, accounting for his current residence in a jail cell, awaiting trial to begin in January.

From a 7,100 square foot home to a
7 foot by 10 foot cell
It fascinates me that the judge in the trial to come has laid down 28 rules for those in attendance, and even limiting who may attend or not. Even though Patriots jerseys are considered fine attire for males and females alike in wintertime in Boston, they are banned from the courtroom, as are any sort of NFL hat, shirt, jacket, pin and (probably) tattoo.  The judge doesn't want to turn the murder trial of a star athlete into a sports-media circus.

Like it won't.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday rerun: Miss Witherspoon regrets

Once upon a time, in Hollywood USA, a golden blonde named Reese Witherspoon made a movie and a name for herself by starring as Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde."

The years have come and gone, 12 of them all told, since that movie, and the glitter and gold seem to have worn off both Ms Witherspoon's hair and her career.  Once one of the top female stars at the box office, she is now making cheeseball independent movies in Atlanta, like her current film job in "The Good Lie."

Listen, no one has ever asked me to be in any kind of movie, except for a part as "Narrator" in several industrial training films a hundred years ago.  (I always had to voice-over lines such as "Let's review what we've learned.  Number one: work smarter, not harder...") So, I'm no position to judge Reese's position in the film industry, but if I were to make a training film with advice for her, it would contain lines such as "When a police officer tells you to remain in your car while he gives your drunken husband a field sobriety test, go park it already."

Yet, that's what happened to her the other night.  Her husband is Jim Toth, and he is an agent aged 42 years.  So you would think that in that amount of time, he would know better than to drive while drunk.  But, he did it, and the Atlanta cop who pulled him over into a Walgreen's parking lot (Man!  They have stores everywhere now!) was trying to test him for DUI and here comes old Reese out of the Ford sedan, butting into the whole deal.  

According to showbiz bible Variety:  Toth was pulled over  driving a silver 2013 Ford Focus, which the officer witnessed weaving across a double line on Atlanta’s Peachtree St. Toth appeared disheveled and his breath smelled of alcohol, according to the police report, prompting the officer to administer a sobriety test.

As Toth walked in the Walgreens parking lot where the officer instructed him to pull over to, Witherspoon became increasingly agitated from the vehicle, which prompted the officer to warn her to stay in the car for the sake of her own safety.

“Mrs. Witherspoon began to hang out the window and say that she did not believe that I was a real police officer,” according to the police report. “I told Mrs. Witherspoon to sit on her butt and be quiet.”

Once Toth was placed under arrest, Witherspoon exited the vehicle and was instructed to get back in the car. According to the report, she “stated that she was a ‘US citizen’ and that she was allowed to ‘stand on American ground.’”

The officer then detailed how she resisted as he grabbed her arms to arrest as Toth attempted to calm her down.

As the report details, “Mrs. Witherspoon asked, “Do you know my name?” I answered, “No, I don’t need to know your name.” 

Mrs. Witherspoon stated, “You’re about to find out who I am.”

The report also specified, “Mrs. Witherspoon also stated, ‘You are going to be on national news.’ I advised Mrs. Witherspoon that was fine.”

Though he told an officer he had only a single drink hours earlier, Toth blew a .139 on a Breathalyzer test administered at the scene. He also is facing a second charge for failure to maintain a lane while driving.

Witherspoon’s alleged violation, which is specified on the police report as “disorderly conduct (obstruction),” is a local municipal ordinance.

Oh well, Reese.  The old "Don't you know who I am?" line is so overdone.  Here in Baltimore County, we have a councilman who pleaded guilty of DUI the other day after a case in which he was arrested for driving with his lights out in more than one way, and followed up his arrest with a 3 AM phone call to the chief of police...a call which wisely went unanswered.

And then, right on schedule (as soon as her publicist could be rounded up and briefed on the situation) - along came the wholesome, heartfelt apology, directly from Ms Witherspoon's heart to you: "Out of respect for the ongoing legal situation, I cannot comment on everything that is being reported right now. But I do want to say, I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said," the statement says. 

She goes on: "It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse. I was disrespectful to the officer who was just doing his job. The words I used that night definitely do not reflect who I am. I have nothing but respect for the police and I'm very sorry for my behavior."
Too drunk to hold her head
up for the mugshot.  Way
to go, Reese. 

Just wait for the trial, when the husband's mouthpiece will stand in court, and say, "Your Honor, my client freely admits that he was in an impaired condition on the night of this unfortunate situation, and he wishes to thank Officer _________ for noticing this and removing him from the highway before tragedy ensued...."

Next up for Reese:  a Lifetime Movie Channel Movie Of The Week:  "Legally Blotto: The Reese Witherspoon Story."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, December 20, 2014

My last worksite, the Health Dept headquarters, was a vast cubicle farm in a huge building.  My goofy face sits atop a 6' 5" frame, so it was no surprise for many coworkers to look up and see it looming over their cube wall.  Good morning!
A nisse is a creature in Scandinavian Christmas folklore.  Here's an easy way to use up some old logs and make a cool holiday decoration!
I plan to print this and keep it handy for my many Google searches.
These are hand-painted by people with very talented and skilled hands.
You can't get that real charcoal flavor by cooking something in a microwave.  Even if it's just a squash or something, charcoal adds so much, and asks so little.
This little nocturnal marsupial is a Western pygmy possum.  So what is doing up having his picture taken during daytime?  I hope he puts in for overtime.
I can't see enough beautiful Christmas decorations.
Baltimore has a fine tradition of firehouse Christmas train gardens. This is one of the best anywhere, at Engine 45, whose quarters are at Cross Country Boulevard at Glen Avenue.  They are open 9-9 daily until January 4, and it's worth the ride to pile everyone into the Biscayne and ride on down there to see the setup.  The firefighters start putting it together every August, and the hard work is on display every holiday season. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Frere Jacques

On the page opposite the morning comics in the Baltimore SUN (a page I never read anymore because they stopped carrying "Marmaduke") I always work the Jumble ("That Scrambled Word Game") and I never miss reading "Ask Amy," the advice column for the loveworn and confused.  Always down for a prank, I often muse upon ways to send in a letter to Amy with some totally-made-up scenario, to see how she replies.

Someone else once came up with something more clever!  On March 15, 2004, Amy's predecessor, "Dear Abby," ran a column with a letter from a heartbroken wife that read like this:

Dear Abby: I am 34 and have three children. My husband, "Gene," and I have been married for 10 years. He is greedy, selfish, inconsiderate and rude. I don't know why I married him, nor why our marriage has lasted this long.
Gene put off getting me a birthday gift for as long as he could; then he bought me a bowling ball. It was the last straw. Not only do I not bowl -- he had the holes drilled for his fingers and his name was on it.
The next day I went to the bowling alley determined to keep the ball and learn to bowl. It was there that I met "Franco." Franco is kind, considerate and loving -- the polar opposite of Gene.
Franco and I began bowling together, and he bought me a glove in my size with my name on it. Shortly thereafter, our affair began. (I didn't mention that I was married.)
When Gene saw the bowling glove on our dresser, he became depressed because he realized that I'd met someone. I feel sorry for Gene, but the last time I saw Franco, he proposed.
I no longer love Gene. I want to divorce him and marry Franco. At the same time, I'm worried that Gene won't be able to move on with his life. I also think our kids would be devastated.
What should I do?
-- Stuck In A Love Triangle

Well, sir or ma'am, if you're a fan of The Simpsons, you recognize this plot, because that show has discussed every single possible thing that people can do to each other in the 25 years it has blessed us with its presence.  It came directly from a 1990 episode called "Life on the Fast Lane," which featured Albert Brooks as smooth French bowling coach Jacques. "Franco" - get it?

The people who distribute the column, Universal Press Syndicate, pulled it from their pages once it dawned on them that Abby had been duped, but some papers went ahead and ran the letter and Abby's advice, which was to admit to her husband that she had cheated on him: "To save the marriage, he might be willing to change back to the man who bowled you over in the first place." 

When TV re-runs this episode of the Simpsons, the TV Guide synopsis says, "Homer's birthday present 'for Marge' is a bowling ball, prompting Marge to teach him a lesson by taking up the sport — and maybe also a handsome instructor." 

The Dear Abby column was actually written by Abby's daughter Jeanne Phillips, who should watch more TV.  Meanwhile, I am busy working on my fakeola letter:  "Dear Amy, My husband is a highly important man in the film industry. Recently, he had the brilliant idea to produce a comedy, the plot of which involves killing the leader of a sovereign foreign nation. For some reason, the people of that nation have now turned against us and have hacked his firm's computer system, exposing all manner of private information. What sort of apology should we send?  Would a box of chocolates be sufficient, or should we telephone them as well?"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What's on TV

Since television watching is such a personal thing, and since there are only about 637 channels available to watch, I am not in the habit of recommending shows or going on about what I watch.  If you like Keith Olbermann as much as I do, you make it a point to watch him every day, as I do, and the same for my Andy of Mayberry reruns and several other situation comedies and situation tragedies.

Yeah.  Act like you're not doing her.
One of the few shows that Peggy and I both watch is "The Affair," and although we have no experience in that field, I can spot a lot of things the cheating couple do wrong, e.g. if your little piece of chicken on the side leaves her red lacy bra in your bedroom, don't try to hide it by wedging it into your drawer along with your boxer shorts and handkerchiefs.  Just dumb.

But if watching television since I was a kid has taught me anything, it's that women wearing red lacy unmentionables are up for most anything.  It's a standard timeworn stereotype, just like scenes with Italian-American families sitting around eating pasta while the father argues with the son until the mother, always wearing an apron, exclaims, "Enough, already!" and the men retreat to an icy silence.

You'd think the people who write shows and movies would have just a teeny bit of imagination, wouldn't you?

The Greatest Talkshow Story Ever Told
One television event that never lets me down will be tomorrow night on the David Letterman show on CBS:  one last time for The Quarterback Challenge with Jay Thomas (and he HAS to tell his Lone Ranger story again!) and the triumphant singing of Darlene Love doing her Phil Spector classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."
Phil and Darlene

The joke and the song have both been heard a million times and still they entertain.  If this will be your first time to hear them, it will be your last chance, so I urge you not to miss it!  This show revived the careers of both Jay Thomas and Darlene Love, and if you don't know why there's a meatball atop a Christmas tree, you soon will.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ya Got Trouble?

Do you remember the musical "The Music Man"?  The deal was, a phony who claimed to be a music professor went from town to town selling the locals on the idea of having a boys' band in their small town.  But, to get the stubborn Iowans to reach into their wallets to pay for trumpets and uniforms, he had to create a need for a band.  The answer was to seize on some trivial local issue and blow it all out of proportion, instilling fear in the citizenry until they would gladly pay for something  - anything! - to save their sons from the demon of a pool table in their community.  "Well, ya got trouble, my friend, trouble right here in River City..." he rapped. and as soon as the rubes heard that a pool table would corrupt their sons, they were on board with the crooked scheme.

I don't know if there is any money in it for anyone, but this commotion about "they're trying to take Christmas away from us!" reminds me of that made-up trouble.  For instance, this picture, which circulates every year about this time on Facebook. You've seen it if you're on The Book, and do you really know anyone who has posted a manger scene with the birth of Christ, only to come back and find that it's been removed?

Of course you don't, and you don't know anyone who has been fired from their job at the hardware store for wishing customers a Merry Christmas, so I'll tell you what. Let's leave the worrying up to the worriers. They enjoy it so much. And the people who spread these rumors get a weird sort of thrill from upsetting the goodhearted among us. The rest of us can go on worshipping as we choose, or not, and posting pictures and exchanging warm happy holiday greetings to members of whatever faiths and not fretting about The War On Christmas, which never existed and never will.

Unless you let it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pardon Me?

Marky Mark Wahlberg, actor, spent 45 days in jail in the late 1980s, and not for stealing my nickname.  In those days before he began what the movie "Clueless" called "his busy pants-dropping schedule," he was quite the thug in Boston.

Cooling his heels in a Boston jail, discussing what theatuh to attend after pahking the cah at Hahvahd yahd, Wahlberg found penitence in his soul over his brutal beating of Vietnamese immigrant Johnny Trinh.  All these years later, Wahlberg still believed that he had blinded Trinh in one eye that night when he was out to steal booze from a convenience store.  He also punched another guy in the face, trying to elude police, who rounded him up and took him to trial that sentenced him to 90 days.  During the 45 that he served, he decided to turn his life around, becoming a leader, not a follower, and has filed for a pardon with the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick.

And it turns out that Trinh did in fact lose an eye, but not at Marky Mark's hands.  That happened in a grenade attack during the Viet Nam war.

“He did hurt me, but my left eye was already gone. He was not responsible for that,” Trinh said. “He was young and reckless but I forgive him now. Everyone deserves another chance.”

“He paid for his crime when he went to prison. I am not saying that it did not hurt when he punched me in the face, but it was a long time ago.”

The Massachusetts Parole Board would have to review Wahlberg's case and make a recommendation to the governor, who can grant pardons. But pardons rarely are issued in Massachusetts. Gov. Deval Patrick has not approved one in his nearly two terms in office. Nor did former Gov. Mitt Romney, who, if his name sounds vaguely familiar, also ran for president later, and we all know how that turned out.

And there is a lot of pushback on Wahlberg's request from people who say the mistakes he made while young and high should stick with him forever, and just because he's in every other movie released these days, his celebrity should not be his magic ticket to clearing the slate.

People say he shouldn't get to expunge his record just because he's famous.  He says his fame should have nothing to do with it, that he has done a lot to help others out of the jams he dealt with in his own life, and he wants his name cleared.

I don't know how to go on this.  What say you?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Digging the past

I see that up in Massachusetts, they are unearthing a time capsule made of cowhide and, so they say, buried at the State House under the "Golden Dome."  Word is, the time capsule dates back to the days of Samuel Adams and Paul Revere and the Raiders, and it was first opened in 1855 to celebrate the birth of Bill Belichick, who always wears a hoodie from that same year. The time capsule is believed to contain old coins that date between 1652 and 1855, an engraved silver Paul Revere plate, newspapers, a Commonwealth seal and a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records.

As I was writing this, the excavation continues, and the first things that fell out were some old coins, so the hope is that, at least, some folding money will be in there as well, so that the town of Boston can go all out and have a wingding to celebrate.  I can't wait to find out what-else is in there.

Time capsules and buried things from the past fascinate me, and I remember a guy at work who had done some drywall work at Johns Hopkins Hospital here in Baltimore.  Prying open an old wall to be removed, he found a small area where, apparently, a workman in 1908 had his lunch and then plastered in a wall, leaving behind a paper sack and some wax paper that must have held a sandwich or something, a Coke bottle and a 1908 edition of the Baltimore SUN.

I wish I had gotten a chance to see that newspaper to see how hard the Jumble (That Scrambled Word Game) was in those days. Or, if he had found the August 2, 1908 edition of the SUN, he would have read about the new practice of the Baltimore Police. Every morning, all the detectives assembled in a large room, put on face masks, and everyone who had been arrested in the previous 24 hours was trotted in before them so the gumshoes could get a look at them, and see what they were up against in the battle against crime.

I suppose this made a lot of sense in 1908.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Rerun: I might write a book and call it "Breakfast at IHOP"

I believe there was an episode of "Leave It To Beaver" in which Beav and Gilbert fail to read a book as required by their teacher, preferring instead to watch a movie version of the book starring the Ritz Brothers.  Hilarity ensues when they base their book report on the movie version, and Beaver and Gilbert get bad grades, as they should have, for even thinking of watching a Ritz Bros. film.

I know it's late in the school year, but any high-schooler who turns in a book report of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," the 1958 novella by Truman Capote, after watching the 1961 movie starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard is going to feel like young Mr Cleaver upon getting a failing grade.

The movie should have got a failing grade as well. The original short novel features the delightful Holiday ("Holly") Golightly as what Capote called "an American geisha," who would wine and dine with well-to-do men of the upper strata of society, with an eye toward marrying one of them and landing in a sweet blueberry pie made of uppercrust.

In the movie, Holly is presented as a happy sort of diz-bang, more emphasis on the diz than the bang. The book takes care to point out that she suffered from something called the "mean reds," even worse than the blues.

Truman Capote packed a lot of living into his time on earth, which ended in August, 1984, a month before what would have been his 60th birthday.  He said he did not like the changes that the moviemakers made to "B at T," although there were no reports of him failing to cash the checks they sent him.   At the time the movie was made, it must be pointed out in his defense, he was busy in Kansas, researching the murders of a farm family of four for his 1966 book "In Cold Blood."  This was a first in American literature: a true story written as if it were a novel.  And, as is the case with the "Tiffany's" movie, the book - the masterful way he had of crafting sentences, paragraphs and pages - far exceeds the movie. The movie co-starred Robert Blake, an actor who played a guy who committed murder in the story.  Some years later, Blake stood trial for the actual murder of his wife.  He was acquitted on the murder charge but later found liable for his wife's death in a civil trial, as is the custom in California celebrity-murder sprees.

If you haven't experienced both the movie and the book versions of "Breakfast," I recommend you enjoy the movie first and then savor the book. In fact, you might want to read the book while playing the DVD of the movie, which would be a lot like having your dessert and your entrĂ©e on the same plate.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, December 13, 2014

Nick Markakis was an Oriole rightfielder for nine years, and his departure via free agency this winter was a bit of surprise to the many fans who figured that he and the team could get together on a new contract.  But that didn't happen, and Nick will be playing ball for the next four years in Atlanta, his hometown.  What was not a surprise to us fans was that he was classy enough to take out this ad in two pages of the Baltimore SUN Sports Section this week to say thanks and goodbye.  Good luck, Nick!
A solid glass ball left in a sunny window creates a magnification of the sun's rays, so don't do it! It could potentially cause a huge fire.
For your collection of weather-related photographs: This is the oldest known photo of a tornado, taken about 20 miles SW of Howard, South Dakota, August 28th, 1884.  Rumor has it, it was taken by Jim Cantore.
If you've never done this, try it at your next dinner party or corporate get-together.  Take a nice loaf of bread, cut off the "lid," and toast it for a few minutes to anneal the inner surface, and then ladle in some cream soup or oyster stew and you've got something!
Someone was talking about the rock group Foo Fighters, not knowing where the name of the band came from.  It was from this comic strip.  Smokey Stover was a foo fighter in the local foo department.  The puns, the sight gags, and the inevitable "NOTARY SOJAC" sign kept me laughing for years.
Down in Shreveport LA, they are just finishing filming the movie about country music deity Hank Williams, Sr.  This is the recreated wedding cake from the scene in which Hank marries Billie Jean Jones Eshliman, baked by Faye Fair, the lady proudly posing here.  See the article from the local paper and see how much it looks like the original cake, and plan to join me at the theater next summer when "I Saw The Light" comes out, because if they are this painstaking about a wedding cake looking like the original, imagine the whole picture.  Then we'll all go around saying, "I saw 'I Saw The Light'!"
This is a recently discovered painting from late 1969, called "Crosby, Stills and Nash arrive at Woodstock on horseback."  I know great art, by cracky!

Pro tip for those of you getting your first kettle-style grill from Santa Claus:  don't pay any attention to the people who tell you to scrape the burned-up goo off of it.  That's where the real smokey flavor comes from!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Coach needs some coaching

Harford County, Maryland, is rather conservative country, full of the sort of people who love to point out that we elect people to serve us in political office, not the other way around.

So it was a bit of a surprise this week when the new Harford County council president, one Richard Slutzky, came up with a new rule to keep a space between constituents  - aka "the people" - and elected representatives within council chambers.

Apparently, Mr Slutzky did not like the way that people would stay in council chambers and wait to discuss matters of concern with the people they elect and pay to handle matters of concern. Quite possibly, he saw Al Anybody sitting there and thought it was Al Qaeda, or he saw Aunt Iris with a question about a loose dog and took Iris for ISIS.  Displaying an almost-incredible lack of political sense, Mr Slutzky had Sherrie Johnson, the newly-appointed council spokeswoman (and a former Channel 2 News reporter) put the policy in place and did not even tell the councilmembers about it.

Slutzky claims that "security" is the primary reason for not allowing citizens to have face-to-face contact with their elected representatives following public meetings, although uniformed Harford County Sheriff's deputies provide security at the council chambers, and all in attendance pass through metal detectors and security checks by the deputies.

"At this time it is our intent that unless invited by the council we recommend that neither the press nor the citizens approach the dais at the end of a council meeting and councilmembers are free to leave the dais" if they want, Slutzky said at Monday night's meeting, which led to a Tuesday full of councilmembers saying "Don't blame me! It's not MY idea!" to their constituents who called to find out why they couldn't see their councilperson about an issue.

"Just like many of you I didn't know about the policy until it was already out there," Councilman Chad Shrodes said. "That's not good."

"I am just as available today as I was yesterday," Councilman Jim McMahan said.

Newly-elected Councilman Curtis Beulah said he wants the people he represents to feel comfortable in asking him about issues.

"I have no boss here. I answer to the citizens," he said.

By Tuesday night, Slutzky (whose campaign signs identified him as "Coach") had started whistling a whole new tune. "The intent was to become more efficient and effective in managing the requests for information," he said.

But he went on to say that he is not the boss of the councilmembers and they can do what they want about being approached by citizens.

So to sum it up: on Monday the head of the Harford County council was telling lowly citizens to keep clear of their exalted rulers on the council, and not to bother them with their importunings for trash pickup, police protection and zoning problems.  And on Tuesday, he was acting like he never said such a thing and he wouldn't have had the authority to say it anyway.

Memo to The Coach:  Your salary is paid by the people who might just want to take a few moments of your valuable time.  And try to remember, before you cook up these goofy policies, you might share them with the people you work with so they can tell you how goofy they are.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The nerve of some people

It begins the night before Thanksgiving and continues well into January, this season of holiday madness that comes around every year as reliably as free calendars from veterans, disease-fighting charities and just about every charity you can name.  To tell you the truth, I worry about the people who make and sell calendars and return-address labels, because who needs to buy them anymore?  The letter carrier brings them around every day.

Everyone is tense, uptight, nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  Take Haloti Ngata (and if you could, you'd be playing in the NFL!), the mountain of a man who, until his recent suspension, has been the Baltimore Ravens' star defensive end.  By the numbers, Ngata (pronounced NAHT-a) wears #92, stands 6'4", weighs 340 pounds, and is 30 years of age, married, with three kids.

A lot of guys wear that same jersey and are married with three kids. The difference is that they probably don't earn $8.5 million per year for picking up opposing runners and quarterbacks and tossing them aside like last week's magazine.  

You may have heard that Ngata is missing the Ravens' final four games this year, due to a suspension from the league for violating drug policy.  He was caught with Adderal in his tinkle.  According to the charmingly named Drugs.Com, Adderall contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine are central nervous system stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control.

Do you remember that kid in 5th grade who threw ice-cream sandwiches in the cafeteria, hollered the Pledge of Allegiance at the top of his voice during morning announcements, and couldn't pay attention in class for more than 14 seconds?  That's the kid for whom they make Adderall.  It's for the hyperactive among us.

Haloti Ngata is saying that, yes, he took the drug, no question, but is offering a unique rationale:  According to, Ngata is telling the team that "with three small children at home and feeling the grind of the season, he took the drug to be in a better state of mind to help with them around the house and tend to them."   Thanksgiving and family fatigue.  The bugaboos of a man trying to make things work out on just a crummy eight-and-a-half million semolians a year.  

Anyone else out there with three kids trying to hold it together?

And then there was this.  Heather Cho, the head of in-flight service for Korean Air (she's 40 and is the daughter of the airline's chairman, Cho Yang-ho) was flying home on one of her own airplanes last week when a flight attendant had the nerve to serve her some macadamia nuts IN A BAG rather than in a dish. Imagine.  And you have to figure the flight attendant did not know who Ms Cho was at the time of this horrible offense.  I guess it was because of the holiday hysteria that Ms Cho forced the pilot to return from the runway so the service crew aboard could be replaced, causing the flight and others to be delayed and causing this masterpiece of a boss's daughter apology to issue from her: "I am sorry to our customers and the Korean people that I unintentionally caused social uproar and I ask forgiveness from anyone who has been hurt by me. I take responsibility for the incident." 

Sounds like what she should take is a couple of Adderall.  

Everyone calm down! Please.