Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, May 31, 2014

 This is a pretty poppy flower named Celandine.  I had never heard of it, but I ran across this picture and I thought it was pretty.
 All of a sudden, with millions of years passed since they were roaming the earth, dinosaurs are getting picked on for having short arms.  All they needed was a little orthopedic surgery!  Anyone who's had that gets sent home from the hospital with one of those grabber thingies that helps get the paper off the lawn in the morning and also retrieves that one brown sock that is trying to hide behind the dryer.
 "The path one chooses matters little, if all you watch is your feet."  I'm willing to bet that there are people whose daily trek takes them past some of the most wonderful sights on God's green earth, and yet, they don't even look.  Look around and appreciate what there is to see!
 For instance...Well, honestly, if your path takes you along Trail Creek Road in Idaho, I guess you're well advised to keep both eyes on the road at all times.  Pretty view, though.  Just don't become part of it!
 I admire practicality at all times, and, of course, I like "repurposing," which is the new form of the old word "reuse."  Just take the clip from an old looseleaf binder, drill it into the wall, and your jacket will doggone sure stay where you put it, all day!
The Peanuts gang pays tribute to the Beatles gang at Universal Studios, Japan.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Just Add Water

It appears that Peggy and I were the last to come down with this stomach cootie or whatever it is that's been going around the last month or so.  So that's it for that, and good riddance. You know what they say; a couple of days being sick is a drag, but seven of them makes one weak.

OK. They don't all say that, but more of them do than you think.

The whole thing made me think about appreciation for the little things, because the first night when I was "busy" "being sick," I came down with a side effect known in the medical and sewing trades as "Velcro mouth."  When I wanted to say something, I felt as if I had to pry my lips apart and manually separate my tongue from the roof of my mouth.  I don't know what causes dry mouth, but I am willing to give it back. 

But my angelic wife Peggy went down to the kitchen and brought me a bottle of water.  Never tasted anything so sweet as a nice sip of cold water in the middle of a sick night.  I know water is not on the bucket list for a lot of people; folks go for bottled soda and sweet tea and Arnold Palmers, that combination of lemonade and iced tea.  Nobody does commercials for plain old water, but that plain old WalMart H2O in the crinkly plastic bottle tasted like champagne at 3:30 in the yawning.

I remember Howard Stern arguing with someone years ago; it was a caller who said she could not have a baked potato without butter and sour cream and all the other fixin's.  Howard's point was that if she had been in a concentration camp for three months, living on water and crumbs, that plain baked potato would taste like heaven to her.

It's all a matter of perspective, I know, but I just want to give a shoutout to plain ol' water. Sometimes, the simplest things are the best.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Laundry does not hamper me

I hang my head in my shame over how many loads of laundry Peggy did over the first 40 yrs. of our marriage.  We've always divided up the chores very well; I love buying, cooking and  - heaven knows -eating food, and she is excellent at cleaning up (and loves to do it; it's part of her skills to be hyper-organized.)  I'll run the vacuum and dust about 1/2 of the time, but I will admit to being far behind in the bedmaking category.  Of course, when I have attempted to make the bed, it turned out looking like a pile of sheets and blankets that formed a wolverine's den somewhere, whereas when Peggy is through bending the linen, you expect to see a Marine drill sgt. walk in, bounce a quarter off the bed and say, "This is the way I want ALL these bunks made up, do you HEAR me?"

But I got started throwing the laundry in while Peggy was still working and it's an obsession with me now to throw soiled clothing into a metal box, toss in a little Arm & Hammer, throw a couple of switches and walk away, coming back to wet but clean clothes in 35 mins.  I take them out and put them in an adjoining metal box, push ONE button and walk off for half an hour and before you know it, I'm folding t-shirts and matching up socks.  

Why did they hold the truth from me about how much fun this is? 

Which brings me to this.  Recently the CEO of Levi Strauss, one Chip Bergh, appeared on the TODAY show and said that he would not be washing his jeans today, tomorrow or ever.   

“These jeans are maybe a year old and these have yet to see a washing machine,” he said. “I know that sounds totally disgusting. I know it does. But believe me, it can be done.”

That's what he said.  The article said that in the past, Levi's has suggested freezing your jeans - without you in them, one assumes - for killing cooties.  This Bergh says you can spot-clean them and air them out and they'll be wonderful forever.  Then Natalie Morales proved that she has never been within a hundred miles of Kansas by stating, "Spot-cleaning is not going to work when you’re on a cow farm."

And all across America, people realized that you can call a cattle ranch a "cow farm" and become an anchor on a network tv show, and you can be a maniac and be the head of a large clothing firm.

Or you can drop your laundry off to me for same day service.  In by 9, out by 4.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Up in the mornin' and out to school...The teacher is teachin' the Golden Rule

I would like to ask teachers to comment on an article that was in the Baltimore SUN paper last week (page 1, May 22). It talked of eight ‘opportunity schools’ in Baltimore City that are doing better than other schools, and goes into detail about why this might be happening.   The schools are in low-income areas, parts of town where 80 - 95 % of students get free and reduced-price meals, and yet...most students in almost every grade topped the statewide proficiency rates in both reading and math on the 2012 and 2013 Maryland School Assessments.

At Hamilton Elementary/Middle, 87% of elementary school kids qualify for subsidized meals, and 96 percent of the 4th graders achieved proficiency in math - as opposed to the statewide average of 89%.

At Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle in South Baltimore, (left) with 88% of its middle schoolers enjoying subsidized meals, 94% of the 6th grade scored "proficient" in the math test.  Statewide average? 77%.

Now, here is what I need to have someone discuss for me!

A 7th grade language teacher says that everyone “is on equal ground. For example, nobody in my room is wrong. I always try to find a way to make their response work. No one wants to feel invalidated. The kids trust me not to make them feel less than they are.”

Teachers - and I love you and completely respect your thoughts as just about the only thoughts that matter here - what the heck?  Does it really make a child feel invalidated to be told that it wasn't the Germans who invaded Pearl Harbor? Does it scar a developing psyche to find out that 7 x 6 doesn't make 76? How does it make a child feel less than they are to be told by his/her teacher that Abraham Lincoln was not really a vampire hunter?

Maybe it's just I with my prickliness about proper grammar as was taught to me in the good old Eisenhower Days, but I think that if I had given the wrong answer to "Dick and his friend were probably drunk out of (their, there, or they're) minds when they decided to go hunting that afternoon," I should have been glad to have a teacher tell (me, I) about it.

Even after thousands of bummer attempts at making a light bulb, Thomas Edison did not consider himself a failure.  He knew that what he had done was find 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb! 

So teachers, let me hear from you, please, and I will, in return, shorten the school year by one day this year*.  Thank you!

*subject to approval from people I've never even met, so don't plan on it. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Everybody Doesn't Love Raymell

The long-awaited press conference with Raymell Mourice "Ray" Rice of the Baltimore Ravens took place Friday.  For those unaware, he's our local football star who, several months ago, got into trouble by slugging his soon-to-be wife at a casino in Atlantic City.  He has been placed in a pre-trial intervention program that will, if completed properly, leave him with a clean record in the eyes of the law. There is still a possible suspension from the National Football League to consider, but they have a huge backlog of these things to deal with, you understand.

The press conference was really more like a statement; Ray took no questions and there was no elaboration beyond what he said, which was that he was sorry for his fans and partners.  Then his wife read her statement apologizing for her role in the brouhaha.

But he did not apologize to his wife.  And Twitter and Facebook lit up about that. They seemed oddly distant for newlyweds, truth to tell.  No handholding, not even eye contact.  Other comments tossed around on Facebook were that he seemed awkward for having stashed his talking points on his phone, requiring him to fool with the phone at the podium (his wife printed out her points.) 

And - the team's general manager, the great Ozzie Newsome, urged Rice to hold off until Tuesday, when Newsome and coach John Harbaugh would be in town to stand by him.  Nope, he wouldn't do that.

From a public relations standpoint, this was not handled well.  A good counselor would have worked with Rice to point out how bad it would be to label the whole incident as "this thing that happened to me."  No, sir.  You did it.  No one thinks that a ghost plied you with liquor and made you start slapping your woman down to the ground.  Which brings up another point: Ray said several times that he failed in this episode but was not a failure because he got back up after being knocked down. 

Poor choice of terminology, Ray.  "Knocked down" is what you did to your woman, the mother of your daughter.  

What makes me sad is that we're all talking about how it will affect the Ravens if the league suspends Rice for a few games and not how there is not a gigantic silo of shame over his head for being drunk and disorderly in public, and most awfully, assaulting his fiancée.

In his first five years with the Ravens, Rice set up a website to help school children deal with bullying and gave away a fortune in school supplies to hard-working teachers.  He was loved all over town, then.

It will be interesting to see how many #27 jerseys we see all over town this fall.  Everyone is entitled to make a mistake, but there are mistakes and there are MISTAKES.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Lately, people have gone out of their way to remind us, and I hope the word is getting across.  We've all fallen into the trap of thinking of Memorial Day as the first pool or beach weekend, a time for good deals on carpets, cars, and washer/dryer combinations, a good reason to haul out the grill and fry some burgers and franks.  Sure, those can be part of Memorial Day, the federal holiday on which the men and women who died serving in the United States Armed Forces are remembered.  It started as "Decoration Day," a salute to fallen soldiers from both sides in the Civil War.  So it goes back that far, and it's still good for us to remember the reason we pause from our usual endeavors today and say homage to those who died in service.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday rerun: The Name's the Same

This Robin!
I'm like June Cleaver or Donna Reed around here lately in the mornings...I get Peggy off to work and then turn to my housework.

Not this Robin.

So yesterday, as always, I kissed-and-waved Peggy a sweet goodbye and then turned to cleaning up the breakfast dishes and getting the overnight breaking news from Robin Roberts.  I was up to my elbows in suds when the kitchen floor flew open and in flew Peggy, madder than a scalded hen.

She had left and got about 1/2 a block away when she realized she had an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction.  Not of the Janet Jackson variety, though.

The problem? She was wearing an olive green shirt, Navy pants and black shoes.

If you see the problem there, you're far smarter than I.  "I should be wearing black pants," she panted, dashing up to change her pants.  While this was going on, she told me that wearing navy pants with black shoes was completely unacceptable.  I know it's OK for men, but did not know that the color laws were different for women.

The fact is, I don't know what colors go together and what clashes.  I'm not colorblind, but no one ever took the time during my rural upbringing to sit me down and spin a color wheel, showing what to wear with what.  Consequently, during my working days, I got into the habit of picking out my duds the night before, so that Peggy could walk by where they hung and let me know if the colors matched up all right.

Now that I have joined the ranks of the Retired, it doesn't seem to matter what color gym shorts I wear, and for that I am glad.  There are days in which the only other non-televised person I see is the woman who delivers our mail, and she never complains about a thing.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, May 24, 2014

 If you'll pardon me for a moment for getting personal, this is the recent photo from the Old Timers' Night at the Providence Volunteer Fire Company, where I, starting at 16, learned firefighting, EMS, and life lessons that have paid off a thousand times.  Every year now, they put on a dinner for us "alumni," and we go, tie on the feedbag, and swap tales of fires and incidents long ago.
 The caption reads, "Jack Whinery, homesteader, and his family, Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940."  I wonder how things turned out for this family through the war years of the 40s.  I do know one thing: not one of these people ever ever once said, "Ewww!  I don't like this!" when they sat down to sup.

 If the goal is to make people question your sanity and judgement, congratulations!  The park rangers in Yosemite must love this special foolhardiness.
 In one of the few healthy moves I ever made, I gave up soda years ago, but I remember all the ersatz brand names for off-brand sodas. The big name in fakey pop is what everyone calls their imitation Dr Pepper, seen here.  I want to market a can called "Dr Oz" - all hot air with no substance.
Haters gonna hate.  It's pollen time!
I borrowed this picture from Mary Hays Vollmer, who was in my class
in elementary school back when Ike was president.  It reminds me of Mr Lennon
encouraging us all to imagine all the people sharing all the world. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday rerun: Oh, THAT Wib Davenport!

Down in Virginia, if you want to drive away from a certain Chevrolet dealer, you should know this: they really drive a hard bargain!

Danny Sawyer, 40, bought a black Chevy Traverse from Priority Chevrolet back in May, but woke up the next day wishing he had bought a blue one.  He drove back to the dealership and found a blue one that caught his fancy, and that's where things go crazy.

The blue one must have had some optional equipment that the black SUV lacked, because after Sawyer swapped cars, went on vacation and came home, he came home to many frantic messages from the car lot and its sales manager, whose name is Wib Davenport.  We've all known someone named "Wib," haven't we?  The car Sawyer wound up with cost $5,600 more than the original one, and how would he like to pay for that, was the point of all the messages.

All this turmoil over this?
He wouldn't like to pay for that.  Sawyer says no one told him that the blue car cost more, and even though the dealership says they told him that it did, there still seems to be a matter of him not signing anything additional to attest to the switcheroo.

Completely disregarding the basic tenet of good customer service (Never have your customers thrown in jail, since it's hard to buy a car from there) the dealership called the local cops, who mistook a civil matter for a crime, and ushered Sawyer into a cell for four hours.

Dennis Ellmer, president of Priority Chevrolet, has decided to be adorable about the whole thing and says Sawyer can keep the blue car for the price of the black one, and hey!  How about a free tire rotation, buddy boy?

Ironically enough, Sawyer rotated those tires himself, driving over to the office of a lawyer, upon whose sage advice he has filed two lawsuits against the dealer, accusing the business of malicious prosecution, slander, defamation and abuse of process. He'll need a total of $2.2 million in damages, plus attorney fees before he feels better about the whole doggone thing.

We used to have a Chevy dealer in Baltimore who advertised that his dealership, at the corner of York and Bellona, was "the best place to become a Chevrolet ownah!"

Priority Chevrolet can now claim proudly that they offer a car buyer the chance to "come on down and get a Chevy on sale - and if we don't like you, we'll throw you in jail!"

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Spice of Life

Perhaps some of you gentle readers who live far from the Baltimore area could identify a favorite local spice, but to us here in Charm City®, there is nothing like a shake of Old Bay seasoning.  For 75 years now, Old Bay has been reached for more times in Baltimore kitchens than the cook has been (and that's a lot!)

The ingredients are listed right on the can: Celery Salt (salt, celery seed), Spices (including red pepper and black pepper) and paprika. The formula of how much of what, and what are the unnamed spices, resides with the manufacturer, McCormick of Hunt Valley MD.  (In my workin'-at-the-courthouse days, if the wind was blowing right, one could catch an early-morning whiff of what was going on up there; it was right down the road a piece from the factory.  Oregano, Italian Seasoning, or Old Bay in the air was a treat for the schnozz.)

I have a friend who moved to Pound, Virginia for a new job, and the first thing she did after getting home from her first grocery shopping foray was to send home for Utz Potato Chips, Tastykakes and Old Bay...three things Baltimore cannot live without.  We even take it on the road. I do not leave home with my shaker bottle in the car.  Just like Selena's husband in the movie, who carried his hot sauce in a little holster, I know that when I cross the Maryland state line headed north, Old Bay is as unknown as the idea of remaining quiet about things one knows nothing about is to Pat Sajak, so I go packin' the pepper.

If you go to one of those friendly restaurants that hand out free highly-salted snacks like popcorn or pretzels, you do realize that they know you'll be apt to drink more as a result, right?  That's sort of how Old Bay got its start.  You see, there was a time that blue crabs and shrimp were so plentiful in the Chesapeake Bay that saloons gave them away to patrons with their beers...and the saltier and spicier the seafood, the drink-ier the patrons and the higher the sales on suds!

Today, with crabs so expensive as to be something for which you might have to part with a week's salary for a bushel, we sprinkle the Old Bay on any kind of seafood - even a McFish!, and on fried chicken and french fries and popcorn and baked potatoes and veggies and deviled eggs and tunafish salad and chicken salads and Bloody Marys and I don't know what-all else. 

According to the Baltimore SUN paper, the people at McCormick are trying to spread the word (and sales) of Old Bay outside of their basic sales region, bordered by Richmond, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and, well, the Old Bay, and that's a good thing.  But part of their sales approach is "extending the brand" by getting involved with Old Bay potato tots and seasoned fries, and a beer with the spice brewed right in.  

When everyone knows you just sprinkle some in your National Bohemian beer anyway.  No problem!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's a good time for the great taste

I have not eaten McDonald's for several years now, both as a nod to my nutritive needs and also because I don't like their chow as much as I used to.  How their red meat beef patties come out looking grey is one matter; another is that their rolls, to me, all of a sudden began tasting curiously sweet, like Krispy Kreme donuts or something.  I don't know, but I see that McD's is still doing ok business without me, so that's nice for them.  There is something somewhere for everyone.

Out near us there's a McD's on Belair Road, and when I did go there for eats, I used to puzzle about the houses that were built right behind their parking lot. I mean, right behind their parking lot, so much so that to sit outside one of those houses would mean living with the "WelcometoMcDonald's.. MayItakeyourorderplease" squawk of the drive thru box, and of course the pleasant miasma of cooking oils wafting from the vents. Not to mention the arc lights out back or the car noises...

Now here comes the part where we connect the glory that was ancient Rome to those Golden Arches.  You know that building over there, the Pantheon (not to be confused with the Parthenon of Athens, the Pentagon of Washington DC, or the Pension of every retiree you know)?  It was built as a "temple to all gods" during the reign of Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD), and then rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian, who added vertical blinds, a deck with a smoker grill and Pergo©  wood floors to the kitchen in about 126 AD.  It's almost two thousand years old and still, the Pantheon's dome is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.  The building has been in continuous use ever since it was built, and has been used as a church since the 7th Century.  It is truly one of the marvels from the ancient age that still stand today and is an object of veneration for tourists and Romans alike.

The square in front of the Pantheon is the Piazza della Rotonda.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, goes the old saying.  So you can see the Pantheon right up close, if you wish:

or you can catch a view from right across the Piazza della Rotonda while you enjoy a McFish, fries and root beer some sunny day in the heart of Roma...

They're everywhere!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Death in the fast lane

You remember the accident from last November in which movie actor Paul Walker and his buddy Roger Rodas were killed, I'm sure.  Walker was the handsome dude from those "Fast and Furious" movies, which made driving around on public streets at speeds normally reserved for jets in the sky above just seem like a heckuva lot of fun.

Walker and Rodas would be the first to tell you that the 35-mph street sign down on Wistful Vista La is there for a good reason. They would be, but they can't, because they were going over 100 mph on a city street in Santa Clarita, California when they lost control of their Porsche on the final afternoon of both of their lives.  

Some time ago, I purchased a sledge hammer at a hardware store so that I could go around hammering sledges as needed. There is a little tiny decal on the shaft of that hammer that advises me not to hit myself with the hammer lest bodily injury occur.  Just the same way, I'm certain there is a caveat printed the owner's manual of the Porsche automobile advising against the practice of driving 100 mph down Main Street.

And yet...according to CNN: 

Roger Rodas' (sic) widow is suing Porsche for the fatal accident that claimed the lives of her race car driver husband and actor Paul Walker. Kristine Rodas filed the suit against Porsche Cars North America, citing negligence as the cause of death of her husband and the 40-year-old "Fast and the Furious" star on November 30 in Santa Clarita, California. Backed by celebrity attorney Mark Geragos, she is also suing for product liability and wrongful death.
The court documents filed by Kristine Rodas describe the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT that her husband was driving as a an "ultra-high-performance-super-sports car for the road," that goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of 205 miles per hour. The complaint argues that such a high-powered sports car should have a higher standard of crash protection, and that a mechanical malfunction forced Rodas to veer off the road.
So, you get in a car that can go 205 and you only get it up to 100 before you lose control in a 35 zone before you crack it up.  This is clearly the fault of:  a) the carmaker  b) the car driver  c) Kim Kardashian.
Sorry as I am for the survivors of those two foolish young men, their deaths are not the responsibility of the car company that made the car any more than Gillette is to blame for the nicks on my neck I got from shaving too fast.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Way Back When

We use the term "Neanderthal" to disparage a brute, a boor, an unsophisticated knave.  "Oh, he's just a Neanderthal!" we exclaim as a guy races by us in his jacked-up pickup, throwing beer cans and caution out the window.  "Irv wouldn't stop and pick up dinner for Grace on his way home; what can you expect from a Neanderthal like him?" we say.

What do we really know of Neanderthal man?

We know his brain was bigger than ours, which has to mean something! And for another thing, he was European, and today we associate that with grace and élan.  To us, a European drives a race car, drinks the finest brandy, wears a beret, says witty things while eating tidbits of cheese and sipping champagne.  Or she's a slinky fashion model or actress walking a pet ocelot along the beach at Cannes.

To be technical about it, these folks are known as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis,  and they paraded around from about 100,000–40,000 BC, at which time they were replaced by the Eurasian early modern humans known as Cro-Magnon man, although it is widely felt that a small contingent of Neanderthals still live in the Oakland, California area (photo left).

There are small hints here and there in the research into Neanderthals that lead one to believe that these people were maybe a couple pineapples short of a luau.  For one thing, we have uncovered their primitive cell phones, and they apparently knew nothing of taking selfies, their playlists were redundant, relying heavily on the throbbing disco sounds of the 45,000 BCs, and they could not for the life of them figure out how to add new names to their contact list, so everyone, to them, was "Ogg."

Neanderthal skull, still waiting
to be seen in a Neanderthal HMO.
And there was this: The very name "Neanderthal" was first proposed for forerunners of us brainy Homo sapiens by the Anglo-Irish geologist William King in 1864, and it's a good thing he came up with the idea to name them after a German river valley, because two years later, one Ernst Haeckel proposed calling them Homo stupidus.

And that would be hard to live with.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Rerun: Too Young to Have Sacks

Hello!  Back to school time already! Time to run to the Try 'n' Buy for school supplies.  Don't forget 3-ring binders, paper, pencils, calculators and brown bags for lunches.

Not so fast on the lunches.  After decades - centuries!- of schoolkids toting lunches to school, along comes this article on WebMD, which I found by reading the great Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids site.  Something else to worry about, lunch-fixers.

For all twelve years of my public education, I carried a brown bag containing a home-made sammy, either PB & J or roast beef or ham and cheese. (I abhor loaf lunchmeat.)  Also in the sack was a Tastykake pie or cupcakes, and a cut-up apple. At the luxurious cafeteria, I would get a 1/2 pint of milk, and that made for a nice lunch.  The lunch sat in my locker from the minute I sauntered into the the school building until the blessed lunch bell rang, and not once did I come down with any dreaded diseases for lack of an Ice-EE-Pak or Likwid Ice in the bag.

In fact, the only time my lunch ever involved anything harmful was in the high school days, when I would take my milk outside and chow down on the sammy, apple and Tastykake and smoke a cigarette or two in the fashionable outdoor smoking area at dear old Towson High, proud alma mater to Divine, Michael Phelps and dozens of other notables.

I don't smoke anymore and neither should you, is my advice.  But please!  Mom and Dad! Pack a sack and quit fretting about it!  If you need something to worry about as concerns Sis or Junior's education, worry that some misguided educator will try to tell them that the "new" way of spelling  - where close enough is good enough - is ok.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, May 17, 2014

 Machu Picchu man!  I'm just wait, you're a llama, and we pronounce that "yama" instead of "lama" if we want to be consistent, since we say "torteeya" instead of "tortilla." I know I won't win this long-running argument, but I'm just sayin'.
I looked at this and thought, that's a nice painting.  But as is usually the case, I was wrong.  It is nice, but it's no painting.  This is a rice field in China, and those are all rice plants of different strains of grains, planted painstakingly so that the mature plants will look just like a Sengoku warrior.  In a similar display of artistry, I once arranged the over 600 tiny little time pills in a Contac capsule in the shape of the Blue Oyster Cult logo, using only a radio station console, a BIC pen, and the length of time it took to play the ABC radio newscast.
"Merry Christmas, Johnny!  Smoke up!"
John Agar was the first husband of Shirley Temple, but when that marriage flopped, he became a B movie actor.  Nothing says "You're in a B movie" like "You're starring in 'Tarantula!' "
Here's a barker drumming up sideshow business at the State Fair in Rutland, Vermont in September, 1941.  Within three months, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the chances are good that by the next time they had the State Fair, this fellow was in uniform, fighting for the USA.  But on this sunny day he was selling his nickel cokes and tickets to see the odd animals and loving life.
Kurt Cobain was usually depicted as dour and gloomy, but it seems that was not quite accurate.  I recently read that the Nirvana leader, besides being a prime mover in the grunge music era, was also a big pop music fan, and enjoyed the likes of Abba.  And he liked to ride a go-kart and wear Jack Purcells. Plus,  any time you find a guy wearing red socks, you have a really good guy.  All the best men wear red socks...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Channeling frustrations

Here at the Lazy 'C' Ranch, where the dear and the cantaloupe play, Sunday evenings are pretty much reserved for all of Peggy's favorite TV shows - "Once Upon A Time," whatever's on Masterpiece Theatre, and this new "Penny Dreadful."  I find another corner to watch football or baseball or I don't know what-all else, and all is well.

We don't live in North Dakota, which I guess is pretty much the northern end of Tornado Alley, the section of the United States where those big twisters bedevil the land and its residents.  But if I did live in North Dakota, I know these two things to be true:  A) I would still be an Alabama fan, and 2) I would pay attention when the news came on and told me of an impending twistolola that was about to take me and the whole farm and send us twisting after Miss Gulch.  I would be glad to get such warnings.

But, last Sunday, as ABC unrolled the thrilling finale to this year's twisted ham-fisted melodrama thrilling series of well-acted non-piffle OUAT shows, KSFY-TV out in Sioux Falls broke in with news of a real life tornadic outbreak which was about to rudely interrupt their favorite show.

And people reacted to this by 1) thanking the station for saving the lives of many who might have been affected  or 2) calling and caterwauling that they were missing vital moments of the show, and how could they get through the rest of their lives without knowing that the Mayor was eating children alive, or whatever it was that she did.

Nancy Naeve in regulation
anchor pose
The answer, my friends, is 2.  They called to complain that meteorologist Shawn Cable (the greatest name for a TV performer since "Charlie Channel") had busted up their fun, and the next thing you know, here comes news anchor Nancy Naeve to give them what-for and how-do-you-do.

Sheriff Lobo (right)
I remember the day that American inaugurated former poor movie actor Ronald W. Reagan as president, and the Iranians set our hostages free, and the father of a person I know called Channel 11 to complain that the news of those hostages coming home was knocking "Sheriff Lobo" out of his evening lineup.  We didn't know it then, but it turned out that Reagan himself would have preferred to watch "Sheriff Lobo" too.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Surrender "Dorothy"

Seems to me that no one ever likes their hair, what there is of it.   Compliment a woman's long flowing curls, and she will likely say, "I worked for hours to straighten it!"  And then a woman with straight hair will tell you they rolled it and curled it and wadded it up in italics for hours, only to have it go straight again.

Most men, as long as their bangs don't block their view of whatever screen they're looking at, do not care.

But how about their names?  Do people like their first names? Well, the high school class of 2032, 18 years from today, will have a lot of boys named Noah ( a whole flood of 'em!), Liam, Jacob, Mason, William, Ethan, Michael, Alexander, Jayden and Daniel. Noah just bumped Michael out of the top spot for the first time since 1960.

Over in the girls' locker room, they'll be answering to Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Isabella, Ava, Mia, Emily, Abigail, Madison and Elizabeth.  Sofia with an 'F' is # 13 and moving up fast, especially among viewers of Modern Family.

Now, a hundred years ago in 1914, the top boy names were names by which every person my age knows a dozen of each, at least: John, William, James, Robert, Joseph, George, Charles, Edward, Frank, and Walter.  For girls in the nineteen-teens, you had Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth, Anna, Mildred, Elizabeth, Frances and Marie.  All lovely names, worn by some mighty wonderful people.  #100 that year for boys was Irving, and you don't meet too many of them anymore, but Sophie was #100 for girls then and it's still around in various iterations.

Tito Puente
What names made the biggest jumps in popularity, you're asking me?  Well, say hi to Jayceon (#262).  That's the birth name of the rapper known as The Game, and he has a reality show on VH-1, so his name is out there and being given to lots of little Jayceons.  For girls, it's Daleyza (#585), the name of the young daughter of Larry Hernandez, a Mexican-American singer with a show called "Larrymania."

Tito Tito
All I know is, I wished my folks had named me either Leon or Tito. How cool would that be, to call somewhere and go, "This is Tito.  I'm on the way over.  Have everything ready."

And you know, they would!
Toriano "Tito" Jackson

John Patsy "Tito" Francona

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Last Sunday morning, the sunshine felt like...

Local hero Clevenger (45) gets
 local pie as reward
This past Saturday, it was rainy and stormy around our town, so it was a good day to handle some home chores.  I cleaned my bathroom, cleaned up the fans that we use upstairs to move the air around, tinkered with a couple of other projects-in-progress, and did a couple of loads of laundry.  It rained early, and then it stopped long enough to allow me time outside to grill some turkey burgers for dinner, and then later it poured again, causing the Orioles to go into a rain delay in their ballgame against the Houston Astros.   But after the rain stopped, the O's came back and won the game, with local guy Steve Clevenger driving in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning.  We went to bed happy and tired, but it had been a great day and we had got a lot done.

Also on that Saturday, the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League chose Michael Sam, a defensive end from the University of Missouri, to join their team this fall.  Sam thus became the first openly gay player in the NFL, which bothers a few of our benighted bigots, not a few of whom are probably overreacting to finding a certain appeal in Sam's lifestyle.

This is the purest example of what I call the "If he were a doctor" question.  For all of you who are so reviled by someone else's sexual preference, ask yourself this: If you were choking to death on a pretzel and a man came along who was a doctor and could save your life - but you knew he was also a gay man - would you still let him save your life?

Michael Sam learned to play football and now he has the chance to play the game for a living.  He will be paid by the Rams for his ability to pass rush, sack quarterbacks, and stop ballcarriers. Whom he loves at his house or wherever has nothing to do with that, although people such as some clown named Jack Burkman say that “The NFL, like most of the rest of American business, is about to learn that when you trample the Christian community and Christian values there will be a terrible financial price to pay.”

I think Jack's a little off on that.

And anyway, on Sunday, the day dawned bright and sunny and clear, and life went on.  Most of us were happy enough, and Jack will just have to live with that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Men call it S, S and S

Someone once advised me that I just should not write about things that were none of my beeswax.

Like I would listen to advice.

I stumbled across an article in the New York TIMES recently which told of women who are facing the world every day with their own real makeup.  To tell you the truth, I don't see how women can get up early in the morning to apply false eyelashes and eye and cheek makeup.

But the key thing is, if a woman (or a man) wants to go around just as they appear as they drip out of the shower, only a little drier, then what the heck?  If you feel comfortable with your look, that should be all that matters.

Years ago, I was at a grocery store early on a Sunday morning (I think we were out of Hostess Do-Nettes, the little powdered-sugar belly grenades that I used to love so much) and I ran into the woman who cut Peggy's hair in those days.  She recognized me and flew into a panic.  She burbled, "Oh, of all days to run into someone I know, and me without my face on!"

I pointed out that she need not worry, her face was right there in front of her head, but that did not allay her concerns. (My batting average for concern-allaying has been dismal over the years.) But, she looked fine without all the paint and powder and eyeliner and eye shadow and I don't know what-all else.

Another field of interest for those who regard PEOPLE magazine as a news source is pictures of celebrities without makeup.  As the photo at right shows, a little of the old Maybelline does wonders...

I salute those women who feel comfortable enough in their own skin to meet the world as nature sent them out here.  And I equally salute those who feel better with the expensive creams and powders.  I just want everyone to feel comfortable as they wish to.  My own extensive beauty regimen remains unaltered: Brush the choppers, shave now and again, shower with hot water and Pears' soap, followed by a brisk nap.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Wooden it be loverly

The best thing ever for people who sell lumber in 2 x 4's and nails and the like is the biannual mania around here known as "Election season."  

Our local laws permit outdoor advertising of political candidates for 60 days prior to an election, and with Maryland having a primary election at the end of June, the wooden supports with colorful signs are all over town.  Often, people who live in well-traveled locations wake up to find that overnight, a 4' x 8' "O'Hoolahan for County Council" sign sprouted on their front lawn - a sort of immaculate erection. No one asked them, but someone sent a sign crew over at 3 AM to post the sign.

And then, this being Maryland, you get the dirty tricksters who go around stealing the other candidate's signs.  People involved in this nefarious activity tend to be volunteers or buddies with pickup trucks and nothing else to do, but, this past Saturday, according to the Baltimore County Police via the Baltimore SUN paper, the perpetrators included a high-ranking government official.

Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry J. Ronald DeJuliis, a man who is often referred to as J. Ronald DeJulius, was allegedly involved in removing campaign signs belonging to incumbent District 42 Senator Jim Brochin from a sidewalk area over by the BelLoc Diner at Joppa Rd and Loch Bend Drive. 

DeJuliis's wife, Connie DeJuliis, is running against Brochin in the June primary.  She told the police that her campaign had permission from the property owner to mount her signs on his land, and that her husband figured Brochin's campaign signs had been placed there improperly.

"I say it's much ado about nothing," said Connie DeJuliis in the newspaper. "It was clearly a misunderstanding."

Marc Lazerow is Brochin's campaign manager, and he said he found the destruction in progress, got into a verbal hassle with J. Ronald DeJuliis and called 911.  When the police arrived, all participants were still on the scene, and charges of misdemeanor theft were filed against JRDeJ. Lazerow is going back to the courts to file charges against two men who were with the commissioner at the time.

According to the SUN, Ronald DeJuliis's duties as Commissioner of Labor and Industry include overseeing workplace safety, employer compliance with wage laws and the regulation of apprenticeship programs.

That's where you know his name from!  All elevators in the State of Maryland bear his signature on their annual permit, mounted right by the buttons.

And that's a good sign.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Rerun: something from November 2010

Ed. note: This entry is from November 2010 and mentions a "job" and a "truck," neither of which I still have, and one of which I miss...

After years of careful consideration, we have arrived at a conclusion.  The biggest problem facing America must be stanky cars, or else why is the car air freshener (or "freshner," as at left) industry now the #2 commercial venture in our nation, right behind the business of supplying hair gels for Ryan Seacrest?

I mean, the stench from our cars must be overwhelming.  Everyone has these little trees, or the tiny crowns, or the little sachet envelope stuck under the seat right by the crumpled McD bag, to alleviate the miasma within their vehicles.  

There are two remedies.  First, if those of us who habitually apply malodorous substances to our skin - cheap cologne, oils from tropical fruit husks, powders that claim to smell rainbow fresh - will refrain from doing so, along with giving up tobacco and Juicy Fruit gum - widely held to be the stankiest cavity-causer anywhere - the interiors of the various minivans, coupes and sedans will be much more pleasant to the olfactory scents (lousy pun alert!)

And here's a little thing I do on Friday mornings.  I call it "Buying a baker's dozen bagels on the way to work in a paper sack and leaving them in the truck all day long."  

Guaranteed, when you get in the truck to go home, you will love the air within.  A truck that smells like a bagel is a nice place to drive.

Now everything is solved, except for those who wonder why I am going to work in a paper sack.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, May 10, 2014

 So you wanna be a minimalist, huh?  Then I would suggest cutting down on the number of copies of the same book!
 Seal photobombs penguins while smiling.  Gotta love it!
 This is the blueprint for a favorite treat of mine, the Egg Cream. It contains neither egg nor cream; go figure.  It has only the calories from the little glob of chocolate syrup (tradition calls for only using Fox's U-bet syrup from Brooklyn Noo Yawk) and the milk.  Seltzer water has no calories, no sodium, no sugar.   Why not try one tonight?
 You have to look at this for half a mo before you figure out that it's a big Earth sandwich these friends made.  A slice of bread in Iceland, Earth, lettuce, tomato, New Zealand.  Did you want that to go?
 If you recall the thrilling bobsled races in the 1984 Winter Olympics in's how the bobsled track appears now. It's fallen into disuse and disrepair.
You work all your life to amass a pile of bills and then one day you realize it was only money...