Tuesday, September 30, 2014

And Michael Sam being gay was supposed to be the worst thing in the world

The National Football League offices must be a very weird place to be, nowadays. Whereas their biggest problem used to be which games to move to Sunday nights so that Cris Collinsworth could ooh and aaah all over the place, the past few months have proven parlous for the game and its players, coaches, league officials, and owners.

Ish just got real.  No need to backtrack over the Ray Rice situation, except to say that somehow, we've lost focus of the fact that a man weighing 225 lbs, with 3% body fat, beat his woman unconscious and then dragged her out of an elevator, in favor of bickering over who saw what and when.

And then came the Adrian Peterson matter; the Minnesota Vikings running back thought the best way to teach his four-year-old son not to push his half-brother around was to take a tree branch and beat the child bloody with it.  This is a crime in the state of Texas, where Peterson was indicted.  At first, the Vikings suspended Peterson, and then they lost a big game and decided that the whole thing was a private family discipline issue, and then the outcry from the public forced them to sideline Peterson for the foreseeable future.

You know all that, and you know that Charles Barkley, former basketball star, defended Peterson, saying he was raised in the same manner, being beaten for infractions. “Whipping — we do that all the time,” Barkley said.

It must work!  Charles Barkley grew to be a fine man, a man who once spit on a young girl during a basketball game (he was aiming his expectorant at a man), and a man who was caught driving with his blood-alcohol level at .149, nearly twice the legal limit of .08, in Arizona.  His reason, as he told the arresting officer, was that the young lady in the car with him was performing a sex act on him at the time, and he was in a hurry to get to somewhere more private than some side street in Scottsdale.

His parents should stand and take bows for raising such a fine person by beating him.

It's not just that beating a child shows the child that violence is the way to handle a bad situation. Medical science is finding that corporal punishment actually changes the child's brain chemistry, changing the structure and function of the brain.  This in turn leads to increased risks of everything from anxiety to suicide.

A 2012 Canadian study says hitting a child can lower both the young person's IQ and the amount of gray matter in the brain. Quoting from Psychology Today, "Gray matter is the connective tissue between brain cells … an integral part of the central nervous system...it influences intelligence testing and learning abilities. It includes areas of the brain involved in sensory perception, speech, muscular control, emotions and memory.”

Time after time, we read that abuse continues through the generations.  A child who is beaten by a parent becomes a parent who beats children.  And Barkley, Peterson, and William Adams, the Texas judge who beat his daughter with a belt for illegally downloading music off the internet, show why the cycle needs to come to an end.

By the way, Adams's daughter, Hillary, has cerebral palsy. Her father was in drug rehab in the past.

He is back on the bench in the great state of Texas.  Ruling on Child Abuse cases.

Monday, September 29, 2014

No need for Greed

I wrote this on Friday night.  Things might have changed over the weekend.  They would have if I were the person involved here...

Let's say you make 8 million dollars a year for baking pies.

"You make 8 million dollars a year for baking pies."  That sounds like fun!

Now let's say that above your 8 million semolians, you get an incentive bonus for making a certain amount of pies.  Let's say that if you make 210 pies, your salary is augmented by another $500,000.

Before you run off to enroll in Mrs Smith's Pie Baking School, let me run the rest of the scenario for you.  It started to rain very hard as you were just about finishing the 210th pie, and your supervisor told you to go on home, and maybe finish the 210th pie by the end of the year.

And then, let's say you said, "Nah."

Phil Hughes
All right, enough with the pretendin' and playactin'.  The fact is that Phil Hughes, a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, earns a base salary of $8,000,000 per year, and a bonus kicks in if he pitches 210 innings per year.  The last time he pitched was last Wednesday, when the heavens opened up over the land of 10,000 lakes, and the Twins game went into a rain delay for over an hour. Hughes did not come back out to pitch when the game resumed; pitchers don't usually do that after a delay, because their arms tighten up and would need to be stretched back out, so, no. 

When he left the game, there were two outs in the inning, bringing his season total to 209 2/3 innings.  One more out - if that rain had held off for a few minutes - and he would have pocketed another half a million.  

The Twins offered him a chance to get into another game over the weekend as the regular season ended, but Hughes said he didn't think it was proper for a starting pitcher to make a token appearance like that, and did not want to risk injury at any rate.  

Meanwhile, in pro football, Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch recently tackled Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and then celebrated by mocking the Rodgers "discount double check" move which you have seen in so many State Farm commercials.

What you haven't seen before is a man who had not missed a game in his 9-year career who mimicked Aaron Rodgers, and in so doing, fell to the ground, having torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Tulloch will be out the rest of the season and faces painful surgery and a grueling rehabilitation. 

Maybe Phil Hughes is the smartest athlete we have!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Rerun: In Heaven there is no beer bread

Not so long ago I got involved in one of those modern versions of a chain letter: an email recipe exchange.  So far, I have gotten quite a few recipes back, and one was for something I used to make all the time, but haven't of late, and I pass it on to you today.

It's that rarest of recipes that does two things well: first, it makes a delicious loaf of bread, and second, you can forget about lighting all those Yankee Candles® on the day you make this recipe.  Your entire house will have that yeasty smell so common in bakeries.

It's Beer Bread.  And it's about as simple to make as it can be. Three simple ingredients:
cups self rising flour
3/4 cup  of sugar
1 can or bottle of beer - it can't be light beer and it needs to be at room temperature

Mix in loaf pan (spray sides and bottom with Pam)  and let sit 1/2 hr
Bake 40 mins @ 350

And there you have it. Let that loaf cool a while, slather with olive oil or butter or some cheddar spread and go to town, all the while enjoying the sweet smell of Kwik 'n' E-Z home baking!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, September 27, 2014

Here's Garrison Keillor, weaving the tale of his News from Lake Wobegon at this annual broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion at the Minnesota State Fair.  A master storyteller in action!
You've been driving all day across mountain and prairie, across the fruited plains, and you just want to find a decent place to stay for the night.  You promise yourself you'll check in at the next place on the road that looks 1/2 decent.  You see this place with the shabby sign and the antenna that says "No cable."  You keep going.
I like everything about strawberries - their aroma, their color, how nice they look in the field and in a nice fresh box at the produce stand.  I love just about everything about them except for their taste and their texture.  Raspberries, please!
Do you do the same as I when you see an old rusty bucket of bolts like this?  Do you imagine the day when Dad first drove the Coronet home from Rogers Dodges, and how everyone piled into the car to ride to the ice cream place, and you had to finish your cone before you got back in the car, lest you drip Tutti Frutti all over the leatherette upholstery?  And how your brother Chet drove it for miles, back and forth to classes at tree surgery college, and now your cousin Rusty has it...
Dateline:  Krakow, Poland, where Dachshunds dress like Tyrolean mountain
 men for Oktoberfest.
With daylight savings time coming to an end, it's up to someone in every house to run around and set all the clocks back an hour soon.  It's always a challenge to synch them up and get every clock to show the same correct time.
Yes, this is a Siamese Fighting Fish.  I don't know what he has
to fight about, but I don't want to be the one who tells him
it's time to get in the ring.

Granny Smith, whoever you are or were, thank you for the best doggone eating
and baking apples on earth!  Keeping it green!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hold it...!

There is no day on the school calendar quite so terrifying as School Photo Day.

We don't realize it when we're young, but the business of sitting down each and every child aged between 4 and 18 for a mugshot that documents their progress through what we like to call an American "education" is a huge big business.  The companies who run this enterprise have an income larger than Oprah's, and all their executives live like oil sultans, because all across the nation, moms and dads will break their necks to shell out hundreds of bucks for 12 x 14s, 9 x 11s, 8 x 10s, and 5 x 7s.  They even purchase "wallet" sized photos of little Marmaduke and Mercedes to tote around in wallets that contain little else but those pictures, once the pictures are paid for.
Front and center, that's Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling waving his middle finger, school photo, 1961.  

Possibly the first ever school "photos"
As in, "Kid Rock" Ritchie
As I remember School Photo Day from my days at school (See my companion autobiographical sketch, "What I Learned During the Fillmore Administration") we were supposed to dress in ties and sports coats and remain so attired all day until the moment when we were called down to the cafeteria to perch before the lens of a photographer, a man who once dreamed of doing glamour shots of Lauren Bacall and now spent his days with squirming children. Kid after kid plopped down on the school stool, forced to twist into poses so unlifelike as to resemble those old hieroglyphic poses, as shown here by erstwhile Michigan high schooler Robert K. R. Ritchie.

And then, once the individual embarrassments were taken care of, the entire class would troop in to pose for a picture that will haunt many of them over 50 years later.  I hope that the men and women who spend their days taking pictures of schoolkids also spend their nights unwinding majestically.  They surely deserve to!
Spot me - win cash prize*
Hampton Elementary School, 1958 (AD)

* Cash prize available only to residents of Bozeman, Montana.  Use only as directed. Substantial penalty for early withdrawal.  Member FDIC.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Things You Have To Say

R, T, R.
Everyone who loves football and the football team from the University of Alabama - the "Crimson Tide" -  knows that the cheering cry for the team is, "Roll Tide Roll!"

Sometimes you can add in a couple of extra intensifying words, but as long as the Roll and the Tide are in there, you get the point across.

Well, whenever I wear an Alabama hat or Tshirt or jacket, I get comments from people I meet.  Sometimes, they say, "That's no way to dress for a wedding!" but what do I care?  And many give me a raised palm and a hearty greeting.  

This is serious business.  My physical therapist told me she met a man who, every time he mentions the U of Alabama, croons out a "Roll Tide!"  As in, "I had the best waffles ever down in Tuscaloosa one time; we were down there to see the game - Roll Tide! - and we stopped off at a place where they pile on the grits and gravy! Hot a-mighty!"

It made me think about certain expressions or things you just have to say when you say anything.  Another thing from down South is the habit of saying "Bless his heart" or "your" heart or "whoever's" heart, as in "We met the new people down the street, I was talking to the husband, and he's an Auburn fan, bless his heart!" The blessing invoked might be very faint, but it's there.

It's always a giveaway when people do the Seinfeld thing and add "Not that there's anything WRONG with that," when referring to someone else who dares to live their own lives as they see fit. Closely related, following on the heels of some biased comment: "Some of my best friends are _____"  Insert minority, and foot in mouth.

I like to hear people who add "May (he) (she) (they) rest in peace," when mentioning those who have gone on to their rewards.  I happen to think that it helps us to remember there's a peace ahead for all of us, some sweet morning.

Bless our hearts!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Secret Service Secrets

Candice Millard's great book "Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President" wove the tale of James A. Garfield, 20th president of the USA.  His term lasted but 200 days, cut short by a bullet from an assassin named Charles Guiteau.  Medicine and emergency shock trauma services being what they were in 1881, they fell short of saving his life, but not before all sorts of measures were attempted, including the use of a device being developed by Alexander Graham Bell that tried to find the bullet by magnetic means.

It was easy to reach Bell to have him come to the president's aid, as he was the only "Inventor" then listed in the Yellow Pages.

One startling fact that I took away from reading Ms Millard's book was that, in the 1800s, people could stroll into the White House at any time during business hours, and ask to see the president. As a matter of fact, Guiteau was one of those people to do so.  A deranged individual generally described in history books as a "disappointed office seeker," Guiteau demanded some sort of appointment as an ambassador because, well, just because.  So when his efforts were rebuffed, he went to the Sixth Street train station in DC and fired the fatal shots.

Well, today, of course, with many more madmen roaming the nation, we know better than to allow just anyone to enter the White House,  so there is a fence all around the place and dozens of highly-trained, motivated, well-prepared members of the Secret Service in place to keep any and all potential intruders on the side of the fence where they belong.


Except for last week, when an Iraq war veteran was arrested after jumping that White House fence and running just past the north portico White House doors. His name is Omar Gonzalez, and he was unarmed except for a Spyderco VG-10 folding knife with a 3-and-a-half inch serrated blade, according to the Secret Service. Their officers saw him jump the fence and chased him through the UNLOCKED door of the residence of the president and his family. Gonzalez said "that he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the President of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people," according to an affidavit filed in court.

This poor fellow is said to be a victim of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder relating to his service in Iraq, and clearly needs psychiatric care.

As that is arranged, here are some recent scandals that have damaged the reputation of the Secret Service.

  • March 2014 - three agents sent home from the Netherlands after an alleged night of drinking. One of the agents was found passed out in a hotel hallway...
  • November 2013 -in DC, Secret Service supervisor Ignacio Zamora was allegedly discovered trying to get back into a room at the Hay-Adams Hotel of a woman he had met at the hotel bar after leaving a bullet from his gun in her room. The hotel staff notified the White House. Zamora and officer Timothy Barraclough, both assigned to protect President Obama, were also investigated for alleged misconduct involving sexually suggestive e-mails sent to a female subordinate...
  • April 2012 - Off-duty agents allegedly brought strippers from a club back to a hotel in Cartagena, Colombia while there to protect the president at a summit meeting.

Clearly, the people in charge of the Secret Service need to think about higher standards for the people they hire, and higher fences for the presidential residence.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How stupid can we get?

We sit here, comfortable in America, air-conditioned or heated as need be, fed and watered and clothed and sheltered.

Really sheltered!  As in the recent case of a young female college freshman who was sitting in class, got a test back from her professor with a C- grade, and texted her mom back home.  Mom got so upset she called the daughter back and demanded that the poor student take the phone down to the front of the lecture hall and give it to the professor so the mother could really give it to the professor.

But we are concerned about other people all around the globe too, and we're the first to pack ships full of food, clothing, drinking water and medicine for people in other, less fortunate parts of the world.

Such as Hollywood, California.

If you can believe it, some sections (the wealthier ones) of Los Angeles show vaccination rates as low as those of South Sudan.

I wouldn't let her treat me for a splinter
South Sudan, a country that just gained its independence three years ago, a landlocked country in Africa so poor that famine and pestilence are everyday parts of life, where over a million people are roaming homeless and more than 400,000 people have fled to neighboring countries...that South Sudan.

Yet their children are getting just as much vaccination as the children of people such as Ione Skye, the actress who was in the movie "Say Anything" a hundred years ago, and who has now decided that her two daughters don't need regular vaccinations, against the advice of doctors and all wisdom,  because "people don't like being told what to do."

This foolishness started in the late 1990's, spread by a doctor from England and by Jenny McCarthy, the noted actress and expert on most everything.  She told everyone who would listen (and many more who wouldn't) that the vaccinations that any normal parents provide for their kids cause autism.

Of course, the causes of autism are still unknown, but since Jenny McCarthy is attractive and reasonably famous (more so than the 4th runner-up on American Idol 2005, less so than Meryl Streep) people took her word as valid and withheld vaccines from their kids.

As a result, cases of measles and whooping cough (pertussis) are on the rise among kids in LA, because parents who prefer the sage advice of crackpots to the words of people who have, you know, been to medical school, are able to have their children avoid inoculation by filling out a Personal Belief Exemption form, thereby being just as smart as Alanis Morissette and Emily Deschanel, two more people who willingly forgo lifesaving and epidemic-preventing medicine that many mothers in civil-war-torn South Sudan and Chad would love to have for their children.

And then people wonder why others shake their heads in disbelief.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

You'll recall the story from last month in which a New Jersey family, on vacation in Arizona, inexplicably concluded that their 9-year-old daughter's life would be immeasurably improved by a) taking her to a gun range called "Burgers and Bullets"   and b) allowing her to fire an Uzi.

So you remember how it turned out; the young lady lost control of the powerful weapon as it fired, killing instructor Charles Vacca, 39 forever.

Don't even try to turn this into a gun control forum, as we have been down that road and all of us pretty much have our minds made up one way or th' other.  No, this is a common sense thing. Children, no matter their gender, should not be firing weapons of this sort any more than they should be driving cars, operating the slicer at the deli or rewiring the basement for new outlets.  I suspect this lunatic idea came more from the girl's parents anyway, but I can't say that for sure.

Just before...
I can say that Vacca is dead and that many lives are affected forever.  Try to imagine the psychological impact on a 9-year-old, stricken with the guilt from being the one whose actions caused the death of a man.  We can only hope that her family will make some better decisions in the future, and get her the help she will need.

Speaking of help, I found it remarkable that the Vacca family -   two sons, Christopher, 11 and Tylor, 14, and daughters Elizabeth Vacca, 15 and Ashley Moser, 19, found it in their hearts to write to the young girl, who so far has not been publicly identified. “You're only 9-years-old,” they said in their letter. "We think about you. We are worried about you. We pray for you, and we wish you peace. Our dad would want the same thing.”

They also said this about their dad: “Our dad wasn't just an instructor. He was funny, strong, a protector, a hero, and our friend. He was a good man.”

“Like you, we are living through this tragic event that we cannot shut off,” the letter concluded. “It's with us all the time.”

I'm sure the cathartic release of just putting their thoughts on paper was good for the mourning family of the slain instructor.  Of course the whole thing was an accident, but the man is no less dead, no matter the intent of anyone concerned.  But the family is wise, and kind, and good enough to realize that in their darkest hour they can shine a little light on the young lady's gloom.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday rerun: This is whey too crazy

I think that the people who sit in the bigwig offices at America's leading corporations sometimes sit around and think too much.

Witness this latest legal action, filed by Kraft Foods.  Kraft is the manufacturer of Cracker Barrel cheese.  This is the leading brand of big-chunk cheddar cheese; they make 20 styles of it in wedges and bars, and, God bless our laziness, they will even sell it to you in cracker-sized slices, saving us the arduous task of taking a knife and actually slicing our own cheese.

They've got their Roquefort in an uproar because the popular Cracker Barrel Country Store chain is planning to get into the grocery business, selling lunch meats, glazes, jerky and summer sausage.

(By the way, for all those so indignant about making English the official language of these United States, by cracky, you have to stop saying "jerky" now to describe your inedible dried-meat-that-tastes-like-leather.  The word "jerky" comes from the Spanish "charqui," meaning burned meat, so you are forbidden to say that anymore, capiche?)

So, the big cheese wheels  have decided that you and I are so dumb that we wouldn't know the difference between Cracker Barrel cheese and Cracker Barrel Sliced Liverwurst.

Cracker Barrel Cheese came into being in 1955; the restaurant chain started in 1969.  I have been an avid consumer of the former since I was just a little sharp cheddar, and have dined sumptuously at the latter since, I guess, the 1980s, when they opened shop around this way.

Maybe I'm unaware, but I have never confused the two entities.  Cheese at the grocery store and the highway-side restaurant with the great breakfasts and marvelous grits are two totally different things, clearly.  Have you ever thought they were one and the same?

Here's my idea:  have the lawyers from both sides meet up at a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store halfway between the two corporate offices.  As soon as everyone tucks into a nice Momma's Pancake breakfast (above) all this wrangling and feuding will seem like it was a long, long time ago!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, September 20, 2014

The other day, someone asked me to list ten books that have stayed with me over the years.  The Catcher In The Rye has to be on any such list. Here is a photo of someone toting around the classic paperback edition on a cold winter day.
My jubilation continues unabated as I await the first day of fall, Nature's Gateway To Winter.  Even before the entire world fell in love with all things pumpkin-spiced, I was a big devotee of autumn.
After a rainy summer, it's been rather dry here in Bmore of late. While we hope for rain, you can always upload this to use as a wallpaper.
What a week for the hometown club!  The Orioles won the American League East division and look forward to the playoffs and beyond.  Here's All-Star Outfielder Adam Jones celebrating with fans.  This is why you love sports...winning makes you happy, and losing makes you want your team to win.  I've been an Orioles fan since the 1950s, so I've seen my share of both.  Winning is better.
Someone told him to stack the wood, so he had to go and get all fancy with it.  Problem is, now no one will want to burn this wood, for fear of messing up the cool display.
This week also saw Scotland vote to remain part of Great Britain, good news for bagpipers everywhere.  And for those of us who happen to look good in plaid.
 If you're a squirrel and you're reading this, well, thanks!  You are the smartest squirrel ever!  But as a reminder, it's time to start squirreling away some nuts for the winter!
This might be the last batch of Chex Mix I ever made. I found this picture from 2005, and now I want Chex Mix.  I know it's loaded with carbs, but hot-a-mighty, it's tasty!  Maybe I'll just make this my wallpaper.  See you next week!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Get ready for the largest lawsuit in the history of lawsuits

At 81, everything is risky, you have to admit. But now it's turning out that what seemed like a normal, everyday procedure that went wrong, ending in the death of Joan Rivers, was not quite so ordinarily handled.

Tech Times reports that Joan was having a endoscopy to check for digestive tract issues. In an endoscopy, an instrument (seemingly no smaller than a Louisville slugger baseball bat) enters the body to poke around and look for things gone wrong. When the camera was in her throat, someone noticed something wrong there, and a doctor who did not have clearance to perform procedures at the clinic in question went ahead with a biopsy - without permission from Ms Rivers, or the clinic, it seems.

And then! Her vocal chords began to swell, cutting off the oxygen and blood circulation to her lungs and brain, putting her in cardiac arrest.  And you know the rest.  She never regained consciousness and died a week later.

And now comes the allegation that Rivers's personal ENT specialist paused during the unauthorized biopsy procedure to take a selfie of herself with the unconscious comedienne.

To sum it up: an otherwise healthy woman comes to a clinic to have a look at her digestive tract.  Someone spots what he/she perceives to be a problem elsewhere and decides to have a whack at it, during which whacking the patient is caused to go into cardiac arrest and death.

And a doctor, a graduate of high school, college and medical school, allegedly decides to prop up the unconscious patient during all this so as to palm her smart phone for a selfie with the ill-fated patient.

All right.  Can we talk?

We don't know for sure about all of this, but as they say on the evening news, one thing is certain:  The smart phone was smarter than the doctor.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In their fashion

I know what it's like to be young and dumb.  We all can, if we think about it, recall instances of sheer stupid behavior committed under the rubric of Knowing It All.  It's a sign of maturity (and I hope to get some sometime!) to be able to pardon the young for their brash excesses and the limits on their experience.

Still, I don't think it's a good idea for major corporations to turn their controls over to 17-year-olds who don't know the first thing about two things from the not-so-distant past. 

The clothing industry seems to be particularly vulnerable to letting the unschooled decide what to manufacture and sell.  Not to be blunt about it, but have these people read a book?

Case A - some Spanish clothing firm named Zara.  In 2007, their handbag line featured a purse that was dotted with swastikas.

How charming.  I'm not going to show you a picture of the purse, but there are swastikas - the symbol of Nazi horrors - all over it. And here is one of the most perfect examples of corporatespeak you'll ever see:

"Had the symbol been seen we would not have sourced that particular handbag," said Zara spokesperson Susan Suett.
"As a precaution we've obviously taken the decision to immediately withdraw the item from sale on being informed of this particular bit of information," she added.

Please read that again and savor the pure unalloyed bullhockey being spread by Ms Suett.  They didn't sell the handbag, you see, They sourced it!  Because they had not been informed of the information that would have told them not to! Zara is owned by the Spanish company Inditex, which is a branch of the multinational corporation Idiotz, I surmise. 

And then, last month, they put on the market a shirt for kids. They called it a "Sheriff's Shirt," and said it was "inspired by the sheriff's stars from the classic Western films."  But, with its stripes, even though they were horizontal rather than vertical, and a six-pointed star, they bore a certain resemblance to the uniforms worn by Holocaust victims from Nazi concentration camps.

Seeing a chance to be at least as obtuse as Zara, Urban Outfitters, a chain here in America whose stores are set up to make you feel as if you are shopping in a recently-abandoned Citgo gas station, decided to hop on the retro craze and salute those golden days of 1970, when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on Viet Nam war protestors at Kent State University, killing four people.  In America. Urban Outfitters offered for sale, at just $129.00 each, this disgusting sweatshirt, replete with fake bloodstains and bullet holes.  But their corporate spokesperson spoke right up: 

 Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.

I believe it was Sheriff Taylor who said, "It's all right to be stupid, but some people just plain overdo it."  I urge the fashion industry to go to school and learn some history, and I urge Zara and Urban Outfitters to go to Hell in a homemade handbasket.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Living the thankful life

Sometimes a memory just sticks with you, and we don't get to select the ones that do.  

I think all the time back to a day in the early 90's.  I would go now and then to talk to the kids in a Head Start program run by my friend Sue.  Head Start is a good idea for promoting the success and well-being of families, and it's helped lots of kids get on the road to competing in school and in life.  Not every child has the same advantages that many of us enjoyed in the early days, and it's for the good of all of us to give everyone a leg up on achievement. I pulled out the bag o' tricks for these kids. I still remember making our little egg heads.  I saved a few eggshells, we filled them with potting soil and added grass seed, and presto! homemade Chia pets.

I don't feel guilty about coming from a privileged background, but on the other hand, I never take for granted the things that have come my way just by being born into a family best described as "comfortable."  Lucky in life, lucky in love, as they say. Cosmic forces from the planet Lovetron sent Peggy my way when I was a roguish 21-year-old, thus assuring me a daily cornucopia of love and laughter that continues to this day.

Something else that continues: the reminders to be grateful.  Back to the Head Start classroom, I was down there with the kids when they were all putting on their coats to go outside for playtime.  A little girl walked up to me with her little white coat in her hand, which is kidspeak for "Please help me put this on!" so I held it out for her little arms, and she said, "How do you like my new coat, mister? I just got it!"

And the smile on her face and the gleam of pride in her eyes just melted this old man right on the spot, for the coat was obviously old, somewhat tattered, and could have used a good turn at the dry-cleaner.  But, in a country in which some spoiled teenagers publicly complain that their parents gave them the wrong color Mercedes SUV or last-year's iPhone or a "stupid local"  Sweet Sixteen, instead of one on the beach at Ibiza, I saw real gratitude, true thankfulness, in the face of little girl who knew that a cold winter was coming, and she had a warm coat to fend it off.  

She also had, has, a warm heart, too.  I have no idea where the little girl with the coat is today, but something tells me she's doing all right for herself, because she was proud that she had that white coat.  She would be old enough to have her own kids by now, if that was her choice, and let's hope they're just as happy with their gifts as their mom was.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Treat All The Same

I had only been a supervisor for about ten minutes when I learned a valuable lesson. Let's say you're supervising 17 people. You give one of them a break, let them off the hook for something, or give them a requested day off when you really shouldn't.

The other 16 people will not say, "Hey! What a great guy! Let's hear it for our wonderful and gracious boss!"  

Nor should they.  Fair is only fair when it's equally applied, which brings us to the current unpleasant state of the National Football League.  Players are in trouble for domestic/spousal assault.  Ray Rice of the local team here slugged his partner unconscious in a drunken fight in an Atlantic City casino and has been suspended indefinitely.  Other players are sidelined following similar foul events.  Adrian Peterson of the Vikings is on the carpet for walloping his four-year-old son WITH A TREE BRANCH and his lawyer is pointing out that Mr Peterson only did it in the name of better discipline among his many children.

It makes one almost miss the days when the biggest NFL scandal was lunkheaded wide receiver Plaxico Burress smuggling a gun into a disco in his pants (I know, what was a disco doing in his pants?) and the gun went off and he shot himself and ran into the night howling, also running afoul of a New York law designed to stop people from shooting themselves in the pants.  Burress served jail time to the tune of a couple of years, and New York's night life seemed a little safer for a while.

My point, and thanks for waiting for it, is that miscreants all deserve the same treatment. I recently found myself being hollered at by a couple of people who urged compassion in the Rice case and said that he is not a wife-beater, even though there is video tape that proves otherwise.

East Jersey State
Prison (formerly Rahway State Prison)
I know that rich and famous people sometimes get breaks from the legal system.  In Rice's case, he got a sweet deal from the New Jersey authorities and was allowed to attend a diversionary counseling session instead of joining the football team at East Jersey State (Prison). The program they found for him was supposed to be for non-violent offenders committing victimless crimes.  Wrong twice, New Jersey!

I urged strict punishment and was branded a "typical liberal," which makes as much sense as letting bad guys walk away unpunished. Any man who would hit a woman deserves firm sanction.  In fact, people of any gender who go around knocking out people of any gender deserve to be taken aside and given some time to consider other ways of dealing with their issues.

It's only fair. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book 'Em

My dear friend Amanda Sheridan-Stokely, as kind a person as there is on this earth, challenged me to name ten books that have stayed with me. Well, I sat down and listed ten books without even blinking, and then, with a moment's thought, typed five more titles and thought I'd better slow down.  Sorry to exceed the request, but books are my friends, and have been since I figured out that's where all the information was. Who can limit the number of friends they love?

My list follows:
The Catcher In The Rye - J.D. Salinger - Show me a teenager who hasn't read this, and I'll show you a teenager who hasn't read it yet. It sums up everything there is to say about being between Phoebe's age and Holden Caulfield's parents' ages, with nod to the ageless Allie, somewhere between the two forever.

The Ring Lardner Reader - Ring Lardner - The master of American colloquial writing, Lardner was an expert chronicler of baseball, war, and life among the hopeful and hopeless.

How To Talk Dirty and Influence People - Lenny Bruce - When I was a kid, people said Lenny was a "dirty" comedian, which is like describing the Mona Lisa as an "old" painting.  Lenny skewered the hypocrites, the racists, and the warmongers like they had never been skewered before or since.

Up In The Old Hotel - Joseph Mitchell - Mitchell wrote for The New Yorker about life on the more seedy and salty sides of New York from 1938 - 1964, although he remained in the employ of the magazine until his death in 1996. He suffered 32 years of writer's block, never publishing another word after his final book, "Joe Gould's Secret."  Fascinating man.

In Cold Blood - Truman Capote - Capote took the notion of writing about a real crime as if it were a novel in the story of the murders of the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959. Not a whodunit or a how-did-he-do-it, more of an example of great writing and investigation.

Yes, I Can - Sammy Davis, Jr. - If this story of a man who never attended school or had formal instruction in singing, dancing, acting, doing impressions or playing music, and yet became a master of all those arts, had been fiction, people would have considered it too far-fetched. There was only one Sammy, the man who once said "There are only three people who matter to me: Sammy, Davis, and Junior."

The Keillor Reader - Garrison Keillor - The Bard of Lake Wobegon recently published this collection of radio transcripts, speeches, newspaper columns and the like.  A multi-talented man, much like Sammy, but with the ego pointing inwardly.

Washington Goes to War - David Brinkley - Longtime NBC news anchor, and the man for whom the word "wry" seems to have been invented, wrote about DC in the World War II era.  His autobiography is also fascinating, if only for being the only autobiography I can recall by a person who said his mother just didn't seem to like him very much.  Hey, I guess it happens.

Chips Off The Old Benchley - Robert Benchley - Essayist, Broadway critic for The New Yorker, movie actor, and wit. In all his comic essays, he portrayed himself as a whimsical semi-fool, hiding the fact that in real life he was a serial philanderer and serious alcoholic.  I'm grateful for not having known that when I fell in love with the words of the bumbling semi-fool.

On The Road - Jack Kerouac - The beatnik bible, the story of the man who fell under the spell of wanderlust in postwar America and started an entire new trend in writing.

The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby - Tom Wolfe - speaking of new trends in writing, this is the first volume collecting former newspaperman Wolfe's writings as he led the way into the New Journalism - telling the facts with pizzaz and lots of onomatopoeia.  Bang!  Zoom! You gotta read this book! Here is one sentence from his article on stock car racer/moonshiner Junior Johnson: "Cars, miles of cars, in every direction, millions of cars, pastel cars, aqua green, aqua blue, aqua beige, aqua buff, aqua dawn, aqua dusk, aqua Malacca, Malacca lacquer, Cloud lavender, Assassin pink, Rake-a-cheek raspberry, Nude Strand coral, Honest Thrill orange, and Baby Fawn Lust cream-colored cars are all going to the stock car races, and that old mothering North Carolina sun keeps exploding off the windshields."  Not the sort of writing we had seen before.

Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters - John Waters - Baltimore's gift to oddball living shows his versatility: filmmaker-turned-essayist.

The Entertainer - Margaret Talbot - I love this book, written by New Yorker staff writer Talbot about her father, character actor Lyle Talbot, the eternal sidekick in movies and TV (and also father of Stephen Talbot, who played Gilbert on "Leave It To Beaver" and is now an award-winning documentarian). Lyle's career began in tent shows and medicine shows and circuses, and the story is the story of American show business in the 20th Century seen through the eyes of someone who worked in most aspects of that business.

The Little Engine That Could - Platt and Munk - The first book I ever read, and it gave me encouragement to read more, so I haven't stopped.

Webster's Dictionary - Noah Webster et al -  Because, every word in the other books is in this one, too.  It's just a matter of arranging them nicely.

And now that I finish, I realize I left out Jean Shepherd, John Updike, Studs Terkel, Roger Kahn, E.B. White, and dozens of authors I also love.   

Let's do this again soon!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Rerun: I Got The Number

Songfacts.com is an excellent website, and the source of a lot of the trivial information that dots my life and my conversations like cloves on a ham.  I don't know who is behind the website, but I like it a lot.  They interview performers and songwriters, and share interesting facts about, and the real lyrics to,  songs we all sing as we drive along or take a shower.

No surprise then, that I was skipping through the site the other day and read an interview with Gary Lewis of "This Diamond Ring" fame and also of being Jerry Lewis's son fame.  (I often spend hours reading about, watching or listening to Jerry Lewis.  You said it would be ok, remember?)  From there, I saw a link to this interview with Alex Call, the guy who wrote Tommy Tutone's 1982 hit  "867-5309 (Jenny)",  and what an eye-opener that was!  The interview tells you all you will want to know about the song, except for why, in the video, the bassist is wearing one of those French sailor shirts with a red bandana around his neck.  There are some things that we are just bound to puzzle over forever.

There used to be a website devoted to the antics of two guys who spent their days and nights calling 867-5309 in every area code across the nation, chronicling the results as they asked for Jenny if anyone answered.

And you legal scholars certainly remember last summer in a US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision, Justice Elena Kagan included the following sly Tutone callout in her opinion in American Trucking Association v. City of Los Angeles, which, as you all know, said there can be no agreements between trucking companies and the Port of Los Angeles.

“Under that contract, a company may transport cargo at the Port in exchange for complying with various requirements. The two directly at issue here compel the company to (1) affix a placard on each truck with a phone number for reporting environmental or safety concerns (You’ve seen the type: “How am I driving? 213-867-5309”) and (2) submit a plan listing off-street parking locations for each truck when not in service.” 
Justice Kagan is also doing standup three nights a week at Giggles, a comedy club in Silver Spring, MD.

But one thing struck me in the Song Facts interview.  Apparently, Tommy Tutone is still touring on the strength of his one and only hit record, and weaves a tale about how the song came to be written.  Alex Call says, "Tommy Tutone's been using the story for years that there was a Jenny and she ran a recording studio and so forth. It makes a better story but it's not true. That sounds a lot better than I made it up under a plum tree in my backyard."

Hold everything.  Wait a second.  You're telling me you can have a tree right in your backyard and grow your own plums? I got to get me one of them!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, September 13, 2014

If I ever had a boat, I would have named it something awful, like "Titanic" or "Sinker."  Good thing I have no nautical inclinations.
Sorry, vegans, vegetarians, and everyone who doesn't enjoy a good hamburger now and then.  A nicely-grilled hunk o' ground beef on a tasty roll with grilled onions, a pickle or two, a slice of yellow American, and whatever else you like...sometimes, it's just the perfect thing!
You know how happy it makes some people when Spring comes bursting out?  Well, that's how giddy I am about Autumn, with its lovely colors and crisp air and everything smelling and tasting pumpkin-y.
There was a fellow named Graig (yes!) Nettles who played for a few big-league baseball clubs.  Nettles is famous for saying, while a member of the 'Bronx Zoo' Yankees of the 70s,  "When I was a kid, I wanted to join and the circus AND play for the Yankees. Lucky me, I got to do both!"
So I can set this up in my own kitchen, and make big-time bucks peddling iced raisin donuts at restaurants, grocers, drugstores, cafeterias and plants?  We have all of them close by!  I'm gonna be rich!  Rich, I tell you! I always wanted to get to the top of the donut game, and now, here's my ticket to Easy Street!

Down by Baltimore's Patterson Theatre, now known as "El Teatro Patterson," someone made a pretty cool bus stop.  I'll see you on the upper section of the 'B.'
It was a cool summer here in Bmore.  We got plenty of rain, and the lawns stayed green and lush.  Now the trees are just starting to change, and soon from garages to sheds to basements all over town, you'll hear the annual question: "Where did I leave that rake last year?"
It's been a fun week, so Thank You!

Friday, September 12, 2014

I might just change my name to "Buster Move"

Many times, people ask me what's the secret of the long and happy marriage that Peggy and I have enjoyed since gas cost a quarter. It's the little things; we don't need to traipse all over the globe to find the amusement we get just from moments like our early morning discussions of "Who did the better version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Dreams Come Through' ?"  Enjoy the Jim Steinman version, or order the Meat Loaf; you can't go wrong.  

Peggy is the one of us who delights in nature and all its wonders; I would much rather read about flowers and birds and bees and the like than have bees and tree limbs land on me, but that's the glory of life and love if you take it easy long enough  - you get to take your choice and enjoy it.

Johnny Burke, 1908 - 1964
It seems to me that a lot of people who shuffle off this mortal coil at early ages were finished their work in time to punch out before the others. Take a man named Johnny Burke, a lyricist who teamed with several composers to write songs such as "You're Not the Only Oyster in the Stew" for Fats Waller, "Swingin' On a Star" for Bing Crosby, and "It Could Happen To You," which was done by dozens, including Diana Krall

Burke only lived to be 56, and if you're 16, that seems like a pretty ripe old age, but let me assure you, it isn't.  At any age, it's good to stop and appreciate the gifts of life, gifts that Burke used his gifts of words to describe in "Aren't You Glad You're You?"

Every time you're near a rose
Aren't you glad you've got a nose
And if the dawn is fresh with dew
Aren't you glad you're you?

When a meadowlark appears
Aren't you glad you've got two ears
And if your heart is singin' too
Aren't you glad you're you?

You can see a summer sky
Or touch a friendly hand
Or taste an apple pie
Pardon the grammar, but ain't life grand

And when you wake up each morn
Aren't you glad that you were born
Think what you've got the whole day through
Aren't you glad you're you?

Burke wrote this before anyone thought of challenging their friends to list the things for which they were grateful.  I am grateful for almost every song that has delighted my ears and eyes, to tell you the truth.  When I hear a favorite song, I song along, I smile, I guffaw, and I holler "Whoomp There It Is!"

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What so proudly we hailed

What Key saw by the dawn's early light!
Two hundred years ago this weekend, the British, still smarting from their defeat in the Revolutionary War, showed up in Baltimore Harbor for The Battle of Baltimore. The War of 1812 had gone into overtime, and the British were attempting to get to Washington by taking the Baltimore-Washington Parkway invading the port of Baltimore by land and sea.  The battle had actually begun here in Baltimore County, at North Point, where the American forces had to retreat, but not before they slowed the enemy forces down enough to allow the people at the port of Baltimore to prepare for battle. As that battle raged on the night of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key stood on the deck of a British ship and watched the American resistance "by the dawn's early light" and wrote a poem he called "Defence of Fort McHenry," which, set to the music of the then-popular song "To Anacreon in Heaven," became "The Star-Spangled Banner," the national anthem of the United States of America.

Why was Key, an American lawyer, aboard the Royal Navy vessel? Well, at the time, lawyers were not allowed to advertise their services on television.  Reasons given for this ban generally include the sad fact that even those who had TV sets in 1814 had no electric outlets anyway. So Key got legal work as he found it, and had to go aboard HMS Tonnant, as the guests of three British officers, as he negotiated the release of prisoners. One of the prisoners held by the British was Dr. William Beanes, of Upper Marlboro, MD.  Beanes had put "rowdy stragglers" under citizen's arrest in what is today Baltimore's fabulous Inner Harbor, a worldwide mecca for rowdy stragglers.

Not really my license tag
So this weekend, Baltimore will celebrate the 200th anniversary of all this.  Most of us have the special Maryland license tags commemorating the writing of the anthem which is played before games just several long fly balls away at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and a few long punts away at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Ravens.

One of these kids was my maternal grandmom, Mary Elizabeth Willis! 1914.
2014 human flag being formed
Somehow, some brave people got 7,000 schoolchildren to wear red, white, or blue plastic ponchos and stand still long enough to form a human flag, a repeat of the human flag that schoolchildren did on the same spot a hundred years ago, when one of the kids was my grandmother.

That same summer of 1914, Baltimore's own George H. "Babe" Ruth, who grew up one long fly ball away from OPACY, went to work for the Boston Red Sox, beginning a legendary pro baseball career.

History follows cycles, and it's interesting to me to reflect on them.  It's fascinating to think that the kids in this year's Living Flag might have descendants around in 2114 to see it done again.