Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, February 28, 2015

Of all the National League baseball teams, I always liked the Dodgers best - the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Brooklyn is the most interesting borough in Noo Yawk to me, and here is what it looks like when the sun rises up there.
Speaking of National League baseball, here is the new helmet to be worn by Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  He took a pitch to the face last summer, and to prevent that from recurring, he will wear this facemask at the plate this summer.  Notice the stylish "G" in the design!
This is a Picasso painting called “La Coiffeuse,” French for “The Hairdresser,” which was recently found in Newark NJ. It was ripped off from Paris a decade ago and sent to this country. Shipping papers described it as a $37 “art craft/toy,” while its real value is said to be over 2.5 million semolians.  Anyone who can tell me how in the heck this looks anything like a hairdresser is welcome to try.

Remember the opening of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, where she rolled her eyes at the price of a steak before tossing tossing it into her cart?  Well, this picture is about as close as I will be getting to a steak these days.  Holy cow, is beef ever expensive.
You and I have no need for this type of clothing, but look for celebrities to be wearing it soon.  It's made of a special fabric that lights up under flash photography, thus ruining the days of all those paparazzi whose purpose in life is to take photographs of Madonna walking down the street.  That's some purpose.
Good-bye Radio Shack!  I guess there aren't that many people out to buy their own parts to build transistor radios anymore.  There aren't even people listening to transistor radios anymore.
There are two types of people in this world...those who like the sound of wind chimes, and those who spend breezy evenings fuming over the sound of brass or bamboo tubes clanging into each other, like the sound of 1001 tiny auto accidents in the backyard. I guess I'm in the latter category.
Saturday night!  Saturday night!  At the Drag-o-Way - the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick dragster is ready to zip down the quarter mile.
That should be the last underinflation joke from me.

Friday, February 27, 2015

About the Las Vegas murder

At first, the death by handgun bullet of Tammy Meyers in Las Vegas seemed to be a simple case of road rage.  Meyers was teaching her 15-year-old daughter to drive, and the story was that their car, with the younger woman at the wheel, was involved in some near-collision with another car, and the situation escalated to a point at which the unknown driver of the other car chased the Meyers women to their home and shot the mother in the head.

And then, it didn't happen to have happened that way, although that's how the initial report from Robert Meyers, husband of the deceased, had it.  He said he was confused when he left out the details, such as that the women came home angry after some confrontation with a neighbor, rounded up their 22-year-old son, and went back out in pursuit of the other party, leading to two separate gunfights.  The final gunfight took place at the Meyers home, and Mrs Meyers was in fact shot at that time.

The 19-year-old neighbor, Erich Milton Nowsch, appeared in court on Monday but has not entered a plea yet.  His attorney, Conrad Claus, says Nowsch feared for his life and acted in self-defense.

Police and prosecutors are saying that the Meyers family gave conflicting information, misleading suspect descriptions, and incomplete information.  For instance, they claimed that it was some tall random stranger, while in fact, Nowsch is a smallish sort of guy who lives around the corner and was well known to the Meyerses.  The late Tammy Meyers used to slip him a twenty when he showed up claiming hunger and would routinely admonish him to pull his pants up when she saw him affecting a gangster persona at the local park.

So who knows what happened, anyway?  A mistake by a novice driver? Aggressive driving by Nowsch?  A long-standing dispute or a flashpoint disagreement with horrible consequences?
So sad, so avoidable

Whatever happens when the courts shake this all out, one thing remains certain: had Tammy Meyers and her daughter returned home and let either time or the police handle it, there would likely have been no murder.  But acting like an old western in which cowboys ran to the saloon and rounded up a posse to mount up and chase after the Dalton Gang is not bound to end up well.

You could ask the Meyers family about that.  Her son's defiant statement, "I did what I had to do to protect my mother" left out the possibility that he might have protected her more by staying home and acting reasonably.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Measuring Tape

There was an episode of The Simpsons in which Sideshow Bob was temporarily let out of jail so he could help the Springfield Police track the fiend who was attempting to kill Homer. Living among the Simpsons, he came outside to find Homer trying to trap the would-be murderer with an effigy of himself hanging in front of 742 Evergreen Terrace. But Homer flipped out and began assaulting the hanging dummy, leading Sideshow Bob to ask the rest of the family, "And none of this seems odd to you?"

"It's Sideshow Bob!"
Those words ring in my head ever since SB spoke them. And if you're paying attention, your head is shaking too at what people are up these days.

Let's go to the videotape!

For those who haven't noticed, everything is on video these days. So people's interactions with police out in public are most likely available for review from many surveillance cameras, and, soon, from cameras on the police themselves. Time after time, we see people whose account of some melee or fracas is shown to be at wild disparity with the reality that video provides.  So, the next time a delivery driver throws some fragile package 20 feet onto a porch, he or she should figure on being recorded...along with the sneak thief who darts onto the porch to rip off the package.

I make it a habit to wave wildly and do something flamboyant at the little smoky gray camera covers on the ceilings of banks and liquor stores. Might as well leave 'em smiling!

And the other day, a once-respected rabbi pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism. He had set up surreptitious video cameras to record women using the ritual bath at his synagogue.

And the other day, the proprietor of a string of bar/concert venues in our town was arrested for ALLEGEDLY installing video cameras in the ladies' room at one of his spots.

And there was the respected gynecologist from Johns Hopkins, one of the finest hospitals in the world, who was recording his examinations of hundreds - thousands! - of the private parts of his patients via the use of a video recording pen in his pocket.  He committed suicide when confronted with his enormous evil.

Now, you can ask any prostitute, or late-night radio call-in host. There is no limit to what people are into. There are probably millions of people who get a thrill from hidden-camera videos of others taking a bath or using the commode or being examined down there.

And so I ask the Rabbi or the night club guy, "None of this seems odd to you?"

It's a problem when some people's pleasure comes from misusing others.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

From Zappa to Zendaya

I listened to Frank Zappa back in the day with the avidity of a history student hearing from Thomas Hobbes himself.  It's a pity that some people thought then, and some still do today, that Zappa was "that weirdo" with hard-to-understand lyrics and odd rhythms on his albums with The Mothers Of Invention and subsequent bands.  

I and untold millions of others found his philosophies helpful in getting to know myself and where I fit in in this crazy old world. Frank's whole point was the wonder of being what one was capable of becoming.  Listen to the album "We're Only In It For The Money" from 1968.  Over and over, we hear the theme: there are the freaks, and there are the superstraights, and you don't have to align with either group.  You can be one of the Other People and make your best life that way.

You remember that crazy thing people had with playing records backwards to hear Satanic messages, like when you spun a KISS album backward and were supposed to hear Gene Simmons asking you to give your soul to the devil?  (And this from Gene Simmons, a man interested in two things only: himself, and all of your money.) Zappa paid tribute to that by putting this verse on the end of the track called "Flower Punk" - "Take a look around before you say you don't care, and shut your #)@ing mouth about the length of my hair."

You wouldn't think Frank would have met with such resistance for something as helpful as telling people to do their best to be their best, and not to get all involved with the hair on the heads of other people,
Zendaya (l), Rancic
but you know how people are.  "People" are like Giuliana Rancic.  Rancic works on the E! channel, and part of her job is to stand around as celebrities arrive for events and comment on what sort of clothes they are wearing, how they have their hairdids, and whom they are with. 

What a worthwhile job!  

Meanwhile, I am so far removed from Youth Culture that I have no idea who Zendaya Coleman is. I read that she goes by her first name only, and is an actress, singer and dancer.  And I see that when she arrived for the Oscar awards the other night with her hair up in locs, Ms Rancic said, "I feel like she smells like patchouli oil and weed."

And then, you know what happened.  We see it every day. Insult, mad reaction, apology based on "I had no idea you would be offended by my offensive actions!"  

Zendaya tweeted: “To say that an 18 year old young woman with locs must smell like patchouli oil and weed is not only a large stereotype but outrageously offensive."  And she pointed out that plenty of people wear dreadlocks without being slammed about it.
She was wearing her hair the way she wanted to wear her hair, and did not deserve to have drugs dragged into it!

Rancic, predictably, grabbed her Twitter and tweeted: “Dear @Zendaya, I’m sorry I offended you and others. I was referring to a bohemian chic look. Had NOTHING to do with race and NEVER would!!!” 

So now we know that if we want to compliment someone for being "bohemian" and "chic," the thing to do is to say they must reek of that 60's essence from a species of plant from the genus Pogostemon.  

Or just say they smell like dope.  

Or, shut up about it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Titanic Decision

Mr Masabumi Hosono paid £13 (13 British Pound Sterlings, worth about 20 American dollars today) for ticket No. 237798 to cross the Atlantic on the Titanic in 1912, and we all know how that worked out.

But Mr Hosono, 42, the only Japanese passenger aboard, survived the shipwreck, only to be broken for it.  Here's what happened:

He was writing a letter to his wife while sailing for New York.  He began the letter using English, but finished it later in Japanese, aboard the Carpathia, the ship that rescued the Titanic passengers who made it into lifeboats.  When the Titanic hit the iceberg and began taking on water, someone knocked on the door of his second class cabin. He ran to the lifeboat area, but as a foreigner, he was ordered to go below the main decks.

(Every once in a while you come across a passage like that in history, and you wonder what people were thinking 103 years ago. And why.)

In the letter he later finished, Hosono wrote to his wife, "All the while flares signalling emergency were being shot into the air ceaselessly, and hideous blue flashes and noises were simply terrifying. Somehow I could in no way dispel the feeling of utter dread and desolation."

He went on to describe how he climbed back up to the upper deck. "I tried to prepare myself for the last moment with no agitation, making up my mind not to leave anything disgraceful as a Japanese. But still I found myself looking for and waiting for any possible chance for survival."

He came upon a lifeboat filling up with people.  An officer hollered "Room for two more!"   He paused and considered this his final chance to live and see his wife and children again, and jumped into the boat, lifeboat #10.

(Remember, many people chose to stay aboard, having bought into the myth that the ship was unsinkable.  These are the antecedents of people today who stay in large office buildings as the fire alarm rings, refusing to evacuate because "it can't happen here.")

Mr Hosono
And from that lifeboat, Hosono was rescued, and he returned to Japan to be attacked in his own country for saving himself when so many others died.  The government agency he worked for fired him (although he was rehired eventually), newspapers called him a coward, and a professor of ethics called him immoral.  He may have even become a textbook case; legend has it that a schoolbook was published that called him a "model of shameful behavior."

It would appear that Mr Hosono took the chance to save himself when it was presented to him. In his country, this was seen as a betrayal of the Samurai spirit of self-sacrifice," or that he failed to show the expected conformity.  As a result he was subjected to mura hachibu or ostracism.

He was said to be a broken man when he died in 1939 at age 69. Today, we wonder, who among us would not want to live, when given the chance?  Even if we knew it would cost so much...

Monday, February 23, 2015

There is only one truth

I hate to have to bring this up, but the mass slayings at that elementary school in Newtown, CT, did in fact occur, in December 2012.  99.75% of us know this, and I'm sure at least that many of us deplore the whole incident and wish it did not happen.

But, happen it did. And compounding the shame of it is the sad reality that a certain few gozzleheads among us choose to believe the bizarre notions and conspiracy theories promulgated by the supreme gozzleheads among us.  One of these theories is that the children and teachers were not really killed, that they were actors taking part in a fake that was all part of a plan to take guns away from gun owners.  You know that thing on Amazon, when you order something, that says, "People who bought this also bought..."? Well, the people who believe that Adam Lanza didn't kill anyone in that school are the people who believe that the president was born in Nigeria and that 9/11 was staged by the U.S. government.

What happened here is that someone got hold of the Connecticut State Police crime statistics for Dec '12, and found there were no murders reported in that area. Whoa! Ho! There's the proof of chicanery afoot! Except that the State Police stats only reflect crimes handled by the State Police, and that murder spree was handled by town police, whose stats are reported elsewhere.

But here's what happened next: Chipper Jones, former third baseman for the Atlanta Braves, saw the crazy web page that circulates among the easily bamboozled, and grabbed his Twitterer, so he could tweet this out:

"So the FBI comes out and confirms that Sandy Hook was a hoax! Where is the outrage? What else are we being lied to about? Waco? JFK? Pff … "
Shortly after this, someone who actually reads a newspaper got Chipper off in a corner and explained how things really are.  To his credit, Jones apologized.  But it was a case in which saying one is sorry is not really enough, because it damages the survivors and families and friends of the victims, it hurts them to have it all dragged out again, and, of course, the world is full of people who only saw the original tweet and will forevermore prance around saying, "There was no murder in Newtown...Chipper Jones said so!"

“For more than two years now, my family and the other families of Sandy Hook have been dealing with conspiracy theorists,” Cristina Hassinger, 30, told the New York Daily News. Her mother was Dawn Hochsprung, principal of the elementary school, and a fatality in the shooting.

“They harass us, saying it was all a hoax. They accuse us of being in on the hoax a lot of the time. So it’s really so disappointing to see someone who is supposed to be an American role model come out and promote the Sandy Hook hoax theory.

“I know that he apologized, but it’s not enough. We were met with a brand new onslaught of Sandy Hook hoax harassment. When you're dealing with these people, and they see that blue check mark (a verified Twitter account) that’s on their side, it starts all over again ... It's unconscionable.”

If I were Chipper Jones, I would look around and see that the two tweets of apology he has sent are only a beginning for what he needs to do to make this thing right.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Rerun: Thirty-Minute Miracles

Hal Peary as The Great Gildersleeve
I am huge fan of television (and radio!) situation comedies.  Nothing can tickle me faster than 23 minutes of boffo laffs, with seven minutes of commercials and promos.  In just 30 minutes, you've had your Minimum Adult Daily Allowance of yucks, chortles and guffaws.  From "The Great Gildersleeve" to "Ozzie and Harriet" to "Two Broke Girls," the set up has been the same for over eighty years, except there are a lot more dirty jokes in the newer shows.

The show opens with a brief sketch, usually involving someone looking perplexed, and then here comes the theme song, which plays while the actors are shown spinning around, laughing and living it up.

After the commercials, the premise of the show is set up: in the old days, it was that the boss was coming for dinner and Mom burned the roast.  Today, it's that Cousin Judy is six days late and frantic.  Either way, it's a mirthfest, mirroring our own lives, in which everything is funny.  Isn't it?

Then more commercials, for cars or beer or what-have-you.  In the penultimate act, with seconds to spare, the boss walks in with a whole salami for everyone to share, or Cousin Judy's Aunt Flo arrives to the cheers of all, and just like in real life, everything works out.  

Then more commercials, and a promo or two, and then the denouement, in which Judy, her worthless boyfriend of 17 years and a couple of others sit around ruminating over life's vicissisitudes.  Boom!  Closing theme, and time for "New Girl."

And speaking of which, the other night on "New Girl," her friend CeCe played the part that has been done over and over in tv and movies, namely: the really pretty girl who loves bad boys.  One of the three great sitcom stereotypes for women, right there.  She is beautiful, all the guys want her, and would strew roses in her path for just the chance to dally with her once.  

But she only likes the guy who shows up late, and ignores her or insults her.  Him, she can't get enough of.

The other two stereotypes for women in sitcoms and movies are:
  • The beautiful woman who never gets asked out because everyone figures it's not even worth it to ask her out (to the prom, the office Christmas party, the opening of a new abattoir) because she is clearly dated up through St Patrick's Day, so they don't ask, and she sits home alone night after night, wishing that new guy in Accounts Receivable would stop mooning over her and pick up the intercom to ask her out.  This role is usually played by women such as Cindy Crawford or Candice Bergen.  In the real world, beautiful women are busier than Lindsay Lohan's lawyer, and if the guy from Accounts Receivable ever did call to ask them out, the answer would be, "Who is this, again?"
  • The beautiful woman married to a chubby, yet jocular, guy.  Think Leah Remini ("King of Queens") and Audrey Meadows ("The Honeymooners"). In the real world, guys who look like Kevin James and Jackie Gleason are strangers to the Leahs and the Audreys, and don't marry lovely women. Except for me!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, February 21, 2015

They're not used to ice storms in northern Georgia, but there they were, the middle of this week.  Trees (and power lines) down and winter rolls on.
If you think it's a good idea to buy a '70 Dodge Charger painted up to look like The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard, go for it.  You want to be noticed, we assume.  Also, plan on the police noticing you. How long do you think that smile stayed around?
This took place in an office with a lot of technically-minded people...they installed one of those lavatory spigots with a magic eye to see when you want to wash your hands and then dole out 1/2 cup of water.  So, these people, armed only with brains and a 3-D printer, made a simple control to block the magic eye.  So for my birthday this year, I want a drone, and for Christmas, a 3-D printer.
I have a friend who says she loves the smell of coffee and can't stand the taste.  Most of the time, except for Ellis® Coffee, it's too bitter for me.  But the beans and the brewed coffee sure do smell good!
SCUBA divers diving off the coast of Israel found these underwater - 1000 gold coins, about 2,000 years old.  They've been there all this time, and we missed our chance.
What makes Miss P the Best In Show at the Westminster Dog Show?  My money was on the dog that did magic tricks - the Labracadabrador!
Some scientists with way too much time (and research grant money) have concluded that certain breeds of penguins do not like fish.  This way to the salad bar, Percy.
Talk about stanky coffee - these beans are for making Kopi luwak, or civet coffee.  They take these berries, you see, and feed them to the Asian palm civet, which promptly defecates them, at which point they are roasted and ground for your coffee-loving experience.  Please don't think I am kidding.  Mmmmm!  Make mine to go, please!

Friday, February 20, 2015

So, Ötzi, what's new?

The Iceman from the chest up lying on stainless steel table, with his left arm across his body just between the top of his right shoulder and under his chin
Profile pic from long ago
I don't know what you were doing in September, 1991, but Helmut and Erika Simon, German tourists in the Alps, were busy finding the frozen body of a 45-year old man in one of the Alps. (There are many alps.)  The Simons thought at first he was a mountain man who had only recently met his maker, but it turned out that old Ötzi the Iceman, as he has come to be known, was roaming all the Alps in the year 3,330 BC - about the same time that Ronald Reagan began acting in movies. 

Since the body was found near the border of Austria and Italy, it was widely assumed that he had gone out to pick up some Italian food for dinner, but analysis of the contents of his stomach revealed he had recently had a deer sandwich on herb bread, along with some fruits and grains.  And in his pockets, researchers found a card from Panera with holes punched in it.  Sad to say, two more punches, and he would have been entitled to a free deer meat sandwich, but this was not to be, because he died from being hit by an axe and shot by an arrow before being dumped in one of the many peat bogs in his town.

Computer-generated Ötzi image
From what was found, scientists determined that he worked as a shepherd and also as a radio DJ, under the air name "Pete Boggs."

There being no TJ Maxx in his town, Ötzi had to make his own clothes:  a cloak made of woven grass (that had to be comfortable) and a coat, a belt, leggings, loincloth and shoes, all made of various leathers. He also wore a bearskin cap (possibly Kangol) and his "socks" were soft grass wrapped around his feet. From his belt hung a pouch with several handy tools: a scraper, drill, flint flake, bone awl and a dried fungus.

I've been fascinated by Ötzi since he first turned up, and wish he had a Facebook page to use for posting new pictures...such as the one above, showing a computer-generated idea of what he might have looked like.  He's as old as the hills, and as new as tattoos and acupuncture, both of which he indulged in.

I don't know why there has not been a movie made about Ötzi, but maybe Hollywood has just been waiting for Jeff Bridges to have time to play the part.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

You bet!

The obnoxious child in the photo at right >>> is Jeffrey "Jeffrey" Maier, who was 12 in 1996 when he showed up for game 1 of the American League Championship Series between the Orioles and the New York Yankees.  Played in a dank Bronx hellhole known as Yankee Stadium (since torn down), the game was won by the Yankees, thanks to a ludicrously bad call by an umpire later disgraced.  Robbed of their momentum, the Orioles lost the playoff series to the Yankees.

The photo shows Maier reaching over the fence into right field to try to catch a ball hit by onetime Yankee infielder D. Jeter (since retired).  Of course, one is not supposed to interfere with a ball in play at a baseball game unless one is paid to do so by being hired by the ballclub, but Maier stuck his cheap glove over the fence, and, being a true Yankee fan, failed to catch the ball anyway (see the video here.)  He did deflect the ball to some other clown in the cheap seats, and the umpire, Rich Garcia, who was being paid to attend the game and make calls in the right-field area, called it a home run for no good reason.

Three years later, the major league umpires came up with a brilliant move in a pay dispute - they all sent in letters of resignation. This paid off handsomely for baseball, which happily accepted the resignations of 22 hardly-competent umps, Garcia among them.

Since he wasn't capable of umpiring games properly, the people who run baseball figured he would make a great supervisor of umpires, so they hired him to do that in 2002.  Another interesting aspect of Garcia's life came to light in the same year, when the New York Daily News reported that he and another ump were pals of Florida-based bookmakers who were known drug dealers, and the Boston Herald reported that Garcia was in debt to bookies, according to federal wiretaps.

Even then, he held on to his supervising job, receiving a wrist slap of two years' probation, until he and two other supervisors finally had cans tied to them after the 2009 playoffs, in which a number of crucial mistakes were made by umpires Garcia and the others were supervising.

Jeffrey Maier, Tony Tarasco  

That's the background of the glove used by Maier to deflect a ball hit by this Jeter person so that Oriole Tony Tarrasco couldn't catch it - which should have been noticed by Garcia, but who knows what he had on his mind out there?

The foul piece of leather, the glove that Maier wore on his grubby hand, is up for auction now if you want to own something of a putrid nature.  At last report, some fool was bidding $13,000 for it.

Maybe someone will be kind enough to purchase it and give it to Garcia as a gift.

Maier held on to the glove for a while before selling it to a collector and that collector is now putting it up for sale. Heritage Auctions is running an online auction of the glove through Friday evening and a “floor session” on Saturday and Sunday. Bidding was already up to $13,000 at last check and the estimated value is somewhere in the range of $50,000. It will probably end up in the hands of another collector, but surely there are some Orioles fans out there who would like to see it destroyed. Time to mobilize.

Garcia took part in the 1999 Major League Umpires Association mass resignation which was engineered by Richie Phillips, the union's executive director. When the strategy backfired, Garcia lost his job because his resignation was one of the 22 accepted by Major League Baseball. After working as a consultant for the baseball commissioner's office, he was hired as a MLB umpire supervisor in 2002.[11] On March 8 of that year, the Daily News (New York City) disclosed that in 1989 he and National League umpire Frank Pulli had associated with Three days later, the Boston Herald reported that, according to information collected from federal wiretaps, both umpires had problems paying off their gambling debts. The punishment MLB had applied to Garcia and Pulli at the time was only two years' probation.[12]

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Check this checklist!

I found this list on the website of radio station KXRB AM, which plays classic country music.  It's my good fortune that their music is available online, or I would have to move to Sioux Falls, SD to hear it on the radio, and that's more than a little bitty way up the road from Baltimore.  1,274.6 miles up the road, as a matter of fact.

From: Baltimore, MD To: Sioux Falls, SD

At any rate, the list was entitled "8 things couples should do everyday," and I won't be snarky enough* to say that #9 should be to use the words "every day" as an adverb in place of the adjective "everyday."

The list is a good one.  Check it out!

Complement each other - I don't know if they meant to say "compliment" or "complement" here, but both of them are good ideas.  It doesn't cost a thing to tell your partner that he/she looks good in that shirt, makes you smile, has a pleasant voice, and so forth.  Pay some compliments!  It helps.  And as far as "complementing" each other, that makes the whole of two people even better than the sum of the two parts alone.  Like when you go to a party - one of you might be the life thereof, and the other might like to help tend the bar or serve the "horse douvres," as they say.  When two people form a likable, versatile twosome, that's something to be around!

Laugh - How can so many people live so many years with so few laughs?  Sometimes, laughter is the only way you're going to get through the day! So when the hose breaks off in your hand and you get drenched, crack a smile and tell a joke about it! "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."  (Proverbs 17-22). "Just got back from a pleasure trip: I took my mother-in-law to the airport." (Henny Youngman)

Say those three words  - This seems to be a stumbling block for some people, but it means a lot to hear it, so why not tell the person you love  

Notice the little things   - Cal Ripken, Sr, as great a baseball man as there has even been, used to say that practice didn't make perfect, but perfect practice did.  Life is made up of little things that, done well, add up to many great things.  Remembering to stop and fill up the Biscayne with gas will pay dividends when you're rushing to get to the airport and DON'T run out of gas on the Beltway.  When your significant other tucks an special granola bar in your lunch bucket, that makes a difference, so be thankful!

Put things in perspective My friend Lane Smith pointed out the other day that even though she had to clean up a ton of water after the washing machine backfired, she just thought about the time she had to mop up the entire basement when the septic tank backed up.  And as she pointed out..."it sure as heck didn't smell like Clean Breeze Tide, that's for sure. All in all I'd say I'm having a pretty good day, considering the alternatives."  See?  It's a matter of perspective!

Dream big  - I don't play the lottery, but many people do, and they really, deep inside, don't do it because they expect to walk off with 485 million smackeroos.  The fun is in thinking, dreaming, fantasizing about buying that garage to house your 17 new cars and calling your boss to tell him to stick his job, and that kind of dreaming's a lot of pleasure for a couple of bucks.

Share something (Anything, a childhood memory, a movie, an article or an ice cream) - Something about Peggy and me is that we rarely agree on many things, from music (she likes Enya! I like Ernest Tubb!) to TV (she likes Grimm! I like Schitt's Creek) to books (she likes memoirs by people I never heard of! I like Ring Lardner!) but when we find common ground, we celebrate it! Anchovies on pizza, cheering for the Orioles, playing with the cats...shared experiences are fun.

Kiss Come on!  A little sugar makes everything happy.

*Yes, I will.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

One mistake ruins many lives

Can't believe it's been a year since that Valentine's weekend of 2014, when former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice took his fiancée to Atlantic City, smacked her around like a hooligan, and opened the sluicegates to the worst season in the history of the National Football League.  Tone-deaf to the feelings of people who oppose domestic violence, the league and the team soft-pedaled the whole deal at first, and then brought the hammer of punishment down hard when more video than first seen showed up and told a sad picture.  

And then, other players, as if they were in a competition with Rice to see who could be the biggest horse's patootie in the world, committed offenses ranging from waving guns around to soliciting prostitutes to drug possession to child abuse to sexual assault.

And then one of the Ravens' least-valuable players of all time, Terence Cody, was caught abusing a dog and possessing marijuana...and an alligator.

Rice played six seasons for the Ravens, was a member of a Super Bowl champion team, and was an excellent player for five of those years.  His production as running back dropped off significantly in his final season of 2013 and he did not play at all in 2014.  His league-mandated suspension was overturned by an arbitrator in November, and he was available to be signed by any team.

But he wasn't signed.  No takers.

So now, trying to squeeze one more big paycheck out of some team willing to take a chance on an over-the-hill ballplayer, he issued this statement last week:

 Dear Baltimore,
This is not a farewell or goodbye. The last seven years that my family and I have spent in Baltimore have by far been the best of our lives. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for the love and support you've shown my family and I (sic) throughout my football career. We'll always be grateful for the love we've received from all of our fans and supporters, and for winning a Super Bowl. To all the kids who looked up to me, I'm truly sorry for letting you down, but I hope it's helped you learn that one bad decision can turn your dream into a nightmare. There is no excuse for domestic violence, and I apologize for the horrible mistake I made. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and I hope to make a positive difference in people's lives by raising awareness of this issue. Thank you, Baltimore Ravens, for all you have done for my family and I. I'm very grateful to Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh, and everyone at 1 Winning Drive. I love you all very much, and I'll always be proud to say I played for the Baltimore Ravens.
Thank you.
-- Ray Rice

Of course, if Ray Rice were still at or approaching the peak of his career - and he was a great player at that time - teams would be lining up to sign up.  And probably one of them would have signed Rice for the late-season and playoff games.  

But he's on the downhill slope of his football talent, and is reduced to being a punch line on the "Mindy Project" TV show and writing apologia like this. 

What was, and what might have been...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Losing your shirt

It's as American as beer commercials.  At the end of major sporting events (the World Series, the Super Bowl, political conventions) the losing side is always shown on TV, staring blankly with that 100-yard gaze while the winners romp around wearing hats and t-shirts that say they are the champions, my friend. Sometimes if you're lucky, you get to see men or women passing out the shirts and hats from a box just unhidden.  It's great!  Guys are whooping it up, pulling on the shirts, slapping a brand new ballcap on the old melon...everyone on that side is happy.

Meanwhile, on the losing side, glum faces abound. And their great big cartons of hats and shirts remain sealed.  And so do the hundreds of thousands of the ones intended for sale at stores and online.  You realize that each team has their merchandise prepared and ready to sell.  If they waited to see how the game came out before they ordered the shirts and hats from manufacturers, they would lose the sales from fans who, right after the win, are full of Bud Light and hometown fervor.  So both teams have commemorative apparel to wear and sell, but only one team gets to wear and sell it.

I don't know what Major League Baseball does with their unusable merchandise, but the National Football League, which is just coming off the worst year in their history under the direction of the worst commissioner in their history, changed the charity they use to "Get this stuff OUT of here!"  They used to donate everything to World Vision, an organization out of Federal Way, WA, but switched this year to Good360, a group from Alexandria, Virginia, whose purpose is to channel goods from corporations seeking to unload donate inventory to charitable organizations.

Listen, if you have no shirt and you're lucky enough to be the recipient of this shirt,
View image on Twitter
you're the new proud owner of a shirt that once dreamed of being seen on the back of a person strutting through downtown Seattle!

At least it's gone to a good use (the league used to destroy these "whoops" clothes!)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Rerun: Delaware in the world

I've never been there, but I'm willing to bet that if you found yourself talking to a local in some diner in Romania, you'd hear talk about how all drivers of cars bearing Bulgarian tags are crazed fools, bent on annihilating the entire world, one carload at a time.

So it's universal, which makes me feel not so bad about saying that the other night when Ms Peg and I went to Ocean City MD via the up north -and - down through Delaware route, it was raining like a sonuvagun . We were on some dark, dank highways, and the lighting wasn't quite as bright as you might like it, and Delaware hasn't seen fit to install those reflectors in the lane markers, so with the water ponding and the dim light, it was sort of tough to see just in which lane to steer the car.

Fortunately, drivers of cars bearing Delaware tags have devised what they must call the ADLA signaling system. This Automatic Digital Lane Advisor uses just one finger to advise other motorists how many lanes they are legally entitled to occupy, and then points that finger heavenward, wishing the viewer a safe passage the rest of the way.

However, it was all forgotten by the time we got down South far enough to smell the ocean. And to see the sign that lets you know you've arrived at 
Slaughter Beach De - now that's a destination we can all salute with ALL our fingers. Imagine -

"Say, Chet, where you are taking the family for va-cay this summer?"

"Why, Slaughter Beach, of course. The wife and kids wouldn't have it any other way."

Imagine the movie possibilities!

"They came for the weekend...and stayed for the gore! Slaughter Beach...starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Chris O'Donnell, and John Travolta as 'Danny.' 'Slaughter Beach'...this weekend. Don't go to the beach without plenty of towels..................." 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, February 14, 2015

Let's go the mall! Here's another in what's becoming a long skein of malls all across the nation that are closed forever.  Was a time when "the mall" was the place to be.  Now, it's just a site awaiting demolition so they can build a WalMart, Home Depot and Best Buy on the location. This one is the Westlake Mall in Cleveland. Like all 80's malls, it had a skylight so you could sort of feel like you were still on earth while shopping at ShoeBusters and Listen To This!  Now the skylight has collapsed under the snow, and a photographer came in, along with 80 tons of snow.
Might as well say it right now - you can plan on seeing more cat photos and cartoons here on Saturdays.  We're all about those cats, about those cats, no trouble.

The kid on the far right?  My kind of kid.  I bet he's a great, great man today.
This was taken from a railroad boxcar, says the photographer, who said he is a modern-day hobo, bumming rides on railcars and seeing the country.  This is the Utah-Wyoming border.
It's Valentine's Day, but not everyone has their Valentine by their side. If you know someone who is lonesome today, why not send them a little love?  Someone up in Heaven will appreciate it.
One thing I will never miss about work is the communal refrigerator.
There is no way Jimmy will get in, if you use this to lock him out.
I hope you will.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Greater Love

Don't get me wrong; it's certainly a form of heroism to join the military or a police/fire/EMS service, because the simple act of entering those ranks means that one is ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, if that's what unfolds.  Think about that the next time you grouse about a speed cop writing you a ticket - he or she is sworn to protect your life at all costs.  And the same with those who go into the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines or Coast Guard. It's their choice and they take it seriously.

But maybe we need another word for a higher designation among them - the most special of the special people, because to me, it dilutes the truly heroic deeds of those who valiantly lay down their lives in the service of others when everybody in the class is called a hero.  Some people serve for years and never find themselves in a situation that requires super amounts of bravery and courage and strength and know-how.   We never know how the cards will be dealt.

And it's not just people in uniformed services who can be heroes. I'm thinking now of two people we lost just this week - one famous worldwide, one hitherto unknown until this week.  Both were heroes.

Dean Smith is the man you know as the head coach for the basketball team at the University of North Carolina for 36 years. His accomplishments in gymnasiums, getting young men to play great basketball, are well known.  But how about the fact that, as early as 1964 - three years after taking over a scandal-ridden UNC program - Smith became known for promoting desegregation in the South, which took amazing courage, that being the time when civil rights workers in this country were routinely killed by their opponents.  Smith, a local minister, and a black North Carolina theology student entered a segregated restaurant in Chapel Hill, and when they left, The Pines was an integrated restaurant. 

(Doesn't it seem amazing to think that just over 50 years ago in the Land of the Free and the Brave, not all citizens could go to whatever restaurant, movie theater or amusement park they wished?)

Charlie Scott, Dean Smith
Dean Smith also integrated the Tar Heels basketball team by recruiting Charlie Scott as the university's first black scholarship athlete. Off the court, he helped a black graduate student buy a house in an all-white neighborhood. Coach Smith opposed the Vietnam and Iraq wars and the death penalty, and supported gay rights and a freeze on nuclear weapons.  

He should have been president.  Coach Smith died this past weekend from complications of advanced dementia.  He lived for 83 wonderful years.

On the other side of the city of Baltimore lies a community known as Brooklyn Park, where, the other morning, a fire broke out in the parsonage of the United Brethren in Christ Church.  The pastor, Samuel Sinnah, lost his wife Lettitia and his son Sundima Sinnah, 17.  Christopher Rickman, a 45-year old man living across the street, ran into the house to try to save the woman and her son, and lost his life in the bedroom fire.

Especially in a time when we find out about a news anchor who tried to pass himself off as a survivor of a downed war chopper, although he was an hour away, it is reassuring to know that we still have people who try to make a real difference.  Mr Rickman, Coach Smith, we salute the heroes you are.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Poems! Get Your Poems Right Here!

I am not so much a fan of poems that do not rhyme.  Too many people turn in poorly punctuated essays and call them poems, to my mind. I mean, it takes a certain way with words to make a rhyme such as this, from the noted poet/philosopher Nipsey Russell:
"The bee is such a busy soul,
he has no time for birth control.
That is why in times like these,
there are so many sons of bees."
From the pen of a lesser poet might have come these words to express the same thought:

I wonder why that
 seems so busy.  He is the result of an
 unsanctified congress
 yet he proliferates
 with no regard as to the outcome.

 (In the spirit and style of Billy Collins)

However, with Valentine's Day (in Baltimore, Valentime's Day) fast approaching, here's a way for those who can't toss off a snappy quatrain in mere minutes to compose a poem to tell Elsie May or Earl Lee just how they feel.

The good folks at ProFlowers.Com have installed a poetry generator on their website. All one needs to do is plug in a few key nouns, adjectives and verbs, and let the Love Univac go to work.  

I threw in some random words and here is what I got:

Love You Always

In summertime, our love is Beautiful, like Roses floating in the breeze.
In wintertime, our love is warm — it smiles from eyes to toes.

If skies are blue, our love is loving — two people hugging in the sun.
If thunder rolls our love is loved, a refuge from the smiling rain.

When spring flowers bloom, our love is bold, like pink petals on the daisies.
When autumn leaves fall, our love is copper, shining bright like a harvest walk.

From Valentine's Day till Thanksgiving our love will continue to love. 
From season to season I love you always! My one, my only, my Honey.

This falls somewhere between "You got a pair of lips just like potato chips" and "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day" in quality, but for the price, it ain't bad. Go ahead and get a poem for your beloved. I'll never tell!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015


As it happens, I love hot sauce and will douse most any food with it.  I like them all, from the run of the mill store brands to the national brands like Texas Pete and Cholula to the more esoteric bottles of liquid hell, made in smaller batches.  Joe Perry of Aerosmith, whose solo career led him to record the great "Let The Music Do The Talking," probably doesn't talk too much when his Rock Your World sauce is dripping off a rib.

I once enjoyed a moment or two of sheer idiotic hotsauce bliss when one drop - one drop! - of Smokin' Tonsils hot sauce on a pork chop made it feel like the top of my head had been trepanned.  But in a good way!

So it came as a surprise when I read that the scientists at Penn State U did a study and found that people "who were most inclined to enjoy action movies, adventure-seeking and exploration were about six times more likely to enjoy the burn of a spicy meal."

In other words, thrill-seekers also like hot sauce.  Go figure. 

But you can't prove it by me that it works the other way.  I'll be glad to stand at the top of the ski slope and watch others fly off toward an indeterminate future.  Wave to me as you hang glide across Snake River Canyon!  And as you descend after jumping out of an airplane, hoping against hope that your parachute opens, I'll be the guy standing there munching on a pit beef sandwich slathered with Sriracha.

By the way, doctors and medics, my doctor told me once that I am that one-in-ten thousand whose tonsils disappeared over time. Year after year, my tonsils would swell up and make it impossible to eat or drink for several days, and then one day Dr Payne looked down there and said, "They're gone!"

Do you think that Smokin' Tonsils did it?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

You be the judge

In the days before daytime television was filled with Judge Whoosiz and The Persons' Court, Joseph Force Crater was about as famous as a judge can become in America...and he didn't do much to become all that famous.  All he did was...disappear.

His honor
He was only 41 years of age, but he sure looked a lot older, didn't he? He'd only been a judge for a few months on August 6, 1930, when he interrupted a summer vacation in Maine to return to New York. He'd gotten a phone call at his vacation home in Belgrade Lakes and hopped a train for NY, telling his wife he had to "straighten some people out."

It was no secret that he enjoyed the company of prostitutes to straighten himself out.

Who those people were back in the city who needed straightening, we don't know.  We do know that the good judge went to his office and spent the morning pulling files, reading through them, and sorting them in piles on his desk.  Then, he sent his aide, Joseph Mara, to cash two checks totalling $5100.

With the money in two envelopes in his suitcoat pocket, Judge Crater left to go to dinner with a friend and one of the innumerable women he canoodled with behind his wife's back, the plan being to attend a Broadway show.  Sometime that evening, he slipped out of sight and has not been seen again.

Although he was heard from, it would seem.  A few months later, his wife came back from a long vacation trip and opened a secret drawer of her dresser.  In the drawer were four envelopes she had not seen before.  One contained $6,690 in currency, one had stock-and-bond certificates, the third had life insurance policies on the judge with a combined value of $30,000, and the fourth contained a note to Mrs. Crater that ended with: "Am very weary. Love, JOE."

Whaaaaat?  The police were sure they had checked the dresser and had found no envelopes.  But they figured that while the Mrs was on her trip, “someone, either the missing judge or a trusted person acting in his behalf, had gained entrance to the apartment, placed the four envelopes in the secret drawer and got away unnoticed.”

So from 1931 til 2005, your guess was as good as anyone's as to where Judge Crater went.  But NY police reported that
His favorite madam,
Vivian Gordan.
a woman who had died earlier that year had left a handwritten note stating that her husband and several other men, including a police officer, had murdered Crater and buried his body under the Coney Island boardwalk. And it just so happens that the area she described was torn up in the 1950s to build the New York Aquarium.  

So I guess we'll never know.

Next week on Mysteries We'll Never Solve:  Where's the McRib?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Say Cheese

Situation: Company's coming in half an hour, and you forgot to pick up some fresh mozzarella cheese to go with the heirloom tomatoes in your antipasto, which is an Italian word meaning "against pasto."  (Similarly, to steal again from Bob Newhart, "provolone" means "in favor of volone.")

What do you do?  What DO you do?  Get the keys to the Volvo and drive back to the Bag 'N' Save, go past the displays of items seen in all grocery stores these days (40" TV monitors, pomegranate seed jelly and garden hoses) and grab some fresh mozzarella?  You can even stylize things and call it fresh "mootzarellllllll" if you have time, but you really should hurry, because the Crankingtons and the O'Hoolahans will be driving up in their Buicks soon.  

You see, now the ability to learn how to make your own cheese is within your reach!

Make my own cheese, you say?

As with everything else, it's all in watching a video to learn how. All you need is some whole milk, apple cider vinegar, some salt and spices, and a stove.  To be simple about, you heat the milk to a boil, dump in the other stuff, and then separate the curds and whey while sitting on a tuffet.  It looks like fun, and it would certainly be fresher than something that sat in the walk-in dairy cooler at the Try 'N' Shop next to some spoiled yogurt, but how will it taste?  It might be fun to find out.

And before we go running off to find out what a tuffet is, one more stop on the information highway.  This is a link to a place where they will teach you to raise your own mushrooms on your own blue jeans.

Now your days off are gonna be so busy!!!!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Rerun: Playing the Stock Market

From the Associated Press:

CLEVELAND — A woman caught on camera driving on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus that was unloading children will have to stand at an intersection wearing a sign warning about idiots.

A Cleveland Municipal Court judge on Monday ordered 32-year-old Shena Hardin to stand at an intersection for two days next week. She will have to wear a sign saying: "Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus."

The judge ordered her to wear the sign from 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. both days.

Hardin's license was suspended for 30 days and she was ordered to pay $250 in court costs.

This kid looks happy
If your sixth-grade class took a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, the you'll recall the stocks** that were used to punish wrongdoers back in the early days of American crime.  They were the wooden devices into which various parts of one's body were inserted for the purpose of punishment, so that your friends and neighbors, on their way home from the apothecary or the King's Arms Tavern could stop by and goof on you, although the goofing was done in that Early American style:

"Verily I say unto you, look at young Jeremiah yonder; loath will he be to violate the peace and quiet of the town square again."

Itchy and scratchy
This form of punishment is similar to the use of the hairshirt.  Ever notice that some words just kind of say what they are?  Like "ham sandwich" is the perfect way to describe a nice slice of pork butt on a roll, while "hamburger" is not an apt description of a fried ground beef sammy.  But a hairshirt is what it claims to be, a shirt with animal hair, to be worn against the skin for "mortification of the flesh," a form of penance once endured by California Governor Jerry Brown during his days in a seminary.  They really make you put this itchy garment on and sit around itchin' and twitchin' like a chicken, and the plan is that you achieve absolution by this form of self-punishment.

So, feel better about the form of punishment the judge gave you, Shena.  At least it won't itch, or give you splinters.

And please?  Stay off the sidewalks!!

A laughing stock.
**They are stocks, although many call them stockades.  The word stockade, properly, refers to a building used to hold prisoners.  We use the term laughing stock to describe objects of extreme ridicule, and that form of "stock" comes from the alternate meaning of the word: "something solid to which things can be affixed."  It's only a coincidence that the laughing stock of many a Colonial town was held in the local stock.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, February 7, 2015

One would hope that there were plans to encircle this property with a fence. Otherwise, it's a grand example of the Honor System at work.  This picture was shared by longtime Picture Show aficionado John David Gross!
Sometimes a book is just so good that you can't tear yourself away from it.
"I got the pizza T-shirt, pizza leggings, pizza I'm ready to go out and get looked at."  No matter how you slice it...
I don't know what they're building atop this mountain and I don't really need to know.  But they need a big truck to do it...
This is a sign graveyard for old signs of defunct businesses. Sad to see.
There's an Australian folk song..."Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, merry merry king of the bush is he..."  Well, here he is now!
I'm pretty sure I saw this sign in the library when I was a kid, but I didn't need encouragement from an owl to read!
I was listening to an old Jean Shepherd radio show in which the radio raconteur discussed John Dillinger folklore at length.  His point was that even though Dillinger was a cold-blooded killer, and robber, and all-around bad guy, he carefully built up a public image that made him seem a hero of sorts.  Odd.  And Shep also said that Dillinger was jailed as a youth for a relatively minor offense, and sent to a low-security penal camp.  But when he proved to be a great baseball player at the camp, prison officials wanted him for the prison team, so he moved up to hard time in the big house, thereby cementing his anti-social attitude.