Thursday, December 31, 2015

One Good Turn

More than in any other city in the nation, from what "they" say, people in Baltimore are known for their high school. It doesn't matter if you've gone to Harvard or Harford, Yale or jail, we want to know which high school you went to.  

Which is why I am proud to wear the maroon and white of Dear Old Towson High, my alma mater.  The irony is that, while I was actually enrolled there, I didn't spend as much time there as I was supposed to, but that's all water under the bridge that leads to the new synthetic turf field (above)...

Image result for towson high school

But what I am about to brag about is nothing that took place on the athletic field, but, rather, in the classroom of English department chairperson Jenna Zava, who, in an interesting assignment, gave her students a month to do three acts of kindness. Claire Fluharty gave her 12th grade AP English class the same task. Students had free choice of what to do, but the goal stated by Ms Zava was "to spread kindness and cheer in the school and the Towson community."

You may read all about it here in the Baltimore SUN

I was impressed!  One of the students baked a plate of chocolate chip cookies for a hard-working member of the custodial staff. Another presented her Spanish teacher with a plate of homemade cookies ("Un plato de galletas caseras," as I learned to say at THS.)

Another young woman chose to compliment five passersby per day, which led to a lot of "You talking to ME???" responses. Another chased the mail truck up her street to catch up to, and thank, the surprised letter carrier at the wheel. 

From baking homemade latkes for a family Hanukkah celebration to helping elderly people reach items on the top shelf at the grocery store (they always put that stuff way up high!), all the students found ways to complete the assignment, which Ms Zava devised after a group of her friends raised money to help her care for her six-year-old son, who has a rare genetic disease.  She mentioned the Random Acts of Kindness website, which shares ideas about doing this very thing.

From my days as a Boy Scout, where we tried to perform a good turn daily, I have tried to carry on this tradition, with varying levels of success.  But one thing I do know is, if you really want to get in the habit of doing something nice for someone every day, it's not that hard. Going to that Random Acts website will give you hundreds of ideas in many categories. 

"I wanted to try it out on a small scale this year and see how it went," is Ms Zava's reaction to how the assignment turned out. "Perhaps next year we can have more students participate."

And perhaps all of us can do something nice for someone every day in 2016.  Want to bet that we can?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Something to try at the office

If you watch football games with only casual interest, you don't know much about the beefy guys who play the offensive or defensive line in most cases, until one of them lines up offside or gets caught for holding or a false start or some such.

Then, the referee stops play, picks up the yellow flag that signaled a penalty, and gets on his microphone to announce the player's number and infraction to the 70,000 assembled at the stadium and the 70 million* watching worldwide on television.

And then the camera zooms in on the player who sinned. Sometimes he reacts with a snarl, contesting his guilt, and sometimes he lowers his head and sheepishly strolls back to the huddle to get ready for the next play.

And of course, this gets me to thinking.

What if this sort of thing happened at EVERY workplace?

Picture a large office, the standard cubicle farm filled with people pecking away at keyboards, punching numbers into spreadsheets or calculators, and sharing YouTube videos of Ashton Kutcher pranking someone.

Of course the boss looks and sounds like
Ed Hochuli!
Over by the front door, here comes Gilly, sneaking in late again. But wait!  The boss, wearing a striped shirt, spots him, and throws a handkerchief on the ground! Then he goes to his phone, dials the Public Address feature, and says, "Lateness! 15 minutes! Gilly O'Gilligan! Gilly will have to come in on Saturday morning to make up his time!"  And the rest of the office cheers, or moans, depending upon how each individual feels about Gilly's lateness.

Imagine all the various office infractions that could be penalized by announcing them to the other guys 'n' gals trying to make a living there!  


  • Doris's stanky cologne!
  • Norman stealing lunches from the refrigerator!
  • Jimbo rattling his pocket change!
  • Mildred playing her radio at a volume unacceptable to others nearby!
  • Steve forcing others to buy his daughter's Girl Scout cookies!
  • Ernestina humming that same song all morning!
This could truly change office life as we know it, and, if nothing else, it could bring the sadly needed gift of laughter to workplace culture.  I urge all bigshots to consider it.


*Audience estimation wildly inflated to make a spurious point

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The real true taste of New Year's Snackin' Eve

This is not Pinterest and I am not Martha Stewart.  Now that we have that cleared up, I want to say that every year at this time I think about what New Year's Eve meant to me when I was but a barefoot boy with cheek of tan. I used to enjoy staying up late to watch the ball drop in Times Square, and I enjoyed changing the calendars around the house, all the while shaking my head over the fact that the Tonight Show came on in one year and went off in a whole 'nother one.

It didn't take much to amuse me.  Still doesn't.

But one thing I always loved about NYE was whipping up a mess of Chex Mix.  I thought I would share the recipe - the original recipe from way back when we shunned margarine and chemical-tasting "spreads" and used a real oven to cook, rather than a Radarange.

To be quite honest...the original printed recipe from the good people at Ralston-Purina only called for Chex as cereal, but if you add the pretzel sticks and Cheerios, then you get to call this "Nuts and Bolts" as we used to.

Ingredients for real Chex Mix: 

1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 cups Wheat, Rice or Corn Chex, or any combination
1/4 teaspoon salty seasoning (like Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt)
2 cups peanuts
2 cups of thin pretzel sticks, optional
I cup of regular Cheerios

Instructions

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Melt the butter in a shallow baking pan. Stir the Worcestershire sauce and salty seasoning into the butter. Add the cereal, nuts and pretzel sticks; mix well. Bake at 275 degrees F for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Let cool.

You can also add Cheez-Its, and, of course, as with any recipe that calls for Worcestershire sauce, when they say "1 teaspoon" of the wonderful stuff from Lea & Perrins, they really mean like "3 tablespoons." 

A bowlful of this to share with people you love, maybe a can of Boh, and 2016 will be easier to welcome and 2015 easier to forget.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

Don't try this at home!




Some things are better left to the experts, but you have to love people for trying.

Ask any plumber how many times they get called to someone's house, only to find that Handy Harry tried and failed to replace a toilet or unclog a drain.  First step is to undo the work of the well-intended amateur, and then fix the original problem. Since the plumber will be at Harry's house twice as long, so will his bill be twice as large.

"Let's turn this unused deck into a nice enclosed sunroom" is often the last sentence you hear from a would-be carpenter, just before disaster sets in.

"Why hire an electrician, when I can learn how to rewire the house online by watching YouTube videos?" is the statement that precedes a series of shocking events in home after home.

I have known people who deluded themselves into thinking they could perform physical therapy on themselves following surgery, overhaul a car engine by reading HOT ROD magazine, and represent themselves in court in a complicated legal matter. Time would prove them all wrong, but, again, you have to hand it to them for trying so hard.

But as someone who appreciates a good joke well told (not that I do that myself, ya unnerstan'...) I can't help but think of a dude I knew years ago who wanted so hard to be funny.  He would make up jokes that had all the form and rhythm of a real joke, so you would be there by the water cooler when he said, "A guy walks into a sub shop and says, 'Gimme a cold cut sub with everything,' and the guy behind the counter says, 'Do you want onions on that?' and the guy says, 'Onions are part of everything, aren't they?'"

And you just stand there going, Wha?????????

He would take a Henny Youngman gag like "If at first you don't succeed, so much for skydiving!" and say it like this: "If it doesn't work out when you go skydiving, you could be seriously injured, and then it's like 'If at first you don't succeed.'"

The thing of it is, the guy was a really great electrician. That's why I saw him so often.



Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Rerun: SDWSOTRHO

I don't intend to turn this blog into a music sharing review.  I think it's better that we keep it as it is, a frank and honest discussion of our modern times, our national aspirations, and the public weal.

For instance, I notice as I parade around the neighborhood on my daily walk, I really love certain songs on my iPod.  And I have to tell you, most people would be raising one or both eyebrows if they saw some of the songs I love.  I mean, most men my age are not supposed to enjoy AC/DC this much.  And The Rolling Stones, all of whom at least have a good lead on me on the race to the finish.

And that brings me to the new playlist I am starting on the iPod.  I call it "Songs During Which Someone On The Record Hollers Out."

This is a longtime interest of mine, how a musician will be so moved by the music being played that he or she will ejaculate* if you will, during the song, or as it fades.

Arthur Lee 1945 -2006
For instance, let's take my favorite, Arthur Lee, leader of the 60's band Love. Love had three great albums, ok, maybe 2, but he was a genius, way ahead of his time.  In 1972, he became a vegetarian and put out a solo album called "Vindicator," which contained the anti-meat anthem "Hamburger Breath Stinkfinger."  Not a subtle man, Arthur.  But on that album there was a song about how he met a woman who came to a party at his house by jumping through the bedroom window. Listen to "Love Jumped Through My Window," and hear Arthur give himself a shout of appreciation for his guitar skills at 1:08 into it.

Another CD that Peggy thinks sounds better in my truck and should therefore stay there is "Gorilla," by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.  That late, lamented group specialized in comic novelty numbers and parodies.  At 2:59 on their Dixieland takeoff "Jazz - Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold" you will hear what you always hear during Dixieland records...someone hollering "Oh yeah! Oh yeah!  Oh yeah!"

The other Dixieland record I can stand is an English version of an old Russian classical number.  Of course, we're talking about "Midnight In Moscow" in which, 2:20 into it, as the trombonist does what every trombonist does and drags that tube all the way down, someone else can be heard to holler "Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Two more, then I got to go.  On "Respectable," Mick Jagger is leading the Rolling Stones and introduces a break by second guitarist Ron Wood by shouting "Aw, Ron Wood!" at 2:08.

And that's the exact time in "Happy Jack" that Pete Townshend of The Who hollers "I saw you!" to drummer Keith Moon, who, against orders and logic, kept trying to sing on the song with the others in the band. 

And now I have to go for a walk.  Thanks!


*Merriam-Webster, definition 2: "to say (something) suddenly and forcefully"

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, December 26, 2015

Well, you take a carpenter's pencil and a really sharp, tiny blade, and you make this masterpiece!  Amazing work!
Peggy and I were the only two fans of the Baltimore Ravens who liked the gold alternate pants they wore last Sunday.  What's odd about that is that we rarely agree on any item of clothing!  What was so wrong with the mustard pants?
I was fascinated by collecting coins when I was a kid.  It's fun to imagine how many hands, cash registers and pockets this penny has been in in almost 100 years.
I usually don't go for black-and-white photos, since the beauty of the world is in color, but doggone it, when you see a pair of pants like that, you have to share that picture!  They would look great in a mustardy color!
This is a picture of a young woman patting a llama above a rainbow in Machu Picchu.
This reminds me of a lot of parties we've been to.  Hungry Koi fish!
This is New York City from the air, at night.
Look at those eyes.  Just look at those eyes.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My Big Boy Christmas List 2015

My big boy Christmas list.  

By Marky Mark, age:64.

Dear Santa,

What I would really like would be to have people follow the Golden Rule...the good old golden rule about treating others as you want to be treated by them...

Maybe that could start by having people remember that we don't always know what's going on in the lives of others.  It always comes as a huge shock to human beings to find out that others are living their own lives and do not place OUR needs, wants and desires ahead of their own.

So before we get all churlish because the server was a little slow in bringing us a coffee refill, maybe we should know that she was getting a little treat from the kitchen for a child who just got out of the hospital and is scared to death of death.

Before we pick on Steve Harvey for announcing the wrong woman as Miss Universe, we should think about what it must be like to emcee a live international TV show with producers and directors in our ears and eyes, everyone telling you this and that at once.

The man made a mistake. And that's not even as serious as the mistake that people make in promulgating a world in which young women are told that the only way to be relevant and important and recognized is to be born with a beautiful appearance. 

Make no mistake: every person is beautiful, each in his or her own way.

Santa, I'd also like for all of us to be a trifle less touchy and suspicious. It so happens that the court where Peggy and I live is wonderfully multinational in population...people of all sorts of ethnic and religious backgrounds live here. It still makes no difference to me where and how they worship and whom they love.

I do wish that one guy would fix the squeaky brakes on his car, but how he came to live in America is not part of that. 

I'd like for everyone to settle down, stay in their own lanes, and mind their beeswax.  Help a neighbor, do your job, have a little fun at a ballgame or a movie or art museum and go home and live your life in self respect. Please, stop giving the finger to people in traffic, stop cheating your boss or your significant others, and please give up the notion that making people fear you makes them respect you. 

Santa, if we could all get a heaping helping of charity, kindness and good-heartedness, there could be a world where no one cared if they found drones, 3D printers and personalized Chuck Taylor sneakers under the tree!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Shave and a haircut

I try to stay on top of all the latest trends, even though I fall off of them all too often.  

I was slow converting from cassette tapes to CDs, and now I still like to burn and buy CDs while everyone else is into Pandora and Apple Music and whatever else.  I only like what I like, so I'm better off being a step behind.

I have about 10,349 movies and old TV shows on VHS tapes down in the basement.  You laugh, but tape will come back someday, and I'll be ready to enjoy "About Last Night" starring Demi Moore and Rob Lowe.

Dr Pitbull will see you now
I must have been out of the room when the memo came out stating that men don't have to wear ties anymore. That's great if you want to go to work and look like Pitbull, but I still think a tie looks more professional... preferably worn with a suit that fits like suits are supposed to fit, which is to say a suit that doesn't look like the one you bought for Easter in 1987 and keep trying to make it last.  If it's tight, if the jacket sleeve cuffs are halfway to your elbows, if you can hardly breathe while wearing it...Goodwill wants it for someone much smaller, thanks.


But I think it's time we discussed the new trend of men's hairdids. The classic side-part with a close shave on the sides is back, friends. You see it on that guy from Pentatonix, second from the right (above).  You see it on every other young dude picking out kale for a pomegranate salad at Wegmans.
It did not end well for him

And you see it on John Dillinger's old mug shots. His example was not one to follow. 

Where did we go wrong, from hollering that people's hair was too long to complaining that it's too short?

Do we really want to look like we just got our hair cut at the prison barber shop?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

LeBronophobia: the fear of having a 250 lb, 6' 8" man land on top of you

Big shots like Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee like to sit so close to the action at National Basketball Ass'n games, they might as well put on a tank top and go out there and play.

Then I might finally watch an NBA game! As it is, it's about as interesting to me as watching a giant toss a ball into a can. Strategy, split-second decisions and clever designs?  That's for baseball and football. Pro basketball is men dragging each other up and down the court, tossing that biscuit into the basket, and then dragging down to the other end.  If you want to see basketball played with finesse and expertise from practice and unity of effort, watch a women's team, such as the perennially great squads at the Univ. of Maryland, and leave the 8' men to their own game.  

And I say this as someone who is tall, so there's that.

But if the NBA is going to stay in business, they are going to have to do something about those seats 6" from the court where luminaries and rich people sit to watch the game, all the while praying that someone the size of LeBron James does not land on them while chasing a ball.

It happened the other night to Ellie Day, the wife of golfer Jason Day, currently ranked #2 in his profession.  She was at a Cleveland Cavaliers game in the glamour seats, and James flew off the court after a ball.  Ms Day, who delivered her second child just last month, served as his landing strip, and needed to be carried from the court on a stretcher and in a neck brace.  

Cavaliers coach David Blatt said such seats "concerned" him after the completely unnecessary and avoidable accident.

"Honestly, the only thing I saw was LeBron diving for the ball to save the ball," Blatt said. "I kind of got blocked and just saw a sea of bodies. We all hope that she's OK. It's always concerned me, the sideline seats. Always concerned me, because things like that, when you're talking about players of this speed and physicality and effort level, it's not a simple thing.

"The powers that be are the ones that really need to decide how to deal with that. He made an honest attempt at the basketball, that's all, obviously. We all hope she's OK."

LeBron James heads for the stands...
Of course, no one is blaming James for doing what he is paid so handsomely to do. The league hasn't commented on something that is only marginally safer than allowing spectators to jaywalk across the track at a NASCAR race.

But James doesn't seem to be too worried about fans sitting courtside: "I think it's a great experience for our fans. I mean, that doesn't happen much. It's unfortunate it happened (that evening), but that doesn't happen much."

...and the aftermath
"Our fans are why our game is so great. Sitting courtside, it's all part of the game. It's pretty cool. If I was a fan, which I am a fan of the game, but, I would love to sit courtside and watch games."

In pro hockey, after a 13-year old girl died from being hit by a flying puck at a game, the National Hockey League installed safety netting above the plexiglass which surrounds its rinks.

In June, Tonya Carpenter was suffered "life threatening" injuries after a broken bat struck her at Boston's Fenway Park.  She has recovered. The Red Sox raised the netting around the dugouts and home plate, and the major leagues, rather than allowing fans to sit on lawn chairs along the first and third-base lines, is recommending that more nets be put up to protect fans.

It really doesn't matter to me, because you will see me in the audience for "Maury" or "Jerry Springer" before you'll see me shelling out money to sit in an NBA arena. But maybe they'll get the point.

Monday, December 21, 2015

How do you get in touch with Mike Rowe? Use a mikerowephone!

I know.  It's cool, it's sassy, it's smart-assy.  

You top someone in a match of wits, you "drop the mic."

You retire from playing soccer, and announce your future plans to visit Bourbon St, you drop the mic twice in one evening.

Abby Wambach, soccer player, did that just the other night, and while I take nothing away from her brilliant career in the most boring game in the world, and while I don't blame her at all for making a flamboyant exit, I wish she could have said what she had to say and handled the mic properly.

Same with musical performers and others who top someone else and strut off after dropping a microphone.

To the generation that so loves to use the adverb "literally" for every verb, I ask you to not literally drop microphones.


Microphones are sensitive electronic equipment.  As someone who made a living speaking into one, I believe they should be cared for and respected.  The symbolism of someone dropping a mic onto a stage floor or a soccer field reminds me of those who would love to take the microphone of speaking freely away from us, and that's not good. 

Not to mention this. What does that say to the audio tech or concert hall sound rigger who has to pick up that mic and clean it off, hoping to be able to use it again?  It's disrespect, almost of the highest (lowest) form.

Thanks for listening to me on this vital topic. (* leaves mic on stand, bows humbly, and walks off smiling*)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Rerun: And many of these people vote!

I'm as patriotic as the next guy, but I'm really worried about our country these days, because the collective IQ has fallen precipitously.  It's bad enough that thousands of people with very little information about epidemiology are suddenly demanding that a little-known virus be eradicated by no later than the end of this week, while still refusing to get their flu vaccination, on the grounds that "the flu shot gives you the flu" (it does not, but nice try) or "the government puts something in the shot that allows them to control your mind, or track your whereabouts, or both" (see this explanation of that folly.)

And we have people here who willingly court death by taunting jungle animals, or by putting themselves in the paths of tornadoes and other weather disasters. 

And we have teachers in Louisiana being forced to teach children that fire-breathing dragons once existed and chased Fred Flintstone all the way home from work at Slate Rock and Gravel Company. I look forward to discussing this someday with people in Louisiana, as if I would ever go there.

No, I am troubled with the fact that our criminals are just growing more obtuse every day. Take Brigitte Jackson, down in Atlanta. She came up with a can't-miss way to get rich quick. She filed an income tax return claiming an income of $99 million. Georgia Revenue authorities reeled her in nicely, though. They sent her a fake check for a refund worth $94,323,148 and told her to cash it at the bank branch inside a Cobb County supermarket where agents were waiting in the heavily-salted snack chip aisle to pinch her when she tried to cash in her chips.  Video here, for your amusement. She had "no comment."

"Do you need change with that?"
Then there was Alice Pike, out of Covington, Ga, who tried to pay for her merchandise at WalMart with a crisp new $1,000,000 US bill. That's right.  She tried to pass off a novelty bill as legal currency worth a million semolians. She said she got the bogus moolah from her estranged husband, and he's a coin collector and everything.

She's lucky they only took her to jail. Three states to the west, in Louisiana, they might have let the fire-breathing dragons loose on her.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, December 19, 2015

You can go to Liverpool, England, to see these statues of the four moptopped lads who made that city famous, yeah yeah yeah! John-Ringo-George-Paul...the Beatles!
There was a clothing store I used to frequent that had the men's size 38-short suits on the very upper reaches of the racks, and the 48-xlongs on the very lowest.  Same deal here. The people with aching backs don't want to reach all the way for their pills!

Simple and elegant winter decorations.  The pineapple was a sign of welcome in Colonial America.
This parking lot was photographed in the 1970s, from the looks of the cars on it.  You just have the feeling that a guy is still sitting in a Chevy Vega, waiting for the guy in the Celica ahead of him to move so he can finally go home.
There are two kinds of people at holiday time...those who call it eggnog, and those who call it eggnot.  Make mine a double, with nutmeg and cheap whisky.
For those who have popsicle toes all winter, there is one sure cure...wool sox!
The ultimate selfie is when you can get Jumbo The Elephant to help you out!
This is the last Saturday Picture Show before Christmas, and we wish you the happiest one yet! Here is the personally signed card sent out years ago by Baltimore's favorite son, the one, the only, George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Leave me alone

According to the National Rake Foundation - and they ought to know - the last autumn leaf to fall off a tree comes down off the Bradford Pear tree in the front yard of the splendid home I share with the wonderful Mrs C.  Every other tree in North America seems to wrap up its Fall Color Show by the time I get to put the rakes and blower back in the shed/
Hey, the county even stopped collecting leaf bags two or three weeks ago. All through October and November we ride around the suburbs, marvelling at the lovely colors as the other trees in town see their leaves change color. The oaks turn red, brown and russet. Hickories go all golden bronze; dogwoods become purplish-red. There are birches, all bright yellow, and maples that run the color gamut from orangey red to scarlet.

The rest of the trees on our little slice o'heaven are ash trees, whose leaves have the kindness to turn a kind of paper-bag color and drop off while the lawn is still being cut, so there's not much to rake. 

Oh, but this Bradford Pear ("Bradford" being a word meaning "little inedible pellets that stain the driveway and sidewalks") is stubborn. While every other tree turns colors and their owners rake up the detritus and then put the rakes away for another year, we are stuck waiting for the change to occur.

And we wait.  And wait.

As happened this week, it usually works out that a windy rainstorm finishes denuding the tree, and then after things dry out a bit, I get out there with the annoying leaf blower and round up the crunchy foliage, hiding it in bags otherwise full of household debris.

But all the while as I bag 'em up, I talk to the tree and ask it if it would mind sharing the yard with a nice apple tree.  

Sure, it's rude of me, but this time next year, I could be baking a free pie!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

May the 4th be with you

I was watching ABC's Good Morning America, which is a leisure time, sort of news show, owned by the Disney people.

You might forget that Disney owns ABC as well as the Star Wars movie and merchandising empire.  Hence, it's in their best interests to promote the movie they own on the tv show they own.  

After the world premiere of the latest SW movie, GMA showed human beings clamoring to see the film at an AMC theatre in LA. I was wondering why one science fiction enthusiast was hollering "More camel!  More camel!"  I have not seen any of these movies, but I do know they take place in outer space, where people have odd names and play with light sabers.  And I was perplexed because I assumed that there were no camels in outer space, since dromedaries are not known to be capable of flying.  Although, they will walk a mile for you.

It turned out that what the man was saying was not "More camel!" at all, but, rather, "Mark Hamill!"  

I know Mark Hamill is an actor, best known for being in Star Wars, and I wondered what his deal was.  Apparently he still lives off this one role in a 1977 movie, which is probably paying him somewhere between what the guy who sells popcorn at the ballpark makes and what the star third baseman gets.


But I was amused to see that Hamill is willing to write funny things on your official Star Wars® Trading Card, as seen here.  This tauntaun thing he was jockeying around in the movie is "a species of snow lizard found roaming the windswept snow plains of Hoth. The Rebel Alliance domesticated the swift creature during their stay on the ice planet, and used the animals for patrol duties outside Echo Base" according to something called Wookiepedia.

So, after all these years, this is what I have missed out on?  It's about a guy in outer space riding a lizard?

A snow lizard.  Yikes! Enjoy the movie. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sundown

I will admit that I am a stranger to the selection committee for the Smart People of Science, but I had to stop and scratch my melon when a friend posted a link to this article online.  At first, I thought it was one of those parodies from The Onion or something, but no.  It's legit, although not too legit to quit.

The article, from the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, down North Carolina way, tells of a vote in the town council of Woodland that forbade approval for a solar farm.  The vote was 3-1. The town seems to be afraid that a solar farm will use up all the sunshine, leaving none for them.

My dad had a batty aunt who believed that electricity leaked out of any outlet that did not have something plugged into it.  Really.  She would vacuum underneath such outlets to sweep up all the electrons lying about.

The Strata Solar Company wanted to build a solar farm off U.S. highway 258 down in North Carolina.  Previously, the town had approved three other solar operations in an area that is close to an electrical substation, so the electric power generated by these solar panels can be hooked up to the electrical grid and serve many people.

Remember...they already have three solar farms in operation.  So why turn down the fourth, which would have completed the encircling of the power plant?

Citizen Jean Barnes showed up with a petition that she said represented the views of many citizens who opposed the solar farm.  She did not say why they opposed it, just that they do.

Mary Hobbs opposed the new solar farm because she says the town is "slowly becoming a ghost town" where no young people want to come and work and live and put down roots.  

She did not say how a fourth solar farm would be detrimental to the town's economic development.

Then, Bobby and Jane Mann got up to speak.

Jane Mann said she likes the colorful flora that abounds in her hometown.  All sorts of plants grow there and make the community beautiful, she feels.  

And THEN she said she is a retired science teacher and is concerned that photosynthesis - the process we learned about in 7th grade by which green plants use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water - would stop happening in Woodland, NC.

Because the solar farm would use up all the available sunshine that falls on Woodland, NC, she said.

Mrs Mann said she has seen areas near solar panels where the plants are brown and dead due to lack of sunlight.  The article did not specify whether anyone asked if those plants might have withered because no one watered them, lack of water being another significant cause of plants getting all brown.

She also pointed to the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying no one could tell her that solar panels didn’t cause cancer, although she did not say how they could.

“I want to know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I want information. Enough is enough. I don’t see the profit for the town. People come with hidden agendas,” said the woman who once was paid to teach science to young people.

Bobby Mann, whom I take to be her husband, stated that solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not come to Woodland.

Several Strata company representatives spoke to the locals about solar farms, said there would be plenty of healthy vegetation near the farm, that solar farms are known to be safe, and have not been shown to reduce the value of homes in areas where they exist.

They changed the plan to increase setback from the road and said the solar farm would be have substantial amounts of vegetation.

Strata said solar farms are proven to be safe and exist next to homes, and that there are no negative impacts on property values statewide.

The company even offered $7,000 a year to the local fire department to keep them ready to respond to any emergency at the solar farm. 

The council responded by voting for a moratorium on any and all future solar farms in Woodland, NC.

In other news, in my thoughts, I have seen rings of smoke through the trees. I've heard Led Zepplin sing about that for years now, but now I know they wrote that lyric after a visit to Woodland, NC.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ballroom Blitz

In social news, the annual Marine Corps Ball went off without a hitch Friday night past.  Mixed Martial Arts star fighter Ronda Rousey finally decided to go to the dance with the Marine who invited her.  

Of course, between August, when Lance Cpl. Jarrod Haschert put up a YouTube video professing his hankering for Ms Rousey, and the dance itself, Ms Rousey, previously unbeaten and considered unbeatable, got into the octagonal ring with Holly Holm and had her lunch handed to her.  She was kicked in the kisser so hard in that fight, a month ago, that she is still not eating solid food.

So, as the date for the party approached last week, the world was holding its collective breath in hopes that Cpl Haschert was not going to be stood up. In the end, Rousey traveled from Los Angeles to South Carolina to attend.
Rousey and Haschert

Rousey told TMZ that if she hadn't already said she would go, she'd probably be on her couch "crying and eating ice cream" but decided at last to honor her commitment.

"... To get out of the house is probably a good thing," she said. "I promised I would go. It's an honor to be asked."

"I love everything you do, and I think you are a phenomenal person," is what the Marine said to her in the video. "Which is why it would be my honor to take you to the Marine Corps Ball on December 11. I hope you take this in consideration because, if you do, you will truly be making my dream come true."

This event marked the first time Rousey had been out in public since Holm whupped her upside the haid. She smiled for the crowd, made nice with the throng, but did not dance.

Hey now!  Ronda Rousey and I have something in common!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Earache, my eye!

Even though my daily pace has been measured at somewhere between "glacial" and "somnambulent," there is one thing you can say about me.  I am an early riser.  The cats don't even bother dive -bombing me awake any more; they know they can count on me shuffling down to the kitchen and doling out the Tuna 'n' Kibble while Marty Bass is still tieing his tie. 
Remember us?

I can't rely on the old Native American trick of guzzling a gallon of water just before shutting the peepers so as to guarantee an early wakeup, so I use an alarm clock.  And the one that I've been using has just been relegated to second-string status, sitting in my den with the sole job of keeping my second-string iPod charged.  

And why?  Simple?  It had the annoying feature of the alarm, whether on buzzer or radio, starting out super quiet and then gradually getting louder.

Very annoying, to me, at least. It's like someone trying to awaken you by whispering in your ear for a few seconds and then ramping it up to a bellow in a while.  

Look at this way...if an emergency vehicle is behind you and you are so intently listening to Adele rolling around in deep deep sorrow that you don't see the 27 flashing lights behind you, the driver will hit the siren. And that siren starts off loud and stays that way. 

So what I want in an alarm is something that says "Wake up!" And not something that says,"hey listen Mark good morning it's Friday and it looks like a sunny day with temps in the 60s so anytime you see fit to go ahead and get your socks on and feed the cats and empty the dishwasher and make coffee and tea, that would be great..."

(Click on the highlighted words "wake up" to hear an explanation for today's title.)

Nope.  Wake me up so I stay that way!  

And the other plus of the new clock radio is that I will be one minute earlier getting downstairs to see the morning news.  The old one, you hit the snooze button and you got ten more minutes in the arms of Morpheus.  This new one, the snooze cycle is NINE minutes!

See you in the morning!







Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Rerun: I'll believe it when I believe it

Let's say you're out driving.  It's been one of those days, boy. The stupid alarm clock didn't go off, you had to stop for gas on the way to work, you were late, the boss wasn't, they left the salami off your salami and cream cheese on date-nut bread sammy for lunch, but you had a hot date all set up for after work, so every prospect pleased.

Off work, run home and SS&S (shine, shower and shave) and then to the date, who leaves a note Scotch-taped to her apartment door saying sorry, but she left town earlier with a traveling saxophone player she met while picking up her dry-cleaning.  And in the note, she asks that you call her boss and let him know that she won't be back to work, and that he can mail her final paycheck c/o General Delivery, Schenectady. 

Since you are her boss, you don't have anyone to call.  Never truer.  But lookie!  Here you are, with a free Friday night, all to yourself, so let's get the phone out and check out Yelp to find out where's a good place over here in Biscuitville to get a sandwich, maybe dance a little, see a movie, buy a book...

I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but it's now estimated that 20% of the reviews on Yelp are phonier than Hollywood cleavage.  What a world, where proprietors of carry-out shops, bowling alleys, fruit stands and muffler garages can plant their own reviews on the local review site!  The San Francisco-based company says that they have filters in place to make sure that the person saying that Crazy Wayne's Wayback Tacos are worth driving across town for is not Crazy Wayne himself.  But, as they say, "who" can you trust?  (Trust people who say, "Whom can you trust?")
99% fake

Gee whiz, what else do we have to question?  What other sacred institutions must crumble and fall?  Next thing you know, that Norman Rockwell original you bought, the one that shows a cop giving directions to a lost hitchhiker on his iPhone, will turn out to be a forgery too!

And when you buy one of those counterfeit-bill detector pens, how do you know it's a real one?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, December 12, 2015

This is my all-time favorite Peanuts cartoon, from October 4, 1969.  Truer words were never spoken!
There's nothing like that says "The holidays are here" like when the Wienermobile rolls through The Avenue  At White Marsh.
It's instinctive, really.  Nature teachers mother Cats to carry their young Cats around until they can fend for themselves.
This is Hosny Mubarak, former Egyptian military and political leader.  I'll not say a word about him, except that the pinstripes in his suit spelled out his name.
It's the best part of waking up! A little caffeine-y smiley face in your cup!
It's the time of year for decorating the house for the holidays. Some people go with the Scrooge look (nothing at all) and some go crazier than loons, requiring the local electric company to build new transformers to keep the neighborhood lighted. I'm glad that most prefer a classy look like this.
It was not a big hit movie when it came out in 1983, but it's one of those pictures that became bigger on tape and TV and now DVD than it was at the theater.  Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" is always a highlight.
I had forgotten this kid magazine for years, but I read it every month, back in the day.  Do they still publish "Jack and Jill"?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Altared States

This really happened to a buddy of mine:

He got married years ago.


But wait!  There's more.  He got married in July, and he was therefore suitably attired in the full soup-and-fish...the white suit and tails, with rented patent leather shoes and all.  

Thus dressed, he was on his way to the church for the ceremony when he ran out of gas on Silver Spring Rd. (Note to prospective grooms: fill up the car before the rehearsal dinner!)

Now, I was not there to see this, but according to the groom himself, he saw a man mowing his lawn right by where his car conked out, and he got out of the car and ran to the man running the mower, asking if he could get some gas out of the little gas can in the driveway.  And as the story goes, the man had some sort of Scottish accent and sounded just like Angus Young when he burred, "Nooooo laddie ye cain't 'ave me gas; I'm tryinnnn' ta cut me grass." 

And the quick-thinking man, as the seconds ticked away to his altar appointment, waited until Lord Cheapenberry took his mower around the house to the back yard, and grabbed that gas can, and poured every drop of precious petrol into his car, and drove off, tossing the empty can back into Macbeth's driveway.

He got to church with minutes to spare.

In my dotage, I am often asked for advice by young men about to take their first dip in the matrimonial waters.  I always tell them to take a towel along.  Then after we all finish laughing, I get down to the serious nitty gritty about marriage. Not really about how to BE married; that's up to every participant to work out.  I'm talking about how to GET married, specifically, what to do when you're a man tying the knot with that special someone.


  • Pick up your rented clothing well in advance.
  • Try on EVERY SINGLE ITEM that comes in the vinyl suitbag...including the tie and including checking that there is a cummerbund (pause for laughter) and enough shirt studs (again).  There is nothing worse than seeing a guy with a bandana around his waist because TuxedoLand forgot his cummerbund, or with his shirt cuffs closed with paper clips.
  • On the day of the wedding, show up on time, dressed as you were told, be reasonably sober, and take your place in the background.  As it should be, all the attention will be on your lovely bride.  Your big day will be Opening Day for baseball, or when the monster truck show comes to a coliseum in your town.  This is HER day, so smile and pose and take wet sloppy kisses from Aunt Mildred and dream of Bigfoot.
  • Like any other actor, know your lines.  Yours are "I do," "I love you," and "Isn't this the tastiest cake you ever had?"  

Every man who wears a cummerbund gets to feel like he's Benedict Cumberbatch, whether he wants to or not.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Steal Industry

He doesn't hold a grudge: In December 2001, Winona was arrested for shoplifting $5,560 worth of stolen designer goods - including a $760 Marc Jacobs sweater
Crime Scene footage 
Crime Beat: December 14, 2001. It was dark in Los Angeles when actress Winona "Sticky Fingers" Ryder was arrested at the Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.  Employees of the tony store said they saw her put $4,760 worth of clothes and accessories into her bag.  There was video of her tearing the security tags off of the merchandise and placing the "free" stuff in a bag with items she had paid for.  Facing charges of grand theft, Ryder hired a mouthpiece named Mark Geragos, who promptly said, "It will become clear that there was no theft here. Ms. Ryder had no intent of depriving anybody of any property."

You may rest assured of this truth:  if I ever lose my grip and go into a store and shove as many Jackass T-shirts, Bing Crosby CDs and cans of wasabi peas as I can into a sack, and try to leave Cheap-E-Mart without paying...and there are 17 customers and employees all saying they saw me pulling off the caper...if there is HD video from 13 different cameras, none further than 3 feet away from me, all showing me furtively secreting the goods in a false-bottom bag...if a priest, a rabbi and a minister were headed into a bar next door, saw me purloin the items and immediately offered me absolution, forgiveness and a raffle ticket for a new Buick in exchange for my confession...if a courtroom sketch artist had been in the store and immediately pulled out a sketch pad and pencil to make a crude charcoal rendering of the crime in progress...if the heavens open to reveal Moses standing above me with two stone tablets in his hands, and he is pointing to Commandment #8 and shaking his head at me...and if a little urchin appears on the sidewalk with a tear running down his grubby face as he wails, "Say it ain't so, Mark!"...it will not fail that my lawyer will plead me "Guilty as hell, your honor!" and I will descend into a lowly place at the Ironbar Hilton.

'My dear friend': The fashion designer said the pair have been pals 'for over two and a half decades;
Ryder (l) and Jacobs

And...
One of the items she ripped off that day almost 14 years ago was a $760 Marc Jacobs sweater.

And...
Four days ago, Jacobs, who writes "fashion designer" in that little "occupation" space in the income tax form, said that he has hired Kleptosaurus Rex Ryder as the face of his line's new beauty campaign.

So to all the lovely women I know who want to be models, this is not how I recommend you get into it.  

I hope he pays her in free sweaters.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What has 4 legs and chases Katz? Mrs Katz and a private detective!

ZZ Top is that boogeyin' band from Texas that did "Sharp-Dressed Man," "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Legs," and "Sleeping Bag." They always roared up in an old hot rod with leggy Playboy-type models in their videos. The band comprises guitarist/leader/ vocalist Billy Gibbons, bassist and co-lead vocalist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard.

Gibbons and Hill have beards that reach to Delaware from here when the wind blows right.  Beard...has no beard.

Larry Fedora.jpgThis is Herbert L. "Larry' Fedora, head football coach at the University of North Carolina.  Though his name is Fedora, I can find no picture of him wearing a fedora-style hat.  He always seems to wear one of those visors.

We know that a lot of names derive from occupations people had while Chaucer was riding to Canterbury, such as John, the guy who made loaves for eating sandwiches, became John Baker, and Stanley, who made barrels, was Stanley Cooper, and the guy who sold them stones for wedding rings was, of course, Jared Diamond. (They went to him way back then, too!)

I remember asking Richard Nixon to fix me a burger and some fries, but he just shook his head and said, "I am not a cook!"

Names can also have NOTHING to do with their bearer.

At 13, tossed on the windy seas of whether I would live to see 14 or not, I madly crushed on a young lady who took care of me at Mercy Hospital:  Nurse Payne. Somewhere there must be a Mr Brewer who can't stand the taste of beer, and I once met a Reverend van Damme.

Moreover, there is no evidence that Marco Polo, creator of a call-and-response game still popular all over America, ever played any sort of mallet game on the back of a horse.


Alexander the "Average"
And, saddest of all, Alexander's wife confided to an early tabloid that her husband was not all that Great.