Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, April 30, 2016

This just seems like a nice place to live, if you'd like to be met by a bevy of tulips in the morning!
James Dean, American actor, wearing Jack Purcells, which is what every guy used to wear every day!
There were Oreos, and then Double-Stuf Oreos, and now this has just gotten out of hand.
Amsterdam from above.

Free tip for beachgoers: empty out a sunscreen bottle, wash it and let it dry, and there's your free hideaway for keys, coins, phones and etc.
"I dunno.  What do YOU feel like doin' tonight?"
Soda cans from long ago.  "Oh, say, could I have a Teem, please?"
If you've never seen this movie, you need to ask yourself why.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Another week in the big town

Today being the anniversary of the Baseball Game That No One Was Allowed To Attend last year at the Orioles' ballpark downtown, I thought it was a good idea to focus on two more items in the news that put our fair city in the negative national spotlight, both occurring this week.

The other day Baltimore City detectives shot and wounded a young teenager who was waving a BB pistol about. The young man will survive, but how foolish it is to be toting a fake gun in a real dangerous city.   And for the people who are piling on the cops in this matter: these are men and women who operate real guns every day of their lives, and if they can't distinguish a stupid bogus gun from a real deadly pistol, who can?  Did you expect them to just stand there and hope the kid couldn't do any more than plink a few empty cans with his weapon?

Lesson to be learned:  You know how they say you should dress for the job you expect to have someday.  It's the same if you wear a clip-on tie and a polyester shirt, or a $250 tie from Brooks Bros. If you get salad dressing on it, it's still going to leave a stain just the same.  And if you are carrying a toy gun to enhance your image, you have to expect to be treated the same as it it were the real. And parents should tell their children that.  This young man's mother knew he had the gun, but failed to take action.

No, it's not fair.  Next?

A seemingly-disturbed individual claiming to have been told by God that the world is coming to an end on June 3 dressed up in some sort of animal onesie outfit, fashioned a fake bomb out of candy bars and wires and a fire extinguisher pressure gauge and entered Baltimore's FOX45 TV station, bearing a thumb drive that he demanded be put on the air instead of Judge Judy. And then, unable to penetrate the secure vestibule that all TV stations have to set up now to keep those members of society who are not quite tied down securely at bay, he stalked out into the parking lot where the city SWAT team greeted him with dozens of calls to stand down, and then, three bullets, none of them fatal.

All of the stations found the man's father and interviewed him at length.  The man said that his son had suffered some sort of breakdown in the last two weeks, and that he and his wife had seen the contraption with all the wires and all in the basement, but chose not to check it out further.

Besides scaring the bejabbers out of hundreds of people and causing all this police activity, this folly shut down major streets and caused a lot of problems.  His parents saw that he needed help, but failed to take action.

Come on, folks.  We can do better than this.  I keep thinking...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Supremes!

I believe I have told the story over a million times, about the time I was in on a meeting in which a certain police department was attempting to quantify and reduce the number of erroneous calls from robot break-in surveillance and intrusion detector systems.

The committee formed to deal with the problem was called the False Alarm Reduction Team. 

And then, not long before my glorious retirement day, a certain agency I knew of that dealt with licensing local affairs decided to change its name from Permits and Inspections to PIA, for Permits, Inspections and Approvals.

Eagle-eyed wags in the courthouse rushed to point out the unfortunate acronym, and they switched it to Permits, Approvals, and Inspections.

I think the problem is that the sort of people who are in charge of coming up with names for important groups and agencies are not usually the sort of people who pay attention to snarky funny stuff like what's hilarious about saying that Hugh Jackman's real last name is Janus.

I see that the people at George Mason University need a humor advisor on their staff, as well. 

"Well, your honor, it was like this..."
The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin "The King of All Free Vacations" Scalia, who passed away while being treated to a luxury weekend by people who had cases before the Court, is still getting a law school named for him anyway.

OK.  It's their law school.  They could name it for Pee-Wee Herman, for all I care. 

But naming it for the beloved, distinguished actor and star of the beloved "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" television show and movies such as "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" would have given the school the initials P-WHSoL. 

That's not even remotely funny.

The Antonin Scalia School of Law, on the other hand, is.

The name of the school’s dean is Henry N. Butler.  I wish it were Oliver Closoff or Yuri Nator, but it's Henry N. Butler, and when he got the word from someone whispering into his ear that ASSoL made people giggle, he dashed off a letter to students, faculty members and alumni saying the school plans to make a small change in the name to achieve a more benign abbreviation.

“The name initially announced — the Antonin Scalia School of Law — has caused some acronym controversy on social media,” Mr. Butler wrote, without repeating any of the offending acronyms. “The Antonin Scalia Law School is a logical substitute.”

Acronym controversy.  Oh those crazy Washingtonians. Remember the Federal Air Transport Armed Security Service?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Moves Like Luigi

My favorite part of 5th grade was when we put a copper strip and a zinc nail into a half a lemon, attached a wire between the metals, and caused that wire to light up a flashlight bulb.

On another occasion, we touched recently-severed frogs' legs during a unit on French cooking bioelectricity with two metal sources, causing the legs to twitch and flail.

Fans of Frankenstein movies might be familiar with the term electrophysiology, which means the use of electricity to bring life to organisms.  That's how they got Frankenstein's Monster to come alive, by hooking up a jerry-rigged body to some Energizer batteries or some such. It was based on research by Italian physician Luigi Galvani, and the process of introducing electricity into living objects became known by his name. It's all in Mary Shelley's book Frankenstein, and since then, we have used the term "galvanized into action" for those moments when an electric tingle seems to get people stirred up.

After he saw his Uncle Luigi perfect the technique on amphibians, Giovanni Aldini demonstrated the electro-stimulation technique of deceased limbs by hooking up the juice to the recently-executed criminal George Foster in London in 1803, causing Foster to do an early version of The Stanky Leg.

Don't feel too bad for Foster; he had murdered his wife and child by drowning them.  

That metal garbage can out back, the one that won't rust but you don't use it too much anymore since Eleanor ran over it with the Buick...the reason it's not rusty is that it has been dipped in a protective zinc coating to prevent rust.  That's called Galvanized metal.

September 9, 1737 – December 4, 1798
And how do radio stations decide which records to play? Well, sometimes, they gather a roomful of listeners and hook up little electrodes on their skins.  See, people might tell you they don't like to hear Maroon 5, but if they really do like a record, their skin reacts with tiny voltage - called Galvanic skin response -  that tells the station to go on playing "Moves Like Jagger" all day and all night.

For all these things, we salute Luigi Galvani by paying the electric bill every month. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The best things really are free!

I don't think that a lot of other cities have something like we have in's called Sherwood Gardens, a free park that really is like the old shampoo claimed to be: a garden of earthly delights.

It's in the Guilford section of town, near Johns Hopkins University and the high-tone homes on North Charles Street. This is where the old money lives in Baltimore, friends, and the people are generous with nature's bounty.

A.S. Abell, who founded the Baltimore Sun newspaper, originally owned the property where the gardens bloom.  In his day, that part of the  
acreage was the location of a pond on his large estate, but as the property was sold off in lots with the plan to build houses (very large houses!) six acres, formerly the pond, were filled in with earth, for planting pretty things. 

Enter John W. Sherwood, the chairman of the Sinclair Oil Company, who first planted tulips imported from Holland in the 1920s.  Interesting local connection: Sherwood's father was the president of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, a passenger ship line nicknamed the "Old Bay Line." Their ships took passengers down the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, Virginia. Our beloved local Old Bay crab and seafood seasoning was named for those boats. 

It was Sherwood's idea to have the public come down and stroll around the grounds, enjoying the amazing sights and smells.  When he died in 1965, he bequeathed enough money to the community to maintain the Gardens for a year.  Ever since, the Guilford Association has assumed the costs of keeping the Gardens pleasant for all and free for all.  There are no gates or entrances of any sort.

Today, Sherwood Gardens still flourishes.  There are 80,000 tulip bulbs and other spring flowering bulbs planted annually. Shade trees such as dogwoods, flowering cherries, wisteria and magnolias just happen to blossom all over at around the same time at the ground plants...including the beautifully colored azaleas.  They say that some of these plants date back to the 18th century and were brought up from old colonial estates in Southern Maryland.  

On the other hand, each of those 80,000 tulip bulbs is planted every single year.  Locals are allowed to come down and dig up bulbs after the season ends.

Peggy and I try to get down there every year in late April or early May.  I recommend going on a weekday if you like to avoid the big crowds.  People saunter along, enthralled by the sights. Frisbees fly, dogs on leashes gambol about, kids bring juice boxes and snacks, but you won't see discarded litter...just happy people having a free day enjoying nature.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Not Sonny Bono...even worse

I happen to know several people who know the square root of sweet nada about automobile maintenance and operation.  I love them dearly, but I do not get their opinion on how to handle a shimmy in the rear wheels or a balky transmission.  Better to talk to someone who has had a wrench in their hand!

I have no words
I bring this up because these days in Washington DC, there are men who have no more time in military uniform than Pee-Wee Herman, all vying for the office of the presidency, all weighing in with their two cents worth on how to handle global terrorism.  Messrs. Cruz and Trump call for "bombing the (expletive) out of ISIL," and "making the sand glow green."  Well, that's just crazy.  What we SHOULD do is turn to a man who, in his 55 years of stalking around this earth, has demonstrated a great grip on the issues - and the solutions - of our day. 

I'm talking about Bono.  The man born Paul David Hewson, who inaccurately calls himself "Bono," short for "Bono Vox," Latin for "good voice."  That rock singer guy with the sunglasses and the impossibly self-satisfied attitude as he struts along was, don't laugh, invited to address the Senate on the topic of terror, Syrian refugees, and where to find a really good plate of haggis (don't look it up; you'll get sick.)

Image result for bono in congress“Don’t laugh," he instructed the senators at the Dirksen Senate Building in D.C. "I think comedy should be deployed. It’s like, you speak violence, you speak their language. But you laugh at them, when they’re goose-stepping down the street, and it takes away their power. So, I’m suggesting that the Senate send in Amy Schumer, and Chris Rock, and Sacha Baron Cohen, thank you.”

There are missing schoolgirls in Africa, there's unrest and violence afoot all over, concerns are rising over threats in Indonesia, and the Senate feels that a few words from the leader of U2 will provide the touchstones by which to chart the destiny of a nation and the free world.

And, Chris Rock is hilarious.  Amy Schumer, somewhat so, but that Cohen guy?  No matter how heinous the terrorism, no matter how greatly the world needs to bring the evildoers to justice, there is no one in the world whose actions mean they deserve to have to listen to his Borat jokes.

Except Bono!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Rerun: "All my work has been from God, for God, and for my people." - Thomas Dorsey

I find it interesting when a person learns to do one thing well, and fascinating when someone can do two things well.  For someone who can do three things well - for example, writing, singing, and performing monologues - we have the example of Garrison Keillor.  There aren't many others like Mr Keillor, the host of "A Prairie Home Companion" on the radio.  

I will bet you a nickel that Mr Keillor has sung the songs of Thomas A. Dorsey on his show.  His later songs, that is.  Thomas A. Dorsey was an interesting man.  

Thomas A. Dorsey
For one thing, he is not to be confused with the big band leader Tommy Dorsey, who gave Sinatra his big break a hundred and ten years ago.  This Thomas A. Dorsey (1899 - 1993) is today known as the father of black gospel music, which would seem to come naturally to someone whose father was a preacher and his mother, a piano teacher.  Starting in the Roaring Twenties, he was part of such bands as the "Wild Cats Jazz Band," and he performed under names such as Barrelhouse Tom and Texas Tommy or Georgia Tom, under which sobriquet he partnered with a fellow named Tampa Red to compose the pretty love ballad "Tight Like That."  He wrote hundreds of such songs.  Local residents who used to listen to The Greaseman on the radio will remember how Grease would use Dorsey's jazzy "Somebody's Been Usin' That Thing" for comedic effect.  

However, Mr Dorsey was also dabbling in gospel music at the same time, performing at the 1930 National Baptist Convention and working as musical director in several churches.  Music, and his religious upbringing, brought the gospel out in him.

And then, in 1932, his wife Nettie died in childbirth.  Compounding the tragedy, the child she bore died two days later.  Out of the anguish of the man who only years before had written ribald barrelhouse blues came the gospel classic "Take My Hand, Precious Lord."  This song was most famous in its version by Mahalia Jackson, and it was the song played at the rally led by Dr Martin Luther King the night before he was assassinated, and the favorite song of President Lyndon Johnson, who requested that it be played at his funeral.

Mr Dorsey also wrote "Peace In the Valley" and many many other songs performed in churches of all faiths the world over.  Rock 'n' roll music has as one of its foundations the gospel music tradition, and in Thomas A. Dorsey we saw the faithful world meeting the secular long before Elvis and Little Richard joined the two.

I keep waiting to hear Paul Harvey tell us that this was the rest of the story, but oh well... 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, April 23, 2015

This is a mic from the museum in the old Sun Record Company in Memphis.  Musical magic from the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison came to us via this microphone.
I always liked this record for the music and for the album cover, which has always made me think of nougat being stirred.
Sunrise on a muddy morning at the farm.
What can brown do for you? They might start with closing the back door of the truck.
This mossy, ivy-covered place is an abandoned fishing village on Gouqi Island, China.
If you aren't attracting the sort of people you wish to have in your life, just try some Vi-Rex Violet Rays and turn yourself into a magnet.  That oughta do the trick!
It's becoming fashionable again among the worrisome to worry about the Russians. Here is one reason for them to fret: those darn Russkies are way ahead of us in plunger technology!
This pretty bird goes around with the ornithological designation "The Common Jay" but he manages to overcome it and look uncommonly cool.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Kids Are Alright

Once again this year, yesterday I got to do one of my favorite things at one of my favorite places.  

Every year, the faculty of Towson High School (my dear old alma mater) conducts interviews for the junior class.  The topic? Nothing specific.  The point is to familiarize students with the process of being interviewed for college and/or job applications, which they will all deal with presently.

I get invited to participate every year and I really enjoy it. The students file into the library as we sit at tables, and are assigned randomly to an interviewer for a 15-minute back-and-forth.  I ask the kids the usual questions common to all interviews: where do you wish to be in ten years, and what would you like to be doing? you plan to go to college (which one)?...what is the most interesting thing about you?

And I always make sure to ask the student what is on his or her mind...what are the issues that concern them, and what do they think they can do to make it a better world?

And I get magnificent, well-reasoned answers that almost seem as if they had 24 hours to think things through.  I mean, here they are, dressed up in professional attire, sitting with a man who stuns them by saying, "You know, I was graduated from Towson High in 1969..." (just after the Pleistocene Era) and they mainly stay poised and confident, presenting us with resumes and their best feet forward.

One young man out of the fifteen I talked with failed to have a resume to give me, proffering the 2016 version of "The dog ate it" ("My printer is broken.")  I pointed that if there were a sure prize of $10,000 given just for having a printed resume, he doggone sure would have found a way to get his printed. This is the sort of cunning logic that made me so very popular among people I supervised over the years.

But he was the only one who let me down in any way.  I can't even bristle too much about the young man who misspelled "Calculus" on  his resume on his list of Advanced Placement classes, since I was as big a stranger to calculus or any advanced math as Gwyneth Paltrow is at a buffet.

And let me tell you something else. These kids, given a chance to talk about what issues are important to the world, mentioned unchecked diseases and viruses, the need to make life affordable for the middle class, gun violence, climate change, poverty, hunger and the need to supply decent living conditions for all.

No one mentioned that we have to build walls to keep people from other countries or faiths away, or that every person who doesn't look, sound or act just like us wishes us dead, and not a one of them seemed to be losing sleep over which toilet a transgendered person can use.

I feel better every year after we do this!  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Only $2.99"

You know what's interesting about the law is how people can wrap themselves in it like a protective overcoat when they need to.

I'm thinking of Blake Shelton, who calls himself a country singer. He likes to promote a rakish image of himself.  He told CNN in 2011, "My heart and soul is about being a redneck...and drinking...and being stupid, you know?"

Words that will echo through the ages.

But a judge says that even though Shelton says he drinks a lot, that doesn't mean that an In Touch Weekly magazine story claiming he has a drinking problem is protected speech.

Picture this, if you will: young men and women grow up and study hard so they can get out of high school and into college and then law school.  And they learn the laws and pass the exams and are qualified to go to court and help society hammer out the thorny issues that need contemplation, such as, is it ok for someone to say the things about you that you say about yourself?

In Touch ran a cover story on Shelton last fall.  In big bright yellow letters, the headline screamed REHAB FOR BLAKE. 

That was not quite true.  Shelton never has been in rehab and the magazine was wrong to say so, although they say that saying so was not libel because "it would be entirely commendable for Shelton to seek rehab considering his undisputed history of bragging about his own drunkenness and his well-publicized behavior while under the influence of alcohol.” 

So, their defense is, well maybe he didn't go to rehab, but we think he SHOULD have, so we said he did.

So here we are with one person boasting of his contumacious behavior while under the influence of alcohol.

And a magazine saying that that gives them the right to say anything they want about that person.

And a country full of people willing to fork over $2.99 to read stuff that may or may not be true about people they may or may not ever meet.

I'm so confused.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rules for being a gentleman

Mr. Kris Wolfe blogged on "Good Guy Swag" that there are lots of lost traditions that gentlemen should still use today.  Some of them are still valid; some...not so much anymore.  But on the grounds that ANYthing a guy does nowadays that is anything near the old school way of being a gentleman is a good thing, I thought we could look over Wolfe's list and see how we're doing. (Note: I am often the recipient of a kind smile and "thank you" from ladies when I hold a door open for them, and for that I thank my dear departed Dad, who would be less pleased to see me wear a hat indoors.)

Many of the rules that seem a have their roots in sensible practices from long ago.

It's a matter of respect for a man to stand when a lady enters the room where he is sprawled on the Barca-Lounger.  This is sort of like getting up when your friends meet you in a restaurant.  The best is when you're halfway out of your chair, and the lady says, "Oh, don't get up!" and you sink right back down like a 20-lb. sack of sweet potatoes.

This one still applies: a man should walk on the street side when he is promenading down The Avenue with a woman.  Back in the day, this was so that he would be the one splashed by mud or whatever when a horse and buggy rode by.  Today, we try to make sure that as we walk through the mall, one's lady friend is not assailed by people offering to rearrange her eyebrows with thread or sell her magic skin ointments from the Dead Sea.

Yes, it's still good to open a car door for her, or at least hit the OPEN DOOR button as you enter the Pic 'N' Pay together.  This dates back to the days when a woman would be wearing a long, heavy skirt and would be busy hiking up the hemline as she entered the Apothecary, so we still do it even though those long skirts are not seen so much around here anymore.

Wolfe says that a gentleman never criticizes a home-made meal. That's only common sense, and if you want a slice of that Sara Lee Walnut Ring you saw defrosting in the kitchen, just don't say a word about the swordfish.

“Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and ill-manners…” is a quote Mr Wolfe pulled for us, written in 1746 in some old book, written long before people started calling live television shows and hollering "Baba Booey!  Baba Booey!"

You don't see this one too much anymore, but a gentleman is supposed to pull out a lady's chair, which is hard to do when you're squeezing into a booth at OMG!It's Friday's.  You should let her sit down first, though.

He helps her put on/take off her coat...but it gets interesting when the person holding the coat is of my towering height, forcing women to jump up to try to thread their wrists into the arm holes of their jackets.

It's still polite to give up seat on a bus, train, or motorcycle to allow a woman to sit down.  Sure, that might mean the man walks home as the woman roars off...

A gent should carry a lady's bags as you leave the mall or pawn shop.  But sometimes just offering to tote will be enough.  She really doesn't want you pulling out stuff on the way back to the car, asking, "What's this for?"  

He holds an umbrella over her when it rains.  But unless I am walking with a woman from the WNBA, any umbrella I hold to protect myself is about a yard over the head of a woman walking with me, and ducking under the umbrella of a regular-size lady won't work for me unless I am rehearsing the role of Toulouse-Lautrec.

It's the same with the rule about giving a lady your jacket if she is chilly.  My coat on the back of a lady tends to look like it's on loan from Ringling Brothers.  It's usually better to ask them to turn up the heat in the saloon.

A gentleman keeps a lady's secrets, even if he is one of them.

He is on time. Plan in advance and be there on time. Take a magazine to read, though.

The last rule for a gentleman is to pay a woman a compliment. It's funny that we use the word "pay" in this sense, because it doesn't cost a nickel to tell someone they look nice or they are pleasant company or they have an enjoyable personality.

And now, gentle reader, I bid you adieu.  May I be first to tell you, you look marvelous today?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sad, sad, sad

FF/PM Ulmschneider
I'm not about to discuss the wisdom or lack thereof involved in owning a gun for personal protection. But as I write this, a firefighter from Prince George's County, Maryland, is dead, a 37-year old husband and father of a little girl.  His name is John E. Ulmschneider, and he deserved a better fate than to be gunned down by a man still unidentified whose brother called 911 to have first responders check him out. 

The man in question is diabetic and was not answering his phone, so the Fire Department went to his house, and when he did not open the door, they entered the house to help him. They announced themselves loudly three times, knocking repeatedly at the door before trying to enter.

And that man fired his gun, shot Ulmschneider to death, and wounded his own brother- the person who called 911 - and another firefighter.

And now the shooter's sister is saying that he thought he was trying to defend himself from a home invasion.

“It was a tragic horror story,” she said. “My brother was very sick. He is a gentle person.”

"Very sick," but yet he had strength enough to retrieve his gun and pull the trigger a few times.

“We are so sorry about the firefighter and for the family,” the man’s sister said. “We were praying so hard.”

Sorry does not give FF/PM Ulmschneider his life back, nor does it bring back a little girl's daddy or a widow's husband.

Again, it's not the gun.  He could have thrown a javelin or stabbed them with a knife or sicced a vicious dog on those he killed and hurt.  

But is it asking too much that, before we launch our counterstrikes, we find out for sure that we know what's going on?

The county's state’s attorney’s office is continuing to investigate with police to “piece together what happened. We will determine what, if any, charges are appropriate," said their spokesman.

Those who read the laws will decide what the rest of us already know...there are mistakes and there are mistakes, and sometimes, you have to pay for your mistakes.

Monday, April 18, 2016


If you remember Gloria Gaynor, give yourself a prize, because it means you remember the 70s!

That's when she had her hits: "Never Can Say Goodbye" (1974) and "I Will Survive" (1979).  "Never Can Say Goodbye" was a remake of a Jackson 5ive song from just three years before, but she recorded it at the very dawn of the Disco Era, and it was the first record at the #1 position of the first-ever Billboard Dance Hits chart. 

Image result for gloria gaynor"I Will Survive" was a disco song about getting over a trip to Dumpville, USA, and it must have been played over a billion times in 1979 on radio, tv, jukeboxes and the sound that goes around in my head and I wish it would stop.  I never cared for disco, and it went far beyond the insistent trump-trump-trump of the beat. Everything that sounds like that is annoying.

And the lifestyle of the people who worked at hardware stores and offices just to get enough money to go disco dancing at night, and also pretend to jump off bridges, is well chronicled in the movie "Saturday Night Fever."  Try to watch that now without wanting to join Bobby C in taking that same plunge

And for that entire decade, you could never find a 100% cotton shirt.  Everything was that polyester, a synthetic fabric to wear while dancing to synthetic music.

But that's just me.  Listen, just this year, the Library of Congress called Gloria Gaynor's record "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Recording Registry, where it will take its rightful place along with classic recordings such as "Honolulu Cake Walk" by Vess Ossman.

And Gloria Gaynor was talking to Rolling Stone magazine, and she thinks that there wouldn't be so much terrorism if there were more disco.

"It was a time when people came together," she said. "It was every nationality and color and age group. Disco had that thing of camaraderie. It was an upbeat and happy time. If disco had stuck around, we don't how much less terrorism we might have in the world now. It puts everyone in a good mood."

Almost everyone.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday Rerun: 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?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, April 16, 2016

I've never seen a picture that more accurately shows how different generations get their news from different ways.
Nice going, WalMart.  To salute the University of Maryland Terps, they put out a T-shirt with the outline of Massachusetts.  d'OH!
Even Crocs like crocs...
Hello, Fans of Irony!  Hayden Panettiere wanted a tattoo that said, in Italian, "Live without regret."  But the tattooist spelled regret wrong in Italian.  And now she regrets the tattoo.
There never seems to be a presidential candidate whose advisors advise him or her not to pose for pictures eating regionally popular food in an attempt to curry favor with voters. This is Mike Kasich, Republican governor of Ohio, shoving New York deli food down his neck.  What price dignity?
Allergy sufferers don't rejoice as Spring blossoms blossom.
We've been enjoying the Barney Miller reruns on Antenna TV. What a great cast and great writing!
This might look yucko to you, but in Baltimore, french fries and gravy are considered yummo here!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Sheer Stupidity

I know we are told that within every human beats some form of goodness, and that all people are capable of both sin and salvation. And goodness knows, I'm no angel myself. When it comes to the "Thou shalt not" section of the Ten Commandments, I can plead innocent only to not coveting my neighbor's oxen and not killing anyone. And of course, I get a clean slate on the adultery thing, but I have to cop to stealing a thing or two over the years...a kiss here and there, a furtive glance, and the occasional cigarette back in the day when someone would say, "Sure, take one..." 

But, the man you see pictured below is the real true pure example of pure idiotic hell on earth.  He's Wayne Allen Huntsman, who became famous in California for standing in the middle of a fire that he started in a forest and taking a selfie video.

It took a month in 2014 to put out what they called the King Fire, which charred 100,000 acres, burned at least twelve homes to the ground, and ruined life for thousands of Northern California residents southwest of the Lake Tahoe resort area, displaced during the fire and its sooty aftermath.

Wayne Allen Huntsman was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday.So Huntsman, having started the fire, hitchhikes his way to safety, getting a ride with a guy to whom he showed the video of himself surrounded by the flames.  The guy turned him in, and although Huntsman initially denied any involvement, he eventually admitted to the whole sordid deal.  

In a courtroom statement that will echo through the ages as long as the words of woodenheaded simpletons are recorded, Huntsman said, 

"I plead guilty because I did it." 

So there you have it.  The judge gave him 20 years in prison, time enough to make plans for how to pay the $60 million fine he owes when he gets out in 2036.  That's supposed to be restitution for the victims of his unspeakable actions, but they should not hold their breaths waiting to get checks from him.

I remember learning that arsonists sometimes get a perverse sexual thrill out of seeing big fires.  If that was what was in it for him, I hope Huntsman will have many happy memories as he rots in Stateville Prison until Lindsay Lohan is old enough for Social Security. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"I want to be a force for good"

Sometimes, when you watch TV, the commercials are better than the show. I know they are when it's an AT&T spot and the young lady named "Lily" is helping mobile customers get new phones and the best data plans.

Of course, her name is not really Lily, any more than Norm Macdonald is the real Col. Sanders. She's Milana Vayntrub, 29, a Los Angeles based actor and comedian, born to a Jewish family in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. I only mention her faith because it plays a part in how she wound up in America. In the 1980s, Uzbekistan was a part of the Soviet Union, and her family was persecuted by anti-Semites. They became refugees in 1989, moving first to Italy and Austria before being granted American citizenship. You can see little tot Milana in this video that shows an old news clip about the emigration of Russians in that era.  

When Milana and her dad went to Greece recently for a vacation, certain facts hit them hard, such as the fact that monthly, an average of 130,000 come there seeking asylum. They come by sea across the Mediterranean from war-torn Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, mostly hitting land on the small island of Lesbos, with others arriving on the Greek islands Rhodes, Kos, Samos, Leros, Agathonisi, and Chios. Lesbos, just six sea miles from Turkey, has become the doorway to European freedom for these sad refugees.

Milana, struck by the desperation of the situation, decided to stay on and see what
she could do, explaining, "I don’t want to be a passive citizen anymore. I want to be a force for good." Appalled at the conditions the people had fled, and wanting better for them, she didn't know how to help or what to do, but you know, when a person really wants to help others, ways to do so often present themselves.  She went to a meeting in Athens and went to the beach on Lesbos, where volunteers and volunteer doctors and nurses rush to each arriving vessel to help the people. 

She spent time on Lesbos and is now back in this country.  She has organized a group called Can't Do Nothing as a place for people to find out how they can help.

Milana Vayntrub is talented and attractive and clearly has a future ahead of her in show business.  But she has a past behind her as a refugee, and maybe this is her way of paying back someone who helped her and her family settle here in a country that has always been great and still is great, no matter what some buffoon tries to tell you as he does nothing to help a single soul.  

Funny.  She plays someone who helps people find good phone plans, and in real life she makes good plans for her life and for others.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cat Ballyhoo

As I seem to mention every 47 words or so, we have two cats around here at the Lazy 'C' Ranch.  They are sisters, born on a porch in Carroll County and rescued by the worthy organization Kitties 'n' Pitties, and they have changed our lives, all for the better!  Even if it's just remembering not to leave a frozen English muffin sitting on the counter to thaw out for breakfast, or not forgetting to put out chow twice a day, it's the best part of the day when we have a little feline interaction.

Peggy is clearly the more intellectually focused between us, because when she has a question about the kitties, she will look up the answer online or get a book or ask some expert.  But here's the deal.

People write things in the guise of being "cat experts."  I submit that one can have spend 60 years living and caring for 60 cats and still not know what a cat will do next. For example, she reads somewhere that "cats do not like to be hugged" or "cats don't make eye contact with humans."  Well, sir, our Edwina, or "Eddie," as she likes to be called, will snuggle and nuzzle for hours on end, and if you look at her in the eyes, she will do an atomic staredown with you until dinnertime.  The other cat, Deanna, while still affectionate and loving, is not much for being held, and will look at you for only the briefest time before turning her eyes elsewhere. Or closing them, and going to sleep.

If our two cats can be so totally different, then it follows that any book or online piece that says "here's how all cats act and this is what to do about it" is, in the words of noted Beaver expert Wallace Cleaver, "a lot of bunk."

E & D
I hear about people who claim to be animal psychiatrists, and they want you to bring your neurotic pets to their office so their behavior can be observed, and later modified.  I always picture a Dalmation sitting there on the shrink's floor, wishing he could be back chasing a fire engine, or an anxious kitten spilling her feelings. Animals are animals because they are not like us, and our constant efforts to humanize them and characterize their behaviors and attitudes within human boundaries make Eddie and Deanna laugh inside, because they understand spoken English perfectly.