Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Both Sides Now

I can see both sides of the argument here...

In Baltimore County, Maryland, USA, we can offer you any kind of weather you want, except for monsoons.  We have high heat in summer and cold cold in winter and lots of rain and storms and blizzards, thunder and lightning.  All of it comes in the course of a year.

This is an area in the mid-Atlantic region where we often start baseball season in football-style weather, and vice-versa. 

So it's no wonder that starting school means it's going to be hot outside.  Whether or not you wait for Labor Day to pass, you can count on a few hot days in September or even October.

A warm spell after the first frost is known as "Indian summer."

A guy in a feather headdress with a tomahawk and tom-tom, trying to get a lift alongside the highway, is known as "Indian thumber."

I had to get that out of my system.

And not a minute too soon.  

As I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, I can see both sides of the school heat problem.  Schools were not air conditioned at all in my day AND we had to wear long pants and real shirts.  Today people head for the classroom in tank tops and shorts and flip flops.  Of course, the only source of heat in the room back in the Fab 50s and Sweltering 60s was the air pump for the aquarium where Splash, the class fish, swam all day.  Now the classroom is full of computers, monitors, printers and I don't know what-all else, producing a lot of heat.  The county is working hard to get all the schools outfitted with air conditioning. 37 schools now don't have it, and they have to close when the heat index is at or above 90°.


Dear old golden rule days
Meanwhile, our governor, not content to stick to state business, is said to be trying to make sure that all schools remain closed through Labor Day. His close friend, the tax collector, says that allowing people to keep vacationing through the first Monday in September will produce untold riches for the state in tax revenue, although his office is the one that declares a certain week to be tax-free so that people can avoid paying taxes on tank tops, shorts, flip flops, computers, monitors, printers and I don't know what-all else in August.

Whenever the school year begins, the kids have to be exposed to 180 days of education.  Start later, get out later.

When I grew too tall for the blanket I slept with as a child, and the coverlet would no longer cover my shoulders, I came up with the brilliant plan of cutting 12" off the bottom and sewing that to the top to cover my noggin.  

Hey, wait a minute!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Price Ain't Right

If the name Steven Adler rings a bell (or bangs a cymbal) with you, it's because he's the drummer mainly famous for being thrown out of Guns N' Roses for using too many drugs too much.

And that's like being asked to leave Old Country Buffet for eating too much meatloaf.

For years, I have kept Adler's name in my mind because I think that's the classic example of pots calling kettles black, but now we have a new one.  

You've heard about the commotion over the Mylan pharmaceutical company raising the price on its EpiPens, the medication for children and others dealing with potentially deadly allergic reactions.  Mylan currently has no real competition in the market - the other company that makes a similar product had a massive recall wipe out their inventory - and so, capitalists being capitalists, they raised the price of an item that can save a person's life by a stunning 544.77 percent (from $56.64 in 2007 to $365.16 PER PEN now).  I mean, there was a chance to make some big money, right? Too bad for all those who might die from accidental peanut ingestion or bee stings, but Mylan is going to fatten their coffers while the sun shines.

At least one in 50 Americans have had this type of allergic reaction. It is called anaphylaxis, and it can be fatal. Mylan is "forcing many families to gamble with their children's lives, when your costs haven't gone up," as one person said on Facebook. 

We learned as kids selling lemonade that if you can get 20 cents a cup and then find people will just as willingly shell out a quarter for a drink that costs you 3 cents to produce, you pocket the extra nickel.  No biggie. 

But when you are forcing families who might not have the resources or insurance to cover this insane expense (the same product is much less expensive all over Europe and Canada), then you are playing with other people's lives for a huge
pile of nickels.

It's fine by me if you support gouging people to feather your own nests, but you have to stop and think how it felt when people such as Axl Rose, Slash, and Izzy Stradlin (I love it when someone's name is also a question) came to tell Adler he was doing too much dope.



Or imagine this: Martin Shkreli, the weaselly guy who, as head of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, raised the price of his malaria and HIV medicine Darapim from $13.50 to $750, has weighed in on all this.

"These guys are really vultures. What drives this company's moral compass?" Shkreli remarked to NBC News.

There are people among us who dare not walk even to the mailbox without their EpiPen, and when they feel the same way that Martin Shkreli does about a company, maybe that company should look around a little.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Oh say!

I guess we have to talk about the football player who sat down rather than stand for the National Anthem.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum (and dogs abhor vacuum cleaners), the Internet hates it when we aren't arguing with each other about some topic, so it sends little angels to land on the shoulders of people like Colin Kaepernick, angels who say, "Stir things up a little!"

On Sunday, he said to the press, "I'll continue to sit. ... I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change, and when there's significant change — and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it's supposed to — I'll stand."

And Bang Zoom!  We were off to the races.  He has actually not stood up during the anthem at all three of the 49'ers games, but this time, it got noticed and he got blasted.

Kaepernick's ex-teammate, Minnesota Vikings guard Alex Boone, spoke for a lot of players and citizens when he said, "It’s hard for me, because my brother was a Marine, and he lost a lot of friends over there. That flag obviously gives (Kaepernick) the right to do whatever he wants. I understand it. At the same time, you should have some (expletive) respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom.

That sums up the feelings of those opposed to CK's stance.  And Boone goes on to say, "We’re out here playing a game, making millions of dollars. People are losing their life, and you don’t have the common courtesy to do that. That just drove me nuts."

Michael Che, the Saturday Night Live comedian, pointed out online that no one seems to stand when they're home watching a ballgame on tv and someone sings the anthem...it's more of a public demonstration of patriotism than a private moment. And we've all been at parades when a marching band struts by to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner...some people stand up, and some don't.

There are as many opinions about this as there are people in the United States.  And all of those opinions are valid.  People will say that many people made great sacrifices - the supreme sacrifice - in order to preserve our freedom of speech.  Kaepernick has his feelings and is no more or less entitled to express them than any other citizen.  Just because he makes a fortune playing football does not mean he should give up that right to express himself, any more than it would be right to deny paupers the right to say how they feel just because they are economically bereft.

This is what makes America great.  There are places in the world where this freedom does not exist, where speaking one's mind can be the last action of one's life.

The First Amendment means that people can publish all sorts of wonderful writing and all sorts of sludge you wouldn't allow in your home - but I wouldn't give up the right of the sleazeballs to write what they want. Agree with Kaepernick or not, but don't tell him he can't say what he wants.

It's a big enough country to allow room for all of us.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Rerun: I Never Would Have Guest It

Here's a tricky etiquette question:

You receive a wedding shower invitation and a "hold-the-date" for a wedding..from a woman whom you have never met, who briefly worked with your husband several years ago.  Unless her husband saved this woman's life through a well-timed Heimlich Maneuver or CPR, why are you getting an invite to the nuptials?  

Ahhh...cast a wide gift net.  So many people just get invitations, say, "Meh," and send some Corningware® or a Keurig coffee machine, those little K-cup deals that work so well for two months and then just make gagging, grinding noises when all you want is an honest cup of mocha java.

BUT there is an alternative!  Here's how it works.  You buy the gift and send it along via ME!  I'm looking for a steady source of retirement income, and surely a well-paying job as Wedding Guest Stand-In would do me well.  I have a nice pinstripe suit, some shirts and ties, and I'll even find a pair of dark socks to wear in place of my customary crimson footwear.  

In return, I will take along ZipLoc bags so I can bring you some Lobster Newburg.  I will shout out "Nice pull!" when the groom toasts the bride. And I will lift up the centerpiece, look underneath and claim that it has my seat number written on a little label, thereby entitling me to take it home.  

I don't enter this profession without a background.  I love weddings, I love love, I love the church part even when everyone oooohs and aaaaaahs, and then I love piling back into the Biscayne and driving over to the conception. What better way to wile away a Saturday than to hear the DJ croon,"And now...making their first appearance as husband and wife...will you please give it up for Dickie and Dixie Normus!!!!!!!!!!!"

And while all this is going on, I'm sizing up the fruit table or the giant lasagna, as it sits bubbling away. 

And I can Chicken Dance like nobody's business. Snap snap snap snap!

I had that buddy Johnny years ago who made a Saturday habit of putting on his sports jacket and tie and showing up at receptions, blending in after everyone was seated for the main meal, showing up in time to scarf up chow and guzzle free suds.  If anyone asked who he was, he would just reply that he was an old friend of the bride.  Or groom.  His great gift was his ability to look nondescript. He just blended right on in.  I think a lot of that was owing to his sport jacket being the exact color of Lobster Newburg.

Wedding season is coming up; please contact me soon and arrange to stay home while people whom you don't even know, and/or like very much, get married.  Let Mr Guest be there for you!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, August 27, 2016

I love Lucy's hometown of Celeron, New York, because their first attempt at memorializing the great Lucille Ball turned out looking more like a deranged Andy Griffith (right.)  But they asked for another chance, and another sculptor did a great job (left).
Yes, people in remote African villages still balance things on their heads like this, and I can't even carry a mug of tea upstairs without spilling something.  
More than a million people gathered in Istanbul for an event led by President Erdo─čan, following last month's failed military insurrection.  I don't care for big crowds, and this must have been the biggest since the Adele concerts last summer.

Hello, all your Pokemon trainers!  Here's a rare sighting of ComeoninIwannagrillya!
This kind of contest didn't just start last week, you know...
He's rare and he's back in the ocean!  Rather than steam this blue lobster, caught off Cape Cod, the fisherman tossed him back into the briny deep.  If he had been netted in New Jersey, he would be dinner tonight.
A little philosophy for a Saturday morning.  Happy doesn't start with an "H," it starts with "U."
More philosophy for you...this Galapagos Island resident lived to be 100 years of age, because he took his time doing things!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Jan, Jan, Jan!

Any discussion of "The Brady Bunch" that I get into must contain my firm declaration that I am a Jan Man from day one.  I found Marcia Marcia Marcia annoying annoying annoying, and Cindy was just too young, but I dug Jan for wearing glasses (which she hated) and having freckles (ditto) and for worrying so much about not having a boyfriend that she invented a beau named George Glass. And when she figured she couldn't beat Marcia in the blonde hair department, she went out and put on a marvelous black wig that made her look like a tiny lounge singer.

So, I went for Jan, and Alice, too (although I know I could never come between her and Sam The Butcher) and that's the deal.

Speaking of deals, did you see that Eve Plumb, the actress who played Jan, bought a house with that TV money when she was 11 years old?  A little place on Escondido Beach in Los Angeles, and she plunked down $55,300 for it in 1969, and sold it this summer for $3,900,000...a tidy profit of $3,844,700.  

It's a flat-roofed beachfront bungalow, 850 square feet, and the new owners are planning to install a moon roof and other amenities for beach parties to which they really ought to invite Ms Plumb.

In other news about investment opportunities we all passed by, just imagine if you had spent $2,368 for a brand new Mustang in 1964, and kept that Ford on ice...you'd be drinking the best beer and buying the thickest steaks tonight.  

A dime for the first Superman comic...$956,000.

Where were we when all the great ideas were hatched?


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Instead of being sorry later, how about just being nice now?

"Be careful of the words you say; keep them short and sweet.  You never know from day to day which ones you'll have to eat."
This year's winner of the I Wish I Hadn't Said That Award goes to the young lady who also just won the coveted tiara that goes with being Miss Teen USA.  Her name is Karlie Hay and she learned a lesson at age 18 that a lot of people still have yet to apprehend:  The Internet is forever.  

Take it to the bank: whatever you write or paste on these electronic walls will be around when Karlie Hay's great-grandchildren are taking driver education.  

So it was with chagrin that Ms Hay and the people around her found out, just minutes after her triumphant walk down the runway, that in 2013 and 2014, she was twittering tweets using the unacceptable-in-any-setting "N" word.  Hay, born in December 1997, was 15 and 16 in those years, certainly old enough to know better, yes. 

You know, there is a whole profession dedicated to scrubbing off the tarnished images of people who should know better than to call each vile names.  I can see that one such practitioner had a hand in crafting this response that Ms Hay put out:  

"A few years ago, I used language that is inexcusable, and I sincerely apologize for my actions. At the time, due to a number of personal struggles, I was in a place that is not representative of who I am now. Through hard work, education, maturity and thanks in large part to the sisterhood that I have come to know through pageants, I am proud to say that I am today a better person. I am honored to hold this title and I will use the Miss Teen USA platform to promote messages of confidence, inclusion and perseverance."  
Apology tour underway.
It's just my opinion, but these pageants for women of any age are just outdated and kind of sad.  The Miss Teen USA people proudly promoted this year's extravaganza as being more relevant because they ditched the swimsuit competition and only had female judges. This still leaves the impression that beauty and the ability to be dolled up are the only worthwhile criteria for judging a young lady. 

I don't know anything about Ms Hay besides all this commotion, but the fact that she used such language at any age is revolting. For all I know, she spends weekends visiting the aged and infirm, collects food for the needy, works as a volunteer firefighter, plays rec league softball and maintains a stellar grade point average to stay on the Honor Society.

Oh wait.  That's a couple of other young women I know.  You won't see them sashaying around with sashes and tiaras on television.  They're too busy being beautiful, doing beautiful things in the real world.  And using respectful language all the while.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'." - John Greenleaf Whittier

Thinking about the lives lost in the flooding here in Maryland and the balloon crash in Texas, I got to thinking about others who went home too soon.  Hank Williams comes to mind, and Buddy Holly as well.  What else would they have brought to our music, had their lives not been cut short?  

And thinking of Buddy Holly makes me think of Bobby Fuller, another Texan who brought a little Lone Star State to the 60s garage rock sound. (Before record production became so dependent on studio electronic tricks, groups rehearsed and recorded out back in the garage, and that's where that raw sound comes from.) Bobby came out of El Paso and got to Los Angeles and a deal with Del-Fi Records on the strength of his cover of "I Fought The Law (And The Law Won.)"*

Fuller's career in the national spotlight was just taking off in 1966. "I Fought The Law" was a top-10 record after its release in February, and the follow up "Love's Made A Fool Of You"** came out in May.  

Image result for bobby fullerBut on July 18, 1966, Bobby was found dead in his car outside his apartment in Los Angeles.  There was an 1/3-full gasoline can and a gas-soaked rag in the car, and his death was attributed to hemorrhaging caused by the gas vapors and the July heat, and by the inhalation of the vapors. The police report has checks next to "accidental" and "suicide," but also question marks written next to both. 

The investigation is thought by many to have been sloppy and rushed, possibly because the chief of the LAPD, William Parker, had died suddenly two days before and the department was focused on his funeral arrangements and replacing him. 

Cause-of-death theories floated included possible Manson Family involvement, suicide (Fuller was said to be concerned about the direction of his career) and a mob hit. 

We may never know who killed Bobby Fuller, and we certainly can only speculate about what sort of music he might have made, but listen to those two hits of his! Spectacular pop, basic rock, the sound that bands still want.  Bobby had it and we can listen to what he recorded as we wonder what else he might have recorded.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
*This gets complicated.  Buddy Holly, in his time, released records as "Buddy Holly" and as "The Crickets," although they were the same people.  After Buddy died in that plane crash in 1959, Sonny Curtis joined The Crickets as songwriter and guitarist (but not singer) in Buddy's place, and Sonny wrote "IFTL(ATLW)".  

**Buddy Holly and writing partner Bob Montgomery wrote this in 1954.  It's thought of as a "Buddy Holly song," but Buddy did not sing on The Crickets' version, which came out after the crash.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Bad Bad Leroy

Well, this didn't turn out so well for anyone.

Dateline: Leroy, Alabama, where Nathaniel Johnson was rightly tired of people breaking into his mobile home.  So he set a trap. He parked his car over by a neighbor's house and hung around in the dark, waiting.

Around midnight, he heard someone knocking on the door of his trailer.  Of course, the person got no answer and then proceeded around to the back door, which he entered by breaking in.

Washington County Sheriff Richard Stringer says Johnson met Cleveland Jones Gully, 31, the suspected burglar, at the door and chased him outside.

The sheriff said Gully is known in the area for breaking into houses, and that he either fell or jumped off the back steps of the mobile home.

Yes.  Let's say he "fell."  

Johnson picked Gully up long enough to wrap his mouth up in duct tape.  Then he led Gully to a tree and placed him there for safe keeping while he went to call 911. To make sure he would be there when the law arrived, Stringer said Johnson wrapped Gully to the tree with insulated electrical tape and clothesline.

Johnson then to his neighbor's house and called police.

"(Gully) was still alive at that point, and there was no indication that he was dying," Stringer said.


Crime Scene, Leroy AL
But ten minutes later, sheriff's deputies rolled up on the scene and Gully was no longer among the living. The sheriff said Gully didn't have any visible injuries, just some cuts around his body from the wire. There will be an autopsy to find out what happened.  

The police say that other neighbors said that Johnson, who was not armed, did not intend for Gully to die, but he did want to bring the break-ins to an end.

I imagine this will go a long way in that regard.  The sheriff, meanwhile, will present the case to a grand jury "to see what they say about it."

I'm no expert on Alabama law, but I imagine the concept of "tough noogies" is also in effect down there.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Once and for all, it isn't funny

High school guidance counselors will be busy this fall, advising students about careers and how to get into them.  For instance, someone seeking a job in the field of automotive repair would do well to attend one of the fine technical schools around the area. Those who wish to become attorneys are guided into good colleges with pre-law courses, or pre-med.  What's the difference?

But these people are missing out on the sure-bet career of what's left of the 20-teens and beyond...the burgeoning field of Celebrity Apology Coaching!  Public Relations people are needed from Rio to Reno, from Stanford to Stamford, from Hollywood (MD) to Hollywood (CA).


Getting ready to do
yet another hilarious skit
We've said enough about childish 32-year old Lyin' Ryan Lochte, the swimmer who dove a little too deeply into the shallow end of truth.  His handlers surely have had their hands full, getting him to dye his hair back to a color normally seen on humans, and coaching him to apologize in an authentic manner.

And now, some poor PR plugger will have to work on the case of Blake Shelton, the "country" singer who advises neophyte singers on "The Voice" about how to sing and all.  Good thing he doesn't give them advice about how to send tweets.

Ol' Blake has sent out some doozies over the years and now that the inane remarks that come out of his brain have come to light, why, he's just about trippin' over his cowboy boots to apologize. I will not sully my blog by showing you verbatim what he wrote. In case you need an emetic, you may click on the link above and see the racist, sexist, homophobic waste product of his words.

But you'll notice, those of you who wish to work in this field, that you have to approach these apologies at an angle. Blake's angle is that he is a comedian!

"Everyone knows comedy has been a major part of my career and it's always been out there for anyone to see," he tweeted. "That said anyone that knows me also knows I have no tolerance for hate of any kind or form. Can my humor at times be inappropriate and immature? Yes. Hateful? Never. That said I deeply apologize to anybody who may have been offended."

Oh, and that's the other thing.  "I apologize to anyone WHO MIGHT HAVE BEEN offended."  So, next time you feel a little churly, just walk up to someone and smack them a good wallop. And then, say, "I'm sorry IF you were offended."

Yes, Blake, jokes about gay people and people who speak foreign languages are so funny.  


The real joke is that he now claims to be a comedian, that this sort of thing was done as an attempt at humor.  What a sad, sad world he must inhabit, to think that sort of thing is funny...or what any adult would laugh at in 2016.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Rerun: 500 words, due tomorrow

So, what would you do if your boss came in one morning right after Labor Day and told you to write a composition about "How I Spent My Summer Vacation"?


I always wish that someone would do that for adults.  Facebook is fun for sharing vacation pictures, but it can be dangerous to announce to all of your online friends that you are leaving the house unoccupied for the next two weeks while you and the whole family, including Uncle Ambrose, head down I-95 to see South of the Border, including Pedro's Nutte House, with its oddly phallic decorations.  Especially if you mention that the key is under the mat or duct-taped to the third rock from the sunflower in your garden.

But when you get back, post up those pictures.  We love to see where you've been.  A lot of people like to go to places they have never been and explore on their summer weeks off.  They think nothing of loading up the Family Truckster with sleeping bags, a couple of extra pairs of jeans and a shirt or two, some rudimentary toilet supplies, canned food, bottled water, bottled gin, and heading out to Montana or New Mexico.

Others among us go to the same beach or lake with the same people, wearing the same Speedo, and staying in the same room with a 40-watt bulb and a sliver of soap in the bathroom, which you get to share with your own family and that of Cousin Ozzie, with his illbred offspring.

That's why they call it a vacation - you vacate the office or your workspace for a while so you can come back refreshed and renewed, vowing more desperately than ever to find your ticket out of there.  That first day back, as you plow through the 1,395 emails that have clogged your inbox just as your recent dinners have clogged your carotid artery, you take a solemn oath that by next summer, you will have that dream job as drummer for Journey or personal hairstylist to Prince William.  And as you dream and plot, you click on a phishing email and the entire office network drops dead and you have to wait for the summer intern from InfoServices to come and declogulate your "machine," as he likes to call it.  This takes two hours, which would be much better spent roaming down the corridors of your building, demonstrating your tan and passing out macaroons and salt water taffy that you brought back.

I think I just figured out why corporate America doesn't ask anyone to write those compositions.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, August 20, 2016 (Special Vacation Destinations Edition)

Where did everyone go this summer for vacation?  Ocean City, Maryland is the #1 destination for beachlovers in our town.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame holds sacred garments such as this Baltimore Colts jersey worn by the great Gino Marchetti, who fought in World War II ("The first time I saw snow, I slept in it") and came here to play ball and hold a place in our hearts and minds forever.  The Colts were moved by the devil himself to some evil town in the midwest and have not been heard from since.

For those who like to travel far, here's a colorful apartment complex in the island of Ibiza, off the coast of Spain.  
Former Oriole pitcher Ben McDonald said the first time he saw New York, yes, he slept there...as a matter of fact, the Lousiana native did not leave his hotel room until it was time to go play because he had "never seen that many people before."
Not far up the road from our town, but a whole world away, is Amish Country in Lancaster PA.
It's still on my bucket list to see Cuba.  The cars!
Minnie Pearl's dress, Ernest Tubb's hat, Hank Williams's suit: more sacred garments, all on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
From the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY:  Brooks Robinson's glove.  He could do things with this leather that no others could.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Too Lazy to Write Today Rerun: No Homophones Aloud


Blogger Torkildson
I (knead, need) to tell you that out in Utah, a state in which they (wear, where) those bolo ties without a hint of self-consciousness, a man says he has been fired for writing about homophones in his blog.

Homophones!  Why, the very idea! That may (seem, seam) to be the sort of thing you would discuss in your (cellar, seller) with your closest friends, but using the (phrase, frays) "Modern Homophones" will get your name (tact, tacked) up on the list of Former Employees where this man worked.

I'm sure he feels that everyone is (teeming, teaming) up against him, but he knows what his boss doesn't - that a homophone is a word that has an aural twin, another word that sounds the same, with different spelling and meaning.  For example, when you see someone send a text that says they are sorry for all you've been "threw," that's a sad example to put you through.  To hear Frankie Valli sing the theme song from the 70s musical "Greece" is another one.

After the blogger, Tim Torkildson, was (shone, shown) the door one recent (summery, summary) day, he told the Salt Lake Tribune that he was fired from (some, sum) school called the Nomen Global Language Center.

This is a school that teaches languages!  And the owner fired him, complaining, "now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality."  He said that because he didn't understand the (dual, duel) meanings, I guess.

I'm not going to (mints, mince) words here...

It just makes you (sigh, psi).

As Herbert Hoover said, "I'll be (dammed, damned)."

[Editor's note: last week when my orthopedist was examining my left (humerus, humorous) bone, I (told, tolled) him I didn't find it funny at all.]