Friday, September 30, 2016

The best one I ever saw was #LB SAND

Please let me know if you are the sort of person who could be offended by the (up to) 7 characters on a Maryland vanity license tag.  Because if you are, maybe you should go to the Motor Vehicle Administration and volunteer to help them form the Outraged Upright Decent Peoples' Committee To Decide Who Can Have A Funny License On Their Car.

A man named John T. Mitchell from Accokeek, MD, got vanity plates from the Maryland MVA in 2009 with the tag "MIERDA". In case you didn't have access to a naughty Spanish dictionary, that word means "poop" or "junk." And then, in 2011, Mitchell got a letter from the MVA, asking that he return the tags, as they were issued in error. 

And this has been dragging through the courts ever since.  The state is represented by Assistant Attorney General Neil Jacobs, who told the court that the MVA has an "Objectionable Plate List" and MIERDA just made the list.  Alongside 4,605 other terms and phrases that "have scatological or sexual meaning; use curse words, epithets or obscenities; carry a 'fraudulent or deceptive purpose'; refer to illegal acts; or convey messages about a group's race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability."

Such as:  STUPID, FLAKE and BEDWETR, all of them banned.

Jacobs said of the list, "It builds over time…All different combinations of derogatory terms, scatological terms, obscenities that can be created by the manipulation of letters and numbers." 

All of this, of course, is predicated on the notion that someone, somewhere, might be ranked out by seeing EMS, CIA or FBI on the tag of a car that just passed them on the Beltway.

GOON.  ACDC. HELL. You can't have those tags either.

Back to the law...Mitchell was raised in Chile and identifies as Spanish-speaking, and he points out that MIERDA is not an obscene word because it has nothing to do with sex, but the MVA says, "Nuh-uh" and claims they get to decide what's fit for your eyes or the bumper on your Hyundai. 

Seriously, I don't see how people have time to call up the government and say, "Hello, MVA? Yes. I saw a car today on 40 West out near Howard County and I was shocked - SHOCKED - to see the license tag! It said COUGH! And I have a cold right now and I was mighty offended, so I demand that you make that person stop driving around, offending people."
Don't even ask for this one.

It's reminiscent of when the late City Councilman Mimi DiPietro sought to get rid of peepshows on The Block on the grounds that "Men were going in there and degenerating."

Tag!  You're it!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cod Almighty

Recently, a leak in the Colonial gas pipeline messed up gasoline supplies all over the South, and that took many of us back to the good old days of 1974 and 1979, when America's wonderful oil companies took the opportunity to withhold supplies and drive up prices.  I remember people howling when gas went to 45 cents a gallon.  

But gas is gas, and shortages come and go. This one, however, might be serious.

The good folks at The Atlantic magazine detail here a looming shortage of codfish. This, of course, could lead to shortages of fish and chips in restaurants patronized by me, and that makes this crisis personal.

Here in Baltimore, we also use cod for making a little treat called a coddie, which is basically a potato cake with a little shredded cod tossed in.  But there can't be much cod in a coddie, because they can sit out in a tray on a delicatessen counter for days on end.

Now, if you want a large helping of cod, you order yourself a platter of fish and chips, and you get a serving of battered-and-fried cod that's about the size of second base, along with 1/2 the daily output of a nice-size Idaho potato farm, julienned and fried in the same oil.  Add some tartar sauce, catsup (recognized as a vegetable during the Reagan era) for the fries and a tub o' slaw, and you're in tall cotton, my friend.

But cod are becoming more scarce in the waters off New England. The Gorton's Fisherman figures that overfishing and warming ocean temperatures are the reasons.  

So the United States, which recently had some success brokering a trial truce in Syria, also sent their top diplomatic brains to Canada to figure out how to divvy up the tasty treat between the two nations. 


England serves their fish and chips on newspapers, or
at least, they used to, until someone came up
with a fake newspaper to use instead.
730 million metric tons (not including the batter, or the fries) will be fished out of the water next year, and 146 of those metric tons will wind up on American plates (and beneath American belts.)

Canada will take home all the rest, to be served with Canadian bacon.  American fishers will still have the Gulf of Maine to toss their nets, as well. 

And the backup plan is that if that's still not enough cod for us, Norway and Iceland have plenty of cod to ship over here, and if we buy it from Iceland, they will throw in a boatload of Björk CDs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Forever starts today"

The name of the boat comprises the scorecard term
for a swinging strikeout - the backward 'K' - and
was applied to the boat in Marlin logo and colors
You probably heard that a rising baseball star, José Fernández, pitcher for the Miami Marlins, was killed early Sunday in a boating accident. The boat he owned crashed into a rock jetty early that morning, and he was killed, along with two friends.


It's known that Fernández was at a dockside bar at 2:20 that morning, and the Coast Guard found the wreckage and the three victims at 3:30, so sometime in that 70-minute span, something awful happened.
Add caption

At first, I thought of writing about the sad loss of three lives, especially that of Fernández, whose harrowing attempts at defecting from his native Cuba are part of his interesting story.  It took four tries.  The first three times he tried, he was arrested and put in jail for "Being a traitor to Fidel Castro." On his fourth try, he was finally successful, but only after diving into the Gulf of Mexico to save someone who had fallen off the boat he and others were on.  

It was not until he had rescued that person that he found out that the person was his own mother.

So that makes it doubly - infinitely  - tragic that he lost his life in the water.  

Make what you will of this: on Monday, the day after he died, a bag of baseballs Fernández had autographed, seemingly as a gift to one or both of his friends Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, washed ashore in Miami Beach.

Meanwhile, the Marlins team all dressed in jerseys with José's name and #16 for their game on Monday night, and there was quite a moving ceremony on the field.  The team has retired that jersey number, and there are plans to make permanent the memory of a young man who had lived through so much, and still had so much ahead.

"It's our job to make his life matter, so we're going to do that forever, and forever starts today," Marlins president David Samson said Monday.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

RIP, Jean Shepard

I once had a friend (really!) who paid me a wonderful compliment, saying that I "like people so much, some of them I like twice."  He meant that I love Jerry Lewis and Jerry Lee Lewis, and loved Jean Shepherd, and now, sadly, I have to use the past tense for Jean Shepard.  Jean Shepherd was a radio wit and writer.  You know him from writing "A Christmas Story" which you see every Christmas, but he did a lot more than that.  For years, he had a nightly talk show on WOR-AM in New York, where he would talk off the top of his head about childhood memories or adult concerns. 


Early days
The woman who just passed away this weekend, the lady with the homophonous name as the radio raconteur, was born Ollie Imogene Shepard in Dustbowl-era Oklahoma in 1933.  It's not wrong to say that both Jean Shepherd and Jean Shepard were radio stars; she sang on WSM-AM's Grand Ole Opry from 1955 until her recent illness.  But of course, she was known for recordings and concert appearances as well, singing with that clear, crisp twang that sounds just like country music ought to sound.


Middle days
She was married to fellow Opry great Hawkshaw Hawkins, who died in a plane crash along with Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas in 1963.   She had one child with Hawkshaw and another due to be born in a month at the time of his death, and at first, she was unsure that she should continue performing, feeling the urge to raise her sons at home in a more 9-to-5 atmosphere.  We can be glad that she stopped by the Opry stage one Saturday night shortly after losing her husband, and decided then to keep singing for the people who loved her and her songs.

And what songs!  Second Fiddle to an Old Guitar! A Tear Dropped By! And Then He Touched Me! Someone's Gotta Cry! And this one - a Bill Anderson song, Slippin' Away. That last one is all the more wonderful because it shows Jean truly in her element, among a group known as the Grand Ladies of Country Music, and their hilarious reaction when the great guitarist Jimmy Capps misses a note.

Golden days
If you listen to those songs, you will hear vivid, heartfelt performances by a woman whose family scrimped and saved to buy a battery for their radio so they could hear the Grand Ole Opry when she was a kid...and she wound up starring on that show for over half a century. She vigorously defended the music she loved against all who knocked it...and that meant when the oafish drunken philanderer Blake Shelton, a current "country" star, said that classic country is for "old farts and jackasses," Jean replied that she loved country music and would not identify the loutish star of The Voice by any more than his initials..."BS...and he's full of it!"

I can't apologize for liking the real good old school country music, and I'm sorry to see the great performers, one by one, leaving us. But you'd better believe that tonight, Jean and her Hawkshaw are dueting again tonight up in Heaven, where no one has to hear Shelton.

Monday, September 26, 2016

It's the Pitts

Billybobelina
It dawns on me that the reason that people get so involved with the Brad Pitt - Angelina Jolie divorce is that they cannot figure out their own lives, so they figure they can figure out the lives of people they have never met. And never will.

Pittiston


And I'm not saying this to be critical. NONE of us can figure out our own lives.  Nothing makes sense. You spend money getting the brakes fixed on the car, and then the car won't start.  You lay in a side of beef in the freezer for the winter, and the freezer breaks down. You make plans for a weekend at the beach and it rains. You know how it goes.

So that is one reason for the interest in Pittolie, or whatever portmanteau they are called for short.  Another might be that, deep inside, we admire the rich and the talented and those blessed with beauty up to a certain point...and past that point, we really don't mind seeing crappy things happen to them.

We've all been dumped at some point, and that's why we always related so well to poor Jennifer Anison, the person jilted when Pitt waltzed off with Angelina.

Here's a good way to play it... be like Adele. Say you don't gossip, and then gossip.

The British chanteuse dedicated her whole show at Madison Square Garden to B & A after their breakup came out.  
"Brangelina have broken up. I don’t like gossiping, and private lives should be private, but it’s the end of an era, so I’m dedicating this show to them today,"she said.

The END of an ERA, ladies and gentlemen. Paleolithic. Epipaleolithic. Neolithic. Angbradolitihic.

Adele continued, "Because honestly, I’m really, really sad, genuinely. I don’t know them at all … I was shocked when I woke up this morning."


I guess it all makes us feel better to know that the swank set has to live like the rest of us in Regularville every now and then. I will admit to having been stuck in waiting rooms in which I had two choices of what to look at - a copy of a supermarket gossip rag or the back of my hand, and I chose the Enquirer.  So I am familiar with a column in there called something like "They're Just Like Us!" in which we see pictures of Denise Richards pushing a grocery cart around the BiSoLo or the guy who played Urkel having his car emissions inspected.  We see that and we feel better. 

And then we get in line at the Try'N'Save or the emissions station.

And we say, "Did I do that?"


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Rerun: Bananarama Republic

Someday, a long long time from now, when we who tread earth and water get to meet our ancestors in the clouds, I have no doubt that the cooler among those of us who Went Before will smile at us and say how lucky we were to have lived in the age of Bananarama.

Fun Girls Three!
Yes, Bananarama, the English pop group from the 1980s.  Original members were Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward. Fahey quit the band in 1988, which was a shame, as she was the first person I ever heard of named Siobhan.  It's a pretty name, but I had to ask the Irish woman I worked with at the time about how to say it (you say "ShaVAHN")! For three years, the threesome was rounded out by Siobhan-substitute Jacquie O'Sullivan, but since 1991, it's just been Sara and Keren making the music.

To be regarded as deep and intellectual,
always pose ostentatiously with a
book of poetry.
And what music!  80's synthesiser pop is not normally my choice, but the secret to this group, who made up their name from a portmanteau tribute to The Banana Splits tv show and a Roxy Music song "Pyjamarama," was that, unlike any other band alive during the 1980s, they did not take themselves seriously at all! Can you even imagine how great it would be if Bono from U2 and Duran Duran and Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Rush and Kansas would have lightened it up for two goshdarn seconds, long enough to record songs like "Robert DeNiro's Waiting" or "I Heard A Rumour"?

Pure pop for now people, as fellow Englishperson Nick Lowe said.

"Shav, Sare and Kere" was the nickname for their nickname, and they just did not worry about pretense or any kind of tense. Notice, they didn't even try to sing three-part harmony, or dance like ballerinas. They clomped through their singing and dancing and seemed to be having the time of their lives.  They even sang backup harmonies for Fun Boy Three's version of "Ain't What You Do" just because they did that sort of thing for fun, boy.

And it's still going on! They toured the US in 2012 and are currently on tour across Europe.  No, they didn't change the world with their music, but they made it a little more fun to be alive, and can Bono say that?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Saturday Picture Show, September 24, 2016

This moonshot over a body of water is the same moon that has moved  poets to write about it for many, many years.
The tiny house movement is really getting big all across the land. Here's a hint...keep a bottle of hooch handy if you live in one...it will make the house seem much larger.
Mike Heck on "The Middle" said something like this once...it's what you do between the dashes that makes a life.  Why not make today one of the special days?
I love 50s hot rod movies. Check out the wild crazy thrill-filled kids in the cars.  10 feet from a head on crash and they're smiling about it!
We got married in 1973 and received two or three fondue sets as gifts.  I really don't think we used them, but really, who wouldn't want to sit around dunking bread chunks into hot oil?
Google rides along taking pictures for their mapping, and there is a command to remove all faces along the route...even a cow's face.
This little birdie is called a curlew...he/she would be great at plucking the last Cheez Doodle out of a bowl.
Baltimore's own Frank Zappa was a big deal when I was in high school and college...his songs live on! My iPod is full of them!

Friday, September 23, 2016

"Baba Booey! Baba Booey!"

Image result for baba booeyI'll admit to being a fan of Howard Stern's radio show.  I love noises that make me laugh, and for many years I have enjoyed being tuned in to sports broadcasts, election returns on CNN, and ABC's live coverage of O.J. Simpson's slow-speed chase and hearing someone shout out "Baba Booey!"

"Baba Booey" is, as Al Michaels told Peter Jennings, a code for mentioning the Stern show. If you wonder where this silly phrase originated, read up here and smile along with the rest of us.  I have been known to use the name "Bob O'Booey" when asked for my name to secure a restaurant table.  What's more fun than hearing the host say, over a tinny microphone in the lobby of Primo Italiano, "Bob O'Booey, party of four..."?

Now there is a new catchphrase associated with the Stern show, and it got widespread hearing the other night at the end of the Emmy Awards show.  Host Jimmy Kimmel, who is not only a fan of the Stern radio show but also a close friend of Howard, said, "Wait don't leave - there's more!  We did it - we hit 'em with the Hein!" as the crowd sat and wondered what he meant.

Just so you will know, Jon Hein is the name of the guy who does the Stern wrap up show every day on satellite radio, examining in minute detail every minute of the broadcast that just ended.  He also is credited with the expression "Jump the shark" to indicate the exact moment when something becomes passé or irrelevant - a mention of the time on "Happy Days" when the writers of that 70s'-80s sitcom ran out of worthwhile stories, and wrote an episode in which Fonzie jumped his motorcyle over a shark in some water.  Dumb.

Another Stern worker came up with hollering "Hit 'em with the Hein," an apparent reworked reference to Missy Elliott's 1997 song "Hit 'Em Wit Da Hee," a song I have never heard.

I can't say that "HEWTH" will replace "Baba Booey" in popularity, but I do enjoy hearing people holler during silly dull moments.  It's really all that makes golf on television bearable.  Or FOX news almost bearable.





Thursday, September 22, 2016

When in Rome

I always thought the Spanish Steps were what you did to dance the Flamenco, so that shows what I know.



Somewhere in this picture you will see a guy
with a pencil and sketchpad.
He is drawing a crowd.
The Spanish Steps are a stairway over Via Condotti, a swanky street in the fashion district of Rome. They were built in 1725, back in the days when you get really could get marble work done for a pittance.  Today, it would cost you a few million zucchini to get the same steps put in your back yard.

But you would get the same result.  All over the world, where you and I see stairs as a way to get up or get down, some people see a place to park their carcasses and "set" a spell.

So, with these marble steps being polished by so many glutei over the centuries, and so many people spilling their pizzas and vino all over the place, the marble steps, once shiny and bright, got to looking a tad crummy.

The good people at Bulgari (they say they are a luxury jewelry firm, but that means nothing to me, a guy who shops for jewels at Walmarti) spent $1.7 million to restore the Steps. It has taken a year, but finally the Spanish Steps look just like they did in 1725, when Betty White was there to cut the ribbon on Opening Day.

The problem is that Paolo Bulgari, who, in an amazing coincidence is both the chairman of the jewelry firm AND the nephew of its founder, wants to protect his investment.  

"Restorers have done a great and difficult job. The steps were coated with anything from coffee, wine, chewing gum," he told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"But now I am worried. If we don't set strict rules, the steps will go back to being used as a camping site for barbarians," the billionaire reportedly said, adding that a gate or a Plexiglas barrier "doesn't seem like an impossible task."

"Barbarians."

There it is.

I don't know how they do things in Italy, having never traveled any further east that the boardwalks at several Atlantic Ocean resorts, but I can't see an American businessperson spending private bucks for public good and then calling the public "galoots," "heathens" or "brutes."  It's bad for public relations.  People don't like being called names or being accused of wrongdoing as part of a whole group lumped together in vain. I hope I'm not being too subtle here.

Bulgari clearly did not live in Baltimore in the heyday of Royal Parker (born Royal Pollokoff) who passed away earlier this year but could host newscasts, kiddie cartoon shows and bowling shows with equal skill and zest.

And commercials!  Millions of them.  The most memorable of them, for clear slipcovers, showed kids bouncing up and down on some cheesy living room sofa and chair, while we heard Royal holler, "Hey, kids, get off that furniture, what are you trying to do, ruin it?"

This very sentence was known for years in our town as the only way to greet Mr Parker when we saw him at the ballpark or the mall.  He was always a good guy about it, and if he were still with us on this mortal coil, he would likely tell Bulgari that encasing the priceless stairs in some hi-grade see-thru vinyl could keep the marble shiny while keeping food, wine and tracked-in shoedirt off!

The whole world would be a better place if everyone had grown up in Baltimore.



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Products on Parade

Do you remember when there was a prediction that someday, there would only be three companies that owned every business in the world?  

Meet one of them.

Unilever owns everything from Axe manspray to Hellmann's mayonnaise to Knorr dry soups to Ben & Jerry's ice cream to Klondike ice cream bars to Mazola oil to Noxzema skin goo to Popsicles to Shedd's Spread.  That's a whole big steaming pile of businesses, and this warmly-named conglomerate operates them all.

And now they are interested in buying Honest Co., a household-products company co-founded by actress Jessica Alba.

Watch how this works:  according to the story I saw, "Honest Co. is also working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley on an initial public offering."

This might be the one and only time you will see the word "honest" in the same sentence as "Goldman Sachs" and "Morgan Stanley."  Ordinarily, you see their names in headlines like "Goldman Sachs Reaches $5 Billion Settlement In Mortgage Securities Penalty" or "Morgan Stanley Banker Is Said to Pass Along Illegal Tip."

But that's none of my beeswax.


Star and business leader
Unilever just bought Dollar Shave Club for a billion dollars, and it seems that the natural baby products, home cleaning stuff and beauty items that the former star of Dark Angel on television and Fantastic Four on film has been Honestly peddling would make a good fit for their portfolio.

Great idea, and I tip my hat to Jessica for turning her idea into tangible products and a huge profit in the end.

And if anyone from Unilever happens to read this (laughter), I would like to point out that I have an idea for grass that grows 2 1/2" on your lawn and stops growing forever, trees that have leaves that come with stamps on them so that when they fall to the ground, the post office has to mail them to a central leaf dump in Indianapolis, and bacon-flavored eggs.

I'm gonna be rich!